Scottish Government Blogs

July 26, 2016
by Ruth Allen
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Ocean modelling/marine ecology PhD studentship

SeagullPhD Studentship: Modelling climate change impacts on seabirds via ocean and forage fish dynamics

Britain’s seabirds have declined over the last three decades, and the species that have declined most are those dependent on small, nutrient-rich forage fish like sandeels. These fish occupy a critical point in marine food webs, vulnerable to both “top down” effects (e.g. fishing) and “bottom up” climate impacts via local ocean physics and plankton productivity. Concern over human impacts on sandeels and their predators have led to fishery closures and the creation of special Marine Protected Areas and Marine Conservation Zones, but where does climate change come into this story? Are current hotspots of sandeel and seabird productivity in British waters, the sites one would naturally focus on protecting, still going to be the hotspots fifty years from now? Are recent short-term trends a reliable guide to long-term future change?

This studentship will address these questions by linking together state-of-the-art dynamical simulations describing regional oceanography, plankton ecology, and sandeel life history, along with spatially explicit data on seabird numbers and trends. This project thus integrates many disciplines including physical oceanography, data science, marine ecology, and life-history theory.

Excellent mathematical and programming skills are required, and a background in either oceanography or ecology is preferred. The project will be co-supervised by:

  • Dr Neil Banas, an ocean modeller in the Dept of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow UK
  • Dr Ruedi Nager, a seabird ecologist in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health, and Comparative Medicine at University of Glasgow
  • Dr Peter Wright, a fish biologist and head of the Ecology and Conservation group at Marine Scotland Science, Aberdeen

The student will be registered jointly at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities–a rare, highly interdisciplinary opportunity–and participate in the MASTS (Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland) research network.

The position is open to all UK and EU applicants and comes with three years of full support, including fees and an annual living stipend of approximately £14,000, as well as support for conference travel and other expenses. Start date is flexible, with winter 2016-17 preferred.

Review of applications will begin 15 Sept 2016 and continue until the position is filled. To apply, send:

1) a complete CV

2) a 1-2 page personal statement explaining your specific interest in this position and the skills you bring to it

3) names and contact info for three references.

Please send applications and other inquiries to Dr Neil Banas,

July 25, 2016
by Ruth Allen
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SCUBA-diving ‘scientists’ can help monitor global ocean temperature

Dive computers and YSI Castaway CTD

Dive computers and YSI Castaway CTD

Did you know that each time you scuba dive you are potentially collecting data which can help scientists better understand our seas and oceans?

The potential of scuba divers to provide vital information about the temperature of our oceans has been demonstrated for the first time using ‘citizen science’. A study published today in Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports has shown that temperature profiles from scuba divers’ computers can be compiled to provide accurate records across the globe that add to our existing monitoring network in inshore areas. This offers additional data that could help us better understand our marine environment.

Dr Serena Wright (Cefas), lead author of the study, said: “Our results show that, with processing, dive computers can provide a useful and novel tool with which to augment existing monitoring systems all over the globe, but especially in under-sampled or highly changeable coastal environments.”

The work, led by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science in collaboration with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) , developed the diveintoscience website that collected more than 7,600 temperature records from sport divers to build up a record of global sea temperature in the first ‘citizen science’ project of its kind.

Dr Kieran Hyder (Cefas), who led the citizen science project, said: “To undertake a global science programme that could generate this information would be hugely expensive, but there are millions of sport and commercial dives every year. Making use of just a small fraction of those dives will greatly increase our knowledge of what is happening world-wide.”

Co-author Dr John Pinnegar (Cefas), lead advisor on climate change, said: “The coastal environment is an important region of our oceans and is vulnerable to pressures brought about by increasing human populations and climate change. The diveintoscience initiative can help generate the large datasets often required to support and improve management decisions.”

The temperature recordings were downloaded from decompression computers that are commonly worn by sport divers, but the accuracy of these records was unknown. Comparisons made by ‘diving’ computers alongside scientific instruments and with satellite measurements of water temperature in this study showed that diver computers can provide accurate records.

Co-author Dr Martin Sayer leads the Natural Environment Research Council’s National Facility for Scientific Diving (NFSD) based at (SAMS, near Oban and has conducted numerous studies on the performance of dive computers. He said: “What we are hoping is that the results from this study will encourage manufacturers and their customers to see the potential benefits of developing new dive computer models that not only support the diver but also produce high quality oceanographic data.”

Dr Hyder acknowledges that there is still some way to go before he achieves his ultimate vision of a global oceanographic resource that is developed and maintained through citizen science. He added: “This has been a very successful proof of concept. The next stage is to work with dive computer manufacturers, potential user groups, diving organisations and the divers themselves to improve the quality of the information and the user experience.”

