Scottish News & Views #63

This little effort is for the period ending 30th October 2010.   Once again I’ve been able to include a small named tongue-in-cheek article which I think you will enjoy.  Many thanks to those of you who have taken the trouble to tell us how you have liked the new set-up and indeed have made a few suggestions which we have tried to take into account - Robin

Campaign to Save Airbase Gathers Support
A campaign to protect RAF Lossiemouth from closure have gathered pace. A protest has been launched after Prime Minister David Cameron said last week the Nimrod surveillance aircraft was being scrapped.  The announcement spelled the end of the road for RAF Kinloss, where the fleet was to be based.  Fears have grown that Lossiemouth’s Tornado fleet could be transferred to RAF Marham in Norfolk, England, and RAF Lossiemouth will close.  Community councillor Carolle Ralph, of Stotfield Road, Lossiemouth, said there were plans to gather maximum support through a paper petition campaign.  She added: “We have been overwhelmed with support from people from all over. We have been inundated with messages of support from people who feel strongly that our whole community is dependent on the RAF. People far and wide feel so badly for families whose lives have been thrown into disarray with uncertainty. We have to make sure Moray’s voice is heard in London.”

The threats to the airbases are seen in “positive light” by a Scottish republican organisation, called Saorsa. Spokesman Sean Mac Michael said: “Saorsa makes the demand that the land and all assets, including bombing ranges at Tain and Cape Wrath, be immediately transferred to local community ownership to be put to use for the regeneration of the area and the benefit of all those affected communities, backed by a package of investment from the SNP administration at Holyrood.”  Moray MP Angus Robertson will challenge the UK Government to give “straight” answers about the future of RAF Lossiemouth in the House of Commons today. Mr Robertson claimed he had seen a leaked document outlining plans to centralise the Tornado fleet at RAF Marham. While Ministers have insisted that no final decision has been taken, it is highly unlikely that the Westminister UK Government will favour Scotland..

Shock At Tax Collectors’ Winding-up Move
A profitable north-east company with hundreds of customers worldwide was brought to the verge of closure yesterday – because of a missing letter from HM Revenue and Customs(HMRC).  Directors and staff at Activpayroll were shocked to find out in a public notice in the newspaper that the UK Government tax collectors wanted the payroll management specialist to be wound up – a move that would have put about 100 people out of work. The firm’s global tax director, Graham McKechnie, said the issue involved an alleged debt of about £60,000 – despite the fact HMRC had £270,000 of Activpayroll’s money in another account.  He said the firm had contacted HMRC yesterday and was told a recorded-delivery letter had been sent to Activpayroll at its offices at Cults, Aberdeen, at the start of September, but staff had no record of it.  HMRC said earlier today they were seeking about £60,000 from Activpayroll, but they already have £270,000 of the firms money not allocated which is sitting in another account.

HMRC later said that there had been a misallocation of funds at their end. Graham McKechnie said “We expect the matter to be resolved to our complete satisfaction.  It is nothing more than an administrative error, but it has caused a great deal of distress at our end.”

Highlands Maintain Emergency Services
Highland Council on Friday rejected moves to centralise police or fire services in Scotland.
The authority will instead continue to set up a single emergency service for the Highlands and Islands to counter centralisation and keep local jobs.

Brief Encounter At the Ballet Brings Back Years of Heartache By iain maciver
Good grief, call the police, someone. I am sitting here on a Wednesday evening in the centre of Stornoway and I have just witnessed a man in tight trousers come up behind a wee girl, yank her backwards and wheech her upside-down.  Wow, now he is twirling her round his head. You can see her panties and everything. If I tried that, I’d have my collar felt and be frogmarched up to the nick in Church Street.  Just because these two are prancers with Scottish Ballet, is it really OK for them to do that sort of thing without any fear of prosecution?

I must try that excuse.

Who decided we should go to the ballet, anyway? Maybe it was me. I am quite arty, you know. All it took to turn me into a culture vulture was a poster of a fit bird being held upside down with tomorrow’s washing in full view.   I thought: yes, I’m having some of that.  Now, I’m a balletomane. That’s a fan of ballet and not, as I thought, a sufferer of the kind of medical problem which makes one walk funny.  There is greater interest in ballet among boys now, we were told at the pre-show talk. The Billy Elliot effect, you see. They’re always looking for young men. They must have presence on stage, apparently.  For instance, a male dancer can’t be shy, but has to be prominent. Yes, dear, with tights that close-fitting, I know exactly what you mean.

