Losing a Billion Litres of Water Every Day
Even in Scotland, where there is a plentiful rainfall, we are all encouraged to conserve water. But it's Scottish Water, the government agency responsible for supplies to all the homes, offices and factories across the country, that squanders the largest amount. According to their own figures, the company loses over a billion litres of water every day through leaking pipes, making it the worst record of all the water providers in the UK (where all the water companies have become privatised - there may be a connection). It would be bad enough if water charges in Scotland were lower than in other parts of Britain - but they are the highest. Of course, the company inherited an aging system - the main supply pipes in most major cities were laid down in the 19th century and have not been replaced in many places as a result of chronic under-investment by previous governments. Scottish Water has now promised to spend £2.14 billion over the next four years in an effort to reduce the losses - which are higher than they were four years ago. The down side of that, however, will be even more road works in towns and cities as they replace the aged infrastructure. And the charges for water supply will have to cover that expenditure.
The illustration is of Loch Katrine - which supplies a large percentage of Glasgow's water.
Third Price Rise in Nine Months from Scottishpower
Glasgow-based Scottishpower recently announced a 47% increase in profits and senior executives are in line for a multi-million pound bonus. So there was an adverse reaction this week to the company's announcement that it was to increase natural gas prices to customers by 17% and electricity tariffs by 10% from 10 July - the third massive increase in nine months. Scottishpower increased its gas prices by 15% and electricity by 8% in March, and by 12% and 5%-8% last October. It is estimated that customers who get both their gas and electricity from Scottishpower will pay an average of £131 a year more from July as a result of the latest price increase. The company claims that around a million of its 5.2 million customers in Scotland and England will avoid the next rise as they have signed up for a capped price deal (which locks them into a fixed price for a number of years).
£1.6 Billion Clyde Gateway Partnership Launched
Up until now, most of the regeneration along the banks of the river Clyde in Glasgow has been concentrated on the area downstream of the city centre. Atlantic Quay - now expanded to become Glasgow's financial "Wall Street" and the media village and Science Centre at Pacific Quay have been dwarfed by the huge Glasgow Harbour project (a large, 120-acre, £500 million commercial, residential, retail, leisure and public space development on the banks of both the Clyde and the Kelvin). Now, a new 20-year regeneration programme has been launched - the Clyde Gateway partnership, involving £1.6 billion of public and private investment in the East End of the city. The project involves not just Glasgow but also South Lanarkshire. The project will create more than 10,000 new homes, provide more than 400,000 sq metres of employment space with 21,000 jobs and the restoration of 860 acres of derelict and contaminated land. The project will also help set up extra training courses to ensure the area’s workforce have the skills to exploit the new jobs opportunities. The new national sports arena will be part of this east end site. By 2026, the massive regeneration scheme will see a grand total of 2,000 acres of land transformed. The Clyde Gateway area stretches from Glasgow Green in the west to Cambuslang in the east and from London Road in the north to Toryglen/Shawfield in the south.
50 Bus Services Cut or Reduced
The Scottish Executive exhorts us to use public transport rather than private motor cars. But while many of the bus routes in Glasgow are well used and profitable at peak times, bus companies then find that there is just not a demand in the evenings, weekends and at night. Many of the companies just don't provide any service at those times - but cause gridlock at rush hours, with dozens of buses (many carrying only a few passengers because of over-provision at these times). Now First Bus, the largest in the city, has announced it is to axe or reduce another 50 services. They will no longer operate a night-time service on four nights of the week and many evening services will cease to operate or will have the terminus moved closer to the city centre - isolating many out-lying residential areas. Some of these are deprived, low-income areas, where access to motor cars is often non-existent. Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, the regional transport agency, has a limited budget to subsidise routes that are uneconomic, and their funds are already fully committed.
New Boom for North Sea Oil Exploration?
Despite the government's recent 10% hike in taxes on oil companies operating in British waters in the North Sea, applications for new UK oil and gas exploration and production licences are at their highest level for 30 years. The UK Energy Minister has reported there have been 147 applications by 121 companies in the latest round of licences. The North Sea oil industry is supposedly in decline, but the recent high price of oil has encouraged companies to look again at investment in the area. That will be good news for Aberdeen, Orkney and Shetland Islands and the north-east of Scotland generally, as they supply much of the support infrastructure.
