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News policyNews items given to this blog exclusively are more likely to be published. Some press releases may be published, depending on the subject.
The embattled Stornoway Gazette has still not, at 6.45pm on Tuesday, been able to find the password to its own Twitter account to delete fierce online criticism posted by one of its own staff on Monday evening.
Twitter and Facebook were both used by the mystery staffer to launch the tirade of abuse suggesting that people had been sacked as the closure of the Gazette card shop was confirmed and claiming that local personalities and contributors were actually being bad-mouthed by the editor.
The Facebook tirades were deleted within the hour but sources say the Twitter password is still missing or has been changed by the staff member whose current employment status is a strict secret, apparently.
After reports appeared on the BBC and elsewhere saying that a serving employee was involved in posting the toxic online criticism of the editor and the paper itself, Jane Muirhead, the Group Head of PR at owner Johnston Press, haughtily batted off requests for further information.
She replied: “I’m not going to comment on the individual involved – nor what the circumstances surrounding it was but will say simply that we’re dealing with it internally.”
A reporter who had worked at the Gazette for the last few months said on Twitter that he did have an argument with the editor before he left but added: “I can confirm I did not leave those messages although I have an idea who did.”
Along with concerns over the quality of the newspaper and the outsourcing of island jobs, there have been constant claims recently that the Gazette is severely understaffed under Johnston Press. Although it had four dedicated reporters last year, staff who left have not been replaced and there have been recent times that the editor and the sportswriter/photographer have had to throw a paper together between them.
A source close to some of the personalities concerned, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tonight said: “There is disappointment that the editor does not see it as her role to protect jobs and put out a quality newspaper but maybe she is not sure of her own position.
“Working in conditions like that, there is no chance to follow up on tips about exclusive stories or launch campaigns and the result is just a series of rehashed press releases. It’s mostly stuff that everyone has read days before.
“Johnston Press constantly claims to be committed to the Gazette so it must still make a few bob on the over-priced advertising. However, Johnston is deliberately running down the editorial operation and betraying people.
“Readers are not daft. They can see the paper is padded out with cheap and dull agency fillers and oversize advertising for Johnston Press’s own irrelevant crap. It is not good value for £1.05p which is why so few buy it now.”
The source added: “The staff know only too well it has poor headlines, poor grammar and dull topics that everyone already knows about. They know that something has to give soon but no one’s listening.”
The meltdown at the Gazette has already featured in national newspapers including The Herald and The Mirror as well as industry publications.
Rival newspapers have also not been slow to say that the Gazette is nowadays hardly a local newspaper anyway under its feverishly cost-cutting owner. Paul Wood, the managing director of the West Highland Free Press, pointed out something positive saying: “With adverts created in India, copy subbed throughout the UK and call centre sales, the Stornoway Gazette twitter rammy is at least local.”
With insiders saying print sales are dreadful and falling, there has been recurring interest from island business figures in asking Johnston Press if it will let them take the ailing publication off its hands. I now understand recent events may spark just such an approach again.
The annual conference of the British Ports Association will be held in Stornoway next week.
More than 200 UK maritime industry leaders and decision-makers will attend together with delegates and exhibitors from port authorities, government departments, maritime consultants and other agencies within the industry.
The Scottish Minister for Transport and the Islands, Derek Mackay MSP, will be at the event as one of the guest speakers.
A series of social events around the islands is also being planned for delegates and partners to showcase local culture and heritage, together with the trade exhibitions and sponsors running alongside the conference.
David Whitehead, director of the British Port Association, said: “It’s a real pleasure to come to Stornoway. Our members are based across the whole of the UK and locating our conference here has created huge interest. The number of participants has exceeded expectations and we’re delighted too that the speakers will cover a very broad range of port and maritime issues, from navigational safety to pensions, and will include the Scottish Government’s ports minister, Derek Mackay.
“It’s also a privilege to be part of the 150th anniversary of the setting up of the Stornoway Pier and Harbour Commission. We hope we can add to the celebrations which we understand have included the Red Arrows. We can’t quite compete with that but we look forward to boosting visitor figures for this year and taking part in the terrific social programme the port has devised.”
The host is Stornoway Port Authority and chief executive Alex MacLeod said they were looking forward to welcoming their peers from throughout the United Kingdom to the Isle of Lewis. He said: “This is an excellent opportunity for Stornoway Port Authority to showcase the port and the island in general.”
