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April 20th – April 26th, 2024

April 20th – April 26th, 2024  

A Forever Ferry Contract? Holyrood Conveners, but first ……

SNP Ditch Scottish Greens as Climate Target Ditched

            The Scottish government has officially ditched its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030, although its 2045 commitment to 100% reduction remains!  They will move away from legally binding climate targets which it has in any case missed in 8 out of 12 years.  Together with the Scottish government decision to ‘pause’ the prescription of puberty blockers for under 18s, it has been a bad week for the Scottish Greens, who were considering ditching the Bute House Agreement entirely until Humza Yousaf summoned Harvie and Slater this week and dismissed them from government.

            Humza faces his own vote of no confidence next week.

Should CalMac get a ‘Forever’ Ferry Contract?

           As revealed at informal discussions at a public consultation event, this is the Scottish government’s preferred option, to operate as an ‘arm of government’, sparking fury among ferry user groups, who say this was not an option in the written consultation.  The Teckal procurement exemption allows a public authority not to put public contracts out to tender when it can prove that the public authority can provide the services itself, but is meant to be subject to certain controls and tests.

         This despite the ferry operator being fined £10.5 million in poor performance fines over 6 years (not actually fined, in effect, just a dent in the £400 million they have received).  Mull and Iona Ferry Committee say it is being proposed as a ‘temporary’ solution which the Scottish government will use to make it permanent, as they admit there would be no end date set.

         The tripartite arrangement features Scottish government agency Transport Scotland as funders, procurement and ferry owning company CMAL, and service providers CalMac.  But fears remain that it may breach internal UK state aid rules prohibiting favouring a certain company or commercial group. 

 

Windfarms (4) Upgrading the Grid

            Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) will spend £20 BILLION on infrastructure in the near future, some subsea but most through overhead power lines on super-pylons up to 180 ft high. Energy regulator Ofgem said the balancing mechanism (constraint payments and enhancing the grid) are necessary to keep the cost …. ‘under control for consumers’.  A full system upgrade is the favoured industry solution to eliminate £1.5bn (and rising) constraint payments, but it will cost much more than the constraint payments and will also be paid for by consumers.

          SSEN’s latest plan is for a line of giant pylons stretching from Kintore in Aberdeenshire to Tealing near Dundee.  Good news for the grid, but not for those living under this super-highway.  Residents along the route are angry, not just at SSEN, but also accuse the Scottish government of ‘enabling’ and ‘egging on prospectors in a modern-day gold rush’.

          Independent renewable energy consultant Dr Chris Ford says consumption will rise to six times what Scotland needs for itself once all the windfarms which already have planning permission are operational, or 10 times what we need if all those seeking permission get the go-ahead.  He blames the developer-led system in Scotland, as well as the Scottish government for allowing it to go ‘beyond reasonable-ness’, pointing out that there is not enough infrastructure to get power from Scotland to the south of England.

 Next week….. Local Anger

 Freeports (4)    How big are the Freeports?

            The Forth green freeport stretches over 45 kilometres (28 miles) encompassing Edinburgh, Falkirk and Fife. Rosyth is one of the scheme’s 3 proposed tax sites.  It is already being suggested freeports may in future be extended to encompass towns, ports or airports not already within them. Many local people have never heard of the freeports and bemoan the lack of information, although Forth Green Freeport said it had communicated through various means with ‘stakeholders’, and they would engage with local communities when the freeport’s ‘business case’ is finally approved by the UK and Scottish governments.  They claim there will be ‘fulfilling employment opportunities’ and a legacy fund for the local area.  Stressing their long-term credentials, tax incentives for investors will now extend to 2034.

           Companies operating in the Freeports must register in the UK, but details like directors and locations are often notoriously opaque.  There is no requirement to recognise trade unions, only to have ‘meaningful worker engagement’ or in Scotland ‘fair work arrangements’, with limited STUC and union consultation.  Health and safety rules, wildlife and environmental protection may fly out the window, controlled by the UK rather than Scotland, if controlled at all.       

Next week …… Legal Rights and Workers’ Rights

Misogyny Bill will include …… men

            I suppose it should not surprise us but the Misogyny Bill to be introduced in Scotland will include protection for trans-identified males, or as JK Rowling put it, a misogyny law which also protects men.  We’ll see about that.  When women were excluded from the Hate Crime Act, we were patronised and told we would get an (anti-)Misogyny Act.  Calm down and have a cup of tea.

          The new plan announced by Humza Yousaf must logically mean trans-identified males are protected under either law (in effect, under both laws), whereas women will be protected under neither.  Maybe we literally got what they said, a Misogyny Act which, by protecting men as well, does not protect women at all.

Should Holyrood Committee Conveners be Elected?

            Following fears that some SNP MSPs do not hold the government sufficiently to account, the standards committee is considering whether conveners should be elected by the whole parliament instead of appointed by party leaders.  Leaderships are allocated in proportion with the number of a party’s MSPs, with the actual leader appointed by party whips and the party’s leader.  It is suspected that appointment is made on the basis of being uncritical of the party.

