Thousands Throng the Streets for Hogmanay
Around 100,000 people gathered on New Year's Eve in Edinburgh's Princes Street, with the backdrop of the castle, to be entertained by pop stars with a Scottish flavour - such as Texas, KT Tunstall and El Presidente. The gathering in Glasgow was smaller, with around 25,000 in the city's George Square, to hear performances from Athlete, Hue & Cry and Deacon Blue. Aberdeen's New Year's Eve celebrations in Union Street had chart-toppers Liberty X, The Coral and The Proclaimers. Other traditional Hogmanay celebrations around Scotland included the Stonehaven Fireball Festival (where 60 locals swung 20-pound balls of fire above their heads as they proceeded through the town to the harbour where they threw them into the sea), Comrie's Flambeaux Procession (residents donned fancy dress and had a torchlight procession led by the Comrie Pipe band), a Hogmanay Bonfire at Biggar in Lanarkshire (the bonfire was the height of two double-decker buses). Perth had a more sedate affair, with a dinner followed by a ceilidh in the Fair City's concert hall, while the party on Stirling Castle esplanade featured Blazin' Fiddles and former Del Amitri frontman, Justin Currie. And of course celebrations continued on 1 January with the annual "Loony Dook" swim in the Firth of Forth at South Queensferry, beside the iconic bridges.
Picture via Royal Bank of Scotland plc.
Population Growth and Decline
The Registrar General for Scotland produces regular projections of the number of people in Scotland and annually provides the information broken down into individual local council areas. The most recent report highlights that while West Lothian has a projected growth over the next fifteen years of 21%, the population of Aberdeen City is expected to decline by 24%. Dundee is also expected to lose 15% of its population. The City of Edinburgh, on the other hand, is forecast to grow over the next 15 years. Scotland's overall population is projected to rise over the next 15 years, but will then decline slowly. Of course, the predictions have to be updated regularly in the light of what actually happens.
Scotland's Job Market Outperforms UK
The latest Bank of Scotland Labour Market Report shows that the job market in Scotland is continuing to expand, with shortages of temporary and contract staff being reported. According to the bank's chief economist, the Scottish jobs market posted its best performance in over a year in November, with overall conditions continuing to improve at a faster rate than in the UK as a whole. Although permanent staff placements continued to rise in all four of Scotland's main cities during November, availability rates dipped, suggesting that there are shortages of skilled staff in a number of sectors. Figures published by the Office of National Statistics show that there are now 400,000 people working in Glasgow, an increase of 8,000 posts in the last year. Many are in the knowledge-based sector such as international finance. The trend is likely to continue - phone giant O2 has recently announced that it is to recruit 100 staff every month until March 2007 to staff its call centre at Finnieston. Even so, the city still has over 100,000 claiming some form of unemployment benefit.
300 Jobs Lost at Former IBM PC Factory
In December 2004 there were concerns for 650 jobs when computer giant IBM sold its PC manufacturing plant at Spango Valley near Greenock in Inverclyde to Chinese company Lenovo. The plant had been in decline in the previous two years, with many full-time staff being replaced by part-timers. Now that the contractual period for continuing PC production is at an end, Lenovo is taking it to its plants in China and Hungary, with the loss of the remaining 300 jobs in Scotland. The company says that it can produce the equipment more cheaply in China. IBM is continuing to employ over 2,000 staff at the Scottish plant in service and support roles for its European contact centre operations.
Traffic Ban for Edinburgh's Royal Mile
The Scottish Executive has approved plans by Edinburgh City Council for a total ban on traffic in a central stretch of the Royal Mile. The High Street between Cockburn Street and St Giles Cathedral (seen here) on Parliament Square will be closed to all through traffic from next week. The ban is initially to allow the street to be recobbled (yes, the ancient thoroughfare is still surfaced with cobblestones) but by the time that work is completed, in about 15 months, a permanent ban will have been approved. Traders have welcomed the creation of this new pedestrian zone, but the roadworks could well mean a bleak trading period for shop owners. And, of course, the traffic will have to be diverted to other roads, causing congestion there.
Scotland Attracts Teachers
The Scottish Executive is claiming success for their campaign to attract professional teachers from outside of Scotland into our education system. In the last year, 900 teachers from abroad and 500 from England, have registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland - an overall increase of 40% on the previous year. Apart from England, the largest numbers came from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Northern Ireland. The advert in England highlights the fact that house prices in Scotland are 50% lower than in the south-east of England. Starting salaries for qualified teachers in Scotland are around £22,860 a year. Due to over-supply, there is a shortage of posts for primary school teachers in the north-east, north-west and south-west of England, with many newly-trained primary school teachers finding it hard to get a job. So moving to Scotland can be an attractive proposition.
A to Z of Scottish Politics 2005
The year-end is a popular time for the media to review events from the previous twelve months and BBC Scotland is no exception to this. For example, the corporation has produced an "A to Z of Scottish Politics" covering subjects realating to the Scottish Parliament (seen here) ranging from " Anti-social behaviour" to " Zero Smoking". Other news items included in their notes include the G8 Summit, Nuclear Power, Civil Liberties, - and Queues for Dentists. See A to Z of Scottish Politics.
Scots Seek Sun at Festive Season
The lure of Christmas trees and Hogmanay parties in Scotland is not enough to stop an estimated 10% of the population jetting off to sun-kissed destinations over the festive period. That's over 500,000 people flying out of the country to sunny spots such as the Portugal, Spanish Mediterranean resorts and the Canary Islands. They are also going further afield to places such as Egypt and Dubai - 400 passengers a day fly out to the United Arab Emirates.
Aberdeen to Texas Flights?
It is being reported that Continental Airlines is considering launching new direct flights between Aberdeen in the north-east of Scotland and Houston, Texas. But a number of airlines are believed to be in talks with the British Airports Authority about introducing an air service between Aberdeen and the Texas oil capital. Business leaders in Aberdeen consider Houston to be the most popular destination for any new direct flights from the Granite City.
Winter is the New Summer for Scots
Research by a foreign currency company has shown that 25% of Scots are now taking their main holiday abroad in winter, to get some sunshine at the coldest time of year, rather than in the traditional summer months. They not only get some winter warmth in far-way resorts, they avoid the hassle of peak travel months and get lower prices as well. Many young professionals, as well as those whose family have grown up, are also taking several weekend city breaks in mainland Europe throughout the rest of the year, thanks to the low-cost budget airlines.
Demolition for Capital's "Ugliest Building"
The new owners of the notorious New St Andrews House office block in Edinburgh say that they will probably want to demolish the building and create a department store in its place. There will be few tears shed for the existing building, which regularly "wins" surveys looking for the ugliest building in Edinburgh or, indeed, in Scotland as a whole. Property experts believe that at least £150 million will have to be spent to create a new first class store. New St Andrews House was built at a time when Edinburgh was going through a bad spell in terms of the architecture of new buildings in the city centre. A number of bland store fronts in Princes Street built around the same time bear witness to that.
Parents Choose Lewis and Sophie
In 2005, parents selected 6,000 different names for their children born during the year. But Lewis remained at the top of the list for boys' names for the third year in a row, while Sophie moved up from second place to head the list for most popular girls' names, pushing Emma into second place. Jack came second in the boys' category, while Callum climbed seven places to take third position. Ewan and Jake jumped into the top 50, while Noah, Lennon and Harvey moved into the top 100 for the first time. Ruby was the biggest-climbing girl's name, moving up 70 places to 43rd while Kayla rose 28 places to 47th. The top ten names were:
Boys: 1. Lewis 2. Jack 3. Callum 4. James 5. Ryan 6. Cameron 7. Kyle
8. Jamie 9. Daniel 10. Matthew.
Girls: 1. Sophie 2. Emma 3. Ellie 4. Amy 5. Erin 6. Lucy 7. Katie 8. Chloe 9. Rebecca 10. Emily.
£125 Million Facelift for Faslane Naval Base
The Royal Navy announced this week that it is to upgrade the accommodation facilities at its Faslane naval base on the Gare Loch, north of the Firth of Clyde. Britain's aging Trident nuclear missiles and the Vanguard submarines are based there. The plan is to create 1,800 hotel-style apartments, which will be the best of its kind available in the UK for service personnel. There will be a private shopping mall, a 10-pin bowling alley and a 300-seater cinema. The aim is to attract the navy's best staff to the Faslane base. About 6,000 people are employed at Faslane, including civilian personnel who live in the nearby towns and villages.
Marine Park Short List
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has provided Scottish Executive ministers with a list of 16 candidates for Scotland's first-ever coastal and marine national park. The favourites, at the moment, appear to be the Argyll coast and islands, Lochaber and Skye, and the Western Isles. They scored highest when factors including wildlife, landscape and cultural heritage were taken into account. The Solway Firth, Shetland and the east Grampian coast also came high on the list. SNH is now inviting views and feedback on all the short-listed sites, with a view to creating an even shorter list to present to ministers.
Regeneration At Last for Garden Festival Site
It has taken 18 years, but at last the go-ahead has been given to plans to redevelop the site on the banks of the river Clyde which was used for the Garden Festival in Glasgow in 1988. Although the Glasgow Science Centre and a number of office blocks have been built or are planned in the area (the most recent, high profile development being the new BBC Scotland HQ), a large part of the site has been lying derelict for all those years. Now, at last, planning approval has been given for the 30-acre site. This will result in the creation of a 150-bed hotel, 300 new homes and an office development. Work should start later this year but it will take over five years to complete. In the meantime, the new Finnieston Bridge which runs across the river Clyde nearby (and known colloquially as the "Squinty Bridge" as it runs diagonally across the water) is due for completion in July of this year.
The photo shows the Garden Festival in 1988.
