Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 603

Issue # 603                                                         Week ending Saturday 22nd May  2021

Why Can’t Something Be Done to Transport Rangers Supporters to Some Dear Blue Place Far, Far Away? by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It’s always been that awkward moment. You get a big tight hug from someone who you are not on hugging terms with. Yuck. That is bad enough but now people are saying they can’t wait to get out there and start hugging. Gerroff me.

Mrs X has hugged me. Just the once, mind. Just because restrictions are easing and the advice says hug, don’t. Hugs should be kept for aunties, grannies and spouses with vehicular problems. Just because Nicola and Boris are hugging, not each other obviously, doesn’t mean that we all should go around squeezing every relative and neighbour we set eyes upon.

And never hug a Rangers supporter - especially if they celebrated in George Square in Glasgow. Who knows what you could catch? With their tiny brains and their violent tendencies, it won’t be fun for anyone related to these brutes. Some of those videos from the weekend were utterly shocking - except when the Rangers supporters were knocking lumps out of each other. That was fun to watch.

Yes, I’m being sarcastic but when you are that dumb and that drunk, the thought that you might catch the virus by being close to people and become a carrier and be a danger to vulnerable people seems not to register when you wear a blue shirt. It’s a lethal combination, almost as deadly as the denial of responsibility from Ibrox bosses.

Not everyone welcomes it but there are occasions when it should be OK to snog our nearest and dearest. For instance, when we wake up. Aw. We open our eyes and then we just want to hug and kiss the person beside us. I just did, and now I don’t think I’ll be allowed to fly on Loganair again.

That’ll be me in a jam if that happens. It’s not as if we have any ferry services we can depend on. Right now, it’s like there’s a broken-down Caledonian MacBrayne ferry somewhere in the Western Isles every day. It is not funny for people who live here and for whom it’s a lifeline service. The lack of investment, the childishly-run shipyards, the couldn’t care-less-attitude by the Scottish Government and the parliamentary representatives who forget it’s their duty to shout about this in parliament. Just deafening silence.

The former great shipbuilder that is Scotland has to get Poland to build ferries that actually work. Not Germany because they built the “unbreakable” Loch Seaforth. Our elected representatives seem to be distracted by issues which they think are far more important than these crucial transport issues that make Scotland tick.

Transport is crucial here and Mrs X has been waiting ages for a part for her van. Intake sensor, or something. Each time one came from the mainland spares place, it was the wrong part. Nearly, but not quite. Three screwholes instead of four. That sort of thing.

Not the fault of Ian Ross, chief spannerman at Ross’s Garage, you understand. Last week, another sensor arrived. For a Vauxhall van? Check. Vivaro? Check. Four holes? Check. Finally.

Fitted the following day by the wee boilersuited one of the Ross Bros, Mrs X got a call to collect her van. She clambered in and started it. First time. Yon engine purred. Ian Ross stood proudly, like a latter-day Michelin Man from Bayble, and smiled smugly as she drove off into the distance. Another job well done.

He grabbed his hot pizza slice but by the time he settled in his office chair, Mrs X was back. “Already? What’s wrong now?” he groaned. She told him she now had no dashboard lights so she was not getting any engine information.

Ian Ross put down the cooling pizza and the smugness returned. He said softly: “That, Mrs X, is because the engine information you were getting was warning lights about the defective sensor. I replaced it and I also fixed all the other niggles that were causing warning lights on your dashboard.  You are not getting any engine information because your engine has nothing to tell you. I have fixed everything in your engine that needed fixing.”

He then skipped back to his congealed pizza, shaking his head.

She was depressed about it when she got home. People would think she was a useless woman who didn’t know about vans. I said: “That could have happened to anyone. I would probably have done the same. Don’t get depressed about it. Embrace your mistakes.” And that’s when she hugged me.

