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Week 26 June 25th -July 1st, 2022

25/06/2022 – 01/07/2022                                                  

IndyRef2

                   SNP members are to get their say on the independence papers the party is       preparing prior to indyref2, at a national assembly this summer to discuss the scene-setter independence paper, plus any others which have been produced by then. Judging by the Growth Commission National Assemblies, the wishes of the members will not cut much ice.

          The date for the proposed referendum is 19th October 2023, advisory only, with the same question as in 2014.

Supreme Court

          Nicola Sturgeon launched a pre-emptive strike by asking the UK Supreme Court now whether a referendum is within the competency of the Scottish government, and on the same day, 28th June 2022, the Supreme Court of the UK received a reference by the Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain, under paragraph 34 of Schedule 6 to the Scotland Act 1998.  The reference does not need permission by the Court to proceed, but it will first be referred to the President of the Supreme Court, the Right Hon the Lord Reed of Allermuir, who will decide whether there are preliminary matters to address, and will announce when the case will be listed, how many Justices will consider it and who they will be.

Plebiscite Election

          If a referendum is ruled out by the Supreme Court, the 2024 General Election will be run as a plebiscite, on independence only.  It is ironic that when the SNP’s Chris McEleny suggested Plan B in 2019 he was roundly jeered at conference by apparently handpicked activists.  Since then, Angus MacNeil and Joanna Cherry have supported an alternative to section 30.  And in 2021 the ISP were campaigning on gaining an independence supermajority at Holyrood with a view to a possible plebiscite election, which stance the SNP refused to support.  Still, better late than never, and it gives us a date to focus on.

Second Homes

          For some reason it is a vexed question whether second home-owners’ wishes trump local people’s rights to a first home.  Some argue that holiday lets bring in business, holiday-makers eat in the restaurants, and so on, but can’t answer who will serve them in the restaurant if locals are priced out of the market and move away.

          It does not help a locality if people come up for a weekend or two, even the summer, then disappear again until Christmas and the New Year.  It does not keep the local shops and restaurants open all year, or the local school, and a transient population is destabilising.  Edinburgh lost 12,000 properties from the rental market after the explosion in Airbnb letting.  People having to move turns somewhere else into a hotspot.

          Wales has introduced a 300% levy on council tax for second homes, Arran Development Trust has called for levies on second and holiday homes, and in Derbyshire some houses can only be sold to local people. Other localities are considering similar action to put properties back onto the long-term rental market.

          It’s time the Scottish government got serious about second homes, at least until everyone has a first home.  

Defence Spending

          Martin Williams in the Herald claims small and medium-sized Scottish enterprises are losing out on their fair share of £55 million worth of UK Government defence contracts (‘Scottish firms ‘missing out on millions’ in defence spending’, 26/6/2022).  The MoD spent £2 billion in Scotland in 2020/21, but the Ministry of Defence confirmed that Scotland’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) got only 2.5% of the £1 billion total SME spending in that time, £25 million compared to £300 million in the southeast of England and £220 million in the southwest. 

          The Westminster Scottish Select Committee wants this to increase to the 8% which corresponds to Scotland’s proportion of the UK population.

          Despite committing in 2014 to increasing the number of Scottish-based regular armed forces personnel from 11,100 to 12,500 by 2020, the numbers dropped to 10,440 by 2021.  Forty percent of the total are employed at the naval base on the Clyde, home to Trident.

Women’s Issues

The Churches’ Response to the Gender Reform Bill

       was mixed.  The Church of Scotland representative found nothing wrong in the GRA proposals for self-ID, but this was decided by a small sub-committee, not the whole assembly or membership.  But the Catholic Church came out strongly against the reform proposals, their most strident opposition being reserved for self ID and child welfare.

Appearances at Committee

          25 pro-GRA organisations and individuals gave evidence to the committee, compared to 9 who are not supportive of reform. Hardly a balance.

          The committee itself has 3 of its 7 members on the Cross-Party Group on LGBTI+ (CPG), which wants to increase activity as a pressure group in parliament, including supporting gender reform. Nineteen organisations supported self-declaration, 13 of which are government agencies, other public bodies, or third sector bodies receiving Scottish government funding.  Six pro-reform witnesses had connections with members of the committee through the CPG.  Six anti-reform groups were called, none of them government-funded.

