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December 2nd – 8th, 2023

December 2nd – 8th, 2023

Jute Houses, Council Calamities, but first

Judgment Day

            today in the section 35 appeal over Scotland’s gender reform plans saw the Scottish government defeated.  The UK’s block on the bill was deemed lawful.  This is a great decision which upholds women’s rights and shows the grave dangers of allowing self-ID as any part of gender reform.  The only shame is it took the UK government to bring Scotland’s women back from the abyss. 

Women in Prison

The Scottish Prison Service seems to have recently acquired superpowers.  After 5 years considering the matter, trans identifying male prisoners will be able to be placed in the female prison estate if a ‘risk assessment’ deems them safe, even if they have committed violent or sexual crimes.  This is the same risk assessment which said female prisoners would have been safe with male rapist Isla Bryson in their midst, and in carrying out such risk assessments at all, the SPS will be prioritising males over females; otherwise the rule would be just to send them to a male prison.

What happens if they get it wrong? Could female prisoners then sue the prison service? I sense another Isla Bryson moment coming on.  All the prison service seems to listen to is a public outcry.  Ditto ScotGov.

Housing: Airbnb crackdown

Edinburgh’s latest attempt to establish a ‘control area’ for short-term lets was rejected by the Court of Session, who ruled that regulations could not be applied retrospectively to properties which were short-term lets prior to the new legislation of 5th September 2022.  The council’s application form was also ruled to ‘actively discourage[.]’ applicants who did not already have planning permission or an application pending, despite the fact that this is not always required.  Differential rules were held to be ‘unfair’ and ‘illogical’.

Tenants’ Union Living Rent

            are vowing to fight on to establish comprehensive rent controls on new tenancies, which is a loophole of the current legislation.  The rent cap expires in March 2024, but rent controls will figure in the coming Housing Bill.  The union argues there has been no mass exodus of landlords from the private rented sector as had been feared, and they are further looking for rent levels to be conditional on the quality and state of the property.

Poverty: Scottish Councils facing Bankruptcy?

Scottish councils are collectively facing a deficit of £14.4 billion according to a recent report by Cosla, which fears that councils here may follow Birmingham and Nottingham and have to declare effective bankruptcy, thereafter fulfilling only statutory obligations.  Cosla are still smarting after Humza Yousaf’s unilateral announcement that council tax for next year will be frozen without any indication of how the ‘fully funded’ measure will be paid for.

The Scottish government could only say it had increased local government resources for 2023/24 by nearly £800 million, a 3% rise.

Scottish Libraries facing Closure?

Stirling Council is mulling over two proposals, one to close half its libraries and the second to close ALL but the library in Stirling, the latter measure saving £1.4 million.  Earlier this year Midlothian Council wanted to replace public library staff with self-service machines and e-books, and Aberdeen faced a public backlash before backing down on plans to close 6 of its libraries.

These moves affect the poorest most, along with closing leisure centres and community projects, whose patrons are least able to pay for them out of their own resources.

Highland and Moray Schools

            account for 45% of Scotland’s unsatisfactory schools.  Although 90.7% of Scottish schools overall are in good or satisfactory condition, this falls to only 66% of Highland Council schools, with 68 in poor condition there and 27 in Moray ranked unsatisfactory. ‘Unsatisfactory’ relates not only to teaching and learning resources, but the quality and safety of the buildings children attend.

Highland Council needs external funding to start any future school projects, although Moray have just commenced a 15-year plan to review and upgrade 30 schools.

Delays in remedying faults mean projected costs have escalated beyond projected budgets.  The Scottish government’s Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) disbursed its third and final tranche of a total of £2 bn recently, and although all local authorities have now received funding for at least one project, many gaps in funding remain nationwide.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act

is unlikely to go live in early 2024 as planned, despite having received the Royal Assent in April 2021, as the police training for its implementation is still not underway.  Although Police Scotland was advised by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to set up a specialist hate crime unit for the ‘complex’ legislation, they denied ever confirming they would do so.  The legislation will now instead be done by officers through online training which may take up to a year to be rolled out to everyone, but the training package itself has not yet been issued and Police Scotland could not confirm the launch date.

Failing Supervision of Registered Sex Offenders (RSO)

In 2022/23, 139 RSOs received a conviction for violent or sexual offences including murder, rape and stalking while ‘being supervised’.  One high risk paedophile rampaged around Edinburgh when freed from prison and was re-incarcerated after threatening two detectives with a blade and committing an attempt rape. This male had been previously jailed for abduction and rape.

