Government “stole” events for Homecoming

By Cara Sulieman

THE SCOTTISH government has been accused of “stealing” annual events to add to their Homecoming 2009 programme.

It has been revealed that sixty per cent of the events planned during Homecoming are annual events that would be happening anyway.

Homecoming Advert

Labour, who originally came up with the idea for Homecoming when they were in power, have said that with a low budget it was impossible for new events to be organised.

And VisitScotland have been left with little choice but to re-brand existing events instead of creating a major showcase occasion.

The government has also been accused of taking successful annual local events and adding them to the expected £40 million tourism pot.

A Perth and Kinross councillor raised the issue during a committee meeting about their Homecoming plans.

Conservative Councillor Alan Jack said: “It is perhaps possible to be a little cynical about all of this. Is it the case that the Scottish Government are trying to hijack things a bit?

“Most of the events mentioned here have been held in Perth and Kinross very successfully for many years, regardless of Homecoming.”

The area is home to one of the most successful golf tournaments in Scotland, the Johnnie Walker Championship, held every year at Gleneagles.

Since it started in 1998, tens of thousands of people have flocked to watch some of golf’s finest players battle it out.

Politicians are now worried that it is too late to salvage what is left of Homecoming unless more money is spent on promoting the events.

Lewis Macdonald, Labour’s tourism spokesman, is worried about the way the SNP are organising and promoting the year of events.

He said: “More money needs to be put aside to promote Homecoming 2009. If we don’t start advertising in places like North America, it is going to become a very internal event.

“At this stage more marketing is all we can do. It would have been best to have a showcase event like a music festival or large cultural event, but it’s too late for that now.

“There has been much in the press about VisitScotland asking for a further £500,000 for marketing last July. If they had got it then they would’ve had enough money to organise a big event.

“Unfortunately, ministers didn’t approve the extra funding until December, when it was too late.”

The Johnnie Walker Championship isn’t the only well-established event to be re-branded with the Homecoming 2009 moniker.

The Magners Comedy Festival in Glasgow is also victim to such marketing, with much talk about the Homecoming theme at their launch event.

A spokeswoman said: “This year’s Festival is also proud to be part of Homecoming Scotland 2009, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth by welcoming back some of Scotland’s finest comedy talent, including Arnold Brown and Jerry Sadowitz, as well as showcasing a handpicked cast of New York stand ups, all with Scottish family ties.”

Hibs and Monty branded “losers”



By Cara Sulieman

TWO OF Scotland’s finest sporting institutions have been branded “losers” by a Canadian newspaper.

And one of them is surprisingly Colin Montgomerie – who was recently crowned European Ryder Cup Captain.

The Toronto Star has picked a list of ten teams and individuals from around the world who have a track record of losing in their chosen field.

Of the ten global flops highlighted by the paper, only two are from outside North America – and they hail from Scotland.

Colin Montgomerie and Hibernian Football Club are the two tragic Scots who crawled their way on to the list.

Garth Woolsey of the paper writes: “Ten teams and sports individuals who are remarkable for utterly failing over many, many years to win anything big.”

Hibs come in at number six as they haven’t won the Scottish cup in over 100 years, and Monty comes just behind at seven for never having won a major.

The news of Monty’s bad reputation across the water will come as a surprise to his fans who were overjoyed when he grabbed the Ryder Cup captaincy.

But Woolsey writes: “Widely described as ‘the best golfer never to have won a major,’ Monty, now 45, assumed the title once owned by Phil Mickelson.

“The Scot has enjoyed all sorts of success worldwide, with 40 pro victories, but his frustrations in the British Open, U.S. Open, Masters and PGA Championship have assumed the dimensions of a curse.

“In total, he has five second-place finishes, none more painful than the 2006 U.S. Open, when he sank a 75-foot putt on the 17th hole to tie for the lead but then double-bogeyed 18 to lose to Geoff Ogilvy.”

And of Leith’s football team, the Canadian is equally scathing.

He writes: “Pride of Edinburgh since 1875, the soccer team last won a Scottish Cup in 1902.

“Hibernian’s latest elimination from the tournament came earlier this month, a 2-0 loss to cross-town rival Heart of Midlothian F.C.”

