Only blue Skye thinking will keep rural Scots at home

Lack of infrastructure leaves rural Scots feeling they have no choice but to flee the Highlands and Islands.

STV News

Ailish Culbertson would love to make a life for herself on Skye, her home for all of her 21 years.

But she worries that inflated house prices, a fierce demand for property and a lack of career opportunities on the island are conspiring to snatch her dream away.

She’s not the only one – a group of young adults have formed ‘The Island Initiative’ in a bid to ensure issues such as housing, employment, culture and connectivity are at the forefront of future planning for Skye and its population.

Ailish, an early years practitioner at a local primary school, says: “There’s been talk amongst young people about the need for change and the fact we do need to step up and do something.

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“We want councillors, MSPs and politicians to take a real serious look at the concerns of young people living here.”

Scotland’s rural areas have a lower percentage of people aged 16 to 34 than urban centres. Rural Scotland makes up 98 per cent of the country’s land mass, but is home to just 17 per cent of the population living across a huge geographical spread.

Key issues ahead of next month’s Scottish Parliament election include employment, transport and connectivity.

‘Connect us to keep us’

Traditionally there has been something of a ‘brain drain’ from the Highlands and Islands. Youngsters – feeling they have no choice – flee to seek opportunities unavailable to them locally.

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West Highland College hopes to help change that by running online courses – launched ahead of the Zoom-shaped curve formed by the pandemic.

The college enables youngsters from schools across Ross, Skye and Lochaber to carry out apprenticeships online, such as working with tech firms to build websites. 

Pupils from the likes of Fort William, Gairloch and Skye are even doing virtual work experience with firms as far away as Canada, and recently ‘attended’ an online tech expo in Las Vegas.

Technology may have turned the world into their oyster – but it’s threatened by unreliable connectivity.

“I feel like politicians are always promoting opportunities that young people should have. Loads are leaving their areas to explore opportunities, but if we had better connectivity we could do it here,” says pupil Owen MacKenzie.

“I am interested in cyber security – people can work from home in virtual technology and companies are looking at that. The government needs to keep investing in broadband to allow this to happen.”

There’s a real feeling that in Scotland’s more rural areas, technology and tradition, the land and communities all interlink. People want to stay and live and work but it’s not always made easy. These will be key election issues across rural regions.

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“People definitely want to stay here – work here, learn here,” says Fiona Grant from West Highland College. “But you can go a few yards and you are out of phone signal. 4G is what we need and fibre internet built in to communities so people come together at a hall, library or school.

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Fiona Grant

“Those small hubs could become multi-use – for example, for crofters to fill in online forms they have to do. It’s essential for communities to thrive in the future.”

‘Complicated process’

Empowering communities to have more control at local levels is also vital for many people.

Five years ago, crofters Lynn Cassells and Sandra Bear set up Lynbreck Croft near Tomintoul.

When it comes to agriculture, they feel access to land for new farmers needs to be improved, to create local supply chains for food, with more local abbatoirs.

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Lynn Cassells and Sandra Bear

“We accept there needs to be rules and regulations and parameters in which we work – that’s without doubt,” says Lynn. “But the process is incredibly complicated and difficult to follow – I have a Masters degree and I can’t complete half the forms. It can definitely be streamlined a lot more.

“You are the expert on your farm, but we are not always feeling that empowered to believe that.

“If we could bring more people back on to the land, working it more and producing more food in harmony with nature we would be addressing a lot of problems faced by communities.”

Back on Skye, Ailish says there are clear measures politicians can take to strengthen rural communities, which would benefit the regions for generations to come.

“There needs to be more support for young people to get on the property ladder, such as grants to be able to afford the current price of houses, or a cap on second homes and Airbnbs,” she says.

“Working at home in different ways to what we are used to has been what’s got us through this past year, so I think Skye needs to be provided with more sustainable alternative employment and diversifying away from not just relying on seasonal tourist work.

“Skye has an incredible rich history of culture and language but that can only be continued through the younger generations – if they are forced to look elsewhere for housing and employment there will be nobody to carry on the traditions.

“It’s our culture and heritage.”

What are the parties pledging?

Scottish Greens

  • Massive investment in public transport and to restore nature;
  • A new land reform bill will give communities a greater access and control over local assets.

