Some Scottiah News & Views # 84

Issue # 84                                                                            Week ending 23rd April 2011
In this issue,  I’ve been able to include a small article  which I think you will enjoy. - Robin

Community Turns Out to Pray for Tragic Young Victims of Gun Incident
People from a small Moray community made a poignant journey to a Highland village to say prayers for the teenage sweethearts who died in a shooting tragedy.  Sophie Taylor was killed when 18-year-old Calum Murray’s shotgun accidentally went off at a cottage near Tomintoul.   The distraught trainee gamekeeper then took his own life with another gun.

Villagers flocked to Grantown’s Inverallan Church for a united service with the Right Rev John Christie, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  Mr Christie told the congregation that the incident had “cast a long shadow” over the community of Tomintoul and the surrounding area.  He said he had been in the village with Tomintoul Church of Scotland minister the Rev Sven Bjarnason just hours before the incident on Tuesday evening.  Speaking after the service, Mr Christie said: “The reality is that there are no words in this situation. All we can do is be available.  “The community is united in grief. There is something very affirming about the nature of community.”  Mr Christie said he hoped his sermon would bring some comfort to the relatives and friends of Sophie and Mr Murray.  He added that, at a time of such grief, all he could offer was the “peace of God”.

TV Priest Prompts Barra Pilgrimage
It was billed as Scotland's real-life answer to Father Ted but has proved to be far from disastrous.  A BBC documentary charting the lives of priests on Barra has triggered a new tourism boom on the island with hotels and guest houses being besieged by fans of An Island Parish since it began its run in January.  The 12-part programme, which has just ended, charted Father John Paul MacKinnon's first year as the priest at Castlebay, the main village on Barra, after moving from Glencoe. It was likened to the fictional Father Ted, a hit series which followed the adventures of a well-meaning but disaster-prone Irish Catholic priest and his companions exiled on a remote island.

Now the combination of spectacular footage of Barra's natural beauty and how the community has been portrayed appears to have wowed new admirers from across Britain.  The local tourism office has experienced a 70 per cent increase in booking enquiries in recent weeks compared to the same period last year.   Tourism experts believe Barra could end up emulating the sudden popularity of Plockton, in Wester Ross, Port Logan on the Galloway coast and Tobermory on Mull, which also found fame after they were featured in the dramas Hamish Macbeth, Two Thousand Acres Of Sky and the children's TV show Balamory respectively.   VisitScotland, the national tourism agency, believes the show will bring huge benefits for the whole of the island chain as it showed MacKinnon being helped by Father Roddy MacAuley, from nearby South Uist and retired local priest Father Callum MacLellan.

John Campbell, manager of the Castlebay Hotel, said: "We're already pretty full for this summer and are already taking bookings for next year, which is just unheard of for this time of year.  An awful lot of people are telling us that they are booking because of An Island Parish. It's obviously great news, although there are only something like 450 beds on the islands in hotels and guest houses. I think it will make the season here a lot longer for the next few years."    Guy Adams, owner of the Isle of Barra Hotel, at Tangasdale Beach, said: "We are getting a lot of bookings from down south from people who have never been before and they are telling us they are booking because of the TV programme.   We closely monitor our website and there is a huge increase in the number of hits it gets after each episode is shown on a Friday night.  When we first bought the hotel a few years ago we were getting about eight coach parties coming here over the summer. We have 54 booked in this year and can't actually take any more.

The three priests agreed to take part in the series partly to change public perceptions of the priesthood.  MacKinnon said: "I've had emails from across the UK and every one of them has been positive. Several of the parishioners run B&Bs, and they tell me that they're full up already for the summer. After each episode there's a surge of interest in holidays here - viewers can see how beautiful the scenery is, how unspoilt the place is, and how warm and hospitable the people are."   Father McAuley added: "We always thought the most important thing was how the islands were portrayed and the reaction does seem to have been very positive. I've heard a lot of stories about people booking holidays after seeing the programme. They have probably been thinking, 'Why should I go to Spain or somewhere like that when all this scenery is on our doorstep.'"

