Making Poverty History
Over 200,000 people are estimated to have marched through the streets of Edinburgh on Saturday in support of the "Make Poverty History" campaign to alleviate the plight of those living and dying in appalling conditions in many parts of Africa. A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council described the crowd as "extremely good-natured". The march coincided with the Live 8 concerts in London and in cities across the world in which top entertainers head up concerts which are likely to be watched by billions of people on TV. On Monday, a "Carnival for Full Enjoyment" is planned by anarchists targeting Job Centres and Edinburgh's financial district. On the same day, a blockade has been planned for the Royal Navy's nuclear submarine base at Faslane on the Clyde. On Tuesday, a "Global Warming 8" summit is being organised by Friends of the Earth at Our Dynamic Earth visitor attraction in Edinburgh. On Wednesday, there is a Live 8 concert at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh and on Thursday there is an Aids/HIV rally in Princes Street. Of course, all these activities are being prompted by the G8 summit itself is taking place at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire from Wednesday 6th to Friday 8th July. The heads of government from the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, USA, Japan, Italy and Canada will be participating and all these marches, demonstrations and concerts are being held to encourage them to address the issues of world poverty and global warming.
Smoking Ban Given Final Approval
The Scottish Parliament approved by 97 votes to 17 the bill which will now come into force on 26 March 2006. It bans smoking in bars, restaurants, offices, theatres, cinemas and all other public buildings, with hardly any exceptions. Smokers can be fined for smoking in all these locations and employers and owners of premises could face penalties of up to £2,500. Health Minister Andy Kerr claimed that it was the most important piece of public health legislation in a generation and would help smokers give up and protect other people from passive smoking. Only the Conservative Members of the Scottish Parliament voted against the bill, saying that there were concerns that legislation would lead to displacement of smoking to the home, with increased exposure of children to a smoke-filled atmosphere and a potential increase in home consumption of alcohol.
More Babies for Older Mums
A report from the National Health Service shows that the most common age for women giving birth is now between 30 and 35. In the mid-1970s, only 13% of mothers gave birth in that age range, but that figure had risen to 30% by 2004. The proportion giving birth after the age of 35 has also soared from 6% in 1976 to 19% in 2004, equaling the number of mothers aged between 20 and 24 for the first time.
Scots Jet Off to Sunshine
Schools across Scotland finished the summer term this week and that signaled a mass exodus of sun-seekers from the country's airports to the Mediterranean resorts, the Canary Islands, Paris and Amsterdam. Long-haul flights to Toronto and Dubai are also becoming popular - aircraft from Canadian airline Zoom and Emirate Airways are a familiar sight at Glasgow airport. Last year Glasgow airport became the first in Scotland to carry over a million passengers in a single month and those figures are likely to be exceeded this year. Of course, there are many travellers coming in the opposite direction as foreign tourists head for Edinburgh, the Highlands and special events such as the Scottish Open Golf Championship at Loch Lomond.
Hottest July Day for Ten Years
There are some parts of the world where temperatures of just over 80F (27C) would be regarded as cool. In Scotland, such weather is regarded as a "heatwave" and merits front-page coverage in the daily newspapers. On Monday of this week, Glasgow hit 28.4C (83F) and Aviemore in the Highlands soared to 29.8C (84F). That made it the hottest July day for ten years. The media were delighted to report that temperatures in some Mediterranean resorts, popular with Scottish holidaymakers, were actually much cooler that day. While many folk were able to take advantage of the hours of sunshine and heat, others were not so lucky. First ScotRail halved the frequency of services on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line and on the Edinburgh to Bathgate and Fife routes because trains had to slow down to 20/30mph because of concerns that the track would buckle in the heat. Services between Scotland and the south were also because of heat-related restrictions. Of course, this being Scotland, the heatwave did not last. After three days of "roasting", the thermometer fell back on Wednesday as the clouds rolled in again.
The illustration shows the clear blue sky and sunshine in the walled garden at Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, on Monday of this week.
Highest Inflation for Seven Years
Data published by the Office of National Statistics this week showed that inflation has been pushed to 1.9%, the highest figure for seven years. Rising food prices and clothing and footwear costs were the main drivers. But the inflation level is broadly in line with expectations and despite the rise the Bank of England is widely forecast to reduce soon the base interest rates from the present 4.75%.
High Fives for Golden Bear
Golfer Jack Nicklaus this week became first living person outside of the royal family to have his portrait on a Scottish bank note. OK, so it was a marketing man's dream, but the honour to the American golfer who is held in such affection by many Scots and who has had such a love affair with St Andrews, was nevertheless well merited. Two million of the £5 notes were printed. They carry a small golden bear on the front in addition to the usual design. The reverse side is totally dedicated to images of Nicklaus holding the famous claret jug awarded to the winner of The Open, the Royal and Ancient club house, golden bears, golf balls, a table of the scratch scores for the course and the scores of Nicklaus' wins at The Open at St Andrews in 1970 and 1978. Nicklaus has had along connection with the Royal Bank of Scotland - he has carried the bank's logo on his golf bag for 42 years.
