Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 621

Issue # 621                                     Week ending Saturday 25th September 2021
Although Process Servers Do Great Work, They Are Not Valued But Are All Simply Marvellous by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Hard-working souls are out there every day trying to make sure the commands of the courts are carried out. Underpaid, unless they land a big fish, and unloved, they roam the land seeking justice for the poor against the powerful.

Once upon a time, I was in a team serving legal documents on people who tried to ignore us. We loved the thrill of hand-delivering a subpoena into someone’s sweaty shaker. Done. The law of the land reigns supreme.

Scotland’s legal system in some ways is more straightforward and has few process servers. We have sheriff officers for tough stuff. On my London patch, no Royals made it onto my target list and Prince Andrew was away in the Falklands. Lesser celebs, some sadly no longer with us, got handed unexpected bundles.

One very alive recipient was Richard Ingrams, former editor of Private Eye. Always having the pants sued off him, he was. When I rattled his door in Middlesex one evening, a family member answered. Dad wasn’t home yet. No thanks, I won’t come in. However, I was shushed in, had the sofa cushions fluffed, the telly and kettle on and I was asked, nay ordered, to sit.

Richard’s daughter was like a younger Barbara Woodhouse, the posh-but-strident TV dog-trainer of the time, who always commanded hounds to sit-t. But I feared Mr I would be raging. Yet he wasn’t at all. He hoped his daughter had looked after me, he accepted the summons graciously and enquired if, being Scottish, I would take a small English-size dram.

No ta. I needed to get back to the flat I shared with two other agents. I was invited in? He didn’t clobber me? A tiny drinky-poo may have been had then. I don’t recall, obviously.

My career highlight, however, was the great tenor, Luciano Pavarotti. Pursuing him for dues on a racehorse, the instructing solicitor vouched it’d be easy. Mr P was relaxing in The Savoy. As easy as meeting him in the foyer and saying: “This is for you”, said the brief. It’s never that easy. For days I watched that foyer, phoned his room and skulked in a nearby alleyway on The Strand.

When he answered, Luci let rip in impenetrable Italian. It sounded like the Gaelic swearing outside after a Free Church minister has ranted on for too long. His security people appeared one time and invited me to depart quickly, or words to that effect. Andarsene yourself, you lot. A café owner later told me that meant go away. Their pronunciation of short English words was simply marvellous, I thought, becoming more English as I galloped.

I then saw Pavarotti was performing that same night at a gala concert in the Royal Albert Hall in front of the Queen Mother. Aw bless. I couldn’t fork out 40 quid to hear him belt out Nessun Dorma but I had a plan. After the performance, I queued up with the autograph hunters round the side of the hall. Everyone of them gushed that he was “simply marvellous.” Oh, those English.

It took more than an hour to get to the table where Mr P was sitting with his similarly-burly assistants and his Sheaffer pen poised to sign my autograph book. When the second came, I instead unfurled my scroll of legalistic jargon, tapped him across his sizeable chest with it, and announced: “Signore Luciano Pavarotti, you are herby served.” He stuttered in perfect English: “I don’t know any ...”

Instantly, a couple of Giant Gentlemen of Verona bundled me out the side door and catapulted me onto my culo, which I learned later is Italian for bottom. To escape the growling Genoans, I ran to mingle with a throng at barriers around the hall entrance.

I went down on my hands and knees and pushed past knobbly ankles to the barrier. Coming up, I found the Queen Mother shaking hands with people on my right and just about to arrive at my position. I rubbed my gritty hands on the backside of my best Sunday suit.

Her Majesty came round and looked me straight in the eye, and asked: “And did you enjoy the concert?” What could I say? I had just ruined his evening for the star of the show. I heard no arias but just got chucked out onto mine. Anticipating the promised £200 bonus for successful service, I smiled broadly and said: “Ah yes, ma’am. It was simply marvellous.”

