All posts by Duncan

Council threatens to sue protest group over court costs.

Rising legal costs have driven Edinburgh City Council to announce that they plan to take Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) to court to recover costs incurred so far as a result of their attempts to block the building of a new secondary school on Portobello Park.

The group said this week that they plan to appeal the Court of Session decision saying that council do not need permission to go ahead with the plans.

Diana Cairns of PPAG responded today saying she was not aware that the Council had decided to sue, and said the group would need to take legal advice before responding to this news.

She agreed that this could possibly be a scaring tactic from the Council to try to discourage the group from pressing forward with their appeal.


Edinburgh International Harp Festival opens.

Harp lovers across the world will be gathering at Edinburgh’s Merchiston Castle School from today, to join in a celebration of traditional music from the celtic fringe, and further afield.

Musicians from countries as diverse as Holland, Sweden, Poland, China, Africa and Colombia will gather to share their music – and their talents.

Performers include Lamine Cissokho from Senegal, a descendant of a famous musical dynasty that trace their roots back to the 15th century. He has been playing the African kora (harp) and other traditional West African instruments since the age of ten.

Edmar Castaneda is another attractive performer. From humble beginnings in Colombia, his musical inspiration came through his musician mother and local folklore traditions.

The festival has been running in Edinburgh for thirty years, and continues to thrive. Its Artistic Advisor, Isobel Mieras, comments with a twinkle in her eye,
“It’s a troublesome baby – it’s got big and successful, and looking after it becomes harder and harder!”

Originally for dedicated students of harp and other traditional instruments, the festival has become a growing attraction for lovers of traditional and folk music more widely.

“A lot of people think it’s a bit po-faced, but believe me, harp music can be exciting!”

Performances will be augmented by courses and workshops designed for everyone from the youngest child touching a clarsach for the first time, through to experienced players.

Young harpist, Elinor Evans, can be heard in this piece playing a traditional Scots tune, arranged by Isobel Mieras.

Scottish Tory Conference – Top 10 pick of the tweets

Image source: @ScotTories

@James_Reekie1 Great to see what Conservative councillors are doing in the Borders and South Ayrshire #scup12

@evagroeneveld Great to hear SAyrshire Councillor ’embracing the green agenda’ at #scup12. Let’s now go beyond just recycling.

@holyroodkate Lamont: Conservatives want to give power to the people to run their communities #scup12

@labourpress Cameron praising Budget which gives £40,000 tax cut to millionaires by hitting pensioners #scup12

@andywightman Why is #scup12 slogan “A Strong Scotland in a Strong Britain”? I thought we were part of the UK?

@tomwfreeman Chicken Run is a remake of the Great Escape. The Chickens are fleeing persecution. Did you think that one through, Dave? #scup12 #Cameron

@ToryHoose @John2Win “power should rest in the hands of the people that matter most, the people” #scup12

@scottishpol #scup12 McLetchie: the Scotland Bill does not hv to be a line in the sand. Another knock for Ruth Davidson’s position

@ericthefishking Oh come on, you took away their chairs! RT @ScotTories: A standing ovation for the PM in Troon. #scup12

@holyroodkate Lamont: every voter should know that a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence #scup12


David Cameron’s speech

Carlaw to slam SNP cancer policy

Tory Health Spokesman slams SNP cancer drug policies

Demand for a cancer drugs fund: MSP Jackson Carlaw. Image:

Conservative Health Spokesman Jackson Carlaw will today criticise the SNP for refusing to set up a cancer drugs fund, and instead prioritising free prescriptions for all.

He will use his annual speech at the Scottish Conservative Party Conference in Troon to argue that English cancer sufferers have a better chance of survival because of access to a cancer fund.

Prostate cancer sufferers in England have gained access to the new cancer drug Abiraterone through the fund. The same drug was recently refused approval by the Scottish Medicines Consortium.

“It is now clear where cancer sufferers rank on the SNP’s priority list,” Carlaw says.

Decision on Rangers’ season ticket declined by judge.

A judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh has declined to reach a decision this afternoon on whether a deal should be broken between Rangers and the firm Ticketus.

Image: Christopher Harress

Rangers owner Craig Whyte made the deal to sell £24.4m worth of season tickets to the ticket firm after he bought the debt-ridden club last May.

His plan was to use the revenue from advance ticket sales to pay off an estimated £18m of the club’s debt.

However, administrators Duff and Phelps tried to breach the deal in a five-day hearing this week, arguing that it puts in jeopardy other potential bids for the club.

QC David Sellar, acting for the administrators, has claimed that two of the four potential buyers have said that they will not make a bid while the deal remains in place. Lord Hodge said today at the Court of Session that he did not have sufficient information about the bids to make this ruling.

The claims were been dismissed as speculative by Ticketus’ legal representatives.

Edinburgh’s ‘worst housing estate’ plans revealed

ImagePlans have been revealed for new housing that will replace the notorious Fort housing estate in Leith. Council officials took charge of the site today from the security firm that has overseen the site, while families moved out. The last family moved out last week. The site will be demolished later this year.

The plans involve building a series of three-storey maisonettes,which will allow the site to be more open, and less liable to crime. They have been set out by award-winning Malcolm Fraser Architects.

The flats were condemned by the council at a meeting in 2006. Around 40% of them were found to have serious damp issues. The decision to replace the flats was taken on the basis that it would cost more to renovate them to the approaching 2015 Scottish Housing standards, than to start again from scratch.

