23/04/2022 – 29/04/2022
Soaring accommodation costs are pricing entertainers out of participation, with some prices doubling since 2019. Anthony Alderson of the Pleasance Theatre Trust is calling on the council and landlords to cap prices.
The Scottish government introduced the Scottish Private Residential Tenancy agreement in 2019 in a bid to help students, but has reduced the availability of summer lets, with open-ended tenancies rather than the 10 or 11 month lets which allowed the flats to be let out for the summer. Edinburgh City Council argues that people can still be able to rent rooms out for the Fringe.
The White Privilege Test
The Scottish government has called for all teachers to take this test, which is designed to show white people the benefits they enjoy even unwittingly due to being white. It is included in the Building Racial Literacy Programme from Education Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon said she and her ministers would also complete it, but she has apparently not as yet. Sir Trevor Phillips, former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has accused her of ‘virtue signalling’.
Questions include asking about experiences with the police, how easy it is to find beauty products to match skin tones (!) and the availability in supermarkets of food from their culture.
Arran residents are demanding direct intervention from the First Minister to solve the ferry crisis. Pentland Ferries’ Pentalina catamaran has been on the market for between £5.6m and £7m, and islanders are urging that it is bought.
Ferry disruption has been costing up to £170,000 a day in lost revenue, according to North Ayrshire Council.
The Pentalina has been under consideration since March last year. CalMac’s biggest vessel, MV Loch Seaforth, was out of commission recently after an engine failure, but the Pentalina also had what were described as minor technical fire safety issues to correct.
Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited have considered the Pentalina, which has passed berthing trials, but Pentland Ferries have apparently ruled out leasing it to them, although they would consider selling it.
Amanda Kopel, widow of Frank Kopel, who played for Dundee United, has pointed out that the law named for her husband, who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 59, has not led to ring-fenced funding for those who require free care, namely, those diagnosed with dementia prior to 65. The Scottish government admitted as much, claiming that although the £30 million set aside is not formally ring-fenced, local authorities were advised how it should be used
South Ayrshire Council admitted to using £315,000 of its allocated money to help pay off a debt, and another unnamed council used the funding for a cycle path. Kevin Stewart, Social Care Minister, says there are now changes in the law to guarantee the funding is used as intended
A new Scottish study will conduct research into the links between footballers heading a ball and developing dementia in later life. Footballers have a five-fold risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared with the general population.
is being considered as the way forward by no less than the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), who back the building of new plants, and criticise the Scottish government’s ideological opposition to new reactors. They claim, contrary to many, including the ISP, that it will provide a just transition and plug the energy gap, and without new nuclear power, Scotland will have to buy it from abroad and lose the promised jobs bonanza. Scotland’s remaining nuclear reactor at Torness, East Lothian, is due to close in 2028.
Postcode Pricing Plan for Scottish Electricity
New energy pricing plans for paying for the electricity network are causing concern. If approved, the National Grid ESO proposes a locational marginal pricing system which involves wholesale electricity being traded at local prices varying from place to place. The National Grid claims energy costs could come down because the system would not be so reliant on expensive power plants to get energy to in-demand areas.
Scottish Renewables is concerned this may stifle investment in renewable energy projects, which investors may see as too risky, and could conversely make energy cost more to consumers. Fossil fuel stations used to be built close to or even within towns in the past, with fuel brought to them. Renewable sources are located in less-populated areas.
High Energy Prices
result partly because major power plants are able to sell directly to the National Grid, even if its infrastructure is insufficient to take the power to areas of higher demand (to the south of England, for instance). So the National Grid control room pays to switch off at times when the network cannot cope, and pays expensive gas plants closer to the ultimate consumers to switch on and replace it.
These are the ‘constraint costs’ which have increased seven-fold since 2010, amounting to £1.2bn in 2021. The National Grid says these prices could rise as high as £2.3bn by 2026 without changes. They propose power plants being paid only for electricity needed locally or transmissible elsewhere through the cable network, which they claim would encourage energy-intensive industries to be located near windfarms. Cheaper local pricing may reduce bills for people living locally, but excess energy would be lost. The National Grid has still to make formal recommendations but has virtually decided this is the ‘only effective solution’, and could be here within five years.
a Living Wage social enterprise providing food to low-income households, has condemned the Trussell Trust for its partnership with Deliveroo due to the latter’s association with zero-hours contracts, in turn associated with in-work poverty and the need for food banks. The deal allows Deliveroo customers to add a round-up donation to their app orders, with proceeds going to the Trussell Trust.
