04/02/23 – 10/02/23
Stone of Destiny Petition
Having earlier highlighted the significance of the Stone of Destiny in Scottish history, the Independence for Scotland Party is now urging people to write to their MSPs and MPs asking for their support to refuse to allow the Stone to be used in the coronation of King Charles in May. Last year the king swore to uphold the Claim of Right guaranteeing Scotland the right to decide the form of government best suited to its needs.
Continually denying Scotland a second referendum while refusing to recognise anything other than a referendum is both self-fulfilling and a clear denial of that right.
Rishi Sunak is threatening to take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights, in response to the possibility that judges at the European Court of Human Rights may rule the UK’s new draconian immigration legislation illegal. This policy may become a cornerstone of the Conservatives’ election manifesto in 2024.
Hospice Care under Pressure
Some hospices are being forced to cut beds and services due to rocketing energy costs, some seeing five-fold price rises, and UK energy support is due to fall in April to the level of support for cafes and shops. Hospices support 22,000 Scottish families a year. Before the advent of Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCOs), 50% of hospice services were met by health boards, but since then they only fund ‘agreed’ costs as a block grant based on the amount of services supplied rather than a cost-per-patient. This covers about a third of the hospice’s costs.
The ‘hospice at home’ service, wanted by an increasing number of families, is at particular risk now as hospices receive no funding for that type of care.
The Scottish government is only heating one of its own buildings by means of a heat pump, despite wanting 200,000 systems per year to be installed in Scotland by 2030, both domestic and commercial. Fossil fuel boilers are banned in new homes from April 2024, and Scotland has pledged to cut 1990 emissions levels by 75% by 2030, with all homes to meet band C energy efficiency by 2032.
A Scottish government scheme allows homeowners to apply for a stand-alone grant of £7,500 from the Home Energy Scotland scheme to instal heat pumps, with applicants able to access the money directly. The grant includes an extra £1500 for rural homeowners but almost 170,000 off-grid properties are not suitable for heat pumps.
The Scottish Prison Service has completed an urgent review into Isla Bryson being initially sent to a women’s prison, by stating that no female prisoners were put at risk, but failed to state whether female staff were put at risk. Its heavily redacted report failed to clarify how far Scottish ministers were involved in getting the prisoner removed, if as earlier stated it was a decision for just the SPS.
Scotland may lose £60 bn
in total due to ‘underselling’ the leasing rights for offshore wind and the surrender of two-thirds of the potential supply chain profits. Last year’s 20 ScotWind projects will see £47bn of the £76.5bn of supply chain commitments covering development, manufacturing, installation and operations for the first six years leave Scotland.
Scotland got £700 million from the Crown Estate Scotland auction of 2,700 square miles of seabed plots around Scotland, with profits going to the Scottish Treasury or local authorities. But the New York Bight lease sale covering an area one quarter the size of ScotWind projects gained $4.37bn (£3.56 bn) and in February 2021 £880 million was raised in option fees for an English project less than one third the size of the ScotWind project and gained four times more than ScotWind per MW.
The Crown Estate Scotland claims it chose a ‘sensible’ tender design with maximum price of £100,000 per square kilometre to keep costs lower for consumers, as seabed leasing costs are usually passed on to the electricity consumer!
Strathclyde University had warned them that the English options round had attracted much higher fees and that Scotland’s sites were being undervalued. Common Weal’s Robin McAlpine said that if ScotWind had matched the latest UK Offshore Wind Leasing, it would have raised £28bn over a decade. Craig Dalzell, head of Common Weal policy and research, said supply chain promises were worthless, as the conditions on them make it more profitable for companies to break these commitments than to keep them. Common Weal estimate 71% of manufacturing investment will go outside Scotland, plus one third of development investment and 29% of operations.
