Storm Blows Up Over Windfarm on Edinburgh Landmark
The impressive Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat tower over the city of Edinburgh and they are right on the doorstep of the Scottish Parliament. The area has also been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest by Scottish Natural Heritage, the highest category of protection afforded to a piece of land. But its wild beauty could be spoilt, if a plan for erecting a wind farm on the exposed slopes is approved by Edinburgh City Council. The proposal comes at a time when there is criticism of the Scottish Executive for not having a proper plan for wind farm development - other than an ambitious target of creating 40% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. So the Members of the Scottish Parliament - including those representing the Green Party which advocates renewable energy - will have an "in your face" example of how "saving the environment" means different things to different people. Historic Scotland has already come out strongly against the plan because of the adverse impact on part of the royal park and on the setting of a category-A listed building, the royal Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland.
Cut in Scottish Seats in UK Parliament
The legislative process by which the number of Members of Parliament elected in Scotland in the House of Commons from 72 to 59 was completed this week. The reduction of 13 seats will bring the size of constituencies in Scotland closer to the UK average. The number was decided back in the 19th century and, since then, the population in England and Wales has risen at a much faster rate, creating the disparity. Resolving that situation was one of the consequences of setting up the Scottish Parliament.
Iraqis Descend on Glasgow to Vote
94% of the 1,333 Iraqis who registered to vote in Glasgow duly turned up at the polling station - many travelling long distances to do so. Voters from Northern Ireland, the north of England and Dublin as well as from all across Scotland made the journey and, in some cases, danced in the streets to traditional music from car stereos afterwards.
Heart and Lung Surgery Moving Out of Glasgow?
Greater Glasgow Health Board has decided to go to out to public consultation with a proposal to move all heart and lung operations from the Western Infirmary and Glasgow Royal Infirmary to a new hi-tech unit in the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank. A planned thoracic surgery at Hairmyres Hospital, in Lanarkshire, would also move to the new cardiothoracic centre. It would be responsible for carrying out 9,000 operations a year, making it one of the biggest in the UK. It is argued that centralising services would have benefits for staff and patients. However, visiting patients in hospital could mean a long journey for relatives and friends.
Sober View of First Minister's Advice on Drink
Scotland is not the only place in the world where over-indulgence in alcohol is a major issue, particularly amongst young people. The Scottish Executive propounds various strategies to try to curb the problem and the resulting rowdy behaviour of those who lose control. So there was a media and political outcry this week when Jack McConnell, the Scottish First Minister, responding to a question-and-answer session in front of 120 secondary school pupils, replied "By all means get drunk once in a while - but do not get into a situation where people are being encouraged to get completely incapable just to save some money and drink more quickly." His political opponents immediately seized on the words saying that he was encouraging young people to get drunk. However, a spokesman for the Scottish Executive pointed out that the remarks had been made in the context of binge drinking by adults and of irresponsible drink promotions, two aspects which the government are trying to bring under control.
Largest Ever Petition Presented to Scottish Parliament
160,000 people signed a petition to the Scottish Parliament this week calling for the UK to withdraw from the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The Fisherman's Association and the "Cod Crusaders" believe that the only way to save the British fishing industry is through the restoration of UK control.
Now Regimental Museums Face Axe
Campaigners are still fighting hard to save the Scottish regiments due to be amalgamated into one "super regiment" with battalions within them trying to keep alive the long traditions which have been built up over the centuries. Now they will have to fight on a second front - the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is looking at cutting down on the number of regimental museums, with the Black Watch museum at Balhousie Castle and the Gordon Highlanders museum in Aberdeen amongst others under threat. These museums are in the heartland of the areas from which many of those who served in them were recruited. As a result, many of the former soldiers still live within the same part of the country and can easily call in at the museum of their former regiment, where they act as a focal point for meeting old comrades. Amalgamation into one or two locations, probably in the central Scotland belt, will bring that association to an end. So far, the MoD will only confirm that a "study is under way but no decisions have been taken." That sounds like an echo of what was said when the concept of doing away with the regimental structure was first floated. The funding of the museums is currently a mixture of government funding and support from former soldiers and donations. So that may make it more difficult to close them down.
