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9th July-15th July, 2022 Week 28

09/07/22 – 15/07/22

                  

IndyRef2

            The SNP’s second paper on independence focusses on Democracy.  Despite the UK’s constant repeats, Scotland’s First Minister stressed that the Smith Commission said that Scotland could become independent at any time in the future if it wants.  It is deeply undemocratic to say Scotland can’t leave, but worse, can’t debate among ourselves either, which is what denying a referendum ultimately is.  It proposes a Scottish constitution pre-independence stressing Holyrood’s primacy and Scotland’s right to choose.

            The paper points out that the Scotland Act can be repealed by Westminster without comeback.  Already the Sewel convention is dead, and UK legislation has overridden the Act of Union, damaging Scottish trade through Brexit, Scotland’s legal system with the advent of, first, the House of Lords, and now the Supreme Court as court of last resort, and the Internal Market Act which will damage Scottish interests by imposing a lowest common denominator on UK standards and costs.  While Scotland stays in the UK, the paper says it must be clarified as a voluntary union.  It rejects both the House of Lords and federalism.

            Earlier, two Alba MPs, Neale Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill, were threatened by Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House, with being thrown out of parliament for refusing to stop protesting about the refusal of a referendum by a Prime Minister who has lost authority over his own party but continues in office.  Sir Lindsay appeared to lose the plot entirely, reduced to screaming at the two MPs to shut up, then appearing to need someone to tell him what their names were so they could be ‘named’ and thrown out.

The Monarchy

            cost the taxpayer over £100 million last year, and included William and Kate’s flights for the Caribbean tour (£226K) and Prince Charles’ flight to Barbados (£138K), the latter ironically to celebrate the country’s abandonment of the monarchy in favour of a republic. The spend includes property upkeep, official engagements, 491 full time equivalent staff and various other expenses.

Medical

            A&E waiting times deteriorated again this month. Nearly 9000 patients waited over four hours to be seen, and nearly 1000 of them waited over 12 hours.  Only 67.5% of patients were seen within four hours, compared to the target of 95%.

A Scots project is working on the link between diabetes and ‘silent’ heart attacks. Blood vessels become blocked more easily in those with diabetes, affecting both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics, and can cause atypical heart attacks which do not have crushing chest pain, but symptoms like uncontrollable heavy breathing.  The Diabetes Data Science Catalyst project involves the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Health Data Research UK, and is led by Dr Ewan Pearson, Professor of Diabetic Medicine at Dundee University.

The family of a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome claim she was discriminated against because of her disability after she was refused chemotherapy treatment at the Beatson (‘Family’s anger over chemo ‘knockback’ for woman with disability’, Helen McArdle in the Herald, 7/7/22).  Anne Ellis said she was made to feel like a pest.  Reasons cited included ‘mobility issues’ which the family claim do not exist, and her epilepsy drugs, as well as the cancer having spread, although scans at Glasgow Royal did not support this assertion.

            NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are now working with her and her family to come up with a treatment plan.  Emails leaked to Lancet Oncology by staff at the Beatson described the unit as at a crisis point because of staff shortages and ageing equipment, with senior clinicians stating measures limiting access to treatment would have to be considered to relieve pressure on its day bed unit. A drastic shortage of beds, low staff morale and planning failure have led to cancer provision ‘being rationed’.

Women and Gender Reform

            The UK government is looking at the Scottish legislation as it involves the UK Equality Act 2010 single sex protections, which apply UK-wide, and also involves the attempt by the Scottish government to redefine who is included as a ‘woman’, which definition underpins the Equality Act. 

            The Gender Reform Bill appears to apply to those born or adopted in Scotland or ordinarily resident there*.  It proposes automatic recognition in Scotland of a gender recognition certificate (GRC) from elsewhere in the UK and overseas.  But that may allow people born in Scotland but living elsewhere to apply for a GRC in Scotland, as well as people born elsewhere living here. And there is no certainty a Scottish GRC would be recognised in the rest of the UK.

