This Week In Scotland – Week 46

COP26

A disappointing climate conference culminated in a commitment to phase down coal use, rather than phase it out, and to work to remove inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. The Scottish government committed £2 million to a new Climate Justice
Fund to mitigate the effects of climate change on the global south, although an earlier commitment of £100bn a year by developed countries has still not been met.

Extinction Rebellion staged a ‘die in’ protest, and 100,000 marched through the streets of Glasgow, but little has been promised, apart from revisiting matters next year to check on progress, otherwise it is on to Egypt for COP27. Radical Independence Campaign wants the oil to be kept in the soil, but it seems the UK will sign off on the Cambo oilfield development.


Sustainable farming

SNP MSP Jim Fairlie makes the case for Scottish meat for its ecological and climate-friendly credentials (‘Turning to Scottish meat could aid in a bid to slow the effects of climate change’, Sunday National 14/11/2021). He fears the new message ‘methane bad’ will translate to ‘meat bad’ without differentiating between pasture-fed and intensive grain systems. A balanced mini ecosystem not involving overgrazing promotes grass growth and absorbs carbon. David McKay of the Scotland for the Soil Association points out that if you take away the animals, there will be no soil nutrients apart from chemical ones.

That trip to Gibraltar

Two SNP MPs fell foul of the press on a recent armed forces trip to Gibraltar, allegedly becoming drunk and obstreperous. Many Scots over decades and centuries have served with distinction in the British forces because it was their only option, but the army systematically enforced British rule in the Highlands, leading to the suppression of the Gaelic language, and Highland culture, so it was galling to see the two MPs in British army fatigues. With one-tenth of the population of the UK, Scotland suffered one-fifth of the UK war casualties. Not exactly a ‘union dividend’.

Isn’t Scotland meant to be leaving all this? Settling up or settling down?

Prostitution

MSPs are reviewing Scotland’s outdated prostitution laws, looking to decriminalise the sale of sex and instead criminalise its purchase. In Scotland so-called ‘pimping websites’ parading women in online catalogues are legal. According to Elena Whitham MSP, France is investigating these websites, but nothing can be done here (‘Our outdated prostitution laws need to change – here’s why’, National Nov 8,2021). She aims to deter men from paying for sex, hold perpetrators to account and help exploited women.

By contrast, Leicester University and Durham University have produced ‘safe sex toolkits’, guides to prostitution for hard-up students. These guides say nothing about the risk of physical violence or even death associated with prostitution, the medical risks or the psychological harm women suffer by doing this. Not to mention that employers trawl the net when vetting new graduates.

No woman’s career choice is prostitution. Many have suffered child abuse, spiralling into drug abuse, jail, and back to prostitution, especially since the government’s war on benefits. Online guides advise women (it is mostly women) only of the benefits of ‘survival sex’ to pay your rent or the universities’ tuition.

Maybe instead of guides to ‘safe’ prostitution, the universities could lower their exorbitant fees? It could be argued that this ‘sex toolkit’ actually encourages prostitution by normalising this practice.

Trans Flags and road crossings

To promote equality, Camden Borough Council has hit on a novel idea to upset the visually impaired and wheelchair users simultaneously, replacing a zebra crossing with a painting of a trans flag. Sheffield recently commissioned a rainbow flag crossing that spooked police horses. Tottenham Court Road and the City of London also have colourful crossings, but London Mayor Sadiq Khan was forced to halt the programme after complaints that disabled groups were not consulted on recent changes. The RNIB said the bright colours confused the visually impaired and guide dogs and the learning-disabled may not understand artwork as the warning it should be. Gloucestershire County Council insisted on coloured surfacing contrasting with their pink tactile paving for the visually impaired.

Aren’t road crossings supposed to be for safety not for celebrating transgender awareness or LGBT+ culture?

