Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 567

Issue # 567                                                 Week ending Saturday 29th August  2020

The Revolting People of Great Bernera Had to Cross That Bridge When They Came to it
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Bad news come in threes and the last week was no exception. It’s all been about bridges and holidays. First of all, Channel Four said it was going to have a new game show. Contestants will have 20 days to build a bridge in the imaginatively-entitled show, The Bridge. Like that is going to work well. Then, that most famous of spans, Tower Bridge in London, ground to a halt when some cheeky cockney stuck some pie and mash in the gears and put it out of action. Technical problems? Yeah right, guv.

Then the grim news came that the wonderful Bernera Bridge is disintegrating. The powers-that-be think the facts about it should be kept from the tender ears of Bernera people but we all know it’s rotten through. Unseen cables are corroding inside. The bridge built by my father and many others’ fathers too, to change the lives of islanders beyond all recognition, could disappear in a storm. Now they have had to give local people a wee clue - the council has imposed a permanent 7.5-tonne weight limit on it. Oh heery vore, as we exiled Berneranians say.

It’ll stop a lot of visitors to Great Bernera - visitors like fire engines, bin lorries, even, perhaps, some ambulances. Coal lorries, larger campervans and building projects could all be forced to stop in Earshader - across the channel, in fact across Loch Roag, in fact across the Atlantic. The islands’ council has still to tell us about their plans to make sure those who dwell on God’s Own Island will not be forgotten. The natives are getting restless. They need action.

It was a mighty struggle to get that bridge. The government said no, not happening, go away. They didn’t care about us. I mean Bernera people in general because I wasn’t actually there then. New MP Malcolm Macmillan demanded it in his maiden speech. Still nothing. It was only when my old man and his mates threatened to make their own causeway by getting their hands on “some dynamite and rough stuff” to blast every hillside until they had enough rock to walk across the channel on their own homemade causeway.

That would have blocked the salmon runs to the nearby fishing estates. The influential toffs who owned these posh lodges and their pals who joined them every summer panicked. “By jove, prime minister, we have to do something. These ghastly peasants on Great Bernera are revolting. What do you mean you have known that for a long time? Ah yes, I see what you mean. Very funny, prime minister.”

Then the government suddenly found a cool £70,000 going spare - on condition the revolting men of Bernera forgot their amateur civil engineering aspirations forever. Nice one, Dad, neighbour Murdo, neighbour Peter et al.

Celebrations broke out when our brilliant white edifice was opened in July 1953. Nearly 4,000 people turned out to see the ferry replaced by the first example of pre-stressed concrete girders being used in a UK bridge. Today it is whispered it will cost £5 million to replace and could take up to five years. That’s a long, long time not to have a bridge over troubled water. Then again, that will be because my old man won’t be there this time. Maybe they could get that Channel Four show The Bridge to do it. Obvious, innit?

Properly-constructed bridges must withstand very bad weather - like Storm Francis. Which reminds me, Stormy Daniels is also making the President of the US feel a cold draught. So is his wonderful big sister Maryanne Trump Barry. She was recorded being unkind about him. I met and interviewed Maryanne Trump Barry when she jetted in here with The Donald in 2008. Even though she is a retired appeal court judge, she was lovely and has visited Lewis many times over the years. She donated £158,000 to the Bethesda care home and hospice here in Stornoway. Darling woman, so lovely. Not many judges one can say that about.

Darling contacts in Applecross called me to tell me what Boris was up to. One tale, which I somehow doubt, was that the PM was out jogging during his holiday with Carrie and wee Wilf. He is said to have stopped for a breather on a bridge railing and fell backwards into the river. Before his bodyguards could get to him, three lads who were fishing nearby ran up and pulled him out. Boris was grateful and offered the kids whatever they wanted.

The first lad said he would like to go to Disneyland. Boris said: “No problem. I'll take you there on my RAF Voyager prime ministerial plane with the red, white and blue tail fin.” The second lad said he needed a new pair of Nike Air Jordans. The PM said: “No bother, my lad, and I will even sign them.” The third boy looked glum. He would soon need a wheelchair. Boris says: “Really? You don't look injured.”  The lad says: “No, but I will be when after my dad finds out I helped pull you out.”