            Former MSP Alex Neil also wants to end the practice of party whips handing lists of speakers to the Presiding Officer, which determines who speaks and when in parliament.  James Mitchell, Professor of Public Policy at Edinburgh, says this would offer ambitious MSPs an alternative way to influence policy and an alternative career other than as a minister, and a new system would make conveners more accountable.  It would encourage democracy, instead of acting as the first stage of rubber-stamping government-backed legislation.

Proposed Scottish legislation banning Conversion Therapy

          on sexuality and gender may face a legal challenge from the Christian Institute.  The Law Society of Scotland has grave concerns that the legislation is too broad and may criminalise legitimate behaviour like advising or speaking to gender-confused children.

          The legislation may catch unintended actions in its net, stopping parents who wish to stop their juvenile daughters going out dressed in a highly sexualised way or banning therapies to treat sex offenders including paedophiles.

SPS ties itself in knots over trans policy

            The furore over Isla Bryson led to incarceration in HMP Saughton, Edinburgh, instead of a female prison, but since then Bryson has been demanding women’s make up and toiletries, claiming it is a hate crime not to supply them.  Already Isla has had an apology from the Scottish Prison Service for being called ‘son’ by a guard, despite an immediate apology from the SPS officer concerned.

            Something else ScotGov said would never happen.

LEZs disproportionately affect the poor

            It appears the Low Emissions Zones (LEZs) may disproportionately affect average and blow-average income households, who cannot afford electric vehicles (EV) or newer petrol vehicles.  Government loans to buy an EV are hefty, even if interest-free, and must still be repaid.  People in hospitality or retail cannot work from home, and emergency workers caught up in an LEZ have no exemption.

            Rural workers were not considered at all.  There is no public transport in rural areas at night (sometimes not in the day either).  People called into the city to pick up a son or daughter after a few sherbets cannot go without incurring a penalty, nor can those ferrying people to hospital.  Car repair outfits in the LEZ cannot get the cars into the zone to mend them. 

           Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, say LEZs push people into hardship and threaten livelihoods, and net zero should be taking people with it rather than bludgeoning people into submission.

Health: New Heart Medication for Scotland

            The Scottish Medicines Consortium has approved Camzyos (mavacamten) for use in NHS Scotland to treat obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which blocks or reduces the blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta, causing palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath and fatigue.  It is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young people and competitive athletes.

Revised Stroke Detection Criteria

            Scottish government ministers are reviewing their formula for identifying those who have suffered strokes.  Previously it was decided under the FAST test (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) but this is proving inaccurate in people who suffer different symptoms which include inability to stand, cold sweats, eyes struggling to focus, slow speech, nausea and vomiting, and have cost hundreds of lives. 

           This follows the case of Tony Bundy from Clackmannanshire, who suffered a fatal stroke five hours after being taken to hospital with an initial stroke which was not identified as he did not fit the FAST criteria.

            Initially Jenni Minto, Scottish minister for public health and women’s health, refused to budge from the FAST criteria, but after Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care Neil Gray met with Mr Bundy’s family, the Chief Medical Officer will review stroke symptom diagnosis.

Aye Write Festival Saved by Lottery Funds

            A foundation set up by Lottery winner the late Colin Weir has provided funding for the Aye Write festival which had been denied funding by Creative Scotland, who have managed to claw back £68,000 from the funding they provided to a hard-core quasi-porn show.  Aye Write will be much scaled down, with standalone events throughout the year rather than over 10 days.  Children’s event Wee Write has also secured funding.         

Lithium Battery Park Fire

            Earlier this month, a devastating fire at a battery recycling centre in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, kept people away from the site two days after the fire started, with windows and doors firmly shut.  This is the fourth battery recycling site to go up in flames, the others being the LiBatt lithium-ion centre in Wolverhampton and the SimpLi Return LiB facility in Offenbach, Germany, which has incidentally burned down three times; and a centre in Toulouse, France.

            Lithium-ion battery fires generate intense heat, gas and smoke, some of which is toxic.  Investigations into the cause of the fire have started.

Finally

Stormtroopers 1              :      Polis 0

            Dan Gillespie was on his way from Aberdeen to the Deecon anime and gaming convention at Dundee University recently when someone on the train decided that his fake space blaster was an actual firearm, leading to a full armed police response after his train was sent back to Aberdeen.  That’s 2 firearms officers, 3 police constables and 2 British Transport police. He has been out on public transport as the ‘Grampian Stormtrooper’ for 10 years without issue.

            Although kilted stormtroopers are not an uncommon sight (go figure) police were taking no chances.  He was ordered not to travel by train again wearing the stormtrooper costume and carrying the fake space blaster, and says he is considering giving it up altogether.  Police refused to comment.

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