Charities back Edinburgh City Council’s support for Living Wage

By Lauren Beehan

Charities have welcomed an Edinburgh City Council motion to support the Living Wage movement, despite Conservative claims that it would lead them to close their doors.

Councillors pledged to encourage their contractors and suppliers to pay their staff the living wage of £7.65, which Tory councillors said would force local charities to cease their services.

Speaking at last Thursday’s council meeting, Cllr Jeremy Balfour said that enforcing a living wage would leave vulnerable people without essential services. He said that three charities in his ward alone “would simply have to close and lay off their staff and lay off helping the vulnerable people in the West of Edinburgh” if they were obliged to pay the living wage.

However, Ruchir Shah, policy manager of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said that they supported the living wage initiative and hoped that all organisations, charities included, would get behind it.

He said: “We support the living wage. [Charities] should value their staff as much as the people they are helping. [...] If charities are funded by the City Council, the council should make sure that they are paying these charities enough to pay the living wage.”

The living wage movement calls for an end to working poverty, where working people need two jobs or the assistance of charities such food banks to survive.

Cllr Norma Austin Hart, who proposed the motion, told the council that most people living in poverty in the UK are low-paid workers, who cannot afford basic human rights such as food and shelter.

Describing poverty levels as “a modern scandal”, she said: “It is no longer the case that employment guarantees a route out of poverty, so employers need to be encouraged to take this important anti-poverty action. I feel that it is incumbent on the public sector to lead the way on this.”

She describe the living wage as “the most effective tool we have at our disposal” in the fight against working poverty.

However, businesses remain cautious,  expressing some concern about an “arbitrarily-defined” living wage.

David Martin of the Scottish Retail Consortium said that the two biggest costs to retailers are people and property. He said: “Smaller businesses might be acutely hit by this – if there is pressure on one of these two variables, you have to reduce that cost, either by a cutback on additional employee benefits or by reducing staff numbers.”

However, he also said that the vast majority of retailers, traditionally associated with low salaries, already paid above minimum wage.

Doctors Support Margo MacDonald Assisted Suicide Bill

By Jordan Hooks

A surgeon and a professor of neurology are among a group of doctors who have spoken out in support of legalising assisted suicide.

Eleven medical experts back the bill proposed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald. The bill would compliment the palliative care that is currently offered in Scotland.

One ear, nose and throat surgeon, Gillian MacDougall, said there are more GPs that support the bill, but are afraid to sign it in fear of being labeled as ‘Dr. Death.’

The bill is the second attempt Margo has made to change the law. Her previous attempt was voted down by MSPs in 2010.

Under the new proposed bill, only those who are terminally ill or who are suffering from deteriorating progressive conditions, which make life intolerable will be able to seek assisted suicide. A second professional opinion would be needed, followed by a 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period.

This process is then repeated again, after one of the doctors concerned would supply a license facilitator with a prescription to enable assisted suicide to take place.

If the prescription is not used within 14 days, it is required to be returned.

When she launched the Bill in November, the Lothian MSP said she believed it could be successful this time, stating: “I have sensed from the beginning that there was a change because of the volume of support that we can demonstrate.”

Boycott Campaigns send G4S Off Campus

By Martha Shardalow

It’s another bad week for security firm G4S as two UK universities choose not to award them control of on-campus services.

Kings College London Action Palestine initated a campus campaign against G4S after criticising the company for their role in the Middle East.

image source: KCL Action Palestine Committee 2013-14

image source: KCL Action Palestine Committee 2013-14

G4S has an explicit part to play in providing security and equipment to Israeli prisons, settlements and checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. KCL Action Palestine launched a protest on campus and over 500 students signed their petition.

University of Southampton Students for Palestine followed suit and succeeded in their efforts not to award G4S a contract to provide security on campus. Previously, G4S had been a favourite to win major contracts at both Kings College London (KCL) and The University of Southampton and had already provided services to these universities.

Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) enacted much the same fate for the company back in 2011 – a major victory for the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. G4S no longer provides security services for Edinburgh University Library made possible by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) who forced the university to tear up its contract with the firm.

The Boycott Israel Kings College group released a statement that the decision was due to “a continuous effort of resistance and support by the KCL students and staff.”They successfully passed a motion in the student union in support of the campaign, asking the union to commit and lobby the university against G4S.

Southampton students joined in celebration after their petition and public statement received overwhelming support by students and student societies. The petition was signed by 24 student societies from the Marxist society to the Taekwando Club.

