Some Scottish News & Views #64

This little effort is for the period ending 7th November 2010.   Once again I’ve been able to include a small named tongue-in-cheek article which I think you will enjoy. - Robin

BA to Create 30 Jobs At its Glasgow Engineering Hanger
Glasgow airport has received a jobs boost with news that British Airways is to create 30 posts at its aircraft maintenance facility.  The technicians and mechanics are being hired to cope with higher work volumes at the BA engineering hanger, which carries out major maintenance work on Airbus and Boeing 737 aircraft.  BA said the move was not restricted to those already working in the aviation sector.  Its recruitment drive comes just weeks after the same facility took on ten apprentices.  Bill Armstrong, general manager of British Airways Maintenance Glasgow, said: "Our workload is now such that we need to expand the workforce quickly with the addition of experienced and skilled mechanics who will be able to bring their expertise to our operation."

Superfood Scotland
By 2011 Scotland will be the home of a new super institute – the first centre of its kind in Europe – where agricultural and environmental data will be used to ensure a world-leading food industry stays well ahead of the game. The merger of two of Scotland’s world-renowned science centres, the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute and the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI), will allow scientists to concentrate on creating more, better and healthier products and set even higher standards for Scotland’s £7 billion food and drink sector.

Already work is under way on a £4.9 million breeding programme to find the perfect cholesterol-reducing oat. And more millions are directed towards better use of clover, peas and beans. The potential of blackcurrants to mitigate the effects of Alzheimers and colon cancer is being examined. Nutrition-rich barley bread could replace more ordinary varieties on supermarket shelves. Sustainability, and the implications of climate change, are now major factors in the way food is produced. Dr Nigel Kerby at SCRI says: “These are big, big issues for the future.”

What’s come out of SCRI:
Half of all the world’s blackcurrants can trace their roots to Invergowrie outside Dundee.
The Glen Lyon raspberry is a favourite among growers in Spain.
Lady Balfour is Britain’s number one organic potato.
SCRI has international development links to Africa and trade links to China.

Macaulay Institute:
The Aberdeen-based Macaulay Institute is the largest scientific centre of its kind in Europe. It has just been voted number 17 out of 52,900 UK institutions by Times Higher Education for the ‘most influential’ research on environment and ecology over the past decade. The Institute is currently co-ordinating a European project involving Finland, Italy and Ireland examining procedures for flood warnings.  It is also leading research into Johnne’s disease – an affliction that affects cattle.

Bleak Winter Lies Ahead As Energy Firm Raises Prices
Households are being braced for a fresh round of energy bill increases after Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) raised its gas prices by nearly 10%.  SSE, which owns Scottish Hydro, blamed the 9.4% rise – coming into effect on December 1 – on a 25% increase in the wholesale price of gas this year.  It means the average annual household gas bill for an SSE customer will increase by £5.60 a month to £782. A dual fuel customer’s annual bill will rise to £1,226 from £1,159 a year ago.   The timing of the rise has been criticised, coming at the start of winter when gas consumption soars, and just weeks before Christmas and a planned increase in VAT to 20%.

Mark Todd, director of Energy Helpline, said SSE was the first major supplier to raise gas prices for two years but warned others were likely to follow suit. “This is a grim Christmas present for millions of customers before what’s predicted to be a very harsh winter,” he said. “We expect there to be a response from the other suppliers, and it’s likely there will be at least a few that move before Christmas.”  Alistair Phillips-Davies, energy supply director at SSE, defended the increase, saying: “The last few months have been marked by rising wholesale gas prices and, having absorbed losses in our gas supply business for some time, we cannot delay an increase in retail prices any longer.  “I am sorry it will take effect during the winter period.”   Gas wholesale prices have risen as a result of increased demand and the impact of the rising price of crude oil, according to commodity analysts Mintec.

Scot Gov Approves Case for SAC Despite Opposition
The Scottish Government has approved the case for a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) at East Mingulay, despite huge opposition from the local community.  The announcement from the Scottish Government states that the SAC will protect a very rare coral reef found in the area, as well as safeguarding other species. Meanwhile, in response to the widespread declines in the common seal population, a new Seal Conservation Area is to be created across the whole of the Western Isles. The existing protection measures – for Orkney, Shetland, the Moray Firth, and Firth of Tay – are also to be continued.