Storm Francis Arrives with Heavy Rain Warning for Southern Scotland
Warnings have been issued for heavy rain as the last named storm of the season hits Scotland. Storm Francis is due to move across the country and a Met Office warning is in place for all of Tuesday and  Wednesday. Drivers have been warned to prepare for poor conditions and the RNLI has urged caution on the coastlines.  Rain will be heaviest in south-west Scotland where up to 90mm (3.5in) could fall.  Dumfries and Galloway police asked drivers to allow extra travel time for work and school journeys and to drive according to the conditions.  Spray and flooding could lead to difficult driving conditions and some road closures with disruption to public transport.  The Met Office yellow warning suggested some communities could be cut off by flooded roads.  The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) issued 10 flood alerts covering the affected warning area.  ScotRail told passengers to check their journeys on their website or app before heading out to travel by rail. Two weeks ago, a major incident was declared in Fife after torrential rain and thunderstorms battered parts of central and eastern Scotland overnight.  The heavy rain caused a ScotRail passenger train to derail after hitting a landslip near Stonehaven. Three men died and six were injured after carriages slipped down an embankment.  Investigators said 52mm (2in) of rain had fallen within the space of four hours.  The Met Office said that this was the first time since they started naming storms in 2015 that they had to name a storm in August and they had to name two - Ellen and Francis - in a matter of days.  They said many people taking holidays in the UK would be affected - many in coastal locations where the winds were likely to be stronger. Wind will mainly affect England and Wales, with severe rain being the imminent threat for southern Scotland.  The wettest August on record in the UK was in 1912 when 167.3 mm was recorded across the country as a whole.  Between 1 and 22 August, the UK as a whole had seen some 72.7mm of rainfall - around four-fifths of the average rainfall for the month.  Road management company Bear Scotland said the forecast could affect two major road repair operations.  Work to repair the damaged A68 near Fala reached a milestone at the weekend with the completion of the first phase of rock infill.  The forecast for heavy rain means a review of the site is being undertaken and mitigation measures put in place where required to reduce the potential for further damage.  The weather is again affecting complex repairs of the A83 at the Rest and be Thankful after a landslide on 4 August.

Whales Spotted Swimming in Greenock Harbour

A pod of whales has caused a stir after popping up in a harbour in Greenock on Saturday evening.  Greenock Coastguard Rescue Team was sent to the East India/Victoria Harbour area as crowds gathered to watch the northern bottlenose whales.  The coastguard kept watch with British Divers Marine Life Rescue and said the whales left the harbour safely at the overnight high tide.

Flag Chosen for the Isle of Skye
A flag designed by a nine-year-old boy has been chosen for the Isle of Skye.  Calum Alasdair Munro's design features a Birlinn, a wooden boat used around the island's coast during the Middle Ages. Its five oars represent five areas on Skye - Trotternish, Waternish, Duirinish, Minginish and Sleat.  Calum's design was chosen in a public vote in a competition organised by the West Highland Free Press newspaper and overseen by a flags expert.  A judging panel spent days going through 369 entries to select a shortlist of entries.  The shortlist was put to a public vote.  Local boy Calum's winning design has been formally approved by Scotland's heraldic authority, the Court of the Lyon Court.  Similar projects have previously been held to find flags to represent Barra, Caithness and also Sutherland.

