Council Set To Improve The City Centre

Edinburgh City Council has developed a proposal to improve the pedestrian space in the city centre, particularly in the area around Princes Street and George Street. The report focuses, specifically, on improving the pedestrian space and environment in line with the delivery of the tram project, which is due to be completed this Summer.

One of the methods of achieving this is providing an opportunity for dedicated cycle provision in the area, as well as reducing the detrimental impact of vehicles on the City Centre environment. The Council’s ‘Action Travel Action Plan’ sets targets to provide significant improvements in the walking and cycling infrastructure of the city centre by 2020, and the promotion of these means of travel.

The proposal states that by managing the traffic movement of Lothian Buses, it would achieve these objectives. Eastbound buses on Princes Street maybe relocated to George Street effectively halving the number of buses on Princes Street. The proposal also sets to close Princes Street to general traffic in both directions, as well as to allow general traffic on George Street in an eastbound direction only, including taxis. The Council have also announced they are to massively reduce parking availability spots in the City Centre.  Josh Miller,  George Street Association, explained that ”this will just not work.. People will not have to park their cars somewhere else, more inconvenient, and a lot of time will be wasted’. He argued that the ‘Council have not though through a viable alternative’.

Ian Perry, Planning Convener of the Council, said ‘Princes Street has been suffering from the trams, and economic downturn, s we have agreed to increase the pavement space and redress the balance and attract more pedestrians into the town centre and to get more people to shop’.

The results of the consultation will be the subject of a future report and any changes will then be practiced to test how successful they are.

Interview with George Street Association

Interview with Ian Perry, Edinburgh City Council

Yes Scotland Welcomes New Employment Figures

The latest Bank of Scotland Report on jobs has shown an increase in the number of people who found permanent and part-time jobs. This indicates that the Scottish economy is slowly recovering from the recession. The report also showed an increase in labour market conditions, and an increase in pay for permanent and part-time jobs last month following a decline in February.

Donald Macrae, Chief Economist of the Bank of Scotland, explained that ‘’the number of people appointed to both permanent and temporary jobs rose while the number of vacancies increased’’.

The biggest recruitment improvement was seen in permanent staff placements, whereas in the rest of the UK permanent placements were the weakest in six months according to the Bank of Scotland Labour Market Barometer, scoring 52.3.

Scotland have generally shown greater signs of economic improvement than their UK counterparts. Recent official statistics showed that Scotland’s unemployment rate has fallen to below 200,000, for the first time more than three years. The Scottish jobless rate is 7.3% – below the UK average of 7.9%. Elsewhere in the UK, unemployment has risen by 70,000 to 2.56 million.

These results have raised the debate regarding whether Scotland, if they were to become Independent, would be better off economically-speaking. Stuart McDonald. Of the Yes Scotland Campaign, argued ‘’By international standards Scotland is a wealthy and productive country, and we believe that if economic policy was decided here in Scotland, we could be doing so much better’.

The Yes Scotland Campaign argued that Scotland still have a lot of work to do if they were to become Independent pointing to the successful economies of Scandinavian countries. McDonald explained that ‘Our unemployment rate may be lower than the UK’s – but other small countries like Denmark, Switzerland and Norway have unemployment rates which are a third or a half lower again’’.

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

Independence Risk for Scottish Banknotes

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SNP plans to keep the pound in the event of Scottish independence have been dealt a blow, with a Treasury report set to indicate that a currency union could lead to the end of Scottish banknotes.

The Scottish government has proposed plans to retain the pound as part of a “sterling zone” with the rest of Britain if Scotland votes in favour of independence. But the Treasury will claim that Scottish independence would “fundamentally transform” the Bank of England’s role in Scotland.

Experts have warned that the Scottish government would need to reach an agreement over Scottish banks rights to issue their own notes. If such an agreement wasn’t reached, it could lead to Scottish notes losing their value, or being rejected altogether, elsewhere in the U.K.

However the SNP have maintained that there is no threat to their plans to keep the pound, dismissing dears that it would affect the situation with Scottish banknotes as “scaremongering”.