The impetus behind SACs is set in European legislation. The EU requires that member states complete the ‘Natura 2000’ ecological network, of which SACs are an integral part. The Scottish Government is not convinced that an adequate scientific case had yet been made to for a second SAC in the Sound of Barra and will therefore take forward further research into the populations of common seals in the Western Isles.   Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Environment, said: “Following the scientific case put forward to create a Special Area of Conservation at East Mingulay, I can announce this has been given approval and will now be consulted on by Scottish Natural Heritage. This will help protect the rare cold water corals as well safeguarding many other species.  “An investigation to explore the reasons for common seal population decline in the Western Isles will be taken forward, demonstrating the Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to protecting our seals. Following the completion of this research a decision on the Sound of Barra SAC proposal will be made.”

Groundbreaking Ceremony for New Nicolson
Demolition of Springfield South is now complete and from an estimated overall building weight of 2500 tonnes, the contractors FMP successfully managed to recycle and re-use 98% of the material from the building.  FMP are progressing the many service diversions required (both temporary and permanent) around the site while the semi-permanent hoarding defining the building footprint and working site boundary is being erected. This will remain in place until completion of the new school in summer 2012.  The next stage of construction works will see the bulk earthwork excavations and construction of the foundations and substructure. Erection of the steel frame is due to commence in January 2011.

Stay Off Our Patch, Oil Industry Tells North Sea Wind Farm Developers

Britain's oil industry has warned of a major clash with offshore wind farm developers after it claimed green energy projects are encroaching on areas licensed for oil exploration in the North Sea.  Oil and Gas UK said offshore wind projects planned for huge swathes of the seas around the UK would conflict with oil companies' plans, claiming that wind farms could disrupt mobile drilling rigs and helicopter flights, and get in the way of under-water equipment and oil pipelines.  In a submission to the UK government - which is holding a consultation to set out how the UK's renewable targets will be met - the industry body hinted that individual companies could be forced to consider legal action in an attempt to defend themselves against the offshore wind sector. "It would be most unfortunate if individual licensees were forced to resort to legal processes in order to defend the rights granted under their existing petroleum licences," Oil and Gas UK said in its submission.

Jim Footner, of Greenpeace, warned that the oil industry was threatening to scupper the UK's chance of leading the way in offshore renewable technology. Scotland has one of the most ambitious renewable energy targets in the world: First Minister Alex Salmond recently announced that as much as 80 per cent of electricity is to be produced from green energy sources by 2020, up from a previous target of 50 per cent.

Families Answer Island Call to Boost Numbers
More than 20 families have answered an appeal from islanders on Canna to help boost the 21-strong population.  Residents are looking for new neighbours to move into a cottage that is being renovated after lying empty for more than 20 years.  When the deadline for applications ended last week, 22 families had made inquiries, including four from outside the UK and one from as far away as Bulgaria. A shortlist will be drawn up next month and the three-bedroom MacIssacs Cottage, currently being restored following donations from members of the National Trust for Scotland patrons' club, will be ready by March.  However the family needs to be either employed or self-employed as there are no jobs on the island.

Deb Baker, secretary of Canna Community Association, said the island has broadband, so remote working might be an option, while there may be opportunities for someone in the arts, crafts, tourism or fishing industries. She said islanders are particularly keen to attract a family with young children to boost numbers in the island's small primary school which currently has four pupils.  Baker said: "We have been very pleased with the response. Given that there is no full-time employment on the island, or pre-existing business attached to the house, the families have to be self supporting."  Canna is just 4.3 miles long and 1.2 miles wide and is the most westerly of the Small Isles archipelago in the Inner Hebrides which also includes Rum, Muck and Eigg. It was left to the NTS by the Gaelic folklorist and scholar John Lorne Campbell in 1981, and is run as a farm and conservation area with one of Scotland's most important seabird colonies. It has no major roads, shop, pub or mobile phone coverage, and the nearest doctor is a boat trip away.

Zoo Faces Drastic Cuts After Visitor Slump

The boss of one of Scotland's best-known visitor attractions has admitted it has "no option" but to slash its running costs in the wake of a dramatic slump in visitors.  Edinburgh Zoo's chief executive has warned it will have to making major savings by the end of the year to stave off a financial crisis.   The attraction, which dates back to 1913, is run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, a registered charity, which receives no public subsidy to keep the zoo running.  Mr Windmill said the zoo was taking the kind of action which many other visitor attractions would have to consider in the next few years because of the economic downturn and the impact of spending cuts. It emerged at the weekend that the National Galleries of Scotland and National Museums of Scotland may be forced to introduce admission charges. Culture minister Fiona Hyslop told the Scottish Parliament that spending pressures may lead to long-running free entry policies being "assessed".  There is understood to be mounting discontent among the workforce at the zoo, which is based at Corstorphine Hill, in west Edinburgh, about the impact of the cutbacks.

