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February 17th – February 23rd, 2024

February 17th – February 23rd, 2024

Are Battery Parks Safe?  Social Care on the Brink; but first ….

No Salvation for Grangemouth

Any bailout has been rejected by the UK government and the Scottish government, amid claims that this would lead to lawsuits from Ineos’ competitors.  This despite soaring oil revenues of nearly £11bn in 2022/23, and despite the fact that ScotGov have managed to find almost £400 million on the hoof for the continuing ferry saga. 

The super-tankers needed to import fuel no longer produced at Grangemouth will bring increased pollution to waterways and seas.  Currently Grangemouth refines 150,000 barrels of oil a day, supplying most of the jet fuel needed by Scotland’s airports and 70% of petrol stations in Scotland, plus some in Northern Ireland and the north of England.

An extension of its operating licence is needed at a cost of £40 million which the firm will not pay, nor will the UK or Scotland.  Ineos and PetroChina have another giant refinery at Lavera in the south of France, which is not under threat.

Input is falling from the Forties pipeline, but Energy Security and Net Zero Minister Graham Stuart agreed that Grangemouth had suffered historic underinvestment, despite the North Sea supplying nearly £103 BILLION to the UK Treasury over 20 years, 90% of which is estimated by ScotGov to come from Scottish waters. 

It has been calculated that £60-£80 million would secure Grangemouth’s future by restarting the hydrocracker to produce jet fuel, diesel and the LNG needed for the new ferries.  Can’t the Scottish government find the money for the sake of Scottish jobs?  Or do climate credentials trump jobs?  This is not a transition, never mind a just one, it is a headlong rush off a cliff with people’s livelihoods and communities sacrificed.

The SNP’s new 83-point (!) Rural Plan

            is being slammed as being largely a rehash of existing policies, massively understating the scale and costs of the problem.  Highland, the Western Isles and Argyll and Bute will share a fund of £180,000 to trial ways of retaining populations and attracting new people.  A £25 million fund announced last year will let local authorities and registered social landlords purchase properties which they can rent out directly or through employers to address housing shortages. And Inverness gets £315 million over 10 years to boost affordable housing, tourism and transport through the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal.  Improved roads and internet connectivity are a big problem, and in the islands, the ongoing ferry saga.  The minister responsible, Emma Roddick, admitted that much of the plan is already out there. 

Rural areas will not be called ‘remote’ as it connotes the need for residents to get out and that there is no point in staying, and the plan emphasises local councils and agencies like Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) taking the lead and will remove barriers to people returning to cleared land.   A new community settlement officer will be appointed in Inverclyde, which has seen a 5.6% population drop, as well as more funding for such posts in Argyll and Bute, the Highlands and Western Isles, and the Crofting Commission will make more efforts to tackle absentee owners.

Are Battery Parks Safe?

There are over 900 applications to build UK battery storage sites which would be giant containers full of lithium-ion (l/i) cells intended to store energy to even out demand, but many communities are concerned over the safety of these giant parks, with campaigners with Save Our Countryside – Cochno Road in Clydebank urging regulatory procedures to be in place before we go any further.

The sheer number of cells stored together can cause fires and explosion, although supporters claim the fire risk can be mitigated and that ‘globally few such events have happened’(!), with the level of risk as yet unquantified, although such batteries have caused fires in homes and vehicles.

The l/i containers must be separated to minimise the fire risk, but vanadium redox (v/r) flow batteries do not carry any such storage risks, with the world’s largest v/r battery in Dalian, China, powering 200,000 homes.  Invinity Energy Systems have two v/r sites in Scotland, one in Orkney and the second in Perth, plus a manufacturing site at Bathgate which is employing local people, including those transitioning from the oil and gas industry.

The applications may just be for permissions, which are then sold on pre-packaged to the actual investors.  The National Grid ESO has created a market for energy storage services of about an hour, the typical duration of a l/i battery, but proponents claim the v/r battery duration of six hours is nearer the amount needed.  Vanadium is a chemical element rarely found in nature, but it is hoped it may in future be extracted from petrochemical waste streams.

The UK government is consulting on long duration electricity storage until March 5th.

Social Housing

            will need £9bn to upgrade social rent homes to net zero, funding which is not adequately covered and which the Scottish Housing Regulator warns may have to be met by tenants through increased rents.  Social landlords have a difficult choice between investment in existing properties and funding new builds; or taking on ‘unprecedented levels of debt’.

Cuts to the affordable homes programme are already risking the government target of 110,000 social and affordable homes by 2032, over £500,000 in the next two years.

