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February 24th – March 1st, 2024

February 24th, 2024 – March 1st, 2024

Cancer Scandal; Scottish Labour in Devo Row, but first

How Scotland was Robbed

            Not once, not twice, but three times, according to Simon Forrest CEO of Nova Innovation.  First went Coal, thanks to Margaret Thatcher’s ideological battle with the trade unions.  Scotland now has no coal mines, a lot of communities have been left with little purpose or future, and we import coal.

            Second came Oil.  The Black Gold gave Scotland nothing but allowed the Tories to fund mass unemployment.  No Sovereign Wealth Fund, no discernible benefits apart from a time-limited fund for Shetland.

            And now Renewables.  The Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore windfarm costing £2 billion was built by French state-owned EdF, with no meaningful local benefit.  Although included in contracts, community benefit seems more a ‘wish-list’, with penalties for non-compliance low enough for firms to ignore.         The ScotWind Leasing round gave away Scotland’s seabed rights to build windfarms for a one-off payment of £700 million.  Other countries typically demand 40% to 60% for In-Country Value (ICV) with hefty penalties for non-compliance.  It did not have to be that way.  The Scottish government could have, for example, retained a percentage share in each lease, created a national energy company, incentivised firms to provide better ICV, or all three.

 

Grangemouth Festering

            Economy Secretary Mairi McAllan claims the government has a commitment to explore avenues to accelerate low carbon new projects at the refinery, but there will be no saving of the refinery beyond 2025, with 400 jobs due to disappear.  Petroineos claimed that Scotland ‘simply won’t be big enough to support a fuels refinery’, despite the refinery supplying 70% of Scotland’s petrol stations, as well as the north of England and Northern Ireland, as well as most of the jet fuel needed by Scotland’s airports.

 

Health:

Galloway Cancer Scandal

            Few places are further west than West Galloway, but for the purposes of cancer treatment, west Galloway is situated in the south-EAST of Scotland, with treatment defaulting to Edinburgh. So patients referred for treatment must travel through their own health board area, Ayrshire and Arran; then Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Forth Valley and Lothian, totalling over three and a half hours’ journey time for very sick patients. They even pass within two miles of the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, then face a further hour’s journey.   This scandalous state of affairs was highlighted as early as 2000 by local GPs, and applies also to advanced breast cancer screening. 

            Galloway could also see A&E and medical admissions cut at the Galloway Community Hospital, with patients having to go 75 miles for emergency treatment, obviously far from ideal in an acute healthcare crisis.

Scottish Cancer Figures

            from 2012 to 2017 show that Scottish cancer treatment times are longer than those in Australia, Canada, Norway and even other UK nations. Fewer than 30% of Scots get chemotherapy and fewer than 20% radiotherapy, and must wait respectively on average 65 days to start chemotherapy and 79 for radiotherapy.  Scotland lags behind other UK nations as well as Norway Australia and Canada. 

            The Scottish government is now working with Public Health Scotland to find out whether the differing figures are due to the different needs and age profiles of Scottish residents.

Rural and Islands:

The isle of Gigha

            will be getting a helipad courtesy of the Corps of Royal Engineers and the Helicopter Emergency Landing Pads Appeal (HELP).  Gigha is 3 miles west of the Kintyre peninsula and takes a three-hour drive from Glasgow and a 20-minute ferry sailing to reach.  Gigha is community owned and the £150,000 helimed price tag will be paid by HELP and built by 39 Engineer Regiment and local contractors.

The isle of Arran

           is at crisis point due to ferry problems.  Visitor numbers are falling, businesses scaling back operations and even locals giving up and leaving permanently.  Islanders accuse the government of abandoning their responsibilities to the islanders.  The MV Caledonian Isles ferry is now out of action for at least 4 months with no firm arrival date for the two new ferries.  Visitors are ending trips a day earlier than they used to, due to the unreliability of the ferries, and businesses are having to cut employee numbers and hours.

BrewDog’s Lost Forest

            at Kinrara has seen a mortality rate of over half its newly planted Scots Pine forest, with a mortality rate of 95% of the mixed native broadleaf plantation with no official figures yet for the mortality of birch trees, although Nick Kempe of Parkswatch Scotland put the figure for Scots pine mortality at 90%, and that ‘many birch’ had died.  Planting only began in 2022 following a grant was made by Scottish Forestry, with £1.2 million allocated to phase one.

            Kempe argues that buyers of large tracts of land currently are not required to prove they will manage the land well, or how they will finance it, and many feel grants to landowners to plant trees for carbon credits just inflate land prices, and if planted on peatland at a depth of less than 50 cm, they will release far more carbon than they will ever sequestrate.  But Forestry Scotland countered that the grant scheme requires owners to replant failed sections at their own expense, and if they do not, grant money can be reclaimed from them.

