Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 536

Issue # 536                                              Week ending Saturday 25th January 2020

I am proud to pay tax. The thing is, I’d be just as proud for half that sum by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

If you have a cushy nine-to-five job you will not understand the anguish that the rest of us go through at this time of year. I am talking about people who are self-employed. Not only has the festive season wreaked havoc with the current account, the savings account and the electricity account but now it is time to pay into the HMRC account. Most of us submit our return and pay online nowadays and the deadline for Submit and Stump Up is January 31. That’s the end of next week. Oh heck.

Many people miss the deadline each year. So HMRC helpfully reminds us each year by publishing details of the various excuses for lateness they have had. I like this one from last year: “I came home to do my return but found my wife in the bath with my accountant.” Shocking. That wouldn’t work for me because I use my computer to do all my calculations about income, expenses and allowances. I suppose Mrs X could try taking it into our bath. That really would be shocking.

Income tax is something that we have a legal duty and moral duty to pay but there are so many competing financial pressures. We all want to pay our tax bill. I think Harry and Meghan would understand that. The other day they said they “want” to pay back the £2.4 million it cost all of us for doing up their Windsor home, Frogmore Cottage. It may take a wee while but that’s what they want. Like I want to pay my tax bill.

What you pay in income tax can often depend on your postcode. There are some very swish addresses and people who live in these areas pay more tax. Obviously. Postcodes are also used to calculate your car insurance and residents in some dodgy mainland areas - like Aberdeen and Inverness, for example - pay more for their motor insurance than us lot in the quiet, crime-free, paradise that is the Hebrides where everyone is a perfectly careful and considerate driver. OK, not quite, but we have just about the lowest renewal rates in the UK.
A joke 25 years ago was that our then Paisley-centric postcodes PA87, for Stornoway, stood for Pretty Affordable and that the average price for third-party insurance was £87. Few could afford fully comprehensive cover. Obviously. Rural Lewis was cheaper being PA86. Then in 1995, our postcodes were suddenly changed to HS to reflect the Hebrides location - HS1 for Stornoway and HS2 for the rest of Lewis and so on, right down to HS9 in Barra.

So news this week that the introduction of HS2 could end up costing the country £106 billion sent shivers down many an island spine. Annie M, for instance, wants me to get the postcode for the Postmaster General so she can write. “It is not our fault we live in Ness. We did not choose our postcode. That is double the cost that they said in 2015. You would think that government minister Grant Shapps, who seems also to be in charge of railways for some reason, would get his calculations correct. They should use a computer thingummyjig like you, Iain.” She is enjoying the ranting so much that I haven’t the heart to tell Annie it’s all about high-speed trains.

Oh and another thing, Annie. There is no Postmaster General in the UK. That government job has not existed since 1969. The reason is that our postal system is privatised nowadays so you can buy shares in it and go to shareholders meetings if you want to make a proper fuss about your postcode. I know, it all happened very quietly. Even MPs have been known to slip up and ask questions about postage rates and services that has not very much to do with them any more. Postage, of course, was sometimes regarded as a tax too.

Mark Twain was the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - books that everyone should read, not least because the language is coarse and would not be acceptable today. They are snapshots of old and best-forgotten attitudes. Twain, however, knew how to string a sentence together. “Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow,” was his. On whatever the American equivalent of the HMRC was in his day, Twain said: “The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.”

It is often said that nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. I see what they mean but, in practice, death and taxes are very different burdens for us all to bear. For a start, death is just death. It is not made worse by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with each Budget. Right, I must stop having a pop at the nice people at HMRC. They are just doing their job. Let’s not get too depressing.

In any case, I always find that the darkest times are when you don’t pay your electricity bill.

