Some Scottish News & Views #68

This little effort is for the period ending 4th December 2010.  Once again I’ve been able to include a small named tongue-in-cheek article which I think you will enjoy. - Robin

Hugh Dallas E-mail 'An Example of Vicious Anti-catholic Hostility in Scotland'
The offensive e-mail that led to referee chief Hugh Dallas leaving the Scottish Football Association is just the "tip of the iceberg" of anti-Catholic feeling in Scotland, Church leaders have claimed. Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, said the e-mail was an example of "deep, wide and vicious anti-Catholic hostility".  Meanwhile, the wider crisis engulfing Scottish referees took a dramatic twist last night with the resignation of Dougie McDonald, the man whose admission that he misled Celtic boss Neil Lennon over his decision to rescind a penalty triggered the current controversy.  Having called last week for Mr Dallas to be sacked if it was proved he forwarded the e-mail that suggested the Pope was a risk to children, Mr Kearney has now said "the bigotry, bile, sectarian undercurrents and innuendos must end".  He said similar e-mails circulated in the weeks leading up to Pope Benedict's visit to Scotland highlighted the level of anti-Catholic feeling in Scotland.

Mr Kearney said: I am disturbed that in a country where more than 99 per cent of Catholic clergy are innocent of any offence, they can be subjected to so much hate-fuelled scorn. I would challenge critics to provide evidence of any other profession with such an exemplary record."  He claimed anti-Catholic bigotry had existed in Scotland for hundreds of years and urged Scottish Catholics to speak out against it. "It has existed since the Reformation and its viciousness was renewed and deepened when the first Irish migrants arrived a century and a half ago," Mr Kearney wrote. "Our grandparents and our parents suffered intolerance and persecution. We will not tolerate it. We will not laugh it off - because there is no funny side."

Reports suggest Mr Dallas, who left his post as head of referee development on Friday, and four other staff members who have also been disciplined are considering suing the SFA for unfair dismissal. The other staff are reported to be Craig Levein's secretary Amanda Macdonald, mailroom boss Bob Bryan, Marco McIntyre from football development and Tim Berridge, an audio visual technician.  The SFA said it had not yet received any appeals.  SFA chief executive Stewart Regan also refused to confirm the names of the staff members who had left.  In response to Mr Kearney's comments, he said: "This was not about anti- Catholicism, in my view. It's about appropriate use of our e-mail and internet, and a decision was taken in relation to abuse of that policy."  Mr Regan has been in post for only six weeks, having recently moved from Yorkshire County Cricket, and said he could not comment on allegations that sectarianism was rife in Scotland or in Scottish football.  He said tackling sectarianism was not the responsibility of the SFA. "We're a football organisation and our job is to deal with football issues," he said.

Airport Plan for RAF Leuchars Revealed
RAF Leuchars in Fife could be turned into a commercial airport in a move that would save RAF Lossiemouth in Moray.  The government is considering the creation of an international airport to replace or work alongside the commercial one at Dundee as part of a review of the UK's military airbases.  Easyjet has in the past looked at using Leuchars. Golf tourism flights already land there, taking passengers to St Andrews and other courses in Fife.  Unlike nearby Dundee airport, the base has a long and recently upgraded runway that can accommodate larger passenger jets, including flights from America.  Leuchars had been thought safe from being cut in the defence review, but it emerged last week that ministers now see it as an alternative to closing Lossiemouth or Norfolk's RAF Marham.

The revelation was met with anger from local Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell. He said: "Commercial operations were considered some years ago for RAF Leuchars and were rejected not least because the road system and local infrastructure would be wholly inadequate and also because of the proximity of Dundee Airport across the Tay. "If these reports are true then the MoD is clutching at straws. We should have unequivocal acceptance that the strategic defence requirements of the UK are best met by confirming the future of RAF Leuchars as a frontline air base."

Did An Electrician From Back Really Change Gaelic Forever? By iain maciver
Language and how we use it has been in the news again. Not just the latest gaffe by Sarah Palin, who didn’t know the difference between the really mad guys in North Korea and the not-so-barmy fellows in South Korea, but a kooky Caithness councillor invoking the spirit of the Nazis in deliberations on the recruitment of teachers who support Gaelic.  He’s the guy who has tried to find out how much is spent on the promotion of Gaelic. Fair enough, he should get that information and we should all know how much that costs us. It is quite disgusting, the cover-up that is going on over cash for Gaelic. He’s absolutely right about that. However, that does not give anyone any excuse to spout the offensive nonsense he came out with the other day.

