G8 Protests Continue
Last weekend, over 200,000 people attended a march through Edinburgh to encourage the G8 leaders meeting in Gleneagles in Perthshire to deal with poverty in Africa and respond to the threats of climate change. The march was well organised and passed off without any problems. But in the months before the G8 Conference of world leaders at Gleneagles, Internet Web sites of anarchists and extreme anti-globalisation and environmental activists spoke of "bringing Scotland to its knees."
While they failed totally in achieving that, their "Carnival for Full Enjoyment" on Monday turned sour and police and demonstrators became involved in a confrontation as protestors tried to move towards the financial district of the capital. There was a pitched battle in Princes Street between police with batons drawn and protestors with wooden staves, hurling plants and refuse containers ripped from the gardens below. About 90 people were arrested but the clashes were not on the scale of those that took place in Seattle, Grenoble and Genoa in previous G8 gatherings. On Wednesday, protestors from an "Eco-village" near Stirling descended on the town, attacking a Burger King fast food restaurant with rocks and, for a time, managed to close the M9 motorway. Later on Wednesday, the final Live 8 concert took place at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. 60,000 revellers enjoyed the entertainment from top rock and pop performers.
The four bombs which exploded in London on Thursday, with the loss of life and hundreds injured, however, put the events in Scotland by the extremists in some sort of perspective. Even so, about 300 protestors continued to skirmish with the police, turning up in Glasgow and closing the King George V Bridge in the city on Friday with a sit-down demonstration. Concerns that they might attack Glasgow's new financial centre did not materialise, perhaps because the police had corralled them away from that area. Scotland will now return to normal.
French President Pours Scorn on Humble Haggis
We should be used to the scorn which many people heap on the haggis, one of Scotland's great national dishes. Of course, any food which is traditionally cooked in a sheep's stomach, starts with a disadvantage. Originating in the days when no part of an animal was thrown away, the oatmeal, spices and meat in a well prepared haggis is, as Burns put it, the "great chieftain o' the puddin' race". But when the Jaques Chirac, the President of France is overheard being disparaging about haggis (and indeed all British food) shortly before coming to the G8 conference at Gleneagles in Scotland, his remarks ruffled a few feathers. Maybe somebody should translate into French the "Address to a Haggis", in particular:
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Then again, maybe somebody should send a copy of the poem to the UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, who was reported to have agreed with the French President's views on haggis - presumably not just for diplomatic reasons?
Scottish Exports Dive 26% in Four Years
The latest figures published by the Scottish Executive show that Scottish manufacturing export sales fell by 2.3% in real terms in the first quarter of 2005 and by 2.1% over the preceding year. More worryingly, the country's exports have dived by 26.5 since 2001. Exports by the transport equipment (down 9.8%) and the electrical and instrument engineering sectors (down 8.6%) declined most. Only the Scottish drinks sector (up 6.9%) and chemicals (rising 5.3%) showed any improvement in exports.
Roll of Honour for Donors to Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery
Glaswegians are said to be very fond of "their" museum and art gallery at Kelvingrove. Now they are being asked to make a financial contribution to the £29.5 million refurbishment, currently well underway. The project needs a final £1 million to reach the target - and every donor, no matter how large or small, will be recorded on donors' boards to be displayed in the main hall (illustrated here). Names are to be listed in alphabetical order and no details of amounts will be given, so that everyone is treated the same. The appeal director says that it was decided that as Kelvingrove belongs to the people of Glasgow, everyone who makes a contribution will be recognised with equal prominence. In years to come the names of those who contributed will be there for future generations to see. Even before the refurbishment, Kelvingrove was the most visited UK museum outside of London.
Strathclyde Passenger Transport is considering re-opening a 120-year-old rail tunnel which runs from Bridgeton Cross to the east end of the city, close to the Parkhead stadium of Celtic Football Club and the planned site of a National Indoor Sports Arena. The line closed in 1964 as a result of the huge programme of rail cuts ordered by the then chairman of the British Railways Board, Lord Beeching. The tunnel is said to be in good condition and a new station in Parkhead could help to alleviate traffic problems at the sports venues.
Scottish Airline Wins Battle
Low-cost airline flyglobespan has won a David and Goliath battle with Czech Airlines, part of a global alliance of international carriers, by forcing the national carrier to withdraw from the Glasgow to Prague route, leaving the route to the Scottish-based carrier. 100,000 passengers fly between the two cities each year, but the low fares operated by flyglobespan gave them the lion's share of the market. Now, Czech Airlines will increase the frequency of its flights between Edinburgh and Prague instead.
Direct Flights Between Edinburgh and Helsinki
Finnair has announced that it is to introduce a direct flight from Edinburgh to the Finnish capital of Helsinki in April 2006. This will allow connections to the airline's routes to Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou in southern China. Finnair also flies to Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo and Osaka.
