NICOL Stephen, the deputy first minister and minister for lifelong learning, travelled to the Borders this week to launch the region's new lifelong learning strategy. It proposes that a Borders Learning Hub be set up, with a regional co-ordinator to provide lifelong education and training through the New Ways partnership, which includes Scottish Borders Council, NHS Borders, Borders College, Lothian and Borders Police and Scottish Enterprise Borders. Stephen says: "I am delighted that the Borders has taken the initiative and produced its own lifelong learning strategy to identify and address particular local needs."
FREE bus travel for older and disabled people will be launched across Scotland tomorrow. Funded by the Scottish Executive, the scheme will allow free bus travel anywhere in Scotland for people over 60 or disabled. Free local bus passes will be replaced by a new entitlement card that gives free travel on local buses and on long-distance scheduled coaches at any time of the day. More details are available from local authorities or from www.infoscotland.com/seemoreofscotland
A NEW model of decision-making is to be introduced at Glasgow City Council. The traditional committee system is to be replaced, from summer 2006, by an executive and a policy development and scrutiny system. Under the change, an executive of 15 members will make council policy, while the remaining 64 members will serve on 11 separate policy development and scrutiny committees covering the ten existing service areas plus "audit and ethics". In addition, the quasi-judicial committees covering areas such as licensing and planning will continue. All existing sub-committees will be abolished and there will be a reduction in the number of working groups.
SOUTH Ayrshire Council recently hosted Greenhouse Britain - Losing Ground: Gaining Wisdom, a lecture organised by the South Ayrshire Sustainability Forum and Manchester Metropolitan University, supported by Scottish Power Renewables. Greenhouse Britain is an arts-based initiative that considers issues of climate change, the rising levels of seawater and an increasing world population. The initiative is touring Britain looking at ways in which future housing distribution, food production, energy needs and water and life-support systems can be adapted to respond to these changes. Helen Mayer and Newton Harrison, ecological artists from the US, delivered the free lecture.
THE Scottish Parliament's environment and rural development committee will be holding three meetings in crofting communities, as part of its scrutiny of the Crofting Reform etc Bill. The meetings will take place in: Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) chambers, Stornoway (Monday 24 April); Corran Halls, Oban (Monday 8 May); and Highlands and Islands Enterprise Headquarters, Cowan House, Inverness (Monday 15 May). More details about the meetings is available from the Parliament's website at www.scottish.parliament.uk
A NEW website has been set up for the Scotland's Futures Forum, a group created by the Scottish Parliament to look at issues outwith the current four-year political cycle of the Parliament. It invites MSPs, policy makers, businesses, academics and the wider community to discuss the problems and opportunities that Scotland may face in the future. The new website is at www.scotlandfutureforum.org
THE Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) will holds its annual conference in the St Andrews Bay Hotel, Fife, 5-7 April. The theme for the event will be public sector reform. Organisers say the conference will combine traditional speeches with mini-debates, where delegates can discuss governance themes. Speakers who have been invited to the conference include: Tom McCabe, the finance minister; the radio presenter and writer Lesley Riddoch; former MP Michael Portillo; and Matthew Taylor, the head of the policy unit at 10 Downing Street. Request details from Fiona Sutherland on 0131-474 9224.
THE Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) is holding its annual conference in Perth Concert Hall from Monday 10 to Wednesday 12 April. It will be their 109th annual conference. The title this year is Unions Work. See www.stuc.org.uk or call 0141-337 8101 for details.