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The Rampant Scotland Newsletter - your weekly insight into what has been happening in Scotland, snipped from the Scottish media, for Scots in Scotland and abroad, bringing you news, events plus a Scottish magazine section. Printed with 100% recycled electrons.

Previous editions of this Newsletter are available in the Archive and the Index to the other pages of the Rampant Scotland site is available here.

The Scottish Snippets Newsletter in its original format began in April 1997 and continued in an unbroken series for 591 issues. Although no longer produced in that format there is now a regular update on the new and updated pages on the Rampant Scotland site and also "Scottie's Diary" on an intermittent basis, To receive this, kust send an e-mail to Scottie with "Subscribe Newsletter" in the subject line.

The Scottish Minister for Health, Andy Kerr, was named "The Herald Diageo Scottish Politician of the Year 2006" at a glittering awards dinner this week. It seems that he got the recognition for his achievement in bringing in the controversial ban on smoking in public buildings. Indeed, despite resistance from the tobacco industry and some trade organisations, the new legislation came into effect without any major ripples. Transport Minister Tavish Scott was voted "Debater of the Year" at the Holyrood parliament and the Scottish National Party's Angus MacNeil was the "Best Scot at the UK Parliament" at Westminster. The community spirit and campaigning of the people of Shetland was also recognised. Over a third of the 22,000 population there had signed a petition and successfully campaigned to stop the deportation of a 23-year-old Thai. He had broken a technicality and faced being sent back to his native country. But the islanders thought he was a great asset to their community - and won a court action to have the deportation stopped.

The Scottish Executive announced this week that Education Minister Peter Peacock (pictured here) had resigned after receiving medical advice on what was described as a mild stroke. The 54-year-old Highlands and Islands Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) was highly regarded for his contribution while in office - not a description that is applied to all that many of his former colleagues. Exam results have improved and Scottish 15-year-olds are amongst the top performing in the world for maths, science and literacy. Of course, these statistics are not entirely his doing - but he would get the blame if the results were going the other way. The number of teachers entering the profession is on the rise and he has achieved the respect of the teachers' trade unions - no small accomplishment. His successor will be Hugh Henry, a 54-year-old former economics and business studies teacher who has been deputy justice minister for the past four years.
Photograph courtesy of the Scottish Parliament © Web site.

The Scottish Executive Environment Minister, Ross Finnie, told the UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi this week that Scotland's output of carbon dioxide has fallen by 14% since 1990. That was a greater reduction than any other part of the UK and better than 14 out of 15 European Union countries. (Their press release didn't seem to mention which country did better than Scotland). A greenhouse gas inventory for Scotland shows a steady decline in the emissions which contribute to climate change. During this period, the EU had an overall increase. Much of the reduction in Scotland was as a result of reducing CO2 from coal-fired power stations - they have introduced improved technologies. But the amount of the gas being produced by road transport continues to rise. However, it is said that all these estimates are "subject to revision".

Services of remembrance were held at war memorials across Scotland last Sunday - the closest to 11 November, the anniversary of the end of the First World War. Traffic and pedestrians across Scotland came to a halt for two minutes at exactly 11am. In Edinburgh, 100 Territorial Army (TA) soldiers who were about to head out to Iraq were among the guests of honour. The TA are "part-time" soldiers, who give up weekends and holidays to train as part of the 51st Highland, 7th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland. But they can also be called to active service and have been asked to take part in a six-month tour of duty in Basra. In Glasgow, the ceremony was held as usual at the Cenotaph in front of the City Chambers. In Inverness, soldiers from the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment held their service at Fort George, where they are based. Three members of the regiment were killed in Afghanistan in September and some of those injured in the battle against insurgents also attended.

A £24 million biomass project is to be constructed at the former Alcan aluminium smelter at Invergordon, north of Inverness. It will include a combined heat and power (CHP) plant generating green energy that will be supplied direct to the grid. Highlands and Islands Enterprise will provide £5.5 million towards the total project costs. The plant will create wood pellets from sawdust and woodchips which are then sold to businesses or domestic users with central heating boilers which can use them. Part of the output will also be utilised to generate power, on site.

