Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 641

Issue # 641                                             Week ending Saturday 12th February 2022
My Dear Friends, It’s Time We Stopped All this Dear Sir / Madam Balderdash? by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Words don’t come easy to me, someone once sang in a slightly high-pitched voice. When Robert Fitoussi, also known as F R David, sang that memorable bit of schmaltziness in 1982, he wouldn’t have known that it would become the inevitable soundtrack when politicians or celebrities stumble or slur their way through high-profile appearances. His song Words isn’t soppy enough for when film stars peck at each others lips but Monsieur Fitoussi will make enough royalties from the bloopers shows.

So for him words are important and Words is important.

Now law firms are telling staff to stop using certain words in correspondence. That some still use Dear / Madam in letters and emails instead of using proper names or even the names of the department they work for has left me bewildered. Dear Sir / Madam is horrible, stuffy and impersonal - in a rude way. Dear Sir or Sirs when you don’t even know who will read it is sexist and discriminatory. Forget tradition, it’s just wrong. I’ve done it too and I am sorry. Never again.

Stuffed shirts in government departments used it all the time whether they knew your name or not. I remember their excuse in the 80s was that they were working off templates and didn’t have the time to enter individuals’ names. Then computers came along. With mail-merging word processors, they’ve no excuse now but organisations still use unnecessarily gendered language. It’s bad enough when you have a name that is of ambiguous gender. Just ask any Chris or Pat or even Sandie. Yep, Mrs X has put up with it, and the sloppy mis-spellings thereof, for yonks.

I should protest more when I see my name at the top of a letter and it still begins with a sexually-ambivalent form of address. It’s is a symptom of lack of care. I like addressing people personally but what do you write if you want to avoid Dear Sir or Dear Madam but don’t know them personally? That’s easy.

Decades ago, I worked in a Stornoway furniture shop. You remember Grant’s? Gosh, how old are you? My former colleagues will recall how I’d be engaged to write colourful letters to the Inland Revenue, as it was, pleading on their behalf for rebates. When I say pleading, the letters were whimpers that the unfortunate taxpayer would be down to their last cow “whose name is Buttercup” if no rebate was made. Silly sentiment often worked.

Putting them off-guard was the trick. I’d start my letters affectionately with My Dear Friends. That piqued tax officials’ interest. Not used to being anyone’s buddies, they read it. Boom. My success rate climbed to about 80% of letters I sent got some money back. When I joined the RAF, I carried on the letter writing but the Revenue was onto me. They replied to one airman that whoever was writing his letters should quit it. The initially-friendly tone and reference to poorly-fed animals was to be taken as a marker so it would end up stamped No Rebate Due. Sorry Buttercup.

Words are important because we can use them for fun or to deride. Guto Harri, the new comms dude at Number 10, claims the PM met and sang I Will Survive to him. Now where and why would Boris learn those lyrics? Just think of those words: “Go on now, go, walk out the door. Just turn around now, cause you're not welcome anymore. Weren't you the one who tried to break me with goodbye? You think I’d crumble? You think I’d lay down and die?”

I wonder. Was this song learned for the alleged party after Dominic Cummings left? That must have been some shindig right enough. If Guto, who it is claimed has already referred to his boss as “not a complete clown”, is not careful those same words could be sung again for him.

The order in which you say words is also crucial. A man from Shawbost ran into the Criterion Bar in Stornoway. He told the barman: “Give me 10 nips of the best malt whisky - quick.” So the barman sets them up and the man knocks them all back in seconds. “Hey, man. Why are you drinking so fast?” asks the barman. He got the sad reply: “You’d drink fast too, if you had what I've got.”

Fearing the ultimate medical diagnosis, the barman said: "Oh no. What have you got?” The West Sider replied: “Fifty pence.”

