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It is not surprising that the same people who are against abortion is often also against gay marriage. Somehow being against these issues tends to be caused by a little something we call complete and utter ignorance. To tell someone they have to give birth to a baby they don't want to give birth to is very closely related to telling someone they can't love who they love. It is not about pro life or defending the family, it is about tyrannising people, putting your fundamental believes above all reason. I just cannot believe the rudeness involved in dictating over the lives of vulnerable people, actually stopping people from taking decisions over their own body. It's like stopping someone from having a potentially life saving heart surgery.

I understand where the christians are coming from, having the opinion that life is sacred and have to be defended. What I don't understand is how you can put that over the person's free will and circumstaces such as medical dificulties or people who are just not fit to be parents. Why would you want a baby to be born into an unhappy life. What is that supposed to achieve. I also think that anyone from the male sex should have absolutely no say in the matter. It does not regard them.
As for gay marriages threatening the traditional family. What? It threatens the family as much as a fish needs a bicycle.
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Found this on Gumtree. Brilliant:

Bored with my mundane 9 - 5 job, i have decided that i would like to become a bodyguard instead.

Now, please do not let the fact i am a female put you off.
I have researched the role of a bodyguard intensely, mainly by watching the classic Houston/Costner flick over and over again, and am confident that i will be able to do the job effectively.

Let me outline what i feel my role will entail:

1. Never simply walking...instead i will 'stride purposefully'. Indeed, almost march.
2. Always trusting my intuition. If i suspect the McDonald's worker, whom you have never before clapped eyes on in your life, may have poisoned your burger then you had better believe that i will be wrestling that big mac from you and throwing it into the nearest expanse of water, as if it were a bomb.
3. Over re-acting. This is, in some ways, similar to number 2, but a necessary factor for any bodyguard worth their salt. Any noise i hear will be followed by me pushing you to the floor and then hurtling around corners and somersaulting through doorways as i try to find the source of that noise. Expect to get bruised.
4. Having a walkie-talkie. This, despite the fact that i will be working alone. In this profession, you can't afford to get close to people so i have resigned myself to living a lonely, celibate existence, knowing that each day may be my last. The fact that i may die doing the job i love does offer me some solace.
5. Having a gun and holster. Opening my jacket slightly to allow a thug a peek at my gun is sure to send them fleeing. I am, of course, opposed to firearms, so i shall have either a water pistol or a gun that shoots out a flag saying 'BANG'.
6. Having a no-nonsense ponytail. The no-nonsense ponytail says, "I take my job seriously and am prepared for any eventuality."
7. Having a facial expression for every occasion...suspicious, menacing, brooding, thoughtful, innocent, surprised, shocked...I can do them all.
8. Having the ability to predict when a piano is about to fall from the sky and pushing you out of the way mere seconds before it lands, exactly on the spot where you were. This also includes being able to fight off 4 armed thugs single-handedly, disarming bombs, jumping out of a speeding car (obviously because someone has tampered with the brakes) and being able to sling you over my shoulder, with ease, when you faint from the shock of it all.
9. There will be a lot of shaking you by the shoulders, slapping you across the face, throwing cold water over you and yelling at you to, "Calm down, God dammit!"
10. When i have taken a bullet to the shoulder, or perhaps sustained a bad graze, as i am bound to do at some stage, i will be able to rip off the sleeve of my top using only my teeth and wrap the sleeve around my wound, all the time grimacing bravely, and refusing to seek medical attention.
11. I will, undoubtedly, fall in love with you. Male, female, doesn't matter - bodyguards suffer from unrequited love. It's an occupational hazard, and one i am willing to accept.

If you can help me to achieve my ambition - perhaps you have a crazy ex, or an even crazier mother-in-law you need protecting from - then please get in touch.

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As hostels are declining and prices are rising, members and staff are asking: is the SYHA is maintaining its charitable status? The Scottish Youth Hostel Association is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year as a charity promoting the Scottish countryside.
Generations of Scots have enjoyed and supported the hostels all round Scotland as havens for walkers and cyclists. This is all about to change. In September it was announced that the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) were to investigate the status of the more than 20,000 registered Scottish Charities. The regulations are tightening up this year. Any new charity registering has to pass a two-part test and must have one or more charitable purposes and provide public benefit. Existing charities will continue to be evaluated to see if they are keeping up with their charitable status.

