An online security shield used to protect some of the largest global enterprises from cyber attacks is now being deployed by a leading telecoms provider to safeguard its business and domestic customers.

Duncan Kennedy, HighNet’s network architect

HighNet is amongst the first telecoms companies in the UK to use the service which has helped eliminate attacks against major government agencies worldwide, as well as leading financial services, pharmaceutical, educational and internet organisations.

The action is needed to combat a growing number of cyber attacks aimed at gaining entry to customers’ computer systems and potentially disrupting or even shutting down business.

Criminal activity, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against businesses, doubled during 2017 and included a high-profile breach affecting the National Lottery.

A UK Government survey also showed that just under half (46 per cent) of all UK businesses identified at least one cyber attack during the previous 12 months, rising to two-thirds among medium-sized firms (66 per cent) and large companies (68 per cent).

HighNet, which manages more than 20,000 business lines across the UK, has installed the new security software as part of a £6.5 million investment in its network.

The system spots when an attack is starting and stops it entering the network, then sends an email alert to HighNet’s engineers.

DDoS attacks involve a network of compromised computers, known as a ‘botnet’, which flood an IP address leaving legitimate traffic unable to get through.

Cybercriminals can use DDoS attacks to cripple a firm’s services, or possibly extort money from a target. They can also be deployed to distract security and IT staff while malware, or malicious software, is installed or data is stolen.

An attack can involve thousands of devices, with everyday objects connected to the internet including webcams, security cameras, TVs and even fridges, vulnerable to being used in a criminal attack if they are not secure.

Duncan Kennedy, HighNet’s network architect, said: “There are a number of attack strategies that are employed, but the most basic and common one is to swamp the target with traffic so that it’s too busy to deal with legitimate business requests.

“It’s like having a shop in the High Street and thousands of people come and jam up the doorway, meaning your customers can’t get in.

“But our ethos is to ensure security, peace of mind and plain sailing for our customers’ telecoms. That’s why we are using world-class, highly sophisticated anti-DDoS protection which stops an attack getting through.

“This acts like a security shield and stops the bad traffic coming in. It’s a very important investment in our network infrastructure.”

HighNet’s new system blocked an attack every couple of days for the first two weeks in January and during the month stopped one of the biggest cyber attacks so far on one of its customers.

“This was a sophisticated, multivector attack targeting a customer in Aberdeen, and was of sufficient bandwidth to have had a serious impact on their business”, said Duncan. “Most attacks we see are much smaller than this example, but in recent weeks we’ve started to see, and block, more of these high bandwidth attacks.”

Conventional firewalls offer little or no defence against DDoS attacks, he said: “Because the first D in DDoS stands for distributed, you can’t easily install a firewall rule or something similar that will stop this kind of attack.

“Firewalls are designed to block bad traffic from single sources, whereas a DDoS attack is the combined effect of thousands of devices swamping a target, usually with what is otherwise legitimate traffic.”

Duncan advised people to be more security conscious in the age of the ‘Internet of Things’ when many devices are connected online.

“In terms of stopping your own kit being used, or being taken over to participate in cyber attacks, you should be aware of some basic network security points. Don’t just plug in TVs or other appliances to the internet without changing the default password, for example.”

Other tips for securing your devices

  • Make sure all your passwords are secure
  • Make sure the software on devices is up to date.
  • Only connect devices if you plan to use that functionality (eg don’t connect a TV to the network if it’s just going to show broadcasted channels)
  • If you don’t need it, turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) on your router and IoT devices.

HighNet has also been successful in tackling a number of voicemail fraud attempts on customers.

Voicemail, or dial-through, fraud is a growing problem in the UK, costing businesses £953 million annually – making it bigger than credit card fraud. It can cost companies upwards of £1,000 per day and potentially thousands of pounds during a holiday period.

It occurs when criminals target phone systems from the outside and use them to make a high volume of calls, typically to premium rate or overseas numbers.

Hackers can obtain access to a business’s call-forwarding system via its voicemail if security passwords have either not been set or are not strong enough. They can then call an extension which has call-forwarding enabled, directing the call to the premium-rate number, with the revenue for those calls being received by the fraudsters.

HighNet has revealed that in the past year its security systems have intercepted eight fraud cases – involving numbers from Morocco, Cuba, Liberia, Togo, Tunisia, Albania and Bosnia – potentially worth around £100,000 in total.

