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June 1st – June 7th, 2024

June 1st – June 7th, 2024

Scotland a Cash Desert?  Want a New MSP? but first …..

Remembering the Chinook Disaster

            Relatives are calling for prosecutors to investigate the causes of the RAF Chinook helicopter crash on the Mull of Kintyre peninsula 30 years ago which claimed 29 lives including several senior Northern Ireland intelligence experts, and senior Royal Ulster Constabulary, MI5 and Army personnel.  The initial report findings were ‘pilot error’, but claims have persisted that the helicopter was ‘not airworthy’.  This information was possibly not brought at the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) which followed the disaster.  The pilots were eventually cleared in 2011, but no definitive cause was established, although it appears Chinooks had had a poor reputation among air personnel over some time.

            The local community, church and Royal British Legion recently held a commemoration at the crash site, but the Ministry of Defence did not organise any commemorative event.

Galloway and D-Day

           The village of Garlieston in Dumfries and Galloway proudly describes itself as ‘the birthplace of the Mulberry Harbour 1943’, with the village being the location where the pier head and floating roadways used in the D-Day landings were developed to enable the Allies to build their own portable harbours.  This work extended to nearby Rigg Bay and Cairn Head with the area chosen because it was out of the way and conditions mirrored the French coast in tidal range and beach conditions.

           The floating harbours were taken across to France in the days following D-Day to maintain supply lines for the disembarking troops and help evacuate the wounded.  Over 10 months more than 2 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tonnes of supplies were landed.

           Garlieston celebrated its part in the Allied victory with an exhibition in the village hall this week, culminating in a parade on 6th June.

Will Scotland become a Cash Desert?

            In the drive to internet banking and phone apps, banks often forget that there are those in society who rely on cash.  Not only is there a dwindling number of cash machines of any sort, many charge a fee for taking out your own money.  This affects not just those who prefer cash, but also those who have difficulty running a budget, possibly due to special needs, and those whose very limited incomes do not allow mistakes and overspends.

            Those at risk of financial exclusion include those particularly living in poverty, with poor health, disabilities or caring responsibilities.  Card transaction costs can be high for shops too, with the proportion of spend in stores being 70% card to 30% cash.  At the moment the post office gives fee-free cash, but even post offices are now under threat.

Using Dormant Assets to help those excluded

            The Financial Inclusion for Scotland (FIFS) group comprises policymakers and professionals from the private, charity and not-for-profit sectors working for everyone to have fair access to cash and local bank branches, and is calling on the Scottish government to allocate ‘dormant assets’ to help make Scotland financially inclusive.  This involves directing money from abandoned accounts no longer used by customers, and is already used to fund youth projects.   The FIFS point out that financial exclusion costs the poor most, pointing out that if government had passed a law saying the poor must pay more for services, there would be outrage, but that is what is happening in fact.  FIFS also want a £20 million fund to increase the number of community lenders and expand the availability of affordable credit.  

            The Dormant Assets Act 2022 will expand the existing scheme to include not just bank and building society accounts but also assets in the insurance, pensions, investment, wealth management and securities sectors, which should increase funding, but it is unclear exactly when this will come onstream.

Is John Swinney a Swiftie?

            In preparation for the arrival of Taylor Swift in Scotland, Loch Tay in Swinney’s Perthshire constituency has been renamed Loch Tay Tay (yeah, I know).  John Swinney really hopes she will get to visit the loch, but it isn’t clear exactly why it was renamed for her when her concert is nowhere near there.  Perhaps she could have a word with her compatriots at Discovery Land Company (Taymouth Castle development) and tell them to back off.  They aren’t so far listening to Swinney or Pete Wishart.

Want to Ditch your MSP?

            Conservative MSP Graham Simpson will later this month publish his Removal from Office and Recall (Members of the Scottish Parliament) Bill to be examined by MSPs on the Standards Committee at Holyrood in the autumn and he hopes it may pass next year.

            This is in response to the scandal over MSP Michael Matheson’s i-pad bill and the realisation that Scotland has no comparable power to the UK parliament’s recall petition which goes to constituents if an MP is barred from Westminster for 10 days or more.  If more than 10% of registered voters in the constituency then sign the petition, a by-election is held with the recalled MP allowed to stand.

            The ISP has, from our inception in 2020, advocated for reform in Scotland to allow the recall of MSPs by their constituents.  