RNLI Lochinver Crew Faced 20ft Swell During Boat Rescue
Rescuers were faced with 45mph winds and rough seas during a mission to help a fishing boat in difficulty off the west Highland coast.  The boat was taking on water 15 miles (24km) west of Kinlochbervie on Sunday.  The rescue involved the RNLI Lochinver lifeboat crew and the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter in the Minch.  They were able to transfer a pump to the fishing boat, despite the 6m (20ft) sea swell and high winds, to help pump water from the stricken vessel.  RNLI Lochinver described the conditions as "a little challenging".  The fishing boat's three crew were able to use the salvage pump to reduce water levels on their vessel along with their own pumps.  The helicopter returned to base to pick up a second pump to assist the fishing crew.  RNLI Lochinver later escorted the boat to Stornoway in Lewis, where it was met by the local lifeboat crew and coastguard teams.  The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the alarm was raised at about 13:20.  A spokesman said a cargo vessel and a Coastguard emergency towing vessel also assisted in the incident.

Inverness Business Leader Sees Red Over New Highland Council Recycling Rules
An Inverness managing director has raised concerns about the introduction of new restrictions at recycling centres.  Rory Haigh, of Fern Place, has used a double-axle trailer to take his garden waste to a centre in Inverness but was told on a recent visit that he would be banned from using it once the new Highland Council rules were enforced next month. It is one of a raft of changes which are being introduced from February 3 including banning trailers longer than 2.4m or 8ft in length, vehicles with a gross weight of 3.5 tonnes or greater, tippers and flat-bed trucks of any weight, and plant vehicles.  A second phase of new regulations are due to be introduced later in the year which will place restrictions on the amount of construction and demolition waste to be taken to the centres.  Mr Haigh (48), who is the managing director of city-based Optimum Underfloor Heating, said if the measures led to more fly-tipping, it would cost the council more than the £300,000 over a period of two years that the new rules aim to save.  He said: “I have a one acre garden in Culloden so you can imagine the brown bin, that we already pay for, does not cope.  The new rules will stop me taking my garden waste with my trailer, instead the council want me to make multiple trips with what I can fit in the boot of my car.”  Mr Haigh said without using the trailer it would involve 15 trips, each covering a distance of around four miles. He added: “Where is the sense in that?  My wife and I work hard to provide a haven for wildlife and bio-diversity in an urban environment yet we are being penalised by trying to do the right thing.”  He said his second-hand double axle trailer had cost him £1200 and a new single-axle version would probably cost between £3000 and £4000.  “We live in a world now where the natural environment is wholly important and yet Highland Council is introducing huge barriers to the general public to recycle their waste in an environmentally acceptable way,” he added.  The council operates 21 household waste recycling centres.  A council spokesman said: “The change in policy is being introduced to help the council to tackle trade abuse, which will mean less costs in handling trade material and freeing up the recycling facilities for householders.  Fly-tipping is an issue all across the UK and tends to arise from rogue tradesmen rather than law-abiding citizens.”

MSPs Pass Scottish National Investment Bank Legislation
MSPs have passed legislation to set up a Scottish National Investment Bank.  The bank, which should be operational by the end of 2020, is designed to make long-term investments in Scottish firms, over a period of 10 to 15 years.  The Scottish government has committed to putting £2bn of funding into the bank over the next decade.  Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said the bank "has the potential to transform Scotland's society" and build a "high-tech, inclusive economy".  The legislation passed by MSPs grants the necessary powers to set up the bank as a publicly listed company.  Its primary goal is to help Scotland transition to net-zero carbon emissions, while supporting small and medium-size enterprises. Mr Mackay told MSPs that the bank would eventually be financially independent, and would be "commercially minded and also publicly accountable to the people of Scotland".  He said: "The bank's primary mission will be to face up to the global climate emergency by accelerating the just transition to net-zero carbon emissions. Harnessing private sector activity to achieve this has never been more important.  We know from the experience of other countries that national investment banks can deliver real change, but this impact will not be delivered overnight. It will require determination, patience and support from partners right across Scotland."  Parties unanimously backed the setting up of the bank, but said there had been a "missed opportunity" after a series of opposition amendments were rejected. Scottish Labour wanted the bank to have 10 times as much government funding as is currently proposed, with finance spokeswoman Rhoda Grant saying the "relatively small amount of money that will be made available" meant "the bank will be a shadow of the high-investment, ethical bank that we have campaigned for".  The Scottish Greens said it was "very disappointing" that their amendments adding climate change commitments to the bill were voted down.  MSP Andy Wightman said there would be "yet more consultations" about the bank's mission, saying that "the climate crisis can ill afford to wait".

