Scottish News & Views #65

This little effort is for the period ending 13th November 2010.   I’ve been asked where I get all the news items from and its really quite simple folks,  although time consuming.  I “raid” all the Scottish newspapers I can find from the North to the West and from the East to the South.  I select items I think will be of interest,  then edit them, mainly summarise, to be of a suitable size to send out.  If I use a featured article I’ll put the authors name but for straight news items I won’t put the name of the newspaper I then load up and away we go - Robin

Minister, 103 Years Old, in 450 Year Record
A Highland minister, who celebrated his 103rd birthday last month, has made the record books as the longest-ordained minister of the Church of Scotland since the Reformation 450 years ago.  The latest Church of Scotland Yearbook reveals that the Rev Tom Donn, who was ordained at Stornoway more than 78 years ago, and now lives at Kingsmills Nursing Home, Inverness, achieved this remarkable distinction on May 2. On that date he broke the previous record set by the Rev Alexander Rae Grant, former minister of West Cults, Aberdeen, who was ordained on November 20, 1923, and who died aged 104, on August 7, 2001, 77 years and 260 days later.

From Govan, Glasgow, Mr Donn was educated at the city’s Bellahouston Academy, Glasgow University and Trinity College, Glasgow.  He was ordained and inducted on March 14, 1932, to his first charge at Martin's Memorial Church, in his mother's native Stornoway, where he served until called to Rosehall, Sutherland, in November 1934.   In 1938 he married schoolteacher Barbara Mackay from Inverness, at the burgh's Crown Church. Barbara was born at remote Overscaig Hotel, mid-Sutherland, where her parents were tenants in her youth. Before their marriage she served at Melvich and Achlyness schools in Sutherland.  Both their daughters, Fiona and Deirdre, were born during his spell at Rosehall, before the family moved to Strathspey in 1945, when Mr Donn received a call to the charge of Carrbridge and Duthil. He took early retirement in 1969, to allow for a linking of Carrbridge and Boat of Garten charges, but after moving to Inverness, remained active as a supply preacher for many years. For one long period he acted as locum at St Stephen's Church, until the arrival of a permanent minister.

A theologian and scholar, Mr Donn also wrote a number of books and loved to recall that he had even penned articles by invitation for Church of England magazines.  He was equally active physically, being a keen mountaineer and cyclist until relatively late in life.  He was widowed in 1999, when Mrs Donn died at the age of 89. Although he lived for a time thereafter with his daughters, increasing blindness and frailty forced him to move into a nursing home, first of all to Clachnaharry, and latterly to Kingsmills, close to where Fiona, a retired schoolteacher, and Deirdre, a retired civil servant, live.  Mr Donn is also the oldest member both of Inverness Presbytery and Inverness Old High Church, although he has been unable to attend meetings or services in person for some years. Old High St Stephen’s minister the Rev Peter Nimmo, who is to visit him this week, with Inverness Presbytery moderator the Rev Reginald Campbell, said: “Tom Donn has had a long, active and remarkable ministry, and was a respected scholar and author. “We wish him well and God’s blessing.”

Rok Collapse - HIE Say Completion of Arnish Job is A Priority
The company behind the £3million Arnish refurbishment has announced it is to go into into administration.  Rok plc was awarded a framework contract for HIE last month worth up to £32million over four years.  This work includes the refurbishment of Arnish yard.  A statement on the company’s website said on Monday: “The board of Rok plc (the “Company”) announces that it has resolved to put the Company into administration and to make an application to the Financial Services Authority to suspend the listing and trading of the Company’s Ordinary Shares on the Stock Exchange. It is anticipated that the administration and suspension will become effective shortly. Further announcements will be made in due course.”

Cracking Down on the Work-shy (This is a bit familiar - Robin)
We have every sympathy for people who are unemployed and unable to work, despite their best efforts to find a job, but what about benefits-claimants who have no intention of doing a proper job?  The government is now cracking down on them by planning to force people to do compulsory full-time manual labour on unpaid four-week placements. The idea is to weed out those who show no inclination to work or who have a job on the side, as well as claiming benefits, and to give valuable work experience.

