Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 598

Issue # 598                                                       Week ending Saturday 3rd April  2021

So You Won’t Let Yourself Down, Here is How to Properly Pronounce the Name of Your Own Nation
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

So how should we pronounce the Gaelic word for Scotland? Someone in Australia wanted me to connect on Zoom so they could record my dulcet tones as I carefully folded my tongue around my gob to get every last nuance as I delivered that eponymous word that’s had this nation chortling since Friday morning. It’s so tricky. There are four letters, no less. Wait for it ..... Alba.

Bravehearts of Bonnie Scotland seem set on independence yet most seem so ignorant about their own nation and culture they haven’t a scooby how to string together four letters that make up their country’s name. You couldn’t make it up. One jester quipped that Alex Salmond’s new political party was named after the Gaelic TV channel BBC Alba.

That was a joke, but the earnest social media discussions around that made me wail. We are fighting two pandemics - Covid and stupidity, both as hazardous as each other.

Alba is the Gaelic word for Scotland, so Gaelic rules apply. Get over it. If you can pronounce Ecosse, like a Canadian, you should try. It is not Al-bah, as someone who was once in politics found out after mangling our language. It should be annunciated thus: Alluh - wait - Ba. You know, as in the Runrig anthem Al ... ba. The guys very correctly emphasise the sectional nature of Alba in the tune.

It’s not Al as in Al Jolson, Al Gore or even Ally McCoist. It is a softer L. It’s use is important as it’s how Gaels work out someone is a lazy, imprecise learner. Some of the media twonks’ efforts since Salmond’s Shame were also wide of the mark. I won’t humiliate them until they stand for public office - which they will when they start getting under their spouses’ feet. There are a few Youtube videos to help you say Alba correctly - but a couple are also dodgy. Oh Scotland, get a grip.

For any Scots politician to mess up Scotland’s proper name is, I think, evidence they are simply going through the motions for their own vainglorious ambitions and they just don’t care about Scots, Scotland or Scotch Whisky. If you cannot understand that, you must understand that you have let yourself down, you have let Scotland down and you should go and lie down, for a very long time - in Scotch Corner.

Many people in Lewis say corner in Gaelic as “cornair”. The rest of the world says “oisean”. Bends in the road, such as Tong Corner outside Stornoway, are not corners because that’s where we put the TV and where Scottish footballers go to shoot the ball over to the goalmouth when they are not projecting spittle all over the grass that others are about to dive on and claim they were brought down. They let themselves down, they let their country ... Is there a theme to this week’s column?

The Scottish Government also lets down us Hebrideans. It’s anti-islander policy means we have the highest freight costs in the UK. We used to have the useful Traders' Rebate Scheme (TRS) freight discount to help make it a level playing field. That was removed in 2008 before the ill-fated Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) trials flopped. It not been reinstated.

Edinburgh cares not. Gaels aren’t grateful enough that they give Barra an old and unreliable ferry worthy of a third-world country. No replacement relief scheme either. No one cares about teuchters. Sob. No, I am not crying. Well, maybe I’m a wee bit moist but that was hearing about RET again and the broken political promises that surrounded it. Sob sob sob.

Transport minister Michael Matheson is just not interested, we are told. He doesn’t care about the islands, puts his fingers in his ears and goes la, la, la. People say our local MSP is painfully slow to respond.

The Scottish Government’s ongoing failure is now forcing the islands’ council here to demand all the candidates in the May election to commit to TRS or, or, or ... well, they will be named and shamed right here in this column. Heck, that’ll finish them.

Wait, I haven’t agreed to this. My mole in the coonsil tells me to get ready. They say the woolly miteagan are coming off - that’s Gaelic for mittens, in case you thought the elected representatives were threatening to take off their pyjamas.

Let me continue this theme just one more time.

Any councillor doing that would be letting themselves down, letting their pyjamas down ...

