Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 587

Issue # 587                                           Week ending Saturday 16th  January  2021

People Will Believe What They Want to Even Without Any Proper Evidence At All, Sadly by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Away from worldwide bizarre politics, we must still remember those on the Covid frontline. Whether they’re shop workers, teachers, drivers of public transport or nurses of all kinds. Our nurses are still there mopping our fevered brows as well as mopping up our bodily fluids. In the midst of this pandemic, these angels of mercy are still having to tend us when we are poorly or recovering and they have to push pills into our mouths and stick their thermometers up here, over there and sometimes down there as well.

In the current situation, they are under immense pressure and having to share tasks with whichever departments need their skills. One minute they could be trying to get a grumpy patient to take more chicken soup and the next they could be helping out at a difficult birth - like a caesarean section. I won’t go into detail but it is often just known as a c-section nowadays. I myself was a c-baby. We are just ordinary people. The only difference is when we’re in sleeping bags, we really love someone else unzipping them.

If there is one person who would zip it and not say “I told you so”, it is I. Yet the utter foolhardiness of elite footballers jetting off to the United Arab Emirates for a spot of luxury shopping, being celeb-spotted in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa, the famed 830-foot tower in downtown Dubai, as well as a spot of light dribbling on Arabia’s much-manicured green and pleasant land just defies belief. In the past few years, the bosses at Parkhead thought the players had benefited from sun, sand and selfies. So it’s alright this year, then?

Although Celtic FC got the green light from the Scottish Government when restrictions were more relaxed as the rate of infections dropped, the sudden emergence of a new more-infectious strain of coronavirus did not make the club bosses have a re-think about the trip. Arrogant, overpaid, uncaring elite sportspeople need their R&R too, apparently. Just because they were likely to be infected and become a danger to other people did not make them wonder whether maybe, just maybe, the jolly boys’ international outing should be postponed until next year.

Most soccer people are not known for their intellects. The most ardent low-IQ Covid denier, however, would have thought twice about that squad of smarmy selfishness going when they did. That they messed up and at least one Celtic player, Christopher Jullien, has Covid and 13 others, plus manager Neil Lennon and his assistant, are isolating was predictable. Karma.

People like them are dangerous to the safety of others. News - covid is often fatal. They’re almost as dumb as those thousands who swarmed Congress in Washington last week for their violent and lethal act of insurrection where five people died. The reactions to that atrocity has shown that deluded apologists for them are everywhere. The new prime minister of Australia, Michael McCormack, described last week’s terror incident as merely “unfortunate” and instead slagged off Twitter and Facebook for rightly blocking Donald Trump’s inane rants.

All together now: “There may be trouble ahead ...”

While the unwashed hordes were still lurking in the grounds of Congress, one person cut through the chaos with a well-chosen tweet. That was dear, sweet Susie Dent. You may know her as the clever clogs in Dictionary Corner on TV’s Countdown. Admit it, most of us have watched it in the past year - and the rude late-evening version with Jimmy Carr. She has a word of the day which is usually a brain thumper. Last Wednesday it was sequaciousness. Heck, Susie. What ... ? She explained it thus: “the blinkered, slavish, unreasoning following of another.”

It’s a somewhat unfamiliar term from the 17th century. Brilliant.

We all think in terms familiar to us. We can’t help it. A young fisherman rushed his pregnant wife to hospital a while back. The new arrival was very imminent but, as sometimes happens, there were some complications. His father texted him at Western Isles Hospital and told him to ask the staff what the complications were so he could tell his own wife. After a few minutes, the fisherman texted back: “The midwife said she is going to have a sea section. I have no idea what that is.”

His father, an old fisherman himself, texted: “I think a sea section just means she is going to have a very big buoy.”

Four Arrests At Anti-lockdown Demonstration
Four people have been arrested after protesters clashed with police as they demonstrated against coronavirus lockdown measures.  A small crowd gathered outside the Scottish Parliament to take part in the Scotland Against Lockdown event.  Community liaison officers warned them they would face a fine if they stayed at the prohibited event but some refused to leave.  A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that four people were arrested and charged in connection with alleged breaches of coronavirus regulations at a planned demonstration at the Scottish Parliament today.  All are due to appear in Edinburgh Sheriff Court in due course.  One other person was charged with police obstruction and will be the subject of a report to the procurator fiscal.  Two other people were given fixed penalty notices for breaching coronavirus regulations."  Under current coronavirus regulations covering mainland Scotland people may not leave home for anything other than essential purposes, meaning marches and protests are banned.  Police Scotland had earlier urged people to stay away from the protest and to find other ways to express their views, such as online.  The event had been promoted as being a peaceful march from Holyrood to Bute House in Charlotte Square.  However, most people left the scene after instruction from officers and the procession never got under way.  One protester said: "They're fighting for their civil liberties and human rights."

