Some Scottish News & Views #66

This little effort is for the period ending 20th November 2010.  Once again I’ve been able to include a small named tongue-in-cheek article which I think you will enjoy. - Robin

Clyde Contaminated by Radioactive Leak From Nuclear Plant
Radioactive waste has leaked into the Firth of Clyde from a defunct nuclear power station at Hunterston in North Ayrshire.  Heavy rain caused contaminated silt from the site to flood onto the foreshore, in breach of safety procedures. The Government’s environmental watchdog is now investigating whether to take legal action. The revelation has prompted condemnation from politicians and local residents, who are critical of Hunterston’s safety record. They want tough action to prevent any further leaks from the site.

“Time and again we have had leaks of low-level radioactive material into the Clyde in recent years,” said Kenneth Gibson, the Scottish Nationalist MSP whose constituency includes Hunterston. “While there may be no immediate threats to public or marine health, such leaks should not happen and it is obviously a concern that they do. Efforts must be redoubled to prevent future contamination.”  The latest leak happened after heavy rain overnight on September 22 flushed radioactive silt through two discharge pipes onto the beach beside the Hunterston site. According to one account, the water dislodged caps that had been put on the pipes to prevent leakages.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) was notified of the leak on October 4, and ordered the removal of the contaminated silt and enhanced monitoring. “The circumstances related to the occurrence of this incident are still being investigated,” said a Sepa spokeswoman.  An old nuclear power station called Hunterston A is being decommissioned by Magnox North, which is wholly owned by the US company Energy Solutions. It is sited next to the Hunterston B nuclear station, which is still generating electricity.  The ground on part of the Hunterston A site known as “Compound 7” was contaminated by spillages of radioactive waste in the 1970s. Efforts have been made in recent years to clean up and contain the contamination.  Sepa claimed it believed that “this event presented a negligible hazard to the public and the environment”.

Scotland ‘Should Have Been Consulted on AV Vote Date’
The Coalition UK Government has been criticised for not consulting Scotland over the AV referendum as a Liberal Democrat minister admitted that losing the poll would kill off voting reform for a decade.  There was outrage from Labour and the SNP when it was announced the referendum would be held on the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections.  MPs from both parties claimed that the move showed a lack of respect.

Yesterday, the House of Lords Constitution Committee said it was “regrettable” that Holyrood was not consulted about the date.  Peers also criticised the legislation as rushed. Lord Norton, a member of the committee, said he was very concerned that the plans were  introduced into Parliament “so quickly”.  “It is regrettable that the devolved assemblies were not given an opportunity to give their views on the timing (of the referendum) and its clash with elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly”, he added.  The referendum, on plans to scrap the first-past-the-post system to elect MPs, was part of the deal made by LibDems to enter coalition with the Tories.  The Liberals believe the Alternate Vote (AV) system would make voting fairer and win them more seats in Westminster.  However, some think the referendum is a high-risk move. A LibDem minister who believes the public will back AV said that if the referendum was lost it would be difficult to resurrect electoral reform “for a decade”.  That would in all probability take the party not just to the end of this Westminster parliament but to the end of the next one as well.  Despite the outcry, the party believes the clash with the elections could increase their chances of winning the referendum.  The joint elections will ensure higher turnout north of the Border than in England, where there is expected to be little support for the change. By contrast, the Liberals believe Scots are more open to the idea of AV, because a form of the system is already in use at Holyrood.

Angie’s Fishy Fare is An Ideal Dish for Jungle Celebrities
By iain maciver
Who would have thought it? Britt Ekland on I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here? I know it’s for washed-up old has-beens but, as far as has-beens go, that is one lady with class.  She certainly would’ve had most of class 3B4 if she had wanted us back then when we used to discuss world events during Johnny Rednose’s registration class in the Springfield Building of the Nicolson Institute.  It was in those gap years between her splitting up with Peter Sellers and before she fell for Rod Stewart’s charms. We crofters’ sons all thought we were well in there.  The thought of her lovely head in a glass box of spiders makes me squirm. They had better not make Britt-Marie, as only us closest and dearest fans know her, eat kangaroos’ whatsits. I would spare her the pain and do it myself for her if I could. Actually, maybe not. Still, it’s the thought that counts, eh Miss E?

