Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 562

Issue # 562                                              Week ending Saturday 25th July  2020

Order. Order. Will John Bercow Be Able to Keep A Bunch of Celebs in Line on St Kilda? by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

We just can’t help it. When we see someone looking up, we wonder what they’re looking at. Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a crick in the neck? This week, herself is staring skywards, late in the evening. Then I heard her saying we should head out into the moor. I thought she wondered if she can see anything like Hayley. Hayley? What is she on about? Hayley Cropper is no longer in Coronation Street. Roy Cropper is a widower.

It turns out she was actually talking about Halley’s Comet. Her thick Plasterfield accent confused me. Halley won’t be back until 2061, round about the time of indyref2 at the rate we’re going, but another comet is somewhere over the Minch as we speak. It’s called NEOWISE C/2020 F3. Why? There is a space telescope up there called a WISE, which is a Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer. That’s the WISE bit.

Ten years ago it started to look for comets, known as Near Earth Objects or NEO. A few months ago the telescope found a new comet called C/2020 F3. No, I don’t know what the F3 stands for and I am not sure I care. I have only one life and only 850 words. You look it up. The point is that it is swooping over the UK this week and should be close, in comet terms, tomorrow evening. It will only be 64 million miles away. It’s a bit far for a tank of unleaded but take the chance because it is not expected to be back for 6,800 years. Surely indyref2 will be done by then.

More Sassennachs may also be about to descend on us from the skies. As yon virus thing is still on the go, I’m a Celebrity ... may be in Scotland this year and not the Australian jungle. It is traditional to helicopter them in and even chuck them out at 2,000 feet to parachute down. If it’s true that Mark Labbett is to be on the show, he will not be dangling under any silk canopy. He is The Beast from the TV quiz show The Chase and up until last year weighed 27 stone.

Even though he lost a few stones, Mark would still make a big hole in Taransay, Little Bernera or whichever wee Outer Hebridean islet they decide on. My money is on St Kilda.

If you are a queasy type or are scoffing lunch, even a slice of black pudding or a slab of duff, finish it now before you read the next bit. These witchetty grubs, like whopping, white, wriggling, wrinkly maggots are what Ant and Dec love to see going down the throats of highly-paid quivering unfortunates in these so-called bush tucker trials. What could we make them force down the hatch? Uncooked crabs? Black pudding?

What about earthworms? Plenty in the rich soil of Little Bernera. I ate a worm once for a promise of a Lucky Bag and some Liquorice Allsorts. It was when I was 10 and I remember that I suffered a wretched earache the following day. When my father teased that it was the worm trying to get out, sheer panic seized me. I began banging my head against the byre wall to dislodge Willie Worm. Crash, wallop. I’ve not been right since. Now, it’s custard. Throughout lockdown, Mrs X and I discovered a passion that was deep down and almost forgotten ... for the yellow stuff.

Much of what we bought - from cakes, biscuits, bananas and other exotic fruit - we would place them on the kitchen table, look at each other and come out in unison with the well-worn phrase of cash-strapped mothers in the 1960s - “That would be nice with custard”. And it dashed well was. We gobbled gallons of the stuff since Boris locked us down. Custard got us through lockdown and I would go into that Australian jungle if I had a few tins of Bird’s Custard.

Witchetty is not a bug. It’s just the name of a bush that these grubs in Australia nibble the roots of. The grubs themselves are not actually that exotic being just an Aussie name for moth larvae as found in the Australian jungle and, judging by the number of white stinky balls I found in our wardrobe years ago, the west side of Lewis too. With rumours that former Commons speaker John Bercow could be a campmate, he may be one I would love to see have his fill of them. Let’s see you bring that lot to order.

I have been really enthused by the arrival of comet NEOWISE. When I heard about it coming, I went out and bought by own space telescope so I could scan the heavens. It is not that good though and I have only seen a couple of things. Now the supplier wants me to give feedback on my new purchase and to rate it out of five. Honesty is the best policy. I shall tell them I am disappointed. Two stars.

