Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 615

Issue # 615                                                Week ending Saturday 14TH August 2021
The Forecast Says the Weather is Going to Be Above Average But I Somehow Drought it by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

The weather is still not great. These summers are quite cold. That is why last year we replaced our windows with those expensive double-glazed energy-efficient kind. Fantastic. This week I got a call from the contractor who installed them. He moaned that the work has been completed a year ago and I still haven’t paid for them.

“Listen here, my good man,” I said. “Your sales guy sent me an email promising these windows were so efficient they would pay for themselves in a year. It’s been a year so, hey presto, they’re paid for. Bye.” He sounded confused but I am expecting him to call back. Still, I had him going for a while.

Forecasting what the weather is going to do has been poor recently. Forecasters seem to only get it right a day or two in advance. I’ve been taking notes. TV ones often tell us nonsense. Yet no-one holds forecasters accountable. People seem to accept that predicting the weather is not an exact science. Fine, but that gives forecasters carte blanche to say whatever nonsense they like - and no-one complains. Wow.

Why aren’t we getting monthly or even weekly updates on how right or wrong the forecasts have been? Met types have tremendous resources. Computerised buoys far out at sea, we are told, are constantly transmitting data to them. Satellites in space take photos of weather patterns. Then there’s my former neighbour Margaret’s rheumatism. She swears she get twinges a week before a heavy downpour. STV’s Sean Batty should have old Maggie on speed-dial.

I will excuse the Beeb’s Carol Kirkwood. Two weeks ago she predicted floods in Europe and parts of the UK. There have been awful deluges.

Most people would expect better performance than that when they think about it. You just expect people to do better - like ex-prime ministers. Particularly those ex-prime ministers who pick up about £7 million for texting and emailing government ministers privately to recommend their new paymasters for this, that and goodness know what else. Where are the checks and balances that we were told had been introduced when lesser ministers did something similar? What will happen now? Nothing. Just hot air, that’s my forecast.

In the next few days, hot weather will hit Portugal with temperatures up to 35C to 40C, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (PISA). I didn’t make up that name. It says it will then spread north, reaching the UK by August 20. It’ll then be roasting for the rest of the month. Roasting is the Scottish optimists’ term for a heatwave. The pessimistic Scots version is: “It’s nae as cold as usual, hen.”

Meanwhile, our Met Office says it cannot yet forecast the weather for the end of August. Its crystal-ball gazing for August 21 to September 4 has found: “Temperatures are likely to be above average with the potential for hotter weather later in August.” So is the end of this month going to be “above average” or “a heatwave” in the UK? Maggie hasn’t phoned to tell me of twinges either. I think my semmit is coming off soon.

There must have been better weather round Loch Ness. How else could Google Maps have accidentally included a photo of a chap without benefit of clobber at the lochside? I am going to be driving along that selfsame route in the next few days. Nessie is the only monster I want to spot on my travels.

Now that Covid is receding, we still have to guard against other nasty viruses. I have heard about Kevin who had to go to a certain island surgery the other day and the receptionist asked how she could help him. Kevin said: “I have the shingles.” So she took down his name and address and told him to have a seat in a side room. Fifteen minutes later another nurse came in and asked Kevin what he had. Kevin said: “Shingles.”

She also wrote down his height and weight. Then she gave Kevin a blood test, a blood pressure test, an electrocardiogram and then told him to take off his clothes and wait for the doctor. An hour later the doc came in and found Kevin sitting there without a stitch. He asked cold Kev what he had. He replied: “Shingles.”

The doc examined his clear skin and asked: “Where?” Kevin said: “It’s outside on the lorry. Where do you want me to tip it?”