Salmon Welfare ‘Greenwashing’

            The RSPCA Assured Scheme is not protecting Scottish salmon according to campaigners including vegan charity Viva! who say the salmon farms are plagued by parasites and disease, partly due to being crammed in cages, which causes mass mortalities.  The new salmon standards from May will include measures for ‘cleanerfish’ welfare, increased monitoring of the slaughter process and tighter checkups on fish welfare, after badly injured ‘zombie salmon’ were filmed at Bakkafrost premises in Portree.   

            But no firm has ever been thrown out of the Assured scheme for non-compliance with standards.  A scheme spokesman said they were actually pushing standards higher than they would be, given that there is no specific legislation in place to protect salmon.

Trans Prisoner

            Tiffany Scott, previously known as Andrew Burns, has died in prison.  This was one of the most violent offenders in a Scottish jail, who committed a number of offences including attacks on female officers while behind bars for other crimes and was subject to an Order for Lifelong Restriction.

            Before the furore over Isla Bryson, Scott was due to be moved to a female prison.  Under new guidelines coming into force, violent trans prisoners are not to be moved to the female estate.  But it is not clear how the SPS will define violence.  Is that actual physical or sexual violence, or would behaviour like stalking or voyeurism which often escalate count to exclude a male from a female prison?

What next for Ferguson Marine?

            Members of the Scottish Parliament Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee recently visited Ferguson Marine, but were not reassured about its future prospects, claiming that the only thing keeping the yard going is investment for completion of the Glen Sannox and Glen Rosa.

            The contract for the seven Small Ferries is vital, but unless the yard gets a direct award the yard will fail in any competitive tendering process.  Trade union GMB Scotland is hoping for a direct award as Ferguson Marine tradesmen are already being redeployed to other yards, risking the yard losing the necessary skills and experience.

Poverty

            Hard-up Renfrewshire parents can breathe a little more easily due to the council’s to stop using debt collectors to chase school meal arrears, replacing it with a policy to better help parents in financial insecurity.

            But a new row has blown up over Labour councillors’ attempts to get the UK government to override devolution in the simmering row over the council tax freeze.  If councils agree not to raise council tax, Finance Secretary Shona Robison will disburse £62.7m to them during the next financial year, but not if they raise council tax, £45m of which is from the UK government as Barnett consequentials.  Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe has written to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove demanding that he gives Scottish local authorities their share of this money direct, and now West Dunbartonshire Labour council leader Martin Rooney has also written to Gove urging him to step in.

Scottish Labour declined to say if they supported this position or not.

Deposit Return Scheme Sued?

            Circularity Scotland is poring over claims by its creditors for repayment of a total of £79 million invested by them in anticipation of the scheme rollout.  One creditor is the Scottish National Investment Bank which is owed £8 million of the £9 million it lent the scheme, as well as Aldi, which invested £500,000, Tesco, Sainsbury, Lidl, Heineken and Tennent’s, but the biggest creditor is waste management firm Biffa at £65 million. 

Council’s Airbnb Bin Plans

            Edinburgh City Council is looking at whether they can charge Airbnb operators separately for bin collections, saying not charging them is acting in effect as a public subsidy.  This follows councils in England deciding to impose such a charge on operators.  The lack of such a scheme is believed to be contributing to Edinburgh fast becoming one of the dirtiest cities in the country, with rubbish piled high in the streets.  Businesses like hotels must pay separately for the local authority to collect bins or employ a commercial contractor themselves.

            Some operators claim that such a law would make Scotland an international laughing-stock despite the fact that many European and North American municipalities do operate such a scheme.

Finally,

           Following his recent recapture from his unscheduled 5-day Highland holiday, Japanese macaque Honshu (‘Kingussie Kong’) has now been moved with three other male macaques to Edinburgh Zoo amid fears of bullying from his troop, saying it would have been difficult to reintegrate him following his prolonged absence. 

            And the Beithir, the 121-metre Sea Serpent of Scottish folklore, is making a reappearance in art form as one of 22 artworks commissioned by Scottish Canals for the parkland surrounding Stockingfield Bridge, the new active travel bridge which connects Ruchill, Maryhill and Gilshochill for the first time since 1790.  It is a work in progress.  Building the scales for the Beithir will take five years and involve 30,000 people in a huge community project.

            The Beithir is related to the Kelpie, with the Beithir being the ‘lightning serpent’ most often seen in the summer during storms.

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