Wrecks of two wartime anti-torpedo ships discovered by divers

The pontoons were used to protect Navy vessels from air raids during the Second World War.

Scapa Flow: Divers exploring newly-discovered wrecks. <strong>University of the Highlands and Islands</strong>
Scapa Flow: Divers exploring newly-discovered wrecks. University of the Highlands and Islands

The wrecks of two experimental anti-torpedo ships used to protect Navy vessels from air raids have been discovered in the Scapa Flow.

Experts know very little about how Anti-Torpedo Close Protection Pontoons worked as they were only used for 13 months in the early years of the Second World War and few were ever built.

Divers carried out surveys of the wrecks near Orkney last year on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland.

A spokesman for the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute said: “Historic Environment Scotland commissioned ORCA and SULA Diving to conduct side-scan sonar and archaeological diving surveys in 2015 of two wrecked vessels located off Flotta Island, Orkney.

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“Archival research indicates these are the remains of Anti-Torpedo Close Protection Pontoons.

Experimental ship: Example of an anti-torpedo pontoon. University of the Highlands and Islands

“They represent a rare, frequently misidentified heritage resource, for which very little is known about their operation.

“Had the site not been reported, a unique heritage asset would have been overlooked and the identity of similar vessels would have remained unconfirmed.”

The Scapa Flow, now one of the world’s most popular diving destinations, was home to the British Grand Fleet during the First and Second World Wars.

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It came under attack in the first months of the Second World War and in October 1939 the HMS Royal Oak was sunk by a German U-boat. The battleship went down with 834 men aboard.

Wrecks found: Divers discover unusual vessels. University of the Highlands and Islands

Scots told to prepare for a ‘digital Christmas’ this year

The national clinical director warns that large family gatherings are unlikely to be allowed over the festive period.

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Family reunions may have to take place online this Christmas.

Scots should prepare for a “digital Christmas” with big family gatherings unlikely to be allowed by December 25, the national clinical director has said.

People are currently banned from mixing with other households indoors in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.

With case numbers high, it’s unlikely those restrictions will be fully lifted in the short-to-mid term.

Jason Leitch said there was “no question” of a normal Christmas in 2020.

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He also warned against large Halloween and Bonfire Night gatherings in the coming weeks.

“Christmas is not going to be normal, there’s absolutely no question about that,” Leitch told BBC radio.

“We’re not going to be in large family groupings with multiple families coming round – that is fiction for this year.

“But I’m hopeful that if we can get the numbers down to a certain level we may get some form of normality.

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“But people should get their digital Christmas ready.”


Homes evacuated and cars stranded amid flooding chaos

Torrential rainfall causes disruption in north-east of Scotland.

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Downpour: Flooding in Links Road, Aberdeen.

Residents have been evacuated from flooded homes and cars stranded in water as parts of Scotland were hit by a severe downpour overnight.

The Met Office issued a yellow warning from north of Dundee to Fraserburgh, which will remain in place until 11am on Thursday.

A separate caution was made in the areas surrounding Inverness and Elgin.

The rainfall has caused travel disruption, with a build-up of surface water on key roads – including the A96 Elgin to Brodie and A90 Toll of Birness in Aberdeenshire.

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The A92 was closed following flooding after three cars were stuck in water between Arbroath and Montrose at around 4.10am. Police said the fire service went to the scene and there were no reports of any injuries.

Drivers have been urged to “take care” in affected areas and be wary of “hazardous conditions”.

A statement added: “We are currently receiving various reports of weather related incidents with various roads blocked by flooding.

“Please leave extra time for your journey and plan ahead, consider if your trip is necessary and drive with extreme caution.”

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Bus and train journeys have been affected, while spray and flooding on roads will mean a longer commute for some.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it was called to reports of flooding in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, from around 4.50am onwards.

Several appliances were sent to the scene and residents were rescued from six properties.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has eight flood alerts and nine warnings in place.

The alerts cover Caithness and Sutherland, Tayside, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen city, Dundee and Angus and other regions.


Fears new test will ‘screen out’ Down’s syndrome babies

Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing was introduced in September as part of routine pregnancy screening measures.

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Concerned: Parents are fearful babies with Down's syndrome will be 'screened out' in the future.