ForWomen Scotland (FWS)

            are taking the question ‘what is a woman?’ to the UK Supreme Court to clarify that ‘woman’ for the purposes of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) is based on sex, not gender identity.  The Scottish government had defined the 50% quota of women on boards could include men identifying as women, meaning a board could be 50% males and 50% males-identifying-as-women.  The Court of Session said males with a gender recognition certificate means they are women for the purposes of that Act. 

A crowdfunder set up on Friday seeking £70,000 to assist FWS in their court case had passed £105,000 by Monday night, with JK Rowling donating £70,000.

Good old Patrick Harvie,

            never one to let a bandwagon just roll on by, has declared that those who even express concerns about the effect of changing gender recognition laws are ‘no different’ from ‘the far-Right’ trying to ‘demonise and stigmatise the Muslim community’.  Scottish Conservative depute leader Meghan Gallacher called it ‘shameful ignorance’ on his part, blithely disregarding the safety of women and girls, and ‘hopelessly out of touch with public opinion’.

Female views on transgender prisoners

            are being silenced, according to a secret report obtained by the Sunday Post, with women saying that some trans prisoners are ditching female hormone therapy when they reach the female estate as they want their male genitalia to ‘keep working’.  

The review spoke to prison staff, but those who had misgivings over the policy were labelled ‘transphobic’. Rhona Hotchkiss, former governor of, among other prisons, Cornton Vale, is so incensed that she has written to the new head of the Scottish Prison Service, Teresa Medhurst, saying it is abundantly clear that women in prison are ‘distressed, frightened, annoyed or irritated’ by the presence of men, the great majority of whom do not have or intend gender reassignment surgery, or did not identify as women prior to being imprisoned, with many reverting to ‘identifying’ as men on leaving prison.  

Dr Kath Murray said the SPS is ignoring routine safeguards based on sex, not gender identity, and instead of asking why any men should be in a female prison, they are ensuring that at least some will be. The default appears to be that men should be in the female estate if they want.

Ferries:

The long-awaited arrival of Glen Sannox on the Brodick route was dependent on a linkspan being built to accommodate it at Ardrossan, but this has still not appeared.  Prior to this, Troon wanted to muscle in on the act, pitching itself in direct competition with Ardrossan, which had been the mainland port for Arran for 182 years. The decision went against Troon at that time, but since then no linkspan has appeared at Ardrossan, and Troon appears now to be the default ‘temporary’ port, at least until Ardrossan linkspan is built, if ever.  Ferguson Marine says its ferries may face more delays unless the LNG dual fuel scheme is abandoned, although the Scottish government insists the LNG system must be upheld, despite that neither Ardrossan nor Troon can provide port facilities for LNG for 2024/25.  And CalMac’s maintenance costs on ageing vessels have now soared to £16 million over the last 5 years, including nearly £4 million unplanned ferry maintenance in the first eight months of 2023/24, almost £1 million more than the whole of 2022/23.

Social Care

Carers’ Visits to Vulnerable People are cut to 10 minutes

Visits from care providers to clients’ homes used to be allocated 30 minutes, but this has been cut to 10 minutes due to budget cuts and increased demand on services.  These visits can include washing and dressing, administering drugs, ensuring people eat and drink and checking prescriptions, but some carers have up to 24 visits per shift. Sometimes this is the only company people have all day.

Glasgow cut visits to 10/15 minutes in December and low pay and overwork are causing many social carers to consider quitting, with the fact they can no longer give an adequate service contributing to untenable stress levels.      

Quarriers’ Homes

The three homes in Quarriers Village, Inverclyde, are closing on March 31st, which spells disaster for their residents, who are given round the clock car, monitoring and have their independence too. But chronic staffing shortages have resulted from the poor pay on offer, as well as Brexit-caused staff shortages. Local authorities must now pick up the pieces, but for them it is as difficult attracting well-qualified staff for £12 an hour as it is for other providers.

Cosla Anger at Depute FM

Council leaders apparently had until 16th February to accept the imposed council tax freeze or have their share of the £144 million pot withdrawn. Glasgow has since agreed to freeze council tax in exchange for £15.4 million from the Scottish government, but will impose a £31 million cut to their education budget, costing teaching jobs, and they will be imposing a 10% hike over 2025/2027 to plug their current £107 million budget deficit.      

Finally,

Funding Boost for Clydesdales

Glasgow City Council is hoping to reintroduce Clydesdale horses to Pollok Country Park after getting £13 million from the UK Levelling Up Fund to renovate the stables and sawmill within the park.   They hope to create a living heritage centre opening next year, offering carriage rides for weddings and so on, as well as creating a visitor centre, installing a hydro-electric turbine at the sawmill, a battery energy storage system and a café with outdoor seating at the White Cart Water.

 

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