Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

See the Scottish Senior Open for free this August

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The Scottish Senior Open, one of the most enduring events on the European Senior Tour, celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer – and admission for spectators in 2017 will be free of charge.


Some of the leading names in European senior golf, including past Ryder Cup captains, are set to play at the spectacular Renaissance Club, situated between Gullane and North Berwick in the heart of Scotland’s Golf Coast.

That impressive stretch of East Lothian golfing territory will be hosting the event for the third successive year, from August 4-6, with the first 36 holes contested over the popular Alliance Pro-Am format where amateur players are paired with a professional.


The final round on Sunday, August 6 will be for pros only, with the winner taking home a cheque for £37,500 from the prize fund of £250,000.


Entrance to the only European Tour event in the Lothians region in 2017 will be free to everyone, with a nominal charge being made for car parking, situated just a short walk from the first tee and 18th at the internationally-acclaimed Tom Doak-designed course.


Cars with solo occupancy will be charged £5 per day, while vehicles with one or more passenger will pay £10. All proceeds will be donated to the official event charity, which will be determined at a later date.


Sponsorship opportunities, including information on securing a place in the Alliance Pro-Am, are currently available for this year’s Scottish Senior Open. For all enquiries, email


The impressive venue, situated between Gullane and North Berwick, is easily accessed by road and rail, with a regular train service between North Berwick and Edinburgh and bus stops outside the venue on the A198.


The Scottish Senior Open was first played at Royal Aberdeen in 1993 and has been contested every year subsequently. Tommy Horton, the inaugural winner, and Barry Lane in 2010 and 2011, are the only players to have won the title more than once. Europe’s winning Ryder Cup captain, Sam Torrance, will be attempting to add to his 2006 victory while England’s Paul Eales, who triumphed at close-by Archerfield Links in 2016, will defend his title.


Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events with VisitScotland said: “Scotland is the Home of Golf with a proud history of hosting the game’s biggest tournaments and we are delighted to once again be supporting the Scottish Senior Open. The stunning East Lothian coastline will provide a fitting backdrop to the event and with free entry we hope that strong crowds will turn out to support some of the biggest names in senior golf on Scotland’s Golf Coast.”

John McMillan, East Lothian Council Provost and Spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism, said: “To host the Scottish Senior Open on the occasion of its 25th anniversary is a real honour for East Lothian.

“The Renaissance Club is, of course, one of the newer jewels in the crown of Scotland’s Golf Coast and has further enhanced our global reputation for having a mix of beautiful and challenging courses.

“With spectator admission being free of charge we are hopeful that an even bigger crowd will be drawn to the event. And with so much else to see and do on the venue’s doorstep, visitors can be sure of a warm welcome while sampling the delights and hospitality of East Lothian.”

David MacLaren, Head of the European Senior Tour, said: “We are delighted to offer free admission to the Scottish golfing public this August. Renaissance Club is a wonderful venue and the event promises a great inside-the-ropes experience for the amateurs taking part, while the 25th anniversary edition of the Scottish Senior Open promises great action and excitement.”


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Gardening enthusiasts up and down the country are being urged to keep their eyes open for golden tickets to Gardening Scotland 2017.

The organisers of the national outdoor living event, which takes place from 2nd-4th June 2017 at the Royal Highland Showground, Ingliston, will plant 25 golden tickets in a number of garden centres and plant nurseries which are exhibiting at this year’s show.  The golden envelopes contain fantastic prizes such as pairs of free tickets and packets of plant seeds.

Those keen to get their hands on the prizes are being urged to monitor Gardening Scotland’s twitter feed (@gardenscotland) for clues and tips on where to find them.  The envelopes will be planted from week commencing 22 May – two weeks before the start of the show – in nurseries from Renfrewshire to Fife, the Lothians and Dumfries & Galloway.

Jimmy Gilchrist, Gardening Scotland’s chairman said:

“Gardening Scotland is just like Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory for plant enthusiasts and nature lovers.  That’s what gave us the idea of planting golden tickets to the show.  We hope potential visitors enjoy hunting for the prizes – keep an eye on our twitter feed for more information coming soon!”

Now in its 18th year, Gardening Scotland is a celebration of all things related to the great outdoors. It is the biggest plant fair in Scotland and will take place from Friday 2nd until Sunday 4th June 2017.

Promising to provide everything from an abundance of beautiful plants to tools, equipment, garden furniture and all the inspiration you could need to make your garden grow, Gardening Scotland is a great day out.