17/06/23 – 23/06/23
SNP Blocked Move for Ferry Compensation
You wouldn’t think Scottish Labour would be the saviours of the islanders, would you, but they tried. Michael Marra proposed a ‘resilience fund’ for islanders adversely affected by ferry disruption, which would have seen the £12 million CalMac fines so far paid instead into a compensation fund for islanders.
But it was never actually considered by MSPs due to an intervention to scuppered it from of all people the SNP’s new Transport Secretary Mairi McAllan, who amended it to remove any mention of a resilience fund, saying the CalMac fines should instead be used to improve the resilience of the existing fleet. Part of the fines raised so far was spent to charter MV Alfred from Pentland Ferries for £9 million, but the government could not say how much was spent on this or how much has gone on other projects.
What is worse is that the McAllan amendment was supported by 64 MSPs – all SNP and Green. Four of those MSPs cover west of Scotland islands badly hit by disruption – Alasdair Allan (Western Isles), Jenny Minto (Argyll and Bute), Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) and Emma Roddick (Highlands and Islands Region), as well as Green list MSP Ariane Burgess.
A New Western Isles Political Party?
Islanders are so incensed that a new Western Isles Party is planned to launch in the next two weeks. The party would work cross-party on local issues including social housing, highly protected marine areas and maximising offshore wind benefits, but has not taken a stance on Scottish independence. It will cover the Western Isles from the Butt of Lewis to Barra.
Its advent may threaten the SNP’s Angus MacNeil, who has served the area as MP since 2005, and more so MSP Alasdair Allan. Ironically, people appear to feel as alienated by the SNP as the SNP has by Westminster.
The Inner Hebrides
is also facing SNP disillusionment, with radical change imperative, according to Mull and Iona Ferry committee chairman, Joe Reade, who says islanders feel they do not matter, particularly with the turnover of Transport Ministers.
are outraged at King Charles bestowing Scotland’s highest honour on wife Camilla, who joins the Order of the Thistle which recognises ‘Scottish men and women who have held public office or who have contributed in a particular way to national life’. But she isn’t Scottish, and has she contributed to Scotland’s national life? Other recipients are Prince William and Princess Anne, with all recipients gifted entirely at the whim of the King.
Scotland will be hosting its very own Caledonian Coronation in July, where the Honours of Scotland will be bestowed on King Charles of England after being escorted from Edinburgh Castle to St Giles’ Cathedral by a People’s Procession of 100 representatives from across Scotland. The Honours of crown, sceptre and sword of state are graciously allowed to reside at the Royal Palace at Edinburgh Castle.
Did the Supreme Court get it wrong?
Yes, according to Professor Robert McCorquodale, who says Lord Reed was wrong to say Scotland’s right to self-determination must be according to the United Nations founding charter. The court said Scotland was not a colony as it had access to political representation.
He outlines two alternate routes, the first an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), but it would need a majority vote to refer the question to the ICJ, as well as a ‘state’ to put the case on behalf of the people of Scotland.
The other route is a unilateral declaration of independence if it can be shown a majority of Scots are for it, but this would have to be via a convention of elected and other representation, not through Holyrood, as the Scottish Parliament sits within UK domestic law.
Trees felled to build …. cycle lanes
Over a third of Scotland’s councils have removed more than 800 trees or cleared additional woodland in the past 3 years to build cycle lanes to meet SNP/Green climate targets. Cycling is in the top 3 strategies for the Scottish government’s active travel campaign. Edinburgh felled 458 trees at Roseburn to Union Canal active travel route and 11 at Davidson’s Mains path improvement project, but there are plans to plant semi-mature and native trees at the two locations! In Whitburn, West Lothian, a massive 3000 square yards of woodland was cleared to build cycle routes next to roads.
Transport Scotland said local authorities are responsible for active travel infrastructure and projects must conduct ‘ecological assessments and follow…. planning regulations, including …. compensatory planting’!
Scotland is the most attractive
UK destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) outside London, securing a record 126 inward investment projects and 13.6% of UK FDI projects. It was the most attractive place in the UK to invest among 11% of investors, with 19.2% of investors planning to set up or expand Scottish operations.
After the drinks industry pulled its voluntary funding out of Circularity Scotland (CSL), the firm had no choice but to file for administration, citing political uncertainty. They hoped for ‘hibernation’ funding to keep the body going until October 2025, but this was not agreed, and staff were sent home immediately and may not be paid for this month. Over 60 staff will lose their jobs, but Slater has ruled out compensation for any of those affected or the firms who had invested money in the scheme.