A spokesperson said ““The existing situation relating to Scottish banknotes will remain in place within a post-independence currency union.”

SNP MP Stewart Hosie this morning hit back at claims that the value of Scottish notes might be affected, telling the BBC “Every single Scottish note in circulation is fully covered by assets held by the Bank of England, which guarantees its value. That wouldn’t change under independence.”

The debate comes after Alistair Darling, head of the Better Together campaign, voiced his concerns about SNP plans to the Scottish Labour conference at the weekend. Adressing the conference in Inverness, Mr Darling said that nationalist arguments for currency “fall apart” when questioned, claiming that the government was being “evasive” over the issue.

He said “In the last 12 months alone, they have gone from being in favour of the euro to using the pound, to now saying they will have a currency union. In order to keep the pound, the nationalists now say we would have to enter in to a currency union. Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon was saying that of course within a currency union you could do what you want, there would be no constraints, you could spend money on what you want. That is utter nonsense.”

Which currency should an independent Scotland use? Have your say in our poll on the issue.

Scottish Labour Conference Round-up

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This weekend saw Scottish Labout hold its annual conference in Inverness. With Scotland just over a year away from the independence referendum, the conference was an opportunity for the party to establish its agenda for the coming months. Here were a few of the talking points.

Lamont pledges to help SNP on social justice

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has vowed to work with the Scottish government to help those affected by Tory cuts. In an emotional speech to conference, Lamont pledged to work with the SNP to protect Scots from the “injustice” of the much-maligned “bedroom tax”. She told delegates “Scotland can stand united against the Tory cuts and I call upon the SNP to work with us. If they truly believe in social justice, we can work together.”

Labour attacks Thatcher legacy

Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar accused George Osborne of carrying on the “vandalism” of Margaret Thatcher with his austerity measures. In a fiery speech to conference Sarwar blasted the Chancellor in the wake of the former PMs funeral last week. He said “(Osbourne) has shaped his whole political ideology and cut his political teeth so he can carry on the work of his political hero. Today, he is carrying on the vandalism Thatcher started and his targets are just the same.”

Future Employment Taskforce Launched

Margaret Curran MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, used conference to launch a taskforce on Employment for the Future. The taskforce will be in place to explore ways in which Scotland can increase employment opportunities in the years to come. Speaking at the launch, Curran said “We have close to 200,000 people unemployed in Scotland, and 17,000 people have spent the last two years on the dole, trying to find jobs. This is a challenge that is too urgent to wait until we are in Government again.” The taskforce will be chaired by Lord John McFall and leading tech entrepreneur MT Rainey.

New Health Watchdog Proposed

Labour announced proposals for a new healthcare watchdog, which would have the power to monitor and turn around troubled hospitals with troubleshooting “Change Teams”. Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Jackie Baillie said that it would be a body “with teeth”, to “regulate, inspect, enforce and encourage continuous improvement.”

Johann Lamont was praised by attendees for her keynote speech to her party. However the SNP took the opportunity to criticise her “obsession” with the nationalists, claiming that it overshadows the party’s lack of policies. A spokesman said “There were 22 mentions of the SNP in Johann Lamont’s speech and Alex Salmond was name-checked 13 times. But sadly she was unable to come up with even one new policy.”

Pounds, McPounds or Euros?

Alistair Darling described an independent Scotland entering into a Sterling currency union as “a straightjacket”, implying that England would call the shots in such a scenario.

What currency would you like to spend in an Independent Scotland?

Napier students reject independence

A Napier University poll has revealed that only 29.5% of its students back Scottish independence.

The survey was carried out for the University’s magazine, Buzz, as part of the Masters Journalism course. 569 students were asked the question ‘If the Independence Referendum was held tomorrow, how would you vote?’ over the course of the one day poll.  This represents a sample rate of 3% of the University’s student body.

Here we talk to Simon Pia, Lecturer on Journalism at Napier and former Scottish Labour Spin Doctor about his reaction to the result.

