Edinburgh Airport hosts public safety event for Counter Terrorism Awareness Week

By Marion Guichaoua

Police Scotland will be present today at Edinburgh Airport to alert the public about safety travel, as part of Counter Terrorism Awareness Week.

Police Scotland,  the British Transport Police are amongst UK forces taking part in Counter Terrorism Awareness Week which will run from Monday 24 November until Sunday 30 November 2014.

They will be present in transport hubs all across the UK to help the public understand the threat to the UK and emphasise the importance of reporting any suspicious activity.

The Police Scotland website explains that: “The aim is not to alarm the public. No one is better placed to notice someone or something out of place within a community than those who live and work in that community.”

Staff who work across transport hubs will receive training to look out for suspicious behaviour and learn what they should do if an attack should happen.

Speaking ahead of the Safer Travel Days, Superintendent Alan Crawford said: “Police Scotland Border Policing Command welcomes this opportunity to raise the awareness of Counter Terrorism across the transport hubs and wider business community in Scotland.

“Airports and seaports are vibrant transport hubs where the public work and transit on a daily basis. These ports are, in their own right, communities where there is an opportunity for us all to report suspicious activity no matter how insignificant this may seem.

“At a time of increased threat levels, and with the focus on Syria and the Middle East, it is vital that collectively we work together to protect our border.”

Police Scotland also said: “Although the threat level has recently been increased to severe, meaning that a terrorist attack in the UK is “Highly Likely” there is no specific intelligence of any planned attack, however this raised threat level does mean that we all need to be vigilant.”

During Counter Terrorism Awareness Week, the focus will be on five key areas: vigilance in crowded places and transport hubs, preventing violent extremism, preventing financing of terrorist groups and ensuring the safety and security of goods and materials which could be used by terrorists.

There will be a range of activities taking place across Scotland including increased police patrols and additional training for those responsible for safety and security of buildings, businesses and neighbourhoods to help them recognise, respond to and report any suspicious activity.

Today also sees The Safer Travel Day initiative being held at airports and ports across Scotland where travelers will receive information and advice to help keep them safe.

David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: “Keeping our passengers safe and secure is our number one priority and we work very closely with Police Scotland to ensure Edinburgh Airport is a safe environment for everyone.

“By supporting Counter Terrorism Week we’re playing our part in a much wider operation to ensure the safety of all passengers and employees. Events like today’s Safer Travel Day are vital to help educate people on how to spot potentially suspicious behaviour.”

“There will be high visibility police patrols throughout the airport with officers available today to talk to passengers and staff about how to spot potentially suspicious behaviour.

“Police Scotland is also working with OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator to remind everyone to be cautious of donating to charity via third parties.

“OSCR’s Head of Engagement, Judith Turbyne, said:”We are pleased to support Counter-Terrorism Awareness Week, to alert the public in making sure that they check the organisations seeking donations from them.

“As with any requests for donations, there are a number of simple checks that you can make.  You can check the Scottish Charity Register and view our guide to Safer Giving at www.oscr.org.uk.”

 

Anti-sham marriage measures could lead to discrimination

By Lauren Beehan

New measures to tackle sham marriages could lead to discrimination and cause insecurity across communities, according to immigration experts.

Experts have reacted with concern to the new provisions of the Immigration Act 2014, intended to prevent marriages solely for immigration purposes, which will come into effect on March 2nd next year.

The provisions will introduce a new referral and investigation scheme, whereby any couple including a non-EEA national will be referred to the Home Office upon applying for permission to marry or enter a civil partnership.

If an investigation takes place, their notice period can be extended to 70 days, compared to the new standard 28-day notice period required of all couples.

Ruth Grove-White of the Migrant Rights Network said that the new laws could lead to the discrimination of genuine couples who wish to marry in the UK.

She said: “We have wide-ranging concerns about government use of enforcement powers in registry offices. We have accounts from communities of immigration raids taking place in registry offices on Home Office suspicions, causing disruption to perfectly legal marriage ceremonies.

“The government laws increase their licence to discriminate against couples who meet their profile, causing fear and insecurity in communities when people wish to get married.”

She added that the scale of sham marriages was very low compared to the scope of enforcement powers to stop them.

Couples who may be investigated under the new provisions include those who have not made concrete arrangements to cohabit in the UK, who do not share financial or domestic responsibilities, or who cannot communicate in a common language.

Couples may also be investigated if the British partner has previously sponsored another partner or if they have no guests present at their wedding ceremony.

These couples will need to prove that their marriage or partnership is genuine before permission is granted.

Immigration lawyer Colin Yeo expressed concern that there is no statutory definition of a “genuine marriage” in UK law.

In an online statement, he said that the decision on whether or not a marriage is genuine will be left to Home Office civil servants, who will be working from a checklist of factors that may trigger suspicion.

He said: “This checklist determines who will experience that sort of start to their married life. As with many measures under the Immigration Act 2014, ethnic minorities and the poor are far, far more likely to be targeted.”

Introducing the provisions in Westminster yesterday, Minister for Security and Immigration James Brokenshire said that the measures would provide “a much stronger platform for effective, systematic action to disrupt and deter sham marriages and civil partnerships and prevent them gaining an immigration advantage.”

He added: “The new system will give us much more time and information to identify and act against sham marriages and civil partnerships before they happen and, where they do go ahead, we will have the evidence we need on file to be able to refuse any subsequent immigration application in terms which will withstand appeal.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNP Criticises Relocation of Nuclear-powered Submarines to Scotland

THE SNP today called for only conventional vessels to be based at Faslane after the MoD announced plans to relocate two nuclear-powered submarines to the Scottish naval base.

The statement came after plans were announced to relocate a further two nuclear-powered submarines to Faslane Naval Base on the Clyde. Adding further nuclear material to the base in direct opposition to The SNP’s aim of a nuclear-free Scotland.

The expected economic benefits of transferring the vessels have been played down by the SNP today in conjunction with the benefits of the new £4 billion contract to construct 26 new Frigates on the Clyde.

The Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) decision to move two nuclear powered Trafalgar-class submarines, from their current home in Plymouth to Faslane in the West of Scotland, has been directly criticised by the SNP’s Westminster party spokesperson on defence and foreign affairs Angus Robertson.

