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Week 25 18th June-24th June, 2022

18/06/2022 – 24/06/2022                                                  

Health, Green issues, Social Care, Ferries and indyref2 …

School meals arriving by drone

       may become a reality if a trial underway at Argyll and Bute Council is a success.  The council has teamed up with drone specialists Skyports to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to deliver meals prepared at Park Primary School, Oban, via Oban Airport to Lochnell Primary in Oban.

           It is hoped that the school meals project can be extended to other remote schools, and extended to delivering other necessities to its 23 inhabited islands, as well as being used for remote monitoring and inspection of roads and bridges.  The council hopes the UK’s first UAV logistics and training hub will be at Oban Airport.

            The project received £170,000 of UK government Community Renewal funding, with further funds expected to enable the construction of the hub by 2025.

Gender hilarity

           A 66-year-old Scottish male found himself first bemused, then angry, when he attempted to give blood at the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service in Stirling on Wednesday last week.  He was asked to fill in a form which asked if he was pregnant or had been pregnant in the previous six months.  

          He complained that, as this question could not apply to him, he should be able to just ignore it, whereupon the clinic decided on safety first, and refused his blood, making him so angry he has left and vowed not to return.  Considering the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service are looking for MORE donors, alienating the ones they have is definitely not the best strategy.

            Some common sense, perhaps?  If the health service does not know for a fact that pregnancy is impossible for a male, we are in more trouble than we thought.

for more on women’s issues, go to the ISP website or ISP on Facebook

GP Training

            The first students have graduated from a University of St Andrews graduate entry medical programme, Scot GEM, aimed at boosting rural GP recruitment.  Scotland needs 800 new GPs by 2027.

            The programme is a collaboration between St Andrews, University of Dundee, University of the Highlands and Islands, NHS Fife NHS Tayside, NHS Highland and NHS Dumfries and Galloway, focussing on remote and rural medicine and healthcare improvement.

            Although a welcome step, it does not stem the tide of GP practice closures since 2018, piling more pressure onto those practices which remain, which does not seem to centre patient care.

Long Covid

            An employment tribunal recently ruled that a Scottish caretaker, Terence Burke, sacked by Turning Point Scotland after almost 20 years’ service, had become legally disabled due to long covid, which gave him symptoms of fatigue and exhaustion, and he can now claim unfair dismissal as well as disability discrimination.

Green Issues:

            The Scottish government is being urged to cut deer numbers in the Highlands (‘Going wild: Action call as deer numbers surge’, Richard Baynes, Sunday Post, June 19th, 2022).  

             The John Muir Trust wants compulsory, legally-enforceable deer-cull targets for all estates, not the voluntary targets which currently exist, to protect trees, vegetation, peatlands and alpine habitats being ruined by deer. But some estates fear a legally-enforceable number will reduce their ability to attract sporting clients for deer shoots on their estates.

Floating Wind Farm Technology

            The Geotechnical Engineering group at Dundee University is developing new anchoring technology to make floating wind turbines more cost efficient by allowing them to anchor in deeper water.  The project is building on ten years of work on anchoring foundation systems for the oil and gas, renewables and aquaculture sectors.

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

‘Free’ personal care

            is being charged for by some local authorities, despite the Scottish government giving councils an additional £30 million to meet the cost of the policy in 2019-20 and £42 million for 2022/23, but there is no information available on how the money has been spent (‘Anger as councils ‘use loopholes’ to charge for free personal care’, Caroline Wilson, Herald, 18/06/22).  

            Campaigning group Scotland Against The Care Tax says new loopholes allow patients to be overcharged.  One way is by reclassifying provision as ‘housing support’ or help to pay rent and bills, which are chargeable services.  Councils are also said to have increased the amount charged for adaptations like ramps and stair lifts.  The total raised in this way was £4.1 million in 2020-21.

            The Scottish government is due to end all non-residential social care charges on the introduction of its new National Care Service.

The National Care Service

            due to be set up may end up costing up to £1.3 billion.  It aims to support adults at home through their families or communities, focussing on early intervention to prevent problems escalating. Local authority responsibility will transfer to the Scottish government or to care boards. There will be a charter of rights and responsibilities for social care, a robust complaints procedure, breaks for unpaid carers, visiting rights for those in care homes, fair employment practices and national pay bargaining for social carers and a new National Social Work Agency to set standards.

            Cosla are not keen on the service being taken out of local authority control and neither is the union Unite.

            A parliamentary question by Alex Rowley, MSP for Fife, has revealed the extreme amounts people in care homes may be required to pay.  Self-funders face accommodation-only bills ranging from nearly £40K to nearly £70K a year, depending where in Scotland they are, with care costs on top of that.

