Edinburgh International Festival tickets on sale from new venues across the city

Tickets to this year’s Edinburgh International Festival went on sale on Saturday 24th March from the Hub at Castlehill. From today, the public can also purchase them from five new venues across the city.

The Edinburgh Playhouse, Festival Theatre, The Queen’s Hall, Royal Lyceum Theatre and the Usher Hall have joined the list of venues where members of the public can go to buy tickets for this year’s Festival, which will take place from 9th August to 2nd September.

It hasn’t taken long for ticket buyers to make use of the new box office locations in order to purchase tickets. According to a spokesperson for the Usher Hall, 5 people have already visited this morning within one hour of doors opening.

With tickets currently being sold from a variety of venues across the city, potential Festival goers are advised to be quick and buy their tickets in advance, in order to avoid future disappointments.

For more details on how to buy the tickets, click here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Chronic pain patients left waiting

An FOI request made by the Scottish Labour Party has revealed that some patients suffering from chronic pain are waiting for more than 6 months before their first appointment.

The findings have revealed that 1,866 patients are waiting for their first appointment, whilst over 1,000 people are awaiting a follow-up appointment.

The worst waiting times exist in NHS Shetland, where patients may have to wait up to 33 weeks before they see someone. Next on the list was NHS Grampian, with a 30 week wait, and third was NHS Lothian, with waits of up to 22 weeks.
Scottish Labour have previously put in several other requests to the Scottish NHS. In August last year they revealed that NHS Dumfries and Galloway had spent £162,835 on voluntary redundancy deals. 6 people took up the offer in 2010-2011, which the local authority offered as a way of cutting long-term front line costs. The FOI request stated that voluntary redundancies had increased by 4x as much in the last four years.

The party also revealed that the Scottish Government had spent £600,000 of taxpayers money on sending Scottish patients to Bath for treatment, rather than sending them to hospitals within Scotland.

The Shadow Secretary for Health, Jackie Baillie MSP, stated that “forcing patients who are suffering from […] excruciating painful conditions to endure long, gruelling waits and arduous journeys for treatment is grossly unfair and unacceptable […] I fear efforts to help treat people living in chronic pain are being hampered by the SNP government cutting over 4,500 and the budget of our NHS by £319 million.

“We believe that there is a serious gap in care for sufferers of chronic pain in Scotland and it doesn’t make sense to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds sending Scottish patients on journeys of hundreds of miles to seek treatment in England.”

The findings revealed that only two Scottish Health Boards had set up a Managed Clinical Network (MCN). Ms Baillie states that Labour would “put in place funding to ensure that there are managed clinical networks for chronic pain in every health board across Scotland”. A press release on the party’s website describes an MCN as “an innovative and widely-supported way of treating patients that aims to breakdown existing structures” so that “the right treatment gets to the right patient at the right time”.

Sandra Mair, Deputy Chief Operating Officer for NHS Lothian, disputed the findings. In a statement released to Edinburgh Napier News, she described the waiting time “for a second appointment with a consultant in Lothian [as] less than 12 weeks with the majority of those being check – ups to determine how treatment is progressing. Patients are prioritised according to their needs.”

“NHS Lothian is committed to continuing our good work in the area of chronic pain management and we are continually looking at ways of further improving our service.”


Breaking news: Betting shop fire confirmed as arson

A former betting shop in Midlothian was deliberately set ablaze resulting in thousands of pounds of damage.

A group of youths were spotted on the roof of the building moments before the fire broke out on Saturday.

A group of youths were seen on the roof of the building just before the blaze broke out and police are appealing for witnesses.

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service were called to the derelict building inWoodburn Road, Dalkeith, at 9.30pm and managed to put out the flames.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “A group of male youths were seen on the roof prior to the fire breaking out, and we are keen for any information that can help us identify them.

“Anyone who was in the area at the time, who noticed any suspicious activity, should contact police immediately. Similarly, anyone with any other information that can assist our inquiries should also get in touch.”