She was on my Christmas card list once after her agent’s address was in one of the papers. I can’t even do that now because Mrs X and I have decided to send our Christmas card cash to a good cause instead.   So, in case any friends and relations read this, just because you don’t get a card from us this year does not necessarily mean we are in the huff with you. Unless, of course, we are.

Here in Lewis, we really should have our own I Am A Celebrity show because we do have our own connoisseur of weird foods. Come with me to lovely Leurbost where we will find a chap so talented in off-the-wall culinary techniques and who, although he has been known to lose control of his tongue, puts TV’s potty-mouthed pot boilers in the shade.

Multi-skilling fisherman-cum-joiner Kenneth Angus Macmillan, or Angie Beag as Lochies know him, doesn’t often get the chance to show off his skills with the spatula or the Kenwood Chef. Too often, it’s only when he takes to the high seas he comes up with his finest haute cuisine.  He was out in the boat when he and his crewman had a breakdown in the Minch. Eventually, they had the engine purring away like a cat sitting in front of a plate of poached salmon. Or any Lochie for that matter.

Applied mechanics take their toll on the inner man. Angie and his crewman had a touch of the belly rumbles. The hard-working pair were beset with the munchies.  But what to do? Peering over the side, they would have eaten a scabby seahorse but none galloped by. And it was too far to steam to the Shiant Islands to sneak up on an unwary puffin. A check of the inventory of the ship’s stores revealed that the onboard supplies amounted to a couple of haddies and a bag of porridge oats. Apart from the salt and pepper and two stale rolls. Angie decided no further investigation was required. They had the ingredients for Ceann Cropaig – apart from the suet and onions. And the cod. Thankfully, haddies have always been acceptable substitutes.

Ceann Cropaig is that supreme fish dish where the liver is mixed with oatmeal, stuffed in the head and lightly cooked to become a sensation of the senses with its gorgeous, aromatic tastiness.  In some places on the mainland, they call it Crappit Heid. That sounds far too much like how it looks for us sensitive Gaels.

Crewmate and galley slave Iain, according to my secret sources in Crossbost, was delegated to the mixing of the cropaig. Unfortunately, there was neither antiseptic hand cleansers nor even towels on board and time was getting on. Iain filleted the haddies and into the bowl went the livers and oatmeal and Iain’s hands, still dripping in Castrol 25W-40 from the engine, began to knead.  Worried that the strangely-dark cropaig would not meet Angie’s approval, Iain dished up. Yet the ceann cropaig, which was oily enough to keep a small refinery in business for months, was declared by Angie to be the best he’d ever tasted.  In fact, the next time he had it, he said it was fine but insisted it was missing something.  “Ah yes, a dollop of engine oil. That would just make it fantastic,” said Lochs’s unlikely gourmand.

Another time, Angie Beag was all at sea on a hunt for herring down Loch Shell way with the same assistant when the hunger pangs returned. This time, he was well prepared having brought along a pound of sausages. However, for some reason, the frying pan couldn’t be found that fateful day. Angie decided there was no reason why the teapot could not be filled with oil – this time the type that comes in a bottle marked Cooking Oil – and the pound of bangers deep-fried in that.

Crewmate Iain could only nibble on the end of one of the dripping porkies. Not so, the bold Angie. He devoured the first, the second and the third. In fact, the hunger which had perhaps been stoked by a wee stop-off at the Claitair Hotel resulted in him scoffing the lot.

Hunting for the shoals of herring is a tiring business. So, after a wee kip, the crew got up for another haul. Iain realised Angie had gone very quiet. He soon found out why. So much of the fat had oozed from the teapot-roasted porkies it had congealed on the roof of Angie’s mouth and his tongue was stuck to it. For the first time in his life, the poor fellow was quiet as a mouse.
They should do a TV series about his, er, culinary inventiveness.
Maybe it is just as well Britt Ekland is in the Australian jungle. A couple of days in the boat with Angie Beag would have been much worse than scoffing wichetty grubs and crocodiles’ privates.

