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Archive for the ‘Resilient Land of Scotland’ Category

Space, not Brexit, is final frontier for Scottish outpost

By Roland Jackson

Farnborough, United Kingdom (AFP)

July 20, 2018

Never mind Brexit: For a remote peninsula in the Scottish highlands, the buzz is all about hi-tech rocket launchers firing satellites into space.

In just three years’ time, rockets will send satellites into orbit from the rugged stretch of coastline, under British government plans unveiled this week.

The sleepy county of Caithness and Sutherland has been selected as the site of the country’s first ever space port, Britain announced at the Farnborough Airshow, a showpiece event for the global aerospace sector.

The UK Space Agency awarded a ?2.5-million ($3.3-million, 2.8-million-euro) grant towards the construction of a vertical space port facility in Sutherland, which will become operational in 2021.

The announcement has boosted hopes for an industry worried about the effects of Britain leaving the European Union and raised spirits in pro-EU Scotland, which was outvoted in the 2016 referendum.

“It is rocket science,” Roy Kirk, area manager for Caithness and Sutherland at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), a development agency for Scotland’s devolved government, said in an interview with AFP at Farnborough.

The launchers, made by established player Lockheed Martin and startup business Orbex, will stand 17 meters (56 feet) tall and will fire rockets that take just eight minutes to get into orbit.

– Boost to local economy –

“We are delighted we have been selected as a spaceport for vertical launch,” said Kirk, adding that the site would also create tourism opportunities.

“The local economy will benefit.”

The space port would employ about 40 staff within three years of operation, but the supply chain around that would support nearer 400 jobs.

Satellite uses include navigation, weather forecasting, telecommunications and financial transactions, while they are also vital for defense and energy sectors.

The Sutherland facility will cost an estimated ?17.3 million to build, including some ?10 million from HIE.

The port will be well positioned geographically to launch satellite rockets over the North Pole.

– ‘No different than before Brexit’ –

Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is seeking to develop the UK space industry after its role in European space projects was called into question by Brexit.

Space is one of Britain’s fastest growing sectors and generates more than ?13 billion of income per year.

“Our ambition to grow the space sector is in no way any different than it was before Brexit,” Graham Turnock, head of the UK Space Agency, told AFP on the sidelines of Farnborough.

“We are actually looking to the opportunities for trade deals with the rest of the world after Brexit so we are very positive about that.

“We are still aiming to achieve 10 percent of the world space market by 2030. We are very confident that we can do that.”

He also sought to dispel concerns that Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2019 would hurt the industry.

“Obviously we are talking to the EU about our future participation in the space programs.

“We have said that we’d very much like to continue to participate in Galileo Copernicus, but it takes two sides to want to have that discussion.”

Britain wants continued participation in the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system — but Brussels rejects the idea.

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling meanwhile appeared at Farnborough to champion the space investment.

“After pioneering the development of those small satellites over many years, adding our own space ports means we can now move to offering customers a one stop shop in the United Kingdom,” Grayling told delegates.

“A full package of services — from design to build, right up to launch.”

– Focus on strategy –

Brexit has sparked uncertainty but also opportunity, some academics argue.

“The main impact of Brexit right now is uncertainty,” said Martin Barstow, professor of astrophysics and space science at the University of Leicester, which is launching a government-backed global industry hub Space Park in the central English city in 2020.

“Having said that, there have been some positive consequences as a result,” he added, citing government investment in both Space Park Leicester and the Sutherland spaceport.

“The government suddenly needed to focus on industrial strategy and suddenly needed to focus on investment in the regions quite quickly.”

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Space_not_Brexit_is_final_frontier_for_Scottish_outpost_999.html.

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10,000 protest Trump in Edinburgh; UK police seek paraglider

July 14, 2018

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — From the capital of Edinburgh to seaside golf resorts, thousands in Scotland staged colorful, peaceful protests against Donald Trump on Saturday as the U.S. president played golf at one of his luxury retreats.

Trump and his wife, Melania, are spending the weekend out of the spotlight at his Scottish golf resort at Turnberry, on the western coast, ahead of his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

On the beach outside the resort, a dozen demonstrators staged a “protest picnic,” chanting “Trump is a racist! Trump is a liar!” as hotel guests played golf just 100 meters (yards) away. A line of police, some on horseback, separated the protesters from the golf course. Snipers were also perched atop a nearby tower overlooking the vast property.

Police were still trying to find a paraglider who breached a no-fly zone Friday night and flew a Greenpeace protest banner over the resort. The glider carried a banner reading “Trump: Well Below Par” to protest his environmental and immigration policies. Greenpeace, in a statement, claimed the protest forced the president to take cover, saying “as the glider appears overhead, the president can be seen making for the entrance, breaking into a trot.”