But despite these claims of failure, Woolsey fails to mention that Hibs have won the CIS cup three times since it was introduced in 1947, the latest win being in 2007.

Hibernian FC were unable to comment on their success in the losers poll.

Entitled “Losers Inc: The biggest non-winners in sport” it was inspired by the recent surprising success of Arizona Cardinals, a team who have finally made it to the Super Bowl after over sixty years of failure.

Child thrown to safety from flat

fire escape

By Alexander Lawrie

A TERRIFIED mum was forced to throw her eight-month-old baby out of a first floor window as a fire threatened to rip through her home.

Lena Erskine, 36, and her three children were trapped by thick toxic smoke after a communal bin area caught fire at their home in Winchburgh, West Lothian.

Teenagers Manny, 14, and Zeeshan, 16, were able to jump to safety, but Lena had to drop her youngest child – baby Mackenzie – into the waiting arms of her neighbour.

Three fire crews raced to the scene of the blaze which broke out around 1am on Friday.

Last night, speaking from her smoke-damaged home, Lena thanked her hero neighbour Shane Steven, 34, for helping her family get out.

She said: “Without Shane’s help I dread to think what could have happened. Thanks to him everyone is alright and my family are all fine.

“My flat is right above the bin area and I heard a crackling sound just before 1am. I opened my front door but was forced back by thick black smoke.

“I started to panic because I knew we couldn’t get down the stairs and we were all trapped.

“I got all the kids up and herded them to the back of the house. We shouted for help and Manny and Zeeshan managed to jump down onto my neighbours hut – but I then realised I had no choice but to drop Mackenzie out.

“I was so worried, but I knew I just had to get my baby out of there.”

Luckily for the family, their neighbour had been alerted to the family’s shouts for help and clambered onto his shed roof in time to catch the terrified tot.

Lena, a door steward in West Lothian, said: “I thank god Shane was there to help us because I don’t know what I would have done without him. He really is a bit of a hero.”

The mum-of-three also had to lower her Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross Jade into Shane’s arms, but was forced to leave her cat and two cockatiels in the house as she made her own escape.

Fortunately all the animals survived – but the family home has been damaged by the smoke.

Lena also revealed the blaze – which is believed to have been started deliberately – is the fifth fire to have broken out in the bin area of the block in the last year.

She said: “We’ve had trouble in the past with groups of kids hanging about the stairwell. I don’t klnow for certain how this one started but let’s just say there is history here.”

Lena was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation but did not require hospital treatment.

Last night dad-of-six Shane insisted he was no hero.

He said: “I heard the fire through my wall and as I went outside I noticed all the smoke. I shouted up to Lena to hand me down her kids. Luckily everyone got out and nobody was hurt.

“I don’t feel like a hero – I just did what anyone else would do. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

A West Lothian police spokesman said: “We are treating this incident very seriously. This was a totally irresponsible thing for anyone to do that could have resulted in tragic circumstances. We would appeal to anyone that knows who is responsible for setting the fires or to anyone who saw anyone acting suspiciously to contact the Police”.

Cumming’s dream to see Obama naked


By Michael MacLeod

SELF-confessed willy expert Alan Cumming reckons Barack Obama has a big one.

The Scottish-turned-American actor says the new President is the one person he would most like to see naked.

But he admits his only evidence is his imagination and his own theory that Obama’s confidence is due to his penis size.

He said: “I’d like to see Obama naked; I have a theory and I would like to see if it is true.

The bisexual X-Men and GoldenEye star, originally from Aberfeldy in Perthshire, lives in New York and took up US citizenship just to vote for the Democrat.

But his plan backfired when immigration bosses failed to swear him in on time.

But there’s no doubt he’s still a big fan of Obama – or a fan of “big Obama,” if Cumming’s theory is to be believed.

Speaking at the launch of a photography book in Manhattan, he couldn’t help by fantasise about the new “big” man in the White House.

He said: “So much of male psyche is taken up with how big your cock is; it’s a huge deal in our lives, and so when you’re confident about your penis size, it shows.

“Well, just look at him. Just the way he’s so kind of elegant and very confident in his body and himself.


“I think great leaders, charismatic leaders and men who are so confident and who have achieved so much, usually have big penises.

