Scotland is subsidizing electric bikes to encourage sustainable and active travel

This is something North American governments should copy.

Scotland is a very hilly place. Sometimes it seems it is nothing but hills. I asked engineer and long-distance runner Es Tressider of Highland Passive why he moved there and he told me “for the hills.” It is often cold and wet and windy. On a recent visit I was almost blown off the roof of Duart Castle. The roads are impossibly narrow and scary and everyone drives on the wrong side.

EdinburghAn e-bike would have been nice here/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Yet somehow, cold, windy, blustery, hilly Scotland finds the wherewithal to promote e-bikes. According to Kieran Howells Bikebiz, the Scottish government is investing £1.3 million (US$ 1.726 Million)to promote e-bikes.

This is counter-intuitive, given that when I asked in a recent post Why don’t electric bikes get the kind of support that electric cars do? A commenter responded “Because bikes are of limited use in a country built on suburbia and cold wintery snowy climates.” The consensus was that nobody is going to use an e-bike if it is hilly and cold and windy or the distances are long. What are they thinking in Scotland?

According to Howells, half a million will be available as interest-free loans of up to £3,000 so that individuals and business can buy e-bikes and e-cargo bikes.

The e-bike Grant Fund will allocate £700,000 for local authorities, public sector agencies, community organisations, colleges and universities to encourage large-scale e-bike adoption. It is expected grants will fund e-bike pools, secure cycle parking and safety equipment.

This was all announced by Fergus Ewing, a cabinet secretary for “the Rural Economy and Connectivity”, a name that says it all to people who claim that e-bikes are an urban-only phenomenon.

These funds are the latest in a range of measures the Scottish Government is introducing to encourage sustainable and active travel. We want more people, who undertake shorter journeys, to leave their cars at home and go by bike for the benefit of their health and our environment.

E-bikes can be a great way of getting started with active travel as they offer as much assistance as the rider needs. They also make it easy for people to take heavy bags with them using panniers, trailers or by opting for an e-cargo bike in the first place.

We need this kind of thinking in North America, this realization that you do not need a car to do everything. Instead, we get the attitude that you can’t do things on a bike or e-bike that you can in a car. This is true, it is hard, but not impossible, to move a couch on a bike. But it’s hard in most cars too.

Then there is the pervasive attitude that somehow electric cars are better and different from gasoline powered cars. Even though we find that ultimately they take up as much space and are often just as problematic.

In a long great post on Medium, Gary Kavanagh makes a strong case in favour of alternatives to the car. He is speaking about electric scooters which are being banned or limited, but his thoughts apply to e-bikes too:

We should not be trying to suppress speed capped light weight zero emission mobility that presents vastly less potential harm to others while being far more energy efficient than fully electric cars which expend most of their energy to carry dead weight and predominately empty seats as all cars do.

Many millions of dollars are being spent to subsidize electric cars, and nothing in North America for electric bikes while electric scooters get banned. How about a little balance here, like they have in Scotland. A small fraction of what is spent to promote electric cars could make a huge difference in the electric bike marketplace.

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Scotland Yard holds emergency meeting as London murder toll reaches 55

Community and youth workers have been invited to the Metropolitan Police headquarters, Scotland Yard, as London’s murder investigations rose to 55 this year alone. Two people were killed just this week in the east London borough of Hackney, while another six were taken to hospital on Thursday after being injured in knife attacks.

Among those attending the meeting will be Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy, who recently spoke out to say police are “vanishing” from the streets of the capital, and Nicola Calica-Myall, an activist against knife crime whose son survived after being stabbed 37 times at the age of 17.

“It’s important to know that our fears as a community are being recognized and things are in place,” Calica-Myall said, according to the Guardian. “It’s everybody’s problem and more Londoners need to recognize this situation may not go away any time soon.”

It comes as the former head of diversity and policing in Tottenham, Victor Olisa, warned that police are losing control of public spaces and hit out at senior officials for their “deafening silence.”

