All posts by Tony Garner

Do Libyans really support the revolution?

As the standoff with Colonel Gadaffi continues to escalate, Napier News has heard how Libyan students at an English school in Edinburgh have reacted to the rebellion.

Eileen Macintyre said one of her students was determined to go to fight against Gadaffi’s forces.
Finally she and her husband managed to persuade him to stay.

Macintyre, who has extensive connections to Libya, went on to cast doubt over the level of popular support for the rebels.

Listen here to an extended clip of the interview.

Stopping the Traffickers

by Tony Garner

Scotland may be set for its first child trafficking prosecutions after the release of a report claiming the extent of the problem is much worse than previously feared.

Clare Tudor of the Scottish Refugee Council told Napier News that police had taken two individuals into custody.

Tudor told Napier News that children were being trafficked into Scotland for a variety of reasons, including sex trading, benefit fraud and forced labour.

Listen Here as she describes the traumatic effects on the children concerned:

Soundtrack for the city

By Tony Garner

If someone stopped you in the street and asked you to hum a piece of classical music how likely is it that you’d turn to a film score for inspiration? From that slow-motion beach run in Chariots of Fire to Darth Vader’s Imperial Death March, music in the movies has long been a link between popular culture and the classics. Until now Scotland has had no great tradition in the genre, but Tony Garner has been finding out why that may be set to change.

Listen Here:

Football: SPL round-up

by Tony Garner

In the SPL both Old Firm sides won at the weekend to keep the title race bubbling almost as high as the bad blood between them. Goals from Kris Commons helped Celtic beat Hamilton 2-0 on Saturday, while Kyle Bartley was Rangers’ unlikely goal hero as they squeezed past St Mirren 1-0 on Sunday.

Hearts faint hopes of troubling the top two seem to be over after a 2-0 home reverse against Kilmarnock. Silva and Eremenko, who was later sent off, were on target for the visitors.

Shane Sutherland, Richie Foran and Alex MacDonald were the scorers as Caley Thistle had a confidence boosting 3-0 win at home to Motherwell. In the weekend’s only draw St Johnstone and Hibernian ended 1-1 at McDiarmid park, with David Wotherspoon cancelling out Richie Towell’s own goal.

Football Round Up

By Tony Garner

After Wayne’s lunchtime wondergoal you could be forgiven for thinking that no other football took place over the weekend.

But, bicycle related hyperbole aside, it was a fairly standard two days of action both north and south of the border.

In Scotland, Celtic turned over the challenge of Dundee United with a 3-1 win to restore their five point lead over Rangers, who romped to a 6-0 win over hapless Motherwell, whilst there were wins for both Hibernian and Hearts against Kilmarnock and Hamilton respectively. St Mirren and Inverness Caledonian Thistle played out an entertaining 3-3 draw.

In the Premiership, Arsenal kept up the chase on Manchester United with a 2-0 victory against Wolves at the Emirates stadium. With Chelsea not playing until Monday night, Spurs took advantage and moved into fourth place with a win away at Sunderland.  Alex McLeish’s gritty Birmingham nicked a crucial win over Stoke in the final minute of stoppage time.  Apart from that, a series of draws meant it was largely ‘as you were’ in the lower reaches of the league.

All eyes are now on the Champions League matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The big game of the week is Arsenal taking on Barcelona in a rerun of last year’s second round game where the Gunners were cruelly dispatched by a four goal salvo from Lionel Messi.

A design for life after cancer?

By Tony Garner

Construction is under way on the latest architecturally unique Maggie’s Cancer Centre  next to Gartnavel hospital in Glasgow.  The charity, which places built environment at the heart of its cancer support philosophy, commissioned an internationally renowned Dutch architect for the Gartnavel design.

The plans for the centre (credit: OMA)

The plans drawn up by Rem Koolhaus feature a ring of interlocking L-shaped rooms looking in on a floral garden and surrounded on the outside by an expansive courtyard.  Tricia Crosbie, Maggie’s Media Co-ordinator, said “Architecture plays the important role at Maggie’s of evoking curiosity, drawing visitors inside, and then helping them feel relaxed and at home.”

Gartnavel, due for completion next April, will become the sixth Maggie’s Centre in Scotland.  The charity was founded by pioneering architect Charles Jencks and his wife Maggie Keswick, who died from breast cancer in 1995.  Jencks has since said that the airless, artificially lit environment where his wife was treated in Edinburgh’s Western General hospital spurred them to start the project, which has become one of the UK’s best-known charities only fifteen years after its establishment.  The Gartnavel centre was funded mainly from money raised in the popular Moonwalk events, which see tens of thousands of women donning underwear for mass walks between dusk and dawn.

SNP Deputy-First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who was at the ceremony to mark the cutting of the first piece of turf, said “Cancer is a top priority for the Scottish Government and Maggie’s is an important partner for us.”

