Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 622

Issue # 622                                                Week ending Saturday 2nd October 2021
Because I Didn’t Know How to Ask for it Properly, I Ended Up with One Very Deep-fried Potato Salad by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

On the first morning of my new job in the City of London, I took the tube. My office, in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral, was once a magnificent contract for Sir Christopher Wren & Co, quality kirk builders of Old London Town. My boss advised me to alight at Monument. After squeezing my slimmer self off the packed carriage, I began the ascent upwards.

Two ladies were ahead of me on the escalator. Hearing what I thought was Irish, I stepped up to eavesdrop. Cor blimey, strike a light, guv’nor. I understood every blinking word. They chatted about the minister in church the day before and the price of sliced bread - all in perfect Lewis Gaelic.

I interrupted their morning natter to ask where they were from. Point? East of Stornoway? Is there any other?

Arriving at pavement level, the pair gasped as this City gent in bowler hat and pinstripes told them he hailed from Great Bernera-by-the-Sea. That was me, by the way. OK, maybe no bowler and maybe no pinstripes but I had a tie on and my hair was wet and combed flat. My new pals invited me to dinner and to Cole Abbey church - back then the Free Church of Scotland in England.

Ah Gaelic, the key to understanding and kinship.

So on the ferry Loch Seaforth last week, as I was chauffeur for Mrs X returning from another photo job in downtown Kyle of Lochalsh, the hot food servery was staffed by Donald Smith. Being from Barvas on the windy side of Lewis, Donald’s Gaelic is also top notch. As I eyed the dishes and looked for healthy options, he asked “Dè a tha thu ag iarraidh an-duigh?” or what would you like today? I fancied macaroni with a side salad but I’d a problem.

I couldn’t remember the Gaelic for salad. Macaroni, being Italian, is the same wherever but I felt there must be a salad word in the language of the Garden of Eden. What about feur? That’s just grass. If I said stuth uaine, or green stuff, Donald would know I was clueless. He’s from Barvas, for goodness sake. I was muttering to myself as the queue grew behind me. Is it sliseagan? No, you fool. That’s crisps.

Maybe it’s salad in Gaelic? Hardly, too obvious. Wait, I’ve got it. It’s isbeanan (pron. ishbannan). Heck, no. I think that’s sausages. In practice, a sausage is a sausage in both languages, unless you are a Gaelic teacher, have a job on BBC Radio nan Gaidheal, or are from Barvas.

I was standing there like a right amadan, a daftie. Desperation set in. As I couldn’t remember the Gaelic word for salad, to avoid embarrassment with my slimline cousin behind me, I announced that I thought I would have salad but I then quickly whispered to Donald for macaroni agus fries Frangach.

Donald understood that fine, as he smiled knowingly to himself thinking yon Bernera fellow must be losing the plot for taking that long to order chips. Then off that ferry I shot and I raced home to Google the Gaelic for salad. After all my discomfiture, my agony, my needlessly piled-on carbohydrates, the Gaelic for salad is quite extraordinary. It’s ... salad. A Dhòmhnaill, if you’re reading this, I nearly said that. Honest.

It was on that ferry I got talking to a couple from Greece who were taking a short holiday exploring Scottish history. He told me something that staggered me. He thought our word dram was borrowed from Ancient Greece. I thought to myself we Brits borrowed a lot from the Greeks. I didn’t mention the Elgin Marbles, obviously. Dram, he thought, was from the ancient Greek word drakhme, which was a reference to small coinage. Well, small change is what we used to buy drams with.

After the Gaelic for salad, I googled that too. He was Σωστός. I think that’s Greek for correct. Maybe I should now stop telling English tourists that dram, or dràm to be platitudinously accurate, is the Gaelic for dream because drams are what we see in our sleep. They usually believe me too.

After my silent salad saga on the high seas, I now can’t get salads out of my head. I had one for dinner on Monday. It was one of these lovely warm salads. It was mostly tomatoes and croutons. Actually, it was just one big, round crouton covered in tomato sauce. And a little cheese. OK, I had a pizza.

