Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 535

Issue # 535                                     Week ending Saturday 18th January 2020

Baby, It’s Cold Outside So Maybe It’s Time to Start Playing the Angry Birds by
Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal
It’s when we have really rough weather like this that I always think of the song The Road to Dundee that Calum Kennedy sang in the 1950s and many others have since - but not so well. There have always been arguments over who actually wrote it and whether they were actually Irish and not even Scots at all. It is just so atmospheric. You have to darkly mutter the words in the curious style of Private Frazer from Dad’s Army.
Cauld winter is howling
O’er moor and o’er mountain
And wild is the call
O’ the dark roaring sea.

Was that not a line this week on the Western Isles weather forecast on Reporting Scotland? That was my cue to stay in and play Angry Birds. Remember that mobile game from more than 10 years ago that was difficult to understand for anyone over 14 and which became so popular that it ended up as a popular movie? Of course, I only play it when the weather is really bad which means I do play Angry Birds a lot at this time of year.

Apart from the weather, the big news is that the Royal Family is, in some people’s views at least, now floundering. Floundering is very apt because there is something fishy about the latest goings-on. We shouldn’t just accept what we are told at every turn and we should challenge it at every op-perch-tuna-ty. See what I did there?

Let me get this right. Prince Harry and Meghan didn’t tell anyone that they are going to America because her Dad lives there and she doesn’t talk to him. Basically, Meghan and Harry are going to work on a zero hours contract. They are joining the gig economy and only going to work when they are actually required. I know van drivers and a few security guards on those contracts - and they hate them. However, we are told it will give the younger, modern royals more time with their family and the Queen is now happy with that.

A few days ago she was said to be immensely disappointed at not being told but Her Maj has now apparently calmed down and the Axminster in Buckingham Palace is not in danger of being chewed - by any corgis, I mean.

The Sussexes are doing it for their family of wee Archie and anyone else coming to his playpen - so everyone will just have to accept that. Er ... not me. The Sussexes are taking a cut in income to do the right thing? Er ... so they are severing all other ties with UK? Er... Didn’t think so. An old bodach in our village used to say salt herring made people gullible. What he was really saying was that his fellow villagers should questions things more than they did. As salt herring gives me heartburn, my own view is that there is a lot going on that we will not know about until further down the line.

Meghan will be blamed, of course. That’s what we do in Britain - we always blame outsiders. Women get blamed for everything and they get paid less than men - even at the BBC. What do you mean I am turning into a feminist this week? Feminism is absolutely necessary to try and address the balance. Feminism is not just a fad from a few years ago, you know - like Angry Birds. It does, however, tend to involve a lot of angry birds so maybe that’s not the best example.

Part-time royals? I don’t buy that. The older I get the more I look at what everyone in power says and I look at the possible reasons why they say it. If an explanation does not actually make sense, it usually isn’t true. This move across the pond has been planned a long time ago and the fact that the Sussexes have a new website, which popped up with their announcement, means nothing. A quick check with website name checker WHOIS will tell you that website domain was actually set up nearly a year ago. It’s now oven ready, as our esteemed premier is wont to say.

Women should be respected. I always try to do that. Mrs X has been talking about us getting another van so I have been looking around to see what is available. I asked our trusty mechanic if he knew of any models that would be suitable for her at her age. Nothing doing. The vans that are available here are too old and big for Mrs X to get into. He then pointedly said that I should seriously consider getting one with fewer miles on the clock.
“Maybe,” I said, “but Mrs X has been with me for so long, she’s almost like one of the family.”

Hold on, she is shouting to me from upstairs. No, dear. She is asking whether, because I have been on about fish so much, I have a fish pun with which to end the column this week. No, I don’t. I will need time to mullet over.