Foreign Secretary William Hague, when asked to comment on the proposals by the Department for Work and Pensions, said he felt the vast majority of people in Britain would support the plan. He is probably right: we have all heard stories about people who abuse the system. So, there will be little sympathy from hardworking people for those who might be described as work-shy or who have grown to become institutionalised benefits-claimants. However, as with other elements of the coalition’s welfare reform plans, great care must be exercised at ground level to ensure that staff operate the system in a fair way so that the right people are targeted

Door Open for Norwegian Air Power Deal
Defence Secretary Liam Fox has left the door open for a possible air power deal with Norway which could safeguard the future of RAF Lossiemouth.  He said talks due to start today in Oslo were aimed at ensuring “we deepen our bi-lateral relationship with” the Scandinavian country.  He was responding to questions in the Commons from Moray SNP MP Angus Robertson, who has raised the prospect of an agreement being reached with Norway on a new generation of combat aircraft which both nations are buying from the United States.

Mr Fox said one aim was to create a Nato entity which Sweden and Finland – both neutral nations but members of the EU – felt “a little more comfortable with” and would be “better able to deal with regional disputes with Russia”.  Defence experts are becoming increasingly concerned about the strategic importance of the “High North”, which has vast reserves of fish, oil and minerals and is becoming more accessible as the Arctic ice melts.

Norwegian media have been reporting on the prospects for greater co-operation following the deals the UK has struck with France on the use of aircraft carriers and the joint use of troops.  Norway News said regional defence co-operation had become more important with global warming in the Arctic bringing mineral rights, fishing and transportation into focus, with competing territorial claims.

'Worst Storms for Years' Sweep in
The severe weather left 87 people stranded on a passenger ferry off Aberdeen. The NorthLink boat Hjaltland was due to dock in the city's harbour at 7am on Tuesday, but high winds and rough seas meant the ferry could not dock.With no sign of conditions easing, the vessel was last night diverted to Rosyth. A Northlink spokesman said arrangements had been  made to provide passengers with transport to Edinburgh or Aberdeen.

Strong gusts led to speed restrictions on many bridges, and fallen trees caused problems on the A82 near Drumnadrochit and a number of minor roads in the Highlands.Drifting snow forced the closure of the A93 Glenshee to Braemar road, while motorists on the M74 near Beattock and on the A9 at Drumochter were advised to drive with caution, also due to snow. The poor conditions led to the cancellation of ferries between Mallaig and Armadale on Skye and Oban-Colonsay, while another 11 of Caledonian MacBrayne's services on the west coast and Hebrides were disrupted, along with the links between Northern Ireland and Stranraer and Cairnryan.

A few centimetres of snow accumulated overnight on ground above 500 metres. On lower ground, flooding was a problem, including areas of Dumfries and Galloway, where more than two inches of rain fell overnight.  The A712 road between Newton Stewart and New Galloway closed with water up to three feet deep in places.  Other roads in the south of Scotland, including the A714 south of Newton Stewart and the A77 south of Cairnryan, were also flooded. A police spokesman at Dumfries said: "It's been one of the stormiest 24 hours for several years."  The Scottish Environment Protection Agency issued three flood watches on rivers in Stirling and Highland and lowland rivers in Angus.

Winds reached Force 11 – over 65mph – in South Uist on Sunday night and caused the temporary closure of roads and further flooding to low-lying areas of the already endangered island.  The causeway that connects South Uist to Eriskay was closed as high tides and strong winds made it unsafe to cross.  As the weather raged, a public meeting about the impact on the island of coastal erosion and climate change was taking place in Daliburgh.  Winds reached 46-63mph elsewhere. The Churchill Barriers in Orkney were closed for a time and a number of damaged trees blocked roads in Highlands.

Lammermuir Hills Wind Farm Agreed
A windfarm has been approved despite a long campaign of opposition.  The 48-turbine development will be built in an area of the Lammermuir Hills in the Borders, creating power for about 66,000 homes, the Scottish Government said.  The site at Fallago Rig aims to help achieve climate change targets and create about 600 jobs.  Campaigners against the project argued that unspoiled countryside will be threatened by the construction and approval of the plans followed two public inquiries.  Energy Minister Jim Mather said it signified a "significant boost" for the economy.  The local community will be represented through the Tweed Forum and a fund was set up to provide £240,000 in each year of operation to go toward environmental "improvements".  Mr Mather said: "In consenting this application I have put in place a series of conditions to protect the outstanding natural habitats and landscapes, and minimise disturbance to communities.

