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March 1st – March 8th, 2024

March 2nd – March 8th, 2024

Does Football have a problem with drugs and alcohol? Are independence supporters ‘extremists’? But first ……

A Feminist Urbanism

            is the ambitious aim of a group of Glasgow women councillors who met recently to look at Glasgow through the lens of women, particularly looking at transport; how women navigate the city, street lighting, open spaces, good design and access to facilities.  They want better, safer integration of services for the benefit of women, and future meetings will consider play and open spaces and parks, with a view to women’s involvement in the upcoming city development plan.

            Lord Provost Jacqueline McLaren signed Glasgow up to the Carter Centre’s ‘Inform Women, Transform Lives’ cities campaign in 2023 to help women shape future policy, and also heard from the Eurocities Taskforce on Gender Equality on how sensitive planning makes for safer cities for women. 

           It is an attempt to redesign what are often unsafe public spaces in towns which simply overlook women’s safety.  Too much concrete jungle, too many dark alleyways, no thought how women are to get home safely.  Time to fight back.

Will independence supporters be deemed ‘Extremists’

            Rishi Sunak is discussing with Michael Gove an updated definition of extremism to include those who ‘undermine’ British values and institutions, and is seeking to ban elected officials from engaging with some protest groups like the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Extinction Rebellion.

            Anyone who wants Scotland to be independent could be deemed to be undermining ‘British values’, even through peaceable constitutional change, elections, marches and rallies.  Recently, the unfortunately-named anti-union Belfast group Kneecap had a grant of £15,000 pulled when the Conservative government blocked it, and Neale Hanvey recently claimed that arts funding has been denied to some performing artists who do not support the union.

Should Football ban Alcohol Sponsorship?

            Some Scottish football clubs are hoping a potential loophole in legislation will allow the sale of alcohol at women’s football matches, leading to the hope that it will later extend to the men’s game, where the sale of alcohol has been banned at Scottish football matches since the Scottish Cup Final in 1980 descended into chaos with an on-pitch battle between fans.  Consumption of alcohol inside football grounds has been banned since the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980.  Clubs are exploring whether women’s competitions or the grounds they play in may not actually be covered by the legislation.

            Scottish Women’s Football (SWF) has long been dead-set against alcohol sponsorship but league body the SWPL said it would back any club wanting to explore their options.

            But Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) has conversely called on the Scottish government to ban alcohol sponsorship and advertising in sport to protect vulnerable groups.  Women are directly affected by alcohol-fuelled domestic violence.

Cocaine and Football

            A study by the University of Stirling has shown police and supporters are far more concerned about the impact of drug abuse on crowd disorder at matches than about alcohol with its impact growing.  The disorder at the Euro 2020 Final in England which led to ticketless fans fighting with police and stewards was in large part attributed to drug use, with an upsurge in violence and anti-social behaviour.  Fans said drugs were being smuggled into football stadia, and drugs even taken on supporters’ buses.  The researchers feel this may be what has led to the emergence of Ultra groups.  Lead researcher Dr Richard Purves wants funded research to show just how widespread the problem is.

Rural: Storm Babet Cash

            Angus Council has applied for nearly £7 million of emergency government help, but the final figure may go much higher.  This Bellwin Scheme funding is available to councils to help them cope in the immediate aftermath of emergencies or natural disasters.  The Angus application is mostly to cover infrastructure and environment (roads) (£6.5 million) and insurance excesses.  Usually meant to fund actions taken within one month of a disaster, this was extended in the case of Angus to four months due to the severity of the infrastructure damage, but may not extend to cover all the damage to rural roads, for example, extra wear and tear on diversion routes while Brechin Bridge and North Water Bridge were out of commission for 6 months following October’s storm.

The Illegal Trade in Falcons

            Operation Tantallon, a major wildlife crime investigation, has uncovered a multi-million-pound international trade in illegally traded wild-caught birds, often stolen to order.  Wild birds are more coveted than captive-bred ones and Scottish wild peregrines are particularly sought-after on the international scene.  There is a legal thriving captive breeding programme, but illegal activities can carry a prison term of up to five years and an unlimited fine, although enforcement is often much less than that (unpaid community work and a ban on possession) and is patchy.  The RSPB says it feels some culprits leave court ‘laughing at everybody’.

            The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 governs possession of wild birds, with the Control of Trade in Endangered Species covering the buying and selling of highly protected birds.  Offences may even be viewed as serious and organised crime, but once birds have gone abroad it can be difficult track where they end up.  Tantallon has shown among other things that many more people are involved in illicit activities than was first realised.  The RSPB wants tougher legislation and enforcement, plus the introduction of ‘spot-checks’ on breeders who could be targeted if there is not enough evidence for a search warrant. 