Call to Bring Back the Belt to Restore Discipline
For some it would be a return to the dark days of education where teachers ruled by fear, but for UKIP Scotland bringing back the belt is a radical attempt to win votes.  The reintroduction of the belt, seen by former pupils as an instrument of terror, is one strand of an education platform that UKIP is to put to the electorate at next May’s Holyrood election. While UKIP believe bringing back the tawse will restore discipline in the classroom, the policy has been widely criticised as a step in the wrong direction.  Other education policies put forward by UKIP – the fifth most popular party in the last General Election in Scotland – include making it easier to expel pupils, the reintroduction of the 11-plus exam and a reduction in the school leaving age to 14.  Until being banned in the mid-1980s after two Scottish mothers went to the European Court of Human Rights, being belted across the hand with a tawse was a standard part of school life.  A mere one in 20 boys escaped the belt during their school days, according to a survey conducted in 1980.

Eleanor Coner, of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: “It smacks of the 1950s and they might not have noticed but we are not in the 1950s any more.  The tawse was barbaric. I know some lads who got it for looking at the teacher in the wrong way. And you just can’t go that way any more.  The EIS, the largest teaching union in Scotland, said: “It seems as though UKIP Scotland are living in the past, and they are surely mistaken if they think that their education policies will appeal to Scottish teachers and parents.  In particular, their suggestion of a return to corporal punishment and use of the tawse in schools is clearly out of touch and will actually be offensive to a great many people.”   Rival political parties were equally scathing

Hospital Stops Hip Procedure As Metal Joints Fail

Figures show a higher proportion of patients have needed repairs to an artificial joint at Glasgow’s Southern General than at any other mainland NHS hospital in Scotland.  Medical experts say the use of a particular metal hip prosthesis in south Glasgow, which has now been recalled, may be behind the problem.  NHS Borders has also conducted a review because of the proportion of hip replacement patients suffering dislocations after surgery.  The problems were highlighted by an audit of joint replacements, carried out as part of the Scottish Arthroplasty Project.  This year for the first time the auditors examined the number of patients given artificial hips and knees who had to return for revision surgery.  In south Glasgow more than two patients in every 100 had a repair within a year and more than 4% within three years.  This failure rate is more than double that for north Glasgow and the only rate considered below the normal success range in Scotland. The Southern General performs nearly 400 hip replacements a year.

Colin Howie, chairman of the Scottish Committee for Orthopaedics and Trauma, which oversees the audit, said the majority of hip-replacement repairs are conducted more than five years after the initial operation because the joints wear out. However, he said they could also become loose or infected.  New all-metal ball and socket joints were introduced to reduce wear, he explained, and were thought to be a potentially good solution for younger patients.  However, there has been concern that metal particles cause a tissue reaction, which was found to be an issue with a design used in a study at the Southern General.  The problem, Mr Howie said, would leave patients with dead muscle and a loose hip joint, causing pain and a limp. NHS Borders has already examined its dislocation figures and said there was no evidence of ongoing problems, but they have made changes to surgical techniques and their prosthesis.

Reformation Commemoration Event
Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan, took part in the official commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the Reformation, held at Edinburgh Castle on Wednesday.  The event, which was hosted by the First Minister on behalf of the Scottish Government, commemorated the Scottish Parliament’s recognition of the reformed church in 1560 and marked the contribution of the reformed church to Scottish life over the centuries. The event included guests from different faith communities in Scotland.

Alasdair Allan commented: “It was Scotland’s opportunity as a country to commemorate a major event which has played a huge part in shaping our country’s history. Representing, as I do, a religiously mixed constituency I think it is right that this event was held at Edinburgh Castle to mark this significant anniversary.  In a country which, many would argue, has been unusually deficient in the past, in terms of teaching its own history, events like these provide a chance to reflect on Scotland’s story. The events of the reformation, and the spread of literacy and universal education which resulted from it are worth celebrating in themselves, quite apart from the important tradition of spiritual thought which they gave rise to”.

