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October 8th – October 14th, 2022 Week 41

Scotland’s National Cerebral Palsy Football Team

            recently travelled to Sardinia for the World Championships.   After beating Italy 6-0, South Korea 7-0 and Chile 7-2, they beat Japan 5-1 in the semi-final, narrowly losing the final to Colombia 3-2.

            Not bad considering that six years ago they lost all their funding and were disbanded.  Manager Greig Taylor cajoled funding from a pal and rounded up volunteers to rebuild the team.

            They now plan to launch a women’s team and a new player development centre and team to include cerebral palsy players of all abilities.  Their next international outing is the European Championships next May.

The Homeless Project Scotland

            soup kitchen is three years old this month, and a fixture of night-time Glasgow under the city’s Hielanman’s Umbrella.  They are not short of volunteers or users and have 1800 extra volunteers on a waiting list.  Total Control Security has volunteered £47,000-worth of man hours to guard volunteers and ensure the safety of the soup kitchen, which is one of a number in Glasgow.

            Some customers are rough sleepers who do not want a hostel place as they are coming off drugs. Some are sofa-surfers, some young people with children but no means of making ends meet.  All feel shame at having to access this help, even though it is not their fault.

            One man took off his shoes to reveal blackened toes which fell off, another double-amputee male shuffled out of his wheelchair to bed down in the doorway.  Children come to the kitchen so hungry they cannot keep down the food they are given.

            This is Scotland 2022.

Women’s Issues:

Holyrood Rally:

            Hundreds of women rallied outside Holyrood last week to protest against the government’s gender reform plans.  The Committee Report is in favour of it, although committee membership appeared heavily weighted by those who were always in favour of it.  Women’s groups had to fight to give evidence, and only 9 managed to give evidence, compared with 25 for the trans lobby.  Irish author Helen Joyce cried as she remembered how her country ‘sleep-walked’ into gender reform and the problems it has caused.  She says if Scotland does the same, the government will not be able to say they did not know.

            The only dissenting voices in the report were Scottish Conservatives Pam Gosal and Rachael Hamilton.

JK Rowling

            tweeted her support of the rally while wearing a T-shirt calling the FM ‘destroyer of human rights’.  This is the T-shirt that got a gender-critical female ejected from committee proceedings, while trans supporters were not ejected.  Nicola Sturgeon said opponents of trans reforms are ‘asking people to effectively prove that they’re mentally unwell’.

            No, we have never said trans people are mentally unwell.  What we say is ‘No Safeguarding = Danger to Women’.

Maggie Chapman

            More worryingly is the committee report’s request from Maggie Chapman that the Scottish government considers a future process to enable young people under the age of 16 to apply for a GRC [Gender Recognition Certificate] with appropriate safeguards’.

            So there we have it.  Reforms to make life easier are not the end. Now it’s on to the under-16s.  Given that the government resolutely denies that ANY safeguarding is needed for the current bill, faint hope that there would be any for those under 16 in the future.

Scottish Pound/ Indyref 2

            Nicola Sturgeon plans to continue to use the pound sterling after independence, but to set up a Central Bank on a positive independence vote.  This bank would advise government and be the lender of last resort, but confusingly there is no timeline for a Scottish pound. 

            She hopes the Supreme Court endorses an advisory referendum, failing which Plan B, a plebiscite.  But in an interview on France24TV Angus Robertson refused to confirm if it would be next October, saying it would happen ‘at some stage’ ‘sooner or later’ and that more young voters are pro-independence. Stephen Noon, chief strategist of indyref 1, now appears to favour ‘a bit more independence’ as an option. So no confusion, then.

The SNP Code of Conduct

            for the independence campaign seeks to be inclusive by being exclusive of gender-critical women. Josh Mennie, who works for Karen Adam, said it wasn’t about limiting free speech.  People could say what they want, they just ‘won’t be involved in our campaign’[my italics]!!

            Unfortunately, they intend this code to apply to the whole Yes movement, not just the SNP!

Public Health Scotland

            has ruled out any ‘plausible’ link between the covid vaccine and spikes in neonatal deaths but is refusing to examine the mothers’ vaccine status, citing the distress it would cause the mothers and the effect on public confidence in the vaccine.   

