Alistair Darling accuses Salmond of blindfolding the electorate

Darling meets with members of the public in the Piecebox Café in Polwarth.

Darling meets with members of the public in the Piecebox Café in Polwarth.

Better Together campaign leader, Alistair Darling, today met with members of the public to discuss the most recent developments in the  independence debate. The meeting, at the Piecebox Café in the city’s Polwarth Crescent, comes days after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, dismissed any hope that an independent Scotland could share the pound with the rest of the UK.

The former Chancellor of the Exchequer accused the First Minister of asking the people of Scotland to walk ‘blindfold’ into the polling stations 200 days from now. He said: “In the past few days the wheels have been coming off the nationalist wagon.

“Alex Salmond is not prepared to tell us what currency we will be using and cannot guarantee that if an independent Scotland were to join the EU that they would have the same deal as now.”

DSCN0608[1]Darling strongly emphasised the point that with thecurrency union completely off the table now there is no way to know what the pound in your pocket will be worth in an independent Scotland. This was reinforced by a representative from the Federation of Small Businesses present at the meeting who voiced concerns over the fact that many businesses rely on trade in other areas within the UK, an action that would be made difficult and expensive without a common currency.

He also warned that a change in currency could have dramatic effects on business in Scotland, and suggested that companies such as RBS and Standard Life would face a choice of a move down south in order to trade in the currency held by the majority of its customers.

Finally Darling warned not to take the decision of voting yes or no lightly, as the vote on 18 September is final: ”The result, whatever it is, will stand.

“People have to understand that there is no going back, and if the polls say yes? The result is binding.”

[ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE EDINBURGH REPORTER 17/02/14]

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Super foods? Super skint.

A couple of wee pieces I wrote on the conundrum of being healthy with the ever-present money constraints of your average student. The first a comment style piece and the second more news-y..

You’re Mackereling me skint. 

Wondering round Stockbridge Farmer’s Market I was met by a table of silky looking chanterelles, fat bunches of coriander, plump little blackberries, and a debate about student nutrition. A blackboard brightly inviting to ‘ask about our vegetable box delivery’ would trigger cynicism in even the most enthusiastic of students. Being able to afford a fruit and veg box conjures the same fantasy of having one of those delightful, brown, cardboard ‘graze’ boxes dropped through my letter box every week.

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‘To be honest, all I want is some walnut bread and some brie’. Middle class problems, or quite a poignant voice which most students can associate with. A survey done recently in Edinburgh showed that every student who was asked wished they could afford decent cheese. If mum knew that Robbie was eating toast with Farm-foods plastic slices would her heart not shatter a little?

The problems didn’t only linger with the cheese course. ‘I try live off £10 a week because I like to have money to go out as well. Being a vegetarian helps but I rarely get to enjoy proper fruit and veg.’

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I know that organic, local produce is best. Not one celebrity chef, health expert or politician would disagree. As I left the market with the smell of succulent strawberries and just baked rye bread I thought that it would be nice to come home from the expected 35 hours of study a week, plus the 37 hour ‘part time’ job which we aren’t supposed to have, to a nutritious two veg, one meat dinner without thinking, but alas as long as a tuna steak costs £5.03 and an every day value cottage pie costs 95 pence I know what i’ll be heating up tonight.

Are we starving our students brains? 

A survey conducted on a selection of students studying in the City of Edinburgh has found that 100% sacrifice healthy food because of cost.

In recent years, huge amount of research has gone into nutrition and the effect it has on our brain function. It’s fully acknowledged how positive an impact a nourishing diet can have, particularly for growing, working brains.

A range of students were asked a selection of questions regarding their weekly spend, and this was then compared with the typical ‘brain foods’ we’re advised to eat. Oily fish, pumpkin seeds, blueberries, avocados, dark chocolate and whole-grains are the super six which consistently come out top in power lists. The UK’s leading supermarket prices for these being; £4 for two salmon fillets, £1.75 a packet of pumpkin seeds, £3 per punnet of blueberries, £1.25 a large avocado, upwards of £1.50 for a bar of quality chocolate and a loaf of wholegrain bread, £1.49. With an average weekly budget of £20, super-foods are definitely off the menu. The energy these foods combined provide around 4000 calories, sustaining the average adult for 2 days. Two packets of every day value cereal would do the same, and comes in at a whopping £1.54. Image

Students expressed that they actively scrimped on foods they knew were beneficial, but that the stress of being continuously reminded that this was detrimental to their health was overwhelming.

Isla Macleod, 19, studying Animal Biology said ‘People say wholegrain is better but every day value white bread is half the price. I just don’t feel I have a choice.’

With pressure on this generation of students already at it’s peak is there an alternative to the Catch 22 we’re plunging them into?

