14/10/23 – 20/10/23
Federalism Bites Back, Covid Compensation, but first….
Are Food Price Caps Communism?
Tory Food and farming minister Mark Spencer has called the SNP’s plans for price caps on staple foods ‘communism’, claiming controlling the market ‘did not work’, ‘would drive up prices’, and ‘amounted to’ communism. The SNP mooted the proposal to ministers from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). But the Tories can never explain why, if food price-setting does not work, it works for the energy companies to keep prices high, or why the market is not left to pick up the pieces when the market fails as in the case of Carillion, who appeared to over-extend themselves and then collapsed.
The Covid Vaccine Scandal
A much bigger number than admitted may have been injured, disabled or left bereaved by the covid vaccines. The Scottish Vaccine Injury Group (SVIG) of nearly 300 people have already got some compensation or there is probable cause, but most succeed only through solicitors’ help. Effects include odd allergic reactions to everything from toothpaste and face cream to most food and drink, muscle weakness, burning skin, a sensation of insects crawling all over them, tremors, temporary paralysis and feeling as if electric currents were running through them, as well as extremely rare spinal strokes caused by a blood clot on the vertebrae in the neck, which led 2 people to the same A&E unit within a week.
An NHS immunologist eventually diagnosed Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) as the cause, although what triggers it is unknown, with no official link between possible cause and undeniable effects. Some of those affected took the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine, with those under 40 then switched to the Pfizer and Moderna jags after data indicated a possible link between the AZ vaccine and blood clotting.
The Vaccine Damages Payment Scheme (VDPS) has gone from 100 applications a year to 7000 for Covid vaccines alone, with long delays in processing and often ending in failure. You must prove it on the civil liability test of ‘balance of probabilities’ and be at least 60% disabled, with nearly half of the claims already rejected (2375), with 4000 still being processed. But the suspicion is that they are actually deciding that proof is needed ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ (the criminal standard), much higher than the ‘balance of probabilities’ civil standard. A decision is based on the patient’s medical records and a VDPS-appointed doctor, hardly impartial, and the £120,000 lump sum is much less generous than other countries give, and is a flat rate regardless of the extent or duration of resulting disabilities.
SNP ‘majority of seats’ threshold for independence
SNP Conference this week finally agreed that if the SNP win a ‘majority of seats’ (29 out of 57) the First Minister would demand the UK government starts independence negotiations, begin talks on a new referendum or devolving the powers to hold a referendum to Holyrood. But it is unclear how will they force the UK to the negotiating table.
They backed a dedicated parliamentary committee to oversee rural and island transport connectivity and a forum to include Norway and Ireland. Financial bonds to finance infrastructure projects will be issued on the international markets only by the end of this parliamentary session. Conference reaffirmed their ‘top priority’ commitment to dualling the A9 and the A96 but with no timescale, and committed £300 million over 3 years to tackle NHS backlogs, £500,000 to help women escape domestic abuse, and up to £500 million in the offshore wind sector supply chain.
Will he/won’t he Freeze Council Tax?
Yes, says Humza, for next year, and he will not increase it for the top bands this year. Not so fast, say councils, who are angry that it was only announced at conference, where it appears delegates were similarly in the dark. It was not a full Cabinet decision, but appears to be Humza’s own. Councils say it may be illegal to suspend the council tax.
Deputy First Minister Shona Robison could not say how much councils would actually get (they were planning on implementing different council tax rises). An urgent meeting is being sought with the First Minister, as well as an explanation of where councils will get the money they desperately need. It also appears to breach the Verity House Agreement the Scottish government made with Cosla which aimed to ‘improve engagement on budgetary matters’.
Yawn… It’s Federalism Again
Labour is promising legislation to legally prevent the UK ever undermining Holyrood, envisaging a reformed and more representative House of Lords as a bulwark against Westminster. But Keir Starmer recently spoke of devolution for parts of England, and who can forget EVEL (English Votes for English Laws), announced the day after our referendum in 2014? In any case Westminster already can’t overturn devolved legislation. The recent case of gender reform happened because they judge Holyrood has overstepped its remit.
Gordon Brown admits that Scotland was railroaded over Brexit and the Internal Markets Act, as well as the UK overruling the Sewel convention which only allows the UK to legislate on matters normally devolved if Scotland and England would vote the same way. But he still claims we are ‘better together’.
“There is no evidence that predatory and abusive men have ever had to pretend to be anything else to carry out abusive and predatory behaviour.”, said Shona Robison in March 2022.
