Our Hydrogen-Powered Future Is Unfolding at the Edge of the World

Perched atop the United Kingdom, ten miles north of mainland Scotland, the Orkney Islands are a wild place. Encircled by roiling waters — the North Sea on one side, the Atlantic Ocean on the other — and battered by winds year round, the weather-lashed archipelago is bracing, beautiful and has in abundance that which others are scrambling to produce: renewable power. Onshore wind turbines pepper the landscape, working in tandem with wave and tidal generators to supply Orkney’s 22,000 inhabitants

How flooded coal mines could heat homes

Coal mines were the beating heart of Britain's industrial revolution. Their sooty, energy-dense output gave life to new-fangled factories and shipyards, fuelling the nation's irrepressible march towards modernity. They helped shape a carbon-intensive economy, however, one that took little notice of the natural world around it. They paved the way for a global dependence on fossil fuels, in doing so, fired the starting pistol on the climate crisis that today confronts us all.

Why central banks are getting into the crypto game

From bitcoin to ethereum, digital currencies have been heralded as a new dawn for money. They allow for faster, cheaper transfers, promote financial inclusion and offer greater privacy, according to their proponents. However, the promise of anonymity has also made them a favoured financial medium for fraudsters and criminals. And beset by explosive volatility, they fall far short of being a viable payment method. But what if that wasn’t the case? For monetary authorities worldwide, this is the trillion-dollar question. Spurred by the crypto sector’s meteoric rise, dozens are looking at launching their own central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) — virtual money that replaces cash with electronic tokens. Done correctly, this could democratise finance, clamp down on criminality and offer far greater efficiency. Yet deep in CBDCs’ digital DNA are concerns around state surveillance and individual privacy and the prospect of a cashless society that might not work for all.

How Brexit left small British business out in the cold

It was billed as the rebirth of UK plc, granting British businesses freedom from the high-handed bureaucracy of Brussels. But, for many SMEs with significant EU exports, Brexit feels less like a renaissance than it does the rocky road to ruin. Engulfed by paperwork, taxes and unbearable added costs, some are having to shelve their EU operations indefinitely. Others, unwilling to sacrifice their hard-earned customer base on the Continent, are battling through the red tape, desperate to salvage what business they can. Donna Wilson, a London-based textile designer who runs an eponymous homeware business, is one of the latter, although she is finding it an uphill struggle. “Selling to Europe used to be seamless,” she says. “With the EU agreements in place, we didn’t have to deal with customs and there were no hidden charges. It was a very easy experience for us and our customers.”

This Country Is Finally Teaching Students About Its Ugly Colonial History

Demands to tackle discrimination through education have grown globally over the last 12 months, energised by the murder of George Floyd and wave of racial equality campaigning that followed. In the UK, a petition calling for the compulsory teaching of Britain’s role in colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade got 268,772 signatures – well over the 100,000 needed for the topic to be debated in Parliament. Scotland has an ugly colonial past. It was a ready participant in Britain’s blood-soak

From Germany to Ireland, a fresh push to return the Benin bronzes

As a decolonisation movement sweeps across Europe, there are efforts to return art looted by British soldiers in 1897. The story of the Benin bronzes is one Timothy Awoyemi, a British-Nigerian police officer, knows well. Like all schoolchildren in Nigeria, he was taught of the murderous 1897 raid when British soldiers plundered Benin City, stealing a priceless array of metal sculptures. So, unlike his United Kingdom-educated colleague Steve Dunstone, Awoyemi was not entirely puzzled by the sc

The Sexual Harassment Scandal That Could Derail Scotland's Drive For Independence

A string of sexual harassment complaints topple Hollywood’s most celebrated producer. Four years later on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, dreams of Scottish independence sputter as civil war consumes the country’s governing party. It’s hard to conjure a more far-fetched tale of cause-and-effect; and yet, it’s completely true. As the misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein made headlines and #MeToo reverberated worldwide, Alex Salmond — Scotland’s former leader and an edifice of the nation’s indepen

Does Biden Signal A Green Light For Green Finance?