Energy Prices Hike: 'Lives Could Be Lost'
The Scottish government's energy secretary has said there is a "real risk that lives could be lost" as a result of the hike in energy prices.  Michael Matheson told the BBC's The Sunday Show that the action proposed by the UK government was wholly inadequate to deal with the scale of the financial crisis facing many households.  The average energy bill is set to increase by £693 a year from April.  UK Energy Minister Greg Hands said the UK Westminster government was providing support.  The Bank of England has issued a warning that rising prices meant the UK was about to endure the biggest fall in living standards since comparable records began three decades ago.  It comes as inflation is on course to rise above 7% this year, leaving households facing the biggest income squeeze in decades.  The Scottish government will receive about £290m through Barnett consequentials after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a council tax cut in England.   The UK chancellor announced the measures to help households after regulator Ofgem raised the energy price cap.   Nicola Sturgeon has already told MSPs that "every penny" of the £290m will go towards helping ease the cost-of-living crisis.   But on The Sunday Show, Mr Matheson said this was "insufficient" to deal with the scale and nature of the crisis being faced by those on low incomes and called for further action from the UK Westminster government to help struggling families.  He said the 54% rise in the average energy bill would be compounded by the increase in National Insurance contributions and the cut in universal credit.  "There is a real crisis building here," he said. "It has been on the cards for some time now and action from the UK Westminster government is wholly inadequate to deal with it sufficiently.  There is the real risk that lives will be lost this year."   The programme earlier heard from Audrey Flanagan, from Glasgow South East Foodbank, who said she was seriously concerned about those on low incomes.  "Not only will it be heat or eat but actually we will see people die and, believe me, I don't use that term lightly," she said.  "I sat in tears watching what was happening because you can just see the rollout of this. I am gobsmacked, absolutely gobsmacked."  Mr Matheson also said a £200 discount the UK Westminster government had announced on energy bills for homes in Scotland, England and Wales should be a grant instead of a loan.  The discount will be automatically recovered from people's bills in equal £40 instalments over a five-year period from 2023, when it is hoped global wholesale gas prices will have come down.  The energy secretary said: "There is a very serious risk that if fuel prices stay high over the course of the next couple of years, and that could be the case, it could actually end up forcing more homes into poverty because households are not only having to face high fuel prices but they are also having to face paying back the loan."  He also said the warm homes scheme - which offers those in receipt of certain benefits the option to apply for a one-off £140 payment - should be expanded.   Mr Matheson highlighted the Scottish government's winter funding package - about £41m to help families experiencing difficulty during the winter months - and a specific payment within that to help with fuel costs, particularly helping those on pre-payment meters. Last week, the Scottish government also gave local government an extra £120m next year in a bid to ward off big increases in council tax bills. Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said she now had some "additional flexibility" due to funding from the UK Westminster government.  Mr Matheson said fuel poverty was estimated to increase by more than 200,000 homes to almost 900,000 and added that some of those homes would be facing extreme fuel poverty.  UK Westminster government energy minister Greg Hands told the programme the UK Westminster government was already bringing in a number of measures to support those on low incomes.   He said: "We totally recognise the difficulties that many households will be facing with a rise in prices," he said. "In terms of gas and energy prices, those are global prices but we are doing a lot to make sure households are in a better position."  He claimed there were some things that benefited Scotland, including its geography.   "Being closer to the sources of power generation make bills, in some cases, cheaper," he said. "The transmission costs of that energy, for example from renewables - offshore wind in Scotland - will be lower for Scottish consumers than they would for consumers in the south of England."  He said the UK Westminster government needed to balance support with fiscal responsibility as it had to spend billions of pounds supporting the economy during the pandemic.  He said the £200 loan, available from October, was designed to assist people into next winter and would be "clawed back" over a five-year period.  He added that the national living wage had been increased and that there were "a lot of important, positive changes coming in".

The Olympic Curling Stones Crafted in Scotland
Curling is back in the spotlight at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics - and all the stones used by the competitors originate from an uninhabited Scottish island.   They are hand-crafted at Kays Curling's workshop in Mauchline, Ayrshire, using granite from the island of Ailsa Craig.   The company's stones are the only ones used in competition by the World Curling Federation.  Kays Curling was founded in 1851, and has been providing curling stones for the Winter Olympics since the Chamonix Games in 1924.   The company's director is 72-year-old Jimmy Wyllie, who began working there at the age of 15.  He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "The history books tell us that curling stones have been made from Ailsa Craig material for probably at least 200 years now.   There are two sources on the island and in the good old days you could have a pair made from either."  Today, those two types of granite are combined to make one stone. Common Green granite is used for the main body, before Blue Hone granite is added.  Workers produce one stone per hour, a total of 38 stones a week. Each one is checked for shape and balance to ensure they meet Olympic requirements.   The uninhabited island of Ailsa Craig is situated in the Firth of Clyde, about 10 miles from the Scottish mainland   The island has a unique granite which is only found on Ailsa Craig.  The hard properties of the granite makes it an ideal material for curling stones

