Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 592

Issue # 592                                                   Week ending Saturday 20th   February  2021

Blazing Hebridean Fires and Ice But Justin Bieber’s Popularity Plunges in Wester Ross
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Sunday being Valentines Day I thought I would do something kind and unexpected for Mrs X. I would do the washing up. When I said wash up, I meant I would load the dishwasher and switch it on. One problem. I couldn’t find the dishwasher. Trying the door of every kitchen cupboard to see what was behind it, I had to give up, flummoxed. She came in to see what the banging was and I had to ask where she had hidden the appliance.

You just know you’ve said the wrong thing when their eyes narrow. “We haven’t had a dishwasher since we moved to this house more than four years ago. You said you wanted a second freezer for all those cakes and scones you promised to make when you were in your stupid Great British Bake Off phase. There was no room for a dishwasher after that. And it’s only now you’ve noticed?” Ah, now that you mention it ...

Know anyone who’ll take a freezer? Maybe the NHS will take it because one of these anti-Covid vaccines apparently needs to be stored deep-frozen. Not the one I’m getting though. I was talking to a nurse the other day and she said I was going to get an AstraZeneca. I told her I didn’t mind that because I like all Vauxhalls cars. She sounded confused and hung up.

The weather here has also been confusing. Last week, it was freezing hard. While the ice was still on the ground, wildfires broke out apparently because of the lack of droplets. No, it’s not because everyone is wearing a mask, or because everyone on the west coast has been careless with their fag ends. It is an entirely natural phenomenon. Lots of people found it hard to get their few grey cells round that one.

As if a spate of wildfires on Benbecula, here in Leurbost and on Great Bernera last week wasn’t enough, there was a flood warning on Friday as extreme weather was ready to bombard the islands. We were told to expect a classic winter storm bringing strong winds and now snow. And all in the middle of a pandemic? It was a wee bit blustery right enough. What next? Earthquakes? Well, actually we had one of them on the other side of the Minch just recently.

Thank you, mate, to DM in Gairloch who saw that I mentioned their wee earth tremor last week and he called me with more details. The quake caused early-morning mayhem between Gairloch and Diabeg. The damage was extensive, he said. “Oh aye. At least £40-worth, I would say.” A collection of trashy souvenirs from Tenerife in a loft in Aultbea was knocked off a shelf,

Things shook early that morning. Donnie says people were disturbed and shaken around 5.40am. “People here aren’t usually disturbed and shaking until about 6.30am. That’s when Piers Morgan comes on the telly.” He said local station Two Lochs Radio announced that the residents were still confused and bewildered, still trying to come to terms with the fact that something interesting had happened in Gairloch. Donnie, stop it. That’s not nice. Funny, but not nice.

Meanwhile, a young scholar who lives near that area has been in touch asking if she can cut out my column about the earthquake for her scrapbook entitled The Morning My Photo of Justin Bieber Fell Off The Wall. Aw. I know you would rather not be named but it is very nice of you to ask. Not many people would bother to be so thoughtful, Yes, of course you may. No problem at all.

Maybe as a thank you I could send you a signed photo of myself to put up instead of the Bieber cove? And why not? I suppose we would not want you having trouble sleeping as well. Fair enough.

That was so kind and unexpected of my new young friend in Wester Ross. It makes me think of unexpected happenings in my schooldays. During one particular arduous physics lesson, the teacher Mr Mackay barked at Donald, a boy in our class, for talking to the girl sitting behind him. The lad said: “I was just asking her a question, sir.” Mr Mackay was not impressed. “No talking in class. If you have any questions, you must address them to me.” he said.

Quick as a flash, Donald replied: “Please sir, would you like to go to the pictures with me on Friday night?”

