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Perth & Kinross

Earn salmon anglers hit out at Environment Secretary in reclassification row

October 19 2017

The Environment Secretary has been slammed for a “weak” response to concerns raised over the reclassification of a Perthshire salmon-fishing river. Roseanna Cunningham defended Marine Scotland over the methodology used to categorise Scottish waters after angling clubs on the River Earn claimed it was “flawed”. Clubs along the Earn fear they will be forced to close after the river was dropped from a category two to a category three for the 2018 season, meaning a 100% catch and release policy will be enforced. The Earn was last placed in category three, the strictest of the three gradings, in 2016, but was reclassified to the more relaxed category two for 2017. Pat Silvey, of Comrie Angling Club, wrote to Ms Cunningham calling for a rethink on the issue, but has been left “angry” by her response. Ms Cunningham outlined the methods used to assess the rivers, adding that two additional fish counters had been added to the six already in use to monitor the number of fish returning to Scottish rivers. However Mr Silvey, a former maths and statistics teacher with a degree in mathematics from Cambridge, claims there is no “credible scientific justification” for the decision. He said: “She makes no attempt to answer my question about why Marine Scotland are not using a model based on the numbers of juvenile fish in the river, which is relatively easy to sample and estimate reliably, rather than relying on an egg deposition model. "Egg deposition is effectively unmeasurable, which forces them to rely on data on fish returning to the river, which are essentially unreliable. “She also has no real response to my questions about the unreliable nature of those data on returning fish, as catch returns are inherently unreliable, and do not record fish returning to rivers out the angling season, particularly in November and December. “They may have added two more fish counters, but that still leaves them with a small sample of eight rivers, selected because they have fish counters on them, rather than because they are a truly statistically representative sample of all river types in Scotland. “To extrapolate from a small unrepresentative sample like that is, frankly, ridiculous, and undermines fatally the validity of any conclusions reached. “I don't know what agenda is driving this system of categorisation but to misuse statistical techniques to further that agenda does nothing to enhance the credibility of the organisations involved.” A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Marine Scotland assesses the status of wild salmon stocks annually and we have recently consulted on river categories for the 2018 fishing season. “Marine Scotland uses all appropriate local data when provided by local managers which, in the case of the River Earn, is through liaison with the Tay District Salmon Fishery Board.”

Perth & Kinross

New oaks planted at Scone Palace to replace those felled 200 years ago

March 1 2017

The blossoming project to replace dozens of oaks which were chopped down more than 200 years ago has taken root at Scone Palace. The landscaped grounds were originally laid out between 1790 and 1812 but in the late 18th century, Thomas White the Elder designed a scheme which required many of the very old oak trees to be felled. This enraged the second Earl, who started planting to replace them. His son, David, the 3rd Earl of Mansfield, is said to have planted more than 2,863,000 trees. This legacy was continued yesterday in a joint project involving Tay Landscape Partnership and a team of horticultural students from Perth College, which saw the planting of 30 young oak trees under the supervision of Scone Palace’s head gardener, Brian Cunningham. He said: "A recent review of the trees identified several giant specimens which have grown too fragile or have been damaged by storms. “The new oak trees are the first of many young trees to be planted at Scone Place, as part of an ongoing programme in partnership with the National Tree Collections of Scotland to restore this historic landscape and ensure it remains magnificent for many years to come." The planting of the trees at Scone is being funded by the Tay Landscape Partnership, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Community Environment Challenge Fund. Catriona Davies, access and biodiversity project officer for the Tay Landscape Partnership added: "This is a great opportunity to help revitalise the historic park land at Scone Palace, with native trees that will be of huge benefit to wildlife for decades. “TayLP is all about getting people involved in their local environment, so I'm delighted that the students from Perth College have been able to come out and help plant the trees today." In 1885 an article in the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener praised the park and described the 'magnificent trees which are monuments of past ages'. The trees along the old driveway were probably planted in the mid-18th century, with most of the other trees on the estate added between 1800 and 1840. The open ‘deer park' planting of Scone Palace parkland is typical of many Perthshire estates, and includes native species such as oak, beech, lime, sweet chestnut and copper beech, many having grown to a great age.  


