Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Guess I’m not going to get into the US

While I’m not likely to try to go there, or have ever even been there, it looks as if I’d better not even think about visiting the US.

Now that it’s become ever more like ‘Orange Moron Land’, it seems as if he of the single brain cell (or less) has come up with a new idea to make himself popular, with some.

Nearly all applicants for US visas will have to submit their social media details under newly adopted rules.

The State Department regulations say people will have to submit social media names and five years’ worth of email addresses and phone numbers.

When proposed last year, authorities estimated the proposal would affect 14.7 million people annually.

Certain diplomatic and official visa applicants will be exempt from the stringent new measures.

However, people travelling to the US to work or to study will have to hand over their information.

US demands social media details from visa applicants

I’m actually impressed by the idea that people will be able to provide the five years’ worth of detailed being demanded, given most seem to be unable to manage to remember decent passwords, or even change them.

I wonder how many will provide genuine addresses and numbers, and how many will just be made up to fill in the forms.

Could be fun if the State Department actually checks them – lots of people could be refused visas, or end up in US jails if their stuff doesn’t check out.

After visa check

After visa check

02/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, Surveillance, Transport | , | Leave a comment

67% of respondents support closing George Square to traffic (Updated)

There’s probably no great surprise in this survey result (other than the number not being higher – but let’s not forget the naysayers who just say ‘NO’ because they like to):

A PERMANENT ban on traffic at Glasgow’s George Square was backed by two-thirds of people who responded to public consultation.

A newly-released City Council document reveals that more than 5,000 citizens took part in the survey last year.

Sixty-seven per cent were in favour of closing the high profile civic space to vehicles for good.

COUNCIL Survey Attracted Strong Public Support For George Square Traffic Ban

It’s a place I pass through fairly regularly, thankfully not driving, and while it may have been a nice place for the odd horse-drawn carriage to stroll around in the past, I’d say the arrangement of streets around the square NEVER suited more modern transport.

It’s almost as if a random mish-mash of streets arrived there, and later changes which may have reduced the volume didn’t do anything to improve the flow (if it even could). When I did drive around there, it was usually by accident (having turned into one of the one-way streets, so forced to go there just to get away).

I don’t say that as some sort of negative criticism, but merely to highlight the fact (to me at least) that there’s little advantage in having traffic circulate there.

Because… that’s all it does – circulate!

I’m pretty sure having it travel along the longer streets around the perimeter would lead to better flow and management, and avoid the silliness of trying to manage vehicles along some fairly short streets that just fill up and get jammed with those vehicles, even if it’s not all that busy.

I hope the planners can come up with something better, not just for the square, but the traffic management around it.

George Square Stitch

George Square Stitch


One of the local media sources picked up on this survey, and carried out its own online question for readers to give feedback.

Completely unscientific of course, since the respondents will be biased rather than a representative cross-section, but when I looked, the result was about the same as the official survey.

See it here:

Should a traffic ban be introduced at Glasgow’s George Square?

Interestingly, for me at least, was the arrival of the ‘Naysayer option’, which was able to make a negative from what I see (and noted above) as a positive.

But, quite frankly, it could be a nightmare for drivers, and as a result, there will certainly be those against the end to traffic around George Square – it is an incredibly popular route for the city’s buses, and for taxis serving passengers from Queen Street Station and these would have to be re-directed if a ban on vehicles was to take place.

Is it REALLY ‘popular’ for buses?

Or do they go that way because the one way system and current arrangement of the roads means they have little other choice? Or at least not one that is any quicker, as they would have to follow a more convoluted route around the existing road, one way system, and traffic lights

The roads and routing around George Square have become little short of a disaster over the years, with little or no benefit from having traffic circulate around it. I said, and still say, removing vehicular access from the short stretches of street leading to, and around the square, could only be a benefit, as it would force the traffic to be managed on longer stretches of road, where it can more easily be distributed.

As it is today, there’s merely a collection of short stretches controlled by traffic lights, with the result that the traffic has to stop frequently, or it will build up and get gridlocked in those short sections.

It would be funny to watch if it was not so serious.

It can sometimes look as if the place is gridlocked one moment, then almost deserted the next, as a wave of traffic flows through.

Update 2

Getting his name dropped in the media yet again, MP Paul Sweeney has spoken in favour of suggestion to ban traffic from George Square.

A Glaswegian MP has backed the proposed ban on traffic at George Square – because he says it currently resembles a “giant roundabout”.

