15/04/23 – 21/04/23
Safeguarding and the UK Alert
On Sunday, 23rd April the UK government’s decision to have an ear-piercing alert ping on everyone’s phone for 10 seconds at 3pm is having unintended consequences. Might this sudden noise cause accidents? Will it interrupt actual emergency calls? Will those with learning conditions like autism be terrified by the noise? And if domestic abuse victims have a secret phone but still live with their abuser, this will alert him.
It will trigger even if the phone is on silent. They only way to avoid it is to switch the phone off altogether or manually opt out of receiving the alert. This system will cost £22 million.
to switch off Android:
Go to Settings –
Search for ‘Emergency Alerts’ in the search bar;
Turn off alerts for ‘Extreme Threats’ and ‘Severe threats’ by tapping the toggle button – blue means ‘on’ and grey means ‘off’.
to switch off iPhone:
Go to Settings –
Click on Notifications;
Scroll to the bottom of the page to find ‘Emergency alerts’;
Tap the toggle to switch off ‘Extreme alerts’ and ‘Severe alerts’- green means ‘on’ and grey means ‘off’.
Humza Yousaf has bowed to pressure and is delaying the Deposit Return Scheme until March 2024. But under its terms firms who signed up may still pay £50,000 a month from August if they sell over 10 million units (bottles) a year, rising to £1.5m a month if they sell over 350 million. Yousaf has also decided against introducing an alcohol advertising ban for now.
Scottish Waiting Times
Up to December 2022, 47,000 Scottish patients were waiting for hip and knee surgery, plus over 18,000 Scots waiting for a first specialist eye appointment. Follow up appointments for conditions like glaucoma are not included in the figures, despite the fact that follow-up patients are nine times more likely to incur permanent vision loss than new patients.
Up to June 2022 over 5000 patients were waiting over four months for outpatient cardiac appointments, 9 times the levels before the pandemic, and in the last 3 months, 1200 patients waited over the 63-day target to start treatment following an urgent referral for suspected cancer.
Mesh Surgery Aftercare
Women sent by Scotland’s NHS to America for surgery to remove mesh implants have struggled on returning home. The Scottish government and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (which runs Scotland’s Complex Mesh Surgical Centre in Glasgow) both claim to have no responsibility for aftercare, despite the government promising patients two follow-up calls from a specialist, with local health boards responsible after that.
One patient was reduced to phoning round hospitals to eventually get emergency help from Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, and another found her remaining follow-up appointment cancelled, and was told she would receive no aftercare.
Night-time Hospital Discharge
Around 40,000 patients were discharged from hospital at unsociable hours last year, at least 16,000 discharged between midnight and 5a.m., and 5000 between 3am and 5am. NHS Lothian and NHS Forth Valley did not give figures. This practice compromises the care of elderly and vulnerable patients and costs the NHS for taxis if needed. People get home in the cold and dark, and care packages will not start until the following day. How on earth can hospitals do this?
In September 2022, there were 24,287 second homes in Scotland, 1% of the total homes in the country. Jobs remain unfilled because there is no housing, while homes lie empty.
On Barra, 175 properties are second homes empty for over seven months every year, while dozens of applicants languish on the housing waiting list. In Arran 40% of its housing is second homes or short term, mostly holiday, lets, with the private rental market virtually non-existent. Young people are forced to live in caravans.
Charging more council tax will not help a great deal. Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for Barra, says the problem isn’t second homes as such, but the lack of first homes and a static supply, and the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers claims that ending short term lets would not make housing more affordable, but may mean more homes are bought up at high prices as second homes.
Rent Loophole 1
Tenants are claiming that some landlords are evading the government cap on rent increases by a loophole that it can be exceeded if the tenant and landlord both agree. This may take the form of a 12-month lease paid up over 9 months, with 3 months treated as ‘free’ or ‘paid for’. But sometimes a landlord then claims the higher rent paid over 9 months is actually the standard monthly rent.
Other tenants claim their landlord threatened to sell up if they did not agree to a rent increase. Would more landlords selling up reduce house prices to realistic levels and allow people to buy instead of renting?