“I think there’s a correlation between the level of confidence, the level of the way a man can hold a room and the way he conducts himself in life, with his penis size – with his comfort with his penis size.”

The Holywood superstar has long been open about his love for the male genitalia, and is even a patron of NORM-UK, a registered charity against circumcision.

Cumming admits he’s even had conversations with friends over the size of Obama’s bits, leaving him in no doubt.

He added: “Someone told me that they worked out with him in a gym in Chicago, and it was big.”

The film and screen superstar has his own range of body fragrance, as well as the suggestively named “Cumming All Over” body wash.

Mum to appeal tot death extradition

By Paul Thornton

A SCOTTISH mum is to appeal the decision to extradite her to Spain where she is to face a possible murder charge over the death of her young son.

Corina Reid

Corinna Reid, 33, is wanted by Spanish authorities after her 16-month-old child Aiden Cormack-Reid died from a methadone overdose while on a family holiday in Tenrife.

The child’s father Robert Cormack , 38, has accepted extradition and was last night flying to Spain.

An earlier hearing had heard how Cormack had left his prescription of the heroin substitute within reach of the toddler.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Miss Reid’s claim that a decision to take her to Spain would prevent her from nursing her six-month-old daughter – which would conflict with article eight of her human rights – was repelled.

Sheriff Frank Crowe said her right to a private and family life did not outweigh the public interest of extradition.

Aiden died on January 12, 2007 at the Paraiso Floral Hotel in the Adeje resort of Tenerife.hotel

An autopsy of the child revealed that he suffered an acute respiratory failure brought on by the ingestion of methadone and diazepam.

At the time of the child’s death Spanish authorities had told her and her partner that her son had died of respiratory failure brought on by bronchitis.

The couple returned to Edinburgh with Miss Reid believing their child had died of natural causes.

But in April 2008 a toxicology report revealed the drugs which had caused the youngster’s death and Cormack confessed the truth.

Miss Reid said she felt “sick, disgusted, horrified and angry” when she learned the child had died from a drug overdose.

The couple were arrested on January 7 this year after Spanish authorities sought to prosecute them for the manslaughter or murder of Aiden.

If convicted in Spain the couple could face as long as 20 years behind bars.

Last week Comrack withdrew his objection to the extradition and was flown to Spain via London yesterday.

A letter from him in support of Miss Reid’s objection to the extradition – detailing his account of the death – which was sent to Sheriff Crowe is also to be passed on to Spanish authorities.

Sheriff Crowe said the letter bore no relevance to Miss Reid’s objection.

Miss Reid’s lawyer, Ewen Roy, said he planned to appeal the decision to the High Court.

His client was allowed bail with the special conditions that she does not have any unsupervised contact with her daughter and does not apply for a passport.

After the hearing she declined to comment.

School’s poster boy denied place

By Cara Sulieman

A FOUR-YEAR-OLD boy has been told he won’t get a place at his local primary school – even though he is their poster boy.

Ryan Girdwood

Ryan Girdwood’s face can be seen on all of Fife council’s literature advertising the new community campus – which includes a school, nursery and leisure centre – in Duloch, Dunfermline.

And he even smiles down from a giant poster on the school’s wall after he was chosen for the pictures at an after-school club last year.

But now he has been told there won’t be a place for him at the primary school when he finishes nursery – and he’ll have to attend a school almost four miles away instead.

Last night, his furious mum Lauren, 29, blasted the council’s decision.

She said: “I just feel utter disgust at the way this has been handled. Ryan is a poster boy on the council leaflets and the sign promoting the Duloch facilities but he is not getting into the school.

“I was told Ryan could have a place at Inverkeithing Primary but there is no way he is going away there.”

And she told how it is not just her son who will be affected but a further 70 children in the area.

She said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous that they want to put young children who are just starting school on a bus to an area they don’t even know.

“The council can’t guarantee the kids’ safety and it just raises more questions than they can answer.”

The council plan to bus the children out to the school in Inverkeithing until a new school has been completed in Duloch.

But as yet, the council have not even decided where the school will be situated and don’t expect it to be completed until 2011.

And while the youngsters wait, they will be segregated from their fellow pupils already attending Inverkeithing Primary School.