He added: “The potential of scuba divers to contribute to ocean monitoring is huge and I believe that this study demonstrates only the tip of the iceberg. I would encourage all scuba divers to get involved.”

More Information

July 22, 2016
by Ruth Allen
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Orca spotting in Lerwick

Orca and calf

Orca and calf

One of the many advantages of working in one of our coastal fishery offices is the opportunity to not only be surrounded by beautiful scenery and to live in wonderful coastal communities, but to see things that are a little unusual and, quite literally, breath taking.

Two of our – very excited – fishery offices from Lerwick had the opportunity to see some orcas (Orcinus orca) and their calves playing in the water near their office. One managed to get some photographs while the other managed to capture some video.

There is a known pod of older orcas on the west coast, but other orcas come in to Scottish waters as visitors from Iceland.

Further Information



July 20, 2016
by Ruth Allen
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The Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan needs your vote!

Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Plan areaThe Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Plan area supports a diverse marine economy and a vast majority of the area is used for multiple activities, meaning there is a potential for competition and conflict.  To try and address this, this area was chosen to pilot the development of a marine spatial plan, aimed at supporting sustainable management of the area’s seas, while balancing the needs of local communities and marine economic activities and protecting the environment on which they depend.

The pilot plan was a collaborative project, developed by working group that included Marine Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council. It was given Ministerial approval in March 2016 and we’re delighted to say that it has been shortlisted for a Scottish Award for Quality in Planning. You can read more about it on the Marine Scotland website and vote for it to win the People’s Choice category.

There have been many lessons learned in going through the planning process which will inform the preparation of other regional marine plans and the governance arrangements that could underpin Marine Planning Partnerships. It is also anticipated that the pilot Plan will establish a useful basis for the preparation of the two future regional marine plans for Orkney and the North Coast Scottish Marine Regions.

Further Information


July 20, 2016
by Ian MacFarlane
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Safer Communities & Justice Brief : July 2016

Scottish Government Justice Analytical Services have recently published the July edition of the Monthly Safer Communities and Justice Brief.

The brief provides, in a single place, a concise but comprehensive overview of all the most important Justice and Safer Communities statistics in Scotland. It is published on a monthly basis and readers should feel confident that the data in it are up to date.

This version includes a special feature on its back page, drawing from recent research undertaken by Justice Analytical Services. This month’s article provides provides an infographic summary of the recently published Scottish Crime and Justice Survey statistics on Drug Use in Scotland.

 A copy of the brief can be found on the Crime and Justice Statistics section of the Scottish Government website (

Any suggestions for improvement or for other aspects to cover in the brief would be very welcome and should be addressed to

July 18, 2016
by Lyndsay Cruickshank
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MRV Scotia: Survey 1016S Programme

Duration: 18 July – 3 August 2016

  • Sonardyne Ranger II USBL system
  • Sonardyne directional / omni-directional transponders (x3)
  • TV drop frame and wiring harness
  • TV sledge and wiring harness
  • SEA LED lights (x4)
  • SeaLaser (x4)
  • Kongsberg OE14-408 digital camera system
  • Kongsberg OE14-366 digital still camera system
  • Kongsberg OE14-366 TV camera system
  • SUBC 1-CAM Alpha HD camera system
  • mini Hammon grab
  • 0.25m2 USNEL BSL Box core

Marine Scotland Science (MSS) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) will undertake an offshore seabed survey of Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope (GSH hereafter) Scottish Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area (NCMPA) on the Marine Research Vessel (MRV) Scotia (Figure 1).  Located to the north-west of Scotland, Geikie Slide and the Hebridean Slope (GSH) NCMPA follows the descent of the seabed from a depth of 113m on the Hebridean continental shelf, into the deep-sea of the Rockall Trough to a depth of 1757m.  Habitats within the MPA vary down the slope with the descent into deeper water.  The MPA represents the variation in sandy, muddy and gravelly habitat types present, and the animal communities they support.


  1. Conduct a Type 1 monitoring survey of GSH focusing sampling within nested boxes positioned to allow for sampling to occur across the range of depths, biological zones and proposed management measures at the site.
  2. Conduct Type 3 sampling within a nested box outside of GSH at the same depth and of similar current fishing pressure as a nested box within a proposed management measures area in GSH.
  3. Conduct a camera chariot transect and benthic sampling survey within GSH (including within area of existing MBES bathymetry and backscatter data) to gather further information on the distribution of broadscale habitats present within the site.