Covid in Scotland: Hospitals Under More Pressure Than Ever, Say Medics
Scotland's hospitals are under more pressure than ever, doctors have told BBC Scotland. While the number of Covid patients has fallen, the NHS is trying to catch up with surgeries and treatments put on hold during the first wave of the pandemic.  But more people are also being admitted with other complex, more advanced disease, having put off seeking treatment. It's leading to long waits in emergency departments and piling pressure on capacity in other parts of the hospital.  As the Scottish government prepares to publish a Covid recovery plan for the NHS, medics at Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital spoke to BBC Scotland's health correspondent Lisa Summers.  It's 10am on Tuesday at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. The emergency department is full. Five seriously ill patients are in resus, all 16 assessment cubicles are occupied. Some have been waiting more than 12 hours for a bed to become available elsewhere in the hospital.  Dr Alan Whitelaw, a consultant in emergency medicine who heads up the department, says: "The demand is something I have never seen before, it is busier than the Queen Elizabeth has ever been in its six years of existence."  It is a similar picture in other emergency departments. Data published this week by Public Health Scotland shows nationally just 78.7% of patients were admitted, treated or discharged within four hours, and 182 people spent more than 12 hours in an A&E.   Dr Whitelaw says the pressures in the emergency department are a reflection of how stretched the NHS is, with very few beds available in other parts of the hospital.  "Lying on a trolley for a number of hours anywhere is unpleasant, it also turns the tension up, everyone is waiting and everyone is not as satisfied as they otherwise would be," he says.  "It's a very difficult place to come and work just now. It's very tiring, very draining, stressful and you can see that on the staff on a day-by-day basis."  Other parts of the hospital are equally busy. Staff are still treating Covid patients but in far fewer numbers. Instead, they are seeing many more patients who have more complex and advanced disease.  Helen Dorrance, a senior surgeon who specialises in cancer, has more than 20 years' experience but says the last 18 months have been the most difficult of her career.   "The waiting times for clinics and for investigations like colonoscopy and endoscopy and for day surgery in particular are huge at the moment, so I have no idea when we are going to be out of this other than it is not going to be any time quickly," she says.  It is very hard knowing that delays in starting treatment have led to worse outcomes for some patients, she adds.  "It makes you very sad for the individual, sometimes angry. It's very difficult knowing that had an individual come six months earlier then the discussions might have been different, the outcome for them and for their families might have been completely different."   At the start of the pandemic, it was care-of-the-elderly wards which were the first to be turned into Covid wards.  Senior charge nurse Lauren Johnson says staff had to adapt quickly to wearing PPE and communicating with sometimes confused or hard-of-hearing patients who were scared and couldn't see their families.  "It's a blur, it really is," she says. "The five months I worked on the Covid hub was so difficult, I didn't see my family.  I get emotional just talking about it, just seeing our wee frail patients not getting the chance for their families to say goodbye sometimes, and we were the ones saying goodbye to them, it was really, really difficult.  It was the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with in my life."  There are 244 care-of-the-elderly beds at the Queen Elizabeth, most of them are back to treating non-Covid patients, but all of them are occupied.  Clinical lead and consultant in medicine for the elderly, Dr Lara Mitchell, says the patients who come to them are also sicker.  "We are still full, we are still busy," she says. "The pandemic has been hard for all of us but it has been particularly bad for the older adult.  They've not been connected with as many of their family and friends, they've not had ways to meet, so patients are not as strong as they used to be.  All of that impacts on their general health when they have other medical issues going on, and I think that is what we are seeing, a lot of deconditioning as well as late presentation of illness because people have held on at home."  A spokesperson for the Scottish government said they recognised the additional pressure NHS staff were facing, and were in daily contact with boards facing the greatest challenges.  "We are delivering record funding of more than £16bn in 2021-22 to support NHS Scotland and its heroic staff through the most challenging period in history - and after careful and extensive consultation we are currently finalising our NHS recovery plan which will set out plans to increase inpatient, day-case and outpatient activity," they added.  Getting the health service back on track is going to be a huge challenge. Spending on healthcare already amounts to about half of the entire Scottish budget, and there have been long-standing difficulties recruiting staff.  Outside the emergency department, four ambulances are parked up. They are waiting with patients onboard until there is room in the department. It means four less ambulances on the road.  Social distancing rules limit numbers in the waiting room and a queue has formed outside. A nurse is patiently explaining the pressures today and helping patients work out if they would get better treatment elsewhere.  Dr Whitelaw says: "If you've got what you perceive to be a life-threatening condition you should absolutely come to the emergency department, whether that is by 999 ambulance or getting here yourself.  I think if you've not got what you think is a life-threatening condition you should access NHS 24 on 111 rather than just coming to an emergency department, because demand currently exceeds supply and we are full today."

