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Fife Bannocks

'Scotland is not wholly surrounded by the sea - unfortunately' wrote the major Scottish poet of the 20th century and founder member of the National Party of Scotland in 1928, Hugh MacDiarmid. Perhaps not, but the sea has played an important part in Scotland's long history, both for internal communications and external relations, particularly with Continental Europe, prior to the Treaty of Union in 1707. Internal ferry travel is still vital to many Scottish communities, eg from the short Wemyss Bay to Rothesay route to the much longer Aberdeen to Shetland one; and the good news is that this year saw the commencement of a new direct ferry link from Scotland to Europe.
Scotland's Continental links go back far into history. Most visitors to The Flag will know of the Battle of Stirling Bridge victory by the Scottish army under William Wallace and Andrew de Moray on 11 September 1297 which set Scotland free of English domination but fewer will know of an important follow-up.  This was a letter from the Joint Guardians of Scotland, William Wallace and Andrew de Moray, to the merchants of Lubeck and Hamburg that Scotland ' has been recovered from the power of the English' and that they could once again ' have safe access' to all the harbours of Scotland.
Some 700 years on, direct Continental links from Scotland are still vital. Hopefully the commencement of the Superfast ferry  route launched on 17 May 2002 from Rosyth to Zeebrugge will be a date that goes down in history. The new ferry route appears to be sailing towards a secure future. The ferry company have reported that they have carried more than 75,000 passengers on the nightly Rosyth-Zeebrugge service from the launch date in May to the end of September. They expect that figure to rise to 100,000 by the end of 2002. Incidently, the route has passed the test of Scots Independent Company Secretary Denholm Christie and his wife Myra who enjoyed a trip to Zeebrugge in September.
But the long term economic future of the crossing really depends on increasing the freight usage of the ferry. Recent reports that more and more Scottish freight companies are using the ferry is a step in the right direction and as this looks set to increase even further must bode well for the ferry's future.
The Rosyth ferry has also attracted new visitors to Scotland from countries such as Germany, Belgium and France. A survey carried out by VisitScotland has shown that some 44 per cent of foreign visitors using the ferry were visiting Scotland for the first time. Good news indeed for the hard pressed Scottish tourist industry. The even better news is that some 93 per cent of survey respondents stated that they were 'quite likely' or 'very likely' to return again to Scotland. And the ferry company must have been delighted to learn that 81 per cent would use the Superfast ferry again. As each visitor spend 600 in Scotland, excluding ferry cost, this is trade that must be encouraged.
So let us hope that more and more passengers enjoy the sight of the Firth of Forth and sailing under the Forth Rail and Road Bridges to and from the shores of Fife at Rosyth. This week's recipe for Fife Bannocks offers a tasty treat for Scots and visitors alike.
Fife Bannocks
Ingredients : 6 oz (175 g) plain flour; 1/2 oz (15 g) butter; 4 oz (125 g) fine oatmeal; 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda; 1 tsp cream of tartar; 1 dsp sugar; pinch of salt; buttermilk to mix
Preheat the girdle - it should feel fairly hot if you hold your hand over it about an inch from the surface.
Sift the flour and rub in the butter, add oatmeal, soda, and cream of tartar, sugar and salt and mix with buttermilk to a fairly stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured board, dust with flour and roll into a round half-inch thick (1 cm) . Divide into 8 and cook on both sides on a hot girdle till nicely browned. Serve warm - especially delicious with raspberry or strawberry jam.

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