Security Alert at Queen's Palace
As if security staff haven't enough on their plate, the media seems keen to test out the systems "for the public good" (and to sell newspapers with the stories). A reporter recently wandered around the new Scottish Parliament building, managing to get close to the office of the First Minister and this week a journalist from the Sunday Times in Scotland, posing as a workman, managed to get within yards of the Royal Apartments at the Queen's official residence in Scotland at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. He was in a restricted area for 20 minutes before being challenged by security staff. Then as he was being escorted to a reception desk, he broke free and escaped. The newspaper later informed the police but Lothian and Borders Police criticised the paper for wasting police resources. It meant a lot of police work as they had to search the scene to establish if the man was still in the palace and more officers had to be drafted in to check nothing had been left behind. The Prince of Wales is expected to be staying at the palace later this week.
More Births, Fewer Deaths
The "Vital Events" quarterly report from the Registrar General for Scotland on births marriages and deaths for the second quarter of 2004 shows that the number of births is 3.4% higher than the same quarter last year. The increase in the birth rate (from 12,905 to 13,343 - the highest quarterly figure since 2000) was immediately seized upon by campaigners trying to halt the closure or downgrading of maternity facilities in various parts of the country. In all but one quarter since the middle of 2002, there have been more births than the same period in the previous year. Part of the justification for a reduction in the number of maternity facilities is the decline in the number of babies being born. The Vital Events report also shows that deaths in the second quarter fell from 14,073 to 13,571 (-3.7%) in the same quarter in the previous year. Despite the changes in the statistics, however, there were still more deaths than births in Scotland in the three months to end June.
£1 Million Makeover for Outdated Shopping Complex
The St James shopping mall in the centre of Edinburgh is to undergo a £1 million upgrade, the first for fifteen years. The main entrances are to be updated over the next two years in a bid to attract in shoppers who are visiting some of the new up-market shops such as Harvey Nichols on St Andrew Square. St James currently serves 250,000 shoppers a week and was built in the early 1960s. Last year it was named as one of the top ten architectural eyesores in Britain by the readers of the magazine Country Life but the makeover is unlikely to do much to improve its image.
Just the Ticket
In a drive to boost public transport, Edinburgh City Council sponsored the biggest-ever free bus service last Monday. That day was a local holiday in the city so public transport and the roads were much quieter than usual. The Council claim that there has been major investment in bus services and the free buses all day was designed to encourage people to see the improvements for themselves. The free service applied to all services within the city between 9.30am and 7pm and even with many city workers at home because of the local holiday, it is estimated to have cost Edinburgh local taxpayers £100,000. A similar scheme is to operate on Monday 27 September in Glasgow - a local holiday in that city.
Drivers Face a Year of Chaos
The Kingston Bridge over the river Clyde in Glasgow is about to see another major repair scheme, resulting in lane and access ramp closures - and the west-bound carriageway will be closed each night. The repairs will last for twelve months. Opened in 1969, it has five lanes in each direction and is one of the busiest river crossings in Europe with over 170,000 vehicles passing over it each day. The £11 million contract comes 12 months after a £4 refurbishment to on and off-ramps which took six months while three years ago a major project required the entire bridge supports on the south bank to be raised to allow new bearings to be installed.
Baxters Stirring North American Soup Market
The privately-owned Scottish company Baxters Food Group, which still has its HQ in Fochabers in the Spey Valley, has broken into the £1.9 billion North American soup market with the acquisition of Canada's leading private label soup maker SoupExperts. This is expected to provide Baxters with a launching pad for its own brand of Scottish soups in North America. While Campbells and Heinz may not be exactly quaking in their soup pots, Baxters has captured a sizeable portion of the UK market. But it will be hard to persuade supermarkets in North America to provide shelf space for their brand.
No Escaping Scotland with Style
Passengers on the Scottish Citylink airport shuttle buses to Glasgow city centre will be entertained on the journey by a film featuring stylish images of the city's architecture, shopping, nightlife, galleries and museums as part of the current "Glasgow: Scotland with Style" advertising campaign. It is estimated that 50,000 travellers will see the presentation every month. While some of those viewing the in-bus screenings will be local, others will be national and international visitors.
Majority Support Wind Farms
Although plans for wind farms in many parts of Scotland often give rise to noisy campaigns to blow them off course, a poll of 1,000 adults in Scotland showed that 71% of those questioned were in favour of wind energy. Of course, a representative cross section of Scots would have a high proportion of people from towns and cities who would not be faced with an army of turbine blades, each 60 metres high, marching across their nearby hills. Those responding to the survey were asked "do you agree that wind farms are necessary to enable the UK to produce enough energy from renewable sources to meet current and future needs". Only 16% disagreed and 62% said they were necessary, regardless of what they looked like.
