Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 616

Issue # 616                                                Week ending Saturday 21st  August 2021
When Your Neighbour Suddenly Decides She is Greta Garbo and Says She Wants to Be Alone by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Who remembers that great actress Greta Garbo? Nor me. I’m far too young to remember that frown except from her movies. That sad-looking star of stage and screen Greta Garbo is said to have first uttered the immortal words: “I want to be alone.” Terrible shame because the Guinness Book of World Records had taken to calling the most beautiful woman who had ever lived.

I do remember seeing her movie Queen Christina, which was made in 1932. Very unusual for the time. The women had thick make-up and did a lot of kissing - they even kissed the men sometimes as well. It portrays the life of Queen Christina of Sweden, who took over as monarch at the ripe old age of six. That’s true.

Other big stars have also sometimes wanted to be alone. The usual response to them was: “Fine, dear. You do what you like. We’ll carry on without you.” When grumpy thespians are told that, they tend to get over the blues pretty quickly and rush back into the spotlight. I mention that because I got a Greta Garbo message the other day from my neighbour Peggy. Her social media profile said she was not at home - but in Norway.

That’s excellent, I thought. A Norwegian acquaintance once gave me a wonderful present from his home country. It was called rakfisk. It was a piece of trout which had been fermented in a jar for a few months. You just unscrewed the jar and you ate it straight off. Down the hatch. It was yummy. I wonder if Peggy will bring home some rakfisk for me.

After accepting her friend request I asked why she was up in Scandinavia. Peggy replied: “I want to be alone.” OK, Greta. Fair enough. Ten minutes later, she announced: “I am lonely. Wanna come over?” That really confused me. I asked if she was really in Norway and she curtly replied: “Forget it. I will come to you.” Er, I can’t forget it, Peggy. What would Mrs X say if you barge in here saying you are lonely?

So I had to tell Mrs X that someone from Norway, or somewhere, was pretending to be Peggy and were after my body. She was engrossed in a detective show. She watches Sherlock Holmes and the grisly Midsomer Murders. No response. So I shouted: “I think someone is after my body.” Without looking up, Mrs X said: “I know what I would like to do with your body.” Oh really, honey? She said: “Yeah. Identify it.”

Sometimes I think she wants someone to have me gunned down. No shoot, Sherlock.

So I studied this lovey-dovey Peggy’s Facebook profile. That was her cheeky grin alright. Is she coming over the fence or over the North Sea? When I asked, the reply was in song titles like: “Don’t you want me, baby?” That was Culture Club. Then it was: “I Will Always Love You.” Whitney. That’s when I thought of a Beatles song. Help.

No way, Norway. This isn’t our Peggy. She’d been cloned. Our Peggy was actually next door the whole time, probably doing her knitting, and unaware that her fake namesake was chatting me up with some sloppy lurve talk. Other friends fell for the fake messages too. It’s OK, folks. Peggy’s here. I’ve just been talking to her across the fence.

Hey, Peggy. Does this mean I am not going to get my rakfisk?

Social media is so dodgy nowadays. It’s full of false promises. There is an ad on there which keeps coming up in my feed. It says I can lose 18 pounds and six inches in just a month. Losing 18 pounds would be fine but I don’t want to be 5ft 1in.

It is worrying when idiots on social media try and persuade people to do unsafe things, like avoiding Covid vaccinations. These anti-vaxxers are everywhere now - even in Uist. I have just been told about Christine in South Uist who apparently has just announced she is anti-vaxx too. Her neighbour remonstrated with her and said she was spending too much time on Facebook. Christine replied that she wasn’t on Facebook or any social media.

She said: “I have always been against them. They are too noisy and they are smelly.” The poor neighbour was completely bemused. Christine explained: “There is nothing wrong with a good carpet cleaner. If it gets too dirty, just shampoo it. That’s why I am anti-vacs.”

Sir Walter Scott's Pistol Sold At Auction for £15,000
A rare 19th Century silver pistol made for the novelist Sir Walter Scott has been sold at auction for £15,000.  The gun is engraved with the Scott of Abbotsford family crest on one side, and a coat of arms with the motto "watch weel" on the other.  It was made by the same maker as a pair of pistols still within the collection on display at the author's former home, Abbotsford House in the Borders.  The sale followed events marking the 250th anniversary of the Scott's birth.  The pistol went under the hammer in an online sale by Lyon & Turnbull. It was part of a sale of more than 300 items.   Scott was well known for his interest in Scottish history and his collection of historical arms and armour still decorates the house where he once lived near Melrose.  Auctioneers described the pistol as a "remarkable" piece thanks to its connection with the author.