Emergency Ambulance Calls Up 10%
In the good old days, emergency medical cover at night and at weekends was provided by your own doctor. That then changed so that calls were diverted to locums who would turn up at people's homes if necessary, to dispense emergency treatment - or call an ambulance if required. But in recent years, emergency out of hours cover has been switched to the controversial NHS 24 telephone helpline. That has sometimes been overwhelmed with calls and the advice given over the phone has not always proved to be of the best (though my personal experience of NHS 24 has been excellent). But since the system was introduced in April 2005, there have been 15,000 more calls received by the Scottish Ambulance Service as anxious patients have sought a more direct emergency medical service at accident and emergency units in hospitals.
You Can Trust a Scottish Voice
A survey on behalf of Glasgow's new "Wall Street on the Clyde" found that accents really do matter when it comes to financial phone calls. The survey showed that people would rather discuss money matters over the phone with an adviser with a Scottish accent than any other regional twang. More than 20% put Scots accents at the top of their list, with Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham all polling under 2%. Only the London accent (whatever that sounds like) came anywhere near Scots, polling 17%. With financial organisations placing increasing emphasis on call centre sales, it is little wonder that the number of staff employed in that sector in Scotland continues to grow.
Tay Salmon Anglers Have Best Spring Since 1980s
A preliminary survey of reports from Scotland's rivers shows that anglers on the river Tay and its tributaries have had their best salmon fishing for 20 years, with catches up by 10-50% on five-year averages. Some stretches are reporting that spring catches have increased 100%, while on others records have been broken. The sensors which count the salmon on the river Tummel at Pitlochry, where the salmon pass through a specially constructed fish ladder because of the dam for the hydro-electric power station, have recorded a 47% increase over the same period last year. Some very large salmon have been caught too, one on the river Teith was in excess of 40 pounds. However, preliminary reports on the rivers Tweed and Dee show that catches are down there.
American Tycoon Donated £500,000 to Kelvingrove Appeal
It has emerged that one of the major contributors to the appeal fund that raised £12.75 million to assist in the refurbishment of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow,was Donald Kahn, an American millionaire. Mr Kahn is a great admirer of the Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and he donated £500,000 towards the appeal. The upgrade to the museum includes a major expansion of the space allocated to Mackintosh and the Glasgow Style artists from the early 20th century. Mr Kahn has a low profile in Scotland - local entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, who donated £5 million to the Kelvingrove appeal, says that he knows little about the benefactor. But six years ago he gave the city council £130,000 to allow work to be completed on the renovation of Mackintosh material held in store. Mr Kahn was in Glasgow this week, to receive an honorary degree from Glasgow University (alongside Sir Tom Hunter and Glasgow's Lord Provost Liz Cameron). He was described by the university as a "generous philanthropist who has donated considerably to the arts".
Million Pound Refit for Science Centre
The Glasgow Science Centre at Pacific Quay on the south bank of the river Clyde welcomed over 420,000 visitors last year - despite the troublesome Glasgow Tower, which rises beside it, being closed for much of the year. Now work is underway to develop and expand the entrance and atrium of the attraction, to make it more visitor-friendly, with greater space for school visits and corporate events. The site's giant IMAX cinema has also proved hugely popular with families. During the Glasgow Fair weekend over Saturday and Sunday, July 15 and 16, the centre will be the focal point for up to 50,000 visitors to the Glasgow River Festival (see Entertainment section below).
Oor Wullie Sketch Fetches £950
When Marion Anderson went along to a Sunday school prize giving ceremony in Dundee in 1959, she took along her autograph book in the hope that she would be able to get the signature of the man presenting the awards - Dudley D Watkins, the creator of the world-famous cartoon character "Oor Wullie". She not only got his signature, but he kindly added a quick sketch of the iconic Oor Wullie. This week she sold the page at auction - and it realised £950 in just 26 seconds of bidding. Artwork such as this rarely comes up for sale - most of it is held by the publisher, D C Thomson. Watkins, joined the Dundee publisher in the 1920s, started drawing Oor Wullie in 1937, with the cartoon strip carrying his famous signature from 1946 onwards.
Springwatch TV Programme Boosts Visitors to Shetland
A three-week long BBC TV series on wildlife, which featured the birds and animals in the Shetland Isles, has increased the number of enquiries at the Shetland tourist office by 15%. Ornithologist and entertainer Bill Oddie hosted the programme in the south of England, but a naturalist and a TV crew were based at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve at Sumburgh Head. Each evening viewers were enthralled by the antics of puffins, oyster-catchers and other animals. Luckily, the programme largely coincided with a great spell of weather, which allowed the wild scenery to be seen to advantage. Anyone from the south-east of England who wants to travel to Shetland, can now fly direct from London Stansted airport to Sumburgh, on a new twice-weekly return air service by Atlantic Airways operating on Mondays and Fridays.
