Some Scottish News & Views #83

SOME SCOTTISH NEWS & VIEWS
Issue # 83                                                                                              Week ending 16th April 2011
In this issue,  I’ve been able to include a couple of small named article s which I think you will enjoy. - Robin

Restaurant Owner Facing Ruin Over Illegal Staff Fine

The owner of an Indian restaurant facing a £20,000 fine for employing illegal immigrants twice in five months today said his business would go bust if forced to pay up.  Nas Nabi said he had been left "absolutely devastated" following the latest raid by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) on his K2 restaurant in Bathgate.  An Indian man was found working illegally at the restaurant, and steps are now being taken to deport him.  An earlier raid in November had found another Indian man working illegally, and he has already been deported.  Mr Nabi faces a civil penalty of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker caught by officials.  Phil Taylor, regional director of the UKBA in Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: "We will not tolerate illegal working which threatens to damage our communities - it undercuts wages and exploits vulnerable workers.  The UK Border Agency will act on intelligence to target those businesses which ignore the rules and remove those with no right to be in the UK."

Crackdown Pays Off As Drink-drive Figures Fall
The number of people caught driving after drinking or taking drugs on north and north-east roads has decreased significantly in the last five years – but it is still too high, according to police chiefs.  Since 2006, the number of motorists who have provided positive breath, blood and urine tests and have been charged by Grampian Police, Tayside Police and Northern Constabulary has dropped by 33.8%.  The figures – released under freedom-of-information legislation – show that two people every day are caught driving under the influence.

Two campaigns a year against drink-driving or driving after taking drugs – one in the summer and one over the festive period – and the introduction in 2009 of a new law allowing courts to seize vehicles from convicted drink-drivers have played their part.  In 2006, the three forces charged 2,391 people with driving offences relating to drink or drugs and, in 2010, that number dropped to 1,582.   Police have carried out various campaigns and operations to target road-safety problems across the north-east and figures have fallen most years for the Highlands and islands.  Northern Constabulary charged 379 people in 2010, 556 in 2009, 655 in 2008, 540 in 2007 and 589 in 2006.

Margaret Dekker, of Scotland’s Campaign Against Irresponsible Driving, said: “We hear all the time about the Scottish drinking culture and how we need to try and tackle it but the UK Government in  Westminster rejected a bid to reduce the limit from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50mg and I think this is diabolical.  Although the figures have gone down, that’s not to say the drinking has and I think it is ridiculous that this new law hasn’t been introduced.  The rest of Europe all have a 50mg-or-under limit.”

Town Halls May Go Up for Sale
Moray  councillors yesterday unanimously backed proposals for a controversial "community asset strategy" which could eventually lead to the authority selling off town halls, harbours and community centres to help the council meet its target of achieving £31 million in budget cuts.
The new strategy, approved by the council's policy and resources committee, will pave the way for the transfer of community assets from Moray Council to community groups.

Poorest in Society Suffer When Our Council Sucks Up to Royals By Iain Maciver
Poor Sam Cam. The prime minister’s other half was hoping to sneak off for a few days’ R&R in the Malaga sun with her fella to celebrate her big four-oh. Some guttersnipe called Beckett Fish spotted them lolloping in the Stansted departures area looking fed up waiting for their cheapy-cheapy, cheap-cheap Ryanair flight. He had his iPhone and . . . click, click, click.

It’s so wrong. Our premier should be showing a bit more decorum. Poor dears. Could they not afford something a bit more classy? The answer is not no.  Save your sympathy. Worth a cool £30million and a former media PR supremo, Dave pulled off a superlative bit of staged fakery. Many clues were there to be sniffed out by a twisted and cynical person. Like me, you say? Whatever.

Ryanair flights are always jam-packed. Where were the other passengers? Why was no one sat near them? Where were the papers the PM must always have to hand when he travels? And the minders? Gruamach means glum in Gaelic and they were very gruamach.  That’s because SamCam and DavCam were mere actors in a well-rehearsed piece of theatre.  Those piccies of a bedraggled pair of passengers saving the pennies went round the world. The Camerons knew that Beckett, or some other fish, would take the bait.  It worked brilliantly. Showing themselves not to be extravagant or insensitive to the plight of ordinary people, they were tightening their fur-lined crocodile-skin belts, with the antique brass buckles, like the rest of us. They shared the pain.  Good on them, said the country. If they make an effort, so must we. Cancel the caviar; just five courses tonight.  The Camerons played a blinder. They’ll be remembered as being suitably gruamach until the election. A vote-winner.