Passing of a Chief
The 27th Chief of Clan MacPherson, Sir William Macpherson of Cluny and Blairgowrie – ‘Cluny’ to everyone - died peacefully at home on the 14 February, surrounded by his family. His Clan associations were fortunate to have his guidance, support and leadership for an incredible 50 years and the world will have benefited from his 94 years on this earth. His phrase “first amongst equals” doesn’t even start to mark the presence he had. Through his work in law to his leadership at the after-ceilidh-ceilidh he was a man who left his mark on those he met.  Commiserations are extended to  all MacPhersons on their loss. May he rest in peace.

Covid: Ardrossan Care Worker Caught Virus Twice and Fears it Could Happen Again

A Scottish care worker has revealed how she caught Covid twice within seven months. Michelle Lamont, from Ardrossan in North Ayrshire, caught the virus in April 2020.  But the 50-year-old was "stunned" when routine testing picked up the infection again in November. After becoming ill for a second time, she is now concerned about the possibility of suffering the debilitating symptoms again.  Walking her dog along the beach at Saltcoats, Ms Lamont shared her fears with BBC Scotland's The Nine programme.  She said: "I was devastated when I tested positive for the first time," she says. "If I can get it twice, what's to say I can't get it a third time? That plays on my mind."  The first time around, Ms Lamont was exhausted and did not return to work for five weeks.  "It was just horrible. I've never felt so ill in my life," she said.  "I had a slight cough and a temperature but the headache was the worst. It was like a migraine, it just didn't go. The palpitations were really hard because it felt like a weight on my chest. It was just a horrible feeling. I had no focus - I couldn't even watch television or listen to music and I had no appetite."  The mother-of-three said she worried more for her family than for herself.  She said: "My oldest daughter, Courtnay, wore PPE and she looked after me.  I was scared. You're just lying thinking what if I've given this to my family? I've got vulnerable family members as well and I was thinking I'd never forgive myself."  After several months of negative PCR tests and feeling well again, it was "an absolute shock" to be told of another positive result.  I remember I got tested on a Friday. I felt ok and I had no symptoms at all," she said. "On the Saturday at about 19:00, Public Health Scotland phoned me and said sorry, but you're positive.  I burst out crying because I thought - I can't go through that again."  After several days, Michelle gradually became unwell again.  She said: "The headache was there and it wouldn't go this time. I had the temperature, the fatigue and the palpitations came back. This time it lasted around 10 days." She now wants other people to know that it is possible to be re-infected.  "I didn't realise it could happen again and that's with taking all the right precautions. My doctor, she was stunned. People are in denial that it can happen again. They look at you as if you're daft. They don't believe you but yes, it can."  Experts warn some people do catch Covid-19 again - and can infect others.  A recent study led by Public Health England (PHE) found that most people who have had Covid-19 are protected from catching it again for at least five months. Past infection was linked to around an 83% lower risk of getting the virus, compared with those who had never had Covid-19, scientists found.  However, the new coronavirus has not been around long enough to know a lot about how long immunity lasts.  PHE's ongoing study on immunity in healthcare workers found 44 potential re-infections in a group of 6,614 people who had previously had the virus.  Researchers conclude reinfection is uncommon but still possible and say people must continue to follow current guidance, whether they have had antibodies or not. Scientists from Hong Kong recently reported on the case of a young, healthy man who recovered from a bout of Covid-19 only to be re-infected more than four months later. Using genome sequencing of the virus, they could prove he caught it twice because the virus strains were different.  Asked if it was aware of any cases of re-infection, the Scottish government said: "Public Health Scotland is looking at possible Covid-19 reinfection and plans to publish a report in due course. It is too soon to draw any conclusions as to what the findings of this report will be."

