Some Scottish News & Views #81

Issue #81                                                                                        Week ending 2nd  April 2011
In this issue once again I’ve been able to include a small named article which I think you will enjoy. - Robin

Very Sad Loss
Its with a great deal of sorrow and an immense feeling of loss that we must announce the death of one of Scotland’s leading Gaelic singers, Ishbel MacAskill.  A cousin in Lewis rang me on Friday morning to say that Ishbel died on the Thursday as a result of an accident at her home.

This short outline on Ishbel  has been drawn, in part, from a website.  Ishbel MacAskill came from the Point area of the Island of Lewis. She was brought up with the rich heritage of centuries - old Gaelic music and song which still survives in Point and indeed all over the island of Lewis. Her music and culture were immensely important in her life, and for several years she was very much involved in teaching traditional Gaelic singing to children at the numerous Feisean (festivals of music and song) throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.  She fervently believed this approach to be a positive contribution to the revival of the language. She was deeply motivated by the rich beauty of her heritage of Gaelic music and poetry. She was especially moved by the intensely emotive quality of the poetry and, through her unique delivery, managed to convey to her audiences a feeling of involvement in the colourful history and culture of the Gael. Her particular style of  unaccompanied, traditional singing, her numerous radio and television performances and countless world-wide live appearances, established her position as probably the best known Gaelic singer today.

Her singing took her to venues throughout the U.K., Ireland, Europe, The Far East , North America and Australia.  We well remember her 2006 visit to Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane where her song workshops and ceildhs were the order of the day,  and indeed,  where she sang to packed out events.  A highlight of her visit to Sydney was taking part with  performers at  “Autumn in the Highland Manor”.  This event, held in Old Government House, Parramatta,  was organised by Coisir Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers) as a tribute to Lachlan Macquarie, the man from Mull who is regarded as the most famous and productive Colonial Governor of New South Wales.  Accompanied by the NSW Police Pipe Band in a period re-enactment,  Ishbel led a procession of dignitaries from Federal Parliament, Local Government and Multi-cultural and Community representatives,  to be presented to the “Governor and his wife”.   In front of an audience of well over 1500 people,  Ishbel was formally introduced in Gaelic to the “Governor”  as an embodiment of Gaelic culture.  This was the culture that had given rise to Macquarie and all he contributed to the Australian nation and character.  The success of such an event can sometimes be a two-edged sword:  at one point, the crowds became so large that Ishbel and the choir had to perform outside the building. To Ishbel’s delight, the response of audiences to her  presence and many performances continued to be eager and enthusiastic and not to be easily forgotten.  

Ishbel, in one of the many radio interviews that she gave on her Australian visit, said “I tend to judge a country by the people I’ve met, and I have found the people here in Australia to be very warm-hearted, generous and kind.  These people were from all walks of life and not all of them Scots by any means.”  The people here returned these sentiments, to a lady who will be sorely missed but not forgotten.

Ishbel is survived by,  husband Bill, children;  Lewis, Johanna, Torquil, William and her  grandchildren and beloved sister-in-law Mary.  Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.

Iseabail NicAsgaill  Gus am bris an latha agus an teich na sgàilean a’ bhais -
Ishbel MacAskill -Until the day breaks and the shadows of death flee away

Lady the Osprey Returns to Her Perthshire Nest
One of the UK's oldest breeding birds of prey has returned to Scotland to nest for the 21st year in a row.   Lady the osprey was spotted in the Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve in Perthshire yesterday.  The bird, now thought to be around 26 years old, was identified using a close-up image of her iris taken with a camera hidden in her nest.  She was seen landing on a nesting site at the reserve, which belongs to the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), yesterday lunchtime.  She stayed for a few minutes before disappearing from the area until dusk.

The bird, which travelled some 3,000 miles from West Africa, will now be under 24-hour protection to keep her safe from wildlife crime.  Robert Potter, Scottish Wildlife Trust's (SWT) north east reserve manager, said: "At the first possible opportunity, we used the camera to zoom in on the bird.  "To our delight and astonishment, the close-up allowed us to confirm that this bird is, in fact, our resident female osprey, known by many as Lady."   He said the bird was an "incredible specimen".  The average osprey lifespan is eight years but Lady is thought to be more than three times that age.  She has laid around 58 eggs in her lifetime, with 48 chicks going on to hatch and successfully fledge the nest.