Covid in Scotland: Glasgow Case Rate Continues to Rise
The number of Covid infections is continuing to rise in Glasgow, with weekly case rates now higher than 100 per 100,000 people.   Latest Public Health Scotland figures for 14 May show the city rate is 100.3, with indications it may rise further.  The area remains in level three, while much of the rest of Scotland moves to level two or level one.  The rate in neighbouring East Renfrewshire is 86.9, well above the level two threshold.  However, that council area, which is to the south of the city, has been moved down to level two restrictions, where indoor visits are now allowed.    The outbreak is focused in the south of the city, with Pollokshields recording the highest rates.  Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who stood for election in Glasgow Southside, confirmed on Monday that he was self-isolating after a family member tested positive for Covid.  A party spokesman said he had tested negative and remained well. About 16 people in every 1,000 tested positive in Pollokshields West in the week up to 14 May and the rate was 13 per 1,000 in Pollokshields East.  The number of weekly cases per 100,000 people is a key indicator for the Scottish government when judging what level of restrictions an area should be under.  Other measures include the percentage of positive tests, or positivity rate; predicted pressure on local NHS services; and consideration of other harms that could be caused by lockdown measures.  There are now four council areas in Scotland with case rates higher than the level two threshold of 50.  Two of them - Glasgow and Moray - have been held at level three restrictions. Moray's rate for the 14 May was 55.2, but that now appears to be falling.  Midlothian has a rate of 55.2, with indications it is rising.  Scotland's national clinical director, Prof Jason Leitch, told BBC Scotland other areas would continue to be monitored. He said people were being asked to get tested and vaccinations were being rolled out as fast as possible.  "I'm hopeful that we won't have to go backwards but I can't guarantee it," he said.  It can't be as simple as case rates. Everything builds from there, from hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and death, tragically.  But you've also got to think about things like vaccine coverage, the economy and social harm. Today we are allowing people into each other's houses - that's a fantastic step but not so good for the public health advisers. You have to balance all that."   Prof Leitch said not enough was yet known about the impact of the Indian variant, but added that in the north of England it had not led to an increase in hospital admissions and numbers of people in intensive care.  He urged anyone in an area with increasing cases to get tested and said people should be doing home tests twice a week as an "extra layer of protection".  He added that people should remain cautious but should not panic.  Prof Leitch had warned on Sunday that Glasgow may have to remain in level three for longer than the extra week.  But he told BBC Scotland that the city was doing an "enormous amount of work" to get on top of the outbreak, including accelerating the vaccination programme.   NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said it was making vaccination appointments available to people aged 18-39 who lived in the worst affected areas of Glasgow. The health board also said it was "finalising plans" to bring forward second doses for those people aged 50 and over.  There were a further 161 new cases of Covid-19 reported across all of Scotland on Monday, with 1.6% of tests positive.  No Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive test were registered and 68 Covid patients were in hospital.  Public Health Scotland figures show that South Lanarkshire was approaching the level two threshold with a weekly case rate of 47.1 on 14 May.  East Dunbartonshire is also close with 46 cases per 100,000.

Aberdeen Children's Operations Moved Over 'Unusual' Infection
Some operations at the Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital have been moved or delayed after an "unusual infection" was detected in a small number of patients.  NHS Grampian confirmed the cases were not linked to Covid-19.  The health board said they could not reveal more about the infection without the risk of identifying patients.  The hospital will remain open with extra hygiene measures in place for "some weeks".  Changes to operating theatre schedules as a result of the infection have led to some procedures being moved to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, while others have been postponed.  A team is investigating whether there is a link to the hospital environmental and further samples have been taken.  An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: "It can take some weeks for results to be determined following sampling, so it is expected that these, highly precautionary measures will be in place for some time.  Due to the small number of patients involved, and the unusual nature of the infections, we cannot confirm any details as to do so would risk patient identification."  She added: "We would stress again that the overall risk from these infections to the general population is low."  Children should still be taken to the hospital's emergency department for urgent care, and scheduled appointments would go ahead unless families were otherwise advised, she added.