“Communities are saying we don’t see the police around anymore,” he said. “It appears to people I have spoken to as though the police have lost control of public spaces and the streets,” the Guardian reports. “The silence from senior officers in the Met is deafening. They should say we need more information from the public, this is what we are doing, this is what the results are.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick has tried to take control of the spate of violence by pledging to adopt ‘Al Capone’ tactics to deter potential criminals and take violent offenders off the streets “for any crime.” She added a further 120 officers will be deployed to tackle organized crime, apparently in addition to the 80-member Operation Sceptre anti-knife unit launched last May.

READ MORE: Labour MP David Lammy rants on live TV about ‘vanishing’ police… as cop stands in background (VIDEO)

However, Olisa said that wider cuts were making police officers’ jobs harder.“You don’t have as many officers available to patrol or spend time in public spaces as you did five years ago. There is less time to build conversation lines so you can get information back.”

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Man opens sex-doll brothel in sleepy Scotland village

Faith’s owner Steven Crawford, 25, says it might be “sleazy,” but he is unashamed of his business – the first of its kind in Scotland. He says he has already had clients through the door after advertising Faith on Craigslist in January.

He has officially registered Date A Doll Services Ltd with Companies House, the Daily Record reports. Date A Doll has sprung a few leaks, however. Banks have refused to let him open a business account, and Facebook and Twitter have removed his ads.

“My doll is called Faith – as in ‘Faith I will succeed,” he told the newspaper. “If someone thinks, ‘He’s sleazy,’ they’re absolutely entitled to think that, but I really don’t have any qualms about it.

“The neighbors won’t be pleased but I hope that as long as the environment I’m creating is safe and legal, they’ll understand.”

“In the interests of security, I don’t reveal my full address in my advert. We arrange a meeting point and sort out the payment and deposit. I ask for one form of ID and a signature,” he added.

Faith’s services cost just slightly less than those of a human prostitute. A 2016 study found sex workers in Britain charge an average of £78 an hour.

Crawford bought his blonde sex doll for £1,800 ($2,500) from supplier Love Doll UK – the company whose try-before-you-buy scheme got it kicked out of its Gateshead business premises last week.

Crawford is advertising his service on the classifieds ad site Craigslist as “Britain’s first sex doll brothel.” The ad has since been removed.

“I’ve had in the region of 50 enquiries and my customers were in the 30-40 age bracket,” he said.

Crawford, who is single, added: “I don’t think a girlfriend would approve of this kind of business venture. But right now I’m just a young guy who wants money and flash cars.”

Asked if he had had sex with his doll, Crawford said: “Does a chef taste his own food? I thought I’ll need to make sure it’s all right. Absolutely.

“But I know what it’s like now and it’s just a needless risk to the product. I don’t want her suffering too much wear and tear and for me it’s all about the money.”

The UK’s first sex-doll brothel, Lovedoll UK, was forced to shut down last week after being evicted from a business park in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. That closure came after the first one in Europe shut in Barcelona just a month after opening.

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Scotland bans plastic-handled cotton buds

The ban is expected to reduce Scotland’s marine plastic pollution by 50 percent.

Scotland is the first country in the UK to ban plastic cotton buds (also known as swabs or Q-tips). While most supermarkets have already eliminated them, selling only paper-handled ones, many small grocers and corner stores continue to stock imported plastic versions; these will be the target of Scotland’s new ban.

The ban stems from growing concern about the number of plastic cotton buds washing up on beaches and shorelines after being flushed down the toilet. And we’re not just talking about a few. It’s estimated that, by eliminating this source, Scotland will cut its plastic pollution in half.

Scotland’s environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said in a speech:

“Despite various campaigns, people are continuing to flush litter down their toilets and this has to stop. Scotland’s sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945m litres of waste water each day. These systems are not designed to remove small plastic items such as plastic buds, which can kill marine animals and birds that swallow them.” (via the Guardian)

Not to mention the fact that it will make beaches a whole lot nicer to visit and explore without seeing the detritus of people’s ear-cleaning attempts all around. Yuck!

Dr. Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, sees the ban as setting an important tone for action on plastic.

“Following the plastic bag charge and the announcement of a deposit and return scheme for [beverage] bottles and cans, this is another good step on the way to a society which uses resources more sensibly. We look forward to further initiatives when the Government’s promised new group on single-use plastic containers, such as coffee cups, reports its work.”