More Gaelic Teachers Sought
The Scottish Executive has announced the launch of an action group to tackle the need for more Gaelic teachers in secondary schools (ages 12-18). As well as considering the current nature of Gaelic teacher training, the group will look at ways to promote Gaelic teacher recruitment and consider the existing routes into Gaelic teaching. The group will also consider how to encourage Gaelic speaking teachers currently working only in English. For example, they will look at the benefit of intensive language courses to help potential Gaelic teachers reach the language requirements. There are now pupils who have spent their entire primary career being taught in Gaelic, but when they move on to secondary education, the opportunities available to them can be patchy. Latest figures, for 2003/04, show that there were 1,236 pre-school pupils in Gaelic medium education, 1,972 in primary and 284 in secondary. In addition, there were 2,513 pupils taking Gaelic as a subject in secondary school.
Scotland Shortlisted by Citigroup
Citigroup, the world's largest financial services conglomerate, is reported to have shortlisted Scotland for the location of a new administration and global custody centre. The investment would be in several stages and although the initial stage would result in only a few hundred staff being employed, the prospect of that figure rising to 4,000 in the future is getting Scottish Enterprise pulling out all the stops to land this prize. Citigroup won a large contract eighteen months ago to deal with the back-office work for Standard Life Investments, part of the Edinburgh-based insurance giant. That foothold is encouraging Citigroup to look at further expansion in Scotland. The company already employs 11,000 staff in London.
Designer Cafe for George Square
If you have been looking at the view of George Square on the City Council's Webcam, you would be forgiven for thinking that there had been a major explosion in the city's main square. But that's just while the workmen set about revamping the bright red surface, installing better lighting and cleaning up the statues over the next three months. The £450,000 project will also result in the side of the square beside the City Chambers (roughly equivalent to the Town Hall) being closed to traffic and relaid with high-quality granite. The planners are also aiming to create a European-style showpiece cafe in the north-west corner of the square and have launched a competition to find a designer. The building is likely to include a 70-seat indoor area, an external roof space and another outdoor area for use in good weather. Some Glaswegians believe that the Victorian square is already too commercial, but the City Council claim that 66% of those asked for their views supported the idea.
Under the Sea to Orkney
You no longer need to sail "over the sea to Skye" as in the traditional song, as there is now a bridge connecting the island to the mainland. Now, local councillors in Orkney have come up with an imaginative idea - to link the northern isles to the mainland by means of a tunnel under the (often stormy) Pentland Firth. The cost is estimated to be £100 million and would result in a ten-minute trip in a seven mile tunnel, instead of an hour on the ferry. While that is a high cost, the ferry which currently plies between Scrabster and Stromness costs £30 million and needs to be replaced from time to time.
Waste Recycling Increase
The UK, and Scotland in particular, has a particularly poor record of recycling waste materials, compared with our neighbours on the continent of Europe. In 2002/03 Scotland only recycled 9.6% of its municipal waste - the rest went into land-fill sites. The Scottish Executive has been encouraging local authorities to improve on that statistic and finance has been provided to provide householders with paper, garden waste, glass, tin and plastic recycling facilities. Last year, the percentage went up to 12.3% and in the three months for July to September 2004 that figure had risen to 17.6%. The aim is to achieve 25% by 2006. Of course, the amount of household waste keeps increasing all the time and the government is working with manufacturers and retailers to cut down on the excessive amount of packaging that ends up in waste-bins in the first place.
