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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.  

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

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

PKAVS charity worked convicted of £5,000 embezzlement

March 24 2017

A former care service manager has been warned he faces jail after being found guilty of embezzling thousands of pounds from the charity he worked for. George McFarlane, who is known by his middle name of Stewart, had denied taking more than £5,000 in donations which had been raised for the Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Service (PKAVS). However following a trial, in which the 44-year-old admitted failing to deposit donations at a safe place and instead went to the Loft nightclub with them in his pocket, he was convicted of taking £5,125 at the Glen Bar, Perth between November 29 2011 and June 1 2014. He had previously admitted fraudulently using a business fuel card for his own use and filing false expenses claims at PKAVS office in North Methven Street between April 30 2012 and September 1 2014. Perth Sheriff Court heard the charity had originally operated a “Heath Robinson” attitude to donations — in reference to the cartoonist whose complicated machines achieved simple outcomes — with money being recorded in a notepad, but later the system was updated. Michael Walsh, who worked as a senior manager for the charity until his retirement, said: “When I first started there was an elderly lady who ran the accounts department with paper and pencil. It was quite Heath Robinson but she was very careful. “She was replaced by another woman who tried to replace it but it was very slapdash. As PKAVS grew the accounts system didn’t grow with it.” However he refuted McFarlane’s claim that money had been left in the office pigeon holes. Sheriff Gillian Wade deferred sentence on McFarlane, Of Stormont Road, Perth, for reports. Following the conviction a spokesman for PKAVS said: “Following an internal investigation in December of 2014, PKAVS chief executive had reason to believe that our charity had been the victim of financial crime. We immediately reported our concerns to the police at that time. “PKAVS board, our management and staff have fully supported the investigation and note the outcome of the criminal proceedings against Mr McFarlane. We in PKAVS continue to ensure that our financial procedures provide the utmost security, transparency and accountability going forward.”

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

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

Decision to move Perth’s emergency mental health services to Dundee on interim basis slammed by campaigner

January 13 2017

A Perth mental health campaigner has accused NHS bosses of “putting a price on life” by withdrawing emergency mental health services at night. Tracy Swan hit out after NHS Tayside announced that the crisis response assessment service will transfer to Carseview in Dundee between the hours of 3pm and 9am. NHS Tayside says it is a temporary move, which is being undertaken due to a shortage of junior doctors. However Ms Swan, who runs the Lighthouse for Perth charity, believes forcing patients to travel could exacerbate their fragile mental condition. She said: “I am worried for people – at crisis point they need the help on their doorstep. They are already in a bad way and to have to travel can make the way they are already feeling worse. “You also have the families that are trying to cope, and for them having to travel to get a relation or friend help is stressful, especially if it's at crisis point. The people who make those decisions have, fortunately for them, not been in that situation. “It's about time they listened to their patients and the families of those who need this service. “It's ridiculous that services are withdrawn. Everything's down to money. How can you put a price on a life?” Liz Smith, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, also expressed concerns. She said: “These changes will inevitably worry patients and families across Perth and Kinross and are symptomatic of a wider problem of recruitment within our NHS. Clearly the Scottish Government is failing to address these challenges and I would call on them to listen to our universities who have previously flagged up issues relating to junior doctor training. “Mental health services are facing enormous pressures and if we are to meet these challenges head-on then units like the Murray Royal will need to be equipped with staff to meet demand. “NHS Tayside has made this decision due to a culmination of factors and I would encourage the Scottish Government to help them navigate these challenges.” NHS Tayside said they were currently short of 13 junior doctors and the interim move was to ensure “safe, effective patient care in mental health services”. NHS Tayside medical director Professor Andrew Russell said: “Our medical teams have been working hard to find a safe, workable and sustainable solution to the shortage of junior doctors but, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, we have no option but to move to our contingency plans. “The interim moves we are planning ensure that the limited number of junior doctors we have are able to care for the whole range of Tayside patients in the safest and most appropriate environments. “We understand that this decision may cause upset to patients and their families but we cannot compromise the safety of our patients and we simply do not have the right level of medical cover at this time.”

