Edinburgh Gets Big Clean Up

Bethan Cleary

Clean Up Edinburgh strives to keep the capital’s streets clean. The project is a call for residents, businesses and community groups to improve attitudes and behaviours towards littering. Hoping to step up the campaign a notch this Friday, a spruce of litter hotspots will take place in various locations throughout Edinburgh.

The initiative supports the Clean Up Scotland Campaign, run by Keep Scotland Beautiful. Mark Bevan, the campaigns director for Keep Scotland Beautiful, detailed how detrimental this issue is to the well-being of Edinburgh residents, tourism and the economy.

Bevan said: “Littering is a problem throughout the whole of Scotland. In Edinburgh alone, we are spending £4,500 pounds every day on maintaining the cleanliness of the city. That money could be used more efficiently elsewhere. We’re hoping that these events will reduce litter. We believe that if others see people cleaning up litter, they will be more inclined to do the same thing.”

The campaign commissioned YouGov research, which showed that 70 percent of people living in the Lothians have seen litter dropped, either accidentally or on purpose in the past three months.

It is hoped that if this initiative is successful, the government funding of recycling and litter control can be used elsewhere more efficiently. Maintaining Scotland’s appearance is particularly important this year as the nation gears up for an exciting 2014. Alan Bannon, Communications Officer at The City of Edinburgh Council has overseen the operational side of the scheme. He explained how he hopes this scheme will not only clear the streets of Edinburgh’s litter, but improve upon tourism and bring communities together.

Bannon said: “Our campaign is all about changing behaviours, raising awareness and building a sense of community. The whole project is a build up to Sept 2014, when we take in the Common Wealth Games and the Ryder Cup, when the eyes of the world will be on our country. While these events are not taking place in Edinburgh, there will be a rise up in tourism in Scotland and we want to put on a show and make sure our country looks as good as possible.”

Those who are eager to change the face of Edinburgh are asked to sign a pledge, committing themselves to the task of banishing the litter menace for good. Councillor Lesley Hinds has continued to actively support the campaign.

Hinds said: “There are many cities in the world where people would never even consider dropping something in the street and that’s what we want here, to change people’s mindsets. With around 3,500 litter bins available in Edinburgh, there is no excuse. When litterbugs cannot be bothered taking responsibility for their own rubbish, everyone is affected. This is why we are asking as many people and businesses as possible to sign the Clean Up Edinburgh pledge.”

Litter issue escalates in the streets of Edinburgh. Credit: Getty Images

Litter issue escalates in the streets of Edinburgh. Credit: Getty Images

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”.

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.

Update: Man killed in motorway crash

Extended delays occurred on the M8 this morning

Police have identified the person killed in an M8 collision as a 19-year-old man from Bathgate. The teenager was driving a Fiat Stilo, which collided with a MAN HGV at around 1 o’clock this morning. He died at the scene of the accident. The 39-year-old driver was not injured.

The collision happened on the eastbound carriageway of the M8, around one mile east of Harthill.

It is believed that the teenager was driving west on the eastbound carriageway before colliding with the HGV, which was heading east.

Inspector Richard Latto said: “At the moment we are working to establish the circumstances leading up to this collision, and would appeal for anyone who may have been in the area at the time, and who may have seen what happened, to contact police.

Police, Ambulance and Fire Service attended the crash.

A police spokesman said: “We are investigating the circumstances that resulted in this collision and would encourage any motorists who were on the road at the time to contact police immediately.”

“Similarly, anyone with any other information that can assist police with their enquiries ares also asked to come forward.”

Scotland’s busiest motorway experienced tailbacks this morning. Commuters were unaware of the crash which caused the delays.

Bus driver Jim Anderson, who was driving the route this morning, said “this has taken two and a half hours when normally it would take one. Accidents happen that often on this road, you’d think people would be more careful. But it just keeps happening.”

The M8 has now been cleared and commuters should no longer expect delays.

Scottish Citylink bus fares rise today

A number of fares changes for the inter-city coach network of Scottish Citylink are taking effect from today.

The bus provider advises its customer that the standard fares will rise by up to 5%.

Scottish Citylink explains the changes with its commitment to the investments in its network.  “In the past 2 years, we have introduced around £4 million of new vehicles to provide an even better travelling environment for our customers”, added the company in its latest statement.

More tram works, yet the end is in sight

Yet more traffic disruption: Edinburgh trams. Image: geograph.org.uk / cc.

The next set of tram works are due to begin this weekend.

The existing tram works at Shandwick Place and Haymarket are now being extended to cover West Maitland Street.

The works are set to take place from 5’oclock tomorrow morning with other traffic divisions being put in place.

Edinburgh Council has thanked the local businesses, people and commuters for their patience with the ongoing works and all their disruptions.

The City of Edinburgh Council warns of traffic disruptions and journey delays as a result of the ongoing tram works.

The works, which many feel are taking over the city centre, are feared to be a danger to businesses in the area. Apart from the general traffic disruptions the works are feared to bring a negative image to commuters and tourists coming from the nearby Haymarket train station.