 Juman A, co-founder of Students for Palestine Southampton, voices her concerns to to exclude ethically corrupt companies from student circles. She said: “We believe that no one should be allowed to profit from their wrongdoings. We take a firm stance against G4S’ complicity in the occupation and its discriminatory malpractice in the UK and elsewhere around the world.G4S is complicit in the Israeli occupation’s flagrant violations of human rights and its breaches of international law.  The boycott movement stems form the root of the Palestinian struggle and we, as students, are committed to one cause – that is justice.”

The weight of these developments are growing in momentum as part of an international campaign against G4S. This wider movement has seen public  bodies, nongovernmental organisations and financial institutions across the world terminate their contracts and boycott G4S.

A growing number of universities are joining the pack with student campaigns in the UK continually taking force, including The University of Birmingham.

Due to their complicity with Israeli apartheid, G4S have also been excluded from the contract tendering processes at universities in Oslo and Bergen in Norway. These two institutions have called for the express exclusion of all such companies on their campuses and, alongside London and Southampton, do not deny this as a vital step towards strengthening the boycott movement globally.

 

The Panda Craze

The piteously extravagant and undeserved media and public hype over the breeding of Edinburgh Zoo’s two giant Pandas, Tian Tian and her prospective mate Yang Guang, is a cause for worry and concern. Especially at a time when we have witnessed a tragic blaze at Five Sister’s zoo in West Lothian killing a substantial number of reptiles and other animals including 11 meerkats. People seemed not too bothered by these events yet any news about Tian Tian and her oestrogen levels and we quickly turn to our screens. The BBC have now featured the sensationalised scrutiny of the panda breeding in their headlines alongside more justifiable stories, in terms of news values, like the capturing of the man suspected of being responsible for the Boston Bombings and the Earthquake in China killing more than 150 people.

Artificial insemination has been carried out on Tian Tian following a week when hormones showed she was approaching her 36-hour fertile period. In a desperate and almost forlorn attempt to get the Zoo’s most popular creatures breeding, it is telling of British Society’s very needless obsession with pandas. A grassroots campaigning animals charity, Scotland for Animals said the drive to breed Tian Tian is a a purely ‘financial and commercial’ project with the intention of ‘increasing visiting numbers to the zoo’. Scotland for Animals underwent a campaign to expose the ‘lies’ of Edinburgh Zoo who, they feel, hide the commercial implication of their actions behind a blanket emphasising ‘a conservation effort’.

Once entering the official website for the Zoo one can’t help but notice a special section dedicated to buying tickets to visit the Pandas, alongside a link to the  pandacam. Even when contacting the zoo the first thing they say is to visit the website if your inquiry is connected to visiting the giant pandas. Now it’s almost impossible to contact the Zoo unless it’s an emergency inquiry because of the melodramatic amount of international attention driven towards the sex life of these sexually uninterested, animals. You can’t get away from these black and white, bamboo-eating bears. When they first arrived in 2011, loaned by the Bifengxia Breeding Centre in China, massive cheering crowds gathered as they were driven to the gates, in a spectacle as exaggerated and pathetic as the opening of Krispy Kremes in February. The media flocked like a pack of birds to the airport desperately awaiting their arrival as if they didn’t have anything else important to report on. A costly, specially-refurbished VIP enclosure was created for these celebrities as they were taken down the ‘red carpet’ into the zoo’s grand entrance. Moreover, this move signifies a wider socio-economic, cultural and political deal between the Scottish and Chinese Governments, representing the culmination of five years of political and diplomatic negotiation at the highest level. Pandas are,therefore, not just animals but ambassadors to China,and symbols of international diplomacy at the greatest standard.

The question to ask is why this intensive publicity and hype? Perhaps it’s because pandas are an endangered species, a rare and valued Chinese national treasure, meaning complete and utter precedence over every other animal in the country. There are only 1,600 of them in the wild, and around 300 in captivity. we perhaps because they are simply endearing and pleasant to look at? If 158 million people like a video of a panda sneezing on Youtube then surely they safely tick the ‘cute’ box? A more plausible reason maybe that Edinburgh is home to the only two giant pandas in the UK, surely such a rarity on our Island will inevitably give way to mass appeal and attention? Or is it something more intricate and deeper, as Henry Nicholls, author of The Way of the Panda explains, it maybe  due to their almost baby-like features with their flat face, large eyes and clumsy nature.