In photos: Thousands turn out for dazzling Bonfire Night fireworks displays in Dundee

November 6 2017

Thousands of bonfire night revellers were delighted with extravagant displays in Dundee. The annual celebrations attracted large crowds who had to wrap up warm as an autumn chill saw night-time temperatures plummet to just 1 or 2C. However, luckily for revellers, the weather remained dry. Photos from Lochee Park: In Dundee, pyrotechnic lovers had the choice of attending events in both Baxter Park and Lochee Park. The theme of the evening was celebration, and attractions included pyrotechnics set to the Dundee Capital of Culture 2023 anthem Over Bridges. Visitors enjoyed tracks from Little Mix and Olly Murs, who played major concerts in the city this summer.   Photos from Baxter Park Speaking ahead of the event, Dundee’s convener of community safety and public protection, Councillor Alan Ross, said: “Everyone should join us at these fantastic Bonfire Night displays. “Not only are they a great night, they keep our community safe. “Every year we work closely with our partners to raise awareness of the risks and dangers associated with unsupervised fireworks, and highlight the importance of coming along to our safe displays.” Prior to both events, spectators had been warned not to bring their own fireworks, sparklers or Chinese lanterns.  

Perth & Kinross

Smart Parking deny issue with RingGo payment app after teacher caught out

June 19 2017

Smart Parking has been called upon to resolve a potential issue with a parking payment app that led to a teacher being caught out at a notorious Perth car park. The much-criticised private parking firm allows motorists to use an app, RingGo, as one of the options for paying to use the Kinnoull Street multi-storey car park. The app allows motorists to pay for parking either by using a location code, or by selecting their position on a map. However the position pins for Kinnoull Street multi-storey car park and Kinnoull Street itself appear on top of each other. Users selecting what appears to be a single pin are told they are at “Kinnoull Street” with the location not changing to “Kinnoull Street multi-storey” unless tapped for a second time. Stewart Digney, who teaches English at Perth Academy, said he had appealed a Smart Parking ticket three times but the firm insists the charge stands. The 29-year-old said: “As far as I was concerned, I had paid for parking at Kinnoull Street car park. It turns out there are two parking zones, both called Kinnoull Street, where the pins are on top of each other. “I hadn’t been able to see the location number anywhere in the car park so used the map – it said ‘Kinnoull Street’ so naturally I thought that was correct. There is no reason to think that wasn’t correct.   “I went back later to investigate and although there are lots of signs saying you must pay, there is one small RingGo number tucked away and you could easily walk past that. “I think that given there are two similarly named tags on the app then Smart Parking could make this much clearer. “I haven’t deliberately gone to do them out of any money, I’ve even offered to pay the £2 for parking but it’s an issue with the RingGo system and a lack of clarity. “If you are not aware there are two tags for two locations then you’ve pretty much got no chance. Smart Parking needs to make their RingGo code more prominent if they are offering that as a method of payment.” Pete Wishart, who has long campaigned against the firm, called on Smart Parking to fix the fault. He said: “This latest issue with RingGo, should have been easy enough to fix but yet again Smart Parking would rather issue ‘fines’ than deal with the inherent problems with their technology. Smart Parking must cancel any charges triggered by this fault. ‘People are paying for parking in good faith and are being hounded by this company and their debt collectors for a problem the company have so far refused to fix. “I would encourage people to continue to stay clear of this car park until its many problems are resolved, or until another parking operator comes along – whichever comes first.” A spokesman for Smart Parking said: “Ringo is a simple and straightforward app used by millions of motorists. Mr Digney accepts he did not pay to use our car park and that is why he was correctly issued a parking charge.” The Courier was unable to contact RingGo for comment.  

Perth & Kinross

Teenager took work van while almost three times drink-drive limit

September 15 2016

A teenager took a work’s vehicle on an early morning joyride while almost three times the drink-drive limit. Ben Paton crashed the van at some point during his travels and was later found asleep in a layby by police. Perth Sheriff Court heard the 18-year-old, who only holds a provisional licence, had been drinking in an employee bar. He later took the van, which belonged to Loch Tay Highland Lodges, and was only intended for use on the estate, while on a walk in the early hours of the morning. Fiscal depute Rebecca Kynaston told the court: “The accused was employed at Loch Tay Highland Lodges. As a result he had access to the work’s vehicle. He is the holder of a provisional licence. “At 10pm witness Richardson attended at the staff bar for a few drinks. The accused was also there and was seen to be drinking whisky. “At around midnight the accused left the bar. At 6.10am police received an anonymous call saying that the accused’s vehicle had been in an accident. “The accused was then traced. The vehicle had front end damage and the accused smelled of alcohol. “There was no insurance or MOT for the vehicle as it was used only around the business and not on the roads.” Solicitor Jamie Baxter said Paton had been working at Loch Tay Highland Lodges for three months prior to the incident. He said: “His recollection of events is hazy. It’s a vehicle that he has driven on the estate. “It seems he returned to his accommodation, went for a walk, came across the vehicle and decided to go for a drive — foolishly he took it on to the public road. “He believes that when police arrived he was parked in a layby and was sleeping. He’s not sure when the damage occurred. “He does accept the responsibility for his actions and that the consequences could have been far more serious.” Paton, of Wester Drumatherty Farm, Spittalfield, admitted driving at Loch Tay Highland Lodges, the A827 Ballinluig to Killin Road and roads in between, with 64mics of alcohol in his system on May 15 this year. The legal limit is 22. He also admitted driving on a provisional licence and without insurance on the same roads and to taking the van from Loch Tay Highland Lodges on the same date. Sheriff Gillian Wade imposed an 18 month disqualification but deferred the remainder of sentence for Paton to take part in the Right Track programme.

