Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s going to be a braw January!

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Happy New Year from Loopy Towers!

We’ve finally packed away the Christmas tree, eaten the last mince pie and already broken a few resolutions.

2017 – the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology – flew by, and seems to have re-generated into the Year of Young People quicker than Peter Capaldi turned into Jodie Whittaker.

On 30th December, 17, 000 torchbearers processed from Edinburgh city centre to Holyrood Park to spell out “#BRAW” herald the forthcoming #YOYP2018

In these still short, dark, dreich days of January, it can be hard to imagine anything being braw but there’s much to look forward to…


If you don’t like change, you’ll appreciate the return to normal opening hours, TV schedules, refuse collection and regular public transport timetables.

Keep Calm and Coory Doon

The cold weather is an excellent excuse for wearing big jumpers, watching old movies, curling up with a good book and getting snuggly on the sofa.  If you’re looking for that ‘hygge’ feeling beyond your own home, we hear that Zanzibar in North Berwick has very good hot chocolate while the Tyninghame Smithy is the cosiest place in East Lothian and The Bothy at East Saltoun even supplies blankets!

Recycling old Christmas cards

Cards with glitter and/or foil can’t be recycled so why not send the front half of these to Women in Prison, Elmfield House, 5 Stockwell Mews, London SW9 9GX.  Next December, female prisoners will be able to make cards for their children and families.


The only thing better than bagging a bargain in the January sales is bagging a local bargain so support local independent business such as Secret Boutique (formerly The Merry-Go-Round) in Gullane.

Prefer online shopping? Both Ardmoor country clothing and The Nordic Edit Scandinavian interiors are run by East Lothian based folk.

Dunbar-based cruised holiday business has a Buy One, Get One Half price deal on cruises booked between now and 5th March.

Unusual visitors

No, we’re not talking about the human variety, frankly, we’ve had enough of them over the festive period.  Keep an eye out for snow buntings and waxwings and follow @birdinglothian for sightings.

The Sky at Night

January’s clear skies are great for stargazing and on the 31st you will be able to see the second full supermoon of the month.

Thank You Cards

Everyone loves receiving ‘real’ mail don’t they? This year, ditch the texts and emails and help bring back the lost art of handwritten thank you notes.  If nothing else, it will be good practice for National Handwriting Day on 23rd January.

Do Good, Give Blood

According to Action For Happiness, our generosity is hard-wired to the reward mechanisms in our brains. When we give our time, energy and kindness to others it not only helps them, it’s also great for our wellbeing too.

They have produced a Happy New Year Calendar of suggested actions to help you be happier yourself – and bring more happiness to others too.

If you are able, why not make one of your actions to donate blood?  SNBTS aims to retain 6 days of stocks at any time in order to meet the requirements of patients in Scotland.  On 3rd January, levels of A- blood type were considerably below that.

During January, you can give blood at donor sessions in Longniddry (11th), Tranent (14th) and Haddington (17th) – see more details here.

#YOYP2018 takeover over of @LothianLoop

We’re looking for young people with an East Lothian connection to take turns tweeting from @lothianloop.

We’re working out the mechanics of this and, like a new Doctor Who, we don’t know what it doing to be like but we’re sure it’ll be braw…

In the meantime, if you wish to register your interest or have any ideas please get in touch.

Short online taster course offers insight into Dispute Resolution programme

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Queen Margaret University is developing a short online taster course for people interested in developing careers in dispute resolution and conflict management.

Conflict arises in many contexts – at work, at home, and in personal relationships. QMU will run a free online taster course which will provide an insight into how conflict can be resolved. It will cover topics such as ‘understanding conflict, ‘conflict escalation’ and ‘resolving conflict’.

QMU’s Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre has an established reputation as a centre of excellence for research and education in dispute resolution and consumer policy. The centre runs the MSc Dispute Resolution and the short online session is designed to give people a taste of the subjects covered in the Master’s programme, for example, looking at the reasons why conflicts can spiral out of control.

Carol Brennan, Director of QMU’s Consumer Dispute Resolution Centre, explained: “This taster session is ideally suited to individuals interested in the issue of conflict and how conflict situations can be resolved. Students who have studied the full MSc Dispute Resolution have gone on to pursue interesting careers in dispute resolution associated roles, with some graduates working as complaint handlers, arbitrators and mediators, and others holding positions within Ombudsman schemes.

