Scottish universities spend thousands on honorary degrees

By Clare Carswell

SCOTTISH Universities have shelled out £100,000 for celebrities and other notable people such as American business tycoon, Donald Trump to receive honorary degrees.

Over the past three years, Scottish universities have spent vast amounts of money on travel, accommodation and hospitality for various people they want to award an honorary degree to.

The University of St Andrews has racked up the biggest total, £60,000 including expenses for air fares and hotel accommodation. 

Last year alone, the Fife university spent more than £30,000 towards honorary degrees.  Olympic cyclist Sir Chris Hoy was one of the recipients whose appearance contributed towards that sum.

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University’s wine cooler purchase branded a “disgrace”

By Michael MacLeod

BOSSES of one of Scotland’s biggest universities have splashed out £5,000 on wine cabinets, despite looming job cuts.

Strathclyde University said it needed to keep its bottles of wine cool to cut its carbon footprint.

But the new wine stores have raised questions over the university’s commitment to cutting costs in the face of a tighter funding settlement from the Scottish Government.
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Scots courts fail to utilise sex tourism travel ban

By Rory Reynolds

SCOTLAND’S police forces and courts have failed to ban a single paedophile from travelling abroad to engage in child sex tourism.

An investigation by Strathclyde University has revealed that no Foreign Travel Orders were issued last year, which prevent predators from visiting countries plagued by the child sex trade.

However police and prosecutors in England and Wales have used FTOs on 13 occasions since 2007, to stop paedophiles visiting countries such as Thailand and Cambodia.

While at least 17 are currently classed as missing, and are believed to be on the run overseas.

The study, carried out by social work lecturer Beth Weaver, analysed the effectiveness of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements for keeping track of high-risk offenders. Continue reading

Former Banker Gives Opposition A Roasting

By Alexander Lawrie

A FORMER banker who quit the financial industry to open his own coffee shop has just been crowned Scottish Barista champion.

Jonathan Sharp, 31, was presented with the prestigious coffee-making award on Wednesday (21/01) after beating off stiff competition from baristas from all over the country.

The coffee shop owner quit his job as an auditor for the Royal Bank of Scotland four years ago to pursue the dream of owning his own business.

And his gamble paid off handsomely as he grabbed first prize to become Scottish Champion for the first time.

Jonathan, who owns the Kilimanjaro and Wellington coffee shops in Edinburgh, also won the competition’s ‘best signature drink’ with a tiramisu-inspired coffee flavoured zabaglione.

This year’s championship was held at Edinburgh University’s debating halls, and winner Jonathan now goes onto represent his country at the UK Finals in March.

And if successful there, he will fly out to Atlanta, Georgia in April to compete for the ultimate prize of World Barista Champion.

Jonathan said: “I was really surprised to win this year’s event as I’ve only been at this game for about four years.

“There are some really tough opponents out there, so for us to do so well is very pleasing.

“I gave up banking to fulfill my dream of owning my own business. And as I’ve always been passionate about coffee it made sense to combine both ideas.

“So far it has all worked out great. I’ve got two shops in Edinburgh and we are about to open our third premises near to the university.

“Of course, I did question myself about making the break from RBS, but after recent developments it looks like I got out at the right time.”

The former Strathclyde University graduate had to perform a 15 minute presentation in front of four coffee experts and was marked on his coffee-making methods and his technical style.

And there was a double celebration for the newly-crowned champ as second place went to one of his employees, Kristen Olsen.

Ms Olsen can also still qualify for the UK Finals as best placed runner-up.

Jonathan said: “The growing strength of Edinburgh’s independent café scene demonstrates that coffee drinkers are now demanding more in terms of quality and individuality. 

“It’s great Kristin might be joining me at the finals. It’s been a bit of a coup to get a one, two in the competition.

“Hopefully we can now go on and win the UK title for Scotland.”

The UK Championships are held at the SECC in Glasgow between March 2 – 4. This will be the first time the UK Finals have been held north of the border.