Singer Sydney Devine Dies Aged 81
Scottish singer and entertainer Sydney Devine has died in hospital, aged 81. The star, who sold more than 15 million albums during a career spanning seven decades, had been suffering from an undisclosed chest complaint.  Friends said he died at University Hospital in Ayr early on Saturday.  Devine, who was born in the Lanarkshire village of Cleland in 1940, was best known for his version of the song Tiny Bubbles. He received an MBE in 2003.  His close friend and Glasgow Pavilion Theatre boss Iain Gordon said: "I have worked with Sydney and the band since 1976 and I have never seen a bad performance, he was the ultimate showman and performer." First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said for Scots of a certain vintage - including herself - the name Sydney Devine was synonymous with Scottish entertainment. Devine was first spotted at the age of 13 whistling and singing at local shows. He was offered a spot on a BBC Children's Hour programme in the early days of TV.  Scottish tenor Robert Wilson, a well-known variety performer and an early presenter of the White Heather Club, took the young Devine under his wing. He would spend more than a decade performing around the world with the White Heather Group before later developing into country music in the 1970s. Devine will forever be associated with songs such as Legend in My Time, Scotland Forever and Maggie. At the height of his career, Devine appeared on the Queen's Jubilee bill with Michael Jackson, supported Roy Orbison and worked with country legends Charlie Pride and Dolly Parton.

Huge Tram Extension Planned for Edinburgh
Edinburgh City Council is considering another huge extension to the capital's tram network. The plans show a north/south line, running from Granton Harbour and down to either Roseburn or Shandwick Place, on the existing central tram line.  The line would then follow the existing city centre track, before turning south-east to the ERI and Bio Quarter. There are also plans for a mass transit network, including trams, extending west from the airport to West Lothian. The council plans to have a complete business case for the next tram extension by 2023, with a final business case set to be completed in 2025. Subject to approval, the council is aiming to have the north/south tram line, and a westward expansion, completed by 2030.

Two of Three Bifab Yards Bought Out of Administration
Two of the three BiFab fabrication yards have been bought out of administration. BiFab, which had two steel fabrication yards in Fife and the Isle of Lewis, went under last year after failing to secure any new contracts. London-based firm InfraStrata is taking on sites at Methil in Fife and Arnish on Lewis, but not Burntisland. It is hoped the yards can win contracts for offshore wind projects and shipbuilding under new ownership. InfraStrata already owns the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast and the two Scottish sites will operate under the Harland and Wolff brand name as part of the £850,000 deal.

Winds Warning on Highland A9 Bridge

Traffic Scotland this morning issued a warning of high winds for the A9 Kessock Bridge at Inverness as overnight gusts continued. After a night of increasingly strong and swirling blasts across the highlands, a warning was issued at 9.03am for traffic travelling in north and southbound directions.

Cars Buried Overnight in Huge Snow Drifts Near Buckie
Cars have been buried overnight under huge banks of drifting snow blown from fields next to the A98 in Moray.  The vehicles were trapped as gale-force winds carried mud-coloured waves of snow onto the road near Buckie.  Snow ploughs were used to try and clear the stretch, close to its junction with the B9016, but were unable to make it through and the road remains closed.  Elsewhere in the north east, stretches of the A90, A95 and A96 were also closed overnight due to drifting snow. The A9 has also been affected, with the snow gates being closed between Dalwhinnie and Trinafour.  All major roads were at least partially cleared on Sunday morning but road management firm Bear Scotland said its teams were still working to keep them passable. Drivers have been urged only to travel in the area if absolutely essential.        

