Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 595

Issue # 595                                            Week ending Saturday 13th   March  2021

The Only Side-effects of the Vaccines is Good Health, Greyer Hair and Much, Much Longer Life
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

My Covid jab was inserted into my lilywhite skin in the plush Caberfeidh Hotel in Stornoway, now repurposed as a makeshift field hospital like the 1970s series M.A.S.H or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. I half-expected a blood-stained Alan Alda to appear and growl: “Who’s next?” Beckoned forward to be punctured, my irrational fears convinced me he or she would be a hypodermic-handling harridan intent on grievous bodily harm.

She was very nice to me, actually. Rolling up the sleeves of my Hawaiian semmit, my eyelids were firmly clenched. Good word that, clench. Clench is my word of the week. I clench regularly, and not just at the dentist, but my eyelids haven’t been clenched for ages.

Not since I was five years old when teacher ordered me to wait until playtime to seek solace in the area known as the big potty place. Everything got clenched that dreadful day - but still someone had to fetch a mop, a bucket and the ubiquitous bottle of Dettol before the bell rang. Couldn’t hold it in, miss. Haven’t learned to clench yet, miss.

Clenched and waiting for an armful of Oxford-AstraZeneca, my skin was soothingly rubbed and she asked if I’d had previous reactions. I replied I sometimes had pain but I would stoically endure it as a Bernera Braveheart. “No need. It’s done,” she tittered. I gingerly opened my eyes, unfurled my toes and loosened everything in between.

It ached for a few days but I raised a small glass to the vision of the post-war health minister Nye Bevan that the NHS should meet the needs of everyone, be free at the point of delivery, and be based on clinical need not the ability to pay. “Well done, boyo,” I said, as I toasted Nye in the thick accent of Private Cheeseman, the goofy newspaperman from Dad’s Army.

NHS frontline staff do absolutely deserve proper wage rises after this last year. Offering a measly one per cent is like the man who shared a lift with me at Raigmore Hospital a few years ago. He had a wind problem so that too was unacceptable on so many levels. Wait and see. Their stinginess could topple Boris, Matt and Rishi.

I almost toppled when I discovered you shouldn’t take alcohol for two days before a jab or for many days afterwards. It’s in the small print in the pamphlet you get after a jab. Stupid NHS. What are they like, eh? That should be up in big letters for us to study as we waited. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have ... just kidding. I am not a Covidiot or, as they are known in Glasgow, Rangers supporters.

What possessed these bluenosed bampots to gather? That could be something we will forever wonder about - like who in the Royal Family asked about Meghan’s baby’s skin colour? I’m not speculating. Not out loud, anyway.

Old Firm fans are also very loud but they keep letting down football, and Scotland. Celtic went on a jaunt to Dubai as the pandemic was turning nasty and unhygienic Rangers supporters potentially infected each other and their families. Last weekend the once-great Ibrox club said nothing beforehand, despite alleged police pleas, to persuade their fans with tiny brains to stay home and cuddle up to a slab of Tennent’s lager. Like normal people.

Who knows the consequences? After the South African strain and the Brazil strain, will we have a new blue strain? No, I didn’t say blues train. Isn’t that a song? I have no words, which is not great when you’re a newspaper columnist.

One of the Rangers supporters at George Square on Sunday is a shopkeeper in Govan, I hear. His IQ must be less than his shoe size. He doesn’t believe the coronavirus exists. To him it’s all a hoax by the Russians, or maybe the CIA, to inject us with tiny 5G radio transceivers so they can control our minds. His shop is plastered with signs which say Covid Hoax and Masks Not Needed Here.

Two big guys ran into his shop the other day and they both had face masks on and proper PPE - even oxygen tanks. The Covidiot cove pointed to the signs, shouting: “Are you taking the mickey? We don’t recognise the virus. You don’t need to wear any masks while you’re in here.” Then the first guy said through clenched teeth: “I beg to differ, pal. Your shop’s on fire.”

