Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 599

Issue # 599                                                       Week ending Saturday 10th  April  2021

It Really Suited Me Back in the Day When Windows Only Ever Meant A Really Big Hole in A Shop Wall
by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Escaping the education system, I furiously applied for various jobs. Anything would do until I was ready to apply to be a pilot. Window cleaner, but I was too young. Paperboy, but I was too old. Then I realised what a cushy job shop staff had. So I began applying to shops. Did I not get a reply from a furniture shop to come for an interview for a sales vacancy? That caused me blind panic. My anxiety was the kind Mrs X has now - I had nothing to wear. How could I go to an interview to sell three-piece suites, carpets and beds in a t-shirt with The Man Who Sold The World across the chest?

A David Bowie song, it was brought to the world’s attention by Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, or as we knew her, Lulu. Oh m’eudail. I know, Lulu, eh? What was I thinking? I needed a suit, that’s what I was thinking. Before the big interrogation, I visited Hepworths, the tailor right in the centre of Stornoway, but they were a bit, er, you know, traditional. I was cool. I liked Lulu. I needed something groovy. And there it was in the window of rival threads-vendor Burton.

A window was a window then. No weather windows, transfer windows or even software created by Mister William Gates.

On the corner of South Beach was the Burton outlet. Before tycoon Sir Philip Green got his mitts on the company, it had this unlikely window not near, but on, the corner. There in the window was my heart’s desire - all purplish and crimpleney. I had to have that suit. Gimme a break, this was the age of glam rock. With matching platform shoes, I would be Noddy Holder, Bernera-style. Closer to the interview date, I kept checking that window. Still there.

Eventually, birthday money and kindly aunts meant I was able to snatch the crimplene creation and the job became mine. I slept in on my first day. Oops. The manager warned me to get up earlier. So, straight after work, I shot round to the emporium of Murdo “We sell everything” Maclean’s and I asked for a potato clock. The assistant said: “I don’t know what a potato clock is.” I explained I had started a new job and my boss told me work starts at 9am sharp. He said I’d have to get a potato clock.

I will always remember the look of sheer pity on the face of that shop assistant. She thought about what I had said. She then nodded, smiled very sweetly, took me gently by the hand and pointed me helpfully in the direction of Lewis Crofters. They just guffawed, very loudly. Obviously.

My floor-walking career lasted for a year or two before I took off to the RAF. All suits provided there. Returning home one year, Burtons was gone and the window where I eyed my garish garment was bricked up. It eventually became a turf accountant’s shop where the nags and the odds well suited the late kindly bookie, Donnie Campbell.

Now up for sale, the property is mentioned in a planning notice saying the unusual corner window is to be reopened, repurposed, de-bricked. Is there such a word? There is now. Deep joy. I have no idea why I’m so nostalgic about a hole in the wall. It was just part of old Stornoway, part of the streetscape and part of my growing up as I emerged from my cocoon and became a man. Heck, that sounds poncey.

Like having a haircut, just when you are finally Noddy Holder again from 1970s screamers Slade. Since the lockdown began, I'd not had a haircut. I was a bit shaggy. I'd not even stepped on the scales. So the other day, with shearing about to recommence, I decided to weigh myself for the first time in months. Wow. Who knew hair weighed so much?

Also in that decade, two would-be entrepreneurs from Leverburgh were walking past another Stornoway shop window. A sign said simply Suits £2. Shirts 25p. One Hearach winks and says: “We’re going to make our fortune here. Come on.” They go in and one asks: “Can we get 50 suits and 50 shirts, please?” The lady behind the counter looks at them and asks: “You two boys up from Harris, are you?” They tell her they are and ask how she knows. She replies: “Probably because this is the dry cleaners.”

