McVities has closed
Iconic biscuit producer McVities has ceased Scottish production, with Turkish owners Pladis shutting it to stop ‘over-capacity’ and ‘protect long-term sustainability’. Scottish production is going to English plants, Hobnobs and Digestives going to Manchester and others going to Wigston, Leicestershire, and some to Carlisle, which is reportedly being expanded. McVities had been at Tollcross since 1925 as part of the Macfarlane and Lang Victoria Biscuit Works.
Then-Business Minister Jamie Hepburn and Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken put forward a rescue plan, but both it and a petition of 800,000 names were dismissed by Pladis despite them receiving nearly £900,000 of taxpayer grants over the years. The knock-on effects include workers scrambling for other jobs and also other local businesses who will see a drop in sales.
Labour MSP Paul Sweeney believes the owners had already fixed their course, and feels foreign ownership rules must be tightened.
Telling the Truth about the Debt
The Scottish government is coming under pressure to produce figures to accurately reflect the economic reality of an independent Scotland. This may have been prompted by Plaid Cymru commissioning a report by Dublin City University Professor John Doyle which debunked the GERW (Government Expenditure and Revenue Wales) figures which showed Wales to be £13.5bn in debt on Day 1 of independence. Professor Doyle found the figure would be more like £2.6bn.
GERW figures show taxation paid by people and companies resident in Wales, public expenditure spent in Wales and a per capita contribution allocated to Wales of all central UK expenditure, regardless of where it is spent. Scotland’s GERS follows much the same pattern.
The Scottish government once again says that economic papers are on their way, but not how much detail they will contain. We were promised this by both Derek Mackay and Kate Forbes.
Rent Freeze must happen
The proposed rent freeze is a good start but must be accompanied by a sustained housebuilding and renovation programme. Landlords are threatening to sell up if rents are frozen but that in turn might allow people to buy more cheaply than they can rent. Protection must be extended to limit price rises on new tenants taking over and limit the number of times it can be raised. Even with a freeze, many rental properties remain out of reach.
According to the Parkhead Housing Association, the Scottish Housing Regulator figures show millions of pounds held in reserve by registered social landlords, suggesting they could afford to weather the storm for at least a year.
Alternative fuels not getting help
Recent government support for energy bills is not as generous for those who use alternative fuels like oil. They will get a miserly £100 towards energy costs, while oil prices have tripled over the last year. Almost 17% of Scottish households (420,000) are not connected to the gas grid, with 217,000 using fuels other than mains gas or electricity. Oil heats 129,000 households, with others using LPG or solid fuels like coal.
UK laws and Devolution
Devolution is under severe threat from the Tories’ economic spending plans. If, as seems likely, public spending is slashed, cuts to English funding such as for health, cuts the amount Scotland gets in the block grant, as Scotland gets a per-capita proportion of England’s spending. Money need not be spent on the same things as England, so Scotland could make up the shortfall, but only by cutting other services.
The Internal Market Act will force Scotland to accept consumer standards and products from elsewhere in the UK regardless of standards. The Levelling-Up Fund appears targeted at areas likely to vote unionist/Conservative. The UK’s Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill aims to repeal all remaining EU regulations including safe working hours, parental leave and baby food standards.
Ferries further delayed
The two ferries under construction may never be delivered, according to new figures from Ferguson Marine. Costs are forecast to soar by £100m to £340m. The Glen Sannox’ outstanding work involves an ‘unquantifiable figure’, with CMAL admitting there is ‘slippage’ in the commissioning of the ferry. The other ferry, Hull 802, is now due in the first three months of 2024. Both are intended for the Clyde and Hebrides network.
Air Quality failing
The Scottish government has repeatedly failed to meet air quality standards on nitrogen dioxide (NO2), according to Environment Standards Scotland (ESS). Air pollution kills 2500 people a year in Scotland through conditions like asthma, heart attacks and strokes. Glasgow’s Hope Street recorded a mean NO2 reading of 45.411 last year, higher than the safe limit of 40mg per cubic metre outlined in the European Ambient Air Quality Directive.
