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JK Rowling “cried her eyes out” over end of The Casual Vacancy

JK Rowling was left “crying her eyes out” over the ending of her televised novel The Casual Vacancy, despite fans complaining about changes.
The Harry Potter author gave her seal of approval to the series which was based on her first adult book –  even after writer Sarah Phelps altered the original ending to make it “less grim”.
The three-part BBC version brought an alternative, happier ending, with one character spared a tragic and untimely death.
The final episode, aired on Sunday night, saw 4.6 million people tune into BBC One, two million fewer than its launch.
JK Rowling Time Capsule

JK Rowling – “cried her eyes out”

Rowling, who watched the final episode live, took to Twitter to congratulate the screenwriter and production team, thanking them for their adaptation.
She wrote: “Well, that’s me crying my eyes out, so job done. Serves me right, some might say. Thank you, thank you xxx.”
Phelps praised Rowling for being “so classy and generous and brilliant” about the changes, after she was granted the seal of approval to have free reign over the characters.
The different ending brought mixed reactions from fans who took to social media to express their views.
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The multi-million selling author was praised for being “so classy and generous and brilliant”.

Superfan Johnnie Blue, who has in the past received a letter of support from Rowling after he revealed he was bullied at school, wrote: “Even though the ending was different, it really does capture the book perfectly.”
Catriona Child wrote: “Almost glad they changed the ending, that was heartbreaking enough.”
However, Alexandra Hepburn disagreed: “The tragic, harrowing ending is one of The Casual Vacancy book’s best redeeming features. The TV adaptation made it a bit empty and pointless.”
The novel, set in Pagford, a fictional West Country village, explores poverty, deprivation, drug addiction, child neglect, domestic abuse and a middle class turning a blind eye. Its teenage protagonist must cope with a drug-addled mother and the demands of looking after her infant brother.
The drama stars Michael Gambon, Julia McKenzie, Keeley Hawes and Rory Kinnear.

March 3rd, 2015 | Posted in In the Scottish Press,Jobs,Scottish News,Top Stories,UK & World,UK & World | Read More »

Blue and black, white and gold?

Proud mother of the bride Cecelia Bleasdale wore a black and blue dress to her daughter’s wedding on Colonsay, little suspecting the garment was about to become an internet sensation. A photo of the dress she posted her daughters before the wedding looked strangely different. And after posting the picture online, a global debate started about is it black and blue or white and gold?

February 27th, 2015 | Posted in Videos | Read More »

Video catches hip hop horse

Meet Joseph – the horse who likes to dance to American hip hop.

A hilarious video shows a horse bop to the popular ‘Thrift Shop’ song by Macklemore.

 

The Clydesdale bobs its head and sways to the music as the cameraman fails to control his laughter.

The animal, who appears to be thoroughly enjoying the tune, even has its mane covering its eyes, making it look extra “gangsta”.

The horse bobbed and swayed to the music

The horse bobbed and swayed to the music

 

The song includes lyrics such as “I’m gonna pop some tags”, “About to go and get some compliments”, “John Wayne ain’t got nothing on my fringe game” and “I wear your grandad’s clothes, I look incredible”.

It was released in 2012 and quickly rose to the top of the charts. It appeared in popular films such as Pain & Gain and The Internship.

The film was taken by 20-year-old Alex Paine whilst out for a walk in the countryside near Durham.

The video was taken by Alex Paine

The video was taken by Alex Paine

 

He said: “I just came across this horse which seemed to dance to the music on my phone.

“I’ve got no idea who he belongs to or whether he does this on a regular basis. I just made up the name Joseph – I thought it suited him.”

In 2013, another dancing horse proved extremely popular in the UK. An advert showed a shetland pony moonwalking along a cliff to the Fleetwood Mac song ‘Everywhere’, which went viral and had 4 million YouTube views within a week.

February 19th, 2015 | Posted in Scottish News,Videos | Read More »

VIDEO: Scots dogs enjoy the snow

WHILE many Scots had to wrap up warm, dig out their cars and sit in traffic jams due to the snow, many of our four-legged friends took to the powder with glee this morning.

