Legislation Bans Age Discrimination
New laws came into effect this week which ban age discrimination against both young and old people. It has been described as"one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation to impact on the UK workforce - ever." Employers will no longer be allowed to advertise for a "young, dynamic graduate", or "a mature personal assistant". Anyone who believes that they have been discriminated against on grounds of age will have redress through an employment tribunal. Employers will also have to treat all workers equally in terms of promotion and training, irrespective of age. Even specifying a "minimum period of experience" could be open to challenge as it could be seen to discriminate against younger applicants. So perhaps we can expect 70-year-old women applying to be air hostesses and 20-somethings going after the chief executive's job? One result of the new legislation is that employers will no longer be able to force staff to retire at a specific age, unless it can be justified - say on fitness grounds for firefighters, for example. And, of course, employers can still select the person they consider to be the best applicant - hopefully.
MSP Expenses Fall 87.5%
It might be a coincidence? But in the first quarter of the financial year 2005-06, Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) claimed expenses of £1.8 million, paid for by the taxpayer, of course. The detailed figures then became available under the freedom of information act. The media delved into the data when it was published and an MSP resigned when it was found that he was claiming for driving in Scotland - when he had actually been in Germany. The Conservative leader David McLetchie was also hounded for taxi expenses he should not have included; he eventually resigned from the party leadership. In the next quarter, MSP expenses declined to £690,000 and now the latest period shows a further dive, to £227,000. While there may be seasonal variations, the slide is across all categories of claim, including travel costs, mobile phone bills, mileage, air fares, taxis, and travel claims. Car mileage claims fell from £159,451 in the first quarter to £22,186 in the recent quarter. In the recent data, one MSP, Margo MacDonald, the Lothians Independent, did not submit any expense claims. But another MSP, Roseanna Cunningham, a member of the Scottish National Party who represents Perth, was responsible for about one-third of the legislature's entire taxi bill in the quarter just published. She does not own a car and lives in area where public transport is not good.
Scotland's Recycling Now "On Target"
Householders may have muttered about the imposition of kerbside collection boxes and their rubbish only being collected every two weeks by the local council, but the amount of municipal waste going for recycling or composting has gone up from 17.3% between April and March last year to 24.4% this year. Surveys show that 79% of households are now recycling at least some paper, glass, plastic, cans or garden waste. Of course, there are considerable variations around the country - often due to the timing of introducing more stringent policies by the local councils. Clackmannanshire (the smallest in Scotland) achieved 34.5%, while Dumfries and Galloway (D&G) achieved only 11.4%. D&G claim, however, that they will soon become "one of the best performing local authorities for recycling household waste" once a new plant opens that will take waste and convert it into solid fuel.
New Top Scottish Law Officer
The Lord Advocate, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, has been in that post as the most senior law officer in Scotland for nearly ten years, the longest serving Lord Advocate for over 100 years. But this week it was suddenly announced that he was resigning. He had apparently discussed the matter earlier with the First Minister, but when he departed it was the same day as the announcement. This somewhat surprised the media and political commentators, who tried to guess the "real" reason for his sudden departure. The Lord Advocate heads the prosecution service in Scotland and was involved in the prosecution in the Lockerbie bombing trial and he has been caught up in the controversy surrounding a recent controversial fingerprint case. The day after his resignation, the current Solicitor General, Elish Angiolini, was nominated as Scotland's new Lord Advocate, by First Minister Jack McConnell. The nomination was approved by the Members of the Scottish Parliament by an overwhelming majority. Ms Angiolini has been Solicitor General for the last five years and became the first woman to serve as Lord Advocate in 500 years. She is also the first solicitor to hold the post, rather than coming from the ranks of the law advocates who deal with all the more serious cases in the High Court. She will become a member of the Scottish Cabinet and the government's principal legal adviser.
Picture of Elish Angiolini courtesy of Scottish Parliament Web site.
Runway Extension Plan May Take Off
Proposals to extend the main runway at Aberdeen airport by 300 metres moved a step forward this week when Aberdeenshire Council voted to support the plan. They argue that it would boost the north-east economy - and allow more efficient planes to operate from the airport, therefore cutting down on noise and air pollution. Since the airport was allowed to accept aircraft landings at night, passenger numbers have grown and new air services have been added. A new service began this week between Aberdeen and Liverpool in England. But environmental groups and those living within the vicinity of the terminal are not so convinced. 73 of the 98 letters received by Aberdeen City Council, since the extension plan was published in March this year, have opposed the development. If planning permission is granted, construction work for the first phase of the £10 million runway extension is due to begin in 2007.
