02/07/2022 – 08/07/22
Indyref2, NATO, courts backlog and wildcats:
Junk Food Ban
The Scottish government has pledged to change the law to ban unhealthier food and drink promotions, which could outlaw ‘Buy one, get one free’ deals. This may be extended to bread, pies and quiches, and crispbreads, and would apply to unlimited refills of sugary soft drinks It could bar supermarkets from displaying these items in key areas like the checkout.
A consultation has now been launched on what should be included, but may include breakfast cereals and pizzas. Public Health Minister Maree Todd thinks promotions encourage over-consumption, but why not just change the items the deals apply to, like BOGOF fruit and veg, lean white meat, fish, and so on. People buy these things partly out of habit, but partly because in the cost of living crisis, they are cheap. It’s no good banning sales without providing as cheap a healthy alternative.
A report produced for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations concludes that fishing grounds may now be in competition with wind turbines, tidal power schemes and marine protected areas. Scots fishing leaders say that over half the waters they use could be closed by 2050 due to the proliferation of offshore wind farms. SFF Chief Executive Elspeth Macdonald says other things are being prioritised overfishing, claiming the industry’s concerns are being downplayed by government.
The Scottish Land Commission has recommended that the government introduce a ‘public interest’ test for large-scale land sales and adjust the way public grants are targeted, also demanding large-scale sales to be publicly advertised ahead of the sale and urge responsible management of new investment in carbon offsetting and natural capital. They want to ensure that the financial benefits are shared out fairly.
A report by the SLC shows the rural supply of land coming to market is low but demand is significantly up, but also points out that two-thirds of sales take place off-market. Commercial forestry is favoured by government policy and high timber prices.
Votes or Seats?
After some initial confusion over the mandate for a plebiscite election, should a referendum be deemed outwith Scotland’s powers, it now seems it will be decided on a majority of votes, not a majority of Scottish seats in Westminster (30 out of 59). This makes it much harder to achieve, as it is only the SNP who almost got over 50% of the popular vote (in 2015) and then only once.
It is not entirely clear how a UK General Election in 2024 can be run along different lines either in one part of the UK. In the rest of the UK people will be voting on all the issues, in Scotland on only one. And it will have to be clear which parties are on which side. Say the SNP win, but other votes go to pro-indy parties, do they also count for Yes? Similarly with the unionist vote. Some including Joanna Cherry and Alex Salmond have mooted a Yes Alliance incorporating all indy parties to stand one pro-independence candidate in each seat, but it appears the SNP are would not entertain this, and the Scottish Greens have said they intend to stand candidates of their own in all constituencies, so standing against their Yes allies in the SNP.
SNP and NATO
While rejecting the idea of nuclear proliferation, the SNP are calling on NATO to strengthen international frameworks of non-nuclear proliferation and to pursue the closest possible relationship with the EU, claiming both have shared values and interests in the Euro-Atlantic area, to build resilience to cyber attacks and disinformation. Stewart McDonald, SNP spokesman on defence, wishes Scotland to succeed ‘as an independent member of … NATO and the EU’, claiming Scottish support of NATO stands at over 70%. Independent Scotland would ratify the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which would start the process of removing all nuclear weapons in each member state. The Scottish Greens oppose Scotland joining NATO.
The Scottish government has agreed to provide £65 million military aid to Ukraine, following their initial £7 million of financial aid and medical supplies. The new money will form part of the £1bn of UK aid for state of the art military equipment and kit.
BP has paid tax on its North Sea operations for the first time in 6 years or more, paying $127.3 million. Last year it received a rebate of $42m, and they still receive rebates for dismantling oil platforms.
The collapse of 28 energy firms will cost the taxpayer £4.6 billion in higher bills and taxes. £2.7bn is being added to customers’ household bills to pay for it, with taxpayers footing a bill of £1.9 bn. On their collapse, credits built up by customers just disappeared, and when customers had to be allocated a new supplier, this was followed by rising bills as they could no longer get any deal.