“The master’s level course is also suitable for recent graduates who wish to develop their career in this increasingly important area of specialism, as well as those whose job already involves resolving areas of conflict, for example within human resource management.”

Carol confirmed: “We believe that the course will provide a helpful snapshot of the full MSc Dispute Resolution programme, allowing people to dip their toe into the water to see if the Master’s course may be a good fit for them. It also provides the opportunity for people to experience online learning and to become part of QMU’s growing online community of learners.”

Nial Vivian, Lecturer in Dispute Resolution at QMU, spent several years working for Ombudsman schemes and in other dispute resolution roles. He has studied the MSc Dispute Resolution, which led him to career opportunities in academia. He explained: “We know embarking on a full Master’s degree is a significant commitment and it’s helpful for people to be sure that they are investing their time and energy in something they really wish to pursue. The online taster course will help ensure people are better equipped to make an informed decision about studying at Master’s level, and to whet their appetite for study in the fascinating area of conflict resolution.”

Our short taster will run online for four weeks between Monday 19 February and Friday 16 March, and will involve participants in group discussions with students and lecturers, reading, viewing video presentations, and interviews with conflict resolution experts.

Find out more about the online taster course, and sign up, at

For further information on the MSc Dispute Resolution visit:

Poverty Safari

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People from deprived communities all around Britain feel misunderstood and unheard. Darren McGarvey aka Loki (@lokiscottishrap) gives voice to their feelings and concerns, and the anger that is spilling over.  Anger he says we will have to get used to, unless things change.

He invites you to come on a safari of sorts. A Poverty Safari. But not the sort where the indigenous population is surveyed from a safe distance for a time, before the window on the community closes and everyone gradually forgets about it.

POVERTY SAFARI (2017_08_16 14_17_37 UTC)

I know the hustle and bustle of high-rise life, the dark and dirty stairwells, the temperamental elevators that smell like urine and wet dog fur, the grumpy concierge, the apprehension you feel as you enter or leave the building, especially at night. I know that sense of being cut off from the world, despite having such a wonderful view of it through a window in the sky; that feeling of isolation, despite being surrounded by hundreds of other people above, below and either side of you. But most of all, I understand the sense that you are invisible, despite the fact that your community can be seen for miles around and is one of the most prominent features of the city skyline.

The above is an extract from

You can order copies direct from publisher Luath Press here or you can join the Lothian Loop book ring and receive a loan copy in the post – there will be a wait and you will be responsible for getting it to the next person in the queue (£1.22 by Royal Mail large letter).  If you’re interested, drop me an email:

Where’s the book headed next?

1 – H – EH39

2 – S – EH32



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New campaign encourages public to intervene to help prevent railway suicides

  • Fewer than one fifth of the public realise that suicidal thoughts are temporary (17%)
  • Vast majority would help someone in distress on the railway if they knew they couldn’t make things worse (84.7%)
  • Over half of Scots (52.5%) say they’re good at small talk

The ScotRail Alliance is encouraging customers to take part in a new suicide prevention campaign on the railways which could save many lives a year.

The campaign, entitled Small Talk Saves Lives, launches today with the release of a short film encouraging members of the public to trust their instincts and look out for fellow passengers who might need help. It is being launched jointly by the Samaritans, the British Transport Police, and train companies all across Britain.

The video is based on the true story of Sarah Wilson (name changed), who felt suicidal and planned to take her life on the railway, but didn’t as somebody reached out to her. In the clip, unsuspecting customers on a station platform initially think a station announcer is warning them of delays due to a suicide on the line, only to find out that they are listening to a story of hope and recovery, told by Sarah herself.

Small Talk Saves Lives aims to give travellers the confidence to act if they notice someone who may be at risk of suicide on or around the rail network. It draws on insights from successful interventions made by some of the 16,000 rail staff and British Transport Police officers who’ve been trained by the Samaritans in suicide prevention. For each life lost on the railway, six are saved.

Susan Temple, who works at Johnstone ticket office, is one of the 1,500 ScotRail Alliance staff who have been trained by Samaritans. When she found a man in distress on a station platform, she was able to start a conversation with him that ultimately saved his life.