Scottish Parliament Election 2021: A Really Simple Guide
Voters across Scotland will go to the polls on 6 May to elect members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).  The vote is now held every five years, and this will be the sixth election in its history.  It was established in 1999 to debate issues and make laws for Scotland.  A total of 129 MSPs are elected to the Parliament - often referred to as Holyrood, after the area of Edinburgh where the parliament building stands.  They debate and pass laws on devolved issues - these include most aspects of day-to-day life in Scotland, such as education, health and transport.  Holyrood also has control over some taxes, most notably income tax, and some areas of the welfare system.  The UK Parliament at Westminster can pass laws on reserved matters, which are generally those with a UK-wide or international impact - such as defence, foreign policy and immigration.  Anyone who lives in Scotland and is registered to vote is eligible, so long as they are aged 16 or over on the day of the election and have not been legally excluded from voting (for example because they are serving a prison sentence of longer than 12 months).  They must also be a British or Irish citizen or a citizen of another country living in Scotland who has permission to enter or stay in the UK, or who does not need permission.  People have two votes - one for a constituency MSP, and another for a regional ballot.  There are 73 Constituency MSPs, each elected on a first-past-the-post system similar to the UK general election - the winner is the candidate who receives the most votes in each constituency.  In the regional ballot, people vote for a party. The parties are then allocated a number of MSPs depending on how many votes they receive, to make the overall result more proportional.  There are eight electoral regions, each with seven regional MSPs. These are:  Central Scotland,  Glasgow,  Highlands and Islands,   Lothian,   Mid-Scotland and Fife,   North east Scotland,   South Scotland,    West Scotland.
This means that people in Scotland are each represented by eight MSPs - one representing their constituency and the other seven representing their region.  The Scottish government is formed from the party that hold the most seats in the parliament, or alternatively a coalition of more than one party.  It is led by the first minister, who appoints a number of ministers to be in charge of departments such as education, health and finance.  In previous elections, votes were counted as soon as the polls closed at 22:00, with the results being announced overnight.  The pandemic means that the votes in this election will not start to be counted until the morning after, with a final result not expected until the weekend of 8/9 May.  The SNP, led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, lost its overall majority in the 2016 election, but continued in power after forming a minority government.  The Scottish Conservatives - led by Ruth Davidson - finished second after overtaking Scottish Labour for the first time, while the Scottish Greens were fourth - ahead of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.  The SNP has won every Scottish Parliament election since 2007.  The election campaign is likely to be dominated by the question of whether there should be another referendum on Scottish independence.  The SNP has already said it wants to hold a vote once the Covid pandemic ends - if the election returns another pro-independence majority.   The Scottish Greens also back independence, but the Scottish Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats are all opposed and say the country's focus should be on recovering from the pandemic rather than the constitution.  Health, education, the environment and the economy are among the other important issues for voters, and all are likely to feature prominently during the campaign. Social distancing rules mean the campaign will look and feel very different to normal.  Party campaigners will not be able to knock on doors, for example, and there will be no large gatherings for set-piece events such as TV debates or manifesto launches.  Much of the campaign is likely to play out online instead, with BBC Scotland planning to hold two virtual debates.  It is also expected that more people than ever before will choose to vote by post rather than going to a polling place.

RAF Jets From Lossiemouth Intercept Russian Planes Near UK Airspace
Typhoon jets were scrambled from RAF Lossiemouth to intercept two Russian Tu-142 Bear-F aircraft as they flew close to UK borders.  The aircraft were first detected on Monday morning by Nato and tracked by Norwegian air defences.  The interception was handed over to the RAF, which despatched aircraft from the Lossiemouth base in Moray.  The Typhoons tracked the aircraft over the North Sea, supported by refuelling planes from RAF Brize Norton.  The Russian Tu-142 aircraft are used for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare.  One of the RAF pilots involved in the mission said: "Crews here in Scotland are on standby 24/7 to scramble against any potential threats to the UK.  On this occasion we were informed by our Nato colleagues of two suspected Russian aircraft approaching our area of interest.  We were scrambled and intercepted two Russian Tu-142 Bear-F operating near the UK, remaining on task to dissuade them from operating in the area.  We are committed to maintaining the integrity of UK and Nato airspace, every minute of every day."

