Fears of academic freedom being affected by new counter terrorism bill

Theresa May’s proposed counter terrorism bill has come under fire from activist groups and teachers unions.

Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech where she proposed a new bill to fight terrorism within the UK has been criticised by the Open Rights Group and the Human Rights watch.

One of the proposed measures for the bill is a new statutory duty on colleges, schools, prisons, probation providers, police and councils to prevent individuals being drawn into terrorism. Ministers will have powers to issue directions to organisations that repeatedly invite extremist speakers or fail in the duty in other ways.

Mary Senior, Official for the Scotland University and Colleges Union (UCU), said:

“Universities and colleges have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their students and staff and not to allow activities which are intended to foment hatred or violence, or to recruit support for unlawful activities such as terrorism.

“At the same time, universities and colleges rightly cherish, and must continue to promote, academic freedom as a key tenet of a civilised society.  It is essential to our democracy that all views are open to debate and challenge within the law.”

Tom Lawrence, from the Home Office Press office said:

“The purpose of our Prevent programme is stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It deals with all kinds of terrorist threats to the UK.

“Prevent activity in local areas relies on the co-operation of many organisations to be effective. Currently, such co-operation is not consistent across the country.

“The new duty will require specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. This will include local government, the police, prisons, providers of probation services, schools, colleges, universities and others.

“Universities’ commitment to freedom of speech and the rationality underpinning the advancement of knowledge means that they represent one of our most important safeguards against extremist views and ideologies.

“However, extremist preachers have used higher education institutions as a platform for spreading their messages. Universities must take seriously their responsibility to deny extremist speakers a platform.

“This duty is not about the government restricting freedom of speech — which the government is committed to – it is about universities taking account of the interests and well-being of all their students, staff and the wider community.”

The bill, which will be published tomorrow, will also give police the power to seize passports and travel documents for up to 30 days, from people thought to be leaving UK to engage in terrorism-related activities, and force internet services providers to release Internet Protocol addressees to the police in order to target individuals.

Edinburgh Airport hosts public safety event for Counter Terrorism Awareness Week

By Marion Guichaoua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Anti-sham marriage measures could lead to discrimination

By Lauren Beehan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Scotland defends using National Lottery proceeds to fund arts

By Philip Askew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’16 Days of Action’ to combat violence against women

By Carolina Morais

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Murphy’s plan to devolve income tax control

By Paul Malik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Edinburgh ranked as the second-best student city in UK

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

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

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

Carlotta Lombatto, an Italian student based in Edinburgh said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

By Charlotte Barbour

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

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

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

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

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Lottery celebrates 20th anniversary

By Carolina Morais

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Local charity launches appeal for homeless children

By Arantxa Barrachina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Scottish drinks industry backs drink-drive limit proposals

By Lauren Beehan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

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.”

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.”

Rascals Bar Becomes An Edin-Burger

A Rascals Burger Credit: Jamie Anderson

A Rascals Burger Credit: Jamie Anderson

By Melissa Steel

A popular St. Andrews burger bar is due to make the move to Edinburgh next Thursday.

Rascals Bar will open a new branch on the premises of the former Aspen Bar on the city’s South Bridge. Its two year tenure in St. Andrews has seen it put sky-high burgers on the menu and host an undefeated eating challenge that has attracted The Daily Record and American champion eater Randy Santel.

Owner Jamie Anderson is enthusiastic about expanding his business. Anderson said: “Rascals Edinburgh will open almost two years to the day after we opened in St. Andrews. It has been a big success for us and the plan was always to expand. We were looking for somewhere else for a long time and we have finally found a good location.”

Although punters can expect the same American-style fare offered in St. Andrews, the Edinburgh bar will not serve Poppa’s Revenge, the mammoth meal that no one has been able to conquer yet. The 7,000 calorie feast includes five burgers, pulled pork, regular and sweet potato fries, spicy chicken wings and a milkshake.

Other bars in Edinburgh offer burger challenges, but Anderson said: “We will serve the same comfort food that we do in St. Andrews and have a good value drinks offer. There will be no Poppa’s Revenge in Edinburgh, though.” The decision came after Santel was defeated by Poppa’s Revenge last week. Anderson said: “I was really excited when Randy Santel took it on, but he failed. I really wanted him to do it. I think it dented people’s confidence.”

Peckish Edinburgh residents looking for a challenge should not be too disappointed. Anderson said: “We are going to make up something specific for Edinburgh and will probably pay homage to Poppa’s Revenge with a display in the bar.”

Rascals Edinburgh will also employ 15-18 people and is currently recruiting bar, waiting and kitchen staff as well as cleaners. Anderson is hopeful that they will be able to open on 5th December. Anderson said: “Everything is going okay just now, touch wood. We’ve had a really good response on Facebook and Twitter – Rascals Edinburgh already has over 1,000 likes and we have not even opened yet. It is a lot more than some of our competitors close by who have been around for years.”

