NHS pay: Strike ballot on hold after new salary offer



NHS workers will be asked to vote on a new pay offer worth 7 per cent that has been presented by the Scottish government.

UNISON had been balloting members over potential strike action when a revised offer was received by the union.

Holyrood is proposing a flat pay raise of £2205 for all NHS Agenda for Change (the pay system for all staff directly employed by NHS health boards) staff, which the government says would result in pay raises of between 5.41 and 11.32 per cent for the majority of AfC staff.

Overall it would represent a 7 per cent rise for NHS staff.

Read More: Firefighters urged to reject Scottish Government’s ‘absolutely disgusting’ pay offer

The strike ballot has been suspended while UNISON consults its members on the new offer. 

The consultation will run from October 31st until 5pm on Monday, 14 November. 

Chair of UNISON Scotland’s health committee Wilma Brown said: “The flat rate pay offer of £2,205 is significantly different from previous offers so UNISON will be consulting NHS staff.

“They are the ones who will ultimately decide whether they are willing to accept it. It’s important everyone has their say and members are urged to check their emails to make sure they use their vote.” 





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easyJet Glasgow to Belfast: airline inaugural flight

easyJet, which describes itself as Scotland’s largest airline, has today launched its inaugural flight on its new route from Glasgow to Belfast City airport.

The new service is now operating up to three times a week, on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, through the winter season until March 24 next year.

Ali Gayward, easyJet’s UK country manager, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating the first flights taking off today on our new service from Glasgow to Belfast City, further strengthening our network from Scotland and providing our customers whether they’re travelling for leisure or business with more convenient connections across the UK, which we know are already proving popular with those looking to explore and enjoy all the UK has to offer this winter.

“We are proud to be the largest airline in Glasgow and in Scotland.”

Ronald Leitch, operations director at Glasgow Airport, said: “We are delighted to welcome the crew and passengers of easyJet’s inaugural Belfast City Airport service. Links between the West of Scotland and the Northern Irish capital have always been extremely popular with our business and leisure passengers, so it’s fantastic that they can now enjoy even greater choice and flexibility via this new service.”

easyJet serves four airports in Scotland, offering 71 routes to 48 destinations in the UK, elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

New book reveals the fascinating history of Caledonian MacBrayne

DAYS spent messing around on the west coast water as a boy with his father put the young Andrew Clark into a current he’d be happily caught in all his life.

“You know roughly the direction you’re going in,” said the author of a new book on the history of the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry line, “but you don’t know quite what experience you’re going to have along the way. And you don’t know what you’re going to discover at the end of it.”

What Clark refers to as a “quest of discovery” – his new book The Making of MacBrayne – has taken the classical music critic ten years to complete.

HeraldScotland:  Deck scene on 1870 Clansman Deck scene on 1870 Clansman (Image: CALMAC)

But the author began this quest many years before he ever put pen to paper to write about it.

“I’ve had a fascination with everything to do with the west coast and shipping services since I was a boy when I first went to the Hebrides with my parents,” he said.

“When I was 16, I went on my first journey to the Hebrides on my own, and I was a very young 16-year-old. Nobody thought anything about it. I had a great time.”

The book, published by Ayrshire-based Stenlake publishing, could justifiably be considered a life’s work, aside from his decades-long career in newspapers in London.

HeraldScotland: Captain John MacFarlane with crew of 1888 Fusilier at Oban in 1928Captain John MacFarlane with crew of 1888 Fusilier at Oban in 1928 (Image: CALMAC)

The near 500-page tome is a forensic chronology of the storied company, whose red funnels and black and white hulls are the very definition of Scottish seafaring iconography.

Clark’s painstaking research and investigations saw the writer plunder files at the National Archives of Scotland and National Archives at Kew in London, as well as The Postal Museum, such was his determination to accurately chart the brand’s history.

“The Postal Museum in London was a key factor in the MacBrayne story,” said Clark. “When I went down there and looked at all the MacBrayne files, it was as if nobody had looked at these since they were launched.”

The result of his graft is a supremely detailed account, charting the company’s history and roots back to the mid-1800s. Its subtitle, A Scottish Transport Monopoly Spanning Three Centuries, is an indicator that this is more than a sunny-day seaside reverie on family outings and sturdy little boats. For example, history reveals that the stormy seas CalMac sail on today, with delayed budget-bursting ferries at Ferguson’s yard in Port Glasgow, and the perennial trouble over service shortfalls and marooned island communities, are nothing new.

HeraldScotland: Discharging sheep off car deck of the 1964 Hebrides at Uig in 1985Discharging sheep off car deck of the 1964 Hebrides at Uig in 1985 (Image: CALMAC)

Clark said: “The more I explored it, the more I realised that the past was relevant to the present. The same themes keep recurring in the history of west coast services. The islanders are never satisfied with the service that they’re given, even though over the years the services have improved beyond measure.