OSCR's Chief Executive Jane Ryder said that charities and the public would welcome the new framework. "For the first time ever in Scotland we have legislation specifically created for the charity sector” She added: “The sector is an important part of life in Scotland, with around half the adult population involved in voluntary activities. "It is therefore essential that the public has confidence in the sound governance and regulation of charities, and that the charities themselves can flourish secure in the knowledge of their rights and responsibilities." The SYHA is listed as benefiting several categories such as advancement of education, health, citizenship, arts, heritage, culture and science. The SYHA mission statement claims that the association should "help all, but especially young people to experience and appreciate the Scottish countryside and places of historic and cultural interest in Scotland, and to promote their health, recreation and education, particularly by providing low cost accommodation for them on their travels".

It is this last part which doesn't rhyme well with hostels closing each year and some hostels charging the same price for adults as they do for juniors. School groups coming to stay in Edinburgh next fall will be paying £20 per night for adults and £18 for juniors. The prices have previously been between £12-14 for adults during the winter period. The rise will make a big difference for groups and travellers on a budget. Perhaps the SYHA has realised that their status is threatened since a short notice appeared on their intranet in September stating that “The motions regarding the proposal for SYHA to move to a Company Limited by Guarantee were passed”. But what will this mean for the future of the association and its members? This is the type of company commonly used for a club or an association. Lawyer Andrew Boyd said: “The purpose of having a limited company is to give a legal entity; it is a security for the association in case something goes wrong. It is a form often used by associations or societies.

“The difference is that members of the association will be personally liable if a catastrophe would occur and the association were to become bankrupt. The amount liable to each member is usually £1 and it is unlikely that members would be hunted down for their payments.” But should the association not inform their members of the change of status? Andrew Boyd said: “It is possible to keep the charitable status. As for informing the members, depending on the type of company you might require a memorandum among the members.” The limited company will still continue to operate tax free as long as they maintain their charitable status. The heads of the SYHA and the governing board are not allowed to take a major share of any profits as all returns have to go back into the company.

This year’s annual report showed a profit of £6m and a slight upturn in the numbers even though a £10m hostel has been built and the fact that increments were frozen the previous year because of alleged losses. Investors In People who supports the SYHA is currently investigating how well their money is spent after being alerted by staff members that training courses are rarely ever taking place.

So with hostels becoming modernised for the comfortable traveller with a sizable budget and rural hostels declining, what will the future look like for the SYHA? Only time will tell. Ralph Klinkenberg, General Manager at Edinburgh Central had this to say at the opening ceremony on September 5: “I hope that I will be able to ensure the new hostel goes from strength to strength and that SYHA maintains its reputation as the best choice for the modern, discerning traveller.

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As the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) is opening a new hostel on Edinburgh’s Leith Walk, two old hostels are closing. The £10m new hostel, which the association described as "super- stylish" and "only a five minute walk away from Harvey Nichols" opened on the September 5 in the former Apex house at the top of Leith Walk. The SYHA Chief Executive Keith Legge said at the time: "The opening of Edinburgh Central is just one example of how the SYHA continues to respond to the needs of our customers and the local community by identifying needs and improving services."

However, not all guests are happy with the new hostel. Mrs Tracey Gilmore from New Zealand is travelling in Scotland with her family. They stayed one night at the Central hostel but checked in to the Bruntsfield hostel the next day. She said: "The Bruntsfield hostel is warm and welcoming with excellent facilities and the kitchen and common room gives opportunities to meet people from other countries. "It's great for families because of the back garden, Bruntsfield Links and the car parking. The only positive thing about the new hostel is the elevator. I wouldn't recommend it; it's too expensive and nasty.” Cyclists who used to be able to put their bikes in a cycle shed no longer have that facility. People who like to save money on cooking their own food will also struggle as the new hostel chose to keep the kitchen closed at most times preferring guests to eat in the hostel bistro. The staff at the both hostels were surprised by not being offered jobs at the new hostel, since many of them had several years experience. Sara Cornwallis, Head of HR said: “They were not offered automatic jobs because the new hostel is of a different standard and run more like a hotel, so the jobs are not comparable”.

