25/02/23 – 03/03/23
Dundee Council Funding Axe
The Big Noise Douglas was started in September 2017, teaching 500 children from P1 to P3 about pitch, pulse, rhythm and listening through singing and games. It built confidence through new skills like learning string instruments, all free of charge.
Until Dundee Council decided to withdraw ALL its funding last week for the next three years, totalling £900,000. The project is run by Sistema Scotland, who had reduced their funding request but still had it axed. Some say the council has abandoned the Douglas community.
Not only a bad decision for children in the deprived area of Douglas in Dundee, but also breaking the promise to provide the majority of its funding from 2021/22 onwards. Sistema will try to keep a much-truncated programme going in some way. Instead the council protected £1m of free schools music services throughout the city, with organisers pleading for funds to keep going.
Big Noise Dundee can be contacted at email@example.com or on 01382 767650; or at the Douglas Community and Library Centre, Balmoral Avenue, Dundee.
SNP Leadership Race
This week Regan and Forbes said they would abandon gender self-ID and not challenge the s35 order, but Yousaf would, even though many Scots supported the UK intervention. No candidate supports the ‘de facto’ referendum plan. Regan wants a Voter Empowerment Strategy, and neither she nor Forbes would mourn the end of the pact with the Scottish Greens, although Humza wants it to continue. Regan wants oil and gas extraction to continue meantime, with Forbes planning to decelerate Sturgeon’s planned accelerated transition away from fossil fuels.
Forbes will give £800 million to cut household energy bills, Yousaf will target empty rural properties for key workers, and Regan wants a Scottish currency and central bank as soon as possible.
SNP voters on the other hand are worried about the cost-of-living crisis (58%), economic growth and public services (both on 53%). Only 5% think a leader’s faith or personal beliefs mattered.
Bottle Deposit ‘Carnage’
Kate Forbes says she would abandon the scheme which will cause ‘carnage’, and Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater may now exempt small drinks producers for a year. Even Alister Jack has urged a halt to the ‘shambolic’ scheme, which would contravene the Internal Markets Act with different pricing in Scotland from the rest of the UK. Some businesses have opted out altogether to sell overseas only.
Businesses must fund reverse vending machines or other collection points costing as much as £250 million and will get a handling fee from the government for taking back the empties. But the fee may be too low at 3.7p each for the first 8000 containers a week and 1.6p each for any beyond that number. Smaller retailers who manually take back containers will get 2.69p per item.
To combat people buying containers in England and then returning them in Scotland a surcharge will be charged on Scottish producers on top of the ‘producer fee’ of 4.3p for every glass bottle sold. Or there may be Scotland-only barcodes, which will add to the cost. Will large quantities of glass being stored by shops encourage theft by those wanting to …. get the deposits back?
‘Let them eat Turnips’
said Environment Secretary Therese Coffey in response to empty supermarket shelves, whereupon the shelves quickly emptied of turnips. Vegetable shortages may not be the entirely the fault of Brexit or climate change, with flooding, snow and cold weather disrupting supplies. Brexit has meant extra paperwork and subsidy cuts, but current shortages may be due to ‘just in time’ supply chains, which were meant to reduce waste and keep costs down, but can lead to shortages in unforeseen circumstances, particularly as it is now uneconomical for farmers to keep heated greenhouses.
Supermarkets have started rationing people to three packs of salads and other vegetables per week, although they say this is to stop businesses who run out of supplies raiding supermarkets and leaving ordinary shoppers without.
Dentists may soon be able to test patients for Atrial Fibrillation (AF), a condition which causes out of sync heart beats or rhythms. Patients would put their hands on a monitor for a few moments to detect an irregular heartbeat. Edinburgh Napier University has brought dentists into its project at the Centre for Cardiovascular Health due to evidence that gum disease, which destroys the bone holding teeth in place, can go on to cause major heart attacks and strokes.
Many of the 100,000 Scots (2.6% of the population) who have AF are unaware as undiagnosed. AF causes palpitations and irregular heartbeats, pounding or fluttering for a few seconds or minutes, but may conversely be asymptomatic.
Ten percent of strokes caused by blood clots blocking arteries are caused by undiagnosed AF, but once found it can be treated with medication to prevent blood clots.
