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May 13th – May 19th, 2023

13/05/23 – 19/05/23

Is Scotland allowed to be a country? Ask our politicians…

Petition against Alex Cole-Hamilton

            The leader of the Scottish LibDems is the subject of a petition to resign after stating at an Oxford Union debate that Scotland is an ancient nation that ‘can never and should never exist again’ in today’s globalised world.  The SNP’s Toni Giugliano said Cole-Hamilton should reconsider his position as lawmaker for a country he says should not exist.

Civil Servants can work on Independence

            A row broke out recently over Alister Jack’s instruction to Simon Case, head of the UK Civil Service, to order civil servants not to work in Independence Minister Jamie Hepburn’s department.  This was duly passed on to the head of the Scottish Civil Service John-Paul Marks.

            But Marks has now told the Finance and Public Administration Committee that civil servants must serve the First Minister’s ministerial team impartially, including on questions of constitutional reform.

Long-Term Rent Controls

            will be introduced at Holyrood in the autumn.  New figures show a fall of 10,000 new lets to just over 39,000 in two years.  Nine of 14 major buy to rent investors with £15 billion worth of property say Scotland has become unattractive, with the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL) among other trade bodies pursuing a judicial review over rent caps.  Tenants’ Rights minister Patrick Harvie will be consulting with tenants, landlords and investors over the new proposals.

Holyrood Boundary Changes

            Two-thirds of existing constituencies will face name changes and/or redrawn boundary lines under new proposals. Only 21 constituencies remain unchanged, with another 25 getting new names and boundaries and 26 getting minor boundary changes.

            North East Fife will be called Fife North East to avoid confusion with its UK constituency, and Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles are unchanged as they have protected status.  Thirteen will cover more than one council area, with Midlothian North and Musselburgh covering three, City of Edinburgh, East Lothian and Midlothian.

            An initial consultation runs until Saturday June 17th, with another consultation if changes are made after the initial consultation.

Wind Turbine Noise

            People living near wind turbines frequently complain about constant noise levels sounding like high-flying jets and the endless thumping of the turbine blades, plus a flickering effect against the sun or moon. 

            But not so well documented are the dangerous effects of infrasound and low-frequency noise emitted by turbine blades and the gearbox. These levels cause headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, dizziness, tinnitus, aural pain, sleep disturbance and general annoyance, and can trigger epilepsy, cardiovascular effects and coronary artery disease. 

            Energy companies are not required to limit or even monitor infrasound emissions.  There are no plans to change this.  A review of noise by global engineering consultancy Williams Sale Partnership (WSP) even stated there were ‘no direct adverse effects on physical or mental health’, with symptoms likely to by psychogenic.

            Numbers are expected to grow dramatically, with residents’ objections largely overruled.  Current regulations were introduced when turbines were six times smaller and six times less powerful than now.  The Ayrshire villages of Straiton, Barr and Dailly are fighting a development of 200-metre-high industrial turbines forming a 25-mile line from Girvan to Dalmellington. The Independent Noise Working Group (INWG) recommends a system of licensing by the Environment Agency. 

Green Travel Hypocrisy

            Lorna Slater is facing criticism over making a 350-mile round trip to visit a tree-planting project using her ministerial limousine.  This follows her hiring a cruise boat to visit an island rather than use the ferry.  Slater has used a chauffeur-driven ministerial car for 50 journeys, some of which, with in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, could have been replaced by using public transport.

Circularity Scotland

            is under fire over the fact that despite being set up to run the national bottle deposit return scheme, it will be run as a non-profit private firm, and will be exempt from Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.  It is not clear why it was set up in this way.

Solar Panel Furore

            The people of Great Cumbrae are angry about a proposed solar farm with 12,000 solar panels to cover 15 hectares, the size of 22 football pitches.  Despite lodging copious objects to the development, their concerns appear to have been overridden. Islanders say the developer has not properly researched how many protected bird species will be affected.  Developers Comsol conducted only a one-day survey in winter to identify only the dunlin as affected, while community members have seen at least 20 endangered species. 

            Comsol Energy have lodged three applications since 2016, with the 2022 application attracting 96% objections among respondents.