Owners have been uploading adorable videos of man’s best friend frolicking, rolling in and even eating the snow.

28-year-old Scots athlete Gemma Nicol, from Dunfermline, Fife, recorded her Boxer named Bruno going crazy in the snow as the sun came up this morning.

Craig Thorburn, 28, recorded his two Staffordshire Bull Terriers enjoying the snow in Livingston, in West Lothian.

Jennifer Canning, 29, from Clydebank in West Dumbartonshire, took a video of her German Shepherd Dexter happily munching on the fresh powder.

Sarah Dawson, 31, also captured her Collie Izzy rolling around gleefully in the snow in Danderhall, Midlothian.

January 29th, 2015 | Posted in Scottish News,Top Stories,Videos | Read More »

Folk star boycotts festival opening night concert over BBC’s indie ref “bias”

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ONE of Scotland’s top folk musicians is boycotting a major music festival’s opening night concert in protest at BBC coverage of the independence referendum.Dick Gaughan was invited to play at the opening night of Celtic Connections at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on 15th January.

He now says he will not take part because he found BBC Scotland’s news coverage of the independence referendum “intolerable.”

The renowned singer, songwriter and composer was once hailed by radio presenter John Peel as “One of the 5 or 6 great voices of our time”.

Gaughan, from Leith, Edinburgh, said: “After the referendum last September, I made the decision that I would not cooperate any longer with BBC Scotland so long as the current regime remains in place.

“This was a personal decision due to what I perceived as the biased, selective and partisan nature of BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs coverage of the pre-referendum campaign, which I found to be quite intolerable.”

He added: “When I was invited to take part in the opening concert, I agreed provisionally on the condition that my contribution to it would be neither recorded nor transmitted by BBC Scotland.

“My refusal to work with BBC Scotland was a purely personal decision. I have the utmost respect for all those involved with Celtic Connections and on the artistic side of the production and regret that I will not be a part of it.”

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Gaughan’s 30-year career includes 15 solo albums, numerous collaborations and concerts and his songs have been recorded by artists including Billy Bragg, Christy Moore and Capercaillie.

He has also composed music for BBC films, appeared in BBC documentaries and in 2010 he was given a lifetime achievement award at BBC Radio 2’s annual folk awards ceremony.

The concert will feature around 80 musicians and singers, many of whom are key members of the folk scene in the UK and abroad. It is the opening night for Celtic Connections, and will kick off 18 days of events in Glasgow, including concerts,art exhibitions, talks, workshops and free events.

Dick Gaughan is still expected to play at another Celtic Connections concert on the 21st of January, with folk band Lynched.

Last year’s festival attracted over 110,000 visitors and ticket sales topped £1.15m.

A spokeswoman for Celtic Connections said: “We’re delighted that there will also be a TV audience. It is up to each individual artist what concerts they decide to take part in during the festival.”

A BBC Scotland spokesman said: “While it’s disappointing for our audiences that Dick Gaughan will not be performing, it promises to be a memorable occasion.

“We completely disagree with the criticism of our reporting of the Referendum.

“Over many months we dedicated significant resources to covering this historic story with fairness, accuracy and balance.”

January 7th, 2015 | Posted in Entertainment,In the Scottish Press,Local News,Scottish News,Top Stories,UK & World | Read More »

Scottish llama declared oldest in UK

A PET llama living on the windswept north east coast of Scotland has been declared the oldest in Britain.

Paddy the llama, who was 25 this year, has lived happily in a muddy field in Cullen, Morayshire since 1989.

His owner Helen Bream bought him after seeing an advert in their local chip shop when he was just a few months old.

 

But they were astonished after officials confirmed this week he is the oldest living llama in the UK.

 

Paddy is considered 100 years old in llama terms, as there are 4 llama years to every 1 human year.

