Some Scottish News & Views #85

SOME SCOTTISH NEWS & VIEWS
Issue # 85                                                                      Week ending 30th April 2011
In this issue,  I’ve been able to include a couple of small named articles  which I think you will enjoy. Don’t forget that the views expressed in some of the more serious articles are not necessarily my views or views to which I ascribe.  I do try to present an even handed approach - Robin

SNP Sets Out Scotland Bill Demands
The SNP wants to push for early changes to tax and finances among a range of key targets to "improve" legislation on devolved powers for Holyrood.  The party set out its priorities for the Scotland Bill, which is under consideration at Westminster, before the May 5 Scottish Parliament election.  Finance Secretary John Swinney, the SNP candidate for Perthshire North, appealed for voters to back his party to help strengthen Scotland's "clout".  The SNP wants quicker access to enhanced borrowing powers for the Scottish Government and Parliament, bringing forward the timescale outlined in the Bill.  Other targets include devolving corporation tax to Scotland and giving Holyrood control of revenue generated through Crown Estate land and property, currently paid to the Treasury.  The SNP also repeated its demand for the immediate release of the fossil fuel levy, a £200 million fund held in London that can be spent only to promote the use of energy from renewable sources in Scotland.

The Scotland Bill was based on recommendations by the Calman Commission more than 10 years after devolution. It proposes extra tax-raising powers for Holyrood, including a Scottish income tax to give MSPs greater responsibility for budgets.  The commission was set up by unionist parties and did not consider Scottish independence as an option for reform.

Multi-million-pound Golf Deal Driven Off Course by Midges (Oh the power of the wee beastie-how many of you can relate to being “eaten alive”? I certainly can - Robin)
They have long been the scourge of golfers looking to squeeze in a quick round during a balmy spring evening.  But now, the midge has claimed its biggest scalp to date by helping to scupper a multi-million-pound buyout of a prestigious Scottish golf club.  A rich golf enthusiast who has overseen a seven-figure revamp of the celebrated Wentworth course has revealed he scrapped plans to buy Loch Lomond Golf Club after being "bitten to death" by the insects.  Richard Caring said he visited the former home of the Barclays Scottish Open when it was up for sale but was, in part, put off by the swarms of insects.

Instead, , the exclusive course now rests in the hands of its members after a buyout worth around £35 million was completed earlier this year.  Mr Caring, who admitted that the reason for his pulling out of the prospective deal sounded "ridiculous," said he was deterred from doing any deal after visiting the 7,100 yard parkland course.  In an interview with Golf International, he said: "Yes, I thought about it. And I went up there a couple of times. But, to be very honest with you - and this will sound ridiculous - when I was there in August I was bitten to death by the midges. It really put me off."  The midges have also proved a scourge at the nearby Carrick course, where officials have spent tens of thousands of pounds on gas-powered midge traps to try and prevent golfers from being bitten. The machines attract the midges by pumping out carbon dioxide, which the creatures mistake for human breath.

Greens Demand Leaders' Debates Slot
The Scottish Green Party has urged broadcasters to "do the right thing" and invite it to take part in the last televised leaders' debates before the Holyrood election.  The party wrote to BBC director general Mark Thompson and to STV calling for the inclusion of co-leader Patrick Harvie.  Both broadcasters intend to air programmes featuring the leaders of the SNP, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties in the days before the election on May 5.

The Greens cite the BBC's editorial guidelines and the Ofcom broadcasting code while drawing attention to recent polls which put the party ahead of, or close to, the Lib Dems.  Mr Harvie, who is standing for re-election in the Glasgow region, said: "Time's up for the Holyrood debates to be reserved for a cosy little club of the old parties.  The longer the campaign goes on, the more arbitrary and absurd the broadcasters' decision to exclude the Greens is becoming. "

Absentee Landlord Returns to Court in Battle Over Estate
The landlord at the centre of Scotland's first hostile estate takeover has gone to court to try to block the move.   Last month Roseanna Cunningham, the environment minister, gave crofters the go-ahead to buy the 26,800-acre Pairc Estate in Lewis.  But owner Barry Lomas has raised an appeal at Stornoway Sheriff Court against the decision to try to stop the sale.  In the meantime, the Pairc Trust, representing the crofters, says it will press on with fundraising in the hope of taking over the land later this year.  An independent expert will now determine the market value of the land, which should be known next month.

