Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 521

Issue # 521                                              Week ending Saturday 12th October 2019
No Woman, No Cry About the Cost of the Electricity When They Don’t Have to Pay by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

We’re doomed. Life is hard for many. Changes are taking place that you would not dream off just a few short years ago. Boris Johnson is prime minister. It was always on the cards, though, the big baby. Sometimes I think the world is changing too fast for me. When I was a kid, you could walk into a shop with 20p and leave with a bag of crisps, a Mars bar, and a can of Coke. It’s all different now. They have cameras everywhere.

Maybe I’m beginning to sound like everyone’s grumpy grandfather but years ago, I was so broke I couldn’t afford to pay the electricity bill. Those were the darkest days of my life.

Aye, the nights are fair drawing in. Mind you, this winter will be cheaper to get through than previous years. The daughter has gone away. Yay. I mean, sadly our only daughter has gone south for the winter, the spring, the summer and the autumn. We have sent her to Coventry.

We are actually still talking to her because she is working there. We do miss Vicki terribly. However, I do have to say that when she was here, she was never one to put a light out or a heater off. Younger people are very electrically-intensive these days because of their computers, games consoles, devices and so on.

When she was here, I would look in on her in her room before I went to bed. She would have an array of screens on and three or four lamps blazing. Turn that lot off, I would shout. She would try and win me over by pleading: “Dad, please. You know I’m afraid of the dark.” I wasn’t having that. “Listen, young lady,” I said, “Just you wait until you start paying for the electricity yourself and then you’ll be scared of the flicking light.”

She always try and argue but I would say that I was the one who brought her into this world, by telling her mother to push at the right time, and I would push her out the door if she didn’t switch off too. Mild interference works when sorting out your children’s lives.

Maybe it’s a good job she’s not here. She would be tearing her hair out like Mrs X and I are. Our angst is caused by the Ministry of Defence. They are messing with our internet for most of the day and evening. They will deny it, of course. The Royal Navy, however, is out in the Minch with ships and helicopters from 13 other nations, taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior 192, the regular war games, between here and Loch Ewe and they are doing a Bob Marley.

Remember when he sang: “We’re jammin’, we’re jammin’. And I hope you like jammin' too.” Mysterious forces are out there in the murky waters of Loch Ewe and they are jamming our superspeed broadband which we are paying a small fortune to BT for each month. Maybe I have upset the government once or twice, but it is a bit much getting 14 countries working together just to try and stop my column reaching the Press and Journal.

Jamming happened a few years ago and the MoD initially denied it. Eventually, they conceded signals to block out GPS signals from satellites may have caused “mild interference” to some internet services. Mild interference?  Apart from thousands of tourists with suddenly-wonky satnavs getting lost on both sides of the Minch, I could not play World of Warcraft. That’s proper war games. They’re out there generating incredibly strong radio signals but they forget they are near the undersea cable that takes the broadband signal to us.

Am I sure? The MoD recently sent a notice to fishing vessels and ferries about the latest exercise. Section 4e says there will be “Denial of GPS service”. That’s it. I see the mine hunter HMS Penzance is playing hide-and-seek in Loch Ewe and we know what that means. She is also a top electromagnetic countermeasures resource capable of much more jammin’ than even Bob Marley. It’s driving me mad. Under normal conditions, the net speeds up going on for midnight as people log out and head up the wooden hill. Not now.

I am beginning to think that is all that the sailors on HMS Penzance do all day - listen to Buffalo Soldier in their jammies, eat bread and jam?

With my long experience, I have to give advice to parents about all aspects of childcare. Alasdair’s wife is pregnant. She has told Alasdair he has to be at the birth to hold her hand. Aw, nice. But he is petrified. He knew I was a father so Alasdair asked me if I had ever been at a birth. I told him I was at my daughter’s birth, of course, telling herself when to push and also at another birth before that which was absolutely amazing. He said: “Really? Wow. What was it like?” I said: “It was all very dark and then suddenly it was very, very bright.”

