26/08/23 – 01/09/23
Is the SNP really Green? China Calling and royal propaganda ….
A green fuel farce
is adding a further layer of complication to the delayed ferry saga. One of the ferries is now being taken from Skye to serve the Arran route despite a £40 million upgrade in Skye to instal two stand-alone liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations needed for the ferries which are still under construction. CMAL contracted Danish operation Kosan Crisplant to instal Scotland’s first LNG bunkering facilities at Uig on Skye and Ardrossan in Ayrshire.
But work has still not started and is not anticipated to be delivered before early 2025. Meantime the Uig facility is not needed now as ‘Hull 802’ (Glen Rosa) will now run the Arran route along with Glen Sannox. And CalMac will apparently use Troon and not Ardrossan for Arran services from this summer.
Sea trials for Glen Sannox have been held up till the start of next year due to a reassessment of ‘cargo ship’ rules requiring door modifications for crew quarters, plus three additional staircases, raising fears that its eventual deployment will be later than the current summer 2024 deadline.
What is the SNP doing?
It is hard to see the SNP’s game plan in appointing Murray Foote as Chief Executive, replacing Peter Murrell. Is he a staunch unionist who has seen the light or the ultimate fox in the henhouse? And not just any old fox. He has been put in charge of the new ‘rebuttal’ unit (they’ll have to come up with a better name) which will be set up in the autumn.
He will be tackling ‘disinformation’ and ‘opposition attacks’. As one author of The Vow, he is credited (possibly generously) with turning 51% Yes the week before the referendum into 45% Yes. Was anyone really fooled by it?
Still at least he probably knows many of the unionist arguments already. Is he genuine or has he just self-identified as an independence supporter? Foote’s appointment appears the latest effort to appease unionist sentiment. Remember the Growth Commission, trying to impress the ‘market’ and its ludicrous six tests for when Scotland could implement its own currency? The Economic Advisory Group? Is the SNP the devo-max party?
Add to this the revelation that the Minister for Independence, Jamie Hepburn, and even First Minister Humza Yousaf were not certain they would give up British citizenship on independence. Isn’t that the point?
A National Land Plan
is key to Scotland’s future, according to the SNP’s Mike Russell. A consultation is underway about when to invoke a ‘public interest test’ when land is being sold or transferred. The level suggested is 3000 hectares, although others have suggested 1000 hectares or even 500. Russell supports a cumulative total which can accrue to one person or company, and possibly a special test where key community assets like piers, harbours, shops or iconic hotels are to change hands. The Scottish government should also limit the amount of land it will help business to ‘greenwash’ or offset carbon emissions through tree-planting.
Over to you, Mike. You’re the government, aren’t you?
Scots Courts still giving Zero-hours jobs
Despite being a Scottish government agency, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) is continuing to hire staff on zero hours contracts, breaching a 2018 fair work agreement by the Scottish government not to use them. In 2021/22 there were 26 staff members on zero hours, now reduced to 16.
In the general economy the numbers on zero hours contracts rose to 109,000 this summer, double the number in the first quarter of 2021, and far from being a world-leading nation for fair work, Scotland now lags behind the other UK nations, with 4.1% on zero hours compared to 3.6% in England, 3.2% in Wales and 1.5% in Northern Ireland. These contracts carry no obligation for an employer to offer a minimum number of working hours or for workers to accept a minimum number.
Police Scotland has just approved a £400 million ‘digital division’ to fight cybercrime. Part of their armoury will be hi-tech ‘augmented reality’ (AR) surveillance glasses which could provide facial recognition, instant language translations and lip-reading, as well as real-time updates on local offending figures and firearms alerts. Police Scotland’s next priority is body worn video, and they agreed that any AR technology would only be adopted AFTER a data ethics assessment. Meanwhile, beware police officers wearing sunglasses in winter.