Scottish Conservatives

  • Connect every home and business to full fibre broadband by 2027, starting with rural areas;
  • Recruit more teachers in rural areas;
  • A fair funding formula for councils;
  • Local Policing Act to give rural communities more say over policing;
  • Review closed train lines/stations.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Thousands of new jobs and public services developed locally, building more diverse and growing communities;
  • Increase the range of jobs and careers available to people in rural areas;
  • Encourage colleges to become rural enterprise hubs, meeting local skills needs and supporting innovative new businesses;
  • Roll out super-fast broadband to support business growth, education and public services, in rural areas;
  • Start a new programme to locate civil service jobs and government agencies in remote locations;
  • Increase support for the NHS in rural areas to increase the number of skilled professionals living in those communities;
  • Take opportunities for major projects such as space ports to anchor new high-skill and high wage jobs in remote areas;
  • Increase biodiversity and restore peatlands to create scientific, technical and engineering opportunities in remote area.

SNP

  • Develop a Rural Visa Pilot as a rural and remote migration initiative;
  • Giving councils power to protect housing for people who want to live in communities;
  • New £20m Rural Entrepreneur Fund – providing grants of up to £10,000 to support the relocation or creation of 2000 new businesses;
  • Work with regional transport partnerships to reinstate or develop new railway branch lines across rural Scotland;
  • £25m fund to help drive a strong tourism recovery;
  • Deliver islands-focused activity through the Young Person’s Guarantee

Scottish Labour

  • Improve transport and connectivity to support new business and traditional industries;
  • Improve population retention through education, work and housing, and boost job opportunities for young people.

Spike in East Renfrewshire Covid cases ‘causing concern’

John Swinney said case numbers will be reviewed on a daily basis in evaluating whether further action needs to be taken.

Scotland must maintain its guard to keep coronavirus under control, despite “encouraging signs” in tackling the virus, according to John Swinney.

The Deputy First Minister made the comments as he said that a spike in cases in East Renfrewshire has caused concern.

Speaking to STV News, Swinney indicated that case numbers will be reviewed on a daily basis in evaluating whether further action needs to be taken.

It comes as the majority of Scotland moves to level two of Covid restrictions, with the exemption of the City of Glasgow and Moray, with both areas having seen a rise in cases.

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East Renfrewshire currently has a case rate of 86.9 per 100,000 – higher than Glasgow’s when it was announced on Friday the city would be kept in Level 3 restrictions.

“We made it very clear when we set out the strategic framework that although we wanted to move down the levels in as unified a fashion as we can across the country, there may be exceptions where we have local outbreaks that we have to take action to strengthen the restrictions,” said Mr Swinney.

“Now, we’ve obviously regrettably had to do that in the City of Glasgow.

“We are looking at the numbers in all local authority areas on a daily basis to make sure that nothing is running away from us and obviously the East Renfrewshire situation is causing some concern.

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“And we’ll be reviewing these numbers on a daily basis to make sure that we take prompt, swift action to tackle any spread of the virus because that’s the way in which we’ll be able to maintain and sustain a position of lower restrictions within Scotland if we keep the virus and its prevalence under control.”

Swinney suggested the rise in cases in Glasgow were driven by the so-called Indian variant of the virus.

He said: “We’re at an early stage in understanding some of the most recent data on hospitalisations.

“Obviously, we think that some of the challenge within the City of Glasgow has been driven by the variant of concern that’s emerged in India.

“If that is the case, we need to see what the impact on hospitalisation is out of that particular variant of concern.

“So, we’re watching a range of data – case numbers, we’re looking at hospital admissions, we’re looking at positivity rates, and the welcome today has been the positivity rate has fallen again, case numbers are lower than they have been.

“So, there are encouraging signs, but we have to maintain our guard to make sure we keep the virus under control and the vaccination strategy, which has been very, very successful, is proving to be a very powerful weapon in containing the virus and in providing the public safety and assurance that we require.”


‘Worst violence police have dealt with in 20 years’

Officers were pelted with bottles, barriers and fireworks as they tried to disperse hostile crowds.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group
An injured person was stretchered away as Rangers fans celebrated in Glasgow's George square.

Police officers have said Saturday’s events in Glasgow was the worst violence they had dealt with in 20 years, according to the Scottish Police Federation.

Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph before scenes turned “ugly” and more than five police were injured.

Calum Steele, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) general secretary, said officers who were on the ground told him the violent disorder that followed largely peaceful celebrations was the worst experience they had ever had in decades on the job.