Mr Lomas, a Warwickshire businessman whose family has owned the estate since 1924, has previously sought a judicial review to challenge the buy-out. He claims a forced sale breaches his human rights and that he had become the "whipping boy of land reform".  Mr Lomas said yesterday: "The legislation has permitted Pairc Estate to make an appeal to the Sheriff Court, so this and the judicial review will be used as a defence against a deliberately targeted, hostile and political attack on a landlord who seeks to protect the reasonable value of its assets."

Angus McDowall, chairman of Pairc Trust, said it is determined to pursue the buyout. He said: "The latest legal action by the landlord is deeply disappointing but par for the course.  It has been clear for many years that he will use every tactic at his disposal in an attempt to delay and frustrate the legitimate and clearly-expressed aspirations of our community, and we can expect more of the same now that the government has backed us. "   Almost 400 people currently live on the estate which has 11 townships and 208 crofts spread over an area the size of Edinburgh.  The trust first mooted a buy-out in 2004, but talks with the absentee landlord broke down. It later applied under Part 3 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which gives crofting communities the right to buy the land they croft and adjacent land whether or not the owner wishes to sell if ministers approve.   

The area's population has dropped from about 4,000 to 400 over the last century.  However the trust hopes to halt that decline and has already drawn up plans which include affordable housing, a camper van site, holiday packages for visitors and the possibility of renewable energy projects.

Lords and Ladies: Read My Guide on Choosing That Posh Name By iain maciver
My man in the constitutional office tells me Uilleam and Katag may yet send out one or two late invitations to their wee wedding on Friday.   Yes, I am a sceptic about the whole thing, but one should be prepared in case one is asked to take up the seats left vacant by King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia, who is not now expected to attend. His missus has a hair appointment that day, or something.  So I have been looking up tips on how to be a guest at a royal wedding. It’s a really fascinating subject. One of the most important things to follow in this strict formula is to come up with the posh name you would use if you were invited to such a bit of a do.  Unless you’re an American, of course. My fellow islander Donald Trump, currently living in the US for work reasons, could also have been invited, I hear. But now that he is considering standing for president himself and is giving Barack Obama a hard time, he has been dumped.

Well, if they are looking for another islander . . .

Even if St James’s Palace writes to you as, for instance, plain old Iain Maciver, you should write back with a lah-di-dah monicker and you’ll get the invitation confirmed for a bit of nosh beside my old mate Lord Benjamin Inca Fogle Hampstead and Lord David Coco Beckham Leytonstone. No messing.   Let’s look at the instructions. First, you take the title Lord or Lady. Just take it? Yep, just start using a name that no one else has bagged. If anyone asks, just say Lord is your first name. You then take the first name of one of your grandfathers. Fine, I’m doing well so far. You then take a name that is absolutely cherished in your family – and, yes, the name of a family pet is absolutely ideal for this purpose – and put it alongside the area you were born in.  Oh, I see. That’s what the toffs do.

There is already a Lord Carloway. If I remember right, he is actually called Colin. Hmm, I know someone who has a goldfish called Colin. I wonder if that’s how his lordship got his name? Hey, this is easy.  What next? Well, it was actually in a Glasgow hospital where I first saw the light of day. The institution was in Pollok, if my birth certificate is to be believed. I think I was there, but I don’t quite remember the details. Sorry.  

And probably the pet which I remember most was Ginger. Ah Ginger, a completely misnamed lightly sandy-coloured puss.   There was something about the names my family chose for our animals. We had a few weird ones. There was a corncrake in the field beside our house. We often took its name in vain when it started its early-morning carry-on, croaking out its own name. He was Eric.  Every flippin’ morning: Eric, Eric, Eric . . .  On the basis of all that historical research, my aristocratic name would be Lord Johnny Ginger Pollok.

