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Perth & Kinross

Luxury resort near Gleneagles is back on course

July 1 2016

Six years after the global economic crash undermined plans to roll out an exclusive gated community, championship golf course and luxury hotel near Gleneagles, the gWest International Resort is back on course. When the original plans for a 170-home project financed by the Highland Spring al-Tajir family were first unveiled in 2007 the Perthshire development carried a projected £500 million price tag. Now Ochil Developments (UK) has resumed work on the 650-acre site, where 120,000 trees have already been planted. Plots up to four acres carry seven figure price tags. The developers revealed the second phase will include a suite-only “ultra-luxury hotel,” spa, shooting school and fishing. Project director Stuart Davie confirmed: “We are back up and at it. It is a major milestone for us. “When this project was first mooted the world economy was in a good place. No one anticipated the scale of the financial troubles back in 2010 but the al-Tajir family have never lost their belief in the gWest project. “They have backed it to the hilt and remain committed to ensuring this development is successful, for Perthshire and for Scotland. The family have always been comfortable with the level of investment required. “The al-Tajirs have committed heavily to Scotland through Highland Spring and Blackford Farms. “The gWest International Resort in Scotland was always a long-term commitment and it is something unique to this country.” Names linked to the development have included Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Sean Connery. Mr Davie said: ““Sir Alex is a friend of the family and visits on occasion when he is in this part of the world. We have heard all the rumours and just sit back and chuckle. “We believe there will be a number of wealthy Scots who will buy here, primarily ex-pats. But we are in a global market and prospective buyers will come from different parts of the world.” The 18-hole golf course, designed by top Scots architect David McLay Kidd – a native of nearby Auchterarder - has been played only by a select handful of wealthy businessmen since it was completed. Work on the clubhouse also went on hold during the recession. Mr Davie revealed major investment will enhance the golf course, which will be a private members club in the vein of Loch Lomond and The Renaissance. He said: “We have re-commenced phase one of the project, incorporating completion of the clubhouse and the golf course, the entrance gateway, nearly 6km of roadways and opening-up the first 26 plots. A five-bedroom show house will be opened in July next year. “The clubhouse has been wind and watertight since 2012. It has been sitting there ready to go and now we have the green light to work on the interior and we have a 10 month period for completion. In resurrecting the development, a 13-strong green keeping team has begun fine-tuning the par 72 championship course. Mr Davie said: “While the Ryder Cup nearby at Gleneagles - and the weather - certainly helped show off the area we haven’t piggy-backed on that in my shape or form. “Work on the course started in 2007 and was completed two years later. Our green staff took over maintenance from the contractor in 2010. “In 2013 we invited 64 of Scotland’s foremost business people to play the course. "All we wanted was a crit and the feedback was very positive in terms of playability, its location and its vista. “The location is here glorious, quite stunning.”

Perth & Kinross

Military Tattoo chiefs plan historic Perth visit

August 4 2016

Perth is getting ready for its first ever military tattoo. Bosses at the Edinburgh Castle spectacular have confirmed they will visit the Fair City for a one-one performance later this month. Around 400 performers will march from South Inch, along Tay Street to North Inch on Sunday, August 21. The daytime event will mark the 750th anniversary of the Treaty of Perth. The historic document ended a bitter conflict between Scotland and Norway and a copy will go on show in the city later this year. It was signed on July 2, 1266, by Magnus VI of Norway and King Alexander III of Scotland at the Blackfriars monestary on the northern edge of the city. The treaty settled the sovereignty of the Hebrides, Isle of Man, Shetland and Orkney. The procession will form at the South Inch from 10.45am and will be led into the city centre by local bands and youth groups. Elements of this year's huge Edinburgh show will perform a mini-Tattoo, offering a 50-minute sample of the internationally-renowned pageant. Perth provost Liz Grant said it was a great boost for the city, which is currently hosting the poignant Weeping Window poppies display. "We are absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to host this prestigious event in Perth," she said. "It will no doubt be a breath-taking display of military choreography. "I am especially looking forward to the show of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo centrepiece acts and the involvement of our very own Perth and District Pipe Band, who will bring a very colourful and joyful focus to the event." It is hoped the tattoo will help strengthen Perth's bid for City of Culture status, which will formally launch two days before. Brigadier David Alfrey, chief executive and producer of the tattoo, said: "Perth is an exquisite city, rich in highland heritage and Scottish culture. The city and the venue on the banks of the River Tay offers us a perfect stage for a 'taste of the tattoo.' "This is the Tattoo's first ever visit to the city and so, for us and some of the visiting international acts, this is a special occasion." He added: "I hope we will entertain and inspire a Perth crowd on a perfect Sunday afternoon. It should be a colourful and fun occasion in its own right and may encourage some folk to come to Edinburgh to see the full show in all its glory." The Tattoo launched its 2016 programme in Edinburgh this week and is expected to draw crowds of 220,000 spectators from across the globe. Each year the international brand showcases a phenomenal mix of military pageantry, music, dance and technical wizardry.

