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Scotland

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."

Travel

Dunkeld — an oasis of tranquility on the banks of the Tay

July 30 2016

If Dunkeld doesn't enjoy Courier Country's most picturesque setting then it must certainly be in the top three. And when the sun is splitting the sky, it is surely second to none. It was one such glorious summer's day when I — with wife and 23 month old son in tow — descended for a spot of midweek R&R. Our billet for the one-night midweek stay was the Atholl Arms Hotel, situated right on the banks of the Tay just as you enter the village from Birnam. On arrival we were presented with the key for room 17 — so far, so unassuming sounding. However, on pushing open the door it was clear our quarters for the night were anything but ordinary. The suite , with views overlooking the Tay, is quite magnificent. Featuring a generous dining table, comfortable sofa, dressing area and en suite, it could very easily accommodate more than a few London studio flats. Suitably impressed we placed our rather modest-by-comparison bags in a corner before heading out to enjoy the sunshine. First on the agenda was a visit to the hotel's new terrace cafe right on the banks of the Tay, adjacent to its car park. After soaking up some rays, and enjoying a quick drink from the well-stocked bar, it was time for an afternoon stroll around the ancient heart of Dunkeld. It had been years since we had visited and we had quite forgotten the majestic setting of the old cathedral, which is a must-see for any visitors to the area. The main part of the building was started in 1260 but not completed for almost two and half centuries, finally being finished in 1501. It is due to this remarkably long construction period that such a mixture of styles are in evidence. In may have stood for several centuries, but there is plenty of evidence of wear and tear in the old structure, with part of the building closed for restoration work following several harsh winters. Nevertheless, part of the cathedral remains open and indeed is in regular use — well worth a look. During our trip, it was too nice a day to spend too long inside so we instead concentrated on the beautiful grounds surrounding the building. With lawns sweeping down to the Tay and plenty of strategically placed benches upon which to spend a moment of quiet contemplation, it is a fantastic place to while away a summer's afternoon. Aside from the cathedral, Dunkeld may be small but it is pretty close to perfectly formed and has a thriving community. There are plenty of independent shops and galleries to poke around in the town centre — not to mention a number of fine cafes and hostelries. Although our stay was all too brief, there are also plenty of opportunities for mountain biking, fishing, horse riding and even some more extreme sports such as quad biking on the doorstep. Next on our agenda, however, was dinner at the Atholl Arms' award winning Riverview restaurant. After ordering a gin and tonic from the bar we perused the menus while enveloped by one of the over-stuffed sofas in the homely reception area. While much of the menu could be described as traditional, the emphasis is on simple, well-prepared and seasonal fayre. The service is similarly uncomplicated and friendly. During our visit, several tables had been pushed together to accommodate what was clearly a group of locals — always a good sign — who could be heard discussing the merits (or otherwise) of everything from the dualling of the A9 to the EU referendum. One of Dunkeld's most famous attributes is its live music scene and, during a brief and very short after-dinner stroll (the requirement to stay within range of the baby monitor is a rigorous limitation indeed) the strum of guitar could be heard from the neighbouring Taybank. This was clearly no organised gig, rather an impromptu gathering of locals who had come together for a drink and sing-song — very tuneful it was too. A notice in palatial Room 17's en suite at the Atholl Arms warns visitors that it is an old hotel and the hot water may take a while to come through the pipes — it is an accurate assessment, but then Dunkeld isn't the kind of place to rush anything. And while a lengthier stay would have been more than welcome, fortified by a full Scottish breakfast, we departed down the A9 feeling genuinely relaxed and refreshed — job done.