I like it. It makes me sound like one of these well-to-do racing drivers from the 50s and 60s.  Mrs X doesn’t like the last bit. She thinks it’s rude. Ooh, listen to her – Lady Sandie Randy X Plasterfield Prefabs.   What can I do? Drop the Pollok? Nah. I am very proud of my roots. Which is more than she is, if that bottle of hair colouring in the bathroom cabinet is anything to go by.  I suspect my Lady Muck would prefer to be hanging off the arm of someone with a name that’s grander and more distinguished. Something more manly, even.

Right, I’ll tweak it. I did have another grandfather and we had dogs, too. Can’t use Rebel, though. He died in disgrace having chased our postman and inserted his canines into the nether regions of that previously first-class male.  So I could take my posh name from our first multicoloured pet, Daisy. She was not a cow, but a collie. I told you – odd names.  Daisy was sound. Docile as anything, which was just as well, with a young, uncontrollable brat in the house who did unmentionable things to her. It was my wild wee brother, not me. I’m innocent of this one, officer.

You never heard it from me, but – because I know how Northern Constabulary types always scan this column in case I am passing on cryptic clues – if they want to nab the ghastly criminal who locked that poor animal in the wardrobe just before his parents went to bed, he’s your man.  ’Twas he, too, who spoon-fed Rebel so many Haliboranges and laxatives that the poor animal was under the district nurse for a week.  No, there was no NHS for dogs back then, but she had to come in anyway, because my brat brother had also scoffed about three packets of the laxatives himself.

Officers, you’d better move fast. He is planning to flee back to his hidey-hole in distant Malaysia. In fact, he’s planning to secretly jet off today. I have a cast-iron source for this info – himself, he told me over a dram a couple of nights ago.  Meanwhile, if I receive a last-minute invitation to replace someone on Friday who has dropped out because of an uprising in their country, I shall be accompanying Lady X to the festivities.  What? You say Daisy is not manly enough for you in the surname, dear?   Fine. Let’s drop Daisy.

Wait a minute. I remember we used to have a daft cockerel that used to run round in circles in the same direction because one leg was longer than the other. I will take my posh name after him.  Lady X, you shall go to the ball – if that invitation does come – and you shall be the charming companion of Lord Angus Leftie Pollok.

'Curse of Glenlyon' Haunts Hydro Plan
They have watched over the high moors of Glenlyon for thousands of years as part of a ritual that goes back to pagan Scotland.  And local legend has it that "strange and terrible" things will happen to anyone who disturbs the peace of the three ancient carved stones at Tigh nam Bodach.  But a development company has now been warned that it risks invoking the curse of the Cailleach - the old woman and protector of the glen - if it pushes ahead with plans to build a hydro-electric power station in one of the remotest parts of Highland Perthshire.

The English-based owners of the Auch estate in Glenlyon have applied to build the power station using water from four burns in Glen Cailliche - the Crooked Glen of the Stones - north of Loch Lyon.   The 40-acre development would involve constructing a weir on the Allt Cailliche burn, together with a turbine house and an overhead power line to connect with the national grid.  However, the project has met with nearly 60 objections, with protesters fearing its impact on the nearby Tigh Nam Bodach site. This comprises a miniature stone "house" which contains three bell-shaped stones, up to 18 inches high, representing the Cailleach, or old woman and divine goddess, the Bodach, or old man, and their daughter Nighean.

Continuing what is believed to be the oldest uninterrupted pre-Christian ritual in Britain, the water-worn figures from the River Lyon are taken out of their house by estate staff every May and faced down the glen, and returned every November.   The ritual marked the Celtic fire festivals of Beltane and Samhain and the annual migration of Highland cattle on and off the hills. In his Companion Guide to Gaelic Scotland, Professor Derrick Thomson wrote of the idols: "If propitiated (appeased] in the correct manner, they were believed to bless the stock and the pasturage and to ensure good weather - a prerogative of the Celtic mother goddesses."