He said:  “The MoD shifting two submarines nearing the end of their lifespan on the Clyde won’t disguise the lack of serious defence investment in Scotland from successive UK Governments. The fact they are happy to move nuclear submarines but not a single major surface vessel North speaks volumes.
“The fact is that Scotland’s service personnel have been poorly served by Westminster for too long by a Westminster establishment obsessed with wasting billions on nuclear weapons while stripping Scotland of military assets and cutting 11,000 defence jobs in Scotland over  the last decade. The best future for Faslane is as a full conventional naval base.”
The two submarines,  HMS Talent and HMS Triumph, will have been fully relocated from Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport to Scotland by 2020, making Faslane the home of The UK’s entire submarine fleet.
Other two Royal Navy craft, HMS Torbay and HMS Trenchant, are to remain at their current home in Devonport until they are decommissioned in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Defense secretary Michael Fallon said: “This decision balances the Royal Navy’s operational requirements with giving more clarity to our servicemen and women to plan their family lives.
“HMS Torbay and HMS Trenchant crews and their families now have certainty that Devonport will be their home port until the boats decommission. We expect that local communities will welcome HMS Talent and HMS Triumph and their crews and families when they arrive in Scotland later this decade.

“Our commitment to Faslane becoming home to all Royal Navy submarines from 2020 will bring hundreds of jobs and investment to the West of Scotland.”

The two submarines will eventually be replaced by Astute-class vessels, making the transfer permanent until their eventual decommission.

New app to help modernise the health system

By Madalina Dichiu

Care Minister, Norman Lamb announced that the health system must be “modernised” and a new online application will be developed to help young people with mental health issues.

Experts say that the current situation is a “national disgrace” and the Government should spend more money on children and young people, while also stressing the importance of contact with therapists.

The Scottish Government says that the best approach to change the system is to be able to measure the things that matter most to the people using them. They are also reviewing health visits and school nursing services to ensure staff have the right training to identify and help parents, children and young people with mental health problems.

The Government has already developed an online service to provide guidance and training on child mental health for teachers, police, health professionals and other people working with children called MindEd. The research shows that mental health services are not meeting the needs of some groups of people. Only one in six older people with depression ever discusses it with their GP.

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said, “For far too long mental health has been in the shadows and many people have suffered in silence as a result. It is time to turn a corner on outdated attitudes and bring mental health issues out into the open. It is time that the whole of society started providing the care and support to those with mental health conditions in the same way that they would to those with a physical condition.”

Sarah Brennan Chief Executive of YoungMinds charity said: “It is a national disgrace that while three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental illness, only 6% of the NHS mental health budget is spent on children and young people. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that if we get it right for children and young people we will greatly reduce the burden of mental health for future generations.

“YoungMinds has been warning for several years about the dangers in cutting children and young people’s mental health early intervention services. Over the last few months we have seen the consequences of these cuts with reports of children and young people with mental illnesses ending up in police cells, being transferred hundreds of miles away or placed on inappropriate adult wards because there haven’t been the beds available.

“Local services providing much needed mental health services  should not have to operate in crisis-we have to get this right for children, young people and their families who are in desperate need of support.”

The NHS argues that many issues can be managed without the help of a GP by using the variety of sources now available, whether it’s through books, local organisations or online.

The charity Mind says: “Electronic media is increasingly being utilised as a medium to deliver psychological therapies. There are significant potential advantages to using this mode of delivery, including increased reach and improved access to psychological support and treatments.

“Some children and young people find interacting with electronic media a preferable first step to help and most are more used to such interaction than older generations.”

The Scottish Government published alarming statistics about mental health problems. Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. Only a quarter of people with a common mental health problem get treatment, mostly in the form of medication.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 9.6% of children and young people between the ages of 5 and 16 years in the UK have a mental health problem.

Creative Scotland defends using National Lottery proceeds to fund arts

By Philip Askew

Creative Scotland, the public body that subsides arts across the country, has defended the use of money raised through the National Lottery, calling it an “ideal” method of funding.

The academic Robert Hewison recently slammed government austerity measures as “anti-culture”, leading to a decline of interest and funding in art across the UK.

He specifically criticized increasing reliance on the National Lottery as a “funder of first and last resort”, saying it was “dangerous to run the country’s culture on a game of chance”.

Recent government statistics have shown that the number of adults engaging with the arts even once a year has increased by only 0.5 percent since 2005.

But Ian Stevenson, Creative Scotland’s director of finance, said Mr Hewison’s comments reveal “a lack of understanding of basic maths”.

He said: “The lottery is a game of chance as far as people buying a ticket are concerned, but it is very dependable as a source of income. It goes up in weeks with a large jackpot then returns to a steady base level in other weeks. Which means that the money raised for good causes, and therefore the money available for the arts, is in fact steady.

“Why can’t the arts be run on Lottery proceeds? It’s the ideal way to fund the arts – no one is forced to pay for them, and everyone who buys a ticket pays a little towards them.”

Creative Scotland inherited the role of the Scottish Arts Council in 2010.

Its stated objectives are to “promote an understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the arts and culture” and to “support and develop talent and excellence” across Scotland.

In October the organisation revealed it was suffering from a “funding crisis” due to being vastly over-subscribed, but has since assured applicants that money will be available to “most if not all” subscribers.

Other sponsors of Creative Scotland include the arts charities Made in Scotland and the National Youth Arts Fund.

’16 Days of Action’ to combat violence against women

By Carolina Morais

A campaign is being launched today by a Scottish organisation to mark the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Between the 25th November and the 10th December, the ’16 Days of Action 2014′ campaign will be promoting a series of events throughout Scotland to raise awareness of violence against women.

The theme for this years’ initiative is ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women’.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “Our organisation has been recognised by the United Nations since 1995. This is a global campaign that aims to prevent and eliminate of all forms of violence towards women.

“That includes such things as sexual assault, rape, sexual abuse, cultural practices such as genital mutilation, forced marriage, exploitation, prostitution, lap and pole dancing and traffic of women for sexual purposes.”

The event will commence today in Glasgow but will engage different cities in Scotland, including Edinburgh.

“We are going to held a conference at Edinburgh University on the 8th December, but our main events will happen in Glasgow”, the spokesperson said.

“Among other things, we are launching an online survey to see if people are more informed about the issue and to really take it forward. We also have a march happening on the 27th of November and we will have activities for men who want to be involved.”

The CEO of the national organisation White Ribbon, Chris Green, recognizes that “men are the real problem” and that it is urgent to “turn the numbers around”.

“We are working more and more with men and we just have to keep on doing that.

“Right now, we have around 200 events happening around the United Kingdom to raise awareness to this cause, but the numbers are still alarming.”

Mr. Green also said: “What we need to do urgently is change the attitudes of men towards women in general, to prevent emotional and physical abuse. We need more women reporting these crimes, more politicians to take notice of the problem and more funding to be able to prevent it.”