Anyone with any information should contact Lothian and Borders Police on 0131 311 3131 or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Supreme Court to hear Obama’s Healthcare Law

Today the United States Supreme Court will be begin it’s three day hearing on whether or not President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act is legal. Opponents of the act state that its requirement that people buy insurance intrudes on civil liberties.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in March of 2010, and has faced negative reactions and criticism from conservatives and Republican party leaders and has been dubbed “ObamaCare” by many.

If the court upholds the act,  it would forbid insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions, limits how much companies can charge older people. Though the most controversial aspect is the law’s “individual mandate.”  This would require almost all Americans to hold health insurance or else pay a penalty on their tax returns by 2014. Some believe this goes against civil liberties, while others claim some  Americans  having no health care results in their unpaid health bills being placed upon taxpayers.

Breaking News: Three men found guilty over shooting that left 5-year-old girl paralysed

Three men have been convicted at the Old Bailey over a shooting in a south London shop which left a five-year-old girl paralysed.

Thusha Kamaleswaran was shot in the chest and Roshan Selvakumar, 35, was shot in the face at Stockwell Food and Wine in Brixton shop last March.

Nathaniel Grant, Kazeem Kolawole and Anthony McCalla were convicted of grievous bodily harm with intent.

The men were also found guilty of the attempted murder of Roshaun Bryan.

The court heard the gunmen were trying to shoot someone else when the two innocent victims got caught in the crossfire.

Prosecutor Edward Brown QC told jurors: “The reality of this shooting may be that, whilst there was an intention to kill the suspected rival gang member, the gunman and his accomplices couldn’t have cared less if someone else was shot too.”

Thusha’s heart stopped twice before doctors were able to save her. She has spent most of the last year in hospital and doctors say she will never walk again.

Breaking news: Two British soldiers shot dead in Afghanistan

The Defence Secretary has confirmed that two British soldiers have been shot dead by an Afghan National Army gunman.

Philip Hammond has told the Commons the incident happened at the entrance gate to the British HQ in Lashkar Gah.

NATO has confirmed that the gunman was then shot dead by return of fire.

A total of 407 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan since military operations began in 2001.

In a statement to the Commons, Mr Hammond stated: “Our thoughts, as ever, are with their families, for whom this will be a deeply personal tragedy”.

Details of the incident are still emerging and relatives are being informed.

BP Awards £500 million contract to oil services company

It has been announced that oil services company Techchip have won a multi-million pound contract with with oil giants BP.

The contract will include the replacement of the Schiellion floating production and storage vessel, and will take place off the west coast of Shetland.

Based in Paris, Techchip will oversee the project from its Aberdeen office.

It is believed that the work will see an additional 450 million barrels of oil produced by 2035.

The firm currently employs 30,000 people in over 48 countries.

Video: Scotland’s health improves due to smoking ban

Six years have passed since the implementation of the Scottish smoking ban and new evidence suggests the nation is healthier as a result of the change in legislation.

The ban was introduced to protect people from the dangers of passive smoking in public areas. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has revealed that it has proved a success among both smokers and non-smokers with 83 per cent of adults supporting the ban and an 86 per cent reduction in second hand smoke in bars.

Speaking about the ban, Sheila Duffy Chief Executive of ASH Scotland outlined the benefits of the ban.

“Six years on we can clearly see how Scotland’s smoke-free law is benefiting people. The law was opposed by the tobacco industry who sought to delay and derail it, much as they are doing with the current legislation. Tobacco smoke is a toxic substance and poses a threat to health, particularly to children’s health. We need to continue to strive for people’s right to breathe clean air.”

A study carried out earlier this month by the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, showed that complications in pregnancy have fallen as a result of the ban. It was found that there had been a decrease in the number of babies being born prematurely and a reduction of infants being born underweight.

