Making Poverty History
Over 200,000 people are estimated to have marched through the streets of Edinburgh on Saturday in support of the "Make Poverty History" campaign to alleviate the plight of those living and dying in appalling conditions in many parts of Africa. A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council described the crowd as "extremely good-natured". The march coincided with the Live 8 concerts in London and in cities across the world in which top entertainers head up concerts which are likely to be watched by billions of people on TV. On Monday, a "Carnival for Full Enjoyment" is planned by anarchists targeting Job Centres and Edinburgh's financial district. On the same day, a blockade has been planned for the Royal Navy's nuclear submarine base at Faslane on the Clyde. On Tuesday, a "Global Warming 8" summit is being organised by Friends of the Earth at Our Dynamic Earth visitor attraction in Edinburgh. On Wednesday, there is a Live 8 concert at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh and on Thursday there is an Aids/HIV rally in Princes Street. Of course, all these activities are being prompted by the G8 summit itself is taking place at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire from Wednesday 6th to Friday 8th July. The heads of government from the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, USA, Japan, Italy and Canada will be participating and all these marches, demonstrations and concerts are being held to encourage them to address the issues of world poverty and global warming. A march is planned to the edge of the grounds of Gleneagles Hotel from nearby Auchterarder while the anarchist Dissent! network is planning to disrupt the conference with blockades and protests.
Smoking Ban Given Final Approval
The Scottish Parliament approved by 97 votes to 17 the bill which will now come into force on 26 March 2006. It bans smoking in bars, restaurants, offices, theatres, cinemas and all other public buildings, with hardly any exceptions. Smokers can be fined for smoking in all these locations and employers and owners of premises could face penalties of up to £2,500. Health Minister Andy Kerr claimed that it was the most important piece of public health legislation in a generation and would help smokers give up and protect other people from passive smoking. Only the Conservative Members of the Scottish Parliament voted against the bill, saying that there were concerns that legislation would lead to displacement of smoking to the home, with increased exposure of children to a smoke-filled atmosphere and a potential increase in home consumption of alcohol.
New Job Just the Ticket for Tavish
The Scottish Executive reshuffle of portfolios, following the departure of Jim Wallace as leader of the Liberal Democrats, was completed this week. Aberdeen South Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Nicol Stephen had been elected as the new Lib-Dem leader and with that automatically became deputy First Minister in the coalition government with the Labour Party. He then agreed with Jack McConnel to also take the Enterprise portfolio. As a result, Tavish Scott, who is the furthest travelled MSP as he represents the Shetland Islands in the far north of the country, was appointed as Transport Minister.
Photograph courtesy of the Scottish Parliament> © Web site.
Fishermen Welcome Government Strategy Document
The Scottish Executive launched its national strategy for the fishing industry this week, claiming that the new framework would help the sector to become more competitive and market focused, while at the same time creating a healthy and profitable future for fishermen. The Executive's "Sustainable Framework for Sea Fisheries" includes proposals to "bank" fish by all European Union fishing industries by not using up all quotas, in order to boost fish stocks in the short term. The document sets out to encourage "environmentally responsible" fishing as well as a "more integrated approach" to marine management to avoid the "boom and bust" of fisheries. It also advocates a programme of enforcement measures and more consistent standards across the EU. Industry leaders gave a broad welcome to the plans but insisted that they must be fully consulted about any new measures.
Regeneration for River City
In its annual report published this week, Glasgow City Council highlights that over 17,000 homes have been built along the river Clyde waterfront in the last five years and that another 3,300 houses are under construction in one of the biggest urban regeneration programmes in Europe. Investment so far has reached £2.8 billion, the bulk of it from private sector projects. Meanwhile, across the city, the Glasgow Housing association (GHA) is making progress on a £630 million project to regenerate rented accommodation. Part of the cash will be used to fit new kitchens, bathrooms and landscape common areas as well as demolish some of the worst multi-storey apartment blocks and replace them with new low-rise buildings.
Scotland Attractive to Inward Investment
Research published by the Department of Trade and Industry this week shows that Scotland was third from the top of the 12 UK regions for inward investment from Europe and the rest of the world last year. Only the south-east and north-west of England gained more jobs. Inward investment in Britain as a whole rose by 31% in 2004 to its highest ever level, producing 1,066 new business projects and 39,592 new jobs, 4,340 of which were in Scotland. Further figures published by Scottish Development International showed that over the last five years Scotland has benefitted from 9.3% of direct inward investment into the UK, making Scotland the most popular region outside of the magnet of London and south-east England.
