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Caithness News Bulletins March 2005

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Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan has called on those with access to a computer to submit a response to a web forum on the Licensing (Scotland) Bill. The Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Transport Committee launched the forum recently so that members of the public can help inform the Committee's consideration of the Bill.  Mrs Macmillan, who sits on the Justice 2 Committee, which is also considering evidence on liquor licensing, said, "The new Bill aims to create a more modern, simple and flexible system for Scotland and also to create a legislative framework to help reduce underage and binge drinking.

Second "E" Rock Concert  - Viewfirth - 2 April 2005
The 2nd 'E' Rock Concert takes place this Saturday night at the Thurso Viewfirth and looks set to be a cracking night of live rock music. Six rock bands will take to the stage over the course of the evening, each with their own distinctly different style. Headlining the event will be hotly tipped Inverness band Findo Gask, who have enjoyed success over the last year supporting the likes of InMe and Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro. If you like your music fast, energetic and loud then this is the band to see.

Over At Halkirk For
The Northern Nashville Country Music Festival 2005

Dounreay’s award-winning visitor centre opens its doors for the 2005 season today in time for the early Easter weekend.  The centre explains to visitors the remarkable story of the pioneers who developed the fast breeder programme at Dounreay 50 years ago, and the major clean-up programme now underway to restore the environment.  It describes how UKAEA is working with the local community to establish the north Highlands as an international centre of excellence in nuclear decommissioning - qualities that can sustain the skills and enterprise base of the north Highlands beyond the closure of Dounreay and so ensure the ultimate legacy of Scotland’s first “atomic factory” is one everyone can be proud of.

Caithness Rythmic Gymnasts Gain Valuable Experience At Scottish Novice Competitions
7 Rhythmic Gymnasts from Caithness Gymnastics Club competed in the Rhythmic Gymnastics Scottish Novice Competition held at Bellsquarry, Livingston last weekend. Some parents and their club coaches Diane & Julia Gibson accompanied them to the competition.

UKAEA Aniversary Fund Makes
Seven Donations To Local Charities
To celebrate UKAEA's 50th anniversary, an anniversary fund was created to underline UKAEA's commitment to charitable causes. For every pound that volunteers raised for selected charities, UKAEA contributed a pound from its anniversary fund. During the year UKAEA Dounreay made donations to 7 groups: Caithness Kidney Dialysis Support Group, 1st Dunnet Bay Scout Group, Crossroads Care Caithness, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Newton Palliative Care Fund, Caithness MacMillan Nurses and Thurso High School PTA Minibus Fund.

Labour Candidate Looks In At Dounreay
NEW GENERATION: Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Alan Jamieson meets UKAEA's Celestine Cheong and Gavin Coppins, who are among a new era of graduates in environmental sciences drawn to Dounreay by the challenge of cleaning up the fast reactor experiment. They are pictured here explaining the ground-breaking research being carried out to ensure environmental data for Doureay, including that associated with the legacy of particles in the marine environment, is available for analysis and communication to site regulators and the public.

Graduate Fair For Caithness And Sutherland
At Thurso - 7 April
Following the success of a pilot event last year, graduates and employers in Caithness and Sutherland are once again to be given the opportunity to meet and discuss mutual benefits. The second Graduate Fair will take place in Thurso Town Hall, on Thursday 7th April, from 4pm - 7pm. The event is organised by Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE). The date has been chosen to coincide with students returning to the area for the Easter holidays, and for local employers planning recruitment for summer starting dates.

18 March 05
Flurry Of UKAEA Items
DUNNET BEACH Update On Contaminated Stone Find

UKAEA has published the results of tests carried out on a contaminated stone discovered during monitoring of the beach at Dunnet on March 2. The tests are inconclusive about the origin of the caesium, but eliminate radioactive deposition from the Chernobyl accident as a source of the contamination. The tests indicate the contamination it is not a particle of the kind found near Dounreay. A full report on the tests can be found at http://www.ukaea.org.uk/news/index.htm  and see below.  Monitoring of the beach at Dunnet is continuing.