He told STV News: “There is an inevitability that through adrenaline and through being pelted with missiles that officers are going to receive cuts and bruises.

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“But when that violence extends to officers being thrown up in the air, injuring their backs, having teeth broken, and further in the west of Scotland, having their arm broken, there are some serious questions that have to be asked about the kind of society we are living in.”

As the crowds of Rangers fans became increasingly disorderly following the consumption of “copious” amounts of alcohol, police in riot gear armed with shields began to disperse them, moving them off George Square.

As they were forced down the city streets, some supporters threw various missiles at officers.

Mr Steele said: “All of those that undertook and participated in the disorder in George Square are absolutely responsible for their own actions. But throwing of missiles, bottles, barriers, fireworks and other pyrotechnics at police officers, you present a real risk to life.

‘We’ll identify far more people that were involved and they’ll be getting a chap on the door in the next few days and weeks.’

Gary Ritchie, Police Scotland assistant chief constable
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“When we have police officers, with over 20 years experience, telling me that this is the worst experience, the worst violence that they’ve dealt with in 20 years, I think that’s something that has to be taken very seriously.”

Earlier in the day, one fan is understood to have suffered an extreme injury to his hand when a pyrotechnic he was holding exploded.

“The harm these kinds of projectiles can cause should never ever be understated,” Mr Steele told STV News.

So far, 28 people have been arrested following Saturday’s incidents which Rangers said ‘besmirched’ the club’s name.

The wounded officers have received medical treatment, one for a serious injury, and Police Scotland confirmed they were recovering well.

Police Scotland’s assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie said that a full investigation into Saturday’s incidents was underway.

He said: “We’ll look at CCTV, speak to witnesses, [and] police officers that were there. We’ll identify far more people that were involved and they’ll be getting a chap on the door in the next few days and weeks.

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“We’ll share the information around the identities of the people we believe are responsible with the club. I don’t think anybody who was involved in that on Saturday night should get anywhere near a football ground again in the future.”

Coronavirus: 161 new cases recorded in last 24 hours

Scottish Government figures showed there had been no further deaths of those who had recently tested positive.

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Covid: 161 new cases in Scotland.

Scotland has recorded 161 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the latest Scottish Government figures show.

No new deaths have been recorded meaning the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7664.

A total of 229,774 people have tested positive for the virus and the daily test positivity rate is 1.6%, down from 2% the previous day.

A total of 68 people were in hospital on Sunday with recently confirmed Covid-19, with three patients in intensive care.

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A total of 3,035,790 people have received the first dose of a Covid vaccination and 1,638,536 have received their second dose.

With the exception of Glasgow and Moray, mainland Scotland moved to level two restrictions on Monday and some islands moved to level one.

Since the start of the pandemic more than 10,000 deaths have been registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Over three million people, around two thirds of adults in Scotland, have received their first dose of the vaccination.

Man killed in car crash that seriously injured another named

The 83-year-old died on Friday after the collision on the A950 Mintlaw to New Pitsligo Road, Aberdeenshire.

Police Scotland
Two cars collided on the A950 Mintlaw to New Pitsligo Road in Aberdeenshire.

A man who was killed in a two-car crash in Aberdeenshire that seriously injured another has been named by police.

Stanley Morrison, from Macduff, was pronounced dead at the scene while the other man was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to be treated for serious injuries.

The 83-year-old died after the collision on the A950 Mintlaw to New Pitsligo Road at around 5.50pm on Friday, May 14.

Police are appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident to get in touch to help them in their investigation.

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Sergeant Scott Deans, of Aberdeenshire Road Policing, said: “Our thoughts remain with the family of the man who has tragically died.

“Our enquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident are ongoing and I would urge anyone who has any information surrounding the crash to get in contact with police.

“Police can be contacted by calling 101 and quoting incident number 2744 of Friday, May 14, 2021.”


Appeal for witnesses after woman knocked down and killed

The 22-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene after the alarm was raised near Caldercruix on Sunday night.

© Google Maps 2020
North Lanarkshire: The incident happened on the A89 Airdrie Road.

A young woman has died after being hit by a vehicle in North Lanarkshire.

The 22-year-old pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene after the alarm was raised near Caldercruix on Sunday night.

The incident happened on the A89 Airdrie Road, near to the Woodside Road junction, at around 11.45pm.

On Monday afternoon, Police Scotland reported that the road remains closed for investigation works to conclude.

