Scottish Government Blogs

July 28, 2015
by Sarah Buchanan
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Active Travel: Good for You, Good for the Environment

Travel is necessary – to get to the shops, to go on holiday, or for slightly less exciting pursuits such as the journey to work. Instead of absent-mindedly reaching for the car keys every time you need to make a journey, why not consider walking or cycling instead. Walking and cycling, also known as active travel, have many benefits for you and for the environment.

Walking and cycling are easy ways to include activity in our weekly routines. It is recommended that adults take part in 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity every week, but only 64% of men and 58% of women in Scotland meet these recommendations. Cycling or walking even one journey per week brings you closer to this target and you’ll feel the benefit to your overall health. Being active can help prevent and manage over 20 chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes, cancer and mental health problems.

It may not come as a surprise that as our levels of active travel drop, congestion and the amount of cars on the road rises. This has devastating effects on our environment. There is currently one car for every two people in the UK, accounting for 13% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions. Small, individual changes can add up to large CO2 savings. A litre of petrol creates around 2.3kg of CO2, but when you cycle you barely emit any CO2. If you cycled 10km each way to work, you could personally save about 1.3 tonnes of CO2! For a better idea of what this amounts to, take a look at these videos on the Greener Scotland website here. As well as saving CO2, you will be helping to improve air quality as active travel produces less pollution.

Proof you can cycle to work even in a suit! Credit: Transport Scotland on Flickr

As well as the environmental and health benefits of active travel it can also be a more convenient way of making your journey. Nearly 75% of journeys we make are under 5 miles and many of these take place during rush hour when traffic is at its busiest. A study by Citroen in 2006 found that during the average one-hour commute in Edinburgh a driver would be stationary for almost 18 minutes. Even when the streets are congested a cyclist can easily average 10 miles an hour, so instead of sitting in traffic why not keep active and travel by bike instead. You’ll save money by cutting your petrol costs, and if you’re a Scottish Government employee we offer free Dr Bike maintenance sessions for staff to ensure your bike is in good condition.

Walking is a good option for shorter journeys and doesn’t require any special equipment. About a third of our journeys are less than a mile, which would only take 15 to 20 minutes to walk. Walking is an easy way to improve your fitness and get some fresh air. If we all swapped one weekly drive for walking we would see a 10% reduction in traffic, creating a greener, quieter and safer atmosphere.

You never know – you might even enjoy walking or cycling instead of taking the car. Even a short walk releases endorphins which help reduce stress and swapping busy roads for scenic shared use and cycle paths makes for a far more pleasant journey.

We asked Scottish Government staff to send in photos of their cycle commute for our Bike Week photo competition in June and got some stunning responses. There were 37 entries with common themes being nature and water, ranging from the Clyde to the Water of Leith. The entries were judged by Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood who had a very difficult job narrowing them down.

The winning entry came from Jeremy Stevenson of Education Scotland who photographed his bike next to the Clyde at Erskine. The runners-up were Julie Stuart from Economic Development whose photo showed her bike and Nelson’s Monument in Glasgow Green, and Becky Taylor from Environmental Management for her photo of the Edinburgh skyline from the Arthur’s Seat cycle path. Jeremy won a copy of Philipp Hympendahl’s cycling photography book “Beyond the Finish Line” and a pocket guide to 30 Cycle Routes in the Lowlands and Highlands by Alasdair Cain. Julie and Becky won a copy of Cain’s guide and everyone who took part received a selection of goodies from Sustrans.

Although there were some lovely photos, perhaps the best thing about the competition was the stories staff sent in to accompany their entries. Some talked of sharing their morning commutes with their children, dropping them off at nursery and spending some quality time in the great outdoors along the way. Others mentioned the wildlife and scenery and some talked of personal bests or achieving cycling goals. Cycling to work can be both enjoyable and a challenge, but is certainly more interesting than sitting in traffic!

Inspired but not sure how to proceed?

If you’re a Scottish Government employee and would like to start cycling to work but aren’t sure of the best routes to take, email the Environmental Management Team at with your home and work postcodes and we’ll draw you up an electronic personal Travel Plan. This will include active travel and public transport options. It is especially useful for finding new off road paths along your route.

