Scotland Attracts US Migrants
Statistics published by the Registrar General for Scotland this week, based on the 2001 census, looks in detail at migrants coming to this country. It shows that more people came to Scotland from the United States (10%) than any other country. A further 43% came from Europe, particularly Germany, France, Spain and Ireland - though a quarter of "foreign" migrants were in fact returning Scots. While the number of migrants who came to Scotland from the rest of the UK was roughly in balance with the number of those who moved in the opposite direction, there was a net loss of young people aged 16-34 but a gain of 2,400 people aged 35 and over. Migrants tended to be people of working age - especially those who came from overseas, most of whom were aged 16 to 34. A lot more immigrants came from the rest of the UK (48,000) than from overseas (29,000). Most migrants from abroad went to the 4 main cities. The paper, entitled "Scotland's Census 2001: Statistics on Migration" is available from the Registrar's web site at http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/ (see the "What's New" section).
Burns and Whisky Gang Thegither - in China
Two of Scotland's greatest assets - Robert Burns and Scotch Whisky - were at the heart of a Chinese charm offensive this week in Beijing by Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace. Figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) show that sales of whisky continued to soar in China last year - in the first ten months of 2004, the volume of Scotch exports to China rose by 137 per cent.This is the equivalent of an extra 3.7 million bottles of whisky being shipped to China compared to the same period in 2003. Mr Wallace was also promoting the publishing of a book of Burns poetry specially translated into Chinese to mark a Burns Night celebration in Beijing. Songs such as Auld Lang Syne are very well known there and feature prominently at celebrations such as the Chinese New Year (February 9th in 2005), weddings and graduations. The Scottish Executive is stepping up its promotion of Scotland in China following a recent agreement that Chinese people will now be able to travel to Scotland as tourists, following the removal of travel restrictions.
Reigning On Marches and Parades
A report on the handling of marches and parades by the former Strathclyde Chief Constable Sir John Orr, commissioned by the Scottish Executive, was published this week. In 2003 there were 1,712 processions in Scotland (up from 1,577 in 2001) , half of them associated with the Orange Order, a Protestant organisation which has its roots in Northern Ireland. The marches tend to be in a few specific areas of west and central Scotland, where sectarian feelings can sometimes run high. There were 338 parades in Glasgow in 2003, of which 287 were Orange Order marches and 11 were Catholic, while in North Lanarkshire 157 of the 160 marches in 2003 were organised by the Orange Order. Some communities have voiced concern about the problems the marches cause, especially when they pass through areas where the residents do not approve of the organisation. The report says there is a need to strike a balance between the rights of those who want to march and the rights of communities to live and work without major disruption. To achieve that, it is proposed that organisers will be required to give 28 days notice to local authorities and the police of their intention to hold a procession, compared with seven days at present. There will then be a consultation process conducted by local authorities to consider community views. March organisers will also have to be more responsible and accountable - and will be required to take out a "behaviour bond" and ensure effective stewarding. While many support the proposals, others argue that the proposals will trip up many marches with red tape.
Grand Central Tartan Day
A "Scottish village" is to be created in Grand Central Station in New York as part of the Tartan Day celebrations in April. The station is the world's largest and over 500,000 people pass through it every day. New Yorkers will be encouraged to consider living, studying or going on vacation in Scotland during the ten days of the exhibition. The Tartan Week celebrations in New York will include a Tartan Day parade on April 2, a "Dressed to Kilt" fashion show featuring celebrities in Scotland’s national garb (hopefully without First Minister Jack McConnell dressed in a "fashion" kilt as he was last year), and a gala dinner celebrating "Icons of Scotland".
Scottish Economy Picks Up
It is not often that economic growth in Scotland is higher than the UK as a whole, but it managed to achieve that in the third quarter of last year, thanks to the service sector, particularly financial services. There was an unexpected 0.9% expansion in Scotland, ahead of the UK figure of 0.5%. But with a downward revision of the Scottish data in the second quarter to 0.6%, Scotland is still trailing the UK on an annualised basis, with Scotland's GDP growing at only 1.8% against a UK figure of 3.2%.
Ten People Trapped in Science Centre Tower Lift
The 400ft high Glasgow Tower, which rotates 360 degrees on its axis, has been plagued with problems since it first opened in October 2001. These breakdowns meant that nearly three years later it had been available to the public for only three months. In recent times it has been more reliable, but on Saturday afternoon one of the two lifts got stuck 165 feet above the ground with ten people on board - four children and six adults including one member of staff. The lift is not that large (that's the cabin towards the foot of the illustration), so they will be rather cramped. On other occasions, staff have been able to bring people safely to the ground, but this time it is understood that one of the cables snapped, triggering an emergency braking system. The member of the Glasgow Science Centre staff in the lift was in radio contact with the ground. There were reports of a mountain rescue team being called in to assist in getting the people down, but instead an engineer abseiled down from the top of the tower to try (unsuccessfully) to get the lift moving manually. By this time, darkness has fallen and after 4/5 hours of being trapped in the confined space, Strathclyde Fire Brigade cut through metal panels from the interior stair well of the tower and led the ten people to safety.
