Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 547

Issue # 547                                           Week ending Saturday 11th   April  2020

Is Anyone Else Poleaxed About the Way Some Practise Their Social Distancing?
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Herself and myself are bored in our splendid isolation. Just us, Jeremy Vine on the TV and then Jeremy Vine on the radio. No one comes round to see us any more. If they did, we wouldn't let them in anyway - so, no, don’t even think about coming round here being all friendly and handshakey with your sniffles and bugs. Gosh, this virus is turning us into anxiety-ridden, old curmudgeons.

Right, think of positive things. We have to keep our minds and bodies active. I caught myself watching Mr Motivator on that Healthcheck programme and before I knew it I began to involuntarily do star jumps to 1980s disco music. Not pretty, but effective. I felt much better afterwards. The floorboards will need to be repaired but plenty time for that later.

Then we play I Spy and then an hour of You’re It. She wallops me round the face with a towel or a wet fish, whatever is in or on the fridge, and she shrieks: “Chase me, chase me.” I wouldn’t mind but every day she hides behind the shower curtain in the loo. Maybe she wants to get caught.

When In pull back the shower curtain, she always says: “Och, it’s you. I wish you were Bradley Walsh but I suppose you’ll have to do”. After lunch, we invent new games to pass the time until The Chase comes on. One of us goes out the back door, closes it, knocks it from the outside and then the other shouts: “Who’s there?” The answers can range from "only me" to "the People's Postcode Lottery". Hilarious.

We hardly venture out. Too many people in the supermarkets greet us and want to hug us - well, her. They are being friendly but they forget to keep their distance. The answer is to visit your local filling station. There may be less of a range of food items but they are less busy. They have no enclosed check-outs and the staff in smaller outlets are very helpful.

Mrs X finds jams we haven’t licked off our fingers for years, rare spices and herbs and nice wines that are not in supermarkets. Loads of household stuff too. She tried to buy a long pole in Angus Campbell’s Filling Station. I thought she was going to put up curtains.

Support your local pumps. Little fuel is being sold so the price is falling. I wonder, could I stash a few tankfuls of diesel beside the toilet rolls in the shed? Just kidding, by the way. We have no stockpile. Come to think of it, we have no shed.

There are few guests in the TV studios now. They are interviewed on fuzzy and hissy video links to their home computers. Few are good quality, mainly because many of the guests scattered around the Home Counties are in poor broadband areas or they are cheapskates with old, slow, computers or £9.99 webcams from eBay instead of the £100 ones which you need to use to get a decent image. Even that is not as good as a £50,000 TV camera, but people can still spot if they have some spinach in their teeth.

Have you noticed the webcams are usually carefully positioned to show what guest contributors want you to see? Usually there is a shelf with worthy, and utterly boring, books behind them to suggest they read that lot sometimes. Equalities minister Liz Truss goes a bit presidential with a Union Jack on a flagpole beside her. You’re not the First Lady of anywhere, Elizabeth. Calm down. Classic history expert Mary Beard has broadcast from her library a few times and admits she was in her pyjama bottoms. Probably means others are underdressed too. What the webcam does not see ...

Maybe Mrs X is making a flagpole. She may be getting ready to broadcast to the nation with a Union Jack by her side. The First Lady ... of Plasterfield? Unlike poor Catherine Calderwood, who was the last lady of health. She misunderstood her own rules and must have thought she had to travel a distance to be sociable in Fife. Nah, that’s not it, Cathy. She travelled to yon kingdom a couple of times to stay at another of her homes. Nah, you don’t get it - not that home. You’re on the telly telling people what to do. Someone could spot you and ... oops, too late.

A lot of people are still not getting why they are told to stay home. Maybe they will get it with the Prime Minister being still in intensive care in hospital. Poor Boris. We may not agree with his every decision but we should all wish him a quick recovery. The dashed virus is here in the islands too and affecting people I know well. So I want to wish everyone who is suffering the very best. Things to do, up and at ‘em, chop.

Right now, I wish I could chop that pole. Mrs X is still focussed on socially distancing - but from me? She says it’s not really social distancing if no barge poles are involved.

