Reshaping the Arts in Scotland
It has taken a year to prepare, but this week the final report of the Cultural Commission was published and presented to the Scottish Parliament. It contains 124 recommendations on the development of arts and culture in Scotland, promoting wider access and building on the nation's reputation for creativity. It would enshrine in legislation the "cultural rights" of Scots in order to allow all citizens to fulfill their creative potential, take part in cultural life, have an enriching and satisfying environment and participate in designing and implementing cultural policy. The report also calls for increased government funding, rising to £100 million a year. Young people would receive vouchers to pay for a visit to a theatre, concert hall or cinema, with the cost coming from the government. Libraries would be encouraged to buy quality Scottish literature and struggling artists would be helped out with tax credits. Stars such as violinist Nicola Benedetti would be appointed as "cultural ambassadors" for Scotland. Two new national arts bodies are proposed - Culture Scotland to develop policy and the Culture Fund to administer and distribute the finance. A number of existing organisations such as the Scottish Arts Council would be disbanded. However, no doubt those who currently run the arts in Scotland would be involved in the new structures.
Fingerprints and DNA in Fight Against Crime
At the present time in Scotland the police collect up to 3500 fingerprints and DNA samples each month. But around 2000 are later destroyed because suspects are not prosecuted or are not convicted. The Scottish Executive has announced changes to legislation to allow such prints and samples to be retained so that if they turn up again in the course of an investigation they are available for reference and identification. Civil rights campaigners argue against the move, saying that it is an infringement of civil liberties. However, in England and Wales police can retain DNA and fingerprints from all those who are formally arrested. Since that procedure was adopted in England and Wales, more than 10,000 offences including 88 murders and 45 attempted murders have been linked to profiles on the DNA database. Under the previous legislation (which mirrored the current situation in Scotland) they would have been deleted and unavailable. This has helped the police and courts convict these criminals and also to eliminate innocent suspects from their enquiries. A consultation exercise on the proposal is now underway on the Scottish Executive plans.
Liberal Democrats Elect New Scottish Leader
Jim Wallace, the Liberal Democrat leader who has been Deputy First Minister in the coalition with Labour in the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999, stunned political commentators in May when he announced that he was standing down and would become an ordinary Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP). Wallace had just led the party in a successful campaign which saw the Liberal Democrats become the second largest Scottish party in the UK parliament in the recent election, with 22.6% of the vote, their best performance since the early 20th century. This week the party elected his successor, Nicol Stephen, who was previously Transport Minister in the coalition. It is not clear at this stage whether he will also take over Jim Wallace's role as Enterprise Minister or negotiate a new portfolio with First Minister Jack McConnell. Nicol Stephen was a lawyer before entering politics and is the MSP for Aberdeen South.
Photograph courtesy of the Scottish Parliament> © Web site.
Scottish Traders Fail to Service Cars Correctly
Many motorists think that their cars are badly serviced, that unnecessary work is recommended and that they are being overcharged. Now a survey by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has shown that five out of six garages are failing to service cars correctly. And main dealers, who largely look after the cars of one manufacturer, proved to be the worst offenders. The chief executive of TSI described the situation as "dreadful" and claimed that cars can be left unsafe, with the increased risk of accidents.
Auchterarder on the World Stage
The Perthshire town of Auchterarder is a sleepy little place and usually the world passes it by - particularly since the by-pass on the A9 road was opened many years ago. True, a few folk make the detour through the town (population 4,000) to get a "carry-out" from the local fish and chicken bar and there is a well-known dress shop (named the "Bear Necessities") which seems to attract ladies from miles around. But the "lang toon" (it has one long main street and not much else) is about to be thrust on the world stage. It is going to be invaded by an unknown number of anti-globalisation marchers who want to get as close to the Gleneagles Hotel as possible to persuade the world leaders at the G9 conference to "Make Poverty History". A few of these banners have appeared on some of the shops in the town, perhaps to get on the right side of the marchers; others are wondering whether to board up their windows in case of trouble. The local baker's shop, on the other hand, has created a supply of minced meat and dumpling pies with "G8" in pastry on the top - half of the price is going to charity.
Radio Clyde's New Owner
Scottish Radio Holdings, the owner of Radio Clyde, Radio Forth and Radio Tay, has been taken over by media giant Emap in a £391 million deal. But the new owner claims that they will not be changing the existing format of the Scottish stations and that listeners will not notice any difference in output after the takeover. Emap already has radio stations in the north of England in locations such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. It also owns North Sound Radio, West Sound Radio and Moray Firth Radio, all in the north of Scotland.