How Miliband Offended Our Red Rodents Even More Than Harman
By Iain MacIver
When Harriet Harman was scribbling her speech in the train on the way up to Oban, I think she must have had a rush of blood to the head somewhere around Dumbarton. She thought it would be a giggle if she took the mickey out of a Scottish member of the ConDems. But who?  Michael Moore, the Lib Dem Scottish Secretary? Who? OK, point taken. How about Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem treasury secretary? But how? He’s a ginger. Yeah.  That’d lighten the atmosphere. The Scottish Labour confab would need any uplifting she could manage.  But what would she call him? Ginger whinger? Nah. A bit of a cliche that. Carrot top? Nope, he could just say he was ginger not green, because carrots have green leaves on top. Oh yeah. Forget that.  How about . . . how about Danny Duracell? Uh-uh. He could say he was powering ahead and battery-ing the opposition. Leave it.  She needed to say he was like a rat for working with the Tories these Scots detest so much. Yeah, a bunch of hungover Jocks would lap that up.  Couldn’t call him a rat, though. Unparliamentary language. Something rattish. A mouse? Paul Burrell? A rodent? Yes, the very dab. Good negative imagery and there are red squirrels so, yeah, that’s it.   Sure enough, when she delivered the punchline to the party of the working class, they laughed and clapped.  Even the dinosaurs on the platform grinned and did passable impressions of performing seals to endorse their deputy boss as full of wit.

Poor Danny Alexander. He would be devastated. It’s not long since Nick Clegg wound him up, calling him Beaker from The Muppet Show.  Gingerly, I checked his Twitter to look for clues as to whether or not he had yet announced he was so crushed he would quit politics. Er, no. Seeming somewhat un-devastated, he tweeted: “I am proud to be ginger and rodents do valuable work cleaning up mess others leave behind. Red squirrel deserves to survive, unlike Labour.”

Well recovered, Ginge, I mean Mr A. And a most excellent dig at Labour’s mismanagement of the economy, too. I would call that a score draw. See? Even rodents have funny bones. That’s because he was brought up in Uist. You need a sense of humour to live in Uist. That’s why they are now extending the tourist season by engineering wee stunts so the media will come and fill up the Dark Island Hotel and B&Bs.   That one last week with the trained whales from the Florida sea-life centre frolicking in Loch Carnan was a good one. Kept the tills jingling for a few days.  Lachie, the manager of the D.I., was radiant as he shook me warmly by the credit card last Thursday. Another proud ginger, too.

Meanwhile, they were lining up against poor Harriet. Perpetually po-faced Lib Dem George Lyon, the MEP who whinges about our tourist-friendly ferry fares, found a high horse to clamber on to.  He moaned there were no depths to which Labour wouldn’t stoop, as he whined in full over-the-top mode. His pals, too, raged to any reporters they could find that it was bullying.   The SNP, of course, because Alex Salmond apologised for witlessly calling Iain Gray schizophrenic a few days before, kept well out of the mud-slinging. Yeah, right. Shrill Shirley-Anne Somerville, a whingeing ginger ninja, couldn’t resist.  The great nation of Alba has the highest proportion of gingers on the planet, she pointed out helpfully. Harman’s silly remark wasn’t anti-Danny or anti-Lib Dem, it was anti-Scottish, she declared loftily from the parapets of the SNP website.  Och, get over yourselves, the lot of you. It was banter, even if not the Churchillian repartee of old. They are level pegging. End of.

Then, personality-free new Labour leader Ed Miliband got on the blower. He ordered his talented new gag-writer to grovel. Harman must call up The Ginger One to say sorry.  Bad move. Can you imagine how she grovelled?  “Hi, Danny, Harry here. Highness? No, no, not the ginger prince; the Harman one. Yeah, how’s it going, mate? Oh really, I’m sorry to hear that. What’s wrong? You’ve just heard someone called you a what? Oh no. Who on earth would say you were a . . . erm, actually Danny, mate, that was me.   “That’s why I’m calling, really. And I didn’t just call you that, I actually called you a ginger one. Ha-ha.  Why? Well, it’s Halloween. I wanted to scare the pants off my lot and show I can be funny as Balls. We’re here in some yucky place called Oban, so we badly needed a laugh. Have you been here? Right, well you’ll know what it’s like, then. It’s so dreich, or whatever they call it. Anyway, sorry. “Of course, we’ll have to put out a press release to say I said sorry. OK? Right, bye, and sorry again. Sorry I think I said sorry before. Sorry. Bye.”

Blimey, she was just joking. Admittedly, a really dire joke, but just a flipping joke. The barmy political correctness that grips the out-of-touch Labour and Lib Dem parties just made it all worse.  The apology, making a wee mistake official, validates the tiresome outrage whipped up by Lyon and the like.  Miliband minor must have thought certain parties were gravely offended. But who? Happy tweeter Danny Alexander obviously isn’t. Lib Dems like Lyon? He is only offended if he can’t launch a joyless tirade, so he’s happy now. The SNP? Nah. Glass houses and all that.

Maybe the entire Scottish nation thinks it was racist? Hardly, we loved the entire fiasco. It makes the rest of us seem normal.  So it must be the rodents. Miliband must be worried red squirrels could be offended at being compared to a homo sapiens who looks like one of the Muppets.  He’s nuts if he thinks squirrels won't have a giggle at that.