Skiers Take the Slopes As First Snow Arrives
The CairnGorm Mountain resort was packed with skiers, snowboarders and tourists at the weekend as they celebrated the first official snow day of the season.  More than 130 skiers and 250 visitors made their way to the centre on Saturday to make the most of the first falls. Ski patroller Ruari MacDonald said everyone was excited for the first day of the season, just 145 days after skiing stopped last winter. He said: “It’s always great to get snow before December. Locals have been up almost every week. They are champing at the bit to get going.  The weather is so unpredictable that you’ve got to grab the chance.”  Skiers enjoyed temperatures of about -1C and clear visibility for most of the day.

Rural Property Doubles Value in Decade
Rural property prices across the UK have nearly doubled during the past decade, rising by an average of about £200 a week, according to new research.  Experts warned of countryside living becoming increasingly unaffordable as it emerged that the average price of a rural home has risen by more than £100,000.

Aberdeenshire has seen one of the biggest rises anywhere in Britain, claiming sixth equal
place. The average house price in the area is now £203,675, a rise of 157 per cent.  However, East Ayrshire has been rated the most affordable rural area in Britain, with an average price of just over £100,000, 3.9 times the average wage.

According to Halifax, which compiled the study, the 96 per cent rise in rural areas compares to an increase of 91 per cent in urban areas. As a result, buyers can expect to pay a 20 per cent premium for a property in a rural location compared with one in a town, up from 17 per cent at the start of the decade.  The affordability of property in the countryside has deteriorated significantly. The typical rural home now costs 6.4 times average annual earnings, up from a house prices-to-earnings ratio of 4.6 in 2000, but down on the peak of 8.2 reached in 2007.

Highlands Discovery Rocks Science World's Views on Evolution(Oh the unique and valuable objects from Assynt - including the esteemed author of this humble,  unpretentious little newsletter- Robin)
Evidence found in rocks in a remote part of the Highlands has made scientists reconsider a critical stage of evolution.  The findings, published in the scientific journal Nature, could lead to a new understanding of when complex life - from which humans eventually emerged - evolved on Earth.  Until now scientists had believed an important shift in the levels of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere took place 800 million years ago.  This increase in oxygen marked the beginning of a move from simple organisms - which had inhabited the planet until this time - to the development of complex multi-cellular organisms which eventually led to life on Earth as we know it.

But chemical signatures of bacteria found in ancient rocks near Lochinver in Sutherland have provided evidence that this key event in evolution actually took place some 1.2 billion years ago - 400 million years earlier than thought.  John Parnell, Professor in Geology at the University of Aberdeen, led the study in collaboration with colleagues from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in Glasgow.  He said: "Our findings, which shift this key point in the evolution of life on Earth to a much earlier date than previously proven, will give impetus to further investigations into the timescale of the development of complex life which followed this event. "Our analysis of the chemical composition of rocks near Lochinver showed evidence that an important group of bacteria had existed within these rocks some 1.2 billion years ago.  Dr Adrian Boyce, who runs a UK national analytical facility at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, said: "Our geochemical analyses have provided a clear signal that levels of oxygen in the atmosphere had increased to levels critical to the evolution of complex life - from which we ourselves emerged - much earlier than has been previously proven to date.  "This opens the door to a new understanding of the evolution of our planet's atmosphere and the life it sustains."

Milne Plans 900 Homes on Banks of River Don
Nearly 1,000 homes could be built at a mothballed paper mill near Aberdeen under £150million plans drawn up by one of Scotland’s biggest construction firms. Stewart Milne Group has submitted proposals to demolish the former Davidsons plant on Mugiemoss Road, Bucksburn, and build up to 900 homes along the banks of the River Don.  Plans for the 83-acre site, include shops, offices, a medical centre or dentist, business units, a riverside bistro and a network of foot and cycle paths along the Don.

Need for Proper Rehabilitation

There is a perception among the general public that the most dangerous criminals are only deemed fit for release when they meet certain criteria.  Among these is an assessment of the likelihood of them re-offending. The courts are littered with people brought back for similar repeat offences for which they have already been sentenced previously.  Questions are usually raised as to how they came to be released while still a threat to the community, but we rarely hear satisfactory answers.  In a report on Peterhead Prison by Scotland’s leading prison inspector, Brigadier Hugh Monro, he has highlighted deep concerns about the practice of releasing paedophiles and rapists without them being rehabilitated properly.  Of all offences in the criminal catalogue, these are the ones we know to be most likely to involve serious, serial re-offending – particularly in the case of paedophile activity. In the modern-day rush to defend the human rights of prisoners – and the practice of slopping out at Peterhead Prison has again been criticised in this report – the duty of prisons in rehabilitating offenders, as opposed to just punishing them, is often quoted.  But it does not seem to be working and no one seems capable of doing anything about it.

Team’s Search for Missing Scot
The mother of a Stornoway man who has been missing in Turkey for nearly two months, has funded a rescue mission to try to find him.  Donald Mackenzie, 47, was last heard from in a remote region near the border separating Turkey and Iran on September 20.  Mr Mackenzie was on a solo expedition to find the reputed site of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. When he failed to return to the foot of the mountain as expected, a friend raised the alarm. Yesterday his mother, Maggie Jean Mackenzie, of Napier Hill, Stornoway, said a Turkish rescue team was setting off today to try to locate her son.  An Akut mountain rescue team of three or four Turks, led by a local man called Burhan, will set off today to search for the missing Scot. Burhan accompanied Mr Mackenzie and Mr Wiles when they climbed Mount Ararat in 2005.

Mrs Mackenzie said she was frustrated with the lack of action taken so far. “A rescue team should have been sent out long ago,” she said. “No one seems to care. You can’t depend on the Turkish government.  Mrs Mackenzie has paid £1,500 for equipment, food and medical supplies for the rescuers.  She added Mr Wiles had also promised a bonus of more than £600 if they rescue Mr Mackenzie.  Mrs Mackenzie has previously spoken of her fears that her son has been kidnapped by the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as PKK, which is fighting for the creation of an independent Kurdistan.  It is listed as a terrorist organisation by a number of countries, including the US and the European Union.

Row Over Lochaber Clan Seat

A holiday company boss yesterday criticised clansmen over a “bizarre” campaign to block his plans for a holiday lodge in the grounds of their clan seat which he saved from ruin. Graeme Cox of Glasgow-based Iolair Holidays Ltd is now considering a number of options, including shelving his proposals, after members of the Clan Maclean accused him of destroying the historic setting of Ardgour House.   He said: “I take great objection to this table-thumping campaign by Macleans, the majority of whom are non-domiciles, who are portraying me as a person who is intent on destroying the countryside.”

Mr Cox has lodged an application with Highland Council to build a one-and-a-half storey two-bedroom house for holiday letting around 165 yards south-east of the 18th-century B-listed “big house” near Fort William.   Ardgour House, claimed to be one of the finest examples of a laird’s house in Lochaber, stands on the site of an even older house and has been associated with the Macleans of Ardgour for more than 600 years.  The house was acquired 15 years ago by Mr Cox after it was placed on Historic Scotland’s buildings-at-risk list and is currently used for self-catering holidays, accommodating up to 22 people in 11 bedrooms, along with nearby Keil View and Ailern House, which can each cater for 12 holidaymakers.   Opposition has come from 34 people, including Highland historian Iain Thornber, of Knock House, Lochaline, who claimed the plan will seriously compromise the historic setting.  Historic Scotland, Holyrood’s ancient buildings agency, has told planners they have serious concerns about the location and design and Mr Cox should be strongly encouraged to explore alternative, less-sensitive sites.  Noreen Newlands of the New Zealand Maclean clan urged planners to reject the proposals, while a similar plea has been made by Nova Scotia clan member Marjorie Maclean.

Most Deadly Substance Yet Found At Dounreay
The clean-up of the nuclear plant has uncovered the most potentially hazardous radio- active particle yet found at the site in 26 years of monitoring at the Sandside beach in Caithness.
The Dounreay Particles Advisory Group (DPAG) yesterday revealed that a remotely controlled vehicle deployed by diving contractors at the site had picked up a radioactive particle that measured 100 million becquerels (Bq) of radiation.  DPAG, which makes scientific and technical recommendations to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and the UK Atomic Energy Authority, considers radioactivity greater than one million Bq as a health risk. If left on the skin, a particle of above one million Bq could cause serious ulceration after one to two weeks.