Bishop William Nolan Appointed As Archbishop of Glasgow
Pope Francis has appointed a new Archbishop of Glasgow following the death of Archbishop Philip Tartaglia.   Bishop William Nolan, the Bishop of Galloway, shares the Pope's focus on concerns for social justice.  Archbishop Philip Tartaglia died after testing positive for coronavirus in 2021 after nine years as leader of Scotland's largest Catholic community.  Bishop Nolan said he looked forward to the "challenges that lie ahead" after the "initial shock" of the appointment.  The 68-year-old bishop is from Lanarkshire, where he was educated before receiving his religious training in Aberdeenshire and Rome.  He served in several Scottish parishes before becoming the Bishop of Galloway in 2015 and is president of Justice and Peace Scotland, which advises the church on issues such as social justice, human rights, and climate change.   "I feel overwhelmed by the trust Pope Francis is putting in me by appointing me as Archbishop of Glasgow," he said, adding that it would be a "wrench" to leave Galloway Diocese.  As I overcome my initial shock at being appointed archbishop my thoughts now turn to the challenges that lie ahead. I look forward to working with everyone in the archdiocese, laity and clergy, to carry out the mission that we share of proclaiming God's good news and of bringing the joy of the gospel into the lives of the people of today."   The head of Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, where Bishop Nolan serves on the board, welcomed the news.   "We deeply appreciate his presence on SCIAF's board and his commitment to social justice," he said. "SCIAF has benefited greatly from his leadership, most recently his contributions throughout COP26."  Hugh Bradly, who has been administrator of Glasgow Archdiocese since the death of Archbishop Tartaglia, said he was "delighted" with the appointment.  "I offer him a warm welcome to the Archdiocese of Glasgow and a promise of prayers on behalf of all the clergy, religious and laity," he said.

Scotland's Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to Take Maternity Leave
Scotland's finance secretary Kate Forbes is pregnant and will be taking maternity leave in the summer, it has been announced.   It will be the first time a serving Scottish cabinet secretary has taken maternity leave.   Arrangements to cover her ministerial responsibilities while she is on leave will be set out by the first minister.   Ms Forbes has been finance secretary for two years, and has been tipped as a possible future first minister.   She has been working on finalising the Scottish government's budget plans for the coming year, which are due to be passed by MSPs on Thursday.  The government said she will remain as finance secretary while she is on maternity leave and will resume her duties upon her return on a date that has not yet been agreed.   In a statement, Ms Forbes said she and her husband Alasdair MacLennan - who she married in Dingwall in July of last year - were expecting their first child together later this year, and were "looking forward to welcoming a new member of our family".   She confirmed that she planned to take maternity leave from Holyrood, but said her office and team would still be available to help residents in her Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency.   Ms Forbes, 31, said her pregnancy had given her an "even deeper admiration for the thousands of women across the country who balance both work and personal responsibilities".  She added: "There might be particular challenges with being a politician in the public eye, whilst combating the side effects of pregnancy, but it is an experience which is familiar to countless women.   Politics, like many workplaces, is often not renowned for being a supportive environment for parents.   Hopefully I can play a small part in changing that, and demonstrating that it is possible to have children and a career, with the right support in place."   First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was pleased that Ms Forbes "will be able to enjoy those precious early months with her new arrival and her wider family".   She added: "This should never be a barrier to someone's career, especially women in senior leadership roles.   That is why we are clear Kate is not leaving government. She will remain Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy while on leave and take up her duties again upon her return."  Ms Forbes - who is the only woman to have ever served as finance secretary - is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, which follows a strict interpretation of the Bible.   She described last year how she had often had to "tiptoe around" her Christian faith because of a "fear and a sense that the public will think we only speak for our own rather than speak for everybody".   Although Ms Forbes will be the first cabinet secretary to take maternity leave, Aileen Campbell took maternity leave while serving as minister for children and young people in December 2014.