Napier University Independence Referendum Poll

Earlier this month Buzz Magazine asked Napier students their opinions on the issue of Scottish independence. 569 students (3.3% of the student body) were asked the question “If you were to vote on Scottish independence now, how would you vote?” Both the Better Together and Yes Scotland campaigns refused to comment on the results of the poll, which will be revealed later today.

Reflecting on Iraq

To mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Shiv Das and Jamie Mckenzie spoke to Jabaal Hassan from the Iraq Association on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War.

The Iraqi Association is a non-profit organization based in the U.K that exists to enable Iraqis to settle and integrate in this country with rights to express their cultural identities.

We also spoke to Baroness Nicholson, who founded the Iraqi Britain Business Council four years ago. She says “the objective is to bring high quality businesses in to Iraq and connect them with high quality Iraqi businesses. The purpose behind that is that there is very high unemployment of young people and I am very keen to get them into jobs and help their futures.”

PM to announce tougher immigration benefit controls

by Simone Hinrichsen

David Cameron made an official announcement today defining tougher controls on unemployment and housing benefits for immigrants.

The prime minister used today’s speech to caution those coming to Britain that they can no longer expect “something for nothing”.

“While I have always believed in the benefits of immigration, I have also always believed that immigration has to be properly controlled,” the Prime Minister said.

Currently there is no limit on how long migrants from the European Economic Area – the EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – can claim unemployment benefits while looking for a job.

From 2014, arrivals from the EU be stripped of jobseekers benefits after six months unless they can prove they have been actively looking for a job and stand a “genuine chance” of finding one.

The government vows to strengthen the “range and depth” of questions in the residence test, which checks that people meet residence requirements for housing and unemployment benefits.

Cameron also targeted illegal immigration – doubling the maximum fine for companies that employ illegal workers to £20,000 – and signal action against so-called “health tourism” that could mean non-EU nationals have to prove they hold insurance before getting care.

We spoke to Bulgarian student Snezhina Marinova, who shares her views on the immigration and benefits for Bulgarian and Romanian students.

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.

Big Brother Politician becomes Bradford-West MP

Photo taken by David Hunt

George Galloway, a Respect Party Candidate, most well known for his infamous Big Brother Stint, has won the Bradford-West by-election by 10, 140 votes.

Galloway, in a shocking victory, has taken the Bradford West Parliamentary seat from the Labour Party, and polled more than 18,000 votes. Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party in October 2003 because he expressed his opposition to the Iraq War. Soon after he became a founding member of the left-wing, anti-war Respect Party.

Mr Galloway said the victory is: “the most sensastional victory in British political history.”

Labour Leader, Ed Milliband, is very disappointed with the outcome of the by-elections, but has vowed to lead a Labour Party fightback. Miliband said: “It was an incredibly disappointing result for Labour in Bradford West and I am determined that we learn lessons of what happened.” Miliband will be travelling to Bradford soon, to try to: “win back people’s trust.”

George Galloway contested the parliamentary seat of Poplar and Limehouse, in the 2010 UK general election, as well as the Glasgow List in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, but was unsuccessful in both.

George Galloway, beat Labour candidate Imran Hussein by 10,140 votes and received 15,595 more votes than Conservative candidate Jackie Whiteley, who came third in the election.

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.

Comment: George Watson’s College’s MUN Conference

George Watson's College hosted their annual MUN this weekend
Image: Alexandra Wingate

If there’s one group we like to blame society’s problems on, it’s young people. These binge drinking hoody wearers are disaffected, uncaring and couldn’t spell “politics” if their entire Spelling Bee credibility depended on it, right?

Wrong. While some of us continue to bury years of repressed memories of endless evenings spent crying over boys and loudly hating our parents, there is one place guaranteed to restore a long lost faith in teenagers: a Model United Nations conference.

This weekend’s MUN at George Watson’s College is the largest school-based conference of its kind in Scotland. Attracting over 600 secondary school pupils from across Britain, Europe and even North Africa, ages range from as young as 12 right up to 18 – and all of them with a keen interest in international relations.

The three-day conference is spent debating a wide variety of issues, ranging from designer babies and women’s pay, to the justification of torture and overcoming poverty. Sometimes the discussions wander into satire (take, for example, Germany’s proposal that a hotline between a selection of UN member states have Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” as its holding tune), but usually they’re serious, well researched and impressively thorough.