Miliband must say sorry. It’s just rodentist.

Scots Jobs 'Saved' by Historic Defence Treaties
New treaties giving the French and British their closest-ever military ties will help secure hundreds of Scottish jobs, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown claimed in his first Commons speech since leaving Downing Street to back the Rosyth dockyard.  The former prime minister was greeted with loud cheers from Labour back-benchers and jeers from the coalition as he stood to insist that maintenance on Britain's new aircraft carriers should be carried out at the Scottish shipyard that borders his  constituency, rather than in France.

A new era in cross-Channel military co-operation was ushered in when two treaties were signed pooling the two countries' troops, aircraft carriers and nuclear testing facilities for the next 50 years.  Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have committed their two countries to the closest military integration in their history, in a bid to make "substantial savings" to defence budgets.  Fife MP Mr Brown claimed the new treaty would help save jobs at Rosyth naval base in Fife, by securing the future of aircraft carrier contracts vital for keeping the yard afloat.  Mr Brown said: "I welcome this decision because it is the right thing militarily for Britain. The best place which is already able to do the job is Rosyth."  The treaty will include arrangements to combine procurement and maintenance contracts, and the UK Government was quick to quash suggestions that Rosyth would lose its carrier maintenance contracts in favour of Brest in France.  Yesterday, faced with concern among Eurosceptic Tories, Mr Cameron denied that the move by the European Union's only major military powers is a step towards a European defence force.  The treaties are being signed despite a major falling out between Britain and France as recently as 2003 over the invasion of Iraq, and previous differences over conflicts such as the Falklands.  The agreement will mean that the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaul and British supercarrier Queen Elizabeth will be available for both countries and will be provided as a back up when one or the other is being refitted.

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited Rosyth to announce that the Government's £5.2 billion aircraft carrier project would go ahead, but fears have continued over maintenance contracts for the new ships.  Under the treaty, Rosyth could play a key part in maintaining the joint French-British carrier fleet.  Both countries, who have been historical enemies but on the same side in two world wars, would be able to veto the use of their carrier for a conflict with which they disagreed, which means that the french carrier might not be available if the Falklands was invaded again.  The treaties will create a new Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, training British and French troops to deploy on operations together. It also involves the development of a new nuclear testing facility at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and its French counterpart at Valduc.  The agreement will also see the two countries pooling resources in terms of training, maintenance and logistics for the new A400M transport aircraft which they are both acquiring, while French fighter jets could be refuelled in flight from British tanker aircraft.  In the longer term, the two countries will work together on a whole range of programmes including satellite communications, cyber security and the development of new missile systems, submarine technologies and unmanned aerial drones.  The move comes as both nations are looking to cut the cost of their armed forces.

More Good News for Arnish
Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan, has today welcomed the second piece of positive news for the Arnish Fabrications Yard in Stornoway inside one day.  The Scottish Government has announced a £70 million National Renewable Infrastructure Fund. Arnish will be one of twelve preferred bidders in Scotland who will be able to make bids for this funding for the construction of renewable projects around Scotland.  The announcement was made by First Minister, Alex Salmond, who also used the event to call for Scotland to have access to the £190 million of fossil fuel levy which has been raised in Scotland but is currently held by the UK Government.  Alasdair Allan commented:  “This announcement follows hard on the heels of this morning’s news that the Arnish Yard has secured a multi million pound contract to build foundation piles for structures for the Gwynt y Mor offshore wind farm in North Wales.   Arnish continues to be of major importance to the Western Isles and their economy.”

Blaze of Glory: Shetland One of World’s Top Tourist Spots

They may be bleak, windy and treeless, but the Shetland Islands have been listed as one of the top places in the world to visit.  Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2011 praises the “last untamed corner of the UK” and suggests “adventurous travellers should step this way”.  Next year’s edition of the popular travel guide also includes Edinburgh, which it names as an artistic hot-spot, and Glasgow, which it ranks as one of the world’s top comeback cities.  Edinburgh is listed as the number one city for artistic inspiration. The capital is also included in the list of best cities for Dance Fever, under the ceilidh section, with Dance Base in the Grassmarket suggested as a place to take lessons.

Glasgow is listed alongside Berlin and Beirut as a “comeback city”, defined by the guide as “having bounced back from the brink of becoming no-go destinations, turning tumultuous pasts into tourist drawcards”.  The guide adds: “Championing industrial heritage became integral to new-look Glasgow.  “The once-grim River Clyde has morphed into its cultural focal point with museums replacing derelict docklands. Ambling today through a centre of astounding architecture and cool cafe-bars, it’s hard to imagine the bad times ever existed.”

