John O’Groat Journal review: October 21,2011

Scottish police force must continue to make local policing one of its top priorities, the paper’s front page lead story reports. That was the view of Wick councillor Graeme Smith, who said Highland Council allowed itself to be walked over by the Scottish Government as it plans to merge all eight Scottish forces. The Northern Joint Police Board held a special meeting in Inverness for a consultation on reforming police and fire and rescue services, on Wednesday. Councillors met police chiefs from Northern Constabulary and appealed for reassurance that the new force will keep local control. They also urged any changes to services in the Highlands and Islands to be made within the region and not from a national headquarters.

at one of the county’s most historic hotels have been told it’s doors are set to shut during winter. Thurso’s Royal Hotel will close for the first time ever, during the winter season, in two weeks’ time. It is understood it will shut on Sunday, November 6, for four months. Bookings will still be taken at the hotel until that date, but its online booking system will not be available from Monday, November 7. It is likely the hotel will reopen at the start of March, although no date has been confirmed. The hotel, which is part of the Oxford Hotels and Inns Group, would not confirm if the closure is set to take place on an annual basis.

protest group has dropped its long-standing claim that the county is a honey pot for commercial wind-farm developers. While continuing to oppose new ventures in its area, Caithness Windfarm Information Group now accepts many other parts of Scotland are facing similar impacts from clusters of steepling turbines. As part of it s drive to align itself with groups elsewhere, it will be represented at a demo at the SNP conference at Inverness, tomorrow. CWIF chairman, Stuart Young, yesterday said the prospective advance of onshore wind farms is starkly highlighted in a recently-produced map by Scottish Natural Heritage. The map shows wind-farms which are operational, together with those in the planning process and under consideration.

prizes for guessing the main focus in the back page sports section...that crucial second round Scottish Cup tie with fellow Highland League club, Keith. Manager Davie Kirkwood is calling on his players to draw on the spirit of the first round and says that despite the Scorries’ recent form, losing three league games on the trot, the side has shown it is a competitive outfit and the prospect of facing Scottish Football opposition in the third round, is a great incentive.

out of five businesses in Caithness do not meet the requirements of disabled access at their premises. That was the worrying statistic from the Caithness Disabled Access Panel which claims that the Far North is the most difficult place to live in Scotland, for disabled people. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, which was introduced in 2004, businesses and premises are required to make sure there are no physical barriers stopping, or making it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use services. An audit carried out by members of the group this year, showed that 80 per cent of businesses in Thurso and Wick are not complying with the law. Now CDAP is looking at trying to introduce a scheme into the county to highlight which businesses do meet the requirements of the Act.

James Tait repeated his victory in the opener to the competitive ploughing circuit in the Far North on Saturday. He defeated his 24 rivals with something to spare, at the North and West Caithness Ploughing Association’s 22nd match at Stemster Mains. Ground conditions were ideal for the contest which had a handful of late withdrawals by farmers who used the dry day to help finish the harvest. Mr Tait, from Murkle, piloted his New Holland tractor and two-furrow Kverneland plough, to claim his eighth overall title. His trophy bag included the late William Farquhar Folly Cup as open champion, as well as the late Charles Macivor Cup and the William Allan 1897 Cup, as county champion.

scientist is heading up the bid to improve access to STEM subjects in North schools. Dr Kathleen McDougall has been appointed by the University of the Highlands and Islands to support teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics across the region. As an adviser for the STEM curriculum, Dr McDougall will be visiting schools, providing resources and information and encouraging them to incorporate the expertise and enthusiasm of local volunteer STEM ambassadors from industry and academia. The university recently formed a partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to run the STEMNET contract for 2011-2015. This includes managing the STEM ambassador programmed and schools advisory service across the region.