Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 559

Issue # 559                                                Week ending Saturday 4th July  2020

I’m Forgiven for Dropping Ice Cubes in the Kitchen. It's Just Water Under the Fridge
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It’s happening. Shops are opening, weddings are being planned. Love’s in the air. If Scotland follows the UK example, however, there will also be no screechy singing or Dad dancing allowed. Aw, Nicola. Don’t do that. I am keen to get back to dancing at weddings. I need the exercise because I may have put on a bit of weight recently. To be fair, I’ve had a lot on my plate.

New rules for weddings are starting in England so you can be sure that they will be here in just a few weeks. No food or drink. Wot? That’s not a wedding. No more than 30 guests. That’s just a house party. I’m kidding. It’s fine as it will keep the cost down in these unprecedented times. There, I said it. I knew that would slip out sometime soon. I reckon more couples will think of this matrimony lark if they can cut the cost from £10,000 to £500. I certainly would - if I was in the market for that sort of thing, of course.

These new wedding rules make us all think back to when our own love was fresh and new. Right now, Mrs X is very quiet and is silently bubbling. She must be thinking of our special day all those years ago. Either that or she’s making French onion soup again.

Before exchanging rings, couples will have to wash their hands and rub them together really hard. Not the rings, their hands. Bring loads of sanitizer, they say. Imagine going to a wedding and squirting more alcohol on your hands than you pour in your mouth? Ochan ochan, changed days indeed. We may even have more weddings outside. Good. My hay fever is not so bad nowadays. Anyone else miss having hard, crusty sleeves?

Will the rules immediately change when people get hitched? At the moment, you’re not allowed near anyone who doesn’t live in the same house as you. Instead of kissing, will they blow kisses? Or air hugs like the luvvies in Absolutely Fabulous and in certain parts of Garrabost? “Mwah dahling,” one purrs enticingly, while the other tries to catch the air-blown kiss and growls: “Haoi darrrling. Do that again and stop looking at my brother this time.” It could cause mayhem.

Newlyweds can forget that hand-rubbing rule, possibly. They can rub anything they want to - like noses, lips and bumps they want to keep out of sight. Another thing is that wedding ceremonies are to be kept to just the legal bits. How on earth can certain ministers manage if they can’t threaten trembling couples with eternal damnation? Good, I say. Don’t hang about. Get hitched and get out.

Do your talking while you’re walking. Now who’s got the carry-out, hic? More Special Brew, Reverend Macdonald?

Singing loudly is now to be strongly discouraged as is blowing wind. Fine. I have my way to do that sneakily so no one hears. Oh, they mean wind instruments? Like bagpipes. Hurray, they’re just a horrendous racket anyway. Only one person will be allowed to sing or chant. Screens may be installed to protect everyone. From what? Virus-laden droplets, bad breath and the terrible voices - like fingernails down a blackboard.

Singers, nobody tells you that you are that awful but, if you sing at weddings, that could be you. Don’t get paranoid, just pack it in.

Have you heard of the UK Government guidance on changing wedding layouts? Traditional romantic face-to-face encounters may be banned and face masks worn. Couples may even have to stand back-to-back - like fighting a duel. That usually comes five years later. If masks are worn and you can’t see who you’re marrying, that could be dodgy. Lewis people could end up marrying a Hearach guest by mistake. Catastrophic.

Soppy Mrs X decided the lockdown was a chance for her to reconnect with nature. Planting seeds in two pots, she has waited for the emergence of the green shoots of recovery. For weeks, nothing happened in that kitchen window. The expected Cactus and Peace Lily looked like they were going to be a dead loss. Maybe she was not giving them enough water. Maybe not enough sun here. What a shame.

The other morning. I was just about to flip my smoked mackerel when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Green shoots - in both pots. Wow. I shouted herself to come and witness this miracle of new beginnings. She was so excited she leapt down the stairs and promptly wet her plants.

She certainly has a softer side, although I don’t see it often nowadays. I remember when she got her first mobile phone. We had not long been married and she was still quite soppy. She sent me a text at work which said: “If you're sleeping, send me your dreams. If you're laughing, send me your smile. If you're eating, send me a bite. If you're drinking, send me a sip. If you're crying, send me your tears.”  I replied: “That’s nice. I’m on the toilet. Please advise.”