'No Show' Glasgow Councillor Forced From Office

A Glasgow councillor has lost his seat after failing to attend council meetings for six months. A by-election will now be held to choose a replacement for Tony Curtis in the Partick East/Kelvindale ward.  He was elected as a Conservative councillor in 2017 but quit the party last July amid disagreements over support for the fitness industry.  He told the Daily Record he believed the party should have pressed for earlier reopening after lockdown.  The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 states that a member of a local authority loses office if they do not attend a meeting at least once in any six-month period.  This was triggered when he failed to attend a council meeting, currently being held using video-conferencing, in December.  The date of the by-election has not yet been set.  Returning Officer Annemarie O'Donnell said: "If you live in Partick East and Kelvindale there is still time for you to register to vote and to register to vote by post in this by election."

Covid in Scotland: All Over-80s to Be Vaccinated by February
Everyone aged 80 or over in Scotland will be given the Covid vaccine by February, the health secretary has said. Jeane Freeman also said care home staff and residents, as well as front-line health and social care staff would be vaccinated in the next few weeks.  As of Sunday, 163,377 Scots had been given a first dose of vaccine.  Ms Freeman told BBC Scotland that just under 560,000 people will have been vaccinated by the end of the month.  The Oxford vaccine will be available at more than 1,100 locations from Monday. Scotland has been given an initial allocation of more than 500,000 doses to use in January.  Ms Freeman told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We intend that by the end of this month, the very beginning of February, we will have vaccinated all residents in care homes and staff, all front-line health and social care workers and all those aged 80 or over. So that's just under 560,000. We've already vaccinated about 70% of people in care homes and about half of the health and social care workforce." She said the Scottish government was on course to match the UK government's commitment to offer a vaccine jab to everyone in the top four priority groups by the middle of February.  The health service will be able to vaccinate people as supplies of the jabs arrive, she said, with over-80s being contacted by their GPs.  Reaching the February target of 560,000 vaccinations. . Showing first doses of the vaccine. An average of 62,222 vaccinations a week is needed to hit the target. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the health authorities in Scotland now had enough supplies to give jabs to all over-80s over the coming four weeks. She said the aim was to get through the priority list as quickly as possible.  This had been expected to be complete by mid-May, but Ms Sturgeon said she was "very, very hopeful we will be able to accelerate that to an earlier point". A total of 1,664 people are in hospital being treated for Covid-19, the highest number since the pandemic began - with Ms Sturgeon saying the country was in a "dangerous situation".  The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has already been administered in the Tayside, Lothian, Orkney and Highlands health board areas but this week will see it being used at vaccination centres across the whole country.  Recent figures suggest a slight fall in the average positivity rates for Covid in many parts of Scotland, but pressures on the NHS have intensified.  The number of patients in hospital in with Covid rose to new highs at the weekend, and Sunday saw a sharp increase in the number of patients requiring treatment in intensive care.  Deputy First Minister John Swinney said there were few signs that the threat was "abating" and that a tightening of restrictions could not be ruled out.  The majority of Scotland's schools are closed until at least February with pupils now learning from home as the new term begins this week. Only vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers will receive face-to-face teaching.  Local authorities said schools were better prepared to roll out digital learning than they were during the first lockdown. But one parents' group has raised concerns about "equal and fair access to home learning".