There are all sorts here. Gosh, there’s Norma Scobie, my former music teacher. Notice, I said former, not old. I think I was in third year. She was great fun and made music come alive. I loved her in that way that third-year boys do. There was no doubt in my mind; she was looking at me in a special way.   It’s not even 40 years since that Music of Spain lesson that is burned deep into my subconscious. Our eyes met over a pair of hot castanets. I was shaking so much they were click-clacking even after everyone else had finished playing.  Just when I was going to tell her we had a future together, Miss Scobie announced she and her family were moving away to somewhere horrible and far away. Was it Grantown? I think so. I mean, who wants to go to Grantown? Isn’t that the wee place that had two cemeteries in its list of attractions?

Furious, I was. Miss Scobie wouldn’t just go off and leave me. Someone made her. But now she’s back. Sitting there in front of me, a shimmering vision of serene elegance. I knew she would come back to me one day.  How will I get her attention without Mrs X realising that she must henceforth take second place to the divine creature who was my first love? Ach, she’ll understand. She was the same with Cliff Richard.  I’ll cough. A gentle splutter close to Miss Scobie’s ear; not enough to flatten her exquisitely-coiffured hair, but enough for her to wonder if I am in need of some medical attention.  Arouse feelings of pity in a woman and you’re on a winner. It worked with Mrs X.

Leaping sideways to avoid my germs, Miss S turns and flashes that stunning smile again. I beam back like Tiumpan Head Lighthouse, turning slightly so Mrs X won’t see I’ve transformed from Victor Meldrew into someone who would put a Cheshire cat to shame. But Miss S turns away to speak to someone else.

Aaargh. She’s forgotten me. She has torn my heart. Again.

Oh well, just as well I found Mrs X, then. She’ll do for a few years yet, but I have learned a valuable lesson. I am going to have to clear out some of those Cliff videos and CDs she has under the stairs.   Pensioner or not, if he ever gets a gig in An Lanntair, I could be history. We were lucky to get tickets tonight. I don’t think there’s a seat free. From where I’m sitting I can see teachers, hospital workers, some shellfish factory processors and a surfing instructor.

There’s a sheriff and his good lady over there. The forces of law and order are always on the alert.  Very sensibly, Sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie has come in plain clothes. He’ll have seen the poster, too, so no doubt he’s here to make sure there isn’t too much of that pantie-flashing stuff.  I’m taking notes too, m’lud.

Five short contemporary performances are on the programme. The first one, Chasing Ghosts, has lots of leaping, grabbing and twirling. My sister-in-law, Sandra, seems transfixed by one hoofer. Does she not know I can hear those wee gasps under her breath as the fit fellow flings a twirling ballerina skywards?  Shocking behaviour, and her in the Free Church. Good job her poor husband is in the Far East. He would be devastated if he knew.  Mrs X is little better. We have just got to the Balcony Pas De Deux from Romeo and Juliet and she has obviously taken a wee bit of a fancy to one of the chaps lolloping about on the floor.  Suddenly, he springs up and Mrs X gets such a start she loses control of her plastic wine beaker. The plonk goes scooshing over my startled niece, Kirsty, who looks bewildered before tasting it and announcing that it is raining raspberryade.   I think the wine shower also splashed the girls in the row in front with some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon that An Lanntair’s budget can extend to.

Don’t blame me. Send the bill to Mrs X. Better still, send it to Cliff Richard.  The night has been an eye-opener. I shall come away from the ballet seeing all these dancers in a new light, as well as having seen, in a few cases, rather more than I expected, or wanted, to see.

Top-level Talks on Highland Chieftain's Future
Transport minister Stewart Stevenson will highlight the local campaign to save the Highland Chieftain rail service when he meets UK rail minister Theresa Villiers.  Although a date has to be confirmed, it is understood the two ministers hope to meet in London next week to discuss the future of inter-city rail services.  Meanwhile, Highland councillors will be asked to back a motion supporting the retention of the Highland Chieftain daily direct rail service between Inverness and London.  Fears that it could be axed arose following a review of plans to replace Britain's ageing high-speed train fleet which suggested one cost-cutting measure could be for passengers to change trains at Edinburgh. Although the government had been expected to make an announcement last week as part of its comprehensive spending review, the Chieftain's fate is now likely to become clearer when the Department for Transport publishes a business plan next month.

