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May 27th – June 2nd, 2023

27/05/23 – 02/06/23

Labour Links to Just Stop Oil

            The Labour Party are under pressure to return a £1.5 million donation from a key funder of pressure group Just Stop Oil (JSO), whose members have disrupted recent sporting events.  Coincidentally Labour recently announced they would totally ban future North Sea oil and gas drilling should they win the next General Election, a move endorsed by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, although Labour politicians in the north-east are uneasy due to the dependence of the north-east on oil.

Low Emission Zones (LEZs)

            A court challenge to the rollout of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zones has failed.  Patons Accident Repair Centre says the zone will put it out of business as it deals with many non-compliant vehicles but is situated within the LEZ.  Concerns include that zones will not reduce emissions, merely move them out a mile or two, and indeed make those areas more polluted.  Small firms say they can no longer take small jobs within LEZs as the fines would be prohibitive, effectively making LEZ residents prisoners of the scheme.  The most polluting road in Dundee, Lochee Road, is omitted from Dundee’s scheme, and there are no exemptions for emergency staff and others who have no choice but to work antisocial hours in workplaces in the LEZ.  No safety impact assessment for staff has been done.

UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement

            The UK government sees Scotland’s farmers as ‘expendable’ according to farming representatives.  The new deal will eventually allow 110,000 tonnes of Australian beef into the UK tariff-free, a huge increase over the 3000 tonnes currently allowed.  The Australian Agricultural Company (AAC) has increased the size of its herd by 13%. 

            The UK claims the Aussie imports will displace imports from other countries rather than Scottish produce which is up against huge agri-businesses, particularly as European countries are keen to reduce the size of their herd to restrict methane emissions.

An extra seat for the Highlands?

            Fergus Ewing wants an extra seat for the Highlands at Holyrood, saying that Highland MSPs struggle to deliver a good service to such vast constituencies.  Kate Forbes’ constituency is over 500 times the area of the average Glasgow seat.  Westminster seats also cover vast areas, with Ross, Skye and Lochaber being 12,000 sq km, requiring multiple ‘surgeries’ to hear everyone’s views.

            Boundaries Scotland proposes changing the shape and name of 25 of the 73 first past the post seats at Holyrood for the 2026 election. The largest Holyrood seat, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, will be nearly 13,000 square kilometres, with Edinburgh Northern & Leith the smallest at 13 sq. km. A consultation on these proposals is open for the next month.

Empty Homes

            The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) is teaming up with Argyll and Bute Health & Social Care Partnership to appoint an Empty Homes Project Officer to identify staff shortages in health and social care and then liaise with owners and registered social landlords on empty properties.         Argyll and Bute Council will offer practical and financial assistance to bring properties back into use. 


Direct Action

            Businesses are being hit by groups taking ‘direct action’ in staff disputes, occupying businesses and disrupting trade including social media attacks.  However, the extremely tight timescales they give employers to comply with their demands led to the closure of Saramago restaurant in Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), with all staff losing their jobs, including 18 who did not back the action.  The protest was instigated by a Clydeside branch affiliated to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), although its tactics helped prevent Glasgow University’s Crichton campus in Dumfries from closing.

            The STUC has not distanced itself from such tactics, as long as any action is democratically sanctioned by members.


            Having survived Covid, some previously successful businesses are succumbing to the cost-of-living crisis.  Firms filing for insolvency processes increased by over 32% against this time last year.  The process  can be used to restructure a business rather than closing it, but increasing numbers may be due to increased pressure by HMRC since January this year.

Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)

            The troubled recycling scheme is not certain to proceed.  The waited-for exemption to the Internal Markets Act finally was finally granted by the UK provided the scheme does not include glass and acts as a ‘pilot scheme’ for the 2025 UK-wide scheme.  Lorna Slater has threatened to bin the whole thing, and doubts remain over possible compensation to businesses for set-up costs already incurred.


            is being completely ground down by the ferries crisis.  Tourists cannot arrive, islanders cannot leave, and those with businesses are seeing their profits evaporate as their customer base dries up.  Restaurants are considering closing, or opening part-time, threatening jobs and the local economy.  Traditional summer profits are not being earned to see them over the winter. 

            Ferries which are not being repaired or maintained are constantly being shuffled around by CalMac.  The new ticketing system has significant glitches, and some longstanding bookings are being cancelled at the last minute.

            Mull Rugby Club Sevens’ recent tournament was missing several teams who could not travel to the island. Tobermory is becoming a ghost town, with the fear tourism will not recover.  And in June 500 people are due to arrive for the Clan Maclean International Gathering, if they can get a ferry.

