Some Scottish News & Views #91

Issue # 91                                                                               Week ending 11thJune 2011

How I Met the Spooky Royalist Following Charles and Camilla by Iain MacIver
Prince Charles and Camilla came over to see us on Thursday. Marking 100 years of Harris Tweed production, their ceilidh was also a chance to meet some real Hearachs. Some of them are actually very friendly and nothing like the ones who work for the council.  Off to the Bays Centre at Leacklee I went. No sooner there than a buzz went round about another refined lady said to be on the way.  What? Why? Who? When?

A woman from Geocrab had overheard a man from the TV saying Cheryl was arriving soon. She asked him if it was that Cheryl, the bonnie lass from the north-east. Who else? he’d replied.  Recounting what the lensman told her, Mrs Geocrab grabbed her mobile to call her husband Norman who, she whispered, had a big thing for the lass from Newcastle. When Cheryl did arrive, she looked different somehow. Mrs Geocrab was perplexed.

“Cheryl didn’t look like that on the last X Factor. Her legs have got longer, her hair has got redder and her accent has gone. She’s easier to understand.  I said, you’re easier to understand, Cheryl, since you got rid of your husband. I’d do the same but the sheep are in Norman’s name. Makes it more difficult with the Crofters Commission.”  Cheryl just smiled. Hearachs aren’t easy to understand either.

However, Ms Cole had not had leg extensions after all. This Cheryl was not the Cole one but the longer-limbed correspondent on business and other important things from STV who can be seen most evenings reporting from the windiest places she can find. Her flame-red locks can be seen flying about atop oilrigs, Trump Towers, and now the Bays centre car-park at Leacklee.  Her name’s Cheryl Paul, not Cheryl Cole. She’s not from the north-east of England but she was brought up in Invergordon. That’s north-east-ish.  The dozy cameraman fellow must have got it wrong, I tried to explain to the ladies of the Bays. Cameramen aren’t good with names. They think in pictures. And that one’s from Ranish.  “That explains it,” nodded Mrs Geocrab.

Charles and Camilla were delightful. They are always delightful. Delightful is what they do. He was a bit like Cheryl Paul in the Bays breeze, constantly smoothing down his comb-over which rose and fell like the mast of a schooner coming round by Scarp.  Not that Ms Paul has a comb-over. No, that’s not what I meant. It’s just that when she’s on an oilrig, for instance, she always ... I’ll just stop there, shall I?

We had a bit of a security scare. Bet you never heard about that. I shouldn’t really tell you either but, ach, the royals won’t be back for a while and I think I’m already on the do-not-approach list. It was a certain lady who made the security people fidgety. Not me.  When I say security people, I think most of them were just cops from Northern Constabulary who were told to leave their uniforms at home and come to work in their own plain clothes cars. I’ve been ordered out of some of the finest pubs in the Highlands and islands at closing time by some of these guys. Hi Davie. Nice threads, mate.

Now splogged up in buttoned-up dark two-piece suits like you used to see in J D Williams catalogue, they became jittery when a wee lad from somewhere down Leverburgh way clambered onto the fence and began drawing attention in typical schoolboy fashion.
“Hey mister, do you work for the FBI?” When that was brushed off with a weak smile, he started: “Are all you guys secret agents or what. Wow. I think you’ve a gun in your pocket. Look, I can see it. Go on, show me now. Show me, show me, show me.”  Then the brat announced: “I know how to make a bomb, you know”. Well, the spooks’ smiles vanished quicker than pints at closing time when cops come calling.   Give them their due, the security team spotted the real troublemaker long before the royals arrived. She was at the gate and just happened to be talking to me. I thought I recognised her so I was polite, as always. Then she began telling me off about some of the things I write here. Proper ear-bashing I got.

They must have realised I’d been set upon. The spooks ordered the potential troublemaker with the yellow jacket inside the gate where they could keep an eye on her for a while. Then she was ordered out onto the road again when the VIPs were due. Good one.

As Charles and Camilla were in the centre, I was accosted again by the yellow peril. She peered at me before she said eerily: “I have come over from the other side.”  No. Can’t be. I don’t even believe in ghosts and spooky things - except ones in dark suits with bulges in their pockets - yet here I was in the Bays Centre car-park having a conversation with a real live one. Or is that a real dead one?

