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Week 16 16th April – 22nd April 2022

16/04/2022 – 22/04/2022                                 

Economic Summit

          SNP policy chief Toni Giugliano has announced the second Scotland After Independence seminar, this time on the Economy.  

The online 25th May conference is open only to SNP members, aiming to equip SNP activists to counter UK misinformation. The first seminar featured Scotland’s future in the EU.  A new prospectus on independence is expected from the SNP later this year.

Rewriting the devolution agreement

          The Scottish government is lobbying UK ministers with five options to amend the Scotland Act, to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots Law, previously deemed outwith their competence. 

          If you’re going to rewrite devolution, why not push for Quebec-style devolution, including the right to hold an independence referendum whenever Scotland wants, or every 7 years like Northern Ireland?  Afraid of being rebuffed?   If that happens, it proves once and for all that Scotland really is a prisoner, not a partner.

Green Issues:

Stanley the Stag

          The residents of Bonawe in Argyll were horrified recently to discover a stag, probably local favourite Stanley, decapitated and dumped in a loch.  The local estate denied killing him, but admitted cutting off his head ‘for safety reasons’.  

Bonawe Estate said a worker found an animal ‘struggling to climb a hill’, the solution for which was apparently to shoot it.  Then, funnily enough, they stumbled on Stanley who had apparently just dropped dead.  Unable to carry both beasts, the solution was to behead him and leave a bloodied mess, much less traumatic than errant walkers spiking themselves on his antlers.

          Local villagers are greatly upset by Stanley’s death.  He was known in the village as a frequent visitor causing mayhem in gardens, but no one ever suggested he should be decapitated.

Rent Controls

          Edinburgh could be the first local authority in Scotland to impose private rent controls under Rent Pressure Zone legislation if the SNP win control of the council in May.  Edinburgh has the largest concentration of private renters in Scotland, with rents up by nearly 53% in the last decade.

Energy:

           Adam McVey, SNP leader of Edinburgh City Council, says the city is unlikely to meet its own pledges on net zero by 2030 without offsetting, to which end the SNP council manifesto commits to more tree-planting.  Heating and powering homes and other buildings accounts for 70% of Edinburgh’s emissions. The Scottish government aims for all homes to have an EPC rating of C or above by 2033, but currently half of Edinburgh’s homes have a D rating or lower.

Ferries and Tunnels:

          Abu Dhabi’s wealth fund is considering building toll tunnels between the Western Isles and from Mull to the mainland.  Islanders seem less enthused.  Mull and Iona Ferry Committee (MIFC) highlighted a 2020 survey where only 20% of islanders wanted a tunnel from Mull to Oban, although only 672 responded from a population of 3,200.

          It is not clear why two ferries being built for Scotland at the Turkish Cemre yard will cost twice as much at £52 million as two Norwegian ferries being built simultaneously at the same yard. With the same capacity and propulsion systems, and built for the same wave and weather conditions, the Norwegian ferries will operate 24/7 instead of the 14 hours the Scottish ferries will run daily.

          The Scottish government’s vague explanation was that Scotland’s ferries operate into different ports and harbours, and differ in ‘how they are operated’.

          Even if the Glen Sannox ferry is ready for next year, it will not be able to use Ardrossan Harbour, which needs upgraded, which could take 6 months for procurement, and 2 years to complete, but is not even started yet.  Instead the ferry will have to dock at Troon.

          Scotland’s Auditor-General has called for a fuller review of the ferry contract, complaining also about a lack of documentation from the government relating to the contracts.

GP Consultations

          President of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Dame Clare Gerada, angered patient groups complaining about problems in visiting GPs.  Dismissing it as ‘just noise’, she claimed online consultations were the most positive development of the pandemic!

          But she has a stake in eConsult, a company providing remote consultation software to 3000 UK GP surgeries serving 26 million people, whose co-founder Dr Arvind Madan claims clinicians like it as they can work from home!

          Many people prefer face to face consultations, and connectivity problems in rural areas mean it is not the best solution for everyone.

Wait longer for your hip operation

          Due to the backlog of hip and knee surgery, with 18,500 people waiting, some will not get surgery until 2025, even those with impaired mobility and extreme pain. There are now 770,000 people on NHS waiting lists, three times pre-pandemic levels.  The Scottish government is investing £400 million in nine ‘new’ elective surgery hubs.  NHS Ayrshire and Arran recently bought private hospital Carrick Glen from private-sector provider Circle Health Group.

