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Plucky poultry hop all over Highland deer

THE Monarchs of the Glen are proving a walkover for hungry chickens at one Highland hotel.

Amazing pictures show the plucky poultry perched on stags weighing up to 200kgs at the Doune Knoydart.

The wild deer have struck up a remarkable, symbiotic relationship with their feathered, domestic friends at the hotel and restaurant on the remote west coast peninsula.

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The chickens have learned that its safe to walk all over the resting stags and pluck out their troublesome ticks.

The birds get a tasty snack while the deer are relieved of nasty, burrowing beasties.

The deer come down from the hills in the late summer and autumn to breed.

Even the stags – despite being in a particularly aggressive mood at that time of the year – are happy to let the chickens hop on board.

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Martin Davies, who runs the hotel and restaurant with his wife, Jane, and another couple, keeps 20 chickens as a source of fresh eggs.

He admits his birds are brave to walk all over and peck creatures 70 times their own weight.

He said: “The guests just look amazed when they first saw the chickens on top of the stags.

“I’m not sure how the relationship started or when.

“I imagine it’s similar to what you see in Africa with birds picking insects off antelopes – it’s just these two species wouldn’t normally meet each other in this country.”

He added: “One day we just saw a chicken perched on top of a stag getting the ticks of its back with its beak.

“The deer don’t seem to mind the hens at all, in fact they look rather relaxed throughout the process.

“It’s quite funny when you see them walking around together.

“The stags are very big animals so the chickens are very brave – I’m very proud of them.”

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Martin believes the deer give something back to the chickens by scaring off marauding predators such as badgers and pine martens.

“It’s good for us because a lot of predators like foxes or birds try and get the chickens.

“But we hope that the deers and stags will put them off,” he said.

“There has never been an incident between the deer and the chickens, despite their size.”

The Knoydart peninsula is the most remote tourist destinations in mainland Britain – accessible only by boat from Mallaig or a 2 day walk over the hills.

October 3rd, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Miss World hopeful travels 7,000 miles to get her teeth fixed in Scotland

A MISS World contestant is travelling 7,000 miles to Scotland to get her teeth fixed – using a 3D printer.

Miss Singapore will undergo pioneering cosmetic dental treatment at a clinic in Edinburgh so she has a perfect smile for the global beauty pageant.

Dalreena Poonam Gill, 20, travelled halfway across the world to the clinic of Scots dentist Biju Krishnan.

Miss Singapore, Leith

He claims his Cfast treatment is faster, cheaper and less invasive than traditional methods, which can take two years and cost £8,000.

Patients undergo a computerised scan of their teeth and a 3D printer is used to create a customised dental brace.

Dr Krishnan, of the Lubiju practice in Leith, explained that his braces are unique as they are not visible on the outside of the teeth.

He said: “Most adults with crooked teeth, gaps or similar minor problems just live with it because the treatments available are too invasive, too costly or take too long.

“That’s because most teeth-straightening systems are actually based on rather complex orthodontic treatments.

“But Cfast is purely cosmetic and focused mainly on the front teeth.

“It is perfect for adults who simply want to improve their smile and want it to be quick, painless, discreet and affordable.”

Miss Singapore, Leith

Dalreena, a student, was crowned Miss Singapore World last month.

She believes the £2,500 treatment could make all the difference at the competition in London in December.

She said: “I have always wanted to have straighter teeth so was looking into treatments available, but they seemed to take a very long time.

“My dentists in Singapore recommended Cfast and sponsored me to come and be treated by Dr Krishnan himself.

“The judges look at so many criteria so it will be reassuring for me to know that I will be able to smile with real confidence.

“Hopefully that will help me to relax and enjoy the whole, amazing experience.”

Traditional orthodontic treatment involves the extraction or filing of teeth.

CFast, launched in 2011, is purely cosmetic and can be completed in three to six months.

Celebrities who have had the treatment include Holly Willoughby and Alexandra Burke.

October 3rd, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Dolphin superpod stuns Skye

A “SUPERPOD” of 400 dolphins has caused massive excitement on a Scottish island after coming to within a few hundred metres of the shore.

The huge group has been feeding in the narrow Sound of Raasay, just off the coast of Skye, which is as little as a mile wide at one point.

Tourists and locals alike have been flocking to the area to capture video and photographs of the superpod of common dolphins.

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Experts say it is rare to see such a large group so close to shore.

The spell of recent good weather is thought to be linked to the remarkable sightings. Another superpod has been spotted further south in the Sound of Sleat, Skye.

And a minke whale – also unusual for the time of year – was photographed in the same stretch of water.

Cleodi (corr) Mackinnon said she was celebrating her 18th birthday with a boat trip in the Sound of Rasaay when the superpod” began following the boat.

Remarkable video footage of the 30-minute display shows hundreds of dolphins – including calves – surging through the water.

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Cleodi, from Braes near Portree, said: “It was like something out of a movie. It was incredible, inexplicable. I’ve lived here all my life and the most I’ve ever seen is about 20.

“When we finally left for home it was like they did a big finale.

“They swam faster to keep up with the boat and kept jumping higher and higher.”

Her sister Katie, 24, said: “It’s something I’ll never forget. They were rubbing themselves against

the boat and their fins were splashing us.”