Glasgow Stabbings: Concerns Over Asylum Hotel Plan Ahead of Incident
The mass stabbings in a Glasgow hotel have once again brought the treatment of asylum seekers into focus.  Charities and MPs have raised concerns over living conditions in city centre hotels, where asylum seekers were moved when lockdown was imposed.  On Friday, six people were injured and the suspect shot dead during the incident at the Park Inn Hotel.Of the injured, three were asylum seekers, two were hotel staff and one was a police officer. In 2018 Glasgow was the UK local authority with the most dispersed asylum seekers, according to the House of Commons Library.  The data suggested in the year to June 2019, Glasgow took in more than 4,000.  More than 150 other UK local authorities did not house a single asylum seeker.  The Home Office currently provides free, fully-furnished accommodation to asylum seekers while applications are being considered.  It is a matter reserved to the UK Westminster government and in September 2019 a new provider, Mears Group, was contracted by the Home Office to provide housing and support services to asylum seekers in Scotland.  Since the lockdown was imposed many, who formerly lived in flats in the city, were moved into hotels closed because of the Covid-19 restrictions.  One was the Park Inn Hotel where the stabbings took place on Friday. Its 91 rooms held about 100 asylum seekers. The Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) has expressed repeated concern about the use of hotel accommodation for people in the asylum system.  Following a briefing from Mears on Thursday, the day before the stabbings, the chief executive of SRC, Sabir Zazai said: "People were moved into hotels without formally assessing people's individual needs and vulnerabilities.  It is unacceptable and almost certainly a breach of the asylum accommodation contract that these assessments were not conducted.  This caused pregnant women, children, trafficking survivors and people with mental health problems to be moved to the hotels. Vulnerability assessments, even during a public health crisis, cannot be skipped."  After the stabbings, many of the Park Inn residents were moved to alternative accommodation in the city, but an asylum seeker charity, Positive Action in Housing (PAiH) said they had been asked to sign new leases, without the aid of an interpreter.  In a tweet the charity said: "New leases given to asylum seekers from the Park Inn Hotel Glasgow Frightened people, many who don't speak English were told to sign lease terms and conditions without interpreters present."  Mears referred requests for comment to the Home Office, who in-turn referred the BBC to Police Scotland.  But the company said it was deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic events in the heart of Glasgow.  In a statement on its website it said: "We will provide more details as we are able to and our priority is to look after the welfare of our service users who will no doubt be traumatised by this terrible event. Tonight, we also think of the staff in the hotel and our colleagues at the scene - all are in our thoughts."  Mears took over the contract in Glasgow following controversy about its predecessor Serco.  Mears said while people may still be forced to leave their homes as a consequence of Home Office decisions, it pledged to follow court due process in all cases. It had planned to move all those in hotel accommodation back into flats by the end of June. The MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss said questions must be asked about the way asylum seekers were being housed in the city.  She told the BBC: "In general, there has been a lot of concern raised by myself and my colleagues about the conditions people have been living in in these city centre hotels.  The accommodation provider moved asylum seekers from the flats they were living in around the city and brought them all into hotels in the city centre at the start of lockdown.  So people have now been living in these hotels for several months, and those who were already quite vulnerable have been finding that quite difficult."