Many people are slightly nervous about getting back on a bike, particularly if you haven’t cycled for a while or are getting used to a new bike. The Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative have produced a useful and encouraging guide to put you at ease.

Cycling Scotland offer training courses, whatever your age.

Fancy a walk at lunchtime? Ramblers have routes across Scotland for 15, 30 and 60 minute walks, including walks from many Scottish Government buildings.

If you need a bit of encouragement, check out the free Greener Journeys app developed by Greener Scotland for iPhone users. This plots your journey on a map so you can see how far you’ve travelled and also shows how many calories you’ve burned and even the amount of carbon you’ve saved. Use the app for both walking or cycling for a real sense of achievement. Leaving the car at home is something to be proud of!

Credit: Carlton Reid on Flickr




July 27, 2015
by Jamie Begbie
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Help improve the system for disclosing previous offending behaviour

The Criminal Law and Sentencing Unit is currently running a consultation on proposals for reforming the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.  This consultation is running until 12 August 2015.

The proposals in the consultation paper focus on two key aspects of the current lower level (commonly known as ‘basic’) disclosure regime under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

These key aspects are;

• allowing more people with previous criminal activity to be able to move away from their past after a suitable period of time has elapsed, (i.e. changing the scope of the 1974 Act); and
• changing the different periods of time a person has to disclose their previous criminal activity, (i.e. the rehabilitation periods).

The Scottish Government recognises that having to disclose previous criminal activity, such as a previous criminal conviction, affects many people in our society. The consequences of having to do so can have an on-going impact on people’s ability to gain employment; attend university or college; volunteer, obtain certain licences, secure an apprenticeship or even get insurance or a bank account; etc.

We know that the key factors that influence people not to re-offend include having stable employment, access to education, having positive family relationships and having normal lifestyle choices. Public safety and the interests of wider society are, therefore, generally best served by encouraging and enabling people to move on from their offending behaviour as much as possible.

That is why the Scottish Government is keen to gather as many views as possible from individuals, employers, public bodies and all other interested stakeholders to help improve the current system of disclosure under the Act 1974 so that the rights of individuals to be able to move on with their lives can be more appropriately balanced with the general need for public safety.

For further information or to have your say, please go to:

July 27, 2015
by Sarah Griffiths
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Gender inequality is too often the norm by Grahame Smith

On an October afternoon in 2012, Malala Yousafzai – who had been sharing her views on promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley – was shot three times.

Her actions brought equality in education to the forefront of people’s minds; it generated debate and brought about positive action.

We were united in agreement that men and women should have equal access to education, no question.

But when we shift our focus from the classroom to the workplace, gender inequality seems to be accepted. 

While we’ve moved forward with greater emphasis on gender equality in legislation, the issue is a tough one to crack as it goes deeper than policy.

There are structural barriers in place preventing both men and women from pursuing jobs in certain industries. It could be something as simple as the way the role is marketed or it could be as challenging as the employer’s perception of who is suitable to fill the post.

Social and cultural norms also dictate the roles men and women should fill and we seem to be reluctant to challenge those norms.

For example, for girls leaving school and going on to employment, the most popular career choices are hospitality, travel and tourism, and retail, sales and marketing.

While many women opt for careers in science, they tend to follow specific roles such as veterinary medicine, midwifery or general medicine. Very few pursue careers allied to other sciences such as physics.

For boys leaving school, the most popular jobs are, unsurprisingly, construction and engineering. While the numbers of boys pursuing a career in veterinary medicine is drastically lower than girls.

This unconscious gender bias is deeply rooted long before subject choices are made at school or university applications are submitted. We, therefore, need to educate them at an early age in order to open up their minds to the possibilities available to them regardless of gender.

Last year we started trialling a project that offers work based learning in schools to give pupils the chance to complete the core elements of a Modern Apprenticeship while in full time education.

The first of these pilots was in the engineering sector – traditionally a male dominated industry – and the project gave female and male pupils the chance to go out to an engineering company to learn about the industry.

The feedback from the female pupils has been encouraging with some of them speaking positively about continuing down the engineering path. Through the experience we’ve opened the door to the sector for them and shown them that it’s not just a ‘jobs for the boys’.

We’ve also joined forces with The Institute of Physics and Education Scotland to empower more young women to choose subjects based on ability and interest, rather than gender.