The Glenlyon History Society is organising a protest walk to the stones next Sunday to coincide with Beltane as part of its campaign to stop the site becoming a "semi-industrial landscape".  Society secretary Jamie Grant said the Cailleach had protected the cattle grazing over the high ground, but "strange and terrible" things were said to happen to anyone who dared disturb her wintering grounds in Glen Cailliche.   Dr Anne Ross, an ethnologist who took away one of the stones for closer study without permission some 30 years ago, had a "very disquieting experience", Grant said.  She returned it to the gamekeeper who looked after the stones "looking really distraught and dishevelled - as if she had been haunted".

Grant said the high-pitched whine from the power station "will fundamentally alter the 'soundscape' of the glen".  Scottish folklore expert Dr Margaret Bennett compared the plans to building a windfarm beside Stonehenge. She said: "This is regarded by many as a sacred site. The plans would destroy the setting of one of Scotland's most important sites."  The John Muir Trust (JMT) and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCS) have also lodged objections over the damage they said the power plant would have on the remote area.  Documents submitted with the planning application, which is being considered by Perth and Kinross Council, admit that construction work "might affect" the stones site, and "the presence of the overhead lines would slightly affect the setting of Tigh nam Bodach".

Biker Killed Days After Safety Drive is Launched
A motorcyclist was killed on a Sutherland road on Monday, just days after the launch of a safety campaign to curb the number of biker deaths in the Highlands.  The man, who was in his 30s, died after crashing his motorcycle on the A894 Inchnadamph-Kylestrome road about one-and-a-half miles south of Kylesku.  Paramedics and police made their way to the scene just after 3pm and the rider was pronounced dead.  A spokeswoman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said a crew attended the scene but were not required.  An extensive part of the road was closed for more than four hours from its junction with the A837 at Skiag Bridge to its junction with the A838 at Laxford Bridge while officers investigated.

Music Lovers Pack Concert to Help the Victims of Tsunami
A group of young Japanese musicians attracted a sell-out crowd to Inverness for a concert to raise funds for the victims of the massive earthquake and tsunami.  Violinist Tatsuya Yamauchi and the Japan New Romantics Band were invited to play at Eden Court’s One Touch Theatre by the country’s consul general Masataka Tarahara.  

Mr Tarahara originally organised the show last November as a thank you to Inverness Provost Jimmy Gray for his help in organising a reception for local business leaders in the city’s town house.   After the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, which claimed the lives of more than 14,000 people, organisers decided to use the show as a fundraising event.  Money from the Inverness Common Good Fund was used to help stage the event, while a collection and raffle was held to raise cash for the victims of the disaster.

Before the concert, Inverness city manager David Haas described the show as “one of the highlights” of the council’s events calendar.   He said: “Not only is it an honour for us to have such a high standard of classical musicians from Japan but also the opportunity to show that the thoughts of the people of the community and the Highlands are very much with our friends in Japan at this time.”  Mr Yamauchi is one of the most well-known violinists in Asia and the band is one of the most promising young groups in Japan.  Their repertoire ranges from world, pop and classical music to their own original compositions as well as some Scottish items.   Consul general Mr Tarahara, who was also expected to join the group on stage, said it was only the second time the group had performed outside of Japan.  They put on a show in Edinburgh last week.

Two in Court in Old Firm Web Probe
Two men appeared in court yesterday after being arrested in police raids on the homes of people allegedly involved in Old Firm internet hate campaigns.  The Crown Office said David Craig, 23, from Paisley, and Stephen Birrell, 27, from Glasgow, were both charged with breach of the peace. Both men made no plea or declaration at Glasgow Sheriff Court and were released on bail.  The men were arrested on Saturday in connection with allegedly racial and religious hate comments made on the internet about Celtic and Rangers players.  The Old Firm rivals met for the seventh and last time this season at Rangers' Ibrox stadium on Sunday. Nine people were arrested after the match, which ended in a goalless draw.   Police said none of the crimes was linked to sectarianism.