The panda craze illustrates wider issues to do with journalism in today’s world. If there is such international and domestic fascination and excitement over the news of two pandas breeding does it qualify as important news? The acute distinction between ‘of the public interest’ and ‘in the public interest’ should be addressed. This story is quite clearly of the public interest but not in the interest of the public. In terms of generating mass political debate and changing the face and structure of countries for decades to come, the pandas are not in the same league as the conflict in Syria or the global financial recession for example.

However, as symbols of international relations, and subjects of mass tourism, marketing, merchandise and general (and genuine) adoration, these creatures will continue to attract special journalistic heed, News and the Zoo is a business, business is commercial and commercial is about selling. The Tian Tian and Yang Guang show is to go on for a while yet.

Interview with Scotland for Animals

Council threatens to sue protest group over court costs.

Rising legal costs have driven Edinburgh City Council to announce that they plan to take Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) to court to recover costs incurred so far as a result of their attempts to block the building of a new secondary school on Portobello Park.

The group said this week that they plan to appeal the Court of Session decision saying that council do not need permission to go ahead with the plans.

Diana Cairns of PPAG responded today saying she was not aware that the Council had decided to sue, and said the group would need to take legal advice before responding to this news.

She agreed that this could possibly be a scaring tactic from the Council to try to discourage the group from pressing forward with their appeal.

 

Splashback causing waves for Leith Councillors

Source: Greener Leith

Leith local election candidates faced the voters last night at the Leith Links hustings.  On the menu were crucial issues for the port  including the biomass proposal and the tram project. 

Leith Waterworld was also discussed and the closure of the family-friendly pool last January has not deterred campaigners, Splashback, from trying to reopen it. 

Edinburgh Napier News spoke to Johnny Gailey, one of the Splashback leaders.   

 

Councillors pedalling fast to fight pollution

Gordon MacKenzie speaks to Spokes supporters at the 2012 local election hustings.

It’s campaign time  and on May the 3rd  voters will  choose the future of the city transport. 

 Transport had been in the spotlight in recent years due to the troubled tram project.  Now Edinburgh faces another challenge with European Union strict standards on air pollution.  The Green party have highlighted the deadline for the city to reach acceptable air pollution levels by 2015.  If the council do not meet these targets the taxpayer will face a heavy financial penalty.  

Spokes is an Edinburgh charity organisation that focuses on bicycle transport but also green issues.  A hustings was held on Thursday  29th  March to question the councillors responsible for this important issue.

A Little April Foolery

A “little April foolery” is a protest staged all over Edinburgh by local artists on the first of April. The protest is aimed at the controversial legislation, which will come into action on the first of the month. Many hundreds of artists are set to make the city centre their big stage as they fight against the country-wide legislation which will establish rules requiring that every artist has a license before they can stage free events.

Nearly 1500 people are expected to attend this event, either as performers or spectators.

Edinburgh Napier News interviewed Jen McGregor, the founder of the “A Little April Foolery” campaign.

“A little April Foolery” is a very different take on this popular day of pranks. Here are some interesting theories and facts suggesting how April Fool’s day may have originated and how it can be celebrated:

One theory shows April Fool’s Day dates back to the 12th Century Arabia.

A different theory says April Fool’s started with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar. Before, people celebrated the new year on the first of April. Hence, people still celebrating on that day were “April Fools”

Here in Scotland we originally call this day “hunting the gowk” (the cuckoo), and if you are tricked, you are an “April gowk”. We love this basic celebration of Schadenfreude that much that we gave it a second day, called “Taily Day”. This day is solely devoted to pranks involving the backside of the body. The “butt” of these jokes may often have a “kick me” sign placed on their back.

In France it is immensely popular to prank someone using a dead fish. Throwing at or even slapping someone with it, putting it in someone’s bag, there are no limits. Just remember to shout “Poisson d’Avril!” (April Fish!) and hilarity ensues.

In Poland the day has a similar theme to France. The Polish love to prank people by pouring water on them.

Depending on where you live in England, you may also be called a “gobby” or a “noodle” if you find yourself on the receiving end of the prank.

Radio: NSPCC say that Scots wait a month to report child abuse

Listen Here:

The NSPCC has launched a new campaign urging the public to act on doubts about child safety, as new figures show most people wait at least a month before picking up the phone.

In the last six months, 374 people from Scotland contacted the NSPCC with concerns about a child that were considered so serious they warranted immediate action. Of those, over one third had waited at least a month with an additional 26 per cent waiting more than six.