Perth & Kinross

Perth and Kinross Matters: New year, new reminder of community spirit

January 8 2018

Communities across Courier country tapped into a pagan past as they welcomed in the New Year. Torchlit processions harnessed the cleansing power of fire in various ceremonies with the Comrie flambeaux the most well known locally. While the origins of the ancient custom are lost in the mists of time, local volunteers enthusiastically maintain the tradition. As midnight fell the torches of thick birch poles with tarred rags bound to the tips were paraded around the village behind a pipe band. The torches were then cast into the waters of the River Earn to signify banishing evil spirits. In Newburgh the Oddfellows torchlit procession was the village’s traditional way to welcome in 2018. While these are two of the better known celebrations, the common theme throughout local villages and towns was the sense of community as people came out onto the streets to mark an occasion together. In times when people’s lives seem to get ever more insular it was a heartening reminder of what makes a community — how individual people interact and work together. This is against a background of a decline in communal activities with pubs closing their doors and attendances at sporting events tumbling. Having spoken up so strongly for community activities you would imagine I spent New Year’s Eve carrying a blazing torch aloft or at least sitting with convivial company in a local pub as the bells chimed. Well...if truth be told I was at home with the curtains drawn leaving the communal camaraderie I have lauded to everyone else. And the lights went off good and early in case any sociable neighbours had the temerity to first foot — Happy New Year!

Fife

Man found guilty of flashing at 13 year-old Kirkcaldy schoolgirl

September 13 2016

A Kirkcaldy man has been found guilty of exposing himself to two females, one a 13-year-old schoolgirl, in separate incidents which occurred in the town in broad daylight. The exposure incidents were accompanied by obscene comments to both females by Leo Stewart and he was also convicted of being in possession of Stanley knife. Stewart, 20, was cleared of a charge of sexually assaulting a woman in Kirkcaldy in an alleged incident in which the victim was dragged into a lane. However, after a four-day trial at Dunfermline Sheriff Court, the jury found Stewart guilty of charges in two incidents which took place ten months apart. On September 22 last year at Appin Crescent, Kirkcaldy, he intentionally exposed his genitals in a sexual manner to a girl then aged 13 and made a sexual remark to her. The young girl was so shocked and upset that she went home and locked the door until her mum returned. On 15th July this year at Balfour Street, Kirkcaldy, Stewart again intentionally exposed his genitals to a female and made a sexual remark. On that occasion he cycled a bike past the victim then turned back and carried out the offence. A police officer saw Stewart on a bike nearby around the same time. Both females identified Stewart as the flasher. His partner Rebecca Williamson,18, gave evidence in court of the clothes and trainers Stewart was wearing on September 22, which matched the description given by the girl. She also told police the flasher was holding a can of the drink ‘Rockstar’. Ms Williamson told the court that Stewart had left her home in Katrine Crescent at lunch-time that day to go to the Bayne’s shop in Templehall to get something to eat. He returned with a can of ‘Rockstar’. He was also found guilty of being in possession of a Stanley knife at the same locus. Stewart, previously of Melrose Crescent, is currently detained at Polmont youth offenders’ institution, He was accused of sexual assault on a woman that took place on September 13 in Birnam Road and Turriff Place, Kirkcaldy. A woman told the court she had been speaking to the man before she was grabbed down a lane and sexually assaulted. The woman identified Stewart as her hooded attacker. As there was no corroboration and the offence was of a different nature to the exposure incidents, Sheriff Craig McSherry upheld a defence motion that there was no case to answer. Sheriff McSherry called for reports and Stewart will be sentenced on October 5. He was remanded in custody and placed on the sex offenders’ register meantime.

