{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"scotland","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/gender-pay-gap-hits-scottish-part-time-workers-hard-1-4870875","id":"1.4870875","articleHeadline": "Gender pay gap hits Scottish part-time workers hard","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1549756012000 ,"articleLead": "

Women continue to be clustered in undervalued part-time jobs across Scotland with one of the highest gender pay gaps in the UK, a new report reveals.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4870874.1549747991!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Council workers protest in Glasgow, where a �500m deal was struck last week. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

And despite the pay gap between Scots men and women in full-time work now being the lowest in Britain, there has not been any official improvement in 2018.

The biggest gap in pay between the sexes is in the highly-paid finance industry, where men can expect to earn a third more than their female counterparts, according to the report by Holyrood researchers.

The problem has been branded an “indictment” of Scots society which must be tackled the Scottish and UK governments.

Ministers say a new national “gender pay gap action plan” is to be devised along with a series of initiatives to help women return to the workplace.

Despite progress in recent years, women continue to suffer lower pay levels than men. Just last week, Glasgow City Council backed a £500 million deal to settle a case with hundreds of women who faced discrimination stretching back more than a decade.

But Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of Close the Gap, which campaigns on gender pay, warned that progress is not happening quickly enough.

“Another year passes with little change in women’s experiences of work which finds them clustered into undervalued, low-paid jobs such as cleaning, caring and retail,” she said. “We know the lack of quality part-time work particularly affects women, and results in their persistent under-representation in higher-paid, management and senior positions.

“The pay gap is an endemic problem which requires a cohesive, strategic response. Close the Gap has enthusiastically welcomed Scottish Government’s commitment to develop an action plan to tackle Scotland’s stubborn gender pay gap. It’s time to translate the rhetoric around the pay gap into substantive action.”

The average full-time salary for all Scots last year was £23,833 and £10,686 for part-time workers.

The country had smallest gender pay gap for full-time workers in Britain of 5.7 per cent in 2018 – a record low for Scotland – and compares with a UK average of 8.6 per cent, says the report by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).

This was down 0.9 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

Scotland also compares well on pay across all employees, with a gap of 15 per cent the lowest on record and below a UK average of 17.8 per cent.

But part-time workers are three times more likely to be women with average pay of £195 a week. Here the pay gap is 7.8 per cent which is the worst across the UK outside London, according to the report entitled “The Gender Pay Gap: Facts And Figures – 2018”.

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, called for a culture change in attitudes towards work carried out by women.

“Scotland’s women have waited far too long to get fairness in pay,” he said.

“The under-valuation of ‘women’s work’ is at its heart. Closing the gap must therefore involve increasing the pay of low-paid, female-dominated occupations such as carers, cleaners, clerical workers, and catering assistants.

“Unions are crucial to addressing the gender pay gap, and women benefit particularly from the trade union wage premium – with women trade union members earning 22 per cent more than women who are not in a trade union. As the Equal Pay campaign in Glasgow showed, when women workers come together, make demands and take action, they win.”

The problem is worse for women over the age of 40, where the pay gap suddenly rises to 19.2 per cent from 6 per cent in their thirties. Females in their 50s face the worst discrimination with a pay gap of 25.3 per cent. This could partly be down to many women returning to the workplace after having taken time out to have a family.

The banking and finance industry is among the highest paid sector in Scotland and has more men working at “professional” level and in “sales and customer services” departments. Men can expect to be paid more than £20 an hour in this industry, while women are more likely to make less than £14.

Graeme Jones, chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise (SFE), said the industry is committed to changing the “historically low representation of women at senior levels”.

“The figures in this report show that action is needed, but it is also important to appreciate they are part of addressing a long-standing problem and should be viewed alongside positive initiatives being taken to address disparities.”

Labour’s equalities spokeswoman Pauline McNeill warned that inequality is holding back Scotland’s growth and called for ministerial action.

“The continued existence of the gender pay gap is an indictment of our society,” she said.“Closing the gap isn’t just a question of fairness, it is essential to unlocking our country’s economic potential.”

A Scottish Government spokesman pointed to falling pay gaps affecting women in full-time work and said ministers were determined to “reduce this further”.

“We are investing £5 million over the next three years to support around 2,000 women returning to work following a career break, and we continue to fund Close The Gap with £205,000 to challenge and change employment practices and workplace cultures,” he said.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4870874.1549747991!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4870874.1549747991!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Council workers protest in Glasgow, where a �500m deal was struck last week. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Council workers protest in Glasgow, where a �500m deal was struck last week. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4870874.1549747991!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4870928.1549747994!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4870928.1549747994!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of Close the Gap","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of Close the Gap","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4870928.1549747994!/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/environment/plastic-free-wine-range-to-be-launched-in-scotland-will-help-marine-life-1-4870927","id":"1.4870927","articleHeadline": "Plastic-free wine range to be launched in Scotland will help marine life","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1549755073000 ,"articleLead": "

Whether it’s a mellow red or a crisp white, wine drinkers can now enjoy a glass of their favourite tipple while protecting the environment.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4870922.1549750635!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sea Change wines: Pic: Toby Hancock."} ,"articleBody": "

Sea Change is a new brand of earth-friendly wines which are entirely plastic-free.

The range has been designed with minimal packaging to reduce potential waste and maximise its eco credentials.

The labels are made of 15 per cent recycled grape waste with the remaining raw materials coming from sustainable forests.

The corks are made from renewable plant-based polymers and are fully recyclable.

No capsule covers, the wrapping over the cork or cap, are used on the wine to do away with unnecessary packaging and make recycling easier.

As well as that, cash from every bottle sold goes directly to charities working to protect marine life and battle plastic pollution.

In the UK, donations will be made to two environmental charities – Sea-Changers and Plastic Oceans UK.

The new range is the brainchild of family-run firm 10 International, a socially conscious UK-based wine business that sells more than ten million bottles around the world.

Toby Hancock, co-founder and director of 10 International, said: “The problem of plastic pollution is something the wine trade needs to wake up to. Now we are all reading about it on a daily basis. Hundreds of millions, if not billions, of totally unrecyclable plastic capsules are being taken off bottles of wine and discarded.

“The majority of capsules are plastic or have plastic in them. Only on the most expensive wines are they made of pure metal and therefore biodegradable.

“These plastic capsules go straight to landfill, or worse, into the oceans.”

The wines, a negroamaro and a chardonnay from the Puglia region of southern Italy, are being launched in Scotland at a special event in South Queensferry later this month, involving a beach clean and private tasting.

Hancock added: “Scotland is known for its amazing coastline. But unfortunately there isn’t a place in the world that isn’t affected by plastic pollution and all the oceans and beaches are connected so even rubbish coming from the other side of the Atlantic can end up on the beaches of Scotland.

“The fact is, we’re all in it together.”

“It’s good that Scottish drinkers can make a conscious choice to drink wine and not add to the plastic pollution.”

The wines come from sustainable vineyards and will be distributed across the UK by Scottish wine merchant Inverarity Morton.

Toby Sigouin, wine buyer for the firm, is enthusiastic about the Sea Change ethos.

“When I first caught wind of this project I immediately signalled it as something we wanted to back,” he said.

“It is such a well-considered, well-judged proposition in the face of a very real environmental crisis.

“The statistics on plastic pollution in our seas is alarming and these wines, which are excellent quality at a very affordable price point, will help stimulate both conversation and action.

“We intend to do justice to this great cause.”

The wines, which are being unveiled on 19 February, are currently only available by the case directly from Inverarity Morton, but will be stocked at selected bars and restaurants and off-sales outlets at a later date.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4870922.1549750635!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4870922.1549750635!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Sea Change wines: Pic: Toby Hancock.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sea Change wines: Pic: Toby Hancock.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4870922.1549750635!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4870923.1549750637!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4870923.1549750637!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Sad image of a puffin with a mouthful of rubbish.Pic: Marion McMurdo/Solent News/REX/Shutterstock","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sad image of a puffin with a mouthful of rubbish.Pic: Marion McMurdo/Solent News/REX/Shutterstock","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4870923.1549750637!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4870924.1549750639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4870924.1549750639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "sea change wine","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "sea change wine","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4870924.1549750639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4870925.1549750643!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4870925.1549750643!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "sea change wine","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "sea change wine","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4870925.1549750643!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4870926.1549750644!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4870926.1549750644!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Toby Hancock.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Toby Hancock.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4870926.1549750644!/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/knockroon-has-prince-charles-dream-become-a-folly-1-4866763","id":"1.4866763","articleHeadline": "Knockroon: Has Prince Charles’ dream become a folly?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1549185178000 ,"articleLead": "

Fresh doubts have emerged over the future of a pioneering eco-village envisaged by Prince Charles’s flagship charitable foundation as a “model community for Scotland” after the entire project was placed under review.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866761.1549185171!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A scenic view of Knockroon, on the edge of the historic Dumfries House Estate."} ,"articleBody": "

The Knockroon development, endorsed by the Scottish Government as an “ambitious and inspiring” design exemplar, has been billed as Scotland’s rival to Poundbury in Dorset as a showcase for the heir to the throne’s passion for heritage-led regeneration.

But eight years after construction began on the site in East Ayrshire, a fraction of the development has been completed, with no homes built in the past three years.

The charitable subsidiary responsible for Knockroon’s construction has run up losses of more than half a million pounds for the second successive year, while the stock value of its landholdings is now worth a little over a third of what it stood at two years ago.

Now, the Prince’s Foundation has said the entire project will be “reviewed and evaluated” over the next year, leading one of Scotland’s leading architects to describe it as little more than a “construction site”.

The uncertainty surrounding Knockroon’s scope represents the latest blow to Prince Charles’s vision to regenerate one of the most deprived areas in Scotland by creating “a vibrant, sustainable community.”

Situated between Cumnock and Auchinleck, the plans for the village grew out of a 69-acre site secured as part of the £45m rescue package spearheaded by the prince for Dumfries House, the 18th century Palladian mansion.

When Knockroon’s blueprint was granted outline planning permission by East Ayrshire Council in 2011, it laid out a vision for 770 houses, 330 of which were to have been built by 2017. However, nearly a decade on from the plans being submitted, just 31 homes have been built to date.

In the most recent annual accounts of the Prince’s Foundation, published by Companies House earlier this month, the charity said it was taking time to pause and consider Knockroon’s evolution.

It states: “The development company continues to work towards making good defects and developing the infrastructure for the roads and pavements.

“Over the next year the Knockroon project will be reviewed and evaluated. Following review, a comprehensive plan of development will be presented for consideration before the next phase of work commences.”

Meanwhile, the latest accounts for Dumfries Farming and Land Limited – a subsidiary of the Prince’s Foundation responsible for building Knockroon – show it employs just three people and is mired in the red.

The company incurred losses of £517,132 in the 12 months to March 2018, the steepest annual loss posted since its incorporation in 2007.

It also endured another troubled year in the 12 months to March 2017 when it lost £502,089.

The accounts also reveal that land held as stock was revalued on an open market basis by Stanley Wright, a Sanquhar-based rural property consultancy and chartered surveyors.

It slashed the land’s value from £2m to just £700,000.

The award-winning architect, Professor Alan Dunlop, described the prince’s vision for Knockroon as an “imported pastiche” which sat ill at ease in an area “blighted by industrial decline”.

He said: “The development is a curious mix of relatively expensive, faux Georgian homes dropped into a bucolic setting. The first homes were completed in 2012, and as I predicted in 2016, there is clearly limited appeal.

“There is a dearth of infrastructure and major capital work seems slow to arrive. The enterprise is reported to be incurring significant losses; is struggling to find new home buyers, and has existing purchasers apparently stuck on a building site.”

Dunlop, a fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland and the Royal Society of Arts, added: “The original marketing promised heritage-led regeneration and the delivery of both a new community and improved quality of life. It has not delivered on these ambitions and its ersatz Georgian and mock Scottish vernacular creations have done little to attract industry or to inspire other volume house builders.

“This area surely cries out for authentic investment in good quality housing, which local people can relate to 
and can afford. Imported pastiche from past centuries is not the appropriate response.”

Gordon Neil, deputy executive director of the Prince’s Foundation, said: “The Prince’s Foundation remains fully committed to realising its vision for Knockroon. A decade has passed since the creation of the masterplan for the site, and much has changed in that time in terms of the local and wider economy.

“As in all long-term construction projects, it is incumbent on us, the developers, to remain flexible and adaptable to changing conditions throughout the build, and we will conduct a review that allows us to ensure we create a development that meets the needs of the community.

He added: “During the first two years of the second phase of the development, we will look to make significant investment into the project. The project will use the local supply chain, demonstrating investment into the local community as well as minimising environmental impact through shorter transportation times of materials

“In line with The Prince’s Foundation’s commitment to offering education and training opportunities where possible, modern apprenticeships will be offered across all trades on the development.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Martyn McLaughlin"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4866761.1549185171!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866761.1549185171!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A scenic view of Knockroon, on the edge of the historic Dumfries House Estate.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A scenic view of Knockroon, on the edge of the historic Dumfries House Estate.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4866761.1549185171!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4866762.1549185174!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866762.1549185174!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Prince Charles unveiling the foundation stone of the project in 2011. Picture: James Glossop","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Prince Charles unveiling the foundation stone of the project in 2011. Picture: James Glossop","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4866762.1549185174!/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/revealed-eight-year-agony-of-delayed-fais-1-4866695","id":"1.4866695","articleHeadline": "Revealed: eight-year agony of delayed FAIs","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1549151870000 ,"articleLead": "

Families in Scotland are waiting up to eight years for official inquiries to be carried out into the death of a loved one, it has emerged.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866694.1549129735!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Liam McArthur says the length of some delays is staggering. Picture: Toby Williams"} ,"articleBody": "

The figures have been branded “scandalous” by opposition leaders who are calling on Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to take action to address the issue.

The statistics have been revealed through a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats into the way Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) are conducted in Scotland.