Covid in Scotland: FM Urges People Not to Book Easter Holidays

Nicola Sturgeon has warned Scots not to book Easter holidays as it is "highly unlikely" that hotels or self catering accommodation will be open. The first minister advised against booking a break either overseas or in Scotland at the start of April.  She also said it was unlikely that overseas holidays would be possible in the summer. However, she said "staycations" might be possible - although it would depend on the Covid data nearer the time. Giving her Covid update statement to MSPs at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said the risks posed by new variants of the virus meant it was "hard to overstate the necessity of being careful, cautious and gradual as we exit this lockdown". She said that meant continuing to abide by the "stay-at-home" requirement.  The Scottish government hopes to publish a "revised strategic framework" next week which will set out how Scotland can exit lockdown and what conditions will need to be met before restrictions can be eased. "We are likely to advise against booking Easter holidays, either overseas or within Scotland, as it is highly unlikely that we will have been able to fully open hotels or self catering accommodation by then," said the first minister. "However, for the summer, while it is still highly unlikely that overseas holidays will be possible or advisable, staycations might be - but this will depend on the data nearer the time." Ms Sturgeon said she had always made it clear that education should be the priority.  She confirmed that the youngest pupils are to return to Scotland's classrooms for face-to-face teaching from next week, along with some secondary pupils who need to complete coursework.  Other age groups will continue to learn from home, and are unlikely to return to school until at least 15 March. All other existing lockdown measures will remain in place until at least the end of this month, with Ms Sturgeon warning that the country remains in a precarious position.  Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said the first minister's statement had made tourism businesses "extremely anxious".  He said the STA Board would meet Ms Sturgeon in the coming weeks and update her on the "desperate state" the industry is in.  "I know of numerous businesses who are wholly reliant on being able to trade again at Easter in order to stay solvent," Mr Crothall said.  "Today's indication that this is highly unlikely will, I know, serve as a crushing blow to many."  He called for more support if businesses are not going to be able to trade viably for months to come.

Tesco Loses 'Fire and Rehire' Court Battle
Tesco has said it is examining its legal options after losing a court battle over contracts with some workers at its Livingston distribution centre.  Retail trade union Usdaw won a temporary interdict in the Court of Session on Friday over what the union called a "fire and rehire" policy.  It means Tesco cannot terminate workers there and re-engage them on new terms which do not retain their rate of pay.  Usdaw had claimed some staff could lose between £4,000 and £19,000 a year.  The judgement applies to the Livingston site only, although the union said it would continue to fight for workers in the Litchfield, Daventry clothing and Avonmouth Tesco distribution centres.  Usdaw national officer Joanne McGuinness said: "We are very pleased to have secured this victory for our members who faced a huge cut in wages after Tesco moved to renege on a long-standing collective agreement made in good faith. It is a major victory in the fight against 'fire and rehire' tactics, which are now being used by too many businesses. The court delivered a temporary prohibition and we are now calling on the company to honour the judgment and withdraw its plans at all sites. We stand ready to seek a permanent interdict for Livingston and a High Court injunction for the other sites to defend this unfair pay cut for hundreds of key workers." A Tesco spokesman said the company was "surprised" by the court's decision and was "looking at how we can legally challenge this".  He said: "We will continue to engage with Usdaw and the very small number of colleagues at our Livingston distribution centre who are affected by this. Retained pay was offered a number of years ago as an incentive to retain colleagues.  "Today we have over 16,000 colleagues working in distribution, the vast majority of whom do not receive this top-up, so we have taken the decision to phase it out. We made a fair offer to those colleagues affected, and many of our colleagues have chosen to accept this. "This decision does not affect the voluntary process."

Woman and Two Men Charged Over Human Trafficking
A woman and two men have been charged with people trafficking and sexual exploitation offences.  The three were arrested after an intelligence-led operation in Glasgow and Edinburgh.  Officers from Greater Glasgow Human Trafficking Unit used warrants to search four properties on Monday 15 February.  They targeted addresses in Denniston, Maryhill and Thornliebank in Glasgow and the Canongate area of Edinburgh.  Det Insp Mark McLennan, of Greater Glasgow CID, said: "A 28-year-old woman and two men aged 32 and 45 were arrested in Glasgow and charged in connection with human trafficking and sexual exploitation.  "All three are expected to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday." He said that a 31-year-old man was also reported to the procurator fiscal. Police Scotland worked with Edinburgh City Council, the National Human Trafficking Unit and Home Office Immigration Enforcement Crime and Financial Investigation Scotland as part of the operation.