I hear he has been trying in vain down the Freedom of Information route to get the info from the Scottish Government. I suspect it’s as easy to get that kind of detail as it is to get sight of the legal advice that the council lawyers here in Stornoway gave our licensing board when the North Korean members threw out our golf club’s bid for a Sunday extension. I have been trying for ages to get that.  Wait a minute. Freedom of Information legislation? Now there’s an idea. What if I . . . ?

Sarah Palin should think herself lucky she doesn’t speak Gaelic. Certain words are spelled differently depending on where you see them. Simple words like tigh, which means house, becomes taigh when written in certain textbooks and posh newspapers. I always assumed it was people with degrees keeping the plebs with O-level woodwork in their place by confusing them.  The word for association, Comunn, is another one. The Royal National Mod organisers are An Comunn Gaidhealach, yet the learners’ body is Comann Luchd-Ionnsachaidh or, of course, CLI if you’re really lazy. So is it comunn or comann? Maybe it’s just the difference by us only having tinker Gaelic here in the islands? Yeah, that’ll be it, I thought. I’d just keep quiet about that.  Then someone pointed out that Lews Castle College translates its own name to a colaisde while the rest of the world calls a college a colaiste. Even Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on incomer-rich Skye calls itself a colaiste – with a “t”.

Ah, got them. If even the academics are all mixed up about it, then what chance is there for the rest of us? So I asked both institutions, as well as the head honchos at Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Funnily enough, none of the responses was out-and-out admissions that they hadn’t a clue what they were doing. Far from it.  First, Professor Hugh Cheape phoned from the campus at the bottom of Skye. He told me the awful truth. It was all Gawk’s fault.  These changes were set out by the Gawk many years ago.   Strange. George never mentioned it. What did a full-time crofter and part-time insulated-screwdriver-wielding sparky on North Sea oil rigs have to do with it? He has short-circuited many things in his time – but an entire language? Was the prof sure? He had it there in black and white.

Then I got an e-mail from Angela Weir at our college here in Stornoway. She, too, blamed the Gawk and revealed he first started fiddling with the language of the Garden of Eden back in 1985. Apparently, he recommended “st” should be adopted in orthography rather than “sd” – hence ist, eist, fhathast, colaiste and so on, rather than isd, eisd, fhathasd, colaisde.  George Campbell from Coll – him with the mud-spattered Subaru Impreza and the fondness for the girls from Harris – said that? Blimey.  She explained that, as Lews Castle College was around before 1985, the name Colaisde a’ Chaisteil was part of its corporate identity, so the “sd” spelling was retained.  Even although it’s wrong. Excellent.

“GOC also recommended “-unn” be altered to “-ann”, as in Comann Luchd-Ionnsachaidh, however Comunn na Gaidhlig and An Comunn Gaidhealach retained the pre-1985 orthography, as they were established prior to the orthographic change. Therefore, the accepted convention is, if the body/agency/institution was established prior to 1985, it retains the pre-1985 orthography.”  I’ve got it. If you’re a bit long in the tooth, just ignore all the new words and rules that are being introduced every second week to keep the Gaelic Mafia in jobs.

Hold on, hold on. Did she say GOC? Is that how he spells his nickname? Well, yes, it probably is, but maybe GOC is something else, too. Right then, Murdo Macleod at Sabhal Mòr writes to put me right.  “You've probably heard of the Gaelic Orthographic Conventions (GOC) first published around 1981 by the SCEEB, forerunner of the SQA, and at that time the body responsible for administering examinations and certification in high schools – O levels, Highers, etc.”  Of course I’ve heard of them. Yeah, hasn’t everyone? Well, they did it. Not George, then. I did wonder.

And Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s official response?  They were obviously far too busy doing their expenses on Friday to bother with me. Well, it is the end of the month.  I’ve had loads of replies from mortar-board types, all putting the blame squarely on the GOC. Thank you. Fine work.  I just have one other job for you to do concerning those councillors who refused to interview anyone for the two teaching posts which ask for support for Gaelic.  As you know, one of them has reportedly claimed the Gaelic reference in the job spec echoes 1930s Germany when jobs were earmarked for Nazi members.  What is the correct Gaelic term for an anti-Gaelic councillor from Thurso who will stoop as low as referring to the Third Reich to make cheap political points?   And just remind me of the term for good riddance, which I can use when he has the good grace to step down or, even better, be booted out.

