Three Hospitals Fail Hygiene Standards
Three of Scotland's leading hospitals failed to meet an acceptable level of hygiene according to the first quarterly report by the NHS in Scotland on how hospitals and boards are complying with national cleaning specifications. The report says that most of the major hospitals and the 17 second-tier establishments achieved a "green" rating of above 90%. But Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (pictured here), which was only built five years ago as a new flagship facility on the outskirts of the city, only scored 84.1%, which put it in the "amber" category. And Raigmore Hospital in Inverness scored 83.1% and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley complied with 84.4% of the standards. Stobhill Hospital was Glasgow's best performing hospital on 97.8% with the Victoria second on 97.1%. The scores for other major hospitals included Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (97.8%), Dundee's Ninewells hospital (97.7%), Glasgow Royal Infirmary (96.9%), Glasgow's Gartnavel General Hospital (96.6%) and the Glasgow Western Infirmary (94.2%) - all in the green category, indicating an acceptable level of cleanliness. The figures were announced in the same week that data on hospital accident and emergency waiting times were published. Almost 30,000 people attended Scotland's A&E units when the seven-day survey was carried out in April. Half had their first clinical assessment within 22 minutes, while half were discharged, admitted or transferred within 97 minutes. 88% of patients were treated within four hours - leaving 12% who had to wait longer than that. There were variations, of course - the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh which had failed the hygiene standards, also only managed to treat 65% of patients within four hours and had an average waiting time of over three hours. The best figures were returned by Ninewells Hospital, Dundee (66 minutes average wait) and Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary (67 minutes).
Scotland Signs Co-operation Agreement with Shandong
This week the Scottish Executive finance and public services minister Tom McCabe signed a Co-operation Agreement with Shandong Province in China. It aims to deliver benefits in areas including trade, science, culture, education and tourism. Shandong, one of five priority regions for Scotland identified in the Executive's new China Strategy, is less than twice the size of Scotland in area, but has a population of 92 million. It is the 2nd largest regional economy in China. Shandong's GDP was $188bn in 2004 (Scotland's economy was worth around $150bn in 2004). Shandong's name literally means "mountains' east", which refers to the province's location east of the Taihang Mountains. The province is located in the lower reaches of the Yellow River (see red area on the map here). Scottish companies are reported to be "queuing up" to do more business with China as awareness increases of the opportunities available.
Public Enquiry Into Power Line Upgrade
It was announced this week that the proposed upgrade to the overhead electricity transmission line between Beauly and Denny will be referred to a public inquiry. The new pylons are to be 213 feet high (60 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty) and they would run for 136 miles across the Highlands of Scotland, including the Cairngorms National Park. A consultation exercise, which ended in April this year, generated 17,000 representations. The five Planning Authorities within whose boundaries the proposed development falls (Highland Council, Perth and Kinross Council, Stirling Council, Falkirk Council and Cairngorm National Park Authority) have all objected to the application. At the very least, the public enquiry will delay the implementation of the construction of the power line. The electricity generating companies argue it is essential to cope with the power which will be generated by renewable electricity schemes such as windfarms.
Scottish Executive Support for Wave Power
The Scottish Executive Enterprise Minister, Nicol Stephen, paid a visit to an experimental wave energy project at Peniche in Portugal this week. The Pelamis project has been set up by Edinburgh-based Ocean Power Delivery (OPD) and the minister claims that Scotland will have similar devices operating in Scottish waters by the summer of 2007. They are said to be the first commercial wave machines in the world - built using entirely Scottish technology. The machines are over 120 metres (400 feet) long and weigh over 300 tonnes. They consist of a semi-submerged structure composed of cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints. The wave-induced motion of these joints is resisted by hydraulic rams. These pump oil through hydraulic motors which drive generators to produce electricity. The Executive announced earlier this year £8 million funding for marine energy projects and they intend to invest a share of this to secure a Pelamis project in Orkney at the European Marine Energy Centre. A pre-production Pelamis prototype has already undergone various stages of a testing programme in Orkney and will return next month for further testing.
First Rise in Glasgow's Population Since 1920s
Glasgow once laid claim to the title of "second city of the Empire" with over a million inhabitants, the largest population outside of London. But the numbers living within its boundaries have been in decline since the 1920s. The middle classes moved to better housing in surrounding counties and densely packed, sub-standard housing within the city itself was replaced by council owned housing estates. But in 2004 the city recorded its first increase - a mere 1,120 more, but a historic turnaround. As in Scotland as a while, the growth was due to an influx of migrants from central and eastern Europe, particularly from those countries which most recently became members of the European Union. Glasgow's population is predicted to hold steady for the next ten years, with a forecast of births exceeding deaths in 2009 for the first time in decades.
