Sturgeon says claims of lockdown bias are ‘ridiculous’

An Aberdeen Council leader claimed Glasgow avoided stricter restrictions as it was a 'yes city',

Sturgeon: City bias claimed dismissed as 'ridiculous'.
Sturgeon: City bias claimed dismissed as 'ridiculous'.

Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed “ridiculous” claims Glasgow was given preferential treatment to Aberdeen on coronavirus restrictions for political reasons.

She was responding to comments from Aberdeen council co-leader Douglas Lumsden, who tweeted that Glasgow escaped a full lockdown as it was a “Yes” city – referring to the 2014 independence referendum.

The First Minister was asked about his suggestion that the rules were politically motivated during the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Thursday.

She said: “It just depresses me actually, for a couple of reasons.

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“Transmission of the virus was based around pubs in Aberdeen and households in Glasgow.”

The FM continued: “I think if there’s still people out there who are prepared to think I’m taking these decisions from some kind of crazy, party political point of view, then they’re always going to believe the worst of me and there’s probably nothing I can do to convince them.

“But I hope that kind of view is the minority and I hope the majority of reasonable people, whether you agree with my politics or not and whether you agree with the decisions that we’re arriving at or not, do get a sense of trying to take them for the right reasons.”

She said Mr Lumsden had been part of the initial decisions around the Aberdeen lockdown, adding: “I’m not going to say any more about that because I think it’s just ridiculous.”

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Mr Lumsden, who is the leader of the Conservative group on the council, said the difference in restrictions was unfair during a radio interview with Northsound News on Wednesday morning.

Hospitality businesses were required to close during Aberdeen’s lockdown, which is not the case in Glasgow.

He said: “It does seem rather unfair and a bit confusing to be honest.

“I think we’ve seen for a long time a huge central belt bias from the SNP government. This just seems to add to that narrative.

“I said at the time it felt like we were being punished in Aberdeen and it feels even more like that now.”


‘Scotland should open consumption rooms without law change’

The campaigners were speaking before the Criminal Justice Committee at Holyrood.

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The facilities were first suggested after an HIV outbreak in Glasgow.

Scotland should open drug consumption rooms without waiting for a change in the law, campaigners have said.

The Scottish Government has long been in favour of the facilities, which would provide a safe area with medical supervision for people struggling with addiction to take drugs.

But the UK Government has stood against the idea, refusing to grant a waiver to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 that would allow for the users and staff to be protected from prosecution.

The first facility was planned by Glasgow City Council but other local authorities have expressed an interest.

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Campaigner Peter Krykant ran a safe consumption room from a converted minivan in Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)
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Campaigner Peter Krykant, frustrated with the legal wrangle over the facilities, created his own in the form of a converted minivan that would go to different areas of the city.

Both Mr Krykant and Scottish Drugs Forum chief executive David Liddell OBE said the fact no prosecutions have resulted from the van shows the Scottish Government could give the go-ahead for the facilities.

“When I ran the safe consumption facility in Glasgow, there was no police intervention apart from a meaningless allegation of obstruction in the course of a search, so we could go ahead and open these facilities with a simple divert scheme into those facilities,” Mr Krykant told Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday.

“I already know Police Scotland officers were seeing people injecting in alleyways and diverting them to my ambulance to come and inject in a safe, supervised environment to reduce the risk of HIV.”

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Mr Liddell said: “As Peter has alluded to in terms of the drug consumption room he ran, there was no public interest in prosecuting Peter and no prosecution followed.

“It’s a ridiculous state of affairs that he could run a service like that and not be prosecuted but Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board that want to run a service like that can’t.

“We should proceed with drug consumption rooms in Scotland under the current legislation.

“If that requires a letter of comfort from the Lord Advocate – that is what we’ve previously advocated and pushed for.”

The Scottish Government has said as recently as this month that work continues to find a way to open the facilities.

In a meeting with UK policing minister Kit Malthouse, drugs minister Angela Constance said “we will leave no stone unturned in working to overcome existing legal barriers to implement safe consumption rooms in Scotland”.

The calls for the facilities began in the middle of the last decade following a major HIV outbreak in Glasgow, but these have now morphed into a response to the drugs death crisis, which figures show killed 1339 people in 2020.


Ministers not obliged to order ‘McMafia orders’, court hears

A judicial review is looking into why the Scottish Government did not try to place an unexplained wealth order on former US President Donald Trump.

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The order allows for an investigation into how a person or company earned money.