The biggest collapse, of Bulb energy, saw the firm put into special administration, with the government running it at a cost of over £900 million in 2020/21 and a projected £1bn for this financial year. Ofgem is being blamed for not ensuring those entering the market knew they would be operating at a disadvantage to the Big 6, and that for the spot-market they were purchasing supplies on they needed financial resilience which they did not have.
Skye is suffering a staffing crisis, with firms forced to reduce hours as a result. The Scottish Tourism Alliance said vacancies are running at 20%, a shortage of 45,000 jobs out of the 230,000 needed in Scotland part- or full-time or in the supply chain. Businesses sometimes close for a couple of days a week when they did not used to, to combat staff burnout. The main cause of this is Brexit, but as big a problem is staff accommodation, thanks to the proliferation of Airbnb, with just about every available bed taken every night throughout the tourist season.
Nurses have urged the government to continue routine covid testing of healthcare staff amid claims by Health Secretary Humza Yousaf that the twice weekly testing costs £300 million a year and is unsustainable. This at the very time that 1 in 18 people in Scotland have the virus, the highest rate in the UK, with increasing hospitalisations.
Community landlord Storas Uibhist is calling for more affordable homes, citing a lack of new builds, high costs and the proliferation of short-term lets. They have teamed up with Rural Housing Scotland to plan a small community, or ‘Smart Clachan’ at Lochboisdale on South Uist, with residents sharing land for livestock and vegetables, or workspaces, around a few houses. It involves prefabricated modular homes constructed on Barra.
Women and GRA
UK Attorney General
Suella Braverman warns she may interfere in the Scottish government’s plans for GRA reform. She is deeply opposed to the removal of a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria in favour of allowing trans people to choose their gender. Her fears centre on creating a two-tier system in the UK, with different recognition systems in Scotland and the rest of the UK, and questions over whether gender recognition certificates from Scotland would be recognised cross-border.
Scouts gone trans
The Scout Association has been criticised over its introduction of a ‘trans fun badge’ for members as young as four, along with a ‘bisexual fun badge’, ‘lesbian fun badge’ and ‘Pride fun badge’. Stephanie Davies-Arai of Transgender Trend said it was trying to make ‘allies’ of children in what is essentially an adult political movement. The Scouts also do not seem keen any more on terms like ‘Christian name’.
Why are the Scouts promoting sexualities at all to children? And what is involved in the ‘fun’ element of these new badges?
‘Specialist ‘sex crime courts’ are proposed to clear case backlog and boost convictions’, writes Kathleen Nutt in the Herald, 3/7/22. It is part of a wider reform to help more victims. The plan for a ‘national sexual offences court’ follows a review by Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk, with all staff and lawyers intended to have specialist training in dealing with traumatised people. Victims will not have to appear in person, instead pre-recording their evidence, and if they do attend court, they should have separate court entrances and waiting rooms. She stopped short of saying they should be ‘judge only’ courts, recommending a pilot first.
42,000 criminal cases are backlogged in Scotland after covid. The Faculty of Advocates is strongly opposed to judge-only trials. New Zealand retained jury trials when it established specialist sexual offences courts, resulting in fewer cases going to trial and more guilty pleas being entered.
living in Scotland are to be given lifelong financial support. The Scottish government committed £14.2 million to help with living and health costs over a ten year period from 2013. This has now been extended.
A Rent Freeze
was rejected last week by MSPs. Rent controls are meant to be introduced in 2024 but a rent freeze was sought till then. This despite rents increasing across Scotland by 8.5% in the last year to average nearly £900 a month for a 2-bed property. Rents rose by 16% in Glasgow to average £972, and in Edinburgh by 14.2% to £1214, and Dundee by 12.5% to an average of £722 monthly. And properties are often in a shocking and unsafe condition, with most tenants living in homes which have EPC Band D or lower designation.
The tenants’ union Living Rent is warning of a ‘tidal wave’ of Scottish evictions if the government does not act now.
are making a comeback thanks to a conservation project to stop them becoming extinct. The Saving Wildcats project is at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore. Already 18 kittens have been born, and will be released into the wild next year.