Instead, the total cost was limited to £2,327, with some of the victims escaping without any financial loss due to the level of protection they have.

Hootsuite announce the Instagram update we’ve all been waiting for

Posting and scheduling Instagram content just got a whole lot easier and faster for Hootsuite’s 16 million customers.

A closer integration between the two platforms will mean an end to the clunky and inefficient process of posting to Instagram via the Hootsuit desktop dashboard.

Until now, the process worked between the desktop and application version of Hootsuite on your mobile device. Once you had your content ready on Hootsuite desktop and ‘actioned’ it, a notification would be sent to your Hootsuite mobile app. From there you had to go into the app, open up the notification and action “publish now”. The caption would be saved to clipboard and the photograph would be opened in Instagram, where you then had to paste the photograph caption before posting to Instagram.

Now, all you have to do is create your content in the dashboard, upload your photograph or select a post you wish to re-share, and hit ‘send’ or ‘schedule’ and it will publish directly.

Instagram itself doesn’t allow for direct re-sharing or scheduling, this has to be done through a third-party application, which itself is not a streamline process.

For high volume accounts, the new integration is exactly what Hootsuite needed to enable users to manage Instagram the same way they use Hootsuite to manage all of their platforms, quickly and efficiently.

The update means there are no notifications, no desktop-to-mobile app and no pasting, just direct, immediate posting straight from the dashboard! A process that took minutes reduced to seconds.


The final part of a series of major improvements to historic Royal Dornoch Golf Club’s Championship Course has got underway.

Work is ongoing at the 7th hole and will continue in three phases over the next four winters, with the new hole opening for play during the 2021 season.

The changes are part of Royal Dornoch’s long-term strategy to continually seek to improve the world-renowned course, which earlier this month was ranked 2nd best in the world in the latest Golf Digest list.

The club’s own greenkeeping team is carrying out the work and follows recommendations by leading course architects Mackenzie and Ebert who were engaged to review The Championship Course and its adjacent Struie Course.

Last year the club completed changes to the 5th, 10th, 11th and 12th holes as part of the strategy.

The greenkeeping team will create a new green at the 479-yard Par 4 7th hole, about 40 yards to the right of the existing one, with the current tees staying where they are, so essentially the hole will pivot to the right from the tee.

There will also be new tees for the 8th hole, located where the current 7th green is. This will make the tee shot at the 8th more like the original intention, in that golfers will play their second shot from the top of the hill.

Neil Hampton, Royal Dornoch’s general manager, said: “The work at the 7th hole will be the last major change of the recommendations made by Mackenzie and Ebert and it will be the biggest of them all.

“With such a big expanse of gorse bushes to the right of the current hole, we have been able to leave a ribbon of bushes next to the current fairway which acts as a barrier to the works so play continues without the golfers knowing what is happening. The final phase will see these bushes taken away and the new hole revealed.

“The overall effect will be to give stunning views of the golf course along the complete length of the hole, whereas these views are only available from the 7th tee at the moment.

“The stroke index will remain the same, as will the green complex. We all realise that the shaping of the current green in a major part of how the hole plays, so this will be replicated in the new green.

“The work is being done in-house by our own greenkeeping team as they have shown their skill and ability with the previous works and it was easy for the club to let them carry out this project.”

The recent Golf Digest rankings placed the Championship Course higher in its Top 100 world rankings than other top Scottish courses including Muirfield and the Old Course at St Andrews – both venues for The Open championship – and Trump Turnberry.

Royal Dornoch’s commitment to its community and natural environment also recently earned the club a coveted global sustainability accolade.

It was awarded the GEO Certified® ecolabel, an international symbol of ‘great golf environments’. This recognises clubs that have met high standards for performance in nature conservation, water and energy efficiency, ethical and environmental supply chain, pollution control and community engagement


Stornoway Port Authority is preparing to move into a new era as it seeks to progress a series of major developments in line with its 20-year Masterplan.

The Authority has set out ambitious proposals, including the creation of a deep-water port which will bring major economic benefits to the island.

This will help accelerate growth in the cruise business, by providing a berth for larger ships, as well as providing improved berthing and servicing for oil and renewables projects and a new linkspan/freight ferry berth.

As these various important projects advance, the SPA will appoint new Board members and personnel with appropriate skills and expertise to guide future development.

Margaret Ann Macleod has been confirmed as a full board member for a three-year term, having previously been co-opted for a year. Presently Brand Development Director for Harris Tweed Hebrides, her business background includes international sales and rural economic development.