Community in Race to Buy Remotest Mainland Pub
A community hoping to take over Britain's remotest mainland pub could know this week if it has the finances to make a bid for it.  The Old Forge in Inverie is on the Knoydart Peninsula in Lochaber.  The only way of reaching the village - and its pub - is by walking 18 miles (29km) or making a seven-mile (11km) sea crossing.  Since it went up for sale earlier this year, a community group has been working to raise the funds to buy it.  The Old Forge is on sale for offers over £425,000. Private buyers are also potentially interested in the property.  The pub's Belgian owner Jean-Pierre Robinet told locals in January he was selling up after running the business for 10 years.  Since January, the small community which has a population of just over 100 people, has held a consultation on a community buyout. Seventy residents took part, with almost all backing the idea.  The Old Forge Community Society was set up, and earlier this month it launched a community share offer. The rules mean 75% of the shares must be owned by locals, with a limited number owned by people living outside the area.  In just days, the shares offer was climbing towards its target of £240,000.  This week, the society hopes to learn if its application to the Scottish Land Fund for support has been successful.  The Scottish government-funded land fund provides grants of up to £1m to support community and volunteer group-run projects.  In 2019, the Black Bull in Gartmore, near Stirling, was purchased by the community with financial support from the Scottish Land Fund.   The Old Forge Community Society has sought an undisclosed sum of money from the land fund to help cover renovation and other costs.  Society secretary Stephanie Harris said the community had always known there was a risk of losing out to a private buyer, but added that the determination of the community could not be underestimated.   Ms Harris told BBC Scotland: "I have no doubt we will be able to raise the finance that we need. Time is the problem, and we are going as fast as we can."  Isla Miller, who runs a pottery and a tea room with her sister in Inverie, is among those hoping to buy a share.   She said the pub was an important gathering place for the community, and welcomed the society's plan to keep the premises open all year round and not close it temporarily over winter as has happened previously.  She said the pub was a community hub, describing how local mothers returning home by ferry to the peninsula from hospital would often stop at The Old Forge with their newborn babies, adding: "It is where you would meet new additions to Knoydart, and then everyone would head off."  Mr Robinet said he fell in love with Knoydart after visiting 25 years ago, and was later encouraged to buy the pub by his late father.   While he said he had not done much to change to the look of The Old Forge, Mr Robinet said he had made food a priority of the business and used locally caught seafood and Scottish beef in its meals.   He said he made a commitment to run the premises for 10 years and after that spell "as Britain's remotest mainland publican" it was now the right time to move on.   Mr Robinet said: "My father died last year and my mother, who is very brave, is suffering being by herself and having severe illness."   He said it was time for "a different phase of life" and to help his sister look after their mother.   Mr Robinet said the community bid for The Old Forge was a "great idea".    Knoydart's coast and mountains have been described as mainland Britain's last wilderness.    The easiest route to Inverie is by boat from Mallaig. People who chose to walk from Kinlochhourn and Glenfinnan usually break the trip down to a journey of two to three days and are advised to contact the local ranger service for advice on the routes.  In the middle of the 19th Century, the land on Knoydart was cleared of crofters and turned over to sheep and deer. In 1948, a group of crofters known as the Seven Men of Knoydart launched a "land raid" in a bid to seize back the land and live independently from the landlord system. They were unsuccessful, as the landowner obtained a court order to remove them.   However, more than 20 years ago, the community achieved what the seven had set out to do when the Knoydart Foundation purchased 17,200 acres (6,960 ha) of estate land on the peninsula for £750,000.