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer Resigns Over Lockdown Trip

Scotland's chief medical officer has resigned after apologising for making visits to her second home during the coronavirus lockdown.  Dr Catherine Calderwood initially said she planned to continue in the role.  But she later issued another statement saying she agreed with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that the "justifiable focus" on her actions risked distracting from the pandemic response.  Dr Calderwood had been given a police warning after making the trip to Fife.  The chief medical officer was among those who have been urging the public to stay at home to save lives and protect the NHS.  However, pictures of her during a trip to Earlsferry - more than an hour's drive from her main family home in Edinburgh - on Saturday were published in a newspaper.  Dr Calderwood issued an apology on Sunday morning and said she did not want her "mistake" to distract from the guidance on social distancing. She later told a press briefing that she had made another visit to the property in Fife last weekend with her husband.  The chief medical officer issued a further apology, but reiterated she would stay in her post.  However, on Sunday evening she released another statement in which she said she was "deeply sorry for my actions and the mistakes I have made".  Dr Calderwood said: "The first minister and I have had a further conversation this evening and we have agreed that the justifiable focus on my behaviour risks becoming a distraction from the hugely important job that government and the medical profession has to do in getting the country through this coronavirus pandemic.  Having worked so hard on the government's response, that is the last thing I want."  She said she would work to ensure a smooth transition to her successor.  Ms Sturgeon said it was "clear" that Dr Calderwood's mistake "risks distracting from and undermining confidence in the government's public health message at this crucial time.  "That is not a risk either of us is willing to take."

Coronavirus: Thirteen Glasgow Care Home Residents Die in One Week

Thirteen residents at a Glasgow care home have died in one week following a suspected outbreak of coronavirus.  Staff at Burlington Court Care Home, Cranhill, said they were "closely monitoring" the health of other people in their care and that "strict protocols" were in place.  All of the deceased residents had underlying health conditions and their families have been made aware.  Two staff members have tested positive and are being treated in hospital. As first reported the care home said tests were not carried out on residents as they were only carried out when people were admitted to hospital.  A Four Seasons Health Care spokeswoman said: "With deep sadness we can confirm that 13 residents at Burlington Care Home have passed away over the past seven days.  The passing of a loved one is always traumatic irrespective of the circumstances.  Within the home the focus of the team continues to be the ongoing care and protection of all our residents and our colleagues, two of whom are currently being treated for coronavirus."  She said strict protocols on infectious diseases were in place, including social distancing, and staff were "closely monitoring" the health of other residents and workers.  "In these exceptional circumstances we are sincerely grateful for the dedication of our colleagues and can assure our residents and their families that we are putting all our resources and energy into supporting and protecting everyone in our homes," she added.

Coronavirus: Why Isn't Scotland Advising the Use of Face Masks?

With the protocol on wearing face masks varying from country to country, advice from officials has become conflicting - particularly in the last 24 hours. New York has become the latest place to call on its citizens to cover their faces outside.  At the same time, US coronavirus taskforce co-ordinator Dr Deborah Birx raised concerns that the masks give people a "false sense of protection".  What is the advice in Scotland? You may well see people wearing masks or face coverings while out walking or in supermarkets - but there has been no official advice to do so. In fact, the Scottish government's national clinical director has said there is "no evidence" to support members of the public wearing protective face masks.  Prof Jason Leitch said masks should be worn by healthcare workers and people who have coronavirus.  But he said because Covid-19 was spread by droplets rather than through the air, hand-washing and social distancing were more effective for everyone else.  He said "The global evidence is masks in the general population don't work."  Prof Leitch told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "People don't wear them properly, they're hard, they're difficult, they're uncomfortable. Masks are not fun."  Why don't they work for the general population?  Coronavirus is spread by droplets that can spray into the air when those infected talk, cough and sneeze.  These can enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, either directly or after touching a contaminated object.  If people carrying the virus wear masks, these droplets may be curtailed.  Prof Leitch said that face coverings were helpful for health care workers as they are in close contact with infectious patients.  However he suggested the Scottish government would not advise the general population to wear masks. He said: "There is a cultural tradition in Asia to do it. That is principally because they have had airborne viruses in the past.  This virus is not airborne - it has to be spread by droplets - hence the social distancing, the hand-washing.  All of that is about keeping the droplets away from person-to-person spread.  If this were in the air then the instructions would be very different, but it's not - so masks in the general population are not helpful."  Is there global advice?  General use of masks became increasingly common in Asia following the Sars outbreak in 2002. Now authorities in China are enforcing their use, particularly in areas of dense population such as Wuhan or Beijing.  They are also compulsory in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  Previously people the US could go outside bare-faced, but on Thursday New Yorkers were given the instruction to wear masks as it would "help prevent them from spreading Covid-19 to other people".  Los Angeles has issued similar advice, however the federal government has not yet made recommendations for the entire nation. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the official advice from the World Health Organization has been clear.  Only two types of people should wear masks: those who are sick and show symptoms, and those who are caring for people who are suspected to have the coronavirus.

