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Archives for January 2009

Monday's Investigation: Radioactive Scotland

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Graham Stewart | 11:28 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009


Radioacitivy in Dalgety Bay

On Monday's Morning Extra it's another of BBC Radio Scotland's Investigations.

I want to hear from you if you live near a radioactive site and you're worried about the health risks.

According to one expert we'll hear on the programme, Scotland has a legacy of radioactive sites that have never been properly dealt with. For example, in 1915 there was a radium works at Balloch on the banks of Loch Lomond which made radium for medical instruments and for aircraft dials. Although demolished in 1927, the informed view amongst the scientific community is that the site is a radioactive mess and needs to be properly decontaminated. Although the local authorities do monitor the site regularly, a recent study of the site found "excessively high radon," confirming that radioactive material hadn't been removed, but "merely capped with an inadequate concrete slab."

Another example in Dalgety Bay, Fife is probably Scotland's most contentious. It used to be a military aircraft site, but when it was demolished it operated a 'bash, burn and bury' policy where aircraft parts and cock pit dials contaminated with luminous paint were broken up and buried. It's now a housing estate and they keep finding radioactive materials there.

And take the site of an old factory works in Wishaw that produced dashboard equipment using radioactive materials. The site hasn't been adequately dealt with and, most worryingly, it's next to a school.

Of course, all these locations were operated at a time when we were unaware of the risks of radiation exposure and when health and safety procedures were less sophisticated. But are they being adequately monitored now? And do these sites really still pose a significant risk to those who live nearby?

Tune in on Monday at 9 to hear Mark Stephen's report.

The award no-one wants

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Graham Stewart | 14:36 UK time, Wednesday, 28 January 2009


The celebrated Kingdom Shopping Centre in Glenrothes

Update: And the winner was Glenrothes!

In the midst of all the awards ceremonies at this time of year — the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Brits et al. — it's refreshing to come across a series of awards no-one wants: the legendary Carbuncles!

Kate Winslet-style tears can be forgiven when the annual "Plook on the Plinth" award is handed over to Scotland's most dismal town tomorrow. And let me tell you: there's plenty to choose from! This year's shortlist has been narrowed down to:

  • Motherwell. Criticised for its bland housing estates, the judges said: "It feels like somebody has simply dropped Motherwell. It has some nice fragments, but lacks logic in terms of how the whole thing fits together."
  • New Cumnock apparently resembles "a ghost town" and feels like it has "simply been abandoned by its local authority".
  • And Glenrothes made the list thanks to its "ugly and depressing" Kingdom Centre shopping mall (see picture above) which "feels like a 1980s timewarp".

"1980s timewarp"? Do the good folk of Glenrothes really walk around in Spandex pants and mullet haircuts, listening to Kajagoogoo on their Walkmans as they roller-skate 'round the Kingdom Centre? After Morning Extra's visit there last November for the by-election, I can vouch that many of them still do.

To be fair, it's no worse than many other shopping centres. However, the fact locals refer to it as "the town centre" is rather depressing, for that indeed is all there is. Well, apart from the roundabouts.

We'll be announcing the winner live on tomorrow's Morning Extra, but I'd like you to nominate your own 'Carbuncles'. You can leave your comments at the bottom of this post or — better still — call the programme on 0500 92 95 00 after 8am.

And if you're from any of the nominated places, are you up for the challenge of coming on and defending your hometown?

FYI the full list of nominations also included: Alexandria town centre, Ayr's Harbourside Development, Loch Lomond Shores in Balloch, Cardenden, Cumbernauld, Dalkeith, Dalry, Dumbarton, Edinburgh Waterfront, Fort William, Gowkthrapple (all of it!), Greenock, Invergordon, The Longman in Inverness, Kilmarnock, Kilsyth, Templehall in Kirkcaldy, Motherwell, New Bonhill, ASDA in Newmains, Nitshill, North Lanarkshire (in general!), Shotts, Tarbolton and Wishaw.

Is Scotland really so dismal?

Keeping it balanced

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Graham Stewart | 11:12 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009



Impartial. The word is imprinted on the back of my BBC pass as a daily reminder of one of the Corporation's most central values. How it's exercised can be a hot political potato as was proven yesterday when protesters held a peaceful demonstration in the foyer of BBC Scotland's HQ here in Glasgow.

It's precisely that impartiality which precludes me - quite rightly - from commenting on the BBC's decision not to broadcast the charity appeal for Gaza. However, you certainly had your say on today's Morning Extra and you can read more about the BBC Director General's reasoning on The Editors Blog.

But the more general issue of impartiality is one that we come up against every day on Morning Extra. And - although I know it's hard to believe - I do sometimes get the odd complaint!

One recent respondent to our audience complaints line alleged that "Graham Stewart constantly interrupts callers, puts words in their mouths and presents a very un-balanced programme." And that was just my mother.

Truth is a phone-in isn't a free-for-all. Like any other part of BBC output my role as a presenter is to try and balance the programme and, more often than not, that means challenging the views of our callers. As our editorial guidelines state: "we must rigorously test contributors expressing contentious views." OK, maybe not as rigorously as we would of an elected politician, but the principle still stands.

Take, for example, last Thursday's discussion about the Christian fireman who received damages from his employer after they had disciplined him for refusing to hand out leaflets at a gay pride march.

The overwhelming majority of our callers were supportive of the fire-fighters and many were hostile towards the gay community. We make no claims that those who phone us are representative of the population and therefore there is an onus on me to represent and argue on behalf of those whose views are not being heard.

Maybe that's why Jimmy in Ullapool emailed to accuse me of being "pro-gay". Having heard me continually arguing the counter-point to the prevailing opinion he clearly mistook balance for bias. But just like those email disclaimers say: 'The views expressed above are not necessarily those of Graham Stewart's.' What I think is, at the end of the day, irrelevant.

Morning Extra is about debate. So I will go on interrupting and challenging views where appropriate. Treat it like a conversation down the pub. Without the alcohol of course. One too many sherries and that prized impartiality goes out the window!

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