Scottish News & Views #72

This little effort is for the period ending 22nd January 2011.  I’ve been able to include a couple of small tongue-in-cheek articles which I think you will enjoy. - Robin

Military Museum Upgrading on Track with £200,000 Boost
An appeal to raise £3million towards the redevelopment of a military museum near Inverness has received another boost.  Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) announced yesterday that it is to give £200,000 to the campaign to transform the Highlanders Museum at Fort George. The award comes just weeks after the appeal won a grant of £924,000 from the European Regional Development Fund.  The museum, which houses one of the largest armed forces collections in the UK, has barely changed since the early-80s and the Highlanders Museum Development Project was launched in August 2009 to bring the attraction up to modern standards. The project will transform the museum, which holds a varied collection of about 12,000 objects, into an interactive education and learning facility with full disabled access.

The museum tells the story of all the regiments raised from the Highlands and islands, from the Battle of Culloden right up to the present-day operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The museum is housed within Fort George, which was built to guard the approaches to Inverness after the 1745 Jacobite uprising.  After 250 years as a military garrison and training depot, it continues to house a regular infantry battalion of the British Army. The fort receives more than 66,000 visitors every year.

Guarantee Over Cut-price Fuel Scheme
Nick Clegg guaranteed the introduction of a cut-price fuel scheme in the islands yesterday – and blamed Brussels bureaucracy for delaying the move.  The deputy prime minister revealed the coalition government was thrashing out the “details” of measures aimed at ending volatile prices on the UK’s forecourts.  His remarks were made on the day new figures showed the cost of fuel rising at its highest rate for a decade.  Angry drivers on the Orkney island of Eday are now paying £1.58 ($A2.56) for a litre of petrol – or £7.18 ($A11.60) a gallon.

Speaking at BP’s headquarters at Dyce, near Aberdeen, Mr Clegg vowed to deliver a pilot scheme to ease the pressure on island residents. The UK Government came under SNP fire this week amid claims the project – which would cut fuel duty by 5p a litre in the Northern isles and the Hebrides – had been shelved.  But the Liberal Democrat leader said: “We have said, in the coalition agreement, we will deliver a way of making sure there’s an exemption for the islands, and we are talking to the European Union to get that done.  “The question is not about the money. It’s whether we are allowed to under EU rules.”  Highland MP and Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander announced officials were in talks with Europe about the plans in October last year.  It emerged this week that a formal application for the scheme would not be made to the European Commission until after Budget day, on March 23. Western Isles MP and SNP transport spokesman at Westminster Angus MacNeil said: “People are absolutely desperate. The money comes out of the island and goes straight to London. It’s all very convenient for Nick Clegg to blame the EU.” There has also been concern about progress on the implementation of a “fuel price stabiliser”, championed by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Village Hall to Get 21st-Century Makeover
Munlochy Hall hopes to instal a new bio-mass boiler and low-energy lighting in an attempt to reduce the premises’ carbon emissions and heating costs. The management committee has been given £54,073 from the European Community Highland Leader programme and £12,500 from the Scottish Government’s Community and Renew- able Energy Scheme (Cares). It has also received a contribution of £6,000 from the Highland Council’s Black Isle ward discretionary fund.  Munlochy Hall was bought by the local community in 1970 and has been a very popular venue. It is used by many local clubs, and also groups from further afield, the local primary school and pre-school, for a range of fundraising, social and sport activities.

Half Uist Homes Too Old for Help with Insulation
Half the families on Uist are suffering chilly homes be cause the buildings are too old for a government insulation scheme, says an isles community group.  The Home Insulation Scheme misses out the traditional crofter housing, some dating back to the 1930s.  The energy efficient initiative is aimed at designs using the most common forms of construction throughout Scotland.  But typical crofters’ houses used a different style – without cavity masonry walls and no open loft spaces.  Even the more modern timber-framed kit homes, hugely popular from the 1970s, are being left out.  Although they have cavity walls, filling them with insulation risks creating damp problems.