The ’16 Days’ campaign is being funded by the Glasgow City Council Integrated Grant Fund. In partnership with White Ribbon Scotland, this initiative is hoping to achieve white ribbon status for the City of Glasgow this year.

According to the United Nations, one in four women in Scotland experience domestic violence in their lifetime, with an incident being recorded every ten minutes.

Allie Hutchinson, from Scottish Women’s Aid, says the problem is not contained to Scotland.

“The numbers are alarming everywhere. We have been around since 1976 and that is why we continue to be so committed to end violence, to work with women who have been victims of domestic violence and to look at how we can prevent this.

“At the moment, the main problem is that women are not equal to men just yet. It is up to us to fight for equality first, to challenge the myths of society, to write to MPs and MSPs to promote a society where women are equally valued.

“In the near future, we will launch a survey to look at people’s experiences related to these crimes, we will promote a series of lectures throughout Scotland, a parliamentary event with MSP’s and even a film screening at Edinburgh University.”

In the rest of the United Kingdom, statistics show 45% of women having experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking and at least 80,000 women experiencing rape every year.

 

 

Murphy’s plan to devolve income tax control

By Paul Malik

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Jim Murphy has said he understands how much Scotland desires “change” in a speech proposing devolution of income tax powers made this morning.

Announcing from a campaign office in Glasgow, the MP for Falkirk said his proposal to devolve full powers over income tax if he was elected leader was a “big moment for the Scottish Labour Party and a big moment for Scotland.”

He said the commitment to introduce the powers, a policy previously opposed by the Scottish Labour Party, would show Scotland that Labour have “changed”, that they now “get it”, and, with him as leader, they will “stand up for Scotland”.

Mr Murphy said: “The difference between Scottish Labour and our opponents when it comes to constitutional reform is that we have never seen it as an end in itself but as a means to an end.

“We want the best constitutional settlement for Scotland because we want the best deal for Scotland.

“Our interest is in making devolution work, not simply in taking with one hand and demanding more with the other, regardless of the consequences.

“Even before the Smith Commission reports, we should agree to the full devolution of income tax to Scotland, if that is what emerges.”

A spokesman for Neil Findlay MSP, who is also in the running for leadership, said Mr Murphy’s stance on full devolution of income tax powers was “understandable”, but that if this was achieved, the party needed to ensure that Scotland was not “worse off.”

Mr Findlay’s spokesman said: “It’s all very well devolving [full control over income tax] but we’ve got to make sure that Scotland isn’t worse off.

“We have to ensure that as well as having the constitutional willingness for change, we also have the political willingness to prioritise change.”

The SNP have said that the people of Scotland “rightly expect” these powers and that in the past, Scottish Labour offered “less than the Tories.”

Stewart Maxwell MSP of the SNP said: “Voices across civic Scotland have already backed the devolution of extensive powers over tax and welfare, and people in Scotland rightly expect to see a broad range of taxation powers transferred beyond income tax.

“If Labour have now caught up on this one aspect, having offered even less than the Tories, I hope that they will back the calls by many independent organisations in Scotland for other tax and welfare powers to be devolved, such as the minimum wage.”

At a hustings event on Sunday, Mr Murphy said that Scottish Labour must “match” the “energy” that the SNP have for “constitutional nationalism” and appeal to the “hundreds of thousands of decent people who voted Yes, but are not nationalists.”

Mr Murphy has based his campaign on “bringing Scotland together”.

However, several senior Labour Party members have warned against the devolution of income tax powers.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP said that the move was a “Tory trap”.

The leadership campaign was triggered after former Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont resigned, claiming that several senior Labour Party MP’s were “dinosaurs” who treated the Scottish Labour Party as a “branch office”.

The Smith commission was set up in an effort to “further strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament within the UK” after Scotland voted to remain a part of Britain after September’s referendum.

The report is being compiled by Lord Smith, a cross party independent member of the House of Lords.

 

 

 

Edinburgh ranked as the second-best student city in UK

Edinburgh has been ranked as the UK’s second-best student city this year despite the rising demand for cheaper student accommodation. The news was published by the new edition of QS ranking.

With a relatively small population compared to many of the cities in the index, the Scottish capital has a fairly large student community proportionate to its overall size. This means that it scores especially high in the “student mix” category of the index.

Notably, 38% of students at ranked universities in Edinburgh are international, lending an incredibly diverse and inclusive atmosphere for overseas students.

Carlotta Lombatto, an Italian student based in Edinburgh said:

“One of the main reasons I chose to study in Edinburgh was to improve my English level. I thought about studying in London but it is a very expensive city and I couldn’t afford living there. In Edinburgh you can find a lot of part time jobs and it’s easier to pay your fees.

“Maybe the most complicated thing in Edinburgh for an international student is renting a flat. Prices are excessive and there are so many people looking for the same thing. The deposit is very high and student accommodation is expensive.”

Manel Escuder, an international student from Spain, said: “Edinburgh is an amazing city for studying, and it is impossible not to be inspired. There are a lot of cultural events and conferences. It is a very artistic city.

“The racial diversity it’s surprisingly high. You can go to the supermarket and see so many people from different places and everybody can live together.They respect each other.”

University ranking, the mixture of international students, quality of life, rate of use and affordability in terms of standard of living are the five categories included in the criteria.

Ben Sowter, head of research at QS said: “QS Best Students Cities provides a complementary tool with respect to the specific rankings of university students.

“After all, the college experience is influenced by the place and especially by the presence of international students”.

To be included in the ranking, every city must have a population of more than 250,000 and must hold at least two educational institutions that are within the QS World University rankings. There are 116 cities in the world that qualify, but only 50 have been classified.

In Edinburgh, the two institutions ranked by QS are the University of Edinburgh, which is currently 17th in the world, and Heriot- Watt-University.

 

UK charity Refuge opposes launch of Clare’s Law pilot scheme

By Charlotte Barbour

Domestic abuse campaigners yesterday called into question the effectiveness of Clare’s Law, a scheme which will be piloted across areas of Scotland today.

Domestic abuse charity Refuge expressed concerns that the Law is not enough to help protect women from violence.

The scheme is named after Clare Wood, a 36-year old woman who was murdered by her abusive boyfriend George Appleton at her home in Salford, Greater Manchester, in 2009. She was not aware of his history of violence against women.

“Clare’s Law” will be piloted in Ayrshire and Aberdeen today and will last for six months. It will allow people suffering from domestic abuse access to information on a partner’s potential violent history. If successful the scheme will then be rolled out across Scotland.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said:

“Clare’s Law sounds good on paper, but in reality it will do very little to help the hundreds of thousands of women and children who experience domestic violence in this country.

