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News round-up / Drink drivers reported, LFASS threat to crofting, Loganair flights to Manchester, RSPB bird watch

POLICE have confirmed that four local drivers, two men and two women, have been reported for being under the influence of drink during the force’s festival period campaign to combat drink and drug driving.

The national campaign run throughout December and over the New Year period and saw an increase presence of officers out on the roads.

More than 3,000 vehicles were stopped throughout the highlands and islands command area.

Roads policing inspector Neil Lumsden said: “Taking control of a vehicle while under the influence – whether that is drink or drugs – is a reckless and selfish act which can have a devastating impact on many lives.

“It is clear that some drivers still feel this is a risk worth taking and we will continue to carry out enforcement activity aiming at removing these drivers from the roads.”

The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has warned that cuts to the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) will threaten the very existence of crofting.

Earlier this week the Scottish Government announced that LFASS support will be reduced to 80 per cent of current rates in 2019 and just 40 per cent in 2020.

“Reducing the Less Favoured Areas support to 80 per cent of current rates for 2019 sends out a very negative message, but we can live with it”, said SCF chairman Russell Smith.

“But to then cut it to a mere 40 per cent for 2020 will be ruinous. The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, has consistently said that further proposed cuts would be “unacceptable” and that he would fight them.

“Being told now that this vital support to crofters will be reduced to 40 per cent next year is a slap in the face to us in the less favoured areas and indicates failure on the part of Scottish Government.”

Ewing said: “I fully accept that this is not ideal, but under changes to EU regulations there is no option but to revise payment rates down. Importantly, we are clear this change will not impact on those who receive the minimum payment of £385, which is not being reduced.”

LOGANAIR has more than doubled capacity on its weekly direct service from Sumburgh to Manchester this summer.

The airline said the non-stop service will operate between 24 May and 26 October using a 50-seater Saab 2000 aircraft.

Commercial director Kay Ryan said: “Summer is always the busiest period for travel and this year visitor numbers are expected to be very high.

“With an influx of tourists using air services alongside many residents travelling to the mainland and beyond, we’re ensuring our schedule sufficiently meets these requirements.

“Manchester is a popular route, offering connectivity to a large global network of onward destinations through our codeshare and interline partners on a single ticket.”

SCHOOL children in Shetland are again invited to participate in the RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch, the world’s biggest schools’ wildlife survey.

The schools’ bird watch runs over three days on 26, 27 and 28 January.

RSPB Scotland’s Shetland manager Helen Moncrieff said: “Many of Shetland’s schools have worked hard to improve their grounds for wildlife, from putting in bug-hotels and bird feeders to planting trees.

“The Big Schools’ Birdwatch is an opportunity for bairns to be scientists for an hour, gathering data on the birds that visit their school thanks to the efforts they have put in to give nature a home.

“School bairns will likely have the usual suspects visit their grounds, like starlings and house sparrows. However, every now and then a surprise visitor turns up like in 2017 when Dunrossness Primary School recorded a merlin!”

Further information can be found on the RSPB website at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch