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news from scotland winter 2012

Stone Skimming Championship Saved At 11th Hour

The abandoned slate quarry on the tiny island of Easdale is ideal for skimming stones: the water is flat and the stones along the shore are the perfect shape and size. But just weeks before the 15th annual Easdale World Stone Skimming Championships were to begin last September, Jonathan Feigenbaum, the island's absentee owner, demanded a fee for the use of the quarry as well as proof of insurance. Event organizer Keren Cafferty, chairwoman of the Eilean Eisdeal Community Trust (which owns the harbor, community hall and museum), objected, explaining that while they had insurance, they were unable to pay the hefty fee: "He contacted us to try and implement a levy which we felt was completely unfair, bearing in mind that this is a charity." As time ticked away, negotiations stalled and the threat of lawsuits hung in the air, The Press and Journal newspaper finally stepped forward with a £1,000 donation. "It's just brilliant fun and everyone, young and old, has a chance of winning. I might even sharpen up my skimming skills and have a crack myself," said Damian Bates, the newspaper's editor, when announcing the gift. As for Mr. Feigenbaum...he calmed the waters somewhat by saying he will spend the fee on projects to benefit the island. For more information about the championships, which the Lonely Planet guide calls one of the "must-see events in Europe," go to www.stoneskimming.com.

Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Saved For Now

To cut costs, Britain's defense chiefs had planned to either merge the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders with the Black Watch or turn the storied outfit into a Territorial Army (reserve) regiment. But last July, likely in response to pressure concerning Scotland's independence vote in 2014, military chiefs decided not to eliminate any of the Scottish infantry names. Current plans now call for the Argylls to be reduced from 450 troops to about 150. They will be largely responsible for public and ceremonial duties and will move from their current headquarters in Canterbury to Edinburgh. The Highlanders, which were formed in 1994 by amalgamating the Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) and the Gordon Highlanders, will also be spared. "The important thing is that we have maintained the names and traditions and the golden thread of recruitment in Scotland," said a British government source. The decision has angered Conservative Members of Parliament from England because it means larger troops cuts will have to be made south of the border.

Football Fans Irate Over New Monopoly Board

Dundee is the latest Scottish city to be given its own version of Monopoly, but just moments after its release, local football fans were voicing their displeasure. The city's two senior football clubs, Dundee and Dundee United, are placed side-by-side on the board, just as they are in real life. But buying Dens Park will cost players £140, while Tannadice Park, United's home just up Sandeman Street, costs £160. "If the makers want to sell this game in Dundee, the two grounds should have been valued the same...some fans will take the huff and may refuse to buy it," explained Chris Campbell, who runs the Billy Steele Dark Blues fan club for Dundee. But, as expected, United fan Billy Hoon disagreed: "They've got it spot on in my opinion. If you look at the two stadiums, then Tannadice is the better ground."

The full text of this section is available in the Winter 2012 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on Robert Louis Stevenson's Edinburgh by Keith Aitken

Click here to preview our feature article on The Surprising Village Of Ullapool by Bruce MacGregor Sandison.

Click here to preview our Bagpiping column by Gary West.

Click here to preview our reviews of Scottish Books by Hamish Coghill.

Photo above left: © Jane Barlow; photo top right: © Northern Times newspaper, Sutherland; photo bottom: © Charlie Phillips / Scottish Viewpoint.