Gleneagles Planning £100 Million Expansion
Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire is moving ahead with expansion plans for a £100 million spa resort and a village of homes, each costing up to £5 million each. The 600-acre development aims to cash in on the publicity generated when the top hotel hosted the G8 summit of world leaders last summer. Outline planning permission has already been granted and it is hoped that building work can commence this year. The development will also feature a new nine and 18-hole golf course, a new hotel and rental accommodation. Gleneagles currently hosts around 11,000 guests a year and industry analysts say that a hotel with its standing, should have the spa facilities which are integral to the new resort. The land for this is owned by a family of oil tycoons from Dubai and the details of the link between them and Diageo, the drinks giant that owns the present Gleneagles Hotel, have not been published.
Britain's Tallest Tree?
To many, the location of the tallest tree in Britain may not be all that important - but the location that holds the crown can expect a boost to tourism in its local area. So there was jubilation when a Douglas Fir in Reelig Glen woods, Invernesshire was remeasured for a TV programme "Trees Which Made Britain" and was declared to have regained the crown. A Douglas Fir at Powis castle had briefly held the title when it was found to be 205 feet tall. That beat the tree called "Dughall Mor" in the Highlands by two feet - but the Scottish tree was last accurately measured in 2003. So when the BBC film crew arrived, along with officials of the Tree Register of the British Isles, they used the latest laser technology - and found that it was just over 64 metres - 210 feet.
Scots Buy Fords
The Scottish Motor Trade Association has published figures showing that Scottish motorists bought more new Ford cars than any other make in 2005 - but by a whisker. The company won 12.1% of last year's market - beating its closest rival by just 640 units. Ford was first in Scotland in 2004 also, while in the UK Ford has been the number one car brand for 29 successive years. In December, new car sales decreased by 0.04% in comparison with December 2004, when 11,547 new cars were registered. The small decrease followed months of even bigger falls in new car sales in Scotland and in the UK - sales of cars in the UK dropped by 5% last year, as high fuel prices, increased cost of borrowing and general economic slow-down kept customers out of the dealerships. Even so, over 200,000 new cars went out of the showrooms in Scotland in 2005. But German car maker BMW has announced that it bucked the trend and had achieved record UK sales in 2005 with purchases up 9% on the year.
Gaels No Longer Lost for Words
Gaelic is sometimes regarded as a language which is dying and embedded in the past. There are also competing spellings and pronunciations. But now, for the first time in 25 years, a committee of Gaelic experts, set up by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, has set up an official set of rules governing aspects of spelling, punctuation and grammar. And to show that the language can absorb modern concepts, a number of new words have been added to the language. So now when Gaelic speakers go to a restaurant and want to order a curry they can ask for "coiridh" and for a vodka they can say "bhodca". Other new words include cricket (criogaid), thus showing that the sport is gaining ground in Scotland, and Yoga (Iòga). Modern life is certainly reflected in the addition of fax (facs), video (bhidio) and jeans (dinichean). A surprising omission has also been rectified - giraffe (sioraf) have at last reached Gaeldom.
Saudis Take the Biscuit
Tunnock's, the 115-year-old family baker and confectionery firm, which is famous for its marshmallow teacakes and caramel logs, has reported a strong recovery in its annual report - and part of the reason is the resumption of sales to Saudi Arabia. They had banned all milk products six-and-a-half years ago, because of fears of BSE contamination. Tunnocks ships to 30 overseas destinations and has been pushing to increase sales to France and Germany. In 2002, the company's earnings fell to their lowest level for many years, but since then the venerable brand has produced a strong recovery. 72-year-old Boyd Tunnock continues to run the company which was set up by his grandfather in 1890.
Kilts Growing in Popularity - In England
There was a time, after the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, when the English were so concerned about the kilt as a symbol of the power of the Highlanders, that they banned the wearing of the traditional garment. But these days kilt-makers are finding that publicity arising from such non-Scottish stars such as Robbie Williams, Vin Diesel and Samuel L Jackson wearing a kilt, has produced a demand for them in England. One major kilt-hiring company has reported shipping more orders to shops in England than in Scotland over the festive season. While some of the kilts are not being made in the traditional tartans, it seems that there has also been a surge in kilt-wearing among English-based Scots.
Weather in Scotland This Week
In the week before Christmas, temperatures across Scotland hovered around 8/9C (46/48F) and indeed rose as high as 10/12C (50/54F) a few days before the weekend of Christmas. So there was certainly no White Christmas this year. However, temperatures did fall rapidly as a cold easterly wind blew in from Scandinavia and Russia. That brought temperatures down to around 3/4C (37/39F) after Christmas and Glasgow's maximum temperature on Wednesday, 28 December was -1C (30F). There was an appreciable fall of snow in south-east England but Scotland escaped most of that, apart from Thursday night when a light fall stretched as far west as Glasgow. But rising temperatures soon caused it to melt rapidly and by 1 January the thermometer was reaching 7/8C (45/46F). That didn't last long either and by Friday of this week the maximum being recorded was around 2C (36F) in central Scotland, though Aberdeen remained around 5C (41F). Although there was some blinks of sunshine, the predominant feature of the weather was overcast skies, with even some fog and mist on some days.
This week's online photographs taken in Scotland this week to show the current season and its flora and fauna include a sunset at Drumpellier Country Park, gulls on ice, a greylag goose and siskin, goldeneye and a chaffinch.
See Snippets Colour Supplement - 7 January 2006.