Covid in Scotland: is Vaccination Cutting the Death Rate?
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says that falling Covid-19 deaths in care homes and among the oldest Scots is the first "hard evidence" the vaccination programme is working. So, can this drop in deaths be attributed to the vaccine?  First, it's worth looking at the progress made in vaccinating the oldest people in Scotland.  And in short, progress has been good.  All residents in care homes for older people have now been vaccinated with a first dose - more than 30,000 people - according to Scottish government figures.  The vaccination programme for this group was completed last week, with the bulk of the vaccinations being done in late December and the first half of January.  Using Public Health Scotland data, we can also see how many people in each age group have been vaccinated.  The Scottish government is vaccinating groups of people in line with the priorities set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, so older people have been first in line for the jab. Almost 95% of the 80+ age group has been vaccinated. Neither the Pfizer nor Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have an immediate effect. The jabs will take two to three weeks to provide some level of protection, with maximum protection following administration of the second dose several weeks later.  Because of that, an instant drop in care home deaths would not be expected. However, the latest National Records of Scotland data shows that Covid deaths in care homes are falling as a proportion of the total number of deaths.  In the week beginning 28 December, 33% of all Covid deaths were in care homes. This figure has fallen every week since and last week reached 13%.  There were 42 Covid-19 deaths in care homes between 8 and 14 February, out of a total of 323 deaths.  Deaths among the oldest age group are falling at a faster rate. Looking at the older age groups only, there are rises across all ages from late December, with a marked decline in deaths in the oldest age group towards the end of January.  The NRS counts all death certificates that mention Covid-19 and weekly deaths seem to have risen to a peak in mid-January. Since then, weekly deaths have fallen by about 29% overall, whereas deaths in the 85+ age group have seen a 45% cut. BBC News analysis, using data from England only also suggests the vaccine is starting to push the numbers down. Coronavirus deaths are falling faster for vaccinated than unvaccinated groups.  On average, deaths of over-80s fell by 53% between 28 January and 11 February, compared with 44% for under-80s.  At this stage, it's difficult to say for certain if the data shows "hard evidence" that the vaccination programme is working.  Referring to the English figures this week, Prof Chris Whitty, the UK's chief medical adviser, said: "The earliest indications would imply there is some effect.  But I think it's too early to put a number on that. We would expect to see some evidence that is strong enough to put into the public domain in the next few weeks." The suppression of the virus by the current lockdown will undoubtedly be having an effect on the number of deaths. Since most of Scotland has been in full lockdown since the beginning of January - with a corresponding cut in case numbers - it is hard to disentangle this from the vaccine effect. But the marked fall in care home deaths and in the 85+ age groups is encouraging, and as in England, gives some indication the vaccination programme is working.

St Andrews University to Lead UK’s First Survey on Impact of Covid-19 on Ethnic and Religious Minorities

The UK’s first survey on the impact of Covid-19 on the lives of ethnic and religious minority people will be led by St Andrews University.  Researchers hope to learn more about issues around employment, education, health, housing and policing, as well as discrimination and racism, during the pandemic.  The study will consider the full range of ethnic and religious minority groups, including Gypsy, Traveller and Roma people and Jewish communities, across Scotland, England and Wales. Reserchers from Ipsos MORI will be quizzing people until May 2021. The St Andrews team will be working in partnership the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE), the University of Manchester, and the University of Sussex on the Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS). Dr Nissa Finney, EVENS’ lead and Reader in Human Geography at St Andrews, said the intention was to spotlight the key problems of disadvantage and inequality for particular groups and suggest ways to address them. He said: “Disadvantages of ethnic and religious minorities have been highlighted and exacerbated by the period of austerity, followed by the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning there is an urgent need to act to mitigate growing inequalities. “EVENS will give us a unique and authentic representation of the lives of ethnic and religious minority people in Britain during the current crisis.”  The data will be made available to activists and policymakers, as well as a range of non-governmental organisations. Professor James Nazroo, Deputy Director of CoDE and EVENS’ Co-Lead, said the  “ground-breaking” study would help influence the future narrative on ethnic and religious inequalities in modern Britain.

