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.

Judy Murray Launches Scottish Poppy Appeal

By Tom Crosby

JUDY MURRAY launched Poppy Scotland’s annual fundraising appeal today at Stirling Castle.

The event saw the beginning of a campaign of fundraising and remembrance that aims to beat last year’s total of £2.64 million.

Leigh James, a spokeswoman for Poppy Scotland, said Ms Murray was chosen to open the event due to her high profile.

She said that “every year needs to get off to a good start” and as Ms Murray is from a military family she has a deep connection with the campaign.

Both Ms Murry’s father and paternal grandfather served in the British Army, with her other grandfather a member of the RAF.

At yesterday’s launch Ms Murray was also joined by 11-year-old Megan Adams from Stirling. Miss Adams is a member of the Poppy Girls – five young Scottish girls chosen from 1,000 hopefuls to release a commemorative fundraising single for the appeal.

The Royal Navy was represented by her father, Lieutenant Billy Adams, who was there with his wife Cheryl, herself a naval veteran. Mr Adams recently returned from active duty off the coast of Somalia to surprise his daughter during a liveperformance, reducing her to tears.

Fields of remembrance will be open in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens and Inverness’ Cavell Gardens from next Monday for one week. They will include hundreds of crosses sent in by members of the public each inscribed with personal messages.

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh airport control tower and The Hydro in Glasgow will be lit in red to commemorate the event.

The money raised will provide help and support to ex-servicemen and their families as well as funding the Royal British Legion’s personal recovery centres.

Poppy Scotland is taking donations via its ‘text to give’ service as well as online, by phone, post, or street collections.

Details of how to donate or volunteer can be found on its website.

 

 

Valleyfield remembers mining tragedy 75 years on

Valleyfield memorial statue to the men who died in one of Scotland's worst mining disasters.

Valleyfield memorial statue to the men who died in one of Scotland’s worst mining disasters.

By Paul Hyland

The 75th anniversary of one of Scotland’s worst mining disasters was marked today in the Fife village where it happened.

An explosion in the Valleyfield Colliery in East Fife on 28 October 1939 killed 35 men after gas caught light and set fire to coal dust.

A presentation was held in the village community centre today where old photographs and slides from the time were shown.

Robert McKenzie, a member of the Valleyfield Mining Disaster Project Group, who organised the event, described the impact of the explosion at the time.

“It was a huge impact on the village,” he said. “There was something like 19 or 20 families bereaved and sometimes it could be maybe two people, a father and a son, a grandfather and a son, that were killed in the disaster, or the one next door could be a relation to the one that was killed.”

The miners were in the middle of a night shift when the blast happened at 3.45am. The force of the explosion was likened to an earthquake by locals at the time.

A wreath-laying ceremony was also held on Sunday at 2pm at a statue in the village commemorating the disaster. It was attended by MSPs, councillors and other dignitaries.

 

 

 

 

New average speed cameras on the A9 road

by Arantxa Barrachina

A network of average speed cameras on the A9 between Inverness and Dunblane was installed today at 27 sites on the road at a cost of £2.5 million.

The installation of the cameras is the latest measure taken by the Scottish Government to improve safety on one of the most dangerous roads in the country.

The speed limit for HGVs using the A9 has also been raised from 40mph to 50mph as a pilot project.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said speed cameras would save lives on the road.

He added: “All the evidence we have had from other sites show reductions in fatalities. Surely everyone should welcome that.”

Scottish Government and the Strategic Transport Project Review (STPR) already have an ambitious investment plan in transportation and infrastructure by 2030.

According to the STRP,  the new A9 dual carriageway will improve the connection between Perth and Inverness.

The project has an estimated budget, according to the STPR, of between £1.5 billion and £3bn, but the savings of the £50 million of the Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC) project would be invested in improvements to the A9.

The FRC is Scotland’s biggest transport infrastructure project, due to be completed in 2016, and it will replace the Forth Road Bridge, which has deteriorated due to traffic levels and weather conditions.