Kate Hannigan, centre co-ordinator at the Scottish Dolphin Centre in Moray, said it was highly unusual a large group so close to the coast.

“They do prefer deeper water. They are usually seen way out on the horizon when we see them off Moray.”

“It’s most likely they are there for the food for the young ones.”

Tony Macrae, 45, skipper of the Western Isles Cruise boat from Mallaig, said as well as unusually high numbers of dolphins there had been bigger visitors to the area.

“We’ve also had two or three Minke whales.

“You can hear the gasps, and the delight from people. When I’m sitting in the wheelhouse and I look out every single person has a great big grin on their face.”

October 2nd, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories,Uncategorized | Read More »

Salmond under fire for dishing out luxury chocolates worth £100 to his pals

ALEX Salmond has been condemned for dishing out luxury chocolates worth up to £95 to his friends in high places.

The first minister was accused of having a “penchant for luxury” after it emerged he had been lavishing VIP guests with the taxpayer-funded artisan chocolates.

The treats are made by Iain Burnett of The Highland Chocolatier whose clients Albert Roux and Gordon Ramsay.

 

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The Scottish Government refused to answer a Freedom of Information request on how much it had spent on “confectionary” over the past three years, claiming it would cost too much.

But insiders have revealed that on one recent occasion the chocolates were dished out at a reception hosted by the First Minister.

High-powered guests attending the late summer event at Mr Salmond’s official residence, Bute House, in Edinburgh, were sent away with a box of the chocolates.

On its website, the Highland Chocolatier sells a range of luxurious products, with a box of cocoa dusted velvet truffles costing £95.00.

The website also sells boxes of 90 “enrobbed” chocolates for £89.95, “just truffles selection” for £63.95 and £39.95 for “chocolatier’s selection”.

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “Alex Salmond likes to create the impression the most any visitor to Bute House will receive is a Tunnock’s tea cake.

“It seems from this the First Minister’s penchant for luxury at the taxpayer’s expense has crept its way through the Scottish Government too.”

And Eben Wilson, director of Taxpayerscotland, criticised the Scottish Government for refusing to reveal full details of expenditure on the luxury giveaways.

He said:: “We have called, as others have, for all expenditures over £50 to be posted online as they happen.

“This would be real information freedom and stop local and central governments hiding behind excuses that it costs too much to tell us how they are using our money.”

He added: “That shows contempt for taxpayers who may not mind how much is spent on sweetmeats but don’ t want those who rule us to have sweet privileges

“It’s time public servants understood that they can no longer assume taxpayers are willing to fund their happy hours of luxury living on expenses.”

In 2012 the government came under fire when it was revealed the government spent almost £500,000 sending the First Minster and his entourage on a week long trip to the Ryder Cup in Chicago.

It also spent nearly £43,000 on a ‘panda party’ when the panda’s arrived at Edinburgh Zoo from China.

Two years ago Alex Salmond was heavily criticised for spending £25,000 of taxpayers’ money every day of the Olympics on hiring out an exclusive gentlemen’s club in London to entertain businessmen and dignitaries.

The Scottish Government claimed it could not provide the information because it would involve a manual check of 75,000 orders, costing more than the £600 limit set by the Freedom of Information Act.

Despite this, a spokesman was quickly able to confirm that £291.24 had been spent on Highland Chocolatier products last year at official receptions and dinners.

The spokesman said: “At Scottish Government official dinners and receptions, we always seek to showcase Scotland’s finest produce. Highland Chocolatier are one of a number of suppliers used at events.”

October 2nd, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

£1.3m spent spent ferrying pupils between schools for lessons

SCOTS councils are squandering millions of pounds ferrying pupils between schools by taxi for lessons.

Teacher shortages mean youngsters are getting cabs from their own school to another to study a specific subject.

Five councils have confirmed spending more than £1.3m on taxis for this purpose in the past five years.

 

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But with 32 local authorities in Scotland, the national total bill is almost certain to be many times higher.

Critics said it was a scandal that hard-pressed councils are handing cash to cabbies rather than investing in teaching staff.

Councils were asked under the Freedom of Information Act how much they had spent since 2009 on transporting pupils by taxi between schools for lessons.

North Lanarkshire revealed they had spent £500,291, West Lothian spent £394,909 and Glasgow forked out £309,687.

Aberdeen Council spent £83,365 on taxis and a further £34,951 on buses. Fife Council said it spent £31,827.

The total for these five councils was £1.32m.

A spokesman for TaxPayers Scotland said: “While they may claim it is at times necessary, this is a large amount of taxpayers’ money going to taxi drivers rather than lessons educating our children.

“We have to ask if we are seeing the outcome of an over-centralisation of education services such that common sense cannot prevail through localised decisions that would cut down on this wasteful expense and make our education providers more productive for our tax pounds.”

Scottish Conservative young people spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “Aside from the additional cost, these journeys will undoubtedly result in time spent away from the classroom, which can only be a negative.

“It’s crucial a school’s curriculum offers as wide a range of subjects as possible to avoid such journeys in future.”

Alan MacKenzie of Scottish Secondary Teachers Association said: “We’ve had grave concerns over the amount of money spent on taxis for quite some time.

“That amount of money could be spent in a more positive way.

“Even if it’s not on front line spending, it could go on equipment or books.

“The experience the young people get when they do this is not good, they don’t like it.