Ministers have a “discretion” rather than an obligation to order unexplained wealth orders to investigate individuals’ finances, a court review of a Scottish Government decision relating to Donald Trump has heard.

A judicial review at the Court of Session is considering the Scottish Government’s decision not to investigate the former US President ‘s finances in Scotland.

The US-based Avaaz Foundation petitioned Scotland’s highest court, the Court of Session, to grant a judicial review after ministers in Edinburgh declined to place an unexplained wealth order (UWO) – sometimes described as a “McMafia order” – on Trump.

The order allows for an investigation into how a person or company earned money.

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Ruth Crawford QC, representing Scottish ministers, said the challenge from the petitioners is rooted on there being a duty to seek a UWO.

However, referring to S396A of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Poca), she said ministers did not have an obligation to do so.

She told the virtual hearing: “S396A1 provides that the Court of Session may, on an application made by the Scottish ministers, make an unexplained wealth order.”

She added: “The ministers have a discretion rather than an absolute obligation to make an application to the Court of Session.”

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Crawford said that UWOs have at the very least the “taint of criminality” and that one of the “limbs” of another section of the act is that the property has been funded by illegitimate sources of income.

She told the court: “The petitioners are not coming to this court saying we are unable to make a challenge.  Indeed, its challenge is firmly rooted on there being a duty to seek a UWO.

“Unexplained wealth orders are not just investigatory tools or as an aspect of good housekeeping, UWOs as my Lord is aware from S396a etc, give rise to a presumption, if they are not complied with, that presumption being that the property has been obtained through unlawful conduct and that the civil recovery order requirements have been met.”

Lord Sandison QC said he was being asked to decide whether Scottish minsters had acted unlawfully.

He said: “The actual declarator I’m being asked to make, F, is that by failing to seek an unexplained wealth order in relation to Mr Trump the Scottish ministers have failed in their duty and have therefore acted unlawfully.

“I don’t for the moment see that as me being asked to make any order equivalent to saying that had an application been made it would have been granted.

“The question is simply I’m being asked effectively to determine the lawfulness of the failure to make an application.”

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The judicial review, which began on Tuesday, previously heard that there is a dispute over whose responsibility it is to apply to a court for a UWO, particularly between the Lord Advocate – the head of Scotland’s prosecution service – and Scottish ministers.

The inquiry heard that the Scotland Act permits Scottish ministers, including the Lord Advocate, to exercise functions with a collective responsibility.

It also permits the Lord Advocate to exercise “retained functions”, to which collective responsibility would not attach.

Crawford said: “Parliament when passing the Poca in 2002, when passing the Extradition Act in 2003 and when passing the Criminal Finances Act in 2017, which sought to amend Poca by inter alia introducing unexplained wealth orders (UWOs), must be presumed to have known that the Lord Advocate exercises statutory functions as a member of the collective Scottish ministers entity and also that she exercises retained functions independently.

“That being so, in my submission, there is nothing unlawful about the fact that the Lord Advocate is the minister with portfolio responsibility for part eight of Poca, including seeking an unexplained wealth order.”

The hearing before Lord Sandison continues.


George Square Christmas market axed but St Enoch event to go ahead

Glasgow Loves Christmas said the team was unable to create 'a mutually agreeable' plan to use the city centre venue.

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Cancelled: Christmas markets at George Square.

The George Square Christmas market has been cancelled.

A spokesperson for Glasgow Loves Christmas said the team was unable to create “a mutually agreeable” plan to use the city centre venue this festive season.

However, the group confirmed the return of the St Enoch Square market in November later this year.

A spokesperson for Glasgow Loves Christmas said: “The Glasgow Loves Christmas team explored every option with the Glasgow Christmas Market operator to make George Square markets possible this Christmas.

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“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to create a mutually agreeable plan for this venue.

“We are looking forward to the return of the markets in St Enoch Square which will run from around November 21/22 until December 23.”


Time is running out to avoid rail strikes during COP26, union warns

With world leaders heading to Scotland for the crucial talks, members of the RMT union are threatening to strike.

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Rail: Could be facing strike action during COP26.

Transport bosses have been told they need to “put pay justice on the agenda” if they want to prevent rail strikes during the global COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

With world leaders heading to Scotland for the crucial talks, members of the RMT union are threatening to strike for the duration of the summit.

Other unions have accepted the deal on the table, but Scotland’s transport minister Graeme Dey has warned he is “not optimistic” of a resolution being reached with the RMT ahead of the deadline set for 5pm on Wednesday.