Scottish Invention 'Improves Phone Storage'
Scottish researchers have helped to create a device which improves memory storage for technology including MP3s, smartphones and cameras.  The device uses a tiny mechanical arm to translate data into electrical signals.  This allows faster operation and uses less energy compared with conventional memory storage products.  The Edinburgh University researchers worked with the Konkuk University and Seoul National University, in Korea.

The device records data by measuring the current passing through a carbon nanotube, and the binary value of the data is determined by an electrode that controls the flow of current.
Previous attempts to use carbon nanotube transistors for memory storage hit a stumbling block because they had low operational speed and short memory retention times.  By using a mechanical arm to charge the electrode, which operates faster than conventional memory devices, scientists have been able to overcome the problems.  Prof Eleanor Campbell, from Edinburgh University's school of chemistry, said: "This is a novel approach to designing memory storage devices.  "With this device you have much faster switching on and off which you do not have with conventional memory storage devices.   However, one of the issues with these novel devices is how easy they can be manufactured on an industrial scale, which we are yet to see."

Anti-singing Campaigners 'Declare War' on Free Kirk
A Campaign against the introduction of hymn singing in the Free Church of Scotland is a "declaration of war" against the church, a leading theologian claims.  Prof Donald Macleod, former principal of the Free Church College, has attacked those behind a recent newspaper advert opposing a General Assembly decision to overturn a century-long ban on hymn singing and playing musical instruments.

The decision was narrowly approved last November. But a group of opponents are fighting the move, saying it amounts to "new gimmicks to fill church pews".  They hope a petition will help overturn the decision at this year's General Assembly in May.  The group took out newspaper adverts earlier this month which said: "The biblical values of historic Scottish Presbyterians, already seriously eroded in the national church, have been further eroded by the decision of the Free Church of Scotland last November to depart from its long established form of worship."  It said the decision was an attempt to modernise the church but claimed it has alienated large numbers of members, some of whom have withdrawn financial support.  It said: "It is sad to see the energy of the church being absorbed with yet another attempt to destroy its own foundations, and causing huge division in the process. It is sadder still to see this process being undertaken by misguided leaders of the church who seem intent on focus sing on new gimmicks to fill church pews."

The ad encourages people to sign a petition, called a memorial and protestation, to get the assembly to consider its opposition to the "unbiblical, unconfessional and unconstitutional decision".

In his weekly column in a local newspaper, Prof Macleod said recent events had done more to discredit the church "than even the most malevolent slanders of press or poet. He said: "The memorial is nothing short of a declaration of war on the church by men sworn to promote her peace and prosperity. No organisation can survive in the face of professed loyalists determined either to get their own way or to wreck it."  He added: "They have a fear of gimmicks. The problem is you need to have led an extremely sheltered life to think that singing hymns is a gimmick."

City's Answer is 'No' As Just 12 Show for Av Poll Debate
A meeting organised in Edinburgh to debate the change to the voting system for UK general elections - on which the public will be asked to vote in a referendum on May 5 - attracted an audience of just 12 people.  According to Labour peer Lord Falconer, who has been touring the country arguing the case for a "no" vote in similar debates, the turn-out for the Capital event was one of the better attendances he has seen.  The meeting in the Thomas Morton Hall in Leith on Saturday was organised by the "No to AV" campaign but took the form of a debate between Lord Falconer and Green Party campaigner Ian Baxter, who put the "yes" case.

Voters will be asked to decide in just over five weeks whether they want to stick with the current "first past the post" voting system or switch to the "alternative vote" (AV) which means voters ranking candidates 1, 2, 3, etc in order of preference and the candidates with the least votes being eliminated and their votes being redistributed until one candidate gets more than 50 per cent.  The vote will be held on the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections.