*Notes: from the Scottish government website 3/3/2022:

  • Applicants to be either be the subject of an entry in a birth or adoption record kept by the Registrar General, or be ordinarily resident in Scotland
  • The automatic recognition in Scots law of gender recognition obtained in the rest of the UK, and overseas, unless it would be manifestly contrary to public policy

Maya Forstater, the tax expert who lost her job for claiming that biological sex is immutable, won her case on appeal. She is now entitled to compensation or other remedies for direct discrimination and victimisation.

            It’s a shame that the truth is only protected as a ‘belief system’, and not as the truth.  

Care Costs

            Campaigners are calling for unfair charges for Alzheimer’s patients to be ended.  (‘Indefensible’ care costs are ‘throwing elderly to the wolves’, Caroline Wilson, Herald, 12/7/22). Couples who have spent a lifetime working to buy a house can find all their financial assets stripped to pay for residential care.  The criteria for deciding what is medical care and what is not can vary from council to council, meaning some people are fully funded and others are not.  The Scottish government says it will decide on reforms as part of the National Care Service being established, and says it will work with those affected and care providers on an equitable solution. 

            The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee has launched a public consultation open till 2nd September, via the Scottish government website, for the public’s views.

Pedestrians

            are put off walking due to street clutter in the form of parked cars, bins, poorly placed street signs and confusion with cycle lanes, according to charity Living Streets.  Wheelchairs and buggies are hindered, and guide dogs impeded.  Living Streets wants measures like banning advertising boards on the pavement and removing excess street furniture.  The Scottish government did ban pavement parking in 2019, but it is local authorities who implement it, with no guidance yet issued.

Farming Woes

            Agricultural inflation has hit 25.3% due to rising fuel, fertiliser and animal feed costs, which will leave farming and food production struggling to keep going at the present levels (‘Question mark over the future of farming and food production’, Claire Taylor, Herald, 12/7/22).  It is suspected that Scottish farming is under threat from the Scottish government’s climate aims.  At present Scottish agriculture will get £637m up to 2024, £620m of which comes from the UK, but further plans have not been revealed by the Scottish government.

            The National Farming Union for Scotland (NFUS) has found that, for all farm types, the removal of direct farm support would mean only 37% of farms would be profitable, and only 7% of sheep farmers with poor grazing would be profitable.

Ukraine

            The Scottish Super-Sponsor scheme is on pause for three months, following a deluge of applications.  Those applying are housed in hotels while waiting for a Scottish family, and now the M/S Victoria will be docked at Leith to provide 739 rooms as temporary accommodation.  Scotland is hosting over 7,000 people, two thirds under the super-sponsor scheme. In North Lanarkshire 200 unused council properties are being refurbished with £5m Scottish government funding. The towers at High Coats in Coatbridge and Birkshaw in Wishaw were due to be demolished, but are now being brought back into use.

The Just Transition Commission

            wants a five-fold increase in investment towards net zero, claiming Scotland is hampered by the UK, but could do more even now.  It wants an energy road map to assist industry and business in forward planning, workforce planning, transmission and distribution infrastructure, and stresses the need for government to assist in decarbonising home energy supplies and providing future farm support which benefits the whole sector.

            The Scottish government is now seeking the public’s views on their aims for a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels, and net zero emissions by 2045.  Their route plan forward, the Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, will be published later this year.

Access to Cash

            has become severely restricted in Scotland by the highest percentage loss of bank branches in the UK.  Fifty-three per cent have closed since 2015, but around half a million Scots rely on cash, some for budgeting needs and others due to internet connectivity problems, particularly in rural areas.  Banks do not consider customers at all.  The UK Treasury says it remains committed to cash, having legislated to enable shops to give cashback to customers even without a purchase.

Scotland’s Colder Climate

            is not persuading the UK government to give any extra help with energy costs. One reason cited by Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, appeared to be that the Scottish government ‘could better spend the £20m allocated to indyref2’.  He did not mention the UK’s cutting of the £20 Universal Credit uplift.  And now the earlier price rise predictions are looking wobbly, with some forecasting prices could reach £3364 at the start of next year.

Finally,

            Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park near Stirling have welcomed the birth of two black and white ruffed lemurs, a species at critical risk of extinction.  The lemurs are native to Madagascar and are part of Blair Drummond’s endangered species breeding programme.


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