“That amount of money is a serious worry.”

Some Scottish high schools struggle to offer mainstream subjects to senior students, including history.

In 2009 it was revealed that St Mungo’s, Falkirk, had withdrawn history from S3 Standard Grade pupils because it only had one history teacher.

It was also withdrawn as a Higher exam option.

Last month it was revealed that Edinburgh Council made the controversial announcement that groups of high schools would be brought together as “consortia”.

Pupils will travel between schools to take subjects under the plan.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “School transport arrangements are clearly a matter for individual local authorities.”

October 2nd, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Joiner beats taking the stairs with Fireman pole adaption

HOUSEBUYERS are flocking to an unusual des res – to try out the fireman’s pole.

Joiner Kevin Wallace has put his Edinburgh bachelor pad on the market and hopes to get at least £250,000.

But while the location in upmarket Stockbridge is a big draw, most viewers are turning up for a shot on his 18ft stainless steel fireman’s pole.

The 30-year-old joker installed the pole as a quick way to reach his basement “man cave”.

He has used it so often he can slide from the kitchen to the basement with a full cup of coffee – and not spill a drop.

The 30-year-old from Edinburgh said: “Anyone who comes to the flat has to go down it – It’s an initiation.

“Everyone who has come to view it has been down it.”

Kevin hasn’t fitted a safety rail round the pole and admits his home is presently not the best place to bring up young children.

He said: “It’s great fun on a Saturday night when your mates are round.

“I can get down it with a cup of coffee in my hand.”

He added: “Even my gran has been down it and she loved it.

Kevin, who is the director of a joinery company, said: “I just thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be cool to install a pole to simply slide down into the basement?”

October 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Multimedia,Videos | Read More »

Police reverse ban on colour-blind cops

POLICE Scotland have reversed their blanket ban on recruiting colour-blind officers.

An aspiring police officer, who was rejected from the force, mounted a legal bid to have the decision overturned.

The recruit had passed all of the other tests to begin training to become a police officer.

 

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But was told his moderate colour-blindness meant he would be unable to pursue a career in the force.

As the candidate, was set to launch a bid for damages at an employment tribunal, the force confirmed it had changed its policy and he would be allowed in.

Police Scotland confirmed: “Colour-blindness will no longer be an obstacle for recruiting.”

Solicitor Stephen Smith, represented the candidate, who did not wish to be named, said his client was now looking forward to “a long and fruitful career in the police”.

Mr Smith, of Glasgow Law Practice, said: “I know there have been people who have tried to join the police and have been refused because of this policy in the past, and our client had been trying for more than a year.

“Who knows how many officers have been refused entry over the years?

“This decision recognises the aim of anti-discrimination law is to ensure employers look at the individual’s own circumstances and how any hurdles in the way of them being able to work in a role can be overcome.

“If the hurdle can be overcome relatively easily, it is not going to be a good enough excuse for employers to turn down candidates who are highly motivated and have worked hard to qualify for roles.

Between 2004-2008, eight candidates were rejected by the now dissolved Strathclyde Police force because they had a form of red-green colour-blindness – usually found only in men.

 

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Those who had previously been rejected from the police because of colour-blindness are to be contacted by Police Scotland and invited to re-apply.

Mr Smith argued that as colour-blindness affects more men than women, the previous policy was discriminatory towards males.

He also argued a blanket ban was unlawful and recruits should instead be considered on a case-by-case basis, given there are different degrees of colour blindness.

They believe that issues involving colour-blind officers being unable to fulfill their role efficiently could be solved by pairing them with offices with full vision.

Scottish Government guidance, published in 2003, had stated full colour perception was not a requirement to become an operational police constable.

However, the ban on colour-blind officers continued and Police Scotland has maintained its previous stance was legal.

Chief Inspector Alison Higgins, of Police Scotland’s Training and Recruitment centre, said: “We are committed to keep people safe and all our officers contribute to helping us achieve this.

“I can confirm we have now reviewed our policy and for some people their level of colour-blindness will not longer be an obstacle for recruiting.

“Previous candidates rejected on this basis will all be written to and advised of the change of the policy and invited to re-apply.

“While we are content our previous recruitment processes and procedures were legally sound met the guidance laid down in the determination of Scottish ministers for the assessment of eyesight standards for constables, it was felt this change of policy was necessary to improve accessibility and opportunity and help support the building of an inclusive workforce.”

October 1st, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Recycle crew rubbish at road safety

RECYCLING workers have been snapped parking their vehicle on a pavement and zig-zag lines – outside an off licence.

A passer-by photographed the vehicle in Edinburgh as the apparently thirsty workers made a pit stop.

While the crew may have been doing their bit for the environment, it seems they’re rubbish at road safety, blocking the path and obstructing the view of a pedestrian crossing.

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According to Edinburgh’s Worst Drivers, the website which posted the snap, van was caught on Newcraighall Road last Thursday afternoon.

An Edinburgh council spokesman said: “The vehicle in question belongs to our recycling collection sub-contractor.

“Although not a council vehicle we expect the same high driving standards from our contractors as we do our own staff.

“We will be raising this incident with our contractor and reminding them of the importance of safe driving and strict adherence to the highway code.”