After completion of safety drills and exercises, Scotia will proceed westwards towards the Geikie Slide and Hebridean Slope survey area (GSH), stopping at a suitable location (Buchan Deeps) to undertake gear testing on route.  The vessel will then make passage to the work site and commence sampling with the 0.25m2 box core and TV frames on the stations detailed in Figure 2 and in Table 1 and 2.  In total, 108 TV, sediment and benthic infaunal samples will be collected from the GSH site.  Off-site contingency options have been identified following discussion with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).  These sampling stations may be visited if work is disrupted by prolonged bad weather.


Further Information:

Figure 1: Survey Location

Figure 1_Survey Location_Survey 1016S

 Figure 2: Sampling locations

Figure 2_Sampling Location_Survey 1016S

 Table 1: Station Positions

Table 1_Survey 1016S

 Table 2: Chariot Transects

Table 2_Survey 1016S web

July 15, 2016
by Jana Sweeney
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Making digital friends

Digital Friends graphic - are you a digital Yoda? Mentor the next digital Luke.

What do you see when you think of a civil servant? Do you know what we actually do?

I’ve only been in government for nine months and every time I say what I do one of my friends asks “what does that actually mean?” Until now, civil servants have often been seen as a faceless mass behind ministers. That needs to change.

A key part of making government more open and accessible is encouraging civil servants to use social media to discuss their work. According to our ISM modelling, we are nervous about using social media. We need to make sure our colleagues have the right skills as well as the confidence and encouragement to get out there.

We’ve learned a lot from other organisations like Barclays Bank and the UK Government who have pioneered the use of mentoring to help people take their first steps in using social media.

So the concept of Digital Friends was born. Digital Friends is an informal partnership between a senior civil servant (the mentee) and a more digitally-astute colleague (the mentor). The mentor can help the mentee improve their digital skills and confidence – introducing them to new platforms or more efficient ways to work. Initially this might seem a one sided relationship but it should be mutually beneficial, with the mentor simultaneously practising their coaching skills and the potential for job shadowing opportunities.

We set up a three-month pilot with seven partnerships. Each mentor who volunteered to participate was a Modern Apprentice or a member of our Graduate Development Programme. We asked them to co-design the pilot as part of an induction session, where they were given the space to raise any worries and consider what shape the pilot should take.

Many had concerns about how to approach more senior colleagues, and wanted ways to share ideas and get support from each other. They came up with practical solutions, a ‘collection of top tips’ of ice-breakers.

This approach ensured that each individual relationship was unique, engineered to the requirements of the mentee. Mentors were encouraged to continually improve their own skills and empowered to create their own curriculum, personalising the lessons to individual needs. Some even set homework or quick quizzes.

So that we wouldn’t be lost amongst other government pilots we created an eye-catching, friendly brand. We posted it on Yammer and within a day had more than 50 notes of interest.

It’s still early days, but we’ve seen great results. The mentees have started using Yammer and Twitter more effectively. Many have continued their partnerships beyond the anticipated three months. As one mentee put it:

“We all know that social media can play a big part in us being an open, capable and responsive government and it was fantastic to have the help of a Digital Friend to allow me to maximise its potential.”

Whilst mentors feel more confident in their coaching skills and there have been plenty of fringe benefits, including job shadowing and support with their career development. With a mentor saying:

“The programme helped me to develop my mentoring skills and also gain exposure to a more senior colleague on a personal level. It challenged me to think about how to teach someone to do something, rather than simply do it for them.”

Digital Friends is a small, simple step. But we hope it is the first step to creating an open government which any citizen, including you, can talk to.

Have you had any experiences of running similar initiatives? Been a mentor or mentee and have some feedback you could give?


July 15, 2016
by Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Employability and Training
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World skills day

Jamie Hepburn meeting with with young people who are undertaking training to help them get jobs at Action for Children

To mark UN world skills day, Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn outlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to make Scotland the best place in Europe for Youth Employment:

Today is the first ever international world skills day – which has the aim to reduce unemployment and underemployment amongst young people across the world. This is an ambition that is shared by the Scottish Government with our commitment to reduce 2014 levels of youth unemployment by 40 per cent by 2021.
We are doing all we can to make Scotland one of the best places in Europe when it comes to youth employment. Our youth employment strategy details our plan to equip our young people with the skills and knowledge they need from the early years right through to the senior phase and into an apprenticeship, further and higher education, and a job.

We will also use new  powers to provide young people aged 16 to 24 who have been unemployed for six months or more with a Jobs Grant to help them with the costs of getting into or back into work.

As a country we know that we can do better if we can benefit from the skills, talents and innovation of all our young people.
This is why earlier this year we introduced five Developing Young Workforce regional groups across the country to support young people into jobs. Having local business leaders engaged and willing to help shape education and training to meet their own needs and the needs of local young people, creates invaluable opportunities for youth to flourish through gaining employment and learning new skills. By linking schools, colleges and employers to address local employment gaps, the groups will help drive youth employment figures up locally and nationally.

