RAC prediction for lower petrol prices confirmed

By Paloma Ferreira

The RAC’s prediction this week that the falling price of oil and supermarket competition for customers would lead to British drivers paying less than £1 a litre by Christmas has been confirmed.

The RAC is a transport organisation and a breakdown assistance service.

UK supermarket brand, Morrisons, has cut the price of unleaded petrol to below £1 a litre which is the lowest UK price level since 2009.

The supermarket chain announced that they would be selling unleaded at more than 99.9p per litre and cutting diesel by 1p a litre.

Morrisons’ petrol retail director Bryan Burger said: ‘Today, for the first time in more than six years, we are moving unleaded prices down to below £1 a litre. This is a moment where motorists will feel some relief after being clobbered by tax and price rises for the last decade.’

Other supermarket companies such as ASDA, have also announced lower prices.

ASDA is currently running a promotion for this weekend only, from Friday until Sunday, of unleaded petrol for 99.7p per litre and 103.7p a litre for diesel.

Speaking with the Edinburgh public, citizens had varying opinions on whether this change would affect them personally.

A university student said: ‘I have just gotten a car, and switching from paying for transport to petrol I haven’t seen much of a difference, however I will be traveling long distances for Christmas time so I might see a change there.’

A taxi driver said: ‘I think this petrol costs will have an impact on the long run.’

The average tank of petrol for a U.K. driver of medium car is £70 for about 55 litres. If the lower prices of petrol are sustained, the average car user could pay about £50 for the same amount of petrol.

The AA has released their fuel price report for November 2015. They state on their site that Scotland has recorded the highest diesel price at 110.7 p per litre. They also report that supermarket prices for unleaded have fallen to 105.5 p per litre and that the gap between supermarket prices and the UK average for unleaded has grown to 2.5 p per litre.

Niel Greig from the Institute of Advanced Motorists commented: ‘We can always welcome lower petrol prices, Scottish drivers have been paying some of the highest prices in Europe in fuel for many years now, so this is an early Christmas present which we hope will be sustained.’

He also commented on the amount one could save from the lower prices of petrol. Mr Greig said: ‘There have been some figures released by the AA, for each individual tankful its quite a low amount, just a few pounds, but for over a year you can save several hundred pounds.’

 

 

 

 

Residents in flooded village form a ‘human chain’ to rescue people trapped in the local shop

By Eleonora Theodoridou

 

Storm Desmond has claimed its third victim after a pensioner, 70, died in the hospital days after being hit by a sign.

Last night’s wave of destruction was a repeat of the weekend flooding brought on by Storm Desmond, with record rainfall leaving a village in Kendal Cumbria was cut off from the outside world for four days.

According to the Mail Online website, another victim  died  in Storm Desmond, following the death of  Ernie Crouch, 90, and another 78-year-old man.

Mr.Crouch died after being blown into the side of a moving bus by strong winds near Finchley Central Tube station in London, on Saturday.

The body of a 78-year-old man – whose identity is still unknown – was recovered after he fell into fast-flowing floodwater in the swollen River Kent, in Kendal Cumbria.

The villagers formed a human chain to rescue several people trapped by rapidly rising floodwater.

Villager Mark Hook, 57, spoke to Mail Online: ‘There were people [trapped] in the mini-mart so locals got together with the emergency services to help them out.

‘At one point there was a human chain – it was quite dramatic. They wouldn’t have got out of there without help.’

A  member of the staff from UK weather forecast Hannah, said over a phone interview: ‘The vast extent of the flooding which forced thousands of people out of their homes in Carlisle.

‘It was  an unexplained phenomenon after Storm Desmond brought record amount of rainfalls including 13.5 inches in just 24 hours.

‘If you check online you will see that we have report about the weather but to be honest for any  reason we believed that we will have  this result,’ Hannah’s staff member added.

Sara Baxter  from  Allerdale Borough Council said that “  the damages are huge”.

Mrs. Baxter agreed with the Mail Online, saying: ‘This area has many problems with the  construction  of buildings and as a result the community can’t confront the bad weather .

‘A second clean-up operation is now underway for residents of flood-damaged homes, who were hit by a second wave of flooding yesterday and overnight after further rainfall lashed the country.

‘Having spent days attempting to savage any possessions and return their homes to normal, they faced further misery when rivers over-topped and flood fences failed once again, sending raging torrents down the flood-hit streets.’

 

 

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Hope for deal as Paris climate summit ends

By Frederik Gammelby

Negotiators at the COP 21 Paris climate conference are finalising an agreement among the 196 participating countries, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said.

Last night, Mr Fabius called on the second all-night round of negotiations and has postponed the presentation of the deal to Saturday.

The outcome is expected to meet the key goal set out by the conference 11 days ago, that of limiting global temperature growth to a 2 degree Celsius increase over the next 100 years.

Members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which consists of representatives from 113 low-lying countries vulnerable to rising sea levels, want to stick to a 1.5 degree Celsius increase.

Today’s negotiations will however concentrate on sorting out how finances to developing countries should be managed. The developed countries have demanded that developing countries cut back on emissions as well as improve their infrastructure. Securing transparency in the flow of climate finances to the developing countries is expected to be on today’s agenda.

Hector Grant, spokesman for the Scottish Energy Association, an energy industry members organisation said: ‘We are very pleased with the optimism coming from Paris. We would certainly welcome a deal at COP21.’

‘If policies are being put into place, the energy industries will take on the challenge of securing lower carbon emissions. There are lots of technologies for lowering carbon emissions, and a multitude of industries that can contribute to that.

‘Wind and solar power industries plays a key role in securing lower emissions, and the technologies becomes better all the time.’

Mr Grant also suggested that much more could be done to tackle carbon emissions: ‘The chemical industries and the transportation sector are for instance important in this regard.

‘However, we need to keep moving the goal posts. The government must focus on areas that needs to be developed, and help out via imposing tax breaks, legislation and so on.’