There’s a wide range of abilities here, from the seasoned MUN veteran to the nervous first timer, but for all of them it’s cool to be clever. This is helped by the overwhelming feature at George Watson’s being the feeling of inclusion; nobody can be found sitting awkwardly on their own or left red faced in the aftermath of a “stupid” suggestion.

“We pride ourselves on being a friendly conference,” explains chair of one of the political committees, Lily Taylor. “So if it’s anyone’s first conference we really encourage them to speak.”

Being young, these kids take everything in their stride. Full of modesty and sheltered from the harsh realities of a competitive job market, they don’t seem to grasp quite how astonishing what they’re doing is. One boy cringes at his mum’s public yet withheld expressions of pride, while another talks down his achievements, instead joking about accepting bribes in the form of bags of Haribo, a selection of lollipops and even a cabbage.

As well as having the confidence to stand up and present their argument in front of an entire hall full of their peers, they all clearly know their stuff – and if they don’t, they’re quickly pulled up by someone else who does. The enthusiasm is infectious; they might be role playing, but each speech is passionate without exception, with the debates becoming more and more colourful as the weekend progresses.

If there’s one criticism of the MUN scene, it’s that it’s still dominated by private schools. As an extra curricular activity, it’s perhaps little wonder that only a handful of state schools have the resources to establish and nurture any kind of MUN club. That said, a good number of the Scottish schools at George Watson’s conference are state schools, including James Gillespie’s High School which held its first one-day conference at the end of last year.

But the most profound outcome of an MUN has got to be the effect it has on the minds and attitudes of young people. Not only do participants have to understand and defend the policies and beliefs of a nation often very different to their own, but the conference physically allows them to meet and socialise with people from all walks of life from cultures and countries across the world. Even within the first break, rooms full of people who had never set eyes on each other an hour earlier are a buzz of chatter and laughter in a true demonstration of the unprejudiced openness of youth.

So take heed, ye of little faith: if there’s ever a way to promote cultural understanding and tolerance, a Model United Nations is surely it – and it’s our young people at the helm. We should be proud.

Edinburgh hosts Scotland’s largest school MUN Conference

One of Britain’s largest Model United Nations Conferences took place in Edinburgh this weekend.

Over 600 teenagers took part in the three-day conference at George Watson’s College. Now in its sixth year, it is the biggest school-based MUN in Scotland and attracts participants from as far afield as Egypt and Turkey.

Alexandra Wingate reports exclusively from the conference.


What is an MUN?

An MUN is a replica of the United Nations. As well as having a secretary general and a number of chairs, the conference consists of a variety of committees, a security council, a general assembly and an emergency debate.

Participants are assigned a member state which they then represent in various discussions. The challenge is for delegates to accurately portray the political policies and moral values of their assigned country, which usually differs in varying degrees to that of their own nation.

How does an MUN work?

As in the real United Nations, an MUN is primarily split into different committees which are attended by one delegate from each state. In George Watson’s case, these consist of economic, environment, health, human rights, media, and political, with as many as 48 countries represented in each committee.

After lobbying for support, delegates can put forward a formal resolution for discussion. The proposal is then debated with opportunities to add amendments before the final resolution is voted on by all members. This format is replicated throughout the conference, in both the smaller security council and the large general assembly attended by all delegates from all countries.

The debates are formal and procedures are carefully overseen by a number of chairs. Discussions are detailed and rigorous with a typical session lasting around one to two hours.

King's School in Chester won the award for Best Delegation
Image: Alexandra Wingate

Comment: George Watson’s College’s MUN Conference

Theresa May independence claims challeneged by SNP

Theresa May the Home Secretary has made the latest in a series of allegations about the prospects for an independent Scotland. In an interview with the BBC, Ms. May stated that there may be border controls on the border with England, dependent on whether Scotland opts out of the Schengen agreement or not.