Calls for £70 Uplift in Scots Winter Fuel Payment
Scottish ministers have been urged to boost the winter fuel payment to help pensioners afford rising energy costs.   In his speech to the Labour conference, Anas Sarwar said Holyrood's powers could be used to increase the allowance by £70 for those on lower incomes.   The Scottish party leader said ministers could "end the choice between heating and eating this winter".  Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said the government was "taking a wide range of actions" to help households.  And she in turn called on the UK Westminster government not to remove the £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments, something UK ministers have insisted was "always a temporary measure" prompted by the pandemic.  Householders across the UK are facing a rise in energy bills, with a massive rise in the price energy supplies pay for gas forcing some firms out of business.  The energy price cap - which limits the amount suppliers can charge for their default tariffs - is to increase at the end of the month, with about 15m households in the UK facing a 12% rise in energy bills.   In his speech to the Labour conference - his first since becoming Scottish party leader in February - Mr Sarwar said too many Scots were facing fuel poverty "as energy prices spiral out of control".  He called on the Scottish government to use Holyrood's social security powers to add £70 to the winter fuel payment - a UK-wide benefit aimed at helping with heating bills.  The allowance is paid to those born on or before 26 September 1955, and ranges from £100 to £300 depending on circumstances.  Mr Sarwar said: "In Scotland, 150,000 pensioners live in relative poverty every year - with thousands more on the brink.  The Scottish parliament has the power to make winter payments reflect the pressures on fuel-poor households, but the SNP have delayed taking responsibility.  That is why we would give every pensioner on the lowest incomes £70 now to help them through the winter months."  Ms Robison said the government was "taking a wide range of actions within our powers to help people who are on low incomes", citing the Scottish Child Payment and bridging payments for families on low incomes.   She added: "Our £130 pandemic payment will also reach everyone in receipt of council tax reduction in October.  In addition, we have also announced our plans to extend Child Winter Heating Assistance to reach 5,000 additional families with severely disabled young people to help them with costs of heating their home."  Ms Robison said the Scottish administration's efforts were being "undermined" by the UK Westminster government's plans to end the £20 uplift to Universal Credit in October.   A UK Westminster government spokesman said the uplift was "always a temporary measure to help claimants through the toughest stages of the pandemic".  He added: "We've taken action to keep the cost of living down for families, including the energy price cap, which is in place to protect 15m households from increases in global gas prices this winter, and the doubling of free childcare.  Our warm home discount, winter fuel payments and cold weather payments will also support millions of vulnerable and low-income households with their energy bills."

