All posts by Suzanne Neilson

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.

Cameron pledges boost to dementia care and research

David Cameron is expected to pledge to double funding for dementia research by 2015 to £66 million.

It is hoped that this funding increase will ensure that the UK will become “the world leader for dementia research and care”. With the figure of dementia sufferers set to rise to 1 million within the next decade the cost of health and social care related to the disease is already at £23 billion per year. This figure surpasses the cost of cancer, stroke and heat disease treatment. Mr. Cameron is also expected to lay out plans to ensure that the NHS can deal with the ever increasing numbers.

The Prime minister will say that current understanding and awareness of the disease is “shockingly low” and that the government must tackle in the same way that cancer was tackled in the ’70s and AIDS in the ’80s.

Mr. Cameron will call Dementia, “One of the greatest challenges of our time is what I’d call the quiet crisis, one that steals lives and tears at the hearts of families, but that relative to its impact is hardly acknowledged.

“Dementia is simply a terrible disease. And it is a scandal that we as a country haven’t kept pace with it.”

Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley has also revealed that a new screening programme will be launched in an effort to catch the disease in its early stages. GPs will offer patients routine memory tests, as well as existing tests for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, Jeremy Hughes said the plans were “an unprecedented step towards making the UK a world leader in dementia”. Hughes added, “Doubling funding for research, tackling diagnosis and calling for a radical shift in the way we talk, think and act on dementia will help to transform lives.”

Kirsty Jardine, Awareness Manager for Alzheimer’s Scotland spoke to us about the implications of Cameron’s announcement in Scotland. Click below to listen to the full interview.


Scotland Dementia Stats

  • In Scotland around 7 thousand people are a diagnosed with dementia every year.
  • Dementia is most common in older people, but can affect people in their 40s or 50s or even younger. Approximately 2,500 people with dementia are under the age of 65.
  • Scotland’s population is aging, which will have a significant impact on the number of people with dementia.

Edinburgh basks in an early summer

Edinburgh enjoys the unseasonal sunshine

Much of Scotland has been basking in the glorious sunshine and soaring temperatures this weekend.

Feeling more like summer than spring, UK temperatures surpassed Mediterranean temperatures, out-scorching Barcelona and Mallorca.

After a foggy Saturday in Edinburgh, Sunday had sun worshippers out in force around the capital’s parks basking in the unseasonal heat wave. The warm spell is set to see temperatures peak today before slowly dropping toward the end of the week.

The Met Office recorded the highest temperature, 22.8ºC, at Fyvie castle in Aberdeenshire, a new record temperature for Scotland in March. They have, however, forecast that this sunny spell will be short-lived with figures back down to the seasonal average by next week.

A research paper published by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany warns that these weather extremes could be down to human-caused global warming.  Lead author of the research paper Dim Coumou says, “The question is whether these weather extremes are coincidental or a result of climate change. Global warming can generally not be proven to cause individual extreme events – but in the sum of events the link to climate change becomes clear.”

The threat of global warming will do little to dampen spirits as the early spate of summer sun is expected to have people out in their droves in Edinburgh and around the UK today.

Edinburgh couple robbed in ‘terrifying’ ordeal

An Edinburgh couple have been held at knife-point and robbed in their own home.

A group of armed men entered the house on Barnton Avenue West at around nine thirty on Friday evening. Police have disclosed that a four figure sum of money and jewellery were taken from the house.

It is believed that two of the three men spoke with foreign accents while the third was Scottish.

Police are appealing for witnesses.

Cameron wants more British home-owners

David Cameron has said that he aims to help more people in the UK become home-owners.

The government has launched a scheme targeting lenders, encouraging them to offer 95 per cent deposits on new build properties.

It is hoped that the scheme will provide a financial ‘cushion’ if a property falls into negative equity.

Edinburgh set to celebrate its remarkable women

March sees the annual return of International Women’s Day (IWD) with events planned throughout Edinburgh to mark the occasion.

For over 100 years, the world has celebrated the achievements of women and their contribution to the arts, sciences, medicine and numerous other fields. On and around 8th March the celebration continues as countries around the world host their own events.