The environmental group said it had told police about the stunt 10 minutes before the glider arrived. Detective Inspector Stephen McCulloch said the protester breached a no-fly zone over Turnberry hotel, committing a criminal offence.

On the eastern side of Scotland, dozens of others protested Saturday outside Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen. One woman climbed onto a wall surrounding the golf resort but was helped down by police.

A much larger demonstration was staged in Edinburgh, where 10,000 people weaved through the capital’s streets in an anti-Trump protest as amused tourists looked on and motorists beeped their horns in support. A choir, a bagpiper, a tambourine band and poetry readings added to the carnival spirit.

Protesters launched into the sky a 20-foot (6-meter) tall blimp depicting Trump as an angry orange baby holding a phone for tweeting. The same “Baby Donald” balloon flew Friday over anti-Trump protests in London, where thousands crammed the streets of the British capital to vent their anger over Trump’s first official visit to Britain.

One protester in Edinburgh, posing as Spider-Man, carried a placard reminding the president that “with power comes responsibility.” “I came to Edinburgh with my daughter to show her it’s important to stand up against men like Trump,” said Caroline Blake, 31, a beautician with her 4-year-old daughter. “Anybody who thinks it’s OK to grab women and talk about them like Trump does isn’t fit to be a president of anything.”

Jonathon Shafi of the group Scotland Against Trump said he wanted to show solidarity with Americans against Trump. “It’s not acceptable that a president talks about grabbing women, separates children from their families and gives encouragement to fascist, racists, misogynists and homophobes,” he said. “We are not anti-American, just against Trump and his divisive regime.”

Some walking by viewed the demonstration as a waste of time. “I don’t see the point,” said Beth Anderson, 43, an office administrator from Edinburgh. “What Trump does and says in America is a matter for the Americans. They say he hates women and is racist, but we’ve got people like that here too.”

But others say it was important to send a message — even if it never reaches Trump himself. “I don’t think anything gets the message across to Trump, but I hope demonstrations like these encourage people in the States to fight the Trump regime,” said Eli Roth, a 56-year-old from California who is living in Edinburgh. “We need to show that there are people outside America who care about what is happening and that Trump has a global impact.”

Sylvia Hui contributed from London.

‘Game of Thrones’ co-stars Kit Harington, Rose Leslie wed

June 23, 2018

LONDON (AP) — Former “Game of Thrones” co-stars Kit Harington and Rose Leslie married Saturday with a church service and a celebration at the bride’s ancestral castle in Scotland. The couple and guests arrived for the afternoon service at Rayne Church, close to the 900-year-old Wardhill Castle in northeast Scotland, which is owned by Leslie’s family. Harington, wearing a morning suit, and Leslie, in a flowing ivory gown and veil, smiled at members of the public who had gathered outside the church.

Guests included the pair’s “Game of Thrones” co-stars Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner and Emilia Clarke. Later the newlyweds were showered with rose petal confetti as they left the church and drove off in a Land Rover festooned with “Just Married” signs to a reception on the castle grounds.

Harington and Leslie, who are both 31, met in 2012 on the set of the HBO fantasy series, where they played a couple as the characters Jon Snow and Ygritte. Leslie left the cast in 2014 and currently stars in U.S. legal drama “The Good Fight.”

The couple announced their engagement with a notice in the Times of London newspaper in September. The bride’s father, Sebastian Leslie, said Saturday he was “absolutely thrilled” about the wedding. “It’s an absolutely lovely day for us,” he said.

Wind Turbines Supplied 99% of Scotland Electricity Demand Last Month

Lorraine Chow

Nov. 07, 2017

Another month, another renewable energy record for Scotland.

Scottish wind turbines, propelled by Hurricane Ophelia’s strong winds, sent more than 1.7 million megawatt hours of electricity to the National Grid in October, according to WWF Scotland, citing data collected from WeatherEnergy.

Scotland’s total electricity consumption for homes, business and industry was around 1.75 million megawatt hours in October, meaning wind turbines alone generated 99 percent of the country’s electricity needs.

If we were just to look at households, wind power generated enough electricity for 4.5 million homes last month—that’s almost twice the number of actual households in Scotland.

“No one will be surprised that October proved to be a spectacular month for wind energy, with some high winds, including the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia,” WWF Scotland’s acting head of policy Gina Hanrahan told the Press Association.

“Fortunately our infrastructure coped well with the windy weather which provided enough to power nearly twice the number of households in Scotland and almost all of our electricity demand.”

Just this past Oct. 2, wind generated enough electricity to power 7.116 million homes, or about three times the number of Scottish households.

