Airport Expansion "Master Plan"
In July this year, a development "master plan" for Edinburgh airport was published. This week, it was the future of Glasgow airport to be spelt out by the British Airports Authority (BAA) who operate the facilities at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. Glasgow currently deals with 8.8 million passengers a year, flying to 90 destinations around the world. By 2030, BAA expect the numbers to have trebled to 24 million passengers a year. To cope with that, the management plan to spend £290 million transforming the site, expanding still further the terminal and adding another runway. Glasgow airport dealt with a record 500,000 international passengers in September. That was out of a total number of travellers of over 890,000. Domestic travel is actually slowing down, as more people are able to fly direct to overseas destinations, rather than going first to airports in England, such as London or Manchester.
Scotland's "Stellar" Economic Performance
The Royal Bank of Scotland's purchasing manager's index (PMI), which is based on data from 600 manufacturing and service companies based in Scotland, suggests that private sector growth in Scotland in the latest quarter was at its highest level since the second quarter of 2000. The report also highlights an increase in new business start-ups and increased efficiency. Increases in input costs have also slowed and producers have even been able to increase prices at the fastest rate since the PMI began 81 months ago, as demand strengthens. The Royal Bank's chief economist described the Scottish economic performance as "stellar". Private sector employment in Scotland rose for the 19th consecutive month in September. The only down-side is that those increased output prices will be another factor which will persuade the Bank of England to increase base rates.
Security Tightens Round St Andrews
The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern, arrived in St Andrews this week with the leaders of the Northern Ireland political parties as they attempted to resolve the reinstatement of devolved government in the province. The three-day conference resulted in increased police security around the Fairmont St Andrews resort and the surrounding roads. There were speed restrictions on the main road near the resort and the public were warned that police might carry out searches of any cars acting "suspiciously".
Coastal and Marine National Park
The Scottish Executive has launched a roadshow as part of a consultation process to get feedback on the creation of Scotland's first Coastal and Marine National Park. The touring vehicle is fitted with high-tech facilities to show short films on all ten candidate areas - Solway, Argyll Islands and Coast, Ardnamurchan, Small Isles and the South Skye Coast, North Skye Coast and Wester Ross, North Uist, Sound of Harris, Harris and South Lewis. The proposals have become controversial, with environmentalists arguing strongly in favour of the plan. But local businesses and inshore fishermen are worried that a national park would impose additional bureaucracy and restrictions on commerce in Scotland's fragile coastal communities. But the government and its advisors insist that coastal and marine-based activity should be managed in a more sustainable manner, for the long-term benefit of Scotland's national heritage.
Edinburgh Airport Demands Indemnity
British Airports Authority (BAA), the owners of Edinburgh Airport, has demanded an unlimited government (ie, taxpayers) indemnity to cover any costs if problems arise from the creation of two tunnels under the runway to build the new railway link. BAA are concerned that the tunnels could cause the runway to sink and they also have concerns about the impact on the construction of the second runway. It seems that the concerns have arisen because of a proposal to reduce the depth of the tunnels to save costs on the £650 million project. Discussions on the issue are continuing.
Free Internet Classes
Although the number of computer literate people in Scotland is high and over 50% of us have internet access, recent research has shown that over a third of Scots have not yet learned the basic skills. That can be serious, as more and more jobs require at least some fundamental computer skills. So the Scottish Executive has launched a nationwide scheme to provide free computer classes to all adults. The courses will be available at 500 locations across the country including libraries, community centres, colleges and businesses. The classes will cover basic aspects such as internet, e-mailing and home computer security but will also cover aspects such as digital photography and on-line shopping. The new scheme is being operated by Learn Direct Scotland, in partnership with software giant Microsoft. It is thought to be the first of its kind in Europe.
Work Begins on Europe's Largest Wind Farm
The UK government's trade and industry secretary, Alistair Darling, was at the launch this week of the work to create Europe's largest onshore wind farm on the Eaglesham Moor, south of Glasgow. The £300 million Whitelee project will have 140 large turbines generating 322 megawatts of electricity, estimated to be enough to power 200,000 homes, according to the Scottish Power estimates. Currently, Scotland produces 16% of its electricity from renewable sources (though the venerable hydro-electric power stations produce a good chunk of that). The wind farm will take three years to complete.
One Million Salmon Meals a Day
The Scottish salmon farming industry has had its ups and downs over the years, but it seems that there has been an unprecedented demand for the product in the last year. Figures released by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) show that demand for fresh salmon in the UK has climbed by 13.8% in two years, with a million fresh salmon meals being consumed in the UK every day. Smoked salmon (pictured here) consumption has risen by 38.7% in the same period, to almost 60 million portions a year. The strong demand has led to a rise in farm prices for salmon, estimated to be 40% up on the lows seen in 2003. Even so, production is not expected to be back to its peak of the 170,000 tonnes seen in 2003 until next year, at the earliest. Output slumped in 2005 when prices reached a ten-year low. While Scotland is the third-largest producer in the world, we are still dwarfed in production terms by Chile and Norway, where they each produce 400,000 tonnes a year.