Beginning life in 1909 as National Women’s Day in the United States the day was instigated by the Socialist Party of America. It soon spread overseas to socialist countries in Europe before being recognised as an international event in 1911.

The UN’s theme for this years IWD will be Empower Women: End Hunger and Poverty. The United States have also planned a Women’s History Month to coincide with IWD and Google will change its search engine icon to show their support.

Founder of the, Glenda Stone explains why IWD has become so popular, “Activity on International Women’s Day has skyrocketed over the last five years. This is due to the rise of social media, celebrity involvement, and corporations taking on the day sponsoring and running big events. Our community with around 10,000 followers is phenomenal for sharing videos, information and news as it happens. Offline large scale women’s rallies have become even larger through the use of social media. It would be hard to find any country that did not celebrate the day in some way.”

This year, Edinburgh will recognise IWD with a calender of events kicking off this evening at Surgeons Hall with a series of talks acknowledging women often overlooked in Edinburgh’s medical community. The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh University and the Film House will also play host to events and talks.

For more information on these events click here.

Paul McBride, QC (1963 – 2012)

One of Scotland’s top criminal lawyers, Paul McBride has represented clients in some of the country’s most high-profile cases.

Son of George and Mary McBride, he was educated in Glasgow. At just 19, McBride graduated from Strathclyde university with a degree in Law. He was called to the Bar in Scotland in 1988 and in 2000 he became the youngest QC in the UK at the age of 35.

Known for his uncompromising style in court, McBride learned early on that the legal world would be challenging, “You have to have faith in your own ability to up your game and when you fall off the only thing to do is get back on again.”

Involved in politics throughout his career, McBride made a high-profile defection from the Scottish Labour party to the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party in 2009. He later left the Conservatives accusing them of being, “divided and dysfunctional” and “a bunch of unreconstructed morons” .

Among the successful cases of his career were the acquittals of Gail Sheridan on perjury charges in 2010 and of Human Rights lawyer Aamer Anwar on charges of contempt of court in 2008. McBride also represented Celtic FC and was targetted along with Neil Lennon when they were sent parcel bombs in April 2011. The trial of the men accused of sending the packages, Neil McKenzie and Trevor Muirhead, is currently ongoing, with McBride due to appear to give evidence.

Lawyer Derek Ogg QC, payed tribute to his colleague and friend on BBC Scotland programme, Good Morning Scotland, “He was so much his own man, and so much a person who would speak his own mind. As all the journalists I’ve talked to know, Paul would go off the script and give a straight and honest answer whether or not that was what he was meant to or not.”

McBride had been a Celtic fan all his life. Former Celtic chairman, Lord Reid payed tribute to him, “He was a great colleague and friend and will be sadly missed well beyond his own family. My thoughts are with them.”

McBride is survived by his partner, Gary Murphy and his parents.

Edinburgh Distillery granted £27 million boost

Whiskey Stills / Photo courtesy of Bern Altman

An Edinburgh based distillery has been granted £27 million by RBS as part of a flexible funding package.

Founded in 1898, the BenRiach distillery currently employ 80 people over their 2 sites. In 2008 the company bought over the GlenDronach distillery in Aberdeenshire. This latest investment could expand the company even further. New acquisitions as well as investment in stock and facilities are being considered.

Continue reading Edinburgh Distillery granted £27 million boost

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

Fans protest BBC Radio 1 cuts

David Moffatt Photographer at Moff@ Photography

Musicians and music fans gathered on a rainy Sunday to protest the cancelling of a Radio 1 show championing new Scottish music.

Glasgow’s Pacific Quay played host to the protesters who illustrated their point with Scottish musicians playing their music to show the BBC what they would be missing.

The campaign began back in October when the BBC announced further budget cuts which would include axing Radio 1’s ‘Introducing in Scotland’ hosted by Ally McCrae. The remit of the show and its sister shows in Wales and Northern Ireland, is to introduce audiences to the latest in local music. The show has helped launch the careers of Biffy Clyro and Paolo Nutini. Without these programmes protesters believe that regional music will be given limited air time.

