Category Archives: Scotland

Electoral Calculus

I really like the Electoral Calculus website. It follows opinion polls and comes up with overall election predictions but also seat by seat predictions. It’s run by Martin Baxter. More about him here.

His current UK prediction is for a Tory majority of 74 seats. If she gets that, Mrs May will no doubt think it was worth all the stresses, strains, insults, lapses of memory, innumerable speeches to sparse hand-picked audiences, missed debates, etc etc and including the wee dash up to Crathes in Aberdeenshire to the local community centre where the event had been booked as a children’s party.

Current prediction for Scotland is an SNP majority of 41, i.e. 50 seats out of 59, which is six down on their currently held seats.

I don’t agree with the Scottish prediction. I know Angus Robertson is vulnerable to the Tories but I think his well deserved reputation and standing at Westminster as the leader of the SNP group will help him hold on. I hope the same happens in Perth for Pete Wishart. Oh and I so hope that we manage to get rid of Fluffy Mundell from Dumfriesshire. Also I’m not sure that this prediction takes into account the latest polling which has Labour and Tory at 25% each in Scotland. That will help SNP if it’s maintained.

Fingers crossed!!!

Photo Flaneuse #3: Branklyn Gardens

Branklyn Garden is a wee gem of a place. It’s within the Perth City boundary on the north side of the River Tay  and is run by National Trust for Scotland. No doubt when its creators bought the land  in 1922 the road running alongside one boundary  carried much less traffic than it does now. But even so, it’s a beautiful spot and even if there is some traffic noise it’s muffled and not visible over the high fencing and trees that edge the garden itself. It’s not a big garden. It was an overgrown orchard 1922. But it’s jam-packed with an incredible variety of trees, shrubs and flowers.

Back in 1922, the new owners were Dorothy and John Renton who wanted the land to build themselves a house and make a garden. Dorothy looked after the botanical side of things and John designed the garden. They lived there and their garden thrived. After their deaths in late 1960s, it was taken over by the National Trust for Scotland. More information  here.

I’ve been here three times but never in May when I’d been told it is at its best so we drove up on Sunday afternoon. The rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom. The Himalayan poppies were delicately nodding their heads under the weight of raindrops. The lilies were showing themselves above the surface of the water. Newts swam around the pond before hiding under the lily leaves.

The cafe was open. It hasn’t been on my previous visits. So we strolled round the garden, stopped for a coffee, scone and jam, had another stroll and then bought some plants. And took a lot of photos.

A National Anthem for iScotland?

iScotland = independent Scotland. It’s coming yet for aw that…. which is a neat segue into this video I found on YouTube of a French Army band playing La Marche des Soldats de Robert Bruce. You probably know it better as Scot’s Wha Hae. This is a quicker tempo.

Cette musique date de 1314.
A cette date Robert le Bruce, futur roi d’Ecosse, (Roibert a Briuis en écossais médiéval) défait les Anglais à la bataille de Bannockburn d’où cette marche. Plus tard il renouvellera l’alliance de son pays avec la France en 1429 au siège d’Orléans . Les volontaires écossais jouèrent cette marche lors de l’entrée de Jehanne d’Arc dans Orléans, et elle est restera le symbole de l’amitié franco-écossaise! . Cette marche et encore joué aujourd’hui par l’armée française.

So says a comment on YouTube underneath this video. Roughly translated as :

This music dates from 1314. At that date, Robert the Bruce, Scotland’s future king(Roibert a Briuis in old Scots) defeated the English at the battle of Bannockburn, this march’s beginning. Later in 1429 at the siege of Orleans he renewed his country’s alliance with France. The Scottish volunteers played this march at the entry of Joan of Arc into Orleans, and it continued on as the symbol for Franco-Scottish friendship! This march is still played today by the French Army.

There are quite a few recordings of the tune on YouTube. Here’s one from Bläserphilharmonie Rhein-Lahn.

Croig to Canna

At the end of August, I was on another sailing holiday with Skipper David Leaver on his ketch the Saltwater Gypsy. The first day we sailed from Dunstaffnage up to Croig a little harbour at the north end of Mull. Almost no wind to speak of so we used the engine all the up the Sound of Mull. The water was smooth enough to make spotting the porpoises pretty easy.