Susan said: “When I first approached him, he was quiet and wouldn’t speak. I told him my name, but didn’t tell him I was a member of staff to make sure I didn’t worry him.

“He was very distressed and once he started talking, he spoke really quickly.  He told me that the only way out for him was to take his life.

“I was able to signal to an oncoming train to slow down and walked to the driver and told him about the situation. I went back to the young man and continued to talk to him.  He felt so down that he believed that everyone would be better off if he wasn’t here.”

Susan was able to contact the police, who took the young man into their care.

The campaign has the backing of the leading suicide prevention expert Professor Rory O’Connor from the University of Glasgow.

Professor O’Connor said:

“I am pleased to support Samaritans’ new campaign, Small Talk Saves Lives.  It aims to tackle one of the myths around suicide and its prevention: namely, that there is nothing we can do to prevent suicide. There is, and we all have a role to play. It is great to see this campaign encouraging people to reach out if they think someone may be suicidal. It could save lives.”

Sarah Wilson said:

“Someone showing that they cared about me helped to interrupt my suicidal thoughts and that gave them time to subside.

“The more that people understand that suicide is preventable, the better. I hope people will share the video and that the campaign will encourage people to trust their gut instincts and start a conversation if they think someone could need help. You won’t make things worse, and you could save a life.’

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said:

“Suicide is everybody’s business and any one of us could have an opportunity to save a life.

“Research for this campaign showed 73 per cent of the public would expect somebody to approach their loved one if they were upset in a public place.

“We have worked carefully with the public, rail travellers and those bereaved by suicide to ensure that this campaign is delivered sensitively but with real impact. The knowledge and skills to save lives in the rail environment can be applied to many other situations.

“We hope that Small Talk Saves Lives is the start of a much wider conversation about how suicide is preventable.”

David Lister, ScotRail Alliance sustainability & safety assurance director, said:

“Every suicide on the railway is a preventable tragedy, and everyone who travels by train can help – simply by looking out for each other. If someone seems distressed, why not go over and strike up conversation with them?

“It might seem daunting, but that one simple question can be all it takes to interrupt their suicidal thoughts. You don’t need training to be able to make a difference, just imagine it was one of your loved ones.”

British Transport Police Chief Constable, Paul Crowther, national strategic policing lead for suicide prevention, said:

“Our officers make lifesaving interventions on the railway every day, together with rail staff and members of the public.

“We know from experience that when someone is in distress, simply engaging them in conversation can make all the difference and help set them on the road to recovery. It makes sense to let the public know that this simple act can help.

“We’re not suggesting people intervene if they don’t feel comfortable or safe to do so. They can tell a member of rail staff or a police officer – many of whom have been trained by Samaritans – or call 999.”

Insurer issues rural road warning as temperatures drop

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  • More people killed on Scottish rural roads than urban roads
  • Drivers urged to adapt driving for countryside conditions
  • Insurer issues rural driving tips

Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is warning people to take care on rural roads as it is revealed that there was a 23% rise in deaths on Scottish rural roads last year*.

As colder conditions and dark nights take hold, motorists are being urged to adapt their driving accordingly and to be aware of slow-moving farm vehicles and vulnerable road users such as horse riders, walkers and cyclists.

Although the number of people killed on Scottish urban roads decreased by 11% in 2016, fatalities on rural roads increased by 23% with more than three times as many people killed on rural roads than urban ones last year.

Martin Malone, Manager for NFU Mutual in Scotland said: “While the decrease in road fatalities in urban areas is welcome news, we are deeply concerned by the rise in deaths on our Scottish rural roads.”

Drivers sometimes fail to appreciate the hazards of rural roads, Martin warns: “Modern vehicles tend to insulate drivers from harsh conditions outside – but sophisticated braking systems won’t prevent a skid on an untreated road after a frost. Many rural roads aren’t gritted after a frost or snowfall so it’s vital to stay alert and adjust speed according to weather conditions.

“In the countryside, you never know if there will be a tractor, horses, or a walker round the next corner and every year NFU Mutual deals with claims resulting from  serious accidents involving farm vehicles being hit by fast-moving cars, lorries and motorcycles.”

NFU Mutual Rural Driving Tips:

Whether you’re a native of the countryside or an infrequent visitor, these tips for rural driving should help you stay safe and avoid the hazards.

  1. Plan your journey before you set off and give thought to locations that might be badly affected, such as flood prone areas, and monitor local weather forecasts.
  2. Stick to speed limits – rural roads require different driving skills – sharp bends, unexpected hazards and changing conditions can all catch out the unwary. Also, slow down on winding roads as many accidents occur from drivers taking sharp bends too quickly.
  3. Keep your windscreen, windows and mirrors clean and free of ice and ensure you have a supply of winter-ready screenwash.
  4. Avoid driving through flood water – driving through flood water is particularly risky as it is difficult to know how deep it is and what is hiding under the water’s surface.
  5. Be aware of mud and leaves on the road – both can be incredibly slippery in wet conditions and can cause vehicles to lose traction and skid.
  6. Make way for horses – anyone driving on a rural road should expect to often share it with horses and their riders, so drivers should slow down and be prepared to stop if necessary. If you do need to pass a horse then stay at least a car’s width away from them, pass slowly and don’t make any sudden noises or movements which might spook them.
  7. Watch out for wildlife – it is quite common for wild animals to appear on country roads and a natural instinct might be to swerve to avoid them, but this is dangerous. A broken fog light or dented bumper is better than a serious accident due to losing control of your vehicle. Larger animals, such as deer, present a bigger problem so braking to reduce the severity of the impact is advisable.
  8. Be prepared for livestock delays – farmers often need to use the roads to move livestock to and from their fields. If the road is blocked by livestock then the best thing to do is stop the car, turn off your engine and wait patiently.
  9. Be patient with farm vehicles –be patient behind tractors; they rarely travel long distances, but be prepared for them to turn into fields and farmyards and other less obvious turnings of which you may not be aware.
  10. Read between the white lines – paint and markings are added to the road where there is a history of collisions and fatalities. The more paint there is on the road, the more potential danger there is. Be aware and take extra care.
  11. For more tips on rural driving and to find out more about NFU Mutual’s breakdown cover, visit

*Data taken from Scottish Government National Indicator: Deaths on Scotland’s Roads

On track for new trains on North Berwick line

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New trains for Scotland are another step closer as the ScotRail Alliance today revealed the interiors of its new fleet.


The new Class 385 electric trains – which are being built by Hitachi Rail Europe – will deliver faster journeys, more seats and better services for Scotland when they are rolled out next year.

One of the first fully fitted trains was recently completed at Hitachi Rail Europe’s Newton Aycliffe plant. Offering bright, modern, contemporary finishes, once in service, customers across the central belt will benefit from:

  • Power sockets at each pair of seats
  • Free WiFi throughout the train
  • More luggage storage
  • Cycle spaces in a clearly marked area
  • Flexible storage area (prams, golf clubs etc)
  • Two wheelchair spaces
  • Accessible toilet in every train, including a new ‘assist’ facility to allow companion access to the cubicle while maintaining privacy
  • Windows closely aligned with seats

Dedicated first class carriages boast plug sockets at every seat, premium leather seats, LED lighting and more luggage storage.

Class 385s can operate in three, four, six, seven and eight car formations, providing much more flexibility to match demand with capacity. Unlike the existing Class 170 trains, the Class 385 have ‘through’ gangways between all coaches so that every part of the train can be accessed from the inside.

Electric trains mean no diesel engines, resulting in quieter journeys for customers and reduced noise pollution for those living and working near the railway.

When eight-car trains are introduced on the Edinburgh – Glasgow via Falkirk High route, this will improve capacity by up to 44% at peak times.

There will also be more seats during peak periods on the Glasgow / Edinburgh – Stirling / Dunblane / Alloa lines, Edinburgh – North Berwick, and Glasgow Central – Edinburgh via Shotts.

ScotRail Alliance Managing Director Alex Hynes said:

“It’s great to finally see the interiors of our new trains. They look great, and I know customers will agree.

“The finish of these trains will significantly improve the experience of customers travelling with us. Their design has resulted in bright, spacious and accessible carriages – perfect for commuters, business customers and leisure travellers alike.