Trump's Aberdeenshire Golf Resort Posts £1m Annual Losses
Donald Trump's Aberdeenshire golf resort has made losses for the seventh consecutive year, according to the latest published accounts.  Documents lodged with Companies House show the Trump International Golf Club made an annual loss of £1.07m in 2018.  It is a slight improvement on the previous year when losses stood at £1.25m.  The golf resort at the Menie Estate opened in 2012, but since then it has continued to make a loss.  The accounts, which were first reported by The Scotsman, also give details of a £40m interest-free loan from Mr Trump.  And they reveal that 77 people were employed by the business - down from 84 in 2017.  Mr Trump promised to spend £1bn and create 6,000 jobs developing the golf course. Last week, the Trump Organisation was given approval to build hundreds of new homes at the Menie Estate. However, the company said there was now no market to support its original plans for a five-star hotel.  A spokeswoman said a sustainable community was needed to support a seasonal transient business.  Plans for a second golf course the Aberdeenshire resort were approved by councillors last month.  The 18-hole MacLeod course is to be built to the south and west of the original course, which opened at Menie in 2012. The new course is named after Mr Trump's mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, who was born and brought up on the Hebridean island of Lewis but emigrated to New York.

Gang That Tried to 'Flood' Inverness with Drugs is Jailed
Two men who led a gang planning to "flood" Inverness with drugs have each been jailed for seven years and six months.  The cocaine, heroin and etizolam involved were worth a total of almost £650,000, the High Court in Glasgow heard. The ringleaders were Kieran Adams, 28, from Clydebank and Stephen Kelly, 31, from Glasgow.  Four other members of the gang were also jailed for three years.  A seventh member of the gang, Danielle Finlay, 30, from Hamilton, had her sentence deferred until December and she was granted bail.  They all admitted being involved in the supply of drugs between November 2018 and March this year. The court heard the offences were connected with serious organised crime.  Sentencing the six, judge Lord Boyd said: "This was a sophisticated and organised criminal conspiracy and you all played a part."  The court had earlier heard the drugs were obtained in Glasgow and members of the gang were caught by police in Glasgow, Inverness, Stirling and Drumnadrochit.  Det Insp William Nimmo, of Police Scotland's Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit, said the sentencing had followed a "complex investigation".  He said: "Individuals such as these operate using violence and intimidation, wrecking the lives of people addicted to controlled drugs and that of their families.  Profiting from this behaviour is nothing short of despicable and people like this bring nothing but harm to our communities."

Loganair Secures Barra, Tiree and Campbeltown Contract
Loganair has secured a contract to continue operating Scottish government-funded flights on the west coast.  The £21m four-year deal involves flights from Glasgow to Barra, Tiree and Campbeltown.  Loganair already operates the public service obligation route, which provides islanders and people in Argyll with an air link to Glasgow.  The flights, which involve landings at Barra's beach runway, are also used by tourists.  The new contract starts on 25 October.  Loganair has operated flights to Barra, Tiree and Campbeltown since 1974.  Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said the deal included a requirement for improvements to be made to the service.  He said: "These flights transport people, goods and services, playing a crucial role for service industries and ensuring that residents have access to specialist healthcare.  They also enable visitors to reach the islands easily, boosting local tourism."

Businesses Hit by Arran Ferry Disruption

A hotel owner has hit out at the impact of disruption on one of Scotland's busiest ferry routes. The failure of both linkspans at Ardrossan means vehicles cannot be transferred from the ferry to the offloading ramp.  This means the route between the North Ayrshire port and Brodick on the Isle of Arran has been left passenger-only.  Local businesses said the disruption was costing them valuable trade.  The situation has been made worse because a linkspan in Gourock - the ferry route's backup port - is also broken and a service update from ferry operator CalMac is expected later.  As well as the impact on tourism and businesses, the schools on Arran are currently on the October break, meaning some islanders have had their holiday plans interrupted.  Barbara Crawford, who owns the Kinloch Hotel in Blackwaterfoot on the west coast of Arran, said she has had 50 individual bookings cancelled so far and described the uncertainty as a "complete nightmare" for the island.  She said: "It is obviously affecting our suppliers and everyone else's too.  How on earth can we get in a position where both links at Ardrossan have failed but the backup port's links are also out of action?  That is not unlucky or down to the weather. Questions have to be asked."  The issue emerged on Sunday and has caused disruption to services and island life since.  The MV Caledonian Isles, which serves the route between Ardrossan and Brodick on the Isle of Arran, was initially diverted to Troon, 10 miles (16km) south of the intended destination.  But ferry firm CalMac said bad weather forecast for Tuesday meant the ferry would be unable to berth at Troon.  Instead, a passenger-only service will run between Ardrossan and Brodick.  There is no indication yet as to when the issue will be resolved but CalMac said it was pressing the owner of Ardrossan port to get the problem fixed urgently.  CalMac said it would review the situation on Tuesday afternoon before deciding whether any services could resume on Wednesday.  The Ardrossan site is operated by Peel Ports while Gourock is run by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL), which is owned by the Scottish government.  A CalMac spokesman said: "We are pressing the owners of Ardrossan and Gourock to get both linkspans repaired and operational again as soon as possible."  CalMac also deployed the MV Loch Riddon to the Lochranza crossing to help clear any backlog of traffic.  The company said both technical failures were outside its control and it had tried to minimise disruption as much as possible.  A spokeswoman from Peel Ports said: "We can confirm the linkspan is temporarily out of action. The issue has been identified and a plan of works to remediate the issue, as quickly and safely as possible, is being actioned."