Croig harbour, Mull
Croig harbour, Mull

This is Croig on a sunny day with the mountains of rum away in the distance. By the afternoon when we were there it had started to rain….still a very beautiful place though.

Old anchor at Croig slipway
Old anchor at Croig slipway

From Croig the next morning we sailed over to Canna passing Muck and Rum on the way. It was a sort of rocking’ and rollin’ sail with a six foot swell coming across at right angles to where we were aiming for. Made for interesting spells at the helm! Some footage below. We anchored at Canna for two nights and had two walks ashore around the bay at A’Chill and up on to Compass Hill and round the cliffs on the north side of the island.

From Loch Sunart to Isle of Muck

Last week I spent six days on board the Saltwater Gypsy in the company of three friends and David Leaver, the skipper. [Here’s a link to his website…… Northern Wanderer.]

Beaufort Scale 10
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Took the train up from Glasgow. Met up with my three shipmates in Oban, then went along to Dunstaffnage Marina. David welcomed us aboard and proceeded to give us the weather forecast – a Force 10 storm was due in from the south east the following evening. So we might not be able to leave the marina till Tuesday 🙁 On the other hand a Force 10 storm looks like this, so better safe at anchor than seasick. But come morning, the forecast was giving us the opportunity to run over to Loch Sunart before the storm set in. So by 8.30am-ish we were under way, sails up and heading across Loch Linnhe to the Lismore Lighthouse then up the Sound of Mull.

Day1 sail

Once we were well into the Sound, David asked if anyone wanted to drive. (He may use terms like this but don’t think he isn’t anything but a first class ocean yachtsman, among many other accomplishments.) Rachel had first go. Then me. Then Dave said he’d just go below to make us all a cup of tea. Eek!  I’m sure he’d have been up on deck instantly and taking over the helm if he’d felt the boat do anything untoward in the hands of me, a complete sailing rookie. Well not complete. I do have my RYA  Dinghy Level 1 Certificate 🙂 The Saltwater Gypsy is a 43ft Seastream ketch though. Anyway it was all fine. Even if he did cast aspersions on my ability to steer a straight course.

Seawater Gypsy

It took 5 hours to get into Loch Sunart and anchor in a spot well sheltered from the coming southeasterly. He clearly knew his anchorages because the boat hardly rocked at all during the night although the wind was whistling through the high rigging. Come morning and the sky had mostly cleared, the sun made efforts to dry our wet gear, breakfast was on the table and noone was seasick, thanks to a few tablets of Sturgeron taken the night before.

seagypsy day2

By 9am we were heading out along Sunart towards Kilchoan village on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula; no rain, sunny intervals and a force 4 or 5 wind. At this point we didn’t know whether we’d be heading to Coll or Muck once we got past Ardnamurchan. It depended on the wind and tide. In the end the run north to Muck was the better option and we were there by lunchtime.

Ardnamurchan Evening
Ardnamurchan Evening
Muck's one and only surfaced road....
Muck’s one and only surfaced road….

I have been to Muck before – for a Buddhist retreat in the early 80s . It’s changed some. Not loads. There is an array of solar panels behind Port Mhor  and some wind turbines on the hillside above. Much better than the diesel generators we used! There’s a smashing community hall with community library, exhibition space, computer and wi-fi access, kitchen, showers, washing machine… all open to anyone, resident or visitor, with just a request for a donation. Oh and there’s a basketball court which can probably double as a village meeting space. I did wonder if there are enough people for two teams….  Biggest visual change is the new pier (EU funded) which allows the CalMac ferry to dock at the island. When I was there, the island boat picked up supplies and people at Eigg and brought them to Muck and if the tide was out making the jetty inaccessible then your feet might get wet getting ashore!

Gallanach Bay looking south
Gallanach Bay looking south

More photos are here …..