Holyrood 2021: Scottish Leaders Go Head-to-head in First TV Debate

Scotland's political leaders faced each other in the first TV debate of the Holyrood election campaign. The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon, Tory Douglas Ross, Labour's Anas Sarwar, Green Lorna Slater and Lib Dem Willie Rennie all took part in the BBC programme. They sought to set out their key policy pledges and arguments ahead of the Scottish Parliament vote on 6 May.  The event was moderated by the BBC's Scotland Editor Sarah Smith and broadcast live on BBC One Scotland.  A further debate is to take place towards the end of the campaign.  The questions came from audience members who represent a range of different political opinions and demographics. However, because of Covid-19 restrictions the audience attended virtually. Ms Sturgeon set out the core principles of the SNP's platform in a campaign conference speech on Monday, saying the poll on 6 May was "perhaps the most important election in our country's history".  The first minister said she could provide "strong, experienced leadership that the country needs at this time of crisis".  And she said independence was central to her plans to rebuild Scotland post-pandemic, saying: "Independence is not a distraction from recovery, it is essential to ensure a recovery that is made here in Scotland and based on the values the majority of us subscribe to."  The Scottish Conservatives, meanwhile, are putting opposition to independence at the heart of their campaign, saying that a new referendum would jeopardise the recovery from Covid-19.  Scottish Labour also launched its campaign on Monday, with new leader Anas Sarwar saying the next term of parliament should be focussed on recovery - with the health services first in line.  The Scottish Greens are basing their campaign on support for independence and a "green recovery from the pandemic". And the Scottish Lib Dems say they would "put recovery first", arguing there should not be a fresh referendum "in the wake of a terrible pandemic".

Scottish Election 2021: What Did We Learn From the Election Debate?
By Philip Sim BBC Scotland News
Scotland's political leaders have clashed in the first TV debate of the Holyrood election campaign. What did it tell us about how the contest is shaping up? The last Scottish Parliament term ended in a blaze of bad temper, with votes of no confidence and personal attacks flying thick and fast.  So this debate was a chance to see if the temperature would come down as parties hit the campaign trail - or escalate still further.  The leaders all called each other by their first names throughout, and with the audience dialling in from home sought not to shout over each other in the hush of a largely deserted studio - at least to start with.  But ultimately there are deep divisions between these politicians. It is still early days in the election campaign, but already the shapes of the platforms parties are building are becoming clear.  SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon leaned on her pandemic leadership and the promise of a fresh choice on Scotland's future for the electorate - with a heavy caveat that any vote would come after the health crisis has passed. On independence, her pitch to Scots in this election is a straightforward one - who would you rather have in charge, me or Boris Johnson?  But it was another politician not actually in the room who was cited by Ms Sturgeon's opponents, in a bid to drag her row with Alex Salmond into matters.  Mr Salmond and his new Alba Party complicate the independence issue for Ms Sturgeon, in that they present a different vision of her core policy and even different ways of achieving it - opening up all kinds of detailed, difficult questions that the SNP leader would rather keep for another day and campaign.  But ultimately the former first minister was not the ghost at the feast in this event - the leaders present managed to drag the debate back to independence time and again all on their own.  Somehow, even what looked set to be a heartwarming segment at the end where all the leaders agreed to call out abusive language in political discourse ended with a row about the constitution.  Conservative leader Douglas Ross sought to galvanise his base by going back to the well of "no referendum" repeatedly. He mainly sought out clashes with Ms Sturgeon, given his party's goal is to deprive her party of a majority and provide "strong opposition" at Holyrood.  He may have actually overdone it somewhat when he said he wouldn't even work with the SNP to tackle climate change, such are their constitutional disagreements.  And independence was also his weapon of choice when attacking Anas Sarwar, seeking to tempt any hardcore unionists in the Labour ranks into backing his party instead.  Mr Sarwar, recently elected the leader of a party which has lost its position atop Scottish politics along with much of its traditional support to the SNP over recent years, has a more difficult tightrope to walk.  The primacy of the constitutional debate has left Labour looking rather shut out in campaigns since the 2014 referendum, with the SNP corralling pro-independence voters and the Conservatives cloaking themselves in the Union flag.  But the pandemic - along with Mr Sarwar's extremely-new-broom leadership - has added a fresh edge to their cry of "wouldn't you rather talk about something else?"  Thus he sought to appear the reasonable alternative to both parties at every turn. If Labour has bled votes to both ends of the constitutional spectrum in the past, Mr Sarwar hopes to win them back from both ends now too.  Green co-leader Lorna Slater also had a tricky balancing act to perform, in her first appearance in a TV debate.  With the Alba Party providing extra competition for pro- independence votes, the Greens need to underline their credentials on that front - and she did so with another attack on the Westminster government.  However they also need to differentiate themselves from the SNP, to give the party's supporters a reason to not just back them on both ballot papers. In the year the COP26 climate summit comes to Glasgow, the environment is as solid an electoral hook as anyone could wish for, and it's home turf for the Greens.  Meanwhile Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie was one of the more experienced campaigners on the stage, and he harked back to previous campaigns by stressing that he didn't want to repeat them.  In trademark Rennie style he also provided one of the few laughs of the evening when he was caught on camera waving back at audience members who were saying goodbye at the end of the programme.  This was an early-election contest, with parties happy for a chance to set the tone for the weeks ahead - but mostly seeking to avoid any serious gaffes.  In fact it's so early in the campaign that nobody has published a manifesto yet.  None of the leaders opted to use the debate to launch a shiny new policy, so ultimately they either had to stick to predictable, well-trodden ground, or drop some hints. Nicola Sturgeon let slip that there might be something to come in the SNP manifesto about the universal basic income, an idea the party has backed trials of in the past.  But somehow the biggest row about a specific manifesto promise was one dating back to 2007 - the SNP's pledge to scrap the council tax, which sparked yet another confrontation between Mr Ross and Ms Sturgeon.  In the weeks ahead, more policy pledges and details should be forthcoming - providing plenty of fodder for the debates to come.

