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Week 19 May 7th – May 13th 2022

                                                       

Drought Warning

            Scotland may be in line for more frequent water shortages in years to come.  Last year was the second driest summer for 160 years.  The Scottish Environment Protection Agency recently issued its first water scarcity report of the year giving notice of groundwater shortages in the southern half of Scotland, later including Angus, Tayside and Deeside.  Since the drought of 2018 there have been issues every year.  This March Scotland had only half the expected rainfall.  It is predicted that by 2050 the 2018 drought could be repeated every other year.

            This affects Scotland’s iconic industries from farming, food and drink, energy to golf.  Heavy downpours do not help as hardened ground will not absorb it.  Whisky production has stopped over the summer for some producers to conserve water and ceased for an extended period in 2018 in Islay, Perthshire and Speyside, as well as Inver House Distillers in Wick.  The whisky industry uses over 800,000 tons of water yearly in its production.

            As well as industries affected, 180,000 people who rely on boreholes and private springs are particularly on notice of a looming problem.

Good Food Nation

            The bill currently going through parliament will require the Scottish government, local authorities and health boards to produce their own Good Food Nation plans, involving procuring and producing sustainable and nutritious food through their public kitchens in schools and hospitals.  Local procurement would reduce carbon emissions.  Eighteen councils in Scotland already hold Food for Life Awards, meaning that they serve fresh, local food at more than 2000 sites across Scotland.  How this will be rolled out to all residents remains to be seen.

Health Matters:

Orkney and Multiple Sclerosis

            The Orkney islands have the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world, affecting around 80 people, ten times the world average.  MS can be managed but not yet cured.  It is degenerative, causing brain and spinal cord problems, movement problems, sensation, vision and balance issues.  In those developing it as teenagers or older, it may even lead to chronic fatigue, and in extreme cases some cancers, lupus, hepatitis or blood abnormalities.  Research has identified some genetic factors in the islanders’ DNA but also believe a common virus, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) makes those who have been infected with it 32 times more likely to  develop MS.

            EBV causes glandular fever, with the virus remaining in the body for life once infected, and showing up in brain lesions of MS patients.  The previous chief suspect, Vitamin D deficiency, does not appear to be a factor in the Orkney cases.

            MS hotspots in Orkney include South Ronaldsay, Westray and Rousay, but Deerness on the east coast, is a ‘coldspot’.  Vaccine research is being carried out in the United States, to break the link between EBV and the development of glandular fever.

Private Consultants for National Care Service

            The Scottish government is under fire for paying what some regard as excessive private consultancy fees for advice on the new National Care Service (NCS), at almost £1 million.  Among other things, an external VAT adviser to the National Care Service is being sought at a salary of £75,000, money which Pat Rafferty of Unite Scotland says would be better spent on frontline services.

for more on Health Matters, go to ‘Healthcare Crisis?’ on the ISP website or facebook

Homelessness

            Councils have spent over £250 million over five years on private firms and landlords roviding homeless accommodation which is often totally unsuitable. Families have been dumped

long term, and vulnerable persons with addiction or mental health issues are left without any care.  The Scottish government said it is up to each local authority to make homelessness provision for their statutory obligations, and has committed £52.5m to help councils provide rapid rehousing and towards the Housing First programme, aiming to house people first, then treat their problems.

The Chinese Connection

            Scottish universities received over £13 million funding between 2006 and 2021 through a Chinese state-backed programme for ‘Confucius Institutes’ to promote Chinese culture. Big recipients include Edinburgh University at £6m, and Strathclyde with £5.6m.  This is despite concerns that the programme is too close to the Chinese Communist Party.  Programmes include calligraphy, tai chi, music and language, prompting fears that it may be spreading propaganda.

Spy Cameras

            Chinese Hik-vision cameras are still being used by 28 councils, the Scottish government and Police Scotland, despite a Westminster report last year saying their use should be banned due to concerns over personal data being misused, and concerns over the cameras’ alleged use in Chinese detention camps and in generalised state surveillance of its population.  Justice Secretary Keith Brown is consulting Police Scotland on the matter.

Pardon for Miners

            Scotland’s 14,000 striking miners in the 1984-85 miners’ strike are the subject of a bill going through parliament which will pardon, miners and family members who demonstrated and were arrested, but will not compensate them, claiming this is a UK government responsibility.  One tenth of Scotland’s 14,000 miners were arrested, 500 convicted and over 200 were dismissed.