Meanwhile, police are still looking for whoever was responsible for sending parcel bombs to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two high-profile supporters of the club.   Concern about violence related to the Old Firm was voiced after an ill-tempered game last month. An Old Firm summit, chaired by First Minister Alex Salmond, was held and an eight-point action plan was agreed.

Religion Rears its Head in Many Ways –Not Always for the Best By ron ferguson
It’s hard to keep religion out of the headlines these days, for good or for ill. Even at election time, religion is never far from the top of the news agenda. Yesterday's headlines were about Cardinal Keith O'Brien’s attack on “aggressive secularism”, and the events surrounding the Old Firm football match at Ibrox.

Today, I want to go behind the headlines, and have a closer look at secularism and sectarianism. I also want to comment on the role of religion – the good, the bad and the ugly – in these controversial issues.  In his Easter homily, Cardinal O'Brien hit out against what he called the “marginalisation” of Christians in today's society. He also criticised those who want to “take God from the public sphere”.  Preaching in St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland's most high-profile Roman Catholic called on Christians of all denominations to resist the efforts of those who seek to destroy Christian heritage and culture.  He said: “Recently, various Christians in our society were marginalised and prevented from acting in accordance with their beliefs because they were not willing to publicly endorse a particular lifestyle.  You have only to ask a couple with regard to their bed-and-breakfast business, certain relationship counsellors, and people who had valiantly fostered children for many years of their particular experiences – and I am sure they are not exaggerating them.”

Context is important. These remarks were made against a background of falling church rolls and diminishing attendance at Mass. The influence of the mainstream Churches is declining, and many Church leaders are frustrated by the loss of privileged status.  There's no doubt at all that, in today's society, people are less inclined to bow the knee before prelates, princes, moderators, and so on.   To be honest, as a Christian minister, I'm glad that this is so. I think that the Churches tend to be at their worst when they are in dominant positions in society, and at their best when they are up against it. We'll come back to that in a minute.

I'm interested in this talk about “aggressive secularism”. By using this phrase, Cardinal O'Brien is picking up on the remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI during his state visit to Britain.   Secularists are those who believe that no religion should have a privileged place in society, and that while Church leaders have a democratic right to say what they want, there should be no fanfares when they speak. I'm on the secularists’ side on this one.  Some secularists are undoubtedly very aggressively anti-religion in any shape or form, arguing that religion is for the feeble-minded, and is a negative force in society. I'm not on their side when they make that argument.  Historically, Churches have been very aggressive institutions. They have not, in the past, been slow to proselytise and dominate. Atheists were denounced as evil, and sometimes unbelievers were burned at the stake. Churches have been known to fight each other with ferocity.

Complaints about aggressive secularism and atheism sound a little hollow when the historical record is taken into account.  There have been times in recent history when so-called “secularists” have been more moral than Christians. I'm referring to the place of women and to the treatment of gays. I don't regard Church leaders, Catholic or Protestant, as showing good Christian leadership on these issues at all.   It is very, very hard to be a gay or lesbian Christian in most Scottish churches today. It is hard for Christians in committed same-sex relationships to listen in silence when they are denounced from the pulpit as evil or dysfunctional.

Good Christian leadership? Don't make me laugh.  I don't like the sneering contempt exhibited by some aggressive atheists, but the Christian patronising of women and the putting-down of gays is certainly not morally better as far as I'm concerned.  Cardinal O'Brien cites the case of a couple who run a bed-and-breakfast establishment and refuse to have gay couples staying there. I would defend their right to have in their home whoever they want. If they don't want to have homosexuals or heterosexuals or Moslems or whatever under their roof, that is their right as private citizens.   But when they operate in the public sphere, the situation changes.   

What if someone advertising a guesthouse said that black people would not be admitted? Would that be acceptable? It's actually not all that long ago since some employers in Northern Ireland, when advertising jobs, would add “Catholics need not apply”.  If they were sincere Protestant Christians who felt that Catholicism was a negative force, would we support their right to make that qualification? Of course not.   I don't want to live in a society run by cardinals, moderators, imams, ayatollas or anything like that. Churches have their legitimate place in society, but they certainly don't hold all the moral trump cards.  Which takes me neatly on to sectarianism.

