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A striking image of Duffus Castle has been selected as the winner of the Benromach Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival Photography competition.

Outright winner John Macgregor Seasons - Frosty Morning at Duffus

Outright winner
John Macgregor
Seasons – Frosty Morning at Duffus

The stunning photograph showing the historic property on a frosty winter morning was taken by John Macgregor from Lossiemouth. Frosty Morning at Duffus was one of three images by Mr Macgregor to be shortlisted in the final of the competition – and all of them received prizes. He wins a five-day commission to capture the 2014 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival on film, along with a cash prize, trophy, bottle of Benromach malt whisky and tickets for the prestigious opening night dinner.

Michael Urquhart, managing director of Gordon & MacPhail, the owners of Benromach Distillery, says the competition always attracts entries of a very high standard. “I was really impressed by each and every one of the entries this year,” he said. “The very high calibre never fails to amaze me. This was one of the most difficult years to judge because of the quality, and to determine an overall winner was a real challenge. Each of the entrants has really taken the theme to heart and delivered results far beyond our expectations. We asked for images that encapsulated the spirit of Speyside, and the entrants have certainly delivered.”

John Macgregor Abstract - Seaside Sculpture

John Macgregor
Abstract – Seaside Sculpture

James Campbell, chairman of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, was delighted with the continuing success of the competition. “All of the entries this year have been superb,” he explained, “and John is a thoroughly deserving overall winner; his frosty morning shot of Duffus Castle captures the stunning pink hues of the sunrise. Not only does the competition put this beautiful part of the world on the map, but it also provides a platform for photographers whose work is exposed to thousands of people at the festival and at the viewing gallery online.”

Mr Macgregor’s shot – Seaside Sculpture – took the honours in the abstract category, while his photograph called Happy and Grumpy was runner-up in the people section. The runner-up in abstract was Gabriel Varga from Slovakia with her image, Out of Service – a photograph of an old red telephone box.

Alistair Petrie Seasons - Winter Pines

Alistair Petrie
Seasons – Winter Pines

In the category for seasons, Alistair Petrie from Carnoustie scooped first place with his Winter Pines image. The runner-up in this category was Helen Crowley from Elgin with Tattie Field. In the people category, the winning image of Tomnarieve – a farm worker overlooking a flock of sheep – was taken by Myrddin Irwin of Tomintoul.

The touring exhibition of the finalists’ photographs is currently at Benromach Distillery, but moved to the Grain to Glass Exhibition at St Giles’ Church in Elgin – another part of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – from Thursday, April 17.

The images will take pride of place at the Festival Hub in the Square at Dufftown for the duration of the Festival from May 1 – 5. They will go on tour at libraries across Moray in May and June, the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh from July, and back to Benromach in September.

The finalists’ photographs are currently on display online at www.spiritofspeyside.com and visitors to the site are asked to vote for their contender for the People’s Choice. The winner of this competition will be announced later in the year.

Myrddin Irwin People - Tomnarieve

Myrddin Irwin
People – Tomnarieve

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which is now in its 15th year, takes place at venues across the region. A signature event for Homecoming 2014, it will start Whisky Month – a four week national celebration of Scotland’s world class food and drink.

It will also launch a brand new event this year – The Spirit of Speyside Sessions – which aims to put to spotlight on the area’s traditional music heritage with concerts and ceilidhs being staged in venues closely linked to the whisky industry.

Tickets for all events in the 2014 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival programme can be bought via the website. The Festival is also active on social media – facebook.com/WhiskyFestival and @spirit_speyside on Twitter.

The Statute of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn

It will take place, as the original one did, over two glorious days, at the end of June. The 700th anniversary of Robert the Bruce’s victory over King Edward II will be a battle for independence fought, not for real, but for a virtual reality…as befits our modern age.