Paul Sweeney, the Labour representative for Glasgow North East, spoke out after the results from a public consultation by Glasgow City Council revealed local residents had voted overwhelmingly in favour of pedestrianising the area.

Speaking to Glasgow Live he said: “It often resembles a glorified roundabout, so the plan should include the full pedestrianisation of the Square and adjacent roads.”

Traffic is just one issue bothering Sweeney, and he also called upon the authority to come up with a decisive regeneration plan to restore the civic hub to its former glory.

He added: “George Square’s civic splendour has been greatly diminished over the last 20 years despite several aborted attempts to refurbish it, so it is urgently in need of a major overhaul and redesign to govern all aspects of its appearance and use.

“Many historic features and monuments have been lost or dispersed but thankfully much of the planning has already been done to research the square’s historic design and prepare a comprehensive plan to restore it to how it appeared in the early 20th century.

“I urge the council to make use of the plan by Niall Murphy of Glasgow City Heritage Trust and ensure that the Victorian grandeur of George Square is rigorously restored, while combining the best aspects of tastefully designed modern amenities too.”

Authority chiefs say they are aware of the concerns and this is why they are allowing the public to take part in the consultations and decision process, but they are keen to point out that nothing has been decided yet.

Speaking to Glasgow Live, a spokesperson said: “It is very early days on this – and we’re looking for the views of the people of Glasgow on the use and design of George Square.

“This ‘Conversation about George Square’ with the city will see a public consultation which will ask what the people of Glasgow would like to see and experience at George Square, or how and if they would like the square to be changed.

“Nothing is off the table – we want to hear about what the people of Glasgow want to say about a beloved public space which is a huge part of our civic life and history.

Glasgow MP backs traffic ban proposal at George Square because it looks like a ‘giant roundabout’

Hopefully anyone still on the council who was around the last time plans were announced to revamp George Square will remember just how big a farce that idea became, with daft ideas to take out the statues and install Continental style water features.

That proved a mistake with a public backlash (since the plans were apparently just ‘announced’ without any consultation or, some said, without any consideration for our wonderful Scottish weather!

George Square redesign

George Square redesign

Having been to a few other cities where they have managed to largely retain the original Victorian splendour and ‘feel’ of squares in the centre, it shouldn’t really be that hard to keep George Square looking classy and elegant – especially if it is traffic free.

All they need to do is make sure no trendy designers get invited to the design party.

Some things are best kept traditional, especially if the people who live around them like them that way.

02/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Transport | , | 1 Comment

The atomic secret of Nanda Devi

Nanda Devi is unfortunately being featuring in the news at the moment…

Nanda Devi: Hopes fading for eight missing climbers

But there was a time when the location was relatively unknown, yet was the subject of a story that would have probably have made even more headlines back around 1965 than it is making today.

NEW DELHI: Even as the world celebrated the golden jubilee of the human conquest of Mount Everest, a legendary Indian mountaineer and a CIA expert have come out with an authoritative chronology of how nuclear devices were planted atop high Himalayan peaks to monitor Chinese nuclear tests in the 1960s.

In an explosive book ”Spies in the Himalayas”, the mountaineer, Capt Mohan Singh Kohli, who had led these expeditions to Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and other summits between 1965 and 1968, and CIA expert Kenneth Conboy chronicle the planting of nuclear-powered monitoring devices by the CIA with the help of intrepid climbers from India and the US.

That was the time when there were no satellites to monitor such developments from the sky.

One of the devices, which could not be planted atop Nanda Devi summit due to bad weather and was left cached on the mountain for the next expedition, went missing.

This caused serious concern about possible radioactive contamination of the environment and, in particular, the River Ganges.

Repeated searches could not retrieve the device which still remains missing, the book, published by Harper Collins, and said, adding that tests done subsequently at different spots indicated there was no cause for alarm.

The highly sophisticated and top-secret mission was kept under wraps for 38 long years, barring a “partial and inaccurate leak” made to a US magazine in 1978, which rocked the Indian Parliament at that time.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Foreign Minister, declared in London on April 30, 1978, India would recover the nuclear device. To pacify agitated MPs, Vajpayee also made statements in Parliament.

A high-powered committee of scientists, including Dr Atma Ram, H N Sethna, M G K Menon, Raja Ramanna and Dr Saha, was set up to study and assess the risk of the missing device on Nanda Devi, the book said.

While CIA refused to comment on the news, US Congressmen asked then President Jimmy Carter to conduct an investigation.

