Scotland declared a Fair Trade Nation
Scotland has become one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations, International Development Minister Humza Yousaf announced today.
The news comes on the first day of Fairtrade Fortnight 2013 and follows a nationwide campaign led by the Scottish Fair Trade Forum that has seen the people of Scotland rally behind Fair Trade principles.
The accolade means people, government, businesses, public bodies and community organisations across Scotland have come together to meet stringent criteria designed to promote Fair Trade.
Scotland returns Aboriginal remains to South Australians
The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh University has been in possession of aboriginal remains taken over 100 years ago. The remains included the skull and woman’s ear bone. A delegation of South Australian Ngarrindjeri people went to Edinburgh to collect the remains.
One of Scotland’s rarest carnivores, the pine marten, is showing signs of recovery after years of declining populations, a new report has suggested.
A joint survey by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) has found the number of pine marten appears to be growing.
The mammal is said to be “established” in Caithness, Moray, Perth and Kinross, Aberdeenshire, Angus and Fife.
However, it is now being spotted in southern Argyll and Stirlingshire.
The pine marten was once found throughout Britain, but the species suffered heavily during the 19th century.
By the turn of the 20th century, the animal was limited to North West Scotland, where the species survived in areas of remote forest and rocky moorland.
SNH estimates there are now about 2,600 to 3,500 adult martens in Scotland.
Peace tartan, inspired by the Dalai Lama, set to appear on the New York catwalk
The World Peace Tartan has been used by the Edinburgh designer Judy R Clark to create a couture outfit, for the Tartan Week showcase, From Scotland With Love.
The tartan will also be worn as a kilt in a catwalk appearance by spiritual leader and political campaigner Arun Gandhi – grandson of Mahatma Gandhi – at next week’s event.
The design is the creation of Victor Spence, co-ordinator of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Scotland last year.
He said: “The Tibetan tradition is to greet someone by placing a white silk scarf, or khata, around their neck. I had the idea that I wanted to welcome the Dalai Lama to Scotland by putting a tartan scarf around his neck.”
Mr Spence, who designed the pale blue tartan himself, will be licensing it for use by others and using the profits for a charity to help Scottish children living in poverty.
Designer Clark, who has worked with Alexander McQueen and designed outfits for chart-topping Scottish singer Emeli Sandé, said she had been inspired to create an outfit with the new tartan.
She said: “I was drawn to the name of the tartan and its striking design. I approached Victor Spence and asked if he would like to collaborate on a piece for the New York show.”
As well as representing the Dalai Lama, Mr Spence has co-ordinated several of Arun Gandhi’s visits to Scotland – which is how the India leader came to be involved.
Mr Gandhi said: “The World Peace Tartan is beautiful.
“Wearing this tartan will be a daily reminder to commit ourselves to working for peace in the world.”
Scotland’s renewable energy at all-time high
Every home in Scotland could have been powered from the 14,600 gigawatts (GW) of electricity which came from renewables including hydro, wave and tidal power, figures show.
The SNP government is determined to create a green energy revolution in Scotland, with Alex Salmond saying the country’s vast wind levels could see the country become the “Saudi Arabia of renewables”.
Renewable sources produced 14,645 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity last year, up almost 7 per cent on 2011 and enough to power every home in Scotland.
A major campaign to crown Scotland’s most iconic wildlife creature is underway as part of a year-long celebration of the country’s natural treasures.
The red deer, golden eagle, harbour seal, otter, and red squirrel have been chosen as animal ambassadors for the nation to kick-start the £350,000 drive.
Images of them in spectacular locations around the country are to take centre stage in a high-profile new billboard advertising campaign across the UK.
But the joint drive by VisitScotland and Scottish Natural Heritage is aimed at persuading people to plot their own routes around the country so they can capture them on camera themselves.
