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17th September – 23rd September 2022 Week 38

17/09/22 –23/09/22

Should King Charles pay inheritance tax?

                        Nearly two thirds of the population think he should pay tax on his private inheritance, which is exempt as it is a ‘sovereign-to-sovereign’ bequest. The Queen’s personal wealth was estimated to be £370 million, and a normal inheritance tax bill of 40% over the £325,000 threshold would give the public coffers £148 million (£14.8 million should come to Scotland).  The King’s overall wealth is about £24 billion, so he could probably just afford it.

Ferries:

                        Problems persist with Scotland’s ageing ferry fleet and infrastructure.  CalMac decided to introduce a plan last Monday to withhold refunds for customers who cancel less than 24 hours before sailing.  Initially this plan had been scrapped after an Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) due to the possibility of legal challenges.

                        But then CalMac reversed this decision, saying the plan will go ahead with limited exceptions, such as the death of an immediate family member, being involved in a road traffic accident, having a debilitating illness, or if CalMac had themselves cancelled a connecting ferry.

                        Some islanders have hit out at the sudden closure of Lochboisdale port for two weeks around safety concerns, with ferry users being encouraged to travel to and from Lochmaddy on North Uist, 42 miles from Lochboisdale, for replacement ferries.  The chairman of Harris Development Ltd claimed they found out about the changes only from the media, and the amended plans would seriously impact on Harris. 

Fines:

                        CalMac has also been fined more than twice as much in performance failure fines in the last year than in the previous nine. Penalties from 2007 were £1.36 million, and in the last year to June 2022 fines totalled £2.31 million.

Malnourished Children

                        NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde saw nearly 4000 hospital admissions of children under 18 with malnutrition between 2018 and 2022.  One third of Glasgow children live in poverty. In 2021 alone the figure was 1000. Malnutrition can involve just a lack of food, but also relates to deficiencies in energy and nutrient intake or low weight-to-height ratio, stunted growth or being underweight. 

                        NHS Tayside referred 186 children to paediatric dieticians for faltering growth over the last three and a half years, and in Lanarkshire the towns of Motherwell and Airdrie had the highest local figures.  

                        And these figures do not include children visiting their GP for treatment, meaning the real figure could be much higher.

Women:

                        Not following Edinburgh’s lead, Glasgow is keeping open its three lap-dancing clubs, although it is not allowing any new ones to open.  The licensing committee claims it included in its consultation the Glasgow Violence Against Women (GVAW) partnership, but then appear to have rejected their evidence.  Kirsti Hay of the GVAW condemned the presence of sexual entertainment venues as contributing to the very existence of misogyny, sustaining gender inequality, encouraging commercial sexual exploitation and predatory behaviour in society.

                        The council said it is being ‘pragmatic’ and ‘thorough’ in its assessment.  But who do lap-dancing clubs really benefit?  And who suffers from males feeling entitled to commodify women for sex?  It tells men that women are commodities to be bought and sold.

for more on women’s issues, go to the ISP website or ISP Safe in Scotland on Facebook

The School Estate

                        Shirley-Anne Somerville has been challenged over the state of Scotland’s public schools.  Some claim the problem is so entrenched that a taskforce will need to be set up to tackle it.  Latest figures show that over 80,000 pupils are being educated in buildings rated as poor ( C) or bad (D) for their ability to support quality learning and teaching (11.4% of buildings, up from 11.1% in a year).  Improvements in the best schools in the school estate occurred from 2016 onward but have faltered since 2019.

                        When asked about the condition of buildings, Shirley-Anne Somerville answered a question on the number of free school meals provided to children.

University bars

                        are breaking with the stereotypical hard-drinking student lifestyle and becoming alcohol-free.  Abertay University’s student hub has been rebranded the Library Café with Fairtrade coffees, fruit and herbal teas and non-dairy milks, syrups and toppings. Some institutions including St Andrews offer alcohol-free accommodation.  Aberdeen’s Union Brew has become a café.  All are still offering a space for relaxation for stressed-out students but reflecting a changing attitude among students who are more health-conscious, as well as reflecting the fact that a third of 16-24-year-olds today never drink alcohol. 

                        Following their cancellation of a guarantee of accommodation to all freshers, University of Glasgow has now gone one better, telling students not to enrol at all if they do not have housing arranged (not easy if you are hundreds of miles away) but instead ‘take a year off’. 

