Scottish Government Blogs

November 25, 2014
by SG Admin
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St Andrew’s Day: From Clouds to Celebrations

Joe Walton – PR & Marketing Manager – International Marketing and PR  @babbleoftongues  @aboutscotland

 

My enduring memory of my first St Andrew’s day in Scotland took place nearly 14 years ago today.

Having woken up late to be greeted by an unexpected day of no lectures, an absolutely massive, solitary, pink cloud drifted majestically over the St Andrew’s skyline.

This cloud was magnificent. Honestly, it was so impressive it made the front pages of the Dundee Courier and the Scotsman and had the town talking for days. I wish I could find the picture but alas the important stories of those pre digital camera days seem to have been left out of the archive. Shame.

It was a bit like this but not exactly. This was taken by blogger Graeme Law from Ayr – used under non-commercial creative commons license via Flickr. Continue Reading →

November 19, 2014
by Fiona Comrie
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Food Standards Scotland – Chair and Chief Executive announced

The Minister for Public Health today announced the senior appointments to lead Food Standards Scotland. Ross Finnie has been appointed as the Chair of Food Standards Scotland, and Geoff Ogle has been appointed Chief Executive.

Ross Finnie is currently a non-executive member of the Water Industry Commission for Scotland and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board. For eight years, Mr Finnie was the Scottish Cabinet Minister responsible for the Environment and Rural Development. He was also an opposition spokesperson on Health for four years, promoting, among other things, food standards and food safety.

Commenting on his appointment, Mr Finnie said:

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to chair  this new organisation, and to work with the Chief Executive to help to establish its vision and strategic direction. Food Standards Scotland will be firmly committed to protecting the interests of consumers, placing science and evidence at the heart of what it does. I look forward to meeting its staff and stakeholders and working with the a new board to help  progress its important work.”

Geoff Ogle is currently Acting Director Scotland for the Food Standards Agency, a post he has held since  June 2014. Commenting on his appointment, Mr Ogle said:

“I am really looking forward to taking up my new role, pursuing the challenges it will bring and working closely with the new Chair and the Food Standards Scotland Board. I am absolutely committed to continuing the good work done by FSA in Scotland to make a real difference to both food safety and healthier eating in Scotland.  I will ensure Food Standards Scotland continues to provide independent, evidence based advice to consumers and Ministers and plays an active role in furthering the invaluable work carried out in Scotland as a whole.”

Minister for Public Health, Mr Matheson said:

“Ross Finnie and Geoff Ogle bring a depth of experience of operating within the Scottish Government and working with Whitehall, the EU and internationally. Their wide-ranging experiences and backgrounds complement the Scottish Government’s core purpose and strategic objectives and will be valuable to Food Standards Scotland as it moves forward. I am delighted with these appointments and I look forward to working with them both.”

For more information, please see the Scottish Government’s press release.

November 19, 2014
by SG Admin
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ALL BAR NONE

Tim Bisset – Senior Marketing Manager – Safer - @timbisset

Remember when people smoked on planes and trains?   Or didn’t wear a seatbelt in their car?

Remember when people drove after having a drink?

From December 5, Scotland will have a new drink drive limit – 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood (down from 80mg) -  which is the same as the majority of countries in  Europe.

So that may be the science bit – but what does that actually mean?

Well – the truth is everyone’s different and everyone absorbs alcohol in different ways on different days.  Having a glass of wine or a pint can tip you over the edge, so why bother?   We want to get to the point where having a drink before driving is as strange a concept as lighting up on the top deck of a bus.   So whatever the limit – the best advice when it comes to driving is to drink nothing at all. Continue Reading →

November 17, 2014
by blog administrator
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Fiona Hyslop: Connecting People, Power and Politics

Scotland recognises the importance of working in partnership with our many European friends to confront the key challenges facing Europe. I recently took part in an enjoyable debate in Brussels on the crucial topic, ‘Employment – The Challenge for Europe’.

At the invitation of L’Observateur magazine, I sat alongside Kris Peeters, the Belgian Minister for Employment, the Economy and Consumers, Michèle Sioen; Vice-President of a Belgian employers’ association, and Yves Bertoncini; Director of the think tank Notre Europe on a panel to discuss this important issue.

L’Observateur debate

Connecting people, power and politics has never been more important and I was encouraged to see so many young people in the audience in Brussels and engaged in the debate.