“On the other hand, the more the government takes control, the more inefficient the service becomes, because they enhance the monopoly, and the monopoly is anti-competitive. So, you get civil servants in Edinburgh dictating what should be happening in the islands, who don’t have a feeling for how to run a service efficiently.

HeraldScotland:

“It’s a bureaucracy running a daily service in territories that require knowledge not just of how to run boats, but of the islanders’ needs.”

Yet despite its troubles, a casual affection for the brand nevertheless endures, perhaps more so in the minds of those unimpeded by the everyday impact of its shortcomings. And, of course, through the sepia-haze of personal nostalgia.

Days on Clark’s father’s boat, a 32-foot Bermudan sloop moored off the island of Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde north west of their family home in Kilmarnock, saw family and friends sail around the west coast waters during the summer months.

One such trip gave the youngster a shocking close encounter with a MacBrayne steamer that he remembers vividly.

HeraldScotland: Loading a car onto the 1930 Lochmor at Lochmaddy, c1960Loading a car onto the 1930 Lochmor at Lochmaddy, c1960 (Image: CALMAC)

He said: “There was a dinghy to go ashore, and every time we put down anchor, as on this occasion I remember in Tobermory harbour, I would go out on the rowing boat, even as a boy.

“I was very agile in the wooden rowing boat. I would pretend that I was a steamer, or a MacBrayne boat, and I would circle round the harbour.

“One morning in Tobermory bay we were anchored not far from the pier, the whole scene was covered in mist, you could hardly see where you were. I was happily rowing around and then suddenly, almost on top of me, was the MV Claymore, the 1955 mailboat. It was coming in very slowly in the mist trying to find the pier, and here I was. It was almost on top of me. Obviously, I got my engines going quickly. That was a formative experience.”

HeraldScotland: Captain Guy Robertson with crew of the 1998 Clansman at Lochmaddy in 2003Captain Guy Robertson with crew of the 1998 Clansman at Lochmaddy in 2003 (Image: CALMAC)

Clark worked on the MV Kepple as a teenager, ferrying passengers between Largs and Cumbrae. When their family boat was out of the water in Millport for the winter, his father would take him to Greenock’s East India Harbour to see the King George V and St Columba steamers.

“They’d be slumbering next to each other, one with two funnels and one with three, all red with black tops and caps over the funnels to stop the rain getting in over winter. They completely captivated me,” he said. “We did that every winter.”

Clark still sails his 23-foot sailing boat around the waters which so beguiled him as a boy, and travels regularly on today’s ferries around the west coast.

His favourite route, West Loch Tarbert, Kennacraig, to Islay and Colonsay, still feels to him like he’s “entering another world.” Being on the water, he says, still elicits the feelings it did in him as a boy.

He said: “It’s wonderful for the imagination, the senses, and the sense of wellbeing. And the peacefulness of the islands is as restorative as it ever was.”

HeraldScotland:

The Making of MacBrayne is a story Andrew Clark has been writing his whole life, even if he only started ten years ago. The experience of charting these waters has been analogous to a Hebridean sail.

“You’re discovering something about yourself, about the world, and about your native landscape and your native people. And that’s a thrilling experience.”

The Making of MacBrayne by Andrew Clark is out now, published by Stenlake.

Time to commit to ending mental health stigma



Wendy Halliday is the director of See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

OCTOBER marked the 20th birthday of See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

Twenty years of engaging people living with mental ill health, challenging the status quo and empowering people to stand up and speak out against the unfair treatment of people with mental health problems – it’s been an incredible journey so far.

A lot has changed in the time that See Me has been around. Thanks to the work of our partners, supporters, amazing volunteers and staff teams, we’ve made real progress in shifting attitudes and changing behaviours around mental health.

Our most recent polling shows that eight in 10 Scots think that their own attitudes towards mental health have improved in the last 20 years. Things are moving in the right direction, but we know there’s still more to do.

Certain groups continue to experience mental health stigma. People with long-term, enduring mental illnesses, for example, face stigma regularly, and often from those closest to them.

The Scottish Mental Illness Stigma Study, which we published in September, showed that nine in 10 people with experience of complex mental illness have faced stigma and discrimination in their relationships with family and friends. Eight in 10 experienced stigma in healthcare services.

Imagine not being able to get support in the places where you would expect to find it.

And it’s not just those with the most complex mental illnesses who are treated unfairly. People from ethnic minority communities, people within the LGBTQ+ community, men, young people – these are all groups who continue to fear speaking out.

We need to do more to ensure that everyone, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality or where they’re from, can talk about their mental health, reach out and get help when they’re struggling. It’s important too that we do more to support culture and behaviour change in the settings where people continue to experience high levels of stigma as a result of their mental health.