UKAEA Will Assist Highland Council To Remove Storm Rubbish At Dunnet
UKAEA has responded to a request for assistance from Highland Council to help repair storm damage and has agreed to provide mechanical assistance to remove large quantities of flotsam and jetsam from the area.

MEDIATION Moves To Reach Settlement With Sandside
UKAEA has begun a process of mediation with Magnohard Ltd, owner of the estate at Sandside, with a view to reaching a positive settlement of issues arising from the detection and retrieval of radioactive particles at Sandside beach. UKAEA regrets the occurrence of particles at Sandside and the historical practices that gave rise to their release onto the seabed off Dounreay. We recognise the importance of this issue to Magnohard Ltd.  UKAEA is committed to exploring every reasonable avenue open to it in order to reach a fair and just settlement with Magnohard Ltd.

A number of newspapers this week reported that a new court case has been launched against UKAEA Dounreay as a result of historical waste management practices.  UKAEA understands that these reports stemmed from Media Intelligence Partners Ltd, a London-based lobby firm with strong links to political organisations in the USA. Enquiries by UKAEA have established that no new, fresh proceedings have been brought against UKAEA.

Maureen Macmillan MSP Backing Action on Solvent Abuse
Maureen Macmillan MSP has added her support to a new campaign to stop solvent abuse in Scotland.  The National Volatile Substance Abuse (VSA) campaign is hoping to raise awareness amongst shop workers about the laws surrounding the sale of lighter fuel and other solvents that can be abused by children. Mrs Macmillan is calling on retailers to operate on a 'no proof, no sale' basis on age restricted products and is encouraging all shop workers to support the campaign and help stop the sale of volatile substances to under 18s. Backing the campaign Mrs Macmillan said, "Solvent abuse can kill. That is why lighter fuel is an age restricted product, and it is illegal to sell it to under -18s.

Mike O'Brien today announced the first members of the Civil Nuclear Police Authority (CNPA) which will take over responsibility for policing civil nuclear sites and nuclear materials from UKAEA on 1 April 2005.  The current UKAEA Constabulary, will transfer to the CNPA and will be renamed the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. The Constabulary's role in providing a specialised policing and guarding service for nuclear sites and materials will not change.

Reacting to the reports that BSE infected meat may have entered the food chain through the former Wick abattoir, Far North MSP Jamie Stone said:  "This is very concerning news. It is vital that consumers are confident that Scottish beef is safe.  "Along with many others, I raised strong concerns three years ago following the award of the vet service contract to a firm in Leeds. "This decision ended the contract with local vets who had provided and excellent service, on site, for many years.  "It is important that any investigation into this incident considers whether the vet tendering process should shoulder some of the blame for this unfortunate event.  "I will be raising this matter with Scottish ministers as a matter of urgency."
The Wick BSE Story In The Scotsman - 17 March 2005

Views Being Sought On Management Of North Peatlands
People who live and work in and around the peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland are being asked their views on a draft management strategy for the area, in a public consultation starting this week.  The draft document has been developed by a host of organisations and individuals through the LIFE Peatlands Project, and seeks to take account of the conservation, community and economic needs of the area.  Caithness and Sutherland have the biggest extent of blanket bog in the UK and possibly the world. Large parts of the area are formally recognised under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act and the EC Wild Birds and Habitats Directives, and have also been proposed as a World Heritage Site.

Young people from Thurso and the North Coast of Sutherland took part in Careers Scotland's "Limelight Event" on Saturday 12th March in North Highland College.  The event consisted of traditional / folk and rock music workshops and was aimed at 14 - 18 year olds with a growing interest in the world of music and in need of some direction, guidance and input to encourage their talent.  Denise Holden -Careers Scotland's Locality Manager-said," This was an example of one of the many experiences for young people which help them to plan their careers more effectively. The majority of the students who took part had never performed in a band or group before, but by the end of the day had the confidence and ability to perform on stage in front of a live audience. It was a very valuable experience for all concerned and most importantly - a lot of fun!"

Highland Council Launch Major Funding For Arts & Festivals
Scotland's Year Of Highland Culture 2007
Local groups and committees planning events and festivals over the next three years should take a close look at this new funding being made available by Highland council in the run up to Highland Year Of Culture 2007.  Grants are available for 2005, 2006 and 2007.  Caithness groups in music and the arts should be well placed to take advantage of this significant funding.  Take alook and ask for more information soon........