The dazzling apparition asked if I knew Stockinish. No, I quivered. I thought to myself the only thing I remember about that place was Mrs X telling me how her Harris granny used to warn the family to keep clear of people from there.  “Promise me faithfully you’ll never marry anyone from Stockinish,” she used to say. “They would steal the milk out of your tea. Terrible, terrible people.” She’d obviously had a bad experience with a lad from there a long time ago.

By now I was feeling very strange. I told my ghostly companion straight.  “Here I am talking to someone dressed in bright yellow, who has a Hearach accent and who says she is from the other side. This is really weird.”   “Isd, a chlown,” she said. “I'm Rachel Macdonald. I’m from Stockinish but now I live in Ullapool.”  Courtesy of The Press & Journal

New National Gaelic Boys Choir
The National Youth Choir of Scotland is delighted to be piloting a National Boys Gaelic Choir aimed at boys aged 11 -14 years and to be known as Còisir nam Balach.   The inaugural residential course will take place at Dounans Centre, Aberfoyle, in the heart of the Lomond and Trossachs National Park from August 26th to 28th.  Here, the boys will learn a mixture of traditional and new material in Gaelic and will receive expert coaching in both music and Gaelic.  The residential course will culminate in a concert presentation of Gaelic songs.

28,000 Demand Coastguard Be Saved (And still the fight goes on - Robin)
Two petitions signed by around 28,000 people will be handed in to Downing Street, demanding the Government ditches its proposed changes to the coastguard service.  Members of Shetland Islands Council and Western Isles Council, along with MPs and other campaigners, have travelled to London to deliver the petitions to the Prime Minister.  The UK Government is consulting on its plan to slash the number of maritime rescue co-ordination centres from 18 to eight in the UK. Under the plans, Aberdeen is the only coastguard station in Scotland to be spared from the cuts, while a second station would operate during daylight hours only, in either Shetland or Stornoway.

Angus Campbell, leader of Western Isles Council, said: "The people of the Shetland Isles and the Outer Hebrides have made their views quite clear - to get 15,000 people putting their names to a petition out of a total population of 26,000 is quite remarkable.  The people are opposed to the MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency) proposals for the coastguard service. These proposals will risk lives."  Mr Campbell said an alternative plan which would retain 24-hour coastguard stations in Shetland and Stornoway has been submitted.  The Outer Hebrides petition contains around 15,000 names and the Shetland petition has 13,000 names.

Stuart Period Documents Go Online
The 17th century's answer to the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables is online for the first time.  About 1.2 million pages of British government documents from the Stuart period, including secret reports of espionage and treason sent back from the courts and capitals of Europe, have been scanned and made available on the web.  Among the most intriguing papers is a letter sent to Queen Elizabeth I's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, containing clandestine intelligence about how "the King of Spaine laboured to get-in with the King of Scotts, and to ruine the Protestant Partie of France".

Another letter, sent by the Duke of Marlborough in September 1710, records intelligence from a member of the council of state in Brussels about a planned French attack on Scotland. It notes: "If this proves true the five regiments of the Isle of Wight should be moved northwards and a squadron be placed off Dunkirk."  The manuscripts shine a light on the Stuart era's paranoia about internal rebellion and foreign invasion, just as the trove of classified US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks have painted a vivid picture of how Washington really sees the world.  The material forms the final part of the ambitious State Papers Online 1509-1714 project to digitise and index nearly three million documents from the National Archives and the British Library.

Love letters from King Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn are included in the records that have already been released online in the collaboration between educational publisher Gale, part of Cengage Learning, and the National Archives. The newly published documents cover Britain's international relations between 1603 and 1714 through the prisms of marriage alliances, revolutions, wars, treaties, trade and religion.  They encompass letters between the rulers of Europe, Russia and the Ottoman empire as well as ambassadors' confidential reports. The records are particularly valuable because many of the other countries involved have lost their own collections from this period.