It’s shocking to think that cotton buds make up about half of all marine litter washed up on UK beaches, especially because they are such an unnecessary product. My doctor has told me they’re not even good to use, since they compact the wax and make it harder to get out.

Bea Johnson of the Zero Waste Home maintains that a finger nail can do the job (in private, I hope). Others suggest a Japanese metal ear spoon, a drop of oil daily in the ear to loosen any buildup, and hot showers to flush it out naturally.

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World’s first floating wind farm now operating in Scotland

We’ve been following the development of the Hywind floating wind farm project with great interest, and were super encouraged when it was followed by announcements of other, larger installations.

By offering floating turbines that are anchored to the floor via a cable, as opposed to by expensive and difficult to install fixed foundations, the hope is the this technology will both drive down costs and open up new areas to wind energy development. And this means the potential for harvesting stronger, steadier winds farther out at sea.

But all that depends, of course, on whether it actually works. The good news is that we should now be able to find out, as developer Statoil has announced that the project is now officially live and producing energy.

Here’s how Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, welcomed the launch when she officially opened the site:

“This marks an exciting development for renewable energy in Scotland. Our support for floating offshore wind is testament to this government’s commitment to the development of this technology and, coupled with Statoil’s Battery Storage Project, Batwind, puts us at the forefront of this global race and positions Scotland as a world centre for energy innovation,”

That battery storage initiative—reported on by us here—will add a 1MW storage capacity to the project, potentially offering even more utility in terms of stability of output and leveling out the peaks and troughs of renewable energy production.

The Queen should be happy too. Because the area is leased from Crown Estate Scotland, this should add even more clean, renewable money to the crown’s growing financial interest in renewables.

Here’s a little more about how this ambitious project came about:

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Are Scotland and Catalonia’s independence struggles symptoms of EU oppression?

The director of Common Weal, a pro-Scottish Independence think tank, told RT that recent events unfolding in Catalonia are a wakeup call for the EU. If it wants to “survive,” it must take into account the political, cultural and ideological differences between its member states.

Catalonia, a wealthy autonomous region in the north-east of Spain, voted last week in an illegal, non-binding independence referendum, in which 90 percent of voters chose to break away from Spain.

The vote was marred by violence, as Spanish police attacked polling stations and protesters.

Robin McAlpine said Catalonia’s crisis is indicative of a wider trend across the EU, where various geopolitical entities are pursuing self-determination to break free from centralized governments.

Disputing the claim that Scotland and Catalonia’s autonomy movements are one and the same thing, he said: “Why do people assume that self-determination will always look the same? It doesn’t,” he said, pointing out the varying political, cultural and ideological triggers.

“The significance [of the Catalonia referendum] is for Europe and its nation states, who eventually will have to understand that it cannot repress discussion in regions that forsake self-determination forever,” McAlpine said.

So although it is hard to distinguish clear ties between the two countries’ independence movements, it seems like they were triggered by the same attempt by the EU to ignore its member states’ thirst for freedom.

McAlpine suggested, in fact, that the Catalan referendum is more of a stark reminder that not everything in the EU can be “symmetrical” and that in order for the bloc to survive it must recognize the distinctness of each and every political movement across its union.”

“You cannot impose that level of uniformity on that diverse a continent,” said McAlpine.

“Unless the EU can understand that there are different people in different places and with different priorities, it will never represent the diversity of citizens’ hopes and aspirations.”

Scotland held its own, binding independence referendum in 2014, which saw a majority (55 percent) voting to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

However, there has been widespread speculation in recent months about a second vote taking place in the near future. Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon would like to see a repeat once the terms for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU are hammered out.

As almost 900 people were injured during clashes with the extra 4,000 national police officers deployed by Spain in the aftermath of the Catalan vote, McAlpine said Scotland “feels an enormous human solidarity” with Catalonia.

While Madrid responded with physical violence, the British government responded to the Scottish referendum in 2014 with a raft of existential threats, widely referred to at the time as “Project Fear.” London warned that banks, companies and businesses would withdraw from Scotland if it chose to go it alone.

The EU too, McAlpine said, threatened to “throw” the country out of the bloc if it saw through its plans for independence.

McAlpine’s views are echoed by Mike Small, editor of the political magazine Bella Caledonia, who told RT that Spain and Britain’s attempt to clamp down on liberation struggles in more than half their regions cannot be sustained much longer.