Lewis Wind Farm Approved
Two wind farms on Lewis in the Western Isles, which will have a combined total of over 340 turbines, have been approved by the environmental services committee of Western Isles Council, despite over 5,000 objections being lodged by members of the community who are violently opposed to the project. Planning officials had recommended that the project involving 234 turbines should be rejected, arguing that it would disrupt the scenic beauty of the area. But the committee approved it, subject to removing 25 turbines deemed too close to surrounding houses. A meeting of the full Western Isles Council then also accepted the plans. The Scottish Executive in Edinburgh will now have the final say on whether it goes ahead. It will be the largest onshore wind farm in Europe and supporters claim it will bring much needed jobs to the Isle of Lewis and will boost the local economy in an area which has seen a massive decline in population. The community-owned Stornoway Trust Estate would receive £2.1m per annum for the landowners and the same amount for crofters. If the Trust took up the offer of having a 20% stake in the ownership of the turbines, a total of £25.75m could be brought in to the local economy each year. A recent report by the Scottish Wind Assessment Project (Swap) suggests that hydro-electric plants receive subsidies originally intended to assist the development of new sources of renewable energy. As a result, consumers pay up to £80 million a year over and above the market price for electricity generated by hydro plants.
Cafe Culture Boosted by Smoking Ban
In recent years there has been a growing trend for cafes and bars in Scotland, particularly in Glasgow, to have tables and chairs outside if the pavement is wide enough for this without creating an obstruction to pedestrians going past. It may be that global warming is encouraging such activities, though rainfall in the west of Scotland also seems to be on the increase along with the rising temperature. Of course, planning permission is required and that is not always granted, as bars seeking to get round the ban on smoking within their premises comes ever closer have found to their cost. But those establishments that already have permission are looking forward to an increase in business next year. If that happens, it will create the bizarre situation of folk seeking to get away from cigarette smoke having to go inside to get away from clouds of smoke drifting from customers at the outdoor tables.
Speed Curbs on Loch Lomond
The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority is to consider banning speeding across the central section of Loch Lomond, amounting to a third of the area of the loch and along the shore of Drumkinnon Bay. Craft such as jet skis and power boats would be limited to a maximum speed of 7mph and seat belts are likely to become compulsory. A priority of the park authority is protection of the loch's islands and sensitive areas, along with major shallow areas which are important for vegetation and breeding fish. Similar speed restrictions recently introduced on Windermere in the Lake District had raised fears about an increase in speedboats and jet skis coming to Loch Lomond. Further consultation on the proposals will take place and final recommendations will be submitted to the Scottish Executive towards the end of 2005.
More Babies for Older Mums
A report from the National Health Service shows that the most common age for women giving birth is now between 30 and 35. In the mid-1970s, only 13% of mothers gave birth in that age range, but that figure had risen to 30% by 2004. The proportion giving birth after the age of 35 has also soared from 6% in 1976 to 19% in 2004, equaling the number of mothers aged between 20 and 24 for the first time.
Scots Jet Off to Sunshine
Schools across Scotland finished the summer term this week and that signaled a mass exodus of sun-seekers from the country's airports to the Mediterranean resorts, the Canary Islands, Paris and Amsterdam. Long-haul flights to Toronto and Dubai are also becoming popular - aircraft from Canadian airline Zoom and Emirate Airways are a familiar sight at Glasgow airport. Last year Glasgow airport became the first in Scotland to carry over a million passengers in a single month and those figures are likely to be exceeded this year. Of course, there are many travellers coming in the opposite direction as foreign tourists head for Edinburgh, the Highlands and special events such as the Scottish Open Golf Championship at Loch Lomond.
Millionaires' Village Plan by Boss of Harrods
Mohamed al-Fayed, the owner of the Harrods up-market store in London, says that he will be going forward with a plan to develop 65 luxury houses, each costing over £1 million, on a 200-acre site on his Highland estate at Balnagown Castle in Easter Ross. The land is not designated for houses in the local authority plans but he is to launch an appeal to get that changed. As a lever to induce Highland Council to go along with his ideas, he is also offering land elsewhere on his estate for low-cost starter homes. He argues that both are need to help to revitalise the area.
Scottish and US Students on the EDGE
Students from the University of Glasgow, Columbia University in New York City and Dunbartonshire high schools embarked this week on a new entrepreneurship development programme that will equip them with entrepreneurial skills and experiences. The programme, called Encouraging Dynamic Global Entrepreneurs (EDGE), is unique as it encourages students to apply theoretical knowledge to business growth projects through an innovative, entrepreneurial approach. The international aspect of EDGE gives the students a chance to share knowledge, experiences and learning between the US and Scotland and is a great opportunity for students to develop their skills in enterprise, consultancy, teamwork and leadership. Students will be placed in one of eight consultancy teams, with each team working on two company project assignments during the six week period for completion of practical work. They will also be producing a viable business plan for a new start business.
Highland Drivers Experience More Breakdowns
A survey by one of the UK's largest insurance companies has shown that drivers in the Highlands experience 30% more car breakdowns than in the rest of the UK. Direct Line surveyed 2,000 drivers, measuring average mileage and the number of breakdowns and found that those driving in the Highlands drove more miles in a year (12,412) than the UK average of 9,628, so it is perhaps not surprising that they should break down more each year. On the other hand, drivers in the Highlands are most likely to be halted by a flat tyre (38%), perhaps as a result of some of the rougher roads there - though the many pot-holes in urban areas of central Scotland tax both tyres and suspensions!