A dedicated website for the “Scotland’s Big Five” campaign offers tips for the best time of year, location and kind of habitats in which to spot each creature, as well as character profiles of the five animals - which have also been given nicknames. There is also advice on possible touring routes for the best prospects of seeing all five contenders for the title.
SNH said they had been specifically chosen to spearhead the campaign as they were “high profile species, widely associated with Scotland, with a broad geographical spread and that people stand a good chance of seeing them in the wild.”
Date of Scottish independence vote is announced
Guardian: Scotland’s independence referendum will be held on Thursday 18 September next year, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has announced.
The Scottish National Party leader’s statement, nearly two years after winning his landslide election victory, came as the Scottish parliament publishes its draft referendum bill to enact the poll.
Photo: Alex Salmond after his speech at a pro-independence rally in Princes Street gardens in Edinburgh, September 22, 2012. (Reuters/David Moir)
Medieval knight found beneath a Scottish parking lot
The ornately carved grave was found amid the ruins of a 13th century monastery in the Old Town area of Edinburgh. The site has been earmarked for a rainwater-harvesting tank for the city’s new Centre for Carbon Innovation.
Photo: Grave of a medieval knight that has been discovered under an old city car park in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile set for majestic revamp
A radical overhaul of Scotland’s most famous street has been ordered by city council leaders in the capital – following widespread criticism of its condition in recent years.
Traffic bans, widening pavements, clamping down on “tartan tat” shops and bringing neglected closes back into use are all being considered to help revive the Royal Mile. Council leaders say they want to hand much more space over to pedestrians by extending the parts that are closed to vehicles.
A year after a summit was called to address long-running complaints over the decline of the showpiece thoroughfare, the new blueprint suggests significant change on almost every part of the Royal Mile.
Council leaders say they want to transform the Royal Mile from an under-achieving tourist attraction to the “world’s best cultural living street” under a plan expected to be implemented from the autumn of this year.
Key aims include persuading the droves of tourists who descend on Edinburgh Castle to visit the bottom of the Royal Mile, and doing more to promote the area outwith the peak summer months.
Measures have been devised to tackle overcrowding on the pavements of the Lawnmarket and Castlehill, where traffic restrictions are likely to be introduced. Plans to clamp down on antisocial behaviour and late-night disorder in the middle section of the Royal Mile will address concerns about begging and disruption from nightspots and “party flats”.
Tough rules to tackle rubbish left out on the street and unsightly “clutter” used to promote “tartan tat shops” are also expected to be brought in. In the bottom half of the Royal Mile, motorists and taxi drivers face restrictions, banning them from the stretch between Niddry Street and St Mary’s Street, while the council is also looking to lower the speed limit.
Traffic calming measures are being explore for the junction where the Scottish Parliament building meets the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Among the more controversial measures are likely to be curbing parking levels on Edinburgh Castle esplanade, which is the responsibility of Historic Scotland, relocating bus tours off the Royal Mile, and trying to turn the lower part of the Royal Mile into a “low emissions zone” to reduce traffic levels.
A new Royal Mile Charter is also expected to be drawn up with businesses over the next year in a bid to reach agreement on how to tackle graffiti, problems with trade waste and display of goods outside shops.
Last year’s Royal Mile summit, held at the Hub building on Castlehill, heard a string of complaints that the Royal Mile was letting down the capital’s tourism industry due to poor-quality road surfaces, unsafe and unwelcoming historic closes, and the quality of its shops.
The event triggered the appointment of a Royal Mile manager to liaise with businesses and a spring clean to tackle long-standing graffiti, shabby signage and unnecessary clutter. The council has already tackled shops blasting out loud music and flouting rules on the display of goods outside, but it is hoped a voluntary code of conduct will help curb these problems further.
Ian Perry, the city’s planning leader, said: “I remember there was a lot of opposition to the proposals to close part of the Royal Mile in the 1990s, but I don’t think anyone would be in favour of things going back to where they were at that time.