‘It Was A Choice to Live Or Be Beheaded’
An Afghan refugee who feared he would be tortured and beheaded by the Taliban said he feels "relief" at being resettled in Glasgow with his family.  The 38-year-old worked as an interpreter for the British Army in a northern province of Afghanistan.  Speaking anonymously, the refugee claims his job made him a target for persecution by insurgents.  Along with his wife and three-year-old daughter, he arrived in Scotland under a UK government resettlement scheme.  He said: "If I continued to stay in Afghanistan, I would be tortured by the Taliban and then killed by them. They perceived interpreters are traitors. There were many incidents with other Afghan interpreters. They were tortured, killed and beheaded to give a clear message to others to stop helping international forces."  This man is one of more than 2,000 former Afghan staff and their families to have arrived under the existing Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) since June.  This scheme is separate to the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme announced by the UK Westminster government in the wake of Kabul falling to the Taliban.  The father-of-one continued: "It was difficult for me to say goodbye to my father. I didn't have a chance to hug him because of Covid. I said goodbye from a distance and he started crying.  I had to leave behind the community I belonged to, my friends, my job and the opportunity to study my Masters degree. It was such a fearful situation. I had to make a very difficult decision to live or be killed by insurgents. It makes life not meaningful for you. You are waiting for your death."  Reacting to his resettlement in Glasgow, he said: "It is such a sense of relief. Life is now completely different."  The UK is to take up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans over the coming years as part of a new resettlement plan following the Taliban takeover of their country.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced 5,000 people will arrive in the programme's first year but opposition parties argue more fleeing Afghans should be welcomed.  The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford has argued that the future of Afghanistan had "never been so uncertain" and that refugees needed more help.  Glasgow- based charity Refuweegee supports 150 refugees every week with support packages. It is standing by to help the new Afghan arrivals. Founder Selina Hales told the BBC that Scotland has the infrastructure in place following the 2015 Syrian resettlement programme. More than 2,500 Syrians settled in Scotland during that emergency.  She said: "I do think we should be aiming higher. We have the capacity, housing and commitment to do this.  The Syrian agreement showed us that local authorities across Scotland were keen to support and welcome families.  Some of those local authorities only received two or three families. They now know the script and understand the type of support families need."

Police Officer Injured in Edinburgh Castle Protest
A police officer was injured while making an arrest during a protest at Edinburgh Castle. Historic Environment Scotland said a group of about 20 people entered the building on Tuesday afternoon without paying and refused to leave.  In a Facebook live video, a woman claimed they were taking the castle back under Article 61 of Magna Carta, the 800-year-old charter of rights.  Police said one officer sustained minor injuries during an arrest of a man. A report will be sent to the procurator fiscal.  What is Article 61?  Magna Carta, signed in 1215 by England's King John, was a royal charter of rights designed to bring peace between the king and his barons. As it predates the Act of Union it has no bearing on Scots law. Although it is one of the foundational documents of English law, only four parts of Magna Carta remain valid today.  None of those still-valid clauses allow citizens to decide which laws should apply to them.  The portion that the activists have been citing, Article 61, was struck from Magna Carta within a year of its signing, and only applied to a small group of barons in the first place, according to fact-checking website Full Fact.  However, it is often referenced as a justification for protests by anti-establishment groups, such as anti-lockdown protesters.