Hard Times for Tolbooth
A building where American navy founder John Paul Jones was imprisoned could be closed by a cash-strapped council.  The 17th century Tolbooth in Kirkcudbright is used by Dumfries and Galloway Council as a tourist attraction.  The building could be closed as facilities in the town are combined in the town hall.  Officials believe they could save up to £120,000 a year and generate extra cash by selling off unused buildings and handing the Tolbooth back to the Kirkcudbright Common Good that owns it.

Hawaii Tram Plan to Learn From Edinburgh Fiasco

It’s fair to say the tram project has been making headlines here for quite some time.  But news of its mounting difficulties has now reached further afield.   Opponents of a light rail scheme in Hawaii have used Edinburgh's tram fiasco as an example of what not to do amid fears their own project is set to go over budget and way behind schedule.  In an article in a Hawaiian newspaper, local expert Panos Prevedouros said the problems in Edinburgh were an example of "what's in store" for Honolulu.  When comparing his city with Edinburgh and a tram project in Puerto Rico, Mr Prevedouros, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Hawaii, said: "Honolulu is clearly no different - subservient professionals offer politicians what they want to hear, and clueless politicians believe all of it. "Poor planning and bad government guarantee a financial fiasco.   Honolulu has all the components for a bad outcome."

Last week, First Minister Alex Salmond predicted Edinburgh's tram project would come to "nothing at all," despite £500 million worth of Scottish Government funding.  The controversial project, which was meant to be up and running by now, has been mired in a bitter dispute between the council and contractors.  Work has virtually halted and official figures show 72 per cent of the construction work remains to be done, with just 38 per cent of the budget left.

Reports from Hawaii claim the same consultants who drew up the business case for Edinburgh's trams were also used in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it is said the system was built at twice the original cost and five years late.  The Tren Urbano also failed to reach 50 per cent of its opening-year patronage forecast.  John Carson, a former head of maintenance at Network Rail and a long-standing critic of the trams, said: "A recent report on forecasting patronage on major rail/tram projects stated that figures predicted by transport consultants are invariably too optimistic and often wrong.  Now we have completed projects the world over running into financial difficulty due to bad forecasting.  If Edinburgh only builds part of the line, it too will suffer huge losses because of over-optimistic forecasts."

Major Golf Event Worth £11m
Councillors have warned that every aspect of the infrastructure around Inverness must be up to par when some of the world's top golfers tee arrive to tee off in the summer.  While the Barclays Scottish Open championship will visit the Castle Stuart course on the Moray Firth for just four days, it is hoped the benefits will be felt for years to come.  Television coverage will showcase the Highlands to an estimated 450 million households around the world bringing a huge tourism boost.  Up to 60,000 fans are also expected to attend the event from 7-10 July.

Highland Council's Inverness City Committee heard yesterday the championship could be worth £5 million to the local economy and another £6m in the longer term thanks to the media exposure.  The city will take on a festival atmosphere with bunting and banners in the centre and major floral displays to make the area more attractive.   Grant Sword from Castle Stuart golf course, said organisers have a three-year contract for the event, with an option for a fourth.

Election Push for Harris National Park

The Scottish election will be used by campaigners to lobby for Harris to become the country's third national park.  The annual meeting of the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP) has given unanimous support to the bid for Harris, in the Western Isles, to receive the designation.   A ballot in 2009 showed local people voted 732 to 311 in favour of park status, which they felt would boost tourism and help reverse population decline. Others feared an increased demand for housing.

Conviction Quashed After Judge's Blunder Over Hammer Killing
A man who was jailed for life for murdering a mentally ill man in a hammer attack was the victim of a miscarriage of justice, a judge has ruled.  Ian Taylor, who was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison, has had his conviction quashed after it was found the trial judge who sent him to jail misdirected the jury who found him guilty.

Taylor and his co-accused Tracey Hastie, both in their late 30s, were convicted in July 2008 of Brian Sharp's murder.  The pair, from Glasgow, had blamed each other after the 38-year-old was hit with a hammer more than 80 times at his flat in the city's Milton area in October 2006.  Judge Lord Brailsford told them both it was a matter of the "utmost seriousness" before sentencing them to 18 years each in prison. But Taylor's legal team lodged an appeal on the grounds that the jury was misdirected by the judge.  They said that during the trial a number of civilian witnesses gave evidence about statements made by Hastie in their presence.  When the trial judge came to direct the jury, he omitted to give any direction as to the use that could be made of the hearsay evidence.  He failed to tell the jury that this evidence could not be used to prove the case against Taylor, the defence team claimed.  