Man Arrested Over £3.8m Drugs Seizure in Clydebank and Glasgow
A 36-year-old man has been charged after police seized £3.8m of class A drugs in the Glasgow area.  Police Scotland said officers stopped a vehicle travelling north on the M74 on Friday evening and recovered a "large quantity" of cocaine. The seizure led to further searches of properties in Auchinleck Terrace and Concho Road in Clydebank, and Bearsden Road in Glasgow.  The man is expected to appear at Airdrie Sheriff Court on Monday. Det Supt Craig Willison said: "I'd like to commend the good work of the officers involved in these significant seizures. I hope it goes some way to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to tackling the illegal supply of drugs in our communities and our efforts to bring those involved to justice. It might be tempting for some offenders to believe that their criminal activities can go unnoticed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, however they are never beyond the reach of the law."

Contract Awarded for Clyde's First Opening Road Bridge

A £79.5m contract to build the first opening road bridge over the River Clyde has been awarded.  Civil engineers GRAHAM were chosen by Renfrewshire Council to undertake the work following a tendering process.  The crossing, connecting Renfrew to Clydebank and Yoker, is the centrepiece of a major infrastructure project to transform the Clyde waterfront. It is expected to support 700 jobs during construction and benefit subcontractors and suppliers.  The Clyde Waterfront and Renfrew Riverside project is being jointly funded by the UK and Scottish governments through the £1.13bn Glasgow City Region City Deal. The 184m (600ft) swing bridge will accommodate vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. It will also open horizontally for passing ships.  Planning consent has already been obtained, and construction is scheduled to start in the spring and take three years to complete.  A new road will be constructed through Renfrew connecting the bridge to the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland (AMIDS) being developed by the local authority, in collaboration with the Scottish government and Scottish Enterprise. There will also be riverside walking and cycling routes. Renfrewshire Council leader Iain Nicolson described it as "a hugely significant project for Renfrewshire, the Glasgow City Region and indeed Scotland. We are excited by its potential in creating a vibrant attractive waterfront and connecting communities to their work, to hospitals and to education."

Welcome Windfall for Youth Organisations in Renfrewshire

Five organisations which work with young people in Renfrewshire have been handed a welcome windfall by the Scottish Government.  PACE Theatre Company and Action for Children, which supports disadvantaged young people, have been awarded £23,880 and £14,999 respectively.  Loud N Proud, which helps youngsters create and perform music, has received £26,940. Other awards are £14,707 for the Kibble Education and Care Centre, which provides services for young people facing adversity, and £30,000 for music group SambaYaBamba. Russell Hamilton, of Action for Children, said it will use the money to help youngsters create a podcast and develop skills in songwriting and film-making. He added: “This is a structured programme, working collaboratively with Up2stndrd in Glasgow, which will give those we work with experience and training in the production of a podcast, as well as other skills in the music and broadcasting industry.” Paisley-based PACE will use its windfall to create a legacy resource that can be shared and used to inform others about the experiences of young carers. The grants are part of a Scottish Government youth arts funding package being delivered by Creative Scotland.