Laura Ferri, a civil engineer working on the FRC project, said: “The FRC project will provide a vital road link for maintaining the economies of Fife, the East coast of Scotland and Edinburgh.”

She added: “Improving connections and safety between the North and South of Scotland is very important. It will improve new accesses around locations.”

Health fears over Edinburgh exercise Levels

by Vanessa Kennedy

Less than a third of people in Edinburgh are doing the recommended half an hour of exercise a day, a new report has revealed.

An Edinburgh City Council report surveyed up to 4,000 people to ask how many days in the past week they had done 30 minutes of physical exercise which was enough to raise their breathing rate.

Less than a third of people met the recommended target of two-and-a half hours of moderate physical activity per week set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The organisation estimated that 3.2 million deaths per year could be attributed to low levels of physical activity.

The health body advises that active people are less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and depression.

Edinburgh University is set to start a pilot “Healthy University” project to address physical activity levels in inactive students who are doing less than the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity.

The head of the project, Helen Ryall, said the aim of the project is to “actively promote and deliver tangible health and wellbeing benefits for the University community through increasing the engagement of staff and students in health and wellbeing across the university”.

The programme will provide one-to-one support to students who are inactive, possibly suffering from mild to moderate depression or weight management issues.

Ms Ryall said: “We know that when students feel well they learn better, so this is a win-win for everybody.”

 

 

First Tree Planted in War Centenary Wood

By Paul Malik

The first of 50,000 trees was planted today on the Dreghorn Military Estate, Pentland,  to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Margaret Murison, whose grandfather and great-uncle both fell on the same day during the Battle of Ypres, planted an oak tree with pupils from Currie Primary School to mark the opening of the new wood.

The wood is part of a national initiative set up by the Woodland Trust that aims to “create a living memorial of the conflict”.

The Woodland Trust said: “Over the next four years more than 50,000 trees including oak, birch and rowan will be planted on land that has been used by army personnel for training for more than a century on the MOD training estate at Dreghorn.”

Rory Syme, a spokesman for the Woodland Trust, said the tress selected for the wood were “native” to Britain and that their crimson autumnal foliage would create an “amazing memorial”.

Poppy seeds are to be sown in the area also, to create a vivid red hue across the Pentland Hills.

The area will still be an active army training ground and the MOD will inform the public as to when the woods are not accessible.

The First World War claimed the lives of more than one million British Soldiers. The first Battle of Ypres alone killed more than 55,000 British service personnel.

New Research Shows Bacterial ‘Language’

By Fraser Ryan

A study conducted by researchers at Edinburgh University has suggested bacteria may use a form of communication not dissimilar to human language.

According to researchers, the method, which uses chemical signals instead of sound and words, allows bacteria to flourish.

Dr Sam Brown, a member of the university’s school of biological sciences, said: “We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of the complexity of bacterial social life and its consequences for disease.

“Decoding their language is an important step towards placing our own communication in a broader biological context, as well as opening a new front in the search for mechanisms to control infections.”

The research was conducted amid fears certain forms of dangerous bacteria may soon become resistant to current antibiotics.

Decoding the language may lead researchers to new drugs in the battle to combat infections, ensuring certain infections will not become life threatening.

The scientists found bacteria produce and respond to chemical compounds which act as dialogue, a sign that they recognised their physical and social environment.

Currently, remedies that fight infection stop all communication between bacteria enzymes; allowing the bacteria’s survival instincts to build a resistance to drugs.

The University’s researchers believe that by hindering certain signals, specifically signals harmful to humans, could be equally as efficient in preventing infection without leading to bacterial resistance.

Tram Advertising Slammed By Public

by Alicia Simpson and Melissa Steel

The Edinburgh Trams may be able to recoup part of the estimated £1 billion it has cost to get them up and running. Our reporters, Alicia Simpson and Melissa Steel, went to find out more.

 

The trams, currently being tested throughout the city, could have wrap-around advertising and even be named by companies.

