Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 617

Issue # 617                                     Week ending Saturday 28th  August 2021
I Need to Find the Inverness Mystery Man Who Came Out of Nowhere to Help Defend the Honour of Mrs X by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Our trip to Inverness last week was to be a few days taking it easy. Mrs X and her Canon DSLR were booked to do a few property photoshoots while I could indulge in some leisurely shopping in outlets that do not focus on just slim fit shirts. Monday went well and pretty much according to that plan. Then came Tuesday.

I decided to treat her to a plush place with connections to royalty. If it’s good enough for Prince Andrew then Pizza Express is good enough for my lady who lunches. While waiting in their outdoor seating area at the edge of Falcon Square for her Lasagna Classica and my Cannelloni, we were  joined by a young chap who seemed eager to be conversational - whatever we thought.

He thought we would be more likely to engage if he became obnoxious. ‘Twasn’t so and Mrs X duly invited him to take his leave. That prompted our uninvited guest to release a stream of insults in her direction that would make Gordon Ramsey blush. I was up in a flash, ready to defend the honour of the gracious lady. With no sword in my scabbard, I tried to use my width to block him from even seeing Mrs X and in the hope he would quietly depart.

What else can I do? I’ll scream like a girl for someone to call the cops. I thought I’d better do that before matey boy put me on my derrière. So loudly did I shriek that I think I blew the froth off the cappuccinos on the three nearest tables. Then another stranger pushed in and took over dealing with the foul-mouthed interloper. The new arrival nodded to me to put my bottom back on my chair, adding: “I got this.” He then ushered away the sweary offender. By the time the police did roll up, there was little left to see - not even my Cannelloni.

Sadly, I didn’t get that mystery security man’s name. I called the Eastgate Centre and Inverness BID but they couldn’t figure out who the Good Samaritan was. He was distinctive as he had dreadlocks and a dark uniform which said TPS Security, or something similar. If you know him, please call the P&J and ask them to pass me a message.

Thanks too to the Pizza Express staff who came out when they realised what was going on, rolling their sleeves up. You have to be careful not to upset restaurant people. They work with knives and other sharp implements. Always be polite to them. Grazie mille davvero, adorabili persone.

Unfortunately, Mrs X has not been well since that excitement. When we came back, she toasted a piece of bread from a packet which was open before we went away. It was mouldy. Sick as a dog she has been. Another warning - you have to be careful not to upset your stomach by eating old, mouldy bread. It can be dangerous too.

Yet a bottle of whisky from 1941 is still drinkable - just. Rescued from the wreck of the SS Politician, which ran aground in 1941 near Eriskay, and was what Whisky Galore was very loosely based on, the historic bottle was given a conservative estimate of £5,000 to £6,000 at auction last week. A bidding war between mystery bidders pushed the price to £12,925.

It was one of only 10 bottles recovered during a dive in 1987. The rest were presumed to be, er, unaccountably missing. One bottle was gingerly opened. The verdict: “A slight smell of sulphur when first uncorked. But the contents are smooth, mellow and still a wonderful taste.” Wow. Like that smooth, mellow Good Samaritan who came to our aid in Inverness.

We should remember, however, that not all kind acts are well-received. A woman tried getting on a bus on Academy Street in Inverness the other day. She realised her skirt was too tight. Embarrassed, she reached behind to unzip her skirt a little so she could raise her leg. No joy. She again reached behind to unzip a little more but still was unable to step up. Now mortified, she again attempted to unzip her skirt.

Then a large man from Culloden, who was standing behind her, picked her up and placed her on the first step. She was furious and shouted: “How dare you. I don't even know you.” The man smiled and said: “Well madam, after you undid my zip three times I thought we were becoming friends.”