In fact, Rascals Edinburgh has 1,155 likes and Biblos, a bar nearby, only has 397.

The reputation Rascals established in St. Andrews has carried over to Edinburgh. Oliver Corbishley is a former St. Andrews student now living in Edinburgh and he is looking forward to the opening. Corbishley said: “Rascals in St. Andrews was a great place for a night out, watching the football or an afternoon lunch with friends. If they bring the same experience to Edinburgh, I am sure it will be a great spot to check out.”

 

 

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”.

Drug Discovery Institute announced by Alzheimer’s Research UK

By Alicia Simpson

image source: reuters

The Drug Discovery Institute will develop new treatments for dementia (image source: reuters)

 

Alzheimer’s Research UK  announced a first of its kind in Europe this week with the launch of a Drug Discovery Institute to develop new treatments for dementia.

With the G8 Dementia Summit one month away, the UK’s leading dementia research charity will fund the new institute to address a gap it says the pharmaceutical industry has failed to fill. It will unite the divide between academic research, which provides much of the fundamental insight into neurodegenerative disease, and the development of new treatments.

The charity has today called  for the UK’s foremost universities to apply to host the Institute. Its work will be guided by Alzheimer’s Research UK and leading drug discovery experts from the dementia field, and is set to have its lead scientists in place by next year.

The Director of Research for Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Eric Karran, is launching the Drug Discovery Institute. Dr Karran said: “We currently have no treatments that act against the disease processes that cause dementia; this Institute will change that. The Institute will be the first of its kind in Europe, and will follow successful models established in other disease areas like cancer. As the population ages, numbers of people living with dementia will grow; the need for treatments that can improve quality of life or slow or stop diseases like Alzheimer’s cannot be overstated.”

Finding medicines for complex diseases such as this solicits an amalgamation of clinical expertise, pioneering basic science and patient involvement. The new Drug Discovery Institute will aim to combine all three by setting up its home with a leading academic group that has close access to clinical research units and hospitals.

Dr Karran said: “The Drug Discovery Institute is the missing link between the UK’s considerable expertise in fundamental science, and industry who can turn discoveries into benefits for people with dementia. Alzheimer’s Research UK is in a unique position to bring the academic and industrial sectors together in the interests of tackling our greatest medical challenge and it is the right time to launch this drive.”

Dementia currently affects at least 35.6 million people worldwide, and the numbers are projected to almost double every 20 years, according to the World Health Organization. 60,000 deaths a year are also directly attributable to dementia.

Professor Bart de Strooper was awarded the MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research in 2007 for his contribution to dementia research. De Strooper said: “The Drug Discovery Institute is exactly the kind of long-term thinking that we need to develop effective new treatments for people with dementia. Dementia researchers from across Europe and beyond will be watching its progress with anticipation.”

Dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion a year, which is more than both cancer and heart disease combined. It is hoped that the launch of the Drug Discovery Institute will enable reductions to the economic cost, as well as the huge personal cost, of dementia.

Rosemary Goddard is the Alzheimer’s Research UK champion. Her husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s seven years ago. Goddard said: “I’m delighted to see Alzheimer’s Research UK taking the lead in this search for more effective drugs. With the population living longer, dementia is hanging over us all like the sword of Damocles, and I have to hope that research will defeat this dreadful condition.”

Delays expected on the Forth Road Bridge this Weekend

Forth Road Bridge

According to forthroadbridge.org, work will be carried out between 3am and 12 noon on both Saturday, 31 March and Sunday, 1 April, with traffic being restricted. A spokesperson of the Forth Road Bridge advices “to take public transport if you can. Delays could be up to two hours around 11am”

Following the successful completion of work on the Forth Road Bridge two weeks ago, additional traffic restrictions have to be taken for this weekend in order to remove the access cradle and materials from the east cable. The work on the bridge has to be carried out in daylight for health and safety reasons.

Barry Colford, Chief Engineer & Bridgemaster, said: “Work has been ongoing to tension the bolts on the cable and this has now been fully completed. If the weather is fair, we will be aiming to finish the work and lift the restrictions as soon as possible, but we will only do so when there is no risk of danger to our personnel and bridge users.

Nation celebrates National Cleavage Day

Celebrate National Cleavage Day!

By: Pamela Paterson

Today women are celebrating their decolletage as they take part in National Cleavage Day.

The unusual event takes place in March or April each year and has been running since 2002. It is sponsored by well known bra maker Wonderbra, and according to them, “is a day for women to acknowledge that their cleavage is something unique and encourage you all to be proud of it.”