Grounded Nuclear Sub's Skipper Loses Command
The officer in charge of a nuclear-powered submarine which ran aground on a shingle bank has been relieved of his command.  HMS Astute was on sea trials last month when she became stuck off the coast of Skye and ended up marooned for several hours.  Navy officials have confirmed that Commander Andy Coles, 47, lost his command of the submarine. He will remain with the Royal Navy and is to be given another post.  A final decision has still to be made about whether Commander Coles will face a court martial over the incident.  A Royal Navy spokesman said: "He's going to continue with the Royal Navy. He will be reappointed to another post. It's an internal administrative matter between Commander Coles and his senior officers."  The spokesman said it was not known what the new post will be. He added that a new commanding officer of HMS Astute will be appointed in the near future. The vessel ran aground on 22 October. It was freed by the evening when the tide began to rise.

Notes of Discord After Legendary Piper's Chanter Finds its Way to Scotland
A priceless 17th century musical artefact that once belonged to one of Scotland's most revered pipers has returned to its native land after more than two centuries in exile in Canada.
But the homecoming of the bagpipe chanter once played by the legendary Blind Piper of Gairloch has led to a discordant note being sounded by piping enthusiasts in the New World, who believe that its move back to the Old Country is illegal.  To lovers of pipe music, the remains of Iain Dall MacKay of Gairloch's instrument represents a remarkable link to a golden age of Gaelic culture. Of huge interest to musicologists, the chanter has been examined and copied in attempts to recreate the sound produced by MacKay. But it is his descendants' decision to donate the chanter to the National Museum of Scotland that has caused anger in Canada.

Dr John G Gibson, a piping scholar based in Cape Breton and the author of Traditional Gaelic Bagpiping 1745-1945, believes that the transfer of the chanter has broken Canadian heritage law.  Gibson has taken legal advice and is hopeful that he will be able to repatriate the instrument.  "For us to lose this relic is a tragedy in piping and cultural terms. And in fact, I believe, it is against the law," Gibson said. "There is a Cultural Property Import and Export Act and this is part of the heritage of Canada. I have spoken to lawyers in Canada and Scotland on this. Perhaps we could come to a deal between the two countries that would see it lent to Scotland."  Gibson's views, however, are not shared by MacKay's family and on St Andrew's Day this Tuesday, they will present the chanter to the National Piping Centre. The most recent owner, Michael Sinclair, said: "It has been looked after by our family for a long time but there's great scholarship in piping associated with the museum and we felt that it would be a good location for the chanter to be seen and appreciated by young enthusiasts."

MacKay (c 1656 - c 1754) was not only a piper, but also a Gaelic bard, who accompanied his poetic songs on the harp.  But it is his compositions of piobaireachd or ceol mor, the classical music of the Highland bagpipe, that has established his reputation as one of the finest pipers that has ever lived. His chanter, the part of the bagpipe that pipers finger to produce the melody notes that harmonise against the drones, was passed down to his descendants, who emigrated to Canada.  A spokesman for National Museums Scotland said: "The donation of the chanter came about entirely at (Michael Sinclair's] instigation. It was an unsolicited and wholly unexpected gift, albeit a very welcome one for which we are extremely grateful."

Scotland Bill Called Control Freakery
First Minister Alex Salmond accused the UK Government of “control freakery”  – and branded its new Scotland Bill a “missed opportunity”.  Scottish Secretary Michael Moore chose St Andrew’s Day to unveil proposals to give more power to Scotland.  Under the new bill, the UK Government would reduce the basic and higher rates of income tax by 10p in the pound, and then allow MSPs to set a Scottish rate if they wanted to. Stamp duty and landfill tax would be devolved, but the majority of other taxes – including VAT, excise duty, and North Sea revenues – would remain in Westminster’s hands. Mr Salmond said the measures would allow the Treasury to squeeze Scottish spending while pocketing any increased revenues raised north of the border.  

At a press conference at Bute House, his official Edinburgh residence, the first minister also attacked the proposal to give Scotland the power to set the drink-drive limit, but not to introduce random breath tests or set penalties.  The Scottish Parliament would get the power to set the speed limits on all roads, but not the 30mph limit on restricted roads. Contrary to Calman, the power to set speed limits for cars would be devolved, but not for other vehicles such as buses, lorries and caravans.  Scotland would also be given control of air weapons but not “specially dangerous” ones and other firearms.  Mr Salmond said: “These are extraordinary reductions in the Calman proposals for no other apparent reason than control freakery.”  The Scottish Government would be assigned half the income tax raised at the basic rate, a quarter of revenue raised at the higher rate and a fifth at the new top rate.