October 1st, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Nurse altered patients’ records to prescribe herself drugs

A NURSE used confidential patients’ medical records to prescribe herself powerful sedatives.

Rebecca Preston sneaked into GPs’ consulting rooms and used their computers to create false prescriptions for real patients.

The Glasgow-based practice nurse obtained diazepam on three occasions, using the drugs to self-medicate, a hearing was told.

She was only caught when alert staff at a supermarket pharmacy spotted a discrepancy.

A doctor at the McGlone practice, part of Baillieston Health Centre, Glasgow, admitted computers were left logged on when they were out of consulting rooms.

Mrs Preston, 49, from Robroyston, Glasgow, admitted 12 charges when she appeared at a hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in Edinburgh this week.

Disgraced nurse

She admitted that between August and December 2012 she accessed GPs’ computers without authorisation, created prescriptions for diazepam in the names of patients, deleted an electronic record, attempted to obtain diazepam and attempted to conceal her actions.

Case presenter Natasha Partos told the panel that Mrs Preston had a health problem and had printed off extra prescriptions for patients already on diazepam.

She said the nurse was caught after staff at the pharmacy at ASDA Parkhead Forge who could see that the electronic record of one of the paper prescriptions had been deleted.

Dr Gerard McKaig, a partner at the practice, told the hearing: “It’s our policy that if you leave a room, you log off a computer.

“But it’s quite a clunky IT process. If you were going out for lunch or something you would log

off. We were obviously not adhering to that policy enough.”

The details of Mrs Preston’s health problem were heard in private but reference was made during the case to the potential for “social drinking” in a new job she was about to take in medical sales.

One of the uses of diazepam is to treat people suffering from problems related to alcohol.

Mrs Preston, who represented herself, said: “I genuinely felt I wasn’t hurting anybody.”

She added: “I can’t justify it”.

“I was functioning. I was doing things. I was just in a bit of a fog. “

She said she did not realise she was making lasting alterations to patient’s records.

“The first time it happened it was quite impulsive. I went in to do something

legitimate and I thought, I could just get the records out.”

“I was trying to find a solution to my problems without a requirement to admit the nature of my problems.”

“I am very sorry for what I have done. My intention would never be to hurt a patient. For all I can say about how bad I feel about myself, I was a good nurse.”

The NMC panel will now decide whether Mrs Preston is fit to practice.

October 1st, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Homebuyers flock to try out des res’s fireman’s pole

HOUSEBUYERS are flocking to an unusual des res – to try out the fireman’s pole.

Joiner Kevin Wallace has put his Edinburgh bachelor pad on the market and hopes to get at least £250,000.

But while the location in upmarket Stockbridge is a big draw, most viewers are turning up for a shot on his 18ft stainless steel fireman’s pole.

Fire pole house

The 30-year-old joker installed the pole as a quick way to reach his basement “man cave”.

He has used it so often he can slide from the kitchen to the basement with a full cup of coffee – and not spill a drop.

Sellers DJ Alexander describe the property as a “stylish two bedroom apartment, recently been renovated, and in truly splendid condition.

They say it has a “wonderful breakfasting kitchen complete with modern fitted units and sold oak worktops”.

Fire pole house

But the mention of a “very quirky fireman’s pole” has caught the eye of prospective buyers and helped draw more than 30 views in the first seven days it went on sale

The 30-year-old from Edinburgh said: “Anyone who comes to the flat has to go down it – It’s an initiation.

“Everyone who has come to view it has been down it.”

Kevin hasn’t fitted a safety rail round the pole and admits his home is presently not the best place to bring up young children.

He said: “It’s great fun on a Saturday night when your mates are round.

“I can get down it with a cup of coffee in my hand.”

He added: “Even my gran has been down it and she loved it.

Kevin, who is the director of a joinery company, said: “I just thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be cool to install a pole to simply slide down into the basement?

“As far as bachelor pads go, it ticks all the boxes.

“It’s a man cave basement, with a 55” television and you can literally get food from the kitchen and slide right down and relax on the sofa.

October 1st, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Scots “hensioners” to get the benefit of chicken power

CHICKEN power is set to transform the lives of lonely Scottish pensioners.

OAPs at risk of social isolation and depression will be given hens to care for under the inspirational charity scheme.

Already a big success south of the border, HenPower is being introduced to Scotland in November.

 

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The £10,000 pilot – paid for by the Big Lottery Fund - will see more than 200 pensioners at six care homes get feathered friends.

In England, the scheme has proved so successful it has resulted in reduced medical prescriptions for OAPs with dementia.

Charity Equal Arts say the birds provide a triple bonus.

“Hensioners” enjoy the company of the chickens, socialise more with each other – and get a steady supply of fresh eggs.

Rosie Harrison, who is leading HenPower Scotland said: ““Hen-keeping is the catalyst to engage people at risk of loneliness and isolation.”

She said they enjoyed “meaningful activities such as arts and crafts, exercise, dance, healthy eating and intergenerational sessions with schools”.

 

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The Hensioners, are responsible for the daily care of the birds, including feeding, cleaning and collecting eggs.

Along with enjoying weekly activities based around the hen keeping, such as creative writing, painting and photography.

Couple John and Jean Dow, from Edinburgh, spent a few hours in the company of hens to see what all the fuss is about.

Mrs Dow, 79, said: “They love cuddles. They are soft to touch and like attention.

