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April 27th – May 3rd, 2024

April 27th – May 3rd, 2024

Are We all Malingerers? Are Ghost kitchens a Threat?  but first ……

‘Beating’ Russian Sanctions  

            Due to a sanctions loophole, refined oil in the form of diesel and jet fuel made from Russian crude oil is entering the UK legally provided it is processed in a third country.  PetroChina, which part owns Grangemouth refinery, has been trading Russian crude oil since last year.  Campaigners against the Grangemouth closure fear that if it does become an import depot only it will become an import depot for Russian oil.

            In one year alone the UK financed Russia to the tune of £140 million, much of it going on the Russian war effort in Ukraine. Already there are large quantities of oil products imported into Grangemouth particularly from China.

Lochaber Park No More?

            The group spearheading a campaign to stop a new National Park being established in Lochaber claims the survey conducted by the bid supporters was ‘corrupted and deeply flawed’, that the £13 million it takes to run the Cairngorm National Park could be delivered mor cheaply and better by existing organisations.   They say Lorna Slater did not hold meetings with opponents when she visited the area, only with supporters.  A coalition of farmers, business figures and politicians are opposed to the plan.

            Opponents say the consultation was open to multiple submissions by the same person, and that supporters could use dummy email addresses to lodge even more support. The consultation results are no longer visible.  The National Farmers Union Scotland is against new national parks, as existing ones had not delivered a positive contribution to farming and crofting. SNP MSP Fergus Ewing is opposed, as are local farmer Donald Houston, mussel farmer Ian McKinnon and others.

CalMac broadside against Ardrossan Harbour

            CalMac have complained to Peel Ports authorities that Ardrossan is being kept in an unsafe state, despite it paying £15.5 million fees to the harbour over 10 years, due to a lack of investment.  Peel Ports Group has closed a second reserve berth at Ardrossan permanently due to accelerated wear and tear.  The port may not ever be used for the over-budget ferries despite having the green light from the Scottish government to upgrade it, with the upgrading cost doubling over the six years since it was approved for upgrading.

            CalMac is planning to use Troon for the Arran ferries, but questions remain over how the cost will be divided between Transport Scotland, Peel Ports and North Ayrshire Council.

Ghost kitchens threat to local sites

            The explosion of firms like Deliveroo and Uber Eats has led to more and more ‘ghost’ kitchens, huge sites cooking and selling food via an app, and financed by venture capital funds.  Deliveroo’s ghost kitchen in Scotland Street in Glasgow also hosts nine restaurant ‘partners’ providing increased choice and an instant hit for customers but which may long term to undermine actual premises which have overheads they must cover.

           Their costs reduce by not having to pay waiting staff or much in the way of overheads, and they now have access to huge amounts of data in different food sectors, allowing them to tailor their products even more accurately.  Senior lecturer in Economics at the University of Stirling Dr Hector Gutierrez Rufranco says there is now a case for official regulation.  Increasing use of ‘ghost kitchens’ may lead to actual businesses closing. Glasgow’s ghost kitchen may soon be joined by Edinburgh which is considering a 35-unit ghost kitchen for Stenhouse Mill Wynd.

Is the State making You Sick?

            Does the UK have, as Rishi Sunak maintains, a ‘sicknote culture’ or are we a population which gets sicker sooner due to two decades of Tory austerity leaving the social safety net full of gaping holes?  Writer Natasha Radmehr thinks it is the latter (‘We are not a nation of malingerers….’, Sunday Post, 28/4/24)

            Life expectancy in the UK has stalled or reversed since 2011 and homelessness has climbed 74% UK-wide.  People in work can earn so little they depend on foodbanks, that is, the government which should be providing for its citizens leaving the stage and the poor stepping in to feed the even poorer.

            We are hectored about healthy lifestyles and told we eat unhealthily because we ‘just can’t budget or cook’, ignoring that third children and above are some of the few in our society who get no benefits at all.

            In 2018, former UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said great misery had been inflicted on people in the UK.  Long-term sickness and ill-health followed the pandemic and decades of under-investment in the NHS, and the growing inability to contact a GP.  Long Covid is not always recognised as an illness, and people who make bad choices are blamed, not helped.

Nuclear Subs Rusting

            Whether you are for or against the nuclear deterrent, the sight of submarines covered in rust and missing anti-sonar tiling does not inspire confidence.  This is the reality of longer and longer tours of duty, but the increasing threat of a catastrophic accident is real, as is the toll on the mental health of submariners.  Parts are being taken off other vessels to patch them up, and in one recent deployment food stores ran very low on HMS Vengeance.  There is always one submarine on patrol. 

            In an incident last year, a malfunctioning depth gauge caused the submarine to sink almost to the depth where the submarine would implode due to crush pressure. But a new generation of submarines is not due until the 2030s.