 

 

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He lives in a field at the couple’s pet shop and boarding kennel business with a white pony called Thelwell. The unlikely pals have been together for most of their lives.

Vivienne Ives, registrar of the British Llama Society, confirmed last night:  “He’s the oldest llama that I know  of. It’s a rarity for them to get to that age.  Llamas go into the elderly category at age 12 – I don’t know why one would be the exception, maybe it’s genetics. “

 

 

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Helen, 66, said: “We don’t do anything really. I just feed him and brush him. I honestly don’t know

why he’s lived so long.

 

“He’s part of the family – he’s the same age as my youngest son. He’s just always been with us.

 

He’s only seen a vet once, when he was castrated.”

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Despite Paddy’s advanced age, he  lives outdoors and endures the harsh Scottish weather all

year round.

 

He eats an unenviable diet of alfalfa, grass and spiky gorse bushes harvested from around his pen.  His owners say he is shy and only spits occasionally, when the pony steals his food.

 

Although he is missing several teeth and suffers from arthritis, Paddy is in perfect health and has only seen a vet once in his life.

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Paddy is the star attraction for customers at the pet shop, but is wary of adults and only allows children to pet him.

 

Mrs Bream said: “He’s quite shy and reserved really. He lets children pat him, but he backs away from adults.

 

“We won’t be throwing him a birthday party, but he likes eating spiky things so he will probably get a holly branch to celebrate.”

 

Specialist llama vet Janet Nuttall, of Heathfield Vets in Heathfield, Sussex, said: “There is no doubt that a few individuals have exceptional life spans but late teens or early 20s is the upper age limit often quoted. A llama of 25 years old is roughly equivalent to a centenarian in human terms.”

 

Despite his status, Paddy’s title as the UK’s oldest llama could yet be challenged  – only half of an estimated 3,200 llamas living in the UK are registered.

 

January 2nd, 2015 | Posted in Community,In the Scottish Press,News,Photo of the Day,pic of the day,Quiet News Day,Top Stories,UK & World,UK & World | Read More »

Bagpipe under threat unless they are taught in school, say experts

The iconic sight and sound of pipers playing Auld Lang Syne at Hogmanay Street Parties could be under threat – according to concerned piping enthusiasts.

 

Experts believe that the national instrument is under threat due to a lack of opportunities for pupils to learn the bagpipes in school.

 

More than 75,000 people are expected to descend upon Princes Street on December 31 to bring in the New Year, which will see thousands of revellers sing along to the famous song at midnight.

 

But enthusiasts worry this could soon become a thing of the past unless more is done to teach the pipes and drums to state school pupils.




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David Johnston, Championships Convenor for the Scottish Schools Pipe Band, says that there is a concern that the skills will become regionalised and elitist with many of the country’s top bands coming from rural communities or private schools.

 

Edinburgh and Glasgow are viewed as the real problem areas, with many state schools still not offering pupils the opportunity to learn piping or drumming in the classroom.

 

David said: “The future of our national instrument is under threat because if the inability of most of Scotland’s councils to offer lessons in their schools.

 

“Some say there is no money for it, some say there is no demand. Yet where we have helped schools get tuition the demand is huge – and if a council can afford a glockenspiel teacher, surely they can afford to teach pipes and drums.

 

“In several schools across Scotland, parent councils have had to resort to take their own action to set up after school clubs and bring in teachers at their own expense to offer tutoring to their children.

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“I find it disappointing that in so many Scottish state schools piping and drumming is not on the curriculum – yet many private schools have flourishing bands and dedicated pipe tutors which bring huge prestige and self-esteem to band members and to the school.

 

“If this worrying trend continues we won’t have any future pipers and drummers and hearing the roar of pipes and drums on Hogmanay could become a thing of the past.”

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Councils in areas such as the Highlands and Argyll and Bute are known to have a significantly larger portion of their students playing the pipes and drums whilst in school than in other areas.

 

However, in the largest Scottish cities, there are only a handful of pupils playing the pipes and drums and in some council areas, there are no students playing these instruments all.