Dr Sally Witcher,

            former chair of the Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCSS) says vulnerable people who voice concerns about spiralling covid rates are being treated as an encumbrance on other people’s freedoms.  People with high underlying clinical and exposure risk, long covid and unpaid carers often want others to continue to wear masks and observe social distancing.  It is not being fussy, it is a matter of life and death.

Ferry service

            Jim McColl, former director of Ferguson Marine Engineering Limited has told MSPs at the Public Audit Committee that the Glen Sannox ferry and Hull 802 are not as environmentally-friendly as thought, and will give off poisonous gases (‘Vessels are already obsolete’, claims ex-boss of shipyard’, Martin Williams, Herald 17/06/22).  Espen Barth Eide, the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, claims he would no longer invest in LNG ferries, and the European umbrella group for non-governmental organisations state Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is 80% more toxic than diesel fumes. 

The Harris to Berneray ferry breakdown

            last weekend caused major problems, with tourists sleeping in cars and islanders fearing food shortages.  The 19-year-old MV Loch Portrain broke down on Friday afternoon, with a knock-on effect for onward ferry bookings to South Uist and Barra.  A replacement ferry could not pick up all the bookings, and travellers have been cancelling future plans due to the uncertainty.

Ferry Booking

            Islanders have long complained about CalMac’s ferry booking system which appears to prioritise visitors over islanders, operating on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning ferries are booked up months in advance.  Mull and Iona Ferry Committee (MIFC) and Arran Ferry Action Group (AFAG) spoke of islanders being trapped on their islands in the summer, unable to make spontaneous trips for shopping or family visits.

            The groups favour a system like that on the Danish island of Samso, which has two booking lists, one for islanders, one for others. 96% of residents who responded to a survey favour such a system for the Scottish islands. Transport Scotland would have to sign off on a new system and are now in receipt of the islanders’ report.

Scottish Legal Aid

            The Scottish Solicitors Bar Association says the criminal justice system is on the point of collapse, with many solicitors withdrawing from the duty solicitor scheme due to falling legal aid payments from the Scottish government. Domestic coercive control cases are being refused by some solicitors due to coercive control being harder to prove, meaning a lot of extra unpaid work.

A Trade War between the UK and the EU

             would affect Scotland’s iconic whisky, salmon and cashmere products, and may lead to them being used as a weapon against the UK in their disputes with the EU on unilaterally scrapping the Northern Ireland Protocol and tariffs.

            Elsewhere on Brexit, former chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost claims that leaving the EU is ‘working’ for the UK economy and ‘improving democracy’.

Property

            Arran Development Trust is calling for levies on empty and second homes to raise funds to boost the local housebuilding sector via a Second/ Holiday Home Owners Fund, and to encourage sales to locals instead of owners holding on to empty houses.

            Arran has 40% of North Ayrshire’s second and empty homes. Martainn Mac a’Bhaillidh of Gaelic campaign group Misneachd wants a levy and wants to limit who is allowed to buy homes, and limit the rental income people can gain from property, plus empty homes to be brought into use, and land to be made available for building.

Alcohol Deaths

            are running at an average of 23 per week in Scotland, despite the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for alcohol sales.  Almost a quarter of adults in Scotland drink more than the recommended maximum daily amount.  In the poorest areas of Scotland, alcohol-specific death was nearly five times higher, and alcohol-related hospital stays eight times higher, than in the least deprived areas.

            Public Health Scotland’s Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy report finds little evidence that MUP has reduced problem drinking, claiming people switch to cheaper alcohol or just reduce what they spend on food. 

            Alcohol Focus Scotland warns that alcohol deaths (1190 direct cause in 2020) may be overlooked due to Scotland’s appalling number of drugs deaths (1339 in 2020).  Public Health Minister Maree Todd has promised new alcohol treatment guidelines. 

Finally,

            If Indyref2 was getting too serious, some humour from the Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Rev Julian Henderson, who suggests that all four UK entities should be involved in decisions on the union, as a decision by one would affect the others.  This includes the Scottish referendum. 

            But Brexit affected all parts of the UK, and England did not consult the others on that referendum.  Alone among the four, Scotland did not get anything it wanted.  There was no quadruple lock on the Brexit result, which would have stopped Scotland being taken out of the EU.

            Ironic that the Rev is part of an unelected body, accountable to no-one, who not only wants Scotland to be accountable, but also wants it stopped from doing what it wants.

            Nicola Sturgeon will set out the route map for indyref2 in a statement to Holyrood on June 28th at 2.20 pm, followed by a Q&A session.  She also said she would be open to a Northern Ireland-style protocol for Scotland.

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