A survey by community body Sustainable Uist found that nearly 50% of the 3,400 houses on Uist are classified as hard to treat under the Energy Saving Trust’s Home Insulation Scheme and are prevented from getting assistance for wall and loft insulation.  The body is hosting a conference on Benbecula on the problem next week to seek solutions on improvements, funding and the organisation of large-scale housing insulation projects.  Sustainable Uist chairman Steve Carte said: “The difficult situation with the Home Insulation Scheme has, in part, arisen because of a lack of understanding of housing construction on the islands, so the gathering of local knowledge and ideas is imperative this time.

Some Feminist Myths and the Nubile Feathering of Nests
The news that 84-year-old Hugh Hefner, the multi-millionaire publisher of Playboy magazine, is to wed his beautiful 24-year-old girlfriend, Crystal Harris, must have put a spring in the step of many another octogenarian – well, if not a spring exactly, at least a slightly less-pronounced hobble. For a brief moment, these old chaps will have allowed themselves to dream of finding romance in the arms of some nubile young lassie. Their more pragmatic peers, on the other hand, whose libidos have long since succumbed to the ravages of time, are left wondering why they were shortchanged by Mother Nature in the love-making department, if old Hef is still able to cut the mustard when it comes to matters carnal. While they applaud the ageing playboy outwardly, most of them hope fervently that he is no more able to satisfy a young woman’s natural desires than they themselves are. Otherwise, there is no justice in the grand scheme of things. As for what the young woman sees in her ancient fiancé, is it true love or simply a way of getting her hands on a vast amount of cash when he finally pops his clogs? Lets face it, she can’t have long to wait.

Of course, there is nothing new in this arrangement. Many years ago, when I worked in a London hotel that catered for a lot of Italian holidaymakers, I was struck by the disparity in the ages of the respective Italian couples. Most of the husbands were at least a generation older than their wives.  When I asked one of the Italian males about this phenomenon, he explained that it was common practice in Italy for young women to wed men who had been around long enough to amass enough wealth to look after them in a style that they felt their youth and beauty deserved.  Why waste their God-given assets on some penniless young Adonis when they could marry someone with a shedload of cash? Besides, once they had hooked their rich husband, my new friend explained, they could have all the penniless young men that their hearts desired, as their ageing spouses turned a blind eye to their shenanigans in the interests of a quiet life.

Indeed, several of the hotel’s waiters and barmen took full advantage of this situation, but I, being made of stronger moral stuff, kept myself pure. Besides, there was always a chance that one of the husbands might not be quite as blasé as the others. I had no wish to be a victim of a crime of passion.  Now, according to a report compiled by the controversial London School of Economics sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim, published a few weeks ago, this European trend is gaining popularity in British society.   The good doctor contends that feminism/gender equality has failed and women are even more determined to marry a rich man than ever before. Backing up what I learned in that hotel, she states: “Women’s aspiration to marry up, if they can, to a man who is better educated and higher-earning persists in most European countries. Women thereby continue to use marriage as an alternative or supplement to their employment careers.”

The report, Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine, focuses on “12 feminist myths” to back up the sociologist’s case.  The first “myth” she debunks is that equality legislation has led to a society in which men and women have the same attitudes to career and family. She points to the fact that nearly 40% of women “marry up” and concludes that most women still want a provider – a mighty hunter who will club his way through the marketplace and return with oodles of money, while they stay at home looking after their well-fed offspring.  Dr Hakim maintains that no amount of equality legislation, family-friendly work practices, paternity leave or cheap childcare will undermine what she sees as basic, ingrained differences between men and women.  Her conclusions are, of course, anathema to the sisterhood who have been preaching for the last 40 years or more that women can “have it all”, by which they mean a lucrative career, an efficiently-run home, a biddable husband, and regular Botox treatments.