Burrell Collection to Reopen After £68.25m Revamp
Glasgow's Burrell Collection will reopen on 29 March after being closed for more than five years as it underwent a £68.25m refurbishment.   The museum, located in Pollok Park, has been shut since in October 2016.   When it reopens, visitors will be able to view items and collections which have not been seen for decades.   David McDonald, chairman of Glasgow Life, described the museum as "one of Scotland's modern architectural triumphs".  Glasgow Life's chief executive, Bridget McConnell, said the Burrell Collection was "among the finest personal art collections ever amassed".  The collection - which includes objects from Europe and Asia - was donated to Glasgow by art collector Sir William Burrell in 1944. The museum opened in 1983.   The renovation project has increased the museum's gallery space by 35%, allowing more items which have never been on permanent display to be shown.  These will include the Wagner garden carpet, one of the earliest surviving Persian garden carpets in the world.  The building now includes a central stairway, giving visitors access to the lower floor for the first time, and new galleries on upper floors.  The refurbishment has also replaced power, heating and lighting systems with more efficient and sustainable technologies.

Review Promised After Children Were Given Covid Vaccine Overdoses
A "proper review" is to be carried out into an error which involved a small number of children being given an overdose of a coronavirus vaccine, Nicola Sturgeon has said.  The first minister said the error involved children in the NHS Lanarkshire area.   She told MSPs it was quickly identified and was not harmful.   The Daily Record reported that four children aged between five and 11 had been given twice the recommended dose.   The newspaper said one child had fallen ill afterwards.  Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie asked Ms Sturgeon about the incidents in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.   She said she had also heard from a mother whose 11-year-old daughter had been given the wrong dosage in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.   "Given the unfortunate side effects experienced by these children, and to ensure confidence in the vaccination programme, which is so important, will the first minister order an urgent review of the administration of vaccines to children and, at least, ensure that the different doses for children and adults are colour-coded to avoid future error?" she asked.   Ms Sturgeon said NHS Lanarkshire had apologised after a small number of children were given the wrong dosage of the Pfizer vaccine.   The mistake was identified quickly and "appropriate monitoring" was carried out, she said.   She added: "We have already been assured that the error was quickly identified, reported and actions were put in place to ensure that affected parents were fully informed of what had happened.  There is guidance from the UK Health Security Agency about the steps that should be taken.  They should be reassured in this case that it is not harmful, but we nevertheless will ensure there is proper review of this and any appropriate steps taken as a result."

The Clash of Science and Politics Over North Sea Oil and Gas
The science is clear that if we're to tackle climate change we need to eliminate our carbon emissions.   That, of course, principally comes from burning oil and gas in our industries, our cars and our homes.  But there's less of a consensus on how quickly we should be doing that.   Environmentalists say yesterday, India say by 2070. The middle ground is around 2050.  And that's where it gets political with the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) of Conservative MPs and peers essentially urging ministers to slow down and consider the cost.   But now The Telegraph is reporting that Chancellor Rishi Sunak wants six North Sea projects to be given the go-ahead this year.   Businesses are speeding up, seeing the potential for profit in these new industries. Even the oil majors want in on the action by investing in offshore wind, electric vehicle charging and carbon capture and storage.   They don't, though, want to let go of hydrocarbons just yet with the Oil and Gas Authority currently considering at least a dozen field development proposals. Just last month, Ithaca Energy was granted permission to develop its Abigail field.   Commercial sensitivity means the regulator doesn't publish details of the applications it has either received or has granted, but most of the fields that we know are under consideration are small-fry, with the largest being Cambo, west of Shetland.   During the lead up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year, Cambo became the target of environmentalists trying to embarrass the government. Their campaigning worked, leading Shell to withdraw its backing as one of the investors.   The prime minister and his government tried to keep away from the argument, realising there could be a perception of hypocrisy if they were seen to be leading the charge on climate change while sanctioning new oil.   That environmental victory doesn't mean further protests will prevent any future developments. Shell pulled out because the reputational risk to their business was too great.  But these days the backing comes from private equity where reputation is less of a concern than the profit to be had. And there is still a profit to be had.   Now that COP26 is out of the way, ministers are less reluctant to remaining neutral with the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng giving his full-throated backing to future development.  A high gas price, while tough on the pockets of consumers, is good for the treasury. But the industry argues that a windfall tax on the bumper profits currently being experienced would put off future investment in the North Sea sector. That would be bad for the Treasury.    The International Energy Agency has said there is no place for new oil, gas or coal if global warming is to be kept to 1.5C.   The UK Westminster government is consulting on the design of a new "climate checkpoint" to be applied to future licence applications for the North Sea. It will test whether the development jeopardises emissions reductions targets.  But huge numbers of licences have already been granted and the "checkpoint" does not apply to development within that existing framework.  Green groups and the Scottish government believe those existing licences should be in scope. They're urging UK ministers to think again for the sake of the climate.  But it shows that scientific consensus on the problem is nowhere near a political consensus on how to resolve it.   A Scottish government spokesperson said: "We have said previously that unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations and we call again on the UK government, who have the power to act in this instance, to urgently re-assess all approved oil licences where drilling has not yet commenced against our climate commitments.   We are carefully studying the UK Westminster government's climate compatibility proposals for new fields, launched last year, in line with our own wider energy analysis work, which we are undertaking to better understand Scotland's energy requirements as we transition to net zero, ensuring an approach that supports and protects our energy security and our highly-skilled workforce whilst meeting our climate obligations."