It’s my hope that in 20 years’ time, we won’t need See Me – that people will be able to speak freely and openly about their mental health, and be treated with compassion and respect when they do.

We have a lot of work to do to get there, and See Me can’t do it alone.

While we get to work influencing systems and services, my birthday wish for See Me is for everyone in Scotland to make a commitment to do what they can to shift attitudes, tackle prejudice and make places and spaces more inclusive for anyone experiencing mental ill health.

To be mindful of their language when talking about mental health.

To ask others how they are, and listen to what they have to say.

And to show kindness, compassion and understanding when people are struggling.

When I see how far we’ve come over the last 20 years, I know that the people of Scotland can create real and lasting change.

Let’s work together and make mental health stigma a thing of the past.





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Warning university mental health services ‘overwhelmed’



Mental health services in Scotland’s universities are “completely overwhelmed”, Scottish Labour has warned.

A freedom of information (FOI) request submitted by the party has revealed that across 10 universities, 14,920 students applied for help with their mental health in 2020/21.

Almost every university reported a sharp increase in the number of mental health support requests, the FOI found.

Based on the available data, the figures had almost tripled when compared to 10 years prior.

The University of Edinburgh reported an increase of 242% over the decade, while Edinburgh Napier University said it had seen a rise of 324%.

Labour has now urged the Scottish Government to “show the leadership needed and bring together universities and health boards” to deliver effective mental health services.

Mental health spokeswoman Carol Mochan said: “There is a full-blown mental health crisis unfolding in our universities, but support remains woeful.

“Too often students are being bounced from pillar to post when they need help, with services completely overwhelmed.

“This problem has been growing for years and the added stress of the pandemic risks creating a perfect storm.

“The SNP need to show the leadership needed and bring together universities and health boards to deliver the services students need, as well as delivering on their promise to support counselling in our universities.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.





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Dyslexia and long-lasting mental health issues laid bare in hard-hitting film


IT is a hard-hitting film about long-lasting mental health issues experienced by the dyslexic community in Scotland.

Featuring Scots with dyslexia, the film shows them opening up about the lifelong trauma and suffering that has stemmed from mental abuse bullying they experienced in school, because of their learning difference.

The release, which forms part of Dyslexia Awareness Week Scotland, is the first Scottish-made documentary to shine a light on the relationship between dyslexia and mental health. It is hoped the awareness week will help move towards a dyslexia friendly Scotland.

Read more: Poverty campaigner named as next Church of Scotland Moderator

The film shows Keith Macaldowie, a high school Pupil Support Assistant with dyslexia, opening up about his own struggles with mental health that were prompted by traumatic physical and mental abuse he experienced as a child in school.

Despite it being a difficult film to be part of Mr Macaldowie said it was import for him to be part of it as dyslexia affects one in 10 Scots.

“One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to be able to give hope to the young people I work with now,” he said. “Education has changed and bullying and abuse isn’t as prevalent but they still go through some of the same things I experienced, in terms of self-esteem. I hope that this film shows young dyslexic people who are struggling with their mental health that there is a way through difficult experiences.”

 

The film could raise awareness of the understanding that is required about dyslexia

The film could raise awareness of the understanding that is required about dyslexia

 

Glasgow-based filmmaker Trevor Thomson, himself dyslexic, was motivated to create the film by his own lived experience and trauma. Mr Thomson received the identification of dyslexia in his 30s while studying at university.

He admitted that speaking about being dyslexic scares him yet felt a duty to create a documentary about his, and others traumatic experiences and that the experience of making and hearing others stories helped him.

He said: “As I talked to people about my personal experiences with dyslexia and mental health, I was surprised that it was such a big issue across the dyslexic community.

“People seem ashamed and embarrassed, and threatened by the stigma of their dyslexia and compounding issues with mental health. I called the documentary No More Secrets – as I feel I’ve been hiding for a large part of my life, and I feel people need to talk about the journeys with dyslexia.”

 

Keith Macaldowie, a high school Pupil Support Assistant with dyslexia

Keith Macaldowie, a high school Pupil Support Assistant with dyslexia

 

The documentary also offers a sense of hope and brighter future to viewers who may be struggling with mental health resulting from dyslexia stigma.

Dyslexia and mental health specialists also feature in the footage, giving solution-focused advice to people with dyslexia about ways they can combat negative thoughts, look after themselves and seek out more nurturing environments.

Pennie Aston, a dyslexia-specialist psychotherapist said: “It is important for people to realise how devastating the emotional repercussions of dyslexia can be. A dyslexic person’s mental health can be impacted profoundly not because they are dyslexic but because of the way they are treated because they are dyslexic.”