Covid in Scotland: Choir Perform Together for First Time in 14 Months
The National Youth Choir of Scotland sang as Covid restrictions eased in most of Scotland. The choir sang Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up at Edinburgh’s Calton Hill live on BBC Breakfast.  Choirs can sing outdoors across most of Scotland for the first time since March 2020 as Covid restrictions ease in all parts of the country - apart from in Glasgow and Moray.

John Swinney to Be Minister for Covid Recovery
Scotland's deputy first minister is to be given a new role with responsibility for co-ordinating the country's recovery from the Covid pandemic.  The move means John Swinney will no longer be the country's education secretary.  His successor in that job will be announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon later this week.  She also has several other ministerial posts to fill after her party's victory in the Holyrood election.  Ms Sturgeon will need to find replacements for four cabinet secretaries who opted to retire ahead of the election - Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, Constitution Secretary Mike Russell, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell.  And Paul Wheelhouse - who had been energy minister - lost his seat.  The new role for Mr Swinney - a former SNP leader - is likely to be the first of a number of re-drawn portfolios, with the SNP also pledging to create a cabinet secretary for "net zero, energy and transport".  Specific junior ministerial posts focused on youth employment and the "just transition" to an environmentally sustainable economy are also expected to be created.  Mr Swinney's new role will involve co-ordinating work across government departments as the country attempts to recover from the pandemic.  He will chair a cross-party steering group on the way forward, which is expected to meet for the first time next week, and will work to tie together the efforts of the government, the private sector and the wider public.  His new role has been described as the biggest job in the Scottish government other than first minister, and Mr Swinney will also keep his deputy first minister position.  He said he was "honoured" to be given the new job, and said he was determined that the government would bring the same urgency to securing a "fair and just recovery" as it had to protecting public health.  Lockdown restrictions across much of Scotland were eased on Monday, although there continues to concern over a recent rise in cases in some areas including Glasgow.  Ms Sturgeon said appointing Mr Swinney was "a key step in getting Scotland's recovery off to the right start".  She said: "How we begin our recovery is crucial to the kind of country we can become, and that means ensuring everyone, whether in government, the public sector, the business community or wider society is pulling in the same direction."  Addressing MSPs as she was formally returned to the post of first minister earlier on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon stressed that the pandemic was far from over - and said that helping Scotland's economy, economy and health service rebound from the Covid-19 crisis would be her "first and driving priority".  She also highlighted climate change and the "crucial" COP26 conference in Glasgow as being among her priorities for the coming year, along with completing the Covid vaccination programme, publishing an NHS recovery plan, setting out legislation for a National Care Service, and funding schools to recruit an extra 1,000 teachers.  During the Scottish Parliament session, Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie called for the creation of a senior "minister for recovery" post, saying it would "focus the government's energy".  Scottish Labour had called for Mr Swinney to be replaced as education secretary, saying he had "accrued a litany of failures to his name".  Mr Swinney was appointed to the education brief after the 2016 election, as part of Ms Sturgeon's pledge to make closing the attainment gap between pupils from more and less affluent areas her "number one priority".  However there were a number of controversies over schooling during Mr Swinney's time in the role, including the handling of the cancelled exam diet in 2020.  The findings of an OECD review of Scotland's education system is expected to be published next month.