Dr Jill Pell who led the research team said:

“These reductions occurred both in mothers who smoked and those who had never smoked. While survival rates for pre-term deliveries have improved over the years, infants are still at risk of developing long-term health problems so any intervention that can reduce the risk of pre-term delivery has the potential to produce important public health benefits.”

GAME goes into administration, main Edinburgh stores stay open

A GAME Shop: Open For How Long?

GAME, Britain’s biggest video game retailer, has gone into administration today.

The retailer counts around 1.300 stores distributed between the UK and mainland Europe, 5.100 employees in the UK and Ireland, of which 385 are employed at its headquarters in Basingstoke, Hampshire.

In Edinburgh, Gamestation on Princes Street, the flagship store of the company, had already been closed in late 2011.

However, as the retailers are refusing to release any comments, it’s understood that the GAME stores in St. James Shopping centre and Ocean Terminal are still open as usual.

Meanwhile, it has already been reported that about half of the 600 UK shops have been closed during the day, and it’s unclear whether the rest will stay in business.

The company’s website is currently no longer accessible, and it names MJA Jervis and SD Maddison as the appointed Joint Administrators.

Mike Jervis has commented: “Despite these challenges, we believe that there is room for a specialist game retailer in the territories in which it operates, including its biggest one, the UK.

“As a result, we are hopeful that a going concern sale of the business is achievable”.

GAME, which was founded in 1991 as Rhino Group, had already been rumoured to be in troubled waters as their credit worthiness came under scrutiny just a few days ago.

As a consequence, three main suppliers, Nintendo, EA and Capcom, blocked the distribution of their most recent releases to the retailer.

The overall performance of the company in the last few months has been abysmal, with a £18 million loss for the year to 31 January being blamed on high fixed costs and an ambitious international expansion.

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.

Comment: George Watson’s College’s MUN Conference

George Watson's College hosted their annual MUN this weekend
Image: Alexandra Wingate

If there’s one group we like to blame society’s problems on, it’s young people. These binge drinking hoody wearers are disaffected, uncaring and couldn’t spell “politics” if their entire Spelling Bee credibility depended on it, right?

Wrong. While some of us continue to bury years of repressed memories of endless evenings spent crying over boys and loudly hating our parents, there is one place guaranteed to restore a long lost faith in teenagers: a Model United Nations conference.

This weekend’s MUN at George Watson’s College is the largest school-based conference of its kind in Scotland. Attracting over 600 secondary school pupils from across Britain, Europe and even North Africa, ages range from as young as 12 right up to 18 – and all of them with a keen interest in international relations.

The three-day conference is spent debating a wide variety of issues, ranging from designer babies and women’s pay, to the justification of torture and overcoming poverty. Sometimes the discussions wander into satire (take, for example, Germany’s proposal that a hotline between a selection of UN member states have Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” as its holding tune), but usually they’re serious, well researched and impressively thorough.

There’s a wide range of abilities here, from the seasoned MUN veteran to the nervous first timer, but for all of them it’s cool to be clever. This is helped by the overwhelming feature at George Watson’s being the feeling of inclusion; nobody can be found sitting awkwardly on their own or left red faced in the aftermath of a “stupid” suggestion.

“We pride ourselves on being a friendly conference,” explains chair of one of the political committees, Lily Taylor. “So if it’s anyone’s first conference we really encourage them to speak.”

Being young, these kids take everything in their stride. Full of modesty and sheltered from the harsh realities of a competitive job market, they don’t seem to grasp quite how astonishing what they’re doing is. One boy cringes at his mum’s public yet withheld expressions of pride, while another talks down his achievements, instead joking about accepting bribes in the form of bags of Haribo, a selection of lollipops and even a cabbage.

As well as having the confidence to stand up and present their argument in front of an entire hall full of their peers, they all clearly know their stuff – and if they don’t, they’re quickly pulled up by someone else who does. The enthusiasm is infectious; they might be role playing, but each speech is passionate without exception, with the debates becoming more and more colourful as the weekend progresses.