BTCV Green Gym - Open Meeting
Monday, 21st March 2005nn  10am – 12am
Venue: Wick Health Centre

Following an initial meeting in January 2005, BTCV Scotland would like to invite you to attend an Open meeting to discuss the potential for a Caithness and Sutherland Green Gym network. Green Gym works! Green Gyms got off the ground in Scotland in June 2002, and within 2 years, 14 groups have contributed 880 healthier people within healthy places. For more information on this success story see www.btcv.org.uk Your local knowledge and support is being sought to explore these opportunities further. Please come along to this open meeting to find out more and share your thoughts and ideas.

UKAEA has not been informed of any "new" court action, other than from journalists today seeking comment on a press release issued on behalf of Mr Geoffrey Minter by Media Intelligence Partners Ltd. UKAEA had agreed to seek mediation with Magnohard Ltd, owner of Sandside Estate, to settle issues arising from the detection and retrieval of radioactive particles from the beach at Sandside Bay, and is therefore disappointed by today's news. The Media Intelligence Partners' statement contains a number of misleading and inaccurate assertions:

FREE Tickets To Fairytopia in Inverness

CASE Invests £2.6 Million In AEAT Battery Systems Ltd (ABSL)
AEAT Battery Systems Limited (ABSL) in Thurso has embarked on an ambitious development project, with help from Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE) and supported by the Scottish Executive - which could ultimately result in additional jobs at the company's Thurso plant, Denchi House.  The new development will safeguard ABSL's existing 150 employees in Thurso and once technology from the latest research and development projects is proven and commercialised, the company expect the workforce to increase significantly.  CASE is investing £2.6 million towards total project costs of £10.742 million over three years. This level of investment has been made possible through additional support to Highlands and Islands Enterprise from the Scottish Executive.

UKAEA is aware of a number of allegations being made about historical practices at Dounreay.  The latest of these involves a third party who has been hawking claims around a number of newspapers regarding the whereabouts of a radioactive source reported missing at Dounreay in 1989.
At the time, the then site management appealed publicly for information about this source and carried out extensive searches, on-site and off-site. The disappearance of the source was reported by the media in 1989.
Today's media report is a blatant reheat of an old story published in the1980s. It beggars belief that, 16 years later, the Sunday Herald has chosen to present this as "news", or that an anonymous third party who claims to have information regarding the whereabouts of this item approached newspapers rather than the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate of the Health and Safety Executive, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority or UKAEA.

Far North MSP Jamie Stone has called for more creative thinking from political quarters to address the problems with NHS dental services in rural areas.  Speaking in a debate on dentistry in the Scottish Parliament, he suggested that the NHS look to the example of the armed forces and consider sponsoring dental students through their training, in return for an agreed number of years service to the NHS once qualified.  Commenting on the matter, Mr Stone said: " I believe that in dentistry we could emulate what the armed forces do. They pay students a salary while they are at university on condition that they sign up to the colours for five years.

UKAEA Hits Back On Rehashed Old News Story
UKAEA is aware that a number of allegations connected with Dounreay have suddenly been raised in the Scottish and English media. All relate to events dating from the 1980s or much earlier. Many were covered widely in the media at that time. Others have proved impossible to substantiate, either from site records or the memory of people who worked at Dounreay at the time.  Whatever the motivation behind this spate of old news stories, it cannot be right to raise public fears about safety at the site today. UKAEA regrets any practices in the past which failed to meet the safety standards of the time, but the public should be clear that they are absolutely not a reflection of current practice.

Surfin Caithness Competition
Tempest Surf Shop and Thurso Surf School are holding a surf competition scheduled for the 26th and 27th March 2005. The location is at the Thurso Harbour wall. If the competition is cancelled due to conditions then it will be forwarded onto the following weekend respectively.

An energetic bunch of volunteers turned Dunnet Forest into a busy work site last Saturday morning. Members of the Caithness Countryside Volunteers (CCV) planted, staked and guarded a range of broadleaf trees in small open areas in the forest.