Magnus Davidson Becomes Youngest Member of Community Land Scotland Board
A Thurso man has become the first person from the far north to become a director of Community Land Scotland.  The membership organisation for community landowners across Scotland has appointed Magnus Davidson to its board.  At 29, Mr Davidson is also the youngest board member to take a seat on the board.  Community Land Scotland said he had become an important advocate for the cause of strengthening Scotland’s most remote and fragile communities, and his name will be familiar to anyone following the debates on community regeneration, land use, repopulation and the renewable energy sector in the Highlands and Islands.  Ailsa Raeburn, chair of Community Land Scotland, said: "We are really pleased to welcome Magnus Davidson to our board. As the youngest member of our board, he brings really valuable new perspectives to our work as well as great local knowledge of the communities of Caithness and Sutherland and their aspirations for the future."  Mr Davidson was brought up in Cromarty on the Black Isle, but his forebears were from Caithness and Sutherland where they were evicted from their homes in the 19th century. Having left to go to university in Glasgow, Magnus was keen to return home to the Highlands where he now lives with his young family. Opportunities at the University of the Highlands and Islands have enabled him to do so as both student and staff, and he now works as a research associate with the Environmental Research Institute based at North Highland College UHI in Thurso.  He is already a board member of the Thurso Community Development Trust which is developing a range of projects in the town, including a community hub, a local climate action project and sustainable tourism promotion for the town. He is also a board member of North Highland UHI and a committee member with the Caithness Broch Project, as well as being one of the founders of the Scottish-based 2050 Climate Change group.  Mr Davidson said: "We are desperately in need of more young people to get involved in community ownership and regeneration. It’s our future and that of our children that is at stake. I have three children at home, and I want the first option for all of them to be able to stay here when they are older, if that is what they choose.  The northern Highlands have such fantastic potential for community-led regeneration, community renewables and we must make sure young people’s voices are heard about the big issues affecting our region. Communities can deliver affordable housing and help stem both the tide of depopulation but also look at re-peopling areas which lost people over the last 250 years. On various branches of my family there are relatives cleared from Strathnaver and Kildonan, as well as I think Eilean Hoan on the north coast of Sutherland. We must find ways of providing more housing and crofts and land for people who want to stay, or return, or come and live in this fantastic culturally rich landscape. I care deeply about both people and nature and this is not an either ‘environment or people’ argument – there is room here for both to thrive and we need to find ways of achieving this." Community Land Scotland is planning a series of awareness raising events in the region over the next three to four months. Ms Raeburn said: "We know there are lots of concerns locally about the impact of some large landowners and the power they feel they can exercise over local people and local democratic decisions. This is Scotland in the 21st century, a Scotland with a very exciting future for its people and land – not a Scotland rooted in the 19th century where a very small number of people held huge power over the land and its people.  Diversifying land ownership and spreading the benefits of who owns the land and natural assets is critical to achieving this fairer Scotland. We are looking forward to speaking to people in Caithness and Sutherland over the next wee while, to talk about what community ownership has achieved elsewhere in terms of getting a better balance of power."  Mr Davidson added: "I am proud to be from the Black Isle but now call Caithness my home. I identify deeply with Highland culture and that obviously leads me to be passionate about wanting to see change that puts more power into the hands of local people.  I want to see the incredible resources we have up here in the far north be used to benefit local communities – whether that’s via land ownership, community-led renewables, community-led climate mitigation or more affordable housing. Community land is the obvious alternative to improve on the social, economic, environmental and cultural landscape we currently see today, often associated with the negative impacts of concentrated and absentee ownership."

Scotland's Hate Crime Bill Faces Final Vote in Holyrood
A new law on hate crime faces its final vote at Holyrood later. First introduced last April, the Hate Crime Bill has attracted controversy over its "lack of clarity" and a perceived impact on free speech. MSPs will debate more than 40 amendments to the bill and new protections for freedom of expression.  The bill consolidates existing hate crime laws but also creates a new offence of "stirring up hatred" on the grounds of religion, sexual orientation, age, disability and transgender identity.  The offence already exists for race under the 1986 Public Order Act.  Last year the first draft of the bill was attacked over its perceived low prosecution threshold - targeting behaviour deemed to be "likely" to stir up hatred regardless of intention. This led to the Law Society of Scotland criticising the bill for a "lack of clarity". Religious and cultural groups also raised concerns about its impact on free expression.  Since then, the Scottish government has removed the "likely" element of the offence, with the exception of race.  It has also proposed a freedom of expression clause that protects "discussion or criticism of matters relating to age, disability, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics".  Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf believes the new measures provide a "very high threshold" for prosecution.  Some religious and women's rights groups still have concerns about the proposals, but the Scottish Conservatives are expected to support the amendment. Scottish Conservative MSPs Adam Tomkins and Liam Kerr have proposed amendments that they say will protect free speech in private - something the new law doesn't offer.  Their amendments are related to the so-called "dwelling defence" that already exists in relation to stirring up racial hatred.  Mr Tomkins - who is also convenor of Holyrood's justice committee - said his move to protect speech "wholly in private" is in line with the right to respect for privacy and a family life.  He told BBC Scotland: "I'm not seeking to insulate everything that happens in the home.  But I am seeking to say there is a zone of privacy that is protected by European human rights law. We all have the right to respect for our private and family life.  If something is happening wholly in private, with no public element at all, then it should be safeguarded from the Hate Crime Bill."  Mr Yousaf said: "If you are sitting round the dinner table having a debate about transgender identity and your view is that a man can't transition to a woman, that won't get you prosecuted. If your behaviour is found to be threatening or abusive by a reasonable person and it was intended to stir up hatred - and that can be proven beyond reasonable doubt - then you will be prosecuted."  Labour MSP Johann Lamont is also seeking an amendment that will see sex added as a protected characteristic under the bill.  She said: "The group that everyone would recognise most routinely face hatred in their everyday lives is women.  We know that women are murdered by their partners, face domestic abuse and violence, and are discriminated against in all sorts of ways. Yet they are not featured in this legislation. I simply think that's wrong.  Even if the legislation is only about giving signals about how we should treat each other, then women should be at the heart of that."  She added: "My fear is that the legislation being brought in is well-meaning and has signalled something. But legislation has to be about more than just signals - it has to be about consequences too."  The Scottish government is likely to reject the proposal.  Ms Lamont is also seeking further changes under the freedom of expression that would protect people for "asserting, advancing or rejecting any proposition ... that sex is a physical, binary characteristic that cannot be changed".  Another change would be to remove people who "cross-dress" from the definition of transgender identity.  That move would also be rejected by the Scottish government and is not supported by transgender activists.  Becky Kaufmann, of the Scottish Trans Alliance, said: "If it is not a crime to commit a hate crime against someone because they cross-dress, a perpetrator could very legitimately go to court and argue, 'If I had known that that was real trans person, I would never have done that'.  It is a very blatant and very obvious loophole that means all protections for trans people could be removed, simply by a person claiming they thought they were a cross-dresser."