“The systematic focus on deficit rather than strengths – throughout their family of origin, school, further/higher education and the workforce – results in someone believing they are unable to fit into society. This can lead to a very, limited, tortured existence.”

“There is a myth that once you survive school, you’ll be ok. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless someone truly understands that they have a profoundly different (and wonderful) way of processing information and this does not need to be fixed but understood, they will continue to consider themselves tragically lacking in resources to cope in a predominantly linear-based society.”

The documentary also serves as a wake-up call to those who don’t know about the learning difference, and the harm that their words and actions could inflict down the line.

Chief Executive of Dyslexia Scotland Cathy Magee said: “Our charity’s ambition is to make Scotland a dyslexia-friendly country that values its dyslexic community. Sadly, many adults with dyslexia are suffering from severe difficulties with their mental health, often because of how they’ve been treated in school or work.”

“This documentary is both a powerful eye-opener to anyone who isn’t dyslexic, to understand the devastating effect that unsupported dyslexia can have on someone’s mental health, throughout their whole life; and it’s a strong message to the dyslexic community that we hear you, and we’re working for a better future.”

 

Triple F1 world champion Sir Jackie Stewart has spoken out about his dyslexia journey

 

Dyslexia Scotland is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of its awareness ribbon. The idea was devised by the charity’s first ever young ambassador, Ellie, who came up with the blue ribbon in 2012 as a way to promote awareness of dyslexia.

Since 2012, Dyslexia Scotland has distributed half a million blue ribbons. The decade-long use of the awareness ribbon is a proven success, as indicated by its high-profile endorsements. Legendary Formula 1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who is President of Dyslexia Scotland and dyslexic himself, sports the ribbon annually.

Sir Jackie said: “Every time I see the blue ribbon, it reminds me how important it is for us to find a solution for dyslexia. Like many dyslexics I still struggle and whenever possible, I wear the ribbon.”





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National Care Service: What Scotland could learn from Switzerland


There is no “perfect model” of social care but Switzerland’s system of higher taxation ranks favourably for quality and accessibility, a report concluded.

Research commissioned by a Holyrood committee scrutinising Scotland’s new National Care System bill compared international models and identifies strengths and weaknesses in each system.

The Swiss model is financed directly by contributions from taxation and a compulsory health insurance system that also funds social care.

Personal contributions account for a high proportion of total financing in Switzerland compared with other countries (30 per cent, while the average internationally is only 13.5%).

The model was found to rank well internationally in “quality of care, access, efficiency, equity, and promotion of healthy lives.”

However, the report found the mix of local and national governance increased the risk of sub-optimal quality of care.

Since the 1990s, changes in policy in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway introduced a more hybrid public-private approach.

Local authorities have the freedom to organise care, but the system is supported by national level legislation.

Care is “heavily subsidised” by the state and local authorities.

READ MORE: Care home providers “ripping off” elderly with £69,000 fees

The report found national level legislation ensures equality of levels of care service provision and quality of services.

However it warns that marketisation has challenged the principle of universalism through the introduction of options to pay for additional services.

In the United States all costs are paid for privately by individuals.

Medicaid does not cover social care and this is associated with widening health inequalities.

HeraldScotland:

The report found that sustainability of the model is “dependent on the wider economy.”

Alaska operates its own version of Medicaid, which covers some of the costs associated with home care.

READ MORE: SNP MSP has ‘no confidence whatsoever’ in cost plan for new National Care Service 

The Nuka model for Indigenous Alaskans focusses on home care, with multidisciplinary teams providing integrated health and care services in primary care centres and the community. This is associated with significant reductions in emergency department visits and hospital admissions, and improved diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases.

The research, led by Dr Irena Connon at Dundee University, was commissioned by the Health and Sport Committee as part of its scrutiny of the new National Care Service Bill.

It also examines the expectation in each country that family will be expected to provide care.

It was “high” in EU countries including France and Germany and Japan which provides a basic level of universal care. This raises equality issues,according to the report, given that most care is provided by women.

READ MORE: Mark Smith: What’s really wrong with the SNP’s plan for social care

The country operates a mandatory social insurance scheme with half the revenue coming from general taxation and the rest coming from premiums and user co-payments.

HeraldScotland:

Countries where they was a low expectation of family care included Australia, Canada, the Nordics and the UK home nations.

In Canada social care is considered an extended health service, provided”at provincial discretion”.
Differences in provincial arrangements have resulted in “unequal care distribution” and health outcomes lag behind other high-income countries.

The Netherlands, Germany, and France operate mandatory social care insurance schemes,which are funded by general taxation at central government level. 

HeraldScotland:

The report warns that social insurance-based schemes are coming under increased pressure from ageing populations with schemes relying on a single source of funding “more vulnerable to economic fluctuations.

It notes that increased integration of health and social care in the UK home nations has had a “relatively limited effect” on reducing health inequalities.

