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Issue 69 - December 2016
Page visits:
The garden in November.


The Voice for Arran has always been about ‘Arran in the World’, and therefore we make no apology for highlighting this month the desperately disappointing political events that have recently taken place. We may be an island but we are not immune from the effects of the vote to leave the European Union and to put Donald Trump in the White House. Racists, homophobes, misogynists, anti-semites, climate-change deniers, and fascist and far-right groups around the globe have been encouraged in their hatreds by these votes, while the ultra-rich will feel even more secure in their penthouses and tax havens. The question for the rest of us is what do we do? Do we try to live as quiet and honourable a life as possible, in the hope that the goodness spreads, or do we seek other, new and imaginative, ways to try to stem these dark times? Whichever we chose, it seems likely that the coming years could see increasing inequality and intolerance, greater environmental degradation and greater climate instability. Just what are we bequeathing to the next generation?

Alan Bellamy

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Ian and John Paterson are being
evicted by Arran’s wealthy landowner
Charles Fforde.

Land Matters

As we write this in late November, we hear that the Paterson family of Glenree Farm have come to a settlement with their landlord through mediation, but it does not include a new lease to remain on the farm, so the Patersons will have left on the 28th November after the sale of their farm equipment, leaving the farm to be managed by landowner Charles Fforde.

As Lesley Riddoch reported, it is almost exactly what happened to Andrew Stoddart in East Lothian last year -- similar also because the Scottish Government refused to join the mediation (despite promising earlier they would) and refused to accept responsibility for the faulty legislation of a previous Scottish Government. That's what has left the Patersons and eight other tenant farmer families vulnerable to eviction.

And as The National put it last week, “This case reflects the entrenched privilege of a Scottish aristocratic elite, which hides behind its lawyers and bureaucrats while caring little for the security of those they evict.”

The Paterson’s situation was highlighted on Channel 4 News throughout the UK on the 24th of November. Neither the Scottish Government nor Charles Fforde would comment on the report.

Lamlash Santa’s Sparkle

Some photographs of this popular event, which took place this year on Saturday 26th November:

Santa arrives at the pier
by rib …
… and then transfers to
a pony and trap! …
… before joining the throng
in the marquee.

The Douglas Hotel Woodland Extension

On 14th November, the Douglas Hotel unveiled their plans for developing new hotel rooms in the woodland immediately west of the Hotel. Designed by Danish architectural firm NORRØN, the new rooms will be centrally managed from the Hotel reception and are being developed in two distinctive phases. The additional rooms will be set atop and within a continuous stone wall enhancing the characteristics of the area, and welcoming visitors to the island of Arran. The new rooms bring with them a refurbished public woodland walk and new bridges over the Strathwhillan Burn, in this way creating a new entrance to the Arran Coastal Way.

In a well-attended event held in the Douglas Hotel on Monday 14th November, interested parties were given the opportunity to comment on the proposals and the contribution they will make to Arran. The first phase of new rooms will be constructed on the Douglas Hotel’s land immediately opposite the entrance to the ferry terminal. A total of 12 new rooms will be built here providing a modern interpretation of Arran’s famous terrace at Catacol, The Twelve Apostles. With a focus on natural materials, including stone, wood and metal, the building is set to be a talking point.


The first phase of development will also involve replacing the 3 footbridges over the Strathwhillan Burn that have fallen into disrepair over the years. The new bridges and the refurbished path will be open to the public, offering an alternative off-road route through the woodland for walkers on the Arran Coastal Way between Strathwhillan Farm and Brodick.


Further uphill at the old nursery, a second phase of rooms will be constructed on the higher ground overlooking the burn. Nestled within the trees, the designers were at pains to communicate the care that had been taken to retain all of the significant trees in this area, highlighting that discussions with North Ayrshire Council’s tree officer have already resulted in two redesigns of the buildings to ensure trees are retained and managed appropriately.