In giving the appeal court's judgement, Lord Osborne said the Crown was not in a position to argue that the misdirection had not resulted in a miscarriage of justice.  Lord Osborne said that during the course of the trial, Lord Brailsford said he was going to have to give a direction about the admissibility of statements against Taylor in his statement to the jury, but he never did.  Lord Osborne added: "In all these circumstances, we have concluded, with reluctance, that the misdirection has been productive of a miscarriage of justice and that it is necessary to quash the appellant's conviction.  "It would have been a simple matter for the trial judge to give the normal directions which would have been appropriate in all the circumstances of the case, but unfortunately, for whatever reason, he did not do so."

My Hair-raising Handy Hints on How to Find That Bargain Bottle   By ??????
It’s good to stop now and again and peer into the future. Nothing wrong with speculating about what we will be doing 10 or 20 years from now.   We may have Charles, or William, as king. The Queen can’t go on forever – however much it may seem to poor Charles that she can.  Of course, the succession might skip the current heir altogether. Charles’s complicated private life may mean it goes straight to the “Hair to the Throne”, as he is being called by unkind newspaper people. Like me.   So what if he is losing his regal mane faster than a ball of dandelion seeds in a Force 10 gale? He has it all going on, so why should he be bothered?   However, it may come as a shock to the rest of us when Kojak becomes our sovereign ruler.

Bet you Wills will wear the crown more than his grannie to hide his untufted bonce.  So let us consider the follicle. So tiny as a single strand, our hair is immensely important for those who have a good headful, an indefinable tool that we use to signify that we are cool by having it long, that we are playful by flicking it or that we don’t want to be somewhere by claiming we have to stay in and wash it.  That excuse works much better for some than others.  Like Wills.

I refer to the number of times I organised a surprise candlelit dinner for Mrs X in those far-off days when I was trying to impress her.  I would tidy my flat – well, scrape the biggest lumps of lard off last week’s dinner plates and shove them under the sink – and prepare the most sumptuous feast that you could pluck from a Safeway supermarket freezer.   Then I would call her up, only for her to say she wasn’t coming out. She was washing her hair.  What? Again? I had to tell her I had already defrosted a pack of Super Saver sausages. They were on special offer.   Hah, for some reason, she still wasn’t interested. Gutted, I was.

That girl must have really filthy hair, I thought. If she is going to be at it all night with the shampoo when she could be here with me and a large pack of Super Savers, maybe I had just had a lucky escape.  It was all a ruse, of course, just to try to keep me interested. It wasn’t long before the allure of my meaty treat brought her galloping round to mine.  Not being a skinflint, I really gave her a great evening. We were at it all night. You’d be surprised just how many sausages Safeway managed to squeeze into a Super Saver pack back then.  It just shows that you can get great value without spending a fortune if you know what you’re doing.  That was borne out with confirmation that a test involving hundreds of people at the Edinburgh Science Festival showed few could taste the difference between cheap plonk and expensive wine costing about £30 a bottle.

People who spend into double figures for Chateau this and Classico that are just paying for the label. They are but sheep who fall for the old marketing trick of over-pricing stuff to give a fake impression of quality.   A well-known Gael often boasts of never drinking wine costing less than £40 – and that’s not the table price, either. And a fellow-islander here on Lewis spent more than £1,000 on a case of Cabernet Sauvignon last festive season. Jesus Christ: would he have approved? All fantastic news, even for part-time connoisseurs of the grape fermenté, like myself. We are not cheapskates; we appreciate quality at the right price. Anything else is a waste.

I have long known that all wine sellers have a big secret. Usually tucked well in on the bottom shelf, this is the label they will never recommend to Joe Bloggs but which is for those specially-favoured patrons. Unfortunately, as their most frequent and highest-spending customers are rich middle-class plonkies with frazzled palates, which of course in the Outer Hebrides merely means they work for the council, that is also a terrible waste of a fine drop.

