Europe's Largest Wind Farm Approved
Proposals to build the largest single onshore windfarm in Europe were given the green light today by the Scottish Executive. Situated at Whitelee, south of Glasgow, the ScottishPower project is claimed to be capable of generating some 322 megawatts (MW) of electricity (when the wind is blowing). It is estimated that the Whitelee facility will save some 650,000 tonnes of CO2 each year and will help to achieve the Scottish Executive target of 18% of electricity generated in Scotland to come from renewable sources by 2010, and 40% by 2020. Scotland is on target to surpass the 2010 target and the Whitelee developments equates to over 5% of the capacity needed to hit the 2020 target. The £300 million project was held up because of air traffic control issues at Glasgow airport, but a new radar facility has overcome these problems.There will eventually be 140 turbines on moorland to the west of the conservation village of Eaglesham.
There are currently 125 wind farms in the UK. A further 24 wind farms are under construction and 77 projects, including Whitelee, have planning consent. While the Scottish Executive is keen to promote these developments, there are usually loud protests from those who see them as a blight on the landscape, producing expensive electricity, subsidised by the taxpayers. The current controversy over the plan for new giant electricity pylons running across the Highlands arises because of the need to upgrade the existing system, so that power generated in remote areas can be fed into the national grid.
Scotland's Population Rises for Third Consecutive Year
Despite earlier gloomy predictions of the decline in Scotland's population, the number of people living here has increased for the third consecutive year, according to the latest data from the Registrar General. There have been fewer deaths and more births, but the greatest impact on the figures has been a net inward migration of over 19,000 - the second highest figure for Scotland to date, though 7,000 below the previous record year. Although 45,000 Scots moved to other parts of the UK, 57,500 migrated to Scotland from England, Wales and Northern Ireland - a net gain of 12,500. And there was a net gain of 7,300 people from overseas. The latest estimates show that Scotland's population has risen to 5,094,800. Compared with the previous year there, were almost 700 more births and over 1,000 fewer deaths. Despite this, deaths exceeded the number of births by about 2,300. Average population density is 65 persons per square kilometre in Scotland and ranges from 8 persons per square kilometre in Highland Council area, to 3,298 persons per square kilometre in Glasgow City Council area.
Record Number of Rail Passengers
Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT) rail services reached an annual total of 49.6 million journeys in the twelve months to the end of February, the highest figure ever recorded. The network, operated on behalf of SPT by ScotRail First, covers suburban services in and around Glasgow, along each side of the Clyde estuary to Helensburgh and Greenock, and south to Paisley, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire. The growth in passengers has been helped by the new rolling stock and by trains becoming more punctual. But the SPT picture is not all one of success. They also operate the Glasgow Underground train service, where passenger numbers have been falling by 300,000 in each of the last three years. The last major upgrade to the subway was completed in 1979 and the service has been disrupted on a number of occasions by industrial action by staff.
Squinty Bridge Gets Last Girder
The final girder was slotted into place last weekend, as part of the construction of the newest road bridge across the Clyde since the Kingston Bridge in 1969. It's diagonal span across the river has prompted the nickname of the "Squinty Bridge" although its official title will be the Finnieston Bridge. It will provide two additional lanes in each direction across the river when it opens in three months time. Two of the lanes will be restricted to buses and taxis and it will provide improved access to Pacific Quay, where the headquarters of BBC Scotland and Scottish Television will provide the focus for a media "village".
"Sparkling" Growth in Manufacturing
We are so used to reports of the declining manufacturing base in Scotland and reductions in manufactured exports, that there must have been a lot of double-checking before the latest CBI Scotland Industrial Trends survey was published this week. Despite soaring fuel costs, manufacturing companies were reporting the steepest rise in total new orders since 1974, with 44% of companies reporting an increase. The volume of domestic orders and export orders in the latest quarter were also growing faster than the UK as a whole. And employment in manufacturing moved upwards at the fastest level for 18 years. The figures were even more surprising because companies had predicted three months ago that there would be a downturn. CBI Scotland could offer no explanation for the good figures. Official government figures showed that the Scottish economy grew by 1.8% in 2005, matching the expansion in the UK as a whole. Of course, 1.8% was not exactly a sparkling performance for the UK economy. But economists are pointing to the slight rise in population, as a result of immigration, which should have a positive effect on consumption and wealth generation.
£20 Million Visitor Attraction for Loch Leven
As if Loch Leven Castle (from which Mary Queen of Scots escaped imprisonment), lovely Kinross House and Garden, Burleigh Castle, a cashmere wool centre and the wildlife centre and bird sanctuary at Vane Farm was not enough to bring in the tourists, a project has been making progress to create a £20 million visitor attraction, with a huge glass tower, overlooking the loch. The "Leventor - Regeneration of Kinross" project submitted their plans to the Big Lottery Living Landmarks fund and has been accepted for an in depth "Stage 2" investigation. Of course, there is fierce competition for such funding, but it is believed that the creation of a top visitor attraction would not only create jobs but also improve the local infrastructure and significantly boost the economy. Despite its attractions, Kinross has become a bit of a backwater as a result of the construction of the M90 motorway, which passes the town to the west.