Bannockburn Re-enactment (Picture: NTS)

Bannockburn Re-enactment
(Picture: NTS)

The SNP’s propaganda war-machine will be using the images conjured up by the re-enactment of the battle, on the supposed field at Bannockburn on the 28th and 29th June, to lob a few emotional rocks at the No campaign. Meanwhile, up the road in Stirling, the No campaigners will be hoping that the British Armed Forces Day, will be attracting 100,000 spectators waving Union Flags. The flat carse-land at Stirling will not have seen anything like it since 1314.

It’s hard to resist the temptation to draw some parallels. Edward II (David Cameron) was coming north to relieve the siege of Stirling Castle ( occupied by the No campaigners). Robert the Bruce (Salmond) drew up his troops in front of the castle and, by skilful manoeuvring, beat off a force at least 10 per cent larger than his own (the current gap in the opinion polls).

Such amusing parallels may seem too obvious and too extreme but there’s no doubt that a lot of political strategy has gone into these visitor attractions. The 700th anniversary of Bannockburn was always going to be an important even – no matter what the political circumstances of the time. No doubt the National Trust set about rebuilding of the visitor centre, at a cost of £9m, in all innocence. This is due to open in March and will include, of course, a virtual reconstruction of the battle.

bannockburn 11It then looks like the Scottish government persuaded the National Trust to stage a real re-enactment of the battle and a whole weekend of colourful events over the 28th/29th June. It would include a number of themed “villages”, live music, craft shows, and food and drink stalls. It couldn’t help becoming a patriotic, if not nationalist, event. It was part of the euphoria package of Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming which might persuade doubting Scots to vote Yes for independence.

Then some bright sparks in the No camp in Stirling – where the Conservatives and Labour have formed a Unionist coalition against the SNP – thought up the idea of bidding to hold the UK Armed Forces Day on the same weekend. It would reinforce “Britishness” and spike the guns of the SNP down the hill at Bannockburn. The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond jumped at the suggestion and announced that Scotland should again host this important annual event – even though it had only recently been in Edinburgh – and, of course, Stirling would be the ideal place. Let battle commence…for visitor numbers and TV coverage.

Bannockburn Re-enactment (Picture: NTS)

Bannockburn Re-enactment
(Picture: NTS)

The National Trust panicked. It had only sold 2,000 tickets out of 45,000 at that stage and it was fearful of making a massive loss. Mr Salmond sent Visit Scotland to the rescue but the event was trimmed from 3 days to 2 and its budget cut from £950,000 to £650,000. Visit Scotland bosses are currently in trouble with MSPs at Holyrood for not telling them about the changes when they gave evidence to the tourism committee in mid-January. The bosses at Stirling Council are also in trouble, explaining how they will pay the bill of £250,000 for staging the Armed Forces Day.

Faced with such jolly confusion, I decided I should do my patriotic duty and go to both events on Saturday 28th June. They both sound like a great day out – or, at least, half a day out each. But as with so many things these days, it’s not that easy to get tickets.

When I typed Bannockburn into my computer, I landed in the National Trust’s visitor centre with its game-boy presentation of the battlefield. No mention of the June weekend. The next two Bannockburn entries turned out to be “unavailable”. I then tried the Visit Scotland website but there was no link to a ticket office. There was however a telephone number, which turned out to be the rather harassed lady at the aforementioned National Trust visitor centre. Once her computer had been cranked up she was able to give me the name of a website, called Ticket Soup, which might sell me some tickets.

This indeed was a useful website. It didn’t sell soup but it did sell tickets for “the performance” on Saturday 28th. Prices ranged from £20 to £75, plus a £2 booking fee, plus an outrageous £2.30 for postage. They must be heavy and bulky tickets but I look forward to them thumping down on my door mat.

Not everyone will be as persistent in their patriotic duty. As often is the case, Scotland will need to get its tourism business up to speed if it’s to make a success of either of these events in the summer. We also need to get rid of the petty divisions and rivalries which have led to such a farce.

Craiglockhart – where Sassoon met Owen in 1917

We’re entering the second week of this year’s History Festival. What makes this event special is the way in which it blends expert knowledge with trips to the places where history was made, the way in which it takes history out of the classroom and into bookshops and tearooms, galleries and theatres.