Energy provider ScottishPower, which has over five million customers across the UK, announced a pre-tax profit for the last six months of £483 million - an increase of 77% and well above the level expected by analysts. The announcement sparked an outburst of indignation because of the recent massive hikes in prices paid by consumers for electricity and gas supplies. In March this year they increased gas prices by 15% and then put them up by another 17% in July. Gas bills have gone up by an average of 87% since January 2003 and electricity by 56% during the same timescale. With those price changes, perhaps the surprise is that profits didn't go up even faster. ScottishPower, however, said that the "improved performance" was due to strong returns on generating power, especially from coal-fireds plants, after wholesale energy prices went up. Later in the week, speculation about a possible takeover bid by Spanish utility giant Iberdrola increased considerably.

It's not often that you hear of a political party turning down the offer of financial support. but that was the rapid response from the Scottish National Party (SNP) to the offer of help from businessman Mohamed Al Fayed. The Egyptian not only owns the iconic Harrods Department Store in London, but also the Balnagown Estates and the Falls of Shin visitor centre in Sutherland. Al Fayed was on a visit to the Highlands and said that the SNP leader Alex Salmond "has a lot of personality, a lot of courage, a lot of commitment and patriotism which I admire." The businessman said he would be ready to give the SNP financial backing "if they approached me." But when she was told about the comments from the controversial entrepreneur, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP's Scottish parliamentary leader, immediately said "There has been no approach in either direction and I am sure it's the way it will stay." Looks as though Al Fayed should take that as a "no"?

The Scottish Executive insist that it was because of European Union regulations on transport subsidies that they had to put out to competitive tender the ferry routes operated by Caledonian MacBrayne - known locally as CalMac. CalMac is a private limited company whose share capital is wholly owned by the Scottish Executive. The first route to be opened up was the route from Gourock to Dunoon, in the Firth of Clyde. When the closing date for tenders was reached, however, no bids had been tabled, not even by CalMac. This was hardly surprising, as Calmac can only break even with a government subsidy of £2.5 million (for passenger services only). The Executive had asked for bids for the route with no subsidy, though with the removal of conditions on current operating and timetable restrictions. Currently, Calmac operate an hourly service. That is because many years ago, commercial operator Western Ferries opened up a competing service from Gourock to Hunter's Quay, a few miles from Dunoon. That is inconvenient for pedestrian traffic - but the service every 15 minutes at peak periods attracts the bulk of the profitable vehicle traffic, even though fares are 20% higher. The Conservative government at the time wanted to give Western Ferries an advantage and imposed restrictions on CalMac's timetable. Western Ferries are now describing the tendering process as biased and unfair, with "late and inconsistent information from the executive" - an accusation which has been refuted by the minister involved. It is now expected that the tendering process will have to be re-run - but this time with the offer of a subsidy.

As they say, you can prove anything with statistics. Figures published this week on unemployment in Scotland produced conflicting views of what is happening in the job market. According to the government statistics, 87,800 people were claiming the "jobseekers' allowance" in October.That was 100 fewer than in September - but 2,000 more than October last year. But on the government's preferred International Labour Organisation (ILO) method of calculation, unemployment was 131,000 for the three months to September, down 11,000 on the same timescale a year ago. Inverclyde had the highest rate of unemployment, with Aberdeen the lowest. Over the same three-month period, there were 2.47 million people in employment, up by 22,000 compared to the previous quarter. That's the highest number of people in work since records began in 1992. It's a reflection of the ever-growing number of women in employment and the growth in immigrants, especially from Eastern Europe. But the number employed in manufacturing is the lowest since 1841 (and that's not a typing mistake).

A debate in the Scottish Parliament this week narrowly came out in favour of a bill which would ban opening on Christmas Day and New Year's Day by larger retail outlets. Retail trade and commercial organisations have argued that it would be a "blow" to the growing Hogmanay tourist trade and that ministers should exclude New Year's Day from the legislation. They argue, for example, that Edinburgh hotel occupancy rates on New Year's Eve 93% - and that drops to 64% by the following night. Whether the visitors would stay longer if the larger shops were open on 1 January is hard to measure though. In Glasgow, where there are 40,000 visitors over the same period, 60% of visitors say that one of the main reasons for coming to the city is for shopping. If the bill is finally passed, it would bar retailers with premises over 280 square metres from opening on Christmas and New Year's Day. It is estimated that this would cover 50 major stores in Glasgow and would cost the city £10 million.But supporters of the bill say they want to preserve both days as a time for workers and their families.
The illustration is of shops on Princes Street, Edinburgh.