French Kiss for Glasgow
A "Glasgow Kiss" is a euphemism for a head butt, but it was French kisses all round this week when Lord Provost of Glasgow Liz Cameron and Marseilles Mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin toasted an agreement to forge formal links between the two cities. The aim is to exchange ideas in education, urban and riverside regeneration, business exchanges and the arts. The Lord Provost commented that Glasgow had a lot to learn from the French and equally they had a lot to learn from Scotland's largest city. During their visit to Glasgow this week, the French delegation met with Glasgow University principal Sir Muir Russell and the Scottish Executive head of higher education.
Fair City to Host Britain in Bloom Awards
The Fair City of Perth is no stranger to the "Britain in Bloom" awards - it is a leading contender every year. Britain in Bloom, organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, is the largest horticultural campaign and competition in Europe. The finalists represent villages, towns and cities from 18 regions across the UK and are awarded a Britain in Bloom Quality Award of either gold, silver gilt, silver or bronze. This year the ceremony, at which the winners are announced, is to be held in Perth Concert Hall. This year the theme has been biodiversity and entrants have been encouraged to use a healthy balance of planting styles to provide food sources and habitats for wildlife - as well as looking attractive.
Demolishing Homes that Survived the Blitz
Nearly 400 houses in Clydebank that survived the 1941 blitz by the German air force, are now to be demolished to make way for new homes. The old properties had problems of dampness and sagging floors and as 75% were one-bedroom properties, they were unsuitable for today's families. They were built during and after the First World War, to house workers at the William Beardmore shipyard. The new properties will be a mix of sizes with all the expected modern features.
Monument to Scottish Novelist
Last Saturday a crowd gathered at Makar's Court, outside the Writer's Museum in Lady Stair's Close in Edinburgh. They were to honour the acclaimed novelist Dorothy Dunnett, with the unveiling of an inscribed flagstone. Dorothy Dunnett, who died in 2001, was described as "the greatest living writer of historical fiction" by the Washington Post and last year her book "Game of Kings" came second in a competition to find the "100 Best Scottish Books of all Time". The commemorative stone bears Dorothy Dunnett's name, coat of arms and a short quotation from her novel "Checkmate" - the last of the famous Lymond Chronicles: "Where are the links of the chain joining us to the past?" The stone lies beside those commemorating Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and many other Scottish literary giants. The picture shows the Edinburgh Lord Provost Leslie Hinds, after the event.
Scottish Hotel of the Year
The annual Scottish Hotels of the Year Awards, announced last Sunday at a ceremony in the Radisson SAS hotel in Glasgow, gave the top award to the Summer Isles hotel in Achiltibuie, Ross Shire. Every section of the hotels industry are covered and other winners included Inverlochy Castle (Luxury Hotel of the Year), St Andrews Bay, Golf Resort and Spa (Golf Resort of the Year), Glenapp Castle (Castle Hotel of the Year) and Peebles Hotel Hydro (Family Hotel of the Year). Hotel Chef of the Year was awarded to Kevin MacGillivray at Ballathie House Hotel, Perthshire.
Scottish Natural Heritage HQ Wins Design Award
The new Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) HQ, which is nearing completion in Inverness, has been awarded the highest design and procurement rating yet in the UK for environmental friendly buildings. SNH aimed to lead by example and was trying to achieve a high rating under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM), the construction industry benchmark for environmental buildings. But it achieved the highest rating ever, not just by having its library roof carpeted in grass but by providing rehousing for bats found in the former nurses' home that was demolished to make way for the new SNH building. The building also has showers to encourage staff to cycle to work and the building's atrium will be available for special events in Inverness, including participation in the 2007 Scottish Year of Highland Culture.
Scottish Doctor's £300,000 Salary Hoax
The majority of voters were not averse to additional taxes being paid in order to increase spending in the National Health Service (NHS). However, they had expected to see an improvement in the quality of service and that is sometimes hard to identify. A great deal of the extra cash has gone to increasing the salaries of those working in the NHS and there has been recent publicity given to General Practitioners (GPs) earning salaries of over £250,000. In some parts of the world, that might not be seen as excessive, but in the UK that's over ten times the earnings of the average employee. In Scotland, the Scottish Executive were quick to say that nobody here earned that much. Then there were newspaper reports that the only doctor for the islands of Barra and Vatersay (that's the island shown in the picture) was earning £300,000, making him the highest paid GP in the UK. There were reasons, such as him doing the work of two doctors due to a vacancy, being on-call at night and the amount covering expenses of the practice. But the amount did seem extraordinary, especially as he only had around 1,300 patients. It has now transpired that the source of the claim was a posting on a doctors' internet forum as an April Fool joke, which had not been written by the doctor himself. However, it is being reported that although the local health board has refused to confirm how much the practice is paid in total, it has told reporters that it "would not be far off the £300,000 figure." The doctor is now advertising for a partner to join him in the "well paid practice."