Siegfried Sassoon  by George Charles Beresford (1915) (Picture: Public Domain)

Siegfried Sassoon
by George Charles Beresford (1915)
(Picture: Public Domain)

Tomorrow for instance (Tuesday the 19th), there’s a special event to celebrates the war poets of Craiglockhart. Now part of Edinburgh Napier University. the campus started life in 1880 as a Hydropathic establishment where the wealthy could take fashionable water treatments. However, it took on a completely different role during the First World War when it was turned into a hospital for officers suffering from shell-shock (what we’d now call PTSD). And in the summer of 1917, the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen met there. The University has a small special collection of material covering the history of Craiglockhart and Catherine Walker, its curator, will host a guided visit and talk about the many interesting characters who have had links with the place over the years.

On Wednesday, you can travel back in time to experience the classrooms of the Victorian era. The Victorian Schoolroom is located in Leith Walk Primary School and when ‘pupils’ can go through an hour long lesson using Victorian-style slates and slate pencils, old fashioned pens and ink from ink wells. The events are led by experienced, volunteer role-play teachers – corporal punishment however is NOT on today’s menu!

Billy Kay - speaking on both nationalism and wine!

Billy Kay – speaking on both nationalism and wine!

The historian Billy Kay is leading two discussions on his favourite topics – Scottish nationalism and wine! Earlier this year, he produced and presented a series for BBC Radio Scotland on the history of Scottish nationalism. ‘The Cause’ ranged from the identity forged in the Wars of Independence, through the radicalism of the 19th century, to the dramatic transformation of the SNP from a small, marginalised “sect” to a dynamic political machine capable of winning two elections and a referendum.

Much longer ago, Billy wrote a fascinating book on what he genuinely believes should really be regarded as “Scotland’s other drink” – Claret! Though made in Bordeaux from grapes not girders, claret once linked Scotland with France, so closely that it was known as the “Bloodstream of the Auld Alliance.” Billy looks at the fascinating history of the Scots involvement with not just claret but also other great wines of the world. Both events will be held at the Adam House Theatre in Chambers Street.

Coigach-Assynt Panorama
Picture credit Alex Nail

It’s one of Scotland’s least populated areas. The far North-West – the area from Ullapool to Lochinver and beyond – is special in many different ways. It has one of the most diverse geologies in the world – so much so that it’s one of the few Geo-Parks in the UK. Its mountains – the so-called Inselbergs – are unique in Scotland. Isolated peaks such as Stac Pollaidh, Cùl Mòr, Suilven and Canisp are striking features rising out of the landscape. Its mountains, moorlands, lochs and coastline provide habitats for species such as golden eagles, wildcats, black-throated divers and freshwater pearl mussels.

Stac Pollaidh from Sgorr-tuath   Picture - Alex Nail

Stac Pollaidh from Sgorr-tuath
Picture – Alex Nail

This is a special area which deserves protection; and now the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has announced a grant of £3million, including £100,000 development funding, to do just that. One of the remotest places in Europe, the investment will bring long-term social, economic and environmental benefits to the area.

As Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, explains, “nature lies at the very heart of what makes Scotland special and no where is that more evident than the astounding scenery of Coigach-Assynt,. However, the enormous pressures upon these landscapes mean that we have to tackle their restoration and conservation on a bigger scale than ever before. The Landscape Partnership programme does just that, and more. It brings real cohesion to the natural and built heritage of the region while reconnecting its communities with the nature that lies on their doorstep.”

The area covered is massive – some 606km2. As part of a 40-year vision for the area, a partnership called Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape (Call) has been set up. Led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), the work will involve restoring blanket bog and heath moor, repairing paths and reconnecting fragmented native woodland.

Coigach-Assynt  The least populated part of Europe

Coigach-Assynt
The least populated part of Europe

Some of the money will also go towards excavating and preserving Clachtoll broch, an internationally significant Iron Age settlement which was a local centre of power around 300BC. And finds are still being made. Last year, archaeologists reported finding the remains of what they believe was an important Bronze Age site – a pit with a channel to a nearby stream discovered at Stronechrubie. While not entirely sure what it had been made for, there’s speculation that it could have been used for bathing, though it could also have been used cooking and feasting or even brewing.