ONS: Unemployment in Scotland Falls by 7,000 to 105,000
Unemployment has fallen slightly in Scotland, according to the Office for National Statistics. In the three months to November, the number of people out of work and looking for a job in Scotland fell by 7,000, to reach 105,000.  Scotland's unemployment rate now stands at 3.8% of the workforce.  Meanwhile, the number of people aged between 16 and 64 in employment fell by 1,000, to stand at 2,556,000. The employment rate of 74.3% was below the UK figure of 76.3%.  A total of 32.9 million people are now in work in the UK, a rise of 0.5% for the three months to November.  On the UK figure, ONS head of labour market and households David Freeman said: "The employment rate is at a new record high, with over two-thirds of the growth in people in work in the last year coming from women working full-time."

'I Had A Cardiac Arrest and A Vet Saved My Life'
When Mike Pinkerton called in at his local vet to pick up some food for his cat, Chewie, little did he know that he would be the one receiving treatment.  His day had begun like any normal Saturday.  An hour earlier, he had taken his four-year-old son Joel to Cramond Pier, north of Edinburgh, to test out a Spiderman bike he'd received as a birthday gift during the week.  He doesn't remember anything about what happened at the vet's surgery, but he knows he is lucky to be alive.  Mr Pinkerton collapsed as he suffered a cardiac arrest - meaning his heart stopped pumping blood and he stopped breathing - and would have died there, had it not been for Henrietta Linnemann.  The vet performed CPR on him for about eight minutes before a community first responder, sent by the Scottish Ambulance Service, arrived to help. An ambulance arrived soon after.  Mike ended up receiving CPR for about 20 minutes and paramedics shocked him four times. Doctors say his odds of survival were 5%.  Mr Pinkerston said; that there had been no sign his heart was about to stop beating.  "No warning, no symptoms at all, completely out of the blue. I had been feeling absolutely fine. I'm sure if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been buying cat food."  He was later diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease where the heart muscle becomes stretched or stiff. Just weeks before Ms Linnemann saved his life, he had learned he was to become a dad for a second time. Without her, he says he would never have met his daughter, Mae.  Mr Pinkerton added: "I go in for regular check-ups. My cardiologist has said to me I couldn't possibly have asked to have been in a better position given what happened to me and of course I've got Henrietta and the emergency services to thank for that."  The 43-year-old is one of a growing number of people who survive after having a cardiac arrest outside hospital in Scotland. A report shows that the number of people receiving CPR before paramedics arrived has reached a record high.  According to data from the Scottish government's Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA) report, an average of 3,200 people experience a cardiac arrest.  The latest figures show CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) was performed on 64% of people who suffered a cardiac arrest in Scotland outside of hospital or before paramedics arrived last year - the highest level on record.  This is up 26% from 2015, when a new strategy was launched. Back then, the survival rate was one in 20. But now, for the first time, more than one person in 10 who suffers a cardiac arrest outside of hospital is surviving and leaving hospital. Since October 2015, almost 520,000 people have received training on how to resuscitate someone through the Save a Life for Scotland partnership - with chest compressions described in the report as "the most important modifiable factor determining survival after OHCA".  Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said the rise in people equipped with the skills to perform CPR "bodes well for the future".  He added: "Swiftly starting CPR can increase the likelihood of survival after cardiac arrest by two or three times so increasing the number of bystanders who can perform CPR is vitally important."  Lisa MacInnes, from Save a Life for Scotland, said: "In October 2015, we set out to raise awareness of cardiac arrest and help people living in Scotland get CPR ready. At the time, the target of reaching 500,000 seemed a long way off.  However, with the hard work and dedication of the fantastic Save a Life for Scotland partnership we have surpassed this milestone over a year ahead of schedule and we're keeping on counting, aiming to reach as many people as we can.  That hard work has paid off, our bystander CPR rate has increased and most importantly now one in 10 people will be going home to their families.  This amazing achievement belongs to every person who helped spread the life-saving message of CPR across communities throughout Scotland and especially the 500,000 people in Scotland who took time to stop and learn."

