Ten Years Young
Usually, the "Scottish Snippets" reports on the news. But this week, it would be remiss not to highlight that it is making the news - the Rampant Scotland Web site is celebrating its tenth birthday. In January 1996, the site was launched - with all of 300 links to other Scottish Web sites. It has gone through a number of metamorphoses during the intervening years, but has always been expanding. Judging by the bandwidth being used, the site is having its busiest spell ever since the start of January. Of course, there are (roughly) now over 12,500 links and over 3,500 feature pages, many with illustrations. Most of these have been written by "Scottie" and one of the most satisfying aspect of being the "Webmaster" has been the large number of friends and contacts made over the years. I've learned a lot about Scotland along the way too! If you are curious about who Scottie really is, see the Mini Biography!
Support Sought for Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 2014
First Minister Jack McConnell and other officials involved in the project to bring the 2014 Commonwealth Games to Glasgow, were on hand this week to officially launch the campaign and unveil a new logo and Web site. The First Minister called on the whole of Scotland to support the nation's bid. A number of high profile celebrities have already publicly demonstrated their support including, Sir Alex Ferguson, Ally McCoist, Shirley Robertson, Lulu, Nick Nairn, Colin Montgomerie, and Carol Smillie. McConnell added "2104 gives us the chance to say to the rest of the world that small nations can not only deliver these Games but can provide an event to rival anything that has come before and a spectacle that visitors will never forget." The logo is inspired by the Games 'friendly' theme and is loosely based on two people coming together to form two Xs - 2014 will be the twentieth Games. The typography also refers to Glasgow most famous designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. There is also a tartan backdrop. Other locations competing to host the games in 2014 include Abuja, Nigeria, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. See also www.glasgow2014.com where you can register your support for the Glasgow bid.
Household Transport Survey
An annual government survey into the ways in which people travel for business, education and leisure has just been published. It shows that 68% of people in Scotland travel to work by car or van, 13% walk, 13% went by bus and 3% took a train. Only 2% cycled to work. 51% of pupils going to school walked there, while 24% travelled by bus and 22% went by car or van, with only 1% cycling to get to school. 66% of Scottish households have one or more car - though 98% of those with a net income over £40,000 had a car, while only 35% of those with incomes below £10,000 had access to a car. 41% of adults interviewed said that they had used a local bus service in the month prior to the interview and 18% had used a train. But around 80% of adults said that they never travel by public transport in the evening, even though 54% said that they would feel "very safe" or "fairly safe" travelling by bus in the evening.
New Road and Rail Agency Starts Work
The government agency which has been given the monumental responsibility for delivering road and rail transport improvements began work this week. "Transport Scotland" will be directing the Scottish Executive's £3 billion programme of investment over the next ten years. This will see progress on many projects such as creating a railway link between Glasgow city centre and its airport and the redevelopment of Waverley station in Edinburgh. Two new platforms are being added to the elderly station and some existing platforms are being extended to allow for longer trains. The work will also see the end of the long climb up the Waverley Steps to Princes Street, with the introduction of new escalators and lifts.
Electronic Exports Slump
Scotland's electronics industry which is sometimes referred to as "Silicon Glen", suffered another slump in the last year, according to Scottish Executive figures published this week. The figures show that exports of electronic goods have declined by 16.8% in the last year. The sector has now lost £6 billion of exports since 2000. The news came as yet another electronics factory closure was announced - Inventec Servers in Hillington with the loss of 370 jobs. That was less than a week after another computer maker, Sanmina-SCI, announced the shutdown of its Greenock plant. Manufactured exports as a whole declined by 3.6% in the last year. But if the electronic sector is excluded, manufactured exports actually showed a combined 4.2% rise over the year.
Scottish House Prices Climb Fastest
Figures published by MyHousePrice.com show that house prices in Scotland are rising at a faster rate than in any other part of the UK. Prices rose by an annual rate of 2.2% in the UK as a whole up to last November - but by a whopping 12.2% in Scotland. Estate agents are reporting a low number of houses coming onto the market and demand is outstripping supply, with a particular shortage in the middle to low end of the market.
Royal Scots Leave for Iraq
400 soldiers from the Royal Scots have left their base at Dreghorn Barrack's in Edinburgh for another tour of duty in Iraq. Operations will include security patrols and escorting convoys. The Royal Scots were originally scheduled to go to Northern Ireland, but the improved security situation there meant that they were not needed. This is the regiment's second tour of duty in Iraq in two years. Most of the troops will be based in Basra, with some will be going on to operations with the Baghdad protection force. Britain currently has about 8,000 military personnel in Iraq.
