Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 555

Issue # 555                                                        Week ending Saturday 6th June  2020

Maybe All We Need to Get A Lot More Fitter is Have A Haircut by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Make your own sanitiser with normal cupboard items, it said. OK, I’ll give it a try. Take two parts alcohol, two parts aloe vera, two parts citrus juice and mix. How did they know I had vodka on the shelf? Use a funnel to pour into a hand spray and do the bathroom first. Wait, with those ingredients all I needed to do is add tequila and I have a Margarita cocktail. So maybe the bathroom is not quite as clean as I planned but, hey, the days are going past quicker.

The UK government is not coping and so much is being hidden. Boris Johnson announced on May 6 he wanted to up Britain’s testing capacity to 200,000 a day by the end of the month. How is that going? Well, the target of building capacity for 200,000 coronavirus tests a day has been reached a day early, ministers have announced. Hurrah. Excellent. We love Matt Hancock. But he won’t say how many tests are actually being done. You can have capacity of 200,000 but actually only do one. Ah. They’re not saying. And they won’t go on TV with Piers Morgan to explain why.

Meanwhile, the covidiots are coming out to play. They gather on beaches, at parties and anywhere they can show how low their intelligence is. And they are really low. Who ever thought that in 2020, advice from scientists and medical professionals would be considered political?

Like the gullible people who are falling for the social media scams. Have you seen the one about the people buying the £339 Bioshield USB keys with shielding software to protect from the “terrible 5G threat”? Its page has just been shut down on Facebook but its other web pages are doing great business. The USB Key comes, they say, with a nano-layer which is “quantum holographic catalyzer technology” for the balance and harmonisation of the harmful effects of imbalanced electric radiation.  Wow, great. Here’s the thing. It’s all nonsense.

Get a technician to carefully prise open the USB key and inside is a useless lump of semi-conductors and unconnected wiring. Before its social media shutdown, this pile of junk was apparently bought and well-reviewed by many happy but deluded souls, who were £339 lighter - after falling for all the “likes” on Facebook. The “verified” buyers were in places such as Stonehaven, Dingwall and, yes, the Isle of Lewis. Can these people not exercise their brains and their little grey cells? No, obviously not.

Mind you, exercise of all kinds is still difficult for some of us. Mrs X and I do our best but we have to find a stretch of road where we are unlikely to be mowed down by a car and also not meet people who insist on being too close. It’s not easy. Eating loads of garlic works well. Helloooooo. When we are out, we walk apart. Actually, the pavements are so narrow up Plasterfield way that we have to walk Scalpay-style, that is one behind the other. There are sometimes big gaps between us. We are not social distancing or anything like that, I just can’t keep up with her.

Because we have to go round the island to do deliveries in the van, we sometimes walk on quieter roads outside Stornoway. Despite the wide open spaces, I still cannot keep up. I have discovered the reason for that problem. It’s my hair, you see. My hair has suddenly become really heavy. Ten weeks without a haircut and the bathroom scales say I've put on half a stone.

OK, the truth may be a little different. I now think that I may be eating more. Like a big, cuddly panda. Did you know that a panda eats pretty much non-stop for almost 12 hours every single day. In its case, it is just bamboo. In my case, it is bamboo shoots and chicken, stir-fried in black bean sauce. Or it was last night, anyway. We are just like pandas. Is that why it’s called a pandemic? One great Chinese restaurants is Panda Cuisine in Glasgow.
I love Glasgow. It’s where I was born and brought up till I was at a height to be walloped. I don’t get back often enough, which is why I don’t speak like they do. For instance, my Glesca cousin will say: “Get yer flip-flops on, hen. It’s roasting.” Here in the posh part of Plasterfield, we will just say: “Haoi, blone. Leave your wellies. The fleeking mercury is rising.” Posher or what?

Weegies are great people but there are still some parts of the Dear Green Place that are rough. A couple of years ago, I was in Paisley for a few days and one evening I went out for a stroll. Then I came across a wee pub that was having a quiz night so I thought I would nip in. They were just about to start but that quizmaster was not keen on a stranger coming in uninvited. His first question was: “What are you looking at?”