Police Crackdown on Gangland ‘Dirty Dozen’
Police have put "the dirty dozen" of Scotland’s most corrupt lawyers and accountants out of business, The Herald can reveal.  The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency has ended the careers of the key specialists propping up the country’s most dangerous organised crime groups.  In what the elite crime-fighting unit says is a major victory in the war on the underworld, all 12 are either facing prosecution or investigation by their professional bodies and none are able to operate.  News of the investigations came as police intelligence show there are 291 white-collar specialists, including lawyers and accountants, working for gangs.

The SCDEA’s director general, Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum, last night stressed the 12 taken out had been key players acting as lynchpins for the top 20% of Scotland’s 360 organised crime groups.  He said: "We found out that these 12 undoubtedly operated on behalf of a number of gangs.  By taking out one of the specialists, you can impact on, say, eight groups because they all draw a particular type of advice from one of the individuals. We know for a fact that a number of specialists sit as nexus points in a number of groups."   Mr Meldrum is unable to name any of the 12, because of ongoing proceedings against them involving the Crown Office, the Law Society of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.  The investigation into the dirty dozen began two years ago when the SCDEA produced its first ever map of organised crime. That revealed there were 241 "specialists" – hauliers, financiers, bureau de change operators, security experts as well as lawyers and accountants – working for the underworld.

The latest "data sweep" for the map found there were 291 such individuals. The new map also plotted 360 gangs, 200 of them based in Strathclyde, and 4472 members, including the specialists.  The data also established that 93 organised crime groups are now adopting corruption tactics against the public and private sectors – including financial institutions and legal and accounting firms.  Mr Meldrum last night stressed that his SCDEA crime map was no "academic exercise" but had allowed his team to pinpoint exactly why white-collar professionals posed the greatest risk.

Gangsters, in particular, need to find lawyers and accountants who will fail to ask them basic questions required to satisfy money-laundering regulations. Some professionals are coerced by blackmail or threats. Others are simply greedy.  Mr Meldrum has little time for the latter. He said: "If they have the knowledge that they are doing this on behalf of organised crime, then in my opinion they are every bit as harmful to communities as the individual criminals who will pump the drugs out on to the street.  In their own way, they cause as much harm as the organised criminals who deal the drugs or traffic the firearms.

Coalition Split Over Independence Referendum Will Be Music to Salmond's Ears
Somebody in Downing Street obviously decided that this week was "devolution week", no doubt in an effort to remind everybody about how much the coalition respects the Celtic nations – even if voters there like the government less and less.  It is just a shame that nobody in the UK government has yet to come up with a coherent policy on the independence referendum and fighting against the separation of Scotland to go with the effort and being nice to the devolved politicians.

So we have David Cameron chairing the latest meeting of the joint ministerial committee on Wednesday where the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can present their various gripes.  Then on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is in Scotland meeting Alex Salmond just as the Prime Minister gives a major speech in Northern Ireland. But as the two leaders of the coalition parties prepare for their brief bout of loving devolution, it is clear that there is a major disagreement over what to do about the independence referendum.

The issue one suspects is that neither Clegg nor Cameron know or care much about Scottish policy and are leaving it up to their Scottish politicians to almost make it up as they go along. So it was that, almost literally, as Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Michael Moore was briefing journalists in Holyrood that there will be a second referendum organised by the UK government should Salmond get a Yes vote for independence, the Conservatives were briefing Scottish lobby correspondents in London that there would be only one question and it needed to be a clear one.

Fox Backs Scots Defence 'Footprint'
Defence Secretary Liam Fox has said that he wants to maintain a strong military "footprint" in Scotland, amid continuing speculation over the future of two key air bases.  The future of RAF Leuchars in Fife and RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, along with RAF Marham in Norfolk, will be decided next month when the Ministry of Defence announces the outcome of its basing review. Giving evidence to the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, Dr Fox stressed that while some closures were likely, the MoD would continue to need significant basing capacity in the UK to house the thousands of British troops returning from bases in Germany.  He said that over the past decade, the military forces stationed in Scotland had fallen more sharply than across the UK as a whole - something which could be taken into account when deciding where to locate those returning from Germany.

Dr Fox said he had not had any discussions with First Minister Alex Salmond on the future of the military bases in Scotland in the event of Scotland voting for independence, although he acknowledged it could have "serious" implications.  "If it does become a potential outcome we will want to do work on the constitutional implications of that and the wider defence implications. It could potentially be a serious issue," he said.

