http://www.newspeak.org.uk/2009/05/13/british-national-party-voters-dont-exist/

more to come on this….

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Edinburgh switches off for Earth Hour

earthhour

Earth Hour in Edinburgh

by Annabel Cooper

Major city landmarks and public buildings were plunged into darkness for an hour on Saturday night as Edinburgh joined 830 cities around the world for the World Wildlife Federation‘s (WWF) Earth Hour.

Edinburgh Castle, the Forth Rail Bridge, the Scott Monument and the National Galleries were among the public buildings taking part in the mass switch off. The synchronised blackout was staged to publicise the effects of climate change ahead of this week’s G20 summit. Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007 but this was the first year Edinburgh had taken part.

Council leader Jenny Dawe was instrumental in bringing the symbolic protest to the city. She said:

‘A colleague in the council had told me about Sydney 2007 and I thought it was such a great idea that I really wanted Edinburgh to take part this year. It’s a way of making people think about the environment and their part in making the world a better place to live.’

It was not only public buildings that took part in the protest. Standard Life and Lloyds Banking Group were among the commercial companies that lent their support to Edinburgh Earth Hour. They were also joined by thousands of homeowners across the capital who chose to sit it out in the dark, creating an unusually gloomy city scape.

Local taxi driver Jim McLelland was driving through the city on Saturday night. He said:

‘At first I thought there had been a power cut because so many houses were in darkness. It was only later that my kids told me it had all been planned. It really made me think about what it would be like if something like this happened for real.’

The protest comes at a good time for campaigners who hope climate change will not be knocked off the international agenda by financial woes at the G20 summit this week and at a time when the Scottish Government is looking to pass its Climate Change Bill. Edinburgh Council itself is also implementing its own Carbon Reduction Plan across the capital.

The Council plan unites public bodies and private contractors in enforcing the use of carbon reducing building materials and methods, building towards a carbon neutral future. The plan also outlines steps individual home owners can make to improve their own carbon footprint. Council Leader Jenny Dawe is adamant everyone can do their bit. She said:

‘We take the issue of climate change very seriously. As part of the carbon reduction plan , the council is working with developers to ensure that all new buildings aim to be carbon neutral. Edinburgh Council alone cannot save the world but if we can get as many other people as possible to buy into this agenda, then it will be all the better for the future.’

Click below to hear full interview with Council Leader Jenny Dawe


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‘Save Leith’ protestors take their campaign to the Council

Video: Watch ‘Save Leith’ campaigners face Forth Ports

 

The ‘Save Leith’ campaign moved up a gear today as protestors took over 4000 signed petitions to the council. The campaigners and their signatories object to plans by property developer Forth Ports to brand a new multi-million pound Leith development as Edinburgh Harbour.

With the backing of MSP Malcolm Chisholm, the Leithers delivered the signatures to Councillor Gordon Munro in time for a fresh set of talks between senior councillors and Forth Ports on Monday. The property giant had initially ignored pleas to change their plans but will meet council leader Jenny Dawe and Chief Executive Tom Atchison again in the wake of fresh protests.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said earlier in the week:

‘We are meeting with a representative of Forth Ports again on Monday. I think there is a way a compromise can be reached on the Leith name being incorporated. They have made their position clear but perhaps they weren’t aware of the strength of local feeling on the matter.’

That strength of feeling was apparent at City Chambers today and echoed by Councillor Gordon Munro. He said:

‘Leith has a unique identity that all Leithers are proud of and it seems silly to ignore that in this new development. The level of support for the campaign is fantastic and I will make sure the message is delivered loud and clear to the council leader so that she can pass this on to Forth Ports.’

The campaign has also received a strong support online. Over 700 facebook users have joined the ‘Save Leith Petition 2009’ group and their names were presented to the council alongside the petition. Online campaign co-ordinator Iain McGill said:

‘I am delighted by the level of online support but also by the attention the campaign is now getting. We have cross-party support from councillors and MSPs and now coverage from national press and television. Forth Ports will have to listen.’

But Forth Ports has said there was a misunderstanding regarding the naming of the development and that Leith Docks would remain as the umbrella name for the overall project. Spokesman, Bill Shaw said:

‘The name Edinburgh Harbour was chosen for this area of Leith Docks, which will include a cruise ship terminal, as it highlights the fact that Leith is the gateway into Scotland’s capital. Forth Ports is proud of the local Leith identityand local people have been consulted widely in the plans for this development.’

