26/11/22 – 02/12/22
A clear divide has emerged between rich and poor in terms of cancer survival. This may be partly lifestyle choices, according to the Deprivation and Cancer Inequalities in Scotland report from Cancer Research UK, whose chief executive Michelle Mitchell called the inequalities ‘unfair, avoidable and systemic’ at every stage of the cancer pathway. Risk factors and screening uptake combined with barriers to seeking help have led to 74% more cancer-related deaths in the most deprived population than the least deprived, with smoking responsible for 20% of all cancer cases.
Breast and bowel cancer screening uptake is 20% lower in the most deprived areas, with cervical screening down 11% over the least deprived areas. GP availability is lower in deprived areas, treatment centres may be further away and people more reliant on public transport. Those in deprived areas were more likely to die from covid than their wealthier counterparts, and people may choose or have prescribed for them less optimal treatments which they can access locally without needing to travel.
India/UK Trade Deal
Humza Yousaf is concerned that the free trade agreement with India will threaten affordable drugs by means of its Intellectual Property chapter, fearing that pharmaceutical firms will be able to raise prices not just for branded medicines, but also for their generic equivalents. Eighty percent of NHS drugs are generic and one third are manufactured in India.
The UK is pushing for tighter IP measures which could boost the profits of British drug companies, but would require India to introduce more monopolies on medicines. New uses of existing medicines will be patentable. Various organisations complain the only beneficiaries of this approach are the pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders.
The UK claims that the NHS, its services and the cost of medicines are not on the table, and that the Scottish government is engaged regularly in negotiations.
Energy Saving advice
may actually worsen problems like mould in the home, according to Andrew Campbell, who inspects properties for Edinburgh City Council. Keeping windows shut and sealing trickle vents, as well as turning heating off can create ideal conditions for potentially deadly mould to thrive. Inhaling mould fragments or spores can inflame the airways, causing nasal congestion, wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and throat irritation, and can cause or worsen asthma.
You need to both heat and ventilate the house. Wet rooms like bathrooms and kitchens are more at risk of damp and mould, although extractor fans help, as does keeping an even temperature in the house. Clothes should also not be dried inside (impossible just now).
Scotland is getting Dirtier
Local authorities are struggling to cope with litter, flytipping and dog mess, which have reached their worst levels for a decade. Keep Scotland Beautiful (KBS) said 18% of streets and public spaces in Edinburgh were not up to an acceptable standard in 2021/22, followed by North Lanarkshire, Inverclyde and Glasgow at 15.5%, 15% and 14% respectively. Dundee and Aberdeen came in at 11%.
Resources are cited as a major problem, especially since the 2008 financial crisis. But other areas fared better. Aberdeenshire had only 2% of streets and spaces classed as unacceptable, and Angus just 3%.
Self-Build Loan Fund
The fund, which closed last August, has now reopened for those who want to build their own houses but who cannot get standard bank lending. Up to £175,000 is available to help with development costs, through the Communities Housing Trust. An administration fee of £895 is payable to secure the loan, which has an interest rate of 5.5% (or 9% if people are in default) and as a short-term loan it is intended to be repaid on completion of the build, although the building cost should still be considerably less than a traditional purchase.
The fund covers only building work, and a plot must have been bought before applying, or there must be an agreement to buy, with a building warrant in place.
Footballers are three and a half times more likely to die from brain disease than the general population, according to Glasgow University research. Now in an effort to improve safety, professional footballers will be banned from heading the ball in training the day before and the day after the game, and repetitive heading exercises will only be allowed one session per week.
This follows the Scottish Football Association’s earlier guidelines limiting heading in youth football and banning heading in training for the under-12s.
Welsh Energy Company
After the SNP promised a publicly-owned energy firm as part of its 2021 manifesto, then summarily ditched it, Wales is forging ahead with setting up a publicly-owned renewable energy firm to develop onshore wind farms on Welsh-government owned woodland estate which covers 6% of Wales. Launching in April 2024, it aims to channel profits back to Wales. Currently Pen-y-Cymoedd, an onshore wind farm, is run by Swedish state firm Vattenfall and the profits go to Sweden.