The council offers an ‘Open for Business’ budget, in which £175,000 will be invested. The programme was created to encourage visitors to Edinburgh and sustain footfall in the city centre.

Yet many criticise the council for their lack of help with diverted walk ways and in particular, pointing pathways though the maze of road works for customers. The tram works stretch from Haymarket to the West End and Princess Street t oWaverley Bridge but they are due to be completed in June this year.

A very Polish welcome

To Let sign in English and Polish on Cornwall Street, Edinburgh

A letting agency in Scotland is making the Polish community feel at home by providing information, linguistic support and adverts in the Polish language. 

Edinburgh has an estimated Polish population of 8,000 and there is a growing number of restaurants, supermarkets and delicatessens in the city.

Edinburgh Napier News spoke to Letting Solutions Manager Brian Callaghan about his companies efforts to get more customers and create a more comfortable experience for new residents in Scotland.

Listen to the report here:

Finland says farewell to the Markka

"The Euro: what 'value' a currency?"

Before leaving Scotland a friend handed over some old Finnish markka,
challenging me to see if I could “still use them.”

In truth the Finnish markka ceased to be legal tender in 2002. Finland adopted the euro when entering the Eurozone in 1999, and is still the only Scandinavian country to have embraced the single currency.

My only option, then, is to get them changed.  On a day when the euro crisis has deepened, and Nokia Siemens Networks has been forced to announce cutting a quarter of its workforce,  I show the 240 Finnish markaas, including two big green notes depicting the composer Sibelius to Jenni, the teller at Forex Bank.  She looks surprised to see them. “You want to get rid of them,” she advises, adding that from next year nowhere will take them, even the Finnish National Bank.  “Are the Finns sad about that?” I ask.  “No” she says instantly.

“With everything that’s been going on in the Eurozone, do Finnish people want their old currency back?” I ask, adding, “are you fed up of the euro?” Jenni’s smile falters.  She looks at me as if I am stupid.  “No, why?” she asks.

Her reaction will be a disappointment to Timo Soini, the outspoken leader of the far-right party True Finns, who made surprising gains in last year’s election.  Soini is an outspoken critic of the EU, and has since voiced his desire to run for the presidency.  He takes credit as attempts to derail the bailouts of Portugal and Greece.

Every Finn I speak to seems embarrassed by the True Finns.  “Finland is a Social Democratic country, like the rest of Scandinavia,” Taisto Oksanen, 47, a well-known Finnish actor tells me. “But in the last ten years we’ve seen that erode.  We didn’t have too much of a class divide before, but since the Euro some people have got very rich, and a few hundred thousand people have just dropped into poverty. Our education and social welfare has been damaged.   The old parties were seen as corrupt and in with business, so I think people voted for the True Finns for change.  But it’s happening all over Europe – people are voting for those that blame the immigrants.  Look at Spain.  It is history repeating.”

“True Finns are very conservative, want the Finnish markka back and to kind of isolate Finland from the rest of Europe.  I don’t know how the support packages will actually help the citizens and I think that the banks should also take some responsibility for all of this.” says International Business student Milka Tanskanen, 21. “ I was ten years old when we started to use Euro in Finland, so I don’t actually have any real experience of the Finnish mark.”

“The old notes were nice,” Oksanen tells me.  “The euro, the note, doesn’t mean anything to me.  It has less ‘value’.”


“Chinese Army” couldn’t grit Edinburgh

Central areas like the mound are being gritted, but will they go far enough?

A local Councillor has described Edinburgh’s attempt to keep the city’s streets safe during the winter season as “impossible for the Council to do, even if they got the Chinese army.”

The comments come as local residents raise concerns about the availability and distribution of grit as predictions of a harsh winter loom. Last year grit bins ran out of salt and members of the public were forced to buy their own or stay in their houses.

Councillor Norman Work, vice-convenor of Health and Social Care, has taken a controversial stance on the issue of whose responsibility it is for gritting Edinburgh’s roads.

Last year, he angered many Edinburgh residents when he said: “A lot of people think the Council should clear the pavements, but I think residents and shopkeepers should do it – unless you’re 90 years old. This is no time for laziness: why not clear your own pavement?

“I remember when people used to clear the pavements outside their own property.”

This year, he is again urging individuals to be more proactive. “People think the council’s going to come and dig their car out of their driveway.”

“If you’re able, get a shovel and help.”

The Council are setting up a scheme for members of the public to register as volunteers to help with the gritting.

Councillor Work said he would pitch in: “I’ve got a pair of wellies – I’ll get out and help.”

Yet he did promise that “there is more money” going towards gritting this year, with the Council having bought more bins and holding open discussions with local residents to improve on last year’s problems.

Suggested strategies include adapting vehicles to have shovels, and dumping builders’ bags of grit onto pavements to supplement the shortage of bins.

However,  Work pointed out bureaucratic issues in the system. “Health and safety is preventing the workers who bring the grit to replenish the bins. They bring it, then they can’t walk on the pavement.”