Islander Joins Concorde in Museum
Earlier this year, the Museum of Flight at East Fortune put Concorde, once the world's fastest commercial aircraft, on display with the aim of attracting more visitors to the facility. The latest addition, a Britten-Norman Islander, may not create so much excitement but it has been a stalwart of Scottish skies for many decades and the example delivered to East Fortune is the first Islander to be put on display in a museum. The prototype aircraft first flew in 1965 and the first production aircraft went into service in Scotland. Over 1,200 of the versatile twin-engined aircraft have been produced. It was used mainly in Scotland on the routes to the islands off the west coast of Scotland, but also doubled up as an air ambulance - 22 babies have been born on board and countless lives have been saved by the Islander, which only needs 500 yards to land or take off.
French Wine Binned as Scots Drink New World Vintage
It used to be that French, German and Italian wines dominated the UK and Scottish market. But not any more. 24% of all wine consumed here is now from Australia and output from the United States is also overtaking continental producers. Six of the top ten wines here are now Australian, as French wines slip from 22% market share to 18%. South African and Italian wines each have 10% share of the market. New Zealand wines and those from South American countries, such as Chile and Argentina, are also growing in popularity.
Mitchell Library Closing for Revamp
The Mitchell Library in Glasgow, one of Europe's largest public reference libraries, is to close for six weeks between July 25 and September 3, to allow for an extensive refurbishment. The City Council say that this is the quietest time of the year for the facility, which is much used by university students as well as ordinary Glaswegians. The building first opened in 1911 and has had a number of additions made to it over the years, creating a complicated internal layout. The closure is the first phase in an 18-month, £2.75 million revamp, which will see the addition of more desk-top computers and the creation of an advanced family history centre.
132-Year-Old Aberdeen Department Store Sold
Esslemont & Macintosh (known locally as E&M's) in Aberdeen is one of Scotland's oldest and most famous department stores. It was created in 1873 when Peter Esslemont and William Macintosh merged their separate stores into one building on Union Street. This week, Pauline Esslemont, the great-great-grand-daughter of Peter, and the current chairwoman of the company, announced that it was being sold to Owen Owen, which operates three department stores in England. The 120 staff in E&M have been told that the Aberdeen store will retain its present trading name.
Cairngorm Access for Funicular Railway Passengers
During the winter, skiers who use the Cairngorm funicular railway, which runs to a station at nearly 4,000 feet near the top of the mountain, can leave the station to ski on the slopes. But outside of the skiing season, visitors are confined to the viewing platform and restaurant. The ban on passengers being able to walk on the mountain was one of the conditions of obtaining European funding for the railway and avoided objections from environmental groups (who fought hard and long to stop the railway being built at all). Now the Cairngorms National Park Authority is discussing a relaxation of the ban. 10% of the visitors to the viewing platform object to the restriction as many would like to be able to walk down - and find not being able to do so is out of line with international practice. In fact, a small proportion of those who travel to the top just ignore the ban anyway. Consideration is being given to developing new paths to allow visitors to walk on the mountain, but away from sensitive areas of bird and wildlife habitats. Last year, the railway carried 228,000 passengers, 170,000 of whom were non-skiers.
First Ferry Service Since 1939
This weekend Loch Ness Express will be providing a fast passenger ferry service which will link Inverness to Fort Augustus at the other end of Loch Ness. It is the first time a ferry has operated on the route since the days of the "Gondolier" which was decommissioned in 1939. That ship had been especially designed to work on the Caledonian Canal, which she did for 73 years. The new service will take 80 minutes to sail the length of the loch and then connects with the Citylink bus service between Fort Augustus and Fort William.
Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry Service Criticised
A report by a maritime transport expert, who was formerly the head of transport issues in Highlands and Islands Enterprise, is severely critical of the ferry service provided by Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) to the western isles of Scotland. He claims that the company, which is supported by state funding, is blighting the economic prospects of island communities. Comparison is drawn with ferry operators in Norway and Canada where fares are less than one-third of those levied by Calmac, despite Scottish Executive subsidies. These have risen from under £7 million in 1995 to over £25 million. The report says that Calmac has failed to keep pace with technology, is over-manned and provides a low standard of service. Western Ferries, an independent operator, runs a service between Inverclyde and Cowal with a crew of four; the equivalent Calmac service has a crew of nine. Norway (with a population slightly smaller than Scotland) has 170 ferry vessels operated by 20 different companies and transports 39 million passengers and 16 million cars; Scottish ferries transport 8 million passengers and 2 million cars. Calmac argues that conditions in Scotland's western isles are very different from those in Norway and Canada and that manning levels, for example, are controlled by European health and safety regulations.