North Action Group Still Fighting For Maternity Services as Unit Sees 18th Mothers Day
On the first anniversary of our 2004 Mother's Day March the North Action Group are delighted that consultant led maternity & gynaecology services are still being provided in Caithness on a 24hr basis as they have been for many years.


David Masters The Music
A new mastering engineering business based in Wick is hitting all the right notes since opening at the start of the year.  Norwick Mastering was set up by David Shearer who spent over 12 years as a mastering engineer with Grampian Records Ltd. Prior to that he spent six years as a professional musician, working in recording studios in Northern and Southern Ireland, Nashville Tennessee, England and Scotland.  Mastering engineering is the process of taking an audio recording and turning it into a production master by putting the final professional polish to the mix, and bringing out its full potential. It takes the recording up to a commercial standard, using very high quality specialist equipment, providing a final production CD ready to replicate, enabling the recording to compete more effectively with other commercially produced CD's.

The Highland Council is gearing up to launch a new kerbside collection of paper, cans and garden waste in Caithness which will make it much easier for 8,000 households in Thurso, Wick and Scrabster to recycle their household waste from their own front door.   Two new vehicles have been purchased to allow collections on a fortnightly basis.  One week, homes will receive a collection of garden waste and the following week a collection of paper and cans.  Each household will be supplied with an additional brown wheelie bin for their garden waste and a blue box for their paper and cans.    The normal refuse collection will be unaffected.

The Chairman of NHS Highland – Garry Coutts - is encouraging Highlanders from the West, North and South, to come forward to play their part in the NHS in the Highlands. The Scottish Executive are about to advertise for the posts of two additional Non-Executive Members for NHS Highland, following successful lobbying by Mr Coutts.
He said: "I am delighted that the Minister has agreed to create another two non-executive members for NHS Highland, to ensure that the unique geography of the area we serve is fully covered. Although Non-executives do not represent a particular area, it is helpful to have Board members who understand the real issues facing people throughout the Highlands."
"Just now we don’t have any members from Skye and Lochalsh, Sutherland, or Badenoch and Strathspey. Although we do have members who live in Lochaber and Caithness, they are appointed because of other positions they hold, so I would particularly want to encourage people from all these areas to come forward. Largely we are also white, middle-aged, and able-bodied, so would be keen to recruit members who can bring a different perspective to our discussions."

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NHS24 Understaffed And Underperforming
SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands Rob Gibson says that the Scottish Executive review of NHS 24 will have to be extremely detailed and changes made if lives are not to be put at risk.  His comments come after news of a petition from Killin is being lodged in Parliament and Fort William GP and councillor Michael Foxley has shown very poor slow service from the NHS 24 phone lines. Michael Foxley, Highland Council vice-convener and a doctor based in Lochaber, said the health of people living in remote areas was under threat because the controversial out-of-hours telephone service was not coping with the volume of calls being made.

Thurso Cemetery Extension Well Underway

Maureen MacMillan MSP Supports New Bill to 'Call Time' on Binge Drinking
A new Licensing Bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament designed to tackle binge drinking and give communities more of say on the granting of alcohol licences.   Maureen Macmillan MSP is backing the Bill, which also sets a requirement for all licensees to operate on a 'no-proof, no-sale' basis to stop underage drinking.  Welcoming the publication of the Bill Mrs Macmillan said, "I am delighted that this Bill has been introduced to Parliament. These are the first major changes to Scotland's licensing laws for over 25 years and it is critical that we respond to the needs of our local communities and tackle the antisocial behaviour that is often associated with alcohol.

No Excuse for Domestic Abuse
Wellbeing Alliance Raises Domestic Abuse Awareness
In Highland last year 1417 domestic abuse incidents came to the attention of the police – that is almost four each day.   The Highland Wellbeing Alliance campaign to raise awareness about the unacceptability of such shocking statistics picked up momentum again this week. The second poster will be published and distributed to coincide with International Women’s Day on the 8th of March. This date, commemorated by the United Nations (and a national holiday in many countries), is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is embedded in the centuries old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal parallel with men.

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