Better Health for Bar Staff
It was only last March that the ban on smoking in all public buildings in Scotland came into force. But a study by researchers in asthma and allergy at Dundee University has shown that within a few months, bar staff were suffering from far fewer breathing problems than before, benefiting from increased lung function, and that the level of nicotine in their blood had significantly reduced. In addition to staff providing information on sore throats or coughs or painful eyes, the researchers also did objective tests to measure their lung function and found improvements of up to 10%. But the owners of some bars say they are not "feeling better" as they are suffering from a loss of business.
Mega Expansion for Megabus Fleet
Perth-based transport group Stagecoach introduced a network of "Megabus" services covering nearly 40 major towns in the UK in September 2003, offering low-cost inter-city travel. Based on similar principles to budget airlines, tickets for journeys between nearly 30 of Scotland's cities and towns can cost as little as £1 - if booked far enough in advance. The services use high-capacity, double-decker, air-conditioned coaches and they have proved to be popular with students, families and "silver surfers" who use the Internet to book. Within seven months, the buses had carried a million passengers and now the company is investing £11 million to buy 45 of the latest coaches. They will be the first of their kind made in the UK and the 63-seat vehicles will be fitted with air-conditioning and toilets and will have a special lift for wheelchair passengers. The company is launching a campaign to persuade travellers to dump "gas guzzler" airlines and switch to intercity coach travel to destinations in England to minimise damage to the environment. Stagecoach claims that on a per-passenger basis, a Megabus is more than six times more fuel-efficient than air transport and produces seven times fewer CO2 emissions. Earlier this year, Stagecoach expanded megabus.com to the United States, with passengers being able to travel on daily non-stop express coach services between Chicago and a number of other mid-west cities for as little as $1.
22% of Scots Take No Exercise
Since shopping for long hours (see previous item) does not count as "exercise", it seems that many Scots are lazing their way to an earlier grave than necessary, by taking too little exercise. A survey of 2,000 Scots by the Scottish Executive shows that 65%, were not exercising enough; of those who did exercise, 27% did so once or twice a week; 7% once or twice a month; 9% less often than that. But 22% never exercised at all. Most of the people in the survey agreed that regular exercise was a "good thing" but then found excuses such as "lack of time" not to do so.
Shop Till You Drop
Even in cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, most shops close at 5.30pm, with some staying open on a Thursday to 7pm or 9pm. There are a few exceptions - the Glasgow Fort shopping centre near Easterhouse was the first centre in Scotland to open until 10pm. Now there seems to be a race between Edinburgh and Glasgow to promote late-night opening, in an effort to increase business and give a more European feel to shopping. But it could be a while before all the consultations and negotiations are completed. Edinburgh is hoping to have late-night shopping from Monday to Saturday up and running for the 2008 Festival season. Some businesses may be keen to participate, but the city councils are proposing an extra 1% levy on local taxes, to fund new festivals and events, street furniture, flags and banners and extra litter clean-up squads, which would accompany the later hours. However, out of town shopping malls can make their own rules and both Braehead and Glasgow Fort have announced that they will open till midnight from 11th to 22nd December (except for Saturday and Sunday, when trading will stop at 8pm). Last year, Glasgow Fort (pictured here), next to the Easterhouse area of the city, opened till midnight in the run-up to Christmas and that proved to be a great success.
Muriel Spark in Tablet of Stone
The author of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" may be joining the memorials to Scotland's greatest literary giants in Makar's Court, beside the Writer's Museum, just of Edinburgh's Royal Mile. The Muriel Spark Society has applied for a stone memorial slab to be added to the 20 already there - including Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, Neil Gunn, Iain Crichton-Smith and Sorley MacLean. It seems unlikely that the request would be turned down - Muriel Spark was born in Edinburgh and was educated at the city's James Gillespie's High School for Girls. Her most famous book is set in an Edinburgh girl's school.
Scotland's Mountains Growing
Climbers in Scotland divide the mountains into "Munros" (over 3,000 feet) and "Corbetts" (between 2,500 and 2,999 feet), named after the gentlemen who collated the first complete list of all of them across the country. There are also "Donalds" - Scottish Lowland hills above 2,000 feet. Some enthusiastic "Munro baggers" climb all the Munros on the list, though in 1997 the list was enlarged to 284, when a number summits close by the main mountain top were given Munro status. Now the number might grow still further. The Ordinance Survey has done all the measurements until now, but they have now said that if climbers use the latest survey-quality GPS technology equipment to measure peaks that are just below the magic 3,000 feet level, they would consider revising the official maps - and that list - if they prove to be above 3,000 feet. There are a number such as Foinaven in north-west Sutherland, which has an official height of 2,999 feet, and Beinn Dearg in Torridon in Wester Ross, which is logged at 2,998 feet. Previous measurements could even have been correct - but geologists say that Scotland's mountains are growing at about two millimetres a year as the land is still slowly rebounding after being pressed down in the last Ice Age. The last surveys were done in the 1960s and 1970s so could have grown by over three inches since then.