Car Sales Rise Again
The number of new cars being bought each month in Scotland has been below the level of last year since May. So there was some relief amongst traders when Scots splashed out £390 million on 38,821 new cars during September, a 4.4% increase in numbers last September. But the increase was due more to dealerships cutting margins than a return of consumer confidence. Since the start of the year, total sales have been down by around £47 million in Scotland. In England, sales in September were still down on the previous year, by 1.2% for the month. The top-selling vehicle in Scotland was the Renault Clio (pictured here) with 2076 sales.
City Scoops Marketing Award
When Scotland's largest city launched its new marketing slogan "Glasgow: Scotland with Style" there were sceptical reactions from many (myself included). But that new logo won for the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau the Gold Award for the Best Brand Marketing Campaign at a glittering industry award ceremony of the Meetings Industry Association in London this week. Glasgow was named "Favourite UK City" last month in a poll by holiday magazine, Condé Nast Traveller. The city has risen in that poll from 8th position two years ago and in the process has passed both Edinburgh and London. But Condé Nast Traveller editor has suggested that Glasgow did well "for basically giving people a good time" rather than because of a marketing slogan.
Queues at Kelvingrove Museum
Visitor numbers at the newly refurbished Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum have soared since it reopened in July. But this week there were long queues snaking round the outside of the building, as hundreds turned up to take part in the BBC Antiques Road Show TV programme. Experts were on hand to provide information and a valuation on a wide range of items. Although many of the antiques were not of any great value, a previously unknown sketch by the artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh turned up. The format of the programme allows the show's host, Michael Aspel, to show off the building in which the experts are located. But it will be next spring before the glories of Kelvingrove are televised at prime time across the UK.
The illustration is of a display of medieval armour at Kelvingrove.
Tower of Babel in Scottish Schools
A study by a government language research agency has found that over 100 languages are currently spoken in Scotland's schools - and that doesn't include the Scottish dialects of English, some of which sound like a foreign language to Scots from other parts of the country... There are at least 12,000 pupils who speak languages such as Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Dutch, Farsi, Hebrew, and Hindi, with the number mushrooming in recent years as a result of increased labour mobility and asylum seekers coming to Scotland. Only a few of the languages are given resources to flourish, which the research agency points out is a waste of a valuable resource. The ability to speak a foreign language can be of economic benefit to companies trading abroad and in international relations. The Education Minister, Peter Peacock, has accepted that more needs to be done to support the diversity of languages in Scotland. There is currently provision for children of school age to study at least 21 community languages - but the rest are just ignored.
Caledonian Hotel For Sale
The Caledonian Hotel, one of Edinburgh's most prestigious hotels, has been put up for sale by its owners, the Hilton Hotels Corporation. The sale is part of a strategy to reduce the number of directly-owned hotels it has across the globe and Hilton would still keep the brand rights and management contract for the 103-year-old building. The 251-room hotel, overlooking Edinburgh Castle, was taken over by Hilton International in March 2000 and recently underwent a £6.6m refurbishment. It is considered to be one of Edinburgh's flagship hotels (along with the Balmoral, another former railway-owned hotel at the other end of Princes Street). It attracts celebrity guests, including city-born Sir Sean Connery and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Will Scots Make a Will?
The answer to that question, it appears from a survey by the Scottish Consumer Council, is that 63% of us haven't done so. That could create problems in the future, especially as the soaring prices of our homes means that the assets involved are becoming more and more valuable. The most common reason given for not making a will is that people have "never got round to it.". Most people have only a hazy idea of the laws relating to inheritance - and often have mistaken ideas as well. Without a will, children are entitled to claim one-third of a deceased parent's moveable estate, which may not be what the parent wanted. And with more and more people just living together without getting married or entering into a civil partnership, the survivor is legally entitled to nothing. The report recommends every adult in Scotland should be better informed about the importance and modest cost of making a will.
No National Flag at Official Residence
The Scottish First Minister's official residence is in Charlotte Square in Edinburgh. The building there was designed by the celebrated architect Robert Adam and is regarded as "the best contribution to one of the finest squares in Europe." So when a civil servant used his initiative and applied to Edinburgh City Council for planning permission to bolt a pair of 13 feet high flagpoles to the building, so that Scotland's national flag could fly in the breeze, the proposal was not well received. The flagpoles were denounced as "alien fixtures" and "failed to respect the original building and would diminish its special character". It was argued that "the fact that the building is the First Minister's official residence must be regarded as irrelevant". A spokesman later blamed an "enthusiastic civil servant" for making the application. It was claimed that if the First Minister had been consulted, he would have known that the request was fruitless. Although he has been unable to raise a Saltire flag above Bute House, the First Minister and the Scottish Executive claim that they have been working hard to promote Scotland's image. In the last year, 17,000 Saltire flags have been sent by the government to events in Scotland and overseas.