'I Enjoy My Hong Kong-Scottish Dual Identity'
Cheuk-chi Yau remembers the moment, not long after he arrived in Glasgow from Hong Kong with his young family, when he knew they would be OK in Scotland.  He had been walking around George Square when two policemen smiled at him and asked if there was anything they could do to help.  "I immediately thought of the moment when I participated in a protest in Hong Kong and walked under a footbridge," he said.   "I saw the riot police standing above and didn't know when they were going to release the tear gas and arrest people.   I will never forget the feeling when those two Scottish policemen talked to me."   He and his family are among an estimated 300,000 people who could be relocated through the UK's British National (Overseas), or BNO, visa scheme following the introduction of the Beijing National Security Law.   The UK Westminster government said this law was undermining Hong Kong's rights and freedoms.   Yau, his wife Mavis and their four-year-old son Hoi-lok had to leave their extended family behind when they left in March last year.   He told BBC Radio Scotland's Mornings with Stephen Jardine programme why he chose Scotland for his new home.   Yau said his decision was influenced by two hiking trails in Hong Kong, the Wilson and MacLehose trails, which were named after Scottish governors.  He said he had wondered since he was a child about why those governors liked the countryside so much, and whether there was nice countryside in their homeland.  He has has now fallen in love with Glasgow, particularly its parks.  "I joined some local groups like the woodcraft, rambling and others which were very welcoming," he said.  Yau and his family have now celebrated the Lunar New Year in Scotland for the first time.  "This reminded me of the difficulty I've been through," he said.   "Lunar New Year is traditionally a moment for families to be together."   Yau said it was important, especially after moving to another country, to maintain their identity and for his son to know about the festival.   He said: "We told the school about the festival and asked if our son could give some traditional snacks and introduce the festival to his classmates - which he did, and loved."    Yau, who lived in Hong Kong for 40 years, says he has no immediate plans to move back given the current situation.  "I still have a strong Hong Kong identity, but I don't think the Hong Kong (and Chinese) authorities will become less repressive in the foreseeable future," he said.  "And at the same time I like living in Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, very much.  I am amazed by Scotland's special characters and its people's self-identity.   "Actually this is exactly what Hong Kong people share, so perhaps I enjoy my Hong Kong-Scottish dual identity."

Engineering Work Planned At Famous Glenfinnan Viaduct
Network Rail Scotland has sought listed building consent to carry out work to the world-famous Glenfinnan Viaduct.   The railway crossing completed in 1901 is famous for its picturesque Highlands setting and appearances in the Harry Potter films.   The work includes some repairs and also coring - drilling to collect samples to help engineers understand the construction of the concrete structure.  Highland Council has been asked to approve permission for the work.   In its application, Network Rail Scotland said University of Dundee concrete specialists had tested concrete mixes to come up with a colour that matched that of the 121-year-old viaduct for use in the repairs and other work.   The crossing in Lochaber is a huge attraction for thousands of Potter fans and railway enthusiasts.  The viaduct and a steam train that operates on its railway line both feature in movies from the Harry Potter series.

