23rd Edition of the Italian Film Festival

by Giulia Maccagli and Koldo Sandoval

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The 23rd edition of the Italian Film Festival comes at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, this year.

The Festival, running from the 4th until the 17th of March, has venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and Inverness.

At the Festival, there is the best of the “cinema italiano”, currently on a high with the global and awarded success of Paolo Sorrentino, “Youth”.

Alongside established directors’ names, such as Sergio Castellitto, Cristina Comencini, and Gabriele Salvatores, there are also new film directors, as Edoardo Falcone and Laura Bispuri.

The Festival will see on its screen renown Italian  actors, as Valeria Golino, Elio Germano, and Jasmine Trinca.

This year the Festival has a special focus on Luchino Visconti, an Italian theater, opera, cinema director, and screen-writer, in the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his death.

The 23rd edition of the Italian Film Festival is also welcomed by the Italian Government’s new support to the film industry with an investment of £300 million a year.

 

Record Visitor Numbers For Scottish Tourist Hotspots

Scotland has seen a 5.5% increase in visitor numbers in 2015, with Edinburgh Castle leading the surge of major attractions.

The castle has overtaken the National Museum of Scotland as the country’s leading tourist hub for the first time, with over 1.5 million visitors, according to figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

The National Museum was also the UK’s most popular museum outside of London, and Scotland’s most popular free attraction.

For the first time, the National Galleries of Scotland welcomed a combined total of more than 2.1 million visitors – thought to be a result of The Amazing World of M.C. Escher and Artist Rooms: Roy Lichtenstein exhibitions, with a 35% and 47% rise respectively.

Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens saw a 10% increase, which they credited to their Lights programme in the winter months.

Glasgow’s nine civic museums continue to be a draw for citizens and visitors to the city alike, with almost 4 million recorded visits – up 5% on 2014. The city’s Riverside Museum has seen a year on year rise since it opened in 2011.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum also saw a rise of 12.4%.

Tourism bosses have attributed the Scottish success to the current weakness of the pound to the euro and dollar, in making UK attractions more popular.

Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, commented: “2015 continued to be a record year mainly due to our members continuing to show how diverse the UK is to both domestic and overseas visitors.

“More people visited Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland, the National Gallery of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, combined, than visited Jamaica, Barbados and Cuba.

“More people visited Stirling Castle, Kelvingrove, the Riverside Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Glasgow, combined, than visited New Zealand. Together more people visited these 9 Scottish attractions than visited Australia and New Zealand combined.”

Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at Historic Environment Scotland, also praised the findings.

“It’s great to see Edinburgh Castle at the top of the table in Scotland after another record breaking year for the castle.

“We’ve seen particular growth in online and travel trade at the castle in 2015, and following a refresh of the castle website towards the end of the year I’m sure this will continue.”

Edinburgh voted world’s fourth most beautiful city

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A view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill

 

By Anthie Parisi & Giulia Maccagli

Edinburgh has been voted the fourth most beautiful city in the world, coming just behind the renown European cities of Paris, Florence, and Rome.

The Scottish capital was ranked fourth in a Rough Guide poll of its readers.

The Rough Guide said of the city: “It’s famed for its excellent annual festival, but there is more to Edinburgh than great comedy and arts – and according to our readers, it’s beauty.”

 

 

 

Culture, architecture, nature (Arthur’s seat, S. Giles Cathedral and the Castle, just to name some) blend together making Edinburgh a magical city to visit or live in.

Edinburgh’s World Record Aviator dies aged 97

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By Koldo Sandoval & Iain Jones

One of Britain’s greatest airmen and Leith native Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown has died aged 97 after a short illness.

Captain Brown was the most decorated pilot in the Royal Navy Air Arm and held three world records including the most different types of aircraft – 487.

Educated at the Royal High School and the University of Edinburgh where he learnt to fly in the University Air Squadron.

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Captain Eric Melrose Brown CBE DSC AFC, born January 21 1919, died February 21 2016.

He joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a Fleet Air Arm pilot, where he was posted to 802 Squadron. Brown got several distinctions such as the Distinguished Service Cross for his service on Audacity on 10 March 1942.

He also became a fluent German speaker in his student life. As a privileged witness, Brown travelled  with his father to 1936 Olympic Games organised in Berlin where he checked the cruelty of Hitler’s political Regime.

After Second War, Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown has been tried too many different airplanes, but he was also teaching a big number of current pilots for Royal Navy.

Brown became a writer in his last few years, writing his autobiography explaining his experience as a pilot.

 

RAC prediction for lower petrol prices confirmed

By Paloma Ferreira

The RAC’s prediction this week that the falling price of oil and supermarket competition for customers would lead to British drivers paying less than £1 a litre by Christmas has been confirmed.

The RAC is a transport organisation and a breakdown assistance service.

UK supermarket brand, Morrisons, has cut the price of unleaded petrol to below £1 a litre which is the lowest UK price level since 2009.

The supermarket chain announced that they would be selling unleaded at more than 99.9p per litre and cutting diesel by 1p a litre.

Morrisons’ petrol retail director Bryan Burger said: ‘Today, for the first time in more than six years, we are moving unleaded prices down to below £1 a litre. This is a moment where motorists will feel some relief after being clobbered by tax and price rises for the last decade.’

Other supermarket companies such as ASDA, have also announced lower prices.

ASDA is currently running a promotion for this weekend only, from Friday until Sunday, of unleaded petrol for 99.7p per litre and 103.7p a litre for diesel.

Speaking with the Edinburgh public, citizens had varying opinions on whether this change would affect them personally.

A university student said: ‘I have just gotten a car, and switching from paying for transport to petrol I haven’t seen much of a difference, however I will be traveling long distances for Christmas time so I might see a change there.’

A taxi driver said: ‘I think this petrol costs will have an impact on the long run.’

The average tank of petrol for a U.K. driver of medium car is £70 for about 55 litres. If the lower prices of petrol are sustained, the average car user could pay about £50 for the same amount of petrol.

The AA has released their fuel price report for November 2015. They state on their site that Scotland has recorded the highest diesel price at 110.7 p per litre. They also report that supermarket prices for unleaded have fallen to 105.5 p per litre and that the gap between supermarket prices and the UK average for unleaded has grown to 2.5 p per litre.