Dey is already facing calls to quit if a deal cannot be reached to prevent the strike during COP26 – which is set to bring some 30,000 people to Glasgow.

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RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Time is running out to get a fair deal for Scotland’s rail workers and avoid a shutdown during COP26.

“We stand ready to get back round the table right now but the political leadership in Scotland need to lift their arbitrary deadlines and clear the road blocks to getting those talks back on.

“The ball is in the SNP’s court. They need to take responsibility for bringing us to this point and get into a dialogue with the union that puts pay justice on the agenda. We are waiting.”

David Simpson, ScotRail operations director, said he is still “hopeful” that the RMT will reconsider its position and accept the deal for a 4.7% increase over two years.

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That offer has already been accepted by the three other unions representing rail workers, Aslef, Unite and the TSSA.

The 5pm deadline has been set to give ScotRail time to plan for services during the summit, which gets under way on Sunday and runs through to November 12

Mr Simpson told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday that “many” RMT members would like to accept the deal, adding: “We don’t understand why RMT won’t put this offer to their members to give them a say.”

After 5pm on Wednesday, he said the offer will be “off the table”, explaining: “The reason for the deadline is we need to be able to prepare for what service we operate next week.

“We are working in the background on some contingency planning to see what we can run in the event of a strike to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh and serve the routes through the COP26 summit.

“We’ve made very clear this is a significant deal but at 5pm tonight it is off the table and we will have to sadly prepare for industrial action.”

That would see ScotRail focus efforts on running services between Scotland’s two largest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as the low level service to the Scottish Events Campus where the summit is taking place.

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Mr Simpson said: “We absolutely urge RMT to accept this deal, it is a good deal, at least put it to their members and pause the strike action while they do that, or it comes off the table at 5pm tonight.”

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Extra staff to be drafted into Glasgow’s A&E during COP26 marches

Additional workers are also being put in place for mental health assessment units and the police custody service.

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A&E: Additional workers are also being put in place for mental health assessment units and the police custody service.

Extra staff are to be drafted into Glasgow’s accident and emergency wards during COP26 when two marches by climate activists are expected to cause a demand for treatment. 

An NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde report reveals a march on Saturday, November 6 has been licenced for up to 100,000 people, and adds it is “likely that the biggest demand for healthcare will be from activists”.

Additional workers are also being put in place for mental health assessment units and the police custody service.

The march on November 6 has been organised by the COP26 Coalition to demand “just and fair solutions to the climate crisis” and will go from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green.

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It will be preceded by a school strike for climate justice on Friday, November 5, when Fridays for Future (FFF) Scotland — the Scottish branch of an international youth movement founded by Greta Thunberg — are set to march from Kelvingrove Park to George Square.

Climate campaigner Thunberg has confirmed she will take part in the march, which is expected to attract thousands of young protesters.

The report, to the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde board meeting on Tuesday, states information “from other COP conferences and the recent G7 summit is that there was a limited demand for hospital admission” during the events and “as such no specific provision has been made for additional inpatient capacity”.

However, it adds: “It is likely that the biggest demand for healthcare will be from activists who will be attending this event and the two activist marches on 5 and 6 of November.

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“The march on November 6 has been licensed for up to 100,000 people. Additional staffing is being sought for the emergency departments.

“Additional staff are being put in place for the mental health assessment units and the police custody service. Facilities and procurement have reviewed delivery routes and stockholdings to ensure there is no impact on service delivery.”

A medical treatment centre, staffed by doctors and advanced paramedics, will be open on the SEC conference site. It aims to deal with “minor ailments and injuries on the site and to direct people to access community pharmacy for any medications required”.

Daily attendance at the conference is capped at 14,000 delegates a day due to social distancing requirements, which is equivalent to the capacity of the Hydro.

“By way of contrast the three main football stadiums have a daily capacity of over 50,000,” the report adds.

It pointed out: “Many delegates are not staying in hotels in Glasgow but will be travelling daily into the city.”

All GPs and some hospital managers have been sent postcode data of areas affected by the conference to plan and communicate to patients who might need access to hospital, such as pregnant women.

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The November 6 march will take place on the conference’s global day of action, an event which has been held at every United Nations climate conference since 2005, with demonstrations held across the world.

FFF Scotland are also a co-organiser for that march, alongside groups including the Scottish Trade Unions Congress and Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Thunberg started FFF in August 2018 when she began a school strike to demand action on the climate crisis. She has since been joined by young people across the world.