The talks in Paris have been seen as disappointing by some in terms of addressing the risk of land loss and migration issues.

University of Edinburgh Professor of Sociology and Scientific Knowledge Steven Yearley, while accepting that securing a deal in Paris would be a positive development, said: ‘If we are being serious about decarbonisation, we need to address all areas of this issue. For instance, the commercial aviation industry is constantly expanding globally, and we have no substitute for jet fuel. We need to ask ourselves how we can turn this thing around.

‘However, a deal in Paris will be very important for the global social awareness on the importance of climate issues. If we get a deal at COP 21, the participating countries will gone from having no deal, to have a tangible agreement which will obviously be important.’

Professor Yearley added that Scotland is ‘very well placed’ for decarbonisation. He said: ‘This deal could create the initiative for Scotland to become a clean energy exporter.’

Edinburgh Colleges cuts might cause job losses

Course cuts at Edinburgh College could result in job losses due to courses being cut, merged or shrunk.

 A spokesman from the Educational Institute of Scotland welcomed the college’s ‘belated’ recognition of the recruitment issue but added: ‘There’s inevitably that the fear of axing courses means axing jobs.’
Leaders at the college branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s largest teaching union, have warned the institution is in’meltdown.’
They have called for suspension of the application process and course reviews until negotiations are complete.

 

The plan to cut and merge courses has been designed in response to new Scottish Funding Council (SFC) policies which imposes caps on the amount of money provided for each student.

A member of the Edinburgh College, Gordon Coutts said: ‘We do not know yet how many courses are going to be cut or merged.

‘We will re-plan the programme in the following weeks. We will focus on courses that students do not show such a big interest.’

Mr. Coutts continued: ‘We will try not to have job losses.’

Student association vice-president Jenni Behan said: ‘Since the Scottish Government embarked on its college merger programme, colleges have suffered crippling cuts. Edinburgh College has been hit incredibly hard.’

A spokesman for the Scottish Funding Council said:’We support Edinburgh College’s plans to tailor its courses to meet changing patterns of demand.’

The most up-to-date figures show there are 15,256 students currently attending college courses, 316 fewer than at the same point last year.

Preparations are under way to recruit an estimated 3500 additional students before the start of the January semester.

 

 

Obesity epidemic endangers women’s health in the UK

By: Yasmeen Fekri

Obesity endangers health of mothers and Children in the UK with health officials recommending ways to tackle the issue.

A report published today by England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies highlighted how much strain obesity is placing on the NHS and on society, causing harm to the country’s productivity.

In her annual medical report, she focuses on this issue saying ‘women’s obesity should be a national priority to avert a growing health catastrophe’.

Seventeen recommendations to improve women’s health were made in the report. Dame Davies also called for more open discussion on incontinence and better treatment of ovarian cancer.

 

Health experts have welcomed the focus of the report.

Clair Armstrong, 37, retail employee said ‘This is a big problem we are facing now. I know a lot of people going through this and it is insane that people can’t control themselves around food.

‘Exercise is the key, people need to make time for it.’

Studies show women’s obesity problem shortens their lives. Women must also take good care of their physical and mental health  during pregnancy for the sake of their children and grandchildren.

Women that are obese during pregnancy have an increased chance of premature birth and miscarriage which can also have an impact on the child’s health later in life.

Dame Davies said she wanted to bust the myth that women should eat for two when pregnant, adding a healthy diet with fruit and vegetables and avoiding alcohol was important.

Professor Nick Finer, from University College London’s Institute of Cardiovascular Science, said ‘obesity was now the most pressing health issue for the nation.’

‘Estimates of the economic costs of obesity suggest they will bankrupt the NHS.’

England’s chief medical officer recommended that everyone with an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating should have access to a new and enhanced form of psychological therapy, available online, called CBT-E, which is specifically designed to treat any eating disorder.

She added, Bosses need to be sympathetic to women related issues in the workplace.

Debby Mathews, from a charity that supports people with obesity problems said ‘the recommendation could have a positive impact on the population but to follow everything issued in that report would be difficult due to lack of medical experts.’

 

Report showed that there should be more awareness of women’s problems below the waist such as urinary and faecal incontinence and the menopause.

More than five million women suffer from incontinence in the UK, a condition that can seriously affect the quality of their lives.

Bosses should also make it easier for women to discuss their menopausal symptoms without embarrassment, which could help them reduce their sick leave and improve their well-being at work.

The chief medical officer recommended that clinical staff must be better trained to research on screening tests, preeclampsia and foetal growth as well as improve maternal and child mental and physical health.

Dr David Richmond, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said women should be placed at the centre of their care throughout their lives.

He said issues such as maternal obesity, poor diet, lack of physical activity, high levels of alcohol consumption, smoking and poor sexual health ‘must be addressed… to enable all women to make safe and appropriate lifestyle choices’.

The obesity epidemic can be tackled if food portion sizes in supermarkets, restaurants and at home are reduced, according to researchers.

The team of researchers at the University of Cambridge also said smaller plates, glasses and cutlery helps people eat less.

 

Public opinion in Edinburgh divided on Trump Petition

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By Laurenci Dow

Edinburgh locals show a clear divide in opinion on the petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK, while the petition continues to gain over half a million signatures.

Petitions with more than 100,000 signatures will be considered for debate in parliament and the Petitions Committee is expected to discuss this one on the 5th of January 2016.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour home affairs spokesman Jack Dromey have both backed the petition to ban Trump from entering the country under the ‘unacceptable behaviours or extremism policy.’

However, the petition, which is the most signed currently hosted  on the Parliament website, does not express the opinions of some of the locals from the Scottish capital.

Elijah Jones, an Edinburgh local businessman said he felt that Trump’s comments were ‘bold’ although he did not agree with them.

Mr Jones felt that it was contradictory for the UK to call for a ban on a person who themselves wants to ban people from their own country.

Mr Jones said: ‘I don’t think the petition is the best course of action, in my opinion it’s quite contradictory.’