The company that operates the Holiday Inn group of hotels has announced a £25 million plan to refurbish an existing hotel beside the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) and also build a new one nearby. The aim is to create a four-star resort to cater for the burgeoning conference market, while the other hotel would be aimed at the budget sector, such as concert-goers attending performances at the AECC. Aberdeen City Council have already approved another £10million development, which is expected to feature a flagship five-star hotel, in the Bridge of Don area. So there will eventually be three major accommodation providers there, if they all go ahead.

In 2004, inspection of the wire cables supporting the Forth Road Bridge found that a number of them had corroded and broken. Bridge managers said there were no safety concerns and stressed that just 22 broken wires had been found out of 11,618. But since then, there have been concerns that the bridge might have to be closed in a few years to heavy vehicles - and calls for a second crossing (either a bridge or a tunnel) to be brought forward. Equipment has been installed to reduce the moisture content around the enclosed cables to slow down the corrosion and a monitoring system put in place to see whether any more wires had snapped. After three months, the news is that another three wires have broken. If the engineers are right, there are still another 11,593 wires holding it up. And the continuous monitoring gives an ongoing health check into the condition of the cables. Even so, if the congestion on the bridge does not convince the government to start the process of approving a second crossing, the threat of closure before any additional highway is likely to do so.

In order to encourage 16-year-olds from poorer backgrounds to stay on at school, the Scottish Executive have introduced a "maintenance allowance" scheme. This pays pupils who stay on at school from £10 to £30 a week (depending on the income of parents or guardians). Additional bonus amounts are also paid, if the pupils have a satisfactory attendance record and meet learning targets. But the laudable aim is perhaps becoming too successful. Last year the scheme paid out £29 million of taxpayers money to 36,460 youngsters - an increase of 54% on the previous year. 41% of all 16-year-olds in Scotland are now being paid an average of £800 a year to stay on at school. The Scottish Executive defends the scheme, pointing out that students from less well-off backgrounds benefit and analysis of an earlier pilot showed that levels of attendance and attainment increased. But taxpayers may question whether over 50% of pupils really do come from deprived backgrounds.

Budget airline easyJet is to start the first air service between Scotland and Munich next April, when it begins daily flights from Edinburgh. EasyJet will use Airbus A319 aircraft which has a capacity of 156 seats. The new route is being supported by the Scottish government's Route Development Fund (RDF), which supports new air links where airlines can demonstrate the services will have a direct economic benefit to Scotland. The flights must involve regular scheduled services and must not undermine existing flights. There are now over 30 routes currently operating which are supported by the RDF. Last year fund-supported routes carried about 1.4 million passengers.

A couple of weeks ago there was an item in this newsletter about a new set of stamps being issued by the Royal Mail to mark St Andrew's Day - 30 November. It seems that a number of readers were interested in ordering a set and I understand that this can be done via the Royal Mail web site at www.royalmail/standrew.

With the end of analogue TV services looming in a few years time, with the switchover to digital only transmissions, we are all being encouraged to look at gradually replacing old TV sets or obtaining "set-top-boxes" which can use the new technology. There are some areas of the Highlands where digital signals cannot yet reach. But these tend to be in the less densely populated parts of the country, often where mountains get in the way. So it comes as a surprise that the same lack of a digital service applies to the residents of Penicuik and surrounding villages, a popular and affluent area just south of Edinburgh. It means that they cannot access the additional digital channels now available through the "Freeview" service. While frankly many of these channels are not worth watching, there are additional services from the BBC such as News 24 and BBC3 and BBC4. These are paid for as part of the annual £180 licence fee paid to the BBC by every household that operates a TV set. Now a campaign has been started to obtain a reduction in the fee for those who cannot receive the digital part of the package. Currently, around 74% of homes in Scotland cannot receive the digital service. That percentage is reducing - but Penicuick, for example will not get a Freeview service until the analogue one is closed down - in 2010.