Yes, even your local supermarket will have the same secret policy. They will rarely admit it, but there is always an incredibly cheap bottle that does not taste like the grapes were gently squeezed along with the contents of several cats’ bladders. It is certainly true here in Stornoway, although often only senior staff will know.   Ever the public servant, I would be happy to share with you the names on the labels to look for, but I am worried they could sell out so quickly that there would be none left for me. So, to slow down the rush, maybe I should ask for a small consideration for such valuable and possibly life-changing information.   What should I ask for? A case of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, maybe? It’s not really for myself, you see. Just for the purposes of research.

While I am on the subject of monumental wastes of resources, despite the avalanche of correspondence since last week, I am not going on again about the celebrations on the 29th for the royal wedding.  All I said was people should be allowed to do what they want and that council workers should be grateful they are getting a completely undeserved day off just because they have irresponsible bosses who care little for the suffering of ordinary taxpayers and the people in this country who actually work.

That’s all I said. Let it go.  In fact, when I think about it, I didn’t even say that. But I’m saying it now.  Yes, I’ve had letters saying I should organise alternative street parties without union flags and with big banners saying “What Wedding?” and “Kate Who?”

Sorry, I can’t. I’m busy that day.
I’m washing my hair.

Skye's the Limit for Ambitious New Village
An ambitious multi-million-pound vision to build a new village on Skye has come a step closer to reality.   The Clan Donald Lands Trust (CDLT) wants to create the development of housing, commercial, educational and leisure facilities at Kilbeg located on the Sleat peninsula.   The proposals, which include 93 homes, four offices, a shop, cafe-bar and sports pavilion, were approved on Tuesday.   One of the aims of the master plan is to link the two campuses of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland's national centre for Gaelic language and culture, and now part of the new university of the Highlands and Islands, into the heart of the village.   This will allow the college, which already caters for up to 200 students, to expand, develop new teaching and conference facilities and provide more student accommodation. The old college site is being earmarked for a conference centre while five new residential and teaching buildings are planned at the new college site.  Proposals would also include a village green and woodland trails as there are currently no public green spaces or sports facilities for the residents of south Skye.  The settlement will be built up over the next 15 to 20 years and it is hoped this will help families remain in the area and assist firms who need housing to attract and retain staff.

CDLT is a charitable trust that owns 20,000 acres of the southern half of the Sleat peninsula and is the second largest employer after the college.  The trust runs a large working estate and a visitor centre, incorporating a museum, historic gardens, self-catering accommodation and restaurant.  The first phase of the development could cost £4 million and would concentrate on building 14 affordable homes, as well as an enterprise unit which would allow the college to increase staff.  Norman Gillies, development director for the trust, said: Phase 1 will include water and sewerage works an electricity sub-station and roads.

Isolated Communities 'At Risk' If Schools Are Axed
Proposals to close four primary schools on Shetland could threaten the future viability of isolated island communities, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott has warned.
Mr Scott, who is fighting to win the Shetland seat at the Holyrood election, has joined parent councils at the four schools under threat in opposing plans by Shetland Islands Council (SIC) to axe the primaries as part of its money-saving "blueprint for education" strategy.

Under the proposals, due to be debated at a special meeting next month, the primaries at Burravoe, North Roe, Sandness and Uyeasound would all be closed and the pupils transferred to alternative schools, following this year's October holidays. It has been estimated to save the council between £600,000 and £700,000 a year.  Mr Scott has told the council: "As many parents have put it, a blueprint to close schools is not the same as a blueprint for education." A spokeswoman for SIC said its services committee would consider the proposals, with the full council reaching a decision on 17 May.

Inquiry Into Scots Case of Legionnaires'
A multi-agency investigation has been launched after a case of Legionnaires' disease was confirmed in Scotland.  The patient is being treated in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for the potentially fatal illness.   NHS Lanarkshire said the patient, who lives in its area, became ill while on Shetland where they work, after staying a night in Aberdeen on the way there.  NHS Lanarkshire is working with North Lanarkshire Council, NHS Grampian, NHS Shetland and Health Protection Scotland to investigate the possible source of the infection.