How Would A Peat-based Compost Ban Affect Scotland?
Peat extractors in Scotland could be hit by a proposed ban announced in England on the sale of peat-based compost.  Very little extraction is undertaken south of the border but there are still several sites in Scotland where it is removed commercially.  The practice is considered damaging to the environment because it is such an important store of carbon.  Peat has been used by commercial growers and amateur gardeners since the mid 20th Century, though today peat-free products are available.   Scottish peat extraction sites include one at Moy near Inverness, where the soil goes to a company in the Lothians for growing mushrooms.  It is unclear at this stage whether the proposed ban would affect this sector, but if it does the site's operator Brian MacGregor said it would cost jobs. He said: "We have six staff employed here and it will have an impact on them. We are just satisfying demand from the UK mushroom industry.  We are the only folk in the whole of the UK mainland extracting peat for the mushroom industry. Our product grows 500 tonnes of mushroom per week."  Mr MacGregor has signed a £50,000 bond to restore the peatland site to the satisfaction of environment agencies.  He said there was no alternative to peat available to the mushroom industry.  "I can understand why the conservationists have targeted the hobby gardener, as they are a very easy target," he added.  In peak condition, such as in the massive Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland, peatlands act as a store of harmful greenhouses gases. But once exposed, the sun's rays cause those gases to escape.   The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said it understood the UK Westminster government would consult with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to achieve a wider ban.  Emma Goodyer, of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, said an end to the sale of peat-based compost was the right move to help tackle climate change.  She said the ban would also cover "huge amounts" of peat exported from the Republic of Ireland and Baltic states.  "Peatlands are layers and layers of carbon from vegetation that built up in a waterlogged environment over thousands of years in most cases," she said.  "It is about protecting that peat in the ground where it is formed."

Edinburgh Tattoo Cancelled Over Financial Risks
This year's Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has has been cancelled after organisers said the financial risks of staging the event were "too great".  The Tattoo was scheduled to take place on the castle esplanade in August.  But chief executive Buster Howes said it would be "irresponsible" to go ahead without being able to underwrite the "substantial" losses which would be caused by any last-minute cancellation.  He said these could risk the charity's longer-term financial viability.  The event is run by a charity which has donated more than £12.3m to services and arts organisations since it was founded in 1950.  The Tattoo usually attracts a live audience of 220,000 people each year, alongside a large global television audience.  Last year's event was also cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.  Mr Howes said the organisers had spent a "tremendous amount of energy and effort" in planning this year's tattoo.  But he said: "It is now clear that the financial risks we confront in delivering the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, at scale, on the castle esplanade in August are simply too great.  We have for months forensically monitored, assessed and sought to mitigate the constraints and uncertainties involved in mounting our show.  However, we now reluctantly conclude it would be irresponsible to press on, and to risk the longer-term financial viability of our charity, without the ability to underwrite and to offset the potential, substantial economic losses associated with last-minute cancellation obliged by changes in public health policy."  He said it had been a difficult decision, and that the "very disappointing outcome" would have "far-reaching implications" for staff, performers, suppliers and guests.  "But we must act responsibly and in the best, long-term interests of all," he said.  Tickets will be refunded or transferred to next year, with the Tattoo scheduled to take place from 5 to 27 August 2022.

Daily 30-minute Workout 'May Not Benefit Everyone'
The decades-old advice of exercising for 30 minutes a day may not benefit everyone, scientists have claimed.  A study has shown that alternatively, three minutes of exercise for every hour spent seated could extend a life by 30%.  Research led by Glasgow Caledonian University found that sitting too long could even "undo" benefits of exercise.  Lead scientists said there was no "one-size-fits-all" approach to physical activity.  The four-year study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, analysed data from six previous studies including more than 130,000 adults in the UK, US and Sweden.  It looked at how different combinations of activities - from running and brisk walking to housework and sitting - affect mortality.  Researchers found the current recommendation of 30 minutes of exercise per day reduced the odds of early death by up to 80% for some - those who sat for less than seven hours.However it did not reduce mortality risk for individuals who sat for more than 11 to 12 hours per day.  The study concluded that the best combination of activities to reduce the odds of early death by 30% was to do three minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, or 12 minutes of light physical activity, for each hour of the day spent sitting.  GCU's Professor of Health Behaviour Dynamics Sebastien Chastin said the new "formula" would help people to live a "longer, healthier life".  He said: "The leftover hours should be spent generally moving around as much as you can and getting a good night's sleep. This new cocktail, or simple formula, really boosts your health protection.  Thirty minutes of physical activity per day or 150 minutes a week is what is recommended, but you still have the potential to undo all that good work if you sit too long.  This is the largest study in the world into the best cocktail of activity for a longer life and protection against ill health. It's really reliable data."  The researchers also found that there were multiple combinations of activities associated with a 30% reduction in the odds of an early death.  Co-author Keith Diaz, of Columbia University, added that it may be more important to use a combination of movements that include exercise and light activity to take the place of sitting.  He said: "For decades, we've been telling people that the way to stay healthy is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. But even if you're one of the few adults who can stick to this advice, 30 minutes represents just 2% of your entire day.  Moving around and not remaining sedentary all day also matters. Our study shows that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to physical activity, and we get to choose which combinations of activities we like best."