Peelers Crack Down on Apple Throwers...(momentous news item- Robin)
Police in Golspie and Brora are increasing their profile in the two villages in the early evening, following weeks of "silly" behaviour by local children.  A Northern Constabulary spokesman said: "Over the past two or three weeks, local kids have just been messing about in both Golspie and Brora, throwing apples and other fruit at people's windows, and other stupid things like that.

"It's usually late afternoon/early evening.
"It's just silly behaviour but it annoys people and we need to crack down on it.
"We will be upping our patrols in the two villages over the next week or two."

University Bosses Praise Scanners
State-of-the-art scanners at a new £20 million centre will help improve the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses including multiple sclerosis, cancer and heart disease, university bosses have said.  The technology is housed at the University of Edinburgh's new Clinical Research Imaging Centre, which officials describe as "the first fully-integrated imaging facility of its kind in the UK".  The "world-leading" centre stems from a collaboration between the university and NHS Lothian.

University chiefs said experts will be able to use the imaging equipment to scan organs instantly to see in great detail how they function.  They will also be able to track the flow of blood through vessels, determine the spread of diseases and assess the effectiveness of new drugs.  Investigations will be able to take place without invasive procedures, reducing the need for biopsies or angiograms, where catheters are used.  The university said the centre, based at its Queen's Medical Research Institute, features a high-strength magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner which can safely identify tissue abnormalities.  A computerised tomography (CT) scanner, described as the most advanced in the world, is also able to scan entire organs in less than a second. A CT-positron emission tomography (PET/CT) scanner can also pinpoint the spread of cancer.

Old Age Doesn’t Come Alone and You Might As Well Have A Laugh
Ageing is a problem we should all be grateful to have, whether it's something we experience now, or anticipate in the future. After all, think of what the alternative is: it means that you’re deid.  Ageing, of course, brings its own problems. So what are some of the commonest signs of ageing? Here are some: When we pick up the phone when one rings on television. When we are cautioned to slow down by the doctor instead of the police. When our medicine cabinet is better stocked than our drinks cabinet. When we recall things that never actually happened, and are praised for things we never did.   Now here’s an embarrassing symptom of ageing: When you go into a shop to buy something, the shop assistant picks out the appropriate coins from a handful of change. Oh dear.

Here are some more signs: When we and our teeth don't sleep together. When it takes two tries to get up from the couch. When after painting the town red we have to take a long rest before applying the second coat. When people phone you at 9am and ask: “Did I wake you?” Now, you'll be thinking I’m very clever to think up all these things. Confession time: I didn't think them up; I got them from a book which was written by a good friend of mine.

Yes, the Very Reverend Dr James A. Simpson has written another book. It is called At Our Age, and it provides a humorous and insightful account of the ageing process. Jim has written several books, including Holy Wit, Laughter Lines, Life, Love and Laughter, and A Funny Way of Being Serious.  These books are full of fun, but they have a serious purpose, in terms of content and sales. All of the royalties go to supporting cystic fibrosis research. Jim’s granddaughter, Sally, suffers from the debilitating condition.  Jim was minister of Dornoch Cathedral for 21 years, and he was also for a spell captain of the Royal Dornoch Golf Club. He has many friends in the north. A former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Jim takes his faith seriously, but he doesn't take himself seriously. I think that's a very good combination. Jim himself is 76, although he doesn't look it. Maybe that's because he laughs a lot. He certainly believes that the Christian faith shouldn't be a dour thing. He has a great fund of stories, and is much in demand as an after-dinner speaker.

This question of ageing is a strange business. Have you ever gone upstairs or into another room of your house and wondered why you were there? What is even more worrying is when you dial someone's number, then can’t remember who you are phoning and why. I’ve certainly tried to answer the phone by lifting up the TV remote control. Funnily enough, saying “hello” into it doesn’t help. I've also tried to change channels by pointing the phone at the TV. Nurse.  It's not that I'm all that old. I would tell you how old I am but unfortunately I’ve forgotten.

In his book, Jim tells some stories against himself. He says: “During my year as moderator, I was invited to speak at a Glasgow dinner. The other speaker was to be Eddie George, the governor of the Bank of England. That night, the chairman introduced me by saying: ‘We were all delighted when Dr Simpson was elected moderator. We were getting awfully tired of these intellectuals.’”