Fife

Dog owner jailed after police find pet in appalling conditions

February 9 2017

A Dunfermline man who kept his dog in appalling conditions has been jailed for eight months. Sean Wilkie, 26, of Leny Place, Dunfermline, was finally sentenced after failing to appear in court previously. On that occasion, his co-accused Michael Harris, who kept his dog at Wilkie’s home, was jailed for five months for a similar offence. The two dogs ran out of the property when police broke into it, the court heard. The stench in the property was described as overpowering and officers were appalled by the conditions inside. Wilkie admitted that between 11th February and 11th April last year at his home and elsewhere, being a person responsible for a dog named Tara, he failed to ensure that the needs of the animal were met. He failed to provide a suitable environment for the dog, failed to provide adequate drinking water and food, exposed it to faeces, urine, household waste and debris including a broken mirror and controlled substance paraphernalia, failed to provide adequate exercise, adequate care and treatment for the dog’s coat. Sheriff Craig McSherry jailed Wilkie for eight months and banned him from having care of any animal for five years. Depute fiscal Dev Kapadia previously told Dunfermline Sheriff Court that the police had been called to Wilkie’s home in connection with another matter. They entered by removing a door panel and as the officers entered, the two dogs ran outside. “One of the officers, a police sergeant said in his statement that on looking around it was without doubt one of the worst premises he’d seen in almost 20 years in his job,” Mr Kapadia continued. “The stench was overpowering and the front door had to be kept ajar to allow in fresh air and for the flies to get out.” Officers recaptured the dogs and put them in the living room, which was full of black bags full of discarded food and drink containers which “looked like they had been there for months”. Michael Harris’ emaciated dog Milo had been kept at the home of his friend Wilkie. Sheriff McSherry had told Harris, 26, of Kelty, at his sentencing in December that the condition that the starving dog, Milo, was found in was “disgraceful”. The animal, whose bones were showing through its skin, was kept in a cage surrounded by squalor. The SSPCA were asked to attend the premises to look after the dogs. One of the officers said she had previously seen the animals and they had been in good body condition at that time. “She said there had been an astounding deterioration of the dogs and their living conditions,” Mr Kapadia continued. “When the dogs were released from their cage for the SSPCA inspector to look at them they immediately dived towards the bin bags scavenging for food.”

Fife

“The stench was overpowering” — Fife man jailed after caged pet dog found in emaciated state

December 14 2016

A dog owner, whose pet was found in an emaciated state in a filthy house, has been jailed for five months. A sheriff told Michael Harris that the condition that the starving dog, Milo, was found in was “disgraceful”. The animal, whose bones were showing through its skin, was kept in a cage surrounded by squalor. Michael Harris, 24, of North Drum Street, Kelty, appeared for sentencing at Dunfermline Sheriff Court on Wednesday. He previously admitted that on 11th April at Leny Place, Dunfermline, North Drum Street, Kelty and elsewhere, being responsible for a dog, he failed to take steps to ensure the needs of the animal were met by failing to provide a suitable environment. He failed to provide adequate drinking water and food, exposed the dog to faeces, urine, household waste and debris including a broken mirror and controlled substance paraphernalia. He also failed to provide adequate exercise and adequate care and treatment for the dog’s coat. Harris had given Milo to a friend who also had a dog to look after him and the dog was kept in squalor at that house. Depute fiscal Dev Kapadia said the police had been called to the premises in Leny Place in connection with another matter. They entered by removing a door panel and as the officers entered, Milo and the other dog ran out. “One of the officers, a police sergeant said in his statement that on looking around it was without doubt one of the worst premises he’d seen in almost 20 years in his job,” Mr Kapadia told the court. “The stench was overpowering and the front door had to be kept ajar to allow in fresh air and for the flies to get out,” added the depute. Officers recaptured the dogs and put them in the living room, which was full of black bags full of discarded food and drink containers which “looked like they had been there for  months”. The depute went on, “The dog was severely malnourished and its bones were showing through its skin.” The SSPCA were asked to attend the premises to look after the dogs. One of the officers said she had previously seen the animals and they had been in good body condition at that time. “She said there had been an astounding deterioration of the dogs and their living conditions,” Mr Kapadia continued. “When the dogs were released from their cage for the SSPCA inspector to look at them they immediately dived towards the bin bags scavenging for food.” Asked by police about the dog’s condition, Harris admitted it was “poor”. He said, “I cut the food and it was too low. It wasn’t fair to the dog.” Asked about the filthy conditions, he blamed the police for causing the mess when they entered the house. Defence solicitor Martin McGuire said his client had since signed the dog over into the care of the SSPCA. “He recognises his failings in relation to the care of the dog. Mr Harris allowed him to look after Milo and that was a scenario she not allowed to happen,” said Mr McGuire. He said the householder at Leny Place was “long-time friend” of his client. Sheriff Craig McSherry said, “To suggest that the filthy state of this property was down to the police is absolutely ridiculous. “These were appalling conditions and the state of emaciation of the dog is disgraceful.” He jailed Harris for five months and disqualified him from having care of any animal for five years.