Landlords are up in arms
about the Scottish government’s plans to introduce rent controls. Propertymark, the UK’s leading body for professional landlords, has urged the government to ditch the plans, while some tenants are accusing landlords of veiled threats that they will ‘be more selective about potential tenants’. Propertymark say the government should not view the needs of renters ‘in isolation’ but should consider the risks to landlords!
For those paying over the odds for renting, the risks to landlords are secondary to tenants having little security against rents rising out of all proportion to their incomes. Living Rent accuses Propertymark of being disconnected from reality. Funnily enough, Propertymark ‘do not consider tenants’ union necessary’!
Where is our GP service headed?
The 2004 contract renegotiation for GPs allowed them to stop providing 24-hour care in return for a reduction of 6% in salary, but introduced a performance-related bonus scheme to make up the shortfall.
Most GP practices are run as independent businesses providing services for NHS boards, who specify which healthcare services they need and fund the GPs through an arrangement called the General Medical Services contract.
As businesses, they can fail or close (as my local health centre, serving a mere 3,500 people, will shortly close). They must attract GPs, and some directly employ their own staff, rather than staff being employed by the health board. Between 2014 and 2018, there was an increase in average practice lists from 5673 to 6073, an increase in practices run by NHS boards 48 to 58, and a decline in the number of general practices from 987 to 944.
When threatened with closure, there seems little local communities can do to prevent it. So much for the Scottish government’s stated aim in the reforms to put the service on a more sound footing.
needs more dental therapists to tackle the significant pandemic backlog according to Professor Phil Taylor, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Edinburgh Royal College of Surgeons. Therapists are similar to hygienists, but can carry out fillings or extractions of baby teeth, check ups and hygiene. Only 100,000 patients have been seen by dentists post-pandemic, compared to 300,000 in December 2019.
Many dentists left the UK following Brexit, including 37% of the dentists in Dumfries and Galloway. The Scottish government has had to introduce a temporary revised payment scheme of £1.70 per £1 of treatment in a bid to halt a flood of exits from the profession. Filling the vacancies with dentists from overseas is not in itself the answer, as it is a lengthy process involving certification abroad prior to coming to the UK.
Women and Trans:
JK Rowling has been killed off in a fantasy novel by Gretchen Felker-Martin, whose offering ‘Manhunt’ features two transgender women hunting down and killing terfs (‘trans-exclusionary radical feminists’), the
derogatory term for those who assert that biological sex is real and immutable. As Julie Bindel has pointed out, what if the roles were reversed and a trans person was killed by ‘terfs’ as part of a violent fantasy? Would it have been published or would the author have been prosecuted?
This follows JK Rowling being excluded from the recent 20th anniversary celebrations of her own creation Harry Potter, disowned by its young stars, and being omitted from the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee author list.
Misogyny and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill
Baroness Kennedy’s has criticised social media for bringing a ‘disinhibition’ about what people are willing to say, which then spills over into our public life. Her proposed legislation will establish a statutory aggravation of misogyny, which could lead to a harsher sentence, plus a new offence of stirring up hatred against women and girls, as well as two new offences – public misogynistic harassment (like street harassment) and of issuing threats of, or invoking, rape, sexual assault or disfigurement of women and girls, both online and offline.
The Scottish government has launched a consultation.
Dexter, the one-eyed Seafaring Kitty,
missing for five years, has been found on a North Sea oil platform, living in a container shipped from Peterhead, having apparently escaped the clutches of the law at HMP Grampian, in Peterhead, which he regularly visits and has enjoyed being fussed over as the prison cat. On his rediscovery, he was helicoptered back to the mainland. His owner, traced through Dexter’s microchip, is delighted to welcome him back home from his meanderings. Let’s hope he stays put this time.