What’s in An Argyll Place Name?
Place names are so much part of our everyday surroundings we forget that they can tell us something about local history.  These names could give a clue to former occupations or work practices, to a person closely associated with the location or simply be a perfect, short-form description of that place in physical or topographical terms.  Looking into the wide diversity of names to be found on the maps of West Dunbartonshire and Argyll, place-name enthusiasts are meeting shortly in Arrochar for the autumn conference of the Scottish Place-Name Society, being held in the Three Villages Hall on Saturday November 2. Arrochar was an obvious choice as venue for this all-day gathering, which is also open to non-members, as two of the main subjects under discussion have links with the district. Hundreds of place-names from Argyll, Arran, West Dunbartonshire, West Perthshire and Lochaber were recorded by Arrochar man John Dewar (1802-1872) who was paid by the Duke of Argyll to travel around west Scotland recording oral history. When written up in Gaelic this resulted in the 7,000-page Dewar manuscripts which contain numerous place-names (settlements, rocks, caves, fords and other natural features), including many not known from other sources.  The place-names of Arrochar parish itself take up another section of the conference. A group of local people were so inspired during a place-name workshop held as part of a Hidden Heritage project that they got engaged in a spin-off study of names within the parish, which stretches from the top of Loch Long across to the northern half of Loch Lomond and beyond Ardlui.  The end result is a publication entitled Gaelic Place Names of Arrochar Parish, a guide to the meaning behind the names.  But the conference will be casting farther afield for other studies, such as a look at South Kintyre place-names which get mention in a poem called Flory Loynachan, penned by Campbeltown native Dougie Macilreavie some 190 years ago. Or the intriguingly named talk on Sneaky Swans which looks at the place-names found around Scotland using different forms of the word Ealaidh. A high point of the conference talks involves the Cobbler and its neighbours in the Arrochar Alps with a look at the names recorded by 16th century cartographer Timothy Pont of the mountain heights in this part of Scotland.  Contrast that with discussion of the name Tarbet or Tarbat, which can be found in various parts of Scotland, and is associated with a relatively flat ground of an isthmus where boats could be portaged from one stretch of water to another. Bringing earlier place-name studies into the digital age is another theme.  Late twentieth century scholar Professor WFH Nicolaisen collected the historical forms of several thousand Scottish place-names with a view to creating a reliable single volume scholarly dictionary. While his plans for a dictionary never came to fruition, he left behind an impressive collection of place-name forms, handwritten on paper slips. Now work is under way to digitise this resource to make it widely available, along with other useful material, on the website of the Scottish Place-Name Society ( where details can be found for those wishing to attend the Arrochar conference next month.

