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Week 10 5th March – 11th March 2022

05/03/2022 – 11/03/2022

Second Homes

          The Welsh government is planning to tax second-home owners at four times the current level, a 300% increase on the current second-home premium. Rules to allow second homes as businesses and pay business rates will only apply to properties available for rent at least 252 days a year and actually let for 182 days will get business rates instead of council tax.

          The current Scottish rules allow second homes to be registered as a business if the house is available for rent for 140 days a year and rented out for at least 70, allowing them to get support packages and rates relief without paying anything towards council services. 

          Gaelic campaign group Misneachd wants a land value tax which would cover the big estates, and restrictions on who can buy local properties.   The Arran Development Trust reports 23% of its homes are second homes, and some villages have become ‘dark villages’ without enough permanent residents to make them viable communities. 

          More new-build properties are useless if they are unaffordable and they are not limited to locals or those coming to do vital jobs. Currently local councils apply or discount a rebate for second homes in their areas, and buyers are charged an Additional Dwelling Supplement as part of the Land and Buildings Transactions Tax.

          In Wales, second home-owners claim they can’t afford the rise, but simultaneously boast that they can afford to take the Welsh government to court.

Gambling                      

          SNP Ronnie Cowan is to speak at a rally in London on gambling reform this week, along with former footballers Paul Merson and Peter Shilton.  Cowan wants new curbs placed on the gambling industry over shirt advertising and advertising at football grounds.  He previously successfully campaigned to limit stakes at Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in bookie shops.  

         Advertising and shirt sponsorship have normalised betting as a ‘rite of passage’.  Gambling firms have been exposed  targeting the vulnerable, draining people’s money then allowing them to bet ‘on credit’ on their account.  The results are disastrous for already deprived communities, including families ruined bankruptcies and suicides. 

‘Dark Money’

          The Conservative Party were given almost £100K donations by the Scottish Unionist Association Trust (SUAT), which as an unincorporated association does not have to file accounts or show where money originated, leading to allegations it is ‘dark money’.  In 2018 Ruth Davidson admitted to the BBC that almost all Scottish Conservative candidates would have benefitted from the trust. Direct donations went to Douglas Ross (current leader), Jackson Carlaw (former leader), David Duguid and David Mundell.  £72,000 went to central party funds either side of the Holyrood election, plus donations to various Scottish Conservative branches.

          A former SUAT board member denied any donations were ‘dark money’, claiming it was the proceeds of tombolas and raffles in the West of Scotland for the last 50 years.  That’s a whole load of raffles.

Waterbird

          numbers wintering in Scotland continue to decline, down 10% in 2019/20 since 1975.  Wader species like oystercatchers, lapwings, golden plovers and curlew have almost halved, although they are now stabilising somewhat. Goose populations are rising, with small increases in numbers of ducks and swans. 

Cash to Malawi:

          The Scottish government is sending £400,000 to Malawi to help deal with recent severe flooding from Storm Ana, which destroyed crops and homes, leaving 680,000 people needing assistance.   Malawi declared a state of disaster in 15 districts on January 26th but continues to suffer flooding and storms.

Ukraine

          While the invasion and human catastrophe rage on, still the West will not implement a no-fly zone over the country.  As NATO would be operating over a non-NATO country, Russia would take it as a declaration of war by the West.  Putin has shown contempt for the carnage he is causing and seems oblivious to nuclear armageddon.  Sanctions are not working fast enough.  Does the West act, and will Ukraine fall or will something worse be unleashed?  Who will be next? 

Task force for Green financing:

          The Scottish Task force for Green and Sustainable Financial Services, launched last week and chaired by David Pitt Watson, and managed by the Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) will bring together the finance sector and regulators to work towards net zero by 2050.  They will seek to implement the plans of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero.  The taskforce counts Kate Forbes and former governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney among their members.

Better Together?

AUOB/Union Committee

          All Under One Banner held a second march for independence in Paisley, attracting thousands demanding an end to poverty and expressing solidarity with Ukraine.  Meanwhile, a new ‘union committee’ within the 1922 backbenchers committee aiming to stop independence will be chaired by Andrew Bowie, Scottish Conservative MP.