A spokesman for Dounreay Site Restoration, the company responsible for the closure programme at the former fast reactor research and development centre, said the latest phase of the offshore clean-up had recovered 429 fragments from the seabed off Dounreay between August and October.  He said: "They were detected and retrieved by a remotely operated vehicle that spent 37 days systematically searching an area of seabed equivalent in size to 22 football pitches. It takes the total number of particles detected on the seabed and nearby coastline since 1983 to almost 2,000.  A 60-metre-long barge LM Constructor, with a crew of 22, was stationed off Dounreay from 7 August until 17 October and covered 160,000 square metres of seabed.  It retrieved 429 fragments, of which 81 were above the threshold for being classed as 'significant', as defined by Dounreay Particles Advisory Group in its assessment of potential health effects. The most radioactive fragment measured 100 million becquerels."

Canadian Choir Heads for Stornoway for next Year’s Mod (I’ve reported this in full as it strikes such a responsive memorable chord - more power to them- Robin)
A Canadian Gaelic choir will be fund-raising hard in the coming months to find the $Ca25,000 necessary to make their dream rip to the Western Isles Mod next year.  Ar n-Òran are a 12-strong choir from Ottawa and are now counting their days to what will be one of their biggest dates in their history.

Conductor and driving force behind the choir is Gil Waugh. He told the Stornoway Gazette: "The trip to Stornoway is front and centre for all in the choir. We are very excited about the trip end competition and experience. We are all Gàidhlig learners at different levels, and feel this is a natural progression for the choir. "Most of us had Gàidhlig in our families only one of two generations ago, but this has seen lost - we are trying to make up for that and are passionate about supporting the cause this is one way we can do that.  So, the trip n many ways will make our collective voyage to our mother-land, or the mother-land of our relations, whilst flying the Gaelic, banner with pride."   But before they start looking out their suitcases from the loft, the choir has a lot of fund-raising ahead. So far they have banked $Ca2,000 and are planning a series of pre-Mòd concerts to aid their efforts.  The biggest event lined up is next week's Mòd Canada, the after expenses proceeds from which have been allocated to support Ar n-Òran. Directly afterwards the choir will also be applying to the Canadian government for partial funding. Any shortfall thereafter will have to be paid by choir members themselves or further fund raising efforts.

Although only formed in mid 2009, there is a wealth of experience within Ar n-Òran and the, group will be competing in Stornoway in choral and solo competitions.  Explains Gil: "Although the choir was formed in June 2009, most of its members, are seasoned choir members and musicians who collectively bring a wealth of performance and competitive experience to the stage. We have had many rave reviews to date, won Gold at Mòd Canada 2009, nine medals (seven gold, one silver, one bronze) at the ACGA US National Mòd in Ligonier, Pennsylvania this September, and are preparing for Mòd Canada 2010, The US National Mòd 2010 and Stornoway."  Underlying Ar n-Oran's competitive edge is their fervent desire to promote the Gaelic language in central eastern Canada, a task that they themselves admit is no mean feat.  Gil and his fellow choir members, however, relish every opportunity to promote Canada's third language and culture. But as Gil, who is also President of Comunn Gàidhlig Ottawa, concedes: "We can only do this one learner at a time, one performance at a time. We love what we do, and I believe from feedback we've received, we do it well."  And Ar n-Òran are not adverse to taking their Gaidhlig heritage to more unusual venues. Recently, they went on the road and performed on a public bus in their first "break out" performance, something they hope to repeat regularly in a bid to promote the Gaelic cause.

Commented Gil: "As you likely know, at one point in the late 1800s Gaelic was more widely spoken in Canada than both English and French combined. We hope to do our part in creating awareness about Canada's heritage, honouring; our Gàidhlig roots  and ancestors and increasing numbers in our National Capital Region and beyond. "So, in short, we. will make our best effort in doing what we love to do - promoting Gaelic through song, words, entertainment and competition. In fact apart from the Mod, it would be a great opportunity to perform some of our non-competition tunes."

Ironically, perhaps, while there is Scottish ancestry among the choir members, none of them as far as they are aware have links with Lewis.  But they will, however, be catching up with some old friends, including Cathy Ann MacPhee who has been helping the choir during her many visits to Canada. Gil is also planning to visit Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye, where he has taken courses in the past, and with his tutor who lives in Harris.

Susan Boyle is in Exalted Company

What do the Beatles, the Monkees and Scotland’s own Susan Boyle have in common? The question could make a good pop quiz question in a few years. The answer is that all three have had simultaneous number one albums in the UK and US twice in less than a year.  Her new album The Gift follows her debut album I Dreamed a Dream into the record books. It’s taken more than 40 years for anyone to match these achievements. Ms Boyle must still be pinching herself to check she really isn’t just dreaming a dream.

