Refurbished Kelvingrove "Pure Deid Brilliant"
Nearly 55,000 people visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in the first three days after re-opening on Tuesday, following its £28 million refurbishment. Over the weekend and with a local holiday in Glasgow next Monday, it is expected that over 100,000 people will pass through its doors in the first week. By comparison, the Museum (the most popular outside of London) normally attracts in the region of 120,000 visitors in the month of July and just over a million in a year. It now boasts a third more floor space, a new restaurant, as well as shops and state-of-the-art conference facilities. With so much more to see and presented in a more modern environment, there is no doubt that many of those who called in during the first week will be back again and again - that includes the editor of this newsletter, who was most impressed. Admittedly, the large number of people milling around creates a "buzz" that was missing before, but the whole environment has an excitement and interest - and a lot of fun too. The Battle of Britain Spitfire hanging from the roof of one of the halls seems to be sweeping down over the crowds below - while the multitude of heads floating in another hall grin, scowl and grimace with gay abandon. Oh, and then there's the six additional public galleries, a 35% increase in public space and a 100% increase in the number of objects on display. And if you get footsore going round all that, there is a new restaurant which looks out over the lofty spires of Glasgow University. Many of those who have been fortunate to call in this week will have no doubt used that well-worn Glaswegian term of approval "Pure Deid Brilliant".
Renewable Energy Gets Powered Up
The Scottish Executive has announced new standards for housing and other developments which would require them to generate at least 10% of their energy requirements on site, from renewable sources such as solar panels, biomass, ground-source heat pumps and small wind turbines. The plan is aimed at big developments such as schools, hospitals, council buildings and factories, but it will also affect large housing developments, particularly council and housing association projects. The scheme is likely to be made compulsory and builders will not get planning permission unless they include micro-renewable energy production. This will lead to some uncertainty, as builders have to include the cost of these systems in their projects. It is not clear yet whether there will by funding provided by the Scottish Executive (ie, taxpayers) to subsidise the schemes. The Scottish Executive has a target of generating 20% of Scotland's energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020.
Over £100 Million Uncollected Local Taxes
Local government in Scotland always complains that it does not have enough cash to meet the demands placed on them and recent requirements to implement equal pay for male and female workers doing the same job have made their finances even more stretched. But although the Scottish Executive this week applauded Scottish councils for increasing the percentage of local tax actually collected (up 0.6% to an average collection rate of 93.3%), that still leaves 6.7% uncollected, amounting to £119 million each year. Of course, the average figure hides a wide variation amongst local Councils. Glasgow has the poorest record, only managing to gather in 86.1% of the tax in Scotland's largest city, the only local authority unable to collect over 90%. Glasgow has been at the foot of that league table for the last five years. And to make the books balance, Councils have to increase the rate of tax for all the others who pay up. If Scottish local government could match the same percentages as the average collected in England and Wales, it would cut bills for local taxpayers in Scotland by £75 a year.
The picture is of the City Chambers in Glasgow, at night.
Economic Confidence in Scotland Improves
The Lloyds TSB Scotland Business Monitor for the three months ending May 2006, published this week, shows that there are far more companies reporting an increase in income than in the preceding quarter and that nearly half of all businesses in the survey expect turnover to continue to increase in the next three months. Donald MacRae, chief economist at Lloyds TSB Scotland, commented that "growth prospects in the economies of Scotland's main markets in the Eurozone have strengthened creating increased demand for Scottish exports and a continuing platform for recovery in Scotland's manufacturing sector." Relatively low interest and inflation rates coupled with low levels of unemployment continue to maintain Scottish consumer confidence. A major problem for many firms is the availability of staff, with recruitment demands at their highest levels since the bank's monitor began almost nine years ago.
New Arena Helps Commonwealth Games Bid
Full planning permission was granted this week for the planned development of a 12,500-seat arena, costing £62 million, to be built beside the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow. It has been designed by the world famous architects Foster and Partners, who were also responsible for the neighbouring Clyde Auditorium, locally known as the Armadillo because of its shape. The new facility is a further boost for Glasgow's bid to host the Commonwealth games in 2012. The games bid proposes that the entire SECC site on the River Clyde would be used for events including boxing, netball and weightlifting. The new arena would stage the gymnastics and netball finals. The main venue in 2012 would be the new National Indoor Sports Arena in Dalmarnock and the adjacent National Velodrome, both of which have secured Scottish Executive funding. They will be built regardless of whether or not Glasgow wins the games and are scheduled to open in 2010. A decision on which country will host the 2012 Games will not be made until November 2007.