Niel Greig from the Institute of Advanced Motorists commented: ‘We can always welcome lower petrol prices, Scottish drivers have been paying some of the highest prices in Europe in fuel for many years now, so this is an early Christmas present which we hope will be sustained.’

He also commented on the amount one could save from the lower prices of petrol. Mr Greig said: ‘There have been some figures released by the AA, for each individual tankful its quite a low amount, just a few pounds, but for over a year you can save several hundred pounds.’

 

 

 

 

Saudi women to cast first ever vote

Saudi Arabia

By Koldo Sandoval

Women will vote on Saturday 12 December in Saudi Arabia for the first time in history. The municipal elections take place across Saudi Arabia where women are expected to vote for the first time. Many people are optimistic that women’s voices will finally be heard in Saudi politics – even if only at a local level.

The president of Muslim Women Association in Edinburgh, Tasneem Ali, said: ‘Every woman should have the right to vote. It’s a matter of democracy. Realistically is how it should be.’

Women were previously barred from voting or being elected to political office, but in 2011 King Abdullah declared that women would be able to vote and run in the 2015 local elections, as well as be appointed to the Consultative Assembly.

The first two female registered candidates were Jamal Al-Saadi in Medina and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat in Mecca, the Saudi Gazette reported. An estimated 70 women are planning to register as candidates and an additional 80 as campaign managers, according to local media in Saudi Arabia.

Neither male nor female candidates will be allowed to use pictures of themselves in campaign advertising and on election day there will be separate polling centers for men and women.

Women’s rights activists had long fought for the right to vote in the oil-rich gulf kingdom.

‘Female participation in December’s elections is an important step towards creating greater inclusion within society’, said Nouf al-Sadiq, Saudi citizen and graduated student in Middle East studies at George Washington University.

Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia are limited in comparison to many of its neighbors in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most restrictive countries for women by the International Community. The World Economic Forum in 2013 ranked Saudi Arabia 127th out of 136 countries for gender parity.

Many women has been registered across the country, especially in the capital Riyadh. The government also requires voters to have personal ID cards, and many Saudi women do not.

Ali supports the advances that Saudi Arabia women are getting, she insisted that it’s a democratic matter separated that it not just a problem for Islamic states, she said: ‘Islamically women have the right to vote but when a country prohibits it, it’s not about Islamism. This is how every society can go forward’.

Saudi women still have to contend with limits on their freedom of movement, and since it is illegal for them to drive, many of them will have to rely on male members of their family to take them to register and vote. Male relatives who oppose female voting rights could also be a barrier.

Despite the right to vote suppose an advanced for women in the Middle East, international media such as CNN have reported that ‘public political dissent is illegal in Arabia Saudi’. According to Freedom House’s annual report on political rights and civil liberties; Saudi Arabia is a mainstay of the 10 worst countries in the world for women’s civil rights. Citizens that even hint that political and human rights should be expanded are considered as a terrorist action by the monarchy.

Study on Scotland’s most expensive streets is misleading

By Yaz Duncan

A recent study by the Bank of Scotland naming Northumberland Street as the most expensive in Scotland may be misleading according to local estate agents.

The study conducted by the bank named Northumberland Street in Edinburgh’s New Town as the most expensive street to buy property, with average house prices hovering around the £1.3million mark.

However, the study has faced criticism from estate agents who say that the statistic is not accurate because more expensive houses have been sold in the surrounding streets.

Peter Lyle, Director of Edinburgh Residential at Savills said: ‘We have sold a property in Northumberland Street for £1.7m, a little bit more actually. That is the most expensive this year.

‘Properties in the surrounding area have sold for more than £1.7m in streets like Heriot Row and Royal Circus. A whole townhouse there will be more expensive than in Northumberland Street.

‘The study is comparing apples and pears and is simply taking an average of what has been recently sold. If you look at some streets in St Andrews houses are selling for three or four million. It is an odd statistic.’

Despite the alleged inaccuracy of the study, Northumberland Street properties are still selling for higher than average prices and the New Town continues to be a desirable area.

Peter Lyle added: ‘Northumberland Street is in the heart of the New Town, walking distance from Princes Street and close to nice parks. It ticks the boxes for people wanting to live in the city centre.’

In response to suggestions by estate agents that the study is misleading Nitesh Patel, economist at the Bank of Scotland said: ‘We took the period from 2010-2015 and there had to a be a minimum of seven transactions over this period.

‘Northumberland Street meets that criteria with an average house price of over £1.3m. There is always research being done on expensive streets. We make clear that it has to be a minimum of seven transactions in five years.

‘We get data from the Registrar of Scotland. I don’t know what estate agents have  said but there will be one or two streets with more expensive sales but they would not meet our criteria.’

The average UK house price in 2015 was £197,000 but the number of homes in Scotland sold for more than £1m has more than doubled over the last 12 months. The capital boasts 13 of the 20 most expensive streets, Aberdeen have four and Glasgow have two.

 

West Lothian welcome Small Business Saturday

West Lothian Council are encouraging residents to spend their money locally tomorrow as part of a campaign to support independent retailers.

Small Business Saturday is a UK non-commercial campaign which aims to promote local businesses and encourage shoppers to spend their money on the first Saturday in December.

The Council hope that the focus on independent firms will benefit business owners in the town centres of Armadale, Bathgate, Broxburn and Uphall, as well as Linlithgow and Whitburn.

Stuart McKinnon, Senior Public Affairs Advisor for the Federation of Small Business in Scotland said: “We know that independent businesses are part of the recipe for success in Scottish towns and communities.

“Especially in rural and remote Scotland, small firms create jobs and opportunities.

“Small Business Saturday is an opportunity for local people to support local business with the pounds in their pockets.”

Harry Ferguson, owner of Broxburn Bargain Centre welcomes the imitative, but said that his business is consistently supported by the community. He said: “Truthfully I don’t know much about Small Business Saturday, we’ve got an MP coming to fill us in about it but anything to support small independent business is a great idea.

“We need all the help we can get in this day and age. We have been here for 65 years so we have a lot of repeat customers.

“They look in the big retailers and they come back to us.”

Small Business Saturday will coincide with other events taking place across West Lothian that highlight independent, local businesses and their place in the community.