Covid in Scotland: Government 'Working Urgently' to Free Up NHS Beds
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf says he is "working urgently" to free up bed space in Scotland's NHS.  The Scottish government has enlisted the help of the Army, fire service, British Red Cross and taxi firms to ease pressure on the ambulance service.  Mr Yousaf told BBC Scotland that efforts are also under way to move more people into social care.  It came as one doctor warned the high rate of bed occupancy in Scotland's hospitals was a major problem.  Dr Daniel Beckett, of the Society for Acute Medicine, said many patients could not leave hospital as they do not have a package of care in place.  Soldiers will be drafted in to drive ambulances from this weekend following reports that some patients have faced very long waits for emergency help to arrive.   They include a pensioner who died in Glasgow after having to wait 40 hours for an ambulance, and an 86-year-old woman who had to lie on her kitchen for eight hours after falling and breaking her hip.  In some cases the problem is caused by ambulances queuing for hours before being are able to hand over their patients to accident and emergency, due to the volume of patients in the hospital.  The health secretary told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland he was aware a "whole systems approach" was required address the current problems.  He said: "I can give absolute assurance that we are working urgently, and hopefully I can give some detail of this very imminently, in terms of a winter plan to free up beds back into social care.  We know that there's about 1,500 people who are delayed discharge - they're clinically safe to discharge from hospital - but a portion of them don't have a care package in their local communities and we're working really hard to quickly try to resolve that to free up bed space."  Mr Yousaf described the situation as "the biggest crisis that anybody has ever faced in our lifetime and certainly in the NHS' existence".   He refused to rule out setting up field hospitals to cope with patient numbers but stressed they would present challenges.   "The difficulty is you could easily set up beds - we have beds and equipment to do that - what we don't have is the workforce," the health secretary added.   "And the Army don't have a huge pool of doctors that are just sitting there not doing anything. In fact the full-time doctors are very much based in the NHS and then if they have to go to deployment in armed service they get permission from the NHS to go and join army personnel overseas."   Mr Yousaf added: "I definitely wouldn't rule it out entirely but we have to look at whether or not we would end up pulling people out of acute sites at the moment to staff those beds."   Dr Daniel Beckett, an acute care consultant, said the main challenge is not Covid patients, who are generally younger and unvaccinated, but those suffering from conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  "The numbers of patients that are coming through the front door and being admitted into acute medical units are high, certainly high even for winter, and much higher than we would expect at this time of year," Dr Becker said.  "And those patients are sicker and more complex than normal and that's as a result of chronic disease management being different over the past 18 months."  He told the programme patients are spending longer in hospital as a result and when they are medically fit for discharge, staff are struggling to access packages of care.  Dr Beckett said: "If we looked at how we fund social care and we were able to move patients into social care and meet their social care needs, when they require them, then patients could move out of hospitals.   The hospitals would be less crowded, acute medical units would be less crowded, emergency departments would be less crowded, ambulances wouldn't necessarily have the long delays to unloading that they have at the moment and that, for me, is a really important part of the conversation."  Meanwhile Brigadier Ben Wrench, commander of Joint Military Command Scotland, said 225 soldiers would assist the NHS in Scotland.   Of them, 114 will work as drivers and there will be 111 staff for mobile testing.  Brig Wrench said soldiers would be deployed to centres in the north, east and west of the country.   He said: "You will see them driving ambulance vehicles, but not the emergency task vehicles, and we will not be undertaking any clinical duties."  Brig Wrench said the deployment will last "at least a couple of months" but confirmed it will be kept under review and added: "It is not a forever commitment".