Covid in Scotland: Warning Over Restrictions As Cases Hit New High
Nicola Sturgeon has said she cannot rule out the reintroduction of some Covid restrictions as the number of daily cases reached a record high.   The first minister said the country was at another "fragile and pivotal moment" in the pandemic.  She said she hopes not to have to reintroduce restrictions, and that if this happened they would be as limited and proportionate as possible.  A total of 4,323 new cases were reported on Tuesday.  The previous highest level was during the summer wave in early July, when the number of daily cases peaked at 4,234.  The Scottish government has also announced that a public inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic will begin by the end of the year.  Ms Sturgeon told a Covid briefing that there had been a "sharp rise" in Covid-19 cases in recent days.  "New cases in Scotland have more than doubled over the past week, and that is one of the sharpest rises we have experienced at any point during the pandemic," she said.  She said the latest daily figure was the largest recorded in a single day - although more testing was now being carried out than in earlier stages of the pandemic.  The first minister said: "We always knew cases were likely to rise as restrictions eased, so to some extent what we are seeing now is not entirely unexpected. That said, the scale of the increase is still a cause of real concern."  Ms Sturgeon said it was a "fragile and pivotal" moment, adding: "If this surge continues and accelerates and we start to see evidence of substantial increase in serious illness, we cannot completely rule out having to reimpose some restrictions. We hope not to do that."  Ms Sturgeon said people could take steps such as getting vaccinated, sticking to the rules on face coverings, and being mindful of physical distancing, unnecessary contacts and ventilation.  The first minister said vaccination was "making a big difference" and that many of the new cases were in younger people, who were "less likely" to have had both doses of vaccine.  She said that about half of all new cases were in people under the age of 25 with 34% of Tuesday's tally in the under 19s.  An additional 10 deaths linked to Covid were reported, taking the total under the daily measure to 8,080.   The test positivity rate was 14.5%, up from 12.4% the previous day.  A total of 4,085,552 people have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, and 3,587,145 have had their second.  Most of the Covid restrictions in Scotland were lifted when the country moved beyond the level zero rules on 9 August.  Physical distancing rules and the limits on gatherings were removed, and all venues were allowed to reopen.   There were also changes to rules on self-isolation - but face coverings still need to be worn in many public spaces, including schools.  Is the first minister preparing us for the return of restrictions? Well, not necessarily.  Her now trademark cautious tone was there. She described the state of the pandemic as "fragile" and spoke about "real concern" over rising cases.  But Nicola Sturgeon was also keen to stress the impact of the vaccination programme on the number of people becoming seriously ill with the virus.  That will be a key barometer for ministers when it comes to the next steps. Further increases in cases could lead to greater pressure on the NHS - and the government may then have to act.  The door hasn't been closed on the reintroduction of Covid measures.   But today's briefing could be described as a warning shot about what might come further down the tracks, rather than laying the groundwork of an inevitable move backwards.  Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: "Nicola Sturgeon's lingering threat to impose more constraints on people's lives is unjustifiable, given the success of Scotland and the UK's vaccine scheme.  The public want to move on but Nicola Sturgeon is unable or unwilling to give up the control she has had. Just a few weeks after most Covid rules have been dropped, she's talking of bringing them back. She seems determined to prolong restrictions, no matter the cost to jobs, our NHS or people's mental health."  He added: "This is a different phase of the pandemic, when NHS remobilisation and rebuilding Scotland's economy should be our top priorities."  Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the rising case numbers were "troubling".  He said: "I think it is very telling that was not met with the introduction of further restrictions.  It suggests we have moved to a different phase in Covid where we have accepted we have to live around it, and it will be a fact of life for the foreseeable future."

