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April 13th – April 19th, 2024

April 13th – April 19th, 2024  

Council Cuts Bite,  Stove Ban Confusion, but first ……

Ancient Lizards and Reparatory Justice

            The170-year-old Jamaican Giant Galliwasp lizard is being returned to Jamaica from Glasgow University, where it has ‘resided’ since 1888.  It follows a 2019 Memorandum of Understanding between the University of the West Indies and University of Glasgow to foster research and education into the legacy of colonialism.

           Last October, students at Glasgow University began the world’s first Masters’ course on Reparatory Justice, which acknowledges that Glasgow University benefitted from the equivalent of tens of millions of pounds from the profits of slavery.

The Real Cost of the Council Tax Freeze

            Remember Humza’s euphoria when he announced his (unilateral) freeze on council tax?  Did not consult his own party or his own Cabinet, or even Cosla. It was sold as protecting people from rising bills. But now all over the country councils are facing the harsh reality of Scottish government funding cuts squeezing the life out of local services. 

Cuts Bite all over Scotland

           Aberdeenshire is cutting all school crossing patrol jobs, and some speech and language therapist posts, the latter particularly devastating as children do not catch up, often ending up in menial jobs or unemployment, crime and jail.  Riding for the Disabled loses some funding, six janitors and school kitchen staff jobs go; park maintenance and garden waste collection reduce.

          Perth is slashing schools’ music tuition, including for vulnerable and special needs pupils to play in orchestras.  So are East and West Lothian and North Lanarkshire, which is also cutting its Club 365 holiday programme.  South Lanarkshire will close 35 community halls and libraries. Stirling has cancelled Hogmanay and its Open Streets festival, plus swimming lessons for Primary 5 children.  Parking charges increase in Falkirk, whose handyman service for the over-60s and disabled is closing, as is the fireworks display in Callendar Park.

         Glasgow is consulting on a workplace parking levy and the closure of Montrose Care Home in Paisley, Renfrewshire, dumps vulnerable elderly people into unfamiliar settings with unfamiliar staff at the end of their lives.  After protests, Ben View Centre charity for vulnerable children, the elderly and disabled in Dumbarton had only half its funding cut, but must find the other half itself, and West Dunbartonshire has pulled its £14,000 funding from Loch Lomond Highland Games, which attract 9000 visitors yearly but are now off for 2024.

Scottish Water dogs sniff out Leaks

            Dogs are being roped into service to sniff out leaks at low concentrations in rural areas where leaking water does not always show at the surface.  First deployed in the Borders and East Lothian, the dogs found 21 ‘points of interest’ around East Linton, with 12 later confirmed as leaks.

            With 31,000 miles of water mains in Scotland, often in wet or boggy terrain, the dogs are proving the ideal solution.  It is a new departure for sniffer dogs, traditionally used for drug and explosive searches, and a number of further possibilities are being explored.

Freeports (3)  Does the Scottish government retain control?

            Calum MacPherson, CEO of Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport, denied that smuggling and other illicit activities would be a problem, claiming increased activity from border force and customs would stop this.  Problems encountered elsewhere would not arise here because Cromarty will not have a containerised system and huge volumes of traffic.  He says the Scottish government is fully involved in green ports, it is not a ‘Westminster power grab’ and the Scottish government would retain control as Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) relief and non-domestic (NDR) rates relief is in their purview.  High street businesses are crying out in vain for business rates relief from the Scottish government, but multinationals will get it.  Yet LBTT and NDR will no longer be paid to the Scottish government, decreasing Scotland’s tax base, despite former Finance Secretary Kate Forbes favouring increasing the tax base (i.e.sources of tax revenue). 

Next week …. How big are the Freeports?

 Windfarms (3)  Public and Private Windfarms

            ‘Private’ and ‘public’ windfarms have different funding arrangements.  Public windfarms receive a government ‘green subsidy for every megawatt hour of electricity they produce, with their income coming from sales to energy suppliers.  Critically, when the turbines do not turn due to constraints, the subsidy is NOT paid.

            Private ones, in contrast, are commercial ventures between the operator and a fixed buyer of the electricity they produce.  Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) govern large companies buying all or part of the electricity a wind farm produces, but when the National Grid asks them to power down due to over-supply they receive hefty subsidies.

            Scotland is becoming filled to bursting point with windfarms Scotland does not need, powering multinationals’ premises, not homes, and being subsidised by the Scottish government.

           Moray East Offshore and Seagreen off the Angus coast got 30% of the constraint payments last year (£275 million).  The Moray West farm will just add to the ‘perverse incentive’ of setting up in already congested areas to make constraint payments more likely.