Margaret Ann said: “I am delighted to become a full member of the Board at this crucial and exciting time for the Port Authority and the wider community”.

“Our bold ambitions can bring enormous benefits to the island and I am determined to help bring the Masterplan vision to fruition.”

Board Chairman, Murdo Murray, added: “Margaret Ann is well known and highly respected in the business community and is a significant addition to the Board.”

“Having already served as a co-opted member, we know how important her contribution will be to our future plans and we look forward to having her valuable input as a full board member.”

In addition, several changes in personnel have recently taken place:-.

After two and a half years service, Tony Morrison has stepped down as Harbourmaster. The Port Authority wishes to thank Tony for his commitment and contribution to the Authority and wish him well in his new venture.

Consequently the Port Authority have taken the opportunity to revise the role of Harbourmaster to fulfil the demands of its 20-year Masterplan and will shortly advertise for the role of Harbourmaster/Operations Manager to support the major changes which are planned.

Assisting the Chief Executive, Alex MacLeod, with the development of the Masterplan will be Brenda Jones, who has recently joined the Authority as Developments Manager. This new post, partly funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, is specifically aimed at driving forward the major Masterplan proposals.

Brenda, a Chartered Project Management Surveyor, will use her experience on many large construction projects, which included the Consultant Project Manager role on the recent redevelopment of Lews Castle in Stornoway, to guide future projects.

SPA Chief Executive, Alex MacLeod, said: “We are moving into a period of significant change for Stornoway and the Authority as these crucial developments take shape. As the port changes, so we must adapt at all levels to ensure each project is put in place to maximise the potential for the people who live and work here”.

“Margaret Ann’s knowledge and business acumen will also be invaluable as we take these important steps forward for the community”.

“Brenda has a wealth of experience in bringing forward large-scale programmes and her expertise will be of enormous benefit in the coming months and years. She will work with our new Harbourmaster/Operations Manager to ensure we get the right designs and adopt the right procedures for the multi-functional deep water port”.

“We expect further changes to the Board and operations as these projects come on stream and we adapt to a changing operating environment.”

Last month tests began to help pave the way for the creation of the deep-water port at Stornoway. A series of 24 boreholes in the seabed will help determine the depths, materials and locations to be dredged, as well as data required to design the reclamation and berthing structures adjacent to Arnish and the marina at Newton basin.

It is estimated the cruise sector alone could generate significant additional income for the islands by creating berthing facilities for larger vessels that cannot currently berth alongside.

Stornoway is an established port on the cruise circuit, attracting 66 ships in 2016. However, it currently attracts relatively few large cruise vessels, as those over 156 metres in length cannot berth alongside, and passengers are brought ashore by small boat.

To maintain and grow the cruise market, Stornoway needs a facility for berthing cruise ships of 330 metres or more. This would attract an additional 20-25 vessels a year and increasing passenger visits towards the levels experienced in Orkney and Shetland, creating a significant number of business opportunities throughout the island as visitor numbers entering through the port continue to increase.

The Masterplan also identified a shortage of yacht berths and amenities constraining potential growth in marine tourism.


An internationally-renowned golf course’s commitment to its community and natural environment has earned it a coveted global sustainability accolade.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club has been awarded the GEO Certified® ecolabel, an international symbol of ‘great golf environments’. This recognises clubs that have met high standards for performance in nature conservation, water and energy efficiency, ethical and environmental supply chain, pollution control and community engagement.

An independent assessment of the famous club concludes: “Royal Dornoch is not only set within a stunning coastal landscape, but its course ranking demonstrates the commitment and expertise given to management, which together place significant responsibility on the club to manage efficiently and sustainably in all areas of working.”

Royal Dornoch Golf Club 2017 Captain and Head Greenkeeper,Deputy Greenkeeper with Certificate,Dornoch,Highlands,Scotland.

The award not only further elevates the standing of the historic club, but also enhances its ability to host major events. The R&A, the game’s governing body, is a supporter of GEO (Golf Environment Organization) and the Certified ecolabel is now a prerequisite for clubs staging large competitions. All ten host venues for The Open are now GEO Certified®.

Richard Allison, Project Manager, GEO Certified – Facilities, said: “Royal Dornoch is an outstanding example of a golf club with sustainability as a natural extension of its operation.

“From habitat creation and steps to future energy independence among its range of sustainability work, our congratulations go to everyone at the club and we look forward to seeing what the next few years brings.”