A local Costa Coffee manager, Casper Van Eeden agreed with opinions expressed by Mr Jones saying he felt that the petition was an infringement on Trump’s freedom of speech.

Mr Van Eeden said: ‘I feel that people should be able to say what they want, I don’t agree with banning people for expressing an opinion.’

Jane Thompson, a student from Edinburgh Napier University said she agreed with Robert Gordon University stripping Trump of his honorary degree as she felt this showed the UK’s stance towards his ‘racist’ comments.

However, she said she would not sign the petition as she felt that it was another way for Trump to gain more attention.

Renay Clerk, a student from Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University said she agreed with the petition as she would not want someone who expresses ‘radical opinions’ in the UK.

She said Trump would have a ‘negative effect on the UK’  if he was to visit the country.

Suzanne Kelly, the Aberdeen woman who started the petition says: ‘The signatories will not show any support for Trump’s unacceptable behaviour.’

Former Rangers footballer shot dead

Peralta

Fans have expressed deep sadness on social media sites after the news broke. Photo/Twitter

By Ari Brynjolfsson

Former Rangers footballer Arnold Peralta has been shot dead in his Honduran hometown.

The 26-year-old defensive midfielder was killed in a drive-by shooting in the car park of the Uniplaza shopping mall in La Ceiba in the Central American nation while on holiday.

No arrests have been made and police have ruled out robbery as a motive as his belongings were not stolen. Honduran authorities refuse to reveal when the incident occurred.

Peralta played 24 games for Rangers across two seasons and left the club last January, he scored his only goal against Stranraer in April 2014. While with Rangers he won the Scottish League One title in the 2013/2014 season. His current team was FC Deportivo Olimpia.

Rangers Supporters Club said the news was terrible and that they still considered him family.

The Club said in a statement to the press: ‘We join all our fans in sending our condolences to the family of our former player.’

His death was confirmed by his father, Carlos Peralta at a news conference: ‘This is terribe. They killed my exemplary son. I can’t say more because of the pain I feel.’

Peralta was the Honduran Under-20 captain before playing 26 games for the national team, including the 2014 World Cup. He was due to play for his country next week in an international friendly against Cuba.

Honduras is plagued by gang violence and has the highest murder rates worldwide, topping United Nations crime reports since 2011 with more than 90 murders per 100,000 people.

Human Rights Watch organization said in their 2014 world report that perpetrators of killings and other violent crimes in Honduras were rarely brought to justice, the report said: ‘Honduras suffers from rampant crime and impunity for human rights abuses.’

The Honduran government however vows to bring Peralta’s killers to justice: ‘We won’t rest until those responsible for this act are identified and detained so that they can face justice.’

Saudi women to cast first ever vote

Saudi Arabia

By Koldo Sandoval

Women will vote on Saturday 12 December in Saudi Arabia for the first time in history. The municipal elections take place across Saudi Arabia where women are expected to vote for the first time. Many people are optimistic that women’s voices will finally be heard in Saudi politics – even if only at a local level.

The president of Muslim Women Association in Edinburgh, Tasneem Ali, said: ‘Every woman should have the right to vote. It’s a matter of democracy. Realistically is how it should be.’

Women were previously barred from voting or being elected to political office, but in 2011 King Abdullah declared that women would be able to vote and run in the 2015 local elections, as well as be appointed to the Consultative Assembly.

The first two female registered candidates were Jamal Al-Saadi in Medina and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat in Mecca, the Saudi Gazette reported. An estimated 70 women are planning to register as candidates and an additional 80 as campaign managers, according to local media in Saudi Arabia.

Neither male nor female candidates will be allowed to use pictures of themselves in campaign advertising and on election day there will be separate polling centers for men and women.

Women’s rights activists had long fought for the right to vote in the oil-rich gulf kingdom.

‘Female participation in December’s elections is an important step towards creating greater inclusion within society’, said Nouf al-Sadiq, Saudi citizen and graduated student in Middle East studies at George Washington University.

Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia are limited in comparison to many of its neighbors in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most restrictive countries for women by the International Community. The World Economic Forum in 2013 ranked Saudi Arabia 127th out of 136 countries for gender parity.

Many women has been registered across the country, especially in the capital Riyadh. The government also requires voters to have personal ID cards, and many Saudi women do not.

Ali supports the advances that Saudi Arabia women are getting, she insisted that it’s a democratic matter separated that it not just a problem for Islamic states, she said: ‘Islamically women have the right to vote but when a country prohibits it, it’s not about Islamism. This is how every society can go forward’.

Saudi women still have to contend with limits on their freedom of movement, and since it is illegal for them to drive, many of them will have to rely on male members of their family to take them to register and vote. Male relatives who oppose female voting rights could also be a barrier.

Despite the right to vote suppose an advanced for women in the Middle East, international media such as CNN have reported that ‘public political dissent is illegal in Arabia Saudi’. According to Freedom House’s annual report on political rights and civil liberties; Saudi Arabia is a mainstay of the 10 worst countries in the world for women’s civil rights. Citizens that even hint that political and human rights should be expanded are considered as a terrorist action by the monarchy.

Edinburgh scientists given multi-million pound physics funding

By Abbey Fleming

A group of physicists at The University of Edinburgh has been awarded £3 million which will allow them to take the next steps in investigating the Higgs boson particle.

It is hoped that the research will help to clarify three main areas of particle physics and help to answer some of the ‘outstanding mysteries of our universe,’ say professors at the university.

Dr Victoria Martin said: ‘By supporting our team of academics, researchers, engineers and technicians, we can take the next steps in investigating the Higgs boson particle, and in answering some outstanding mysteries of our universe, such as the existence of dark matter and how to incorporate the force of gravity into theories of quantum mechanics.’

This funding will allow members of staff, research fellows and PhD students to travel to and spend time in Geneva, working with the Large Hadron Collider over the next four years.

PhD Students working on the experiments are expected to spend between a year and 18 months in Geneva as part of the research team, made possible by the new grant.