In Scotland, we take the importance of ensuring that our young people have the right skills very seriously. We have consistently surpassed our annual Modern Apprenticeships targets with over 25,500 starts in 2015/16. But we know we have more to do which is why we have an ambitious target to increase this to 30,000 by 2020.

Since I have taken up my role as Employability and Training Minister, I have seen some outstanding work from local businesses to help young people into work. Over the past few weeks I have visited many businesses including BT, Action for Children, Scottish Water, Production 20/20 who are working hard to help develop career opportunities for our young people.

Jamie Hepburn meeting Modern Apprentices at Scottish Water.

The resounding message from these companies has been that apprentices are a crucial element to their business bringing fresh ideas and new ways of working to the teams they join. Many young people quickly move into management roles having taken advantage of development opportunities during their apprenticeship.

The latest employment figures show that youth unemployment has decreased over the last year. We know there is an abundance of talented young people across the country and I would urge you all to get involved in the first ever World Youth Skills Day by using the followings hashtags #wysd #PowerOfSkills to showcase your skills and how you are contributing to Scotland’s economy.

July 15, 2016
by Ruth Allen
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Tracking Atlantic Salmon and seatrout smolts

Deploying Acoustic receivers

Deploying Acoustic receivers

Scientists from Marine Scotland  are working with the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd, in association with Glasgow University and local migratory fish interests, to monitor Atlantic Salmon smolt (Salmo salar) and seatrout smolt (Salmo trutta) as they migrate from the Cromarty Firth to their feeding grounds.

As part of a programme, the fish are being tagged in rivers feeding the Cromarty Firth and Marine Scotland has installed 40 acoustic receivers on a line from Burghead to Tarbat Ness to pick up signals from the tagged fish as they swim past. Additional receivers in the Cromarty Firth will separately monitor smolt movement and survival in the Firth. The aim of the survey is to determine whether or not the smolts natural migration route indicates that it may bring them into contact with any of the Renewable projects in the Moray Firth.

More Information


July 14, 2016
by child-maternal
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Carol Janes NCT Volunteering Expedition in the Highland’s

In May, encouraged by my husband, I completed The Great Outdoors (TGO) Challenge, backpacking across Scotland from Shiel Bridge to Fraserburgh in just 2 weeks. I applied in the autumn thinking we probably wouldn’t get in given there are only 300 places a year. Wrong!!!! So, with 250 kilometres ahead, and 14kg to carry (the weight of a typical 2 year old), we walked through Inverness and Aberdeen National Childbirth Trust (NCT) branches gathering funds and publicity for them along the way. I’d be the first to admit I am not the youngest, slimmest, or fittest NCT member and with this my first backpacking trip, it was a real challenge for me.In Inverness a small group of volunteers have established a Bumps and Babies group at Inshes church where expectant and new parents can drop in for a cuppa and blether. On Friday mornings this is an ideal first outing for new babies, a place to share the joys and challenges of becoming a parent for the first time. Many original members now have a second baby, bringing older siblings along too. First aid courses run regularly, in partnership with the Red Cross and one-to-one sessions with an antenatal teacher are also available. We are establishing a sling library in partnership with a local sling consultant, and are working to extend the services that NCT can offer parents in the Highland region.With volunteering at the heart of NCT, we are looking for enthusiastic volunteers who are passionate about making a difference to local parents to join us. There are a wide range of equally important and rewarding opportunities available, from making tea at our Bumps and Babies group, to IT roles behind the scenes. Volunteering provides an excellent opportunity to use and develop skills and experience, but most importantly it is a great way of making friends and have fun. Helping parents by volunteering also gives a sense of satisfaction and provides useful voluntary work experience that may enhance your CV. There are also opportunities to study through NCT College.Other ways to get involved

Do you want to engage more effectively with local service users to develop maternity services? Did you know NCT Voices practitioners are trained to facilitate a review and planning away day for your (MSLC) Maternity Services Liaison Committee?   For more information, visit VOICES multi-disciplinary workshops for the whole MSLC.

About NCT

NCT is the UK’s largest parent charity. Each year the charity supports millions of parents through their First 1,000 Days, offering expert information and trusted practical and emotional support through its website, helpline, the nationwide network of over 300 local branches, antenatal and postnatal classes, breastfeeding counselling and peer support schemes. For more information call NCT on 0300 330 0770 or visit

NCT is 60 this year, and has much to celebrate. In Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and other areas of Scotland NCT is busy supporting parents. Our website and helplines are available across the whole of the UK and beyond. Please check out what is happening locally and encourage parents to join us. Together we can achieve so much more.


Carol Janes
NCT Antenatal Teacher
Gaidhealtachd Branch (Highlands and Islands)
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