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What we learned this week about exam results, A9 dualling, the Hogwarts Express and a tale of two pubs

There were plenty of delighted pupils across Scotland, but frustration in the Highlands at yet more talk over the dualling of the A9.

St Margaret's School for Girls pupils Rachel, Celine and Ellie were among those celebrating the school's record-breaking exam results. Image: Spey
St Margaret's School for Girls pupils Rachel, Celine and Ellie were among those celebrating the school's record-breaking exam results. Image: Spey

Thousands of pupils across the north of Scotland experienced conflicting emotions after receiving their exam results from the SQA.

On a national basis, the Higher pass rate was down from last year, but remained at about 2019 levels with attainment of A to C grades at 77.1%.

The Scottish Conservatives claimed the gap between pupils from the most and least deprived parts of the country had increased.

However, Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth responded it was still narrower than it was in 2019 and argued there was “much to celebrate” in a “strong” set of results.

New consultation about A9

Holyrood’s public petitions committee has launched a consultation to gather views on how a much-delayed upgrade of the A9 can be completed more quickly.

The work to dual the remaining single-carriageway sections of the road between Inverness and Perth was meant to be finished by 2025. But there’s no possibility of that happening, with the Scottish Government accused of “betraying” residents in the Highlands by the former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Last year, the number of people killed in crashes between Inverness and Perth rose to 17 in 11 separate incidents: its highest level in 20 years.

Back on board the Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express appeared in several Harry Potter films.

The Jacobite steam train, made famous in the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express, is back on track after being pulled from service due to safety concerns.

These were raised by Office of Road and Rail inspectors who discovered issues with the carriage doors that could have put passengers at risk.

However, West Coast Railways, which operates the service, has now been granted a temporary exemption allowing the train to return to service until November 30.

New book from former FM

Nicola Sturgeon’s “deeply personal and revealing” new memoir will be published in 2025 by Pan Macmillan, after nine publishers bid for it at auction.

The SNP politician, who resigned as First Minister in February, said: “I will talk about what I am proud of and be frank about my regrets. I will reflect on the challenges of being a woman in politics and reveal more about the person behind the politician.”

There is no word as yet on its title.

Different fates for two noted pubs

Locals back in the Old Forge pub in Knoydart.

The community owners of Britain’s remotest mainland pub have reopened the building following a six-month refurbishment.

Residents of the Knoydart Peninsula bought The Old Forge in Inverie in March last year and have rejoiced at recent developments, even though the only way of reaching the village – and its pub – is by walking 18 miles or making a seven-mile sea crossing.

The hostelry’s previous owner Jean-Pierre Robinet had run it for 10 years.

But the Crooked House has vanished

There was sadder news about the destruction of a famous 18th century pub in England.

The Crooked House, near Dudley in the Black Country, caught fire last Saturday night and was subsequently bulldozed on Monday, prompting anger from local residents.

Police confirmed that the blaze, which broke out at the property with a history dating back to 1765, was being treated as suspicious.

Covid policies spark new fears

New policies for flu and Covid jags differ in Scotland and England.

There was confusion north and south of the border after Public Health Scotland confirmed that everyone aged 50 and over will be eligible for the flu jab in the coming months, although Covid shots will only be given to under-65s considered most at risk.

However, millions of people under that age in England will be denied both flu and Covid jabs, despite one of the government’s leading public health officials, Dr Mary Ramsay, the director of public health programmes at the UK Health Security Agency, warning that coronavirus had not “gone away”.

There were also calls for the Office of National Statistics to renew publishing weekly figures as hospital admissions increased again.

Respected journalist has tumour

BBC Scotland’s political editor Glenn Campbell announced he is being treated for a brain tumour, which was discovered while he was undergoing scans after a cycling accident in which he broke 10 ribs.

The 47-year-old said he is to undergo surgery and will take time off work for treatment. He received good wishes for a speedy recovery from across the political spectrum.

Neil gears up for more glory

Neil Fachie and Matthew Rotherham celebrate winning gold at the world championships. Pic: Tim Goode/PA Wire.</p> <p>

Aberdeen’s para-cycling star, Neil Fachie, continued to add to his already remarkable gold medal haul at the World Championships in front of his home crowds in Glasgow.

The 39-year-old surged to three gold medals at the competition and yet admitted he was still wasn’t completely happy with 19 world titles.

He said: “It’s kind of an annoying figure because you feel you have to come back for 20.”

French Connection director dies

William Friedkin, who directed two of the classic movies of the 1970s, The Exorcist and The French Connection, died aged 87.

The Oscar-winning director was seen as one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation and was part of the “New Hollywood” movement.

Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather director, said that Friedkin’s work “represented true milestones in cinema” and that all of his films were “alive with genius”.