This comes after comments she made during the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Troon over the weekend. During the conference, the Home Secretary stated that she believed that Scotland was stronger in the union, and suggested that immigration would become less controlled in an independent Scotland. Ms May also questioned the issue of sovereignty within the EU, stating “It completely defeats the SNP argument that Scotland would fare better with more control over its affairs when they seek to hand over so many serious areas of government elsewhere.”

In her interview with the BBC, Theresa May states  it may be possible that Scotland post-independence will have passport controls on the border with England. The Schengen agreement, which guarantees no border controls in the EU, was opted-out of by the UK, but new EU states, such as Scotland would be, are automatically opted in and have to negotiate if they don’t want to be in it.

Currently the UK operates a Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland, and Ms. May stated that an agreement of this kind may be negotiated between Scotland and the rest of Britain after independence.

A statement released by the SNP today stated that since both the rump UK and Scotland would be successor states from the UK, they ” will therefore inherit exactly the same status within the EU, including not being in the Schengen area.”

“An independent Scotland will also inherit the Common Travel Area which exists across UK and Ireland, and provides for no border controls for the citizens of these islands.”

The statement added that a soveriegn country can tailor immigration to meet their needs and that immigration may help “address skills shortages in Scotland’s labour market”. The SNP claims that the  the Home Secretary’s statements were “silly” and “scaremongering.”

Secret Lockerbie documents published

Yesterday the Sunday Herald published a full 800 page report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC). For five years no paper was allowed to get access to the report. The controversial report highlights hopes of a new appeal in the name of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, since a believed miscarriage of justice may have occurred. The Libyan Megrahi got convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. The Crown Office commented though, that it had considered all the information in the statement of reasons and had “every confidence in successfully defending the conviction”.

The reasons  the Herald was able to publish the papers are Megrahi’s permission as well as the public interest for the Lockerbie bombing.  First Minister Alex Salmond supports the report, which doubts Megrahi’s conviction. He said: “I welcome the publication in full of this report, which is something the Scottish Government has been doing everything in our powers to facilitate.” Salmond added also: “This report provides valuable information, from an independent body acting without fear or favour, and while we cannot expect it to resolve all the issues, it does however lay the basis for narrowing the areas of dispute and in many ways is far more comprehensive than any inquiry could ever hope to be.”

On Wednesday 21 December 1988, shortly after Pan Am 103 was taking off from Heathrow airport to go to New York, an explosion over the Scottish town of Lockerbie caused the aircraft fall out of the sky. 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed, as well as 11 Lockerbie citizens. Megrahi got convicted for planting the bomb but got released in 2009 because he suffered from cancer, which was supposed to give him about three more months to live. Megrahi is still alive today.

The publication by the Sunday Herald was a contentious decision, since the it wasn’t authorised. The paper commented: “Under Section 32 of the Data Protection Act, journalists can publish in the public interest. We have made very few redactions to protect the names of confidential sources and private information.”

Experts do not believe the newspaper will face prosecution for publishing the documents.

Cameron pledges boost to dementia care and research

David Cameron is expected to pledge to double funding for dementia research by 2015 to £66 million.

It is hoped that this funding increase will ensure that the UK will become “the world leader for dementia research and care”. With the figure of dementia sufferers set to rise to 1 million within the next decade the cost of health and social care related to the disease is already at £23 billion per year. This figure surpasses the cost of cancer, stroke and heat disease treatment. Mr. Cameron is also expected to lay out plans to ensure that the NHS can deal with the ever increasing numbers.

The Prime minister will say that current understanding and awareness of the disease is “shockingly low” and that the government must tackle in the same way that cancer was tackled in the ’70s and AIDS in the ’80s.

Mr. Cameron will call Dementia, “One of the greatest challenges of our time is what I’d call the quiet crisis, one that steals lives and tears at the hearts of families, but that relative to its impact is hardly acknowledged.

“Dementia is simply a terrible disease. And it is a scandal that we as a country haven’t kept pace with it.”

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley has also revealed that a new screening programme will be launched in an effort to catch the disease in its early stages. GPs will offer patients routine memory tests, as well as existing tests for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, Jeremy Hughes said the plans were “an unprecedented step towards making the UK a world leader in dementia”. Hughes added, “Doubling funding for research, tackling diagnosis and calling for a radical shift in the way we talk, think and act on dementia will help to transform lives.”

