Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 548

Issue # 548                                                       Week ending Saturday 18th April  2020

Coronavirus: 'I Am Just So Glad I Can Help and Be Involved'
Nearly 100 paramedic students have signed up to help in the coronavirus crisis.    The 95 students are from Scotland's only full-time undergraduate degree course in paramedic science.  The Glasgow Caledonian University students will be employed as ambulance care assistants or technicians.  Pauline Howie, of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said the service was "very thankful in these challenging times".  Third-year student Caitlin Kelly will be based at the makeshift Louisa Jordan hospital in Glasgow's Scottish Events Campus. The 26-year-old from Johnstone, Renfrewshire said she felt "confident and well-prepared". She added: "I am just so glad I can help and be involved in this emergency because it's what I've worked towards for the last three years.  "I feel a little nervous which is to be expected but answering emergencies and never knowing what the next call is going to be is why I wanted to be a paramedic in the first place, it's part of the job."  Samantha Paterson, from Glasgow Caledonian University's school of health and life science, said about 70% of the course's first, second and third-year students were able to sign up to help.  She said: "We work very closely with the Scottish Ambulance Service and much of the training is very hands-on, so they are well prepared for the workplace."  Pauline Howie, chief executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: "We are very thankful for the student paramedics offering their support in these challenging times.  This is an unprecedented situation and the support we have received right across the country has been amazing."

Group Issued with Lockdown Fines After Island Rescue
The alarm was raised when three men and a woman were cut off by the tide when visiting the island, by Edinburgh, on Saturday afternoon.  The police and the South Queensferry Lifeboat were involved in the Firth of Forth rescue.  Once back on shore, officers fined the four people for flouting coronavirus lockdown measures.  A statement on the RNLI lifeboat crew's Facebook page urged people to avoid putting themselves and others at risk.  It added: "We must remind everyone that we do not, never have, and never will, charge people for rescuing them.  However in this period of social distancing the reality is that if you chose to partake in activities that could end up in requiring rescue, you could find yourself in a situation where the relevant authorities have to act accordingly."

Edinburgh Church Congregation Grows Under Lockdown
A virtual congregation set up during the coronavirus lockdown has caused an Edinburgh church's numbers to be eight times their normal size.   St Paul's and St George's Church in York Place has been reaching more than 8,000 people during each online service. Associate rector the Reverend Libby Talbot said people were looking to the church during what they felt was a "hopeless time".  She said their Easter Sunday service, which took 20 hours to edit, would be even more "massive".  The Scottish Episcopal church, which has a predominantly young congregation of about 1,000, normally sees between 500 and 600 people at Sunday services.  However on Sunday 22 March its virtual service was watched live 4,300 times giving a reach of more than 8,000.  Each Sunday during the lockdown there have been three virtual services but on Easter Sunday there was just one at 11:00.  Ms Talbot said people who did not normally visit the church were now "engaging and viewing" the online services.  She said: "Life feels so helpless and chaotic just now and people feel out of control.  Christianity is built on a solid foundation and gives real hope during this period of hopelessness and uncertainty.  People are thinking just now about what the future holds and so are looking to the church.  People also have more time just now and so are exploring - a service online is a low threatening way to do this."  She added that filming the service in advance would mean they would all have a rare Easter Sunday off with it being the first in 30 years for rector the Reverend Dave Richards.  She said it would mean they had more time to spend with their families. She said she would also phone about 25 people in the congregation who were medical professionals and a couple of people who had coronavirus but who were doing well.  She added it had taken a great effort to make the online services and that they had all worked on adapting their skills.  She said: "For example our facilities and production manager Jamie Woods has re-skilled and is now focussing on editing and production of the films and our worship director has been doing the music.  It's been really interesting to see how well these films have been received now that we have moved virtually."

