Climate change back on the table

by Sunnah Khan

Friends of the Earth Campaigner, Natascha Deigner, rallying support in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town to put pressure on the EU to transition to a low carbon economy

In less than a month confederates from around the world will gather in Durban for the 17th annual UN climate change conference. Over the last twenty years there has been a significant increase in global carbon dioxide emissions. Currently the EU is responsible for 13% of global emissions with the US emitting nearly twice as much.

The Keyoto protocol is set to expire in 2012 and this years conference will see a renegotiation of the process as to what the new protocol will look like and which countries will participate. Set out in 1997 as an  international agreement to act on climate change, the Koyoto protocol set binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Paradoxically since its insemination global emissions have increased by 45per cent according to the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. An all-time high of 33 billion tonnes of CO2 was pumped into the atmosphere last year alone.

Natascha Deigner an activist for Friends of the earth emphasized that now more than ever there was a need to act on the issue of climate change; ‘We’re going to get runaway climate change. We’re going to have catastrophic climate change and certain things are going to be irreversible…rising sea levels, rising temperatures, will have devastating effect.’

The 2011 climate change conference is set to take place in Durban next month.

NUS Scotland reacts to spending review

NUS Scotland President Robin Parker "very worried" about cuts.

By Joseph Blythe

NUS Scotland have welcomed Scottish Government plans to increase funding for universities by around £75million. However they have said that they are “concerned” at proposed cuts to college funding, and warned that the government should ensure the number of places available doesn’t fall. The plans, announced yesterday by Finance Secretary John Swinney, are part of the government’s spending review, outlining the budget for the next three years.

There had been fears that austerity measures would lead to cuts in education, but Swinney was able to deliver on his party’s campaign promises of increased financial support and no tuition fees for Scottish students. He pledged a minimum income of £7000 for the poorest students, and the protection of the EMA for young students and pupils.

NUS Scotland President Robin Parker said “Taken together these proposals are a major step in right direction towards making access to education in Scotland fairer. This progress is very welcome news and testament to the hard work and campaigning by thousands of students across Scotland in the run-up to the last election.”

But he was less enthusiastic at the cuts facing the budget for colleges, saying “Colleges serve some of the most deprived communities in Scotland, offering an educational lifeline and local access to education to some of the most excluded in our society. They must make sure that no matter what, the number of places at college is at least protected and that quality is maintained.”

Action Threatened After More Old Firm Shame

By Mark McKinlay

The Scottish Government has issued fresh warnings that bigots who flaunt the new anti-sectarian legislation will be named and shamed.

With sectarian singing prevalent throughout the recent Old Firm game, Roseanna Cunningham MSP warned that offenders would be unable to hide the nature of their crimes. The Community Safety minister made clear that the family and employers of those prosecuted would be informed of their sectarian charges.

However uncertainty has surrounded the government’s drive to rid Scottish football of religious bigotry from the beginning, with no definition of what classifies illegal behaviour being established.

Fans have reacted angrily to threats of unspecified guidelines being used to charge them. Dave Watson, a member of the Rangers Supporters Trust, said, “Surely no other crime could be punished in this way. The ones in charge of this, the ones that were at Ibrox have said they wouldn’t know any sectarian songs even if they heard them. Total joke.”

Celtic fans have also denounced the proposals, with Jim McNally adding, “Politicians should be focusing on more important things than a game of football.”

The trouble associated with Old Firm matches again hit the headlines following a 212% increase in domestic violence on Sunday.

Concern as empty units increase at Kirkcaldy Shopping Centre

by Ashleigh Gibbs

Shutters Down: A familiar sight at the Kirkcaldy shopping centre

The potential closure of a small arts and craft store has struck a further blow to a local shopping centre in Kirkcaldy. Burns and Harris, one of the centre’s longest standing occupants, has been forced to reduce opening hours and create redundancies adding further speculation about the future of the ailing Postings Shopping Centre. With high rates forcing existing business to move to the High Street and failing to attract new business alike, the centre has seen a devastating increase in empty units with a direct impact on spend, leaving few remaining stall owners and shops struggling.

“It’s getting worse and worse…” an employee of Capability Scotland, one of several charity shops, said. “We would have had about eighty or ninety people through the doors a day, now it’s more like twenty five.”  One stall owner told of how a fellow goods seller had taken no money at all on a Saturday and there is greater concern yet that development plans for a new supermarket at the town’s Inverteil site may have a detrimental effect to its vitally important Tesco.  The initiative continues to be discussed.

Opportunity Omagh gets underway

by Gemma McCallan

A Tesco store similar to this one will get the ball rolling at Opportunity Omagh

It has been announced that the £350 million Opportunity Omagh development is underway with supermarket giants Tesco confirming their arrival. There have been mixed reactions to the news however, with claims that it will have a detrimental affect on the town centre, taking business out of the town centre. Omagh Chamber of Commerce President, Christopher Kelly has welcomed the news but has expressed concerns that the proposed location could create ‘a rival town’. Mr Kelly said: “The Chamber welcomes the news that Tesco has plans for a new store in Omagh and that the giant retailer is interested in investing the local community and creating jobs. The problem is that the proposed site on the Derry Road is the wrong site and is too far out of town.”

It has also been recognised however that the development, which is the biggest in the town in over 20 years, will be a huge catalyst for employment in the area, creating over 2000 sustainable jobs across a number of sectors. Chairman of Omagh District Council, Cllr Frankie Donnelly said: “The importance of the immediate boost and jobs for our local construction sector from this £350m project, combined with the longer term sustainable job creation and infrastructure provision are vital to ensure that Omagh continues to grow and develop as a place for our people to live and work.”

