January 13th – 19th, 2024
Budget Cuts Bite, Police Canine Recruits, but first …..
The Stirling Directive
Salvo has received an update from the Scottish government after lodging the Stirling Directive instruction to the Scottish government in September. Two months later, the First Minister has reaffirmed that the devolved government is continuing to seek a transfer of powers for ‘another lawful referendum’ consistent with the Supreme Court judgment.
So the Scottish government is bowing to Westminster’s alleged sovereignty over Scotland, and has no intention of following the Stirling Directive and asserting popular sovereignty.
ISP is fully supportive of this action to assert the sovereignty of the Scottish people. Salvo is not going to let it rest and are beginning legal action to assert the rights of the Scottish people.
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Council orders Saltire taken down
Moray Council ordered a couple to take down a Saltire flagpole which they installed in their front garden in Findhorn, allegedly because it is 14 feet high, and which follows objections by two neighbours and the community council.
Concerns centre largely on its position near a war memorial, with Findhorn and Kinloss Community Council saying that, as it is also near the entrance to the village, it could be construed as a ‘collective message’ from the whole village.
But an appeal by the couple was heard yesterday (18/01/24), with more than 130 people signing a petition supporting them, agreeing with the couple who say it is a tribute to Scots who died serving their country. The council have now relented, granting permission by four votes to three with no abstentions.
Problems with Physician Associates
The use of Physician Associates (PAs) to supplement NHS health provision is under increased scrutiny following a number of major blunders alleged in a survey of 680 British doctors. Mistakes include missing a brain haemorrhage, carrying out inappropriate examinations and even prescribing the wrong medication via a junior doctor who signed the prescription. PAs are often bioscience graduates with only two years’ medical training and are not regulated by the General Medical Council (GMC) or Nursing and Midwifery Council, but only by their health board or GP employers.
Doctors are concerned that the role was introduced without public consultation and with a lot of confusion over their role and qualifications. There are not enough training places for postgraduate higher training, and it is feared that the consultants of tomorrow are missing out on training in favour of PAs. The Scottish government said legislation is ongoing at Scottish and UK level to bring PAs under GMC regulation.
Could waste be diverted to heat homes?
A experiment is underway to see if waste heat from Edinburgh University’s advanced computing facility (ACF) can be used to warm more than 5000 Scots homes. The national supercomputer, used to model health data and conduct climate research, releases 70GWh of excess heat annually, which is predicted to rise to 272 GWh when the UK government’s next generation Exascale computer is installed at the university.
Cooling the supercomputers would transfer the captured heat into water in nearby mine workings through natural ground water in nearby mine workings, eventually heating homes through heat pumps. It is hoped this technology c be scaled up to heat the 25% of UK homes housing 7 million households sitting over former coal mines.
A ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ new town
Plans have been lodged for ‘West Town’ near Edinburgh on a 205-acre site between Ingliston Park’n’ Ride and the Gogar Roundabout. Costing £2bn, it is hoped it will solve Edinburgh’s housing crisis, with capacity for 7000 homes plus employment, schools, commercial, leisure and community facilities to make it a “20-minute neighbourhood” where everyone lives within 20 minutes of everything they need without taking transport. Plans include a central park and wildlife corridor, plus cycle, running and walking tracks.
Police are warning drivers not to ignore ‘Road Closed’ signs warning against travel on the unclassified 11-mile road from Amulree to Kenmore (the U173 in Glen Quaich), which has gradients up to 20%, is not gritted and is extremely dangerous in ice and snow. Police are warning that ignoring the signs will lead to prosecution. This follows many instances of police and rescue organisations risking themselves to help drivers who become trapped on the higher parts of the road which become unpassable but are also too narrow to turn round and return.
‘Embassy’ Cash scrutinised
Scottish ‘embassies’ abroad (including London) have been criticised for costing nearly £8 million a year, which some argue would be better spent at home. The Brussels head of mission is paid almost £100,000 a year. Recently the Dublin office spent £35,000 in a three-month period, including £6,000 on St Andrew’s Day celebrations and £4000 hiring singer Eddi Reader for a Burns Supper. Other local venues also benefitted from Scotland’s largesse.
The Scottish government counter that tangible benefits have been reaped, including 190 new connections for Scottish businesses, with inward investment to Scotland creating more than 8,500 jobs over 20 local authorities in 2022/23, according to Scottish Development International statistics.