“I think it’s a good idea, especially when you’re old, it gives you something to do. I’m not able to get about much so I could just sit in a chair in the garden and watch them all day long.”

Mr Dow, 70, said: “They are curious wee animals and fun to watch. And you will get lots of free eggs.”

 

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The Scottish pilot will take place in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Douglas Hunter, director of Equal Arts said: “We are very happy to be introducing our scheme to Scotland. We hope the Scottish pensioners get as much enjoyment out of the hens as those who have in England.

“The health improvements for older people who care for hens is significant. It improves well being, reduces depression and reduces loneliness.”

October 1st, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Scottish government plans drone and laser attacks on geese

DRONES and lasers are set to be deployed by the Scottish Government in a £41m bid to rid an island of its rampaging population of geese.

Islay has 70% of the world’s barnacle and white-fronted geese – but the birds are acting like “a swarm of locusts” according to angry farmers.

A report reveals that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has already tried and failed to control the flocks using bizarre methods such as self-launching kites, helium balloons, fireworks and a gas-inflated, siren-blazing ‘scary man’ mannequin.

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The birds barely paid any notice and SNH is planning a tougher strategy, under pressure from Islay farmers concerned about the damage geese are causing to their £11m-a-year industry.

Radio-controlled drone aircraft, powerful laser beams and robotic four wheel drive vehicles are among the techniques being considered to drive away the geese.

If that fails, a large-scale cull could be ordered, either by shooting or covering geese eggs in oil and smothering the chicks inside.

The controversial crackdown – which is opposed by groups including the RSPB – is set to cost taxpayers between £30m – £41m over the next 15 years.

Almost 5,000 of the 55,000 geese have already been legally culled since 2011 by farmers, who have also received almost £850,000 in compensation.

The ‘Islay Sustainable Goose Management Strategy devised by SNH’s and the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) aims to cut the population by 30%.

According to a draft report on the scheme, self-launching kites, squawkers that replicate bird noises, spinning, light-reflective ‘peace pyramids’ and ‘flash harry’ – a powered rotating device, have all proved “ineffective”.

Helium balloons were “not robust enough to withstand the severity of Islay’s winter weather”.

Goose-scaring techniques labelled as “possibly” to be used on Islay include lasers, with laser pen trials due to be carried out in 2014-15, “long-term work at the development of automatic robotic vehicles to scare geese and radio-controlled drones that require a “skilled operator”.

Techniques ruled out by government researchers include ‘raptor models,’ falconry’ and ‘chemical deterrents’ – due to its “expense.”

Andrew Bauer, deputy director of policy at the NFU Scotland said: “The ground at Islay is very fertile, there is plenty of food, and their numbers have grown, there are around 50,000 geese currently.

“On a field of grass, the geese are like a swarm of locusts, eating everything and farmers are left with mud. They eat crops and foul on the grass, making it unsafe and unhealthy for livestock, with concern for salmonella.”

Mr Bauer said that if birds have to be culled “one technique that may be used is oiling eggs, meaning embryos and baby geese will be suffocated to death.

“It is a hugely contentious and very sensitive issue.”

But Eben Wilson, director of Taxpayerscotland, questioned the cost of the programme.

He said: “Can this very expensive program really be justified as being value for money? Clearly a lot of centralised planning is going into thinking about how to resolve this problem, but we have to ask if taxpayers would be better served by locally sourced effort at much lower cost?

“The approach smacks of an expensive centralised bureaucratic approach to a local issue, which inevitably leads to gold-plated ideas about scaring methods, strategic processes and reporting audits.”

Libby Anderson, Policy Director or animal charity OneKind, said: “It would be hugely disappointing to see the emphasis on Islay change from a combination of deterrence, diversionary feeding and compensation for farmers to potential killing on a large scale.”

A spokesman from RSPB added: “Though we acknowledge that geese can affect farm profits, we have expressed our opposition to this plan, and questioned its compliance with international law.”

A Scottish Natural Heritage spokesman said: “We are currently finalising a new longer term goose management strategy for Islay. This will reduce the crop damage caused by barnacle geese, improve habitat for white-fronted geese and make best use of available funding.

“The aim is for a pragmatic approach that balances the need to support sustainable goose populations with the interests of Islay farmers and the limitations on available budgets.”

September 29th, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

1,000 racist incidents recorded in nine Scottish council primaries

A SICKENING catalogue of racist abuse in Scottish primary schools has been unveiled by education chiefs.

Nine of Scotland’s biggest councils confirmed there had been almost 1,000 racist incidents serious enough to be recorded in primary schools in the past three years.

The worst last year was Edinburgh – with almost three incidents reported on average every week.

Fife Council was the only council to give specific information about the 94 incidents recorded in the area’s schools since 2011.

In one case, a pupil talked about putting another “in the washing machine to turn him white”.

And a child from an ethnic minority was taunted that “he looked like he had chocolate on his face”.

Ten of Scotland’s biggest councils were asked to provide details under the Freedom of Information Act.

Nine councils revealed a total of 971 cases since 2011 but the figure is likely to be much higher because the country’s biggest council, Glasgow, did not provide figures.

Since 2011, Edinburgh has seen 428 racist incidents, ranging from verbal to physical assaults.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “The children involved in these incidents are extremely young, and will be saying these things without knowing their potential consequences.