Ullapool Gallery Takes Art Online to Beat Coronavirus Lockdown; An Talla Solais Aims to Help Ease Anxiety and Stress with Virtual Exhibition
An Ullapool art gallery has launched an online exhibition to entertain people stuck at home during the lockdown.  An Talla Solais launched 'Landscape of Place' at the start of April. Featuring works by Louise Allan, Lar MacGregor, Morag Smith and Kim Welch, the gallery said the online exhibition will include "painting, sculpture and installations exploring personal responses to the sense and spirit of place".  "In March, An Talla Solais closed our galleries, office and studios until further notice in response to growing uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic and the growing individual and community risks," said a spokesman. "These are difficult days for everyone and, although we won’t be open, we are committed to trying to alleviate some of the common feelings of anxiety and stress, which many people are understandably feeling during the uncertainties at this time.  We decided to work towards creating an online version of Landscape of Place, our first exhibition in the 2020 programme. While we may be unable to show work in our gallery for some time, we hope that this exhibition of images from the artists can offer a beautiful promise of things to come.  Many thanks to the artists involved for continuing to face challenge after challenge with kindness, generosity and enthusiasm: Louise Allan, Lar MacGregor, Morag Smith and Kim Welch." The exhibition is running now at

Coastal Businesses and Groups Can Benefit From £7.2m Crown Estate Fund

Coastal businesses and voluntary organisations affected by Covid-19 can now benefit from a £7.2 million Scottish Crown Estate fund which is devolved to councils. The 26 councils in Scotland that have coastlines can use their remaining share of the fund which they have not yet allocated to offer direct support to struggling coastal enterprises and organisations, after agreement by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Authorities (Cosla).  The fund, from Scottish Crown Estate net revenues, is normally used for projects delivering coastal community benefit.  This is on top of the £2.2 billion package of business support already announced by the Scottish Government.  Scotland's environment and climate change secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Given the unprecedented pressures which businesses are currently facing as a result of the pandemic, we are doing everything we can to support them.  By widening the remit for the use of Scottish Crown Estate revenues we are enabling local authorities to directly support local coastal businesses, including third sector organisations, facing the full force of this economic shock.  Following discussions with Cosla we have written to local authorities to encourage them to look at ways they can use these funds, where required, to help hard-pressed businesses and organisations to get through this challenging period.”  Orkney councillor Steven Heddle, Cosla's environment and economy spokesperson, said: “This is a timely reminder that councils play a key role in supporting local businesses and their coastal communities, especially in these exceptionally challenging times, and that there is scope for funding from Crown Estate net revenues to contribute to this.  I also welcome the Scottish Government's intention to ensure that the next tranche of funding is distributed as swiftly as possible to local authorities this year as joint work progresses on the longer-term review to develop an appropriate approach for the future distribution methodology.”

Where Are Scotland's Coronavirus Cases? Figures correct at 14:00 on 13 April 2020

Health board            Confirmed cases
Ayrshire and Arran        390
Borders                        204
Dumfries and Galloway   192
Fife                             383
Forth Valley                 352
Grampian                     313
Greater Glasgow and Clyde    1,486
Highland                      163
Lanarkshire                 784
Lothian                      932
Orkney                        5
Shetland                    45
Tayside                     812
Western Isles               6

Inverness Mosque Sends Out 150 Meals for People in Need
Members of the Muslim community in Inverness have put together 150 meals for people in need.  The initiative was instigated by the city’s mosque whose members gave money and ingredients for the meals which were cooked by a team led by Tamjeed Miah, owner of the Wee Delhi takeaway in Milton of Leys.  Volunteers helped pack the meals which will be distributed by charities including Ness Bank Church’s food bank project.  Dr Waheed Khan, a trustee of Inverness Mosque, said the meals would go to homeless people or families in need.  “They are freshly-cooked meals and packed in large containers,” he said. “We may keep doing it depending on demand. It is our duty to support whatever is happening with whatever resources we have.”  As with other places of worship the mosque, in the city’s Portland Place, is closed due to coronavirus restrictions, something Dr Khan said was difficult for many of the region’s Muslims.  Up to 200 worshippers from across the Highlands gather there for Friday prayers during normal times, and it is also used up to five times a day for prayers and other gatherings.  “The main problem is we are a small community and the mosque is quite a major hub,” he said. “In history, we have never known the mosque close to people.”  A small group of volunteers is helping ensure those in isolation get what they need.  “It is a difficult time for businesses, for people’s livelihoods, for congregations to worship, but we are providing support through the network we have,” Dr Khan said.

