29/10/22 -4/11/22 Week 44
Scottish Budget Cuts
John Swinney has confirmed £615 million of funding cuts in his most recent spending review, undertaken following the Westminster change of Prime Minister. Changes will include cuts to covid services (£116m), set-up costs for the National Care Service (£70m), primary care services (£65m) and mental health services (£38m), as well as £63 million ‘saved’ by ‘re-phasing and pausing other health and social care programmes. Net zero, energy and transport capital budgets come in for £61m of cuts, among them a £10m pledge to support a carbon capture and storage project in the North-East.
It appears the Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth may not after all be considering the £800 million scheme proposed by the Clyde Catamaran Group to build as many as 50 catamarans for use on the island routes. CMAL will now be commissioning two more ferries built according to the specifications of those under construction in Turkiye. The catamarans would cost not much more than the ferries under construction.
And the Glen Sannox, under construction at Ferguson Marine, may not be a ‘green solution’ after all, at least initially, as it can currently run only on diesel. Intended to be dual fuel, alternating between diesel and liquefied natural gas (LNG), the yard has not managed to source the parts for the LNG system. It will run only on diesel for the first months, then have to be retrofitted with the required part when it is obtained, to allow it to become dual-fuel.
So exasperated are they at the failing ferry plan, Mull and Iona Ferry Committee (MIFC) is launching a feasibility study for community ownership to run their ferry services in place of CalMac and CMAL. And it has been revealed that Transport Scotland commissioned the Project Neptune study assessing restructuring options for ferry services, including the possibility of ‘unbundling’ the tenders so that routes would be tendered for individually instead of one big ‘bundle’, but the First Minister does not seem keen on this option.
Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) which represents landholders in Scotland objects to the Scottish government’s plans for a new land reform bill which would set a public interest test on sales of existing large parcels of land or where such large estates would be created by the sale. A recently closed government consultation defines large-scale as anything over 3000 hectares.
If any sale fails a public interest test, large holdings may be broken up into lots, but a single buyer would be unable to buy the whole estate, and the local community could be offered some of the land. The SLE has warned of possible court cases and claimed ‘big’ landholding can be more conducive to climate projects like peatland restoration than trying to coordinate action between several different landowners.
Glensaugh in Aberdeenshire is on course to become Scotland’s first ‘green glen’ as a self-contained ‘hydro hamlet’ run entirely on self-generated renewable power, as well as feeding in extra power to the National Grid. It is hoped that this scheme can be taken up by other local groups of farm operations in the north-east. The farm will be retrofitted to produce hydrogen using local water in an electrolyser, then stored short term in batteries.
Short-term licensing rules
introduced by the Scottish government have been slammed by the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers and others, saying that the fact that schemes will be run by each council according to their own rules will cause confusion and may even force providers out of the sector.
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The fallout from the malicious Rangers FC ‘fraud’ case continues. Former Rangers finance chief Imran Ahmad requested an apology without compensation three years ago from the Lord Advocate and Crown Office over his wrongful arrest but was turned down and he is now pursuing a £75m claim over his loss of livelihood and reputational harm.
Ahmad and six others were detained and criminally charged with fraud in 2014 relating to Craig Whyte’s takeover of the club, before all charges were dismissed. Finance experts David Whitehouse and Paul Clark settled with the government out of court last year for nearly £27 million, and other compensation payments may bring the final total to over £70 million from the Scottish government.
is both immoral and undermining democracy in ignoring the SNP mandate for a referendum, says law professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, anniversary chair in law at Queen Mary University, London. The UK government continues to maintain it is a voluntary union but continues to thwart Scottish democracy.
She unfortunately goes on to assert that ‘this can only be lawfully achieved [actualised] through negotiations with the UK government’. She cites 5 legal arguments to support holding a referendum:
- Scotland’s voluntary consent is ongoing and can be withdrawn;
- Scotland has a right to self-determination in international law;
- the principle of democracy means the mandates of elected governments should be honoured, including the January 2020 Scottish parliament vote for an independence referendum;
- a change of circumstance such as Brexit can allow previous consent to be overridden;
- and lastly, the UK government should act in good faith.