Average Earners will be plunged into fuel poverty

            Even Scottish Power chief executive Keith Anderson is calling for urgent action on energy bills.  Citing the average Scottish wage as between £31K and £32K, and not mentioning that many in Scotland are on nothing like that, with power bills possibly rising another £1000 in October to £2900, he points out that everybody on average pay will soon be at or near fuel poverty, defined as paying over 10 times your income on energy bills.

Ofgem investigation

            Ofgem is planning robust action against energy companies who unfairly increase direct debit payments.  Ofgem were speaking at the Scottish parliament’s Energy, Net Zero and Transport Committee yesterday following MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis saying at least 30% of customers with British Gas, Octopus and Shell Energy had their direct debits increased by 100%, despite the increase in the energy cap being 54%.

Energy Transmission Costs

            There was no guarantee forthcoming from Ofgem’s Director of Strategy and Decarbonisation, Neil Kenward, to the Holyrood Net Zero Committee to decrease the costs of Scotland’s energy suppliers connecting to the national grid, although he did admit improvements to the grid would better connect England to Scotland’s vast energy resources.  Ongoing energy development plans might be affected if Scottish transmission costs were cut or subsidised. 

            Currently, Scottish suppliers pay £7.36 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in Scotland’s north-east, £4.70 per MWh in south Scotland, while English and Welsh providers pay £0.49, with southern English suppliers are actually paid to connect to the grid.  Scottish conservative MSP Liam Kerr implied the transmission charges were fair as the ‘demand’ was concentrated elsewhere.

Women and Trans:

            Stonewall executive Kirrin Medcalf lightened the proceedings in the Allison Bailey employment tribunal by claiming that ‘humans are not naturally male or female’, but ‘just … bodies’.  Proceedings were halted though when Kirrin could not continue without a support person, mum, and a support dog present.

            Fortunately, Kirrin was able to decide correctly which biologically-female person (woman) we should thank for Kirrin’s birth and the tribunal was able to resume.

Green Roundup:

Electric car production

            Sir Tom Hunter has urged caution over the speed of introducing all electric vehicles. This follows Toyota’s warning to UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that it may cease car production in Britain unless the mandate for a rapid switch to all-electric vehicles is watered down, claiming that industry cannot yet cope with such rapid changes.

Historic Scotland

            could need as much as £20 million to fit energy saving measures in its properties to meet the government’s 2033 energy-efficiency target. No exemptions are in place.

4 x 4s targeted

            The activist group Tyre Extinguishers has claimed responsibility for recently deflating the tyres of over 30 mostly 4 x 4s in Portobello, Edinburgh.  The TEs are apparently psychic, deciding unilaterally whether the owners need a 4 x 4 or not.  One of the victims this time needs his vehicle to work as a civil engineer driving on bad terrain or towing waste materials.  

            The TEs will have none of it.  They are threatening the new Edinburgh City Council that if they won’t take climate action, Tyre Extinguishers will.  Their website offers advice on how to deflate tyres, and they have decided that people in urban areas ‘does not need to’ own a 4 x 4. Police Scotland are investigating.  Let’s hope they look at the website as well.

for more on Green Issues, go to Independence for Scotland website and facebook

Legal:

Queen’s Speech

            Many of the provisions relate to Scotland as well as the rest of the UK.  Of note are legislation forbidding the devolved governments and local authorities from introducing sanctions against other countries.  The Brexit Freedoms Bill allows for easier update or removal of retained EU law. The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, laws on animal welfare, and the new Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill (UK) all apply to Scotland.  The last is the so-called P&O Bill to prevent the docking of vessels which habitually go in and out of UK ports unless they pay their workers the equivalent of minimum wage.

The Scottish Council for Global Affairs

            launched last month in Edinburgh, seeking to promote Scotland’s identity on the world stage and act as a hub for researchers and experts.  It is hoped to increase Scotland’s capability to influence international affairs.

Finally,

            Tory MP Lee Anderson this week set the bar even lower for his party by claiming people only go to food banks as they can’t budget or cook.  Insisting there is no need for food banks, he seems unaware that rising energy costs will further cut incomes.  He ‘earns’ a mere £84,144 as an MP (plus expenses).

            Those who visit foodbanks do so because too much is charged for rent and energy costs, both of which are rising out of proportion to incomes, even in Scotland

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