Pro-independence Parties Tipped for Big Majority in Scottish Election Poll

A new poll carried out for The Sunday Times shows that pro-independence parties could win 79 of 129 seats at Holyrood.  Supporters of Scottish independence look set to win a big majority in next month's Holyrood elections.  The latest Panelbase survey for The Sunday Times suggests that pro-independence parties could win 79 of the Scottish Parliament's 129 seats come the 6 May vote.  With nearly half of the constituency vote, Nicola Sturgeon's SNP would win a narrow outright majority with 65 seats, the Scottish Greens are predicted to win eight seats, and Alex Salmond's new Alba Party are forecast to win six.  These results would represent a disastrous setback for unionism, with one notable exception.  While Labour and the Conservatives look likely to fall back, maverick former MP George Galloway could be elected in the South of Scotland as a unionist for All for Unity.  Writing in The Sunday Times, polling expert Sir John Curtice from University of Strathclyde said: "Alba is appealing to a section of the nationalist movement that wants a rapid timetable for indyref2 and which still admires Salmond."  The survey predicted the Scottish Conservatives would take 24 seats, Scottish Labour on 20, and the Liberal Democrats on five.  Panelbase surveyed 1,009 adults in Scotland between 30 March and 1 April.  If the SNP do win an outright majority, and pro-independence parties dominate the Scottish Parliament, Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be under huge pressure to accept that they have a democratic mandate for a new vote on independence.  But Alex Salmond's apparent political comeback isn't just being driven by the constitution.  Former UKIP and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage told The Times this week: "We are very similar, Alex and I."  Mr Farage said it could be a "game changer" if Mr Salmond aimed to align an independent Scotland to a UK single market, rather than the European Union.  In a country that voted overwhelmingly Remain it was, perhaps, an unwelcome endorsement - Mr Salmond was quick to say that he’s "no Farage". But his endorsement does hint at something else going on in Scottish politics.  Some Conservative activists have picked up leakage of their support to Mr Galloway's robust unionism and, wait for it, Alba. In both cases, it is what one insider described as the "angry white men of a certain age vote".  It's a reminder that, even in Scotland, not everything is about the constitution.  One of the most bitter dividing lines in the SNP has been over trans rights, with those who support Mr Salmond tending to be sceptical of what they see as "the wokerati".  If he returns to the Scottish Parliament, the former first minister might back his successor Ms Sturgeon over independence - but he could also prove to be her most difficult opponent.

Three Charged After Mass Brawl At Edinburgh Meadows

Three people have been charged after violence erupted at a mass gathering at The Meadows in Edinburgh.  Police Scotland said "thousands" of people gathered at the park to enjoy the sunny weather.  The force condemned "blatant anti-social behaviour" after social media footage emerged of young men fighting and throwing debris.  Officers were called to a series of incidents over the course of the day and told "hundreds" to move on.  Ch Insp Sarah Taylor said: "We are aware of the extent of the disorder seen in The Meadows this weekend and we absolutely condemn this.  Officers were called to a number of incidents and responded quickly and professionally in the face of some blatant anti-social behaviour.  We've been working with the council and are committed to tackling these issues together, both in the immediate future and long-term. There will be zero tolerance."  Scottish Police Federation chairman David Hamilton said one officer at the park was hospitalised with a facial injury - and that public hostility toward the restrictions was "foreseeable" and had been "growing for some time".  He added: "Countless other unvaccinated officers were put at risk, for simply doing their jobs to keep others safe."  Ch Insp Taylor said there would be a police presence in the area over Easter and the coming weekends "as a minimum".  Three people were charged in connection with anti-social behaviour and a serious assault.  Officers are working to trace others involved in various incidents and have appealed for witnesses. In particular, they are looking to speak to anyone who saw a 22-year-old man being attacked at about 19:30 in the Middle Meadow Walk or a 17-year-old man being seriously injured in the park around 18:40.  Diane Gray, who lives in the area, said the Meadows has been very busy on sunny days with "hordes of young people congregating".  Ms Gray said there had been problems with litter, including human waste, broken glass and "drug paraphernalia". She said: "I am older, restricted mobility, and I keep well away on days when it's busy because it doesn't feel safe."  A clean-up operation by both council employees and volunteers was praised on social media.  Officers are urging people to stay local and to follow government rules on outdoor meetings.  Ch Insp Taylor added: "I would like to thank those who are sticking to the rules and doing the right thing to avoid the spread of the virus as we move through the easing of restrictions.  Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to engage with the public, explain the legislation and encourage compliance, but we will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers as a last resort."