The Invention That Made Mass Vaccinations Possible
Hundreds of millions of adults around the world can expect to be vaccinated against Covid over the next few months. It will be delivered by hypodermic syringe - but who invented it? Most people with access to healthcare take vaccinations for granted.  The syringe that is now being used to provide protection against Covid may look simple enough - but appearances can be deceptive.  It took millennia to create the hypodermic syringe in a form that was to allow mass vaccinations to take place today.  An Irish surgeon, Francis Rynd, and French physician, Charles Pravaz, made a huge contribution to the field in the mid-19th Century. But it was a Scottish doctor, Alexander Wood, who is now widely credited with inventing the modern-day hypodermic syringe.  Wood may have had little idea of the importance of his invention in the 1850s.  But his creation of an all-glass syringe with plunger and fine-bore needle was to become as recognisable a medical device as the stethoscope.  Syringes in some form or another have been around at least since the time of the Greek physician Hippocrates in the 5th Century BC.  Early versions were crude. Constructed of animal bladders and pipes or quills, they were largely used for irrigation - the practice of washing out or flushing a wound or body - or enemas.  In the 11th Century, an Egyptian ophthalmologist used the first known hypodermic-like tool to remove cataracts.  But it wasn't until the mid-17th Century that the earliest confirmed experiments in intravenous injection were undertaken.  In experiments with dogs in 1656, Britain's Sir Christopher Wren - better known as an architect - administered drugs using an animal bladder attached to a hollow goose quill. "He injected opium, alcohol and crocus metallodrug (a 17th Century emetic) into different dogs," explains anaesthetist Christine Ball, honorary curator of the Geoffrey Kaye Museum of Anaesthetic History in Melbourne. "As we would expect, the first went to sleep, the second became very drunk and the third became very dead."  By the time Edward Jenner, who created the world's first vaccine, appeared on the scene nearly 150 years later, there was still no sign of a sophisticated method of administering drugs into the human body.  In 1796, he successfully vaccinated an eight-year-old boy against smallpox.  However, the vaccine was administered through a cut, and so was not technically an injection.  By the mid-19th Century, medical minds had begun to focus on a more efficient system of drug delivery.  In 1844, Irish surgeon Francis Rynd invented what was arguably the world's first hollow needle.  But it was a device which used gravity to make the liquid flow and involved breaching the skin with a tool known as a trocar.  Within 10 years, however, the modern version of the hypodermic needle was born.  In 1853, Fife-born physician Alexander Wood added a plunger and developed the first all-glass syringe that allowed doctors to estimate dosage based on the amount of liquid observed through the glass.  His first patient was an 80-year-old woman who suffered from a form of neuralgia.  Concerned only with relieving localised pain, he injected her with 20 drops of vinous solution of morphia (morphine dissolved in sherry wine) at a point in her shoulder where the pain was most severe.  She subsequently went into a deep sleep but later recovered.  Wood's invention coincided in the same year, by all accounts completely by chance, with the creation of a similar instrument by French surgeon Charles Pravaz. But while Wood's device was made of glass and featured a plunger, Prava's invention was composed largely of silver and used a screw that had to be turned to push medicine into the body.  Wood's treatment by subcutaneous injection rapidly became popular in Great Britain.  His instruments were advertised as "Dr Alexander Wood's narcotic injection syringes".  Several years passed before a London surgeon, Charles Hunter, coined the term "hypodermic", based on the Greek words "hypo" (under), and "derma" (skin). The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) says there are two reasons Wood - a past president of the organisation - should be given credit over Pravaz.  Daisy Cunynghame, library and heritage manager for the RCPE, explains: "Firstly, Wood trialled his new syringe by using it to inject a patient with medicine (morphine) while Pravaz tested his on a sheep. So the efficacy of Wood's method was more clear. Secondly, Pravaz died before he published his findings - while Wood published about his discovery."  Dr Cunynghame says the modern day hypodermic needle has changed remarkably little from Wood's design.  "The main difference has been in the material the syringe is made from - more disposable plastics, less glass and metal, but other than that the design remains largely unchanged. The sort of precise doses needed for many medicines, including vaccinations, have only been made possible by Wood's invention."