Well, I don’t have any daughters, but, if I did, I would pound it into their heads that it is as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is with one who is skint.  Herself married me for love rather than money and, as I write this, she is struggling through the icy mists on her way to work at a time in her life when she should be basking in some tropical paradise with a muscular masseur rubbing sweet-smelling unguents into her aching muscles.

As for Nick Clegg’s proposal that men should be given paid paternity leave for up to six months after the birth, Dr Hakim doesn’t believe that fathers are necessarily that good around tiny babies.  I can’t argue with her there. The first time I picked our son up, I nearly snapped his head off. Nobody had told me that a baby’s neck has the strength of a wet lettuce leaf. And I still recoil with horror at the memory of that first nappy full of nasty green stuff. For a moment I thought that Herself had been playing away with a visiting extraterrestrial.  I wasn’t much better when our son reached the toddler stage. Every time he was left in my care he managed to fall down stairs, go crashing into walls or generally attempt to commit hara-kari. Women have an in-built alarm system that tells them when their sprog is in peril; men don’t. And that’s all you really need to know about the parenting skills of the respective sexes.

Finally, I loved the story of the five American burglars who were apprehended while raiding the home of a recently bereaved widow.  When the police arrested them, they were feeling rather poorly. They had consumed the contents of a jar they found containing what they thought was Colombian marching powder. It was the widow’s dead husband’s ashes. He really got up their noses.

Scottish Parliamentary Debate Secured Over Coastguards
Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan, has secured a debate in the Scottish Parliament calling for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to abandon plans to cut the number of Coastguard Stations in Scotland.  Dr Allan’s Member’s Debate entitled Coastguard Centre Cuts has already gained support from Lib-dem and Green MSPs, allowing it to be debated in parliament on Thursday 27th January 2011.  Dr Allan commented: “This debate will, I hope, provide an opportunity for MSPs of all parties to make clear their opposition to the drastic cuts being proposed by the UK Government to Coastguard Centres around Scotland. These cuts, which would see the work of five stations effectively centralised in one full-time station and one station operating in daylight hours only, have raised serious concerns about safety. Above all these proposals would deny the Coastguard the benefit of essential local knowledge around Scotland’s coastline. I know that colleagues representing other areas affected, particularly Shetland, have indicated their keenness to take part in this debate, which calls on the Scottish Government to continue to oppose these UK proposals in the strongest possible terms.”

Alasdair Allan’s motion is: “That the Parliament notes with concern the public consultation document launched by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that envisages what are believed to be drastic reductions in the number of maritime operations centres in the United Kingdom; notes that the proposed reductions would leave only two 24-hour centres operating, based in Aberdeen and in Southampton/Portsmouth; further notes that these would be supported by seven sub-centres and only one would be in Scotland at either Shetland or Stornoway; notes that this would result in the five operations centres in Scotland being reduced to two; believes that this raises serious questions about the future operation of the coastguard given that centres will now be covering what it considers to be such huge areas and that this has clear implications for many members of staff, and believes that these proposals require to be rethought.”

Scots Makar Opens New Burns Museum
Scotland's newly-appointed Makar has performed her first duty at the official opening of a new museum dedicated to Robert Burns.  Liz Lochhead paid tribute to the national bard as the £21 million Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway opened its doors.  Lochhead was named as the country's new national poet on Wednesday, succeeding Edwin Morgan, who died last year.  The National Trust for Scotland museum houses a collection of 5,000 artefacts relating to Burns, including memorabilia and manuscripts.  The project brings together all the sites associated with Burns in the Alloway area - including Burns Cottage and the Burns Monument. Part-funded by the Scottish Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund and South Ayrshire Council, its opening was originally scheduled to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Burns' birth in 2009.

Council Jobs to Move From the City Centre
Planners are being accused of abandoning Inverness's struggling city centre as they prepare to give up their Church Street office in favour of an out-of-town location.  They will move to Kintail House, at Beechwood Park, next month because the office is no longer deemed fit for purpose and requires substantial investment.  However, business and community leaders are furious, claiming the move flies in the face of ongoing efforts to revitalise the Highland Capital.  Mike Smith, manager of Inverness Business Improvement District, says retaining jobs in the city centre is vital and the council should be leading by example.