Jim has a section in his book about old people saying and doing some daft things. He tells about the owner of a village shop who noticed that a middle-aged man had left his mobile phone on the counter. Scrolling through the saved numbers on the phone, he found one entitled “Mum”. Dialling the number, the shopkeeper told the man's mother what had happened. A few minutes later, the mobile phone rang. Before he could say anything, a woman said: “Martin, you have left your phone in the village shop.”

Jim tells the story about a minister who told an old woman how lovely it was to see her so regularly at the services in the refurbished church. She said: “It is a joy to come, for it is not often I get such a comfortable seat and so little to think about.”   Doctors feature in the book. One man told his GP: “These haemorrhoids are a real pain in the neck.”  As well as funny stories, there are many insights in the book. There is wise advice about how to approach ageing, and how to live with the limitations that it can bring. He points out that living with a person suffering from dementia can be stressful, and can demand great patience and love.  It is particularly distressing when an old person cannot recognise members of their own family. Jim speaks tenderly about Dr Archie Craig, a wise minister well known to both of us. Dr Craig looked after his wife, Mary, when she was in a very confused state. At one time, Mary asked him: “Does the name Archie Craig mean anything to you?” Archie simply smiled and patted her head.   Archie told Jim: “I have had to learn a whole new language of love – the language of smiles and touch.”

This wee book, then, is a treasure, full of funny and wise things. At £5.95 (published by Steve Savage publishers), it’s a snip. The fact that the author’s royalties go to cystic fibrosis research is also important.  It must have been a proud day for Dr Simpson when he and the Rev Susan Brown conducted the wedding service of Jim’s granddaughter, Sally, in Dornoch Cathedral. Sally is waiting to be called for a double lung transplant – organ donations are so important. Here’s another symptom of ageing mentioned in Jim’s book: when our family worry if we are dead when we are simply having a nap. That’s life.

Wick Coastguards Back to Full Strength Again
Wick’s coastguard team is back to full working order following the mass resignations which disabled its operation six months ago. It now has a complement of 11 members who have undergone training and have already assisted in 12 live call outs. Led by former Scrabster deputy station officer Alison Smith, the team was granted full operational status in August.
The local search-and-rescue service was plunged into crisis following the acrimonious departure of long-serving station officer Norman Macleod.   Mr Macleod opted to quit after disciplinary proceedings were started against him for swearing during an emergency call out. Eight others, including his deputy, son, also Norman, and grandson Gordie, walked out in protest, leaving just two volunteers.

The aftermath left an area of coastline stretching from Keiss to the Ord of Caithness reliant on neighbouring units for cover.  Full-time Wick coastguard sector officer Sandy Taylor is delighted with how quickly recruits have come in and got the unit back to full strength.  All 11 members have attained operations skill status with six also achieving rope-rescue technician skill level.  They train several times a month, often with support of counterparts from Duncansby, Scrabster and Melvich, with their latest mission a simulated cliff rescue on Sunday near Wick's old coastguard station.  The new-look team was granted full operational status after an independent assessment by Shetland sector officer John Webster.   The two most recent call outs involved helping police locate an elderly man who had gone missing overnight from his home near Wick and supporting the rescue by lifeboat of three people cut off by the tide near the Old Man of Wick.

Broadband Boost Amid Cuts Gloom
Ross-shire politicians have welcomed the Government's announcement that the Highlands and Islands has been selected as a pilot area for superfast broadband.  The news was revealed by Chancellor George Osborne in his Comprehensive Spending Review statement.  It was considered one upbeat announcement amid the litany of cuts devised by the Chancellor.  Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said it was delighted that its bid for UK Government funding to bring superfast broadband to some of Scotland's most rural areas had met with success.

HIE Chief Executive Alex Paterson said the strength of the Highlands and Islands' case for funding had been recognised.  "The next generation of digital technology is going to be a 'must have' for rural regions like the Highlands and Islands in the coming years," he said.  "Superfast broadband will have a significant economic and social impact on the Highlands and Islands and ensure the region remains internationally competitive."  Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Peter Peacock described the announcement as "one small piece of welcome news in an otherwise awful day for public services and the economy of the Highlands and Islands".  He added, "What is a great pity is that the package for broadband support has been so heavily cut back by the Tory Lib Dems.  That means that, while there can be some welcome investment in the next few years in the Highlands and Islands, it falls very, very far short of what was planned, and for which the funds were identified prior to the election.