“Some people will say that if Clare’s Law saves just one life, it is worth it. But let’s be clear – two women are killed every week as a result of domestic violence in England and Wales. Saving just one life is not enough.

“What will happen if a woman is told that her partner does have a history of violence? Will she be expected to pack her bags and leave straight away? At Refuge, we know that it isn’t that simple.

“Leaving a violent partner is an incredibly difficult step to take. It is also extremely dangerous – women are at greatest risk of homicide at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner. And if women do leave, where are they supposed to go? Refuges are closing up and down the country because of huge funding cuts.

“Clare’s Law may help a few individuals but we need to help the majority of victims – not the few. The most effective way to save lives on a large scale is to improve police practice and protect the vital services run by specialist organisations like Refuge. Let’s get our priorities right.”

Lily Greenan, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, fully supports the scheme. She said:

“Clare’s Law allows people who are concerned about the behaviour of their partner now have the right to ask if they have a history of abuse.

“We are supporting it because anything that potentially helps to prevent domestic abuse against a person is worth having a go at. The levels of domestic abuse in Scotland are very high, and these can become quite extreme before people feel that they can contact the police about it.

“We see the law as a pro-active approach to try and encourage people who feel uncomfortable about what their partner is doing to quietly enquire about whether or not there is a history of domestic abuse.

“Obviously it is not a replacement for a criminal investigation if what is happening to them is already definable as abuse but it may be helpful to some people to have that information in advance.”

According to the Scottish government website, the number of reported incidents of domestic abuse last year reached 60,080, a rise of almost a third in a decade.

Half of all incidents recorded in 2012-13 led to the recording of a crime or an offence, and of these, 78 per cent were reported to the procurator fiscal.

Factors which may increase women’s vulnerability to some types of violence include age, disability and poverty.

Clare Wood’s father, Michael Brown, believes that had his daughter been able to access information on Appleton’s criminal history it may have saved her life.

Leading economist backs North Sea tax breaks

By Paul Hyland

A leading UK energy economist has backed calls for tax reform for North Sea oil exploration and extraction.

Professor Alexander Kemp, Professor of Petroleum Economics and Director of Aberdeen Centre for Research in Energy Economics and Finance at the University of Aberdeen, has backed a report by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) calling for tax cuts for the industry.

Professor Kemp said tax cuts were important to combat declining efficiency in the North Sea.

“The North Sea oil and gas industry is a maturing one and the recent performance has been one of declining production, declining production efficiency and declining exploration. We now have on top of all that, a substantial fall in the oil price which makes some future projects not yet sanctioned, non-commercial.

“The tax system needs to adjust to the new operating environment of much lower oil prices and high cost per barrel which is currently the position. So in the North Sea, for very old fields, we have a marginal rate of tax going up to 81 percent and for newer fields at 62 percent and certainly I go along with the idea that tax reform is needed in the present condition of the industry.”

The AGCC reported in their recent survey that 62 percent of oil and gas firms believed fiscal reform should be the government’s top priority.

The AGCC survey showed confidence had hit a six year low in the industry’s prospects among firms. They are calling for changes in fiscal policy for the industry in Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on December 3rd.

However, environmental groups have argued it would be a mistake to give oil and gas firms a tax break.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “The science is clear. To reduce the risk of dangerous global climate change, the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground and not exploited. Therefore the last thing we need to see is even more tax breaks or subsidies for new North Sea oil drilling.

“We instead need to see an energy transition that enables us to harness the engineering skills currently deployed in the oil and gas industry and apply them to supporting a range of cleaner forms of energy production.”

Mary Church, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “If the UK Government is serious about tackling climate change it must refuse this request for yet more subsidies for these big corporations.

“Climate science tells us we need to leave 80 percent of known fossil fuels reserves in the ground so incentivising their further extraction is dangerous and shortsighted.

“We should instead be investing in clean, locally-owned renewables rather than propping up dirty energy companies.”

However, Professor Kemp argued: “Well that’s all fine, to put our effort into renewable energy and reducing the CO2 emissions but we should remember that you can’t just stop using oil and gas overnight, it has to be a gradual process, otherwise there would be tremendous disruption to the economy.

“The tax system in the North Sea is much tougher than it is for other industries. In other industries the tax rate is only 21% and will be 20% next year, so they get much more favourable treatment.

“If we just cut down on our production, then I’m afraid that what would happen would be that we would just import more from countries which are not taking many steps to reduce their emissions. It’s called the CO2 leakage point.

“If the production in the North Sea went down further, then we are not going to use less oil, we are just going to import it from countries from the Middle East and Africa where they are not doing anything to reduce emissions.”

 

‘Beauty by Design’ – A collaboration between past and present

This weekend saw the opening of a new exhibition, ‘Beauty by Design’, at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

A collaboration between  designers, curators, and art historians, it aims to highlights parrallels between portrayals of fashion in Renaissance art and contemporary fashion trends.

The works range from modern reenactments of famous portraits to lace dresses stylised according to traditional ideals of beauty and fashion.

The exhibition began as academic research by the Edinburgh College of Art’s “All Walks Beyond the Catwalk” Diversity Network, which examines the effect of modern fashion on models and workers in the industry, with a focus on “developing a more responsible, diverse and emotionally considerate response to fashion design and fashion design communication.”

Exhibits include works by Mal Burkinshaw, Sally-Ann Provan and Philip Clarke from the ECA.

Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, commented: “This terrific project illustrates how historic portraiture can be a profound source of inspiration to contemporary practitioners in the world of fashion. It is also especially pleasing as a rich collaborative endeavour, which has brought together designers, art historians and curators.

“Our hope is that many visitors will enjoy plotting the connections between the Gallery’s collection and these wonderfully imaginative responses to it.”

Supporters of the exhibition include the ECA, the lace manufactuer Sophie Hallette, and the arts funding agency New Media Scotland.

Chris Sachs, a spokesperson for New Media Scotland, praised the project as pushing artistic boundries. “We’ve usually been interested in projects that look at the relationship between technology and art. But it’s great how [‘Beauty by Design’] challenged contemporary trends in fashion…. It definitely caught our eye.”

‘Beauty by Design’ will be running at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery until May 3rd 2015. Admission is free.

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Hunt continues for attacker in Edinburgh

By Adam Wilson

Police are continuing to hunt for an attacker who sexually assaulted a young woman on Saturday morning.