Dementia Patients failed by Telephone appointments
In the rush to replace face-to-face patient appointments, University of Edinburgh research shows video links are affecting patient care, making it difficult to assess patient mobility and demeanour, and affecting how people absorb bad news with healthcare professionals absent. The number of dementia diagnoses fell by 7.6% in the UK during the pandemic, with a 5% fall in deaths from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
settled eight cases out of court between January and June 2022, involving Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) as to the exact terms, raising fears of systemic police failings escaping proper scrutiny.
Scotland’s Road Network
The SNP promise 13 years ago to dual the whole A9 between Perth and Inverness is still not a reality. A number of fatal accidents recently highlighted that only 30 miles of the 110-mile route has been upgraded to dual carriageway. Transport Scotland maintains all the work will be done by 2025, but that seems unlikely, particularly as some of the plans will be subject to an Enhanced Climate Impact Assessment now that the SNP is in ‘coalition’ with the Greens.
Fergus Ewing, Minister for Rural Economy from 2016 to 2021, cites the layout of the A9 as a big part of the problem, changing as it does from single- to dual-carriageway and back and some stretches being ‘two plus one’ carriageways which include an overtaking lane. Nine sections of the A9 remain to be dualled.
was due to be entirely dualled from Inverness to Aberdeen by 2030, but this may now be subject to an Enhanced Climate Impact Assessment, therefore at least delayed, and possibly stopped. Successive government ministerial pledges remain unfulfilled, but it is more than just broken promises. The real cost is devastated lives and families.
A77 and A75
Interested parties have reacted with disappointment at the Scottish government’s March refusal to commit to all twenty recommended improvements for these roads. The watered-down commitment is to only three being fully implemented. Continued failings on this main route linking Northern Ireland are impacting Scotland’s trading ability with one of its nearest neighbours.
Wind Farm Community Benefits
Kype Muir Wind Farm at Strathaven has operated 26 turbines for three years, generating renewable energy and supplying a community fund which has given £270,000 to the local communities for projects including tidying up local woodland, providing new benches, owl boxes and tidying tracks. Lesmahagow got money to benefit the local bowling club with new lockers and toilets.
This money is courtesy of the Kype Muir Community Partnership, with 49 grants for thing including mental health projects, improved facilities at Strathaven Rugby Club and a community radio station. With expanded investment, it is projected the partnership will get up to £700,000 a year in total, benefitting Lesmahagow, Stonehouse, Strathaven, Blackwood and Sandford.
But switch-offs have cost energy bill-payers over £1bn in the last five years. These ‘constraint payments’ compensate energy companies producing too much wind energy which the grid cannot cope with at the time of production, due to lacking electricity storage options. Gas generators must generate energy when demand exceeds supply. The National Grid ESO, which keeps the UK supplied with energy, predicts constraint payments will grow from £1bn to £2.3bn by 2026, with wind farm compensation payments reaching £500m a year before any infrastructure improvements allow storage solutions.
These payments are added to our energy bills. Eighty percent of UK wind energy curtailment in 2020 was on Scottish farms. So far, the UK government has provided an initial £6.7m to fund 24 projects around the UK to develop storage technology.
A Full Fox-hunting ban
does not appear to be part of SNP plans, leading to a showdown with the Scottish Greens. In general, no more than two dogs should be used in mounted horse hunts or hunts using quad bikes to chase animals from hiding before being shot. But exceptions allow more than two dogs with no maximum number, if it is for ‘predator control’ or environmental reasons such as harm to livestock, and there is no other way to control them. Permits will be free to landowners, with time limits of 14 days for predator control, and up to 2 years for environmental purposes.
Ariane Burgess of the Scottish Greens is pushing for a full fox-hunting ban. Holyrood is expected to back the general principles next month, with committee deliberations from mid-November.
Tia the Cat
seems to have mistaken herself for an engineer when she hitched a lift with neighbour Doug Craig for a trip to Coll fire station to fix their broadband. Craig got the fright of his life when he saw two eyes fixed on him from the back of his van, but at least it explained why his workbag had been covered in cat hair.
After ensuring a supply of tuna and biscuits for her, Craig slept in a tent while Tia stayed in the van, prior to the two getting the ferry the next day. This is not the first time she has decided it’s time for a wee holiday and sneaked into other neighbours’ cars.