College Launches Three-year Strategy to Help Revitalise Gaelic
Lews Castle College UHI (LCC UHI) in Stornoway plans to embed Gaelic into new courses to develop language skills and learning. It will also work with community groups and public bodies to use the language as an economic driver and promote the heritage of the Outer Hebrides to visitors and people coming to live in the islands.  The strategy will be launched at a virtual event on February 24 which will also see the start of a series of talks by Gaelic speakers from island communities. The college, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, said the Western Isles has the highest concentration of Gaelic speakers in Scotland, with 61% of people aged three and over having at least some Gaelic language skills.  However recent research has shown there is a critical need to regenerate Gaelic in communities. Last year, a damning book claimed it could collapse as a community language within a decade in its main stronghold. ‘The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community’ was published by researchers from the university’s Language Sciences Institute and Soillse, a multi-institutional research collaboration.  Since then, MSPs and Soillse have consulted island communities and a report was sent to Gaelic minister John Swinney.  LCC UHI’s strategy said investment in Gaelic offers significant opportunities for future economic growth.  Key objectives from September include developing language skills to encourage entrepreneurship. It is also planned to embed Gaelic in a range of subjects, such as creative and digital media, hair and beauty and health and social care.  Training programmes will be offered to tourism businesses and the college will work with bodies including the Stornoway Port Authority and Hebridean Celtic Festival to raise awareness of the Gaelic language and culture among visitors.  In future, people coming to live in the islands will also be sent welcome packs with information about the area’s heritage and how to learn Gaelic.  The college’s head of Gaelic Angela Weir said: “The recent research highlighted issues facing Gaelic which brought things into sharp focus. We felt we needed to increase our engagement with stakeholders as well as increase partnership working and our focus on community engagement.”

BBC Alba Series Examines North Air Traffic Control Plans
Controversial plans to change the way air traffic operations are handled in the Highlands and Islands will be put under the spotlight by BBC Alba current affairs series Eòrpa this evening. Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL), wants to remove air traffic control from five airports and centralise it at one location in Inverness using remote tower technology, and downgrade the air traffic service at two other airports to an information service.  However, as Angela MacLean reports, many people are against the project with concerns about the loss of local jobs, and the resilience of the new technology and safety.  Among those taking part is Peter Henderson, a former air traffic assistant and flight information officer, who has called the proposal "a step backwards", Ùisdean Robertson, who chairs Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's transportation committee and HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon, who will explain why the group has taken the decision and why he believes this is the best option for guaranteeing the required level of air traffic in the future.  Also in the programme, Donalda McComb, who has been at the heart of Gaelic medium education in Glasgow for many years, reflects on her experiences as the head teacher of the first Gaelic medium primary school and the first Gaelic medium secondary school in Scotland.  Eòrpa will be screened on BBC Alba this evening Thursday, February 18, at 8.30pm and will be available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days afterwards.

Dental Schools 'May Be Unable to Take on Freshers'

A delay in dental students graduating could mean universities being unable to take on new students this year, the British Dental Association has warned.  It follows the announcement that students studying dentistry in Scotland will have to repeat a year after their training was disrupted by Covid.  The students have not been able to gain sufficient clinical experience during the pandemic.  The Scottish government is providing extra bursaries for most students. The payments will be the equivalent of a student loan award which could be up to £6,750. Graduation for dental students at Dundee and Glasgow universities will be deferred until summer 2022 with all current year groups repeating the academic year. The same will happen at Aberdeen but final year students will only be deferred until Christmas.  The British Dental Association Scotland said it could lead to students facing far more competition for training places. "Delays could leave some universities unable to take on new freshers in 2021, and a much larger group of graduates facing fierce competition for training places," it said. "Without action, this will translate into major problems for the NHS workforce, that could be felt for years to come. Covid is set to widen already unacceptable oral health inequalities. The Scottish government has a responsibility to ensure the next generation of dentists get the support they need." Scotland's dental schools previously said students had not been able to gain sufficient clinical experience of aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) which can result in droplets being thrown into the air, creating the potential for Covid-19 to spread. AGPs, involving the use of high-speed instruments, represent the majority of dental treatments. At Thursday's lunchtime coronavirus briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was asked about the repeat year for dental students. She said: "This is just another really difficult thing we have to manage. The British Dental Association raised an issue with us about continued bursary support for some students for whom the deferral won't be a full 12 months and that is something we will resolve to make sure that the financial impact is dealt with. "I am really sorry for the impact of this pandemic on young people who have had their education disrupted in all sorts of different ways. They have had the normal experience of being young disrupted."