Kohli also participated in the famous sailing expedition ”Ocean to Sky” in 1977 on the Ganga against the currents. The expedition, led by Sir

Edmund Hillary, was among other things reportedly intended to monitor radioactive contamination on the river as a fallout of the missing nuclear device atop Nanda Devi.

The book also mentions several interesting developments in that period, relating to these expeditions and the plans to install the nuclear monitoring devices.

These included unauthorised climbing of Nanda Devi twice, capture of an Indian Special Frontier Force commando by the Chinese in Tibet, the appearance of an American spy plane U-2 in India on a secret mission, use of the world famous Huskie aircraft for high altitude search up to 22,500 feet and Kohli”s seven close brushes with death.

The legendary Indian mountaineer, along with co-author Conboy, also recalls the involvement of leading intelligence officials, nuclear scientists and dare devil pilots of US and India and the CIA experts who participated in this unusual expedition.

CIA nuclear device atop Himalayas

Another article from the same source…

NEW DELHI: Soon after China detonated its first atom bomb in 1964, CIA tried to plant a nuclear-powered surveillance device atop Nanda Devi to spy on the communist nation.

Though the secret mission failed and the device was lost there, it created ripples in the Indian establishment 12 years later.

The espionage mission remained top secret till April 1978 when a news report published in a US magazine “Outside” claimed that the US intelligence agency had sent a team to set up a remote sensing device atop 25,645-foot mountain in the Himalayas in 1965.

But bad weather halted them 2,000-feet short of the summit and forced them to abandon the 125-pound device containing plutonium 238 that can remain radioactive for about 500 years. When the team returned to the site a year later, the device could not be located.

After a short-term “feckless effort”, the US government gave up its search for the device. Instead, the CIA covertly placed a second snap generator on another mountain, Nanda Kot, in 1967. After serving the agency’s purposes, it was also abandoned a year later, the report had claimed.

The revelations sparked a huge uproar in the country and even forced then foreign minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to say the episode might damage the “recently improving” ties between the two countries, according to recently declassified external affairs ministry documents.

The documents, available with National Archives, show how the Indian embassies abroad, especially in the US, had become active and kept on sending notes explaining how the issue was being played up by the media there.

At the time of this discloser, foreign ministry officials here were apparently unaware of the fact that the Nanda Devi mission was actually a joint collaboration between India and the US, according to the declassified documents.

CIA tried to plant surveillance device atop Nanda Devi

I’ve gone with somewhat longer than usual quotes from the source since I note that nearly all the other accounts I have bookmarked since coming across this story about 10 or so years ago have largely evaporated from the net.

Nanda Devi uncredited image

Nanda Devi uncredited image

The image came this info:

In addition to being the 23rd highest independent peak in the world, Nanda Devi is also notable for its large, steep rise above local terrain. It rises over 3,300 metres (10,800 ft) above its immediate southwestern base on the Dakkhni Nanda Devi Glacier in about 4.2 kilometres (2.6 mi), and its rise above the glaciers to the north is similar. This makes it among the steepest peaks in the world at this scale, closely comparable, for example, to the local profile of K2. Nanda Devi is also impressive when considering terrain that is a bit further away, as it is surrounded by relatively deep valleys. For example, it rises over 6,500 metres (21,300 ft) above the valley of the Ghoriganga in only 50 km (30 mi).

No wonder they thought of installing a surveillance device powered by similar technology to a space probe there!

The only surprising aspect I note is placing something in that environment, and expecting it to stay there.

I’ve also seen other stories claiming contamination (but none with real evidence), which seems rather unlikely given the construction of such devices. But then again, this was ‘new’ technology in those days, so it’s reasonable to assume the hardware may not have been built in the robust manner seen today.

It may even have just been cobbled together.

I wonder if it might have been copied from a Soviet design?

The Russians were always less squeamish about using nuclear power for remote applications, and used nuclear generators to power remote lighthouses, and have nuclear-powered ice breakers sailing in freezing waters to this day.

02/06/2019 Posted by | Cold War, Lost, Surveillance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does Kelvingrove need a Director in charge of Common Sense?

I’m pretty much a ‘Do as you’re told’ sort of person, who quietly follows the rules and signs, to the amusement of those who like to question everything, rebel, or thinks rules don’t apply to them.

I managed to get into ‘trouble’ in Kelvingrove yesterday, after joining the crowd listening to the organ recital on Saturday, and just standing where I usually tend to stand on the balcony.

