Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 578

Issue # 578                                           Week ending Saturday 14th November  2020

Batteries Are So Dramatic. Other Items Stop Working Or Break. But Batteries ... They Die by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

As so little else has happened in the world this week, I thought I would tell you that the future is cordless. It is something to do with the price of metals in the battery cells falling but it is now going to be more economical to get rid of the cable. Don’t do that now by cutting the wire. I don’t want to end up in court with someone saying my house went on fire and my cat was electrocuted because the defendant told me in his newspaper column to cut the cable. No.

You should switch to battery power instead, preferably by upgrading to a cordless model. A certain brand of cordless vacuum cleaner is rapidly coming down in price and is expected to be available for Black Friday, which is the 27th of this month. It is now £349 and it is about to have £150 knocked off. You know the ones - named after big fish with variants such as Bull and Great White. No, not types of drinks.

I mean creatures - like Thresher and Hammerhead. And no, it’s nothing to do with heavy metal and the late Lemmy. That was Motorhead.

The Daughter of this house has the brand in question - and she paid full price. It is, according to her, one almighty sucker. At this point I thought she was dissing her boyfriend and I told her that there were plenty other fish in the sea. “No, Dad,” she said. “With my two dogs and a boyfriend to clean up after, there is only one type of fish that will keep this house spotless. A Shark.” It took me a while to get that too. That’s the make. See?

One problem is that all battery-powered gadgets need to take a rest to recharge. I’m a bit like that. At 11pm each night, yawning is my body’s way of saying “5% of battery remaining”. Technology makes life easier but sometimes it has its challenges. Don’t ask me to do anything technological - even involving simple maintenance tasks like batteries. All I had to do was insert a battery into a mouse. That was when I was kicked out of that pet shop.

I have to be grown up about my own shortcomings. Which reminds me that Philadelphia’s mayor has told Donald Trump to change his clothes. I’d almost forgotten about that election thing over there. Maybe it should have had more media coverage. Mayor Jim Kenney wants Mr T to deal with his seemingly insurmountable election defeat. He said: “What the president needs to do, frankly, is put his big boy pants on.”

What? Ah, in America, clothes have different names. In the US, a waistcoat is a vest, a dressing gown is a bathrobe and trousers are pants. Pants are panties, a zip is a zipper, a peg is a clothes-pin and a polo is a turtleneck. And a candidate who doesn’t win an election is always a loser and Mr T suggested if he didn’t win he would perhaps leave the country and move overseas - possibly to one of the nicer parts of Scotland.

So that rules out .... I’d better not say, because when the restrictions are over, I have promised Mrs X a trip round Alba to see the places she hasn’t been over on that misty place we can just see through the mist from Tiumpan Head. The mainland. And we don’t need any more unpleasantness over there. I get enough grief from the Hearachs when I venture over the Clisham.

Batteries are such a big part of life now. They weren’t always though. You can just imagine the conversation between Batman and Robin. Robin says: “Holy creamola, Batman. The batmobile is making a clicking sound and it just won't start.” Batman has a think about what to do. He gets on the batphone but it is the weekend. There is no reply from the garage. So he says: “OK, Robin. Check the battery.” And Robin replies: “What’s a tery?”

A couple from the west side of Lewis tell the story of when the two of them were in church one Sunday morning a while back. Murdo leans over to his wife and says: “Excuse me, a Mhairi, I shouldn’t have had those beans for breakfast. I am now having a wee wind problem. Thankfully, it’s silent. What should I do?” Mairi looks at him in a disgusted way and says: “The first thing you should do is change your hearing aid battery.”

'Cheaper' to Carry on with Edinburgh Tram Extension, Says Report
The financial impact of cancelling the Edinburgh tram extension would probably be greater than allowing it to continue, a report has found.  City of Edinburgh Council has been reviewing the project in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The 4.7km (3.9 mile) extension remains within its £207m budget despite construction being paused for a period earlier this year.  It is still due to be built between Leith and Newhaven by spring 2023.  The report said in all but one of the scenarios it considered, the impact on council reserves of cancelling the project would be greater than continuing construction.  Lesley Macinnes, City of Edinburgh Council's transport convener, said: "It's clear that the events of this year have had an unprecedented impact on the way we travel and that we'll continue to feel the effects for the foreseeable future.  In light of this, it's essential that we assess the potential economic and financial impacts on such a significant transport infrastructure scheme."  She added: "The delivery of this project is essential for the capital's green recovery, providing sustainable, low-carbon travel to one of the city's most densely populated areas.  "We now have reason to be cautiously optimistic as we progress with construction."  Work on the tram line was put on hold between March and June due to the pandemic but an assessment found it could still be delivered within the £207.3m budget.