 

The Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships – the world’s biggest schools piping competition – is looking to change this by hosting a unique competition which looks to celebrate the pipes and drums and encourage their growth in schools throughout Scotland.

 

Craig Munro, a piper from the hugely successful Red Hot Chilli Pipers, believes that if more state schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow were to introduce the pipes and drums into their curriculum, other schools across Scotland will follow.

He said: “It is clear that several schools are trying to get school pipe bands up and running but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get the piping and drumming onto the curriculum.

“If schools can offer students the likes of the recorder to learn music, then why not the bagpipes? It seems as though there is a lack of choice as to whether or not kids can learn the pipes and drums whilst in school.

“What many people perhaps don’t realise is that it is possible to build a fulfilling career from the bagpipes.”

 

He added: “What’s great about The Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships is that they help to raise the profile of these instruments and encourage our younger generations to learn them.”

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Last year, the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships attracted more than 400 young pipers and drummers from schools across Scotland.

The 2015 Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships are to be held at Broughton High School in Edinburgh on Sunday 8 March. Schools still have until 26 January 2015 to submit an entry. For more details, please visit: www.thechampionships.org

December 30th, 2014 | Posted in Entertainment,In the Scottish Press,Local News,News,Quiet News Day,Scottish News,Top Stories | Read More »

Prawn to be wild – fishermen come out of their shells for amazing spoof videos

By Katherine Sutherland
THE crazy crew of a Scots prawn boat are whiling away the long hours at sea – making spoof pop videos.
Deckhand Frank Ronald and his colleagues on trawler The Caledonia strip off despite the freezing temperatures for their YouTube creations.
In their most popular production, Frank appears starkers on a red buoy pretending to be Miley Cyrus in Wrecking Ball.
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In another a fellow fisherman dons seaweed for dreadlocks and an enormous chain to pose as a rapper.
The team have recently diversified into parody news and weather broadcasts – complete with a tame seagull.
The boat is based at Tarbert, Loch Fyne, which is world famous for its seafood.
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Frank said: “We can be away on the boat all week, but we could be landing our catch every couple of days.
“It’s just for a bit of nonsense out in the boat, it’s a bit of a laugh when it’s quiet out on the deck. There’s not much on at this time of year.”

As well as the Miley Cyrus parody the team have produced their version of the the Avril Lavigne song Sk8er Boi. Called Skaterprawn, it features live prawns and fishermen skateboarding along deck wearing nothing but boxer shorts.

And a painstakingly choreographed dance to recent smash hit pop song “Timber”, by US artist Pitbull featuring Ke$ha, shows the lads dancing on the roof of the cabin with no land in sight.

Most of the videos feature one or all of the crew in their underwear. Frank said: “Being in your pants is the best way to report the weather. Us guys have a built-in thermometer.”
Frank, who has lived in Tarbert all of his life, posts the videos on Youtube.
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His version of  “Wrecking Ball” has attracted 19, 364 views.
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Frank said his family are amused by his antics, although he said: “Obviously they were a bit embarrassed. When they saw that they said they would prefer it if it wasn’t me.”
He has worked as a fisherman since he left school aged 16 and insists safety remain a priority for the crew.
He said: “You make sure it’s all safe. You are still out at sea and you can’t do too much nonsense. We can be out in some rough weather. You all need to pull together”
He recently decided to focus on parody news and weather reports, with several bulletins from the boat uploaded in the last week.
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Frank and fellow deckhand Bill Macfarlane, 42,  use a pile of empty fish boxes as a news desk and a wooden spoon for a microphone.
A tame seagull has interrupted several of the videos by sitting on the boxes and flapping its wings.
One report features crew members pretending to be sheep, and another shows a fisherman in yellow oilskins jumping out from under a pile of empty boxes.
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Frank, who edits the films once safely back on dry land, said: “It’s a lot easier to do the news than music videos. There’s a lot more editing with a music video.
“It’s all off the cuff. It’s not rehearsed or anything. We’ll probably keep on with the news for a wee while.”
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December 19th, 2014 | Posted in Entertainment,Multimedia,News,Scottish News,Top Stories,UK & World | Read More »

More than a reeling – trad bagpipers freestyle jam contest

YOUNG bagpipe players are being encouraged to break Scottish stereotypes and rock out at a leading competitive event.