For many years, Rangers Football Club had a policy of not signing Roman Catholic players. They didn't put “Catholics need not apply” in their shop window, but their policy was an open secret.  Yesterday, I listened to a BBC Radio Scotland programme which featured two representatives of Celtic and Rangers supporters. The two men sounded like decent and articulate human beings. Yet the Rangers man refused to concede that the Ibrox club had ever had a policy of not signing Catholics.   While Rangers, under pressure, have in more recent years signed players from different faith traditions and none, to deny that they ever operated an exclusive policy is absurd.  It is this kind of sectarianism that acts like a cancer in the west of Scotland. Yet how many Rangers supporters have been banned for singing sectarian songs? And how many Celtic supporters have been banned for chants in favour of murderous terrorists?

There's a lot of work still to be done if Scotland is to be a place of equal opportunities and equal treatment. The Churches have things to bring to the debate, but the days of their privileged domination are, thank God, over.

German Bomb Threatens to Shut Down Vital Oil Pipeline
BP has confirmed that an unexploded German mine has been discovered lying within a few feet of the giant Forties pipeline which takes production from more than 30 installations in the North Sea.   Oil company bosses are currently trying to decide what to do about the 13ft-long mine. One option is to leave it in place. The other is to move it a safe distance and explode it - an operation which will result in production being completely shut down for several days.   The Forties Pipeline System serves platforms in both the UK and Norwegian sectors of the central and northern North Sea. The system has a capacity to deal with in excess of one million barrels per day and carries around 40 per cent of the UK's oil production.  The 105-mile pipeline system is currently being used to pipe some 500,000 barrels of oil ashore each day.

A spokesman for BP said the mine had been found during a routine survey on 22 March. He explained: "An unidentified object was observed lying next to the BP-operated Forties pipeline in the North Sea. The object was subsequently identified by specialists as a piece of Second World War military ordnance. It is lying adjacent to the pipeline approximately 40 kilometres off the coast from Peterhead.  Pictures of the object were sent to specialists and they told us it was a Second World War German aerial mine and that it was definitely unexploded ordnance. It is close by - within a few feet of the pipeline."

1911 Census for Scotland Now Online (This is for everyone not only the genealogists amongst you - Robin)
Great news - the 1911 Census for Scotland is now online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk  The 1911 census is a record of everyone who lived in Scotland in that year. It provides a fascinating insight into how our ancestors lived at the time.

The census, which was taken on the night of Sunday 2 April, details information collected from more than 4.7 million people who were registered living in Scotland at the time. The returns are a key source for people tracing their family history.  The census images include the name, address, age, occupation, birthplace and marital status of everyone counted in the 1911 census, as well as details about their children. For the first time, the census images are available in full colour.

The completed forms also shed light on the whereabouts of many prominent Scots. This includes famed architect and artist Charles Rennie McIntosh who is listed as living, aged 42, in Kelvinside, Glasgow at the time of the census. John Logie Baird, inventor of the television, also appears on the census as a 22 year old apprentice draughtsman.  The 1911 census was the last population survey carried out before the First World War and features for the last time, the names of many Scots who later died in service or left the country for overseas.

Adapting to Climate Change Workshops
The second in the series of three CoastAdapt workshops will be held in West Gerinish Community Hall at 7.30pm next Wednesday.  A number of issues will be explored including practical examples of good practice in climate adaptation will be shown, but most importantly, people attending will have the opportunity of participating jointly with other northern peripheral regions in the development of policies and strategies with the objective of ‘mainstreaming’ them into local government.   The aim of the CoastAdapt project, which is part funded by the EU Northern Periphery Programme and led by the Comhairle, is to integrate climate change adaptation objectives, strategies and measures such that they become part of local government development polices, processes and budgets at all levels and stages.