Black Watch Veteran Honoured for 100th Birthday by Piper

Black Watch veteran Alfred Walters had a 100th birthday celebration with a difference.  After his planned party was cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak, Alfred was forced to spend the day in isolation.  But that didn’t stop another member of his old regiment serenading him on the bagpipes - from a safe distance outside home in Bridge of Earn, Perthshire.

Flood Re is Encouraging Residents Living in and Nearby Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk to Shop Around for Their Home Insurance Policies.
The campaign seeks to highlight that  those living in areas at risk of flooding can continue to access affordable home insurance, even if their property has been flooded previously. Flood Re is encouraging residents living in and nearby Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk to shop around for their home insurance policies to ensure they are getting the right cover for their homes for the best price.  Householders should use price comparison sites, contact insurers directly or speak to a broker to secure the best home insurance deal for them.  Since Flood Re was launched in 2016, the availability and affordability of home insurance for householders at risk of flooding has improved significantly.  Independent research has shown that 99% of householders whose property has flooded previously are able to receive quotes from five or more insurers – compared to 0% before the introduction of the Scheme – and four out of five householders with previous flood claims have been able to find quotes that are more than 50% cheaper.  Dermot Kehoe, director of communications and transition of Flood Re, commented: “Many living across Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk have recently experienced first-hand the devastation that flooding can cause.  I want to reassure all householders in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk that they can access affordable home insurance thanks to the Flood Re Scheme, and urge all householders to shop around to ensure they are getting the right home insurance deal for them.”

Remembering Culloden - But in 2020 No Gathering Can Take Place

The chairman of a long-established heritage group with a strong interest in Falkirk’s salient role in the 1745 Jacobite Rising says there are special reasons now to remember the dark days of Scottish history.  Michael Nevin is chairman of the 1745 Association, whose unique library is maintained at Callendar House, and which has thrown new light on the epic events of 1746 – when the retreating Jacobite army outmanoeuvred and defeated Henry Hawley’s pursuing British army on Falkirk Muir.  It has also been closely involved with the signposted battlefield walk trail in Callendar Estate, and other local heritage projects.  Like so many other groups the Association has been forced to cancel numerous events from its busy annual programme – but none so emotive as the annual commemoration of the Battle of Culloden, which took place on April 16, 1746.  In 2018 Ranald MacDonnell , present chief of the MacDonnells of Glengarry, accompanied by Lady MacDonnell, unveiled a plaque outside Falkirk Trinity Church to commemorate the death of his ancestor after the 1746 battle of Falkirk Muir - where he had led his 800 clansmen to victory.  Now, he says, that pivotal event in Scottish and British history will still be called to mind by many during the current unprecedented crisis.  Mr Nevin said: “Culloden, the last battle fought on British soil, continues to strike a powerful emotional chord for many people and for many reasons. The views that they hold about the battle vary, from those who believe that it should never have been fought, or, since it was, that it was as well that the British Army won it; to those who regret the destruction of the Jacobite Cause and the progressive destruction of the Gaelic culture which followed it.  Whatever one's views, the anniversary of Culloden has a particular resonance during the time of coronavirus.  In remembrance of the battle’s anniversary on April 16th, we have uploaded a translation of (famous Jacobite soldier-poet and Colonel of the Edinburgh Regiment) John Roy Stuart’s poem and a rendition of extracts from it in Gaelic and English on our website at The poem, composed by an officer wounded at the battle who saw many of his men fall around him and the cause to which he dedicated his life destroyed within a single hour, serves as a reminder that there was a time very much worse than today - and that, no matter how dark the outlook may seem, life goes on and better times will come”.  A century and a half after John Roy saw his dreams crumble on Culloden Moor, the poet and author Andrew Lang visited the battlefield and recorded his experience in his poem “Culloden”, a rendition of which is uploaded on YouTube at