If there’s one criticism of the MUN scene, it’s that it’s still dominated by private schools. As an extra curricular activity, it’s perhaps little wonder that only a handful of state schools have the resources to establish and nurture any kind of MUN club. That said, a good number of the Scottish schools at George Watson’s conference are state schools, including James Gillespie’s High School which held its first one-day conference at the end of last year.

But the most profound outcome of an MUN has got to be the effect it has on the minds and attitudes of young people. Not only do participants have to understand and defend the policies and beliefs of a nation often very different to their own, but the conference physically allows them to meet and socialise with people from all walks of life from cultures and countries across the world. Even within the first break, rooms full of people who had never set eyes on each other an hour earlier are a buzz of chatter and laughter in a true demonstration of the unprejudiced openness of youth.

So take heed, ye of little faith: if there’s ever a way to promote cultural understanding and tolerance, a Model United Nations is surely it – and it’s our young people at the helm. We should be proud.

Titanic director breaks deep dive record

Hollywood director James Cameron has become the first person to solo dive to the deepest point in the ocean. The Marian Trench, which is located in the western pacific ocean close to Guam, is an astonishing 7 miles (11km) deep.

In 1960 the first and last successful endeavor to reach the bottom of the Marian Trench was made by US Navy Lt Don Walsh and oceanographer Jacques Piccard. Cameron though holds the record for being the first person to reach sea ground alone.

He spent several hours on the Pacific Ocean sea floor, collecting samples for scientific research and taking photographs and moving images.

After his return Cameron tweeded: “Hitting bottom never felt so good”

The specially designed sub, the Deepsea Challenger was made in Australia, weighs 11 tonnes and is more than 23feet long.

Cameron said about the expedition: “Most importantly, though, is the significance of pushing the boundaries of where humans can go, what they can see and how they can interpret it.”

National Geographics supported the expedition and its executive vice president of the Mission program Terry Garcia is proud of the program:  “In 2012 we are still exploring largely unknown places — as National Geographic has been doing for nearly 125 years. I’m delighted to say that the golden age of exploration and discovery continues.”

James Cameron always had a passion for deep waters. He has made more than 70 deep submersible dives, including a total of 33 to the wrack of the Titanic. Since Cameron is still a film director at heart it is not surprising that the Deepsea Challenge will become a 3-D film which will subsequently be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel.

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.

Edinburgh hosts Scotland’s largest school MUN Conference

One of Britain’s largest Model United Nations Conferences took place in Edinburgh this weekend.

Over 600 teenagers took part in the three-day conference at George Watson’s College. Now in its sixth year, it is the biggest school-based MUN in Scotland and attracts participants from as far afield as Egypt and Turkey.

Alexandra Wingate reports exclusively from the conference.

What is an MUN?

An MUN is a replica of the United Nations. As well as having a secretary general and a number of chairs, the conference consists of a variety of committees, a security council, a general assembly and an emergency debate.

Participants are assigned a member state which they then represent in various discussions. The challenge is for delegates to accurately portray the political policies and moral values of their assigned country, which usually differs in varying degrees to that of their own nation.

How does an MUN work?

As in the real United Nations, an MUN is primarily split into different committees which are attended by one delegate from each state. In George Watson’s case, these consist of economic, environment, health, human rights, media, and political, with as many as 48 countries represented in each committee.

After lobbying for support, delegates can put forward a formal resolution for discussion. The proposal is then debated with opportunities to add amendments before the final resolution is voted on by all members. This format is replicated throughout the conference, in both the smaller security council and the large general assembly attended by all delegates from all countries.

The debates are formal and procedures are carefully overseen by a number of chairs. Discussions are detailed and rigorous with a typical session lasting around one to two hours.