I wonder what she will make then of the case of Andrew Miller, who for two decades also went by the name of Amy George, who was well known as a business owner in the Scottish Borders, and who has recently been sentenced to 28 years (8 of them being on supervised licence in the community) for offering a girl unknown to him a lift home, then abducting, imprisoning and sexually abusing her. Although she did not know him, she trusted him as he looked like a female when he stopped his vehicle and spoke to her.
But he focussed quickly, and later told a risk assessor that he had ‘gone into business mode, trying to think of a plan’, even accusing his primary-school-age victim of being ‘sexually active’ to deflect blame. He was also found to be in possession of many indecent images of children.
At least he is in a men’s jail….for now, but claims to be transitioning.
Rural and Islands:
A row has erupted over what will constitute a snare under the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill. Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) want humane cable restraints excluded from the snare ban, but the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland says the government is being ‘hoodwinked’, saying the only difference between humane cable restraints and snares is the name, and want both banned.
The SLE claim many differences between humane cable restraints and traditional snares. First, humane restraints include a fixed stop to prevent strangulation, second there are two swivels to allow free movement and stop the snare entangling itself, and third, the breakaway component allows non-target species to free themselves as they are more powerful than the intended target of foxes. LACS say humane restraints meet international standards, but the SLE says live capture traps are not effective against predators.
Fort William Doesn’t Need Clothes
Despite its proximity to Ben Nevis, Fort William is crying out for something other than a newly opened (eighth) outdoor clothing supplier. Many were hoping for a clothing outlet or large food store to save the round trip of 132 miles to Inverness needed for most things. Ordering online attracts an average 21% higher postal charges to the Highlands and Islands than elsewhere in Scotland, and some online retailers refuse to supply to the area, or redefine what counts as the UK mainland. The town has a cinema, bookshop and a few cafes, but no computer repair or clothing stores, no butcher or fishmonger. A quarter of high street units are charity shops or stand empty.
The town is now fighting back, seeking to repurpose its high street, and have just appointed architects to develop homes, attract retailers and demolish unsightly building. And Lochybridge on its northern approach will in due course see a new whisky distillery and visitor centre.
Luing Community Trust
is fronting a £1.4 million plan for a slate quarrying revival on the island, which is about 16 miles south of Oban. It is hoping to have passed selection stage 1 of the Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund. In the 19th century there were 15 slate quarries on the island employing hundreds of workers, with waste from quarrying reused to bolster the beaches which are once more being eroded.
Luing is one of the ‘Slate Islands’, the other main ones being Seil, Easdale, Lunga, Shuna, Torsa and Belnahua. This time round, instead of drilling holes in the rocks and freeing slate in huge pieces via explosions, hydraulic splitters will first split the rock. Unlike in the 19th century, slate processing will be carried out indoors, with the slate sprayed down and dust extraction measures in place. Workers will wear head to toe protective gear.
All slate-roofed buildings built pre-1919 will gradually need replacements for slate which has eroded. Luing Slate is better suited to the Scottish climate than imported Brazilian, Spanish and Italian slate, and the islanders are also hoping to capitalise on ‘heritage tourism’ as well as provide jobs for some of the 600 inhabitants.
An Iron Age site at Meigle in Perthshire can have houses built on it after an acrimonious planning process involving 59 objections, and despite the 100 proposed new homes enlarging the village out of all proportion. Some fear the ancient underground chamber will be damaged or lost forever, and archaeological reports were not made public or accessible before the decision. Site traffic will be considerably more than initially admitted, and it is unclear whether the decision can be reversed when more information comes to light or why there was such unseemly haste to approve it.
Rural and Island Connectivity
The Scottish government is working to complete the Reaching 100% (R100) programme to roll out full-fibre broadband prioritising rural and island areas through their 4G Infill (S4GI) programme of £28.75 million for 4G mobile infrastructure to reach 55 mobile ‘notspots’. Its Islands Connectivity Plan to be announced later this year.
The Western Isles have lost over £90 million in EU Structural Funds and also recently lost out when applying for Levelling-Up Funding from the UK government for roads infrastructure.
It appears Scotland was wrong about Dennis the Menace all along. Created and set in Dundee, wasn’t it, by publisher DC Thomson? No, ‘created in London and unleashed on 100 countries’, according to the marketers of a new animated series made in London. They have since admitted their mistake and he is once more Dundonian, but strangely speaking in a working-class London accent. Perhaps an English/American audience would not understand working-class Dundonian? Or maybe we should see every achievement as English in case Scots end up feeling proud of a Scottish achievement. That would never do, would it?