Angus & The Mearns

Montrose murder trial: Head found in suitcase

December 8 2016

The severed head of a missing mother-of-three was found inside a suitcase at an empty flat in Montrose, a murder trial has heard. The head was wrapped in two bin liners and tied up with a necklace. Police forced their way into the property at William Phillips Drive and found the suitcase and a pink rucksack hidden inside a shower unit. The grim discovery was made on November 5, last year - just days after Kimberley MacKenzie was reported missing. Steven Jackson, 40, and Michelle Higgins, 28, deny murdering Miss McKenzie and cutting up her body. The pair are further accused of disposing of body parts in bins around the town. Jurors heard that Higgins was found with a key to the William Phillips Drive property when she was detained by police In Aberdeen. Detective Constable Victor Whyte told the court that the suitcase and rucksack were taken from the flat to Dundee mortuary for examination. He said they were carefully opened by scientists, biologists and forensic officers. Mr Whyte said that inside the suitcase was Miss MacKenzie's head and two thighs. Jurors were shown pictures of the black bags found inside the case. The bag containing the head was knotted and had a necklace looped around the end, Mr Whyte said. Inside the pink rucksack was more bags containing Miss MacKenzie's left knee and lower leg and her left arm and hand. Lady Rae warned jurors and members of the public before showing a photograph of a hand inside a thin plastic bag. Another image showed blood stains and damage to the rucksack. Murray Pete, a mark enhancement recovery officer for the Scottish Police Authority, said that a fingerprint was found under the knot on the back which contained the head. He said further prints were found on a Skean Dhu dagger, which was recovered by police from behind a box in Jackson's living room. More fingerprints were found on a steam cleaner at the property. The trial heard that Higgins was detained by police in Aberdeen on November 6, the day after the body parts were discovered. Detective Constable Kim Duncan, 31, said that her colleagues had traced Higgins, and her boyfriend David Melville, to Market Street in the city centre. As she sat in the back of the car, Higgins burst into tears. She told DC Duncan she understood why she was being detained. "It's that lassie Kim," she said. "It's common knowledge that she had been murdered." Higgins went on tell how Jackson had been Miss MacKenzie's boyfriend and that she herself had also been in a relationship with Jackson for about three weeks. Higgins said she had gathered her belongings and left Jackson's house days earlier, when he was spending a weekend in the cells. She added: "It happened on Monday." DC Duncan said: "I didn't know what she was referring to and I didn't ask her about it." But when questioned about what she said to DC Duncan during a police interview, she said: "I never said it happened on Monday. I never said he murdered anybody on Monday."   Accused: "It's the end of the world" After he was detained by police, Steven Jackson told an officer: "It's the end of the world." Police Inspector David Small, 40, said he visited Jackson in his cell on November 5. The court heard that Jackson had voluntarily attended at the police station in Montrose in the early hours of that morning. He was later moved to a custody suite in Dundee. Insp Small said he was called in to process an application to extend Jackson's detention from 12 to 24 hours. Mr Small said that he had been told Jackson was unfit for interview "due to episodes of psychosis." He was told this may have been "alcohol induced." Asked if he wanted to respond to the time extension, Jackson replied: "It's the end of the world." The trial also heard that Higgins was given a medical examination prior to her police interview. Under cross examination by Mark Stewart QC - representing Higgins - Detective Constable Nicola Annan said she was present during the check and noticed an injury on Higgin's body, possibly the left thigh. "She had SJ scratched into her skin," she said.   The trial continues.