UK's Largest Windfarm Opens
The Black Law windfarm in Lanarkshire, the largest operating windfarm in the UK, with 42 turbines, was officially opened this week. Potentially (as long as the wind is blowing strongly enough) it has the potential to power a town the size of Paisley. Unlike many windfarm proposals which have generated a lot of objections for spoiling the countryside, this one has been constructed by transforming an old open-cast coal-mine into a development providing clean, renewable energy. Even so, it took Scottish Power nearly two years to gain final planning approval. The Scottish Executive has set a target that, by the end of this decade, 18% of electricity generated in Scotland should be from renewable sources rising to 40% by 2020. The Black Law Windfarm currently consists of 42 turbines with a 97 MW capacity. There are plans to add a further 12 turbines to the site.
Climber Dangles on Rope for Eight Hours
A climber who plunged past his horrified companions while climbing on a difficult route in the Cairngorm mountain range in Scotland, was left dangling at the end of a rope over a 500 foot drop into a gully. His two companions were also trapped, as they were holding the rope which was saving their friend. The less experienced colleagues were unable to haul their companion up the rock face and had to use a mobile phone to obtain the assistance of the mountain rescue team. Nine rescuers travelled to the mountain and assembled a pulley system to get the dangling climber back up the sheer rock face. He was eventually rescued around midnight and the three were taken to Glenmore Lodge, the outdoor centre near Aviemore. Although all three were very cold, suffering from mild hypothermia, they were none the worse for their escapade.
Glasgow - the "Must See" Destination
Frommer's, the American travel company which produces the popular and highly regarded guidebooks which are sold around the world, has included Glasgow in its latest list of "10 places that are coming into their own." Others on the list include Goa, Kenya game parks, Molokai in Hawaii and Tasmania. The guide says that Glasgow is "more cosmopolitan and modern than its capital neighbour (not to mention a more vibrant nightlife)" and that it "features radiant Victorian architecture."
Aberdeen Taxi Drivers Seek Another Fares Increase
Taxi drivers in Aberdeen are seeking the second price hike inside a year. They have put forward a raft of proposed increases, with tweaks to the pricing structure ranging from the mileage charge to increased waiting time and extra charges for passengers boarding a taxi at the main railway station. But even if increases are agreed by Aberdeen City Council, local taxi drivers could be facing harder times. The city council is also considering sweeping away the restriction on the number of taxis licenced to operate, leaving numbers to "market forces". The move comes because of concerns that the council could face legal action from drivers wanting to trade in the city - there are 200 applications on the waiting list for a licence. That could be good news for the travelling public but could mean slim pickings for a large number of current drivers.
Airlines Announces "New Year Sale"
The Flybe airline has responded to criticisms of the increases in fares on the railways, by promoting cheap tickets on domestic flights within the United Kingdom. Their advertisements are highlighting that "trains are becoming more overcrowded" and "eye watering rail fare rises greet returning commuters" with offers of fares from £24.99 from Exeter to Edinburgh and Glasgow with flights from other English cities as low as £21.99. The tickets are only available via Internet bookings. Flybe's announcement was followed by British Airways (BA) slashing its domestic fares by more than 40% - many flights between London and Edinburgh or Glasgow fell to £25. The regional operation is to be rebranded as CitiExpress.
Air Scotland Worst for Delays
A survey by the consumer magazine "Holiday Which?" reports that Air Scotland had the worst punctuality record of any carrier operating holiday flights from the UK to the most popular tourist destinations. The airline was recently bought over from the Greece-based company which launched the airline, but that led to even more delays. Last October, Air Scotland left more than 200 holidaymakers stranded at Glasgow and Edinburgh for more than 14 hours after flights to Malaga were delayed. Figures published by the Civil Aviation Authority show that last summer was the worst for delays to charter flights since 2001 - over 60% of all flights departed later than scheduled. Holidaymakers going to Disneyworld suffered the worst delays of all travellers from the UK, with average delays to Orlando and Sandford airports in Florida amounting to 46 minutes.
New Air Service Between Scotland and Poland
Air links between Scotland and Poland have been expanding recently. In October last year, Centralwings began its Edinburgh to Warsaw service. In December it was also announced there would be services to Gdansk and Katowice from March 27 and 28 respectively. In November, Ryanair launched its Prestwick to Kraków service and in December SkyEurope announced its intention to operate between Edinburgh and Kraków from April this year. This month, the low-cost Polish airline Wizz Air has announced it will operate Airbus A320s on a year-round service three times a week between Prestwick airport in Ayrshire and Gdansk, Katowice and Warsaw. The service is being assisted by finance from the Scottish Executive's Route Development Fund, which aims to expand direct air services to overseas destinations.
The illustration shows Prestwick airport with its "Pure Dead Brilliant" marketing slogan.
American Redhead on Vacation in Tiree
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has confirmed that a rare American redhead duck has been spotted enjoying a winter vacation on the island of Tiree, off the west coast of Scotland. It is the first time that a redhead duck has been recorded in Argyll and only the third time in Scotland. Photographs show that it is almost identical to another redhead seen on Barra in 2003 and 2004 - the first female redhead duck recorded in Western Europe. The redhead was first spotted on Tiree by the local RESPB officer. But birdwatchers believe that it actually be may be more familiar to Scottish shores than first suspected. It looks very similar to the much commoner and slightly smaller pochard, a duck often seen on lochs across Scotland in the winter, and non-experts would not be aware of the differences.
