{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"scotland","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/dani-garavelli-is-he-bovvered-john-swinney-must-try-harder-1-4786378","id":"1.4786378","articleHeadline": "Dani Garavelli: Is he bovvered? John Swinney must try harder","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1534624282000 ,"articleLead": "

Education Secretary John Swinney’s response to angry teachers on air suggests serious failure to comprehend their problems, writes Dani Garavelli.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786377.1534624279!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Swinney was meant to be Nicola Sturgeon's safe pair of hands for the education brief. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

It must have taken some guts for John Swinney to agree to spend an hour on BBC Radio Scotland’s Stephen Jardine Programme on Thursday, fielding questions on the mayhem that is the current state of Scottish education. Not as much guts as it would have taken to go on the week before when teachers were still on holiday and free to call in, of course. But even with most of them safely ensconced in the classroom, the encounter was unlikely to be anything other than bruising.

A quick recap of the problems that have reared their heads in the past few weeks alone should give an insight into the scale of the maelstrom Swinney was heading into. But where to start? With the 700 teaching posts that remained unfilled two weeks before the beginning of term, perhaps? Or the escalating row over the standardised testing of P1s? Or with the report showing the dramatic decline in secondary school pupils taking foreign languages as subject choices narrow under the Curriculum for Excellence? Or with the plummeting spirits of teachers who are struggling to cope with an assessment-heavy system?

It is two years since Nicola Sturgeon put her most trusted lieutenant in charge of schools. She said: “Judge me on my education record”; and contributors to the radio programme were eager to oblige.

Caller after caller went on the attack over recruitment, workload, pay and cuts to learning assistants. One retiring primary head, named only as Susan, said the profession was haemorrhaging teachers. “The working time agreement for teachers is almost a joke,” she said. “There’s no way teachers can do the contracted hours in enough time. The morale is so low.”

A principal teacher at a Highland secondary school said the requirement for recording assessments at primary school was bordering on the ridiculous, while a pupil support assistant told him a lack of resources meant children with special needs were being failed. One mother said her ten-year-old daughter, who is unable to go to the toilet unaided, had been left covered in faeces because no learning assistant was available to help her.

Swinney has a reputation for unflappability; it is probably one of the qualities that secured him his current role. But there is a point at which unflappability veers into complacency, and in his “Crisis? What Crisis?” response to these criticisms, Swinney crossed that line.

Failing to acknowledge the depth of people’s concerns, he continued to peddle the same old mantras: that these were “challenging times”, that teaching is “a very busy and demanding life”, but he insisted there was no great problem with morale. He must mix in different circles to me, then. The teachers I know are overwhelmed as they struggle to deal with a toxic mix of high expectations and low resources.

Such was Swinney’s state of denial that when Susan retorted: “I don’t hear anything you’ve said this morning that would convince me you have got a handle on this,” one could only share in her exasperation.

To cap it all, the following day it emerged Swinney had approached Finance Secretary Derek Mackay on behalf of Kilgraston School, which is in his constituency, and is concerned about the end of business rates charity relief for private schools.

Swinney insisted he was just doing his job as an MSP. But given the SNP has presided over hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to education budgets, his query and Mackay’s reply – that the school could seek rates relief from the local council – seemed hypocritical, while providing further evidence that the party is often less progressive than it pretends.

The SNP’s fingers-in-the-ears routine on education has been going on for years, now. Swinney and his predecessor, Angela Constance managed to block out the warnings of teachers that things were going badly awry with the implementation of CfE and that cuts in learning assistants were adding to overall pressure.

Instead of tackling those problems, he tried to press ahead with controversial reforms to empower headteachers and strip local authorities of more of their control. Such was the lacklustre reception to his flagship Education Reform Bill, he dropped it just before recess. Though some within the profession have warned it could mean creeping privatisation, he is still wedded to it; he just believes it will be enacted more quickly without legislation.

Swinney is showing the same thrawnness over the issue of standardised assessments; time and again teachers have told them such assessments can only lead to league tables and to teaching to the test.

Particularly concerning are the ones for P1 pupils. Personally, I don’t understand why these are so distressing for the children involved. Surely they can be presented as a game; something they can enjoy. But I do understand that teachers – who spend many hours a week with their pupils – are constantly evaluating their progress. To them, the tests seem unnecessary and consume time that would be better spent on actual learning.

At the Edinburgh International Book Festival, teacher-turned-author Alex Beard called for all primary school testing to be scrapped. “I know as a teacher I could teach my students to succeed in their GCSE exam and, when I reflect on that, I realise I wasn’t equipping them with real, long-term abilities, knowledge and skills that they could apply in the future,” he said. If you want an example of how this works consider that at my children’s school, pupils doing music will often play the same piece for two years just to make sure they know what they are doing come the Nat 5s.

On recruitment, Swinney claims to have been proactive: he told the Stephen Jardine Programme that measures introduced to attract new teachers included bursaries to encourage people to switch careers and teach in Science, Technology and Maths (STEM) subjects.

But with resources tight, teachers’ take-home pay having fallen in real terms, and only a 3 per cent rise on the table, would making that shift feel like a positive or even viable option? Surely the most effective way to increase recruitment is to make teachers feel valued; that can only be done by investing more and – just as importantly – respecting what they have to say.

The failure to do so over a protracted period of time means that, as pupils returned to school, teachers were already on the offensive, threatening test boycotts and industrial action.

No parent wants their child educated in a system which is in a constant state of upheaval or by people who are so worn down they have lost their passion for their subject. Last week, Swinney ended a column on his education reforms thus: “Every new school year brings an opportunity for a fresh start.” Let’s hope he takes his own words at face value; that as pupils settle back in he starts to face up to the reality of the situation. Only when the Scottish Government acknowledges the mistakes that have been made, can it begin to repair the damage done to the profession.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Dani Garavelli"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4786377.1534624279!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786377.1534624279!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "John Swinney was meant to be Nicola Sturgeon's safe pair of hands for the education brief. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Swinney was meant to be Nicola Sturgeon's safe pair of hands for the education brief. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4786377.1534624279!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/social-care-merger-lacks-funds-and-nurses-audit-reveals-1-4786390","id":"1.4786390","articleHeadline": "Social care merger lacks funds and nurses, audit reveals","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1534630665000 ,"articleLead": "

Audits of the Scottish Government’s flagship plan to merge health and social care have flagged up red alerts including budget overspends, overpriced care, and a lack of district nurses putting safety at risk.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786389.1534623525!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, whose policy of integration is designed to ease acute pressure on hospital wards. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Internal documents, obtained by Scotland on Sunday, have identified a series of challenges faced by the project in Edinburgh, which have led to calls for more to be done to create the “cultural shift” to sort out the “crisis” in social care.

The policy to bring together care services that were once the preserve either of councils or of health boards has led to the creation of 31 Integration Joint Boards (IJBs) to oversee the transformation.

The merger, which has broad political backing, aims to create a system that will see more elderly people move out of hospital, where they take up valuable beds, and back into the community.

But the difficulties faced by those overseeing the transformation have been outlined in a number of internal audits examining how the merger is being conducted in terms of the Edinburgh IJB.

Opposition politicians believe the problems experienced in Edinburgh are replicated elsewhere and have called on Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to review the policy and make reforms to get it on track.

The final report of a City of Edinburgh Council internal audit into the health and social care partnership found several aspects of the project had high or red ratings, a category that suggests there could be a “significant” impact on the financing, operation or reputation of the project.

The points raised included overpayment for services provided, the potential risk of fraud, inaccurate payments, overpriced care packages and financial decisions made without approved authority levels.

Also flagged up with a red rating were points relating to “self-directed support” – a Scottish Government initiative to offer the elderly a range of options when it comes to how they receive their health and social care.

The audit said there was no funding allocation model established within the health and social care partnership to ensure care package budgets were based on an on-going assessment of the people in need of care.

There was “no evidence” to confirm that the self-directed support options had been fully discussed with those receiving care or that they were given the chance to choose from the options.

The document noted that the forecast overspend on the partnership’s home care purchasing budget was £12 million last year. It had been addressed by obtaining £4.2m from the social care fund and a one-off £7m contribution from the council.

It noted that additional cash did not address the “underlying root causes” of the overspend, adding that the Edinburgh IJB had not achieved social care delivery in line with budgets since 2014/15.

This was partly down to a lack of strategic action to offset increased demand for care at home and an inability to deliver approved budget savings.

Meanwhile, an internal audit of Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) by the Audit and Risk Committee also identified a series of risks.

They included “a risk that the high vacancy levels within district nurses will impact on safe delivery of care”.

A lack of capacity in the community will reduce EIJB’s ability to reduce hospital delays, it said.

There is a risk that “lack of capacity and poor systems” in the community are impacting on getting access to care on time. Current levels of GP capacity were described as “unsustainable” and will fall further having “negative consequences for care”.

It also warned that “reputational damage” would result from missed performance targets.

Last night shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “Things are acute in Edinburgh but these problems exist elsewhere. We don’t really have any grasp of the finances of Integrated Joint Boards and I have written to Jeane Freeman saying that these details need to be made available for all 31 joint boards. Most IJB members I have spoken to say they are over-spent and that is across the country. It has a big bearing on decision-making and cut backs.”

He added: “I think the Health Secretary has to review where we are with health and social care integration and look at where it has not properly bedded in and make reforms where they need to be made.”

Cllr Sue Webber, a member of the Edinburgh IJB, said: “There are some serious risks identified in these reviews, many of which have been outstanding in terms of mitigating actions since 2016. As a member of the Integration Joint Board (Edinburgh) I am focused on seeking assurances that the IJB and its partner organisations, the City of Edinburgh Council and NHS Lothian are creating the essential culture shift and managing the required changes needed to address this crisis in adult social care.

“At this stage however, over 12 months since my appointment to the IJB I am troubled that I have yet to be shown any real evidence of the substantive changes needed. Often, we are discussing the same issues and reviewing the same recommendations as we were 12 months ago.”

Webber added: “I can see no reason why changes to internal systems and processes cannot be implemented and challenged head-on far more quickly than is currently the case.”

Cllr Ricky Henderson, chair of Edinburgh Integration Joint Board said: “There are no easy or quick answers to the challenges we face in Health and Social Care, but by embracing the concept of integration and ‘doing things differently’, I believe we have some firm foundations on which to build.

“Shifting the balance of care and supporting people to live as independently as possible for as long as possible in their own communities is a shared aspiration that is worth striving for.

A spokesperson for Jeane Freeman said: “These comments from the Tories come as no surprise, given this is not the first time they have shown themselves to be unaware of what is going on. Miles Briggs really needs to pay more attention as we are already reviewing the progress to date of Integration Joint Boards across Scotland. If the Scottish Government had followed the Tories’ tax plans then it would have meant cuts of £550m to public services like health and social care.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4786389.1534623525!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786389.1534623525!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, whose policy of integration is designed to ease acute pressure on hospital wards. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, whose policy of integration is designed to ease acute pressure on hospital wards. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4786389.1534623525!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/amanda-ferguson-rely-on-edinburgh-s-powers-of-attraction-1-4786376","id":"1.4786376","articleHeadline": "Amanda Ferguson: Rely on Edinburgh’s powers of attraction","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1534630425000 ,"articleLead": "

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) global city rankings were published earlier this summer and Edinburgh remains in the top 50 destinations among more than 400 cities across the world, retaining its number two position in the UK. But along with this great news is bad news – we’ve dropped five places from the year before, from 27th to 32nd.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786375.1534614972!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The capital will be hosting the global TEDSummit next year. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor"} ,"articleBody": "

The fall wasn’t a surprise. After a stellar year of results in 2016 – one of our strongest of the past decade – we were conscious of the potential negative impact the uncertainty surrounding Brexit would have on the industry. That, coupled with murmurings of a potential second independence referendum, presented a challenging backdrop. But we love a challenge. The annual economic value of Edinburgh’s business tourism is estimated to be in excess of £300 million per annum, so it’s a market we want to keep and grow.

These factors sparked the ambition to unveil the first ever collaborative business tourism campaign, Make It Edinburgh, made possible by the support of public and private organisations across the city, with funding of £80,000. And with a city to sell to the world, with so much to offer in terms of eclectic spaces, history, culture and thriving centres of excellence, I feel very positive about the future.

Ten months into the campaign, Make it Edinburgh’s effect has been hugely positive, with traffic to the website seeing a 98 per cent increase on page views year on year. Interest established now will lay the foundations for bookings in years to come. This is especially so given that Edinburgh is booming. Almost monthly, we see the city recognised as a top competitor. We were recently recognised as the UK’s fastest growing tech hub in 2017 and the UK’s top hotel investment hotspot outside London.

We continue to see huge names bring their business to Edinburgh. Richard Branson has chosen the capital for the first Virgin Hotel outside of the US. A hub for inward investment, exciting developments across the city include retail and leisure complex Edinburgh St James, complete with a W Hotel, which will transform this district of the city when it opens in 2020. Emirates are set to launch a new air route into Edinburgh from Dubai this autumn, and Hainan Airlines launched a direct flight to Beijing in June.

In the UK, Edinburgh is second only to London as the choice for event planners, and in 2017/18 we saw £75m contributed to the local economy because of meetings confirmed by Convention Edinburgh alone – that’s not including the additional financial impact of meetings managed outwith our organisation, in private venues. We’re in an incredibly strong position, with the business tourism industry proving a significant economic driver for Edinburgh. Just this summer, the city was announced as host of the 2019 global TEDSummit, the internationally recognised event for “spreading ideas to improve the world”, and the 6th World One Health Congress in 2020, which reinforces the city’s position as one of the world’s leading hubs for medical and health expertise. These wins are the result of close partnership, working with organisations such as VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. In addition, the impact of hosting the event – both culturally and economically – will be immense.

Bolstered by these positive signs of investment, Make it Edinburgh shines a spotlight on the many reasons people should choose Edinburgh for their next conference or event, and at the pinnacle is our sector strengths. Focusing on six key sectors that the city is thriving in – Technology, Food and Drink; Renewables; Creativity; Life Sciences; and Education – the 12-month campaign has generated content that demonstrates how Edinburgh has advanced in the business tourism industry, and the value it can bring to meetings and events beyond the four walls of a venue.

Knowledge sharing knows no boundaries and sitting outwith the European Union won’t change Edinburgh’s status as a hub of excellence. Looking at other non-EU countries that are successful, such as Switzerland (sitting 17th in this year’s rankings), we absolutely can’t let geopolitics be a barrier between our areas of expertise and the rest of the world. There really has never been a more important time to Make It Edinburgh.

Amanda Ferguson is head of Business Tourism at Convention Edinburgh

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Amanda Ferguson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4786375.1534614972!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786375.1534614972!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The capital will be hosting the global TEDSummit next year. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The capital will be hosting the global TEDSummit next year. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4786375.1534614972!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/insight-bridgeton-fears-yet-another-poverty-porn-tv-show-1-4786396","id":"1.4786396","articleHeadline": "Insight: Bridgeton fears yet another ‘poverty porn’ TV show","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1534627162000 ,"articleLead": "

TV’s history of exploiting hardship tells residents of Bridgeton they have good cause to fear the impact of Bethany Mone’s visit, writes Dani Garavelli.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786393.1534627147!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jamie Docherty by the Bridgeton bandstand. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Outside the Credit Union in Bridgeton, Glasgow, a group of boys stand swigging listlessly from cans of coke. Carved into the ground, close to their be-trainered feet, are the words: “The honest man though e’er sae poor/Is king o men for a’ that.” Though the boys pay it no heed, Burns’ egalitarian line is apt for a community which is trying hard to rise above the stigma of deprivation.

Across the road, the central column of the cast iron bandstand is draped in a union flag and faded flowers in memory of a recently departed Rangers fan. There, Jamie Docherty, 47, is talking about a contemporary, and less egalitarian, exploration of poverty: C4’s Born Famous. The reality TV series will pair the sons and daughters of “self-made” celebrities with teenagers from the less affluent areas their parents grew up in; thus they will gain an insight into the alternative lives they might have had if their parents had not become millionaires.

Docherty has just found out that one of the episodes will feature Bethany Mone – daughter of the Ultimo bra tycoon and Conservative peer Michelle Mone, who was brought up in the city’s East End. “Is [Bethany] going to have to scrabble to find money for the electricity meter?” Docherty, a former plumber’s mate, who is unemployed, is asking. “Is she going to have to walk the six miles to Shettleston and back to sign on because she can’t afford the bus fare?”

Docherty is not the only one irritated by the show. In the past few days social media has been thrumming with indignation. Though C4 is pitching the series as “an exploration of social mobility”, many fear it will be an exercise in voyeurism.

“This is utterly despicable exploitation of a kind, close-knit community which has seen change led by local people,” tweeted Glasgow Central MP, Alison Thewliss. Lesley Ward, manager of Bridgeton Community Learners Campus, expressed her anger after a local charity was asked whether Bethany could be filmed handing out packed lunches to young people during play sessions. And comedian Janey Godley, herself a former East Ender, called the whole concept vulgar. “Michelle Mone is a Tory who voted against giving the poorest people decent living benefits and now wants to do a ‘Bridgeton Kardashian’ to give her daughter some air time,” she wrote.