At Higher level boys made up 72 per cent of physics entrants in 2014. For as long as this significant variance occurs, girls will miss out on the opportunity to work in exciting, rewarding jobs related to the subject.

We have a number of projects that aim to bring industry to life for young minds, including the launch of ‘Learning Through Work Week’ in 2014 that brought employers to the classroom in over 300 schools across Scotland. Pupils heard direct from employers and Modern Apprentices about a range of jobs and sectors, they heard from successful women holding senior positions in male-dominated industries and they had the chance to ask them questions.

We will look to repeat the success of this initiative again in November this year and we’ve also organised a series of projects with a similar approach and aim.

In Aberdeen, we worked with employers including Stewart Milne Homes as well as a range of partners including local authorities, colleges, CITB and Equate. Together we hosted a week long pilot project for young women from the City and Shire to give them an insight into the wide range of careers on offer in building, construction and property.

We strongly believe in the value of this work in beginning to address gender inequality in the workplace but we can’t do it alone.

From parents to teachers, employers and peers, everyone has a part to play in breaking down the invisible barriers that are seeing many young women overlook rewarding careers in science in favour of a more socially ‘acceptable’ role for a female.

We need to work together to do what we can to tackle gender inequality but we also need to accept that there’s one major factor that we can’t influence and that’s personal choice.

There will be a number of young women in Scotland today with their hearts set on pursuing careers in the likes of veterinary medicine, hospitality or marketing. I could do my utmost to convince them that it is in fact a career in engineering that they should be pursing.

I could point to successful female engineers, tell them about the exciting jobs they could be doing and share with them the potential earnings. Now I ask you, is that enough to make you change your choice of career?

 Grahame Smith is a board member of Skills Development Scotland, General Secretary of the STUC, and a member of the Developing the Young Workforce National Advisory Group.

For more information or to be kept up to date with the latest on the DYW programme, you can sign up to our newsletter here, follow us on LinkedIn or drop the team an email on


July 27, 2015
by Ruth Allen
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MASTS Deep Sea Collaboration Project (Survey 0915S) – last update 27th July 2015

Here’s the last update from the Deep Sea Survey 0915S:

Day 9

We continue to work away. The baited lander is retrieved for the last time  and the pictures are downloaded successfully. Rather than risk further misfires with the maxicorer we switch gear to the less sophisticated, but more reliable Van Veen grab to get our seabed samples. There is clearly a difference in sediment type and infauna between the faults and the plates. It’s pretty much flat calm and whales are seen spouting on the horizon. The TV camera is deployed and follows a second line of multibeam track further confirming what we saw yesterday. By mid-night it’s time to heave it back up and start our long passage back home to Aberdeen.  It’s been a very interesting and challenging cruise. Both the MASTS scientific team and the Scotia team have worked hard to pull it off and we are going back with many interesting observations, data and sample material. Time will tell what it all means.

Francis Neat, Marine Scotland Science

Further Information:

Further Information:

July 24, 2015
by Ruth Allen
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MASTS Deep Sea Collaboration Project (Survey 0915S) – update 24 July 2015

The latest update of the MRV Scotia Survey 0915S….

Day 4.

After yesterday’s tantalising glimpses of what might have been the cold seep, Jim Drewery, leads the watch in which we begin to deploy the more conventional  seabed sampling gear. The first samples suggest we are indeed in the right area. Graham Oliver who did the formal identification of the new species is aboard and he confirms that the specimens are the same species we found 3 years ago.  The lander is retrieved, but something is very strange – the bait has not been touched, all the pictures are black and the ‘feet of the lander’ are covered in a sooty substance. We decide to core the site to see what the seabed consists of. As the maxicore comes up, it’s clear it  has only partially worked with 5 out of 8 cores containing samples. The most noticeable thing is a sulphurous pong, but when we decant the cores the overlying water is more like a slimey ooze. The core appears to contain very little in the way of life. Baffled we process the samples and preserve them. By evening time we get the TV going again and we fly straight back into the blizzard. So it seems to be typical of conditions down there. Eventually we come out it and we are back into the greenish ripple features. There are plenty of fish about. Its appears that in the very bottom of the trench is some extreme environment perhaps only inhabited by bacteria -  but as you get further away life begins to get going again and there diverse ecosystems.