Scottish Churches Hold First Sunday Services Since March
Sunday church services are taking place in Scotland for the first time since the lockdown began in March. Places of worship were allowed to open for communal prayer and services on Wednesday as the Scottish government eased more lockdown restrictions.  However, numbers are limited to 50, singing and chanting will be restricted and those attending will be asked for their contact details.  Separate rules are still in place for marriage ceremonies and funerals.  Many places of worship have been live streaming services for the last few months. The Scottish government said its new guidance was not an "instruction" to reopen places of worship, adding: "Each place of worship should make its own decision about when it is ready to do this and should only reopen if this can be done safely."  The Church of Scotland said it would be "some time" before all its buildings were open for worship. The church is also encouraging all congregation members to wear face masks.  The Very Reverend Dr John Chalmers, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said the church had lessons to learn from "life in lockdown". Writing in the church's magazine, Life And Work, he said: "Across the whole Church of Scotland from the most rural parish to the most ancient cathedral, from our presbyteries to our central offices, we have been offered a tantalising glimpse of a very different kind of church. One in which we have discovered that we are not as reliant on buildings as we thought we were and it is one in which we are able, online, to reach a constituency that has been missing from our pews for generations.  So, as we emerge slowly from this great difficulty, we need to make it a prayer that across the church we build on the lessons we have learned and do not slip back into old ways."  The President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert said Catholic parishes would be resuming the celebration of Mass with "infection control protocols" in place. "Over the past month, our parishes have been preparing for the safe resumption of communal prayer and the celebration of Mass, which is at the centre of the life of the church," he said. To have been unable to attend Mass for many months has been a source of real sadness for Scotland's Catholics and I am sure there will be great joy at the prospect of returning." The Scottish Episcopal Church has also been opening its buildings for communal worship after the restrictions were eased.  In a video address to worshippers, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Right Reverend Mark Strange, said he wanted to address the concerns and anxieties of those coming to church.  "Some things will be different but ultimately we're there for the same reason we always have been - to give worship and praise to God," he said.

Islanders on Eigg Ask Tourists to Stay Away
Residents on the Isle of Eigg have asked visitors not to come to the island until September. Tourism has been opened up across the rest of Scotland, but islanders said they wanted to protect "elderly and vulnerable" residents.  The ferry also has reduced capacity and the islanders say priority must be given to tradespeople and islanders wishing to visit loved ones. The island, part of the Small Isles, has a population of about 110.  A statement on the island's website said this combination of factors meant it was not ready to welcome day or overnight tourists. "We know many people want to come to Eigg this summer, but sadly, for the moment, we ask you not to come," the statement said.  "We are a remote and geographically isolated community with both elderly and vulnerable residents. We have worked hard to ensure the health and wellbeing of all our residents since the beginning of this pandemic." The website stated it was a difficult decision which had been "agonised over". Islanders said they had worked hard to try to put all the necessary physical distancing and hygiene measures in place.  "However, after looking at how to balance the large number of people who want to come to Eigg against what we are able to do within government guidance, the community has decided we are not able to welcome any day or overnight tourists (including campers) to Eigg at the moment," the statement said.  All accommodation and visitor facilities on the island will remain closed until 31 August, but the decision will be "reviewed regularly".  The island is reachable by ferry from Mallaig and the service already has a limited capacity because of physical distancing measures.  The small isles of Rum, Eigg, Canna and Muck are south of Skye.  Eigg has been owned by a local community trust since 1997.

This is How Much Smoking Levels Have Declined in Fife
Smoking rates have fallen in Fife – meaning the area is below the national average.  The Office for National Statistics estimates 13.6% of adults in Fife smoked in 2019. Smoking rates have fallen in the area from 2018, when 15.0% of those aged 18 and over lit up.
The ONS estimates a further 28.6% of adults have quit smoking in Fife, with the remaining 57.8% saying they had never done so.   Women were more likely to smoke than men – 13.9% of females were smokers, compared to 13.3% of males.  Throughout the UK, the proportion of smokers has fallen every year since 2011, reaching a record low of 14.1% in 2019. Scotland saw the biggest drop of all four UK countries, down from 16.3% to 15.4% – but there are still around 638,000 smokers in the country.  Campaign group, Action on Smoking Health Scotland, welcomed the reports, but said their job is not done yet.  Sheila Duffy, chief executive, said: "We welcome any reports that suggest smoking rates have decreased. If we see this decline over a few years, we will be even more delighted."  The Scottish Government has set a target of creating a tobacco-free generation by 2034, aiming for smoking rates of 5% or less among the adult population.