Ferguson Shipyard Bosses Blamed for Ferries Fiasco
Bosses at Ferguson shipyard were to blame for the delay and spiralling cost of two new CalMac ferries, according to the chief executive of the government agency which placed the orders.  Kevin Hobbs, of CMAL, also rejected calls for the unfinished ferries to be scrapped and the work started again.  The vessels are £100m over budget and likely to be three years overdue.  Jim McColl, the former chairman of the Inverclyde shipyard, has previously blamed CMAL for the fiasco.  He was in charge of the shipyard before it collapsed in August last year but his accusations have been rejected by Mr Hobbs in a new interview. Mr Hobbs said Ferguson's senior management were "fairly and squarely" to blame and he addressed a series of claims he described as "urban myths".  It is the latest in a series of claims and counter-claims in the saga, which is having repercussions on islanders dependent on lifeline ferry services.  Ferguson shipyard won the £97m contract to build two new ferries for Arran and the Hebrides in 2015.  The ships were to be a new hybrid design - powered by marine diesel oil and liquefied natural gas - but construction fell way behind schedule.  The Glen Sannox - destined for the Arran route - was expected to enter service in mid-2018 but it remains moored at the yard.  A second ferry, earmarked for the Skye, Harris and North Uist route, is not expected to enter service until summer 2022.  Last summer the yard collapsed owing more than £49m to the Scottish government, and it was eventually taken into public ownership.  It has led to a war of words between Jim McColl, the Scottish government and, now, CMAL.  In December, Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay revealed that the final bill for the two ships was likely to be close to £200m.  Management of the yard was sharply criticised in a Scottish government report branded "outrageous" by Mr McColl. In an interview, he criticised the role of the government and CMAL in the fiasco, and he said the ferries should be scrapped and the work started again.  Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) owns Scotland's ferries, ports and harbours and it was responsible for the procurement process which led to Ferguson Marine winning the contract to design and build the CalMac vessels.  Kevin Hobbs, its chief executive, said that Ferguson's senior management team was "fairly and squarely" to blame for the problems which have left the project overdue and over budget.  He also addressed some of the claims made by Mr McColl in previous interviews, describing them as "urban myths".  It is the first time dual-fuel ferries have been built in the UK but Mr Hobbs said it was incorrect to describe them as "prototypes".  Similar vessels have been built in Poland and Germany since they first came on to the market in 2003, and the engine manufacturer has delivered more than 2,000 of these engine types, he said.  Mr Hobbs also rejected claims that CMAL had made "hundreds if not thousands" of design changes.  "That simply did not happen," he said.  Ferguson won a contract to design and build the ship, but he claimed it started building the ship before the design stage was finished.  "Very simply, the design was still going on when the steel cutting was happening and effectively the shipyard was designing the vessel and building the vessel at risk, and that was a fundamental flaw," he said.  Mr Hobbs said a £66m compensation claim against CMAL by Ferguson in December 2018 was "basically a work of fiction". "We refuted that in its entirety and in my career I have never, ever seen that happen before," he said.  Ferguson Marine is based just a few hundred yards from CMAL's office in Port Glasgow but Mr Hobbs insisted the firm won the tender fairly.  He said CMAL knew the people on the shop floor were capable of delivering ships and it was "totally incorrect" that the project should be scrapped and begun again.  And he added that the agency was "desperately upset and desperately concerned" that the ferries are not operating for the island communities.  The aging fleet of CalMac ferries - their average age is 22 years old - is affecting many islanders in Scotland.  On Arran, where the ferry is 34-years-old, residents have said that cancellations and disruption are becoming more common.  Scottish government figures show there were 328 cancellations on the Ardrossan-Brodick route in 2017-18, up from 252 the previous year.  John Baraclough said he had to travel to the mainland for 14 different appointments when he was being treated for cancer.  "For eight of those appointments I had to stay overnight because the ferries were cancelled," he said. "When you've got cancer you really are under quite a lot of stress anyway and the additional disruption of the ferries - meaning that you have to stay overnight - just adds to that stress." Hotelier Barbara Crawford said the ferries affected every part of the business.  "The boats were very rarely cancelled before," she said. "It feels like every week we get a cancellation. It's going to put people off coming to Arran, unfortunately."  Mr Hobbs said he wanted to see six major vessels and eight to 10 smaller vessels built for the CalMac fleet over the next decade, a move that would require an investment of about £500m.

