Tenants Win against the Council, Alex Cole-Hamilton gets a history lesson and police go part time….
20/05/23 – 26/05/23
A three-month pilot project on the island of Bute means that police officers are now on call rather than on shift from 12am to 8am weekdays and 2am to 8am at weekends. Calls are passed to officers who then travel to the local station, get kitted up and go out, a delay of at least 10 minutes. Five shifts have been reduced to three, but Police Scotland says it will increase officer numbers ‘at key times’.
There was no public consultation. It is already operating on Mull but retired police sergeant Gary Steele, who was Bute’s senior officer, says the two islands have very different needs. Proactive deterrence has been replaced by a delayed reactive model.
Islanders feel more vulnerable and it gives criminals carte blanche. I mean, no crime occurs between 2am and 8am on weekends, does it?
Renfrewshire council taxpayers will be liable for £160 million to correct a council mistake in the building of Dargavel Primary School. BAE Systems worked to council specifications, meaning BAE are not responsible for correcting it.
The senior Renfrewshire official responsible, Steven Quinn, is due to become East Renfrewshire’s Chief Executive on a salary of £130,000 per year. Meanwhile Renfrewshire parents are complaining they will have to leave the area, as Steven Quinn is, but their move is not for promotion but to find schools with adequate capacity.
The £18 million school should have accommodated 1100 pupils, but was built for 430. Estimates have now risen to 1500 places needed by 2033. The new costs will be paid by ‘prudent borrowing’, paying back £4 million a year for 40 years. Humza Yousaf said the Scottish government could not help with funding, as it would come from other schools.
The new cost includes up to £45 million for a new primary, plus the extension of Park Mains secondary school, for an extra £27m to £30m, but if this proves inadequate, an entirely new secondary will cost between £70m and £75m.
Now the council has had to cap the number of new P1s, with local parents forced to enter a ballot for their children to go to their own primary school. All the senior officials responsible are no longer on Renfrewshire’s payroll, but Steven Quinn seems to have failed upwards, hired after a ‘rigorous selection process’ where he ‘stood out from …. a very talented field’.
A History Lesson
appears overdue for Alex Cole-Hamilton. At the same Oxford Union debate where Cole-Hamilton claimed Scotland was not a nation, Alex Salmond pointed out that Scotland and Wales are two of the most distinctive national entities in Europe. Scotland has been one nation since the Scots and Picts merged to form the Kingdom of Alba in 843 AD, only twice temporarily being invaded. Its independence was recognised across Europe in the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, its Lion Rampant dates from the reign of William the Lion 1165 – 1214, it has a long-established border, a recognised crown and the union specifically retained Scotland’s distinct legal system, church and education.
The Scottish government spent £15,000 sending civil servants to New York for Tartan Week this year. Five US-based officials were joined by five from Scotland, including John Primrose, deputy director of the Scottish government’s international division. One spin doctor’s flight and accommodation cost the best part of £2,000. Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone also attended, along with Tory MSP Finlay Carson and SNP MSP Collette Stevenson.
The UK government’s Scotland Office sent a minister and civil servants to New York, but could not supply cost figures within the standard Freedom of Information (FOI) deadline.
Energy Help Unclaimed
The energy price cap is expected to fall in the summer to £2000 in July, but there is over £16 million worth of unclaimed energy vouchers for low-income Scottish families on pre-payment meters. This is still double the amount it was. Suppliers must make at least 3 attempts to reach customers who do not use vouchers they are entitled to, with the deadline for use set as June 30th.
Contact your supplier urgently about lost, damaged or expired vouchers.
Care Staff Support Axed
Care workers have lost a funding lifeline with the closure of the Social Care Staff Support Fund, set up during covid but axed last month. It paid £95.85 a week for staff with covid who did not get sick pay, to allow them to self-isolate. Care staff feel undervalued, underpaid and many want to quit. Humza Yousaf plans to increase minimum pay to £12 an hour under the planned National Care Service, but ‘not immediately’.
will rise by £127 million (3.4%) this year, due to revaluations which came into force last month, meaning that Scottish business is disadvantaged compared to England. The higher property rate applies to just under 12,000 properties in Scotland, including more than 2000 shops, 580 hotels and 1760 offices, who pay 12p more in the pound in business rates than they would in England.
Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow
Incredibly, this hospital was being built at the same time as the Southern General Hospital it replaced was being demolished next door. The water system was poisoned by bacteria, likely from dust from the demolition. Fungus in the water system is likely due to the dust levels around the site during construction. Both children and adults died from contaminated water containing bacteria.
Other new-build hospitals have been dogged by similar problems. In 2019 the transfer of patients to the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh was halted over safety fears.
Professor Craig Ritchie is leaving the NHS after saying that Scotland’s ability to set up brain health clinics nationwide is hindered by the ‘structural layers of numerous health boards’, meaning new drugs are delayed and the system is reactive, not proactive.
Ritchie is opening private clinics free to patients but supported through pharmaceutical companies’ research. In 2021/22 £3.5 million was invested among other things to address disparities between health boards.
Did Jenny Gilruth break the ministerial code?
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has lodged a formal complaint against former Transport Secretary, Jenny Gilruth, alleging she breached the ministerial code by halting railway works in her constituency over the Christmas period ‘for purely selfish, political reasons’ despite being warned the delay would affect 9000 extra passengers a day and cost up to £1 million to the taxpayer.
Ministers cannot use their position to influence constituency matters, and sanctions can include being removed from the Cabinet.
Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)
There may be a compensation bill for up to £500 million from the Scottish government if the scheme is axed, with the Federation of Independent Retailers saying it will claim. Those affected include waste management firm Biffa, which invested £80 million in infrastructure. Shops and hospitality venues have had to organise storage space for ‘empties’ and ‘reverse vending machines’. Lorna Slater wants the UK to exempt the scheme from the Internal Markets Act (which forbids differing trade rules between the UK nations). If no exemption is granted, Humza Yousaf thinks the UK should pay compensation, which the UK has declined.
Another trans prison debacle
Should Andrew Miller, guilty of abducting, repeatedly raping and imprisoning a child, be housed in the male estate? Humza Yousaf thinks so, but can’t pre-empt the sentencing. Yes, of course, says beaten SNP leadership challenger Kate Forbes, echoing the views of the majority.
Finally, on a visit to a butcher’s shop (oh, the irony) Humza agreed. But the Scottish Prison Service remains entangled in ‘risk assessments’ for the safety of trans prisoners, not so much the women they may be imprisoned with. The Scottish government meantime distinguishes artificially between violent/sexual convicts and others. But often non-violence graduates to violence, as in stalking. Should stalkers be imprisoned with females?
Shona Robison still refuses to admit predatory men pretend in order to gain access to women and girls, despite Miller’s victim saying his female attire made her trust him.
Consultants have been appointed, costing up to £5 million, to consider CalMac’s long-term viability. They may even lose contracts. Last year’s Project Neptune report into the ferry fiasco criticised the firm’s lack of long-term planning and a ‘sub-optimal’ approach to repairs and maintenance, and considered merging CMAL and CalMac.
Questions are being asked over the Scottish government’s direct award to Ferguson Marine of a contract for up to seven small ‘loch class’ ferries. BAE Systems have a contract worth £2 million with the yard, but more work is needed. This week a payment of £61 million to the firm was sanctioned by the Scottish government, following a similar sized payment last year.
Mull Rugby Club has lost money due to clubs being told they could not sail to the island for a Sevens competition due to the ongoing ferry cancellations. CalMac have recently advised day trippers not to travel to Mull, due to problems obtaining return tickets, and the new ticketing system is riddle with problems including overbooking, advance bookings being cancelled, inability to log into accounts or book tickets due to poor internet connectivity, and even the system listing ports which do not exist.
Audit Scotland is trying to find what Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited (FMEL) spent over £128m of public money on before the yard was nationalised. Internal documents said that a 2018 government loan of £30m to diversify the business was actually to stop the firm going into administration. This loan had a right to buy attached to it, which provided a pathway to nationalisation. Record keeping seems haphazard.
Victory for Tenants
Following a campaign by Lochend Living Rent, Edinburgh City Council is to remedy damp, mould and overgrown ivy causing structural damage in Lochend, Craigentinny and Restalrig. Climbing ivy was a fire hazard which also attracted rats, and tenants endured chronic leaks, draughty windows, poorly insulated walls, and insecure stair doors. The council will pay for £18 million retrofitting for 230 flat blocks and upgrading the area. The work is free for council tenants and subsidised for private owners and landlords.