Grit poachers also undermine the Council’s efforts. “Sometimes the Council fill [the bins] and people come and steal it to sell on privately,”  Work added.

Distribution and restocking of bins are becoming an increasingly worrying issues for community members.

Gorgie and Dalry was identified as an area with a worryingly small number of salt or grit bins which are allocated unevenly. On Ardmillan Terrace there are two bins, but between there and Haymarket – a distance of two miles – there are no bins, while there are none at all north of Dalry Road.

Rona Brown, Secretary of the Community Council, said: “We shouldn’t have to wait for an accident to happen”.

Local resident Angela Astor expressed concern that they would run out, saying: “There definitely isn’t enough grit in the bins right now to last the winter.” She also claimed people have been urinating on the material making it impossible or difficult to use.

Chair of the local community council Maria Kelly said: “There is concern that the council is trying to dump salt responsibility on the neighbourhood community council.” She requested more salt bins last month, but has not received an acknowledgement from the Council.

The Council website has a map of bin distribution available here. They also invite requests for relocating bins.

Leith Festival to Lose Funding

The Leith festival looks set to face a dramatic downsize due to public funding cuts.
One of Edinburgh’s largest and most renowned festivals, it is likely to lose many of its benefactors,
includingEdinburghCity Council.

Leith Gala Day

The event relies heavily on public and charitable funds, which are diminishing at an alarming rate. Edinburgh City Council is just one of the contributors which has decided not to renew their contract with the festival.

The festival has entertained thousands of people over the past 8 years and has earned a reputation as one of the cities most popular attractions. It produces a variety of events including comedy, theatre, music and dance. Festival organizers predict that in 2012, it will be stripped  back, returning to its historical roots as a Gala Day and Pageant.

Speaking about the potential cuts, Leith Councillor Gordon Munro said: “We have had to reduce the festival because we don’t have finances. There has never been much money available from the Council and other sources have dried up and for the foreseeable future, I don’t see that changing.”

The residents of Leith have relied heavily on the festival in recent years to bring trade to the area and boost community spirit. Rowan Campbell, on of the festival’s board members, said: “People need to know how vulnerable we are and that it cannot go on without them. We need their help. The festival does great things for the community but there doesn’t seem to be funding available for this sort of community event, if there is we certainly haven’t found it.”

A public meeting is scheduled to be held alongside the Leith festival.  The AGM is due to take place on Wednesday 7 December in the Leith Community Centre at 7.30pm. It is open to the public, and any offers to join the board of volunteers who run the festival, will be warmly welcomed.

Audit Scotland steps in to look at tram project’s finances

By Catherine Mumford

Edinburgh tram construction. Photo courtesy of STV News.

Audit Scotland will be releasing an interim report on the Edinburgh trams in 2011, drawing on audits already carried out by Transport Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council.  The report has been given the go-ahead after a request from the Accounts Commission and Robert Black, the Auditor General of Scotland.

The controversial tram project has been heavily scrutinised by those concerned over the budget, with estimates varying between £545 and £600 million.  The people of Edinburgh are angry over the mounting costs of the construction of the 11.5 mile track.

Some questions will surely be answered as the the Edinbrugh City council said the report will focus on the project’s progress, as well as, costs and chief issues to date.  Lothians MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville said “Despite giving the tram project a clean bill of health in 2007, I am pleased Audit Scotland has finally decided to review the project.”

Though tensions have been high, given the recent fallout with the contracting company Berlinger Berger, Edinburgh Trams said it does not oppose the look into the project’s finances.  Somerville warned that any efforts to hide problems or attempts by those involved to needlessly extend or delay the report will not be tolerated.  Transport Scotland commented they will be fully assisting Audit Scotland in their inquiry.

There have been several ideas put forward about how the money could be better spent.  Local cycling activist Chris Hill said “I wish Edinburgh had a tram system, but I think the money so far spent would have been better used to re-open the South Sub and also create a genuinely ‘cycle/pedestrian friendly’ city.”  The aim of being green was at the forefront of the tram proposal, but noone can argue that nothing is more green than riding a bycyle.

According to a Bike Station/Sustrans survey in Edinburgh, people cited fear of traffic and route uncertainty among their top reasons of why they choose not to cycle to work.  Current Scottish government bike accident statistics confirm that Edinburgh’s city center shows a high proportion of accidents compared to the number of residents.  Accoding to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 90% of all cycle accidents occur in urban areas.  They list cycle route networks and speed management schemes among the measures that can help reduce the risk to cyclists.  If money were redirected to making the city more cycle-friendly, the abovementioned concerns  could be addressed.     

Support of the tram project has long been waning, especially as it is following off the back of the Scottish Parliament building which also exceeded its spending plan.  The report will shed light on what has gone wrong sa far and what the plans are for the future.

Scotland’s Religions

By Faith Orr and Lauren McKenzie

Listen Here:

Let £eith Decide

By Colleen Reid

£eith Decides

A funding initiative to give power to local people, ‘£eith Decides‘ is an X-Factor style pilot project which sees local groups and charities battle it out for a share of Leith’s Community Grant. £16,600 in total is up for grabs, with the people of Leith to decide where and how it is spent.

Run by Leith Neighbourhood Partnership, the scheme is the first of its type in Edinburgh and could be rolled out across the city if successful.

The principle of the project is simple, each applicant will give a short presentation to Leith residents, which will then be voted on with a top score of five. The top rated organisations will then receive up to £1000 as decided by Leith residents.

Councillor Jenny Dawe, Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “This is a worthwhile project focusing on the local groups in Leith and is a good example of empowering communities by devolving funding decisions to a local level.”

In reality, the project seems to be a mystery to both residents and applicants alike. After contacting several of the groups and organisations who are in the running to gain funding, many were unaware of the X Factor style vote off system and this could spell trouble for the scheme.

Leith resident Emma Milne was not even aware of £eith Decides. She said: “It’s a good idea but I live in Leith and I’ve never heard of it. If it was advertised better it could work.”

A total of 29 groups and organisations are in the running for a slice of Leith’s yearly Community Grant of £48,032. The initiative has attracted a wide range of groups including Families Together in Leith, Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust and the Bethany Christian Trust.

Dan Reynolds from Bethany Christian Trust said: “A project like £eith Decides means that smaller and local groups can put forward their own case for support and that by involving as many ordinary people as possible, it’s a chance for the community to decide what is best for them.”

The voting event is open to everyone who lives or works in Leith and will take place on the 27th November in Leith Academy. However, with the voting turnout of the recent general elections being just 68.4% for Edinburgh North and Leith compared to 73.8% in Edinburgh South, are the people of Leith likely to come and vote? Incentives such as a flat screen TV and a signed Hibs shirt are being offered in a prize draw to entice residents to participate.

Leith boys Charlie and Craig Reid from Scottish band The Proclaimers are trying to promote the project. They said: “Our very best wishes to all involved in £eith decides, and we are sure the Leithers will be astute judges.”

Edinburgh airport up for sale despite recent passenger boost

By Sarah Vesty

Plane waits in the wing for decision

The UK’s biggest airport firm, BAA, has released figures showing a 3.5 per cent passenger increase at Edinburgh airport last month, despite losing their appeal against the Competition Commission to continue owning Stanstead, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports. Glasgow experienced a fall of 7.4 per cent compared to last year.

Following the Court of Appeals decision to uphold the demand made by the Competition Commission, BAA was given 28 days to appeal. A spokesperson from their media office commented that although the appeal limit had expired, BAA was still considering further legal action against the CC.

In October the Court agreed with the Competition Commission believing that to create sufficient competition amongst airports, BAA must sell some of its airports to enable fare prices to fall for customers, particularly those in Scotland.

The numbers of passengers will not affect the decision of which airport to sell in Scotland. A BAA spokesperson stated that:

“It is complicated. It depends on lots of factors like when we have to sell it, how much money it will be for and so on. It’s good that Edinburgh is doing well. It’s important that it does well even if it’s being sold.”

The figures were published following the expiration of the set 28-day appeal period granted to BAA by the Court of Appeal. It found in favour of the Competition Commission who had demanded that the organisation must sell Stanstead and either Edinburgh or Glasgow.

The Supreme Court has no record of any further legal action being raised so far and the airport firm commented that it could be a while before we see any final decisions made.

Christopher Clarke, Chairman of the BAA Airports Inquiry outlined the reasons behind the move:

“We have decided that the only way to address comprehensively the detriment to passengers and airlines from the complete absence of competition between BAA’s south-east airports and between Edinburgh and Glasgow is to require BAA to sell both Gatwick and Stansted as well as either Edinburgh or Glasgow.”

A 3.4 percent overall increase in passengers travelling was revealed by the group, believed to have been helped by a 1.2 percent increase in the number of flights. Of all airports up for sale Edinburgh was the only one to see an increase as Stanstead fell by 3.1 percent compared to the same month last year.

High speed rail discussions continue

Edinburgh centre, credit: members.virtualtourist.com

By, Kati Rawlins

Edinburgh City Council is continuing with their agenda to include the city in the plans for a UK high speed rail network.

City council leader, Cllr Jenny Dawe met with the Secretary of State Rt Hon Michael Moore MP at the City Chambers this Thursday. The topic will be high on the agenda in addition to discussions about other important issues. The discussion will also include budget cuts in the public sector, welfare reform and energy, in particular renewables.

Cllr Dawe further added: “This meeting is recognition of Edinburgh’s importance not just to Scotland but to the UK as a whole. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for taking the time to meet with me tomorrow.”

Last week at Holyrood Cllr Dawe and the leader of the Glasgow council, Cllr Gordon Matheson talked to MSPs about the importance of adding Scotland to the High Speed Rail plans. They explained what would be needed to bring the rail link to Scotland and stated the importance of maintaining the pressure on the Scottish Government to co-operate with their Westminster counterparts in ensuring that Scotland becomes a part of the network from the outset.