Not that we have not had a stroke of vote-harvesting genius in Scotland this week with the launch of the parties’ manifestos. No, I don’t mean Scottish Labour’s promise to “abolish the failed Scottish Labour”. Although that was fairly interesting, too.  It was Alex Salmond’s SNP which pulled off a cracker. OK, his daft promise to keep rotten old schools open and prevent kiddies from enjoying the advantages of education in well-kitted-out larger schools was rubbish.  His fly move, though, may win him the election in May. He promised everyone in Scotland superfast broadband if the SNP gets in. It’ll cost £50million, but “no one will be left behind”. What a masterstroke.

Forget your boring cheap ferry travel or a new Mallaig-Lochboisdale ferry. Salmond may as well have said he would give £1,000 and a big wet kiss to every single person in return for an X on the ballot paper. Actually, forget that bit about the immense moist snog. Did I dream that? Shouldn’t have had that late cheese and pickle sandwich last night.

Faster broadband is something people here really need. They’ve heard rumours that, in far-off places, like on the mainland, people have lightning-fast speeds for low cost while theirs chugs along with all the zooming rapidity of an ancient, arthritic hippopotamus.  Like Cameron, Salmond was being sensitive to what ordinary people want to hear.

For instance, some people want a palaver over the royal wedding. Should we really take a holiday to celebrate the coming together of a couple of privileged toffs with good teeth whose excruciating dullness is shovelled under our noses daily? Not for me, ta.  Thankfully, this not being Korea, we have the freedom to say we don’t approve of such garish trashiness.  Local authorities up and down the country are properly exercising their right to save their cash and not give unearned holidays to staff. Workers can still take it out of their entitlement if they want to be sad and wave union flags at parties in their honour – or, more likely, at the telly.

Despite our fondness for boogying on down, hardly anyone in Scotland wants a cringeworthy 1950s-style street party. In this information age, it goes against the grain to toady to anyone – especially unelected aristocrats. Most people will go to the pub, where they can hurl ghastly insults at Kate and her dress as the newlyweds glide past the cameras looking down their noses at their subjects-in-waiting.  Sectarianism is completely unacceptable, except in our Free Churches, of course, so the great unwashed have to direct their venom at something. And they are it.

What did hard-up Western Isles Council decide? Councillors here have gone all sycophantic and decided, despite the impression given by their current and scandalously-unreported efforts to slash hard-pressed home carers’ mileage allowances, oceans of spare cash are sloshing about in the coffers.  So it’s granting a paid holiday on the 29th to anybody and everybody – provided they work for the council.  Party on, dudes, they said. It’ll put a smile on the faces of the wretched workers. They need cheering up, they said. Well, when you see their faces, we can’t argue with that.  Not a single application for a street party, but the public sector can trot off to the boozer with the rest of the plebs – and be paid for it.

A poker-faced municipal mandarin was asked how not just thousands but tens of thousands of pounds could be justified. He blathered on that it was a fillip to the economy because the Queen and her husband take holidays here.  No she doesn’t, pen-pusher. Her Maj’s vacations are afloat on an English-owned boat and she takes picnics, bought in Harrods, London SW1, to scoff in distant places like Sandray and Little Bernera, where grubby oiks won’t see her scoffing her Scotch eggs.  The official also said it would be good for morale if council staff could join in the merriment for Wills and Kate.  Knowing how that lot can put it away, they’ll be merry all right.  Still, it’s on a Friday, so they’ll have the whole weekend to recover.

Court Favours Asbestos Victims
13 Apr 2011
Insurers have lost another challenge to a law that gives victims of an asbestos-related condition the right to claim damages.   Three Court of Session judges rejected an appeal, endorsing an earlier court decision that MSPs were correct to pass the Damages Act in 2009. The law allows people with pleural plaques, a symptomless thickening of lung membranes, the right to pursue compensation.  The condition can be caused by past exposure to asbestos but has no ill-effects and is not considered a disease in its own right.