Over 250,000 Local Government Employees
In recent years there have been concerns at the huge increases in taxation raised by local government. Those in fixed incomes, in particular, have struggled to meet increases in the local tax burden which have been at several times the annual rate of inflation. Local authorities argue that the cash is essential to allow them to meet the growing demand for services. Staff salaries are obviously a major part of their expenditure and figures published this week by the Scottish Executive show that there were 256,079 council employees across 32 local authorities in September, an increase of 7,230 from the year before. Glasgow employs the most staff, with 25,210 across all departments. In Scotland as a whole, recruitment of social workers and non-teaching education staff was responsible for much of the increase.
Lift-Off for Airport Expansion
Around 500 acres of land adjacent to Glasgow Airport has been earmarked to ensure its long-term future development over the next 25 years. The land will be reserved to allow expansion of the terminal capacity and allow for the possibility of providing an additional runway. Proposals to create a new 15-minute direct rail link from Glasgow city centre to the airport are currently out to consultation. The proposed route will provide four trains an hour. Strathclyde Passenger Transport expects the whole project to be completed in 2008.
New Aircraft for Expansion of Scottish Routes
The independent airline Flybe has placed a £250 million order for 20 Bombardier aircraft and says it is considering new Norwegian or Swedish links from Scotland, and a similar range of UK routes from Inverness to those that will be launched from Aberdeen. Flights to Oslo, Bergen or Stockholm from Aberdeen, and possibly Edinburgh and Glasgow, could follow. The company claims to be "Scotland’s fastest growing airline" and Belfast flights have already been confirmed from March. An order for Boeing 737s is likely to follow soon, with the larger planes operating on the Edinburgh and Glasgow to Southampton and Birmingham routes.
This Haggis is Hard to Swallow
The Albanach is a newly-opened contemporary restaurant and bar in London and to celebrate its first Burns Night, Scottish chef John Paul McLachan created a haggis infused with whisky. This is not unusual, but he used one of the rarest whiskies in the world - a 50-year-old Balvenie Cask 191 single malt. Only 83 bottles of this nectar exist in the world and they cost around £6,000 a bottle. The haggis creation, enriched with four drams of the Balvenie, was sufficient for only ten diners, who each stumped up £250 per portion for the unusual treat. All proceeds will go to the tsunami appeal.
Aberdeen University Wins Record Funding
The Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) has offered £1.25 million to a Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies at Aberdeen University. This will allow it to expand its graduate school, host international conferences and establish a diaspora studies network. It is the largest humanities grant ever awarded to a higher education institution in the UK and will help the centre to explore the links between both countries. As a result of the funding, the Aberdeen centre will become a research hub for academics of international standing and be able to accept more students. In partnership with Trinity College, Dublin, Queen’s University, Belfast and the University of Liverpool, academics in Aberdeen will also probe current Irish-Scottish connections. The centre is led by Prof Tom Devine who was awarded an OBE in the 2005 New Year Honours list for services to Scottish history.
Eagle Owls Released in Scotland
Exotic "eagle owls" which can grow to three feet tall and can catch dogs or small deer, have been seen in a number of areas of Scotland. It is believed that they have been released illegally by "enthusiasts" because they believe that they once lived in Scotland. However, experts say that there is no evidence that such "super-predators" ever flew in Scotland. The birds are easy to breed in captivity and can be bought for as little as £80 each. The Scottish Ornithology Club has expressed concern about these misguided people and the impact that they could have on native species. Anyone caught releasing such birds faces a fine of up to £20,000. Some years ago an eagle owl which escaped from an aviary grabbed a Yorkshire terrier from a street in Perth, so it is not just wild animals that are at risk.
Scots Are Enthusiastic Bird Watchers
A survey by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) suggests that Scots are keen bird watchers - but are not particularly good at identifying even common birds in their garden. 85% of Scots say they enjoy watching their feathered friends but only 57% can name our most frequent visitor, the chaffinch. Which does not augur well for this weekend's RSPB "Big Garden Bird Watch" which relies on people spending an hour watching the birds in their garden and reporting to the organisation the numbers of each species they see. The RSPB is helping identification by providing illustrations and names of the most common species on the report form. Last year, 22,500 people took part and this year the organisation is hoping that 25,000 Scots will respond. The birds shown here are goldfinches.
