Scots on the Move
A fascinating insight was given this week into the changes in the travel habits of Scots over the last ten years with the publication this week of a host of statistics. These showed, for example, that the number of people travelling by air in 2005 was up by 5% on the previous year - and 93% up on 1995. Air travel grew at a faster rate in Scotland in the last ten years than in the UK as a whole (77%). Rail passenger numbers are also at their highest level since at least 1960 (when the size of the rail network was slashed after th "Beeching" report). There has been an increase of 48%in rail journeys on ten years ago and 9% up on the previous year. Licenced road vehicles were also the highest-ever number at 2.53 million - 33% more than 1995. But despite campaigns to encourage the use of public transport, bus journeys are 9% below 1995 - though there has been a recent upturn. (The illustration for this item is part of a Lothian Transport bus in Edinurgh). 68% of commuters travelled to work by car, 13% walked, 12% went by bus - and 2% cycled to work. 65% of people aged over 17 have a full driving licence - though that masks a wide disparity between men and women (77% of men, compared to 56% of women). 286 people were killed on the roads, 7% fewer than in 2004, 30% fewer than in 1995 and the lowest number for more than 50 years. The number of people recorded as seriously injured in road accidents was 2,605, down by 5%, and the lowest figure since records of serious injuries began in 1950. Road casualties totalled 17,798, 4% fewer than in 2004, 20% fewer than in 1995, and the lowest figure since 1952.
Air Security Delays Gradually Easing
The disruption caused by the uncovering of an alleged plot to blow up a number of aircraft flying from the UK to North America continued to cause delays and cancellations this week. In Scotland, a large number of flights to Gatwick and Heathrow were not able to take off at the start of the week, but by Tuesday that had dropped to eight cancellations. As the week progressed, however, the number of flights called off reduced, though there was still confusion and delays at airport security checks due to passengers turning up with prohibited items. Restrictions were relaxed a bit at the beginning of the week, but hand luggage size allowed was still half of what it was before the emergency. Initially, that just caused more confusion with airport authorities delaying the change for 24 hours. Prestwick Airport, which has far fewer flights than at Edinburgh or Glasgow, reported that "most flights" were operating on time. It has emerged that as a result of the delays and confusion, many thousands of items of luggage had not been put on the same planes as the owners. The restrictions on hand luggage had meant that baggage handling systems were overwhelmed. As a result, the airlines were working feverishly to reunite the items - BA ran a cargo-only jumbo jet from Heathrow to North America carrying only luggage which had been left behind.
Business Activity at a Six-Year High
The Royal Bank of Scotland Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) was published this week and it suggests that growth of Scottish private sector output accelerated slightly in July, reaching its fastest pace since May 2000.
Business activity in Scotland has now risen for 37 successive months, according to this respected index. A revival in manufacturing helped to drive the index upwards.Tthe service sector was still expanding, but easing slightly from June. Expansion of output and new business has encouraged companies to increase staffing levels - overall employment has risen for the last 17 months, with the current rate of job creation at its highest level for two years. The PMI survey covers the whole of the UK and it shows that in July the north-east of England grew at the fastest pace of all the regions in July.
Scottish Graduates Find Employment
It is a tragedy, both for the individual and for the country, when newly qualified university graduates fail to find employment. But that fate is less likely to happen to those leaving Scottish universities than elsewhere in the UK, according to statistics published this week. The latest Higher Education Statistics Agency report into graduate leaver destinations for 2004/05, revealed only 4.9% of graduates who studied in Scotland were out of work, compared with 6% across the UK. The UK figure had increased slightly from the previous year, while the Scottish percentage had fallen. Most Scots students went into work in their first year after graduation with 66% in work. A further 16.6% were continuing studies at a post graduate level and 7.4% were both in work and studying. Male graduates were more likely to be earning higher salaries than female, with 15% of men in jobs which pay more than £25,000 compared with 8% of women. The highest UK unemployment was among computer science graduates, with 11% out of work and not continuing with their studies.
Glasgow Tops League of TV Licence Dodgers
The advertisement-free TV channels in the UK are provided by the BBC and the corporation gets its income from an annual licence fee which everyone (with a few exceptions such as those aged over 75) who owns a TV set is supposed to pay. A colour TV licence costs £131.50 (equivalent to 36 pence a day) but there are some people who try to avoid paying even that sum, arguing in some cases that they don't watch BBC TV or listen to their radio programmes. So the TV licencing authorities have to use high-tech equipment to track them down - and in the first six months of this year 38,000 people in Scotland were caught watching TV without buying a licence - and faced a potential fine of up to £1,000. Glasgow topped the list with over 10,275 evaders uncovered - that was the second highest total in the national UK league. Edinburgh had the second highest number in Scotland at 3,646, placing it fifth in the UK list. However, with 65% of Glasgow's population, the number per head was much lower than in Scotland's largest city. In Aberdeen, with less than half of Edinburgh's population, the numbers caught without a licence were 1,500.