Glasgow's Second Harbour
There has been a lot of focus and media coverage on the billion pound "Glasgow Harbour" development on the banks of the river Clyde. But there is a second harbour development in the city which has been getting less attention. A 1,000 acre site to the north of the city centre at Port Dundas is being transformed from a derelict canal area into a £100 million "Little Venice" with new housing, offices, restaurants, bars and moorings for boats passing along the Forth and Clyde Canal. Currently, the "missing link" on the canal between Spiers Wharf and Port Dundas is being restored, after a gap of 70 years. The regeneration will breathe new life into the Maryhill, Firhill and Port Dundas areas of the city over the next fifteen years. Historically, Port Dundas was a major harbour within the city, unloading millions of tonnes of freight every year after it was completed in 1790.
The Dear Green Place
Glasgow, with its many public parks and open spaces, is often referred to by its citizens as "the dear green place." Now they have another reason for calling Scotland's largest city "dear" as a survey has shown that its cost of living makes it the most expensive city in Scotland in which to live and the UK's second dearest city after London. In fact, Glasgow came 40th in a table of 144 cities world-wide. Tokyo remains the most expensive city in the world, followed by Osaka and then London, followed by Moscow and Seoul.
10,000 Free Copies of Kidnapped
Having been named last year as the first City of Literature by UNESCO, Edinburgh is trying to live up to its status and is planning to distribute 10,000 copies of "Kidnapped", the Robert Louis Stevenson classic adventure story of Jacobite Alan Breck Stewart and the Lowlander David Balfour. They will be distributed in cafes, railway stations and taxis and will have a sticker saying "I'm free - take me home and read me." The novel has been chosen as the first in an "Edinburgh's Book of the City" project which is set to distribute classic books on an annual basis. A number of different versions of the story will be on offer, including a simplified one and a comic book version.
The illustration shows a statue of Alan Breck and David Balfour in Corstorphine, Edinburgh.
Champagne Capital of Scotland
A supermarket chain has revealed that its stores in Glasgow sell more bottles of champagne than anywhere else in Scotland and the Glasgow stores were the only ones in Tesco's UK Top 10 based on the number of bottles of bubbly sold in its stores. The smallest number of bottles of champagne in the UK were sold in Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland. It is argued that people in Glasgow like to party and are a bit less restrained than those in the north-east.
Ten Years as World Heritage Site
Edinburgh is to mark its designation as a world heritage site next year by hosting a conference of World Heritage Cities, attended by over 100 professional staff and politicians from historic cities such as Dresden in Germany, Cusco in Peru and the Italian capital of Rome. The conference takes place every second year and allows representatives to debate common issues.
Tearaway Girls Breaking More Bones
Traditionally, it was the boys who turned up at hospital casualty with broken bones, cuts and burns. It used to be a 60-40 split, but not any more. Equality in every aspect of life has resulted in hospitals now treating more girls than boys in Scotland for such injuries - apparently the boys are sitting at home playing computer games (and perhaps developing repetitive strain injuries - RSI). The statistics were produced by the Yorkhill Children's Hospital in Glasgow and coincided with Child Safety Week.
New Look for Bank Premises
The ground floor and basement of the Clydesdale Bank HQ office complex in Buchanan Street Glasgow is being transformed into a premises for a budget fashion chain called "New Look". Nearly 35,000 square feet of retail space is being created and it will be one of the largest stores on the fashionable street. The bank is remaining in the rest of the building which is connected by a labyrinth of corridors to its registered address on St Vincent Place. The bank is in the process of closing 60 branches as it struggles to reverse a decline in profitability and market share.
12-Year-old's Airport Safety Gadget Praised
Daryn Murray, a 12-year-old schoolboy from East Kilbride, was commended by the British Airports Authority (BAA) for coming up with a remote controlled detector which runs along a small track at the side of the runway detecting any debris which might cause damage to aircraft - as occurred to the supersonic Concorde aircraft at Paris in 2000. Daryn, who wants to be a mechanical engineer, was taking part in a Young Engineers for Britain competition at Hampden Stadium. His uncle is a pilot and Daryn is interested in aircraft - so he was delighted to hear that he was to be invited to a "behind the scenes" visit to Glasgow Airport as a result of the good impression he made on the judges.