There is perhaps no more important challenge than combatting youth unemployment and I described how the Scottish Government has taken this on – how our Modern Apprentices Programme delivers valuable training opportunities, and how our Opportunities for All initiative guarantees an offer of a place in education or training for all 16-19 year olds.

The Scottish government is doing all it can within its existing powers – there are currently only nine EU member states with lower levels of youth unemployment. But we are not currently able to implement the European Youth Guarantee, which many Member States already have in place, including Belgium.

Youth Unemployment in the European Union

The Youth Guarantee stipulates that under-25s should receive a good quality offer of work, continued education, apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. Frustratingly it has not been implemented by the UK Government. The support for it amongst the young people in the audience confirmed again its value.

I believe the EU to be the best international framework within which the prosperity of the people of Scotland can be ensured. Many Scots agree with me and recent polling shows that 57% of Scots would vote to remain in the EU. In contrast, 43% of UK voters would choose to leave with only 37% voting to stay in.

Therefore it is important that not only are Scotland’s interests protected and that we make clear to voters in the UK, and all across Europe, the importance of European action to their lives.  Taking action to ensure that young people – across Europe – have the opportunities and skills to fulfil their potential and flourish must be the best place to start.

November 17, 2014
by Alan Rodden
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Open Badges at CoderDojo Scotland

A guest blog from Craig Steele, Project Manager at CoderDojo Scotland

Activities at CoderDjo Scotland

Range of activities at CoderDojo Scotland

CoderDojo is a global movement that aims to get more young people involved with computer programming and technology. We run computer coding clubs for young people where they can learn to build their own apps, websites, games, and more. Our workshops are run by volunteers from technology backgrounds who want to share their knowledge with the next generation of digital makers. Our Dojos make learning to program a fun and social experience.

As they build and experiment with technology, the young people are learning valuable digital skills. At the same time the social aspect of the Dojo is helping them develop softer social skills. We wanted to find a way to recognise the learning that takes places in this informal environment.

What are Open Badges?

The Mozilla Open Badges project issues digital badges to recognise skills and achievements. It allows you to display online real-world achievements and skills which may help with future career and education opportunities.

The badges issued by the Open Badges project are digital indicators of skills learned inside or outside the classroom.  We decided that these badges would be a great way to recognise the achievements of young people in our Dojos.

CoderDojo Scotland Hello Open Badge

Designing our Open Badges

Last summer, Doug Belshaw from Mozilla joined us for an Open Badge design workshop in Glasgow Science Centre.  A dozen of our volunteer mentors who had indicated an interest in recognising achievement and education joined us for an afternoon of Open Badge design. Doug challenged us to think about what types of activities or skills should be represented by our CoderDojo Scotland badges.

We looked at examples of existing Open Badges related to programming and digital making skills. For example, Mozilla offer Webmaker Open Badges that show skills in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Similarly, Codecademy are looking into converting their programming skill badges into the Open Badge format.

We didn’t want to copy badges that are already out there, so we decided that rather than awarding badges for skills (for example in HTML, Scratch, or Python) our badges would recognise attitudes and behaviours that are specific to CoderDojo. In other words: “What can you do or learn at a CoderDojo that you don’t get from learning from a book or online portal?”

Our Badges

With this in mind, our badges centre around activities that are unique to the Dojos.  You will be able to get a badge for team-coding for example “working on a group project”, being a Good Neighbour (“helping someone debug their code”), or developing communication skills (“presenting your work to an audience”).

Our badges are platform and technology independent – we don’t specify what you need to use or how to make it. “Solve a real-world problem using code” is open enough that it could be attempted using any language.

Now we have a set of badges that we can award at any of our Dojos across the country. Some are linked to specific workshops (the Pi Dojo badge is awarded for setting up and using a Raspberry Pi micro-computer), or longer courses (we offered badges to those who attended our week-long Future Makers events this summer)

CoderDojo Scotland Open Badge

The young people attending our events enjoy collecting our badges. Alongside the digital badges, we give them a sticker that they can add to their notebooks. We hope that this motivates young people to return to our Dojo, and since introducing the badges we’ve noticed our retention of young people has increased: some young people have now attended over 20 monthly Dojos.