Chanel Linlithgow

Linlithgow is getting ready to host Chanel’s annual  Metier d’Arts fashion show. An event which aims to showcase the art of small  suppliers who create specialist pieces for the fashion house. Continue reading

Hearts’ Finances Flatlining – But Do Hibs Need Them?

Hearts have survived this most recent financial health scare, but having been told they’ve got until next summer to raise £2million, this temporary pacemaker could be a quick fix too many for despot owner Vladimir Romanov. His dwindling interest (and pay cheques) could ultimately end the Gorgie outfit for good. The fans can’t raise funds forever, and with Romanov seemingly refusing to sell, he could end up going down with his ship, changing Edinburgh football forever. How happy would Hibs fans really be if the boys in maroon ceased to exist?

With May’s Scottish Cup Final (the darkest day of my club’s long history) still an open wound, the obvious answer from Hibs fans is “good riddance.” That performance through in Glasgow (or “West Edinburgh” as it was called for the day) compounded the rivalry in 90 minutes of hell for the green and white half of the city. Hearts knocked 5 past Hibs and their fans have been going on about it ever since. This year has seen the rivalry intensify and many Hibees would be happy to see the back of Hearts for good out of sheer spite for the goading, scarf twirling Jambos. Easter Road’s Section 43 are always loudest to sing “Hearts are goin’ bust”, to the tune of ‘Football’s Comin’ Home’. I have my season ticket in front of the self proclaimed “Hibernian Ultras” and talking to the regulars who sit around me, the delight at our rivals’ misfortune is clear (if unpublishable). Continue reading

Edinburgh Online Fashion Week

Newly launched 22nd October, by Edinburgh Online Fashion week is set to broadcast three shows a day via the web, showcasing designers ranging from Edinburgh graduates to well known high street brands found locally. Yesterday saw House of Fraser launch the week with a mix of styles, cuts and colours.

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Is human behavior increasingly getting labeled as a mental disorder?

This is my first post and I am quite excited to talk about the book I read this week. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson is a New York Times bestseller that uncovers the hidden world of psychopaths and mental illnesses.

 

Ronson is a Welsh journalist that is most famously known for his investigative works and pieces on conspiracy theories. In The Psychopath Test, Ronson’s random examination of a mystery package opens his eyes to the endless world of psychiatry, psychopaths and infinite mental illnesses. Having always been interest in the human mind, especially the ones that are not “wired properly”, I was delighted to get my hands on this book. The high point of this book is Ronson study of the PCL-R (Psychopathy Checklist Revised), this is a rating scale that assesses your level of psychopathy. You can actually look up the checklist online and test your “psychopathy level” by clicking here. I scored a 5 which is a safe score, but had I scored 30 or higher it would mean I was most likely a psychopath. I personally find the use of a scale of any sort to identify a mental illness very unscientific. I respect that the various researchers that compiled this list did it with a good intention but while reading The Psychopath Test we see how this list is often misused by not only ordinary people but doctors.

Throughout his book, Ronson uses a variety of examples to illustrate his points including a very interesting one of a man called Tony. Tony scammed his way into a mental hospital while trying to get away from prison. While he was effectively convincing in faking a “mental illness”, he was never able to convince the doctors of his sanity. Which made me think, it is a lot easier to convince someone that you are insane than it is to convince someone that you are sane. How do you even convince someone you are sane? On his quest to find out more about Tony, Ronson learns from the doctors that Tony was actually diagnosed as a psychopath.

What makes this book great and different in my opinion is how Ronson turns a gloomy, disturbing subject into something light and humorous. The fact that he is a British journalist made this novel not only an enjoyable read but also academically relevant because he would make some analysis of the media industry that were very insightful. One of his points that resonated with me was how the media is always seeking madness, but it has got to be the right kind of level of madness. Not enough madness is not interesting, and if there is too much madness then people cannot relate. He interviews a lady that worked in the production of “The Jeremy Kyle Show” and she bluntly tells that the best guest they would have in the show would be the mad ones. They particularly liked the ones on drugs because it made them “mad enough to be enterntaining”. As horrible as it sounds, that is the sad reality. Normalcy does not sell.

Ronson’s conclusion after his journey through madness is that we need to have a balanced approach of mental illness. We cannot go around trying to “spot and diagnose” everyone we see nor classify every single idiocrasy we witness as a mental illness.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that is interest in the subject of the human mind and mental illness, like psychopathy. Although, beware that he does not always have positive things to say about psychiatrist but I think his overall tone in the book is relatively balanced.

Aline Siekierski (twitter:@alinesieks)

Scottish Land Registry abandons costly IT projects

Meadowbank House - Registers of Scotland HQ

Bosses at the Scottish quango responsible for registering property have abandoned two IT projects at a cost of £6.8 million because, in the words of a Scottish Government Gateway Review which reported in 2011,“the successful delivery of the project/ programme appears to be unachievable.“ Continue reading