Crofters’ DIY Bid to Save Island From the Sea

Crofters on the Outer Hebridean island of South Uist have started laying old fishing nets over sand dunes in a bid to save their island from the ravages of the rising sea.  In an innovative scheme to protect the island’s low-lying coastline from the storms and floods blamed on climate pollution, islanders yesterday began a project to stabilise the dunes. The hope is that the nets will encourage the growth of grass, which will in turn help prevent erosion.  The project is one of the first practical attempts in Scotland to adapt to the changes that global warming is expected to bring. As sea levels rise, the west coast of South Uist is one of the most vulnerable places in the UK for land erosion.  Islanders say that, in places, 30 or 40 metres of farmland has already been lost to the sea in their lifetimes. Some fear the island could end up being sliced in half by water.  Seamus MacDonald, a retired crofter, pointed out that there was no land between South Uist and Canada. “So you have got a lot of ocean hitting this coast,” he explained.“If you see these breakers coming towards you in the winter, you just feel like running – and you wonder if they are ever going to stop. It can be frightening.”

In January 2005, five members of one family from South Uist were drowned when they attempted to escape a fierce storm by driving across a low-lying causeway near their home. Large areas of the island were submerged by the storm. But MacDonald is worried that future floods could be worse. “The land was covered in sand, shingle, seaweed and rock picked up by the tide,” he recalled.  According to James Curran, the director of science at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, average sea levels in the area could rise by between 37 and 61 centimetres by 2080.

Most of the seasons in South Uist are expected to be wetter, and storms could become fiercer and more frequent.   The plan now is to lay lorry tyres and fishing nets, recycled by a local company, across the dunes along a five-mile stretch of coastline near Kilpheder towards the south of the island. This should help anchor the sand with marram grass, and strengthen the barrier against the sea.  The work is being supported by Oxfam Scotland, which has organised a public meeting for today to discuss the impact of climate change.  “We’re already seeing the effects of climate change in Uist and in countless other communities around the world,” said the charity’s Caluna Campbell.

Former Gazette Reporter is Honoured
Former senior reporter at the Stornoway Gazette is this year’s recipient of the Cuach Comunn Leodhas agus na Hearadh at the 123rd Gathering of the Glasgow Lewis and Harris Association, held in Glasgow recently.  The Cuach was given to the Association by the late Ewan Cameron of Lochearnhead and is designed to be awarded each year to ‘persons from Lewis and Harris who have brought honour to themselves or the Island during the past year’.

Staines is Not Such A Bad Name Compared to These Island Ones
Driving to a colleague’s house in Bromley, Kent, some years ago, I managed to find the right exit off the M25 motorway and followed the signs, but somehow ended up in a wee village I had never heard of.   Well, did you know about Pratts Bottom?

Have you ever had that feeling when you wonder if you can believe your eyes, whether you are actually dreaming or even whether you have somehow stumbled on to the set of a movie? Will the locals speak to me? I’ll get out and try to engage them in conversation.  Strangely, they didn't seem perturbed by yet another dizzy driver asking if they knew where he was. They were charming, helpful and very normal.  Whizzing back out of Pratts Bottom, I remember thinking it might not be too long before these good folk of the village decided to do something about the name of their little hamlet. Visitors couldn’t keep a straight face. It’s just too embarrassing.

Australia, too, is a place where you can find very odd names. There is a wee town famous for its salt mine on a peninsula in Western Australia called Useless Loop. In New South Wales, there are nearly 1,000 people in Dunedoo.  Aussies themselves think that’s hilarious because to them a dunny is what we infinitely more refined Brits would call a loo. But not any old loo, because my guide to Australian slang is very pernickety about that. It describes a dunny as “an old-style outdoor unsewered toilet, usually a lean-to type of construction or occasionally free-standing”.   Thank you for that. It’s a bog.  The official explanation is that Dunedoo came from some Aboriginal word for swan. Fair dinkum, but I’ve looked up the aboriginal reference sites and, nah, it’s nothing like it. The likeliest theory, I have finally discovered, and one that has certainly been discussed before over there, is that it is, in fact, Gaelic.  The convicts we sent over probably called it Dunedin, based on Dun Eideann, the Gaelic for Edinburgh, like they did in New Zealand. But Aussies tend to stick in an “oo” or two, as in Woolloomooloo, so it became Dunedoo. That’s obvious to any drongo, cobber.