Plan for Stranraer Lorry Park If No-deal Brexit Happens

The Scottish government could repurpose the old port at Stranraer as a lorry park in the event of a no-deal Brexit, MSPs have been told.  Deputy First Minister John Swinney said there were concerns about traffic flows with Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.  He also warned that the Scottish economy could be tipped into recession.  The UK Westminster government insisted it wanted a deal, and was supporting devolved administrations for exit on 31 October.  Sources within Downing Street have said a Brexit deal was "essentially impossible" after talks between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  The Scottish government has set out a paper of preparations for the impact of a no-deal departure, which Mr Swinney said was becoming a "significant risk".  The most recent extension to the Brexit deadline expires at the end of the month, with Mr Johnson vowing to leave with or without a deal.  This is in spite of legislation passed in the Commons which requires him to write to European leaders requesting a fresh extension if no agreement is struck by 19 October.  Setting out the Scottish government's analysis and plans at Holyrood, Mr Swinney said the latest UK proposals "appear designed to fail" and were "part of a political tactic to shift the blame on to Ireland and the EU as a whole".  Plans have been made in parts of England for emergency lorry parking in the event of delays post-Brexit, with suggestions of motorways being used as holding areas.  The Scottish plans could see similar provisions at Stranraer, a former ferry port which was last used in 2011 when services to Northern Ireland switched to nearby Cairnryan.  The most recent proposals put to Brussels would see Northern Ireland adhering to EU rules on the regulation of some goods - meaning there would have to be checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, potentially at crossings on the Irish Sea.  Mr Swinney said: "In the event of increased traffic flows between Northern Ireland and Scotland, we are looking to repurpose the disused port at Stranraer to hold up to 300 HGVs to help deal with any potential disruption."  Mr Swinney warned that "there is no amount of preparation that could ever make us 'ready', in any real sense, for the needless and significant impact of a no-deal outcome".  He said such a move "has the potential to generate a significant economic shock" which could "tip the Scottish economy into recession" - and cause prices to rise by 5%, which would "push an additional 130,000 people it poverty".  The deputy first minister added: "There is no doubt that a no-deal outcome would have profound consequences for jobs, investment and living standards across Scotland and the rest of the UK - the UK Westminster government should do the responsible thing and rule it out now."  The UK has its own assessment for the possible affects of a no-deal Brexit, known as "Operation Yellowhammer".  This includes a warning of significant queues at Channel crossings, particularly in Dover - with contingency plans to hold up to 6,000 lorries at Manston Airfield, near Ramsgate, and thousands more on the M26 and M20 motorways.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay to Expand to Royal Mile

Edinburgh's Hogmanay street party is to be expanded to the Royal Mile with local indie band Idlewild headlining.  The new High Street stage at Parliament Square will have an all-Scottish line up including The Snuts.  Mark Ronson will be the first DJ to headline the Princes Street Gardens concert.  Organisers have revealed the DJ will also create an exclusive soundtrack to accompany the fireworks.  The Grammy and Golden Globe winner will be joined by a host of artists, musicians, authors, puppeteers and street performers at the world-famous event.  As well as Soft Cell singer Marc Almond, other acts set to appear include Fort William singer-songwriter Keir Gibson, Glasgow post-punk band The Ninth Wave and Edinburgh ska band PorkPie.  Celtic fusion band Shooglenifty, The Great Calverto, Arielle Free and the Mac Twins will also perform.  The three-day festival will be staged under the banner of a "Be Together" theme.  It will kick off on 30 December with a Torchlight Procession through Edinburgh.  Torchbearers will walk to Holyrood Park where they will gather in formation to create the outline of two people joining hands - which will be captured from the air and beamed across the world.  There will be the annual Ceilidh under the Castle, a silent disco and a Candlelit Concert in St Giles' Cathedral.  

National Plan for Helping Scotland's Islands
A National Islands Plan setting out the priorities for helping Scotland's islands has been proposed by the Scottish government.  Tackling depopulation, a lack of housing and the need for improvements to transport and health services are among the objectives.  The plan, promising a "framework for action" has been drawn up following consultation with island communities.  It comes about a year after the passing of the Islands (Scotland) Bill.  Debating the plan at Holyrood, Scottish Green MSP John Finnie called for investment being made in improvements to the A9 trunk road to be redirected towards the Northern Isles ferry services. New Shetland Liberal Democrat MSP Beatrice Wishart called for full and fair funding for ferries to fulfil the basic needs of islanders.  In his responses, Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse said the A9 was important for seafood sectors and was therefore a key arterial route for the islands, and reiterated his pledge to engage with isles councils on upgrading ferry services.  The plans "practical strategic objectives" also include improvements to economic development and digital connectivity, tackling fuel poverty and providing greater support for education and arts, culture and language.  Depopulation has been described as a "real threat" to the sustainability of many, although not all, of Scotland's island communities, according to the plan.  It said Orkney and Shetland are projected to lose 2.2% of their populations by the year 2041, and the Western Isles 14%.  The government has suggested working with young islanders to identify measures to encourage them to stay or return to the islands.  On transport, a long-term plan and investment programme for new ferries and the development of ports has been proposed.  A review of the impacts of Road Equivalent Tariff, a scheme allowing fares to be realigned with the equivalent cost of travelling by road, has also been proposed.  Mr Wheelhouse said the consultation involved visiting 41 islands to meet islanders.  He said: "The plan, and the objectives and commitments within it, are only part of the answer.  I now look forward to taking the plan forward and translating it into action."