KT inspires singer to takes the States by storm

By Alexander Lawrie
AN UNKNOWN Scots singer is on the brink of stardom in the US – after being inspired by superstar KT Tunstall.
Rebecca Caldwell, 25, from Arbroath, quit Scotland two years ago to find fame and fortune in California.
And now the pretty singer-songwriter has landed the gig of her life at the notorious LA club, the Viper Rooms.
The talented Scot has landed the prestigious date after signing to talent agents NXT Entertainment last July.
Rehearsals will take place over the next couple of weeks before Rebecca appears on stage at the celebrated club for a 45 minute solo set in December.
Her stunning vocals have been compared to American stars Jewel and Natalie Merchant, and she is currently gathering valuable live experience fronting local band The Remedy.
The world famous club – which was once owned by Hollywood legend Johnny Depp – hit the headlines in 1993 when the actor River Phoenix collapsed and died of a drugs overdose outside, aged just 23.
And Rebecca has admitted seeing fellow Scot KT Tunstall break away from her small-town roots to find success was an inspiration.
Currently making ends meet as a property leasing consultant in the Palm Springs area, Rebecca first started on the road to fame at the tender age of ten when she began singing and dancing in her local school plays.
She said: “I started to play guitar, sing and write music when I was about 16. I was with a guy who played guitar and he basically showed me three chords, C, F and G and the rest I just picked up myself.
“I took piano lessons at age 8 and at age ten my teacher wanted to give me exams so I quit because I didn’t want to be examined.
“I’m really excited about playing the Viper Rooms, it’s such a big gig for me. I’m still pinching myself I’ve come so far.
“It’s a small venue for around 250 people, so it’s a really intimate setting. I’ve still not got my head round it.
“I’ve been a fan of KT’s for a while, and I was really encouraged that she also managed to leave her town and make it big.
“I thought to myself, ‘If she can do it, so can I’. She’s such an inspiration to artists like myself.”
The singer studied Arts and Social Sciences at Strathclyde University for three years, but eventually had to choose between academia and trying to make a name for herself in the music industry.
She said: “I always had this conflict of whether I wanted to be a musician or do science. So after three years of college I came back home and began gigging, that’s when I made the decision to become a musician.
“I was always struggling with the dilemma, as the musician in me was itching to get out.”
Although settled in California, Rebecca still craves the little luxuries from back home.
Rebecca cites Fleetwood Mac, Sheryl Crow and Tracey Chapman as major influences on her sound, and reveals mum Molly is also an inspiration.
She said: “My whole family is really supportive, but I do miss Scotland very much. Luckily, my mum still sends me the little luxuries from home such as tea bags and Galaxy chocolate.
“She used to sing in a band when she was younger, and she has always encouraged me.
Rebecca also revealed she is about to film her first video in the Californian desert and that her debut album is almost ready for release.
“I’ve been in the studio since July working on a new CD. I’m working with a really great producer.
“The CD is very eclectic. There are a lot of my folk roots in it, but there’s rock and pop as well.
“The next step is my music video, and the first single will be called Friday Afternoon.
“I’m not counting my chickens just yet, but I’m quietly excited about the future.”

Fraser inspired by gran to launch Superjam tea parties 074

By Alexander Lawrie
A TEENAGE jam-making entrepreneur is launching a new charity venture – Super Jam Tea Parties for the elderly.
Fraser Doherty, 19, kicked off the first Tea Party in Edinburgh yesterday, and the young businessman has big plans to roll the events out across Scotland.
The fresh-faced teen has struck deals with retail giants Waitrose who are donating the tea and cakes for the events, and John Lewis who are supplying the teapots, cake stands and tablecloths,
The City of Edinburgh Council has also given its full backing to the charity by providing the venues for the parties free of charge.
The charity idea was initiated by Fraser’s paternal grandmother – the same one who gave him the inspiration for the Super Jam – and her work with the elderly and the housebound.
He said: “I first got the idea about the Tea Parties from my grandmother. My brother and I used to help her when she organised small tea dances for the elderly in her area.
“And since Super Jam took off I always thought it would be a natural progression to do something like this.
“I wanted to bring young and old together because a lot of people never have the opportunity to mix.
“For some of the elderly here today this might be the only time this week they get a chance to have a wee chat with their friends.”
The Scots youngster started out making his sugar free jam in his parent’s small kitchen and soon landed exclusive sales contracts with supermarkets Waitrose and Tesco.
He began by producing up to 1,000 jars per week, selling them to neighbours, farmers’ markets and to customers online.
And the sugar-free substance is now the top-selling jam in many supermarkets stores across the country selling over 500,000 jars per year – with Fraser on his way to becoming a millionaire.
Currently taking a break from studying for a Business Studies and Accountancy degree at Strathclyde University, Fraser has enlisted a team of volunteers to help make the parties go with a swing.
Expert knitters have produced 30 different tea cosies for the event, while students from local colleges and universities will be on hand to serve out the tea and scones.
Fraser said: “I think it is really important to look after the elderly and I’ve always been conscious about trying to put something back into the community.
“And if it is a success, then we’ll hopefully be able to organise events on a national scale.
“I can’t thank all the volunteers enough, it’s so good of them all to get involved in the charity and to give their time for nothing.”
Speaking on behalf of John Lewis Partnership, David Lincoln, a Waitrose branch manager, said how pleased he the company was to be supporting the new charity.
He said: “It’s a fantastic idea and Fraser’s business ethos, which is about putting something back into the community, chimes well with our own.
“We’re sure these Tea Parties will take off in a big way.”
Councillor Norman Work, Vice Convener for Health, Social care and Housing for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “When Fraser first came to me I thought this was a fantastic idea and I am happy that we can use his entrepreneurial ideas to such a good end.
“The opportunity to get out and interact with others is very important as you get older and I’m sure the older people will enjoy the occasion.
“With this excellent example of partnership working and with Fraser’s enthusiasm, these events will hopefully spread across the city.”
The ex-Royal High pupil hit the headlines last year when his homemade health jam business was awarded the Global Student Entrepreneur Award in Chicago – a competition that saw him beat 750 students from around the world to the prestigious title.