Visitors staying in the new rooms will be afforded views into the woodland and over the spectacular waterfalls, so long hidden from public view. Again using natural materials, the rooms are being designed to blend into the trees, offering a unique elevated experience of the woodland and the Strathwhillan Burn.


Corrie Film Club

On Sunday 11th December there will be a special Christmas programme at Corrie and Sannox Hall, with three films

!Dinner For One (1963, Germany, directed by Heinz Dunkhase, 18 mins)
Traditional Christmas short comedy.

Only Yesterday (1991, Japan, directed by Isao Takahata, 118 mins, Cert PG)
This critically acclaimed classic Studio Ghibli animation has been re-released dubbed in English. It follows a single woman in her late twenties looking back on her life while on holiday. Intense memories from her childhood are interleaved with the present day possibility of romantic encounter with a young farmer.

The Railway Children (1970, UK, directed by Lionel Jeffries, 109 mins, Cert U)
The charming and heart–warming film based on the E. Nesbit novel. After the enforced absence of their father, three children move with their mother to Yorkshire, where during their adventures they attempt to discover the reason for his disappearance.

Everyone is welcome! The evening begins at 6pm but come along at any point, and bring drinks and nibbles.

The Corrie Film Club schedule of films for the 2016-17 season is now published and be downloaded for printing from here.

The Strathwhillan Burn boats

The contractor for the new ferry terminal, George Leslie, has removed the old boats from the Strathwhillan Burn. Luckily the Voice was sent a photograph of the destruction of the largest one.

We can only say good riddance to a what has been an eyesore for many years.

Photograph © Alistair Forsyth

Scottish Beavers Back for Good

!The two lead partners in the Scottish Beaver Trial – the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) – have warmly welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Government that the Eurasian beaver is to be formally recognised as a native species, 400 years after being hunted to extinction in the UK.

Returning beavers to Scotland’s lochs and rivers is the first formal mammal reintroduction in UK history. This month’s announcement is a major success story for conservation, and the culmination of nearly two decades’ work.

The project partners are delighted to be given the green light to reinforce the existing population in Knapdale, Argyll, and welcome the news that the established population on the River Tay will be allowed to remain in place.

Book Review

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan, Penguin, 2014.

!This is a brilliant exploration of how we humans have learned to transform the raw materials of vegetables or meat into delicious and nutritious foods. Pollan explores just four types of ‘cooking’ through the medium of the four ancient elements, fire, water, air and earth, which cooks use in their magical work of alchemy. In the course of his investigations into cooking with each element, he visits, cooks with and learns from an amazing variety of skilled cooks, bakers and cheesemakers, brewers and fermenters. Cooked is the story of his further education, as he apprentices himself to these masters. So in "Fire" he learns the techniques of cooking whole animals over an open fire; in "Water" he deals with cooking in a vessel, boiling and braising; in "Air" baking; and in "Earth" fermenting – cheesemaking and brewing.

He believes learning to cook is "the most important thing an ordinary person can do to help reform’ our modern ‘food system, to make it healthier and more sustainable" and to help "people living in a highly specialised consumer economy reduce their sense of dependence and achieve a greater degree of self-sufficiency". Anyone who reads his section on modern industrial breadmaking, for example, will come away questioning the benefits of packaged or supermarket produced bread. We may each take inspiration from a different element – I’m never for example going to embark on cooking whole animals over an open fire – but I was riveted by the exploration of fermenting and pickling as the most ancient form of food preservation and am determined to learn more. This is in the ‘Earth’ section, because the microbes and bacteria (yes, beneficial ones!) that make this possible are a part of the earth itself. His often quoted statement ‘Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting’ now makes excellent sense to me.


His gentle, humorous style is a delight, never guilt inducing. His curiosity and determination to reach excellence are impressive. And the quest for natural foods, carefully cooked at home from fresh ingredients, is one many of us are happy with on Arran. Our ‘shopping’ choices may seem more limited but looked at from Pollan’s perspective, we have an abundance of natural foods, and all the elemental help we could wish for.

