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March 30th – April 5th, 2024

March 30th – April 5th, 2024

Rural Health and Education Crisis, Freeports and …

Windfarms (1)

Amazon, Google, Tesco and Sainsbury

are very interested and invested in Scotland’s windfarms.  A proliferation of huge carbon fibre pylons 870 ft high will soon blight the coast off Scotland, the latest efforts at ‘greening the economy’, not for the benefit of residents in Scotland or England.  Over half the electricity produced by the Moray West wind farm when it goes on-stream will be bought up by ….. Amazon, who also have a deal to buy up all the electricity output of two land-based Scottish wind farms.

And Google will also get some of the annual output.  Tesco notionally buys all the electricity produced by onshore Halsary wind farm in Caithness, and Kimberly-Clark will have 80% of its UK electricity need met by a new wind farm in Lanarkshire.

Next week …. Should we subsidise Tesco and Amazon?

Freeports (1)

            Scotland’s two ‘green’ freeports at Inverness and Cromarty Firth; and Forth, are ‘economic game-changers’, our ‘biggest industrial development in a generation’ according to CEO of Inverness and Cromarty Firth Greenport Calum MacPherson.  But who benefits? The freeports get tax incentives and other lower tariffs, but can extend up to 45km beyond the port they centre on, with tax reliefs for businesses like stamp duty and customs relief and exemption from some employee National Insurance contributions for employees.

            ScotGov claims ours are ‘Greenports’ reflecting their ‘distinctive net-zero aspirations’, requiring a contribution to attaining net-zero by 2045, creating new green jobs and a written commitment to deliver high-quality jobs, salaries and conditions, no mean feat when the purpose of a freeport is to ‘cut red tape and hindrances to business’ like environmental, consumer and employment protections.

            It is claimed the freeports will attract £10 billion investment and create 75,000 new, high-skill jobs to the UK.  But the ISP, along with many organisations and individuals, are hugely opposed to them.

Next week….. Freeports and the EU

Rural Health

Dumfries & Galloway Rural Hospitals Crisis

            Since covid suspended medical services and closed hospitals for everything else, some hospitals have never reopened.  In Dumfries and Galloway four mothballed cottage hospitals never reopened and in September the Integrated Joint Board will consider permanent closure of Kirkcudbright, Moffat, Thornhill and Newton Stewart.

            D&G have a £35million deficit and are also reviewing whether to downgrade Galloway Community Hospital from a hospital which has an A&E and carries out operations to a minor injuries unit.  The maternity unit closure means some babies are born in an ambulance on the way to Dumfries Hospital, and a decision on establishing a maternity hub with on-call midwives has not yet been taken. The IJB is also considering buying up 31 ‘flexi’ beds in D&G’s private care home sector, coting £1.2 million, but concerns remain over staff having sufficient medical training to care for NHS patients. Kirkcudbright Cottage Hospital used to have 14 inpatient beds providing palliative care, outpatient services and step-up/step-down care to keep frail elderly patients out of acute hospital and for rehabilitation, but health officials favour centralising services at Dumfries and Stranraer hospitals, and permanent closure looms for Kirkcudbright as well.

           Local people say the IJB did not listen to their views in its ‘community engagement’ on the optimistically named Right Care Right Place programme launched in October 2022.  The IJB thinks that the people just don’t understand.  Feedback came mostly from hospital action groups, staff and elected members rather than the public, with its March report saying people in cottage hospitals could be ‘better supported in other settings’. 

          But Geoff Dean, recently retired senior manager in D&G Social Work department and chair of the Save Kirkcudbright Hospital Action Group said this means elderly people travelling to Dumfries for often minor injuries.  Factoring in poor public transport, many must rely on taxis which are reluctant to take elderly people a long distance in case their condition worsens.  Health boards must think of the service they are buying, not just its cost, and rural services are bound to cost more proportionately than urban ones.  Nonetheless, they are vital for community wellbeing.

What about Care Home Provision?

            In Dumfries and Galloway this provision is inadequate, despite 27% of its residents being over 65 with care home beds are down by 12% in the last 10 years, and the number of acute hospital beds fell over 5 years from 398 to 313.  So pressures on hospitals cannot be lifted in this way.

Disability

          Last year 116 people died before their applications for the (Scottish) Adult Disability Payment were approved, with two people waiting almost a year, and 24 waiting over 6 months before they died waiting.  Most people got a decision within 4 months, but they admit waiting longer is unacceptable, although they point out that they have a separate accelerated application route for those diagnosed with a terminal illness, with an average processing time for these applications of three working days.

Are Scotland’s Colleges Under-financed?