          Are these the Elder Care Centres we were promised? 

The epilepsy drug sodium valproate

          is still being prescribed by NHS Scotland to an estimated 1000 Scottish women of childbearing age, despite its links with autism, spina bifida and physical deformities.

Women and Trans:

The Burrell Collection

          An exhibition including two porcelain figures of a Buddhist goddess are on display at the revamped Burrell Collection.  At approximately 300 years old, it is hard to see why they were labelled ‘Guanyin: A Transgender Icon’.  Historically first depicted as a male deity, later female, the current designation ‘gender fluid’ is dubious, given that the shift from male to female happened over centuries, not as in today’s culture, over 24 hours.

          Why can Glasgow Life, the charitable cultural arm of Glasgow City Council, politicise the exhibit with a card saying ‘Trans rights are human rights. Be more Guanyin’? 

          The second exhibit’s card says Guanyin ‘represented the basic human values of compassion and kindness’, although there is little compassion or kindness to gender-critical women in the current debate.

Trans Rights may have gone too far, says transgender Dr Erica Anderson, a US clinical psychologist, claiming clinicians are not carrying out sufficient mental health evaluations before hormones or surgery for teenagers. 

Women-only hospital wards should be reinstated,

          says the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), among other reasons for privacy, decency, to prevent trauma or ensure safety, clarifying that trans people can be excluded from single sex spaces even with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) if a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.  Many public bodies have misinterpreted the law, and a number of Scottish Heath Boards are now reviewing their policies.

Police Scotland

          Having done their own review, Police Scotland is disappointingly continuing to allow transwomen (trans-identified males) to identify as women on police records and in subsequent court cases.  Legally, identification should be by biological sex if the offender’s sex is relevant, as of course it is in rape cases.

Australian apple imports

          The UK government has admitted its new trade deal with Australia will result in a £94 million hit to UK agriculture, forestry and fishing.  Tariffs and quotas were removed for Australian beef and lamb imports, but more worryingly, Australian crops can been treated with pesticides banned elsewhere.  Thirty-three hazardous organophosphates are allowed in Australia, compared to 4 in the UK.

          Chlorpyrifos, an insecticide used on spiders and beetles, and linked to developmental and behavioural problems in children, is banned in the UK, US and EU, but only banned in Australia where children or pregnant women could come into contact with it, which apparently does not include Australian farms, where it is allowed.

          Food with detectable levels of chlorpyrifos cannot legally be sold, but only a fraction of imports are tested.  Another pesticide, malathion, is toxic but safe in low levels, and is allowed in the UK.  Campaigners say Australian apples contain 100 times more than British apples.

          DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) said Britain retains the right to regulate import of products produced using pesticides, but did not confirm that it would actually do so.

Scotland’s Economy

          is already suffering from the failure to comprehensively upgrade the A75 route between Cairnryan and Gretna.  As the main route from Belfast to Britain, carrying £17bn freight yearly, it is single carriageway for much of the 100 miles between Stranraer and Gretna, with a 40 mph speed limit for HGVs, impacting on driver safety regulations, and therefore profitability.  Some companies are now going direct to England via a sea route three times the length.

          Transport Scotland says six schemes since 2007 are tackling different parts of the A75, plus four schemes for the A77.  Despite accusations of a UK power grab, Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review recommends that UK cash could pay for A75 improvements. Letting the UK pay for it may be a financial win, but would hand them a massive PR boost.

Finally,

Too emotional?

          It’s always good when a man explains to women where we went wrong.  This week Kenny Shiels (ex-Kilmarnock and Greenock Morton), now manager of Northern Ireland women’s team, explained their 5-0 loss to England, conceding 4 goals in 27 minutes, by the women being ‘too emotional’.

          Perhaps he has some advice for Southampton (men’s) Premier League team, who suffered two 9-0 Premier League defeats in recent years, one in 2019 home to Leicester, the second away to Man United in February 2021, plus a more modest 6-0 loss in April 2022 home to Chelsea.

          Match stats show a fairly even spread of times for goals conceded.  No hint of a collapse after the first goal. The decisive factor may have been Southampton players being red-carded, two in the 9-0 Man United defeat, one in the 9-0 Leicester defeat.

          Could the men’s emotions have got the better of them perhaps?  At least they had calmed somewhat by the Chelsea game this month, allowing them to concede a mere 6 goals.         

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