Recent high profile cases, including the car crash deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill on the M9, have prompted concerns over the delays. One FAI completed in 2015 happened ten years after the deaths. There are 127 outstanding FAIs, the oldest relating to two deaths eight years ago.

Lib Dem justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “The sheer length of these waits is staggering. Families feel powerless. Waiting up to a decade to learn the precise circumstances that surrounded a loved one’s death is nothing short of scandalous.

“Delays like these will cause families unimaginable distress, hinder inquiries and prevent lessons being learned. Public services need to know quickly what changes will keep people safe. Ultimately, delays put lives at risk.”

Some high-profile cases are among the backlog. The family of Dionne Kennedy have spoken of their anguish over delays to the inquiry into the 19-year-old’s death in 2014. She took her life at Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling after being locked up on remand for breach of the peace despite suffering from severe mental health issues and having a history of self-harm.

There has also been no indication yet when a FAI will be held into the deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill, the couple who lay in their car for three days following an accident on the M9 motorway, despite the incident being reported to Police Scotland at the time.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has previously written to Scotland’s top law officer, the Lord Advocate, demanding answers on this issue.

McArthur added: “We’ve warned the Scottish Government about the hurt this is causing before.

“These new figures are yet more evidence that there is an entrenched pattern of delay in Fatal Accident Inquiries.

“It is now incumbent on the Justice Secretary and the Lord Advocate to find the root cause of these systematic delays.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4866694.1549129735!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866694.1549129735!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Liam McArthur says the length of some delays is staggering. Picture: Toby Williams","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Liam McArthur says the length of some delays is staggering. Picture: Toby Williams","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4866694.1549129735!/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/sport/football/teams/kilmarnock/insight-can-kilmarnock-s-football-success-revitalise-the-town-1-4866767","id":"1.4866767","articleHeadline": "Insight: Can Kilmarnock’s football success revitalise the town?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1549143264000 ,"articleLead": "

You don’t have to be football crazy to sense how the local team has helped drag Kilmarnock out of the doldrums – but it helps, writes Dani Garavelli

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866764.1549143074!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Kilmarnock Manager Steve Clarke has turned the team's fortunes around. Picture: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

Rebecca Millar was just 14 hours old when she was registered as a member of the KGB (Kilmarnock Girls and Boys supporters’ club). Her dad Stephen – known as Foggy on account of his booming voice – had come, elated, from the hospital to the Rugby Park Open Day to buy a blue and white teddy, and signed her up on a whim. At the time, she was the youngest ever official fan. A year later, another baby snatched her title, having been registered at eight hours old. But, hey: that’s football. Ups and downs.

Rebecca, now 25 and a career development officer, has followed the ups and downs of Kilmarnock FC all her life. Having been carried in to home games in her car seat – and cooed over by players’ wives and members of staff – her entire identity, and the identity of her sisters, Rachel and Jenny, is inextricably bound up with the club.

The best day of her life was when Kilmarnock won the League Cup in 2012 with a 1-0 victory over Celtic at Hampden in 2012. “We thought it was going to extra time, then big Dieter Van Tornhout scored that goal and I can’t even explain the feeling. It was pure euphoria,” she says.

One of the worst came when Kilmarnock lost 5-1 to Hibs in the League Cup final in 2007. “I was there with my big Killie flag and my face painted and I was sobbing my wee heart out.”

Stephen swears the first time his daughter smiled was when he told her the team had beaten Rangers at Ibrox in August, 1993. “Aye, but supporting Killie has brought more disappointments than victories,” she replies.

Right now, as Kilmarnock, the oldest professional team in Scotland, celebrates their 150th anniversary, their supporters have plenty to keep them cheerful. With a tiny fraction of the Old Firm budget, current manager Steve Clarke has transformed the team, taking them from bottom to fourth in the Scottish Premier League.

Since replacing Lee McCulloch in 2017, the Saltcoats boy-made-good has produced victory after victory, including the one against Rangers 11 days ago, which was the source of much joy.

In December, Kilmarnock were briefly top of the SPL and, after defeating Rangers, second. Nor has the team’s success been a flash in the pan: Kilmarnock collected more points over the course of 2018 than any other team in the premiership.

“Steve has given the players back their self-belief,” says Sandy Armour, editor of the club fanzine, the Killie Hippo. “At one time, if Kilmarnock were playing Rangers and Rangers scored, the heads would go down and it would be over. But Steve has instilled a winning mentality.”

If a league win still seems far-fetched, a top three finish and a jaunt to Europe does not. And miracles can happen. There must be Killie fans who are looking to Leicester’s league win; and daring to dream.

Whatever transpires, Clarke’s success is breathing fresh life into the flagging club. Gates – down to 3,500 in 2016 – have risen, doubling to 7,000 for big games. The Moffat stand, closed last season due to a lack of ticket sales, has reopened, and a fan zone has been created in its shadow. More young families are starting to appear, with children once again running down to the front to see Nutz the squirrel, the club mascot.

“Before Clarke came, it felt like we were losing a generation of fans,” says Armour. “But now we are seeing younger supporters and they make more noise than the auld yins sitting with our blankets. They create more atmosphere.”

Better still – as the fates of provincial towns and their football clubs tend to be intertwined – the unexpected upturn in Kilmarnock’s fortunes is filtering out beyond Rugby Park.

The club shop, the Killie Zone, has expanded, opening a new unit in the town centre, and residents who might naturally have gravitated towards Glasgow at the weekends are more likely to stay home.

“It’s amazing. You see people on a Saturday afternoon now, and they are just uplifted – it’s changing the mood of the whole town,” says Tracy Murray, chair of Kilmarnock Business Association, who owns the Cove Boutique on Bank Street, a thriving shopping thoroughfare.

The Hard Luck Tattoo shop in Titchfield Street is getting so much trade it may have to consider a name change. Niky Brown has had a succession of Kilmarnock players through his doors asking to be inked. Brown is the man responsible for putting the sleeves on Eamonn Brophy. He demonstrates the player’s celebration gesture – the middle fingers of both hands bent inwards as both hands form a W – as he describes the Wolf on the inside of the striker’s right arm. His next job is to ink a bigger wolf across his back.

“The fact these players come here instead of going to Glasgow is good for the town,” says Brown. “The last time Brophy was in, he was signing autographs.”

Brown, who is a walking advert for his own work, has also been inking Killie badges on the calves and shoulders of fans finally ready to swear a blood oath to the club. He himself plans to get a squirrel on his upper arm. So what about the manager now revered as a demigod? Has Brown been asked to tattoo Steve Clarke’s face or name on any body parts? “Not yet,” he laughs. “But I tell you what: if anyone wants to be the first, I’ll do it for free.”

A decade ago, Kilmarnock was in the doldrums. It had already lost much of its heavy industry. So Diageo’s decision to close the Johnnie Walker bottling plant, which employed 700 people, was a massive blow. The residents reacted with defiance, organising a 20,000-strong march along John Finnie Street to Kay Park. But three years later the plant shut anyway, leaving few families untouched.

Johnnie Walker was also a core part of the town’s identity. “If you went abroad people would ask where you were from and maybe people wouldn’t have heard of Kilmarnock, but then you’d say ‘Johnnie Walker’ and there would be a spark of recognition,” says Murray.

In between the Diageo announcement in 2009 and the closure in 2012 came The Scheme, a BBC reality TV show set on the Onthank estate which focused on a handful of mainly dysfunctional individuals.

Talk about kicking a place when it’s down. The programme stigmatised an entire community to the extent that even now, when Outlander actor Steven Cree tells people in London he is from Kilmarnock, they ask if he’s from Onthank (he is, and proud of it). “That was the most irresponsible thing the BBC could have done,” says Murray.

But people from Kilmarnock are not easily broken. Coco Chanel’s aphorism “Keep your heels, head and standards high” hangs at the front of Murray’s shop; perhaps it ought to be incorporated into the town’s crest.

After the shock of the Johnnie Walker closure had been absorbed, key members of the business community came together to try to harness some of the latent creativity and innovation and to push for investment.

Already, various improvement schemes were under way: the Opera House underwent a £7.5 million regeneration; and the Johnnie Walker Bond was upgraded and turned into the council’s social work department. A Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme was created around John Finnie Street; car parks were refurbished.

The ghost of the Johnnie Walker bottling plant was partly exorcised when Ayrshire College – a £50m glass temple of learning, which sends shafts of light across the town – was erected on eight acres of the site. The building was the work of Keppie Design, whose design director David Ross grew up in Onthank and still lives in the town.

Meanwhile Kilmarnock-born entrepreneur Marie Macklin is the driving force behind HALO, an innovation and enterprise hub, which is set to be built on the other 20 acres. When Kilmarnock won the SURF regeneration award for Scotland’s most improved large town in 2015, it was a testament to its indomitable spirit.

As the town was hitting hard times, so too was its football club. Part of this was down to unemployment. “The fortunes of a football club ebb and flow along with the economy. When people are out of work they can’t afford to go,” says Armour.

When they’re winning, of course, football clubs can lift morale. You could see that in Newcastle during the Alan Shearer era, when the Toon and its success was the one positive in many people’s lives. You could see it, too, when Kilmarnock won the Scottish Cup in 1997. “There is nothing else in the town or the shire that could have induced that kind of reaction,” says Armour. “You didn’t have to be a football fan. As the bus carrying the players and the cup came into Kilmarnock, there were wee grannies hanging oot their windows.”

A few years later, however, under the chairmanship of Michael Johnston, a disconnect began to develop between the fans and the board. Johnston, who had been gifted his shares by the previous owner, was widely regarded as being more interested in lining his pockets than in the club.

Gradually fans stopped buying season tickets, protest banners were unfurled at matches and the supporters’ association launched the Not A Penny More campaign in an attempt to oust him.

The protest proved successful and, in 2014, Johnston stood down as chairman in a deal that saw the sale of the Park Hotel and the club’s debts cleared. In 2017, Johnston resigned from the board. Next month, he is expected to sell his last shares and cut all remaining ties. Before standing down as chairman, Johnston set up Kilmarnock Community Sports Trust, a registered charity, to run the club’s community department in a more financially efficient manner.

By then, both results and support had stagnated. But the Kilmarnock Supporters’ Society (widely known as the Killie Trust) worked closely with majority shareholder Billy Bowie and the other directors to restore confidence.

Last year, the trust raised the £100,000 required to allow trust director and former Kilmarnock and Loudoun MP Cathy Jamieson to join the club’s board, thus increasing the fans’ input.

As tends to happen with folk heroes, the story of Clarke’s appointment has entered the realms of myth. It was such a stroke of genius backed up by brass neck, there are multiple contenders for the credit.

The version I have chosen to believe places the impetus for the initial approach in the hands of the fans, and particularly the chairman of the Killie Trust, Jim Thomson.

It was Thomson, Armour says, who first put Clarke’s name to the directors; and Thomson who gave them a number for Clarke’s brother Paul, an ex- Kilmarnock player. Paul took the call on a golf course in Tenerife, and promised to contact Steve.

Kilmarnock are a club well accustomed to surreal twists of fate. It is weird enough that their anthem is Paper Roses; weirder still that a punk rock version of the song is sometimes played at matches. But who could have imagined that Marie Osmond – on hearing of the connection – should take it upon herself to visit Rugby Park and adopt Kilmarnock as her favourite team?

Yet Killie supporters appear more shell-shocked that Clarke – who had coached alongside Ruud Gullit at Newcastle, José Mourinho at Chelsea and Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool – was prepared to sign on the dotted line. Nor can they get their heads round the transformation he has wrought. On Twitter, they call him SSC – Sir Steve Clarke – and a tongue-in-cheek Facebook page, The Church of Saint Steve Clarke, has been set up to pay homage to his greatness.

Even Armour, who has seen good managers come and go, is awed by Clarke’s achievement. “Steve has done all this without bringing in a large number of new players. He is the outstanding manager in Scotland by a mile in my opinion. If he had the budget of Celtic or Rangers then just imagine…” he says.

Kilmarnock FC’s profile is also being boosted by celebrity fans who are vocal in their social media support. Two members of Biffy Clyro – twins Ben and James Johnston – are sometimes spotted at the games. And then there’s Cree, who recently tweeted Gary Lineker to ask if him if he’d repeat his Leicester stunt and present Match Of The Day in his boxer shorts if Killie won the SPL (Lineker promised he’d present it wearing Killie socks instead).

Cree’s history with the club is literally etched into his face. He was 17 when Kilmarnock won the Scottish Cup, and well up for the post-match celebrations. As the town went wild, he climbed up on to, and then jumped from, a moving van, splitting his forehead and finger. “I spent the night in A&E,” he says “I needed 17 stitches and still have the scar above my left eyebrow.”

Cree is based in London and has a one-year-old daughter; but he is coming to as many games as he can. “I find most people who aren’t Old Firm fans are proud not to be because there is something special about supporting your home town team,” he says. “While I am sure it’s great winning the league every other year, the fact this season is unexpected for us means it is bringing us so much joy.

“We don’t know how long this is going to last so it’s important to savour every moment.”

Here is the unspoken fear that casts a shadow over fans’ happiness: how long will SSC stay? Armour doesn’t believe he’s a man to be lured away by big bucks. And yet, if he keeps on producing these results, other clubs will be competing for his services.

On the assumption that it won’t be like this all the time, the club and the Killie Trust are doing everything they can to consolidate their links with the community while the going is good.

Earlier this year, they introduced a Community Hero Award with a local champion recognised before every game. And local businesses are being encouraged to donate a season ticket to families that might otherwise be unable to attend.

In his office at East Ayrshire Council HQ, the world’s most unlikely provost is also buoyed up by Kilmarnock’s rise. Jim Todd, who sometimes turns up at functions on his Harley-Davidson, is wearing a leather waistcoat with chains instead of buttons. On the right-hand side is an Ace of Spades; on the left a sewn-on badge reading “Provost”.

Though he is not a great football fan, his office is full of club paraphernalia. Three rival scarves – Kilmarnock, Auchinleck Talbot and Ayr United – share the same coatstand. The wall behind him boasts a Killie calendar and photos of Marie Osmond’s visit are also on display.

