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Farming news

SNP handling of new beef scheme attacked

November 10 2016

The Scottish Government's own efficiency has been called into question over the handling of the new £45million Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES). An estimated 180,000 beef cows from 2000 Scottish farmers have been enrolled in the new five-year  scheme which aims to improve the efficiency and quality of the beef herd and help producers increase the genetic value of their stock. But months after signing up for the scheme, farmers are still waiting to be supplied with special tags to meet the rules which call for 'tissue tagging' of 20% of cattle. And now NFU Scotland's livestock chairman Charlie Adam says farmers' confidence in the scheme is being affected and has called for the rules to be adjusted. The union has also urged the Scottish Government to update all scheme applicants on progress with BES and let them know when the necessary tags will arrive. “If tag delays cannot be resolved in the immediate future, then the Scottish Government should recognise the problem and make the tissue tagging element voluntary for 2016. This will allow those who can take samples from the animals that they still own to do so,"  said Mr Adam. “Applicants to this important scheme, worth £45 million to the industry, have every right to know now, and in detail, what they are expected to do to fulfil their BES obligations and Scottish Government must get back on the front foot in delivering the scheme.” Mr Adam added that it was frustrating for the farmers who have already housed and handled their cattle for the winter as many of those animals were by now located in overwintering accommodation that can be some distance from home farms. Shadow Rural Economy secretary, Peter Chapman MSP claimed it was impossible for farmers to sell store cattle in the autumn sales until they were told which animals need tagged and were sent  the tags to do the job. He added: "This will create huge cash flow and logistic problems for farmers who normally sell calves at this time – this is the SNP letting farmers down yet again.” A Scottish Government spokesman said work was under way to rectify the problem and a timetable was expected by the end of the week. He added: "It is not necessary for farmers to hold off from selling their animals. "We will ensure that the sampling regime accommodates those farmers who have sold their calves and there will be no penalties for those whoo have. It may mean that some farmers will have a higher rate of sampling next year." nnicolson@thecourier.co.uk      

Fife

Fife Science Festival starts week of experimental fun

March 15 2014

The Fife Science Festival kicked off with a big bang on the streets of St Andrews. The science busking event saw St Andrews University staff and students take to Church Square to entertain passers-by with an array of experiments, demonstrating some of what the next week will have to offer. Rebecca Prentice of the university’s museum collections unit said: “Shoppers, residents and visitors will be able to sample some spectacular experiments, help our team collect results and learn more about the science that affects our lives with fun experiments we can all do at home.” The festival, now in its fifth year, is a collaboration between Fife Cultural Trust and Dundee Science Centre and organisers expect a big turnout to the free events, workshops and talks that will run across the region until Sunday March 23. On schedule for this weekend will be the Science Magic show today at the St Andrews University Museum from 1pm until 3pm, where visitors can cast science spells and learn impressive tricks to share with family and friends. Also today, the John Marshall Community Leisure Centre in Dunfermline will host From Flintlocks to Rifles, featuring David Wharton, star of TV show Duck Quacks Don’t Echo, and Rebecca Berger from The Black Watch Museum. They will explore changes in warfare through the ages with some exciting and dramatic presentations. For anyone who caught the stargazing bug after National Astronomy Week this month, Rothes Halls in Glenrothes will tonight host the Cosmic Quest talk from spaceflight expert Nigel Henbest, who looks at the inside story of the history of astronomy from 6.30pm to 8pm. See www.fifesciencefestival.org.uk for the full programme.

Dundee

Games jam played out well in Dundee

September 25 2016

Dundee  developers have come up with new virtual reality games in just 24 hours as part of a competition. A games jam took place from 4pm on Thursday until 4pm on Friday at Tag Games, resulting in games prototypes with names like Spider Spider, Mouse of Horrors and Terminal Station. The developers also created their own answer to the famous Boaty McBoatface, with a game titled Vanny McVanFace. Virtual reality, a form of technology that simulates a player's presence in a replica of a real environment, is said to be the future of games with some VR versions already present in many living rooms. Tag's marketing executive Gavin Moffat said: "At the games jam, staff split into four teams of four people - a designer, an artist and programmers. "They then had 24 hours to design a game prototype. "You would struggle to design a full game in that time, although it could be done if you're extremely good and the game is simple. "But with a prototype, you could then spend months perfecting and polishing it into a full game. "Some really great ideas can come out of these jam - you have to be creative and work fast. It was a great event. "This time the theme was virtual reality. Virtual reality headsets are already being used but it's difficult to say whether they'll become the default in gaming. "It could be the case that it's popular for a few years and then people get bored of it, or it could remain popular. "However, it certainly has great potential." Over the past 20 years Dundee has become an international hub for games developers with the world's biggest-selling video game - Grand Theft Auto - starting life in the city. Games jam are popular events where games developers get together to brainstorm ideas and create new prototypes within a short space of time.