Thousands Seek Alternative Garden Waste Service
A landscape gardener has been receiving thousands of calls from people asking for their garden waste to be removed after the council stopped its brown bin uplift during the Coronavirus lockdown.  John Steven director of Woodland Maintenance Services in Edinburgh said he had been missing up to 600 calls a day after offering the service in a post on Facebook.  The 32-year-old said he had even received calls from Glasgow, North Berwick and Falkirk.  He has been uplifting brown wheelie bins for £4 and black bin bags for £1 since City of Edinburgh Council stopped its service on Tuesday.  The local authority said it was looking into reimbursing people who had signed up to their annual £25 scheme.   Mr Steven said he had roped in all his family into the new venture. He said: "I hate letting anyone down so I'm going to try to reach everyone who has called me. I'm doing 15 hour days and have been on the phone for three hours each day in a bid to phone everyone back.  People don't have a lot of money at the moment so that's why I've made it cheap and don't mind receiving change, that's the idea they can just find the change that's lying around their house."  People then leave their money in envelopes beside their bins. Mr Steven said he had nine trucks with each one able to hold 3.5 tonnes. They also have a tail lift at the back to empty the wheelie bins.  He has collected 1,000 bins from 250 streets since the council suspended its service.  However, he will cover 500 streets in the next two days now that he has worked up a street plan.  Tommy Dale, who owns Forth Resource Management where the council garden waste is processed, said he had been forced to take out a £250,000 loan to make ends meet.  He said: This has been a disaster for us as normally we receive 150 tonnes a day, four days a week of garden waste and suddenly that has stopped. It's a disaster for us.  Financially its an absolute bloodbath and we are now in survival mode.  During the winter our tonnage drops down and because the council pays by the tonne we make our money from now and across the summer which then tides us through the winter."  James Gray, project manager of Caledonian Horticulture which turns the garden waste from the City of Edinburgh Council into compost, said they would run low if the brown bin service was suspended for too long.  He said: "We turn garden waste from the council into compost by putting it through a shredder and then laying it out into piles called wind rows.  We then spend 18 weeks mixing these piles to get air into them to make top quality recycled compost which gardeners can buy."  He added that the current lull in supply meant there would be a knock on effect later in the year with how much compost he could make.  Adam McVey, City of Edinburgh Council leader, said: "Be assured that as soon as we can we will resume garden collections and reopen the community recycling centres.  But for now, and we don't yet know how long for, we're asking you to help in our effort to keep residents and our waste staff safe."

Coronavirus: Eight Crew of Black Watch Cruise Liner Test Positive

Eight crew members of a cruise ship moored in the Firth of Forth have tested positive for coronavirus.  The Black Watch ship, operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, has no guests on board and is operating with a "skeleton crew".  The ship is one of four liners which have been anchored near Rosyth after the firm suspended operations.  Fred Olsen said eight crew members have tested positive and six other staff onboard were awaiting results.  A spokeswoman said: "The ship is operating under the current guidance from Public Health England. Each crew member is occupying their own cabin, each with a balcony.  There are no social gatherings on board. Crew are only leaving their cabins to perform essential duties, which includes bridge watch, engine watch and the preparation of food.  Those who have received a positive diagnosis or who are feeling unwell are not undertaking any duties."  The company announced last week that Black Watch, Balmoral, Boudicca, and Braemar would be anchored temporarily near Rosyth.  One of the ships, Braemar, was hit by the virus in the Caribbean last month resulting in hundreds of passengers being flown back to the UK.  A Forth Ports spokesman said: "The Black Watch is one of four Fred Olsen Cruise Lines vessels for which Forth Ports is providing safe anchorage out in the River Forth while they are non-operational.  As the Statutory River Authority, we have instructed that the vessel remains at the anchorage until the appropriate period of self-isolation is complete.  The ship's owners Fred Olsen Cruise Lines are taking care of the welfare of the crew on board."