Whithorn 'Pilgrims' Set for Accommodation Upgrade
Walkers on a 143-mile "pilgrimage" route from Glasgow to southern Scotland are set for an accommodation upgrade.  A £2.6m funding package has been completed to transform Whithorn's former New Town Hall into a community hub and bunkhouse.  Its 16 beds will mainly be used by travellers on the Whithorn Way which visits a range of religious sites.  Julia Muir Watt of All Roads Lead to Whithorn said it was hoped it could help revive the town.  Funding for the project has come from a range of organisations - including the Scottish government - with the last slice being provided by South of Scotland Enterprise.  Ms Muir Watt said it was hoped it could be a catalyst for regeneration in and around the town.  "I think we are just aiming to create a complete change in the direction that Whithorn has been headed which, for several hundred years, you could say has been downward," she said.  "This is to create that social and economic change, it is a trigger for other investors."  She said it was hoped the accommodation could help kick-start other businesses and help local shops.   "We suffer as everybody does from a declining high street," she said.  "Older people will remember when there were 60 shops and now that is down to a handful.  We need to do something different with our high streets."  The town hall redevelopment should be completed by autumn next year and will include a gym and sports facilities and a learning hub as well as the accommodation.  It is hoped that it can attract people to stop off on their way along the Whithorn Way.  The route starts at Glasgow Cathedral before heading to other religious sites including Paisley Abbey, Glenluce Abbey and Whithorn Priory.  It continues on past Whithorn and passes St Ninian's Cave and St Ninian's Chapel before ending near the harbourside village of Isle of Whithorn.

Telling the Tales of the Northwest Highlands
Small Country is a short documentary starring the real-life residents of one of Britain’s least populated places: the northwest Highlands.  Director Gregor D Sinclair made the film to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the farmers, families, fishermen and guides that live there.  The film will have its premiere in the Highlands in June and Sinclair hopes it will then tour the film festival circuit later in the year.