Work Starts on Scotland's First Vertical Distillery in Leith
Work has begun on Scotland's first vertical distillery.  Foundations have just been laid for The Port of Leith Distillery in Edinburgh, which will be able to produce up to one million bottles of single malt a year.  When it is complete, it will stand 131ft (40m) above the quayside, close to the Royal Yacht Britannia and with views to Edinburgh Castle from its top floor whisky bar.  The £12m distillery is due to open in 2022, creating 50 jobs.  The project is the brainchild of friends, Patrick Fletcher and Ian Stirling.  Mr Stirling said: "The site is not big, around a third of an acre, but the location is phenomenal."  Architects at Threesixty Architecture in Glasgow designed the distillery so it could be built upwards to fit into the small space. The distillery is supporting more than 30 jobs during construction. Traditionally, distilleries have been built on sites where there is room to put all of the processes on one level. All the liquid in the fermentation vats (or mash tuns) is heavy and it is simpler and cheaper to keep the operation at ground level. At the Port of Leith, however, the small site meant the only way to build was up, with each element of the process stacked on top of each other.  Mr Stirling added: "This freed us up to create a gravity-led whisky making process where the large fermentation vats have been located above the copper stills, allowing the liquid to then flow naturally down to the stills below.  We have added a double height whisky bar on the top floor and this will give a tremendous experience where whisky fans can wander down from floor to floor and see clearly every step of the production process. We never set out to create a vertical distillery, but we did always want to build a modern, landmark home for a new style of Scotch and we hope this is what we will achieve."

Covid in Scotland: Ferry Deep-cleaned After Three Crew Test Positive
An islands ferry will be deep-cleaned after three crew members tested positive for Covid-19. The MV Isle of Lewis, which sails between Barra and Oban, has returned to Oban without any passengers.  Operator Caledonian MacBrayne said it would be cleaned by a specialists in line with "strict procedures".  The firm's operations director, Robert Morrison, said a relief crew would be brought in to operate the vessel when it returns to service. CalMac said it was operating a combined Castlebay/Lochboisdale service for people travelling to Barra on Sunday afternoon.

BA Halts Inverness-Heathrow Flights
British Airways has stopped its flights between Inverness and London Heathrow due to England's lockdown.  The airline said it had reviewed its November schedule following the UK Westminster government's announcement of the tighter restrictions.  The lockdown, which includes a "stay at home" message, is due to last until 2 December. BA has not given a date for the resumption of the flights.  Inverness Chamber of Commerce has described BA's move as "disappointing".  BA reinstated the scheduled flights in 2016 after a gap of almost 20 years when it ended its services between the two airports in 1997.  In 2016, those on board the first flight from Heathrow to land at Inverness Airport were greeted by a welcoming party, including a piper.  Businesses in the region had been calling for the resumption of the service for years.  A survey of more than 290 businesses in the Highlands and Islands in 2013 suggested Heathrow remained a key destination.  Business people in the region told the survey they had to travel to airports in Aberdeen, Glasgow or Edinburgh so they could fly to Heathrow for meetings in London and the south east of England.  Following BA's latest announcement, Inverness Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Nicol said: "It's not a surprise, but it's a real blow.  We fought long and hard to get that re-established and I think for many years it was the best performing domestic route in the UK."  He added: "It's a very clear indication of the damage that the global pandemic is doing to the airline industry." BA said its focus was on keeping "crucial" air links open for bringing home thousands of customers who were abroad, providing services to people making essential journeys within the UK and for transporting vital goods.  A spokesman added: "We will be contacting customers whose flights are cancelled to offer refund options, as well as encouraging customers who wish to change their booking to do so via, where they can also request a voucher for future travel if their flight continues to operate."  Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, which runs Inverness Airport, said the pandemic continued to have a "significant impact" on air travel.  A spokesman said: "We are in close contact with our colleagues at the airline and we continue to implement full Covid-19 mitigation measures at our airports and the safety of our colleagues and passengers remains our top priority.  Customers with specific queries about flights already booked should contact their airline."