Top-up Grants for Hospitality and Retail

Hospitality, retail and leisure firms hit by level four restrictions are to receive one-off top-up grants from the Scottish government.  Eligible larger hospitality businesses will receive £25,000 on top of existing grants, while smaller firms will get £6,000.  There will also be an extra £9,000 for larger retail and leisure companies and £6,000 for smaller firms. Scottish retailers described the new cash grants as "a financial lifeline".  The Scottish government said that in most cases, eligible businesses that had already applied for a four-weekly payment from the Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF) would get an automatic top-up.  For the majority, it said, the top-up would be combined with the next tranche of payment for the SFBF due to go to businesses on 25 January.  It urged businesses that had not yet applied for either of these funds to do so as soon as possible through their local authority website. Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said that since the start of the pandemic, Scottish government support for business and the economy had reached almost £3bn.  She said: "As promised, this additional support for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses will be available this month, in some cases doubling or tripling the amount of support we are providing.  Applications are open now and payment will be made this month. I'd encourage all eligible businesses to apply through their local authority if they have not done so already.  Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said: "These enhanced cash grants for retail business are a financial lifeline which will help non-essential stores through the current phase of being unable to open and trade."  The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland also welcomed the move. "The Scottish government still has work to do to get previously announced support schemes up and running. And we must see help reach those that have had little or nothing so far, like many home-based businesses. CBI Scotland director Tracy Black welcomed the new grants, saying they would help some of Scotland's hardest-hit firms as they "struggle with evaporating demand and day-to-day cashflow challenges".

Key to Room Where Napoleon Died Found in Scotland
The key to the room where Napoleon died is to be auctioned after it was found in Scotland. The French emperor was held as a prisoner of the British on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic after his defeat at Waterloo.  He died in 1821 and the bedroom key was taken by a British soldier and ended up in a country house outside of Edinburgh. The Scottish descendants of the soldier have made the key available for sale.  It is being auctioned by Sotheby's and the key, along with the envelope and notes it was found with, are estimated to be worth up to £5,000.  Soldier Charles Richard Fox took the key from St Helena and gave it to his mother, Baroness Holland, a "super fan" of Napoleon.  She already had a collection of items connected to the Corsican-born former French statesman and military leader, including one of his socks.  Scottish descendants of the soldier and the baroness found the key while unpacking an old trunk.  David Macdonald, of Sotheby's, said: "We see things associated with Napoleon all the time, important pictures or furniture from one of his amazing houses or homes. But there's something about a key which, particularly as it comes from where he was incarcerated, is quite powerful, especially as it's the key to the room where he died. It's something otherworldly. It was as powerful and potent an object then as it is today." The property at Longwood on St Helena where Napoleon was held was "not a prison cell by any means" and had some comforts, said Mr Macdonald, adding: "He was a respected foe." He said it was not clear why Fox was on the island, but "he had the opportunity to take the key for himself or more likely, his mother. The key will go under the hammer at Sotheby's in London together with a piece of ageing yellow paper inscribed with Fox's note: "Key of the room at Longwood, in which Napoleon died".

Salt Harvesting: Turning Sea Water Into 'White Gold' in A Fife Village
Salt harvesting is being revived in a Fife coastal village - 200 years after the industry ended in the area. The East Neuk Salt Company plans to produce two tonnes of artisan sea salt every month from February in St Monans.  In the 1790s, salt was Scotland's third-largest export after wool and fish.  It was so valuable that it was referred to as "white gold", with companies willing to burn eight tonnes of coal to make every tonne of salt.  The remnants of nine salt pan houses and a windmill can still be seen at St Monans.  The village has had salt pans since the 17th Century, although those remains date back to the 18th-Century, when they were built by the Newark Coal and Salt Company.  The windmill is the last one remaining one in Fife, and has since been renovated as a tourist attraction.  In the industry's heyday it would pump the sea water into the salt pans, which were then heated by coal. The water was boiled until it evaporated and left salt. However, the industry eventually ground to a halt due to competition from sun-evaporated salt from Spain.  Now Darren Peattie is reviving the salt-making tradition in the East Neuk of Fife.  The 36-year-old said he had been forced to leave St Monans when he was 17 in search of work.  He said: "My passion is to bring industry back to this area.  "I left 19 years ago for a corporate finance job in London because there were no jobs here, but I've come back now to fulfil my dream."  Mr Peattie will collect 2,500 litres (2.5 tonnes) of water a day from the Firth of Forth at Elie, using a hose to suck it up into a bowser tank. He will then drive it back to base in St Monans, three miles away. "St Andrews University has tested the water and it's come back as Grade A, so the mineral content is perfect and the pollution is non-existent," said Mr Peattie.  "I can see why it was called white gold in the past. It's absolutely incredible."  The water is put through a filter which is finer than a human hair to get rid of any microplastics, then goes into a vacuum evaporator.  A sleeve, heated by gas, brings the water to 45C. It takes a few hours to turn the water into brine, which is then poured into crystalliser beds.  Mr Peattie said the process was like filling a bath with sea water and then heating it from below.  "Crystals and salt flakes start forming on the top of the bath water. When salt forms it gets heavier than water, so you get beautiful crystals and pyramid flakes sinking to the bottom.  When you have a volume of salt at the bottom you get a stainless steel spade with holes in it.  The brine drops off when you lift the spade and you are left with these beautiful salt flakes." These flakes are then put through the drying process, where they are spread out on hundreds of trays and put into a special oven for 40 minutes.  Mr Peattie has spent almost £160,000 on the equipment to produce the salt, and says some Michelin star restaurateurs have already expressed an interest in buying the product. He hopes that his workforce will eventually grow to 20 people. There are two other salt production companies in Scotland: Blackthorn Salt in Ayr and Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company. Mr Peattie also plans to reconstruct one of the nine old salt pan houses in the area to turn it into a visitor centre. The old salt pans were excavated in 1985, but there is little left of the buildings that used to cover them.  The windmill was restored and reroofed, with new sails attached in the 1990s as it was turned into a visitor attraction.  Mr Peattie said: "I want people to come into the village, see the old heritage site, develop an understanding of how the salt industry once worked, then move up to our new premises and learn how salt has moved on." And he added: "The ultimate aim is to link the past to the present and celebrate St Monans as the true home of salt."

