Skullspiltter Headache

Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, has tabled a Commons motion calling for a complaint against Orkney Brewery's 8.5 per cent ABV Skull Splitter ale to be rejected.

The 8.5 per cent ABV ale came under fire from the pompous Portman Group last month after a report claimed it "implied violence" - and the drinks watchdog is to meet later in the year to talk about possible action.

In the motion, tabled on Wednesday, Carmichael says he recognises that the name would be inappropriate if it were applied to a low-price high alcohol content drink aimed at young drinkers.

But he adds: "Skull Splitter is not such a drink, but is instead a high quality premium beer, not sold in supermarkets, a past Champion Winter Ale of Britain, which is targeted at, and bought by, discerning drinkers who appreciate its quality and who drink it responsibly."

Five Star Byre

SELF-CATERING-5-STAR.jpg Awarded August 2008 the Byre at Heddle is now officially recoginsed as Scottish Tourist Board  Five Star Self-Catering Accommodation. The Byre is the fourth property in Orkney to achieve this grading. We think we should be Six...

Top of the Pops

 Scotland's population was yesterday officially estimated at its highest for a quarter of a century. The main reason for the rise? Migration. The main source of the newcomers? England.

Net "in" migration - from all sources - is now at its highest since records begin in the early 1950s, said Duncan Macniven, Scotland's registrar-general, in his official annual report on the nation's population. But the number of people moving to Scotland from the rest of the UK far outstrips migrants with a higher profile, like tens of thousands of Poles and other eastern Europeans who have made their home here since British borders were opened up to them in 2004.

Orkney is at the head of this demograhic curve ball.  In many of the outer islands you are more likely to hear southern vowels than the expected Orcadian lilt. Fully 736 people are thought to have moved to the islands in 2006-2007. Half of those were from other parts of Scotland. Most of the rest were from England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Just 45 were officially categorised as "overseas" migrants.

The result: net migration to Orkney of 135, more than cancelling out a modest birth rate and continuing emigration. Orkney's population rose half a percent in the year.


Talking Stones

A major archaeological investigation is getting under way this week  at one of Western Europe's most impressive prehistoric sites. The Ring of Brodgar in Orkney is the third largest stone circle in the British Isles, but little is known about it.

A month-long programme of investigations will be undertaken by a 15-strong team. The last important archaeological studies took place there in the 1970s. Historic Scotland said very little was actually known about the site, including its exact age and purpose.

A scheduled ancient monument, the stone circle and henge of the Ring of Brodgar is part of 'The Heart of Neolithic Orkney' World Heritage Site, inscribed by UNESCO in 1999. The project will involve the re-excavation and extension of trenches dug in 1973. Geophysical surveys will also be undertaken to investigate the location of standing stones.

Dr Jane Downes of the Archaeology Department, Orkney College, UHI, and Dr Colin Richards of the University of Manchester are the project directors. Dr Downes said: "Because so little is known about the Ring of Brodgar, a series of assumptions have taken the place of archaeological data.

"The interpretation of what is arguably the most spectacular stone circle in Scotland is therefore incomplete and unclear." Dr Richards added: "At present, even the number of stones in the original circle is uncertain. The position of at least 40 can be identified but there are spaces for 20 more."

Woody Woodpecker

It may not be one of the Great Trees of Britain but Kirkwall and St Ola Community councillors have recommended that the council go ahead and put a stabilising pole at Albert Street’s Big Tree — with measures to ensure youths can't climb it.

Chairman, Spencer Rosie, said the tree had to be protected or taken away, as it was no longer safe in its current state.

It was felt by some members that taking the tree away completely, or replacing it with another, would have to go out to public consultation.

After considerable discussion, members agreed that a “steadying column”, be driven adjacent to the trunk with a fastening to the tree.