Police are responsible for supervision but are understaffed and overworked, leading to botched risk assessments.  Some RSOs are also monitored by social workers, but nearly 5000 RSOs are currently under supervision which does not appear to be watertight.


Why the A9 upgrade Matters

The A9 is at heightened risk of serious or fatal accidents because of its rapid alternation between single and dual carriageways, or 2+1 carriageways.  This confuses both locals and those used to driving on the left, but also foreign tourists.  Four of the 52 collisions involving foreign drivers between January 2022 and September 2023 were fatal.

Recent research showed that at the current rate of spending it will take until 2134 to complete the dualling.  If we are struggling to get the iconic A9 upgraded, what chance the A96/A75/A77/A1?

And the endless delays are not just scandalous, they are fatal.


There are 10 Non-Disclosure Agreements (gagging clauses) in place with external private companies in relation to privatised Ferguson Marine. A letter from Wellbeing Secretary Neil Gray said it was to protect ‘commercial sensitivities’ and taxpayer interests.  A study conducted by firm Teneo on value for money cost £620,000 but has not been revealed, and a second report by consultant First Marine International (FMI) evaluating the yard’s productivity is under wraps. The first report by FMI cost £200,000 and had been intended to turn the yard’s fortunes around.

Neil Gray is refusing to publish the financial rationale for continuing with building Glen Rosa, the second ferry.

Green: Heat Pump Retrofitting

The refit of Elgin Procurator Fiscal’s Office is not proving reassuring that green retrofitting is suitable for older buildings.  From a projected £2.2m to replace windows, instal a new heating system including heat pumps and insulate the internal walls, the price has now gone up to an estimated £3.5million due to far more work needing done than was anticipated, a fear long expressed by those who said older properties would need expensive work done before they could get heat pumps at all.

And in a predicted further twist, Patrick Harvie has admitted that individual households living in towns and cities will not have to instal heat pumps after all as they will likely get district heating instead.  Harvie has now set a target of 2035 for delivering a certain amount of heat provision through heat networks.

Jute Houses

Sustainable homes designed and built in Dundee are at the forefront of efforts to combat climate problems in Bangladesh.  Developed by a team under Dr Nandan Mukherjee of the University of Dundee’s Unesco Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science using a revolutionary brick incorporating clay soils and lime to create a ‘mineral’ brick which does not need fired, different local materials can be incorporated if appropriate to different locations throughout the world.  The earliest examples incorporated bamboo. The bricks have the added extra of drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and cost a third of the price of a conventional brick.  The first houses are being built in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, and can float, produce their own power and grow food.

The next stage of research will explore how Dundee’s iconic jute can be incorporated into the bricks.

Scotland’s Rainforests

            have been given £1 million funding this year by the Scottish government to restore and expand the total rainforest area, estimated at around 30,000 hectares.  The funding is to help woodland owners tackle the triple threats of rainforest fragmentation and damage by non-native species like rhododendron and deer grazing. 

The Forestry Grant Scheme will double the grant for natural regeneration, improve rhododendron control and deer management.

Energy: SSEN Network Rerouted

Following extensive protests and campaigning, part of the route of a network of pylons which SSEN were planning for its East Coast 400kV project between Kintore in Aberdeenshire and Tealing in Angus has been altered to ‘reduce community impact’, and a proposed substation at Fiddes in the Mearns will instead be built in Fetteresso Forest.  There will now be a fresh consultation on plans which avoid crossing the A90 north of Laurencekirk.


Galashiels is the Happy Hotspot

If you’re stressed by life, Galashiels has become the go-to destination for your next move.  The Borders town was recently the only Scottish entry to make the index of 20 happy hotspots in the UK.  Green spaces, room for rambling, friendly people, a strong sense of community, reasonable house and rent prices and the Waverley rail connection to Edinburgh are all cited as reasons why people make the move there, and its proximity both to the capital and to other Borders towns and lovely countryside offers residents the best of both worlds.

But further north, Fortrose in Ross-shire did not seem nearly so welcoming after residents received a Google alert for a great white shark off the coast. Over the years there have been credible sightings of great whites off Ullapool and Caithness (2003), North Uist (2005) and Lewis in 2016, although Fortrose is better known for dolphin sightings.  This time it appears a shark tag washed ashore in Fortrose …..South Island, New Zealand.

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