Queen Mary 2 Calls at Invergordon
The longest, tallest, widest and most expensive liner ever built attracted 30,000 spectators when she visited Invergordon in the Cromarty Firth in the far north of Scotland for the first time. The Queen Mary 2 docked at Admiralty pier for a day to allow passengers to see a bit of the Highlands. The locals laid on a gala day with traditional Scottish music and the Alness vintage car rally was held on the same day. That event is the biggest classic, vintage and steam rally in the Highlands.
Creating a Tourist Attraction from "City of the Dead"
A new group has been formed to restore the Victorian Necropolis in Glasgow and turn it into a key tourist attraction for those who enjoy looking at tombstones and mausoleums. The Necropolis certainly has plenty of those - with a number of them designed by architects such as Alexander "Greek" Thomson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis plan to repair headstones and monuments, create a tourist trail through the site and produce information leaflets.
Glasgow Tower Reopens - Yet Again
Managers at the troubled Glasgow Tower will be keeping their fingers crossed that the 416 feet high rotating tower will not have to be closed again in the near future. But history is against them. The £10 million landmark beside the Glasgow Science Centre has had to be closed on numerous occasions - in January ten people were trapped in the glass-sided lifts for five hours and that was the fifth time in six months it had been forced to shut. It had been open for just 100 days in the twelve months after opening in October 2001 and then was closed for nearly two-and-a-half years while engineers tried to solve the problem of a worn ball-bearing which allows the tower to turn through 360 degrees.
Oystercatcher Delays Artwork
Surprisingly, oystercatchers frequently depart from the seashore and estuaries and settle down inland where they seem quite happy to share the same food as blackbirds and thrushes. They even make their nests in fields but a pair of oystercatchers in Easter Ross have caused a bit of an upset by plonking themselves down on top of some mounds at Fortrose Academy where the school was about to create a £25,000 sculpture park. As a result, the school has had to postpone the launch until August while the oystercatchers (described as "stubborn wee things" by the headmaster) hatch and rear their chicks.
Where a Scot Takes You for a Meal?
Visitors to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, are being confronted by a Burger King advertising campaign which shows two supposed Scots in kilts with the slogan (in Hungarian) "Burger King is where a Scot takes you for a meal, because it is so cheap." To add insult to injury, the Hungarian word for cheap is Skót. Still, we have only ourselves to blame - the myth of the tight-fisted Scot has been perpetuated by jokes and stories, most of them originating in Scotland itself.
Weather in Scotland This Week
Temperatures reached 25C (77F) in Aberdeen on Sunday, making it the hottest day so far this year for the Granite City. Edinburgh and Glasgow only reached 21/22C (70/72F) and did not share in Aberdeen's sunshine, however. Indeed, the island of Arran in the Firth of Clyde was subjected to a period of torrential rain which resulted in flash floods, landslips and a number of houses on the island were flooded. In Tayside, a group of campers who had been spending the night on an island on the river Almond in the Sma' Glen had a lucky escape when they were trapped on the island with rising flood waters sweeping away their van and campsite. The four adults and four children had to be rescued by RAF helicopter which winched them to safety. Temperatures for much of the rest of the week hovered around 18/20C (64/68F) but dipped on Friday with Edinburgh only reaching 15C (59F) that day.
The pictures taken this week to illustrate the current season in Scotland show first of all a Red Admiral butterfly. The good condition of this example suggests that it had only recently hatched from its chrysalis. It's the first of this type that I've seen this year and was spotted in Drumpellier Country Park in North Lanarkshire.
These lovely roses were growing in the garden associated with the Smith Art Galley and Museum in Stirling. The staff there have created an attractive garden in which visitors can relax after a visit to the exhibits inside.
Although it looks very like a thistle head, the flower here is a Cirsium, which originates in Japan. The flower heads are about two inches across.
The family of foxes which live in some woods not far from my own house in suburban Glasgow can often be heard at night yelping to one another as they set off on a hunting expedition. They are not seen so often in daylight, however. Urban foxes have become an increasing problem in recent decades as these intelligent animals learn to adapt to human society - and raid the garbage collections as well as chasing after small animals and birds.
St Abb's (seen in the above picture) is located on the North Sea coast of the Scottish Borders in what used to be called Berwickshire. Seven miles further south from St Abb's is the border with England. The photo was taken from a cliff-top in the nature reserve which is home at this time of year to many nesting seabirds.