Oil Tycoon Sir Ian Wood Says Halting New Fields Would Be 'Crazy'
It would be "absolutely crazy" for the UK to stop drilling for new oil, the business leader has claimed.   Sir Ian Wood, who used to run a major oil supply company, believes it would be "detrimental, environmentally" to shut down the sector.  He says new fields are necessary to stop oil and gas being imported from countries with less strict regulations.  Environmentalists say drilling for new oil would be "disastrous for the climate".   The claims come amid opposition to the proposed Cambo oil field west of Shetland.  Sir Ian suggests any attempt to "shut down" the UK sector without a parallel drop in demand for oil would mean more emissions.  The sector has previously argued this would come from the increased transportation of oil to satisfy domestic demand.   But Sir Ian also claims the production process in most other countries is much more harmful than at home.    For that reason he believes continued drilling and production of domestic oil and gas is a greener option than cutting off supply.   In an interview with BBC Scotland, he said: "If we do that we will damage the environment.   If we don't have our own oil and gas we'll have to import it because we just don't have any other resources.  And if we import it we'll have more potent gas and we'll do more damage to the environment - it would be, frankly, absolutely crazy. It would be detrimental, environmentally."  Sir Ian Wood is one of the UK oil and gas industry's most respected leaders.  He ran the family-owned Wood Group - one of the world's most successful oil supply companies - until his retirement as chief executive in 2006.   He then wrote the report Maximising Economic Recovery, which advised ministers on how to extend the lifespan of the sector.  Green groups have mounted high-profile campaigns against the development of a new oil field west of Shetland.  Siccar Point Energy says it plans to recover 170m barrels of oil from phase one of its Cambo field project.  Its application for an oil field development licence is being considered by regulators.   Greenpeace has said it will mount a legal challenge if the government approves the development.   Mel Evans, from the pressure group, said Sir Ian's comments were "a load of rubbish".   "New oil would be disastrous for the climate," she continued. "Looking at our own oil production, the UK has an abysmal track record on operational emissions - we're decades behind Norway.  "And we already export 80% of oil produced in the UK, so claiming that new oil is needed for our own supply is misleading."  The industry body Oil and Gas UK has published a blueprint for how it intends to reduce the carbon impact of its production processes.  It plans to be net-zero by 2035 with most of its platforms powered by renewable energy.  In his interview, Sir Ian suggests there would be a significant impact to the economy of north east Scotland if oil and gas production ended earlier than planned.   He said: "Right now there's 71,000 jobs in oil and gas in Scotland. And if they went out there quickly then these jobs would go.   Not only that, we'd have a massive balance of payments issue as well.   It does not make sense from any point of view. You're better from the economic point of view, from the environment point of view, from the jobs point of view, to carry on the path we're on."

Club Completes Challenge to Bag All 282 Munros in A Single Day
An Edinburgh running club has bagged all Munros in a single day - becoming the first known group to achieve the feat.   About 120 members of Carnethy Hill Running Club took part in the challenge to reach the summit of all 282 Scottish mountains over 3,000ft.   It took them to the remotest corners of the country, including peninsulas and islands.  And they completed the task with just minutes to spare.  Some runners bagged 12 summits covering distances of up to 40 miles, while others made solo efforts after nightfall on routes which were boggy or had no paths.   The weather for many on the West Coast Munros was bad with heavy rain and poor visibility on 14 August, and many said they would have turned back if it were not for the challenge.   Some bagged Munros that would normally take two days to walk to as they are so remote, while others completed ridges that often take several days.  The team was made up of highly experienced record-breaking hill runners, such as Sasha Chepelin - who holds the record for the most Munro summits in a day - as well as others who were new to hill adventures.  The club, which is based in the Pentland Hills, completed the challenge in 16 hours and 48 minutes.  The first Munro, Beinn Dearg, north of Bruar, was bagged at 07:00 by 79-year-old and former Carnethy president, Keith Burns.  Declan Valter, was one of the solo runners who took on an extremely long and remote section of Munros.  He started at Kinlochhourn at 05:30 to cover the Knoydart and Loch Cuaich Munros.  He said: "Progress to Barrisdale was slow. The rivers and burns were in spate from the night before's rain, and the start of the path was chest high in wet bracken, soaking me through within about 10 minutes of starting.  At Barrisdale Bay, I was so wet I figured there was nothing to lose by wading across the river mouth, which was fortunately at low tide with the sea loch, and that saved a couple of kilometres trekking upstream to the footbridge at the bothy.  It was clagged in on the summit so I couldn't see very far in front of me."  Declan took an unusual route involving steep sections in a bid to fit in eight Munros.  His route was pathless, boggy and extremely difficult. He navigated with a compass and burned precious time constantly referring to his map.   He said: "I could only see a few metres in front of me and I was worried I would go off the line and into a wrong glen.  I wasn't expecting to have to scramble at sections as there isn't much written about these Munros due to their remoteness. Rock features kept appearing out of the mist."  By nightfall, Declan was still on the remote hillside.  He said: "It was getting a bit scary between the weather, the terrain and the distance.  I was also feeling a bit nauseous and my knees were taking a battering.  It was scary not being able to see over the edges."  His progress was being tracked by the club, and when a member noticed that he was not going to make his final Munro before midnight they scrambled another team.   Mick James and Jonathan Marks were in a bothy at Cluanie recovering from their separate Munro rounds of about 16 miles (26km) and 8,202ft (2,500m) of ascent when they were called to do the last Munro, Gairich.  Mick told BBC Scotland: "We drove to the foot and started running up in shorts and T-shirts, it was so boggy we would fall down holes and suddenly be submerged up to the waist in water.  You can break a leg like this but we had wanted to get to the top for the team."  They received the call at about 21:00 and reached the top in darkness at 23:48.  Mick said: "There was no time to celebrate though as we realised it was actually now very cold and we were shivering in our wet T-shirts as we waited for Declan."  They then received word that Declan was going to sleep on the top of a Munro until morning in a bivvy bag as he was too far away to reach a road - so they ran back down the mountain.  Ken Fordyce, who was at his house recording every time a runner reached a summit, said: "This day was without doubt the most thrilling hill-related event in my life and I barely left my kitchen table in 17 hours. My phone was pinging non-stop.  It was tremendous watching the hills get knocked off, although it was very difficult to keep up with them in the early to mid-afternoon.  A few people went off grid for a while but thankfully re-emerged to confirm another set of hills to turn blue on the Walk Highlands map.  It was very hard to work out if it was going to be possible or not. I personally couldn't see how the Cuillin ridge guys were going to get that done, but they assured me they would, and they did, comfortably."  Mark Hartree, president of Carnethy Running Club, said it was their "audacious" approach and commitment that saw them succeed.  He said: "My hat is doffed to everyone who participated. It was courageous. We did it.  We pulled together as a club a quite audacious plan, we committed in short time and executed it safely from bagging the first top to ticking the last top."  UK charity Water Aid has tried several times to complete the challenge without success, although it came close in 2007.  And in 1988, 2,000 people took part in the Boots Across Scotland challenge, but fell two summits short of completing the task.

Minister's Wife Goes Ahead with Legal Action Over Nursery 'Discrimination'
Court action is to be taken against a nursery over claims it discriminated against the wife and daughter of Scotland's health secretary.   Humza Yousaf and his wife Nadia El-Nakla said Little Scholars in Broughty Ferry said it had no availability after applying for two-year-old Amal.  They said applications submitted by friends and family for "white Scottish-sounding names" were accepted.  The nursery denies the claim, saying it welcomes children from all backgrounds.  Mr Yousaf and Ms El-Nakla previously reported the nursery to the Care Inspectorate but also instructed a solicitor to initiate legal proceedings unless Little Scholars apologised and made a donation to an anti-racism charity within two weeks.  That deadline has now passed with the nursery continuing to deny the allegation - and Ms El-Nakla is proceeding with the action at Dundee Sheriff Court.  A statement from their solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said: "On Monday August 9 2021, a claim was intimated on the Little Scholars Day Nursery, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, for a breach of the Equality Act 2010, in respect of alleged discrimination suffered by Nadia El-Nakla and her daughter, Amal Yousaf.  We received a response from those acting for the nursery on Monday August 23 2021.  This response refutes that there has been any discriminatory behaviour, but fails to provide a reasoned explanation as to why there were repeated refusals to accommodate children with Muslim/minority ethnic names, whilst at the same time children with white/Scottish names were offered nursery places.  This is all despite the fact that other bodies including the Care Inspectorate and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have expressed an interest in this case.  Under the circumstances, Nadia El-Nakla has no option but to proceed with court action against the nursery."  Little Scholars said previously that it had regularly welcomed children and staff from a range of backgrounds "including two Muslim families currently" and that its owners were themselves of Asian heritage.  A spokesman for the nursery said: "A full and detailed response to the allegations made by Humza Yousaf and Nadia El-Nakla has now been provided to his legal representatives. We abhor discrimination in all its forms and it is not and would not be tolerated at the nursery.  We continue to refute the claims made by Mr Yousaf and Ms El-Nakla in the strongest possible terms and take pride in our position as an inclusive nursery that is open and welcoming to all."