“Our general thinking is to make things much more pedestrian-friendly by giving more space over to people to walk about. It is pedestrians that go to shops and cafes, not cars.
“Only around a third of the people who go to the castle make it to the bottom of the Royal Mile. We want to try to get that figure much higher.”
Orkney wave-testing centre handed £4m boost
The “world’s number one” wave-energy testing centre has been given a £4.1 million expansion grant by the Scottish Government.
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney has received £3m for a new berth to test wave-power devices and £1.1m to test support vessels serving the energy industry in the area. The money was announced at the RenewableUK Wave and Tidal Conference in London by Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing.
“EMEC is the number one centre in the world for testing marine devices and it is vital that we maintain that lead and continue to reap the economic benefits,” he said.
“Since EMEC was established in 2003, the marine industry has created around 250 jobs on Orkney.”
New species of fish found by Scots marine experts
Scottish marine experts have uncovered a new species of fish almost three miles below the surface during a voyage to one of the deepest points on the planet.
The scientists from Aberdeen University’s world renowned Oceanlab discovered the new species of eelpout, a bottom feeding ray finned fish, living at a depth of 4650 yards on the edge of the Kermadec Trench to the north of New Zealand.
The Kermadec Trench is one of the deepest places on the world’s oceans with depths exceeding six miles.
During their seven day voyage near the Kermadec Islands, the Oceanlab team also recorded a new depth record of 6014 yards for a rattail fish and a new depth record for a species of large deep sea cusk eel.
The scientists on board the research vessel RV Kaharoa used landers with cameras attached to free-fall to the seafloor, as well as baited fish traps to attract the fish.
The expedition’s leader Dr Alan Jamieson, from Oceanlab, said: “We are never quite sure what we will find on these expeditions to unchartered territories. We had set out to find out more about the deep sea fish communities and we were delighted to find both new species and new depth records for fish.
“Between this and the previous expeditions we have now sampled from a depth range greater than Mount Everest is high. What makes the whole experience even more personally satisfying is that all the equipment used in these research cruises was designed and constructed at Oceanlab.”
He added: A voyage such as this is testament to how feasible scientific research in the deep sea has become. It is no longer the inaccessible, out of reach, part of the world it once was. The technological challenges of the past are being overcome, and shouldn’t limit our responsibility to learn about and understand the deep sea to help ensure the long term health of the deep oceans - one of the largest environments on Earth.”
Dr Malcolm Clark , the principal scientists with New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said: “The international collaboration enables New Zealand researchers to use scientific equipment we don’t have, and to sample places that would otherwise be inaccessible, and hence unknown.
“The results from this deep exploration are giving us a much better understanding of biodiversity in the deep sea around New Zealand, and enable us to better assess potential risks to the ecosystem from future climate change and even human activities which may include seabed mining.”
‘Largest’ Scottish ancient artworks revealed
A retired silversmith has uncovered the largest collection of ancient rock art ever found in the Highlands on a remote hill overlooking the Cromarty Firth.
The carved rocks – some almost 10ft across – have been discovered scattered across a hillside near Evanton, in Ross-shire.
Douglas Scott, the amateur archaeologist who has recorded the remarkable find, believes the “cup-marked” rocks – dating from up to 5,000 years ago to the Neolithic or Bronze Age – form part of a “ritual centre of some significance” where ancient people worshipped the sun and performed rites connected to the underworld.
Mr Scott, 64, from Tain, has found and recorded a total of 28 carved rocks on Swordale Hill – Druim Mor in Gaelic – and lodged his remarkable discovery with the Highland Historic Environment Record and the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments.
He explained yesterday that farmers had first found a small number of the carved stones, with hollow cup-marks carved into them, in 1985. A year later, he and and Bob Gourlay, then the Highland regional archaeologist, scoured Swordale Hill and recorded and photographed another 14 cup-marked rocks on the ridge.