Sue Weaver

Poem of the Month

Selected by David Underdown who also writes the commentary.


by Alice Oswald

Here I work in the hollow of God’s hand
with Time bent round into my reach. I touch
the circle of the earth, I throw and catch
the sun and moon by turns into my mind.
I sense the length of it from end to end,
I sway me gently in my flesh and each
point of the process changes as I watch;
the flowers come, the rain follows the wind.

And all I ask is this – and you can see
how far the soul, when it goes under flesh,
is not a soul, is small and creaturish –
that every day the sun comes silently
to set my hands to work and that the moon
turns and returns to meet me when it’s done.

Alice Oswald lives in Devon and is one of Britain’s foremost nature poets writing in a tradition laid down by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Her style is meditative, musical and often, as in this sonnet, visionary. ‘Prayer’ is taken from her first collection ‘The Thing in the Gap Stone Stile’ published by Faber. For anyone who wants to see more of her work her latest collection, ‘Falling Awake’, also published by Faber, is highly recommended.

!Newly protected seas threatened by fish farms

West coast communities feel manipulated by corporations and ignored by government. Following recent applications to develop salmon fish farms in Scotland’s newly created Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), community groups along the West coast of Scotland are joining forces to oppose what they consider a breach of common sense. These communities believe they should have a real say in the approval of future developments on their shores and be involved in the planning and monitoring of these if given approval. They are concerned that the government is acting in the interest of internationally-based corporations instead of in the interest of coastal communities and sea life. The 250 salmon farms that have been developed across Scotland’s iconic West Coast threaten the future of a world famous environment that attracts millions of visitors each year.

The Sea Change community group from Wester Ross has asked Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham “to confirm that marine protected areas have been designated to protect biodiversity and vulnerable species and are therefore inappropriate sites for new net-cage salmon fish farms or expansions to these”. New sites proposed at the very heart of the Summer Isles Archipelago and the Wester Ross MPA are thought to “impact the future socio-economic opportunities offered by a restored marine environment that our community has worked so hard for”.

The Community of Arran Seabed Trust is also appalled by SEPA’s intention to approve the expansion of the Lamlash Bay salmon fish-farm just a stone’s throw away from the first community-led No Take Zone in Scotland where lobster and scallops are thriving. Executive Director Andrew Binnie says: “This is short-sighted and must not be allowed to happen. We are asking the Cabinet Secretary to “call in” this application and reject it on environmental grounds as it contravenes Section 3 of the Marine (Scotland) Act. Scotland’s hard-won MPA network must not become an easy option for salmon fish farms.”.

In response to the Scottish Government’s announcement to increase aquaculture by 100% before 2030, biologist Dr James Merryweather, speaking for a community group from Skye, known as the Scottish Salmon Think-Tank, said: “Dissolved pollutants from over 250 open net-cage salmon farms in the West of Scotland are equivalent to nearly one and a half times Scotland’s sewage if it were all pumped into the sea untreated. SEPA considers that to be “allowable”. The natural environment and those who appreciate and stand up for it know otherwise.”.

Under SEPA’s inspections, net caged salmon fish farms in Scotland are regularly found not to comply with environmental standards and only 3 of these farms are Aquaculture Stewardship Council certified, unlike the 89 fish farms in Norway.

To address increasing problems with salmon farms, Norway currently promotes closed containment systems which have much less impact. These systems ensure organic and chemical waste is contained and can be reused or recycled. They avoid the escapes of sea-lice-infected or genetically-poor farmed salmon which affect our wild salmon stocks.

We believe this model could offer an exciting solution for Scotland and would safeguard the health of our naturally beautiful and biodiverse seas as well as being compatible with local sustainable livelihoods such as creeling or adventure and wildlife tourism, creating more jobs in the longer term.

As Sir David Attenborough recently said “We can destroy or we can cherish – the choice is ours.”.