LUSH

has apparently taken a side in the gender debate. After mistakenly giving money to a gender-critical women’s group it is now doing penance by teaming up with G(end)er Swap, a UK-based LGBTIQ+ clothing outreach organisation (what?) with a breast binder collection and exchange facility at its Paddington branch. Not content with limiting themselves to beauty products, they are inviting girls to order breast binders online and collect them in-store for a minimum donation of £7.

They do not verify the age of users, who could be children.

97% of those who indulge in breast binding experience at least one negative impact, from compressed, fractured or broken ribs, breathing problems, permanent lung damage, back problems, to at worst heart attacks due to decreased blood flow.

Why is the Scottish Government reporting to Stonewall?

The Scottish government is excelling itself this week. In a 214-page report it made to Stonewall it announced that free sanitary products would be put in the male toilets of Scottish government buildings, for the benefit of transgender staff. Some people have reported that feminine products are taken out of gender-neutral toilets in schools, forcing girls to go to the school nurse.

The government’s menopause policy instructs staff to remember that transmen and non-binary people may experience menopause. So the recent welcome recognition by the government that women experience menopause and may need work adjustments doesn’t look so philanthropic when they seem to be really appeasing transmen who suffer periods and the menopause because they are biologically female.

Is this making life more inclusive in Scotland, or is it making Scotland a laughing stock?

Death of the Olympics

The International Olympic Committee announced it will no longer require transwomen to reduce their testosterone level to compete in women’s sports, claiming the link between testosterone and physical advantage has not been proved, despite earlier acknowledging this link in highly physical sports like rugby and weightlifting. They are now leaving it to national governing bodies to decide.
To all intents and purposes, women’s elite sport is a thing of the past.

Iran vs Jordan

At the same time as the IOC made this spectacular decision, a row is brewing between the Iranian and Jordanian football federations. Following a surprise win by Iran over Jordan in the Women’s Asian Cup, meaning Iran qualified for their first-ever finals, the Jordanians are demanding the Asian Football Confederation launch an investigation, accusing Iran of playing a man as their goalkeeper and demanding ‘gender verification’ of the Iranian goalkeeper who saved two penalties during the contested match.

MSPs and outside interests
Despite the Westminster furore over second jobs, there is nothing to prevent Members of the Scottish Parliament from holding other paid positions in addition to their Holyrood job. Everything from gifts and overseas trips to land and shares must be declared, and a number of MSPs own companies that give them dividends or earnings. A previous attempt by Labour’s Neil Findlay to outlaw MSPs from taking on certain external jobs was not widely supported.

Ruth Davidson backed down from taking a paid post with a lobbying firm after a public outcry, and in 2007 Nigel Don quit Dundee City Council for Holyrood while Stefan Tymkewycz quit Holyrood to focus on being an Edinburgh Councillor, but 45 of 129 MSPs have reported some form of a second income. The present Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross forgot to declare nearly £30,000 earnings as a football referee in the House of Commons Register of Interests, or his reduced £21,490 salary as a Holyrood list MSP (reduced to one third if an MSP is ‘dual mandated’ as both MSP and MP). Seven Scottish Conservative MSPs have second jobs, with Alexander Burnett of Aberdeenshire West estimating his outside earnings as up to £205,000.

Some remain councillors after becoming MSPs. Emma Roddick is currently campaigning as a local councillor in Highlands and Islands for Inverness to be hived off and run as a stand-alone city. In fairness, she promised to donate her council earnings of up to £20,000 to local charities, but in June anticipated spending 25 hours a week on council business.

Isn’t being an MSP supposed to be a full-time post?

Finally,

Did the earth move for Trident?

After reports of a 3.1 magnitude earthquake off the west of Scotland on Tuesday, Inverclyde SNP MP Ronnie Cowan voiced concerns over nuclear waste and unexploded ordnance and weapons storage, particularly in the Clyde. He estimates there is around 100,000 tonnes of unexploded ordnance around UK waters, some in areas designated for offshore windfarms and is pushing for a comprehensive clean-up of waterways rather than the present ‘wait till it surfaces and blow it up’ deal which harms sea-life and releases toxins.

 

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