Study Reveals Extent of Links Between Slave Money and Highland Estates

Millions of pounds linked to slavery was used to buy huge swathes of land in the west Highlands and Islands, research published today reveals.  The new study exposes the extent of the historical connection between land ownership in the region and plantation slavery in the Caribbean and North Africa.  It also highlights how many estate owners were prominent in the infamous Highland Clearances which saw thousands of people evicted from the land.  The research by two university academics shows that 63 estates, amounting to almost 1.2 million acres and covering 33.5% of the west Highlands and islands, were acquired using the equivalent of more than £120 million by beneficiaries of “slavery derived wealth”.  The majority – 37 estates – changed hands between 1790 and 1855, the main period of the infamous Clearances. The independent study ‘Plantation Slavery and Landownership in the west Highlands and Islands: Legacies and Lessons’ was written by Coventry University-based Dr Iain MacKinnon, from Skye, and Dr Andrew Mackillop, a senior lecturer in Scottish History at Glasgow University, from Harris. It is being published by Community Land Scotland which represents community landowners and it is hoped will encourage debate on Scotland’s slavery links.  It provides the first systematic analysis of the location and size of estate purchases financed by slavery money. This derived from involvement in the slave trade and/or the plantations themselves; or from compensation paid by the British Government when slavery was abolished in most of the British Empire.  An Act of Parliament in 1833 provided £20 million compensation to slave owners – more than £16 billion today. The equivalent of over £120 million of that figure was spent buying the Highland estates studied.  It says certain traditional landowners who inherited their Highland land also benefited from slavery money.  The Mackenzies of Gairloch, Macleod of Macleod and the House of Sutherland, had married into slavery-derived wealth. Cameron of Locheil and Mackintosh of Mackintosh also “appear to have been directly involved in the plantation economy in Jamaica.”  In the 1880s these families together held at least 690,313 acres in the counties of Ross and Inverness.  The authors calculate that at least 5,000 people were cleared from the land by this new ‘slavery elite’. However, the figure would have been far higher as the study was restricted to the Hebrides from Islay northwards and the western coast of the counties of Inverness and Ross.  Examples of evictors include Colonel John Gordon of Cluny who cleared more than 2,900 people from Uist and Barra.  Dr MacKinnon said: “It is now clear that returning wealth from Atlantic slavery had an important impact on landownership change in the West Highlands and Islands in the 19th century and contributed significantly to the development of extractive and ecologically damaging forms of land use – whether this was commercial extraction through sheep farming, or status extraction through membership of what has been called the ‘hunting cult’ of the Victorian era in which many social elites were involved.”  Dr Mackillop added: “The report highlights how events, peoples and places that are distant to us in time or in geography are still closely intertwined with Highland history and the present-day condition of that part of Scotland.  It demonstrates how this intersection between slavery-derived wealth and landed property and power was particularly evident during the most intensive phase of the Highland Clearances in the 1830s to 1860s.  In pointing out this connection the report is seeking to encourage informed debate over the tangled legacies of Scottish society’s substantial and sustained involvement in slavery within the British Empire.”  Dr Calum MacLeod, Community Land Scotland’s policy director, said: “The report is an important contribution to our collective understanding of how slavery-derived wealth helped sustain and shape the pattern of monopoly private landownership in the north west Highlands and Islands that persists to this day.”