Between 6.45 and 7.10 am on Saturday a 19-year-old woman was walking home from a night out with friends in the Cowgate area when she was approached by a man who knocked her to the ground and sexually assaulted her.

The attack happened where Middle Meadow walk meets Jawbone Walk, which cuts accross the centre of the Meadows.

The attacker fled when a member of the public saw the scene and came to the woman’s aid.

The attacker has been described by police as a white male wearing dark clothing and a dark hat.

Detective Chief Inspector Alwyn Bell said: “This has been a horrific attack on a young woman and she is understandably extremely distressed at this time.

“Specially trained officers are currently working alongisde our relevant partner agenceis to offer the victim all the necessary support and assistance she requires.

“This incident took place in an area that is often busy with joggers, dog walkers and other members of the public, regardless of the time of night, and I would urge anyone who was in the Meadows on Saturday morning and remembers anything suspicious to contact police immediately.”

Students Alex and Susan, 20 and 21, who live in the area, said: “We run in this area quite a lot and we haven’t seen anything suspicious.

“But there’s three of us in our flat so we try to run or walk to uni together.”

Inspector Bell added: “If you believe you can be of assistance to our investigations please call us on 101. Alternatively, you can make an anonymous report via the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

 

Tram disruption to be discussed at council meeting

By Marion Guichaoua

A motion will be discussed by the Council this week about the traffic issues created by the tram’s installation and the new traffic lights in the city center.

The council have said: “The council notes with concern that, six months after the start of tram operations, the combination of traffic lights between Leith Street and Waverley Bridge are still causing considerable delays to traffic.

“Further notes that this effect has greatest impact on buses and cyclists but also affects general traffic and, occasionally, trams.

“Considering that long waits for west bound traffic, even for an east bound tram which will not cross the same path, are frustrating for travelers. “

The tram of Edinburgh is a 14-kilometre line between York Place in New town and Edinburgh Airport, with 15 stops.

The line opened on 31 May 2014.

The final cost of the tram is expected to top £1 billion.

Chris Hill, from the City Cycling Edinburgh Forum said: “There are all sorts of issues related to trams – not least people falling off on the tracks, particularly when wet.

“Most concerns about trams and traffic signals have been to do with the long delays caused by the timings. “

Councilor Whyte calls for a report to the Transport & Environment Committee within the two cycles setting out a full solution to this issue.

The council have refused to comment on the issue at this time.

 

 

 

National Lottery celebrates 20th anniversary

By Carolina Morais

Scottish organisations funded by the National Lottery Council have applauded its “vital” and “valuable” work, as it celebrates it’s 20th anniversary.

The Edinburgh-based charity ‘Dads Rock’, which provides bonding time for dads and their children, is set to expand after the National Lottery awarded it last month with £287,096.

A spokesperson from the organisation said: “We would not be able to function without the National Lottery’s funding. It has been absolutely vital. We have been benefiting since 2012 but this last amount we just got allows us to provide services for three years.

“We are going to run a young dads’ project and invest in parenting counseling . We estimate to help over 200 families in Edinburgh.”

The children’s charity ‘Woodcraft Folk’, focused on developing young people’s social and creative skills, also recognizes the importance of the National Lottery’s support.

A Scottish representative said: “It has been a very valuable help to our organisation. The money we received allowed us to employ more staff and to do more trials to test how to approach children and help them grow.

“Here in Scotland, for example, we were able to do what we called the ‘Summer Sessions 2013′, in Stirling, in which we made some real changes in children’s lives. It has definitely been a very successful partnership for us.

Nicola Bligh, from National Lottery Good Causes, said she is “extremely proud” of what the organisation has accomplished over the last 20 years.

“It has been incredibly important. We raised over 32 billion pounds, we have supported a lot of local projects and we have benefited peoples lives.

“It is amazing how you can benefit people everyday in ordinary sectors. And we created thousands of jobs and volunteering opportunities.

“We recently captured an image that will be released this Wednesday in which we gathered over 800 people from over 50 projects that benefited from our funding over the past 20 years. It is really moving to hear these stories. The numbers of our accomplishments are amazing, but the stories behind them are what really matters.”

Ms Bligh also said: “For the future, we hope more and more projects apply for our funding, which is very easy to do through our website. Our plan, of course, is to repeat what we did over the last 20 years just as successfully and keep changing people’s lives.”

To celebrate two decades of existence, the National Lottery is releasing a new video everyday at 6pm on its website until the 19th of November, allowing people to enter the prize draws which increase in value each day.

The first National Lottery draw was on 14 November 1994. According to the organisation, over 450,000 lottery-funded projects were accomplished and over 3,700 millionaires were made in the United Kingdom.

 

 

 

Farmers reassure public over bird flu fears

By Paul Hyland and Tom Crosby

Farmers have joined health and veterinary institutions in downplaying the dangers of a bird flu outbreak in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has urged farmers to be vigilant after the outbreak of bird flu in England.

The newly discovered H5 strain of avian influenza was found in East Yorkshire earlier this week, joining a glut of international cases in The Netherlands, Germany and South Korea.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has commented following the confirmation of a case of avian influenza on a duck breeding farm in Nafferton near Driffield.

He said: “The Scottish Government is closely monitoring the case of avian influenza on a duck breeding farm in East Yorkshire, and I note the immediate and robust response by the authorities in England to prevent any potential spread of infection.

“My officials have been liaising closely with the Defra who have made it clear the public health risk is very low – and that they have ruled out the H5N1 strain that is infectious for humans. Furthermore, the latest Food Standards Agency advice is that avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

“Although avian influenza has been confirmed in England only, I urge Scottish poultry producers to stay vigilant for any signs of disease – and my officials have this afternoon updated industry representatives and other key stakeholders with the latest information and veterinary advice.

A spokeswoman for the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland also described the risk as “pretty low” and that the disease didn’t “pose a risk to food safety.”

This was mirrored by The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) mirrored the FSA’s.

In a press release they said: “the risk to public health is very low and there is no risk to the food chain. We would also point out that the strain of flu has been identified as H5 avian flu and NOT the more serious H5N1, which has caused disease in some people.

Bob Carruth, Communications Director with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland said: “It tends to be with poultry flocks, whether their flocks are producing eggs, or whether their flocks are for the table, farmers tend to keep a very close eye on these birds anyway, so it’s just a matter of keeping a good look at the birds.

“If there are birds that are showing signs of being ill or groups of birds that suddenly stop laying eggs, that kind of thing, its to make sure you take the time to have these animals tested to see what the problem might be.”

He also noted that farmers were well equipped to deal with any potential outbreak.