Joyful Reunions in NHS Grampian Hospitals
There have been many joyful reunions in hospital wards this week across Grampian as visiting is gradually phased back in.  Since Monday, July 13, designated visitors have been allowed to arrange times, by appointment, to see those being cared for in north-east hospitals. Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, the paediatric ward at Dr Gray’s, Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and all other maternity units, along with selected wards at ARI and Dr Gray’s, Roxburghe House, Royal Cornhill Hospital, Woodend Hospital and all Aberdeenshire and all Moray community hospitals have been involved in the phased reintroduction of visiting. Ward 17 senior charge nurse at Aberdeen's Woodend Hospital, Janine Bleaze said: "The last few months have been challenging for both staff and patients and, while that continues, it has been so nice to contact families and organise their first visits to loved ones. Lots of happy tears have been shed. In some cases it is the first time in months people have seen each other face-to-face and it's so great to see. It's tremendously beneficial to the patients and gives them a real boost. There's also been an incredible amount of gratitude from families for everything we are trying to do to keep everyone safe. People really appreciate the efforts that are being made and fully understand why it is so important that we have taken precautions and continue to do so going forward."  The new arrangements for designated visitors have been addition to "essential visitors" who are currently – and will remain – able to visit inpatients at all hospital sites.  All visitors to NHS Grampian facilities are reminded that they must wear a face mask and ensure good hygiene, including gelling their hands after arriving at the site.

Falkirk Growth Deal Boosted by £90m From Governments
The Scottish and UK Westminster governments are pledging £90m of funding to help boost the economy around Falkirk.  The money will go towards the area's Growth Deal which will be directed towards projects boosting the local economy by creating skilled jobs and investing in infrastructure.  The Scottish government will be investing £50m with the remaining £40m coming from the UK Treasury.  Both say the initiatives are crucial to Scotland's economic recovery.  It is also expected that the money will secure jobs and support the chemical manufacturing industry at Grangemouth.  This latest agreement brings the total investment in growth deals across Scotland by both governments to more than £3.2bn.  The UK Westminster government said the Falkirk Growth Deal was the 11th UK deal in Scotland.  City region deals are designed to encourage economic growth and create jobs. Glasgow signed Scotland's first city deal in 2014.  A £90.2m City Region Deal investment into Stirling and Clackmannanshire by the Scottish and UK Westminster governments was announced in May 2018.

Musicians' Covid Ceilidhs Come to An End
A Scottish folk musicians' initiative to entertain people during the coronavirus lockdown has come to an end.  Under the banner Covid Ceilidhs, traditional tunes were posted daily to Twitter.  The virtual ceilidhs were started by fiddle player and composer Duncan Chisholm, who lives near Inverness.  Mr Chisholm said after more than four months of daily posts it was time to wrap up the Covid Ceilidhs. The decision followed the relaxation of some of Scotland's lockdown restrictions, such as limits on travel and how many people are able to meet together.  The posts have been viewed tens of thousands of times and drawn fans from all over the world.  Among the many musicians to take part have been traditional musicians Innes Watson, Hamish Napier and cellist Su-a Lee.

Policeman Seriously Injured After Car Driven At Him in Glasgow
A police officer has been taken to hospital with serious injuries after he was driven at during an investigation.  The constable, aged 36, was in plain clothes when the incident happened in Glasgow's west end.  Emergency services were called to the scene on Devonshire Gardens at about 17:50 on Tuesday evening.  A 53-year-old man, who has since been arrested, was also taken to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. A second man, aged 30, has also been arrested.  The police constable's injuries have been described as serious but not life- threatening. The condition of the 53-year-old who was also taken to hospital has also been described as serious but not life-threatening. Det Insp Clark Hill said: "Plain clothed officers were in the Devonshire Gardens area of Glasgow as part of an ongoing investigation when a disturbance happened around 17:50 on Tuesday. During the disturbance, a car involved in the investigation was driven at one male officer. Inquiries are ongoing."