Forth Ports has yet to be granted planning permission for developing the area around Ocean Terminal. Their plans span a 144 hectare site and include nine ‘urban villages’ providing new homes, outdoor spaces and leisure facilities for residents and visitors.  The new international cruise terminal planned at Leith Docks makes up two of the planned ‘villages’ and forms the focal point of the development.

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Makars cash in on Shaw’s Millionairess

The Millionairess

Performed by the Edinburgh Makars

Adam House Theatre

***

Greedy bankers amassing wealth for wealth’s sake. An over-bearing dictatorial woman lording it over a gaggle of weak men.  And a host of extra-marital affairs. No, not the plot of another Thatcher-era period drama but the surprisingly modern themes from George Bernard Shaw’s The Millionairess, given a new lease of life by amateur theatre company the Makars.

 

Set in 1936, The Millionairess has all the hallmarks of a typical Bernard Shaw (of Pygmalion fame) play. Entrenched, immovable class structures, the miserly rich and the generous poor, failed cross-class relationships and mercenary marriages. It’s all about money, money, money.

Fast-forward seventy odd years and it’s still all about money, money, money.  Untrustworthy bankers, greed, excess and failure: you can find it all here in The Millionairess. No wonder then that with the banking system crashing around them, George Bernard Shaw’s prescient line ‘you can’t trust a bank with your money’, drew a wry chuckle from the audience.  

Despite the echoes of modernity, the Makars’ rendition was true to the original and was well received by the three-quarters full theatre. Played out against the backdrop of a fantastic period set and costume design and all dancing to the tune of jaunty pre-war gramophone music, the effect was like being transported back in time. The dreary greys of the furniture and upholstery clashing nicely with the bright costumes of the richer members of the cast.

This is a wordy play, with lots of subtleties and witty nuances but the Makars kept their audience well.  Jo Barrow’s Epifania dominated the stage for most of the performance but that was down to the actor’s competence as well as Bernard Shaw’s characterisation. Barrow’s performance was energetic and colourful and her lines were delivered clearly and skilfully despite a few minor hiccups.

The Millionairess is dominated by a single female character but also plays host to several other strong women managing to outmanoeuvre their men. Unfortunately, this imbalance was reflected in the acting as the female cast consistently outshone their male counterparts. The exception to the rule was the most down-trodden man of the lot, Epifania’s boyfriend- the dandyish Adrian. Like a character straight out of Oscar Wilde, he brightened up every scene with his foppish playfulness and razor-sharp wit. His line: ‘Why is it that the people who have no money are the ones who know how best to spend it?’ could have been lifted straight out of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.  It was so on the button it earned his character a thump.

Violence was another theme that continued to rear its ugly head in this play and for the most part it was the men who were on the receiving end. Epifania’s men were slapped, punched, bullied and even thrown down the stairs. And having been a little out-punched onstage tonight, the male members of the cast will surely use the two remaining performances to come out fighting.

The Millionairess at Adam House Theatre, March 13th – 16th

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Victory for Leith as Forth Ports scraps rebrand

It’s celebration time for the Save Leith campaign as Forth Ports announced they would scrap plans to name part of their Leith docks development ‘Edinburgh Harbour’. The area of Leith earmarked for a cruise terminal will instead be called ‘The Harbour, Leith Docks’. The announcement came after a final round of talks between the property developer and Edinburgh Council yesterday. Forth Ports had originally resisted any change to the branding of their multi million pound development but turned full circle last night amid strong opposition from Leith residents.

See full size imageChares Hammond, chief executive of Forth Ports, said:

 

“We have listened very carefully to the views expressed in the last couple of weeks and working closely with the City Council, we have taken these on board in arriving at the final decision to name this part of the overall development The Harbour, Leith Docks.”

 

Forth Ports had insisted that including Edinburgh in the name was vital to ensure the commercial success of the re-development which will include an international cruise terminal, restaurants, bars and hotels.  But local residents stood firm in their demands to retain their identity.

 

Save Leith campaigner and local politician Ian McGill was delighted by the turn around. He said:

“This is great news and exactly the result we wanted! It looks like Leith lives to fight another day!”
 