The Project Manager of the Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape (CALL), Viv Halcrow, said that the funding “could have a great impact across the whole Coigach-Assynt Living Landscape. It would not only benefit the natural, cultural and built environment, but could help to increase integration between communities, landowners, and organisations. The CALL partnership is very grateful to have received a stage one pass and are looking forward to developing the project in preparation for a stage two submission.”

Independence March – confusion over the numbers

I could not help being swept along by the roaring tide of blue which surged down the Royal Mile last Saturday. There were 10,000 people carrying Saltire flags, Yes banners, bagpipes, children on their shoulders. I even saw a couple of pandas. It was a huge turnout – by Scottish standards. The march ended with a rally on Calton Hill, addressed by the clan chiefs of the “Yes to Independence” campaign.

Independence Rally

Independence Rally

The police estimated the crowd at 8,000, the organisers said 30,000, which makes me suspect they were speaking about different things. But the thought that went through my mind as I stood by the Tron Church and watched the parade go by was that this was too big a crowd to ignore. Whatever the outcome of the referendum next year, something will have to be done to assuage this patriotic Scottish fervour.

No less a body than the Electoral Commission feels the same. It has appealed to both sides to spell out exactly what will happen after the referendum, whatever the result. It will be a sore and tender period. It may even be angry.

If they Yes side win, the SNP government says it will begin negotiations on separating from the UK and joining the EU. If the No side win, there have been promises of more powers for the devolved Scottish Parliament. Various conventions have been suggested. But the Electoral Commission says there needs to be greater “clarity” from both sides so that voters can make an informed choice.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon sought to sharpen the differences between the two sides this week by suggesting that in an independent Scotland, the retirement age may not go up as fast as in the rest of the UK. She said an SNP government would review the planned move to age 67 in 2025 because Scotland would be more prosperous and Scots, on average, do not live as long as the English or Welsh. Though, of course she was not against people living to a ripe old age !

The UK party conferences are all sending out frantic messages to Scotland to ignore the SNP and stick with Great Britain next year. The Liberal Democrats said they would be “heart-broken” if the Scots left the Union. Instead, they called for one of those “conventions” on more home rule for the Scots.

Ed Miliband used part of his without-notes speech to plead: “ I don’t want Cathy to become a foreigner.” Cathy Murphy from Glasgow, he told us, collapsed at Labour’s conference in Liverpool in 2011 and was rushed to the local hospital to be treated for a heart complaint. She still goes back to Liverpool for check-ups. “At the hospital, they don’t ask if she’s English or Scottish, they know she’s British.” No doubt we will get more heart-rending stories from the Conservatives in Manchester next week. It’s interesting, though, that the latest census figures for Scotland show that 62 per cent of the population describe themselves as “Scottish” and only 18 per cent as “Scottish and British.”

Kenny MacAskill Justice Secretary

Kenny MacAskill
Justice Secretary

Meanwhile the SNP keep on governing in Scotland. The justice secretary Kenny MacAskill told parliament he was pressing on with his plan to abolish the “corroboration” requirement before cases of rape or sexual assault are brought to court. He said the corroboration rule was unique to Scotland and was formulated in a different age. “It’s a barrier to obtaining justice for the victims of crime committed in private or where no on else was there,” he said.

A review by Lord Carloway found that of 141 sexual offences not taken to court in 2010 because of a lack of corroborating evidence, two thirds would probably have led to convictions. I must say, though, that I find it rather worrying that I could land up in court on a charge of rape, simply on the say-so of a women with a grudge against me. And I am not alone. The Law Society, the Faculty of Advocates and the Police Federation are equally worried about dropping the fairly obvious need for corroboration.