Taskforce is Put in Place for the Western Isles

A population taskforce to stop the Islands emptying out following the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been set up by the Scottish Government.  The population of the Western Isles was already expected to decline pre-Covid by 20 per cent by 2041 and this tidal wave of people moving from the Island chain to the UK mainland in search of quality jobs and career opportunities is expected to be exacerbated by the current pandemic.  This economic and depopulation cliff-edge was raised by Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan at a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament last week.  The Islands MSP, asked: “There is an obvious concern that the economic impact of the pandemic will exacerbate the long-standing trend of island depopulation. Recession tends to result in working-age families moving to the mainland in search of work.  If that happens, the islands could take a long time to recover demographically.  Can the cabinet secretary say more about whether the Government will commit to ensuring that an assessment of that issue is made, and that all interventions will be considered?”  Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism (Fergus Ewing) said: “The impacts of Covid-19 on the Western Isles have been substantial; in particular, the impact on tourism on those islands has been devastating. The Scottish Government is working hard to address those matters.”  Mr Ewing highlighted that this had been demonstrated through the government’s introduction of the road equivalent tariff and policies including delivery under the croft grant scheme of 1,000 homes, many of which have been built in his constituency. He continued: “Our concern is that impacts on population pre-Covid were expected to lead to a 20 per cent decline in population by 2041.  There is now an even greater need to consider the issues, so a population task force has been established to do just that.”  The taskforce will be made up of Scottish Government ministers and will initially be in place for one year to establish the government’s approach on population change.  After a year there will be a review of its activity and remit.  The initial remit of the taskforce will be to establish a ‘programme’ of current and new activity to deliver a cohesive approach to population policy. It will be looking at areas such as the impact of population change on rural, remote and island communities, as well as the population shift from west to east with a view to identifying policy options.  An Advisory Group report on the national economic recovery, commissioned by the Scottish Government, was also published this week.  Among its recommendations is a key point for the Islands: “The economic development landscape in Scotland should pivot to a more regionally focused model in order to address the specific new challenges of economic recovery.  This model should be tasked to drive delivery of place-based and regional solutions, especially the City-Region Growth Deals.”

US Tariffs Causing More Damage to Scots Whisky Industry Than Covid-19

American import tariffs on Scottish single malt are having a bigger impact on the whisky industry than the coronavirus lockdown, sector leaders have warned MPs.  Scots Whisky Association (SWA) chief executive Karen Betts said the economic fallout from a trade war between the EU and the US was greater than the hit from Covid-19, with distillers now fearing the dispute could deepen and rumble on into 2021.  Washington imposed a 25% tariff on single malt in October last year in an escalating row over subsidies between aircarft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus. Appeals from the UK Westminster government, including a personal intervention from Boris Johnson with Donald Trump, have failed to get the measures eased. Ms Betts said that in the first six months after the tariffs were imposed, exports to the US – the largest and most valuable foreign market for Scotch whisky – fell by a quarter. In April, the first full month under the coronavirus lockdown, exports fell by nearly half, potentially putting thousands of jobs in rural Scotland at risk.  If we can’t resolve this US tariff issue, it is a more strategic threat to the industry than Covid is, because there’s a risk that we start to lose longer-term market share that takes a very long time to win back,” Ms Betts told MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee.  The SWA chief executive told MPs that the coronavirus outbreak had also delayed a World Trade Organisation judgement on an appeal from the EU in the Boeing-Airbus dispute, which had been expected in May but would now not be issued before September.  “What that means is that a really substantive negotiation between the EU and the US on the Airbus-Boeing dispute is not going to happen before the US elections,” Ms Betts said. “If this tariff cannot be resolved this summer we’re looking at having it in place probably for at least another six months. That’s really concerning.”  The Office of the US Trade Representative also announced on Wednesday that it will undertake the first six-monthly review of the tariffs already imposed under the Boeing-Airbus dispute. “We think that they could make some substantial revisions,” Ms Betts said. “They could raise the tariffs on single malt. They could bring in a tariff on blended whiskey. They’ve also got some other new UK products on the list, including gin. It’s important to note that 70 per cent of gin produced in the UK is produced in Scotland.”

Find Out Why this Man is the 'King' of His Street
Hailed by their neighbours as the gardening “King and Queen”, a Peebles couple have spent decades transforming the grass verges on their street into an attractive wildlife haven.  ‘If you want something done right, do it yourself’ – an age-old adage that was brought to life by Brian Elliot and his wife Lynne.  When Scottish Borders Council stopped cutting the steep grass banking outside his home, he and his neighbour Billy Duncan rolled up their sleeves and got on with the job.  That was 20 years ago, and Billy has since moved, but green- fingered Brian continues to develop the plantation garden, with many comparing it to the beauty of Dawyck’s botanical garden. If the display were in the running at the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show, judges would go wild for the attractive shrubs and nectar-rich flowers, which grab the attention of bees and butterflies.  But Kingsway’s Monty Don has not only created a garden that is pleasing to the eye, he has also built a home for wildlife. “Over the years I’ve planted a variety of shrubs, trees and bushes and flowers and put bark down," he said.  "It’s a great habitat for insects which encourages birds.  We get lots of butterflies, bees and it’s a wee haven for hedgehogs.  It’s just lovely hearing the birds singing and the bees buzzing."  The 72-year-old says his nature reserve is appreciated by many in the town. Having created the garden and maintained it for 20 years, we asked Brian if it is a labour of love.  He laughed: “I don’t like gardening – it’s a chore. At least that’s what I tell people when they stop to speak.  Neighbours and locals passing by do appreciate it, which makes it worthwhile.”  The garden, which spans over 60 metres, hasn’t cost Brian an arm and a leg – just his big toe!  “It was 10 years ago. I’d just come back from holiday and had my sandals on.  I went out to cut the grass and slipped down the banking and cut off my big toe,” he explained.    “It was my own stupid fault. I should’ve put my safety boots on. I learned a valuable lesson that day.”  Brian’s efforts were recognised in 2016 when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Peebles in Bloom.  You could call Brian the king of ‘ungardening’. Rather than creating a controlled environment with a perfectly manicured lawn full of chemicals and pesticides, he has brought back the beauty of wilderness and reversed the ecological decline.  He has built a home for the local wildlife which has Peebles residents and birds singing in symphony.