St Andrews Resort Plans Major Expansion
The St Andrews Bay five-star golf and spa resort has announced plans for a £20 million expansion. The managers want to convert a nearby derelict barn into additional accommodation and leisure facilities and also construct 37 time-share lodges. Locals in the area have expressed concerns about the size of the project, but the resort management have been at pains to highlight how little will actually be seen from the main road. The complex already houses a 217-bedroom hotel, spa, conference centre, two championship golf courses and a clubhouse. The resort claims that it is so successful that it is having to turn away guests. They estimate that the expansion would inject another £7 million into the local economy each year and extend the tourist season. Plans can be seen at St Andrews Bay Consultation and there is a page on St Andrews Bay in Rampant Scotland at Great Places to Stay - St Andrews Bay.
Oat Cuisine at Scotland's First Porridge Bar
Having given the world porridge, it was only right that what is described as the world's first porridge bar should find a permanent home in Edinburgh. Based on the style of an American mobile diner, Stoats Porridge Bar has had a number of trial runs at music festivals, shopping centres and markets across Scotland. This week it opened for business off Middle Meadow Walk. Porridge oats has seen a revival as a health food and the introduction of "instant" varieties helped to increase its popularity. The varieties on offer in the diner range from basic porridge to more indulgent versions with brown sugar, double cream, whisky, sultanas, pear and toasted almonds.
World Famous Aviemore Sled Dog Rally
Every year, mushers from throughout the UK gather in the forests around Aviemore for the biggest event in the British husky calendar, the Sled Dog Rally. Even if there is no snow, the event still takes place - using a three-wheeled rig that looks like a bike without a seat. The tradition, which is now almost a century old, now involves around 200 teams of dogs from all over the country. They will be straining at the leash on January 21 and 22. With competitors ranging in age from just eight to 60, there's something for all the family to see at this great spectator event, which has grown from just a dozen teams in 1984. Organised by the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain, the rally is run on tracks around Loch Morlich in the shadow of the Cairngorms. For more information, see Siberian Husky Club.
The illustration shows Loch Morlich and the Cairngorms.
Newly declassified papers from the 1980s, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that there was a flurry of activity as government officials debated the question of legal protection for the fabled Loch Ness Monster. The issue had arisen because the Swedish government had sought guidance on drafting legal protection for the Storsjo Monster, Sweden's equivalent of Nessie. A series of memos then passed between government departments - one stated, with typical civil servant language that "The protection of this putative denizen of the deep deserves protection". Another raised the question of protection of humans from Nessie, but concluded that "Past history indicates that Nessie's taste does not extend to homo sapiens." Unfortunately, Nessie could not be defined as a salmon (and so get the protection a Fisheries Protection Act) but eventually it was decided that the monster could be protected from poachers under the provisions of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside act which made it an offense to "snare, shoot, or blow up the Nessie with explosives." VisitScotland would have been delighted that officials were keen for the Swedes to come over and spend some time around Loch Ness where "there is a plentiful supply of the national beverage which will help them see her in the dark." Who says civil servants lack a sense of humour?
2005 Was Third Hottest on Record in Scotland
Data from the meteorological Office show that the last three years were the three hottest since records began in 1914. The temperature reached 8.1C in 2004 and 8.2C in 2003 with 2005 averaging 8.1C - down largely due to cloudy skies in the summer. The figures prompted World Wildlife Fund Scotland to call for tougher new curbs on carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases. Despite forecasts of cold spells for December 2005, temperatures were actually above the long-term average for the month.
Weather in Scotland This Week
The week started on the chilly side, although there was at least some sunshine on Sunday. But maximum temperatures struggled to reach 3/4C (33/39F) in most places. Warmer weather arrived over the next couple of days (reaching 11/12C or 52/54F on Tuesday), the sun failed to appear through the clouds on Monday and Tuesday anywhere in Scotland, apart from a brief few minutes recorded in Edinburgh. There was a fair amount of rain also on Tuesday and wednesday (Glasgow recorded nearly an inch of rain). Aberdeen did see over five hours of sunshine on Wednesday but the leaden skies returned on Thursday - only Kinloss on the Moray Firth recorded any sunshine.
Gales on Thursday caused disruption to ferry services in the north and west of Scotland. Many services to and from the Outer Hebrides were affected but even the Firth of Clyde services were affected - passengers from Gourock had to travel the long road by bus when the crossing to Dunoon was cancelled. The delays and cancellations continued on Friday. By Saturday, the clouds and high winds had departed - but the forecast is for another band of rain and cloud for Sunday.
The illustration shows the sun setting through the murk last Sunday at Hogganfield Loch, Glasgow.
This week's online photographs taken in Scotland to show the current season and its flora and fauna include a wintry Edinburgh Castle, swans, teal, viburnum, coots and a bluetit. See this week's Colour Supplement.