“The town has got its sense of pride back and the club has a lot to do with that,” he says. “If there’s football on the telly – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, I am not interested – I’d rather be out on my bike. But I love Kilmarnock and am a season ticket holder.”

Todd says the strengthening links between the club, the community and the council can be seen in plans to build a memorial garden next to the stadium. “Like Hearts, Kilmarnock players went away to World War One and never came back,” Todd says. “And it will double up as well. When Kilmarnock supporters pass over, they want their ashes on the park; but you can’t scatter ashes on a plastic pitch.”

It’s 6.45pm on Friday night and hundreds of Kilmarnock fans, their scarves wrapped tight around their chins, are trudging through the falling snow to watch their team take on Hearts.

There are groups of old men, teenagers swilling cans of Tennent’s and hyper children bouncing around their mums and dads.

One boy in a bobble hat gives an impromptu dance as he chants: “Now we have a leader, his name is Stephen Clarke.” I’ve spent so much time with fans in the past seven days, I mentally reply: “You’ll never take the Killie, the boys from Rugby Park.”

Two recent developments are being hotly discussed. The decision to replace the existing artificial pitch, not with grass, but with another artificial pitch, is a disappointment quickly eclipsed by the news that fans’ favourite, Youssouf Mulumbu, is coming back on loan from Celtic.

Some supporters, like Innes Thomson, have travelled a long distance. Thomson lives in Dunoon but comes to every home match and most away ones. Just six days ago he saw Kilmarnock draw 1-1 against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

Other supporters, like Ally Fotheringham, are relatively new to the Kilmarnock family, drawn in by the excitement and the tickets their children have scored through their boys’ clubs.

In the end Kilmarnock lose 2-1. But there’s always the Scottish Cup match against Rangers to look forward to on Saturday. Another victory against their Old Firm rivals would be sweet.

In any case, right now, it would take more than a one-off loss to dash the fans’ optimism.

“It’s been amazing,” says Thomson. “After everything we’ve had to put up with, to suddenly be in this position is just incredible.”

So are Kilmarnock about to do a Leicester? “I don’t want to jinx it, but I think we have a chance,” he says. “I’m more than happy with [Clarke’s] signings.

“I think Celtic will still be the favourite. But even if we came second, it would be almost as good as a win for our generation.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4866764.1549143074!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866764.1549143074!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Kilmarnock Manager Steve Clarke has turned the team's fortunes around. Picture: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Kilmarnock Manager Steve Clarke has turned the team's fortunes around. Picture: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4866764.1549143074!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4866765.1549143079!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866765.1549143079!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "L to R : Stephen Millar and his daughter Rebecca Millar at Rugby Park. Picture Robert Perry","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "L to R : Stephen Millar and his daughter Rebecca Millar at Rugby Park. Picture Robert Perry","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4866765.1549143079!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4866766.1549143084!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866766.1549143084!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Kilmarnock's success on the pitch is raising spirits off it. Picture: TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Kilmarnock's success on the pitch is raising spirits off it. Picture: TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4866766.1549143084!/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/opinion/andy-wightman-reset-local-democracy-to-end-budget-feud-1-4866671","id":"1.4866671","articleHeadline": "Andy Wightman: Reset local democracy to end budget feud","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1549142078000 ,"articleLead": "

Consultation and council tax reform are essential to give Scots the political empowerment devolution was supposed to deliver, says local government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens Andy Wightman.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866670.1549142075!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Minister Derek Mackay made fun of Labour's Neil Findlay by quoting from a speech he had accidently leaked to the government. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA"} ,"articleBody": "

The Stage One debate on the budget last week was bad-tempered with unparliamentary language and frustration to the fore. But it also had its share of first class pantomime and humour. A cabinet secretary fell off her seat in the gales of laughter that followed a bad joke from Murdo Fraser. But that was topped by an intervention by Derek Mackay on Neil Findlay when the Finance Secretary revealed that the Lothian MSP had accidentally emailed a copy of his speech to the Scottish Government and he promptly began quoting from it.

Behind the drama of the events in the chamber lay the serious matter of the Scottish Budget. Parliament now has responsibility for new policies such as social security and for raising substantial amounts of devolved taxes to support the £42 billion budget voted for on Thursday. This poses new risks in terms of the public finances to add to wider uncertainties around Brexit.

In a parliament where no party has a majority, a coalition has to be built to secure support. Greens have done a deal in the past two years but this year we argued that we could no longer do a deal to plug funding gaps in local government without meaningful progress on local tax reform. This posed challenges to the government as we were negotiating future commitments as well as numbers in a budget. Talks broke down the week before as both parties ran out of road.

For a small party to support the government is a risk. If we get it wrong, we can suffer significant political damage. If we get it right, government can too easily claim the credit. Negotiations are also exhausting for a small party without access to the kind of official support available to government.

As a group of MSPs we had genuine difficulty in deciding whether we could back the deal that emerged only 13 minutes before the debate. This wasn’t some carefully orchestrated drama for the media but a consequence of our substantial reservations about the risks involved. None of this was helped by the fact that we were the only group at the negotiating table.

We agreed in the immediate aftermath of last year’s budget to attempt to secure reforms that could begin the process of empowering local councils to enable them to properly reflect the wishes of their electorate. Greens want our local democracy to be like that you can find in any normal European country – smaller in scale, more autonomous, with greater fiscal freedom and a relationship with national government based on a quasi-constitutional, rules-based framework.

Following years of failure to scrap the regressive council tax, we have secured a commitment to negotiate legislation that will be published this session. This will be hard work but I believe that it is possible. Parties will have to work together if they wish to influence the outcome and we will need to create a process based on collaboration, respect and trust. Such reforms should be a shared endeavour since they are about the powers available to local democratic institutions.

Twenty years of devolution have been dominated by trying to micro-manage councils through ring-fencing funds and adopting strong-arm tactics to constrain their fiscal freedom. If the UK Chancellor were to attempt to freeze the Scottish rate of income tax by threatening to reduce the block grant unless Scottish ministers complied, there would be outrage from all parties.

That, however, is precisely what too many political parties and MSPs have engineered through council tax freezes and caps in a calculated and subversive attempt to hijack the local state. If Angela Merkel were to try and do the equivalent in Germany, she would be found guilty of an illegal appropriation of powers under Article 28 of the German constitution.

In 2015, the First Minister appointed Naomi Eisenstadt to advise her on how to best tackle poverty and inequality. In her initial report, “Shifting The Curve”, she recommended that ministers should be bold on local tax reform and that “this is a central moment of political decision, an opportunity to introduce a much more progressive system, one that will have important implications, particularly for working households at or just above the poverty line”. Four years later, on the morning of the Budget, the Poverty and Inequality Commission reviewed progress and found that this one recommendation was the only one not to have been delivered.

Scotland’s parliament has achieved much in its 20 years, but its failure to match the evolution of its own fiscal autonomy with that of local government is a badge of shame that has led us to a crisis in public services, local democracy, and the trust and hope that the electorate should be able to place in their locally-elected representatives.

At the heart of this is a debate about political power and about how parties should do business in a proportionally elected parliament. As the budget process has demonstrated, there is no shortage of outrage and opposition and no lack of colourful rhetoric of rescue deal, capitulation and betrayal.

In future I hope that we can do things better. Government should provide leadership in convening roundtable talks in September to be followed by further detailed discussion and negotiation following the UK budget when the financial envelope is known. Such talks can then inform the draft budget published in December. Detailed negotiations can then follow leading to the Budget Bill being considered in parliament.

Such a process would ease tensions, build trust, allow red lines and aspirations to be properly assessed and tested and, ultimately, increase the chances of a budget for Scotland built on a shared collaborative endeavour.

In February 2017, I walked into the chamber of the Scottish Parliament to debate the budget for the forthcoming year. I was greeted by shouts of “Judas” and “sell out”. Politics is a rough trade but I don’t think our constituents are best served by the kind of oppositional and confrontational posturing that now accompanies the budget. It is time for a reset and the meaningful collaborative endeavour that I think most constituents expect and deserve.

• Andy Wightman is local government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Andy Wightman"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4866670.1549142075!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4866670.1549142075!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Finance Minister Derek Mackay made fun of Labour's Neil Findlay by quoting from a speech he had accidently leaked to the government. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Finance Minister Derek Mackay made fun of Labour's Neil Findlay by quoting from a speech he had accidently leaked to the government. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4866670.1549142075!/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/leader-comment-don-t-stall-economy-1-4866770","id":"1.4866770","articleHeadline": "Leader comment: Don’t stall economy","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1549143668000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland’s councils are struggling financially. Some of the proposed cuts announced in recent weeks are eye-watering – and clearly a backward step for a developed nation.

" ,"articleBody": "

And so it is welcome that the SNP has given local authorities more power to raise funds and allow them to develop solutions fit for their own market.

The but, of course, is that this amounts to a new suite of taxes which will hit voters at a time when the economy is spluttering and fears of Brexit grow.

The tourism visitor levy seems a sensible move, but the planned workplace parking levy (WPL) has a lot of questions to answer.

The WPL would see employers pay an annual tax to the council for every parking space they provide for employees, though they could pass on the cost to their staff.

Nottingham, the city of Robin Hood, is the only place in the UK to levy such a tax, at £415 per space.

Teachers have already raised concerns, but it is the effect on ordinary workers which could be most dramatic.

A fee of around £500 would be large enough for many to feel impacted, but not large enough to encourage changes in behaviour.

Environmental groups believe the tax would lead to more people taking public transport, but this looks optimistic.

Many commuters – especially parents dropping children at school – simply have no option to take public transport.

Without clear planning, the WPL could just be a further tax on business and workers. And an indiscriminate one at that.

Following the SNP’s increase in income tax for middle earners, and the move to allow greater hikes in council tax, this is the last thing the economy needs at a precarious time.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit-saps-support-for-scottish-independence-claim-unionists-1-4863100","id":"1.4863100","articleHeadline": "Brexit saps support for Scottish independence, claim Unionists","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1548582745000 ,"articleLead": "

Brexit is turning Scots against independence, which is seen as an “alien concept” to many young voters in the new, globally connected world, according to the head of the pro-Union campaign.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4863098.1548582733!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland in Union chief and former Labour MP, Pamela Nash"} ,"articleBody": "

Scotland in Union chief Pamela Nash says it’s “very clear” that Scotland will reject independence as Nicola Sturgeon prepares to set out her plans for a second referendum in the coming weeks.

And the prospect of the SNP government seeking to hold its own “Catalonia-style” vote without the authority of Westminster, which has control over the constitution, would be a mistake, she warns.

READ MORE: Euan McColm: A week that put second independence referendum in mothballs

But the claims on voting intentions have been rejected by the SNP, which insists that polling evidence indicates young voters are moving towards Yes.

READ MORE: RT to continue broadcasting Alex Salmond chat show

The pro-Union campaign has stepped up activity in recent months with town hall meetings, high street stalls and a presence at a range of other events. Sturgeon cranked up the pressure on Theresa May on the independence issue at Downing Street last week, suggesting the Prime Minister is afraid of the verdict of the Scottish people.

The nationalist government says that Scots deserve an alternative to the Brexit chaos and will increasingly be driven towards supporting independence.

But Nash, a former Labour MP, said: “It’s having the opposite impact on people’s views on another independence referendum in Scotland.

“People see the chaos that has ensued and they don’t feel that they need more constitutional chaos with another independence referendum in Scotland.

“We see very clearly now the difficulties of breaking up decades of political union, but those difficulties would be exponentially bigger if we were breaking up a centuries-old union.

“The UK is an important political union, but it’s not just that, it’s the economy and, most importantly, it’s our shared culture and history.

“I can understand why that question is being asked, but it’s just not what we’re seeing and it’s also not what’s playing out in the polls either.

“Polling has not moved in every single poll that was taken over the past year.

“People see those differences and they actually want stability. They don’t want to go through even more turmoil.”

According to Nash, the recent feedback from meetings around the country and events like Glasgow and Edinburgh Pride is that Brexit has altered the views of many about Scotland being in the UK.

She said: “They don’t want to cut off those opportunities and they want to keep that as open as possible. That has had a big impact which the SNP has not reflected.

“The world has continued to become increasingly interconnected. We were making these arguments in 2014, but that has developed much, much faster than we would have anticipated,” said Nash.

“That is the argument we will be putting to the younger generation as well – that it’s an alien concept to put up more barriers and borders when the world is much 
more interconnected; when we want to travel and we want to work with people throughout the world when we’re sitting in our own living rooms.

“I’ve spoken to young people who since Brexit have changed their minds on the support they had for Scotland being independent before – it made them think again.”

But the SNP insists the most recent polling from Panelbase indicates 65 per cent of Scots aged 18 to 34 would vote Yes in an independence referendum. This has steadily increased over the past year as the Brexit chaos has intensified, according to surveys from a variety of pollsters.

Nationalist MSP George Adam dismissed Nash’s claims as “demonstrably untrue”.

“This simply exposes how rattled the SiU are by the consistent polling which shows that – by a factor of two to one – young Scots overwhelmingly back independence,” he said.

Scotland in Union formed in early 2015 as the dust settled on the previous year’s independence referendum. Its aim was to make the pro-Union case as support for the SNP soared.

But despite the political upheaval of the past four years, the one constant has been the level of support for independence, which has remained broadly around the same 45 per cent level it stood at when the referendum was held.

“There’s a need for Scotland to continually make the positive case for remaining in the United Kingdom, which could easily be lost at the moment with everything that’s going on,” said Nash. The fact is that it’s still the best way forward for Scotland’s future to have increased stability and opportunities and the global influence of being part of the UK.

“We do need a continued campaign to make that case. The polls haven’t changed much, but we would want to increase support further.”

For those who might be tempted to vote for Scotland to leave the UK as a means of rejoining the European Union, Nash said there was no easy route to becoming a member.