Lothian Driver Attacked by Teenager 'Tampering' with Bus
Police are appealing for witnesses after an attack on a bus driver who tried to stop a group of teenagers tampering with his vehicle.  Lothian Buses cancelled a number of weekend services in Edinburgh's Clermiston area following the incident.  Four teenagers, three male and one female, aged between 15 and 18, reportedly tampered with the bus when it stopped on Drum Brae Drive.  The driver got out and was assaulted by one of them. Insp Johnny Elliott said: "This was an unprovoked assault on a man who was simply trying to do his job and it is vital we trace the individuals involved."  The attacker is described as 6ft tall, of slim build and wearing a black jacket. Police are seeking anyone who may have dashcam footage from the time of the incident, at around 22:00 on Friday.  It follows the launch of a Police Scotland operation to crack down on anti-social behaviour directed at the city's buses. Lothian Buses have reported stones being thrown at moving vehicles as well as antisocial behaviour targeting drivers while on board. The firm said the 1, 21, 26 and Skylink 200 services suspended at the weekend will resume as scheduled supported by an increased police presence.  Operations director Sarah Boyd apologised to anyone who was affected, but said the firm "will not hesitate" to take similar action again "if necessary". She said: "Our drivers have played a critical part in keeping services operating for key workers and those that require to make essential journeys.  It is extremely disappointing that we are being targeted at various locations across Edinburgh and the Lothians."

New Fish Processing Facility At Dingwall Will Help Highland Firm Manage Salmon Production "From Egg to Plate"
Loch Duart’s Dingwall fish processing plant is now fully staffed and ready to "close the circle" for the north west based Scottish farming company.  With 60 new jobs created at the Dingwall factory, which was acquired in June 2020, Loch Duart now has the ability to harvest its salmon during the day and have it processed and packed by hand at the plant overnight for onward transportation to customers across the world.  Harvesting their fish in the Hebrides and Sutherland, the proximity of the Dingwall plant allows Loch Duart to deliver its salmon for processing very quickly. The plant is a world class, BRC accredited Grade AA unit and Loch Duart insists on the gutting and packing being done by hand to maintain the fine quality of its salmon.  The plant offers the flexibility to create the range of fillets and fillet portions which customers are looking for, while bringing exceptional quality control to every stage of the process.  Managing director Mark Warrington said: “Now, for the first time, Loch Duart has started processing its own salmon. Our beautiful new branded boxes are rolling out of our Dingwall plant for distribution to customers worldwide.  The Dingwall plant is a world class seafood facility and, in addition to gutting, packing and filleting our own stock, Loch Duart is processing for other quality Scottish producers. The factory is starting to develop real momentum and we’re delighted to be bringing jobs back to the Dingwall plant, with 60 new staff joining the Loch Duart team.” Russell Leslie, general manager of the Loch Duart processing plant in Dingwall, said: “The great thing about these premises is the quality of the build and the exceptional amount of space.This extra space allows us to handle the physical distancing of our staff while making no compromises on the quality of the packing and filleting. Having previously worked in the facility I have been able to build a new team who have the skills and enthusiasm to handle Loch Duart salmon, fresh from our farms in Sutherland and the Uists. These are skilled jobs, vital to the economy of the Highlands and it’s great to see how the new team has risen to the challenge of helping prepare high quality salmon which will be enjoyed not just across Britain, but around the world.” Both Mr Warrington and Mr Leslie worked in the Dingwall factory at the start of their careers in aquaculture and salmon processing and are proud to be revitalising the plant and creating new jobs. Loch Duart currently produces 6000 tonnes of high-quality salmon each year from its farms in Sutherland and the Outer Hebrides and employs 160 people.

