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March 9th – March 15th, 2024

This week in Scotland we find that Public Indecency alive and well in Scotland, we learn that Police will investigate every ‘hate’ report but not every real crime. Plus Has minimum alcohol pricing worked for Scotland? While we see cuts to Mentoring and Higher Education the Scottish Government funds a sex act project. And a warning is you are a UIst Hedgehog, watch out they are after you!

March 9th – March 15th, 2024

Public Indecency alive and well in Scotland; Police will investigate every ‘hate’ report but not every crime; but first …..

Green Jobs Fall as Profits Soar

Green energy jobs have slumped in the last year, with 4,000 jobs disappearing, at the same time as income has soared by 47%, with the 3,100 offshore wind jobs only a TENTH of the 28,000 once expected. Now SGL Carbon of Muir of Ord have axed up to 80 jobs in the carbon fibre manufacture of wind turbines.  The STUC complain that all the wind turbines disfiguring our land are providing profits and jobs not for Scotland, but for other countries including France, Norway, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland, with components imported due to Scotland setting no hard rules forcing/requiring firms to use domestic supply chains.

Zonal Energy Pricing ‘Not the Way Forward’?

UK Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho is considering switching to zonal pricing for electricity, where consumers would pay less for electricity the closer they live to the infrastructure generating it. Octopus Energy chief executive Greg Jackson said it would attract businesses to Scotland, where energy is cheapest, but not everyone is a fan.

Dr Geoffrey Wood, lecturer in energy and environmental law at the University of Stirling, warned zonal pricing could make Scotland less attractive to renewable energy investors.  He says new renewable developments would instead gravitate to places where the prices are already highest, like south-east London, disincentivising investment in Scotland.  Scottish Renewables are also not a fan, with chief executive Claire Mack saying it would be better to decouple the price of electricity from the price of gas and aggressively push community-based renewables projects.

Police Scotland ‘Not Fit for Purpose

Police Scotland won’t bother investigating what they regard as ‘minor’ crimes, but will fully investigate EVERY hate incident.  In one year they wrote off 24,000 ‘minor’ crimes, but ALL hate crimes will be recorded as non-crime hate incidents, and last year police recorded over 5,500 of them even before the new law came in, with guidelines stating that even if no crime is committed, it will be recorded ‘if the victim perceives it to be a hate crime’. ‘Third party’ hubs have been identified where people can anonymously report ‘hate incidents’.

One of the 97 Glasgow hubs is Luke and Jack’s, an LGBT venue -‘Passionate Purveyors of Pleasure Products’; other reporting centres include Monaghan Mushrooms in North Berwick, Farne Salmon & Trout in Duns, Berwickshire and West Dunbartonshire Council Equality and Diversity department.  Will these venues put people at their ease?

Joanna Cherry thinks this law may be weaponised against women’s right to free speech. A Scottish government short-term working group will evaluate third-party reporting, and how to improve support for victims, but says nothing about evaluating whether complaints are vexatious.

Higher Education Courses Cut

It was an unwritten rule that educational courses would not be cut halfway through, a contract between students and their institutions.  But now the University of the Highlands and Islands Moray School of Art has ‘paused’ all four years of its Fine Art Degree course for the next financial year.  Some students uprooted families to go to Inverness for the studio-based practice central to the programme.  Those who were studying HND as a step-up to a degree course may now not be able to progress further.  Lecturers say bringing in changes after offering students places is ‘fundamentally unfair and unethical’.

This comes just weeks after City of Glasgow College announced it will withdraw Scotland’s only Radio and Podcasting HNC and HND qualifications, leaving students currently studying at NC level nowhere to go, although the College claim the students can go onto Year 1 or 2 of a degree course at the University of the West of Scotland.  The college blames cuts in Scottish government funding.

Health: Stroke Patients

in the West of Scotland will finally have access to mechanical thrombectomy treatment which was previously only available in Edinburgh and Dundee and which covered only 28% of eligible patients nationwide.  A purpose-built facility in the Institute for Neurological Sciences (INS) at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital will provide the treatment involving manual removal of large stroke-causing blood clots under sedation or general anaesthetic, and which drastically reduces recuperation time.

Has Minimum Alcohol Pricing Worked?

Government data shows poorer people now drink a third more alcohol, according to John Duffy, a former Scotland Office adviser and statistician.  The poorest may instead be bingeing on spirits, and alcohol-related deaths have risen to a 15-year high, with no reduction in hospital admissions.

The richest have cut consumption 16% since 2017 to 11.7 units, but the poorest have increased consumption 33% to 15.2 units, with spirit consumption by the poorest more than doubling to 5.1 units a week, while the richest have cut theirs to 2.2 units.  The government still insists the policy has saved lives.

