£200 Million Expansion Plan for Airport
British Airports Authority (BAA), owners of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports (as well as a number in England, including Heathrow in London) published their 25-year plan for the development of the Glasgow gateway this week. The £200 million masterplan is forecasting a tripling of passenger numbers to 24 million a year by 2030, with more international routes, another terminal building, piers for larger aircraft and better passenger access to the airport, including the new rail link (which is currently scheduled for completion in 2008). Land will also be allocated for a second runway, but that may not be required until the end of the 25-year plan. Passenger numbers are expected to rise from the current level of 8.7 million a year to 15 million a year by 2015. If estimates for both Edinburgh and Glasgow are correct, then Glasgow would still be handling more passengers than the airport serving the capital in that time-frame. An upgrading of the international terminal building is already underway at a cost of £6 million but the main terminal building would be expanded and redesigned over the next ten years to cater for the increased capacity required.
Scottish Labour Market Out-Performs UK
The latest Labour Market Report by the Bank of Scotland shows that the Scottish labour market is outperforming the rest of the UK. Job market conditions in Scotland have improved for the 23rd consecutive month and there has been an expansion in both permanent and temporary staff appointments. This was particularly apparent in Glasgow's permanent staff placements, while Edinburgh saw the biggest increase in temporary positions. The labour market is continuing to tighten as fewer candidates appear to take up vacancies. Another report published recently showed, however, that nearly 600,000 Scots work in the public sector - almost 25% of all employment. While the jobs cover everything from teachers to road sweepers, it does mean that a significant percentage of the workforce in Scotland is dependent on the local or national government for their income.
Amazon's Web Expands in Scotland
The online retailer Amazon has announced that it is to create its second distribution centre in Scotland. Amazon.co.uk opened a centre in Gourock last year which created about 300 jobs and is now to set up a plant in Glenrothes, Fife, which will create 50 permanent and 250 temporary jobs.
Scotland Welcomes Chinese Tourists
The Scottish Minister for Environment and Rural Development, Ross Finnie, welcomed a group of around 80 Chinese tourists, travel agents and media at a gala dinner at Edinburgh Castle on Friday. They are an advance party of Chinese citizens who are now allowed to visit the UK after the country was granted "Approved Destination Status" (ADS) by China earlier this year. The visitors coming to Scotland this week, included Chinese TV stations and newspapers. They will be visiting the Famous Grouse distillery, the home of golf at St Andrew's Old Course, the Royal Yacht Britannia and Edinburgh Castle. There will be plenty of opportunities to promote Scotland as a first class tourist destination - though this week's weather would perhaps not impress the Chinese travellers. It is estimated that around 100 million Chinese tourists will be travelling abroad by 2020. Tourism is one of Scotland's largest industries. It employs 200,000 people and contributes £4.5 billion to the economy, five per cent of GDP.
Who Needs Real Historic Buildings?
Tourists taking pictures of the historic Ramsay Gardens overlooking Princes Street in Edinburgh next month may be forgiven if they think it looks slightly "unnatural". After all, instead of the 18th century buildings, they will be seeing a gigantic advertising banner featuring a detailed photo of the buildings behind it. The historic buildings are to get a much-needed renovation but the ugly scaffolding will be covered up by the representation of the buildings underneath. The covering will also include space for advertisements, which will help to defray the cost of the repairs. Repairs in Edinburgh's World Heritage Site can be expensive as all materials must match those used in the original building. Work in Ramsay Gardens begins in September and will last for six to eight months.
Scotland's Latest Hydro-Electric Power Scheme
The Scottish Executive has given the green light to a 100-megawatt hydro-electric scheme at Glendoe, near Fort Augustus in Inverness-shire. The scheme will be situated on the western edge of the Monadhliath Mountains, east of Fort Augustus, and will involve the construction of a 35 metre high, 1000 metre long dam at the head of Glen Tarff and the building of the power station in a cavern deep inside Borlum Hill on the shore of Loch Ness. The government has set a target to generate 18% of Scottish electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and 40% by 2020. This will be met from a range of renewable technologies including hydro power, which is already making a significant contribution to reducing the emissions causing global warming.
Route of Electricity Pylons Through Cairngorms Announced
Each one is taller than the Wallace Monument and they will stride across the 136 miles of countryside from Beauly near Inverness to Denny in the central lowlands. The new 400,000 electricity transmission line is needed to cope with the power which will be generated by renewable electricity schemes such as windfarms. But each pylon is to be 213 feet high (the Statue of Liberty is just 152 feet tall). The electricity companies say that to put the power lines underground would cost 6 to 12 times that of the overhead structures. They also argue that because they are taller, fewer pylons will be required than at present. But anyone who has tried to take photographs of the wild countryside knows that while it's hard to avoid including the pylons - it's also the hard lines of the cables in between that spoil the view. Objectors say that the response from the Grampian National Park authorities has been "pathetic" and that the power companies have ridden roughshod over their complaints. The pylons will be highly visible at the entrances to the park at Kinlochlaggan and Drumochter and Corrieyairack Passes. But the park authorities argue that the replacement line in the park will be 28 kilometres long with 76 pylons, replacing the existing line in the park which is 36 kilometres long, supported by 128 pylons.