Referendum Jibes Fall Flat As Reality Bites in Holyrood Election Debate
by Andy Philip
There was more distance on the covid-safe stage than there was between their opening pitches.  Each of Scotland’s main political leaders took their first televised opportunities as you’d expect. They all know the pandemic has shaken the country, wiped out jobs and forced us all to live without seeing family and friends in lockdown.  But this being Scotland, there’s always the constitution to split on.  “It’s only nine pages,” Nicola Sturgeon explained to viewers asking why a referendum plan was published in a pandemic. And they were off – well, some of them. Douglas Ross in particular keen to hammer home a unionist line. But there was something different about this leaders debate. The constitution didn’t actually dominate every waking minute. Even when Mr Ross tried to push it back on to independence and the union, the fireworks fizzled out.  If anything, the attempt to force it into every answer jarred with what threatened to be an outbreak of consensus on tackling the big day-to-day issues.  Labour’s Anas Sarwar needed a strong showing on this – he’s only been in the job a few weeks – and he jumped at the chance to cast himself as a constructive voice.  There were pointed jibes between the two men – Mr Ross was told to “grow up” at one point in this mini battle for second place while Ms Sturgeon looked on, happy to let them take the strain. The Greens’ Lorna Slater is not a household name, but appeared confident in taking on the climate challenge without majoring on her party’s support for independence. Willie Rennie also detects that desire for consensus and played up his experience at Holyrood and Westminster.  The future of our place in the union, or out, was there in the debate, and there’s no doubt it runs like a thread through Scottish politics. However, the health service, education, actual devolved responsibilities, somehow muscled out the Yes/No theatrics. Even Alex Salmond’s new single issue pro-independence party fell by the wayside. One question on his new Alba group was put to a Yes voter. The answer? Not the constitution, but climate change.  Everyone knows the constitution divides the electorate. But it was clear ordinary Scots – however they’d vote in a referendum – want politicians to put their energies right now on a national recovery, not national division.

Barra's Planned New Distillery Could Create 30 Jobs
A £5m whisky and gin distillery has been proposed for Barra in the Western Isles.      Isle of Barra Distillers Ltd, which already makes gin, said its planned new site could create at least 30 jobs.  It has been proposed the distillery would be built using sustainable materials and powered by renewable energy.  A visitor centre, shop and a café/bar have also been proposed. A planning application is to be submitted in May.  Barra has close connections to the story of Whisky Galore, and the real-life ship wreck that inspired it.  The film Whisky Galore was shot at locations on the island in 1948.  The film was adapted from a book by Compton MacKenzie, who was inspired by the grounding of a cargo ship carrying more than 250,000 bottles of whisky.  The SS Politician got into difficulty off the island of Eriskay, near Barra, on 5 February 1941.  The ship was headed for Jamaica when it ran aground on the northern side of the island in bad weather.