Council Leader Jenny Dawe chaired the talks with Forth Ports. She said
“Retaining ‘Leith’ in the name of the development  is very welcome.  Charles Hammond  and I had a very constructive meeting at which I presented the case for ‘Leith.’  Forth Ports has listened to the arguments, listened to the community and has made the right choice.”

 

Councillor Rob Munn, Deputy Lord Provost and Leith Councillor, was also present. He said:

“I am proud to have represented the Leith community’s strong feeling and to have helped protect an important part of Leith’s heritage.  Leith has a proud and prominent history as the major port of Edinburgh.  I am delighted that Forth Ports has listened to local residents and has ensured that the good name of Leith will be at the forefront of the economic success and prosperity that the Forth Ports development will deliver.”       

 

Forth Ports’ plans span a 144 hectare site at Leith Docks and include nine ‘urban villages’ providing new homes, outdoor spaces and leisure facilities for residents and visitors.  The new international cruise terminal makes up two of the planned ‘villages’ and forms the focal point of the development.

 

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‘Save Leith’ protesters take campaign to the Council

 

Video: Watch ‘Save Leith’ campaigners face Forth Ports

 

The ‘Save Leith’ campaign moved up a gear today as protestors took over 4000 signed petitions to the council. The campaigners and their signatories object to plans by property developer Forth Ports to brand a new multi-million pound Leith development as Edinburgh Harbour.

With the backing of MSP Malcolm Chisholm, the Leithers delivered the signatures to Councillor Gordon Munro in time for a fresh set of talks between senior councillors and Forth Ports on Monday. The property giant had initially ignored pleas to change their plans but will meet council leader Jenny Dawe and Chief Executive Tom Atchison again in the wake of fresh protests.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said earlier in the week:

‘We are meeting with a representative of Forth Ports again on Monday. I think there is a way a compromise can be reached on the Leith name being incorporated. They have made their position clear but perhaps they weren’t aware of the strength of local feeling on the matter.’

That strength of feeling was apparent at City Chambers today and echoed by Councillor Gordon Munro. He said:

‘Leith has a unique identity that all Leithers are proud of and it seems silly to ignore that in this new development. The level of support for the campaign is fantastic and I will make sure the message is delivered loud and clear to the council leader so that she can pass this on to Forth Ports.’

The campaign has also received a strong support online. Over 700 facebook users have joined the ‘Save Leith Petition 2009’ group and their names were presented to the council alongside the petition. Online campaign co-ordinator Iain McGill said:

‘I am delighted by the level of online support but also by the attention the campaign is now getting. We have cross-party support from councillors and MSPs and now coverage from national press and television. Forth Ports will have to listen.’

But Forth Ports has said there was a misunderstanding regarding the naming of the development and that Leith Docks would remain as the umbrella name for the overall project. Spokesman, Bill Shaw said:

‘The name Edinburgh Harbour was chosen for this area of Leith Docks, which will include a cruise ship terminal, as it highlights the fact that Leith is the gateway into Scotland’s capital. Forth Ports is proud of the local Leith identityand local people have been consulted widely in the plans for this development.’

Forth Ports has yet to be granted planning permission for developing the area around Ocean Terminal. Their plans span a 144 hectare site and include nine ‘urban villages’ providing new homes, outdoor spaces and leisure facilities for residents and visitors.  The new international cruise terminal planned at Leith Docks makes up two of the planned ‘villages’ and forms the focal point of the development.

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World welcomes first gay leader

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

 Iceland’s interim PM, Johanna Sigurdardottir

One month in and 2009 has already been a year for political firsts. As Barack Obama had barely settled himself into his new seat in the Oval Office, news broke that Icelandic politics was to have a pioneering leader of its own. The crippling financial crisis and ill health cut short Geir Haarde’s premiership and up-stepped former social affairs minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, to become the world’s first openly gay head of state. She will preside over a coalition of her social democratic party with the Left-Greens until the elections in May at least. What it is about Iceland and their new lesbian leader that has made this unprecedented appointment possible? And if they can do it, can the British do it too?