What is meant by ‘adaptation’? Adaptation has been defined as making adjustments in natural and human systems in response to actual or expected climate influences or their effects. Adjustments are designed to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities.  For decision-makers, e.g. politicians, planners or coastal managers, there are many problems associated with extent of vulnerable coastline, environmental and economic value, and the ability of local authorities in terms of jurisdiction. In the Western Isles, increasing sea level and changing coastal morphology by erosion are increasing the exposure of coastal communities to Atlantic storms.  The desirable adaptation strategy to rising sea levels as seen by individual residents or crofters living and working at the coast is relatively clear-cut: invest in beach replenishment or in hard defence structures. But, for financially hard pressed coastal local authorities with extensive vulnerable coasts within their area, a different set of values and governance come into play. Although all parties tend to appeal to principles of sustainability, affected residents may feel wrongly done by, while local authority priorities centre around fairness, cost-effectiveness and integrated long-term planning.

For whatever approach is taken, vulnerable coastal communities are becoming more aware of the need to make adjustments in how they exist in close proximity to the sea and changing coastlines. Examples could include an acceptance that new housing should not be located below certain levels above high tide; an acceptance that loss of land is in many cases inevitable; that cultivation of machairs should leave buffer zones behind dune systems and at the machair edge; and that hard sea defences are not necessarily good practice as their construction may lead to erosion being transferred further along the coast.

First Step Towards Creating Luxury Hotel in Dornoch
Todd Warnock, a member of Royal Dornoch Golf Club (RDGC), was granted the first of a number of planning consents required for work at the Links House, located on Kennedy Avenue, next to the clubhouse.  Highland councillors went against the recommendation of planning officials in agreeing to the construction of a two-storey annexe along with a golf bag store in the rear garden of the substantial property.  The council's conservation architect had also recommended the annexe be turned down on the grounds it did not fit in with surrounding buildings.

Mr Warnock (50), from Illinois, USA is investing heavily in converting the Links House, into high-end accommodation for the golfing market.  The former Free Church Manse dates back to around 1843 and is a Grade B listed building.  Planning applications for the alteration and extension of Links House and listed building consent have been submitted and are in the planning pipeline.  The two-storey annexe, which will house three guest suites and a manager's flat, was described as "essential" to provide an economically viable business.  But planners claimed that the "design and detailing" of the sandstone and slate extension did not fit in with other buildings in the immediate area.

East Sutherland and Edderton councillors Jim McGillivray and Ian Ross strongly supported the application, emphasising the economic importance of the overall development to Dornoch and the wider area.   Mr McGillivray told the committee: "Anybody going up to the golf course will be considering the quality of their swing at the first tee and will not be thinking about the quality of the architecture.   I think the applicant has made a very serious effort to appreciate the traditional generic culture of Dornoch architecture and has met the culture, ethos and dignity of much of what is the true Dornoch.  We have a real need now to complete with urgency a project that has already been delayed. It is not just a matter of the capital investment in this project but of a significant and substantial year on year uplift in Dornoch tourism."   Councillors agreed to go against the recommendation of planning officials on the grounds they felt the design was acceptable and in context and that the overall scheme would promote tourism.

'You Can Come in Now But Not Join,' Historic Golf Club Tells Women
Muirfield is one of the most prestigious private clubs in world golf and its membership has traditionally included prominent High Court judges and captains of industry. However the male-only membership of one of the oldest golf clubs in the world have dismissed proposals that women should be allowed to become members, but the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which is credited with writing the first rules of the Royal and Ancient Game, is set to break with 267 years of tradition and rewrite its own constitution to allow the fairer sex access to the hallowed public rooms at its clubhouse overlooking the 18th green at Muirfield, East Lothian.  

It was revealed yesterday that following a special meeting of the club's membership, women will be able to enjoy the same facilities that are offered to male guests at the prestigious course, which has played host to the Open Championship 15 times.  Twelve months ago the club was embroiled in a controversy when members of the Scottish Bar condemned Muirfield's "sexist" membership policy.  Jacqueline Williamson, a member of the Faculty of Advocates who specialises in employment and discrimination, declared that its refusal to allow women membership was "socially and morally repugnant".

