ToW 04/03/23 – 10/03/23
Police and the new Misogyny Law
Five offences are proposed in measures currently under consultation, to also apply to the workplace, with no ‘just banter’ or ‘freedom of expression’ defences. As well as misogynistic harassment and misogynistic behaviour, it criminalises threatening and abusive communications and ‘stirring up hatred’, which need not be directed against a particular woman but can be distasteful discussions in earshot of women. Public misogynistic harassment may get seven years’ imprisonment. Lastly, a misogynistic aggravator can be added to other crimes.
Watching porn in public, gesticulating, talking audibly about sex, telling a woman she is fat, comments inciting rape, and shouting in the street, would be harassment. Groups of men using threatening or abusive language, deeply sexist aggressive terminology, and actions accompanied by misogynistic language would all add a misogynism aggravator to the crime.
Sadly the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents says prioritising the fight against harassment of women may take their time from investigating other crimes and say criminalising behaviour cannot change public attitudes (!). At a time when police priorities include trans allyship, LGBTIQ+ matters, and gender identity ideology, it is hoped they will rethink their attitudes to the 52% of the population who are women.
Do they fear the new law?
CalMac Chief Executive Robbie Drummond has apologised to islanders for cancellations and service disruption, blaming the lack of Scottish government investment meaning fewer spare vessels to cover maintenance of the ageing West Coast fleet.
Service disruption affects everything from restaurant supplies to mail to tourism and other businesses. Four ferries are being built in Turkiye, with the two from Ferguson Marine due in service by May 2023 (Glen Sannox for Arran) and January 2024 (Hull 802), but some wonder why the Glen Sannox appears to have better accommodation for the crew than for passengers.
Ferguson Marine (FM) failed to lodge financial accounts by 31st December and Companies House has started a procedure which may close them down. Complete failure to file accounts is a criminal offence and directors can be personally fined.
Pyrotechnics and Safe Standing
Scotland should explore the idea of safe pyrotechnics in football stadia, according to John Mason, SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettlestone, despite opposing the relaxation of laws on alcohol inside grounds. He thinks strict liability to punish clubs for the conduct of their fans would help curb illegal pyrotechnics at matches. Alternatively he suggests the Norwegian model of a safe pyrotechnic section at matches.
March sees the end of the Network Support Grant funding worth £35 million, reducing the bus service support budget by nearly 40% to £62.5m. Public buses have been reduced by 25% since 2010 to total 3,700 now. McGill’s is planning 13% cuts to its services in Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, and bus services nationwide will be cut, with fares rising. The number of bus journeys has reduced by over one-third since the pandemic, which coupled with the rising price of energy, wages and fuel, makes public transport increasingly unaffordable to run.
Quebec Reaching Out
New Parti Quebecois (PQ) leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon visited Scotland recently to rekindle relations with the Scottish nationalist movement. The PQ’s worst ever result last autumn saw the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) of Francois Legault win handsomely in Quebec. The CAQ rejects all-out independence from Canada, its membership is from nationalists and federalists, it does not endorse a referendum on sovereignty, seeking more autonomy instead.
His refusal to swear allegiance to King Charles led to him being refused entry to Quebec’s national assembly until other deputies intervened, which boosted his personal ratings although his party trails behind the CAQ. Mr Plamondon sees the UK refusal and the violent crackdown on Catalan moves to independence as part of a wider denial of democracy internationally, but stresses that Quebec, Scotland and Catalonia’s situations differ.
Nearly one in seven consultant posts are unfilled in some areas, a total of 413 in NHS Scotland, with NHS Highland having 14.5% of posts vacant. Radiology and urology post vacancy rates in the Highlands were respectively 20% and 33%. Trauma and orthopaedics had 10% vacancies in Forth Valley and Fife, with Ayrshire and Arran failing to fill nearly two-thirds of child and adolescent psychiatry posts.
Electric Vehicle charging points
are not available in adequate numbers throughout Scotland, with broken chargers often not replaced, and drivers hoarding charging points. Dundee and East Lothian are doing well, but other areas not so much.
The Electric Vehicle Association (EVA) is recommending charging motorists a fee for electricity to stop people hoarding charging points, as Glasgow is about to do this year.