John McAleese: The SAS Soldier Who Was the Man Behind the Mask
In 1980, millions of people watched on live television as an SAS soldier, armed with explosives and a sub-machine gun, blasted his way into the Iranian embassy in London.  The man in black was Sergeant John McAleese - who led the frontal assault that brought a dramatic end to the hostage crisis that had been gripping the nation for six days.  It would be years until McAleese - with his trademark handlebar moustache - would be revealed to the public as the steely Scottish soldier behind the gas mask.  Now a memorial is being unveiled on the 10th anniversary of his death, in his home village of Laurieston, near Falkirk.  The bronze statue is a tribute to McAleese and Operation Nimrod - the codename for the daring raid on the embassy by the British Army's special forces unit.  "The memorial is a bust of John, but it is not just about him," says Tommy Davidson of the Ancre Somme Association Scotland - the charity behind the project.  "It's to remember him and the contribution of everyone who was a part of Operation Nimrod.  John is a national hero for Scotland, so we want to create a fitting memorial for him and everyone involved."  McAleese was one of about 30 SAS soldiers who took part in the assault on 5 May 1980.  It came six days after Iranian gunmen walked into the embassy at Princes Gate, South Kensington, taking 26 people hostage.  Most of them were embassy staff, but among the captives were policeman PC Trevor Lock, two BBC journalists and tourists who were collecting visas.  Days of meticulous planning followed as the elite troops prepared for their rescue.  The SAS took up positions in neighbouring buildings. Aircraft were asked to fly low over the embassy to cover the noise of drilling as they inserted listening devices into the walls.  The government finally ordered the raid when the gunmen shot Iranian press attaché Abbas Lavasani and dumped his body outside the building.  Two SAS teams launched a simultaneous assault.  The red team abseiled down the back wall of the embassy. McAleese and the blue team crossed the tall stone pillars out front to reach the first floor balcony.  Millions watched what happened next as the BBC interrupted the evening schedules for a live news broadcast.  Viewers saw the shadowy masked soldiers move quickly across the embassy's white facade.  Then there was an explosion. McAleese had set off a charge to blow out the front window. A giant cloud of smoke obscured the entire building.  The SAS were in. Gunshots and screams could be heard from inside. It was all over in just 17 minutes.  The Iranians killed one hostage and wounded two during the raid - the rest were freed safely by the special forces troops.  Five of the six gunmen were killed. The survivor was jailed for 28 years.  In an interview years after the operation, McAleese said: "Our task was to find the hostages, rescue them, and deal with the terrorists as we see fit."  Operation Nimrod was hailed as a great success - bringing immediate global fame to the SAS - which had kept a low profile since its beginnings in World War 2.  Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited the SAS barracks in Kensington to congratulate the men.  McAleese's SAS career continued until 1992, serving in the Falklands and Northern Ireland, and as a bodyguard for three British prime ministers.  He later worked as a security consultant in Iraq and Afghanistan, before finding television fame in the early 2000s through the BBC series SAS: Are you tough enough?  McAleese was struck by personal tragedy in 2009. His 29-year-old son Sgt Paul McAleese was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Helmand, Afghanistan.  He was devastated by the loss. He moved to Thessaloniki in Greece, where he died of a heart attack on 26 August 2011, aged 62.  McAleese, who married twice, was survived by another son and two daughters. Many of his relatives still live in the Lauriston area, including his twin brother Billy.  They have given their full support to the ASA Scotland campaign - which raised £30,000 for the memorial.  The bronze bust of McAleese, created by Scottish sculptor Helen Runciman, will be installed on a stone plinth alongside Laurieston's existing war memorial.  The village site has been regenerated with new benches and flagpoles also funded by the campaign.  "John's family are overwhelmed that this has been done," says ASA Scotland's Tommy Davidson.  "We first approached them two years ago with the idea for a memorial in the place where he grew up.  It's been difficult fundraising during Covid. We've had to do it all online instead of being able to holding real-life events.  It should have been unveiled last year to mark 40 years since Operation Nimrod, but it's fitting we can do it now to mark the 10th anniversary of John's death."  ASA Scotland financed the project through a series of online efforts, including the sale of miniature McAleese busts, limited edition coins, lapel badges, books and signed photos.  The charity was founded five years ago as an armed forces education group, with former SAS soldier Colin MacLachlan serving as patron.  The McAleese memorial will be unveiled at a ceremony in Laurieston later by Falkirk Lord Provost, William Buchanan, and Lord Lieutenant Alan Simpson.