Supply Shortages Continue to Delay Covid-19 Test Results for Islanders

NHS Western Isles has confirmed that it is expecting a delivery this week of the cartridges of ‘reagent’ necessary to enable it to use the Covid-19 testing machinery already in the Western Isles, but has no date for when sample bottles of the ‘necessary medium’ to complete tests will be available.  On Friday, Western Isles MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil said that he had raised the issue of a lack of cartridges for use in the Cephid testing machine based in the islands with the Health Secretary and Director of Covid-19 testing at the Scottish Government “to get Isles testing up and running”.  The MP added last week: “”All praise to NHS Western Isles who have done everything they needed to do to be ready for testing, including getting equipment in place and training staff. However, due to the lack of cartridges, tests require to be sent to Glasgow.”  But it has since emerged that the sample bottles required in the tests have also not arrived locally, with the result that the testing and analysis of samples taken in the Western Isles is still being carried out In Glasgow causing a delay in results coming through.  If the testing equipment on the islands was available, NHSWI has confirmed, test results would be available within hours rather than within 1-2 days, as is currently the situation.  In a statement a spokesperson for NHSWI said: “NHS Western Isles has been in regular contact with NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) regarding the establishment of local testing capacity here in Stornoway. Three key steps are important to deliver this capacity and NSS have been leading on all of these on a national basis.  Firstly, we can confirm that we now have a Cephid machine which will enable us to test for COVID-19 on site.  Secondly, obtained separately, and which we expect to arrive this week, are the cartridges with the re-agent to insert for the machine to analyse tests.  Thirdly, we require a reliable supply of sample bottles with the necessary medium.  Given the worldwide attack and impact of the virus, all of the above have been in unprecedented demand and have therefore not been readily available.  We currently do not have a date for delivery of the samples bottles specific to the local testing machine.Colleagues across Scotland are working flat out to obtain and deliver the necessary kit.  In the meantime”, NHSWI’s spokesperson concluded: “NHS Western Isles has access daily to the national testing capacity, so our community can be assured that testing, as recommended, can be carried out. The main benefit we will see when the system is fully up and running locally is a significantly shorter turnaround time for the tests: around 3-4 hours, as opposed to between 24 and 48 hours currently.”  Angus Brendan MacNeil MP said: “We are now three and a half weeks since I first asked questions about the testing. I was told then that the testing would be up and running in two weeks, and we are now a week and a half late, and it looks like we are going to be going past two weeks late and we still won’t be testing [in the islands].  It doesn’t matter if it’s cartridges or bottles or nuts and bottles, if you are not testing, you are not testing. We are not at the races yet, the testing is woeful.  To say the cartridges were needed and then to say that something else is needed, what is to say that we won’t be told that there is then something else needed after that?”

Rail Workers Avoided 125mph Train by Less Than A Second

A train travelling at 125mph almost struck three track workers after a breakdown in communications, rail accident investigators have concluded.  The workers jumped clear less than one second before the train passed them on the West Coast main line in November.  The Rail Accident Investigation Branch report said one of the lookouts had not known he was meant to raise the alarm.  It said the lookout team had used "informal language" rather than following the proper protocols.  A radio-based lookout-operated warning system was being used because of the high train speeds and the curved track south of Kirtlebridge in Dumfries and Galloway.  The system uses flashing lights and a siren to warn staff that a train is approaching.  However, there had been no warning before the train came round a bend at the spot where the inspection was taking place.  The driver sounded the horn to warn the workers and used the emergency brake, enabling the inspectors to jump clear less than a second before the train passed. No-one was injured in the incident.  The report said there had been a breakdown in communication between the system's controller and one of the two lookouts. "There is conflicting evidence about the words spoken during the conversation... during which lookout (north) and the controller reached a different understanding about whether the lookout duties had already commenced," it said.  The controller said he had told the lookout that he was "up and running", while the lookout said he thought the controller was going to contact the other lookout and then phone him back.  The report said the team had been "following their normal practice of using informal language, rather than the formal communication protocol mandated by Network Rail.  It is certain that their conversation did not result in a clear understanding between the staff involved."  The RAIB said it was likely that if they had used the formal words which were advised in their training, the lookout would have known he was expected to send a warning.  The report also said that guidelines for the use of the lookout system were last updated in 2009, despite the introduction of upgraded equipment in 2010 and 2018.  It said that while this was not a factor in the Kirtlebridge incident, one of the existing protocols has "the potential to cause unnecessary risk to track worker safety".