First-time Buyers Struggle in Scotland's 'Frantic' Housing Market
Aimee Simpson has spent years saving for a one-bedroom flat. She's 28, works as a beautician and has sacrificed a social life to raise £30,000 for a deposit.   The problem is, Aimee - who still lives with her parents - wants to buy a place near her work in Edinburgh.  With the biggest rise in house prices for 14 years, she can find nothing in her price range in a city squeezed by a shortage in affordable homes and rocketing rent costs.  "A lot of the new builds are just too expensive because they're at a premium," she said.  "I've looked at more rundown properties that I would do up, but you're up against property developers - with bigger budgets.  It is a struggle and you just hit walls everywhere you look."   When Aimee left school in May 2011, the average price for a flat in Edinburgh was £164,252. Today, it's £236,608.   "It's really disheartening," she told BBC Scotland's Disclosure programme.  "I feel like I could work seven days and still not be any better off."  She thought about applying to the Scottish government's Low-cost Initiative for First Time Buyers (Lift) scheme, which offers financial assistance for a share in the property.   But the scheme's cap for one-bedroom properties in Edinburgh is just £125,000.  Its rules also state the purchase price can't be higher than a property's Home Report valuation - meaning it is unlikely to be used in the city's competitive market.  Lift is now the only government-backed assistance for first-time buyers in Scotland.   Aimee added: "I just feel like Edinburgh's my home. I want to be near my family."    BBC Scotland's Disclosure has been hearing from young people either priced out of home ownership in the city or unable to find affordable rent.   As well as the increase in average house prices, Edinburgh has seen steeper rises in rent prices - around 46% - than any other part of Scotland.   "The market just now is absolutely frantic," said Gary Middlemass, an Edinburgh estate agent with 40 years' experience.   "There is simply not enough properties coming on. When something does come on the market there tends to be a lot of interest, which pushes up prices."   However, two Scottish government schemes to aid first-time buyers are coming to an end.   The Help to Buy scheme, which supported more than 17,000 new build house sales over the last eight years, is closed to new applications and will end in March 2022.   Last year, 80% of those accessing the scheme were first-time buyers, more than half of purchases involved two people and the average household income of applicants was £42,000.    Meanwhile, the First Home Fund, which assisted 9,000 buyers in just over a year, has been closed despite its early success.   The Scottish government has said the decision to scrap the schemes is a result of cuts to its financial transaction budget by the UK Westminster government.  House builders say their cancellation will "limit the life choices" of young people hoping to buy a home.   "I've got real concerns about the people in the middle, those who can't get on to the housing market," said Nicola Barclay, chief executive of industry body Homes for Scotland.   "They're earning just a little bit too much, so they can't get a social house. And private rent is stopping them from saving up the kind of deposits that they need to then move onto the housing ladder.  Their choices are just really limited now."  She highlighted that in England the Help to Buy scheme still exists and is targeted at first-time buyers. Another initiative has also been introduced in England called First Homes, which is a form of shared ownership.   "We have nothing equivalent in Scotland now," said Ms Barclay.   "I think it is so unfair that a young adult who has chosen to live and work in Scotland, is unable to buy a house whereas if they had exactly the same job in England, they could do."   Housing Secretary Shona Robison described first purchase figures as "very buoyant" but defended the decision to close both initiatives.    "The evidence was showing us that actually people using that [Help to Buy] scheme could afford to buy their own home," she said. "But with government assistance they were perhaps buying a bigger property and a more expensive property.  We have a judgement to make with limited resources. We believe the best investment for those resources is to help those who could not afford to buy their own home without government assistance."   In 2007, the Scottish government predicted house price inflation would cause problems for lower income families. Then Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said 35,000 homes of all types had to be built a year to reset the balance.  However, Scotland's house building industry has yet to return to the pre-financial crash levels of 25,000 a year.   The rising costs in Edinburgh has also put pressure on the city's social housing stock, with 21,000 applicants currently on the waiting list.  Families find themselves either priced out by rising rent costs, or given notice to leave their homes as landlords looking to sell take advantage of the increase in house prices.   "I'm not going to pretend it is easy for people, " said housing convenor, councillor Kate Campbell.  "We have 6,000 people who are currently homeless and we don't have a huge supply of social housing, that's why we're building more."   In the last decade, 8,390 affordable homes have been built in the city. Another 2,100 are currently under construction.   Meanwhile, the city is also seeing a growth in so-called "Build to Rent" properties - private rented flats aimed at those unable to afford a mortgage but unlikely to get into social housing.   Across Scotland, nearly 10,000 are in the pipeline, with more than 3,000 in Edinburgh.   The Scottish government has pledged to build 110,000 affordable homes - 70% of which will be social rent - before 2032.   But some families are still waiting years for a suitable home.  Michael Urquhart, his partner Kara, and their four children have been on Edinburgh's social housing list for 10 years.   They've had six privately rented homes in that period and have spent time in one of the city's homeless bed-and-breakfasts.   They are currently living in a two-bedroom ex-council flat in the Prestonfield area and bid for social housing each week on the city's online EdIndex system, which sees hundreds of applications per property.  Michael said: "I think I'm probably going to be here for at least another couple of years, just because the bidding's not going well.   "I'd rather just keep myself here, until I can get my forever home."