Parent-teacher Power Forces Re-think on Community Transport
Council chiefs are to look again at a proposal to privatise school and community transport in Sutherland, following pressure from teachers and parents.  Inverness-based Ron Mackenzie, Education, Culture and Sport head of support services, and Bob Edwards, senior transport officer, came under fire at well-attended meetings in Bettyhill and Golspie on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.  Officials want to shut the council's school bus depot in Drummuie by April next year, sell off its five 52-seat coaches and transfer its fleet of eight minibuses to a depot in Brora under the control of transport, education and community services.  The school transport operation, widely regarded as giving a gold standard service to both schools and community groups, would then be put out to tender - although the routes operated by the minibuses would remain under council control.  Mr Mackenzie maintained the move to outsource school transport was not driven by budget cuts but rather because the depot, which dates back 40 years, was no longer fit for purpose and the aging coaches also needed to be replaced.  He said the council could not justify the substantial capital investment required to bring the garage up to the standard required by health and safety and the Disability Discrimination Act.   

Those present at the Golspie meeting were critical that a draft report on the school transport in Sutherland was only made available at the start of the meeting, giving no time for it to be considered in depth.  They also challenged the claim that the garage was no longer fit for purpose and that the buses needed to be replaced.  Mechanic and driver Richard Turney, who works at the depot, pointed out that no one from the local authority had actually visited the garage, and queried how a recommendation could have been made without the premises being inspected.  Two head teachers voiced their concerns that schools would not be able to afford the cost of hiring private coaches and could therefore not be able to fulfil the requirements of the new Curriculum for Excellence. Representatives of community groups also made it clear they would not be able to afford the cost of coaches.

Following discussion, ECS head Mr Mackenzie agreed to look into the issue in greater depth and carry out a health and safety survey and feasibility study on the condition of the Drummuie depot as well as find out more about the community use of the bus fleet.

Call for Action Over 'Shocking' Death Toll

The number of deaths and injuries on the North section of the A9 was yesterday described as "shocking" by a local MSP who called on the Scottish Government to rethink its spending priorities on the trunk road.  Jamie Stone wrote to First Minister Alex Salmond after it emerged that there were 68 personal injury accidents and three fatalities between Inverness and Thurso last year.  By contrast, there were 45 accidents resulting in injuries and three fatalities on the stretch of road between Pitlochry and Inverness over the same period.  The Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MSP pointed out that the Government intended to dual the A9 between Perth and Inverness by 2020 but nevertheless had "no plans to make any significant financial investment" in the North section.  Mr Stone urged the first minister to take action to make that part of the road safer and claimed this week's measures announced in the Scottish budget should make it easier for the Government to do so.

He said: "Wednesday's budget announcement by the cabinet secretary for finance, John Swinney, should make my plea easier for the Scottish Government to agree to. Revenue spend is to be diverted to additional capital spend and that should make the capital investment in the North stretch of the A9 more feasible.

Trump Jibe in Nigg Stalemate
First Minister Alex Salmond is to be asked to show the same enthusiasm for the multimillion-pound potential of a moth-balled Easter Ross facility as he did for Donald Trump's controversial scheme.  Easter Ross MSP Jamie Stone will call for the Scottish Government's direct intervention on the Nigg yard issue in the wake of fears voiced again this week that a stalled deal on a sale will see the area miss the boat on megabucks deals on renewables.  Highland Council has been told principal landowner KBR has bids from a number of parties and is aware of a December 10 deadline for expressions of interest in a £70million Scottish Government kitty aimed at backing renewable ventures of the type many believe Nigg is ideally suited for. Mr Stone, who formerly worked at the Nigg yard, has previously declared the lack of a settlement there as "unfinished business" he intends to pursue in or out of office.  He said "Given that KBR seem to be delaying making a response to the various bids that they have received for the Nigg yard from various parties, I regard the situation to be sufficiently serious to justify a direct Question to the Scottish Government. The question tabled this morning is to ask the Scottish Government what direct approach it will make to the owners of the Nigg yard, KBR, in order to urge the sale of the yard to one of the interested parties who have submitted bids." He added, "Alex Salmond had no hesitation in intervening personally when it came to encouraging US entrepreneur Donald Trump to invest in Aberdeenshire. By the same token he can do exactly the same when it comes to the US owners of Nigg. The yard is crucial to the future prosperity of much of the Highlands."