Cops Nearly Hooked Me in A Big Undercover Dragnet Operation By Iain Maciver
So police sent an officer in plain, and scruffy, clothes to keep tabs on protesters. People say how shocking it is that he was with them for several years and that eventually he switched sides.  How could Mark Kennedy go deep undercover with a group of unwashed hippies and become one of them? What on earth happened?  I am a bit surprised he switched, but I’m not surprised he was there. The cops have been going undercover for a long time.  In fact, I was almost ensnared in a sting myself because of a fiendishly clever operation by Stornoway’s finest. It wasn’t yesterday. Don’t judge me. I don’t even remember all the details.
Out for a coastline walk in Great Bernera, I came across a number of lads whose names just escape me right now. They were sitting around above the shore and enjoying a picnic. Cheese and tomato sandwiches, slices of duff and a selection of refreshing canned drinks by Scottish and Newcastle. Lovely.  Invited to share in the repast, I planted my bottom and seem to remember noticing the guys were intent on watching a line of floats bobbing in the sea. I also seem to recall thinking if I hung around for a bit, I may get something fishy for a nice salad.

Soon, a pair of walkers came over the hill. Backpacks on and wielding walking sticks, the two young men were obviously mainlanders on holiday. At that time, no one who was local wore a backpack – not unless they are carrying home a haul of fish. And no local under 70 would carry a walking stick.  The pair chatted about the weather and listened politely while my mate lectured them on why James Callaghan was not too old to be prime minister. Then they asked what we were fishing for. Just a few trout or maybe a passing mackerel. That sort of thing. Then they were on their way.  Enjoy the rest of your holiday. Bye. Mainlanders, eh. What are they like? Haven’t a clue about anything.

Soon afterwards, I had to go home. I think there was a net in the byre I had to mend. Anyway, it wasn’t long before I heard there had been a police raid at the picnic area and the guys had been accused of netting salmon. What? How? We later learned the tip-off was from a couple of cops posing as hillwalkers, so the uniformed squad swooped.  The cops had been undercover as bonglies. There was some suggestion it was my net. As I say, I can’t remember all the details.

Now, Kenny MacAskill may amalgamate all our police forces into a Scottish-style FBI. It’s proving to be unsettling for some of the boys in blue. I’m afraid the speculation and uncertainty has caused a Western Isles top cop to jump ship.  Yes, I can now exclusively reveal that legendary crimebuster Alex Macdonald has quit the force.  From his early boyhood days in North Uist, it was all he wanted to do. Not for him top-flight jobs in education like his head teacher brother, Donald. No, AK quickly realised there were other ways to keep plooky boys on the straight and narrow.  There were mean streets to clean up and he was the very one to do it. But, as Comhairle nan Eilean Siar had the local street cleaning well in hand, he had to look a bit beyond his beloved North Uist.

In a career which, 10 years ago, even saw the dedicated lawman from Lochmaddy with the shiny buttons dispatched to Holland to maintain law and order at the trial of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al Megrahi in The Hague, he has combined keeping the peace with keeping sheep.  Happily, his woolly friends could be about to see even more of him. The good news is that AK’s surveillance and investigation skills which have been built up over decades will not be lost to this community. He has been head-hunted by one of the country’s largest companies to stamp out wrongdoing in its island retail arm.  Inevitably, when he is stalking the aisles for Persil-pilferers or sausage-snatchers, he will come into contact with people, like my own Mrs X, for instance, who constantly moan about the price of this and that.

These people never stop. So it’s an arm and a leg to buy the Sunday dinner and half a dozen lagers for the bodach. So what? Get over it, madam. I think they call it Stockholm syndrome when you start to think like people you spend a lot of time with, even if you started off with an opposite point of view.  Could that happen to a diligent former cop? Unlikely, I know, as Alex is one of the most happy-go-lucky guys you could meet, something that’s almost unheard of in an Uibhisteach. But next time you see him, ask him about the price of cabbage and watch his reaction. If he goes on and on about it, he will probably have succumbed to the syndrome, too.