Professor Franz Muheim, of the university’s school of physics said:  ‘Over the next few years, Edinburgh physicists are looking forward to recording and analysing even larger data samples with the ATLAS and LHCb experiments.

‘Hopefully, this will allow us to shed light on three of the major unsolved questions about how nature works, namely the origin of mass, dark matter and the asymmetry between matter and antimatter.’

The funding is part of a share of £72 million that has been distributed among a further 17 groups of UK researchers, who the Edinburgh physicists will work alongside.

 

 

Unusual Christmas Markets on Sunday

By Ari Brynjolfsson.

Three ‘quirky’ Christmas markets will open this Sunday (13th December) in Edinburgh, according to events magazine Time Out.

In addition to the regular festive market, Edinburgh Printmakers will have a Christmas Market at their shop on Union Street, near Leith Walk.

The half-centennial fine art shop will offer a  variety of jewellery in addition to prints, books and textiles from local artisans.

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair, Britain’s largest vintage fair, will host their Christmas Market in the Assembly Rooms on George Street.

In addition to vintage fashion, they also offer accessories, menswear, home wares and beauty products.

A spokesperson from the vintage shop said: ‘We’re going all out, bringing even more affordable vintage traders from our troupe to get you stocked-up with vintage. Traders will be showcasing some of their best new season stock.’

The Summerhall Christmas Market, to be set up near The Meadows, has promised more stalls than ever before.

In addition to gifts and treats, there will be food from guest vendors, traditional mulled wine from the venue’s bar and Zoom club activities for children. The Summerhall Singers will provide live entertainment with festive songs.

 

 

Study on Scotland’s most expensive streets is misleading

By Yaz Duncan

A recent study by the Bank of Scotland naming Northumberland Street as the most expensive in Scotland may be misleading according to local estate agents.

The study conducted by the bank named Northumberland Street in Edinburgh’s New Town as the most expensive street to buy property, with average house prices hovering around the £1.3million mark.

However, the study has faced criticism from estate agents who say that the statistic is not accurate because more expensive houses have been sold in the surrounding streets.

Peter Lyle, Director of Edinburgh Residential at Savills said: ‘We have sold a property in Northumberland Street for £1.7m, a little bit more actually. That is the most expensive this year.

‘Properties in the surrounding area have sold for more than £1.7m in streets like Heriot Row and Royal Circus. A whole townhouse there will be more expensive than in Northumberland Street.

‘The study is comparing apples and pears and is simply taking an average of what has been recently sold. If you look at some streets in St Andrews houses are selling for three or four million. It is an odd statistic.’

Despite the alleged inaccuracy of the study, Northumberland Street properties are still selling for higher than average prices and the New Town continues to be a desirable area.

Peter Lyle added: ‘Northumberland Street is in the heart of the New Town, walking distance from Princes Street and close to nice parks. It ticks the boxes for people wanting to live in the city centre.’

In response to suggestions by estate agents that the study is misleading Nitesh Patel, economist at the Bank of Scotland said: ‘We took the period from 2010-2015 and there had to a be a minimum of seven transactions over this period.

‘Northumberland Street meets that criteria with an average house price of over £1.3m. There is always research being done on expensive streets. We make clear that it has to be a minimum of seven transactions in five years.

‘We get data from the Registrar of Scotland. I don’t know what estate agents have  said but there will be one or two streets with more expensive sales but they would not meet our criteria.’

The average UK house price in 2015 was £197,000 but the number of homes in Scotland sold for more than £1m has more than doubled over the last 12 months. The capital boasts 13 of the 20 most expensive streets, Aberdeen have four and Glasgow have two.

 

Royal High hotel plan faces city officials’ rejection

by Jasmin Seidl

Planners urged councillors to reject the plans to transform the Royal High School into a luxury hotel, fearing it would damage the city’s World Heritage status.

The A-Listed Calton Hill site would see ‘Inca-style’ terraces on either side as part of the £75 million bid, expected before the planning committee next week.

‘The development would cause permanent and irreversible damage’, according to planning officials.

‘The adverse impacts on the character and setting of listed buildings, the New Town Conservation Area, the designed landscape of Calton Hill and the OUV of the World Heritage site would not be mitigated by the sophisticated design of the proposed extensions.

‘Put simply, too much building is being proposed for this highly sensitive site,’ planning officials added in a report addressed to the councillors.

Conservation bodies say the reconstruction would harm the character of the historic structure.

Alternatively the High School building might be the new home for St Mary’s Music School. The Music School project is also expected to be submitted to the council this week.

Edinburgh Napier News tried to get in contact with the city planners to have further comments, but no reply was given.

 

People’s comments:

Gordon Blackwood, 54, financial adviser, said: ‘Well, just because some experts said it would damage the landscape doesn’t mean they have to make something completely different. The hotel has been here in Edinburgh for a long time.’

Kate Davis, 29, hairdresser, said: ‘I would prefer a music school, because I don’t think we need a luxury hotel here. I think we should not destroy the landscape, because our children have to live in the world we are destroying right now.’

Andy Stewart, 32, IT-specialist, said: ‘I’d say the hotel should stay a hotel, it is a historical building and it would be sad to damage that.’

 

The neoclassical Royal High School was designed by Thomas Hamilton in 1826 and is one of the most valuable buildings of its style.

After the former boys’ school moved to Barnton, the edifice has been neglected for almost 50 years.

 

Edinburgh’s Santa Fun Run and Walk to take place this Sunday

By Abbey Fleming

Edinburgh’s annual Santa Fun Run and Walk will take place this Sunday 13th December to raise money for the charity When You Wish Upon A Star.

Fundraisers will don Santa costumes as they run, walk or stroll through a 2.5km circuit across West Princes Street Gardens.

Organisers say that being a runner is not a requirement to take part in the event and that anyone can get involved regardless of their athletic ability. The track is also suitable for wheelchairs, children in push chairs and dogs on leads.

Owning a Santa costume isn’t necessary as participants will be given a Santa suit on the day when registering.

