22/04/23 – 28/04/23
Dundee Battery Firm may move to the US
A battery mega-factory planned for Dundee could instead go to America to access subsidies from the US government’s Inflation Reduction Act for green companies making green technology. Thurso-based AMTE Power is considering the move as the Act provides between 30% and 50% support for running operating costs.
At this time Dundee remains the firm’s preferred option, and it would bring to Dundee 215 on-site jobs and 800 supply chain jobs. The firm is already engaged in battery cell production for electricity storage projects.
However, the UK has no plans for similar support for UK firms until at least the Autumn Budget Statement.
More Scots in ‘Very Deep Poverty’
Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the number of Scots in very deep poverty has surged almost 50% over 25 years from 460,000 between 2017 and 2020, compared with 310,000 between 1994 and 1997. It is defined as households living on less than 40% of the median household income.
Housing Waiting Lists
The numbers waiting over a decade on Scottish housing waiting lists has risen to over 1200 of the 110,000 households on the list. Over 37% have been waiting over 3 years, with 21% waiting over 6 years. Meanwhile the Scottish government’s affordable housing budget is at its lowest level for 8 years. Nicola Sturgeon pledged almost £3.5 billion for this parliamentary term for the commitment to build 110,000 affordable homes in Scotland, at least 70% of them for social rent.
Shelter Scotland wants a dedicated housing minister and 38,500 social homes to be built by 2026, but the Affordable Housing Supply Programme is being cut from nearly £832million in 2022/23 to nearly £752 million next financial year.
The Scottish government commitment to building 50,000 affordable homes by March 2021 was not met until March 2022, due to pressures including the pandemic.
A Different Edinburgh Festival
Nicola Benedetti, Edinburgh International Festival’s first female director, has announced that the firework festival which usually concludes it will not take place as it is ‘bad for the environment’. But the display costs around £250,000 to stage, and financial constraints were a factor in the decision. Instead, the closing feature will be a musical broadcast from Charlotte Square Garden.
The Festival runs from August 4th – 27th, featuring 295 events and artists from 48 nations, and tickets go on general sale on May 3rd.
The Illegal Migration Bill has passed in the House of Commons, despite a last-ditch attempt by the SNP to force an emergency debate to scrutinise its provisions, and despite misgivings by former PM Theresa May and ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who fear it may undermine modern slavery legislation.
People who arrive in the UK illegally will be detained and then returned to their home country, or to a ‘safe’ third country such as Rwanda.
Worryingly, under amendments 86 and 90, the bill criminalises public transport workers who do not cooperate with orders to ‘restrain and detain’ migrants ‘without reasonable excuse’. Transport trade unions and opposition parties are united in opposing these provisions.
Not Proven Verdict
The Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill seeks to abolish the Not Proven verdict in Scotland, change the size of criminal juries from 15 to 12, but will still require a majority verdict to be 8 from the 12 (instead of 8 from 15). Some fear that provision alone will result in fewer guilty verdicts.
The bill will also create a new specialist sexual offences court and allow a pilot scheme for judge-only rape trials without a jury. The Law Society warned there could be an increase in miscarriages of justice if the Not Proven verdict was abolished, saying also that jury trial was a better reflection of society than a single judge would be.
It is an attempt to increase the conviction rates for sexual crimes and tackle the backlog of crimes which remain untried following the pandemic.
Only 51% of rape cases which reach trial result in a guilty verdict, compared with 91% of other crimes. But some lawyers have already indicated they will not represent clients in judge-only trials.
Hospitality Housing Solution:
The Seaforth hotel in Ullapool has found a novel solution to a staff shortage arising from lack of housing, which would have meant the hotel would have been unable to fully open. When a nearby motel came on the market, the Seaforth snapped it up as staff accommodation. Ten rooms were swiftly filled with staff, and plans are now underway to extend the site to provide extra accommodation. An additional apartment houses managerial staff. This drastic solution has served to further highlight the ‘crippling housing shortage’ in the West Highlands.