Front man for Scottish band Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison, explained the importance of the show to new Scottish music, “I think it would be a travesty if the show is cut from the BBC radio schedule in Scotland. For over 10 years, the show has been an invaluable and irreplaceable platform for new and established Scottish bands. It serves to breed an essential community within Scottish music and scrapping this show would reinforce the popular fallacy that the industry does not exist outwith London”

The campaign has also gained the backing of MSP Joan McAlpine who said, “The Campaign to save Radio Six Music was successful but The Pop Cop has gathered more signatures per head of population in Scotland with a lot less publicity, which shows the strength of feeling. The BBC really needs to listen to that message and save the sound of young Scotland. This is the only Scottish opt out on Radio One, so dropping it is just unfair. ”

McAlpine has already gained cross party support in the Scottish Parliament for a motion in support of the show.

Music blogger, the Pop Cop and gig promoter, Pelmet Nites have gathered over 6,000 signatures for an online petition which is expected to be delivered to the BBC in London by the campaigners themselves in mid December.

Edinburgh libraries ‘will not close’

Central Library, Edinburgh

Quashing fears of community library closures,
Edinburgh City council assured the public that all Edinburgh libraries will remain open.

Across the country campaigners have been fighting to keep libraries open since budget cuts threatened to close some smaller libraries earlier this year. In response to public concerns, the council have published a libraries consultation document outlining plans to bring Edinburgh’s libraries into the 21st century. Under the mantra ‘Better Libraries, Better Lives,’ the proposals focuses on strengthening community connections.

Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture and Leisure convener, said: “obviously all local authorities are having to make big savings just now, and we are no exception. But unlike some areas, we have not closed, and will not close any of our libraries – on the contrary, we’re opening more, integrating library services within community facilities to give greater flexibility and make best use of resources.”

The consultation document was released in the same week that Edinburgh’s virtual library received a nomination for “Best use of social media” in the UK Public Sector Digital Awards.

Covering 27 community libraries, the Central Library, mobile libraries and services to hospitals and care homes, the plan aims to cater to all, from children to the elderly.

In order for the libraries to be ‘fit for purpose’ some buildings will undergo refurbishment, a measure that has already been taken in Stockbridge and Portobello. Morningside library is the latest to undergo changes and is due to reopen in a matter of weeks after extensive refurbishment.

Information Services Manager for Edinburgh libraries, Liz McGettigan explains how the library service hopes to evolve: “This is a hugely challenging time and what is set out here will evolve as we continue our dialogue across the city. It will only be through a strong partnership approach that this will be achieved. We intend to continue our innovative public, electronic, educational and cultural programmes, delivered both on-site and virtually. We are also laying the groundwork in this period for a new Central Library.”

Brock emphasized the need for public involvement in helping to shape the future of Edinburgh’s libraries: “In Edinburgh we are shaping our library service based on customer feedback, usage patterns and discussions with libraries’ staff. As we move forward, we’re looking to gauge the public’s views on our draft strategy for libraries. We invite everyone to tell us what they think – your feedback is invaluable in helping us continue to improve this vital service for the city.”

Public consultations on the proposals will take place from December 2011 into January 2012.

The Quest for Robert Louis Stevenson

A celebration of the life and work of Robert Louis Stevenson kicked off in Edinburgh today.

A literary trail of quotes were written on the ground in various locations connected to the Edinburgh born novelist for admirers of his work to follow. Copies of two of his most iconic books, ‘Kidnapped’ and ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ were also laid out for any lucky passer by to take home. The festival continues tonight at the City Arts Centre where actor Nigel Planner and writer Ian Rankin will pay tribute to one of Edinburgh’s treasured writers.

My quest for Robert Louis Stevenson began on a driech day at the top of Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
Down the Royal Mile to the Heart of Midlothian and I came upon my first Stevenson quotes. No books yet, my journey continues.
Jackpot! Outside the Story Telling Centre was my second quote and my first free (but rather soggy) copy of Kidnapped..
Winding my way down to Edinburgh's Historic Grass Market my quest ended when I came upon some more wise words from Stevenson and more books!

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.’