Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 589

Issue # 589                                             Week ending Saturday 30th January  2021

Confucius He Said: Is it Not Delightful to Have Friends Coming From Distant Quarters” - on Zoom?
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Did you know that yesterday was Australia Day? Yep, it marks the anniversary of the First Fleet of British Ships in New South Wales which was in 1788. The significance and meaning of this day have evolved over time. Today, celebrations reflect the diverse landscape and society of that far country. There are a number of different types of events that take place in Australia on this date. Because so many Aussies and ex-pats read this column on the Gaelic Singers website, we say G’day.

Not so sure what these Aussie friends of ours will say back to us. They’ll probably call us toads, banana benders, cockies, sandgropers, and crow eaters. Australians are well-known for having names for people from places other than their own.

Australia Day is an annual thing. There are loads of these special days. Have you got a cuppa? Well off you go and get one. Go on. This column is not like Crossroads on an old telly. You won’t miss anything. You can pick it up where you left off. A cup of tea or coffee is essential for reading this bit. Now have you got a big slice of chocolate cake to go with it? Go and get one. Now. I’ll wait here for you. The reason is that today is ... Chocolate Cake Day. Yay.

It’s also World Breast Pumping Day today but as that’s not about food and drink, I shall move on. It is? Oh, I see what you mean. I shall still move on, swiftly.

Of course, in a couple of weeks it will be Chinese New Year. I wonder if restrictions will have eased so I can get any Labi Conjee this year? It’s a porridge but nothing like you may find in a packet of Scott’s Porage Oats as it’s made with rice and vegetables and it’s really yummy. It’s not served in a takeaway either as it’s for really special occasions. They also serve a lovely special tea. It’s made with almond milk. That’s just nuts.

Monday was Burns Night. It was also No Haggis Day across Europe. The nonsense that we are signed up to as part of the trade-killing project called Brexit which we were promised would boost UK exports mean no meat products - famously, not even a ham sandwich - could get past Dover on Burns Night. So our continental cousins can’t get real Scottish haggis any more. They had to rely on veggie haggis and the awful stinky so-called great chieftain of a puddin’ that plops out of a tin.

Brexit restrictions make it illegal for individuals to send or take our haggis to the continent - even for personal consumption. Did Boris Johnson really sign up to this foolishness and then claim we had a great deal? Customs officers across Europe ripped open parcels and many were just dumped. As the year wears on, what other nasty surprises are in store for us?

Where do I start? The credit card schemes were accused of hidden charges a few years ago and the EU put a cap on them. Sorted. Now we are out of the EU, it has been realised this week that one of these card schemes has sneaky, new, unannounced charges. Experts say it’s down to greed but the EU cap doesn’t apply any more and it could be years to get a UK one up and running. We will just have to order our stuff from countries that don’t use cards. Maybe the Czech Republic?

Maybe 2021 has not been great so far but having this very international week I think I will take it from the Chinese New Year, February 12. According to Chinese astrology, 2021 is going to be a good year for the birth of every child. Children born during the Year of the Ox will be meticulous, patient, hardworking and have an affinity for routine. They will be stable, balanced, trustworthy, modest individuals who will base themselves on logic and will not be show-offs who will draw attention to themselves, it says here. So no politicians at all will be born this year then.

Another thing I really love is these cross-culture events that have been springing up. This week was a first for me because I took part in an online event combining the best of the culture of China and Scotland. They called it a Chinese Burns night. At first, I wasn’t going to go but they twisted my arm.

Covid in Scotland: Construction of Testing 'Mega Lab' Halted

Construction of a Covid-19 testing "mega lab" in Scotland is to be halted, the UK Westminster government has announced.  The site was expected to add 300,000 to the UK's daily testing capacity for coronavirus.  Along with another lab in Leamington Spa in the Midlands, it was due to be operational early this year.  However, work on the Scottish lab at an undisclosed location has stopped while the government assesses "the long-term demand" for it.  A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "Since the start of the pandemic, the UK has increased the capacity of our laboratories by more than tenfold, as well as setting up an entirely new nationwide network of lighthouse labs and partner laboratories to process Covid-19 swab samples.  With the vaccine rollout under way across the UK, development of one of the planned, very high throughput labs has been paused until the impact of the vaccine on the long-term demand for PCR testing can be assessed. Substantial testing capacity remains in place and this will not prevent anyone from getting a test."

