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June 15th – June 21st, 2024

June 15th – June 21st, 2024

Scotland’s Fans a Big Hit; University Funding Woes; and first …..

Woman=Adult Human Female

            This week the Scottish parliament finally came to its senses and voted in favour of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Amendment)(Scotland) Bill by a massive       

108 FOR, 0 AGAINST

thus removing the ability of trans-identified males to sit as the female cohort on public boards. 

           When you cast your vote in 2 weeks’ time, never forget that the SNP/Scottish Greens fought tooth and nail for men’s ‘right’ to be treated as women on their own say-so, with or without a gender recognition certificate.  They then ploughed on regardless attempting to impose gender self-ID on Scotland.   

           For Women Scotland say they hope it will ‘ensure that Scottish ministers will never again be so foolish as to attempt to overwrite the Equality Act to the detriment of women’ [my italics].

Will we end up Outsourcing All Education?

            Despite claims that it may be unlawful, East Ayrshire Council are proposing to move music tuition, youth work and sport to an external trust, involving £18 million worth of cuts.  Funding is provided to councils by the Scottish government for free instrumental tuition to be available in schools, but the amount paid is often too small, forcing local authorities to subsidise the service out of ordinary funds.

            According to some campaigners, four local authorities are ‘wilfully ignoring’ guidelines for provision, possibly because of a huge increase in demand nationwide, which has led to long waiting lists. According to the Instrumental Music Services (IMS) survey 2022/23, only five local authorities could meet all the demand in their area from the money they get from central government.

Equal Pay Claims Still Not Settled

            Despite Glasgow City Council having sold or remortgaged some of the city’s assets (leasing them back from the purchasers) three women are having to take the council to a tribunal to settle their claims.

            They say the council have not been transparent with them about why almost 7% of every claim settled was handed over to legal claims firm Action4Equality even when it had not represented the claimant and trade union members should have been represented free.  They are also unhappy about seemingly arbitrary calculations of how much different claimants are to receive for similar claims.  In 2018, one woman was offered £40,000 for 12 years’ worth of equal pay, then £20,000 in 2023 for 23 years of equal pay claims.

What to do about University Funding

            Free university tuition for Scottish-resident students is a cornerstone of the Scottish government, but is under threat from a drastic cut in international students following restrictive immigration rules set by the UK government and year on year cuts by the Scottish government.  Forty percent of last year’s fee income came from international students, and almost half of 19 educational institutions are expected to be in deficit by 2023-24.  Up to a decade ago, the fees paid for each student by the Scottish government were in line with the cost of teaching them, but then the fees stalled and the costs rose. 

           The gap is now £2020 a year in funding for Scottish residents, leading to a cash crisis at a number of Scottish universities.  Aberdeen University threatened to cut language degrees last year, and is at significant ongoing financial risk.  Staff have had to take a 17% real-terms cut in pay.

            Calls to introduce some sort of cost transfer to Scottish-resident students are again on the table.  These include taxing the wealthier more; a graduate endowment; an employers’ levy; making universities use their reserves; and capping high pay for senior managers.  But other suggestions like reforming immigration and making local authority housing more affordable are not do-able. Immigration is reserved and local authorities cannot house their own residents, never mind prioritise students.

No New Cash for Housing

            Despite the recently declared housing emergencies in a growing number of council areas, the Scottish government has not found any money for housing to replace the money cut from the housing budget.  Eight councils have now declared an emergency – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Argyll and Bute, Fife, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian, Scottish Borders and now South Lanarkshire.

            It is now believed the Scottish government’s aim of building 110,000 social and affordable homes by 2032 is unattainable, being missed by 261 new homes a month (633 affordable homes being built monthly, but 894 needed to meet the target). The UK’s Spring Budget contained no new money for Capital Funding.  The block grant for capital spending on projects like housing is now expected to reduce in real terms by 8.7% by 2027-28, a cumulative loss of over £1.3 billion, leaving the Scottish government with only £80 million available.

Rural ‘Not Spots’

            Perth and Kinross Council’s recent refusal of permission for Vodaphone to erect a phone mast on a remote area of land northwest of Loch Rannoch has led to the fear that if Vodaphone goes on to win its appeal, there may soon be many more masts in scenic areas.  It centres around UK funding of £500 million to provide telecomms connection for areas which are ‘Total Not Spots’ with absolutely no coverage.