The illustration shows an architect's impression of the new arena, standing beside the "Armadillo".
Glider Pilot Survives Braemar Mountain Crash
The 64-year-old pilot of a glider who survived a smash into a mountain near Braemar, was not found until 24 hours after the crash. A full-scale search and rescue operation had been mounted after he failed to arrive at his intended destination during a triangular flight in the Highlands. John Russell is an experienced glider pilot instructor, but he crashed into Beinn a'Bhuird - a mountain littered with aircraft wreckage from past crashes. He was eventually spotted by a Tornado jet from Lossiemouth using hi-tech thermal imaging equipment. A rescue helicopter landed nearby but the pilot was trapped in the glider and firemen had to be flown in with cutting equipment. Mr Russell was taken to hospital, suffering from a broken leg. He said afterwards that he was still keen to carry on flying gliders. But there have been calls for such aircraft to carry homing beacons to make rescue work after a crash much easier.
Number of Teenage Smokers Reducing
A report by NCH Scotland, a charity which aims to help children, says that the percentage of Scots teenagers who are smoking has fallen in the last ten years. The percentage of 15-year-old boys who smoke has plummeted from 30% to 15% since 1996, but the fall amongst girls at the same age is only from 30% to 24%. FactFile 2006-07, a report card on Scotland's children, highlights improvements in smoking but highlights that 20% of Scottish children are overweight and 40% of girls do not take enough exercise to meet basic health guidelines.
Balmoral Concert Raises £100,000 for Charity
A concert organised at Balmoral Castle on 30 June in Aberdeenshire, as part of the Queen's 80th birthday celebrations, has raised £100,000 for the Anthony Nolan Trust, a charity which provides lifesaving donors for patients in need of a bone marrow transplant. About 5,000 people attended the show entitled "A Truly Scottish Evening" with many Scots artists and personalities taking part. It is hoped to organise another similar event next year.
Pulling the Plug on Royal Museum Fish Ponds?
When details of the £46 million project to revamp the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh were announced this week, it was not the marvellous new facilities being planned that caught the headlines. Instead, it was the removal of the shallow fish ponds in the main entrance hall which brought howls of protest from some members of the public. The architects say that removing them will create more floor space for exhibits and corporate functions. And anyway, they are very shallow and are not a good environment for the fish. But goldfish have been swimming there since 1974 and are a popular feature of the vast entrance hall. The project (which is dependant on obtaining a £16 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund) will take three years to complete and most of the Royal Museum will be closed during that time. The excellent Museum of Scotland next door, which opened in 1998, will remain in operation.
Supermarket Opens Largest Scottish Store
Tesco, the largest British retailer, both by global sales and by domestic market share, and the fourth largest retailer in the world, opened its largest outlet in Scotland this week at the giant Silverburn development in Pollok, on the south side of Glasgow. The supermarket giant has taken on 500 new employees in addition to those who were employed in the previous store at Pollok, which has been demolished. Silverburn is a £350 million retail park of a million square feet which will include other major retailers such as Marks and Spencer, Next, and Debenhams.
£100 Million Upgrade for St Enoch Centre
In the same week as the new Silverburn retail complex opened in Pollok (see previous item), the owners of the St Enoch Centre in the centre of Glasgow announced their £100 million expansion plans to grow to 1.3 million square feet, making it the biggest retail centre in Glasgow - 100,000 square feet larger than Buchanan Galleries and 300,000 square feet bigger than Braehead. The development would mean the demolition of a building at the corner of Argyle Street and St Enoch Square, creating an eye-catching new entrance. St Enoch Centre (built on the site of a former railway station) opened in 1989 and currently has 90 retailers and attracts 20 million shoppers every year. It has the largest food court in Scotland with seating for up to 850 people. It was bought over last year by The Mills Corporation of America, which owns shopping malls and leisure centres worldwide, and Canadian property developer Ivanhoe Cambridge.
More Scots Fly to US
In the month of June, over 76,000 people flew between the United States and Glasgow and Edinburgh airports, a 36% increase on last year. New services from Edinburgh to Atlanta and from Glasgow to Orlando have boosted numbers and the British Airports Authority hopes to announce further transatlantic expansion in the months ahead. Currently, New York is the most popular destination, followed by Orlando in Florida. After the US, Dubai and Hurghada in Egypt were the fastest-growing long-haul routes. Almost two million passengers used Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports in June, an increase of 2.9% on the previous year. Glasgow Airport was the busiest, with 891,093 passengers, compared with Edinburgh's 817,342. Aberdeen remained the fastest growing of the three, with travellers up 11% on the previous year to 286,302.