Lord Falconer told the meeting: "This is the first nationwide referendum since 1974. Edinburgh is the heart of debate in the whole of the United Kingdom and 12 people have come to debate it, so it is not exactly an issue that is galvanising the country."  Later he said that the Edinburgh turn-out was at the top end of the spectrum," he said. "It's not catching fire in any shape or form.  It would be terrible if a change to our voting system came on a ludicrously low poll - say a 25 per cent turn-out with half of them saying yes, that would mean 13 per cent in favour of change."

In the debate, Mr Baxter said there was no reason to suppose AV would mean more hung parliaments. "Australia has had only two hung parliaments since they introduced AV in 1918."  Lord Falconer dismissed AV as a "random" system which had no logic, always ignored the second preferences of the second-placed candidate and, he said, would encourage candidates to pander to extremists.

Distillers Sell Whisky Galore to World
Scottish distillers have defied the global recession to export whisky worth nearly £3.5billion. Growing sales across the world mean the industry adds £109 per second to the UK economy. Figures released yesterday by the Scotch Whisky Association revealed the value of exports rose by 10% in the latest 12-month period.  Scottish distilleries now send bottles to all parts of the globe, bringing in hundreds of millions of pounds from countries including the US, France and Singapore.  Whisky’s growing popularity is having a knock-on effect for the country’s tourism trade as whisky lovers visit the distilleries where their favourite drams are made.   Michael Urquhart, joint managing director of Elgin-based whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail, said the total value of its exports had increased from £3.2million to just over £5million in the year to the end of February.  “It underlines that this is one of Scotland’s greatest export industries,” he said. “When you look at some growing markets and others that have been in recession and are now coming out of it, you can see the opportunities are there – we are now looking forward to the months and years to come.”

So Who is The Mysterious Gaelic Singer With The Big Pop Star? By iain maciver
I'll tell you what's a lovely word and miles better than its English equivalent. Norrag.  Great word. Nor-rag. It suggests something rare and small, yet it is so precise that it must be something you can only benefit from.   Everyone has heard someone use it, but they often forget to check with their local teuchter to find out exactly what it means.

You must always get the meaning confirmed when you come across an unfamiliar Gaelic word. It could mean anything.  I used to have an old English-born widow for a neighbour. Let's call her Mary, because that was her name. She told me once how she always felt better for the rest of the day if she slept for half an hour after lunch.  So I would cheerfully inquire if I saw her in the afternoon as to whether or not she had taken her norrag yet. It means a nap, you see.    However, each time I asked, for some strange reason, the battling grannie would immediately scold me in that mischievous way that reminded me of a comedian off the telly.  "Oh, stop it. What do you take me for?" she would say, before giving me a clout round the back of the head for my trouble. I got walloped every time.  Don't think 78-year-olds can't hurt you. Ouch.

Her assault made me feel like the foil for that blousy Dick Emery character. When asked some question with a saucy double-meaning, the response was always: “Ooh, you are awful. But I like you."   The comedian would then playfully thump his open-mouth victim before scurrying off on unfeasible heels. It felt a bit like that.

After months of being assaulted by this pugilistic pensioner, I discovered she thought a norrag was a dram.   Convinced I was suggesting she was on the gin rather earlier in the day than would be proper for a gentle-lady of her years, her strategy to stop me besmirching her reputation was to knock seven bells out of me.

Kenneth Clarke had 40 winks during the chancellor's Budget speech. Mind you, having seen him recently turn up in parliament with a black eye, maybe I shouldn't ask if he enjoyed his norrag.  Dick Emery reminded me of the women on high heels I saw the other day, rushing for the Point bus.   Two of them atop the highest heels somehow tripped on the pedestrian crossing outside the Clydesdale Bank. Poor dears, they ended up in close contact with the tarmacadam.   A double Naomi Campbell. Four ankles, knees and heels flailing about as the wee green man, and goodness knows what else, was flashing away.  Sorry, ladies. It wasn't funny. Probably quite sore afterwards, were we? Could have happened to anyone. They were just unlucky.   And how do I know all this? They may remember that white van man who stopped at the lights and offered to help them in their moment of humiliating distress? ’Twas I. Yes, I saw it all.   Only their pride was badly bruised, I hear. I don't know why I mentioned it. I promise I won't do it again – at least not without naming names to really give the lassies a red face to go with their red behinds.