Virus Impact on Hospital for Older Patients

Some patients at Inverness' Royal Northern Infirmary have been affected by coronavirus, NHS Highland has said.  The community hospital provides care to older patients.  The health board said: "All patients are being cared for under our standard infection control procedures and as such all visiting to the hospital has been suspended.  Staff are keeping in close contact with relatives of our patients via phone and we hope people understand why they cannot visit the Royal Northern Infirmary at this present time."

Staff Concerns At Restart of Shortbread Production

Shortbread-maker Walkers is to end its temporary suspension on production next week. The Moray-based company closed its sites two weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak. Some workers have raised concerns about returning to work amid the pandemic but Walkers said it will have new safety measures in place.  It is understood employees who do not want to return to work on Monday have been offered an extra week of furlough.  One worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that while staff appreciated new protections would be in place concerns remained because of the number of people needed for production.  They said their worries about returning to work was shared by colleagues.  Walkers employs more than 4,000 people and has sites in Aberlour, Elgin and the US.  The company said it will have "strict" social distancing in place and "enhanced hygiene facilities".  Workers on production lines will be separated by plastic screens and private buses used by staff will have reduced capacity.  A spokesman for the company said: "We have had a very positive response so far to our message about restarting work.  We are sorry to hear some employees are unhappy. We understand that and I would emphasise that our HR department is calling every single person to discuss the matter.  This is a deeply troubling time for everybody and there will be those whose individual circumstances make it difficult to return."  The spokesman said Walkers' rivals had continued to operate, adding that the Scottish government regarded the food industry as "vital and that as long as strict health protocols are in place, work can continue".

MP Drew Hendry says UK Westminster Government Emergency Loan Scheme is "Far Too Slow" During Coronavirus Pandemic
Just 6020 UK government emergency business loans have been approved under the government's scheme, introduced in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown. The SNP has said the figure, from banking and financial industries trade body UK Finance, shows the roll-out of the initiative is "far too slow", with just 0.1% of UK businesses receiving help. Drew Hendry, the MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey and SNP spokesman for business, energy and industrial strategy, has called on the UK Westminster government to step up and ensure businesses have access to the immediate cash they need to stay afloat. He has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging the UK Westminster government to ensure more direct support, including through grants, and said: "The UK Westminster government needs to provide the urgent support that businesses need during the coronavirus crisis. The roll-out of the emergency loan scheme is far too slow and too many businesses are not getting the cash they require to stay afloat.  In other European countries support for business has been rolled out far quicker. After weeks of waiting, it is time for the Chancellor to step up and provide more direct support – speeding up the process and providing more grants, not just loans.  The SNP welcomed the announcement of the emergency loan scheme as an important first step back in March, but it is clear it is not working in practice – and the urgent cash injection that the business community has called for has still not been delivered.  The 6020 businesses that have received support are a tiny fraction of the millions of small and medium businesses in the UK. Many businesses aren't getting the urgent cash they need to pay the bills and could go to the wall unless support comes quickly.  The SNP will continue to press them to ensure businesses to get the support they need during this unprecedented emergency – but it is clear that we need to see much more support delivered without further delay."