Another Bus Strike in Edinburgh
Lothian Buses will be at a standstill this weekend as drivers take strike action again as part of their dispute over pay and conditions. And next week there will again be a reduced service, equivalent to that normally operating on Saturdays only. The drivers' union say that their longer term objective is a pay increase of 17% to make their wages comparable with those in London. Most bus-lane restrictions are being lifted to ease traffic problems and services by other bus companies will continue to run. But with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival starting soon, there is concern that the strike could impact on attendances as audiences often move from one venue to another by public transport.
Edinburgh Airport Travelers Experience Longest Delays
Figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show that passengers flying by charter airlines at Edinburgh Airport suffered worse delays than those experienced by travellers at nine other major UK airports during the first three months of this year. At Edinburgh only 58% of charter flights took off on time. Glasgow and Newcastle had the best figures - 76% of charter flights were on time. And Edinburgh shared with Luton in the south-east of England the worst scheduled airline punctuality, with only 73% taking off or arriving on time.
Ten Millionth Passenger
Budget airline Ryanair gave passenger Judith Gemmell a big surprise this week. The Kilmarnock lass was on her way to Murcia in Spain when she was presented with champagne and a goody bag for being the airlines's ten millionth passenger at Prestwick since the Irish airline began flights back in 1994. The airline now operates eighteen routes from the Ayrshire hub and now handles two million passengers there every year.
"Pure Dead Insulting"
The new marketing slogan "Pure Dead Brilliant" launched by Prestwick Airport in May has been branded as "an atrocious insult to Scotland" by a housewife who has started a campaign to get the airport bosses to think again. The phrase is associated with Glasgow and became well known as a result of a TV series "City Lights" in the 1980s. But some believe that it has overtones of a culture of violence and conveys totally the wrong image. The airport management say they have had a lot of feedback, much of it positive - and that it has ensured that everyone is talking about Prestwick Airport. Do they mean like the young men overheard in a Glasgow street who said "Death is the last thing I want to be reminded of when I go to an airport!"
Control of Scottish Banks to be Tightened
The legislation which allows three Scottish banks to issue banknotes was badly drafted in the mid-19th century. That didn't really matter when the banks and the Bank of England (who are ultimately in control of UK currency) understood the spirit of the legislation. Basically, the Scottish banks kept deposits with the Bank of England in special non-interest-bearing accounts. That meant that the note issue was not only specifically covered, the banks derived no direct financial benefit from their notes in circulation - though the marketing value of having 95% of the banknotes used in Scotland having their names emblazoned on them is incalculable. In recent years, however, clever lawyers pointed out that the legislation could be interpreted as only requiring the banks to hold cover in the Bank of England from Friday night to Monday morning. That effectively allowed the banks to invest the value of the notes in circulation for four days a week - providing an estimated additional income of £80 million a year. Now, however, the Bank of England and the Treasury have issued a consultation document which proposes tightening up the rules. Not surprising, really, as potentially the government (and so the taxpayer) is losing millions of pounds and the Scottish banks are obtaining an unfair advantage over their competitors. The opportunity will be taken at the same time to include other long-awaited changes in banking law which apply specifically to Scottish banks.
The illustration is an amalgam of banknotes from the three Scottish banks.
£90 Million Shopping Mall for Livingston
Plans were unveiled this week for Scotland's biggest-ever shopping complex which would see the present Almondvale Shopping Centre in Livingston in West Lothian doubling in size and linking up with the nearby MacArthur Glen shopping mall. The new centre would be larger even than Braehead on the periphery of Glasgow, currently Scotland's biggest out-of-town shopping experience. The plans will inevitably be resisted by traders in Edinburgh and other central Scotland towns nearby.
Moths Causing a Flutter
Butterfly Conservation Scotland (BCS) has been causing a flutter amongst wildlife enthusiasts by hosting a series of workshops to encourage those interested in the insect to develop their interest. 14 workshops are being held throughout Scotland over the summer in the hope that they will inspire some of the participants to volunteer to record the numbers of types of moths in Scotland. Many people take an interest in butterflies, but due in part to the night-flying habits of many moths there are fewer people involved with moths. Identification is also a problem - while there are just over 30 species of butterfly found regularly in Scotland there are over 800 species of the larger moths.
The illustration is of a Shaded Broad-bar Moth.