New Air Route to Brussels
You might have thought that with the European Commission being based in Brussels, that there would have been a significant number of people flying between the Belgian capital and Scotland. But when Sabena, the Belgian national carrier, filed for bankruptcy and stopped flying from Glasgow to Brussels, no other airline stepped in to provide a service. Now, at last, SN Brussels Airlines is to reopen the route with nine flights each week from June this year. The airline was unable to benefit from the government's route development fund as Ryanair fly from Prestwick to Belgium.
Train Station for Football Stadium?
Glasgow City Council has proposed that when the new rail link from the city centre to the airport at Renfrew is constructed, a new station should be built at Ibrox, close to the stadium of Rangers football club. There used to be a station in the area - but it was closed 35 years ago. It is argued that the station would reduce the number of cars coming into the city and would be a boon whenever Rangers are playing at home. It would also be next to the new leisure and casino development planned by Rangers.
Apartments Plan for Historic Church Spire
The steeple of Park Church is all that remains of the original building designed by J T Rochead - who also drew the plans for the Wallace Monument in Stirling. The elegant Christmas-cake spire is a prominent landmark on the skyline above Park Circus, itself a Victorian architectural gem (blighted these days by serried ranks of parked cars belonging to staff and visitors to the offices which now occupy the once grand mansions). Currently, the spire is just used for storage. It dates from 1868 and the architect's plans propose creating 51 flats as part of a redevelopment costing £6 million.
"Faulty Tower" May Close for Months
Four children and six adults were stranded for five hours when a lift cable snapped on the 400ft high Glasgow Tower, part of the Glasgow science Centre complex, last Saturday. The tower has had a catalogue of problems since it opened 2001 and the latest incident has severely damaged public confidence in the structure. Engineers will have to investigate the latest problem - and why the second lift could not be used as back-up. The Science Centre is proving to be very popular but the constant problems with the tower are blighting its image. The visitors were eventually rescued when firemen cut through from the central tower and led the passengers to safety down the internal stairs. There are fears that the tower will now be shut, yet again, for many months. And who will be brave enough to try out the lifts again? Such a shame, as the tower, the highest in Scotland and the only one in the world where the entire structure can rotate through 360 degrees, offers great views over Glasgow and the surrounding area.
Nepalese Botanists Search for Lost Species - in Edinburgh
Over-development and tourism have contributed to the loss of many plant species in the kingdom of Nepal. However, specimens in the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, collected 160 years ago by Scottish naturalists, are the best collection of Nepalese plants outside of the Himalayan country. So a team of Nepalese botanists has travelled to Scotland to examine them and uncover species currently not recorded in their homeland. Nepal does not have a written flora library, so they do not even know which plants have been lost. The hope is that once they have been identified using the Edinburgh collection, some of them may be found again in remote areas, once the experts know what to look for.
Hedwig Lands on Hebridean Nature Reserve
A rare snowy owl - the kind which is featured in the Harry Potter adventures - has been seen recently on the islands of Coll and Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. It is the first time that the spectacular bird, which has a five-feet wingspan, has been recorded in Scotland since 1975. The birds are more often found within the Arctic Circle and Scandinavia, so the arrival of a breeding pair has ruffled a few feathers in the birdwatching world. Both are young and may have been blown off course from Iceland or Greenland.
Weather in Scotland This Week
Temperatures were largely in the range 10/12C (50/54F) though it felt chillier as there were strong northerly winds. Later in the week, temperatures dipped to 8/9C (46/48F) and the forecast is for the thermometer to slide even lower in the next day or two. Tuesday was the one day this week when there was an appreciable amount of sunshine, though Aberdeen enjoyed another sunny day on Thursday. Apart from rain clouds which kept pushing into the north-west of the country, there was not much in the way of rainfall this week - just leaden skies.
All of this week's illustrations of current flowers in Scotland show evidence of water droplets on them, but in most cases this was due to condensation during low overnight temperatures, rather than rain. The crocus above are among the first to bloom in my own garden this year. The polyanthus (primrose) and snowdrops were spotted in a small place called Baldernock, north of Glasgow.