Scotland's First Electric-powered Aircraft Completes Orkney Test Flight
Scotland's first electric-powered aircraft has taken to the skies from a new test centre in Orkney.  One of the twin engines in Ampaire's six-seater Cessna Skymaster has been replaced with an electric motor.  The company believes it could pave the way to retrofitting inter-island and short-haul flights with greener technologies.  It is the first low-carbon aircraft to fly at the £3.7m sustainable aviation facility based at Kirkwall airport.  The plane was built in 1974 but has been retrofitted at the company's headquarters in California.   After initial test flights in Hawaii, it was shipped to Scotland for its first flight across open water between Orkney and Wick.  Test pilot Justin Gillen told BBC Scotland: "It's the only hybrid-electric airplane that I know of flying today.  As the airplane is approaching, you hear the propeller which is a kind of blade-through-air sound and then you hear the throatier sound of the engine. With our electric engine, you hear the propeller but that's pretty much it."   On Ampaire's aircraft, the engines are built at the front and back of the cockpit in a "push-pull" design.  It's the front engine which has been replaced with an electric motor that's a fraction of the size.  A huge battery pack has been attached to the underbelly which can keep the aircraft running for several hours in the right conditions.  About 90 minutes of rapid charging would provide around an hour of flight.  Susan Ying from Ampaire said: "It will fly cleaner, be more efficient and more economical.  It will start as a short-haul but eventually, as the technology's improving, it could go into medium to long-haul."  That would require batteries to continue shrinking but the developers are confident that will happen.  Air travel is a notoriously difficult industry to decarbonise because the aviation fuel has a high energy density.  But it's a high emitter of carbon dioxide which needs to be reduced to net-zero if we are to halt climate change.  Island air links in Scotland are regarded as "lifeline" for communities who live there, and so battery-powered flights are under serious consideration. Dougie Cook, from Highlands and Islands Airports, explained: "If aviation is to survive throughout the world, then it needs to decarbonise and it needs to do so quite quickly. So this is a really important first step.  The links around Orkney are called lifeline links for a reason and it's absolutely essential that we keep them going so electric aviation will guarantee that and make it sustainable for the future."  Flights currently operate from Kirkwall to six of the furthest islands - Eday, Sanday, Stronsay, North Ronaldsay, Westray and Papa Westray.   The test facility is expecting to play host to other forms of low-carbon flights, including hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels.