The assessment highlights the “exemplary” management of a Site of Special Scientific Interest which adjoins the golf course and states the club’s energy resource management is “particularly impressive”.

A new maintenance facility runs on renewable electricity with solar-PV cells providing 12 kilowatts of energy for daily use with surplus returned to the National Grid.

An air-source heat pump provides hot water and underfloor heating for the offices and communal areas, while in the clubhouse major energy initiatives include a phased changeover to LED lighting, installation of smart meters to track consumption accurately, and motion sensors and push-button timers throughout appropriate areas. Electric vehicles are also being introduced to the club’s maintenance fleet.

The club regularly monitors wildlife on the course, with species including otter, snipe, woodcock and pine marten all resident.

Royal Dornoch’s support for the community includes making donations to a number of organisations through a variety of funds. The GEO assessment highlights money raised to provide defibrillators in the town and a community fund that has distributed about £20,000 to worthy causes in three years.

Royal Dornoch’s general manager Neil Hampton said: “This is a very important award for us. We take enormous pride in our environment and are committed to doing everything we can to act responsibly and sustainably.

“The club also takes seriously its role in the community and be as good a neighbour as we can be.

“The GEO Certified award is a prestigious international honour and we are delighted to receive this recognition.”

Phone fraud is a serious and growing problem in the UK and can lead to companies suffering severe financial losses and also disruptions to service.

The issue is costing businesses £953 million annually – making it bigger than credit card fraud.

Dial-through – or voicemail – fraud can cost companies upwards of £1,000 per day and potentially thousands of pounds during a weekend or holiday period.

Inverness-based HighNet say companies, charities and even schools are vulnerable to hackers using dial-through fraud and other criminal techniques when premises are closed.

A study of 1,000 businesses by the Internet Telephony Services Providers’ Association showed 27 per cent had been hacked in the last five years, with losses averaging £12,000.

Dial-through fraud occurs when criminals target phone systems from the outside and use them to make a high volume of calls, typically to premium rate or overseas numbers.

Hackers can obtain access to a business’s call-forwarding system via its voicemail if security passwords have either not been set or are not strong enough. They can then call an extension which has call-forwarding enabled, directing the call to the premium-rate number, with the revenue for those calls being received by the fraudsters.

HighNet, which manages more than 20,000 business lines, said in the past year its security systems have intercepted eight fraud cases – involving numbers from Morocco, Cuba, Liberia, Togo, Tunisia, Albania and Bosnia – potentially worth around £100,000 in total.

Instead, the total cost was limited to £2,327, with some of the victims escaping without any financial loss due to the level of protection they have.

The Elgin-based Peugeot dealership Alan Milne Ltd was a target for hackers who made more than 500 calls to numbers to Guinea and Tunisia in just a few hours via voicemail fraud.

It could have cost the firm thousands of pounds, but a security system costing £1 a month led to HighNet intervening early and no money was lost.

The calls began at 8.08pm on a Friday- a typical weekend exploitation, hoping to get a full weekend of making expensive calls. By 11.30pm HighNet had picked up the criminal attempt, barred the calls and notified the customer.

David Siegel, HighNet’s managing director, said: “Not only did we spot the breach, but we stopped it getting worse and highlighted the problem to their phone system maintainer who subsequently locked out the bad guys.

“If we’d not acted as effectively as we did the hackers could easily have run up bills at a rate of £1,000 for each night they remained undetected.”

Steven Milne, the company’s managing director, said: “This could have been a very costly weekend for the company, but thankfully security measures were in place to stop these illegal calls before they did too much damage.

“It was an eye-opening experience for us and one we’ve learned from as we’ve updated our system and will be a lot more vigilant in future.

“We would also warn others to be aware of how easy it is for unscrupulous hackers to take advantage of businesses who do not take phone security seriously. A holiday period, or even a weekend, could cost them dearly otherwise.”

Aberdeen-based John MacLean and Sons suffered two fraud attacks this year, from numbers in Cuba and Liberia, but timely intervention by HighNet limited potential costs of up to £30,000 to just £600.

In both instances, voicemail in the Aberdeen site that had simple passwords on them were guessed by the fraudsters. This was then changed to divert to international/premium rate numbers, and then corresponding direct numbers were repeatedly dialled at random intervals for short periods each time.

The firm’s finance director Alan Freeland said: “Having recently experienced a third- party hacking into our system and utilising our communication system for fraudulent calls, it only brought home what we already knew; that it will not happen to us ……. until it does!