Angus & The Mearns

Argentine family ‘deeply grateful’ after Arbroath marine sends Battle of Two Sisters relic back where it belongs

October 30 2015

The identity tag of a fallen Argentine soldier that lay in a former Angus Marine’s drawer for 33 years has been returned to his family. Graham Ellis, from Kirkton of Auchterhouse, removed the tag from the body of Assistant Sergeant Ramon Gumersindo Acosta on the battlefield in the Falkland Islands in 1982. Acosta was killed by a mortar blast following the Battle of Two Sisters, which took place over two days in June as British forces advanced toward Port Stanley. A 20-year-old member of Arbroath-based 45 Commando at the time, Mr Ellis and his unit were ordered to remove the tags from the dead bodies for identification by the Red Cross. Mr Ellis placed the tag in his pocket and only discovered it on his return to Britain. It remained in a drawer until a comrade of Mr Acosta’s saw an article on this website about Mr Ellis’s attempts to return it to the fallen soldier’s family. It was sent back to Argentina and is now with his daughter, with plans for a formal presentation by the Argentine government to take place in the near future. Mr Ellis said he was “very pleased”, while a former comrade of Mr Acosta said the family were “deeply grateful” to Mr Ellis and The Courier. Acosta was a national hero and a street bears his name in his native town of Jess Mara. He had written a letter to his five-year-old son, Diego, eight days before he died. It read: “I write from my position to tell you that two days ago we were in a helicopter which was bombed, the helicopter fell and caught fire, killing several colleagues of mine but I was saved and am now awaiting the final attack. “I saved three comrades from the flames. I tell you so you know you have a father you can be proud of and want you to keep this letter as a document if I do not return: and if I go back tomorrow, when we’re together I will read it at home.”

Parliamentarians plan appeal as they seek European court ruling on Brexit

February 9 2018

A group of parliamentarians plans to lodge a legal appeal in an attempt to secure a European court ruling on Brexit.The politicians believe the UK Parliament could unilaterally stop the UK leaving the EU if the final Brexit deal is deemed unacceptable by the Commons.They want a definitive ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on whether the withdrawal process triggered under Article 50 can be halted by the UK on its own, without prior consent of the other 27 EU member states.The group took its fight to the Court of Session in Edinburgh but on Tuesday Judge Lord Doherty turned down a bid to have a full hearing on whether to refer the question to the Luxembourg Court, ruling the issue is  “hypothetical and academic”, and that he is “not satisfied the application has a real prospect of success”.Now campaigners have announced plans to appeal against his ruling to the Inner House of the Court of Session.Two of the original group of seven have withdrawn – the SNP’s Joanna Cherry QC and Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine – while director of the Good Law Project, Jo Maugham QC, which has backed the crowdfunded legal action, has been added.The remaining five members are Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, SNP MEP Alyn Smith and Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler.In a statement, Mr Maugham said they believe the judge’s decision was “flawed”.He added: “Establishing that, alongside the political route to revocability there is a legal route, is vital in the national interest.“If Parliament chooses not to withdraw the Article 50 notice then no harm is done by asking now the question whether it has that right.“But if Parliament does come to want to withdraw the notice, knowing it has the right to do so serves the national interest.“It improves the bargaining position of the UK, it ensures we retain the opt-outs and rebates that we presently enjoy, and it places the decision entirely in the hands of the UK’s Parliament and – if it chooses – its people.”Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the politicians, previously asked for the case to proceed through the Scottish court, arguing there was a genuine dispute between the two sides as to the proper interpretation of Article 50 which the court required to resolve.David Johnston QC, for the UK Government, insisted the application has no real prospect of success and that there was “no live issue” for the court to address.The policy of the UK Government is that the notification under Article 50 will not be withdrawn, he said.Finding in favour of the Government, Lord Doherty said: “Given that neither Parliament nor the Government has any wish to withdraw the notification, the central issue which the petitioners ask the court to decide – whether the UK could unilaterally withdraw the Article 50(2) notification – is hypothetical and academic.“In those circumstances it is not a matter which this court, or the CJEU, require to adjudicate upon.”