Covid in Scotland: Hairdressers and Homeware Shops Reopen

Hairdressers, homeware shops and garden centres are reopening in Scotland as Covid restrictions on the economy have eased.  Non-essential click-and-collect services are also allowed to resume.  They are the latest lockdown measures to be relaxed after the Scottish government lifted its "stay at home" rule on Friday last.  Other businesses reopening include key cutting, mobility equipment, baby equipment and electrical repairs.  Deputy First Minister John Swinney urged people to remember the virus is still circulating and to continue following the rules.  He said: "The virus is down but it's not yet out, and the last thing we need is to see it making a comeback and undoing all the progress from the massive effort and sacrifices we have all had to make."  Hairdressers and barbers with shopfronts can reopen by appointment only - but not mobile services.  While some limited click-and-collect services have been operational since January - including clothing, footwear and books - non-essential click-and-collect can now resume.  However, they will have to operate by staggered appointments.  People still have to abide by the "stay local" rule, meaning they cannot travel outside their local authority boundaries, unless for essential reasons.  Mr Swinney added: "While it's great news that garden centres and hairdressers are allowed to reopen, everyone needs to bear in mind that it doesn't mean the virus has gone away.  My message is simple - enjoy the latest relaxing of the rules but remember to look out for each other, too." Stylist Fallon Carberry said her salon in Glasgow had already been swamped with bookings.  She told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "When we got the first announcement, we opened our books and we had over 1,000 bookings in 24 hours. We weren't expecting that.  It's crazy busy but the staff are all well rested. We are going to be open seven days until eight at night. There are long days ahead but we're ready."  Marc McCune, who owns two hair salons in Glasgow, said his staff were as much a priority as customers as restrictions are lifted.  He said: "The government has provided financial support and furlough has allowed us to keep all our team employed.  It's been a strange year for our team who have only worked for five months in the last year. So we are concerned more about their mental wellbeing." David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, welcomed the reopenings and urged shoppers to respect the rules in place.  He said: "The decision to expand the list of essential retailers and unwind some of the elevated lockdown restrictions are positive steps. Its good news for shoppers and for the economy.  Retailers are working hard to prepare for reopening. Shoppers can play their part by adhering to the rules on face-coverings, social distancing, queuing, and by being respectful of shop staff."  Outdoor contact sports for 12 to 17-year-olds can also start again and college students are 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.  Meanwhile Police Scotland have criticised campers who breached lockdown rules by pitching up in the Mennock Pass on Dumfries and Galloway.  The force tweeted: "Whilst out on patrol yesterday in the Mennock Pass our officers found a large number of people who had travelled from out with our region to #DumfriesandGalloway.  Approximately 50 people who had intended camping for the weekend were reminded of the current guidelines prior to them leaving the area.  Our officers will continue to visit local beauty spots to encourage people to #StaySafe.  Please follow the The Scottish government guidelines as we ease out of lockdown."  It comes after Scotland recorded 343 coronavirus cases and no new deaths of Covid patients on Sunday.  Figures published by the Scottish government indicated the daily test positivity rate was 2.7%, up from 2.1% on Saturday.  In total, 2,553,837 people had received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination and 451,057 had received their second dose.

Police Seize £25k of Cannabis in Raid on Greenock Flat
Police pounced on a Greenock cannabis operation and seized £25,000-worth of the drug. Inverclyde officers made the discovery in a Belville Street flat.  Enquiries are now under way to identify and arrest those involved. Area Commander Chief Inspector Paul Cameron said: "This is an another example of our ongoing commitment to target and dismantle the illegal drug trade here in Inverclyde.  I am fully committed to bringing those responsible to justice."

'Much-needed' Homes Planned for Former Church Land in Lochinver

A community group has bought 55 acres (22ha) of Church of Scotland land in Lochinver in the north-west Highlands.  Assynt Development Trust said part of its newly-acquired site, which has a view towards the mountain Suilven, could be used for building homes on.  The trust has been involved in an effort that began 15 years ago to find suitable locations for affordable homes.  A network of paths and commercial units have also been proposed for the site.  The Scottish Land Fund helped with the land purchase.  Willie Jack, chairman of Assynt Development Trust, said: "We can now begin to address some of the issues facing our community, such as the need for affordable homes for Assynt residents.  We are very keen that people have a chance to pitch their ideas in, for what they need and want in Lochinver." Plans to tackle a shortage of affordable housing for local people in Applecross have also taken a major step forward after a development site was officially acquired for the community.  The Scottish Land Fund provided a grant to Applecross Community Company so it could build at least eight new homes for affordable rent.  The funding has also allowed local people to buy a patch of land for allotment gardens and a stretch of woodland at Torgarve which will be opened to allow community access.  Applecross Community Company chairman Owen Kilbride said "You don't need to scratch very deep to see the housing issue in Applecross. People are sleeping on couches, caravan and even vans during the tourist season. The provision of affordable housing is really key to trying to keep our community thriving here and so we're delighted to have got this piece of land to start that process."