Marie Curie Online Art Auction Raises Almost £77,000
An online art auction marking Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal has helped raise £76,986 for the charity – the equivalent of almost 4000 hours in home care for patients needing end-of-life care and support.  Artists from across the Highlands and beyond responded to the annual fundraiser which, due to Covid-19 restrictions, couldn’t be staged at public events as normal.  The charity said the online auction, hosted by a small group of local artists and art lovers, surpassed all expectations by raising so much for its nursing services.  Some £15,000 of the total was raised by kind-hearted bidders donating directly to pay for nursing hours.  The initiative, Art Works for Marie Curie, was sponsored by Saffery Champness accountants in Inverness and lasted for 10 days.  Community fundraiser Vonnie Stevenson said: "The art auction was an idea we came up with in January when we all realised we were in for another long haul of lockdown. It has been hugely well supported by artists and bidders alike and became addictive viewing for 10 days as the total just went up and up. We are so grateful to everyone involved in making it such a success. Our nurses are busier than ever before, when our usual fundraising channels have all but gone, and it was just wonderful to feel that we have made such a big difference with this event."  The collection was supplied by artists from across the country with some of the Highlands' most celebrated painters, including Ruth Bradley Forbes, Fiona Glynne Percy, Gill Wilson, Allan MacDonald and Leonie Gibbs supplying original works. Nearly 200 submissions of art, from landscape to still life and abstract works, with many paintings set in virtual rooms, were auctioned online to help finance the charity’s frontline services, providing home-based nursing care for those urgently in need of end-of-life support.

Newtown St Boswells Auction Mart Plan Wins Support
A multi-million pound redevelopment of a historic Borders auction mart has been backed by councillors.  The proposals by the H&H group could create a "new town centre" for Newtown St Boswells.  The "agricultural centre of excellence" would see the auction mart upgraded along with retail, leisure and residential developments.  Scottish Borders Council's planning committee agreed to give permission in principle to the scheme.  The proposals for the site emerged more than two years ago.  H&H said they offered "a great opportunity" for other rural businesses and the town itself.  The auction mart in Newtown St Boswells dates back to 1871 and councillors were told the proposals would be the "single biggest investment" in the site since that time. The key elements highlighted in a report to councillors were:   A major overhaul of the auction mart;  The creation of a "new central spine road" via a new roundabout on the A68;   A new town centre space being created;   Potential for a total of 150 new homes;   A rural retail/business hub together with an educational campus.  The scheme was described as an "incredibly exciting plan" at the local authority's planning committee. It agreed to approve permission in principle for the scheme with more detailed proposals to be brought back at a later date.

Covid in Scotland: New Vaccine Trial for Aberdeen

A new Covid vaccine trial is to begin in Aberdeen in the next few weeks.  The work by Canadian company Medicago follows last year's trial of the Novavax vaccine in the city, which has seen 450 people take part in tests.  Volunteers are being recruited for the Medicago trial - mostly from people who have previously enrolled for trials through the NHS.  Dr Roy Soiza, of NHS Grampian, said the vaccine the Canadian company was developing looked "very exciting".  Dr Soiza added there was a possibility booster jabs could be tested in Aberdeen in the future.

