An end to HPMA’s, while Scotland has huge Tidal Energy capacity. We discuss fracking and Freeports and hear the latest suggestion to ease ferry woes.
ToW 24/06/23 – 30/06/23
In another U-turn, the SNP have ditched their current plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas which would have meant no marine activity at all in 10% of Scotland’s tidal waters. This would have banned all fishing, swimming and sports despite no evidence this would have any effect other than destroying fragile coastal communities. Mairi McAllan, the minister responsible, realised that communities could not be meaningfully involved in the way forward by the proposed implementation date of 2026.
It seems the prospect of an SNP revolt has focussed her mind meantime, but she remains committed to the imposition of new restrictions.
Scotland is well placed to lead the development of tidal stream energy, according to a new report by London School of Economics, with all of the UK’s installed capacity of 10.1 MW of tidal stream energy in Scotland, in four projects in the far north, with Scotland having more of the installed capacity than the rest of the world combined. And Scotland and Wales are the sites of the UK’s current 40.8MW under development, with over 35% in Scotland and the remainder in Morlais, Wales. Scottish development is aided by the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon Universities, which both invest heavily in marine energy research.
Energy Help for Second Homeowners
A £200 one-off payment to help those who use alternative fuels to cope with the energy price crisis is feared to have been given to second homeowners or holiday homeowners who may not have been in financial difficulties. Over 500,000 properties in Scotland are off the gas grid and use alternative fuels like heating oil, tank or bottled gas, wood, solid fuel or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). The number of second homes and long-term empty properties has risen from nearly 48,000 in 2013 to nearly 52,000 in 2022.
The last Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS) in 2019 showed over 600,000 households to be in fuel poverty (25% of homes).
Around a quarter of the 2500 women under 60 who survive heart attacks in Scotland every year will have suffered a SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection), caused by tears inside the coronary artery which allow blood clots to form, blocking the heart. But cardiac services remain geared towards middle aged men, says Lis Neubeck, a Professor of Cardiovascular Health at Edinburgh Napier University.
SCAD strikes without warning and up to 95% of SCAD cases are in women, they hit mostly women aged 45 to 53, may strike during or soon after pregnancy, and are sometimes fatal. Most victims have none of the usual risk factors like high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. Professor Neubeck, who heads the new Centre for Cardiovascular Health Research at Napier, says women tend to be told they are being ‘over-anxious’.
Generally, women are more likely to survive a heart episode if accompanied to hospital by a man! They are 34% less likely to get an angiogram within 72 hours, and more likely to be misdiagnosed or even downplay their own symptoms, which are less likely to follow the typical male pattern of chest pain. Pain between the shoulder blades, dizziness, nausea or even fatigue are often overlooked, and if treatment is delayed, women are 70% more likely to die of a heart episode.
Help for Permanent Park Residents
Static caravan and lodge owners have called for better protection from rent hikes, eviction threats and unfair contract terms which they claim make it impossible to sell and move without incurring huge penalties. Elsewhere in the UK owners say park operators are blocking sales by offering less than the market value, or taking up to 20% commission on the sale. Some new operators who have moved in, including some registered in tax havens, with some permanent residents facing eviction even though it is their only home.
Carole Keeble of the Holiday Park Action Group, a facebook group with over 40,000 members, and the Caravan Owners Advisory Team, says many of Scotland’s holiday parks are owned by offshore firms, and disinterest from regulators has allowed consumer rights to be breached routinely, including denying security of tenure.
The UK government responded to a petition reaching 12,3999 signatures by refusing to launch a public enquiry into alleged unfair practices at holiday parks. Consumer law and trading standards are meant to protect people, with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) responsible. They in turn say complaints should go via local authority trading standards departments and Advice Direct Scotland.
Parkdean, Away Resorts and Haven are owned by other entities, and much of the concern around practices seems to centre on unexpected changes to conditions leading to rising costs, declining services and which residents fear may make it impossible to afford to stay or leave them homeless.
The Scottish government has delayed publishing its Agriculture Bill until after the summer recess, instead prioritising a debate on the constitution for its last days this year. This despite the fears of many in the agriculture sector as to just what help, if any, they will get from government after 2024, and fears from NFU (Scotland) that the green agenda has become a threat to biodiversity.
