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March 16th – March 22nd, 2024

March 16th – March 22nd, 2024

Prayer and Protest Banned (or not); will Scotland get back into the EU?  But first ….

The Police Scotland Hate Monster

          was the surprise Elmo-like bright orange choice to publicise the Hate Crime Act (HCA) legislation, unfortunately accompanying a police refusal to investigate up to 24,000 crimes like housebreakings, vandalisms and minor assaults which they do not think are worth it.

Concern exists that third-party reporting centres allow victims or witnesses to make an allegation or have an allegation made on their behalf.  Police Scotland has decided that young men aged 18-30 are most likely to commit hate crime, especially those who are poor but despite earlier rumours, police will not be targeting actors and comedians.

Gender-critical beliefs are protected under the GB-wide Equality Act and caselaw, but there is no tailored defence in the HCA for gender-critical views, and women are NOT protected as a sex class unless we also claim to be religious, atheist, disabled, old or young.

Belatedly, the police have binned the hate monster.  Let’s hope Scotland bins the Hate Crime Act equally fast.

for more on the Hate Crime Act, go to ISP Safe in Scotland on the ISP website, Facebook or X.

Pause the Hate Crime law

Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee is concerned that the two-hour police training probably isn’t enough to understand the legislation, and campaigners Murray Blackburn Mackenzie (MBM) are concerned that reporting will be based on a victim or other person’s ‘perception’, unlike England and Wales, which do not record anything ‘trivial, malicious or irrational’. 

MBM are calling for the law to be delayed, with a commencement order for this legislation only hurriedly put before Holyrood on 18th March this year.  They say the government would not engage with women over freedom of expression concerns during its passage, and were then told it was too late to make their views known. It is feared the law may be weaponised against gender-critical women.

To be a crime it must reach Scottish Crime Recording Standards, but non-crime hate incidents can be logged against your name without you having any intent to offend or even being notified.

Climate Change targets beyond the ‘credible’

The Climate Change Committee says Scotland’s aim to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 and by 100% by 2045 is now ‘beyond what is credible’, with no comprehensive delivery strategy.  Most key indicators are off track, particularly tree planting and peatland restoration, heat pump installation, electric van sales and recycling. 

With 6,000 domestic heat pumps installed in Scotland in 2023, the figure needs to rise to 80,000 per year by 2030 and new woodland must more than double to reach the target of 18,000 trees a year from 2024/25.  Peatland restoration is off target for the fifth consecutive year, with no progress in recycling rates over the last 10 years.

This echoes a stark warning from the Scottish Fiscal Commission (SFC) who say compliance would take an average £1.1bn a year (one fifth of the Scottish government capital budget, which is itself expected to fall 20% in real terms between 2023 and 2029). 

Big gaps exist in industry preparedness for retrofitting, with no regulator appointed, and fears of rogue traders if there are not enough regulated suppliers, plus the unquantified ongoing costs of checking compliance.  Businesses will first want to ensure a flow of customers before committing, implying homeowners will be forced to pay up given that only £1.8 bn of government money is earmarked for greening up homes, and the affordable housing budget is cut to nil.

Could this be the next big Green fail, following gender reform, the DRS and HPMAs?  Wouldn’t it be better to lengthen the deadline for retrofitting properties and instead use the £1.8 bn to build more houses at the new standards?

Forestry Emission Cuts

            will fall disproportionately on Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, with Scotland home to half of UK trees on one-third of the UK land mass, plus hosting 70% of UK peatland.  The current Scottish Government Climate Change Plan from 2020 contains insufficient future costing information, but this year amount to £4.7 bn in capital and resources for climate change.  Net Zero Minister Mairi McAllan admits the private sector and UK government will have to invest, but no word on whether they will.

The UK grid needs £60 billion upgrade

Green energy from Scotland could be transported via new infrastructure from Peterhead to Merseyside in a £60 billion plan to erect pylons north to south, says a report by the Electricity System Operator (ESO) and may support 20,000 new jobs, mostly outside London and the south-east.  The ESO will transfer to government ownership this year.

But huge lines of pylons are contentious.  Other forms of transmission such as underground cables are unlikely as they are disruptive, five times more expensive to construct and expensive to maintain.  Ditto for offshore cables which can be eight times more expensive over short distances and are disruptive to sensitive marine ecosystems.