Inquiry Judge's Media Ban 'Unlawful', Court of Session Hears
A senior judge prevented the BBC from properly reporting a £2.6m legal claim against Scotland's child abuse inquiry, a court has been told.  The Court of Session heard how Lady Smith, chairwoman of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI), faced an employment tribunal claim in 2019.  Lady Smith passed orders which stopped detail of the action being reported.  The top judge denied any wrongdoing in regard to the claim that was later abandoned.  The employment tribunal case alleging discrimination, harassment and victimisation was from a former senior member of the inquiry legal team.  BBC Scotland has raised a judicial review of the SCAI restriction orders, arguing they were beyond the powers of Lady Smith and her involvement in the case meant any restriction decision should have been made by the employment tribunal.  But Roddy Dunlop QC, advocate for the SCAI, told the Court of Session the corporation's case was academic as the original restriction order had been overtaken by another order.  Mr Dunlop also argued the BBC had not spelled out to the SCAI what detail it wanted to publish in relation to the tribunal.  Kenneth McBrearty QC, acting for the broadcaster, told the court the purpose of the original restriction order was, "not merely to prohibit disclosure or publication of the documents. It was to prohibit disclosure or publication of the very existence of the proceedings".  He said: "It is in effect what is equivalent to what in England has been described as a super injunction. That is what in effect it amounts to because it prohibits even the disclosure of the proceedings.  The importance of this case lies with the way the Restriction Order impinged on the open justice principle. If there was a need for an order restricting the disclosure of any material, that is an order to be sought from the employment judge."  The Court of Session heard the employment tribunal claim for £2.6m damages was brought in July, 2019, by the inquiry's former lead junior counsel, John Halley.  A news release, issued by SCAI in October 2019, confirmed existence of the claim and a denial that Lady Smith had discriminated against Mr Halley. An initial hearing took place that month and Mr Halley abandoned the tribunal two months later.  But Mr McBrearty QC said the SCAI press release did not include the full outline of the claim. He said: "All that the media was to be entitled to publish was that which the respondent had considered able to include in a press release in circumstances to which the respondent was herself party in the proceedings." The BBC is seeking declarators from the Court of Session stating that Lady Smith's restriction orders were unlawful.  Roddy Dunlop QC said the BBC had the option to present to Lady Smith what it wanted to report on in the case, as per the detail of the media restriction order, and then get her permission to publish but failed to do so.  He said: "That simple request is all that needed to be done and it wasn't resorted to. That's why the alternative remedy aspect of this is a problem to the BBC.  There needs to be a practical effect, the entitlement to publish could have been obtained at any point by asking." Mr Dunlop pointed out that the original restriction orders objected to by the BBC have now been replaced by a new order issued in March last year.