Post Office Closures: When Will Tayside and Fife Branches Shut and What Happens Next?
Post Office branches in nine Tayside and Fife communities will close over the next 10 weeks, we can reveal.  The move comes two months after Spar announced it was axing counter services at three of its stores in Tayside and six in Fife.  East Wemyss Post Office will be one of the first to close.  The company said closing the loss-making services would help ensure the shops continued to operate.  Counters at Menzieshill in Dundee and Luncarty in Perthshire shut earlier this month.  And the Post Office has just announced closure dates for the remaining seven counters in Stanley, Ladybank, Balmullo, Newport, St Andrews Tom Morris Drive, Thornton and East Wemyss.The first will shut next week and all will be gone by November 9.  The Post Office closures have been described as a significant blow for the affected communities.  Thousands of people have signed a petition set up by Newport woman Betty Martin in protest.  And 1,300 others signed an online petition calling for the retention of all four north east Fife branches.  Post Office bosses say they want to restore services as soon as possible.  And they are investigating several options while urging potential retail partners to apply to run the counters.  In the meantime, short-term arrangements will be put in place in north east Fife where there are no alternative services nearby.  However, others elsewhere face a journey of up to four miles to reach their nearest branch.  In north Fife, arrangements will include additional mobile and outreach services.  This could mean accessing Post Office counters in public buildings, including libraries, until permanent bases are found.  The postmaster in Dairsie has agreed to take on the extra service for now, taking in Ladybank, Balmullo, Newport and St Andrews.  Ladybank library has already been earmarked as one location from October 18.   But the Post Office is still working with Fife Council in a bid to identify suitable buildings elsewhere.  Additional mobile Post Office stops are also being considered.  However, vehicle breakdowns in other areas of Fife have prompted concerns from North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie.  “The Post Office needs to do better than this,” he said.  “A mobile service isn’t mobile if it constantly breaks down.”  The Liberal Democrat MSP welcomed the interim solution but said permanent bases must be found.  “We need the Post Office to pull out all the stops to get permanent full-time post office services to all of the communities that are losing out.  St Andrews needs a full-time replacement for Tom Morris Drive.  It looks like Dairsie Post Office will be very busy supporting Balmullo, St Andrews, Ladybank and Newport.  They are very good and I wish them well but we will need full-time services located locally for these places.”  Meanwhile, SNP MSP John Swinney is still worried about the impact of Post Office closures on elderly people in his Perthshire constituency.  The nearest branches to Stanley are in Murthly or Bankfoot, both of which are almost four miles away.  The loss of the Post Office will be a significant blow to the residents of Stanley, and may make life particularly difficult for elderly residents or those who have difficulty travelling to the nearest branch,” Mr Swinney said.  “It is my hope that a long-term solution can be reached that will restore these services and I would encourage any interested parties to make contact with the Post Office to discuss this further.”  The Post Office says it is still committed to finding long-term solutions for all affected customers.  A spokesperson said: “With the assistance of a nearby Postmaster, we will be adding additional mobile Post Office stops for some communities or establishing outreach services for others to help provide access to services.  We are finalising plans for many locations and these will be announced as arrangements are confirmed.”