Further details including speakers are available on the British Port Association conference website at: morrowcommunications.ya-yaonline.co.uk.
The three-day event will be based in the town’s An Lanntair arts centre from Tuesday to Friday.
There are over 100 ports in the UK holding trust port status – including Stornoway. They are public independent statutory bodies and are governed by local and national legislation.
Controlled by independent appointed boards, there are no shareholders or owners, and any surplus is reinvested in the ports and facilities for the benefit of all users and stakeholders.
A widow aged 75 who lives in Point has lost nearly £7,000 to fraudsters pretending to be from her bank.
Mrs Mary Golish claims that personal information only given to the Bank of Scotland was used by the fraudster pointing to suspicions of it being an inside job but the bank denies all responsibility.
Her claim against another bank, RBS, which apparently failed to stop the fraudster setting up a bogus account to which Mary’s savings were then transferred, has also been rejected.
Mary, of Sheshader, was defrauded on September 3 in a phone call from a woman with a Scottish accent who claimed to be from the Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh. The crook made her believe her bank accounts had been compromised and offered to help her set up with a new secure account.
When Mary asked how she could be sure the caller was not a fraudster, the fraudster promised not to ask her for any personal information. That reassured Mary. She was then talked through the process of transferring the funds from her two “compromised” accounts to the new “secure” account using internet banking.
However, after transferring her total funds of £6,669, it emerged the new “secure” account was actually a bogus account just set up at RBS.
“The caller said that someone had used my account details to spend £900 at the retailer John Lewis. There was a similar attempt last year, also involving John Lewis, which was sorted out. That obviously makes me wonder if this was an inside job by bank staff or former bank staff,” said Mary.
In July, Mary paid an international cheque into the Stornoway branch. She was told it went missing together with paperwork which had personal information, including her contact details. The Bank of Scotland compensated her for that loss but Mary says she was told no trace of the cheque or the accompanying paperwork was ever found.
She says the Bank of Scotland head office is giving her the runaround.
“I phone the bank’s fraud department every day to get information. I am being fobbed off, being given inaccurate information and contradictory promises and being constantly told untruths by staff about the legal position, my chances of a refund, the deadlines being worked to and when I will be contacted and updated on the situation. The local branch staff in Stornoway are very kind and caring but the fraud department is the complete opposite,” she said.
Now the Bank of Scotland seems to have dashed all hopes of Mary getting her money back. In a statement it said: “We have taken all the circumstances into consideration. Unfortunately in this case we cannot provide a refund as Mrs Golish proceeded to complete and confirm the transfer to account details provided by the caller herself. Mrs Golish was familiar with our internet banking and verification procedures.”
It said that July’s cheque was not “missing” but had “not been dispatched correctly”. It confirmed that it had compensated Mary for her loss.
Meanwhile, RBS insisted the “standard account opening procedures which include providing two forms of ID and proof of address” were followed when the fraudster opened the bogus account. It did not explain whether the proof provided was fake.
It said the crook moved fast, adding: “In all cases like this we will ring fence funds in an account as soon as the sending bank notify us that there is a potential issue and that we will endeavour to return what is remaining where possible. In this case the funds had been removed before we could recover them.”
It refused to comment on how Mary’s money was taken or whether it was siphoned to an international account – perhaps via the recognised routes taken to fund terrorism.
Asked whether RBS accepts some responsibility for Mary’s loss, it said: “We don’t. Provided our rigorous account opening policies have been followed, and there is nothing to suggest that they haven’t been, we have no way of knowing in advance of a crime taking place that the account has been set up for fraudulent reasons. Swift action is taken to close accounts once they are identified.”
Aberdeen-born Mary, who spent much of her working life in Michigan in the United States, says she is luckier than other older people as she has a small income from pet grooming and a small pension since her husband passed away. She is not letting the matter drop as she strongly believes both Scottish banks should share responsibility.
She is appalled she fell for the scam and advises everyone to regard all unexpected calls from banks as fraud attempts. She said: “Never discuss your finances with anyone in an unexpected call – no matter who they say they are. Just wait for a letter.”