Not so rosy back home, though,
with NHS Scotland told that all new capital projects have been halted due to Scotland’s budget cuts beginning to bite. All projects not already underway have been paused. The new Edinburgh Eye Hospital will now be delayed if not scrapped, as well as planned National Treatment Centres throughout Scotland, intended to tackle waiting lists.
ScotGov emphasis now will be on tackling backlogs and replacing only essential equipment, telling NHS bosses that they do not anticipate starting construction on any new capital projects for at least two years, unless they can amend their plans in the spring.
Free University Places Cut
Shona Robison has also admitted that there will be a cut next year of 1200 university places which would have been gone to Scottish-resident students. She says these 1200 places were extra places paid for by Covid money, which ended two years ago and had been paid since then by Scottish government funds.
But the final total number of places cut may amount to nearly 4000 once the Scottish Funding Council makes its decision on dealing with a 6% cut from higher education resource funding of £28.5million.
The SNP’s much-vaunted scheme of free university tuition (for residents who have lived in Scotland for at least 3 years prior to application), while very much appreciated, was also coy as it was not free for everyone whose qualifications met the standard, but only a certain number. More and more of Scotland’s universities appear to be courting non-Scottish full-fee-paying students.
Plans to build 110,000 new homes
by 2032 are also uncertain, with Robison saying only that the housing budget would be ‘number one priority’ if funding becomes available, after announcing £200 million cuts. And Scottish councils are facing a combined £725 million shortfall for the next financial year, almost doubling last year, despite a Scottish government funding increase of 4.3% next year compared 2023/24.
One thing which will undoubtedly worsen is the dire state of Scotland’s roads, with the number of potholes up by almost 50% over the last year to total 450,000 potholes recorded since 2018. Glasgow has the greatest number recorded in 2023 (18,000+), followed by Dumfries and Galloway with 16,000. The AA estimates road users paid around £160 million for burst tyres, wheels, steering problems and suspension damage caused by potholes last year around the UK.
It’s almost as if driver safety does not matter, but cyclists can suffer more serious injuries with no vehicle protecting them. Potholes are caused primarily by water, traffic and freeze-thaw cycles which destroy the fabric of the roads, particularly worsening previous road patches.
But try claiming for that damage from the council and you will only have a one in six chance of success.
Clyde Gateway Regeneration
scheme has missed out on £5 million which it thought it was getting from the latest Scottish budget, but was in fact a printing error. Instead it will only get its existing core budget of £500,000. But Dundee City Council, despite the council facing a £12 million shortfall, apparently has £30,000 to spend on its Hello Lamp Post talking lamppost scheme, with locals able to scan a QR code attached to lampposts, fences and bus stops and record their views for the council. Other councils use the same scheme, which is apparently intended to promote ‘climate literacy’ and offer support services to local people.
have been plunged into some chaos with the resignation of 70 defence advocates who are being lured away to prosecution roles, forcing some cases to be deferred for long periods. Private defence firms pay between £25,000 and £30,000 a year, competing with a procurator fiscal depute starting at £50,000 a year, rising quickly to £55,000. Advocate deputes earn between approximately £100,000 and £15,000 a year.
Digi Dogs the latest Police Scotland Recruits
There may be no money for human recruits, but this year six spaniels will join Police Scotland in a bid to combat online child sexual abuse by identifying the scent of memory and storage devices like USB sticks, digital cameras and SD cards, hard drives, laptops and mobile phones.
This follows their successful introduction in England in finding concealed devices. Police Scotland’s digital forensics team has doubled, with 29 new recruits able to assist in cryptocurrency, dark web and sextortion cases amid a six-fold increase in online offenders targeting children online from 2015 to 2021.
Badgers Love Tulips
apparently, at least those in Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden (RBGE), having scoffed 9000 of the garden’s 10,000 donated bulbs. It was like a 5-star Michelin restaurant experience for them under starlit skies. The badgers are always on the lookout for slugs and snails overnight but were fooled for a while by pairs of red flashing ‘night eyes’ which staff thought would deter them by making them think another badger was nearby.
Now, though, they have got wise to the trick, so the tulip experiment will not be repeated. In future the RBGE will hopefully choose plants which badgers do not find so irresistible.