Golden Eagle Numbers Surge in Southern Scotland
A project to boost golden eagle numbers in southern Scotland has seen eight more chicks successfully moved to the area from the Highlands.  It brings the total number relocated since the scheme started to 12 - nearly doubling the local population.  The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project brought in the first young birds to the Moffat Hills in 2018.  Project manager Cat Barlow said the latest arrivals were a big boost after delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.  "Covid-19 affected so many of our plans last year, so it is absolutely amazing now to see these eight youngsters settling into the south and soaring majestically above the Moffat Hills," she said.  The first chicks arrived in August 2018 as part of the £1.3m scheme to increase numbers of the bird in the south of Scotland.  It was estimated at the time that there were fewer than five breeding pairs in the region.  The project suffered a setback in 2019 when one bird attacked and killed another. and plans to bring in more chicks had to be put on hold last year.  The scheme has now revealed it recently brought eight more young birds to the area.  WildLand Ltd donated one of the project's newest arrivals from its landholding within the Cairngorms Connect partnership area.  Director of conservation Thomas MacDonell said it was "absolutely delighted" to donate a chick to the "important work".  "The project took great care in selecting the chick for translocation and making sure she was fit for her journey south," he said.  "We, along with many others, will follow her onward journey with great interest.  We hope she settles quickly into her new home."  NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska said the project was a "vital part" of efforts to reverse biodiversity loss and combat the climate emergency.  "With wildlife declining across the globe, it is fantastic to hear that the project has translocated so many eagle chicks this year," she said.  "Golden eagles are an exciting part of Scotland's wildlife, and we're passionate about returning them to places where they used to thrive."  The news comes ahead of the UK's first Golden Eagle Festival in Moffat.  It runs from 19 to 26 September in the Dumfries and Galloway town.

Scotland Records Huge Increase in Daily Covid Cases
Scotland has recorded a record number of daily Covid cases as the number surged above 6,000 for the first time.  A total of 6,835 new cases were reported on Friday - more than 1,800 above the previous highest figure.  This is the third time this week a new record has been set.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the sharp rise was a "cause for concern" - but the Scottish government was not currently considering the introduction of a circuit breaker lockdown.  However, she stressed the importance of everyone "playing their part" in halting the spread of the virus.  Ms Sturgeon had previously said the country was at a "fragile and pivotal moment" in the pandemic.  She said on Friday that she could not rule anything out, but that no-one wanted to "go backwards" to even limited restrictions.  Ms Sturgeon urged people to get vaccinated, test themselves regularly and "tighten up again" on following the current guidelines.  She encouraged people to meet outdoors, avoid crowds, keep a safe distance from others and minimise physical contact.  And she added: "I hope we can get through this with all of us behaving sensibly and appropriately."  The daily test positivity rate reported on Friday was 14.2%, up from 11.5% the previous day.  A record number of tests had been carried out on Thursday - but Ms Sturgeon said that did not entirely explain the increase in case numbers, which have doubled over the last seven days.  "It's important to point out that case numbers are rising across the UK just now, but after a period of slower increases in Scotland the rise here is particularly sharp at the moment," she said.  "That is possibly, at least in part, a reflection of the fact that our schools return earlier, with the increased interactions that come with that.  "And although vaccination has significantly weakened the link between a high volume of new cases and serious harm to health, it hasn't completely broken that link."  The number of people in hospital with Covid has risen from 312 to 479 over the last week.  There have been four further deaths, and no change in the number of patients in intensive care, which stands at 47.  We've seen record high figures this week, but the vaccination programme has disrupted the link between catching Covid and ending up in hospital.  But if case numbers get too high, even a small proportion of people becoming seriously ill can pose a challenge for the NHS.  So it's the number of people becoming seriously ill that will now define the path we take. And, crucially, whether restrictions have to come back.  The first minister is ruling out the harshest of restrictions - a circuit-breaker lockdown. She's actually hopeful that we can get through this without any additional measures.  We're being asked to take voluntary action: meet outdoors, avoid crowds and limit physical contact.  But that leaves the public in a slightly strange position - being asked to not take full advantage of the freedoms we were granted just a few weeks ago.  Voluntary action now can help avoid more rules in the near future. That's Nicola Sturgeon's message for the weekend.  National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch was asked on BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime programme about the statistical modelling for case numbers.  He said that if the rate doubled again in another seven days, that would mean nearly 14,000 cases - unless we were close to a "peak" which was not currently visible.  When the previous record total of new cases - 5,021 - was reported on Wednesday, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the rise was partly being fuelled by the return of schools.  Scottish schools returned from the summer holidays in mid-August, several weeks earlier than in the rest of the UK.  The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association is calling for all secondary school pupils to be vaccinated.  Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser warned that "heightening the threat of restrictions when our vaccine system has been so successful" would jeopardise the country's recovery from the pandemic.  He added: "The Scottish people cannot be kept in this holding pattern of removing and introducing Covid restrictions, particularly when there is no threat of a new variant at this time.  The recovery of our NHS and Scotland's economy is at stake. The SNP must give that more consideration now that so many people have been vaccinated." Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar voiced concerns about the case rate and increase in hospitalisations, and said the way we "ramp up" the rollout of the vaccine was crucial.  He suggested door-to-door vaccination in areas with a low uptake, along with mobile units at university campuses and high schools.