Parking, Signs and Warden Plans for Highland Tourist Hotspots
Better car parking, signage and wardens are among plans to ease pressure on tourist hotspots in the Highlands.   The solutions are contained in draft plans for the Arisaig and Morar areas of the Road to the Isles route, Durness in Sutherland and Glen Brittle on Skye, which attract thousands of visitors.   Highland Council said while tourism was important, some communities had felt "overwhelmed" when it was busy.   The plans aim to ease pressure and improve visitor experiences.   Other solutions include arranging visitor transport to busy sites such as the Fairy Pools on Skye.   A meeting of Highland Council's tourism committee next Wednesday will be asked to approve the three draft plans.   A fourth plan is in development for Assynt.  Tourism is vital to the Highlands and, according to VisitScotland figures, a total of £1.6bn was spent by visitors in the Highlands in 2019.   The region saw a "steep increase" in visitors following Covid lockdowns in 2020 and last year, according to Highland Council.  But some of the most popular areas do not have the infrastructure to cope with large numbers of people, such as waste disposal for camper vans. Access to some beauty spots can also be along single-track roads.  According to feedback received for the draft plans, other problems have included the gathering of sheep by shepherds being disturbed by people wanting to take photographs and ecological damage to sand dunes caused by wild camping.  Concerns were also raised about children being left unattended while swimming in Skye's Fairy Pools.

Choirs in Scotland Return for Socially-distanced Singing
Choirs across Scotland have been getting back to socially-distanced singing as Covid restrictions ease.   The Clydebank Male Voice Choir in West Dunbartonshire and Castle Douglas People's Choir in Dumfries and Galloway are among those returning.  Some things have changed - extra ventilation and standing well apart - but they are just glad to be back.  Members of both groups said it meant a lot to them to be able to sing together again once more.   The Clydebank group's president, Tom McRae, said it had been sorely missed.  "You can sing in a car, you can sing in your shower, but when you get together with the choir, it's a totally different singing altogether," he said.   "You can fill your lungs and really just let it go and it's good to get everybody together.  We've been doing it together for most of us for over 10 years, so it makes a big difference when you get back together."  He said there was "good banter" in the group which hadn't work so well online.  "We tried to do Zoom - but it sort of fell on its face a wee bit," he said.   Mr McRae said it was a "great feeling" to be back together as a sign of restrictions easing.  But he said it was particularly poignant to resume activities after one member of the choir died very early in the pandemic.  "It's very hard to pick up and try and sing those songs again, but we really have to just try and get on with it," he added.  Choir member Gordon Hamilton said that singing was a big help to him after his wife died in 2019.   "The choir was really good for me," he said. "To get that camaraderie, friendship and support."   He said it was "hard to take" when the choir stopped during lockdown.  He added: "I love music, I love singing and I love listening to music. It is a great hobby.   It's just marvellous to come back here and sing with the guys."  Clydebank's conductor Aileen Barnet also welcomed the return.  "They sing well and they enjoy singing and they enjoy each other's company so it's all good," she said.  "Singing is good for your health.  They are all very good singers - so that makes my job easy. They just got on so well together and sing so well together as a group."  In Castle Douglas, conductor Stuart Butterworth said The People's Choir started up in 2014 as "singing for the terrified".   "They don't want to do any auditions, they don't want to do any voice tests and just want to sit down and start singing," he explained.  He said that - like the Clydebank group - they were doing everything they could to make sessions as Covid-safe as possible.  Singer Janice Maxwell from Haugh of Urr said she was glad to be back regardless of any constraints.  "I just missed it so much - I get so much from it," she said.   "I'm not a great singer, but I love singing in the choir. It just means everything."  Ms Maxwell said it was important to meet up again - even with social distancing in place.  "It's heading towards normality, whatever normality may be from now on," she said.   "It's a bit of normality back in my life and it was needed - I can assure you."  Fellow member, Ken Kilcullen, said the choir was one of the things he really missed during lockdown.   He added: "Whether you can sing or not makes not the slightest bit of difference, as long as you're there to enjoy yourself."
Comment - RMH
And so say all the members of Coisir Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers)

