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December 9th – 15th, 2023

December 9th – 15th, 2023

Clashes with London, Child Mental Health Care Buckling, but first….

Calls for s35 action to be abandoned

            Both the SNP’s Kate Forbes and Alba’s Ash Regan have called on FM Humza Yousaf to abandon his legal actions against the Westminster government over the gender reform bill.  So far the Scottish government is facing a £400,000 bill for legal services for both sides, with the costs of taking it to the Supreme Court estimated at as much as £2 million. They have pointed out that as well as overstepping the limits of devolution, the measures have proved very unpopular with the Scottish population in general.

Gender: No block on puberty blockers in Scotland

            Children as young as 9 years old in Scotland are still being issued puberty blockers from the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow, despite a ban on the routine prescription of puberty blockers in England’s NHS.  Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) says young people on hormone therapies must receive accurate information on benefits and risks, and be monitored by medical specialists. In England, puberty blockers will only be prescribed to children attending gender identity services as part of clinical research. 

            More than 3,700 Scots children are awaiting gender treatment. HIS has been commissioned by the Scottish government to create national standards for adult and young people’s gender identity services and their draft standards are now out for public consultation.

            Please make your views known on this important work by Friday 1st March 2024 at:

https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/VBGC5U/

or if you wish to submit comments in a different format, contact

his.genderidentitystandards@nhs.scot

Rural: Tayvallich Estate

            When this estate was put on the market it caused consternation for locals who feared for the future of their community.  It was too late for them to raise funds to make a community purchase, and was bought in its entirety for £10.4 million by Highlands Rewilding, who have now sold 19 hectares to community body Tayvallich Initiative.   Highlands Rewilding and Tayvallich Initiative have signed a Memorandum of Understanding over land management, and Tayvallich have also purchased two plots of land at Turbiskill from Highlands Rewilding with the help of a £565,608 grant from the Scottish Land Fund. 

            Part of Highlands Rewilding funding for the purchase of Tayvallich came from the UK Infrastructure Bank.

Tomintoul Eco-Village

            Homeowners and tenants in the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Development Trust claim that a Scottish government-funded project has not lifted them out of poverty, but rather landed them with huge bills.  Many of the affected residents blame air source heat pumps, which extract ambient warmth from the air outside, stop working when the temperature goes to -1C, so they have to supplement them with more expensive electric and fan heaters and oil-filled radiators.  Some also blamed the poor efforts to ensure ventilation, saying holes drilled into the wall caused draughts.

            Before this the scheme was bedevilled by residents paying for neighbouring properties’ consumption as the serial numbers on the meters did not correspond to the right properties. Installer Alpha Projects claimed that the heat pumps were effective to -25C.

Legal: Agriculture And Rural Communities Bill

            Farm for Scotland’s Future says this bill will not transform farming but rather replicate the status quo.  They want a change to the current system of Scottish government payments per acre regardless of environmental requirements. By 2026 they want three quarters of public spending on farming to support methods which restore nature and tackle climate change, in comparison with the 5% they currently estimate meets these criteria, with over 66% of the farm support budget paid to farmers according to how much and what type of land they farm, irrespective of land management.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law

            has now been revised and incorporated into Scots Law, which now forces public authorities to comply with the treaty but can only be applied to acts of the Scottish parliament. The unanimous vote (117 – 0) involves 45 amendments to the law found incompatible with UK legislation by the UK Supreme Court in 2021.

The Rwanda Bill

            may pose a threat to the Court of Session’s powers, according to Joanna Cherry.  It seeks to circumvent the Supreme Court blocking deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda. It may affect the ‘nobile officium’ of the Court of Session, which allows the court to plug gaps in the law or offer mitigations if the law is too strict.  It opens up the possibility of a Scottish challenge to the law.

Row over Humza meeting Foreign Leaders

            A row has erupted over Humza Yousaf meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at COP28 last weekend.   Foreign Secretary David Cameron is threatening to withhold support for the Scottish government’s international relations due to Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) overseers not being present.  The Foreign Office is planning to leave its base in East Kilbride for new premises in Glasgow, citing inability to recruit staff in the town.