Special Protection Sought for Pride of Forfar - the Bridie
It has been hailed as Scotland's answer to the world famous Cornish Pasty.  And a campaign has now been launched for the humble Forfar bridie to join its Cornish culinary cousin in being awarded the same level of special protection from the European Commission, which has also been granted to celebrated delicacies such as Roquefort cheese, Parma ham, and Melton Mowbray pies .  If successful, the Forfar bridie would become the second Angus delicacy to be awarded official Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status by the commission in just seven years. In 2004 the Arbroath smokie was granted permission to carry the commission's distinctive protected-product symbol to prevent fake smokies being produced anywhere else in Europe.

An Illicit Party, A Protest and A Free Breakfast As Scotland Marks the Royal Wedding
There appeared to be a north-south divide today as only a minority of Scots turned out in public to celebrate the royal wedding - and some staged anti-royal protests.  While thousands took to the streets of London and waved union jacks at hundreds of planned street parties in towns around England, there was only a small number of equivalent events north of the border.  But there were exceptions to this general lack of interest on the special bank holiday.

In the Fife town where Prince William and Kate Middleton began their romance, more than 2,000 people attended a wedding breakfast in honour of the occasion.  In St Salvator's Quadrangle at the heart of the ancient university, people made an early start to the festivities, with free food on offer including egg and sausage rolls and porridge.   In Glasgow, there have been fears that an all-day unofficial party - organised through Facebook - could descend into chaos with 5,000 people planning to attend.  Police had warned that the "Kelvingrove Street Party" was "unsafe and unofficial", but that didn't stop people turning up to the event.

Edinburgh played host to more small-scale street parties than anywhere in Scotland, with numerous events taking place across the capital.  But as well as celebration, there was also dissent.   A group of more than 100 republicans chanted slogans at the gates of the Palace of Holyroodhouse - the Queen's official residence in Scotland - at the same time as crowds cheered the newlyweds from the streets of London.  Protesters walked to the foot of the Royal Mile, briefly holding up traffic and open-topped tourist buses between the palace and Scottish Parliament.

Film Gives New Insight on the Dounreay Story
A new film project is giving a fresh insight into the Dounreay nuclear plant and its interaction with the local community.  Dundee-based artist and lecturer Gair Dunlop has been given unprecedented access to the Caithness plant as well as obtaining rarely-seen early footage from nuclear industry archives.  His project, Atom Town, has been carried out with a £20,000 award from Creative Scotland.  Since 2009, he has been compiling material about the now-mothballed fast reactor complex and people and places in the nearby town of Thurso.

Mr Dunlop is currently putting the final touches to his multi-media piece, which is to have its first screening next month. He said he has had full co-operation from managers at Dounreay, after some initial apprehension.   He said: “Once they realised I wasn’t putting myself forward as some sort of cheerleader for the anti-nuclear industry lobby, they were very helpful.”  Insisting he is taking a neutral approach on the pros and cons of nuclear power, Mr Dunlop said his work charts the evolution and demise of the fast reactor experiment and how that has changed the site’s relationship with the surrounding community.   He said: “It’s been fascinating to watch a big, new technology take root in a rural, outlying community and then start to disappear.  There was a real sense of romanticism and excitement when it started up. “I’ve been interested to get a sense of how things have changed over time at the plant and in the town too.”

Mr Dunlop has been able to extract film footage from the UK’s atomic industry archives at Harwell in Oxfordshire.  It also includes interviews with workers and local people in the late-50s, alongside footage of them today.  Mr Dunlop said: “Dounreay embodies many of the contradictions and lost possibilities of the atomic age.  It was a national prestige project and the quality of the early archive footage of it is fantastic.”   Dounreay, which operated between 1959 and 1994, is currently in the throes of a multi-million-pound decommissioning programme.  Mr Dunlop, a lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, is to unveil his project at the In Space gallery at Edinburgh University on May 28. There is to be a follow-up screening at Caithness Horizons centre at Thurso on June 3.