Kinloch Castle: 'Right Owner' Sought for Historic Rum Lodge

The "right owner" is being sought for a 19th Century island castle off the west coast of Scotland.  Kinloch Castle is a former hunting lodge on the Isle of Rum - one of the Small Isles, south of Skye.  The castle and most of the island are owned by NatureScot, formerly Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).  It says Kinloch Castle is not for sale on the open market but it is looking for a "beneficial owner" for the property and its grounds.  NatureScot said the lodge requires restoration work and a future owner would need to conserve and preserve the property, while minimising its impact on the environment.  A Fort William-based businessman has submitted a plan to the Scottish government for the refurbishment of Kinloch Castle.  Angus MacDonald, who owns a bookshop and a cinema is a former vice president of National Trust for Scotland, said his plan would require some public money along with funds he would raise.  Two years ago, Kinloch Castle Friends Association (KCFA) proposed developing part of the castle into a 51-bed B&B and later turning other areas into a museum.  But SNH rejected a request to transfer the property to KCFA as a community asset.  The agency said it was concerned the group did not have funds to maintain the castle.  NatureScot said over the past nine years it had been delivering a conservation plan to maintain and protect the castle, in agreement with Historic Environment Scotland and Highland Council.   A spokeswoman said: "We feel the castle will best support the community with the right owner, and we have been working towards that goal over the past few years.  "While Kinloch Castle is not currently on the open market for sale we continue to work to identify a beneficial owner for the castle and grounds."  NatureScot said any future owner would need to contribute towards "three key objectives".  The spokeswoman said they were securing the conservation and preservation of the castle, contributing to the sustainability of the Rum community and enhancing nature on Rum and, thirdly, minimising the castle's impact on the natural environment.  Kinloch Castle was built in 1897 as a hunting lodge for Lancastrian industrialist George Bullough and he had it luxuriously furnished.  The property fell into decline after World War One and was taken over by SNH's predecessor, the Nature Conservancy, in 1957.  It has required extensive restoration work over the years.