When it comes to naming names for the most surprising broadcast this week, I think the prize goes to the BBC's Gaelic request programme Durachdan.  Normally, tuning in to Radio nan Gaidheal at teatime on Friday, you can be sure you will hear fine old Gaelic songs sung the way they should be, often by great, talented people who are no longer with us – and Costello, of Flair fame.  Not so at the end of last week. Not only did Ailig in Inverness and his co-presenter in Aberdeen, the other Ailig, have a certain jauntiness not often found in traditional music programmes, but they even played a track from a top-selling international chart star with fans in the millions.
Not Costello this time.  They played Cee Lo Green. He's the guy who did the song with the rude lyrics that eventually became the cleaned-up chart-topper Forget You.

Cee Lo Green on Na Durachdan? How did that happen? It's like Aled Jones doing Songs of Praise from The Free Church (Continuing).

It turns out that Green, who was also the guy in that Gnarls Barkley outfit which did Crazy a few years ago, recently did a New York R&B tune called The Language of Love. And it's got loads of Gaelic in it.  And it's no bad – as far as misty-eyed Gaelic ballads with a hint of R&B go.  Neither Ailig nor Ailig, both veritable masters in the art of analysing Gaelic performances, had any clue who was the female Gael with the delightful tones.   They even appealed for listeners to help. Not a beeg from anyone, even though that programme has listeners calling in from places like Australia, Algeria and Airidhbhruaich.

What do I think? Methinks it's Cathy Ann MacPhee, who is nowadays to be found in Ottawa. Cathy Ann still hasn't answered my question asking if that is her. So I think it probably is.
The Barra-born First Lady of Gaelic Song is probably thinking: “That big star Cee Lo Green wants me to keep my role in this song hush-hush and now Maciver is on my Facebook asking tricky questions about it. Trust him to recognise me.   I'd better not upset an international superstar in case he is planning to give me a bigger role in something else. What am I going to do? I'd better not respond. Yeah, that's what I'll do. Nothing."

Either that, or it's not Cathy Ann at all.    Come on. Let me know, m’eudail. I can't sleep until I find out.  Unlike Kenneth Clarke during the Budget speech. Still, he didn't miss much that was interesting. Just that 1p cut from petrol.

You know, I don't think etrol has quite the same ring to it.

Google Maps Gives English Names to Streets on Skye 2 Apr 2011
There is a galaxy of centuries-old Gaelic place names available to identify every hillock, burn and bay across the Highlands and Islands.  But Google Maps has seemingly ignored them all and used a series of unconnected English street names to identify places in a rural township in the north west of Skye.

Bernisdale, on the shores of Loch Snizort Beag, is a small community made up of several dozen crofts and newer houses. There is not even a shop, school or post office.  However, stretches of single-track road that twist and turn between the dwellings, have been afforded names by the online atlas that seem to have been plucked from the cities and towns of the south.  There now appears to be, among others, a Station Close, The Promenade, a Taylor Place and Mill Gate – much to the bemusement of residents.

The strange names were discovered by Cailean Maclean, a local businessman, photographer, writer and broadcaster, who has been a long-time student of the cultural history of the Highlands and Islands and Skye in particular. He lives in Bernisdale and had downloaded Google Maps as part of a project he was working on. “I thought I had the wrong place at first. Apparently the road just up from my house is now to be called The Promenade. I know of the famous Blackpool Promenade and I am sure other seaside towns and resorts have theirs, but it is a new one for Bernisdale or even Skye. The only similarity would be the proximity of the sea. We are enlightened but not illuminated in Bernisdale.  “On closer examination I found other alien ‘street’ names. We now have a Station Close, which is rather surprising because we neither have a station nor are we close to one.  “The Victorians never brought the railways to Skye. If you want to catch a train, our closest station is Kyle of Lochalsh 40 or 50 miles away on the mainland.”