It makes a series of recommendations for Scotland’s new care system including a clear “one system, one budget” approach to reduce complexity.

Integration can help deliver more holistic approaches to care, but “strategies need to be put in place to ensure that social care does not end up in a subordinate position to health care”.

The report comes amid increased concern over the financial projections for Scotland’s new National Care Service.

SNP MSP  Michelle Thomson said last week that she was “completely surprised” by the lack of detail contained in the government’s financial memorandum, published in June.

The total costs of the Bill over the five year period 2022-23 to 2026-27 are estimated at between £644 million and £1,261 million,” said the memorandum.

However a Holyrood analysis of the SNP’s flagship policy to integrate health and social care services,released earlier this month, said it could cost up to £1.3 billion to deliver over the next five years and warned the figure could “change considerably”.

Donna Bell, Director of Social Care and National Care Service Development, said there was “significant work” to be done to examine costs and added that the risks “were very much at the front of our minds.”





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Scotland’s NHS ‘not performing well’ and will take at least five years to fix



Scotland’s NHS is not performing “at the level we would like” and will take at least five years to fix, the health secretary has admitted.

Humza Yousaf warned the health service was facing “its most challenging winter yet” because of the legacy of the pandemic, tighter budgets and reducing staffing.

Latest figures showed that less than 70% of people attending A&E were seen with four hours. The target is 95%. 

More than 7,000 people had been waiting over two years to start hospital treatment at the end of last month while 6,000 nursing and midwifery posts are unfilled.

Mr Yousaf said he hoped the public understood why the NHS is facing challenges and said the past week had been “one of the most difficult” to have been faced by Scotland’s health boards.

“It [the NHS] is not performing at the level that any of us would like, that is stating the obvious,” he said.

“There is recovery happening but it will take years. I have to be upfront about that.

“I had Scottish Labour last week put forward a motion on the NHS, surprisingly not mentioning the word pandemic in it.

“They essentially wanted recovery done by this winter.

READ MORE: Concern as ‘last resort’ staff whistleblower complaints double at Scotland’s biggest health board 

“The NHS is not going to recover by this winter, it’s going to take years.”

Pressed on how long he thought it might take to get on an even keel he said the Scottish Government was working towards a five-year recovery plan.

He said that while the fall-out from the pandemic was the biggest challenge facing the health service, other factors were slowing progress.

He said:”One of the biggest problems in our hospitals is the high level of delayed discharge, 1,800 people who are clinically safe cannot get out because local authorities are unable to provide social care – either at home or care home places.”

In an interview with BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, he said social care had been hit been hit by “a triple whammy” of Brexit, the pandemic and high energy and inflation costs and said it created a “tough business model” for care home operators.”

However, he said some areas of the NHS were starting to recover.

“If we look at outpatient appointments and procedures, we have ten or fewer people waiting two years,” he said.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is balloting for strike action, after criticising a pay offer of a flat rate of £2,205 per person, backdated to April.

However Unison, suspended its strike ballot of NHS staff and is consulting on a revised deal.

Mr Yousaf  was asked how the Scottish Government intends to mitigate the impact of nurses leaving the profession amid a waiting time crisis and backlogs for NHS treatment.

READ MORE: Former GP’s ‘utter dismay’ as long-awaited rural hospital faces further delays

He said: “The vacancies are far too high. So filling up a leaky bucket isn’t going to help, hence why there’s been so much focus from us on retention, and that’s why pay and terms and conditions are so important.

“We have the best-paid staff as you know, and I’ve said many times in your programme, here in Scotland.

“It’s also why I’ve offered a record pay deal. 

“One that is the single biggest pay deal ever offered to NHS staff in a single year in the history of devolution.

“So we’ll do what we can around the workforce, but the bed capacity really is where so much of our focus is currently going.

“To try to even get a fraction of those 1,800 delayed discharges out of the system will free up much-needed bed capacity in our hospitals that are really feeling under pressure.”

A health expert appearing on the same programme said staffing levels were “crucial” in tackling the crisis in the NHS and criticised the “stop start” approach to investment.

Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, warned that actions required to cope with increased demand depend on having the staff members to deliver appropriate care.

She called for a “long-term plan” for the NHS workforce in addition to sustainable investment.

Asked if the ongoing NHS Scotland crisis is “in essence, a staffing crisis”, she replied: “A lot of it is.

“If I was to say that we need more beds in hospital to cope with increases in demand, then you have to staff those beds. You can’t just open the beds and expect staff to continue at the same level of care.

“Patient outcomes would be affected if you do that, we can’t do that lightly. So staffing really is crucial.”

Dr Evans highlighted that a reluctance to join the health profession could arise from ongoing “uncertainties” around pay and the decision of some to leave the sector.