“We had overlooked the possibility of fraud on our telephone system and relied on old software to protect us.

“Fortunately, HighNet was alert to these scams and brought the issue to our attention very promptly and secured our lines with little impact on service or cost.  Since then we have upgraded our protection and our system is secure again.

“Everyone should ensure their communication lines and systems are fully protected, and we are grateful for HighNet’s speedy response and effective management.”

David Siegel said there are simple precautions firms can take to protect against phone fraud, while additional layers of security can be added to customers’ systems commercially for as little as £1 per month to mitigate financial loss.

“Dial-through fraud is a huge problem and has burgeoned in recent years. Fraudsters scan the internet looking for vulnerable firms to target and are ruthless when they find a weakness.

“As well as the financial loss, it can be very distressing for businesses when they fall victims to the hackers. So, we want people to be on their guard at all times, but particularly during periods like the festive holidays when they could be at higher risk.

“There are easy actions they can take to make their system safer and, for our customers, some very effective ways of countering attacks for very little cost.”

Customer checklist to help prevent phone fraud –

  • Remove all default password settings and limit access to any maintenance ports
  • Passwords and access codes should be changed regularly and, if possible, be alpha/numeric and as many digits as the system allows.
  • Avoid 000, 1234, or extension number = PIN passwords.
  • Delete/change passwords for ex-employees.
  • Consider limiting call types by extension, if an extension user has no requirement to ring international/premium rate numbers, then bar access to these call types.
  • DISA – (Direct Inwards System Access) is typically used to allow employees to dial in from home and make outbound calls (usually high value call types, i.e. mobile, international etc) via the company exchange. If activated it should be closely controlled.
  • Secure the system physically, site it in a secure comms room and restrict access to that area.
  • Regular reviews of calls should be carried out to cover analysis of billed calls by originating extension also to identify irregular usage and unexpected traffic.
  • Ensure you fully understand your system’s functionality and capabilities and restrict access to those services which you do not use.
  • Block access to unallocated mailboxes on the system, change the default PIN on unused mail boxes.
  • Be vigilant for evidence of hacking – inability to get an outbound line is usually a good indicator of high volumes of traffic through your system.




One of Scotland’s most successful and enduring bands, Deacon Blue, will headline the multi-award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival next year as part of a tour to mark their 30-year career.

The band, known for a string of best-selling songs including ‘Real Gone Kid’, ‘Dignity’, ‘Wages Day’ and ‘Fergus Sings the Blues’ in the 1980s, have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with new albums bringing their music to another generation of fans.

Their 2018 ‘To Be Here Someday’ tour will celebrate their entire back catalogue, which now spans four decades.

It was confirmed today (Thursday, 7 December) the dates will include a Saturday night headline spot on the main stage at HebCelt, which will run from 19-21 July in Stornoway in the isle of Lewis.

The band said: “We’re really looking forward to getting Deacon Blue to the Outer Hebrides. People have been asking us for a long time and it’s great we can finally make it happen in 2018.

“We’ve heard great things about HebCelt and we look forward to joining you all there. “

Deacon Blue were formed in 1985 and released their million-selling debut album, ‘Raintown’ in 1987.

A string of hits followed before the band split for five years, having achieved 12 UK Top 40 singles and two No.1 albums. While lead singer Ricky Ross built up his career as a songwriter and solo act, other band members also established themselves in various other fields of the media, the arts and academia.

But the band kept alive the prospect of getting back together and a reunion show led on to a new album, ‘Walking Back Home’, in 1999. It was followed up by ‘Homesick’, two years later, after which the band continued to reconvene regularly.

Over the last five years, the band have enjoyed a highly successful renaissance. The success of ‘The Hipsters’ in 2012 marked the beginning of a new chapter in their story, while 2016’s ‘Believers’ became their highest charting album in 23 years.

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “This is a massive coup for HebCelt. Deacon Blue are a huge, iconic band whose music transcends age barriers and I can’t wait to see them on the festival stage.

“Next year’s tour will see them play some of their biggest ever shows and we are absolutely over the moon that they have chosen HebCelt to be part of this milestone in their career.”

HebCelt previously announced eight other acts for next summer’s event, including Scottish bands Skipinnish, Blazin’ Fiddles, Tide Lines, The Tumbling Souls, Kinnaris Quintet and Trail West; as well as Vishtèn and the Yves Lambert Trio, from Canada; and Habadekuk, from Denmark.