There is a Station Close in both Potters Bar, Hertfordshire and in Newry in Northern Ireland. Bernisdale also shares Taylor Place with Tower Hamlets in London; Middleton Road with Golders Green, also in London; and Mill Gate with a shopping centre in Bury in Greater Manchester. The community also has some Scottish twinnings, sharing Alvie Place with Airdrie and Kirckcaldy’s Williamson’s Quay – a development of flats overlooking the Firth of Forth.  Mr Maclean said: “These street names have no connection to Skye, never mind Bernisdale.  If Google wants some to have real place names in Bernisdale, I could suggest names like Rinn na h-Airde (the promontory point of the headland) or Bruach Oighrig (Effie’s Brae) which were traditionally used in this part of Bernisdale.”

It is not the first time Google Maps have become disorientated. Last year there were complaints from those involved in the promotion of tourism in Northumberland, when they discovered that leading attractions such as the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and Alnwick Castle (featured in early Harry Potter films) had been transferred to Cumbria.  When asked about Bernisdale, a spokesman for Google Maps said: “Information on Google Maps is comprised of a number of sources. We work hard to keep our maps as accurate as possible and appreciate user feedback. People can report an issue with regards to place names and locations.”

Oil Firms 'Ready to Abandon' North Sea Contracts
Some North Sea oil companies are mere "days" away from cancelling or postponing major investment plans - putting thousands of jobs at risk - as a result of the Chancellor's controversial £10 billion oil tax grab, industry leaders have warned.  Members of the council of Oil and Gas UK, the pan-industry trade body, gathered in Aberdeen and London yesterday in a "state of disbelief" for a video-linked summit meeting to discuss plans by Chancellor George Osborne to raise an extra £2bn a year from North Sea oil companies over the next five years.  Industry leaders have already warned up to 40,000 jobs - both existing roles and additional jobs expected to be created through previously forecast investment opportunities - could be axed as a result of the Chancellor's surprise Budget decision to recoup the £9.4bn the government will lose through the fuel duty cut from offshore oil revenues.  They are now demanding an urgent meeting with Mr Osborne to discuss the industry's future and to spell out the impact the tax hike will have on long-term investment plans in the North Sea.

Mike Tholen, economics director of Oil and Gas UK, claimed after the summit that "several" oil companies were set to cancel investment plans worth millions of pounds as a result of the massive tax grab by a government which had lost the industry's trust.  And he warned: "I think for some it will be a matter of days rather than weeks before projects are cancelled. And for others it is going to weeks and beyond, because these are often quite complicated choices you have to make.

Giant drama from a small country – it can be done
As the superb Danish crime series The Killing reached its riveting climax last Saturday on BBC4,  Herself and I sighed mournfully. We have been totally engrossed in this epic drama from Day One of its 10-week run. Saturday nights won’t be the same until DI Sarah Lund returns for the second series.   It took a great leap of faith on the part of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, otherwise known as Danmarks Radio (DR), to invest so much of the licence-payers’ money in a 20-part story that revolved around a single crime, but it certainly paid off.   The Killing attracted a larger audience in Britain than the well-established Mad Men, and regularly trounced Martin Scorsese’s lavish Sky Atlantic Prohibition tale, Boardwalk Empire.

Viewers who switched off because they found the subtitles annoying missed a treat. Normally, I’m not a big fan of subtitles, since they can interfere with one’s concentration, but in this case the dialogue was so sparse that this didn’t present a problem.   Indeed, the fact that the cast were speaking in their native tongue gave the whole thing an added layer of reality and, after a few episodes, it was fun picking out words and phrases that sounded just like English.   The writing was exemplary. There were more red herrings than you could find in a dozen Agatha Christie yarns. And there was none of the implausible nonsense that we have come to expect from British superannuated cop shows like Midsomer Murders, Silent Witness and Waking the Dead.  For once, the dreadful effect that murder has on the victim’s family was explored to the full. The murdered girl’s mother went temporarily insane with grief and her father was so desperate to find the killer that he almost murdered an innocent man.

