Columns

No more magic in Scotland

"I went to the north pole this morning. We created a whole world using our imagination cream. We always need that for maths lessons. Everyone was on a sled. We calculated how much we all weighed and how many huskies it would take to pull us and how long it would take us to get there. It was fun."

Rubbing herself with imagination cream may be all in a day's work for theatre professional Fiona Rennie, but it is a new departure for the maths department of Buchie high school in Moray. The project, which is designed to "sprinkle a little magic" over what can be a dry subject, is a product of Scotland's cultural coordinators, an invention of the previous Labour administration that went along with a theory of the "cultural entitlement" of all citizens. Both, however, are now being binned by the current SNP Scottish government.

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Let's knock MMR battle on the head

Well done, Dr Eileen Ruberry. Finally, an important medical personage has seen sense on the MMR and recommended that the government retreat from its intransigent approach and allow concerned parents to choose triple injections. This does not mean she is convinced by Dr Andrew Wakefield's attempts to prove the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine is linked to autism. She is not. It simply means that she recognises that allowing a minority of parents to choose the time-consuming option of separate jabs is the best way to deal with the situation.

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Against the closure of small Highland maternity units

Season's greetings to the medical team assessing maternity services at Caithness General Hospital. If it is decided to close them, Mary's stable could seem less a scene of primitive hardship and actually quite attractive to the women of Wick.

Women there are protesting against an outcome that could lead to them travelling 100 miles by ambulance down the A9 to Inverness while in labour. After all, at least Mary wasn't
hurtling along at 60mph when she gave birth but relaxing in a warm and dry abode, comfortably furnished with hay. According to the journal Science in Society, roadside births have a mortality rate of 68 per 1000, eight times higher than hospital births and 16 times higher than home births.

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'McSex' era is cheap but not cheerful

We live in the age of ''McSex'' - fast, easy, and cheap. Young women need to be helped to ''say no to soul-less sex''. ''They are having a lot of sex with a lot of different men without realising the emotional whack of that. They are feeling it is something they absolutely have to do. We have spoken to hundreds of young women and they hated what they were doing.'' The words of some Bible-bashing right-winger?

No - Cosmopolitan, the free-thinking magazine that discovered the G spot. Editor Lorraine Candy told a debate to mark 100 years of women's suffrage on Radio Four yesterday that it was time to ''pull back'' on sexual liberation because young women were being damaged by it.

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America's threadbare safety net

Leaving a train station in a suburb of Boston in a white-out one evening recently, I trudged my way through falling snow to the main street. I hailed a passing cab - but did a double take on opening the door.

In the back seat there was a three-year-old girl in a car seat watching TV. Her grandmother was in the driver's seat, a tiny woman whose head was at the same level as the steering wheel.

The pair of them saw me safely to my destination in a full-scale blizzard before setting off to look for other fares. It was 10pm.

Grandmother Julie, in debt after bringing up six children on a low wage, will be 72 before she can claim a state pension. For now, she is doing what she can to make ends meet.

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