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Detective constable Lyndsay McKinnon, of Coatbridge CID, said: “This was a serious incident and our thoughts at this time are with the family and friends of the woman who lost her life. 

“Our enquiries into the cause of the crash are continuing and I would ask anyone who saw what happened, and has not yet spoken to officers, to come forward. 

“We are particularly interested to speak to anyone who was on the A89 before the crash and may have seen the deceased walking.

“Anyone with information or anyone who may dashcam footage which can help the investigation is asked to contact police on 101.”


Dedicated team to track suspects in George Square incidents

Police have already arrested 28 people in relation to various offences on Saturday.

Euan Cherry via SNS Group
Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then marched George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph.

A special team of police will investigate the incidents that took place at and around George Square in Glasgow on Saturday.

The dedicated inquiry will track those involved using CCTV, video and photographs from the scenes which officers described as the “worst violence they’ve dealt with in 20 years”.

Thousands of Rangers fans massed outside Ibrox and then marched George Square to celebrate their team’s Scottish Premiership triumph before scenes turned “ugly” and more than five police were injured.

At present, 28 people have been arrested in connection with a variety of offences.

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An online portal has been set-up so that the public can send detectives any video footage or photographs of incidents that took place on May 15.

Detective inspector Craig Warren, who is leading the investigation, said: “The public can be confident we are doing everything possible to identify those responsible for the violence and disorder on Saturday. This will take time due to the numbers involved.

“Rest assured, if you were involved in causing this disorder, violence or anti-social behaviour you will be arrested.

“We are reviewing CCTV, video and still images and I would appeal to anyone who may have captured incidents on their mobiles to please get in touch with us. You may have footage that could help us in our investigation and it’s vital we speak with you.

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“The Major Incident Public Portal (MIPP) is now available for the public to send any information, photographs or images directly to the investigation team.

“There has been footage circulating on social media covering the events in George Square. If you recognise people involved in these acts of violence and disorder, please let us know. You can contact 101 or alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Police probe video of Rangers players after title win

In a statement, Police Scotland said they are now assessing the content of the video.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group
Police said they are assessing the contents of the video.

Police Scotland has said it is assessing a video allegedly involving Rangers football players using sectarian language during their league title celebrations.

In a clip circulated on social media, a group of players are seen singing along to the song, ‘Sweet Caroline’, at Ibrox Stadium.

The celebrations came after the club were presented with the Scottish Premiership title on Saturday following a 4-0 victory against Aberdeen.

In a statement, Police Scotland said they are now assessing the content of the video.

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The statement read: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media apparently showing Rangers players using sectarian language while celebrating on Saturday.

“We are assessing its contents and will liaise with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service as part of our enquiries.”

Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said it is right that Police Scotland investigate and determine the facts around the video.

He tweeted: “I have also been made aware of this clip, if (and I stress if) this clip is genuine then any player or staff member found to be guilty of anti-Catholic hatred should be shown the door by the Club.

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“It is right Police Scot investigate & determine the facts around it.”

In a statement released by Rangers FC, the club said that it had sought legal advice and is confident that no criminality took place.

The statement read: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media. It is evident that this video was shared with an adjoining narrative which attempts to discredit our players and the reputation of Rangers Football Club. This highlights the dangers of ‘trial by social media.’

“It is deeply concerning that this video has been taken as genuine and has been shared widely including by some political representatives who should be mindful of their influence and legal processes.

“Our squad is richly diverse. Sectarianism is unacceptable and has no place in our club which is underlined by our Everyone Anyone campaign.

“We are confident that no criminality took place, we have sought legal advice and look forward to cooperating with Police Scotland.”


Women in entertainment share list of ‘abusive’ men to avoid

List of 'powerful and abusive' men comes to light after actor Kevin Guthrie was jailed for sexual assault.

Amanda Edwards / Stringer via Getty Images

Women in Scotland’s entertainment industry have a shared list of “powerful and abusive” men to avoid while they’re working.

The so-called ‘whisper network’ contains names of men deemed a threat to women and has come to light after actor Kevin Guthrie was jailed for sexual assault.

Sunshine on Leith and Fantastic Beasts star Guthrie was locked up for three years on Friday after being convicted of an attack in Glasgow in 2017.

His sentencing has prompted a number of women to speak out about harassment and inappropriate behaviour, as they called on industry bosses to do more to protect them.