Air Cargo Grew 25% Last Year
BAA Scotland, who operate the airports at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, has reported that the volume of air cargo passing through these terminals shot up by 25% to over 50,000 tonnes last year. Much of the growth was via Edinburgh, where freight volumes grew by nearly 40%. International passenger services have also been growing in the last year and that has created more cargo space in the larger aircraft. The top exports from Edinburgh airport are pharmaceuticals and electronics, while Glasgow's top products are computer parts, plastics, oil-rig equipment, glassware, seafood and whisky. One Galashiels firm ships three tonnes of dental floss every day to the US with American carrier Continental. Of course, the cargo traffic is not all one way - quite apart from imports of fresh fruit and other goods, an Orlando-Glasgow flight recently brought in more than 20 tonnes of stage equipment for Madonna's European tour.
The illustration above shows aircraft from Canada and Turkey at Glasgow airport.
Scots Magazine Calendar
Now in its ninth year The Scots Magazine Calendar is firmly established as a "must buy" for lovers of Scotland at home and abroad. In this time, it has featured the famous and the not so famous - from world-famous Eilean Donan Castle to little known lochs and glens. The beautiful photography has brought a breath of fresh air to busy city homes and provided many nostalgic memories for exiled Scots. The calendar is the perfect accompaniment to The Scots Magazine itself. This long-established monthly is packed with colourful in-depth articles on Scotland - its people, its places, its history and its culture, plus books, music and events. For more details (including illustrations of all the calendar graphics) go to www.scotsmagazine.com/calendar.asp
National Library to Promote Scots Literature
Authors and publishers in Scotland have been concerned about the takeover of the Ottakar's chain of book shops which strongly promoted Scottish works.The Scottish Publishers Association has been trying to ensure that the new owners continue to promote Scottish writing, but the National Library of Scotland has stepped in with a plan for a new bookshop as part of their current redevelopment. An expanded retail area in their Edinburgh premises will allow them to ensure that output from smaller Scottish publishers is still available, at least in the Capital. Work on redeveloping the South Bridge building is to begin soon, with completion in May next year.
Squinty Bridge to Get Straight Name
When the Clyde Auditorium was built at the Scottish Exhibition and Concert Centre in Glasgow, the local Glaswegians took one look at it and immediately dubbed it the "Armadillo" because of its resemblance to the (mainly) South American mammal. Likewise, when a new bridge across the river Clyde in Glasgow was proposed between Finnieston and Govan, its unusual orientation, crossing the river at an angle, immediately resulted in it being called the "Squinty Bridge". That name is likely to stick, but like the Clyde Auditorium, the bridge has to have a formal "Sunday" name. So Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and the City Council are searching for a straight name for the squint bridge. The eye catching bridge will have four lanes of traffic, two for buses and taxis only, as well as lanes for pedestrians and cyclists.
450 Jobs Lost as Call Centre Closes
The onward march of people using the Internet to buy goods and services has been given as the reason by the Thomson Holidays travel firm for closing down its call centre in Glasgow, with the loss of 450 jobs. The centre opened in 1999, with financial assistance from Scottish Enterprise. Since then the volume of the company's Internet bookings has increased from 10% to 50%. But the announcement, by the UK's biggest travel company that the Glasgow centre was to close in December, came just as the conditions attached to the financial subsidy ran out. There are no plans to close or run down the company's other three British call centres, or its operation in India. Despite the high profile job losses, the number of staff employed in Scotland's call centres has never been higher.
Satellite Navigation for Ambulances
In an effort to improve response times, Scotland's ambulances are being fitted with satellite-navigation technology. The first of them were rolled out in Inverness this week, ahead of a roll-out across Scotland by next spring. After incidents in the recent past where ambulances have gone astray and taken circuitous routes, the new systems will not only avoid these situations but will guide the crews to the best routes on emergency calls. Other technology will give paramedics more information about patients en route to incidents and let them send updates on their conditions as they are taken to hospital.
Scotland Loses 200 Dairy Herds in Two Years
In the past, Scotland has been home to more herds of dairy cattle than any other part of the UK. But in the last two years, the number of farmers with dairy cows has declined from 1400 to 1189. In 1945, there were 8500 dairy herds in Scotland with an average herd size of 40 cows and a total herd of 380,000 cows. According to the latest count there are now only 158,188 cows in Scotland - an average of 133 cows, as the industry moves slowly to larger herds for increased efficiency. There are a few farms with over 1,000 animals. Despite the decline in the number of dairy cows, the amount of milk being produced is not that much different from 1945, thanks to improved genetics, nutrition and management. A professional dairyman can earn a remuneration package of £30,000 a year, but many young people are unwilling to undertake the hard work and unsocial hours. As a result, some dairy farmers have now turned to labour from eastern Europe and the Baltic states where UK wages are seen as highly attractive.