Mr Salmond said that would mean that Scotland would not get any of the extra revenue from high-rate tax payers in Scotland and the majority of any growth in Scottish income tax would go to the Treasury – removing any incentive to boost the economy.   The Scottish Government will table a legislative consent mechanism to allow the bill to be scrutinised in the House of Commons, during which Mr Salmond hopes its “flaws” will be exposed and changed.

New Bid to Tackle Religious Prejudice in the Classroom (This is applicable to many situations - I hope you can follow the poem that follows - Robin)
It has been a week where the issue of sectarianism in Scotland has come to the fore again following unprecedented claims by the Catholic Church of “deep, wide and vicious” hostility towards its members.  Today, however, pupils of primary and secondary age will be exposed to new teaching materials designed to educate against religious prejudice and racism and shape new positive ideas on national identity.  Ingrained views that are often bred in the family home will be tested by teachers equipped with a new teaching pack called “A’ Adam’s Bairns?”

Included in the pack, officially launched at the Scottish Parliament today, is a song called Larkhall, written in ode to the South Lanarkshire town by singer Peter Nardini. Larkhall has displayed in the past near fanatical episodes of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish feeling, with green traffic lights smashed and green shop fronts changed. Subway sandwich shop chose a black frontage for its branch in the town, while Asda resisted pressure to change its usual logo. Vast amounts of work has been done to alter deep-seated intolerance.

Nardini’s song goes to the heart of the issue tackled by the new guidelines, with the words: “Where children learns what’s richt from wrang frae the words they see spray painted on the buildings, and then their ain children, grow up jist the very same wi an attitude that’s never changed for decades...”

The release of the materials comes as Scotland reflects on recent comments by Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church, who described the existence of a “pernicious malignancy” of anti-Catholic feeling combined with the “bigotry of a new generation of vicious thugs”.  Mr Kearney spoke out after what he described as a “shameful episode” – the sending of an anti-Pope joke on email by a Scottish Football Association executive. Hugh Dallas resigned from his post as head of referee development over the incident.

Ian Galloway, convener of the church and society council of the Church of Scotland, said the initiative was “going in the right direction”.  He said: “We have to find a way to live with difference and to respect differences that don’t actively harm others. This initiative seems to be going in the right direction to ensure that young people have the earliest opportunity to explore these issues with their peers.”

A’ Adam’s Bairns? has been funded by the National Lottery and Oxfam and written by educational development organisation Scotdec with input from the National Library of Scotland. Other issues explored include Scotland’s role in the slave trade and the Highland clearances.

Larkhall  By Peter Nardini
The trees grow tall abune the wall that keeps oot all the killjoys, and keeps in all the cowboys,
The main street winds roon narrow minds but it takes all kinds of people, some even go tae chapel,
Bigotry pours oot the drains like blue blood runs through the veins of princes, and on Sundays,
Everybody goes tae church, it disnae cost them very much tae worship, when the pubs are shut.
And they tell me that yince you’re ower the wall, It really isnae a’ that bad at all, and a Free Mason can really have a ball, in Larkhall, up in Larkhall.

Drums and flutes, mairchin’ boots, purple suits and banners, and that’s just the toon planners,
Songs are sung of battles won by every Loyal son and daughter, lambs tae the slaughter,
When everybody walks in pairs and every step they take declares their hatred, naethin is sacred,
God wears a fitba’ scarf and the sun sets like an orange sash in the distance, but they’re a’ good Christians.
And they tell me that yince you’re ower the wall,
it really isnae a that bad at all as long as yer name’s no John Paul, in Larkhall, up in Larkhall.

The grass is green but it’s always been and even the Queen of England cannae change it, but ye can always paint it,
The pavement too would look bran’ new red white and blue, just like the pailin’s aroon the playground,
Where children learns what’s richt from wrang frae the words they see spray painted on the buildings,
and then their ain children, grow up jist the very same wi an attitude that’s never changed for decades, it’s jist a wee place.
But they tell me that yince you’re ower the wall,
It really isnae a’ that bad at all and the distance tae the moon is very small, in Larkhall, up in Larkhall.

