26/02/2022 – 05/03/2022
Priti Patel has put her foot in it again, saying Ukrainian refugees can pick fruit here. The UK’s initial response was limited to Ukrainians with immediate family here. Now, adult parents, grandparents, children over 18 and siblings of those living in the UK can join them, and a new scheme allows individuals and organisations to sponsor Ukrainian refugees, something Scotland wants to do. Schiehallion Hotel in Aberfeldy is one firm keen to sponsor Ukrainian refugees, and many in Scotland have contributed to financial appeals. But the total number envisaged for the UK is only around 200,000, with no exemption made for Scotland.
Last week, unfounded and possibly fabricated allegations of Ukraine waging war against ethnic Russians in Lukhansk and Donetsk ‘justified’ the Russian invasion. Russia hit Chernobyl last week, possibly accidentally, but the 4th March attack and takeover of Europe’s largest nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia, appears deliberate.
Russia has agreed for safe corridors to allow Ukrainians to leave. Economic sanctions will not stop Putin. Military intervention would lead to nuclear war. It appears now that the West has settled for Ukraine being cleared.
The UK is home to over 200 Russian millionaires, with some Russians owning properties in Scotland. Transparency International identified at least £1.5bn-worth of UK property owned by Russians accused of financial crime or links with the Kremlin. According to the Home Office, illicit money is also used to support political parties, buy cars and pay school fees.
The UK Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill will include a UK-wide property ownership register. Foreign owners must declare their identities, but only need to verify identity in England, not Scotland. Penalties include prison sentences from 1 to 5 years. A Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land coming into force on 1st April will force overseas businesses who own land to declare who controls the company. But it will not apply to Scottish-registered companies even if they are owned by offshore entities.
Levelling Up not working for the Islands
The allocation of money from the Levelling Up Fund is flawed. Highlands and Islands are in the category least likely to benefit from the fund, with no account taken of extra needs due to poor transport links. Michael Gove claimed it was because they have more information on England and its regions. Scottish MSPs said it was just ignorance of Scotland.
The fund is meant to replace lost EU funding. The first tranche of funding gave £1.6bn to projects throughout the UK, including Inverness projects which got £20m from the fund, but Orkney and Shetland bids were thrown out. Scotland’s considerably worse transport links and challenges were not considered, but English transport needs were!
The Scottish government complains that UK money is being spent without consulting them and is not targeted where it is most needed. Scottish Conservative MSP Craig Hoy went further, demanding that the UK government double down and scrutinise Scotland’s spending more.
The Workplace Parking Levy
came into force from 1st March, but it is left to local authorities whether to implement it. Scottish Labour and Conservatives had attempted to scupper it. The only exemption is for NHS workers, nothing for shift workers or rural residents who have to work in the city. Jenny Gilruth, Transport Minister, admitted that no modelling had been done on how it would affect workers, but has just copied the Nottingham City Council scheme. She said ‘We can’t model it’ until it is in force, but trusts local authorities to get it right for their communities!
Women and Trans:
A Glasgow University study of 638 pupils showed that two thirds of secondary school pupils have been sexually harassed at or on their way to school, or 65% of 13- to 17-year-olds. The behaviour included being shown sexual images or being slurred as gay or lesbian. Tellingly, one-fifth of persons reporting also became perpetrators, boys were more likely to be perpetrators than girls, and older pupils more likely to be involved than younger children.
Thursday saw the Gender Reform Bill introduced in Holyrood. Meant to take away the trauma of obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate, few of its advocates consider the vulnerable and traumatised women facing the loss of our rights. The new law proposes reducing the age limit from 18 to 16, moving from medical diagnosis of dysphoria to self-declaration, and reducing the time living in the acquired gender to 3 months from 2 years. They must also intend to live in the new gender for the rest of their lives. Advocates claim the law will change nothing on trans access to single sex spaces as they already have it. They do, but under the Equality Act 2010 they should not have. The Scottish government may be sued by Fair Play For Women.
To reiterate, women have no problem with trans people, but we do with predatory males who will take advantage of sloppy legislation which has no safeguarding. Shona Robison dismissed those fears, saying they have never had to pretend anything to get access to women!! So why make access even easier?