Fears about new pregnancy testing for Down’s syndrome are being raised by parents who have children with the condition.

Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing, or NIPT, was introduced in Scotland in September as part of routine pregnancy screening measures.

It’s more accurate than previous methods and should reduce the risk of pregnant mothers miscarrying later on.

However, some parents say that their children could be “screened out” in the future.

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Family: Kevin, Olly and Beki Byrne.
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Six-year-old Olly Byrne has Down’s syndrome, but he doesn’t let the condition hold him back.

Currently, all pregnant woman are offered a blood test to screen for the condition. However, some fear the new NIPT test could lead to an increase in the number of abortions of babies with Down’s syndrome. And that concerns Olly’s mother.

Speaking to STV News, Beki Byrne said: “Screening has its uses, it is important, and for some people they definitely want to have all the information that they can have, and that is fine. 

“The problem is, with any type of diagnosis, how it’s delivered. Leaflets aren’t enough, you’re dealing with lives. 

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“You need to have all the right information, and that doesn’t just mean the statistics of what illnesses they might get.”

Down’s syndrome occurs when you are born with an extra chromosome, which can leave children with a learning disability.

Pregnant women are routinely screened for a number of things. Those with a high chance of their baby having Down’s syndrome will now be given the opportunity to have NIPT.

Professor Marion Bain, deputy medical officer for Scotland, said: “It offers them the opportunity to have a further test, a more specific and accurate test. 

“NIPT reduces the number of women who have to go on for a confirmation diagnostic test.”

Because the test is invasive, there is a risk of test-related miscarriage.

NIPT was introduced in England several years ago. A Freedom of Information request from 26 health boards down south showed that the number of children born with Down’s syndrome has decreased by 30% since it was brought in.

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Love: Angela, Rosie, Alan and Ruth Greenwood.
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Angela Greenwood opted out of any screening whilst she was pregnant. It wasn’t until her daughter Rosie was born that she discovered she had Down’s syndrome.

Ms Greenwood said: “They talk also as well about that there is no cure, which I see quite a lot, but there doesn’t need to be a cure because it’s not a disease.

“It’s part of Rosie, and it’s part of what makes her who she is. And if we took that away, the same Rosie wouldn’t be there for us.

“In the world everyone is different, and having a variety is a good thing, I think.”

Over the next three years NIPT will be continually monitored by NHS Scotland – which believes mothers should be given as much information as possible about their unborn baby.

But for parents like Ms Greenwood and Ms Byrne, they say they wouldn’t change their children for the world, and want to show everyone that having a condition like Down’s syndrome doesn’t need to hold you back.


Lennon left depending on Celtic’s bouncebackability

Defeat to Rangers means Neil Lennon is under pressure to deliver improvement.

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Celtic: Lennon is looking for a memorable European night.

It’s common sense, but also cliché, that after a bad defeat any player or manager will tell you that they want the next game as soon as possible to put things right, get back on track, to bounce back.

After the comprehensive, unarguable defeat to Rangers last weekend, it’s no surprise that Neil Lennon was of the same mind.

The good news for the Northern Irishman is that he doesn’t even have to wait a week to get back in the dugout. The bad news? The side he’ll be hoping to beat for a boost in confidence is Milan, third seeds in the Europa League group according to UEFA but clear favourites to win the section for most observers.

The day before the opening game of the group stages, and a game against European football royalty, should be one fizzing with excitement, anticipation and focus on a match that would generate a crackling atmosphere were supporters allowed to attend on Thursday. Instead, the fall-out from the derby continues and Lennon spent time in his pre-match media conference defending his players and talking about how to deal with disappointment.

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He said that criticism in the wake of a derby defeat wasn’t new to him. He also offered the opinion that there’s always a degree of overreaction to single results from fans.

The manager didn’t expand on that other than to look to the next game and a positive reaction but he could well have pointed to last season and a similar situation. Last December the blow of losing to their rivals left a bruise rather than a mortal wound and Celtic made their way to title number nine.

This time it’s different. While last year’s loss was followed by a three-week break, a transfer window and a gentle return against lower league opposition in the Scottish Cup, the calendar is not so kind now.

The mountain that is Milan on Thursday is followed by the formidable peaks of Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday and Lille at Stade Pierre-Mauroy. It’s a trio of games that could either pile on pressure or offer a chance to put the Old Firm game in perspective.