King's School in Chester won the award for Best Delegation
Image: Alexandra Wingate

Comment: George Watson’s College’s MUN Conference

Theresa May independence claims challeneged by SNP

Theresa May the Home Secretary has made the latest in a series of allegations about the prospects for an independent Scotland. In an interview with the BBC, Ms. May stated that there may be border controls on the border with England, dependent on whether Scotland opts out of the Schengen agreement or not.

This comes after comments she made during the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Troon over the weekend. During the conference, the Home Secretary stated that she believed that Scotland was stronger in the union, and suggested that immigration would become less controlled in an independent Scotland. Ms May also questioned the issue of sovereignty within the EU, stating “It completely defeats the SNP argument that Scotland would fare better with more control over its affairs when they seek to hand over so many serious areas of government elsewhere.”

In her interview with the BBC, Theresa May states  it may be possible that Scotland post-independence will have passport controls on the border with England. The Schengen agreement, which guarantees no border controls in the EU, was opted-out of by the UK, but new EU states, such as Scotland would be, are automatically opted in and have to negotiate if they don’t want to be in it.

Currently the UK operates a Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland, and Ms. May stated that an agreement of this kind may be negotiated between Scotland and the rest of Britain after independence.

A statement released by the SNP today stated that since both the rump UK and Scotland would be successor states from the UK, they ” will therefore inherit exactly the same status within the EU, including not being in the Schengen area.”

“An independent Scotland will also inherit the Common Travel Area which exists across UK and Ireland, and provides for no border controls for the citizens of these islands.”

The statement added that a soveriegn country can tailor immigration to meet their needs and that immigration may help “address skills shortages in Scotland’s labour market”. The SNP claims that the  the Home Secretary’s statements were “silly” and “scaremongering.”

Gene linked to life threatening flu

A lack or low content of the protein IFITM3 due to genetic mutation can change a harmless flu into a life-threatening disease. This information was announced in a collaborative study which included contributions from Edinburgh University and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute among others.

While most people recover well from a flu, some have to be hospitalized with life-threatening symptoms.”We had little idea why this small number of people was so severely affected,” says Professor Tim Walsh from the Critical Care Medicine Department at the University of Edinburgh. Previous studies showed that protein IFITM3 plays a crucial role in blocking the growth of influenza viruses. The protein, which sits in the membrane, is suspected to hinder viruses from entering cells and subsequently their replication.

The initial study was done on mice lacking the IFITM3 gene and showed that these mice were more likely to express severe symptoms of flu when exposed to the viruses. A subsequent screening of patients who had been admitted to hospital with severe flu revealed a mutation in the IFITM3 gene in some of the patients.

“Our research is important for people who have this variant as we predict their immune defences could be weakened to some virus infections. Ultimately as we learn more about the genetics of susceptibility to viruses, these people can take informed precautions, such as vaccinations to prevent infection,” says Professor Paul Kellam from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Relating the genetic composition of a person to their susceptibility to viral infections will help scientists find the best cure for patients.

Nurse suspended over child abuse claims

An experienced nurse has been suspended from her post after being charged with committing sexual offences against a minor.

Rhona Sharman, 50, has been suspended from her position as a staff nurse in West Lothian by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). The ban is expected to last 18 months while the accused faces the criminal charges.

The nurse has been charged with taking indecent photographs of a child, causing an older child to be present while engaging in sexual activity, communicating indecently with an older child and causing an older child to participate in sexual activity.

According to the NMC the offences are alleged to have taken place between August and October last year and involve a child aged between 13 and 16.

Douglas Sharman, 46, is also facing two charges of intercourse with an older child, causing an older child to participate in sexual activity, causing an older child to be present while engaging in sexual activity, communicating indecently with an older child and taking indecent photographs of a child.

Since being charged by Strathclyde Police on October 28, Ms Sharman has not carried out any clinical duties.

Internal investigation

The NMC investigating committee ruled that it was in the public interest to suspend the nurse until the council had completed its investigation into the allegations.