“The evidence points towards a lengthy application process with no guarantees at the end,” she said.

Recent weeks have seen senior SNP figures such as former deputy leader Jim Sillars and MP Pete Wishart urge a more cautious approach to a second referendum until the case has been made and victory looks assured.

But Sturgeon is also facing growing calls from grassroots activists and the Greens at Holyrood to forge ahead and call a second vote.

The First Minister has been accused of “playing to the gallery” in recent statements on the issue.

“For any party leader there’s an element of having to keep their own supporters onside – there’s no doubt that’s what Nicola is doing,” said Nash.

Similarly Sturgeon’s pledge to announce her timetable has been put back a number of times as the Brexit chaos ensued.

“We were first expecting that last June and that’s continued. It keeps getting put off every few weeks,” said Nash.

The Scottish Government has always been clear in public that the 2014 referendum – held after a Section 30 order was agreed with Westminster – was the “gold standard” for holding such votes.

But recent weeks have seen suggestions from leading SNP figures to look at the option of a “Catalan-style” referendum, which would see a vote staged “illegally” by the Scottish Government without a Section 30 order from Westminster. Reports have even indicated that the Scottish Government is seeking legal advice on such a move.

“I think that would be a very silly move from the Scottish Government to go ahead and do that,” said Nash.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4863098.1548582733!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4863098.1548582733!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Scotland in Union chief and former Labour MP, Pamela Nash","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Scotland in Union chief and former Labour MP, Pamela Nash","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4863098.1548582733!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4863099.1548582741!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4863099.1548582741!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "People's Vote supporters gather yesterday in Chambers Street, Edinburgh, for a Rally for Europe. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "People's Vote supporters gather yesterday in Chambers Street, Edinburgh, for a Rally for Europe. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4863099.1548582741!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5992040633001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/glasgow-walk-recalls-true-story-of-historic-bloody-friday-1-4863015","id":"1.4863015","articleHeadline": "Glasgow walk recalls true story of historic ‘Bloody Friday’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1548545702000 ,"articleLead": "

It was a violent confrontation between striking workers and police that would be bitterly remembered by those present as Bloody Friday.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4863013.1548525612!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Battle of George Square walk organiser Dave Lees, Henry Bell and Poppy Kohner. Photograph: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

The events of 31 January 1919 in Glasgow are now better known as the Battle of George Square – a day that has become mythologised over the years.

Now a group of contemporary historians will attempt to tell the real story of what happened in the city centre that day to mark the 100th anniversary of what has become a defining chapter in Scottish labour history.

A free walking tour will take place this Saturday which will show the key sites in a period of social unrest which ultimately led to police baton-charging the assembled crowd in George Square and the arrest of several prominent union leaders.

Organisers will explain the so-called battle was only one incident in a wider industrial action, which aimed to cut the working week to 40 hours. “The 40-hour strike should be remembered as a mass movement for economic democracy at a pivotal political moment,” said Ewan Gibbs, a lecturer in social policy at the University of the West of Scotland, and one of the walk’s co-organisers.

“Full male and partial women’s suffrage had only just been granted, wartime had led to unprecedented state intervention in industry and trade unions had made major advances. In effect 1919 should be regarded as a major episode in contesting the limits of democracy – especially with regards to the workplace and state regulation of the economy.”

The walk will also explain some of the myths that surround the Battle of George Square. It is often claimed tanks were deployed in the city on the orders of Westminster. In fact it was Glasgow’s city council that requested military assistance – but the tanks remained unused in a nearby market.

Henry Bell, the author of a recent biography on socialist campaigner John Maclean, said the events of that day should not be viewed in isolation.

“I think Glasgow in 1919 saw a real confrontation between the people and the establishment,” he added. “The massacre of the First World War had radically changed society, and workers in Scotland were laying claim to what that new society would look like.

“They wanted work, housing, security and control of their own lives. Some of that was won in the decades that followed. Some of it is still being fought for.”

A much less well-known event in January 1919 will also be retold. The walking tour will visit the Broomielaw on Clydeside, which was then the heart of Glasgow’s merchant marine industry.

“The dockside was at the centre of a significantly less optimistic episode of industrial unrest only eight days before the scenes in George Square took place,” Gibbs explained. “On January 23, black sailors were attacked by a mob of their white colleagues who had been incensed by their union.

“These events are part of Glasgow’s working-class history. They also demonstrate the complexities and contradictions, and failings, of labour politics.

“I hope the tour will present a picture of Red Clydeside as being formed by struggles for economic justice, industrial democracy and peace. I further hope it will indicate that it incorporated significant contrary political currents.

“The 40-hours strike merits a better history than having the schema of a ‘revolutionary situation’ imposed on it.”

The tour will meet at George Square at noon on 2 February.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Chris McCall"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4863013.1548525612!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4863013.1548525612!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Battle of George Square walk organiser Dave Lees, Henry Bell and Poppy Kohner. Photograph: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Battle of George Square walk organiser Dave Lees, Henry Bell and Poppy Kohner. Photograph: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4863013.1548525612!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4863014.1548525615!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4863014.1548525615!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Red Flag is raised in George Square in Glasgow in 1919.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Red Flag is raised in George Square in Glasgow in 1919.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4863014.1548525615!/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/opinion/leader-princes-street-revamp-could-be-making-of-the-capital-1-4863108","id":"1.4863108","articleHeadline": "Leader: Princes Street revamp could be making of the capital","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1548544106000 ,"articleLead": "

The future of one of Scotland’s most important streets is at a turning point.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4863107.1548538980!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Business chiefs foresee homes returning to the thoroughfare along with high-tech offices and tourist attractions as an answer to the retail crisis. Picture: Greg Macvean"} ,"articleBody": "

For many years questions have been asked about the future of Princes Street and projects proposed to ensure its prosperity. Plans for an underground mall – Princes Street Galleries – were aborted, while Edinburgh has tinkered with traffic flows and ideas of pedestrianisation.

Princes Street matters because it is arguably Scotland’s most famous thoroughfare and its health is a symbol of the country’s vitality. If you visited Paris and witnessed a down-at-heel Champs-Élysées, this would leave a lasting impression.

The street is now at a crossroads as it faces twin pressures from the internet and the new St James Centre. High street shopping is in decline as customers turn to online and alternative out-of-town options. High rents on Princes Street are adding to this problem. And the nearby St James development, with its improved facilities, is threatening to lure flagship stores away from their once indispensable position facing the castle.

Princes Street therefore needs to reinvent itself. And it must begin that process immediately.

A more open-minded approach is required from planners on what is viable. More residential, more hotels, restaurants and coffee shops and more experiential units will be part of the future. The Johnnie Walker Visitor Centre in the former Fraser’s store in the west end is an example of this.

Princes Street must also link better with the Gardens, which are woefully underused. The dual carriageway is enough to dissuade most locals from ever venturing in. By working together – and there are interesting plans to develop the Gardens – both can benefit from increased footfall and new uses.

Simply hoping that Princes Street will remain a premier shopping destination will not be enough – the time for reinvention is now.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4863107.1548538980!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4863107.1548538980!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Business chiefs foresee homes returning to the thoroughfare along with high-tech offices and tourist attractions as an answer to the retail crisis. Picture: Greg Macvean","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Business chiefs foresee homes returning to the thoroughfare along with high-tech offices and tourist attractions as an answer to the retail crisis. Picture: Greg Macvean","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4863107.1548538980!/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/ken-macintosh-scottish-parliament-is-yet-to-get-it-right-1-4859391","id":"1.4859391","articleHeadline": "Ken Macintosh: Scottish Parliament is yet to ‘get it right’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1547941041000 ,"articleLead": "

Holyrood’s Presiding Officer has warned that Scots are feeling the same anti-politics “exasperation” which has given rise to protest movements in France and the UK – and the Scottish Parliament has yet to “get it right”.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4859389.1547936018!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ken Macintosh, who became Presiding Officer in May 2016. Picture: Lisa Ferguson"} ,"articleBody": "

Ken Macintosh says the country’s political class would be “delusional” to ignore the fear among Scots that the system isn’t working for them, after almost two decades of devolution.

The Scottish Parliament celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and Macintosh insists the institution has made landmark gains which have allowed Scots to take more responsibility for themselves. He wants to use the year ahead to “refresh” Holyrood and to make it a platform for discontented Scots to voice their concerns with politics.

“For all the gains we’ve made, there’s no way you 
can look at today’s society, today’s economy and think we’ve got it right,” says Macintosh.

“You’re looking around you and you’re seeing people in difficulty, worried about their job, worried about their income and security. Not trusting either the experts or politicians – not trusting anybody.”

The Brexit vote and subsequent turmoil as politicians down south grapple to find a way forward for the country has fostered a sense of breakdown with Westminster politics. The emergence of protesters and demonstrations of all political hues has underpinned a growing public mood of discontent with the system.

Macintosh warns: “I don’t look at what’s happening at Westminster and feel either immune or not part of it.

“When you look across the globe, when you look at what’s happening with the divisions in America at the moment, the Gilets Jaunes in France, the impasse over Brexit. I don’t smugly think, ‘Oh I’m glad we’re not like that here in Scotland.’ I think exactly the reverse.

“My goodness, the political problems that we face at the moment are momentous. There’s a lack of trust in the familiar ways that we approached them and we need to come up with some answers.

“We need to be able to give people confidence and trust.”

He adds: “We are absolutely kidding ourselves if we think we’ve got it right and they’ve all got it wrong and we can laugh at their misfortune. That would be delusional.

“We need to recognise that people in Scotland are every bit as exasperated as people in the rest of the UK, the people in France, the people in America and so on. All these votes that we’re having – people are shouting ‘This isn’t working for us.’

“It’s not just about pro-Europe or anti-Europe. It’s ‘What’s happening? Have you forgotten about us? We’re not doing as well as we should be. We’re worried, we can’t get a house, we can’t get an income, we’re worried about our kids’ future. Where’s our security?’

“We need to respond to that. But I think the Scottish Parliament can respond to it.”

He continues: “It’s about first of all being open so you’re not pretending you’ve got all the answers, but you reflect people’s priorities by debating the issues that are at the front of people’s minds.”

Devolution has seen a distinctive policy approach in Scotland since the onset of devolution, with a shift towards universal benefits including free personal care, university tuition and prescriptions, as well as the more recent introduction of a new income tax and benefits regime. Many feel Scotland is “diverging” from the Westminster approach, towards the more modern, social-democratic, Nordic-style system with excellent public services and higher taxes to pay for them.

But Macintosh, who was a Labour MSP before moving into the Presiding Officer’s chair, plays down suggestions that Holyrood has brought about any political fracturing with the rest of the UK.

“They wrestle with exactly the same problems – exactly the same problems,” he says.

“The big issues about what kind of society we want. Are we going down this Nordic-style model, Scandinavian model of high taxation, 
really good public services? Or are we going towards the more American model 
where the state can’t do everything?

“I would question whether we’re diverging or reflecting what’s always existed.

“When the Scottish Parliament came into being, more people in Scotland used the NHS than private health; more people go to state schools, fewer to private schools; there are still local authority homes for the elderly – I don’t think there’s any south of the border.

“There has always been a greater support for the idea of public good and common good in Scotland. It’s just our historical tradition – and we’ve had a separate judicial system, a separate education system and we are maintaining that.

“I’m not sure there’s any obvious signs that we’re diverging in any way, going down a different route. I can see the debate playing out in the rest of the UK and in Wales and in Northern Ireland as well. And they’re struggling with it.”

A series of events will be staged throughout this year to mark the 20th anniversary of the parliament, culminating in a celebration in the main debating chamber on 29 June, the date when it formally assumed legal powers.

The anniversary provides an opportunity to show what Holyrood has achieved in the past two decades, Macintosh says, and to “show what we can still do.”

The parliament’s committees were long seen 
as a hidden gem of the Holyrood system and the Presiding Officer believes they will enjoy a resurgence as a “powerful political tool”.

Their effectiveness has been questioned in recent years. Party tribalism during the independence debate saw splits in many committees among nationalist and unionist MSPs, with “minority reports” even published by some committees, when consensus couldn’t be reached.

But the culture committee has taken a lead in the investigation into the Glasgow School of Art fires and a special committee is also being established to look into the collapsed Scottish Government probe into sexual harassment claims against Alex Salmond.

This shows that Holyrood works best under a minority administration, Macintosh contends, when no single party can bulldoze its plans through.

“I think the two parliaments which really have allowed the design of this parliament to operate to its full effectiveness were the minority administration of 2007 and this current minority administration,” he says.

“The parliament has just had to adjust to the different majority administrations. It’s built on a premise that there won’t be an overall majority and therefore that politicians have to work with each other.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4859389.1547936018!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4859389.1547936018!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ken Macintosh, who became Presiding Officer in May 2016. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ken Macintosh, who became Presiding Officer in May 2016. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4859389.1547936018!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4859390.1547936020!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4859390.1547936020!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Then first minister Donald Dewar arrives with the Queen for the opening of parliament at its former location on The Mound in 1999. Picture: Colin Rennie","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Then first minister Donald Dewar arrives with the Queen for the opening of parliament at its former location on The Mound in 1999. Picture: Colin Rennie","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4859390.1547936020!/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/leader-timely-warning-for-holyrood-to-win-over-the-cynics-1-4859395","id":"1.4859395","articleHeadline": "Leader: Timely warning for Holyrood to win over the cynics","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1547939394000 ,"articleLead": "

“Politicians are all the same”, “Voting never changes anything” and “MPs are just in it for themselves”. The public can be extremely cynical about our elected representatives.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4859394.1547935846!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ken Macintosh, who became Presiding Officer in May 2016. Picture: Lisa Ferguson"} ,"articleBody": "

But cynicism – sometimes used as a substitute for wisdom by those who fear to express optimism in case they appear naive – can be dangerous.

A glance around the world finds evidence of a growth in anti-democratic politics, with the violence of the Gilets Jaunes in France, US President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about locking up political opponents and “draining the swamp” of Washington DC, and over-heated claims that those opposed to Brexit in the UK are guilty of “treason”.