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Lennon himself is in the spotlight this week along with his players. Forums, podcasts and social media offerings make it easy for anyone to take the temperature of the support and after Saturday’s result they’ve hit a fever from which they’ve barely cooled.

Tactics, team selection, fitness and attitude have all been scrutinised and with the manager holding ultimate responsibility for all four, some in the Celtic support are wondering if change is needed if the ultimate aim of a tenth consecutive title is to be delivered. This season there’s less leeway than ever before.

A big European performance and result could immediately quash the disquiet, while a repeat of Saturday’s anaemic showing would exacerbate it. Lennon has overseen both in his time at the club.

His critics point to collapse against Copenhagen and Cluj as evidence of his shortcomings but there’s no doubt that any highlights reel of 21st-century Celtic would have the 2-1 win against Barcelona as a major moment.

Lennon clearly sees the visit of Milan as being in that category, even if it is on the slightly smaller stage of the Europa League, and he said on Wednesday that it was up there as one of the biggest matches in terms of stature.

Some might see the Italian side as a faded power and it’s true that they haven’t bothered the new elite of European football in recent years but this year’s model look a step up from recent incarnations.

Gazzetta dello Sport’s Matteo Nava summed up the team’s current position. “The best defence in Europe, an unbeaten streak and first place in Serie A with full points,” he wrote. “These results are not reached by chance. The Milan management is happy with it, the coach is satisfied with it and the players and fans are enjoying it, even though they are aware that in the long run there are much better equipped opponents in terms of the championship.”

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Stefano Pioli’s side may not believe they can be league winners but they do have eyes on ultimate success in the Europa League and will be keen to set a marker early on.

It’s a huge challenge for the Scottish champions, facing a side spearheaded with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s experience but with real threat from the more youthful support act. That Celtic’s deadline day signing Diego Laxalt is considered surplus is a good indication of Milan’s strength.

A win for Celtic would be a statement victory, an unarguable demonstration that the side that’s dominated Scottish football in recent years have not become also-rans overnight. But Lennon will also be cautious that there could be few worse games to be facing when needing a result to lift spirits and see off critics.

There will be no atmosphere and no famous roar on this European night at Celtic Park but there will be tension.

“These players are amazing and they have done amazing things and I am confident that they will continue to do amazing things for the club,” Lennon said on Wednesday.

Knocking down Italian giants would be one of those things and be the perfect release to end the pressure at a testing time.


Aerospace firm to transfer operations creating 600 jobs

Lockheed Martin will move its operations from Space Hub Sutherland to Shetland Space Centre.

Lockheed Martin via email
Lockheed Martin: The firm will transfer its satellite launch operations to Shetland Space Centre.

Aerospace company Lockheed Martin will transfer its satellite launch operations from Space Hub Sutherland to Shetland Space Centre.

Officials say the spaceport site could support a total of 605 jobs in Scotland by 2024, including 140 locally and 210 across the wider Shetland region.

A further 150 jobs will be created through wider manufacturing and support services, according to the UK Space Agency.

The agency confirmed that Lockheed Martin’s plans to move its UK Pathfinder Launch to Lamba Ness on Unst would continue to deliver long-term value.

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The move will also help establish a sustainable, commercial launch market as part of the UK’s spaceflight programme LaunchUK, it added.

The aerospace firm is in discussions with a preferred partner to provide services for its UK Pathfinder Launch, which would take place from Shetland Space Centre.

Ivan McKee, Scottish Government minister for trade, investment and innovation, said: “This is an extremely exciting time for the emerging space sector globally, and Scotland is situated at the very forefront of this.

“The transfer of Lockheed Martin’s UK Pathfinder satellite launch to Shetland Space Centre will enhance Scotland’s existing vertical launch capability and enable us to target a wider market base through a complementary offer across multiple spaceports.”

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Nik Smith, UK country executive at Lockheed Martin, said: “From the outset our focus has been on realising the greatest economic benefit for the UK through the spaceflight programme.

“The transfer of our UK spaceflight operations to Shetland will not only broaden launch options available in the UK, but also ensure the economic benefits of these endeavours are felt more widely.”