Highland Council planning and development chair, Councillor Ian Ross said the £70m identified in the National Renewables Infrastructure Fund presents an opportunity to secure additional early monies to develop the yard. The Council has again made clear that a compulsory purchase order is regarded as a risky last resort - but one that will be pursued "if there continues to be market failure".

Music to Ears of Free Kirk Modernisers
After two days of debate, the Free Church of Scotland overturned a century of tradition yesterday to allow music and song in its services.  About 200 ministers and elders voted by the narrowest of margins to allow some 100 congregations in Scotland and five in North America to use "instruments and other items of praise". Until now, only unaccompanied psalms have been allowed.

The vote - which went against the recommendations of the church's own board of trustees not to change existing practice - saw tangled but mostly good-natured argument on issues such as whether singing is sinful, the significance of harps in Heaven and detailed Biblical references. Other topics included football terrace chanting and the lyrics of Amazing Grace.  "The Times They Are a-Changing," said one minister, quoting modern bard Bob Dylan. But others insisted that Jesus and his disciples sang psalms unaccompanied.  "If it was good enough for him, then why is it not good enough for us?" said one minister.  The twists and turns at the sometimes impassioned plenary session of ministers and elders in Edinburgh - the first in more than 150 years - were reported in live updates on the church's website.

A church board of trustees had recommended maintaining the status quo, with traditionalists warning it could damage the unity of the church, which consists of more than 100 congregations in Scotland.  But an amendment by Edinburgh Minister Alex Macdonald to "allow instruments and other items of praise", in other words instruments and songs, was carried by a show of hands by 98 votes to 84. The amendment was for "liberty", according to one supporter, Rev Neil Macmillan.  "Our warrant for singing the name of Jesus is found in Philippians 2," he said. "We need to move forward in unity to make Christ known."

The haunting sound of psalm-singing has been a hallmark of the Free Church, which was formed when 450 ministers walked out the Church of Scotland in the 19th century demanding more local say over church appointments.  David Robertson, editor of the monthly publication Free Church's Record and the minister of St Peter's Free Church in Dundee, said the result would allow hymns or contemporary songs that are "in accordance with biblical teaching".  The previous rules had been in place since the 1900s.  "I think what really helped was that there were a couple of ministers from Lewis who spoke in favour of change, and one said that even if they didn't change, the rest of the church should be allowed to.  "It's up to local Kirk sessions who will do it. It's the elders who have to decide. But they now have permission to, whereas before they haven't."

Crofting Seminar A Success
The Crofters Commission have held another successful annual Assessors seminar over the last two days in Inverness.  Over 60 Assessors from Shetland to Argyll were welcomed to Inverness by Deputy Provost, Alex Graham who opened the seminar. Over the two days presentations on a range crofting issues were given including The Changing Face of Crofting, Crofting Development, Croft Mapping, Crofting Cattle Improvement Scheme and crofting regulation with lively question and answer sessions following.  Crofters Commission Convener, Drew Ratter, said: “This year’s Assessors’ conference was a resounding success, and certainly proves, if proof were required, that revitalising the assessors network was the best thing we ever did. Without the assessors, who understand the dynamics of crofting communities better than anybody else, the work of the Crofters Commission would be greatly impoverished. I can’t think of another public body with an expert volunteer network of this quality, but I can think of plenty who would give their eye teeth for one!”

Iains Section
Jock was returning home from the pub, smelling like a distillery.
He flopped on a bus seat next to a priest. His tie was stained, his face was plastered with red lipstick, and a half empty bottle of whisky was sticking out of his torn coat pocket. He opened his newspaper and began reading. Then he asked the priest,
"Father, what causes arthritis?"
"Well my son, it's the result of loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much whisky and a contempt for your fellow man."
"Well I'll be damned!" Jock muttered, returning to his paper.
The priest, feeling a little guilty, said, "I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. How long have you had arthritis?"
"I don't, Father. But I was just reading here that the Pope does.
***********************************
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!''
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Last Updated (Sunday, 21 November 2010 00:09)