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Week 5: 29th January – 4th February 2022

29/01/2022 – 04/02/2022

Proxy Vote for EU Re-entry?

Believe in Scotland wants indyref2 to be a proxy vote on rejoining the EU, claiming independence will not win if EU re-entry is not stipulated. Many including the SNP appear to support a separate EU vote, but Nicola Sturgeon ruled this out last year.  This may drive some to vote No to independence.  Some would prefer EFTA, at least initially, as it will take Scotland about four years to rejoin the EU after an initial Association Agreement.

Alyn Smith has bizarrely stated our choice is stark – Brexit Britain or Independence in Europe, arguing that ‘we’ (the SNP or Scotland or both) had to give ‘saving the UK from itself a decent shot’.  His upset is partly due to us now being in the ‘Rest of the World’ queue when traveling. 

 Lost EU funding

 The devolved nations and the most deprived English regions may lose out on funds meant to replace lost EU funding, which was worth £1.5bn.  Replacement funding does not reach that level until 2024-25, despite the Autumn Budget claiming otherwise.  From April, the Shared Prosperity Fund only amounts to £400m in 2022, £700m in 2023-24, and £1.5bn in 2024-25. Wales may lose almost £1bn over the next three years, Northern Ireland £65m annually, and Kate Forbes claimed Scotland needs £1.283bn to replace EU funding up to 2027.  Some deprived English regions will lose up to 50% of their previous funding.

Legal Cannabis Medication

Last week Liam Lewis, a user of legal medical cannabis oil, had his medication confiscated by Police Scotland and was forced to accept a caution or be charged.  He can appeal, but only then will he get the medication returned, and it remains on his record, affecting future employment prospects.  As GPs cannot prescribe it, he could not give police a GP prescription, so police said it was illegally obtained. Only private clinics and NHS specialist consultants can prescribe.  Liam produced a Medcan ID card, which police said he may have faked.  A physical prescription and electronic prescription from Sapphire Medical Clinics followed, but they stood firm.

Asked for comment, Police Scotland claimed that since use or possession of medicinal cannabis by legitimate means is not an offence, no police training is needed, but this episode suggests otherwise.

Cost of Living

Free bus travel for under 22s is available from January 31st, but the arrival of National Entitlement Card or Young Scot NEC cards seems somewhat delayed.

Former hedge fund manager and multi-millionaire Rishi Sunak confirmed the £12 bn raid on National Insurance will go ahead in April to pay the new health and social care levy, and will be payable from £9880 annual salary, below the minimum tax threshold, at the same time as minimum wage rises by 50p an hour to £9.50. 

Meanwhile, the UK has written off £8.7bn it spent on PPE.  £673m-worth of items were unusable, with £750m of equipment not used before its expiry date.  £4.7bn of the “written off” total was basically paying too much, and £2.6bn of equipment was unusable in the NHS. 

The government has also written off £4.3bn of fraudulent bounce-back loans paid to companies and banks, about 10% of the total paid out.  Only £536m has so far been recovered.  Another £17bn may not be paid back, according to Lord Agnew, the government counter-fraud minister, who resigned from the government in protest, claiming the Treasury was not interested in the fraud.

More than 1000 companies obtained loans despite not even trading when covid hit.  Fraud checks were only instituted when 60% of the £47bn had already been issued. Some businesses claimed loans then dissolved their business. Some loans even went to criminal gangs.

Having given up on reclaiming this cash, Sunak was in no mood to let Universal Credit claimants off the hook. They have had a £20 a week cut since last autumn.

Energy rises

Widespread disquiet has forced the government to provide subsidies to customers for energy bills which will rise by approximately £693 from April (£708 for those on pre-payment meters).  All households will get a £200 upfront reduction on energy bills for from October in England, Scotland and Wales, but it is repayable by customers at £40 a year for 5 years from April 2023. In effect, he has lent energy companies the money, and we have to repay it but over a longer period.

Sunak also provided money for a £150 council tax rebate for homes in council tax bands A to D in England. Scotland will receive £290 million in Barnett consequentials, presumably for a similar council tax rebate.

