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Business comment

Local priorities must not be lost

June 14 2017

Concerns, I have a few. After what Malcolm Tucker could only describe as an omnishambles of an election, Theresa May and her acolytes are trying their damndest to cling on to power. But whether that is in the country’s best interests or their own is very much a subject for debate. From a business perspective, the political machinations at Westminster are much more than a distracting sideshow. Make no mistake, instability at the highest levels of government and uncertainty about our future economic path will be the dominant subject in boardrooms up and down the country right now. And when that’s the case, a period of lower investment, slower growth, fewer new jobs and economic morass often follows. Only time will tell if that is the case here, but with the Brexit negotiations so close at hand it is hard to imagine our large corporates being happy to dispense with their largesse right now. If I were them, I too would be looking at the rainy days ahead and putting aside some pennies, especially when the UK’s negotiating strategy is so ill-defined and our hand so weak. The Brexit vote left the UK economically isolated and I accept that Theresa May has had to play the cards as they were dealt. But by calling a disastrous election, she let her guard down and handed the other high stakes poker players round the EU negotiating table an unintended advantage at a crucial moment. It was a spectacular own goal and one I fear the UK may rue long after Theresa May, David Davis and Michael Gove are consigned to being names in modern studies textbooks. Away from the Brexit negotiations, there are other domestic priorities I hope don’t get lost in this political whirlwind. The key one for this part of the world is the Tay Cities Deal, the UK and Scottish Government-backed investment package that is so vital to the long-term prosperity of Dundee, Perth, Angus and north-east Fife. City deals are already providing investment and jobs in other areas of Scotland but until the ink is dry on the Tay Cities package then none of us should rest easy. The economic health of this region depends on it. ghuband@thecourier.co.uk


Award-winning Tayside song writer Eddie Cairney immortalises Queensferry Crossing in tune

October 25 2017

An award-winning Tayside song writer who immortalised the 50th anniversary of the Tay Road Bridge in music last year has released an EP which pays tribute to the newly opened Queensferry Crossing over the Forth. Perth-born Eddie Cairney, 65, who now lives in Arbroath, has released an album called ‘Sketches o' the QC’ which includes songs dedicated to the “isolated” workers who were employed during construction and contrasts the old Forth Road Bridge to the new crossing with its wind shields designed to keep traffic flowing during storms. Eddie, who delayed the release of the album due to family illness and bereavement, said: “It's just another quirky album like I did for the Tay Road Bridge. https://youtu.be/Z6BblA_Zev4 “As you can probably imagine, how do you write six songs about a bridge? “I usually end up using a process of creative journalism. I get a few facts or even just a single fact and then I let my imagination take over. “With each album early on in the writing process I draw a blank and think there's nothing here I can write about but there's always something to write about. “You just have to hang around long enough and it comes eventually. https://youtu.be/a9NyQAFjDsY “I just took threads from here and there. I was going to call the album The Queensferry Crossing but thought that was a bit boring so I went for Sketches o' the Q.C. “It introduces a bit of ambiguity. If you Google the name you get lots of drawings of court scenes!” Eddie was inspired to write Columba Cannon after reading an article about the general foreman for the foundations and towers. https://youtu.be/y_y1y8oV7vo Eddie said: “It was the name that got me and that gave me the first line of the song "He is a bridge builder wi a missionary zeal" Has to be with a name like Columba!” Fishnet bridge was set in a meditative light, describing the bridge as a “thing of beauty that looks like a big fish net glistening high above the Forth but it is a symbolic fishnet with the song taking the form of an imaginary conversation with the bridge.” https://youtu.be/dJgsl2WQ5G0   “Midday starvation came from an article which highlighted the isolation of the workers working high up on the bridge,” he added. https://youtu.be/Dme-bfCXHRI “If you forget your piece you've had it and you starve for there's no nipping round to the corner shop for a pie. The article also said that a local pizza delivery firm regularly delivered a pallet load of warm pizzas to the bridge so that was "midday salvation"! Meanwhile, The boys frae the cheese is a play on words. https://youtu.be/phtQ2-Xx1I0 He added: “I read an article that said The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) could have acted sooner and avoided the costly closure of the bridge at the end of 2015.” Eddie is no stranger to music and song influenced by Dundee and wider Scottish history. In 2015 he featured in The Courier for his efforts to put the complete works of Robert Burns to music. With a piano style influenced by Albert Ammons, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim, and a song-writing style influenced by Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and Randy Newman, the former Perth High School pupil, who wrote the 1984 New Zealand Olympic anthem, has organised a number of projects over the years including the McGonagall Centenary Festival  for Dundee City Council in 2002. Last year’s Tay Road Bridge album included a tribute to 19th century poet William Topas McGonagall and also honoured Hugh Pincott – the first member of the public to cross the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y51tixl9GEs Thanks to The Courier, he also became one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing  when it opened to the public in the early hours of August 30.