Roadside Drug Tests Failed by 185 Drivers During Festive Campaign
Police Scotland say 185 drivers failed roadside drug tests during their festive campaign.  For the first time officers were able to test for drugs at the roadside.  "Drugalyser" tests were used to detect cannabis and cocaine and resulted in 185 positive results out of 480 drivers stopped. Police said they were disappointed almost 600 motorists breathalysed between 1 Dec and 2 January were under the influence of drink or drugs.  A total of 8,687 drivers were stopped over the period, with 580 of those detected for drink/drug offences.  Of those, 29 drivers were caught the morning after they had been drinking.  Head of road policing Ch Supt Louise Blakelock said: "Over the course of our festive road safety campaign 1 in 15 drivers were detected for drink/drug offences which is extremely disappointing.  The dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are well known yet some drivers are still willing to take the risk.  This is the first year we have been able to test drivers at the roadside for drugs. Incredibly 16 who tested positive are required to drive as part of their employment and may lose their jobs."  A number of drivers were reported to police by colleagues, friends or family members and police thanked those who made the reports. They encouraged the public to continue to report concerning driving behaviour.  Ch Supt Louise Blakelock said: "This information helps our officers to act quickly to stop drivers who are under the influence before they kill or seriously injure someone. We will continue to take action against those who selfishly put others at risk by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Our message is simple: the best approach is none."  Other incidents highlighted by police were: Staff at the Gyle Shopping Centre in Edinburgh saw man staggering from the premises to his car. The vehicle was traced after it had been crashed. The driver was arrested and found to be almost seven times over the limit.  A female driver in the Borders area was found in her car which was upside down having crashed into a field. She was five times over the limit.   A female driver in Ayrshire was six times over the limit after she collided with other vehicles on the A77.  A male tractor driver was twice the legal limit in Ayrshire after his tractor trailer became detached and collided with three parked vehicles.  Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "It is staggering that some people are still reckless and selfish enough to take drugs or alcohol before getting behind the wheel of a car - putting themselves as well as other road users at risk."

The Steely Conviction of the Granite City Men Helped Create Sydney Harbour Bridge
It’s a material which has become synonymous with Aberdeen and is embedded in the history of the place.  Yet the influence of those who have plied their craft with the famous granite stone extends way beyond the north east.  Indeed, a group of Scots were instrumental in the creation of one of the world’s most famous structures, the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Jim Fiddes’ book “The Granite Men” highlights how 30 redoubtable characters swapped Aberdeen for Australia in 1926 and the letters they sent home indicated they were more than happy with their working conditions and a salary which rose by 10 shillings in the first few months.  At the outset, Dorman Long of Middlesbrough, the company which built the bridge, received more than 250 applications from those looking for work Down Under. Those seeking the roles were not deterred by the thought of the crossing which took months, often in cramped conditions on stormy seas with basic food and living quarters.  As Mr Fiddes stated: “They appointed John Gilmore from Harthill in Kintore, to manage the granite quarry at Moruya, 200 miles south of Sydney.  He had worked at Kemnay, Rubislaw, Peterhead, Brechin and Ailsa Craig quarries and he had also been employed in North America.  The first party of workers from the north east left Aberdeen in February, 1926, with another group following them in May.  Unlike most of the workers, who had gone to North America, they took their families with them and children were born in Australia who later moved back to Aberdeen.” Mr Gilmore was one of life’s great pioneering figures and he accompanied his wife, his son and no less than eight daughters on the gruelling seven-week voyage, which usually tested the patience and stamina of even the most seaworthy traveller.  The initial contract was for a period of three years with the possibility of further work beyond that time and the peripatetic Scots joined forces in a place, which was colloquially known as  Granite Town, alongside many Australian and Italian stone masons.  Eventually, after years of hard labour, they were responsible for bringing to fruition one of the world’s most famous structures.  Some of the men later returned home, others remained in Australia and their families remain there to this day. But even now, almost a century later, the men’s collective efforts were well worth the sacrifices which lay behind their escape to the sun!  
“The Granite Men” is published by The History Press.