Air Scotland Rebranded
Although it provides holiday flights to and from Scotland and carries a Scottish flag and a thistle on its tail fins, the airline called Air Scotland is certainly not Scottish based or owned. The budget carrier has earned a bad reputation for delays and unreliability and now its current owners (Spanish company H-Top Hotels) has decided to rename the airline as topjetair - the use of lower case instead of capitals seems to be a modern computer-generated phenomenon. The new owners have pledged to improve the service and add new routes to the Canary Islands.
Maggie's Centre Gets Stamp of Approval
The Maggie's Centre in Dundee opened in 2003 to help support cancer sufferers and their families. The building was designed by architect Frank Gehry and its futuristic but practical layout has won it praise from the experts and the public alike. Now it has been featured on a set of stamps celebrating the best of the UK's modern architecture. The stamp was one of several issued by Royal Mail on Tuesday as part of National Architecture Week. The 42p stamp is the value used for postcards to Europe and will be used by many continental visitors to Scotland as they send their holiday postcards back home.
Dedicated Golf Course for Kids Tees Off
The Hermitage Family Golf Course, the UK's first purpose-built children's course, was officially opened this week in Edinburgh. The 12-hole course, ranging from 60 to 250 yards, was supported by a £200,000 sportscotland lottery award and is part of "clubgolf", the national junior golf strategy which is rolling out its programmes across Scotland. Already 129 clubs have signed up to deliver Stage 1 of the clubgolf strategy and more than 50 new facilities are being developed. The strategy has been produced as a direct result of the Scottish Executive's commitment to introduce every nine-year-old child in Scotland to the game by 2009. The aim of this new course is to introduce Scotland's young people to the game in a fun and exciting way. There is turn-up-and-play access, free club hire and no dress code. The first six holes at Hermitage are relatively wide open, with minimal problems for the children to develop their game. Once they know what they are doing, they can progress to a further six holes that are a bit more of test.
Veterans of to Join Aberdeen Freedom March
Veterans of the Gordon Highlanders, who participated in a march in Aberdeen in 1949, when the regiment was given the Freedom of the City, are to take part in the last march through the Granite City before the present Highlanders (itself a merger of Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons in 1994) merges into the new Royal Regiment of Scotland on 1 July. The Gordon Highlanders have had a long association with Aberdeen, so it was natural that a special parade would be organised for the veterans - known as the "Old and Bold".
Tartan of Switzerland
Both Scotland and Switzerland have lots of mountains and now the two countries have something else in common - tartan. The opening of the first Swiss general consulate in Scotland last month prompted the consul general to "go native" - and have a Swiss tartan designed and then approved. Naturally, the design incorporates the colours of the Swiss flag - it has red and white stripes representing the Swiss national colours. But also has blue checks from the background of the Scottish flag - symbolising the friendship between the two countries. So far, only the consul general has a kilt in the new tartan, made from a sample version woven by the Edinburgh Old Town Weaving Company - it remains to be seen how many other Swiss will place an order. As for what Swiss kilt-wearers will wear under their kilts, the diplomatic answer is "the same as if they were in Scotland."
Midsummer Night's Nightmare Weather
June 21st this year proved to be more than just the longest day in Scotland, as up to 4 inches of rain helped to keep this month on track as the wettest June since records began. High winds added to the problems, closing the Forth and Tay road bridges to high-sided vehicles. Winds gusted to over 50mph in Glasgow and a major road in the city was blocked when a tree was brought down in Prospecthill Road in Langside. Driving conditions were hazardous on the motorways too, especially the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh and the M77 to Ayrshire.
Weather in Scotland This Week
In addition to the rain and high winds on Wednesday, described in the preceding paragraph, there was a lot of cloud and showers on many of the other days this week as several weather fronts passed over. By and large, temperatures were around the normal for June, ranging mainly around 17C (63F). That rain and high winds on Wednesday also brought lower temperatures - 13/14C (55/57F) in many places.
This Week's Colour Supplement
This week's online photographs taken in Scotland to show the current season and its flora and fauna include a Cygnet riding on a Swan's back, Cistus and Abutilon flowers, Aberdour Castle, Common Blue Damselfly, a Rose and Inchcolm island in the Firth of Forth.
See this week's Colour Supplement