This isn’t the first time the residents of the East End have had TV cameras foisted on them. Some remember the sense of betrayal they felt when Kay Carmichael, deputy chair of the supplementary benefits commission, went undercover in Lilybank near Tollcross, then made a TV series detailing her experience, back in 1977.

More recently, there was The Scheme, which followed the lives of troubled and often vulnerable residents in Onthank, Kilmarnock. The series won a Bafta, but turned Onthank into a byword for addiction and social disorder. After it finished, the estate became a tourist attraction with visitors coming from all over to look at the street in which drug user Marvin Baird, his girlfriend, Dayna, and his dog Bullet lived. Those who had starred in the series, and become tabloid fodder, struggled to adapt to life out of the spotlight. According to the Sun, Baird was hounded out of his new £350,000 home in North Lanarkshire. Earlier this year, he was jailed for dealing heroin.

East End residents also question the motives of Bethany, whose mother grew up not in Bridgeton, but gentrified Dennistoun. They wonder whether the programme will be anything more than a vehicle to raise the profile of the 18-year-old who recently posted pictures of her £770 YSL shoes on Instagram. Bethany hasn’t helped by describing herself as someone who loves to live in hotel dressing gowns; her mother hasn’t helped by describing Godley as “a moron”.

In a ground floor flat in neighbouring Calton, chair of Calton Area Association, Betty Cosgrove, sits primly behind a desk, a long to-do list in front of her. She has a look of wry amusement that says she has heard it all before. The look is directed at me because I have assured her I am not writing a piece that unfairly stigmatises the area. Cosgrove says many other journalists have told her the same.

“Someone took a photograph of a derelict building in the process of being knocked down and then another bright spark used it to say Calton was worse than Delhi for housing,” she tells me. “After that, I used to get phone calls from China and the US, people wanting to come over to see how, in Scotland, there was a place worse than Delhi. At first, I would take them out and show them the houses, all of which have been modernised.” But the visitors would keep demanding to see “the slums”. In the end, Cosgrove started telling them to make their own way round.

“I think [the media] use deprivation for their own ends – and everyone is fed up because we are doing our best, but you still get programmes like this,” she says.

Almost every journalist will have thought about how they write about poverty at some point in their career. It’s not always easy to strike a balance between exposing the inequalities at the heart of society and commodifying other people’s misery. Often reporters will be criticised for trawling the streets looking for anyone willing to talk; on the other hand, in my experience, third sector organisations sometimes act as gatekeepers to those who experience hardship, which, in itself denies them agency. The challenge is: how do you give vulnerable people a platform to speak without trading on their frailties or exacerbating their trauma?

Not every fly-on-the-wall documentary about poverty is wilfully exploitative. Kay Carmichael believed it was impossible to find out about poverty while sitting behind a desk. It was the controller of BBC Scotland Alistair Hetherington who persuaded her to use her experiences as the core of a documentary series. In his book, The Broken Journey, writer Kenneth Roy details how one tenant, Charlie McCrindle, alleged the BBC had bribed young people with cans of beer during the filming of that series, while city councillor Susan Baird said the programme had “degraded” the people of the estate. But many others believed Carmichael had done a service by exposing the conditions people were living in.

More dubious were a series of documentaries in which high-profile politicians spent a week living off benefits in one council estate or another. The first of these – a World In Action documentary, For The Benefit Of Mr Parris – saw a young Matthew Parris, then a Conservative MP, decamp to Scotswood in Newcastle, where his budget was £26.10 for the week.

Parris had claimed unemployment benefits should be kept low so that people were incentivised to work; now he was to test the theory. He lived frugally, cadged drinks from others, went to a football match, but still 
found himself out of cash before his 
time was up.

Filmed in 1984 – not long after the miners’ strike, when unemployment in Scotswood was 80 per cent – the programme was criticised for trivialising the problems former industrial heartlands were facing. Years later, Parris wrote he had learned that you cannot replicate “the spiritual desolation” of unemployment by trying it out it for a week. “‘Try all winter, try three months, try three years,’ the unemployed people I met told me, often angrily. ‘You descend from the London train, leaving your comfortable flat there and your nice house in Derbyshire, and your well-paid job in parliament, with all those subsidised bars; and you know that at the end of the week you can go back to all these things, and we can’t’.”

The programme was a launchpad for Parris’s career in journalism and TV. It attracted 13 million viewers. The wealthy toff vs working class oik formula was a success; and so it was replicated. In 2003, for example, Michael Portillo spent time pretending to be a single mother in Merseyside. And then Parris reprised his original role by going back to Scotswood to make For The Benefit Of Mr Parris Revisited in 2004.

Another “poverty safari” format which can be relied to pull in the viewers is the fly-on-the-wall documentary, as seen in The Scheme, Skint and Benefits Street. Given the drama lies in the conflict between the main characters, there was a temptation to home in on those who are the most dysfunctional.

C4’s Benefits Street, which aired in 2014 and included a demonstration of how to shoplift, gave the channel its highest ratings for any programme since 2012, but it also prompted hundreds of complaints to the media regulator Ofcom.

Four years earlier, The Scheme was similarly divisive. In a clash that highlighted some of the complexities of the debate, cultural commentator Pat Kane accused producers of turning the chaos of people’s lives into a cartoon strip, while broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove asked why it was OK for him to act up for the cameras and not the people on the estate.

Most of the criticism, however, focused on the negative way the estate was portrayed; a good deal of the programme wasn’t even shot in Onthank, residents said.

Go to Onthank (and neighbouring Knockinlaw) today and the resentment is still palpable. Residents are defensive when approached by reporters. “You’ll just twist everything,” they say.

Though no-one will reveal their name, stories about the impact of the filming do trickle out. I hear about the tourists who drove into Ardgour Place (where Marvin and Dayna lived) and peered in people’s windows.

Tensions developed between those who were filmed and those who weren’t and Marvin became a target for everyone who wanted to prove how hard they were. After the programme ended, he could sometimes be seen signing cigarette packets for a couple of pounds a shot.

There doesn’t seem to be any great physical legacy from Onthank’s 15 minutes of notoriety either. “While it was being shown resources poured in, though they disappeared soon after the cameras,” one man tells me. “That was the upside. The downside was the whole estate got a bad name. Even now, there are people who hear ‘Onthank’ and associate it with chaos and crime.”

Next to a shipping container on Morven Avenue, two women are sitting on a step drinking cups of tea. Both of them insist residents were misled about the kind of programme The Scheme would be. “At the beginning, they said they were going to focus on a woman who had just found out she was going to have a baby and follow her through her pregnancy,” the younger woman says. “They also claimed they were going to follow a couple preparing for their wedding. Positive stories, you know.

“None of that happened. Yet there are people here who go out to work every day – why couldn’t they have filmed them?” The woman, who did not feature in the series, says none of the promised facilities materialised. She calls a teenage boy to her side. “What is there for young people to do here?” she asks. “Nothin’” he replies.

One of the more life-affirming storylines in The Scheme revolved around the Cree family’s unsuccessful campaign to save the threatened Ardbeg Community Centre. After we have finished chatting, I walk to the small garden that now stands on the site.

The garden was designed by architect David Ross, who lived in Onthank as a child, and created with the help of The Beechgrove Garden. Ross had offered his services because he felt The Scheme misrepresented the estate.

Today, it is overgrown. An old mattress has been dumped at the entrance and a broken headboard lies on a path. Many of the flagstones are broken or missing; square, rectangular and hexagonal plant boxes are choked with weeds, though here and there a few stray violas have found a way through.

In Bridgeton, community leaders list the physical improvements to the area. They include the renovation of the old Olympia Theatre (now a library and boxing club) and the old Carnegie library (now the Glasgow Women’s Library) as well as the building of a new block of housing association flats.

In Calton, Betty Cosgrove talks about the community centre and the children’s and pensioners’ activities held in a cargo container. Outside, I pass the Calton Green Volunteers, who are trimming hedges. No-one wants to see this progress jeopardised by a TV programme.

Poverty is a complex topic; its roots are intractable and its effects far-reaching. As Darren McGarvey, author of the Orwell Prize-winning Poverty Safari, points out, there is no shortage of territory to mine. A good documentary could interrogate the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and homelessness, violence and addiction. Or, as Ross suggests, the importance of empowering communities so that – after well- meaning projects like the garden are created – local people have the tools to maintain them. Alternatively, a good documentary could simply tell the stories of the lives of those who live in a community without turning them into the butt of some middle-class joke.

There are plenty of good documentaries. But McGarvey has little faith Born Famous is going to be one of them. “Instead, what C4 appears to be doing is sending two gold-plated wrecking balls into the East End of Glasgow where they will turn the UK’s most radioactive social problem into an episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee,” he says. “For all the immense wealth that is likely to be on display this is as cheap and tacky as you can get.”

Let’s suppose for a moment Born Famous is a sincere attempt to get celebrities like Mone to “check their privilege”: is it likely to yield any insights? What the Parris World In Action shows surely demonstrated was that it is impossible to understand what it means to be poor by make-believing for a short period.

“I just fear [Bethany] is going to be like: ‘Look at me, I am so great, I have lived in poverty for, a week’,” says Claire Parkes. “Then she makes money on the back of that and in the process she ruins our community by bad-mouthing it. The problem is: once something’s said and out there, it cannot be taken back.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Dani Garavelli"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4786393.1534627147!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786393.1534627147!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Jamie Docherty by the Bridgeton bandstand. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jamie Docherty by the Bridgeton bandstand. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4786393.1534627147!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4786394.1534627156!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786394.1534627156!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Chair of Calton Area Association, Betty Cosgrove. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Chair of Calton Area Association, Betty Cosgrove. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4786394.1534627156!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4786395.1534627159!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4786395.1534627159!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Bethany and Michelle Mone","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Bethany and Michelle Mone","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4786395.1534627159!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/heritage-group-in-call-to-end-pop-and-rock-gigs-at-princes-street-gardens-1-4784811","id":"1.4784811","articleHeadline": "Heritage group in call to end pop and rock gigs at Princes Street Gardens","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1534404773000 ,"articleLead": "

THERE have been calls for pop and rock gigs to be ousted from Princes Street Gardens to protect the landmark below Edinburgh Castle from being turned into a “theme park”.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4784810.1534404770!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Blackboards that were erected to prevent the public seeing the concert for free."} ,"articleBody": "

The call from the Cockburn Association, the city’s long-running heritage body, for an end to large-scale concerts during the Fringe and at Hogmanay comes amid complaints of a Tattoo performance being disturbed by the nearby Rag‘N’Bone Man gig in Princes Street Gardens.

Controversy erupted last week over blackboards that prevent the public seeing ticketed concerts in the gardens, which could host up to 200 events a year when a new £25 million arena is completed.

The association has called for Leith Links to be considered as an alternative location and accused council chiefs of trying to commercialise ­“every square metre” of the city centre.

Only the festival fireworks finale would be allowed in the gardens under the Cockburn’s vision for the beauty spot.

READ MORE: ‘Residents are treated as an afterthought’ Readers react to Princes Street barrier U-turn

Chairman Cliff Hague said: “Like many others, my concerns have grown, as it seems like every square metre of the city centre is being viewed as a means of raising revenue. This also links disruption such events cause before, during and after the event itself.

“I’ve no problems with the fireworks at the end of the festival, which depend on the setting of the castle to add to the spectacle. But I’m less convinced by the necessity to stage major pop and rock concerts.”

The Cockburn is urging anyone concerned about the use of the gardens to respond to an ongoing consultation which could see up to 200 theatre, comedy, dance, visual art exhibitions, talks and children’s shows staged in the gardens. Mr Hague said: “We believe the matter is one on which all citizens should have a chance to have a say.”

A spokeswoman for the city council said: “Princes Street Gardens are so central to daily Edinburgh life – it’s where we relax, play, eat and enjoy events – and I’m sure many people will want to have their say. Whether you believe the gardens provide a fantastic backdrop for a set number of concerts or not, it’s really important that as many people as possible share their views. This is a citywide discussion about the vibrancy of the gardens and the role they play in Edinburgh’s cultural scene.”

‘A better solution is needed’

A BETTER solution must be found if major concerts are to be staged in Princes Street Gardens in future, council leader Adam McVey said as he defended the council’s U-turn on hoardings used to prevent people watching from the pavement.

Cllr McVey ordered the 10ft black-out boards to be removed ahead of Tuesday night’s Rag ‘N Bone Man gig after complaints that they were blocking views of the castle.

The council announced it would close the area of pavement in front of the Ross Bandstand instead – but changed its mind after police advice and the hoardings went back up, though at a reduced height and only for the duration of the concert.

Cllr McVey said: “The problem came down to public safety. There were still concerns that even if we put restrictions on the pavement it would create the same problem on the road. In order to stop people congregating in the road to watch the concert we decided we needed to do something else.”

Similar measures will be in place for the remaining two concerts – Paloma Faith tomorrowFri and Kasabian on Saturday.

But Cllr McVey said: “We will have to look for a better solution for the future.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4784810.1534404770!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4784810.1534404770!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Blackboards that were erected to prevent the public seeing the concert for free.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Blackboards that were erected to prevent the public seeing the concert for free.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4784810.1534404770!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/iain-gray-call-swinney-to-account-for-catalogue-of-failures-1-4782638","id":"1.4782638","articleHeadline": "Iain Gray: Call Swinney to account for catalogue of failures","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1534050021000 ,"articleLead": "

Writing for the Scotland on Sunday this weekend, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray outlines the challenges facing John Swinney in the Education brief and calls for Holyrood’s education committee to investigate falling attainment in Scotland’s exam results.

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In the coming weeks school children begin returning to school, reenergised by six weeks or so of holiday, spent for the lucky ones, without a care in the world.

Not so John Swinney, the Education secretary charged with improving those schools and raising the attainment of those pupils.

His summer “holidays” have been marked by one bad story after another.

The parliamentary term had already ended on a humiliating note, with evidence of new tests reducing five year olds to tears, the curriculum narrowing, and finally, the shelving of the SNP’s “flagship” education bill, the very symbol of the Government’s “defining mission” to improve schools and raise attainment. Mr Swinney had spent two years on this Bill, but had failed to garner any support for measures which seemed designed more to undermine local authorities and centralise control of schools in his own hands than to empower schools as he claimed.

In a parliament which he had realised would not vote for his Bill, the education secretary ditched it, claiming that this would speed up the reforms it contained. No-one was fooled.

It then emerged that the government’s International Education Advisers had advised Mr Swinney not to legislate, in a report which went on to warn that his reforms could lead to more marketization of education, as had happened in England.

The final week fiasco was not yet over, though, as Mr Swinney found himself without a Minister for Universities and Colleges when Gillian Martin was sacked before her appointment could even be formalised. With Parliament in recess, the vacancy has stretched to two months.

If Mr Swinney thought recess would bring relief, he was wrong, initially thanks to a series of freedom of information requests. The first of these revealed his department’s attempts to “doctor” the education Advisers’ report to suggest great progress where none had been demonstrated.

Then, more damagingly, the revelation that the Cabinet Secretary had been told directly that a pilot of Yammer, Education Scotland’s social media platform for schools had seen a pornographic image uploaded and possibly viewed by children, yet he allowed the project to go live nonetheless. It seems likely the intervening weeks will not stop Parliament wanting some answers on this astonishing decision as soon as we return.

Finally, the government was forced to publish some 170 pages of a submission to them, from teachers, on their experience of those “standardised tests” in P1. The evidence of distress and upset for four and five-year-old children sitting tests which many teachers believed to be pointless was overwhelming. The Education sectary’s response, that the tests should be “fun” was, in contrast underwhelming.

If Mr Swinney was by now hankering for his halcyon days as Finance secretary, he could find no solace there. This week Labour published independent research showing that spending in schools is now £400m less per year than it was in 2010. Meanwhile, colleges have seen their budgets slashed by 10% in 10 years. Of course for most of those years of cuts to education, the purse strings were in the hands of, Mr Swinney. The Education Secretary’s attempt to dismiss cuts to schools as due to falling pupil numbers was not just weak, it was wrong. There are more pupils in our schools now than there were in 2010. The cuts are worse than they look, not better.

Then came the exam results. Attainment fell at both National and Higher level, for the third year, in what is now a trend. Worst of all, attainment in National exams is now 33.8% lower than it was in the Standard Grades they replaced. Some subjects, such as Modern Languages, have fallen even further off a cliff edge.

So, it has been a long hot summer in more ways than one for Mr Swinney, and the new school year is unlikely to bring relief.

Pupils return to schools which have 700 unfilled teacher vacancies, while the teachers we have are close now to strike action, tired of seeing their salaries eroded year on year – some 20% less than they were when the SNP came to power.

It is just over two years since Nicola Sturgeon declared that raising attainment was her government’s “defining mission”, and that there was “no better person” than John Swinney to deliver it. In fact, rather than proving to be a safe pair of hands, he has fumbled the ball on Education time and again.

