ToW 25/0323 – 31/03/23
New First Minister
Well, it’s finally over. Humza Yousaf pipped Kate Forbes to the SNP leadership, but instead of keeping one of the most competent Scottish ministers as Finance Secretary, he offered Kate Forbes a rural and islands brief which she promptly refused, seeing it as a demotion.
Shona Robison, the driver of the gender reform bill, becomes both Depute First Minister and Finance Minister. Ivan McKee left the Business post, and Keith Brown was sidelined altogether.
Disappointingly, Yousaf has stated he will challenge the UK’s s35 order in court, forgetting that during the contest he said he would only do this if legal advice was favourable.
His inaugural First Minister’s Questions was disrupted by repeated heckling from the gallery by climate activists demanding an end to North Sea exploration, which led to the gallery being cleared at one point and the culprits being banned for six months.
Transwomen out of women’s sport:
Transwomen are no longer allowed to compete in international women’s athletics events. World Athletics decided to ‘prioritise fairness and the integrity of the female competition before inclusion’. This covers male to female transgender athletes who have gone through male puberty, and goes against their original plan to limit legal testosterone to 2.5 nanomoles per litre and a minimum two-year transition period.
This also goes contrary to other sports like Cycling, where a reduction in testosterone means they can compete with women. FINA has banned trans women athletes from elite female races if they have been through any male puberty, creating instead an open category for trans women and since 2020 World Rugby has prevented trans women from competing at elite level on women’s teams.
Investor Jeremy Hosking has pulled out of a £10 million bid to save Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum, saying the Greens have ‘completely crushed a conservation project’. The community of Rum felt they were being steamrollered into accepting decisions made without them and which would deprive them of access to some land and buildings and key decision-making processes, and although Kinloch Castle is badly in need of renovation, it would undoubtedly be better put to community use than turned into another 5-star retreat.
South Uist islanders have rejected the proposal to cull all the red deer on a community owned estate, instead retaining the present system of periodic culls. A fear of Lyme Disease prompted the proposal, with South and North Uist and Benbecula having a far greater incidence of the disease than neighbouring islands or the mainland. Deer were also alleged to have damaged grazing land and gardens.
The Scottish parliament has just introduced the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill, aiming to end the illegal killing of protected birds of prey and ensure sustainable running of grouse moors.
In 2021 there were 108 confirmed incidents of raptor persecution in the UK, 71% of which were linked to land managed for gamebird shooting. Since 1981, 68 golden eagles have been illegally killed in Scotland, but no one has ever been convicted.
The island of South Uist will be without a ferry service to the mainland for 5 weeks till May 13th, due to technical issues and overhaul of the boats used on other routes necessitating the diversion of the Uist ferries, but there will be additional daily services to the Sound of Barra as an alternative. Robbie Drummond, CalMac chief executive, has warned of challenging times for the ferries for the next couple of years.
Recently, the engine of the MV Hebrides caught fire as it left Uig, on the very day the Uig ferry terminal was reopened for use following upgrading, and 3 days after it was detained at Lochmaddy with engine problems.
A number of haulage firms are taking legal advice over a priority booking service for CalMac ferries for the summer timetable, which they say means their block-bookings actually have no priority over other types of booking and can be removed in favour of other bookings, with priority for ‘lifeline goods and services’, headed by emergency response vehicles and personnel, then urgent medical and veterinary supplies, fresh food, fuel and livestock.
The new Transport Minister Kevin Stewart will be considering compensation for businesses affected by disruption to their businesses due to the ongoing ferry saga.
The number of approvals under the Affordable Housing Supply Programme (AHSP) has fallen to the lowest level for eight years 35% down from 2020 and even 22% down on 2022, to just over 6,500 approvals.
The Scottish government pledged almost £3.5 billion in 2021 for the parliamentary term for an extra 110,000 affordable homes, at least 70% being for social rent. The AHSP is part of the More Homes budget, as are shared equity programmes and loans and a mid-market rent scheme, but the More Homes budget has since suffered £177 million of cuts and the situation will remain challenging.
Closure of Luing Primary School
Parents are dismayed at Argyll and Bute Council’s recommendation to permanently close the only primary school on the Inner Hebridean island of Luing. Seven of eight pupils at the primary school left in 2020, when the school was mothballed, but parents now argue that as seven young children will soon be of age to attend the school it should remain mothballed. They hope that community projects will also create jobs, bring new homes and young families, allowing the school to reopen when needed. Children must currently travel daily to Easdale primary on neighbouring Seil island, or Kilninver on the mainland via two buses and a short ferry crossing.
Parents pay up to £350 a month on fuel and ferries if they do the transport instead, and are accusing the council of not attending community council meetings in person or taking on board their concerns.
Despite the community’s own job creation plans, the council is not planning new housing on Luing until at least 2030, so the trust aims to build its own homes. The community feels Argyll and Bute Council is very blinkered, and that the island may become a ‘retirement home’ with an ageing and dwindling population.
A full decision is expected later in the year.
Dundee saw a Festival of Economics over three days at the end of March, with delegates discussing the creating and timing of a central bank, currency, Quantitative Easing, Modern Monetary Theory and job guarantee schemes amongst other things, as well as a publicly-owned Scottish national energy company, and heard input relating to the Welsh energy project.
Delegates considered ways to scale up innovative projects rather than just setting up a great idea and selling it off, lamenting that Scotland has to some extent become world leading at pilot schemes which do not further develop as they might.
For example, Telecare is a Scottish government social initiative seeking to support people at home or in the community, but has not had a national roll-out due to the problems getting health boards to integrate the system with each other.
The Festival included input from those who like Stewart Hosie favour using sterling post-independence and those like Kairin van Sweeden and William Thomson who do not. Hosie thought using sterling would take away the uncertainty which the unionist side will doubtless deploy to unnerve those who want independence.
The Festival will run again next year.
have admitted that the Bilston Glen control room used the ‘DUMY’ callsign from 2007 to 2015 to park some calls off the main list, meaning they were not passed to officers for attendance, possibly to ‘provide artificial levels of incident management performance’, according to documents seen by the BBC. The practice ended a number of months before the car crash which claimed the lives of John Yuill and Lamara Bell on the M8, and it was discontinued when it was discovered.
Speaking at the Scotonomics conference, Shona Robison cast doubt on Humza’s plan for the government to have a 10% stake in any future offshore wind projects, claiming her recent sell-off of large parts of the Scottish seabed for a song was the best they could do in the limits of devolution. She spoke of future benefits via Intog (innovations and targeted oil and gas leasing) and seemed to suggest the government was rushed into a deal which many consider not the best for Scotland.
Craig Dalzell was not in favour of public money being handed to projects which need extra funds, saying investment should be in exchange for a public stake in the company.
Bottle Scheme buys Gas-guzzlers
The controversial DRS scheme has hired waste management firm Biffa to collect empty drinks containers. They in turn have bought 198 diesel and petrol vehicles to fulfil the contract, which many feel will create more environmental problems than the scheme will solve.
First Minister Humza Yousaf previously said he may exempt smaller businesses altogether, and it may now be paused or even delayed until the planned rollout of the scheme for England and Wales in October 2025.
The Three Blind Mice Brewery in Ely, Cambridgeshire, has started labelling its craft beer ‘not for sale in Scotland’, prompting fears that current suppliers may leave the Scottish market so as not to fall foul of the scheme.