Scottish Weather Cuts Garden Centre Profits
Dobbies Garden Centres, with their HQ at Lasswade, south of Edinburgh, announced this week that its interim pre-tax profit had wilted by nearly 9%. Last year, sales had jumped by 43%. Much of the blame for this year's downturn was said to be due to poor weather in Scotland in the last six months, as well as an overall decline in consumer spending. Two-thirds of the company's sales are currently in garden centres in Scotland. The company plans to increase sales by opening new garden centres, with four new sites in England modelled after their latest one at Stirling, which opened in March. This is far more than somewhere to buy a few plants and garden equipment. There is a large restaurant, a food hall, sports equipment section and outside there is a large maze, water gardens and an arboretum (aimed at building a national collection of rowan (mountain ash) trees). The property stretches down to the river Forth so customers can enjoy the view while also admiring the huge displays of conservatories.
Preventing Arthritis and Gout - With Whisky
Here's another good reason (as if more were required) for drinking a tot of whisky every day. Researchers at Shizuoka University in Japan have reported that malt whisky should prevent the onset of arthritis and gout. Apparently when it is maturing in oak sherry barrels, it produces a chemical which is known to have these health benefits. Taken in sensible quantities of no more than a tot a day, they believe that it will inhibit the compounds responsible for these illnesses. With other research showing the beneficial effects of malt whisky on heart disease and cancer, no wonder the Gaels called it the water of life...
Hitting a Rough Patch
There were eyebrows raised on the hallowed fairways of St Andrews when a new organisation launched a caddying service "Model Caddies" employing attractive female students instead of grizzled, weather-beaten males. The staff are drawn from students at the local university (where Prince William recently graduated) who have been given training by a professional golfer. Even so, some of the prospective caddies are only now learning how to play golf themselves. The girls can be employed on any course which allows independent caddies - the Old Course, for example, has its own closed group of 160 caddies. But it looks as though golfers prefer age and experience over youth and beauty as the company has had just one booking after operating for a month. That did prove to be lucrative - three Americans hired three girls and gave each of them a tip of £80. However, the organisers claim that there has been massive interest and that there have been large numbers of enquiries for information. Offers to travel to China and Europe have had to be declined (the girls are students studying for their degrees, after all) and they insist that next year they will be in demand. Their Web site is being redesigned, concentrating on glamorous pictures of each caddy, rather than vital statistics - such as her golf handicap.
"Bermuda Triangle" in Pentland Hills?
In the shadow of the Pentland Hills a stretch of the A720 Edinburgh City Bypass is gaining a reputation for accidents that is making it look like a "Bermuda Triangle" - though in this case there are no disappearances, just mangled and damaged cars. In the last twelve months there have been eight accidents on the eastbound carriageway between a bridge crossing at Bonaly and the Dreghorn Link road. It is a straight stretch of road near to an area known as Covenanter's Wood, named after the religious reformers who marched on Edinburgh in the 17th century and set up a camp there. But nobody is suggesting that the Covenanters have put a curse on passing motorists. Amey Highways who manage the road are looking instead at a possible alignment fault or drainage problems during heavy rain that might be causing vehicles to aquaplane.
Weather in Scotland This Week
There was a good amount of sunshine in many parts of scotland this week - Edinburgh recorded nearly 14 hours of sun on Sunday. Temperatures were mainly around 18/21C (64/70F) with Glasgow reaching 24C (75F) on Tuesday. On Wednesday, however, Edinburgh struggled to reach a maximum of 14C (57F). Torrential rain in the west of Scotland on Thursday flooded roads and resulted in Glasgow's Underground train service to close for an hour as rain flooded into the tunnels between Partick and Govan. It is thought that nearly an inch of rain fell on some parts of the Glasgow though official figures only reached 12mm, about half-an-inch. Friday saw a return of the sunshine, especially in the east, with Aberdeen reaching 22C (72F).
The pictures taken this week to illustrate the current season in Scotland show first of all the Foxglove flower. This year a veritable forest of foxgloves has appeared in my garden. While strictly a wild flower, these attractive plants are also sold in garden centres these days. But these attractive flowers were free - from self-sown seedlings.
The cygnets which were just little balls of fluff a few weeks ago are growing rapidly in lochs and rivers across the country. Unfortunately, they are a tempting morsel for foxes and their cubs and it is sad to see the numbers going down in some cases as the weeks pass. This family at Drumpellier Country Park, however, have survived intact - a fifth cygnet plus "dad" are just out of range of the camera!
Unlike the swans and cygnets at Drumpellier who eagerly take bread from anyone who offers it, lapwings are much more shy and so getting their picture at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve at Vane Farm near Kinross was not easy!
While the main attraction at RSPB reserve at Vane Farm is undoubtedly the birds, it also has an environment which is favoured by butterflies. Unlike the lapwing, this Ringlet butterfly did not seem to mind the camera poked inches from its face.
This yellow rose was one of many at their best in the gardens of Kinross House, overlooking Loch Leven.