Whitburn’s Christmas Cracker event will be held at the Community Education Centre on Manse Road. It will include events for children and a festive market for gifts, food and drink. There will be a Santa Parade making its way to Whitburn Cross and the Civic Space for the Christmas lights finale.

Broxburn and Uphall’s Advent Fayre will take place this Saturday. There will be a Santa’s Grotto and market followed by the switching on of the Christmas lights at Broxburn Library.

Executive councillor for development and transport, Cathy Muldoon, said: “West Lothian is home to a number of truly unique and traditional towns and villages, many of which host a wide variety of small, high quality, specialist retailers, business services and stores.

“Small Business Saturday on 5 December is the perfect opportunity for local residents to show their support for such firms, which play a vital role in their communities and ensure our town and village centres remain vibrant places to visit, shop, work, live and be entertained in.

“The small boutiques and shops in West Lothian can lend a helping hand when it comes to picking that perfect unique gift for someone special, whilst local butchers and delicatessens can help create a great tasting, traditional Christmas lunch or dinner, as well as providing tasty nibbles and treats throughout those long, cold and wintry months.”

Last year’s Small Business Saturday saw 16.5 million people shop locally, spending a total of £504 million.

 

Adverse Weather Causes Cancellation of Botanic Lights Show

Paloma Ferreira

The Edinburgh Botanic Lights Show was cancelled this week for safety reasons, due to the forecast wind gusts of over 40mph.

Edinburgh’s second Botanic Garden Light show promised an event bigger and brighter than last year.

The award-winning show includes new design features, exhibitions, public interaction using new app technology and 3D projections generating hypnotic spectacles throughout the gardens, highlighting some of the Botanic’s oldest buildings.

The organisers have dubbed this year’s event as “unforgettable”.

The invitation entices visitors reading: “As darkness descends, follow a magical trail of light through the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

“Take a path illuminated by fantastic effects and experience the unfamiliar sights and sounds of the Garden after dark.”

Clair McKenzie, who composed the soundtrack accompanying the light show, said: “It makes complete sense to synchronise sound, light and nature with the cycle of seasonal transformations, to me the four are intimately linked.”

Artist Grant Anderson said: “Seasons of Colour Botanic Lights 2015, for me, was a really important project, I wanted the show to be bigger and brighter.

“I wanted to create something that at the heart of the design really concentrated on the landscape itself.”

The Botanic Lights Show has been open for the duration of this month and attendees have been raving about the show.

Visitor Erika Winblad said: “My brain is in sensory overload, it may be wet and cold but what an amazing event.”

Since this is an outdoor event, this week’s severe wind and rain has caused the show to be cancelled with some late notice.

Visitor Anna Goodwin said: “Turned up tonight to be told it was cancelled with my three kids. Didn’t check my emails. Took an hour to get there and back as live on other side of town and it was rush hour traffic. Was gutted. Not sure if I’ll be able to attend another night. Missed it last year too.”

The Box Office of the Botanic Lights show stated that they will be contacting attendees to offer them the chance to attend on another night.

New dates will be added to the calendar to make up for the cancelled shows.

 

 

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Yaz Duncan

A Transgender Day of Remembrance event will take place in Glasgow tomorrow to commemorate those who have lost their lives due to hate motivated violence.

The event will be held at the University of Strathclyde Student Association and is being organised by the LGBTQI+ societies of Strathclyde University, Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Glasgow.

One of the organisers of the event, Leonie Siebert, said: “There is still a huge amount of transphobia and hate trans people face every day.

“This is often overlooked and ignored in the media, and paying our respects to the trans people who lost their lives during the past year also gives them the recognition they deserve.

“Their deaths, most of which are a product a culture that did not recognise them as the gender they were, need to be remembered – but also, they show that there is still a long way to go for society in the recognition and acceptance of trans people.”

According to Transgender Europe, in 2015 alone there have been 80 reported murders of trans and gender diverse people globally.

The event is inviting people who identify as transgender or who are questioning their gender identity to speak at the event.

Camryn Mowatt, who will be speaking at the event, said: “I think it is very important to remember and reflect on the people who have lost their lives because of their gender status, either through being attacked or feeling that there is no option but to take their own lives.

“It is a day of remembrance but also a celebration of people’s lives and what we can achieve by working together.”

Kay Logan, who is trans, has also volunteered to speak. She said: “I think event like this are important because people need to be made aware that trans people still suffer at the hands of their families and communities.”

A study by Transgender Alliance found that over 37 per cent of transgender people have experienced physical threat while 19 per cent have been assaulted for being transgender.

Although everyone is welcome, the organisers have asked that only people who identify as transgender speak at the event.

Organiser Leonie Siebert said: “People at this event are encouraged to listen and reflect on these experiences, with the final aim to get a better understanding of what it is like to identify as trans and to live within a very transphobic society.”

The Transgender Day of Remembrance movement started after transgender advocate, Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil to honour murdered trans woman Rita Hester in 1998.

Cat Smith MP, Labour’s shadow Women’s and Equality Minister said: “Transgender day of Remembrance reminds us all of the huge challenges and discrimination that trans people face in their day to day lives.

“Recent cases in the criminal justice system show how far we still need to go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fears of academic freedom being affected by new counter terrorism bill

Theresa May’s proposed counter terrorism bill has come under fire from activist groups and teachers unions.

Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech where she proposed a new bill to fight terrorism within the UK has been criticised by the Open Rights Group and the Human Rights watch.

One of the proposed measures for the bill is a new statutory duty on colleges, schools, prisons, probation providers, police and councils to prevent individuals being drawn into terrorism. Ministers will have powers to issue directions to organisations that repeatedly invite extremist speakers or fail in the duty in other ways.

Mary Senior, Official for the Scotland University and Colleges Union (UCU), said:

“Universities and colleges have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their students and staff and not to allow activities which are intended to foment hatred or violence, or to recruit support for unlawful activities such as terrorism.

“At the same time, universities and colleges rightly cherish, and must continue to promote, academic freedom as a key tenet of a civilised society.  It is essential to our democracy that all views are open to debate and challenge within the law.”

Tom Lawrence, from the Home Office Press office said:

“The purpose of our Prevent programme is stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It deals with all kinds of terrorist threats to the UK.

“Prevent activity in local areas relies on the co-operation of many organisations to be effective. Currently, such co-operation is not consistent across the country.