Obviously, I could never reveal the name of the organisation which has taken on our champion crimefighter. I wouldn’t want to do anything which would cause him to be exposed when he is deep undercover at the cold meats section. All I will say is it’s not Tesco.  And did you hear about the TV crew who went undercover with the three priests on Barra and South Uist?   Not long to go now until all is revealed. An Island Parish is on BBC2 on Friday. I know some people down there say they won’t watch it because of fears that veteran priest Father Calum, Father Roddy and new boy Father John Paul and their various housekeepers will come across like the Irish eejits in that wonderful comedy series Father Ted.

Ah, but you have to watch it. Ah, go on. Go on, go on, go on, go on.

City Shop Boss Refuses to Pay £2000 Tribunal Award
A shopkeeper has vowed not to pay more than £2000 to an expectant mother for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination after a tribunal ruling this week.  An employment judge decided soldier's wife Caroline Hayhurst was unfairly sacked by Jim Earley's Kingsmills Road business, adding he believed attitudes towards pregnant workers in the Highlands were still outdated.  The part-time shop assistant had only been employed by Crown Stores for four weeks when she discovered she was pregnant with her first child which is due next month. Mrs Hayhurst was angry after being informed her services were no longer required despite insisting she was prepared to work right up until the end of her pregnancy.

The 25-year-old's case was heard by judge James Hendry at an employment tribunal hearing in Inverness and £2258 was awarded to her for loss of earnings, a week's wage for her dismissal last June and holiday pay.  However, after the tribunal, shop owner Mr Earley vehemently denied that Mrs Hayhurst's employment was terminated because she had a child on the way and insisted it was down to her poor attitude.  Mr Earley, who did not attend the hearing because he was too busy at the shop, also said he would refuse to pay the money awarded to Mrs Hayhurst.  "If she wants the money then she will have to take me to court."

During the tribunal Mr Hendry said he found Mrs Hayhurst, whose husband is based at Fort George, to be a reliable and credible witness and criticised Mr Earley's written explanation for her sacking.  "I have no doubt whatsoever that what she was telling was the unvarnished truth," he said. "To dismiss somebody because of their pregnancy is unfair dismissal and is not a valid reason. It is unfortunate in this day and age some of the attitudes expressed still appear to be carried among employers in the Highlands."

Explorers Find Source of the Tay
Legendary Victorian explorer John Speke almost went blind 155 years ago when he battled through desert and jungle to become the first European to gaze upon Lake Victoria - the source of the mighty River Nile.  But it is only now that the source of the Tay has finally been pinpointed, after a detailed, two-year survey of more than 1,000 miles of watercourses in the western catchment of Britain's largest river system.

For centuries, it had simply been accepted by experts that the source of Scotland's longest river was on the slopes of the 3,707ft-high Ben Lui, near Tyndrum. But no-one had ever bothered trying to identity the single source of the complex catchment. The source of the 120-mile long river was finally identified after Victor Clements, the Perthshire area manager for Scottish Native Woods, and two colleagues spent months following the hundreds of miles of main river, tributaries, watercourses and streams that eventually led them 2,300ft up the southern face of the mountain to a tiny lochan, fed by a spring, known as Allt Coire Laoigh.

Mr Clements said: "Following the most dominant water course and also the longest distance from the sea - 120 miles - we identified Allt Coire Laoigh, a small lochan three or four metres square, which must be fed by a spring, as the source."  The survey team state in their report: "We believe that we have redefined the source of the biggest river system in Britain.  For the record, we think that, as it is the most dominant tributary and also the longest, the answer is the Allt Coire Laoigh and, as no-one else seems too concerned, we are going to claim credit for redefining the true source of the River Tay.