Angus & The Mearns

Passchendaele heroes added to Dundee war roll

August 10 2017

Three members of a Dundee family who survived the Battle of Passchendaele have been added to the city’s roll of honour. The Great War Dundee Project is the story of the 30,490 men that left the city to fight in the first world war and of the people left at home. Dundee gave 63% of its eligible men to the armed forces and the directory was updated following Saturday’s Courier article about the role the city’s Johnston brothers played in the war. Of the five Johnston brothers, Frank, Walter, David and Peachy were artillerymen, and the fifth, John, was an army doctor. Frank and Walter’s entries have now been updated while David, Peachy and John have now had entries created in the returnee section of the honour roll. Gary Thomson from the Great War Dundee Project said: “Following Saturday’s Courier article on the five Johnston brothers who served in the war, with both Frank and Walter paying the ultimate sacrifice and the fact that Frank, for reasons unknown is not recognised as a casualty of war, the Great War Dundee Project has updated the entries for both Frank and Walter on the new roll of honour. “Dundee paid a high price for her war efforts. By the armistice, over 4,000 men had made the ultimate sacrifice. “Their names are recorded in the city’s original roll of honour, a simple alphabetical list of names, ranks and regiments. “Over the years mistakes and omissions have been discovered by families viewing the list resulting in handwritten corrections to the record.” Mr Thomson said one of Great War Dundee’s main objectives is to produce an “inclusive, fully searchable online roll of Dundonians who contributed to the war effort” and in doing so honour the men and women who lost their lives and those who survived. He added: “Due to the fact that Frank was not recognised as a casualty his entry on the original Dundee Roll of Honour was very sparse with only his name and regiment listed. “Saturday’s article allowed us to contact Frank’s relative who provided us with a fantastic amount on information about Frank and Walter which have been added to their entry. “Not only that but the three brothers who survived, David, John and Peachy have now have entries created, in the returnee section of the honour roll. “It is thanks to people like Douglas that these entries now have added information and photos.” Frank is believed to have been wounded in Flanders in 1917 and he endured a prolonged and difficult death in November 1919 in a private nursing home in Dundee as a result of his injuries. The family have been unable to provide sufficient independent corroboration that he died directly of his war wounds as his army records have not survived. Frank’s great nephew Douglas Norrie from near Arbroath is trying to find documentary evidence to correct this. David and Frank were both with the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) and their batteries of large long range howitzers were deployed at Corps level and primarily used to attack specific enemy targets, particularly enemy artillery. Walter and Peachy served with the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) with their respective brigades being attached to infantry divisions and their smaller, highly portable field guns being used in support of infantry. The fifth of the brothers, Captain (Dr) John McPherson Johnston was a doctor and served with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and was awarded the Silver War Badge after being discharged with TB.

UK & World

Are Oasis reforming for Manchester tribute gig?

June 1 2017

Rumours are circulating that Britpop legends Oasis are re-forming for a benefit gig in their home city of Manchester this weekend. The speculation was kick-started by a member of The Black Eyed Peas, who tagged the group in a post about Ariana Grande's One Love Manchester show on Sunday. The concert was organised in the wake of the Manchester Arena terror attack last week, which left 22 dead and a further 64 injured. Free tickets have been offered for Grande fans who attended the concert which was targeted by an alleged suicide bomber. Katy Perry, Take That, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus and Usher will all play alongside the US pop star at the concert. Taboo Nawasha, a member of the Black Eyed Peas, tweeted about the gig; tagging all the musicians and bands that will play at the Old Trafford Cricket Grounds. Oasis were included in the original tweet, which was quickly deleted. https://twitter.com/TabBep/status/869907050691608579 https://twitter.com/TabBep/status/869906670436007937?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fmetro.co.uk%2F2017%2F05%2F31%2Fwhen-and-how-to-watch-ariana-grandes-one-love-manchester-concert-6675547%2F https://twitter.com/TabBep/status/869907050691608579 Nawasha then posted that he had made a mistake and put the mention of the rock group down to "human error". Classic Oasis single Don't Look Back in Anger rose up the charts last week after the people of Manchester adopted it in the wake of the terror attack. Oasis are among Manchester’s most famous and cherished musical exports, though the band split up in 2009. They are one of the most symbolic groups of the 1990s and the Britpop era. The band was fronted by brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, who have been at loggerheads since the split. https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/uk-world/434338/video-beautiful-moment-people-manchester-turn-silent-tribute-oasis-dont-look-back-anger-articleisfree/ However commenting on the rumours on Radio 1, Liam said though he is "up for it" - it wouldn't be possible due to his solo commitments in Germany this weekend.  