Ineos Confirms £1bn Green Investment in Grangemouth
Global chemicals firm Ineos has announced it will invest £1bn in cutting greenhouse emissions at its petrochemical plant in Grangemouth.  The plan is to power the plant with hydrogen made from natural gas, while capturing carbon dioxide.   The CO2 could then be pumped via a pipeline to St Fergus in Aberdeenshire and stored beneath the North Sea.  The industrial site at Grangemouth is currently one of Scotland's biggest polluters.  The announcement is the next phase of the company's road map to deliver emissions savings of more than 60% across the site by 2030, as Scotland works towards becoming net zero by 2045.   Ineos says it has already achieved a 37% reduction in net CO2 emissions since acquiring the site in 2005.   The £1bn investment is in addition to more than £500m spent on projects currently being implemented at Grangemouth.  One of those is a new energy plant due to be completed in late 2023 which will supply energy to all site operations and drive down emissions by at least 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.  The Grangemouth refinery is a joint venture formed between Ineos and PetroChina in 2011.   As Scotland's only crude oil refinery, Petroineos is the primary supplier of aviation fuel for Scotland's main airports and the major supplier of petrol and diesel across Scotland's central belt, as well as in Northern Ireland and Northern England.   Carbon capture and storage has been in development in Scotland for some considerable time.  After the failed plan to attach it to Peterhead power station, the "acorn project" was born. It's been examining other uses to which the technology can be put.   Using St Fergus in north east Scotland as a base, they have been looking around for partners.   As one of Scotland's most polluting sites, Grangemouth has seemed one of the most obvious.   The National Grid is already looking at using existing pipelines which transport gas from St Fergus to the industrial heartlands of central Scotland and putting them into reverse.  All it has needed is money and today's announcement provides just that.  The announcement comes just over a month before world leaders arrive in Scotland for the COP26 climate change summit.   Some environmental groups are sceptical about carbon capture as part of a strategy for tackling the global climate emergency.   Friends of the Earth Scotland campaigner Alex Lee described it as "just another distraction tactic", adding there was an "urgent need" to end fossil fuel production, scale-up renewable energy and invest in green jobs.    "Hydrogen technology enthusiasts fail to mention that it is wildly expensive, inefficient and is not zero carbon," they added.  Ineos, however, says its road map highlights its commitment to supporting the goals of the Paris Accord and helping the Scottish government in its drive for a "just transition" to a net zero economy.   The Scottish government's net zero secretary, Michael Matheson, welcomed the investment.  "This will not only drive forward innovation and diversification to tackle emissions at Grangemouth, but will also support the decarbonisation of other sectors, sites and regions across Scotland," he said.  The UK Westminster government has promised support for four carbon capture and storage projects by the end of the decade, and Mr Matheson said he hoped the Ineos investment would secure some of this funding.  "Grangemouth, and Ineos itself, already holds a wealth of experience in engineering solutions and hydrogen production, and this new investment holds great potential for the future of Grangemouth, as well as the vital jobs that are located there, as part of our just transition to net zero," he said.  Stuart Collings, the CEO of Ineos O&P UK added: "Hydrogen will play a very important role in the decarbonisation of our manufacturing plants. Building the infrastructure for large scale utilisation of hydrogen creates a foundation to achieve net zero by 2045 and enables wider use of hydrogen by Ineos and others in and around Grangemouth."  Five Ineos sites at Grangemouth released around 3.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2019, making it the largest climate polluter in the country, according to figures from the Scottish Environment and Protection Agency (Sepa).  The power company SSE ranked as second-worst, with its gas power station at Peterhead emitting around 1.6 million tonnes that year.    Terry A'Hearn, chief executive of Sepa, said: "As Scotland's environmental watchdog, Sepa has an active and ongoing programme of engagement with Ineos.  We remain focused on both addressing environmental compliance and in supporting and welcoming transformational innovation and investment wherever it occurs to help Scotland to continue its journey towards net zero."