About halfway through the recital, I heard a little voice beside me, asking me to move, and a nice lady guide was telling me the balcony was ‘Barriered Off’.

Fair enough if there was reason, but I’d been there for half an hour – 15 minutes before the performance started, and 15 minutes into the performance – along with everyone else who had been, and was, standing there.

To be honest, I’d seen the barrier as I walked in, but there was no apparent reason for it to be there, and I thought it had just been forgotten, or was still to be moved, after there had been some event in the central hall during the week, and the balcony had lighting and cable strung there (and no barrier to stop people standing on it).

As you can see, the area is clear, and there’s nothing for this particular barrier deployment to be keeping the public away from.

Kelvingrove barrier

Kelvingrove barrier

I mentioned this recently, and how I had been playing ‘foot hockey’ with the lighting fixtures and cabling, something I had done again during the week, as seen in this pic I took of the hardware at my feet. As can be seen above, this hardware had been cleared from the floor by Saturday.

This was shoved out of the way, in the space between the column and the balcony, with the cabling running along the lower edge of the balcony, to a distribution box with still more cables.

The barrier base seen in the pic below belongs to a barrier around a sculpture, and is always there, unrelated to the lighting and cables.

Kelvingrove Extra LED Par Can Plus Wiring

Kelvingrove Extra LED Par Can Plus Wiring

If there really was a need to move people (for some reason not immediately apparent), given they had not bothered to do this before the recital started – and it would have been obvious people were standing along the length of the balcony as I joined those already there – then they could have been a bit more tactful, and waited a little longer, and cleared the space AFTER the recital was over.

There goes Kelvingrove’s ‘Perfect 10’, and for no good reason.

Some manager, or ‘Jobsworth’, should really get a good talking to for this poor handling of the public.

02/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Tiananmen Square 1989

I’ve been reading that some people don’t want this picture to be seen, and that it’s even been censored and suppressed in some countries (along with anybody who might be noticed mentioning or showing it).


Click for bigger.

1989 Tiananmen Square Tank Man

1989 Tiananmen Square Tank Man

02/06/2019 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, military, photography | , | Leave a comment

Weird phone mast story from ‘Local Hero’ village of Pennan

Somewhere I did actually manage to drop in on years ago, the tiny coastal village of Pennan, which gained fame as the location of a certain telephone box.

Plans for a controversial phone mast in the village made famous in the film Local Hero have been refused by councillors.

Pennan in Banffshire and its iconic red phone box featured in the 1983 film.

The application for an eight-metre tall mast was to provide improved phone coverage, including for emergency services, but critics said it would affect the village’s charm.

Local Hero village of Pennan phone mast refused by councillors

I classify this one as ‘weird’ because I don’t see any reason for the problem that has arisen – it’s almost as if they wanted the proposal to be refused.

The simple problem with the village, in term of mobile phone reception, is its position in the shadow of the cliff it lives below – obviously, radio waves can’t penetrate this, so no reception in the village, and the need for an elevated ‘lift’ for the cell station which would handle calls.

Dropping an 8 metre mast into the village was never going to happen.


Why didn’t they just mount the antennae at the top of the cliff, by the road up there, much the same as can be seen all over the country?

This would have had no impact on the appearance of the village, and the signal could have been routed by cable to a more discrete installation somewhere down in the village, perhaps on elevated parts of existing buildings or even a less noticeable smaller pole.

I’m not involved in this stuff in particular, but I’d have thought they might even have hardware that could ALL have been mounted on the edge of the cliff, and covered the village from there.

This used to be done with analogue TV.

I suspect there is some back story or other issue we have not been told of, there’s a corruption or conspiracy angle, or somebody somewhere is just incompetent.

Pennan by Colin Kinnear

Pennan by Colin Kinnear

02/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | Leave a comment

Moat Brae – still in the news (now set to open)

Possibly occupying this blog’s position as the longest running active story, Moat Brae has popped up the news once again.

A Georgian landmark credited with inspiring JM Barrie to write Peter Pan has been turned into Scotland’s first dedicated children’s centre for literature and storytelling.

A new look has been revealed for Moat Brae, the house and garden in Dumfries where the novelist played as a child, a decade after it was saved from demolition.

Campaigners led by actress Joanna Lumley raised £8 million to restore and redevelop the property and its grounds, which date back nearly 200 years, into an international Peter Pan-themed attraction.

Born in Kirriemuir, in Angus, Barrie spent much of his childhood playing with school-friends Stuart and Hal Gordon at their home and garden after moving to Dumfries when he was 13.