Edinburgh Castle April Reopening Date Announced

Edinburgh Castle and other top Scottish attractions will reopen next month after being closed to the public during Covid restrictions.  Historic Environment Scotland (HES) announced plans for a phased reopening of its sites from 30 April.  The National Museum of Scotland and other museums will also open their doors from 26 April.  The reopenings are part of the easing of lockdown, but safety measures will still be in place at all venues. HES is the country's biggest operator of visitor attractions. Heritage sites, including Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Fort George and Caerlaverock Castle, will accept visitors in line with Scottish government guidelines.  Dryburgh Abbey, Dunblane Cathedral and Dunfermline Abbey will also be among locations reopening. A phased reopening will see 70% of its free to access and ticketed properties reopening on Friday 30 April.  HES said that further sites across Scotland would follow as part of a rolling programme of reopening.  HES chief executive Alex Paterson said: "Scotland's heritage attractions are a key part of our tourism sector both nationally and at a community level, and contribute to our individual wellbeing, so we're delighted to once again be opening sites.  This will see us reopen all of the sites we reopened last year on the 30 April, as well as further sites across the country on a phased based over the upcoming months. As always, the safety of our staff and visitors has been at the forefront of our planning, enabling safe access to properties in line with Scottish government guidance."  The Scottish government's route map out of lockdown proposes the reopening of indoor hospitality on 26 April, and a return to the Covid protection levels system.  The lifting of travel restrictions at the same time will allow attractions to start operating again.   Scotland's best-loved museums have also announced their return.  Viking treasure and ancient Egyptian artefacts are among the exhibits at the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight and the National Museum of Rural Life.  Those three will open their doors from 26 April, followed by the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle from 1 May.  Pre-booked timed slots, face coverings and one-way routes will be among the Covid measures in place. Museum shops and cafes will take cashless payments only.  The National Museum of Scotland will unveil its summer exhibitions including the Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure, which features rare Viking-age objects buried around the beginning of the 10th Century.  Other exhibits include the Discovering Ancient Egypt display at the John Gray Centre, Haddington, and the Typewriter Revolution at the National Museum of Scotland.

Langholm Moor Community Buyout Deal Completed
The largest ever community buyout of land in southern Scotland has been completed.  The £3.8m deal involves 5,200 acres and six properties around Langholm.  Agreement was reached with Buccleuch Estates to sell the area to the Langholm Initiative last year after a lengthy fundraising campaign.  The deal has now been legally completed which will allow plans to create a nature reserve - which were at the heart of the takeover bid - to proceed. Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, said concluding the deal was a "fantastic achievement" and showed what could be achieved when communities and businesses had a "common goal". He said Buccleuch had been reducing its footprint of land over the past decade and had now sold about 30,000 acres to farmers and community groups. At the centre of plans for the land around Langholm is the creation of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve.  It is hoped it can help regeneration, tackle climate change and develop outdoor tourism in the area. A wide range of bodies has supported the project since it was launched.  The Scottish Land Fund, South of Scotland Enterprise and The John Muir Trust - along with public fundraising - have helped the group to reach its target. How did we get here?  In May 2019, Buccleuch Estates announced its decision to sell 25,000 acres of Langholm Moor and the Tarras Valley in its Borders Estate.  Community interest in taking over the land quickly developed.  Within a year a campaign was launched to purchase the area around Langholm with the John Muir Trust donating £100,000.  The Scottish Land Fund followed up with £1m, the Carman Family Foundation £500,000 and £1m came from South of Scotland Enterprise.  A range of other donations allowed a revised purchase price of £3.8m to be agreed late last year.

Robert Burns Manuscript 'Coming Home to Ayrshire'
A handwritten song by Robert Burns, put away for safekeeping 200 years ago, has sold for £27,500.  Sir Tom Hunter's foundation bought the manuscript as bidding went far beyond the £12,000 guide price at Bonhams' fine books and manuscripts auction.  The poet wrote The Banks of the Cree in 1794 to accompany a tune composed by Lady Elizabeth Heron.  She was married to Patrick Heron - an MP for Kirkcudbright - who owned an estate crossed by the River Cree.  Confirming the purchase by The Hunter Foundation, Sir Tom said: "I'm delighted that Burns exceptional work, The Banks of the Cree is not just staying in the UK, it's coming home to Scotland and Ayrshire, its rightful home, where in due course it will be made available for all to enjoy."  Burns was a regular visitor to the Kirroughtree estate in the south of Scotland, and penned a number of ballads to support Heron's election campaign in the late 18th Century. The Banks of the Cree manuscript resurfaced in an album which came from Denston Hall in Suffolk.  It is not known how it came to be there, but Bonhams said it had clearly been put away for safekeeping "a few years after publication".  A selection of newspaper cuttings surrounding it date back to the early 19th Century.