The closing of the Edinburgh hostels was the last drop according to some of the staff who have put up with the association refusing to pay out increments and forbidding them to share commissions from car and tour bookings, claiming they should go to the head office. Increments were frozen last summer as the association were building the new Edinburgh hostel. Even though the SYHA presented a 4% increase in profits in this year’s annual report, the payments have not been made. Michael Mastroberardino who worked at the Bruntsfield hostel said: "Every staff member here is university educated, speaks at least two languages and have travelled extensively. "We see this not as much as a job but as a life-style. We don't clean the hostel just because we have to but because we care, frankly I'm over-qualified to work in the new hotel". The staff is supported by MSP for Edinburgh South, Mike Pringle. He said: “I think it’s an absolute outrage, and I will be writing to Mr Legge again about this. “I’m sure the staff are stunned by what’s happened. They are being placed on the scrapheap and it’s a disgrace. I think it’s a money-saving exercise”.

The two closing hostels have been in the association for nearly 60 years and have welcomed millions of visitors. The Bruntsfield hostel is an A-listed townhouse built in 1870; it has been with the association since 1949. The Eglinton hostel in the West End is a townhouse bequeathed to the SYHA in the 1940s. One of the reasons given for closing the two hostels is the high cost of maintenance. However, staff claims that the hostels hasn't been properly maintained for years. Recently a piece of ornamental stonework came loose from the Bruntsfield facade. The building, which by Historic Scotland is described as “of national or international importance, either architectural or historic”, has now been sold off to developers. Some now fear that SYHA will go the same way as the English Association (YHA) who came under criticism last year for closing countryside hostels and investing in modern city hostels.

It was recently announced that the Kyleakin hostel on Isle of Skye is closing and the staff there has been made redundant including a manager who has served 17 years. Another three Scottish rural hostels were closed last year. However, on the webpage, Kyleakin is due to open again in the spring. Some staff suggested that this is part of the association’s latest move to get rid of live-in accommodation for both staff and managers. They point out it is easier to make someone redundant than to change the terms of their contract. Around 40 people have been made redundant at both hostels and a well-loved cat that have lived in Bruntsfield for 13 years have been made homeless.

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This is a three-piece feature I wrote last year. It never got published so I'm posting it here. This is the first part:

One of Scotland’s oldest charities has drastically transformed over the years and is now facing the biggest change since it was formed.The Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) is celebrating 75 years of business this year. It was inaugurated in May 1931 as an altruistic move to encourage young people in to the countryside.

The first association was started in Germany by Richard Schirrmann, a teacher who realized the lack of accommodation for students on school trips. He drew up a plan of his idea and started the first hostel in 1907. By 1922 he had founded a national network. The first seed of the SYHA was sown in February 1931 by a group of enthusiasts lead by Dr Alan Fothergill. Chairman Lord Salvesen, at that time Solicitor General for Scotland officially opened the first hostel in Broadmeadows, Selkirkshire on 2 May 1931.

The Scotsman reported that: “Saturday’s ceremony had that touch of informality and bohemianism which one expects from an open-air youth movement”. In his speech, reproduced by the Scotsman, Lord Salvesen said: “People are losing the habit of walking. They have far too many means of transport in the towns. “The great idea underlying the whole movement was that before we can lead the youth to the country, we must provide them with hostels at a nominal charge”

Several hostels were quickly added and the association grew within the year.  Dr Fothergill resigned in protest from his post as honorary secretary in 1934 when the National Executive accepted an offer of reciprocity from the German association. In Fothergill’s and many others eyes the German branch was controlled by the Nazis for propaganda purposes. He passed away the following year.
Richard Schirrmann was indeed forced to resign in 1936 by the Nazis who took over most hostels as training camps. After the war, he returned to his former position to build up the association again. 

Originally the hostel was a cheap roof over travellers’ heads; people would take advantage of their newly inaugurated holidays. The guests were mostly Scottish but there would also be some over-seas travellers who had come to walk or cycle through Scotland.

Miss Alice E Allen who walked through Scotland in August 1939 wrote in her diary: “After supper we joined in a sing song. Two Dutch girls and three Danish girls gave us some dancing. Three American lads sang some swing songs while the warden treated us to a few Scottish ditties”. Hostels had wardens who were local people and regarded the hostel as their pride and responsibility.
A life member remembers a conversation between a warden and a local lady.  The warden guaranteed there would be no hanky panky because as soon as the lights were out he tied a string across the corridor between the male and female dorms. The string then went through a hole in his bedroom door and round his big toe. The lady was relieved to hear this.