Slow Awakening of Highlands Tourism Industry From Lockdown
Tourism is the biggest industry in the Highlands and the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on it have been eagerly awaiting the safe return of visitors. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the region's six million annual visitors were worth an estimated £1.2bn and supported 20,000 jobs.  In the Highlands, the relaxation of lockdown restrictions last week - after more than three months - has brought a mini boom in visitors for some places, and an unexpected lack of them in others. Tamasina Cassidy, who runs The Rowan Tree Country Hotel near Aviemore, said the wide open spaces the area offered had been one of the attractions for visitors.  "It's lovely to have people back and having a good time," she said.  "We have a lot of people up on holiday, mostly from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and a few from further afield."  In Aviemore, Jim Halloran's Dunroamin B&B has bookings through to early autumn.  He said: "We are pretty much booked up for all of this week and bookings are coming in on a daily basis as far forward as October." Mr Halloran added: "I think the powers that be have got it absolutely right in holding back just that little bit longer just to make sure that we were properly prepared."  Over on Skye, tourism businesses had been anticipating a positive start to the return of visitors.  Before Covid-19, the number of tourists to the island had increased to an estimated 500,000 a year.  "We got ready to open last Wednesday and thought we would be really busy and there would be a bounce of business, but it hasn't really been the case," said Anne Gracie Gunn, of the Skeabost House Hotel.  Bookings have been about 25% of what the hotel would normally get in July.  She also said some UK visitors still seemed nervous about taking holidays, adding that from her conversations with others in the same business across Scotland the return of visitors had been "far slower" than expected.  On the other side of the Highlands in Nairn on the Moray Firth coast, businesses have been working on a new initiative to attract visitors.  Under the banner Scotland's Highland Playground, Nairn Business Improvement District has been busy promoting what the town and surrounding area has to offer.  In Lochaber operators and staff at the Nevis Range Mountain Experience, on the slopes of the mountain Aonach Mor near Fort William, have also been grafting away to get visitors back.  The resort offers mountain biking in summer and snowsports in winter and spring.  The site closed in late March as part of efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus.  Typically, between 1 June and the end of September Nevis Range has about 100,000 visitors.  Chief Executive Mr O'Brien said: "Over the last week what has been very apparent is that we haven't had those international visitors and coach visitors. But what has been really positive is that we have seen more bikes than we normally would. The lockdown saw record bike sales and there are lots of people eager to get on to our downhill trails."  From the dizzy heights of Lochaber's mountains to the murky depths of Loch Ness, where its famous waters and monster legend help to bring hundreds of thousands of visitors a year - Urquhart Castle on the loch's shore can draw more than 500,000 alone - to the surrounding area. Daily visits to the tourism organisation's website have been increasing and many self-catering business are fully booked for the remainder of the year. CEO Mr Golding said: "The tourism and hospitality sector has been the greatest loss to the Highland economy due to the pandemic.  The sector is therefore our strongest asset for a recovery in communities across the destination."  And what about the loch's famous monster?  "There have been no Nessie sightings reported over the last two weeks," said Gary Campbell, keeper of The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register.  "Maybe she's still social distancing."

RBS Changes Name to Natwest Group in Shift Away From Bailed-out Brand
Royal Bank of Scotland has hailed a “historic” milestone as it formally changes its name to NatWest Group in a shift away from the brand that was bailed out during the financial crisis. The name change will be official once it is registered at Companies House in Edinburgh, where the group has its headquarters.  New chief executive Alison Rose unveiled the change in February as part of her new strategy soon after taking on the top job last autumn.  It sees the lending giant move away from a brand that was tarnished by its mammoth £45.5 billion state bailout in 2008. Bank branches will continue to trade as RBS and the name will still be heavily associated with the business.  But investors and advisers will now know the listed entity as NatWest Group – changing a name that has been in place since the bank’s foundation in 1727.  Ms Rose said: “This is a historic day for our bank as we intend to change our name to NatWest Group plc.  Although there will be no changes to our customer brands, it’s a symbolic moment for our colleagues and stakeholders.  The bank has changed fundamentally over the last decade and now is the right time to align our group name with the brand under which the majority of our business is delivered.”  The group – which is still majority-owned by the taxpayer more than a decade since the financial crisis – became one of the biggest banks in the world through an aggressive acquisition trail. But this unravelled during the crash when it was forced to turn to the Government for bailout cash to avoid collapse and it has since shed much of its international operation and once-mighty investment banking arm.  The group has also been embroiled in a scandal over its treatment of small businesses through its controversial global restructuring group.