Hospitals Inquiry: Parent Told Child Would Be 'Safer At Another Hospital'
A cancer specialist told the mother of a patient at Glasgow's super hospital that her daughter would be safer at another hospital, an inquiry has heard.   Anne Marie Kirkpatrick's daughter Stevie-Jo was being treated for leukaemia at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus. She then contracted a hospital infection.  Mrs Kirkpatrick has given evidence to the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry.   She said she was told the best way to keep her child safe was by moving her.  Mrs Kirkpatrick explained that her daughter had been first diagnosed with cancer in 2014 when she was nine years old.  After a relapse in 2017, Stevie-Jo was treated at the new Royal Hospital for Children (RHC). In 2018 she contracted listeria meningitis, And then in 2019, she had a course of cancer treatment halted when she started developing painful lumps and lesions on her body.   Test results showed she had developed mycobacterium chelonae - a rare infection - that likely came from a water supply in one of the hospital's operating theatres.  Her life-saving chemotherapy had to be finished six months early due to her needing immediate treatment for the hospital-acquired infection.  Mrs Kirkpatrick said she had asked for a meeting with Professor Brenda Gibson who looked after Stevie-Jo, and a microbiologist, after they had been examining showers in patients' rooms for mould.   She said Professor Gibson had reflected on her situation and advised her that the best plan was to send her daughter to complete her treatment in Dumfries, where the family lived.    Now 17, Stevie-Jo spoke at the inquiry, telling Lord Brodie that the new infection led to her developing a green, pus-filled, golf-ball sized sore and suffered painful lumps throughout her body which bled and left scars.  She said she was moved to Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary as it was felt she would be safer there and that she was now "scared" of the Glasgow hospital site and suffers panic attacks because of this.  On Saturday, it emerged that the police have launched a criminal investigation into a number of deaths at the QEUH campus, including that of 10-year-old Milly Main.    Milly's mother recently told the inquiry her child's death was "murder".    The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has now instructed police to investigate the deaths of Milly, two other children and 73-year-old Gail Armstrong at the Glasgow campus.  It is understood the probe could lead to criminal charges or a fatal accident inquiry.  NHSGGC and NHS Lothian will give evidence to the inquiry, chaired by Lord Brodie, at a later point.

Dalai Lama Cafe: Tibetan Woman Overwhelmed As Edinburgh Cafe Saved
A huge effort backed by the Dalai Lama to save a Scottish cafe that promotes Tibetan culture has succeeded after the £45,000 shortfall to buy it was raised.  Reka Gawa opened the Himalaya Cafe in Edinburgh after a chance meeting with the spiritual leader at the Scottish Parliament in 2004.  She said he urged her to stay in Scotland to promote their culture.  The landlord recently said he wanted to sell the cafe, which Reka rents, so the race was on to raise funds to buy it.  The 39-year-old said she was "overwhelmed" by the outpouring of messages and donations from across the world.  Indian-born Reka told BBC Scotland she had suffered sleepless nights worrying about how she was going to continue fulfilling her promise to the Dalai Lama.   She said: "I have worked so hard and put everything into the cafe, it's not just work but my service to the community so I'm so grateful I can carry it on now.  Scotland is my home now and I'm going to work even harder.   Everyone is celebrating in India and my family are so proud of me.   I never thought growing up in Mussoorie that one day I would be living in Edinburgh, meeting His Holiness and then following his advice, it's very overwhelming."   Reka was brought up in Mussoorie in India and moved to Denmark when she was 13. When she was 22. she moved to Edinburgh and got a job at the Scottish Parliament.   In 2006, she left her catering position at the Scottish Parliament, and established Himalaya Cafe in South Clerk Street in 2007.    She added: "It's not just a cafe, we do so much more, we train people and give them work experience as I struggled to find a job when I arrived in Edinburgh as I didn't have much experience.  The Tibetan culture represents human values of helping those in need, to show compassion to all people.   If someone is homeless, I will give them food here or other customers pay for their meal.  We accept everyone here no matter if they are rich or poor, we are all one big family."   The Dalai Lama is the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism and traditionally was responsible for the governing of Tibet, until the Chinese government took control in 1959. Before 1959, his official residence was Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.   According to Buddhist belief, the current Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of a past lama who decided to be reborn again to continue his important work, instead of moving on from the wheel of life.   Reka has built up a strong community over the last 14 years at the cafe, which also has a meditation room downstairs which anyone can use for free.   Sonam Tsering Frasi, representative of the Dalai Lama in northern Europe, Baltic states and Poland, said the spiritual leader knew of the cafe and Reka's work to promote Tibetan culture.   He added: "I appreciate it very much that Reka has been promoting Tibetan culture in Scotland for many years and would like to see her cafe business uninterrupted, providing the taste of Tibetan food and tranquillity to the Scots in Edinburgh."  Reka added: "I feel amazing and so happy and so grateful. I've had messages of support from all corners of the world and even my hometown, which is so remote I had no idea they would know about Himalaya Cafe."

