17/12/22-23/12/22 Week 51
The Scottish Women’s Health Champion
Promised last year is no nearer to being appointed. One new mother, Charli Morrison of Moffat, Dumfries-shire, thinks this would help bring in a much-needed test for pre-eclampsia which is being rolled out in England but not in Scotland. This test would have spared her twins a traumatic early birth and stopped her from almost losing her life after developing hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets (HELLP) which is fatal in 25% of cases.
Soaring blood pressure led to her hospital admission and the birth of her twins at 32 weeks. Thankfully all are home now safe and well.
On a dark day for Scotland, the gender reform law passed to a gallery full of cheering trans activists being applauded by government ministers, although there was much more opposition than at stage one, with 39 voting against it.
The Scottish government claims the reforms affect the means of achieving a gender recognition certificate (GRC), not the effects following it, a frankly ridiculous proposition. Although not eliminating single-sex spaces, by redefining who qualifies as a woman the government is effectively saying men can access these spaces too.
Amendments preventing sex offenders and those accused of sex crimes from accessing GRCs were shamelessly voted down. Male sex offenders were prioritised over women and children.
The only hope now is for the Registrar to refuse applicants, no easy task when there is little that is objective in this shoddy piece of legislation.
for more on women’s issues, go to ISP Safe in Scotland or ISP on Facebook
Bottle deposit return climbdown
The scheme due to start in August 2023 will now be rolled out gradually to 2025, with only the largest supermarkets required to provide a returns service, and all other businesses exempt from this aspect. Another well-intended green policy which would be financially catastrophic for many businesses.
May weigh too much for existing multi-story and underground car parks. They are twice as heavy as standard vehicles, and there are calls for existing car parks, bridges, and other infrastructure to be stress-checked. New regulations from the Institute of Structural Engineers in January may recommend larger parking bays and stress-testing for the increased weight loads, but retrospectively reinforcing existing structures would be prohibitively expensive, meaning the only option may be to reduce car park capacity.
The 300,000 Hydrogen Jobs
Envisaged in the Scottish Government’s Hydrogen Action Plan published recently has been queried by Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES), who say it is unlikely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It questions how many jobs will result and the size of potential export markets, and as the government does not envisage hydrogen in domestic heating, or buses/transport, it is difficult to see which countries would buy it. FoES also doubt the viability of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) which catches only 60% of emissions instead of the 90% envisaged.
Summit in Montreal ended with some agreement on targets and actions to reverse wildlife loss and destruction of nature. One key aim is to protect 30% of the land and sea by 2030. Scotland contributed to the Edinburgh Process where over 300 regions, cities, and local authorities signed the Edinburgh Declaration on transformative action. Scotland’s new vision commits the government to statutory nature restoration targets, restoring Scotland’s rainforest, and encouraging nature-friendly farming, fishing, and forestry.
for more on green issues, go to the ISP website or ISP on Facebook
Probes into A&E deaths
and injuries in A&E have doubled in the NHS Lothian area hospitals since 2020, with 17 deaths, 13 major harm cases (where people have needed lifesaving medical interventions or a person is left with a long-term disability), and 30 cases of moderate harm (significant injury needing medical treatment but only short-term after-effects) identified by Significant Adverse Event Reviews (SAERS) up to the end of October 2022. In 2020 there were only 28, and in 2021 only 24.
By comparison, NHS Borders and NHS Forth Valley tallied no A&E-related SAERS since 2020, although Forth Valley was placed into special measures when operating at 230% capacity, with many patients not seeming well cared for. NHS Ayrshire and Arran carried out one review and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde did not respond. NHS Tayside, Fife, and Highland reported ‘fewer than 5’, Dumfries and Galloway 7 since 2020, Grampian 7 since April 2021, and Lanarkshire 8 since 2020.
Carers Under Pressure
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s new winter campaign to ease pressure on acute medical services aim to discharge patients before noon. Carers and relatives are concerned this may compromise patient safety and there may not be adequate care in place.