Chivas Reopening Moray Visitor Centres
Chivas will be reopening its three visitor centres in Moray during the forthcoming days. The public will be allowed into both Aberlour distillery and Glenlivet distillery in Dufftown from next Wednesday.  In addition, Strathisla distillery in Keith will be welcoming visitors again from Friday, August 7.  All three sites has been equipped with extensive health and safety measures.  These include temperature checks at site entrances, hand sanitiser stations in each room, and clear social distancing signposts throughout.  Face masks will be provided where necessary, however, visitors are encouraged to bring their own.  Visitors are required to pre-book online.  Gordon Buist, Chivas Brothers' production director, said: "After four challenging months, we’re delighted to be able to reopen the doors to our brand homes to give visitors the chance to safely enjoy our whiskies and the beautiful surroundings in Speyside.  We’ve been privileged to support our local communities in Scotland during the pandemic, including producing and distributing thousands of litres of hand sanitiser as NHS Scotland’s first pro-bono supplier. So continuing to support them by opening responsibly and safely is our number one priority.  We have been working closely with our local Speyside communities to enable us to take significant steps in implementing these strict social distancing and sanitation measures in our visitor centres as well, ensuring we’re able to welcome visitors safely, protect our colleagues and neighbours, and support Scottish tourism. Whether a discerning drinker or discovering drams for the first time, the team and I look forward to welcoming visitors safely back."

Young Borders Residents Set Up Their Own Fashion Businesses
Young entrepreneurs from across the Borders are emerging after lockdown.  With studies predicting a steep rise in youth unemployment this year, some young people are taking matters into their own hands.  Trystan Andrews, Arran Paterson and Callum Hastings - a group of teenagers from Earlston and Lauder - recently launched a clothing business for outdoor wear.  Describing bothy2bothy, the group said: “We always view bothy trips as a method of escape and re-setting our minds.  We were thankful for this discovery and thought it would be cruel not to share our passion for this magnificent aspect of life. Our comfortable clothes will remind you that there is always an option to escape the pressure of the modern world.  The name bothy2bothy was chosen as it is how we live our life. Simply waiting for the opportunity for another bothy trip.” Currently, the company sells three T-shirt designs and one jumper design, with the potential for a wider range in the future. Bothy2bothy came to life after Callum combined his savings with those of Trystan and Arran, both 18. Callum turns 19 today (July 21). When the Peeblesshire News asked the group to identify the best thing about running their own business, they replied: “We can do work when we choose to and the only rush is our own desire to get the products onto the market and start selling. We don’t need to report to anyone above us because we are all equals in this venture and make every decision as a group. We would actively encourage other young people to start their own business.”  Another fashion-minded Borderer is Ellen McFadzen, a 23-year-old from Selkirk.  She had to return home from France when COVID-19 put a stop to her travel plans in March.  However, she has used her spare time to pursue her love of fashion - and she now owns her own business.  LoveNelle offers a made-to-measure range as well as bespoke garments. Ellen makes her own patterns, orders the fabrics, and markets the products.  Ellen was taught to sew by her granny and her hobby progressed during lockdown as she documented her style online for her friends and family.  They encouraged her to pursue her sewing dream and turn her needle skills into a business.

Coronavirus: Boris Johnson Says Response Shows 'Might of UK Union'