Lauren said: “The council has said they will have different break and lunch times from the Inverkeithing children and will be totally separated. I don’t see how that can cause anything but bullying and other problems.”

And the move is playing on little Ryan’s mind too after he discovered he will be going to a different school than his best friend Callum.

He said: “I’m a little bit sad. I wanted to play with Callum.”

Lauren added: “We had thoughts of them growing up together at school but that won’t happen now.”

Council chiefs refused to comment on Ryan’s role, but defended their overall decision.

Education committee chairman Douglas Chapman said: “I can sympathise with the mother’s point of view and I understand what she is saying.

However, the idea behind starting a new school at Inverkeithing is that albeit it doesn’t have its own building, it will have its own ethos and will grow to the point that when the new building is available the pupils can move in.”

Abandoned otter makes furry friend

By Alexander Lawrie

AN otter saved from death by a kind-hearted postie has found a new best friend – a three-month-old kitten called Kevin.

Orla the otter was found last week lying abandoned in the middle of a country road by postman Kenny Wilson as he drove to a car rally in the Highlands.

But when Kenny tried to help the otter to the side of the road, the friendly bundle of fur kept coming back to him.

So he decided to take the abandoned otter on his 240-mile trip to the Highlands and back before handing his furry friend over to a local animal charity, near St Boswells.

And the cute little otter cub has now become best buddies with another of the centre’s rescued animals – Kevin the kitten.

Shona Middlemas, manager of Arthurshiel Rescue Centre, said the cuddly pair have become inseparable since Orla arrived.

Shona said: “It’s quite rare for us to have an otter brought to us; we only had two last year.

“But Orla has settled in nicely and is doing really well. Her and Kevin have become firm friends – it might be something to do with all the fish Orla has been getting.

“Kevin has trouble with his back legs and can’t be re-homed, but I’m hoping once Orla is fully grown we can release her back into the wild.

“We are doing our best to minimise the human contact she receives. She is a wild animal after all, and ideally she should be back in her natural environment.”

And even though the daily food bill for Orla is around £15 per day, Shona has revealed her local Asda supermarket has offered to supply all the fish Orla needs while she recuperates.

She said: “I got a call from Asda saying they would initially donate about two weeks worth of salmon and trout to help out. It was a really kind thing for them to do, and it is much appreciated.

“Breakfast consists of milk and trout, and she loves to play before, during and after mealtimes.

“She also has a special bed she loves – it’s a furry hot water bottle cover turned inside out which she squeezes into.”

Postie Kenny Wilson was on his was to car rally in the Highlands when he spotted the cold and terrified otter cub in the road last Sunday.

After checking with local residents to find out if any adult otters had been seen nearby, he decided to take the otter cub with him on his marathon journey.

He said: “The cub couldn’t find its mother and, in the time I watched, it was almost run over by three cars.

“I picked it up from the road and put it on the banking, but it kept coming back to the road.

“The otter was absolutely frozen and there was no evidence of the adult otters nearby. So I had no choice but to take it with me on a 240-mile tour of the Highlands for a classic car rally I was doing.

“I wrapped it in a jumper and stuck it in a postbag I had with me.

“It slept away fine.”

On his return Kenny handed the otter cub into the animal centre that will look after the otter cub for the next eight to ten months.

Sir Jackie Stewart’s dyslexia ‘not a cruel fiction’

Jackie Stewart

By Oliver Farrimond

MOTOR racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart admitted that discovering he had dyslexia was like “being saved from drowning” yesterday.

Speaking at a dyslexia conference at Lothian & Borders Police College, the Flying Scot said that he still could not remember the alphabet – despite knowing the precise details of every racing course in the world.

The three-time Formula One world champion said that the condition had not stopped him from consistently finishing in pole position both on and off the racing track.

He said: “I wasn’t discovered as a dyslexic until I was 41 years of age, and one of the greatest losses of my life is that I have had no education.

“I was a failure, and the unhappiest years of my life were undoubtedly at school.

“However anyone with dyslexia can reach their true potential, with the right help and guidance.”

His comments came just weeks after Labour MP Graham Stringer branded dyslexia a “cruel fiction” and an “invented disorder”.

Almost one in ten people in Britain are believed to have dyslexia, including a number of high-profile celebrities such as Kiera Knightly, Sir Richard Branson and Sir Steve Redgrave.