Brexit: Scotland in Talks Over EU Erasmus Scheme

Holyrood ministers are exploring options to keep Scotland involved in the EU's Erasmus programme.  The scheme, which offers opportunities to study abroad, is ending in the UK because of Brexit, with a new and cheaper programme to be offered.  The Scottish and Welsh governments wanted to continue full participation in Erasmus after Brexit. However, Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said the UK Westminster government had ruled that out. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously assured MPs that Brexit posed no threat to the Erasmus+ scheme, but the UK Westminster government later decided the programme was too expensive and withdrew.  It has proposed a more limited but global alternative called the Turing Scheme, named after the pioneering mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, which it said offered better value for money.  According to the Scottish government, more than 2,000 students and staff from Scotland use the Erasmus+ exchange programme each year.  The UK left the EU on 31 January last year, entering into a transition period until the end of 2020. During this time, the UK-EU relationship continued much as it was before - including the Erasmus scheme.  Now that the Brexit transition period has ended, Scotland, England and Wales will no longer participate in Erasmus, but Northern Ireland's access will continue.  Mr Lochhead called the ending of the programme a "huge blow" for Scottish students, community groups and adult learners.  Last week he held what the Scottish government described as "productive talks" with European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel to explore Scotland continuing with the Erasmus scheme.  The government has now welcomed the support of 145 MEPs who urged the European Commission to explore the idea. Mr Lochhead said: "I have already had a virtual meeting with Commissioner Gabriel. We agreed that withdrawing from Erasmus is highly regrettable and we will continue to explore with the EU how to maximise Scotland's continued engagement with the programme. I have also spoken with my Welsh government counterpart and agreed to keep in close contact."  The Scottish and Welsh governments have criticised the Turing Scheme as "a lesser imitation of the real thing".  They said it for offers no support for our adult education or youth work, and reduces support for colleges, schools and vocational training sectors.  In a joint statement from Mr Lochhead and Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams, they said: "The Scottish and Welsh governments have always been united in our view that participation in Erasmus+ is in the best interests for the whole of the UK. The UK Westminster government's decision not to associate to the programme is therefore deeply disappointing, a decision that will see support for our most deprived communities cut, and opportunities for all our learners reduced."  A spokesman for the EU Commission said the decision would mean organisations and individuals from across the UK, including Scotland, "will be deprived of opportunities for exchange and co-operation". But he added that the UK would still be able to participate in Erasmus+ in a limited way as a "non-associated Third Country".  People outside universities need to be valued too, for example Cameron McKail, from Edinburgh, worked as a labourer for two years straight after leaving school. At age 18 he secured a place with Erasmus+ and travelled to Strona in Italy, where he heard about employment experiences of young people around Europe. The 25-year-old has since been to college, studied community education at the University of Edinburgh and secured work with Erasmus, helping other young people who want to improve their employment opportunities. "Sometimes it's young people's first time out of Scotland," he said. "To open up those opportunities is invaluable, particularly down a community path. For young people who are outwith mainstream education, maybe on work or employability courses, it's really important for them to be valued and to be afforded these experiences as well. Sometimes it's those young people who need that support. Erasmus+ allows young people who might never have the experience to go away and meet other people from alternative cultures - to open their eyes and their minds as well to the world and understand it a little bit better."  Last month, Boris Johnson announced the UK would replace Erasmus with the Turing Scheme, which would include countries outside Europe. A Department for Education spokesperson said: "The UK decided to not participate in the next Erasmus+ programme as it was not in the interest of UK taxpayers and our net contribution would have been around £2bn over the programme. The new global Turing Scheme is designed to provide thousands of students across all of the UK the opportunity to study and work abroad, beyond EU countries, and will include additional support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We will continue to work with the sector and devolved administrations to deliver the programme."

Lockdown Big Burns Supper Honours Scotland's Bard
An online celebration of Scotland's national bard Robert Burns has been held to mark his birth more than 260 years ago.  The Big Burns Supper festival is usually held at various venues across Dumfries.  However, its 10th edition - hosted by comedian Janey Godley - was a virtual one.  Burns suppers are traditionally held around the world on 25 January to celebrate the Ayrshire-born poet. Organisers of the Dumfries festival set up a special free online broadcast featuring KT Tunstall, Dougie Maclean and Donovan. They said it would celebrate Robert Burns but give everyone a "much-needed lift and a laugh". Last year's festival was able to take place as normal as it was a couple of months before coronavirus lockdown restrictions.  This year it was entirely online but with the hope that audiences can return in 2022.  Elsewhere, employees at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office's headquarters in East Kilbride organised a huge online meeting to toast the bard. Scots working for the UK Westminster government in countries including Bahrain, Chile, China, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Pakistan, Peru, Tunisia, and Turkey were among those participating in the virtual event. Foreign Office Minister Wendy Morton said: "Scots are at the very heart of helping FCDO be a force for good around the world and staff were keen to pay tribute to Robert Burns despite Covid-19. Lockdown restrictions might mean that the many Burns suppers our embassies usually organise around the world to help showcase Scotland cannot happen this year, but that isn't stopping us from celebrating."  The Edinburgh Southern Orienteering Club (ESOC) has also been getting into the spirit in an unusual fashion.  Members have created Strava art - using the exercise and route sharing app - to celebrate Burns.  Edinburgh-based Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland at the Scottish Storytelling Centre also staged an online event. Poems, stories, songs and music devised by storyteller, author and presenter David Campbell were being offered as an alternative to the formal Burns supper format.