He said: “Most poultry units have very good levels of bio security on the farm anyway so they are very careful about who they allow onto the farm. Those who do come onto the farm whether they are working with the birds or whether they are, say, bringing on supplies do tend to go through disinfection methods anyway so vehicles and boots will all be disinfected when people come onto the farm.

“What Scottish farmers will be doing is be watching very closely the situation in East Yorkshire. Obviously they are aware that there was cases in the Netherlands and a case in Germany..it’s maybe linked into migratory birds, there’s always a higher risk this time of year because it’s a time when birds are migrating.

“So we’ll wait and see the outcome of the testing in East Yorkshire, they are obviously doing monitoring within 3km… and in Scotland there is concern but we’ll wait and see what the outcome of that testing in Yorkshire is, and certainly we would ask Scottish poultry keepers to keep a very close eye on their birds in the next few days.”

Prof. Paul Digard of the Roslin Insitute, University of Edinburgh, specialises in research surrounding influenza viruses, said the risk was “very low, verging on none”.

With regards to the food chain, he said: “Even if it was a strain of virus that was risky for humans…even if it was H5N1, cooking makes it utterly safe.

“You will not catch bird flu from a boiled egg.”

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Sheila Voas, said:

“As always, all poultry keepers should continue their efforts to maintain high levels of biosecurity and monitor their birds for any signs of disease. Avian influenza is a notifiable disease, and so any suspicion should be reported immediately to the nearest Animal Health office.

“As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where five birds are found dead in the same location and at the same time. Members of the public are asked to report any such incidents by calling the Defra national helpline on 08459 33 55 77. Scottish Government advice is not to handle dead wild birds where possible.”

 

Local charity launches appeal for homeless children

By Arantxa Barrachina

AN ONLINE campaign launched yesterday to give Christmas presents to homeless children across Scotland.

The Social Media Santa campaign will deliver presents to homeless children by working with housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland.

According to the new statistics, 21 per cent of children in Edinburgh live in poverty. More than 4,000 children will be homeless in Scotland this Christmas.

Social media users are encouraged to buy presents for boys and girls from the age of 6 months to 16 years old. Gifts can be ordered or bought and sent to Shelter Scotland office in Edinburgh by 12th December.

Everyone who buys a gift can post a photo of it on social media using the hashtag #SocialMediaSanta

The campaign was launched by Ross McCulloch, Director of Third Sector Lab, a specialist digital agency working with charities and social enterprises.

Ross McCulloch said: “Twitter users can make a real difference to homeless children in Scotland this Christmas. By sending gifts like books, toys or games, we are hoping that Social Media Santas will help make this Christmas better for hundreds of children and their families across Scotland.”

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Social Media Santa is an innovative and generous way of using social media to help bring a little bit of Christmas cheer to homeless families and their children.

“No child should be homeless at Christmas but we know there will be more than 4,000 children homeless this festive season across Scotland, so we will carry on our campaigning until there’s a home for everyone. Until then, we will always be grateful for the kindness and generosity of fundraisers and members of the public who donate to help our clients.

“On behalf of all the children and families already helped, we say a big thank you to Ross McCulloch and all the Social Media Santas across Scotland. We now look forward to receiving and distributing the results of this year’s campaign.”

For the last three years social media users have been participated giving a Christmass gift for homeless children. Last year, Shelter Scotland charity have  received a whopping 227 gifts.

In Scotland 220,000 children are living in poverty, one in five of the child population, and this could soon rise.

The charity is calling people to participate in the project and remembers the importance of solidarity, specially at Christmas time.

The child poverty campaigners are also urging Scottish and local government to ratchet-up delivery of the Child Poverty Strategy.

 

 

 

A Farewell to Alex Salmond

By Charlotte Barbour

Scottish Labour politicians have said Alex Salmond will be remembered for the negative impact he has had on Scotland during his time as First Minister.

Claire Baker, a Scottish Labour MSP, described Mr Salmond as a “divisive” person and politician:

“While people should recognise his achievement as First Minister, it is time that he went.

He lost the referendum, and during his time in politics we have seen fewer teachers in schools, huge cuts to the college sector and the NHS have been put under enormous financial pressure. These are things that he will be remembered for.

Alex Salmond is a divisive person and a divisive politician and it is time for Scotland to move on.”

Salmond will submit his resignation as First Minister to the Scottish Parliament and to the Queen at 2.30 this afternoon.

Deputy SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is expected to replace Salmond as leader of the Scottish National Party after his seven and a half years in power.

Salmond began his career in politics in 1973 at the University of St Andrews, when he joined the Federation of Student Nationalists aged 19.

He became SNP leader in 1990, and won the position of First Minister in 2007 after winning more seats than any other party in the Scottish Parliamentary Election.

He led the country into the most dramatic Scottish Independence Referendum in history, achieving a result of 44.7% yes, 55.3% no.

Despite stepping down from his position as First Minister following the ‘no’ vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum, the SNP’s campaign for Scottish Independence is far from over.

A recent poll suggested that nearly half of Scots want a second independence referendum before 2024.

This puts pressure on Ms Sturgeon to promise a re-run after the 2016 Holyrood election, despite 12% of the population being against another independence referendum.

Affordable Contraceptive Announced

By Mariana Mercado

A new form of contraceptive injection will be available for women in developing countries.

The ready to use contraceptive injection will help women living in 69 of the poorest countries.

The news of the development of this new affordable contraception was released by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Dr. Chris Elias, President of Global Development Programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said: “When women are able to plan their families, they are more likely to survive pregnancy and child birth, to have healthier newborns and children, and to invest more in their families’ health and wellbeing.

“We are proud to be part of this innovative public-private collaboration that will help more women around the world — even in remote areas — plan their lives and their futures.”

The Sayana injection combines a long-acting, reversible contraceptive with an all-in-one prefilled single use, non-reusable injection system that eliminates the need to prepare a needle and syringe. The injection can easily be administered by health workers to women at home or in other convenient setting.

The drug will be sold for $1 (0.65p) per dose to qualified purchasers who can help enable the poorest women in these countries to have access to the contraceptive at reduced or no cost.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 222m women in developing countries would like to delay or stop conception, but are not currently using any form of contraception.

Michael Anderson, Chief Executive Officer at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation said: “Far too many women die or are harmed because of unwanted pregnancies,”

“This important partnership expands the choice of affordable contraceptives. We believe this will further support CIFF’s mission of enabling more women and children to survive and thrive.”

The contraceptive program saw over 75000 Sayana Press units distributed to health facilities in the introduction countries, and aproximately 2500 health care providers have been trained on the administration of the contraceptive.