New Skye Homes Built to Help Halt Depopulation
Six families have moved into the first affordable homes to be built in Staffin, Skye, in 23 years.   Staffin on Skye's north east coast has suffered from years of depopulation.  A lack of affordable housing was blamed for the decline.  The Scottish government has helped to fund the housebuilding project, which was led by community trusts.   Staffin Community Trust (SCT) began work on the housebuilding project in 2014 after Staffin's population had been reduced by 40 to 568 people in just four years.    The Six families have moved into the new properties in Stenscholl, a crofting township on the north east coast of Skye.  SCT and its partners, the Communities Housing Trust and Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association, delivered the £1.6m project, which also includes a new health centre and business premises. Scottish government funding was crucial to the affordable housing project, said SCT.   Director Donald MacDonald said: “It is great to see this project moving towards completion after many years of hard work by the trust."   But he added: "Unfortunately, this project does not address the underlying issues, faced by many young people and families, in relation to spiralling property costs, lack of affordable housing and general investment in rural communities."   The new residents are 12 adults and eight children.   Karen Hutchison, one of the new residents, said: “I love the wee community feeling between all the residents. It’s so lovely seeing all the kids popping into each other’s’ houses, outside playing and walking to school together.”

Menzies Aviation Rejects Kuwaiti Rival's £470m Takeover Bid
Ground services company Menzies Aviation has rejected a £470m takeover proposal from a Kuwait-based rival.   The Edinburgh-based company works with airlines and airports in 37 countries.   It said the offer from National Aviation Services was the second unsolicited approach and was "highly opportunistic".   A statement responding to a rise in the offer price from £423m, said the takeover attempt did not take account of the firm's post-pandemic recovery.    It also highlighted measures taken by Menzies management to cut costs and become more efficient.   It claims to be on course for £80m of additional annual revenue, with more in the medium term.   The company cut more than 17,500 jobs worldwide in March 2020 because of the downturn in air travel due to the pandemic.   National Aviation Services is a subsidiary of the Kuwait-based logistics conglomerate Agility.  Philipp Joeinig, John Menzies' chairman and chief executive, said: "The board has unanimously rejected this unsolicited and highly opportunistic proposal, which we believe does not reflect Menzies' true intrinsic business worth or its prospects.   Menzies continues to make good progress with strong performance across a number of service lines, which together with productivity gains, saw the group to finish last year strongly.   This strong performance and momentum in 2021 has continued in 2022 with further contract wins and renewals alongside the continued recovery of global flight volumes."   John Menzies was founded in 1833. It grew as a bookseller and one of Britain's biggest newspaper distributors, expanding into air freight from 1987.   In 2018, it sold off the distribution business to focus on aviation services.  It now has 25,000 employees in 37 countries, providing passenger, baggage and aircraft handling services.

Women 'Led Bronze Age Immigration to Orkney'
Mass immigration to Orkney during the Bronze Age replaced most of the local population - and was largely led by women, according to new research.  Experts carried out analysis of ancient DNA from human remains on the islands.   The study, by the universities of Edinburgh and Huddersfield, combined archaeology with the study of ancient human remains from the Bronze Age.   They said most resettlements across Europe were typically led by men as livestock farming expanded.   However, the researchers found "the exact opposite" in Orkney, where the Bronze Age newcomers were mainly women.   The male lineages from the original Neolithic population survived for at least another 1,000 years - something not seen anywhere else.   They had been largely replaced by the Iron Age, which followed the Bronze Age, and are described as "vanishingly rare" today.   The researchers studied human remains from the Links of the Noltland site on the remote northern island of Westray.  They believe Orkney is different because of the stability and self-sufficiency of farmsteads on the islands.   They also believe that the islands may have been less insular at this period in its history than had previously been assumed.   Experts say there was an extended period of integration between the indigenous males and newcomers from the south over many generations.   Jim Wilson, professor of human genetics at the University of Edinburgh's Usher Institute, said: "It's absolutely fascinating to discover that the dominant Orcadian Neolithic male genetic lineage persisted at least 1,000 years into the Bronze Age despite replacement of 95% of the rest of the genome by immigrating women.  This lineage was then itself replaced and we have yet to find it in today's population."

New Appointment Will Push Forward Plans for Coastal Trail Along the Solway
The Southern Uplands Partnership has appointed Richard Clarke as its South West Scotland Coastal Trail Development Officer.   The role is working in partnership with the People’s Project and Dumfries and Galloway Council to propel forward the idea for a continuous coastal trail along the Solway.   Richard has worked for many years as a countryside ranger for both the National Trust for Scotland and Buccleuch Estates.   The People’s Project was set up in 2008 by Mark Jardine who wanted to rekindle the meaning of community in Dumfries and Galloway.   Dumfries and Galloway Council will be instrumental to this project, providing countryside and access knowledge and experience whilst utilising the vast range of core paths the region has to offer.


