Migrants Continue to Increase Scotland's Population
The latest annual review by the Registrar General shows that Scotland's population increased by 16,400 to 5,094,800 last year. There had been a steady decline from the early 1970s, but in recent years that trend has been reversed. Last year, the increase was partly because of a slight increase in the number of births and fewer deaths, but the main driver has been because in-migrants exceeded out-migrants by 19,800. That migration gain was lower than in 2004, but was still the second highest since current records began in the early 1950s. The number of people coming to live in Scotland from the rest of the UK exceeded the number moving in the opposite direction by 12,500 - and net migration from the rest of the world totalled 7,300. For the second year running, in-migrants from the rest of the UK exceeded out-migrants in every age group. Additionally, the report also compares the causes of death since 1855 and shows that deaths from TB and other infectious diseases that year amounted to just over 10,000; in 2005, the figure was 49. There has been a big decrease in the number of men dying from lung cancer, but the female death rate from that cause is rising slightly. And the Registrar comments that the increased death toll from alcohol-related diseases is extremely worrying. In the 1860s a man was expected to live until 40 and women to 44. Today, life expectancy is 74 for men and 79 for women. Of the 30,881 marriages in Scotland in 2005, 25% were "tourist weddings" where neither the bride nor the groom was resident in Scotland. Nearly half of these "tourist weddings" took place at Gretna. Scotland’s population is projected to rise to 5.13 million in 2019 before falling below five million in 2036, reaching 4.86 million by 2044. But these predictions have had to be amended quite a bit in recent years, as a result of the new trends in immigration, and will no doubt change again.
Protests at Prestwick in Transit at Prestwick Airport
It wasn't just peace campaigners who protested about the use of Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire by US military aircraft to refuel while on their way to Israel with bombs and other weapons. The UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and the Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander also objected to the hazardous material at a civilian airport - especially as the cargo was not identified in advance and the correct procedures had not been followed. However, the UK Defence Secretary stepped into the controversy and offered the use of RAF air bases instead, after Tony Blair's Cabinet had what was described as a "heated discussion". The flights via Prestwick had apparently arisen because the Irish government had refused to allow the flights to land at their airports to refuel.
Scottish Annual Household Survey
The results were published this week of a Scottish Executive survey based on interviews carried out with 15,395 households throughout Scotland in 2005. The aim is to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the characteristics, composition and behaviour of households in Scotland. Some of the main findings include:
- 32% of households have only one adult, 35% have two adults and only 5% have five or more people living in the household.
- 27% of households contain children under the age of 16.
- Owner occupation now accounts for 65% of households, with 28% owning their property outright, without any mortgage.
- 68% of households have access to at least one motor vehicle.
- 63% of adult commuters travel to their place of work or education in a car or a van (as a driver or passenger), 15% walk, 14% travel by bus, 2% cycle and 4% travel by rail
- 48% of households have Internet access (up from 26% in 2001).
- 26% of adults smoke cigarettes (down from 30% in 1999).
Interest Rates Rise
The Monetary Policy of the Bank of England surprised at least some financial analysts this week by raising UK base lending by 0.25% to 4.75%. While that will be good news for savers (when the banks eventually respond and raise interest rates on deposits) but will be bad news for borrowers (when the banks immediately raise overdraft rates and swiftly increase mortgage lending rates). The Bank of England says that inflation is currently 2.5% and has been above the government's 2% target for some time. It believes that pressure from soaring energy prices may ease, but that is more likely in the medium term. The pace of UK economic activity has quickened slightly in the past few months, household spending has recovered from a dip after last Christmas and business investment intentions have also picked up. The impact on mortgages will be felt less in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK - the average mortgage borrowing here is around £48,000, compared with a UK average of over £80,000.
Fire Alarm at Edinburgh Airport
When the fire alarm sounded out at Edinburgh airport at 8.15am on Tuesday, 300 passengers had to be evacuated - including the Heart of Midlothian football team, on their way to Bosnia for the second leg of their Champions League match. They were allowed back into the terminal after 45 minutes, however, when it was established that dust from a building site near the terminal had set off the alarm. But the disruption meant that around 20 flights were delayed and incoming services from New York, Kirkwall and Bristol were not able to taxi in to the stands for over 30 minutes. The building work is to construct five additional boarding gates adjacent to the domestic departure lounge.
Encouraging Glaswegians to Attend Edinburgh Festival
These days, Edinburgh and Glasgow are being encouraged to put aside the hundreds of years of rivalry and to co-operate with one another, for their mutual benefit. So the days of Edinburghers complaining that Glaswegians didn't support their annual arts extravaganza and Glaswegians complaining about the lavish amount of money spent on a high art festival 40 miles away are over - aren't they? Even First Scotrail is doing their bit to help. Normally the last train service between Scotland's two largest cities is 11.30pm (try not to laugh - although it is hard, I know). But during the Edinburgh Festival, the rail company is increasing the number of services and putting on an extra service at midnight and at weekends there will be another train at 00.31 leaving Edinburgh for Glasgow. If the extra trains don't convince many Glaswegians to travel to the Capital, then the mountain must move instead - 18 Fringe performances are being staged at the Oran Mor in Glasgow's west end for the first time. The "Best of the Fest in the West" begins on Monday 7 August and runs until Saturday 26 August.