“The new duty will require specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. This will include local government, the police, prisons, providers of probation services, schools, colleges, universities and others.

“Universities’ commitment to freedom of speech and the rationality underpinning the advancement of knowledge means that they represent one of our most important safeguards against extremist views and ideologies.

“However, extremist preachers have used higher education institutions as a platform for spreading their messages. Universities must take seriously their responsibility to deny extremist speakers a platform.

“This duty is not about the government restricting freedom of speech — which the government is committed to – it is about universities taking account of the interests and well-being of all their students, staff and the wider community.”

The bill, which will be published tomorrow, will also give police the power to seize passports and travel documents for up to 30 days, from people thought to be leaving UK to engage in terrorism-related activities, and force internet services providers to release Internet Protocol addressees to the police in order to target individuals.

Edinburgh Airport hosts public safety event for Counter Terrorism Awareness Week

By Marion Guichaoua

Police Scotland will be present today at Edinburgh Airport to alert the public about safety travel, as part of Counter Terrorism Awareness Week.

Police Scotland,  the British Transport Police are amongst UK forces taking part in Counter Terrorism Awareness Week which will run from Monday 24 November until Sunday 30 November 2014.

They will be present in transport hubs all across the UK to help the public understand the threat to the UK and emphasise the importance of reporting any suspicious activity.

The Police Scotland website explains that: “The aim is not to alarm the public. No one is better placed to notice someone or something out of place within a community than those who live and work in that community.”

Staff who work across transport hubs will receive training to look out for suspicious behaviour and learn what they should do if an attack should happen.

Speaking ahead of the Safer Travel Days, Superintendent Alan Crawford said: “Police Scotland Border Policing Command welcomes this opportunity to raise the awareness of Counter Terrorism across the transport hubs and wider business community in Scotland.

“Airports and seaports are vibrant transport hubs where the public work and transit on a daily basis. These ports are, in their own right, communities where there is an opportunity for us all to report suspicious activity no matter how insignificant this may seem.

“At a time of increased threat levels, and with the focus on Syria and the Middle East, it is vital that collectively we work together to protect our border.”

Police Scotland also said: “Although the threat level has recently been increased to severe, meaning that a terrorist attack in the UK is “Highly Likely” there is no specific intelligence of any planned attack, however this raised threat level does mean that we all need to be vigilant.”

During Counter Terrorism Awareness Week, the focus will be on five key areas: vigilance in crowded places and transport hubs, preventing violent extremism, preventing financing of terrorist groups and ensuring the safety and security of goods and materials which could be used by terrorists.

There will be a range of activities taking place across Scotland including increased police patrols and additional training for those responsible for safety and security of buildings, businesses and neighbourhoods to help them recognise, respond to and report any suspicious activity.

Today also sees The Safer Travel Day initiative being held at airports and ports across Scotland where travelers will receive information and advice to help keep them safe.

David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: “Keeping our passengers safe and secure is our number one priority and we work very closely with Police Scotland to ensure Edinburgh Airport is a safe environment for everyone.

“By supporting Counter Terrorism Week we’re playing our part in a much wider operation to ensure the safety of all passengers and employees. Events like today’s Safer Travel Day are vital to help educate people on how to spot potentially suspicious behaviour.”

“There will be high visibility police patrols throughout the airport with officers available today to talk to passengers and staff about how to spot potentially suspicious behaviour.

“Police Scotland is also working with OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator to remind everyone to be cautious of donating to charity via third parties.

“OSCR’s Head of Engagement, Judith Turbyne, said:”We are pleased to support Counter-Terrorism Awareness Week, to alert the public in making sure that they check the organisations seeking donations from them.

“As with any requests for donations, there are a number of simple checks that you can make.  You can check the Scottish Charity Register and view our guide to Safer Giving at www.oscr.org.uk.”

 

Anti-sham marriage measures could lead to discrimination

By Lauren Beehan

New measures to tackle sham marriages could lead to discrimination and cause insecurity across communities, according to immigration experts.

Experts have reacted with concern to the new provisions of the Immigration Act 2014, intended to prevent marriages solely for immigration purposes, which will come into effect on March 2nd next year.

The provisions will introduce a new referral and investigation scheme, whereby any couple including a non-EEA national will be referred to the Home Office upon applying for permission to marry or enter a civil partnership.

If an investigation takes place, their notice period can be extended to 70 days, compared to the new standard 28-day notice period required of all couples.

Ruth Grove-White of the Migrant Rights Network said that the new laws could lead to the discrimination of genuine couples who wish to marry in the UK.

She said: “We have wide-ranging concerns about government use of enforcement powers in registry offices. We have accounts from communities of immigration raids taking place in registry offices on Home Office suspicions, causing disruption to perfectly legal marriage ceremonies.

“The government laws increase their licence to discriminate against couples who meet their profile, causing fear and insecurity in communities when people wish to get married.”

She added that the scale of sham marriages was very low compared to the scope of enforcement powers to stop them.

Couples who may be investigated under the new provisions include those who have not made concrete arrangements to cohabit in the UK, who do not share financial or domestic responsibilities, or who cannot communicate in a common language.

Couples may also be investigated if the British partner has previously sponsored another partner or if they have no guests present at their wedding ceremony.

These couples will need to prove that their marriage or partnership is genuine before permission is granted.

Immigration lawyer Colin Yeo expressed concern that there is no statutory definition of a “genuine marriage” in UK law.

In an online statement, he said that the decision on whether or not a marriage is genuine will be left to Home Office civil servants, who will be working from a checklist of factors that may trigger suspicion.

He said: “This checklist determines who will experience that sort of start to their married life. As with many measures under the Immigration Act 2014, ethnic minorities and the poor are far, far more likely to be targeted.”

Introducing the provisions in Westminster yesterday, Minister for Security and Immigration James Brokenshire said that the measures would provide “a much stronger platform for effective, systematic action to disrupt and deter sham marriages and civil partnerships and prevent them gaining an immigration advantage.”

He added: “The new system will give us much more time and information to identify and act against sham marriages and civil partnerships before they happen and, where they do go ahead, we will have the evidence we need on file to be able to refuse any subsequent immigration application in terms which will withstand appeal.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Scotland defends using National Lottery proceeds to fund arts

By Philip Askew

Creative Scotland, the public body that subsides arts across the country, has defended the use of money raised through the National Lottery, calling it an “ideal” method of funding.