Picture of Vatersay courtesy of PhotoNet.
Top Places for a Cuppa
Although consumption of coffee has increased tremendously over the last few decades, there is still a love affair between the British public and a "cuppa" - a cup of tea. So when the UK Tea Council's Top Tea Place Awards for 2006 were announced, lots of folk took note. In Scotland, Awards of Excellence were made to the Willow Tea Rooms in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, which was designed in 1904 by the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Other winners were Abbey Cottage Tea Rooms in Dumfries and Kind Kyttock's Kitchen in Fife.
Dunvegan Castle's Lottery Bid Rejected
A submission for a £25 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to help to repair the leaking roof and develop the visitor facilities at Dunvegan Castle in Skye, has been turned down. The castle has been the home of the chief of the Clan MacLeod for 800 years. He caused an outcry six years ago when he proposed selling off the Black Cuillin mountains to provide the cash for the castle restoration. Negotiations to obtain funding from other sources such as the National Lottery, in return for the clan chief gifting the mountain range to the nation, have been ongoing for some years. In the meantime, the castle - a major tourist attraction on Skye - continues to deteriorate.
Secrets of Malt Whisky Revealed?
A researcher from St Andrews University claims that he has identified "12 cardinal flavours" which can be used a guide to the taste and styles of malt whiskies. So all we need is to pick out the sensory flavours - body, sweetness, smoky, medicinal, tobacco, honey, spicy, winey, nutty, malty, fruity, floral. Easy... Dr David Wishart had the enviable task of surveying 94 Scottish distilleries and their main malt whiskies in researching his guide. Dr Wishart, a chartered statistician, became interested in whiskies after his father introduced him to cask-strength Laphroaig.
Loch Lomond Shores Struggling?
The closure of another shop (a book shop this time) in the Loch Lomond Shores retail development has highlighted again the problems facing the attraction. It is estimated that over 7 million people visit Loch Lomond every year, driving up the loch to admire the stunning beauty of the scenery. Loch Lomond Shores, a magnificent state-of-the-art purpose-built visitor centre, with a string of up-market shops, was aimed at encouraging more of those tourists to stop at the southern end of the loch at Balloch - and part with some of their cash. But the units were slow to be occupied and a Spanish-themed restaurant, with views up the loch, has closed, citing high rents and dwindling visitor numbers. Drumkinnon Tower, which featured two restaurants and an Imax cinema, struggled to cover its costs but visitor numbers dropped again when they introduced an entrance charge. Now it is being redeveloped to create a controversial under-water aquarium which opens in July.
Time Lord Aids Church
David Tennant, who plays the latest incarnation of the Time Lord Dr Who, in the popular BBC TV sci-fi series, has made a timely contribution to the church where his father used to be minister. The Bathgate-born actor and co-star Billie Piper have signed a copy of the first episode of the new series and donated it to St Andrew's and St George's Church in George Street to raise funds for Christian Aid. David's father, the Very Reverend Dr Sandy McDonald (Tennant is David's stage name) is a former Kirk Moderator who served as minister at the church for six months in 2003. The church is now consulting Dr Who memorabilia experts, before setting a sale price. David Tennant is not the first artist to make a contribution to the annual sale at the church, which regularly raises large sums for charity. More than 50 Scots authors, including the late Muriel Spark, have sent copies of their work for the charity book sale. The event, which has been running for 32 years, is now the UK's biggest single fundraising event for Christian Aid. It will open on Saturday, May 13 and then run from May 15 to 19.
What Bars Really Smell Like
It seems that the smell of cigarettes in bars before the ban on smoking was introduced last month had a positive effect - it drowned out the unpleasant smells of sweat, strong perfumes, smelly toilets and stale air. Now that the tobacco smoke has gone, pubs are having to not only provide receptacles for cigarette butts on outside walls, but are having to install extra ventilation and air fresheners. About 75% of bars, responding to a straw poll across Scotland, said that they had experienced ventilation problems since the ban on smoking was introduced.
Weather in Scotland This Week
It seemed as though spring had eventually arrived in Scotland this week as temperatures rose to a more comfortable 15/16C (59/61F). Admittedly, a chilly north wind in the middle of the week made it feel cooler than the statistics suggested but by Friday even that factor had gone. There was a lot of sunshine around this week, too, with most places recording around 8 hours or more of sun on Sunday. Glasgow basked in 11 hours of warm sunshine on Friday and Edinburgh wasn't far behind. Saturday was another warm sunny day, but the forecast is for cloud and eventually rain to come in by Monday.
This Week's Colour Supplement
This week's online photographs taken in Scotland to show the current season and its flora and fauna include Bellisle golf course in Ayr, Roe Deer, Magnolia blossoms, Dean Castle, a Ladybird and Cherry Blossom.
See This Week's Colour Supplement.