COP26 will run from October 31 to November 12, with world leaders expected to arrive for crucial talks at the SEC.

By local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands

COP26 activist dressed as Boris Johnson sets boat on fire next to Clyde

Ocean Rebellion said the action represented the government's 'lack of purpose in combating catastrophic climate change'.

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A protestor dressed up as the Prime Minister and another with an oil can for a head have set light to a boat across the river from where the UN climate summit will be held next week.

The activists from campaign group Ocean Rebellion brought the small vessel with a sail reading, “Your children’s future”, to the Clyde on Wednesday morning.

Andrew Darnton, who was dressed as Oilhead, told STV News: “We’ve gone past making pledges and I think weirdly the corporates have heard that now and they’re running around like fury. Watch out for greenwash.

“But action will happen between now and 2030 and it won’t be the governments that drive it.

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Sophie Miller as Boris Johnson at the Ocean Rebellion protest next to the River Clyde.
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“So I think there’s a real sea change, if I may, going on.”

Sophie Miller, costumed as Boris Johnson, threw fake cash into the fire as the flames scorched the sail and shook hands with Oilhead.

The theatrical protest was meant to represent the “UK Government’s total lack of purpose in combating catastrophic climate change, ocean acidification and biodiversity loss that will devastate all our futures and leave a dead ocean for future generations”, a spokesperson said.

The action is the first in what is expected to be a series of events held over the next three weeks surrounding COP26.

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A sign reads, “As the seas die we die”, at the Ocean Rebellion protest next to the River Clyde.
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It follows youth climate activists taking over the stage at the TED Countdown conference in Edinburgh earlier this month during a panel discussion with the boss of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

Stop Cambo Now and Ocean Rebellion are opposed to a new drilling permit at the Cambo oilfield, west of Shetland.

A spokesperson for Ocean Rebellion said: “The Cambo oil field cannot go ahead. Pumping a
further 170 million barrels of oil will deepen the climate crisis.

“Instead the UK must focus on providing alternative job opportunities in Aberdeen and other Scottish communities who rely on fossil fuel jobs.”

The group appealed to Nicola Sturgeon to make fossil fuel “a nightmare from the past”.

The First Minister gave a TED Talk in Edinburgh on October 13 and again refused to voice opposition to the development.

She said the supply of fossil fuels could not be turned off completely in the short term because of economic problems and a possible spike in imports.

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The UK and Scottish Governments have been contacted for comment.


Nightclub owner’s licence suspended after ‘failing to report assaults’

Members of Highland Council’s licensing board voted to suspend Robert Sutherland’s licence for four weeks.

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The Waterfront: Robert Sutherland's licence has been suspended.

The fate of a popular Wick nightclub hangs in the balance after the manager had his licence suspended.

After deliberations running into Tuesday night, members of Highland Council’s licensing board voted to suspend Robert Sutherland’s licence for four weeks.

The Waterfront, on The Shore, was put under surveillance by the police and the council after a series of alleged assaults went unreported by management.

Police said Mr Sutherland was “not fit” to hold the licence.

‘Risk to public safety’

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In a written submission to the licensing board, chief superintendent Conrad Trickett said the grounds for licence review related to two objectives in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 – preventing crime and disorder, and securing public safety.

The police letter stated that two serious assaults had taken place since August, and both had gone unreported by the Waterfront management.

Additionally, Mr Sutherland was said to have obstructed police efforts to review CCTV footage.

On a visit to the Waterfront on August 24 following the first assault, police told Mr Sutherland that both the police and the council “had concerns in relation to poor management of the premises, including intoxicated patrons, disorder, violence, lack of control, and failure to contact the police”.

‘I have a nightclub to run’

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Police said Mr Sutherland accepted he had a duty of care for his customers, and was willing to turn the situation around.

However, a second alleged assault went unreported on October 2.

When police asked Mr Sutherland to allow them to review CCTV, they found him “unwilling to cooperate”, telling offers he had a nightclub to run.

Chief superintendent Trickett concluded: “I have concerns that should the premises continue to operate in this manner, with the foregoing information clearly evidencing poor management and a failure to engage with the authorities, then there is the potential for further serious incidents to occur, which will pose a significant risk to public safety.”

However, Mr Sutherland’s lawyer, Peter Lawson, challenged the police findings, claiming the incidents were not in fact serious assaults.