Perth & Kinross

Tay records worst salmon season on record

December 13 2017

The river Tay suffered its worst salmon fishing season since records began. Experts estimate that there were fewer than 5,000 fish caught between January and October, with just 3,324 reported through an online tool. The figures would make the 2017 season the poorest since records began in the 1950s. However the picture was not a totally bleak one as the fish counter at Pitlochry recorded one of the highest numbers of spring fish ever, and the highest since 1978. The news was revealed as part of the annual Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board (TDSFB) report. The report said: “The count at Pitlochry Dam to the end of May 2017 was the highest since 1978 and one of the highest ever. “The count to the end of June was also very good, although June itself was squeezed, perhaps a consequence of a warmer winter/spring simply allowing fish to ascend the ladder earlier than usual. “After this encouraging start, the counts collapsed in a manner with no precedent.” The blame for both the low catch numbers and the collapse of the Pitlochry count over the summer is partially being blamed on a lack of young fish — known as grilse. The report continued: “2017 was second year in a row with a reduced grilse run and particularly a lack of fresh fish of any age in the autumn. In 2016, there were few fresh fish after August, but in 2017 fresh fish seemed to stop even earlier. “While there may also have been fewer late run salmon and few late run grilse, there seems to have been a lack of grilse in the summer too. This is evident from the poor summer count at Pitlochry and the poor return of tagged grilse there. “The geographically widespread nature of the problem and the tagging evidence point to the main issue being at sea rather than being due to a poor smolt run in 2016, for example say being caused by storms Desmond and Frank in December 2015.”

Perth & Kinross

Perth marathon man marks race milestone

June 4 2016

A Perth man who has run in every Loch Ness marathon since it began has signed up to his 15th race. Kenneth Stewart first limbered up for the event, which is sponsored by Baxters, in 2001 and donned his kilt annually to take part. The 65-year-old Perth Road Runners members signed up for this year’s race, which takes place on Sunday, September 25, as soon as entries opened, just as he has done for the past 14 years. “Loch Ness is something completely different, and I think if you are looking for a marathon that typifies Scotland, then this is it,” said Kenneth. “At the start of the race, when the pipe band is playing, it’s almost like a scene out of Braveheart seeing people coming out of the heather to muster. “The views are the envy of any race organiser, plus a downhill start and flat finish make it a personal best course - and of course the Baxters food marquee at the end is a great incentive, with plenty of hearty fayre.” Kenneth will be part of a trio of runners who have notched up the incredible achievement of taking part in all 15 races. Lucy Mackay, 51, from Glasgow and 54-year-old Fiona Rennie from Dunfermline are also set to complete 15 in a row – and by the time they cross the finish line this year they will have clocked up a combined 1,179 miles on the course. Race director Malcolm Sutherland is full of praise for the dedication shown by the three stalwarts. He said: “They are fantastic ambassadors for the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon, and I cannot imagine holding the event without them. “Fiona, Lucy and Kenneth are unique because they have taken part in every marathon since it started, but there are many more runners who have run the course on multiple occasions. “It has become known as a bucket list marathon – it is one that many runners want to tick off their list. But what they often find is that once is never enough: the sheer beauty of the course and the incredible atmosphere keeps them coming back time and time again.”


Wildfire warnings as hot weather expected to continue into the weekend

May 6 2017

The fire service has warned of the risk of wildfires over the weekend following a massive fire in Highland Perthshire. Around 60 hectares were affected when the Tay Forest Park caught fire near Pitlochry on Thursday afternoon. While the cause of the fire has not yet been revealed, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has said that dry and windy weather has already resulted in several wildfire incidents, including Lochinver in Sutherland and the Ochil Hills near Stirling. They warned that the high temperatures expected over the weekend could exacerbate any further wildfires. Wild and grass fires can start by the careless disposal of cigarettes, and barbecues or campfires left unattended. They then have the potential to burn for days and devastate vast areas of land, wildlife and threaten nearby communities. SFRS deputy assistant chief officer Andy Coueslant said: “Many rural and remote communities are hugely impacted by wildfires, which can cause significant environmental and economic damage. “Livestock, farmland, wildlife, protected woodland and sites of special scientific interest can all be devastated by these fires - as can the lives of people living and working in rural communities. “Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting so it’s crucial people act safely and responsibly in rural environments and follow the countryside code.” Grass and wildfires are a common risk at this time of year when warmer weather dries out vegetation – especially dead winter foliage – which offers an ample fuel source. Michael Bruce, vice chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, monitors the European Commission’s European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) – a resource that assess the risk of wildfire. He said: “We have a high pressure weather system developing across Scotland creating these conditions at the moment. “At the start of spring there is often a lot of dead vegetation left over from last year - this fuel can dry out quickly with higher temperatures and lower humidity levels.” Perth and Kinross Council have also issued a warning about the danger of wildfires spreading in the wake of the Tay Forest Park blaze. A spokeswoman said: “With the glorious weather that we have been experiencing over the past few weeks, the risk of wildfire is becoming increasingly likely. “Please take care when using camping stoves and remember that a ring of stones will not be enough to stop an open fire smouldering underneath them.”