Craig Whyte cleared of fraudulent Rangers takeover

June 6 2017

Former Rangers owner Craig Whyte has been cleared of a fraudulent takeover of the club. The jury returned a not guilty majority verdict after a six-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow. Whyte was accused of acquiring Rangers by fraud in May 2011. He denied the charge, and another under the Companies Act. The Crown alleged the 46-year-old pretended to then-owner Sir David Murray that funds were "immediately available" on an "unconditional basis" to make all required payments for a controlling and majority stake in the Glasgow club. https://twitter.com/ConnorGillies/status/872064367155662848 Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC told the court Whyte did not have authority over the funds used in the takeover and "induced" the Murray Group to sell, but defence QC Donald Findlay described the accused as "the fall guy" in the case. After two hours of deliberations, the jury found Whyte not guilty on both charges. Judge Lady Stacey told Whyte: "You have been acquitted and are free to leave the dock." He thanked the judge and jury before leaving the courtroom, where a small group of people were watching on from the public gallery. During the trial, the court was told the sale of Rangers was eventually made to Whyte for £1, but came with obligations to pay an £18 million bank debt, a £2.8 million "small tax case" bill, £1.7 million for stadium repairs, £5 million for players and £5 million in working capital. The trial heard that Whyte arranged a £24 million loan from financial firm Ticketus against three years of future season ticket sales before he took control of Rangers. Mr Findlay said his client had met the conditions of the sale by paying the debt and investing in the club. He blamed Sir David's advisers, saying they "let him down very badly" in the deal and did not ask where the takeover money was coming from. Summing up the defence case, Mr Findlay said: "They were not interested in where the money came from and we know this absolutely categorically."


REVIEW – Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer, Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy.

September 18 2017

What do you get if you take an 'underground psychedelic freak-ball', the 'doyenne of the spoken word scene' and add a hint of inspiration behind the world's most famous grunge rock legends? The answer could be found at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy on Saturday night when East Neuk-based musician James Yorkston held the fifth of his eclectic and highly successful live music events Tae Sup Wi' A Fifer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA0X3kGWCJc The Vaselines - the late grunge god Kurt Cobain's favourite band - performed a rare acoustic set as a duo. Cobain covered the Glasgow indie band's Molly's Lips and Son of a Gun as well as Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam at Nirvana's legendary MTV Unplugged session in 1993. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJrX_NbGgKk However, Vaselines duo Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee, who've only performed together a handful of times in recent years, made the stripped back versions their own with renditions that suited the intimacy of the Kirkcaldy venue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piavfDPr4Ww Kelly joked that McKee was "about five years old" when Son of a Gun was written 30 years ago - a time when Kelly certainly had more hair! Ahead of The Vaselines, BBC Radio 2 folk award nominees Marry Waterson - the daughter of English folk legend Lal Waterson - and David A Jaycock - the afore-mentioned "underground psychedelic freak-ball" - defied a number of broken guitar strings to play a spine tingling and at times haunting set.  They were followed by London-based poet, performer and author Salena Godden who, as well as being regarded as "the doyenne..." has also been described as "everything the Daily Mail is terrified of". Her thought provoking, light hearted yet hard hitting readings promoted making soup not war, saw red over the so-called #Tampontax and in her exploration of life and death's complexities, described anyone who commits suicide under 40 as effectively "killing a stranger"!  Tae Sup Wi A Fifer began life in 2015 when James Yorkston - associated with Fife's legendary Fence Collective - was invited to curate some nights for the Adam Smith Theatre. It has gone on to develop a reputation for its quality, diverse line-ups and laid-back welcoming nature with the likes of Steve Mason, Karine Polwarth and Dick Gaughan all having performed since. That blend of well-known and lesser-known names continues on November 25 when the next Tae Sup features Radiohead drummer Philip Selsey who has built up a body of solo work.  He will be joined on the bill by David Thomas Broughton and Mercury-nominated songsmith Kathryn Williams. It Taks A Lang Spoon Tae Sup Wi A Fifer, according to the old saying, but it's well worth reaching out for!


