Bank closures set to go ahead

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Richard Lochhead MSP (centre) outside Lossiemouth BoS branch with community campaigners Carolle Ralph and Mike Mulholland

Lloyd’s Banking Group confirmed last week, in a letter to Moray MSP Richard Lochhead MSP, that it has decided to press ahead with the closure of its Lossiemouth and Keith branches, despite strong public opposition.

Mr Lochhead said: “The bank’s decision to press ahead with the closure of branches in Lossiemouth and Keith is a huge blow to our local communities – particularly in Lossiemouth where the last bank in the town is being closed. I don’t expect our communities to take this news lying down given the strength of feeling and given the impact on customers and local economy.

“It is now incumbent on the UK Government – who has responsibility for banking – to intervene and to take action particularly in Lossiemouth to prevent the closure of the last remaining branch in the community.

“I will be discussing next steps in the campaign with our local communities and will continue to support them in any way I can to save their banks.

“It is of course ironic that the public bailed out these banks at their time of need and yet they refuse to return that support to our communities IN Moray with forty per cent of our high street branches being lost in Moray in recent years.”

The  closures are set to go ahead despite a spirited community fight to prevent them, as reported by insideMORAY.

The fight has so far included: a meeting between community and senior bank representatives from Lloyds Banking Group, the parent company of the Bank of Scotland; public meetings chaired by Moray MP Douglas Ross; a petition launched by Richard Lochhead and Councillor Theresa Coull; and an intervention by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who called on the Bank of Scotland to reverse its plans to close the Lossiemouth branch – the last bank in the town – in the light of the massive investment in RAF Lossiemouth which will generate greater demand for local banking services.


Speyside Scottish country dancing classes reeling in the dancers

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Speyside Scottish Country Dancing classes resume tonight

Speyside Scottish country dancing classes are due to resume tonight, Monday 14 January, in Aberlour, after a well-deserved winter break.

The classes are run by volunteers Bill and Rosemary Legge on behalf of the Banffshire branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, and are aimed at children aged P5 and over, teenagers and adults. The charge is a modest £1 per person per class, that helps cover costs.

“We had been teaching Scottish Country Dancing in Knockando and Craigellachie schools”, say Bill and Rosemary, “and knew there were children and adults who would like to come to an evening class.

“We took posters and flyers around all our local primary schools, put up posters around the area and advertised the class widely. As a result, we have had people of all ages attending from around the area when we started the new class in October, which was set up as a family class, where older children and adults can learn together.”

The class is held on a Monday evening, 7.30-8.30pm in the Auditorium of Speyside Sports and Community Centre which is part of Speyside High school.

“The facilities are good and the time is just right for adults who need to get home from work and children who need to get up for school next day” Bill says. “We find an hour is long enough.  Everyone feels they have had plenty of exercise by the end of the hour.

“We have also set up a Facebook page for the class. This is useful for publicizing information and for showing short videos to demonstrate what we are learning.”

“The first week we had 14 people”, adds Rosemary, “and over the subsequent weeks more new people came along.  The first term had an average of 20 people attending each week which is a good number to work with because they are mostly beginners and need more personal tuition than experienced dancers would.

“We learnt 11 easy dances which included a few basic formations and progressions. The term ended with a Christmas party when class members invited family and friends to join us.  The class members were given the opportunity to choose their favourite dances and it turned out that all the dances got votes so we danced 8 of them and the girls did a demonstration of 2 more.  We all brought some food and had an interval with refreshments which allowed us time to get to know each other better.

“Several people have expressed a wish to join the class when we start back in January and we look forward to welcoming them and integrating them into the class.”

More information is available on or by emailing [email protected]


Give guide running a go

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Guide running – Lisa Morrison and Bruce Cruickshank out for a run

A Keith man is encouraging runners of all abilities to consider training to be guide runners to enable people with sight loss to keep fit and healthy, and to achieve their ambitions.

Bruce Cruickshank, who works for North East Sensory Services, lost his sight in 2010 and got involved in running with the support of his local Jog Scotland group in order to get fitter and try something new.

In addition to the weekly Jog Scotland sessions, Bruce runs a few kilometres two to three times per week with Personal Trainer, Lisa Morrison. However, Bruce is looking to expand his fleet of guide runners to relieve the pressure off Lisa, who has other commitments, and to enable more people in Moray with sight loss to experience the benefits of running.

Guide running is a very straightforward concept: a sighted runner and a runner with sight loss both hold on to a tether and run side-by-side at the same pace. The guide runner communicates with the runner with sight loss about changes in direction, terrain and other details in order to ensure their safety. Training is available for anyone interested in becoming a guide runner and it’s a fantastic way to improve your own fitness whilst enabling a runner with sight loss to do likewise.

Bruce said “I would like to get out running again but due to lack of guide runners in the area I can’t get out possibly as much as I would like. I really enjoy getting out there and covering a few km.”

Lisa added “I got into the London marathon and decided to raise money for Guide Dogs, so I can only give so much time to run with Bruce due to training. So it would be great to see him out and about with more leaders.

To register your interest in becoming a guide runner, get in touch with Alison Shaw (Regional Manager for Scottish Disability Sport) on 07828 744 848 or [email protected]

Scottish Disability Sport is keen to hear from anyone living with a physical, sensory or learning disability who is interested in getting involved in Para Sport. Grampian residents should also contact Alison if they would like more information on opportunities in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire & Moray.