Mesh Implants

            Not one NHS patient has been sent from Scotland for mesh removal in the United States, held up awaiting assessment in Scotland’s Complex Mesh Surgical Service.  Only private patients could afford to travel.  The US surgeon undertaking the surgery even offered to come to Scotland free of charge but this was declined.  Countless women are still in limbo, some wrongly discharged from the service altogether and now needing a new assessment.

            And still the Scottish government has not appointed a Women’s Health Champion.

University Students

            Glasgow University students are fighting back against lack of accommodation and perceived lack of university help.  The Unhoused Students’ Action Group lodged a complaint on behalf of 70 students against the university, which is now housing some in city hotels. With nowhere to prepare food, students’ mental health is suffering, with some missing the start of their courses.  The group feels the university has the wherewithal to solve this acute accommodation crisis.

            They have been deluged with pleas for help, including from one woman who is sharing a hostel space with 13 other people, mainly older men.  Some are living in dangerous conditions and being threatened by their landlord.  The group is demanding a dedicated staff pool to help them. 

            This year there are 37,000 students, compared to 28,000 pre-covid.  They accuse the university of worsening the general pressure on Glasgow’s housing, partly by increasing the number of students, although the university increased the number of student beds by 25%.  The university blames a contracting rental market.

            Many English-based students are paying up to £9,000 in tuition fees and much more from other countries and are wondering why.

The Rural Housing Crisis

            is causing a wave of hidden homelessness, with even skilled personnel forced to live at home with their parents into middle age.  One such is Sean Robertson, 42 years old, from Inverness, who is also a father, but whose job in the NHS does not pay enough to get a realistic mortgage, even for Help to Buy properties.  Renting is ironically much more expensive than buying.

            Workers are forced to live in caravans.  Some suggest a cap on the number of houses which can be holiday lets or second homes.  Only 10% of Highland housing is social housing.  Housebuilding materials cost more since Brexit, and cost 30% more in the Highlands than the central belt.

Japan’s Islands Plan

            Scotland’s Rural College research into depopulation on Scottish islands has had mixed reviews.  It found a ‘bounty’ scheme to attract young and old incomers to Japan’s islands worked by offering £990 to £1350 per month for three years in exchange for people moving and taking part in cultural, historical and nature projects, like restoring derelict properties or staying short-term on specific projects.  It encouraged incomers and residents mixing more and looked to attract both young and older people.  Up to 63% of participants stayed on after the initial three years.

            The Scottish government recently axed a grant scheme to attract outsiders as islanders did not believe this tackled depopulation.  Rhoda Meek of Isle Develop Community Interest Company is not enthusiastic about the new report, fearing it allows communities to be written off, and criticised its favour of tourism-led projects rather than infrastructure.  Japan’s idea of an ‘akiya’ (empty housing) bank, where unused housing is listed for sale or rent, would not serve Scotland.  On many Japanese islands there is plentiful empty housing.  In Scotland much of the housing stock is deliberately empty. 

            Martainn Mac a’Bhaillidh of Gaelic campaign group Misneachd saw the grant scheme as bribing people to move while not addressing the real issues of lack of broadband connectivity, poor ferries and lack of housing. 

A Tailored Visa Scheme for Scotland

            has been rejected by the UK government. Scotland lodged its request last month to enable those earning below the UK visa requirements to fill vacancies in hospitality, health and other sectors.  Firms would have sponsored foreign nationals for four years on condition of them living in remote communities. 

            The UK suggested Scottish communities should instead try and attract UK migrants, saying it was a lack of jobs and infrastructure which held people back from moving to remote communities.  No kidding.

Business Support:

Farms

            Scottish government support for farming businesses has exceeded targets by three months after farm payment dates were brought forward to help with the cost-of-living crisis, with 14,200 businesses receiving a total of £328 million.

Licensed Premises

            are still suffering from a lack of staff, Brexit problems, inflationary costs and above all rising energy prices.  A survey by the Scottish Licensed Trade Association found 90% of businesses needing government support to survive the winter, having significant debt from the pandemic and now facing enormous energy bills.  Many will reduce opening times and some may close for the winter.

Finally

Gwynedd County Council

            in North Wales has voted by 46 to 4 to refuse to accept William as the new Prince of Wales.  Claiming it is archaic and oppressive, they want his investiture kept off Welsh soil, and a referendum on abolishing the office of ‘Prince of Wales’, with only Welsh people eligible to vote. Many say the title humiliates Wales.

            Perhaps it is time Scotland too rethought her relationship with royalty.

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