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16th July – 22nd July, 2022 Week 29

16/07/22 – 22/07/22                                                              

Wild boar, Gaelic boost, Housing, Women and more….            

Dundee Equal Pay claim

            could cost the authority up to £20 million.  Women are seething about a pay structure which awards bonuses to jobs usually done by men, but not those mainly done by women like care and education.  Electricians and plumbers usually get a bonus, and men can end up with twice the pay of women.  The women want a compensation scheme for earnings lost as a result of the unfair bonus system, for the ending of discriminatory policies and a thorough job re-evaluation process.  Dundee has at least 600 claims to be settled.

            When low paid staff accessed a fuel poverty payment in Dundee, it was means-tested.  The fact that 90% of them qualified for it shows staff are too badly paid to survive.

            Glasgow resisted similar calls until 2019, when they finally agreed they owed low-paid women £500 million.  In 2021, over 21,000 equal pay claims were outstanding across Scotland’s local authorities despite being decided in favour of the low-paid (usually) women. Claims can usually be backdated for 5 years.

            Legally, there must be equal pay for doing equal work, which applies to basic rates, pensions, bonuses and benefits.

Repurposing commercial space

            City centres must repurpose city centre retail and business premises due to ‘Working from Home’, which is reducing the need for office space.  Aberdeen and Glasgow have taken steps in this regard.  Aberdeen has acquired the former BHS retail unit and Aberdeen Market, and now have a unique market hall for local traders and artisan workshops, plus leisure activities. Space is of various sizes and designed for permanent or temporary uses.

            Glasgow’s St Enoch Centre is now a hub, centred on Vue cinema, with food and drinks outlets on the ground floor.  Twenty new operators have taken space in the centre, with more changes planned to include up to 1700 homes, a hotel, performance space and a civic square to create a vibrant, varied inner-city community.

Soft Touch on Crime?

            Nearly four in ten of those who committed a crime involving a firearm do not even serve jail time.  The presumption against prison sentences of 12 months or less means fewer violent or sexual offenders go to jail. In 2018-19, 35 of 57 criminals went to jail if a firearm was involved, in 2019-20 it was 24 out of 38, and in 2020-21 only 22 out of 35. 

Ukraine

            The Scottish government’s super-sponsor scheme could result in over 700 Ukrainian refugees spending six months on the MS Victoria in Leith Docks, at a cost of over £1 million per month.  This may affect their ability to get jobs and find school places, although the government claimed that they would be able to use it as an address for local services.  

China

            A new direct shipping service has been launched between Scotland and China, with the maiden voyage from Ningbo in Zhejiang province due to arrive in Greenock Port in mid-August.  It will eventually transport 4800 containers each way per month, with the journey reduced from 60 days to 33 days by eliminating stops in Rotterdam.

Medical:

Drones

            Glasgow and Aberdeen airports and NHS Scotland have teamed up with the CAELUS Consortium to secure £10.1 million to develop the UK’s first medical distribution network using drones to transport medicines, blood and other supplies throughout Scotland, particularly for rural areas.  The consortium has designed drone landing stations for NHS sites throughout Scotland at hospitals, labs, and GP surgeries, and it is hoped this will make a huge difference to rural and island communities.

Institute of Neurological Sciences (INS)

            NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is planning a major redevelopment of services at the INS brain injury unit, due to ongoing problems with staffing, ambulance access and poor buildings, writes Caroline Wilson in the Herald 15/07/22.  Five years ago, plans to improve ambulance access were abandoned, but now, with the site beset by delapidated buildings, treatment problems and staff shortages necessitating patients being treated at a cost of £3 million elsewhere, several options are being considered.  As well as seventeen ‘Significant Adverse Event Reviews’ (SAERs) on an unexpected death or serious complication, hospital-acquired infections have led to five investigations since 2017.  A new campus may be commissioned or a new service through the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Cost of Living

            The Finance Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have asked for boosting to the devolved budgets for the cost of living crisis. They want more targeted support for those affected, sensible pay rises for the public sector and a general uplift in devolved finances as inflation has already eroded the next three years’ settlement.  

Has Minimum Unit Pricing worked?

            No, according to the journal BMJ Open, it has not reduced alcohol consumption amongst heavy drinking men, young men or men in deprived areas, despite the new pricing leading to a 6.2% drop in average alcohol consumption, largely among women.