Rare Stewart Royal Seal Bought At Auction
A rare 16th Century seal, made for one of King James V's numerous illegitimate children, has been bought by National Museums Scotland.  The item, not seen in public since 1901, belonged to James Stewart, half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots and dates back to the 1540s. It showed his position as Commendator of Melrose and Kelso Abbeys, which were bestowed on him by the king. The seal was sold in an online auction for more than £6,000. James Stewart was the eldest son among at least nine illegitimate children fathered by King James V.  The seal matrix showed recognition from his father despite being born out of wedlock and not receiving royal titles.  It was used for making an impression on a wax seal, to authenticate a document or to keep it closed. As commendator of the abbeys of both Kelso and Melrose during the 1540s and 1550s, James Stewart would have enjoyed significant status. He had authority not only over the lands and income of both the abbeys, but was also responsible for local defence.  The last time the seal matrix was seen in public was in 1901 when it was displayed during the Glasgow International Exhibition at Kelvingrove Park. Since that time it had remained in the same family before going up for sale, organised by Edinburgh-based auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull. NMS Principal Curator Renaissance and Early Modern History Dr Anna Groundwater said: "This is an important addition to our collection and we are delighted to have saved it for the nation.  It has a direct connection to the Royal Stewart dynasty and moreover shows how King James V was prepared to give status and financial security to his illegitimate offspring, whilst also protecting his regional interests.  This object has not been seen in public since 1901, so we're very pleased to bring it into the national collection where we will be able to put it on display in due course."

Celtic V Rangers: Justice Secretary Won't Rule Out Cancelling Derby
The Scottish government could still cancel this month's Old Firm derby if there is a risk of more fans breaching lockdown rules, says justice secretary Humza Yousaf.  Thousands of Rangers fans broke Covid guidelines to celebrate their team's title win last weekend.  The Ibrox side are due to visit rivals Celtic on 21 March for the third Glasgow derby of the season.  "There is only so much - in fairness to the clubs - they can do," Yousaf said. "But I will ask them to do as much as they can.  I will then take an assessment, and as a government we will take an assessment from the intelligence we receive from Police Scotland, and if there is a serious question or likelihood of disorder or fans gathering then we would have to consider whether or not it's wise for the match on 21 March to go ahead."  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday that the government "cannot simply turn a blind eye" to the fans' breach of lockdown.  The government and Police Scotland were critical of Rangers' response, but the club said the comments were "disappointing", and pointed out they had engaged with the authorities in the run up to their title win.  Ms Sturgeon said that discussions were taking place to make sure the scenes were not repeated, and is due to report back to parliament before the derby in 10 days' time. "I'm a football fan and I enjoy a Celtic v Rangers match as much as the next person," Yousaf told BBC Scotland's The Nine. "I enjoy the passion, and the banter afterwards. But let's be really clear here, we are in the midst of a global pandemic. We have a strain of the virus that is far more transmissible than the previous variant.  People have missed weddings, funerals, have not seen their family, parents, grandparents in care homes. So we are not going to allow people to gather - and in the case of the game on March 21st - potentially create disorder while the vast majority of citizens obey the rules.  I will not be unfair, I will ask the football clubs to very clearly put out messaging from the respective managers, their players, their club ambassadors to say very clearly that fans must stay at home."