Artist Donates Life's Work
Little Sparta, a five-acre garden high in the Pentland Hills, 25 miles south-west of Edinburgh, has been described as "the most important garden made in Britain since 1945." It contains a huge collection of art objects assembled by sculptor and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, assembled over the last 30 years. Now 80-year-old Mr Finlay has donated the garden and its artworks to a trust so that it can be kept for future generations. The chairman of the trust is Magnus Linklater, a former chairman of the Scottish Arts Council, who says that Finlay is, in effect, gifting his life's work to the nation. There will now be a major fund-raising drive to obtain the cash to meet the running costs. Applications will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Scottish Arts Council and private individuals. Little Sparta includes a series of mini-landscapes with trees, plants, grass and water, with artworks of stone and wood scattered throughout it. Works by Ian Hamilton Finlay hang in the Tate Modern in London and the Scottish Parliament.
Lees, Lees, More if You Please
The Scottish company which was producing Lee's Macaroon Bars and "Snowballs" for over 70 years has always been popular in Scotland (even though its catchy advertising jingle of "Lees, Lees, more if you please" was less than politically correct with references to "pickaninnies and grandpapas"). But by the early 1990s, the company was going nowhere, apart from bankruptcy. Then business entrepreneur Raymond Miquel, the former head of the Bell's whisky company appeared on the scene. He has turned round the company and it now sells over 50 million "Snowballs" - a soft fondant and coconut confection. It now sends more of its products to England than Scotland. Profits have been increasing rapidly and now the company is to obtain a stock market listing on London's AIM market later this month. Many of its workers will share in the successful flotation, as they have a financial stake in the company, through a share-ownership scheme.
Itchy and Scratchy Fly the Nest
Earlier this year, a BBC TV nature programme focused on a number of areas around the UK. Live broadcasts brought a "reality TV" feel to the programme and two young sea eagles on Mull became stars of the show, as their parents flew majestically across the sky - and then dived for fish and other prey. The presenters irreverently named the young sea eagles Itchy and Scratchy and their antics as their parents arrived with the latest tasty treat enthralled the audience. Now it is reported that the two junior sea eagles have left the nest. Itchy swooped away from the nest on Monday, landing onto the shores of Loch Frisa on his first flight. Scratchy followed suit a few days later - but "crash landed" on the far side of the loch, but is reported unhurt from his undignified descent. The popularity of Itchy and Scratchy and the other wildlife on the programme resulted not just in high viewing figures, leaving "Big Brother" far behind, but has led to a huge increase in the number of visitors to the sea eagle viewing hide on Mull.
Prince Charles Hooked by Golden Camilla
Prince Charles is a keen fisherman, a sport he was introduced to by his grandmother on Royal Deeside. He is a patron of the Atlantic Salmon Trust in Pitlochry and that organisation had wrestled with figuring out what to give the prince as a wedding gift. Eventually, they came up with a new design of salmon fly, which they then named "Golden Camilla" - after his new wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles. The colourful, spiky, blonde fly is said to have been inspired by her hairstyle... It appears that Prince Charles has not yet tried out this wedding present, as he has not had the opportunity to be on a river this year. But he says that he hopes to try them out when visiting the Castle of Mey later this month.
Britain's Most Commonly Seen Birds
The results of a survey by the British Trust for Ornithology says that the most commonly-seen bird in Britain in 2004 was the wood pigeon. That may be bad news for farmers and gardeners, as the large vegetarian bird gets through a prodigious quantity of seeds to maintain its girth. The survey also reports good news for African migrant species, such as corn bunting and raven. And tree sparrows and song thrushes, which have been in long-term decline, showed signs of increasing numbers in 2004. The survey, carried out by 2,000 birdwatchers and experienced volunteers, shows that there has been a marked increase in sand martins, while cuckoo numbers were up too. All but three of the 25 summer visitors from Africa increased in numbers in 2004 - though there are reports that this year their numbers may have declined due to conditions in Africa and a cold spring here.
Weather in Scotland This Week
Maximum daytime temperatures at the start of this week were largely around 18/19C (64/66F), with a fair amount of sunshine, though not all areas experienced the same amount - Aberdeen and the north-east fared better on that account. On Wednesday, the east of the country dipped to 14C (57F) and had heavy showers but the west remained around 19C (66F) and dry. By Friday, temperatures had risen to 21/23C (70/73F) - temperatures that pass for a "heat-wave" here. All areas had a good amount of sunshine too that day, with the east faring best - Aberdeen and Edinburgh both recorded well over 12 hours of sunshine on Friday.
The pictures taken this week to illustrate the current season in Scotland show first of all Alstroemeria (also known as the Peruvian Lily or the Lily of the Incas) growong in the walled garden at Ardardan Garden Centre, near Cardross.
This Geum was growing in the National Trust for Scotland garden at Geilston in Argyll. While it looks quite large on the screen, the blooms of this plant are actually quite small, less than an inch across.
With the warmer weather this week, more butterflies have been induced to take to the air. The Meadow Brown, seen here at Drumpellier Country Park in North Lanarkshire, often flies on duller days too. The Meadow Brown is one of the most widespread species of butterfly in the UK.
These floribunda roses were growing vigorously in Geilston Garden in Argyll earlier this week.
Godetia are grown from seed evry year and the papery petals come in many different colours. This example was photographed in my own garden in suburban Glasgow.