Perth Becomes First UK City Centre with Resident Beavers

Perth has become the first UK city to see resident urban beavers for hundreds of years, with the mammals establishing a "strong presence" there.  A new survey has found evidence of beaver activity on the River Tay, including in the centre of Perth.  Signs of fresh activity were also seen on Moncreiffe Island and along the river at the North Inch. Beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain in the 16th Century for their fur, meat, and scent glands. The animals were reintroduced in Scotland in 2009 and are valued for their impact on ecosystems and abilities as "natural engineers".  A similar programme to reintroduce the animals is currently under way across England and Wales.  However some landowners have raised concerns about the damage caused as they build dams.  Surveyors said there has been a beaver territory on the Tay at Perth since at least 2017. They said there was now "even more evidence" of their increased presence this year. Denise Reed, NatureScot's Tayside and Grampian area manager, said: "The city of Perth already has an abundance of wildlife on its doorstep and we're excited to hear about the beavers in Perth. It can lay claim to being the first city in the UK to have its own resident beaver families." The NatureScot survey was conducted by Exeter University and is the first to be conducted since beavers gained protected status in Scotland in May 2019.  NatureScot, formerly Scottish Natural Heritage, said beavers had established territories in many European urban areas with suitable habitat, including cities such as Berne, Munich and Vienna. The current survey covers the Tay and the surrounding river catchments, including the Forth and river systems in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

50% More Mental Health Staff Needed in Perth and Kinross

Health bosses in Perth and Kinross are trying to recruit 50% more mental health staff due to the rise in people using services during the Covid-19 pandemic. The region’s health and social care partnership also hope to appoint a Suicide Prevention Coordinator and a Mental Health Link GP amid the lockdown restrictions.  Gordon Paterson, chief officer of the Integrated Joint Board (IJB), laid bare the need for more staff in the mental health sector in a report that went before councillors this week. Mr Paterson spoke of the need for multi-agency work to prioritise suicide prevention. He said: “There have been a number of recent suicides within Perth and Kinross and there is also emerging evidence to indicate increasing prevalence of self-harm. To address this, specifically, we have worked on a multi-agency basis to consider how best to respond and provide the necessary support at a local level.  Additionally, we are progressing the appointment of a Suicide Prevention Coordinator who will support local groups, identify training for staff and the community and be a direct link between communities and services.  More broadly, we collaborated with Dundee University to support the delivery of webinars to 200 non-mental health professionals to enhance their knowledge and understanding of suicide prevention.” A further priority within the Strategy will be the recruitment of a Mental Health Link GP to develop strong links between GP’s across Perth and Kinross and all available Mental Health Services. This post will be a key contributor to the exploration of a single point of contact for access to mental health services across Perth and Kinross to reduce the number of referrals required and make service more accessible.” At the meeting the need for more mental health staff was brought into focus as councillors brought up concerns about the sudden deaths of two young people who had been receiving care from NHS Tayside.