 SPS Misgendering

            In Scotland prisoners and staff who misgender trans inmates will face disciplinary action, unlike in England where the Ministry of Justice has just clarified that ‘gender critical speech’ is not a disciplinary matter.  Former Cornton Vale governor Rhona Hotchkiss said that, as it is not a crime in wider Scottish society or in England’s society or jails, it should not be treated as a crime inside Scotland’s prisons.

            Language matters.  Weaponised against women, it was used to blunt our responses and blur the lines on women’s spaces, and few women are more vulnerable than those trapped in jail with men who insist they are really women. 

£305 million for Homeless Accommodation

            This was the amount spent by Glasgow City Council over 5½ years on temporary accommodation for the homeless, an amount that would otherwise have provided 1500 settled affordable homes, about half the number required for those homeless, meaning that the homelessness problem could theoretically be solved in two years although of course building more houses is more complicated than it perhaps should be, particularly given the price of land and planning regulations regarding the environment.

            The cost to Glasgow averages over £6.6 MILLION PER MONTH, up 60% per month over the pre-pandemic figures.

Scotland ditches Recycling targets

            After repeatedly failing to meet its 2020 recycling target of 60% household waste being recycled, the new strategy document from January 2024 does not include a specific target.  The most reached since 2016 was 46% annual recycling, and the figures for 2023 will be published in October.

            New Circular Economy Minister Gillian Martin says the government’s Circular Economy Bill will establish the framework to give ministers power to introduce statutory targets, although there seems little point if they keep being missed or are just unattainable.

Scotland may have to return EU funding

            Some estimates say that Scotland will be handing back 28% of the European structural and investment funding it has received over the last six years, having so far failed to allocate it.  This compares to Wales possibly returning 9%, Northern Ireland 2% and England 6%.  The programme to boost employment, education, training and social inclusion among other things closes this month.

            But John Swinney disputes this, saying ‘almost all’ of the cash will be spent in the next 12-18 months.  The Sunday Times reported that Scotland has already returned 199 million euros, with another 331 million euros possibly threatened.

            Scotland has an unfortunate history with this funding, having been suspended from applying on five occasions, including queries about ‘irregularities’ over eligibility of spending.

Loch Lomond’s Flamingo Land

            A second consultation has just finished on plans for a £40 million tourist development at Loch Lomond, where plans are still afloat for a second Flamingo Land (the other one is in Yorkshire), despite many feeling it is not in keeping with the area.  The development would contain a waterpark, monorail, budget hotel, 104 self-catering lodges, a spa, restaurant, cafe and brewery, plus play and barbecue areas, but objections currently stand at 90,000. Community council chair Lynne Somerville says a ‘living hell’ will result for Balloch in Dunbartonshire, and many wonder what Loch Lomond’s designation as a national park means if not to ward off what many local people think of as totally unsuitable development.  Its national park is the one to rule on the application.

            The National Trust for Scotland objected to the loss of native woodland, Ramblers Scotland said the location was unsuitable next to the entrance to a national park, and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) said much of the site is a flood plain.  West Dunbartonshire councillors did not vote for or against the plans and were accused of cowardice.   The only body which can now stop it is Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park (LLTNP). 

          Of the other areas currently vying for National Park status, all but Loch Awe in Argyll have lodged strenuous objections, and not just from individuals.

What’s the point of National Parks anyway?

          Critics claim the existing Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park (LLTNP) and Cairngorms National Park do more harm than good to their areas, with the Scottish government accused of squandering the £1.1 million it spent on upgrading LLTNP headquarters in Balloch to be more climate friendly, despite it being build in 2008 to the highest climate standards.

          The development may bring 200 full- and part-time jobs, but many accuse the LLTNP and Cairngorms Park of putting commercial interests before local people.  If the wishes of local people can be overruled, and all people see are bodies getting a lot of public cash for little discernible reason, why bother with National Parks?  And this is especially true if commercial interests overrule the environment.  Wasn’t environmental protection the main reason for National Parks?

Finally,

            The best place to pass your driving test in the UK is Arbroath at 73%, according to the Department for Transport (DfT) and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), making it top of 380 UK test centres, closely followed by Forfar (72%) and Montrose (70%).  According to online motor dealers Cinch, Arbroath recorded a 91% pass rate in September 2023.  Other Scottish locations like Ballater, Benbecula, Duns, Skye and Mallaig also had 100% success rates for several months.

           It is unclear why.  Are the roads easier to navigate?  Are there fewer hazards?  Is it smaller numbers leading to a higher percentage?

            Or are Angus residents just better drivers?

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