Dogs in Nappies – A Possible Solution to Dog Poo on Caithness Streets?
After many complaints about dog poo on the streets of Wick and Thurso a rubbish collection company has thought up a bold solution – putting our furry friends into nappies.  Eco- friendly waste collection company's proposal is that, much like some dog owners do when their female dog is in season, owners are required to put a nappy on their dog when walking in public spaces. A drastic move, but not the first legal requirement put in place to stop dog owners fouling up streets.  Since lockdowns began in March 2020, the amount of dog poo has increased 200 per cent on Britain’s streets, there is more poo than people on the streets – creating a filthy wave of unsanitary and visibly dirty public areas.  Some have blamed a lack of police presence for the increase, stating that while police were busy dealing with lockdown breakers and summer of protests, the average local community has fewer cops around to tackle anti-social behaviour.  Others have said lockdown itself is the problem: with fewer people on the streets, lazy dog owners have fallen into bad habits and – with nobody around to judge them for leaving a poo (or two) on the pavement they’re going about their day without cleaning the mess their four-legged friend has made.  When interviewed, one owner – who wished to remain anonymous – blamed the rules on staying at home: “I know it’s not right, but I’ve been leaving the house just to walk the dog around streets near me rather than the park where there are loads of poo bins, and then I go straight home. I didn’t want to get fined for wandering around looking for a bin instead of exercising and I didn’t want to carry a bag of poo with me longer than I needed to.”. spokesperson, Mark Hall, said: “It might sound like a joke but this is deadly serious - dog poo is a blight on our streets and owners must be held accountable one way or another. Dogs in the UK produce 900 tonnes of poo every day and we don’t want that to start finding its way to our streets, parks, and footpaths. We all love our furry friends and they bring a lot of joy into owners’ lives, but it shouldn’t mean someone else has to deal with telltale piles of poo that seem to follow behind.”  Dog faeces also contains a dangerous bacteria called toxocariasis which can cause blindness – which is why many children’s play areas ban dogs.  A law passed in 1982, The Control of Dogs Ordinance, states it’s an offence to fail to clean up a dog’s faeces while in public and no excuses, such as not having poo bags or not knowing the law, will wash when trying to challenge a prosecution or fine. Of course, this law relies on a police officer spotting the dog in the act, whereas the proposal to make dogs wear nappies in public spaces would be constantly visible and offenders could be spotted much more easily.  Mr Hall concluded: “It’d be unacceptable to let a human defecate on the street, there’d be uproar if it suddenly became common to pick your way through human faeces – why do some people think it’s fine because it’s a dog? We don’t want to get to a point where dogs are seen as a public nuisance – they’re man’s best friend, but not when they’re messing up pavements, getting stuck in pram wheels and all over your toddler’s shoes.  Fines for not complying would certainly send a message, and we hope this campaign will make dog owners sit up and take notice, as well as the lawmakers who crack down on this kind of behaviour - it quite literally stinks.”

Parents Say Council 'Covered Up' Teacher's Abuse
The parents of vulnerable children with severe learning difficulties have accused a council of "covering up" a catalogue of violent classroom attacks.  Teacher Linda McCall was last week found guilty at Selkirk Sheriff Court of assaulting five pupils between August 2016 and October 2017.  The youngsters are autistic, non-verbal and were aged between five and seven years old at the time.  The law prevents the publication of any information which may identify them.  Five parents of the pupils involved have told BBC Scotland of the "life-changing trauma" inflicted on their families.  One mother said her son had tried to harm himself while another father said he lived with guilt which had driven him to the point of depression.  Another parent told how McCall pulled her son along the floor violently.   "My son was crying uncontrollably," they said. "He was very scared to go to school and was hiding his uniform."  "It makes me sick to the stomach that someone could do this to a vulnerable little boy," another mother told the BBC.  The parent of a boy at the school said: "She dragged him by one arm from the PE hall back to the classroom before forcing him into a chair."  The allegations against McCall first emerged in 2017. The teacher was placed on a period of paid leave while Scottish Borders Council carried out an internal investigation.  BBC Scotland has obtained a document from 2018 in which one parent was given assurances by the council that the abuse accusations against McCall "did not affect" her son in any way.  The email states the local authority's "thorough" investigation had resulted in "no further action" against McCall. The woman's son was later confirmed as a victim in McCall's criminal conviction.  Each of the five parents who have spoken to the BBC claim the council failed to inform them their children were victims. They describe first learning of the abuse from Police Scotland when criminal proceedings were later initiated.  One parent said: "They told us categorially that not one child had been harmed. They were trying to make out that it was just the parents making a fuss out of nothing. We weren't believed."  Another parent said: "It was being swept under the carpet and the council was closing ranks. No-one was listening to us. To me it looks like someone was covering up for people."  One mother said senior education officials told her "nothing happened" and it was "all a misunderstanding". She continued: "My boy is still so anxious and distressed. He is frightened she (McCall) is coming back".  Christine Grahame, SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, has called for an independent inquiry into Scottish Borders Council's handling of this case.  She said: "The parents were not taken seriously when they came forward and the council should not have been allowed to investigate itself. I find it hard to believe that no-one realised the teacher was out of her depth and needed support.  The consequence has been that vulnerable children have been left with lasting damage and trauma. The special needs of the children make this case particularly distressing, as they cannot advocate for themselves and are not able to understand what's happened to them or why. Their families are left to pick up the pieces.  The blame lies at the door of Scottish Borders Council and they must now answer for it. This case has not been handled at all well at any stage."  A spokesman for Scottish Borders Council said: "The safety and wellbeing of young people in our schools is paramount. Any concerns are treated very seriously and there are robust policies and procedures in place to ensure they are properly addressed. All of our practices are kept under constant review.  We cannot comment on individual employee-related matters."  The families have now launched civil proceedings against Scottish Borders Council.  Marina Urie, from Thompsons Solicitors who represents those involved, said: "These children were utterly failed by their local authority which is meant to protect them.  Scottish Borders Council, I believe, led a full-scale cover up. I will be raising separate Court of Session actions in Edinburgh where the full cost of these appalling and shocking events will be assessed."  The BBC has learned Linda McCall's husband Kevin is a senior member of the council's education department. Scottish Borders Council said the internal probe was moved to another, independent department - due to the potential conflict of interest.  The authority explained Kevin McCall had no involvement whatsoever with the investigation of his wife.  On this matter, a spokesman for the council said: "The internal investigation was remitted to a suitably qualified professional outwith the education service to ensure independence and impartiality and we can confirm that Kevin McCall was in no way involved in the investigation process."  Linda McCall's sentencing hearing has been deferred until July for the production of background reports.