Mr Gourlay has since died and over the past two years, Mr Scott, has completed the task of searching the entire hilltop and has now photographed and recorded 28 carved rocks across the site.
He said: “The finding of up to 28 cup-marked rocks on Druim Mor makes this the largest concentration of cup-marked stones so far found in the north of Scotland. Cup-marked stones are not unique but this is the biggest concentration found in this area and that is quite significant in itself because no-one knew these monuments were up there.”
Mr Scott added: “The carvings on the rocks are anywhere between 4,000 and 5,000 years old and comprise hollows, some surrounded by rings, and grooves which all line up to where the sun rises in midwinter. There is a concentration of them, spread across 150 metres.”
There is also a chambered burial cairn and a circular ditch, possible evidence of an ancient henge, on the hill.
Mr Scott added: “From the ridge, there are wide views across the fertile lands of the Cromarty Firth, the Black Isle and the distant Cairngorms. According to Gaelic folklore, these ancient people believed that the sun was rising and setting in the underworld.
“They would carve these cup marks into the rock at the times when the sun was coming up, out of what they believed was the underworld.”
He said cup marks can be found throughout Europe, where they are associated with carvings of the sun, solar chariots and boats – the latter believed to carry souls of the dead to the underworld.
Mr Scott said: “The position of the cup marks, between the passage cairn and the henge, suggests that this was one of the most important ritual sites in the area.”
The scientist who gave his name to the Higgs boson hopes a prize named in his honour will inspire a new generation of physics geniuses.
First Minister Alex Salmond has announced an annual prize, named after Prof Peter Higgs, for school students.
Prof Higgs said: “I hope that this will inspire young students of today. Rewarding those who have excelled in physics in this way and supporting the next generation of scientists is to be warmly welcomed.”
The Higgs Prize, open to Scottish school students who excel in physics, will be formally launched by the First Minister and the scientist on Tuesday. It is part of a week designed to showcase Scotland’s scientific expertise, with Mr Salmond also expected to make a significant announcement about life sciences and mark a landmark in space science.
Prof Higgs hit upon his defining concept during a walk in the Cairngorms in 1964, when he started to consider the existence of a particle that gives matter its mass. He wrote two scientific papers on his theory and was eventually published in the Physical Review Letters journal, sparking a 40-year hunt for the Higgs boson.
In July, a team from the European nuclear research facility at Cern, Geneva, announced the detection of a particle that fitted the description of the elusive Higgs. The Higgs Prize will give young physics students the chance to win a trip to Cern, where work researching the Higgs particle continues.
“I know very well how exciting and amazing visits to Cern can be,” said the professor, who has retired from Edinburgh University.
Mr Salmond hopes Prof Higgs’ achievements would “inspire future generations of Scots”.
“His work is celebrated internationally and Scotland is very proud of him,” he said. “The Higgs Prize will be an opportunity for some of Scotland’s brightest young school physicists to see for themselves the cutting-edge of international physics at Cern.”
Prof Sir Peter Knight, president of the Institute of Physics, said his organisation “will be working with them to establish the best way to identify Scotland’s most promising young physicists”.
“With £8.5bn of the Scottish economy created by physics-based businesses, this prize is recognition of the vital importance of the subject,” he said.
During the week-long exhibition at the Scottish Parliament to celebrate the Scottish contribution to the creation and operation of the Large Hadron Collider visitors are able to walk through a full-size replica of a section of the LHC tunnel.
They will also have the chance to meet Scottish physicists involved in last year’s Higgs boson discovery.
As well as the Higgs Prize and a number of other initiatives, this week the government will be announcing the appointment of 33 new health fellows to conduct research into medical challenges such as treating motor neurone disease, how to use technology to help people with diabetes and how to control internal bleeding.
30,000 paintings from across Scotland go online
More than 30,000 oil paintings from across Scotland are available to inspect online for the first time in a ground-breaking new project to open up access to the nation’s artistic masterpieces.