Bagpipes 'Are Loved in Afghanistan'
Scottish soldiers serving in Afghanistan have discovered a surprising taste among local people - a love of the bagpipes. Troops from the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, received "enthusiastic acclaim" from Afghans when they played the pipes at a meeting to discuss security along a key road in Helmand Province.  The pipers opened and closed the shura, a gathering of tribal elders, in Helmand's capital Lashkar Gah, hosted by Colonel Abdul Sattar Noorzai, commanding officer of the 2nd Afghan National Police kandak (battalion).

Major Nick Wight-Boycott, officer commanding D Company, Royal Highland Fusiliers, said: "The Afghans really appreciate the pipes, which represent the many similarities between the Pashtuns and the Scots.  "Both peoples come from mountainous countries where tribes or clans have been central to the fabric of the nation for generations."  The shura, attended by more than 180 people, was called last week to raise concerns about security along Route 601, which connects Lashkar Gah with the city of Kandahar in the east.  Maj Wight-Boycott said one man complained to Col Sattar that an Afghan police officer had committed an assault and stolen money.  But he added that it was "an encouraging sign" that the man was able to come to the shura and expose the alleged wrongdoing without fear of retribution.  The officer said: "This was a very positive event with a good, encouraging atmosphere, and I was pleased to see the very positive reaction we and the Afghan National Police received from the locals. "It was also great to be able to provide some entertainment with the bagpipes and see the Afghans enjoying the music."

Fishermen Backed in 'Mackerel Wars'
The Scottish Government has vowed to protect the country's fishing industry following another round of talks to resolve a bitter dispute known as the "mackerel wars".  Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, told the Scottish Parliament a solution would not be easy but the Government would keep its nerve to ensure the best outcome for Scotland.  Mr Lochhead was speaking at Holyrood as the Parliament looked ahead to the forthcoming annual EU fisheries negotiations in Brussels.  The row over mackerel has been the dominant issue in Scotland's fishing industry in recent months.

It began in August when Iceland and the Faroe Islands increased their catch of fish in the North Atlantic, taking the bulk of available stock from the area.  Scots fisherman retaliated by blocking Peterhead port to prevent a Faroe Islands vessel from landing.  A third round of talks to settle the dispute were held in Norway last week.  Addressing Parliament, Mr Lochhead said: "We must ensure that we do not lose focus on the current impasse on mackerel, Scotland's most valuable stock.  The opportunistic behaviour of Iceland and the Faroes has been condemned far and wide and Scotland has been the loudest voice. A solution will not be easy but we will keep our nerve and ensure that the outcome does not compromise the viability of the Scottish fleet."

Protests As Perth Pitched Against English Towns in Bid for City Status
A row erupted last night over Perth's bid to achieve city status during the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012. Supporters launched vigorous protests over the Westminster Government's insistence the contest must result in only one new city in the UK, forcing it to compete with bids from major English towns.  Provost John Hulbert, who announced Perth will nevertheless enter the contest, said he believed the Queen herself “would want to ensure that all the nations of the UK, the smaller ones as well, have a fair chance". He said attempts to persuade her ministers it would be fairer to have four separate contests in each of the four parts of her realm appeared to have failed.  Mr Hulbert said: “We know there are large towns in England that will apply for city status.  We feel Scotland is likely to lose out — along with Wales and Northern Ireland.   He said four national contests would have been better. No reason had so far been given by Cabinet Office Minister Mark Harper, who is responsible for political and constitutional reform, for having only one.  He said some of the contenders from south of the border were “huge" and had more resources to devote to the campaign – and he vowed to continue to raise the issue with Mr Harper.

Green Investment: Spirit of Scottish Samurai Generates £100m Green Cash

Japanese technology giant Mitsubishi unveiled a £100 million investment in the Scottish renewables industry yesterday in a move hailed as a "game changing" commitment by First Minister Alex Salmond.  The conglomerate is to establish an engineering centre in Scotland for the research and development of offshore wind technology, as well as acquiring an Edinburgh University spin-off, Artemis Power. It will create up to 200 jobs at its Centre for Advanced Technology in Edinburgh as part of plans it unveiled with Mr Salmond in the city yesterday.  The news was the culmination of a week of positive announcements for the renewables industry in Scotland, with plans also unveiled for the first tidal energy farm off Skye.  Ten European countries also signed up to work together to make a long-awaited North Sea electricity supergrid a reality.