Victims and supporters welcomed the decision to reject the challenge as a "great day" for democracy.  But the industry, including insurers AXA, insists the Act is "fundamentally flawed" and immediately vowed to mount a new challenge at the UK Supreme Court.  Nick Starling, of the Association of British Insurers, said: "We are disappointed by this judgment. The insurers who brought this judicial review did so because there are fundamental legal principles at stake, and they remain confident that there is significant substance in their grounds for challenging the Damages Act.  The insurers are therefore preparing to appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court.  Insurers remain fully committed to paying compensation and pay out £200 million a year to those with asbestos-related conditions that impact on health, like mesothelioma.  Mr Starling claimed: "However, pleural plaques do not impact on quality of life and do not in themselves lead to asbestos-related conditions, such as mesothelioma."

Culture Targeted Under New University Cuts Plan
Strathclyde University is proposing to close its Ramshorn Theatre in July, shut the Collins Gallery, and make Alan Tavener, director of music, redundant.  An internal document  says that “running a theatre and a gallery is not a core activity for the university, particularly given neither is necessary for the delivery of the university’s academic programmes”.  It comes against a backdrop of unrest over cuts in courses and jobs at universities across Scotland, and has been greeted with anger by staff, students and the cultural community.

In February, Glasgow University revealed a raft of proposed cuts, including the axing of modern language and nursing courses in addition to some evening and weekend classes.  Last night Mr Tavener, also founder of the lauded Cappella Nova, the professional vocal ensemble, said: “It is traumatic from a personal perspective to be faced with a proposal to be made redundant, but, having talked to students and staff who have a direct interest in what we do, it is clear there is a wider concern.  These programmes have a significant impact on the lives of our students and it is a valuable additional experience to their education because it broadens their musical and cultural horizons.  I have felt from the beginning we are a soft target because we are not a central academic business, but that does not mean to say what we do is not crucial to the university.  Just as the sporting facilities of a university are important to prospective students from here and abroad, so is the cultural life.”  The university document claims that, in 2009/10, it spent £344,185 on salaries and expenses for all three cultural activities.  It estimates the proposals to shut them down would save £250,000 in salaries, with additional savings in running costs.  It will instead put in place a new Cultural Affairs Strategy in 2011/12, worth £100,000.

The director of music provides leadership to the University Music Society. The society runs a 40-voice chamber choir, a symphony orchestra, another chorus, a larger concert band and a 19-piece big band.  There is also a Celtic ensemble, a guitar ensemble and other smaller groups and ensembles as well as recitals at the Ramshorn.   The Collins Gallery, which specialises in the applied arts, will close after a review of its 2011/12 programme.  It holds the archives of the leading Scottish artist George Wyllie and a fine art Collection.  However the university feels that, despite its “clear artistic vision”, it has low visitor numbers and exhibitions are rarely attended by staff and students.  The closure will mean the end of the full-time curatorial post and four part-time jobs, as well as “the disposal of artefacts outside the university collections policy”.

Labourer Killed in Fall At Private School After Safety Rules Broken
Two companies have been fined a total of £400,000 for breaches of health and safety legislation that resulted in the death of a stonemason's labourer who was working at a private school.  James Kelly, 50, was erecting stonework at Glasgow Academy when he fell about 30 feet from scaffolding.  After a three-week trial, his employer Stirling Stone Limited and Robertson Construction Central Limited were found to have failed to meet their health and safety obligations.

Following the incident, inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that there was no safe system of work in place for loading materials, nor had suitable assessment of the risks involved been made.  The investigation also revealed that the loading tower did not have sufficient guard rails and toe boards and that neither company had ensured that the tower and access scaffolding was properly inspected on a regular basis.  At Glasgow Sheriff Court, Stirling Stone Ltd was fined £200,000 for breaching health and safety legislation.  Robertson Construction Central Ltd of Perimeter Road, Elgin, Moray, was also fined £200,000.

Music is in the Air and Life is Awash with the Spirit of the Isles
By Ron Ferguson
The drive down was spectacular. The evening sun showed Orkney at its best, as we made our way across the first barrier to Lamb Holm, home to the inspirational Italian Chapel which was built by Italian prisoners of war.  Then it was on to Burray and all the way to St Margaret's Hope on South Ronaldsay. We were there for a concert headlined by Kris Drever and Eamonn Coyne. We had been lucky enough to get tickets for the sellout event.

My subject today is music, talent and community spirit.