New school, and Parliamentary years are traditionally seen as a fresh start. If the education secretary wants that, he has to come to Parliament and explain his decision to allow Yammer to go ahead. He must drop, once and for all, that unloved, unnecessary education Bill and its centralising reforms. He should end the testing of P1s, and go back to the drawing board on standardised tests generally.

He should ask the Education Committee to launch an investigation into those worrying trends in exam results, and if he will not, they should investigate anyway.

He should quickly agree a restorative pay rise with the teaching unions, to make the profession attractive again, and to avoid damaging industrial action no-one wants to see in our schools.

But above all he, and the First minister should commit to putting their money where their mouth is on education and restoring those cuts to schools and colleges in the next budget. Thousands of pupils did do very well in those exams, and that is testament to their hard work and their teachers, with the support of parents and carers. They deserve a government which backs them with the resources they need rather than warm words.

• Iain Gray MSP is Labour education spokesperson

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4782723.1534085311!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4782723.1534085311!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Iain Gray reckons John Swinney should be called to account for a "catalogue of failures". Picture: TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Iain Gray reckons John Swinney should be called to account for a "catalogue of failures". Picture: TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4782723.1534085311!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/insight-what-dress-code-row-means-to-muslim-women-1-4782650","id":"1.4782650","articleHeadline": "Insight: What dress code row means to Muslim women","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1534027839000 ,"articleLead": "

Scots who choose whether or not to wear the hijab discuss the impact of Boris Johnson’s comments about the veil on their lives with Dani Garavelli

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4782648.1534021293!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Left to right: back, Raisah Ahmed, Ghizala Avan; front, Samina Ansari, Ayesha Amin and Mahrukh Shaukat. Picture John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Samina Ansari was 21 when she decided to start wearing a hijab; today she sits in Glasgow’s Amina Muslim Women Resource Centre (MWRC), her pretty white scarf framing an open, expressive face, at ease with her own identity.

Yet being so visibly Muslim has cost her; ten years ago, two white men ambushed her car, shouting abuse and smashing windows, as she cowered in the front seat, terrified for her own safety and that of her baby son.

Then two years ago, when a five-year-old had been knocked down by another car and she stopped to call an ambulance, the father of the injured boy accused her of causing the accident while his partner called her a “P*** bitch”. And earlier this year when she was dropping off her son at his father’s house, two men pulled alongside her to shout “Isis”. “These things do affect me, particularly when I am with my son,” says Ansari, who is now 37, and chief executive of the MWRC. “After the first incident, I felt I was robbed of my safety. I didn’t want to take my son to the park. I would wait for someone else to be around before I went for the groceries. I felt I was retreating into my own community.”

Ansari is one of five Muslim women who have agreed to talk to me about their experiences and the potential impact of Boris Johnson’s derogatory comments about the niqab (he used the word burqa, but the garment he described – a full veil with a gap for the eyes – is actually a niqab).

In a Daily Telegraph column opposing Denmark’s recent ban, the MP nevertheless compared women who wear them to “letterboxes” or “bank robbers” – a “joke”which has been condemned as demeaning and racist. Johnson’s offence was compounded by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who said Muslim women were being forced to cover up “their beauty or their bruises” – a comment that clearly linked the niqab to domestic abuse.

The politicians’ remarks sparked a furious argument between those who see Johnson as an opportunist fuelling Islamophobia for his own ends and those who – while uneasy with his flippancy – agree the niqab is a barrier to gender equality and integration .

Some of those who backed Johnson co-opted minorities to bolster their position. In another tweet Dorries wrote: “You cannot expect a society that backs gay pride and embraces gay marriage to live harmoniously when condoning the suppression of women forced to cover up, segregate and become invisible.” Right-wing commentator Iain Martin suggested burqas/niqabs were discriminatory towards deaf people because they prevented them lip-reading. In both cases, representatives of the co-opted minorities replied: “You do not speak for us.”

Largely absent from this discussion about Muslim women’s agency, or lack of it, however, have been Muslim women’s voices. As others argued on their behalf, it seemed the very people bemoaning the “disempowerment” of such women were the ones perpetuating it. Yet those who have gathered at the MWRC (most of whom work there) are keen to share their experiences and more than capable of doing so.

Three of them – Ansari, screenwriter Raisah Ahmed and MWRC development officer Mahrukh Shaukat – wear the hijab, while youth helpline development officer Ayesha Amin, chooses not to; Ghizala Avan, actor and violence against women development officer, wore one for a brief period after 9/11 as a gesture of solidarity with those suffering racist abuse. All five have friends or relatives who wear the niqab, including, until recently, Shaukat’s mother.

The women have faced a mixture of reactions to their choices: Ansari’s family were less than enthusiastic when she started wearing the hijab, whereas Ahmed was following her mother’s example. They all agree, however, that Johnson’s comments increase the risks for Muslim women and militate against the integration he claims to support.

“Here we have someone who has been elected, in a position of power, saying things that are potentially putting people in his own constituency in danger,” says Ahmed, 32. “So then you ask the question: ‘Are you there only to protect the people like you?’ With certain MPs, is there a barrier as to whom they will represent and whose needs they will address?”

The first thing that strikes you when talking to the women at the MWRC is how articulate they are. The second is that they come from very different backgrounds .

Ansari, for example, grew up in a household that was not particularly religious. It wasn’t until she went to university that she started to think more about her faith and decided to cover her hair. “I had been going through a phase where I was dying my hair every couple of weeks and I think, when I first came home with my headscarf on, my mum and dad thought I’d ended up with a really bad colour.” What did they say when they found out the truth? “They weren’t openly supportive, but they weren’t against it. My older brother is not a fan, but he too accepts that it’s my choice.”

One of her non-Muslim friends was not so accepting and eventually cut off contact. “I was surprised how closed some people were in terms of feeling that if I chose to wear the hijab, I had changed as a person.”

Ansari says that, for her, wearing the hijab is both an act of worship and a political statement; over the years the headscarf has become an integral part of her identity.

Having worn a headscarf since the age of 12, Ahmed did not have to face a period of readjustment with friends and relatives. Working in the arts, which she describes as “open”, she doesn’t experience much verbal abuse; but she does feel she has to fight against preconceptions about how someone “like her” would behave, the implication being that she would be expected to be more submissive and less outgoing.

“How many times have you seen a positive portrayal of a woman in a hijab or a niqab in a drama?” she asks. “As a writer, my battles have always been around the perceptions people have of those who wear the hijab. People will say to me: ‘A woman in a head scarf wouldn’t do that.’ And I will reply: ‘Well, I’m a woman in a headscarf and I am telling you she would.’”

Ahmed reaps positive as well as negative dividends from the hijab; when she is out at functions, it makes her stand out from the crowd. When she follows up on an encounter, people remember who she is.

This is, I suppose, where the hijab and the niqab differ. In a hijab your face can be seen; and though its principal function is religious, it also doubles as a fashion statement. Headscarves can be worn in different ways and matched with different outfits; all three women I meet look stylish in theirs.

This is not true of niqabs, which render women almost indistinguishable from one another. So how do the MWRC feel about them? Are full face veils – as Johnson and his supporters would have it – a means of isolating women? Or are they a potent expression of Muslim identity?

Ahmed points out that women who wear niqabs are often just as fashionable if not more so than their unveiled friends, they just choose not to display themselves in public. “They wear these outfits for themselves,” says Ahmed. “It’s not about pleasing or attracting someone. Their style is not dependent on the male gaze. And there’s a liberation in that.”

Shaukat’s mother – who is half Scottish and half Pakistani – started wearing the niqab at the age of 23 while living in Pakistan, and continued to do so when she moved back to the UK. At that time, it was not common in Pakistan, neither was it the tradition within her own family. According to Shaukat, her mum made a personal choice and her new husband liked and supported it.

“My mum is an extremely confident person,” says Shaukat. “What she wears does not seem to affect that confidence or her ability to interact with people.”

This latter point is borne out by her professional achievements; she is a therapist, a job some people might consider incompatible with wearing a veil, but Shaukat says she has made a success of it.

“When my mum was at Strathclyde University [training as a therapist] she was doing some research and she was asked if she would take on male clients. She said: ‘Yes, but I would be wearing my niqab,’” says Shaukat.

“The therapists [running] the research said she might not be able to continue, but she asked them to let her try, and all the applicants to her particular strand of person-centred therapy found there was no difference in the ability to receive that therapy or to build a trust relationship when she was wearing it.”

Shaukat herself has never worn the niqab, not because she thinks it alienates women from society but because she thinks society alienates women who wear it. Indeed her mother, who now lives in Aberdeen, has been on the receiving end of such a lot of abuse she no longer wears it so regularly.

“My dad asked her to think about stopping because he was scared for her. At first she said no, but then on one week-long trip to Glasgow, she had people shouting stuff from cars and a woman tried to block her entrance to a pizza shop. On another occasion, in a park in Bishopbriggs, a guy told her she shouldn’t be looking after children and swore at her.”

Shaukat says her mother feels she has had her freedom of choice taken away. “‘I don’t want to show my face, but I am being told if I don’t then people aren’t going to treat me in a way that is safe for me and my family,’ she says.”

The UK debate over the niqab began in 2006 when the then leader of the House of Commons Jack Straw wrote a newspaper column in which he revealed he always asked women who attended his surgery in veils to remove them because he believed they made communication more difficult.

Other European countries – France, Belgium, Austria and now Denmark – have all banned them. The UK has steered away from a full ban – believing it to be an incursion on people’s freedoms – but the debate about the pros and cons of women covering their faces, particularly in settings such as classrooms or courts, has rumbled on. This is despite the fact that only a tiny proportion of people in Europe wear them. Data is hard to come by for the UK, but in France, in 2011, when the ban was introduced, the figures were less than 0.04 per cent of French Muslim women and less than 0.003 per cent of the French population.

Johnson’s remarks have sparked a particular furore because of the tone, the timing and the conviction of his critics that they were born less of a desire to contribute to a discussion, than of a combination of Islamophobia and political opportunism. Though they may have backfired on the party – shifting media scrutiny away from anti-Semitism in Labour – the extent to which they have resonated with sections of the public could stand him in good stead were he to run for leader.

Though Johnson now faces an internal disciplinary inquiry over his Telegraph contract, some high-profile figures have rallied to his defence. The comedian Rowan Atkinson, for example, said everyone should be free to make “jokes”, while former chief whip Andrew Mitchell insisted there was no need for him to apologise.

But what of the contention that – while Johnson may have been wide of the mark – some women are forced to wear the niqab, thus rendering it innately oppressive and antithetical to feminism? While the women at MWRC concede there is likely to be a degree of pressure in some cases, they point out there are women of all ethnicities and cultures trapped in similarly coercive relationships. Feminist activist Talat Yaqoob believes the burqa/niqab has become such a fixation because it’s a useful “dog-whistle” for the right-wing. “‘We care about freedom for women, that’s why we are outraged by it,’ insist those who will also tell you the pay gap isn’t real and rape culture doesn’t exist,” says Yaqoob.

One risk of Johnson’s column is that it will legitimise the kind of racial hatred that spawned the threats of Punish A Muslim Day – a rallying call to violence contained in letters distributed in parts of England earlier this year.

Those threats led the MWRC to cancel several events because women who were normally active members of the community were too scared to leave their homes.

“When someone like Johnson makes comments on a public platform it makes other people [with racist views] think we can do whatever we want now,” says Ahmed.

Another risk is that the “othering” of Muslim women who wear the niqab will hinder – as opposed to foster – inclusion. “The whole practice of discussing bans across Europe is of assistance to relatively regressive voices, all the socially conservative and sometimes misogynistic voices within Muslim communities, because they get to say: ‘Are you with us or are you with them?” says Sunder Katwala, the director of the identity and integration think-tank British Future.

“What is being said by those regressive voices is that this is a slippery slope; that what the state wants is to ban Islam. There is, I think, a symbiotic relationship out on the extremes between the likes of [English Defence League founder] Tommy Robinson and [hate preacher] Anjem Choudary. They both want to assert that we will never get on and that the clash of civilisations is inevitable. Both groups are saying to Muslims: there’s no point in trying to integrate.”

The possibility that Johnson’s negative portrayal of women in niqabs will drive people even further apart upsets the women at MWRC.

“I think it is dangerous to start building these walls,” says Ahmed. “What we actually need is to talk to each other; to try to understand each other’s stories, backgrounds and the reasons we do the things we do.”

BY DEFINITION

Hijab

The word hijab describes the act of covering up generally but is often used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in many styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.

Niqab

The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.

Burqa

The burqa is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Dani Garavelli"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4782648.1534021293!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4782648.1534021293!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Left to right: back, Raisah Ahmed, Ghizala Avan; front, Samina Ansari, Ayesha Amin and Mahrukh Shaukat. Picture John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Left to right: back, Raisah Ahmed, Ghizala Avan; front, Samina Ansari, Ayesha Amin and Mahrukh Shaukat. Picture John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4782648.1534021293!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4782649.1534021297!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4782649.1534021297!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hijab wearers on the streets of Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hijab wearers on the streets of Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4782649.1534021297!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/frances-sutton-authors-share-their-visions-of-freedom-at-book-festival-1-4779167","id":"1.4779167","articleHeadline": "Frances Sutton: Authors share their visions of freedom at Book Festival","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1533531602000 ,"articleLead": "

All over the world, writers are ­preparing to head to Edinburgh.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4779166.1533498256!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "(L-R) Nick Barley, Director, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Janet Smyth, Director of Children's & Education Programmes, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Roland Gulliver (Associate Director). Picture: TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

These include Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o from Kenya, who in 1978 wrote his classic novel Devil on the Cross on toilet paper while incarcerated as a political prisoner; Yan Lianke, who lives and writes in China although his books are banned in Chinese; Frank Gardner who ­continues to report from around the world despite being seriously injured in a terrorist attack and Afua Hirsch, who argues that while some of our identities, such as race and gender, may be given at birth, we can nevertheless insist on having the freedom to define ourselves.

When we chose the theme of Freedom for the 2018 ­Festival, we wanted to examine the stories behind the headlines and the political turmoil that has brought about momentous changes – refugees risking everything for a new and better life, debates around gender equality, the shift in political power in the USA and across Europe, and, inevitably, Brexit.

We wanted this year’s Book Festival to consider Freedom in all its permutations – freedoms lost and freedoms won. What is a freedom, and what is a right? Why do freedoms gained for some ­elements of society result in freedoms lost to others? A series of debates running through our ­programme invite our audience to have their say on subjects as diverse as ­collective care, education, gender and accessing technology.

Authors across the Festival will share their visions of freedom. Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina discusses the repercussions of her imprisonment with Yanis Varoufakis, Gina Miller gives her unflinching account of what it means to stand up for justice and Chitra Nagarajan brings her ­collection of ­stories about life in Africa as a queer woman. The Unbound festival within a festival will ­welcome poets from ­Catalonia and Brazil, Anthony Joseph telling the story of the ­Windrush generation through the life of calypso music icon Lord Kitchener and voices from across Africa including ­Zimbabwe’s Novuyo Tshuma, Uganda’s Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi and Nigerian poet Donna Ogunnaike.

The Freedom Papers, essays commissioned by the Book Festival from 51 authors across 25 countries, examine LGBTQ+, race, religion, immigration, disability, education and technology. Eight are in languages other than English, some are polemic, some fictional narratives, some are poems and two are illustrations – including one from Iranian illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi. Abdollahi was refused a visa to attend the Book Festival in 2017 and only after a campaign was this decision overturned. Many ­contributing authors attending the Festival will read their papers in free Ten at Ten events.

The Book Festival’s celebration of the Freedom Papers culminates on 27 August with the Freedom Finale, a special event featuring readings of a number of the papers in a narrative steered by Gavin Francis and Esa Aldegheri. They will be accompanied by a live performance of the musical score, ­specially commissioned to accompany the papers, by composer Danny Krass and bassist Seth Bennett, Luke Sutherland, novelist, playwright and guitarist formerly of Mogwai, violinist Gavin Marwick, Ghanian-born percussionist Gameli Tordzro and a pre-recorded performance from Muthoni Drummer Queen from Kenya with readings from Collete Dalal Tchantcho and Joanna Tope.

We are looking forward to two weeks of lively discussions. Come and join us.

• Frances Sutton is press manager for Edinburgh International Book Festival

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4779166.1533498256!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4779166.1533498256!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "(L-R) Nick Barley, Director, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Janet Smyth, Director of Children's & Education Programmes, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Roland Gulliver (Associate Director). Picture: TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "(L-R) Nick Barley, Director, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Janet Smyth, Director of Children's & Education Programmes, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Roland Gulliver (Associate Director). Picture: TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4779166.1533498256!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/dani-garavelli-power-over-asylum-more-potent-than-protests-1-4778986","id":"1.4778986","articleHeadline": "Dani Garavelli: Power over asylum more potent than protests","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1533485799000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s welcome would really be put to the test if it could decide who should stay and how to deal with deportations, writes Dani Garavelli.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4778985.1533466607!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Asylum seeker Irwais Ahmadzai (right) and Rahman Sahah (centre) with another protester outside the Home Office centre in Govan. Photograph: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Every time there is a backlash over some aspect of UK immigration policy, there is an equal and opposite reaction from decriers of Scottish exceptionalism reminding us that we are no better than anyone else. Irritated by the tone of sanctimony that sometimes infects the debate up here, they insist there is no evidence to support the notion that people are more tolerant of incomers north of the Border.