The academic Robert Hewison recently slammed government austerity measures as “anti-culture”, leading to a decline of interest and funding in art across the UK.

He specifically criticized increasing reliance on the National Lottery as a “funder of first and last resort”, saying it was “dangerous to run the country’s culture on a game of chance”.

Recent government statistics have shown that the number of adults engaging with the arts even once a year has increased by only 0.5 percent since 2005.

But Ian Stevenson, Creative Scotland’s director of finance, said Mr Hewison’s comments reveal “a lack of understanding of basic maths”.

He said: “The lottery is a game of chance as far as people buying a ticket are concerned, but it is very dependable as a source of income. It goes up in weeks with a large jackpot then returns to a steady base level in other weeks. Which means that the money raised for good causes, and therefore the money available for the arts, is in fact steady.

“Why can’t the arts be run on Lottery proceeds? It’s the ideal way to fund the arts – no one is forced to pay for them, and everyone who buys a ticket pays a little towards them.”

Creative Scotland inherited the role of the Scottish Arts Council in 2010.

Its stated objectives are to “promote an understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the arts and culture” and to “support and develop talent and excellence” across Scotland.

In October the organisation revealed it was suffering from a “funding crisis” due to being vastly over-subscribed, but has since assured applicants that money will be available to “most if not all” subscribers.

Other sponsors of Creative Scotland include the arts charities Made in Scotland and the National Youth Arts Fund.

’16 Days of Action’ to combat violence against women

By Carolina Morais

A campaign is being launched today by a Scottish organisation to mark the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Between the 25th November and the 10th December, the ’16 Days of Action 2014′ campaign will be promoting a series of events throughout Scotland to raise awareness of violence against women.

The theme for this years’ initiative is ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women’.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “Our organisation has been recognised by the United Nations since 1995. This is a global campaign that aims to prevent and eliminate of all forms of violence towards women.

“That includes such things as sexual assault, rape, sexual abuse, cultural practices such as genital mutilation, forced marriage, exploitation, prostitution, lap and pole dancing and traffic of women for sexual purposes.”

The event will commence today in Glasgow but will engage different cities in Scotland, including Edinburgh.

“We are going to held a conference at Edinburgh University on the 8th December, but our main events will happen in Glasgow”, the spokesperson said.

“Among other things, we are launching an online survey to see if people are more informed about the issue and to really take it forward. We also have a march happening on the 27th of November and we will have activities for men who want to be involved.”

The CEO of the national organisation White Ribbon, Chris Green, recognizes that “men are the real problem” and that it is urgent to “turn the numbers around”.

“We are working more and more with men and we just have to keep on doing that.

“Right now, we have around 200 events happening around the United Kingdom to raise awareness to this cause, but the numbers are still alarming.”

Mr. Green also said: “What we need to do urgently is change the attitudes of men towards women in general, to prevent emotional and physical abuse. We need more women reporting these crimes, more politicians to take notice of the problem and more funding to be able to prevent it.”

The ’16 Days’ campaign is being funded by the Glasgow City Council Integrated Grant Fund. In partnership with White Ribbon Scotland, this initiative is hoping to achieve white ribbon status for the City of Glasgow this year.

According to the United Nations, one in four women in Scotland experience domestic violence in their lifetime, with an incident being recorded every ten minutes.

Allie Hutchinson, from Scottish Women’s Aid, says the problem is not contained to Scotland.

“The numbers are alarming everywhere. We have been around since 1976 and that is why we continue to be so committed to end violence, to work with women who have been victims of domestic violence and to look at how we can prevent this.

“At the moment, the main problem is that women are not equal to men just yet. It is up to us to fight for equality first, to challenge the myths of society, to write to MPs and MSPs to promote a society where women are equally valued.

“In the near future, we will launch a survey to look at people’s experiences related to these crimes, we will promote a series of lectures throughout Scotland, a parliamentary event with MSP’s and even a film screening at Edinburgh University.”

In the rest of the United Kingdom, statistics show 45% of women having experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking and at least 80,000 women experiencing rape every year.

 

 

Murphy’s plan to devolve income tax control

By Paul Malik

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Jim Murphy has said he understands how much Scotland desires “change” in a speech proposing devolution of income tax powers made this morning.

Announcing from a campaign office in Glasgow, the MP for Falkirk said his proposal to devolve full powers over income tax if he was elected leader was a “big moment for the Scottish Labour Party and a big moment for Scotland.”

He said the commitment to introduce the powers, a policy previously opposed by the Scottish Labour Party, would show Scotland that Labour have “changed”, that they now “get it”, and, with him as leader, they will “stand up for Scotland”.

Mr Murphy said: “The difference between Scottish Labour and our opponents when it comes to constitutional reform is that we have never seen it as an end in itself but as a means to an end.

“We want the best constitutional settlement for Scotland because we want the best deal for Scotland.

“Our interest is in making devolution work, not simply in taking with one hand and demanding more with the other, regardless of the consequences.

“Even before the Smith Commission reports, we should agree to the full devolution of income tax to Scotland, if that is what emerges.”

A spokesman for Neil Findlay MSP, who is also in the running for leadership, said Mr Murphy’s stance on full devolution of income tax powers was “understandable”, but that if this was achieved, the party needed to ensure that Scotland was not “worse off.”

Mr Findlay’s spokesman said: “It’s all very well devolving [full control over income tax] but we’ve got to make sure that Scotland isn’t worse off.

“We have to ensure that as well as having the constitutional willingness for change, we also have the political willingness to prioritise change.”

The SNP have said that the people of Scotland “rightly expect” these powers and that in the past, Scottish Labour offered “less than the Tories.”

Stewart Maxwell MSP of the SNP said: “Voices across civic Scotland have already backed the devolution of extensive powers over tax and welfare, and people in Scotland rightly expect to see a broad range of taxation powers transferred beyond income tax.

“If Labour have now caught up on this one aspect, having offered even less than the Tories, I hope that they will back the calls by many independent organisations in Scotland for other tax and welfare powers to be devolved, such as the minimum wage.”

At a hustings event on Sunday, Mr Murphy said that Scottish Labour must “match” the “energy” that the SNP have for “constitutional nationalism” and appeal to the “hundreds of thousands of decent people who voted Yes, but are not nationalists.”