Weekend arena tickets priced £93, £83 concession and £30 (6-14 years) are available from www.hebceltfest.com
Stay connected with all the festival’s news:

* on Twitter https://twitter.com/hebcelt
* on Instagram https://instagram.com/hebcelt
* on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HebCelt
* online https://www.hebceltfest.com
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* Spotify https://open.spotify.com/user/hebcelt.festival
* Sponsors https://www.hebceltfest.com/backstage/sponsors


Stornoway Port Authority has been chosen as one of the first recipients for a funding award from the Scottish Government’s Decommissioning Challenge Fund.

The SPA has received a grant offer of up to £73,000 to support feasibility studies it is undertaking at Arnish. The award is one of only seven projects in total from the first round across Scotland which have been offered a share of a £1.1 million tranche of funding.

Alex MacLeod, Stornoway Port Authority Chief Executive with Economy Secretary Keith Brown in Stornoway.

The awarded funding will support work on an a number of feasibility studies including an Environmental Impact Assessment, an engineering assessment and a local recycling options investigation – to develop decommissioning options at the Arnish site.

SPA chief executive Alex MacLeod said: “We welcome this support from the Scottish Government and the Decommissioning Challenge Fund. This funding will go towards vital projects that will ultimately help us to maximise the potential industries and opportunities available for the Arnish and Deep Water Port areas. This is the start of a 2-year process to gain the necessary consents to allow decommissioning works to be undertaken.

“We were pleased to welcome the Economy Secretary Keith Brown to Stornoway ahead of the funding announcement and he showed great interest in our aspirations as well as engaging with our plans. We are also grateful to our partners, including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and the Stornoway Trust for their support as we work together in bringing more opportunities to the local economy.”

The application from SPA to the DCF offered a clear fit with strategic aspirations at a local and national level. Enhancing the capabilities of the Arnish Enterprise Area is part of the delivery of a wider £50m Stornoway Port Masterplan which identifies decommissioning as an area of market opportunity for the port.

The Decommissioning Challenge Fund will provide opportunities for the oil and gas supply chain to benefit from the decommissioning of North Sea infrastructure.

Grant offers have been made to projects in Dundee, Methil, Montrose, Ardersier, Stornoway and Hunterston, with a second round of funding underway.

During a visit to Stornoway Port Authority, Economy Secretary Keith Brown said:

“Companies across the supply chain are actively engaged in decommissioning projects, with Scottish based firms having secured more than half of the value of contracts awarded.

“Our Decommissioning Challenge Fund is a clear signal to the market to think seriously about decommissioning – a market forecasted to be worth £17 billion by 2025 – and to plan and invest accordingly.

“In spite of the competition, Scotland has distinct advantages and assets that make it an attractive offer – and we are doing everything possible to stimulate investment and ensure our oil and gas sector remains competitive and attractive for decades to come.”


A £2m trial designed to accelerate the rate at which Full Fibre networks are available across the UK has already attracted its first customer, who was visited by Matt Hancock MP Minister for Digital.

Telecoms provider HighNet is one of 17 companies so far confirmed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to be part of the £2 million trial which is taking place in four areas around the UK, including Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

(l to r) – technology and innovation director at HighNet David Alldritt, Matt Hancock Minister for Digital (UKGov), manager of The Bauhaus Hotel, Brian Brechin, and David J Siegel, managing director of HighNet

Under the scheme, suppliers will be offering vouchers worth between £500 and £3,000 each to local businesses which can then be used to pay for the installation of gigabit (Gb) speed connections. The aim of the pilot is to encourage the market to extend full fibre infrastructure in the UK by increasing demand and reducing the cost to customers.

The vouchers will cover the normal charges for installation, including hardware and on-site engineer visits. Businesses can also pool their vouchers to help build clusters of connectivity and further reduce costs.

HighNet has attracted the first customer UK-wide, The Bauhaus Hotel in Aberdeen. Both companies were delighted to host a visit by the minister.

Minister for Digital Matt Hancock said:

“Full fibre is fundamental for fashioning a Britain fit for the future, so I’m incredibly excited to visit the Bauhaus Hotel in Aberdeen which is the first place in the whole country to benefit from our new gigabit speed business broadband vouchers.

“We are working closely with Aberdeenshire council, local MPs and broadband providers on this UK Government programme. World class connectivity is increasingly essential to people at work and at home. Last week we announced further funding to make these gigabit broadband vouchers available to businesses across the country next year.

