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May 25th – May 31st, 2024

May 25th – May 31st, 2024

LEZs hammering towns; the Shetland Peat Slide; but first

Football: ICT’s Spectacular Own Goal?

            Senior football club Inverness Caley Thistle have caused outrage among supporters’ groups with their plan to move the club’s first team base and its training facilities from the Highlands to share Kelty Hearts facilities in Fife.  Fans are also trying to gain a seat on the board to try and influence policy, and say the move to Kelty will destroy the club’s connection with the local community, as well as negatively impacting advertising and sponsorship. ICT plan for the youth academy to remain in Inverness, as will one senior coach to act as a bridge between the academy and the first team, and will save the club between £300,000 and £400,000.

            The move has been prompted by the club’s relegation from the Scottish Championship to League One, as well as the Highlands’ more general housing shortage, which makes it difficult to attract Central Belt players to the area through payments for rehousing, which cost the club £200,000 a year.  Stopping short of calling for the board to resign, the fans are nonetheless calling for a ‘change of leadership’.  Meanwhile, the ICT chairman says he will quit if someone will take his place, saying the move is the only way to keep the club full time and stay in Inverness.

            The Supporters’ Trust say fans may boycott season-ticket sales and matchday attendance.

Brechin and Buckie settle SPFL row

            Following an eligibility row over entry to the league which saw both Buckie Thistle and Brechin City denied the chance to play East Kilbride for a chance to play off against Stranraer FC, Buckie and Brechin have both been invited to take part in next season’s SPFL Premier Sports Cup. 

            This may bring some form of closure to the row which saw Buckie denied on grounds of not having a Bronze Licence allowing them to play in the league, and Brechin denied the chance to play East Kilbride as Highland League runners-up due to there being no provision in place for substitution.

            It still seems unsatisfactory that the next available eligible club could not take Buckie Thistle’s place when they effectively ruled themselves out.  Who knows but that Brechin may not have ended up back in the league?

Flares could mean Banning Orders

            for fans caught with them inside a stadium.  The Scottish government has set up a working group to consider using banning orders to prevent culprits from entering any football ground in the UK or supporting the Scotland team abroad.  It is already illegal to take pyrotechnics into football matches, and is an offence to carry them in public without reasonable excuse, but the legislation does not appear robust enough to prevent flares becoming an increasing menace at Scottish games.

LEZs hammering town centres

            Even after the problems encountered by Glasgow with its Low Emission Zone, this week Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh are to follow suit and ban large numbers of vehicles from the city centre, despite the fact that all four city centres were already well within the legal limits after adopting electric buses.  Over a million vehicles in Scotland are non-compliant, one third of all vehicles registered.

            These town centres are already resembling ghost towns, with the local authorities offering firms incentives to relocate there.  A million fewer people have visited Aberdeen since 2023. Glasgow has raked in over £1 million in fines, but footfall has gone off a cliff, and hospitality is suffering.  All four cities are notable for closures in recent years.

            Despite talk of repurposing city centres as living spaces, essentially mini new towns or the SNP’s favoured ‘20-minute neighbourhoods’, those living there would also not be entitled to use older cars.  Twenty-minute neighbourhoods are fine as long as you stay in your place for ever.  Change jobs and you may be in the same position as now. Already, one in five city shops are lying empty, the highest rate being in Aberdeen at nearly 20%, with Inverness at 8.10%, Dundee 18% and Perth 18.5%.

Zero-Hours Contracts

            have hit record levels in Scotland, with an average of 100,000 Scots on them in the last year, a 42% rise since 2019, despite the Scottish government committing in November 2018 to no longer use them.  Some of these contracts force workers to take any shifts they are offered, others do not, and nearly 12% of UK workers have been on these contracts for over a decade.  

Health:

Desperately Seeking Dentistry

            Those in Scotland who can afford to are increasingly turning to private dentistry.  Dentists have long complained that the fees paid to them by the Scottish government do not even cover costs, never mind allowing a modest profit.  Many patients can no longer access NHS dentistry, with 4000 patients in Dumfries & Galloway recently ‘de-registered’ on a practice’s change of ownership, with little warning and no alternative local practice.  Elsewhere nationally, some patients have been forced to accept paying monthly to stay on the practice list.

Pre-Eclampsia Testing

           Scottish laboratories are struggling to set up a life-saving test for mothers at risk of Pre-eclampsia due to promised funding from the Scottish government not appearing.

Physiotherapy Delays

          Record Scottish vacancy rates in Physiotherapy of up to 10% have combined with a failure to increase physiotherapist training places to seriously hamper the service, and therefore people’s fitness for work, as well as delaying hospital discharges and leaving people unable to live full, active lives for longer. Scotland has not increased physiotherapy undergraduate training places for a decade, while England has increased them by 96%.   The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) welcomes the fact that GP surgeries can now include physiotherapists, but says these staff were taken from the general community service, whose roles have not been backfilled.  There are 10 applicants for every available undergraduate training place, and Scottish retention of graduates is also low at 46% compared with rates between 78% and 83% in the rest of the UK.