Scotland will ban audible prayer

            near abortion clinics under legislation going before parliament, which may clash with their own new hate crime legislation. Audible praying, silent vigils and religious preaching outside abortion clinics will be banned, and although the government claims it does not affect freedom of expression, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland (BCS) called it an ‘affront to democratic values’.

The Scottish government admits the law will ‘impact … rights enshrined under the European Convention on Human Rights’ but says exceptions are allowed if proportionate (just the argument gender-critical women used to justify single-sex spaces under the Equality Act 2010, which the Scottish government summarily dismissed).

ScotGov also admits that such behaviour does ‘not obviously appear to cause a level of harm that should result in a criminal offence’, with the BCS saying existing law is adequate to deal with any serious offence occurring at pro-life vigils, and Police Scotland did not ask for further powers.

But will they also ban silent prayer?

Scottish campaigners want to go further and ban ‘silent prayer’, despite England outlawing this for fear of unlawful religious discrimination.  Not sure how anyone can see inside your head to know if you are praying silently, or what about, or how they can stop peaceful protest.

Politicians and Protest

Ross Greer was judged by many to be acting in a loud intimidatory manner recently at a protest outside Holyrood, and is being probed by the Ethical Standards Commissioner.  But SNP politicians Kaukab Stewart and Kirsten Oswald appear to have escaped censure for last year standing under a placard showing a guillotine saying ‘Decapitate Terfs’.

Why are politicians allowed to protest aggressively and loudly, but people of faith are not allowed to protest peacefully?

Putting Scotland First?

Humza does not appear keen on governing Scotland for all its people, if the latest SNP National Council is anything to go by.  He wants to ‘rid this country of Tory MPs once and for all’.  But there will likely be those in an independent Scotland who will continue to vote Tory and Labour, or will he ban both parties? 

He also claimed that only the SNP puts Scotland first, but not Grangemouth…. And the UK is perfectly willing to invest in Ineos, just not at Grangemouth.  It is providing £600 million as a guarantee for billionaire Jim Ratcliffe to build the biggest petrochemical plant in Europe in Belgium.

Straight back to the EU?

Humza claimed recently that Scotland is £1.6 bn worse off than if we were still in the EU.  Explicitly linking Scottish independence with an EU return, he does not plan allowing Scotland a further vote, preferring to rely on the 2016 Leave vote.  But what if people have changed their minds?

The ISP will offer the people of Scotland a say on whether we return to the EU/enter EFTA and the EEA or stay out of both.

Freeport barrier to EU return

The existence of two huge ‘green’ freeports in Scotland will preclude a fast EU return, but Shona Robison was recently delighted that tax relief for green freeports has been extended a further 5 years to 2034.  This applies to the Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport, the Forth Green Freeport, and prospective investment zones in Glasgow City Region and North-East Scotland.   

Although the EU has freeports, they are publicly-owned and regulated and must comply with EU state aid rules which make it harder for member states to offer tax incentives; the UK’s are private and deregulated, making it harder for Scotland to rejoin the EU.  Scotland has 18 special investment zones with tax free status for 10 years.

Health: More A&E closures

            have been announced for north-east Scotland between 7pm and 7am at Peterhead Community Hospital, Fraserburgh Hospital and Huntly Jubilee Hospital, saving about £1million annually, but leaving patients with an hour-long journey to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, with taxis possibly costing £120. The three units treated up to 2000 patients a month last year.

Angus has no rural A&E units open overnight from 8 pm daily, forcing residents to travel 1½ hours to Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital.

Health and Safety Breaches

by oil, whisky and building enterprises have resulted in £94 million fines since 2019 for poor health and safety measures, with staff and members of the public put at serious risk of disease, serious injury and death.  Exxon-Mobil and Ineos are near the top of the list, as well as the Ben Nevis Distillery and William Grant, according to The Ferret.

Unions claim that the figures would be higher if staff numbers had not been decimated under Health and Safety Executive budget cuts.  Some are calling for company executives to be made personally liable for health and safety failings.

Finally,

The island of Sanday in Orkney has plenty of Easter eggs to spare due to an ordering error which landed them with 80 cases of 9 eggs each, instead of 80 eggs, a total of 720 eggs for a 500 population. The shop owner is running a competition for one person to win 100 eggs, with the proceeds going to support the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).  The competition is open to those living outside Sanday as well as to locals.

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