Famous Scots and Their African Adventures
David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and African explorer, was obsessed with finding the source of the Nile. He was the first European to discover the Mosi-oa-Tunya ("the smoke that thunders") waterfall, which he named Victoria Falls, on the Zambezi River in 1856. He made the discovery after setting out to trace the source of the Nile but pushed too far west and entered the Congo River systems instead. He died in Africa in 1873 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Mungo Park, another Scottish explorer, is credited with being the first European to discover the Niger River, in 1795. He followed the course of the river 80 miles downstream until he was forced to return back. In 1803, he was appointed to head another expedition to the Niger but drowned while trying to flee a native attack. He was only 35.

Cancer Research Centre Will Help Improve Treatments
Glasgow is poised to become a world leader in the development of individually-tailored cancer treatments as Cancer Research UK launched its new centre in the city.  The Cancer Research UK West of Scotland Cancer Centre is Scotland’s final link in a chain of centres being set up by the charity across the UK. The centre will let researchers work together to exchange ideas and information more easily.  It will also provide people in the West of Scotland with cutting-edge cancer treatment in state-of-the-art facilities, as well as training the next generation of leaders in research and care.  The centre will draw together laboratory research and medical expertise from the University of Glasgow, the University of Strathclyde, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Beatson oncology units, building on Glasgow’s world class research in drug discovery and how cancer spreads around the body. The focus will be on research into bowel cancer and chronic myeloid leukaemia, working to make discoveries in cell biology.

The 84 Artworks Missing From City’s Galleries
Ten paintings in total have been stolen from the stores of Glasgow’s museums and art galleries with another 74 believed to have gone missing. The missing artworks are in addition to three paintings now returned to the city by police after being taken in the 1990s, most likely by a member of staff at the time. Police inquiries are continuing to establish the identity of the thief.  As revealed yesterday, the three stolen paintings, with a combined value of £200,000, were discovered after a senior curator spotted one of the works in a catalogue for Edinburgh auction house.  Wooded Landscape with Figures by the French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was then recovered from Lyon & Turnbull, with the owners revealing that they had sold a work by Scots post-impressionist painter Samuel Peploe from the same source.  The Peploe was discovered missing from the store at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in 1994 and is now back under lock and key after it was recovered from the Glasgow art gallery which purchased it late last year.

As police inquiries gathered pace, a search of the source’s home revealed a miniature of an infant Christ by Italian Renaissance painter Federico Berocci, which was first discovered missing in 1998 during a stock take.  While there is no suggestion that the source of the paintings is the original thief, it is hoped that the recovery of the three works will lead officers to further lost works. Glasgow Life, the organisation which runs museums in Glasgow, declined to discuss details of the 10 stolen paintings which had been taken over a 70-year period.

The main reason for works being lost or going missing is poor documentation of their movements, particularly when they go on loan. It is feared that any publicity surrounding the stolen works could lead them to be destroyed, given that no gallery would be willing to pay for them.  It is for this reason that stolen art went largely unreported in the past, with no record of staff at Kelvingrove alerting police to the loss of the three paintings.  A senior museums manager said: “Before, the exhibits were centrally monitored by each department, but people could walk in willy nilly. There were other people familiar with these systems and could circumvent them. There are now fewer people who have access to things and reviews were carried out on areas such as key control with far greater limits put on who could access certain parts of buildings. In terms of our collections inventory, we’re right up there with all the major institutions and having all our records on the one system.” Glasgow Museums now reports a stolen work as soon as it is realised it has gone and the city has also spend far more on the security of museums and art galleries following concerns about the alleged thefts that were raised in an auditor’s report in 1996.