Families Stunned As Power Bills Soar to £1,391 ($A2142.00) (Sound familiar?-Robin)
Scottish households are facing another wave of steep energy price rises, after a leading provider revealed looming increases which will see the average annual gas and electricity bill rocket by £180 ($A279.00).  ScottishPower said it would hike gas bills by 19 per cent and electricity by 10 per cent to increase its average customer bill to £1,391 ($A2142.00) a year - the highest price ever charged by a utility company.  Experts fear other providers are likely to follow suit in the coming weeks - leaving thousands more Scottish households struggling to pay their bills.  Many are already feeling the squeeze of rising inflation and pay freezes, forcing consumers to tighten their belts to be able to afford basic living costs.  In a further blow to household budgets, figures published today by the British Retail Consortium show food bills increased at the fastest pace in nearly two years last month as volatile commodity prices continued to push the cost of living higher.  ScottishPower said it had been forced to pass on the cost of wholesale price increases to its customers.  "Wholesale prices for gas and electricity have increased significantly since the end of last year and continuing unrest in global energy markets means future prices are volatile," said Raymond Jack, ScottishPower's UK retail director. "We understand times are difficult for many people, and we have done what we can to absorb these additional costs for as long as possible."

Watchdog Ofgem, which is conducting a major overhaul of the energy market, has come under fire from consumer groups and the Scottish Government, who believe the regulator should step in to put a stop to the spiralling cost of gas and electricity. The rise comes just a few months after all but one of the "big six" energy companies increased their bills by an average of 5.6 per cent, citing increasing wholesale costs and adding £630 million onto the total household energy bills of almost 28 million customers.

Estate Buyout Bid Suffers Setback   
Scotland's first hostile takeover bid for an estate has been hit by another delay.  A meeting due to be held on Thursday night to discuss the price local people were expected to pay for the 26,800-acre Pairc Estate on Lewis was cancelled after landowner Barry Lomas raised a court action against the buyout.

The Axeman Cometh 450,000 Years Ago
When Alan Price found himself with an hour to spare he decided to walk along the beach looking for the semi-precious stones which are often washed ashore.  Instead, he stumbled upon an ancient axe which could be up to 450,000 years old and may change our understanding of Scottish history. The 14cm-long flint axe discovered on the shore at St Ola in Orkney was described as "incredibly exciting" by Caroline Wickham-Jones, a lecturer in archaeology for the University of Aberdeen.  She believes the flint axe dates from the Palaeolithic period, or Old Stone Age, of prehistory and could be anything between 100,000 and 450,000 years old.  Palaeolithic axes are incredibly rare, with fewer than ten being found in Scotland.

Mr Price, 62, said   "I took a walk along the shore, and it was just lying there among the gravel. I was actually looking for small, red agates which I used to find there years ago.  I couldn't believe what I saw. I knew it was an axe but I didn't know it was palaeolithic. I'm interested in archaeology and have an eye for it. I've found things in the past like bits of pottery, but this is definitely the most significant discovery.  It's very rare in Scotland and has great historic value. It was really nice to see the response of Julie Gibson - the archaeologist I took it to. It then struck me that it might really be a really significant find."

The axe has been broken and originally would have tapered to a point opposite the cutting edge. But at some stage the point broke off and someone reworked the flint to its present straight edge.  Ms Wickham-Jones said: "This axe is definitely older than 100,000 years - so old it's become geology. Whoever made it would have been familiar with animals long since extinct - the woolly mammoth, for example. I find that really mind-blowing.  If it really comes from Orkney, it would change our understanding of the whole of Scotland. It would set back our known history from 14,000 years ago to at least 100,000 years ago."  She said is was not possible to tell whether the axe is in fact from Orkney as Palaeolithic axes discovered in Scotland to date have not been found "in context" - that is, associated with other finds of the same era.  

Julie Gibson, county archaeologist for Orkney, said as the axe was found by itself on the beach experts have to remain sceptical.  "We cannot just assume it was dropped by a local guy following a mammoth. I find it very possible that it is from the south of England and that it was brought here as part of the ballast of a sailing ship. But there is always a corner of doubt.  Just because we don't have any proof of Stone-Age people living here, it doesn't mean they didn't."

