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.


Livingston boxer Martin Taylor signs deal with MTK Scotland

Livingston boxer Martin Taylor says he’s determined to make up for lost time after signing a three-year deal with promoters MTK Scotland.

The super-lightweight goes straight into action as part of the Christmas Cracker card in Paisley on December 16 and he says he’s looking forward to getting back in the ring after a lengthy period on the sidelines.

He commented: “It’s a new start for me and I’m totally buzzing to be fully fit and properly training again. It’s good to be in that routine of getting ready for a fight and having a goal to achieve because it’s been around 18 months since my last fight so it’s been a frustrating time for me.

Read more: Livingston youngster Craig Henderson calls debut “dream come true”

“The three-year contract gives me a bit of security and tells me that MTK are serious about helping me advance in my career because it’s been really stop-start so far with a lack of fights and a couple of injuries.

“I spoke to Sam Kynoch at MTK and he’s wanting me to get a few bouts quickly under my belt before making the jump. We’re not really wanting to tread water for long. It’s time to get going.

“It’s almost like being back at the start, but I’m confident that after a bit of rust I can start making real progress pretty quickly and Sam has said that’s what he wants me to do so we’re on the same page.”

Read more: Dylan Mackin fires Livingston into Scottish Cup fourth round

He added: “It’s going to be a terrific show to start out my MTK career with. There’s going to be some brilliant fights so it’s one I’m looking forward to, even as a fan of the sport, but to be involved and get back out there is going to be pretty special.

“It’s the biggest show I’ve been involved in and it’s what MTK do, they’re the top promoters in Scotland so it’s a huge opportunity for me. It’s really the place to be and there was no chance of me turning it down.”

Taylor will put his unbeaten record (4-0) on the line against Rhys Saunders and admits he’s confident that he can start the latest phase of his career in style.

Read more: Martin Taylor remains unbeaten after comfortable win in Grangemouth

He said: “I’m wanting to get a good run at things and I’m confident that’s what I can do and obviously starting off with a win would be ideal.

“I don’t really know too much about Rhys but I just concentrate on myself.

“I feel really sharp and I’ve been sparring well and training with Willie Downie who’s set me up with great sparring sessions with guys like Charlie Flynn.

“I’m just working on getting fit and being prepared. I’m sure there will be a bit of rust when I get in the ring because it’s just not the same as sparring but I’m confident I can get rid of that quickly and put on a show.”

Martin would like to thank his sponsors Crossfit Bathgate, Bushman Ink, Bathgate Family Chiropractic and RCA Garage for their continue support.



Number of high street bookmakers in Scotland in decline

The number of high street bookmakers in Scotland continues to decline despite the popularity of fixed odd betting terminals (FOBT), industry figures have revealed.

Around 90 betting shops closed in the period from 2011-2016, mainly as a result of independent operators exiting the off-course market as the ‘big four’ firms consolidated their grip.

But the continuing growth of online gambling, fuelled by smartphone usage, has helped offset a drop in over the counter betting. Strong online trading has helped gambling companies post growing profits, with Ladbrokes Coral Group reporting a seven per cent rise in first-half operating profit last year.

Now the industry is nervously awaiting the outcome of a UK Government consultation on the use of controversial FOBTs, which offer computerised casino games such as roulette and blackjack. The machines are widely played in betting shops and have become an increasingly important source of revenue for the industry.

Campaigners want to see the maximum unit stake on such games to be reduced from £100 to £2 in a bid to reduce problem gambling. One report suggested that for every betting shop in the Glasgow, a total of £156,000 disappears from players using FOBTs.

Dumbarton Road, in the Partick area of the city, is believed to have the highest concentration of high street bookmakers in the country – with seven shops on a stretch less than a mile long.

SNP MP Ronnie Cowan has urged the UK government to “get on” with proposals to reduce the maximum unit stake.

“I urge the UK Government now to get on with announcing their proposals on reducing the maximum unit stake on FOBTs and other measures to address gambling related harm,” he said.

But Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said its members made a “valuable contribution” to the Scottish economy, supporting almost 5,000 jobs north of the Border.

The industry body claims the recent political focus on FOBT accounts for just 13 per cent of gambling spend.

“Betting shops are continuing to close across Scotland, with the loss of jobs, taxes, rent and rates,” said Donald Morrison, spokesman for the ABB.

“Smaller independents have been hit particularly hard but even larger operators are finding market conditions difficult as more and more people switch to other gambling platforms. Nevertheless, our members continue to make a valuable contribution to the Scottish economy, supporting almost 5,000 jobs and contributing more than £115 million in taxes and business rates, and many more millions in terms of salary costs and rents – money that is re-invested back into local economies.

“However, given the shift in the market it is likely that, even without further regulation, shop closures will continue in the coming years, and if there is a significant cut in stakes on FOBTs, this will accelerate the decline of betting shops with half the retail estate forced to close and the loss of up to 2,500 jobs in Scotland.

“The focus on FOBTs is entirely disproportionate, given that they account for just 13 per cent of all gambling spend. Gaming machines were introduced to betting shops almost 20 years ago and are popular with customers, the vast majority of whom play responsibly. Levels of problem gambling have remained statistically stable over this period, but we are nevertheless determined to do more to identify and support those at risk.

“In the past year, ABB has funded counselling support for gamblers in Glasgow, worked with schools and youth groups across the west of Scotland to educate young people about the risks associated with problem gambling and organised a community responsible gambling campaign in Inverness.

“A draconian cut in stakes will cause huge economic harm but will do nothing to reduce problem gambling. Customers will simply switch from the safe, controlled environment of the local betting shop, where there are trained staff and industry leading tools to monitor player behaviour, to other forms of gambling that offer fewer safeguards.”


17 pictures of the snow in Scotland

17 white pictures of Scotland after this week’s ‘snow bomb’

When it comes to snow, Scotland knows how to do it

Snow scottish borders

GettyAndrew Milligan/PA Images

The new year has brought with it a variation of weather conditions across the UK.

On Wednesday 17th January, the Met Office said parts of northern England and southern Scotland could expect snow, predicting 3 to 8cm in some places. “Over higher ground, as much as 20cm” was predicted. Drivers in the area have been encouraged to proceed with “extreme caution”, and avoid driving where possible. All schools in the Scottish Border are closed today (Thursday 18th), according to the BBC.

Here are a selection of pictures of where the snow hit the hardest. Despite its inconvenience for some, it isn’t half beautiful…


snow in holyroodhouse scotland

Snow on the grounds of the royal residence of the Palace of Holyroodhouse

GettyDavid Cheskin/PA Images


Keeping the snow theme going while this weather lasts, a cold snowy scene over the fields heading towards Gorebridge, Midlothian. Lovely to look at but not so good if you need to travel in it, stay safe! Lewis ☃️😀



snow in Stirling Scotland

The snowfall on the hills outside of Stirling

The Scottish Borders

Snow scottish borders

A snow covered farm near Lauder

GettyAndrew Milligan/PA Images


children sledge snow in scotland

Children play with their sledge in Leadhills

the snow in scotland january

A man clears snow from his front door in Leadhills

snow in scotland

A man walks through the snow in Leadhills, Scotland


The Highlands


Dumfries and Galloway

Snow in Scotland

Snow covered houses in Scotland’s highest village of Wanlockhead