Ways to 'Accelerate' Vaccine Plans Being Examined

The Scottish government is "looking at all sorts of ways" to accelerate its Covid-19 vaccine programme, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.  The government is considering a pilot of 24/7 vaccine arrangements, chiefly aimed at younger age groups. A total of 46% of over-80s in Scotland have now had a first dose, along with 95% of older care home residents. Ms Sturgeon said the programme was "picking up pace" and "on track" to reach all over-70s by mid-February.  She said the government was "looking at all options" to get the vaccine out to people as quickly as possible. The government aims to have the top priority groups - including care home residents and staff, frontline health workers and all those aged over 80 - given a first dose by the end of the first week in February. From Monday, letters are being sent out to people aged 70 to 79 inviting them to receive their first doses. Ms Sturgeon says the programme is "on track" to having this group complete by the middle of February. There has been some criticism of the speed of the rollout in Scotland, with a greater proportion of over-80s having already received a jab in England. However Ms Sturgeon said the programme was "making good progress" and said any differences with the rest of the UK were because of an early focus on vaccinating older care home residents - 95% of whom have now had their first dose. She said she was "absolutely confident" that the government would hit its targets. And the first minister said consideration was being given to how to speed up the programme further, saying her government is "looking at all sorts of ways to accelerate things".  She said: "We are looking at piloting 24/7 arrangements so that when we get into wider groups of the population, people will have choices about the time they turn up for vaccines. There's been debate about whether people will want to turn up in the middle of the night to get vaccinated - some will and some won't. If that sort of thing is going to add to what we are able to do, it is likely to have the greatest impact when you get down into the relatively younger age groups."

West Dunbartonshire Healthy Life Expectancy One of Lowest in Scotland
West Dunbartonshire has one of the worst average healthy life expectancies in the country, new figures have revealed. Healthy life expectancy is described by the UK Westminster Government as 'the average number of years that an individual is expected to live in a state of self-assess good or very good health, based on current mortality rates and prevelance of good or very good health'. Statistics released by National Records of Scotland (NRS) have shown that healthy life expectancy has fallen across Scotland on average, with the average healthy life expectancy at birth for males being 61.7 years and 61.9 for females. In West Dunbartonshire, the figures are worse – with the average healthy life expectancy for males being 59.1 years, making it the 7th worst council area in the country, and 60.6 years for females – the 9th worst in the country. The gap between the highest average healthy life expectancy in East Dunbartonshire – 69.8 years - and West Dunbartonshire is 10.7 years, showing a significant gap in between the most and least deprived areas of the country. Glasgow was the worst place to be for men – with healthy life expectancy at 54.6 years and North Ayrshire the worst place to be as a woman, with expectancy at 56.3 years.  Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, the national charity for older people, said: “These figures are really disappointing and come on the back of news last year that overall life expectancy has stalled. Of course, we would have hoped to see Healthy Life Expectancy in Scotland increasing but we must face the facts and redouble efforts to address this. The gap between people in the most and least deprived areas is staggeringly high and shows that much more needs to be done to reduce poverty and increase people’s quality of life. Preventing ill health in the first instance clearly needs more of a focus and investment especially as these figures don't take into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns which will almost certainly exacerbate this issue in the next few years. It’s so important for people in the short term, but also in the long term as Scotland’s rapidly ageing population, who will on average be spending a greater proportion of their life in poor health, will then likely need more and more support from the NHS and social care. We want to see Scotland as the best place to grow older and increasing Healthy Life Expectancy is part of this.” Martin Docherty Hughes, West Dunbartonshire MP, commented: “The pandemic has highlighted the deep-seated health and wealth inequalities in our communities and these figures underline once again the costs of Tory austerity. The NRS report examines healthy life expectancy rather than overall life expectancy.  However, it's clear that generational poverty in West Dunbartonshire and other deprived areas across the UK continues to limit the life chances of too many.  Westminster has failed to address the inequalities which blight our communities, and the UK Westminster government's plans to further raise the pension age, undermine workers' rights, and cut social security can only make matters worse. Scotland's efforts to tackle the root causes of inequality will continue to be blunted without the full powers of a normal independent country."