Iconic Rogano Restaurant Sold
The Rogano, an iconic Art Deco seafood restaurant in the centre of Glasgow, has been sold to a local entrepreneur whose company already owns two neighbouring venues. The restaurant, in Royal Exchange Square, was put on the market earlier this year at "offers over £6 million." When the Cunard liner "Queen Mary" was being fitted out on the Clyde in the mid-1930s, with its Art Deco styling, the Rogano restaurant was being decorated in the same style, which has been largely retained. Specialising in seafood (what else could it do, with that enormous lobster on the frontage?) salmon, langoustines, scallops, halibut and oysters are usually on the menu. Over the years, it has become a Glasgow institution.
£190 million Shopping Mall for Aberdeen Station
A major project to create a shopping mall and retail park on a 22 acre site adjacent to Aberdeen's main railway station at Union Square has been given the green light. Although Aberdeen is already the number one shopping area for the North-east, it has faced competition from other shopping destinations further afield. The project has had a number of "false starts" but now the developers have finalised their plans and approved the initial capital expenditure. The plans include retail units, a "retail terrace", leisure and catering units, a multiplex cinema, car parking and a new civic square.
Balado Golf Ball for Sale
it's not often that the Ministry of Defence puts a golf ball up for sale, but as far as locals in Balado near Kinross are concerned, that is what the MoD announced this week. The "golf ball" in question is actually a large cold war communications facility which was constructed in 1985. The radar facilities were covered in a structure which looks just like the dimples on a golf ball. The iconic building is clearly visible from the main road to Kinross and is likely to be of interest to both housing developers and businesses. It is next door to the site of the annual T-in-The-Park pop festival - which could be either a positive or negative aspect for the new owner.
Royal Scots Borderers on Parade
Scotland's newest infantry battalion, the Royal Scots Borderers, paraded through Edinburgh to officially mark the merger of the Royal Scots and King's Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) to form the 1st Battalion of the controversial new Royal Regiment of Scotland. The parade took place on 1 August, which is known by the Borderers as "Minden Day" - marking one of the KOSB's most famous victories in 1759 during the Seven Years' War. The tradition was continued of the soldiers wearing a rose in their caps, recalling their advance through rose gardens during the battle.
Soft Drinks Company Running on Empties
In the days before plastic bottles and canned fizzy drinks, glass bottles dominated the soft drinks industry - and armies of little boys and girls earned a modest income by returning the empty bottles to retailers and getting a refund. These days, supermarkets don't want to know about glass bottles for soft drinks, but Scottish company AG Barr, the makers of beverages such as Irn-Bru (which challenges the dominance of Coca Cola in the Scottish market place) still produces 30 million bottles each year, mainly for small corner shops. The bottles can be returned for a 20p refund - which is then often spent in the shop, which small retailers like. Now AG Barr is to launch a new advertising campaign with the slogan "Scotland raise your glass" to persuade customers to buy the product in its traditional form. The recent hot weather has helped sales of bottles as drinks stay cooler longer in a glass bottle - and purists claim it tastes better too!
Òrain nan Rosach
A new collection of 30 Gaelic songs, based on bagpipe music, has been produced by Highland Councils' Mairi Mhor Gaelic Song Fellowship. "Òrain nan Rosach", is the first major Gaelic publication produced in the area for many years.The tunes were either written in Ross-shire or composed by Ross-shire born writers. The songs are in staff notation with guitar chords, translations, lyrics, photographs and notes on the composers. The book is accompanied by a CD of 21 of the songs.
If a programme by the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI) at Invergowrie bears fruit, soft fruit growers and those who drink blackcurrant juice will both benefit. It is estimated that half the world’s commercially-grown blackcurrant crop comes from plants that were originally bred at SCRI, so the organisation has a lot of experience. They recently established the mechanism whereby the bushes use solar retention to build up and store starch in their stems and roots, three months after the berries have been harvested. Stored starch is used by the plant to determine the level of vitamin C in the fruit in the following season. The institute is now looking at methods of selective pruning to boost starch production and thus the beneficial vitamins. The researchers are also moving to developing a breeding programme for plants to produce higher levels of vitamin C. Of course, there is no genetic modification by artificial means involved. The research is being sponsored by the makers of Ribena blackcurrant drink - the company takes 95% of the commercially grown crop in the UK to make their popular beverage.
Speed Camera with a Difference
Suggestions that Edinburgh City Council are "anti-motorists" and try to slow down the traffic with road works, took a slight knock this week when approval was given for a £600,000 project to install 62 Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. These take the photos of vehicle number plates and work out where the vehicle is going and at what speed. This is said to allow controllers to alter traffic lights according to where bottle-necks appear during peak times or when there are special events or there has been an accident. Signs on main routes into the city would also inform drivers how long a journey to key destinations in the city is expected to take. A similar system in Southampton has been hailed as a great success, with average speeds at rush hours raised by 3mph to 18mph. The anti-motorist conspiracy theorists are not totally convinced by the scheme, however. The same system is used in London - to collect that city's congestion charges, an additional tax on vehicles going into the UK capital.