Art Gallery Appeal Raises Target
The efforts of the team raising finance to assist the refurbishment of the Art Gallery and Museum at Kelvingrove in Glasgow have been so successful that they have raised their target from £5 million to £5.5 million. They have already reached over £4 million and the additional funding will be spent on a new conference and lecture facility. The renovation work is also forging ahead (on budget and on schedule, it seems) but it will be another two years before it re-opens.
Direct Flights to India?
Restriction which stopped direct flights between Scotland and India have been lifted by Indian officials and the British Airports Authority says it is to begin talks to develop scheduled and charter flights between Scotland and Indian holiday destinations such as Goa and Kerala. Previously, long-standing bilateral arrangements between Britain and India meant that direct flights could only fly from London, Birmingham and Manchester.
No Buyers for Freedom
A modern statue of William Wallace stands at the foot of Abbey Craig, on which the 19th century Wallace National Monument towers over the countryside. Entitled "Freedom", the 13 feet high statue was derided when it was unveiled in 1997 because instead of representing the Scottish icon it was carved to look like Mel Gibson in the film "Braveheart" - it even has the movie's name carved into the shield. It was vandalised with paint and now has to be enclosed in a locked frame overnight. But with the lease for the space on which the statue stands coming to an end, Tom Church the sculptor, put it up for sale on an Internet Web site. But with a £350,000 asking price, there have been no takers in over a year. It looks as though Tom will have to take back the statue and put it in his garden. He says that wouldn't bother him and that his family would love to hold on to it.
More than 1,200 pupils at Ellon Academy have made an attempt at getting into the record books with the world's biggest ceilidh. They descended on a playing field near the school and took part in a Dashing White Sergeant, Virginia Reel and Strip the Willow. The school is no stranger to world records - they built the biggest sandcastle a few years ago. But the school rector says the ceilidh was more exciting - and needed a lot of work by the pupils to learn the dance steps.
Canny Scots Cannae Save?
Scotland's reputation as a nation of thrifty folk has taken a knock by a survey released this week by Lloyds TSB Bank. It shows that Scots have a nest egg on average about £1,000 less than the UK average and ten areas in Scotland have the lowest average savings of all the areas in the UK. The worst part of Britain for saving is West Dunbartonshire where the average amount saved is less than half of the UK average. The figures are based on a sample of 2,000 of the bank's customers and as such need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Surveys such as this need to be on a "like for like" basis across the country and this is not the case here. The bank's customers in Scotland are those who bank with the former Trustee Savings Bank, which had its origins in helping the smaller savers. In England and Wales, the banks customers are influenced by those who were customers of Lloyds Bank which had a wider cross-section of customers, including those who came from more affluent backgrounds. And the survey makes no allowance for the higher salaries paid in London and the south-east.
Make a Killing in Killie
If you want to be a lottery millionaire, it seems you could improve your chances by moving to the Ayrshire town of Kilmarnock. A former cleaning lady became the sixth National Lottery millionaire in the town. With a population of only 43,600, there have been more millionaire winners per head of the population in Kilmarnock than in any other post code area.
Desperate Dan Gets a Makeover
The "Dandy" is the longest-running comic in Scotland, having been published in Dundee for nearly 70 years. Desperate Dan the cowboy has featured in the comic ever since the first issue but in an attempt to appeal more to the new generation of youngsters he is to be joined by Dreadlock Holmes, a streetwise "cool kid", and Jak, a trouble-making schoolboy. The new story lines are said to "challenge the constraints of political correctness" but with harmless fun - so nothing much is really changing, perhaps. Except that Desperate Dan's personal makeover is to include the removal of his gun (the empty holster will remain) and his spurs will be removed. And his large stomach (a result of eating so many beef pies) is to be slimmed down to accord with current views on obesity. The changes may attract some of today's youngsters but their fathers and grandfathers are more likely to be turned off! The illustration shows the sculpture of Desperate Dan striding out in the centre of Dundee.
Weather in Scotland This Week
Although temperatures reached 16C (61F) in some parts on one or two days this week, the thermometer tended to rise only to 13/15C (55/59F) on most days and Glasgow could only manage 12C (54F) at most on Sunday. The prevailing wind shifted to the north at the end of the week and that contributed to the lower temperatures. However, there was quite a lot of sunshine this week - Glasgow recorded 10.9 hours of sun on Friday and Aberdeen 8 hours on Tuesday.
This week's illustrations of current flora and fauna in Scotland show, first of all, a Peacock butterfly in the walled garden at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. Although there were quite a number of butterflies this week at Culzean (including Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and a solitary Small Tortoiseshell) numbers were considerably down on a few weeks ago.
In the illustrtaions below, the Kitsura tree, (Cercidiphylum Japonicum) was showing off its autumn colours in the Japanese Garden at Glendoick in Perthshire. The Lily and the Nasturtium were both photographed on Thursday in the gardens at Culzean Castle.