New Direct Air Services to Boston, Las Vegas and Bahamas
Scottish budget airline FlyGlobespan.com is keeping to its schedule of expanding its routes. This week it now announced that it is to start flying from Glasgow to Boston Logan International Airport, with a daily service starting next May. Ticket prices will start at £159, one way, including tax. The route is being supported by the Scottish Executive's Route Development Fund and is expected to bring tourists and business travellers to Scotland as well as taking Scots to New England. later in the week, the company confirmed that it was to start flying early next year from Glasgow to Las Vegas, Nevada, and to Barbados in the West Indies. The Vegas flights will be twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays, while Scots can now fly direct to the Caribbean on Sundays.
Plan to Boost Gaelic
Scotland's first ever National Plan for Gaelic, aimed at increasing daily use of the language and promoting its development, has gone out for public consultation. The last census showed that only around 90,000 people in Scotland could speak the language, out of a population of 5 million. The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, which came into force in February, set up a statutory Gaelic Development Agency - Bòrd na Gàidhlig - that will organise consultation meetings on the plan. There are suggested priorities and measures for the further development of Gaelic, including the way forward for public bodies in the production of Gaelic plans, as required by the act.
Dutch Billionaire Donates £100,000 to Gaelic College
Oil and gas magnate Paul van Vlissingen owns a 60,000 acre estate in Wester Ross and is estimated to be the richest man in Scotland. In previous years, he has donated £150,000 in the form of scholarships to Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the Gaelic college at Sleat on the Isle of Skye. Now suffering from terminal cancer, the businessman has donated a further £100,000 to the college. His spokesman says that Mr van Vlissingen is using the time he has left to concentrate on the good times, with family and friends.
Ben Nevis Appeal
A nationwide appeal has been launched for people to reclaim memorials which have been left on the summit of Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain. The Nevis Partnership, which manages the 4,400 feet high mountain, claims that the proliferation of around 50 monuments on the plateau at the top of the mountain have become visually intrusive and an eyesore. The memorials range from works of art to monumental stones and plaques commemorating loved ones - and even pets that have passed away. The mountain authority hopes that many will be claimed as a result of their appeal. Any unclaimed will be stored for five years before they are finally disposed of. Only the Peace Cairn, erected on VJ Day in 1945 by youth organisations from Fort William and Dudley in the West Midlands, will remain. It is also planned to create one collective memorial in Glen Nevis plus an online virtual book of remembrance via the Nevis Partnership web site, from the end of August, at www.nevispartnership.co.uk.
All-Time High for US Students at Edinburgh University
The number of US students attending Edinburgh University has tripled in the last three years and there are now over 1,000 of them studying there.The American students are now among 130 nationalities that make up the 23,000 students who study at Edinburgh University. An increase in fees being charged by the "Ivy League" universities in the eastern USA, has encouraged more students from there to consider going abroad. And events such as the city's Hogmanay celebrations on TV and Tartan Day events have helped to raise the profile and of course there are many who have Scottish ancestral roots. There are also similarities between US and Scottish higher education systems, due to the influence of Scottish academics such as John Witherspoon (1723-1794), who was President of Princeton College for 26 years.
Transformation for Grangemouth
With a major dependence on oil refining and petrochemical industries, the coastal town of Grangemouth (located on the Firth of Forth about twenty miles west of Edinburgh) often has a satanic look about it, with the flares from the refining processes visible for miles around across the flat, surrounding countryside. Now Falkirk Council has published a £22 million project to transform the town centre, amid concerns that the present shopping precinct is restricting economic growth. The Council is working with the two major landowners in the town (which has a population of under 20,000) to develop a new shopping area and council services. Grangemouth became important in the 18th century as the eastern end of the Forth and Clyde canal. 40 years ago the then county council filled in the canal to create a new shopping centre; the canal has been recreated, though it no longer passes through the old part of the town.
Breathing New Life Into Glasgow's Dear Green Places
A lot of investment has gone into Glasgow's public parks in recent years, but that has been mainly in the more cultivated areas such as flower borders, children's play parks and ponds. Now the Scottish Forestry Commission has allocated around £400,000 to be spent on the wilder woodland areas in Pollok and Dawsholm Parks and Drumchapel Woods, in the hope of encouraging residents to make better use of them. Some areas have been untouched for years and footpaths are being repaired, rubbish cleared and trees planted or thinned out. The largest amount of cash is being allocated to the popular Pollok Country Park, which is also home to the Burrell Collection - where the woods come right up to a glass wall of the museum.
Waverley Station Overhaul Hits the Buffers
A £700 million overhaul of Waverley Station in the centre of Edinburgh is about to be curtailed, mainly because the City Council cannot find the cash for the project. Busy spending more than that on a new tramway system (which has also been cut back), the rebuilding of the Victorian station has been in the pipeline since the 1990s. The number of trains using the station has gone up 50% in the last 15 years. A £150m first phase of the Waverley project has already secured funding, and work to build extra platforms at the station got underway earlier this year. It is due for completion by the end of next year. But the Scottish Executive's national transport agency, Transport Scotland, has concluded that no further new capacity is required at the station before 2020. So the financial case for redevelopment does not stack up and more modest alternative plans, costing far less, are being examined.