Scotland 'Needs New Film Studio Or Risks Losing Out'
Anyone living near Fort William or Glencoe at the moment, can't have missed the film crews on location in the area.  First there was Falling for Figaro, about an aspiring opera singer in the Highlands, played by Danielle Macdonald alongside Joanna Lumley (whose opera director husband Stephen Barlow is a consultant on the film.)  Then Magic Monkey Films, set up by Scottish director Ryan Hendrick, arrived in Glencoe with their tinsel and festive jumpers to begin filming their Christmas rom-com, Perfect Strangers.  The cast includes Sylvester McCoy, Frazer Hines, Sanjeev Kohli and Claire Grogan.  By the weekend, they'd moved to Fort William where they'd enlisted the choir of Duncansburgh Macintosh Church to sing Christmas carols on the high street (rather helpfully, the local council had left the Christmas decorations up).  It's believed the new Batman movie, starring Robert Pattinson (already nicknamed R-Batz) will film some key scenes in Glasgow next month, although Screen Scotland would not confirm details since it "provides a confidential locations service to film and TV productions looking to film in Scotland."  What they can say is that Scotland continues to experience something of a boom in filmmaking - a record 95 million in 2017 - with that figure expected to rise again when the latest numbers are published.  Other filming in the Highlands included the latest Bond movie No Time to Die, which filmed a key section in the Cairngorms last summer.  Films made in Edinburgh recently include Fast and Furious 9 (the franchise previously filmed in Glasgow) and Our Ladies (the new film version of the Alan Warner novel The Sopranos).  Sam Mendes filmed a key section of his Oscar-nominated film 1917 in Govan graving docks in Glasgow.  There have also been a number of TV dramas shot here including channel 4 drama Deadwater Fell starring David Tennant (filmed in Dunlop and Kilbarchan), Call the Midwife's Christmas special (which relocated to the Hebrides) and The Nest starring Martin Compston (shot on location in Glasgow).  But this filming boom isn't unique to Scotland and many people in the industry argue that a national film studio would increase Scotland's offer substantially.  The American TV series Outlander has established Wardpark Studios in Cumbernauld, but with season five due to air shortly, it's rarely free for other productions.  "Hollywood does come here," says Ryan Hendrick, director of Perfect Strangers. "You only need to look at Fast and Furious or Batman - big blockbusters do come here but they only come in for a couple of weeks and then they go away again.  For the industry to be sustained at home grown level, to really benefit, you need to have a good strong base of films made here where people can develop and be nourished and they don't go away to London or Los Angeles.  I think Scotland does need a studio. I think we lose out to various incoming productions as a result of not having one.  If you want big Hollywood productions coming in for a couple of weeks to shoot on location, that's great but if you have a studio you're more likely to bring them in for a longer period of time and that's what sustains our industry. "  Fourteen months ago, Isabel Davis of Screen Scotland insisted they were closer than they'd ever been to establishing a facility in the old Pelamis building in the Port of Leith.  If a private developer could be found, she said, a studio could be up and running by the end of 2019.  With that deadline past, and a new season of filming starting over, many wonder if Scotland's moment has passed - particularly since many areas with established studios are expanding and adding second or third studios to their complex. But perhaps this will be the year.  Asked to comment, Screen Scotland said: "We are completing the final stage of due diligence on the necessary technical and legal processes and will have more to say shortly."