As with any legal matter of course, the debate is somewhat confusing. The requirement for corroboration does not apply in the case of scientific evidence. And on his side, Mr MacAskill is taking the precaution against miscarriages of justice by requiring juries to reach a verdict by a two-thirds majority.

Cyclists - concerned about the court ruling

Cyclists – concerned about the court ruling

Another worrying case – for me as a cyclist – is the appeal court ruling this week that a driver who killed two cyclists should only be banned from driving for five years. Gary McCourt served a two year jail sentence nearly 20 years ago when he killed his first cyclist but he was back at the wheel again two years ago and knocked an elderly woman off her bike. He was sentenced on that occasion to 300 hours of community service and a five year ban from driving. The prosecution service appealed, on the grounds that that was too lenient a sentence. But the appeal court judges didn’t agree.

The cyclists’ lobby are rightly outraged. They want McCourt banned from driving for life. They also want a presumption of fault for drivers in all accidents involving a cyclist. Car drivers, they say, are in charge of a large and powerful machine and it is up to them to avoid hitting cyclists. Too right.

I suppose it’s a case of sticking up for the underdog in the war of the highways. I’m also in favour of the underdog in football. I was glad to see little Greenock Morton beat Celtic 1-nil on Tuesday night and knock them out of the League Cup….even though it was with a penalty in extra time. Justice is sometimes a hard thing to pin down.

The River Esk today, looking up towards Roman Bridge

September was not a good month to be a Scottish soldier in the 16th century. The disaster that was the Battle of Flodden Field has entered the national psyche is one of the great failures of Scottish arms. That battle was fought on September 9th in 1513 – but on September 10th just 34 years later, another equally catastrophic battle, equally devastating in terms of the number of Scots killed, was fought in East Lothian. The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh was the last ever pitched battle to be fought between Scotland and England. However, for some reason, it seems almost to have been expunged from the national memory.

The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh Memorial

The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh Memorial

The battle took place in an era which has come to be known as “the rough wooing” of Scotland. It was war which lasted between 1543 and 1550. King Henry VIII of England was attempting to force the Scots to accept a marriage between his son Edward and the infant Mary, Queen of Scots.

The battle was fought near Musselburgh. The English army led by the Duke of Somerset, at the time the Lord Protector of England, had entered Scotland supported by a large fleet. The Scots, under the command of the Earl of Arran, had a much larger force – but the English were much better armed, including substantial cavalry, artillery and mercenaries from both Germany and Italy who are skilled in using the then new arquebus.

Lord Protector Somerset

Lord Protector Somerset

The Scots, having crossed the River Esk by way of the Roman Bridge, came under extensive fire to which they could not effectively reply. It turned into a full scale rout. Some historians say that the main reason for the defeat was that the Scottish mediaeval army had been overcome by a modern Renaissance one. The English armies and navy had been reformed under King Henry VIII. However, there is also a point of view which suggests that the Scots’ heart was not in this battle in particular, thanks to growing support for English policy.

Nothing however can detract from the fact that this was undoubtedly a military disaster for Scotland. There is some dispute over the figures – but at worst, Scotland lost anything up to 15,000 of its fighting men, with a further 2000 taken prisoner. By contrast, the English lost a mere 600. Small wonder then that the day of the battle became known as “Black Saturday”.

To mark the anniversary – and indeed the creation of a new battlefield trail – a series of events is being held in Musselburgh this month. The battle itself will be the subject of a talk by military historian Dr John Sadler this Thursday as part of Musselburgh Conservation Society’s autumn lecture series. The Pinkie Cleugh Battlefield Group will also unveil a series of information panels along a route from the Roman Bridge in Musselburgh to the Battlefield Memorial Stone in Wallyford.

The Japanese Garden at Cowden Castle

The Japanese-style Garden at Cowden in Clackmannanshire, created in the early twentieth century, is among the few surviving sites of its kind in the United Kingdom. Now, its national importance has been recognised through its addition to Historic Scotland’s Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.