Lonely Planet contributor Tom Hall, said modern travellers were seeking out more remote and wild places – which is why Shetland scored so highly. We are seeing a return to wild tourism, and people are increasingly interested in going to places that are different.  There’s that ‘nobody you know has been here’ element to visiting Shetland. It’s not easy to get to, and once you’re there, you really get to experience nature in the raw. This might just be the last untamed corner of the United Kingdom.”  Mr Hall said orcas, otters, seals and puffins were easy to spot in the islands and visitors would often have such sights all to themselves. There are also Bronze Age and Viking attractions.  And when it comes to walking or off-road biking there are the highest sea cliffs in Europe to discover. Exploring is easy due to high-quality, oil-funded infrastructure and efficient ferries.  The striking new Mareel arts centre is due to open next year on the Lerwick quayside next to the new Shetland Museum and Archives.

Shetland’s arch-rival Orkney needn’t feel left out, however. It too has secured a top 10 place in the new edition, with The Old Man of Hoy the only Scottish entry in the guide’s 10 Best Things to Climb.  The guide says of the 400-year-old, 449ft-high sea stack of red sandstone: “Scale this soon to avoid disappointment: one of the Old Man’s ‘legs’ was washed away in 19th-century storms; geologists reckon the rest of the stack will follow suit.”

Cash-strapped Police Force Axes Assistant Chief Constable Post
Strathclyde Police has axed one of its most senior posts as it braces itself for historic cuts.  The cash-strapped force yesterday confirmed that it is to “delete” one of its four assistant chief constable positions as part of a major revamp.  Senior officers are currently planning to lose a quarter of all civilian staff in an unprecedented round of redundancies. They have imposed a recruitment freeze and compulsory early retirement regime for officers.  Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson, in a memo to all staff issued late last week, signalled that no Strathclyde officer or worker – however senior – would escape the cutbacks.  “It was with this in mind that we have decided to reduce the number of assistant chief constables from four to three.” he said.  The post to go is assistant chief constable for strategic development and organisational change. The job is currently being filled by one of the force’s most respected senior officers, Chief Superintendent Ruaraidh Nicholson.

Call to Create A Highland and Islands Regional Government

Scotland’s two enterprise networks should be scrapped rather than being merged, to make way for a new Highlands and Islands regional government, says a leading expert.  Professor Jim Hunter, who served six years as chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise(HIE), believes the new body could take responsibility for the emergency services, health and existing local authority duties.  Similar bodies could be established in Borders and south-west Scotland, he said.

Prof Hunter’s comments are the latest contribution to the debate about the future of HIE and come ahead of the visit of Holyrood’s economy, energy and tourism committee to Skye today as part of its investigation into the running of Scottish Enterprise (SE) and HIE.  Prof Hunter said it was fitting the committee was meeting in Skye’s Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, a state-of-the-art academic campus, where once there was just bog and bracken.  He thought it highly unlikely the idea of creating such a higher educational facility in an impoverished part of the Hebrides to teach through the medium of Gaelic would have won SE support.  “But HIE and its predecessor the Highlands and Islands Development Board have been right behind Sabhal Mòr Ostaig since it started in an old farm steading on the Sleat Peninsula more than 30 years ago,” he said. “It has helped transform Skye, and the Highlands and shows why we need a Highland development agency.” Just as there is a case for having a centre of power in Edinburgh to counter the influence of London, so there is a case for devolution within Scotland itself. Not just for the Highlands and Islands, but for the Borders and the south-west as well.”  The background to Prof Hunter’s concerns and the committee’s inquiries are wide-reaching reforms to the enterprise network announced by the Scottish Government in September 2007, when Local Enterprise Companies and Local Enterprise Forums were abolished.

HUGS ( friend has just given me this so I thought I would share - Robin)
There's something in a simple hug That always warms the heart;
It welcomes us back home And makes it easier to part.
A hug’s a way to share the joy, ,And sad times we go through.
Or just a way for friends to say; They like you 'cause you're you

Hugs are meant for anyone For whom we really care.
From your grandma to your neighbour Or a cuddly teddy bear.
A hug is an amazing thing - It's just the perfect way
To show the love we're feeling But just can't find the words to say-;.

It 's funny how a little hug 'Makes everyone feel good.~
In every place and language, It's always understood
And Hugs don't need equipment, Special batteries or parts -
Just open up your arms And open up your heart.