Thurso Group's Series of Online Workshops Will Focus on Reducing Waste this Christmas
Tackling waste will be the priority for Thurso's community growing project in the run-up to the festive season.  The group, run by Thurso Community Development Trust, has organised a series of online workshops featuring local people and businesses to help the public make small changes this Christmas that could have a big impact on their carbon footprint.  Stacks Bistro at John O'Groats is presenting a video on making beetroot and apple muffins as an edible Christmas present, while Latheron's Forse of Nature café and craft centre will run a workshop on creating your own wrapping paper.  Students from North Highland College UHI will show how to make a nut roast if you want to reduce your meat consumption, while Andrea Wotherspoon from Highland Council will talk about local waste and recycling and Angela Costello from Thurso grocery store JA Mackay will highlight some of the products that are available when shopping locally.  Other contributors include the Caithness Beach Cleans plastic waste group.  Thurso Grows project co-ordinator Sharon Dismore said: “This feels like one of our most exciting projects this year.  The videos are fun and informal and help give creative ways to reduce your carbon footprint. We hope they are well received as we look forward to Christmas in Caithness.”  Ellie Sheales, from Forse of Nature, who has made an instructional video on making gift bags, said: “I’m really excited to be involved in this fantastic project. It’s such a great way to raise awareness of climate change and what we can do to help, while having fun at the same time.  We all need a bit of positivity and creativity this year and these videos are a perfect source of inspiration.”  The workshops will be released through Thurso Grows on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as pre-recorded instructional videos. They will be released every Friday at 7pm from November 13 and then every Friday and Saturday in December until the 19th, but will be available to access at any time.  The videos will then also be added to Thurso Community Development Trust's YouTube channel. Thurso Grows is financed by the Scottish Government's Climate Challenge Fund, which allows the workshops to be provided free of charge.  Sharon added: "The only thing we are asking is for participants to fill out a short before-and-after questionnaire for an estimate of what you usually waste at Christmas and after the workshops to see if you have changed that at all. This is vital to the project for funding to run future events."  Every year it is estimated that 4.2 million platefuls of food are wasted in the UK. It is thought that around £700 million is spent on unwanted presents, 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away and a billion cards are thrown in the bin.

Dumfries and Galloway Cannabis Farm Gets Agency Funding

Work has begun on a medicinal cannabis farm in Dumfries and Galloway following a public development agency investment.  Hilltop Leaf Ltd, a private medicinal cannabis cultivation and extraction business, has received support from South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE). The £690,000 capital investment will be used in the construction of a 11,000 sq m facility on a rural site.   South of Scotland Enterprise said it would help to create new jobs in the region. Medicinal cannabis can be used to treat chronic pain and epilepsy. Most cannabis-based medicines are imported from abroad rather than made in the UK.  Hilltop Leaf aims to provide cannabinoid oils, APIs and cannabis-based medicinal products to the European market. Its new facility is expected to be built by March 2021, despite challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.  The company hopes to eventually create more than 50 jobs in the area, including technical quality assurance roles, agricultural labour and operational support. CEO Hamish Clegg said the SOSE investment provided "early risk capital" and would help attract the private investment. "We aim to provide an affordable and widely available solution to patients suffering from a range of conditions from chronic pain to severe epilepsy, easing pressure on the NHS," he said.  "We hope to rival other countries such as Canada, Germany, and Israel where the medical cannabis industry is already well established." Prof Russel Griggs, SOSE chairman, said: "We are delighted to provide support to Hilltop at their early growth stage of this pioneering medicinal business.  This is an exciting project and offers a fantastic opportunity for Hilltop to help the rural economy of Dumfries and Galloway by creating local jobs and supporting existing businesses."

Bonnie Prince Charlie's Culloden Battle Hoard Found

Musket balls believed to have been part of a stashed supply of weapons for Bonnie Prince Charlie have been found near a ruined Lochaber croft.  Amateur archaeologists made the discovery while trying to find armaments that arrived from France, but too late to help the prince.  They were sent as part of his doomed attempt to defeat government forces as part of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.  The hoard included 215 musket balls, coins and gilt buttons. The arms shipment is thought to have landed in Lochaber two weeks after Bonnie Prince Charlie's forces were defeated at Culloden.  Fought near Inverness in April 1746, the battle resulted in the deaths of 1,500 Jacobites - who were fighting to restore the prince's father to the thrones of England and Scotland - at the hands of the Duke of Cumberland's government army. France, which supported the Jacobite cause, sent the weapons and gold to the prince in Scotland. The discovery was made by a group called Conflicts of Interest, who were given permission to use metal detectors in the area.  They found the musket balls and coins near a ruined croft house which once belonged to the prince's Gaelic tutor - at Sandaig on the shores of the sea loch, Loch nan Uamh.  The find has now been reported to Treasure Trove, an organisation with responsibility for protecting archaeological finds of national significance.  Paul Macdonald, of Conflicts of Interest, told BBC Naidheachdan: "The find was made by joining the dots.  We knew there were arms landed in the area and it then became a matter of narrowing down where they might be." He said the balls were of a size matching the calibre of muskets sent to the Jacobites.  Mr Macdonald said the balls along with other supplies may have been distributed locally and then hidden.