The meeting this week was a good opportunity in general for council leader Dawe to bring the Secretary of States attention to timely issues in Edinburgh.

Cllr Dawe continued: “The meeting will provide me with a great opportunity to promote Edinburgh’s priorities to ensure that we remain a world class city to live and visit as well as one which is attractive for investment.”

Secretary of State, Rt Hon Michael Moore MP, said: “I am keen to discuss the High-speed rail link with Edinburgh Council. I am particularly looking forward to hearing about the way it will fit into their plans for strengthening the city’s economy and the investment opportunities that it will create.”

German firm backs down on legal action against former Edinburgh Tram Chairman

by Adam Smyth

New developments have come to light today regarding the ongoing dispute between German construction firm Bilfinger Berger and Transport Initiative Edinburgh(TIE).


Edinburgh's expensive tramline project continues amidst a dispute between Bilfinger Berger and Transport Initiative Edinburgh credit: bbc.co.uk

The argument surrounds changes to the design of the 11.5 mile tram line being built from Newhaven to Edinburgh city Airport and who will be paying for them. Estimates for the project’s cost range from 545 to 600 million pounds. The German firm has now agreed to cancel legal action they said they would take last Friday against former Edinburgh Trams chairman David Mackay after he called Bilfinger Berger a ‘delinquent contractor’ and dismissed the entire project as ‘hell on wheels’ last week.  Yesterday a prelimary hearing in the case was to be at the court of session in Edinburgh. Behind the scenes discussions took place between the two parties and their lawyers instead, and the court was informed the hearing would not go ahead.

Earlier today Berlinger Berger issued a statement that said it was ‘concerned that Mr Mackay’s statements implied criminal behaviour on their part. Mr Mackay has today assured Bilfinger Berger that he had no intention of implying criminal behaviour’. Berger added ‘The terms of our contract means that we are not usually allowed to talk to the media but Mr Mackay’s remarks crossed the line and we were forced to react’.

The construction company is referring to David Mackay’s communication with the Scotsman which published his words which revealed he thought Bilfinger Berger was a ‘contractor who scented a victim, who probably greatly underbid and would use the contract to make life extremely difficult for the city. And they have done exactly that’.

The firm made no mention of it’s criminality concerns when announcing the action last week, instead referring to Mackay’s ‘unfounded and unjustified comments’.

Local Lothians SNP MSP Shirley Anne Somerville said ‘it really is time for TIE and Bilfinger to get a grip. They should have been getting round a table for negotiations, not fighting it out in a court room’.

Following Mackay’s unexpected leaving of his job last week, Berfinger Berger said ‘ we see the change of management on the client side as an opportunity to finally move forward with this project in an orderly manner’.

Mackay is not the only person to have quit the project. Scottish civil engineer and Berger employee Kenneth Reid, 45, from Hamilton, quit his £840,000 a year job while he was working on the Edinburgh Tramline. His bosses were quick to point out however that it had nothing to do with the dispute.

Bilfinger Berger is Germany’s second largest construction firm and have been involved in other high profile fallouts on other projects around the world. In Canada they were fired from a contract to dig two tunnels for a water filtration scheme in Vancouver after demandins extra cash to finish the job. Last year they fell out with authorities in Qatar in a row over £175 million pounds of debt on a road project.


The construction firm labelled 'delinquent' by former Edinburgh Tram chairman David Mackay. Credit: connect.in.com




An Enchilada of a Record

by Blythe Harkins

Are your eyes bigger than your stomach?

Iztapalapa, Mexico which sits in the easter part of Mexico City, is know for being one of the 16 boroughs in which Mexico’s Federal District is divided.  Iztapalapa is not boasting with tourists but around one million people visit this borough every year to behold a reenactment of the Passion of Christ which first started in 1833 after locals evaded a cholera epidemic.  But they have much to celebrate about recently.


Sunday October 17, 2010 was no ordinary day for the people of Izapalapa.  With more than 600 local volunteers, the worlds’s largest enchilada was concocted!  Weighing in at 1,032 pounds, this monster of a meal measured 230 feet long and 12 inches wide.  The main components that went into creating this recording breaking dish are as follows: 165 pounds of corn, 601 pounds of white onion, 268 pounds of serranos chilies, 330 pounds of cheese, and 40 gallons of cream, avocado and a sea of salsas, along with many other ingredients.

Aside from the hours of preparation that went into making this, the local said that the biggest challenge was rolling the enchilada up making sure not to break the tortilla shell.  The enchilada also required the creation of a speciality made machine to make a tortilla of this size.  Alejandro Rojas the Mexico City tourism secretary said that, “With this Guinness record we are showing the world that Iztapalapa is a high-level tourist destination.”

Mexico City is no stranger to the trials and errors that go into breaking a Guinness World Record.  Within the last few years, the city has gone for a number of world records.   13,957 people gathered in Trafalgar Square to break the record for the largest number of people dancing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”   The other world record title that they hold is for the most people kissing simultaneously.  39,897 participants gather at the Plaza de la Constitución, on Valentine’s Day to put their lips to the test.