The good folks of South Ronaldsay are keen to host events which will draw people not just from their own community, but from the likes of Kirkwall and Stromness – rather than the traffic being all the other way. So the Cromarty Hall is a venue for concerts, plays, and films. These are lively occasions, made even better by the provision of home bakes and teas and coffees.

I'll talk about the outstanding talent of Kris Drever and Eamonn Coyne in a minute. Before the two stars came on, an Orkney band called Broken Strings took the stage. All of them are 14 years old.  Performing folk and traditional music, the band played a variety of instruments, including fiddle, banjo, border pipes, accordion and guitar. They were terrific. The mix of foot-tapping music included tunes they had written themselves.  This is a very talented young band. They went down recently to play at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, and they came away with a Danny Kyle award for young talent. They are part of a wider renaissance in folk and traditional music in Orkney. This is not unrelated to the presence of Orcadian music teacher Douglas Montgomery, whose enthusiasm for music has transmitted itself to hundreds of Orkney schoolchildren.

An outstanding fiddle player, Douglas established a fiddle group called Hadhirgaan at Kirkwall Grammar School a few years ago. The band, which has toured to Canada, has given several young musicians the confidence to develop their own careers.  Jeana Leslie is a good example. I can remember Jeana some years ago playing in a wee band, directed by piano teacher Rosemary Smyth, which was part of the congregation of St Magnus Cathedral. I also remember her singing with great confidence from the Cathedral pulpit. She went on to be part of Hadhirgaan, and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Jeana and singing partner Siobhan Miller won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2008, and have played at a number of festivals. Jeana is also currently playing for German band Cara.

Another Orkney musician who is a rising star in the modern folk scene is Catriona Price. A classically-trained violinist, Catriona has teamed up with harpist Esther Swift from the Scottish Borders to form the group Twelfth Day. Their music is very inventive and distinctive.  The new energy in traditional music is not restricted to mainland Orkney. On the island of Stronsay, for instance, a group called Silver Darlings has released its first CD. A prime mover is Gaynor Smith, who was inspired by the young musical talent in the island when she started work at the Stronsay school as a cleaner. As a child, she had enjoyed joining in with older musicians in the island, and she felt that it would be good if something could be done for the new generation on Stronsay.

Much credit for the music revival in Orkney must go to the Orkney Traditional Music Project, which has encouraged the talents of many young children since it was established 12 years ago. It began when Ishbel Borland, from Stromness, was asked to teach the accordion to a young boy from Hoy.  Another charismatic music teacher, Jean Leonard, has been instrumental in the musical education of lots of children. Jean inspired the likes of superb fiddler Kristan Harvey, from Birsay, who was recently crowned BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year.   It was no surprise when the Orkney Traditional Music Project was declared Community Project of the Year at the recent MG Alba Scottish Traditional Music Awards.

Another influential force in the music renaissance is the presence of well-known Orcadian duo the Wrigley Sisters. Twins Jennifer (fiddle) and Hazel (piano and guitar) have undertaken three world tours and have released six albums. After years on the road, the sisters returned to Orkney and, in 2004, set up The Reel, at Kirkwall. It’s a music school but also a café, bar, music shop, venue and exhibition space. The school has more than 600 students.  Back to the Cromarty Hall on South Ronaldsay. It was a rich feast, and I'm not just talking about the home bakes. Kris Drever is one of the best-known names in folk music in Scotland. Brought up at Kirkwall, Kris is the son of nationally known Orcadian singer-songwriter Ivan Drever.   Like his father, Kris is technically excellent and has a great singing voice. Irish musician Eamonn Coyne is the best banjo player I have ever heard.

As I have been thinking about this article, more and more connections have popped into my mind. There could be many more names in this piece. I could talk about the rise in popularity of the pipe band music in the islands. I’m only touching the surface of what is a genuine phenomenon.  Children who grow up in Orkney grow up rich. I'm not talking about money, but about culture. Music is in the air they breathe.  Culture in Orkney is not a snobby thing, restricted to an elite. Culture in this democratic sense helps to build confidence and build community. The home bakes at the Cromarty Hall and the rise to stardom of talented Orkney musicians are connected.  In the current cutbacks, the arts are an easy target. People will often ask what “use” are the arts: the answer is that they have the potential to breathe life and energy into communities. Cutting support systems for the arts would be an act of folly.