Kathleen Jamie Announced As Scotland's New Makar
Poet and essayist Kathleen Jamie has been appointed as Scotland's next Makar.  The 59-year-old is the fourth person to take on the role of national poet, following on from Jackie Kay.  The Scots Makar position was established in 2004 by the Scottish Parliament with Edwin Morgan the first poet to receive the honour.  Ms Jamie was brought up in Midlothian and began writing poetry as a teenager, publishing her first booklet aged 20.  She was appointed for a three-year term rather than five years like the last two appointments.  The expert panel who selected the poet said they had reduced the term because of the time demands of the role and to help encourage "greater diversity, variety and interest" in the post in the future.  Nicola Sturgeon formally welcomed Ms Jamie to the role at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh.  The first minister said she was "delighted" to confirm the writer as Scotland's national poet.  "Poetry is integral to Scotland's culture and history. The Makar has a central role in celebrating that legacy, and preserving its future by encouraging the next generation of young writers to leave their mark," she said.  "Kathleen is a highly accomplished poet who is known for her works in English and Scots, and the meaningful connections her writing draws between our lives and the landscape around us.  I have no doubt she will continue to build on the exceptional work of her predecessors to promote Scottish poetry both here and abroad."  Ms Jamie has published three books of essays around nature, travel and culture called Findings, Sightlines and Surfacing.  Her poems have appeared on the Underground systems of London, New York and Shanghai, and another was carved on a huge wooden beam on the national monument at Bannockburn.  Ms Jamie said: "I am honoured and delighted to be appointed as Scotland's new Makar.  The post confirms a weel-kent truth: that poetry abides at the heart of Scottish culture, in all our languages, old and new. It's mysterious, undefinable and bold. It runs deep and sparkles at once.  Liz Lochhead, Jackie Kay and the late Edwin Morgan have held this post before me, a trio of major poets. If I can achieve half of their outreach, humour and wisdom, not to mention their wonderful verse, I'll be doing well."

State of Scotland's Wild Land to Be Studied
A new study will investigate the state of Scotland's wild land.  The six-month project will look at the condition of all 42 of Scotland’s official Wild Land Areas - places considered to be of "high wildness" and of national importance.  The areas include mountains, moorland and peat bog.  Landscape conservationists say threats to wild land include developments such as wind farms and hill tracks.  The charity Scottish Wild Land Group (SWLG) said its project was the first ever to gather data on whether Scotland’s wildness was being lost and, if so, how fast.  The study will include a more detailed investigation of five areas.  Four are in the Highlands - north-west Sutherland, the Creag Meagaidh area, Glen Affric and a range of hills and mountains called the Monadhliath.  The fifth area is east of Largs, in North Ayrshire. SWLG said the final strand of its project would look at how planning policies might change to stop wild land loss.  Large areas of hills and mountains in north and west Scotland have been described as wild land.  Dr James Fenton, of SWLG, said: “The group hopes its work will lead to fresh, national-level thinking about how we look after wild land.  Planning decisions tend to only address impacts on a case-by-case basis and we lose valued landscapes by the accumulation of many small impacts."  Rows over developments on wild land have included an unsuccessful legal challenge by Danish billionaire and landowner Anders Povlsen to stop a 22-turbine wind farm being built within wild land in Wester Ross.  Public body Scottish Natural Heritage, now known as NatureScot, opposed a wind farm near Lairg in 2012. It said the farm would impact on Assynt and Coigach National Scenic Area and important habitats.

Climber Dies After Falling on Skye's Cuillin Ridge
A climber has died after falling while on the Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye on Sunday. Twenty-six members of Skye Mountain Rescue Team carried out a 15-hour search and recovery operation for the man in dangerous terrain  The climber, who has not been named, fell near the top of Bidean Druim nan Ramh, a summit on the ridge.  Skye MRT said he had been a young man and the team expressed its condolences to his family and friends.  The callout, which started at 17:00 on Sunday and did not finish until 08:00 on Monday, saw the rescue team's volunteers supplied with food by local people and some army personnel visiting the area.

Green Light Given for Controversial 300-home Development Between Culloden and Balloch on Outskirts of Inverness
Controversial plans to build nearly 300 homes on fields east of Inverness have been approved.  The planned development is for a site south-east of Balloch Farm between Balloch and Culloden.  The original application, submitted by Highland Council, was for 312 homes on the 24-hectare site, but this has been reduced to 298 to be built in five phases. At least 25 per cent will be affordable.  Objections included the loss of open space, potential flood risks and pressure on services.  Planning permission in principle has been given with conditions attached including a Section 75 obligation requiring contributions towards a new primary school in the Culloden Academy catchment area.  Contributions are also required towards a major school extension at Culloden Academy, a two-classroom extension at Balloch Primary School, a sports facility at Inverness Campus and the provision of the Inverness to Nairn Coastal Trail.  In its objection to the initial application, Balloch Community Council stated: "We regret the loss of good agricultural land to most forms of development, but understand the pressing need for housing in some areas.  In this case, we do not consider the argument has been made to develop this land before the other areas identified for housing in the Local Plan.  This area is not specifically designated for housing. There are many others that are, such as the Highland Council land in the Stratton development."  It said if justification was made for the development, concerns would include the density of housing, potential for flooding and strain on education and medical services.  Historic Environment Scotland said the development would entail a loss of open space next to but downhill from Culloden Battlefield, but did not feel it would have an impact on its character or key views.  A decision notice signed by Highland Council planning officer David Mudie said variations were made to the original application to address matters raised. Changes included reducing the number of homes and indicative locations to address issues on drainage, flood risk and impact on trees.  No development was to start until a community liaison group was established involving affected community councils including Balloch, Smithton and Culloden.  The decision notice stated: "The group shall act as a vehicle for the community to be kept informed of project progress and, in particular, should allow advanced dialogue on the provision of all transport-related mitigation measures and to keep under review the timing and type of development within future development phases."