So it was a bit surprising that it was boring old Staines in Surrey that decided it might need to change its name. Some of the councillors there want it to be a bit posher – something like Staines-upon-Thames. All because Ali G and his gang, the Staines Massive, were always on about it and a washing powder advert referred to stubborn understains, or was that Stubborn-under-Staines?  I really don’t know what they are going on about. It’s a talking point. And the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.  The Duchess of York knows that. Poor thing, she has all those financial problems because no one is interested in her any more. She was the one who said she did not want any more publicity for a while. She just wants to stay out of the media.

Just one problem: no TV companies have been interested in her after that, so there is no cash coming in. So, what is she doing about it? She is in talks with Oprah to do a new TV show. Er, what was that about keeping out of the media?  Maybe she is just hedging her bets in case her ex, Prince Andrew, is somehow demoted or cut off by the rest of them for calling the Ministry of Defence hopeless the other day.  Good for you, Andrew, dear. One should tell it like it is. Oh gosh, one thinks that one’s ex-husband has perhaps gone too far. Now, where did one put Oprah’s number?   Here’s an idea. Maybe Fergie could do a TV show about unusual place names? Would it not be very appropriate for her to do one about the former landlord in Harris who, long before the Duchess of York herself made the practice popular, used to get local girls to lick his toe?
That’s why the name of the charming wee village called Lickisto fondly recalls for generations to come those hedonistic days of yore when Harris was a fun place. However, I don’t think it’s recorded what the Manish Massive thought of that.  The sad thing is that many of these quaintly-named villages are now just about uninhabited. Which is why we are going through the painful process of having to close so many of our schools. Just not enough kids to keep them going.

There is an answer, though. We all have to become Free Presbyterians. It is obligatory for them to have families the size of football teams. There are various FPs I know and every time we meet, kapow, they have added one or two since last time.  Obviously, this is the way to go. I feel sure that those churches of ours that are less dedicated to going forth and multiplying will take this on board and realise that conversion to the FP way is the answer to the depopulation dilemma that threatens our very survival.   It’s working well in North Uist anyway which, of course, is where visitors often snigger when they see the road signs for Langass. Glaswegians, particularly, find that rib-tickling. When you think about it, our island cartographers of old seem to have had a bit of a fixation with body parts. Here on Lewis, we have a Back and a Tong (pronounced tongue). Mind you, I think Orkney beats us with its Tongue of Gangsta.  You can, though, almost map out a whole body with the various human organs on the Ordnance Survey map of the Western Isles. Unfortunately, it is all the wrong way round, because it’s down at the very bottom that they put Barra Head while you have to go up to the very top of Lewis to find the Butt.

Anger as Scottish Gas bills soar by 7% for Christmas
Published: 13/11/2010
Scotland’s biggest gas supplier faced angry criticism last night after announcing plans to increase prices for hundreds of thousands of north and north-east customers before Christmas.
Scottish Gas said soaring wholesale costs had left it with no choice but to put up household bills for gas and electricity by an average of 7%.  Those on standard and variable tariffs will see their dual-fuel bills rise from December 10 by more than £80 a year – 10 days after Scottish Hydro plans to raise its gas prices by 9%.  Centrica, which owns both Scottish Gas and British Gas, has 8 million customers across the UK, including 1.5 million in Scotland alone.  Its profits nearly doubled in the first six months of 2010 to £585million after the coldest winter for 30 years.  However, the utility firm said the 25% price rise in the wholesale market – where suppliers buy their energy – made the increases unavoidable.

UK Government’s Plans for Post Office Prompt Flood of Criticism
The UK Government has unveiled plans to invest in post offices, cut queues and increase opening times – but will not set up a state-backed Post Office Bank.  The decision angered unions, business and pensioner groups. And a promise that there would be no more branch closures was greeted with derision on Wednesday night.  The pledge was made by Post Office managing director Paula Vennells at a Commons business committee hearing on legislation authorising the part-privatisation proposal for Royal Mail and a form of mutual ownership for the Post Office itself.   Postal Affairs Minister Ed Davey announced that, instead of the new bank, the Post Office, Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest had joined other banks giving customers access to their current and business accounts through the Post Office.