Fears 'Monster' Loch Ness Waves Would Sink WW2 Seaplane
The crew of a World War Two flying boat feared the aircraft would be wrecked on Loch Ness after it suffered engine failure.  The rescue effort last year has been told in a new BBC Alba documentary, Escape from Loch Ness.  The Cambridgeshire-based Catalina had been flown to the Highlands for filming and had landed on the loch.  After the right engine failed to start for take off, the crew needed help from the RNLI to get the aircraft to safety.  There were concerns bad weather and waves of up 3.5m (11ft) high could damage the plane. The Catalina - called Miss Pick Up - is operated by Plane Sailing in Duxford. It is one of only 15 airworthy Catalinas in the world, and the only one in the UK.  Built in the 1930s, the aircraft were used in anti-submarine warfare and for maritime rescues by Allied forces during World War Two. Miss Pick Up was flown to Loch Ness on 17 October, and after landing on the loch to drop off a cameraman the right engine failed to start. Conditions were calm at the time, but there were concerns they could quickly worsen and damage or even sink the aircraft.  RNLI Loch Ness' lifeboat was launched and the flying boat was towed to a sheltered location in Urquhart Bay until a large crane arrived and lifted the plane on to land. A six-week "battle" then began to raise enough funds to repair the engine, complete the repairs and fly the aircraft back to Duxford.  An appeal raised more than £30,000 and Miss Pick Up was flown home in early December, just days before three weeks of forecast bad weather arrived in the Highlands. Former RAF Harrier jump jet pilot Paul Warren Wilson, one of the Catalina's pilots who led the rescue operation, said: "One of the worst things that can happen to us is being unable to start an engine on the water. It's pretty unusual for us, especially if we've just been running and just landed.  We were in the middle of the loch with the problem of drifting backwards and sooner or later you're going to hit something.  It was calm when we landed but in the longer term we needed shelter and to protect the plane because she's not indestructible."

Fewer Trains to Run on Highland’s Railway As Service Demand Drops

ScotRail will reduce the number of trains running across the country from Monday February 1 as the train operator continues to revise the critical service being provided during the Covid-19 pandemic.  ScotRail said the ongoing lockdown restrictions in place are severely reducing the number of people travelling, and the changes being made to the timetable reflect the current demand from customers.  This is the second change from the operator in recent weeks, after the number of carriages on services were reduced earlier in January, with customer numbers down by almost 90 per cent compared to the same time last year.  With a focus on continuing to provide a safe and reliable service, particularly for key workers and in support of the vaccination rollout, the number of services is being reduced to 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, while delivering 72 per cent of seats. ScotRail said it had consulted with NHS boards across Scotland to ensure shift patterns for key workers are supported as far as possible. David Simpson, ScotRail operations director, said: “Everyone across Scotland’s Railway is working incredibly hard to deliver for our customers, and this latest change to our timetable helps us to ensure we keep getting people to where they need to be. We have constantly adapted our timetable throughout the pandemic to reflect restrictions in place at any given time, allowing those travelling to be able to rely on ScotRail, and these alterations will again ensure that we deliver that critical service. There will also be minimal change for those currently using our services, as we have matched changes with the current demand. Like any business during the pandemic, we need to continue to make sensible financial decisions, and reducing the number of services means a reduction in costs for the taxpayer, while continuing to deliver a safe and reliable rail service.”  Robert Samson, transport focus stakeholder manager, said: “Train timetables must still meet the needs of those who have to travel. Many key workers rely on the first and last services of the day so it’s important that these are maintained. Providing enough capacity for those who are travelling to properly social distance remains vital. The focus on adapting the timetable to continue to provide a safe and reliable service, particularly for key workers and in support of the vaccination rollout should ensure a train service that passengers can rely on. If you do decide to travel I would strongly urge you to plan your journey in advance, allow plenty of time for it, avoid busy times and always follow the safe travel and car sharing guidance. Once you arrive at your destination, check and follow the local restrictions relevant to the area you are in." The operator is reminding passengers that the law allows only essential journeys on public transport. People who do have to travel by train should follow the five rules for safer travel, including wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distance in stations and on-board trains. Customers were reminded that they should only be travelling if they meet the criteria set out by the Scottish Government guidelines. Customers should also check their journey before they travel on February 1, as online systems will still be in the process of being updated.