Private Public Partnerships (PPPs)
are costing Scotland the earth to service. For £2.9 bn worth of infrastructure, the bill is expected to total £8.5 bn over the remaining 26 years many schemes will run, with £1 bn already paid out since 2014/15. Some of this is going to firms in offshore tax havens. The infrastructure itself will only be handed over in 2048.
Projects paid for in this way include the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, improvements to the M73 and M74, redeveloping the Royal Edinburgh Hospital campus, the new City of Glasgow College campuses and other education and health projects.
Scotland Against Public Private Partnerships (SAPP) which includes the Common Weal and anti-debt group Jubilee Scotland say the schemes cost up to five times the actual project and is urging Scotland to abandon them as the UK has done.
Private Finance Initiatives were introduced by the UK in 1990, replaced in 2005 with the Non-profit Distributing Model (NPD) with private companies providing finance and council repayments paying the companies’ debt interest.
The Scottish government has moved to a Mutual Investment Model (MIM) but there is no way of monitoring whether PPP firms selling on their debts to firms which may not cap the interest payable.
Papa Westray islanders
want a referendum over whether to allow more fish farms round the island. Last year Orkney Islands Council approved one of the largest salmon farms in Scotland in waters to the south, which already has 6 fish farms in Papay Sound. They also want Environment minister Mairi McAllan to review the East Moclett decision, citing lack of consultation and a failure to consider the ‘cumulative impact of industrial fish farming’. Amazingly, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency raised no objection to the new development.
The Tayvallich Estate
at Lochgilphead, Argyll, will be bought by Highlands Rewilding who have managed to raise the £10 million asking price. The estate contains many houses and cottages, plus three Special Areas of Conservation and five Sites of Special Scientific Interest, as well as the tidal island of Danna.Top of Form
Can Scotland have a Special Deal?
The Windsor Framework breakthrough allows Northern Ireland to stay in the EU as well as be part of the UK. The border in the Irish Sea between is now gone. Goods from GB to NI will go through a green customs lane or a red lane, green for goods remaining in Northern Ireland and from trusted traders; and red for those going onwards into the EU country of Eire.
Food and medicines can travel freely, as can pets if microchipped; parcels, trees, shrubs and seed potatoes will get a ‘plant passport’ costing £120 a year, with the UK controlling VAT and excise duty in NI, and the ‘Stormont Brake’ gives the NI Assembly a veto on new EU laws. As the Windsor Framework will be incorporated into the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, it will be embedded in international law.
Scotland has been summarily refused a special deal, which would have, at a stroke, dealt with the question of land borders with a non-EU country, single market access for businesses, and customs, all of which dogged indyref 1. It would even have allowed a legislative veto.
Why do Scots pay so much for energy?
One reason is the requirement for all energy to be priced according to the most expensive one in the mix, that is, electricity generated by burning gas, but another big problem is the high rate of transmission charges, that is, the cost of connecting Scottish energy to connect to the national energy grid. Scots energy companies pay £7.36 per MW hour to connect to the grid in north Scotland and £4.70 per MWh in south Scotland, compared to £0.49 per MWh further south.
NatureScot has agreed a £2 bn private deal to finance the restoration of native woodland and facilitate carbon capture of 28 million tonnes of greenhouse gases over 30 years. Private UK bank Hampden & Co, Lombard Odier Investment Managers and Palladium are the partners (Palladium will also be involved in providing modular housing for refugees).
Loans will go to private landlords, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and public bodies, but not to land owned by NatureScot at this time. But the Common Weal are calling it ‘privatising Scotland’s trees’ to benefit the rich through the Scottish government, ‘greenwashing’ carbon offsetting schemes.
Circularity Minister going round in circles
Lorna Slater’s flagship Deposit Return Scheme is not going well. It is unclear whether it will be exempted from the UK Internal Markets Act, but if Humza Yousaf wins the SNP leadership, he may allow non-compliant firms to continue trading anyway.
Slater may now allow small drinks producers a one-year exemption, but is refusing to delay the scheme till 2025 to align with England, insisting it will start on 16th August this year, or her ‘credibility’ will be ‘wrecked’.