More Schools Ask Pupils to Wear Face Coverings

More schools are advising pupils and staff to wear face coverings to help combat coronavirus.  Grantown Grammar School in Grantown on Spey and Millburn Academy in Inverness have both said masks need to be worn between classes.  Children across Scotland are not currently required to wear masks in either primary or high schools.  But Nicola Sturgeon has said this advice could change for secondary school students in the "near future". The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued fresh guidance saying children over the age of 12 should wear masks and the EIS trade union posted a message on Twitter that it will "will press [the] Scottish Government further on face covering protocols in light of WHO advice". In a letter to parents, Grantown Grammar School explained the changes are being introduced because "corridors are becoming crowded between lessons and at break and lunchtime, even with the one way system".  Similar concerns about overcrowding as pupils move between lessons sparked the introduction of face coverings at James Gillespie's High School in Edinburgh.  The letter to parents at Millburn Academy in Inverness also asks for face coverings to be worn on school buses.  Education campaign group Us for Them Scotland, which says it has 9,500 members, claimed any move to make coverings mandatory for children would cause more harm than good.  Organiser Jo Bisset, said: "Everyone appreciates the health and safety of pupils and teachers has to be a priority. But forcing children to wear masks when there's little, if any, scientific evidence to support such a move could be hugely damaging. It could have an extremely negative impact on pupils with autism, hearing impairments and conditions such as asthma."  The Scottish government has said there is currently no evidence that coronavirus among young people is being transmitted in schools.  A growing number of school pupils have tested positive for Covid-19, but the government believes the infection has been transmitted in other settings, such as house parties or other indoor gatherings.  A Highland Council spokeswoman said: "There is currently no widespread transmission of the virus in Highland. However, there may be circumstances in some secondary schools, where physical distancing during movement between classes is more difficult due to the school layout, or there may be medical conditions which are assessed as an increased risk."

A Number of Highland Cemeteries Nearing Capacity

More than 30 Highland cemeteries could be full within the next six years, including two in the Inverness area.  The Kilvean cemetery next to Inverness Crematorium and a burial ground near Croy are both approaching capacity, according to a council report.  Members of the local authority’s communities and place committee heard there is a need for action, though officers also detailed the difficulties of finding suitable land that meets the geological and environmental requirements for cemeteries as well as purchase and development costs and planning considerations.  A strategic review of the future for the 268 cemeteries the council is responsible for is now being undertaken. This will involve council surveyors, design and legal teams who will work to identify suitable land, alongside stakeholders like the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, to plot a way ahead for the next 20 years.

Scotland's Tree of the Year Contenders Announced

Five contenders to be named Scotland's Tree of the Year have been announced.  The shortlist includes a hawthorn planted by Mary Queen of Scots and a "photographers' favourite" stunted oak tree.  The tree that wins the public vote - which has now started - will receive a care package worth £1,000.  That prize can be spent on works to benefit its health, interpretation signage or community celebration.  The finalists were chosen by a panel of judges who considered 50 trees - about double the usual number - nominated by the public. Last year's winner was a lone elm, named in homage to JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings.
The finalists are:
The Climate Change tree - Alloa
This sycamore is situated at Gartmorn Dam near Alloa within a post-industrial landscape. This tree flourishes on top of the eroding remains of the fossil fuel industry, surviving the changing climate around it. Sherriffyards Colliery closed in 1921 and the site is now a country park and nature reserve. The Climate Change Tree has subsided and re-grown from its exposed rootplate to create an extraordinary tangle which triumphs as the colliery spoil diminishes.
The Lord President's oak - Inverness
Duncan Forbes, Lord Culloden, (1685-1747) who was Lord President of the Court of Session, would take his wife Mary to sit on a large stone where they both admired the view of the Moray Firth.  That stone was moved to its present position in 1855 to make way for the Highland railway and it is thought this oak was planted at that time. The oak is on the path to the famous St Mary's Clootie Well that played an important part in pagan celebration into the 20th Century. Its quirky location guarding the way onto a bridge means the oak is known and loved by many who pass underneath as they enjoy Culloden forest near Inverness.
The Milarrochy oak - Loch Lomond
This tenacious tree clings to land at Loch Lomond near the village of Balmaha, in Scotland's first National Park and on the route of the famous West Highland Way. Its contorted appearance and exposed roots, together with its scenic backdrop have made it a subject for countless photographers.
Queen Mary's thorn - Fife
Queen Mary's thorn grows inside St Mary's Quad at the University of St Andrews and is almost certainly the oldest tree in the Fife town. Mary Queen of Scots is thought to have planted the thorn in the 1560s on one of her regular visits to the town - making the tree not far off 500 years old - an exceptional age for a hawthorn.  Despite its grand old age, the tree still flowers and fruits every year, and is growing well. The Quad is traditionally a busy place, with scholars from all over the world, as well as many tourists passing the thorn daily.
The Survivor tree - The Borders
Twenty years ago, one lone rowan clinging to a stream bank in Carrifran Valley, inspired the Borders Forest Trust slogan: "Where one tree survives, a million trees will grow." In 2020, that lone tree is surrounded by a little forest of its children - a product of some of the first natural regeneration the Trust achieved in the Carrifran Valley. In addition to its offspring, the rowan tree now has over half a million other native Scottish trees for company. It is a symbol of a journey to revive the wild heart of Southern Scotland - where it once dominated the view, soon it will be hidden from sight. The competition is run by Woodland Trust and supported by the People's Postcode Lottery.  Carol Evans, Woodland Trust Scotland director, believes the coronavirus lockdown has had an effect on the competition - with twice as many nominations being submitted this year. She said: "There was a common theme to a lot of the trees and their stories - of tenacity and hanging on against the odds. There were a handful of trees just outside the final six, which had been discovered or were provoking particular affection during people's daily walks. Everyone has taken solace from the nature on their doorstep and it has been quite moving to see so many trees that became places to escape, gyms and classrooms."