There are 3,500 residents on the 143 square miles of South Uist in the Western Isles. But they are keen to buy the estate which covers the majority of the island, so that they can "harness the resources and wealth" of the area. So far, they have raised £50,000 of the £4.5 million needed to allow them to take first refusal on the sale by the present landowner. But they have some white knights on their side - the Big Lottery Fund has pledged £2 million and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has approved a £2m contribution. There's another £250,000 likely to be provided by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council). But that still leaves the buy-out group short of the total - and the deadline is 30 November. But they still hope to raise the balance - even if it means taking out a bank overdraft. They are confident that they can make good use of the shooting, mineral and fishing rights and increase tourism on the remote island. There is a golf course there too, designed by the legendary player Old Tom Morris. It is planned to restore it to its 1892 layout.
Photograph courtesy of the Photonet © Web site.

The Young's Seafood company has been heavily criticised this week after announcing that 120 jobs would be lost in its plant in Annan, in Dumfries and Galloway. The redundancies were bad enough, particularly in an area where the opportunity for alternative employment is slim. Moving the jobs overseas has also become a fact of life these days. But then it was realised that the company was freezing and transporting langoustines caught in Scottish waters all the way to Thailand, where they were hand-peeled - and sent all the way back to the UK, a round trip of 12,000 miles. Langoustine are also called Dublin Bay prawn or Norway lobster and marketed under the name "scampi". Thai workers are paid a lot less than those in Scotland, so it makes economic sense for the company. But there was outrage at the social and environmental consequences - and raised a debate on the way many other food products are shipped around the world and whether "green taxes" should be imposed.
Picture via Wikipedia.

A chef in a restaurant in Montrose has found that his sausages made with Arbroath Smokies (smoked haddock from the town a few miles away) have become a popular item on his menu, with customers checking it is going to be available when they make a reservation. So now Paraic Faherty, who owns the restaurant on Market Street, wants to add more locally produced items. He is now pushing the boat out even further - salmon added to porridge is to appear on the menu soon. Is there no respect for a Scottish icon?

Residents in an up-market part of Melrose (that's Melrose Abbey pictured here) are upset at a proposal by the Scottish Borders Council to name a street after a famous benefactor of the town. The purchasers of £400,000 luxury homes in a new development think the name "William Hill Way" is a dead ringer for the large betting shop chain of the same name. The developer has marketed the £60 million housing estate as "Trimontium Heights" in recognition of a former Roman Camp in the area and they wanted to use names with a Roman theme. But Melrose and District Community Council and local Scottish Borders councillor don't like the Roman nomenclature - and are gambling on William Hill Way instead. The betting shop chain is delighted with the proposal - even though the local philanthropist William Hill had no connection with the bookmakers. But the turf accountant is trying to increase the odds on its name winning the race - and offering the residents of the 12 houses a free bet at the local outlet if the name is accepted. A company representative suggested that it could have been worse - the Council might have come up with Punter's Paradise.

This week's weather has been wild and wet - with some major falls of snow in the Highlands. The mountain rescue service was called out when a hill-walker failed to return after a blizzard came in unexpectedly last Saturday in the Cairngorms. But he had sheltered in a mountain hut and walked down the following morning and was found safe and well. Later in the week, as heavy rain fell for several days (Glasgow and the west had rain on every day this week) there were flash floods in the Darnley area of the city. Many roads became hazardous as drains, full of leaves blown down by high winds, choked drains, creating mini lakes across many roads. Rail service were also adversely affected, with some services cancelled. The meteorologists say that the wet weather was due to a clash of warm air from Spain and France and cold air from Iceland and Greenland. As a result, only Aberdeen (on Monday and Tuesday) saw any appreciable amounts of sunshine until this Saturday. The rest of Scotland was just "drookit". And Glasgow's maximum daytime temperature on Friday was just 5C (41F), though it felt colder than that in the strong gale-force winds.

