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December 30th, 2023 – January 5th, 2024

December 30th, 2023 – January 5th, 2024

Will Trans prisoners get into Women’s prisons?  Should individuals be allowed to pay corporate tax?  But first…

 Are we being over-medicated?

            Yes, according to consultant psychiatrist Dr Joanna Bredski, who is also deputy chair of the BMA’s Scottish consultants committee, and who says people are being referred onwards or prescribed drugs and therapies for normal negative human emotions.

            Being fed a constant diet of happy families, we can easily see ourselves as dysfunctional if we are unhappy, but she says it is normal to feel negative emotions like sadness, fear or anger for about 50% of the time.  She thinks psychiatry can shine a light on the role of poverty in creating many of our negative feelings, and has seen a surge of people in Scotland being prescribed antipsychotic drugs for insomnia, distress and anxiety without any evidence of either their efficacy or the harm they may do.

            Between 2010 to 2020 the numbers of those on antipsychotic medications has risen by 42% to 107,206, but the actual rates of psychosis in the community have only risen very slightly, nothing like 42%.  The system of waiting time targets ‘prioritises activity over need’ by referring people to specialists without any further triaging of need, meaning those with serious psychiatric conditions may be behind someone who has a much lower-level need.

Trans Prisoners can ‘Practise’ being Women 

            Although the Scottish government is not planning any further legal challenge of the UK government over gender reform, Shirley Anne Somerville signalled that ScotGov will maintain its focus on gender reform and is hoping that a victory for Labour at next year’s UK General Election will mean Labour will give the SNP what it wants on gender reform.

            This comes at a time when the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), while mostly refusing to house male-bodied prisoners in the female estate, will allow them to ‘mingle’ with women socially in jail in order to ‘practise how to be women’.  Aside from the obscenity of the proposition, if their claims to becoming women were actually true, they wouldn’t need to practise, would they, they would just automatically be women.

            Women are not just props for males to copy, and woman is not a costume to be put on and off.  Surely imprisoned women’s human rights are being denied?   How about somebody sues the Scottish government for infringing imprisoned women’s rights?

Ferries

            The two long overdue and overcost ferries Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa are facing further delays of at least 2 months, as Ferguson Marine Chief executive David Tydeman is having problems with commissioning the liquefied natural gas (LNG) propulsion system required for the ships.  The  Glen Sannox has missed its window for moving to dry dock due to bad weather and will have to undergo sea trials between January and March this year and then go to dry dock in early April.

Nice work if you can get it (1)

            The SNP is advertising for someone to head its ‘embassy’ in the US in return for a salary of £83,000 a year.  It is the latest embarrassment over the number of ‘embassies’ all over the world, particularly as services here continue to suffer.  The overseas office budget is now £9 million. The postholder will have a team of 3 in the office which will be housed within the UK embassy, as well as 2 non-diplomatic staff.  The ‘ambassador’ must undertake to come to Scotland at least once a year!

            The Brussels office had a budget this year of £2.5 million and 17 staff, with other offices present in Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland and England.

Nice work if you can get it (2)

            Nicola Sturgeon will not apparently have to worry about the new 45% or even 48% rate of income tax on her earnings of up to £300,000 for her memoirs, having instead set herself up as a company to manage the income from her book deal, with herself as sole director.  She will therefore be subject to only 19% corporation tax on profits.  Those who set up such arrangements can choose how much to take out of the company, or instead of income take dividends, which are taxed at lower rate than income tax and do not attract National Insurance.

[Not] nice work (3)

            An unintended consequence of low emissions zones (LEZs) in our main cities may be the adverse effect on city centre trade.  This has already been noted in Glasgow, which is the first city to enforce the zones, with footfall for stores down 10% in November on pre-covid levels, with some businesses claiming an even bigger fall than that.  Industry leaders say the zones are also a problem for shift workers operating within the zone without adequate (or any) public transport.  Goods delivery vehicles are affected, and the taxi sector is lacking retrofitting availability even if owners can afford the cost of a new vehicle.  