Vinyl Demand: We Found Out Why LPs Are Spinning Once Again

Bob Smith gently holds the disc, his fingertips pressing against the rim as he lowers it on to the turntable.  There is a pause as he moves the tonearm into position, and the needle rests in the groove.  A brief silence; the air seems to shimmer with expectation and Bob grins in readiness.  He has perfected this move over the decades, and yet the moment will never grow old.  Volume knob cranked up just that bit too high, and the classic vocals of The Beatles echo around the market.  A few people jump in surprise and Bob waves his arm in apology before adjusting the sound.  Satisfied, he returns to the shelves and begins flicking through his pride and joy – scanning sleeves for the most eye-catching design.  It is rarely silent in Aberdeen Vinyl Records, which can be found in the market just off Union Street. The modest shop has been running since 2015, and what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in character.  There is no fancy lighting or stylish seating, but Bob has amassed a dedicated tribe of customers.  They come rain or shine in a bid to get their fix, be it a rare collection or all-time classic.  “Vinyl is an addiction. You could say I’m the dealer for those who just can’t kick the habit,” says Bob with a chuckle.  There could be a nuclear war and those who love vinyl would still turn up at this shop, that’s the kind of passion it inspires in people.” Thanks to a resurgence in vinyl, in part due to the next generation buying records once more, Bob was busier than ever prior to the Covid-19 lockdown.  He now runs a virtual record shop online and posts records out to customers.  It was not so long ago that records sold for mere pennies, and were considered by many to be a relic.  Vinyl was out, tapes, followed by CDs, were in.  It would seem that fashions have once again come full circle, with youngsters opting for the tangible touch of vinyl – as opposed to the practical yet clinical act of streaming music online.  Is it the nostalgia, the sound or the thrill of discovering a dusty record just aching to be played that means LPs are spinning once again?  We spoke to four people who are passionate about vinyl in a bid to find out.  There has been a huge increase in the number of people buying vinyl.  That’s partly because there is so much nostalgia for the format.  People over the age of 40 can remember records first time round.  There are always people who never lost the faith, and they feel it’s OK to come out of the woodwork now.