Nearly 50,000 Salmon Escaped From Storm-damaged Fish Farm

Nearly 50,000 salmon escaped when a fish farm in Argyll broke free from its moorings, it has been revealed.  The North Carradale farm, near Campbeltown, suffered damaged to four of its 10 fish pens during Storm Ellen.  Owner Mowi said inspections by divers revealed the breakage of mooring ropes attached to the farm's seabed anchors was the cause.  Just over 30,000 of the farmed salmon also died as a result of the incident.  Mowi said it has sent the torn ropes to a testing facility in Aberdeen for further investigation. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency said it "shares concerns" regarding the loss of salmon. She added: "Whilst we are confident that marine pens have been returned to their authorised position and there was no significant pollution, we are liaising with Mowi and Marine Scotland, who have responsibility for fish escapes and their reporting." The North Carradale farm contained 550,700 salmon before the four pens were damaged in bad weather on 20 August.  Mowi said a total of 48,834 salmon escaped, 30,616 died and a further 125,000 were harvested.  Environmental campaigners have raised concerns about the escaped fish breeding with wild Scottish salmon.

Edinburgh Book Festival Review: Michel Faber
The award-winning novelist and short story writer talks about his desire to create an “uplifting, fun, emboldening adventure”  It’s always been hard to predict what Michel Faber would do next. And that was before the prodigiously talented author of Under the Skin and The Crimson Petal and the White said that, following the death of his wife Eva from cancer in 2014, he would not write another novel. However, this week found him at the (virtual) Edinburgh International Book Festival, talking about his new book - a story for children.  D: A Tale of Two Worlds (described by chairman and Scotland on Sunday critic Stuart Kelly as a “firework of delights”) is part adventure story, part tribute to Charles Dickens. It’s protagonist is Dikhilo, a 13-year-old refugee from Somaliland, now living in Kent, who accepts a challenge from the mysterious Professor Dodderfield to travel to the land of Liminous to recover some disappearing letter ‘d’s. Faber spoke about his desire to create an “uplifting, fun, emboldening adventure” about a resourceful heroine who lives by her wits, and which finishes on a note of hope, “because young people are essential for rebuilding things after a collapse, and we are heading for a collapse, we have an unsustainable civilisation.”

Further Delays to Calmac Ferries Due to Lockdown Period

The completion of two CalMac ferries will be delayed by a further six months, according to the Scottish government.  The Ferguson shipyard where they are being built has either been closed or subject to restricted working for almost six months during lockdown.  The coronavirus restrictions have also added an extra £3.3 million in costs to the project. The earliest completion dates are now April 2022 and December 2022. The two ferries had been due to be in service in 2018.  The Port Glasgow yard was taken into public ownership by the Scottish government in August 2019 after its £97m contract to build the vessels - the Glen Sannox and one other - was subject to repeated delays and rising costs. The government said it would meet the coronavirus-related £3.3m "exceptional costs" as owners of the business - but added the total additional estimated cost for the project remains between £94.8 million and £98.8 million. Updating the Scottish Parliament, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said "much has been achieved" despite lockdown restrictions limiting work being carried out. Ms Hyslop said: "While no work was possible at the yard during lockdown, extensive work was being done from employees' homes - notably on the detailed design of the ferries. Vessel design has progressed significantly and the dry dock inspection of 801 [the Glen Sannox] demonstrated the hull is sound. Work to complete the ferries can now proceed at full speed. I believe we can look to the future with confidence."  The previous owner of the yard, Jim McColl, who rescued the yard when it went bust in 2014, has previously said it could cost as much as £300 million of public money to get the ships on the water. Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser asked Ms Hyslop about the possibility of the project's final costs rising that high. She said: "In relation to those predictions that is nowhere near where we are."