Energy Suppliers Don’t Lose Out
Scottish Power’s total earnings rose to £584 million from January to March this year, over double the £273 million they earned in the same period in 2022. The retail division posted a loss of £85 million in the first 3 months of 2022, but a £290 million profit in the corresponding period this year. A large part of this is £250 million of ‘backwardation’ payments (yes, really) from Ofgem, helping firms to make up for losses they suffered by not being allowed to charge customers their full wholesale energy costs, and is believed to cover 80% of their losses last year.
Ofgem are front-loading repayments to energy suppliers to be even more helpful, with an additional smaller payment also to be made in the second quarter of 2023.
Harris Macdonell was 16 when placed in the Huntlyburn unit, Melrose, an adult psychiatric ward, as no places were available in specialist young people’s units.
He became terrified and traumatised at the unit and later took his life aged 19. His parents are to meet Mental Wellbeing Minister Maree Todd to plead for new rules to stop children being placed in adult units.
There are still only three specialist units, in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with long waits for mental health help for children. This despite the recognition that many make a full recovery with early treatment, and conversely can develop complex and severe symptoms with delayed treatment.
NHS Lanarkshire is being questioned over its protocol for treating haemochromatosis, which is an over-storage of iron in the body. Untreated, it can cause life-threatening complications like liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, diabetes and heart failure.
Two sufferers have resorted to private treatment following NHS Lanarkshire’s decision to treat only patients whose level of serum ferritin is over 1000 ug/l. The charity Haemochromatosis UK says this is too high and appears ‘arbitrary’.
Health Care for the Homeless:
A specialist GP service for Glasgow’s homeless was shut down after appeals to Glasgow’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) failed. Hunter Street practice closed on March 31st following reorganisation of the Complex Needs Service (CNS). The three GPs who previously ran the homeless service are now in the CNS, and the HSCP says most former homeless clients are now registered with other GPs.
The Deep End GP Group are concerned it removes a specialist service without risk assessments. Amazingly, an equality and diversity impact assessment of the service closure is only now underway and will be completed within 3 months, ‘in line with NHS guidance’. Deep End represent GPs in the 100 most-deprived areas of Scotland, 70 of which are in Glasgow. Edinburgh has a health-board run homeless service, as do Aberdeen and Ayrshire.
The CNS plans to integrate the homeless by means of a bridging service to urgent care and support to register with GPs.
The Scottish government has not yet even discussed the fact that the A9 dualling will not be completed by the original 2025 target. It and other roads like the A96, A75 and A77, and the A83 Rest and Be Thankful need urgent work. Even the A1 in Scotland is overdue for an upgrade due to the amount of present-day traffic.
Former Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth blamed Covid, Brexit and the Ukraine invasion for the delays. Over the last decade, only two sections totalling 11 miles have been completed, with 77 miles of road still single-carriageway.
A new timetable for completion will be outlined in the autumn. The main safety problem appears to be several switches between single- and dual-carriageway, with the A9 Safety Group including Police Scotland, Bear Scotland and Highland Council stating that 77% of all fatal and serious accidents on the Perth-Inverness stretch took place on single carriageways.
Transport Minister Kevin Stewart said the £3bn upgrade was one of the biggest transport infrastructure projects in Scottish history. The government has so far invested £430m and remains committed to its completion. Forthcoming work from Tomatin to Moy is subject to a re-tender due to only one tender being previously received, but that contract is unlikely to be awarded before the end of the year.
The Scottish government’s Just Transition Commission has questioned the government’s plans to export hydrogen technology, and the claims it may create 300,000 green jobs, but climate campaigners are not enthusiastic anyway due to blue and grey hydrogen needing continued fossil fuel burning which creates carbon which must be stored by yet-to-be-scaled-up technology.
Green hydrogen splits water into oxygen and hydrogen through electrolysis powered by renewable energy. Hydrogen can fuel vehicles, and trials are underway to use hydrogen in household boilers, but there remain doubts over its exportability.
Not a Lamb-orghini
Police were surprised by more than the £10,000-worth of drugs they found when they stopped a vehicle on the M74 in Glasgow at the weekend.
On the back seat of the vehicle was a lamb sitting next to a bag of chips. It was scooped up by a local farmer, but it remains unclear whether the driver had been planning a lamb supper.