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Theatre producer Rosie Priest told STV News that the list had been shared between women across Scotland’s entertainment sector.

The men involved, she added, were often “protected by the cult of celebrity”.

She said: “That cult of celebrity runs deeper than the people you see on stage. Directors, writers, choreographers, CEOs – they all have this immense amount of power.

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Rosie Priest

“We know that, unfortunately, one in four women is going to experience sexual violence in their lifetime and that sexual violence isn’t to do with intimacy, it’s to do with power.

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“And as a sector founded on very unequal power balances, a very small amount of people holding a lot of power, it means that predators, abusers, bullies can thrive.”

Four years have passed since the birth of the #MeToo movement and the fall of Hollywood giants Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Kevin Spacey.

But many working in the industry in Scotland believe not enough has been done to protect them.

STV News
Louise Oliver

Writer and actor Louise Oliver co-founded the Persistent and Nasty platform for women working in stage and screen to share their experiences.

She said: “There have been some moments across my career where I’m like ‘that wasn’t so great’ and I didn’t do anything at the time.

“I just had to move on and get over it.”

A court heard Guthrie, 33, attacked a woman who was “distressed and unwell” at a flat in the west end of Glasgow in 2017.

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A judge described the assault as a “heinous crime” as he placed the actor on the sex offenders’ register for life.

Theatre and TV actor Maureen Beattie launched the Safe Spaces campaign in a bid to rid the industry of inappropriate behaviour.

She said: “The world I want to see is a world so unused to that behaviour that it is an absolute shock when it happens.

“I suppose the revelations recently are shocking – but it’s like ‘there you go, it’s still going on’.

“To get to the point where bad behaviour literally took the breath away from you because you were like ‘wow, that’s extraordinary’ is where I’d like to get to.”


Man accused of raping and murdering mum-of-two in her home

David Hose, 30, allegedly killed Kirsty Robertson, 29, at a house in Ayr, South Ayrshire, in October 2019.

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Court: David Hose is standing trial for the rape and murder of Kirsty Robertson.

A man accused of raping and murdering a mum-of-two in her home claimed he was told about her death by another person.

David Hose, 30, allegedly killed Kirsty Robertson, 29, at the house in Ayr, South Ayrshire, on October 20, 2019.

Hose denies the charge and is on trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

He is further charged with raping two other women in 2017 and 2018 at separate properties in Ayr.

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Hose and Ms Robertson’s friend, Shona Harbison, 36, told jurors on Monday that they were all drinking together on the night of the death.

Ms Harbison stated Hose was to stay the night to help look after Ms Robertson’s children in the morning.

Ms Harbison claimed when she left around 1.30am, Ms Robertson was lying on the couch.

Prosecutor Lynsey MacDonald asked how Ms Robertson was, and the witness replied: “She was passed out but when I told her I was leaving she never answered.

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“I spoke and shoogled her shoulder to see if she would wake up.”

Ms MacDonald asked if Ms Robertson reacted in any way, and she replied: “No.”

Ms Harbison stated that she was later woken up by Hose at 12.30pm at her own house.

She said: “He told me that Kirsty was dead and I didn’t believe him. I was trying to take it in and understand as I saw her a couple of hours ago and she was fine.”

Ms MacDonald asked if she questioned Hose about how he found out Ms Robertson had died.

She replied: “He said some girl called Vicky had said to him.

“I said I thought you were staying at Kirsty’s to help her, and he said he couldn’t get to sleep on the single chair in the living room.”

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John Scullion QC, defending, put it to Ms Harbison that Hose claimed he was told Ms Robertson had been found by her daughter that morning.

She replied: “He said a neighbour had turned up to take Kirsty to Kilmarnock for a bike for her daughter. He said the girl was told to wake up her mum.”

Ms Robertson’s neighbour, Caroline Hall, 35, earlier stated in evidence how she found Ms Robertson’s naked body face down on the couch.

The student nurse stated: “I went to the door and shouted Kirsty. I never got an answer so I went to the couch to rouse her.”

Ms MacDonald asked: “What did you find when you touched her shoulder?”

The witness replied: “She was cold, very cold and I knew straight away that she was [dead].”

The rape and murder charge includes claims Ms Robertson was intoxicated, unconscious and incapable of giving or withholding consent.

It is also alleged Hose left her face down on a couch and her breathing became restricted.

The trial, before Judge Simon Collins, continues.


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