Kirsty Jardine, Awareness Manager for Alzheimer’s Scotland spoke to us about the implications of Cameron’s announcement in Scotland. Click below to listen to the full interview.


 

Scotland Dementia Stats

  • In Scotland around 7 thousand people are a diagnosed with dementia every year.
  • Dementia is most common in older people, but can affect people in their 40s or 50s or even younger. Approximately 2,500 people with dementia are under the age of 65.
  • Scotland’s population is aging, which will have a significant impact on the number of people with dementia.

Anger after Archbishop’s comments on gay rights

Scottish gay rights charity, Equality Network has responded to a sermon given yesterday by the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti.

In the sermon he claimed that “tolerance” is turning into “tyranny” on the subject of gay marriage, accusing the political mainstream of “marginalizing” religious opinion.

The Archbishop claimed yesterday that the proposed introduction of gay marriage in Scotland is an attempt to “redefine marriage” according to “mores of the day” and is “putting the claim of ‘equality and diversity’ on a higher level than faith and reason”.

Archbishop Conti stated that creating equality between homosexual and heterosexual marriages is “contrary to the virtue of chastity” and as going against “natural law”.

The Catholic cleric went on to claim that society will “descend further into ethical confusion and moral disintegration” if the government continues to legislate on such issues.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, argued that legal equality should not be denied to gay people. “Archbishop Conti says the law is there to defend the rights of citizens, but he wants to deny those rights to people because they are gay. He says the law cannot redefine people and their rights, and yet the law has done that over and over.”

Referring to previous attempts by the law to discriminate against groups in society, Tim Hopkins stated, “In the past century the legal position of women has undergone a revolution, from non-persons without a vote, to legal equality. In the past 200 years, the legal position of Catholics in this country has similarly been redefined. It’s time that legal equality extended to LGBT people too.”

The gay rights campaigning group Stonewall has also weighed in on the controversy, stating that the Archbishop’s comments were disrespectful and intolerant. In a statement issued to ENN today, Colin Macfarlane, Director of Stonewall Scotland said that Archbishop Conti’s use of terms like “ethical confusion” were “disappointing and wholly untrue” and that “the majority of Scots support the right of same sex couples to express their committed relationships through marriage. When there 1.2 billion people in the world living on less than a dollar a day, it’s a shame that the churches’ priorities are focused on preventing a few thousand people doing just that.”

These comments come after Cardinal Keith O’Brian, Scotland’s most senior Catholic wrote in The Telegraph earlier in the month comparing legalizing gay marriage to slavery.

Previously Archbishop Conti has gone on record as supporting the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act that banned the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities. He has also voiced opposition against Civil Partnerships and IVF treatment and is a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Joint Committee for Bio-Ethics.

The Equality Network is a registered charity promoting LGBT rights and has been operating in Scotland since 1997.

Hard times for housing benefit claimants

£150m will be removed every year from the Scottish economy as a result of the UK Government’s new Housing Benefit law.  More than 95,000 households in the social rented sector will be affected by the reform and this will mean an average monthly loss of up to £65 for claimant tenants.

Great concern has been raised among Scottish citizens and the Scottish Housing Minister Keith Brown expressed his discontent about this measure. Speaking ahead of a debate on the UK government’s Welfare Reform Act on 21 March 2012, Mr. Brown stated:

“It is the responsibility of the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that the welfare reforms are successfully rolled out and – even though we disagree with the changes – the public sector in Scotland must work with them to ensure no one suffers undue hardship’.

He believes  changes to Housing Benefit will have a “huge impact on local communities and individuals, some of the most vulnerable ones in Scotland”. In order to tackle the impacts, the Scottish Government and COSLA have established a Housing Benefit Stakeholder Advisory Group to help those affected ones properly understand what the impact of the UK Government’s changes to housing benefit will exactly involve.