In a recent poll of 1000 women carried out by Wonderbra, 50% of women admitted to flashing some flesh in order to get served quicker in bars. 28% revealed that they wear a bust enhancing bra on a first date to impress a potential suitor, while one in seven admitted to wearing revealing necklines at work to get a career boost. A further 8% found that showing some cleavage helped them escape a parking fine.

Wonderbra also compiled a list of the top ten most boobilicious celebrities in their celebrity cleavage hall of fame. Television presenter Holly Willoughby came top of the list.

Wonderbra’s celebrity cleavage hall of fame:

1.    Holly Willoughby
2.    Scarlett Johansson
3.    Beyonce
4.    Rihanna
5.    Marilyn Monroe
6.    Dita Von Teese
7.    Katy Perry
8.    Brigitte Bardot
9.    Kim Kardashian
10.  Lara Stone

National Cleavage Day has remained one of the top trending topics on Twitter. Here’s what some Tweeters have been saying:

@wonderbra_uk Happy National Cleavage Day to everyone!!!
@NotBillWalton Today is National Cleavage Day! Ladies, be proud of your twins, be bold, show them off, throw them down, and set the world on fire!
@moonsez What’s different on National Cleavage day? Do the men look at your face while talking to you?
@ollyofficial Just heard NATIONAL CLEAVAGE DAY!!! Excited about getting out of this studio…. #schwing
@AnnSummersPR Happy National Cleavage Day…we are all rocking our best bras today ;)
@stuheritage Is it National Cleavage Day? Finally, a national day that I have a chance of winning.

@Charles_HRH Camilla, one doesn’t care if it’s ‘National Cleavage Day‘. You’re not having your “crown jewels” on display. #nationalcleavageday

Updated Penrose Inquiry ends today

Blood donation. Picture provided by Waldszenen

The legal representatives of the ongoing inquiry are due to make their closing statement today.

The inquiry is looking into how hundreds of people in Scotland received contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the first evidence session earlier this month Lord Penrose heard from patients and relatives in a closed session so they could give evidence anonymously.

Many in Scotland are thought to have received the blood contaminated by Hepatitis C.

At the end of the session no conclusions had been drawn and while Laura Dunlop, one of the four advocates thanked many involved, there is still a long way to go.

The evidence has now been collected and now time must be taken so there is time to reflect on the value of the material.

The victims will be given an explanation after a conclusion is drawn but it is a controversial issue and the number of people who have been affected need to be established.

There is a serious tone underlining the session with the closing statement claiming “they will not be happy to reach a final conclusion without all the stones unturned.”

Edinburgh Castle will ‘go dark’ for Earth Hour

Last year, Edinburgh Castle went dark for Earth Hour 2011. This year, the Castle we be dark again for another hour, to combat global warming.

This Saturday, Edinburgh will go dark.

In conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour 2012, Edinburgh will join hundreds of cities from all over the world by switching off lights and electricity, and going dark, for an hour.

Earth Hour is scheduled on the last Saturday of every March, closely coinciding with the equinox,  and will happen this Saturday, March 31st at 8:30 pm.

Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, and since then has spread massively across the globe. In 2011, more than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour, according to the WWF website.

Their website also stated “We’re delighted that all 32 local authorities in Scotland are participating again this year – promoting the event, arranging switch offs and organizing events.”

There will be a great number of monuments in Scotland that will join in going dark, including the Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament, Urqhuart Castle, and Scott Monument are just a few that will celebrate Earth Hour.

According to Mandy Carter of WWF Scotland, local authorities are working to promote Earth Hour to local communities, some by having switch off events and fundraisers. But they are using the trickle down affect to help spread the word.

Here in Edinburgh, the City Council has launched an Earth Hour photography competition that is running from 5th March to 13th April with the theme, ‘ What we’re doing about climate change’ to help promote Earth Hour.

To find out more about Earth Hour, or how you can get involved at the WWF Scotland website or at the WWF Website.

Irn Bru parent company’s profits rise

The company that makes Irn Bru have reported a steady increase in profits.

AG Barr’s profits have increased by 16.4% to £35.4 million for the year ending January 2012. Turnover for the same period was £237 million.

Sales of Irn Bru itself rose by 2.7% with the company planning to open a new site in Milton Keynes.

Barr’s chief executive Roger White has praised the results, saying they coped with, “substantial raw material cost headwinds while achieving revenue growth based on brand development, innovation and improved focus on execution.

“Our operational performance improved substantially in the final quarter of last year and we are now beginning to see the benefits of our investment in our production assets.”

Famous for having an ‘other’ national drink, Scotland is one of the few countries where Coca Cola is not the top-selling soft drink.

Anger after Archbishop’s comments on gay rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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