Scotland is in the grip of an epidemic. Parasites have appeared everywhere and are sucking the very lifeblood out of us. Despite all the scientific advances of the Western world, there is still very little we can do to halt the advance of this almost-silent menace that threatens our quality of life and our very existence.
Which is why I have been studying closely the culicoides impunctatus, the proper name for a midge. Documents produced by Scottish Natural Heritage help us understand this blight on our lives. And, no surprise, I read it is all the fault of the moaney bidges. Sorry, the autocorrect on my computer is playing up again. That should read blone midges.
It is only the female midge that sucks blood from cats, dogs, rats, mice, sheep, cows and Hebridean gentlemen of a certain vintage. As we love to suck Cornish ice cream, so this bloodsucker of a she-midge needs protein to make the yolk in all these eggs she lays. That ensures we will be scratching ourselves from April to October next year.
Meanwhile, the dosy male midge is happy to nibble at a wee salad of grass or bracken. The guys congregate in swarms of a few hundred manly midges near breeding sites by vegetation or mud. The female of the species then fly coyly by, probably flashing the thighs of their six legs, before each swoops on their unsuspecting fella.
The SNH report says the males then “rest during the day in sheltered sites such as grass tussocks and amongst moss.” If I remember right, a tussock is a wee hillock so neither am I surprised that the coves need a breather after all that falling to the ground stuff.
It also says the bite rate of a female midge is affected by the distance from the nearest breeding ground. They have been found over half a mile from their breeding ground in search of a sucker to suck but they like to keep near to the same area. Well, I never. Midges get homesick and just can’t chomp and suck so well away from home.
Their home community is where their pals are – and their many very close cousins. Interesting. Being a midge must be very much like being a Maciver in North Tolsta.
That report crossed my mind when I was delivering a parcel to Marvig in South Lochs a few weeks ago. Having accidentally left the window open, I got back to the van to find in it a whole swarm of very thirsty lady midges. I had to jump in and drive off.
I could have quickly opened the windows and hoped the haemoglobin hunters from hell would be quickly sucked out. But I was feeling bloody minded. With the Queen Midge and her attendants gnawing and slurping at my every bump and orifice, I speed on and on and on.
After 12 miles, we reached the Balallan road. I activated the UBPES, the Unwelcome Bloodsucking Passenger Ejector System. That is not for Mrs X when she grabs my credit card and demands that I take her shopping. It is for these other annoying wee women. With a deft press on the button as I roared up past the school, the windows slid open on both sides and the midges were whooshed out. See ya, suckers.
These ferocious midges, which had lost the inclination to ravage me before we reached Kershader, nevertheless had their bellies full from sucking my sore face earlier. However, I knew they were so far from home they wouldn’t make it back to their friends and cousins in Marvig.
Like many a lost Lochie before them, they wouldn’t make it past the Loch Erisort Inn in Sheildinish before falling on the ground again. I felt such a murderous maniac. Mwah-hah-hah.
I had a touch of déjà vu doing that. Many years ago, exhausted after witnessing a particularly competitive livestock section rumpus at the Lochs Agricultural Show, I was whooping it up at a very late-night Lochie party. After the grumpy host ran out of patience and rum and coke, I found myself lost and tramping up that same Balallan hill on a Sabbath morn.
With no money for a taxi, I smiled wryly as disapproving kirk-bound motorists whizzed past. No thought of being Good Samaritans on the seventh day. It was miles on at Keose that an elderly lady from Harris on her way to Leurbost showed me the milk of human kindness. She had a few pints because she also took me the extra seven miles to Stornoway. And she gave me her Alka-Seltzer. God bless the Hearachs.
Pulled pork. What’s all that about? It’s everywhere. Why you would want to haul a pig round a field before you had it slaughtered and served up for dinner is a complete mystery to me. I have not been cooking for long but why there is a current craze for pulled pork is beyond my comprehension.
Seriously, was the pork pulled when it was alive and went oink-oink? Or was the hog put on a trolley and hauled ceremoniously to the kitchen door. Or did the pulling take place earlier in the morning inbetween the chefs’ fag breaks? In my admittedly limited experience, I have not seen a menu that actually explained the process or set out why it looks such a mess on the plate.