In truth, the picture is mixed. In the run-up to the independence referendum, a study by the Migration Observatory found attitudes towards immigration were less negative in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. On the other hand, anyone who has vox-popped Scottish voters, and heard the phrase “I’m not racist, but…” uttered many times, won’t have been surprised by No Problem Here: Understanding Racism In Scotland, a book which dismisses the country’s conceit of itself as a beacon of racial enlightenment.

Where Scotland does differ from England is that our political leaders rarely encourage, endorse or legitimise anti-migrant rhetoric. Yes, there is the odd bad apple – Tory MP Douglas Ross, for example, who expressed a desire to crack down on “gypsies and travellers” – and sometimes party leaders are not as vocal as they should be when it comes to calling out their own.

By and large, however, our politicians do not exploit populist fears on immigration to their own advantage; they do not seek to make refugees, asylum-seekers, or economic migrants scapegoats for our woes; they do not cultivate a climate of suspicion against those who seek a better life on our shores.

The SNP, in particular, has worked hard to counter the hostility towards migrants fomented before, during and after the EU referendum. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has spoken out about the contribution Europeans and others make to our economy and culture and insisted that under her stewardship Scotland will always be a country that welcomes refugees. The difference such positivity makes can be seen on Bute, where, despite efforts by right-wing papers to sow division, 24 Syrian families have been integrated into the community, with several now running successful businesses.

The Scottish Government’s contribution is not confined to positive messaging; its new Scots Refugee Integration Strategy – drawn up with the help of 700 refugees – aims to improve access to education, housing and health. But with no power to shape broader immigration policy, it will always be operating with one hand tied behind its back.

All of which brings me to Serco. The moment it emerged the private company contracted to house 5,000 asylum seekers in Glasgow was issuing lock-change orders to “overstayers” – asylum seekers whose accommodation the Home Office has ceased to fund – all civic Scotland, bar the Conservatives, was galvanised into action.

Politicians, refugee charities, churches, asylum seekers and others have been gathering at a series of highly charged protests outside the Home Office and Serco premises in Cessnock, Glasgow, with speaker after speaker emphasising that shelter is a basic human right.

Campaign groups, including the Scottish Refugee Council, have worked to counter the Home Office depiction of those being targeted as “illegal”, pointing out that 100 of the 330 people involved have been given leave to stay, while many more are still in the process of appealing against rejections. They have also challenged the contention that it is now safe for those who fled violence in Iraq and Afghanistan to return there.

Meanwhile, newspapers and online news websites have highlighted stories of individual trauma. Common Space’s Alasdair Clark interviewed Rahman Sahah, who went on hunger strike last week. Sahah, 32, was born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan. The Home Office has told him he is entitled to Pakistani citizenship; the Pakistani embassy says not. Imagine: a whole life spent in stateless limbo; and now the prospect of being forced out on to the streets.

At yesterday’s protest there was a symbolic burning of eviction notices; but most of the work that has been going on has been highly practical. Positive Action for Housing – a charity that supports destitute asylum seekers – has launched an appeal for funds and urged those with spare rooms to offer them as emergency accommodation.

Though it is prevented from housing those who have exhausted the asylum process, Glasgow City Council has set up a task force to work with the third sector to offer advocacy and support. It is also looking at ways in which its general power of welfare to help vulnerable groups might be extended to the predominantly single men involved.

Meanwhile, Govan Law Centre’s threat to challenge the legality of Serco’s actions forced the company to agree to stop issuing lock-change orders until its right to do so had been tested and clarified in court.

Though Serco’s behaviour has been shoddy – the city council insists it was “blind-sided by its sudden change of tack” – the ultimate blame for the scandal lies with the UK government.

It was the Home Office that, in 2012, decided the housing of asylum seekers should be fully privatised, a decision which led to many vulnerable people being placed in squalid conditions. It was the Home Office that decided funding should be cut off 21 days after an application is deemed to have failed. If Serco does not evict, then it is left out of pocket.

Last week, a range of MPs and councillors (both SNP and Labour) wrote to Home Secretary Sajid Javid urging him to halt the evictions, but a one-off intervention merely staves off disaster until the next piece of hostile environment insanity.

The only long-term solution is for immigration policy to be devolved to Holyrood post-Brexit. Freed from Westminster, the Scottish Government would no longer have to stand on the sidelines as asylum seekers were stripped of their dignity and their human rights.

Of course, there is no cast-iron guarantee those threatened with eviction would fare better under a devolved system. At present the Scottish Government does not appear to be on top of its existing housing problems. According to Shelter, 38 children a day became homeless across the country in 2017. Glasgow City Council too is struggling to address the housing needs of its most vulnerable. A recent Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) report said homeless people in the city spent an average of 238 days in temporary accommodation in 2016/17 and people are still being turned away from the Hamish Allan out-of-hours homelessness service.

The SNP might also find that it’s less easy to be welcoming when it is in charge of deciding who stays and who goes and how deportations should be handled.

But the only way to test if Scotland is more tolerant and enlightened is to allow the country to create its own system.

Pass immigration powers to Holyrood and we’ll soon find out if we really do have it in us to do things better up here.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Dani Garavelli"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4778985.1533466607!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4778985.1533466607!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Asylum seeker Irwais Ahmadzai (right) and Rahman Sahah (centre) with another protester outside the Home Office centre in Govan. Photograph: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Asylum seeker Irwais Ahmadzai (right) and Rahman Sahah (centre) with another protester outside the Home Office centre in Govan. Photograph: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4778985.1533466607!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/independent-scotland-would-need-20-years-to-remove-trident-ex-snp-adviser-1-4778988","id":"1.4778988","articleHeadline": "Independent Scotland would need 20 years to remove Trident - ex-SNP adviser","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1533423325000 ,"articleLead": "

An independent Scotland would be unable to remove Trident from Scottish waters for at least 20 years, a former defence adviser to the SNP has warned.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4778987.1533464526!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Astute-class submarines HMS Artful (left) and HMS Astute, at Faslane. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA"} ,"articleBody": "

Instead of getting rid of the nuclear deterrent from the Clyde, an independent Scotland should explore leasing the Faslane facility to the UK government at around £1.1 billion per year.

The proposal has been made by Stuart Crawford in a paper which will be published this autumn looking at defence options in an independent Scotland post-Brexit.

Crawford argues that Trident would have to stay in the short to medium term because it would take two decades and £25 billion to build a facility comparable to Faslane south of the border.

His proposal that Trident should stay until an alternative site can be built will be met with hostility from the SNP grassroots and leadership, which is passionately opposed to nuclear weapons.

But Crawford, a defence commentator and former army officer, believes he is offering a pragmatic solution given the difficulties associated with getting rid 
of the deterrent, which supports around 7,000 military and civilian jobs in Scotland.

Crawford believes that insisting on getting rid of nuclear weapons would pose a diplomatic problem for an independent Scotland in that the US would object.

This, he believes, could see America block an independent Scotland’s accession to Nato.

Crawford’s paper will also outline the practical challenges of removing Trident from the Faslane/Coulport naval base on the Clyde and rehousing the weapons system south of the border.

The most pressing would be replicating the bunkers specially designed for storing the nuclear warheads securely outside Scotland as well as the storage and jetty facilities for the submarines that carry them.

Devonport, Falmouth, Port­land, Milford Haven and Barrow-in-Furness have been suggested as possible replacements for Faslane. Crawford argues that all of them would require major work to be made suitable at a multi-billion pound cost.

Crawford said: “The paper is going to say in essence that an independent Scotland cannot really sensibly insist on removal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent from its waters in the short to medium term.

“Therefore some pragmatic solution has to be adopted. The pragmatic solution is, in my opinion, to rent the Faslane nuclear facilities to the rest of the UK until such time as some other arrangement can be brought about.

“If there is any chance of Scotland becoming an independent country in 2021, it would take the UK government at least 20 years to build the equivalent to the Faslane/Coulport facilities elsewhere in the UK. Then it would seem that some sort of leasing arrangement over 25 years or thereabouts would be sensible.

“We reckon to build the new facility elsewhere in the UK, if a place can be found, it would probably cost somewhere in the region of £25 billion.

“An educated estimate of what Scotland might be looking at to rent Faslane to the rest of the UK might be in the order of £1.1 billion per year.”

Crawford acknowledged that his plan would not sit well with the SNP, but he argued that having Trident on Scottish soil would give the Scottish Government a strong hand in the negotiations to break up the UK.

“It is the most emotive defence-related issue in the whole independence debate. The difficult thing for the SNP leadership would be selling this to the foot soldiers. The broad base of the independence movement is very much grounded in the CND movement. I am completely sympathetic to that.

“The SNP Government might look at this plan and say it doesn’t deliver our promise to remove Trident, but it would be the biggest bargaining chip that an independent Scotland could have.”

Alex Salmond’s independence white paper prepared for the 2014 referendum aimed that Trident should be removed from Scotland within the first term of the Scottish Parliament immediately following independence.

The blueprint said Scotland would become a non-nuclear Nato member, despite the organisation being a nuclear defence alliance. Under Salmond’s 2014 plans Faslane would be transformed into a conventional naval base and become joint headquarters of the Scottish defence forces. The white paper argued that removing the deterrent would prevent £100bn being “wasted” on maintaining a new nuclear weapons system.

The prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum was put on the agenda by Nicola Sturgeon after the UK voted to leave the European Union. She has since “reset” her indyref2 plans, saying she would revisit the issue this autumn, assuming details of the UK’s Brexit deal are clearer by then.

Earlier this year, the SNP published its Growth Commission, a document produced by the former SNP MSP and economist, Andrew Wilson, which acts as an independence blueprint. The Growth Commission said an independent Scotland’s defence budget would be 1.6 per cent of GDP, a saving on the UK’s plans for Scotland. But the document did not deal specifically with the Trident issue.

The SNP’s opponents claimed Crawford’s model demonstrated that the SNP’s pledge to get rid of nuclear weapons lacked credibility.

Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative MP for Moray, said: “These comments add an element of realism to the SNP’s defence policy for an independent Scotland, something that has been sorely lacking for a long time.

“However, the idea of the UK’s nuclear deterrent remaining on the Clyde for 20 years would not sit well with many rank and file nationalists.

“It was never credible to think that Trident would just disappear from the Clyde following a Yes vote. There are thousands of Scottish jobs that depend on it. This is another example of policy and decision-making being driven by political dogma and the SNP’s obsession for separation at any cost.”

An SNP spokeswoman said: “The SNP does not support Trident either as part of the UK or in an independent Scotland. We have continually opposed the renewal of Trident at the cost of conventional and cyber defences and continue to do so. In 2014 the Scottish Government set out a responsible approach to the removal of Trident from Scotland and in the event of independence securing the speediest and safest withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Scotland would be a priority for an SNP Scottish Government.”

The Ministry of Defence declined to comment.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4778987.1533464526!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4778987.1533464526!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Astute-class submarines HMS Artful (left) and HMS Astute, at Faslane. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Astute-class submarines HMS Artful (left) and HMS Astute, at Faslane. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4778987.1533464526!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/media-leisure/call-for-longer-edinburgh-festival-to-ease-room-cost-crisis-1-4778965","id":"1.4778965","articleHeadline": "Call for longer Edinburgh festival to ease room cost crisis","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1533422283000 ,"articleLead": "

Hotel industry leaders in Edinburgh have called for the city’s main festival season to be extended across the summer to help ease demand for rooms.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4778964.1533409094!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "As the number of visitors to the capital soars, the cost of accommodation is threatening to compromise artistic standards. Picture: Neil Hanna"} ,"articleBody": "

They claim the move would bring down prices in August when visitors face paying upwards of £400 to secure a room.

The Edinburgh Hotels Association has called for action to be taken to ensure the city becomes a “true year-round destination” in future years.

The body claims the city’s tourism infrastructure is under mounting pressure in August because there is “very high demand for a limited supply of accommodation”.

Last week property experts warned a shortage of hotel rooms in August was fuelling the city’s controversial Airbnb market, which has soared to more than 1.1 million overnight stays – 20 per cent of the visitor market in the city.

Airbnb has revealed 120,000 visitors to the August festivals have booked via its site, earning hosts around £15 million.

The industry body has spoken out in the wake of warnings from Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy that the “life-force” of the city’s festivals faces being killed off due to the cost of staying in the city in August.

She has called for a “city-wide effort and commitment” to help curb the cost of staying in Edinburgh in August.

Edinburgh’s jazz and film festivals have moved out of their traditional August slots in recent years, partly due to the soaring costs of staging the events in the peak period.

Russell Imrie, spokesman for the Hotels Association, said “extending the timeframe” of Edinburgh’s festivals in the calendar would create a “smoother demand curve” outwith August.

He said: “August is super peak month in Edinburgh as a result of tourists – UK and international – visiting Edinburgh to attend the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

“In addition, believe it or not, there are tourists who visit Edinburgh in August without attending any of the festivals and are either mainly having a city break or are visiting Edinburgh during a visit to Scotland.

“The high tourist numbers result in very high demand for a limited supply of accommodation. The basic laws of supply and demand result in flexible pricing to a level which the customer is willing to pay.

“In the same way that demand drives pricing in August upwards, it drives pricing in winter downwards as there is lower demand for the fixed supply of accommodation and market forces cause suppliers to reduce prices to tempt buyers.

“Turning to August, it is clear that if demand was reduced, the laws of supply and demand would result in lower accommodation prices.

“Holding all festivals in a three-week period creates high demand, so spreading this out through July and August would smooth demand... the target for all should be for the city to have a spread of events throughout the year, which avoids too many large events at the same time. This would result in a sustainable tourism industry with pricing which avoids high peaks and low troughs.”

Research carried out by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society in recent months has found the cost of accommodation in the city in August is the biggest single barrier to participation in the event.

However, Imrie said: “Edinburgh has been highly successful in developing its tourism industry and Edinburgh is a must-see city for most visitors to Scotland. This creates high demand. There is no such thing as a ‘normal price’ from which hotels raise their prices. Prices are simply a reflection of demand. Compared with other European capital cities, Edinburgh is not achieving the occupancy or room rates of other capital cities.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Brian Ferguson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4778964.1533409094!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4778964.1533409094!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "As the number of visitors to the capital soars, the cost of accommodation is threatening to compromise artistic standards. Picture: Neil Hanna","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "As the number of visitors to the capital soars, the cost of accommodation is threatening to compromise artistic standards. Picture: Neil Hanna","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4778964.1533409094!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/culture/edinburgh-fringe-chief-accommodation-prices-will-kill-life-force-of-festivals-1-4775412","id":"1.4775412","articleHeadline": "Edinburgh Fringe chief: Accommodation prices will ‘kill life-force of festivals’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1532855683000 ,"articleLead": "

It is a full week before the official start of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as the mid-afternoon sun beats down on the bustling heart of the Royal Mile.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4775411.1532855662!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Fringe Society, Royal Mile, Edinburgh . Picture: Neil Hanna Photography ."} ,"articleBody": "

But anyone arriving in the city for the first time could be forgiven for thinking the world’s biggest arts festival is in full cry such is the throng of tourists and street entertainers outside its headquarters.

Inside, last-minute preparations are being made by the Fringe Society for its 20th year of managing the High Street arena, which will be getting a makeover to coincide with the anniversary.

READ MORE: Green MSP Andy Wightman calls for controls on holiday homes

A year on from the Fringe’s own 70th birthday celebrations, all the indications are that the event is going from strength to strength, with more shows than ever before set to be staged across a record 317 venues.

But inside her modest office above the festival’s bustling box office, the Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy is warning that complacency over the event’s success is actually the biggest threat to its future.

READ MORE: Airbnb guests to boost Edinburgh’s economy by £48m during Fringe

With nearly 2.7 million Fringe tickets shifted last year, it is no surprise that it is responsible for the vast majority of the £313 million in economic impact now estimated to be generated by Edinburgh’s festivals.

But the Fringe’s success has had a sting in the tail for the Fringe Society and the hundreds of companies it works with every year.

The soaring cost of accommodation has been identified as the major barrier to participation in the event in future on the back of last year’s Fringe – it is regarded as a more serious threat than the looming prospect of Brexit.

The concerns raised by artists, performers, producers and promoters are being treated so seriously by McCarthy they have prompted her to warn that the very “life-force” of Edinburgh in August could be killed off by the dramatic cost of staying in the city.

Rather than bring down the cost of accommodation, the opening of new budget hotels across the city centre and the Airbnb boom for the private accommodation sector seem to have simply sent prices soaring even further.

McCarthy has thrown down the gauntlet by asking for a “city-wide effort and commitment” to help curb the cost of staying in Edinburgh in August.

She also wants a collective effort to be made to ensure Edinburgh is treated as a year-round capital of culture by all the main agencies in the city and for the arts to be given similar billing to the heritage of the Scottish capital.