Error fetching Flickr photos: WP HTTP Error: cURL error 7:

Build Bridges Not Walls

Over in Washington, Trump is preparing for his inauguration as 45th President of the USA. Elsewhere in the world, people are making know their opposition to his divisive rhetoric. One such protest are the Build Bridges Not Walls events. Here are more photos are of Glasgow’s contribution:

Sailing from Muck to Ulva

Day three of our sailing holiday, we set sail from Port Mhor on Muck and head southwest towards the Treshnish Isles, then southeast into the Island of Ulva. I hadn’t even heard of it before. It’s off the western side of Mull.

What a difference a day makes to the weather!

There’s a couple of typos in the video titles. It should say the Island of Gometra. And the basalts of all these islands is Tertiary, about 60 million years old, not Triassic which would have made them 200 million!

On the Island of Ulva

Day 3 of our sailing trip on the Saltwater Gypsy with David Leaver and by midday we’ve anchored off Cragaig on the southern side of Ulva. It’s not a big place, just 8 square miles.

Cragaig Settlement Looking South

The name ‘Ulva’  is probably from the Norse ‘Ulvoy’ meaning ‘wolf island’ though the Norse weren’t the first people to live on this beautiful place by any means. There’s evidence of Mesolithic and Neolithic settlement. And Celtic influence thrived with the Picts and Dalriadians. So it’s possible that people have lived here for over 12,000 years.Ulva track panorama

By early 19th century the island was home to about 800 people. In 1837, there were sixteen villages/townships, with shoe makers, wrights, boat builders, merchants, carpenters, tailors, weavers and blacksmiths. The 1841 Scottish Census records shows 849 islanders in total.

The traditional owners of the island were the Clan MacQuarrie. One of their more famous sons being Lachlan MacQuarrie born on the island in 1762. He left when he was 14 years old travelled to India and Australia and by 1809 he was Governor of New South Wales. But the MacQuarries were in debt and sold off the island. In 1836 it was bought for £29,500 by Francis William Clark, a Morayshire man. That’s about £2.5million in today’s money.oskaval panorama

Then came a series of misfortunes. First of all the kelp industry, which helped support the islanders, failed. Clark was not an understanding land-owner. By 1848 the population had been mostly cleared off the land and shipped to Canada or Australia. Their roofs and houses were burnt behind them as Clark’s men drove them down to the waiting ships. Then Clark claimed their livestock as ‘payment’ for arranging their forced passage. It’s sobering seeing the remains of ruined houses. In the old mill at Ornaig there are two millstones still inside.

But aside from the sobering awareness of what happened here just 170 years ago, we also soaked up its beauty – deer on the hillsides, bluebells in the fields, buzzards in the air, and sun on the water, fabulous views of Mull and Treshnish Isles.Port a Bhata over to Inch Kenneth & Ardmanach

From Cragaig Bothy there’s a track running over to the ferry on the north side of the island. That’s where the Boathouse Cafe is too! But Sam and I stopped on the highest part of the track. Sat down on some warm rocks and enjoyed the view.








AllOfUsFirst web from Common Weal on Vimeo.

Recently I set up a regular payment to Common Weal a  Scottish civic based group working on various projects to improve governance in Scotland, now and in an independent future. Here’s the email I received in response to setting up the bank order. All of Us First is their website address but also their political slogan.

Hi Marlene,

A happy new year to you! I’m getting in touch to say thank you so much for recently signing up as a regular investor to Common Weal. We returned to work yesterday, and started strategizing for 2017. There is so much work to be done – and since Brexit and Trump – the time for creating an alternative society, economy and politics, that works for all of us in a caring and compassionate way, has never been so crucial. So thank you for being a part of the Common Weal community. We will be working as hard as ever to make our voices heard.

I would be very grateful if you could take the time to let me know why you decided to start investing in Common Weal? What is it we do that is meaningful to you? And what would you like to see us focus on in 2017? Your opinion is of great value to us so please do keep in touch and let me know.

Very best for 2017 – All Of Us First.

Tiffany Kane

And my reply:

Hi Tiffany
Thanks for your email.

New Year is when I have a look at the various charities, people and groups I support with a bit of financial help. It’s almost always a small bit of help but hopefully I’m one of many doing that. It had been in my mind for a while to give some support to Common Weal so this time I added you in.