The UK has short-changed Scotland

          According to Kate Forbes.  The promised £290 million has not been paid by the UK to cover Scottish council tax rebates of £150 for bands A-D which they have given to English authorities.  The Treasury has now issued finalised plans, leaving a shortfall for Scotland, who instead of receiving the expected £852m in January, received only £814m.  The UK Treasury counters that it has paid the promised £290 million, but decreased its other (promised) spending due to ‘the Omicron variant not being as severe as initially expected’.

          The Scottish government will pay people the council tax rebate but the money will come from the Treasury graciously allowing us to carry forward £290 million outside the Scotland Reserve to 2022/23.

Ian Blackford

and indyref2

          He reiterated the SNP opposition to nuclear weapons, believing that the deterrent aspect of Trident is ‘far-fetched’.  He thinks independent Scotland would not be standing alone, but would seek to join NATO, and be welcomed, and would also be in Europe [EU].

          An independence referendum should take place ‘in a timely manner’ but the short term focus is Ukraine.  The SNP should be ‘respectful of the responsibilities’ it has following the Ukraine invasion, and people should not be impatient for a referendum but be ‘mindful of where we are’ regarding events elsewhere.  Asked if there may be a delay to indyref2, he said ‘we have to play the ball where it lies just now’ and he was only focussing on Ukraine.  Sit down, shut up.

          Who’s still betting on indyref2 in 2023?

….and Boris Johnson:

          Ian Blackford is also less enthusiastic about Boris Johnson being ditched now. 

He thinks it important for the PM, Keir Starmer and the devolved ‘administrations’ to show a united front against Putin, saying that ‘….at times like this…. we have got to stand together’.

….and a no-fly zone/’dirty money’:

          He backs the UK position on a no-fly zone, adding there will be time later to reflect on ‘dirty money’ allegations. 

….and the Queen:

          He rejected the idea of a referendum on whether an independent Scotland retains the monarchy, stating flatly that she would remain head of state. He sympathised with the Queen’s troubles with Prince Andrew, but refused to say whether he should be stripped of the title of Duke of York.

Women and Trans

          As part of the ongoing attempt to normalise self-identification, it is widely reported that transwomen can already access a wide variety of single-sex spaces and services without a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). While the Scottish government actively promotes this position, it is inaccurate and misrepresents the Equality Act 2010, which gives only an exceptional right of access for transwomen, even with a GRC.

           The SNP’s Karen Adam wants more women to stand for council, but repeats the oft-stated misrepresentation that women regard transwomen as a threat.  She’s just wrong.  It isn’t transwomen we fear, it’s predatory men who are being given government-sanctioned access to women’s spaces.

          Baroness Kennedy’s long-awaited report on misogyny apparently favours separate misogyny and criminal justice legislation, recommending specific new offences of stirring up hatred against women and girls, publicly harassing them, or issuing threats of rape, assault and disfigurement.

          The new measure excludes rape and sexual assault, which Kennedy feels are adequately covered by existing legislation.  She argues that the hate crime legislation covers minorities, so cannot adequately apply to women, who are the majority.  She says a statutory misogyny aggravator would allow for tougher sentences.  She recommends specifically outlawing sexual touching and groping, public harassment and sexual verbal threats to lower the general level of misogyny felt by most women at one time or another.

Legal:

          The Scottish government is urging the UK to allocate sufficient resources to enforce the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill, which affects

devolved matters regarding Unexplained Wealth Order and the Register of Overseas Entities.  Although Scotland will consider whether to give legislative consent to it, ultimately it will not make any difference.

          But the SNP is calling for the scrapping of the Nationality and Borders Bill, particularly with the expected influx of Ukrainian refugees.

Finally,

Gaelic books dumped:

          Argyll and Bute Council have some explaining to do abut how a consignment of newly bought Gaelic language books were simply dumped in a skip outside the education offices at Dalintart Drive, Oban.  They included £3000-worth of Gaelic dictionaries.  One skip had already been emptied, but supporters rescued as many books as they could, which have proved to be in great demand from Argyll and Bute to the Borders and up to Mallaig. 

          The popular narrative that Gaelic (and Welsh) ‘just died out’ through lack of interest ignores the forcible anglicisation of education and suppression of ethnic languages. It is right to promote both now. The council has apologised and promised an investigation, but you can bet it will be too hard to identify who dumped them and why.

          The government’s Gaelic Language Plan seeks to promote Gaelic learning, but they probably did not envisage people having to dive into skips for resources.

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