World Peace Day to Aid Polio Eradication Campaign

by Suzanne Neilson

On a day dedicated to peace, the Polio Eradication Initiative hope to issue mass immunizations in war-torn regions around the world, vaccinating those who would otherwise be difficult to reach.

Established by the UN in 1981, World Peace Day encourages regions in conflict to ceasefire for one day to promote the ideal of international peace.

Rotary International joined the campaign to eradicate Polio in 1985. Since then cases have reduced by 99% but the final 1% will be the hardest to eradicate as Maurice Halliday, member of Rotary International’s Foundation Committee explains, ‘War is the biggest challenge facing the immunization programme. It’s too dangerous to enter these regions normally and so an attempt has been made to organise mass immunizations to coincide with this day of peace to get help to those who need it.’

Largely waterborne and affecting mainly children under 5, the poliovirus attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis and in some cases death.

Recent violence and fresh flooding in Pakistan mean these mass immunizations are vital to prevent the spread of the disease, which is still endemic in the country. Mr. Halliday stresses that help is imminent for the affected areas, ‘The logistics of flooding can be overcome in time and we hope to immunize up to 7 million children in one day.’

Edinburgh Council’s ‘painful’ vote goes ahead despite court action

Portobello Park, the site of the new school.

By Tom Freeman

In the face of legal action, Edinburgh City Council is today voting to approve preparatory works on building on one of Edinburgh’s community parks.  Portobello Park, between the ancient Portobello 9-hole golf course and the Milton Road section of the A1, is the preferred site for the new Portobello High School.  The Portobello Park Action Group have condemned the decision to build on the park, citing this as another example of shrinking public green space in Edinburgh and have now raised a legal action in the Court of Session to review the decision, an action which the Council have vowed to ‘vigorously defend’.

“Green space is an asset” Ros Sutherland, chair of PPAG said yesterday, “Step outside the bounds of Portobello, and look at Edinburgh as whole, there’s a history of building on public space”

Local SNP councillor Michael Bridgeman was quick to distance the current administration from the previous Labour-led council  “The SNP pledge to leave the golf course and its 150 year history alone” he told Napier News.  “We have published a clear Open Space Strategy.”  He conceded, however, that there were no plans to create new green space in Edinburgh.

“I fully acknowledge that for those living nearby this choice is totally unacceptable and very painful.” Labour councillor Maureen Child said yesterday.

The PPAG is holding a 5k fun run in the park tonight from 7pm, followed by tea and home baking in St Martin’s church hall.  They hope this will raise awareness and funds for their appeal.

Scottish Scientists Make Cancer Breakthrough

By Gabriel Neil

It was announced last week that scientists from the University of Dundee have made a discovery which could lead to a deeper understanding of how cancer occurs. The research team, led by Dr Joost Zomerdijk discovered a “previously hidden link” within the ways in which human cells make the structures they need to function, a process called “transcription” – specifically the way in which genes regulate ribosomes which produce proteins vital for growth. Understanding transcription is important in cancer research as when the genes controlling it fail, cells can grow out of control, creating cancers.

Dr Joost Zomerdijk
Dr Joost Zomerdijk led the study.

This breakthrough was hailed by Dr Zomerdijk, claiming that it “advances our understanding of how normal transcription is maintained in human cells” adding that this may help to discover how to reverse the damaging “deregulation” of transcription.

Dr David Wright a biologist from the University, who was not involved in the research, cautioned that this finding is “a tiny crucial cog in a complicated machine… it is not particularly important on its own” but it “ties the information that we already have about the ways in which cancer cells go wrong to our understanding of how normal cells do their jobs” which could possibly lead to new kinds of cancer therapies.

Dundee University’s College of Life Sciencesreceives over £40million of research funding annually is renowned for research into cell Biology, having recently been ranked 1st in the UK for Biological Sciences.

Non-Scottish students marching to the Parliament

by Boyana Atanasova

Students from University of Edinburgh have started an Anti Cuts Coalition as a result of the decision of the university to increase the tuition fees for all non-Scottish students (from the UK) to the highest possible levels of 9000 pounds per year, starting from 2012.

The move became possible after English universities got the go-ahead to charge up to £9,000 for tuition.

The students’ answer to these decisions are demonstrations in several institutions. They are planning to expand their actions with a major event planned for the end of November: “We are calling for a national demo at Holyrood on Tuesday 30th November. This will coincide with the tuition fees parliamentary debate in Westminster. Our plan is to meet at Bristo Square at 11:30, from where we will march to Holyrood and stage a rally outside parliament. We call on students and staff from all educational establishments, for trade unions and any coalitions or individuals who want to stand against the devastating cuts to higher education and public services to join us”, stated a message from the Anti Cuts Coalition.

The students believe that these cuts will have a huge negative effect on the next generations and will affect people from the less privileged backgrounds, which will result in broadening the gap between rich and poor.

“We’ve planned multiple wild cat 36 hour occupations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews aimed at maximum disruption of management and not teaching”, added a member of the Coalition.

University of Edinburgh is one of the four universities in Scotland that recently made the decision to increase their fees. Edinburgh Napier University still does not have any position on this topic and the Napier Student Association did not give its opinion on the demands of the students from the affected universities.