NHS Scotland ‘might’ admit Private Healthcare

            New Scottish Health Secretary Neil Gray has admitted he will consider a greater role for private companies in the NHS, vowing to cut hospital waiting times in the face of a possible ‘timebomb’ of cases going through the system.

            He did not limit private care to the clearing of the backlog which built up during the pandemic or to time limit their involvement in any way, but sees Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting going possibly too far in saying he plans to ‘hold the door wide open’ to private healthcare firms to support the NHS. 

           Neil Gray is ‘pragmatic’ about private healthcare involvement, accepting it as long as it improves health care and ‘remains free’, and is enthusiastic about the private and academic sectors working together to drive innovation, accelerate diagnostics and free up clinical time. Gray does say the ‘red line’ is paying for care, but is not averse to at least examining Streeting’s proposals for England, and sees a far greater role for Artificial Intelligence in assisting with screening processes.

Shelter Scotland

            has slammed Humza Yousaf for Scotland’s ‘disgraceful’ housing crisis, particularly the government’s latest budget which slashed £200 million (26%) from affordable housing funds.  Nearly 10,000 children are living in temporary accommodation, 3% up on last year, that is staying in B&Bs, or with relatives, with a record almost 16,000 households in temporary accommodation. 

          Council breaches of Unsuitable Accommodation Orders (UAOs) are up 19% to 2,335. These orders are issued when councils do not take homeless people out of B&Bs within 7 days, but 1575 households were not even offered temporary accommodation, a 1400% increase in 6 months, or as Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson has called it, an ‘industrial scale’ of breaching their legal obligations.

          Open Homeless cases are up 4% in six months to nearly 31,000, and 244 homeless people died in 2022.  There are as many as 132,000 households waiting for social housing.  Some councils are trying to reconfigure commercial space in city centres into housing, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that we just need to build more social housing.

A ‘Systemic Housing Failure’

Scotland’s housing regulator says there is now systemic failure in Scotland’s homelessness services.  One third of Scotland’s councils are ‘red rated’, that is, unable to fulfil statutory duties and at risk of joining Argyll and Bute, Glasgow and Edinburgh, who have already declared housing emergencies.

            We managed to house everybody during the pandemic, and some homeless people now are reported to be committing crimes just to get taken to the better option of jail.  And the problem may get worse at the end of this month, when the moratorium on evictions ends and private landlords increase rents, although Shelter says the moratorium never really existed.  One thing she questions is why the government has spent £15 million on play parks with 10,000 children languishing in temporary accommodation.

EDF windfarm to pay £5.5 million to ‘vulnerable’ fund

            Having been found by regulator Ofgem to have overcharged the grid when asked to reduce output, EDF subsidiary Dorenell Windfarm Limited (DWL) will pay £5.5 million to a fund used to help vulnerable customers pay their bills.  Windfarms can be asked to turn off output when the grid is getting too full and cannot take any more supply.  Ofgem said the excessive prices charged by DWL pushed up costs for consumers.  DWL claimed the breach was unintentional but has since changed its bid pricing policy, and at least some good has come out of it.

Police Scotland risks becoming‘Irrelevant’

            due to moving to a ‘reactive’ mode of operation which leaves behind engagement with communities, and proactive policing.  So said David Threadgold, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF).  Crime detection has fallen and sickness absence risen according to in-house 1919 magazine.  Threadgold said police and staff welfare have become secondary considerations, abandoned in favour of how much things cost.  But you can’t run a police service like that. If you do, you end up cutting what you do.  You stop, um ….. investigating all the crimes….  you focus on the easy wins.  Then you lose your link to communities and the only winners are …. the criminals.

The 11th Building a New Scotland Paper

            Angus Robertson is under fire for saying in the SNP’s latest independence offering that they would not commit to an independent Scotland signing up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), as was always the preference of Nicola Sturgeon, which calls for an outright ban on nuclear weapons.  He said Scotland would seek to join NATO and would only commit to Scotland’s inherited obligations under the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which date from 1968, working towards nuclear disarmament in general rather than an outright ban.

Finally,

            Whitehall Farm, Dumfries, has the honour of being the first location in the UK to have a quadruple set of rare Valais Blacknose lambs born there.  The breed was first introduced into the UK from the Valais region of Switzerland in 2015.  The lambs’ white coats; black noses, eyes and ears; and black kneepads and socks mean the lambs charm all who meet them.  Boys Larry and Livramento, and girls Lotus and Lily are very friendly to everybody and have been hosting lots of eager visitors and lapping up all the attention. 

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