Travel

Riverside living during a city break in Inverness

May 20 2017

Not usually one for the increasingly popular "staycation", Dave Lord nevertheless found plenty to enjoy during a short break in Inverness. Mention the words "city break" and my mind will conjure up visions of Parisian promenades,  bar-crawls in Barcelona or sight-seeing in Stockholm. I would have to admit that inching-up the A9 to Inverness would not come close to displacing some of these rather more romantic notions from my noggin. However, when the opportunity of a short-break without the hassle of actually leaving the country arose I would have been churlish to refuse. Inverness is, somewhat to my shame, not somewhere I have previously spent more than a fleeting few hours to watch some football. And so it was that, with wife and small son at my side, we set off for the Highland capital. Now the A9 north of Perth is much-maligned but, travelling it without the need to make a 3pm kick-off and clear of any work-related commitments, it is a breathtakingly beautiful route. The sun wasn't exactly splitting the sky, but it was certainly making (albeit infrequent and frustratingly gentle) attempts to slice through the cloud. All in all, taking in a brief pit-stop for lunch, it was a jolly agreeable drive. Despite several sets of roadworks, good time was made and by mid-afternoon we found ourselves parking up in the subterranean car park below the Highland Apartments. I may not know Inverness, but it would not take even so much as a modicum of native wit to realise we were in the right place to enjoy the city's delights. Our accommodation (a two-bedroom serviced apartment) was, quite literally, within yards of the city centre. Situated on Bridge Street, it provides the perfect base to explore all of Inverness's delights without the need to trouble your car. Well-equipped and fashionably furnished, the apartment featured a wonderful balcony from which to enjoy a fine view of the river that winds its way through the city. After the obligatory "freshening-up" (I'm not entirely sure watching a two year-old massacre a tube of Smarties — some even made it into his mouth — really qualifies as freshening-up but hey-ho) it was time to head out to sample the local delights. Within just a few short steps we found a plethora of bars, cafes and restaurants along with the obligatory high street shops and a moderately-sized shopping mall. Despite it being midweek there was a vibrant feel to the place and we enjoyed a short walk by the river before repairing to a local hostelry for a bite to eat. To describe the weather the following morning as "rainy" would be something of a monumental understatement. In fact, water appeared to be tumbling from the heavens not so much in droplets as bathtubs. Undeterred we decided to head for Fort George, an active military fortress originally constructed in the 18th Century. Located just a few short (and really rather picturesque despite the weather) miles from the city, it is a fascinating place to spend a couple of hours. Boasting a lovely coffee shop with welcome hot drinks and home baking, it also has an impressive regimental museum and an opportunity to watch a series of short films, including one featuring  the history of The Black Watch, whose heritage is so closely entwined not only with Fort George but also its key recruiting grounds of Tayside and Fife. While in Inverness, and particularly when in the company of a young child, it would have been irresponsible not to visit Loch Ness and have a quick squint at Nessie. Incredibly, the oft-spotted monster was conspicuous only by his rather surprising absence during our brief visit to the shores of this magnificent body of water. Nevertheless, we were ale to pick up the trail at the excellent Loch Ness visitor centre. Rather grandly promising to deliver "state-of-the-art exhibitions about the geological formation of Loch Ness and its legendary monster", it does not disappoint. Following the trail of Nessie through time, one gets a real feel for the Loch and those who have made it their business to find the elusive monster that lurks within. After such a busy day of sight-seeing it was back to our city centre base — and time, once again, to discover some of the excellent small restaurants and bars that scatter the small but perfectly formed city centre. Inverness feels like a bijou city that has got it precisely right. Small enough to feel intimate and welcoming, it nevertheless has enough going on to exude a feeling of vibrancy and youthful exuberance. We found it hard not to compare the Highland capital with Perth, Scotland's newest city, and wondered if it might have much to learn from its neighbour at the northern end of the A9. Fact-file: Dave stayed at the 'Highland Apartments by Mansley' serviced apartments, Bridge House, Bridge Street Inverness. IV1 1HD. Spring rates are from £115 per night for a one bedroom apartment and £154 per night for a two bedroom apartment. For more information telephone 01463 237137 or visit www.bymansley.com.