Police appeal for information following rural thefts

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Police Scotland are appealing for information following rural thefts in the Buckie and Fochabers areas.

In the first incident a number of LED lights valued at a low five figure sum were stolen from plant located in the Deskford area of Buckie sometime over the weekend between Friday 14 and Monday 17 December 2018.

A second incident occurred between Friday 28 December 2018 and Wednesday 2 January 2019, where a number of power and hand tools valued at a four figure sum were stolen from woodland near Fochabers.

Sergeant Robbie Williams, Buckie Community Policing Team, said: “It is likely a vehicle would have been required to transport the stolen items away from the locations.

“If anyone recalls seeing or hearing any suspicious activity, particularly around wooded and rural areas where plant is located, I would ask them to get in touch.

“Similarly if anyone has been offered tools or commercial LED lights at a reduced price I would ask them to get in touch.

“We are keeping an open mind as to whether the two incidents are linked and ask that anyone with information contact Police Scotland on 101 quoting reference 1380 of 17 December 2018 for the Deskford incident and 1953 of 2 January 2019 for the Fochabers incident.”


RAF Lossiemouth appoints new Station Warrant Officer

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Warrant Officer Mark Ratcliffe receives the SWO’s ceremonial cane from Warrant Officer Al Milligan. Images Crown copyright (by SAC Samantha Holden)

The new year sees a new man in the post of Station Warrant Officer at RAF Lossiemouth as Warrant Officer Al Milligan handed over to Warrant Officer Mark Ratcliffe on Monday, 7 January.

The Station Warrant Officer is responsible for standards and discipline on an RAF base and is the Station Commander’s right hand man.  WO Milligan has been in the post for a very busy three and a half years and will next take up a role in the Lossiemouth Development Programme (LDP).

He said: “Holding the position of Station Warrant Officer for the past three years has been a tremendous privilege, particularly during the Royal Air Force’s centenary year.  This role has been the pinnacle of my 36 year career.

“I am fortunate to be staying on base working on the LDP, and looking forward to being part of an exciting time of development at RAF Lossiemouth.”

Warrant Officer Mark Ratcliffe, a Survival Equipment Fitter for 35 years, returns to RAF Lossiemouth from his most recent role in the Defence Search, Evade, Resist & Extract Training Organisation at RAF St Mawgan.

From September 2014 RAF Lossiemouth’s primary role has been the provision of Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) North, or QRA as it’s commonly called.  The strategically important position of RAF Lossiemouth makes it an ideal location to maintain aircraft and crews on high alert in order to scramble and intercept unidentified aircraft approaching UK airspace. This is the basis of QRA and is a duty that has been maintained by the Royal Air Force on a 24/7 basis for decades.


Have your say on proposed 20 mph speed limit

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Should we lower our speed in built-up areas?

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has called on residents and communities across the region to have their say on introducing 20 mph speed limits across Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament is currently considering legislation, proposed by the Scottish Greens and with backing from the SNP, which would change the default speed limit on most urban and residential streets from 30 mph to 20 mph.

A public consultation is being organised by the Holyrood Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. Individuals and organisations can submit responses until 28 January at

Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “Whether you’re for or against it, changing the default speed limit in built up areas is likely to have at least some effect on most people across our region.

“Where 20mph limits have been introduced, such as in Edinburgh, they have attracted a great deal of comment as well as suggestions that enforcing the new limits is difficult or unworkable.

“I think it is important that people and local organisations are able to engage directly with the Scottish Parliament and to pass on their views about proposals like this, particularly to ensure that the voice of local people from communities across the Highlands and Islands is heard at Holyrood.”

In a blog supporting Green MSP Mark Ruskell’s Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill, Professor Steve Turner, Officer for Scotland, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, writes: “Slower traffic will encourage children to walk and change their lifestyle to one which counters the obesity epidemic. Parents will not have the confidence to allow their children to play outside if our country’s roads are too dangerous. Reducing the speed limit in built-up areas will help to reduce fatalities on the road and make outdoor activity a more attractive option for children and their families.”

Prof Turner also points out: “More than a quarter of Scottish children are overweight or obese, and this is associated with childhood mental health and orthopaedic problems and putting them on course to develop potentially devastating illnesses which include type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart disease in early adulthood. Regular physical activity helps to keep children a healthy weight, and contributes to greater wellbeing. The Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill marks a significant step in the right direction towards achieving safer roads for all, and thus, safer spaces for children across Scotland to spend their all-important recreational time outdoors.”

Mr Ruskell’s proposal, to make 20mph the default limit in urban areas, is backed by numerous health campaigners, safety experts and environmental groups. Mr Ruskell said: “Making the safer speed of 20mph the standard limit in built-up areas will save lives and reduce injuries, and Professor Turner’s analysis strengthens the case even further. There’s no magic solution to the obesity epidemic but clearly if we have safer streets where children can cycle and play we make it easier to be active.

“Concern for children’s health is growing as they spend more time indoors and more time looking at phones and tablets, so we must seize every opportunity to make outdoor activity an attractive option. The aim of my bill, recognised by the public and by experts, is to prevent deaths on our streets, reduce the seriousness of accidents and improve air quality to benefit everyone’s health. I look forward to the committee examining the details in the coming months.”

Further information on the Bill is available on: