Route of Aberdeen City Bypass Route Announced
After years of campaigning, discussion and consultation, the Scottish Executive announced this week the route of a new road to bypass Aberdeen and a fast link to it from Stonehaven to the south. It is a compromise solution which addresses some of the major objections to the five routes which were under consideration. It also happens to be the cheapest option and will take a year less to build than the other options. It took five years of campaigning by business leaders and politicians in the north-east to get the Scottish Executive to commit the finance to the project in January 2003. Since then, the various routes (one of which would have controversially resulted in the relocation of a school for children with special needs) have been vociferously debated. The new route will relieve congestion and pollution in Aberdeen itself and will reduce the volume of traffic on the busy Stonehaven to Aberdeen road. The new routes will not be fully in place until 2011.
Edinburgh Out of Pocket?
The allocation of funding to local authorities by the Scottish Executive is calculated using a complex formula which, at least in part, recognises that there is a greater need for local services in those areas which suffer most from social deprivation, have a larger number of pensioners and school population. But that means that, of all the mainland local authorities, Glasgow gets more per head than anywhere else, while Edinburgh gets the smallest amount per head. So this week Edinburgh council leaders were calling for a revision to the system, so that the capital's position as a "major engine" of the Scottish economy gets proper recognition. Of course, 45 miles to the west in Glasgow, despite the larger per capita allocation, the local council there point not just at what they perceive as their greater need, but to the fact that the museums and art galleries have to be paid for from their overall budget - while in Edinburgh they are regarded as "national" and so are largely funded by the Executive. And in Edinburgh, large numbers of children go to private, fee-paying schools, thus reducing the amount needed to be provided by state-funded education.
Lawyers to Give Up Their Complaints Procedure
The 9,000 solicitors who are members of the Law Society of Scotland have at last reluctantly agreed to recommend to the Scottish Executive that their self-regulation of disputes with clients should end and that a new independent body should be created instead. The move follows years of complaints about the slow speed at which complaints are handled and the often unsatisfactory outcome. Clients often cannot get other members of the Law Society of Scotland to act for them in the complaints process. A recent Scottish Executive consultation paper on the complaints system produced 500 responses - a number only exceeded by the consultation on banning smoking in public buildings. The Law Society says that it still wants to retain control over misconduct and discipline issues, which can give rise to solicitors being censured or struck-off.
New Zoo for Glasgow
Glasgow's zoo at Calderpark closed in 2003, due to declining visitor numbers and financial problems. However, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which owns the highly popular and successful Edinburgh Zoo, is proposing to create a £35 million Amazonian rain forest environment on the banks of the river Clyde in the east end of Glasgow. It would be under cover and would house endangered species such as manatees, tapirs and big cats. The visitor attraction would be allowed to flood every day to replicate the ecosystem of the Amazon. Cash from the sale of the former Glasgow Zoo site at Calderpark plus cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund would pay for the facility. Although on a much smaller scale, the "Amazonia" attraction at Strathclyde Park (pictured here), further up the river Clyde, already houses some of the creatures being proposed for the new zoo.
Expansion Plans for Aberdeen Airport
British Airports Authority (BAA), who operate the facilities at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports, have announced that they are to lengthen the runway at Aberdeen and that could be followed by further extensions which would allow flights by heavier and longer-range aircraft to enable direct services to North America and the Middle East. The masterplan for the airport suggests that passenger numbers will double over the next 25 years to five million. However, reduced helicopter traffic at what is currently Europe's busiest heliport, will result in one of the three helicopter runways being closed. Despite objections from residents on the airport flight path, Aberdeen City Council agreed earlier this year to a relaxation on the ban on night-time flying. Over the last 18 months Aberdeen has seen the launch of 16 new routes.
Deteriorating Architectural Gem Saved?
The former main Post Office building in Glasgow's main square has been lying empty for the last ten years. The magnificent building is 124 years old and has become semi-derelict. Conservationists have become increasingly concerned that unless it was redeveloped it would deteriorate badly. Glasgow City Council has tried to apply pressure on the owners - nightclub proprietor and property developer Stefan King - to make progress either with his own plans (a hotel and then an office development have both been mooted) or to sell the property. The council even threatened a compulsory purchase order as the vacant building in the city's principal civic square has been an eyesore for many years. Now AWG property has bought the building for around £11 million. They are understood to be proposing conversion to modern offices, retaining the external shell.
Historic Aberdeen Newspapers for Sale?
The Aberdeen Press and Journal is among the oldest regional newspapers in Europe, but the title plus its sister evening paper in the granite city are up for sale. The Daily Mail and General Trust, which owns both titles, has announced that it is willing to sell them - if the price is right. Both papers are closely linked to the north-east of Scotland and provide local as well as national and international coverage.
Ferry Order for Shipyard Threatened with Closure
The Ferguson shipyard in Inverclyde has won a multi-million pound order from Caledonian MacBrayne, the state-owned ferry company. Earlier this year, the yard lost out on an order for a Scottish Executive fisheries protection vessel contract. European procurement rules prevented the government from giving preferential treatment to the Scottish yard. This time, the Port Glasgow shipyard won the new CalMac ferry contract despite competition from yards in Poland, Germany, Norway, and Italy. The new ferry is scheduled to enter service in the spring of 2007, carrying up to 24 cars and 250 passengers.
North Sea Oil Boom Forecast
The UK Offshore Oil Operators Association (UKOOA) are predicting that the soaring levels of investment in North sea oil and gas production will create at least 9,000 more jobs in the industry this year, as companies respond to the higher market prices. But the organisation also warned that the government should not impose any new or windfall taxes on the buoyant offshore sector. Analysts are predicting that the inflated profits of the oil companies could well be a target for a windfall tax in the next budget. Total investment by oil and gas companies in the UK could be as high as £11 billion this year, the highest for seven years. There was a downturn in such investment after the Chancellor of the Exchequer last increased his taxes on the industry.
The Scottish Publishers' Association has launched a new Website which will make it easier for people around the world to buy books by Scottish writers. Their new online bookshop contains 15,000 books, as well as a wealth of Scottish literary and cultural information to assist the most ardent bibliophile, historian and genealogist. It will be the largest source in the world for anyone wanting to find out about and buy fiction and non-fiction books from and about Scotland. Unique features of the site include the ability to search by settings and author location, a news and events diary. It has a wealth of information such as author biographies, reviews, a writer in residence, and an adult literacy section - all combined with bookselling. There are plans to also introduce new features such as audio links to writers reading their own works, short films, dedicated space for interest groups in other art forms such as films, writing courses and advice, and a section for writers and new writing. To access the site, see www.booksfromscotland.com.
Scotland's Largest Restaurant
Restaurateur Azher Baig announced this week that Glasgow is to become home of a new restaurant which will have 750 seats, making it the largest in Scotland. Needless to say, it will be serving Glasgow's favourite dish - curry. To be called "Village in the Park", it is to be built in Bellahouston Park - more associated with the up-market restaurant in the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed "House for an Art Lover." Planning permission has already been granted and it is hoped that the new eatery will be open before Christmas, in a converted building near the park's entrance on Paisley Road West. Tables for 250 diners will be located in the main building and a permanent marquee will have room for another 500. Azher Baig already owns the "Village Curry House" in Tradeston, Glasgow which is well known for its quality cuisine. Glasgow is frequently voted as Britain's curry capital.
Internet Search for Gaelic Teacher
A recent advertising campaign by Argyll and Bute Council failed to attract a single applicant for the vacant post of teacher of Gaelic at Bowmore primary school on the island of Islay (pictured here). So the parents have commissioned their own website, to see if they can do any better. Reports say that, so far, there have been no applicants, so if you think this is the job for you, go to www.diura.com/teach_islay/english.html.
Picture by Colin Palmer at Photonet.