Four UK Nations Discuss Joint Christmas Approach

Discussions have taken place about the four nations of the UK taking a joint approach to Covid rules over Christmas.  The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish first ministers held a virtual meeting with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and other senior UK officials. It was the first of what UK Westminster ministers hope will be weekly meetings. UK Westminster government sources said topics including international travel, mass testing and the priority list for vaccinations were also discussed. Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster took part in the meeting, as did Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis. Mr Gove said they all recognised families across the UK "want to be able to see their loved ones this Christmas".  He added: "Today my ministerial colleagues and I met with the devolved administrations to work towards that shared aim and to help ensure that our collective response delivers for the public in every part of the UK".  It is understood government officials will now be considering how to put the desire for a "joint approach to Christmas" into action.  A Scottish government spokesperson said: "The four nations call had an initial discussion about a co-ordinated approach to issues such as travel over the Christmas period and discussed recent developments in testing, including the use of lateral flow testing to enable students to return home, and initial lessons from the Liverpool pilot." Senior UK Westminster ministers have warned the situation remains highly volatile, with different levels of restrictions in different parts of the country and high rates of transmissions across the UK. Environment Secretary George Eustice said recently that people may not be able to gather like normal in large groups while Ms Sturgeon's most senior public health adviser, Jason Leitch, said last month that people should prepare themselves for a "digital Christmas".  Earlier on Wednesday, a plan was announced to get students in England home safely for Christmas.  Students are to be allocated departure dates during a "student travel window" between 3 and 9 December, to minimise the risk of them spreading Covid-19.  In Wales, they are being asked to travel by 9 December at the latest.  The Scottish government wants as many as possible of the 80,000 or so students going home for Christmas to be offered voluntary tests before they travel.  Northern Ireland is expected to publish plans for students' return in the coming days.

Indian community prepares for a restricted Diwali

Members of Scotland's Indian community are preparing to celebrate Diwali away from their families amid Covid restrictions on household gatherings.  The festival of light begins on Thursday and lasts for five days.  Dr Anil Sethi, a GP from Rutherglen, wrote to the Scottish government asking for students to be able to return home for religious festivals.  The government said it was working with universities to help students get home in December. On Wednesday Universities Minister Richard Lochhead said students would be allowed to return home for Christmas if they return two negative Covid tests before travelling.  Dr Sethi had hoped additional testing would allow his son, who is studying medicine at Edinburgh University, to return home this week.  "It's not just me," he said. "I have spoken to many Indian families and they have the same feelings.  This is the time of festivities in India - people are happy, elated, but now they are all feeling low and sad thinking even their own children can't come and join them.  That was the reason I did write to the Scottish government to look into it and see if in some safe way we could have our own children in our own houses on that particular day to celebrate Diwali."  "In the past we used to have big parties - that is not possible this year," Dr Sethi said. "I absolutely understand it should be done safely. We don't want Covid to be spread."  Given the current restrictions, he will celebrate at home with his wife.  "We will decorate the house, we'll do the prayers and we'll have the children joining us online," Dr Sethi added.  Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.  Dr Sandesh Gulhane, a Glasgow GP with a young family, has parents in London and he will miss seeing them during Diwali, the most important festival of his year.  But he is particularly concerned about the serious deterioration in the mental health he has witnessed in some of his patients since restrictions began, with men and those in BAME communities particularly at risk.  He fears that will worsen during cultural and religious festivals when people normally meet their friends and family.  "All throughout society we are seeing a huge problem and I would say we are on the tip of a tsunami of a mental health crisis going through this country, from children all the way up to elderly patients," Dr Gulhane said.  "What I'd really like is for the importance of these festivals like [the Muslim festival] Eid and Diwali to be recognised and if special dispensation can't be made for these events to have that discussion, to be honest," Dr Gulhane said. "Don't make me feel like a second class citizen. Don't make me feel as if my religious events aren't important.  Discuss why they are important and say this is why we can't celebrate it but don't have an exception for Christmas just because it's Christmas. Have it done on exactly the same level in terms of conditions that we're doing for Eid and Diwali."  The Scottish government told the BBC that the restrictions were essential.  Communities secretary Aileen Campbell said: "Faith is an important part of many people's lives and we know that the ability to come together to celebrate festivals, such as Diwali, is cherished by families across Scotland.  Unfortunately, just as with Easter, Passover and Eid, the public health measures to suppress coronavirus mean that communities will be unable to come together to celebrate Diwali as they normally would. I know this will disappoint many, but these restrictions are vital to save lives and to protect our NHS.  While none of us should be visiting each other's homes just now or travelling in or out of level three areas other than for limited essential reasons, you can travel to your usual place of worship if neither it, nor you, are in a level four area.  Diwali can, of course, be celebrated in your own established household and, within guidelines, in places of worship."