Over 600 locals came out to work on this record breaking enchilada.

Train overcrowding crisis will “simply get worse”

By Kerry McGinty

Train overcrowding is at an all time high and it is only going to get worse according to information revealed by the government that all targets for increasing passenger places on trains by 2014 will be missed. It has also been revealed that within 5 years train fares are to rise by a third.

Richard Bacon MP said: “People paying premium fares for rail services that are still overcrowded have every right to be furious, especially as trains look set to get more crowded.”

Train overcrowding and delays are affecting the whole of the UK. On the 8th November Birmingham new street station was in chaos, with the station electing in the end to remove the train times from any screens and replacing it with “Welcome to Birmingham New street” due to severe delays on all the train services.

Birmingham new street starting to get busy. (courtesy of http://www.aidan.co.uk)

As I waited for over an hour for the 12.22pm train to Edinburgh I spoke to some of the hundreds of other passengers on the platform who were also willing for our train to finally turn up.

Carol Smith, aged 51, who was trying to travel to Preston said: “It’s been and absolute nightmare, I’ve already been delayed on my connecting train and I didn’t have a seat. I just want to get home now!”

Simon King, another passenger waiting for the service: “I paid over £80 for my ticket and the train has been delayed by over an hour. You try and find out what’s happening and the staff just disappear! No one knows what’s going on, it’s chaos.”

After such a long wait the battle for seats began, with hundreds of frustrated, tired yet determined passengers preparing their elbows for the rush to the doors, not an activity you would expect after paying so much money for the privilege.

Margaret Hodge, Chairwoman of the The Public Accounts Committee (PAC),  said MPs were concerned that the “already unacceptable levels of overcrowding will simply get worse and ever more intolerable”.

The government is yet to reveal its plans to remedy the crisis. Until then the waiting game continues…

Edinburgh trams facing full inqury


trams in Edinburgh

By Graeme McLarty

Edinburgh’s controversial tram project is to face a full inquiry by audit Scotland following claims that it has been financially mismanaged.

The report into the mismanagement of the £600 million project is being prepared for release early next year.  It is expected to look into the fact that transport Scotland have continued to fund the project despite knowing that it was massively over budget. They are also accused of not properly monitoring or looking into what the money was actually being spent on.

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Preparations under way for another cold winter

By Karen Rafferty

The effects of harsh winter weather

The effects of harsh winter weather

As the hours of daylight have started dropping in the UK, so too, has the temperature. With many people suffering last year as a result of snow blizzards and freezing temperatures, preparations are now under way in Scotland to help deal effectively with any issues that the winter weather may bring.

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Singapore Airlines follow Quantas in grounding of A380s

By Michael Mckeand

Following from last week's incident involving a Quantas Airbus A380, Singapore Airlines have announced the grounding of three of their models. Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters

Singapore Airlines have grounded three of their Airbus A380s. The three planes, currently in Sydney, Melbourne and London, have all been taken from service in order to undergo engine changes after the discovery of oil stains.

The decision comes in the wake of an engine malfunction on a Qantas Airbus A380 which saw an explosion in one of the planes engines last week. As a result the aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing at Changi Airport in Singapore.

The Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines will be changed for a newer version of the engines. Singapore Airlines say that they will remain with the Rolls Royce engines, but with a minor variation. In a statement they said, “We apologise to our customers for flight disruptions that may result and we seek their understanding”.

It is understood that similar reasons were behind the malfunction on the engine of the Qantas A380 which exploded over Batam City, showering the Indonesian city with debris. Investigations show that an oil leak in one of the turbines was the reason behind the incident.

Singapore Airlines have stressed that the incidents are unrelated. A spokeswoman for the airline said that the oil stains found on their three A380s differ to the oil leak found on the Qantas plane. “This is a precautionary move to find out what caused the oil stains” she said, adding “Rolls Royce recommended a detailed inspection of the engines.”   

The airline later said that the remaining eight of its A380s will remain in service but could not rule out further engine changes. Bryony Duncan-Smith, spokeswoman for the airline told Australian radio: “At this stage there is no indication that more engines on our A380 aircraft will need to have precautionary engine changes carried out, but I would certainly not rule it out.”

Experts say that the current Qantas investigation has pointed to a design fault within the engine which may be easy to fix but will take time. “From information provided to date, it would appear to be a design issue and not a power setting issue. Lower power settings are not the solution,” said Peter Marosszeky, an aviation expert at the University of New South Wales.

Rolls Royce share prices rallied yesterday after a 10% fall two days after the Qantas incident which wiped £1.2 billion off the company’s value. After this most recent announcement from Singapore Airlines though, share prices are expected to tumble again.

Over ground crossing sparks concern for students safety

By Lauren Codling

Concerns have been sparked after a local man was attacked near the Napier Sighthill Campus in a nearby over ground crossing, on the morning of Thursday the 4th November.