Royal Visit Seals the Transfer of Flannans Lighthouse Keepers’ Station to the Breasclete Community
Urras an Taighe Mhòir, the West Side group who have been driving forward local rural regeneration through the redevelopment of the former station of light-house keepers to the Flannan Isles, have announced the transfer of ownership of An Taigh Mòr, the former lighthouse station to the community, marking a new chapter in the 120 year history of this historic building.  With her particular interest in lighthouse heritage, the group welcomed Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal to An Taigh Mòr as part of her visit to the village of Breasclete on October 2nd, where a plaque was unveiled commemorating the transfer of ownership to the community.  From the announcement of their intention to sell, Hebridean Housing Partnership’s support of a community buy-out has been central to a progression to ownership, an ambition which has now been realised through funding from both the Scottish Government and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.  Norman MacLeod, Chairman of HHP said: “It is great to see An Taigh Mòr being returned to the community at Breasclete following the sale from Hebridean Housing Partnership, who took management of the building in 2006 after the transfer of social housing stock from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Given the building’s historic status it became incredibly costly to bring the eight flats up to the Scottish Housing Quality Standard so in November 2015 the Board took the decision to sell it, and we are thrilled to finally hand over the keys to Urras an Taighe Mhòir and look forward to seeing how the community group are going to transform it.”  In recognition of this the community would like to thank the Scottish Government, the Comhairle and HHP for their roles in securing this building for which there is so much attachment locally, promoting the heritage, history and cultural importance of An Taigh Mòr to our island.  Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We want to give more power to communities to decide their own futures based on local need.  Taking over local land or buildings can give communities the opportunity to deliver services, provide jobs, skills and training.  It can help groups become more sustainable, build confidence and a sense of resilience.  That’s why I’m pleased to see the local people taking ownership of this iconic and historic local landmark, with support from the Council, Hebridean Housing Partnership and £147,250 of Scottish Government investment.”  The building known locally as ‘An Taigh Mòr’ is a Grade 2 listed, sandstone building, designed by the renowned partnership of David Alan and Charles Stevenson and built in 1899 as a shore-base for the families of lighthouse keepers to the Flannan Isles.  The building has specific links with the Flannan Isles tragedy of 1900 as two of the keepers mysteriously lost, were based there with their families at the time, the third keeper lost being local to the village of Breasclete The building consequently has special significance, to not only lighthouse history, but also to the village within which subsequent keepers and their families lived for up to seventy years following the tragedy.  Moving forward to development stage the project has successfully secured funding of £20,000 from Architectural Heritage Fund through their Scottish Community Development Grant, key to finalising the facilities the community have aspired to during consultation.  Further match-funding for this stage is currently being sought, one of the aims being to employ a Project Officer, supporting the progression to re-development.

Good Brexit Could Bring Investment 'Wall of Cash'
Scottish firms could release a "wall of cash" for investment IF Brexit is "done well", a business leader has said.  Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) president Tim Allan said investment had been "stymied" by uncertainty over the UK's departure from the EU.  But he added that money that been held back could be released once Brexit was completed.  His comments came as an SCC economic study found a decline in overall business performance in the last year. Mr Allan said this had happened "as companies take on board extra uncertainties caused by the tortuous progress of the Brexit process".  He said: "We continue to affirm the view that a disorderly, no-deal departure from EU will have painful, long-lasting consequences for the economy in Scotland and the UK.  But we also believe that, if Brexit is not just done but done well, there is significant potential for an upside." He added: "We believe there is a wall of cash that has been pent up while the process of leaving the EU has unfolded which can and will be unleashed."  The research, carried out in conjunction with the Fraser of Allander Institute economic think tank, covered the period from June to September 2019.  It found more than three quarters of firms in the tourism sector were looking to take on workers, with half of these companies reporting recruitment difficulties.  In the construction sector, sales had slowed, while less than a quarter of companies reported investment was rising.  And in manufacturing, total sales revenue fell back, with sales trends described as being "significantly lower than recorded for the for the same quarter of 2018".  Mr Allan said the challenges facing businesses were "laid bare" in the report.  He added: "As the UK faces yet another deadline in the Brexit process, construction and manufacturing have reported severe challenges in terms of future orders, exports and investment.  Meanwhile companies in sectors including retail and tourism face continued challenges in recruiting people with the right skills as the number of available workers from Europe continues to decline."  Fraser of Allander Institute director Prof Graeme Roy said: "A 'no-deal' Brexit remains the greatest immediate risk to the Scottish economy.  It is misguided to argue that 'no deal' is better than further delay.  A 'no-deal' would not only act as a major economic shock but will do little to curb uncertainty, with the UK's future relationship with the EU still needing resolved."

