John O' Groat Journal headlines for March 8

LARGE family homes owned by housing associations in Caithness, could remain permanently empty, after it was revealed that despite an over-supply in the far north, couples on benefits would not be eligible to live in them. Albyn Housing Society chiefs claim the so-called bedroom tax is set to cause chaos in the far north with a rise in homelessness a major concern. Benefit claimants, who live in council or housing association properties, will see the amount of money they are entitled to, reduced if they are thought to live in homes with more bedrooms than they require. But Albyn have said that despite there being a severe shortage of one-bedroom properties in the far north, the bedroom tax would mean that they would not be eligible to move into larger properties without their benefit being cut.

HE has lit up the Scottish Premier League with his dazzling amount of of football tricks and now Gary Mackay-Steven has been asked to help rescue Scotland's ill-fated World Cup campaign. The 22-year-old from Thurso, has been named in Gordon Strachan's 28-man squad, ahead of Scotland's forthcoming matches against Serbia and Wales. The Dundee UInited winger, who has won many fans since joining the club in 2011, has previously played at under -21 level but this is his first senior call-up. Strachan said Mackay-Steven's consistent good performances in the SPL has earned him a place in the squad.

CAITHNESS Pubwatch is set to take a tougher stance on violence in licensed premises after it issued only its second life ban. The male cuystomer wqho assaulted a bartender at J.D. Wetherspoons Alexander Bain pub in Wick last month, is not allowed to enter any pub or restaurant in Caithness again as a result of the incident. Now publicans say theyare not prepared to see any repeat offences in the future and will have no hesitation in meting out more life bans, if necessary.

TEN jobs are ecpected to be lost in Caithness after the DE shoe shops in Wick and Thurso were put up for sale this week. The decision, which also affects of its 32 retail outlets in Scotland, was taken after the company experienced difficult trading conditions allied to a change in shopping patterns and online retailing. The announcement comes hard on the heels of two Wick businesses - K G Events and Made in Caithness - confirming they are to close at the end of the month.

PLANS to make Gills Harbour the service base for renewable energy projects in the Pentland Firth have been given a boost. Companies involved in proposed schemes off the Caithness and Orkney coasts have responded positively after being contacted by Gills Harbour Ltd. Chairman Billl Mowat said he is "very heartened" by the reaction and added that several companies asked to be "kept in the frame" regarding developments.

CONSTRUCTION of the new secondary school in Wick looks set to be delayed. But the council maintains the new school, together with the town's two new primaries, will be opened in two years. But Highland Council is confident it will be opened on time. Building work on the new Wick High School is set to be put back by at least a month with it scheduled to start in October. Head of Support Services Ron Mackenzie who spoke with members of Wick High's stake-members group on Monday night, acknowledged there has been a slight delay in getting underway but said this would not affect the overall timescale.

AN energy company is inviting people to volunteer to take part in an archaeological dig on and around its Burn of Whilk wind farm site near Thrumster. A recent aerial survey has highlighted there may be many new ancient sites hidden beneath the ground that have not been previously identified. To discover what ancient treasures may lie beneath, a team of archaelogists will be investigating some of the the area over the way but said this would not affect the overall timescale. To discover what ancient treasures may lie beneath, a team of archaelogists will be invewstigating some of the area over the next few weeks and are keen to involve as many local people as possible.