New Lockdown Laws Warning After Weekend Breaches
Scotland's coronavirus guidelines could be enforced by new laws if "even a minority" continue to flout them, Nicola Sturgeon has said.  The first minister relaxed restrictions north of the border last Friday, allowing more people to meet up while outdoors.  She said the "vast majority" had complied with recommendations not to travel and to keep gatherings small. But Ms Sturgeon said it was clear that not everyone had complied, with police dispersing more than 2,000 gatherings.  Police Scotland said there had been 1,391 "compliant dispersals" of groups of people over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with another 650 where groups broke up "after a police warning".  And with car traffic trebling at some beauty spots, the first minister said she would not hesitate to put restrictions on group size and travel distance into law.  Scotland took its first step on the government's "routemap" out of lockdown over the weekend, with people from two different households allowed to meet up outdoors in groups of no more than eight.  People are also allowed to travel within their local area for recreation and exercise, although the government "strongly recommends" they do not travel more than five miles. Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to thank "the vast majority" of people for sticking to the rules.  But she said it was clear that not everybody was heeding the advice, with police having to move on hundreds of people for not complying with regulations.  She said ministers had "deliberately allowed some flexibility" and "left some room for discretion" when setting out the new guidelines, because they trusted the majority to follow the rules.  But she said: "It's worth being clear that if there is continued evidence of even a minority not abiding by these guidelines and travelling unnecessarily, or meeting up in larger groups, we will have to put these restrictions on group size and travel distance into law.  "We will not hesitate to do that if it is necessary for the collective wellbeing of society." Police said more than 2,000 gatherings had been broke up in total over the weekend.  A total of 16 fixed penalty notice fines were issued, but there were no arrests related to breaches of coronavirus legislation.  The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 in Scotland continues to fall, with just 27 now in intensive care wards.  However, Ms Sturgeon warned that the progress which had been made was "fragile".  "The virus is being suppressed, but it has not gone away and it is still extremely dangerous," she said.  "The progress we have made so far is simply not guaranteed and is not irreversible. Cases could increase again, it would not take much for that to happen, and that would result in more loss of life. If all of that happens, then restrictions will have to be re-imposed rather than being further relaxed." The first minister added: "To the minority that flout all of this, it's not just the virus running out of control you're risking - it's taking flexibility away from people who are abiding by the rules."  Ms Sturgeon said the issue had been brought home to her after one of her own friends had been diagnosed with Covid-19.  She said: "Until this weekend, I didn't know anybody personally, within my own family or friends network, who had had this virus in a significant way. That changed this weekend.  Why am I telling you that? Because it's still there. Even with these numbers going down, there are still people testing positive for this virus.  It's still there - it's ready to pounce, and jump across any bridges we offer it. If we want to stop that, we must, must stick to these guidelines. I'm saying this as a citizen as much as as a first minister - please do that, and together we will continue to make this progress."

Volunteer Constables Donate Over 25,000 Hours Since Lockdown

Special Constables (SPCs) donated over 25,000 hours supporting Police Scotland in the two months after lockdown began.  The special constabulary is a part-time volunteer body consisting of officers with powers identical to those of police officers.  Following an appeal by Police Scotland in March, the number of hours SPCs were deployed for more than doubled, to 25,656, compared to the same period last year.  Assistant Chief Constable John Hawkins said: “While SPCs have always been considered a vital and valued feature of policing in Scotland, it is more important than ever that their role is recognised and I would like to sincerely thank them all once again for their efforts."