What Would An SNP-Green Deal Mean for Scotland?
The SNP and the Scottish Greens have spent the summer thrashing out the details of a co-operation agreement which would see the parties work together at Holyrood - and could see some Green MSPs become government ministers. But what could the deal mean for Scotland over the next five years, when it comes to the policies and priorities of the Scottish government?  The most obvious reason for the SNP to bring the Greens into government is to present a united front against the climate emergency, in the year Glasgow hosts the COP26 conference.  However, as a flagship issue for the Greens - the clue is in the name - this is a topic the parties have clashed on frequently.   The Greens did not vote in favour of the Scottish government's climate bill in the last term of parliament, saying the targets it set - for a 75% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 - were not ambitious enough.  However, their 2021 election campaign was more about hitting these goals than stretching them, with the 80% figure they pledged in the 2019 general election absent and co-leader Patrick Harvie saying the most important thing is now to deliver on the promises made.  On that front, the Greens want to see "a fundamental transformation of our economy and society", saying that "every industry, every part of our economy and every individual will need to rise to the challenge".  So not only would there be more pressure on ministers to hit their emissions targets - having fallen short of many of them so far - there would be calls for change across more or less every portfolio area.  Specific policies championed by the Greens include phasing out single-use and non-essential plastics by 2025; the introduction of more Low Emission Zones in cities; and banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2026 and boilers which run on fossil fuels by 2028.  The other key motivation for the SNP in doing a deal is security - essentially making the coming parliamentary term an easier ride.  Nicola Sturgeon herself faced a confidence vote in the final days of the last session, although her position was never truly in danger.  But her deputy John Swinney was in real trouble on several occasions, with the Greens joining other opposition parties in calling for his head if he didn't back down in rows over school exams and the publication of government legal advice.  With the Greens signed up to a formal deal, the prospect of any minister being forced out by opposition pressure recedes.  Not only that, the SNP no longer need to worry about getting their budgets through parliament - or at least, they only have to worry about doing a deal with their Green partners.  This would make Kate Forbes' job as finance secretary slightly easier each February, in that she wouldn't need to sit down with rivals like Murdo Fraser and Jackie Baillie, or have to make concessions to the Lib Dems.  However, the Greens may still be looking for a decent return in exchange for passing up the annual opportunity to put the government over a barrel.  It is unclear as yet how the monumental relief programmes of the pandemic era will be paid for, and what that means for future budgets.  The decisions on how to recover from the economic crisis which accompanied the health one were already going to be tricky, before they involved two parties with subtly different ideologies.  Take for example the principle of economic growth. The SNP manifesto - while stressing that growth should be sustainable - talks about increasing Scottish GDP by more than £4bn. The Greens meanwhile are suspicious of the whole concept of "endless economic growth", with their election platform decrying "the deep shortcomings of conventional economics".  So what might actually happen, in practice?   The manifestos of each party pledged massive investment in infrastructure in an attempt to build a more sustainable economy post-pandemic, so this is something they will likely be able to work together on - so long as it doesn't involve big road-building projects.  Both parties have talked about moving to a four-day working week and back some form of universal basic income, so their pact might move these ambitious policies up the priority list.  The two are also largely aligned on income tax, with the SNP targeting "stability" across the next five years and the Greens agreeing that "now is not the time for increases" for most.  Both have promised a Citizens Assembly on taxation to study wider reforms, so that should be another easy box to tick.  The Greens want to scrap the council tax, something the SNP have pledged to do on various occasions - but never quite delivered. Could a deal here finally push reforms to local government funding over the line?  And the Greens also want to push for more fiscal powers to be devolved from Westminster so that they can set up things like an annual wealth tax on anyone worth more than £1m (including property, pensions and other assets) and a tax on carbon emissions from corporations.  One sector we are likely to hear a lot about is the oil and gas industry. There will doubtless be a clause in any SNP-Green deal allowing the parties to disagree amicably on things like how quickly to move on from fossil fuels, but it doesn't mean there wouldn't be friction behind the scenes - and indeed some lobbying.  Take for example the issue of new licences for drilling in the waters around Scotland, like the proposed new Cambo oil field. The Greens have already said they are putting "maximum pressure" on the Scottish government to oppose such plans.  The SNP insists this is solely a matter for the UK Westminster government, with offshore oil and gas contracts being in Westminster's remit.  But of course that hasn't stopped them taking a view on various other reserved matters, from Trident to Universal Credit and indeed the Acts of Union.  Ministers have thus far refused to come off the fence about Cambo, perhaps anxious about alienating oil industry workers - but might having Green voices closer to the heart of government tip the scales somewhat?  Co-leader Lorna Slater recently attended a protest against the development. Would she really never bring it up if she happened to be in the next office over from the energy minister?  The issue of trans rights and reform to the Gender Recognition Act has been a sticky one for the SNP, and society more generally.  The government wants to change the law to make it easier for people to change their legally recognised gender, and reduce the "trauma" associated with the process. However, it has run into a row over whether allowing people to self-identify their gender could undermine the legal protections given to women under the Equality Act.  Prominent SNP figures have voiced concerns about the plans, and even post-election - with a new group of MSPs lined up behind the leadership and more critical voices like Joan McAlpine no longer in parliament - there could have been a backbench rebellion over elements of the legislation.The Greens, though, are all-in on the policy - to the extent that they split with former MSP Andy Wightman over it.  Seven extra votes would make it much easier for the SNP to fulfil their manifesto pledge to make changes "at the earliest opportunity".  This may be one of the most talked about elements of the deal, but may actually be the part where an accord is needed the least.  During the election campaign, the Greens pledged that every one of their MSPs would back a new independence referendum - much like those of the SNP.  The two manifestos were closely aligned in a bid to cement the mandate of any pro-independence majority - so the votes for indyref2 are essentially in the bag regardless.  The real question is whether a formalising of the pro-independence bloc at Holyrood could have any impact in swaying the UK government when it comes to backing a new referendum.  There remains little sign that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had a change of heart, but the SNP and Greens may hope that in the longer term a formal arrangement might help make the case seem all the more undeniable.

Bothies Open for 'Responsible Use'
Mountain bothies in Scotland have reopened after being closed for more than a year due to concerns about Covid-19.  The shelters maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) are used by hillwalkers, climbers and cyclists.  The MBA said the bothies were available again for "responsible use" and urged people to adhere to rules and guidance around reducing Covid risks.  In England, where the rules are different, bothies reopened in July.  The Scottish sites opened on Monday when almost all Covid restrictions in Scotland were lifted.  The MBA charity maintains 105 bothies and two emergency shelters, with 86 of the sites in Scotland, 12 in northern England and nine in Wales. Bothies in Wales have also reopened.  There is no charge to use the shelters.