This scheme could earn Edinburgh Trams an extra £1.5 million a year, on top of an expected £15 million in fares.

Andrews Burns, Edinburgh Council leader, told STV news: “I would like to think the vast majority of the Edinburgh population would be supportive of this.”

However, when Edinburgh Napier News went down to Haymarket Railway Station, a main thoroughfare affected by the tram works, we found the public were less than sympathetic – and even had a few colourful suggestions for tram names.

Tram outside Haymarket Station.

Tram outside Haymarket Station.

 

 

Doctors Support Margo MacDonald Assisted Suicide Bill

By Jordan Hooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Man to be Sentenced for Harrassment

By Hamza Jabir

A man convicted of harassing a woman in Musselburgh will be sentenced next month at Haddington Crown Court.

John Fraser followed the unnamed 55 year old along Musselburgh High Street and after noticing her pursuer tried to allow him to pass by stopping, however he also halted, forcing her to seek refuge in a local café.

Fraser proceeded to enter the café, so closely that staff believed them to be visiting together. After seating herself, Fraser sat at another table opposite and began banging a menu and glass off the surface.

Describing her ordeal, the victim confessed to feeling ‘extremely scared’ and feeling ‘sick’.

Fraser had a prior record for disturbing behavior and last month kicked open the front door of the Costa Coffee shop on Musselburgh High Street with his face covered by a scarf and hood.

NHS Facing £5 Million Lawsuit

By Hamza and Fraser

NHS Lothian are facing a damaging £5 million lawsuit after a patient came back to life despite being pronounced dead by doctors.

Lorna Baillie,51, had collapsed in her Prestonpans home in February 2012 and was rushed to the Edinburgh royal Infirmary.  Three hours after arriving she was pronounced clinically dead by doctors and remained so for 45 minutes after staff turned off her life support system.

After showing signs of life within this time, Mrs Baillie’s family pleaded with nurses to turn the system back on and after approval from senior staff she was successfully resuscitated. However the mother of two suffered irreparable damage to the brain due to a lack of oxygen and will almost certainly require professional medical care for the rest of her life.

Daughter Leanne Baillie, 33, said: ‘She is not the woman she was before this happened.

‘She doesn’t remember that we are her daughters. She doesn’t remember that we are her daughters. She knows my name, but to her I’m just someone called Leanne that she kind of knows.’

Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian medical director, said: ‘We are unable to comment on this case as a result of legal proceedings.’

 

Historic Church to host Victorian Market

File:Tron Kirk, High Street, Edinburgh.JPG

View of Tron Kirk from the Royal Mile   Photo: Kim Traynor

By Jordan Hooks

Tron Kirk, a historic church located on the Royal Mile, has become the new location for a Victorian-style market.

Proposals to convert the A-listed church into a market say the church would become the new home to a dozen stalls selling pottery, jewelry, tweed and whisky. It will also include tourist information points.

[Read more...]

13-year-old Girl Missing from East Lothian Home

Nicole Saxby who has been reported missing from her home in Wallyford, East Lothian. Police Scotland collect.

Photo of 13-year-old Nicole Saxby

By Jordan Hooks

Nicole Saxby, 13, has been reported missing from her East Lothian home.

Nicole was last seen Sunday evening around 6:40 near the railway line at Wallyford station.

No friend or family member has had contact with her since.

Nicole is described as white, 5 ft. 4in. tall, slim, with dark brown shoulder-length hair. She was last seen wearing a black leather jacket, grey top and blue Nike trainers.

Inspector Dougie Kirkham said: “Nicole is a confident young woman who knows the Wallyford and Edinburgh areas well and we are carrying out enquiries in both these areas to trace her.”

Anyone with any information with her whereabouts or anything that can help bring Nicole home safe are asked to contact Police Scotland 101 immediately.

Holiday Cuts at Christmas Holiday Planned for Schools

By Jordan Hooks

Plans have been proposed to cut Christmas holidays to one-and-a-half weeks while giving students an extra week off in the summer. This would extend the summer break to last seven weeks.