“It’s all part of a plan to support the UK’s future competitiveness in the global market and our ability to attract investment.”

David Alldritt, technology and innovation director at HighNet, said: “We are delighted to be a Government-registered supplier for this landmark scheme and to have attracted its first ever customer. We believe this scheme will be instrumental in improving connectivity, enabling businesses to utilize new technologies to drive productivity and growth. We welcome the minister’s direct interest and his commitment to modernising the UK’s digital infrastructure.”

Brian Brechin, manager of The Bauhaus Hotel, said: “This voucher scheme is an excellent boost to our plans to improve connectivity and provide our guests with an enhanced visitor experience. We appreciate the personal interest the minister has taken in visiting with us and we look forward to benefiting from our Gigabit fibre in the near future.”

Gb connectivity will allow firms to upload and download huge files in seconds and future-proof businesses in the face of ever-increasing demands for internet speed and reliability. It will also allow companies in remoter areas to compete with those based in cities where full fibre connectivity may already be installed.

Four areas across the UK will pilot the scheme to test infrastructure conditions – Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire; Bristol, with Bath and North East Somerset; Coventry and Warwickshire and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York)

The test phase will end when the money is used up, or by the end of March 2019, whichever is sooner.


Developers behind the proposed Coul Links major golf course proposal have welcomed the response from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to their planning application, and now believe there is a strong platform for taking forward a multi-million pound investment in East Sutherland that will generate numerous jobs.

SNH, the national statutory body for environmental oversight, has noted that large economic benefits would arise from the Coul Links proposal, echoing the overwhelming opinion of local communities around Embo and Dornoch, where the course will be created. Coul Links Revised Layout
Developer Todd Warnock said: “We acknowledge that SNH has raised two specific objections and we welcome their spirit of partnership and co-operation. The first objection relates to dune habitats which we have discussed with SNH at length and Is captured in our Environmental Statement. This dialogue with SNH has been principally focused on loss of dune heath. The second objection calls for a much more detailed Recreation and Access Management Plan which we will be pleased to provide and we have already begun work in this respect. The narrowness of the objections now allows us to focus on the actions required in order to move forward.”
SNH also acknowledged the “creativity and commitment” of the developers “to mitigate and offset impacts” of the development and expressed a strong willingness to continue working together toward completion of the course. 
As part of the proposed golf course plans, the current shooting of Special Protected Area wintering birds would cease within the entirety of Coul Links. The Coul Links team is formally calling upon the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and others to join in supporting these plans.
Mr Warnock continued: “Our exhaustive efforts in working with SNH to protect and improve the management of this extraordinary site have resulted in a very supportive response. Now, with the SNH response and a steadfast local consensus, it is time to come together. It is because we appreciate the concerns of some NGOs that we call on them to lessen their rhetoric and engage directly with us. Our long standing invitations to these organisations to actually visit the site and engage with us remain fully open.”
The developers also highlighted SNH’s positive approach to continue working with the Coul Links team should the proposal receive planning permission, and are looking forward to completing the Recreation and Access Management Plan and addressing the dune heath issue. They also look forward to continued working in partnership with The Highland Council, other statutory bodies and the local community to bring Coul Links forward. 
Gail Ross MSP for Caithness, Sutherland Easter Ross, said: “I have discussed the project with many people across my constituency, especially those in the local area and listened to their views. I feel that the concerns that have been raised by individuals and organisations have been addressed and therefore I give my support to the project. It has the potential to be one of the most exciting opportunities for my constituency both economically and environmentally. Now that the SNH response is out and their two objections are narrow and addressable, I look forward to the project being successful at Highland Council Planning Committee.”
Joan Bishop, Chair of Dornoch Area Community Interest Company said: “We are pleased by the SNH response. Certainly, this level of dune heath disruption when balanced against the significant economic benefits for the area, seems resolvable. We believe the developers have been unfairly criticised by some organisations and in our view, the SNH response confirms that.” 
Local Councillor Jim McGillivray, an Embo resident, said: “SNH sees what we see, and that is an extraordinarily beautiful site without any meaningful environmental conservation or existing management to tackle invasive threats. We live next door and our residents walk Coul Links daily. Without the golf course and related site management, this site will continue to degrade via expansion of invasive species. This environmental commitment, combined with the economic benefits, is why Embo is so solidly in favour of the development.”