I came across Common Weal first during the IndyRef campaign. I was impressed. I got myself a copy of the Book of Ideas when it came out. I must admit I haven’t read it all even yet but it seems to me to epitomise the kind of approach we need to make sure that IndyRef2 succeeds.

Basically I think we should be acting and thinking things through now so that we’re ready for that Yes vote. I thought the SNP White Paper was good but it wasn’t thorough enough. No blame to SNP for that. But next time we need more developed policies for things like currency, banking, benefits, pensions, etc, so that we’re ready to counter the onslaught of arguments and disinformation that we know now will come flying from Unionist voices, media and vested interests. I’m sure both SNP and Green Parties will be working on those issues too but since one of the hallmarks of of the referendum was the involvement of civic groups alongside political parties, I’m keen that the strength of our civic based input is maintained.

A few weeks ago I came across reference to the Common Weal White Paper and I’ve read some of the online. That was probably the main lever that got me sending you some cash. And since I’m in the 65+ age group who apparently mostly voted No (not me obviously) it seems the least I can do to make amends for that, 🙂

Best wishes for the New Year to you,

Marlene Halliday

On Barra

Bishops Isles seen on approach to Barra

After our sailing trip to the Small Isles, August 2016, we took the ferry – and the car – from Oban over to the Isle of Barra for a few days. I have been on Barra once before, very briefly.

My plan for that earlier trip was to fly from Glasgow to Barra, stay in Castlebay over night, then use my Scottish Senior Bus Pass which gets me free bus travel anywhere – yes, anywhere – in Scotland for a day’s bus and ferry journey up to Stornoway at the north end of the Outer Hebridean archipelago. The bus and ferry schedules all link up so it’s a great way to travel. I’d arranged to stay a few days with a friend who lives near Stornoway before getting the ferry over to Ullapool and the bus back to Glasgow. I’d never been to Lewis before.

I did it all that except that the early morning plane couldn’t land at Barra Airport because of seafog. And then my midday flight was delayed till the first flight got back to Glasgow and by then it couldn’t land at Barra because the tide was up. You did read that correctly. The landing strip at Barra is a beach. 🙂 Which was the main reason I wanted to take the flight on the 18 seater twin engine Otter that LoganAir use for the route. They did fly us out but landed at Benbecula instead of Barra. Benbecula is four islands further along the archipelago northwards from Barra. Then they arranged transport for us back down to Barra that afternoon! See more here.

Castlebay & Kismet's Castle
Castlebay & Kismul’s Castle

This trip we were based in Castlebay  for three days. The weather was the usual  mix – sunshine, a few showers and a lot of wind. First morning was wet so we drove up to Eoligarry at the north of Barra where the airport is. And there’s a very highly recommended cafe in the terminal building. In fact the cafe takes up more space than the arrivals / departures space. We were in time to watch the midday flight from Glasgow arriving and then departing. A twenty minute turnaround!   You’ll find video of the Twin Otter below.

Barra Terminal Building


The west coast of Barra is a series of beaches and headlands and machair, the belt of fertile land just beyond the high tide mark. It’s found all over the islands, mostly on the west facing coasts. In summer it’s covered in wild flowers.  We spent two days wandering along the beaches, watching the Atlantic surf, watching seals watching us, bird-spotting. And inevitably, ended up in the airport cafe on several occasions. 

Through Sound of Iona to Ardalanish

The fourth day of our sailing expedition…. sorry to leave Ulva behind but the Sound of Iona lies ahead and the Ross of Mull, Erraig and Ardalanish beyond.

The weather seems to alternate dry sunny days with rainy days…. today it’s not raining but it’s overcast and chilly. We set off steering southwest for Iona. Lots of bird life on the water. Nice wind with a bit of spray. We all seem to have got well beyond possible seasick reactions to this perpetual motion. Berni and Sam had a go at the helm.