Declaration of Arbroath: the Most Famous Letter in Scottish History

The Declaration of Arbroath is seen by many as one of the most famous documents in Scottish history.  It was written on 6 April 1320 but its words continue to inspire some in the Scottish independence movement, 700 years later.  Its broader message is a call for the right of Scots to rule themselves - but some claim its significance has been overstated and its purpose was simply to shore up the reign of King Robert the Bruce.  What was the Declaration of Arbroath?  First of all it was not really a declaration and did not get that name until much later.  It was a private missive to Pope John, which was endorsed by 39 of the most-powerful Scottish barons and earls, who supported Bruce as king.  They were appealing for help to end the wars of independence with England which had been going on for decades. Bruce had struck a blow to settle Scotland's independence in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn but there was no truce between the two nations and the disputes raged. What does it say?  The most often quoted line from the declaration, which was originally written in Latin, is a statement of Scottish independence.  "For, as long as 100 of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English," it says. "It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom, for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."  The only surviving copy is a fragile sheepskin parchment, carefully preserved by the National Records of Scotland.  Dr Alice Blackwell, senior curator of medieval archaeology and history at the National Museums Scotland, says the letter starts out with the names of all the barons who support it.  The main text, which is only about 800 words, opens by asserting Scotland's long history as an independent kingdom and talks about the "countless evils" perpetrated by English kings and the heroics of Robert the Bruce.  "It ends really powerfully with a plea to the Pope," Dr Blackwell says. "It essentially threatens the Pope and says that if he doesn't help intervene, blood will be on his hands."  Why write to the Pope?  The barons hoped the Pope, as the head of Western Christendom, could put pressure on King Edward II of England to achieve peace. It was also a subtle diplomatic attempt to get the Pope, who had clashed with Robert Bruce on a number of issues, to recognise him as the legitimate king of Scotland.  Pope John was no friend of King Robert, a man who had murdered a rival claimant to the throne in a church and had ignored Papal decrees. In fact the Pope was seeking to enforce his excommunication. The letter was an appeal from the nobles to lift the excommunication and recognise Robert I as the rightful king. The significance of the Declaration of Arbroath to Scottish history is much discussed and disputed.  Dr Alan Borthwick, National Record of Scotland's head of medieval and early modern records, says there is very little record of it in the sources from around the time it was written and the major historians of the 16th Century make no reference to it. "It was only in the 1680s when the text was printed in Latin, and then it was it was later translated into English thereafter, that people began to think this was a really important document," he says.  Robert Crawford, professor of Modern Scottish Literature, at the University of St Andrews said that the declaration lay in Edinburgh Castle for several centuries.  "It was nibbled by rats. It was not translated into English until the late 17th Century. It is in one sense a very obscure piece of medieval letter-writing," he says. "In another sense, like all the classiest pieces of medieval sheepskin it has its own Wikipedia page and in our day it has become internationally known."  Did it inspire the US Declaration of Independence?  The Scottish document pre-dates the United States revolution by about 450 years but some - such as former Senate majority leader Trent Lott - are convinced it inspired the American Declaration of Independence, despite a lack of historical evidence.  The annual Tartan Day celebrations in America - founded by Senator Lott in 1998 - take place on 6 April because that is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. Mr Lott said: "I have no doubt they had read the declaration, some people say that there is no connection, but I say 'just read them and then tell me there is not a connection'.  There is too much of the same verbiage and the same passion and the same reasons for these declarations."  The Arbroath letter praises King Robert for setting the Scots free and accepts that he has the right to be king.  But it warns that if he should change course and seek to make Scotland subject to England then they would "drive him out as our enemy".  Dr Borthwick says the current thinking among scholars is that this does not necessarily refer to the overthrowing Robert Bruce but to any successor such as Edward Balliol, who was supported by Edward II. He says: "There are many documents from the medieval period which attempt to impose some form of restriction on monarchical powers but this is very unusual, if not unique, in saying the king could be deposed.  "There is quite a difference there and they have taken it quite a step further."  He says the response from the Pope still did not describe Bruce as king of Scotland but he did write to Edward II of England and there was a clear steer from the Pope that he wanted a truce to be made.  However, it was eight years before a peace treaty was agreed, just months before Bruce died.  There had been plans for an Arbroath 2020 festival and the document was to be put on public display for the first time in 15 years at National Museum of Scotland but both events have been shelved due to coronavirus.  Many celebrations have been rescheduled for next year so that the Declaration's 701st birthday is likely to be the big one.

Perthshire Minister to Offer Online Memorial Services in Place of Public Funerals

A Church of Scotland minster is offering online memorial services in place of public funerals due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Rev Dr Marjory MacLean will record each service alone in a church and they will be posted online on the same day as the burial.  Dr MacLean is minister for Abernyte, Inchture, Kinnaird and Longforgan in Perth and Kinross.     While committal services are very constrained at the moment, this idea allows the memorial service to be attended by anyone  She said: “Often a funeral in our tradition consists of what is essentially a memorial service and a separate very short committal service, often attended only by the family.  While committal services are very constrained at the moment, this idea allows the memorial service to be attended by anyone.”  The Scottish Government has restricted funerals to immediate family only and instructed churches to close.  The Church of Scotland said its services, held elsewhere, must be limited to immediate close family – parents or the spouse and the couple’s adult children, but not their partners.  Dr MacLean said plans are in hand for the first pre-recorded online memorial service.  She said: “If we can do Sunday services using social media platforms like YouTube, then why not memorial services in place of traditional funerals?   From the family’s point of view, the usual conversation takes place with the minister by phone or video conference to plan the service and given directions about the tribute and so on.  A period of time, perhaps a few hours, is agreed upon as the time the service will be publicly available on our YouTube channel.”  Rev Dr George Whyte, principal clerk of the Church’s General Assembly, said he was supportive of the move where possible.  He said the online memorials would be a chance for mourners to be “reminded of the good memories of shared life and the appreciation of their friend or loved one’s gifts”.  He added: “I’m sure that for many of them to be able to hear a tribute on the day the funeral takes place would be a great comfort in their loss.”  In Dalkeith’s St David’s Catholic Church, Fr Andrew Garden has been offering Facebook reflections for mourners who are unable to attend funerals.