 

For the first time ever, the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships (SSPBC) will feature a ‘freestyle’ category.

 

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The event will see musicians perform tunes under the theme ‘anything goes’, with competitors allowed to play anything from Scottish traditional melodies to Black Sabbath.

 

Kids will be encouraged to let their imagination run wild, and are even allowed to bring in their pals to play in a “mash up” of different musical instruments instead of just sticking to the bagpipes.

 

The event will be held in March next year, and entries are already flooding in. Students will be following in the anarchic footsteps of top Scottish acts like Treacherous Orchestra, which mixes dance beats and electric guitars with the bagpipes.

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David Johnston, Chairman of the SSPBC committee, said the Freestyle competition is unique in the world.

 

He said: “The Freestyle category is all about the traditional pipes and drums – but with a twist.

 

“We decided to introduce this category as a way of highlighting the versatility of the pipes and drums alongside other instruments.

 

“It offers a chance for pipers and drummers to let loose from the rigid competition format to perform some more modern pieces in a relaxed atmosphere.”

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There are just three slots left for schools in the Freestyle category, who will face a judging panel consisting of some of Scotland’s most senior Pipe Majors, as well as Craig Munro from Scottish piping favourites The Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

 

Mr Johnston said: “This category is all about injecting some fun into the competition and showcasing the outstanding musical talent of our younger generation, regardless of what instrument they play.

“It means that schools can look to use their whole orchestras and young musicians to compete.”

 

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The Scottish Pipe Band Championships will  take place on March 8 at Broughton High School and Fettes College in Edinburgh.

 

The deadline for entries closes on 26 January and the committee is keen to encourage more schools to sign up.

December 12th, 2014 | Posted in Community,Entertainment,In the Scottish Press,Scottish News | Read More »

 

A scots gamekeeper has proved he is a great shot – with a camera.

 

John MacTavish, a keeper on a 1,500 acre farm and pheasant shoot in Lochnell, Oban, takes stunning pictures whilst at work.

 

The snaps include his dogs – three Springer Spaniels and a Cocker Spaniel – leaping through the air and jumping through streams as they race after and collect pheasants.




 



He has also managed to capture incredibly detailed images of birds mid-flight, as well as shots of other gamekeepers with their kills.

 

His pictures are so breathtaking they have made several front covers of the ‘Shooting Times’, the UK’s leading weekly shooting magazine.

 

The 48-year old developed a passion for taking photographs whilst at school. His first camera was a Zenit TTL, which he describes as an “awful thing”.

 

He now owns three Canon cameras with six lenses, ranging from 15mm to 600mm. The lenses alone can cost up to £9,000.

 

John, who has never had any photography training, said: “The most enjoyable thing with photography is getting a sharp shot of something the eye only sees for a blink. It’s not easy, but when it comes off it’s enough to drive me onto the next one.”

 

November 25th, 2014 | Posted in Multimedia,Videos | Read More »

Ceilidh on the car deck

PASSENGERS on a wind-swept ferry decided to liven up their journey by having an impromptu ceilidh.
The normally quiet car deck was transformed into a wild scene of dance and music on a journey between two islands on Shetland.
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A group of musicians returning from a festival provided the music and weary travellers joined in one-by-one.
A video of the spontaneous party shows bemused ferry workers looking on as around 30 whooping passengers reel about the deck.
pic courtest of Shetland Islands Council

The Shetland Islands Council ferry, MV Daglien on its regular Yell Sound crossing.

