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Week 8 19th February – 25th February 2022

19/02/2022 – 25/02/2022

Visibility Scotland find Glasgow dangerous

          The new road layout under the Avenues Project has made roads including Sauchiehall Street confusing and dangerous for the visually impaired.  Guide dogs detect pavement edges by dips, but the dips designating new cycle lanes are much smaller than the usual kerbs, making it hard to find where pavement meets cycle lane, making it easy for people to walk onto cycle lanes without realising it.  Visibility Scotland says the visually impaired were not properly consulted and the city council is not listening to their concerns. Glasgow City Council claims it has listened to a variety of disability organisations and were establishing a forum to represent people with disabilities.  It also claimed a high standard of design relating to inclusivity, but did not respond to the specific complaints of the visually impaired.

Learning Difficulties/ Complex Needs

          The Scottish government aims to have greatly reduced by March 2024 long hospital stays and out of area residential placements for those with learning difficulties or complex needs. Delayed discharges of over 3 days occurred in 321 cases in December, with 1000 people in placements outside their local authority area in 2019.  A new register will be compiled with help of Cosla to identify those in hospital, in an unsuitable location or at risk of their support breaking down, identifying people as high or moderate risk.  The register will be monitored and authorities may meet up to twice a month to accelerate solutions.

Cancer waiting times

          Over half those waiting for key cancer tests have been waiting over the six- week official target for tests including MRIs, CT scans, colonoscopy, endoscopy and ultrasound.  This was a rise from just over 42% from the previous quarter.  The six-week target has not been met since 2010.  The waiting list has grown nearly 60% since before the pandemic.  Patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks from referral before hospital treatment begins, but this target was missed in just over a quarter of cases.

Why are energy prices so high?

          The Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimates 83,700 deaths over 8 years due to cold housing, at the same time as energy companies gave out £145 BILLION in dividends to shareholders.  Adding to the overall cost is the unfair cost of connecting to the grid.  The further away from London ;;energy is produced, the more it costs to connect to the grid, compared with southern England where they pay you to connect in.

Heat Network Fund

          The Scottish government has set up a new £300 million fund to promote the roll-out of heating networks, available to public and private sector bodies to power multiple buildings from a communal source in a low carbon, affordable way, through electricity produced from local water sources with zero emissions.  It aims to be powering over one million homes and 50,000 non-domestic buildings by 2030.

Richest Scots are 200x richer than the poor

          The richest 10% of Scots are 217 times richer than the poorest 10%. The median wealth of the richest was over £1.6 million between 2018 and 2020, a rise of 32% since 2006-2008.  Median wealth of the poorest was £7,600. Half of those in the bottom 20% are deemed financially vulnerable.

          The Scottish government blames the UK economic model, which is strange as lately they seem to be following the same model at some speed.

          The UK is in charge of monetary policy (how much money is in the economy and borrowing costs) and fiscal policy (taxation and spending used by government to steer the economy).  But is there really nothing the Scottish government can do? 

There have long been promises to reform particularly local taxation and implement an Annual Ground Rent chargeable on ownership or use of land at different rates, lower for large areas like farmland and estates, higher for residences.  By some estimates it would raise £78 bn, about double the current Scottish budget from the  block grant, and even doing away with the need for any other taxes.

Why do we cling onto the Royals?

          Campaign group Republic claims the public is paying huge amounts to subsidise the Royals for no discernible reason, claiming the cost to the British public is £345 million, with £35 mn [their figure] a year of that coming from Scotland.  Royals got £51.5m from the Sovereign Grant in 2020-21, and refurbishing Buckingham Palace will cost £34.4m.  The Queen receives surpluses from the Duchy of Lancaster (£22.3m for 2020-21).  Some costs like security are harder to quantify, but in Scotland she also got over £34,000 taxpayer subsidies for her Balmoral estate via forestry grants, less favoured area and Scottish suckler beef support schemes, plus reduced sporting rates for the estate.  The Rural Payments Agency in England also gave her single farm payments.