Perth & Kinross

Perth and Kinross Council makes bid for £1.8bn Tay Cities Deal

February 10 2017

Councillors have unanimously agreed to set the ball rolling on a bid for a £1.8 billion package of investment which could unlock thousands of jobs and projects. Perth and Kinross Council has teamed up with local authorities in Fife, Angus and Dundee on a "once in a lifetime" application for Tay Cities Deal money. If successful, it could provide crucial funding for a range of local projects including the Cross Tay Link Road (CTLR), much improved bus and railway stations and the transformation of Perth City Hall. The bid was approved at Thursday's full council meeting, despite criticism that there were no sports projects on a wishlist of investment for the area. David Littlejohn, who heads the Tay Cities Deal, told councillors Live Active Leisure's PH20 project — a redevelopment of the city's pool — had been considered for inclusion but the proposal "wasn't particularly well constructed" at that time and needed more work. Mr Littlejohn said he hoped an indicative offer of money from the Scottish and UK governments, along with a finalised list of investments, would be made by the end of the summer. Councillor Lewis Simpson raised concerns about funding for the Cross Tay Link Road project, which represented about 20% of the bid. Calling for assurances that others would also back the new bridge, Mr Simpson said: "I wouldn't want us to be wasting our time and money on a project if it isn't going to be completed." Council leader Ian Miller said he was confident the council was in an "excellent position" to commence negotiations with both governments, but stressed that "nothing is guaranteed". He added: "The Perth and Kinross economy is growing. Our ability to further accelerate that growth and prosperity will rely, to a great extent, on the success of this bid. "I want to see Perth and Kinross at the forefront of the modernisation and innovation process. It's not good enough for us to be playing catch up, we need to be ahead of the game and leading int whichever field we can." Mr Miller said: "This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to do all these things and more. "This is something we should all be fighting for because everyone in the area stands to benefit." Councillor John Kellas described the proposals as "exciting projects which will form the basis of an extraordinary legacy for Perth and Kinross". Councillor Peter Barrett added: "If the Tay Cities Deal is to become the economic powerhouse for the region, then we need the tools and power and the investment of confidence and trust to deliver on that deal. "We need to get the message out to communities that this isn't just a list of multi-million-pound projects, its about their wellbeing and prosperity and ensuring our young people have a brighter future, while giving everyone a better quality of life."

Perth & Kinross

Leisure boating to become regular sight on River Tay

July 3 2017

A maritime training charity has struck a deal to launch boat trips on the "massively under-used" River Tay. It is the historic first phase of a highly ambitious plan to transform the waterway into a bustling thoroughfare between Tayside's biggest cities. A limited number of taster sessions were offered as part of a seaside-theme fun day in Perth at the weekend. Now Taymara - Tay Maritime Action - has teamed up with Perth and Kinross Council and the Tay and Earn Trust to offer regular boating trips between now and October. Trips leave new pontoons at Willowgate and Tay Street, near the Ferguson Gallery, offering sails around Elcho Castle and Kinnoull Hill. The scheme is aimed at promoting the regeneration of the Fair City's key waterway and is expected to bring in tourists from near and far. The long-term aim is to offer regular water taxi services and leisure cruises between Perth and the new V&A in Dundee. The project has been launched thanks to £700,000 of funding from the Big Lottery's Coastal Communities Fund. Work began on the new pontoons last summer. Award-winning marine moorings specialist Gael Force was appointed to design and install the berths. The council had originally wanted to create a third pontoon at Elcho Castle, but an agreement could not be reached.   David Clarke, who chairs the Tay and Earn Trust, said: "The River Tay is an important and unique asset for Perth City and developing the infrastructure along the inner Tay to improve access and attract visitors to the area is vital. "I am delighted that the pontoons at Willowgate and Fergusson Gallery have now been installed. Overnight day moorings are available at the Willowgate pontoon." Due to tide times, boating trips need to operate during restricted hours and will be weather dependent. A special "back to nature" early river trips will be depart on occasional Sunday mornings. The pontoons represent the first major project to be carried out as part 
of the Perth City Plan, a vision of improvements for the city to rolled out over the next 20 years.

Perth & Kinross

Families flock to Perthshire for traditional Scottish games

August 21 2016

Two of the most popular events in Scotland's Highland Games calendar took place in Perthshire this weekend. Thousands flocked to Highland Gatherings at Crieff and Kinloch Rannoch. Organisers lined up a packed programme of traditional contests, live music and entertainment. The Rannoch gathering dates back to 1881 and was held at Welly Poley Park on Saturday. The show featured a traditional line-up of heavy events, piping, Highland dancing and track and field events. According to organisers, the historic event is the "real deal" and "not specially laid on for tourists". Scores of runners took part in the hill race, up and down Craig Varr. The one-mile event was first introduced in 1958 and was originally intended for shepherds, keepers and local residents. Among the highlights at Crieff's Highland Gathering were a visit from army bands from New Zealand and Nepal. The Ryder Cup was also on display in the arena, watched over by chieftain David Murchie who is a professional at Crieff Golf Club and chairman of the PGA. The gathering introduced a new attraction this year, a Taste of Tartan food marquee offering the best of Scottish fare and local produce. Chef Jason Henderson of Knock Castle spent the afternoon serving up cookery demonstrations and samples. The programme featured traditional competitions including he heavyweight, native heavyweight and light field Scottish championships as well as athletics, cycling and tug o' war contests.  

