One step closer to become a Fair Trade Nation

Scotland’s desire to become one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations is on course to become a reality by the end of this year.

In July 2006, the  Scottish Government established a set of innovative measures to be met in order to make the ‘Fair Trade Nation’ status a real achievement.

According to the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, the main targets to be achieved in order to reach the goal depend on National and Local Authorities as well as on some public institutions such as schools or universities.

For Scotland to become a Fair Trade Nation all cities should  achieve the Fairtrade City status and at least 60% of Universities should have active Fair Trade groups working towards the same status.

So far, almost two-thirds of higher education institutions have achieved the goal and there are only four more local authorities needed for Scotland to see its dream of being one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations become true.

In order to meet the criteria, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are also required to actively promote Fairtrade Fortnight each year since the campaign was launched in 2006.

With the theme “Take a step for Fairtrade” this year’s Fortnight runs from 27th February to the 11th March. Being a key year for the nation’s future to get the Fair Trade status, the Fairtrade Foundation is asking everyone to take a step for it.

A spokesperson for the Fairtrade foundation said “It can be a simple step, like swapping your tea to Fairtrade, or a bigger step, like asking everyone in your office to do it too.”.

For those willing to find out what events are taking place in Edinburgh as part of the Fairtrade Fortnight 2012, this link from the Edinburgh Council is a must:

Increasing childcare costs are hitting families across the UK

Scottish parents are among the ones paying the highest prices for their children daycare, revealed a latest survey from the Daycare Trust.

Results show that nursery prices in some areas were as high as southern England, with 25 hours of care over 50 weeks at the most expensive, costing £11,688. The increasing numbers came as a result of the childcare support cuts, introduced by the Government in April 2011.

Families across the country are feeling the pressure and some of them are facing the decision to leave their jobs in order to reduce the overall expenses on childcare. Parents are comparing the situation as having an additional mortgage.

“These above-inflation increases in the cost of childcare are more bad news for families, heaping further pressure on their stretched budgets as wages remain stagnant and less help is available through tax credits”, commented the findings Anand Shukla, the Chief Executive of Daycare Trust.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “Since 2007, we have delivered real increases in free pre-school provision, benefiting around 100,000 children each year.

“In addition, we’re providing £4.5m over the next three years to local authorities to deliver additional early learning and childcare for all looked after two-year-olds; and a further £4.5m to promote community-based solutions to family support and childcare.”

Speaking for BBC Scotland, Aileen Campbell, Minister for Children and Young People, said: “I am a mother myself and I understand, and have huge sympathy with, the difficulties that families face.

“This report is very helpful and very useful, and is excellent in contributing to the debate and my thinking about how we move this issue forward.”

Olympic rings set to sparkle

Edinburgh Castle was originally intended as the Olympic ring location, but was vetoed due to public outcry.

By Alagappan Muthu

The Edinburgh skyline will feature a shiny new addition this summer in celebration of London 2012. The Olympic rings due to be erected in the Mound in Princes street gardens will also be lit up.

Officials from the Olympic committee and Edinburgh City Council are hopeful the new site would serve as a focal point for the public to meet and celebrate their athlete’s achievements.

“I feel that this site will be well received by the Edinburgh public and more than conforms to the city’s history and architecture”, said deputy council leader Steve Cardownie

Originally the games committee proposed to have the iconic logo on Edinburgh Castle. But it was met with outcry and Historic Scotland, caretakers of the castle, vetoed the proposal. Before Christmas, Edinburgh Evening News conducted a survey to determine which place would be best to display the insignia. The Airport was the most popular choice, followed by the Fourth bridge. The Mound came in third. Midlothain council also offered its Hillend Ski Center in the Pentlands as a potential site, but financial issues ruled this out.

The Mound has been the site of the city’s Christmas tree and has been seen as a popular representation of Edinburgh. After the Olympics, it will serve as site for the Paralympic logo as well. However both installments are yet to be granted planning permission.

Lockerbie Timeline

  • December 2008 – Pan Am flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, killing 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 on the ground
  • November 1991 – Libyan nationals Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah are accused of 270 counts of murder
  • January 2001 – After a trial at Camp Zeist, a neutral court set up in the Netherlands, Fhimah is acquitted. Al-Megrahi is found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 27 years in a Scottish prison
  • February 2001 – Al-Megrahi launches his appeal
  • March 2002 – The appeal is thrown out
  • September 2003 – Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) are charged to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice in Al-Megrahi’s conviction
  • June 2007 – SCCRC grant Al-Megrahi a second appeal after finding 6 reasons why there may have been a miscarriage of justice
  • October 2008 – Jim Swire, father of a victim of the Lockerbie bombing calls for the infirm Al-Megrahi to be released after he is diagnosed with prostate cancer
  • August 2009 – Al-Megrahi drops his second appeal
  • September 2009 – Al-Megrahi is released on compassionate grounds, doctors says he has just months to live and is flown back to Libya. Justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, faces questions over his decision
  • February 2012 – Despite doctors concerns, Al-Megrahi remains alive and maintains his innocence


Also see:

Claims MacAskill urged Lockerbie bomber to drop appeal

Podcast: new book sheds light on Lockerbie bombing

Podcast: new book sheds light on Lockerbie bombing

A new book, written by a member of Al Megrahi’s Defence team calls into question several key details of the Lockerbie Bombing case. Pete Swift explains the repercussion of the latest revelation.