A full ceilidh band, including a fiddle player, guitarist and accordion, were returning the Shetland Folk Festival on the island of Yell to the main town of Lerwick.
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The ceilidh apparently started on a band’s bus and transferred to the car deck for the entire 30-minute crossing.
 The video was posted on the Facebook page of Edinburgh band Adam Holmes And The Embers.
Musician Adam Holmes, 23, from Edinburgh, said: “We were on the bus and Saltfishforty started playing a version of Highway to Hell, called Highway to Yell.
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“There was quite a lot of drinking involved. It was just pretty mental.
“It was quite magical. It felt like the Titanic before it went bad. It was quite beautiful – one of those special moments.”
Ian Pearson, assistant marine superintendent at Shetland Isles Council, said: “It’s very entertaining. It kind of happens from time to time with travelling musicians or the folk festival.
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“There are no safety concerns for dancing on the car deck – you can get out of your car
on these ferries. it’s usually done on a fine summer’s night so the ferry doesn’t move much.
“One time I was a crew member on a ferry and a Russian band started playing. Of course, they all started Cossack dancing.”

The video can be viewed here:  https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=734901599893189&set=vb.177251088991579&type=2&theater

November 20th, 2014 | Posted in Multimedia,Scottish News,Top Stories,UK & World | Read More »

Leith school kids meet world’s leading robotics expert

 

 

Children from St Mary’s Primary School met one of the world’s leading robotics experts Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro.

 

The internationally renowned scientist, who famous for his lifelike humanoid robot of himself, supervised the school children as they designed and built their own robots.

 

Professor Ishiguro was invited to Edinburgh through a Heriot-Watt Universiy professor Ruth Aylett who is an expert in human-robot interaction.

 

Professor Ruth Aylett said: This is a fantastic opportunity for Edinburgh school children to see some of the most advanced robotics in the world, face-to-face.

 

November 19th, 2014 | Posted in Multimedia,Videos | Read More »

The Sir Walter Scott Monument lit up for Remembrance Day

ONE of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks has been lit red to mark Remembrance weekend.

 

Poppy Scotland and Edinburgh Council worked together to light up The Sir Walter Scott Monument in memory of those who died in war, one of the many dedications to Remembrance Day up and down the UK.





A Garden of Remembrance, where people can pay their respects, has been set up at the base of the monument by Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory and Poppy Scotland.

 

The west side of the monument has been surrounded by poppies attached to miniature crosses and the east side of the monument is presented as a garden allowing people to walk amongst the memorials that have been placed.

November 11th, 2014 | Posted in Multimedia,Videos | Read More »

Scotland’s first married gay couple

A FORMER DJ and a public health worker will make history seconds after midnight on December 31 – when they become Scotland’s first married gay couple.

MALCOLM Brown and Joe Schofield bonded online over a shared love of punk and alternative music.

The couple from Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, who have been together nine years, said they were “honoured” and “blown away” to be the first same sex couple to be married in Scotland.





The ceremony is being planned down to the last second to ensure the grooms are legally pronounced husband and husband moments after the clock strikes 12 on Hogmanay morning.

Malcolm and Joe were among 15 couples who took up the Humanist Society Scotland’s offer to help organise the earliest-possible gay marriage. Most of the other 14 couples are set to marry later the same day.

The weddings were made possible after a change in the law by passed at Holyrood earlier this year, following a campaign led by the Equality Network.

Former DJ and engineering student Malcolm, 42, known as Malx, and Joe, also 42, have asked Alex Salmond to be a witness.

They said their big day will also be about “celebrating the changes and the people who have campaigned”.

Malx said: “Before couldn’t have used the word marriage. We as a gay couple can now use that term. We’re now equal with everyone else. That’s really important.

“I was blown away to find out we will be the first.”

Joe, who has campaigned for gay equality since he was 16, added: “There is obviously the devotion I have, this is the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

Joe, originally from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, added: “It’s also about some of the basic human rights that our relationship will be recognised as husband and husband. That’s a biggie.

“This is a real, concrete example of Scotland making changes that will change social attitudes. I was amazed to get it.”

