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July 1st – July 7th, 2023

01/07/23 – 07/07/23

#Not My King?  Pottermania getting out of hand, and will Orkney Secede?

The Scottish Crown

            is not the same as the English crown, nor are its rights and obligations, and there is no joint (British) Crown.  The Scots sovereign is not one person, but the people as a whole, and the monarch can be overruled by the people.  The Scottish accession oath made the monarch swear to uphold the rights, rents and privileges (the law, the land and the functions of state) and promise not to transfer or change them. 

            But since the time of Queen Anne only the English Crown is sworn to, not the Scottish Crown.  If Charles took the Scottish oath and put the Scottish Crown on his head, he would have to declare null and void all claims made by the English Crown on Scottish territory, including North Sea oil and gas, property of those who die intestate, and would nullify the new freeports which allow the plundering of resources. 

            No power in Scotland can be placed above the people. So this week’s ceremony conferred nothing on Charles.

Will Orkney Secede?

            Orkney councillors voted this week by 15 to 6 to explore changing the islands’ status within the UK or even becoming a self-governing territory within Norway.  Council officers will now publish a report on options including Orkney’s Nordic connections and the governance of Jersey and Guernsey.  A consultative group on constitutional reform is also to be revived.

            Islanders say they do not get a fair funding deal within the UK, and are looking at the relationship which the Falklands and the Channel Islands have with the UK.  Or they could become a self-governing territory of the UK, as the Faroes are in Denmark.  And Orkney was under Norwegian and Danish control before 1472, when it became part of Scotland.

            Orkney feels aggrieved on a number of fronts.  Their ferries are in need of replacement and are even older than the CalMac fleet.  Orkney does not get the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) for ferry fares, and receives less funding per capita from the Scottish government than Shetland or the Western Isles. They first considered their status in 2017, when councillors voted to retain the status quo. 

            The UK government has dismissed any talk of a special status for Orkney, saying there was ‘no mechanism for the conferral of crown dependency or overseas territory status on any part of the UK’ and that ‘we are stronger as one United Kingdom’, although they did not clarify how other parts of the UK can and do have different status.

Scots ‘‘Coronation’’

            Scotland will pay for this week’s coronation event, including the £22,000 bill for the brand-new Elizabeth Sword.  Wednesday 5th July saw a fairly muted event in Edinburgh to mark Charles’ accession (to the English throne), including a procession along the Royal Mile, a 21-gun salute and a fly-past by the Red Arrows. 

            This follows last year’s £19 million spend on events surrounding Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, money later repaid by the Treasury.  The bill for the coronation of King Charles may amount to £100 million.

            The total Sovereign Grant in 2022/23 was £86.3 million (£51.8 m for core funding and an extra £34.5 million for re-servicing Buckingham Palace).  On the day itself, there were not an overwhelming number of royalists present, and they were countered by republicans who could be heard shouting ‘Not My King’ during the hour-long service where Charles was presented with the Honours of Scotland.

Royal Exemptions

            The late Queen managed to negotiate exemptions with Holyrood from the provisions of 67 bills on matters like property taxation, protections from tenants, and climate and planning laws.  The monarchy is also exempt from Freedom of Information requests.  A recent petition from Our Republic to get Holyrood to try to renegotiate this did not get past the Petitions Committee, who accepted the Scottish government’s response that they could not remove Crown Consent, and that correspondence with the royal family is ‘confidential and must be respected’.   

Rich and Poor

            In order to help their citizens, many countries including Belgium, Cyprus, France, Malta, Slovenia and Spain use wage indexation systems to keep wages aligned with price rises.  Index-linking in Luxembourg covers almost all employees.  Not so here.

            The UK’s cost of living crisis is heightened by the extreme cost of childcare. Although the Scottish government provides a number of free hours a week, compare this with Estonia, where the weekly cost of childcare for 2 pre-schoolers is just £15. A quarter of Scottish children live in poverty, and Scotland gets little benefit from its abundant energy resources, which are delivered free to the south as fast as possible.

Scots Rich List

            Contrast this with the Rich List announced at the end of May.  Top of the Scottish list is still Danish businessman Anders Holch Poulsen whose wealth of £8.5bn is up £2 bn from last year, and he is still Scotland’s biggest landowner.  By comparison, King Charles is worth a mere £1.8 bn, and gets to pay tax voluntarily.  Don’t excesses of wealth also lead to the excesses of poverty we see in the UK?