Eyes Down As Bingo Bosses in Greenock Aim for A Full House Again
It’s eyes down for people across Inverclyde again as a popular Greenock bingo hall reopens for business. Club 3000 in Container Way welcomed customers through its doors on Monday following five months of closure due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.  Club manager Iain Woolley says his priority is making sure customers are safe and happy - and he's hoping the club will be a full house again in the months to come.  Iain said: "We're so happy to be back in business again. Customers have been telling me how much they've missed the bingo. It's not just about winning money. It's a social occasion, one of the few activities people feel comfortable doing alone."  Social distancing guidelines are now in place at the 1,300-capacity hall and six hand sanitising stations are available within the club. Staff will also be cleaning around the hall regularly.  Every member of the Club 3000 team in Greenock was furloughed over lockdown and Iain said he found it very tough at times. He added: "The first two weeks will be about giving customers confidence.  Some of our older clientele will take time to come back as they will be building up to going out again after shielding.  We're all looking forward to getting our customers in and keeping them safe and happy."

Kayakers Safe After Warship Joins Rescue Efforts
Three kayakers have been rescued in an operation involving the RNLI, the coastguard, a Royal Navy warship and nearby fishing boats. The kayakers had got into difficulty in Loch Torridon, near Shieldaig, in the north west Highlands.  Kyle Coastguard Rescue Team, Portree RNLI lifeboat and Stornoway Coastguard were sent to the scene.  Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland and a number of fishing boats and other vessels also responded and assisted. A local fishing picked up one of the kayakers and the helicopter winched two others from the water.  The coastguard said: "The casualties were safely rescued at the scene and later passed into the care of the Scottish Ambulance Service for further treatment."

Macgregor Wants to Take on the World After Latest John O’groats Strongest Man Victory

Kevin Macgregor's latest success in the John O’Groats Strongest Man competition has taken him another step closer to his ultimate goal of being a world-beater.  The powerfully-built local hero saw off a determined challenge from Halkirk's Jamie Gunn to secure the title at the weekend in a socially distanced event that was not open to the public.  “I want to go all the way," Macgregor declared as he clutched his trophy at the end of the contest. "Within two years I’m going to do the Scotland’s Strongest Man qualifiers – maybe next year, depending on how the winter training goes, but certainly within two years. “My ambition is to be the world’s strongest man. That’s what I am dedicating my life to, even if it takes five or seven years. That’s my plan." This success completed a hat-trick for the fisherman/bouncer. He won the inaugural John O’Groats Strongest Man in 2018 and remained unbeaten in the open weight category last year, when an under 105kg section was won by Kevin Doig of Inverness.  This time Macgregor had to come from behind after Gunn set the early pace, winning the first two of the seven disciplines. Also competing were Orkney visitors Calum Elder and Paul Suggitt.  “Jamie pushed me," 21-stone Macgregor admitted. "I had to win the last events to beat him. It was down to the wire, so that was exciting. I felt I had earned it. It would have been even harder had Will Holliday from Stirling been able to come – he won England’s strongest under-21 two years ago but pulled his hamstring three weeks ago. He’s a very strong guy. And then Kev Doig from Inverness pulled out. But I’m glad that Jamie Gunn did it. When I started, there were two guys in the county that I wanted to face for the strongest overall – Jamie Gunn and Ryan Macintosh. But then Macintosh retired – he did refereeing the first year. So it was Jamie this year and that was perfect as it gives credibility to the winner. There were seven events, so overall you can’t argue with who is the strongest.” Kevin Macgregor hopes the competition can return to being a public event in 2021.  “It’s called John O’Groats Strongest Man but anybody from all over Scotland or elsewhere can take part," he said. "Hopefully next year we can come back with sponsorship and I want to get more than £1000 in prize money for the winner to entice more people to come.”