Mr Murphy has based his campaign on “bringing Scotland together”.

However, several senior Labour Party members have warned against the devolution of income tax powers.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP said that the move was a “Tory trap”.

The leadership campaign was triggered after former Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont resigned, claiming that several senior Labour Party MP’s were “dinosaurs” who treated the Scottish Labour Party as a “branch office”.

The Smith commission was set up in an effort to “further strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament within the UK” after Scotland voted to remain a part of Britain after September’s referendum.

The report is being compiled by Lord Smith, a cross party independent member of the House of Lords.

 

 

 

Edinburgh ranked as the second-best student city in UK

Edinburgh has been ranked as the UK’s second-best student city this year despite the rising demand for cheaper student accommodation. The news was published by the new edition of QS ranking.

With a relatively small population compared to many of the cities in the index, the Scottish capital has a fairly large student community proportionate to its overall size. This means that it scores especially high in the “student mix” category of the index.

Notably, 38% of students at ranked universities in Edinburgh are international, lending an incredibly diverse and inclusive atmosphere for overseas students.

Carlotta Lombatto, an Italian student based in Edinburgh said:

“One of the main reasons I chose to study in Edinburgh was to improve my English level. I thought about studying in London but it is a very expensive city and I couldn’t afford living there. In Edinburgh you can find a lot of part time jobs and it’s easier to pay your fees.

“Maybe the most complicated thing in Edinburgh for an international student is renting a flat. Prices are excessive and there are so many people looking for the same thing. The deposit is very high and student accommodation is expensive.”

Manel Escuder, an international student from Spain, said: “Edinburgh is an amazing city for studying, and it is impossible not to be inspired. There are a lot of cultural events and conferences. It is a very artistic city.

“The racial diversity it’s surprisingly high. You can go to the supermarket and see so many people from different places and everybody can live together.They respect each other.”

University ranking, the mixture of international students, quality of life, rate of use and affordability in terms of standard of living are the five categories included in the criteria.

Ben Sowter, head of research at QS said: “QS Best Students Cities provides a complementary tool with respect to the specific rankings of university students.

“After all, the college experience is influenced by the place and especially by the presence of international students”.

To be included in the ranking, every city must have a population of more than 250,000 and must hold at least two educational institutions that are within the QS World University rankings. There are 116 cities in the world that qualify, but only 50 have been classified.

In Edinburgh, the two institutions ranked by QS are the University of Edinburgh, which is currently 17th in the world, and Heriot- Watt-University.

 

UK charity Refuge opposes launch of Clare’s Law pilot scheme

By Charlotte Barbour

Domestic abuse campaigners yesterday called into question the effectiveness of Clare’s Law, a scheme which will be piloted across areas of Scotland today.

Domestic abuse charity Refuge expressed concerns that the Law is not enough to help protect women from violence.

The scheme is named after Clare Wood, a 36-year old woman who was murdered by her abusive boyfriend George Appleton at her home in Salford, Greater Manchester, in 2009. She was not aware of his history of violence against women.

“Clare’s Law” will be piloted in Ayrshire and Aberdeen today and will last for six months. It will allow people suffering from domestic abuse access to information on a partner’s potential violent history. If successful the scheme will then be rolled out across Scotland.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said:

“Clare’s Law sounds good on paper, but in reality it will do very little to help the hundreds of thousands of women and children who experience domestic violence in this country.

“Some people will say that if Clare’s Law saves just one life, it is worth it. But let’s be clear – two women are killed every week as a result of domestic violence in England and Wales. Saving just one life is not enough.

“What will happen if a woman is told that her partner does have a history of violence? Will she be expected to pack her bags and leave straight away? At Refuge, we know that it isn’t that simple.

“Leaving a violent partner is an incredibly difficult step to take. It is also extremely dangerous – women are at greatest risk of homicide at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner. And if women do leave, where are they supposed to go? Refuges are closing up and down the country because of huge funding cuts.

“Clare’s Law may help a few individuals but we need to help the majority of victims – not the few. The most effective way to save lives on a large scale is to improve police practice and protect the vital services run by specialist organisations like Refuge. Let’s get our priorities right.”

Lily Greenan, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, fully supports the scheme. She said:

“Clare’s Law allows people who are concerned about the behaviour of their partner now have the right to ask if they have a history of abuse.

“We are supporting it because anything that potentially helps to prevent domestic abuse against a person is worth having a go at. The levels of domestic abuse in Scotland are very high, and these can become quite extreme before people feel that they can contact the police about it.

“We see the law as a pro-active approach to try and encourage people who feel uncomfortable about what their partner is doing to quietly enquire about whether or not there is a history of domestic abuse.

“Obviously it is not a replacement for a criminal investigation if what is happening to them is already definable as abuse but it may be helpful to some people to have that information in advance.”

According to the Scottish government website, the number of reported incidents of domestic abuse last year reached 60,080, a rise of almost a third in a decade.

Half of all incidents recorded in 2012-13 led to the recording of a crime or an offence, and of these, 78 per cent were reported to the procurator fiscal.

Factors which may increase women’s vulnerability to some types of violence include age, disability and poverty.

Clare Wood’s father, Michael Brown, believes that had his daughter been able to access information on Appleton’s criminal history it may have saved her life.

National Lottery celebrates 20th anniversary

By Carolina Morais

Scottish organisations funded by the National Lottery Council have applauded its “vital” and “valuable” work, as it celebrates it’s 20th anniversary.

The Edinburgh-based charity ‘Dads Rock’, which provides bonding time for dads and their children, is set to expand after the National Lottery awarded it last month with £287,096.

A spokesperson from the organisation said: “We would not be able to function without the National Lottery’s funding. It has been absolutely vital. We have been benefiting since 2012 but this last amount we just got allows us to provide services for three years.

“We are going to run a young dads’ project and invest in parenting counseling . We estimate to help over 200 families in Edinburgh.”

The children’s charity ‘Woodcraft Folk’, focused on developing young people’s social and creative skills, also recognizes the importance of the National Lottery’s support.

A Scottish representative said: “It has been a very valuable help to our organisation. The money we received allowed us to employ more staff and to do more trials to test how to approach children and help them grow.