Skye, Uist and Harris to Get Additional Calmac Sailings

Additional sailings will operate on ferry routes to Skye and between North Uist and Harris following calls from island communities.  An extra 153 services will sail between Mallaig in the Highlands and Armadale in Skye in March on a trial basis for the next three years.  They have been added to help support efforts to extend the tourist season.  There will also be 43 more sailings between Berneray and Leverburgh to ease demand for ferries over the summer. Running from June to August, the North Uist to Harris sailings will be added to the timetable on a permanent basis.  The extra Caledonian MacBrayne services follow consultations involving community groups, Western Isles council Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and MSPs. Paul Wheelhouse, minister for energy, connectivity and the islands, said the move would help to support local economies.

New Law to Protect Children Giving Evidence in Court
Child witnesses in the most serious crimes are no longer to be asked to give evidence in court.  Instead they will be questioned in dedicated witness suites and their testimony will be pre-recorded to be played later to a jury.  The Vulnerable Witnesses Act which came into force on Monday, draws on the Scandanavian system of Barnahus - or children's house.  Charities said the new system will help ensure witnesses are not retraumatised.  The change, which will apply to cases in the High Court, will spare under 18s from giving evidence during a trial.  It will allow child witnesses in cases heard before a jury to record their evidence in advance of a trial for crimes including murder, sexual offences, human trafficking and domestic abuse.  As a result they will not have to face the accused in court. Justice secretary Humza Yousaf said the act marked a significant milestone in Scotland's journey to protect children as they interact with the justice system.  He said: "Children who have witnessed the most traumatic crimes must be able to start on the path to recovery at the earliest possible stage and these changes will allow that, improving the experiences of the most vulnerable child witnesses, as far fewer will have to give evidence in front of a jury. Legislation is only one part of the jigsaw, backed by the development of modern, progressive and technologically advanced facilities to ensure children are supported to give their best evidence."  The new system draws on the Scandinavian experience of reducing the amount of interviews a child has to go through if they are a witness or victim.  Ideally this would be a single forensic interview, taken in as child-friendly a setting as possible.  This includes not only the décor and surroundings, but also providing support from different agencies on-site to help a child deal with any linked traumas or health issues that also need attention. What is the Barnahus system?  The literal translation of Barnahus means "Children's House".  It was first developed in the United States before being adopted in Iceland in the late 1990s.  It later became the model for other Scandinavian countries - Sweden, Norway, Greenland, Denmark and a pilot in Finland.  It places a wide range of support services for child abuse cases under one roof, putting the care and welfare of the child at the centre of all decision making. In particular it recognises the harm and trauma that multiple interviews in different locations and with a number of different agencies can have on a child and their families. Forensic interviews, medical examinations and access to therapeutic services can all take place in one place.  The charity Barnardo's said in Iceland, its introduction had a significant influence on the number of children finding the confidence to come forward to seek help and make disclosures.  It had also led to a notable increase in conviction rates.  The legislative changes were proposed by the Scottish government in late 2018.  But Holyrood's justice committee called on ministers to go further and fully adopt the Scandinavian Barnahus principles into Scots law, adapting them to the Scottish context.  MSPs had visited the Barnahus in Oslo to gather evidence on how it worked.  A new suite, modelled on the Scandinavian system has already opened in Glasgow and aims to provide a less daunting setting than a court for vulnerable witnesses and complainers to give evidence in.  Similar facilities are planned in Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen.  Justice committee convener Margaret Mitchell said: "We recognise the potential stress caused by giving evidence, and we want to ensure steps are taken to avoid children being re-traumatised by the court processes.  On our visit to Oslo, we were struck by how the Barnahus provided wrap-around support. Members therefore welcome the Scottish government's ongoing work to introduce a similar approach for child victims and witnesses in Scotland."  Mary Glasgow, chief executive of the charity Children 1st, said: "Children have told us that they found giving evidence in court almost as traumatic as the abuse itself.  This act means more children will now be able to give pre-recorded evidence in an environment more suitable to their needs.  It also reduces the time children wait to give evidence and means they will not have to face the accused."  Ms Glasgow added that pre-recording would enable experts to bring all the different services a child might need together under one roof.