“We’re blown away by these figures but they are part of a pattern of increasingly green power production made possible thanks to many years of political support in Scotland. Across the year, renewables now contribute over half of our electricity needs,” WWF Scotland’s Director Sam Gardner said at the time.

But as Huffington Post UK pointed out, while these figures are impressive, the problem with so much wind energy is that all of it needs to be distributed so it does not go to waste. To solve this problem, perhaps Scotland can take a page from Germany, whose grid operators sometimes have to pay customers to take electricity off the grid because its renewable energy mix is generating so much power.

Another method would be ramping up the nascent grid-scale storage industry. The Scottish government is already trying this with its Hywind Scotland—the world’s first floating wind farm, which officially switched on last month. The farm is integrated with Statoil’s Batwind, a lithium battery that can store one megawatt-hour of power to help mitigate intermittency and optimize output.

While one megawatt-hour is not a lot—about the capacity of over 2 million iPhones—”it is the first step in a larger-scale rollout of battery solutions for renewable energy,” HuffPo UK noted.

As Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy said, “October was an extraordinary month and provides more evidence that greater investment in both renewables and storage is the way forward.”

Source: EcoWatch.

Link: https://www.ecowatch.com/wind-power-scotland-2507484398.html.

Scotland Sets Wind Record, Provides Enough Electricity for 3.3 Million Homes in March

True Activist

12 April

By Amanda Froelich

Slowly but surely, it is becoming fact that households and entire countries can run on clean, renewable energy. Costa Rica, for instance, ran on renewable energy sources for 285 days in 2015 and achieved similarly in 2016. Additionally, Denmark produced 160 percent of its energy needs in one day in July of 2015 via wind power.

Now it has been reported that Scottish turbines provided 1.2 million megawatt hours of electricity to the National Grid—enough energy to meet the electrical needs of 136 percent of households in the country (or ~3.3 million homes). What’s more, 58 percent of Scotland’s entire electricity needs were met for the entire month. The Independent reported that on March 17 and March 19, enough energy was generated to power Scotland’s total power needs for an entire day.

An analysis of WeatherEnergy data by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Scotland revealed that the amount of energy generated in March increased by a staggering 81 percent compared to the same month in 2016.

WWF Scotland’s director, Lang Banks, commented on the monumental achievement:

“Given this March wasn’t as windy as it has been in some previous years, this year’s record output shows the importance of continuing to increase capacity by building new wind farms.

“As well as helping to power our homes and businesses, wind power supports thousands of jobs and continues to play an important role in Scotland’s efforts to address global climate change by avoiding millions of tonnes of carbon emissions every year,” he added.

Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy added her insight:

“It’s massively impressive how Scotland has steadily grown its wind power output [over] the years. The total output from turbines this March was up more than four-fifths compared to the same period last year. This was enough power to provide the equivalent of the electrical needs of over three million homes. More importantly, it meant the equivalent of almost three-fifths of Scotland’s total electricity needs during March were met by onshore wind power.”

Now that Scotland has set an impressive new wind record, the WWF is calling on political parties to continue backing onshore wind power to help the country meet its carbon emission cut targets. One of the country’s goals is to deliver the equivalent of 50 percent of the energy required for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Source: EcoWatch.

Link: http://www.ecowatch.com/scotland-wind-power-record-2357425827.html.

Scottish lawmakers back independence referendum call

March 28, 2017

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Scottish lawmakers voted Tuesday to seek a new referendum on independence, presenting the British government with an unwelcome distraction as it prepares to push the European Union exit button.

The Edinburgh-based legislature voted 69-59 to ask the U.K. government to sanction an independence vote that would be held within the next two years. Outside, several dozen independence supporters bearing Scottish and EU flags broke into cheers and tears of joy as they heard the news.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who asked lawmakers to authorize her to request the referendum, says Scots must be given the chance to vote on their future before Britain leaves the European Union.

British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to launch the U.K’s two-year process of exiting the EU on Wednesday by triggering Article 50 of the bloc’s key treaty. Britain as a whole voted to leave the bloc in a referendum last year, but Scots voted by a large margin to stay.

“Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands,” Sturgeon told lawmakers before the vote. Scottish voters rejected independence in a 2014 referendum that Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party called a once-in-a-generation vote. But Sturgeon says Brexit has altered conditions dramatically.

She says there should be a new plebiscite on independence between fall 2018 and spring 2019, when details of Britain’s divorce terms with the bloc are clear. Sturgeon said that whatever the final terms, Brexit would mean “significant and profound” change for Scotland.