NHS Scotland's 'Biggest Crisis'
Scotland's Health Secretary Humza Yousaf says the NHS is facing the "biggest crisis" of its existence.  There's a shortage of beds, the demand for ambulances is soaring and waits in accident and emergency departments are getting longer.   On top of that, Covid-19 admissions have been rising fast as the number of infections in Scotland spiralled at the end of the summer.    'Bed blocking' is an increasing problem   The efficient operation of the NHS is highly dependent on the ability to move patients out of hospitals once they've been treated.   If a treated patient remains in hospital then it can prevent another being admitted - a phenomenon known as "bed blocking".  Delayed discharges dropped at the start of the pandemic as the NHS suspended much of its routine services to focus on Covid-19 patients.  The figure began to rise again last summer before reaching a plateau this winter.  However, the number of delayed discharges began to rise sharply in the three months up to July - the most recent month there are figures for - and this trend is likely to have continued over the summer.  There are a number of reasons why treated patients might be delayed in hospital.  In July there were 42,364 "delayed bed days", with two-thirds being for "health and social care reasons".   Earlier this week Prof Michael Griffin, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said there were real problems getting patients out of hospitals and into social care because of a "care home workforce crisis"   It's not just care homes that have workforce issues.   The NHS was also hit by Covid-related absences as the number of cases spiralled across Scotland last month.    Recent changes to self-isolation rules have kept absences lower than the peak of the outbreaks in spring 2020 and this winter, but they still doubled between mid-August and mid-September.   Last week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the ambulance service was "operating at its highest level of escalation".  The Scottish government has now enlisted the help of the Army, fire service, British Red Cross and taxi firms to ease the pressure.   It follows reports that some patients have faced very long waits for emergency help to arrive.   Public Health Scotland publishes monthly figures on Scottish Ambulance Service incidents, comparing them with pre-pandemic levels.  For much of the year, ambulance incidents were down on 2018-2019, but began rising in the summer and are now higher than the pre-pandemic average.  Emergency department patients are waiting longer   Accident and emergency departments are often thought of being a "barometer" for the rest of the NHS, acting as the hospital's front door for many patients.  One way to measure emergency department performance is waiting times - and it's obvious from these figures that all is not well.   There's a big drop in waiting times when the pandemic first hit in March 2020, as lockdown was introduced and emergency departments were suddenly much less busy.  But the number of patients waiting more than four hours in A&E began rising sharply in April.   The figure is now higher than it has ever been in the last six years and shows no sign yet that it is starting to go down.   There is strong evidence that vaccination has weakened the link between Covid infection and serious illness.   Fewer people need hospital treatment, and those that do spend shorter periods in hospital.  But the link has not been eliminated and people are still being admitted.  The number of infections rose rapidly at the end of August and into September, and that rise was reflected in hospital admissions.  Average admissions are not at the same level we saw in January this year - but they're not far off the peak in April 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic.   However, the most recent figures show the first indication that daily admissions may have peaked and could now be starting to fall.

£280,000 of Alcohol Stolen in Ayrshire Factory Raid
Thousands of bottles of alcohol worth £280,000 have been stolen in a raid at a factory in Ayrshire.  A number of pallets all loaded with the Blue WKD drink were taken from Caledonian Bottlers in Cumnock.   Police said three HGV lorries were used in the theft in the early hours of Monday.   One of the vehicles was later found on fire on the A76 between Mennock and Enterkinfoot, Dumfriesshire, at 23:45 on Monday.  Police Scotland has appealed for anyone who may have seen a convoy of three lorries near the business park to come forward.   Det Con Hugh Dempster of Kilmarnock Police added: "I'd also ask any drivers who were travelling towards Mennock late on Monday evening to check their dashcam footage, as they may have captured one or more of the stolen vehicles.  Anyone who is offered 'Blue WKD' alcohol at a much discounted price is asked to contact police immediately as this may be the stolen alcohol."

Aluminium Recycling Plant Plans Approved
Highland councillors have approved plans for an aluminium recycling plant next to the Lochaber Smelter near Fort William.  Alvance Aluminium will use the recycled materials, along with metal from the smelter, in a new casting factory.   Each year it aims to produce up to 100,000 tonnes of long round shapes called billets, which are used in the construction industry.  The recycling and casting plants are proposed on a site which was previously earmarked for an alloy wheel factory.   However, those plans were shelved last year after GFG Alliance, owners of the Lochaber Smelter, said there had been a "significant decline" in car manufacturing.