Bells Replace Horns At Up Helly Aa Viking Festival
Church bells rang out to mark what should have been Shetland's famous main Up Helly Aa fire festival. The various Up Helly Aa events remember the Vikings who used to rule the Shetland islands 1,000 years ago. The main Lerwick event draws visitors from around the world every January. However coronavirus concerns meant this year's was called off.

Rail Line in Aberdeenshire Closed Until 22 February
The rail line between Stonehaven and Montrose will be closed until 22 February after a bridge wall collapsed, Network Rail has said. The 24m (79ft) section of side wall broke on 15 January, about a mile north of where three people died in last year's derailment.  The line had reopened in November, nearly three months after the tragedy.  Network Rail said full structural assessments had been completed by specialist engineers.  Plans are now in place to repair the bridge and reopen the line late next month. The bridge was built in the 1840s. Network Rail said engineers would be working round-the-clock to fix the damage and provide "additional strengthening" of the bridge deck beneath the southbound line.

Aussie 'Human Dynamo' is Named Young Crofter of the Year After Falling in Love with Highlands and Taking Over A Tearoom At Elphin
An ex-mining engineer from Australian has dug deep to make a huge impression on a remote community in her beloved Highlands.  Helen O'Keefe emigrated in 2015 after falling in love with the north-west Highlands while on holiday in Scotland in 2012 and 2014. The former mining engineer now living in Elphin has been named as the Scottish Crofting Federation's Young Crofter of the Year. A graduate of the West Australian School of Mines, she previously worked at Kalgoorlie and then with a mining consultancy company in Perth. With the help of her mum,Ann, Ms O'Keefe bought the Elphin Tearooms, a neighbouring house and the surrounding in land in 2017.  Since then she has gone from strength to strength, establishing a flock of 100 Shetland sheep and selling breeding and store lambs, mutton, fleeces and yarn. She produces and sells eggs, fruit and vegetables and set up the successful online food hub The Green Bowl, offering meat, vegetables and fruit from growers in Elphin, Ullapool, Coigach and Assynt. She serves the township as grazings clerk and participates in training events and the Women in Crofting network as well as being a Soil Association Scottish Farmer Ambassador.  Scottish Crofting Federation chairman Donald MacKinnon described Ms O'Keefe as a "human dynamo" and said it was an inspiration to see young folk like her undertaking such a wide variety of activities on their crofts.  Ms O'Keefe was chosen from a shortlist of three by judges representing the Federation, the McRobert Trust and the Crofting Commission.

Valneva Vaccine Begins Manufacturing At Livingston Plant
Biotech company Valneva has begun manufacturing a Covid-19 vaccine at its plant in Livingston, West Lothian. The UK Westminster government has pre-ordered 60 million doses of the vaccine, which is still going through clinical trials. The trials, which began in December, are also now fully enrolled and are expected to report results by April. The trials are taking place at four National Institute for Health Research sites - Bristol, Southampton, Birmingham and Newcastle.  They will show whether the vaccine produces a safe and effective immune response against Covid-19. If successful, larger tests will take place in April with more than 4,000 UK volunteers taking two doses. The Valneva vaccine could be available by the end of 2021. The French firm currently employs about 100 people at its Livingston site, with the workforce set to increase by 75 as mass production starts.