            The development site is near a viewing area at the island’s highest point and one of the main walks on the island. It is situated with the Great Cumbrae Special Landscape Area and the Barbay Hill Local Nature Conservation Site.

            The developers admit that there will be a visual impact on 13.5% of the route, but claim the site does ‘not form part of the beauty spot’.


Immigration Restrictions

            are costing the Scottish economy dearly.  Overseas students are worth approximately £5bn to the Scottish economy, but the UK government wants to restrict family members joining postgraduate students in the UK.  At the moment the UK Home Office does not tell local universities how many visas they have issued to family members to join postgraduate students.

Seasonal Worker Visas

            Home Secretary Suella Braverman says farming is over-reliant on foreign workers and has called for a drop in net migration.  Last year 8000 tonnes of berries remained unpicked due to staff shortages, despite 38,000 seasonal worker visas being issued in 2022. Braverman thinks we can train more fruit pickers, HGV drivers and so on.  Retention rates for EU and other migrant workers is 80% but for UK workers only 32%.  Perhaps one reason for this is the less-than-optimal living conditions that migrant workers can endure in the UK. Workers are now coming from countries like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to plug the gaps left by east European workers.

Business Forum

            The New Deal for Scottish Business met recently, co-chaired by Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray and Dr Poonam Malik, head of investments at the University of Strathclyde. It aims to involve business at the earliest stages of policy development and new regulations and listen to what business would want done differently.  Mmm….

Radiation Leak?

            Rumours of a serious radiation leak at Coulport, home of Trident, have been denied by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) following a parliamentary question put by Alba MP Neale Hanvey.  The MoD now says the evacuation was ‘pre-planned’ to enable an upgrade to buildings. Radioactive material was alleged to have leaked from a weapon into the air, but Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said there had been no ‘serious radiation breaches’ at Coulport or Faslane.  Hanvey challenged Wallace as to whether there was a threshold of seriousness, but the MoD refused to elaborate.

Anti-Protest Legislation

            The SNP tried to seize control of parliamentary time to repeal the anti-protest legislation recently passed, despite it having limited applicability in Scotland.  As Labour did not turn up to the House of Commons debate, the SNP took over the opposition benches before being ordered back to their usual seats by Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans.  Labour refused to vote to scrap the Public Order Act and the motion failed, with Labour calling the SNP action a ‘political stunt’ which they would ‘not dignify’.


            The Scottish government finally admitted today that building a new ferry from scratch would cost less (but take longer) than completing Hull 802, meaning it would not meet ‘value for money’ requirements, but other considerations such as the needs of islanders and the future of the yard meant Economy Secretary Neil Gray has signed off on its completion.  Glen Sannox (Hull 801) does apparently already meet the ‘value for money’ requirements, despite both ferries being over-budget and over-time. 

Sturgeon has ‘failed Children’

            according to outgoing Children’s Commissioner, Bruce Adamson, saying children are no better off now than when his work began in 2017.  There has been no progress on closing the attainment gap between children in rich and poor areas, and Scottish government figures show the gap has widened, if anything.  He singles out the failure to provide free school meals in favour of ‘targeting’ (means-testing), and a lack of comprehensive mental health care in schools.

            The attainment gap has grown from 12.2% in 2018-19 to 14.7%, and also takes aim at the 18-month delay in reconsidering the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law, which with some amendment would be good to go.


            Three-quarters of motorist claims for pothole damage to their cars are rejected by councils, with Dundee City Council possibly the worst, rejecting 96% of claims over 3 years. Many councils seem to rely on a loophole in the Highways Act 1980 which says authorities are only liable if they have not inspected roads frequently or made repairs in adequate time.  They therefore rely on someone having reported the pothole to them. Dundee paid out on only 1.4% of claims, with some still awaiting a decision. 


Paws on Campus

            programme has been launched by the University of Edinburgh to support students by combining clinical psychology and veterinary science to reduce stress and increase positive moods.  Interaction with the animals helps students learn about canine welfare and compassion to the animals and oneself.

            Following referral to the programme, and screening of applicants, students are then offered four, weekly sessions with a group of students and a registered therapy dog and its handler, learning canine-assisted wellbeing and breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.

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