          Yet their popularity appears undimmed, even in Scotland. Will we keep a monarchy in independent Scotland?  Might we choose a different monarch?

Women and Trans

Census Appeal

          After an appeal, Scots will be able to self-identify their gender rather than their sex on the upcoming census.  It is illogical that Scotland should diverge from England/Wales and will lead to inaccurate data, which defeats the purpose of the census.

          Following an outcry by women’s groups and MPs, Police Scotland announced they are reviewing their policy of recording those arrested according to gender self-identification, rather than sex, which is crucial in sexual crimes.

          Parent Power has reversed plans by Highland Council to instal unisex toilets in Culloden Academy, Bettyhill and the new Ness Primary.  Having been advised that single-sex toilets are legally mandatory in schools, the council will now instal separate facilities for boys and girls.

          The Gender Reform bill, due this week in Holyrood, was not tabled.  A ministerial statement is expected next Thursday.

Better Together?

          Lord Frost, former chief Brexit negotiator, claims Britain should be built back as a ‘collective’ endeavour.  With no touch of irony, he claimed that no country with self-respect could ‘have its laws set by others’.  But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’s laws should be set within a ‘sensible national [UK] framework’.  Part of his annoyance comes from the different Covid regimes of the four, but claimed ‘Merry England is one of the freest countries in the world’.  Free to throw regulation and health safeguarding to the wind, no social distancing, no masks, free to have one of the highest death rates in the world.  For the current UK government, ‘living with covid’ will inevitably mean dying with it.

Canadian Trade Talks

          The SNP is urging the UK not to allow hormone-treated beef into the UK or end import controls on food products not meeting current standards.  The process is currently banned by the EU and the UK.

Rosyth dockyards, owned by Babcock, said it had no plans to relocate if Scotland gets independence, but its CEO David Lockwood claimed they may no longer be welcome in Scotland then.  When challenged as to who had ever said this, he admitted no one had.  Apparently it was the shareholders worrying about their profits.

Boris continues to show utmost respect for Scotland, referring recently to the Scottish government as the Scottish Authority.  At least he didn’t call it a council.

The Scottish government withheld legislative consent to the Nationality and Borders Bill when it was debated at Holyrood, although this will not stop it becoming UK law.  Specific objections relate to devolved responsibilities on human trafficking and care for children.  Age assessments will be done by a [UK] National Age Assessment Board, whose decisions will bind the devolved nations. 

So remind me why we are still in the UK? Weren’t the SNP getting us out of this?

Legal:

          The Electoral Commission has urged the government to rethink plans which could allow ministers to shape how electoral law applies to them and their opponents.  The Strategy and Policy Statement might allow government influence over political finance and oversight.  The government denies it would use the powers in that way, but then why enact them?  This follows an Electoral Commission investigation which led to the Conservative party being fined for donations to the Downing Street flat refurbishment.

Non-disclosure Agreements               

          Police Scotland has not yet made public details on its use of non-disclosure agreements (NDA) in sex crimes involving police officers, staff or members of the public.  They have settled 1.7% of complaints against themselves using an NDA since 2019, but will not reveal exactly what they relate to. The convenor of the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee has demanded the release of a private Police Scotland report on its use of NDAs.  Police defended their use of NDAs, on grounds that they are allowed by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.

Finally,

Pine Martens to control Red Squirrels

          Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is setting up over 30 pine marten dens in forests on Scotland’s east coast and the A9 corridor to try and control the grey squirrel population. Greys have been found near Dunkeld and in Angus and the aim is to stop them joining forces with the Aberdeenshire grey squirrels, which do not yet have squirrelpox, which decimates native red squirrels, but not greys.  It is not entirely clear how pine martens control the grey squirrel population, but it may be that the red squirrels are smaller and lighter and more able to beat a hasty retreat when needed.

   

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