Appointed two and a half years ago, McCarthy had been responsible for Derry-Londonderry’s year as the first ever UK City of Culture and led Belfast’s bid to become a European Capital of Culture.

As she prepares to take the helm of the event for the third time, she admits to some frustration that the make-up of the Fringe is “misunderstood”.

“I don’t think people realise that the Fringe Society is a charitable organisation that only has 24 people working for it or that the Fringe is full of completely different business models,” she said.

“There are big venues with big commercial acts in them, but there are also hundreds of free and pay-what-you-want shows, and free street events. It’s such an eclectic mix of every possible business model. It is a phenomenon.

“I think people just make assumptions about what it is and how it operates. We need to do more to clearly and transparently articulate how this festival works. It’s not a curated and programmed publicly funded festival. It’s a range of people taking real risks to bring work here.”

Although there is widespread accommodation still available at many of the city’s top hotels this weekend, the prices are hovering near the £500 mark for a one-night stay. Budget chains are asking more than £200 for a room on Princes Street or the Royal Mile.

Bringing down the cost of accommodation in Edinburgh in August has been identified as one of the biggest priorities for the Fringe in a new five-year plan.

McCarthy, who told tourism industry leaders earlier this year that the city had to take more care to provide a “supportive landscape” for the Fringe, admits the issue is not a new one.

But she insists there has never been a collective push to tackle the soaring cost of accommodation to ensure the event remains “affordable and accessible to all”. She said: “At the heart of the Fringe are the artists and creative people who come and make work here.

“They are the driving force for all of the other economic impacts across the city in August.

“The moment at which it becomes too expensive for artists to spend the entire month here, or do even part of a run in Edinburgh, will kill off the very thing that drives it all in the first place.

“A city that is so proud of its festivals because of their positive global reputation, their economic impact, cultural impact and social impact has to be really careful to preserve them.

“The cost of accommodation has the potential to be the defining barrier to participating in the Fringe unless everyone is acutely aware of it.

“I’m aware some people think: ‘Well, there’s nothing you can do, it’s down to market forces and what can the Fringe Society do about that?’

“I think that’s just complacency. If we don’t take a leadership role around it who will?”

The launch of the 2018 Fringe programme last month was accompanied by the unveiling of a five-year blueprint for the future of the event.

Key aims include the expansion of a scheme launched last year to ensure free tickets for shows are distributed to local charities, to guarantee that artists have permit-free status to perform at the event in the wake of Brexit and to find a new year-round home for the event in the heart of the city centre.

The vision has emerged from months of talks with Fringe participants, who left McCarthy and her team in no doubt about the priority issue to be tackled over the next few years.

“The cost of accommodation was by far the thing that was raised the most in the conversations we had,” she said. “We now need to have a concerted effort to address it.

“We know we have a responsibility ourselves. That’s why we’ve frozen our registration fees for a 12th year and have made a commitment that they will be frozen for the next five years and ideally will never increase again – and if anything will actually decrease.

“We’ve also committed to reducing the commission we take on ticket sales from 4 per cent to 3 per cent.

“The Fringe Society cannot do it all on its own. We are the ones saying: ‘This is going to be a problem. You’re going to kill the life-force of these festivals if you don’t do something about it.’

“It’s very straightforward. If you’re an artist and you can’t find accommodation in a place offering you a platform to perform for up to a month, it doesn’t matter how much you want to do it. If you can’t afford it you can’t afford it.

“You can’t just keep putting the prices up. It will eventually become an issue, it really will.

“Some people in the industry have been prepared to work with us and come at things from a more ethical position, but we’ve only just put this out there.

“But how disingenuous would it have been for us to open up a conversation about issues, barriers, concerns and threats and when they come back and say they are concerned about the rising cost of accommodation to then just ignore it and say nothing about it?”

William Burdett-Coutts, founder of Assembly Festival, said: “We are already experiencing problems bringing shows to Edinburgh because of the costs involved.

“There are countless shows that we have talked to that just can’t afford to come here.

“With bigger shows and high-quality work we have to help underwrite their costs to ensure they don’t walk away with a big loss. It wouldn’t be in Edinburgh otherwise.

“If you look at the festival circuit and what people can do elsewhere in the world, the costs in Edinburgh are a thing of legend. It’s already a real barrier. I was talking to someone the other night whose accommodation costs in Edinburgh are higher than their air fare from Australia.

“The costs for everybody are huge in Edinburgh, but it’s not a commercial environment. You don’t come to Edinburgh to make money unless you’re a big-name comedian. But we can’t just have the same acts coming back every year. To encourage new work to come here it has to be viable for people.”

Karen Koren, founder of Gilded Balloon, said: “While it’s not the only challenge we face during the Festival, accommodation costs are an issue. People raising prices and the exploitation of Fringe artists is not something we agree with, and we would welcome a plan to tackle this over the coming years.”

A spokesman for the City of Edinburgh council said: “The council is committed to working with the festivals, accommodation and venue providers, and all other stakeholders to address the issue of affordability in the face of a strong property market and continued pressure on the public purse.”

Last year’s Fringe played out against a backdrop of controversy over claims Edinburgh was the latest city to suffer from over-tourism.

Heritage groups have called for action to be taken to explore the impact of the tourism industry on the city during the peak festival periods in summer and winter.

An official report published by the city council in January warned that Edinburgh was struggling to cope with “bottlenecks” of crowds in the Old and New Towns, a lack of space for pedestrians, pressure on the roads and public transport networks, and an inability for many people to “get on with normal life”.

McCarthy said: “To me, the festivals and heritage are interconnected. They shouldn’t be in contention, they should be absolutely hand-in-hand and working together.

“One is about the back-story of Edinburgh and the other is about a contemporary representation of where Scotland sits in the world.

“But the Fringe has been running for 70 years and is part of the heritage of the city now. It’s as much a part of the reputation of the city as the castle.

“I’d like to see far greater collaborative efforts across all the agencies in the city to make all things work for the benefit of everyone.

“We should see Edinburgh as a year-round capital of culture to ensure everything works properly and have a year-round planning process, not just three months before the festivals kick in.”

McCarthy dismisses reports that public anger about the impact of Edinburgh’s festivals is growing.

“You have to weigh things up. Edinburgh is a busy city year-round now. I can walk around it in June and September and it feels just as busy as it does in August.

“Other people come here all through the year and want to understand the model and how they can make it happen in their place. To me, the Fringe should be more treasured and valued than complained about it.

“I’d like more opportunities for everybody in the city to work together and say: ‘What really are the problems here?’

“The reason that the festivals in Edinburgh work and make it a festival city over and beyond any other city in 
the world is the backdrop. It’s the landscape, the castle, the walkability, 
the beauty, the heritage and the 
back-story.

“I genuinely think the Fringe is more accessible to audiences than ever. It’s all about communication and messaging. Sometimes the myths and legends about the event don’t help. But the reality is you can do the Fringe on no budget and see an incredible mix of work.

“Two years ago my two daughters came here with a budget of £50 each. They managed to go out and see four or five shows each day. They knew every single move.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Brian Ferguson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4775411.1532855662!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4775411.1532855662!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Fringe Society, Royal Mile, Edinburgh . Picture: Neil Hanna Photography .","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Fringe Society, Royal Mile, Edinburgh . Picture: Neil Hanna Photography .","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4775411.1532855662!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4775435.1532855666!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4775435.1532855666!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Street performer Able Mable during her act on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Street performer Able Mable during her act on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4775435.1532855666!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4775436.1532855671!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4775436.1532855671!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Crowds gather to watch street performers on the Royal Mile. Picture: Alistair Linford","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Crowds gather to watch street performers on the Royal Mile. Picture: Alistair Linford","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4775436.1532855671!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4775437.1532855679!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4775437.1532855679!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy. Picture: Greg Macvean","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Fringe chief executive Shona McCarthy. Picture: Greg Macvean","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4775437.1532855679!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/faulty-cable-to-wind-farms-costs-electricity-users-millions-1-4775410","id":"1.4775410","articleHeadline": "Faulty cable to wind farms costs electricity users millions","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1532817953000 ,"articleLead": "

Consumers have forked out millions of pounds to switch off Scottish wind turbines while a sub-sea cable to transfer surplus renewable energy south of the Border has been out of action.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4775409.1532807559!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scottish wind farms, such as Whitelee, have excess capacity. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Scotland on Sunday has learned that the Western Link running from Hunterston in Ayrshire to the Wirral has been offline since the spring when a fault was found during tests.

The £1 billion “interconnector” runs for 239 miles under the sea and is designed to export electricity from Scotland where turbines can generate more power than is required north of the border in windy spells.

By exporting electricity to England and Wales it was hoped that the cable would cut the amount of compensation paid to energy companies when their Scottish wind farms have to be shut down because electricity supply outstrips demand.

The cash is known as constraint payments and is given to energy companies by the National Grid. But the money ultimately comes from consumers and is added to their electricity bills.

Research conducted for Scotland on Sunday by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), the charity which is critical of subsidies for wind power, found that energy companies have been paid £395 million over the past eight years to stop their Scottish wind farms.

The payments have continued despite the construction of the Western Link, a joint venture involving the National Grid and Scottish Power, with around £32m shelled out this year. The interconnector began operating at 50 per cent capacity last winter. But then a fault was found in a stretch of the cable in Liverpool Bay in the spring.

According to the REF, £9.4m was paid out in constraint payments in June when the interconnector was not working. A recent posting on the Western Link website said: “cable fault was detected which caused the Link to trip”. Later the website was updated to say that it was expected it would be back in operation at full capacity in September.

John Constable of the REF, which first revealed wind constraint payments and their cost, said: “Since 2010, the total cost to consumers of constraint payments to Scottish wind power for reducing output is about £395m. The total in 2017 was a record £103m. The Western Link interconnector from Hunterston to Deeside was intended to reduce this cost, though its own £1bn capex has to be recovered from consumers, making it an expensive solution.

“The Western Link began operation in December 2017, but constraint payments have continued at a significant level. The total payments so far in 2018 [January to the present] amount to £32m, £9.4m of which was in June alone, the 12th highest monthly cost since 2010 when these payments started.

“Interconnectors were supposed to put an end to the scandal of constraint payments. This clearly isn’t happening, a fact which raises questions as to whether interconnectors, such as the Western Link, will ever fully address the problem of excess wind power in Scotland.”

A spokesperson for the Western Link said: “The link has been in operation over the winter of 2017/18 helping to reduce constraint costs and was taken offline in spring 2018 for final commissioning tests.

“During this final stage of testing a cable fault was detected in Liverpool Bay. This is under repair with a plan to be through final testing in September 2018. At that stage, we expect that the Link will be operating at full capacity, delivering significant power transfer capability from Scotland to England and Wales. Although the delay is unfortunate, the Western Link will deliver benefits for power generators and consumers for decades to come.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4775409.1532807559!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4775409.1532807559!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scottish wind farms, such as Whitelee, have excess capacity. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scottish wind farms, such as Whitelee, have excess capacity. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4775409.1532807559!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/travel/insight-visitor-numbers-drive-highlands-into-tourist-trap-1-4772255","id":"1.4772255","articleHeadline": "Insight: Visitor numbers drive Highlands into tourist trap","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1532351587000 ,"articleLead": "

There is a sun-struck giddiness on board the MV Hebridean Isles as it scythes its way through the cerulean waters that separate Kennacraig and Port Ellen. In the bowels of the boat, locals and workers are tucking into full Scottish breakfasts, but the tourists are out on deck, craning their necks for the first sight of the rocky islets that arch their backs like sea monsters off the Islay coast.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772251.1532351564!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Whiteford in John o'Groats"} ,"articleBody": "

They chatter in Swedish, German, French and English, turning the air into a Babel-like babble of holiday excitement. Jon and Karen Elliott, from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, are dreaming of the vast white beaches where their two Labradoodles, now indolent at their feet, will soon be running free. Steve and Jane Crowther, from York, who visited last year, are remembering the seals and the birds of prey and the stag that stood so close to them on neighbouring Jura that they thought it must be tame. “It’s like being a million miles away from anywhere,” says Steve.

But the tourists have also come in search of the uisge beatha. Bunnahabhain, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Laphroaig: names as sweet and rough on the tongue as the peat-soaked whiskies themselves. “This is a holy pilgrimage for us,” says Howard Dixon, who lives in Australia, but has spent the last month house-sitting on the Black Isle. “We were going to head to Skye, but when we heard how busy it gets, we thought: ‘Where better to go pay homage than the place that produces our favourite single malt?’”

Dixon is right about the crowds. Though his wife, Kate, received no response from the four B&Bs she emailed, and is now paying £140 a night for a three-star hotel in Bridgend, Islay is not yet as over-run as Skye, whose bridge has proved both a blessing and a curse.

Yet Islay too is in a state of flux; as the number of visitors grows year on year, and the island becomes more commercialised, its local residents are torn between their desire for, and their fear of, progress. As they watch the regular excretion of motorhomes and lorries on to the piers, they wonder if it will be possible to strike a balance between attracting more visitors and preserving all that makes Islay special; or if the essence of their community will be destroyed.

For now, Islay continues to be an idyll; a place where history and landscape come together in a scattering of standing stones, chambered tombs and Iron Age brochs. On the day I visit, the sun behind the 8th-century Kildalton Cross casts an eldritch shadow across the graveyard while, in a nearby field, sheep catch the light like pearls on a green crushed velvet dress.

But, as its whisky and tourism industries grow, the dynamic is changing; the island’s 239 square miles now contain eight distilleries, with at least three more set to open in the next few years. The distilleries are mostly foreign-owned and becoming increasingly corporate and gimmicky in an attempt to attract more visitors.

Near the whitewashed Laphroaig Distillery lies a field dotted with small flags which mark out one-foot-square plots of land “owned” by anyone who has ever bought a bottle. Along the road, at its similarly dazzling rival, Ardbeg, parties of Japanese tourists stop to take selfies beside a giant copper still gleaming in the yard.

In contrast, the biggest distillery, Diageo-owned Caol Ila, at Port Askaig, which produces 6.5 million litres a year, looks slightly down-at-heel; but it is about to benefit from a £150 million investment aimed at upgrading the visitor centres at the company’s key sites.

With the distilleries comes congestion as huge vehicles trundle across the island’s narrow, patchy roads. Local businessman, Donald Gillies, owner of GTi Transport, a courier and grounds maintenance company, takes me on the “misery” tour, stopping to show me crater-like potholes at Claggan Bay, and the uneven spot where, just days earlier, a 24-tonne lorry toppled over, spilling its load into a field. We get out to take photographs; the smell of malted barley still hangs in the air.

The distilleries provide jobs, but as Gillies and others point out, Islay’s unemployment level is less than 1 per cent; meanwhile buildings and land are being swallowed up. “This is what is riling us,” says Gillies. “Islay is contributing millions to the economy, but there is no investment in infrastructure. The roads are so bad I am constantly having to shell out in terms of springs, suspension and vehicle maintenance.”

In the summer, Islay’s 3,200-strong population swells to around 9,000, and up to 20,000 during the Feis Ile whisky festival in May. Swish yachts berth at Port Ellen and motorhomes park on and off the designated sites. During last year’s festival, Mary Knowles, 89, a former biology teacher, was scandalised when she looked out of her window to see a man who had parked on nearby grassland relieving himself right in her eyeline. “I told him: ‘If you haven’t got the facilities, it’s time you moved on,’” she says, outraged.

The tourists bring money and vibrancy, but also noise and waste. They take up spaces on the overcrowded ferry, making it difficult for locals to travel to and from the mainland, and they put a strain on services. Some visitors buy second homes which stand empty much of the year, while young people struggle to find homes. For all these reasons, holiday-makers are both welcomed and resented.

As a chef at a local restaurant, who also owns three self-catering cottages, you might expect Robert McKim to be all for a flourishing tourist trade, yet he is ambivalent. “We are booming, yes, but the numbers are just too huge,” he says. “We can’t cope. There isn’t enough accommodation. Last summer, people turning up to find nothing available ended up spending a night in the police cells.”

This story may be apocryphal, but the fears about Islay’s future are genuine. Dietmar Finger is a German car designer and artist who has been visiting the island for two decades. Last year, he gave up his job with Volkswagen to open up a B&B in Carnduncan near Loch Gorm. When he isn’t catering for his four guests, he paints and runs art classes.

“I am worried more distilleries will be overkill and the island will be left with a whisky monoculture,” he says. Finger wants Islay to encourage “quality tourism”: a mix of hikers, wildlife lovers, malt drinkers and artists, rather than focusing so heavily on marketing the whisky “brand”.

“I sell my art during the Feis Ile and tourists there tell me Islay is already losing some of its magic,” he says. “I worry we will go the same way as some Spanish islands where the hotels have got bigger and bigger and now they are forced to import water from the mainland.”