“What we have often is an investment in our health services, which can sometimes be a little sporadic – sometimes it comes, sometimes it stops,” she said.

“What really would be great would be to have a long-term plan for our workforce and sustainable investment to make that happen.

“I think with that confidence and certainty, then it provides a much better, stable basis for staff to come and work in the NHS.”

The Herald revealed last week nurses in Scotland’s biggest health board are resorting to whistleblowing channels to highlight staff shortages.

The number of employee complaints investigated by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has doubled this year, figures show.

The majority of issues raised by whistleblowers that were either fully or partially upheld related to concerns about staffing levels.

Six complaints about staff shortages were either partially upheld or upheld.

The report into one case, which was upheld fully, concludes that staff must receive appropriate breaks and time to attend “reflective practice sessions”

 

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Aberdeenshire has a wealth of riches to delight the intrepid traveller

My introduction to Aberdeenshire is from the water. I’ve driven from Edinburgh in the dark and as the sun comes up, I pull on a damp wetsuit and buoyancy aid. I’ve roped in my sister and a friend (similarly bleary eyed) and we follow our guide Dave Jacobs, owner of Stonehaven Paddleboarding, into the sea.

I have a few days to see as much of Aberdeenshire as I can and discover what this region, often overlooked by tourism, has to offer. Bordered by the Cairngorms to the west, Aberdeenshire, and its rivers the Don and the Dee, descend through fields and hills to the coast.

After a quick lesson we paddle out on our SUPs, following the line of rocks and cliffs, into caves where the distinctive ‘pudding stone’ rock of this coastline is adorned with spiky pink sea urchins. Cormorants dive for their breakfast and we keep watch for seals and dolphins. After an hour we reach the craggy cliffs below imposing Dunnottar Castle and Dave shows us the best view from within a cave. It’s an awesome sight.

HeraldScotland:

Our paddle back to Stonehaven is motivated by the perfect warm-up solution, a woodfired sauna in a converted horsebox. We spend an hour swapping between sweating in the sauna, speedy dips in the freezing sea and cold showers – feeling euphoric, and very Scandinavian. Hunger kicks in so we stroll along the promenade to award winning fish and chip shop The Bay. It’s as good as I hoped, crisp batter, tender fish and a piquant tartare sauce – top marks.

HeraldScotland:

From here I’m heading inland to ‘Royal Deeside’ to spend the afternoon in the pretty towns of Ballater, Braemar and Banchory. I direct my pals south to gorgeous St. Cyrus beach. It’s a nature reserve fringed with dunes and one of the best beaches I know.

I drive to Banchory and refuel with excellent coffee and cake at The Ride bike shop and cafe, then climb nearby Scolty Hill. The walk starts in forestry but soon the Sitka spruce gives way to native woodland and winding paths lead up to Scolty Tower, a 20m tall monument to General William Burnett, once a local landowner who fought alongside Wellington. From the top of the tower Royal Deeside stretches to the horizon, glacier rounded hills, forests and the meandering river Dee.

The weather is turning and my 5am start is catching up on me, so I check into the former estate house Banchory Lodge. It’s had a loving refurbishment and combines the traditional country house look with a bit of humour, swapping taxidermy for animal motifs. In my spacious room there’s muted flamingo wallpaper, a high leather headboard and velvet armchairs – perfect to curl up in and admire the view of the river Dee.

HeraldScotland:

The dining room features portrait wallpaper, traditional framed pictures, and a few animals in top hats to make sure you’re paying attention. On the menu, hearty winter fare – sausage and mash, pork chops, and steaks. I opt for a smoked salmon Scotch egg (runny inside, genius), and a monkfish curry. Portions are generous, the staff are cheery and there’s a roaring fire, wonderful.

I’m keen to see the coastal fishing villages on the north coast so after a hearty breakfast I head north to Portsoy. The drive takes me through the fine agricultural land at the heart of Aberdeenshire: golden fields, neat hay bales, and handsome granite farmhouses, with occasional pockets of ancient woodland.

HeraldScotland:

THE villages on the Aberdeenshire coast tell the story of the rise, fall and modernisation of the Scottish fishing industry. Starting at Portsoy, the pretty harbour at Portsoy was rebuilt in 1825 to accommodate the growing herring fleet. Today it’s a quiet spot, with leisure craft outnumbering fishing vessels. On a warmer day it looks the perfect spot for a swim.

The next village along Gardenstown, was once a hive of industry. More than 90 boats operated from the harbour in 1900. In the fascinating wee museum in the harbour, I’m struck by images of the young workforce, teenage girls who followed the herring boats, and could gut a herring a second. Young lads learning the ropes. I admire a cosy gansey, a thick wool jumper knitted with a specific pattern in each family, to help identify poor souls lost at sea. It’s a sobering reminder not to be too nostalgic about the camaraderie and community of the herring boom.