Minister Rejects Park Status for Harris But Islanders Vow to Fight
Islanders have vowed to continue their fight to establish Harris as Scotland's third national park despite being turned down by the Scottish Government. A ballot in 2009 showed locals voted 732 to 311 for the designation which they felt would boost tourism, create jobs and help reverse population decline on the island. But Roseanna Cunningham, the environment minister, has now told a study group pursuing the proposal she is not backing it due to the economic climate and a lack of support from Western Isles Council. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said yesterday: "Ministers have stated that they would not wish to consider a case for national park status for Harris without the full support of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. In the absence of council support and within the context of the tight financial pressures facing Scotland, proceeding with the formal statutory process would be premature, create unwarranted expectations and cause confusion."

However, the study group has said it will continue its campaign. Calum Mackay, chairman of the study group, said: "The feasibility study commissioned to investigate the proposal indicated clearly that national park status would be beneficial not only to Harris but also to the whole of the Outer Hebrides. It also notes that there is no requirement in the legislation that requires full local authority support at this stage."

The feasibility study predicted a national park would create up to 90 jobs, significantly increase tourism, provide new opportunities to conserve and celebrate the island's Gaelic culture while not restricting crofting on the island. It said it would also help reverse a chronic loss of people from the island. The population of Harris fell by 24 per cent between 1981 and 2001 and 35 per cent of Harris and Scalpay's population in 2001 was aged 60 or over.  The report continued: "Economically and socially, the area is fragile. Without park status tourism may at best grow at a slow rate, but with park status tourism could take advantage of the internationally recognised national park 'brand'."  At present Scotland has two national parks - Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

Evidence of Gold Found in Trossachs
A mining firm searching for precious metals in the Trossachs has found evidence of gold.
Scotgold said it had drilled small holes into two structures at Auch, and found rockchip sampling revealed high-grade gold and two other "significant magnetic anomalies" that it plans to investigate further.  The company, which had its application for Scotland's first commercial gold mine at Cononish, near Tyndrum, turned down last summer, said earlier this week that it would submit a second, revised planning application by the end of March.

Scots in Line for Cheaper Broadband
Rural areas of Scotland could be set for cheaper broadband following new rules reducing the amount BT can charge for its wholesale service.  Communications regulator Ofcom said it had proposed cutting the prices - up to 14.75 per cent below inflation - BT can charge in parts of the country where it is the sole provider of wholesale broadband services.

Edinburgh and Glasgow Forge Lyrical Link
Organisers of a project that will see Glasgow and Edinburgh united in song have unveiled plans for a month-long celebration. Some of the cities' best-known musicians and writers will be performing or discussing their favourite lyrics as part of the first major cultural collaboration between the arch rivals.  Let's Get Lyrical will explore the legacy of everything from the Beatles and Bob Dylan to hit films such as Singin' in the Rain and The Wicker Man. Events celebrating wartime tunes, peace anthems and political protest songs rub shoulders with a "disco lecture", songs linked to gardening and a night inspired by William Shatner's music, in the programme of more than 50 events. Music fans will be asked to share a story about their favourite song lyric on the official website, while thousands of song lyric cards and bookmarks featuring celebrity choices will be given away in arts centres, cafés, pubs, libraries and schools.

Organisers hope a £50,000 initiative will raise the profile of lesser-known musicians and writers, generate new interest in long-forgotten songs, and encourage school pupils to develop an interest in song-writing.  Venues include Kelvingrove Gallery, Glasgow University, the Royal Botanic Garden and Usher Hall, both in Edinburgh, as well as bars, nightclubs, libraries, cinemas and church halls.  Among the expected Let's Get Lyrical highlights are a celebration of the Rat Pack's classic songs, an insight into cult Glasgow band the Blue Nile, a community opera at Glasgow's Citizens Theatre, and a club night in Edinburgh jointly hosted by Cargo Publishing and the Chemikal Underground record label.  A gala concert will be staged to celebrate some of Edinburgh's most famous characters including John Knox, Sean Connery and Robert Louis Stevenson, while Let's Get Lyrical will see the unveiling of new music inspired by Glasgow artist Susan Philipsz's recent Turner-winning work.  The festival is being held under the Unesco banners of Edinburgh's city of literature status and Glasgow's city of music mantle.