Scotland's Beaver Population Doubles to 1,000 in Three Years

The number of beavers in Scotland has more than doubled in the last three years, new figures reveal.  Natural environment agency NatureScot says there are now about 1,000 of the animals.  Legislation was introduced in 2019 to make beavers a protected species, meaning it is illegal to kill or disturb them.   The new population survey also found beavers are living in a wider range of areas across Scotland.  The beavers were spotted in 251 territories including Tayside, Stirling, Forfar and Crianlarich.  NatureScot says that they are likely to expand into Loch Lomond in the future.The animals were reintroduced in Scotland in 2009 and are valued for their impact on ecosystems and abilities as "natural engineers".  However, those which disturb or destroy farmland can be removed under licence.  NatureScot said that in 2020 a total of 31 beavers were trapped and moved to reintroduction projects in England. A further 115 were killed.  The agency's director of sustainable growth, Robbie Kernahan, said: "Wildlife is declining in Scotland so this extensive survey is great news for nature.  Beavers play a vital role in creating and restoring wetlands where other species can thrive, reducing downstream flooding and improving water quality."  A previous survey in 2017 identified 114 active territories with an estimated 433 beavers.  This increased to an estimated population of about 954 in the survey for the 2020 Beaver Management Report held last winter.  It gathered information on the locations of beaver territories, as well as assessing the health and spread of the population.  Researchers searched on foot and by canoe across, finding 13,204 confirmed signs of beavers such as burrows, dams, lodges and crop feeding.  Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer, the report's lead author, said beavers provided "important biodiversity benefits" although some impacts were challenging alongside land-use practices.  She added: "This survey will hopefully provide valuable information to land managers and policy makers seeking to maximise the benefits and minimise the conflicts associated with the return of beavers to our rivers."  NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy said a management framework to help beaver populations, while limiting damage to agricultural land, had been "developed successfully".  He added: "Farmers remain committed to playing their part in managing the species.  However, it is vitally important that where mitigation measures are not working, and significant agricultural damage continues to occur, that licenced lethal control remains as a last resort."  Scottish Greens environment spokesman, Mark Ruskell MSP, said the population growth did not "excuse the killing or exporting" more than a tenth of the population last year.  He added: "Much more can be done to manage and resolve cases where conflict arises, especially through relocating animals to areas where they can thrive, creating eco-tourism opportunities and helping restore wetlands."

Ascensos to Create 100 Call Centre Jobs in Stranraer
Call centre operator Ascensos has announced plans to create 100 jobs in Stranraer over the next three months.  The Motherwell-based firm is to open a "community-focused" hub in the town as part of a £1m investment.  Ascensos said the move was part of a drive to "bring high-quality digital jobs to rural communities", with staff working mainly from home.  A recruitment base will be located in Dumfries and Galloway College's Stranraer campus from this week.  The customer services outsourcing firm, which works with brands such as B&Q, KFC and Peloton, is planning five more Ascensos Local hubs in the UK over the next 12 months.  Chief executive John Devlin predicted that the local economic impact of the new jobs in Stranraer would be "incredibly positive".  He said: "We know a lack of job prospects for young people in the area is a real concern, and we are setting out to change that.  The new jobs we are creating will offer a variety of opportunities, and not just for young people.  The massive shift we've seen towards working from home over the last 18 months opens up opportunities for creating jobs in different ways and in many different locations."  Community groups in Stranraer welcomed the announcement.  Romano Petrucci, chairman of Stranraer Development Trust, said it was "the most fantastic boost to Stranraer".  Stranraer, like so many places, has taken a real knock over this past 18 months," he said.  The creation of so many new jobs by a company with a clear track record of success, and a culture that is committed to supporting the local community, is the kind of news that many towns could only dream about."  Ascensos Local's Stranraer hub will be based at South Strand Street and will be operational from September.