Scottish ministers have had to amend their plans to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law. The new version will only apply to acts of the Scottish parliament, not to services delivered under UK-wide legislation, as there are fears of another legal challenge if it was seen to impinge on UK legislation.
The Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) is calling for intervention to solve the lack of working visas after a survey found over half of its firms are in ‘survival mode’ or at best ‘consolidation’, with only 1% feeling strong enough to expand, 16% with no cash reserves left, and 34% having only 1-3 months’ reserves. Almost 50% of businesses felt the sector should get business rates relief, the same proportion as are opposed to a transient visitor levy, with nearly 60% opposing any further new regulations.
Two new Scottish Investment Zones have been announced for Aberdeen and Glasgow, each to benefit by up to £80 million in investment in a scheme including ‘tax relief to drive economic growth’. The zones will centre around research institutions and drive technology and the green sector. It is not clear whether they will be subject to mandatory green/social justice criteria or whether these will be a ‘wish list’ as they are with ‘green ports’.
Fracking and Freeports
According to The Ferret, the Scottish government held private meetings in 2017 with fracking firm Ineos and their Grangemouth partners, PetroChina, about fracking and other unconventional gas extraction technologies.
The Scottish government consultation on fracking received 60,000 responses from the public, mostly opposing it. Little was revealed about the purpose of these meetings, and media scrutiny seems not to have been courted.
Despite its stated opposition to fracking, and a moratorium in place, the Scottish government then renewed Ineos’ licence to frack in the Central Belt for another year in 2019. Its position now seems to be that fracking is banned in Scotland. Except when it’s not.
The Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone was challenged by For Women Scotland (FWS) when she hosted an even allowing trans identified males to take part when it was meant to encourage more women into politics. It was argued trans attendees had prevented women from attending. Johnstone countered that the event was Equality Act-compliant, while FWS said a previous court ruling meant ‘woman’ referred to biological sex, not gender identity.
It is hard to disagree with FWS when you consider that trans people are not protected as women or as females under the Equality Act but are protected as a separate category.
Uncertainty continues around the Rapid Rehousing Transition (RRTP) which is due to end in April 2024. Its Housing First programme aims to first give applicants housing, then address other problems like addiction, a reversal of traditional programmes which demanded people get ‘clean’ first, and which prevented people getting homes. The Scottish government has paid over £50 million for the five-year programme since 2017, approximately one fifth of which will have been spent in Glasgow. The government is currently considering the recommendations of an expert group report.
The Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee thinks one way forward may be to merge CMAL and Transport Scotland in a new Ferries Scotland Agency, which would be an arm of Transport Scotland. The committee also favours a direct award to extend the current 8-year contract to 10 years for continuity of service.
But this is opposed by the South Uist Business Impact Group, as well as the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee. Arran Ferry Action Group says the problem is finding someone to replace CalMac.
Cats, Wolves or an Urban Myth?
Are there really pupils identifying as cats, wolves or foxes (‘Furries’) in school, or is it just an urban myth? Perhaps a bigger problem is that teaching staff now do not know what they will be forced to accommodate in the classroom. Following Rishi Sunak’s order for school authorities to crack down on this phenomenon in England, will Scottish teachers be punished for misgendering a cat? Would that mean they had neutered it?
What is harder to ignore is the ‘polyamory’ flag outside Alva Academy in Clackmannanshire, apparently endorsed by Clackmannanshire Council, where pupils are allegedly taught about polyamory as part of sex education. This invented flag has a blue band to represent the openness and honesty of everyone involved in these simultaneous relationships (aye, right), a red band to represent love (?) and passion, and a black band for solidarity with those who ‘must hide their polyamorous relationships’ (ah, victimhood never far away). The ‘pie’ sign in the middle of the flag signifies the ‘infinite options of partners available’.
Schools appear to be capitulating in the name of inclusivity to teaching behaviours many adults baulk at. Is it inclusive or is it going way too far on impressionable minds? You decide.
Who owns the Pitsligo Llama?
Efforts are underway to trace the owner of a llama seen wandering alone in a field behind a house in New Pitsligo. Despite the best efforts of the Scottish SPCA it has so far evaded capture, and none of the local residents seem to know who owns it. Llama are sociable creatures and can get distressed by being away from its herd, so efforts are continuing to reunite him with his owner.