SNP Plans to Boost ‘Shadow Embassy’ Network with Denmark Expansion
A new ‘Scotland House’ hub would bring government offices, private industry, and the public sector together under one roof in the Danish capital, as the SNP aims to burnish Scotland’s foreign policy reach.  The Scottish Government already has a modest presence in Copenhagen via the Scottish Trade International office embedded with the British Embassy, but a new Scotland House would mark a significant expansion of Scotland’s official footprint in the Nordic and Baltic region.  The Scottish Government says “no final decision has been made” on opening any new overseas offices; however, an announcement is expected after May’s election and it is understood the SNP’s manifesto will feature a prominent pledge to sharpen the government’s diplomatic focus, with more resources also being earmarked for the Scotland House in Brussels.  “We will consider any future expansion, including any enhanced Scottish presence in the Nordic countries, in line with wider government priorities. Copenhagen is one option for future investment,” the Scottish Government says.    

Protected Status for Flapper Skate 'Nursery' Off Skye

An area of sea where a critically endangered fish lays its eggs has been given marine protected area (MPA) status by the Scottish government.  The flapper skate "nursery" is in Skye's Inner Sound.  The fish belong to the shark family and females can grow to 2.8m (9ft) in length.  The MPA designation will come into force on 17 March and prohibit some activities such as fishing, diving and construction.  Scotland's nature agency, NatureScot, said the Skye habitat was of "national importance for the species".  In Scotland, flapper skate are found on the west coast and in Orkney and Shetland.  They take more than 10 years to reach sexual maturity and produce low numbers of offspring, meaning populations recover slowly from any negative impact such as habitat loss.  The adult fish hunt for prawns, other skate and small sharks in deep water.  The Skye MPA designation will initially be in place for 12 months.  The Scottish government said any proposals to extend the designation for longer would be subject to a "full stakeholder engagement process, public consultation and impact assessments". Our Seas Coalition, which campaigns for sustainable fishing that benefits people and the environment, said while the designation was welcome in protecting an endangered fish it had some concerns.  The alliance said creel fishing, which it said "impacts a much smaller area of seabed than trawling", would be affected by the temporary MPA, while trawling would still be allowed in adjacent areas of "sensitive seabed habitats".  A spokeswoman said: "It makes sense for there to be preferential access for the most sustainable fishing methods. We think that environmental recovery of our seas can go hand in hand with sustainable fisheries." Fisheries management of the Inner Sound is the subject of a legal dispute between the Scottish government and creel fishermen, who want a pilot project to be run which would see no trawling and dredging in some inshore areas.  MPAs cover others areas of sea off Scotland's coast. The designation aims to protect habitats from marine industry projects and some types of fishing. Europe's largest MPA covers an area of deep sea off the Western Isles. The West of Scotland MPA involves an area of more than 38,610 sq miles (100,000 sq km) in the north-east Atlantic.