The man has been identified as Mark Shaw, 30. Shaw was walking to work when he was attacked by two individuals who went on to steal his wallet and phone, before striking him with a hammer and leaving him for dead. The incident has sparked major concern within the Sighthill area and there has been a serious debate concerning the structure of over ground crossings. The public is now wondering whether or not they should continue to be built when many of them have such dangerous reputations.

However, an outcry to shut down the over ground crossing has been ignored as the council announce that a new crossing will be built close to the Sighthill Campus of Edinburgh Napier University. This new structure would mean that students would be passing through it everyday en route to compulsory classes.

Due to recent events that have occurred within the area, specifically within other over ground crossings where there has been a recent increase regarding violent crimes, there has been obvious anxiety from students that perhaps this would not be the best idea. Jenni Small, a 20 year old student, walks through Sighthill everyday as she makes her way to university.  She explains that she does “tend to avoid the over ground crossing. My friend was harassed by some boys when she walked there alone so it does worry me sometimes. I definitely wouldn’t walk there alone. If a crossing is made next to the Campus, I’d make sure I was with friends when I walked through.”

Sighthill has gained a reputation as crime has become more frequent around the area – there have been several incidents this year, including an assault carried out on a young girl when she was making her way through the passing, at the end of August. A police spokesman today said “the random crimes that have occurred this week within Sighthill has definitely caused some concern throughout the community.”

As the recent events continue to cause distress, students have been told to be cautious in the area as they make their way to the newly opened campus.


Lights out for Edinburgh Union Canal

By Anika Aylward Blake

A view of the canal at dusk; the light of lights along the waterway has concerned some members of the public.

After a young woman was sexually assaulted on the Union Canal, Edinburgh, earlier this year, the lack of visibility on the canal is becoming an issue with the public.

The Union Canal, previously known as the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal, has recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its reopening as a useable waterway. Over its 92 year life, the canal has been accessible to pedestrians.

“Since this pretty 32-mile waterway was brought back to life, it has become a tremendous community asset.  It is now a great place to spend time walking, cycling, running or simply enjoying the heritage and wildlife,” said Waterway Manager Phil Martin, from British Waterways Scotland.

A recent investment of £240,000 from the City of Edinburgh Council saw the towpath redeveloped at the Union Canal, Edinburgh, which will open it to the local community. There are, however, no lights along the canal to guide walkers during the evening.

Between January 2005 and December 2009, there were 11 recorded crimes committed on the Union Canal, Edinburgh. These crimes can be categorized by groups: violent crimes (including Serious Assault, Robbery and Assault, Robbery and Assault with Intent to Rob): 46%; sexual crimes (including Rape, Indecent Assault and Public Indecency): 27%; and ‘miscellaneous’ offences (which includes Minor Assault): 27%.

Earlier this year, a young woman was seriously sexually assaulted while walking along the canal. This led to the Lothian and Borders Police establish a police patrol of six officers to follow an 8-mile route on bicycles, discouraging crime and anti-social behaviour. They are scheduled to be on the canal during busy periods; namely, the summer months during the day. This leaves the darker hours with no lights to guide the way.

With the majority of these crimes occurring after dark, some citizens have become concerned. Marian Taldie, retired, had never noticed any police presence on the canal. She believed that the lack of lights on the canal could be a large safety risk. “It allows more opportunity for criminals.” She did, however, state that she felt that the canal was “for the most part” safe.

In a press release from the Lothian and Borders Police in regards to the Canal Cycles Patrol Initiative, it is stated that: “The aim is to prevent crime and increase confidence among the many members of the public who now use the footpath, either for recreational purposes, or to get to and from work.”

In a recent statement, Chief Inspector Kevin Greig said: “The Union Canal has experienced a resurgence in recent years in terms of the number of pedestrians using the route, and we recognise the importance of ensuring that the public can feel safe and secure there.”

The initiative will see police officers travel on bicycles from Fountainbridge, where the canal ends, to the city boundary, in a bid to discourage antisocial behaviour and crime. Alongside this scheme, the Lothian and Borders Police intend to send mounted cycle patrols in other areas in Edinburgh, which may not be easily accessible by vehicle. This will focus on the west of the city, in recreational grounds, woodland areas and many different tracks and walkways.

This has not encouraged all canal-walkers, however. With the lack of visibility at night, some fear that that police presence will not be enough.  Jamie Burnett, 22, said: “I’ve only seen a police officer once on a bike. He just passed by; he was gone in a minute. I haven’t seen anymore.” He continued: “It’s dangerous, and not just for the walkers but for biking as well. If someone fell in the dark, no one would see.”

Edinburgh City Council spokeswoman, Laura Varney said: “Police patrol the canal one day and then a community safety officer does the next.” She went on to say that there are night patrols in addition to the ones occurring during the day. It is the commuting cyclists that pose a safety risk, she stated, and that the police control the education of cyclists on the canal, teaching them things such as the code of conduct (including a 7 mile/hour speed limit). She continued: “There are no plans to improve lighting at the moment.”

However, the Edinburgh City Council are encouraged by the Canal Cycles Patrol Initiative. Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, who holds the role of Transport Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, has said: “Schemes like this make these outdoor spaces safer for the whole community by reducing antisocial behaviour and criminal activity.” He went on to state that he is delighted this initiative has been created, and welcomes anything that improves cycle paths or canal walkways.