Scot Turns Dining Room Into Mask Production Line in Effort to Help Health Care Workers

David Ritchie, from Penicuik, started helping the national effort in protecting NHS staff and volunteers working to fight the coronavirus by making robust masks.  In just one week, the father-of-two now finds his dining room has been turned into a mask production line.  “Everyone else in the house is banned from the room I work in,” he said.  The dining room has become the place where I produce the visors.  It’s honestly a bit like a commercial kitchen – everything is very clean and gets cleaned.” David said he is amazed by the demand for protective gear from medical centres and care homes across the country.  I thought I would be making about 30 to 40 a day at most but this project has really grown arms and legs,” he said.  “Hospitals in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Livingston and other medical practices across the Central belt have been putting in huge orders.  We are aiming to produce 70 a day at the moment but this will probably go up.  It’s a bit crazy how many orders are coming in so really glad to be helping.”  David, who works as a software engineer when he’s not making visors, said he has had to limit orders to 50 masks at a time to make sure he has enough to go around.  He said at the moment he is adding about 200 new visors to his order list each day.  Hospitals are currently asking for 100 to 200 at a time taking about 50 per cent of what David makes.  Other requests come from care homes, funeral directors, pharmacies and local clinics and surgeries.  “When I thought about making them I almost wasn’t going to bother because I could see quite a few other groups getting involved and it wasn’t worth it,” he said.  “But when I spoke to some guys up at Queensferry making protective gear they said the situation was the opposite, so I started doing it for local people here in Penicuik and now I have orders from further-a-field.”   David said his community have worked together to create a list of instructions to be included in the delivery on how to clean the visors appropriately.  “Everyone is really chipping in,” he said.  “I know a couple of other guys who have started in the area as well, and I am part of a couple of Facebook groups where people share tips on how to make these masks.  I also asked the doctors in the local surgeries what they thought and the design I am currently following now is the one they prefer.  One doctor said the PPE he was using before had a similar effect to those plastic glasses you wear in a chemistry class at school, i.e not very effective, so it’s great to hear these visors are helping.” David said the offer to help and support his project has been incredible.  His colleagues sent a 3D printer from the company he works for to help boost production. He now has three for making the masks.  In order to sustain his much-needed production, he has set up a gofundme page asking for donations.  The current goal based on the amount of orders in the last week is to make 2,000 shields.  This means David will need to raise £5,300 to cover the cost.  He said any money and goods left over after the coronavirus outbreak will go to local charities and groups.

NHS Western Isles to Launch ‘Virtual Visiting’ Service

A health board has overcome the problem of loved ones being unable to visit hospital patients in the coronavirus pandemic. Following the recent decision to close hospitals in the Outer Hebrides to visitors, staff have been working on a new process to enable inpatients to keep in touch with friends and family via video call.  The service, which officially launches tomorrow, is available seven days a week between 2pm and 4pm – though availability may be extended depending on need.  The service will be initially available to patients in Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, but the health board is currently considering how this could be effectively rolled out to all island hospital sites over the next two weeks.  NHS Western Isles’ William Findlay said: “We recognise how difficult this time is for everyone. It is an even more challenging time for inpatients who are in an unfamiliar environment, at a time of considerable anxiety, and are not able to see their friends and family.  This is why we took the decision to develop this service for our patients who do not have their own mobile phone, tablet or laptop to use, to connect with others. Keeping in touch with those important to us is clearly beneficial in terms of patient wellbeing.”