New North Based Air Ambulance Completes First Year on the Frontline
Scotland's Charity Air Ambulance's second emergency response service - Helimed 79 at Aberdeen - marked its first anniversary at the weekend, having flown nearly 25,000 miles on its life-saving missions.  In a year like no other, the crew responded to 187 emergencies all across the north and north east of Scotland, flying 97 patients to critical life-saving and improving hospital care.  Launched at the start of lockdown, the team at H79 has spent its first year operating under isolating Covid-19 restrictions.  Within their "bubble", they developed and consolidated a new second operational base for the charity at Aberdeen International Airport as well as establishing H79 as a vital part of the country's pre-hospital emergency response and care network.  "It's been challenging," explained Lead Paramedic Ewan Littlejohn, "but we're really proud of what SCAA has achieved here.  We're now a recognised and well respected part of the country's emergency response network.  Our year in relative isolation has allowed us to learn and grow and to support each other as a team and I'm immensely proud of everyone – including our supporters – who have helped us through our first year."  SCAA chief executive David Craig reflected on the first year for H79 – which mirrors the charity's H76 service based at Perth Airport since 2013.  "The demand for our H79 service has been there since day one when it was deployed to a 999 call within hours of launching," he said. "Since then it has benefitted a huge number of patients and their families.  I think the crew members have been remarkable.  Most of them came fresh to the air ambulance service and have had to learn new skills, study and qualify for their role, set up a new air ambulance base and then launch on operations to demanding high acuity emergencies during a very difficult year for everyone and without the physical presence of the charity team being with them as support.  They have each shown just how professional they are and their first year has been testament to their outstanding expertise and capabilities. Air ambulances make a huge difference to response times and outcomes and the demands on H79 are sure to grow even further as we emerge from lockdown."  During its first year, H79 has responded to a wide variety of emergencies at locations as far apart as Orkney and the Borders.  The majority - 105 (54 per cent) - involved serious trauma and 48 of these were to road traffic collisions and a further 25 to serious falls.  The country's newest air ambulance service has also proved a lifeline for those living in remote and island communities, providing rapid transfer to patients for advanced hospital care. In the first year, H79 airlifted 35 such patients from outlying areas or airlifted them home to the islands following hospital treatment.  A further 31 of the crew's call outs were to cardiac related emergencies – another situation where time is of vital importance. Throughout the year, around 65 per cent of H79's call outs have been to emergencies in the Grampian region, with 17 per cent to the Highlands and a further 14 per cent to the Orkney Islands. More than 80 patients were flown to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, with other major care centres such as the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh and Inverness' Raigmore Hospital also visited to deliver those seriously ill or injured.  Around 13 per cent of all patients attended by H79 were teenagers and younger, with a further 24 per cent being seniors.  Of the 187 responses, 76 have been with the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service (EMRS) – a doctor-led critical care team, also based at Aberdeen Airport, which flies with SCAA to the most serious incidents.

Rainbow Walk Raises £8000 for Neonatal Unit
A group of 30 new parents raised over £8000 for the Aberdeen Neonatal Unit in March after setting themselves a walking challenge.  The parents joined together in a virtual support group last year after lockdown restrictions impacted on their experience as new and expecting parents.  The informal group now has new parents from across the north-east, and with the anniversary of last year's national lockdown approaching they decided that they wanted to do something to give back to a place which supported so many of them.  The idea was initiated by Brontey Angus, of Fraserburgh, who's son Miles was born nine weeks early weighing 4lbs 3oz.  She says that the stress of being first time parents was heightened by having a baby in the neonatal unit, and then was further exacerbated by the uncertainty of lockdown life.  After learning that much of the equipment used for babies and parents' comfort is not NHS funded, she knew that she wanted to raise some money to allow the unit to continue supporting families like hers.  The group pledged to each walk 160 miles in the month of March, the distance walked being a metaphor for the babies meeting up with each other as that is the distance between them, in addition to their normal daily steps.   In the end many of the parents actually surpassed this target, and in the process raised an incredible £8,220 for Friends Of The Neonatal Unit.  Continuing Brontey said: " It is the very least we can do for the neonatal unit - they are amazing in everything they do.  They keep you at ease, they look after your baby when you need to sleep, they teach you how to tube feed and change your tiny baby through an incubator.  It's a small thank you for everything they do."