China Coronavirus: Two Tested in Scotland Given All-clear

Two of the five people people being tested for coronavirus in Scotland have been given the all-clear.  The chief medical officer for England said on Friday that 14 people tested in the UK had been found to be free of the virus.  The Scottish government said this included two of the Scottish cases.  The three other patients being treated in Scotland are awaiting test results. Four out of the five are Chinese nationals.  All of those tested had recently visited Wuhan where the outbreak originated. Checks are ongoing on other people. Globally there are more than 800 confirmed cases of the virus which has killed 26 people in China.  An incident team was set up to deal with the threat of coronavirus in Scotland as the tests were being carried out.  BBC Scotland understands that one of those tested in Edinburgh was a Chinese student who had become unwell after visiting family in Wuhan.  He was believed to have first been in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary before being transferred to the Western, where the Regional Infectious Diseases Unit is located.  The Scottish government previously said two of those being tested had already been diagnosed with flu. Three others were being tested on a precautionary basis.  Dundee University has 34 students from Wuhan studying in Dundee as a result of its partnership with Wuhan University. Five members of staff returned from a visit to Wuhan last week. No health concerns have been raised.

Conservative MSP's Support for Gaelic After Row Over Colleague

A Conservative MSP has backed changes to Gaelic education in the Western Isles - despite the move being criticised by the party's education spokesperson.  The local council, Comhaire nan Eilean Siar, is to make Gaelic schooling the "default option" for new Primary 1 pupils.  Conservative education spokesperson Liz Smith said; it was "a deeply troubling step".  But MSP Donald Cameron has now expressed his support for the change.  Mr Cameron is a list MSP for the Highlands and Islands.  Mr Cameron tweeted. "Personally, I support the decision of the @cne_siar (Western Isles Council) to change the default position to Gaelic at P1, not least because parents can still opt out and choose English medium education for their children if they so wish.  He added: "In terms of this policy, I am very confident that council officials will ensure that parents who do "opt out" are not marginalised in any way."  All primary schools in the Western Isles offer the choice of an education in English or Gaelic.  At present, it is presumed that new Primary 1 pupils will be taught in the English class so their parents have to actively request a place in the Gaelic class instead. But from this year, the presumption will switch around.  The move has no implications for staffing or catchment areas.  On Thursday, Conservative education spokesperson Liz Smith criticised the change in the council's policy. Her remarks were criticised by the comhairle and some SNP politicians. The comhairle said: "This type of statement is suggesting that education in any language other than English, is detrimental to children's education.  "All reputable academic research and practice demonstrates that bilingual education has a hugely positive impact on cognitive development and learning for all children.  Should the Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary continue to have concerns, she would be welcome to come and speak to us."  The presumption at present is that they will be educated in English unless their parents ask otherwise.  However the parents of nearly half of new P1 pupils chose Gaelic.  From this year, the presumption will switch round - parents would need to actively choose to have their children educated in English.

Wee Macnessie Highland Book Launch Coincides with Chinese New Year; Loch Ness Monster Meets Lion Dance As Cultures Collide
There will be a real song and dance about a well-timed children's book launch in the Highland capital on Saturday.  The unveiling of culture-crossing Wee MacNessie and the Lion Dance coincides with the beginning of the Chinese New Year.  The launch at Inverness Town House from 2.30pm will be accompanied by some singing and dancing from local children who are studying Mandarin.  The day heralds the beginning of the Year of the Rat. Author Pauline Mackay has teamed up with illustrator Brian Robertson for the publication which is the latest in a series of bilingual books published by her locally based Able Kids Press.  Ms Mackay said: "Discovering that my little Loch Ness Monster delights children in local nurseries and schools, as well as those as far away as Beirut and Singapore, makes me so happy.  The world of Wee MacNessie continues to grow in ways I never imagined. I don’t think I will ever tire of talking to people about it and explaining where the ideas come from. The latest story has its roots in my links to the Scottish Highlands and Islands and Moray Chinese Association (SHIMCA) run by Monica Lee-Macpherson, to whom this book is dedicated.”  The story combines our iconic Loch Ness Monster with the mesmerising lion dance which brings good fortune in Chinese culture.  The book launch is a wonderful opportunity to hear local children and their teacher, Angela Mackenzie, read and sing in Mandarin and learn about Chinese culture.  And there might even be a sighting of Wee MacNessie himself!  The book is written bilingually.