The response to the coronavirus pandemic has shown the "sheer might" of the UK union, Boris Johnson has said ahead of today’s (Thursday) visit to Scotland.  The trip, a year on since he became PM, will see Mr Johnson meet members of the armed forces and their families.  Mr Johnson said he "pledged to be a prime minister for every corner of the United Kingdom", adding that the response to the pandemic had shown his government's commitment to the whole of the UK. The UK Westminster government has coordinated much of the UK's economic response to the virus, including the coronavirus job retention furlough scheme. But devolved governments have had control over most public health measures and have been able to set country-specific timetables and messaging.  Although the whole of the UK entered lockdown in the same week, each constituent part has eased restrictions in a different way and at a different rate.  Phase 3 of Scotland's "route map" out of lockdown began last week, as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and barbers were allowed to reopen. They were allowed to reopen much earlier in England, along with holiday accommodation - including hotels, B&Bs, cottages, campsites and caravan parks.  Mr Johnson said ahead of his visit: "The last six months have shown exactly why the historic and heartfelt bond that ties the four nations of our country together is so important and the sheer might of our union has been proven once again.  In Scotland, the UK's magnificent armed forces have been on the ground doing vital work to support the NHS, from setting up and running mobile testing sites to airlifting critically ill patients to hospitals from some of Scotland's most remote communities. More than ever, this shows what we can achieve when we stand together, as one United Kingdom."  The PM is also to set out details of a £50m funding package for Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, the latest in a series of "city and region deals" which see the Scottish and UK governments each pledge cash to various areas for spending on new infrastructure and local development schemes. The Scottish government is also committing £50m to the "Islands growth deal", which will target sectors including tourism, energy and skills.  The timing of Mr Johnson's visit comes amid a "perfect storm" over Scottish independence, according to Sir Tom Devine, an emeritus professor of Scottish history at Edinburgh University.  Sir Tom told BBC Two's Newsnight the union is in its most fragile condition since 1745, and that opinion polling suggesting increasing support for independence in Scotland has been consistent for some time.  At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Johnson was visiting due to recent polls suggesting support for independence was on the rise.  He said: "Yesterday the Tory party held a political cabinet with the prime minister in a panic about the majority in increasing support for Scottish independence. Apparently their great strategy amounts to more UK cabinet ministers coming to Scotland.  Can I tell the prime minister - the more Scotland sees of this UK Westminster government, the more convinced they are the need for Scotland's independence."  At her coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, the Ms Sturgeon said she had "no plans" to meet Mr Johnson on this trip, but is "always happy to meet the prime minister if he wants to do so". She added: "We're all very focused on the immediate priority of continuing to suppress Covid and I look forward to working with the UK Westminster government on that basis. We have got our political disagreements, and disagreements over aspects of Scotland and the UK's future, and I'm sure we'll continue to discuss those constructively as well."  Ms Sturgeon has previously suggested that her government's response to the pandemic was helping convince Scots of the merits of independence.

Majority of Caledonian Hotel Jobs Under Review in Edinburgh
The majority of jobs at one of Edinburgh's historic landmark five star hotels are under review.  The Caledonian Waldorf Astoria Hotel in the capital's West End said it needs to lose 65 full-time posts and amalgamate and change the hours of a further 135 jobs.  The Hilton, which runs the hotel, said it had tried everything to mitigate the impact of the lockdown. The hotel has 290 staff including some casual workers.  The consultation process, which started on Monday, will end in September.  Hilton said it would begin holding weddings and conferences again "as soon as" Scottish government restrictions were lifted.  The Caledonian Hotel, which was constructed from 1899 to 1903, was part of the Caledonian Railway's Edinburgh Princes Street railway station.  It was a rival to the North British Railway's North British Hotel - now known as the Balmoral Hotel - which opened at the other end of Princes Street in 1902.

Lothian Police Seize £125,000 of Cannabis in Tranent House Raid
Police in East Lothian have seized a huge number of cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £125,000.  Officers from East Lothian Community Action Team raided a house in Edinburgh Road, Tranent, discovering the drug haul and arresting a man at the scene.  Police Scotland confirmed that the man had been charged in connection with the drug recovery, and said he is due to appear before Edinburgh Sheriff Court later today. A full report has been sent to the Procurator Fiscal.

Caledonian Canal Reopens But Some Restrictions Still in Place
The world-famous Caledonian Canal has reopened following the relaxation of the latest lockdown restrictions.  The busy waterway now has traffic on it again, although operators Scottish Canals have said some restrictions remain in place to protect staff and water users. The operator has deployed fewer seasonal lock-keepers to operate its 29 locks with social distancing requirements resulting in fewer boats being allowed to enter lock chambers. The waterway, which spans from Fort William to Inverness, also allows boats to travel between the sea at Loch Linnhe and the Beauly Firth with around 1,300 boat movements each year. Lockdown has had a significant impact on operations for Scottish Canals as well as placing strain on the organisation’s finances.  Bosses have also warned that changes may be forced over the ways in which its waterways are managed in the future.  Boat users have been advised to expect journeys to take up to two days longer along the 60-mile stretch to ensure all guidelines and requirements can be met.  Scottish Canals have asked users to keep to the two-metre distancing rule where possible and remember to “be safe, be smart, and be kind” when using shared spaces. Crew members will be responsible for tying their own lines at every lock to minimise interaction with others and help protect all against any potential spread of Covid-19.