Dundee band kicking up a Stoor at Jockrock 20th anniversary celebration in Glasgow

October 20 2017

Dundee quartet Stoor are taking part in the 20th anniversary Jockrock which takes place in Glasgow on October 20. Scottish’s longest-running indie music website Jockrock.org celebrates two decades since it crept onto the web (and into print) with a show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1GHIaynMtA Ballboy, Mitchell Museum, Stoor and David MacGregor (of Kid Canaveral) will perform at Stereo. It’s an early gig, doors at 7pm, with the throng able to retire across the road for DJs including Jim Gellatly spinning the finest moments in Scottish indie rock from the past 20 years until the wee sma’ hours. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlh5w7mWgUc The Jockrock indie music website appeared on the web sometime around late 1996 - the exact date unknown - initially as a collection of reviews shared through the nascent internet, compiled into a short-lived paper fanzine and followed by a radio show  before adding on its notorious but vital forum and finally coming to rest at its domain jockrock.org. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vJdBr7hs1k As for Stoor, they formed from the fumes of the original West Port bar in Dundee and distilled from earlier Dundee punk/New Wave bands, have been a presence on the Scottish music scene since the 1990s. The nuclear core of the band (Scott Mckinlay, drums; Stef Murray, bass and vocals; Ross Matheson, guitar) fused over their love of punk, film and TV themes and the Kinks to name but three influences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZM8oNX8M3s Over the years other members have come and gone with the present fourth member being Davie Youngblood on guitar. *Stoor, Jockrock, Stereo Café Bar, Glasgow, October 20 www.stereocafebar.com

Business news

SSE chief’s pay packet soars

June 19 2017

The chief executive of energy giant SSE, who recently hit out at proposals to save consumers £100-a-year by capping bills, has been awarded a 72% pay rise. The hike, which takes Alistair Phillips-Davies’ earnings for 2017 to £2.92m from £1.7million last year, has been condemned as “absolutely outrageous” by a consumer campaign group. SSE, which increased the profit margin it makes on household bills from 6.2% to 6.9% in the 2016-17 financial year, more than doubled its annual pre-tax profits during the period to £1.5billion, according to results published last month. The company said it recognised executives were paid “substantial sums,” but added it was “disciplined in its approach to pay”. Mr Phillips-Davies’ pay for the year to March 31 was revealed in SSE’s annual report. In addition to a £20,000 increase in his salary to £844,000, his annual bonus more than doubled to £910,000. He also received £644,000 under a long-term performance share plan and a £502,000 contribution to his pension. SSE’s financial director Gregor Alexander also saw his pay soar from £1.3 million to £2.2mi in the same period. Mr Phillips-Davies challenged election proposals by the Conservatives and Labour to cap standard variable tariffs, which it was claimed see householders paying a total of £1.4 billion over the odds for energy. In an article published last month, he said: “As a major energy supplier we believe customers’ best interests is served by competition, not caps.” Of the big six energy suppliers SSE has, at 91%, the highest proportion of customers on standard variable tariffs. In April the company warned consumers to expect their bills to go up by around 7%. Campaigning collective consumer switch company The Big Deal took to social media to airs its fury at the chief executive’s pay rise. The organisation wrote: “SSE put their prices up then give their CEO a £1.2 million pay rise. That’s a 72% increase. Absolutely outrageous.” Will Hodson of The Big Deal described it as a “slap in the face for SSE’s millions of customers.” In a statement, SSE said: “We recognise executives are paid substantial sums in line with their responsibilities, but at SSE executive remuneration is strongly linked to performance and length of service and the company has been and always will be disciplined in its approach to pay. “We would encourage people to read the remuneration report in full.”