The rise in distilleries is a problem specific to Islay, but over-tourism is a concern across rural Scotland. Skye suffers from a shortage of accommodation, while the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing – once quiet spaces in which to stand and contemplate man’s place in the universe – are now clogged up with people. Ditto Orkney, which can see two or three cruise ships a day dock at Kirkwall and Stromness; each ship brings a fresh army of visitors who troop through historically important sites such as Skara Brae, Maeshowe and the Italian Chapel and move on.

These tourists are a product of successful and aggressive marketing. VisitScotland has long been selling the north of the country as one of the world’s great wildernesses, its dark, foreboding glens and swathes of emptiness among its chief selling points. “However much you want to promote Scotland as a new, dynamic growing nation, the old image from the mid-19th century is still very powerful,” says Richard Butler, emeritus professor of tourism at Strathclyde University. Scotland’s reputation as a holiday destination was already secure; but then along came TV series such as Outlander, with their shots of castles and cairns. Add to that the country’s relative stability (lack of terrorism), the rise of the staycation and a deflated pound and it’s no surprise visitor numbers exploded.

Once you have successfully marketed a brand, however, it’s difficult to unmarket it, even if the infrastructure is insufficient for the numbers you attract. “It’s the usual thing: there’s a good side and a bad side,” says Butler, who is editing a book on the tensions experienced in tourist magnets around the world. “From the point of view of employment and income and keeping places viable, it is wonderful. But Scotland has the image of being a beautiful country with beautiful scenery and historic buildings, and you don’t expect, as a tourist, to have to negotiate a single-track road packed with cars.

“Over-tourism is a problem relative to expectation as far as visitors are concerned and it’s a problem of quality of life as far as communities are concerned.”

A classic example of how clever branding can have unforeseen consequences is the North Coast 500 (NC500). The 516-mile route that runs in a loop from Inverness to Applecross to Durness to John o’Groats and back to Inverness has existed for decades, its twists and turns appreciated at a leisurely pace by those who love to explore lonely, brooding spaces. But in 2015, the North Highland Initiative (NHI) decided to market it as Scotland’s answer to Route 66; a real-life board game, where players travel from square to square, collecting photographs and “passport” stamps. People literally go there, do that and buy the T-shirt (and the baseball caps and the bumper stickers) though not necessarily in that order.

At Balnakeil Craft Village near the north-westerly tip of Scotland, former anthropologist Anita Wilson, who runs Cast-Off Crafts, observes the NC500 bucket-listers with a sceptical eye. “A lot of people walk in and immediately announce that they are ‘doing’ the route: it’s like a badge of honour,” she says. “Sometimes they apologise for doing it the wrong way, and I say: ‘Well, there isn’t a wrong way. It’s two-way traffic. I’ve been driving on it since the 1980s.’ Farmers were probably driving cattle down it in the 1700s.

“You look at these folk with their matching T-shirts and you wonder: ‘Do you not have an identity other than this?’ It’s this weird kind of sheep mentality. I bet if you sent up a drone to take an aerial view of the 500, it would look like a Scaletrix track with all the cars just whizzing round, one after the other.”

According to one study, the NC500 marketing initiative brought an extra 29,000 people and £9m to the Highland’s economy in its first year, while increasing traffic by 10 per cent.

Balnakeil does seem busy. Cars snake their way through the conglomeration of bunker-like units, past Cocoa Mountain, The Wee Gallery and The Whale Tale, trying to find somewhere to park. Created to house workers for a planned Cold War radar station, then rented out to artists when the station became obsolete, it appears to be thriving. But Wilson says the fortunes of Balnakeil have always ebbed and flowed and the recent marketing drive has made little difference to her takings. Joining the NC500 Club brings members special offers on certain hotels and shops, but businesses like hers are too small to absorb the 10 per cent discount so miss out on the extra custom. She does, however, feel the negative impacts: the extra time she has to add on to her journey to pick her grandson up from school in Thurso, and the way all the bread and milk in the local shop is sold out by 4pm. Meanwhile, some regular customers have stopped coming to Durness because they feel it is too crowded.

“I am happy to share this beautiful place; it would be mean not to,” says Wilson. “But you hope people respect it in the way you do; that they don’t just pass through like someone on a train, leaving chaos and detritus behind.”

As I drive the 68-mile stretch of the NC500 from Ullapool to Durness, mist drapes itself low over the mountains. The road weaves its way through a sparse landscape of alien shapes; a mossy Monument Valley. Long stretches of nothingness are relieved by fleeting glimpses of splendour: a jagged promontory here, a glistening loch there. The last 15 miles is mostly single track with passing spaces; you travel on through gothic hills negotiating your way past motorhomes and convoys of motorbikes until – suddenly, unexpectedly – the Kyle of Durness, an expanse of salmon-pink sands fringed with ochre seaweed, is spread out before you like a pashmina.

The walls of landscape photographer Kevin Arrowsmith’s gallery in Durness are covered with spectacular shots of Assynt, Cape Wrath and other beauty spots. Arrowsmith moved to the village more than ten years ago when his wife became the local midwife. He still loves living there, but says the marketing of the NC500 makes it difficult to get around.

“We are getting increased numbers of visitors in huge vehicles they may never have driven before,” he says. “Not all of them are bad drivers, but they are on holiday so, understandably, they drive slowly to look at the scenery. Some of them don’t understand how single-track roads work so they don’t move into passing places to allow the cars behind to pass or they suddenly swing across the road into a passing place on the opposite side. I have been in two or three near-collisions. Also, the roads are crumbling and Highland Council doesn’t have the budget to do anything about it.”

If anyone ought to welcome the NC500, it’s Fiona Mackay. She and her husband Rob own a B&B/hotel with seven rooms, a bunk house, some self-catering properties and the local Spar shop. But even she is dubious about its impact.

She says the success of the marketing initiative, which encourages people to secure rooms in advance, means she is currently taking bookings for September 2019. But people who have booked so far in advance are more likely to back out. Last week, she had two cancellations. And customers no longer walk in off the street.

More than the cancellations, however, Mackay is concerned about the rise in the number of motorhomes and wild campers in the Balnakeil dunes, which are an SSSI site. “Every Sunday morning Rob and I go down to the beach [Sango Sands], and recently we found three toilet rolls lined up on the shoreline. I see people pulling stones off beautiful old dykes to make fires. They have a whale of a time at night, then leave the dregs behind. That cannot go on.”

Mackay believes the community should become more pro-active in developing local plans, but she would also like to see Scotland take a similar approach to New Zealand when it comes to motorhomes. There, vans which are not self-sufficient have to park on designated sites where there are full recycling and waste disposal facilities.

NHI chairman David Whiteford is a powerful advocate for the NC500. The NHI was set up at the behest of Prince Charles in an attempt to reinvigorate parts of the Highlands’ fragile economy and Whiteford says the success of the route has allowed several closed hotels, such as The Portland Arms in Lybster, to reopen.

“It’s worth remembering that many of these places were busier in times gone by,” he says. “That whole Dornoch, Embo, Brora beach strip and the likes of Sands at Gairloch, where I was taken as a child, were once the beach holiday of choice. People started to move abroad to have their holidays and now they are coming back for all sorts of reasons. All we are really doing is reawakening public awareness of the amazing opportunities this beautiful part of Scotland affords.”

Whiteford says the NHI is acutely aware of the need to balance the drive to increase tourism with a concern for the environment. To that end, the organisation has set up a strategy group involving “stakeholders” such as Highland Council, Police Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage. It is also organising beach clean-ups with Keep Scotland Beautiful, trialling funnel bins and asking camper van and motorhome companies to show clients where the waste disposal points are and encourage them to buy their food locally.

But NHI exists primarily to promote the route; investment in infrastructure can only come from the Scottish Government or Highland Council. In the autumn, the Scottish Government launched a £6m tourism infrastructure fund and last week Highland Council announced another £1.5m to be spent on road repairs. But, when you think it’s costing £3bn to upgrade the A9, these sums seem like a drop in the ocean.

They are certainly not enough to offset a belief among residents that the country’s local and central governments are taking out more from the Highlands and islands than they are putting back in.

When asked about official responsibility for protection of the environment in these areas a Scottish Government spokesperson says: “The new Islands Act includes the principle of ‘island-proofing’, which is a duty for public authorities, including Argyll and Bute Council in relation to Islay, to consider the particular needs and circumstances of island communities in what they do.”

But therein lies a problem. In Islay, the sense of powerlessness is compounded by the fact that the island lacks its own council. Instead, it is part of Argyll and Bute, which stretches from Campbeltown on the Kintyre peninsula to Tobermory on Mull. “We get what we are told we are getting by Kilmory [council HQ at Lochgilphead] and Kilmory will always put Helensburgh, Campbeltown, Lochgilphead and Dunoon first,” says Gillies.

Though their local authorities must be aware of the problem caused by human waste, Highlands and islands communities have had to campaign to prevent the closure of public toilets; both communities also claim any road repairs that have been carried out in 2018 have been quick fixes done on the cheap.

So I ask Professor Butler: if rural areas are being used as cash cows – contributing large sums to the country’s economy – are they not entitled to expect money to be ploughed into creating sufficient infrastructure?

“The short answer is, yes they are,” he replies. “The problem is, that if you are a government, of whatever colour, Islay is very small-scale. You look at problems in urban centres such as Glasgow and Dundee and you are talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of people versus a few thousand in Islay. Small populations have always been put way down the scale. And in all fairness, if you are a government looking at this, Islay is going to produce its whisky, whatever you do or you don’t do.”

In terms of controlling numbers, Butler says the main options are restricting flights or ferries (which would also penalise locals) or introducing tolls or taxes. “I don’t see any Scottish government wanting to send out a message that tourists aren’t wanted – it’s a big industry, it provides employment. Countries like Switzerland and the Maldives have cut down numbers by limiting accommodation and raising prices. But do you want to price people out of seeing Skye because they can’t afford £250 a night?”

It’s the paradox of wildernesses from Yosemite National Park to Everest: that the very quality that makes them alluring to tourists – their ruggedness and their isolation – is diminished as soon as those tourists arrive. If no-one takes control, how will our wide open spaces be preserved?

This is something that troubles 
Anita Wilson. Before she moved to Balnakeil, she lived in the Lake District, an area she believes has been 
“decimated and ruined”. “I believe you can see the track up Helvellyn from space now,” she says. “It’s the most beautiful mountain in the most beautiful area and it has this massive scar up the middle of it.”

Recently, Wilson read a piece in a local newspaper suggesting Durness and the surrounding areas ought to be offering tourists “more”. She looks askance. “What more could you possibly want to offer tourists other than pristine beaches, awesome scenery, views that go on forever, clean air, a relaxed way of life?” she says.

“You don’t have to put a fairground at the end of every pier, do you? If you want that, go to Land’s End. The extreme out-there-ness of here: that’s enough of more.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Dani Garavelli"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4772251.1532351564!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772251.1532351564!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "David Whiteford in John o'Groats","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Whiteford in John o'Groats","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4772251.1532351564!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4772252.1532351569!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772252.1532351569!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The MV Hebridean Isles","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The MV Hebridean Isles","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4772252.1532351569!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4772253.1532351577!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772253.1532351577!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Anita Wilson with her dog, Shuggy, outside Cast Off Crafts in Balnakeil Craft village, near Durness. Picture: Robert Perry","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Anita Wilson with her dog, Shuggy, outside Cast Off Crafts in Balnakeil Craft village, near Durness. Picture: Robert Perry","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4772253.1532351577!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4772254.1532351583!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772254.1532351583!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Quiraing, on the Isle of Skye","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Quiraing, on the Isle of Skye","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4772254.1532351583!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5757005513001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/monica-lennon-follow-the-tourist-tax-trail-out-of-austerity-1-4772164","id":"1.4772164","articleHeadline": "Monica Lennon: Follow the tourist tax trail out of austerity","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1532213769000 ,"articleLead": "

To have or not to have a tourist tax in Scotland has become something of a hot political topic this summer. It already exists in many popular destinations across the world. So why are SNP ministers so opposed to it?

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772162.1532176452!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Taxing visitors could raise up to �70m. Picture: Lisa Ferguson"} ,"articleBody": "

For anyone who has travelled – both in and outside Europe – it is highly likely they will have paid such a levy without even noticing. In Belgian tourist cities, such as Bruges and Antwerp, visitors are charged around £1.58 and £1.89 respectively for a night’s stay – less for a campsite.

Next door in Amsterdam, tourists are charged 5 per cent of the cost of their hotel stay – the Toeristenbelasting – while other cities in the Netherlands charge a flat rate. The Alpine states of Switzerland and Austria have a similar levy. And the practice is not exclusive to Europe – far-flung New Zealand will introduce a tourist tax next year.

A tourist tax is, however, not the only feature that binds this seemingly eclectic mix of countries together. They are all countries identified in the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission as examples that Scotland should seek to match.

In fact, of the dozen countries cited by the SNP as the leading lights for Scotland to follow, half have introduced, are introducing or want to introduce a tourist tax.

Whilst looking to learn from other countries is a sensible approach, the SNP is in danger of drawing all the wrong conclusions, rendering its growth commission misleadingly titled as it would in fact continue austerity. A tourist tax, which could raise up to £70 million in Scotland, would help austerity-ravaged local councils maintain services for the benefit of visitors, residents and local businesses. SNP ministers have snubbed it, but rank and file members and councillors are showing support for Scottish Labour’s position.

The Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, caused quite a stir when she jumped on to Twitter during an official trip to Japan, to admonish the SNP leader of Edinburgh City Council, Adam McVey; all because he wants the capital city to have the power to raise £15 million. And he’s not alone because council leaders unanimously agreed at Cosla that they want to have the option to raise revenue through a tourist tax.

Sticking with Edinburgh, it is undoubtedly wonderful that every year millions of people from all over the world want to visit the capital. It is persistently hailed as one of the most popular destinations in Europe. The Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe – a celebration of global culture – is testament to the city’s enduring attractiveness. The City of Edinburgh Council, however, like all Scottish local authorities, has faced persistent budget cuts due to the choices of the Scottish Government.

Across Scotland, local authorities have lost more than £1.5 billion since 2011.

It is local services, many of which are hugely important to tourism, such as leisure facilities and waste collection, that have borne the brunt of these cuts.

Labour will always argue for an end to this SNP austerity on a national level – but we will also fight for councils to be given the power to reverse them on a local level.

To deny local authorities the choice of whether to introduce a tourist tax further reinforces the SNP’s record as a centralising government. It is no friend of local government.

SNP ministers persistently say a tourist tax might harm the industry, but if that is the case, why do so many of the countries they want to model themselves on have one?

The reality is that SNP ministers are opposed to allowing councils the option of introducing a tourist tax for one reason only – because to do so would be to admit what Labour has said all along, that councils are being grossly underfunded and services are suffering.

Scottish Government ministers cannot be allowed to intimidate and silence council leaders and continue to ignore Cosla. Edinburgh council has now put its plans out to public consultation; it’s time that the SNP government engaged constructively because our capital city and our communities deserve better than ill-tempered ministerial tweets.

Monica Lennon MSP is Scottish Labour’s Communities spokesperson

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Monica Lennon"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4772162.1532176452!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772162.1532176452!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Taxing visitors could raise up to �70m. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Taxing visitors could raise up to �70m. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4772162.1532176452!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/digital-map-will-save-lives-of-vulnerable-in-emergency-1-4772221","id":"1.4772221","articleHeadline": "Digital map will save lives of vulnerable in emergency","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1532213705000 ,"articleLead": "

A new life-saving computerised mapping system designed to instantly identify vulnerable people caught up in an emergency is being rolled out across Scotland.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772220.1532191363!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Avais Ijaz, a systems development office for Falkirk Council, devised the PARD"} ,"articleBody": "

The Persons at Risk Database (PARD), created by Avais Ijaz of Falkirk Council, enables almost immediate identification of people at risk in the event of fires, floods, power cuts or other emergencies.

Ijaz, a systems development officer with his local authority, came up with the model after he realised that it could take several hours for emergency services to identify vulnerable people when a major incident occurs.

Ijaz became aware of the potential for delay when he attended a debrief with emergency services following a gas leak in a nearby council area a few years ago.

Back then emergency services and council workers had to print off databases to locate those who needed to be evacuated, a process that took several hours.

Since then Ijaz has worked on creating a system to replace paper files with a system that sources data from the council and NHS Forth Valley.

A computerised matrix can carry out quick and complex analysis on map-based data and can be accessed by council staff 24 hours a day from any location.

It has reduced the time spent identifying vulnerable persons to a few minutes at most and ensures the council can quickly identify the number of vulnerable people living near a major incident or living in high-rise tower blocks.

The system has particular relevance in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, which saw 72 deaths and confusion over who was actually in the building.

The system has just won an Alarm 2018 Risk Award for organisations that have worked in partnership to mitigate risk. It has been picked up by the Scottish Government, which has paid tribute to the Falkirk team for its help in developing a Scotland-wide system.

Ijaz, who is a member of the Falkirk Muslim Forum, said: “Instead of having a database where you have to print off a list of people on it and where they live when there’s something like a gas leak or you have to evacuate a certain part of the council area, we now have a system that you can turn on and you instantly know who might be in a wheelchair in an area and which people have been classed as vulnerable.

