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Thursday
Feb212008

Do Scottish accents leave you shaken or stirred?

In a UK-wide ‘Voices Project’ poll conducted by the venerable and much-loved BBC, Edinburgh-born Sir Sean Connery has been named as having “the most pleasant voice” from a range of celebrities. 20070219050227Sean_Connery.jpg While results further down the list showed some disagreement and regional variation (the ‘least pleasant voice’ belonged to Ian Paisley or among Northern Irish respondents, Janet Street-Porter, with David Beckham and Cilla Black faring poorly too), Sir Sean’s trademark baritone was found soothing and seductive across the board, consistently getting top marks from English, Welsh and Northern Irish voters as well as Scots.

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Sunday
Feb172008

Berwick to become part of Scotland?

berwick.pngA poll of local people by a TV company found that around 60% of respondents in Berwick-upon-Tweed (just across the border with England) would prefer to be legally Scottish rather than English, whilst the local newspaper’s polling found the figure to be nearly 80%. Well, they’ve swapped allegiance over a dozen times in their history aleady, so why not again?

Well, one reason to hesitate is that the reason given most to pollsters was to take advantage of Scotland’s more generous social benefits, more than a burning cultural allegiance. In other words, greed. Do we really want to encourage a new form of economic migration by foreign spongers? Oops, sorry, got a nasty touch of the DailyMails there!

More seriously, there are certainly questions to be asked about how long-lasting this new loyalty might be. For example, if Scotland were to elect the Conservatives to power and England put George Galloway’s party into Downing Street (hey, stranger things have happened - though admittedly not many) would they then want back again? I think as part of any referendum they’d have to sign up to some sort of covenant swearing they wouldn’t change their minds within, say, 100 years.

And more seriously still, why stop there? It’s often been suggested that Newcastle might prefer to join Scotland than England, for example. After all, it’s far closer to Edinburgh than London geographically, and many would say culturally too. Has anyone actually done the polling to find out? And while we’re at it, what about Manchester? Birmingham?… Guildford?… Heck, who’d want to be administered by London?!!

Saturday
Feb092008

The Top 10 weirdest tartan creations

Maybe once upon a time tartans were something your granny used for her knee-rug. But not today! Tartans are now the hippest most happening way to bring a dash of pizazz to anything and everything that grabs your brainbox. And if you don’t believe me, just check out this quick run-down of the funkiest funniest plaids on the planet!!

10. Duck Under My Kilt

My friend MacDuck here just quacks me up. Bathtime will never be the same again now that I can bring a touch of tartan into my world of suds. Doesn’t he just make those plain yellow versions so… yesterday! Tartan_MacDuck.jpg Photo by Roger.The.Dodger

Read the rest of the ten funniest things in tartan…

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Friday
Feb082008

Bribing Politicians Now Legal!

The Scottish police yesterday announced that from now on it will “not be in the public interest” to pursue housebreakers who hold their hands up when caught red-handed with bags of swag; muggers will be let off scot-free if they apologise after taking the money; and arsonists will now be allowed to burn down any buildings they like, provided they aren’t caught doing so more than once. The reason is that each will have taken “significant steps” to comply with the law.

wendy_alexander.jpgNo, I just made it up. This is obvious nonsense, of course. But it is the same remarkable double-think by which the body responsible for protecting democracy, the Electoral Commission, has just announced that Wendy Alexander is not to be prosecuted for corruption - despite her own admission that she broke the law by accepting a large ‘donation’ (note, NOT a bribe!) from an overseas businessman. Apparently it wouldn’t be in the public interest for a political party leader who takes illegal donations to be prosecuted. Why? It might scare other politicians into being more careful before accepting bribes, and then where are their slush funds going to come from?

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Wednesday
Feb062008

Just say Nae (The White Ring Thing)

1798861-1323663-thumbnail.jpgThe Scottish Government has just decided that their drugs policy will henceforth be based on “promoting abstinence”. Good plan guys!

This from the same politicians of course who themselves mostly take hard drugs almost every day. No, I’m not accusing Uncle Alex of being a junkie. Just pointing out that alcohol is by far our most serious drug problem. Violence. Accidents. Public nuisance. NHS costs. Bereavements. The ill-effects of heroin, ecstacy, and cannabis combined aren’t even in the same ballpark.

This presumably takes its inspiration from the storming success of the US-led War on Drugs, which as we all know is close to achieving a formal surrender by the Great Leader of the Drugs Army. Well, there has to be a drugs army doesn’t there if there’s to be a war on them… I mean, you can’t wage war on a category of products. Or is this perhaps a sign of hyperbolic muddled thinking?

Let’s take this further…

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Sunday
Feb032008

Finding a tartan in just the right colours

So you’re desperate to identify the family plaid in Great Aunt Jessie’s portrait? Or you’re redecorating your den and need to find a tartan with just the right shades to recover your favourite old chair in… But there are literally thousands of tartans available, so how on earth do you find the right ones to look at?

