Snapshot of Scotland
The sixth annual Scottish Household Survey was released this week. It provides up-to-date information on the characteristics, composition and behaviour of households in Scotland in a number of areas, based on interviews carried out with 30,822 households throughout Scotland. It shows, for example:
- 32% of households contain only one adult (single adult or single pensioner)
- 25% of households contain children (aged under 16 years).
- 54% of adults are married and 8% are cohabiting with a partner. 20% of adults are single, 10% widowed, 5% divorced and 3% separated
- 65% of homes are owner occupied and 35% of households are in apartments, with these properties featuring more strongly in large urban areas than in other areas.
- 66% of households in large urban areas are least likely to have access to a motor vehicle for private use.
- Internet access has continued to increase from 41 per cent in 2003 to 43 per cent of households having internet access in 2004. Of households with a net annual income of over £40,000, 89 per cent have home internet access.
- 27% of those over age 16 smoke cigarettes (down from 30% in 1999).
For more information, see the Scottish Household Survey.
Aberdonians Top Scottish Pay League
The UK average hourly rate for workers in full employment is £12.75 per hour. On average, Scots earn £1.09 an hour less than that (£11.66 per hour) but on a regional basis those in Aberdeen (influenced by the high earnings in the oil industry) come out better than that, with an average of £13.52 an hour. Edinburgh came second in Scotland with £13.06 an hour while Glasgow came out 5th in the league of Scotland's 32 local authority areas, with an average hourly rate of £11.99. In Wales, the figure is £11.16 and in Northern Ireland it is £10.88.
Edinburgh Bus Strike Deal
With the threat of a total shut-down of the services provided by Lothian Buses looming and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival about to start, management and the trade unions have been negotiating feverishly to resolve the dispute. The 1,400 staff had already staged two strikes in the capital and an overtime ban, in place since 18 July, has led to a reduced service since then. The latest offer agreed by the two sides will see wage rates rising from the current level of almost £8.50 an hour to £9 an hour by December and then to £9.50 an hour within two years. An additional 30 pence an hour increase is also being backdated to March. The drivers will now be balloted to see whether they accept the deal, but their trade union is recommending this.
Scots Donate £500,000 in 24 Hours
Once again the Scottish people demonstrated their generosity by donating £500,000 within 24 hours to the appeal for the people of Niger who are suffering from drought and famine. Not for the first time, the Scottish share of the UK total contributed to the appeal was larger than the country's percentage of the UK population. Actor Dougray Scott and comedian Elaine C Smith had appeared in TV adverts in Scotland urging us to make a contribution. Nearly eight million people in Niger and neighboring countries of Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso are at risk.
Royal Bank Shares Tumble
The Royal Bank of Scotland announced that its half-year profits were up by 15% to £3.69 billion, with a strong performance by its corporate banking and financial markets division. The Royal's US subsidiary, Boston-based Citizens Financial, hiked up its profits by 74% as a result of the buoyant US economy. All that should have helped the share price. But strong rumours that the Royal Bank is negotiating to make a substantial investment in the Bank of China wiped £2 billion of the stock market value of the company. Investors are nervous about the risks involved should the bank go ahead. As with all such potential deals, the bank refuses to confirm or deny the situation in advance of any deal being signed. The share price bounced upwards again the following day, though it was still down on the week.
Government Scraps £600,000 Advertising Campaign
The Scottish Executive has admitted defeat and scrapped a £600,000 advertising campaign which was aimed at persuading motorists to give up their cars and switch to public transport. 80% of the population had never even heard of the "Choose Another Way" campaign. Research has shown that 22% say that they could use a bus to get to work but only 12% actually did so. The Executive defended the campaign, saying that it had been specifically targeted at areas where congestion and pollution were the worst.
New Car Sales Fall
For the seventh month in a row, new car sales in Scotland fell compared with the same month in the previous year. The Scottish Motor Trade Association statistics show that only 13,192 new cars were purchased in Scotland during July - down 1.4% from 13,377 a year ago. The Renault Megane (illustrated here) is once again the top-selling car in Scotland with the Renault Clio second and Ford Focus in third place. Renault has jumped ahead of Ford as the best-selling car make in Scotland - accounting for 12.99% of the market.
Drinking Water Up To Standard
A report on whether the quality of Scotland's drinking water meets the tighter standards imposed three years ago, shows that 99.42% of 334,000 samples taken from customers' taps in 2004 passed the required standard. A significant number of the 0.58% that failed did so because of the appearance of the water (often due to a brownish colour, caused by heavy rainfall going into reservoirs) rather than failure to meet a health-based standard. The report says that the capital investment programme being developed for 2006 - 2014 will deliver further improvements in drinking water quality compliance.
Highland Spring Sparkles
Sales of Highland Spring mineral water, based at Blackford in Perthshire, have soared by 30% this summer with its sparkling water doing particularly well - sales expanded by 39% to give it a dominant 15% market share. Highland Spring now out-sells its nearest rival, Dan Pellegrino, by three to one. Since 1979, the company has invested over £50 million in development of capacity and it is now the fastest growing brand in the UK. Exports go to 50 countries.
Not Long To 2007
Details of a major travelling exhibition and more cash for events to boost plans for Highland 2007, the year Scotland celebrates Highland culture, were announced this week. Fonn's Duthchas - Land and Heritage - is an exhibition organised jointly with National Museums of Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland and the National Library of Scotland. The exhibition will use language, music, poetry and art to provide a unique insight into the Highlands and the people who live here. Highland 2007 aims to promote the Highlands as a great place to live and to visit by showcasing the unique and special nature of Highland culture past, present and future. It will incorporate a range of international, regional and community events, as well as capital projects and cultural activities specifically for young people. The government has committed £9.5 million towards the costs of three major building projects as part of Highland 2007. They are a £5 million redevelopment of the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, £3.75 million to support a new visitor centre at Culloden and £750,000 towards the Gaelic College on Skye - Sabhal Mor Ostaig.
Whisky Production Soars
It will be good news to whisky drinkers around the world that the latest government statistics show that output of the "water of life" reached a new record in June, rising above the previous peak achieved in February 2003. There was an increase of 7.3% in production between May and June this year.
Hotel for Nuclear Power Complex
An outline planning application has been lodged with Highland Council for consent to build a £20 million business park with hotels and swimming pool on a site across the road from the nuclear power station at Dounreay in Caithness in the far north of Scotland. The power station is being decommissioned, but that process will take several decades. The site for the development is farmland whose owner spent years in legal battles with the UK Atomic Energy Authority over radioactive particles found on Sandside beach. The decommissioning will result in an increase in the number of people coming to Dounreay, but the hotel complex is also being proposed with a view to providing a resource for the area once the nuclear plant has gone.
Britain's Biggest Landowner Makes a Loss
The ninth Duke of Buccleuch (pronounced "Bukloo") who owns 270,000 acres of land, mainly in the Scottish Borders, and whose wealth has been estimated by the "Sunday Times" as £65 million, made an operating loss of £3.6 million on the running of his estates. The figures highlight the problems facing rural economies, despite farm subsidies and grants awarded by the UK government and from the European Union. It is argued that a major factor contributing to the problem of agriculture is the low farm gate prices paid by supermarkets. The Buccleuch estates have 220 tenant farmers and employs 1,000 people. It produces annually 127,000 sheep, 13,500 cattle, 18 million litres of milk, 20,000 tonnes of cream and 50,000 tonnes of timber. For many years the duke has opened his historic homes (such as Drumlanrig Castle, pictured here) to the public - the Buccleuch Estates paid over £5.8 million to the Buccleuch Heritage Trust which looks after the upkeep of these historic houses. The Buccleuch Estates are regarded as one of the best-run rural estates in Scotland - and yet still cannot make a profit.
Britain's Longest Speed Trap Slows Drivers Fast
The £775,000 Speed Enforcement Camera System (SPECS), which measures average speeds of individual cars on a 29-mile stretch of Ayrshire roads, is being claimed to have slowed down the vehicles on the road after initial publicity. But with heavy summer traffic and frequent roadworks, it is hard to tell how the operators can attribute the fall in speed to SPECS. Having driven through the are on a number of occasions in recent weeks, and recording average speeds of 11mph and 20mph on some sections, it is hard to see how any vehicles could have broken the speed limit, at least during the day. And hesitant drivers who do not know what the speed limit is, are causing problems too, by driving too slowly. On roads with two carriageways in both directions and a central reservation in the UK, the speed limit is 70mph, unless a lower speed is indicated by roadside signs. On other country roads the maximum speed is 60mph. Caravans and buses and lorries have lower maximum speeds.
Scotland's Most Hated Motorway
An on-line survey of motorists has put Scotland's M8 link between Edinburgh and Glasgow as the fifth most hated stretch of motorway in the UK. The runaway winner was the M6 motorway around Birmingham, which captured 51% of all the votes. The M8 not only links Scotland's capital to its largest city, it also runs into the heart of Glasgow and across the river Clyde at the Kingston Bridge - both sections are notorious for traffic jams. Having commuted for many years along the M8 (before I finally admitted defeat and travelled by train), I would have voted for it to be the amongst the worst in the country, had I known about the survey in time. With only two lanes in each direction and carrying far more traffic than it was ever designed for, it can be a frustrating journey of 45 miles. The boring scenery doesn't help, either - the modern sculptures which have been placed at various points along its length don't really help. But then again, I can recall the journey on an ordinary single-lane road before the motorway was built - so maybe the M8 isn't so bad after all.
Aberdeen Cab Drivers Graduate from Charm School
A few years ago taxi drivers in Aberdeen were voted the rudest in Scotland after a barrage of complaints. But this week 16 of them were awarded Aberdeen City Council's "Top Taxi" certificate after successfully completing a five-week customer-care course.The also became the first cab drivers in Scotland to pass the Scottish Qualifications authority award in "Customer Service Skills for Taxi Drivers." The course covers first aid, disability awareness, driver welfare as well as tourism information and customer care.
