05/11/2022 – 11/11/2022
Burning (copies of) the Treaty of Union
has upset SNP MP Pete Wishart to such an extent that he labelled it undemocratic, sinister and irresponsible. He seems to think it will affect perceptions of the Yes movement. Others suggested more copies of the treaty should have been made and burned.
SNP MSP Michelle Thomson is under fire from the Conservatives for wearing not only a white poppy, but one with ‘Yes’ in the centre. Apparently this is politicising the commemoration, unlike the usual commemorations which surround Armistice Day.
Colette Walker speaking on Higher Education
ISP Leader Colette Walker recently spoke at an event hosted by RNIB/ Sight Scotland on the Curriculum Framework for Children and Young People with Vision Impairment, focussing on cerebral visual impairment and the 20-year plan for the curriculum for children and young people with visual impairment. Some of the detail will be fleshed out by Spring next year.
Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child demands that all children have the right to an education to make them the best they can be. Article 28 says education is every child’s right, including disabled children.
Colette focussed on the problems surrounding accessing higher education for a person with visual impairment. One of the main problems seems to be that there is a ‘postcode lottery’ of what is funded locally, compared with university education, where funding is guaranteed by the government for all.
In a desperate move to free up hospital space, when patients are ready to be discharged from hospital, they will be required to take any available care home space, even over the objections of the patient or family. In September, the average of beds occupied by those well enough to be discharged was 1,832, but it hardly seems conducive to patients’ recovery to force them into places where they may know no-one or be far from family. Why not bring back the convalescent homes/hospitals we used to have?
Angela Constance, Minister for Drugs Policy, is in favour of safe consumption rooms and the Crown Office and Lord Advocate must decide if Scotland has the power to introduce them. But the Home Office has already refused, saying those involved would be risking criminal charges for possession of or being concerned in the supply of controlled drugs.
A&E waiting times targets have been met in only 63.1% of cases, and despite concerns over how much the new National Care Service will cost, more input is needed from stakeholders in co-designing the legislation. Financial details will be forthcoming at a later date.
One often overlooked factor in rising energy bills is the health outcomes resulting from being unable to heat your home. Cold, damp houses can cause and worsen respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease, poor mental health, dementia, hypothermia and childhood development.
And many people are being forced to use pre-payment meters if they have run up debts. In the poorest areas, 69% of Scottish homes have them, against an average of 16% for Scotland overall. These meters first take money to pay off previous debt and the standing charge before there is anything over to pay for current usage, leading to a downward spiral of chasing debts.
in Renfrewshire, meant to be for 1100 pupils, has been built to take only 430, due to an error in the specifications for the £18 million building. The privately-funded project meant BAE Systems paid for the new school, but it is unclear how the numbers were wrong. It is now the council’s responsiblity to build extra facilities costing about £17 million.
In the meantime, six new modular classrooms with their own heating, cloakroom and toilet facilities will be built in the playground for next August at a cost of £2 million, pending a long-term solution.
Arts and Culture
are facing increased costs and budget cuts, with only a fragile recovery since the covid pandemic. Between 2010/11 and 2022/23 Creative Scotland saw its budget reduced by £13.1 million, and next year will see a 2.3% reduction in culture and major event spending. Energy price rises are worryingly high for most businesses, and Historic Environment Scotland may see energy costs quadruple to £4 million. Some feel part of the Transient Visitor Levy could be used to support the sector, but it is clear that the Arts are desperately in need of funding to survive.
The Wyndford Residents Union
is campaigning for four tower blocks in Maryhill not to be demolished as is currently planned, but instead retrofitted as other blocks have been, and is calling for volunteers to ‘occupy’ the four blocks to prevent their demolition. The blocks were earmarked for demolition when taken over by Glasgow Housing Association and are due to be replaced by half the number of energy-efficient homes in a £54 million project.
has apologised for sexist and discriminatory behaviour against women in the medical school. Dr James Going has quit his post after 35 years alleging misogyny was flourishing in the medical school. Principal Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli admits that few women appear in senior roles in the university. Now a new oversight board will try to redress matters and a report by Morag Ross KC is awaited into gender-based violence, including harassment and discrimination.
Gender Reform Bill being rushed?
There have been 150 amendments proposed to the Gender Reform Bill. Shona Robison wants sheriffs to be allowed to refuse applications before approval if they feel it is fraudulent or the person does not fully understand the consequences. SNP MSP Christine Grahame proposes requiring 16- and 17-year-olds to live in their acquired gender for six months, rather than three and they must also have discussed the matter with someone in a guidance or advisory role in their lives.