From The Archives

New on the Courier website — a daily taste of the old

June 28 2016

They say that today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper. While that may have been true in the past, the internet – and modern hygiene legislation – are slowly consigning the idiom to history. The DC Thomson archives hold a wealth of long-forgotten articles and starting on Friday we'll be bringing you snippets from our pages, just as they were printed a century ago. Running in direct parallel with the papers of 1916, which even then were published Monday to Saturday, the archives articles will appear six days a week – though due to the passage of time they will be published Sunday to Friday. For me this started as a personal project on Twitter back in January. Having always been a bit of a history buff, I had visited the British Newspaper Archive website in search of some background to a story when my eye was caught by a quirky tale on the same page. https://twitter.com/C_KMcIntosh/status/692248201231896577 I decided to tweet it, and got a lot of positive feedback. So I decided to tweet another, and another, and another. The project soon snowballed, attracting hundreds of views each day. Due to its success, my once small personal project is now set to become part of The Courier's website and will focus mainly on local news from Dundee, Angus, Fife, and Perth and Kinross. In the last six months I have discovered that not much has changed in a century of journalism – the journalistic ancestors of the current Courier reporters still wrote about court cases, car crashes, fires and local tragedies, alongside events such as fêtes and milestone birthdays. https://twitter.com/C_KMcIntosh/status/747685970636509185 The only obvious difference is the extensive coverage given to the First World War – almost daily there is mention of injury and death suffered by local men, as well as coverage of the national situation. Seeing the young men who gave the ultimate sacrifice has always been one of the most haunting aspects of the project as the vast majority are far younger than my 30 years. https://twitter.com/C_KMcIntosh/status/743337324583366656 In repeating their stories, it shows that the war was not won by a large faceless entity called "the army" or "the navy" or even the "Royal Flying Corps" (as the RAF was then) but by individuals with names, personalities and families left to mourn them. https://twitter.com/C_KMcIntosh/status/740447027616616448 However within the pages are also the lighter stories - a VC winner marrying his sweetheart, a tiny tot entertaining troops with her virtuoso skills on a piano and kind-hearted locals looking for ways to assist the wounded on the home front. Also featured are issues affecting the then-booming jute trade, and bizarre tales from court – such as a publican who claimed he had served only ginger beer, and not whisky, past closing time. https://twitter.com/C_KMcIntosh/status/683550875210526720 My own personal favourite is a story from March 21 1916, when a German man, who had escaped a Japanese prison camp and was travelling back home, was caught hiding in his wife's suitcase while trying to avoid a British inspection in Kirkwall. Fellow passengers on her ship had become suspicious after noting her massive appetite. So join us as we travel back 100 years and revive the tragic, poignant and downright bonkers news that history has left behind.

Perth & Kinross

Man stole bag from Perth pensioner

November 30 2016

A thief stole an elderly woman’s handbag as she walked home from the shop. David Edevane targeted Irena Miller in broad daylight as she walked through the grounds of Perth’s AK Bell Library. Believing the tugging on her bag strap to be someone she knew, the 73-year-old loosened her hold on the bag, only for Edevane to grab it and make off. Fiscal depute Craig Donald told the court: “The complainer is 73 years old. She was at the locus and was carrying shopping in her right hand, with her bag over her left shoulder. “It was around 1pm and she was returning home, but was followed by the accused. “She felt a tug on her handbag and she initially thought it was someone she knew and for that reason she relaxed her arm. The accused then took the bag and ran off towards Leonard Street.” He added that the bag contained £60 but only £20 was recovered. Solicitor Paul Ralph said that Edevane had cooperated with police by showing them where the bag was hidden and that he was dealing with addiction issues. Edevane, of Greyfriars, Perth, admitted stealing a handbag and it’s contents from Ms Miller in the grounds of the AK Bell Library on August 14 this year. Sheriff Lindsay Foulis imposed 200 hours of unpaid work and a supervision order. He also ordered the 30-year-old to pay £40 compensation.