Scottish Transport Minister calls for devolution of train services

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Photo credit: Cormac Rae

The devolution of rail services in Scotland could be a step closer, after a report released today by think tank Reform Scotland harshly criticised ScotRail for failing to deliver an acceptable standard of service.

Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, renewed calls for devolution of responsibility for Scottish train services, to the Scottish Government.

The Minister said:

“Network rail should be devolved to Scotland. That’s a call I’ve made, that’s a call my predecessors collectively have previously as well, and now it seems Labour politicians are making the same case as well.  I welcome that [agreement] from Tom Harris and welcome that [report] from Reform Scotland.”

[Read more…]

Minister expresses concern towards online advertising

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Online advertising maybe only on public sector websites (picture courtesy of kera)

By Matthew Robertson

The UK government has urged Scottish public bodies to continue using newspapers to publish their notices.

We were  made aware of the minister’s concerns this week as he announced that he didn’t approve of suggestions that there could a general shift towards only publishing information such as job adverts on public sector websites.

These comments came in the wake of a week that highlighted the future of the Scottish newspaper industry by the Commons’ Scottish affairs committee.

With newspapers sales at a current low, and papers struggling to receive income from advertising across the board, within both online and printed media, this could be seen as a dent to the private sector’s ambitions as they would be denied any access to online advertising which would have a negative effect on their income.

In response, the Scotland Office recognised that councils have to attempt to try and save money, particularly during this current economic crisis.But it stated “The government takes the view that there should not be a policy of publishing notifications only online”.

“Part of the duty when placing notices, such as job advertisements, is that they are effective in reaching their target population.”

The Scotland Office has since insisted and asked Scottish councils and the Hollyrood government to show big parts of the population would not be affected, before removing public notices entirely from newspapers.

Its response added: “We are concerned at suggestions of a move to publish public notices on public sector portals whilst broadband take-up remains relatively low in some areas of Scotland.”

The committee welcomed the UK government’s position.

Church of Scotland Stunned by New IVF Rules

By Vibecke Gudmundsen

The new UK regulations on in vitro fertilization (IVF) will erode the role of fathers, a senior Church of Scotland minister has warned.

The new rules shortly coming into force allow the women who conceive a child through in vitro fertilization or sperm donation to put any person as the second parent on the birth certificate. Reverend Ian Galloway, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, says he finds it deeply disturbing that the new rules have no requirement that the person named

Reverend Ian Galloway and the Church of Scotland are stunned by the new IVF rules

Reverend Ian Galloway

as the second parent have any biological relation to the child.

“The Church of Scotland is stunned at the potential further erosion of the role of fathers, and is concerned that the falsification of information about one’s identity is the denial of a very fundamental human right”, Reverend Galloway said.

“Legal fiction”

The updated regulations by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) remove the previous clause that encouraged fertility clinics to consider a child’s “need for a father”. From April 6 it will be possible for women to name anyone as the “second parent” or “father”, as long as they are not in close relation to the woman giving birth. This allows friends or partners to be listed on the birth certificate, but not sisters or uncles, as they are within the “prohibited degrees” set out by the HFEA.

Reverend Galloway said it creates a “legal fiction”.

“At a time when parental responsibilities are in the spotlight, what message does this send to fathers, who are in danger from being erased from history”, he said.

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe also underlined the role of fathers. She said: “Every child has got a right to a father and this bill for the first time quite deliberately creates a situation where children are born without a father.”

“A father plays a unique role in a child’s life. The effect is quite simple. You’re going to deprive a child from the outset.”

Apart from the implications the child conceived through IVF may meet in the society, concerns have been raised regarding the lack of genetic history in relation to illnesses. Also, there is a potential risk when the child grows up that related people may marry each other, which implies consequences for their children.

The new regulations on in vitro fertilization only affect women. Homosexuals that want to have a child through surrogacy will have to wait until next year for both of the men to be listed as parents of the child.

To read  more about in vitro fertilization click here.

Kirk Weddings Down because of Ceremony Cost

By Vibecke Gudmundsen

Fewer couples get married in the Kirk because of the cost of church weddings, a Church of Scotland minister has said.

The number of weddings conducted in the Church of Scotland has suffered a strong decline over the last years, falling 11,4% from 2001 to the end of 2007, according to the General Register of Scotland. However, the increase in number on civil marriages shows that people are still getting married, just not in the Kirk. Wedding

“We cannot discount the fact of the sheer cost of a traditional church wedding as an explanation for the decline”, said Reverend Angus Morrison, convener of the Convener of the Church of Scotland Mission and Discipleship Council.

The cost of a traditional church wedding today can vary from £200 to £1000, but for most churches the cost is typically around £400. The price includes the use of the church, marriage service and certificate, a publication of banns of marriage, an organist and a church officer. However, if you want flowers and decoration, a choir and bells you have to pay up to an additional £300. The charge does not include a video license, which is required by the government if you are recording the ceremony, which is a further £100.

Civil weddings up

However, Reverend Morrison underlined that there are many other possible explanations for the downfall in weddings in the Kirk.

“There are factors such as couples waiting till they are older before marrying, cohabitation as a trend influenced by the increase in divorce as there seems to be evidence the children of divorced or separated parents are more likely to cohabit. And of course there is the increasing use of civil ceremonies for marriage”, he said.

“I wonder too if the increasingly common offer by hotels of all-in wedding packages encourages the use of civil ceremonies.”

51,8% of the Scottish population who got married the last year used civil ceremonies, which is up 13% from 2001. That year the number of both weddings in the Kirk and civil ceremonies was 38%, but the two has since then gone in separate directions.

Weddings within other denominations such as the Roman Catholic Church and so-called “other religions” seem to reflect the same situation, but only to a certain extent over the last five years. The figures went down a small period, but are now back to their starting point on 6,5% and 15,9%, respectively.

Not active Kirk members

Morningside Parish Church

Morningside Parish Church

Reverend Derek Browning, minister of Morningside Parish of the Church of Scotland, said there are signs that the reasons why people want to get married in the Church are changing.

“I have many more requests from couples who are simply looking for somewhere ‘nice’ to get married, than from people who are active members of the church”, he said.

His parish has an average of four weddings every year, but only one out of the four couples are actively involved and committed to the Church.

“A large percentage of the couples I marry have moved away from their family home but still have a strong family connection to the church.”

Because a parish system is still operated in Scotland couples cannot get married in whichever church they wish. The three factors that decide in which church you can wed are; the couple, one or both, are active members of the church; or the couple has a strong, live family connections with the church; or the couple live within the geographical area of the parish.

“If they don’t fall into any of the three categories I direct them to their parish minister. Everyone in Scotland will live in someone’s parish.”

However, Reverend Browning stands strong on that every couple shall be treated the same way, no matter agenda.

“All couples that I marry are encouraged to attend a course on what it means to be a Christian. Many come into church membership, though this is not required for marriage, and it is a good way for them to get to know me and the church”, he said.

To see figures on marriages in Scotland click here.

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