Scottish Court Dismisses Clara Ponsati Extradition Case
A Scottish judge has dismissed extradition proceedings against former Catalan government minister Clara Ponsati.  Sheriff Nigel Ross said it was a "matter for the Spanish authorities" since the academic indicated she would not move back to Scotland from Belgium.  Prof Ponsati faces charges in Spain for her involvement in the unsanctioned Catalonia independence referendum.  Sheriff Ross said: "You can't extradite someone who is not here." At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, the sheriff ruled that Scottish courts had "no jurisdiction" over the extradition of the former University of St Andrews academic.  He said that extradition in this case was "impractical" as he ended the legal action.  The discharge was not opposed by the Crown's lawyers, although they criticised a "clear breach of the position of trust that (Ms Ponsati) was in" over her apparent failure to tell the court she was resigning her post at St Andrews and moving to Belgium.  Prosecutor John Scott QC said it was "highly unsatisfactory" for Ms Ponsati not to return to Edinburgh for a legal hearing.  He told Edinburgh Sheriff Court that she had broken the bail conditions which allowed her to remain at liberty.  A European arrest warrant was issued for the professor over her role in the 2017 push for independence in Catalonia. She was wanted in Spain on a charge of sedition - the illegal act of inciting people to resist or rebel against a government.  That warrant was withdrawn but a new one was issued in November 2019.  Shortly afterwards, she was bailed at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after handing herself in to police. She was allowed to keep her passport.  She became an MEP in 2020, after five seats in the European Parliament were given to Spain when the UK left the EU.  This afforded Ms Ponsati, former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and former Catalan health minister Toni Comin, who also became MEPs, protection as members of the EU assembly.  However, in March MEPs voted to lift that immunity.  Ms Ponsati could be sentenced to 15 years behind bars if convicted, with nine other Catalan officials given jail sentences of between nine and 13 years for the same offence in autumn 2019.   In a statement after Thursday's hearing in Edinburgh, Ms Ponsati's solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said: "This morning we appeared at court on Clara's behalf, the court had already anticipated that Clara Ponsati was no longer in Scotland's jurisdiction and it was agreed that she should be discharged as a requested person and these court proceedings for her extradition have finally been brought to an end.  Clara wishes to thank the many people in Scotland, as well as those across Europe, who have given her so much love, support and solidarity through difficult times and hopes that one day she can return from political exile to her beloved Catalonia."   Mr Anwar said a full case on the MEP's extradition to Spain remains to be heard at the European Court of Justice.

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