Day 5.

The sampling continues. One haul of the Agassiz trawl yields nearly 1 tonne of mud! We are all a mess after that, but there are some interesting specimens to be catalogued. The lander again comes up in a similar state as yesterday – no evidence of fish or much else other than bacteria in the slimey ooze at the centre of the trench. We move it further toward to edge of the trench and redeploy. We’ve had a few issues with the maxicoring today – misfires and wire tangles, but eventually we got 4 perfect cores which are carefully sectioned and preserved. Heather Stewart from BGS has had more success with deploying the gravity core which has done the business every time and we’re building up a good sample. Each core drives some 2.5 m into the sediment reaching down to deposits laid down before the last ice age. Tonight TV operations switched focus to a second deep basin area just a mile to north, separated by a ridge. Here the visibility was much better (no blizzards) and similar features were seen.

Day 6.

Overnight a camera tow was made along the east side of the trench and revealed a completely different environment – coral gardens and boulders that had presumably rumbled down the steep sides of the trench wall to the east. It was a busy morning with Agassiz trawl – a very diverse haul from the side of the trench. Problems with the depth sensors on the sampling gear meant we were unable to deploy SAMS’s epibenthic sledge. We continued with the Agassiz trawl – this time in the middle of the trench. A fraction of the bulk and diversity this time – only 1 km from the previous haul. There are some very steep environmental gradients here. After lunch we retrieve the lander. Tom Linley, a PhD student from Oceanlab is clearly relieved to see the bait has been eaten. The pictures are downloaded we finally see something – deepwater sharks, skates and cut-throat eels all attacking the bait. Also plenty of amphipods swarming around. Then its onto coring which goes well – finally we get a full set of cores from the green potential seep habitat we have been seeing on the video. There is a thick carpet of green slime sitting on top of very white and fine sediment. Above the slime the water is clear and normal, unlike the smelly ooze we encountered before. The wind is freshening and the forecast is for a 24 hour storm. We get 30 minutes of TV deployment, but by 21:00 the wind is gusting 40 knts and we abandon operations and get the chariot safely back on board.

Day 7

Well it wouldn’t be Rockall with a bit of rock and roll. 60 knt gusts overnight and a big old sea is now stopping us from doing anything more than opportunistic mapping of the seabed using the ship’s Olex system.  Conditions moderate enough by 18.00 to resume work and we got going with the last gravity core deployment in the potential cold seep area. The baited lander was recovered and we did one final TV tow in the area before moving further west to the Hatton-Rockall basin Marine Protected Areas site.

Francis Neat, Marine Scotland Science

Further Information:

July 23, 2015
by Ruth Allen
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Get interactive with Wild Fisheries Reform

The consultation on the proposed conservation measures to introduce a licensing system for the killing of any wild salmon in Scotland together with associated carcass tagging regulations and baits and lures regulations closed on 30 April. The proposed measures would apply solely to salmon and not to sea trout.

Over 600 replies to the consultation were received. Analysis of the responses is being carried out. Responses (if permission has been given by the respondent) will be published on the Marine Scotland website in due course.

The proposal for a “kill licence” was one of the recommendations of the Wild Fisheries Review (WFR) report published in October 2014 and part of the wider on-going Wild Fisheries Reform programme which is set out in the current consultation on the Scottish Government’s response to the WFR.

Ministers advertised their intention to create a licensing system and carcass tagging regime as well as a prohibition on the killing of salmon out-with estuary limits through regulations. In doing so , this provides an opportunity for interested parties to make any representations and objections within 28 days.

To assist that process we are launching this week-long interactive discussion  (ending Wednesday 29 July) on the detail of the scheme and some of the common messages and themes emerging from the consultation process. This is an open forum where you should feel comfortable to share and discuss your views on these important issues. While we will look to ask some specific questions which are contained within the various idea boxes, we anticipate the discussion will develop into different issues directly related to this proposal. In those circumstances, further idea boxes can be created using the “submit an idea” box on the right hand side of the page.

Take part in the interactive discussion on these pages:

More Information

July 23, 2015
by SG Admin
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Help create a healthier Scotland

Clare Smith – Chief Marketing Officer

Short but sweet shout out to talented people looking for a short term contract.