Fife, Perth & Kinross and Angus Move Into Level 3 Restrictions
Fife, Perth and Kinross and Angus will enter the weekend under tougher Covid restrictions. The three local authority areas are due to move from level two to level three of the Scottish government's five-tier system at 06:00 GMT on Friday. The change means about four million people in Scotland are now living under this tier.  The first minister announced the changes in her first review of the Covid alert system on Tuesday.  In level three areas, restrictions see cafes, pubs and restaurants allowed to open until 18:00 to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks to groups of up to six from two households.  Alcohol sales are not permitted indoors or outdoors. All leisure and entertainment venues are closed at this level, including cinemas. No non-essential travel is allowed out of a level three area. Indoor exercise, which includes gyms, are restricted to individual and not group exercise.
Level 3 - Angus, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Perth & Kinross, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian.
Level 2 - Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Argyll & Bute, Borders, Dumfries & Galloway.
Level 1 - Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland, Western Isles.
Addressing the Scottish Parliament earlier in the week, Nicola Sturgeon said the "necessary and precautionary" decision to move Fife, Perth and Kinross and Angus to level three was taken because cases in all three areas were on a "sharply rising trajectory".  The change hits the hospitality industry particularly hard.  Ahead of Perth and Kinross' move into level three, Gleneagles Hotel, announced it would close for 11 weeks, from Friday 13 November until 31 January.  The hotel shut its doors for four months earlier this year as part of the national lockdown.  'This time is worse because we don't know when we will reopen again'  George Mackay runs the Path Tavern in Kirkcaldy. He has decided to close completely because it is not worth it for him to serve food without alcohol.  He is also doubts about whether he will be open again before Christmas.  He told BBC News: "We will open on Friday and Saturday to honour bookings but then that's it.  I'm really disappointed we are closing again and I can't see it being any less than three weeks. At least with the furlough scheme the staff will get paid." Mr Mackay has spent large sums on adapting his premises, installing screens and booking regular deep cleans. He feels he can operate safely.  He said: "Every Saturday morning I have five regular customers - couples - where one has a pint and the other has a small glass of wine. I have regulars who are widowers and they come in every night for two pints and then they go home. "There is nobody in here not doing it right. They wear masks, sit away from each other. What's the risk?"   There are currently no areas of Scotland under the most severe level four restrictions - which could be broadly compared to the national lockdown currently in place across England.  But officials are monitoring sharp rises in cases in Stirling and Inverclyde, and to a lesser extent South Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire - which are all already in level three.  The islands, however, will welcome a loosening of their restrictions at the same time.  Up to six people from two households in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles will be able to meet inside their homes from Friday.  Ms Sturgeon said this was possible because cases in the islands were "very low and sporadic", but warned that people who have travelled from the mainland should avoid in-house mixing for a time to limit the risk of importing the virus.  Anouska Civiko, from the charity Mind Your Head, said: "It's a very long winter here on Shetland, so for people to be able to have visitors in their own homes and see family and friends again it is just going to give everyone's mental health and wellbeing a significant boost ."

Young Edinburgh Musician Uses Power of Adversity to Write His Debut Album

Rory Bruce, known by his stage name RJAB, released the album titled EH13 last month which deals with topics such as mental health, drugs and homelessness.  Rory left home last year following an argument with his parents over financial issues, and found himself living in B&Bs and hostels around the city.  He struggled during lockdown, but in September received a room at supported accommodation, Hillcrest Futures’ in Oxgangs, which aims to help homeless individuals and enable them to gain independence, skills and confidence to help them move into permanent housing and maintain a tenancy of their own.  The 21-year-old said: “If I don’t chase my dreams and become successful then I won’t be able to give back to those who are important to me, so that is the driving force that keeps me going.  To begin with I wrote my raps based on rhymes, although more recently I have started using my own life and things I’ve been through as the main inspiration.  I left home last year after an argument with my parents over financial issues I was having. I lived in a couple of B&Bs then stayed in a hostel in the city centre for nine months. I really struggled being away from my support network, especially during lockdown.  I used this time to write my album as I find writing really therapeutic. I use any negative emotions I’m feeling to my advantage by creating music with them.  In September I was over the moon to get a room in Hillcrest Futures’ Oxgangs service as it is a lot closer to my family and friends. The staff there are very friendly and take a real interest in me and my music which I really appreciate. I feel like my life is finally back on track.”  Joy Dunlop, managing director of Hillcrest Futures addeed: “I am absolutely delighted to hear of Rory’s success in creating this album and hope it will be the first of many more productions and an inspiration to others to follow their dreams.  I’m glad to hear Rory is feeling more positive and the support from staff has helped to build his confidence. The staff at our homelessness services provide vital support for some of the most vulnerable people in society. Day in, day out they are helping to change people’s lives for the better.” Rory said: “The past year has been challenging for me and I definitely couldn’t have got through it without having supportive people around me. I’m extremely grateful for all they do for me.”
RJAB’s album EH13 is available to download on Spotify, YouTube Music or Apple Music.

Major Moffat Wind Farm Plans Submitted

Plans for a major wind farm near Moffat have been submitted to the Scottish government. If approved the Scoop Hill development would see 75 turbines built to provide energy for more than 500,000 homes.  Due to the scale of the project the application will be decided by the Scottish government.  Owner Community Windpower said the plans would involve an overall investment of £1.8bn and could create news jobs. Energy storage facilities would be built within the wind farm to provide a "more consistent level of power".  A separate planning application is also planned for a visitor centre at the site. Stuart Walker, community liaison officer at Community Windpower, said: "Scoop Hill community wind farm will provide huge economic and social benefits to Dumfries and Galloway, both during construction and the 40-year operational lifetime.  However, the benefits of this project are not just limited to directly supporting jobs during the post-Covid green recovery, it will also stimulate wider economic growth across the region and deliver 40 years of inward investment."

Dispute Looms Over Centralised Hial Air Traffic Control

Staff at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) could take industrial action over plans to centralise some of its traffic control, according to a union.  Hial has proposed controlling air traffic at six airports centrally from a hub in Inverness.  The union Prospect said some members were unwilling to relocate, meaning nearly 50 could lose their jobs.  Hial disputed the figure and said there were no compulsory redundancy plans.  Under Hial's plan, unmanned towers would be located at Sumburgh in Shetland, Dundee, Wick John O'Groats, Kirkwall in Orkney, and Stornoway and Benbecula in the Western Isles.  They would feed information to the central hub in Inverness.  Prospect has claimed this would lead to the downgrading of Benbecula and Wick airports.  The union said a survey of its members suggested they would support taking industrial action over the issue.  Negotiations officer David Avery said: "Prospect members in Hial are absolutely committed to protecting and serving their local communities.  That is why they are opposing this deeply damaging project which will reduce services at two airports, take £2.2m of direct employment out of local economies and put nearly 50 staff out of a job." Hial managing director Inglis Lyon said: "We wish to avoid industrial action and have therefore written to Prospect to suggest we engage the services of an external facilitator to help resolve matters and we await a response.  We categorically refute Prospect's claims of 50 staff redundancies. From the outset, we have been clear that Hial has a no compulsory redundancy policy and we are exploring all options with our colleagues."  Hial said its air traffic management system needed to transformed to meet operational needs now and into the future.  It said digital tower technology had been operational since 2015 and was already being used, or in the process of being introduced, for Norwegian, Swedish, German, Dutch, Danish, Belgian, Irish and UK air traffic management.