The Garden at Cowden in its heyday

The Garden at Cowden in its heyday

The garden was created for the explorer Ella Christie, one of a handful of female pioneers who broke with traditional ideas about the role of women in order to mount ambitious expeditions around the globe. She travelled widely in Asia and visited many countries including India, Ceylon, Malaya, China, Japan and Borneo. In the spring of 1907, inspired and enchanted by the gardens of Kyoto and Tokyo, Christie determined to create her own Japanese-style garden in the grounds of her home at Cowden Castle near Dollar in Clackmannanshire.

At the time, the British cultural love-affair with Japan was approaching its height. It was quite common for people to create gardens in the “Japanese style”, fuelled by the sudden availability of exotic plants, bulbs and ornaments. While many other such gardens across the UK were a mere pastiche, the one at Cowden had advice on design from Professor Jijo Suzuki and Taki Handa, experts in the history and complex nuances of Japanese garden design.

Centred on a long artificial lake, the garden incorporated elements of three traditional Japanese garden forms; a pond and island garden, a stroll garden and a tea-house garden. Ideas of balance, proportion and sensory experience were prioritised as Handa carefully designed the routes of paths and stepping stones and the location of highly charged symbolic stones. Cowden was celebrated in the 1930s as an especially authentic example of a Japanese-style garden in the West. The gardens were cared for by a faithful Japanese gardener, Shinzaburo Matsuo, who lived and worked on-site until his death in 1937.

Sadly, the garden was vandalised in the 1960s and none of the original built structures survived. However much of its essential form remains, including plantings, the plan and form and low-lying structures, including symbolic stones.

The Garden at Cowden today

The Garden at Cowden today

According to Elizabeth McCrone, Head of Listing and Designed Landscapes, “the story of Cowden is a fascinating one. It was once described as the best Japanese garden in the Western world and was visited by Queen Mary in the late 1930s. It is of outstanding importance for its value as a work of art and its historic value, and also of high importance for its horticultural, nature conservation and archaeological value. It came into being due to the determination of a remarkable woman, Ella Christie who named it Shāh-rak-uen, “a place of pleasure and delight.” I am delighted that her garden has recognition through its inclusion in the Inventory.”

For Sara Stewart, the current owner of Cowden, it was “wonderful to see that Cowden has been recognised in this way. While the gardens are not currently open to the public, we are considering a restoration programme and hope that we can welcome visitors back at some point in the future.”

1861-1949)

Fort George in Ardersier near Inverness was built in the aftermath of the 1745 rebellion. It was the mightiest artillery fortification in the whole of Great Britain, if not of Europe. It was intended to be an impregnable base – a clear statement that such an uprising could never happen again. It cost, in today’s terms, almost £1 billion. But when it was completed in 1769, the Highlands of Scotland had been well and truly pacified.

Fort George - Built to keep the Highlands peaceful

Fort George – Built to keep the Highlands peaceful

Today, it’s the only ancient monument in Scotland which are still working as a functional army barracks. Despite this, it is a major tourist attraction and next month it will celebrate 2000 years of history when it welcomes Romans, Vikings and, from the modern era, land girls as part of Historic Scotland’s “Celebration of the Centuries” event.

From the 10th to 11 August, over two hundred and fifty performers will be at the Fort. They’ll enact scenes from Scotland’s history, from the Picts, the Romans and the Vikings, through the Medieval, Renaissance, Reformation and Jacobite eras right up to World War I and II. It will start with a grand parade led by the Romans and conclude with the two world wars, including an appearance by the Spitfire from the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The event will also feature re-enactors from all over the UK. Visitors can also enjoy colourful living history camps, watch dramatic presentations in the main arena and experience the music and dance of the 1940’s throughout both days.

A historic Spitfire will make an appearance

A historic Spitfire will make an appearance

Gillian Urquhart, Events Manager for Historic Scotland, said the organisation was “delighted to be bringing Celebration of the Centuries to Fort George again this year. It’s a truly fantastic experience to see 2,000 years of history unfold before your eyes. You can be enjoying the 1940’s big band sounds at one minute, then turn a corner and be facing the guard of the roman empire! It’s just like having your own tardis and being able to step into the past!”