Fuel Prices Reach £1 a Litre
It may only be the Western Isles where the price of petrol (gasoline) has reached over a pound a litre, but it may not be long before the rest of us reach that level too. Parts of central Scotland actually fare quite well in the table of petrol prices - it is still possible to find pumps selling unleaded petrol for under 85 pence a litre. But filling stations in Stornoway are facing the problem of how to display prices on electronic price boards on gantries which are designed to display prices in pence per litre. The short-term answer seems to be to show the price as 00.9 for unleaded and 01.9 for diesel. Trading standards officers are unhappy about that - but none of the customers are likely to think that the filling station is giving the stuff away! The higher prices mean that drivers are now paying over £4.50 for a UK gallon (US gallons are about 20% smaller).
Glasgow Is On Another Planet
Some Edinburgh citizens think that Glasgow is on another planet - but now it's been made official. Indeed, if you want an out-of-this-world experience, Glasgow is certainly the place to be. Of course, that's Glasgow on Mars, not in Scotland (or Guiana, Jamaica and USA for that matter). NASA is honouring the contribution made by Glasgow University into rocks on the Red Planet and has started to use Scottish names on features discovered by the roaming explorer Opportunity. So far, Glasgow is the only one to be so named. Traditionally, NASA names areas on other worlds after people and places. So Glasgow is joining such illustrious names on Mars as Scooby-Doo, Darth Vader and Yogi Bear.... With honors like that, who needs insults?
Painting Closes Forth Rail Bridge
In days gone by, the painting of the iconic Forth rail bridge was a never-ending process and rail services continued non-stop, even when the workmen were close to the railway line. In these more safety-conscious days, however, health and safety regulations have meant, first of all, that sections of the bridge have been encased in plastic sheeting to protect the painters from the elements. And now the bridge is being closed for eight days - the longest period in the landmark's 115-year history. 60% of train timetables in Scotland have been affected by the closure, with long-distance trains being diverted and additional bus services introduced for commuters from Fife to Edinburgh. At least the new paintwork should last longer than the type used previously - the new coating is estimated not to need another application for 30 years.
The illustration shows both the rail bridge and the road bridge across the river Forth.
A Fountain Fit for a King
Britain's oldest surviving fountain has undergone a four-year restoration and the King's Fountain is now back in its rightful place - in the main courtyard of Linlithgow Palace. During the work the ornately carved fountain (commissioned by King James V in the late 1530s) had to be removed to near Maidenhead in Berkshire where "restoration" work in the 1930s using concrete was removed. Designed to resemble a crown, with a large number of symbolic figures ranged around it, the fountain was created to impress visiting monarchs and dignitaries with the opulence of King James' court.
The fountain escaped damage in 1607 when the North Range of the Palace collapsed but it needed some repair to allow it to operate for a visit by King Charles I in 1633. When the palace burnt down in 1746, the fountain also suffered, perhaps because it was seen as a symbol of the Stewart monarchy. During the current renovations, as much of the original stonework as possible was retained and new high-quality stone carvings were made to replace those which were no longer viable. The result is a bit of a patchwork of old and new at the moment, but in time the new stone will mellow.
Queen of Tea Heritage Trail
Barrhead in East Renfrewshire is not the first place you would normally associate with refined ladies drinking tea. Once a cotton-spinning town, it then became known for making sanitary stoneware at the Armitage Shanks factory (which went down the plughole and moved to England in 1992). But it appears that Miss Cranston, who became famous for her tearooms in Glasgow, providing elegant surroundings for the ladies at the end of the 19th century, lived in Barrhead. So her house is one of 25 attractions on a new heritage trail launched by East Renfrewshire Council with a series of commemorative plaques. Other locations highlighted include parks and gardens, mansion houses, the municipal building in Main Street and a weaver's cottage dating back to 1769.
Sun Shines on Highland Show
The annual Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, beside Edinburgh Airport, which finished last weekend, is expected to report record attendances. In 1996, the numbers at the four-day event totalled 160,000 which has not been exceed in recent years. After a damp start this year, sunshine on Saturday produced a record day and Sunday was just as sunny. The first Highland Show was held in Edinburgh in 1822.
Bard in the Botanics
Scotland's only annual outdoor festival of Shakespeare returns for an encore at Glasgow's spectacular and historic Botanic Gardens. Staged by the Glasgow Repertory Company, Scotland's only Shakespeare-dedicated theatre company, the Bard in the Botanics Festival features four full-scale productions of Shakespeare's work performed in and around the beautiful spaces of the Gardens from 23rd June - 24th July. A Midsummer's Night Dream, Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth will all be performed in the open-air - weather permitting, of course! You can also pre-order a picnic basket to be picked up on the night and umbrellas, blankets, and midge-repellent will be available for sale or rent on the night, should you require them!
T in the Park Bigger Than Ever
After all the excitement of the Live 8 concerts in London and Scotland you might have thought that rock and pop fans would have had a surfeit of live entertainment. Not a bit of it. The annual T in the Park open air concert at Balado near Kinross this weekend was a sell-out as usual, with 70,000 fans enjoying Scottish acts Travis, Biffy Clyro, El Presidente, Cosmic Rough Riders and others topping the bill on the main stage. There are lots of acts from abroad too, including KT Tunstall, Foo Fighters, The Bravery and Joss Stone.