Inter- Island Ferry Discount Set to Be Axed
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have said that an inter-island ferry discount scheme for businesses is in line to be axed because it was too successful.  Speaking as a storm of protest is building to protect the discount scheme, Council Leader Angus Campbell commented: “It is ironic that we have become victims of our own success in this instance in that the scheme has been such an unqualified success.”  The proposal to scrap the inter-island ferry discount for local businesses comes in the wake of continuing financial pressure.  A report on the proposed axing of the incentive is now to go to the Comhairle’s Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday, November 4.

Explained Mr Campbell:“The Inter-Island Commercial Ferry Fares Discount Scheme has undoubtedly assisted inter-island economic development activity since the scheme was introduced a number of years ago. I must emphasise that the scheme was introduced as a pilot project with £75k provided by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and £75k anticipated from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).  Unfortunately HIE did not proceed with their commitment leaving the Comhairle to fund the full programme. When the funding was exhausted last year, the Comhairle, recognising the importance of the scheme, found additional resources to allow the scheme to continue for a further year.  The pilot was initiated to demonstrate that lower fares will stimulate trade and the success of the scheme has conclusively proven this. The Comhairle would obviously like to continue with the Inter-island Commercial Ferry Discount Scheme but the present financial pressures makes that extremely difficult. It will be up to Members of the Policy and Resources Committee to identify financial resources which might allow us to continue the scheme bearing in mind that this will impact on other current economic development projects.”

SNP MP Demands Assurances Over Future of Gaelic Broadcasting
SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Angus MacNeil, last Wednesday called on the Secretary of State for Scotland to give immediate assurances that BBC Alba would not be adversely affected by the cuts proposed to the BBC’s budget.  He also called for BBC Alba to be made available on Freeview without further delay.   Commenting, Mr MacNeil said: “The SNP Scottish Government is right behind BBC Alba – it’s now up to the UK Government to make the same commitment.  “Cuts to S4C programming in Wales underline the threat to Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland. The Scottish Secretary must not allow BBC Alba to be treated with similar contempt as its Welsh counterpart.  “It is unacceptable that the BBC is being allowed to drag its heels over broadcasting BBC Alba on Freeview,” he continued.  “The ConDem coalition came to power espousing a ‘respect agenda’ for Scotland but there has been little evidence of that to date. If the UK Government is serious about treating Scotland with respect, they must start by committing to long term support of BBC Alba.”

Scots Catholics Urged to Dig Deep As Pope's Visit Makes £800k Shortfall
It was hailed as the most important spiritual visit to Scotland since the Reformation - but it has come at a cost.  Scottish Catholics will be told this weekend that they have to make up an £800,000 cash shortfall for the cost of the papal visit.  Congregations were already asked in the run-up to the event in September to donate cash to an appeal target of £1.7 million to fund the historic first state visit by a pontiff.  

How successful the Scots were in reaching this target remains unknown, as it has never been published by the Church, but church-goers are due to be told at mass this weekend the size of their share of the total cash shortfall for the visit by Pope Benedict XVI.  A collection will be held on the weekend of 6 and 7 November to try to raise the outstanding £800,000.  However, it is understood that this is likely to be just the first a series of fundraising efforts held over the coming months to cover the cost of the visit.  Catholic writer Liz Leydon said she believed that many Catholics would think the price tag was worth it, due to the successful reaction to the visit, during which the Pope staged a historic meeting with the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  She said: "It is unfortunate that there is an extra bill, but I think people would rather have had the event they did, rather than say after-the-fact, 'I wish we'd had more speakers, or more lighting'.

While congregations have already been told there would be a deficit, senior churchmen had not revealed the size of it to them.  According to one senior church source, the reason people are being given such a short warning of the special collection date is so that it will coincide with a Mass of Thanksgiving for the success of Pope Benedict's visit at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Fears about how the Church was going to pay the bill were raised in the run-up to the event. The numbers expected to attend the Mass at Bellahouston Park dropped from a projected 100,000 pilgrims, each of whom was expected to make a £20 donation to help to cover costs, to a significantly lower figure of 70,000.  Catholic commentators have already speculated that the Church hugely underestimated what organising the event would entail, compared with the 1982 visit by John Paul II, and were now having to count the cost.  Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church, confirmed the £800,000 figure. He said: "A letter concerning the outstanding amount went out to parishes at the start of the month, asking for contributions. Another will be going out in the next week, and another before the end of the year.

