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Week 22 – May 28th, 2022 – 3rd June, 2022

28/05/2022 – 03/06/2022                                                  

Life Expectancy has stalled

          and mortality rates have increased, particularly in deprived areas. The recently-published Scottish government review into the breast cancer screening.  A major overhaul is planned after two adverse ‘events’, the first an IT glitch which caused thousands of patients to be missed for mammograms.  Almost 200 women later developed breast cancer. And a second error meant that hundreds of women at high risk of breast cancer missed routine checks due to administrative errors at NHS Lothian.

          The average uptake of routine call-ups for screening was just 72% over the last ten years, but from poorer backgrounds the uptake is just short of 60% compared to nearly 80% from affluent areas. Some women believe it only affects those over 70, some think they only need screening if they suspect they are ill. Some were reluctant due to embarrassment or their employers would not allow them time off.

NHS Scotland has lost over 4000 beds in the last 12 years, according to a study by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, as well as coping with widespread staffing shortages. Over 500 beds are needed just to get back to pre-Covid levels, and over 1000 are needed to bring meaningful service improvement.  Early cancer diagnoses are being missed, particularly because of staff shortages.

NHS Scotland has spent almost £50 million sending nearly 3000 patients for treatment to England since 2017, for treatments including gender reassignment, cancer care and organ transplants. 

Public Health Scotland (PHS)

          reports that the outpatient waiting list of over 421,000 is 70.9% higher than pre-pandemic, with over 131,000 inpatients on the waiting list.  Outpatients waiting over 2 years rose to 2831 from 1824, with inpatient waiting periods doubling.  This was due to cancellation of routine procedures at the start of this year, when Omicron was threatening the health service.

Underground Tunnels

          between the Scottish islands are feasible according to Conservative MP Iain Stewart, who visited the Faroe Islands last week.  He estimates the costs at £32 million per mile, but felt it may help the islands economy to thrive.  Three tunnels link the Faroe Islands, one with the world’s first undersea roundabout.  A fourth tunnel is due this year and another one is planned.

Nuclear Energy

          Safety incidents at the Faslane and Coulport bases on the Clyde with a potential to cause radiation leaks damaging people and the environment have almost doubled in the last 3 years, according to the Ferret (‘Outcry as nuclear safety incidents almost double in three years’, Rob Edwards, Sunday National, 29/5/22).  Category B and C incidents ‘of serious concern’ have doubled from seven in 2019 to 13 in 2021.

Welsh Holiday Home Owners

          claim that holiday let businesses will become unviable if government plans go ahead in April 2023 to set a 300% council tax premium on second homes plus more restrictive conditions requiring holiday let use for 182 days a year instead of the present 70 days.  So far the Welsh government is standing firm.

The Progress to Yes Event

          took place last weekend in Aberdeen, but to outsiders does not look as inclusive as the were aiming for.  Their Code of Conduct for the Yes movement demands respectful debate and bans behaviours including homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and so on, circularly defined as ‘the definitions of those terms as adopted by the political parties active in the Yes movement’.

          Which means only certain parties will be participating, those who parrot the correct definitions.  Probably not ISP or Alba.  Aberdeen Independence Movement appear to be the arbiters of who’s allowed to fight for indy, and who’s not.

Wheesht for indy…

£3.5 bn Shortfall or £4 bn Surplus?

          Kate Forbes is hinting at difficult financial decisions (cuts) in order to concentrate on supporting households and services.  The axe falls on local government, police, justice, universities and rural affairs in her spending review, cutting about 8% each over the next four years, with enterprise, tourism and trade promotion cut by 16%.  She blames falling funds from the UK government.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) paints a stark choice of axing key policy priorities or increasing taxes, and the Scottish government’s own central forecast has said there is likely to be a deficit of £3.5 bn (8% of its budget) by 2026/27, although Scotland’s projections vacillate between a £10 bn shortfall and a £4bn surplus.

          However, £20 million has been set aside in Forbes’ spending review for the independence referendum next year.

Police Scotland have refused to publish a report on sexism prepared by the  Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) following a tribunal which called Police Scotland Firearms unit an ‘absolute boys club’.  They said it would be published later in an appropriate form, although possibly redacted. 