It feels like ancient history, but I’m told some children of the women in these pictures still live in the village. These elders will be the last to remember barrels of herring in the harbour.

Around the bay is Crovie (pronounced Crivie), it’s an extremely steep descent on foot to the village. Here picture-book stone fishing cottages hug the bay, with washing lines out front. In 1953 many homes were destroyed in a storm and many residents chose not to return. During my visit I don’t see a soul. At Pennan waves crash against the whitewashed waterfront sending a spray that reaches my knees. I can only imagine a true winter storm here or trying to make a living in a small fishing boat. The red phone box made famous by 1983 film Local Hero is still on the waterfront, as is the Pennan Inn.

As I drive further east I start to see how the fishing industry has changed. At Macduff large commercial fishing boats line the waterfront, at Fraserburgh it’s vast pelagic trawlers. After a walk on Fraserburgh’s pink-hued sandy beach, I follow the coastal road south as the sun sets, lighting up the golden fields.

My destination tonight is luxurious Maryculter House and after my windswept day I’ve booked the ‘Cosy Night in’ package. It starts with a gin flight and canapes in the Great Hall. And what a hall it is. Built in 1225 by the Knights Templar, this towering stone room has a fireplace at each end, armoured knights and oil paintings that reach to the ceiling. Later Maryculter House was home to a Jacobite family who came home from Culloden, and more recently a couple that survived the sinking of The Titanic. If these walls could talk the stories they could tell.

HeraldScotland:

I’ve barely scratched the surface of Aberdeenshire, but I’m discovering how history and industry have shaped the landscape. I’m already planning future visits to castles, to the harbour festival at Portsoy, and for coastal and river walks. There are so many more stories to be told. If you want to plan your own north-east adventure, Visit Aberdeenshire is an invaluable resource.

Stonehaven www.Paddleboardingshpb.co.uk

Visit Aberdeenshire www.visitabdn.com

The Bay www.thebayfishandchips.co.uk

 

 

SIX OF THE BEST PLACES TO STAY

The Fife Arms

World class art meets luxury in this opulent Braemar hotel. Conde Nast recently voted it the best hotel in the UK – book a room and see if you agree.

www.thefifearms.com

Maryculter House

In a beautiful Deeside location and dating from 1225, this is a very special spot with top-notch food and service.

www.maryculterhouse.com

MacLeod House and Lodge at Trump International Golf Links

If you like gold, glitz, and glamour with your golf this is the spot for you. Arrival by helicopter optional.

www.trumpgolfscotland.com/hotel

Banchory Lodge

At the confluence of the River Dee and the Feugh in the heart of Royal Deeside this comfortable hotel makes for a relaxing break and is a brilliant base to explore the area.

www.banchorylodge.com

Douneside House

Run by charitable foundation the MacRobert Trust, elegant Douneside House is steeped in history. The gorgeous garden is an RHS Partner with beautiful terraces, rock pools and a walled garden to explore.

www.dounesidehouse.co.uk

Darroch Learg

Perched on Craigendarroch hill near Ballater this hotel in the trees is a charming quiet retreat with excellent food.

www.darrochlearg.co.uk

 

Delightful dishes guaranteed to put a smile on your face

Aberdeen locals will already be well aware of Amuse by Kevin Dalgleish, since it opened in July it’s been a word-of-mouth sensation. If you live elsewhere, perhaps it’s time for a trip to the granite city. Dalgleish (below) is one of the northeast’s most revered chefs, training at The Savoy then working at Ackergill Tower and The Chester Hotel. Amuse is his first solo venture.

Set slightly below street level the restaurant is flooded with light, bouncing off exposed brick walls and through large internal porthole windows. It’s elegant but relaxed, leather banquette seating, squashy tweed cushions and plenty of plants. Chilled soul music and friendly staff add to the ambiance. Oil paintings of people, fish and crustaceans grace the walls.

HeraldScotland:

To me the best menus are short, seasonal, and exciting and in the set lunch that’s exactly what Amuse offers: four starters, six mains and four desserts with tough decisions at every juncture.

I start with a salad of dressed east coast crab, and it’s mind-bendingly good: sweet crab in an elderflower mayonnaise, citrusy leaves and crisp balls of apple, cucumber, and kohlrabi.

The Seafood gratin Royale has me polishing my crown. Generous pieces of haddock, salmon, and scallops swim in a creamy leek and Emmental velouté, scattered with crispy shallots and potato puffs. If this is Dalgleish’s take on the beloved north-east dish Cullen Skink, then he’s nailed it. It’s rich and luxurious and the fish is tender and packed full of flavour, as advised a glass of Pecorino is the perfect match.