Accused Claims Breach of Confidentiality
Accused murderer Malcolm Webster wrote a letter of complaint to the chief constable of Grampian Police after the force gave information to authorities in New Zealand, the High Court in Glasgow heard yesterday.   Webster ended the letter, which he wrote in 2000, by saying: "I have no criminal record and frankly find it ridiculous to suggest I might commit a crime."  The letter was shown to Detective Constable William Clark, who was giving evidence as Webster denies murdering his first wife, Claire, 32, in a car crash in Aberdeenshire in 1994.  Webster, 51, from Guildford, Surrey, also denies trying to kill his second wife, Felicity Drumm, 50, by drugging her and staging a car crash in New Zealand in 1999.  He is also alleged to have formed a fraudulent scheme between 2004 and 2008 to enter into a bigamous marriage with Simone Banerjee to get access to her estate.  The trial before Lord Bannatyne continues.

Leuchars Personnel Prepare to Face the Enemy
Hundreds of RAF personnel were preparing for deployment to Afghanistan last night, where they will be responsible for the security of one of the main international air bases there.the enemy
Up to 300 airmen from 6 Force Protection Wing (6 FP Wg) are to begin an operational tour lasting just over six months to protect the air base at Camp Bastion in Helmand.   More than half of those involved are based at RAF Leuchars in Fife, where they are attached to 58 Squadron RAF Regiment, a sub- unit of the wing.   The airmen will be tasked with protecting the people and assets based at the camp, as well as any air operations taking place, while facing the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  Speaking at RAF Leuchars yesterday, Wing Commander Dave Tait said: "Our key task is protecting the people who are going to be living there and all the mission-critical assets. At the same time, we'll be trying to disrupt any Taleban."

Objections Lodged Against Turbines
More than 50 objections have been lodged with Aberdeenshire Council for each application – for single structures at Backhill of Culbirnie, Hill of Culbirnie and Little Blairshinnoch between Banff and Portsoy.  One objector, Kirsteen Neale, of Hilton Cottage, Hilton said recently how she can already see nine massive turbines nearby – at Boyndie and Strath of Brydock. Among the lengthy reasons listed against the turbines by objectors are: negative visual impact, increased industrialisation of the landscape, the proliferation of industrial-sized turbines, the danger to birds and bats, noise pollution, lightshadow flicker and safety concerns.   Some residents also estimate the structures will be considerably closer to their homes than the minimum 400 metres distance recommended by Aberdeenshire Council guidelines.  Both Mrs Neale and Mr Smith also recently voiced their concerns over the limited benefits of turbines in producing energy, and questioned whether they could really be justified on economic or environmental grounds.

Double Whammy for Motorists As Insurance Costs Soar by 40%
A surge in “no-win, no-fee” compensation claims has sent car insurance premiums soaring by more than 40% – adding hundreds of pounds to the average bill for hard-pressed motorists.  The cost of a comprehensive policy, based on the three most competitive quotes available, reached £892 at the end of March – 40.1% more than a year earlier and the biggest annual rise recorded by the AA since it started its price index in 1994.  Young drivers are bearing the brunt of the increases across the UK, with the cost of comprehensive cover for those aged 17-22 jumping by 64% to an average £2,431 for women and £3,052 for men.  And there was a second blow for motorists last night with news that petrol and diesel prices have risen by another 1p in the past week to a new record high. The cost of running a new car worth between £16,000 and £20,000 – such as a VW Golf – has now risen by £285 since last year to £6,562 a year over 10,000 miles.  And the increasing cost of fuel and insurance means that running a similar car is now nearly £1,000 more expensive than in 2005, based on the AA’s figures.

Teenage Couple Die in Shotgun Tragedy
Sophie Taylor, 16, and her long-term boyfriend Callum Murray, a trainee gamekeeper, both died as result of gunshot wounds at a cottage in a remote Highland glen where they had been spending the evening together with another gamekeeper and his girlfriend.  Tomintoul was a village in shock on Thursday as residents struggled to come to terms with the deaths of the two teenagers who were members of the remote Highland community.  Miss Taylor's body was found inside the cottage by the emergency services who were called to the shootings while the body of her boyfriend was discovered lying in the garden in what one eyewitness described as a "scene of absolute horror".