Smoking Ban at Glasgow University
Legislation to ban smoking in public buildings in Scotland comes into force until the end of March next year. However, many companies and organisations have already implemented the smoking ban and Glasgow University is the latest to join their ranks. It will be the first of its kind on any university campus in the UK. It will apply not only to within university buildings but right across the campus and also in student halls of residence. The ban will include student recreation areas including those where students drink, socialise - and smoke. Glasgow University Union, as the licence holder, is seeking legal advice. They fear that students will desert the facilities and go to bars where smoking is still allowed - at least for another seven months. On the other hand, it was pressure from the Students Representative Council which prompted the university authorities to introduce the blanket ban on smoking. Until now, fully ventilated smoking rooms have been allowed in its buildings and premises licensed to sell alcohol.
"Best Spirit in the World"
A leading drinks magazine in the USA has named Highland Park 18-year-old single malt as the top of 100 distilled spirits, after judging thousands of whiskies, rums, gins, vodkas, tequilas and other distilled spirits. The American Spirit Journal reviewer writes: "After 25 years' experience, it fits my profile of what makes a perfect whisky, which is to say it's totally in harmony, has no rough edges and everything is melded together brilliantly." The brand is produced in Orkney and has already won other accolades and, bearing in mind the prices paid for some bottles of mature Scotch, the price tag of £58 a bottle does not seem excessive. Of course, deciding on the best whisky is very much a personal preference - the best way to judge is to try them all for yourself.
Glasgow Is On Another Planet
Some Edinburgh citizens think that Glasgow is on another planet - but now it's been made official. Indeed, if you want an out-of-this-world experience, Glasgow is certainly the place to be. Of course, that's Glasgow on Mars, not in Scotland (or Guiana, Jamaica and USA for that matter). NASA is honouring the contribution made by Glasgow University into rocks on the Red Planet and has started to use Scottish names on features discovered by the roaming explorer Opportunity. So far, Glasgow is the only one to be so named. Traditionally, NASA names areas on other worlds after people and places. So Glasgow is joining such illustrious names on Mars as Scooby-Doo, Darth Vader and Yogi Bear.... With honors like that, who needs insults?
Stop Yer Ticklin' Jock
An Edinburgh-based record company has "updated" the classic Sir Harry Lauder composition "Stop Yer Ticklin' Jock" and turned it into a modern dance piece in the expectation that it will turn young Scots into fans of the entertainer who was described by Sir Winston Churchill as "Scotland's greatest ambassador." Lauder toured the world for 40 years with his music hall songs (mainly composed by himself) and his Highland dress and crooked stick. Scotland's reputation for thriftiness and looking after money owes much to his tales of the "canny Scott". Born in Portobello, near Edinburgh, Lauder worked in a flax mill and a coal mine before winning a singing contest which set him off on his new career which saw him at Carnegie Hall - and golfing with presidents. Songs such as "I Love a Lassie" and "Roamin' in the Gloamin" were inspired by love for his wife and "Keep Right on to the End of the Road" was written after his son was killed in action in the First World War. The new version of "Stop Yer Ticklin' Jock" is one of the tracks on a CD entitled "Scotland....Let's Party" - which claims to put the tart in tartan....
Making an "L" of a Difference
Edinburgh City Council will certainly not be getting a gold medal for the plaque which was unveiled this week to mark the 25th anniversary of the gold medal win at the Moscow Olympics by Allan Wells. When the plaque was first seen at Meadowbank stadium in his home town of Edinburgh, his name had been engraved as "Alan" instead of "Allan" and it celebrated his "achivement" instead of "achievement". Wells laughed off the errors, commenting that he was just happy that his famous victory still meant something to the Scottish people. After the ceremony, the plaque was taken down and a new one put up in its place a few days later.
Weather in Scotland This Week
Although temperatures held up reasonably well at around 17/19C (63/66F) in the west in the first half of the week, they slipped back to 13/15C (55/59F) in Aberdeen. Then, as winds shifted to the north-east, most of Scotland turned cooler. Edinburgh reached only 12C (54F) on Friday, 7C (12F) below the seasonal average. While there was some sunshine in the west on Tuesday and Wednesday, there was cloud cover for much of the rest of the time. Rainfall was light, however, producing only some drizzle and showers.
The picture shown here to illustrate the current season in Scotland is of the giant thistle, or more correctly "Onopurdum". The plant stands about seven or eight feet tall and was growing conspicuously in the flower border in front of Culzean Castle. For further illustrations, see the "Colour Supplement" below.
Newsletter "Colour Supplement"
Regular readers of this Newsletter will be used to seeing more photographs illustrating the current flora and fauna in Scotland. This week, there were again so many photos to choose from a Colour Supplement has been created so as not to overload the main Newsletter. Click on the link and you will open up a new page with a half-dozen more illustrations.