An Olympic Victory for Strathclyde Police After Cash Row
Olympic organisers have backed down after trying to make Scotland pick up the entire policing bill for Games events in Strathclyde.  The Home Office had wanted Strathclyde Police and the Scottish Government to pay all costs surrounding men's and women's football matches at Hampden Park - despite offering to pay part of those faced by English and Welsh forces.   However, after protracted negotiations between Scottish and Westminster officials, it has agreed to treat all UK forces equally.

Exactly what contribution the Home Office will make is still being negotiated but Westminster will definitely not contribute to costs of policing the torch relay or of providing protection for athletes whose training camps are in Scotland - such as Namibia and Zambia - but who are competing in events elsewhere.  

Chief Superintendent Jim McKecknie said: "The Home Office didn't want to pay for any of it. "The costs were going to fall to the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government said, 'No, these games are being funded by the Home Office'."  Assistant Chief Constable Fiona Taylor added: "There was a protracted period of debate. But now we're being treated the same as all of the English police forces. They've adopted a position in our favour, which was a real step forward for us.  But the torch is outside the funding envelope."  The torch relay will visit Glasgow, Inverness, Orkney, Shetland, the Isle of Lewis, Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh, between 8 and 13 June.  Evening celebrations will be held in Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh when the torch arrives at each location, with more than 50,000 expected to attend those in Glasgow alone.  The cost of policing all that will fall to the Scottish Government and Scottish forces.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Scottish ministers are proud that Hampden Park will host some of the matches in the Olympic football programme and share the hopes of the Games organisers for a successful event.  "The Scottish Government has never given any commitment to meet the cost of policing the Olympic football matches to be held in Glasgow in 2012.  After a period of negotiation, the Home Office has agreed to contribute towards those costs.  We are pleased a satisfactory solution has been found and believe that all costs of the 2012 Olympics should be drawn from the extremely generous budget that the UK government has set aside for that purpose."

A Scottish Government source added: "We believe that's got wider implications, not least to the application of the Scotland Bill."It is not yet known how much it will cost to police the Olympics in Scotland - much will depend on which countries compete in Glasgow, which won't be decided until April 2012.  Strathclyde Chief Constable Stephen House said the cost would run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and it was "not appropriate" for Strathclyde to pay.  He added: "After all, it's the London Olympics and not the Hampden Olympics."

Minister and Entire Flock to Quit Kirk in Row Over Gay Clergy
A congregation is set to become the first to break away from the Church of Scotland amid the growing row over the ordination of gay ministers.  Members of Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen's Union Street are expected to formally vote to secede from the Church of Scotland at a meeting this summer in protest at the Kirk's stance on homosexual clergy. Gilcomston Church is less than a mile from Queen's Cross Church, the kirk at the centre of the threatened church schism, which was sparked by the congregation's decision two years ago to induct the Rev Scott Ronnie as the first openly gay minister in the Church of Scotland.

The Kirk Session of Gilcomston yesterday accused the Church of Scotland of "showing contempt" for members of the Kirk who upheld traditional Christian values.  The congregation said in a statement: "The Kirk prefers to align itself with a handful of western European and North American denominations, which have torn themselves apart by taking the same novel line.  The Kirk need not wring its hands in false anguish that it has managed to split the broad and historic Church of Scotland. The General Assembly knew exactly what it was doing."

The Rev Dominic Smart, the Minister to the 380-strong congregation, claimed that other congregations were set to follow Gilcomston's lead.  He said: "I know that there are other congregations but I don't want to identify them. I really don't want to be seen to be speaking on behalf of other congregations.  But I will be very surprised if Gilcomston was the only church to do this."  He added: "It is not a decision we have taken lightly. It has been taken with a fairly heavy heart but we feel that this is the only way we have got to go. We had a Kirk Session meeting when we finally decided that we would take measures that would allow us and the congregation to leave the denomination."  The recommendation by the Kirk Session that Gilcomston should secede from the Church of Scotland will be put to the entire congregation at meeting in either late August or early September.   The Kirk Session stressed in a statement: ""Our decision is not about Scott Rennie. Our decision is a response to the way in which the General Assembly, as the highest court of the Kirk, has marginalised the Bible by approving the practice of same-sex relationships for ordained ministers."