How is the Pandemic Affecting Life in Scotland?
It is now almost six months since the first coronavirus infections arrived in Scotland. The number of deaths from Covid-19 dropped to an all-time low of three last week, down from a peak of 661 in mid-April.  But the pandemic continues to have an impact on health, economy and society of Scotland.  For thousands of families, the most immediate impact of the pandemic has been a death.  While no deaths following a positive test for the virus have been recorded in Scotland for more than a month, the overall total stands at 2,492.  But there are other ways to measure Covid-related deaths which pushes the figure even higher.  The National Records of Scotland (NRS) counts the number of death certificates mentioning Covid-19, which brings the total to 4,216.  The NRS also publishes data on excess deaths, compared to a five-year average. There have been 4,816 more deaths from all causes than would be expected in the months since the coronavirus outbreak began in Scotland. According to official figures, Scotland saw the third highest number of excess deaths in Europe by the end of May, though they have now dropped to 8% below the average.  At the peak in the second and third weeks of April, there were 80% more deaths than would be expected at that time of year.  The number of new confirmed Covid-19 cases has risen in recent weeks as several clusters have emerged around Scotland.  But the confirmed cases only represent a proportion of the actual number of infectious people in Scotland.  Any one of these infections has the potential to spark another cluster as lockdown restrictions are eased and fulltime schooling continues.  The Scottish government's current estimate is that somewhere between 125 and 300 people in Scotland are infectious.  The indirect health impacts on Scots are; As the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the country, NHS Scotland was put on an emergency footing, with non-essential treatments and appointments cancelled. Many paused services have now been restarted, but the outbreak is still having an impact on our behaviour and willingness to access health services. One way to illustrate this is the number attendances at accident and emergency departments across the country.  These dropped drastically the first week of lockdown on 23 March. They've risen slowly, but are still not back to normal levels. The Scottish government has created an index which estimates "monthly business turnover" in Scotland.  The index is designed to give an "early indicator" and is based on survey data used by the Scottish government for GDP statistics.  Scotland is officially in recession after GDP fall.  While some businesses are starting to recover, others are still not able to operate at full capacity - or at all.  This has meant a steep increase in the number of people in Scotland claiming benefits.  In July, Scotland's claimant count was 222,300 - up 4.3% since June and double the total for March.

Broxburn Flooding: People Rescued From Their Homes in West Lothian
Emergency crews have rescued people from their homes after severe flooding in West Lothian.  The flooding in Broxburn followed heavy rain across parts of Scotland on Friday. Firefighters used boats to take people out of flooded houses. Many cars in the town were also stranded up to their roofs in water.  Elsewhere in the central belt, trains were cancelled and roads closed because of flooding.  ScotRail warned that services across the country would be delayed or cancelled due to "extremely heavy rain flooding".  The line through Bridgeton, to the east of Glasgow, was closed for a time but later reopened.  Floodwater also closed some roads in the east end of Glasgow.  Traffic Scotland said the A77 near the A751, Cairnryan, Dumfries and Galloway, had been restricted in both directions due to surface water affecting the carriageway.