On Thursday 24th November there was a well-attended demonstration against the proposed expansion of the Lamlash Bay salmon fish-farm.

Community groups and individuals from Arran set sail to oppose what they consider a short-sighted and unsustainable proposal from the Scottish Salmon Company to expand their salmon fish farm production by 62% in Lamlash Bay. Here are some photographs from the day:

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham will consider calling in this expansion and her department has stated they “will aim to make this decision by 7 December 2016”.

Arran islanders cannot understand why a Scottish Government, that just approved a Marine Protected Area to protect the biodiversity of Arran’s seabed, now intends to approve this expansion of factory farmed salmon. The potential for diseases and parasites, such as sea lice, an increased use of chemical treatments and fish excrement will impact upon Arran’s protected sea life and undermine its recovery.

Arran’s Community Council rejects this proposal, as does Stuart Turner of the Lamlash Improvements Association, who says: “Our government is jeopardising our natural resources by allowing multinational fish farms to expand within protected areas.”. Barbara L’Anson, representing Whiting Bay’s Ecosavvy group says their members will be “disappointed if our government approves even more waste and chemicals going into our hard won MPA.”.

Local MSP Kenneth Gibson (SNP) fully supports the community’s stance and Ross Greer MSP (Greens) says: “This application could have dire consequences for the MPA network as a whole and that is why I will be pushing the government to call in this decision so that it can be reviewed and given the attention it deserves.”.

The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) has joined forces with other West Coast communities such as the South Skye Seas Initiative and the Wester Ross Sea Change group. Together, they are determined to stop unsustainable fish farms spoiling our iconic West Coast, which already hosts 250 open-pen salmon fish farms.

COAST’s Executive Director Andrew Binnie says “We will pursue all available options to prevent this unwelcome expansion”.

Protecting the future of Scotland’s trees at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank

From 24 to 28 October 2016 the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew were in Perth and Kinross, and Argyll and Bute, collecting seeds from dwarf birch (Betula nana), downy birch (Betula pubescens), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and oak (Quercus robur). These seeds were collected as part of The UK National Tree Seed Project, set up by Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank with funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

!Tree seeds collected as part of the project will be safely banked in the underground vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank – forming the UK’s first national collection of tree seeds. These can then play a vital role in conservation work to protect UK trees and woodlands, including research against pests and diseases such as ash dieback among others. The collections, and associated data, will be available to researchers working on solutions to tackle the many threats facing our woodlands.

A team of workers collected dwarf birch (Betula nana) seeds – a particularly interesting collection as this is a rare species – from difficult to access parts of Rannoch Moor, while downy birch (Betula pubescens), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and oak (Quercus robur) seeds were collected from Glasdrum Wood. The team also visited Kilfinan Community Forest, a woodland owned and managed by the local community, who are working with children from Tighnabruaich Primary School and residents from King's Court Rehabilitation Centre to collect seed for the project. The seed and fruits were picked by hand from the smaller species or pruned with poles from larger trees.

The seeds collected will be stored, before being cleaned, in a specially temperature and humidity controlled environment at the Millennium Seed Bank before being banked long term in deep-freeze conditions. They will be banked long term as part of the national UK woody flora collection which represents species from across the country. The seeds should remain viable for many decades, and will be available to support research and on-the-ground conservation activity.

Clare Trivedi, UK National Tree Seed Project Co-ordinator at Kew Gardens, says, “Building up our seed collections of the nation’s favourite and most important tree species is a vital step in combating the multiplying pests and diseases which threaten to alter our landscape dramatically.”


The UK National Tree Seed Project launched in May 2013 with the aim of securing genetically diverse collections of UK native trees and shrubs. The target species include many which underpin the UK’s wider plant and animal diversity, as well as supporting woodland industry, tourism and recreation, such as ash, juniper, Scots pine, alder, beech, silver birch and yew.