A Church of Scotland spokesman said last night: "We have already recognised that the decision taken by the General Assembly will have caused hurt to some people within the Church.  It is disappointing that any congregation would feel the need to leave the Church when no final decisions have been taken, and the Church has agreed to hold more dialogue leading to a further report in 2013."

Next Generation Broadband on its Way Says HIE
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) says it is taking the first steps towards delivering superfast broadband for homes and businesses across the Highlands and Islands.    The agency, working in partnership on the project with the UK Government Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), the Scottish Government and local authorities, has launched a procurement process to appoint a suitably experienced partner to co-invest in the provision of Next Generation Broadband (NGB) services throughout the region.  In October 2010, HIE successfully bid to be one of the initial four rural areas in the UK to receive a funding package from BDUK. The investment is targeted at exploring ways to bring the faster speeds currently being enjoyed primarily in some city locations to more rural areas.

The procurement will follow the European-wide OJEU Competitive Dialogue process and HIE expects to sign contracts by July 2012.   The multi-million pound project, which will be delivered in phases, will roll out next generation access to communities and businesses across the Highlands and Islands. Details of the plan will be determined through the procurement process, with confirmation expected shortly after the contract is awarded.  Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE commented: “Understandably, everyone wants to know if faster broadband capability will reach them. Our ultimate aim is for all our communities to benefit, throughout all parts of the Highlands and Islands. At this first stage we are committed to seeing a fair spread across the region. The winning tender will need to demonstrate the best options for value and reach.”

Regeneration of Gaelic Adult Learning
A report into Gaelic adult learning in Glasgow has revealed more people than ever before are interested in learning the language.  The report was commissioned by Glasgow City Council and undertaken by academics at Glasgow Caledonian University and the University with the support of funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig.  Amongst the recommendations of the report were that a wider geographical spread of Gaelic classes be held throughout the city and that a dedicated Gaelic learners’ website be established to allow for up to the minute and easy accessibility to information about classes and cultural events.  The project was carried out by Dr Douglas Chalmers and Dr Lindsay Milligan of the University’s Division of Cultural Business and by Professor Mike Danson of the University of the West of Scotland, and involved extensive consultation with practitioners, participants and those with an interest in Gaelic adult learning in the city and beyond.

According to the 2001 Census, 10% of Scotland’s Gaelic speakers live in the City of Glasgow, the largest number outwith the Western Isles. The local authority has a strong commitment to Gaelic and wrote in their Gaelic Language Plan 2009 – 2012 that by 2020, the place of Gaelic in a thriving, multicultural Glasgow will be obvious to all.  Chief Researcher Dr Lindsay Milligan said: “This report has revealed that more people than ever before are interested in learning Gaelic and that the City of Glasgow will have a key role in its regeneration. There is a good infrastructure already within the city but some key gaps need filled, and if this happens then we are confident that by the year 2020 Gaelic will be heard to a greater extent in the streets of the city and beyond.”

Exasperated Planners Shut Wind Farm Down
The local authority has forced Scottish and Southern Electricity to shut down a Sutherland wind farm after the company breached planning controls by failing to deal with excessive noise from the development.  People living close to the Achany wind farm near Rosehall are claiming their lives are being made a misery by the constant noise, and are angry that their complaints are being ignored.  In an unprecedented move, Highland Council issued a temporary stop notice on the 23-turbine wind farm at 3pm on Monday.  The turbine blades at the £55 million, 40MW windfarm, which came on stream in July last year, stopped turning that night.  The stop notice will remain in place for a month, until July 4, with the shut down representing a huge financial loss to the power company.

Highland Council's principal planner Gordon Moonie confirmed on Thursday that it was the first time the authority had issued a notice of this type.  Mr Moonie revealed that the problems with Achany had been ongoing for about a year, with constant complaints to planners about noise.  "We were getting complaints from the local people and the community and we weren't getting any action from SSE, so we decided that the best way forward was to serve this temporary stop notice," he said.