In the village of Tomintoul,  where Miss Taylor stayed with her parents, locals said that she had been accidentally shot by her boyfriend and that a distraught Mr Murray had committed suicide by turning the shotgun on himself.  The tragedy has left Tomintoul, one of the most remote villages in Scotland,  devastated.   Family friend Dru McPherson, said: "The word on the street is that this was an accident. She died in the house.  He went out of the house, followed by the other keeper who tried to stop him (killing himself] but . . ."  He continued: "The only saving grace is that, because there were other people there, there will be no conjecture as to what actually happened. And I think that is going to be a great relief for the families."  Detective Inspector Stewart Mackie, who is leading the inquiry, said that investigators were keeping an "open mind" on the two deaths.   But he confirmed that no-one on else was being sought in connection with the shooting.

Fox Rejects Reprieve for Lossie Jets
Defence Secretary Liam Fox will go ahead with the disbandment of RAF Lossiemouth's Tornado squadron, it was confirmed last night.  Dr Fox said the Ministry of Defence would press on with the controversial plans, despite recent suggestions that there could be a U-turn because of the extra demands put on the RAF by the Libyan conflict.  In a letter to SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson, Dr Fox said there were no plans to reverse the decision to disband 14 Squadron or the Tornado aircraft of 13 Squadron, which are based at RAF Marham in Norfolk.  Referring to the UK government's Strategic Defence and Security Review, Dr Fox wrote: "Despite the demands of the commitments over Libya to which the RAF is making a leading contribution, the decision to disband 13 Squadron and 14 Squadron is not being reconsidered."

Chessmen Come Home to the ‘Kingdom of the Isles’ for the Summer
For the first time in sixteen years the Lewis Chessmen touched down on Western Isles soil as the summer exhibition was showcased on Thursday for the media.  Thirty of the intricate pieces are displayed in the exhibition ‘The Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked’ at Museum nan Eilean, which also features Scandinavian artefacts found at other Scottish sites.

The detail of the chessmen is fascinating, as well as individual and distinctive faces the public will also be able to decipher individual quirks, such as the Queen with the ‘shoogly’ throne (the throne is actually constructed of two different pieces of ivory when the carver realised one piece would be too small to serve as a symbol of Royalty). Or the ‘Bad Hair Day’ chessman (this character has hair on one side of his face but not the other).  The exhibition is expected to be a crowd puller at the intimate museum throughout the summer season, however some of the chessmen will also be going on the road on September 13th when a special one day event showcasing six pieces will take place in Uig Museum - paying homage to the site of their discovery.  As for a permanent exhibition of the chessmen in Lewis perhaps that day may not be too far in the distant future.  

Up Close and Personal As Assynt’s Golden Eagles Star on CCTV
Live pictures of a golden eagle nest at a secret location in west Sutherland are set to be beamed to tourists and locals under an innovative new scheme backed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).  A new CCTV camera is perched at the site which is set to go live at Easter on a large screen in the Assynt Visitor Centre in Lochinver.  This will let enthusiasts experience what it must be like to get up close and personal with golden eagles among the soaring peaks and glens of the north west.  The pioneering initiative offers people the chance to become inspired by golden eagles which, as a top predator, play an important role in the upland ecology of the Highlands.

And radio links and solar panels will be used in the cutting edge scheme which will ensure people of all ages and abilities have the chance to witness intimate views of golden eagles without causing disturbance.  Last year a young golden eagle from Assynt Foundation land – named Suilven by school pupils – was satellite tagged by Roy Dennis of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, with funding from SNH. Suilven’s movements and behaviour are contributing to knowledge and further scientific research on golden eagle movements, distribution and survival rates.  Children from Stoer and Lochinver Primary Schools (P1-7) have been tracing the movements of Suilven and learning about how eagles are top of the upland food chain.  Others in the community, including the Highland Council Ranger Service, Assynt Tourist Group, Assynt Field Club, community members and the Assynt Foundation, as well as SNH, devoted time and energy to making the project become a reality.

World's Smallest Eco-home Unveiled
It looks like a fancy - and pricey - garden shed.  But the three metre by three metre hut which has appeared in St Andrew Square Garden, Edinburgh,  is actually the latest in eco-living.  The Cube, a prototype design, is one of the world's smallest homes, and is fully-fitted with a double bed, shower, kitchen and toilet.  But Dr Mike Page, director of the Cube project and chief designer of the £50,000 unit, said he had been left a little disappointed after being told that no water supply could be hooked up in time for its unveiling in Edinburgh.

