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22nd July-28th July, 2023

Drugs, Dentists and Dangerous Animals..

Scotland Decriminalising All Drugs!

            Within an hour of the announcement of Scotland’s plan to decriminalise personal drugs use, introduce drug consumption rooms and regulate the supply of certain drugs, UK PM Sunak dismissed any idea of devolving the relevant powers to Scotland, or overhauling it at UK level.   Oft-cited Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2001, making it a public health rather than a criminal matter, and drug deaths plummeted, but Portugal is now rethinking its policy.  Portugal has the anomaly that ice cream and sweets are treated more harshly than drug-taking, which has been largely normalised. 

            Rehabilitation should happen in the communities where addicts live, rather than them being taken away to rehab then returning to the same situation where they became addicted.

Night-Time Bus

            The decision by First Bus Glasgow to axe ALL 11 night-time bus services on 31st July has caused outrage, with calls for the service to be nationalised to retain it.  The firm says it must move drivers to services with more footfall, and the night-time service is losing money.  They say getting people home safely, particularly women, night-time economy and shift workers is not their responsibility alone!

            Women are (or should be) terrified at the prospect of walking home alone in the middle of the night. Like it or not, women are physically weaker than men and more vulnerable when out alone.  And while murders are rare, they are not non-existent.

            First Bus MD Duncan Cameron helpfully suggested that workers could be trained as bus drivers and drive the night bus themselves as part of their shift!! 

The End of Dentistry as we Know it?

            Talks are ongoing between the Scottish government and the dentistry industry for a new framework due to come into effect in November.  The current model involves three funding streams – capitation (£1.20 a year for every patient registered with a practice, reducing to 12p if they have not seen them in over three years; direct reimbursement (support to cover rent and business rates); and fee-per-item (fixed sums for work carried out).

            Most businesses provide both NHS and private practice, and 50% of practices get 90% of their income from NHS work.  But the reimbursements are no longer covering the costs incurred by dentists.  Dentists can only claim at the end of a full course of treatment, and many dentists are refusing to take on new NHS patients. 

            Dental leaders want a new GP-style model of working, but the government appears in favour of a modest increase in fees and capitation payments. 

Painting the New Town Green/Pink/Off-White?

            It is hard to know exactly what is the correct colour for a door in Drummond Place, Edinburgh, as its owner seems to be falling foul of an invisible code every time she paints it.

            On inheriting her house, Miranda Dickson painted the door pink, but Edinburgh City Council said she was in line for a £20,000 fine.  She then painted it green, as she had at that point had no confirmation from the planning department.  A retrospective planning application for green was also rejected, and a complaint has been lodged over her third choice which she called ‘off white’.  

            What colour will do?

Council Tax Increases

            The Scottish government is currently consulting on changes to council tax, with one suggestion to increase on a sliding scale the council tax on properties in bands E to G, which would impact almost a third of properties.  Bills for the most expensive homes could rise by £800 a year, although large increases may be phased in over years. The current council tax system relies on the size of properties being an indicator of bigger income.

            The consultation is open to contributions up to September 20th, so make your views heard before final decisions are made.

Second Homes and Council Tax

            Calls are also being made for Scotland to follow Wales’ example and introduce measures allowing councils to tax four times the normal council tax rate on second or empty properties.  In England people can be charged up to four times the normal bill if a property is empty 10 years or more, but Scotland only gives councils the option to charge double council tax if a property is unoccupied over 12 months. 

Business Woes

            In response to staff at Glasgow’s 13th Note walking out over pay and conditions, the venue suddenly announced it was permanently closing, with liquidators appointed. Problems included a shelf collapsing and the wheel on an industrial fridge snapping, mice infestations, and possible underpayment of staff. The owners said the strike action orchestrated by Unite the union caused the drastic reduction in revenue which led to the decision to close.

            Prior to this, discussions had been underway between the union, staff and Glasgow City Council for staff to possibly take over the lease.

Berwickshire Housing Association

            is accused of ‘ripping the heart’ out of Westruther village after serving eviction notices to allow demolition instead of upgrading.  A neighbouring development by Eildon Housing Association is also set to be demolished before it is even completed.  Eildon had just got planning permission for 10 family homes, with some Westruther residents due to move there, but they are now being offered homes 20 miles away in Coldstream. 