                        Some letting agents have even started including a ‘proposed rent’ box on their application forms for people to add an amount they are willing to pay ABOVE the suggested rent, or having to pay three months’ rent in advance.

Green News

                        Tayvallich Estate in Argyll and Bute has been put on the market for £10.5 million for 3,500 acres including an 811-acre island with boathouse and two jetties, and 13 properties including a former school, derelict blacksmith’s forge, and farms.  There are 17 affordable long-term rental properties on the peninsula, 10 of which are owned by the estate, whose residents fear being forced out in favour of new owners turning their homes into holiday lets.  Already almost 40% of the homes in the area are second homes or holiday lets. 

                        Argyll and Bute has lost 5000 residents (5%) since 1981, 3% of which occurred since 2011, and a further 10% drop is expected by 2041.

                        Tayvallich residents are concerned about the sale offer itself, either in one big lot of £10.5 million, or 13 lots which are still each unaffordable for local people.  They are also upset that there was no warning that the sale was imminent.  The Tayvallich Initiative is preparing a bid for financial support from the Scottish Land fund, but as the sale deadline is November, there is no realistic time-scale for the community to put together a finished bid, although they may raise enough from other sources to buy smaller portions.  The current owners have refused to delay the sale but have offered to gift the community a small area of land if they agree to withdraw the community buyout request.

Rusko Estate

                        near Gatehouse of Fleet is the subject of a dispute between Richard Gilby, 12th Baron Vaux of Harrowden, and some of his tenants. The problem stems from the private water supply which showed water supplies at some rental properties were contaminated with e-coli, with one cottage having iron levels in the water at 32 times the legal limit, lead at eight times the limit, aluminium four times higher, and copper slightly over the limit.  Manganese levels were double. 

                        Legal protection is meant to be afforded by the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland and involves local authority and health board oversight.

Network Rail

                        is under fire from the RMT union over plans to cut the maintenance workforce in Scotland from nearly 2000 to around 1500 and to halve standard maintenance tasks, including manual inspections.  There will be 300 job cuts and 200 current vacancies will remain unfilled.  Network Rail claims it will instead use technology and data more efficiently.

                        The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) inquiry into the Stonehaven rail crash in 2019 found the train derailed due to striking debris which washed out of a faulty drainage system constructed by now-defunct Carillion, who allegedly did not build to specification.  The works were not entered into Network Rail’s maintenance database, and route controllers responsible for operational management did not have the appropriate information or training to manage complex issues including heavy rain and were under severe stress due to the number of weather-related events that morning.

                        The union’s 40,000 workers are expected to resume strikes later this week.  It says its ongoing disputes are not just about pay, but also conditions and passenger safety issues.  The union fear a repeat of the Stonehaven crash which claimed three lives.

Medical:

                        Patients turning up at A&E at Monklands Hospital Airdrie have been asked to give their mobile numbers to staff then go and wait in their cars, to be summoned when a medical professional is free. Some patients are waiting 12 hours to be seen, with the risk of people dying in their cars.  Hospitals are transferring patients by taxi without any medical personnel with them, although they claim there are risk assessments beforehand.

                        In response the Scottish government said Scotland had outperformed the rest of the UK for the last seven years, and Humza Yousaf is determined to improve things.

                        Earlier reports that 44% of cancers are diagnosed only when visiting A&E suggests at least part of the problem may be the difficulty of getting GP appointments in the first place.

Trams

                        Edinburgh’s tram system has cost Edinburgh City Council £1.2 million in damages to cyclists who suffered injuries, whose bikes were damaged after slipping on tracks, or got stuck in the tramlines.  One cyclist died when her bike got trapped in the lines and she was hit by a vehicle.  There have been 422 incidents involving bikes since 2012.  The tram project itself cost £776 million and was five years late, with the resulting trams inquiry costing over £13 million.

Finally,

                        A cruise operator sailed into a storm recently when it warned passengers docking at Greenock that ‘drugs are available [onshore] and frequently offered for sale’.  Inverclyde Provost Drew McKenzie was understandably not amused, saying the claim was neither accurate nor valid. 

                        Princess Cruises denied picking on Greenock, saying it was a ‘standard notice shown in rotation with other messages at port visits’.  Honest.

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