Paramedic Helps Save Uncle After Heart Attack on a Flight

An off-duty paramedic gave lifesaving first aid to a relative after he suffered a cardiac arrest on a plane.  Aberdeen-based Christopher Morrison was only on Tuesday's Inverness to Stornoway flight because his ferry had been cancelled due to bad weather.  He was unaware the man who had taken ill a few seats behind him was his step-uncle until he went to his aid, assisted by others on the plane.  Iain Mackay is now recovering in hospital in Glasgow.  The medical emergency unfolded as the Loganair aircraft circled close to Stornoway Airport. The landing had been delayed due to bad weather.  Mr Morrison, who is from Lewis, was headed home to take his grandmother to a hospital appointment.  He had intended to take a ferry to Lewis but it was cancelled and he booked a flight.  While waiting for the plane to land Mr Morrison noticed a member of the flight's cabin crew seemed concerned about a passenger a few seats behind him.  "I told her 'do you need a hand, I'm a paramedic', and she said 'yes, can you look after this chap?" said Mr Morrison.  Going to the man he found that he was his step uncle.  Mr Morrison said: "He didn't look well. His health deteriorated and he went into cardiac arrest."  The paramedic moved Mr Mackay from his seat, placed him on the floor of the aisle and started CPR.  The cabin crew member brought Mr Morrison a defibrillator, recently installed on the aircraft, and an off-duty nurse also on the flight also offered assistance.  Fearing for Mr Mackay's chances for survival, Mr Morrison requested the aircraft make an emergency landing at Stornoway.  The aircraft's captain warned passengers to prepare themselves for a "bumpy landing", while Mr Morrison and nurse continued to give first aid and the defibrillator.Mr Morrison said: "Our family has suffered a recent bereavement and all the while I was giving CPR I was thinking 'they cannot lose another one'."  After landing at Stornoway, firefighters and ambulance personnel were on hand to give further assistance and get Mr Mackay to an ambulance and then Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway.  He was later flown to Glasgow by a Coastguard helicopter.  Mr Morrison said: "I've spoken to him today and he is bright and very grateful to myself, the crew and off-duty nurse.  "I told him he owes me a bag of chips."  Loganair has praised the actions of those involved.

Veganuary: the Makers Behind the Vegan-friendly Kilt
When Scott Wood realised the ethical minefield vegans face wearing Scotland's national dress, he decided to create an alternative.  A kiltmaker for more than 10 years, he switched to vegan-friendly kilts after adopting veganism three years ago.  The made-to-order garment avoids animal-based products such as wool and leather, making it suitable for vegans.  His kilts cater to the diet and beliefs that are become more and more popular in Scotland.  "I still wanted to wear my kilt but it collided with my new beliefs, so I made a vegan one for myself," Mr Wood explained.  "Then I had a light bulb idea that there may be other people in my situation."  Based in Torry, Aberdeen, he uses cotton and polyester viscose instead of traditional materials to craft world-famous garment.  His range includes about 100 different tartans people can choose from for their vegan kilt, fastened with faux leather straps.  Mr Wood claims these new vegan kilts are more durable than the traditional kilt which he says "tends to start to rot after several years". They are even machine washable.  The latest figures suggest there are about 600,000 vegans in the UK and this number continues to rise.  Although still a relatively new idea, Mr Wood is one of several kiltmakers developing garments free from animal by-products across Scotland as demand grows. Slanj, a Glasgow based kiltmakers, became the first company to register a vegan tartan with the Scottish Tartans Authority in August 2019.  It features warm, earthy tones and the kiltmakers pride themselves on marrying Scottish tradition with vegan living.  However, they have acknowledged how "tricky" it is to bring the traditional national dress into the 21st Century. Ross Lyall, general manager at Slanj, explained: "We've had the usual naysayers who believe it's not really a kilt because it's not made from wool.  "But we've also come across a bit of backlash. The big problem is vegan-friendly kilts are not necessarily sustainable".  Their kilts, like Mr Wood's, are made from a polyester viscose and although free from animal products, are "massively unsustainable for the environment".  This problem - along with the fact the kilt itself makes up for just one part of the traditional outfit - means there is a long way to go before Scottish national dress is accessible for everyone.  The dream at Slanj is to move towards using hemp for their kilts, a vegan and sustainable alternative - although this is a tricky and expensive process.  Mr Lyall said their first vegan-friendly kilt was "the first step in a long journey" to making kilts greener and has proved successful with customers already. The feedback has been more positive than negative. It really has meant a lot to people and it's massively high on the agenda for us going forward," he said.  Isaac Barnes, 20, works in Aberdeen's only vegan café and has been vegan himself for a year and a half.  He has one of Mr Wood's made-to-order vegan kilts and described it as comfortable, lightweight and warm. However, he admitted he did not know how the vegan alternative fared compared to traditional woollen garments, having never worn one.  "I was stood outside in Aberdeen for hours and although my knees were purple, it still keeps the heat in and everywhere else was warm," he said.  Being Scottish, Mr Barnes said he had always wanted to own a kilt but thought it would not be possible after becoming vegan.  "I always just thought I wouldn't have a choice and in the past, I've always had to wear suits to weddings and things.  Now I have my very own vegan kilt and I'm already planning to wear it to Hogmanay this year."  For Mr Wood, his aim is to branch out into creating vegan alternatives for the full Highland outfit, from the shoes to the jacket to sporrans.  "Veganism in general is kicking off in a big way," he said.  "And I think in maybe five, ten years time there will be a lot more people like me."