Royal National Mod in Highland Capital Postponed Until 2021 – But Merchandise for 2020 Still Available

It was one of the biggest blows of the coronavirus pandemic to Gaelic choristers, but you can still have a memento of the event, even if the Royal National Mod has been postponed. The Inverness 2020 event was postponed in April from October 2020 until October 2021, but thanks to an Inverness clothing company merchandise can still be purchased for this year's event.  Klas Clothing in Inverness will make and send out T-shirts, hoodies and any other merchandise you might like with the official logo of the event.  Chairwoman of the Association of Gaelic Choirs, Jacqueline Cotter, who grew up in Maxwell Drive, said: "When we were on the conductors' chat online the night the mòd announcement came, and a few of us went online and ordered.  The former Merkinch and Inverness High School pupil said: "Klas clothing are handling the orders and there are lots of nice things."

Huge Rise in Demand for e-Books in Falkirk Libraries
Falkirk’s libraries are  making sure readers can still get their fix of fiction and information despite the lockdown.  And they are still available for a chat or to keep an eye out for some of their elderly customers if need be.  Lynne James, who is based in Larbert library, said: “The core of what we do is community and information – and we’ve been trying really hard to continue that online as much as we possibly can.”  And it looks like people are grateful for reading material in whatever format.  E-book borrowing from Falkirk libraries has soared by 73 per cent, while March also saw a 222% increase in new users.  E-magazines are going down well too as shoppers aren’t able to spend time browsing shelves in supermarkets like they might do usually – and titles such  as BBC Good Food and Gardeners World are understandably popular during lockdown.  “We’ve got loads of popular stuff and you can get them all for free, with loads of back  issues, so you’d never be stuck!” said Lynne. Once signed up, customers download an app, RBDigital, which has everything in one place and is very easy to navigate.  The team have sourced special offers for the period of the lockdown  including new audiobooks and music and dance.  Full library members also have access at home to Ancestry, the world’s largest online library of family history information.  “Normally, you have to use the PCs in the library building but for the duration of the lockdown, they’ve given us access at home, which is really nice,” said Lynne. “We’re keeping our eyes peeled to see if other online providers have offers for us so we’ll keep adding to it when we can. There’s so much great stuff out there bookwise, especially for families – celebrities are reading online and the Book Trusts are doing stuff for families, so we’re trying to share that information where we can.” They have been promoting these on their popular Facebook page, which they’ve also found is good for a chat with fellow bookworms.  “We really miss the customers and the Bookbug  babies and all the people  who come in and chat to  us!  It’s very much a community based library and we miss that connection so it’s been nice when people send us a message or get in touch,” said Lynne. “One customer sent us a picture of her wee girl reading her first e-book and that just made our day!  They’ve also made an effort to keep in touch with those who aren’t online. “Our home library service can’t go and visit people  because they are vulnerable but staff have been phoning them just to check in and  say hello and keep that  contact.” And library staff have also supported the community hub at Stenhousemuir Football Club, enabling them to give out books as well as food parcels to the local community.  What the staff can’t do is say when they might be open again.

Job Losses As Fishers Shuts Perth Laundry
Scottish laundry group Fishers has confirmed the closure of its Perth site, with the loss of up to 84 jobs.  Fishers said it had been "significantly impacted" by the severe downturn in the hospitality and tourism sector following the coronavirus lockdown.  Hotels in Scotland and the north east of England account for much of its business.  Fishers said it had examined a range of options to try to avoid closing its Perth plant, but none had been viable.  The laundry had been mothballed since March when the lockdown came into effect.  A consultation period with staff was launched at the end of April.  Staff were informed last Friday of the company's decision to close the site with immediate effect.  Fishers will now consolidate its Scottish hospitality business into its Cupar and Glasgow laundries.