Since the introduction of the program in Burkina Faso in July, a study revealed that over 5700 women are using the injection, 1659 of these women are new users of family planning.
Justine Greening, International Development Secretary for the Department for International Development (DFID) said:“Access to modern, safe and reliable family planning methods is vital in helping women to control their lives and their futures. Without the ability to choose when they have children and how many they have, too often women lose the opportunity to participate fully in their economies and societies.”

Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator for Global Health at the U.S. agency for International Development (USAI) said: “USAID has invested in Sayana Press for many years, and we are thrilled that these efforts have finally come to fruition. This public-private collaboration will now help more women access injectable contraceptives. Expanding contraceptive choice is crucial to helping women plan and space their pregnancies, which we believe contributes to the health and economic wellbeing of families and communities across the globe.”

The drug is expected to be regularly available in all 69 of the developing countries by 2020.

 

 

Scottish drinks industry backs drink-drive limit proposals

By Lauren Beehan

The Scottish drinks industry has welcomed the reduction in the drink-driving limit, which will be voted on by the Scottish Parliament today.

Under the new laws, the maximum blood alcohol level for drivers will be reduced from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml, meaning that a single pint of beer could put them over the limit from December 5th.

Representatives from the drinks industry have encouraged customers to be aware of the new limit and to make their plans accordingly.

Neil Williams of the British Beer & Pub Association said: “It is vital that everyone in Scotland knows about the change, as the pub is at the heart of all our Christmas celebrations. Enjoy the pub during the holiday season, but be prepared, such as having a designated driver, so you can get in the party spirit knowing you can have a safe journey home.”

Industry think-tank, the Portman Group, also supports the changes, saying that that drink producers have a role to play in the campaign against drink-driving.

A spokesperson from the group said that producers will focus now on “running responsible drink driving campaigns and education programmes to encourage people to nominate a designated driver and to never drink and drive.”

The Scottish government has launched an awareness campaign to inform drivers of both the change to the limit and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Don’t Risk It campaign includes advertisements on television, radio and online videos, as well as interactive social media with games showing the influence of alcohol on reaction speeds.

Advertisements will also be shown in northern England, where the limit remains at 80mg per 100ml, to ensure that drivers who cross the border are aware of the different laws.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who proposed the change, said: “With the approval of Parliament, the new drink drive limit will come into force on December 5, making our roads safer and saving lives.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone is informed about the new lower level.

“A persistent minority of people are still getting behind the wheel after drinking – that is unacceptable, it is putting lives at risk and it must stop. Our advice is simple, the best approach is to have no alcohol at all. Alcohol at any level impairs driving.

“This new law will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe and hopefully reduce drink drive arrests and prosecutions, as we have already seen in the Republic of Ireland, where drivers adjusted their behaviour to take account of the lower limit.”

A similar reduction was implemented in the Republic of Ireland in 2011, where drink-driving convictions fell by 3,000 in the space of two years.

Alcohol is a factor in 1 in 10 fatal road accidents in Scotland, with drink-driving causing over 400 accidents each year.

There were 4,730 people convicted of drink-driving in Scotland between March 2012 and March 2013, the last full year for which statistics are available.

Michael McDonnell, Director of Road Safety Scotland, said: “It’s almost 50 years since the current limit was introduced and that we still lose an average of 20 lives a year is a disgrace.

“Evidence from across the world demonstrates that the best results in tackling drink-driving are achieved by lowering the limit, or increasing enforcement, or both. We know, too, that a combination of high-profile enforcement, coupled with a heavyweight media campaign is the most efficient use of resources, and we are working closely with the Police Scotland and other partners to ensure that people know about the change to the limit and have no excuse.

“It’s not about catching more drink-drivers, but about preventing people from doing it in the first place. Ultimately, most of us have too much to lose, so it’s just not worth the risk.”

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, Head of Roads Policing for Police Scotland warned that people should not drink at all if they intend to get behind the wheel.

He said: “An average of 20 die on Scotland’s roads each year and last year a further 90 were seriously injured and 340 slightly injured as a result of drink driving related collisions.

“The new lower limit will reduce those numbers and the evidence from across Europe where the lower limit applies suggests we will see reductions in drink driving and blood alcohol counts.

“However even at the new limit you are three times more likely to die in a crash than if you had taken no alcohol. It is clear, when it comes to drinking and driving, that the simple ‘the best advice is none’ message is the right one.

“On the lead up to 5 December, police patrols will positively engage with as many road users as possible to provide real-time education to those who may be putting themselves and others at risk, influence behaviour in the future and prevent collisions on Scotland’s roads.”

 

 

 

Police confident Scotland-England game will not bring disruption

By Greg Barrie

Police Scotland insist that they will be able to prevent trouble ahead of Scotland’s friendly match against England tonight whilst causing minimum disruption to the public in Glasgow’s city centre.

More than 200 fans were arrested the last time the two sides met in Glasgow in 1999 after clashes both at the stadium and in the city centre.

Fears of violence were fuelled yesterday when police confirmed known troublemakers from both sets of supporters were travelling to the match.

However, Chief Superintendent Andy Bates, event commander for tonight’s match, today insisted that policing will not be excessive. He said: “The approach we will take to the game will be proportionate and based on the threat presented at the time.

“The number of resources deployed is less than there were in 1999. We anticipate arrests, but not as many as in 1999. It’s a high-risk game with an increased risk. That’s what you would have with an Old Firm game.

“It is not about a massive oppressive police presence, it’s about preventing crime and keeping people safe; as well as minimising disruption to people in and around the city centre.”

Around 5,000 England supporters are officially due to attend the match at Celtic Park, although the actual figure could be significantly higher with reports of England supporters acquiring tickets for the home end.

Chief Superintendent Andy Bates yesterday revealed that Scottish and English police forces had identified groups of supporters that were possibly looking for trouble. Public concerns about potential trouble were heightened when he said the contest had been given the highest possible UEFA security risk rating.

He said: “There may well be some troublemakers travelling from England. We’ve been working very closely with the UK football policing unit and colleagues from across Police Scotland to monitor the activities of these groups that might want to cause trouble.

“We have intelligence about people from all over the UK travelling to this game, but we are on top of it. I have an intelligence-led operation that will engage with these people and prevent any disorder taking place.”

Security steps have been taken to prevent groups of troublemakers from causing violence in the city. Police officers from a number of forces, including the Met, have travelled to Glasgow to assist Police Scotland in identifying groups of hooligans.