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Search Tartans by colour!
My friend, help is at last here! Our boffins have been sweating blood day and night for many moons (and that’s less of an exaggeration than you’d think - it’s a surprisingly technical task). And now, for the first time ever in the history of western civilisation, an easy-peasy facility exists where you can find just the right tartan in seconds.

Check out our amazing Tartan & Material Finder and give it a go for yourself. For most colour combos you’ll probably get dozens of returns, arranged in order of the proportions of the colours you’re looking for (weighted for the order you entered). And what’s really unique about this is that it’s not just ‘theoretical’ recorded tartans, but it all links through to fabrics actually available in those setts from all the main mills - or affordably woven to order! Neat, huh?

Saturday
Jan262008

Beer Today, Gone Tomorrow

1798861-1294522-thumbnail.jpgEdinburgh-based Scottish & Newcastle, Scotland’s last major independent and one of the UK’s largest brewers, yesterday agreed to sell up to a consortium of Heineken and Carlsberg, for the trifling sum of around eight billion pounds ($16b US). According to the screaming headlines, so ends 250 years of brewing tradition in Scotland.

Great Scottish names like Kingfisher, Fosters, Newcastle Brown, Beamish, John Smith’s, and Kronenburg will apparently now fall into foreign hands. Whilst beer connoisseur’s delights like McEwan’s Export are at risk of having their, erm, traditional recipe could be turned into just another faceless brand. Pull the other one!

The truth is that S&N sold out as a traditional brewer years ago, and was already no more than another global conglomerate with no loyalty to its origins. The scent of hops that in my youth used to waft over Edinburgh hasn’t been smelled since they ruthlessly shut down an entire industry in their home town to cash in on the land for housing. Most of what they produce is cynical factory-formula packaging of foreign brands tasting nothing like their indigenous originals, designed to cash in on trend-victims’ obsession with labels. And let’s face it, McEwan’s is industrial pish.

For anyone who actually cares about beer, I can name half a dozen great

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Wednesday
Jan232008

Never mind the bagpipes...

When you mention Scottish music, many people instantly think of whisky-soaked fiddlers playing jaunty ceilidh tunes or the mournful drone of a lonely piper in some misty glen. That’s part of it, but there’s a time and a place for everything, and with many of our freshly home-grown talents making a real impact on the indie, rock and dance scenes it might be about time to give Scottish music a little more (street) credit…

BiffyCD.jpgAyrshire’s favourite sons Biffy Clyro, for instance, are currently riding high on the success of their fourth album, Puzzle - they’re headlining the Kerrang! tour right now and next single, the live favourite Who’s Got A Match?, is due out in February. With their complex, multi-instrumental, harmonic yet heavy guitar-driven sound, and such catchy song titles as Toys, Toys, Toys, Choke, Toys, Toys, Toys and Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies, it’s perhaps understandable that it’s taken over a decade for the lads to find mainstream recognition. Thankfully, their storming live performances prove that the time hasn’t taken its toll and we can continue to expect great things from them.

A nomination for 2007’s Mercury Music Prize turned the spotlight on to The View, a delightfully down-to-earth, tousle-headed young foursome who named the band after their local pub at home in Menzieshill, Dundee. Combining bouncy punk-pop riffs with searingly honest lyrics about hangovers, ‘skag trendy’ dropouts and wearing the same jeans for four days, they certainly gave partygoers at Glasgow’s official Hogmanay party plenty to sing about.

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Tuesday
Jan222008

The Best Small Country in the World... (cont.)

I can’t help noticing the banner ” The Best Small Country in the World” - but what does it mean ?

Jack McConnell promised us : Scotland has a great future. We have one of the best educated workforces in the world with 50 per cent of our young people going into higher education. We are world leaders in many modern industries including financial services, life sciences, oil and gas. We have some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes and a quality of life that is hard to beat. But if we are to compete in the global economy and secure our future prosperity, we need to tackle urgently the single biggest challenge to our future success.

On 25 February 2004 in a statement to parliament he said: “We want to grow our economy and we want our country to grow too - in profile, image and stature. “Nurturing and retaining home-grown talent, encouraging ex-Scots back home and attracting fresh talent to our country sends a very strong signal to the world - that Scotland is back on the map and making her mark.

“It is a bold step for a small devolved country like ours to take, but one I am confident our people will rise to. For centuries we have been welcomed overseas. Now it is time for Scotland to be as welcoming in return. Our message is clear. If you have ambitions and you want to live and work in a dynamic country with a good quality of life, then this is the time, and Scotland is the place.”

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Monday
Jan212008

An Offal Shame! Haggis still banned in the US

Maybe we should ban McDonalds in return? (Hmmm… not a bad idea, come to think of it…)

haggis.jpegThe importation of our national dish, the haggis, has been banned by the US Department of Agriculture since 1989, ostensibly as a response to the BSE crisis. So for nearly two decades, US consumers wishing to celebrate Burns Night (or indeed their Scottish heritage on any old night of the year) have had no choice but to track down a locally-sourced alternative.

Now the problem with this, of course, is that the haggis itself is a native species, found only in the high mountains of Scotland.

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