Police Scotland Unveil New Drug-driving Detection Kits

Police Scotland has unveiled its new drug-detection kit ahead of updated drug-driving laws coming into force.  Officers will be able use DrugWipes - dubbed "drugalysers" - to check for cannabis and cocaine.  The roadside kit uses a mouth swab, with and a blue line appearing if the person has taken the drugs.  Scotland's Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the regulations coming into force on 21 October will "not only make our roads safer but will save lives".  The new testing kits highlight an "almost zero limit" on cannabis and cocaine. Drivers will still have to be taken to a police station for a blood test for 17 other substances including ecstasy, LSD, ketamine and heroin.  Currently, when police suspect a motorist of drug-driving they carry out the roadside "field impairment test".  If the individual fails this, they can be arrested and taken to a police station where a doctor must certify that the person is impaired to the extent that they are unfit to drive.  A driver will then be asked to provide a blood sample.  England and Wales introduced drug-driving limits and roadside testing in 2015.  The Scottish government has previously been criticised for not implementing the same regulations - saying it wanted to "bed in" new lower drink-drive limits which came into force in 2014.  But Mr Yousaf said the introduction of the new drug-drive limits meant Scotland was "far ahead of anywhere else in the UK".  He added: "The police are ready, they have the tools necessary and if your are caught there will be a zero-tolerance approach and you will face some hefty consequences."  Ch Supt Stewart Carle, head of road policing at Police Scotland, said the kits formed part of a wider crackdown on drug crime.  He said: "We hope this will reduce the demand for those drugs and thereby have a wider benefit to to our communities.  Drug dealing is a big problem in Scotland - we know that and we're trying to tackle it. This is just another tool in our armoury. At the moment, we catch about 200 drug-drivers every year. This new power is going to allow us to do roadside screening and I would expect to detect a lot more.  We've trained over 500 officers and we will continue to train more over the coming year."

Langholm Wind Farm Turbines Could Be More Than 700ft Tall
Some of the tallest onshore wind turbines ever built in the UK are being proposed for a site near Langholm.  E Power Ltd has tabled plans for up to 25 of the 220m (720ft) high structures to the west of the town.  A scoping report for the Callisterhall scheme has been submitted to the Scottish government.  It said that the lack of subsidies meant "taller and more efficient turbines" were needed than had previously been used in the region.  Last year it was reported that turbines which would be the tallest onshore in the UK were being considered on Lewis.  They were up to 200m (650ft) high.  The scheme being suggested in Dumfries and Galloway could be even taller.  It would sit about 2.5 miles (4km) west of Langholm and close to a number of other wind farms.  The scoping report looks at a range of issues including noise, visual and environmental impact. It begins the process for a full application to be made for the project in due course.

Workers At Isle of Lewis Bifab Yard to Lose Jobs

Workers at a fabrication yard, which was brought back into use just six months ago, have been told they will not have their contracts renewed.  Arnish in Lewis had been mothballed for about a year when it was reopened in March to manufacture parts for an offshore wind farm.  The contract was expected to create work for more than 80 people. It is understood 60 are employed at the yard.  Unite Scotland and the GMB said new contracts needed to be secured.  The work is expected to finish by the end of the year.  The unions said the news had come as a "major blow" to the workforce.  The Scottish government said it would provide support for any staff affected at the BiFab yard.  BiFab, which also has yards in Methil and Burntisland in Fife, has previously received help from the government to avoid the threat of administration.  It was reported in July that eight jackets for turbines would be built in Fife, which is a small part of the total order. However, three months on, there has been no confirmation from the principal contractor about allocation of the sub-contracted fabrication work.  A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: "Some contracts are nearing completion, but by working with the company to secure new business, we hope to provide the best means of creating jobs in the longer term for both the Fife and Isle of Lewis communities.  We will provide support for any staff affected by redundancy through our Partnership Action for Continuing Employment initiative."  Arnish was brought back into use earlier this year to make piles to support wind turbines for the Moray East scheme in the Moray Firth.