“Here in Scotland, for example, we were able to do what we called the ‘Summer Sessions 2013’, in Stirling, in which we made some real changes in children’s lives. It has definitely been a very successful partnership for us.

Nicola Bligh, from National Lottery Good Causes, said she is “extremely proud” of what the organisation has accomplished over the last 20 years.

“It has been incredibly important. We raised over 32 billion pounds, we have supported a lot of local projects and we have benefited peoples lives.

“It is amazing how you can benefit people everyday in ordinary sectors. And we created thousands of jobs and volunteering opportunities.

“We recently captured an image that will be released this Wednesday in which we gathered over 800 people from over 50 projects that benefited from our funding over the past 20 years. It is really moving to hear these stories. The numbers of our accomplishments are amazing, but the stories behind them are what really matters.”

Ms Bligh also said: “For the future, we hope more and more projects apply for our funding, which is very easy to do through our website. Our plan, of course, is to repeat what we did over the last 20 years just as successfully and keep changing people’s lives.”

To celebrate two decades of existence, the National Lottery is releasing a new video everyday at 6pm on its website until the 19th of November, allowing people to enter the prize draws which increase in value each day.

The first National Lottery draw was on 14 November 1994. According to the organisation, over 450,000 lottery-funded projects were accomplished and over 3,700 millionaires were made in the United Kingdom.

 

 

 

Local charity launches appeal for homeless children

By Arantxa Barrachina

AN ONLINE campaign launched yesterday to give Christmas presents to homeless children across Scotland.

The Social Media Santa campaign will deliver presents to homeless children by working with housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland.

According to the new statistics, 21 per cent of children in Edinburgh live in poverty. More than 4,000 children will be homeless in Scotland this Christmas.

Social media users are encouraged to buy presents for boys and girls from the age of 6 months to 16 years old. Gifts can be ordered or bought and sent to Shelter Scotland office in Edinburgh by 12th December.

Everyone who buys a gift can post a photo of it on social media using the hashtag #SocialMediaSanta

The campaign was launched by Ross McCulloch, Director of Third Sector Lab, a specialist digital agency working with charities and social enterprises.

Ross McCulloch said: “Twitter users can make a real difference to homeless children in Scotland this Christmas. By sending gifts like books, toys or games, we are hoping that Social Media Santas will help make this Christmas better for hundreds of children and their families across Scotland.”

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “Social Media Santa is an innovative and generous way of using social media to help bring a little bit of Christmas cheer to homeless families and their children.

“No child should be homeless at Christmas but we know there will be more than 4,000 children homeless this festive season across Scotland, so we will carry on our campaigning until there’s a home for everyone. Until then, we will always be grateful for the kindness and generosity of fundraisers and members of the public who donate to help our clients.

“On behalf of all the children and families already helped, we say a big thank you to Ross McCulloch and all the Social Media Santas across Scotland. We now look forward to receiving and distributing the results of this year’s campaign.”

For the last three years social media users have been participated giving a Christmass gift for homeless children. Last year, Shelter Scotland charity have  received a whopping 227 gifts.

In Scotland 220,000 children are living in poverty, one in five of the child population, and this could soon rise.

The charity is calling people to participate in the project and remembers the importance of solidarity, specially at Christmas time.

The child poverty campaigners are also urging Scottish and local government to ratchet-up delivery of the Child Poverty Strategy.

 

 

 

Scottish drinks industry backs drink-drive limit proposals

By Lauren Beehan

The Scottish drinks industry has welcomed the reduction in the drink-driving limit, which will be voted on by the Scottish Parliament today.

Under the new laws, the maximum blood alcohol level for drivers will be reduced from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml, meaning that a single pint of beer could put them over the limit from December 5th.

Representatives from the drinks industry have encouraged customers to be aware of the new limit and to make their plans accordingly.

Neil Williams of the British Beer & Pub Association said: “It is vital that everyone in Scotland knows about the change, as the pub is at the heart of all our Christmas celebrations. Enjoy the pub during the holiday season, but be prepared, such as having a designated driver, so you can get in the party spirit knowing you can have a safe journey home.”

Industry think-tank, the Portman Group, also supports the changes, saying that that drink producers have a role to play in the campaign against drink-driving.

A spokesperson from the group said that producers will focus now on “running responsible drink driving campaigns and education programmes to encourage people to nominate a designated driver and to never drink and drive.”

The Scottish government has launched an awareness campaign to inform drivers of both the change to the limit and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Don’t Risk It campaign includes advertisements on television, radio and online videos, as well as interactive social media with games showing the influence of alcohol on reaction speeds.

Advertisements will also be shown in northern England, where the limit remains at 80mg per 100ml, to ensure that drivers who cross the border are aware of the different laws.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who proposed the change, said: “With the approval of Parliament, the new drink drive limit will come into force on December 5, making our roads safer and saving lives.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone is informed about the new lower level.

“A persistent minority of people are still getting behind the wheel after drinking – that is unacceptable, it is putting lives at risk and it must stop. Our advice is simple, the best approach is to have no alcohol at all. Alcohol at any level impairs driving.

“This new law will bring Scotland into line with most of Europe and hopefully reduce drink drive arrests and prosecutions, as we have already seen in the Republic of Ireland, where drivers adjusted their behaviour to take account of the lower limit.”

A similar reduction was implemented in the Republic of Ireland in 2011, where drink-driving convictions fell by 3,000 in the space of two years.

Alcohol is a factor in 1 in 10 fatal road accidents in Scotland, with drink-driving causing over 400 accidents each year.

There were 4,730 people convicted of drink-driving in Scotland between March 2012 and March 2013, the last full year for which statistics are available.

Michael McDonnell, Director of Road Safety Scotland, said: “It’s almost 50 years since the current limit was introduced and that we still lose an average of 20 lives a year is a disgrace.

“Evidence from across the world demonstrates that the best results in tackling drink-driving are achieved by lowering the limit, or increasing enforcement, or both. We know, too, that a combination of high-profile enforcement, coupled with a heavyweight media campaign is the most efficient use of resources, and we are working closely with the Police Scotland and other partners to ensure that people know about the change to the limit and have no excuse.

“It’s not about catching more drink-drivers, but about preventing people from doing it in the first place. Ultimately, most of us have too much to lose, so it’s just not worth the risk.”

