18/03/23 – 24/03/23
Stone of Destiny
The son of Ian Hamilton, one of the men who repatriated the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey to Arbroath Abbey in 1950, says his father would not have wanted the Stone to go to England for the forthcoming coronation. His father would have preferred the monarch to come to Scotland if the Stone is to be part of the coronation.
Let’s hope it makes it back to Scotland.
DRS Boss will get £300,000
Where is the justification for the boss of the new Deposit Return Scheme being paid £300,000, with other executives getting a total of £370,000 annual pay between them?
Lorna Slater rushed to clarify that the scheme will not retain deposit money not reclaimed by purchasers, which Circularity Scotland estimated could be as much as £57 million a year, saying it will be reinvested in the scheme. This despite listing unredeemed deposits as one of its revenue streams, along with its charges to drinks producers and earnings from selling recycled bottles.
The fishing industry has joined others in opposing the proposed Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), conservation areas at sea, which would close at least 10% of the sea around Scotland, banning all commercial and recreational fishing, including ‘catch and release’.
Existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) already cover 37% of Scotland’s seas. The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) say it will have a catastrophic impact, claiming the government has been hijacked by the Greens, and the proposals result from ‘vague conservation aims’ which are not clearly met.
The SFF wanted the government to set up two pilot projects to assess the impact on the fishing industry and the effectiveness of proposed measures. The Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation, Shetland Fishermen and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) all oppose the HPMA plans.
And Kate Forbes has pledged to cancel the Scottish government’s plans for HPMAs if she wins the leadership contest.
The Scottish government has chartered an emergency vessel, the MV Alfred, from Pentland Ferries for nine months, costing £1 million a month. The cost to purchase this ferry in 2019 was only £14 million. Pentland Ferries will operate it on behalf of the Scottish government. This vessel is still being investigated after grounding last year, and due to operating restrictions it will not be able to deliver current timetables, due to a 45-minute port turnaround. But Mull and Iona Ferry Committee say it is a rushed decision involving profligate spending.
Recently Deputy First Minister John Swinney described the bonus scheme as ‘reprehensible’ in view of the failure to complete the two ferries in time and on budget.
Indeed, Glen Sannox and Hull 802 have been further delayed with Glen Sannox expected by autumn this year (or possibly the end of December) rather than May, and Hull 802 delayed to autumn 2024 (or possibly December 2024) from its previous deadline of March 2024.
Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee (PAC) criticised Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to announce Ferguson Marine (FM) as preferred bidder for the ferries contract while significant details had yet to be agreed, causing rival bids to be stood down. Was the announcement made in haste to upstage then-Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of £500 million of UK government funding for Faslane?
The PAC has criticised the lack of transparency and inadequate record-keeping around the contract, particularly a £30 million emergency loan to FM, allegedly for long term viability, but in fact specifically related to the two ferries.
Plant Based diet a threat to farmers?
The Countryside Alliance is worried about the rush to a plant-based diet, fearing for Scotland’s livestock industry. Farmers cannot simply convert to arable farming as 86% of Scotland’s agricultural land is classed as ‘less favourable’ and suitable only for livestock and growing animal fodder.
Edinburgh City Council’s recent Plant-Based Treaty advocates against expanding livestock farming or aquaculture, argues for tax raises on meat and fish, and a transition to plant-based meals in all buildings the council controls like schools, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons. Critics say the measures may end sheep farming for wool and with it the Harris and Hebridean tweed industries.
As one of her last tasks the First Minister apologised unreservedly to 60,000 often-unmarried mothers forced to give up their children for adoption as late as the 1970s.