Angus & The Mearns

Montrose murder trial: Victim’s blood found in ex-boyfriend’s flat

December 14 2016

Blood matching Montrose mum Kimberley MacKenzie's was found throughout her ex-boyfriend's flat, a jury has heard. Forensic biologist Jacqueline Sharp told Glasgow High Court a total of 45 blood spots were found at the Market Street property of murder accused Steven Jackson. Miss MacKenzie's blood was also found on one of his shoes. Ms Sharp said spots of blood were found on a sofa and armchair in the living room, as well as on a glass table and skirting board. More samples were taken from the hallway and bathroom. Asked by Advocate Depute Ashley Edwards if blood found at the bathroom door could have been caused by an injured person being carried into the room, Ms Sharp said: "Yes, that would be one explanation." Under cross examination by Donald Findlay QC, representing Jackson, she also accepted there could be "thousands" of reasons. Miss Sharp said that some of the blood found in the flat had been diluted or smeared as if the area had been washed or cleaned. Jackson, 40, and co-accused Michelle Higgins 29, deny murdering and dismembering Miss MacKenzie. They face further allegations that they disposed of Miss MacKenzie's body parts in bins and cleaned the flat and bath with bleach and caustic soda. The court has heard the 37-year-old died at the flat in October, last year. Forensic scientist Barry Mitchell said traces of DNA matching Jackson were found on the handle of the suitcase which held Miss MacKenzie's severed head and thighs. Traces of Miss MacKenzie's blood were also found on one of Jackson's shoes. Mr Mitchell said the chances of the blood being anyone else's were one in more than a billion. The court heard more of Miss MacKenzie's blood was found on Higgins' mobile phone, underneath its outer casing. DNA and blood matching Miss MacKenzie were also found on a claw hammer found in Jackson's living room. The jury was also told Jackson had texted Miss MacKenzie on October 17 — 10 days before she died. He wrote: "I'm with Mishy now and it would be easier if you stop coming. Please. I really want to make a go of it with her." Miss MacKenzie replied: "Yeah, no probs. I'm sorry I've made things difficult 4 u. What happens when you get gear again. Will still sell me? x" Dr Robert Cumming, who examined Higgins while she was in police custody, told the court she had the initials SJ "carved" on her leg. The trial before Lady Rae continues.

Perth & Kinross

Woodland walk re-opens after extensive tree-cutting op

November 17 2016

A popular woodland trail has re-opened in Perthshire after an extensive forestry operation to storm-proof the area. Around 2,000 tonnes of spruce, fir, larch and birch timber have been removed from Moncrieffe Hill Wood, near Perth, since the summer. The Woodland Trust, which led the four-month project, said the aim was to clear a windswept part of the site, leaving it less susceptible. Thinning has left room for remaining trees to grow and will let light in to plants on the ground. The area will now be fenced off to keep deer from eating the new young trees and native saplings will be planted next year. A trust spokesman said: "The track upgrade has also been completed to improve the muddy section of path on the green marked route. "We thank everyone who enjoys the wood for their patience during these works, when some path closures were necessary." He added: "The wood now has enhanced habitat and is in good condition to face future storms." Moncrieffe Hill is one of 60 sites across Scotland which is managed by the woodland conservation charity. It is one of Scotland's most popular walking routes and differs from other British hills because the routes to the summit - known as Moredun Top - are almost entirely under tree cover. This year, Moncrieffe Hill has been giving up its secrets as part of an archeological dig. A team of staff and volunteers from the Tay Landscape Partnership (TayLP) visited the hill in September in an effort to unearth an impressive prehistoric site. The Iron Age Moredun Top hillfort was an important power centre and was likely to have been occupied for hundreds of years. This year the team have been excavating the interiors to find out what the hillfort was used for. The trust took on its first Scottish wood in 1984 and now looks after nearly 20,000 acres across the country. The trust, which was established in 1972, boasts more than half-a-million supporters. Trustees recently announced the results of its prestigious tree of the year competition. The winner was the Ding Dong copper beech which has stood for generations in the grounds of Prestonpans Primary School in East Lothian. It beat competition from local favourites the Birnam Oak and the mighty oak at Dunkeld where fiddler Niel Gow wrote some of his most famous reels.  