An exact reason for the holiday calendar changes is unclear and has only been cited from an education source as “calendar reasons.”

The proposed changes have created quite a stir, especially for working parents.

For working parents, extra-long summers creates problems finding additional support because they have already arranged childcare for a set amount of time over the summer breaks.

Tory education chief Cllr Jason Rust said: “I’m surprised they would be looking to shorten the Christmas holiday as an additional week to the summer break could create further issues for working parents and employers.”

The consultation period will run until March 28.

Woman Mugged for Handbag by two Women

File:Police in Glasgow.jpg

Photo: Postdif

By Jordan Hooks

A 63-year-old woman walking on Jubilee Road around 7 pm Sunday night was grabbed by the arm and was mugged by two women.

Aged between 25 to 30 and both wearing dark quilted jackets with fur, dark trousers and dark trainers, the two women struggled with the victim until she fell to the ground.

Officers are conducting door-to-door inquiries and are working to see if any CCTV footage is available.

Detective Constable Richard Thompson of Police Scotland said: “We are keen to speak to anyone who may have been in the area or who may have seen the suspects. As a result of the attack the woman sustained an injury to her hand and has been left badly shaken by the incident.”

Anyone with any information regarding the mugging should contact Police Scotland on 101.

Police Looking for two Men Over Cash Machine Robbery

By Jordan Hooks

A 36-year-old man was withdrawing a two-figure sum of cash from an ATM outside CC Express store in Broomhall Drive when he was approached and threatened by a man who robbed him.

The man demanded the victim hand over the money and when he did, he then was forced to return to the cash machine to withdraw additional money for a second man.

The second robber had been watching the events from the first suspect play out before he chose to attack.

One of the men was white, around 30-years-old, 5 ft. 10 in. tall, of slim build with a thin face.

The second man was wearing dark clothing and a chunky black wool hat.

Det Sgt Alan O’Brien said: “The victim was not assaulted or harmed during this incident but was left understandably shaken following the theft of his money.”

For more information, visit the Scotland Police or call Scotland Police 101.

Scottish Independence: Gordon Brown calls for greater power sharing within UK

By Eddie Nisbet

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has waded into the independence debate for the first time, announcing his desire to see greater levels of power-sharing across the United Kingdom.

In a speech in the east end of Glasgow today, Brown will set out six proposed “major” constitutional changes that will overhaul the current division of power between Westminster and Holyrood.

Among these mooted changes is a constitutional guarantee of the permanence of the Scottish Parliament.

“A moment cannot now be lost in detailing the positive case for a strong Scottish Parliament in a strong Britain,” Brown will tell a conference in Labour’s Scottish heartland to mark the beginning of a No tour of Scotland.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Brown has indicated that more coordinated measures are required to tackle Scotland’s social malaise regarding poverty, housing, unemployment and the environment.

The six “radical” constitutional changes to be proposed by Brown in his speech today are:

  • Constitutional law proposed to guarantee the UK pool and share resources for the defence and security of the citizens of all four nations;
  • The permanence of the Scottish Parliament enshrined in the British constitution for the first time;
  • Increased powers for Holyrood in health, employment, transport and economic growth;
  • A new tax sharing agreement that would balance pooled resources of the UK, including accountability to the electors where tax revenue is spent;
  • New power-sharing partnerships to address shared social problems of poverty, housing needs, unemployment and environmental issues;
  • A major transfer of powers running down from Westminster and Holyrood to more localised power for communities.\

Listen to Better Together spokesperson Ross MacRae on Gordon Brown’s speech today:

Brown’s No tour of Scotland is to appeal to those voters who want more powers for Holyrood short of being fully independent from the UK.

The latest polls indicate that the No vote is standing at 53% compared to 35% set to vote in favour of independence. With 12% still undecided, however, there is still plenty of political ground to be made up over the next 191 days.

Brown’s speech makes up one part of a double-pronged attack on independence, with former Liberal Democrat leader Mingus Campbell making a similar speech in Edinburgh.