Uncovering the Stories of the 'Devil's Porridge' Mixers
A research project wants to tell the stories of the tens of thousands of people who made "devil's porridge" at a World War One munitions factory which was mainly staffed by women.  HM Factory Gretna stretched over nine miles (15km) from Dornock near Annan to Mossband in Cumbria.  The "super factory" was built in response to a shortage of Western Front fire power.  The Devil's Porridge Museum - which takes its name from the explosive paste mixed there - wants to learn more about its workers.  Many of their stories are relatively unknown, and it is hoped this can be changed through new studies.  Laura Noakes, research assistant at the museum, said: "We want to uncover interesting historical stories that maybe haven't been told before.  We are keen to know more about the munitions workers - who were often working-class single women - and who are left out from many histories of the war." The museum has already unearthed a number of tales.  The factory had a women's football team called the Mossband Swifts.  "Women's football became increasingly popular during the war, but there were concerns that the beautiful game wasn't suitable for women," said Ms Noakes. The team was not officially sanctioned by factory management but did play against women's teams from other factories - often in aid of charities.  Research has found the Swifts were captained by a Miss A Riddell - but work is ongoing to find out more details about her story. Ms Maud Bruce is known for two "notable incidents" at the factory after her arrival in late 1916.  In the first, she helped to tackle a blaze in a cotton drying machine.  "In the second, another fire broke out," said Ms Noakes.  Maud climbed up 20ft (6m) to the top of the drying machine and cut away cotton, preventing the fire from spreading and stopping a potentially catastrophic incident from occurring."  She was awarded the Order of the British Empire in August 1917 "for admirable behaviour in charge of the women's fire brigade at a fire at an explosive factory".  John Charles, known as JC, Burnham already had a "distinguished career" before coming to Gretna.  He had worked at a cordite factory in India before becoming superintendent at the huge south of Scotland site - a position he held until 1921.  "Despite his success, Burnham didn't have a privileged start in life," said Ms Noakes.  "In fact, both of his parents died in London workhouses, and JC attended Macclesfield Industrial School.  This was a home for poor children, orphans and those who had been sentenced to a period of confinement in the courts of law."  Burnham would be awarded a CBE for his work at Gretna and showed King George V and Queen Mary around the factory when they visited in 1917.  The museum now hopes to flesh out the stories of others such as Maud Bruce, JC Burnham and the Mossband Swifts.  "This project is all about finding more about people who worked at HM Factory Gretna during World War One," explained Ms Noakes.  Using both remote and in-person volunteers they hope to discover more details.  These will then be put into a central database and the most interesting stories shared via articles and social media.  "We want to add to our knowledge of the people who made up HM Factory Gretna and, by extension, the people who lived through World War One," Ms Noakes said.

Galloway Hoard to Go on Display in Kirkcudbright in October 2021
Kirkcudbright is in line for a tourism boost in the autumn when the Galloway Hoard finally goes on display.  Items from the £2 million find had been due to be exhibited in the town’s gallery in December last year, only for that to be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. A new date of October has been set and it is hoped the exhibition – which will run until July – will be “one of the key projects” in the region’s economic recovery.  Kirkcudbright provost Lesley Garbutt said: “It’s good news and the thing with the gallery is it should be able to manage it with social distancing and they can put in a one way system. We should also have the dark skies centre in the Johnston open by then which will be something else for families to do.  It’s had to be delayed with the pandemic and all the other wee businesses in there, such as the distillery and the pottery, are all keen to get open again.” The hoard was uncovered on church land near Balmaghie in 2014 by Derek McLennan.  It features more than 100 items made of gold, silver and other materials and has been hailed as “one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland”.  The council had attempted to have the hoard allocated to it to go on permanent display in Kirkcudbright Galleries but the Queen’s Lord and Treasurer’s Remembrancer allocated it to National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh.  They paid nearly £2 million for the privilege and it will go on display there from May until September, coming to Kirkcudbright the following month. In February, the council’s communities committee agreed to provide £20,000 from the community events fund for celebrations marking the hoard’s arrival.  Committee chairman Andy Ferguson said: “I have been lucky enough to have seen the Galloway Hoard soon after its discovery and I know first-hand how beautiful it is.  I am very excited that in working in partnership with NMS, our council is able to bring the hoard to the people of Dumfries and Galloway in what will be an inspiring, free exhibition for all ages. This exhibition will be one of the key projects in the economic recovery of our region in 2021.”