Analogue to End
There are concerns over BT’s planned switch from analogue to digital, with fears that rural Scots will be unable to contact emergency services in a power cut. BT’s new home phone service, Digital Voice, is being rolled out by 2026, but will not be usable in a power cut, instead having to rely on WiFi phones. Rural and island dwellers are acutely aware of patchy mobile signal and regularly experience power outages due to the weather. Restoration of service also takes longer due to the vast distances involved.
Scottish Rural Action supports the retention of copper wire phones. Shetland’s energy infrastructure was down for several days last year as was the North-East’s when Storm Arwen hit in 2021. Landlines are vital in such cases.
BT have been made aware of the problem, but do not appear to have any solution to hand, considering that objections to the change are because change ‘can be unsettling’ and urging those with concerns to get in touch.
have shut at least 237 wards to new admissions for periods of 7 to 10 days to try and stem outbreaks. Only 93 wards were closed to the end of July for all other types of infection control incidents, including norovirus, flu, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and gastroenteritis. But the figure may be higher, as NHS Dumfries and Galloway did not respond to a Freedom of Information Request and NHS Lothian could not provide data. NHS Western Isles had to temporarily shut 2 wards this month.
Low Emission Zones
are the subject of a judicial review into the Glasgow scheme. Campaigners say the fines system is ‘illegal’ and ‘disproportionate’. Glasgow garnered £600,000 in fines in the first two months.
They cite the Scottish government’s own database which showed that the annual mean concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in Glasgow did not exceed 40 mg per cubic metre air in 2022, after the first phase of the scheme had targeted buses, so there was no need to extend the LEZ to a second phase involving cars.
SNP Green Hypocrisy
While the SNP has some laudable green aims, it is simultaneously working against them in other policy areas. Witness the almost 16 million trees felled on public land since 2000 to make way for wind farms, only one-third of which have been ‘directly replanted’ in the immediate vicinity. It is unclear how many of the other two-thirds were replaced by ‘compensatory planting’ elsewhere in the country.
And the demand for 10% of Scotland’s marine areas to become Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) works against fragile local communities who will be devastated by its impact. Lorna Slater announced that ‘progress must be made’ and thinks it is just that ‘people are always worried about change’.
And while trying to force our cars off the road, government ministers are not shy about using their government limos for even short journeys.
It is good to know that in a cost-of-living crisis, the UK government can spare £8 million for every UK public building (including schools) to get its very own picture of King Charles, who remains King of England and not of Scotland, whose crown is the people. Deputy PM Oliver Dowden has asked for an ‘exhaustive’ list of every public building in Scotland which would be eligible to apply for a portrait, although public buildings can refuse a portrait.
Particularly galling is that the UK have objected to Scottish civil servants working on independence, but working on blatant UK propaganda is apparently okay. The SNP says it will have no part in it.
Education or Propaganda?
The SNP does not seem worried about Chinese propaganda, though, having allowed Confucius Institutes to hand over £1 million to over 40 Scottish schools to promote Chinese language and culture. Confucius funding partly comes from Hanban, an educational organisation ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visited China recently to try and improve relations with them. Conveniently forgetting alleged human rights abuses of the Uighyrs, the straitjacket around Hong Kong democracy and the looming threats to Taiwan.
Couldn’t be for a trade deal, could it?
Another dodgy trade deal?
The UK government is apparently backtracking on the requirement for ‘enhanced checks’ of Brazilian beef in order to get a trade deal. Significant concerns have been raised by experts over mislabelling of rotten meat as safe, falsifying test results dubious slaughterhouse practice. Ruth Watson of Keep Scotland the Brand is concerned that Scottish farmers may be heavily undercut by cheap (but very unsafe) imports from Brazil and even Australia.
The RAC don’t seem to have much idea of UK geography. When Orkney resident Hayley Green’s electric vehicle broke down near the Stromness Ferry terminal she contacted the RAC via their online service. They assigned a mechanic, but he would have taken 14 and a half hours to reach her from his home ……. 750 miles away in Devon.
Luckily, she managed to contact a local garage to help her. Apparently, others in need of roadside assistance in Orkney have been given a similar service, without any real explanation why it has happened. The RAC is investigating.