Eco zealots

          let down the tyres on 100 SUVs and 4x4s in one night recently in Marchmont, Hillside and the New Town, having previously targeted Leith and Granton.  So far no condemnation from the Scottish Greens, despite other attacks in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.  Their targets seem arbitrary, picked purely on vehicle size, and have included eco-friendly vehicles, and all-terrain vehicles necessary for particular terrain.

Aviation Hypocrites   

The Scottish government stand accused as climate hypocrites for refusing to halt aviation expansion.  They have also missed their emission targets for three years running.  The government defended aviation on the grounds that people would choose it for speed, and said it is working with aviation to reduce its harmful effects, rather than hitting it through pricing.  Nor will they incentivise rail use.

          This after the news that the COP26 climate summit was actually a super-polluter, creating more pollution than any other summit of its kind ever, emitting more than double the greenhouse gases of COP25.

Alzheimer’s Hope

           Dr Fiona McLean of Dundee University is researching why a protective barrier in the brain becomes leaky in people with Alzheimer’s, allowing the toxic protein amyloid to build up. The barrier between the blood vessels and the nerve cells deteriorates, allowing amyloids to enter the brain. 80% to 90% of Alzheimer’s patients also have amyloid clumps in the blood vessels.  McLean is looking to stop or reverse this process. 

Another study, by Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, led by Heekyung

Lee, is focussing on the tiny region called CA3 in the brain’s temporal lobe in the hippocampus which helps us recognise patterns and affects learning and memory, which, if compromised, causes forgetfulness or repeating yourself.  Loss of CA3 due to ageing may be a crucial factor. 

Alzheimer Scotland 

          is campaigning for fairer care home fees for people with advanced dementia who are classed as needing social care, not medical care, unlike people with other progressive terminal illnesses who have their costs met by the NHS.

Medical ‘Blunders’

          A study led by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) and NHS Education for Scotland (NES) examined the experience of patients and bereaved relatives who have suffered under the NHS.  They found that open communication fell short, medical records went missing, and health boards appeared to ‘closed ranks’.  The review process was too long and traumatic, and people said they were just not believed, often getting no answers to letters or queries.

          The study recommends a more person-centred and compassionate approach, including communications training which is currently underway.

Scotland’s 6 Offshore Wind Farms, valued at                   £889 million, have benefitted local communities to the tune of just £150K over the last year. The Scottish government ‘encourages’ windfarms to make a payment to the communities affected by their works, but these  payments are voluntary.  

        Although the government recommends that onshore farms pay £5000 per megawatt of energy produced, there is no recommended rate for offshore projects. Offshore farms give back 0.7% in community benefit payments, despite making nearly 10% of wind energy capacity. 


          Scots food banks are struggling with surging demand and dwindling stocks.  Demand is outstripping supply, with one in three parcels given to children. Demands have been made to ramp up the Scottish Child Payment to £40 and for the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) to receive more funding to help families, as well as for the cost of living crisis to be classified as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ to enable people to access more than three payments a year.  Local government must receive more funding for  administering the SWF.

Overdose Prevention Centres

          Scotland’s drugs death toll is more that three times that of the second worst total (Sweden) at 1339 in 2020, having climbed steadily over the last 7 years.   The Drugs Death Prevention (Scotland) Bill was recently lodged to enable safe consumption centres to be created.  It is claimed these centres have had success in places like Australia and have resulted in cleaner and safer neighbourhoods, free from drug paraphernalia.  But work is also needed on the problems which led to drug use in the first place, like poverty, homelessness and mental health problems, and family breakdown.


The Missing Link was in Caithness all along

          A 390-million-year-old fish fossil found in a Caithness graveyard is claimed to be one of the first ancestors of four-limbed animals. Palaeospondylus gunni had an eel like body, flat head, was only two inches long and lived on the bed of a deep freshwater lake.  Researchers led by Professor Tatsuya Hirasawa of Tokyo University examined fossils which remained embedded in the rock rather than excavating them.  Although other examples were found nearby, the species is not known in any other place on earth, with features unlike any other early fish known to science.

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