Scots Soldiers At Fort George, Near Inverness Said to Be in A State of 'High Readiness' in Preparation for Potential Deployment to Afghanistan Airport in Kabul
Troops based at Fort George are said to be preparing to move to Brize Norton ahead of a deployment to Afghanistan.  While the Ministry of Defence has not confirmed the move, it is understood that troops at the garrison have been told they may be moved south before the end of the week.  Afghanistan's government collapsed and a military group called the Taliban took control of the capital city of Kabul.  It is understood that a number of units from across the UK are also preparing for deployment.  Therefore, it is by no means certain that 3 Scots The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland – based at Fort George – will eventually be deployed.  It is understood that around 100 soliders are being mobilised as part of the move.  We have invited the MOD and the UK Westminster Government to comment on the deployment of servicemen and women to Afghanistan.

Police Scotland Firearms Officer 'Didn't Mean to Discriminate'
A police inspector who sent an email saying he did not want to see two female firearms officers deployed together has told an employment tribunal its purpose was not to discriminate or cause upset.  Keith Warhurst said he "had an epiphany" when he realised his request had been interpreted as sexist.  He said he had made a fool of himself by sending a "poorly-worded" email.  Police Scotland denies claims it has a culture of sexism.  Insp Warhurst was giving evidence in a case brought by former firearms officer Rhona Malone. The 45-year-old is taking legal action against Police Scotland on the grounds of discrimination and victimisation.  In January 2018, Ms Malone and another female officer, PC Freya Palmer, were copied into an email from the inspector who said that for operational reasons he did not want to see two female officers deployed together when there were sufficient male staff on duty.  Insp Warhurst told the tribunal he regretted sending the email. He said: "I value all members of my team equally. In my opinion it is preferable to have a mixed team and mixed pairing of officers for operational reasons. I was trying to convey this in my email but unfortunately it was very poorly worded.  I had felt the pairing of PC Malone and PC Palmer had been inappropriate due to their relative level of inexperience.  By sending the email I have only made a fool of myself. If I could take back the email I would."  The email, to Sgt Guy Sinclair, began: "Guy, I'm going to plunge in with both feet and open myself up to being accused of being sexist. For operational reasons I don't want to see two female officers deployed together when there are sufficient male staff on duty.  This is based on my experience in the firearms and routine policing environment other than the obvious differences in physical capacity."  It continued: "It makes more sense from a search, balance of testosterone perspective and it is not a reflection on either Rhona or Freya.  Ladies, for the purpose of transparency, I have included you in this email."  He told the virtual hearing that the email had not been well-received, and the following week, he invited PCs Malone and Palmer to a meeting.  He said: "After consideration, I realised I had made a mistake. I telephoned Ch Insp Linda Russell for guidance and input. She expressed she was not happy with my choice of wording."  He continued: "My recollection is that I apologised for the email and explained it was not the view of the senior management team. I recall Rhona Malone said to me: 'Are you saying two wee guys can't work together?' It was then I had an epiphany and realised I had made a fool of myself.  Her comment made me realise I had brought gender into my email unnecessarily and this was not the message I had been trying to convey."  Insp Warhurst said his chief inspector was furious with him.  Representing Ms Malone, lawyer Mark Allison put to him that he had only apologised after he had spoken to Ch Insp Russell and she had told him to.  Mr Allison said that Police Scotland management was not happy with what he had written.  Insp Warhurst agreed, saying: "I was reprimanded. I articulated the message I was trying to get across but it was made clear my language was grossly inappropriate, what they were trying to move away from. I was left in no uncertain terms I would be removed from post if anything like this happened again."  Insp Warhurst was also asked about a claim two witnesses made on Wednesday that he had sent images or videos of topless women to a WhatsApp group of colleagues.  He told Police Scotland solicitor Stewart Healey he had no recollection of sharing such videos or images.  Judge Porter then repeatedly pushed Insp Warhurst to clarify whether he definitely had not sent the images or whether it might have happened but he could not recollect.  Insp Warhurst concluded he was "fairly confident" he had not sent them.  Insp Warhurst is expected to continue giving evidence tomorrow - the tribunal is due to last two weeks.