Scottish Independence: Could A New Referendum Still Be Held?

Boris Johnson has rejected Nicola Sturgeon's call for a new referendum on independence in 2020 - but the Scottish first minister says this "will not stand".  The SNP's goal is for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom and rejoin the EU as an independent member state. Scotland held an independence referendum in September 2014, with the No campaign winning 55% of the votes.  But then, in 2016, Brexit happened. Voters in Scotland backed Remain by 62% - but those across the UK as a whole voted Leave by 52%.  The SNP saw this as a "material change in circumstances" which would justify a second independence ballot, because Scotland faced being taken out of the EU "against its will".  And the party has since performed strongly in elections. It won 48 of the 59 seats north of the border in last month's general election, while campaigning to "put Scotland's future in Scotland's hands". There has long been legal debate over whether the Scottish Parliament, rather than MPs at Westminster, could pass the laws needed for a new vote on independence to be held - but the matter has never been tested in court.  In any case, Ms Sturgeon wants the UK Westminster government to agree a transfer of powers allowing a referendum to be held, as happened in 2014.  Ms Sturgeon, the SNP leader, says this would ensure the referendum result was seen as being entirely legal and legitimate, particularly by the EU.  But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has flatly rejected her request, arguing that the 2014 poll was a "once in a generation" event.  The first minister says Mr Johnson's position is unsustainable, and that his refusals will simply increase support for independence.  She has warned that "you can't hold Scotland in the union against its will".  If these political arguments do not budge Mr Johnson, the first minister has not ruled out taking him to court. However this would be a difficult and potentially lengthy process, and constitutional scholars have warned that "there are no legal short cuts" around the political battlefield.  One thing Ms Sturgeon has ruled out is an unauthorised vote. She says the example of Catalonia proves this "does not lead to independence".  Perhaps the clearest option open to her might be to target a really big win in the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021, on an explicit platform of demanding a referendum - but the SNP argues that it has won several electoral mandates already.  Polling data collected by What Scotland Thinks suggests an increase in support for independence.  The SNP hopes that a combination of Brexit and hostility within Scotland to Mr Johnson's refusals will start to push the dial further in its direction.  Would an independent Scotland stay in the EU?  In practice, Scotland would not become independent the day after a Yes vote - there would have to be a period of transition.  In 2014, the pro-independence side said it would take 18 months to set up an independent Scottish state.  Even if a referendum was held tomorrow, the transition would therefore run beyond the end of 2020 - when the UK is due to complete its exit from the EU.  This means Scotland would leave the EU with the rest of the UK, and would need to apply to join again.  Scottish ministers accept they would have to go through an "accession process" for EU membership, but want to start this "as soon as possible".  Scotland would have to meet the same accession criteria as any state seeking to join the EU, although it would have the advantage of having recently been a member. While many of Scotland's laws and regulations already match EU standards, the entry rules throw up a whole series of questions about things like currency, deficit levels and borders.  Ms Sturgeon has been pressed on many of these topics already, arguing that Scotland could initially continue to use the pound and would not need to join the euro. She says the country's financial position could be brought within EU rules by growing the economy.  However, her own party's prospectus for independence suggests this could take several years, whereas she wants to rejoin the EU as quickly as possible.  The first minister also wants to avoid a hard border between Scotland and England.  She has said answers about this and a whole range of other questions will be set out in detail ahead of any vote.