But Scottish Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie raised concern that the SNP are not doing enough to protect cancer-sufferers, with £33.9 million to be cut from next year’s health budget.  “I believe that the Scottish Government should have moved much more quickly to phase out charges for patients suffering from this debilitating illness,” Bailey said.

The Maggie’s philosophy that built environment can play a crucial role in overcoming cancer has been questioned in the past.  There is no actual treatment available in the centres, which are usually located next to large hospitals such as the one at Gartnavel.

However expert medical opinion recently came out in favour of the projects.  Plans for yet another Maggie’s in Aberdeen were backed by the Medical Director of NHS Grampian, Roelf Dijkhuizen, who said they provided essential psychological support that the NHS was unable to give due to budget constraints.



Blackburn poultry takeover still on

By Tony Garner

chicken nuggets have helped make Venky's fortune

An Indian businessmen has given assurances to fans of English Premiership football club Blackburn Rovers that he will put their interests first in his dispute with Venky’s, the Indian poultry conglomerate whose £46m takeover of Blackburn is expected to go through this month.

Saurin Shah claimed that Venky’s had promised him that they would mount the takeover bid as a joint venture, but had broken their word when they decided to go ahead alone.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, Niranjan Shah, Saurin Shah’s uncle and the head of his consortium, said: “Blackburn needed proper money and we thought we could achieve that with Venky’s.  We then read in the newspapers that Venky’s has made a deal… We don’t want to fight.  Our concern is Blackburn.”

Blackburn enjoyed a reputation as the richest club in the land in the 1990’s, when local fan and steel baron Jack Walker ploughed his £300m fortune into acquiring the talent that won them their first league title for eighty three years.   But football economics has since mushroomed, and the £7m transfer warchest Venky’s have suggested would be made available in January represents a paltry sum.

It was only three months ago that Blackburn seemed set to be taken over by a different Indian investor, Ahsan Ali Syed, who claimed he would make transfer funds of £100m available.  Syed’s interest ended when a BBC investigation revealed that he had failed to pay rent debts from his flat in the UK.

The Venky’s investors have been eager to convince fans of Blackburn that they are serious about improving the fortunes of the team.  Events at Liverpool and Manchester United have made fans wary of the foreign investor who views a football club as a source of liquid assets, very useful for servicing other debts.

“We believe we have many shared values and ambitions,” said Venky’s chairman, Anuradha J Desai, of his feeling for Blackburn Rovers.

Many of the regulars at the team’s Ewood Park stadium can trace family origins to the subcontinent, though no Indian player has ever taken to the field for a Premiership team.

As one Indian player on the less illustrious arena of Edinburgh’s meadow’s told Napier News, “cricket is still very much the thing.”


Petition calls for Lockerbie enquiry

The saga of the Lockerbie Bomber took another twist yesterday as a petition was handed in to the Scottish Parliament calling for an Independent Inquiry into Abdulbaset al Megrahi’s conviction.

The petition is signed by 1,200 people, the vast majority of them from Scotland.  It is supported by Jim Swire, father of one of the victims of the bomb that brought down a Pan Am airliner on December 21st 1989 killing two hundred and seventy people.

Another high profile signature came from the father of Shirley MacKie, the policewoman whose suspension for alleged perjury was itself the subject of an official inquiry.

Author A.L. Kennedy also lent her support to the cause.

The Libyan abandoned his appeal last year and was controversially released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.  But any hopes among the judiciary that the remaining questions surrounding the case would fade have been dashed by the call for an appeal.

Robert Black, the lawyer who designed the original trial in the Netherlands said “I have always contended that no reasonable tribunal could have convicted Megrahi on the evidence led.”

The main contention is over the testimony of a Maltese shopkeeper who claimed to have recognised Megrahi buying clothes in his shop shortly before the plane took off.  Scraps from these clothes were found among the wreckage along with a fragment of a timer device said to be the same as one found by the C.I.A. in the possession of Libyan security agents.

Mixed Fortunes for Scots in Delhi

The Saltire flies in Delhi

by Tony Garner

There were mixed fortunes for Scottish competitors on Day three of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.  In the aquatics centre the highlight was a silver medal from the men’s 4 x 200m freestyle team, with Robbie Renwick anchoring the team home superbly to add to his gold in the individual event.

However there was disappointment for other Scottish finalists, with Hannah Miley missing out on a medal in the final of the women’s 200m breaststroke, while in the men’s 100m breaststroke, Edinburgh swimmers Michael Jamieson and Kris Gilchrist were also unable to add to the Scottish total, which now stands at 1 gold, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes.

Day 3 of the Games produced the other of those silvers, and the first non-swimming medal for the team, as cyclists Jenny Davis and Charline Joiner finished just behind the Australian duo in the pairs sprint.

At this rate Scotland will have to up the stakes if they are to come close to matching the impressive tally of 29 medals, including 11 gold, which they gained in Melbourne four years ago