Why Do I Need More Smoke Alarms in My House?
In six months' time Scotland will become the first UK nation to legally require every home to have interlinked smoke alarms.  The legislation was introduced in 2019 following the Grenfell disaster but was delayed until 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Changes to the Housing (Scotland) Act are being made in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 71 people died. It will ensure that everyone in Scotland has the same level of protection whether they own or rent their home.  The most rigorous standards currently apply to new-build and private rented housing. But from February next year, the legislation will apply to all property owners, including those who own private homes. Every home must have the following:   one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes:  one smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings:  one heat alarm installed in every kitchen.  All alarms should be ceiling mounted and interlinked. Where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance (such as boilers, fires - including open fires - and heaters) or a flue, a carbon monoxide detector is also required - this does not need to be linked to the fire alarms.  Interlinked alarms are connected so when one goes off they all go off, alerting people wherever they are in a house.  It will be the property owner's responsibility to pay for and install the alarms.  It is estimated that for an average three-bedroom house, which requires three smoke alarms, one heat alarm and one carbon monoxide detector, will be about £220.  This is based on using alarms that can be installed without the need for an electrician. These must be tamper-proof, long-life lithium battery alarms.  However, there are also alarms that can be connected to the mains which are cheaper but have to be installed by a qualified electrician which will incur an additional cost. The legislation comes into force in six months, in February 2022, and the Scottish government is encouraging everyone to install the alarms at the earliest opportunity.  It will not be a criminal offence not to have the alarms fitted. Local authorities are officially responsible for enforcing the legislation but they will not be going into peoples' homes to inspect them and will not be issuing fines.  The Scottish government said councils could require homeowners to carry out work, but it did not expect them to go beyond advising property owners about fire alarms.  The government will use statistics from the Scottish House Condition Survey to assess overall compliance at a local authority level. Compliance will also form part of any Home Report when homes are put on the market.  The requirement is to have all alarms interlinked so people in the house will be alerted immediately.  What type of carbon monoxide alarm do I need?  The carbon monoxide alarm must have a sealed battery for the duration of its operational lifespan, which may be up to 10 years.  The Scottish government has given the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service £1m to install the alarms in the homes of people assessed to be at high risk from fire. The government is also providing £500,000 to help disabled and older people meet the criteria.  Different home insurance policies provided by different insurers will have varying terms and conditions which a homeowner must comply with in order for their home insurance to be valid.  Homeowners should get in touch with their home insurer to check whether the new requirements will be specifically included in their policy.  Scotland is so far the only UK nation to require every home to have interlinked alarms.  What do the government and fire service say?  Alasdair Perry, of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Having the earliest possible warning of a fire in the home can, and has, saved lives and property. Having interlinked alarms installed will allow everyone, anywhere in the house to take action as quickly as possible."  Housing Secretary Shona Robison said the interlinked alarms would "significantly reduce the risk of injury or death", by giving residents more time to escape a fire.