This week's large format photographs taken in Scotland to show the current season and its flora and fauna focus, appropriately enough in view of the downpours, concentrates on waterbirds. There are several ducks, a Whooper Swan and its Cygnet (see thumbnail), and a male and female Goldeneye. See This Week's Colour Supplement.

Historical Affairs - Topical Items from Scotland's Past

    The "twinning" of cities and towns is said to be a way of increasing tourism between the two locations. While sometimes the twinned locations may indeed have similarities in terms of size or geographical features, that is certainly debatable in the case in the latest tie-up between Glamis Castle in Perthshire and the Great Wall of China. The 4,000 mile long Chinese wall is only twinned with one other tourist attraction - the Pyramids. The thinking is that the Great Wall has a lot in common with the Egyptian monument - and also Glamis Castle - in terms of restoration and conservation work. The general manager of Glamis castle has also suggested that Chinese people are very interested in culture, heritage - and the Royal Family. And Glamis undoubtedly has all of those, in spades.

    Pollok Estate in Glasgow has been in the possession of the Maxwell family since the middle of the 13th century. There have been a succession of buildings since then until the present house was built around 1740 (with the renowned architect Robert Adam involved). The present stables were built over the site of the previous mansion. But the location of an even earlier Pollok House, built in the 16th century, has never been identified. Now the Glasgow Archeological Society, in a project to mark its 150th anniversary, has been given permission to excavate sections of the grounds, in an attempt to uncover the missing history. In addition, other excavations on earth banks and ditches, sited behind the world famous Burrell Collection of art in the grounds of Pollok Park, may go back to around 1000AD. 50 years ago the Glasgow Archeological Society found evidence of settlements which were between 3000 and 4000-years-old. These excavations are now under a nearby golf course.

    • November 19 1600 - King Charles I born.
    • November 19 1960 - "National Service" which required all fit young men to train in the armed forces, was brought to an end.
    • November 21 1673 - King James VII married Mary of Modena.
    • November 21 1835 - Poet James Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd, died in Ettrick.
    • November 21 1918 - German battle fleet surrendered to the allies at Scapa Flow in Orkney.
    • November 21 1958 - Construction began on the Forth Road Bridge. November 22 2001 - Jack McConnell elected First Minister of Scotland, succeeding Henry McLeish who had resigned.
    • November 23 1332 - Edward Balliol formally acknowledged King Edward III of England as his feudal superior.
    • November 24 1331 - David II (aged 7) crowned at Scone.
    • November 24 1572 - John Knox, leading reformer of Church of Scotland, died.
    • November 24 1942 - Comedian and actor Billy Connolly born.
    • November 24 1996 - Death of the poet Sorley MacLean.
    • November 25 1681 - General Tam Dalyell raises a regiment to suppress Covenanters which later became the Royal Scots Greys.
    • November 25 1835 - Steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie born in Dunfermline.

    Magners Irish Cider is to become the new title sponsor of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival Britain's biggest comedy festival. The event will now be known as the Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival and will adopt a new identity (incorporating an apple with a big smile and a tartan tammy) to strengthen the association with the new title sponsor. Magners has a long association with a similar Festival in Dublin, which has grown to become one of the most popular events held in Southern Ireland. Planning for the fifth festival is well underway. Already Britain's comedy "wunderkind" Russell Brand has been signed up and this week tickets went on sale for Jimmy Carr and Glasgow's own Frankie Boyle. Further names will be announced over the coming months, with the full programme set to be launched on Thursday 18 January 2007. The Glasgow International Comedy Festival began in 2003 and there were 270 performances in over 40 venues and more than 70,000 tickets for sale in 2006. The festival is scheduled to run from 8 March to Saturday 24 March 2007. For more information, see www.glasgowcomedyfestival.com.

    The annual Scottish British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards (known as Baftas) were made this week and a film about a lonely CCTV operator in the notorious Red Road residential tower blocks won five awards, including Best Film, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. BBC Scotland won the prize for best news and current affairs programme with "Frontline Scotland" and "Still Game" won the Audience Award as well as "Best Performance" for Paul Riley, who plays "Winston" in the show. There was a special award for Janet McBain, who has been responsible for setting up the Scottish Screen archive.