Rent Loophole 2
University accommodation is excluded from the current rent cap, and student accommodation costs are set to rise by up to 9.5%. Stirling University students are petitioning against expected rises of 7%-9%. The National Union of Students (NUS) reports that 12% of students have experienced homelessness since starting their studies, and over half of students in Scotland missed meals due to lack of money. Accommodation may be of poor quality, with windows which do not open or close, mouldy premises and bedding, and insect infestations.
Stirling University countered that 15% of its accommodation was facing no rent rises at all, and they have a Rent Review group including university and student reps which aims to provide good quality affordable housing.
are in the firing line of council budget cuts, with calls for extra government funding. Library staffing nationwide has fallen by almost 10%, and cuts disproportionately affect those on lower incomes, who do not have private internet access. Over 1 in 8 libraries in Scotland closed permanently in the decade to 2020.
Culture Minister Christina McKelvie said local authorities are under a legal obligation to provide adequate library facilities, with Peter Reid, Professor of Librarianship at Robert Gordon University, claiming that ‘free access to books remains fundamentally important to a civilized society’.
If the SNP fail to hire auditors, the Electoral Commission can send in its own financial team, a first for any UK political party.
Nicola Sturgeon asserted in 2021 that party finances had ‘never been stronger’. Senior SNP members insist the party is still solvent, but Colin Beattie, SNP treasurer, who was arrested and later released, has since resigned as party treasurer, with Humza Yousaf becoming ‘de facto’ treasurer meantime.
The SNP are campaigning in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, and appear hopeful of a by-election, having distanced themselves from SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, rather telling compared with their treatment of other MPs who arguably did far worse.
is joining with Ivan McKee, Michelle Thomson and the Common Weal to launch a ‘wellbeing’ economic initiative to eradicate poverty through wealth generation, good wages and fair taxes.
Peatland Vying for Unesco Status
The Flow Country in the north of Scotland is vying to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is part of 400,000 hectares of the biggest ‘blanket’ bog in Europe, which develops where precipitation exceeds evaporation and plants build up to form layers of peat up to 10 metres thick, filled with plant fossils, midge remains and even volcanic ash. If maintained in good condition, they are great carbon sequesters.
Winning this status would help promote the area, one of the least populated areas of Western Europe. Scotland still needs to do a lot of work to restore peatland so that it sequesters carbon rather than releasing it into the atmophere.
Should parole be denied
to killers who never disclose where their victims are? Helen’s Law came into force in England after a campaign by the mother of Helen McCourt, murdered in Lancashire. Her killer never revealed where she was buried, but he was nonetheless paroled and has since died.
But attempts to bring in ‘Suzanne’s Law’ in Scotland have stalled. Suzanne Pilley was murdered by her lover, work colleague David Gilroy, who has never revealed where she is buried. Then-Justice Minister Humza Yousaf said in 2021 that the system was going to be overhauled that year to include the provision, but it never actually happened.
No Community Benefits
At least not to Scotland. The first Turkish ferry contract allowed three Scottish apprentices to get one week’s work experience at the Cemre shipyard for three years and £30,000 to fund support projects in Scotland. But the 58 firms providing services or products for the ferries being built in Turkiye are overseas or in England.
The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 requires public contracts of £4m or more to have specific requirements in terms of community benefit to the authority area where a contract is issued, but CMAL said this is not a legal requirement, but is advisory only. CMAL even suggest that the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations require non-discriminatory treatment of those tendering for projects, meaning they are unable to narrow ‘competition by unduly favouring or disadvantaging any particular economic operator’.
CalMac’s new Ticketing System
has been delayed at least until 16th May due to the ongoing ferry disruption and new arrangements. The £18 million contract has been planned for 10 years.
In Perthshire, ‘Ballinluig’ has become ‘Ballinguig’ on a road sign being hastily corrected by BEAR Scotland, and in Dundee directions point to ‘Couper Angus’ instead of ‘Coupar Angus’. Dundee City Council say they were not made aware. Another road sign outside Errol in the Carse of Gowrie says Invergowrie is 4 miles away when it is 8, but perhaps they mean Inchture, which is actually 4 miles away.