Ms Vennells’s pledge was labelled “a hollow promise” by committee member and Ochil Labour MP Gordon Banks.  He said there was no way the Post Office could stop local postmasters fed up with losing money from shutting up shop and retiring. Mr Banks challenged her on what provisions in the legislation would require the Post Office to reopen a branch at Bankfoot, Perthshire.  Angus SNP MP Mike Weir, another committee member, said Ms Vennells’s promise was “ludicrous”.  Mr Weir said her plan to concentrate on 4,000 money-making “main post offices” would be to the detriment of the remaining small rural and urban sub-post offices.  And he said the decision not to create a Post Office Bank was “regrettable” and “shortsighted” and did nothing for people denied bank accounts and facing “financial exclusion”.  The Department for Business said now was “not the right time” to develop a new, state-backed bank, adding that set-up costs would make it “extremely expensive”.

Nuns’ Challenge to the X Factor
It’s not clear if a certain order of nuns who live in seclusion in the French countryside are acquainted with the X Factor TV Program and Simon Cowell. He could be upstaged again this Christmas in his bid to achieve an X Factor number one in the charts. The nuns, whose record company is bringing out their Gregorian chant, are among his challengers. No doubt Mr Cowell will be weighing his options for defeating the nuns. He might think about praying for divine intervention, but they already have a clear advantage in that department.

Stories of Those Who Fought Against the War
As the nation falls silent to mark Armistice Day, the records of thousands of Scots who appealed against being called up to fight in World War I have been made public for the first time. A hidden file of more than 6,000 appeals against conscription has gone online after a two-year project by the National Archives of Scotland to catalogue, repair and digitise fragile papers dating back to March 1916. Among the cases on view at are those of Arthur Woodburn, who went on to serve as secretary of state for Scotland between 1947 and 1950, and variety artist Will Fyffe, who argued he should be exempt because the entertainment he provided was “one of the best tonics for soldiers and sailors on leave from the front”.

Elsewhere, the records feature men who fought against conscription because they were conscientious objectors, for health reasons, because their work was important to the national interest, or because sending them to war would cause hardship to them and their families. The documents are almost all that survive from the various local panels which had the power to grant exemptions to conscription. Most of the records were destroyed in 1921, but a few chance finds are contained in the new internet archive.  They include the case of Malcolm Martin, a shepherd who had returned from working in Argentina to Lewis when the Military Service Act was passed. He applied for exemption on grounds of hardship, but did not appear in court, saying he “had nothing to add”.  His appeal was refused by the Ross, Cromarty and Sutherland (Lewis Section) Appeal Tribunal – as were most pleas – and he subsequently drowned in the Stornoway harbour sinking of the Admiralty yacht Iolaire on January 1, 1919.

Arthur Woodburn, from Edinburgh, supported the war at first but adopted a strong pacifist stance after he joined the Independent Labour Party in 1916. He told the tribunal: “I am conscientiously opposed to taking human life and to taking part in war. I also object on principle to the government or any section of the people attempting to force me into military service.” He was later arrested for making anti-war speeches and undertook hard labour during his imprisonment, which lasted until 1919.  Will Fyffe’s appeal was also dismissed and he went on to serve in the war, before finding fame in 1920 with the song I Belong to Glasgow.  George MacKenzie, keeper of the records of Scotland, said: “As we commemorate Armistice Day, these fascinating but little-known records help us remember and understand the impact of war . “The stories of ordinary Scots and their families are really remarkable.”  The Military Service Act of 1916 required all adult males, aged 18-41, to register for the fight unless they had a certificate of exemption. By April 1918, the age range was extended, so men aged from 17 to 55 could be called up, and exemptions were further restricted.

Sutherland Loses its JP Court
Sutherland no longer has its own Justice of the Peace court, with cases now being transferred to Tain.  The surprise move has apparently taken place without any local consultation or warning.  Local councillor Jim McGillivray, who represents the East Sutherland and Edderton ward, this week described the decision by the Scottish Courts Service as "furtive". It is also seen as a further erosion of Sutherland's identity as a county in its own right.

The JP court took over from the old district court in 2007 and sittings in Sutherland have since taken place in Dornoch courthouse on a monthly basis. The town also has a sheriff court and civil court, but these are not affected.  Cases heard by a JP court are for minor motoring and other offences such as breach of the peace, assault and theft.  Justices of the Peace can impose custodial sentences of up to two month or fines of up to £2500.  But the Scottish Court Service no longer consider it worthwhile to hold the JP Court in Sutherland because of the low number of cases heard - rarely are there more than a handful.