Stopping the Scourge of Nuisance Calls

by Patricia Gibson MP

Almost everyone has received a nuisance calls at some time and I’m sure most people can relate to the experience of rushing to answer their home telephone or mobile, only to be confronted by a cold caller; be it someone offering a new boiler, saying that they can help claim for Payment Protection Insurance or a recent accident or for numerous other reasons. For many, these calls are innumerable, incessant, and often cause significant distress.

This is a problem of which I have first-hand experience, receiving them as I do myself. Scores of constituents have also contacted me, explaining how the scourge of nuisance calls is making their lives a misery and seeking action to prevent them. These communications can be particularly disturbing for the most vulnerable people I our communities.

Although nuisance calls are not a new phenomenon, they have recently been brought into sharp focus. The Consumers’ Association Which? carried out research illustrating that one third of people regularly receiving cold calls feel intimated by them. For some, the number of calls has been severe enough for them to stop answering their phone altogether.

!Consider the case of an elderly person who is entirely reliant on a telephone for keeping in touch with relatives, but constantly receives unsolicited calls. Should he/she simply ignore these calls, they risk the possibility of alarming those closest to them, who may already be worried about their health. Some suggest countering nuisance calls by purchasing call-screening technology, but why should the onus be on consumers, as opposed to imposing one on those companies causing the distress in the first place?

The increasing occurrence of nuisance calls is undoubtedly impacting adversely on legitimate business and third sector organisations. Many of these feel that efforts to communicate with customers and the wider public are undermined by the underhand tactics of unscrupulous businesses engaging indiscriminately in cold calling. With more people avoiding nuisance calls and consumers changing their behaviour, genuine marketing is becoming increasingly ineffective.

Following the House of Commons Debate on my Ten-Minute Rule Bill on 13 September, Unsolicited Marketing Communications (Company Directors), I am delighted that the UK Government has agreed to fully adopt the recommendations I proposed and legislate to make directors personally responsible for their company’s actions, should it be involved in making nuisance calls. For too long, fines or sanctions have been easily avoided by companies dissolving and resurfacing using a new moniker. From 01 April 2017, company directors will be held to account and could face personal fines of up to £500,000, should it be proven that their company acted unlawfully.

It is my hope that this will dissuade rogue organisations from making nuisance calls and hamper the circumvention of fines. However, we need to ensure these new rules are robust and that new powers given to the Information Commissioner are put to best use in order to relieve distress for the hundreds of thousands of people who are currently plagued by nuisance calls every day.

Patricia also writes about the ferry:

Having my constituency office in Ardrossan, I am acutely aware of Arran ferry’s importance. Not only are 165 people employed directly, worth and £4.7 million each year to the local economy, Arran islanders depend on the lifeline ferry service.

The SNP Government is working hard to deliver its commitment to improving island ferry services; this can be seen with the introduction of Road Equivalent Tariff which reduced ferry fares hugely, helping to grow Arran’s economy last year by a thumping 10% - higher even than China’s!

A new £47 million ferry is being built at Port Glasgow, designed specifically to service the Ardrossan to Brodick route which will enter service in summer 2018. The new £12.3 million environmentally friendly hybrid ferry, Catriona entered service in September, serving Lochranza to Claonaig, greatly boosting capacity and ensuring a smoother sailing. A new £28 million harbour at Brodick, to be completed next spring, with new marshalling areas and terminal will further boost capacity, Aran’s economy and employment.

Ardrossan has been Ayrshire’s Arran port for 182 years for good reasons. It is the closest port and therefore the shortest, fastest and cheapest route. Recently, Associated British Ports (ABP) made an uninvited submission to the SNP Government to move the Arran ferry to Troon. However, Troon lies 18 nautical miles from Arran; Ardrossan only 12. Sailing from Troon would increase journey times and costs for passengers, cars, buses and hauliers, making Arran less attractive and inevitably decreasing the number of sailings, hitting route capacity. Ardrossan has a direct harbour rail link to; Troon does not.