There is a wide disparity in the charges levied against those who own unused land, with Glasgow charging an average 432 times less than Aberdeen. Glasgow has the biggest amount of derelict land, with 784 derelict plots, but each was charged on average £70, the second lowest nationally, meaning they will collect £54,500 from their 784 sites, compared with the £55,300 Aberdeenshire will get from 34 sites. Aberdeen will get £1.2m from 39 sites, Edinburgh £2.84 million from 99 sites, and Angus £156,700 from 6. Scotland has 2169 non-domestic properties vacant, including shops, offices, pubs, warehouses, factories and holiday accommodation, valued at £10 million overall.
Derelict land is being brought back into use, but 80% of the derelict land which remains needs remedial work before it can be re-used. North Lanarkshire has the largest total area of disused land at 14%.
The Scottish Land Commission (SLC) has previously called for compulsory sales orders for long-neglected land, which the SNP manifesto of 2016 committed to but did not deliver and omitted altogether from its 2021 manifesto.
Councils collect payment of non-domestic rates (NDRs) but don’t keep the money raised. Funds are distributed through the Vacant and Derelict Land Fund, with £7.6m due to be paid in the next financial year to Fife, Glasgow, North Ayrshire and North and South Lanarkshire, and recently 15 projects were awarded a total of £10 million from the Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme.
The Monarch of the Glen estate
at Ardverikie may soon become home to the UK’s largest pumped hydropower scheme. Work would last 4 years on two dams to control water levels at Loch Leamhain and Loch Earba, and a 3 km underground waterway system between them. Loch Leamhain’s water level would rise by 65 metres, and Loch Earba’s by 20 metres.
But it is feared the work will be hugely disruptive to locals and tourists alike, with some walking routes being altered. This comes weeks after planning rules surrounding renewables projects in designated wild land areas were relaxed. Glen Etive was said to have become an ‘industrial site’ last year though seven hydroelectricity schemes harnessing water for energy creation, and some complaints have linked schemes to a rapid drop of water levels in lochs. Coire Glas hydro scheme led to concerns about heavy traffic on single-track roads and the Tummel Hydro Scheme allegedly caused low water levels and impacted caddisflies, mayflies and other species, as well as fish.
Energy costs in some parts of Scotland may rise £1000 more than the UK price guarantee, which is expected to remain at £2500 average, meaning the average Scottish household will pay nearer £3500, or 13% of average take home pay.
Energy Action Scotland (EAS) said that 25% of households, totalling 600,000, are already struggling. Fuel poverty ranges from 19% in East Renfrewshire to 57% in the Western Isles, 47% in Highland and 46% in Argyll and Bute.
Nearly 17% of households in Scotland (420,000) are not connected to gas and 217,000 use fuels other than mains gas or electricity, with 129,000 rural households using heating oil as the primary source of heating, up by over 230% over the last two years, and other households use LPG or solid fuel.
Damp and Mould
The death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from respiratory problems caused by mould has prompted new laws for England and Wales, but in Scotland the ‘solution’ is non-statutory guidance to landlords to ensure tenants’ homes are safe, with proactive systems for them to identify mould and deal with it timeously. The Scottish Tenants Association says this is not enough. The Wheatley Group, Scotland’s largest publicly funded housing association, has admitted it does not put markers on properties to identify damp and mould problems.
The only recourse for Scottish tenants if landlords fail to act would appear to be a complaint to the Scottish Public Sector Ombudsman.
A Just Transition
Offshore oil and gas workers are calling on the Scottish government to protect jobs, communities and climate in the transition to renewables. Climate groups Platform, Uplift and Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) and unions including the RMT, GMB and Unite have prepared a report entitled ‘Our Power: offshore workers’ demands for a just energy transition’ demanding investment in renewable manufacturing hubs; polluting companies to pay for decommissioning oil rigs; an offshore training ‘passport’ for easier retraining; a new permanently running Energy Excess Profits Tax; a sovereign wealth fund; and public ownership of energy companies. They point out that in 2019 the UK took in less than 10% of what Norway took in oil taxes. Workers’ views have been limited so far to an online survey.
Islanders want the community-owned South Uist Estate (Sealladh na Beinne Moire – SnBM) to cull almost 1200 deer due to fears they are spreading Lyme disease and causing road accidents. Lyme is often spread by tics which live on the deer. South Uist has recorded 693 cases of Lyme disease per 100,000 people compared with 3.2 per 100,000 for the rest of Scotland.
The estate has already culled 350 of the 1198 deer which were on the island last year, but islanders feel this is not enough.