Climbers Rescued From Old Man of Stoer Sea Stack
Two climbers were rescued after getting into difficulty on a sea stack on Sutherland's north west coast.   The men were climbing the Old Man of Stoer, a 60m (197ft) tower of rock, when the sea conditions deteriorated on Thursday.   They became crag fast - stuck - on a ledge near the bottom and were unable to move due to high waves and the tide.  Stornoway Coastguard helicopter winched the climbers to safety and they were flown to Lochinver to be checked over.  The men were cold and tired but otherwise unscathed and were able to make their own way home.   One of the climbers described being "battered by waves and sea spray".   They had hoped to avoid having to call out the coastguard, but felt forced to raise the alarm at about 18:30 after conditions became "treacherous".  Achiltibuie, Kinlochbervie and Ullapool coastguard rescue teams, Lochinver RNLI lifeboat and police also responded to the call-out.   The rescue helicopter's captain Will MacLeod said it had been a "potentially life-threatening situation" for all involved - the two climbers and the teams of coastguard rescuers, police and volunteers who responded.   He said: "The Old Man of Stoer is a popular location for climbers but weather can rapidly deteriorate and, particularly at this time of year as we come out of the summer months, rising waves and high winds from the North Sea present significant risks that anyone moving around the coast can expect to encounter."

Care At Home Sector is on “A Cliff Edge”
A general shortage of social care workers has been exacerbated by problems in relation to Covid, prompting Comhairle nan Eilean Siar last week to call for new care workers to come forward to assist the service. It also came with a stark warning that families were going to be required to do even more to look after loved ones that require care.   The issue came up at a meeting of the council’s communities and housing committee on Tuesday.  Councillor Angus Morrison, chair of the audit and scrutiny committee, said: “Care at home, in particular, is at a cliff edge. We are not able to recruit staff, we are not able to get individuals out of hospital, they are not able to get the care at home because we have no carers.”  Committee chair Kenny John MacLeod said that “over the past 18 months families have done a tremendous amount to support those in need and were if not for that it would be significantly worse”.  A report was presented to the committee which showed that there were currently 42 individuals waiting for a care at home package, with 20 awaiting a place in a care home.   Councillor Calum MacLean Broadbay said: “There is a real problem within our care system. We’ve been given assurances that we would look at things like apprentices but here we are years down the line and we are still seeing these appalling statistics."  A shortage of local staff has meant the council having to recruit agency staff from the mainland. “Why don’t we just make the job that much more attractive for people by improving conditions?” asked Councillor MacLean.  Councillor Charlie Nicolson, Stornoway South, said the report was “sad and upsetting”. “It’s putting our communities and families under major pressure,” he said.  While councillors were advised it may not be possible to increase wages for carers without including other public sector employees, the committee agreed to investigate options to improve career structures within the sector.