The Santa Fun Run and Walk will raise money for the charity When You Wish Upon A Star, which takes hundreds of severely ill children to Lapland to meet Santa which the charity says allows the children to ‘swap hospital beds for sleigh rides’.

To take part, runners can either sign up in advance through the website or register on the day.

 

 

 

College lecturers to hold Edinburgh protest over cuts

By Giulia Maccagli

College lecturers from across Scotland will hold a protest later this afternoon to express their concern over ‘Draconian cuts’ to colleges.

The demonstration will take place at 2:30pm outside the offices of the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in Edinburgh and will be supported by the Education Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA).

The EIS-FELA campaigns for equal pay across the further education sector and is aiming to highlight the ‘appalling attacks which FE provision in colleges has come under over the past few years.’

John Kelly, EIS-FELA president, said: ‘The SFC has implemented Draconian cuts on FE Colleges which have been exacerbated further by light touch regulation. If the regulation of colleges had been any lighter it would have floated off to meet the Space Station orbiting Earth.

‘Principals in conjunction with Boards of Management have awarded themselves enormous pay-offs at the same time that we are repeatedly told that there is no money for FE courses.

‘Colleges have experienced course cuts and job cuts at the same time as reports of £2.4 million being shared among 13 Principals.’

College lecturers are calling on Scottish Education Secretary Angela Constance to inject more money into the sector, and are urging the SFC ‘to switch off the green light which has been shown to colleges allowing them to spend on a few, at the expense of further education students and staff.’

Commenting on today’s demonstration, a spokesperson for the Scottish Funding Council said: ‘Our Chief Executive, Laurence Howells, will meet a small delegation from EIS-FELA to listen to the points people wish to put across at this  afternoon’s protest.

‘On the specific issue of severance payments to former college principals, we will seek to reassure the delegation that there is now a much-strengthened set of control arrangements for severance-related financial decisions taken by colleges. These arrangements require colleges to consult with the Funding Council in advance of any decisions being made.’

A spokesperson for the EIS-FELA said the association is considering a programme of industrial action in pursuit of fair pay.

Lecturing and support staff groups have been offered a 1% pay settlement for the year, and both have rejected the offer.

Colleges Scotland, the body representing colleges all across Scotland, expressed their hope that today’s unofficial demonstration has not caused disruption to any students.

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said: ‘While we recognise that there have been a few legacy issues, they should not detract from the excellent work that colleges do for the benefit of students and the hard work and dedication of staff in colleges.’

 

Journalist Ian Bell dies aged 59

By Nicholas Mairs

Scottish writer and journalist Ian Bell has died at the age of 59.

The Sunday Herald columnist was previously Scottish editor of The Observer, and also worked for The Herald, The Scotsman and the Daily Record.

Bell started his career as a sub-editor and then a lead writer, where he was recognised as a voice for the pro-independence side during the 2014 referendum.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: ‘This is devastating news. Ian Bell was one of Scotland’s finest writers and a man of deep intellect and principle.’

Scottish media personalities paid tribute to the Edinburgh-born writer following the news.

His former Sunday Herald colleague and fellow columnist Ian McWhirter tweeted: ‘Loss of my colleague Ian Bell leaves an aching void in Scottish journalism. He set the standard we all tried to equal, but never could’.

The Herald writer Hugh MacDonald said: ‘His character can be accurately gauged by the tone and humanity of his columns. But it was a joy to read him, it was a blessing to know him. He was a great writer and a good man.’

Bell was also recognised as a biographer, having written on Robert Louis Stevenson and Bob Dylan.

He was a multi-award winner, winning the Columnist of the Year award on several occasions. He was also the recipient of the George Orwell Prize for Journalism in 1997.

Glasgow broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli honoured Bell’s accolades. He said: ‘The Scottish Columnist of the Year was affectionately known as the Ian Bell Prize, he won it that often…’

He is survived by his wife Mandy and son Sean.

Sean Bell, in a statement issued on behalf of the family, said: “Our family has lost a husband, a father and a son and Scotland has lost its finest journalist. He set a standard none shall ever reach again yet he inspired us to never stop trying.

‘We ask that our privacy is respected at this difficult time.’

The Sunday Herald has vowed to pay a ‘fulsome tribute’ to their former writer in this weekend’s edition.

 

US authorities look for terrorist links after California mass slaying

By Yasmeen Fekri

US authorities look for terrorist links after California mass slaying.

Bomb equipment, weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were found by police in a raid after Wednesday’s shootout.

Authorities have not yet found a motive in the attack by Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27.

The names of the victims have now been released by San Bernardino’s coroner.

Wearing black tactical gear and wielding assault rifles, the couple sprayed as many as 75 rounds into a room at a social service center for the disabled, where about 75 of Farook’s co-workers had gathered. Farook attended the event but stormed off in anger and returned in battle gear with his wife.

Farook, a county restaurant inspector and his wife Malik, met online and married two years ago. Malik got pregnant and registered at Target with a cheery newlyweds’ catalog of wishes: a car seat, diapers and safety swabs.

But for all the outward signs of suburban normality, this couple, according to the police, used their comfortable home in a middle-class community to build and stockpile on weapons.

They left their six month-old daughter with her grandmother before heading to a holiday party.

Five hours later, they died in a crush of bullets in a brutal face-off with the police.

As the FBI-led investigation pressed on, local authorities completed formally notifying the families of the 14 people who died.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said at a news conference that the search of the suspects house in the nearby community of Redlands turned up with flash drives, computers and cellphones.

Officials in Washington said so far there was no hard evidence between the couple and any militant group abroad, but the electronics would be checked to see if the suspects had been browsing on jihadist websites or social media.

“It is possible that this was terrorist-related. But we don’t know,” President Obama told reporters. “It is also possible that this was workplace-related.”

Farook, a US citizen, was born in Illinois, the son of Pakistani immigrants. Malik was born in Pakistan and lived in Saudi Arabia until they married.