But, for my money, excellent and all as the writing was, the show’s real strength was in the acting. I was completely blown away by the skill of the entire cast. It was an object lesson in screen acting. Every character was completely believable. Nobody posed, cried hysterically or tried to steal a scene by out-shouting the other actor.  Sofie Grabol, as Lund, led the way with a minimalist performance of which Alec Guinness would have been proud.   A British actress in the same role would have sported a well-cut suit and high heels. She would have spent two hours in the make-up department before she went anywhere near the set.

There was none of that for Ms Grabol. Her hair was tied roughly behind her head; she wore the bare minimum of make-up, and she went everywhere in a Faroese jumper, jeans and flat shoes.  When her obsession with solving the case led inadvertently to the death of her male sidekick, she conveyed her sadness and guilt with a look, where a lesser actress would have been climbing the walls and screaming like a banshee.  It’s not surprising, then, that Sofie Grabol has picked up numerous acting awards over the years. What is surprising is the fact that the show’s casting director had so many other wonderful actors to choose from in a country as small as Denmark – a country with roughly the same population as Scotland.

I’m not suggesting that Scotland doesn’t have lots of talented actors and actresses. It’s just that most of them have had to leave their native land in search of work.  Robert Carlyle, star of Trainspotting, The Full Monty and Hamish Macbeth, is working on a sci-fi show in Canada after the BBC rejected his offer to appear in a Scottish-based series that would have featured himself as a private eye.   The wonderful Bill Paterson is appearing currently in a new series of Law and Order UK, south of the border.  For reasons best known to STV, they have stopped buying the legal drama. Instead, they have been filling the slot with Scottish Killers, a tacky crime reconstruction series that makes Crimewatch look like Oscar material, followed by the Irish-made Love/Hate, a four-part drama series about a bunch of Dublin drug dealers that was probably inspired by the success of the Australian series Underbelly, but which has proved to be disappointing.   But at least the Irish have the facilities and the money to make something of their own, and that’s where the Danes win. Their state broadcasting company, like Ireland’s RTE, is funded by a licence fee, just as ours is.

The difference is that the money raised in Denmark and Ireland stays there.

You can’t be too hard on STV.  Love/Hate cost over £2million to produce. That’s the sort of money an STV producer can only dream about.  The BBC, on the other hand, have that sort of money. Unfortunately, they don’t spend much of it in Scotland. All right, there’s River City, but you wouldn’t get the likes of Carlyle and Paterson queuing up to join the denizens of Shieldinch.   And what’s that other BBC Scotland show? Oh, yes, Waterloo Road, the one set in an English school. What exactly was wrong with making it a Scottish school, by the way? Would our southern neighbours have objected to the Scottish accents? Well, of course they would.   When BBC Radio 4 listeners objected to Kirsty Young’s accent, what would they have made of the accents in a Scots comprehensive?

So, while your TV licence money continues to go south, don’t expect anything remotely as good as The Killing ever to be made in Scotland. For a country to produce quality television that reflects its own culture and aspirations it has to control its own purse strings.  The infrastructure behind the Danish success is a massive one – a company with over 5,000 employees. That’s the sort of organisation required to produce television of a quality high enough to sell around the world.  Sadly, it’s an organisation that Scotland won’t see this side of independence.

New Ferry Design Could Save Millions
A new type of ferry designed for use in the Scottish islands could save taxpayers millions of pounds in subsidies and be kinder to the environment, its makers have claimed.  The firm behind the ferry says it can run on alternative fuel and may not need subsidies.

Kirk Elder Expelled Over Bullying Email Scandal

A Church of Scotland elder has been expelled from Glasgow Cathedral's kirk session after he was found to have bullied the minister.  An appeal to the Commission of Assembly, the Kirk's highest legal body, by Dr Gordon Wyllie against the charges and the Presbytery of Glasgow's decision to remove him from the kirk session was rejected yesterday. It is the first time the commission had ruled on a case of this nature.