          The last session of the GRA discussion at Holyrood was marked by a woman sitting behind Shona Robison unveiling a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Nicola Sturgeon – destroyer of women’s rights’ on it.  She was asked to leave, unlike two trans attendees on a previous occasion who disrupted Naomi Cunningham’s gender-critical evidence.

          A representative from the Irish senate told the hearing there are ‘no problems with GRA’, despite copious evidence to the contrary.

          The committee proceedings are at risk of confirmation bias, merely reaffirming views the committee already hold.  We await their deliberations.

Single Sex Spaces

          The Scottish government is being careful not to eliminate single-sex spaces (yet), instead opting to change who qualifies for them, allowing men to identify into being ‘women’, thus eliminating single sex spaces.

Safeguarding

          No-one has addressed safeguarding issues regarding men who may just identify as trans, whether to compromise our safety (communal areas, prisons, refuges, sports), fairness (all-women shortlists and sports, protected jobs) or to retraumatise women in prisons and refuges. 

Unison

          at their recent national conference announced that gender critical beliefs will not to be tolerated.  They will be producing materials to counter gender-critical women, claiming we are linked to the far right and the religious right. 

          With over 1.3 million members, two-thirds of whom are women, many of whom earn almost 20% less than men, this may be a short-sighted union policy.

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

Health

Hepatitis

          Scottish clinicians are no closer to identifying the cause of a spike in hepatitis cases in children in recent weeks, but they were the first clinicians in the world to identify this spike. It is unlikely to be some weird reaction to covid or the covid jag as the children involved were too young to get it.

Covid

          Professor Jason Leitch is urging people to wear masks again, particularly when in a crowded place (even work), use alcohol gel, and keep a distance from each other.  Rising numbers in Scotland have resulted in 900 people hospitalised, 20 in intensive care, and forty-one deaths in hospital.

Hydrogen fuel

          is high cost, low efficiency according to Friends of the Earth Scotland.  Blue hydrogen produced by carbon capture and storage technology is only 60% effective, releasing huge amounts of pollution.  Green hydrogen requires huge amounts of renewable energy to produce it.  Using hydrogen to heat homes was more expensive and less efficient than electricity through heat pumps.

          Nonetheless, the Scottish government is ploughing ahead with a £10 million investment to develop hydrogen, part of a total £100 million planned investment.

Avian Flu

          is showing no signs of abating.  The latest tourism casualties are the Isle of May and Noss National Nature Reserves, closed from Friday, 1st July, with NatureScot advising visitors not to access any other seabird colonies.  Shetland, Orkney, St Kilda, Lewis and St Abbs, Est Lothian, Aberdeenshire and Sutherland have reported outbreaks of avian flu, mainly affecting great skua and gannets, but also other species.  Visitors can still visit the islands and view the bird colonies, just not go ashore.

Oil and Gas

          Offshore Energies UK recently commissioned research which showed the sector contributes £16 billion to the Scottish economy, providing 82,000 jobs, 41% of the total UK jobs.

          While we are rightly heading for a renewables future, we need to ensure a Just Transition from oil and gas in the medium-term, with the situation complicated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Disability Matters

          ISP Leader Colette Walker has voiced her concerns over the planned Ardrossan Connections Cycle Route being developed by Sustrans in collaboration with Ardrossan Community Development Trust and North Ayrshire Council.  Having tried out the Victoria Road cycle route in Govanhill, Glasgow, she felt compelled to write to Sustrans voicing concerns about the area where the cycle lane combines with pedestrian footpaths and a cyclist almost hit her and her guide dog.  She says visually-impaired people do not seem to be consulted on road layout and infrastructure which massively affects them, and wants her concerns to be addressed in the Equality Impact Assessment for the proposed route.

Ferries

          Community representatives have highlighted the ‘all-time critical situation’ which is drastically affecting island life. The MV Hebridean Isles is currently out of service.  Harris Transport Forum chair Margaret Morrison said she had never known such anxiety amongst the population, saying that businesses are almost at the point of extinction due to the crisis. 

Finally,

Up Helly Aa

          The festival celebrating Shetland’s Viking tradition and heritage will finally accept women as vacancies arise within existing squads. The festival involves local men, led by the Guizer Jarl, marching dressed as their Viking ancestors before setting fire to a traditional longboat. South Mainland Up Helly Aa appointed its first female jarl in 2015.

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