£50 Million Transformation for Queen Street Station
Plans were announced this week for a £50 million redevelopment of Queen Street railway station in the centre of Glasgow. The present car park at the side of the station would be have new offices and leisure facilities above. The station is certainly in need of some investment and needs a lot of upgrading to bring it up to modern standards. Queen Street is the oldest railway station in Glasgow, dating back to 1842. Its iron and glass roof was added in 1878 and last year nearly 13 million journeys began or ended at the station. It is the main terminus for all northbound and eastbound trains as well as handling local train services to Dunbartonshire and Lanarkshire via underground platforms beneath the mainline station above.
New Footbridge for Edinburgh/Glasgow Motorway
The service station at Harthill, half-way along the motorway between Scotland's capital and the country's largest city, used to be voted the worst in the country. In recent years, the facilities on the busiest inter-city link in Scotland have been given a much-needed revamp - by demolishing what was there and starting again. But the footbridge across the motorway, linking the two sides, has been shamefully neglected. Admittedly, there is not the same number of pedestrians crossing over - in earlier days, there were only catering and toilet facilities on one side of the motorway, so the footbridge was well used. But this week Transport Minister Tavish Scott unveiled the design for a new bridge which he claimed would provide "a gateway feature over a key route." Architect's impressions certainly suggest that it will be a big improvement.
Another Blow for Stornoway Sabbath
Church leaders in the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Western Isles have been fighting a battle for many years to maintain the traditional Sabbath on the island. The fight has often centred on proposals to allow people to travel to and from the island on a Sunday. Until recently, the Lord's Day Observance Society has managed to stop any ferry services on Sundays. That was eroded recently as travellers can now travel to the UK mainland that day - although it does involve a tortuous route by ferry from the south of the island to Berneray, a causeway to North Uist and a ferry from there to Skye and across the bridge to the mainland. In 2002, British Airways began flights to and from Edinburgh on a Sunday, in the face of bitter protests from some locals and churches. The flights even allowed those residents who wanted to, to buy Sunday papers on a Sunday for the first time. Now, Highland Airways will begin operating a new service from Stornoway to Inverness from early in September. The next major dispute (again) will be for scheduled Sunday ferry services from Stornoway, the biggest town in the Outer Hebrides, across the sea to Ullapool on the mainland. After a long fight, bars on the island can now open on Sundays and a filling station (which doubles as a shop) is also open in Stornoway.
Bar Beneath Knox Statue Creates Unholy Row
It's enough to send John Knox, the fiery preacher and driver of the church Reformation in the 16th century, spinning in his grave. A bar, selling the demon drink, is to be opened beside the Church of Scotland's Assembly building, right underneath the nose of his statue, as it were. The church authorities are taking a more relaxed view than the man whose rigorous discipline produced a bleak and joyless legacy. While he would not have approved of a bar beside the building where the church leaders meet each year, he would probably be apoplectic at the humour of some of the comedians performing inside the Assembly Hall - some of them even offend broad-minded listeners.
July's Record Breaking Weather
When the Meteorological Office published the aggregate statistics for July, nobody was surprised to find that it was the hottest July for Scotland as a whole since records began 90 years ago, beating the previous one set in 1983. The highest recorded temperature was 31.3C (88F) on July 19 at Prestwick, though that failed to beat the overall Scottish record of 32.9C (89F) recorded in Greycrook, near the Borders village of St Boswells, in 1993. According to the Met Office, the mean temperature in populated mainland areas was 17C (63F) - that includes the hours of darkness as well as daylight. That was 3C higher than in a typical July. UK-wide, this July was also the hottest month since records began in 1914 and beat the previous record set in 1947. Despite the high temperatures, there was also a fair amount of cloud in Scotland on some of the days, so the number of hours of sunshine recorded in July was "only" 181. That was nowhere near the Scottish monthly record of 297 hours or the over 300 hours recorded this July in England - which was a record for south of the Border. But any hopes that August might be another record-breaking month for temperatures and sunshine have been dashed - the Met Office say that it will continue to be warm, but not excessively so.
Weather in Scotland This Week
The spell of hot dry weather came to an end this week, with a lot of rain and cloud - though temperatures still remained slightly above average for the time of year. Heavy rain on Tuesday caused some localised flooding in Glasgow and some parts of the West of Scotland, with the M8 motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh affected by lots of surface water creating hazardous driving conditions. Although temperatures were mainly around 17/20C (63/68F), Aberdeen recorded a chillier 13C (55F) maximum on Wednesday. Thursday was the sunniest day this week as far as the central belt was concerned - Edinburgh reached 23C (73F) that day.
The illustration this week is of a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly on meadow thistle, seen earlier this week in countryside north of Glasgow.
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 Red Admiral butterfly, a pink rose, Inula, Hydrangeas, Lilies, Finlaystone House - home of the McMillan clan chief, the Firth of Clyde and the hills and mountains of Argyll beyond. See This Week's Colour Supplement.