Despite the fervour of the independence debate, Scotland’s politics may seem calmer, but Holyrood’s Presiding Officer, Ken Macintosh, today warns in a Scotland on Sunday interview that the same tide of discontent is building here too.

People, he warns, are “in difficulty, worried about their job, worried about their income and security” and no longer trust politicians, experts or indeed anyone.

Speaking 20 years after the Scottish Parliament was established, Macintosh calls for Holyrood to “refresh” itself so the public are better able to give voice to their concerns.

These are wise words from our Presiding Officer. Holyrood was deliberately built with the main chamber as a hemicycle – common in other European countries, but the opposite of the benches in Westminster. Together with the element of proportional representation this was aimed at encouraging consensus and compromise.

But Scotland – especially in recent years – hasn’t been so different from the House of Commons in its tone or inability to encourage MSPs to work across the divide. The debate around independence has prompted greater enmity than would be ideal.

It is vital that MSPs are prepared to listen, act in the best interests of their constituents and are not simply seen to be party drones or “in it for themselves”.

Perhaps our parliamentarians should have bonuses contingent on whether public trust in Holyrood rises or falls?

Parliament should also dare to be more radical. Scotland introduced a smoking ban in 2006, a year ahead of similar legislation in England. That was controversial before its introduction, but very quickly came to be seen as a major step forward. It was a relatively rare moment of MSPs taking the right kind of risk.

Our politicians should beware falling behind public opinion out of timidity. 
Other reforms in health and education are needed and MSPs may find that the Scottish public is more ready to accept them than they realise.

After 20 years, the report card on Holyrood is probably a “B”. A promising start, but with clear areas for improvement.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4859394.1547935846!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4859394.1547935846!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ken Macintosh, who became Presiding Officer in May 2016. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ken Macintosh, who became Presiding Officer in May 2016. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4859394.1547935846!/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/robbie-marsland-licence-won-t-stop-fox-hunting-in-its-tracks-1-4859305","id":"1.4859305","articleHeadline": "Robbie Marsland: Licence won’t stop fox hunting in its tracks","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1547939244000 ,"articleLead": "

Fox hunting is horribly simple – a pack of hounds is encouraged to chase and cruelly kill a wild mammal. Fox hunting legislation, on the other hand, is horrendously complicated and never fails to surprise.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4859304.1547921273!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Buccleuch hunt in St Boswells. Picture: David Cheskin/PA"} ,"articleBody": "

The so called “fox hunting ban” was introduced in Scotland in 2002. But, despite this, ten mounted fox hunts still ride out in Scotland three times a week between September and March. They say they are using exemptions in the law that allow them to use their packs of hounds to flush foxes from cover to waiting guns. The problem the League exposed is that there are rarely any guns and these exemptions are in fact loopholes that allow for traditional fox hunting to continue unimpeded.

Over the past four years the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland has convinced the media, the public, the judiciary and the government that the present legislation just doesn’t work and that foxes continue to be chased and killed across the Scottish countryside.

In the courts there was just one successful prosecution of the Jed Forest hunt and another case against the Duke of Buccleuch’s Foxhounds was dismissed because of the “well-known difficulties around this legislation”.

After a protracted and rigorous process, Lord Bonomy, the chair of a government-commissioned review, agreed with the League that the law needs strengthening. So, when the government said it was going to announce what it was going to do about it, we hoped they would get it right.

And they almost did. Last week, the Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP, finally made the long-awaited announcement on fox hunting in Parliament. That in itself was a momentous step. For the past 12 months there was such an ominous silence from the Scottish Government on this issue that Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone had to announce that she would bring a Members Bill to really ban fox hunting.

Implementing Lord Bonomy’s recommendations to clarify the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act and going beyond his recommendations by reducing the number of hounds from a full pack to two would have strengthened the law and effectively banned fox hunting. Bringing in new measures to stop trail hunting, a practice which purports to mimic traditional hunting by following an animal-based scent – usually fox urine – would also have stopped the invidious English practice establishing a foothold in Scotland.

If the Scottish Government had stopped there, all would have been good. But it didn’t.

The minister’s statement went on to mention the prospect of introducing a licensing system for hunts allowing them to opt out of the two-dog rule where there were grounds for legitimate pest control – effectively replacing the current loopholes with a new one. And as we all know – you can’t license cruelty.

In follow-up answers about her statement the minister made it clear that licences would only be issued in upland areas and in exceptional circumstances. That’s as may be, but we know that while there are licensing schemes, mounted hunts will smell the chance to be out there with their full packs of hounds.

Fox hunters live and breathe to see their packs of hounds out there chasing foxes. Reducing the number of dogs to two would take away their thrill and drive them to find another way to go out with their beloved packs of hounds. That’s why it’s so crucial to stop trail hunting in its tracks, which is what the government says it will do.

So, the government’s plans to reduce the number of dogs to two and see off the spectre of trail hunting are the right things to do. But why allow the hunts the hope of a licence to take out a full pack of dogs? I suspect the answer has nothing to do with animal welfare and a lot to do with internal SNP politics.

Fox hunting is simple, stopping it never is. However, we are two steps closer to really banning fox hunting in Scotland. The third and final step will be for the government to come to terms with the fact that you can’t license cruelty.

Robbie Marsland is Director of the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Robbie Marsland"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4859304.1547921273!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4859304.1547921273!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The Buccleuch hunt in St Boswells. Picture: David Cheskin/PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The Buccleuch hunt in St Boswells. Picture: David Cheskin/PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4859304.1547921273!/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/health/drugs-trial-offers-new-hope-for-edinburgh-ms-sufferer-1-4855730","id":"1.4855730","articleHeadline": "Drugs trial offers new hope for Edinburgh MS sufferer","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1547401693000 ,"articleLead": "

A Scot who is taking part in the largest ever trial for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis has spoken of the “huge boost” he initially received even though he may be on a placebo drug.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4855729.1547381868!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Stephen Ritchie discusses the effect of his treatment. Picture: Neil Hanna"} ,"articleBody": "

Stephen Ritchie, started the groundbreaking MS-STAT2 trial in November last year. It aims to confirm whether simvastatin could become one of the first drugs to slow or stop the disability’s progression – offering hope to thousands of people living with the condition.

The 49-year-old, was first diagnosed with MS in 1997 and had to quit his job as a collections adviser two years ago. Ritchie, from Edinburgh, told Scotland on Sunday the double blind trial means half the 1,180 participants with secondary progressive MS will take the drug and the others will be on the placebo.

He said: “I take two tablets a day, but I don’t know the exact dosage. But it’s a double-blind placebo trial, so you don’t know if you’re on the real drug or not.

“I get the tablets at home and get checked out every couple of months.

“This may sound like desperation, but I told myself I’m going to be a lot better and I didn’t care if I was going to be taking the placebo or not.

“It did have quite a dramatic improvement in the first week – my balance was a lot better, but it was very shortlived unfortunately.”

Ritchie added: “If you’ve got progressive MS, the human side of it is that you’re not going to get any better as it stands.

“To be able to participate in a trial, at something aimed at progressive MS is very positive, whether it works or not, but the fact that I’m getting involved helps.

“If this drug works, brilliant – if not, it will be the next one or the one after that. The fact they’ve got a clinic now and they’re doing trials and research on it means it’s only a matter of time before they find a cure.”

The multi-million-pound trial is being funded by the MS Society along with partners including the National Institute for Health Research, and will see 30 sites across the UK and Ireland recruit participants until the end of 2019.

It will take six years to complete in order to show long-term benefits to people with progressive MS.

Positive results from a smaller trial showed simvastatin – currently used to treat high cholesterol – could improve levels of disability and slow disease progression.

It also reduced the amount of brain atrophy (shrinkage).

Ritchie started the trial after speaking to The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, a charitable University of Edinburgh research facility founded by author JK Rowling in memory of her mother.

He added: “I believe I’m on the real drug, purely because of the results of a blood count done on me at the hospital during a check-up. Somebody at the hospital said that would be because I was on the drug.

“It leaves me feeling that I must be on something – I don’t feel as bad as I was when I started the drug.”

MS affects over 100,000 people in the UK, and most expect to develop a progressive form of the condition. If someone’s MS symptoms become progressively worse over a period of at least six months, they are said to have moved on to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “We are incredibly proud to be co-funding MS-STAT2 because we know what it could mean for people living with progressive MS.

“This condition is unpredictable, painful, and often exhausting, but finding an effective therapy means debilitating symptoms aren’t inevitable.

“Today if you’re diagnosed with progressive MS you don’t have any options, but we’re getting closer to changing that, and hopefully delivering the solution everyone has been waiting for.

“We’d encourage people who think they could benefit to consider joining the trial and help Stop MS in its tracks.”

Dr Peter Connick, MS-STAT2 project investigator at the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, University of Edinburgh, said: “We are delighted to be participating in this major clinical trial that aims to change the treatment landscape for people with secondary progressive MS.

“Developing treatments to slow, stop, or reverse disease progression in MS is the number one priority for both patients and the research community, so it is exciting to be part of clinical research that aims to achieve this ambitious goal.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Kevan Christie"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4855729.1547381868!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4855729.1547381868!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Stephen Ritchie discusses the effect of his treatment. Picture: Neil Hanna","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Stephen Ritchie discusses the effect of his treatment. Picture: Neil Hanna","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4855729.1547381868!/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/euan-mccolm-nicola-sturgeon-puts-trust-of-her-floating-constituency-to-the-test-1-4855732","id":"1.4855732","articleHeadline": "Euan McColm: Nicola Sturgeon puts trust of her floating constituency to the test","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1547336344000 ,"articleLead": "

Social media amplifies political division. It creates the impression that voters are now entirely tribal.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4855731.1547319070!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The First Minister isn't accustomed to experiencing this level of hostility from within her own party. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA"} ,"articleBody": "

If you take any issue of the day and feed it into Twitter or Facebook, the responses of users of those platforms will be of the black and white variety. Social media is no great enabler of nuance.

But the truth is that huge numbers of people neither use social media nor feel the need to align themselves with a particular camp. The floating voter still exists, we just don’t hear much from her because she’s getting on with her life in the real world.

If you want proof that social media isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of political debate, consider the matter of Scottish independence. Spend even a few minutes on Twitter and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Scots think of nothing other than the constitutional question.

It’s undoubtedly the case that independence – whether of the Scottish or Brexit variety – is the major issue of our political times but it remains the case that other things matter, too. Not least among these important factors is the perceived competence of those who would lead us.

This is a truth that should, right now, be focusing the minds of those closest to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP came to power at Holyrood in 2007 not solely thanks to the votes of those in favour of Scottish independence. Rather, the nationalists enjoyed – and, to a lesser extent, continue to enjoy – the backing of voters who support the maintenance of the United Kingdom.

The most significant factor in creating this apparent contradiction was the widely held belief that the Labour Party had lost its way. Cast your mind back to the 2007 election and you’ll recall how then SNP leader Alex Salmond and his team went to great lengths to reassure Scots that a vote for the nationalists need not be considered a vote in favour of independence. Instead, insisted Salmond, a vote for the SNP should be seen as a vote for competent government.

That SNP reputation for competence may not have quite the shine it once had but – in part, thanks to Scottish Labour’s inability to mount anything like a serious opposition – it remains.

The First Minister’s handling of the allegations of sexual harassment levelled by two female civil servants against Salmond stands to destroy the goodwill that has kept the SNP in power for 11 years.

Last week’s Court of Session ruling that the Scottish Government investigation into these allegations was procedurally flawed was bad enough. The women who brought forward complaints have been left high and dry while the taxpayer faces a £500,000-plus bill after the government accepted it had failed to follow the process to the letter.

But more was to come.

We have known since the allegations about Salmond surfaced last year that Sturgeon met him on a number of occasions during which, she says, she made it clear to him that she could and would not intervene in the case.

During First Minister’s Question Time on Thursday, the First Minister was forced to expand on that.

It emerged, under questioning from acting Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw, that during the first of these meetings – of which no minutes exist – Sturgeon’s Chief of Staff, Liz Lloyd, was present. Lloyd – a government employee whose status as a special adviser permits her to act on party matters – was wearing her SNP hat that day, Sturgeon told MSPs.

The First Minister was adamant that what was discussed that day was not a government matter. I wish her good luck sustaining that line.

A meeting between the First Minister and her predecessor to discuss allegations of sexual misconduct raised by government employees is very much a government matter. To suggest otherwise is insulting.

This is a view shared by some who back Sturgeon.

“She should never have agreed to meet him. Simple as that,” says one party insider whose loyalties lie with the current FM rather than her predecessor. Another veteran activist, with identical sympathies, asks who in the First Minister’s team thought such meetings were at all appropriate.

These Sturgeon loyalists make the point that her handling of this matter is exactly the sort of thing that began to chip away at trust in Scottish Labour.

I’m bound to agree.

Sturgeon – who refuses, beyond saying that she told him she would not intervene in the case, to go into detail about the discussions she had with Salmond – is now testing the goodwill of voters who believed her to be competent and honest. Without minutes of the meetings, we can only take the First Minister’s word that she acted appropriately. That’s a big ask.

Despite the best efforts of Team Sturgeon to deny the existence of a civil war in the SNP over this issue, it’s perfectly clear that hostilities between supporters of the First Minister and supporters of Salmond represent exactly that. The SNP is now angrily divided. People have picked sides.

A number of high-profile Salmond supporters – former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, former health secretary Alex Neil and former presiding officer Tricia Marwick among them – have come out to bat on his behalf.

The response from the Sturgeon camp has been rather muted.

One party insider says: “Nobody on Sturgeon’s side is used to war. They don’t know how to handle what’s happening.”

That same source makes the point that, when Salmond was first minister, Sturgeon, former SNP communications chief Kevin Pringle and former MP Angus Robertson formed a tightly-knit unit that advised and, to some degree, controlled their boss, and asks who performs the same role for the current party leader?