Raft of Glasgow Orange Walks to See 7,500 March in One Day

Large numbers of people are next month expected to take part in the first major Loyalist marches through Glasgow since the pandemic began.  The Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland has planned 34 marches for 18 September, with 7,500 expected to attend.  Due to restrictions on large gatherings prior to 9 August, the group's annual Battle of the Boyne celebration has been cancelled for the last two years.  A small number of marches have taken place since.  Lodges will take a number of routes through the city at varying times throughout the day - however the largest march will see three lodges converge at once.  The County Grand Orange Lodge of Glasgow South Group, which will begin at Pacific Quay, expects 1,850 members alone.  Meanwhile the North Group, beginning at Garscube Road, expects 1,010 and the West Group, assembling at Kelvingrove Park, expects 650.  These three will join together at West George Street and process to Glasgow Green.  Last summer it emerged the Scottish government had commissioned a civic mediation company in an attempt to ease tensions over loyalist parades in Glasgow.  The Centre for Good Relations is a not-for-profit enterprise with experience working with race riots and EU migration in parts of England.  It will receive £50,000 to set up structured talks on the parades issue during 2020/21.

Boris Johnson Vows Never to Holiday in Scotland Again After 'Almost Being Swept Out to Sea' While Paddleboarding
The Prime Minister is said to be desperate to go abroad this summer but has decided not to due to concerns about how such a move would look amid travel restrictions.  Boris Johnson has reportedly said he would return to holiday in Scotland "over my dead body" after almost being swept out to sea while paddleboarding last year.  The Prime Minister, who allegedly got into trouble while either paddleboarding or canoeing during a trip to the west coast last year, has since vowed never to take a summer holiday in Scotland again.  According to The Times newspaper, the incident was so bad that his protection officers were forced to plunge in and drag him to safety.  Last year the Tory leader, his now wife Carrie, their son Wilfred and dog Dilyn camped out in Wester Ross but the trip did not turn out as he planned. Downing Street briefed that Ian Blackford had leaked the PM’s Scottish location, leading to angry scenes in the Commons afterwards as Johnson and the SNPs Westminster leader accused each other of dirty tricks over the “abandoned” camping trip.  There was also speculation that the ferocious midge count on the west coast had also played a part in upsetting the thin-skinned Prime Minister.  The PM was apparently hoping to go abroad this summer but has instead settled on the South West due to concerns about how a jaunt overseas would go down with voters.  "It would not be a good look for prime minister if he was abroad while thousands were stuck in hotel quarantine after we put Mexico on the red list," a source said.   The claims about the PM's paddling acumen came several days after his government issued an update to its travel traffic light system.   On Wednesday he said he understood that people yearned for summer holidays abroad and that the government's swift vaccine rollout was enabling holidays in the European Union.  "I know how important holidays are to people: people think about them, they save up to them, people yearn to go abroad this year - I totally get that," Johnson told reporters.  "We've got to balance that against the need to protect our country against the influx of new variants.  We've got to balance policy but clearly we have the benefit now of the double-jab system that is enabling us to, to go to countries in the EU and to come back to countries, come from countries in the EU without having to quarantine and same for the same goes for the U.S.."