Ending of the Virtual Parliament is Reckless Says, Isles MP

Western Isles MP Angus B MacNeil will not risk catching and spreading coronavirus and has therefore taken the decision not to travel to Westminster when Parliament returns on June 2nd.
MP Angus MacNeil says it is crazy to expect MPs to travel from all over Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland into London. He  said: “The removal of the virtual parliament discriminates against Scottish MPs who are now being forced to choose between breaking the lockdown or attending Westminster.  “The Leader of the House of Commons has stated that Parliament would be Covid-19 secure by 2nd June.  We do not have the evidence of this, but evidence to the contrary; Public Health England has deemed the voting lobbies unsafe for voting and the Speaker of the House of Commons has issued a letter to all MPs, in which he says that based on the latest professional advice from Public Health England, the House simply cannot conduct votes safely via the lobbies. The hybrid system that was in place was working well for remote participation and voting, committees will continue to operate with this virtual system so why can’t the chamber?  It is crazy to expect MPs to travel from all over Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland into London.  This decision is purely to line up Boris Johnson’s baying MPs behind him in an effort to cover up his shortcomings at the Despatch Box and I will not dance to Johnson’s tune and put my constituents at risk.” A Liberal Democrat MP also fears moves to return MPs to Westminster are premature.  Jamie Stone said he is currently the main carer for his wife, who is disabled, and would normally have assistance. The Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP described the virtual UK Parliament as a "Godsend" and said he has been scrutinising the government online by making speeches and asking questions. Mr Stone also said he had a responsibility to his constituents not to travel to and from London and risk bringing the virus north.

Two Charged After 60-mile Trip to Climb Mountain

Two people broke lockdown restrictions by travelling more than 60 miles (96km) from Glasgow to climb a mountain near Crianlarich, say police.  The 27-year-old man and 23-year-old woman had to be rescued after getting into difficulty on Beinn A' Chroin on Saturday afternoon.  Killin Mountain Rescue Team was called out to help them.  Police Scotland said a man and a woman had been charged in connection with culpable and reckless conduct.  Lockdown restrictions have been eased in Scotland, but people have been asked to travel no further than about five miles for exercise.  Police said the two people had "not been suitably equipped" for the climb. Beinn A' Chroin rises to 942m (3,090ft) and is one of Scotland's Munros, a mountain more than 914.4m (3,000ft) high.  Chief Inspector Gill Marshall, area commander for Stirling, said they had put their own lives and those of their rescuers at risk.  She said: "The regulations remain that people should only leave the house for very limited purposes, for example for basic necessities, for exercise or recreation, for medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done from home.  We recognise that people have made significant sacrifices until now and while the temptation may be to head straight for one of our beauty spots, we would ask people to use their judgement and avoid going to places which are normally busy during the good weather or, in this case, could put individuals' lives at risk.  We want people to enjoy our outdoor spaces safely and exercise should be done locally, not exceeding five miles from your home."

Row Over Cap on English Students At Scottish Universities

Scottish university bosses have hit out after UK ministers capped the number of English students they can enrol.  The UK Westminster government is to impose "student number controls" to prevent "over-recruitment" by some institutions. These controls will also apply to universities in Scotland, meaning they will not be able to increase the intake of English students by more than 6.5%.  And Universities Scotland said it was "wholly unfair on students and student choice" and "disproportionately disadvantages Scotland". English, Welsh and Northern Irish students have to pay tuition fees north of the border, while the Scottish government funds places for students from Scotland and the rest of the EU - for now.  The cap will be enforced by the UK Westminster government which said it would cut the funding available to universities that breach the limit. It has now been confirmed that the cap will apply to English students applying to universities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Universities Scotland said: "The devolved administrations should be removed from this intended legislative change - it is not the role of the UK Westminster government to determine student numbers in Scotland."  Higher education in Scotland is a devolved matter - normally Scottish universities can decide for themselves how many fee-paying students from the rest of the UK to give places to.  The move has also caused anger in the other devolved administrations, with Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams saying she was "deeply concerned" about the UK government's "surprising unwillingness to respect complementary policies in each nation". And Stormont's Economy Minister Diane Dodds said she was "wholly opposed" to the plan, saying she was "shocked and concerned that another jurisdiction is seeking to control student numbers here in Northern Ireland".

