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Week 24 11th June – 17th June 2022

11/06/22 – 17/06/22                                           

IndyRef2

            Nicola Sturgeon announced a second independence referendum, with or without a section 30 order, and will set out later a lawful alternative.  Launching the programme, she compared Scotland with other similar sized nations, who are wealthier, with less income inequality, lower poverty, higher life expectancy and social mobility, smaller gender pay gaps and higher wages, and more research and development investment.

            More white papers will follow on rejoining the EU, trade, currency, fiscal position, social security, pensions, defence and others.  

            Angus Robertson believes the referendum will be in October 2023, and the recent independent Scottish Election Survey showed as much as 61% think the Scottish government has a mandate for a referendum.

Project Fear 3

            Following Project 1 (indyref 1) and 2 (Brexit), Project Fear 3 (indyref 2) is underway.  Professor John Kay, a former economic adviser on the Scottish government’s Council of Economic Advisers (let that sink in), claimed Scotland would be £180 bn in debt on Day 1, to pay Scotland’s ‘share of UK liabilities’.

Here’s why it’s not true:

  • Scotland can only run a notional deficit, and must balance the books;
  • In 2014, the UK admitted Scotland would take on NO UK liabilities;
  • the GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) figures are discredited estimates. For example, many Scottish exports go via Dover, but for statistical and fiscal purposes count as English exports, according to Dr Elliot Bulmer (‘Scotland as a ‘sea state’ – the future for trade and security’, National 22/05/22).

The Scotland Act 2016 did not limit how often Scotland could have a referendum. The UK parliament accepted in 2018 the validity of the Claim of Right, giving Scotland the power to decide its own future.  The people of Scotland are sovereign, not the Crown in (the UK) parliament.  And isn’t Scotland a partner, not a prisoner?  Needing permission would make it a prisoner.

No Brexit Dividend

            A study by the Centre for European Reform (CIR) shows that Brexit has cost the UK economy £31 billion, and by the end of 2021 the UK economy was 5% smaller than it would have been inside the EU.  The SNP estimates that the Scottish economy will take a hit of over £14 billion by 2030. 

The Crown Estate

            will become a bone of contention after a decision for independence.   It is land and other assets worth £15.2 billion, but the reigning sovereign owns it ‘in right of Crown’, not personally, but as the monarch.  An independent board is charged with maintaining and enhancing its value.  Net revenues go to the UK Treasury, which gives (currently) 25% to the monarch for royal duties and maintenance of royal palaces.

            But it is already controversial in Scotland.  Two years after the Scotland Act 2016 devolved the Crown Estate in Scotland to the control of the Scottish Government, Fort Kinnaird Retail Park in Edinburgh was sold to M&G Real Estate for £343million, £167 million of which should have been paid to Scotland.

            The UK government claims Holyrood agreed that assets held in joint venture structures, rather than by the Crown Estate alone, were not devolved to Scotland.  Holyrood disputes this, saying it requested Fort Kinnaird be included in the Scotland Act 2016.  This was flatly refused, followed by further blocks from Treasury ministers.  As the Crown Estate owned only a 50% holding in Fort Kinnaird on a joint venture basis, on its sale the profits were withheld.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla)

            has accused Nicola Sturgeon of refusing to engage with them over significant financial worries, particularly with pending strike ballots by Unison, the GMB and Unite over a 2.2% pay offer. Aslef’s train drivers have been offered a 5% pay rise, although the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union, representing most of the 5,000 ScotRail staff, including conductors and ticket examiners, is recommending a ballot on strike action.

            Local government funding looks to decline by 7% in real terms between 2022/23 and 2026/27, according to the Fraser of Allander Institute.

Women and the GRA:

            Champion swimmer Sharron Davies was not allowed to address the Holyrood Equalities Committee on its gender reform consultation.  They also ignored former Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi, and former  British Olympian Brian Whittle claimed the committee was only inviting people who gave the desired answers, calling the proceedings a ‘sham’.

            Trans cyclist Emily Bridges may be barred from major female cycling competitions for up to another two years, following new rules from cycling’s world governing body, lowering maximum testosterone levels to 2.5 nmol/L and increasing transition time to 24 months.

            A poll by the More in Common think tank found over half of British people want trans identified males banned from female sports.

            The National Gender Identity Clinical Network for Scotland site had to withdraw a document wanting eunuchs to be recognised as a new gender.

for more on women’s issues go to ISP Safe in Scotland and ISP on Facebook

Green Matters

            The Scottish government admitted it will not meet its own 2045 net-zero pledge. The next full Climate Change plan in November next year will only plan to 2040.  There are no concrete plans for reducing red meat consumption, and its homes decarbonisation plans are very short of funds. It met its greenhouse gas reduction target in 2020, but probably only thanks to covid.