Protest at Extending West Highland Way
There has been a long-running campaign to move the northern end of the West Highland Way from its current terminus at Nevis Bank, on the outskirts of Fort William, into the town centre. When the proposal came before Highland Council's Lochaber area planning committee this week, it was approved only on the casting vote of the chairman, with the committee evenly divided on the issue. Those who support a change argue that the present terminus to the 95-mile footpath "does not positively contribute to walkers' enjoyment of the route". While the Chamber of Commerce are in favour of bringing more walkers into Fort William, local businesses at Nevis Bank obviously hold a different view. They argue that efforts are being made to promote Lochaber (and not Fort William) as the "Outdoor Capital of Scotland." And Edinburgh Woolen Mill, who own the Nevis Bank site, are understood to be on the point of submitting a planning application to enhance facilities. The West Highland Way runs from Milngavie, north of Glasgow, through the scenery of Loch Lomond and into the Scottish Highlands, using old cattle drove roads, disused railway lines and old military roads. Around 80,000 hikers undertake part of the length of the track each year, while around 15,000 complete the whole route, camping or using temporary accommodation along the way.
Photo by Gilly Pickup.
American Family Make a Fair Trade
A family from New York is swapping the hustle and bustle and the bright lights of a major city to live on Fair Isle, one of the most remote islands in Scotland, located between Orkney and Shetland. The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), who own the island, offered a vacant house there and were inundated with applicants. The American couple and their five-year-old son were selected and will move to the small island (population is only a few dozen) in November. They plan to offer bed and breakfast accommodation. Since there are few visitors in the winter, the husband will continue to work as a hat designer and producer, while his wife plans to promote the island and interpret life there for visitors, both on the island and through the internet, using her experience in media production. NTS say that other islanders are busy with boat-building, spinning and weaving (especially those Fair Isle design knitwear items), and the manufacture of furniture.
Edinburgh Castle and Parliament "Disappear"
When he was alive, that master of trickery, Harry Houdini, would not have been able to make Edinburgh Castle disappear. But during filming for scenes in the film "Death Defying Acts"about Houdini's visit to Edinburgh, the lights that normally light up the castle at night were switched off, making it appear that the famous building had disappeared. Film crews were then able to capture the castle by moonlight, to recreate the city as it was in 1926. Other sights from Salisbury Crags used to set the scene - such as the Scottish Parliament - will be removed by digital remastering. The film is based on Houdini's visit to Edinburgh, just before his death, and his obsession with trying to connect with the dead.
Army Cook Wins "Best Porridge" Prize
The Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship 2006 was won this week by Sergeant Coleen Hayward MacLeod, who makes porridge on a daily basis for up to 400 soldiers from the 1st Royal Irish Regiment stationed at Fort George, near Inverness. Sergeant MacLeod was originally from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and has been in the armed forces for 18 years. There were a lot of professional chefs taking part in the contest, but her porridge was voted the best by the experienced judges.
Trump Golf Course Bunkered
Even though US property tycoon Donald Trump threatened at the outset that if there were any planning delays, he would walk away from his £300 million project to create a golf course and lavish hotel on a site on the coast north of Aberdeen. But there have been delays in submitting an outline planning application for the project. Bad weather was said to have held up the environmental assessment and it could be January next year before it is completed. One of Mr Trump's concerns seems to have been addressed, however. A plan to have a string of 33 giant wind turbines standing in a line off the coast and within sight of the complex, has been modified so that now only 23 turbines in a more compact grid design are being proposed, several miles south of the projected golf course. But there are still environmental concerns and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds say that geese that come into the area could be at risk. The waters off the Aberdeenshire coast also host thousands of seabirds, some of which come into the sand dunes.
Early Christmas for Langholm
Last year, the Dumfries and Galloway town of Langholm was criticised for being one of the last places in the country to switch on its Christmas lights. So officials tried hard to correct that situation and workmen started early to put them in place this week, well before the official "switch-on" which is scheduled for 25 November. But due to an electrical fault, the display switched on - and continued to shine all Wednesday night. Some of the 2,500 residents were reported to be annoyed as children began asking when Santa was going to arrive...
Weather in Scotland This Week
Apart from Wednesday - when it rained the proverbial "cats and dogs" for much of the day across most of the country, there has been a fair amount of sunshine this week. Monday was particularly well favoured, with Aberdeen reaching 17C (63F) that day. That temperature was reached on other days in many locations. But on Saturday, while Glasgow enjoyed the sunshine, Aberdeen only reached 14C (57F) due to a thick haze from the sea. The outlook over the next couple of days is for the bright weather, with higher than normal temperatures for the time of year, to continue.
The photo shows a sunset over the loch at Drumpellier Country Park in North Lanarkshire, taken on Friday.
This Week's Colour Supplement
This week's online photographs taken in Scotland to show the current season were all taken on a sunny day in Glasgow - Glasgow Arc (also known as the Squinty Bridge), the City Chambers and George Square, the Art Deco Beresford Hotel (see thumbnail), Finnieston Crane, Glasgow Hilton Hotel, and a taxi advertising Glasgow as a Commonwealth Games candidate city. See This Week's Colour Supplement.