Honour for Woman Who Tended Ww2 Graves for 70 Years
A woman who has tended to the graves of Indian soldiers killed while training in the Highlands in World War Two has been honoured in her home village.  Isobel Harling, 97, has looked after the graves in Kingussie, in the Cairngorms, for more than 70 years.  A service was held to celebrate her awarding of the British Empire Medal (BEM).  She was recommended for the medal because of her dedication to the war graves and also charitable work.  The Army in Scotland and Royal British Legion Scotland have helped to organise the small service, taking place at the war memorial in Kingussie. Mrs Harling attended with her daughter Gaynol.  Social distancing was adhered to and the event was live streamed so family and friends living in other parts of the UK and also New Zealand and Norway could watch.  Mrs Harling, who served with the Women's Royal Naval Service during the war, began tending to the nine graves when she was in her 20s.  The soldiers served in Force K6, a Muslim transport corps who rode mules and delivered supplies to front-lines. They died while in the Highlands for training.  The youngest of the nine men was Mushtaq Ahmad, who was only 21-years-old when he was killed in action on 19 October 1942. The oldest in the group was Ali Bahadur, who died aged 38.  Mrs Harling lost a brother in the war when he his aircraft was shot down over Leuven in Belgium. Her own loss influenced her dedication to the graves of the Indian soldiers.  For many years, Mrs Harling tended the graves herself. Later, with help from a local gravedigger, she spent years cutting the grass, placing flowers on the graves and keeping the cemetery tidy.  Her volunteer work with Royal British Legion Scotland has also seen her help raise thousands of pounds for the care of every war grave and war memorial in her home area of Badenoch and Strathspey. Mrs Harling's BEM was announced in the Queen's New Year's Honours list in December.

'People Risking Lives' At Devil's Pulpit Beauty Spot
Public access to a beauty spot has been temporarily blocked amid safety concerns.  Finnich Glen - also known as the Devil's Pulpit - has been used for scenes in TV series Outlander and The Nest, and the film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  Stirling Council said it had taken action to close the site because of cars being parked dangerously nearby.  It said there had also been problems with rubbish being left in the glen.  Stirling Council has also restricted the B837 at Drymen and Bracklin Road in Callander to local access only, and prevented parking at Dalvey Road in Callander due to the dangerous parking of cars. Danny Gibson, the local authority's vice convener said the recent easing of lockdown restrictions was welcomed but added "it's not open season". He said: "Our car parks are still closed, our public toilets are still closed and it's clear there is no infrastructure to handle the influx of people at rural beauty spots like Finnich Glen.  People are risking their lives, and the lives of others, by abandoning their cars on corners and bad bends, then leaving all their rubbish behind for someone else to clear up.  It is an utterly disgraceful set of circumstances and we have been left with no choice but to take action to protect public safety."