Jura Ferry Funding Expected to Be Axed
Argyll and Bute Council is due to announce at a meeting that it will not renew a grant subsidy of around £25,000 to the service linking Jura to Tayvallich, delivering a blow to the fragile island economy.   The passenger service between Craighouse and Tayvallich in Knapdale – the first direct service to the mainland in 40 years – had been run by a community company from Easter to the end of September since 2008. However, it needs a subsidy of about 55%, which islanders insist is modest compared to other transport services.  The island’s main transport links go through the neighbouring island, Islay.   By July last year the direct service had carried 6000 passengers – with a maximum of 12 at a time –and contributed £30,000 to the economy of the island of 200 people. A Facebook campaign to save the service has been launched by islanders who fear the impact on the community if it is lost.  A spokeswoman for the campaign, said: “The ferry has been a huge success for the Isle of Jura.”

Low-cost Airline Opens New Route
Low-cost airline easyJet has announced new daily flights between Glasgow and Amsterdam. The new route to Schiphol Airport will begin on October 31 but seats can be booked now via the company's website. Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said the new route can help promote Glasgow as a desirable destination for international and European conventions.  Amsterdam is easyJet's second recent new destination. It began flights to Jersey in March.  The firm is also adding an early morning flight between Glasgow and London Gatwick and promises to start a fourth daily flight on the route this winter.  A one-way flight between Glasgow and Amsterdam costs from £25.99 including taxes.

More Staff Suspended At Fraud Probe Council
Two more staff have been suspended amid corruption claims at one of the country’s biggest councils.  Eight out of around 30 staff at Edinburgh City Council’s housing repairs department are now understood to have been removed from their posts, while detectives investigate fraud claims. The Property Conservation Department is responsible for £30 million worth of essential and communal repairs to homes and businesses. Six staff were previously suspended after a tip-off to Lothian and Borders Police.

There is a catalogue of complaints from residents claiming their costs rose excessively, they were billed for work that was never done, that unnecessary work was done and extra repairs were carried out without consultation.  The investigation – also involving auditor Deloitte – will examine claims that at least one contractor was given access to confidential information in the bidding process for work.  The system used by the council retains a bank of 10 contractors who do the bulk of the work undertaken by the Property Conservation Department. How it has been operated will be scrutinised.

Arnish Capitalises on Marine Energy Boom
The BiFab Arnish fabrication yard, outside Stornoway, Lewis, is capitalising on the growth of Scotland’s marine energy sector with new work from wave energy company Aquamarine Power.  Workers at the yard are currently manufacturing the foundation piles for Aquamarine Power’s ‘Oyster’ wave energy device which will be installed in Orkney this summer.  “We selected BiFab to build Oyster for two reasons,” says Aquamarine Power Chief Executive Martin McAdam.  “Firstly, they are a world-class fabrication contractor with over 20 years experience in the offshore oil and gas industry. Secondly, they are a Scottish firm with yards on both coasts.  We are committed to building a world-leading marine energy industry here in Scotland and our goal is to use local Scottish firms such as BiFab and the Arnish yard for future work, wherever possible,” he continued.

The two foundations piles – which are 2.75 metres in diameter and 18 metres long – will be used to attach the Oyster to the seabed in water depths of around 12 metres.  And the Arnish yard, which now employs 120 people, has now been awarded an extension to the contract to manufacture the foundation piles for two additional Oyster wave machines which will be installed in Orkney in 2012 and 2013.  The full Oyster device is being assembled at BiFab’s main facility at Methil in Fife and once complete will be the second full-scale device installed at sea by the Edinburgh firm. The first Oyster was officially switched on in Orkney by First Minister Alex Salmond in November 2009.

Record Number of Postal Voters in Western Isles
A record number of electors in the Western Isles have applied to vote by post at the Scottish Parliamentary elections and the National Referendum on the UK voting system on Thursday 5 May.  A total of 3,278 electors will be receiving their postal packs from today.  Returning officer for the Western Isles Mr Malcolm Burr said: “Postal voting is growing in popularity as a convenient way for voters to have their say.  Postal votes must be returned before polls close at 10pm in Thursday 5 May.”  As the postal voting packs start dropping through letter boxes, postal voters are reminded to read the instructions carefully when casting their vote otherwise their vote might not be counted.  When voting by post, voters need to fill in a form accompanying their ballot paper, giving their signature and date of birth. As a security measure these are matched against the signature and date of birth the voter provided when they applied to vote by post.