Scotland is no different to any other nation big or small and can perfectly well run its own affairs; irony of it all is that if there was an English referendum for independence from the rest of the UK it would win! The UK is an anachronism and will break up the same way the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia did cannot enforce a union it has to be by consent as is the EU.  Without Scotland the UK is unlikely to meet its emission targets, CCS sites have mainly been identified in Scotland. They won't let Scotland go without a fight. One of the many psychological problems Brexiteers suffer from is Hypocrisy. While Brexiteers want independence from the EU, they cannot bear Scotland wanting (the same thing) , independence from the UK and to stay in the EU even though they voted for it.

Celtic Connections: Giant Sea Goddess Puppet Among the Stars At Glasgow Festival
Scotland's largest puppet, a 10-metre sea goddess called Storm, will be one of the star attractions at Celtic Connections.  Made entirely from recycled materials it will make its debut during the Glasgow festival, which started on Thursday.  Over the next 18 days, more than 300 performances will be held at venues across the city.  The line-up includes folk, roots, Americana, jazz, soul and world music.  The 56 artists set to perform include Tessa Lark, Nitin Sawhney, Michael McGoldrick, Skerryvore, Salsa Celtica, Anais Mitchell, and The Felice Brothers.  Figures from Scotland's folk and alternative music scene, including Stuart Murdoch, Karine Polwart, Emma Pollock, Stuart Braithwaite, James Yorkston and Duglas Stewart, will also unite for a show to celebrate the work of the late Ivor Cutler. The festival will also see rising stars compete for the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year title.  Giant puppet Storm, which was created by Vision Mechanics, will feature in the coastal day celebrations which get under way at 10:00 on Saturday. It will slowly make its way to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall via a route that starts at Victoria Bridge, near the Clutha bar, on the banks of the Clyde. The puppet, which took two years to make, will take in the Merchant City and George Square before finally arriving at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.  It was created in response to the global climate crisis and, according to organisers, is designed to encourage children and adults alike to "celebrate our seas, encourage care for our coastlines and empower us all to put the environment first".  Celtic Connections runs until 2 February.

COP26: Climate Summit May Cost 'Several Hundred Million Pounds'

The cost of a UN climate change conference in Glasgow could be "several hundred million pounds", police say.  Up to 90,000 people - delegates, observers, heads of state and media - are expected to attend COP26, over 12 days in November.  A Scottish Police Authority report says it will be the largest mobilisation of police officers in the UK.  Scottish ministers say they expect the UK Westminster government to cover the "core costs" including emergency services funding.  But a spokesperson added there was a "lack of clarity" from Westminster over the issue.  The UK Westminster government said discussions with the Scottish government on the conference costs were "currently ongoing". The authority is meeting monthly with Scottish and UK Westminster government officials to plan security and minimise disruption for residents of Glasgow.  Costs associated with a Nato summit in Wales in 2014 have been used to draw up the estimated cost of this year's conference.  The report says: "Taking into consideration the planning assumptions and based on previous major summits/conferences (e.g. Nato Summit Wales 2014), the initial costings demonstrate that the event will cost potentially several hundred million pounds.  Detailed financial planning is being developed and dialogue remains ongoing with the Cabinet Office relative to the cost recovery model that will be utilised."  Police said the safety and well being of conference attendees, the wider public and any protesters would be their "paramount" concern.  The COP26 will be the largest summit the UK has held, with up to 200 world leaders expected for the final weekend of talks.  It will be held at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) but other venues across the city will also host functions and meetings for heads of state and other dignitaries.  The SPA report also reveals the SEC will be handed over to the UN for the duration of the conference. Known as the "blue zone", it will become international territory, subject to international law. The Scottish government said it was working with the UK Westminster government, Glasgow City Council and other partners to ensure the conference was a success.