Suggesting tax-raising powers could be delivered unto Scotland in the event of a No vote, Campbell is also calling for increased devolved powers as a viable alternative to independence:

“Gordon Brown’s approach, and indeed my approach and indeed the approach of the Lib Dems, is to look at the UK as a whole.

“I am endeavouring to point the way forward so that all of these contributions – for example from devo plus, from Reform Scotland – that all of these contributions make a very, very considerable – and in my view – effective alternative to the narrow minded view of independence.”

Teen Drugs Charity Links Increased Demand to Methadone Treatment

(c) Steve Nagy/ Design Pics/ Corbis

Drug charities in Scotland have seen an increase in demand for their services this year(c) Steve Nagy/ Design Pics/ Corbis

by Stephen Mahon

A charity that helps teens across Scotland deal with substance abuse has seen a major increase in the need for its services this year.

Demand is up by 30 percent compared to the same period 12 months ago, and Roy Lees, coordinator of the Kids in Crisis charity, expects the problem to increase.  Lees said: “I put the problem down to methadone. It is an increasingly popular method to treat heroin addiction, but since it was first introduced in a big way in the ’80s, it just hasn’t worked.   We deal with the fallout from that, and during times of high unemployment the situation is worse.  The government needs to take a far deeper look at the issue.”

Kids in Crisis is an offshoot of Teen Challenge, a charity that first came to the UK from America in the 1980s.  Currently they have 12 local teams nationwide, with nearly 500 workers made up from staff and volunteers who work in multiple locations across the UK.

The aim of the charity is to actively reach people in need, and -in a novel approach- this can take the form of special buses that have been converted to coffee shops going to the worst affected areas.

A Trustee of Teen Challenge Strathclyde, Bill Kerr said: “We have a location that we visit in Paisley, and some nights nobody will come onto the bus and on other occasions up to ten to fifteen people might come on. There isn’t always a pattern that you can predict. Alcohol addiction is of course a problem, but our focus tends to be on younger people with drug addiction.”

Kerr further explained the challenges facing the charity. He said: “We truly do not know the size of the problem, we only touch a few people’s lives. If we can meet people, we’ll meet them, if we can help people we will help them.  If they are willing to go to rehab we will send them. If they are not willing to go we do not refuse them a cup of coffee.”

Teams of workers also walk the streets looking for the opportunity to serve and organise food for those who require it.

Although the original work carried out by Teen Challenge was with teenagers, they now often help people in the 18 to 40 age group.

Kerr said: “We are low key in what we try to do. We try to help those who want help.  We do not turn people away.”

Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform Launch Manifesto

Image Source: Bonnet

Lord Kirkwood. Credit: Bonnet

 

By Andy Little.

Politicians from all sides of the political spectrum came together in Edinburgh on Thursday  13th November to support the launch of the Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform. The group is a coalition of key third sector organisations from across Scotland.

The Campaign put forward five key reforms which amounts to a new approach to social security.they seek to increase benefit levels to ensure that no one is left in poverty. Make respect for human rights and dignity a cornerstone for a new approach to welfare. Radically simplify the welfare system. Invest in the support needed to ensure that everyone is able to participate fully in society and make welfare benefits work for Scotland.

Chairman, John Dickie said:

“The current approach to social security is not working. We have seen the rise of foodbanks, rising rent arrears and we need to rethink the overall approach to social security.”

Maggie Kelly the co-author of the manifesto said:

“Simple things can reduce poverty such as paying people benefit that raises them out of poverty”

Keynote speaker Lord Archie Kirkwood (Liberal Democrat) praised the role of the  third sector as an important pressure group for change. Lord Kirkwood said:

“There is massive value in working together, policy makers need to hear from the voluntary sector”

He was also critical of the Department of Work and Pensions. Kirkwood said:

“The Department of Work and Pensions is in a state of turmoil, the information technology for universal credit will never work for low income families and the sanctions regime potentially labels everyone a scrounger. That cannot be allowed to continue”

Shiela Gilmour, Labour MP and member of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee sounded a note of caution when she referred to the cost of reform. Gilmour said:

“The cost has to be discussed it’s not just a  safety net but we must have that debate not just a wish list.”