"Iona Abbey. Panorama" by Oliver-Bonjoch - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“Iona Abbey. Panorama” by Oliver-Bonjoch – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Iona comes up to starboard…. first the sandy beaches and rocks of the north end, then the Abbey and village. To port is Fionnphort over on Mull where the ferry is just setting off over to Iona. It’s not far over to Iona from Mull. Much farther to get here from Ireland as St Columba did in about 560CE. And definitely wouldn’t want to be sailing in a coracle as he is  said to have done.

Then we are sailing  past Erraig and the small rocky islets at the south end of the Sound. The sea has more of a swell here and there’s no land to the west of us until Canada. Passing Erraig, we also pass the bay where David Balfour was washed ashore after the ship he was prisoner on foundered on the Torran Rocks a couple of miles out to sea. (This didn’t really happen you understand, except in R L Stevenson’s novel “Kidnapped.) We head into a sheltered inlet behind Rubh’ Ardalanish for today’s anchorage. David heads off for a walk in the rain. Rachel goes for a swim in the rain. Berni, Sam and I stay snugly indoors chatting, reading and sleeping. It’s a hard life!

Videos here…. Map below them

The South Coast of Mull

It was a very wet morning when we sailed out from Rubh’ Ardalanish. First landmark was the 700ft basalt cliffs of Malcom’s Point.

Malcolm's Point

This is what they look like on a sunny day:

Malcolm's Point, Mull

The village of Carsaig sits at the sea end of a steep valley just to the east of Malcolm’s Point. David tells us it was a Catholic village back in 16th Century when the rampant Scottish Reformation made that a less than easy option, so the villagers made a hidden chapel in one of the caves along the beach. Nearby is the Nun’s Cave where nun’s from Iona are said to have taken shelter when they were evicted from their monastery. This is Carsaig village in glowing autumn colours. When we passed it was shrouded in mist.

Carsaig Bay, Mull
Carsaig Bay, Mull

It’s getting brighter as we pass the entrance to Loch Buie. Next is the Laggan Peninsula and Frank Lockwood’s Island. Mr Lockwood was the son-in-law of the Laggan estate owner and liked to bird-watch on the small island. His other claim to fame was as the prosecuting barrister in the case against Oscar Wilde.

By this time,  it was almost sunny!! Certainly the mist was rising. And by the time we got past Port na Crullach we were in need of suntan lotion for the little bit of skin visible in our windproofs!

The original plan had been to anchor overnight in Loch Spelve and sail back to Oban on the Saturday morning. The weather intervened with a Force 8 gale coming in overnight which meant that we’d not get back to Oban till much later in the day, if at all, missing all trains south. It meant sailing the whole way back to Oban in one day. But we did a loop into Loch Spelve entrance looking for otters. This is Spelve from the hills behind showing the entrance inlet.

Loch Spelve

And here’s what we were looking for – and found. Not this one, though this photo is taken in Loch Spelve. But we watched an otter swimming and diving just 20m from the boat. It was too exciting to remember to take photographs!

Loch Spelve Otter


Here are the videos:

Here’s the map:

It’s the Ciostal Movies!!!

Costa is a collie who lives in Timmsgarry, Uig on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. I looked after him for a couple of weeks in the summer. He’s great!! The place is also great. Wild and beautiful. Uig is about an hour’s drive from Stornoway. Less if you’re a local and used to driving on single track roads. Ciostal (pronounced Kissh-tal) likes walks. So do I. So we explored some of the nearby beaches, hills and headlands. The result is a set of four movies starring Ciostal –

  • Ciostal Goes to Bolsta
  • Ciostal at the Radar STation
  • Ciostal Goes Hill-walking
  • Ciostal and the Storm

Here they are. Enjoy.

The Folly of Getting Rid of the UK Human Rights Act

The current UK Tory government at Westminster gained power with a manifesto promise to get rid of the UK Human Rights Act. The Act is the means by which the European Human Rights Convention (EUHRC) becomes part and parcel of UK law. Getting rid of it doesn’t get rid of the provisions in the EUHMC. It would mean though that any UK citizen with a case to argue or an appeal would have to go to Strassburg to do it. This is Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister in the Scottish Government, explaining the folly of the Tory proposal and why the Scottish Government will stop it by refusing assent to it in Holyrood. Continue reading The Folly of Getting Rid of the UK Human Rights Act