“As a result, it’s important the solution is education rather than simple punishment.

“If we can make children realise at a young age that such remarks are unacceptable, this will reduce the chances of them being repeated in later life.”

A spokesman for BEMIS (corr), a charity which empowers Scotland’s ethnic and cultural minority community, believes more needs to be done to tackle racism in schools.

He said: “Our Schools do not exist in a social vacuum and while it is naturally a concern that these attitudes have been reflected across 32 local authorities it does not wholly surprise me.

“As communities and citizens we must empower people to utilise the legislation at their disposal in fighting racism.

“Schools should be accountable to their duties but equally to be supported by us all in advancing their effort in addressing such serious issues.”

Craig Munro, Executive Director of Education and Children’s Services for Fife Council said: “The welfare and well-being of all our pupils is our number one priority.

“We take a proactive approach to multi-cultural education and to valuing all diversity.

Racism is an issue we take very seriously within our very well developed and robust approach to equalities and inclusion.

“This means that all incidents are reported and meticulously recorded.”

“In Fife we have implemented a range of approaches to ensure children and young people develop positive attitudes to support an inclusive society.”

September 29th, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Mums to blame for chubby footy fans’ weightloss failures

CHUBBY football fans have blamed their failure to lose weight on their mothers.

The Football Fans in Training (FFIT) programme allows men to take part in a group weight-loss programme which includes exercise sessions at their club’s football stadium and lessons on healthy eating.

The scheme was launched in 2011 and has 21 Scottish Football Clubs involved including the Old Firm and Hearts and Hibs.

But many fans who are struggling to shed weight claim over-indulgent mothers and mothers-in-law are piling up their plates.

A team of researchers from Glasgow University who conducted the programme found participants blamed their weight problems on the “deeply ingrained cultural values” of mothers who associate caring for their family with feeding them.

The study reported that women continued to serve what they considered “man-sized” portions and favourite treats such as puddings, which men found impossible to refuse.

Professor Kate Hunt, associate director of the Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at Glasgow University, said the behaviour may be linked to previous generations when the majority of men’s jobs were more physically demanding compared to today’s.

Ms Hunt said: “I think traditionally in our culture, we also use food for celebrating or as a way of giving people treats and showing people how much we care, whether it’s with a special birthday cake or making their favourite chocolate cake at the weekend.

“So I think it’s quite ingrained in our culture that one way of showing we care for people is to cook special food for them.

“I think it’s also quite deeply ingrained in some of our culture that men should eat man sized portions that are much bigger that the platefuls that women and children are eating.

“Some men talked about ways in which their own fathers ate when they were doing manual jobs and using an awful lot of energy during the day, and culturally these are the kinds of patterns that have been passed on.”

According to a study published in the medical journal the lancet in January this year men who took part in the scheme lost an average of just over 11 lbs a year and gave overwhelming positive feedback.

Ms Hunt said: “The beauty of FFIT is that it attracted men from the football clubs because dieting and weight-loss programmes had come to be seen so much as an issue for women.

“But there are just as many men in Scotland who could benefit from good weight management programmes- around three-quarters of men in Scotland are overweight or obese, officially.”

Brian MacFarlane, a 44 year-old Celtic fan took part in the study and lost almost four stone in one year. He recalled how his wife Hailey and 14 year-old-son lost weight which left him wanting to do the same.

He said: “Just at that moment, an email came in from FFIT and that was my motivation to go along to Celtic Park for their programme.

“Once Hailey saw I was going on the programme to lose weight, she was very supportive. We’ve completely changed as a family. We do exercises as a family and we look at what we are eating.”

September 29th, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Teachers face Amazonian forest of paperwork

STRESSED teachers have complained about an “Amazonian forest” of paperwork preventing them from doing their job.

Teachers across Scotland claim that Government efforts to reduce red tape bureaucracy has failed – despite intervention by ministers to tackle the issue.

The country’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), says ICT (Information, Communication,Technology) systems for writing reports were adding to, rather than alleviating, teachers’ workload.

They say this is preventing proper delivery of the new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), which stresses creativity and co-operation between subject teachers.

EIS general secretary, Larry Flanagan said: “There is a gap between the rhetoric and the response in the delivering of this report in schools.

“An Amazonian forest worth of paperwork associated with reporting, planning, recording and assessing is being created.

“There is excessive weekly and termly planning, writing or reports and evaluation of lessons, while less time is available for the actual preparation of lessons.

“Reports should be designed for the purposes of teachers, not the other way around.”

54% of schools surveyed so far said that a recent Scottish government report on reducing bureaucracy was failing to have the desired impact on the ground.

The document, released last November, advises schools that ICT planning and reporting systems should be used with caution.

Adding that assessments should be based on evidence, “drawn mainly from day-to-day teaching and learning,” instead of paperwork.

It also calls for schools to move away from “tick-box” approaches to monitoring pupils’ progress.

But Mr Flanagan said that despite the fact that CfE was intended to liberate teachers from pointless bureaucratic tasks, they still faced with daunting and unnecessary.

“Workload issues are engulfing the profession,” he added.

“The quality of the education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”

20% of schools said that the report had not been distributed to every teacher and 50% had not held a staff meeting about it.