Dornoch businessman and JP Sandy Morrison has sat regularly on the bench at Dornoch. He said: "This is a six-month experiment to see how it will work out but I honestly cannot see it opening again. It is a wonderful thing to be saying in one respect but there is just not the level of crime in Sutherland to justify having its own JP court.  We get the odd trial but mostly the court just lasts for 20 minutes to half an hour. That's not a problem for me but the clerk, fiscal and lawyer are having to travel to Dornoch from all over the place."  Scottish Court Service business manager Gordon Ellis said: "We are making the best use of the resources currently available by scheduling new business at nearby Tain JP court for the time being.  "Dornoch JPs also sit in Tain, ensuring that the very small number of Dornoch cases will continue to be considered before local justices."

Fishermen’s Fury At Threat of New Blow From Brussels
There was fury in fishing ports around Scotland last night after Brussels bureaucrats called for more savage quota cuts and said conservation measures were not protecting cod stocks. European Commission proposals for catching opportunities next year delivered grim prospects for the fleet – and skippers warned that many of them would not survive another year of belt-tightening.  On the west coast, they are facing a 50% cut in the annual cod quota, a 25% cut for haddock and 15% cuts for prawns and monkfish.  Catch limits for jointly-managed North Sea stocks will be decided during talks with Norway soon, but a 9% quota cut for prawns is looming.

North-east skipper John Buchan, owner of the Peterhead-registered Fairline, called the proposals “preposterous”. He added: “They are absolutely ludicrous.”  He added that severe fishing curbs led only to more fish being thrown back into the sea dead and – as a result – smaller quotas in a never-ending spiral of deep cuts.  West coast fishing grounds were saved from large-scale closures last year but measures agreed as an “emergency” alternative have made life difficult for the local fleet.  The EC said in its verdict on the North Sea: “Closures and cod-avoidance schemes have not been enough to protect the stock and have had little impact on fishing patterns.”  Fishing rules for 2011 will be decided at December’s Fisheries Council in Brussels.

SNP Rules Out Entry Fees for National Treasures
The Scottish Government is set to rule out the introduction of admission fees for flagship visitor attractions and cultural venues - despite the impact of the spending cuts.
Culture minister Fiona Hyslop has pledged a commitment to the long-standing principle that guarantees free entry to the national collections, which are held in the Scottish capital, describing it as an "important" policy of the SNP administration.  The Scottish Government has also revealed it is against the introduction of admission charges at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, despite officials admitting such a move was on the cards to help it cope with a budget cut of up to 25 per cent.   It is thought the three organisations - currently supported to the tune of more than £44 million of public money between them - will instead be ordered to make savings elsewhere.

Borders Line: First for Funding Scheme
Reopening part of the old Waverley line to the Borders, which closed 41 years ago, will involve the winning contractors financing, building and maintaining the route separately from the rest of the rail network.  ScotRail trains would run to and from the rest of the network, which the line will join at Newcraighall in the south-east of Edinburgh.  The project will involve the Scottish Government's "non-profit distributing model", a version of the private finance initiative with capped profits that has not been used before on the railways.

Tiree Will Resist Windfarm Blow-Ins

Residents in the remote island community of Tiree have launched a protest against a large offshore windfarm planned for the area because they believe an influx of workers could blight their rural idyll.  They say the arrival of up to 300 people in the form of staff and their families, as well as large machinery needed for the construction of the windfarm, would ruin the "quaint" lifestyle the 800 islanders currently enjoy.

In a document sent out to the islanders in the summer, developer ScottishPower Renewables said workers taking up the 100 new permanent jobs that would be created could be based on Tiree with their families - bringing in an estimated 300 new residents to the island.  But islanders fear that few of the new residents would be permanent, with the posts, which are likely to exist for the next 40 or 50 years, filled by a constant flow of temporary workers.  Karl Hughes, who has lived on the island for 12 years, has sent a memo out to islanders, urging them to protest against the development. In it, he said: "The current population hovers around the 800 mark and is stable and viable. We have zero crime, no light pollution, single track roads - some might say Tiree is quaint, a relic from a bygone age."