Archaeologists Reveal Finds At Drovers' Inn in Sutherland

Archaeologists have revealed the finds made in an excavation of a lost inn.  Coins and shards of shot glasses were among the discoveries at Wilkhouse, near Brora in Sutherland, in the dig led by Glasgow-based Guard Archaeology.  Hearth stones, among the few remains of the 18th Century building's structure, were also uncovered.  An inverted cross found carved into one of the stones may have been intended to deter witches flying down the inn's chimney, the archaeologists said.  The property was built next to a drove road, a route used for moving cattle to markets and also by other travellers.  Guard Archaeology said the inn was likely to have thrived from passing during the 17th Century.  It was constructed with harled stones, lime mortar bonding, glass windows, double chimneys and a slate roof.  The level of investment suggested there was ample passing trade to warrant the amount of money spent on its construction, the archaeologists said.  Many other drovers' inns in Scotland at the time were often a longhouse built of drystone with wooden shuttered windows, low walls, central hearths set on the floor and a turf or thatched roof.  But various changes led to the demise of the inn at Wilkhouse.  This process began with the drove road being moved up a hillside and out of sight of the property.  There was also competition from inns in nearby Brora and Helmsdale, before the land in the area was cleared of people in the 19th Century during the Highland Clearances.  The inn fell into ruin soon after a railway was built through the area. Clyne Heritage Society, University of Glasgow, newly-trained archaeologists and local volunteers also worked on the excavation. Guard Archaeology has published a report on the finds made.

Thousands of Building Snags Found At Unusable Hospital

An unusable children's hospital still had thousands of snagging problems after a health board accepted it as ready, new documents show.  The Sick Kids facility in Edinburgh will not be fully operational until next autumn after last-minute safety concerns stopped it opening in July.  Minutes of the dedicated NHS Lothian board overseeing the project show there were 2,000 snagging issues in May.  This was nearly three months after the health board took over the facility.  NHS Lothian said a snagging list was to be expected on any project of this complexity and would be addressed by the contractor.  They added that IHSL, the private consortium which built the hospital, was responsible for reviewing the quality of the build during the process.  Repayments for the hospital building - the equivalent of about £1.4m a month - started when NHS Lothian moved into the hospital in February. But minutes of the project board highlighted repeated concerns about defective work.  Fire detectors not properly fitted,  damage to doors,  poor standard of decoration and problems with power supplies.  The documents also showed more than £2m was diverted from the new hospital's "equipment budget contingency" in order to offset increased construction costs.  A public inquiry to examine safety and wellbeing issues at the new hospital has been called by the Scottish government.  IHSL has pointed out that its works on the hospital were signed off as complete by an independent certifier on 22 February before NHS Lothian moved in. Daniel Johnson, Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern, said: "The sheer volume of problems, additional payments to the contractor and issues found at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital [in Glasgow] should have prompted a root and branch review of the delivery of this much needed hospital months earlier."  A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said Health Secretary Jeane Freeman received assurances from NHS Lothian that "all relevant compliance issues had been met under its contractual obligations". "However these assurances subsequently proved to be incorrect and when the issues with the ventilation in critical care in the new hospital came to light, the health secretary suspended the move to the new hospital site in order to ensure patient safety was maintained," she added.  As well as calling a public inquiry, the government is also establishing a national centre of expertise to ensure new builds comply with relevant guidance.  The new Sick Children's Hospital cost about £150m to build, but its full price tag over the next 25 years, including maintenance and facilities management fees, will be £432m.  A spokesman for Multiplex, which was part of the IHSL consortium, said his firm welcomed the public inquiry into the issue and would not be commenting further.  The firm previously pointed out its works on the building "were signed off as complete by the independent certifier on 22 February 2019".

Comment - R
On this specific issue I think it is legitimate to ask why was the contract for ventilations given to the same ones who made a mess of the Glasgow Queen Elizabeth University Hospital?.  This in addition to the rather obvious sub standard work identified for some time.  On a more general issue there must be something wrong in the Construction industry as a whole when one seems to continually hear of defective workmanship in that industry, whether in Scotland or here in Australia.