Local Government

Kate Forbes announced a further £120 million funding for local government from April, which provides an amount equal to a 4% rise in funding, eliminating the need for council tax rises.  The money is not ring-fenced, and will be paid by taking some of the Scotland reserve fund forward to next year.

Westminster

The SNP made headlines in the House of Commons, when SNP Parliamentary leader Ian Blackford walked out of Parliament after refusing to retract a statement calling Boris Johnson a liar, meaning that he was punished more severely for telling the truth than Boris was for lying.

House of Lords

Michael Gove has hit on another great wheeze, saying that the House of Lords should possibly go on its travels around the UK, sitting part of the time in places like Glasgow or York.  Apparently, a wholly undemocratic body on tour round the UK will help us realise how lucky we are.

Better Together…

Women and Trans Issues:

Misogyny is set to become a stand-alone criminal offence in Scotland when Baroness Kennedy’s working group reports shortly.

Fair Play for Women’s Nicola Murray was spoken to by police after her charity, Brodie’s Trust, said it would no longer refer women to Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre. Although police admitted she had not committed any crime, they wanted to know what her thinking was behind making that statement!

Fair Play for Women have also complained to the Equality and Human Rights Commission about Police Scotland giving inaccurate information regarding single-sex exceptions.

for more on these issues, go to ISP Safe in Scotland

Green Issues:

Sustainable Whisky

        The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) has set a target of net-zero emissions by 2040.  Nc’Nean Distillery in Argyll is looking to renewable energy use, replanting trees, has achieved zero landfill waste and aims to turn waste into reusable products. 

Ardnamurchan Distillery recently won a Good Practice Award from Scottish Environment Business Awards.  Wood chips from local renewable forestry power the boiler which heats their stills, waste products become animal feed and ash from the woodchip burner becomes fertiliser.

Isle of Raasay Distillery is aiming to reduce carbon emissions by over 83% this year.  Cardboard packaging has replaced plastic, barley draff goes to crofters as cattle feed, and they aim to turn waste into hydrogen to use for whisky production.

Lindores Abbey Distillery in the Lowlands uses bees to pollinate the garden herbs for Aqua Vitae spirit and sources its whisky ingredients from no further than five miles away.

Insect Apocalypse

Aberdeen University researchers say that current conservation policies do not protect all insect species equally. Butterflies and moths are better protected than flies and bees, but all play a part in the eco-system, including pollination and pest control, and therefore food security.  Pest elimination by chemicals is indiscriminate, and the whole system is disjointed.

Integrated Fire Alarms

£500,000 extra will be paid by the Scottish government to help elderly and disabled people meet the cost of installing the new alarms, through Care and Repair Scotland.  Although meant to be installed by 1st February, the deadline has been extended, but it is unclear by how long.  To be eligible for help, you must live in a house in council tax bands A to C, and either be of state pension age and receiving guaranteed Pension Credit; or have a disability and be in a support group for Employment Support Allowance.  The government won’t penalise anyone not having the alarms fitted in time, and insurers are ‘unlikely’ (!) to invalidate a policy for existing customers who have not fitted them.  This looks like a good policy whose implementation was not thought through.

Affordable Housing

Raasay Development Trust (RDT) is starting a community-led development of five homes and five self-build plots, two for social rent through Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association, and three community-owned homes for rent through RDT.  The Rural Housing Burden discount scheme assures affordability for locals.

With 32 people are on the waiting list, priority will go to those who have a link with or need to live on Raasay.

Spyglasses

Facebook and Ray-Ban have teamed up to produce spectacles with an inbuilt camera which is so hard to detect that a Mail on Sunday reporter wore them all over London, in changing rooms, along the street, at security-sensitive areas like the Eurostar terminal, and near Charing Cross Police Station.  Although she switched the camera off in changing rooms, the recorded images uploaded automatically to her phone.  She even filmed Kensington Palace Gardens without being detected. 

Facebook urges people to respect privacy, although Meta (Facebook’s new incarnation) admits some will ‘unfortunately’ use it inappropriately.  They assure us their security will develop apace!

Beware anyone wearing glasses near you!

for the full article, go to Independence for Scotland on Facebook

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