Jamie Hepburn the SNP MSP and deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee said:

“I welcome this manifesto for an important contribution to the debate and an important opportunity to imagine a different type of Scotland”

Nobody from the Conservative Party attended the event.

The Department of Work and Pensions was not able to respond to a request to comment.

Deportation threatened headteacher handed lifeline by Home Office

by Alasdair Crews

Ae Primary School

Ae Primary School; Credit: Dumfries and Galloway Council

The Home Office has lifted a deportation threat on an American-born headteacher working in Dunfriesshire who had his request for permanent residency turned down.

David MacIsaac, who has lived and worked in Scotland for almost 10 years, was told his application had been turned down in a letter from the Home Office, which said that they considered his four-year marriage to a Scottish woman “a sham”.

Mr MacIsaac will now start the application process again after his lawyer and the Home Office agreed a new framework for re-applying.

Mr MacIsaac has been working as headteacher for Ae Primary School for five years, having discovered a shortage of headteachers in rural communities in Scotland during a holiday to the country.

When the decision by the immigration authorities was brought down, Mr MacIsaac and his wife Susan were devastated. Their misery was compounded by the fact that Susan was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is due to begin a course of treatment in Edinburgh.

The Home Office decision caused widespread condemnation from all corners of the Scottish political spectrum and various Parliamentary figures have welcomed the Home Office decision.

In a statement, MSP for South Scotland, Joan McAlpine said:

“This is a victory for common sense and I’m extremely pleased the Home Office has dropped its threat to deport Mr MacIsaac.

“The meeting with Scotland’s education secretary clearly sent a strong signal to the Home Office that its harassment of Mr MacIsaac was wrong.

“The Home Office should be ashamed that its archaic system brought about this highly stressful and unsettling situation.

“I hope Home Office officials learn from this situation and address the serious concerns it has raised about this barbaric Westminster system.”

Mr MacIsaac said: “Sue and I are both delighted and we have been overwhelmed by the cross-party support and the numerous letters and e-mails we have received”.

Senator remains in a critical condition

Irish senator Jimmy Harte

Irish senator Jimmy Harte

by Stephen Mahon

An Irish senator who sustained serious head injuries at the weekend remains in a critical condition.

Senator Jimmy Harte was found unconscious in South Dublin at around 4am on Saturday morning.  Gardai at Kevin Street have been studying CCTV footage from around that time, and it remains unclear whether the Donegal politician was attacked or had an accidental fall.  His coat and mobile phone were not with him when he was found, leading Gardai to believe that the Labour Senator had been the victim of a robbery.

However, speaking today, Gardai confirmed that the items had been left at a bar where Harte had been watching the Ireland v Latvia match in Dawson Street, in the south of the city on Friday evening.  “It looks like an accident, but until we have thoroughly examined the CCTV footage from around that time, we cannot say for certain,” said Chief Superintendent Michael O’Sullvan.  “We would also still appeal for any witnesses who were in the area at around that time to come forward.”

Doctors at Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital say the next 24 hours will be crucial for the 55 year old.  Harte suffered a fractured skull, a massive blood clot and a brain injury in the incident at Newmarket Square, Dublin in the early hours of Saturday morning.  He was rushed to St James Hospital before being transferred to the specialist head injury unit at Beaumont Hospital.  He remains in a medically induced coma. It has also emerged that the Donegal Senator had underlying health issues linked to a heart condition and had collapsed a number of times previously.

Harte joined the Irish Labour party in 2010 and contested the 2011 general election in Donegal North East. He failed to gain a seat, coming fourth in the three-seat constituency.

Later that year he was elected to the Seanad Industrial and Commercial Panel, one of five vocational panels which together elect 43 members of Senad Eireann,  the upper house of the Oireachtas.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 383 other followers

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 383 other followers