‘Forgotten’ Carse of Gowrie farmer credited with bringing giant redwood seeds to Scotland

August 19 2017

An American botanic and natural science illustrator is travelling to Dundee on Sunday to give a talk about giant redwood trees – and the role played by “forgotten” 19th century Perthshire fruit farmer Patrick Matthew who, it is believed,  introduced them to Scotland. Peggy Edwards will visit the Dundee University Botanic Gardens to talk about the Californian Sequoiadendron giganteum – the ‘giant redwood’ – and its historical journey from America to the Carse of Gowrie in 1853. James Veitch and William Lobb, from Exeter, have previously taken the prize of being the first to introduce the seeds to Scotland. But Ms Edwards, who lives in California, says it is now widely recognised that Matthews’ seed stock arrived first. She said: “I've always had a keen interest in the British plant hunters who went to America in the 19th century - so many of our species in California bear their names, David Douglas (Douglas Fir), Archibald Menzies etc. “I have been visiting Scotland for 10 years and found out about the Matthew redwoods while researching the history of the 12 redwoods on Gillies Hill near Cambusbarron, Stirling. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Matthew redwood seeds were sent to Patrick Matthew by his son, John, several months before Lobb brought his seeds and saplings to England. “After collecting seed in the grove in June 1853, John Matthew sent by steamer to his father back in Scotland, a packet of Giant Sequoia seeds, a branch from an 1800 year old tree,  a sketch of the tree, and a letter describing the grove. The shipment arrived on  August 18, 1853.” The talk is a pre-event for a Patrick Matthew Memorial Project event being organised by the Carse of Gowrie Sustainability Group on September 29. It follows controversy as to whether Patrick Matthew came up with the idea of ‘natural selection’ amongst humans 30 years before Englishman Charles Darwin published Origin of the Species in November 1859. Last year Dr Mike Sutton, a criminologist at Nottingham Trent University, claimed Scotland had been denied a “science hero” and that a “great injustice” had been done. He said his evidence suggested Darwin, who always denied plagiarism, must not only have been aware of Matthew’s work but borrowed heavily from it. Sutton’s findings have recently been published in a book ‘Nullius in Verba – Darwin’s Greatest Secret’. But it has prompted a bitter and ongoing war of words with Darwin author Julian Derry maintaining that Sutton’s work is “lazy” and mostly “fiction”, and that his methods, ideas and interpretation are all “flawed”. Sutton has defended his position, telling The Courier: “Obviously, the independently verifiable facts that I have originally discovered and published in peer reviewed journal articles and books about Charles Darwin and Patrick Matthew are a significant threat to the Darwin Industry and Darwin super fans alike. “Unable to respond to the facts honestly in the academic press all we have seen is fact denial behaviour and personal abuse and sully attempts at character assassination directed at me.” The Peggy Edwards talk takes place at Dundee Botanic Gardens from 1.30pm to 3.30pm on Sunday August 20. Entry is by ticket only and these are available from Eventbrite or by emailing carsesus@btinternet.com. For more infromation on the Patrick Matthew Weekend Memorial Project which runs from September 29 to October 1 go to www.carsesus.org

Mike Donachie

This is not a Christmas article

November 6 2017

It may be about Christmas, and it has “Christmas” in the title, but The Nightmare Before Christmas is not a Christmas movie. In a revelation that pleases me – not least because it gives me the opportunity to have The Courier print the word “Christmas” four times in an article’s opening paragraph on the day after Bonfire Night – a leading figure in making the 1993 animated film has settled the issue: it’s a Halloween film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr6N_hZyBCk Henry Selick, who directed the Tim Burton-produced classic, was asked the question at a horror film festival and said the film is about the residents of Halloween Town and how they feel about Christmas. It’s creepy, not jingly. I agree, because I love that film and it doesn’t feel right watching it in December, even if it has Santa and presents. Also, this supports my argument about so-called Christmas films. Brace yourselves. This is controversial. Die Hard is not a Christmas film. Hear me out. I know it’s set at Christmas and it has Christmas music in it. I know it starts with John McClane trying to meet his wife Holly – yes, Holly – at a Christmas party. But that’s it; after that, it’s an action film. The seasonal setting is incidental. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TQ-pOvI6Xo Such is my contention. To qualify, a film must be festive, not just set at Christmas. So, It’s A Wonderful Life meets the standard because, despite its grim theme of attempted self-obliviation, it has that feelgood ending. Elf is a Christmas film because it’s about Christmas spirit. See also Miracle on 34th Street, the Polar Express, and so on. Love Actually isn’t Christmassy, actually, despite that heartbreaking scene with Emma Thompson’s gift, because it’s chiefly a romcom. Or Gremlins. The monsters come from a Christmas gift and even get tangled in a Christmas tree but I submit that the tinsel is irrelevant. Gremlins is a monster movie. Otherwise, you might as well suggest Alien is an Easter movie because it has an egg in it. If you wish to continue this debate, please write in. I can argue this all the way to the New Year.