Historical Clothing From 14 Museums Displayed Online

Fourteen museums have joined forces to put on an online exhibition of clothing through the ages.  The virtual display, called Highland Threads, features a selection of historical garments.  They include a waistcoat and jacket said to have belonged to have belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie from Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.  Another item is a child's knitted swimming costume from the Highland Museum of Childhood in Strathpeffer. Some of the costumes will also be on display at their museum to be viewed by visitors once Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed and the museums can open again. Helen Avenell, of Museums and Heritage Highlands, said each costume told a "fascinating story". She said: "We even have a 1740s silk dress used as a dressing up costume for a family's children. Before being donated to the museum, it was put through a washing machine - luckily it survived." The other museums involved are Glencoe, Gairloch, Ullapool, Grantown, Fort William's West Highland Museum, Castletown Heritage Society, Tain through Time and Wick Heritage Museum, Newtonmore's Highland Folk Museum, Rosemarkie's Groam House Museum, Strathnaver Museum and Dornoch History links.

Major Wildfire 'Was Started Deliberately'
A wildfire in Moray that took dozens of firefighters almost seven hours to extinguish is thought to have been started deliberately.  The fire broke out in gorse at the mouth of the River Spey near the village of Kingston.  The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service brought in six appliances and a water carrier before it was put out later that evening.  Police Scotland confirmed the blaze was now being treated as "wilful".  No-one was injured but firefighters had to contend with high winds which spread the flames.  Crews attended the site to check for potential hotspots.

Ferries Delayed Again Amid Recruitment Struggles
The delivery of two overdue and over-budget CalMac ferries has been delayed again as the shipyard building them struggles to recruit extra staff.  Ferguson Marine hoped to take on 120 extra workers to enable seven-day working but last weekend the new shift had only 29 staff in place.  The nationalised yard confirmed the delivery timetable had slipped by seven weeks due to Covid-related issues.  The difficulties in recruiting skilled workers could lead to a further delay.  Ferguson turnaround director Tim Hair said it was not possible at this time to say with certainty when the ferries would be delivered.  The ferries were originally due to enter service on the Arran and Skye/Outer Hebrides routes in 2018/19.  But the work repeatedly fell behind schedule and costs rose, with the Inverclyde yard's owner Jim McColl and government-owned CMAL, which procures ships for CalMac, blaming each other for the problems.  The Port Glasgow yard went into administration in 2019 with the ferries still far from completion, and was later taken over by the Scottish government.  Under a revised delivery schedule given in August, the first ferry - Glen Sannox - was to be completed between April and June 2022 and the second ship between December 2022 and February 2023.  But in a new update to a Holyrood committee, Mr Hair said recruitment uncertainty meant "it is not therefore possible to provide a definitive schedule for completion of the vessels at this time".  Despite the latest delays Mr Hair said the yard remained "on track" to deliver the ferries within the "remedial work" budget of between £110m and £114m.

Covid in Scotland: Stay At Home Rule Lifted After Three Months
The stay at home rule which has been in place in Scotland for more than three months has been lifted.  People have been told to "stay local" and to remain within their local authority boundaries for the next three weeks. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the vaccination programme's progress had been "better than we could have dared hope for back at the turn of the year".  However, she also warned that there were "no grounds for complacency". She said: "It is really important right now that while the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out, all of us remain hyper-vigilant in how we're going about our daily lives."  The easing of the level four restrictions in Scotland will have a minimum gap of three weeks between phases, and will be assessed using conditions set out by the World Health Organization.  Earlier this week, Ms Sturgeon said the average number of Covid cases had fallen by three quarters since early January, and the number of deaths was down by more than 80% in the last two months.  Further easing of restrictions in Scotland from Monday will enable barbers, hairdressers, car showrooms, homeware shops and garden centres to reopen. Shops will be allowed to resume click and collect services.  In addition, outdoor contact sports for 12 to 17-year-olds can start again and college students will be able to return to in-person teaching for practical subjects.  It is expected that all school pupils will return full-time after the Easter holidays. Those in secondary schools are currently operating under a blended learning system.