Built on the site of the historic fort designed by 18th architect James Craig to defent to Port of Leith, the Fort development has often been labelled as ‘the worst estate in Edinburgh’. It was completed in 1966, and is now seen by council officials to be past its sell-by date. In a recent survey, 80% of residents who responded said they would support the flats’ demolition.

The plans can be viewed at Leith Library until Thursday 22nd March

Mother and son plead guilty to ‘paedophile’ killing

A mother and her son have pleaded guilty to culpable homicide following the death of a 57-year-old man from head injuries. He died nine months later in a nursing home.

Paul Noble, who was 15 at the time, and his mother Williamina Stewart, 37, attacked Gordon Morrice at playing fields in Aberdeen’s Golf Road in June 2010.  The previous day, Morrice had asked if he could play on a child’s trampoline at the park. After this, rumours began to spread around the Seaton area of Aberdeen suggesting that Morrice was a paedophile.

Two others admitted reduced charges of assault – Stewart’s partner Paul Yates, 38, and her brother Hector Stewart, 30.

Police found no evidence that Morrice had any paedophile tendencies.

Sentences were deferred until towards the end of March.

Opinion: Mob justice is no justice

Mob justice is no justice

The killing of Gordon Morrice is an extreme example of a wider attitude in society: paedophiles are fair game for mob justice. Not all paedophiles will experience violence leading to brain damage and death – as Morrice suffered – but without doubt they are treated as the modern-day lepers of society. Like the lepers of old, they are typically banished from the community, ostracised, and treated with fearful suspicion. And as with the lepers, many people would prefer that they wore bells announcing their arrival, and shouted ahead of themselves, “Unclean, unclean!”

In one sense this is understandable. Paedophile crimes are particularly repugnant, not just because we recoil from the thought, but because of their seriousness. Not only are paedophile acts an abuse of power, but they are also a violation of the body, our most intimate space; and, still worse, they are perpetrated against children, who are least able to defend themselves, and who may not have developed the resources to cope with such an ordeal. Let’s be clear: paedophile crimes do not deserve excuses.

But that said, we also need to examine another ugly fact: there are people in our society who think that suspected paedophiles deserve mob justice. Somehow the figure of the ‘peedo’ has become the acceptable whipping boy of the masses. 

This is short-sighted, for two reasons. For one, it means that people with paedophile tendencies are driven underground, into secrecy and shame – making their condition hard to address, and encouraging a secretive life. While it has become almost fashionable to admit to struggling with a sex-addiction, no equivalent social space exists for working through such deviant feelings. Paedophiles who act on their desires and commit crimes may be only the tip of an iceberg; conservative estimates suggest that around three percent of the population have paedophile desires. Where do the submerged majority go for help?

Secondly, mob-justice says more about the mob than it does about justice. In previous eras we drowned witches, expelled Jews, imprisoned homosexuals. Our generation’s particular nervousness towards the paedophile may be more a product of a media-saturated culture than any real increased risk of abuse. In ancient Greece, the education of upper-class boys was based upon allowing a homoerotic relationship to flourish between the boy and his teacher; the love and loyalty produced was what inspired the boy to learn. So it was, that the transmission of culture depended upon this ‘pederastic’ relationship – which from our point of view, looks very much like paedophilia. In the perspective of history, it emerges that we are as culturally-conditioned as they were. 

No one is arguing for a return to those days, except perhaps for some Danish extremists. And which parent would not feel a little jumpy knowing that a suspected paedophile lived next door? Nevertheless, today’s mob attitudes towards paedophiles need to be seen as part of the problem, and certainly not as a solution to it. Justice must hang on the evidence heard in court, not on the hunches of a paranoid neighbourhood. 

This is particularly important in the case of Gordon Morrice – he was simply a man with four children of his own, who asked to join in with a child’s game: police found no evidence of paedophilia. 

Scotland climate change warning

Scotland is at increasing risk from climate change,
a new report published today claims.

The report, entitled, ‘How well is Scotland preparing for climate change’, argues that there will be both benefits to Scotland, and risks. It urges the Scottish government to take action to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Some of the benefits of a warmer climate detailed in the report include: fewer winter deaths, lower demand for heating, new opportunities for tourism, and increased agricultural capacity.

At the same time, the report details a range of risks. Flooding is a risk for densely populated urban regions, while Scotland’s disparate rural community is more likely to struggle with extreme weather, if transport links and essential services are disrupted. Scotland’s population profile is increasingly ageing, and the elderly, together with groups already vulnerable to health problems in deprived communities, are both identified as less adaptable to extreme weather.

Stan Blackley, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said, “With the UN climate talks starting in Durban next week, this is a timely report. At those talks, we need all of the countries in attendance to commit to serious action to reduce carbon emissions and support those who are being worst affected by the impacts of climate change.

“While we already know the devastating effects climate change is having and will increasingly have on developing countries, this report shows that climate change will also impact negatively on Scotland, and that we need to both prepare for it and mitigate against it.”

Potential economic and ecological impacts are also identified by the report. One aspect singled out for particular attention is the potential loss of peat from Scotland’s sensitive peatlands. As well as providing an important ecological environment, peatlands form a significant carbon store, the report contends.

The Adaptation Sub-Committee of the UK Committee on Climate Change, who produced the report, make a number of recommendations to the Scottish government. These include setting specific ‘adaptation outcomes’ which seek to address potential consequences from climate change. They urge greater uptake of ‘low-regret adaptation actions’, the integration of adaptation thinking into policy and decision-making, and effective collaboration with the UK national adaptation programme.