Rural communities across the Highlands feel "powerless" in the face of recent branch closures announced by the Royal Bank of Scotland, according to Kate Forbes MSP.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament chamber, the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch called for a reversal of the decision and also greater consultation with people living in rural areas so that customers' needs helped shape the future banking provision in the region.

Ms Forbes has visited three of the four branches earmarked for closure in her own constituency, and said she was particularly concerned how the elderly and the vulnerable – as well as those without adequate broadband – will continue to be able to access their banking services.  

If the closures go ahead, some customers will have to drive well over an hour to find their nearest branch.

Kate Forbes MSP said: "So many people right across Scotland feel powerless as national banks close branches at a faster rate than ever before, withdrawing from communities, leaving many customers behind.
 
"And there were so many speakers in the debate because MSPs have a responsibility to highlight our constituents' concerns, despite banking being a reserved matter and despite the Scottish Government having no formal power to intervene.
 
"The recent announcement by RBS to close 62 branches in Scotland is just the latest, but certainly the most ruthless – meaning that there will be only 89 RBS branches open in Scotland – compared to around 300 in April 2013.

Evidence of a 60 million-year-old meteorite impact has been discovered on Skye.

Dr Simon Drake, from Birkbeck, University of London, made the finds on Skye, with colleague Dr Andy Beard. 

Dr Drake said: "We have found evidence of the impact at two sites and at another potential two sites on the Isle of Skye, at the moment."

He added: "One of the things that is really interesting here is that the volcanological evolution of the Isle of Skye has always been considered to have been started with what's called a volcanic plume, an enormously large bulk of magma which has come up under what then was the crust that Skye was on.

"We are now suggesting that this may well have been assisted by a meteorite impact."

The Isle of Skye has been selected as one of Hyundai's ten volcanic ranges in a new driving route.

The route, called The KONA 10, will stretch across the UK and Ireland.  

The name pays homage to Hyundai's new compact SUV, the KONA, as well as the volcanic heritage of the Kona region in Hawaii, which partly helped inspire the car.

The KONA 10 route starts at Mount Snowdon in Wales before heading to the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.  The route ends in the Isle of Skye.

The ten volcanic ranges have been curated by TV historian, Dr Michael Scott, and aim to shed light on the little-known volcanic history of the UK and Ireland - as well as the extraordinary human activity inspired by the landscapes.  Dr Scott comments: "There is the most incredible yet surprising volcanic history in the UK and at Ardnamurchan. The KONA 10 is going to shine a light on our volcanic heritage – right from Snowdon through to the Isle of Skye. This never before attempted route across the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland will take people on a journey through a rich and incredible tapestry of human history and achievement - from the ancient past, to the modern day."

The closure of rural banks will be raised for the second consecutive week in the Scottish Parliament chamber by Kate Forbes MSP.

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has secured a member’s debate on the closures through a motion that has been overwhelming backed by over 40 cross-party MSPs.

In her constituency, branches in Aviemore, Beauly, Kyle and Mallaig have been earmarked by the Royal Bank of Scotland for closure, but Ms Forbes is keen to increase pressure on RBS.

Last week she raised the matter in a Topical Question to Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

Kate Forbes MSP said: “I understand that many people are choosing to bank online, but it still remains the case that these branch closures will hit the Highlands hard.

“In particular, cash-based businesses, vulnerable customers and remote customers will all be facing the challenge of changing their practices.

“I have visited three of the four branches which RBS intends to close in my constituency. The staff are incredible, with a single focus on customers’ interests.”

The energy generated by Skipinnish could surely power an entire planet.

The band filled Portree's Aros Centre with energetic song and music tonight (Wednesday 13 December.)

The crowd in the packed room sang along as the entire theatre rocked.

A temporary road closure of the B970 has been cancelled.

Highland Council had previously outlined a decision to close the B970 Kingussie – Inverdruie – Aviemore – Coylumbridge – Nethybridge – Speybridge Road from its junction with the U2079 Dalfaber Road.  The closure had been requested by the Aviemore Holiday Park for crane access to lift static houses and for the prevention of all vehicular traffic to provide a safe working area for works being carried out by Aviemore Holiday Park.  The temporary closure was due to take place from 9am until 5pm on Friday 15 December 2017. 

The decision to cancel the road closure has been taken with Police Scotland in the interests of public safety due to prevailing conditions, the medium term weather forecast, anticipated traffic volumes, and the potential for severe disruption.

 

CalMac has reported a "small but worrying increase" in incidents of verbal or physical abuse in the past six months.

The ferry operator is launching a new campaign to reinforce its zero tolerance policy of unacceptable behaviour.

A new CalMac website outlining real life incidents and the consequences of them has now gone live.  In one of the incidents, a verbally abusive man jumped up onto the counter to reach the staff on the other side.  The police were called and the man arrested. 

CalMac runs a fleet of 32 vessels across a network of 27 islands and remote mainland destinations. Last year it carried more than five million passengers and 1.2 million vehicles.

CalMac's director of safety, environment and security, Louis de Wolff said: "Safety of our staff is a priority for us and recently we have seen a small upsurge of abusive passengers behaving in an intolerable way towards staff, this is unacceptable. With people out and about socialising more over the festive period we felt this was a good time to reinforce the standards of behaviour we expect passengers to have towards our staff.

A community Pop-Up Bar will open for the festive period in Armadale.

Called The Clan Gathering, the bar will operate from the Stables building and be under the management of several Clan Donald Lands Trust staff, as well as some familiar faces from the community.

The pub will open on Friday 15 December at 5pm.  Full opening hours are yet to be confirmed.  

For more information, visit The Clan Gathering Facebook page or call 01471 844305 during office hours.

Further icy conditions today (Tuesday 12 December) have resulted in vehicles stuck on Struan Hill Road.

Highland Council have been contacted to assist.

Local police have advised everyone to avoid the area.

A call has been issued for young people to help play a part in shaping the future of BBC Scotland.

BBC Scotland say they are looking for anyone "buzzing with ideas about how BBC Scotland can mean more to young people and eager to change how young people are seen by society and in the media."

They are searching for anyone aged between 14-25 living in Scotland.  

 

Those accepted will, over a period of 18 months, work with other young people, the Young Scot charity, and BBC staff to challenge the perception of young people within the organisation and across wider society.

This will involve group work as well as some work to complete in your own time, visits to our centres across Scotland and also possible residential weekends. Over the 18 months you will be expected to attend between six and eight core meetings, plus various other events.

BBC Scotland state that applicants don’t need any formal qualifications - just a curiosity for important issues for young people, Scotland and the media.  You should be able to work within a group, and have the flexibility, commitment and willingness to travel across Scotland throughout 2018-2019.

For more information, visit the BBC Scotland website here.