 

This small north Atlantic nation has always had a reputation for quietly progressive politics and was the first to elect a female head of state in 1980 when Vigdís Finnbogadóttir became its 4th president and served three terms as leader. Despite widespread coverage of this pioneering woman’s election in the 80s and a keen interest from the international press in Sigurdardottir’s promotion this week, Icelandic voters are bemused by the furore.  For them, “Saint Johanna” as she’s affectionately known, is the natural choice.

 

Sigurdardottir, 66, who lives with her journalist and playwright partner Jonina Leosdottir (the two were joined in a civil ceremony in 2002), has a long background in Icelandic liberal politics. Sigurdardottir is Iceland’s longest serving MP (30 years) and is the only minister to retain popularity in the wake of the country’s financial meltdown. As the banking system and national currency collapsed around them, a poll of voters in November last year gave Sigurdardottir a 73 per cent popularity rating. And to think of this in relation to her conservative predecessor Geir Haarde, whose politics prompted demonstrations unseen in the country for 50 years, gives a telling picture of the Icelandic people’s fondness for her.

 

“She is often described as the only politician to really care about the little guy,” wrote Icelandic journalist Iris Erlingsdottir in her blog this week. Sigurdardottir’s quiet and steady rise to power boasts a dedication to the welfare and equality of minority groups and unlike many other Icelandic politicians, she holds no “fancy foreign diplomas”, nor any extensive family or wealth connections. Three decades ago she was a flight attendant and a union official.

 

Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter and the UK’s first MP to be ‘out’ when elected, can see her appeal. He says:

“It’s telling that Icelanders have turned to such a candidate in these unstable financial times. Sigurdardottir represents a move towards the openness and transparency that was lacking in the political and financial systems in the West.”

 

It seems to make sense then that a country bruised by the murky world of finance would want to put its trust in the hands of such a ‘normal’ candidate. Yet in the eyes of the international press Sigurdardottir isn’t just any other ‘normal’ candidate. The world’s first gay head of state is big news around the world but not so in Iceland.

 

“Who cares?” writes journalist Iris Erlingsdottir. “No one has ever talked about Johanna (Icelanders always use first names) as a gay person.” She continues “she’s not hiding it, the name of her spouse is on her Parliament and Ministry web pages, it’s just that nobody cares.”

 

That’s not to say that Iceland is a byword for apathy. The explosive reaction of its people to the mistakes of the last government is testament to that. It’s just that politician’s sex lives don’t seem to bother the inhabitants of one of the oldest democracies in the world. Is it, therefore, this disregard for Sigurdardottir’s personal life that makes her appointment possible in the first place? And consequently does this mean that scandal-ridden Britain is unlikely ever to elect its own gay leader?

 

Angela Eagle, MP for Wallasey and Britain’s only lesbian member of parliament is in a unique position to comment. She says:

 

“There are big differences between the UK and Iceland that you must take into account when making a comparison. Iceland has a population the size of Bradford so maybe there’s less at stake. “Iceland has been through a period of great uncertainty and very sudden change and often in politics this can bring about new beginnings. In this case, a liberal-Green coalition government headed by a gay woman”

 

The former Treasury Committee member continues:

 

“I think British people are way ahead of the tabloids on this issue and they don’t regard being gay as a barrier for public officials. Since coming out I’ve been re-elected three times, so my sexuality certainly hasn’t stood in my way. There’s obviously much more to me as an MP and a person. But saying that I’m still the only gay woman in parliament, so if you want a lesbian PM, there’s only one choice!”

 

Look out Gordon Brown. Ben Bradshaw, Britain’s first ‘out’ MP at the time of his election is equally optimistic. He says:

 

“I think the UK has one of the most progressive legal frameworks in the world and we have in some ways been setting the standard for the rest of the world.” Bradshaw continues, ”in the right circumstances and with the right candidate there is no reason why Britain couldn’t have a gay leader. With Barack Obama leading the USA and Johanna Sigurdardottir driving Iceland, taboos are falling all over the world.”

 

The news from Iceland seems to confirm that the Western world is primed for taboo-breaking change and Sigurdardottir’s appointment is the same inevitable move to liberalism that swung it in her US counterpart’s favour. Although hers is a significant appointment, both she and Obama still have a lot to prove and ultimately they will both be judged and remembered by their actions in government and not by their sexuality or the colour of their skin. In the meantime, the world will be watching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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