Report by Keith Brown Depute Leader of the SNP

All 32 Scottish councils have frozen council tax. With people facing unprecedented challenges and extra pressures, this is great news and another big achievement for the Scottish Government. The  government also outlined ambitious plans to reform the private rented sector, to improve affordability, rights and protections for tenants.  And in vaccine news, over a third of Scotland’s adult population have had their first jag. However all this progress is under threat from the Westminster power grab on the Scottish Parliament. Remember when Boris Johnson and his cronies kept saying “take back control”?  Now we know they meant “take back control” from Scotland too.  After dragging Scotland out of the EU against our will, Boris Johnson, enthusiastically aided by the Scottish Tories, is now imposing a creeping Westminster power grab.  A new Scottish Government paper reveals the “steady and systematic undermining of devolution” by the Tories, through the Internal Market Act – passed by Westminster against Scotland’s will. This affects every area of our daily lives:  Westminster now has the power to override devolved policy. The Westminster Parliament passed the Internal Market Act – which uses Brexit as an excuse to substantially weaken the Scottish Parliament’s powers.  Under the Act, UK ministers have the power to undermine and override these powers – unilaterally and without consent.  In other words, in key devolved policy areas the UK government can effectively intervene, whenever it likes, regardless of the democratic votes of the Scottish Parliament or the views of the people of Scotland.  Scottish Parliament votes have been repeatedly ignored.  One of the fundamental principles of devolution is that the powers of the Scottish Parliament cannot be changed without its explicit consent. Scotland’s voice has been completely ignored. The Scottish Parliament voted against this power grab by a huge majority – but Westminster ploughed on regardless.  Scotland’s NHS is under increased threat from Westminster.  Under the Internal Market Act, UK ministers can unilaterally subject Scotland’s NHS to so-called “market access” principles. While the SNP have been pushing for an NHS Protection Bill, the UK government repeatedly refused to include any legally binding guarantees to protect the NHS from the impact of future trade deals.  It’s also an attack on our food and environmental standards. The Internal Market Act means that if chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef are accepted for sale in England as part of a UK-US post-Brexit trade deal, then they would have to be accepted in Scotland too – no matter how the Scottish Parliament votes or what the Scottish people think.  Similarly, any future legislation in Scotland to ban single use plastics, pass more ambitious environmental policy, or put in place measures to tackle health issues such as obesity, could all be rendered ineffective by the Act.  It imposes a new unelected UK body to pass judgment on Scottish Parliament’s decisions.  While Brexiteers have often talked about “getting rid of unelected bureaucrats”, the Vote Leave clique at the heart of the UK government has now established a new unelected and unaccountable body.  The new Office of the Internal Market will have the power to pass judgment on devolved laws. This could mean businesses with deep pockets challenging the democratic decisions of the Scottish Parliament. Organisations across Scotland – in business, industry, farming, teaching, and the environment – have made clear that the Internal Market Bill is unacceptable.  NFU Scotland said the proposals “pose a significant threat to devolution”, and Scottish Environment Link said the plans “force Scotland to follow the lowest common denominator”. Even the UK Westminster government’s most senior law officer for Scotland has resigned in protest.  Instead of a “big bang” moment like an outright abolition of the Scottish Parliament, Westminster has instead built a mechanism that consistently – but quietly – undermines devolution, hoping that nobody would notice.  But the threat is very real. In the May 6 election, the choice is between saving the Scottish Parliament that people voted for in 1997, or allowing Westminster to continue stripping it of its powers.


Extract From Australian Celtic Music Newsletter
First up, some Gig information for March.
17th March                    7 pm  Empire Theatre Toowoomba
18th March                   11 am  Empire Theatre Toowoomba
20th March                    7 pm  Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane

Asleep at the Reel
17th March                    11:30 - 3pm Finn MacCool's Surfers Paradise, Qld
17th March                     6 - 9pm Harrigan's Drift Inn, Jacob's Well, Qld
String Loaded
20th March                    7.30pm. Imperial Hotel, Shenanigans Irish Pub Maitland
‘String Loaded’ Streaming live from Ireland
If you need a fix of world class Irish music this St Patrick’s Day, we have a treat for you. One of the best places to stream Irish music is the official Irish Music Magazine Facebook live streaming service. Since COVID struck in March 2020 the magazine’s streaming service has boomed and it has become a platform for some of the best Celtic musicians around the world.  It is with huge excitement that we announce that String Loaded (the Australian Celtic Music Awards current Artist of the Year) has been selected to represent Australia in the official “St Patrick’s Day at Home” concert on 17th March. String Loaded will kick off this exciting live stream concert at 8pm Australian Time. The concert also features other amazing musicians such as Brian Kennedy, Mairead Nesbitt, Doolin, John Spillaine and many others from around the world. Worldwide Concert Times:  9am Ireland, 8pm Australia, 10pm New Zealand, 10am WET, 4am Eastern, 3am Central, 1am Pacific, 6pm Japan  Even though it’s not the same as being there in the same room as the artists you do have the opportunity to chat live with all the artists during the concert. Due to the time difference with Ireland the concert is filmed live and streamed on the night so String Loaded will be available online to chat to you during their performance. I’m sure they would love to hear from you! To see the concert  Wednesday 17th March at 8pm,  Grab your preferred beverage Jump on your computer, ipad or phone and click on the link.   You will need Facebook to view the concert.
When you click the link, you will be taken live to the concert  You will be able to chat live with the band during the concert  WANT A REMINDER? It’s a good idea to book in early then you will be sent a reminder so you don’t miss out. You can click on the Facebook icon right now and click GOING. You can also invite your friends and family.
As the current Australian Celtic Artists of the Year, STRING LOADED, will thrill you with their high energy fiddle tunes and popular Irish songs. This exciting family band from Newcastle is well known for their upbeat and passionate Celtic music and have thrilled audiences from Sydney to Dublin and back.  For more information you can contact Jen from String Loaded via Facebook Messenger. @strin