The couple entered the United States in July 2014 after a trip that included Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Farook had no criminal record and was described by friends as a soft-spoken, intelligent and nice person.

“This shooting has caused each victim’s family, friends and co-workers, along with the first responders, to suffer an enormous personal tragedy,” Sheriff John McMahon said.

Twenty-one people were wounded in the shooting. All the victims were from Southern California and ranged in ages 26 to 60.

The couple have emerged as one of the most perplexing pairs in the recent history of mass homicide. And this attack ranks as the deadliest instance of US gun violence in three years.

 

 

Germany decided military intervention in Syria

Jasmin Seidl

The German Parliament has approved the German army mission against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) by a large majority this morning.

Up to 1,200 German soldiers will support the fight against IS with reconnaissance ‘Tornado’ flights, a tanker and a frigate.

The mandate is initially valid until the end of 2016.

445 deputies voted for the mandate while only 146 were against and there were seven abstentions.

Green and Left parties voted against it, because they consider the decision to be made too rashly.

Petra Sitte, deputy of the Left party said: “We do not want to get caught up in this war in ‘Tornado’ tempo.” Many questions are still unanswered, she added.

Union Group CEO Michael Grosse-Brömer called the behaviour of the opposition” irresponsible”.

Germany’s role in the fight against international terrorism has to be grounded in law properly, according to him.

His Green Party colleague Britta Haßelmann argued that a mandate of such importance should be discussed at length.

Meanwhile, the SPD parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann  defended the fast decision.

This was necessary, Oppermann said. “France has asked us for help.”

It does not have to be discussed for weeks or months, Oppermann said. “We can decide quickly, when it matters.”

But he ruled a deployment of German ground forces in Syria out. “In any case we won’t send a European Army, German soldiers so to speak, as ground troops to Syria,” the SPD politician said.

 That would be the wrong signal, Oppermann added.

Even the SPD defense politician Rainer Arnold said, the use is justifiable and also affordable.

To counter criticism of the planned deployment, he said: “Reconnaissance fliers are no contribution to heedless bombing.”

If Germany stayed out, it will be even harder to demand solidarity in Europe. “We Germans should not be a bad example there”, Arnold said.

The parliamentary leader of the Left Sahra Wagenknecht clearly spoke against the deployment in Syria: War makes it worse.

“In Paris 130 people had fallen victim to the terrorist attacks and in response, innocent people in Syria shall be killed”, she complained. What is this madness?”

Addressing the government Wagenknecht said: “It’s simply a lie that this war will weaken the IS.” The opposite is the case in her opinion.

“Bombing is also terrorism,” she admonished. “War is terror, which produces new terror.”

 

Forth Road Bridge will remain closed until New Year

Abbey Fleming

The Forth Road Bridge will remain closed until New Year, it has been announced.

The decision to keep the bridge closed until 2016 was taken following a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee after several engineering faults were identified this week.

Transport Scotland are considering implementing a dedicated bus route as well as passenger ferry services across the Forth while the bridge is closed.

Transport Minister Derek MacKay said:  “The decision to close the Forth Road Bridge is not taken lightly. It is based on the expert opinion of the engineers who operate the bridge day to day and that of independent experts in the field.

“Every effort is being made to open the bridge as quickly as possible but safety is the main priority, however these works are weather dependent given the height and location of the bridge.

“We are aware of the potential economic impact, for strategic traffic in the east of Scotland and on people living in local communities.

Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motoring said: “There will be absolute chaos.

“However, I think it is good that they have told people it will be a long time so they can plan better for it.

“It will mean a completely different Christmas for people and companies. There will be disruption to deliveries and to the economy of the whole of the east of Scotland.

“Regular users of the bridge are used to short term delays, but this is unheard of.”

As well as causing severe delays and tailbacks, the closure of the bridge is likely to affect the running of local businesses.

A spokesperson for Pack & Send, a delivery company based in South Queensferry said: “I usually drive across the bridge every day but today I had to get the train. If the train wasn’t available then the store would have to close and it would impact on business.”

The Scottish Resilience Committee is planning to meet again over the weekend and a dedicated website for travel information will be created.

Commuters are being encouraged to consider their plans and only travel when necessary, however emergency vehicles will still be able to use the bridge in blue light situations.

The bridge’s southbound carriageway has been closed since Tuesday when steel work defects were discovered during an inspection. Vehicles using the bridge have had to do so with a contraband system in place on the northbound carriageway, causing tailbacks of 11 miles this morning.

Scotrail has warned that its’ trains are likely to be much busier than usual as a result of the bridge closure, especially at peak times and have advised commuters only to travel if necessary.

 

Scotland’s rail peak fares to rise by 1.1 per cent from 2 January

by Giulia Maccagli

Train peak fares in Scotland will increase by one per cent from 2 January 2016 due to  a 1.1 per cent rise in average rail fares in Britain, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has announced.

The RDG, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said it was the smallest annual rise for six years.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group said: “We know that nobody likes to pay more to travel by train, especially to get to work, and at 1.1 per cent this is the smallest average increase in fares for six years.

“On average 97p in every pound from fares is spent on trains, staff and other running costs. With passenger numbers doubling in the last 20 years money from fares now almost covers the railway’s day-to-day operating costs.

“This allows government to focus its funding on building a bigger, better network when the railway is becoming increasingly important at driving economic growth, underpinning jobs, and connecting friends and families,” Mr. Plummer added.

The increases cover fares in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland is treated separately.

In Scotland, the rise will involve only peak fares. A spokeswoman for ScotRail said: “We’re pleased to have frozen off-peak fares for the third year in a row, which means fares for four in 10 journeys again remain the same.

“Tickets for travel at peak times are going up by inflation – one per cent. This strategy will help the shift from road to rail which has resulted in 93 million journeys on ScotRail services in the past year alone.”

For Edinburgh and Glasgow commuters, for example, this will mean an increase in their fares as follows: Edinburgh – Glasgow: from £23.10 in 2015 to £23.30 in 2016; Motherwell – Glasgow: from £6.80 in 2015 to £6.90 in 2016; Glasgow – Perth: from £29.50 in 2015 to £29.80 in 2016.