He compared the differing responses of central government in London and Madrid. While acknowledging Spain’s reaction was “overtly violent,” he called the UK’s “a far more insidious response,” as it was based on “large-scale propaganda and misinformation.”

“Both centralized states face a total crisis and I don’t see how it is possible to repress over a long time country, regions and nations, half of whom don’t want to be part of Spain or Britain,” Small remarked.

Small believes a second independence referendum could be on the cards for Scotland when the detrimental effects of Brexit surface in a couple of years’ time.

“Brexit is an economic disaster for almost everybody and it will cause shockwaves through Britain in a way that is barely recognized yet,” Small said.

One thing both Scotland and Catalonia hold in common, therefore, is that their future as independent nations could rest in the hands of the EU and its willingness to accommodate the continent’s regional diversity.

By Claire Gilbody-Dickerson, RT

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Scotland Is Enforcing A Ban On Fracking. Does This Mark The Start Of The End Of Oil?

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It’s official: The Scottish government has announced that they will be enforcing a ban on fracking. Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse explained that this ban is set to come into effect immediately, as he told MSPs: “Let me be clear that the action is sufficient to effectively ban the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland. . . . The decision that I am announcing today means that fracking cannot, and will not take place in Scotland.”

This ban doesn’t come without significant support, either. A public consult that received over 60,000 votes regarding the matter found that 99% of people were opposed to fracking. Most cited health and environmental concerns as the reasons for their opposition.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “fracking,” it’s short-form for hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is simply a method of extracting oil and gas from shale rock, but it’s a fairly controversial one given its potential risks. The process involves high water usage because they must drill directly into the Earth’s core, and then high-pressure water is applied to the rock in order to fracture it and release the gas inside.

The process also involves injecting chemicals into the rock at a high pressure, which people have raised concerns over. These chemicals are potential carcinogens and pose a risk of contaminating groundwater nearby. Fracking is not a pretty sight, and although it may be lucrative, the risks outweigh the benefits (trust me, I used to work in the mining industry).

Of course, the ban will not be put into place without some criticism. Those opposed to the ban worry about the economic impact it will have on Scotland, as fracking is a lucrative business that requires many jobs. Their concern is that these jobs and this money will simply vanish, and that job opportunities will be taken away from citizens.

However, like any large-scale shift in society, as certain jobs are lost, more jobs will be created in different sectors. We witnessed a similar shift in the industrial revolution. People were terrified that machines would take their jobs and livelihood and that they’d have nowhere to go.

In reality, the transition toward renewable energy and away from oil and gas will actually present more jobs for people. The argument that oil creates more jobs than clean energy is nothing more than an old school scare tactic. Solar power alone employs more people in the U.S. than oil, coal and gas combined.

Dr. Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, commented: “It’s excellent news the Scottish government has listened to the thousands of people, campaigners, and politicians across the country who have been calling for a permanent ban to fracking. . . . The climate science is clear. The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground.”

Final Thoughts 

This isn’t just a victory for the environment, it’s a victory for the people, too! 60,000 people, to be exact, clearly supported the Scottish government’s ban on fracking. People want clean energy, and soon enough people will need clean energy.

We often forget that we don’t have an endless supply of oil and gas. These are finite resources, and they come at an extreme cost. We have safer, cleaner options that don’t contribute to the destruction of the environment. It’s time that we make the shift toward renewable or even free energy, so we can say goodbye to fossil fuels once and for all!

How would YOU change the future?

Will “business as usual” take our planet and civilization down the road to complete destruction?.

In this new film called Prosperity, you can learn the ways in which companies are changing the game in order to change our world. CE’s founder Joe Martino is in this film talking about CE’s business practices.

Watch the film free to see how things are changing.

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First snow of winter hits Ben Nevis, Scotland; less than 2 weeks after summer ends


The first snow of winter has fallen just days after summer ended.

Scotland is now shivering in a four-day polar chill with frost, snow and hail forecast.

An inch of snow fell on Ben Nevis in the Highlands yesterday less than two weeks after summer finished.

Running coach Paul Lind – who scaled the mountain and caught a glimpse of the snow – said: “Ben Nevis had 2cm of fresh snow on the summit ridge.”