The figures come as a new viral campaign, made by Skins and Billy Elliot director Amanda Boyle, is launched in partnership with parents’ website Netmums.

The campaign, entitled ‘Don’t wait until you’re certain’ mimics a well-known online series but carries a serious message and has already received over 25,000 YouTube hits in its first 72hours online.

The campaign film was inspired by the popular ‘Sh*t Girls Say’ series, which parodies the things girls stereotypically say. The NSPCC clip uses the idea to dramatic effect drawing attention to ‘The $#*! Kids Say’, slang for the familiar ‘kids say the funniest things’.

[Read more...]

Tibet Protest March across Edinburgh

Activists from Edinburgh joined the worldwide commemorations of the Tibetan National Uprising Day on Saturday with a march through the Scottish capital.

 This year marks the 53rd anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising in the country’s capital, Lhasa. The Uprising erupted on 10 March 1952, a decade after the Chinese invasion of the country.

One of the organisers of Saturday’s march explained their motivation was to denounce China’s violent regime, “China’s repressive policies since it occupied Tibet 60 years ago have created a crisis in Tibet, provoking an unprecedented wave of self-immolations by Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople. So far, 21 Tibetans have set fire to themselves in eastern Tibet; eight since 6 January 2012. Marchers”.

Protesters departed from The Mound at 1.30pm and walked to the Chinese Consulate in Murrafyeld, where they left hundreds of flowers matching the colours of the Tibetan flag, alongside pictures of Tibetants who were killed or self-immolated since the Chinese occupation of the country.

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Armed with placards, flags, flowers and megaphones, they peacefully marched over George IV Bridge, down Victoria Street, along Grassmarket, Lothian Road and Shandwick Place, calling for support to bring human rights back to Tibet. Some of the banners read: ‘Let Tibetan voices be heard’, ‘Tibet is Burning’ and called for freedom for Tibet.

 

Marchers also handed out leaflets holding the Chinese authorities responsible for neglecting the basic rights of the Tibetan people stating, “The Chinese authorities have engaged in wholesale abuse of human rights of native Tibetants, while embarking on a campaign to eradicate Tibetan language and culture”.

Edinburgh University Tibet society also encouraged people to gather in Bristo Square on Saturday. A spokesperson for the society expressed their support, “We need to let the world know that Scotland will always stand in Solidarity with Tibetants in Tibet and will not stop until Tibet is free”.

Obama Praises Kony 2012 Campaign

The Obama administration has praised the people who have started the Kony 2012 Campaign. However people in Uganda are outraged at the film.

In the last 5 days alone the internet has gone viral with videos and posts about Joseph Kony. The charity group Invisible Children started the Kony 2012 Campaign with a 30 minute film on youtube which was pushed via Twitter, Facebook, celebrities and every other person. The video has been viewed over 50 million times and everyone seems to be talking about it. Some are promoting the campaign incessantly and others are voicing their protest against it and the notion of the campaign itself. The video has gained such momentum that it is taking the internet and world by storm.

The campaign was started because Invisible Children wanted to make the US government aware of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who is responsible for the abduction and enslavement of more than 30 000 children. And the campaign seems to have succeeded as it has got the attention of Obama. According to The Telegraph, the White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney has congratulated the “hundreds of thousands of Americans who have mobilised to this unique crisis of conscience.”  Carney said; “The United States continues to pursue a comprehensive multi-faceted strategy to help the governments and people ofCentral Africain their efforts to end the threat posed by the LRA and reduce the human consequences of the LRA’s atrocities.”

However, Ugandans are extremely upset by the video saying that it paints a picture of Uganda 6 years ago, as Kony and his troops fled Ugandain 2006 and are now dispersed in the jungles in the surrounding countries. An Ugandan government spokesperson Fred Opolot said; “It is totally misleading to suggest that the war is still in Uganda. I suspect that if that’s the impression they are making, they are doing it only to garner increasing financial resources for their own agenda.”

The Kony Campaign has received vast criticism as people believe that Invisible Children are making money out of an issue which has been around for two decades. The campaign has resulted in Invisible Children facing harsher scrutiny over how they use their funds and about how much of their income from donations actually goes to the causes they campaign for.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Edinburgh set to celebrate its remarkable women

March sees the annual return of International Women’s Day (IWD) with events planned throughout Edinburgh to mark the occasion.