Politicians are not in their jobs for life. No woman should again ever again vote for any party activelyn destroying our rights.
David Goodwillie is not finding his return to Clyde FC easy. He has now been banned from the stadium by North Lanarkshire Council, and Clyde FC’s use of the ground has been terminated from May 2023. Clyde Ladies FC have also quit.
Poor Broadband disproportionately affects Scotland:
Half of the top 10 lest digitally connected places are in Scotland and the slowest speeds. Worst for internet connection were Orkney followed by Shetland, Argyll and Bute and the Outer Hebrides. Orkney had the lowest percentage of premises connected to superfast broadband (64.3% compared to the UK average of 94%). Only 1% had ultrafast broadband compared to the UK average of 59%.
Orkney also had the slowest download speeds (34.8 megabits per second, compared to the UK standard of 58.2 megabits per second).
Tiree Community Broadband asked Open Reach to provide Fibre-to-the-Premises Connection for their network access point, which would have involved laying 20 METRES of fibre cable from the exchange to access point, but Open Reach REFUSED. 30 MB speed is therefore impossible, with only 10MB available at capacity.
Skye Fossil Find First
A complete pterosaur (pterodactyl) fossil has been found on Skye, the largest one of its kind ever discovered from the Jurassic era. Normally such quality fossils are only found in Brazil and China, in particular rock formations. It would have had an estimated wingspan of over 25 metres.
Scotland has a history of spectacular fossil finds, including Irish Elk in Ayrshire, a Bearsden shark, Fife sea scorpions, a crocodile-type creature in Arran and early land plants in Rhynie, Aberdeenshire.
A crowdfunder is underway for money to buy more land near Langholm in the Borders. Over £100,000 has been raised towards the £2.2m to double the size of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve and stop it being bought by corporate investment firms landbanking in Scotland. They aim to buy 5,300 acres of Langholm Moor from Buccleuch before the May 31st deadline, to promote nature-based tourism. Rewilding Scotland has given £20,000. The first phase in October 2020 cost £3.8m for 5,200 acres and six residential properties. Can’t Buccleuch donate it?
The Hunting with Dogs Bill is going before Holyrood, banning chasing and killing by packs of dogs. Dogs could still search, stalk, and flush some wild mammals, for example to prevent damage to livestock, Trail hunting along artificial trails remains legal, but the hunt is meant to stop if they encounter actual quarry.
27,000 people petitioned the Scottish government to close the current loopholes.
will likely become extinct in the UK within three decades if current practices continue. There remain only about 1114 birds, last estimated in 2015-16, having suffered from crow, fox and pine marten predation and increased visitor numbers. A new report suggests creating refuges for capercaillies, controlling predator numbers of even feeding them, and marking or removing deer fences.
Ten Year Economic Plan:
Kate Forbes wants a ruthless, relentless entrepreneurial Scotland if it is to prosper over the next 10 years. Her National Strategy for Economic Transformation of 6 programmes, 18 projects and 77 actions will focus on growth, poverty reduction and fairness tackling structural economic inequalities. Roz Foyer, STUC general secretary and member of the government advisory board, was not impressed, nor were the Scottish Retail Consortium The Scottish Conservatives said it had ‘…lofty aspirations with far too few concrete plans’.
From summer, all government grants come on condition of recipients paying the living wage and including effective employee representation. Forbes thinks fair work will bring households directly out of poverty, which is optimistic given that many in work also need benefits.
Tellingly, it also made no mention of independence, does not commit to an alternative to the GERS figures, a prototype independence budget, and does not address that bolshie Scotland wants left of centre policies, not business as usual.
The Scottish Affairs Committee is inquiring into military shipbuilding in Scotland. The UK Defence and Security Industrial strategy will pave the way for warships to be built outside the UK. But you can bet if Scotland gets independence, Scotland won’t be allowed to tender.
It’s good to know our MPs will get a £2,200 pay rise in April, at the same time as MILLIONS of ordinary workers will be hit by National Insurance increases, energy bills rising by £1000 (and maybe more in October due) and rising food prices, both resulting from the Ukraine crisis.
Some MPs are donating their pay rise to charity, and some have always refused to take anything over the average wage. But many won’t