Creel Fishermen Win Review of Skye Fisheries

Scotland's creel fishermen have won a judicial review into the way fisheries should be managed in the seas off Skye. The Scottish Creel Fishermen's Federation (SCFF) submitted proposals to separate mobile and static fishing in the Inner Sound as part of a trial.  The Court of Session ruled the proposal was turned down by ministers solely because of the strength of opposition.  The judge, Lady Poole, said the SCFF's proposal had not been fairly considered before being rejected.  Mobile fishing, through trawling and dredging, can often come into conflict with static methods.  Creel fishermen - who lay their pots of the seabed before returning days later to empty them - say thousands of pounds worth of gear can be lost when a fishing boat drags its nets through an area.  The proposal was to designate some areas of the Inner Sound of Skye to static fishing while others could be used by the mobile fleet. A consultation, launched in 2017, invited fisheries management proposals for the seas around Scotland which would be judged against five criteria, including national and international obligations and the impact on quotas. But Lady Poole ruled that the SCFF proposal for the Inner Sound was not judged on these criteria but simply on the strength of opposition.  Lawyers for the SCFF told Lady Poole Scottish government directorate Marine Scotland acted unreasonably when it rejected its plan. The organisation claimed objections from trawler operators had outweighed "published criteria for assessing pilot proposals set out in the government's own guidance".  SCFF lawyers claimed the Scottish government's guidance stated that local community groups could put forward a pilot proposal which could be approved.  They said approval could be granted if such schemes provided firm proof that management of fishing stocks could be maintained and improved.  Alistair Sinclair from SCFF said: "The Scottish government have in effect devolved management of our inshore to their friends in the mobile sector and this is costing Scotland a fortune in lost jobs and lost economic opportunity . I call on the Scottish government to recognise that management of the inshore must be lawful, in accordance with published policy and must serve the national interest and not just that of the trawl sector."  The Scottish government said it was considering the court's decision "very carefully".  A spokesman said: "This case focused only on the assessment of a proposal for the Inner Sound of Skye by some creel fishermen, and is not related to wider inshore fisheries management matters. A lot has happened since the case was lodged in May 2020.  The Scottish government has been focused on supporting the fishing industry through the impacts of Covid-19 and EU exit.  Last month we also published the Future Fisheries Management Strategy setting out policy initiatives for the next ten years including for inshore fisheries. We would encourage the SCFF to fully engage with this work through our inshore fisheries groups."