Glasgow Considers 'One-way System' for Shopping Streets
Signs to encourage pedestrians to walk on one side of the road could be introduced on Scotland's busiest shopping streets.  Glasgow City Council is working on plans which could see them temporarily put in place on Buchanan Street and other city centre pedestrian precincts.  The idea is to encourage walkers to stay on the left hand side of the street as far as possible. The system would reassure pedestrians and make social distancing easier.  A similar idea is already in place in Cardiff City Centre.  By directing the flow of pedestrians, it could be easier to get around and maintain social distancing: people would not be trying to move out of the way of someone approaching or stopping to let them go past.  The hope is the signs would also work alongside the queuing measures put up by some shops. Pedestrians would be encouraged to stay on the left-hand side and only cross over to other side if they had to. Council officers are still working on the details of the scheme which is still at an early stage. Non-essential shops in Scotland reopened on Monday and shopping centres should fully reopen in a fortnight.  On Monday and Tuesday there were significant queues outside a few shops - notably Primark in Argyle Street where the queue stretched round the corner.  Social distancing means queues are longer: partly because of restrictions on the number who can go inside a shop and partly because the people queuing are trying to stay apart.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to speak about social distancing and whether it may be relaxed later this week.  Retail plays a vital role in Glasgow's economy - the city centre has been cited by some as the best shopping area in the UK outside London.  It sustains jobs but also brings in visitors.  But there has been concern in recent years about a rise in the number of empty units - especially on Sauchiehall Street.  Retailers and the council hope that by making the shopping areas seem as safe and welcoming as possible, customers will continue to return and there would be less risk of the pandemic causing lasting harm to the city's retailers and the city centre itself.  Nationally, there is concern that the past three months will add to the decline of traditional shopping areas. Some retailers have closed, some shoppers have gone online and there is a worry that fears of a lasting economic downturn will put people off spending.  The proposals for "directed traffic" on pedestrian streets would complement other moves taken in the city to help maintain social distancing.  The council has introduced additional cycle lanes temporarily and cut the number of parking spaces.  Any signs to direct pedestrians would only be there until restrictions on social distancing were removed.

Fly-tippers Criticised As Aberdeen Lifeboat Finds Fridge Freezers At Sea
Fly-tippers have been criticised after an Aberdeen lifeboat callout to reports of wreckage ended with two fridge freezers being found at sea.  The lifeboat crew was called to water off Cove on Tuesday night.  The fridge freezers were taken on board.  Coxswain Davie Orr said: "Whoever dumped these showed a casual disregard for the environment, sea safety and also caused a significant waste of search and rescue funds and resources."  He explained "Fridges float, and can drift a long way. These two items could easily have holed a small vessel and caused a real emergency at sea. Our crew also had to break from social-distancing rules to attend the call, with the associated risks.  The fridges were bulky and awkward to bring on deck but needed to be recovered to avoid another incident. We will always be ready to respond to any report of concern for safety at sea, but we hope the lesson of tonight will strike home."

Coronavirus in Scotland - Cross-border Cluster As Death Rate Falls
National Records of Scotland figures say 35 deaths were linked to Covid-19 in the seven days to 28 June.  The figure is down 14 on the previous week, and is the ninth weekly reduction in a row.  The total number of weekly deaths has fallen below the five-year average for the first time since March.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says the figures show that "real and sustained" progress is being made. A cross-border "cluster" of cornavirus cases between Dumfries and Galloway and England is being investigated, with nine cases in the Gretna and Annan area  confirmed Prof Jason Leitch.  The cross-border "cluster" of coronavirus cases around Dumfries and the north west of England "continues to illustrate the challenge we face with this virus", according to Scotland's national clinical director.  Professor Jason Leitch goes went on to say: "This will be, unfortunately, the new normal, for a little while, of these outbreaks and containing them."  NHS Dumfries and Galloway confirmed there had been nine new cases of Covid-19 in the Gretna and Annan areas since Monday.  Prof Leitch says if the group of positive cases can be contained and contact and trace works as it should, then "you can close down that cluster without too much more trouble".  The danger is if the contacts can't be traced then potentially something more severe might have to be done, he adds.  Prof Leitch hopes that will not happen and he says the incident management team on both sides of the border is meeting now and he is confident the process will work.  The national clinical director stresses that people must organise a test if they have the symptoms and tell the truth regarding their movements, so that their contacts can be traced to close down the chain of transmission.  John Pagani, who runs the Café Royal in Annan, only recently reopened his business after it was shut for seven weeks. He has strict hygiene and social distancing measures in place, such as temperature checks for staff.  He said: "It is a very worrying development.  I have noticed an increase in the number of customers from England over the last week or so and customers say Carlisle is pretty much business as usual now.  We obviously don't know where the outbreak started, and the last thing I want to say to any customer is you're not welcome, but it shows you how complicated this is.  All we can do is stick to our own plan for social distancing and hygiene and hope they can trace all the cases."  Prof Leitch said contact tracing had "already begun".  "Incidents like this reinforce the importance of our test and protect model quickly identifying potential clusters and identifying contacts," he said.  NHS Dumfries and Galloway said it was monitoring the situation "very closely" and would provide updates as the situation developed.  It said a mobile testing unit would be made available for anyone experiencing symptoms.  Valerie White, interim director of public health, said: "These new cases are a clear reminder of the challenges we face in learning to live with Covid-19.  As we move out of lockdown we are very likely to see areas of localised outbreak. Our test and protect system is designed to identify cases and their contacts and provide advice and support to individuals in relation to self isolating for the required period.  That is why everyone must continue to stay alert, get a test if they have symptoms, and self isolate."  Annandale South councillor Henry McClelland said he had first heard about the cases on Tuesday.  "We are absolutely horrified, we have been doing so well here in Dumfries and Galloway keeping the numbers really low," he said.  "I think it is a very timely reminder. We are so close to Carlisle and I am seeing so many notices on social media about people going to Carlisle this weekend for a drink, the pubs are reopening.  This is surely a timely reminder that we have got to take this seriously - it hasn't gone away."