Ulva's Drive Towards All Electric Vehicles
Residents of Ulva are to be given access to electric all-terrain vehicles to help them get around the island.  The community-owned Hebridean isle has no tarred roads and islanders often use petrol or diesel quad bikes or similar vehicles for transport.  North West Mull Community Woodland Company, which purchased Ulva estate in 2018, hopes these can eventually be replaced by a pool of electric ones.  It said the move would help preserve Ulva's "tranquil environment".  The first two electric vehicles have been delivered and are due to be made available in a few weeks' time, with plans to purchase a third.  Work is also to start at the end of May to restore six properties on the island. Six homes - three of them tenanted and three empty - are to undergo improvement work over the course of the next 12 months.  Once complete, some will be offered to new tenants.  There were only five people living on the island three years ago, but the population has since increased to 11 and there are hopes of attracting new residents.  The community-owned Ulva estate spans 4,942 acres (2,000 ha) and includes Ulva, as well as some land on nearby Isle of Mull.

£9.5m Electric Network Revamp Planned for Large Swathe of Wester Ross;
SSEN Distribution says work in Gairloch, Poolewe, Aultbea, Ullapool, Achiltibuie and Lochinver will result in more resilient network and help speed up power cut repairs.  Around 4500 homes and businesses across Wester Ross are set to benefit from a £9.5m project which will make their power supplies more resilient and ensure the local electricity infrastructure is equipped to meet the demands of a low-carbon future.  That's the claim of SSEN Distribution, the company behind the electricity network in the north of Scotland, as it prepares to begin its 14-month project in December this year.  It will be carrying out a wide range of activities which it says will have a positive impact across an area which takes in Gairloch, Poolewe, Aultbea, Ullapool, Achiltibuie, Lochinver and all the smaller communities in between. Working alongside engineering, management and development consultants Mott MacDonald, the project has been designed to not only increase the reliability of existing customers’ supplies but also, with an eye on the future, SSEN is looking to ensure its network has ample capacity to meet the forecasted increase in low carbon technologies as the country strives to meet its net-zero targets.