Lady Smith recently reported that many children forcibly sent as child migrants to Australia, Canada and New Zealand were physically and mentally abused, had possessions taken, and were told they had no family. Canada received 80,000 child migrants by 1920, and 7000 were sent to Australia between 1912 and 1970.
to GP practices to carry out ‘wellbeing’ checks promoting better health are significantly lower in Scotland than in England since the 2016 abolition of the Quality and Outcomes Framework payments to Scottish GP surgeries. This covered tests like blood pressure monitoring and diabetic foot screening. Mental health care plans for those with conditions such as bipolar disorder were by 2019 40% lower in Scotland than in England. The QOF system was introduced in the 2004 UK-wide GP contract and initially formed up to 20% of GP income-streams. It was later decided it did not have enough impact on health outcomes and the relevant funds were instead added as a lump sum to GP practice funding.
Scottish ministers are considering changing the regulations to allow medical records to include ‘non binary’ on medical records. This despite the fact that there is no exact figure for the number of trans or non-binary people in Scotland, with estimates of trans people as 0.5% or 24,000 adults, but no figure for non-binary. The Scottish government will also pay for research on non-binary legal identity.
Susan Smith, director of For Women Scotland, said while all are free to identify or present as they wish, they ‘cannot demand that systems and society are uprooted to accommodate them’.
Police Scotland announced at the Scottish Police Authority policing performance committee that they are looking to include ‘incel (involuntarily celibate) culture’ in their strategy to combat violence against women. They propose training for all police officers and staff and expanding the use of visually recorded interviews. Incel culture and violent misogyny may also be covered by school curriculums and in higher education and workplaces.
became embroiled in the row over Rufus McLean, the former Glasgow Warriors rugby player found guilty of domestic abuse including physical assaults and stalking, compounded by abuse the victim and her family suffered as a result.
After McLean’s sentencing, Melrose invited him to train with them, but that arrangement was hastily dropped.
Remembering the furore over David Goodwillie, do rugby and football clubs think women will not notice when they employ those convicted of offences against women or ‘allow them to train with them’? Many clubs have women’s and girls’ teams and need to realise the awful message it sends to both men and women.
was not sentenced to jail time, but to 120 hours of unpaid work for almost 2 years of abuse and handed a non-harassment order preventing him from contacting his victim for ten years. Despite the ‘aggressive’ and ‘controlling’ behaviour described by the sheriff, he did not even get the maximum 200 hours’ unpaid work because he is under 25 years old, although longer sentences are allowed for public safety.
The law reasons that the part of young people’s brains controlling emotion develops sooner than the part dealing with self-control!
Reforms to Bail Laws
were approved in principle under the Bail and Release from Custody (Scotland) Bill, with Justice Secretary Keith Brown claiming it will ‘reduce crime, reduce reoffending and make Scotland safer’ (!)
And offenders will not be released from prison on a Friday or before a public holiday, to ensure there is adequate support in place for them.
Unaffordable Rent Hikes
Over 100 housing associations will increase rents by up to 8% while private sector rent rises are capped at 3%, despite operating surpluses among all registered Scottish social landlords standing at nearly £381 million. Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association rent rises by 8%, and Clydesdale Housing Association by 7.5%. The biggest publicly funded housing association and social landlord, Wheatley Group, is keeping rises to an average 3.9% in Glasgow and 4.4% in the south of Scotland, but say that in Glasgow at least this will be at the expense of spending on services.
Concerns have been raised over how safe hydrogen is for heating and cooking. The firm behind hydrogen technology refused to release the findings of explosion testing as it could ‘undermine funding’, ‘damage participation’ and ‘threaten the continued viability’ of the project.
Research last year found that using hydrogen to heat houses could cause four times as many fires and explosions as natural gas. The H100 project will be testing the process at 300 homes in Buckhaven and Denbeath in Fife from 2024, helped by nearly £7 million Scottish government funding, with another £18m coming from Ofgem’s Gas Network Innovation Competition.
Will the leadership contest survive?
The process appears tainted by rows over SNP membership totals, possible bias for or against particular candidates, and the resignation of SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell after the threat of a no-confidence vote, as well as the resignation of Murray Foote as SNP head of communications at Holyrood.
Ash Regan has called for voters to be able to change votes they have already cast, and others are calling for a complete re-run of the contest.