Caithness Kids Cycle and Run for Dementia Fundraiser

A group of children in Wick and Canisbay have raised well over £2000 towards charity by cycling and running in their local areas. The six kind-hearted kids – Abbie and Sophie Gunn, Maya and Corey Macleod, Joanna Shearer and Alyssa Gunn – signed up to do either 100 miles of cycling or 100 miles of running over the month of June for Alzheimer’s Society United Against Dementia.  Joanna lives in Canisbay so did her challenge there but all the others completed the 100 miles of cycling or running in and around Wick. Four other friends also signed up to the online charity fundraiser to support the six. Abbie and Sophie's mum Katy Malcolm said this afternoon: "Today they completed their final cycle/run and have raised £2294 at the moment with more donations due in. "They also held a raffle too which is included in the above total. They’ve done so well raising an amazing amount for charity."  Proud Katy said that Abbie, Maya, Corey and Joanna finished the final cycle all at once yesterday to complete the 100-mile challenge. Sophie and Alyssa finished went out running for an hour yesterday to finish their month of fundraising.

Police Injured by Axeman in Asda Supermarket in Glenrothes

Two police officers have been injured and a car damaged by a man wielding an "axe" at an Asda store in Fife.  The incident happened at about 08:00 when two customers were said to be in a dispute at the Queensgate industrial estate supermarket in Glenrothes.  One man left the store and returned with the weapon before police arrived and arrested him.  No members of the public were injured. A 40-year-old man is due to appear at Falkirk Sheriff Court on Thursday.  An Asda spokesman praised the store manager for closing the door as the man left, moving people towards the storeroom while waiting for the police.  Insp Kirk Donnelly, of Police Scotland, said: "We can confirm a 40-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection with a disturbance at an Asda supermarket, Queensgate industrial estate, around 8.15am on Wednesday July 1.  The man was found to be in possession of an offensive weapon, but I would like reassure the public that there is no threat to the wider community. A police car was damaged while the suspect was apprehended and officers received minor injuries.  "No members of the public were injured and I would like to thank them for their assistance with this incident."