Our volunteers, many of them experienced industry professionals, also recognise that the Open Badges could serve the young people well when applying for jobs:

More and more were seeing candidates who arent coming to the industry through the old channels, such as university courses – many are even choosing to skip further education altogether. For any candidate, these badges not only indicate an aptitude in key skills, but a passion for technology that is extended beyond the classroom.

Daniel McCafferty – Lead Engineer – Jamgo

 

Currently our badges are being recognised by various youth organisations.  Several young people have used their open badges to qualify for components of the Duke of Edinburgh award.  As these badges become more established we hope they will be recognised by more organisations and employers.

Over the next year, we’ll continue to experiment with Open Badges and look at creative digital solutions that allow young people to show off their badge collection and their achievements.

Craig Steele

November 17, 2014
by Ruth Allen
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MRV Scotia: Survey 1914S – Cruise Programme

Duration: 7 – 22 December 2014

Loading: Aberdeen, 4 December 2014

Unloading: Aberdeen, 22 December 2014

Fishing Gear: Sea-Bird CTD/Carousel, sledge with OPC and CTD, day grab, Hammon grab

Objectives

  1.  Perform routine hydrographic sampling at stations along the long term monitoring JONSIS section in the northern North Sea.
  2. Perform routine hydrographic sampling at stations along the long term monitoring Faroe-Shetland Channel sections: Fair Isle-Munken and Nolso-Flugga.
  3. Conduct combined plankton/hydrographic observations by deploying the sledge with OPC/CTD at previous Aries stations in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel.
  4. Take nutrient, chlorophyll, TA/DIC samples along standard lines.
  5. Make CDOM fluorometry measurements for hydrocarbons along the monitoring lines and take up to 20 HC samples of calibration.
  6. Take water samples for bacterial analysis by Heriot Watt University at locations along the long term monitoring sections.
  7. Take microplastics samples at standard stations including full depth profile along the long term monitoring sections.
  8. Take grab samples at selected stations along the Nolso-Flugga line using the day grab and test the Hammon grab.
  9. If sheltering in a suitable location (around Shetland, Orkney, Pentland Firth) due to bad weather conduct VMADCP survey.
  10. In case that there is time conduct sampling along the following sections (in order of priority):
  •  Fair-Isle-Munken FASTNET stations (“J-line”);
  • Faroe-Cape Wrath Z (FCW, possibly with extension);
  • Shelf edge lines 1-4 in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel.
Figure 1: The three main monitoring lines Jonsis, FIM and NOL (including FCW line).

Figure 1: The three main monitoring lines Jonsis, FIM and NOL (including FCW line).

General Procedure

After departing Aberdeen and completing appropriate drills, the vessel will proceed to the eastern end of the JONSIS line and complete hydrographic stations in a westerly direction (Table 1, Figure 1).

The vessel will then proceed to the Faroe-Shetland Channel. Depending on weather conditions we will commence hydrographic sampling and OPC measurements at selected stations along the Fair Isle-Munken survey line.

On completion of the Fair Isle-Munken line the vessel will proceed to conduct hydrographic sampling and OPC measurements at selected stations on the Nolso Flugga survey line.  Towed deployments of the OPC sampler will be carried out only at selected stations along the two lines in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel.  In addition grab samples will be taken at selected stations along the Nolso Flugga line. Additional sampling (HC, microplastics, etc.) will occur along the standard stations.

In case we are sheltering in a suitable location (around Shetland, Orkney, Pentland Firth) we will use the opportunity to conduct VMADCP surveys.

After completing the above three main priority monitoring lines, we will sample along other sections listed as options above.

 

November 17, 2014
by Ruth Allen
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Marine & Fisheries News from other Organisations

Majority of UK public unaware of growing threat that ocean acidification poses to the marine world

According to the results of a major new national survey, published by Cardiff University, the majority of the British public has a very low awareness of the issue of ocean acidification, with around only one-in-five participants stating they had even heard of the issue. Although many other aspects of global climate change are readily recognised by the general public, we know far less about how they view ocean acidification. Researchers from Cardiff University have conducted the first comprehensive survey of the British public’s views on this topic, interviewing over 2,500 people across the country.

The survey was funded by the UK Ocean Acidification Programme (UKOA). It was carried out by researchers from the Tyndall Centre and the Climate Change Consortium of Wales based in Cardiff University’s Schools of Psychology and Earth and Ocean Sciences.