          In 2023, Kennoxhead (13 turbines in Lanarkshire), operated by Orsted, was paid £1.45 million to power down its supply, notionally going to Amazon; Beinn An Tuirc in Kintyre (again for Amazon) got £1.07 million; Halsary in Caithness (notionally producing for Tesco) got £1.3 million; and Cumberhead in Lanarkshire (nominally producing for Kimberly-Clark) got £206,000 last year and the same amount this year so far.

Next week …..Upgrading the Grid

 NC500

            Local residents along the North Coast 500 road trip route have long complained about speeding vehicles, often racing in convoys, as well as human waste dumped on the roadside.  Caravans have been permanently banned from one car park, and social media shows overflowing waste bins, graffiti and rubbish. But a lack of bins and toilets has to be addressed by local councils and Visit Scotland.  You can’t have tourist attractions without adequate facilities.

£6 million

            was paid to consultants by the Scottish government for advice on the ferries, including an evaluation of their ‘value for money’.  Ernst and Young got £250,000 for their advice on lifeline services off the west coast, following £500,000+ which they got between 2015 and 2022.  Critics say this promotes using private capital to redesign public services using a public-private’ partnership.

            Another £5 million went last year to two consultancy firms for legal and commercial advice to Transport Scotland about the ferries, an amount branded ‘monstrous’ by a ferry user group, with Scottish Labour MSP Katy Clark saying it was ‘throwing public money at an unaccountable firm with a vested interest in private provision of public services….’

NHS Scraps Adverts Plan

            The Scottish government has abandoned plans to raise millions for the NHS through advertising via digital billboards in hospital car parks, after informal discussions between the Health Directorate and businessman Bobby Preston, who estimated that adverts in 10% of hospital parking bays might raise £12 million a year, falling to £2 million a year if digital screens facing traffic were used.  Alcohol, junk food and gambling ads would have been banned, as would anything appearing to endorse baby items.  These limitations and the loss of revenue may have decided it.

Stove Ban Confusion

            The illogicality of the Scottish government stove ban is clear in the effective ban on biomass boilers from new homes, while those installing them in existing homes can claim up to £9,000 from the government if heat pumps can be shown to be unsuitable.  Biomass boilers use sustainably sourced pellets made from woodchips, sawdust, straw and other plant matter.  The Scottish government is now reviewing its rules due to the ‘confusion’ surrounding them.

            But be warned.  They are working on new regulations even for existing buildings.  Eigg residents claim the ban will be a disaster for communities like theirs.  Woodburners are a key part of their ‘net zero by 2030’ strategy, are cheaper than heat pumps, and provide hot water when solar thermal cannot, as well as providing local jobs harvesting timber.

The Cass Report

            has made 23 recommendations to stop puberty blockers for children, stating that ‘social’ transitioning – allowing children to change gender and pronouns – is not a neutral act and can be harmful. Eventually Scotland capitulated and ‘paused’ puberty blockers for under-18s, although England have banned them.  Parents are increasingly demanding the removal of ‘harmful’ ideologies in schools and nurseries aimed at children as young as three, which normalise the idea that people can change gender.

            Dr Hilary Cass reported that 97.5% of ‘trans children’ also had autism, depression, anxiety, eating disorders or had suffered sexual abuse, and Mary Howden, former head of education and workforce development at the Scottish Social Services Council, said parents were being excluded from knowing that their child was socially transitioning at school, with children taught they can be born in the wrong body, both gender ideology concepts constructed by adults without evidence.

Parents Reported to Social Services

           The Scottish government is being called on to withdraw its transgender guidance in schools, which did not adequately consider trans in relation to other protected characteristics like religion or sex, admitting it was only considering matters from the trans point of view.

          Parents whose two daughters decided they were trans following influences at school had a shock when they refused to go along with it.  They went instead to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), who referred her and her husband to social services as ‘bad parents’ for refusing to call their daughter a boy.  She feels there is a ‘sinister control’ behind the rainbow flags and unicorns which drew them in and has left the family in chaos.

Finally

Does your house own a company?

            A property in Carnwath, Lanarkshire, is the only director of a business, with the building listed as the person of significant control (ultimate beneficiary) of a firm called MBDSASF Limited.  Not the residents, the actual house. In 2022, ten transport companies had been registered at every flat in a close in Aberdeen.  And 18 properties in Rhos Road, Swansea, have found dozens of Chinese firms registered at their addresses, conducting businesses from rearing buffalo to growing grapes, with two archbishops, two archivists and a banker registered as company directors running businesses.

          Registering at a UK address leaves residents with the fear of debt enforcement if the firm reneges on its obligations.  Companies can be registered in 24 hours with 3 pieces of personal information, but Experian says individual credit scores will not be impacted.  If affected, you can go onto Companies House website and fill in a form to get the company’s link removed.  The problem should recede as the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 becomes embedded, which will eventually require company directors to verify their identity, although clearing the backlog of thousands of dodgy registrations will take time.

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