Snow expert Iain Cameron added: “The first UK snow of the 2017-18 season is confirmed.”

Hikers also battled 45mph polar gales making 0.7C temperatures feel like -8C yesterday on Cairngorm.

The Met Office warned of more snow flurries over the weekend on higher Scottish peaks.

Snow is due in the Highlands and the Met Office said nights down to 3C are due, with localised frost in Scotland.

Government forecasters said cold polar winds from the Norwegian Sea and sharp showers would chill the weekend.

Met Office forecaster Grahame Madge said: “Colder Arctic maritime air is being funnelled to Scotland by the remnants of Storm Aileen.

“There is a risk of snow flurries on the highest mountains with sleet possible lower down. Low levels do not have a snow or sleet risk, but could see hail anywhere.

“Frost could be seen locally in Scotland. 3C nights are forecast in the North of the UK, with daytime highs a little below average.”

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Scotland To Ban Sale Of New Gas And Diesel Cars By 2032

By via Eco Watch

Scotland announced plans to end the sale of new gas and diesel-powered cars by 2032 and fast-track the development of a country-wide charging network for electric vehicles.

“Our aim is for new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be phased out in Scotland by 2032—the end of the period covered by our new climate change plan and eight years ahead of the target set by the UK government,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday.

“We live in a time of unprecedented global challenge and change,” Sturgeon continued. “We face rapid advances in technology; a moral obligation to tackle climate change … These challenges are considerable, but in each of them we will find opportunity. It is our job to seize it.”

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Meet the sea sheep of Scotland’s North Ronaldsay island

Semi-wild and isolated to a 270-acre stretch of shoreline, the North Ronaldsay sheep are one of only two land animals that live exclusively on seaweed.

I didn’t think there could be anything cooler than the sea wolves who swim for miles and live off the ocean, found in a remote stretch of rainforest on Canada’s Pacific coast. But then I heard about the sea sheep of Scotland’s North Ronaldsay island. The sea wolves have some competition.

Sea sheep© Lis burke/geograph

Situated at the most northern end of the Orkney Islands, North Ronaldsay has the beautiful rugged coastal landscape not surprising to Scotland’s northern isles. Except, of course, for the fact that there are some 3,000 sheep making their way along the rocky shore, foraging for seaweed, cohabitating with the seals. These are the sea sheep of North Ronaldsay.

Sea sheep© Adrian Steen/geograph

Karen Gardiner at Atlas Obscura explains that they are a primitive breed, coming from the North European short-tailed sheep group. A relatively petite kind of sheep – measuring only 18 inches to their shoulder and rarely weighing more than 42 pounds – they’ve been on the island, evolving in isolation, maybe as far back as the Iron Age. And, as Gardiner writes:

Aside from the Galapagos marine iguana, they are thought to be the only land animals able to survive solely on seaweed. This is not just a quirk, but the result of necessary evolution.

The curious case of the sea sheep all began in 1832 when the island’s landowner made way for cattle and crops by exiling the sheep to the shore. Corralled in a 271-acre section of shoreline, the sheep are kept from wandering by a 13-mile-long stone wall called the sheepdyke. Being the master foragers that they are, they eked out a diet from among the black rocks of the shore, and have survived on the gifts of the sea ever since.

“They’re very self-sufficient. They don’t generally need human intervention in terms of lambing, or having problems with their feet, or anything like that,” says Ruth Dalton of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. “They’re quite close to how sheep were in the wild, compared to what humans have done to them to put meat on in the right place and to have more wool and the rest of it.”

Sea sheep© Oliver Dixon/geograph

Billy Muir, who has shared the rocky shore with the sheep for half a century as lighthouse keeper, knows the creatures well. He tells the BBC that they live by the tides, which determine when they eat and sleep. “They sleep when it’s high tide and eat when it’s low,” says Muir. “They’re governed by the moon and the stars, there’s no doubt about that.”

So there you have it. The sea wolves are incredible, but wee rugged sheep that live on seaweed, cavort with seals, and are ruled by the heavens? They might just give the wolves a run for the money.

Sea sheep© Mike Pennington/geograph

Read much more about them at Atlas Obscura and BBC.

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