“It can locate people who might have mental health issues, or a physical or mental impairment. We can find out instantly, for example, where the nearest residential home is that might have 80 per cent of residents who need help to be evacuated.”

After developing the system, the Falkirk team spoke to Forth Valley NHS and they began working together and sharing NHS data securely.

“That’s another layer of data intelligence that we have,” said Ijaz. “That was then highlighted to the Scottish Government, who have come and seen what we have done and decided that what we have got is effectively what other councils should be doing. Grenfell is still in a lot of people’s minds. The Scottish Government is now working with councils and the NHS to replicate what we are doing. So it has been picked up as the preferred model.”

He added: “There are limitless benefits of taking data and placing it on an electronic map and using it to target resources and work efficiently, especially in times of crisis and tighter finances. Being able to tap into local intelligence and quickly share it with health and emergency services illustrates how simple workable solutions can reap the greatest reward.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is very doubtful if a national system could have been developed without the work, support and assistance of the Falkirk team.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Tom Peterkin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4772220.1532191363!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772220.1532191363!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Avais Ijaz, a systems development office for Falkirk Council, devised the PARD","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Avais Ijaz, a systems development office for Falkirk Council, devised the PARD","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4772220.1532191363!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/culture/music/wet-wet-wet-star-says-no-1-hit-sowed-seeds-of-their-demise-1-4772195","id":"1.4772195","articleHeadline": "Wet Wet Wet star says No 1 hit ‘sowed seeds’ of their demise","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1532184928000 ,"articleLead": "

They were catchy pop songs, featured in hit movies, that dominated the airwaves and brought two Scottish bands worldwide recognition.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772194.1532184925!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Singer Marti Pellow attracted the lion's share of media attention. Picture: Allan Milligan"} ,"articleBody": "

But now Wet Wet Wet, who performed the marathon number one Love Is All Around, and Simple Minds, whose biggest hit was Don’t You (Forget About Me), have admitted that the success backfired, leaving them worse off than before.

In a documentary to be broadcast on the BBC, Wet Wet Wet drummer Tommy Cunningham says the band’s cover version of The Troggs’ song “sowed the seeds of destruction” and triggered their demise within three years.

Cunningham said of the song that featured in Four Weddings And A Funeral: “We recorded it in three days and thought it was a B-side, and the record company phoned us and went: ‘We think we should release this.’

“We found that the success was so overwhelming and so life-changing that it actually in a way sowed the seeds of Wet Wet Wet’s destruction.

“Marti’s fame increased and the band became the musicians behind him. That’s not a healthy place when you’re four guys standing in a line and one person starts getting ahead. It becomes a very difficult situation, especially when there’s that level of scrutiny and success. It took its toll. There’s a price to pay for worldwide, massive success.”

The backlash became so intense after the song had topped the UK charts for 15 weeks in 1994 that the band pulled it from record shops. Marti Pellow was later treated for drug and alcohol addiction.

For Simple Minds, the release of Don’t You (Forget About Me), which was used in the US film, The Breakfast Club, brought accusations of changing their sound for financial gain and left long-term fans of the Glasgow group “alienated”.

The documentary Rip It Up describes Simple Minds’ topping of the American charts for three weeks in 1985 as their “Elvis moment”, which was not welcomed by many fans who had supported the former punk band since the late 1970s.

Creation Records founder Alan McGee, The Proclaimers star Charlie Reid, Mogwai guitarist Stuart Braithwaite and Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie all discuss their admiration of Simple Minds – who emerged at the height of the 1977 punk craze in Glasgow.

But by the time The Breakfast Club was released they had turned into an American rock band and ended up performing at the US leg of Live Aid before an audience of millions.

Recalling the band’s rise to fame in the documentary, which will be shown on Tuesday, Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr states: “We wanted to take it around the world, we wanted it to be international, we wanted it to be global.”

Braithwaite said: “I actually really like the early Simple Minds records. I didn’t know that they used to be an art rock band.

“I always just remembered them being a big stadium band. I thought of them being like the Scottish U2. There’s a lot more to them than that.

“People get very suspicious when you change your music for financial gain. A lot of people in the 1980s did that and I actually think that there was more derision than some of the music itself actually deserved.”

Broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove, said: “Breaking America is one of the Holy Grails of pop music.

“The idea of going out there and doing the American thing, appearing in big rock stadia, was slightly alien to the Scottish independent music scene. It kind of exaggerated a perception that Simple Minds had done something almost illegal.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Brian Ferguson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4772194.1532184925!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772194.1532184925!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Singer Marti Pellow attracted the lion's share of media attention. Picture: Allan Milligan","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Singer Marti Pellow attracted the lion's share of media attention. Picture: Allan Milligan","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4772194.1532184925!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/ex-slave-who-attacked-free-kirk-blood-money-1-4772217","id":"1.4772217","articleHeadline": "Ex-slave who attacked Free Kirk ‘blood money’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1532213006000 ,"articleLead": "

As the unrelenting whip cracked down on his bare back, tearing open his flesh, the black teenager vowed to himself that one day he would escape and tell the world about the brutality of life as a slave on the American plantations.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772216.1532190173!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "An engraving of Frederick Douglass editing a journal at his desk in the late 1870s. Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

Now the campaigning work of Frederick Douglass, appointed “Scotland’s antislavery agent” in 1846 when he arrived in Edinburgh on a speaking tour, is to be honoured by a major exhibition at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Strike for Freedom: Slavery, Civil War and the Frederick Douglass Family, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Douglass’s birth, comes in the wake of a spate of racist incidents in Scotland which last week saw Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour MSP, tweet about being racially abused in Glasgow while being interviewed about race relations and Islamophobia.

Last week also saw Sean Gorman, 18, plead guilty to the racially aggravated attempted murder of a Syrian refugee in Edinburgh.

Born into slavery, in 1817 or 1818, Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey made his daring escape in 1838, aged 20, from the Aaron Anthony plantation in Maryland, setting out on a three-week walk to Massachusetts.

Celeste-Marie Bernier, professor of black studies and personal chair in English literature at the University of Edinburgh, said Douglass then went on to become “the most famous antislavery and freedom-fighter of African descent in US history”.

“As early as spring 1845, he named and shamed his white US slave-holding owners in his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,” she writes in an introduction to exhibition.

“By the autumn of that same year and fearing for his safety, he crossed the Atlantic ocean to seek protection under the mane of the British lion,” Prof Bernier writes in her essay also entitled “Strike for Freedom”.

But it was when he arrived in Scotland for the tour organised by the American Anti-Slavery Society, that Douglass, still the target of slave-catchers chasing a large cash bounty for his capture, said he felt like an equal man for the first time in his life.

He wrote that in Edinburgh “no-one seemed alarmed by my presence”.

Prof Bernier said Douglass took his “freedom name” from Sir Walter Scott’s ‘The Lady Of The Lake because he recognised a kindred spirit in Sir James Douglas, one of the leading lights in the wars of Scottish Independence.

He visited cities, towns, and villages in Scotland, including Glasgow, Dundee, Arbroath, Perth, during 1846-1847 and again from 1859-1860, his rousing oratory attracting audiences of thousands.

This was at a time when many Scots were involved in or benefited from the slave trade. The newly established Free Kirk raised £3,000 from slave-owning Presbyterian churches in the US.

Soon the phrase “Send back the money” was being chanted in the streets and daubed on walls across Scotland. “Their hands are full of blood,” Douglass would declare, quoting from the book of Isaiah in the Bible.

The exhibition will tell the story of Douglass’s fight for social justice and include his letters, speeches and photographs from the renowned Walter O and Linda Evans Collection of African-American culture, for the first time.

Ude Joe-Adigwe, regional organiser for GMB Scotland, said: “First and foremost I think that the Scottish public learning about Frederick Douglass is to be welcomed.

“Too often black people who have contributed to Scottish and black culture don’t have the profile they deserve. I’d urge people to attend.

“Having said that I would caveat my words with the harsh reminder that we’re still seeing the spectre and shadow of racist attitudes.

“The vast majority of Scots are very welcoming but we can’t be complacent.

“We are still seeing some shocking scenes and attitudes from organisations like the Scottish Defence League. It is totally unacceptable that these shocking views are still prevalent. These views don’t just exist in a vacuum, they are allowed to exist and flourish in society.

Joe-Adigwe added: “We know we will have made real progress only when black people don’t need to be campaigning for equality and feel comfortable just to be themselves, not being made to feel they have to explain or justify their existence.”

Strike for Freedom, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, 4 October to 17 February, 2019

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Shn Ross"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4772216.1532190173!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4772216.1532190173!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "An engraving of Frederick Douglass editing a journal at his desk in the late 1870s. Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "An engraving of Frederick Douglass editing a journal at his desk in the late 1870s. Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4772216.1532190173!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/douglas-chapman-norway-a-model-for-new-defence-strategy-1-4768930","id":"1.4768930","articleHeadline": "Douglas Chapman: Norway a model for new defence strategy","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1531607890000 ,"articleLead": "

As a result of the continuing Brexit chaos, we could be less than a year away from starting to negotiate our withdrawal terms with the rest of the UK, and in these circumstances the defence and security of our nation would sit at the very heart of these discussions.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4768928.1531584969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Norwegian soldiers on Andorja Island. Photograph: Getty"} ,"articleBody": "

Last year, with the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, and latterly with the Nato Parliamentary Assembly, I attended a fact-finding missions in Norway. It is obvious that Norway works hard at securing her borders and providing a level of protection and security across a range of threat areas identified by the highly regarded Norwegian Government defence team in Oslo.

While they don’t see Russia as a potential day-to-day threat, relations between Norway and Russia are a combination of wary, pragmatic and workman-like. Their measured words are backed up with impressive Norwegian military hardware and they foster positive relations with near Western neighbours and allies through Nato.

The similarities between Norway and Scotland could not be closer. A Northern European nation with a long coastline with many islands and positioned on the edge of the Arctic Circle. Huge areas of sea to protect and patrol with those seas carrying significant wealth-creating assets that are important to the nation – oil, gas, fish, renewable energy resources. A well educated population of around 5 million people where most of that population is centred in major cities but with an important rural, but more sparsely populated hinterland, which brings its own defence and security issues. A large financial services sector which may be open to cyber attack from state and non-state actors such as through organised crime. Both are members of Nato and our taxpayers contribute to its defence, security operations and burden-sharing responsibilities.

While similarities abound, unlike Norway, Scotland is not yet independent and in the area of defence and security is not allowed to make her own decisions on assessing the level or scale of threats, nor can she build up the military and intelligence service resources to counter Scottish-specific security threats. Scotland is currently shackled to a UK defence policy which we are seeing is increasingly more difficult to deliver as the UK remains obsessed with Trident, the hugely expensive Successor programme and the attempt to retain a surface fleet Royal Navy that not only faces South but is more often than not tied up in Portsmouth rather than being at sea due to technical design faults and lack of suitably qualified crew.

With Trump and Putin the world is changing fast. Our defence challenge for a new and independent Scotland is to quickly focus on building up hard-edged, non-nuclear capability and capacity and working with Nato and EU partners.

This requires to be backed up by and integrated into our foreign policies, our international aid programme, our intelligence and diplomatic services and in the way we want to treat people who join our armed forces, how we support their families and how we care for them after they decide to leave at the end of their career. Also critical is our contribution to Nato, the EU, the UN and through more “close to home” relations with the Arctic Circle nations.

The strategic geographical position of Scotland makes us valuable partners for the security of the North Atlantic and in particular the protection of the Greenland / Iceland / Scotland gap. Interesting perhaps that no Royal Navy ship was available to take part in the recent Nato exercise in the North Atlantic and this only helps to highlight where Scotland’s priorities need to lie post-independence.

Focusing on defence and security at home and creating stability and cohesion abroad could and should be part of our underlying principles in developing our defence posture. We have no Empire2 mission to deflect us from our task in hand but that does not mean an independent Scotland will be isolated, without diplomatic influence or lack military or security punch. If the Norwegians can do it, and do it well, so can Scotland.

Douglas Chapman is MP for Dunfermline and West Fife and is the SNP Spokesperson for Defence Procurement, Peace and Nuclear Disarmament. He is a member of the Nato Parliamentary Assembly

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Douglas Chapman"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4768928.1531584969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4768928.1531584969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Norwegian soldiers on Andorja Island. Photograph: Getty","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Norwegian soldiers on Andorja Island. Photograph: Getty","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4768928.1531584969!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/bill-jamieson-on-a-clear-day-you-can-see-the-storm-brewing-1-4765618","id":"1.4765618","articleHeadline": "Bill Jamieson: On a clear day you can see the storm brewing","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1531001568000 ,"articleLead": "

Brilliant weather, constant sunshine, near record temperatures – and forecasts of more of the same.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4765617.1530963959!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Beast from the East has already become a distant memory. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA"} ,"articleBody": "

How long ago the misery of the relentless cold of the opening months of the year now seems – a winter that kept us indoors and sent the economy into a tailspin.

Now comes news that the UK services sector reported its fastest rise in activity since last October. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) from IHS Markit/CIPS showed activity rose to 55.1 in June, up from 54. It follows better than expected growth in the UK construction sector for June, according to IHS Markit/CIPS, and also a modest increase for manufacturing during the same month.

And to cap this sunny outlook, no less than the Bank of England governor says he now has more confidence in the UK economy and that recent data, showing household spending and sentiment has “bounced back strongly” had given him “greater confidence” that weak first quarter growth “was largely due to the weather”.

Well, most of us had already guessed that – and noticed, too, that the weather had, well, changed.

But cheerful news, from the Bank of England? And from Mark Carney, a lugubrious governor who has seldom missed an opportunity to warn that Brexit could see us spiralling into a downturn? Such is his forecasting record over the past two years, many would treat the governor’s sunny optimism as good reason to fear the exact opposite: storms ahead!

An interest rise in the autumn, continuing chaos and confusion over Brexit and an escalating global trade war: it’s not hard to construct a scenario at odds with Carney’s sunny disposition.

To be fair, his speech at a Northern Powerhouse Summit in Newcastle last week was not all unalloyed sunshine. He also warned that a global trade war could dampen economic growth, and that “protectionist rhetoric” was rising and was now turning into action. “There are some, tentative signs,” he said, “that this more hostile and uncertain trading environment may be dampening activity.” He cited evidence from an IHS Markit/CIPS survey suggesting that global export orders and manufacturing output have fallen back from highs at the start of the year.

As if on cue, US tariffs on $34 billion (£25.7bn) of Chinese goods came into effect the following day, signalling the start of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies. China has retaliated to the imposition of a 25 per cent levy on various goods by imposing a similar 25 per cent tariff on 545 US products, with Beijing accusing the US of starting the “largest trade war in economic history”.

Until now, financial market reaction to the combination of central bank monetary tightening and an escalating protectionism has been remarkably sanguine. The FTSE-100 Index is still comfortably above 7,500 – some 10 per cent higher than in April, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is still north of 24,000 – up 14 per cent on its level 12 months ago.

Storm clouds? What storm clouds?

But it is out of the clearest skies that the blackest clouds can suddenly bubble up. An interest rate rise this autumn would not be a “one-off” but likely to be the first of a series of hikes spaced out over the next two years as central bank monetary policy seeks a return to something like a historical “normal”.

Are we prepared? After years of rock-bottom interest rates, the debts of the UK’s listed companies have soared to a record high of £391bn, easily surpassing pre-crisis levels, according to the new annual Link Asset Services UK plc Debt Monitor. In the vice of the credit crunch, companies had cut their borrowings by a fifth in just two years. But since the low point in 2010-11 net debt has jumped by a staggering £159.6bn. Moreover, most of this increase (£122.6bn) has been in the past three years alone.

But it is on the Continent where concern is growing over a dramatic reversal in financial fortunes. In France, the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the country’s stock market regulator and the body responsible for safeguarding investments and in maintaining orderly financial markets, says “the number one risk for 2018 is a brutal correction of stock prices”. Inflated asset markets have so far weathered the first phase of monetary tightening, but pressure is building and any number of geo-political triggers – from an Italian confrontation with the European Commission to further US tariffs on EU goods – could set off a scramble out of shares.

Separately the heads of Germany’s respected IFO Institute has warned that the European Central Bank has little ammunition in the armoury to deal 
with a financial emergency. “The Eurozone,” he told an economic conference in Munich last week, “remains highly vulnerable to the next downturn. If nothing is done, it is going to be a very negative scenario, with massive bail-outs and massive costs for Germany.

“Italy, Portugal, Spain and France have no fiscal space, or almost none, and if we go into the next crisis with debt levels anywhere near the current levels this is going to end in something close to Greece.” The Japanese option of letting debt levels go to 200 per cent of GDP, he added, is not on.

A cloudless sky? Hardly.

The World Cup and 
Barnett consequentials

According to the Centre for Retail Research, the UK economy has already benefited from World Cup spending reckoned to be worth £1bn. Estimates have climbed as high as £2.7bn were England to go “all the way”.