Council Bans New Pubs and Clubs
A ban has been placed on any new pubs, clubs or off-licences opening in almost every street of a council area.  The unusual step in West Dunbartonshire, believed to be the first in Scotland, has been taken to tackle the area's chronic alcohol-related problems.

The new over-provision policy covers 15 of the 18 areas in West Dunbartonshire and will allow the licensing board to reject all new liquor licence applications on the basis that these areas are already saturated with such venues.  Councillor Jim Brown, chair of the local licensing board, said: "This area faces some significant alcohol-related problems and the sheer number of licensed premises does nothing to help that.  With the assistance of council officers and partner agencies, we have been able to take a decision to do something quite radical to tackle this issue in West Dunbartonshire.  We have far too many pubs, bars and off-sales shops given the size of the area, and with the over-provision policy it will now be far easier to refuse new licenses.

West Dunbartonshire currently has the second highest number of licensed premises in Scotland per head of population and it is estimated that nearly 4,500 people in the area are alcohol dependent.   The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 allows licensing boards to identify areas where it would not grant new licences or licensed premises.

Shock and Ore: New Gold Rush Gets Under Way in Secret Scottish Glen
The Scottish company which was refused permission to open a gold mine in a national park has made "encouraging" new discoveries in a remote glen close to the park's borders, it was revealed in a surprise announcement on Thursday.  Three months ago the board of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park threw out an application by Perth-based Scotgold Resources to reopen the Cononish gold mine, near Tyndrum, which had been abandoned in 1997.  The company was seeking permission to extract 72,000 tonnes of ore annually for up to ten years at the disused mine, but Scotgold's application was refused on the grounds that the potential economic benefits could not be balanced against conservation concerns.  But it has emerged that the company has discovered new gold deposits in another glen, three miles from the Cononish mine site and outside the park boundary. The new discoveries have been made in the Beinn Udlaidh area to the north west of the abandoned mine.

In an announcement to the Stock Exchange yesterday, Chris Sangster, the managing director of Scotgold, reported that mapping and sampling of the rock outcrop exposed in the River Orchy "continued to identify veins and zones with high-grade gold mineralisation."  He said: "The river vein prospect is located in the Beinn Udlaidh area, five kilometres northwest of the Cononish gold and silver deposit and outside the boundaries of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.  Scotgold is very encouraged by these high-grade assays. Although exploration in the area is still at an early stage, the results continue to highlight the potential of the river vein prospect to host high-grade, narrow vein gold and silver deposits. Scotgold's immediate objective is to map out more fully the distribution of the high-grade gold mineralisation and to determine the orientation of any possible extensions under the adjoining glacial till cover.  Mr Sangster said that gold had been found in a vein cutting through the banks and bed of the River Orchy. He said: "We have only found the vein in a relatively restricted part. The next phase would be to see whether the vein extends any further." Last month the company reiterated its case for the Cononish mine, saying it had the potential to harvest up to 163,000 ounces of gold and 596,000 of silver.

Airport's 'Kiss and Fly' Charge Will Cost £5 for 10 Minutes

Motorists, who delay their departure from Edinburgh Airport, when new drop-off charges are introduced today could be in for a shock.  The introduction of a controversial "kiss and fly" £1 payment will increase to £5 for drop-offs that exceed 10 minutes and will rise to £7 if the time in the drop-off zone exceeds 60 minutes.  A new 50-space "fast track" drop-off zone was due to open in the airport's multi-storey at 4am today, replacing the adjacent congested 18-space site.  Drivers dropping off passengers will be charged £1, with fees rising sharply if they stay more than ten minutes, to deter parking there. The cost will increase to £5 for ten to 20 minutes, £7 for an hour and then £9 an hour thereafter.

Taxi drivers are now arguing that they should be allowed to pass the £1 charge on to their passengers. and have called for the council to change the regulations that prevent them from adding the extra cost to fares.  The 30-space free drop-off area is moved to the long-stay car park, near the Hilton hotel, linked to the terminal by free shuttle buses every ten minutes. However, drivers will be allowed to stop there for only ten minutes without charge, after which the same fees will apply. Cameras at both drop-off areas - which will not have entry barriers - will record vehicle number plates as they drive in. Drivers at the "fast-track" area can pay from their vehicle by cash or credit or debit card, without handling fees, before exiting through barriers.  The £1 charge is the only one of its type in Scotland. It is not supported by the Scottish Government and opposed by all the opposition parties, along with 68 of 71 MSPs who responded to a recent poll.