Riddle As Skipper of Stricken Boat Vanishes
Fears were increasing last night for a prawn fishermen missing after his boat was found partly submerged on a remote stretch of the Shetland coastline.  Neil Smith, from Cunningsburgh, on mainland Shetland, was last seen alive at 6:15am on Thursday when he left Lerwick harbour on board his 10-metre prawn boat the Bread Winner. An air, sea and land search began for the fishermen on Thursday night after he failed to return to Lerwick. But yesterday morning hopes began to fade after the badly-holed wreckage of his boat was found on the rocks at Grif Skerry, east of the island of Whalsay. The vessel's inflated liferaft and Mr Smith's inflated lifejacket were found floating close to the foundered vessel. But there was no trace of Mr Smith or his prawn creels and the rest of his fishing gear.  Last night, as the search was called off as darkness fell, Shetland Coastguard said they would reassess the search for Mr Smith this morning.

Prince's Eco-village to Go Ahead
The first phase of a new sustainable Scottish village designed by Prince Charles has received planning permission.  Work will begin in the spring on Knockroon in Ayrshire, which has been dubbed the "Scottish Poundbury".  The land for the development was bought by the Prince's Charities Foundation at the time of the acquisition of nearby Dumfries House in 2007.  It was acquired as part of his vision to use the stately home and its collection to help with the regeneration of the Cumnock area as part of a "heritage-led regeneration" initiative. The initial phase, given the green light yesterday by East Ayrshire Council, will comprise 87 homes, 12 work units, four commercial buildings and a local shop.  Anne Hope, director of Hope Homes (Scotland), the housebuilder developing the land in partnership with the foundation and ZeroC Holdings, said: "Knockroon has been designed to foster a real sense of community. I think this is the sort of place in which families will very much want to set up home.  It represents a unique chance to be part of something special, and when it is complete, we feel that the people of Ayrshire will take pride in Knockroon."

Dozens Get Double Money At Faulty Cash Machine
Dozens of people who took advantage of a cash machine paying out double the requested sums will not have to return the extra money.  The operator, Bank Machine Ltd, said it would not pursue anyone for the cash.  Crowds gathered at the cash machine in Fintry Road, Dundee, on Thursday evening when rumours spread it was "spilling out" cash.  The company refused to disclose the amount of money lost. But a spokeswoman said: "We are not going to pursue people. It is up to their conscience whether they return the money or not. If they wish to return the money, the helpline number to contact is on the ATM."

Managing director Ron Delnevo said earlier that the error had occurred because the cash cassettes had been packed incorrectly.  He added: "It is not surprising that this causes some excitement locally. Because it happens so rarely and is dealt with very quickly when it arises, there is no point in being grim-faced about it.  If the people using the ATM see it as a bit of fun, so be it."  Police were called to the Scotmid store when staff noticed the growing crowd gathering at the cash machine at the front of the shop.  A witness, who asked not to be named, said he estimated about 50 or 60 people had been queuing to use the machine at one point, with others running around with "smiles on their faces".

High Hopes for the ‘Magic’ Ice-breaker
During the horrendous weather conditions of a few weeks ago, there was a feeling of helplessness in the face of its severity. Schools seemed to close en masse, often with a little too much alacrity for most people’s liking, a Scottish minister was forced to stand down as roads ground to a halt, and even the quality and quantity of salt was questioned. Salt was proving ineffective at the lowest sub-zero temperatures. Now a new de-icing liquid, effective on ice at up to minus 20C, is being rolled out across Scotland, after being tested at Huntly, to keep roads open during further cold snaps this winter. It seems like a positive step, which will be welcomed by the long-suffering public who were caught in the middle of this traffic paralysis. The “magic” liquid appears to work, but what of the systems and people in place to deal with another weather crisis? This is where plans can fall apart. There have been 52 meetings between the administration and various other interested bodies, such as emergency and transport services and councils, since the bad weather.

So, everyone should be prepared – in theory.