We’re looking for an energetic communicator with project management skills to join our team to deliver a communication and engagement programme around health and social care.

This role will be varied and high pressured at points with tight delivery timings. It will work across SG Marketing, Policy and News teams although homed in the Marketing team.

Intrigued? Please get in touch by Friday, August 7, 2015 –

Creating a Healthier Scotland job spec




July 23, 2015
by Linda Green, Cyber Resilience Policy Officer
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Help Shape Scotland’s Cyber Resilience Strategy

The Cyber Resilience Unit is currently running a consultation on a Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland.  This consultation is running until 28th August 2015.

There is little doubt that the internet and mobile technologies continue to transform the way we go about our business. The opportunities available in the digital world are clear to all.  However, our increasing dependence on cyberspace has brought new risks from criminals who seek to exploit this and related technological advances.
Cyber-attacks can happen to any organisation no matter of size.  The Scottish Government recognises that the ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a cyber-attack, protecting the integrity of markets and supporting consumer confidence, is crucial.  It is therefore running a public consultation and is seeking views from individuals and organisations, across all sectors, on how Scotland can become even more resilient to cyber-attacks and associated crime.
For further information or to have your say, please go to:

July 23, 2015
by Ruth Allen
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It’s a Super Saturday with Marine Scotland Science

Super Saturday - Land and Sea

Earlier in July, Marine Scotland Science STEM Ambassador, Jane Mills, took part in Fraserburgh’s Super Saturday – Land and Sea event. The Super Saturdays run between May and December and have a different theme every month.

With the help of local skippers who have provided her with fish, Jane hosted a fresh fish counter where people could find out more about the fish and pick them up to have a good look.

Jane is no stranger to fresh fish counters and we wrote about some workshops she did earlier this year with Seafood in Schools.

Super Saturday’s

The remaining Super Saturday’s for this year are:

August 9: Farming

September 13: Food & Drink

December 9: Festive

More Information

July 22, 2015
by Linda White
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Caring for our Carers


“At its heart, health and social care integration is about ensuring that those who use services get the right care and support whatever their needs, at any point in their care journey.” (National Health and Wellbeing Outcome)

Carers Scotland believes that carers and people who use services must be at the heart of all decisions – both strategic and on an individual level – and support, rather than being service and demand driven, must be responsive, holistic and individual.

Having seamless support, that identifies carers early, anticipates rather than reacts and is delivered in the way that meets their needs, is not only vital to the person they care for, but also for the carers own health and wellbeing.

Scotland’s 759,000 carers are not just people who provide care – nor are they just a resource to be called upon – but are individuals with their own needs and aspirations, who need to keep in good health and have a life outside caring.

Research has consistently shown that caring can have a negative impact on both the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of the carer, creating health problems and contributing to the deterioration of existing illnesses.

We also know that carers often experience barriers to accessing the healthcare they need, including acute care and planning of scheduled operations.  Finding time to attend routine medical and dental appointments when you are caring for someone can also be difficult.

Two out of five carers report that they have put off medical treatment – often making the problem worse or extending their illness, creating additional illness and making caring harder.   For example, carers have told us of delayed diagnosis of cancer, untreated coughs turning into bronchitis, putting off operations which resulted in much poorer outcomes and delaying dental treatment necessitating tooth loss and decay.  These may not have developed if carers had sought treatment sooner.

Carers are well aware that they needed to look after themselves but often find it difficult to do so.  For a number of carers just finding the time to make an appointment or finding someone to look after the person they care for in order to attend the appointment can prove to be impossible.


“People who provide unpaid care are supported to look after their own health and wellbeing, including to reduce any negative impact of their caring role on their own health and wellbeing.”(National Health and Wellbeing Outcome)

This is just one area where we believe integration can make a difference and the above national outcome will help bring clarity to where action is needed and help drive forward that change.

Of course, there are other supports that carers need – including regular breaks, time to have a life outside caring and, importantly, the right support for the person they care for.  However, this one element points to an area where integration can make a difference.  Planning and delivering integrated services (with carers) can ensure that the right, responsive services are available that allow carers to look after their own health and wellbeing.


Fiona Collie, Policy & Public Affairs Manager, Carers Scotland,