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Week 20 May 14th – May 20th, 2022

14/05/2022 – 20/05/2022                                                  

Ofgem

            are alarmingly planning to allow the price cap on energy to be raised every three months, rather than every six as at present.  This never seems to bring prices down rather than put them up.

            At the same time Shell is reported to be making £80 million profit every day.  Harbour Energy expects to generate up to $1.7 bn cash flow this year and Neptune Energy’s UK profits increased by 150% as oil and gas prices have surged, making it $34.8 million UK operating profit in the first quarter.  Neptune plans to invest $1 bn over the next five years in the North Sea.

            Predictably enough, oil companies say the last thing we should do is charge a windfall profit on companies, claiming unconvincingly that this will deter investment.

            Who is fighting for consumers?  The Scottish government spectacularly abandoned its commitment to a public energy company for reasons that are not entirely clear. 

Health Matters:

Hospital at Home

            This service for elderly patients has received a further £3.6 million from the Scottish government for expansion.  It provides treatments like oxygen supply or intravenous drips at home without hospital admission.  Access to hospital tests under consultant care is also available.  The aim is to keep patients at home and free up hospital beds blocked by delayed discharge of those fit to leave. 

NHS Scotland spin doctors

            Scotland’s NHS is paying £66 million for 200 communications professionals, at the same time as it faces record shortages of nurses and consultant posts remain unfilled.   Twenty-five corporate communications department staff are employed at NHS National Services Scotland which provides strategic support and expert advice to NHS Scotland. Five boards pay over £500,000 annually on communications staff.  Standards watchdog Healthcare Improvement Scotland and NHS Education Scotland employ 17 staff each at over £1 million annually.

Dementia patients

            10,000 patients with advanced dementia are paying a total of £50.9 million a year for care, mainly because they are assessed, possibly incorrectly, as needing  social care, which is means-tested, rather than nursing care, which is free. It may be difficult to separate a person’s nursing care needs from their social care needs.  The total cost of dementia in Scotland is forecast to rise from £3.4 bn in 2019 to £9.4 bn by 2040. 

Women and Trans:

Police Scotland

            still have work to do to erase the sexism which exists, particularly in its Firearms unit.  One offending email from Rhona Malone’s boss, which surfaced at her employment tribunal, said not deploying 2 female armed officers together made sense because of ‘physical capacity’ differences between males and females, but also made sense from a ‘balance of testosterone’ perspective (?).  Wouldn’t the inclusion of more women have helped with that, allowing it not to become an ‘absolute boys’ club’ in the first place.

            Rhona Malone was recently awarded almost £1 million in compensation.

Aggressive Trans Activists

            don’t do irony.  If they did, they would see the irony of masked young men dressed head to toe in black but camera-shy, harassing women protesting near the statue of Suffragette heroine Emmeline Pankhurst in Manchester.  They appeared to manhandle a woman at the protest.  JK Rowling called their actions an ‘unintentionally hilarious own goal’.  The police made no arrests, having not actually seen what they called this ‘brief altercation’ unfold.

Gender Reform Bill

            MSPs were addressed this week by Melanie Field, Chief Strategy and Policy Officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Susan Smith, director of forWomen Scotland, who reiterated that gender reforms should be delayed to gauge the effects of proposed changes on individuals and society, how female-only prisons, competitive sport, data collection and other things would be affected.  

            Susan Smith particularly warned against the push to bring in gender-based services instead of sex-based services.   Rushing through legislation where women’s rights are set aside may result in that legislation being challenged in court and/or being ineffective.

Elite Tennis academy moving to England

            The GB national tennis academy in Stirling, opened in 2019, is being moved to Loughborough in Leicestershire, when its deal with Stirling University ends in two years.  As the other Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) academy is already based at Loughborough, this paves the way for a single academy going forward.

            The Stirling academy was set up specifically to develop Scottish talent, and there were 8000 new tennis club memberships taken out in Scotland in the last year. The LTA said it would continue working with Tennis Scotland to support emerging Scottish talent, but it is unclear how.

Cladding

            The Scottish government cladding assessment scheme for high rise buildings is expanding to include another 80 buildings which submitted interest last year.  A new streamlined process for commissioning assessments will help identify at-risk buildings more quickly, said Housing Secretary Shona Robison.  The Scottish government received £97.1 million in consequentials funding for 2021/22.