What is wrong with good old-fashioned sliced pork anyway? Maybe it’s the fact that pulling is, as usual, an American fad as the caterer can slap on a hefty surcharge for ripping rather than wielding a stainless steel knife? It looks like crispy duck available in any Chinese restaurant yet their chefs don’t mention that they heave rather than hew.
Some eateries create a fanciful back story about the tangle of torn meat they offer up as the latest kind of expensive delicacy. They say it has been marinated, rubbed, slow-cooked, soused in alcohol and even blessed by monks – but for some reason not by the Free Church (Continuing). It still looks like the dried remains of a particularly nasty road accident. It may taste like it too but as I have not tasted roadkill I cannot comment.
Will Self has his doubts. He is a writer who came to prominence after people realised he was the spit of Donald S Murray, the Nessman whose yarns of Harris Tweed, gugas and herring are catapulting to deserved prominence. Yes, Selfie may have been in the papers admitting to snorting heroin in Prime Minister John Major’s plane in 1997 – Self not Murray, you understand – but his likeness to Donald S, who is actually a mate of his, is possibly even more disturbing.
Having done extensive research for himself, Self, now as clean and sensible as anyone from Ness can claim to be, also suspects something is fishy about pulled pork. He didn’t pull any punches when he wrote that “eateries are now passing off any old bony scrapings or pan-sizzled gunk as being “pulled”.” Snobby with-it foodies who claim to “simply adore pulled pork, dahling” may actually be nibbling, with the utmost elegance and panache, on the otherwise inedible pink bits of Mister or Miss Piggy. Beware. Yuck and double yuck.
As I said, TV shows like Masterchef and Great British Bake Off have now rubbed off on me. After years of finding something else to do with my spare time, I have now worked out how to use our oven. My bedtime reading is no longer Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and suchlike but works by greats like Jamie, Gordon and Heston.
I bake too. Thinking I had put enough yeast in last week’s loaf, I was shattered when it didn’t rise and came out with all the tastiness of a building block. Hector has chewed the back of that loaf for four days now and is in grave danger of losing his canines. Hector is our dog but you had already worked that out. Obviously. However some dear readers may still have canines in their mouths.
My Hungarian Goulash was licked off the plates and some curries worked but the Hollandaise sauce of my Eggs Benedict split and was ghastly. I have now found a new recipe for that sauce which is claimed to be “idiot-proof”. If it works well, I will let you know. Though you will understand if I never mention it again.
Yes, I’m trying it all. Boiling, roasting, steaming, grilling and frying as well as a bit of baking. And stirring. There is so much stirring to do. I had no idea. Without a lazy person’s super do-it-all mixer, my right arm is about twice the size it was. It is good exercise I suppose if I could just figure out to which practical use I can put my new right hand.
While I have taken to whizzing round a hot kitchen in my apron, my wife has fled. She has decided to avoid the kitchen as much as possible. In fact, Mrs X has now gone so far as to go on a health kick. Sadly, as in so many things, she hasn’t got it quite right.
Listen dear, healthy eating is not actually running on the spot while eating cake.
It was the day Mrs X took me shopping. She had only a few things for lunch to get in the Co-op so in she ran and I stayed in the car. She yabs to people for ages so I thought she would be gone a while. Before long, I was feeling sleepy and decided on a wee norrag.
A minute or two into my nap, I heard rat-tat-tat. That wife of mine, laden with bags-for-life, was back and thumping the boot to get my attention. I rushed out and found that there she was – gone. Oh heck, not that dodgy handbrake. The car must have rolled backwards and over her. I bent down but she wasn’t there. Silly me, no way would she fit under a Renault Clio.
While on my knees I spotted another strange bird. It was tapping the next car along. This crow seemed to be tapping to get bugs out of the wheels and the bumpers with its beak. The cheeky bird was having lunch. It had me worried that something had befallen Mrs X because I wouldn’t get my lunch. As I chased it, the crow seemed to cruelly mock me. Caw, caw, caw.
I asked super-efficient trolley-pusher extraordinaire Norman Macaskill about it. He thought it unlikely that one crow had taken to tapping cars. They all had learned to find morsels. I just can’t think why crows chose the car-park of the Caw-op.
On the subject of peculiar creatures, I must tell you about a Niseach who turned up recently at a certain island airport weighed down by two cases. He hoped he would not be the one selected by airport security for a bag search.