Scottish and UK Westminster Ministers in 'Air Bridges' Row

The quarantine rules are due to be relaxed in England - but not Scotland.  UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he hopes the Scottish government will agree to relaxing quarantine rules for some overseas travellers.  People arriving in England from more than 50 countries including Spain, Italy and France, will no longer have to isolate from 10 July.  However Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have not agreed to the proposals.  Scottish ministers have said they are concerned about the plan and frustrated at the way it has been handled.  But the boss of two of Scotland's leading airports has warned failure to adopt a four nations approach will put further jobs at risk  Most travellers arriving in the UK currently have to isolate for 14 days but the Department for Transport has confirmed that the rules will change for England from next week.  It is due to publish a full list of exempt countries posing a "reduced risk" from coronavirus later.  The Foreign Office is also changing its advice against all but essential travel to a number of countries from Saturday.  Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said he had been given 30 minutes to look at a list of countries under consideration for "air bridges" before being asked to make a decision on Wednesday night. He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme the Scottish government wanted to take a "four nations" approach and he asked for more time consider the issue.  "It just makes sense for the devolved administration... that we take our time to look at the public health impact this will possibly have on our own country and come to a quick and swift decision, which is what we're quite keen to do.  "And therefore it's quite disappointing that we haven't been given the courtesy of working together on that four nations approach."  Mr Yousaf said the prevalence point - the estimated proportion of the population currently infectious - of the virus in Scotland was 0.037 while in England it was "five times higher".  There's some countries that may not be as high-risk as England or a lower risk than England but, clearly, coming into Scotland, if they are a higher risk - France, Italy, Spain all have a higher prevalence point than Scotland does - then clearly that's going to have a different potential impact in Scotland than it does in England," he added.  "If our chief medical officer's advice is such that the impact could be really negative in relation to the progress that we are making, then ultimately we will have to take a different approach but it's not something I would do lightly."  In the Commons earlier this week, Grant Shapps called on the Scottish government to "get on board" with the establishment of air bridges so the UK Westminster government could "get this thing announced".  Speaking to the BBC on Friday, he said there was still time for the devolved nations to join the plans.  "Remember this isn't changing until the 10 July so there's still an opportunity for them to do that and they may well," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we see countries come on board.  I very much hope we can do this as four nations at the same time I think that would very much simplify it for people but they will need to make that decision themselves."  Meanwhile, Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports - which owns Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports - said regional variations will endanger livelihoods.  He added: "Having a piecemeal approach will compound the devastating impact the blanket quarantine measures have had on our aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors. People are rightly concerned for their health, however, they're also fearful for their jobs. This isn't just about people being able to go on a summer holiday, it's about safely re-establishing the routes that drive trade and investment."

Gaelic Language in 'Crisis' in Island Heartlands
Gaelic-speaking island communities could vanish within 10 years unless language policies are changed dramatically, according to a new study.  Researchers said daily use of Gaelic was too low in its remaining native island areas to sustain it as a community language in the future. They have called for a shift away from institutional policies to more community-based efforts. The study surveyed Gaelic communities in the Western Isles, Skye and Tiree.  The Scottish government said Gaelic was a vital part of Scotland's cultural identity and it was interested in the proposals set out in the new study.  The research - published in a book called The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community: A comprehensive sociolinguistic survey of Scottish Gaelic - has been described as the most comprehensive social survey conducted on the state of Gaelic communities.  Researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Language Sciences Institute and Soillse, a multi-institutional research collaboration, carried out the study.  They said the main findings suggested the language was in crisis, and that within remaining vernacular communities of Scotland, the social use and transmission of Gaelic was "at the point of collapse".  But the research also suggested there had been some success with national policy on Gaelic, such as increasing the number of pupils in Gaelic medium education. Prof Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, of UHI, said there were "immense challenges" involved in reversing the ongoing decline in the use of Gaelic in its island heartlands.  "Our statistical evidence indicates that the Gaelic vernacular community is comprised of around 11,000 people, of which a majority are in the 50 years and over age category," he said. "The decline of the Gaelic community, as especially shown in the marginal practice of Gaelic in families and among teenagers, indicates that without a community-wide revival of Gaelic, the trend towards the loss of vernacular Gaelic will continue."  He added: "We found a mismatch between current Gaelic policies and the level of crisis among the speaker group which must be addressed to face the urgency of the language loss in the islands.  The primary focus of Gaelic policy should now be on relevant initiatives to avert the loss of vernacular Gaelic."  Iain Caimbeul, a research fellow at UHI's Language Sciences Institute, said: "We hope this research will be valuable to those interested in seeking to shift public policy assumptions from a sole dependence on the school system for creating the next generation of fluent Gaelic speakers. It is vital that we change the basis for allocating resources to protect against further decline." The Scottish government said it supported efforts to improve the use of Gaelic.  A spokeswoman said: "We are interested in the proposals in the book and look forward to discussing the value of current initiatives and the new structures suggested to strengthen Gaelic in the islands.  Although the Gaelic language is in a fragile condition there are a range of policies and interventions in place to promote the learning, speaking and use of Gaelic in the islands and these are constantly kept under review."

Last Updated (Saturday, 04 July 2020 01:10)