Quick questions about Scotland
Why's Glasgow so hip at the moment?
Glasgow has been one of the UK’s great musical cities for over 20 years. First came Postcard Records, a label that showcased the ‘sound of young Scotland’. Run from a pokey flat on West Princes Street in the city’s west end, it gave the world Orange Juice and Josef K, kick-starting an indie scene that eventually produced Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand, Arab Strap, Biffy Clyro and Belle & Sebastian.
The city’s hit-rate has been so consistent that it was recently awarded the title of UNESCO City of Music. Over in Edinburgh, a lack of mid-size venues and a tendency for young hipsters to flee west means the music scene has consistently lagged behind Glasgow. However, the city has just started to angle for a piece of the action, with brand new venue, The Picture House, expected to give Edinburgh’s scene a shot in the arm.
Glasgow’s success has been explained by many factors: the presence of a world famous art school, a history of a working class, can-do attitude and even the willingness of new bands to sign onto the dole for a few years as they try to make it big. What music buffs put it down, however, to is the venues.
Glasgow simply has the best places to see live music in Scotland: Nice‘n’Sleazy has become a mecca for skinny, floppy-fringed indie kids; The Arches caters to both dedicated clubbers and world music aficionados alike and the incomparable Barrowland, an old-style ballroom, complete with a huge neon sign, is regularly cited as one of the best places to play in the UK by artists such as Amy MacDonald and bands like Editors.
All this, plus a thriving underground scene of gigs in disused Victorian prisons and muddy tunnels beneath Kelvingrove Park, has made Glasgow celebrated the world over.
Edinburgh’s got a lot of catching up to do, but the city’s long-neglected music fans hope the scene will be given a leg up with the opening of The Picture House - a 1500 capacity space that will cater for bands in the ascendant and hopefully inspire the city’s musicians onto great things. The venue opened in September with a gig from local favourites Idlewild and it is set to play host to Travis, Dirty Pretty Things, Feeder and The Charlatans in the coming months.
It will take more than the opening of a new venue to estle Glasgow’s crown away, but it might just go to show that underneath Edinburgh’s posh frock pulses a faint musical heartbeat - it just needs some CPR.
How much would it cost to keep the golden eagle in Scotland's skies?
The exact answer is probably beyond The Midgie’s ken, but it cost a whopping £2million to ensure that the first pair of Scottish golden eagle chicks born in over a decade were able to fly the nest safely.
Scientists from Scottish Power were concerned that Ben and Turk, the baby eagles, would be sliced up by the new wind turbines built nearby, so the electricity giant embarked on an unprecedented project to make sure that didn’t happen.
The largest conservation area in the UK was created for the chicks and their parents to hunt in, with its natural heather restored and prey such as red grouse, hares and rabbits reintroduced. Scientists also attached satellite transmitters to the chicks to monitor them over the next three years, making sure they are safe and well but also gathering valuable data to make sure they can help more chicks survive into adulthood. Sadly, the golden eagle is becoming a rare sight in Scottish skies, driven out by the destruction of traditional habitat.
Although the species is protected, meaning hunters cannot shoot them, they are still vulnerable. The whole of Scotland was disgusted last year when a golden eagle was found dead having been poisoned. There is also a thriving subculture of egg collectors who steal from nests - golden eagles’ eggs are highly prized for their rarity. But for Ben and Turk, the future looks bright. America recently managed to get the bald eagles off the endangered list, so Scots and tourists alike will be hoping that the same can be done for the iconic golden eagle.
Is there anything good about Scotland's dodgy weather?
On a rainy winter’s day in Aberdeen, when the wind whips in off the North Sea and the sun sets at about half one in the afternoon, it’s hard to see any benefits to Scotland’s occasionally dismal weather. But a drive from Scotland’s tourist bosses to attract visitors over winter has injected over £45million into the economy, so there must be some attraction to the chilly winter climate.
The Winter White campaign ran from last November to March, pointing out that at Christmas time and during the winter, there is no place more atmospheric than Scotland. With snow-peaked mountains in the north now opening up for skiing and all manner of events in beautiful places around the country, the winter has become a time to see the country at its best. There’s a brand new snowdrop
festival, where visitors to castles and parks will be invited to appreciate the delicate winter flowers before gazing up at the stars on specially organised evenings. There are romantic chalets to be hired - which often become snowed in for a true The Shining style adventure. If you’re really intrepid, you can wander off into the hills, dig a shelter and knuckle down for an authentic survival experience.
If all that seems a bit too organised for you, there’s nothing that sums up the Scottish winter more than pelting a stranger with a snowball. Not that The Midgie condones that.