Delving Into Auld Lang Syne’s History

The first appearance of Auld Lang Syne has been studied by University of Glasgow academics. Written at Ellisland Farm near Dumfries it is arguably one of Robert Burns’ most famous pieces – and it has become an anthem sung around the world at New Year. But surprisingly the way it is known today is thanks to his second song editor, George Thomson, and not to the bard himself.  Now the relationship between Burns and Thomson is receiving its first detailed scrutiny by academics at the Centre for Robert Burns Studies.  In fourth volume of The Oxford Edition of the Works of Robert Burns, due to be published in February, Professor Kirsteen McCue has looked at Burns’ songs for George Thomson. She said: “Burns’ relationship with his second song editor, Thomson, was a stormy one, and Thomson is seen as a ‘bad boy’ in the Burns story. Thomson is accused of changing Burns’ texts and choosing different tunes for Burns’ songs, after the poet’s death in 1796 and of making lots of money from the proceeds, after having failed to pay Burns for all his work. Burns, in fact, often mixed and matched songs and tunes himself and he forcefully refused to accept payment from Thomson. But the battle against Thomson has raged to this day.” But Professor McCue states that it was thanks to Thomson’s combining the Auld Lang Syne text with a different tune that we have ended up with the version known around the world today. It’s also the first time, since their original publications, that the songs Burns produced for Thomson have been presented as they were seen by Thomson’s readership in the 18th century, as well as detailed notes and commentary. The letters between the pair reveal what Burns thought of specific songs and tunes and even tell how he wrote a song. They explain a great deal about why Burns’ passion for songs was so important to his artistic work, and why they took up so much of his time, especially when farming at Ellisland and then in Dumfries where he worked for the Excise in his final years. Professor McCue added: “In 1799, just three years after Burns’ death, Thomson combined the text of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ that Burns sent to him with a different tune. He was inspired by Burns’s discussion of the song to seek a new tune, and the one he chose has ended up being the one we all now sing as the global song of parting.”  The Burns expert added: “Burns would most probably have approved of this new tune for ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as it was very similar to a tune for another of his songs ‘O can ye labour lea’.”  Thomson was an Edinburgh civil servant who was to be one of Burns’ major correspondents across the last four years of his life.  As Burns died so soon into the project, Thomson was left to publish most of his songs posthumously.

Dundee Singer Be Charlotte’s Rendition of Sea Shanty Wellerman Goes Viral

Dundee singer Be Charlotte has shared her rendition of a sea shanty which went viral on TikTok over the past month.  The singer-songwriter uploaded her version of the Wellerman song -which has also gone viral- tweaking the lyrics so that they feature the city’s very own RRS Discovery.  Speaking about why she wanted to get in on the craze, Be Charlotte, whose real name is Charlotte Brimner, said: “I’ve been posting TikTok videos since lockdown started in 2020 and got addicted to the app pretty quickly. “I love singing, dancing, dogs and cooking so it’s fun to combine all those things on my profile. When I saw the Sea Shanty trend was blowing up I knew I had to cover it.  As an artist who sings in my own Scottish accent I was excited to embrace the Scottish trend.  I looked up the chords and planned to do a cover of the song but when I started practicing it I thought it would be fun to take it a step further and make a “Dundee” version.  I wanted to celebrate the city and since the Wellerman refers to ships I knew I had to make it about the Discovery.”  The man who kickstarted the viral trend, Nathan Evans, hails from North Lanarkshire and first posted a video of his version to the social media platform back in December.  The song is believed to originate from New Zealand and refers to the wellermen, employees of a Sydney whaling company owned by the Weller Brothers.

Covid in Scotland: Western Isles Goes Into Lockdown

The whole of the Western Isles has moved up to level four lockdown restrictions as part of efforts to suppress the spread of Covid-19. Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said "quick and decisive" action was needed following new cases on the islands. Barra and Vatersay were already under level four restrictions. The rest of the isles moved up from level three at 00:01 on Saturday.  One of the outbreaks is affecting Western Isles Hospital in Lewis. Ms Freeman said the hospital, the largest on the island, was reaching full capacity and the isles had seen six new Covid cases on Friday and nine on Thursday. Some non-urgent procedures will be rescheduled but the hospital in Stornoway will maintain a full emergency service.  The Scottish government said lockdown was necessary to avoid the NHS becoming overwhelmed. In the Scottish government's daily Covid briefing Ms Freeman said the numbers were high in proportion to the population of the Western Isles. The islands are home to almost 27,000 people.  She appealed to all islanders to stay at home and only leave for essential reasons. The outbreak at Western Isles Hospital involves both patients and staff. NHS Western Isles has been offered support from NHS Highland and NHS Golden Jubilee in Clydebank to manage the situation. Roddie Mackay, leader of Western Isles local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said moving up to level four was "disappointing but not entirely unexpected".  He said: "Our communities continue to make stringent efforts to protect themselves and others and it is imperative, now more than ever before, that we maintain and indeed - wherever possible - increase these efforts. "While this will inevitably cause concern in our communities, we are confident in local resilience and commitment which will help us get through this challenging period."