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Malx had an eight year stint as a morning radio DJ on Central FM before becoming a mature student at Edinburgh Napier University.

He was 26-years-old before he ‘came out’ as a gay man.

“I was very concerned about coming out,” he said. “I was thinking can I come out in this town?

“I think I was worried more about losing my friends. I was left feeling guilty about that because they proved me wrong.”

Malx is in his last year of a bachelor degree in engineering at Edinburgh Napier University, said he had been going through a “low” point in his life before meeting Joe through the online music site Last FM.

He said: “You just know when something is right. I knew fairly early on, and I said, ‘This is the one, we’re going to get married one day’. Those were the words: ‘We’re going to get married one day.’ This is it.

“We’ve just been biding time since then really. In terms of what’s happening now it’s just like let’s do it. It’s all or nothing.”

“There was no official proposal,” added Malx. “We were always of the view that we would wait until that legislation kicked in.”

Joe, who is also 42, was living in London when they first met, but grew up in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

He said: “I was exposed to the gay scene, gay politics and all the gay community early. We had very different experiences.”

The Public Health worker for Greater Glasgow has been campaigning on behalf of gay rights since he was 16 and starting off working for the Lesbian and Gay Switchboard.

In the 1980s he was involved in raising awareness of HIV and gay men’s health and since moving to Scotland eight years ago has been working on Hepatitis C awareness.

Joe said: “I was coming back and forth to Scotland as much as I could when we realised it was a goer I started looking around for a job.”

He continued: “We didn’t want a civil partnership. It didn’t feel meaningful enough in them of what is being offered.”

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It was on Facebook where Joe saw the call from the Humanist Society for couple to put themselves forward for the first equal marriage in Scotland.

On Sunday they were told they had been chosen to be Scotland’s first same sex marriage and now they are turning their attention to the big day.

“It is a real honor getting this,” said Joe. “As well as us getting the huge privilege it will be an event that’s a big celebration for all the people involved in campaigning.”

First Minister Alex Salmond and the leader of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvey have been invited to be the official witnesses at the wedding which is expected to take place in Glasgow.

But there is still lots of planning ahead for the pair who described themselves as a “regular” couple.

Asked what their big day will be like Joe said “we’ve not got a scooby”.

He continued: “When we knew the new legislation was coming up we discussed it. Our original plan was to turn up, just us and witnesses, leave and then have a wee sesh. We don’t want to be a pair of groomzillas.

“The opportunity to be the first, as much as it’s about the wedding being about us it’s also about celebrating the changes and the people who have been campaigning for years.”

Joe and Malx will walk together down the aisle in kilts and both will keep their own names.

Music will no doubt feature heavily with their dream wedding band being either Manchester post punk band The Fall or American Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys.

The menu on the night will cater for Joe who is a vegan as well as having a meat option.

Looking ahead the couple plan to spend their honeymoon in the west coast of Scotland putting dreams of visiting Russia on hold.

Joe said: “We’ve been talking for a while about going to Russia, we love the history, especially around the 80s when we were growing up. That would have been the ideal honeymoon. But in Russia with the climate of fear and homophobia it wouldn’t be safe at the moment.”

He added: “We love the west coast of Scotland so in the spring we will probably take a trip up the west coast and to the islands.”

The ceremony will be conducted by Humanist Society Scotland celebrant Ross Wright who has been part of the campaign for equal marriage.

“It was difficult to chose a couple,” he said. “Lot of people wanted to be the first. These two just seemed to understand the significance of it on all the levels.

Ross, who will make the legal declaration just after midnight, added: “It is a huge privilege I’ve been asked to do this. I’ve been involved in equality campaigning all my life.

“It’s going to be very emotional for me, not just the couple.”

He continued: “There are going to be a lot of weddings on the 31st. I was expecting people to be really disappointed not to be the first but they were still wanting to get married on the 31st.

“There will be a lot of people doing it.”

November 6th, 2014 | Posted in Multimedia,Videos | Read More »

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 »

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