It certainly appears that Sturgeon would have benefited from having people on her team who would have advised against meeting Salmond.

SNP infighting over the Salmond investigation will only get bloodier, while the First Minister’s role in matters can only further erode her credibility with the moderate mainstream voters she needs if the nationalists are to win the next Holyrood election.

We may now be witnessing the beginning of the end of the SNP’s dominance of our politics.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Euan McColm"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4855731.1547319070!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4855731.1547319070!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The First Minister isn't accustomed to experiencing this level of hostility from within her own party. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The First Minister isn't accustomed to experiencing this level of hostility from within her own party. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4855731.1547319070!/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/snp-s-top-europhile-smith-urged-to-take-on-davidson-1-4849894","id":"1.4849894","articleHeadline": "SNP’s top Europhile Smith urged to take on Davidson","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1546127987000 ,"articleLead": "

One of the SNP’s leading voices on Europe has been approached to stand against Ruth Davidson in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4849893.1546105933!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alyn Smith holds up a map to remind MEPs of Scotland's support for remaining in the EU. Picture: Philippe Buissin"} ,"articleBody": "

Alyn Smith has been “sounded out” for the Edinburgh Central seat, in a move that could turn the contest into a judgment on the Tory leader’s handling of Brexit in an area with one of the strongest Remain votes in the UK.

Smith did not rule out standing for Holyrood when approached by Scotland on Sunday, but the MEP said his focus is on “stopping Brexit” in the final weeks before the UK is set to leave the EU.

Davidson has a majority of just 610 votes in Edinburgh Central, which is seen as a three-way marginal and has previously been represented by the SNP and Labour.

While Davidson was at the top of the Conservative list in the Lothians regional vote in 2016, and would effectively be guaranteed a seat at Holyrood if that was repeated in 2021, losing her constituency would be an embarrassing setback as she bids to become Scotland’s first Conservative First Minister.

Smith has served as MEP for Scotland since 2004 and is a key figure in informing internal party debate on EU policy. His public profile was boosted in days following the 2016 Brexit referendum when he received a standing ovation in the European Parliament after issuing a plea for solidarity with Remain-voting Scotland. “Please, remember this: Scotland did not let you down,” he appealed to fellow MEPs.

With UK MEPs set to be out of a job if Brexit goes ahead as planned on 29 March, Scotland on Sunday understands Smith has also been approached about standing against other sitting Tories at Holyrood and Westminster.

However, the symbolism of pitting one of the SNP’s leading Europhiles against a Tory leader who nationalists claim has gone missing on Brexit appeals to party insiders.

“If [Smith] stood for selection in Edinburgh Central, he’d get it, and he could beat Ruth,” said a senior SNP source.

“He could equally win selection for Westminster in Stirling or Ochil & South Perthshire.”

The SNP source added that a number of nationalists at Westminster were considering a switch to Holyrood, with some feeling the parliament in London will become a “sideshow” once the final status of Brexit is settled, although their fate will be in the hands of local party members.

A Scottish Conservative spokeswoman said: “Ruth will be standing up for all those in Edinburgh Central who want to get Nicola Sturgeon out of government, and stop yet another referendum on independence.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4849893.1546105933!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4849893.1546105933!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Alyn Smith holds up a map to remind MEPs of Scotland's support for remaining in the EU. Picture: Philippe Buissin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Alyn Smith holds up a map to remind MEPs of Scotland's support for remaining in the EU. Picture: Philippe Buissin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4849893.1546105933!/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/silent-scream-from-libraries-as-councils-forced-to-axe-319m-1-4849900","id":"1.4849900","articleHeadline": "Silent scream from libraries as councils forced to axe £319m","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1546127618000 ,"articleLead": "

Libraries have been among services worst hit by £90 million of cuts to cultural services across Scotland in recent years, analysis by the Scottish Labour Party has revealed.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4849899.1546106307!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The children's section at Piershill Library in Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean"} ,"articleBody": "

It comes amid a raft of closures prompting campaigns to save the facilities which are seen as vital community hubs.

Parks, sports facilities and museums have also suffered under cuts to town hall culture budgets in Scotland since 2011/12, according to new analysis by Labour.

The number of libraries which closed in Scotland across Scotland last year doubled to 30, leaving a total of 558.

There has been a £22m reduction in spending for libraries over the past six years, the analysis of revenue spending across Scotland shows. The 17.9 per cent cut is higher than the overall 13.9 per cent reduction across cultural services.

A high-profile campaign was launched last year with the support of leading Scottish authors, including Irvine Welsh and Graeme Macrae Burnet, aimed at saving libraries.

But the outlook remains bleak with cuts of £319m earmarked for council revenue budgets next year.

Labour’s culture spokeswoman Claire Baker said: “The SNP government’s decision to pass on Tory austerity to our communities has resulted in multi-million pound cuts to cultural services across Scotland.

“Libraries aren’t just a free source of reading, they are often at the centre of people’s daily lives. They are a place for everyone to learn, to study, to talk and exchange ideas, and can always provide a safe and welcoming environment for vulnerable people in our communities.”

Scotland’s councils have seen more than £500m in total cuts in real terms from their revenue budgets for services like libraries since the start of the decade as the impact of austerity hits home, although it rose slightly last year.

The impact on cultural services has been far-reaching, with more than £5m cut from museums and galleries. Almost £20m has been cut from budgets for sports facilities, while more than £30m was cut from community parks and open spaces.

A total of 69 libraries have closed across Scotland since 2011, according to official figures. This includes 30 in 2017, up from 15 the year before.

Many of the library closures took place in Fife after swingeing plans were unveiled by the council to axe 16 sites as part of a cost-cutting measures. In Scotland, there were 3,515 paid library jobs in 2010 and 3,416 in 2015 – a drop of 99 
(3 per cent), a BBC report found.

Sean McNamara, head of CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) in Scotland called for a broader outlook about the benefits of libraries.

He said: “We urge local authorities to recognise the significant short- and long-term benefits of library services to literacy, digital participation, information skills, health and well-being and much more.

“Libraries provide equal access for all and are more popular than both the cinema and professional football in Scotland, providing vital services for Scotland’s communities and they must be supported both nationally and locally.”

The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) has also previously pointed to new investment in library services in recent years. New or refurbished libraries opened in Wick, Grantown, Alford, Denny, Loanhead, Newbattle and Strathaven. Renfrewshire is investing £5m in a new central library in Paisley. East Ayrshire has recently bought a new mobile library fleet.

SLIC chief executive Pamela Tulloch said: “Public libraries are transforming into thriving hubs of community-based activities and continue to attract people of all demographics for various purposes, from reading, job- seeking and health support groups to film screenings, history exhibitions and even dance classes.

“Libraries continue to be the most popular civic resource offered by local government. Visits to public libraries, including online visits, continue to rise and outstrip visits to other leisure and cultural activities,”

The Scottish Government says more than £4.7m has been provided since 2014 to support the development and delivery of Scotland’s first national public library strategy and continue to support innovative ways for people to use public libraries.

Ministers also say overall council funding is increasing by over £200m next year, but this includes budgets for ring-fenced areas, such as childcare, which aren’t part 
of everyday revenue spending.

“We continue to ensure that our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement despite further cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK government,” a spokesman said.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4849899.1546106307!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4849899.1546106307!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The children's section at Piershill Library in Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The children's section at Piershill Library in Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4849899.1546106307!/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/make-hospital-parking-free-for-all-nhs-staff-say-tories-1-4849883","id":"1.4849883","articleHeadline": "Make hospital parking free for all NHS staff, say Tories","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1546126289000 ,"articleLead": "

NHS staff in Scotland should be refunded the cost of parking at hospitals, according to the Scottish Conservatives.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4849882.1546104516!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The car park at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson"} ,"articleBody": "

Three major hospitals – Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary – still charge for parking, despite the practice being scrapped at 14 other Scottish hospitals in 2008.

Staff and visitors are still required to pay as the hospitals are locked into private finance initiative (PFI) arrangements.

The scheme was set up by the Conservative government in the 1990s and allowed hospitals, schools and prisons to be built by private contractors before being rented back to the public sector.

Any money that remained following construction of the buildings, as well as “rent” money, could then be kept by the contractor.

Nurses at Glasgow Royal Infirmary launched a petition earlier this month after the parking tariff per hour was increased to £1.70. Staff estimated the rise could cost them around £20 each day they attend work.

Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs has suggested the cost of remunerating hospital workers would be “at most” £2.7 million a year.

Briggs urged the Scottish Government to examine whether such a scheme would be feasible.

“This would be the kind of gesture that would be affordable thanks to Barnett consequentials, and show NHS staff that they are valued by government and the taxpayer,” he said.

“It would also make a practical improvement to the working lives of NHS staff, many of whom work long and awkward hours at these hospitals.

“The SNP government previously pledged to make parking free at hospitals across the country.

“Just because PFI deals exist at three major hospitals doesn’t mean ministers can’t do something to make up the costs.

“We need to see action to end the unfair costs NHS staff in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee face.

“We also want to see a national review of hospital parking more generally, something SNP ministers have rejected but is needed if the experience of workers, patients and visitors is anything to go by.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We agree that parking charges at hospitals put an unnecessary financial burden on NHS staff as well as patients and their families.

“This is why the health secretary recently wrote to APCOA, the firm that runs the car park at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, to urge them to reconsider their policy of pursuing NHS staff over parking fines, as well as the increased charges which have been added to the original fines.

“The Scottish Government has made it clear repeatedly that we would like charges abolished at all hospital car parks.

“We have done this in NHS-owned hospitals across Scotland, but unfortunately there are three car parks locked into long-term PFI contracts which is a legacy from previous governments.

“We have ensured through the funding mechanisms we use to deliver new projects that charging for hospital car parking is not permitted.

“Health boards are expected to work with their PFI contractors to ensure any charges are kept to a minimum and ensure that PFI contracts are kept under review to ensure best value for the public purse.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Lucinda Cameron"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4849882.1546104516!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4849882.1546104516!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The car park at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The car park at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Picture: Lisa Ferguson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4849882.1546104516!/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/lockerbie-anniversary-not-emotional-occasion-says-victim-s-father-1-4845954","id":"1.4845954","articleHeadline": "Lockerbie anniversary not emotional occasion, says victim’s father","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1545199247000 ,"articleLead": "

The 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing will not be an “emotional occasion” for most loved ones, according to the father of one victim.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4845953.1545166262!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "d Dr Jim Swire. Picture: S Scott Taylor/J P License"} ,"articleBody": "

Dr Jim Swire has spearheaded campaigns by bereaved relatives for a full inquiry into the atrocity, which saw the loss of his daughter Flora.

On 21 December 1988 - the eve of her 24th birthday - Ms Swire boarded Pan Am flight 103 from Heathrow to New York’s JFK airport.

She was bound for Boston to celebrate Christmas with her American boyfriend. But the promising student would never make it across the Atlantic.

Now, 30 years on, Dr Swire claimed the anniversary on Friday will not be an emotional occasion as relatives have lived with their loss every day since the bombing.

The 82-year-old said: “Each anniversary is a time when those not directly involved become aware again and remember what happened.

“But it isn’t that much of an emotional occasion for most of us, because we live with the loss of our family members every day.

“After 30 years of trying, we still feel that we are being obstructed from discovering the truth. We have approached every prime minister - with exception to the current one - to ask for a full inquiry.”

Ms Swire was one of 270 people killed when the flight exploded above the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Memorial events are being held there and in Heathrow, as well as several in the US, to mark the anniversary.

Kara Weipz, president of of the Victims of Flight 103, Inc, lost her brother Rick Monetti in the atrocity.

The American campaigner said: “With the approach of every anniversary, there is a deep sadness that absorbs you.

“I think about all the memories and time that have passed without my brother. But part of what this whole tragedy has taught me is to be grateful.

“I’m grateful for the time and memories that I had with my brother and we had as a family.

“I’m grateful for my parents who have raised me to remember, but always live my life to the fullest.

“I’m grateful to the other family members and friends who have been there for our family through the sad times and the happy times.”

In 2001, after a lengthy legal process, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was convicted of the worst mass murder in British legal history and sentenced to life imprisonment.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, leading to a decision to free him under compassionate release rules.

He died in Tripoli, Libya, in May 2012.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4845953.1545166262!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4845953.1545166262!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "d Dr Jim Swire. Picture: S Scott Taylor/J P License","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "d Dr Jim Swire. Picture: S Scott Taylor/J P License","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4845953.1545166262!/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/ross-macfarlane-we-can-t-have-a-judge-spouting-from-the-bible-in-the-middle-of-the-street-1-4845520","id":"1.4845520","articleHeadline": "Ross Macfarlane: ‘We can’t have a judge spouting from the Bible in the middle of the street. . .’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1545136141000 ,"articleLead": "

It all started so innocently…

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4845519.1545134417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The annual concert has become a firm festive favourite. Illustration by Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane"} ,"articleBody": "

It all started so innocently…November 1996: I was a ­fairly new advocate and ­having a cup of tea in the advocates’ reading room with a colleague, Eric Robertson. The reading room resembles a 19th century gentleman’s club stuffed full of antique furniture and is where advocates retire to dodge work, chat to their chums, and generally lick their wounds from their most recent mauling by the Appeal Court.

The chat turned to an enormous Christmas tree recently installed nearby, in the centre of Parliament Square. It was certainly festive.

We joked that we half expected to see Harry Secombe under it dressed as Mr Bumble, a bell in hand, singing O Come, All Ye Faithful. Eric and I laughed, both having had long experience of singing in choirs. “Next thing you know, there’ll be a choir standing under that big tree shaking tins for the homeless…”

What happened next can only be described as a pure Hollywood moment. It was that let’s-put-the-show-on-right-here! scene. Within five minutes, we’d concocted a plan to identify any decent singers in the Faculty of Advocates and drag them out for half an hour to sing carols under that big tree and raise ­money for the homeless charity Edinburgh City Mission.