Luxury Short Break at Piperdam Golf & Leisure Resort
The closing date for entry to the free competition to win a luxury 3-night stay at the Piperdam Golf & Leisure Resort is fast approaching - at the end of this month. This great prize has something for everyone, whether entrants fancy just getting away for a few days to relax or take the family on a true Scottish Getaway or plan to golf till they drop. Set in the idyllic surroundings of Scotland’s beautiful heartland, Piperdam offers the total Scottish experience including Golf, Loch Fishing, Leisure facilities, Luxury Lodges, a fine Restaurant and bars, a Function and Conference suite that accommodates up to 300 people and their very own nesting Ospreys. For more information visit http://www.piperdam.com or e- mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Power Company Sees How Wind is Blowing
An energy company has withdrawn an application for a windfarm in Glen Tarken near Loch Earn in Perthshire after it had found that the area was used by golden eagles and red kites, which are both rare species. Scottish and Southern Energy decided to leave the site "for the birds", though it perhaps knew it would have a hard fight to gain planning permission in the face of such avian opposition.
Picture via Wikipedia.
Scottish Pound Notes Worth More
Scotland is one of only two countries in the world (the other is Hong Kong) where banknotes are issued by commercial banks - normally only the state banking organisation issues such an important part of the fiscal structure of a country. Largely these notes are circulated in Scotland - though over the years they have become accepted (sometimes reluctantly) by traders in England and Wales, especially in locations such as the centre of cities and towns and motorway service stations. The attractive design of many of the Scottish banknotes has also meant that there is a growing number held by collectors, both in the UK and abroad. From time to time, the Scottish banks issue "commemorative" banknotes - last year the Royal Bank of Scotland issued a £5 note recording golfer Jack Nicklaus' long association with St Andrews. But it appears that even ordinary Scottish notes obtain a premium and recently a collector paid £47 for ten crisp, new £1 Royal Bank of Scotland notes. The dog-eared ones still in circulation won't attract such an additional price, of course, especially as there are still an estimated 16 million of them in circulation. Nowadays, £1 notes have been ousted by the far larger number of £1 coins now in every-day use. The two other Scottish note-issuing banks (Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank) stopped issuing £1 notes more than 15 years ago.
A Sure Fire Bet
There was a global gambling spree recently, focused on the football team from the Angus town of Forfar. The club was due to play Peterhead in a Second Division match last week, but had lost eight key players through injury. Their pleas for a postponement were turned down by the Scottish Football League authorities and at one stage there was a question mark over whether they would even be able to field 11 fit players. As Forfar's predicament appeared in the media, there was a surge of online betting from around the world. Betting on that one match eventually amounted to more than the combined total for the three top Scottish Premier League games. Bookmakers reduced the odds dramatically but earlybirds got odds of 1/2 - one Scot based in Canada staked £10,000. Forfar lost 8-0 and so he won £5,000. In the end, Forfar (currently at the foot of the table anyway) managed to field 11 fit players - but finished the match with only nine men after two of their players were sent off late in the match.
Scotland's Weather in September
The Meteorological Office has published the aggregate weather data for Scotland in September and it shows that it was the warmest ever recorded. Temperatures during the month were 2.8C above the 1961-1990 average, which is in the "exceptionally above-average category" and was the highest figure ever recorded for the month, 0.6C above the previous record in 1958. Rainfall wa about average across the country while the sunshine total of 114.3 hours was 116% of the 1961-90 average.
Weather in Scotland This Week
Heavy rain on Monday caused parts of Inverness to be badly affected by flooding. Much of the rest of the week was "changeable" with a number of showers and longer periods of rain, mixed with spells of sunshine. Temperatures were generally lower, often reaching a maximum of only 13/14C (55/57F) though Glasgow did reach 17C (63F) on Tuesday and Edinburgh 16C (61F) on Thursday.
This week's illustration is of a young fox having a nap in my back garden. The local birds were not amused!
This Week's Colour Supplement
This week's online photographs taken in Scotland to show the current season and its flora and fauna include historic Kinneil House in Bo'ness, the road and rail bridges over the river Forth, Grangemouth, The House of the Binns in West Lothian (see thumbnail), the Fountain in Linlithgow Palace, and cormorants resting and stretching their wings. See This Week's Colour Supplement.