Jeely Piece Flats Go Bang
The skyscraper apartment blocks in Glasgow's Castlemilk housing scheme that inspired the "Jeely Piece" song, were demolished this week. The unloved houses were amongst the first of the high-rise flats to be built in the city and the inability of parents to throw down a "jeely piece" (a jam sandwich) to their children playing below prompted folk singer Adam McNaughton to write the well-known song which described the "skyscraper wean wastin' away" because "ye cannae fling pieces oot a 20-storey flat."
Would Rab Approve?
The world of the TV character Rab C Nesbitt might not have approved of the latest plans by Glasgow City Council to transform the old burgh of Govan with new housing which, it is claimed, will make the area the "new west end" of the city. Rab's string vest and earthy outlook reinforced Govan's image of hard drinking and unemployment. But the latté drinking executives of the BBC who created Rab, are themselves moving into a new HQ at Pacific Quay, which is next door Govan. House prices are on the rise and the urban renewal and gentrification of the area is just a matter of time - and money. The process has already started - the houses seen here were photographed in Govan a few years ago and would not look out of place in some of the areas of the city regarded as more affluent .
Education Chief Fails Spelling Test
The man in charge of Edinburgh's efforts to improve children's literacy was embarrassed this week after sending out a letter to 300 households containing glaring spelling mistakes. "Fourth" was typed as "forth" and "courtesy" was left as "curtesy". It was claimed afterwards that he dictated the letter and signed it without reading it - with the typist apparently failing to employ a spell checker. Ewan Aitken has been in charge of the capital's education for the last five years. He apologised - but argued that the letter was "hard evidence that I am human like everyone else." Edinburgh City Council likes to show that it is human - two years ago thousands of their Christmas cards had to be replaced because of spelling errors and last month a plaque to honour Olympic Gold Medallist Allan Wells spelt his name with one "l" instead of two. Last summer, a report by the UK-wide Inspectorate of Education found that basic reading and writing skills were letting down the city's overall education record. Last year, Edinburgh was named the world's first "City of Literature" by UNESCO.
The £431 Million BMX and Skateboard Park
The controversial Scottish Parliament building, which cost £431 million, has won architectural awards but is not without its critics. But one group of young people in Edinburgh think that it's cool. They have found that the curved walls and landscape gardens make an excellent play park for their BMX bikes and skateboards. The walls beside the visitor entrance have become heavily marked with rubber from bike tyres and the grass and garden area has become churned up with the deep tread of their bikes. Theoretically, there is a ban on skateboarding and cycling in the landscaped area, but despite the security required by the building, the police are not always on hand to stop it.
Cooler Scotland from Global Warming?
Researchers from the UK's National Oceanography Centre published a report this week which says that the Gulf Stream, which brings warmer water to the shores of Scotland and western Europe is slowing down. This "North Atlantic Conveyor" emerges from the Caribbean and flows north-east, warming our shores before sinking to the ocean floor and returning south again to keep the cycle going. But although the amount of water leaving the Caribbean is still the same, less appears to be reaching western Europe. If the trend persists, it could cause some cooling in northern latitudes. But the complexity of predicting future climate change, with all its variability, is extremely difficult. The changes seen so far in the Gulf Stream should have produced a cooling effect by now - but western Europe has instead seen a slow increase in temperature over the last few decades.
Weather in Scotland This Week
The very cold weather of the previous week continued with maximum daytime temperatures from Sunday to Tuesday largely in the range 3/4C (37/41F), accompanied by a strong northerly wind which made it feel even colder. There were clear skies and sunshine at times, however, with Glasgow recording over 5 hours of sun on Monday. As the week progressed, temperatures rose to 7/9C (45/48F) as the wind shifted to a more southerly direction. But that brought more cloud cover and some rain. The outlook is for the return of colder, dryer weather over the next few days.
The picture shown here to illustrate the current season in Scotland is of the skating rink in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. For further illustrations, see the "Colour Supplement" below.
This week's online photographs taken in Scotland this week to show the current season and its flora and fauna include sunset at Lochend Loch, a kestrel, an acrobatic grey squirrel, holly, Burns Memorial Tower in Mauchline, Ayrshire and a mallard duck on ice. See this week's Colour Supplement