Rare Evidence of 5,000-year-old Fabric Discovered in Orkney

Evidence of woven textile from 5,000 years ago has been found for only the second time in Scotland. The piece of Neolithic fabric has not survived, but archaeologists did find the impression it left on the wet clay of a pot millenniums ago.  The discovery was made by archaeologists examining markings on pottery from Ness of Brodgar in Orkney.  Evidence of Neolithic woven textile in Scotland was first found at Flint Howe, near Stranraer, in 1966. An impression of the fabric had also been spotted on a piece of clay. The Orkney find was made by a project started at the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands in 2019.  Organic material from prehistory only survives under certain conditions, and any tools used to make the Orkney fabric have not been found. Ness of Brodgar is the location of a well-preserved and sophisticated complex of stone buildings. The site was built and occupied by people more than 5,000 years ago. Archaeological excavations began at Ness of Brodgar more than 15 years ago and the site covers an area of about six acres (2.5 ha).            

Borders Railway Extension 'More Important Now Than Ever'
Campaigners seeking to extend the Borders Railway have said the scheme is "more important now than ever".  They have said taking the Edinburgh to Tweedbank line on to Carlisle should be a key post-coronavirus project.  Simon Walton, who chairs the group, said such investment was vital if there was to be a "meaningful recovery".  The rail line between the Scottish capital and the Borders opened nearly five years ago.  The CBR saw that as a partial victory but has since lobbied to see the route extended across the border into England.  One part of the multi-million pound Borderlands Growth Deal for southern Scotland and northern England is a study to look at taking the line to Carlisle.  Mr Walton said he believed that after the current cycle of "isolation and immobility" the scheme would have even greater value.  "Bringing communities together, making it more possible to communicate with each other, will be even more important," he said.  "Better connecting the Borders to each other, and to those communities around us, will be recognised for its true worth."  South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said he supported extending the railway but believed the route should run through Langholm as one of the "key towns" on the line.  "The Borders Railway has been a huge success and there is a powerful case for an extension not just as far south as Hawick but beyond to Carlisle," he said.  "Including a stop in Langholm would bring significant benefits to the Eskdale community and a local economy which has suffered a number of economic shocks in recent years."

Plan to Upgrade Fort Augustus-skye Power Line
More than 100 miles (161km) of overhead electricity line between Fort Augustus in the Highlands mainland and Ardmore in Skye is to be replaced. The line, which was built in the 1970s, connects Skye and the Western Isles to the mainland electricity transmission system. Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (Shet) wants to upgrade it.  Among the reasons are the condition of the line and the need to increase its capacity. Shet has notified Highland Council of its proposal and has begun some consultation online.  Coronavirus lockdown restrictions have prevented the holding of public meetings on the project for the time being.

£2.7m Inverness Bridge Set to Open to Pedestrians and Cyclists Later this Month
The north bridge linking Inverness Campus and Inverness Shopping Park was originally due to be completed last summer.  Work halted as it emerged a legal agreement between Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Network Rail and Highland Council had not been finalised.  Contractors returned to the site at the end of last year and have now completed the structure which crosses the main Inverness-Perth railway line.  Ruaraidh Macneil, HIE’s Inverness Campus project director, said it will provide a link to the north end of the campus. “It will improve access to and from the campus by extending the low-carbon travel options that have formed part of the development from the outset,” he added. “We hope to be able to open the bridge to pedestrians and cyclists by the end of June. Following the Covid-19 lockdown, it is expected the bridge will open to buses as part of wider improvements to the public transport network.”  The bridge will not be open to private vehicles.  The installation of the bridge was a key condition set down by the council when it granted planning permission for the campus development in 2011.  It said the structure had to be completed before it would allow more than 50,000 sq m of development on the site.  It will be the second bridge linking the campus with the business and retail park. The Drumrosach bridge at the south end of the site is a popular route used around 2500 times a week by pedestrians and cyclists.