Construction Work Starts on New Type 31 Warships
Work has officially started on a £1.25bn project to build five new warships for the Royal Navy.  UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace cut the first steel for the first Type 31 frigate - HMS Venturer - due to be built by Babcock at Rosyth in Fife.    The fleet's construction will support about 1,250 highly skilled jobs at Babcock and lead to an additional 150 apprenticeships.  It is also expected to support a further 1,250 UK supply chain roles.  At £250m per vessel, the Type 31 is a smaller, cheaper frigate than the Type 26 warships currently being built at the Upper Clyde shipyards.  The Type 31 will undertake a variety of operational roles, including interception and disruption of illegal activity at sea, intelligence gathering and defence engagement.  They will replace the five general-purpose Type-23 frigates currently in service with the Royal Navy.  The Babcock team's Arrowhead 140 design beat competition from a Cammell Laird/BAE Systems consortium and a bid led by Atlas Elektronik UK to secure the build contract.   Mr Wallace described the steel-cutting event as a "great milestone in the renaissance of British shipbuilding".   He said: "Today is a momentous occasion for the Type 31 programme, defence and the shipbuilding industry in Scotland.    As Shipbuilding Tsar, to cut the steel for the first of five new frigates that will be constructed here on our shores in the Firth of the Forth, providing jobs and innovation to the area, is a tremendous honour."  The Type 31 will have advanced capabilities fitted onboard, including a supersonic anti-air missile defence system, as well as Bofors naval guns and a 4D radar system.   There will also be space to house a Royal Navy helicopter.   Known as the Inspiration class, the five Type 31 vessels all take their names from former warships and submarines whose missions and history are intended to inspire Royal Navy operations.   Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Nick Hine said: "The Type 31 represents the very best of British shipbuilding, and with its modular design will be configurable to meet the needs of both the Royal Navy and our allies around the world, now and into the future."  The entire Type 31 fleet is expected to be delivered by the end of 2028 and to enter service with the Royal Navy by the end of 2030, with the first expected in the water in 2023.  The vessels will each carry a crew of up to 105 that will be deployed on duties around the world, working alongside new Type 26 frigates.  It's a lot cheaper, with a budget of no more than £250m per ship. It's lighter and carries less sophisticated weaponry than the Type 26 being built on the Clyde.   The hull design was based on one developed for the Danish navy. And in turn, the design is being exported by Babcock to spread the cost of development. Indonesia is the first country to sign up for two ships, to be built by one of its own shipyards.   The choice of Rosyth followed a convoluted process of procurement - reversing a decision that would have put all the Royal Navy's fighting ship orders into Clyde yards, and trying to get more competition between private shipbuilders.   Babcock beat Merseyside's Cammell Laird (working with BAE Systems on the Clyde) in the final run-off. It has since invested in an assembly hall with robotic welding, that should make it a formidable rival to the Clyde yards for orders beyond the Types 26 and 31.   The impression was given, with the new shipbuilding strategy, that the Type 31 would benefit yards all over the UK, using modular design in the same way the aircraft carriers were built.  The Babcock bid initially included Ferguson Marine in Inverclyde and Harland and Wolff in Belfast, but both fell out of that consortium when they got into financial difficulties.   It's looking a lot less like a UK-wide shipbuilding strategy now. The construction of the five Type 31 hulls will be in Fife. Much of the value will be in the supply chain for weapons, engines and systems. But Babcock's pricing is based on doing the shipbuilding itself.