He claimed in one of the alleged assaults: “This guy has simply fallen over.”

He also alleged that the police visit at 11pm to review CCTV was not reasonable, given that the nightclub had a series of safeguarding actions to undertake at that time.

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He stated that had Mr Sutherland stopped to download CCTV footage as officers requested, it would have prevented further live recording, which could have endangered his patrons.

Mr Lawson stated that the worst picture had been painted by police and said staff had successfully run the club for nine years during particularly difficult recent times.

‘A good going rammy captured on CCTV’

Mr Sutherland’s legal counsel further claimed that Mr Sutherland had not been aware of one assault happening. However, police officer Katy Duncan countered that she had clear CCTV depicting Mr Sutherland entering the toilets where there was “a good going rammy happening”.

In response to statements that it was a particularly busy night, officer Duncan added that a busy night does not excuse poor management.

“Measures are not being taken; there is no duty of care to the patrons,” she said.

She added that should the club remain open, there was a risk of serious harm to the public.

“I’m so concerned that we’ve skipped the action plan stage and come right to the board with our concerns,” she said.

“If these premises continue to operate in the manner they’re operating in now, there’s risk of more individuals coming to harm in these premises.

“I respectfully request that board members give consideration to suspending the licence at the Waterfront.”

‘The evasiveness does concern me’

Moving into deliberations, members debated for several hours the most appropriate response to the allegations made.

“The evasiveness of the premises licence-holder does concern me,” said councillor Andrew Jarvie.

“I concur with the police’s grounds for review.”

Mr Jarvie suggested the licence could be limited to 1am.

Councillor Emma Knox highlighted insufficient staffing on the nights in question, despite the club having a large staff to manage a potential capacity of 1200.

Mrs Knox further stated that Mr Sutherland’s evidence suggested he still did not take the allegations sufficiently seriously.

The meeting soon became complicated, as several motions and amendments were tabled and debated.

After three rounds of voting, members agreed to suspend Mr Sutherland’s licence for a period of four weeks.

This was felt appropriate to allow for a review of working practices without significantly damaging the business or risking its employees.

By local democracy reporter Nicola Sinclair

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Pensioner caught dealing cannabis and cocaine from home jailed

James Wright, 67, committed the crimes from his home in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, on July 12, 2019.

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Drugs: James Wright, 67, jailed for 12 months.

A pensioner who was caught dealing drugs has been jailed for 12 months.

James Wright, 67, committed the crimes from his home in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, on July 12, 2019.

Prosecutors claimed Wright was concerned in the supply of cannabis and cocaine contrary to the misuse of drugs act.

Wright had £5240 of cannabis and £6280 of cocaine.

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He pled guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court to the two charges.

On Wednesday, Wright was sentenced by Sheriff Johanna Johnston QC.


Association and uni join forces to save craft of shinty stick-making

The Camanachd Association and Inverness College UHI will make sure camans are 'plentiful and affordable'.

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Shinty has found a new teammate in a quest to secure production of camans, the sticks used to play the sport.

Its governing body has joined forces with Inverness College UHI.

The partners have begun building a cooperative to ensure caman production is plentiful and affordable in future, after a period of rising costs and shortage of makers.

The sticks are currently made by an elite number of independent carpenters. Production has been identified as a critically endangered craft.

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The Camanachd Association and the college aim to engender “modern business processes” in a five-month initiative, backed by public funding, to encourage collaborations between organisations, businesses and academia.

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Sport: Caman-making is a critically endangered craft.

Business and management lecturer David Jack, who is leading the project, said: “Shinty is one of Scotland’s most ancient and historically significant sports and camans are a vital part of the game.

“As caman-making is a critically endangered craft, the association are looking for innovative ways to make the manufacturing process more sustainable.

“Our main goal will be to support caman-makers to work together so they can share expertise, ideas and realise the benefits of greater cooperation.”

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The project is part of a wider collaboration. The two organisations have signed a “memorandum of understanding” to work together to explore opportunities surrounding volunteering, work experience, education and training, coaching and community awareness.

Camanachd Association chief executive Derek Keir said: “This project is a fantastic example of our partnership plans with the UHI and highlights the benefits of partnership working to grow the support network for shinty and our respective communities.

“Shinty is the cornerstone of many Highland communities. The support project is just one way that our communities are going to be able to reap the benefits of our new academic partnership with the university.

“We also hope to progress work to include further exchange of expertise as well as a greater connection to teacher training in the Highlands and Islands.”


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