‘Limo’ Lorna Slater

            did not take public transport to a climate resilience event at Howden Park, in Livingston, travelling instead by luxury electric government-funded limo.  She appears fond of lecturing ordinary people who are dependent on cars, claiming ‘Transport isn’t just about getting from point A to point B…. it connects us to the places and people we care about’.

            No, Lorna, transport (cars) gets shift workers from rural area (A) into town (B) and back in the total absence of public transport at required times.

for more on Green issues, go to ISP website or ISP on Facebook

Education

            Shirley-Anne Somerville tried to reassure Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) delegates in Dundee that she would implement real improvements, despite the Scottish Qualifications Authority and standards body Education Scotland both due for replacement.

            Education expert Professor Walter Humes is sceptical of the newly established Strategic Reform Programme Board with subordinate boards, manned by civil servants, education directors, local authority representatives, and staff from the outgoing bodies. He blames ‘too many people of modest talent being promoted to senior management positions’ being resistant to change.

Russian Investments

            Lothian and Strathclyde Pension Funds continue to invest in Russia,  according to the Herald on Sunday and the Ferret (‘Scottish local government pension funds invest £448m in firms doing deals in Russia, Paul Dobson, 12/0622)

           Lothian later claimed its Russian investment was only 0.2% of its pension fund.  In February the Scottish Parliament pension fund had to offload holdings worth nearly £300,000 in SberBank, with Edinburgh University’s shares in SberBank also reviewed after pressure.

The Ferry Saga

            may cost a colossal amount over the next ten years, due to many years of under-investment (‘Fruits of failure to invest…. will cost £1.5 bn to resolve’, Martin Williams, Herald, 12/6/22). Kevin Hobbs, Chief Executive of Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) admits that ferry and infrastructure investment has lagged for many years but it plans to build 21 new vessels over ten years to replace its ageing fleet and upgrade infrastructure.

            In better news, the MV Loch Frisa has started operating on the Oban-Mull route, along with the MV Coruisk.  When the Frisa takes over the route altogether, the MV Coruisk will return to the Mallaig-Armadale (Skye) route.

            And plans are advanced for the re-establishment of the direct ferry link between Rosyth and Zeebrugge, initially for freight but aiming for a 2023 recommencement of passenger services if possible.

Medical

            The Mental Welfare Commission (MWC) in Scotland highlighted an over-doubling of community-based compulsory treatment orders (CTO) over 14 years, partly coinciding with a 13% bed reduction (600) for inpatient treatment for psychiatry, addiction and learning disability between 2014 and 2019.

            Many CTOs are continually extended, disproportionately affecting young males from deprived communities.

Health

            Spending on locum doctors and nurses has doubled since 2014, costing over £420 million in the last financial year, despite the NHS employing over 181,000 staff, its highest numbers since 2012.  Vacancies exist for nearly 500 doctors and dentists and over 6000 nursing posts.

            The number of ambulance staff who have been on shifts of 12 or more hours has risen to 86% (from 76% in November).

Researchers at Edinburgh University

            have devised a simple language test (‘Noah’s Ark’) which may help GPs identify which patients with common symptoms like headaches are most likely to have a brain tumour. The test asks persons to name as many animals as they can in 60 seconds, and is already used on patients with neurological conditions.

Legal:

Contracts for Difference and Green Subsidies

            The EU is scrutinising the UK’s Contracts for Difference support, which the UK intends to impose a stronger supply chain commitment test on.  This will affect Scotland’s development of new energy technologies.  £200 million support is proposed by the UK for offshore wind tech annually, £75 million for technologies like remote island wind, tidal stream and floating offshore wind, with £10 million for solar and onshore wind.

            But the EU consultation process, launched on 30th March against the UK through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) alleges these are discriminatory practices favouring UK firms and breaching WTO rules.

            If no resolution is found within 60 days the EU can request the WTO to set up a panel to resolve the dispute.  

The EU is taking new action against the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol, and resuming paused action on the UK’s unilateral extension of protocol grace periods in 2021.  The new action relates to the UK’s alleged failure on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks on agri-food produce entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain and alleged failure to provide the EU with data on the movement of goods across the Irish Sea.

            Threatened UK withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights would dramatically affect Scotland, according to Joanna Cherry, as the convention is incorporated into Scots domestic law on devolved matters.  But she thinks it would also strengthen the case for independence.

Finally,

            ScotRail CCTV spotted an escaped bull calf at Glasgow Pollokshaws station on Monday evening.  He had wandered in when fencing became loose.  Standing in the shelter he appeared to be checking the timetable before leaving.  Maybe he had heard about all the cancellations and didn’t want to risk it.  He was safely rounded up and Network Rail resecured the fencing.

            He belongs to Glasgow City Council and is one of 50 Highland Cattle based in Pollok Country Park.  This herd has form.  In November last year, several cows staged a breakout before heading for the Burrell Collection.  They brought trains to a standstill prior to being rounded up.

            And not just Highland Cattle.  In 2021 a marmoset was found on the train at Cambuslang railway station before being reunited with its owner.


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