The Scottish government claims the leasing fees are managed by Crown Estates Scotland and reflect ‘challenging conditions’ for many projects within Scotland, but many are disappointed that the government suddenly decided it could not set up a publicly-owned energy company, saying it did not have the powers, while Wales (with fewer powers) is developing one.
SNP Delays Benefit Rollout again
It appears the Scottish government is not yet ready to take over a number of benefits from the UK. The Department for Work and Pensions will continue to administer Personal Independence Payments and Carers’ Allowance until March 2025 and Winter Fuel Payments until March 2024. Disability Living Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance and Industrial Injuries payments also face considerable delays in transferring to the Scottish system and will continue to be administered by the UK.
Record Oil Profits Again
BP have just posted record profits, more than doubling last year to nearly $28bn (£23bn) in 2022. Last week Shell also announced record annual profits of £32.2bn, and politicians of all parties are calling for the planned raising of the price cap again in April to be scrapped.
The increased earnings allowed BP to give a 10% hike in its quarterly dividend payment to shareholders. Yet BP have cut its emissions pledge, instead planning greater oil and gas production than previously targeted, right up to 2030.
SNP MP Steward McDonald thinks there is a better way to secure Scotland’s independence than a de-facto referendum which he believes will not deliver independence. He favours building a new national Yes campaign by summer 2023, then to use the 2024 General Election manifesto to demand the power to hold a referendum.
Transport Secretary Jenny Gilruth has admitted that work to complete the dualling of the A9 will not be completed by the current 2025 deadline, saying the timescale is ‘simply unachievable’. The A9 Safety Group including Police Scotland and Highland Council have calculated that 77% of all fatal and serious accidents on the A9 occur on the single-carriageway parts of the road which amount to 77 miles. Some argue that the Bute House Agreement is one factor in holding up work which is now subject to Enhanced Climate Assessments.
Last year saw a 20-year high in death rates on the A9.
Bottle Deposit Return Scheme
The much-vaunted SNP/Green bottle deposit return scheme is foundering, with retailers reluctant to embrace it due to the costs, and it now appears it may breach the UK Internal Market Act (IMA) by creating a barrier to trade with the rest of the UK in that different prices would be charged either side of the border. From August 16th, people will pay a 20p deposit on buying a drink in a single-use container, which is to be refunded on returning the empty container. Due to fears over contravening the IMA, the scheme may have to be delayed until the UK rolls out its scheme in 2025, although Lorna Slater states that the process for excluding the deposit return scheme from the IMA is well under way.
Islanders Demand Tunnels
Due to the ongoing problem of ageing ferries constantly breaking down, Shetland is going to spend around £500,000 to examine the future of transport on its islands and will be considering an option of toll tunnels at a cost of £400 million. Orkney are looking at building bridges between islands. Shetland Islands Council received £17.5m for ferries but will need £23.5m next financial year. Shetland’s archipelago contains 100 islands, served by a fleet of 12 ferries, linking to outlying islands including Fair Isle, Foula, Unst and Yell.
The Faroe Islands, consisting of 18 islets, proved the tunnel option was feasible, and now have 21 tunnels (3 undersea) all connected at a roundabout, which took only 3 years to build.
Temporary ferry accommodation which will end in March is a new headache for local authority homelessness officers, who in many cases simply have no properties to offer. The Ukrainian consul is grateful for Scotland taking in over 23,000 people, but problems have emerged in registering for GPs and dentists due to having temporary accommodation addresses.
Lengthy medical waiting times are even leading to some refugees to go to Poland, Germany or even back to Ukraine for treatment. Not being classed as homeless means they cannot register for housing, and many struggle to get suitable (or any) work, and others not getting government financial support they are due.
Virgin Media have come a cropper over an advert for WiFi showing a Highland cow riding a motorbike in Glen Coe, where ultrafast broadband is not available. Broadband coverage in the Highlands and parts of Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Angus is patchy. But somehow this advert does not breach the Advertising Standards Authority regulations despite the requirement that if they say it is UK-wide coverage, it should be.