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October 7th – 13th, 2023

07/10/23 – 13/10/23

Cuts Reversed, Police in turmoil, but first …..

No-One Can Stop the Wind Turbines

            The village of Carsphairn in Dumfries and Galloway has been fighting for a number of years against plans for 17 wind turbines, and thought they had won when Dumfries and Galloway Council, the Scottish Government Reporter and Mountaineering Scotland also objected to the plans.

            But that all changed when the Scottish government approved the National Planning Framework 4 which requires planners to prioritise wind farms and renewable developments over anything else.  The Shepherd’s Rig development will now go ahead.

Poverty:

North Lanarkshire

            Following a public outcry, the council has reversed its recent decision to close 39 sports and leisure outlets, but it is not yet clear how they will make up their funding shortfall.  Perhaps they will go the way of South Lanarkshire and increase prices by 114% or access the surplus from the Strathclyde Region Pension Fund which they are due in coming years.

Creative Scotland’s budget cut of £6.6 million is to be reinstated next financial year after a ‘gold-

plated commitment’ from Culture Secretary Angus Robertson.  The 119 organisations normally funded by Creative Scotland are still going to be paid this year, but this will be out of Creative Scotland’s own reserves.  The sector is dubious about this commitment, though, given that a previous commitment not to cut this year was reversed.

Nurseries may shut their doors

            amid funding concerns by childcare providers, with a third of local authorities unclear about how much they will get from the Scottish government for funded places.  Only 3 of Scotland’s 32 councils (Fife, Shetland and Clackmannanshire) are increasing funding to childcare providers to cover a 14% rise in the providers’ costs this year.  All children over 3 years old qualify to get 1140 hours free care per year.  Angus Council, Dumfries and Galloway and South Lanarkshire are offering 10% more funding to providers than last year, with another 9 councils giving 5-10% more.  The requirement to pay staff the real living wage puts further pressure on the sector.

Taymouth Castle

            Satellite images obtained by Protect Loch Tay campaign group show work has begun on a water treatment plant next to the castle without planning permission having been granted.  NatureScot are concerned about the proximity of populations of Atlantic salmon; sea, river and brook lamprey species, otter and freshwater pearl mussel populations. It now appears a retrospective planning application has been lodged with the council.    

            Also of considerable concern is the apparent vandalism of the Grade-B listed ‘Monument’ on the estate, but Discovery Land Company (DLC) cannot confirm when the damage was noticed or if it was reported to police.  It has now been removed for renovation.

Wild Saunas

            More at home in the Nordic countries, there are a growing number of ‘wild saunas’ springing up round Scotland, the romantic and wood-fired Elie Seaside Sauna, Fife, and St Ninian’s Isle beach in Shetland; the mobile Soul Water Sauna off the promenade at Portobello Beach or West Coast Wellness at Loch Fyne. But Scotland still has a way to go to make it truly a ‘community event’ as it is in the Nordics.

A83 Rest and Be Thankful

            The first taskforce meeting in Lochgilphead last week restated plans for debris flow shelters and highlighted a need to upgrade the Old Military Road which is used as an alternative route when the A83 is out of commission. 

            Campaigners say Transport Scotland warned there were 100,000 tonnes of unstable material on the hillside above the A83 before the latest 7 landslides, one of which sent 2,000 tonnes of debris down onto the road.

            The planned £470 million debris shelter would not cover the area of 6 of the 7 landslides. One mother and daughter had a very lucky escape from their vehicle seconds before it was swept into the ravine, and 10 people were airlifted to safety.

            With more rain, the 100,000 tonnes could just shear off.  What good would a flimsy shelter be then?

Not a Good Week for Police Scotland

Payout for beards but no cash for HBs

            Four police officers recently won £15,000 apiece when the force issued a rule that police officers must be clean-shaven in order to wear PPE masks, which don’t fit properly over facial hair.  Insufficient consultation may be a factor, but a 90-day non-disclosure agreement (NDA) delayed the announcement so it is hard to say.  A previous order for police officers not to have visible tattoos on faces or arms appeared to be abandoned when they found how many police officers of both sexes have them.

Police Scotland has lost an appeal in an anti -discrimination case for rescinding Laura Mackenzie’s recruitment as a police officer as she was on anti-depressants, despite her sailing through the recruitment process.  Their own occupational health team has a two-year-free rule. They may now have to contend with more anti-discrimination cases.  