Harman Apologises Over Alexander ‘Ginger Rodent’ Jibe
Former Equalities Minister Harriet Harman was last night forced to apologise after calling Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander a “ginger rodent”.  The remark by Labour’s Deputy UK Leader, who is famous for her politically correct speech, led to her becoming embroiled in a bizarre row.  Harman’s comment to delegates at Labour’s conference in Oban led to accusations of her being anti-Scottish. Around 8% of Scotland’s population has red hair, against 2% in the rest of Europe.  Labour initially tried to downplay the remark as being more about “the rodent than the ginger”, but after the row exploded across the internet Harman recanted. A statement issued by Labour said: “Harriet Harman has today apologised for her comment about Danny Alexander and says it was wrong.”

Old Hands Help Launch Bid to Bring Back Skiff Regattas
Colourful skiff regattas are to be seen down the Clyde, on the Forth and all around the coastline of mainland Scotland for the first time since the 1950s with a series of races confirmed for the new year.  Volunteers in Greenock and South Queensferry are among dozens of clubs and community groups around the country who have started to build 22-ft wooden rowing boats to encourage a revival in the races that were once a popular pastime in fishing villages and ports but was lost as the industry went into decline.  Skiffs are miniature Viking boats and would have originally been used for fishing.  Old shipwrights are teaching young people new skills in their own time and assembling the St Ayles style skiff in garages, boat yards and even in old shop premises.  Skiffs have already been built by community teams in Port Seton, Portobello and North Berwick.

Set up by the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, Fife, the idea of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project is to provide a relatively inexpensive way of competing by using a design that can be built by those rowing the boats, rather than buying completed ones from professional boat builders.  The design of the St Ayles Skiff, commissioned from Iain Oughtred by the museum at Jordan Boats in Fife, means the estimated cost is around £3000, a 10th of a similar pre-built vessel.  A spokesman for the project said: “The concept has been a remarkable success remarkably quickly, with more than 30 boats either in use or in build throughout Scotland. It has now attracted world wide attention. The building of one St Ayles Skiff is confirmed in Maine, USA, and others are expected shortly. There have also been inquiries from Australia and Europe.”  The standard crew is four rowers, each with a single oar, and a coxswain. The name of the design comes from the former chapel which now forms the entrance to the Scottish Fisheries Museum.

Trump’s Fiercest Opponent Faces Probe Over Land Sale to Mother (The continuing saga of “The” Golf Course - its obvious that the rich and powerful like Trump will stop at nothing to get what they want - Robin).
Donald Trump’s biggest opponent was last night under investigation amid claims he has broken strict planning rules by selling property to his mother. Aberdeenshire Council said its officials are looking into the deal which saw Michael Forbes part with the mobile home next to his Mill of Menie property this summer.   Molly Forbes paid her son thousands of pounds for a small plot of land and the chalet she lives in, which is called Paradise.  But last night it emerged there is a planning condition attached to the property banning its sale.  If the council confirms there has been a breach, it will have to take enforcement action – with the ultimate sanction being the demolition of the chalet.  Mr Forbes said he was not aware of having broken any rules and that he had given the land to his mother to make sure she was protected if billionaire Mr Trump or the council force them from their homes.

Mill of Menie is one of four properties Mr Trump has been allowed to add to his £750million plans for a golf resort – despite the owners refusing to sell.  They fear compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) will be used to remove them from their homes.  Last night Mr Trump described Mrs Forbes’s chalet as “disgusting” and called for it to be demolished if the rules have been flouted. “Mrs Forbes should be allowed to move in with her son and live out her life in dignity,” he said.  “The trailer should be removed immediately from the site as it’s an eyesore and an environmental hazard.”

According to the Registers of Scotland, where all land sales must be declared, Mrs Forbes bought her chalet from her son on June 1. Official documents show she paid £9,000 for the property and the surrounding one-fifth of an acre.  But the planning consent which allows the chalet to be sited next to Mr Forbes’s home has a strict condition which states that it “shall not at any time be sold, let out or otherwise occupied as a separate dwelling house”.  The council confirmed it was investigating whether the permission granted to the Forbes family had been breached. “We were not aware of the potential breach but now that it has been brought to our attention we will investigate,” a spokeswoman said.  

Two Weeks to Save 5,000 Year Old Tomb in Orkney
Archaeologists are involved in a race against time to investigate what may be a 5,000 year old burial complex in Orkney.  The site containing human remains was uncovered by a local man while using a mechanical digger for landscaping his garden at Banks on the island of South Ronaldsay.  Hamish Mowatt dug a hole close to an 8ft-long stone in the garden, next to the Skerries Bistro, which is run by his fiancee Carole Fletcher, and discovered a chamber inside with about 9in of water lying on the bottom.  He managed to get an underwater camera into the hole and saw what appeared to be the two eyesockets of a skull. The couple contacted Julie Gibson, an archaeologist with Orkney Islands Council, who said the site was a Stone Age chambered tomb.  A rescue excavation is being undertaken by the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology over the next two weeks, sponsored by Orkney Islands Council and Historic Scotland.