Visitor Figures Reach New Heights
The arrival of the supersonic airliner Concorde has seen visitor numbers at the Museum of Flight at East Fortune, east of Edinburgh, speed past last year's total by the end of July this year. Over 93,000 people have been to the air museum so far this year, which is 20,000 more than in the whole of last year. The beautiful aircraft has been on show since March, though initially it was in bits as engineers put together the supersonic transport after it had been dismantled for the journey (by road and sea) to East Fortune. Tourism organisations believe that Concorde is also having a beneficial effect on other attractions in the area. The aircraft at the Museum of Flight, which is now one of only seven left in the world, flew the world's first supersonic airline passengers from London to Bahrain in 1976.
MidgeMaster Saves Skins of Audience
From 1 August 17 September 10,000 people will be experiencing " The Storr: Unfolding Landscape" - an environmental art work being staged at midnight at Trotternish, the Isle of Skye. At that time of year, however, they are likely to be subjected to the attentions of the infamous Scottish midge - a mosquito-like insect that likes to bite humans (and other animals), drawing blood and leaving behind an annoying itch. Audiences of 200 will journey every night through the wild northern landforms of the Isle of Skye where they will experience enigmatic installations illuminating the massed pinnacles and buttresses, whilst powerful soundscapes drift down from the ridges above. Now Midgemasters have undertaken to create a midge-free corridor along the three and a half kilometre route. More than ten propane powered machines were strategically placed along the route in June in order to take out the female biting population as well as to break the six week midge breeding cycle. Midges love damp foliage, boggy ground, shelter and shade; meaning heather and forested areas such as those on the route are perfect breeding grounds. Skye has normally up to 50 million midges per 2.5 acres. Though the company cannot guarantee to wipe out the midge population in such a big area, they are confident that they can make a significant impact and improve the experience for all involved.
Enterprise Cities Claim Star Trek's Scotty
Linlithgow were first to boldly go into the log of the Starship Enterprise after the death of Canadian actor James Montgomery Doohan. The West Lothian town claimed that the fictional Star Trek engineering character of Scotty should be remembered with a plaque commemorating his birth in Linlithgow - in 2222. But some Aberdonian Star Trek fans recalled that in the official website, Scotty described himself as an "Aberdeen pub crawler" - and Aberdeen promptly claimed him as "one of oor ain" and suggested erecting a statue. Not to be outdone, in Edinburgh (a city with more than its fair share of famous historical figures) fans claim that the original TV notes for the series suggest that he was born in Edinburgh. Edinburgh's Lord Provost, seeing a tourism opportunity, is reported to be not surprised to learn that Scotty came from the capital, commenting "All the best people come from Edinburgh." Meantime, Elgin in Moray is basing their claim on a 1970s interview in which Doohan himself declared that the Scotty character came from "Elgin, near Aberdeen". If you are used to inter-galactic distances, 60 miles probably does seem "near". Back in Linlithgow, however, they are confident about their research and that Scotty's parents continued to live there after his birth. We may just have to wait until 2222 (or thereabouts) to settle the issue...
Splice the Bagpipes
The new English captain of the destroyer HMS Edinburgh seems determined to create close ties with Scotland's capital and he has sent one of his crew to learn how to play the bagpipes with the Royal Scots regiment while the ship is in Rosyth for a maintenance and upgrade. He plans to have a piper playing on the bridge as it sails into ports around the world on courtesy visits. And he has ordered his officers to wear Royal Scots trews as their formal dress in the officers' mess. 20% of the ship's crew of 280 are Scots, so maybe the naval tradition of "splicing the mainbrace" with rum will soon be changed to whisky?
Driest July in 50 Years
The Meteorological Office statistics for July show that last month Scotland had its driest July for 50 years. Western Scotland had only 39% of the long-term average rainfall, though other parts of the country had 53/54%. Not that the dry weather produced higher daytime maximum temperatures - at 17.7C (63.8F) it was 0.6C (1.1F) above average. And sun-seekers were disappointed with hours of sun close to the norm of 149 hours. When the dry spell hit Scotland in 1955, there were water shortages and bans on using garden hoses and washing cars. This July, there was a full supply and no major problems anywhere.
Weather in Scotland This Week
Although Aberdeen recorded only 14C (57F) last Sunday, the north-east city soon caught up with the rest of Scotland for the rest of the week with temperatures ranging generally from 17/21C (63/70F). There was a fair amount of sunshine too but also the inevitable cloudy skies but only a few showers. On Thursday, however, there was more prolonged rain in the west and central parts of the country. But the sun was back on Friday and Saturday but the outlook for Sunday is increasing cloud moving in from the north and the possibility of rain in the west by Monday.
The picture shown here to illustrate the current season in Scotland is of a clear blue sky behind a tall teasel (Dipsacus) plant growing near Castle Semple Loch in Renfrewshire earlier this week. 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.