Coalition to Block New Bid to Change UK Time
Dr Mayer Hillman, of the University of Westminster’s Policy Studies Institute, said introducing double British Summer Time, effectively switching to Central European Time and producing darker mornings but lighter evenings, would reduce road casualties, improve people’s health and quality of life and boost the leisure and tourism industries to the tune of £3.5 billion a year, creating about 80,000 jobs UK-wide.  Since his last report on the subject 17 years ago, Dr Hillman claimed more evidence had arisen that confirmed the benefits of putting the clocks forward in summer to GMT+2 and in winter to GMT+1.

MPs on the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee were told by academics that not putting the clocks back in winter could reduce energy use and carbon emissions.  Yesterday’s updated report, published as clocks go back this weekend, focuses on Scotland – seen by pro-change campaigners as the biggest obstacle to creating double summer time across the UK.  Yet Dr Hillman said: “This is more likely to be seriously considered than in the past. Scotland would benefit at least as much as England.  Under the proposal, sunrise in would be 8.45am in Aberdeen, and 8.04am in London.  The report says that in Scotland the change would mean adults working nine-to-five enjoying almost 300 extra hours of daylight a year while schoolchildren would enjoy about 200 additional daylight hours.

Malcolm Rigg, the institute’s director, stressed: “The case against making the clock change in Scotland was never very strong and has weakened over time as a consequence of social and economic change and, even more so, of our better understanding of the benefits of daylight.” However Government whip Alistair Carmichael, the most northern-flung MP, who represents Orkney and Shetland, said: “It’s clear from the comments of the Scottish Secretary the Government is not going to be an agent of change on this issue.”

Rare Oor Wullie Annuals Added to National Library Collection (Some of you might remember Oor Wullie and the Beano - Robin)
The National Library of Scotland (NLS) has completed its collection of the Oor Wullie annuals by buying two rare volumes for £4000.  Seventy years after it was first printed by DC Thomson, the 1940 edition of the adventure comic strip was purchased at auction by the NLS for £3000. The 1942 annual attracted a further bid of £1000.  The two annuals were the only Oor Wullie books to be produced during the second world war because of paper shortages.

Modern Scottish collection curator at the NLS Andrew Martin said, "We all know Oor Wullie. He's one of the iconic Scottish figures and it's appropriate that the library has the full collection. "It's a record of Scottish publishing and further evidence of a very important character in the Scottish psyche."  The NLS had been searching for copies of the annuals for a while and missed out on one 1940 edition this year when it was sold at a car boot sale for £1000.  "There are said to be very few in existence," Mr Martin added. "We never know exactly but I think our Oor Wullie fans would say there are fewer than 10 in the world."

Free Entry to Scots Galleries Could End
(What a great pity if this did occur - I well remember the most enjoyable times I spent exploring in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed such pursuits - Robin)
Answering questions in Parliament yesterday, Fiona Hyslop, the Culture Minister, said she was personally a supporter of free entry to museums and galleries, but that the pressures of the forthcoming spending review might lead to free entry to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and the National Galleries being reassessed.   She said: “Once we see the opportunities in the budget, we will have to make some assessments.”

Both the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) and National Museums Scotland (NMS) are preparing for reductions in their core grants from the Scottish Government.  NGS currently receives £12.5 million a year and NMS gets £21.3m.  John Leighton of the NGS, said: “Free admission to the great national collections is a much-cherished distinguishing feature of cultural life in Scotland.”

Iains Joke Section
These are a couple of favourites that I’ve probably given you before, but I like them

The Confession Session
The new priest is nervous about hearing confessions, so he asks an older priest to sit in on his sessions. The new priest hears several confessions, then the old priest asks him to step out of the confessional for a few suggestions.

The old priest suggests, "Cross your arms over your chest and rub your chin with one hand."

The new priest tries this. The old priest suggests, "Try saying things like, 'I see, yes, go on, and I understand, how did you feel about that?"

The new priest says those things, trying them out. The old priest says, "Now, don't you think that's a little better than slapping your knee and saying, 'No way! What happened next?'"

Greatest Country
Where do you come from?" the Scotsman asked an American.
"From the greatest country in the world," replied the American.
"Funny," said the Scotsman, "you've got the strangest Scottish accent I've ever heard."

Last Updated (Sunday, 31 October 2010 21:48)