            Eviction notices have been lodged at Jedburgh Sheriff Court and Eildon Housing Association will consider its next moves after their board meeting in August, but demolition seems likely due to the deterioration of timber structures, which was hastened by delays caused by Covid. 

Social Care

            Plans for the National Care Service have been amended so that local authorities will continue to deliver the service and employ staff, and councils will not have to bid against private firms for contracts.  It is not clear whether employees will be directly employed by councils or, as now, at arms’ length in sub-contracted social care providers. The STUC want a not-for-profit system, with employees benefitting from national collective bargaining and uniform conditions of service.

            Social care workers’ rights need an overhaul.  The Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) cited a huge exodus of staff last year, with providers like Quarriers ‘in crisis’, having to turn to agency staff costing them 50% – 70% more, although the staff are not paid more, often getting no premium even for Christmas Day or weekends.  Getting the required SVQ training can also be a problem.

Critical Lack of Social Housing

            More than 240,000 people are on waiting lists for social housing, with only just over 26,000 housing allocations made annually in the whole of Scotland.  Nine of 32 local authorities were unable to meet their statutory obligations for suitable temporary accommodation and nearly 29,000 ‘live’ homelessness applications were open at the end of September 2022.  Among those in temporary accommodation are 14,000 households including 9,000 children; and 12,000 Ukrainians in temporary and short-term accommodation, making a grand total of nearly 270,000 people looking for council housing.

            A further 500,000 households are believed to be living in sub-standard housing. The Scottish government says it is working through the problems via its short-life Housing Review Group, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that more homes must be built, more empty properties brought into use or repurposed from commercial use, or both.

Rental Problems

            As if that wasn’t enough, people with children or pets, or even on benefits have found themselves barred from renting altogether by some landlords.  The Scottish and UK governments are currently working on a law which would ban these practices, which persist despite the ban against children already being illegal under equality laws as indirectly discriminating against women. 

‘Limo’ Lorna Slater

            has been living up to her nickname by taking limousines for 3000 miles-worth of trips since becoming a minister in 2021, while expecting the rest of us to hand back our car keys.  Her shortest trip was one mile and the longest a 350-mile round trip to plant trees at Loch Ness. Other SNP ministers have used official limousines between their homes and Holyrood nearly 500 times between January and March this year.  The SNP wants to cut car use by a fifth by 2030, but unfortunately can’t provide rural residents in particular with any form of public transport to even get us to and from work.


Who Knew Animals Were so Dangerous?


            Customers at the Inshes Aldi store in Inverness have an extra problem to deal with on their weekly shop – seagulls swooping to take whole packs of bacon, burgers and other tasty items from trolleys. 

            The problem is worsened as seagulls are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act making it illegal to recklessly injure a gull or damage or prevent access to a nest.  Destruction of nests is permitted only under strict conditions.  Highland Council said it has no statutory duty to deal with the gulls, saying it is the landowners’ responsibility.

An Octopus Bite

            was one of the more unusual injuries seen at A&E last year.  Any bite which breaks the skin must be medically treated.  Monkeys, lemurs and meerkats, reindeer and wallaby injuries all featured, as well as the usual dog, cat, rabbit and hamster bites.  Nearly 10,000 incidents were recorded last year, up from 6,764 in 2020/21.  Jellyfish, lobster and turtle also got in on the act. 


            however, are trying to redeem themselves, being moved into an enclosure at NHS Lothian’s Royal Hospital for Children and Young People RHCYP) to help youngsters recuperate.  Patients will learn about nature and the environment, as it is well known that animals help with people’s mental and physical wellbeing. 

            Five meerkats will move next year into a new enclosure to be built in the Castle Mey courtyard, where they will live in a natural habitat of sand, rocks and logs, with Perspex panels for children in pushchairs and wheelchairs to get as close as possible.

            It will be only the second such enclosure in a hospital in the world, following Australia’s example, where Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital have kept meerkats since 2011.


            At least we can be thankful we don’t have a lioness running amok in Scotland, unlike Berlin.

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