Three Covid Deaths in Highlands As Test Positivity Rate Reaches Lowest Point Since October
There have been three deaths of people who tested positive for the coronavirus in the Highlands recorded over the past day, the latest Scottish Government statistics show. One death of a person with Covid has also been reported in the city of Aberdeen. However, there was good news for Scotland as a whole, as the percentage of new tests that came back positive was just 3.8% – the lowest it has been since October 18. That figure is significantly below the 5% threshold used to determine whether the spread of the virus is out of control, and reflects a broader downward trend in the rate since the start of the year. The number of patients being treated with coronavirus in NHS Grampian hospitals is 35 – less than half of the number just 12 days ago. NHS Highland hospitals have seen a slight increase in the number of Covid patients in hospital, from 28 yesterday to 31 today. There are nine people in hospital with the coronavirus in the Western Isles, one more than yesterday.  NHS Highlands recorded 37 new cases of the virus in the past day, while NHS Grampian recorded 26. There were four new cases in the Western Isles and one on Orkney. Across Scotland, 685 new cases of coronavirus were identified, the third-lowest total since Christmas.

Asymptomatic Testing to Be Rolled Out in Glasgow
Asymptomatic testing is being rolled out in Glasgow to identify people who may have Covid-19 and are spreading the virus without knowing it. The programme, funded by the Scottish government, will offer lateral flow tests to people without symptoms. From 1 March, walk-in test centres - staffed by the armed forces - will be located at Glasgow Central Mosque and at Govanhill Neighbourhood Centre.  People in the local communities without symptoms are invited to get a test.  The walk-in centres will be open for several weeks. Dr Linda de Caestecker, public health director for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), said: "We know that Covid-19 is often spread by people who don't have symptoms or they are so mild they do not recognise they have the infection. Asymptomatic testing enables identification of infection so that people are not spreading the infection to their families, work colleagues or the wider community as they go shopping or exercising. This has the potential to reduce spread overall."  She added that asymptomatic testing will also help experts learn about the rate of infection in people not showing signs of the virus. Swabs from lateral flow tests do not need to be sent to labs for analysis and the results should be known within an hour.  Similar test facilities will be set up in other Glasgow neighbourhoods in coming weeks.


In Glen Innes they have the GlenFest – 1st to 14th March 2021 this is An Australian Government bush fire recovery initiative, supported by Glen Innes Council.  The official ticketing site will open online for all of March’s free GlenFest Events The Australian Celtic Festival in 2021 featuring Ireland and the Isle of Man is on 29 April - 2 May 2021

The Scottish Australian Heritage Council - advised that the following events have been cancelled in 2021:
* National Multicultural Festival, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory  
* Richmond Highland Gathering, Tasmania
* Scots Day Out, Bendigo, Victoria (March)
* Geelong Highland Gathering, Geelong, Victoria
* Australasian Pipe Band Championships, Maryborough, Victoria
Scottish/Celtic Events planned for 2021
The Council doesn’t have confirmation from all of the following events in 2021
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,
They also advise that they are still looking for a Newsletter Editor.  If interested please contact the President to discuss this very important role for keeping the Scottish Diaspora informed at his email address at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


The following are extracts from advice received from the Brigadoon Executive on the  14th January and 11th February 2021. Due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic a final decision will be made on March 4th as to the future of BRIGADOON in April 2021.Therefore unfortunately NO tickets will be available in February.  In regards to the current Public Health Order (No 7), BRIGADOON 2021 will be a ticketed event and numbers will be restricted. In the event that BRIGADOON is unable to proceed in April, The Committee will look at an alternative date later in the year. Once the decision is made to proceed with the event Tickets will be made available through Ticketebo online ticketing.
Brigadoon Grand Raffle First there was the bushfires, then the floods and rain now COVID-19 which led to the cancellation of the 2020 Gathering. Because of this drastic chain of events there were no financial donations made to the usual volunteer groups. In an attempt to rectify this, Brigadoon will be holding a Grand Raffle for the 2021 gathering to 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 you can get them on

Last Updated (Friday, 19 February 2021 23:06)