Hunterston B to Close Two Years Early After Cracks Found in Reactor Core

Hunterston B nuclear power station in Ayrshire is to close almost two years early after cracks were found in the core of its reactors.  Regulators have given permission for reactor three to resume operations for a further six months despite more than 350 cracks in the graphite bricks.  Owner EDF Energy said it would seek authority for a second six-month run.  The company told BBC Scotland there would be 125 job losses when power generation ends. The process of decommissioning will begin no later than January 2022. The reactor was due to continue operation until 2023.  Matt Sykes, managing director for EDF's generation business, said: "Hunterston B has quietly delivered a major contribution to the UK for more than 40 years.  It has far exceeded its original remit and, over its lifetime, gone on to safely produce enough low-carbon energy to power the whole of Scotland for eight years.  Our focus is on continuing to safely deliver the last period of power generation and then transition the station into decommissioning."  About 500 people are employed at Hunterston B and EDF says it is already talking to the workforce about their jobs.  The company says some staff will be kept on for the defuelling process which is likely to continue to 2025.  More than 350 cracks were found in the graphite bricks, which make up the reactor's core, when it was last shut down in 2018.  That exceeded the operational limit approved by the the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR), leading to calls for it to be decommissioned.  ONR said it was satisfied the reactor could now be operated safely with the cracks and a new limit of 700 has been agreed.  A smaller number of cracks have been found in reactor four but that has since resumed production - although it is currently shut down undergoing fresh inspections.  The graphite bricks make up the channels where control rods are inserted to shut down the nuclear reaction in the event of an emergency.  The operator has been modelling whether the integrity of the core would be compromised by the cracks in the event of a one-in-10,000-year earthquake. Donald Urquhart, ONR deputy chief inspector, said: "I am satisfied that the detailed safety justification provided by the licensee is sufficient to demonstrate that reactor three can operate safely for this period of operation.  We applied stringent national and international standards when making our decision, have scrutinised the nature of the cracking observed in reactor three and are satisfied that it will not prevent the reactor from operating safely or impede its ability to be shut down if required during this period of operation." Hunterston B was due to be taken out of service in 2023 which is 12 years later than originally planned. Reactors one and two at Hunterston have already been decommissioned.  Gary Smith, Scottish secretary of the GMB union, said the early closure had "huge, long-term implications" for the local economy and jobs.  It is also a defining moment in terms of energy policy. "The political aspiration is for a low carbon future but politicians have no credible way of delivering it," he said.  The Prospect union said it welcomed the resumption of power generation, but was disappointed the site would close earlier than expected.  Alan Leighton, Prospect national secretary, added: "Prospect is working closely with EDF to identify opportunities for the workforce, either in Hunterston B's next phase, elsewhere in the company, or in the community.  Achieving the best possible outcome for all involved remains Prospect's primary focus."

HIAL Impact Assessment is ‘Too Little, Too Late’ Says Comhairle
The Islands Community Impact Assessment by the Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) is “too little too late” and at the very least doesn’t meet the spirit of Islands Proofing Legislation, says the chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar transportation committee.  Under the proposal, the new remote operations centre in Inverness would be responsible for air traffic management at Stornoway Airport.  HIAL announced last week that consultants would be appointed to carry out a study into the impact of Air Traffic Control centralisation on Island communities.  HIAL says its proposed £28 million investment in a centralised air traffic management system is necessary to “future proof” its operations in Scotland against a background of business challenges including staff recruitment and retention, increasing regulation, and increasing pressure on costs.  The new remote operations centre would be located Inverness, which was identified as the preferred site following staff consultation, and would be responsible for air traffic management at HIAL airports at Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall and Stornoway.  But the Comhairle has highlighted that there will be a significant loss of jobs in the Islands and that the proposals demonstrate a lack of commitment to Island communities.  Cllr Uisdean Robertson said: “This looks like a paper exercise. The point is that this will have a major adverse economic impact – we don’t need consultants to tell us that.  Surely any meaningful study should have been carried out before the decision was taken in order to inform the strategy rather than pay lip service in a desperate attempt to show that HIAL has concern for Island communities.  It is too little, too late. The legislation on Islands Proofing was designed to prevent exactly this kind of disregard for Island communities.  Whilst we are still waiting for guidance on Island Proofing I believe this centralisation process is certainly against the spirit of the legislation.”

Eighty Scottish Borders Towns and Villages to Have 20mph Speed Limit
A 20mph speed limit trial is being introduced in 80 towns and villages across the Borders. The plan is part of efforts to improve road safety and encourage people to walk and cycle. It will run for up to 18 months - starting later this year - thanks to £1.2m from the Scottish government's Spaces for People programme. A number of trial 40mph areas, road closures and one-way systems are also being implemented.  The 20mph limits will be rolled out across the region between October and December.  A report will be brought back after a year to assess their effectiveness, with any permanent changes to be implemented in the following six months. The council is finalising arrangements for an academic evaluation of the programme by a Scottish university.  The 20mph trial does not currently include sections of trunk roads which run through towns and villages like the A68, A7 south of Galashiels, A6091 Melrose Bypass, A702 and A1.  However, discussions are ongoing with Transport Scotland on these roads being included in the scheme.