“We’re building the best railway Scotland has ever had – and providing our customers with modern trains plays a big part in that.”

Mitsuo Iwasaki, Head of Technical at Hitachi Rail Europe, said:

“We expect customers to be really pleased with the interiors of our new trains. We’ve worked closely with ScotRail and various passenger groups to include their ideas into the design and the result is a visible improvement for people travelling.

“In addition to full size tables and more seats, customers will also now be able to stay better connected on their journey with fast WiFi and plug sockets.”

The Class 385s will be phased in gradually. The trains will enter service first on the newly electrified Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk High route – Scotland’s busiest route – before being rolled out to other lines, including Edinburgh – North Berwick.

Paintbox Artist Bootcamp

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Stuck in a rut in your creative practice?  Want to know how to promote your work, be social media savvy, write an Artist Statement and just generally “get yourself out there”?
Run by experienced Artist and Tutor, Jemma Derbyshire, this 2 Day seminar will arm you will all you need to get yourself up and running and get you out there on the Arts Scene!

The seminar will cover –

  • Artistic Identity
  • Writing an Artist Statement
  • Gathering a following
  • Navigating Social Media
  • Exhibiting, Residencies, forming Artistic Relationships

Our first Artist Bootcamp will take place on the 18th & 19th of November, 10 am – 4pm, in the Paintbox Studio at Cockenzie House & Gardens.
All you will need is a pen and paper, lunch and refreshments will be provided both days.- £200 (inc VAT)


The search for inspirational young foodies

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Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2017 ended on Sunday 17th September, having spent 16 days celebrating all those who grow, make, cook and sell Scottish produce and encouraging the great Scottish public to change one thing (#onethingfortnight) by choosing more Scottish food and drink.

Having reached around a million people throughout the Fortnight, the organisers have now turned their attention to 2018, which will see Scotland celebrate The Year of Young People.

The Year of Young People (#YOYP2018) 2018 is an opportunity to celebrate the amazing young personalities, talents, and achievers that make up Scotland. It’s all about inspiring our nation through its young people’s ideas, attitudes and ambitions.

What better way to inspire a generation than through the love of great Scottish food and drink?

Scotland Food & Drink, the organisers behind Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, are looking for inspiring stories and inspirational young people who showcase just how accessible and exciting the food and drink industry is, whether it be in terms of offering rewarding careers or providing tasty and nutritional meals.

Do you know someone under the age of 26 who has been doing wonderful things within the Scottish food and drink industry? Perhaps they are a young farmer who has grown a business from nowhere, perhaps they work in your restaurant, school canteen or café, perhaps they volunteer at a charity soup kitchen or perhaps they share their culinary passion via a blog or on social media? We would love to hear their story.

James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said:

“We are delighted to have celebrated a superb Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight this year and so many people have engaged with our #onethingfortnight challenge by changing just one thing about how much Scottish food and drink they eat.

“We now look ahead to The Year of Young People in 2018 and are seeking inspirational young people with great food or drink stories to help us better tell the world about Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight when it comes around again next year.

“Please let us know what you are up to, or what a young person you know is contributing to the Scottish food and drink industry. We would love to hear from you.”

Please get in touch on Twitter using this year’s hashtag #onethingfortnight or by emailing


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Local nursery manager, Vicky Richardson, who has worked at Fenton Barns Nursery near North Berwick for three years, has been selected as a finalist in the Nursery Manager category within the Scottish NMT Nursery Awards 2017.

Vicky is Nursery Manager at Fenton Barns Nursery and was nominated by nursery owners Caroline Freeman and Nicola Simpson, following support and recommendations from parents, staff and children alike. Vicky has worked in childcare for 14 years, has completed a number of SVQ qualifications and is currently working towards a PDA Level 9 in Childhood Practice.

Fenton Barns Nursery provides a unique, high quality childcare facility in purpose-built premises within East Lothian, where the emphasis is firmly on the outdoors, healthy living and local food.

Vicky said:

“I was delighted, if a little humbled, to be nominated and shortlisted for this Award. I simply enjoy my job here at Fenton Barns Nursery and I am dedicated to supporting children to develop their skills and social understanding in Early Learning and Childcare.

“I am a very hands-on manager and am involved in all aspects of nursery practice. I am a great believer in the importance of children learning through play in an outdoor environment and love to watch the children thrive through their natural curiosity and confidence.”

Nicola Simpson, co-founder and owner of Fenton Barns Nursery, said:

“Vicky’s fellow staff and all our parents and children admire and respect her approach to nursery management and it was an obvious decision for us to nominate her for this Award. She cleverly combines hands-on interaction with the children with efficient and creative management of the nursery and is a true asset to the team.”

Winners of the Scottish NMT Nursery Awards 2017 will be presented with their trophies by Cat Harvey at the high profile Gala Night held on Friday 1st September at the Glasgow Hilton Hotel, attended by 400 guests.


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Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight is a nationwide event which supports and promotes Scotland’s produce and the people who grow, make, cook and sell it. Once again, the Fortnight is encouraging the great Scottish public to take part by changing just one thing (#onethingfortnight) about how much Scottish food and drink they buy and eat.

This year’s celebration will take place between Saturday 2nd September to Sunday 17th September 2017 inclusive, and we would love everyone across Scotland, of all ages, to join in to champion Scotland’s delicious larder and change one thing (#onethingfortnight) for 2017.

Tying in with the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight is profiling the following daily food themes and asking everyone, to simply change one thing (#onethingfortnight):

Sat 2nd Sept Picnic Sun 10th Sept Weekend lunch
Sun 3rd Sept Afternoon tea Mon 11th Sept Coffee break
Mon 4th Sept Office meeting Tues 12th Sept Breakfast
Tues 5th Sept Packed lunch Wed 13th Sept Family meal
Wed 6th Sept TV dinner Thurs 14th Sept Street food
Thurs 7th Sept Sport snack Fri 15th Sept BBQ
Fri 8th Sept Children’s party Sat 16th Sept Fine dining
Sat 9th Sept Drinks party Sun 17th Sept Brunch

Fiona Richmond, Head of Regional Food, said:

“Using the daily themes as inspiration, we are searching the archives for historical recipes and asking chefs to provide us with recipes that offer their own modern take on a theme. We will be sharing these recipes, old and new, with the public, alongside other fascinating and delicious hints, tips and facts about Scottish food and drink.

“All the while, we’ll asking people to make use of these ideas to change ‘#onethingfortnight’ about the way in which they interact with Scottish produce. For example, an office worker may switch to Scotch Beef or Scottish Salmon in their daily sandwich; families may seek out Scottish labels on food and drink at the supermarket or visit their local butcher or baker – the possibilities are endless.

“Just one change can make a huge difference, so please do get involved and let us know what you are doing to support the Fortnight. We’ll be offering a prize at the end of the Fortnight to the person we deem to have been the most dedicated supporter of the campaign on social media and who has best embraced the #onethingfortnight ethos. Journalists and bloggers will also be in the running for their own prize if they show their support!”

Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2017 will be officially launched at the start of September at an event in Glasgow at which more detail will be unveiled.


Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight highlights the abundance of quality food and drink available in Scotland, some of the best in the world, and encourages people to discover, appreciate and enjoy it.
There are many things you can do to help the campaign come to life. Here are some ideas:

  • Try a new Scottish product and share what you tried on social media using the hashtags #scotfoodfort and #onethingfortnight
  • Look to see if there’s just one thing you could change on your weekly shopping list that would benefit the Scottish food and drink industry at the same time and share with #onethingfortnight
  • Celebrate your local farmer or fishermen by visiting your local butcher or fishmonger
  • Attend one of the dozens of foodie events taking place throughout the country over coming weeks
  • Ask your local café or restaurant if they can use more Scottish produce on their menu

Remember, we are simply asking you to select just one thing (#onethingfortnight) that you can do this year which will make a positive contribution towards the Scottish food and drink industry.

Then simply share your #onethingfortnight experiences, activities and photos with us on social media, or via email, or with the media, so that we can all celebrate Scottish food and drink together. Email and join the conversation on Twitter using #scotfoodfort and #onethingfortnight.

Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2017 will be officially launched at the start of September at an event in Glasgow at which more detail about the themes will be unveiled. To receive updates, please email

Further information about the Fortnight can be obtained from or by emailing