Working carers foresee difficulties, with a challenging set-up at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. It is difficult to park near the discharge lounge and get the patient safely to the car. According to this year’s State of Caring in Scotland report, nearly two-thirds of carers were not involved in decisions about hospital discharge, only 15% felt unpressurised to provide care and felt adequately prepared and supported. Fewer than 20% of carers said they received sufficient help for their own health and well-being and that of the person cared for.
The Scottish Women’s Football Association
is going to an employment tribunal to claim equal pay with the men following years of little progress. Scotland women’s captain Rachel Corsie is spearheading the claim on things like training facilities, hotels, travel and kit, and medical expenses. One key demand is a contract from the SFA to ensure equal treatment and pay.
The SFA’s refusal to disclose how much the men were paid prompted this claim. This year the USA team secured equal pay with the men’s side and a $24 million payout but only after a six-year fight. Most Scottish sponsorship still goes to the men’s team, although neither men’s nor women’s teams are paid to play for their country.
The first new village
on Skye for over 100 years is under construction, aiming for a mixed-age community of 17 affordable homes, six for social rent with the Highland Council, 8 affordable homes, and 3 discounted self-build plots with the Communities Housing Trust. There will be level-access and wheelchair-accessible properties. The community will be near Sabhal Mor Ostaig (the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture), a primary school and nursery, GP practice, Café Ostaig, and a community-owned shop.
The UK is expected to receive
£8.4 billion in fuel tax in the four years to April 2023 through the 5% VAT added to domestic heating bills, £755 million of it from Scotland. In 2020/21 £1.7bn went to the Treasury from domestic fuel and power, £153 million of it from Scotland. Price rises are predicted to more than double this to over £316m from Scotland.
At the same time nearly 600,000 Scots households (1 in 4 families) are in extreme fuel poverty, that is, paying more than 20% of their net income on energy. Domestic fuel and power were zero-rated for VAT until Norman Lamont introduced VAT at 8% to encourage reduced usage. Despite Rishi Sunak’s pledge to remove VAT charge on people’s bills for a year, he did not do it.
are preparing for major cuts in services and for redundancies. Cosla is assessing the cuts councils will have to make. Losses of school staff will result in soaring class sizes and fewer subjects. Cosla says much of the hyped £550 million additional funding is actually for existing commitments and that their identified budget gap of £ 612 million will not be met by the £71m of actual new money. Potential job losses may be almost 10,000.
Civil service jobs have increased
according to an analysis by Scottish Labour, but firefighter and police officer numbers have fallen. The devolved civil service has 3710 more jobs, up 15.8% on the previous year but numbers have fallen in the reserved civil service and further education, and Scottish Police Authority funding of £1.449bn for 2023/24 is better than had been feared.
The £215m cut to Scotland’s housing budget will mean failure to deliver 111,000 new affordable homes. And a further problem is looming in efforts to insulate and retrofit properties with energy-saving devices to meet climate change targets, with 79,000 extra workers needed, according to the Fair Work Convention.
CalMac is in trouble again over a ticketing system that has been 10 years in the making. The ArTuras Project to make ticketing easier will, at £18m, cost up to six times the estimate. Its first phase is now expected next year (slid back from 2020) and it is currently delaying the issue of the summer ferry timetable.
Some Scots pay marginal 54% taxation
due to cross-border National Insurance Tax differences, meaning Scottish workers earning between £43,662 and £50,270 would next year pay 22p more in the pound than English workers. Income tax rates are now set by Holyrood but National Insurance (NI) remains the preserve of Westminster. In England the NI rate is 12% until reaching £50,270 pa, dropping then to 2%, until the higher tax rate kicks in at 40%.
But Scotland’s higher tax rate starts at £43,662, meaning the 12% rate of NI continues to be paid. The number of people paying this has risen in Scotland by 23% since 2016/17 but fallen in the rUK by 10%. Effectively some Scottish workers pay 42p in the pound income tax and 12% NI at the same time.
A young white-tailed eagle from Loch Garten Nature Centre who was featured on the Springwatch programme has hopped over to Mull to spend time with her relatives for the festivities. Initially spotted on the Morvern peninsula, she crossed the Sound to Mull, the ‘Eagle Island’, and is likely to continue her wanderings around Scotland after New Year.
And to all of you here’s wishing you a peaceful and happy Christmas and a better New Year