“That change should not be imposed upon us,” she said. “We should have the right to decide the nature of that change.” May, whose government must approve the referendum for it to be legally binding, says the time is not right. She says all parts of the U.K. — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — must pull together to get the best-possible deal with the EU.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson agreed, saying Tuesday that Scots do not want “the division and rancor of another referendum campaign.” The Scottish parliament had been due to vote on Sturgeon’s referendum demand last week, but the session was adjourned after Wednesday’s extremist attack in London.

Sturgeon’s referendum call was backed by the governing Scottish nationalists and the Greens, and opposed by the Conservative and Labour parties. It’s unclear what could break the stalemate between Edinburgh and London. British officials have indicated they would not agree to another independence referendum until Britain’s EU exit is over and done with — a process that could take longer than two years.

David Mundell, the British government’s Scotland minister, said the U.K. government would not be “entering into negotiations on whether there should be another independence referendum during the Brexit process.”

“It’s not appropriate to have a referendum whilst people do now know what the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU will be,” he said. Sturgeon said after the vote that she would “seek sensible and constructive discussion” with the British government later this week.

“I hope the United Kingdom government will respect the view of parliament,” she said. “This is simply about giving people in Scotland a choice.” Should that fail, Sturgeon promised to inform the parliament of next steps after its Easter break next month.

In Edinburgh, supporters of Scottish independence urged Sturgeon to forge ahead. Scott Murray, a 71-year-old music tutor, said the vote for Brexit had changed everything. “I think we should have another referendum,” Murray said. “I feel that we are divorced from what happens in the south of England and we should be our own country and stand on our own two feet.”

But plumber Brian Hamilton, 45, said he’d be happier if members of the Scottish National Party government “got on with their day jobs” rather than focusing on Europe. “They say they speak for the people of Scotland, but they don’t speak for the people of Scotland because they are not representing me whatsoever,” he said.

Lawless reported from London.

Scotland seeks new independence referendum amid Brexit spat

March 13, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Scotland’s leader delivered a shock twist to Britain’s EU exit drama on Monday, announcing that she will seek authority to hold a new independence referendum in the next two years because Britain is dragging Scotland out of the EU against its will.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would move quickly to give voters a new chance to leave the United Kingdom because Scotland was being forced into a “hard Brexit” that it didn’t support. Britons decided in a June 23 referendum to leave the EU, but Scots voted by 62 to 38 percent to remain.

Scotland must not be “taken down a path that we do not want to go down without a choice,” Sturgeon said. The move drew a quick rebuke from Prime Minister Theresa May, who said a second referendum would be hugely disruptive and was not justified because evidence shows most Scottish voters oppose a new independence vote.

May accused Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party of political “tunnel vision” and called the referendum “deeply regrettable.” “It sets Scotland on a course for more uncertainty and division,” she said. Sturgeon spoke in Edinburgh as Britain’s Parliament was on the verge of approving a Brexit bill that will allow the U.K. to start the formal withdrawal from the EU within days. May plans to trigger the two-year exit process by the end of March.

Sturgeon said she would ask the Scottish Parliament next week to start the process of calling a referendum, to be held between the fall of 2018 and the spring of 2019. She said by then, details of Britain’s post-Brexit deal with the EU would be clear and Scottish voters would be able to make “an informed choice.”

The British government must agree before a legally binding referendum can be held. It didn’t say Monday whether it would do so, but said an independence ballot “would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time.”

In a 2014 referendum, Scottish voters rejected independence by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent. But Sturgeon said that the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU had brought about a “material change of circumstances.”

Sturgeon said that she had sought compromise with May’s government, but had been met with a “brick wall of intransigence.” Sturgeon has been seeking a deal that would allow Scotland to stay in the European single market and customs union. But she said she has become convinced May is pursuing a “hard Brexit” that would leave Britain outside those arrangements, which many U.K. businesses see as crucial.

“I am not turning my back on further discussions should the U.K. government change its mind,” she said. Sturgeon is taking a big gamble. Although the prospect of Brexit has likely boosted support for independence, polls do not indicate it has majority backing. And there is no guarantee the EU would allow an independent Scotland to remain a member.

Former European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has set out the legal view that if one part of an EU country becomes an independent state, it would have to apply for its own EU membership. On Monday, commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said “the Barrosso doctrine … would apply, obviously” to Scotland.

Apart from Sturgeon’s SNP, Britain’s main political parties oppose independence. “The 2014 Scottish independence referendum was billed as a once-in-a-generation event,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said. “The result was decisive and there is no appetite for another referendum.”

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said Scotland could find itself with “the worst of all worlds” — outside both the U.K. and the EU. Asked whether she would resign if she lost the referendum, Sturgeon said she wasn’t planning to lose.

“Sometimes you’ve got to do what you think it right in politics,” she said. “And I think it’s right for Scotland to have a choice.”

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