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12th August – 18th August, 2023

12/08/23 – 18/08/23

EV charging, Fishing Red Tape and… 

The GERS figures really are ‘CRAp’

            So says Professor Richard Murphy, meaning they are ‘Completely Rubbish Approximations’.  Specifically set up to fool Scotland into believing it is too poor to manage without the UK, yesterday’s release of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures begs many questions.  They purport to show that Scotland has a net deficit of 9% of GDP.

            This is interesting, as Scotland is legally bound to balance its budget every year so cannot be in any kind of deficit. The calculation dubiously includes debiting money allegedly expended ‘for the benefit of Scotland’ (rather than ‘spent by’ Scotland).  But even then this may not be spent in Scotland, but elsewhere in the UK.

A number of questions arise:

  •  Why does Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray accept the UK narrative by repeating that the ‘notional deficit’ is down, and limit himself to encouraging the UK to act on immigration and investment in renewables?
  • Why does he say that £1bn of Scotland’s ‘deficit’ is the result of UK mismanagement, instead of refusing to accept that there is any deficit?
  • Why does he accept that Scotland only get a population share of its own North Sea oil revenues?
  • Why gloss over where the North Sea revenues have gone (£300 – £400 billion so far) in favour of talking up renewables whose benefit is not so far accruing to Scotland?
  • We were promised a set of accounts by first Derek Mackay and then Kate Forbes. Why did they never appear?
  • Why has the SNP government never commissioned a revised set of accounts as Wales did, which ended up slashing Wales’ ‘notional deficit’?
  • And why do union supporters react with such glee every year at being told they cannot manage their own affairs?

            Professor Murphy points out that GERS only includes Scottish revenue, which is massively understated because most UK profits, rents, interest income and financial service gains are recorded in London and tax paid on these funds is not credited to Scotland.  The figures include expenditure ‘for Scotland’ but again tax paid on the spend is not credited to Scotland.  And GERS includes interest on the UK’s borrowing, debited ‘pro-rata’ to Scotland whether that borrowing was spent in or for Scotland or not.  

            Scotland can do better than GERS.  Why it does not is a question that only the Scottish government can answer.


            Build-to-Rent company Get Living has blamed SNP rent controls for halting its £200 million residential development in Glasgow, where it planned to build 1500 homes on the High Street.  Chief Executive Rick De Blaby complained his shareholders include pension funds from the UK and overseas and he cannot get the same return on the investment in Glasgow as he could in Manchester or Leeds, saying the firms make no cash profit for 3 or 4 years and that he ‘discount[s] pretty hard at the start to get people in’.

            The Scottish government countered that its measures do not affect new tenancies, although they would take effect as they go down the line.  Glasgow Labour MSP Paul Sweeney bemoaned the failure to ‘provide investors with the comfort they need’, but tenants’ right group Living Rent said private developers were attempting to force government’s hands because it ‘might impact future profits’.

            It follows Scottish homebuilder Springfield announcing that a dip in profits meant it was not taking on long-term affordable housing contracts until ‘market conditions improved’.

            Time was when a Labour MSP would have been demanding affordable housing rather than first backing developers’ profits.  We appear to be long overdue to return affordable housebuilding to the public sector.  What about using a Land Tax to finance it?

Electric Car Charging

            has not been thought through from the point of view of the disabled or the visually impaired.  The National Federation of the Blind UK (NFBUK) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RosPA) say dangers are posed by motorists trailing electric cables over public pavements to charge vehicles.  Blind and visually-impaired people have said they feel forced to stay indoors as guide dogs sit down at the electric cables, turning pavements into a minefield for owners, who can also get white canes entangled in the wires.

            Along with much else in the green revolution, no-one seems to have considered the needs of vulnerable groups in the rush to electric vehicles.

Taymouth Castle Estate

            Those opposing the development are calling for:

  • legally binding protections via by-laws to protect Loch Tay. Discovery Land Company (DLC) say there are no plan for a marina but could not guarantee this would always be the case, despite Taymouth Marina already existing at Kenmore;
  • a speed limit on the water, no further marinas and warden enforcement;
  • restriction on the number of helicopters flying in and out and a curfew for them;
  • a halt to further planning applications on Taymouth estate and environmental commitments;
  • restoration of previous fishing access for locals;
  • the reopening of Kenmore’s public amenities, which DLC now own;
  • a social and economic impact assessment and the provision of affordable housing, primarily for employees; and
  • a guarantee not to relocate Kenmore Primary School or buy the building and playing fields which are adjacent to the main estate entry point.