    Fans of Rod Stewart who went to buy tickets for the pop star's concert at Hampden stadium in Glasgow (seen here) next July were stunned to find that ticket prices and booking fees had sailed up since his gig in the city last year. Tickets range from £55 to £65 each, compared with prices of between £40 and £50 in 2005. And the booking fee has leapt from £1.50 to £8 per ticket, regardless of the number being bought at the same time.

    St Mirren 1 Celtic 3
    Falkirk 1 Heart of Midlothian 1

    Aberdeen 2 St Mirren 0
    Celtic 3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0
    Dunfermline 2 Dundee United 1
    Kilmarnock 2 Falkirk 1
    Motherwell Hibernian
    Hearts v Rangers is scheduled for Sunday.

    Airdrie United 2 St Johnstone 1
    Livingston 1 Gretna 2
    Partick Thistle 3 Hamilton 1
    Queen of the South 2 Dundee 0
    Ross County 1 Clyde 1

    Due to the early rounds of the Scottish Cup, there were no matches played in these leagues.

    Brechin City 1 Queens Park 1
    Deveronvale 3 Montrose 2
    East Fife 1 Berwick Rangers 3
    Edinburgh University 2 Keith 1
    Preston Athletic 2 Stenhousemuir 0
    Stranraer 4 Alloa 2

    Ayr 34 Dundee 3
    Currie 88 Boroughmuir 17
    Glasgow Hawks 27 Hawick 17
    Heriots 31 Aberdeen 13
    Watsonians 33 Melrose 24

    The last club to take any points from Celtic this season was Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who held them to a 1-1 draw back on August 20. On Saturday they not only got their revenge, but the Parkhead club have gone now gone 11 SPL matches without defeat. The result puts them 15 points ahead of Aberdeen, with Hibernian currently in third place, three points behind. Rangers and Hearts have the same number of points, but a poorer goal difference. On the other hand, Rangers and Hearts have played one game less - they play each other on Sunday. At the foot of the SPL, Dunfermline with 12 points have been joined by Motherwell.

    In the First Division, although Gretna are once again at the top, Partick Thistle are only a point behind, with a game in hand. At the foot of the table,Airdrie's defeat of St Johnstone on Saturday has put them only one point adrift from Queen of the South.

    The Second and Third Divisions had no league matches this Saturday due to the first round of the Scottish Cup. So the positions are unchanged from last Saturday.

    In the BT Scotland Rugby Division 1, Currie's onward march at the top of the table was emphasised by their outstanding win on Saturday against Boroughmuir. In addition to being 6 points ahead of Ayr, Currie have scored 452 points so far this season, for the loss of 228. Aberdeen still struggle at the foot of the table, with 4 points less than Hawick.

    The Scotland international rugby team made it five wins in succession at Murrayfield as they defeated the Pacific Islanders touring team 34-22 on Saturday. Scotland got off to a flying start and were up by 31-5 at half-time. Chris Paterson kicked all four try conversions. But they faded in the second half and the resurgent Pacific Islands players took advantage, scoring 17 points with Scotland's only reply being a drop goal late in the match.

    Henrik Larsson and Brian Laudrup became the first foreign players to be inducted into Scottish football's Hall of Fame this week. Fans from all over the world nominate additions to the list of those who have made a significant contribution to the Scottish game. Many of the stars of yester-year have already joined the galaxy of names. In addition to Larsson and Laudrup, other new members added this week included Tommy Gemmell ( a Celtic Lisbon Lion), Rangers legends Davie Cooper, Richard Gough, Sandy Jardine and Willie Henderson, as well as former Scotland boss Willie Ormond.

    The Forestry Commission Scotland has announced that they have opened eleven miles of new mountain bike tracks in Sutherland. One of the trails in Golspie includes the longest single track descent in the UK, of about four miles (7kilometres). The descent starts at 1,300 feet on Ben Bhraggie and includes jumps and berms (a tight banked turn made from dirt). The track is the first project to be completed by Highland Wildcat, a community company which promotes leisure and recreation opportunities in Sutherland.
    Picture courtesy of Andy McAndlish.