Police Diver Patrols on River Clyde for Cop26 Conference
Police divers are searching the River Clyde as part of security operations in the run up to the COP26 conference.  Specialist officers will monitor a four mile stretch of waterway during the climate summit in Glasgow next month.    Ministry of Defence police will provide a "24/7 armed policing presence" on the river alongside Police Scotland's dive and marine unit.   The River Clyde will also be subject to movement and mooring restrictions for about three weeks.   Supt Stevie Irvine, Police Scotland's maritime security lead for COP26, said: "This is a historic event, with one of the biggest mobilisation of police assets the UK has ever seen.   Any protest activity around the waterways will be met with a proportionate policing response, which balances the rights of those wishing to take part against the wellbeing of protesters."    Police Scotland's dive and marine unit specialise in security searches, missing person searches and the recovery of evidence.    The unit has six high-speed patrol boats that can respond quickly to incidents around Scotland.    All police divers complete an eight week basic air dive course, along with a number of other specialist underwater courses.   They will work at the United Nations summit alongside MoD police.   MoD Police Supt Sandy Stewart said: "Our marine unit officers will be supporting the Police Scotland operation for COP26, providing a 24/7, armed policing presence on the River Clyde.  They will ensure compliance with the legal restrictions put in place, to deliver a safe and secure event for all involved."   The COP26 conference is being held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Scottish Venues Told to 'Use Common Sense' on Vaccine Passports
Nicola Sturgeon has urged venues to use "common sense" when checking vaccine passports, as she set out details of where and when they will be required.   Major events and venues such as nightclubs will be expected to ensure that everyone present has had two doses of vaccine from the start of October.   However spot-checks will be allowed at larger events, with organisers expected to do a "reasonable number" of checks.  The first minister said the scheme will help reduce transmission of the virus.  And she said it could encourage uptake of vaccines and help keep venues like nightclubs open for business.   Some business leaders voiced concerns that the scheme "goes well beyond what was initially proposed" and could impact on hotels, pubs and other hospitality venues.  Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that Covid-19 cases had fallen in Scotland in recent weeks, but warned that "the position remains fragile" with the NHS under "sustained pressure".   The government's vaccine certification scheme will come into force at 05:00 on 1 October, with people over the age of 18 required to show they have had both doses of vaccine before they will be allowed entry to:     Nightclubs and adult entertainment venues,  Unseated indoor live events, with more than 500 people in the audience;    Unseated outdoor live events, with more than 4,000 people in the audience ;  Any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance.   Certificates will be displayed via an app, which will be available for download from 30 September, while venue staff will either scan this using another app or visually check the QR code shown,  The government has drawn up a working definition of a "nightclub" as being a venue which is open between midnight and 05:00, serving alcohol, and which has a designated area for dancing and provides live or recorded music for this purpose.  Ms Sturgeon said detailed guidance would be published, but said venues should use "common sense" over the scheme.  She said a venue which has a dancefloor would not have to check people coming in for a pub lunch in the afternoon, but said "it would be reasonable" to check customers who arrive later in the evening.  The first minister added: "A pragmatic approach will be encouraged, so that businesses can make sensible judgements."  While clubs and smaller events will be expected to inspect the certificates of all customers, the organisers of larger events will have to carry out a "reasonable number" of checks.  Aberdeen nightclub owner and spokesman for the Night Time Industries Association Scotland, Gavin Stevenson, told BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime programme the definition was still confusing.   "It is not a definition of just nightclubs because it includes about 2,000 pubs and bars across Scotland in addition to the 100 nightclubs that are actual nightclubs.   It would be fair to say that it has not in any way been communicated well by the Scottish government with only nine days to go until this policy is implemented."    He added: "Typically pubs would have opening hours up until about 01:00 and most of them would have some form of entertainment on at the weekends. This will also apply to lots of city centre circuit bars and to hotel function rooms with parties or events going on in them.   These venues will now have to take on door staff to control entry when they would previously have had no requirement to do so under their existing licences. There is a critical shortage of door staff and it won't be possible to implement this by 1 October so we have raised our concerns with government on that basis that this is a fundamentally unworkable plan."   Football chiefs had said spot-checks would be "the only practical reality" when dealing with matches involving tens of thousands of fans, warning of lengthy queues and potential for disorder if every attendee was checked.   Ms Sturgeon said there had been talks with football clubs and licensed trade organisations, saying their feedback had been "very helpful".    The Scottish Chambers of Commerce was critical of the plans, with chief executive Liz Cameron claiming "thousands" of businesses would be caught up in the scheme.   She said: "We have made it clear that the practical application of what is being asked is not workable in the timelines being proposed.  Scotland's economy remains fragile, and many businesses remain in survival mode - there is no doubt that vaccine certifications will serve as an economic detriment."  Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said detail had been provided "at long last", but the government was still falling short.  He said: "There are still big gaps in the detail, still limited engagement with businesses affected, and limited evidence published of the difference it will make."  Mr Sarwar said that it was "at best disingenuous" to suggest the scheme is the same as one being set up in Wales, where people will have to provide either proof of vaccination or a recent negative test.  Ms Sturgeon said the problem with the Welsh scheme was that it relied on self-reporting of test results, which she said was "not the best approach" and would not drive up the uptake rates of vaccines.