            DLC have since claimed the estate will not become a gated community, and will comply with public access requirements, but enigmatically say some areas previously open to public access are ‘likely to change’.  There will be continued access to the beach and car park; the Kenmore Hotel, Taymouth Trading and the Paper Boat would all reopen shortly, but they did not rule out changes. Trout fishing permits would be available, but not salmon.  It appears many questions remain.


Hospital Assaults

            It was recently announced that more than 3000 assaults were carried out in Scotland’s hospitals over the last 2 years, including sexual assaults, bites, weapon attacks and verbal abuse from other patients, some of whom had mental health issues or were under the influence of drink or drugs.

            Other attacks stemmed from racism, homophobia, ageism, sexual orientation or disability.  Almost 100,000 incidents of violence and aggression have been suffered by staff and patients in NHS Scotland staff since 2018.

GP Service Collapsing

            The BMA’s annual wellbeing survey garnered 850 GP responses with some saying general practice in Scotland is unravelling ‘like a slow motion car crash’, with only 5% believing their surgery was sustainable long term and others saying that losing just one GP may precipitate the collapse of their practice. Another 5% say they have been considering giving up their contract to provide services, meaning the health board would take over running it or disperse patients to other practices.

            Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, says government is aware of this, but their priorities are A&E and waiting lists rather than primary care.

Patrick Harvie

            edged towards admitting that homeowners will increasingly be expected to pay for Scottish government climate aims with the announcement that those wanting to instal solar panels will no longer get Scottish government funding without upgrading their heating system, and will have to foot some of the costs.  Blaming the recent surge in applications for government funding for solar panels, he wants to focus ‘finite public funding in the ways which best support’ decarbonising homes.  Why was this change made without any consultation?

Lorna Slater

            admitted that no progress has been made on a feasibility study for the key green policy of creating Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) from waste including black bag general waste, alcohol derived from flue gases and even sewage.  Production sites have not been established, although Grangemouth and Shetland have been proposed, the latter possibly using existing pipelines to get the fuel to the mainland.

            Strangely, for a Scottish Green policy, the main problems so far appear to be the prohibitive cost and the lack of planning.  

The Bute House Agreement

            The Scottish Greens have incurred the wrath of former leader Robin Harper, who branded Slater and Harvie ‘arrogant and abrasive’, and criticised their policies on gender, recycling and heat pumps.  He thinks they will go down in history, but possibly not as they envisage. 

            Some senior SNP figures including Fergus Ewing feel the Bute House Agreement will sink the SNP, claiming they have lost their way by following  punitive green policies. The recent leadership contest showed that 52% of first preference votes were for Ash Regan or Kate Forbes, both of whom opposed the deal.

Fishing is being Sunk

            Scotland’s trawler owners are to be billed for fitting spy technology to their own boats, including GPS, sensors and cameras, intended to crack down on unsustainable fishing.  The Scottish government will contribute to the cost of the first tracking device for as long as they can afford it, but will not fund monthly costs, and wants to extend the requirement to vessels less than 39ft long, which would take in about 80% of the 2080 fishing vessels registered in inshore waters.

            This follows another new ruling where boats must now have a new ‘fitness to use’ certificate on every change of ownership and are unable to transfer the old ‘MOT’ with the boat ownership.  It is hard not to feel the industry is under sustained attack from all quarters, especially with the Highly Protected Marine Area (HPMA) can kicked down the road, but not abandoned.

The Night Bus Service

            has been largely restored thanks to the outcry following it being cut.  First Bus and McGills have teamed up to continue 9 of the 11 Glasgow night services it planned to cut.  Some argue that the bus services are not a charity.  Possibly not, but if they are running a public service, they carry some responsibility to get the public home safe from the city centre late at night.  McGill’s warned, though, that the council must support the companies more to encourage use.

            This particularly affects women, lone travellers and night-time economy workers.  The service seems to be more needed than ever given the advent of the LEZ which has driven taxis off the road and does not allow for relatives to come and pick people up in older cars without punitive fines.


Blame it on the LEZ

            Following council leader Susan Aitken’s ludicrous assertion last week that there was no increase in rat numbers in Glasgow but they were just more visible, their prevalence is now being blamed on the LEZ and the council’s apparent unpreparedness for it, with inadequate numbers of LEZ-compliant council vehicles meaning bins are left unemptied.  And cuts in staff are worsening an already bad situation.

            Rat infestations rose by 31% in Glasgow in 2022 at the same time as the council is being accused of profiteering from fines issued to motorists entering the LEZ.

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