She says a Supreme Court refusal in the current case would not be the end of the matter. It is based on the Scotland Acts, the oldest of which dates from 1998 and appears to put hurdles in the way of a second referendum. But the Treaty of Union 1707 gave rise to a voluntary union which guaranteed Scotland’s separate legal system, Church, education system and culture. It is Scotland’s legal system which should decide the matter. Any refusal by the UK government could be construed as immoral and unreasonable in a voluntary union where Scotland has consistently voted for MSPs and MPs who want the dissolution of the UK.
The real impact of cuts in the policing budget may have become obvious on Monday night when the Kirkton area of Dundee resembled a war-zone for several hours, with burning barricades, petrol bombs and a stand-off between police and youths. Cars were damaged by bricks, with ordinary people going about their business left terrified and afraid to identify themselves for fear of reprisals. Bins were set ablaze for barricades and the local school was damaged.
Local policing commander Chief Superintendent Phil Davison restated Police Scotland’s commitment to ‘keeping people safe’ and cited ‘highly trained public order officers’ available across Scotland, some of whom were deployed on Monday night. But order was not restored until late in the evening, and there are fears for the upcoming Bonfire Night. The police have now identified and charged some of the culprits.
The disorder is not a reflection on Kirkton or Dundee, but more on the fraying of police services hit by relentless cuts since 2013. The ‘thin blue line’ will be in danger of unravelling completely if further budget cuts lead to the feared 4,500 job cuts if no more money is made available.
Delays in upgrading vital roads due to climate concerns may be putting motorists at risk. The A9 between Inverness and Perth has claimed a dozen victims since July this year, the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen thirteen victims. Some feel the SNP is in thrall to the Scottish Greens’ war on car use, with the Greens accused of not understanding that for rural dwellers cars are not a luxury, but a lifeline. The promised upgrade of the A96 was put on hold by the Cooperation Agreement last year between the SNP and Greens, with Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth claiming it is complex to provide a timetable for completion.
Only two out of 11 stretches of the A9 have been upgraded as was originally promised in 2009.
Is under further pressure in Scotland following the revelation that 12% of dentists have left NHS Scotland after covid. The numbers of dentists recorded as carrying out NHS treatments this year is down by 404 from 3407 from 2019-20. This is partly due to enhanced hygiene measures being required, meaning fewer patients can be seen, but dentists’ finances have also been hit by the decreasing multiplier the Scottish government is paying them, calculated by a multiplier which at the moment pays dentists a bit more for the treatments carried out. From the high of 1.7 (dentists would receive £1.70 from the government for each £1 worth of treatment) the ‘multiplier’ is now down to 1.2 and will fall to 1.1 in January and then 1 in April.
Some practices feel it is no longer worth offering NHS treatment and are charging people an amount per month to stay on their lists.
Accident and Emergency
Over 4000 patients had to wait longer than 24 hours in A&E in the last year, with nearly 900 waiting over 36 hours and 243 over 48 hours.
A shortage of radiologists
has resulted in £30 million being spent on sending almost a million scans abroad for analysis by private companies since 2018. Although radiologist numbers have increased, it is predicted that 100 more are currently needed, rising to 189 more by 2026.
If this week’s news is all a bit too serious, Mars Wrigley are trialling removing Bounty bars from their Celebrations Christmas tubs this year, following their finding that 39% of customers want them ousted for good. Bounty seems to appeal to the ‘older’ palate according to their research.
The initiative will run until December 18th. Selected Tesco Christmas Market sites will allow customers to exchange tubs containing Bounty bought that day for one without any. The missing Bounty will be replaced by extra Mars, Snickers, Maltesers, Milky Way or Galaxy bars.
Ho, ho, ho!