            Campaigners say it would be more useful to build masts in populated areas which have poor coverage.  Each mast costs about £1 million.  Rannoch is in a Wild Land Area, which campaigners say ironically makes it more difficult to refuse an appeal.

            The North East Mountain Trust has objected to 46 proposed ‘Not Spot’ sites, including one approved on the edge of Glen Clova which is a mile from another mast recently approved by Angus Council, which does not seem to follow the guidance of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), which says publicly funded masts should be shared by all four mobile network operators.

Police Scotland

            paid out £2.5 million between January 2021 and May 2024 to 27 police officers who first had to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to get their settlement paid against …. the police; plus seven payments to civilian employees.  The highest amount paid out to any one member was £75,000, with the average around £25,000.  The NDAs prevent the divulging of information about their employment or employers to third parties or outside bodies or organisations and usually form part of a compensation or severance package.

Female Victims Stalked from Prison

            Courts have the option of putting in place a non-harassment order against a perpetrator of rape, abuse or stalking, but often it is not done.  The Scottish government says it is a matter for the court, requiring a request by the victim, but experts say the default should be to grant a non-harassment order following any conviction for domestic abuse, violence or sexual offences.

            In some cases, victims have received unwanted gifts and letters from perpetrators in prison, with some even forced to flee their home on the perpetrator’s release because they just resume their harassing behaviour. 

‘Big Cats

            Are they roaming wild in Scotland and if so, what are they? Sightings include a black creature near the appropriately-named Blackdog in Aberdeenshire; a Lanarkshire ‘puma’; a ‘big cat’ in Perthshire; and a cat the size of a labrador near Brydekirk, Dumfries-shire.   

            One animal in Cumbria was identified from swabs as having ‘panthera genus’ DNA, that is, of the lion, leopard, tiger, jaguar or snow leopard family, which experts think is genuine.

            The Scottish Big Cat Research Team has identified 1500 credible sightings throughout Scotland, as well as lynx sightings in deeply-forested areas.  The sightings became more profuse following the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, which outlawed the keeping of anything other than domestic pets in the home.  Some people did not want to surrender their pets to official bodies, and instead just released them into the wild.

What is Killing Scotland’s Seals?

            It is thought that blooms of toxic algae may be responsible for killing harbour seals, which have been disappearing over the past 3 decades from the Firth of Tay (93% down since 2002) and Orkney (down 76%) as well as the Firth of Forth and Moray Firth.  Scientists now think the seals are eating fish carrying poisons from algal blooms, causing them to ingest brain-rotting acid.  The risk also threatens wild swimmers and pet dogs.  Other hotspots have included California and Florida in recent years.

            Nitrate pollution is believed to be linked to the incidence of algal bloom, from such things as agricultural run-off of fertilisers and sewage spills.

Dundee’s Eden Project Gets the Go-ahead

            Approval has been given to the Eden Project in Dundee, centring on the city’s East Dock Street, with three venues which it is hoped will generate hundreds of jobs, thousands of visitors and ‘tens of millions of pounds’ for the local economy, according to Dundee City Council leader John Alexander.

            The project will involve the city council, Northwood Charitable Trust and the University of Dundee.  The Valve site will have multi-use spaces, kitchen facilities and cafes, and a retail area.  The Lush Bunker will host exhibitions and a planted environment, and a third as yet unnamed site will showcase gallery space, installations, exhibits, artwork and interactive areas.

Land Reform Is Stalling

            Thirty-five organisations and experts have written to Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Secretary Mairi Gougeon, calling for tighter control of land ownership, prioritisation of public views on what should change and more stringent penalties for non-compliance, as well as greater transparency over land ownership transfers and urban areas.  They are particularly unhappy about the current Land Reform Bill at Holyrood conflating land ownership with land management, and say the current bill does not address the scale and concentration of land ownership or really incentivise better land management.

Finally

            Scotland’s Euro 2024 results may have been a bit mixed so far, but the Tartan Army seem to have found new friends in Munich and Cologne.  Saying that Scotland fans would always be welcome there, local club FC Koln posted a video which went viral of two Scotland fans helping an elderly German lady across the city square, holding an umbrella over her to protect her from the rain. 

            Social media comments described the Scots fans as both ‘a little loud and crazy’ and ‘pleasant and considerate’.

            Now on to the final group match versus Hungary on Sunday in Stuttgart….

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