Revealed: The £1m Tory MP
The Conservatives out-spent every other political party in Scotland at the General Election – and returned just one MP to Westminster, the Electoral Commission has revealed.  Details of party spending showed the Tories committed £1.27 million to their campaign north of the Border. The total compares with £967,904 by Labour, which saw 41 candidates elected, and £470,619 by the Liberal Democrats, who successfully contested 11 seats. The SNP spent £315,776 on its campaign, holding on to the six seats it won in 2005.  The Conservatives had ambitions to win 10 target seats, mounting high-profile visits to Scotland. Despite the push, only David Mundell won for the party, holding on to his Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale seat.  As well as spending £1.3 million the Tories had the backing of most newspapers, three live debates on network TV and hourly updates streamed direct from their campaign into people's homes via news channels. With all that behind them, if the best they can offer is David Mundell then they don't deserve any better. They are the remnants of a dying breed who put Westminster first.  Scotland puts everyone else before the Tories

Coldest Place in the UK? We Think It’s Cool
The residents of the remote community of Altnaharra didn’t know what all the fuss was about.  It may have been the coldest place in the UK yesterday, with a power cut to boot, but this is Sutherland and the temperature had only dropped to -32.2°C.   That was 0.1°C below last year’s low, but still nothing to write home about, according to Bob Mackay, the self-employed builder who for years used to take the weather readings for the Met Office.  He said: “In 1995 it was the lowest. I think it went down to -37.2°C. But I remember the head keeper telling me that before the Met Office started taking readings he did, and had some that were well below -37.2°C. What is different this year is that it has come so early. You don’t often get such lows in November.”   His wife Ann runs a guest house in the village, but the community is geared up for life in the cold. “People have their freezers stocked up all the time so we are pretty well prepared for anything. We just get on with it.”  

There are fewer than 50 people living in Altnaharra, on the estate and in the surrounding area, which largely lost its population in the 19th-century clearances.  It lies at the western end of Loch Naver, almost midway between Lairg, where the nearest shop is more than 20 miles away, and Tongue on the north coast.  There are a dozen houses, a church, a school (reopened in 2005 in response to incoming population), a bed and breakfast house and a hotel on the site of a 17th-century drovers inn.  Retired couple Frank and Margaret Duffy haven’t had their car out since November 19, when they made it to Lairg. “We have been in the house since then, but it has given Frank plenty time to practise his guitar. We are fine,” Mrs Duffy said.

Girl, 14, Crushed by Ice Fall As She Clears Path Published Date: 04 December 2010
A teenage girl has suffered serious spinal injuries after being crushed when ice and snow fell from the roof of her home. Samantha Kinghorn had been clearing a path outside the cottage in the Scottish Borders when she was engulfed.  The 14-year-old was taken to Borders General Hospital from her home near Gordon, Berwickshire, then airlifted 70 miles to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow yesterday, where doctors at the hospital's specialist spinal unit performed emergency surgery.   Samantha had been off school when the accident happened because of the wintry conditions which have caused havoc in many parts of Scotland and the UK. A hospital spokeswoman last night described Samantha's condition as "serious but stable".  It also emerged yesterday that two pensioners had been found dead in their gardens in separate incidents in Cumbria. Police asked householders to watch out for their neighbours after the bodies of 84-year-old William Wilson and Lillian Jenkinson, 80, were discovered. While the heavy snows which hit much of Scotland show signs of abating over the weekend, forecasters warned that extreme cold would continue to cause serious difficulties.  Temperatures on Royal Deeside plunged to -20C on Thursday night, while the mercury fell to -13C in Edinburgh and -10C in Glasgow.  

Motoring groups warned drivers of the dangers of black ice on Scotland's roads while rail services were hard-hit as freezing temperatures caused the cancellation of all services north of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Pledge to Push for End to Dumping Fish Catches At Sea Wins Strong Support

A UK Government pledge to fight to extend a Scottish fishing control scheme designed to end the dumping of fish catches at sea won warm support last night.  Natural Environment and Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon condemned discards of fish to keep within the current quota limits as “an affront to fishermen, the public and the consumer”. The Scottish trial involves 17 vessels on which CCTV cameras are used to monitor catches, with the boats required to land all the fish they catch.  Mr Benyon told MPs in the Commons he would continue to try to persuade the European Commission that “we need to move beyond a trial and get every possible vessel into the catch quota system that ends discards".  He also called for a move away from the current “rather bizarre” annual quota bargaining to a longer-term approach based on restoring sustainability and passing controls to regional management out of Brussels' hands.  He said an end to discards and a move to overall catch quotas “should be at the centre of Common Fisheries Policy reforms”.