Passengers at Edinburgh Waverley railway station commented on the fare rise.

“The rise of 1.1 per cent is quite reasonable but I think that if it would have been more than that I might get a bit annoyed,” said Clare Walker, a retired woman.

“This increase will affect students, like me, that commute almost everyday. I do not understand why they have to raise train fares every year, considering the fact that public transports are used by a lot of people,” said Matt Winchester, a student at the University of Edinburgh.

“I think that one per cent is not bad, in the past years it has been much higher. If they needed to repair the lights and they provide good trains, then that’s fine,” said Jane Crofford, 62.

Today’s rise is the smallest annual rise since 2009. However, regulated fares have actually raced up by more than 25 per cent in the past five years.

 

 

Danes vote No to Europol

By: Frederik Gammelby

Danish voters yesterday voted No to change their Europol opt-out into an “optional arrangement” membership.

Despite a majority of parties in the Danish Parliament recommending a Yes-vote, 53 per cent of voters voted against the optional arrangement, which would have led the Danish government to choose which parts of the Europol they wanted to cooperate on.

With the No vote, Denmark becomes the first EU member state to withdraw from the Europol supranational policing network. On Monday, the Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen (Venstre/Liberal Party ed.) will meet with EU President Donald Tusk and EU Commission Chairman Jean Claude Juncker to work out a parallel agreement with Denmark on policing.

Professor Soeren Dosenrode at European Studies from Aalborg University in Denmark said about The Prime Minister’s upcoming meeting with Mr. Juncker and Mr. Tusk.

“The Danish referendum is not a big deal in Europe, although it’s a big thing in Denmark. This is chiefly due to the fact that Denmark with this vote is not blocking any treaties. The negotiations depend on what Mr. Juncker and President Tusk are going to say, although the Danish Prime Minister should not count on their goodwill.”

Getting the details of the deal right might prove to be a complex task since Denmark, as an EU member state, will still have to live up to the common interest of the EU.

“Getting parallel agreements is a slow process,” said Professor Dosenrode. “First it has to be approved by the Commission, then the Council of Ministers and finally the European Parliament. This process normally takes between one and five years. Furthermore, EU regulation states that parallel agreements are temporary.”

Danish EU elections have traditionally been associated with EU scepticism, with Denmark having voted No to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, which later resulted in the Danish opt-out deal under the Edinburgh agreement. Denmark also opted out on membership of the euro in 2000. But why are the Danes so sceptical of the EU?

Professor Dosenrode said: “Fundamentally, the Danes are fond of the EU. However, they are scared of giving away their sovereignty. The idea of the big, federal, European state is frightening for the Danes. At the same time the Danes are deeply suspicious of their politicians, because various politicians from parties across the Parliament have been involved in a string of gaffes in resent years, and this suspiciousness has definitely been reflected in the referendum.”

The Danish referendum has gained attention in the UK, and UKIP leader Nigel Farage has already congratulated the Danes on their No vote. Commenting on what the Danish No vote could mean for Prime Minister David Cameron’s bid to change Britain’s EU-membership, Professor Dosenrode said: “It is definitely a signal to Brussels that EU scepticism is alive and well. In connection to the Danish No vote however it is difficult to say whether Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker would approach Britain in the same way as it would with Denmark.”

Hearts to stay at Tynecastle home

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Hearts are to stay at Tynecastle Stadium, after the club revealed plans to increase its’ capacity.

Ann Budge, the owner of the Scottish Premiership club, announced plans to redevelop the Main Stand, which should expand the stadium’s capacity to at least 20,000 seats.

Budge, who took over the club last year, admitted her initial preference was to move to a new stadium. “It was a preference driven by a desire from the majority of supporters to stay at Tynecastle”.

The plan is to rebuild the Main Stand on McLeod Street. Budge revealed that the club has the financial backing to commit to the project. The total budget will be over £7 million.

“Financially, we completely out performed our financial plan and our turnover has risen from £5,098m to £7,077m and a half million pounds improvement on the bottom line and this does not include the donations from the Foundation of Hearts”, Budge said.

The club is also planning to purchase land behind the Main Stand, which Budge sees as part of an overall regeneration of the Tynecastle area.

The plans are seen as reflective of the increased demand for tickets, amidst the club’s recent success on the pitch.

George Foulkes, former club chairman, said: “We have sold out at every recent home game and I think we have the potential to get match attendance up to 25,000 rather than 16-17,000 we have at the moment”.

Hearts midfielder Miguel Pallardo said plans for redevelopment were good news for the players: “Football players enjoy playing with more supporters. This work could be beneficial for Hearts”.

Tynecastle’s current capacity stands at 17,529 seats, which makes it the seventh largest football stadium in Scotland. The new stand will be close to that the 20,421 seats at Easter Road, the home of city rivals Hibernian.

The club celebrated the centenary of the Main Stand in 2014.

Adele’s Glasgow show sold out in two minutes

Adele_2009

Adele during a live performance in 2009. Photo/Wikimedia commons

Tickets for Adele’s two concerts in Glasgow’s SSE Hydro in March sold out in two minutes, according to promoters.

 

Fans have experienced long online queues as tickets for Adele’s tour next year are selling out fast.

This is her first tour in four years as she has been suffering from severe stage fright.

Her tour starts in February in Belfast, tickets for her Manchester and London performances will go on sale on Monday.

Pedro Cameron, 26, said: “I didn’t get Adele tickets. I was in the presale queue for 3 hours online before being kicked out. I am exasperated. I think it was to be expected – literally most of the nation wants to go so it’s a bit of a lottery.”

Adele’s latest album, 25, was released on the 25th of November and became the fastest selling album in the UK, selling 800,000 copies in the first week.