HeraldScotland:

I’m stuck on pudding: pavlova, chocolate, treacle tart or cheese, how on earth to choose? “The chocolate is incredible, ‘’ My waiter tells me and my goodness he’s right. Smooth Valrhona chocolate with orange, candied kumquats and “hundreds and thousands’’ – knobbly honeycomb and chocolate crisps, and a slightly salted hazelnut cream. Kevin Dalgleish pops by my table to say hello and finds me gazing into the chocolatey depths of my bowl, almost lost for words.

I ascend back to street level, the trees on Queen’s Terrace Gardens ablaze with colour, the sky cerulean blue. Maybe it’s the chocolate rush, wine at lunchtime, or just my giddy delight at a truly excellent meal, but I’m a little bit in love with Amuse.

1 Queen’s Terrace, Aberdeen AB10 1XL

www.amuse-restaurant.com

 

Health: High cholesterol impacts young people too



A well-balanced diet and regular exercise could boost your overall health and help keep cholesterol in check. By Prudence Wade.

High cholesterol is something we tend to associated with older people – but in reality, that’s not always the case.

A greater number of younger people are being diagnosed with high cholesterol than you might think, according to new figures from the British Heart Foundation (bhf.org.uk) – 29% of 25-34-year-olds in England, and nearly half (45%) of 35-44-year-olds.

It is still most common in older age groups – with the percentage of people with raised cholesterol increasing to 59% for 55-64-year-olds. However, the figures indicate it’s important for adults of all ages to be aware of the issue.

There are two types of cholesterol: HDL cholesterol – often known as the ‘good’ type, because it carries cholesterol from the cells to the liver to be broken down. And LDL cholesterol – often known as the ‘bad’ type, because it can build up and potentially block arteries, resulting in serious health problems.

Cholesterol does have a function in our bodies. As the charity HEART UK (heartuk.org.uk) points out, it is ‘used to make vitamin D and steroid hormones’, which help to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy. It also has a role in bile production, which helps us digest fats.

While we do need some LDL cholesterol in our blood, it’s when we have too much that problems can arise. According to the NHS, high cholesterol can run in families, although lifestyle and dietary factors can play a part too – and the best way to check your cholesterol levels is via a blood test.

Lynne Garton, a consultant dietitian for HEART UK, says: “Higher cholesterol levels are typically thought of as affecting older people, yet this growing body of evidence on increased cholesterol levels across young generations confirms it is a key health area that now needs to be tackled from a much younger age, to reduce the length of time the body is exposed to the effects of excess cholesterol.

“Making changes to the diet is a simple yet vital way to manage cholesterol levels for all ages.”

Registered nutritionist Anita Bean shares the following tips to look after your health and help keep cholesterol levels in check…

Replace some animal proteins in your diet

Cholesterol is found in animal foods, so Bean says: “Replacing some or all of the animal proteins that are high in saturated fat with healthful plant and other alternative proteins will help reduce your saturated fat intake, and contribute to maintaining a normal cholesterol level as part of a varied balanced diet and lifestyle.”

She recommends looking to plant-based sources of protein, including tofu, pulses, nuts and seeds.

Exercise regularly

This isn’t just a good tip for managing your cholesterol levels but can help boost your health overall.

“To keep your heart healthy, your body needs adequate amounts of exercise,” says Bean, who cites the UK Chief Medical Officer’s physical activity guidelines. These recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity activity – both with at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening exercises.

This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym. Dancing,

gardening and going for walks all count too.

Eat more heart-healthy fats

“Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels,” says Bean. “We should be eating fewer foods high in saturated fat and instead focus on consuming – in moderation – foods with heart-healthy unsaturated fats.

“Saturated fat is mainly found in fatty meat, full-fat dairy products, butter, lard, ghee, suet, palm and coconut oils and products made from them. Unsaturated fat is found in nuts, seeds, vegetable spreads and oils and many other plant-based foods.”

Get your five-a-day

“We should all be trying to consume at least five servings of fruit and vegetables each day,” says Bean. With the growing cost-of-living crisis meaning fresh fruit and veg might feel a bit more out of reach, Bean wants you to know: “Fresh, frozen, canned, dried – they all count.”

As an example of what your five-a-day might look like, she says: “An adult serving could be one medium sweet potato, three tablespoons of peas, one slice of mango, a bowl of salad, a tablespoon of dried fruit or a handful of strawberries.”

Seek outside help

If you’re struggling to make healthy choices or have any worries about your health, consult your GP for advice.

And if you do need a helping hand, Bean recommends trying out HEART UK’s Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan – a three-step eating guide which has managing blood cholesterol levels and heart health at its core.

Garton calls it a “practical, manageable and achievable way of making simple changes to the diet, to reduce saturated fat intake and increase heart-healthy fats and plant proteins to help manage cholesterol levels”.

See heartuk.org.uk/uclp-protein for more information.





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