On reliability, operator Calmac and Ardrossan Harbour owners Peel Ports, confirm that not one of 4,497 sailings scheduled from 01 July 2015 to 30 June was cancelled due to problems at Ardrossan. Of 298 sailings cancelled due to bad weather, three quarters were cancelled due to wind speeds greater than 35 knots. Sailing in such conditions can be unpleasant and potentially dangerous. Troon is equally susceptible to bad weather.

!Peel Ports wish to renew their long standing partnership with the SNP Government and they deliver their commercial submission to the government by 19 December.

The Arran Economic Group stated that moving the port to Troon is not in Arran’s best interests.

The SNP Government set up an Ardrossan Harbour Task Force with Ardrossan is its primary focus. There is a duty to deliver value for taxpayers. ABP promises to invest £8 million in Troon, whilst both Peel Ports and the SNP Government would have to invest in Ardrossan. However, both harbours will be assessed using Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance which supports Government objectives by providing a clear evidential framework using robust, consistently applied objective-led analysis. The Transport Minister ensured that this will take into account the socio-economic impact on Ardrossan and North Ayrshire of moving the ferry. I am therefore absolutely convinced Ardrossan will remain Arran’s port of choice.

I continue to make the positive case for Ardrossan, pressuring the Transport Minister to ensure Ardrossan remains the Government’s primary focus.

Marine News from John Kinsman

Mystery beach carcases could be polar bears

Scottish islanders claim to have found the badly decomposed remains of three polar bears washed up on a beach. Three giant corpses washed up at different points on the west coast of Colonsay in August.

At the time nobody was able to confidently identify the bodies, as they were covered in debris and smelled so bad no one wanted to approach them. After being left for three months the debris has blown away to reveal the animals have white pelts, and locals are convinced they must be polar bears though such was their state that even vets could not identify them initially.

They believe that the arrival of the dead creatures on the beach some 1,400 miles from the nearest habitat of polar bears could be symptom of global warming.

Lifejackets safety plea.

The wearing of lifejackets on commercial fishing boats should be made compulsory, accident investigators have said. This year has been particularly bad for drownings, the marine accidents investigation branch, MAIB, warned. It has launched probes into nine deaths of commercial fishermen who were on UK registered vessels this year.

Trumped up climate history is bunk

By Tim Radford of the Climate News Network

Despite overwhelming historical evidence that human-induced climate change is happening now, Donald Trump is apparently still refusing to face the facts.

China can proudly claim many inventions − but certainly not the concept of global warming that US president-elect Donald Trump has accredited to it.

When Trump wrote on Twitter on 6 November, 2012, that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”, he was either ignoring or ignorant of the hard historical facts.

What is now called the Keeling Curve describes the steady rise of CO2 in parts per million in the last six decades. The ratio before the Industrial Revolution is put at around 280ppm. It is now at or above 400ppm.

And in that time, global temperatures have risen steadily. The world is now at least 1°C warmer than it was a century ago, and 2016 has already been declared the warmest year since records began. Sixteen of the last 17 years have been the warmest recorded.

So the link between atmospheric global temperature and greenhouse gas levels has been examined and tested for more than a century. Measurements are calculated by, among a number of agencies, the US National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration, the US space agency NASA, the UK Met Office, the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK, and by the World Meteorological Organisation.

The link between the human combustion of fossil fuels, the destruction of the forests and the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been repeatedly confirmed and attested separately not just by oceanographers and meteorologists, but less directly by glaciologists and foresters and naturalists who measure, on an annual basis, the timing of the seasons.

Glaciers are melting fast in the northern hemisphere and in the southern hemisphere. Global sea levels are on the rise, and oceans have become more acidic in response to rising carbon dioxide levels. Researchers have repeatedly warned that extremes of heat and drought could be linked to conflict and the international refugee crisis.

The Royal Society of Great Britain, one of the most distinguished of the world’s learned societies, has called for a zero carbon world, in which energy is derived from sun, wind and other renewable sources. And the US National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine have made it clear that climate change is happening − and that human action is responsible.