Brought to you by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (www.pml.ac.uk) on behalf of the UK Marine Science Coordination Committee.

For more information about the Marine Science Co-ordination Committee, please visit www.defra.gov.uk/mscc/.

November 14, 2014
by blog administrator
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Humza Yousaf: International development on agenda in Geneva

Earlier this week I was in Geneva, engaging with a number of forums about the Scottish Government’s innovative approach to and effective, targeted work in the international development sphere, and our pioneering role as champions of climate justice.

The visit was organised around an invitation to address the inaugural session of the CIFAL Global Network Annual Meeting of Directors at the UN Headquarters, Palais des Nations. This had come through CIFAL Scotland, which the Scottish Government supports to deliver the UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research) programme in Scotland.

In the company of fellow introductory speaker, Sally Fegan-Wyles, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and interim UNITAR director, plus Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, El Salvador Ambassador to the UN, I highlighted the distinct Scottish approach to international development to a global audience.

Humza Yousaf and Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the UN

We have always been an outward looking nation. Through the Scottish Government’s annual £9 million international development fund, we exemplify our commitment to delivering real and lasting impact in the fight to tackle poverty, and to help people access their basic human rights.

In Geneva, I asked every UN agency and development expert I met, “How can a country of our size make the biggest impact in global poverty reduction?” The resounding answer was that Scotland must continue to show leadership, be ambitious and most crucially, to be brave.  They all believed that leadership can be shown, regardless of the size of the nation.

I was delighted by the opportunity for the Scottish Government to co-host, with UNITAR and CIFAL Scotland, a climate justice event in Geneva, bringing together a group of international experts. In my address I spoke of our £6 million world-first Climate Justice Fund, which supports projects on climate change adaptation, especially water resource management.

There was also the chance to take part in an international development executive roundtable discussion, organised by the private sector initiative, Accenture Development Partnership, on “The Scottish Approach and Contribution to International Development and the Potential for Greater Devolution”.  I was keen to get other European views and a different perspective on how to progress the Scottish Government’s international development policy, while simultaneously raising awareness of what we currently do and how.

I also had the opportunity to engage with several UN agencies, including UNISDR to hear about their disaster reduction work and UNHCR who were praiseworthy in their recognition of what Scotland is doing to assist refugees.  We were warmly welcomed throughout the visit and it was heartening to see the high level of interest in Scotland’s contribution to global challenges and willingness to share thinking on how this could be developed.

2015 will see the Sustainable Development Goals agreed – setting the new framework for addressing the global challenges facing our world.  It will also be a significant year in Scotland’s constitutional journey with the Smith Commission process which I hope will strengthen Scotland’s position to contribute internationally.  My visit to Geneva underlined the opportunity for Scotland to make a vital contribution to addressing global challenges.  The task ahead is to continue to develop our strategy for how this can best be delivered.

November 14, 2014
by Angela Constance - Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment
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Women in work

Cabinet Secretary chairing the Strategic Group on Women and Work

Cabinet Secretary chairing the Strategic Group on Women and Work

This was been a historic week for female employment.

In amongst some very positive news in the latest labour market figures was proof that that we are making a difference in narrowing of the gender gap.

The gap between male and female employment rates in Scotland shrunk from 9.4 percentage points in Nov-Jan 2013 to just 5.4 percentage points now.

This is compared to an increase from 9.8 percentage points to 9.9 percentage points in the UK, showing that Scotland is leading the way in supporting women into jobs.

Today I chaired the latest meeting of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Group on Women in Work which draws together key figures from a number of sectors to discuss how best to address the issue.

The group has been meeting since 2012 to consider what more can be done at all levels to help women to fulfil their potential in the labour market. While we know many issues still remain, progress is being made in a number of areas.

For example, Careerwise is a £250,000 fund being delivered through the Scottish Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology to encourage more young women into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths jobs.

With further action on childcare and enterprise, there is much being done and our employment record is strong when compared to the rest of Europe.

 

But we want to be even better. Control of Scotland’s welfare and employment system would allow us to open up further opportunities for women to enter the jobs market. Women are key to Scotland’s continuing economic recovery and we must continue to push for equality in the jobs market, particularly in areas such as engineering and ICT.

 

Today’s discussion represented the next step in what must realistically be viewed as a lengthy process, which will form part of the Scottish Government’s work to reduce inequality.