'Exciting' Stone Age Discoveries in the Cairngorms

New research has uncovered rare evidence of people living in Scotland's mountains after the end of the last Ice Age.  Archaeologists found stone tools and traces of firepits and possible shelters in Deeside in the Cairngorms.  Finds from the Mesolithic period, also known as the Middle Stone Age, are rare and usually made in lowland areas.  Archaeologists describe the evidence in the Cairngorms as "exciting".  The research, published in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, adds to existing evidence from a handful of other upland sites.  These include on the mountain Ben Lawers in Perthshire and at locations in Lanarkshire and Dumfries.  Evidence for those who lived in Scotland after the end of the last Ice Age can be hard to find, say archaeologists.  The population at the time was low and the communities of hunter-gatherers were "mobile, moving around and living off the land".  They did not build permanent monuments and their homes were usually temporary.  What traces of their lives that can be found often amounts to a handful of tiny stone tools, such as flints, and discoloured soil "that hint at an ancient hearth or the stance of a shelter".  Because this evidence has long been buried over time, the "easiest" locations for archaeologists to search are along sea-eroded coastlines or on farmland where farm work can bring buried the evidence closer to the surface.  While archaeologists have long suspected Mesolithic communities occupied mountain landscapes, little evidence to support that has been discovered.  Now a team made up of students from the universities of Aberdeen and Dublin has uncovered evidence confirming people were living in the Cairngorms from as early as 7500 BC.  The team's finds at several archaeological sites - including traces of firepits, flints and possible huts - were made on land owned by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). Archaeologists believe Mesolithic people headed into the hills carrying their own provisions which they later supplemented by hunting deer, fish and birds and foraging for plants and fungi.  Larger mammals, such as deer, also provided them with skins for use in clothing and shelters, sinews for bindings and antler and bone for use in making tools.  NTS and Aberdeenshire Council were among the organisations that supported the new research. Further investigations are planned for this summer, if allowed under Scottish government Covid-19 rules.

Euro 2020: Hampden Gets Approval for 12,000 Fans At Each Game
The Scottish government has given approval for 12,000 supporters - 25% of the stadium's capacity - to attend Euro 2020 matches at Hampden in June. Uefa had given the 12 host cities until Wednesday to submit plans for fan attendance, with the likelihood of some venues being switched if no guarantees could be given.  A final decision from the governing body has still to come.  Scotland are set to start against the Czech Republic at Hampden on 14 June.  The national stadium is also scheduled to host Croatia's Group D meeting with the Czechs four days later, followed by Croatia v Scotland on 22 June, and a last-16 game on 29 June.  The championship - Scotland's first appearance at a major finals since 1998 - was supposed to be held last year before being delayed because of coronavirus.  Uefa is keen to have as many fans inside venues as possible and could reject cities that cannot provide guarantees on supporter attendance.  It's understood Glasgow's plans will work on the basis that fans will be allowed inside with strict adherence to the two-metre social distancing rules. A decision on whether there will be a Fan Zone in the city will be made at the end of April and Uefa will be in contact with ticket holders for the matches on Friday.  Under current plans, large scale events could resume in Scotland from 17 May, but the Euro 2020 matches at Hampden in June are the first confirmation of fans returning to stadia in Scotland.  Fears continue for other host cities as a third wave of the pandemic threatens mainland Europe - with Germany and France in particular seeing dramatic rises in case numbers.  Dublin - which is set to host three group games - has told Uefa that it is currently unable to provide assurances on minimum spectator levels.  However, the Italian Football Federation say Rome's Stadio Olimpico will welcome spectators, and the Dutch authorities have announced plans to enable 12,000 fans to attend matches at Amsterdam's Johan Cruijff Arena.