Coffee Shop Owner Loses Covid Grants Case

An Edinburgh businessman who took the Scottish government to court over coronavirus grants has failed in his bid to have reductions overturned.  Jon Sharp owns six coffee shops in the city and argued that a 25% reduction to the grants for five of the properties applied from 8 June under the Scottish government grants scheme was "unlawful".  Mr Sharp argued he had "a legitimate expectation that a full 100% grant would be paid in respect of all six of his properties" and suggested "the decision of the Scottish ministers to restrict the amount of the grant payable in respect of second and subsequent properties is irrational".  But Judge Lord Fairley refused the petition for judicial review, saying Mr Sharp "did not have such a legitimate expectation", further saying it was "not necessary" to pass judgement on an "abuse of power".

Man in Court Charged with Glasgow Police Officer Murder Bid

A 53-year-old man has appeared in court accused of attempting to murder a Glasgow police officer.  Wenjie Yu is alleged to have assaulted the 36-year-old officer in Devonshire Gardens in the city's Hillhead.  Police said the officer was taken to Queen Elizabeth University hospital for treatment to serious but not life-threatening injuries. No plea was made by Mr Yu, who appeared in private at Glasgow Sheriff Court.  Wang Wen, 30, also appeared in court charged with a drugs offence. He made no plea.  Both men will appear at court again within the next eight days.  They were remanded in custody by Sheriff Shona Gilroy meantime.

New £2.1m Funding Package for South of Scotland Economy

Scotland's Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced on Friday afternoon more than £2.1m for tourism, business, community and agricultural projects across Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders to support economic development across the region.  “We are committed to developing the south of Scotland's economy to its full potential," she says, revealing 28 projects in total will benefit from Scottish government funding.  These include a programme to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott’s birth, a programme to help young people with autistic spectrum disorder build skills and find job opportunities, and a project to develop livestock holding facilities and encourage farmers to collaborate on transport costs.   These investments will create jobs, support businesses, develop skills, boost tourism and contribute to town centre regeneration.”

First Physically Distanced Trial ‘A Success’ At the High Court in Edinburgh
The case involved a new format to allow for physical distancing to be observed, with jurors located in a separate room from the trial courtroom. Cameras were also in place to allow the faces of the jurors to be visible on a video wall where they would normally be located.  At one point the trial was adjourned to allow Iain McSporran QC, the defence counsel, to confer with the accused at a safe physical distance.  Mr McSporran said: “The accused had a fair trial which worked very well. Any minor glitches were resolved immediately.  I was really glad to be back at work and the success of this format was the result of the effort of many people including the judge, the counsel, the clerk and the jury. The Courts deserve our gratitude for the technological arrangements in place to allow jury trials to restart.”  While speaking to the jury in their separate room, he said: As the saying goes ‘I wish you were here’ but I am very glad that you are there.”  Prosecuting, Alex Prentice QC, said: “Although it was a strange experience, the format was a success and I would like to pay tribute to the Court Service and all involved who put the package together.  Physical distancing slowed the proceedings down a little and we had to remember to stand in a certain position to be seen by the camera, but that did not present a problem and the technology and the link to documents to the jury room worked very well. I would like to express my gratitude to the people who managed to make it happen.”  The High Court in Glasgow is currently running its first remote jury trial using a different setup which involves three courtrooms.  The remote jury trials were arranged following meetings of the Restarting Solemn Trials Working Group, which is led by Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian. The group continues to assess and develop means to hold more solemn proceedings at both High Court and sheriff court levels and risk assessments have been carried out to allow court buildings to reopen.  Since the lockdown began some court business has continued held over virtual networking, including appeals, Court of Session hearings, personal injury cases and sheriff court civil cases.  Virtual summary criminal cases were successfully held at Inverness and Aberdeen and will be introduced to other courts.