The cheap accommodation was possible because of the simple bunk beds, the chores and the work parties. The latter was composed of members who put lots of valuable spare-time into the hostels. The first big change occurred with the arrival of the car. The cyclists and wanderers were angered over the fact that their bed had been taken by
someone arriving two hours earlier.
Life member Hamish Cameron said: “I remember arriving at the hostel and there was a sign on the gate saying ‘Full’. I cycled up the drive and went in to ask if that was true. “What is your method of transport”, the warden asked. “I’m cycling”, I said. “Well, in that case we are not full” was her answer”.

Chores disappeared in the early nineties and since then there have been altercations towards a more comfortable travelling. Over the last year, changes have been made to the booking system. Families have to book a family room, which will sometimes work out more expensive then before. There has also been the introduction of single and double rooms which cost in the region of £35-£60.

A night’s stay in Edinburgh is currently £18.50. When the first hostel opened in 1931 a bed night was one shilling, compared to today’s prices it’s the equivalent of
£8.75. Over the years hostels have slowly disappeared from the SYHA guidebook. The majority of Scots travel abroad for their holidays and the foreign visitors mostly book their stays in the big cities.

The SYHA has sold some hostels and turned other into Rent-A-Hostel. These hostels are unmanned and only available to groups, which can book the entire hostel. This year the association has closed down their two old Edinburgh hostels in favour of a new 300-bed “super-stylish” city hostel. The final step from hostel to hotel has just been taken.

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I had a holiday on the Isle of Skye last week and stayed at the lovely hostel in Armadale. Usually the hostel closes for the winter at the end of September and is only rented out for big parties. However this week it closes and is never to open again, along with seven or so other hostels.

This is very sad news but unfortunately not very surprising. The Scottish Youth Hostelling Association (SYHA) has slowly been driving into a dark pitch over the last few years. Last year they closed the two old hostels in Edinburgh in order to open a new £10m modern hostel. This may sound like a good move considering the facts this is a ludicrous decision taken by a poor senior management team and this is why: The Edinburgh hostels very situated in quiet but central parts of town in A-listed Georgian buildings.

They had been open for 60 years and got lots of business from word of mouth from people who came the extra mile from the backpackers in the old town because they loved the fact that they were staying somewhere special, with lots of common rooms, a nice garden, a nice park and a bike shed for the many cyclists.

Both hostels along with Glasgow pulled in the biggest part of the budget for SYHA and continued making a profit year on year. However the buildings had been monumentally neglected for many years, the simple maintenance just wasn't carried out despite several attempts to point this out to the head office. When SYHA finally closed them down they cited high maintenance cost as a reason, the estimate was £1m per hostel. That is £2m for both hostels which could have saved the further £8m wasted on the new building.

The second reason was the fact that modern travellers have higher demands on hostels. SYHA claimed to have done a survey that said that no one have the need for a kitchen. The new hostel had a kitchen which they kept closed until it became evident that people wanted to use it, as they had done constantly at the old hostels. A lot of critique was raised by guests about the closing of the hostels which was quieted down by SYHA. The latest news is that they are being investigated by the Scottish Charity Commission. SYHA still functions as a charity even though their actions is everything but charitable.

Many many hostels have disappeared from the SYAH map over the recent years. There is no definite evidence but everything speaks for the fact that the Edinburgh monstrosity is losing massive amounts of money. The SYHA mission statement claims that their duty is to cater for children and small-budget travellers and help them experience the beautiful nature of Scotland. This is a disgrace, especially in these times of green thinking and calls for local and green tourism. To close down rural hostels is madness, especially to pay for wide-screen TV's that no one is watching at Edinburgh Central.

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There are not many things that are still considered taboo in today's society. But one of the one's that still are is reproduction. Or more specific people who chose not to reproduce, or even more specific women who chose not to reproduce. You can argue that people have always had children and it is a deep biological urge that everyone has but I would argue that it's not.

