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Week 18 April 30th – May 6th, 2022

No to indyref 2

            Scottish Labour peer George Foulkes is planning a bill which would allow a Treasury veto on any Holyrood plans to spend money on reserved areas like the constitution, hoping that this will force Scottish government civil servants to stop work on indyref2.  

            This is certainly ironic.  In 1989, he was one of 58 Scottish MPs who signed the Claim of Right which asserted the “sovereign right of

the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs”.

            So far, support for George has been muted, probably because outlawing Scotland’s right to decide would prove once and for all that Scotland is not a partner in this union, but a prisoner.

Is Scots a language?

            Baron Foulkes also made headlines this week by claiming it is not. His ire was apparently aroused by Billy Kay delivering The Time for Reflection in Scots to the parliament at Holyrood.  Kay pointed out that the UK government signed up for the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, with official recognition for Scots in 2000.

            It never takes much for the good baron to get upset about his own country actually asserting itself.

Gillnets

            Lesley Riddoch has pointed out the huge problems Shetland fishermen are experiencing with gillnets and foreign-owned boats in their waters (‘Will government do its job and protect Scotland’s waters?’, The Herald, April 25th).  Gillnets are massing curtains of mesh hanging from floats, which can cover 5-600 square miles of sea from 12-24 vessels.  Operating round the clock, they literally shut out other fishing vessels. Some of the Spanish owned boats are registered in the UK and an access agreement for foreign boats has compounded the problem.

            The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency is responsible for clearing up waste deposited at sea.  Although boats should return damaged nets to port and exchange them for new ones, this appears not always to happen.

            Discarded fishing gear should be traceable back to its boat, but is often washed up on Highland beaches.  Some want gillnets banned altogether, and a limit on the number of vessels fishing in tandem, but the Scottish government has yet to act.

Ferries

            The Scottish government has so far failed to find a key document setting out the reasons why they awarded the ferry contract to Ferguson

Marine without the usual financial guarantees.  Government legislation demands that emails must be retained for business purposes as evidence of a decision or transaction carried out by or on behalf of the government.

Women and Trans:

            Scotland’s reputation for world-class universities took somewhat of a battering with Napier University’s midwifery training manual.  In a remarkable illustration of how gender identity ideology has trumped biological and scientific truth, students were taught that biological males can give birth.  ‘People’ with prostate glands, i.e. males, ‘may feel particular discomfort’ during childbirth, says the guide.

            Not as much discomfort as the tutors writing the guide felt when they discovered they were a laughing stock, hastily withdrawing the text.  Perhaps the students ought to ask to see the tutors’ qualifications on anatomy before they continue their studies.

What is a woman?

Nicola Sturgeon has joined a long list of politicians in refusing to define what a woman is, claiming it oversimplifies the trans debate and could harm trans people, although she fails to say how.

            It is hard to see what the ‘feminist to her fingertips’ means by ‘feminism’.  She says correctly that ‘trans people’ are a tiny minority, but they are not the problem, it is predatory males who will use the sloppy legislation going through parliament to self-identify their way into women’s safe spaces, sports, refuges and so on.  And that is the argument in a nutshell.  And it is quite simple.

Ruth Davidson also failed to endorse the Scottish Tories’ policy to protect female-only spaces.

Joanna Cherry, however, pointed out that it is not transphobic to define what a woman is, or what a trans person is, and that our fears as women are about predators.

Legal Aid in Domestic Abuse

            Women’s groups are outraged at a strike by lawyers which threatens to delay justice for domestic abuse victims. The Scottish Solicitors Bar Association has refused to take on new cases after the Scottish government refused their request for a 50% fee increase, which they say is needed due to the complexity of proving the new offence of coercive control.  Prosecutions have been halted as those charged are barred from asking alleged victims questions at trial and therefore need a lawyer.

Legal:

The Elections Bill 2022

            was passed last week, introducing measures which are causing concern like the requirement for photographic voter ID in UK elections (though not Scottish).  The minister responsible for elections can now set the strategy and policy direction of the Electoral Commission, undermining its independence.  This could mean that the government could restrict the activities of its political opponents, or scupper a future independence referendum. 

            Acceptable photographic ID is fairly limited, raising fears of legitimate voters being turned away.  The government’s own research shows 4% of voters do not have the appropriate ID, although they have promised people can apply for a free voter card.