Drug Deaths Summit to Take Place in Glasgow

A UK-wide summit on tackling problem drug use will be held in Glasgow next month, it has been announced.  Drug recovery experts, senior police officers and government ministers from all four UK nations will attend the event.  The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland is at record levels, higher than that reported for any other EU country.  Both the UK and Scottish governments have committed to addressing the issue.  The Scottish government wants drug policy powers handed to Holyrood so it can alter policy to treat the issue as a public health, and not judicial, matter.  And the UK Westminster government said prevention and recovery are as important as enforcing drugs laws.  Kit Malthouse, the UK minister for crime and policing, will chair the summit on 27 February.  He said: "People are dying from drugs every day across the UK and this summit will bring us together to tackle the issue of drug misuse.  We must have firm enforcement action and do all we can on prevention, recovery and treatment, too."  Scottish government calls for a change in law to enable establishment of a safer drug consumption facilities have so far been rejected by the UK Westminster government.  Current drug laws, which are reserved to Westminster, prevent possession of Class A drugs within such a facility. The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland soared to 1,187 in 2018, the highest rate since records began in 1996.  Public health minister Joe FitzPatrick, who called for an emergency meeting with his UK counterparts in July last year, revealed the summit announcement was made without any consultation with the Scottish government.  He said: "What Scotland faces in terms of drug deaths is nothing short of a public health emergency and we will engage constructively with any attempts to save lives.  Regardless of how the UK Westminster government have chosen to go about this, what really matters is reducing harm and saving lives.  That's why listening to, and engaging with, people with lived experience of drug use and those on the front line must be central to any summit."

Ralston Kirk Beckons for Former GP Whose Mission is to Care for Others

A former GP has swapped her stethoscope for a clerical collar to become minister at a Paisley church.  Dr Sonia Blakesley, who treated patients for 23 years, was ordained into St Mark’s Oldhall Parish Church, in Ralston, this week.  The 52-year-old said she was looking forward to exploring the spiritual side of life with people which is something that is not encouraged in medicine.  Dr Blakesley, who worked as a GP in Moffat in Dumfries in Galloway, said: “I am excited to be starting my new role as minister.  I have been training for this for a long time and am keen to get into my new position.  This is an opportunity for my life and faith to dovetail in a way greater than before as I devote most of my time to God's work.  I am prepared for the challenge of working with the Kirk Session and wider membership to discern how we best do God's work in this community, serving the people of Ralston and sharing God's love with them. I have good experience from my training placements, but I don't have all the answers.  We will seek God's leading together.”  Dr Blakesley, a mother of two grown up daughters, said she “really enjoyed” being a GP. But I became aware of God calling me into another vocation for the later part of my working life,” she added.  “I have good people skills and I am used to dealing with people in all kinds of life situations which stands me in good stead for my time as a minister.  I have learnt to be efficient with routine administration and have good time management skills and have learnt to care for myself whilst also caring for others.  However, what excites me about ministry is being able to talk openly about the spiritual side of people’s lives which was not really encouraged in medicine.”  Dr Blakesley, who enjoys walking her Border Collie/Spaniel Cross, Mylo, cross stitch, knitting and meeting friends in her spare time, is a member of St Andrew's Church in Moffat and served as session clerk for five years. She did placements at Burnside Blairbeth Church in Rutherglen, the Tinto parishes in South Lanarkshire and Cranhill Parish Church in Glasgow.

Last Updated (Saturday, 25 January 2020 02:57)