Covid ICU Staff: 'The Psychological Impact Will Be Massive'

The critical care unit at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow has seen more Covid-19 patients than any other in Scotland.   Jen Dolan and the other specialist nurses have held the hands of many of them and they are still doing it.  "There is no feeling in the world like holding somebody's hand when their family can't be with them and their heart beats its last beat," she says.  "That's just one of the hardest things in this world, when somebody dies without their family."  The nurses hold phones to the ears of unconscious patients, so that relatives can talk to them without getting any response.  They keep patients clean-shaven, update them on their favourite soaps, and pin cards and letters that may never be read around the bedsides, next to monitors and tubes.  Jen says she has always thought that nursing was a privilege but this past year has been harder than previous ones.  "We've had an awful lot of families come in - husbands and wives who haven't made it - and it's been incredibly hard not to have relatives in like we normally do," she says.  The staff have become experienced in their treatment of the virus, but senior charge nurse Amanda Allan says the volume of patients has been overwhelming at times.  "It's just come in an absolute tidal wave of your sickest patients, whereas in normal circumstances there's a trickle," she says.  "They just kept coming and coming and coming. It was relentless and, as well as the Covid patients, particularly in the second wave, there was a huge influx of other patients requiring intensive care, very acutely ill from trauma, and post-operative patients."  Intensive care charge nurse Emma Small says the stream of Covid patients being admitted to ICU at Scotland's biggest hospital has recently slowed down but it has not stopped. "The tap is still running," she says, referring to the new patients who continue to arrive from A&E. Ms Small is concerned that enduring a year of the Covid pandemic has left staff struggling to deal with the impact. "I think people are coping, but we're not dealing with it," she says. "We're dealing with things completely differently, and I think the psychological impact will be massive." Some of the nurses say morale is low, but the team continues to support one another, with the help of NHS psychologists.

WW11 Air Raid Shelter Found in Edinburgh During Cupboard Clean
A WWII air raid shelter has been found in the bowels of an Edinburgh tenement building after residents decided to clear out an old store cupboard. Dr Mia Gray said she was astonished to discover bunk beds, wartime signage and a reinforced roof in the room at the bottom of their Goldenacre flats.  Originally a Victorian washroom, she said it had been crammed full of old carpets, paint pots and household junk. It was revealed when her neighbour, Liz Mowbray, decided to clear the cupboard. Ms Mowbray said she feared the communal "cupboard" had become a fire hazard. She said: "The dust down there was just awful. I couldn't even breathe when I was trying to sweep it out, it was just disgusting. Originally it was a washroom and it still has items such as a mangle and basins, which is fascinating in itself, but during the war they had turned it into this air raid shelter." The German Luftwaffe made more than a dozen bombing raids on Edinburgh during World War Two.  Air raid shelters were commonplace in the city but many were temporary structures in gardens and courtyards.  Historic Scotland said it would arrange for a site inspection and a record to be made once the lockdown restrictions were lifted.

The SAHC still needs a Newsletter Editor so if you or you know of someone the President would like to hear from you. Please contact Malcolm Buchanan at his email address  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to discuss this very important role for keeping the Scottish Diaspora informed
Bundanoon Highland Gathering Cancelled for 2021 The Grand Raffle that has been running over the past few months is continuing and the draw for the raffle will still take place on the 17th of April at the Oval.
Lower Clarence Scottish Association in northern New South Wales, will present the 116th Maclean Highland Gathering on Friday April 2 and Saturday April 3 at Maclean Showgrounds.
Queensland Pops Orchestra will present Best of British at the Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane on Saturday April 17 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Celts from all over Australia will be making a weekend of it in Ipswich to attend The Gathering at the Ipswich Turf Club on Sunday May 23,
Order of St John Priory of Queensland will host A Night in Scotland at the Southport Yacht Club, Main Beach on the Gold Coast on Friday May 21 from 6.30pm.
Coisir  Ghaidhlig Astrailianach is back rehearsing on a face to face basis at Macquarie Presbyterian Church in Eastwood and they are looking for interested folk to join them.  If you’d like to join - the choir is open to all, whatever your background.  The only pre- requisites are willingness to learn and lots of enthusiasm! A knowledge of Gaelic and/or music is not essential. If interested please contact the Music Director on (02) 9638-2625 or email him on: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it