Green Issues:

Net Zero

            An analysis by SSEN transmission, the electricity transmission network owner and developer for the north of Scotland, says four times more renewable energy generation must be achieved in 8 years to put Scotland on course for net zero by 2050.  It says Scotland is expected to contribute 10% to reduce the UK’s energy emissions.  A new initiative to promote a fair and just transition to net zero, led by SSE, is a partnership of 11 global companies with 240,000 employees and a turnover of over £55 billion, and is developing the Powering Net Zero Pact upholding social, environmental and corporate commitments over 100 countries.

Scallop dredging may become less damaging

            thanks to the Heriot-Watt University-led Low Impact Scallop Innovation Gear project, which found that fitting metal skids to the steel bags used for catching scallops raised them 10 cm from the seabed, increasing catches of king scallop by 15%.   Fears that this would result in increased fuel use and therefore costs due to the increased weight of carrying the metal skids were not realised. 

Eco-Ableism

            The leader of Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) claims disabled people are being abused for using cars, and for not shopping locally despite stores being ‘inaccessible’.  Disabled people are being forgotten in the climate fight.  They cannot easily cut car use or recycle as much as they cannot move bins easily to the front of the house.  Electric car charging facilities are ‘largely inaccessible’ and the capital outlay prohibitive.  Some people also criticise the disabled for needing plastic straws or buying ready-made food.

            Closing city centres to cars and taxis and removing disabled parking spaces, increasing pedestrianisation, and poor cycle lane design and crossing points all add to the barriers to disabled people partaking in city life.

            A project at Heriot-Watt University is exploring the failure of non-disabled policy makers and environmental activists to address the impacts on and needs of the disabled community regarding climate initiatives.

NATO and an Independent Scotland

            The SNP changed and became pro-NATO in 2012, and Sweden and Finland’s applications to join NATO without nuclear weapons is ‘good background music’ for the SNP defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald.  Still, he feels Scotland would need a ‘unique’ defence offering to justify it acceptance into NATO.  Patrick Harvie does not want Scotland to join NATO at all.

            Marc de Vore, Professor of International Relations at St Andrew’s University, points out that a vindictive rUK may block Scotland joining, but also says if Scotland opted for neutrality, NATO patrolling the air and naval space north of Scotland would be impossible.  Might Scotland’s unique defence offering involve keeping nuclear weapons?

ScotRail cutting services

            Just weeks after being taken into public ownership, ScotRail has slashed almost a third of its train services (600+ services removed), blaming a lack of staff and a pay row with trade unions. The Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen Street line will have 30 services per day each way on weekdays, a loss of one third.

            Nicola Sturgeon has admitted that less than half the new train drivers needed to restore services will be ready by the end of this year.  Last services will depart sooner, curtailing people’s evening plans and encouraging them into their cars.

Ferries don’t escape either

            One in four ferry sailings were cancelled on the Ardrossan to Brodick route last year, on the route where a replacement ferry will be five years late if delivered next year, although the new MV Loch Frisa (previously the MV Utne) will be arriving next month on the Oban to Craignure (Mull) line. 

            Elsewhere, the MV Hebrides’ hull was pierced while docking at Lochmaddy, North Uist on Wednesday, so will be out of service for some time, meaning that 4,400 islanders on North and South Uist and Benbecula are without a ferry connection to the mainland, as the MV Lord of the Isles serving the Lochboisdale to Mallaig route is in for repairs till next week.

Scottish government secrecy?

            Concerns have been raised at the sheer volume of confidential documents shredded in the past year, almost 70 tons, over double the previous year. The Scottish government confirmed that no record is kept of the nature of documentation destroyed.  This was highlighted by the government’s recent failure to find information relating to the ongoing ferry fiasco, leading some to feel the government is being less than open and transparent.

            Monthly records of ministerial engagements, accommodation, travel or gifts appear not to have been updated since last October, which the government has blamed on covid.

Lastly,

Let them work longer

            Minister for Safeguarding Rachel Maclean has joined Tory MP Lee Anderson in patronising those struggling with the cost of living crisis.  They should take on more hours’ work or get a better paid job.  Not so easy in rural areas, what with the government wanting to do away with Working from Home and a lack of transport to get anywhere. 

            Perhaps they could work as consultants on a company board? Couple of hours a week for £20K or so a year?

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