ScotRail

            The SNP has awarded a £3 million contract to Arup, a firm headquartered in England, for ‘technical advisory services’ on how to run the new service.  This is in addition to the eight persons on ScotRail’s board who are paid a total of £1,320,000 a year, and the rail holding firm whose head is paid £120,000 a year for a 3-day week.   Scotrail’s Chief Operating officer, Joanne Maguire, is being paid £175,000 a year.  Also on the payroll are a Safety, Sustainability and Asset director (£150,000 p.a), a Service Delivery director (£135,000 p.a.) and a Commercial director (£130,000 p.a.)

            Transport Scotland defended the pay levels as ‘commensurate with market rates for senior leaders’ in comparable organisations.

A ‘Chief Entrepreneur’

            has been appointed by the Scottish government at £192,000 p.a. for eight days work a month.  Mark Logan is the former boss of flight comparison site Skyscanner. This must clearly show where the Scottish government’s priorities lie.

Wild boars,

            officially extinct since the Middle Ages, have made a gruesome comeback in the Highlands. So far restricted to rural areas, there are fears they may invade the towns as their counterparts in Berlin and Gloucestershire have. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association first identified the issue of wild boar seven years ago, but nothing has checked the spread, with devastating effects on farm livestock, ground nesting wildlife, and lambing sheep.

            The culled boar need a certificate of safe consumption for humans, but these are difficult to obtain, and the boar which can weigh over 30 stone pose a threat to humans due to their size and their tusks.

            The fad for wild boar meat in the 1980s and 1990s was short-lived, meaning some boar were let out into the wild, or just escaped. Some had been cross-bred with domestic pigs.  There may be 700 wild boar in the Great Glen and hundreds south of Dumfries, as well as Tayside, Fife and the Central Belt, possibly 5000 overall.

            The National Farmers Union of Scotland is alarmed, but the Scottish government less so, keeping a watching brief and saying that responsibility for controlling the boar population lies with individual estates, who say they need government help. 

for more on green issues, go to the ISP website or ISP on Facebook

Women and Domestic Abuse

            A study of 500 women by Scottish women’s Aid (SWA) and YWCA Scotland shows that one in three young women in Scotland has had an intimate relationship with someone who harmed them physically or emotionally. 

Mesh Implants

            The Scottish government has struck a deal for those women who have suffered from mesh implants to have them removed in the US free of charge. All treatment and travel will be free.

No girls in the mixed team

            Concerns are being raised over the SFA’s performance schools scheme since it was revealed that all 24 of the places at Holyrood Secondary School’s football performance school in Glasgow have gone to boys, as have all the other 24 places on offer in the other six performance schools.  Eighty-two pupils made it through to the final day’s trials, but none of the four girls got through, not even Lily McLaughlin, who is in Celtic Girls Academy writes Caroline Wilson in the Herald, 20/7/22 (‘SFA accused of tick-box’ trials for girls in football academies’).

            The SFA says they are working with the Scottish Women’s Premier League (SWPL) and clubs to ‘evolve the elite domestic player pathway for girls and women’, but could not say why no girls got into the performance schools. 

            Do the trials favour boys in some way?  Is any account taken of physiological differences between males and females, most marked after puberty, but still there? 

Non-binary

            The Scottish government is considering improving rights for those who do not strictly identify as male or female. 

for more on Women’s Issues, go to ISP Safe in Scotland and ISP on Facebook

Legal:

End of the road for Not Proven?

            A major consultation has shown that 60% of 200 respondents want to end the ‘not proven’ verdict, although the majority of lawyers who responded were in favour of keeping it. If it is scrapped,  most respondents want a qualified jury majority and jury size to remain at 15, and a majority also wish to keep the requirement for corroboration, where an accused cannot be convicted unless the evidence is established from at least two independent sources, which may be witnesses or things like forensic proof.    

Housing for Local People

            The last available council house in Plockton will not be sold on the open market, due to concerns that half the 80 homes in the centre of the village are holiday homes or lets. Highland Council is now letting the house to a teacher at Plockton High School.

Finally,           

            The Gaelic Economy benefits Glasgow to the tune of £21 million and 700 jobs, dispelling the myth that Gaelic is not worth supporting.  Glasgow has 10,000 Gaelic speakers, with 1300 children in Gaelic education, with the figures rising every year. Creative industries, education and tourism and hospitality benefit, and the impact on mental health generally is positive.

            VisitScotland is promoting Gaelic as an element in Scottish trips as offering a unique selling point for Scotland in the market for visitors.

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