Labour’s Michael Marra has tabled an amendment for all applications to be counter-signed by a professional person who has known the applicant for two years.
The SNP-Greens want Stage 2 completed by 23rd November and a Conservative attempt to extend the time limit by two weeks was rejected. But the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee is not due to start considering amendments until November 15th, leaving only 8 days to consider 150 amendments.
The Scottish Greens
are launching their own series of indy papers focussing on the climate emergency and wellbeing. These papers are in addition to the Scottish government’s, not in competition. They want a ‘green new deal’ to ‘supercharge’ a just transition, including a Universal Basic Income, which joint leader Patrick Harvie admits has not been re-costed since 2014. He says he supports independence as the UK is ‘incapable of delivering ….. transformational change….’.
Angus may Disappear
from the political map if planned Boundary Commission changes go ahead. The constituency, presently held by the SNP’s Dave Doogan, will be split into two seats, North Tayside and Dundee East and Arbroath, with most coastal areas going into another constituency. This is despite the commission’s own criteria of ‘respecting established natural and community boundaries’. Thirty-five constituencies will have boundary changes, and 20 will be renamed.
Three areas are under threat, including Angus. Glasgow City, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire council areas may lose one seat, as may Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Argyll and Bute, Highland and Moray reducing each area to 9 seats.
Wales will lose eight seats, but England will GAIN ten. Each constituency should have at least 69,724 electors and no more than 77,062 (except the protected constituencies of Na h-Eileanan an Iar, and Orkney and Shetland).
A consultation is running until December 5th, so make your views known via the Boundary Commissions for Scotland website.
A Land Levy
has been mooted by Alex Neil, former Scottish government Health Secretary, which could raise £2 bn a year to fund the NHS, social care and other public services. Citing Denmark and Estonia as states which operate a land value tax, he claims that charging £100 per acre on anyone owning over an acre of land would generate £2bn and avoid the 2% budget cut (£1.2 bn) to front line health services. He also suggests higher income tax on very high earners, a mansion tax, derelict property tax and a council tax supplement on houses valued over £350,000.
Following last week’s disturbances in Dundee, it was Edinburgh and Glasgow’s turn on Bonfire Night. Youths barricaded roads and hurled petrol bombs at police vehicles in Duddingston, and in Niddrie youths hurled fireworks at members of the public and an ambulance. Fire personnel were attacked with fireworks in Drylaw, and outside the OVO Hydro in Glasgow a flare was thrown into a crowd.
Ferry or Fly?
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has given the Mull and Iona Ferry committee £15,000 to investigate the feasibility of the group taking over routes from state controlled CalMac and is also suggesting more and cheaper flights to take the pressure off the ferry fleet, as well as more bridges and tunnels in the long-term.
is where Nicola Sturgeon, her Environment Minister Mairi McAllan and Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken are to be found this week. Sturgeon has promised another £5 million grant (not loan) from the Scottish government towards reparations for climate loss and damage. She bemoans the lack of women in leadership positions attending the summit, but was at the launch of The Extreme Hangout, a young people’s platform for COP27 discussions, for the arrival of the baton which had travelled 4836 miles from Glasgow to Sharm El-Sheikh, saying young people must be heard for solutions to the climate crisis.
But not so good on the home front, where the Scottish government is slashing this year’s energy efficiency scheme budget by £133 million, hitting plans to improve energy efficiency in homes and workplaces which account for 20% of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions. They will also cut £1.75m a year from £5m set aside for a two-year scheme to convert CO2 to produce synthetic fuels and proteins and £10m from the budget for installing zero-emissions heating systems. Local government will lose £2.4m from heat and energy-efficiency strategies. The government claims much of the cuts are the result of low take-up and reprioritising funds.
Post Office Scandal
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission says the convictions of six Scottish postmasters for fraud and embezzlement in the Post Office Horizon IT scandal may be miscarriages of justice.
Despite many people voicing concerns, the Post Office continued using their faulty system for 14 years from 2000, forcing postmasters to replace ‘missing money’ from their own pockets. Elsewhere in the UK 80 convictions have been overturned, but these are the first six cases on appeal in Scotland. A number of those convicted have been imprisoned, shunned, financially ruined or even died.
A Waxwing Winter?
Ornithologists have noted the arrival from Russia and Finland of many more waxwings this year, the first sightings being on Yell in Shetland. They traditionally migrate due to shortages of berries in their native habitat, but may be a harbinger of a harsh winter, like in 2018. Let’s hope they’re wrong….