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August 27th, 2022 – September 2nd, 2022 Week 35

27/08/22 – 02/09/22                                                 

Shetland

            is facing 96% of its population being in fuel poverty when the price rises kick in.  Shetland Islands Council report that all but those earning £104,000 a year will be in fuel poverty, with average energy costs projected to rise to £10,300 per household annually by April.  Seventy-five percent will be in extreme fuel poverty, that is, paying 20% of household income on energy.  They estimate also that 40% of households on the islands could spend 40% of their household income on energy.

            It is the ultimate insult for a place synonymous with the Oil Industry, and the ultimate reason to act NOW on independence.

Rubbish Piling Up

            While Edinburgh was getting very unwelcome attention during the Fringe for the mounds of refuse rotting in the streets, Nicola Sturgeon was in Copenhagen opening Scotland’s latest overseas ‘embassy’ inside the British Embassy.  Public Health Scotland (PHS) has admitted that Edinburgh’s streets may need to be decontaminated when the crisis is over.

            People storing waste in their homes at the request of council leaders have been warned by PHS that it is a fire and/or health hazard.  Some residents have

organised private firms to clear the waste at their own cost, and local businesses are helping.  The Plymouth Brethren Christian group is working to put 30 trade bins across Edinburgh, although the GMB union is not keen on people helping out.

            Poison-resistant rats are adding to the problem, particularly where food matter is left in the streets.  The clean-up has finally started, but further strike action is possible.

Scottish Adult Disability Payment

            Applications opened on 29th August for this new payment, which replaces Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Social Security Minister Ben Macpherson promised the end of degrading functional examinations or DWP-style assessments and will never use the private sector.  People will at most be invited to a consultation if more information is required for a decision.  This will take the form of a conversation with a health and social care professional to clarify how their disability affects them. 

            All those already receiving PIP or DLA will be automatically transferred over from the Department for Work and Pensions to Social Security Scotland and do not need to re-apply.

Children with a Learning Disability

            in Scotland are more likely to die prematurely from treatable causes, says a report from the Scottish Learning Disability Observatory.  Treatable conditions or illness are cited in 34% of those deaths.  Previous studies showed that adults with a learning disability were twice as likely to die from treatable causes.

Are Scotland’s beaches safe?

            Yes.  SEPA also said 99% of Scotland’s bathing waters meet strict environmental standards. The claim that Scotland’s monitored swimming spots are of poorer quality than England is misleading.  Although 38% of the 85 Scottish locations were ‘excellent’ compared with 71% of English ones, Scotland takes a selective attitude to monitoring, testing specific areas of higher population rather than remote areas.  SEPA admitted that sometimes water is released into the sea with untreated sewage but only because it would otherwise flow into the streets. 

            Monitoring on combined sewer/rain outflows which discharge into designated bathing waters will be brought in by December 2024.

What is the cost of free education?

            Scottish applicants may be rejected for Scottish universities due to the need for students paying large fees.  The number of Scots rejected has risen by 84% since 2006.  Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education Policy in Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science, favours a ‘graduate deferred fee’ as one way to reverse the trend, allowing the government to recoup the outlay if graduates’ future earnings allow.

            For the first time, the University of Glasgow is not guaranteeing freshers a place in halls, not only those within commuting distance, but even those coming from further afield.

            Students can’t usually apply for accommodation until they have an unconditional offer, which they won’t usually get until the start of August, when most accommodation is gone.  The University of Glasgow says it will keep students updated on private rental options, but it is infinitely more difficult to apply for accommodation from elsewhere.  How do you know it isn’t a scam or uninhabitable?

Flammable ‘Grenfell’ type Cladding

            remains on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, with no decision on its removal.  Main contractor Multiplex has assured NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde that the material was properly installed and met Scotland’s stringent building and fire safety regulations. Sean Clerkin of the Scottish Tenants Organisation is calling for the immediate removal of the cladding.

            The Scottish government has spent less than £250,000 of the £97.1 million fund provided to it, and over 400 mainly public buildings in Scotland still have the potentially deadly material, including one in eight blocks of flats, mostly local authority-run, and one in ten local authority schools, not to mention the thousands of flat owners whose properties have been rendered worthless.

            The programme for residential properties appears weighted to disburse most of the funds, £100 million, in 2025-26, with only £30 million allocated for 2023/24 and £50 million for 2024/25.

Energy Price Rise and the Vulnerable

            While many of us will have some choice as to switching off heating, disabled and sick people will not.  For them it is literally life or death.  Hope Montgomery of Kilwinning was born with transposition of the greater arteries, and must be kept warm at all times in order not to compromise her heart and circulation (‘…Doctors warned me I can’t risk turning heating down’, Janet Boyle, Sunday Post, 28/08/22).  Her mother says the promised government payments are nowhere near enough.

            Machinery to keep vulnerable people alive is very expensive to run, and Scotland is not only colder than London, it also has almost half a million homes on pre-paid meters, a much higher rate than elsewhere in the UK, and more expensive.  It is ludicrous that people in one of the richest countries in the world must run back and forth to the shops for vouchers every couple of days.

            Bills are up to 50% higher in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland than in London, yet UK government help is a flat rate throughout the UK, taking no account of higher bills.  Standing charges for electricity are about 50% higher in Scotland than in London.  In 2019 a quarter of UK households was in fuel poverty (paying more than 10% of their income on energy after housing costs are deducted), and it is estimated that three-quarters of Scottish households could be in fuel poverty after October’s price cap rise.

            Cold and damp homes cause health problems, illnesses are harder to shake off, and the financial pressures on parents are already affecting their and their children’s mental health.      

Roads:

The A82

            Helensburgh and District Access Trust (HADAT) believes Transport Scotland (TS) is in breach of legal requirements in its upgrade plan for the A82 along the northwest shore of Loch Lomond, between Tarbet and Inverarnan on the same line as the old road, which is considered narrow and dangerous. 

            HADAT say Scottish Transport Analysis Guidance (STAG) mandates impact studies to be done on the places affected, saying much of the new road will be on the shoreline and damage scenery and wildlife habitats.  They prefer the idea of building above an existing railway line, and say TS are legally obliged to conduct a comparative analysis against the higher route and has complained to Audit Scotland.

            Transport Scotland has already given a £50,000 contract for a traffic and economics audit to the Glasgow office of US consultancy firm AECOM without it going to competitive tender, with £3.36 million spent on ground investigation works for the preferred option.  Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership has welcomed the plans for the road upgrade.

A83

            Design and development of a long-term solution for the Rest and Be Thankful Road is to get £25 million from the Scottish government.  Two hundred days of road closure in 2020 meant cars being ferried along a single-track military road to bypass road works.  A medium-term solution will be proposed by the end of this year, with a preferred route option for the long-term announced by spring 2023.

SNP Fail on Fire Alarms

            The Scottish government broke its own fire safety laws by failing to meet the deadline for installing integrated fire alarms in official buildings, with the task only completed on August 18th this year.  Up to half the general population may not have fitted the alarms even now, due primarily to difficulties in accessing supplies.

‘Cyber Kiosks’ Data Leak

            Police Scotland say that although the firm behind Scotland’s ‘cyber kiosks’ was hacked, their own secret data was not revealed, although Interpol, the FBI and the National Crime Agency have all had confidential information exposed.  

            The cyber kiosk, officially a Universal Forensics Extraction Device (UFED) lets law enforcement agencies unlock iPhones and android smartphones, giving police access to stored passwords, chats, location data, and email attachments, as well as deleted items.

Women:

Bid for a Domestic Abuse Register

            Pam Gosal MSP is trying to create a register of domestic abusers such as exists for sex offenders.  Some repeat offenders abuse several partners.  But the further suggestion for mandatory rehabilitation measures for those convicted of domestic abuse have been criticised by organisations supporting women.  Domestic abuse incidents are up 4% on 2021, with over 65,000 cases reported to Police Scotland.

            The plans would also see offenders required to tell employers, landlords and healthcare staff about their offending and updating police and councils when they move home, job or get a passport.   Mandatory education about domestic abuse would also be introduced in schools.

for more on women’s issues, go to the ISP website or ISP on Facebook

Finally,

            Of all people, the former chief strategist of Yes Scotland is suggesting a third route rather than just Yes/No, which he says is no good for Scottish politics.   Stephen Noon proposes ‘independence in the UK’ involving a new constitutional convention, politicians and civic Scotland, which would deliver ‘greater autonomy’ without independence.

            Scant reward for those who have spent a lifetime fighting for independence.  For ISP it is

‘Independence.  Nothing less’.

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