Windfarms (5) Local Anger

            The value of homes on the Kintore-Tealing route will devalue between 10% and 40% according to property consultants The Galbraith group, and more for those living next to a substation, who also have to contend with serious health and noise impacts.

            Galbraith suggest that SSEN has conducted no analysis of the number of residential properties affected.  SSEN also plan other projects –  a 100-mile power line for Spittal (Caithness) to Beauly (Inverness-shire); a 120-mile line from Beauly to Peterhead on the Aberdeenshire coast; Isle of Lewis to Beauly (subsea and underground from Dundonnell; a £480-million upgrade of the 100 miles between Ardmore on Skye and Fort Augustus at Loch Ness, with pylons between 130 and 150 feet high; and 48 pylons 170ft to 200 ft high over Dalmally, Argyll; upgrading the Beauly to Denny line. 

            Residents are already concerned about the visible impact of huge pylons.  Pressure group Save the Mearns says residents have been ‘sacrificed’.  Lyndsey Ward of Communities B4 Power Companies in Beauly goes further, saying that SSEN is trashing rural Scotland with super-sized pylons and 800-acre substation sites, adding the Scottish government is also to blame for refusing NONE of SSEN’s planning applications for 15 years, and says a ‘tsunami of planning applications’ is about to hit rural Scotland.

            She questions the growing number of huge lithium battery storage plants, saying they are a huge fire risk in the concentrated form they take. Wind operators who generate into their own battery storage will get constraint payments for doing so and can then sell it back to the grid when it is needed.  She warns of an apocalypse for rural communities, blaming Humza Yousaf.

Next week …… Health Concerns

Green Volt, Peterhead

            Meanwhile, the world’s largest floating windfarm has just got the go-ahead for up to 35 floating turbines providing 560 MW of energy, supplying offshore oil and gas platforms, but also connected to the UK grid. It was part of the Innovation and Target Oil and gas leasing round.  ScotGov has committed to investing £500 million over five years to catalyse private investment in infrastructure and manufacturing facilities for the sector. But plans for Berwick Bank to sell into the grid is being delayed till at least 2025 due to a lack of Scottish government approvals.

Freeports (5)  …..Legal rights and Workers’ Rights

            Energy and Environment Minister Gillian Martin claimed fair work and the Real Living Wage are required in Scotland’s greenports, but admitted there is no enforcement mechanism yet open to the Scottish government.  Discussions with the UK are ongoing as to whether they can even guarantee the Real Living Wage.  The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) is unconvinced.  Tax reliefs on previous schemes meant it cost £17,000 per job created in 1994/95.

            Local government is similarly shut out, with their finances affected but with little control over giant freeports in their area.  Staffing of the freeports to stop smuggling and protect intellectual property rights is unclear as yet due to already low staffing in border control and similar agencies.  Freeports may not even be inspected by the authorities on an ongoing basis.

            Unite’s Scottish secretary Derek Thomson forced the Scottish government to admit it has next to no legal powers to enforce the Real Living Wage or even ensure access for trade unions. Calum MacPherson, Cromarty CEO, said if firms do not comply, they would lose their tax breaks, but Scotland would only be able to withhold Non-domestic Rates Relief (NDR) and Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) Relief.  To enforce withholding of other tax reliefs, MacPherson says it would be a case of ‘looking at how we can change the legislation’!

So that’s cleared that up.

Next Week…….What is the verdict?

LGBT Youth Scotland

            may have seriously overstepped their remit in telling children in care who sought refuge in the LGBT club at school that they had been born in the wrong body, and encouraged to change gender.  This with the full approval of social workers, one of whom contacted the National Insurance administrators to tell them a girl was a boy, which later caused her to lose her first job due to discrepancies in the information the authorities held on her.

            The Care Inspectorate which regulates care organisations has signed up to the LGBT Youth Scotland Charter Scheme, as has Police Scotland.  But LGBT Youth Scotland thinks puberty blockers are wonderful and says children should have the right to decide to take them.  On one occasion a care worker supported a young person in care having mutilative surgery.  LGBT Youth Scotland gets most of its cash (£1 million a year) from the Scottish government, NHS and local authorities.  Edinburgh’s Ryal Hospital for Children and NHS Lothian’s Children’s Services are signed up to the LGBTY Charter, as is NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde which runs Sandyford clinic.

Finally

           The Purr-muda Triangle of Newarthill, Carfin and Holytown is not giving up its secrets.  Why do the missing kitties of East Kilbride turn up ten miles away in this cluster of small communities?  Since Christmas nine cats have been found unharmed but it is a mystery as to why and how they have travelled that distance.

          A Facebook page has been set up called ‘Pepe’s Friends’ to try and reunite missing pets with owners.  Distraught owners say the police have told them they can do nothing.  The cats are released unharmed, but owners say someone must be taking them there deliberately for unknown reasons.  Unless they’re just hopping on a bus randomly and all ending up in the same place.

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