The US is the nation that releases the most greenhouse gases per person, while China is the nation that emits the most carbon dioxide overall. The two nations jointly announced their intention to work together to combat climate change in 2014.

In December last year, at the UN climate change conference in Paris, 195 nations agreed to limit global warming to 2°C at the most and, if possible, 1.5°C. That agreement has already been ratified by 110 nations.

Altogether, according to research, 97% of scientists worldwide think climate change is a reality. And research also shows that nearly half of all US citizens think global warming is a reality and humans are responsible, while a similar proportion think it is either from natural causes or not happening at all.

International scientists have warned that climate change is happening now, and faster than anyone expected. Yet within days of the US election, president-elect Donald Trump is reported to be seeking a way out of the Paris Agreement.

The 2017 Arran Mountain Festival


The 2017 Arran Mountain Festival programme is now online! To support our community-run, not-for-profit festival, go to

New Sculpture

A newly finished sculpture by Tim Pomeroy of Arran for his upcoming show in London in January at The Fine Art Society. The piece is in Yew and slate and is called 'Wave'. It is 40 cm in diameter.


Brexit and an update on The People's Challenge to the Government on Article 50

The People’s Challenge is a crowd-funded legal action to stop the British Government’s attempt to invoke Article 50 and leave the EU without consulting Parliament first.


On the 5th of December in The Supreme Court, the British Government’s lawyers will argue that the invocation of Article 50 is a special case, that its powers to take this step do not come from Parliament, or any Act, but rather the Crown in the form of the Royal Prerogative.

Both the Scottish and Welsh governments have been given permission to ‘intervene' to develop the devolution arguments originally raised by the People's Challenge team from their own perspectives. Both will argue that the devolution arrangements are a further constitutional bulwark against invocation of Article 50 that only an Act of Parliament can dismantle. And, very appropriately, five key devolution questions that are particular to Northern Ireland have also been referred to the Court by the Northern Irish Court of Appeal so that they can be considered at the same time.

This is a drama that has a class not of thousands, but millions, 65 million UK citizens to be precise – and many other EU nationals living here in the UK too. All eyes will be on the Court (which will broadcast proceedings live). Many will be hopeful that it will make sure the protection of their rights remains the responsibility of those sitting in Parliament.

For more information on this click here.

Mixed fortunes for birds in Scotland

Woodland birds have increased in Scotland by 68 per cent overall since 1994, according to a new report from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

The Official Statistic for Terrestrial Breeding Birds, published on 17 November, reveals mixed fortunes for birds in Scotland, with woodland and farmland birds increasing and upland birds decreasing overall.

Some woodlands bird populations have increased hugely, with Great Spotted Woodpeckers increasing by 530 percent and Chiffchaff by a massive 752 per cent. The reasons for these increases aren't certain, but changes in how woodland is managed may be starting to help woodland birds. The effect of climate change is also making a big difference for some woodland birds in Scotland — for example, improved conditions in their wintering areas have helped Chiffchaffs. Willow Warblers and Tree Pipits are also good examples, showing more positive trends in Scotland than further south. Willow Warblers have increased by 46 per cent, with Tree Pipits up 86 per cent.

Farmland birds have also increased overall with long-term increases in several species, including Goldfinch (429 per cent), Great Tit (176 per cent), Magpie (143 per cent), Corncrake (127 per cent) and Common Whitethroat (99 per cent). Unfortunately declines continue among waders, with Northern Lapwing (down 53 per cent) and Oystercatcher (down 40 per cent) experiencing large declines. But targeted management for these species through the Scottish Rural Development Programme is helping boost populations in some areas.

Though Willow Warbler has declined markedly across many areas of England,
it has increased in Scotland (Photo: Neil Rendall)

The most negative trend is in upland birds which are, in general, declining. There are some success stories though, including increasing numbers of Golden Eagles, with the most recent national survey showing an increase to an estimated 508 breeding pairs. Common Cuckoos are also bucking the trend with a 129 per cent increase in the uplands, compared to a decline in UK as a whole.