Fife

Corrie McKeague probe to be ‘stood down’

March 26 2018

The inquiry into the disappearance of RAF gunner Corrie McKeague will be stood down and passed to a cold case team, it is reported. Mr McKeague was 23 when he was last seen walking through Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, in September 2016 after a night out with friends. Police conducted two searches of a landfill site at Milton near Cambridge last year, with the first search lasting 20 weeks and the second, lasting seven weeks, concluding in December. No trace of Mr McKeague was found. It is thought Mr McKeague may have climbed into a waste bin and was taken away by a bin lorry, prompting the landfill search. The Daily Mirror reports Suffolk Police will announce the inquiry will be shelved - as Mr McKeague's father Martin told the paper he fears the airman may have killed himself. Martin, 49, said he thought his son knew he was going to become a father which may have affected his mental state. He said: "I just can't help thinking this would have weighed on him heavily and he may have actually chosen to get in that bin that night knowing what would happen. "It's as probable as anything else and it makes it no less heartbreaking."

Fife

Missing Corrie McKeague: Mum fears “third party involvement” in airman’s disappearance

October 10 2016

The mother of a missing RAF serviceman has said a third party may have been involved in her son's disappearance. Corrie McKeague, 23, vanished more than a fortnight ago after going out for the evening with friends in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Police have searched along a section of railway line and A-roads, hours of CCTV have been reviewed and police officers, RAF personnel and the National Police Air Service helicopter have been trawling the area. Mr McKeague's mother, Nicola Urquhart, of Dunfermline, wrote in a Facebook post: "Police are confident Corrie is not still in Bury and has not left on foot. "This can only mean there is third party involvement, there is just no evidence so far to prove criminality. "As such I would ask people to help me find this evidence as someone does know something." Officers had earlier searched a bin lorry, believing Mr McKeague's mobile phone had been lost or discarded and ended up with the rubbish, but it could not be found. Mr McKeague, based at RAF Honington, was last seen on CCTV at about 3.20am on Saturday September 24. He was walking alone, eating fast food, in Bury St Edmunds. Police issued a further appeal for information over the weekend and said they had traced three witnesses they had been looking to speak to. Officers searching for Mr McKeague carried out checks in the centre of Bury St Edmunds in the early hours of Saturday, a fortnight after the serviceman's disappearance. A Suffolk Police spokesman said a number of people were spoken to and information was being reviewed to identify possible new lines of inquiry. Mr McKeague is believed to have been wearing a pink Ralph Lauren polo shirt and brown suede Timberland boots at the time of his disappearance. He is described as white, 5ft 10in and of medium build, with short light brown hair.

Politics

Banking giant JP Morgan expects second indy ref by 2019 — and a Yes result

June 29 2016

Officials at American bank JP Morgan have said they expect Scotland to vote Yes to independence in a second referendum. Experts also said the country would introduce its own currency before the UK leaves the European Union in 2019. In a note to clients, bank economist Malcolm Barr said: “Our base case is that Scotland will vote for independence and institute a new currency at that point (2019).” Mr Barr added that the two options available to the UK would be a ‘Norway-style’ agreement, allowing free movement and budget contributions to the EU in exchange for access to the single market, or an arrangement with more diminished access to the single market. “At this point in time, the latter appears more likely,” Mr Barr continued. “We expect there to be clear evidence of multinational operations shifting the location of their activity out of the UK given the regulatory uncertainties. Even if the UK begins to signal that it will compromise on other priorities in order to secure full access to the single market in financial services, there is a clear risk that euro-denominated activities relocate to within the EU simply to ensure continuity of relationships.” The Wall Street bank anticipates that David Cameron’s successor will trigger Article 50 later this year, setting in motion the two-year period of negotiations required for the UK to exit the EU. Mr Barr said he believes a second independence referendum would be held some time before 2019.

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