Over the next few days, we had dragooned a soprano, three altos and a temporary sheriff. Then Eric came bounding in – and the conversation went something like this:

Eric: “I’ve done it! I’ve got us a judge!”

Me (incredulous): “A judge??? A judge who’ll sing under a tree?”

Eric: “No – a judge to do a Christmas reading.”

Me: “We can’t have a judge standing under a tree in the middle of the street spouting the Bible. This is Edinburgh. We’d be arrested for a breach of the peace…”

At that point, it was decided that we’d better do the whole thing indoors. Suddenly, I felt as if I were trapped inside a giant snowball speeding down Calton Hill, gathering momentum, destined to crash into Santa’s Grotto at Jenners.

So we scrambled around and booked a venue (St Andrew’s and St George’s) and the whole event ­suddenly took on a sheen of respectability. Other Members of Faculty came forward and wanted to take part – Andrew Hardie (at that time, Dean of Faculty – later, Lord ­Hardie), Paul Cullen (at that time, the Solicitor General – later, Lord Pentland) and Sheriff Nigel ­Thomson all volunteered their ­services as readers.

Other Members of Faculty, ­families and friends stepped up to create a dedicated and formidable-sounding choir. Two and a half rehearsals later in a freezing room with a tuning fork and a clapped-out organ and we sounded like angels.

I devised the programme – and we were all ready to go. This was going to be a great (if exhausting) one-off.

Then, two days before the concert, without warning, my father died. I was too upset to take part in the event. I was too upset to sit in the audience. The first concert went ahead and I sat at home.

Later that night, there was a ring on my doorbell. A friend, the ­solicitor Sheila Barker, had come to see me. She had been at the concert. She said that it had been a “wonderful event” and we had “raised lots of money for the homeless”. As she left, almost as an afterthought, she said: “And I’m so looking forward to the concert again next year…” It hadn’t occurred to me before that moment that this would be ­anything more than a one-off event, but this week, as we prepare for our 2018 concert, this year’s concert at St Andrew’s and St George’s will be our 23rd consecutive Christmas concert.

Over that time we’ve had the great and good pitch up to do their bit for charity. With various Lord ­Presidents, Justice-Clerks, author Alexander McCall Smith, and selected grumpy judges ­reading King Herod – how could you go wrong?

Inevitably, since 1996, the changes in the choir read like the births, deaths and marriages section of The Scotsman – our choristers have come and gone with their romances, or divorces, or the birth of children. Some of the children who weren’t born at the time of that first concert have now sung with us or have done readings for us. Twenty two unbroken years, all in aid of ­helping the homeless at Christmas and raising tens of thousands of pounds over that time.

The choir itself has gone from strength to strength under the musical directorship of Neil Beynon, advocate. He has conducted us in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris and St Mark’s in ­Venice.

For me, the best part of the whole thing is the joy that comes with standing there, being with friends and singing – creating that beautiful sound.

There’s a special sound that’s ­created when friends and family sing together. And we have that.

Oh, and by the way – the choir sounds great this year. In fact, one of our choristers once sang backing vocals for Barry Manilow. But maybe that’s a story for another time...

The Faculty of Advocates Christmas Concert is tonight at 7pm (doors open at 6.30pm) at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, George Street, Edinburgh. The concert lasts for just over an hour and admission is free. The concert comprises community carol singing, choral singing and festive readings, sacred and secular. Children are welcome.

Readers this year include Gordon Jackson QC. All donations will go to Edinburgh City Mission.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4845519.1545134417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4845519.1545134417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The annual concert has become a firm festive favourite. Illustration by Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The annual concert has become a firm festive favourite. Illustration by Lesley-Anne Barnes Macfarlane","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4845519.1545134417!/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/lockerbie-anniversary-those-memories-they-stay-with-me-they-are-part-and-parcel-of-who-i-am-1-4845400","id":"1.4845400","articleHeadline": "Lockerbie anniversary: ‘Those memories, they stay with me, they are part and parcel of who I am’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1545120260000 ,"articleLead": "

The 270 people killed when a passenger plane exploded over the town of Lockerbie 30 years ago will be remembered at services in Scotland and the US later this week.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4845399.1545120255!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "This year marks 30 years since the December 21 attack in 1988.''Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Wreaths will be laid at a memorial garden in Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, where the wreckage of the bombed Pan Am Flight 103 came down on the night of December 21 1988.

Eleven people died in the town, along with the 259 passengers and crew on board the New York-bound plane which had set off from Heathrow.

A low-key service on Friday will see victims’ relatives join members of the community who assisted in the aftermath of the atrocity, the largest act of mass murder committed on British soil in recent history.

The only person convicted of the bombing, former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi , died in 2012 after being released from Greenock jail on compassionate grounds.

Canon Patrick Keegans, parish priest in Lockerbie at the time of the disaster, will speak at Mass led by Bishop William Nolan at the town’s Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church on Friday evening.

Mr Keegans survived as his street, Sherwood Crescent, was showered with debris that destroyed homes and killed his neighbours.

Now semi-retired and based in Prestwick, he said memories of that night would never leave those who lived through it.

The 72-year-old said: “It doesn’t go away, it stays with people.

“Especially those who have lost family and those who have been involved in any sort of way.

“It’s part of our life now. We live with it. We don’t live miserable, sad lives but there’s an undercurrent all the time.

“Those memories of the night and subsequent memories, they stay with me, they are part and parcel of who I am now.”

The majority of those on board the jet were American citizens, including 35 students of Syracuse University in New York State.

A memorial will be held at the university and at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where a cairn made from Lockerbie stone stands in memory of those who died.

A 30th anniversary service will also be held at FBI headquarters in Washington DC.

Kara Weipz, from New Jersey, lost her 20-year-old brother Rick Monetti, a Syracuse student, and will attend the ceremony at Arlington, where around 500 people are expected to gather. She was 15 and home sick from school the day of the disaster, and had to break the news to her parents when they returned from work.

The mother of three, who is president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 group, said ahead of the anniversary: “I don’t think it gets easier, I think it’s just different.

“The sadness takes different forms. I have an 18-year-old who in the fall (autumn) will be heading off to college, so I think now how my parents must have felt.

“But myself and others are also looking at what we’ve done in 30 years - look at this awful thing that happened to us, and look how we’ve come together, how we’ve enacted change, created our own family and been there for one another.”

She added: “We can’t change things, we can’t bring them back, but we can look at the fact that we have always honoured them with the way we live our lives and the things we do, and that’s the best way we can remember them, 30 years later.”

Back in Scotland, a Walk of Peace has been arranged by the Church of Scotland on Saturday to remember those who died.

People will climb Burnswark Hill near Lockerbie in silence following a special service at Tundergarth Parish Church the previous day.

The church is close to where the nose cone of the plane, Clipper Maid of the Seas, came to rest.

The Rev Adam Dillon, Clerk to the Presbytery of Annandale and Eskdale, said: “The horror of the night will live on in the memories of those who lived in Tundergarth and Lockerbie. This 30th anniversary gives the communities a chance to focus on looking forward - drawing on the resilience and temerity that has been required of them since 1988. My thoughts and prayers remain with all affected.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4845399.1545120255!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4845399.1545120255!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "This year marks 30 years since the December 21 attack in 1988.''Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "This year marks 30 years since the December 21 attack in 1988.''Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4845399.1545120255!/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/bill-jamieson-mackay-no-change-budget-belies-big-risks-1-4844593","id":"1.4844593","articleHeadline": "Bill Jamieson: Mackay ‘no change’ budget belies big risks","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544916884000 ,"articleLead": "

Move on, nothing to see here,” sums up the muted reaction to Scotland’s budget unveiled last week. Barring grumbles from higher rate taxpayers on freezing of the tax threshold, there was relief – and particularly over the upgrading of economic growth forecasts by the Scottish Fiscal Commission.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4844592.1544887622!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "UK Chancellor Philip Hammond's generosity will benefit Scots through the Block Grant. Picture: Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

A quiet period ahead, then? No. Finance Minister Derek Mackay may have struggled for attention amid the deepening roar of the Brexit crisis and feverish speculation that a general election may not now be far off. And if there is anything more likely to impact even harder on business and household confidence, it is the prospect of a bitter and divisive political battle – and the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn Labour government emerging from the carnage.

But there is something else that could overwhelm this modest budget package. For there is every sign that the UK political crisis is masking an economic one. Reassuring though the mildly more positive SFC forecasts may be, they could be blown off course by a gathering international slowdown, with talk of recession across both the US and the Eurozone. In a widespread world trade and investment downturn, Scotland would not be immune, particularly as that SFC forecast of higher near-term growth does not stem from an underlying improvement in our economic performance.

There is little that gives cheer in the SFC’s analysis. It is looking out on an economy that has barely any spring in its step. Average annual GDP growth since 2010 has been around one per cent, below the rate of GDP growth in earlier decades. Set in this context, its latest forecasts of 1.4 per cent growth his year, and 1.2 per cent next, while higher than its forecasts of a year ago, can hardly be hailed as a break-out from this low-growth performance. Indeed, it goes on to state that, even if we avoid a “hard” Brexit, it does not expect this stronger growth to be sustained beyond next year. It says growth will be subdued in the longer term, averaging just over one per cent over the next five years. This, it explains, is primarily the result of slow productivity growth that has been declining in Scotland since the early 2000s.

As if this in itself was not dispiriting enough, the reasons cited for the upgrading of its earlier forecasts are of equal concern.

That stronger than expected growth is the result of two developments. One is traced to the release of the new data and revisions to past GDP data – that is, an uplift that owes much to statistical corrections. One should not deny the statisticians their improved spectacles – and the brighter light they bring.

The second reason cited is that government expenditure in Scotland “is expected to grow significantly faster than we had previously forecast”. This has been driven primarily by increases in UK government spending in its budget in October. These increases, passed on to Scotland via the Block Grant, “also increases the budget for the Scottish government. We expect this,” says the SFC, “to support higher GDP growth over the next five years.”

The SNP administration would be most unlikely to advance this interpretation. Its line is that Scotland is still groaning under the yoke of Westminster austerity. But whichever side on this you take, there is a more troubling implication beneath: that what improvement in growth we may be enjoying is due to higher government spending, however it is disbursed, and productivity need not bother us much – just so long as that spending keeps growing.

But that leads us directly into trouble. Keep stoking the money furnaces of public expenditure and the economy – or more precisely those statistical measurements – will appear to glow with health. This is uncomfortably close to the model espoused for decades in state-dominated economies: the more the state directs and spends, the healthier and more prosperous the people – until, that is, the people, stripped of the ability to make their own choices, can stand it no longer.

For government expenditure to increase as this model requires, the greater the amount that the state must borrow, or the higher that tax revenues must be driven.

But this works only up to a point. People will seek a way to mitigate the ever-rising tax burden – the “behavioural response” that economists such as Professor David Bell have long warned about. People move, or seek reward in other forms, or seek protection in tax-sheltered pension saving, or are simply disinclined to work more. Whatever the response, it brings the risk that government tax revenues fall short of those linear statistical progressions.

The SFC now warns that we may be close to this tipping point and that the growing income tax gap with the rest of the UK could put some people off coming to work in Scotland.

The extra effective tax bite on Scotland’s higher earners in last week’s budget may seem modest enough: by not passing on a tax break for higher earners announced by the UK Chancellor in October, people earning £50,000 here will now find themselves paying £1,500 more income tax than elsewhere in the UK.

The SFC says this could make people “think twice” about working here. And it predicted it would also make others consider leaving Scotland or changing their residency status, and would have an impact on whether people go for a promotion or work more hours.

Overall, the SFC forecasts that this “behavioural change” will reduce income tax revenues in Scotland by about £6 million a year. But that is unlikely to cause Mr Mackay sleepless nights – after all, freezing the threshold for the higher rate of tax is estimated to raise an additional £68 million.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government argues that the country has a fairer tax regime than the rest of the UK, with residents getting perks such as free university tuition and personal care that other parts of the UK do not offer.

But the more the state spends, the more functions and services it undertakes, the more it is at risk when the economy stalls and slows. When tax revenues decline and spending has to be cut, restraint by government in such a politicised environment becomes all the more difficult to enforce.

A quiet, “no change” budget may be the verdict for now. But it may have sown the seeds of mighty problems in the years to come.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Bill Jamieson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4844592.1544887622!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4844592.1544887622!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "UK Chancellor Philip Hammond's generosity will benefit Scots through the Block Grant. Picture: Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "UK Chancellor Philip Hammond's generosity will benefit Scots through the Block Grant. Picture: Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4844592.1544887622!/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/tories-call-on-mackay-to-avoid-wider-tax-gap-in-budget-1-4841427","id":"1.4841427","articleHeadline": "Tories call on Mackay to avoid wider tax gap in budget","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1544313299000 ,"articleLead": "

The tax gap between Scotland and the rest of the UK must not grow wider when Finance Secretary Derek Mackay unveils his Budget this week, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841426.1544306215!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay has been urged by Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser to focus on growth. Picture: Andrew acColl/Rex/Shutterstock"} ,"articleBody": "

Mackay raised eyebrows last week when he hinted that there is still scope to tax higher earners more north of the border, despite concerns from business leaders over the impact on the economy and key professions.

He has been under pressure over the issue in recent months since Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled plans in his budget for 2019/20 to provide middle earners with an effective tax cut by extending the threshold at which they start paying the “higher” 40 pence rate to £50,000 – compared with £43,430 in Scotland.

Even if Mackay decides to raise this by inflation to £44,470, it would still mean an average Scot in the higher tax band would be left with a bill of £1,350.

Perhaps the more substantial issue is the impact on economic growth as Scotland’s tax base will have a direct impact on public spending in 2019/20 as the post-Smith Commission “safety net” is removed. If the public spending raised through devolved taxes such as income tax, Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and landfill tax falls short, the Scottish exchequer loses out.