Tickets are available with a 10% discount online at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk or alternatively can be purchased on the day.

The Collection has its own YouTube Channel

Some of the most acclaimed singers in Scotland have come together to perform songs from The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection – a treasure trove of songs associated with the North East of Scotland. Their performances were videoed allowing the most extensive historical collection of Scots ballads and songs to be made available online from today for the first time.

Frieda Morrison Artist in Residenceat the School of Scottish Studies

Frieda Morrison
Artist in Residenceat the School of Scottish Studies

In total, sixteen singers were recorded performing 35 songs which were collected in the early 20th century by schoolmaster Gavin Greig and minister James Bruce Duncan. The singers taking part are Aileen Carr, Jo Miller, Alison McMorland, Geordie McIntyre, The Spiers Family, Lucy Pringle, Steve Byrne, Siobhan Miller, Brian Miller, David Francis, Mairi Campbell, Scott Gardiner, Kath Campbell and Frieda Morrison.

The collection as a whole was edited by Dr Emily Lyle of the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, at the University of Edinburgh, and her associates, in a series of eight volumes and published between 1981-2002. Today’s development — the online songs project — has been developed by broadcaster and traditional singer Frieda Morrison who is Artist in Residence at the School.

Her role is to promote Scots language and song, and her latest project seeks to make some of the Greig-Duncan songs available to fans of the Scots singing tradition around the world. She has also been involved in introducing songs to schools and other groups via workshops and performances. She described the project as “”a huge step. It will help widen access to this important collection by enabling students from all over the world to see live performances of these precious songs. It is a great opportunity for Scotland to shine brightly.”

Consultation opens today to find out the public’s views on whether the Forth Bridge should be nominated for World Heritage status. The 12-week long consultation is being led by the Forth Bridges Forum which includes a number of local and national organisations. It wants to hear from individuals and interested parties about their support of the iconic railway bridge’s nomination. It also know how people view the potential social, economic and cultural benefits of World Heritage and how this can be managed in the local and national interest. In particular, the Forum wants to find out how a successful bid could deliver benefits for the local communities, as well as in wider areas such as tourism, education, skills and innovation.

Forth Bridges Forum

Forth Bridges Forum

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport in London announced in May last year that the 19th-Century landmark structure would be the first site from the revised UK Tentative List to be put forward to UNESCO for nomination. Since then a significant amount of work, including local community engagement, has been carried out. Information gathered over the coming weeks will be added to the final document which will then be submitted to UNESCO in early 2014. If accepted, World Heritage Site inscription would take place the following year.

All the consultation documents, instructions and guidance can be seen on the nomination’s website. However. there will also be a number of events involving the local communities arranged by Fife Council and the City of Edinburgh Council on either side of the bridge during the 12-week period.

Fiona Hyslop MSP

Fiona Hyslop MSP

Launching the consultation, Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said that the Forth Bridge was “an iconic and enduring symbol of Scotland’s Victorian engineering ingenuity at its very best. It truly is deserving of World Heritage Site status and as a new industrial heritage site would join our five existing Scottish World Heritage sites in achieving this international recognition. Securing this status would be an enormous honour and source of pride, not only for the communities of North and South Queensferry, but for Scotland as a whole. The designation will deliver numerous benefits, and a key aspect of the consultation will be to consider how these would benefit the Bridges local communities to ensure that the World Heritage Site would be sustainable. We want to submit the strongest possible bid to UNESCO, and I would urge the communities on either side of the Forth Bridge and all interested parties to participate to make sure we achieve this ambition in 2015.”

The Forth Bridge is owned and operated by Network Rail. David Simpson, its route managing director, said that the organisation was “pleased to give this nomination our full backing. The Forth Bridge is a unique, world class structure and it deserves to be recognised as a high point of human ambition and achievement. We consider ourselves as proud custodians of the Bridge and look forward to hearing the feedback from the consultation.”

The Forth Bridge World Heritage Consultation will close on Sunday 11th August 2013