Green: The Shetland Peat Slide

            Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) have closed their Kergord to Gremista Connection Project while a safety assessment is done following a massive peat slide resulting from the disturbance of an unstable peat bog during construction work on the Viking Wind Farm.  Peat has a very low density but an exceptionally high water content, leading to instability when disturbed.  Drainage of excess water must be carefully done to avoid water pollution and wildlife deaths.  Peat of course sequesters huge amounts of CO2. 

           Similar ‘peat slides’ happened in Ireland and also at Kames Ridge in Shetland in July 2022, and a slide can spread over a lengthy area of land, polluting waterways and killing fish and invertebrates.  Building anything on peat bogs is problematic, as draining the land, particularly to erect a huge wind turbine, releases huge amounts of stored CO2 into the atmosphere. Once damaged, the peatland no longer sequesters carbon and the whole bog will dry out gradually, releasing its carbon for a number of years. 

Woodburning Stoves

The SNP have this week shelved plans for a ban on the installation of woodburning stoves and biomass boilers in new-build homes and on building conversions.  Kate Forbes recently admitted a number of their latest policies have gone down like a lead balloon. Now the New Build Heat Standard regulations will now be reviewed.

Women: The Willow Project

            News emerged recently that vulnerable female offenders and ex-prisoners are being forced to rehabilitate alongside violent males at the so-called ‘women only’ Willow Project, funded by Edinburgh City Council, which provides childcare and offers trauma interventions and mental health support, but has been accused by Scottish Conservative Deputy Leader Meghan Gallacher of eroding women’s rights ‘to pander to the needs of male-bodied criminals’.

            Dr Kate Coleman of Keep Prisons Single Sex has argued that there must be a public inquiry into ‘institutional capture’ to the detriment of vulnerable women, saying the majority of trans prisoners are jailed because of violent crimes, often against women and children. The campaign group Women First said this service should not be funded by the council, arguing that some of the trans groups already ‘get ridiculous amounts of public funding despite other services being cut’.

And in another Victory for Gender Critics,

           the publicly funded Literature Alliance Scotland (LAS) was forced to apologise after urging booksellers not to sell books written by ‘terfs’ (so-called ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminists’).  LAS got nearly £35,000 in 2022 from Creative Scotland (they of recent porn show REIN fame).  LAS said the guidance was ‘uploaded in error’, rather than actually wrong, and did not appear to distance itself from its other comment that ‘terfs….are actively joining forces with fascists’.

Loch Awe 1    Pylons 0

            Argyll and Bute council are due to reject plans for 13 wind turbines which would have been as high as 180 metres and would have blighted Inveraray.  This is no mean feat, as the Scottish government were in favour of the turbines, and the council initially did not object either, but have now changed their minds over the effects on the landscape at Loch Awe.

            It is not a complete victory, however, as the application is still live, just subject to mitigation of its adverse effects to bring it in line with the National Planning Framework 4 Policy.

Local Government:Visitor Levy

            Local authority umbrella group Cosla have lobbied MSPs to speed up plans to introduce a visitor levy, currently due to start at the earliest in 2026 if approved by parliament.  In addition to charging those staying in hotels, hostels, B&Bs, self-catering properties, campsites and caravan parks, they also want a levy on cruise ship passengers, and want local authorities to be able to set any cap on the number of nights charged, rather than the Scottish government.

Glasgow Job Cuts

            It is claimed that Glasgow’s SNP and Green councillors gave local officials no alternative to savage education cuts, with the first tranche of 172 teacher cuts in the city already arranged, the equivalent of 136 full time equivalent (FTE) posts going from primary schools and a further 36 from secondaries.  Primary school rolls have fallen by around 425 since 2021, but secondary rolls increased by 1400.  Some of the resulting gaps will be filled by probationer teachers.  

Rural: The Land Reform Bill (Scotland)

            has reduced the threshold for interventions on land ownership to 1000 hectares from the originally planned 3000, but may therefore include larger farms in their ambit.  Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) are not happy about what they call an arbitrary limit, particularly as some green aims may be better achieved ‘at scale’ which is more difficult if there are several landowners involved.  Government ministers would have the power to split up land and might decide to include large residential developments, meaning every property sold on an estate would need special permission from the Scottish government.  

Finally

            Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was caught on the hop when asked whether staff at his family’s firm were paid the real living wage, currently £12 an hour, more than the national minimum wage.  Initially saying ‘not absolutely every employee’ would be paid that amount, thankfully trade union Usdaw rescued him, saying that United Wholesale (Scotland) does pay over that amount to all employees.   

And he wants to run Scotland.

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