Staff and Officer Vetting may be out of date as there is no requirement for repeat vetting after initial recruitment, except one extra step for police constables on completing initial training.  There was no re-vetting in 2013 when the eight legacy forces merged into Police Scotland.  Following the murder of Sarah Everard by Metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens, Police Scotland introduced randomised re-vetting of police and staff, but there is no clear pathway to report vetting concerns.

New Chief Constable Jo Farrell agrees with outgoing Chief Iain Livingstone that the force is ‘institutionally racist’.  Quite how she has come to that conclusion when she only took up her post on 9th October is not clear.  And the January intake of 200 new constables is also being cut to allow Police Scotland to retain the funds till the end of the financial year next April, when they hope to increase the usual 200 April intake to make up the shortfall.

Health:

Time off for the Manopause

            A number of councils and public services have ‘male menopause’ services in place which can include up to a year off work.  Glasgow University mentions men in their menopause policies, and hotel chain Premier Inn call what men experience ‘menopausal symptoms’, entitled to special consideration.  Claiming men experience the same symptoms as women including mood swings, insomnia and hot flushes, they say they are following the NHS website, but a mere fall in hormone levels and erectile dysfunction are not a menopause.

Workplaces only recently, grudgingly, acknowledged the female menopause, but we now have to fight to retain our own conditions and biology, with men appropriating something which only happens to biological females when periods end (which never start in men, so can’t end). 

Electric Vehicle Runs Amok

            A driver recently went on a terrifying journey on his way home from work in Glasgow when his electric vehicle suffered a ‘catastrophic malfunction’ which he could neither correct nor control.  Manual braking failed, and he could not reduce its 30-mph speed.  Eventually he had to call the police, who boxed in the vehicle which then crashed into the back of a police van. The attending mechanic identified dozens of faults when the vehicle was plugged into a diagnostic machine.

Ditch the Scottish Greens

            MSP Michelle Thomson has joined the clamour for the SNP to ditch the ‘informal’ Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens if the party is to have any hope of restoring its fortunes. 

            Critics cite unworkable, unpopular policies like the Deposit Return Scheme, Gender self-ID and ripping out domestic gas boilers in favour of heat pumps as reasons why they are dragging the SNP down with them.  And that was before Maggie Chapman’s unfortunate intervention in the Israel/Hamas war.

Ferries:

The French port of Dunkirk

is being considered as the destination for the planned Rosyth Ferry relaunch, whose service to Zeebrugge in Belgium stopped in 2010 for passengers and 2018 for freight.  Talks are at an advanced stage at Dunkirk, which already has in place much of the infrastructure needed.

Priority Access

is being tested on the Oban to Craignure (Mull) route, to allow islanders priority access to ferries to and from their own islands.  A percentage of the vehicle deck space will be held back from sale until three days before a sailing, meaning 10% of every MV Loch Frisa sailing will retain 3 car spaces, and MV Isle of Mull will retain 6 per sailing.  At present, people must book 3 or 4 weeks in advance to secure a place.  The MV Clansman (Coll to Tiree) will retain 12.5% of space until a week before sailings. 

The new measure follows the introduction of a system similar to the Danish Samso System which prioritises islanders and frequent users who obtain a priority ID card.

Salmon Numbers down

            Salmon farming production is down by 18%, with differing causes from warming water temperatures to jellyfish, infectious diseases, parasites and algal bloom and open-net farming.  Last year 16.7 million farmed salmon died in the water, with this year 10.5 million deaths to August, nearly 3 million up on the same period last year.  Two Bakkafrost farms topped the mortality list, Druimyeon Bay (82.3% mortality) and Greanamul (56.4% mortality).  Scottish Sea Farms’ Eday site had mortality of 42.3%.  The total weight of the fish harvest was nearly 170,000 tonnes in 2022, which is less than the amount harvested in 2003.

Finally,

           Iona the Loggerhead Turtle, who washed up on a beach in Iona last year over 1000 miles from her natural habitat, has been restored to health and released back into the wild in the Azores, Portugal.  Landing in Scotland in January 2022, cold-stunned and dehydrated, she was the smallest live stranded loggerhead turtle recorded in the UK.  Initially treated at Sea Life, Loch Lomond, she was later transferred to Sea Life, Scarborough, to complete her recovery.

          And eight-week-old Red Squirrel kit Stormy, found soaked through and near death after torrential rain in Perth last weekend, was rescued, dried out, given a tiny bed and fed baby formula, then apples, nuts and broccoli until he was out of danger.  Then he was transferred to a new cage, containing a squirrel-sized hammock, and is again enjoying life.  He will be released back into the wild in a few weeks.

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