Chief Superintendent Iain Murray, Head of Roads Policing for Police Scotland warned that people should not drink at all if they intend to get behind the wheel.

He said: “An average of 20 die on Scotland’s roads each year and last year a further 90 were seriously injured and 340 slightly injured as a result of drink driving related collisions.

“The new lower limit will reduce those numbers and the evidence from across Europe where the lower limit applies suggests we will see reductions in drink driving and blood alcohol counts.

“However even at the new limit you are three times more likely to die in a crash than if you had taken no alcohol. It is clear, when it comes to drinking and driving, that the simple ‘the best advice is none’ message is the right one.

“On the lead up to 5 December, police patrols will positively engage with as many road users as possible to provide real-time education to those who may be putting themselves and others at risk, influence behaviour in the future and prevent collisions on Scotland’s roads.”

 

 

 

Valleyfield remembers mining tragedy 75 years on

Valleyfield memorial statue to the men who died in one of Scotland's worst mining disasters.

Valleyfield memorial statue to the men who died in one of Scotland’s worst mining disasters.

By Paul Hyland

The 75th anniversary of one of Scotland’s worst mining disasters was marked today in the Fife village where it happened.

An explosion in the Valleyfield Colliery in East Fife on 28 October 1939 killed 35 men after gas caught light and set fire to coal dust.

A presentation was held in the village community centre today where old photographs and slides from the time were shown.

Robert McKenzie, a member of the Valleyfield Mining Disaster Project Group, who organised the event, described the impact of the explosion at the time.

“It was a huge impact on the village,” he said. “There was something like 19 or 20 families bereaved and sometimes it could be maybe two people, a father and a son, a grandfather and a son, that were killed in the disaster, or the one next door could be a relation to the one that was killed.”

The miners were in the middle of a night shift when the blast happened at 3.45am. The force of the explosion was likened to an earthquake by locals at the time.

A wreath-laying ceremony was also held on Sunday at 2pm at a statue in the village commemorating the disaster. It was attended by MSPs, councillors and other dignitaries.

 

 

 

 

Health fears over Edinburgh exercise Levels

by Vanessa Kennedy

Less than a third of people in Edinburgh are doing the recommended half an hour of exercise a day, a new report has revealed.

An Edinburgh City Council report surveyed up to 4,000 people to ask how many days in the past week they had done 30 minutes of physical exercise which was enough to raise their breathing rate.

Less than a third of people met the recommended target of two-and-a half hours of moderate physical activity per week set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The organisation estimated that 3.2 million deaths per year could be attributed to low levels of physical activity.

The health body advises that active people are less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and depression.

Edinburgh University is set to start a pilot “Healthy University” project to address physical activity levels in inactive students who are doing less than the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity.

The head of the project, Helen Ryall, said the aim of the project is to “actively promote and deliver tangible health and wellbeing benefits for the University community through increasing the engagement of staff and students in health and wellbeing across the university”.

The programme will provide one-to-one support to students who are inactive, possibly suffering from mild to moderate depression or weight management issues.

Ms Ryall said: “We know that when students feel well they learn better, so this is a win-win for everybody.”

 

 

Doctors Support Margo MacDonald Assisted Suicide Bill

By Jordan Hooks

A surgeon and a professor of neurology are among a group of doctors who have spoken out in support of legalising assisted suicide.

Eleven medical experts back the bill proposed by independent MSP Margo MacDonald. The bill would compliment the palliative care that is currently offered in Scotland.

One ear, nose and throat surgeon, Gillian MacDougall, said there are more GPs that support the bill, but are afraid to sign it in fear of being labeled as ‘Dr. Death.’

The bill is the second attempt Margo has made to change the law. Her previous attempt was voted down by MSPs in 2010.

Under the new proposed bill, only those who are terminally ill or who are suffering from deteriorating progressive conditions, which make life intolerable will be able to seek assisted suicide. A second professional opinion would be needed, followed by a 14-day ‘cooling-off’ period.

This process is then repeated again, after one of the doctors concerned would supply a license facilitator with a prescription to enable assisted suicide to take place.

If the prescription is not used within 14 days, it is required to be returned.

When she launched the Bill in November, the Lothian MSP said she believed it could be successful this time, stating: “I have sensed from the beginning that there was a change because of the volume of support that we can demonstrate.”

Teen Drugs Charity Links Increased Demand to Methadone Treatment

(c) Steve Nagy/ Design Pics/ Corbis

Drug charities in Scotland have seen an increase in demand for their services this year(c) Steve Nagy/ Design Pics/ Corbis

by Stephen Mahon

A charity that helps teens across Scotland deal with substance abuse has seen a major increase in the need for its services this year.

Demand is up by 30 percent compared to the same period 12 months ago, and Roy Lees, coordinator of the Kids in Crisis charity, expects the problem to increase.  Lees said: “I put the problem down to methadone. It is an increasingly popular method to treat heroin addiction, but since it was first introduced in a big way in the ’80s, it just hasn’t worked.   We deal with the fallout from that, and during times of high unemployment the situation is worse.  The government needs to take a far deeper look at the issue.”

Kids in Crisis is an offshoot of Teen Challenge, a charity that first came to the UK from America in the 1980s.  Currently they have 12 local teams nationwide, with nearly 500 workers made up from staff and volunteers who work in multiple locations across the UK.

The aim of the charity is to actively reach people in need, and -in a novel approach- this can take the form of special buses that have been converted to coffee shops going to the worst affected areas.

A Trustee of Teen Challenge Strathclyde, Bill Kerr said: “We have a location that we visit in Paisley, and some nights nobody will come onto the bus and on other occasions up to ten to fifteen people might come on. There isn’t always a pattern that you can predict. Alcohol addiction is of course a problem, but our focus tends to be on younger people with drug addiction.”

Kerr further explained the challenges facing the charity. He said: “We truly do not know the size of the problem, we only touch a few people’s lives. If we can meet people, we’ll meet them, if we can help people we will help them.  If they are willing to go to rehab we will send them. If they are not willing to go we do not refuse them a cup of coffee.”

Teams of workers also walk the streets looking for the opportunity to serve and organise food for those who require it.

Although the original work carried out by Teen Challenge was with teenagers, they now often help people in the 18 to 40 age group.

Kerr said: “We are low key in what we try to do. We try to help those who want help.  We do not turn people away.”

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