Helensburgh Care Homes Heartened by Community Support in Crisis
Care homes in Helensburgh say they have been heartened by support and messages of goodwill from throughout the community as fears grow nationally over the severe impact that coronavirus is having on the sector.  Home managers say there has been a terrific response from well-wishers leaving flowers, food and chocolate treats on doorsteps as awareness grows of the predicament facing care homes in the Covid-19 crisis.  They have also praised staff for being tireless in their care of residents and for adhering to strict infection control regimes which they say are keeping a lid on the spread of the virus in care homes locally. Three out of four care homes contacted said they had not had any coronavirus cases, while the fourth said they would prefer not to comment publicly in fairness to families.  None indicated supply difficulties with personal protective equipment (PPE).  Michelle Carr, manager of Argyle Care Centre in West Argyle Street, which has 56 residents and 80 staff, said: “We have battened down the hatches to essentially cocoon the home but we are monitoring the situation very carefully.”  Michelle said the home currently had enough supplies of PPE and they were indebted to the local Sew Grateful group who had been making them surgical gowns which were of better quality than the ones normally available. In Northwood’s case, uniforms are washed after every shift and PPE is disposed of immediately after each use.At Morar Lodge Private Nursing Home in Glasgow Street, which has 45 staff and 25 residents, administrator Fiona Hunter said: “We have been very fortunate so far and it has been down to strict infection prevention regimes early doors.  We have a very experienced care services manager who had previously experienced the SARS outbreak and knew what was ahead.”  Fiona Ness, manager at the Lochside Care Home near Rhu, said staff had been working on a flexible basis as a team and things “were going swimmingly”. An example of the goodwill shown towards the home, she said, was their Facebook appeal for Easter eggs, which had led to no fewer than 250 being left at their door.  Staff at the town’s Waitrose supermarket have been delivering parcels of food and chocolate to homes and to staff who are self isolating, while directors at Argyle Care Centre have been taking Scottish-themed goodies to home staff from the Nippy Sweety newsagent in Sinclair Street. Staff at Greggs and Superdrug have been donating gift parcels, and Helensburgh United Reformed Church’s web-based church services have been enjoyed by residents seeking spiritual comfort.

‘We’ve Become the Fourth Emergency Service'

Local convenience stories have seen a huge change in the way they work because of the coronavirus epidemic.  At Pinkie Farm Convenience Store in Musselburgh, East Lothian, sales have doubled but it’s been matched by new challenges.  “It has been stressful,” says store worker Tracey Doran. “We are trying to keep our spirits high. We have a lot of staff in. I’m a mum to four. I have four children so I have to keep myself safe because I have to travel back home.”  Store manager Dan Brown is helping make deliveries to vulnerable people who rely on local supply. He is full of praise for staff.  “They’ve done a fantastic job at stepping up for us,” he says. “They have gone above and beyond and we want to really make sure we support them once all this is over because of the help that they have given us.”  The Scottish Grocers Federation chief executive Peter Cheema says staff should be recognised as key workers for services such as childcare. "‘We’ve become the fourth emergency service."

How Does A Jousting Team Cope with Lockdown?

This should have been the start of the busiest time of the year for Les Amis d’Onno.  The professional jousters – based at a farm near Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders – are regulars at events recreating the spirit of medieval times across the country.  Although, with its long lances, it might seem like a pursuit made for these days of social-distancing, the team have been badly affected by the coronavirus outbreak.  “Our summer season of events usually starts around the end of March with a local event in Hawick," said Sue Zacharias, who runs the family business.   The number of bookings usually increases over the following months. Sue says the alarm bells started ringing when the first event of the year was cancelled. After that, she started to receive calls every couple of days, calling off various events across the UK.  Sue is now stuck on the farm with four other members of the jousting team and 22 horses.  "Everything has been put on hold," she said.  “We have to keep our horses fit and our team fit and ready to go. If they lift the ban for us, we have to be ready to do that.  At the moment the team that are here – the core team – can exercise the horses, which is good." The team has been involved in horse stunt events for the past 10 years – initially in France, before returning to the family farm in the south of Scotland.  Sue said the lockdown happened at the worst time for their business.  “For us, this is a disaster – we make all our money to last us for the year in the summer season,” she explained.  “It is really, really bleak. If we don’t get some kind of help or funding it’s the type of thing that would make our business fold. We have 22 horses to look after and some of them are retired horses which need special care.” Despite the difficulties they face, they are hopeful that the backing of their fans might be enough to see them through.  Les Amis d’Onno have made some mini-films for their followers, and may try to hold a "virtual tournament” on their own land if it could be arranged safely.  "We are a resilient group, we have had a lot of support from our fans,” said Sue.  “We will try and make it through and see what we can do.”  She said the only option was to try to survive the lockdown and be ready to lift up their lances and return to action when restrictions are lifted.

