Edinburgh is the hottest place in Scotland

FORECASTERS say temperatures on the east coast of Scotland could soar to 24C on Monday, eclipsing a record that has stood since 1999.

The May Day heatwave comes after Edinburgh basked in temperatures of 22.3C on Sunday making it the hottest place in Scotland.

It’s going to be even hotter south of the border where temperatures could hit 28C, making it the hottest Bank Holiday Monday in 40 years.

The May Bank Holiday was introduced in 1978 and the temperature has never topped the 28C mark since then.

The weather is set to become mixed as the month progresses, and the May 19 wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle draws near.

Met Office forecaster Charlie Powell said: “It looks like we should be prepared for some pretty changeable weather throughout the second half of May.

“We’re still going to see some dry days, but there’s still going to be some wet days mixed in as well.”

Referring to the day of the eagerly anticipated wedding, Mr Powell added: “We’ve got this idea that there could be some warmer spells, most likely across the south and east of England, so at least that bodes well for wedding locations and things like that.”

He said temperatures will generally be above normal, but this will depend on whether it is a sunny day or a sunny wetter day.

“So it doesn’t look like it’s going to carry on in a similar kind of vein to high pressure in charge, sunshine, light winds, high temperatures, that we have now.

“Neither does it look like it’s going to be a complete washout, horrible end to the month of May.

“But I think we can expect things to be not as warm as they are now, but also not as dry as they are now,” he said.

Mr Powell added: “Fingers crossed it all kind of ties in with one of the drier days.”

Looking at temperatures for Bank Holiday Monday, the forecaster said the highs of 28C were not going to be widespread.

“That’s going to be the exception rather than the rule. I think for most places, if you take the bulk of England and Wales for example, we’re looking at somewhere around the low to mid 20s mark,” he said.

Meanwhile, Southern Rail advised passengers for Brighton and the South Coast not to travel on Sunday due to overcrowding.

Replacement buses were also provided due to engineering works, and at one point National Rail said there was a two-hour wait to board a bus at Gatwick Airport.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers will rightly be frustrated to find they can’t travel on the bank holiday weekend.

“These works and the weather were no surprise – so why has Southern failed to provide enough rail replacement buses?”



What’s happening with education in Scotland?

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Education Secretary John Swinney has shelved his promised Education Bill, instead striking a deal with local authorities. Here, we raise and answer key questions on why, how and what next.

Who is part of the deal?

Why is there a need for a deal?

Both the government and local councils say they have a “shared ambition” to close the “unacceptable gap in attainment between our least and most disadvantaged children and to raise attainment for all”.

In their joint agreement they say: “We are clear that our vision of excellence and equity cannot be achieved by one part of the system alone: all partners must work together in a collegiate and collaborative way, keeping the interests of children and young people front and centre.”

What’s the principle behind the deal?

Legislation on its own “cannot transform the culture, capacity and structure of Scottish education and that further discussion on other levers for change is needed and supported”.

The deal said that “system-wide improvement” required strong leadership, collaborative working and clarity of purpose at “all layers” – school, local, regional and national.

The majority of decisions should be made at school level because “head teachers are the leaders of learning and teaching in their school”.

However, where “statutory, financial, or contractual obligations” are breached local authorities should intervene.

So, if this is about empowering head teachers, what powers will they get?

  • They will “design” their local curriculum in line with Curriculum for Excellence
  • Head teachers will be responsible for deciding their school’s “improvement priorities” and enact a plan based on those priorities
  • They will choose their own staff with regard to employment law and the contractual obligations of their local authority
  • And head teachers will make decisions on how to spend their budgets

What’s the role of local authorities?

  • Head teachers must work collaboratively with the local authority – plus staff, parents and pupils – on curriculum design and improving learning and teaching
  • Local authorities will be able to intervene should any statutory duty or contractual obligation be in breach
  • And councils will continue to be responsible for the local authority education budget and the delegation of funding to schools.

What’s the role of pupils and parents?

Head teachers will have to work “collaboratively with their parent council, and wider parent forum and wider community on substantive matters of school policy and improvement”.

They must also ensure that “children and young people participate meaningfully in their own learning, in decision-making relating to the life and work of the school; and in the wider community”.

Why shelve the education bill?

In his statement to parliament, he said: “The Scottish government and Scotland’s local councils have reached an agreement that endorses and embraces the principles of school empowerment and provides clear commitment to a school – and teacher-led – education system.

“And it does so without the need to wait 18 months for an Education Bill.”

The upshot is Mr Swinney believes change can happen “more quickly” with an agreement than it can with legislation.

Why not just ditch it?

The Education Bill has been introduced in “draft” form because Mr Swinney says that “if sufficient progress is not made over the next 12 months to deliver the empowerment of schools” he will return to Holyrood and see the bill through its legislative stages.

What have opposition parties said?

“Shambles” was the word used by both the Scottish Tories and Scottish Labour.

Tory MSP Liz Smith said she was “astonished” by the statement. “I have only one question: is the cabinet secretary not embarrassed by this complete shambles of a U-turn?” Mr Swinney said he was not.

In his chamber response, Labour MSP Iain Gray said: “Well what a shambles indeed.”

He added: “At the eleventh hour his [Mr Swinney’s] flagship legislation has sailed off into the sunset.”

Mr Gray believed the agreement was “cobbled together last minute”.

“The only thing being fastracked here is the mother of all minsterial climb downs,” he added.

What happens next?

The work by local authorities and senior offices in the Scottish government begins now. During the 2018-19 academic year, local authorities have agreed to complete a “self-evaluation of school empowerment in their local area”.

Progress will be monitored each term by educational support body Education Scotland.



Cafe chain raises £4million to tackle homelessness in Scotland

More than £4 million has been raised in a festive fundraiser to tackle homelessness in Scotland.

Social Bite cafes across the country open up to serve Christmas dinner today and give out presents to people affected by the issue.

Its festive fundraising campaign, working with Itison, as well as the Sleep In The Park gig in Edinburgh helped raise more than £4m.

A Social Bite spokesman said: “Thank you so much to every single person that slept out or donated a Christmas dinner and raised so much money for Scotland’s homeless people.

“You have simultaneously registered your disgust at the system that results in people becoming homeless in such large numbers, as well as your love and affection for people with no place to call a home of their own.

Amy Macdonald and Frightened Rabbit.

John Cleese performed a bedtime story while Bob Geldof slept out and addressed the audience.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Communities Secretary Angela Constance and Housing Minister Kevin Stewart also spent the night in the gardens.

The organisation has premises in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

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West Lothian pup first in Scotland for pioneering heart surgery

A LABRADOR puppy will have a life-saving £10,000 op to fix his broken heart.

Dexter will become the first pooch in Scotland to undergo the pioneering surgery to repair a cardiac valve.

Owner Fiona Kilanowski, 54, from Dalkeith, Midlothian, Edinburgh, said: “It is expensive, but we feel Dexter deserves a chance to live. He is a young dog just at the beginning of his life.”

Dexter will be taken to the Royal Veterinary College in London for the six-hour op next Monday.

He’ll have a theatre full of highly specialised vets whose work mirrors that of human heart patients.

They will include two cardiac surgeons, two anaesthetists, a perfusionist to operate the by-pass machine, two scrub nurses and a team of cardiologists waiting to monitor him after surgery.

The family pet was diagnosed with heart failure shortly after his first birthday in November.

Fiona, a research assistant, said the shock diagnosis came after Dexter became overwhelmed by exhaustion after a short walk in the park.

She said: “Until then Dexter loved to run about and could walk for hours before tiring.

“But even chasing a ball made him struggle for breath.

“We took him to our local vet who referred him to the Royal School of Vet Studies in Edinburgh.

“There tests revealed he had an unusual heart valve defect.

“It was not allowing enough oxygenated blood to circulate through his body.

“Most dogs with this defect die within months, we have been told.

“We were absolutely devastated and not ready to lose Dexter.

“We asked if anything could be done to save him and it was then we learned of the pioneering surgery in London.

Fiona’s daughters Kirsty and Zoe are trying to raise half the amount through an online fundraiser called Fix Dexter’s Broken Heart. So far they’ve raised £1,960. Kirsty, 27, said: “Dexter is currently being kept alive on heart drugs. Even with these, he struggles to walk and is spending more and more of his time sleeping.

“He is desperately trying to be a pup but can’t be.

“We just want him to get better.

“Sadly, our pet insurance does not cover the surgery.”

Next Monday, Dexter will undergo the six-hour surgery headed up by vet heart surgeon, Professor Dan Brockman.

It will be carried out with a by-pass machine exactly like that used in human heart surgery.

Professor Brockman said: “Dexter will be the first Scottish dog to undergo the technique. Without surgery he would most likely die before his second birthday.

“The surgery is not without risks but is Dexter’s best chance of survival.

“We have only carried it out on two dogs previously.”




Alex McLeish calls for patience as jeers greet Scotland loss

Alex McLeish has called for understanding in response to Scotland’s defeat against Costa Rica but admits they must improve to achieve his ultimate goal of qualification for the Euro 2020 finals.

Marcos Urena’s 14th-minute goal earned Costa Rica a repeat of the famous scoreline they recorded when stunning Scotland in the opening match of the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy.

Jeers from the Tartan Army in a crowd of just over 20,000 greeted the final whistle as McLeish suffered a loss in the first match of his second stint in charge of the national team.

It was the first of five friendly matches Scotland will play before the inaugural Uefa Nations League campaign begins in September. The Scots’ next assignment is against Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday night.

On a night when he handed debuts to five players – Scott McKenna, Scott McTominay, Kevin McDonald, Oli McBurnie and Jamie Murphy – McLeish expressed his hope the circumstances of the occasion would be taken into account.

“I would expect common sense to prevail,” said McLeish. “I was disappointed with the first half but much more pleased with the second half. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t. There is a process and I want my record to be good. I’m disappointed with the defeat. We have to nullify the perception it’s the same old Scotland. We need to show that with not only competitive performances, but also winning performances. It’s easy to talk but we are looking for improvement.

“We were off the pace in the first half. We didn’t get the tempo I wanted. We were halfway there but never quite the full way in terms of pressing.

“The second half was much better. With the new caps, there’s not a lot of fluidity in the team compared to Costa Rica who have been together a couple of years.

“It reminded me of playing a League Cup game as a club manager and rotating your squad. It looks good on paper but they don’t have the rhythm of guys playing regularly.

“I see some good things and some not so good things. I’ll look at that before the game against Hungary.

“It was common sense that we looked at some new young players. We have seen some great club form from them. There were a few who did really well and those where the pluses. I do have to get the right system and personnel. ”

Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez was satisfied with his team’s display as they prepare for this summer’s World Cup finals. “I was especially happy with the first half, we were good in possession and also on the counter-attack,” said Ramirez. “We managed the pace 
of the game well and that’s something we will have to do at the World Cup.”




Wild wolves could return to Scotland to control deer numbers

Bringing back packs of wild wolves to Scotland has been suggested as a natural solution for controlling increasing numbers of red deer, which are causing a major over-grazing problem in parts of the Highlands.

Bringing back packs of wild wolves to Scotland has been suggested as a natural solution for controlling increasing numbers of red deer, which are causing a major over-grazing problem in parts of the Highlands.

Current high red deer populations are preventing tree growth and ecosystem restoration in certain areas, with more than a third of all native woodlands in poor condition because of herbivore impacts.

Now a team of scientists has found that reintroducing wolves could help keep deer numbers down but they should be kept inside large fenced enclosures and their numbers managed for the move to be most effective.

The researchers say restricting the freedom of the wolves would allow denser populations of the animals to build up, which would make them more efficient at hunting deer.

It would also limit potential encounters with local residents and farm animals.

Dr Christopher Sandom, lecturer in biology at the 
University of Sussex, has a particular interest in rewilding.

He said: “Reintroducing the wolf has long been suggested as part of the solution to large red deer populations but there will always be concerns about how wolves interact with people in any rewilding project like this.

“This research shows that they could actually have an extremely beneficial impact in terms of making the rewilding process more effective.”

The paper suggests that a reintroduction of grey wolves, also known as timber wolves, could also have major benefits for wildlife tourism and associated jobs in Scotland.

Dr Sandom added: “Fences are a common but unpopular tool in biodiversity conservation and would ideally be avoided. But where there are conflicting interests, compromise is needed.

“Fences particularly constrain animal dispersal but as Britain is an island, this is less of a problem.

“A fenced reserve in Scotland could be a fantastic opportunity to return large predators to Britain, ecologically restore a large part of the Scottish Highlands, and promote tourism.”



Scotland ranked third in the world for female political empowerment

Scotland ranks third in the world for political empowerment for women, according to new analysis.

Research by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) found Scotland follows Iceland and Nicaragua in terms of female political empowerment while the UK is ranked 13th.

Analysts studied the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017 which measures political empowerment by the number of women in parliament, in ministerial office and as head of government over time.

The UK ranked 17th in the world but Scotland was not included in the report, so SPICe analysts studied the data to discover where Scotland would be placed.

They found Scotland would be placed at 27th in the world in terms of the number of women in parliament, with a female to male MSP ratio of 0.55. The UK is placed 38th.

The analysis shows Scotland comes in at number seven in its number of women to men at ministerial level, after six countries took joint first place – Bulgaria, Canada, France, Nicaragua, Slovenia and Sweden, while the UK is 23rd.

For the number of years with a female head of state over the past 50 years, Scotland is placed 14th while the UK takes the number eight spot.

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said: “100 years after some women gained the right to vote, women are still fighting for equal representation in politics.

“But this new analysis shows that Scotland is leading the way on women’s representation – with Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s first female First Minister leading a gender-balanced Cabinet.

“However, despite the huge progress made in the last century, we still need to go further to achieve true equality. The SNP will continue to work towards a Scotland where every girl and woman can reach her full potential and we will always use every power at our disposal to reach that goal.”




Celebrities back total ban on fox hunting in Scotland

Celebrities have backed a campaign for a total ban on fox hunting in Scotland.

Comedian Ricky Gervais, television presenter and naturalist Chris Packham, conservationist Bill Oddie and actor Peter Egan are all supporting the bid led by the League Against Cruel Sports, OneKind and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

The charities have organised a march next month in Edinburgh city centre to highlight the issue.

Fox hunting with dogs was banned in Scotland through the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act in 2002, with an exemption for using dogs to flush out foxes for pest control or protecting livestock or ground-nesting birds.

Mounted hunts in Scotland have since offered farmers, landowners and estate managers a pest control service, but a review by Lord Bonomy found there were “grounds to suspect” fox hunting takes place illegally and he recommended having independent monitors to police hunts.

The charities believe the Act is “insufficient” and have been campaigning for it to be improved to close “loopholes” that allow for traditional hunting.

The League Against Cruel Sports has also released video footage it claims shows Scottish hunts “causing panic” among flocks of sheep.

Gervais said: “It is utterly sickening that the primitive, horrific pastime of chasing foxes with packs of hounds is still happening routinely in this country with little or no means of bringing to justice those who inflict such cruelty on wildlife.

“The Scottish Government has an opportunity to make this appalling ‘sport’ go away so it’s high time it stopped dragging its feet and got on with improving the law to ban fox hunting once and for all.”

Packham added: “It is quite staggering that in this day and age we live in a country where people go out with the intention of terrorising wild animals by chasing them to the point of exhaustion and brutally killing them.

“Sadly in Scotland the law has proven not to be sufficient to stop this horrific behaviour.

“I wholeheartedly support the League Against Cruel Sports and OneKind in their campaign calling on the Scottish Government to strengthen the law to make sure fox hunting is really banned in Scotland.

“Fox hunting has no place in modern society and now is the time to put it firmly where it belongs – in the past.”

The Scottish Government has consulted on Lord Bonomy’s recommendations with analysis currently under way on the responses.




Scotland tops UK’s unavoidable death rate list

Politicians have expressed concern at Scotland’s “shamefully high” avoidable death rate after new analysis showed it is the highest in the UK.

Research conducted by the BBC found that Scotland’s avoidable death rate is rising with experts blaming poverty, drinking, smoking and poor diet for the increase.

According to the most recent figures, Scotland’s avoidable death rate was 301 deaths per 100,000 people in 2016 compared with 287 in 2014.

Scotland’s rate was greater than other UK countries with the figure for England standing at 218 per 100,000.

In Wales it was 257 per 100,000 and in Northern Ireland it stood at 241 per 100,000 in 2016.

Although Scotland has the highest rate overall as a nation, the worst rates in the UK could be found in the most deprived parts of Belfast where it was as high as 517 per 100,000 people.

Avoidable deaths are defined as those of people under the age of 75 from causes which can be overcome in the presence of “timely and effective healthcare” or “public health interventions”.

Included in the list are deaths from conditions such as heart disease, some cancers, respiratory diseases and type 2 diabetes – where lifestyle and environment may have contributed.

The list includes those that could have been prevented such as HIV/Aids, accidental and self-inflicted injuries, rubella and various infections and drug use disorders.

The Scottish rate of 301 per 100,000 avoidable deaths suggests almost 16,000 men and women died before their time north of the border.

The BBC research, based on data from the Office of National Statistics, the National Records of Scotland and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, found the rate was higher for men (376) than for women (232). North Ayrshire had the highest rate (373) and Shetland the lowest (197).

Dr Andrew Fraser, of NHS Health Scotland, said: “We know that people in poorer areas experience more harm from alcohol, tobacco and fast food than those in more affluent areas. Part of the reason for this is that it is easier to access the things that harm our health in those areas.”

Alison Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Greens’ health spokesperson, said: “Tackling such a shamefully high avoidable death rate must go beyond measures taken by the NHS.All parties have a duty to be more forensic in their analysis of what’s happening in more deprived communities.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said it was committed to tackling poverty, smoking and obesity.




Leader comment: Scotland must not fail its most vulnerable children

Campigners call for an extra £70m to ensure children with additional support needs actually get it.

The idea that every child should attend a mainstream school – regardless of whether they have disabilities, learning difficulties or behavioural problems – is a laudable one.

Scotland should be proud that 95 per cent of children with additional support needs (ASN) attend schools just like everyone else their age.

But such children do, quite obviously, need additional support and that has to be paid for.

If they are not getting they support they need, that is, most importantly, a problem for them. If they end up being taught in a segregated class and having different break times to the other pupils, it rather defeats the purpose of being in a mainstream school. A lonelier education is hard to imagine.

But it can also be a problem for teachers, particularly if they have not been given sufficient training, and for classmates if a child gets upset or becomes disruptive in some way. A coalition of groups involved in children’s services is now sounding the alarm over falling amounts of money being spent on additional support – down 11 per cent in just three years – amid a rise in the numbers of ASN children in mainstream schools of nearly 50 per cent in six years. These groups say that about £70 million is needed to ensure ASN children are given the support they need. One head, Kenny Graham, of Falkland House School, said families with ASN children were facing an “uphill struggle” to get additional support because of the combination of rising numbers and falling budgets.

That is simply not good enough. As Mr Graham quite rightly said: “Mainstreaming should not simply mean entering the gates of a local school.”

The Scottish Government cannot continue with a policy it is not prepared to fund properly.

Doubtless reversing it would result in negative headlines if children ended up being sent back to specialist institutions.

That might even end up costing more money. But it would be better than the current situation appears to be. However, £70m does not seem like a huge amount of money to ensure the current admirable policy can continue.

Austerity has produced many tough choices and councils have been particularly hard hit.

But ensuring our most vulnerable children have a place in society and are looked after properly is surely a priority.