    Scott Harrison, who faces a defence of his WBO featherweight crown against Nicky Cook in London on 9 December, returned to Scotland this week after spending the last month in a Spanish jail. He had been arrested and charged with a number of offences, including assaulting a police officer. The boxer's training has obviously been interrupted and he lost some weight. But he says he is confident of getting physically - and mentally - fit for the match in December. Sports commentators predict that if he does not win, his boxing career could be at an end. He pulled out of a fight in Belfast last May because of depression and alcohol problems.

    The Scottish team are in Switzerland this weekend competing in the Lucerne Trophy. On Friday they moved out on their own at the top of their group after cruising to an 8.-1 victory over Sweden.

    The "Magazine" section includes songs/poems of Scotland, Scottish humour and brief descriptions of Scottish Culture items added recently to the Rampant Scotland Website - with a link to the page where you can find the full feature, if you find the subject of interest to you.

    Great Places to Eat in Scotland

    The Kitchin, Leith, Edinburgh
    Inspired and influenced by working alongside some of the most acclaimed chefs in Paris and Monte Carlo, Tom Kitchin (how's that for an appropriate name for a chef) has now created his own individual, artistic style of cuisine. Dining at The Kitchin is not just about exemplary, freshly prepared food; it's the genuinely warm welcome and sense of style and sophistication without formality and fuss. Everything is polished from the shiny tables to the immaculate service. This is a class act and highly recommended for people who enjoy seriously good food. For an illustrated feature on this latest addition to the Capital's places for eating out, see Great Places to Eat - The Kitchin .

    In last week's Newsletter there was an item about the "world's worst poet" - as William Topaz McGonagall (1830-1902) is often described, despite him having a large, loyal fan base for his unintentional humour. Here is McGonagall's take on Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns. While he is full of praise, he does manage to get a dig at what he thinks is Burn's own view of himself. Not unlike McGonagall's own opinion of himself - a genius.

        The Best by the Worst

    Immortal Robert Burns of Ayr,
    There's but few poets can with you compare;
    Some of your poems and songs are very fine:
    To "Mary in Heaven" is most sublime;
    And then again in your "Cottar's Saturday Night,"
    Your genius there does shine most bright,
    As pure as the dewdrops of the night.

    Your "Tam O'Shanter" is very fine,
    Both funny, racy, and divine,
    From John O'Groats to Dumfries
    All critics consider it to be a masterpiece,
    And, also, you have said the same,
    Therefore they are not to blame.

    And in my own opinion both you and they are right,
    For your genius there does sparkle bright,
    Which I most solemnly declare
    To thee, Immortal Bard of Ayr!

    Your "Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon"
    Is sweet and melodious in its tune,
    And the poetry is moral and sublime,
    And in my opinion nothing can be more fine.

    Your "Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled"
    Is most beautiful to hear sung or read;
    For your genius there does shine as bright,
    Like unto the stars of night

    Immortal Bard of Ayr! I must conclude my muse
    To speak in praise of thee does not refuse,
    For you were a mighty poet, few could with you compare,
    And also an honour to Scotland, for your genius it is rare

Just Checking
Sandy and Agnes McWachle lived beside Loch Achawayego in Caithness. It was nearly winter and the nearby loch had just frozen over. Sandy asked his wife if she would walk across the frozen loch to the village shop to pick him up a bottle of whisky. Agnes asked for the money, but Sandy told her to put it on their bill. Agnes duly walked across, got the whisky and walked back. It was at that point that she decided to ask Sandy "Why didn't you send me with the money. I thought you always wanted to pay cash." Sandy nodded but replied "I wisnae goin' to send any money till Ah wis sure how thick the ice was. "

Lachlan's Laws - #1
The great philosopher, Lachlan McLachlan, propounded a number of irrefutable laws - such as "Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about."

Air Traffic Control
The air traffic controller at Prestwick Airport radioed an incoming Trans-Atlantic flight with the instructions "Turn right 45 degrees for noise abatement." "Roger," the pilot responded, "but we're at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?" The controller replied, "Have you ever heard the noise a Boeing 757 makes when it hits a Boeing 737?"

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?