Also see:

Claims MacAskill urged Lockerbie bomber to drop appeal

Lockerbie Timeline

Listen Here:


Free Wi-Fi in Edinburgh a possiblity.

Free wifi may be available in Edinburgh City Centre by 2015.

Free Wi-Fi for “smart device” users could cover parts of Central Edinburgh, Newtown and the Meadows by 2015.

The Urban Broadband Fund will be allocate £100m between ten UK cities to help create a number  of  super-connected cities in the UK. Four capital cities, including Edinburgh, London, Belfast and Cardiff, have already been guaranteed a sizable amount of benefits. Each city was required to bid for an amount in the shares with a detailed plan of how the funds will be used. After the money is allocated to the first four cities, six other cities will battle it out through their proposals for the remaining shares of the money.

Edinburgh City council could receive between £7 million and £10 million if their proposal is accepted. This money would then be used to install open access wireless zones covering core areas of the city. With the benefits to tourist and Edinburgh residents, the hope is that this network would help increase economic growth in the city over the next three years.

The successful cities will be announced in March, while the exact shares to be allocated will be announced in July.

Claims MacAskill urged Lockerbie bomber to drop appeal

The Scottish Justice Secretary  urged the Lockerbie bomber to abandon his appeal against conviction in order to “make it easier” for him to be released on compassionate grounds, according to a new  book. The Scottish government has denied the claims, with Downing Street branding the book “an insult.”

“Megrahi: You Are My Jury” was written by John Ashton, with the full cooperation of Megrahi and features exclusive interviews and revelations.  Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, claims he was “the innocent victim of dirty politics, a flawed investigation and judicial folly.”

The book which is made up of around 60 per cent of Megrahi’s own words, claims that MacAskill met with Libyan officials, including Abdulati al-Obedi 10 days before the announcement of the decision to drop the appeal. Megrahi claimed: “After the meeting, the Libyan delegation came to prison to visit me. Obedi said that towards the end of the meeting, MacAskill had asked to speak to him in private.

“Once the others had withdrawn, he stated that MacAskill gave him to understand that it would be easier to grant compassionate release if I dropped my appeal. He said he was not demanding that I do so, but the message seemed clear.

“I was legally entitled to continue the appeal, but I could not risk doing so. It meant abandoning my quest for justice.”

Today the allegations were denied by a spokesperson for Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond.

“The Justice Secretary has not had a meeting with any party to this issue in the absence of officials. So there has been no such meeting.”

Continuing, the spokesperson said the Scottish Government had “no conceivable’ interest in whether the appeal was perused and added that the basis of the story was inaccurate.

Downing Street also criticised the book describing it as “an insult”.

A spokesperson said: “This is yet another reminder that Alex Salmond’s government’s decision to free the UK’s greatest mass murderer was wrong. Writing a book three years after he was released is an insult to the families of the 270 people who were murdered.”

The book, “Megrahi: You Are My Jury” was launched in Edinburgh today with Ashton describing the comments from Scotland’s First Minister and The Prime Minister as “outrageous”.

“The Prime Minister knows nothing about this case. He should read the book, and if he read the book he would know this conviction was not safe.  I think it is pretty outrageous that he would comment on something that he knows nothing about.”

Mr Ashton and Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the atrocity, called for a new appeal and a full inquiry following the book launch today.


Also see:

Lockerbie Timeline

Podcast: new book sheds light on Lockerbie bombing

Neil Lennon mail-bomber accused go on trial

The High Court in Glasgow

The trial of the two men accused of a plot to kill Celtic manager Neil Lennon began at the High Court in Glasgow today.

Neil McKenzie, 42, and Trevor Muirhead, 43, both from Northern Ayrshire, are accused of sending suspected parcel bombs to Mr Lennon, QC Paul McBride and former MSP Trish Godman. They are also accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice. They deny all the charges.

The device sent to Mr McBride is alleged to be a plastic bottle filled with petrol and nails attached to a timing device. Cairde Na hEireann, the Irish Nationalist group, also had suspected explosives sent to their premises in Glasgow as well.

The alleged incident marked a climax in tensions during last season’s SPL, with a record seven Old Firm matches resulting in player bans and a high profile clash between Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon. Eventually the Scottish Government called a summit to calm the situation and introduced the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, which comes into force on 1st March. The legislation means that anybody behaving in a way that could cause public disorder at or around matches face five years in jail.

The two pronged Act aims to outlaw sectarian behavior and singing at football matches as well as dealing with serious threats, often made on social media, intended to incite religious hatred.

Scottish childcare costs highest in the UK

by Boyana Atanasova

Scottish families are paying the highest childcare fees in the UK, according to new survey data.

The results of a poll by Save the Children and the Daycare Trust show that childcare expenses in the country have increased since last April, when the Government introduced cuts to its financial support for childcare.

According the results, 44 000 fewer families will receive help with childcare costs.

The average costs now exceed £100 for a part-time place (25 hours) in many parts of Britain with the average yearly expenditure for a child under two standing at £5,103. The most expensive nursery recorded by this year’s survey costs £300 for 25 hours care – that’s £15,000 for a year’s childcare.