It is thought that the structure might contain three chambers, one of which has been cut down into rock and is capped by a massive flat stone. At least three skulls have been seen, and possibly pottery, which need to be recovered before the water inside the structure destroys them. Archaeologists say it is an exciting find in itself and also because it is near the Isbister Chambered Cairn, or Tomb of the Eagles, on the south-eastern tip of South Ronaldsay.  This cairn contains a cache of tools, including axe heads and a knife, as well as human remains in a chamber.  Ms Gibson said: "Not only do we have the discovery of relatively undisturbed human remains, but we've now got two tombs - the Banks tomb and the nearby Tomb of the Eagles - in close proximity and both found in relatively recent times, where we can see how the dead were being handled in the Neolithic."

Airport Evacuated After Suspect Package Find
Hundreds of passengers at one of the Scotland’s busiest airports were caught up in a security alert on Thursday night after a suspect package was found.  Parts of Glasgow Airport were evacuated at around 8pm after staff were alerted to a suspicious bag in a security area.  People waiting to disembark from flights were forced to stay on board aircraft while security officials cordoned off the building, although flights continued to land. It was not clear whether the suspect package at the centre of the scare had already been screened. A bomb disposal team was called to the airport.

Michael Moore Carpeted for Failing to Answer Questions of MPs
He is meant to be Scotland's voice in the Westminster Cabinet, but he has also come under scrutiny over what he is doing in office.  It is understood that he is due to be called before the Commons procedure committee for either failing to answer written questions from MPs or not answering them directly.  The committee has decided to launch an investigation into how well ministers respond to questions, after complaints the new coalition often delays answers beyond the seven-day convention or that MPs are simply given a holding reply.  The committee can give ministers only "a slap on the wrists", but it hopes its actions will embarrass them into improving their performance.  There have also been complaints about Foreign Office ministers.

It is understood there is particular frustration over questions about Mr Moore's diary, and where he was on particular dates. He has yet to explain where he was on 13 July - the day of the vote on increasing VAT. He missed the vote, which was an embarrassment for Mr Moore's Liberal Democrats, who had campaigned in the election specifically against such a rise.  His department's initial response to the media wrongly claimed he had been paired with an opposition member. Officials then said he had been away on ministerial business in Scotland.  There have also been a series of questions, particularly from current shadow Scottish secretary Ann McKechin, that Mr Moore has been accused of failing to address in his answers.  The revelation about the committee's intentions comes amid growing frustration over what the Scottish Secretary is doing and questions over whether he is properly fighting Scotland's corner in the Cabinet.

Norway Could Help Save Moray Base
The future of RAF Lossiemouth in Moray could depend on a deal being struck with the Nordic nations to co-operate more closely on defence matters.  Defence Secretary Liam Fox is due to fly to Norway next week to discuss further co-operation, including possible closer links with the Norwegian air force.  In the Commons yesterday he was pressed by Moray MP Angus Robertson on the issue, who pointed out that the Norwegians had ordered the same joint strike fighters as the British.  He suggested this would make RAF Lossiemouth the ideal base for the fighters (JSFs) instead of RAF Marnham in Norfolk England. At present the MoD is deciding which of the two bases will be the home of the JSFs. Dr Fox confirmed that air force co-operation with Norway was a factor that could sway the final decision.

Iains Section
An exasperated mother, whose son was always getting into mischief,  finally asked him 'How do you expect to get into Heaven?'
The boy thought it over and said, 'Well, I'll run in and out and in and out and keep slamming the door until St. Peter says, 'For Heaven's sake, Dylan, come in or stay out!''
It was that time, during the Sunday morning service, for the children's sermon.
All the children were invited to come forward.
One little girl was wearing a particularly pretty dress and, as she sat down, the minister leaned over and said, 'That is a very pretty dress.  Is it your Easter Dress?'
The little girl replied, directly into the minister's clip-on microphone,
'Yes, and my Mum says it's a bitch to iron.'
A certain little girl, when asked her name, would reply, I'm Mr. Sugarbrown's daughter.'
Her mother told her this was wrong, she must say, 'I'm Jane Sugarbrown.'
The Minister spoke to her in Sunday School, and said, 'Aren't you Mr. Sugarbrown's daughter?'
She replied, 'I thought I was, but mother says I'm not.'