Half A Million Acres in Highlands to Be 'Left to Nature'
A major new project aims to rewild an area of more than 500,000 acres (202,343ha) in the Highlands.   Over a period of 30 years, mountains, hills, glens and forests would be left to natural processes.   The area could stretch from Loch Ness, across the central Highlands to Kintail on the north west Highlands coast.   Moray-based charity Trees for Life is working with Rewilding Europe, along with 20 landowners and six organisations on the project.  The charity said the initiative followed three years of consultation and its work was continuing towards bring more landowners and communities on board.  It also said it would work with local people and businesses to create "a more resilient area" in the future.  The plan is to link up a network of landholdings to create "one vast nature recovery area", which would include glens Cannich, Affric, Moriston and Shiel.   Rewilding is a form of large-scale conservation that leaves landscapes to natural processes. In the areas, land management is reduced and fences taken down and drainage removed.  The aim is to allow habitats such as natural woodlands and native wildlife to flourish.  In continental Europe - where eight "rewilding areas" include Portugal's Greater Côa Valley and Croatia's Velebit Mountains - there has also been reintroduction of wildlife once native to the areas but which had died out due to hunting or habitat loss.  Findhorn-based Trees for Life said it was seeking the involvement of more landowners and communities in the Affric Highlands initiative, and it hoped to begin practical work on rewilding the area in 2023.   Chief executive Steve Micklewright said: "The Highlands have huge potential to help nature to come back and so help people to thrive, and to make a leading contribution to tackling the global climate and nature emergencies."   Frans Schepers, of Rewilding Europe, added: "Affric Highlands is a bold, exciting and inspiring venture for nature's recovery as Scotland moves up the biodiversity league table.   Our decision to accept the project as our ninth rewilding area reflects the hard work and achievements of Trees for Life, its volunteers and its partners."

Cost of Building UK’s First Spaceport in the Highlands Could Be on the Way up
The multi-million pound cost of building the UK’s first spaceport in the Highlands could escalate, it has emerged.  Experts, who carried out detailed surveys to prepare for construction work at the remote Sutherland site, have warned of “greater complexity” in ground conditions than had been expected.   And concern that soaring construction material prices will also add to the bill has been voiced by board members at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which is behind the £17.3million project.   HIE’s plans to develop the Space Hub Sutherland (SHS) vertical rocket launch base, on the A’Mhoine peninsula, cleared their final legal hurdle this month, with approval from the Scottish Land Court.   A challenge by billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen’s Wildland business, which owns tens of thousands of acres neighbouring the site, was rejected in August, following a judicial review.   Surveyors contracted by HIE flagged the possibility of “greater complexity” while carrying out detailed ground investigations on the 10.4-acre site in June.   The first launches from the site have been pencilled in for next year.  Concerns over potential cost increases for the project were raised at June’s meeting of HIE’s board.  The meeting’s recently published minutes said: “In discussion, board members highlighted the importance of paying attention to developments affecting the whole of the UK space sector, including the political environment.   It was also noted that the outcome of ground investigations could indicate greater complexity of ground conditions than had been expected.  The current challenge of inflation affecting materials in the UK construction sector was another factor that could lead to further cost escalation.”  The need for the agency to ensure “robust and effective governance” was in place for the project was also noted in the report.   An HIE spokesman said the discussion centred on “initial opinions expressed by the consultants while they were on-site in June.”   He added the organisation had not yet received the surveyor’s written report, but it was expected to arrive soon.   Surveys will shape spaceport’s detailed design.  Staff from BAM Nuttal and Arup carried out the ground investigations over several weeks, starting in May.   They involved establishing the “sequence and thickness” of the soil strata and the level of bedrock beneath.   HIE said the findings of laboratory testing of peat, soil and rock samples would be used to “inform detailed design of foundations, access roads and spaceport infrastructure, including the control centre and launch pad complex.”   The Scottish Government-funded agency has committed to footing £9.8m of the cost of developing the spaceport on land leased from Melness Crofters Estate.   The UK Space Agency (UKSA) is contributing £2.5m and the remaining £5m of the original estimated cost is being sought from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which owns the former nuclear power research and development facility at Dounreay, near Thurso.  HIE staff are currently finalising a full business case for the spaceport development to be considered by the agency’s board.  Forres-based spaceflight company, Orbex, plans to use the site for regular launches of its Prime rocket, carrying small, commercial satellites into orbit.  Last month the firm’s chief executive, Chris Larmour, said he was confident the first launch could take place before the end of 2022, if construction of the facility is under way by the early in the year.