            Many of Scotland’s colleges are running expected deficits, but the Scottish Funding Council would not name individual colleges at a meeting with Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee in January, save admitting that they are particularly concerned about 4 colleges. An Extraordinary College Employers Scotland Meeting took place on February 6th at Stirling, with representatives from every college in Scotland, but only issued highly redacted information.

            Colleges began issuing threats to deduct up to 100% of salaries to staff engaged in boycotts/strikes affecting the sector, a dispute which continues to rumble on.  The ‘100% salary deduction’ was apparently drawn up following legal advice and looks identical from each college.

Dalry Secondary ‘Mothballed

            Parents are urging Dumfries and Galloway Council to pause plans to mothball Dalry Secondary School, calling it ‘closure’ by another name. The council consulted but did not give the option of ‘mothballing’ the school.  The most popular option was to create an ‘all-through’ school from nursery to S4, although this would not even have been on the ballot but for parents insisting.

            Travel times will be drastically lengthened if Dalry is mothballed or closed, forcing children to travel to Castle Douglas High School.  D&G could only commit to helping parents, carers and young people to ‘the most effective and efficient way for young people to reach their school base’, saying the blame lies with their rural location!  Residents say council engagement has been a sham.

            Primaries are not safe either.  Carsphairn village, 5 miles to the south of Dalry, once had a primary school, now abandoned, which residents say is putting people off repopulating the village which is trying to use windfall funds from nearby windfarms to attract people to the area.

Permanent Rent Controls

            are to be introduced in the Housing (Scotland) Bill which proposes a New Deal for Tenants, with long term rent controls for private tenancies, the right to keep pets, decorate rented homes and stronger protection against eviction.

            A duty of ‘ask and act’ will be placed on social landlords and bodies like health boards and police to ask about a person’s housing situation and act to avoid them becoming homeless wherever possible, although it is not clear how the police or health board can add to the housing supply.  Help will be available up to six months ahead of homelessness, will have added focus on those suffering domestic abuse and give those facing homelessness more choice and control over where they live, to retain their links to the community and stay in work.  Rent controls will be introduced to the time between tenancies, possible rent rise caps of 0%, and the right for one or more joint tenants to leave.  Tenants’ union Living Rent are broadly in favour.

Eviction ban lifted

            But the expiry of the eviction ban at the end of March has seen a spike in evictions, which will worsen before the new law is even on the books.

Business: TheDisastrous Effect of LEZs on business

            As Low Emission Zones are rolled out in the next two months to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee city centres, many say it will make them ‘ghost towns’.  Dundee has announced the closure of M&S in the Murraygate, joining the closure of M&S in St Nicholas Street, Aberdeen, and now all Aberdeen’s department stores – John Lewis, Debenhams, House of Fraser – are gone.  The cities are looking for reduced car use and to reach net zero by 2045, and claim the LEZ will make cities more vibrant and a desirable place to live. 

            Many are alienated by the ‘imposition’ of rules top down without popular support and with little or no justification. Cities were gradually recovering economically from the pandemic, only to be hit by LEZs which will add to the restaurants and pubs closing or drastically reducing hours.

            But the Scottish government’s own air monitoring sites show that nitrogen dioxide levels were already well below the legal threshold in all three of the cities introducing LEZs with parts of Edinburgh LEZ as low as half the legal limit.

Creative Scotland

            Despite finding the cash to support a hardcore ‘live porn’ show, Creative Scotland did not manage to find £77,500 to fund the ‘Aye Write’ and ‘Wee Write’ festivals held every spring in Glasgow, forcing them to close this year after their funding bid was rejected.

The Scottish Prison Service trans policy

            has had the unintended consequence that in barring male offenders with a history of violence against women from the female estate, it did not envisage males now identifying as women being housed in the female estate as they committed their crimes against males. This is still allowed, and 3 who murdered men are currently housed there.

           Campaigning group Keep Prisons Single Sex have urged the SPS to rethink the dangerous and ill-thought-out policy which apparently did not envisage such a loophole.

For Women Scotland

            has hit out at £40K being awarded to a firm to study how to bring down NHS waiting lists for ….. puberty blockers, sex hormones and reassignment surgery’, while waiting lists for heart defects and cancer increase daily.

Finally,

           Scotland is reeling from Week 1 of the Hate Crime Act.  JK Rowling and Humza Yousaf apparently did not transgress, but Murdo Fraser did, although even he did not commit a crime. Police Scotland are rethinking their original training, and have binned their Hate Crime Monster. 

          Hats off to Hibernian FC Supporters Club who were brave enough to host a comedy event lampooning the act, when others were afraid to put their heads above the parapet.         

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