Barrie, who lived in Dumfries between 1873 and 1878 later wrote in his memoirs of how Moat Brae had been the original inspiration for Peter Pan, stating: “For our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden, which is enchanted land to me, was certainly the genesis of that nefarious work.”

The trust which has been spearheading the birth of Moat Brae said it was expected to provide a magical environment and a resource for people of all ages to play, learn and be inspired by the place JM Barrie referred to as “enchanted land.’”

It is hoped more than 31,000 visitors a year will flock to the newest attraction, which has created 18 jobs and is expected to generate some £1.3 million for the Dumfries economy.

Dating back to 1823 and built to a design by Walter Newall, Moat Brae was in private ownership until 1914, when it was turned into a nursing home, which closed in 1997.

It was proposed to be bulldozed and turned into sheltered housing until campaigners managed to win a stay of execution in October 2009.

‘Enchanted’ Dumfries home that inspired Peter Pan is turned into a children’s storytelling centre

Moat Brae

Moat Brae © Copyright Darrin Antrobus

02/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian | , , , | Leave a comment

Hill House set to reopen inside ‘cage’ on 08 June 2019

The work to enclose Mackintosh’s Hill House in Helensburgh is reported to be nearing completion, with the house making a ‘soft’ opening on 08 June, and being fully opened to visitors on 10 June.

The cage provided a ventilated enclosure which allows air to circulate around the exterior, to help dry the building, while a steel roof over the house prevents rain from reaching the house, and continuing to soak it, and continue a process which has been likened to ‘dissolving like aspirin’.

Innovative materials and methods were used in the build back in 1904, but the long term problems they were to bring were unknown at the time.

I’ve mentioned this before:

Hill House will not be the only house ‘under glass’

Giant chainmail box begins around Mackintosh’s Hill House

Hill House survey confirms extent of water/weather damage

I can’t nip along the road for pics, but these articles show how the work was carried out, and what visitors can expect to see:

Mackintosh House inside chainmail National Trust for Scotland

Mackintosh House inside chainmail National Trust for Scotland

Mackintosh’s Hill House reopens inside a box

Box to protect Mackintosh house from ‘dissolving like aspirin’

02/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | 2 Comments

Right place, right time – THAT’s a surprise

I don’t usually find myself where something ‘interesting’ is happening.

Just before, or just after (like this police/ambulance party), is not uncommon, but actually seeing something as it happens – not me.

Cycling home last night, after just having a little ‘jolly’ into Glasgow to make up some miles a nice red fire engine pulled up just in from of me – and was immediately joined by another one.

So, it seemed a good time to stop too, but not too close.

Fire service arrives

Fire service arrives

First order of business – not counting the crew that was heading for the doors leading to the flats, armed with the ‘Big Hammer’ (seriously, that’s what they called it) – was to check out the bollards preventing vehicles from entering the square. This wouldn’t be needed.

Fire personnel think about removing bollards

Fire personnel think about removing bollards

At that point I could smell fire, but there wasn’t any smoke or indication of where the incident was, until…

St Andrews Square Resident Looking For Fire Service

St Andrews Square resident looking for fire service

Then there was three, as another appliance arrived.

St Andrew Square Fire Service Third Arrival

St Andrew Square Fire Service Third Arrival

And still more, with the fourth arrival being a high level access platform.

Fortunately, neither of these were needed, and left almost immediately.

St Andrews Square Fire Service high level access

St Andrews Square Fire Service high level access

By this time, fire personnel had reached the source of the problem, and there was almost a party up there!

Whatever happened, there was a burst of smoke at one point, but too quick to catch, and it dissipated quickly.

St Andrews Square fire

St Andrews Square fire

That seemed to be the end of the excitement, but…

There was a bonus, I missed, off course.

The church of St Andrews in the Square is a well-known wedding venue, or was. The lease that allowed this to happen has ended, and the venue will cease to operate during 2020.

There was an event taking place there, and some of the guests came out for a look at what was happening outside.

I didn’t see what happened, but all of a sudden I noticed they were looking down at the ground near the main entrance, and there was a chap on his back.

He was helped to his feet, and the fire personnel went for a look, but other than nursing the back of his head (suggested he had somehow fallen/tripped backwards), all appeared to be OK, and folk were smiling.

St Andrews in the Square fire bonus incident

St Andrews in the Square fire bonus incident

Oh well, I guess this wasn’t ‘The Great Fire of Glasgow’.

02/06/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment


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