Inverness Language School’s Fast Fluency Claim

A language ace from Inverness is running classes which he says will have you learning a foreign language around three times faster.  Neil Kendall, of Aignish Drive, Inverness, started Neil Kendall Language School 12 months ago and despite the pandemic forcing online learning, has built up clients locally and internationally.  Rock musician Mr Kendall developed an unexpected passion for language learning after a trip to Spain. He now speaks 10 languages and believes the way languages are taught in school is fundamentally flawed. He said: “I started researching and testing different methods for learning and eventually discovered that there are far better and more enjoyable ways to learn languages than how we’re taught in school.  “I turned myself from a language dunce into a language warrior and have learned 10 languages so far. The problem is that the methods used in school and in most language classes are boring and ineffective, which puts people off and makes them associate it with hard work and negativity.” Instead, he incorporates “accelerated learning techniques” which enable people to learn faster and more effectively. His classes use a variety of colourful animated courses, music and group interaction which bring the classroom to life and get people confidently speaking, reading and writing in a language in record time. He added: “I systemised what I learned into complete courses which will get a person to the point where they can effectively communicate in another language in three months or less. I also run intensive courses where I can teach all the material in a single weekend, my Speed Learn A Language courses. “My classes are totally unique and unlike any other language classes being taught anywhere in the world.”

Lowther Hills Wind Farm Project Rejected by Government
A wind farm project described as "visually dominant and incongruous" by a council has been rejected by the Scottish government.  Developers scaled back the Lowther Hills scheme near Wanlockhead from 42 to 30 turbines.  However, Dumfries and Galloway Council still opposed the proposals which were taken to a public inquiry.  Ministers have now concluded their impact on the landscape would be "unacceptable" and refused the plans.  A public inquiry was held into the project in late 2019 to look at whether it should proceed. Original developer Buccleuch sold its interest in the scheme to Forsa Energy prior to that. Forsa's renewable energy portfolio was, in turn, acquired by BayWa r.e. which was taking the project forward. The Scottish government has now issued its verdict on the plans which it said should not go ahead.  Ministers agreed that the scheme could help meet renewable energy targets but that did not outweigh its impact on the area.  They concluded it would have "significant adverse landscape and visual impacts" as well as adversely affecting the historic setting of Wanlockhead.

Seafood Exporters Facing 'Horrendous' Problems, Says Caithness Business Owner

The owner of a Caithness-based shellfish company has spoken of the "horrendous" problems facing seafood exporters after trade was effectively brought to a standstill because of a Brexit bottleneck.  Diane Watt, who runs Holborn Fishing Company with husband Andrew, has had to tell local fishermen to stop supplying their produce for the time being as it can't get into the European Union because of border delays. She said businesses such as theirs that buy and sell live crabs and lobsters were unable to reach crucial export markets because of the "masses of paperwork" following the end of the Brexit transition period. She is urging politicians to step in and help.  "For one week you'll sustain it but you can't sustain it indefinitely, so we need people to shout as loud as they can," Mrs Watt said. Holborn Fishing Company, based just outside Thurso, deals with about 15 self-employed fishermen, some of whom work seasonally, at Helmsdale, Lybster, Wick, Staxigoe, Auckengill, John O'Groats and Scrabster. Mrs Watt said: “I had to make a phone call to them all and say 'you have to stop, I can't let you fish any more, I can't sell your stuff'. It's just horrendous. It's devastating for them and devastating for us. We put a brand new boat in the water just under a year ago and it is a massive overhead." She warned that shellfish intended for export will only last three days at the most.  “The paperwork involved with the Brexit carry-on is phenomenal for the buyers – not so much for us, because I sell to a third party," Mrs Watt said. "Our buyer told me that his girls in the office are working from seven in the morning until two the following morning, and back in again at seven, and that's not viable. From what I can gather, all the shellfish buyers have been asked to stop with a view to try and fight to get things changed and be able to run properly.  The French are coming in through our borders no problem at all, but we can't get out without masses of paperwork. I collect the stuff as normal, I give them the weights, and I now have to put their health certificate number on it, their licence number on it, each individual boat, each individual species, and where and what region it was caught. That's what I have to do, which is more than I used to, but it's nothing compared to what they're having to do,” Mrs Watt said. "MacNeil Shellfish is probably the biggest Scottish shellfish buyer and if they can't get it through, nobody is going to do it. They just can't cope with it any longer. Trying to get across the border [into France] is just horrendous – they are delayed for days at a time. Once it's in that lorry, shellfish only lasts three days maximum. It really needs to be out of there before that – it just dies. These guys can't afford that." Most of the shellfish caught around Caithness and Sutherland goes to European markets, notably France, Spain and Portugal, but some is destined for China.