Hillwalker Dies in Fall on Skye Mountain
A hillwalker has died in a fall while descending from the summit of a mountain on the Isle of Skye.  The 63-year-old man's companion raised the alarm from 928m-high (3,045ft) Blaven at about 13:20 on Sunday.   They had been walking down from the summit when the man fell.  Police said the man's body was found by members of Skye Mountain Rescue Team. Kintail Mountain Rescue Team and two mountain guides assisted in the incident.

Scotland's Peatlands 'Have Been Undervalued for Years'
A recent study estimated that restoring Scotland's damaged peatlands could bring nearly £200m of annual benefits.   In Dumfries and Galloway, an area rich with such areas, a project is ongoing to underline their value.  Peatland Connections - delivered by the Crichton Carbon Centre - wants to boost the profile of land which has not always enjoyed a "good reputation".  But how do you reconnect people with areas which, they admit, can look "brown" and "not very appealing"?  Dr Emily Taylor is a peatlands specialist at the centre in Dumfries and has been aware of their importance from an early age.   "I grew up on peat bog," she said.  "I grew up on the west coast of Scotland and peatlands were part of my everyday playground.  These are areas that have been undervalued for years, seen as no-man's land, you have to try and modify them to make them better for some sort of use.  But actually we are now understanding that they are really, really important and they underpin so much of what we do in our environment."  Her colleague, Jayne Murdoch, agreed that the peatlands suffered from a bit of an image problem.   "They are beautiful habitats, but can be overlooked as they are quite barren and inaccessible," she said.   "But they are actually beautiful and people need to learn to look after them better."  Dr Taylor said the importance of the peatlands - which had been formed over thousands of years - was clear.  "It's a huge organic carbon store," she said.  "It's incredibly important. We reckon about 140 years' worth of our national greenhouse gas emissions are stored in peatlands in Scotland.   So if you imagine just a tiny percentage of those peatlands degrading and losing carbon, that's having quite a big impact on our climate targets."   The Peatland Connections project wants to put people back in touch with their natural environment - something which has been boosted by daily walks during Covid lockdowns.  They have also been working with artists to look at how they can get communities involved in environmental matters.  For those who cannot access peatlands, they have been filming at Silver Flowe - an internationally-important site - to help highlight the role it plays.  "Restoring the peatland is a climate dividend as it keeps the carbon in the ground," said Ms Murdoch.  "That has a knock-on effect on water quality and biodiversity.   So, if we can connect communities back to peatlands, it raises awareness about carbon storage and a sense of place and stewardship so they want to engage in nature and spend time there."  Dr Taylor said they could also have a role to play in helping to suppress wild fires like one seen in south-west Scotland last year.   "A peatland that is functioning well is going to have a more natural water system than it would otherwise," she said.  "So that will make it more resilient to fire.  What's interesting is that peatland restoration could be looked at in the context of managing fire risk."   The reconnection scheme hopes to get everyone to understand how important these areas are.  "Often peatlands are overlooked because they are wet and boggy, they look brown and they're not very appealing," said Dr Taylor.  "We are trying to get people excited about them - and if they are excited about them, they understand them."  That, in turn, could be used to try to influence land-use decision-making around the country.   "This is a positive news story because we are actually doing something about it," she added.  "Because, if you look at it one way, it's kind of an easy thing to do.    It's easier than tackling transport and housing and how we reduce greenhouse emissions and how we live personally.  There are so many other benefits to restoring peatlands beyond just carbon - it often just makes sense to do it."