Circularity Scotland was in receipt of £9 million investment from the Scottish National Investment Bank, which is now lost. It is unclear when an exemption from the Internal Markets Act was sought by Ms Slater, who narrowly survived a no-confidence motion at Holyrood by 68 votes to 55, and the SNP’s Fergus Ewing may now lose the whip for voting against her.
Denmark is insisting on a 20% share in new renewable energy developments in their country. Scotland has no such share in its renewable industry, but China, Abu Dhabi, Ireland, France, Sweden and Norway do have a stake in Scotland’s energy.
And Scots consumers have to pay sky-high energy bills based on the international price of the highest energy source, gas, thanks to the international system we are tied into by the UK government.
Electric Vehicles on Ferries
There are fears that electric vehicles on ferries are a growing fire risk, as they can spontaneously explode. In Norway ferry operator Havila Kystruten banned all electric, hybrid and hydrogen cars from its ships after a risk assessment. An electric vehicle fire caused a 13-day blaze on the Felicity Ace, a RORO cargo ship sunk off Portugal’s Azores islands in March 2022.
Saltwater cannot be used to tackle a lithium-ion battery fire as the hydrogen generated could cause an explosion. Staff seem to have little specific training in EV lithium-ion batteries, which burn more ferociously, are difficult to extinguish and can spontaneously reignite. Three hundred fire-related incidents have led to 40 fatalities in the last 20 years.
The Scottish government is working on amendments to allow the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to be incorporated into Scots law. It is now two years since Holyrood first tried to incorporate it but was ruled to be impinging on Westminster’s sovereignty.
Scottish Justice is on the Ropes despite the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) getting an increase of £13 million resource budget and £3 million increase in capital funding, but say it is not enough, with the service now at a ‘red level 16 current risk score’ affecting its statutory and policy obligations. Overwork leading to human error may mean cases are not called in time, victims may wait longer for justice or not get it, and IT problems will impact cyber security. Police Scotland solved fewer than half its total cases last year, with 80% of crimes remaining unsolved. This is due to lack of funding, but also deploying police officers to jobs which were traditionally civilian only, further depleting the front line.
A Ferry Protest
is to be taken by islanders to Glasgow on Saturday, 24th June, regarding ongoing problems including the ‘route prioritisation matrix’ CalMac uses to minimise disruption, which South Uist residents say has left them high and dry. Users are also outraged by proposed price hikes in October. The ferry feasibility study which decided whether to continue with the overdue ferries itself cost £602,000, and paved the way for a further £72 million to be paid to Ferguson Marine this financial year. Support to Ferguson Marine now totals over £450 million. Over £130 million of taxpayer money paid to Ferguson Marine in several tranches prior to the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st, 2021, may be classed as ‘illegal state aid’. Member states were supposed to notify the European Commission about possible state aid moves, which is not believed to have happened. The Commission is now investigating.
Scots Women Misled about Mesh
Women were significantly in the dark about the risk of mesh implants and were sometimes under the impression that they had been completely removed when part of them were left in place. Risks and complications were not properly explained, and even when seeking their medical records to check, some found the records heavily redacted, which all makes it even more unfortunate that the Women’s Health Champion is not taking up the cause.
Bowel Cancer Breakthrough
Scots scientists at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, in collaboration with Glasgow University, have made a major breakthrough in solving why the body’s immune system ignores the cancer rather than fighting it. They say bowel cancer effectively ‘blinds’ the immune system, making it unable to see the cancerous cells, allowing them instead to grow and multiply. It is hoped this research may help reduce the almost 17,000 bowel cancer deaths annually in the UK, with 4000 annual diagnoses in Scotland.
Scotland’s Costliest Rail Journey
If you have £72,000 to spare per person, you can book a trip on a super-luxury week-long Scottish rail tour. The hefty price tag attaches to the two Grand Suites on the Royal Scotsman. Passengers are allowed unlimited champagne served by a personal butler, and an a la carte menu served in the dining car, and the train has a Christian Dior spa for hot stone massages. Or if you can stand someone’s company for a week, you can go 2-for-1 for the £72K.
One itinerary from Edinburgh through the West Highlands and Cairngorms has optional excursions to Ballindalloch Castle, the Royal Yacht Britannia, and a tour of Mount Stuart House on Bute.