For over 100 years, the world has celebrated the achievements of women and their contribution to the arts, sciences, medicine and numerous other fields. On and around 8th March the celebration continues as countries around the world host their own events.

Beginning life in 1909 as National Women’s Day in the United States the day was instigated by the Socialist Party of America. It soon spread overseas to socialist countries in Europe before being recognised as an international event in 1911.

The UN’s theme for this years IWD will be Empower Women: End Hunger and Poverty. The United States have also planned a Women’s History Month to coincide with IWD and Google will change its search engine icon to show their support.

Founder of the internationalwomensday.com, Glenda Stone explains why IWD has become so popular, “Activity on International Women’s Day has skyrocketed over the last five years. This is due to the rise of social media, celebrity involvement, and corporations taking on the day sponsoring and running big events. Our twitter.com/womensday community with around 10,000 followers is phenomenal for sharing videos, information and news as it happens. Offline large scale women’s rallies have become even larger through the use of social media. It would be hard to find any country that did not celebrate the day in some way.”

This year, Edinburgh will recognise IWD with a calender of events kicking off this evening at Surgeons Hall with a series of talks acknowledging women often overlooked in Edinburgh’s medical community. The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh University and the Film House will also play host to events and talks.

For more information on these events click here.

Fans protest BBC Radio 1 cuts

David Moffatt Photographer at Moff@ Photography

Musicians and music fans gathered on a rainy Sunday to protest the cancelling of a Radio 1 show championing new Scottish music.

Glasgow’s Pacific Quay played host to the protesters who illustrated their point with Scottish musicians playing their music to show the BBC what they would be missing.

The campaign began back in October when the BBC announced further budget cuts which would include axing Radio 1’s ‘Introducing in Scotland’ hosted by Ally McCrae. The remit of the show and its sister shows in Wales and Northern Ireland, is to introduce audiences to the latest in local music. The show has helped launch the careers of Biffy Clyro and Paolo Nutini. Without these programmes protesters believe that regional music will be given limited air time.

Front man for Scottish band Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison, explained the importance of the show to new Scottish music, “I think it would be a travesty if the show is cut from the BBC radio schedule in Scotland. For over 10 years, the show has been an invaluable and irreplaceable platform for new and established Scottish bands. It serves to breed an essential community within Scottish music and scrapping this show would reinforce the popular fallacy that the industry does not exist outwith London”

The campaign has also gained the backing of MSP Joan McAlpine who said, “The Campaign to save Radio Six Music was successful but The Pop Cop has gathered more signatures per head of population in Scotland with a lot less publicity, which shows the strength of feeling. The BBC really needs to listen to that message and save the sound of young Scotland. This is the only Scottish opt out on Radio One, so dropping it is just unfair. “

McAlpine has already gained cross party support in the Scottish Parliament for a motion in support of the show.

Music blogger, the Pop Cop and gig promoter, Pelmet Nites have gathered over 6,000 signatures for an online petition which is expected to be delivered to the BBC in London by the campaigners themselves in mid December.

Action Against Violence Towards Women

The City of Edinburgh Council and other local authorities
will be taking part in 16 Days of Action.

This event starts tomorrow and opposes violence against women. The event, which has the support of the UN, will take place from November 25 until December 10. This event comes after two sexual assaults were reported in The Meadows over the past week, bringing violence against women into the spotlight.

A “Reclaim the Night” event is set to occur tonight leaving from Bristo Square at 7.30pm in response to the recent sexual assaults and in anticipation of the 16 Days of Action, which starts tomorrow.

The event, which will be run by the Edinburgh Violence Against Women Partnership (EVAWP), aims to bring together a number of local services and charities in order to raise awareness and help the prevention of violence against women.

According to White Ribbon Scotland, a domestic violence incident is recorded every 10 minutes, and reports of domestic violence have risen by 8% since 2007. Domestic violence affects women disproportionately, with 84% of recorded incidents having a female victim and a male perpetrator. It is believed that 1 in 5 women in Scotland will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Rape conviction rates in Scotland are currently at an all time low of 3.7%. Added to this, in 2007, 26% of Scots surveyed believed that a woman is at least partially responsible for being raped if she wears revealing clothing.

Superintendent David Carradice of Lothian and Borders Police has stated that the police are “committed to tackling violence against women and work alongside our partner agencies to bring those responsible for violent crimes to justice, while at the same time offering all the necessary support and advice to victims.”

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