Two Men Charged in Connection with Alleged Attempted Murder in Aberdeen

Two men have been charged in connection with the alleged attempted murder of a man in an Aberdeen street.  Emergency services were called to Walker Road in Torry shortly after 3am yesterday morning following reports of the incident.  A 19-year-old man was found injured and was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where police described his condition as “serious”.  Two men, who are both aged 21, have been charged in connection with the incident, which is being treated as attempted murder by officers.  Detective sergeant Bruce Buntain, of Aberdeen CID, said: “Inquiries into the incident remain ongoing and I am appealing to anyone who saw or heard any suspicious activity in the area to contact police as soon as possible.”  A block of flats on Walker Road was cordoned off, with officers standing guard at the front door to the property while investigations into the incident were carried out.

Mountain Climb' As 90-year-old Takes to the Stairs 282 Times
With Captain Tom Moore, 99, walking his way to fame - and a fortune for NHS charities - another nonagenarian has embarked on a marathon challenge.  Margaret Payne, 90, aims to climb the equivalent of Highland mountain Suilven - 731m (2,398ft) - with 282 trips upstairs at her Sutherland home. Inspired by the Army veteran's 100 laps of his garden, she began on Sunday.  And after hitting her target to raise £10,000 for the NHS and a hospice on Thursday, she said: "It's amazing."  Mrs Payne, from Ardvar, first climbed Suilven, in the west of Sutherland, aged 15, in 1944.  She believes her modern-day challenge will take around two months to complete.  It is her way of thanking the "absolutely wonderful" NHS staff, and carers at Highland Hospice, who took care of her husband, Jim, before his death at Christmas.  After donations passed her target, she said: "I wasn't expecting anything like it - 10,000 thank yous."  "It's brilliant of them all and I feel the NHS really deserve it. They have been amazing. Each day they are risking their lives."  By Thursday night, her fundraising total was at £12,500 - and rising.  Launching her bid, she wrote on her fundraising page: "Here we go... starting Easter Sunday... three flights before lunch today. Raining and windy outside but warm going up and down the stairs."   Since then she has climbed several times throughout each day.  Despite that, Mrs Payne said she had never been a hillwalker, having lived with knee problems since she was 12.  However, she would walk miles to reach the best spots for her true passion: fishing.  Mrs Payne's inspiration, who has become known as "Captain Tom", walked 100 laps of his Bedfordshire garden to mark his upcoming 100th birthday. After being featured on local radio and websites and then TV and in national newspapers, the former serviceman quickly raced past his initial target of £1,000 and then a swiftly-revised one of £500,000.  By the early hours of Friday, more than 800,000 people had donated a total of more than £17m.  What heights Mrs Payne can achieve in her own fundraising challenge has yet to be seen...

A Modest Expression of Grief Can Have A Big Impact
Funeral director Jim Auld has made a plea this week for people to pay proper roadside respect should a funeral cortege be passing.  It is a custom which appears to have gone out of fashion, but was very much the norm as I grew up.  It requires nothing more than offering a moment or two of respect for someone whose death will have devastated their closest friends and relatives. A small gesture, which has huge resonance for the mourners.  I recall two occasions when high profile deaths prompted an instinctive response of this kind. One was the death of Jock Stein, when the Tartan Army lined the streets of Glasgow on the way to the south side crematorium where closer friends had gathered to bid a final farewell.  The other followed the funeral of Scotland’s first First Minister, Donald Dewar, when Glaswegians turned out in their thousands to say a personal goodbye.  It was a funeral at which I had been privileged to speak, and, later that week, his two adult children came to visit. They said they had been both surprised and greatly touched by the spontaneous show of public affection accorded their father.  They held that memory to be precious, at least as much so as all the formal expressions of sorrow from the country’s great and good.  I expect, in a more modest way, the families of more anonymous Scots would be similarly comforted if we took Jim’s advice.