The union also noted concerns that teachers were providing excessive documentation for inspections, despite inspectors insisting they did not need high levels of paperwork.

One teacher, speaking at a teaching conference in Glasgow last week, complained that red tape was “interfering” with the aims of CfE.

“If we do not address these issues, we will never improve the reality in our classrooms.”

A second teacher described it as: “an iceberg of assessment, much of it is below the surface and unseen.”

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland said: “There is a lot of bureaucracy in schools that is pointless and burdensome.

“This has to be challenged.

“What is not essential has to be ditched, but time has to be made for what is necessary.”

Earlier this year, the EIS published the results of an online survey of 6,000 teachers, which found that excessive workloads were damaging their health.

September 29th, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Ante natal classes for pet pooches

PET pooches are getting antenatal classes devised by an animal behaviour expert.

Expectant mums and their partners are being taught techniques such as playing CDs of baby noises in a bid to stop dogs getting jealous.

Couples are also encouraged to prepare their pet for the big day by taking them for walkies alongside an empty pram.

Pippa Hutchison, a clinical animal bahaviourist, says getting a dog accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells of a human infant can reduce the risk of a tragedy.

ANTENATAL_LESSONS_FOR_DOGS_DN01

Mrs Hutchison, from Kilcreggan, Argyll and Bute, gives talks to expectant parents with pets on behalf of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).

“It’s well known that dog bites most occur to family members,” she said.

“But most aggression is when a dog is confused and anxious. Whilst we know we’re pregnant, to dogs it can be a surprise.

“If it gets cornered by a child and they can’t go anywhere they may snap or bite.”

She added: “It’s a sensible precaution to play babies crying.

“Four months ahead of your due date you should be introducing the dog to the new things.”

“You can go online and order sound CDs for a few quid or make your own on your phone or computer.

“Introduce the dog to changing mats and milk powder.

“Walking with the dog alongside a stroller is a good idea too, everything is to make it easier for the dog to understand the transition.”

Paul Daly, a dog behaviourist, said the idea was “excellent” but warned you can never trust your dog 100% around children.

He said: “In theory the desensitization to the noises a baby would make is an excellent idea.

“Its a good place to start.”

Mrs Hutchison qualified from the School of Psychology at the University of Southampton with a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling.

She is also a behaviour consultant at both the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the University of Glasgow.

In February this year, a six-day-old baby, Eliza-Mae Mullane, was mauled to death by the family pet dog in Pontyberem, Camarthenshire.

Her mother, Sharon John had brought her daughter home just three days before the husky attacked.

September 22nd, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Chimp murder as bad as Mexico say Scots academics

THE murder rate among chimps in the wild is similar to the worst parts of drug-ravaged Mexico, according to Scots academics.

A team from St Andrews set out to test whether lethal violence among chimps is natural – or a reaction to human behaviour.

The psychologists, Dr Catherine Hobaiter and Professor Klaus Zuberbühler, concluded that chimps have a inbuilt propensity to kill their own.

Delphine Bruyere - Own work

Delphine Bruyere – Own work

Professor Zuberbühler said: “What surprised me personally was that the ‘murder rate’ of chimpanzees is quite comparable to what is found in human societies, around 30 per 100,000 individuals per year.

“Currently, this corresponds roughly to the annual murder rate in Tijuana, Mexico.”

The team carried out the research by studying wild chimps in the Budongo Forest in Uganda.

Their findings shed new light on scientists’ understanding of human violence given that chimpanzees are our closest ancestors in terms of genetics and evolutionary history.

Their work was part of a comprehensive global study which gathered fifty years’ worth of data from 18 chimpanzee and four bonobo communities.

The results found that males were the most frequent killers and often ganged up on their victims eight to one

The study re-examined the hypothesis from pioneering primatologist Jane Goodall’s that chimpanzee violence could be a result of human activities such as destruction of habitat. However, the new research found that human impact has not influenced lethal aggression in chimps.

The murders were more common among larger populations and targeted other males from neighbouring groups. The scientists also discovered that the chimps were killing in order to gain more food and mates.

The overall study from a team of 29 scientists from around the world was led by Dr Michael L Wilson of the University of Minnesota.

Dr Wilson said: “Chimpanzees and bonobos are the two living species most closely related to us of all the animals alive today; we share the most in common in terms of genetics and evolutionary history.

“If we are using chimpanzees as a model for understanding human violence, we need to know what really causes chimpanzees to be violent.

“Based on our results, it’s clear that lethal aggression is something that chimpanzees naturally do. We found that chimpanzees sometimes kill other chimpanzees, regardless of whether human impacts are high or low, whereas bonobos were not observed to kill, whatever the level of human impacts.

September 22nd, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Chopper Crash

A TRAGIC chopper pilot told a Scots B&B owner he would return with his family just hours before dying in a crash.

Brian Bridgman, from Canterbury, Kent, landed his helicopter at a farm in West Lothian and stayed there on Monday night.

The 58-year-old and his passenger departed in “good spirits” the following morning but died when the Bell Jet Ranger crashed in East Yorkshire.

CHOPPER_TRAGEDY_DN01

Robert Warnock, owner of Bank Head Farm B&B in Dechmont, said yesterday (fri): “They both stayed with us for a few days and enjoyed themselves.

“Brian was planning on bringing some of his family up.”