Glenfinnan's Harry Potter Viaduct Focus of £1.7m Upgrade
Improvements are being made to areas around a railway viaduct famed for its picturesque setting and appearances in the Harry Potter films.  Network Rail is investing £1.7m to remove loose vegetation, including "dangerous" trees, from slopes above the railway at the Glenfinnan Viaduct.  Parts of a fence put up to protect visitors on a tourist path at the site are also being renewed.  Thousands of Potter fans and railway enthusiasts visit the viaduct.  The viaduct and a steam train that operates on its railway line both feature in movies from the Harry Potter series.  Network Rail's work includes installing rock netting to better protect 14 rock cuttings over a two-and-a-half-mile stretch of single-track railway between Locheilside and Lochailort.  The stretch of line includes both Glenfinnan station and viaduct.  The work in the Glenfinnan area will be going on until April this year.

Scottish Brothers Beat Atlantic Rowing Record
Three brothers from Scotland have set a world record after rowing the Atlantic Ocean in just 35 days.  The MacLean siblings, known as BROAR, set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on December 12 and completed their 3,000-mile row to Antigua in the Carribean on Thursday. It means the brothers –  Lachlan, 21, Jamie, 26, and Ewan, 27 –  beat the previous record of a trio rowing the Atlantic Ocean, which was 41 days, with the timing of 35 days, nine hours and nine minutes.  Ewan said: “This is without doubt, the defining experience of my life.  “It was incredibly difficult but the way we came together, the way our bodies and minds coped with every single challenge, will stay with me for a long time.  It definitely tested our relationship, but it was remarkable how we were able to lift each other up as we struggled. It’s brought us closer together, although I am looking forward to getting to see and talk to some different people. We don’t do things by halves, so we were always going to go for a world record. I’m incredibly proud of that, but mostly, I’m proud of the money we’ve raised for charity and the difference we’ll make to two causes very close to our hearts.” The trio, from Edinburgh, is hoping to raise £250,000 for Feedback Madagascar and Children First.  Children First is Scotland’s national children’s charity, while Feedback Madagascar works with some of the poorest communities in Madagascar to improve their lives and their environment.  During their journey the brothers had to overcome seasickness, battery issues, dehydration and exhaustion. They had to row the last 20 days without any music, as their iPhone cables succumbed to damage caused by a combination of sun and seawater.  Jamie and Lachlan, students at Glasgow University and Glasgow School of Art respectively, convinced their brother Ewan, a design engineer for Dyson in Bristol to take a sabbatical from work to make this world record attempt.  The 27-year-old added: “They had to twist my arm but I will be forever grateful to my brothers for convincing me to do this.”  Completing the feat makes them the first three brothers known to row any ocean and the youngest trio known to row the Atlantic.

A New Trauma Healing Ministry is to Start Up in Stornoway
Two churches in Stornoway - St Peter’s Episcopal Church and Stornoway Free Church – are working together to provide a Bible-based trauma healing resource locally.  This aims to help people who are hurting, grieving and traumatised.  The Scottish Bible Society in partnership with the Trauma Healing Institute (based in the U.S.A) trained a cohort of facilitators over the last two years in Scotland.  This training equips local church leaders with biblical and mental health resources so traumatised people can experience the life-changing message of the Bible.  The core programme is based on a workbook called ‘Healing the Wounds of Trauma’, which uses small group conversation and activities to help people express their pain without getting stuck there.  It provides basic mental health concepts within a biblical framework, using Scripture passages and composite real life stories to help people connect the teaching with their own circumstances. It’s been used with thousands of pastors, counsellors and traumatised people in many countries.  Confidentiality is a key component for the groups.  ‘Binding Brokenness’ is the name for the local expression of this ministry.

Last Updated (Saturday, 18 January 2020 00:19)