Common signs of the condition include confusion over words and numbers, difficulties with short-term memory, and problems with clumsiness and co-ordination.

Chief Executive of Dyslexia Scotland Cathy Magee said that increased awareness of dyslexia could have a huge impact on the UK’s workforce.

She said: “Small but significant changes in the workplace could make a big difference in maximising the strengths of dyslexic employees.

“It is important to dispel the link between low intelligence and learning disabilities.”

Sir Jackie Stewart also spoke of the importance of educating people about dyslexia to avoid future generations being stigmatised.

He said: “People only seem to have sympathy or recognition towards children with learning difficulties.

“The reality is that once you are a dyslexic, you are always a dyslexic no matter what your age.

“However, with proper training and understanding, dyslexic people can be amongst the most successful in the world, but they do need help and assistance and that certainly is true of me, whatever success I have achieved in my life.”

Train crash covers twenty swans in oil

swans train acident

By Michael MacLeod

TWENTY swans were among dozens of seabirds covered in oil after Tuesday’s freight train derailment.

The helpless birds bore the brunt of 1,000 tonnes of explosive fuel after a ten-carriage locomotive careered off the rails into fields.

Diesel and heating oil from the train had leaked into water close to the accident spot near Stewarton railway station, Ayrshire.

The oil seeped through the water system to Irvine Harbour where a large flock of swans gather over the winter.

Anxious wildlife experts rushed to the scene yesterday morning, worried that the birds may have swallowed the deadly oil.

With the help of Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Unit, they also saved geese, eider ducks and cormorants.

The birds have now been transported to the Scottish SPCA’s Wildlife Rescue Centre in Fife, which has a specialist cleaning facility for the treatment of oiled birds.

But they aren’t expected to be returned to the wild for some time, until the water is decontaminated.

Scottish SPCA manager Colin Seddon said: “Each bird goes into a large stainless steel sink in our purpose-built oiled bird facility and we use washing up liquid to remove the oil. It’s a two man job that can take up to an hour per bird.

“They can ingest the oil so we stomach feed the swans with a charcoal mixture to help eliminate toxins from the oil.

“Once they have been cleaned up and are feeding ok then they usually make a fairly swift recovery.

“However, we will not be able to release them back in to the water at Irvine Harbour until all the oil has been cleaned up so they could stay in our care for a while yet.”

The massive clean-up comes a day after staff rescued and washed a chocolate covered pigeon.

They fondly named the bird Wonka after it dive-bombed into a chocolate fountain in a Thornton’s sweet shop in Edinburgh.

Deadly virus infects Scottish Parliament

02 ugly scottish parliament

By Michael MacLeod

A DEADLY Legionnaires’ bug infected the Scottish Parliament’s water supply over summer.

The virus was discovered in a tank serving hundreds of staff and ministers’ offices at Holyrood last June.

But bungling staff kept news of the highly infectious disease secret until Christmas, despite it being found in the same block as offices belonging to the presiding officer Alex Fergusson and Parly building boss Paul Grice.

They didn’t tell anyone about the risks of a pneumonia-like outbreak until last week when the details were slipped inside a meeting of Holyrood’s housekeeping committee, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, which few MSPs actually attend.

The delay in announcing the find angered Jackson Carlaw MSP, shadow minister for public health.

He said: “The fact this outbreak appears to have been minor does not explain or excuse the lack of transparency.

“How does it look for the Scottish Parliament to demand the highest standards from others whilst, at the very same time, concealing from its own staff an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease within its own boundaries?

“Many will unfortunately conclude that this is another example of the Scottish Parliament not practicing what it is so keen to preach.”

It is not known how long the bacteria existed in the system before being found, but it is likely to have thrived in the warm summer.

A report from facilities manager Stewart Gilfillan revealed the bug – which can lead to fatal flu-like symptoms – was found during routine tests in Queensberry House, the 17th Century mansion at the heart of the Holyrood complex.

The bug was found in three areas including the ministers’ showers.

Initial efforts to tackle the problem, by flushing pipes with disinfectant, failed to budge the resilient bug until its source tank was identified.

A Parliament spokesperson said: “We are satisfied that the measures taken ensured the risk was controllable at all times.”