Robert Trythall, who is originally from Glasgow said: "We have had families who have moved here for one or two years but have now left - the lifestyle is wonderful for us, but is definitely not for everyone." He added: "The socio-economic impact of how this offshore windfarm would affect us has not been considered. In theory, it is a great idea that new people would come to the island and settle here, but in the real world of offshore windfarms, we could see a huge turnover of these families."

The company says the site, 5km off the coast of Tiree, has the potential to generate up to 1800MW of green energy, enough to power around one million households. It admitted an influx of workers would require extra infrastructure, but said it would be unlikely to provide improvements to roads, schools or extra housing. In a scoping document, ScottishPower said: "A rise in population where the existing population is small would place extra demands on infrastructure, in terms of, for instance, roads, schooling and medical facilities.  ScottishPower Renewables does not envisage managing the planning or build out of this ancillary structure."

Clan Leader Attacks Plans to Close Village Primary 13 Nov 2010
The head of one of Scotland’s oldest clans has attacked proposals by a council to close one-third of its rural primary schools.  Sir Malcolm Colquhoun, 9th Baronet of Luss and the 33rd Chief of the Clan Colquhoun, said he was “extremely concerned” about the plans, drawn up by Argyll and Bute Council.  Sir Malcolm, who runs Luss Estates, is particularly concerned about the impact of shutting Luss Primary School, on the banks of Loch Lomond.

In a statement on behalf of Luss Estates – which has been in the family for nearly 900 years – he said: “We are extremely concerned to learn of Argyll and Bute Council’s proposed closure of Luss Primary School.  Sir Malcolm said the proposals had caused “widespread concern and alarm” to residents from the community.  “Put simply, Luss Primary is essential to the continued strength and wellbeing of our community, which, if this closure is implemented, will cease to be a community in any recognisable sense,” he added.  “It will become extremely difficult to attract families with young children to come and live in the village, thus exacerbating the ageing demographic that is acknowledged by the authorities to be a significant problem.”

Last month, Argyll and Bute Council unveiled plans to shut 26 of its 80 primaries in a bid to save £15m by 2014. Council officials said the move was a result of the need to cut costs, but also stressed that school rolls were predicted to fall 19% by 2020.  However, rural schools campaigners said the closure plans represented an unprecedented attack on the foundation of remote communities.  The row comes at a difficult time for rural schools, with education budgets across Scotland under increasing pressure and councils seeing school closures as one way of saving money.  In recent months, Perth and Kinross, Shetland, the Western Islands, Highland and South Lanarkshire councils have all brought forward closure proposals and there are fears more councils are set to follow.

Asylum Seeker Dispersal is Set to Start in Days
Asylum seekers living in Glasgow will start to be moved to other areas of Scotland as early as Monday next week. The move comes after the city council and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) failed to agree a new contract to house 1300 asylum seekers in the city.  With pressure mounting on the UKBA to reverse its stance, the leaders of all but one of the political groups within Glasgow City Council called on the agency to enter into a “genuine dialogue” over its plans.  The joint statement says: “To now have families, some of whom have been settled in the city for years, threatened with eviction and relocation with minimal notice is unacceptable.”  The statement comes as questions are raised over UKBA’s handling of the matter in the past week, particularly a letter it sent to about 600 households informing the asylum seeker residents that they could be moved with just a few days notice to somewhere else “within the Scotland region”.  The letter provoked fear and alarm among those who received it, but there are also concerns about the impact of the contract cancellation on a number of services.

The council-owned Blindcraft factory, which supplies flats occupied by asylum seekers with furniture, could lose 40 staff and be down about £2m annually as a result of the contract being axed, while there could be a knock-on regarding funding for those teaching English as a second language in Glasgow’s schools.  One senior political source yesterday told The Herald of growing suspicions that the Home Office wants to wind down the overall numbers of asylum seekers in Glasgow because of the public outcry when they are removed.  This doesn’t happen elsewhere in the UK and you’ve got to ask whether it is less hassle for UKBA to have Glasgow’s asylum seekers elsewhere.”

MSP Robert Brown, the LibDems’ justice spokesman in Scotland, said: “It is quite unacceptable that people will be told that they have got a few days to pack their bags, abandon their homes and be moved to other parts of the country. We’ve taken the issue up with the Damien Green and the UKBA.”

Last Updated (Sunday, 14 November 2010 19:30)