Scotland's Covid Vaccine Passport Scheme Goes Live
Scotland's vaccine passport scheme went live on Friday, less than 12 hours after the official app was launched.  People now need proof they have had two doses of vaccine in order to enter nightclubs and many other large events.  Problems were reported with the NHS Scotland Covid Status app after it was made available to download on Apple and Android devices at 17:30 on Thursday.   The Scottish government said the issues may have been down to the "extremely high initial traffic".  A spokesman added: "We advise people whose data is not found to try again a couple of hours later."   Opposition politicians earlier criticised the delay in allowing the public to access a digital QR code version of their Covid certification status.   In another development, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) Scotland lost a legal bid to delay the rollout.  Earlier this week, the Scottish government announced that the rules would not actually be enforced until 18 October, to give venues time to test their systems.  Elsewhere in the UK, Wales will introduce its own Covid passport rules later this month but England has scrapped similar plans.  Northern Ireland has yet to announce a formal vaccination passport scheme.  The Scottish launch comes as latest figures show 3,837,689 people have received two doses while 4,189,701 have had a single jab.  The vaccine certification scheme will require venues to put in place a "reasonable system" to check the status of customers over the age of 18, with certain exemptions on medical grounds.   Venues affected include nightclubs, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people, and any event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.   The plans were approved by MSPs despite all three opposition parties voting against them, but the NTIA Scotland lodged a legal challenge, pushing for a delay.  Before the app was launched on Thursday evening, Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie described the hold-up as "simply pathetic".   But in response, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said it had been the focus of huge media attention and ministers had responded to requests from businesses for a "slower launch".  The NITA Scotland legal challenge argued the system was "discriminatory" and "disproportionate".  But announcing his decision on Thursday morning, Lord Burns ruled it was "an attempt to address the legitimate issues identified in a balanced way", and was within the margin of what the government could decide was a reasonable response to the pandemic.   The judge said the system was subject to scrutiny at parliament and would be frequently reviewed by ministers, with a specific duty in law to revoke regulations if they were no longer necessary from a public health standpoint.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the court judgement was "clear and emphatic".   She said: "This is a targeted and proportionate way to try and reduce the harm the virus will do over the winter months, to keep our economy open and fully functioning.   "We will continue to engage with businesses not just in the run-up to the enforcement of this on 18 October, we will do that afterwards as well so we are listening and understanding and working collectively to keep the country as safe as possible."

Andrew Innes Accused of Bennylyn Burke and Jellica Murder
A man has appeared in court via video link accused of murdering a mother and her child and hiding their bodies under his kitchen floor in Dundee.  Prosecutors allege Andrew Innes, 51, stabbed and beat 25-year-old Bennylyn Burke from Bristol to death before suffocating two-year-old Jellica.  He is alleged to have put their bodies in bags and buried them in concrete.  Mr Innes made no plea against the charges and the case was continued until 1 December.  The offences are alleged to have taken place between 20 February and 5 March.

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