LaunchUK is working with partners to establish commercial vertical and horizontal small satellite launch from UK spaceports including Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit.

The small satellites could be used for a number of purposes, including Earth observation and communications.


Top trunks: ‘The Survivor’ rowan named tree of the year

The Survivor at Carrifran, near Moffat, ousted four others in the annual competition.

Aiden Maccormick via WTML
Winning tree: The Survivor rowan at Carrifran.

A once-lone rowan surrounded by new native woodland has been named Scotland’s Tree of the Year.

The Survivor at Carrifran, near Moffat, ousted four others from across the country in the annual competition.

The winner has become an emblem for Borders Forest Trust, which took ownership of the land 20 years ago and planted hundreds of thousands of trees.

It will receive a trophy and a care package worth £1000, which can be spent on works to benefit its health, interpretation signage or community celebration.

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Carol Evans, director of Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “We are facing a climate emergency and a biodiversity crisis. One of the most obvious responses is to get more trees in our landscape.

“Trees soak up carbon from the atmosphere and provide a home for wildlife. So it is fantastic that Borders Forest Trust has shown what can be achieved at Carrifran Wildwood. This tree itself is quite ordinary but it represents something extraordinary.”

Fi Martynoga, who nominated the rowan in the competition, said: “This tree rapidly became a very important symbol of our aspirations to see this valley completely re-wooded and restored to its natural vegetation.

“In this valley alone we have planted well over 600,000 trees. The beauty of it is they are now beginning to reproduce themselves.

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“It shows how you can change an environment for the better, preserve and multiply what is around. I hope it can stand as a symbol for other people, that they can do the same thing.”

The competition has run annually since 2014. Fifty trees were nominated by the public earlier in the year.

These were whittled down by a panel of judges, with five finalists going to an online public vote.

The Survivor won with 1293 votes. The Climate Change Tree in Alloa had 1027 votes, the Milarrochy Oak at Loch Lomond had 720 votes, Queen Mary’s Thorn in Fife had 319 votes and the Lord President’s Oak near Inverness had 317.


Charity warns of pet poverty crisis during pandemic

More than 66,000 pets in Scotland benefited from free and low-cost vet care since lockdown began in March, a charity said.

People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals
Care: PDSA vet Paul Manktelow treating a cat.

A vet charity has warned of a pet poverty crisis as many owners struggle with the financial impact of the pandemic.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) said more than 66,000 pets in Scotland have benefited from free and low-cost vet care since the initial lockdown began back in March.

But it has now had to launch a Pet Care Crisis Emergency Appeal to raise funds so it can continue to care for animals across the country.

Between March and September this year, PDSA hospitals and clinics in Scotland carried out 62,873 remote consultations, 1078 essential or emergency operations, and 2519 X-rays for pets whose owners can no longer afford vet fees.

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Jan McLoughlin, PDSA director general, said: “This winter, we’re facing the biggest challenge in our history. We’re experiencing unprecedented demand for our services.

“During this time, pets have become more important than ever for so many people – providing companionship and comfort and alleviating isolation. But the financial impact of the pandemic is starting to bite.

“No pet owner should be faced with losing a beloved pet because they can no longer afford to pay for treatment. And no pet should suffer because of poverty.

“I’ve not known a pet care crisis like it in the 19 years I’ve been at PDSA.

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“Without charitable support from the public, our PDSA Pet Hospitals in Scotland may not be able to meet this additional demand for our services.”


Pub and restaurant restrictions extended by a week

Pubs and restaurants in central Scotland will not be able to open before November 2.

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Coronavirus restrictions on pubs and restaurants have been extended by a week.

A ban on indoor home visits and travel guidance urging people to stay in their health board area will also remain in place until at least November 2, when a new tiered system of lockdown rules begins.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that while there was “cautious optimism” the restrictions were working, ministers were told by advisers it would not be safe to lift the measures from Monday, October 26.

Coronavirus has claimed the lives of 28 people in Scotland over the past 24 hours, with more than 1700 cases recorded.

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Pubs and restaurants in central Scotland were all but closed – except for takeaway services – from October 9 to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Cafes across the five central health board regions – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley – have been exempt from the shutdown as long as they do not serve alcohol.