Job Losses As US Medical Research Firm Closes Lab
An American medical research company is closing its Edinburgh testing laboratory with the loss of about 60 jobs. Charles River Laboratories is consulting on closure of the medicines quality test centre at Riccarton, near Heriot-Watt University.  The firm is blaming continuing uncertainty over Brexit.  Some of the jobs being lost are based at its test centre in Tranent, East Lothian. Most of that facility, understood to feature animal testing, will remain open.  A spokeswoman said: "The current transition period resulting from the UK's decision to exit the European Union has caused uncertainty and a disruption to our business".  She declined to say what will happen to seven other plants operated in England by Charles River Laboratories. The trade union Unite Scotland said the job losses, planned over the next year, would be "devastating" for workers at a particularly challenging time.

Congregation's Objections Fail to Stop Industrial Units Going Ahead

Objections from more than 30 members of a church congregation have not been enough to stop seven industrial units getting the go ahead.  Thirty-four objections were sent to East Lothian Council’s planning department in protest against East Lothian Land Ltd’s plans for Tyne Close Industrial Estate.  All bar one of those objections came from congregation members of the neighbouring Holy Trinity Church, which is celebrating its 250th birthday this year.  A dozen different concerns were raised but the proposals were given the green light by the local authority’s planning department.  A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council said: “There is not a set number of objections before an application would be considered at planning committee.  Rather, for a local development type like Tyne Close Industrial Estate, if there is any objection then our standing orders require us to place a report with an intended decision on the council’s weekly scheme of delegation list.  This is issued to members each Thursday, who then have one week to decide whether they are content with our intended decision or whether they require the application to be called off the list.  If the application is called off the list, then it will be decided at the next available meeting of the planning committee.”  However, none of the ward’s four councillors opted to trigger the proposals to be discussed at the planning committee.  Among the objections to the proposals were the “unacceptable levels of noise disturbance” the units would generate, as well as their being “incongruous and intrusive” and that they would “harm the setting of a listed building and negatively impact on Haddington’s conservation area”. However, despite the concerns, the plans were given the go ahead.

Pipers in Doorstep Tribute to WW2's Heroes of St Valery
Pipers across Scotland are to help mark the 80th anniversary of World War Two's Battle of St Valery-en-Caux.  On 12 June 1940, about 10,000 men from the 51st Highland Division were captured at the French seaside town, along with French soldiers. Poppy Scotland has asked pipers and other musicians to play Heroes of St Valery at 10:00 on 12 June on their doorsteps. The music was written by Lewis-born pipe major Donald MacLean.  Mr MacLean had served with the 51st Division and was among the men who survived capture and a forced march to prisoner of war camps in occupied Poland. The fighting at St Valery came a week after thousands of British troops had been evacuated at Dunkirk.  Shinty's Camanachd Association is among organisations supporting Poppy Scotland's call for musicians to take part in next week's commemoration. The association plans to post videos of shinty players playing the pipes.

East Road Round Loch Lomond Closed to Non-local Traffic for Three Weeks

The B837 road on the east side of Loch Lomond is being closed to non-local traffic for three weeks after day-trippers flocked to the beauty spot last weekend.  The move by Stirling Council and Police Scotland to shut the Drymen to Rowardennan road from tomorrow will prevent access to Balmaha.  It comes in response to people flouting the five-mile recreational travel guidance.  Bracklinn Road near Bracklinn Falls in Callander will also be closed to non-local travel for 21 days from tomorrow. Councillor Jim Thomson said: “The message from the Scottish Government came loud and clear last week – don’t flock to rural beauty spots – but people made their own decision to ignore this advice. Those actions impacted our communities and left some people scared to leave their homes. That is unacceptable and we have worked with our partners to put in place robust measures to protect public safety.”

Protest Organisers Defend Plans Despite FM's Plea
Organisers of demonstrations against racism taking place in Edinburgh and Glasgow this weekend have defended their decision to go ahead with events despite First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urging people not to gather for mass protests that may risk spreading coronavirus. Some of the planned Black Lives Matter events have been postponed, while a virtual protest will be held in Aberdeen, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Cynthia Gentle is helping organise a “static demonstration” in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park on Sunday, and is expecting around 1,000 people to attend, in an area that has a capacity for 8,000 with social distancing. “There is lots of room, we are encouraging people to be responsible for their health and of others, not to come if they have symptoms, to wear masks and follow the guidelines,” she told BBC Radio Scotland.  “We are providing a safe space for people to exercise their right to protest."  Barrington Reeves said organisers of an event at Glasgow Green had consulted widely and had sourced sufficient face masks, as well as stewards, first aid, paramedics and police support. We take on board the first minister’s comments but I believe people will protest anyway. If we pulled it now, we would be removing safeguards we have put in place and create a more dangerous situation.”