Scots Seafood Owner Threatens to Dump Rotten Shellfish Outside Westminster Over Brexit Red Tape

Jamie McMillan, owner of Lochfyne Langoustine & Lochfyne Seafarms, took to Twitter to share his disgust that Scottish exporters are not able to sell product to the EU market due to Brexit red tape.  It comes after the SNP claimed a third of the Scottish fishing fleet is tied up in harbour and losing £1 million a week, causing fresh and high quality produce to be lost. Jamie hit out at Boris Johnson after the SNP's Iain Blackford raised the situation with the Prime Minister.  Jamie branded what was happening "an absolute disgrace" before threatening to dump rotting fish at Westminster.  In a video on Twitter, he said: "The fishing industry is being made a fool of by the Westminster Government. I’m dismayed and angry, my blood is boiling. There are family’s fishing boats tied up. We can’t get our product to the EU market because of red tape. It’s an absolute disgrace what we’ve had to go through."  Scottish seafood exporters have complained about a “mountain of paperwork” now needed to send shellfish to continental markets and have called for an urgent review.  Concerns have been raised about the new checks which mean every box of fresh seafood and salmon has to be offloaded from lorries and inspected by health officers before they leave Scotland. Exporters claim the long delays mean that hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fish are being destroyed and ending up in landfill. To add insult to exporters' injuries, UK Fisheries Minister Victoria  Prentis admitted she did not read the fisheries deal when it was published on Christmas Eve because she was “very busy organising the local Nativity trail”.  Giving evidence to a Lords committee, the minister admitted “things are tricky at the moment” on exports but said her team is “working hard” to resolve issues as they arose. But Jamie is threatening to dump a load of rotting fish outside the parliament in London if the issue isn't sorted by next week. He added: "Prime Minister and Michael Gove, I can assure you, if Scottish exporters can’t get their product to market next week, we will be at the gates of Westminster and we’ll be dumping our shellfish on your doorstep rotten. The same way Westminster is rotten to the core. I am absolutely sickened. We are fighting for our survival, same as every other exporter around Scotland. Get it sorted now."

Covid in Scotland: Rising Cases on Isle of Barra
NHS Western Isles has warned of rising cases of Covid-19 on Barra.  Chief executive Gordon Jamieson said it was a "rapidly developing situation" and has appealed to people to only leave home if "absolutely essential".  Separately, a single positive test of Covid has been confirmed on Benbecula in the isles. The warning comes amid a rise in cases on Barra in the past few days. Local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has closed Barra's Castlebay Sports Centre and visits to the island's St Brendan's Care Home and Hospital have been suspended as part of efforts to tackle the outbreak. Mr Jamieson said test and protect procedures were ongoing and a "significant number of additional tests would be done.  He said: "We would appeal to everyone, particularly the residents of Barra, to limit their contact with other households and only to leave home if absolutely essential. Please continue to take every precaution you can. We must contain and supress this virus." Local councillor Donald Manford said there had been "shock and dismay" at the rise in cases. He said: "We have been many, many months clear of the infection. We reacted immediately to limit circulation and are working tirelessly to protect ourselves." Level three restrictions apply in the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and some islands in Argyll and Bute and the Highlands. These are Coll, Colonsay, Erraid, Gometra, Iona, Islay, Jura, Mull, Oronsay, Tiree, Ulva and all islands in Highland, except Skye.

TV and Film Studio Plan for Glasgow's Kelvin Hall
Plans to create an £11.9m television and film studio inside Glasgow's historic Kelvin Hall have been announced.  Council bosses hope the new studio will attract big-budget entertainment and drama productions.  Early design work is under way and the first part of the new screen hub could be ready to open later this year.  The project will receive up to £7.9million in funding from the Scottish government.  The screen sector is estimated to be worth up to £500m to Scotland each year, with 60% of that in Glasgow. Glasgow council leader Susan Aitken said the city was already home to "an incredible community of independent producers".  But she said there have been concerns that a lack of suitable TV and film facilities was limiting the work they could do.  Ms Aitken said: "We know they are in demand all over the country and, often, the world. But we also know that, here at home, there is a relative lack of the kind of studio space they need to be able to win higher-value commissions.  This exciting plan for the Kelvin Hall will not only establish that kind of facility, but do it right in the heart of the city."  The Kelvin Hall plan will go before the council for approval on Thursday.

Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia Dies with Covid Aged 70

The Archbishop of Glasgow, the Most Reverend Philip Tartaglia, has died suddenly at his home in the city.  He was 70 years old.  Archbishop Tartaglia had tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after Christmas and was self-isolating.  The Catholic Church said the cause of his death was not yet clear.  He was ordained a priest in 1975 and had served as leader of Scotland's largest Catholic community since 2012.  A statement from the Archdiocese of Glasgow said: "It is with the greatest sorrow that we announce the death of our Archbishop. The Pope's Ambassador to Great Britain, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, has been informed. It will be for Pope Francis to appoint a new Archbishop to succeed Archbishop Tartaglia, but until then the Archdiocese will be overseen by an administrator."  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the archbishop was "a fine man who was much loved within the Catholic community and beyond". Ms Sturgeon tweeted: "I always valued my interactions with him and he will be greatly missed. My thoughts are with his loved ones and wider community. May he rest in peace."  Archbishop Tartaglia  was a leading opponent of proposals to legalise same-sex marriage in Scotland and also criticised ministers over anti-bigotry legislation. The Archdiocese of Glasgow is the largest of Scotland's eight dioceses with an estimated Catholic population of about 200,000. It comprises 95 parishes and is served by about 200 priests. Archbishop Tartaglia was the eighth person to hold the office since the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland in 1878.

Covid in Scotland: Dumfries and Galloway Case Drop Offers 'Tentative Hope'
Health officials have said it is "too early to to take too much comfort" from a fall in new Covid case numbers in Dumfries and Galloway. The region has gone from having one of the lowest levels in Scotland to one of the highest in a few weeks.  Its health board said there were 561 new cases in the week ending 10 January - down from 801 the week before. A statement said that offered "some tentative hope" in what remained a "very serious situation".  Before Christmas the region was under level one restrictions but infection rates have risen sharply since then.  One outbreak at a Stranraer care home has claimed the lives of six residents.  NHS Dumfries and Galloway's chief executive Jeff Ace said despite a decline in new case numbers pressure was growing on services. "It's really much too early to take too much comfort from this drop in numbers," he said. "This is still a worryingly high number of new cases, and we're still in a very grave and precarious position. "The pressure on our health and social care services is actually continuing to increase - as the hundreds of new cases gradually translate into significant numbers of people suffering the most serious effects of the coronavirus. Any decline in numbers whatsoever is extremely welcome, and we're grateful for all the efforts and sacrifices which continue to be made by everyone across Dumfries and Galloway in response to the situation," he said. Additional testing capacity has been introduced in the region - with the creation of a walk-through centre in Dumfries.

Scottish Fishermen 'Sailing to Denmark to Land Catch'
Scottish fishermen have resorted to sailing to Denmark to land their catch as Brexit red tape continues to delay exports, an industry body has said. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation(SFF)  said the Brexit trade deal was the worst of both worlds for the industry. Many fishermen "now fear for their future", it said. The UK Westminster government said the deal would "bring immediate gains to our fishermen and women across the whole UK". But late last year, the SFF said it was "deeply aggrieved" by the Brexit deal. Fishing firms have also warned of impending bankruptcy as delays continue at ports following the introduction of post-Brexit regulations.  On Friday, the SFF kept up the pressure on the UK government. In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it said some fishermen "are now making a 72-hour round trip to land fish in Denmark, as the only way to guarantee that their catch will make a fair price and actually find its way to market while still fresh enough to meet customer demands".  The SFF said that Brexit quota gains "can hardly be claimed as a resounding success" and that the Brexit deal "actually leaves the Scottish industry in a worse position on more than half of the key stocks". "This industry now finds itself in the worst of both worlds," said SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald, accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson of broken promises on quotas. The "desperately poor deal" reached on quotas, under which the EU "have full access to our waters" means that the UK has "no ability to leverage more fish from the EU", she said. "This, coupled with the chaos experienced since 1 January in getting fish to market, means that many in our industry now fear for their future, rather than look forward to it with optimism and ambition," Ms Macdonald added.  The Scottish National Party said the letter was "an utterly devastating verdict on Brexit from Scotland's fishing industry".  An SNP spokesperson said the Scottish fishing industry was "right to be angry" about the Brexit deal, which it said was costing Scotland's fishing communities millions of pounds. The spokesman called on the prime minister to deliver "a multi-billion pound package of Brexit compensation for Scotland", adding: "Communities across Scotland will never forgive the Tories for the damage they are doing to our country with their extreme Brexit obsession." A UK Westminster government spokesperson said the Prime Minister would respond to the SFF letter in due course.