The Cube is on show for the first time as part of this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival.  The carbon-neutral compact home has been built from sustainable materials, mostly wood, and despite its size has been designed to be comfortable and modern.  It has a lounge - with a table and two custom-made chairs - a small double bed, a full-size shower, a kitchen - with energy-efficient fridge, induction hob, re-circulating cooker hood, sink/drainer, combination microwave oven and storage cupboards - a washing machine and a composting toilet.  It is lit by ultra-efficient LED lights, and heated by an Ecodan air-source heat pump.  As it uses the latest in sustainable technology, anyone living in it could claim £1000 a year from the government under its feed-in tariff.  Dr Page, a lecturer at the School of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, said: "This was developed to highlight the kind of carbon saving that could be achieved using existing technology, Dr Page claims his design could be the home of the future.  "The project is an attempt to show what is possible in terms of low-carbon living, with readily available technology," he said.

Power Plant That Runs on Whisky Waste Wins Funding

Waste from more than a dozen distilleries is set to be turned into power for up to 9,000 homes after an energy developer secured funding for its £60.5 million project on Speyside.  Aim-quoted Helius Energy - in which Perthshire investor Angus MacDonald holds a 19 per cent stake - finalised financing for the scheme after signing up Dutch lender Rabobank, which joins existing backers Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland.  Lloyds and RBS will supply about £42.4m of debt for the project to build a combined heat and power (CHP) plant at Rothes, in Moray, while Rabobank will take an equity stake.

Solid residue, or "draff", from local distilleries will be taken to the site and burned along with wood to provide up to 7.2 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which will be used to power local homes and to run and animal feed production process. Steam created will be used to evaporate liquid residue - or "pot ale" - into a syrup, which can then be used to make animal feed.  At present, waste from Speyside's distilleries is taken to the animal feed plant in Rothes, which burns gas to evaporate the pot ale. Helius said its project will cut out the production of about 46,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.  The CHP plant will be built next to the existing animal feed factory, which is owned by the Combination of Rothes Distilleries (Cord), a joint venture set up in 1904 to process whisky waste.  Cord handles by-products from 16 Speyside distilleries. It is owned by a consortium of Edrington Group, Chivas Brothers, Glen Grant Distillery, Inver House Distillers, Diageo Distilling, BenRiach Distillery and John Dewar & Sons  Engineering work has already begun and construction is due to start within 12 weeks. The plant is scheduled to be commissioned during the third quarter of 2012 and fully operational during the first half of 2013.

Scottish Butcher Lays Claim to 'The World's Hottest Sausage'
The "Devil's Sausage" is so hot its creators at Rendalls Quality Butchers in Raploch, Stirling, must wear gloves and goggles to make them.  And they said yesterday they won't sell the spicy snacks to young children or people with a heart condition.  The delicacy - which contains pork, sweet chili, jalapenos and the so-called "ghost pepper" Bhut Jolokia, one of the hottest peppers in the world - is said to be more than 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

Butcher brothers Jason and Garry Rendall, whose previous creations include a Buckfast pie, say they have sold hundreds.  Jason, 28, said Big tough guys say 'I'll have one, no problem, I love hot food', but after biting into their roll and sausage their expression soon changes and they're reaching for a drink. They can't handle it.  Obviously I've tried them but even I wouldn't eat a full three-sausage roll. I'm racing to the sink for water after a single bite.  We warn people 'eat the devil's sausage at your own risk'."  The Bhut Jolokia is a 6cm long orange or red pepper from the Assam region of north-east India and Bangladesh.  Guinness World Records says it is 401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

Iains Joke Section (I’m on school holidays you see)
Musical Humour
Q: How do you fix a broken tuba?
A: With a tuba glue.

Q: What is the difference between a high school choral director and a chimpanzee?
A: It's scientifically proven that chimpanzees are able to communicate with humans

Q: If you drop an accordion, a set of bagpipes and a viola off a 20-story building,  which one lands first?
A: Who cares?

Q: Where do bagpipe players play best
A: In a galaxy far, far away

And Finally
The Kirkcaldy undertaker sent a telegram to the bereaved man, telling him his mother-in-law had died and asking whether he wanted her embalmed, cremated, or buried. Back came the reply: ‘All three — tak’ nae chances.’