            Fears have mounted over other recent bills including the Policing bill, the Nationality and Borders bill, the Judicial Review bill, and probable amendments to the Human Rights Act.

            Since the Fixed Term Parliaments Act was repealed, Boris can call a General Election whenever he wants, which is rumoured by some could be as early as summer 2022.

Legal Advice on indyref 2

            Despite an order from the Scottish Information Commissioner Nicola Sturgeon is so far refusing to publish the legal advice her government has received on indyref2, but is considering challenging it in court. A decision can only be challenged on a point of law and must be made to the Court of Session within 42 days of the decision notice.

Business:

Gaming

            Dundee is the best city in Scotland for gamers, and ranks seventh in the UK, according to research commissioned by SolitaireBliss on the best cities for gamers to live in.  Average download speed, local gaming stores, local gaming culture including events, and job opportunities per 100,000 people within a ten-mile radius, were the factors considered.  Dundee came second only to Brighton in terms of the gaming culture of local events and companies per 100,000 residents.

Multinational arms manufacturers

            have benefitted from £3.6m of Scottish taxpayer money.  The government claims it is to protect employment in Scotland, saying the money went not on munitions but to enable firms to diversify their activities.  One beneficiary is US arms manufacturer Raytheon, with bases in Glenrothes and Livingston, employing 700 people, who got £600,000 last year.  They provided a precision-guided munition which was fired by the Saudi-led coalition, hitting a detention centre and killing 80 people.

            Thales UK Ltd, a firm who sold more than $9bn of arms in 2019, got over £1m from Scotland, and Babcock of Rosyth nearly £2m.

Green Issues:

Housing Standards

            Labour MSP Alex Rowley is publishing a consultation at Holyrood this week to require new build houses to comply with the rigorous German ‘Passivhaus’ sustainability standards.  Houses will use less energy and be cheaper to run, using solar panels, triple glazing, insulation, and a ventilation system replacing stale air with fresh. The Scottish government is committed to Passivhaus or equivalent standards and is reviewing building regulations.

            They will also cost quite a lot to implement, particularly if houses have to be retrofitted to comply.

Plugging the funding gap

            On that note, Nicola Sturgeon was in London last week to lobby financial heavyweights to help plug the funding gap in her decarbonisation plans, which may amount to as much as £31bn.   She apparently backs a joint strategy with the UK government for green new deals.  Her ambition to decarbonise one million homes by 2030 is likely to cost £33bn in total.

Cladding Scandal

            Scottish ministers are under pressure for allowing 400 mainly public buildings including high rise flats and schools to continue using the deadly cladding which cost the lives of at least 80 people at Grenfell Towers five years ago.  Included in this are 95 high rise blocks and 300 other buildings, including 244 schools, as well as a prison, five hospitals, five hotels and seven care homes, which contain high pressure laminate (HPL) panels. Other buildings are affected by polyethylene type ACM panels (ACM-PE).  Private flats have been rendered worthless by this cladding. 

            Scotland is under pressure to replicate the English scheme of an industry-wide agreement making developers fix the problem by extending a building safety levy on all new residential buildings.

            Sean Clerkin of the Scottish Tenants Organisation has accused the government of putting money before lives.  Ministers are proposing a ban on the use of the highest-risk cladding on new buildings over 11 metres high in Scotland, which comes into effect on 1st June this year.  Metal composite cladding will be banned on all new buildings of any height.

Hospitals on Trial

            NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is suing contractors for defects in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QUEH) and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People.  Faulty cladding must be replaced in the atrium of the Queen Elizabeth.  The claim amounting to almost £100m is for a number of defects, including a contaminated water system, ventilation problems, glazing and heating. The Scottish government is meeting the costs of remedying the defects, pending the outcome of the court case.

            The health board is also having to defend 28 civil claims regarding treatment at both hospitals, resulting in the deaths of two adults and a child at the QUEH, and Police Scotland are also investigating.

            A public inquiry will resume this month relating to the deaths, at which time contractors’ involvement in NHS Lothian hospital projects will also be examined. 

Finally

Let them eat Saver brands

            Millionaire George Eustace, the Environment Secretary, recommended this as a remedy to the cost of living crisis.  Newsflash!! The poor already are buying saver brands, George. 

            He did not add his voice to those calling for a windfall energy tax as a possible alternative.  Apparently this would discourage investment, and if we wait, investment will just trickle down anyway and we’ll all be rich.

            We’re waiting…..


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