Steam Train Spark May Have Caused Fire
A chartered  steam train travelling through Sutherland is thought to have sparked a blaze this week on the Forsinard bird reserve.  Sparks from the Great Britain IV are believed to have ignited the blaze which broke out around noon - shortly after the train passed through Forsinard Station, en route from Wick to Penzance.  Some 700 acres of the reserve, owned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and part of the Flow Country, have been damaged.  The area is a nesting ground for many species of birds including greenshanks, golden plovers and hen harriers.

A helicopter and four fire crews were called out to tackle the blaze, which burned for several hours. Forsinard warden Graham Thompson said: "We had a neighbour knocking on the door at about 12noon saying there was a hill fire. There was a strip of fire parallel to the rail track.  Mr Thompson said the birds in the area would have moved away as soon as the fire started.  The Great Britain IV is operated by West Coast Railways. A spokesman for the company said it had no knowledge of the incident.

Review Set to Reignite Bilingual Signs Row
Local Highland councillor Graeme Smith has claimed the authority wants to take a "Highland-wide broad-brush approach" to the issue in a review of its Gaelic language plan. He feared the revision could force bilingual signs on the area - despite much-publicised previous widespread opposition.   The Wick member argued certain councillors are seeking to make sure local areas will not be able to avoid having bilingual signs.  He said: "It's clear that they now want a Highland-wide broad-brush approach with no quarter given and that because the Gaelic plan is a Scottish Government aspiration we are going to go the full way with it."  

Mr Smith said this was his own take on the situation but claimed it was "highly unlikely" there would be much leeway when the second-generation Gaelic language plan is sent before the Scottish Government quango, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, in May next year.  "I'm on the Gaelic committee and I support the organic growth of Gaelic but I do resent it being put on a road sign to suggest a Gaelic heritage when our Norse heritage is equally, if not more, important in Caithness," said Mr Smith.  "I think some members of the Gàidhealtachd (Scottish Gaelic community of the Highlands and Islands) are taking advantage of the supposed oppressed state of previous years, seeking to put right a wrong which I think is more historical revisionism rather than accurate at times."  He added: "It's highly emotive in Caithness and the argument isn't about Gaelic, it's about why should this language take precedence over our existing heritage which everybody in Caithness understands.  "Really, Gaelic played quite a small part in that. Even the Gaels call us 'the land of the non-Gael'."

However, SNP opposition leader John Finnie, who is also on the Gaelic committee, said public opinion would be key in moving from the current Gaelic language plan to the second. Mr Finnie said: "As with any other part of local government, plans are devised and plans are reviewed. We have a review of the existing plan and a new one will be devised."  The councillor does not envisage any substantive changes to the existing arrangement, adding: "It is a matter for the Highland people to decide because there will be the broadest consultation in relation to that, at which time everyone will contribute."

Thurso councillor John Rosie, an ardent opponent of Gaelic road signs in Caithness, said he would be making representations to the Gaelic committee while the language plan is under review and he hoped his views would be taken on board.

Anger At Lochaber Delivery Charges Scandal
Politicians have been urged to intervene in the "on-going scandal" of outrageous delivery charges to residents and businesses in Lochaber and elsewhere in the west Highlands. John Cuthbertson, who owns and runs an outdoor activities centre at Corpach, has called on Holyrood hopefuls and Westminster MPs to take action on the practice of courier companies who he claims continue to crank up prices for deliveries to "anywhere north of the Central Belt".  He is so fed up with the surcharges that he has even resorted to having vital supplies delivered to a service station at Hamilton, in Lanarkshire, where he then transfers the goods on to his own trailer for the final journey to Lochaber.

Mr Cuthbertson is not alone and other locals have similar experiences.  A Brae Lochaber businessman has revealed how he was quoted a delivery charge of almost £1,300 for an item but on changing the delivery address from Roy Bridge to Airdrie, the charge astonishingly dropped to just £96.  This week, Mr Cuthbertson, who with his wife Tina runs the Snowgoose Mountain Centre, said: "I'm just so angry about this issue we're being penalised for where we live and it's just totally unacceptable in this day and age.  "I wanted to buy a shower enclosure on Ebay. It said 'delivery to UK mainland only' but as soon as I put in our PH33 postcode for Corpach it comes up as 'not UK mainland'. It's outrageous.  Last time I checked we were very much part of mainland Britain!"  Mr Cuthbertson added: "As a centre we buy a lot of equipment. I recently ordered six new sea kayaks quite an expense in their own right. The couriers wanted to charge me £90 per kayak but when I asked how much it would be to get them delivered to Glasgow the delivery charge was only £40 per kayak.