Control of Harbours and Ports Has Been Imposed

In light of recent Government announcements regarding coronavirus Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has now imposed control measures on vessel movements and access restrictions for its ports, harbours and facilities.  Protecting communities is a priority for the Comhairle, mariners are informed that with immediate effect the following restrictions are now in force at all CNES facilities. Open port access to all Comhairle ports, harbours and facilities is now closed to all non-essential vessels. These specifically include recreational vessels.  For clarity the Government advice stands for waterborne activity just as it does for shore side activity, “Stay at home, only go outside for essential food, health and work reasons”.  Comhairle facilities remain open to the following essential vessel traffic: Lifeline ferries;  Local fishing and Fish Farm vessels or those only landing catch or taking on supplies;  Commercial ships operated in support of local communities;  Vessels seeking a port of refuge;  Marine casualties or other similar emergencies;  Medivacs.  This notice will remain in force until further notice

Loganair Converting Planes to Serve As Air Ambulances
A Loganair Twin Otter aircraft has been converted into an air ambulance aircraft in the space of just a week, which could land on the beach airport at Barra.  The transformation - which allows the 19-seat plane to carry Epishuttle isolation pods - will be ready for launch on Friday.It was the combined effort of the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) and Loganair.  Loganair pilots will be operating the aircraft as usual, and late last week, all received a special briefing from the airline and the Scottish Ambulance Service on the nature of the deployment.  Another larger plane, a Saab 340, is also being converted to be able to carry two Epishuttle pods and medical teams, and is expected to be completed in a week.  It could land on any island except for Barra.  Loganair’s chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said: “The team effort to make this happen, moving from a concept to an operational solution in just a week, has been absolutely incredible.

Heritage Project Encourages Care Home Residents to Share Memories
People in care homes in Thurso are taking a stroll down memory lane with the help of the town's heritage society.  Residents at Pentland View and Bayview, like their counterparts all over the country, are facing restrictions on visitors because of the risk of spreading coronavirus.  So Alan McIvor, chairman of Thurso Heritage Society, came up with a novel way of trying to keep them entertained.  He has produced 15 laminated discussion sheets under the title Let's Talk About Our Memories. They feature questions on topics ranging from childhood and going to school to growing up and work, as well as remembering World War II from a local perspective and reminiscing about social events.  He said: "I noticed lots of posts on social media and read in the Caithness Courier and John O’Groat Journal that people from all over were helping the vulnerable and the elderly in some way. It’s really fantastic how the county is pulling together.  I noticed that restrictions were put on visitors for care homes. I thought something should be done for them if they can’t have regular access to their family when contact is limited."  Mr McIvor came up with the discussion sheets as an answer and the idea got the backing of the care homes.  The questions ask the residents if they remember using ration books during the war and in what shops, and if they recall vegetables being kept in baskets, potatoes and flour in sacks, butter wrapped in paper, milk collected from the dairy and the use of sawdust on the shop floors.  Other sheets have a mixture of pictures and old shop receipts showing prices for groceries from bygone days."I also did one on local events, including the Viewfirth folk festival, Halloween, sand-yacht racing at Dunnet, fishing competitions and the auction mart. Another sheet covers Dounreay, with images and questions on working on the site, Christmas parties and sports days.  "Halkirk Highland Games get mentioned and there is a selection of views around Caithness showing Sarclet, Whaligoe, Latheron, Berriedale and Stroma. There are 15 sheets in total, all printed on A3 paper, and I laminated them so they can be cleaned. The large-sized sheets will also help those who are visually impaired. So far the response has been good."

Investigations Continue Into Aberdeen Bomb Hoax

Investigations are continuing into a bomb scare which caused an Aberdeen community to be evacuated.  Residents in Rosemount were left out of their homes for more than six hours following the report of a suspicious package in Wallfield Crescent. After the incident, the Ministry of Defence said it was being treated as a hoax and a probe was launched. A police spokeswoman confirmed inquiries are still ongoing.

UK Deaths Are Still Increasing

The number of people confirmed to have had coronavirus and died has risen by 980 to 8,958. That is the highest daily death toll so far in the UK.  But the BBC's head of statistics Robert Cuffe says the growth in number of deaths has halved since last Saturday and is now growing at below 10% a day, compared to just over 20% a week ago.  The majority of the deaths have been in England, with 8,114 deaths in total.  In Scotland, 495 people have died so far, while the figure in Wales is
315. Northern Ireland has seen a total of 92 deaths.