Dying Swan Benefits Clydeside
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the troubled shipyard of Swan Hunter on Tyneside in the north of England has lost the work to complete the fitting out of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Lyme Bay and it is to be transferred to the BAE yard at Govan on the river Clyde. The contract was to have cost £176 million, but that has risen to £309 million and is well behind schedule. The Govan yard launched a sister ship, Mounts Bay (illustrated here), in 2004 and delivered it to the Royal Navy last December - despite a two-foot gash on the stern of the £60 million ship when it hit the opposite bank when it was launched! BAE say that the work will not mean any new jobs for the Clyde yard. But the loss of the contract may mean that Swan Hunter will in future become a ship breaking yard rather than a construction unit. That will help Clydeside as the Tyneside company has long been a rival for Ministry of Defence work.
Ben Nevis No Longer Britain's Highest Mountain?
All of us who thought that Britain's highest peak was Ben Nevis (4,409 feet) near Fort William on the west coast of Scotland blinked at the news item this week that suggested that it had lost its title. But any climbers thinking of scaling Rosemary Bank (6,200 feet) would need to be wearing diving gear rather than climbing boots as it is 1,000 feet below sea level, in Scottish territorial waters in the Rockall Trench, north-west of the island of Lewis. In such situations, climbers would have to decide whether to just land on the top and plant a flag - or work their way up from the foot. The "seamount" is an extinct volcano created 56 million years ago and is one of string of such peaks off the west coast.
Ospreys Flying to Spain - Courtesy of British Airways
Five osprey chicks have been taken from locations across Scotland and are being flown out to Spain by British Airways as part of a re-introduction project. They will be released at a water reservoir near Cadiz and will be joined by ospreys from Finland and Germany. As in Scotland, ospreys were persecuted to extinction in much of southern Europe during the first part of the 20th Century. In 1954, Scandinavian birds re-colonised naturally in Scotland and a pair has nested successfully almost every year since 1959, with numbers increasing since then. The Osprey Centre at Loch Garten has become one of the most famous conservation sites in the world and attracts many visitors each year.
Graphic courtesy of NASA.
Scots Driver Loses Race With Harrier
Dumfries racing driver Allan McNish, a former winner of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, lost recently in the most unusual competition of his career. He was driving the latest Audi R10, but he was competing against an RAF Harrier GR7 "jump jet" at an air base in England. Both machines raced from a standing start - and initially the sports car took the lead (the Harrier had to get airborne first, after all) but by the end of the one kilometre distance, the jet had overtaken the Scots driver - but only beat him by one tenth of a second. Although it was meant to be a "fun" race, both the racing driver and the pilot took it seriously. No doubt the event was also designed to gain publicity for Audi's latest sports car - earlier this year it was the first diesel to win the 24 Hours race at Le Mans.
You'll Have Had Your Mince?
Mince and tatties (finely ground beef with boiled potatoes) have been a staple of Scottish diet for generations. But Eurocrats, who have targeted the curvature of bananas and cucumbers in their red tape, are now suggesting that mince can only be made from beef within six days of it being slaughtered. In Scotland, much of the flavour comes from it being hung in chilled cabinets for up to three weeks, allowing it to mature and get rid of some of its enzymes. Food experts here argue that so long as it is kept chilled and then cooked, there is no problem. But the rules may have been brought forward because in France the mince is eaten raw (takes all sorts to eat raw mince and snails). Scottish butchers are to fight to defeat the proposals.
Weather in Scotland This Week
The early part of the week was unsettled, with a fair amount of cloud, rain and average temperatures for the time of year - largely around 17/19C (63/66F), although a stiff breeze often made it feel cooler than that. A torrential downpour in the north-east on Sunday resulted in flash flooding in parts of Aberdeenshire. By the end of the week, temperatures began to rise as the clouds departed and summer sunshine took hold. Edinburgh and Glasgow reached 22C (72F) on Friday and 24C (75F) on Saturday as most of the country enjoyed clear skies and lots of sunshine. The outlook is for more sun and perhaps even higher temperatures.
The illustration is part of a tall Delphinium in the gardens at Falkland Palace in Fife.
This Week's Colour Supplement
This week's online photographs taken in Scotland to show the current season and its flora and fauna include Godetia, Eryngium and Sweet William flowers, a Green-veined White Butterfly, Falkland Palace (small image seen here), a Heron and windsurfing on Castle Semple Loch. See this week's Colour Supplement.