Museums and galleries across Scotland have agreed to allow their collections to be part of a vast catalogue of works.
The project allows the public to access a one-stop-shop where they can see the paintings held by famous attractions like the Burrell Collection and Kelvingrove, in Glasgow, Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament building and Aberdeen Art Gallery. It also includes paintings held in hospitals and health centres, sports centres, police and fire stations, airports and even high schools.
Made up from 441 separate collections, the new database includes many of Scotland’s best-known works of art, including Henry Raeburn’s famous image of the skating minister, Edwin Landseer’s The Monarch of the Glen and Jack Vettriano’s self-portraits.
A joint project between the Public Catalogue Foundation charity and the BBC, “Your Paintings” has won the backing of Scotland’s national museums and galleries bodies, as well as the National Trust for Scotland. Among the more unusual collections going online are those held at Edinburgh Zoo, Hampden Park stadium, BBC Scotland’s studios in Glasgow, Inverness Airport, the Scottish Police College, in Fife, and the New Lanark world heritage site.
Among the most prolific artists featured are Edinburgh-born duo Raeburn, who has 259 paintings on the website, and Allan Ramsay, who has 159. The four “Scottish Colourists” – John Duncan Fergusson, Francis Cadell, Samuel Peploe and Leslie Hunter – boast about 600 between them. John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: “The completion of this catalogue is an amazing achievement and a cause for great celebration.
“The Your Paintings website demonstrates how the reach and impact of public collections is changing dramatically in the digital age bringing us all much closer to the paintings that we own and, I’m sure, encouraging even more people to search out the actual objects in museums and galleries across the country.” Kate Mavor, chief executive of NTS, said: “It is fantastic that each of our 2,000 paintings are now available as part of this amazing resource. From stern lairds with their beloved pets to stunning landscapes and dazzling colourists, our fine art collection is one of the nation’s treasures.”
Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland is home to a wealth of oil paintings, with more than 30,000 in collections.
“The successful completion of this hugely ambitious project means our nation’s best-known treasures and hidden gems are now available online, free of charge, for all to enjoy.”
- The full catalogue is available at bbc.co.uk/yourpaintings
A huge colony of an elusive and brightly coloured shellfish species has been discovered in coastal waters in the west of Scotland.
The extensive bed of at least 100 million flame shells was found during a survey of Loch Alsh, a sea inlet between Skye and the Scottish mainland. The Scottish environment secretary said it could be the largest grouping of flame shells anywhere in the world.
The colony was uncovered during a survey commissioned by Marine Scotland. It was conducted as part of work to identify new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
The small, scallop-like species has numerous neon orange tentacles that emerge between the creatures’ two shells. Flame shells group together on the sea bed and their nests create a living reef that supports hundreds of other species.
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead described the seas around Scotland as a “hotbed of biodiversity”.
“With Scottish waters covering an area around five-times bigger than our landmass, it’s a huge challenge to try and understand more about our diverse and precious sea life,” he said.
“The flame shell must be considered among the most remarkable species in our waters, with a dazzling array of orange tentacles. The flame shell must be considered among the most remarkable species in our waters, with a dazzling array of orange tentacles. Many would place such an exotic species in far-flung tropical reefs - not realising they dwell under the waves just off the coast of Skye.”
He added: “This important discovery may be the largest grouping of flame shells anywhere in the world.
“And not only are flame shells beautiful to look at, these enigmatic shellfish form a reef that offers a safe and productive environment for many other species.”
The Loch Alsh survey was carried out by Heriot-Watt University on behalf of Marine Scotland. Dan Harries, of Heriot-Watt University’s School of Life Sciences, said: “Too often, when we go out to check earlier records of a particular species or habitat we find them damaged, struggling or even gone.
“We are delighted that in this instance we found not just occasional patches but a huge and thriving flame shell community extending right the way along the entrance narrows of Loch Alsh.
“This is a wonderful discovery for all concerned.”