Was he a smuggler? Had he dangerous drugs tucked into a secret pocket in his breeks? Were wads of freshly-laundered notes nestling in his bobban socks? Or was he a Hebridean ivory collector with an entire elephant tusk stuffed into a leg of his long-johns?
Then over the tannoy: “Would Mr Donald Morrison, passenger to Inverness, go to the security office by the check-in desk.” Nervously toddling over, he found the security people with his two cases and they explained that one would have to be opened.
A strange aroma filled the still air. Following his nose, a security officer went for the larger case, hesitated for a second, then went for the smaller one. Wise move. They rummaged through Mr Morrison’s underthings, and just ignored the larger one. They must have thought it contained the smelliest socks … and things.
Had they opted for the larger one, they would have found packed into a six-bottle wine case, a malodorous collection of parcels containing flesh and bones. What was once a flock of solan geese happily fluttering around a remote Atlantic island called Sulasgeir until some ravenous coves from Ness steamed over the horizon was now some Invernessian’s dinner.
Young solan goose it may once have been but when ready to eat it has been transformed into something not unlike an old scouring rag that has been used to wipe the floor and not rinsed for weeks. It also smells like that. The slimy texture suggests the rag has also been soaked in used engine oil.
To be a proper Niseach, like Donald Ryno Morrison, the boss of the Gaelic educational resources outfit Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig – for this was he – they must gobble it up and wash it down with milk and spuds and then – wait for this bit – they must tell everyone they enjoyed it. Eventually, their taste buds wither and die and they can devour anything. Niseachs would fare well on I’m a Celebrity … They must eat guga for a dare. Obviously.
While on peculiar animals and bravery, you should see the rabbits that have now taken over Great Bernera. Big and scary, they are not timid like when I was a lad. These new super-bunnies won’t run from cats or small dogs and were seen last week by my Tobson neighbour Mrs Dolly Mackenzie swaggering over the Bernera Bridge as if they owned it. They know the cars will stop. Who wants minced bunnies on their conscience?
It is the same in Ness where a hole appeared inside the six-yard box during a football match recently. The game was halted while a spade was found to fill in the collapsed burrow. Are these rabbits really brave or are they just acting? I recently caught a slightly confused actor on the radio who said: “There’s no such thing as not being afraid.” I think he said his name was Rabbit de Niro.
The boil water notice in force in the Linshader, Callanish, Garynahine and Breasclete areas has been lifted. People over there can now drink as much as they want.
It must be a coincidence but since Gordon Diesel announced that he had slashed Unleaded and Diesel prices to 109.9p a litre, there have been price cuts happening elsewhere. All the town pumps have since slashed their fuel prices by 2p.
PETROLPRICES.COM SURVEY – SEP 1
114.9p – Engebret – 31 Aug
115.9p – Spar – 28 Aug
117.9p – Campbells – 25 Aug
112.9p – Engebret – 31 Aug
113.9p – Campbells – 31 Aug
113.9p – Spar – 31 Aug
PREVIOUS PETROLPRICES.COM SURVEY – AUG 26
116.9p – Engebret – 24 Aug
117.9p – Spar – 19 Aug
119.9p – Campbells – 21 Aug
114.9p – Engebret – 24 Aug
115.9p – Campbells – 24 Aug
115.9p – Spar – 24 Aug
Trading Standards in the Western Isles are warning residents may be targeted by rogue traders selling dodgy mattresses from the backs of vans.
They say “cheap” mattresses sold by doorstep sellers might not comply with safety regulations and may be a possible fire hazard, or you could even be sold a second-hand mattress recovered and labelled with logos to look like new.
A spokesperson said: “The mattress sold from the back of a van scam has been known to our Trading Standards colleagues throughout the country for several years, however we believe this is the first time the islands have been targeted.”
Trading Standards are looking for any information on doorstep sellers operating in the area. Trading Standards can be contacted on 01851 82294 or out of hours on Faire the community Careline on 01851 701702. Doorstep sellers may also be reported to the police on 101 or in an emergency dial 999.
Trading Standards again advise residents to keep an eye out for elderly neighbours and relatives who the sellers may target for a sale.
A Youtube video “The rip off van scam” produced by The National Bed Federation, gives an insight into some of the problems which you could encounter when buying at the doorstep.