With arresting brevity last month, Joe Biden laid out his presidential priorities. “Stinging inequity, systemic racism, a climate in crisis.” Eight words of an inaugural speech that reverberated worldwide; a mission statement that marked a sea-change in America’s approach to sustainability. For the global Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) community, the president could scarcely have hit a more hopeful note. After four years in the shade, his message was clear: from now on, you’ve got a friend at the top. That Biden’s predecessor was no ally of impact investors, there’s little question. Donald Trump flirted with climate denial, encouraged fossil fuel expansion, and dragged America from global carbon commitments. And yet, in recent years, socially responsible investment has rocketed, driven by shareholder activism and boardroom resolve. The last twelve months have seen a particular shift towards the application of non-financial factors, with ESG funds outperforming the wider market. Now, with President Biden squarely behind sustainable business, a further boom in eco-investment seems certain.

London Is “Rewilding” and Native Species Are Flocking In

Diminutive and extremely rare, you’d be lucky to ever catch sight of a black redstart, one of the U.K.’s rarest birds. And yet, in the very heart of Britain’s sprawling capital city, sightings are on the up. “To hear and then see a black redstart singing in the heart of London, it always gives me a buzz,” says Dusty Gedge, an ornithologist who’s spent his life recording the species’ metropolitan comeback. “So far this year, I’ve spotted six.” The little bird’s resurgence reflects a sweeping ch

When will the SNP get a grip on Scotland's drugs death crisis? | The Spectator

For more than twenty years, Brian was left to rot on a methadone prescription. Month-after-month of opioid replacement therapy was the best course of action, his treatment team concluded, making no effort to definitively end his debilitating drug dependency. For Brian’s parents, watching their son slowly succumb to the steely grip of addiction, it was two decades of agony. Then, in 2018, a ‘top up’ hit of street Valium proved too much, and – as they put it – he was at last ‘released from his tor

President Joe Biden — Good News For Scottish Independence?

A “wee break”, at last, in the swirling storm clouds over 2020 — Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s pro-independence First Minister, could scarcely contain her excitement as America’s election result came into focus. With Joe Biden in the White House (and Donald Trump confined to Twitter) her nation inches closer to the sunny uplands of sovereignty and self-governance — or so she hopes. It’s been a gruelling year for Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP), battered and bruised by a coronavirus outbr

At the bottom of the bottle: Inside Scotland’s alcohol crisis

From her earliest memories, the misery of alcoholism has marred Karen Angus’ life. She was only a girl when her father, “a violent, unpredictable alcoholic,” died from drink, leaving behind a wife who was abstinent and seven children who — in time — would be anything but. “I lifted my first drink at 13, and my life was never to be the same again,” Angus said, her voice charged with emoti

Scotland's 'Navigators' Transform Lives in the Emergency Room

A 15-millimeter hole in his kidney is what it took to open Robbie’s eyes. Fifteen booze-fueled years of knife crime and gang violence had landed him here at one of Scotland’s largest hospitals, hemorrhaging from a stab wound in an emergency room he’d visited 16 times before. Something needed to change — the 26-year-old knew it, but he hadn’t a clue where to start. And then, as Robbie recovered in the resuscitation unit, two curiously-clad men appeared by his bedside at Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary

Scotland's whisky industry: Ne'er a drop to drink?

Winters are cold in Scotland, and summer is brief. And at all times, it rains. Right? Not exactly. Like most parts of the planet, Scotland is warming. Average temperatures today are almost 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than they were a half-century ago. For Scotland's world-famous whisky industry, that's a serious problem. "2018 was just really, really unbelievable," recalls Callum Fraser, production manager at Glenfarclas, Scotland's oldest family-owned whisky maker. A summe

The Scottish independence debate is being reshaped by the pandemic

There was a moment, five days before 2014’s historic vote on Scottish independence, when the contest came alive. Electrified by an opinion poll that put the rival camps neck-and-neck, supporters of both sides poured onto the streets in a deluge of democratic fervor. A carnival atmosphere engulfed Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, as activists made their final, thunderous push for victory.

Moratorium on travel may devastate U.K. fruit and vegetable growers

GLASGOW, Scotland — Cultivating hops is a difficult business. Long before the little cone-shaped flowers are ready for harvest, days of gruelling groundwork must be laid. For hours on end, workers kneel as they intricately thread the infant shoots around lengths of string. “Training,” as the process is known, takes skill, focus and patience. But most of all, it requires manpower — and that’s why Ali Capper is worried. “We’ve already recruited. We’ve got a team of people all hoping to come. They
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