A statement from the panel said: “This is one of those rare cases where public interest alone necessitates an interim suspension order as an appropriate response. The panel is of the view that the allegations, if proven, suggest that you demonstrated poor judgement.

Your position as a registered nurse requires you to maintain certain standards including that you must always act lawfully, whether those laws relate to your professional practice or personal life, and that you must uphold the reputation of your profession.

“The panel considered that the reputation of the profession would be damaged if an order were not in place… the alleged behaviour would fall well below the public’s expectation of the behaviour of a registered nurse.”

They noted that the alleged incidents had taken place outside work.

Chris Dickson, Ms Sharman’s lawyer, said the accused denied the allegations made against her.

Unite union set to strike

The UK’s largest union is balloting its members to determine whether strike action will be used in the dispute over working conditions of delivery drivers in the oil sector.

Unite’s national officer Matt Draper said: “The professionalism of tanker drivers is at stake. We should not accept a lowering of standards so that the oil companies can maximise their profits.

“Four of the top global oil companies posted combined profits of a staggering £106 billion in 2011. Yet, drivers are suffering a contract merry-go-round, with their working conditions under constant attack.”

There are growing fears we could see a repeat of the September 2000 strikes which brought fuel shortages across the country. Due to the adverse effect a strike could have, the government has already arranged a contingency measure by enlisting army personnel to drive tankers if the protest goes ahead. It is hoped this will minimalise shortages and stop the country coming to a standstill.

Limited reserve stocks have been highlighted as an additional concern; due to the high price of fuel many petrol stations have stopped storing high quantities in reserve. This means that any reduction in deliveries will have an immediate impact on the availability of fuel.

Last week George Osbourne increased fuel duty as part of the budget, taking the cost of petrol to an average of £1.40 per litre, with a record high of £1.46.72/l recorded by the AA.

The latest price hike comes shortly after the announcement to raise the road tax bandings, with the top band range now costing over £1000 per annum. Drivers groups have long complained about the way motorists are overcharged for every aspect of owning a vehicle.

The result of the ballot will be announced later today.

Average prices per litre of unleaded petrol in the UK from 2007 to June 2011:

source: http://www.petrolprices.com/the-price-of-fuel.html

The percentage of the fuel cost which is attributed to tax is often criticised by consumer groups. Currently UK tax on fuel amounts to 70% of the pump price.

Cost per litre of crude oil extraction: 8p
Cost per litre of refining: 2p
Cost per litre to transport to UK: 2p
Cost per litre to transport to pumps: 5p

Literary Death Match to take place tomorrow

A ‘battle to the death’ is set to take place in Edinburgh tomorrow night.

The Voodoo Rooms will for the second time host Literary Death Match (LDM), an event originally created by Todd Zuniga, an LA-based writer and journalist and the founding editor of Opium Magazine.
The contest pits four authors against one another, as each reads a short extract of their work. Two finalists are chosen by a panel of judges, which have in the past included Christopher Brookmyre, Jon Ronson and D.J Taylor.

The winner is then decided by a more esoteric contest, as audience members are encouraged to take part in bizarre book-related games. A recent LDM in Boston on March 8th featured a round of “Pin the Moustache on Hemingway” – audience members were handed the moustaches of various famous authors, such as Arthur Conan Doyle and James Joyce, and then blindfolded, before attempting to attach the moustaches to Hemingway’s upper lip.

Deciding contests have also included a Spelling Bee Finale (held in Norwich earlier this month) and a Neil Gaiman Cupcake Chucking Contest in Minneapolis – St. Paul. Whichever author the winning audience members represent is then crowned champion, and awarded “literary immortality”.

LDM has been described by the Guardian as “witty, iconoclastic and unfettered from the constraints of the traditional, and largely corporate, publishing agenda.” Earlier this year, Zuniga was named one of 2012’s “Faces to Watch” in the LA Times, with his style described as an “unlikely combination of Vegas showman and book geek.”

