Social affairs


SUSTAINABILITY has become a touchstone of modern Scottish politics.

Once a dish associated with the lentil-supping, tree-hugging fringe, it is now served with almost everything on the political agenda. More than a buzzword, "sustainability" is becoming a kind of new-age industry with a legion of civil servants, engineers, academics employed in thinking of new ways for Scotland to move towards a huge 80% reduction in carbon emissions in the next 30 years.

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Singing the changes for who we are

Instead of getting Fran Healy of Travis to write a new anthem for Scotland, why not just stick with Why Does It Always Rain On Me? I kind of like the idea of the Tartan Army singing that before our ritual humiliation at football matches.

''Everybody's saying everything's all right, Still I can't close my eyes I'm seeing a tunnel at the end of the lights,'' might just about fit the bill, given our recent performances in the international arena. A majority of MSPs polled apparently want to commission a completely new anthem for Scotland - presumably from a Catalonian songwriter which will take five years to write and come in with 10 times the number of verses we expected.

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Sheena's long road back from brain injuries

BROADCASTER Sheena McDonald has revealed how the trauma of recovering from near-fatal brain injuries put pressure on her relationship with journalist partner Alan Little and drove her into a clinical depression.

Ms McDonald, who was almost killed when hit by a police van driving on the wrong side of the road six years ago, told the conference in Edinburgh yesterday how her family and partner had also suffered.

"Their trauma was psychological but it was perhaps even worse than mine because they were aware of everything that was happening. I don't think they had any support at all apart from each other."

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'Singing has helped me to cope and to come through'

WHEN Rachel Brand discovered she had a brain tumour, her life was turned upside down. The management consultant, who is in her 30s, underwent surgery. Yet two years later, she had to cope with the news that the tumour was growing back and that she faced more surgery followed by radiotherapy.

Not surprisingly, she has struggled with feelings of depression and isolation. But Rachel's saving grace has been a surprising one - singing. During a period off work after her first diagnosis she decided to pursue her love of jazz and singing, an interest she had put to one side for many years. Soon she found herself heading north from her London home to Edinburgh where she took a five-day course with jazz vocalists and teachers Fionna Duncan and Sophie Bancroft. It changed her life.

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Alternative health and the end of the age of reason

In London, years ago, a friend took to wearing decoration inspired by the major religions. Round his neck he wore a rosary and a crucifix, he had a tattoo of a Hindu god on his arm and on the back of his short-sleeved jacket was written ''There is no god but Allah''. One day, he went to Brick Lane market. A market trader smiled and said: ''You are a good religious boy.'' But then an old man took exception to his garb, shouted: ''You crazy, you crazy, you believe in everything,'' and chased him down the street, waving a stick. I thought about this when I heard the story of Stephen Hall, who, shortly before he died of terminal cancer paid more than (pounds) 2000 to a ''wellness practitioner'' for a 'high frequency therapy device'' he was told would cure him.

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