Angus & The Mearns

Montrose murder trial: Victim attacked by variety of weapons

December 13 2016

Montrose mother-of-three Kimberley MacKenzie could have been attacked with as many as five different weapons, a murder trial has heard. A pathologist said the 37-year-old may have been struck with a claw hammer, a skean dhu dagger, a kitchen knife and a sharp-edged paint scraper before her body was cut up with a hacksaw. Steven Jackson, 40, and Michelle Higgins, 29, are on trial at Glasgow High Court, accused of murdering and dismembering Miss MacKenzie in October last year. It is alleged they cut up the 37-year-old up and hid her body parts in wheelie bins around Montrose. The pair deny all charges. Dundee-based forensic pathologist David Saddler described the post mortem examination he carried out on behalf of the crown office. The 53-year-old said that the initial cause of death was recorded as "blunt force injuries". However, after extra information was passed to him by investigators, a further microscopic analysis of neck tissues was carried out and a second cause was recorded as "incision wound to the neck." Dr Saddler initially disagreed with the findings of a second post mortem, which ruled the majority of stab wounds were made while Miss MacKenzie was still alive. But after further questioning by Advocate Depute Ashley Edwards QC, he accepted this was a possibility. He said the largest stab wound penetrated a lung. Under cross-examination by Donald Findlay QC - representing Jackson - Dr Saddler said there was "no evidence" Miss MacKenzie's jugular vein was cut while she was still alive. However, when re-examined by Ms Edwards he said that there was an apparent incision on the right side of Miss MacKenzie's neck. He said that this may have been recorded as a laceration - an injury caused by a blunt instrument - by mistake. The court heard that blows to the head had shattered parts of Miss MacKenzie's skull, including her cheek bone, eye socket, jaw and right temple. Dr Saddler said that traces of white paint were found in a head wound, suggesting Miss MacKenzie had been assaulted using a paint scraper. He told the court that a hacksaw was used to cut up her body into 12 pieces. Jurors heard that a neuropathological report concluded that "the interval between injury and final circulation to the brain" was a minimum of one hour, although Dr Saddler said he could not comment on this.


Brother of David Haines ramps up peace campaign

August 11 2016

The brother of murdered aid worker David Haines has stepped up his global quest for peace. Mike Haines launched the campaign Global Acts of Unity following the brutal death of his brother at the hands of IS militants. He has travelled the world, speaking to the heads of religious organisations, including Pope Francis at the Vatican, and promoting inter-religious tolerance and unity against extremism. He has also given talks at schools up and down the country. Now Mr Haines, from Dundee, has unveiled a new logo and website to help spread his message. A new banner, in striking blue and red, includes a silhouette image of the two brothers. In an emotional video to mark the next phase of his campaign, Mr Haines said: "David wasn't a hero because he was my brother, but because he did go and help his fellow man." As the third anniversary of David's death approaches, Mr Haines added: "If I hate, then they win. Hate divides. "So if I can stand up, the brother of a murdered man, and say: Let's talk together, let's listen to each other, then that has to have a certain value." Speaking about his journey, he said: "I have met people that I would never have come across in the past, so many fantastic people and organisations which are really making a difference." Mr Haines added: "I questioned about how effective my talks would be, but I have come to see that actually, it is effective. "It is helping to change." David was one of several hostages captured and beheaded by IS. A video of his murder, at the heads of notorious terrorist Jihadi John, sent shockwaves across the world. The father-of-two, a former Perth Academy pupil, had been working in Syria for the charity Acted, delivering humanitarian aid to war-torn communities, when he was snatched. His capture was kept a secret for 18 months as the government desperately tried to secure his release. He was killed in September, 2013. Describing the moments after learning of David's fate, Mr Haines previously said: "Horrifying images of my brother's death haunt me and have brought me many dark, sleepless nights. "On the eve of my brother's memorial service, I called on everyone, every community, every faith, to undertake a single act of unity - one simple gesture, one act, one moment - that draws people together." To find out more visit www.globalactsofunity.com