The event has taken place all around the British Isles and has travelled to 39 cities across the world, taking in Helsinki, New York and Beijing. LDM has also featured at several festivals, including the Free Fringe and the Latitude Festival.

This is the fourth time that LDM has come to Edinburgh, with the first visit taking place in August 2010. Previously the contest has been held in The Banshee Labyrinth and at the Edinburgh Book Festival last August.

Iain McPherson, General Manager of the Voodoo Rooms, described the venue as being “very excited” to host the event again.

Secret Lockerbie documents published

Yesterday the Sunday Herald published a full 800 page report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC). For five years no paper was allowed to get access to the report. The controversial report highlights hopes of a new appeal in the name of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, since a believed miscarriage of justice may have occurred. The Libyan Megrahi got convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. The Crown Office commented though, that it had considered all the information in the statement of reasons and had “every confidence in successfully defending the conviction”.

The reasons  the Herald was able to publish the papers are Megrahi’s permission as well as the public interest for the Lockerbie bombing.  First Minister Alex Salmond supports the report, which doubts Megrahi’s conviction. He said: “I welcome the publication in full of this report, which is something the Scottish Government has been doing everything in our powers to facilitate.” Salmond added also: “This report provides valuable information, from an independent body acting without fear or favour, and while we cannot expect it to resolve all the issues, it does however lay the basis for narrowing the areas of dispute and in many ways is far more comprehensive than any inquiry could ever hope to be.”

On Wednesday 21 December 1988, shortly after Pan Am 103 was taking off from Heathrow airport to go to New York, an explosion over the Scottish town of Lockerbie caused the aircraft fall out of the sky. 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed, as well as 11 Lockerbie citizens. Megrahi got convicted for planting the bomb but got released in 2009 because he suffered from cancer, which was supposed to give him about three more months to live. Megrahi is still alive today.

The publication by the Sunday Herald was a contentious decision, since the it wasn’t authorised. The paper commented: “Under Section 32 of the Data Protection Act, journalists can publish in the public interest. We have made very few redactions to protect the names of confidential sources and private information.”

Experts do not believe the newspaper will face prosecution for publishing the documents.

SPL rebels aim for ‘Arab Spring’

Pressure has continued to mount on the Old Firm to accept new voting rules in the Scottish Premier League.

Yesterday Kilmarnock Chairman, Michael Johnston, compared the struggle of the 10 “rebel” clubs to that of the Arab Spring, “Hopefully we can be as successful as some of the pro-democracy movements elsewhere.”

The 10 clubs, which include Heart’s and Hibs, aim to end the 11-1 majority required for significant league changes and end the Glasgow duopoly on power. However Celtic chairman, Peter Lawell, has criticised their motives and claimed they are acting disrespectfully by excluding the Old Firm.

However Johnston rejects these claims saying, “Principally, this is about a measure of democracy that’s been lacking in the SPL in its decision-making processes.

“So this is the pro-democracy movement. It’s not a gang of 10 or anything subversive. It’s all up front and it’s perfectly open what we’ve been talking about, so there’s nothing hidden or disrespectful about it.”

It is believed the non-Old Firm clubs view a change in the voting system as the first step towards a fairer distribution of TV revenue and possible league expansion.

New record label launched at Jewel and Esk College

Staff and students at Jewel and Esk College have launched a new record label, Feast Records. Utilizing the college’s impressive array of recording equipment the label is aimed at promoting “new young musical talent in Scotland”.

An event will be held to celebrate the new label on the 30th of March at Edinburgh’s Electric. The launch will be ticketed at £5 on the door and will feature young Edinburgh bands such as Maydays, The Nature Boys and Fridgemaster. Feast’s upcoming website will also feature gig and album reviews, studio sessions and up and coming bands.

This record label comes as the latest in a line of recent small independent labels to be launched in the capital such as Song by Toad, Offbeat, Alextronic and Pure Synthesis.

Feast records can be found here on facebook.

Jewel and Esk College website can be found here.