Poverty:

Council Tax Debt

            is standing at over £1.3bn, the equivalent of half the £2.8bn they expect to collect this year, with over £42million of the debt dating from 10 years ago.  This year’s council tax freeze will not help matters, despite supposedly being covered by £144 million from ScotGov, with councils saying they need as much as £14.4bn just to stand still.

            Almost 40% of new claimants to the StepChange Debt Charity Scotland were in arrears on council tax, and complained of ‘excessive and punitive action’ they say councils sometimes take to collect outstanding debt, although many councils provide help to those struggling.  Should the government find some way to pay it to councils, effectively writing the debt off?  Some would say this is unfair when many people struggle financially but DO pay up.  One thing is certain.  Local government cannot be constantly drained of funds and expected to cover the same continuing obligations.

Empty Homes

            The number of long-term empty homes is six times higher in some parts of Scotland than when ministers made it possible to double the council tax on them in order to slash the number of empty homes, with the number of properties unoccupied for 12 months or more in Scotland having risen 70% in that time to 28,280 in 2023.  Aberdeen Argyll and Bute and Orkney had the highest numbers.

Rural: Peatland Restoration

            is way off track due to a lack of skilled workers and lack of funding, and is set to miss its target of restoring 250,000 hectares of degraded peatland by 2030.  So far it has restored only a total of 43,000 hectares, and in the last year only 7,502 restored.

Police Cuts Cost

            It appears crime may have risen in areas where police numbers have been the most savage, with localised outbreaks of lawlessness in the four areas which include Aberdeen Dundee and Perth, who are performing worse in all areas of crime, including rape, theft and violence.  Although crime overall in Scotland fell by 2.2% from 2020 to 2023, crime rose by almost the same amount in the NorthEast, Tayside, Argyll & Bute and West Dunbartonshire; and Dumfries and Galloway, some of which have experienced an almost 10% cut in police officer numbers.  Who could have predicted that?

Fatal Workplace Accidents

            The rate of deadly workplace accidents is twice as high in Scotland as the British average, and an attempt to beef up the law around corporate responsibility was defeated by ScotGov in 2007 when Humza Yousaf was Justice Secretary.  There have been no prosecutions for 15 years in Scotland under corporate gross negligence laws.  One reason for the disparity in the number of fatalities may be that Scots are working in greater numbers in higher risk sectors but it may also be due to the difficulty in apportioning blame when accidents do occur.  Sadly this can be the main driver of safety measures improving.

            The prosecution of Transco for culpable homicide after a gas explosion in Larkhall destroyed a house and killed the family inside was dismissed due to the fact that individuals could not be identified who would count as the ‘controlling mind’ behind the corporate failings. 

            It was intended for workplace fatalities from April 2008 to be covered by a Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (CMCHA) for England and Scotland, and was partly motivated by the failure of the Transco prosecution.  But Humza Yousaf spoke against the Labour motion for the legislation.  At the time he said he would meet families and MSPs to discuss matters but never did.  The Lord Advocate admitted there have been no convictions under the CMCHA but said the court has the same sentencing powers under sections 2 or 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 or maritime legislation.  The fact remains that the CMCHA would have sent a strong message to companies on worker safety and focussed attention on Scotland’s unenviable record on safety, and may have been a catalyst for change in workplace practices.

Finally,

‘Send them to Mull

            was Tony Blair’s bright idea for reducing the number of asylum seekers, a precursor of the UK’s brilliant Rwanda plan.  It was actually the brainchild of one of his close aides, Jonathan Powell, and included a ‘nuclear option’ of having no asylum system at all and putting people straight back on the same plane and sent away.  He argued that anyone arriving in the UK had by definition already come through a ‘safe’ country so had no need to apply here.  He also mooted the Falkland Islands as a ‘holding camp’ and in addition wanted a series of regional safe havens, such as Turkey and South Africa, where refugees could be sent.

            Powell also felt the UK should override Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to allow people to be returned to places even if they may be treated inhumanely or persecuted, and if such a move was scuppered by the European Court of Human Rights, the UK should withdraw from the ECHR and re-ratify it without Article 3.   It makes you wonder how far the present UK government will go until it is stopped.

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