Battle of Culloden's 275th Anniversary to Be Marked Online

The battle on 16 April 1746 saw forces loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie defeated by the Duke of Cumberland's government army.  Fought near Inverness, it involved the deaths of about 1,600 men - 1,500 of them Jacobites.  The events will include talks from archaeologists and historians and a discussion on how the site might look by the time of its 300th anniversary. Culloden - the last pitched battle fought on British soil - is usually marked with a service at the battlefield, but this has not been possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.  The series of online commemorations organised by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), Gaelic Society of Inverness and creative digital initiative Xpo North will begin with a service on 16 April. It will later be followed by talks by historian Prof Christopher Duffy and archaeologist Derek Alexander on the latest map analysis and light detection and ranging (Lidar) surveys of the site.  Art historian Count Peter Pininski will also give a talk on Bonnie Prince Charlie. NTS operations manager for Culloden, Raoul Curtis-Machin, said: "We are really excited about the latest Lidar analysis and historical research.   Having a better understanding of Culloden Moor's boggy uneven terrain will help inform the physical challenges faced by the Jacobites." He added: "We look forward to welcoming people from all over the globe as we remember 16 April 1746, and consider how it continues to resonate, almost three centuries on." Recent years have seen concerns about development on, or close to, parts of the battlefield, which extends beyond the area managed by NTS.  The trust has suggested Unesco World Heritage status could be sought to offer better protection from housing developments encroaching on the site.

Managers of Wick Airport Expand Gaelic Awareness Training

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) – which manages Wick John O'Groats Airport – is rolling out a programme of Gaelic awareness training for staff as part of an effort to promote and increase use of the language in Scotland.  The company’s board and senior management team recently took part in a course that covered the history of the language, its place in modern Scotland and how HIAL’s corporate strategy and Gaelic Language Plan tie-in. HIAL chair, Lorna Jack, said: “HIAL is in the privileged position of welcoming a significant number of Scotland’s tourists and visitors and of often being their first experience of Highland or island life.  I took part in the course and I know that we all appreciated the chance to learn more about Gaelic’s cultural history. It was also refreshing to see how many people of all ages still truly value the language and music. Gaelic is embedded in so many of the communities that we serve and we are taking steps to ensure that our airports and services reflect this.”  Ms Jack said HIAL is actively encouraging Gaelic speakers to join its board when the opportunity arises, and Gaelic speakers are welcome to apply for all roles within HIAL.  HIAL will also look to enhance awareness and use of Gaelic within the organisation, with a particular focus on customer-facing staff. This will include producing language awareness training for colleagues and specific vocabulary resources for airport staff. HIAL will also repeat a previous exercise of engaging with all employees to establish their abilities and requirements – and the requirements of passengers – so that future priorities can best support the use of Gaelic in HIAL’s airports.

Prince Philip: Scotland Pays Tribute to 'A Remarkable Man'

Tributes have been paid in Scotland to the Duke of Edinburgh following his death at the age of 99.  Political leaders have expressed their condolences and parties have suspended their Holyrood election campaigns.  Flags have been lowered at the Scottish Parliament.  Prince Philip had a long and close association with Scotland which dates back to his school days in the 1930s. He attended Gordonstoun in Moray, and he and the Queen were regular visitors to the Balmoral estate in Royal Deeside for many decades.  He was chancellor of Edinburgh University for more than 50 years, and also founded the Duke of Edinburgh Award to celebrate the achievements of young people.  The organisers of the award, which was launched 65 years ago, described him as an "inspirational champion of young people".  Director Helen Anderson said: "The duke was a remarkable man who achieved so much in his life. It was through his sheer determination, drive and vision that the Duke of Edinburgh's Award became the success it is today.  Edinburgh University said it was "very proud" that the prince had served as its chancellor from 1953 to 2010.  "His passionate belief in the positive benefits of education, as well as an innate inquisitiveness in scientific development was evident during his time as chancellor," it said in a statement.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Prince Philip, who became the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, had "deep and longstanding" ties to Scotland.  She said: "From his patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, to his close association with the University of Edinburgh as chancellor for over 50 years and his commitments to countless charities and organisations, Prince Philip's long contribution to public life in Scotland will leave a profound mark on its people."  Flowers were left at the gates of Balmoral Castle in Ballater shortly after news of Prince Philip's death emerged. However, the Royal household has asked the public not to leave floral tributes or gather at the Palace of Holyroodhouse or Balmoral.  "The palace has suggested that people could donate to charity instead, if they wish to do so," added Ms Sturgeon.  The Scottish Parliament will be recalled at 11:00 on Monday to allow MSPs to pay tribute.  Presiding Officer Ken McIntosh expressed his sympathy on behalf of the parliament to the Queen and the royal family.  He said Prince Philip had "extended his friendship and support to the parliament from the outset".

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  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.
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