Mackay has been meeting with opposition parties in recent weeks as he seeks to do a deal, but a demand for local government tax reform from his usual budget partners, the Greens, has so far thwarted an agreement. Labour and the Liberal Democrats both want steeper tax hikes, which could prove problematic, while the Tories’ call for a second independence referendum to be dropped rules out a deal with Ruth Davidson’s party.

As the pressure builds on Mackay over tax, Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said it is time to focus on growth.

“We’ve asked them to commit to no widening of the income tax differential between us and the rest of the UK at the very least,” he said.

“We would like to see it closed, but politics is the art of the possible, so at the minimum: no widening.”

SNP strategists feel the popularity of policies such as free university education, free prescriptions and free personal care for the elderly, as well as lower water and council tax charges, has resulted in a broader acceptance among middle-class Scots of the case for modest tax hikes.

But it remains contentious and was raised with Education Secretary John Swinney as he appeared at a School Leaders Scotland conference a fortnight ago, with a warning that the tax gap was discouraging qualified teachers from applying for promoted positions because so much of their additional salary would go on tax.

“This is a process and, as devolved income tax become more understood and more part of the political climate and there becomes a broader political debate around tax rates and their impact both on the economy and public services, I think we’ll see people becoming more concerned about it,” Fraser added.

The Scottish Government overhauled the income tax system for 2018/19 after control over rates and bands was devolved to Holyrood. It saw the creation of five bands, including the new starter and intermediate rates.

The Chancellor’s changes for next year will mean higher earners pay significantly more in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK. Even if the Scottish income tax bands only move with inflation, workers making £50,000 north of the border face a tax bill £1,300 higher than their UK counterparts from April.

The Scottish Government has already seen £700 million added to its budget of about £33 billion in 2019/20 as a result of so-called Barnett consequentials – extra cash from Westminster – unveiled last year. But a gloomy outlook for the country’s tax base saw these revised down by £400m last year by the Scottish Fiscal Commission.

This did not affect public spending last year, but it will next year as the Westminster “safety net” is withdrawn. The situation will become clear when the Commission unveils its forecasts on Wednesday.

Fraser added: “We could be in a position where Derek Mackay has been given all this extra money from the UK government, but that additional sum is reduced because the fiscal commission downgrades their forecasts for income tax receipts within Scotland, which would politically send a very strong message that it’s Scotland’s economic underperformance which is adversely affecting the amount of money we have to spend on the public finances.

“By focusing on economic growth and improving productivity you can deliver more money for the public services without having to increase tax rates.”

The SNP has accused the Tories of “trying to con” voters with unaffordable tax cuts. The party cites analysis by the think tank IPPR Scotland which shows that bringing Scotland into line with the tax regime in the rest of the UK would cut revenue by £1bn in the next four years.

SNP MSP Angela Constance said: “The Tories are trying to con voters by promising extra spending while handing high earners a tax cut – it just doesn’t add up.”

Mackay vowed to protect “vital public services” and prioritise spending on health and education. He said: “Our policies have already ensured that Scotland benefits from quality public services and our progressive reforms to income tax have protected those on the lowest incomes.”

While he cited Brexit as continuing to be the “biggest threat to Scotland’s prosperity”, he insisted his proposals would “not be defined” by this.

Instead, he said the Budget “will set out how we help protect Scotland as far as we can from the damaging uncertainty of the UK government’s Brexit policy”.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scott Macnab and CHRIS MARSHALL"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4841426.1544306215!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4841426.1544306215!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Derek Mackay has been urged by Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser to focus on growth. Picture: Andrew acColl/Rex/Shutterstock","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Derek Mackay has been urged by Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser to focus on growth. Picture: Andrew acColl/Rex/Shutterstock","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4841426.1544306215!/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/sport/more-in-sport/insight-mountain-rescue-volunteers-in-distress-over-helicopter-service-1-4834727","id":"1.4834727","articleHeadline": "Insight: Mountain rescue volunteers in distress over helicopter service","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1543142777000 ,"articleLead": "

It’s dark, you can barely see, the terrain underfoot is treacherous and a fierce, icy wind is cutting like a knife right through you. You can feel the weight of your gear, pressing heavy on your back. But you must keep going, one foot after the other, climbing ever higher through swirling snow and low cloud. You’re on a mission, the second of the night. Two people have gone missing on a plateau above, and it’s your job to find them.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4834726.1543148604!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team above Coire an Lochain. Picture: Contributed"} ,"articleBody": "

Situations like this are all in a day’s work for the members of Scotland’s mountain rescue teams, who are on call round the clock every day of the year to go to the aid of anyone who gets into difficulty in the hills. They could be summoned while at work, as they sit down for Christmas dinner or while reading bedtime stories to their children.

As jobs go, it’s surely one of the most demanding, requiring specialist knowledge and rigorous training. But these men and women don’t get paid for it. They do it because they want to help people, but also because they love the mountains, are highly skilled and know their home turf better than anyone else.

“It’s not about individuals, it’s about the whole team,” said Al Gilmour, spokesman for Independent Scottish Mountain Rescue (iSMR), a coalition of the country’s four busiest teams. “There’s no room for hero worship. The most important thing is to work together and take no unnecessary risks. If a danger is avoidable, it should be avoided.

“It’s quite a remarkable thing. People are part of teams for decades. It becomes a major part of their life. Being a member is definitely a commitment for the whole family.

“But it’s very rewarding too. The teams work very hard to support each other after very traumatic rescues.”

In Scotland there are 27 civilian mountain rescue teams, staffed by more than 1,000 unpaid volunteers, as well as three police teams and an RAF team. Between them they offer a world-class search and rescue service, backed up by the emergency services.

But iSMR members have recently spoken out to criticise the level of assistance they receive from government-funded helicopter services. They feel air support coordinators value the lives of volunteers on the ground less than those of flight crews.

Lochaber, Cairngorms, Glencoe and Tayside teams have already been called out on 229 missions this year – more than for the whole of 2017.

Air support was historically provided by the RAF and Navy, but that has changed in recent years. New contracts signed in 2013 saw the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) take over the service, with aircraft operated by a private firm phased in over a two-year period from 2015. MCA has ten helicopter bases across the UK, four of them in Scotland – at Sumburgh in Shetland, Inverness in the Highlands, Stornoway in the Western Isles and Prestwick in the south-west.

Along with the contracts came the promise that provision would be “the same or better” than what had been provided by the military. But iSMR teams say the new service has failed to live up to this, despite repeated pleas over the past few years for improvements. Disappointed and frustrated that their concerns have been either ignored or dismissed, they took the decision to go public, posting a detailed explanation on their Facebook page.

“The teams have decided that they can no longer accept an apparent casual disregard for the safety of the volunteers shown by the agencies coordinating search and rescue helicopter operations,” their statement said.

They outline two main areas where they believe helicopter services are failing ground teams. The first centres on the lack of assistance provided when a person has died in the hills and the operation is to retrieve their remains. Such missions can be just as arduous and no less risky than a rescue, but helicopter support is not officially provided because fatalities are no longer “persons in distress”. This often leaves volunteers, exhausted and loaded with kit, facing long and dangerous descents while attempting to transport a body in the most respectful manner possible.

The second problem arises in the final phase of a rescue, once the casualty has been taken to safety. Helicopter support is often withdrawn at this point, abandoning ground teams to make their own way back to base – even though they may have been out for many hours and face a gruelling trek to reach a road.

Whether to airlift ground teams or equipment off the hill is left to the discretion of pilots and air crew and hinges on the risks involved. The iSMR believe it’s not fair that they have to make that call, since the well-being of volunteers is just as important.

“It is clear that our concerns cannot be resolved by asking the pilots and crews to fly beyond their ‘endurance’ criteria. We also realise that a significant consideration here is that helicopter crews must be given the opportunity to rest after flying intense technical missions in the mountains. However, experience shows that the agencies are often then unwilling to allocate another aircraft to finish the job.

“The inescapable conclusion to this is that either the aircraft and crews are too thinly spread to cover requirements or that the agencies do not view the welfare of the volunteer teams in the same way as they appreciate that of the pilots and crew.”

The reality is most rescues are carried out without air support, according to Gilmour.

“But the new contract does not take proper account of the responsibilities of rescuers,” he insists.

“They are at high risk during retrieval of a fatality and the chopper is not allowed to help unless a team member is injured. But we think they have a duty of care.

“The volume of incidents is growing and there is ongoing worry that someone could die. Volunteers are working in an incredibly difficult environment and need a bit of support.”

The MCA has insisted the work of all volunteers in search and rescue is valued.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said: “We know how much what they do matters. We also care greatly for our helicopter crews, who often put themselves at great risk to rescue others.

“There has been no change in the approach we take to the recovery by search and rescue helicopter of those who have sadly died in the mountains. In that respect, our helicopters follow the procedures previously operated by the much-respected military SAR service.

“That means that it is ultimately the aircraft captain’s decision to accept or decline a request to recover a confirmed fatality from the mountain, and we will always respect that decision. If a request is declined, it will usually be because the conditions at that moment in time do not warrant putting four helicopter crew and their passengers at extreme risk in a situation where time is no longer of the essence. Instead we will seek to undertake a recovery of this kind when the risk subsides.

“Our helicopter crews routinely demonstrate incredible bravery in rescuing others. Our Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre [ARCC] is made up of highly professional operators that task and coordinate our helicopters. We are immensely proud of the work of all those who play a part in this life-saving service that rescues or assists over 1,900 members of the public every year.”

Representatives of the other 23 volunteer teams stress the importance of all parties working together.

“Even an apparently simple rescue in the mountains will involve many agencies collaborating,” said Damon Powell, chair of the umbrella group Scottish Mountain Rescue.

“Scottish Mountain Rescue teams work closely with all our partner agencies and we spend considerable time working within the UK Search and Rescue framework, discussing and listening to the various challenges involved in a multi-agency rescue.

“The teams we represent understand that these discussions can be nuanced and complex and that the best outcome for any casualty is achieved if we work collaboratively and take the time to understand our partner agencies.”

The iSMR teams have been overwhelmed by the level of backing they have received from members of the public in response to their concerns.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions and SNP MP Ian Blackford has been liaising with the UK Department for Transport on behalf of iSMR. Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has written to the teams, pledging to “take whatever steps we can to make sure they get any available support for the vital work they do”.

The ARCC is amending its operating procedures “to allow a more open and pragmatic approach to helicopter support for body recovery and lifting volunteers to and from the scene”.

This weekend, the iSMR was meeting Police Scotland, which is responsible for coordinating rescues. The force has proposed amendments to the MCA standard operating procedure to make provision for body recovery and clearing the hill. Talks with helicopter crews are also set to take place shortly.

Although control of helicopter rescue services lies with Westminster, Scottish leaders have stepped in to the row.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We have previously raised these issues with the Coastguard Agency, who are responsible for search and rescue helicopter support across the UK.

“Police Scotland have held discussions with the agency and have since written to the four independent teams about developments, and the response has been positive.”

The Scottish Government provides annual funding of £312,000 to be divided among the 27 civilian volunteer teams – the only administration in the UK to do so.

Other assistance is provided to supply radios and specialist stretchers.

Gilmour said: “Hopefully the strength of support that has been expressed will help the agencies on a longer journey to improve the welfare of the casualty and respect for the deceased and their families, and potentially promote the effectiveness of all volunteer mountain rescue teams by experiencing less avoidable risk and being better able to be ready for the next rescue.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ILONA AMOS"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4834726.1543148604!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4834726.1543148604!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team above Coire an Lochain. Picture: Contributed","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team above Coire an Lochain. Picture: Contributed","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4834726.1543148604!/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/tories-call-for-new-uk-wide-system-to-buy-medicines-1-4834718","id":"1.4834718","articleHeadline": "Tories call for new UK-wide system to buy medicines","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1543141333000 ,"articleLead": "

The Scottish Conservatives are seeking a meeting with health ministers across the UK in a bid to set up a single mechanism for the purchase of drugs which is currently devolved in Scotland.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4834717.1543141330!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Breast screening for cancer. Breast cancer drug Perjeta is still only available south of the border. Picture: Jane Barlow"} ,"articleBody": "

Shadow health secretary Miles Briggs is calling for a new system to purchase drugs and medical equipment and is championing a “once for the UK approach”.

This flies in the face of the current process which sees the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) review new drugs that have received a licence before deciding if they can be made available for routine prescription.

The move comes as Westminster health and social care secretary Matt Hancock announced a new deal is being finalised with the pharmaceutical industry with the aim of saving the NHS £1 billion on medicines.

The new Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access will also lead to a more flexible and streamlined commercial process which Hancock said will make the UK more attractive to investors. The scheme will cap spending across the UK and Scotland will receive a share of payments according to an approach agreed between the Scottish Government and the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Briggs has highlighted the recent case of breast cancer drug Perjeta, which can extend life expectancy by 16 months, being made available to patients in England but not Scotland, after the SMC rejected it for prescription four times.

He has also raised concerns about the availability of so-called “ultra-orphan” drugs that are used to treat very rare conditions.

Briggs said: “If we are truly going to make sure Scottish patients can access the new medicines and achieve value for money for the public purse then we need to look towards the economies of scale.

“At present we do not have a mechanism to deliver UK-wide purchasing of medicines, especially in relation to ultra-orphan drugs like Orkambi for cystic fibrosis and we see situations where medicines such as the secondary breast cancer drug Perjeta are being made available to patients in England but not Scotland.

“Given the increase in the cost of drugs which the NHS is facing it is vital we try to achieve better value for money.”

Alison Culpan, director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the new voluntary scheme will give the NHS “total certainty” the sales of branded medicines won’t grow at more than 2 per cent in any of the next five years.

She added: “Each devolved nation is responsible for its own spending in line with their health priorities, which may differ dependent upon need. We are working with SMC and the Scottish Government on a new ultra-orphan pathway to make it easier for patients to get speedy access to these much needed medicines”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We do not agree with this suggestion. Scottish Government investment over recent years has greatly increased patients’ access to new medicines – and we are already working with the other UK administrations to increase transparency in pricing.”

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