Seaweed Threat to Loch Fyne Oysters
A sea search coordinator for the Marine Conservation Society has spotted an alien seaweed, known as Japweed or Wireweed (Sargassum muticum) in Loch Fyne (see picture above), home of important oyster beds. It grows rapidly in the summer months and can reduce the diversity of native species by outgrowing them and putting them in the shade. It is not clear whether it would hinder the growth of the local oysters, but there would be an economic impact as it fouls boat hulls, clogs water intakes and shellfish farming equipment. It appears that Sargassum is colonising the Clyde and its adjoining lochs at an alarming rate and there is little that can be done to control it. It was first recorded in Scotland two years ago, further south in Loch Ryan, near Stranraer. Around 750,000 oysters a year are harvested from Loch Fyne and the company employs over 100 staff.
Whirlwind Romance Between Glasgow and Marseille
Less than a year after discussion began, Glasgow's French-speaking Lord Provost is to tie the knot with Marseilles and sign a formal twinning with the French Mediterranean port of Marseille. Scotland's largest city is a bit of a bigamist, however, as it will be Glasgow's seventh such agreement. The city is already twinned with Nuremberg in Germany, Turin in Italy and Havana in Cuba, Rostov-on-Don in Russia, Lahore (the second largest city of Pakistan) and the Chinese city of Dalian. There are also less formal relationships with several other towns and cities, including Bethlehem in Palestine, St Malo in France and Barga in Italy. The arrangement is not just about city officials visiting each other - Glasgow University has launched an exchange programme with an institution in Marseille, while the city's National Health Service board has teamed up with Hopitaux de Marseille.
Scottish Natural Heritage HQ Gets the Bird
The new headquarters of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in Inverness won an environmental award last year, with its solar panels and use of rainfall to flush toilets. But the widespread use of glass, designed to make the building energy efficient, is causing an environmental problem of its own - wild birds are flying into the glass and being injured and killed. The Scottish Executive agency is looking at steps which can be taken to solve the problem. A simple solution is to fit blinds, though that may impact on energy efficiency. So other solutions, such as reflective strips and cardboard cutouts of birds of prey, are being considered. Since SNH treats all birds equally, they may even introduce real birds of prey to the area to act as a deterrent and maintain the natural food chain!
Bell Ringers Hit a Wrong Note
When a group of campanologists (bell ringers) in Dundee decided to mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Tay Road Bridge and the 100th anniversary of poet Sir John Betjeman's birth, the bells of Steeple church off Nethergate in the centre of the city rang out - and continued to do so for over three hours. They ended up having a ding-dong with staff in shops nearby, who complained about "noise pollution". But the bell ringers had been given permission for the lengthy session, so their complaints to the council and police fell on deaf ears.
A Mockintosh Record
The organisers said it was a "new world Mackin-tache record" as more than 1000 people donned fake moustaches and pink cravats in Glasgow's George Square to launch the city's first Charles Rennie Mackintosh festival. Since nobody else has attempted a world record for the number of people dressed up as the architect, it went straight into the Guinness Book of Records. Those who took part in the launch were rewarded with free entry into a draw to win a Mackintosh-style chair worth £1000. The city is hosting more than 120 exhibitions, talks, tours, children's activities and dramatic performances throughout the year in honour of the designer - with the main events taking place in September.
Hailing a Rickshaw in Aberdeen
An oil service worker from the east coast of Scotland has at last obtained permission to operate a bicycle powered rickshaw in Aberdeen. Raymond Apedaile has been trying to get city council approval for his "Pedal Pumpers" service since January last year. He was allowed to run a trial in April 2005 of his "eco-friendly" taxis, but now he has been given a street traders licence to run the bicycle powered transport in Duthie Park and along Queen's Road to Hazlehead Park. The "drivers" will have to be fit as they will also act as tour guides as they pedal along, so that they can inform passengers about the areas they are travelling along. There had been safety concerns about the impact of North Sea winds whipping in and knocking the rickshaw over and also about potential road accidents. Mr Apedaile has taken out a £5million public liability insurance policy against injuries. But with the tourist season nearly over this year, he is not going to be able to start running his vehicles (a red bike attached to a black pod with a tartan canopy) until next June.
Weather in Scotland This Week
Last Sunday, the online BBC weather forecast for Glasgow was for light showers or light rain every day this week. Fortunately, it's wasn't totally accurate. While there were many periods of showers and heavier rain, there were also lots of bright sunshine too. Temperatures were largely in the 17/19C (63/66F) range, although Aberdeen, the Moray Firth and Edinburgh reached 21/22C (70/72F) on Thursday and Friday. There was heavier rain towards the end of the week, particularly in the west.
Usually, Tritoma flowers (also known as "Red Hot Pokers" are mainly red in colour, but these ones shown here at Culzean Castle's walled garden, were more of a golden yellow.
This Week's Colour Supplement
This week's online photographs taken in Scotland to show the current season and its flora and fauna include the entrance gate to Culzean Castle, male and female Common Darter Dragonfly, Dahlia, Chrysanthemum (see small graphic) and Gladioli flowers, Small Copper Butterfly. See This Week's Colour Supplement.