According to the stop notice, SSE breached planning controls by failing to provide a scheme for mitigating noise levels prior to the development coming on stream.  They also failed to comply with a request to measure noise levels at two local properties - Rosehall Cottage and a home at Durcha - when specifically asked to do so following complaints from the householders.  The Durcha property is just 2km away from some of the turbines.  The company has further breached planning controls by failing to notify the local authority of the date the development first supplied electricity to the National Grid.

Rosehall resident Colin Gilmour, who chaired the Achany Windfarm Liaison Group said: "When Achany became operational in July 2010, we closed the liaison group down because in effect we did not really have any more to do with the development and we were not aware at the time that SSE had not met these conditions.  However, the issue of noise from Achany has come up at the liaison group set up for the Rosehall Hill wind farm which is being constructed by E.ON.  There is now a worry that houses at Durcha could be affected by noise from both wind farms and that one operator will blame the other.  They need to sort out the Achany issue before Rosehall Hill wind farm becomes operational."

Bonar Bridge Was Perfect Mod Venue
Bonar Bridge was the perfect venue for the 101st Sutherland and Caithness Mod, secretary Christian Goskirk said earlier this week.  Competitions were staged in the primary school and Bonar Bridge Village Hall with the hall at Ardgay also used for an evening ceilidh- cum- concert.  "The mod usually moves round different places but it has never been to Bonar Bridge," said Christian.  " We thought it would be good to have it in a new location."

Parents of pupils at Bonar Bridge Gaelic-Medium Unit along with other local residents formed a new mod committee and put in a power of work to ensure the event ran smoothly. Continued Christian: "We were delighted with the number of entries across all competitions and we were particularly pleased that four adult choirs, from Lairg, Melvich, Dingwall and the West Coast entered.  The George Gunn Memorial Trophy for the most outstanding junior competitor of the day went to Kathryn Macaskill from Rosskeen, Invergordon.  A new trophy for the most outstanding senior competitor of the day, the William Macdonald Memorial Trophy, was awarded for the first time this year and went to Christine Stone of Castletown, Caithness.

Drug Swoop on Gateway to the Isles
An army of 70 police officers swooped on homes in a West Coast town in the biggest drug trafficking raid Argyll has seen.  Large quantities of heroin were seized, along with lesser amounts of other drugs including cocaine, diazepam and cannabis, in a search of 12 houses and one hotel room in Oban on Friday morning. Seven males and three females were in custody last night.  As questioning continued, Oban's new police chief Brian Auld said: "This is still a work in progress, ten people are currently in police custody; as it currently stands five have been arrested and five detained under suspicion of drug trafficking offences.  In four of the premises we have had dealer quantities of heroin seized and it's away to forensics for weighing and purity level tests. It's a substantial amount of heroin, a significant drugs seizure for a town of this size."

Chief Inspector Auld, 46, has been in post only five weeks. He established Operation Independence in an immediate response to community concern at the drug problem in the small west coast town, known as the Gateway to the Isles.  He thanked members of the public for invaluable information given to police, in confidence, over four weeks of intelligence gathering.  Ch Insp Auld said: "When I arrived here, one of my commitments was to address the community needs and what the community was telling me. From attending community council meetings and talking to people on the street they were telling me their priority concern was drugs.  "My objective now is to create a hostile environment within Oban for people who want to deal in misery, in drugs." He vowed: "This is just the start, this will be a continued programme of activity against drug dealers."

The Green Thing
In the line at the supermarket, the young cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The checkout girl responded, "That's our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment."

She was right, that generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soft drink bottles and beer bottles to the shop. The shop sent them back to the factory to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.  They were recycled.

But they didn't have the green thing back in that customer's day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every shop and office building. They walked to the shops and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

But she was right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's nappies because they didn't have the  throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in a 220 volt energy gobbling machine - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right; they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, if they had one, they had just one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of a cricket pitch. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. They didn't have air conditioning or electric stoves with self cleaning ovens. They didn't have battery operated toys, computers, or telephones.  Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn fuel just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They used hand operated clippers to trim the shrubs. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right; they didn't have the green thing back then.

They drank from a glass filled from the tap when they were thirsty instead of using a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people walked or took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were just because they didn't have the green thing back then?