Angus & The Mearns

“Give me that fag or I’ll shoot you” — Jail for man who pointed pistol for single cigarette

August 4 2016

A man who pointed a gun at a man's head to steal a single cigarette has been jailed for 27 months. Kevin Ross pulled an air pistol - which looked like a real handgun - on Spanish national Andreas Giallombardo at Arbroath railway station on a busy Friday night, sparking a major police operation. Several streets were closed as a cordon was thrown up around the scene of the incident on March 11 this year. Specialist police assisted local officers as they probed the bizarre incident. Incredibly, Mr Giallombardo, 41, remained so calm that he managed to talk Ross into lowering the gun. Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson told Forfar Sheriff Court: "The complainer was standing outside Arbroath station and was approached by the accused who he thinks he recognises from local pubs. "After a few minutes the accused tried to grab a cigarette from the complainer saying 'give me that fag or I'll shoot you'. "He then pointed a black handgun at his forehead. "The victim told the accused to stop being stupid and put the gun away. "He then said he was going to call the police and went away to call 999. "Police attended and the accused was found nearby. "Sniffer dogs then found the handgun nearby. "The gun was examined and found to be a CO2-powered weapon powerful enough to be classed as a firearm." Ross, 43, a prisoner at HMP Perth, appeared at Forfar Sheriff Court and pleaded guilty on indictment to presenting an air pistol to Andreas Giallombardo with intent to rob him, and the unlawful possession of the pistol in a public place. Ross admitted assaulting Mr Giallombardo, presenting an imitation pistol at him, threatening to shoot him, and demanding a cigarette from him, with intent to rob him. He further admitted having an imitation firearm without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. Defence solicitor Mike Horsman said: "He can give no real explanation for this ridiculous behaviour. "He accepts this was an extremely stupid act on his part. It has to be accepted it must have been terrifying for the complainer." Sheriff Gregor Murray jailed Ross for 27 months, reduced from three years for his early plea. He said: "Any person who takes a firearm and uses it in the act of robbery must accept there is no alternative to a significant custodial sentence. "You have an analagous previous conviction at the High Court."

UK & World

Social workers involved in St Helena child abuse inquiry take legal action

March 23 2018

Two social workers who say an inquiry report into allegations of child abuse on the British overseas territory of St Helena destroyed their professional reputations have taken legal action.Claire Gannon and Martin Warsama, who worked on St Helena and made cover-up allegations, have sued the Foreign Office and the senior barrister who led the inquiry.They say they “stand by the accuracy and honesty of their disclosures” and say conclusions were reached on the basis of an inquiry which was procedurally unfair.Lawyers representing ministers and inquiry chairman Sasha Wass QC dispute their claim and say the litigation should not proceed.A judge was on Friday considering issues in the case at a High Court hearing in London.Barrister Neil Sheldon, who is leading a legal team representing Foreign Office ministers, asked the judge, Master Victoria McCloud, to halt the litigation and dismiss the claim launched by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama.The inquiry had been set up by ministers following corruption and cover-up allegations which had been raised in newspaper articles and leaked documents and made by Ms Gannon and Martin Warsama.An inquiry report published in December 2015 concluded that: St Helena did not “attract sex tourism”; said allegations that the island in the South Atlantic was a “paedophiles’ paradise” were not true; reported “no corruption at all”; and found no evidence of any attempt by the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development, the St Helena government or police to cover up child abuse.The report said: “We stress that there was no ‘cover-up’ as alleged by Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, rather an ignorance of proper safeguarding procedure.”Nicholas Bowen QC, who represents Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama, told the judge the conclusions of the Wass Inquiry “destroyed” the professional reputations of his clients.He said the inquiry process was “procedurally” unfair and said Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama were entitled to “just satisfaction” for their loss.Ms Gannon and Mr Warsama say their claim should not be dismissed but say evidence should be analysed at a trial.