Common Weal was extremely critical of large companies like BP and Shell being awarded nearly a quarter of the 17 ScotWind projects at the start of 2022. The Scottish government refused a Common Weal inquiry as to which powers the Welsh government has that Scotland does not. But by the time Scotland is independent, it may have handed the whole renewables industry over to big business.
The Scottish government’s attitude to UN Rapporteurs is definitely selective. In 2018 Nicola Sturgeon ripped into the UK government when the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty said the UK was inflicting misery on the poorest in society.
But she had no response to Reem Alsalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Girls, who said gender reforms must be suspended until the Scottish government speaks to her over fears that violent males may abuse self-identification. Shona Robison has sent a lengthy written response, and it has been revealed she will meet with Alsalem next week.
Wheesht on Single Sex Spaces
The 30th Anniversary meeting of Zero Tolerance in Edinburgh which works to end male violence against women and girls was certainly eventful. Before the meeting, a note to attendees ordered them to refrain from discussing the definition of a woman or single sex spaces.
Apart from the chilling shutting down of free speech, how do you discuss violence against women without defining women, and without even referring to single-sex spaces, which are intended specifically to keep women safe?
Thankfully, Sturgeon was heckled by a woman refusing to be silenced. Sturgeon even admitted that predatory males may well abuse self-ID, but said we must concentrate on them, not on further ‘stigmatising’ trans women. She sees no irony in re-defining women to include men, and further compromising single-sex spaces, although at First Minister’s Questions Sturgeon renewed her acknowledgment of the problem of ‘bad faith actors’.
This week Joanna Cherry called the treatment in workplaces and other public spaces of gender-critical women who merely raise concerns about self-identification ‘institutional bullying’. She hopes the First Minister’s belated admission will help to end this treatment. We all do.
Critics are warning that the government’s revised National Planning Framework (NPF4) could lead to fewer homes being built. Homes for Scotland (HfS) are warning the Scottish government to balance climate aims with the need for new housing, with a current shortfall of 100,000 homes. There is no process yet for bringing forward additional land if allocated sites fail to deliver the number of homes required, and applications currently within the system will need to be reassessed if NPF4 goes live before they are completed. HfS hints that the new framework gives possibly too much weight to climate and nature needs, while Scottish government planning minister Tom Arthur admits they are the priority. It probably isn’t the priority for those needing a home.
Steve Micklewright of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance wants rewilding to be made the core purpose of Scotland’s two national parks, the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and Trossachs, decrying the condition of much of the parks, with peat bogs emitting rather than soaking up carbon dioxide because of neglect, burning or draining, and a lack of protection for birds of prey, mountain hares and pollinating insects.
Nick Kempe of parkswatchscotland agrees that existing parks are in a ‘terrible state’, with sheep grazing a big issue and deer levels too high. Loch Lomond park has ‘industrial scale forestry’ and grouse shooting and muirburn continue apace. Scotland’s existing national parks are only at Grade 5, the lowest level measured by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Marine habitats allow scallop dredging and trawling, releasing huge amounts of carbon from the seabed. A third park is planned by the end of 2026.
A new year-long campaign has been launched by Basic Income Network Scotland (BINS) to build pressure on the Scottish government to enshrine in law the right to a basic income after independence, payable to everyone over 16 regardless of employment status, salary or other income. Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute estimates the cost to Scotland would be £7 billion at current benefit levels, or £38 billion if everyone in Scotland got £25,000 a year. The ISP has been committed to UBI since our inception.
At the same time research by Aberlour children’s charity shows that 55% of Scottish families currently receiving Universal Credit (UC) have at least one deduction from their monthly income to cover debts to public bodies, with 27% having multiple deductions made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Deductions are made to repay advance UC payments, rent arrears, service charges and council taxes.
Who will replace Ian Blackford as SNP Parliamentary Leader at Westminster? Does it matter? Names being touted are Kirsten Oswald, Stephen Flynn and even Joanna Cherry. Apart from a couple of notable walkouts at Westminster led by Ian Blackford, many fear the SNP at Westminster cooperates a bit too much and will be hoping for someone to take the fight to the Conservative and Labour Establishment, maybe start a public campaign of peaceable civil unrest which will show we do not accept that England has the final say over Scotland.