Highland Business Leader Takes on Chairman Role At National Civil Engineering Body
A director of Alness-based civil engineering firm Pat Munro is to take on a key role with Scotland's infrastructure sector.   In a meeting at the Caledonian Stadium in Inverness, Mark Bramley, construction and housing managing director with Pat Munro, was appointed new chairman of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland (CECA Scotland).   CECA is the representative body for companies who work day-to-day to deliver, upgrade, and maintain Scotland’s critical infrastructure.    It represents the interests of over 110 firms in Scotland who together carry out an estimated 80 per cent of all civil engineering activity in Scotland. CECA maintains close relationships with public sector clients and government to ensure that their members’ expertise is shared as widely as possible.   Mr Bramley has a wealth of experience within CECA having been a member of the board since 2015 and serving as vice-chairman for the past two years.   He takes over the reins from David Ross, managing director of Glasgow firm George Leslie Ltd, who is stepping down as chair at the end of his two-year term.    “I would like to thank everyone on the board for their support and encouragement during my time as chair of CECA Scotland," Mr Ross said.  "I believe that we are highly regarded in the industry and we have sought to use our voice and influence to benefit the civil engineering sector as a whole.  It has been an honour to represent CECA Scotland and even though I have not been able to attend as many face to face meetings as I would have liked, I am pleased to have been able to forge some strong relationships with colleagues from across the UK.”   In turn, Mr Bramley commented: “I would like to thank David Ross for steering CECA Scotland over the past two years through one of the most challenging periods our industry has ever faced. He has played a key role in pulling the whole civil engineering community in Scotland together during unprecedented circumstances to champion our shared interests.   After a tough 18 months for everyone, I look forward to working with contractors and clients to ensure we emerge from the pandemic with the industry in a stronger position than ever and ready to meet the challenges of the future, particularly the transition to net zero.  I strongly believe that investment in infrastructure is the surest way of putting Scotland on track to a jobs-led recovery to meet our social, environmental and economic priorities."

Edinburgh's Christmas to Be Spread Across the City
Edinburgh's Christmas is to expand to a site beneath Edinburgh Castle under plans to spread it across the capital.  There would be 15 stalls in West Princes Street Gardens as well as 11 attractions including the Christmas Tree Maze and a Santa's Grotto.  The original site in East Princes Street Gardens would have 62 stalls, fewer than half the number in 2019.  An ice rink is planned to run along the west end of George Street, between Charlotte Square and Castle Street.  The previous ice rink in St Andrew Square was removed following complaints about its impact on the garden.   The Big Wheel is planned to return to East Princes Street Gardens along with three other attractions.   Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, co-directors of organisers Underbelly, said they had submitted an application to City of Edinburgh Council.   They said: "The Underbelly team has been working tirelessly to create a bespoke Edinburgh's Christmas programme that not only provides unforgettable memories and experiences, but also makes visitors feel safe and at ease at all times."

Covid: Scotland's International Travel Testing Regime to Be Relaxed
Fully-vaccinated people travelling to Scotland from overseas will no longer have to take pre-departure Covid tests, the Scottish government has confirmed.  The change will benefit Scots returning home from abroad and visitors from non-red list countries.  Scotland will also "align with the UK post-arrival testing regime" but details have still to be finalised.  Last week the Scottish government said testing requirements would remain due to public health concerns  Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said ministers still had concerns, but after talks with the aviation industry they had "reluctantly concluded" that following the UK's path on testing was the "best option".  Plans to simplify the international travel traffic light system by merging green and amber classifications and removing more countries from the red list were announced last Friday.   Those changes will come into effect on 4 October.  Now it has also been confirmed that travellers from non-red list countries who have been fully vaccinated will not be required to provide evidence of a negative test result before travelling to Scotland.   However, they must have been vaccinated in a country that meets "recognised standards of certifications".

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