AUSTRALIAN SCOTTISH/CELTIC NEWS

I’m indebted to Mal Edmonstone, High Commissioner for Australasia of Clan Edmonstone for the following list of Events
Significant Events Cancelled

The Richmond Tasmania Highland Gathering is usually on the Village Green in February. The committee decided the green was far too small to meet Covid distancing rules so has been   cancelled.  ‘Scots Day Out’ at Bendigo which is usually the first weekend in March has been cancelled as the program and park area do not allow Covid compliance.  The Geelong Highland Gathering usually in March has also been cancelled due to Covid.

Events still valid at this Stage
The Ringwood Highland Games is now designated as the Melbourne Highland Games and will be held at Eastfield Park, Croydon on Sunday 20th March. There will be a Ceilidh on the night before.  Warwick Celtic Festival will be held on 25th-27th March.  Bundanoon is Brigadoon will be held on 2nd April. See separate announcement below. This is a great event in the NSW Southern Highlands where the Council changes all the signs from Bundanoon to Brigadoon the day before.  Even the railway station signage is changed. The Clan Village brings a lot of visitors and the Clan tents have a good view of the arena. The parade of Bands and Clans to open the day is not to be missed.  The Maclean Highland Gathering is held at the Showgrounds beside the Clarence River at Easter which will be Friday afternoon 15th April and Saturday 16th April. This is the largest pipe band competition in Australia with up to thirty bands competing in all grades. This year they have invited the Clans to have a Clan Village. The Glen Innes Celtic Festival will be held at the Standing Stones on Saturday 30th April – 1st May.  The Clan Tents form the Inner Circle around the outside of the stones and then there are another  two rows of food and produce stalls/tents around them. This is a great weekend, but start booking your accommodation if your plan to attend.  ‘The Gathering’ will be held at Ipswich on 21st -22nd May so those in South East Queensland get along for a great weekend. The Berry Celtic Festival will be on Saturday 28th May. This event has a street parade, massed bands, jousting knights, re-enactors, choirs and pipe band displays in number 1 uniform. The clan village may have up to 18 Clan Tents.

THE NEWS YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR.
Tickets for Brigadoon 2 APRIL 2022 ARE NOW ON SALE

The Link for Tickets is: www.ticketebo.com.au/brigadoon-2022
Should you wish to view the events planned for THE DAY or learn more about
Scottish & Highland Dancing please copy and paste the appropriate link below into your Browser

Events of the Day: https://brigadoon.org.au/event-schedule/

Scottish CountryDancing: https://brigadoon.org.au/stalls-exhibitors/scottish-country-dancing/

Scottish Highland Dancing: https://brigadoon.org.au/stalls-exhibitors/scottish-highland-dancing/

Alaistair Saunders, Vice President/Publicity Officer, Bundanoon Highland Gathering Inc.
PO Box 74, Bundanoon, NSW 2578, Australia  Ph: 61 2 4883 7471

SCOTTISH RADIO
Contrary to a widely held common belief that the popular Scotland Down Under radio program was dead and no longer would be heard on the air waves. The truth of the matter is that Scotland Down Under will be back on the air waves from a different radio station and a different time slot very soon.  Keep your eyes and ears open and we’ll be bringing you this important news as soon as it comes to hand.

The SAHC still needs a Newsletter Editor. Do you have a love of storytelling or know of someone that does?  If so, we need a newsletter editor.  Please contact me to discuss this very important role for keeping the Scottish Diaspora informed through my email address  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   I wish you all the very best and to remain safe and well in this troublesome times.
Malcolm Buchanan, President

Coisir  Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers) is now back rehearsing on a face to face basis at Macquarie Presbyterian Church in Eastwood.  They are looking for interested folk to join them.  If you’d like to join - the choir is open to all, whatever your background.  The only pre- requisites are willingness to learn, lots of enthusiasm! And are DOUBLE Vaccinated.  A knowledge of Gaelic and/or music is not essential. If interested please contact the Music Director on (02) 9638-2625 or email him on: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it