He added: “They were both good guys. Everything seemed fine with the helicopter when they left.”

“We got to know them quite well. We’re absolutely gutted.”

The chopper left Dechmont for Humberside Airport but crashed into the sea off Flamborough Head.

Witness Chris Palmer reported hearing a “crack” before watching the helicopter plummet into the sea below sheer 250ft cliffs.

Passenger John Kent, 50, of Romford, Essex, also died in the accident.

An investigation into the crash, which took place around 1:30pm, is being led by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB).

Mr Bridgman’s son, Tim, released a statement yesterday (Fri) on behalf of himself and his 31-year-old sister Katie.

He said: “Dad was always great company, and had a massive circle of friends. He will be hugely missed by everyone he knew, and all those whose lives he touched.

“My sister and I could not be more proud of our father.”

Katie Bridgman commented on a picture of her father on Facebook: “He will always be the most incredibly special Daddy and man this world was blessed with. We love you so very much Daddy.”

September 22nd, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Firefighters end hamster’s 48-hour freedom bid

FIREFIGHTERS turned out to end a hamster’s 48-hour freedom bid – after it fell down a drain.

Squeak escaped from its cage, got out of the house in Prestonpans, East Lothian, and was given up for dead.

 

16.09.14.  Squeak the Hamster

 

 

But the feisty rodent’s luck ran out two days later when he was spotted hiding under a car by the brother of owner Morgan McFarlane, nine.

Squeak made a last-ditch dash for liberty only to end up at the bottom of a rubbish-infested drain.

And when rescuers failed to remove the manhole cover, the fire brigade agreed to turn out.

Amid flashing blue lights and cheers from onlookers, Squeak was finally returned to his cage.

 

16.09.14.  Squeak the Hamster

 

Morgan’s mother, Kerry, said she was amazed when the firefighters arrived at 10.30 on Saturday to rescue Squeak.

She said “We were trying everything to get Squeak out of the drain.

“Thankfully there was no water in it, just rubbish, or he wouldn’t have survived, but the cover would not come off.

“I didn’t even know anyone had called the fire brigade until the flashing blue lights appeared in the street.

“The whole street was out watching the rescue. I thought we might get into trouble for dialling 999, but the fire crew were amazing.

“The whole street cheered when they managed to free Squeak.”

Kerry explained that Squeak had escaped when she was cleaning out his cage.

“We searched for two days but it was only on Saturday evening that my seven-year-old Mackenzie spotted him under a car in the street.

“We tried to lure him out but he panicked and ran out and straight down the drain.”

 

16.09.14.  Squeak the Hamster

 

The pet slept for two days after he was recaptured but appears to have bounced back from his days outdoors.

“I can’t believe he survived all that time outdoors,” Kerry added.

“From now on he stays in his cage.”

September 19th, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

Teacher’s arm wrestle with kid led to classroom brawl

A TEACHER’S ill-judged decision to arm-wrestle a pupil ended in a classroom brawl and a police investigation, a hearing was told.

John Watson agreed to a test of strength with the youngster during a 20-minute lesson break for good behaviour.

The S3 pupil decided to avenge his defeat at the end of the lesson by grabbing Mr Watson’s tie and refusing to let go.

The maths teacher at Inveralmond High School, Livingston, West Lothian, feared he would be strangled and pulled him on to a desk.

The incident resulted in the teacher’s suspension for several months and a police probe.

ARM_WRESTLE_TEACHER_DN01Yesterday, a hearing of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) ruled that Mr Watson’s actions in March last year fell short of the standard expected.

But the hearing in Edinburgh ruled he was still fit to teach and no sanction was imposed.

Mr Watson said in his evidence to the GTCS: “The class had worked on an exam paper that day.

“They performed well and we finished up marking the paper early so we had twenty minutes left until the end of the period.”

He added: “As a reward I decided they could chill for the remaining twenty minutes.

“The pupils were talking amongst themselves and were free to move around the classroom. I was chatting away to some of them too. The atmosphere was ordered but informal.

“Two of the boys were arm wrestling and challenged me. I accepted and afterwards returned to my desk.”

One of the boys Mr Watson defeated at arm wrestling decided to strike back as the class were preparing to leave the classroom.

Mr Watson said: “Suddenly the pupil leaned across a desk and grabbed me by the tie. I firmly but calmly asked him to let go of my tie.

“I could feel the pressure in my head and neck building and I’m thinking to myself, I need to get out of this situation

“So I pulled his jersey and that’s when he grabbed my tie with both hands.

“Instinct kicked in and I pulled him down onto the desk and more in distress than anger shouted at him to let go of my tie.”

Following the incident Mr Watson was suspended for six months during which time the police looked into charging him with assault, the hearing was told.

The Procurator Fiscal later ruled that Mr Watson would not be charged.

Mr Watson was given a final written warning by West Lothian Council and transferred to another school in the area.

He told the hearing: “The incident has change my life. I am now more aware and cautious at all times.

“I should not have permitted free time and allowed personal barriers to be crossed.”

Panel convenor Dr Kerr Wilson said: “The evidence has shown that the respondent’s actions fell below that expected of a teacher.

“However, as this is an isolated incident, that is unlikely to be repeated the panel has decided that he is not impaired to teach.”

September 19th, 2014 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Top Stories | Read More »

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