Maltese Bus Drivers Recruited in Aberdeen
Ten bus drivers from Malta have signed up to become full-time drivers for Stagecoach Bluebird in Aberdeen as part of an innovative recruitment mission to the Mediterranean island. There is currently a nationwide shortage of 5,000 bus drivers across the UK. Stagecoach needed to increase driver numbers due to the expansion of the "megabus.com" service and winning additional contracts in the area. All the drivers speak English and Aberdeen City Council's City Development Services are evaluating the possibility of further European recruitment missions within Europe to address specific skill shortages in the hospitality, care and construction sectors in the city.
Wedding Bells for Former Church
Kelvinside Parish Church, in a commanding position in the west end of Glasgow, was deconsecrated ten years ago and lay empty for a number years. Various plans for alternative use were put forward but finally it was converted into a bar and arts venue. Having retained many of the features from its former role as a church, the "Oran Mor" has a different ambience from most modern bars and has become popular with locals since it opened last year. Now it has applied for a licence to host weddings and receptions under legislation introduced in 2002. This allowed civil marriages to be conducted anywhere that has appropriate approval. The owners of the bar acknowledge that it is unusual for a "church" to apply for a licence to conduct weddings but they say that couples will be able to feel as though they are having a "church wedding" - and have their reception in the same building.
Cumbernauld Down in the Dumps
Winning the title of "most dumped supermarket trolleys in the UK" wasn't really the news story that the owners of the revamped shopping centre in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, were looking for. The much maligned (with justification) central shopping area of the town has been likened to a derelict aircraft carrier, which does an injustice to the navy's design skills. Any upgrade to the network of shops and lifts would have to be an improvement. Designed in 1963 to keep pedestrians and vehicles apart as far as possible, Cumbernauld itself is often vying for the accolade of "worst town in Britain" and has been likened to the Afghan capital Kabul. A book called "Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places to Live in the UK" voted it the second "top". Bearing in mind that the town used to win awards for the design of its residential areas, that is surprising. The latest "title" is from a company called Trolleywise which goes round the country retrieving abandoned trolleys. It found 70 in one day in Cumbernauld, the highest number in the dumped trolley league (Merthyr Tydfil in Wales came a poor second). The company found trolleys not just in streets, but in primary school entrances and outside the local town hall. One supermarket claimed it had spent a lot of money on magnetic devices to stop trolleys being taken away, but customers seem to have found ways of defeating the technology.
Oil Giant Sponsors Wildlife Centre
Shell UK is to give a £45,000 grant to the Loch of Lowes wildlife centre near Dunkeld in Perthshire to support a series of projects to provide easier access for visitors. Over 30,000 people already call in each year at the centre which is a regular breeding area for ospreys, which dive to catch fish in the loch. The reserve opened in 1970 after ospreys first build a nest in the area in 1969 and has attracted over a million visitors since then. The wildlife centre has a live video link to the nest site, allowing visitors to see the young birds being fed.
Sunny Aberdeen Sheds Grey Image
Weather data for 2004 shows that Aberdeen was the sunniest city in Scotland in 2004 - a title it also won in 2003. The grey granite of many of its buildings can sometimes give the northern city a dull aspect, though that soon changes when the sun sparkles on the stone. Aberdeen recorded 1,454 hours of sun last year. Edinburgh trailed with 1,225 hours of sunshine - a mere one hour ahead of Glasgow. Aberdeen's position was no real surprise - the weekly weather report in this newsletter has often commented (with envy, as the editor lives near Glasgow) about the sunshine figures for the Granite City.
Weather in Scotland This Week
A university psychologist was widely quoted this week for reporting that Monday 24 January was the "most depressing day of the year". He used a combination of likely weather, post festive season blues, broken resolutions and credit card bills landing on the doorstep showing that we had spent more than we should trying to celebrate Christmas and New Year. Certainly, Monday proved to be a largely dull and cold day across much of Scotland - only the far west enjoyed some brightness. The overcast skies persisted later in the week also, though the west of Scotland enjoyed some sunshine on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It is not often that Glasgow is featured on national weather reports for being the sunniest place in Britain but it achieved that on Thursday. Overnight temperatures have been below freezing but after a chilly start to the week of only 2/3C (36/37F), maximum daytime temperatures rose to around 8/10C (46/50F) later in the week.
The illustrations of the weather (and the seasons) in Scotland this week shows above two swans on the loch at Drumpellier Country Park in North Lanarkshire. They were clearly having an earnest discussion about when to start a family of cygnets! Below, the first picture shows a light covering of snow on Ben Lawers in Perthshire earlier this week while the sunset and clear skies were seen at Castle Semple Loch at Lochwinnoch in Renfrewshire on Friday. Finally, the disconsolate Greylag goose and the seagulls were standing on the frozen surface of the loch at Drumpellier Country Park where large areas of the water were frozen all week.