There is a lot of pressure on women to have children both from society as a whole and the immediate social circles.  Now there are several separate issues, one is the purely social aspect where women who chose not to have children are considered strange and even selfish for not wanting to dedicate themselves to brooding.

I would argue that selfishness is the opposite. We currently have a world that is in turmoil, there are wars spinning out of control, the waste mountain is growing, the world is heating up, water levels are rising, basically, the world is going hand. The last thing I would want to do is bring a young innocent person into this world who will probably see it completely destroyed by the time they are adults.

Thirdly, are natural resources are running out and the world is crowded, the total population of the world has doubled in the last 50 years. That is a mind-boggling thought. Something like 16,000 new people are coming to the world each day and UN has calculated that the total population which is now 6.5 billion will be 9.1 billion before 2050.

To mildly suggest that perhaps maybe slowing down child birth is a very very touchy question. I'm not suggesting any state controlled solution in the style of China but it is something that should be discussed in the open. Having children is not a right, it is a responsibility. There more people you put into the world, the more responsibility is in your hands.

There are people who are thinking along the same lines, I don't know very much about these people but it is definently an interesting concept.

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I had to bang my ear for a bit before I realised that I had actually heard what I thought I heard. Radio 5 Live has a global warming awareness theme today, they have sent a reporter to the North Pole (hey - that's what you do when you raise awareness, describing the same thing from a radio studio hadn't worked) and he just gave a live update.

Among many other reporters there were also several religious leaders present and the latest update said that they were gathered in a cirlce praying against global warming. That is fundamentally wrong in so many ways but mostly because they had flown there IN A PLANE in order to perform the prayer.

We are going to hell in a kayak.

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The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is once again over and the city is again left in a windswept pile of rubbish and a sort of communal hangover. This year I managed to see only one crap show and several very very good ones. This is quite unusual considering the massive amount of shows that are put on every year and the fatal lottery that is going to a show you know nothing about.

One of the better shows I saw was Andrew Maxwell's "Waxing", he did a brilliant Scottish accent and poked fun at the usual things. The venue was rather large and it was difficult to sneak out unnoticed so when a man rose to go to the toilet he made a quick comment and then said, "By the way if you need to go for a slash just do it, I'm not going to heckle you". A second later about 30 people stood up and formed a gently queue for the toilets. Apart from the comic effect it shows how people has almost become somewhat afraid of comedians because we have become accustomed to the swearing, heckling racist pig type of comedian, -it's ok, I'm just saying it for a laugh, you fat cow.

That's why it was so utterly refreshing to come across the new friendly clever and slightly nerdy indie comedian at this years festival personified foremost by Lawrence Leung, Andrew McClelland and Josie Long.
I saw Josie Long for the first time a couple of years ago and her material was fairly patchy but you could still see that there was an unfinished gem somewhere. This year her show has been a big success, a show where she shows her animal drawings and talks about visiting a wheat-free bakery in Australia. It is the kind of show you come out of with a big smile and a warmed up heart.

Andrew McClelland did a lovely show based on the perfect mixtape, I just loved it but I am still quite surprised that he is as popular as he is doing a quite obscure theme show. Genius is not usually praised by the masses at the fringe.

Best still was Lawrence Leung Learns to Breakdance. I have never laughed so hard before, it got to the stage that my mouth hurt in an unpleasant way. Even trying to describe the plot would be pointless, it has to be seen but he does use powerpoint in his quest to learn how to breakdance with a pure dead brilliant finale.

Maybe I was just a bit fed up with comedians fucketyfucking their way to a cheap joke but it feels like the indie comedians has put a brain and a heart into the sick body that was the Edinburgh Fringe.

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The Guardian has had their knickers in a twist the last few weeks about the fact that their office feature in the new Bourne film directed by Paul Greengrass. One character in the film is a journalist working at the Guardian who has got a contact giving him insider information about Bourne which he turns into a feature series in the Guardian.

Judging by the way they have been going on about it I was lead to believe that the character was a super hero only a notch below Bournes status. Therefore I was quite surprised to see that:
1. He is stupid enough to ignore the instructions of a man who he has just seen knock out four armed men with his bare hands, walk out the door and get shot in the head.
2. He doesn't use shorthand.

If there is one thing I learned in journalism school it was - always use your shorthand and when Matt Damon tells you to stand still you do.

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