‘Jesus the King’ finally completed

Statue of Jesus errected in Poland

By Grant McKechnie

A controversial statue of Jesus has finally been completed in Poland after several setbacks. But is it a holy glory or a biblical disaster?

What is said to be the worlds tallest statue of Christ, depicting him standing with arms outstretched and wearing a golden crown, is thought that it will pose serious competition from a touristic perspective for the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The statue stands at a colossal 33 meters tall, one meter for every year that Christ lived according to creator and local priest, Reverend Sylwester Zawadzki. The statue actually stands at 36 meters including the crown and a member of the construction team placed the total height at 51 meters if the plinth which Christ is standing on is included in the total height.

Rising above the western Polish plains in Swiebodzin, The  statue is being claimed by many, including the town’s mayor, Dariusz Bekisz, to be the worlds tallest, beating both the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue in Brazil (39.6 meters) and the less widely known ‘Cristo de la Concordia’ in Bolivia (40.4 meters).

However, it is not all shining glory concerning the statue, dividing poles and underlined the deep cultural divisions between a strongly catholic population and increasingly confident secular society, with many mocking the project as being tacky and questioning if the amount of money, estimated at €1 million (£870,000), could have been better spent on social projects in the town, with one local suggesting a new elementary school as a better use for the money.

The statue also faced numerous problems during its construction with a sceptical bishop halting the project early on, and then state officials also suspending the project due to fears that it’s sheer size would be unsafe. More recently an attempt to finally mount the figure had to be aborted after the original crane brought in to tackle the job was not powerful enough to lift the arms and shoulders, weighing a massive 30 tonnes, onto the standing body. The project suffered the last of it’s delays last week when, after a more powerful crane was sourced, high winds meant conditions were unsafe to carry out the lift.

Regardless of these setbacks the project has finally been finished with its creator Rev. Zawadzki proclaiming ‘I have never been as happy as I am today’.

Government forcing unemployed to work

Iain Duncan Smith releases the new welfare reforms this week

By Bryanie Kane

Plans to be revealed this week by Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, which aim to force the long-term unemployed to partake in manual labour or risk losing their benefits, has been strongly defended by government ministers. This comes after Scotland were named to have the highest unemployed population in the UK, with a rise of up to 10,000 more than the previous quarter and now stands at 216,000.

The plan states that people thought to need “experience of the habits and routines of working life” could be put on 30-hour-a-week placements. Anyone who refuses to take part and adhere to the rules of the plan, such as turning up on time, could lose their £65 Jobseekers’ Allowance for up to 3 months.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the state, maintains this idea is in no way to “punish or humiliate” people but to teach them how to be involved in a life which includes hard work. However many unemployed members of the public believe that the government is treating them like villains who cannot be trusted. The Work Activity scheme has been said to have been designed to try and find those claimants who are taking advantage of the system by deciding to claim benefits or who are doing undeclared jobs as well as getting a hand out from the government. Therefore “focusing on the workshy but offering nothing to the workless” as Douglas Alexander accuses the government.

Mary Beckett, 51 and unemployed from Mid Lothian, said in her opinion “This is just another way for the government to pretend like they are helping people like me, when in actual fact they are doing nothing of the sort. They should be putting more effort into creating jobs for the people who genuinely want to work instead of giving all the opportunities to those who are lazy and out for all they can get. I have been left feeling completely useless and deflated. This only adds to the stress that I am going through, and to be honest, at my age and the probability of me getting another job, I’m beginning to see no future at all.” These are issues which many are finding difficult to understand.

Many believe these plans to be unbeneficial to the country as statistics show, 5 unemployed people are chasing the 1 job and the UK currently have 5million people out of work and living off benefits.

The effect of the plan could drive people to absolute despair, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams explains “People who are struggling to find work and struggling to find a secure future are, driven into a spiral of uncertainty, even despair.” However Mr Duncan Smith has defended his plans and says they are a way in which to reduce welfare dependency and to make work pay for the people and the country.

This approach has been viewed by some as harsh and comes across to be more of a punishment “The message will go across; play ball or it will be difficult.”

However Danny Alexander has defended the plan by saying it is supposed to “support and encourage” people to aim higher and take advantage of the opportunity to showcase great employability skills. This therefore means that over time “more people can do what they want to do which is get a job and go out to work because that is the best thing for the country, but it is also the best thing for those individuals and it is by far the best route for anybody out of poverty”.

With the amount of Scottish households without a steady income increasing, the government is using this initiative to move forward in educating the public to the ways of work, and aid in teaching them the value of helping the economy.  However, it is argued, that the rise in unemployment is not because of a poor work ethic within the country but because there are not enough jobs to go around. Therefore the idea that the government should focus on creating jobs instead of forcing people into community work, comes to the forefront of the argument once again. Especially when the UK has one of the highest rates in Europe of completely workless households.

Record queues at Job Centre

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