The data for the report are largely collected by volunteers through the BTO/Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) Breeding Bird Survey. For anyone interested in taking part, BTO are always looking for new helpers. For more information, see click here.


Bridge Challenge

South is in 6NT. What is the killing lead? How is the contract made against any other lead?

Print CrosswordCrossword

by Episteme


This month's crossword contains 10 unclued answers which are all seasonal and are marked with "*".


8 Marsh grass makes relic with gay abandon (8)

9 Despises flooded harbours without old city (6)

10 Tick "I wish" to discover fruit (4)

11 Firing cannon does take a very short time (10)

12 * (5,3)

14 Treat injured side chasing the moon (6)

16 Inside area is outside notion (4)

18 * (5)

19 * (4)

20 * (6)

21 Dance for pardon (6,2)

24 Heroine to which Agnes drinks (10)

27 Wife of 13 finds tuna swimming (4)

28 Pinned the main back aound horse (6)

29 Magnified glare averted in the finish (8)


1 * (6)

2 Pick a cat? No problem! But fill with thrills (6,4)

3 * (6)

4 Yamaha won the ends of gant (4)

5 * (8)

6 Sweetmeat swims in the rich ocean (4)

7 Drags non-event to the issue of 17 (8)

13 Relative beginnings of ugly non-com lacks exercise (5)

15 Good man takes a breath under feathers on the floor below (10)

17 Heat drug mixture and get mother of 7 (8)

18 Cattle in the fields are going up (8)

22 Keep man on board (6)

23 * (6)

25 * (4)

26 * (4)

Answers for the November puzzle:

1 Giant, 2 Panda, 9 Adenoma, 10 Afear, 11 Issue, 12 Shakers, 13 Assai, 16 Aisle, 19 Ewe, 20 Atelier, 22 Scrapes, 24 Deletes, 26 Armiger, 27 Ain, 28 Istle, 31 State, 34 Draw Out, 35 Swami, 36 Emeer, 37 Thereat, 38 Ideas, 39 Scene.

1 Grama, 2 Abets, 3 Tarsi, 4 Debaser, 5 Coheres, 6 Paisa, 7 Nests, 8 Akene, 14 Sitters, 15 Allheal, 17 Imagist, 18 Liefest, 21 Eke, 23 Car, 25 Savaged, 26 Ancones, 28 Issei, 29 Tease, 30 Edits, 31 Stets, 32 Abele, 33 Eyrie.

Last word

Leonard Cohen died on the 7th of November. To honour the death of this wise poet and songwriter, we end this edition of The Voice, the last of 2016, with the lyrics of his song ‘The Future’. Although written in 1992 it seems horribly apposite today, as we face a Trump presidency, Britain leaving the EU, increasing intolerance of all sorts, and accelerating climate change and environmental devastation. Happy Christmas.

!"The Future"

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it's lonely here,
there's no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that's an order!
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that's left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I've seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won't be nothing
Nothing you can measure anymore
The blizzard, the blizzard of the world
has crossed the threshold
and it has overturned
the order of the soul
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant
When they said REPENT REPENT
I wonder what they meant

You don't know me from the wind
you never will, you never did
I'm the little jew
who wrote the Bible
I've seen the nations rise and fall
I've heard their stories, heard them all
but love's the only engine of survival
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going
any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder

Things are going to slide ...

There'll be the breaking of the ancient
western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There'll be phantoms
There'll be fires on the road
and the white man dancing
You'll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown
and all the lousy little poets
coming round
tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson
and the white man dancin'

Give me back the Berlin wall
Give me Stalin and St Paul
Give me Christ
or give me Hiroshima
Destroy another fetus now
We don't like children anyhow
I've seen the future, baby:
it is murder
Things are going to slide ...
When they said REPENT REPENT ...