Perth & Kinross

Police warning to dog owners after delivery woman attacked in Perth

June 28 2016

Police have warned dog owners that they face having their pets seized if they are out of control. The caution comes after a delivery woman was attacked in Perth. She had been taking a parcel to an address on Pine Way on June 18. The case has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal. Writing in the local area commander’s bulletin, a spokesman said even a dog barking at strangers could be deemed to be out of control. He said: “Please be aware that it is a criminal offence for the owner or the person in charge of the dog to allow it to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place, a place where it is not permitted to be, and some other areas. “A ‘dangerously out of control’ dog can be defined as a dog that has injured someone or a dog that a person has grounds for reasonable apprehension that it may do so. “Something as simple as your dog chasing, barking at or jumping up at a person or child could lead to a complaint, so ensure that your dog is under control at all times. “If your dog injures a person, it may be seized by the police and your penalty may include a prison sentence and/or a ban on keeping dogs. “There is also an automatic presumption that your dog will be destroyed unless you can persuade the court that it is not a danger to the public, in which case it may be subject to a control order. You may also have to pay a fine, compensation and costs.” The advice comes following a spate of dog attacks across Courier Country. In March, a lurcher suffered several large gashes on his side after being mauled by a collie on the South Inch. The same month an Arbroath man suffered several bites while trying to protect his mother’s cocker spaniel from an attack by an Akita or Malamute-type dog. In July last year a young boy lost part of his ear after three boxers turned on a family in Aberlemno, Angus. In January a pensioner was forced to watch in horror as two greyhounds killed her terrier cross on Dundee’s South Road.

Perth & Kinross

Travel firm makes refund U turn after cancer patient’s Thailand trip dream is left in tatters

January 24 2018

A travel firm has backed down after initially refusing to refund a cancer patient who was told the deadly disease had returned just hours after booking her dream trip. Etihad Airways said it would give Fi Munro the £1,000 she had paid for the dream holiday to Thailand. The 32-year-old had made the booking after doctors cleared her to fly but was rushed to hospital just hours later. Medics drained more than 2.5 litres of fluid from her chest and gave her the devastating news that not only had her ovarian cancer returned but that it had spread to her lungs. She has now been told that she will never be able to fly again but despite a letter from her oncologist Etihad Airways initially refused to give her the money back. However following an article in The Courier the airline contacted Fi at her home in Errol to tell her she would get a refund after all. A delighted Fi said she would use the cash to make memories with her husband. She said: “I’m happy to get the money. “We are going to use it to go on a trip to France – we’ll take a train across and stay in an air B&B and enjoy the time that way instead. “It should have been easier to get the refund. So many people have been in touch with me to say they have been in similar situations and it’s never been resolved for them. “It should be standard practice that someone in the same situation, that through no fault of their own they can’t travel, gets a refund.” A spokesman for Etihad Airways said: ““We are terribly sorry to hear about Ms Munro’s situation. “We would usually require a guest to make a claim on their travel insurance in these circumstances but we understand that she had not had a chance to book any before all this happened. “Our guest relations team contacted her this morning after seeing her social media posts and while we know it is only a small gesture we will be refunding the full cost of her flights and wish her well”.

Perth & Kinross

Designer Chanel calls on talents of Perthshire hairdresser for Milan Fashion Week

February 22 2018

A Perthshire hairdresser is to have her work showcased at one of the world’s biggest fashion events when she works for a designer called Chanel. While the renowned Paris fashion house is yet to call on the services of Louise Quinn, she will be working with up-and-coming label Chanel Joan Elkyam. Manchester-born Ms Elkayam is tipped as a rising star of the fashion world having started her career at just 16. Working as part of a team of eight, Louise will ensure no hair is out of place during the show at Milan Fashion Week, which runs until Monday. The parade will take place on Thursday afternoon, between showcases for prominent designers such as Fendi and Prada. Louise, who lives in Madderty, said she was offered the prestigious role following her work on British fashion shows. She said: “I started doing Liverpool Fashion Week about five years ago and I got offered this through contacts I made there. I was shocked to be asked to do Milan. “It’s absolutely massive and the designer is going to be huge – she’s picked up three awards between London, New York and Paris already. There will be 250 press covering her show. “It’s a big change in gear for me – it’s one of THE fashion events of the year.” The 48-year-old added that while catwalk hairstyles may seem simple, a lot of work goes into ensuring perfection. “The hairstyle finishes off the look, it’s not to take over,” she said. “A lot of people look at catwalk hair and think it’s just a sleek ponytail but that sleek ponytail has taken a massive amount of time to make sure it’s sleek and doesn’t move. “The look for this show is ‘vintage chic’. We haven’t seen the clothes yet so we are just working from what the designer has asked for.  Because I do a lot of wedding hair where I am creating waves and movement in the hair it’s perfect for me.” Aged 20, Ms Elkayam is the youngest designer to feature at the “big four” fashion weeks, starting in Paris at the age of 18 and having showcases at New York and London the following year.