The Church of Scotland Assembles But Not Like the Old Days By Elizabeth Quigley
Last year the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was cancelled for the first time in 300 years because of Covid but now it is back, although largely online.  It is perhaps a strange admission but I am quite a fan of the Kirk's annual gathering.  Over the years, I have been at more general assemblies than many ministers.  I suppose my attraction to it goes back to the days before the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, when the assembly was a key date in the diary for many would-be political reporters like me.  Back then, it was talked of as the nearest thing Scotland had to a parliament.  The Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh was the venue every May for a week of intensive deliberation of church matters and issues of the day.  The debates were wide-ranging and passionate.  Everything from nuclear weapons to the Iraq war and from famine in Africa to inner city poverty was on the agenda.  And other speakers from outside the body of the Kirk were often invited to address the assembly.  In 1988, well before my time as a reporter, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher walked up the steps to the assembly.  Her address was widely nicknamed "the sermon on the Mound" and was part of a long tradition of inviting challenging people to come and speak to the assembly. And in 1988, the then prime minister was certainly a challenging person.  She talked of how "Christianity is about spiritual redemption not social reform" and then spoke about personal responsibility, quoting St Paul saying "if a man will not work he will not eat". That must have caused a bit of unease in the hall.  In reply, the then moderator, the Very Rev Professor James Whyte, handed Mrs Thatcher various church reports: on poverty, housing and a fair social benefit system - enough said.  This year the opening ceremony itself is going to be very different.  The processing up the stairs past the statue of John Knox will be the same. And there will even be a member of the royal family - Prince William - appointed by the Queen to be the Lord High Commissioner - but there will be very few people.  And those that are there will be wearing masks.  But at least it's going ahead this year, in some form. Last year it had to be cancelled completely because of Covid. The last time it had been cancelled before that was 1689.

Covid in Scotland: Glasgow to Be Only Scottish Area in Level Three
Glasgow is to remain under level three Covid restrictions for at least a further week amid concern over rising number of cases.  But Moray will be downgraded from level three to level two from midnight - with all of Scotland's other areas remaining in their current levels. This will include East Renfrewshire, which now has the second highest number of cases per head of population.  It means Glasgow will be the only area under level three restrictions.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said cases were continuing to rise in Glasgow despite "extensive public health measures" being deployed across the city, including enhanced testing and vaccination in the areas with the highest rates of Covid.  These have been particularly targeted in the G41 and G42 postcode areas in the southside of the city.

Scottish Australian Heritage Council & the Celtic Council of Australia invite you to the following events;
Fri 25 June Scottish/Celtic Bards Dinner - entertainment includes Scots/Irish Dancers, Poetry from Wales/Ireland/Scotland/Brittany Sat 26 June Inspection of CAIRN, Rawson Park, Mosman. Sun 27 June Kirkin o’the Tartan, Hunter Baillie Church, Annandale.  Mon 28 June Tartan Day Lunch NSW Parliament House.  Evening  Lecture (via zoom) “weaving the tartan: Culture, imperialism and Scottish identities in Australia 1788-1938

Scotland Down Under with Robin MacKenzie on 2RRR 88.5 FM
Scottish music is a huge part of Scottish culture. It carries with it ancient stories and languages that have influenced many forms of music.  Each week from 6.00 - 7.30pm on a Tuesday Robin presents Scotland Down Under from 2RRR where he showcases all things Scottish.  Featuring music from the traditional to the contemporary, Robin will also keep you in touch with local and international Scottish news. Listen locally on the dial at 88.5FM, broadcast live from 2RRR's studios in Henley, Sydney or if out of range tune in, from anywhere in the world,  via our website, and go to Live Stream where the reception is crystal clear.  You can reach the station at the following contact points;
by Phone in the office at 9816-2988 or the Studio: 9816-2777.
By email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
To Text Robin while he is On-air  0412 777 885.
Mailing Address PO Box 644 GLADESVILLE NSW 1675.  
Street Address Henley Cottage, 4 Victoria Road, HENLEY NSW 2111

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 (Australian Gaelic Singers) 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