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This Week In Scotland – Week 03

Team UK

Following an Intergovernmental Relations Review (IGR), and with the apparent agreement of the devolved governments, a new council is being established covering the four constituent parts of the UK to encourage “mutual respect, maintaining the trust and positive working”.

With three tiers, Tier 1 is a council chaired by the PM; Tier 2 is two committees, one under the Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove) and the second a finance committee. Other ad-hoc time-limited Tier 2 committees can be created by consensus for specific issues.

Tier 3 is inter-ministerial groups led by individual departments. An independent secretariat of civil servants will be seconded from all four governments. to serve the UK and devolved governments equally.

The Tory Secretaries of State for the devolved nations are happy, but it’s hard to see it as Team UK when London Tories recently showed such contempt for their Scottish counterparts. Devolved matters and finance are level 2 and individual departments level 3, which shows the UK’s priorities. The Scottish government is not enthused.

ScotWind

The granting of new offshore permits either signals a new golden age for energy, like the oil boom, or it is selling off the family silver cheaply, depending who you believe. Seventeen projects were recently approved in a £700m. sale, which the Scottish government believes will generate at least £1bn of further supply chain investment. They see it as a transition opportunity for north-east oil and gas workers, and are rejoicing at the £700m the government gets, but should they have stipulated annual payments rather than a one-off? The Scottish Greens think it guarantees supply chain jobs (how did that work out for Bifab?)

True, there is a public stake in some of the bids, just not a Scottish stake. Denmark’s Orsted, 51% owned by the Danish government, is involved, as are Italy’s Falck Renewables Wind, Portugal’s EDP, Belgium’s DEME, Germany’s Siemens, and Iberdrola of Spain, which is the nearest Scotland gets to owning a share, as Iberdrola also own Scottish Power.

Despite limited Scottish input through Stornoway Port Authority and Kishorn Port, plus Eneus Energy of Edinburgh and Inverness’ TTI Marine Renewables, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) foresees halcyon days of well-paid jobs for rural and island areas.

Elsewhere, in the High Court, a judgement against campaigners trying to end the state support system for BigOil inadvertently proved firms can get more in government incentives than they pay in tax, which must come as a relief to all hard-pressed families facing possibly 50% energy price rises soon.

Women and Trans Issues

The Times reported recently on the unease of Scottish custody staff having to carry out intimate searches of intact males, with no discussion and no warning.

Scottish universities are seriously considering endorsing the sex worker ‘manual’ already distributed to 58 UK universities including Leicester and Durham.
Maybe they should remember there were almost 400 accusations of sexual impropriety made to Scotland’s 18 higher education institutions since 2016.

The Times also reported that some transgender prisoners housed in the women’s estate mysteriously resumed their former gender on release from prison, some even admitting they had not genuinely transitioned. Imagine!!

FairPlay for Women have been granted permission for a Judicial Review of the Scottish Census.’ for more on these issues, go to ISP Safe in Scotland

Police

The Met Police will only investigate that No 10 party (or parties) if the government’s own investigation shows up potential criminality. What next? Only investigate housebreakings if the offender’s family agree it happened? Police initially said they don’t investigate crimes retrospectively!

PPE Contracts

The High Court has ruled the fast-track “VIP lane” (High Priority Lane) for government personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts illegal as breaching the “obligation of equal treatment”. The VIP lane was better-resourced and faster. The case centred on contracts worth £340m awarded to PestFix and £252m-worth which went to hedge fund Ayanda Capital.

Strangely, the judge found that though both firms had unlawful preferential treatment, they would likely have won the contracts anyway, although the connection between pest control, hedge funds and PPE provision is unclear. Most of the PPE products both firms supplied were defective and unusable.

It is unclear whether the judgment will actually change anything going forward.

Health

Scotland has suffered over 10,000 deaths occurring after a positive covid test. NHS workers have privately claimed the NHS is in a state of emergency, with staff shortages, unusable PPE and even staff suicides. Long covid is underrated and under-researched, and what causes different outcomes? Is it poverty, genetics, the auto-immune system, or some combination? Was NHS underfunding a cause? Is it deliberate, to then allow in private healthcare to save the day?

Learning Disabilities

Enable Scotland has launched a campaign to give people with learning disabilities the right to a home of their choice where they want. Over 1000 adults were sent to live out of their own area in 2019, with 67 living in hospital because there was no suitable accommodation. Enable’s ‘My Own Front Door’ campaign wants the closure of assessment and treatment beds, no more sending people outside Scotland, and a national “at-risk” register whereby 2023 people have an official plan to be housed where they choose.

In March 2020 the working group on delayed discharge and out-of-area placements began work, with £20m funding to local social care to end these practices by 2024.

The Economic Report

meant to form the basis of Scotland’s new economy is delayed again, but those who have seen it are not enthused. It appears to rely on market forces rather than state intervention to alleviate poverty, preferring the “trickle-down” economic model which, if it trickles at all, does not trickle down far.

Kate Forbes appears not keen on regulation, preferring Scotland to be wedded to free-market thinking. Nothing about community-led initiatives and social enterprises.

Clyde Fisheries

were dealt a hammer blow by the Scottish government, who are summarily closing fishing grounds from February 14th to the end of April, with no negotiation, leaving families without any income for nearly four months. Clyde fishermen’s Association condemned the closure of much of the Clyde Marine Area (the Seasonal Clyde Cod Spawning), which may leave remaining open areas vulnerable to overfishing. The government claims the impact is short-term, but Fisheries Minister Mairi Gougeon appears not to have met with those affected or even personally informed them, nor did Lorna Slater.

Rent Controls

are needed more than ever today, where Glasgow and Edinburgh rents have rocketed by 40% in ten years to the current level of £750 for a one-bedroom flat. Living Rent and others fear any measures may fall short, as the Fair Rents Bill fell at the end of the last parliament. Short-term let licensing only starts in 2024.

Worryingly, almost a fifth of MSPs are landlords or have interests in letting firms, including 8 of the SNP’s 64 MSPs (12.5%), two being government ministers, Michael Matheson (Net Zero and Transport) and Ivan McKee (Business). Nine of 31 MSPs (29%) are Tories, followed by Scottish Labour on 22% (5 of 22) and the LibDems 25% (1 of 4). Only the Scottish Green contingent has no landlords.

Bringing Housing to Net Zero

will be a huge challenge given that 13% of greenhouse gas emissions come from homes, with 2 million homes needing to be retrofitted to meet climate targets. This involves loft, floor and wall insulation, draught-proofing, double or triple glazing, and heating systems consisting of heat pumps, biomass boilers, direct electric heating, or a heat network connection.

The Scottish government’s target date is 2045 to eliminate home emissions but has committed only £18bn over the current parliament to cover the costs, which it is believed will actually be £33bn.

Finally,

Better Together?

A Scottish man who recently moved to Suffolk after living over 70 years in his native Scotland, has received a letter from the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust requiring him to prove his eligibility for free NHS treatment. The letter states that migrants, visitors and former residents of the UK must pay for treatment while in England. So is he a migrant, visitor or former resident? Not a migrant, unless Scotland is already a foreign country. Does the English NHS Trust just not know the extent of the UK? Or does the UK just mean England?

The Trust has denied it was anti-Scottish.

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