Four Health Boards Pause Non-emergency Surgery
Four Scottish health boards have now halted non-urgent procedures amid rising pressure on the NHS.  On Friday NHS Lothian stopped elective surgery due to staff shortages and rising patient demand.  Non-urgent outpatient appointments have also been cancelled to prioritise acute services.  Hours later, NHS Ayrshire and Arran also took the decision to cancel some planned procedures until the end of August.  It came just two days after NHS Borders cancelled all scheduled routine operations until the end of next week due to pressure on services.  NHS Highland stopped orthopaedic procedures earlier this week.  NHS Lothian said that increased levels of staff sickness, combined with holidays and those having to self isolate, led to a "significant reduction" in nurses and midwives in the previous two months. This, along with "unprecedented demand" has caused longer waiting times, particularly in the emergency department.  This led to the decision to postpone procedures and allow clinic and theatre staff to be redeployed where they are most needed.  In a bid to ease pressure, workers have been offered more shifts, and about 460 new nurses are due to start in the next two months. Extra administration and domestic support has also been deployed.  Prof Alex McMahon, NHS Lothian's nurse director, said: "We are doing everything possible to mitigate the additional pressures we are facing, however we have to be realistic. These challenges will not disappear overnight.  We continue to work through appointments that have already been re-scheduled in recent months and to see people who may have delayed seeking treatment because of Covid-19. This will take time.  We also continue to be restricted in the number of people we can see each day because of the enhanced infection control measures in place. Covid is still with us."  NHS Ayrshire & Arran said it was continuing to experience significant pressures in urgent care, adding to cumulative pressures at University Hospitals Ayr and Crosshouse.  It said that, in particular, the availability of key staff to support service delivery critical care was increasingly difficult.  Medical director Dr Crawford McGuffie said: "We have taken the very difficult decision to pause some elective surgery until the end of August 2021.  We apologise to any patients who experience a delay in their surgery as a consequence of this decision. This will be kept under constant review and we would like to provide assurance that all efforts will be made to minimise these delays."  All emergency and cancer-related activity will continue during August at both hospitals.  On Wednesday, NHS Borders announced it would cancel all scheduled routine operations for the rest of the week and next week, citing pressure on services. "There is very high demand for in-patient beds, including rising numbers of patients who are being admitted with Covid-19," the health board said.  "We fully recognise the distress caused by this unavoidable decision and are truly sorry."  On the same day, NHS Highland also announced emergency measures to cope with high demand, pausing all orthopaedic elective surgery throughout August.  The board's clinical emergency pathways had been under significant pressure and was struggling to deliver planned operations.  Katherine Sutton, NHS Highland's chief officer for acute services, said: "We have had to act to relieve some of this pressure, both immediately and with rapid but sustainable measures to improve the situation.  This will free up beds, allowing us to meet the demand we need for our emergency patients and by changing the space within the hospital we will be able to create additional bed capacity within medicine. Our response to this situation will also focus on improved staff recruitment to increase the bed numbers available within the hospital to ensure that emergency patients can be accommodated without impacting on our remobilisation of the planned elective programme which aims to deliver services to our longest waiting patients."  Doctors at Glasgow's busiest hospital, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, told BBC Scotland that Scotland's hospitals are under more pressure than ever.  They said that while the number of Covid patients had fallen, the NHS was trying to catch up with surgeries and treatments put on hold during the first wave of the pandemic.  More people are also being admitted with other complex, more advanced disease, having put off seeking treatment. And this is leading to long waits in emergency departments and piling pressure on capacity in other parts of the hospital. NHS Forth Valley said its acute hospital, Forth Valley Royal Hospital continued to be very busy and, like many other areas of Scotland, it had also seen an increase in A&E attendances.  The board has managed to maintain its outpatient clinics, diagnostic scans and planned operations but this was being kept under regular review in line with available capacity.

Grand Seaside Hotel in Rothesay Goes Into Administration

Scotland's first ever hydropathic hotel has gone into administration. The Glenburn Hotel on the Isle of Bute opened in 1892 and overlooks the town of Rothesay.  The 121-room hotel has been closed since November last year because of the pandemic with staff initially being placed on furlough.  However, "unsustainable cash-flow problems" means the hotel has now been placed into administration and put up for sale.  It is thought about 30 hotel staff are affected but administrators are still finalising numbers.

The SAHC still needs a Newsletter Editor. Do you have a love of storytelling or know of someone that does?  If so, we need a newsletter editor.  Please contact me to discuss this very important role for keeping the Scottish Diaspora informed through my email address  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
I wish you all the very best and to remain safe and well in this troublesome times.
Malcolm Buchanan, President

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

Coisir  Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers) will be back rehearsing on a face to face basis at Macquarie Presbyterian Church in Eastwood as soon as this*** Covid restrictions allow.   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