Hebridean Isle Hopes to Grow Population with New Homes
Three new homes are planned for the Isle of Canna to help increase the island's population from 15 to 30.   The isle's community trust has asked for help raising £200,000 towards the total cost of building the houses.   Canna is one of the Small Isles in the Inner Hebrides and owned by the National Trust for Scotland  The community-owned properties would be for new residents of Canna, which currently has a population of 15.  Islanders hope to gradually increase the population to 30, but there are no available empty houses on the island.  They have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £200,000 towards the overall cost of £750,000 to have the new homes constructed.  The Isle of Canna Community Development Trust hopes the properties might be available for families next year.  Chairwoman Geraldine Mackinnon said: “The Isle of Canna Community may be small but we are always up for any challenge that will help us create a sustainable future for our island.   We have a positive track record with previous projects and hope everyone will come on board and help us make our community housing a reality.”  The National Trust for Scotland, which owns the island, is supporting the trust's fundraising effort.  The trust's Clea Warner said: "It is in our mutual interest to see a thriving community on Canna.   We are certain the approach taken here will lead to sustainable development that enables the island population to live in harmony with the precious natural beauty that surrounds them and to benefit from it through the opportunities that result.”  The Isle of Canna is part of the Small Isles archipelago in the Inner Hebrides. Other islands in the group are Eigg, Rum and Muck.  Reaching it involves a two-hour ferry journey from Mallaig on the west Highlands mainland.

Five Eagles Found Dead in Western Isles
Five birds of prey have been found dead in the Western Isles, say police.  Two golden eagles and a white tailed sea eagle were discover near Bowglass in Harris on 7 August.  Police said the raptors were significantly decomposed and forensic work was being carried out to try to establish how they died.  On Saturday, two golden eagles were found dead just south of Bragar in Lewis. Police said the incidents were not being treated as linked.  A police spokeswoman said: "Eagles are protected birds of prey and Police Scotland will always investigate reports of these birds being found dead.  It can be highly complex, requiring detailed scientific work, but we will always strive to bring anyone responsible for this type of wildlife crime to justice."

New Menzies Depot to Power Electric Vehicles in Elgin
Logistics firm Menzies Distribution has opened a new depot in Elgin which offers electric vehicle charging points to the public.  The 10,375 square foot building, sitting on a one-acre site, will service around 2,000 parcels, pallets and full loads daily for business-to-business and business-to-consumer customers.  The London-based company said the facility will provide additional local employment.  The new centre is powered by  renewable energy sources. To support the continuing expansion of Menzies’ electric vehicle fleet across Scotland and the adoption of electric vehicles more widely, the site has a number of electric vehicle charging points accessible to all.  Stephen Mooney, parcels operations director, at Menzies, said: “We are committed to delivering fantastic service, being the partner of choice for our customers and ensuring environmental sustainability across our operations.  “This latest investment is not only bringing new jobs to Elgin but will also support the growth and momentum we are seeing across the sectors we serve from news, retail and e-commerce, to packaging, healthcare, field engineering and food.  As the pre-eminent Northern Highlands & Islands, Grampian, and Argyll logistics provider, I’m particularly pleased that we will be able to make our electric vehicle charging points widely available and play a role in developing the charging ecosystem.  Menzies has ambitious plans for the future and we are committed to growing our network in the Northern Highlands & Islands.”  Menzies welcomed just transition minister and local MSP Richard Lochhead, to formally open the facility.  He said: “Menzies is a company that has demonstrated its commitment to Moray and the wider region, so I was delighted to officially open their new distribution centre in Elgin.  This is a facility that’s designed for the future, powered by green energy sources, and supporting the expansion of Menzies’ fleet of electric vehicles.  More and more local businesses are stepping up and looking at how they can do business in a more responsible way and here Menzies is showing real leadership in moving to a more sustainable model and supporting our communities to do likewise.”  In June, Menzies announced the acquisition of Bathgate-based JBT Distribution (JBT), which has sites in Aberdeen, Inverness, East Kilbride, Lerwick and Kirkwall.   In September 2018, private equity firm Endless acquired Menzies Distribution as part of its separation from Edinburgh-based John Menzies.