Scottish Tory Conference – Top 10 pick of the tweets

Image source: @ScotTories

@James_Reekie1 Great to see what Conservative councillors are doing in the Borders and South Ayrshire #scup12

@evagroeneveld Great to hear SAyrshire Councillor ‘embracing the green agenda’ at #scup12. Let’s now go beyond just recycling.

@holyroodkate Lamont: Conservatives want to give power to the people to run their communities #scup12

@labourpress Cameron praising Budget which gives £40,000 tax cut to millionaires by hitting pensioners http://bit.ly/GGXAgQ #scup12

@andywightman Why is #scup12 slogan “A Strong Scotland in a Strong Britain”? I thought we were part of the UK?

@tomwfreeman Chicken Run is a remake of the Great Escape. The Chickens are fleeing persecution. Did you think that one through, Dave? #scup12 #Cameron

@ToryHoose @John2Win “power should rest in the hands of the people that matter most, the people” #scup12

@scottishpol #scup12 McLetchie: the Scotland Bill does not hv to be a line in the sand. Another knock for Ruth Davidson’s position

@ericthefishking Oh come on, you took away their chairs! RT @ScotTories: A standing ovation for the PM in Troon. #scup12 http://pic.twitter.com/zmoJJ1vo

@holyroodkate Lamont: every voter should know that a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence #scup12

LINKS:

David Cameron’s speech

Carlaw to slam SNP cancer policy

Tory Health Spokesman slams SNP cancer drug policies

Demand for a cancer drugs fund: MSP Jackson Carlaw. Image: http://www.jacksoncarlawmsp.com

Conservative Health Spokesman Jackson Carlaw will today criticise the SNP for refusing to set up a cancer drugs fund, and instead prioritising free prescriptions for all.

He will use his annual speech at the Scottish Conservative Party Conference in Troon to argue that English cancer sufferers have a better chance of survival because of access to a cancer fund.

Prostate cancer sufferers in England have gained access to the new cancer drug Abiraterone through the fund. The same drug was recently refused approval by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.

“It is now clear where cancer sufferers rank on the SNP’s priority list,” Carlaw says.

Scottish Law Commission proposes online change

The bill will be discussed at the Scottish parliament Image: Mathhew Ross

The Scottish Law Commission has published a discussion document proposing changes to the law surrounding online contracts.

It suggests that laws governing signing international contracts in Scotland are lagging behind England.

According to Charles Garland, project manager at the Scottish Law Commission, businesses do not trust electronic signatures and often have to fly to Heathrow to meet in person to sign contracts.

Under new law, the protection around electronically agreeing contracts would be legally more solid, providing protection for contracts to be signed over the internet without the inconvenience of meeting in person, cutting away the red tape surrounding deals.

The bill would also propose safer contracts for individuals who do their shopping online and effectively sign contracts every time they buy something.

The Commission is looking for input and suggestions from businesses and law firms before it the bill is discussed in parliament.

Read the publication here: http://www.scotlawcom.gov.uk/law-reform-projects/contract-law-in-light-of-the-draft-common-frame-of-reference-dcf/

PM appears at Party Conference in Troon

Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken in Troon at the Conservative Party Conference where he discussed the independence referendum and Scotland’s role in the United Kingdom.

David Cameron, image from United Kingdom Home Office

During his speech this morning he has stated that First Minister Alex Salmond is “dithering” over the independence referendum. He said, “So my message to the First Minister is this: we’ve delivered on devolution, stop dithering about an independence referendum, start delivering your manifesto commitment, and fulfil the promise you gave to the Scottish people.”

Mr Cameron was keen to stress the importance of Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, and that it is “better off in Britain.” He also stressed that the United Kingdom is a successful union and that his government has pledged a referendum with a clear choice for Scottish voters.

The Scottish Conservatives plan to launch a new group called Friends of the Union, whose aim is to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. The group will be open to anyone, not just party members.

The Prime Minister has also spoken about the impact of the recession, stating that “there are no shortcuts” in fixing the recession. He also said that “we are the only party that understands enterprise” and “the only ones who can fix society.”

He pledged that his party would continue to support the poorest in the country, despite changes to the welfare culture.

Listen to what David Cameron had to say here:

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