The Redcoat Café

Despite an ongoing furore over the name, and the promise of a review, there is still no new name for the revamped Edinburgh Castle café.  Sean Clerkin of Action for Scotland and James Scott of the Scottish Resistance are demanding a change of the ‘offensive’ name and a boycott if necessary.  Although recognising that many native Scots were in the British army, it is associated with British Redcoat soldiers who ‘murdered innocent Highland people, raped women and burned-out native families’, fought against US secession and colonised the globe.

Misogyny:

ScotGov funded a live sex acts project

until an outcry by campaigning group ForWomen Scotland and many others made Creative Scotland eventually axe its donation of £85,000. That is ‘live’ acts, not simulated.  CS ‘were not aware’ how explicit the project would be, although trailed storylines included ‘Daddies lurking in the woods’ and ‘muddy wrestling’ culminating in a cave sex party.  Jenny Willmott of Scottish Lesbians called it ‘hardcore porn’ with ‘male fingerprints all over it, particularly the attempts to normalise really violent, disturbing sex’.

Belatedly, Culture Secretary Angus Robertson said there was ‘no way’ the project should have got funding, although at first he was decidedly non-committal.

Cricket Scotland ‘Sexism’

An independent assessment by HR firm McKinney found a ‘high degree of prejudice’ towards female staff and players in the organisation, particularly at club level.  Committees were dominated by older men, workers were ‘understaffed’, ‘over-worked’ and ‘bullied’, with inappropriate language and behaviour towards women, and less sponsorship for women’s cricket than for the men’s game.

Nine recommendations have been made, including a long-term strategy for the women’s and girl’s game, increased investment and modernisation of the committee structure, and education to tackle ‘inherent sexism’.  Chief Executive Trudy Lindblade said some of the recommendations were already being implemented.

And 400 sex offenders have officially changed their names since 2022, according to a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Conservatives. Police Scotland must always be notified of a name change and those who do not comply face up to five years in prison. But how many simply change their names and slip under the radar?  How many missing sex offenders are there and now that police are reactive rather than proactive, how good is the system?

Poverty:

Mentoring Programme Cut

Glasgow City Council is reviewing a mentoring scheme started in 2007 which helped thousands of care-experienced and other vulnerable pupils improve school attendance and attainment. City council budgets mean the MCR Pathways programme will continue but without its in-school coordinators who help the transition from primary to secondary and can identify pupils needing extra support.

The scheme operates in every Glasgow secondary school, engaging around 2000 young people across the city, with one-to-one mentoring of pupils who otherwise may drop out of education entirely.  Many have been encouraged into jobs or further education through the scheme.

Ferries

Islay Whisky Festival is at risk of lower attendances from the ongoing ferry disruption affecting Islay.  The festival brings in £10 million to the local economy with up to 20,000 people from all over the world descending on Islay and Jura.  Mull and Iona Ferry Committee (MIFC) have been refused a meeting with Transport Minister Fiona Hyslop to discuss a takeover of the ferry service which they said they could run better and 30% cheaper.  The government has ruled out taking any responsibility away from state-owned CalMac, and prefers to award a permanent contract to CalMac.  They do not favour splitting the network or privatising any Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) routes, but South Uist Business Impact Group has told Fiona Hyslop they will only support a direct award of the CHFS routes if there are major changes at the top of the firm.

Finally,

Hedgehogs Out!

The Uist Native Wildlife Project being developed by NatureScot and RSPB Scotland aims to capture every hedgehog on Uist, due to the threat they pose to birdlife.

Four hedgehogs are believed to have been brought onto the island by an amateur gardener in the early 1970s, but it backfired with numbers growing out of all proportion and a corresponding decline in dunlin, lapwing, snipe, redshank and ringed plover, probably due to a high level of egg predation by the hedgehogs.

Previous attempts to get rid of the hedgehogs included creating ‘exclusion zones’ using rabbit netting, which the hedgehogs climbed over; an 18-inch-high electric fence, which the hedgehogs swam or waded round; and a plan to hire snipers, which was abandoned after an outcry from the public, although it did go forward in the form of lethal injections instead!

The last attempt to ‘eliminate’ the hedgehogs lasted a decade, cost millions of pounds and was abandoned unfinished in 2015.  Now RSPB Scotland and NatureScot aim to eliminate hedgehogs from the island once and for all, but concerns remains that rehomed hedgehogs may introduce ticks and Lyme disease to the mainland, as both are prevalent on Uist.

and Cats don’t escape either ….

After an empty house in Barra was taken over by more than 20 cats, and with kitten season looming, Western Isles Support for Cats and Kittens (WISCK) have been drafted in to help.  WISCK claim the absent owners were told by a national animal charity to ‘just stop feeding them’, not realising that the cats would then turn their attention to the local birdlife.  WISCK is now trapping the cats, transporting them to Stornoway and rehousing them across the islands.

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