Scotch Whisky Exports Show Signs of Recovery
Scotch whisky exports are showing signs of recovery after taking a hit from Covid-19 and US tariffs, according to an industry body.   New figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) show the value of exports in the first half of this year was 31% higher than the same period in 2020 - with volume up by 42%.  However, the value was still 10% down on 2019's record figure.  The SWA said the industry "still has some way to go" to recover lost growth. Exports of Scotch to the EU fell in the first quarter of 2021, compared with 2019, as Covid-related lockdowns continued and producers "adjusted to new post-Brexit trading arrangements", the SWA said.  However, they grew at a faster rate between April and June 2021 than in the same period of 2019.  Exports to the US continued to take a hit at the beginning of the year, as a result of a 25% tariff imposed on single malts in late 2019 following a trade row with the EU.  The tax was suspended in March this year, but exports for the first half were down by 34% when compared with 2019.  However, the US remains Scotch whisky's biggest export market by value.  Meanwhile, exports to markets in Asia, which were quick to recover during the second half of 2020, continued to grow in the first half of 2021.  China has already surpassed the £89m exported in the whole of 2019 - growing by 126% to £91m.   SWA chief executive Karen Betts described the pace of recovery of exports overall as "very promising".  She said: "Last year, the combination of US tariffs and Covid-19 brought Scotch whisky exports to their lowest level in a decade, so it's encouraging to see them start to regain strength.  But like many other sectors, Scotch whisky companies are feeling the ongoing impacts of trade disruption on our supply chain and global distribution, and the cost of goods and services has risen significantly.  In addition, international tourism is yet to recover and global hospitality is some way from emerging from the impact of the pandemic."  Ms Betts added that the industry would need government support on issues such as alcohol duty "to recover fully from the turbulence and lost exports of the last couple of years".

Green Port Bid Could Unlock £25m Investment
A council is being asked to support a bid to create a "green port" at Cairnryan, which could unlock a £25m investment.  The local authority in Dumfries and Galloway is examining the benefits of the move.  The UK Westminster government announced the locations of eight freeports in England earlier this year which would benefit from special tax, duty and customs rules.  The Scottish government wants to adapt the plans to focus on fair work practices and delivering a net zero economy. A green port enjoys special tax rules.  A report to Dumfries and Galloway Council is seeking approval to spend up to £30,000 on specialist help to work up the bid.  It said that initial talks with ferry operators P&O and Stena Line had seen a "favourable response" to taking the plans forward.  It is expected there could be two green port sites allocated in Scotland.  If successful, the SouthWest Euro Gateway project could secure multi-million pound support.  If successful the bid could attract £25m in funding  A freeport is a designated area where the normal tax and tariff rules of the country in which they are based do not apply.  They allow goods to be imported, manufactured and re-exported without being subject to checks, paperwork, or import taxes, known as tariffs.  Typically, companies operating in the zone pay lower taxes, such as reduced VAT and lower rates of employment tax.  However, critics argue they simply defer the point when import tariffs are paid, which then still need to be paid at some stage.  The Scottish government wants to add commitments to fair work policies and net zero emissions to the scheme to create any green ports in the country.  Other potential sites which have been suggested include Rosyth, Dundee, Hunterston, Orkney, Aberdeen and the Cromarty Firth.  Rob Davidson, who chairs Dumfries and Galloway council's economy and resources committee, said the green port bid was a "fantastic opportunity".  "I believe we have a strong bid, notably in terms of private sector support," he said.   "There are also many wider benefits for Dumfries and Galloway as a whole.  Green ports aim to support innovation, boost exports and attract inward investment, all underpinned by a commitment to the vital principles of fair work and a just transition to a net zero economy."

SNP-Greens Deal Pledges Indyref2 Within Five Years
The SNP and Scottish Greens have published details of their new power sharing arrangement. The deal will take the Greens into government for the first time anywhere in the UK.  It includes a commitment to hold a referendum on Scottish independence within the next five years, and preferably by the end of 2023.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave details at a briefing alongside the two Scottish Greens co-leaders.  Opposition parties have described the arrangement as a "nationalist coalition of chaos" that will be a "disaster" for Scotland. The agreement will see two Green MSPs appointed as junior ministers in Ms Sturgeon's government.  These ministers could be invited to attend cabinet meetings when their portfolios are being discussed, with the Green co-leaders attending cabinet at least twice a year.  The pro-independence Greens have signed up to the bulk of the government's policy - but there will also be areas where they are in disagreement with the SNP, and they will be able to criticise it on those points.  These excluded areas include aviation policy, international relations, policy on fee-paying schools, fox hunting and Nato membership if Scotland becomes independent.  The co-operation agreement says the two parties will work together to provide "effective and responsible leadership for Scotland for this session of the Scottish Parliament, in the interests of Scotland, of the people who live in Scotland, and of future generations".  It says they will secure a referendum on Scottish independence "within the current parliamentary session on a specific date to be determined by the Scottish Parliament".
If the Covid crisis has passed, their intention would be for the referendum to be within the first half of the five-year parliamentary session..  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is adamant that another referendum should not happen any time soon - with BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley saying that stance is unlikely to change.

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