Readers' letters

September 23: Name new Perth bridge after famous angler

September 23 2010

Today our correspondents suggest a name for a new bridge and discuss tax breaks for the computer game industry, green energy, religion and schools. Name new Perth bridge after famous angler Sir, One of your readers suggested that a bridge over the River Tay at Perth, intended for pedestrians and cyclists, was a waste of money. How very Scottish. The cost of £1.38 million appears a good investment given that Scotland is often seen as the sick man of Europe with high death rates from heart disease and strokes. Anything that enables us to improve our lifestyle by reducing the burden on our health services must be money well spent and the council should be applauded. As concerns a name for this landmark, might I suggest Ballantyne's Bridge after Miss Georgina Ballantyne, who will forever be linked with the river having caught a Tay salmon in 1922 weighing 64lbs - a UK record for a salmon landed by rod and line. Kenneth G. N. Stewart.Landalla,Florence Place,Perth. Throwing good money after bad Sir, I am not sure if Steve Bargeton was being tongue-in-cheek in his recent diary column (September 18) but his opinion on the computer games industry was neatly juxtaposed with an article on the opposite page about the collapse of Dundee firm Realtime Worlds. Your political editor says that providing £40 million of tax breaks per year to the sector would provide the public purse with a net gain of £400 million in tax receipts and create 3500 graduate-level jobs and presumably solve world poverty and reverse global warming at the same time. If only life was that simple. The figures provided sound like typical industry/ political spiel. Meanwhile, back in the real(time) world, your other article quoted an industry expert as saying that the firm's pivotal APB game attracted sales of only one ninth of that necessary for its survival. It seems unlikely that tax breaks would have somehow enhanced the game sufficiently to increase its sales nine-fold. As history has shown time and time again, throwing public funds at fundamentally uncompetitive products and businesses is just taxpayers' money down the drain. Of course, taxpayer-funded assistance and a favourable regulatory environment can help industry in appropriate circumstances but the Scottish political mindset seems dominated by the need to find a deserving home for as much public money as possible - and there's always a queue of willing recipients, whether in the private or public sector. And while the bills for the profligacy have to be paid eventually, both Labour and the SNP seem preoccupied with trying to deny their part in the spending spree, while the Tories and Lib Dems are being accused of threatening the economic recovery by being over-zealous in trying to turn off the tap. Stuart Winton.Hilltown,Dundee. Fantasy of green future Sir, The articles covering the views of the MSPs Jim Mather and Murdo Fraser on wind farms (September 20) are yet another reminder of the dangers of expanding onshore wind production in Scotland. Murdo Fraser is correct in pointing out the adverse effects on our landscape and hence tourism but the concept of visual amenity is subjective and personal. What is more objective and less arguable is the cost of installing the infrastructure and the vast amount of subsidies and incentives given to landowners and developers, relative to the amount of dependable electricity actually produced by wind turbines. Jim Mather and the Scottish Government have long known that wind farms are very poor sources of dependable power, frequently producing less than one per cent of UK supply. He and they also know that Scotland only produces around one-fifth of one per cent of the world's carbon emission "problem." As Energy Minister, Jim Mather owes us all an explanation of why he and his colleagues expect consumers to pay high prices to solve a "problem" that scarcely exists, using a system that scarcely works and at prices more and more people will scarcely be able to afford. It is time the fairy tale of wind power was ended. Ron Greer.Armoury House,Blair Atholl. Two-fronted attack on church Sir, Ian Wheeler asks if the threat of Islam is uniting Catholics and Protestants in the fight for survival (September 21). Let us hope so. Islam has powerful non-Muslim players in the field if you count the secular, the atheist and the left-liberal neo-Marxists, all with their own particular reasons for supporting Islam. The average British secularist disputes any religion but more so Christianity. The average militant atheist attacks the Christian God but, when challenged similarly to treat the Islamic God, refrains, claiming all religions are the same. The neo-Marxists are the most dangerous. Their liberal organisations support Islam in its anti-Christian and anti-capitalist stance which makes them useful in the fight to establish a "progressive" society. Andrew Lawson.9 MacLaren Gardens,Dundee. Educational poverty trap Sir, David Robertson's suggestions that the way to improve school performance in Dundee is to have more religion in them is simplistic and laughable. He erroneously states that schools in Scotland which are not Catholic are Christian. Presumably he means Protestant. I have never come across a school in Scotland which describes itself as Protestant. They are non-denominational. The solution to the gap between the children living in poverty and those who are not is a redistribution of wealth. We do not need to scare children into obedience by telling them untruths about eternity in hell. Alan Hinnrichs.2 Gillespie Terrace,Dundee. Get involved: to have your say on these or any other topics, email your letter to letters@thecourier.co.uk or send to Letters Editor, The Courier, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus councillor inspired by great-granny’s essay on the suffragists