After the hearing Dr Wyllie, said he felt "unfairly done by the presbytery and the commission".  He added: "I was disappointed there was a lack of debate.  If the commission had had an opportunity to debate matters then there might have been a more measured view taken."  Mr Wyllie insisted he had no "sort of animus" towards the minister and had been trying to help him.  The Church of Scotland said the verdict showed the Kirk took a "zero tolerance" approach to bullying.  The court heard that a complaint by the minister of Glasgow Cathedral, Laurence Whitley, centred on five emails sent during a 14-month period starting in 2008 to various members of the kirk session concerning church business. The contents of the emails, though referred to, were not divulged fully during the hearing, but had been judged to be proof of bullying and attempting to undermine the minister's position.

The decision to remove Dr Wyllie was originally taken by the Presbytery of Glasgow on 14 December following a report from investigating committee set up to examine the allegations. The Commission of Assembly 60 to nine to reject the appeal and uphold the presbytery's decision.  Dr Wylie can no longer sit on the kirk session of Glasgow Cathedral but remains an elder.

Radioactive Iodine Detected in Rain
Very low levels of radioactive iodine believed to be from a crisis-hit nuclear plant in Japan have been detected in rainfall over Scotland's biggest city.  The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said that iodine-131 has been detected in rain collected in Glasgow over the past few days.  It comes after very low levels of the chemical were found in grass samples in the north of Scotland, and in the air in Glasgow and Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. The particles are thought to be from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.  The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said there is no risk to the food chain. An FSA Scotland  spokeswoman said: "The agency is aware that low levels of iodine-131 have been detected in the UK.  "At the levels found there is no risk to the food chain and no additional testing of UK-produced food is required. The agency will continue to monitor and assess the situation, and shall provide advice as required."

On Wednesday it emerged that very low levels of iodine-131 had been found during initial analysis of routine grass samples collected around former nuclear power plant Dounreay in Caithness.  Sepa said it is confident the chemical is not from the site itself because it has been detected at the same time as samples across Europe. It said current site operations are highly unlikely to have released iodine-131 in the concentrations detected.

Green Light for £40m Tidal Energy Scheme Off Skye
As the narrowest stretch of water between Skye and the mainland,  Kyle Rhea is already a seaway with history, but the power of its tides could soon write another multi-million pound chapter.  A provisional agreement has been struck that would give a marine energy company access to the seabed to install a £40 million four-turbine tidal farm in Kyle Rhea, the first off the coast of Skye. It would be capable of providing power to 8000 homes.  The turbines are of similar design to the one that has been standing in the mouth of Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough since 2008. They resemble an upside-down wind turbine – with the blades beneath the water but the towers rising more than 40ft above the surface.

More than one company is interested in trying to harness Kyle Rhea’s tides. which can run at up to nine knots, with one pursuing a development to the south which would be completely underwater.  But it was Bristol-based Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT), which announced yesterday that it had now finalised an “Agreement for Lease” from the Crown Estate Commissioners in respect of the seabed.  The firm, which installed the Strangford Lough turbine, is aiming to have the Kyle Rhea tidal farm running by 2014. To do that it expects to submit a planning application to Marine Scotland in early 2012, once the project’s baseline surveys and impact assessments have been completed.

However John Angus MacLean, joint chairman of the Glenelg and Arnisdale Community Council and a director of the Glenelg Development Trust, said that while he was in favour of harnessing the power of the tides, he was disappointed in the way it would be delivered.  “We as a community have been trying to negotiate for some time that we could have the rights to this. We wanted something like the Norwegian model where the local communities have the rights to development.  But because of the way the Crown Estate behaves in leasing the seabed to these companies, we can’t do that. So it will be the same as the Hydro and everything else in the Highlands, big companies will come in and rip the asset off.”

Iains Joke Section
Jock's nephew came to him with a problem. "I have my choice of two women," he said, "a beautiful, penniless young girl whom I love dearly, and a rich old widow whom I can't stand."
"Follow your heart; marry the girl you love," Jock counselled.
"Very well, Uncle Jock," said the nephew, "that's sound advice."
"By the way," asked Jock "where does the widow live?"
One day Jock bought a bottle of fine whiskey and while walking home he fell. Getting up he felt something wet on his pants.  He looked up at the sky and said,"Oh lord please I beg you let it be blood!"