Pumped-hydro Storage

            SSE Renewables want permission to convert Sloy power station and dam into a pumped-hydro storage scheme to store power generated during times of excess for later use.  It moves water from lower elevations to higher ones during times of surplus, and later, when supply is low due to variability of wind power, water is allowed to flow back down, burning a turbine and generating power.

            SSE estimate that Sloy could provide up to 160 hours of energy non-stop, enough to power 90,000 homes for a week.  Such a scheme would stop the scandal of the National Grid paying windfarms to shut down when it cannot handle the excess produced.

            A second pumped-hydro storage project is located at Coire Glas.  Both projects need massive capital investment which needs UK involvement, which is not forthcoming.  It could possibly support 15,000 jobs and generate billions of pounds. The UK’s four existing pumped-storage hydro projects were commissioned between 1963 and 1984, but the UK is more keen on nuclear energy, as well as approving up to 100 new oil and gas licences.


            Eighty-nine Scottish GP surgeries closed between 2013 and 2023, with 905 remaining.  Each GP is responsible for an average 1687 patients, up from 1499 in 2013.  And 780,000 patients are still waiting for appointments, treatments or tests.  The outpatient waiting list grew 87% over the last 3 years, over 31,000 waiting over a year for an outpatient appointment, and over 147,000 patients waiting for inpatient or day case treatment, nearly 7000 of them waiting for over two years.

Barra and Vatersay

            are trying to lure a resident GP each at a salary of up to £98,555 plus 40% salary enhancement and a £10,000 golden hello. 


Health Board’s ‘Social Listening’

            NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are ‘spying’ on people who ask awkward questions about the Queen Elizabeth University hospital, using ‘social listening’ to find out what is being said about them.  Key targets were Andrew and Louise Slorance, even though Andrew had already died while awaiting a stem cell transplant.  Andrew, a senior Scottish government official, contracted covid and the fungal infection aspergillus in hospital, with the fungus linked to the hospital’s construction.

Rail Safety

            Network Rail’s budget has been reduced by £150 million over 4 years, but eighteen of the 20 official safety recommendations following the Stonehaven crash 3 years ago have not been implemented.  The separate public transport budget for improvements to rail infrastructure has gone up by over £20 million.

            The Stonehaven crash occurred when the train hit washed-out debris at Carmont.  There was no adequate policy for ‘extreme weather events’ even though risk assessments had identified this as a ‘significant threat’.  Their operational control room is the first in the UK to establish a specialist weather team.

            Network Rail thinks ‘efficiency improvements’ are possible, including greater use of technology.

Manned Rail Stations

            More than 100 manned Scottish rail stations are due to suffer staff cuts which unions say will create a ‘muggers’ paradise’, with ticket office opening hours cut at 117 stations and three completely closed.  The Scottish government would only confirm the role of ticket offices remains uncertain.  Already 2 out of 3 stations are unstaffed, but the unions have vowed to fight it. 

            This is despite the Scottish government’s own research findings that women and girls felt safer on public transport when staff were present and there were manned ticket offices.  The report even recommended greater staff on-board presence at evenings and weekends.

            Former Transport minister Jenny Gilruth had pledged to tackle women’s safety on trains. A union survey found 95% of staff said antisocial behaviour on trains had risen, and 90% of members said network violence was up.  Unions want ‘banning orders’ for offenders. 

            Transport minister Kevin Stewart said there are currently no plans  for ticket office closures, but a public consultation is due.


            Scotland’s Lord Advocate role is in the spotlight in recent years after the Alex Salmond case and the investigation into SNP finances. Malcolm McMillan, former chief executive of the Scottish Law Commission, is researching best practice.

            The Lord Advocate has two roles under the Scotland Act 1998, one the head of the Crown Office in Scotland, the other the Scottish government’s top legal adviser.  But dual role may lead to conflicts of interest.  Ireland split its corresponding role into two separate posts.  There will eventually be a consultation on any resulting proposals.

Anti-Strike Legislation

            All six Scottish Conservative MPs voted against an amendment which would have limited the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill to England only, as well as voting against other amendments on minimum maintenance numbers, on consultations and ensuring workers had adequate notification.


Asbo the Psycho Crow

            appears to have been tamed or lost interest in an 18th century cottage in Biggar, Lanarkshire.  Or maybe he just ran out of windows.  It tapped repeatedly on a kitchen window until it shattered, then started on the bathroom window.  After the cottage owner went away for the weekend, he returned to find another six windows broken.  It is thought Asbo may have mistaken his own reflection for a rival crow trying to muscle in on his territory.

            The windows are currently boarded up and Asbo seems to have lost interest for now, but it will cost owner Torvald Alexander £800 to fix the windows.

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