February 9 2018

An Angus councillor has unearthed a fascinating insight into men’s views on the suffragists as the nation commemorated the centenary of some women winning the right to vote. Brenda Durno, SNP member for Arbroath and East Lunan, has been so inspired by an essay written by her great-grandmother in 1904, she is hoping to donate it to a museum in the north east. The amusing reflection was written in the Doric language by Isabella Moir, a 12-year-old pupil at Belhelvie School in Aberdeenshire. She was the eldest of 10 children and had two sisters and seven brothers. Councillor Durno said: “The celebration for the 100 years since women won the right to vote made me think of the essay. “My great grandmother was born in September 1892 and died in May 1992. “She latterly lived in Potterton with my aunt and uncle who ran the shop there and I found the essay when she died.” Mrs Durno chose to enter local politics in the footstep of her father, the SNP councillor Alex Shand, but admitted her great-grandmother was a Liberal supporter. “She was right into politics and was a great friend of Lord Tweedsmuir - the SNP wasn’t around then.” The essay relates to a conversation between a brother and sister as he reads a newspaper article on ‘The Suffragists’. As he works his way through the article, his views become apparent. He berates the efforts of the “limmers of suffragists” claiming “weemans place is at hame” It reads: “They canna mak an men their men’s sarks, keep a clean fireside an have a vote. “Gie then an inch an they wid tak an ill (mile).” The essay goes on to say there a was a time when women were happy “tae tak the chance o’ the first man that socht them, an thankful tae leave the voting an the rulin o the nation tae him”. It was on February 6, 1918 that women aged over 30, those who owned property or had a university education were granted the right to vote through the Representation of the People Act. Mrs Durno is hoping to donate the essay to a museum which specialises in the Doric and would welcome suggestions as to who to contact.

Cross-party group loses bid to secure legal ruling on Brexit

February 6 2018

A cross-party group of parliamentarians has lost an early-stage bid to secure a European court ruling on Brexit.Seven politicians from four parties, not including the Conservatives, believe the UK Parliament could unilaterally halt the Brexit process if the final deal is deemed unacceptable by the Commons.They claim this offers a third option instead of Britain having to choose between a bad deal on the UK’s future relationship with Europe or crashing out of the EU with no deal.The group is ultimately seeking a definitive ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on whether the withdrawal process triggered under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union can be revoked by the UK on its own, without first securing the consent of the other 27 EU member states.Their legal team went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh last week to ask a judge to refer the question to the Luxembourg court.On Tuesday, judge Lord Doherty refused to move the case to a full hearing at Scotland’s highest civil court, saying the issue is “hypothetical and academic”, and that he is “not satisfied the application has a real prospect of success”.The politicians have a right to appeal against the decision to the Inner House of the Court of Session.The seven elected representatives who launched the case are Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, MEP Alyn Smith and Joanna Cherry QC MP of the SNP, Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler and Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine. None were present in court as the judge issued his decision.Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the politicians, previously asked for the case to proceed through the Scottish court, arguing there was a genuine dispute between the two sides as to the proper interpretation of Article 50 which the court required to resolve.David Johnston QC, for the UK Government, insisted the application has no real prospect of success and that there was “no live issue” for the court to address.The policy of the UK Government is that the notification under Article 50 will not be withdrawn, he said.Finding in favour of the Government, Lord Doherty said: “I am mindful that demonstrating a real prospect of success is a low hurdle for an applicant to overcome.“However, I am satisfied that that hurdle has not been surmounted. Indeed, in my opinion, the application’s prospect of success falls very far short of being a real prospect.“In my view, the Government’s stated policy is very clear. It is that the notification under Article 50(2) will not be withdrawn.”He went on: “Given that neither Parliament nor the Government has any wish to withdraw the notification, the central issue which the petitioners ask the court to decide – whether the UK could unilaterally withdraw the Article 50(2) notification – is hypothetical and academic.“In those circumstances it is not a matter which this court, or the CJEU, require to adjudicate upon.”The judge concluded: “I am not satisfied that the application has a real prospect of success … Permission to proceed is refused.”The legal action was launched following a crowdfunding campaign and is backed by the Good Law Project.Project director Jo Maugham QC tweeted after the hearing: “It’s plainly in the national interest that MPs, MEPs and MSPs, who face a choice whether to approve Theresa May’s deal, know what options are open to them if they don’t.“I will support an appeal against this decision – to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

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