Brexit Causes Northern Ireland Ferry Travel Issue for Guide Dog Owner

Guide dog owner Charlotte Bennie enjoys her regular trips to Belfast. Living in Newton Stewart in south west Scotland, she finds it more straightforward to get there than to major Scottish cities. However, she says Brexit creates extra difficulties in catching a ferry from Cairnryan when the Covid rules allow such journeys to resume. A change in the UK's status in the EU Pet Travel Scheme on 1 January has also affected people travelling between the British mainland and Northern Ireland. It means anyone travelling with their pet needs to meet new requirements and there is no exemption for assistance dogs. Ms Bennie, who is registered blind, said that the proximity of the ferry port - less than 30 miles from her home town - made Belfast an easy option for her. "It is a long way to the rest of Scotland from here but it is a very short distance over on the ferry to Northern Ireland.

Australian Scottish News

From the Scottish Australian Heritage Council  -    Events and Around the Clans
Cancelled/Postponed Events: Further to the information provided previously, we are advised that the following events have been cancelled in 2021:
* Maryborough Highland Gathering, Maryborough, Victoria (1 January)
* National Multicultural Festival, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory(February, date TBA)
* Richmond Highland Gathering, Tasmania (21 February)
* Scots Day Out, Bendigo, Victoria (March)
* Geelong Highland Gathering, Geelong, Victoria (21 March)
* Australasian Pipe Band Championships, Maryborough, Victoria (April)
Scottish/Celtic Events planned for 2021
We are delighted to learn that events are being planned for 2021. We do not have confirmation from all of the following events in 2021 yet:
6 March: Liverpool Plains Military Tattoo, Quirindi, New South Wales
28 March: Ringwood Highland Games, Victoria
2-3 April (Easter): Maclean Highland Gathering, New South Wales
# 17 April: Bundanoon Highland Gathering, New South Wales
29 April-2 May: Australian Celtic Festival (Ireland & Isle of Man), Glen Innes, NSW
# Confirmation received.
Around the Clans
International Gatherings are being planned by several clans, subject to the impact of Covid-19 at the time, as follows:
Clan MacNeil August 2021, Scotland
Clan Buchanan June 2022, Scotland
Clan Colquhoun 2022, Scotland
Clan Gregor 2022, Scotland

The following is a statement from the Brigadoon Executive from a meeting held on Thursday 14 January 2021.  Brigadoon this year (17 April 2021) is restricted to 3,000 persons in total. This number includes paying patrons AND all those needed to put on the event - Committee, Performers & Volunteers etc. Of course, this number is likely to change as COVID-19 twists and turns its way through the community. With this in mind the Executive have decided to continue the planning at this stage with a final decision to be made on March 4th.
BRIGADOON WILL BE A TICKETED EVENT. ONLINE PURCHASES ONLY Tickets to the general public will go on sale in early February advance notice will be published on our website and social media. Planning and preparation for Brigadoon is well in hand, check out our website for all information or log onto our Facebook page for daily updates:  Our Chieftain for the Day is Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK, AFC (Ret’d) who will be accompanied by his wife Liz. We have 23 Pipe Bands, the Kilted Warriors (The Tartan Warriors have a name change), Scottish Country and Highland Dancing, the Fiddlers Tent, Southern Highlands Dogs and of course the Children’s games. Not  forgetting  the Stalls and Clans all ready to go. Brigadoon Grand Raffle First there was the bushfires, then the floods and rain now COVID-19 which led to the cancellation of our 2020 Gathering. Because of this drastic chain of events we were unable to make any financial donations to our volunteer groups. In an attempt to rectify this, Brigadoon will be holding a Grand Raffle for our 2021 gathering be held on Saturday 17th April 2021. ( IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT THAT BRIGADOON IS CANCELLED THE RAFFLE DRAW WILL STILL TAKE PLACE ON 17 APRIL. The Raffle is going along nicely although sales are slow they are promising.