England supporters have to collect their match tickets at a special venue in the city centre which will enable the police forces to identify known troublemakers and monitor their movement.

Chief Supt Bates insisted that with the additional support of English officers the police were confident of maintaining control before and after the match. He said: “We’ll be using officers from down south who have been policing England games for many years. They bring a lot of skills and experience with them.

“If we identify these risk groups of supporters, we will be having conversations with them, letting them know we know what they’re up to and will not be letting them out of our sights. We have been successful with this in the past.”

Tonight’s fixture follows the clash at Wembley between the two sides in August last year, which England won 3-2. The fixture passed without any significant crowd trouble or violence, despite close to 20,000 Scotland fans attending the match.

Police have urged supporters to make their travel plans in advance for getting to and from the stadium. They also reminded supporters that if they are consuming alcohol they should do so responsibly to ensure that they are granted access to the stadium.

Council denies sport centres closures

By Marion Guichaoua.

Edinburgh city council today denied sport centers are facing closure in the face of tough budget cuts across the city.

Reports yesterday quoted Edinburgh Leisure boss John Comisky as warning up to eight sports centres may have to close to balance budgets.

But the City Council said spending proposals were still at an early stage and insisted no decision had been taken yet over possible closures.

The council is facing tough decisions over cuts to services which could see Edinburgh Leisure budgets slashed.

Yesterday Mr Comiskey was quoted in the Edinburgh Evening News saying: “In the absence of an as yet unidentified silver bullet this will inevitably mean multiple venue closures.

“To absorb a 22 per cent reduction in funding will require a proportionate reduction in our level of services.”

The Council said yesterday it has launched a public consultation and is asking residents for their views on what spending priorities should be.

A spokesman for the Council said: “We expect Edinburgh Leisure to consider all of the different ways they could realistically adapt to such a change and if one of the options they identify as being efficient us the closure of some facilities this will be looked at.”

Residents can make their views known on the Council website.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Convener for Culture and Sport, said: “It is incredibly important that everyone takes the opportunity to feed back on the council’s budget proposals and as the city’s convener of sport I encourage Edinburgh Leisure users to make sure they have their say.”

Edinburgh Leisure is currently developing an options paper to be considered by the Council which will detail the impact of the proposed reduction in service payment upon special programmes, core services and facilities.

The cuts would firstly concern facilities for young children, people unemployed or people with disabilities.

New ways of working across other service areas should be found, including Health and Social Care, Children and Families, and Services for Communities.

Edinburgh Marathon promotes free workshops

By Carolina Morais

Organisers of the Edinburgh Marathon today launched a series of free workshops ahead of the event which is expected to attract thousands of people next May.

People in Edinburgh showed up at the Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Center for tips on training plans, nutrition, goal setting, physiotherapy and a guided run along the canal.

Annette Drummond, one of the organisers, said she is “proud” of all the work that has been done by her team.

“We have been around for 13 years now and the event has expanded and grown so much,” she said.

“It started off as just a marathon and now it is a marathon festival over two days, bringing 30,000 people together to raise millions for charity and boost the local economy, all whilst keeping fit and helping people achieve their dreams.”

The Edinburgh Marathon 2015, scheduled for the 30 and 31 May, will be raising funds for Diabetes Scotland and has already received a £2,376 donation from a team of investment managers from the Business Growth Fund.

The race was the first in Scotland to be recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).

Ms Drummond said its popularity has been boosted not only for being “an IAAF rated event” but also “by the fact that Edinburgh is a beautiful city that people like to visit”.

“This is an international event”, the organiser said. “70 per cent of the marathon runners come from outwith Scotland.”

Free workshops in preparation for the main marathon will also be held in Glasgow on 30 October.

Work starts on new Scottish blood centre

By Madalina Dichiu

CONSTRUCTION started today on Scotland’s new national blood centre, part of the £4.5 billion project in Scotland.

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) received £43 million from the Scottish Government.

The National Centre of Excellence will be the hub for the processing, testing, supply, research and development for blood and human donor tissues and cells at Heriot-Watt Research Park in Edinburgh.

The facility will be completed by mid-2017 and more than 400 staff members are expected to move to the site.

It will consolidate and modernise services, which are currently carried out over a number of sites.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon marked the start of the development.

She said: “Currently projects worth around £750 million are in construction across Scotland. This government’s continued commitment to infrastructure investment is delivering quality services among the people who visited the new sites, creating jobs and helping to grow the economy.

“This new state-of-the-art centre will put Scotland ahead of the rest of the UK for its work researching and testing blood.

“It will also deliver investment and opportunities to the local community and will mean we can continue to provide sustainable, high quality and continually improving healthcare services to patients across Scotland.”

Mary Morgan, director of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, said: “The development of this new facility has been years in the planning and it is very exciting to be on the threshold of the construction phase.

“Consolidating many of our services will mean we can continue to meet the growing blood transfusion needs of patients across the country while providing the highest quality working environment for our staff and on-going contribution to Scotland’s leading life-science research and development industry.”

Scotland’s Blood Transfusion Charity, Give Blood for Scotland, claims that only four per cent of people in Scotland give blood. The country has a constant need for blood donors, with more than 1,000 donors required every day to meet hospital demand. People need blood for many reasons – after trauma, general supply or to support cancer.

 

Scottish Citizens Advice Service Celebrates 75 Years with twitter Campaign

By Adam Wilson

Scottish politicians met with leaders of the Scottish Citizens Advice Service today to announce a campaign to show support for the charity.

Senior Scottish ministers Ruth Davidson, Kenny MacAskill, and Tavish Scott and Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Margaret Lynch celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) by launching the #iamcitizen campaign on twitter.

The aim of the campaign is for the public to give thanks and recognise the service provided by the Scottish CAB over the last three quarters of a century.

The organisation produced figures showing that it has helped more than 330,000 people over the last year, or almost one in 13 adults in Scotland, and that is has helped clients gain a total of £175 million as a result of advice given.

Ms Lynch said: “Our work benefits everybody in Scotland, and for that reason I’m heartened to see leading figures from across the political spectrum recognising that and coming together to say thank you.

“I’d encourage anyone who wants to congratulate the fantastic work going on daily at their local Citizens Advice Bureau to take two minutes out of their day to say thank you, and maybe tweet a message with the hashtag #iamcitizen.”

The first bureaux were set up in 1939 as a response to the chaos of the second world war, as a service to help the public with any questions they might have with the changing lifestyle of wartime Britain.

Edinburgh , Glasgow and Aberdeen were some of the first cities in the UK to have CABs.

 

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.

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