Fewer Affordable Homes

            There has been a 42% fall in affordable housing starts over the last three years, with housing approvals down 50%.  The Scottish government pays cash directly to housing contractors to build homes for social rent, and the presence of affordable housing is often a condition of getting planning permission from councils, but crucially, developers can avoid actually building any by paying the local authority the equivalent value in money.  What they then do with the money is unclear.

Cosla ‘Agreement’ Reached

            A new deal has been agreed to reset the relationship between Scottish central and local government.  The new Verity House Agreement has a default position of ‘no ring-fencing of funds’ unless there is a clear joint understanding for a rationale for directed funding, to allow local government greater flexibility of action.  The three main priorities are to be tackling poverty, achieving net zero and sustainable public services. The deal will be reviewed regularly, but those affected are concerned that essential services may soon be under threat.


            Testing has begun on Westray in Orkney for a gene variant linked to a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, after it was discovered that 1% of those with grandparents from Orkney have the gene mutation BRCA1.  The trial is being offered to anyone living in Westray with a Westray-born grandparent. 

Cladding at QUEH

            Investigations are ongoing into potentially dangerous cladding used on the new Glasgow super-hospital.  Following the Grenfell disaster, some K15 insulation was removed where it was used with Alucobond aluminium composite material (ACM) panels, although the Alucobond panels were not implicated at Grenfell.

            Retired architect Robert Menzies who was involved in the QUEH designs remains concerned as to whether the building is fire-safety compliant, and whether it is legal to use the materials over 18 metres height, but he has so far failed to see the hospital’s fire safety strategy as submitted to building control.


            The cost of completing the Glen Sannox has risen once more to an estimated £114m, plus a £4m contingency, and includes an extra £20 million to remedy newly discovered problems.  Completion may slip beyond December 2023 to spring 2024, and the second vessel has now slipped to November or even December 2024.  Serious questions remain as to whether they will ever be delivered.

Care Workers to be Criminalised?

            The new National Care Service Bill is attempting to include a clause to impose criminal sanctions over staff failure to share sensitive patient information and the handling of complaints.  The bill would mandate sharing information but would also create civil or criminal sanctions for those who fail to comply.  Complaint handling also carries the same possible civil and criminal sanctions.           

            The Common Weal pointed out that, while information sharing is desirable, it may be compromised by differing IT systems throughout Scotland which do not communicate with each other, which may make it difficult to comply with the new legislation.   

Pottermania Out of Hand

            Glenfinnan, home to 150 residents, was visited by 500,000 people in 2019 and visitor numbers are up 10% on that already.  People park their cars anywhere and put themselves in danger to get a glimpse of the train, and the visitor centre is too small for the numbers visiting, particularly as it is the only place with public toilets.

            A second car park was built with Scottish government funding in 2019, but there are calls for a new parliamentary review into the West Highland Line.  Coordinated action is difficult though, due to the number of stakeholders. The steam train itself is run by West Coast Railways, the actual line and viaduct are owned by Network Rail and Glenfinnan Estate owns the land around the bridge. VisitScotland, Scotrail, Highland Council, Police Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland would also have to be involved.

The Scottish Sentencing Council

            recommends considering ‘robust’ alternatives to custody, such as longer tagging periods and more community service, more use of suspended sentences and even hybrid prison/community service sentences, which won’t please those who already think Scottish justice ‘soft’.

Police Drones (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems – RPAS)

            Police Scotland has bought 6 state-of-the-art drones costing £170,000 to be based at Aberdeen, Glasgow and Inverness.  This follows £60,000 spent on drones which do not work in the rain.  They have been used for football-related incidents, collecting aerial imagery for evidence, and fire investigations.  The force is at pains to point out that the drones are not capable of facial recognition and that they are not used covertly.


          Commiserations to the Scotland Cricket team who missed out on  World Cup qualification by the narrowest of margins.  Scotland and the Netherlands had both lost twice, and after beating three Test Teams in West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe, all looked set fair for Scotland in the deciding match on Thursday until they missed out on the last tournament spot on net run rate to the Netherlands.

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