Across the rest of Scotland, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes have only been able to operate indoors between the hours of 6am and 6pm. They have been prohibited from serving alcohol inside, but can still serve drinks outdoors until 10pm.

The Scottish Government has also asked residents in central Scotland to “think carefully” before travelling outwith their health board area.

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Announcing the extension at her daily briefing, Sturgeon said: “It allows us to transition more smoothly to the new levels system that we hope will be introduced on November 2.”

Financial support will be extended to help businesses affected by the extension of restrictions.

The First Minister added that she understood the move was “harsh” financially and emotionally.

She said: “I know all of this is really unwelcome and I know that these restrictions are harsh.

“They are harsh financially for many individuals and businesses, and they are harsh emotionally for all of us.

“I want to stress again that none of these decisions are being taken lightly – this is all about trying to save lives and minimise the health damage that we know this virus is capable of doing.”

The hospitality industry fears the extension will have “devastating consequences”.

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Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: “With current restrictions remaining in place until November 2, and no indication of what the new tier system will entail, the financial support package must be increased or countless venues will be forced to close for good, and tens of thousands of people will lose their jobs.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said “there’s no hiding the fact that today’s extension won’t go down well with many firms”.

Andrew McRae, FSB’s Scotland policy chair, added: “We asked ministers to clarify whether the current hospitality restrictions would be lifted next week.

“Hopefully today’s announcement has come early enough to prevent independent pub and restaurants ordering unnecessary stock, disappointing customers or confusing staff.”


Rapist who filmed sex attack given life sentence

Kevin Oliver attacked the 47-year-old for hours at her Ayrshire home during a violent murder bid.

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Kevin Oliver was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow.

A bodybuilder who filmed himself torturing and raping a woman during a murder bid has been given a life sentence.

Kevin Oliver made the 47-year-old suffer for hours at her home in Troon, Ayrshire, in October 2018.

The mum feared she was going to die as he battered, abused and humiliated her.

Oliver, 32, filmed the attack on his mobile phone. Footage from the incident was played to jurors at the High Court in Glasgow.

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One detective told how she had never witnessed anything like it in her 15-year career.

Oliver returned to the dock on Wednesday having earlier been convicted of assault, rape and attempted murder.

Lord Armstrong imposed an Order for Lifelong Restriction. Oliver must also serve a minimum five years behind bars.

The rape victim told how she initially felt “sorry” for Oliver before she started dating him in 2017.

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In June 2018, the woman had to beg Oliver for ‘permission’ to meet a friend.

He only agreed if she went to the same pub as him – and that she had to wear a cardigan to cover bruises he caused.

After returning home, the woman feared Oliver was going to “snap” her neck. She ended up with a dislocated jaw after he grabbed her face tightly.

In October 2018, the pair went out in Glasgow before returning to her home.

When the woman then refused to have a gin with Oliver, he put her through the violent ordeal.

The sobbing victim recalled: “He was on top of me and he stripped me. I was telling him to stop.

“He was saying: ‘I am going to teach you a lesson. You are my property’. He said he was going to torture me.”

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Prosecutor Bill McVicar asked the witness: “How long did this go on for?” She replied: “Hours.”

‘I just thought that I was going to die.’

Victim

The terrified woman was physically assaulted, raped and tied up.

She told Mr McVicar: “He repeated all the things that he did in each room of the house. I just thought that I was going to die.”

Oliver also dragged the screaming victim into the bath. She said: “He was pushing my face in the water … in and out. He was trying to drown me.”

The woman was locked in a cupboard for being “disobedient”.

Mr McVicar asked did she recall Oliver filming what he was doing. She replied: “I believe he did. He was taking pictures and videos.”

Clips played during the trial showing the woman being mocked as she was forced to carry out degrading acts.

Detective sergeant Claire Jack was one of the officers who later viewed the footage

His QC Iain McSporran asked her: “Have you ever seen anything quite like that?”

She replied: “Not in relation to another adult, no.”

The court heard the victim managed to sneak out after Oliver fell asleep. But, even after he was held on remand, he continued to harass her.

She told him: “I am petrified of you. I don’t want to see you again. Leave me alone.”

Oliver was also convicted of causing the victim fear and alarm with prison letters and phone calls.

He had earlier sexually assaulted a second woman at his then home in September 2017.


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