I do hope the Scottish Government is keeping tabs. Should it not ask the UK Treasury for a share of this celebratory spend down south under the Barnett Formula – a “Barnett consequential”? According to CRR Director Professor Joshua Bamfield, every goal scored by England has been worth £165.3m in extra business to England’s retailers and £33.2 million for pubs, hotels and restaurants.

Equally, should an England defeat not be grounds for compensation payment – for all the beer and barbecue sausages bought but not consumed? A Scottish economic recovery hangs on the tiniest thread.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Bill Jamieson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4765617.1530963959!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4765617.1530963959!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Beast from the East has already become a distant memory. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Beast from the East has already become a distant memory. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4765617.1530963959!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-public-sector-saves-19m-in-fraud-and-waste-by-sharing-data-1-4764225","id":"1.4764225","articleHeadline": "Scottish public sector saves £19m in fraud and waste by sharing data","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1530766800000 ,"articleLead": "

A crackdown on public sector waste and fraud across Scotland has made almost £19 million of savings from withdrawing blue parking badges, removing council tax discounts and cancelling pensions being paid to people who have died.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4764224.1530743797!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The cost-saving drive linked up databases and records. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

The cost-saving drive linked up databases and records held by UK and Scottish public sector departments and agencies to uncover more than 10,000 errors and cases of fraud in 2016-17.

Officials used payroll lists, death records and the electoral roll to ensure the right payments are being made, and are stopped when a recipient dies.

Audit Scotland reported that the latest round of the National Fraud Initiative will save the public sector a total of £18.6m. The figure includes future losses prevented by the anti-fraud work.

A total of 113 Scottish public sector bodies took part in the sixth bi-annual savings drive, including the Scottish Government and other central government bodies, all 32 of Scotland’s councils, NHS bodies, pension administering bodies, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Police Scotland and colleges.

Of the money being saved, 34 per cent relates to pensions, almost a quarter was connected to council tax discounts, while 14 per cent related to misuse of the blue badge disabled parking scheme.

In one case, immigration checks resulted in a public sector employee being dismissed because they never returned from annual leave and did not have permission to live or work in the UK.

Two people were also removed from the list of NHS bank staff after they were shown to not have permission to work in the UK.

Audit Scotland, which leads the exercise in Scotland, noted that some public sector agencies “could act more promptly and ensure that sufficient staff are in place to investigate matches, prevent frauds and correct errors”.

Fiona Kordiak, director of audit services, said: “Systems underpinning public spending are complex and errors can happen.

“There are also some individuals who seek to exploit the systems and fraudulently obtain services to which they are not entitled.

“What these latest results demonstrate is the value of data matching to Scotland’s public finances at a time when budgets continue to be under pressure.”

Since 2006-7, the initiative has now saved a total of £129.2m. Across the UK, the a total of £1.69 billion has been saved over the past decade.

The latest crackdown has led to £4.8m of overpayments being recovered, 4,802 council tax discounts being reduced or removed, 280 occupational pensions being stopped or reduced, 4,505 blue badges stopped or flagged up for future checks and 710 housing benefit payments stopped or reduced. In addition, using immigration data, five students were found to be ineligible for financial support costing the taxpayer £100,000.

This year’s effort identified greater numbers of pensioners whose deaths had not been reported to relevant authorities, and more cases of incorrectly applied council tax discounts than two years ago.

But the number of cases of overpayment of housing and other benefit has fallen.

Different organisations took part in the Fraud Initiative in different ways. For example, using payroll data, the NHS pension scheme identified pensioners who re-entered employment, reducing overpayments.

In September, Holyrood’s public audit committee said greater awareness was needed in the the public sector of the benefit of engaging counter-fraud initiatives, and called for all public agencies and departments to take part. year.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4764224.1530743797!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4764224.1530743797!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The cost-saving drive linked up databases and records. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The cost-saving drive linked up databases and records. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4764224.1530743797!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/mps-miss-england-match-as-snp-forces-commons-vote-during-game-1-4763548","id":"1.4763548","articleHeadline": "MPs miss England match as SNP forces Commons vote during game","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1530695525000 ,"articleLead": "

MPs took to Twitter to voice their displeasure after the SNP forced a vote in the Commons during the England game.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4763547.1530783425!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford. Picture: TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

The vote was forced by the SNP over estimate spending of government departments, something that does not usually involve a vote by MPs.

The move means that MPs have spent most of the evening in the voting lobbies rather than watching the England v Colombia match.

Tory MP Bernard Jenkin went as far as to raise a point of order in the chamber, asking: “Madame Deputy Speaker, do you suppose the Scottish National Party would be calling so many divisions this evening if it was Scotland playing an important football match the evening?”

Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing responded: “I appreciate the Honourable Gentleman’s point of order although it relates to the division, it’s not, of course, a point of order.

“I just have a fervent hope that one day Scotland will be playing an important football match.”

Other MPs took to Twitter to complain, including Nadine Dorries who said: “The Scots Nats calling one vote after another to keep English MPs from watching the football.”

Tory MP Marcus Fysh tweeted a video of MPs watching the match with the division bells ringing, writing: “And then the Scots Nats call a Division... Boo.”

SNP MP for Glenrothes and Central Fife, Peter Grant, tweeted: “Thanks to impaccable timing of votes and points of order by @theSNP , the adjournment bells all over parliament rang at the very moment England scored. Tory whips, you have no idea how much influence we really have.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4763547.1530783425!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4763547.1530783425!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford. Picture: TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford. Picture: TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4763547.1530783425!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5805206566001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/tourist-tax-to-be-unveiled-in-edinburgh-within-12-months-1-4763568","id":"1.4763568","articleHeadline": "Tourist tax to be unveiled in Edinburgh ‘within 12 months’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1530686998000 ,"articleLead": "

A tourist tax planned for Edinburgh would be in place by next summer under the ambition of the Scottish capital’s council leader.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4763567.1530653629!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tourists may have to pay �1-�2 extra per night they stay in the capital. Picture: Ian Rutherford"} ,"articleBody": "

Council chief Adam McVey said he believed the controversial levy, which could see £1 to £2 a night added to hotel guests’ bills, would be introduced in time for Edinburgh’s 2019 festival programme. The local authority is pushing ahead with bold plans to introduce the tax, which would make Edinburgh the first UK city to adopt such a levy.

The payments are aimed at reaping extra funding to improve the city at a time when the council has been battling with budget deficits. Estimates suggest the move could raise £11 million a year in extra revenue.

But the cash grab has been criticised by the Conservatives, who have claimed there is no guarantee the money will be spent in Edinburgh.

The tax has been branded a transient visitor levy (TVL) by the council.

Initial proposals for the policy were met with resistance by the hospitality industry.

But Mr McVey said he was confident the policy would gather support, saying he was hopeful the Scottish Government would give the scheme its stamp of approval within 12 months.

He said: “I think we have made quite a lot of progress. We’ve started the discussions with the sector – having the key industry players around the table. I think in a year’s time or so, we will have a TVL of some sort.

“Directly to the government, we have engaged with them pretty consistently, articulating what we want and to be fair to them, we have listened to what they have said in terms of the circumstances that they would entertain it.

“Fiona Hyslop said any scheme would require engagement with the industry and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

“We have taken a far more robust and professional approach and I’ve noticed a huge amount of openness to the idea in some quarters that were fairly dismissive of our previous attempts as a local authority.”

The levy has been among the most ambitious proposals put forward by a coalition administration which has set about bringing in a low emissions zone and set out plans to extend the tram line to Newhaven in Mr McVey’s first 12 months in charge.

The council has also set itself ambitious house-building ­targets, made progress through its homelessness task force and is set to re-establish a poverty commission.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Scotsman, Mr McVey – the youngest ever leader of the authority – also said:

n Small, independent businesses would be major winners from plans for cars to share lanes with trams along an extension of the rail route down Leith Walk to New­haven;

n His administration intended to push ahead with holding regular clean air car-free days in the city similar to those run in Paris;

n The ban on advertising boards on pavements would make Edinburgh more accessible for visitors and residents.

Councillor Graham Hutchison has branded the tourist tax proposal a “prolonged and embarrassing charade” amid fears the move could drive away tourists.

The Tories have pointed out while other European cities have a tourist tax, VAT 
for hotel bookings is charged at a lower rate in those countries.

But council leaders have claimed the Scottish Government is coming round to the prospect of having a tax on hotel rooms across the ­country.

Cosla’s resources spokeswoman Gail Macgregor revealed last week she has held talks with finance secretary Derek Mackay about the prospect of the TVL and claimed his attitude was softening.

“I think he’s a little bit more open-minded than he was before,” Ms Macgregor said.

Edinburgh’s minority administration needs the ­support of at least one opposition group in order to pass policies at City Chambers after the resignation of two ­councillors, Lewis Ritchie and Gavin Barrie, from the SNP group.

Mr McVey said: “By needing to get that consensus, I think it has pushed us to be bolder in the last year and I think it will push us to be bolder in the next four years.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4763567.1530653629!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4763567.1530653629!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Tourists may have to pay �1-�2 extra per night they stay in the capital. Picture: Ian Rutherford","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tourists may have to pay �1-�2 extra per night they stay in the capital. Picture: Ian Rutherford","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4763567.1530653629!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5749801341001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/how-one-nhs-consultant-is-using-twitter-to-improve-treatment-1-4763555","id":"1.4763555","articleHeadline": "How one NHS consultant is using Twitter to improve treatment","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1530680400000 ,"articleLead": "

Twitter allows Dr Graham Mackenzie to tap into the latest thinking and research from around the world to help improve outcomes and treatment, he tells Kevan Christie in the latest of our series marking the NHS at 70

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4763554.1530650379!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Twitter is helping to improve health research and clinical treatment in the Lothians. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto"} ,"articleBody": "

In the third part of our NHS at 70 anniversary series we shine the spotlight on the future of healthcare and look at ways in which social media is being used to source cutting-edge research and the latest developments with the aim of providing patients with the best possible treatment.

Dr Graham Mackenzie, an award-winning consultant in public health with NHS Lothian, is at the forefront of a concerted effort to pool data from around the world using a “spider’s web” style Twitter map for particular subjects.

The maps enable Dr Mackenzie to monitor popular tweets and retweets from health experts around the world that can then be used in a practical setting.

He compiles summaries of the most relevant information, on, for instance, bowel cancer, and then puts together a free and easy to use textbook that enables his colleagues to keep up with the latest developments in any given medical field.

Dr Mackenzie, who says this kind of mapping first started in the manufacturing industry, firmly believes that the work he has been doing in the last five years makes the best use of social media.

He now plans to return to a clinical setting to put everything he has learned into practice, having worked in the public health arena for the past 17 years addressing inequality.

He says: “If you’ve got thousands of clinicians sharing information about a particular topic it’s a shame for that to get lost.

“Stories on social media often only have a lifespan of a few minutes and if you’re lucky a few hours but if you can gather together information that’s come out around a particular awareness campaign, say bowel cancer, and collect it into a summary – then it’s like having a textbook that costs nothing.

“It’s completely free and it’s linking you in with the best science, the best communication aids to help patients and sometimes real advances are being made.

“You really learn something from a person in another part of the world that you can then apply to your next day of clinical practice.”

Dr Mackenzie has been carrying out work in this area for the last five years and says it’s important to “learn from mistakes” and improve practice.

He began his career in general medicine and cardiology, joining the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh in 1995.

The consultant was given the Cullen Prize Award by the Royal College of Physicians last month by way of acknowledging his excellence in teaching.

He said his work is not about cost saving but making the best out of the treatments and assessments available so patients receive better treatment.

He told The Scotsman how his blueprint works.

Dr Mackenzie says: “I saw that somebody had mapped tweets at an event I was at back in 2015 and they had tracked the tweets that had been posted and the different interactions between people.

“It’s like a spider’s web of connections. For example, if I post a tweet about a particular clinician who’s discovered something new and it’s based on local practice I would mention that person, the institution where they’re working and I’d mention a person in another part of the world who might be interested in it – if they were all on Twitter.

“I’d look to add to the research and all of these people would be connected on the map.

“I saw one of these maps and I thought that’s fascinating – it’s amazing that just out of a small event, you can see the huddles that generate and the connections between people.

“So, I started to think how can we apply that in our own development?

“Individual clinicians need to develop throughout their careers – it’s not just a case of doing well at school and passing your exams.

“It’s about continued development, all the way through to your retirement and often beyond.”

He adds: “With social media – even if people are sharing their mistakes or a new tool to communicate more effectively with patients or something, for instance, like a picture that shows how antibiotics work – that kind of information if it’s been developed in somewhere like New Zealand then we can apply it in Scotland and vice versa.

“We can suck out all the information from the internet, from these big complicated spider maps and then start to identify the best content to use.”

Dr Mackenzie says he keeps track of retweets and things around important health topics that appear to be trending on his network.

He says the trick is to have people share the information through social media.

He said: “If people like something on social media and share it with their friends and their colleagues, that is useful and other people start to retweet it then I can see that as a signal in one of these maps and I can pull out the relevant information to share with my colleagues.

“What I’ve done is pick big topics that have tens of thousands of people tweeting which is overwhelming.

“No individual can look at all these messages. Imagine what a sore thumb you’d have. For example there was a big drive on colon cancer screening a couple of months ago and there were tens of thousands of tweets on this subject and no individual can scroll through them.

“However, I was able to pull the popular messages from the thousands using the technique I’ve developed from these maps and was then able to share the top messages.”

Through his work Dr Mackenzie has developed an international profile in his use of social media analytics to demonstrate connections, support individual learning, and to present key messages from professional development events. He started a programme of online demonstrations to show how others can develop these skills.

Dr Mackenzie says: “I started in the wards as doctors do and I did six years in hospital.

“I decided that I wanted to look past the individual patients and look at the population – studying why is it some patients become ill at a younger age and what can we do to prevent that?

“That’s what I’ve been doing for the last 17 years, but over the years I’ve been doing much more of this quality improvement work. It’s not rocket science it’s actually very simple. Say I wanted to sort out diabetes care – I know that some of the information is way too big for even a team to get their heads round, so I look at how we can improve things one patient at a time. So, sorting out one little thing for the next patient through the door and then sharing that with your colleagues you can see why that links with social media. You discover that something that you thought as a clinician worked, actually when you talk to patient or relatives you discover it doesn’t work, that they haven’t understood it in the way that you’ve understood it.”

There is an emphasis on quality improvement in the NHS with lots of attention turning towards making the best use of social media.

Dr Mackenzie adds: “Often the focus is about sharing things with your own team but there’s an awful lot of learning you can have if you look further afield. If I looked at a particular topic, say antibiotic resistance on social media and search for the tweets that have been posted about these topics over the last 24 hours, there will be hundreds, sometimes thousands of people posting messages about any particular subject.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4763554.1530650379!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4763554.1530650379!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Twitter is helping to improve health research and clinical treatment in the Lothians. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Twitter is helping to improve health research and clinical treatment in the Lothians. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4763554.1530650379!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/glasgow-university-first-in-uk-to-install-reverse-vending-machine-1-4763563","id":"1.4763563","articleHeadline": "Glasgow University first in UK to install ‘reverse vending’ machine","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1530680400000 ,"articleLead": "

A Scottish university has installed a “reverse vending” machine for the return of used plastic drinks bottles in the fight against plastic pollution.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4763562.1530652459!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Glasgow University students Tahsina Akbar and Ahmed Prapan with the reverse vending machine. Picture: PA"} ,"articleBody": "

The University of Glasgow said it was the first university in the UK to install the machine, which will make a donation to charity for every container recycled.

Initially the machine will only accept plastic bottles. A donation in return for each container goes to the Beatson Pebble Appeal, which raises funds for the university’s cancer research.

After a trial period, users will be able to recycle drinks cans as well and will be given cash tokens worth 10p to then use in shops.

The Scottish Government announced in September last year that it would bring in a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and has launched a consultation on the issue.

The university said the trial period would last until the government rolls out a bottle deposit scheme around the country.

Scott Girvan, executive chef of the university’s hospitality services, said: “We’re the first university to bring a ‘deposit-return ready’ reverse vending machine onto our campus.

“During the trial period, we will be monitoring how people respond to the machine.

“This is part of our drive to increase sustainability and reduce waste across the university.

“The resulting clean and properly sorted recycling will be a valuable resource, so the machine will effectively pay for itself.”

The university said the ­system had operated for decades in many Scandinavian countries where recycling rates are about double those in Scotland.

During the trial period, the machine will only accept empty bottles bought on campus, but will go on to accept them from any outlet.

John MacDonald, director of vending machine suppliers Excel Vending, said: “The reverse vending machine has a 360-degree recognition system, so it will pick up the barcode, the material of the bottle, and its size and dimensions.

“It’s easy to use. You just insert the bottle, which is crushed, compacted and dropped into a bag at the bottom. There is enough storage for 800 cans and 400 plastic bottles, which can then be collected.”

Students have welcomed the initiative.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4763562.1530652459!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4763562.1530652459!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Glasgow University students Tahsina Akbar and Ahmed Prapan with the reverse vending machine. Picture: PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Glasgow University students Tahsina Akbar and Ahmed Prapan with the reverse vending machine. Picture: PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4763562.1530652459!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}