 

Edinburgh Council Pledges First City-Wide Renewable Energy Plan

City of Edinburgh Council has unveiled a new sustainable energy action plan for the city, which aims to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

The Council’s Media Officer Noel Miller revealed that several organisations had met with council representatives on 1st December “to pledge their commitment to the City of Edinburgh Council led Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP).”

The scheme marks the city’s first energy action plan, and aims to “transform the capital’s energy use by reducing demand and encouraging local generation.”

The decision comes as world leaders convene in Paris for the ongoing Climate Change Conference.

Several prominent businesses in the city have already pledged their support to the council’s action plan, including Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot-Watt University, NHS Lothian, Standard Life, and BT Scotland.

Environmental Convener at City of Edinburgh Council, Lesley Hinds said: “The SEAP is a city-wide plan, not just a council initiative. Everyone who lives and works in the city can play their part in reducing carbon emissions and the SEAP target is only achievable through city-wide support. The SEAP will seek to develop and therefore be constantly evolving to reflect this involvement with as many stakeholders as possible.

“The eight organisations who have pledged have a large sphere of influence throughout the city, and our combined efforts to find innovative solutions to energy requirements and to reduce our carbon emissions has the potential to make a much larger impact through this partnership.”

Jamie Pearson, Environment and Sustainability Manager for Edinburgh Napier University, commented that the university was “excited” to take part in the council’s scheme. “The plan itself actually ties in with a lot of what we do already at the university, though this is on a somewhat larger scale.

“What this also represents is a bigger partnership between the institutions of Napier, Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College, as well as businesses such as RBS and Standard Life.”

Professor Gillian Hogg, Deputy Head of External Relations at Heriot Watt, said: “This is a practical step towards an ambitious goal. The proposed partnership would allow our staff and students to share that expertise and hopefully offer them practical opportunities to contribute towards the wider aims of the project.”

The Paris Climate Change Conference is expected to conclude on the 11th December. Edinburgh Council hopes that the conference will play a role in spurring the wider community to participate in the new energy scheme.

 

How Pistorius’s verdict reflects on South African legal system and what lies ahead for his sentencing

Yesterday morning, Pistorius’s culpable homicide conviction was replaced with murder, two legal experts give their opinion on the ruling and what lies ahead for his sentencing.

The South African Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled that Pistorius should have foreseen the deadly impact his four bullets would have had in the small bathroom.

The new ruling over turns the decision made by Judge Masipa of the High Court.

Commenting  on the previous ruling Justice Eric Leach of the SCA called Masipa’s decision a “fundamental error.”

When asked how the change in verdict reflects on the South African justice system, Professor Penelope Andrews, Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Cape Town said: “This should not be seen to be as an adverse comment upon Masipa’s  competence and ability.”

She went on to say: “Lots of judges decisions are over turned in the appeal process that’s why the process exists, the fact that a judge may not have applied the facts properly does not mean the South African criminal justice system is a mess.”

Commenting on the new verdict Prof. Andrews said: “The judges who dealt with the appeal at the Supreme Court were spot on, so I think that has shown how good our criminal justice system is and more importantly that it is fair.

“As an accused you know you can take the matter further or the state can, if there are sufficient grounds based on the law.”

Commenting on his reaction to the verdict Dr. Mohamed Chiktay Senior Lecturer at WITS University School of Law (Johannesburg) said: “Masipa showed restraint and dealt with the case in a professional manner but at the end of the day when you look at the facts and the law, it is quite evident where she went off in the wrong direction.

“She incorrectly dealt with the concept of doulas intervenciones.”

Commenting on Pistorius’s re-sentencing  Dr.  Chiktay said: “Sentencing will be a difficult aspect of the case, the judge will have to be objective and balance all the factors that are relevant like his disability, age and the fact that he has no prior convictions.”

Prof. Andrews said: “Pistorius will have to supply a compelling reason as to why he should not be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in jail, his disability should not affect his sentencing, one cannot give leniency to anyone who killed a person without any proof that they posed a real threat.”

This morning Barry Steenkamp, Reeva Steenkamp’s farther said: “We will have to wait and see what happens at sentencing but for now justice has prevailed and we can try get on with our lives for now.”

Drink drive offences down in Scotland

There has been a fall in drink-driving offences the first three months of the year in Scotland after the introduction of a lower alcohol limit.

The offences have fallen 17 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, head of road policing, said: “Police stop more than 20,000 Scottish drivers a month. That’s one vehicle every two minutes.

“If you have committed an offence, or if we have reasonable cause to suspect that you have been drinking, you may be subjected to a breath test.

“Even if you’re just over the limit, you’re still a drunk-driver in the eyes of the law – there is no grey area.”

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Since the introduction of the new lower drink-drive limit six months ago, Scotland is starting to see a real change in behaviour.

“Fewer drink-driving offences is a positive story for Scotland and shows that we’re leading social and legislative change in the UK.”

Elaine Hindal, chief executive at alcohol education charity Drinkaware, says: Even small amounts of alcohol affect your ability to drive so the only safe advice is to avoid any alcohol if you are driving.

“Men tend to process alcohol faster than women, whereas younger people tend to process alcohol more slowly.

“If you plan to drink when you go out, make alternative arrangements to driving; choose a ‘designated driver’ from your group of friends, plan your journey home if you have good public transport links or order a licensed taxi instead.”

Those who were opposed to the law when it was first introduced still show their reaction not on the measure itself but on the penalties accompanying this lower alcohol limit.

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said: “We were never opposed to the limit. We were opposed to the penalties. The Government showed restrictions over the limit, not the penalties. The penalties are  the same as in 80ml. The penalties is the problem, not the limit.

“In all offences there should be a graded system. People who don’t drink and drive can be caught. If you are caught between 50-80ml you have got a 20 year old criminal record, a fine and ban on driving. Penalties are severe and stop people enjoying a glass of wine or a beer with their meal.”

Drivers who are caught with a low-level reading, but are over the limit face the same minimum charge as the severe offenders which is a minimum of 12 months disqualification from driving, a substantial fine and possible imprisonment.

 

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