A spokesman for Highland Council's trading standards department revealed that providing a company clearly explains any delivery charges at the time an order is placed, there is no restriction on what they are allowed to charge.  "Although we are sympathetic and concerned by some of the stories we hear, if there is no deception involved it is not against the current trading standards laws," the spokesman said.

Cameron and Brown Rally Support Out on the Streets
It was a tale of two leaders as the current and former prime ministers rallied support for their parties on Friday.  Prime Minister David Cameron joined local Conservative candidate Ruth Davidson in Glasgow, while the man he replaced, Gordon Brown, was speaking to activists at Dunfermline.  It was also a day which saw three polls — showing the SNP extending its projected lead, the Liberal Democrats as unwelcome coalition partners with voters and apparent majority support for a graduate contribution despite four of the five main parties going against it.   Mr Brown brushed off the poll which put the SNP in front with just two weeks until the election.  He said: “I’m not interested in the polls, I’m interested in the issues.”

One issue facing all the political parties is whether to go it alone or form a coalition with others.  Both Labour and SNP voters would prefer to form a coalition with the Greens, although supporters of each party would be almost as happy with a coalition between SNP and Labour.  A coalition with the Liberal Democrats would not be acceptable to voters of either of the two front runners.  Only Conservative voters would happily join with the Lib Dems, according to the poll.  The feeling was not mutual however, with less than half of Lib Dem voters favouring a Scottish Government coalition with the Tories, after a year as junior partners at Westminster.  A Lib Dem spokeswoman dismissed the poll as a game of “fantasy coalitions”.

Royal Wedding's Funeral Cover-up ( I find this a little too practical, even distasteful   - Robin)
There will be two major Royal events in London next Friday - one very much higher profile than the other.  For while the world's eyes are on the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, palace officials have decided it is the best time to stage rehearsals for the Queen's funeral.  Ever-practical Buckingham Palace officials have seized the opportunity provided by the wedding to get in a dry run for what is expected to be the next major state occasion on anything like the same scale as her grandson's nuptials.

Even as the bride and bridegroom make their way to Westminster for their big day, a squad of courtiers will be deployed on their mission to prepare for a more sombre event at the same venue. They will go over the route, check the list of VIPs invited to attend and update the plan according to the timings recorded and the appearance of unforeseen obstacles.  The Queen is said to be "very pragmatic" about the exercise, realising that the gathering together of so many heads of state and Commonwealth leaders in one place will give her officials the best chance to make sure her funeral goes without a hitch.

The wedding procession will use the same route as the sovereign's funeral cortege, when a gun carriage will escort the Queen's coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall. The wedding procession itself, after the service in Westminster Abbey, will take place in five horse-drawn carriages and will pass the Houses of Parliament before travelling down Horse Guard's Parade and onto the Mall.  The rehearsal is even believed to have been given its own codename: London Bridge.Around 1,900 guests have been invited to Friday's Royal Wedding, including British and European politicians, Commonwealth leaders, members of European and Middle Eastern Royal families, and a handful of high-profile celebrities.

Iains Joke Section
How do you disperse an angry Scottish mob?
Nae bother - just take up a collection.

Marriages are all happy, it's having breakfast together that causes most of the trouble.

This sign was seen on the wall of a park at Newbattle House, near Edinburgh:
Any person entering this enclosure will be shot and prosecuted

Jock admitted that the last fight he had with his wife was his fault entirely. She had asked "What's on TV?" Jock had replied "Dust!"

A Scotsman walking through a field, sees a man drinking water from a pool with his hand.
The Scotsman man shouts ' Awa ye feel hoor thatâs full Oâ coos Sharn'
(Don't drink the water, it's full of cow s ** t.)
The man shouts back 'I'm English, Speak English, I don't understand you'.
The Scotsman man shouts back 'Use both hands, you'll get more in.'