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Hooray Helen pops the fizz;Jotter

PLANS TO take over the universe proceed apace at James Watt College with the blessing, it seems, of the Education Minister. Last week saw one of Helen Liddell's last official duties in her current post when she turned a sod, got into a digger truck and generally enjoyed herself to anoint the Watt's new outpost at Kilwinning in North Ayrshire.

Such occasions are not complete without champagne and Liddell showed commendable patience with the media snappers as she shoogled some bottles and took a sip or two.

The excitement of the do was so great that the official party ended up with more champagne on them than in them. This was just as well since there is a ban on street drinking in Kilwinning - but the police were benignly on hand to ensure everyone turned a blind eye.

With 6,000 students expected to come through its doors when it opens in August next year, Kilwinning will help James Watt win the title at last of Scotland's largest FE college. It already has the Scottish National Sports Centre in Largs under its belt, serves the "three towns" of Saltcoats, Stevenston and Ardrossan, and has designs on Arran.

Last week's occasion was very much a celebration for North Ayrshire Council, which picked James Watt to operate an FE campus in preference to Ayr and Kilmarnock colleges. Not surprisingly, the council is now affectionately known at James Watt as "our friends in the north".

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