£250m Funding Boost for Major Infrastructure Projects in Renfrewshire
Renfrewshire has been handed a multi-million pound boost after ambitious plans for major infrastructure projects reached a new milestone. A £250million funding package for the Glasgow City Region Deal has been confirmed in a bid to support jobs and businesses by helping to kick-start the area’s post Covid-19 economic recovery.  Projects taking place in Renfrewshire as part of the City Deal programme include the Clyde Waterfront and Renfrew Riverside project, which aims to create an attractive riverside and urban area that supports existing and promotes new residential, industrial, commercial, business, retail and leisure opportunities.  A new bridge across the River Clyde to link Renfrew with Clydebank is in the pipeline and work will continue on the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland development, next to Glasgow Airport, which includes new cycle routes and pedestrian paths. Eight councils – Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire – will benefit from the City Deal, which is funded by the UK Westminster and Scottish governments. The City Deal update was prompted by formal confirmation to the eight member councils of their successful Gateway Review – the first of three reviews over the 20-year period of the City Deal which unlock funding for key infrastructure projects. The review, carried out by an independent company, recognised significant successes across the City Deal region to date and commended the partners for their focus on delivering inclusive economic growth.

Scottish-based Team Delves Into Mysteries of Blubber

Scottish-based scientists say new ways need to be found to better understand the health of large marine mammals.  The body condition of cetaceans, assessed by measuring blubber reserves, has been used to gauge how well an animal was doing before it died.  But the team of Inverness and Aberdeen-based scientists said this measurement alone could not provide an accurate picture of health.  They said new health markers need to be developed.  In a review of research, they said more information could be gleaned from blubber collected as part of post-mortem examinations of animals that have died after stranding on the UK's coastline. These cetaceans - whales, dolphins and porpoises - offer scientists some of the best opportunities to study the animals.  The Inverness-based Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), which is part of Scotland's Rural College, worked with University of Aberdeen's School of Biological Sciences on the new review.  They said research had shown blubber to be a complex tissue and "energy store" which is composed of "several layers and regions that have different physiological functions".  But the scientists added there was a "gap in knowledge" about blubber and its link to health and its influence on the animals' behaviour, including reproduction.  Dr Andrew Brownlow, of SMASS, said understanding animal health had far reaching implications.  He said: "This work is about developing mechanisms for better understanding health in free-ranging cetaceans, of particular importance given the role of these iconic species as sentinels of environmental change and ecosystem viability.  This is never more important, given the urgent need to understand the impact of multiple stressors, such as underwater noise, chemical pollution and climate change.  This is not just for the sake of our marine species but, as the coronavirus pandemic has starkly demonstrated, also because human health is inexorably tied to the health and resilience of wild populations." The scientist added: "However, assessing health in free-ranging cetaceans is difficult - they are fast, mobile and spend most of the time under the ocean, hence that's where the UK's strandings surveillance programmes can play a role."

£16k of Cocaine and Heroin Seized in Inverness
Cocaine and heroin worth more than £16,000 has been seized by police in Inverness. Thirteen people – 11 men aged between 19 and 63 and two women aged 23 and 28 – will be reported for various drug offences.  In total, drugs with a street value of around £16,500 have been recovered, along with almost £6000 in cash, following searches in the Dalneigh and Merkinch areas.  Detective Inspector Ritchie Macrae said: "Despite the restrictions in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Police Scotland are determined to continue efforts to disrupt the ongoing supply of illegal drugs which often have a significant affect on the most vulnerable members of our community."