Plea to end Cruel Animal Killings

            More than 120 academics have called on the Scottish government to end ‘cruel’ predator control measures on shooting moors which target other animals which prey on grouse, in order to boost grouse numbers for shooting.  The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics estimated as many as 260,000 animals are killed for this purpose every year. 

G’Day Officer

            More than 750 Scottish police officers have applied to join Western Australia Police over the last year, with 5 already working there.  They advertised in this country for skilled, experienced constables.  The Scottish Police Federation say officers leaving the service blame pension changes, resourcing levels and workload for their decision to leave.

            Police officers in the Western Australia Police Force scheme can go onto a pathway towards Australian citizenship, which otherwise may be difficult to acquire.

Hospital Waiting List ‘Vetting’

           Following ‘updated’ Scottish government guidance to health boards, it now appears that even if you get a hospital appointment you may be ‘removed’ from the list and/or signposted elsewhere.  It will apply to those awaiting operations, outpatient appointments and those awaiting tests. There will instead be ‘enhanced vetting’ of medical records by a senior clinician under a system called Active Clinical Referral Triage (ACRT) before a patient is seen by a specialist.  One possible result is they may be sent away and told to come back if it does not get better!  The system is already live in some ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) departments.

Women’s Heart Attack Deaths   

            A new test developed by Edinburgh University is able to detect heart attacks which existing hospital tests cannot.  The test detects the protein troponin which is found in the bloodstream of those suffering heart attacks or hear muscle injury and it is five times more accurate than previous tests.  More than 3500 women die from heart attacks and heart disease every year in Scotland, with the heart injured not only by heart attacks, but also by uncontrolled high blood pressure and faulty valves.

            The new test allows doctors to implement a sex-specific diagnostic threshold for women, which is lower than the threshold for men, and in the past has often led to women being wrongly diagnosed as not having had a heart episode.

            The British Heart Foundation has shown that more than 8,200 UK women died needlessly from heart attacks in the decade to 2013.  Aberdeen University research has further shown that under-treatment of women with cardio-vascular disease is linked to poorer survival rates, with women up to 50% less likely to be given vital preventative drugs like statins or high blood pressure medication, with women 30% to 50% less likely to get preventative medicine than men.  Women’s cardiovascular problems tend to present in their 60s, a decade later than for men.

Child Mental Health Support

            At least 500 children were denied help from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in every month of 2023 (average 26 per day), with July the worst month with 992 rejections. The Scottish government said CAMHS is not suitable for everyone and have also given £45 million over the last 3 years to community based mental health support focussing on early intervention.

Finance: ScotGov

is missing out on £50million of funding which is not recoverable from the European Commission for agreed projects under the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.  This is due to a recalculation of the amount which could be reclaimed.  Some of the Scottish spending on several projects was queried by the EU, including spending on staff costs incurred under the European Structural Fund, and £45 million earmarked for Scotland was suspended in 2015.  ScotGov were notified in 2019 that the European Commission saw ‘serious deficiencies’ in the management and control system for finances. 

Although the suspensions were eventually lifted, Scotland cannot get a £36 million repayment from the EU for funds already expended, and will likely also miss out on a further £12 million. 

Ferries:

            It is the preferred option of the Scottish government to award an uncontested permanent public contract to state-owned ferry operator CalMac for the Clyde and Hebrides service, without them going through a tendering process.  The present contract expires in September 2024.

            Scottish procurement rules still align with the EU, and the government is concerned about possible breaches of EU state-aid rules, for which it was reprimanded by the European Commission regarding money given to Sumburgh Airport, Shetland; and Inverness Airport.

            One reason cited for a direct award is the amount of money associated with the £1.1 million cost of tendering for the existing contract, almost half of which was a bill for consultancy support.

            An exemption known as the Teckal arrangement allows direct awards  under the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015, if they can prove that ‘the public authority can provide the services itself’ and is subject to ‘controls and tests’.

Finally,

          Caithness is now home to a new reindeer centre, Lichen Caithness, where Sven, Levvi and Mr Antlers are wowing the guests.  Daily reindeer experiences give visitors the chance to learn about reindeer habitat and food sources, with visitors allowed to feed them with reindeer moss; then relax over a hot chocolate with marshmallows toasted over a fire in a Nordic Kota hut. 

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