The debate was called by Banff and Buchan SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford, who launched a furious attack on Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) rules which mean “nutritious, marketable food worth £33million that could be landed and sold is instead thrown dead back into the sea, polluting the marine environment and needlessly depriving boats of landings that could keep them afloat financially”.  She urged the adoption of the catch quota system, protesting that dumping 14,600 tonnes of cod a year amounts to “an environmental outrage which is also economically disastrous.”  Argyll and Bute Liberal Democrat MP Alan Reid pleaded for an easing of catch quotas for west coast fishermen designed to preserve white fish when the prawns they are after are plentiful. He said “there has to be something wrong” with the current management regime based on 30% of all fish caught being tossed back.

New Row Over Lewis Golf Club Drinks Request (It still moves on- Robin)
A bid to obtain details of the legal advice given to members of a licensing board before it rejected a Sunday extension application by an island golf club has failed – because the lawyer concerned did not write it down.  Freedom of Information legislation was used by a journalist to ask the Western Isles Council to hand over the advice and he appealed to the Scottish information commissioner when he was turned down.  Now the commissioner has decided that, as the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act can only be used to get public authorities to hand over copies of actual documents, the authority did lawfully comply with the request because it claimed to have no relevant documents or notes to hand over as no one had written down the advice.   Stornoway Golf Club had applied twice this year to get a Sunday extension to serve lunchtime drinks at the clubhouse. In the last vote in July, members refused the application on health grounds.  Several members of the Western Isles Licensing Board has strong links to fundamentalist churches and there has been considerable local speculation that they may have ignored the legal advice which may have urged them to grant the application to avoid an expensive legal action. The members voted six to four to refuse.

The formal decision of the Scottish information commissioner records that the council claimed to have examined the files looking for relevant paperwork but none was found. It also records that council lawyers claimed not to have been in the habit of writing any notes on legal advice to the licensing board, a separate legal entity which is comprised of councillors.
It said: “The legal services manager commented that he had been assisting in the provision of advice to the board for 10 years and had never had an occasion to issue written advice to the board or record the advice provided.”  However, the golf club has hired an advocate to plead its case before Sheriff Sir Stephen Young at a date still to be confirmed. The club, yesterday said he could not make any comment due to the ongoing legal action.

Freelance journalist Iain Maciver, who made the FOI request, said: “It is disappointing and astonishing to be denied access to this legal advice with the excuse that the lawyers who briefed the councillors didn't bother to write anything down – and haven’t done so for about 10 years. Certainly, another lawyer I spoke to about the case today has expressed some surprise that no documents exist.  “For a council which claims to be committed to transparency, it is quite simply appalling. Voters are now much better informed and they want to know if their councillors are, as many suspect, pursuing certain agendas without regard for the law or the consequences for the local authority and island taxpayers.”

Four Workers Rescued After Ordeal At Isles Lighthouse
Four people were rescued from a remote island lighthouse after running out of food when a helicopter due to pick them up was grounded by the bitterly cold weather.  The contractors were working at North Rona lighthouse, 40 miles north-east of the Butt of Lewis, and made a mayday call to coastguards at Stornoway.  As the coastguard helicopter lifted them off the island, the crew received a call to divert to a pregnant woman in Lochinver who was in the advanced stages of labour.   With the lighthouse workers still on board, the helicopter took the 20-year-old woman to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, where she gave birth to a boy.  The rescue came on the day the Forth Road Bridge was closed by snow for the first time and Scotland shivered in conditions that smashed 40-year-old records.

The First Christmas Joke - and it is Scottish
A man in Scotland calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says, “I hate to ruin your day but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.”
'Dad, what are you talking about?' the son screams.
“We can't stand the sight of each other any longer” the father says. “We're sick of each other and  I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Leeds and tell her.”
The son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.  “Like hell they're getting divorced!” she shouts, “I'll take care of this!”
She calls Scotland immediately, and screams at her father “You are NOT getting divorced.  Don't do a single thing until I get there.  I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife . 'Sorted! They're coming for Christmas  - and they're paying their own way.'