City Council Employees as Walking Adverts
Like all local authorities, Glasgow City Council is always looking at ways of increasing its income. Now they have come up with a plan to invite sponsorship from commercial companies to place adverts on everything from park benches, flower beds, rubbish bins and the back of council workers' jackets. Whether there will be many companies lining up to have their names displayed on the backs of workers collecting the rubbish bins remains to be seen. But the council is engaging a consultant to find companies willing to sponsor and advertise on "appropriate council assets". Some other Scottish councils such as Edinburgh and Aberdeen already make money from commercial sponsorship of roundabouts. Over 80% of roundabouts in Aberdeen are now sponsored by local firms. But critics are concerned about inappropriate companies being allowed to increase their brand awareness through sponsorship of council assets, including staff in the public eye.
Scottish Week in Tuscany
There were lots of folk sporting Italian tartan ties in the Tuscan town of Barga this week as it lived up to its claim to be the "most Scottish town in Italy" with its annual "Scotland Week." The week-long festival in the medieval town was focused in the main piazza, where the skirl of the pipes and Scottish flags and tartan greeted the many Scots-Italians who regularly holiday there. Largs actress Daniela Nardini officially opened proceedings and there was also a concert featuring Paisley singer Paolo Nutini and Adriana Spina from Livingston. Whisky tasting and a Scottish market throughout the week were among other attractions on offer. And no Scots-Italian event would be complete without some of the participants from Scotland showing off their culinary skills - with fish and chip suppers - which, after all, made many of them rich!
Cowboys and Indians for Aberdeenshire
A Wild West enthusiast, who already operates the "Tranquillity Saloon" on his land near Huntly in Aberdeenshire, has been granted planning permission to add a sheriff's office, a jail and an undertakers and stage cowboy re-enactment shows. His neighbours had raised concerns that there would be noisy "shouting, gunfire and drinking". But the local planning authority considered that the woodland between the two properties would act as a screen. Alistair Baranowski - "Johnny B" to his friends - is a retired sub-postmaster who has had a lifelong passion for the US frontier. In addition to the additional buildings, he will be allowed to hold re-enactment events on 28 days a year over the next two years, mainly at weekends. And gun battles can only last for 30 minutes. The planners will then assess the operation at Tranquillity township at the end of two years. For more on the "Northern Rough Riders" enactment group, see www.geocities.com/tranquility_wildwesttown.
Coming to a Sticky End?
Last year, the ailing McCowan's confectionery company merged with another company, John Millar and Sons, in a restructuring exercise aimed at making them viable. But the effort looks as though it may be in vain and such brands as McCowan's Highland toffee bar, Wham bars and Miller Pan Drops may disappear from the shelves of sweet shops across the country. That may please the dental profession, but lots of kids are going to be disappointed. McCowan's was established in Stenhousemuir in 1922, but John Millar and Sons goes back even further, having been founded in 1884 in Edinburgh. The company sells more than 140 million chew bars each year and Highland Toffee is exported round the world. Unless a buyer can be found, nearly 150 jobs will be lost at manufacturing plants near Falkirk, and Broxburn, West Lothian.
Tree From Age of Dinosaurs Planted in Aberdeen
A rare Wollemi Pine tree, which dates back 200 million years to the time of the dinosaurs, has been planted in the Temperate House in Duthie Park in Aberdeen. It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered 12 years ago in a rainforest gorge in Wollemi National Park, in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia. Seeds from the pines are being distributed to botanic gardens around the world as part of a conservation strategy. In addition to providing insurance against loss in the wild, royalties from the sale of Wollemi Pines support conservation of it and other rare and endangered plant species.
Too Hot for Midges
Midges are small, two-winged flying insects that fly in swarms, especially in the summer, in parts of west Scotland. The females are blood-sucking and are notorious for blighting many a summer holiday in the countryside. But it seems that this year's heatwave has cut by 30% the numbers counted in the 32 official traps that monitor the pest across the country. The dry, hot weather is not to their liking, apparently, as they prefer damp conditions. The surprising situation has arisen in the first year of a daily online "midge forecast" based on weather forecasts and data from the monitoring sites. See www.midgeforecast.co.uk.
Weather in Scotland This Week
The midges would certainly appreciate the extra more moisture this week in Scotland this week, with rain and cloud affecting the north and west in particular. The Central Lowlands, including Edinburgh and Glasgow escaped much of the rain in the earlier part of the week but made up for it on Friday when there was heavy rain across the region, particularly in the evening. Temperatures in the north were affected by all the clouds and Aberdeen's maximum temperature in the early part of the week was around 14/15C (57/59F) and Stornoway in the Western Isles only managed 12C (54F) on Wednesday. Edinburgh and Glasgow fared better, and with longer hours of sunshine, were typically reaching 18/20C (64/68F) with Glasgow reaching a pleasant 23C (73F) on Monday and 22C (72F) on Saturday.
The large seed heads of the Teasel (Dipsacus) plant seen here, soar to six feet above the ground and make a striking display.
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 number of lovely butterflies - Small Copper (see small graphic here), Green Veined White and Peacock. There are also good size pictures of young swallows in their nest and Rowan (Mountain Ash) berries.
See This Week's Colour Supplement.