Marks and Spencer to go 100% Scotch and Govanhill to get massive Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council investment

Is there an M&S in Govanhill? I doubt it’ll be part of the investment.

‘Thousands of sheep needed for M and S’ contract’

‘After complaints about M&S selling lamb form non-Scottish sources such as New Zealand, the company has given in and has announced today a promise to sell 100% Scottish lamb in Scottish stores. This means an increased demand for around an additional 10 000 to 12 000 stock to be procured and must be very good news for Scottish farmers.

Steve McLean, head of agriculture at M&S, said:

“We know that our customers really like to buy regionally-sourced meat, so we have been working hard with our suppliers to find a way to bring them a year-round supply of delicious fresh lamb from Scottish farms. In 2016, we sourced UK lamb for 42 weeks of the year. For 2017, we have not made the switch to New Zealand lamb in our Scottish stores and instead will supply 100% Scotch lamb throughout the entire year.”’

http://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/business_sales/15096599.Thousands_of_sheep_needed_for_M_and_S____contract/

Apologies to veggie readers.

Significant investment in Govanhill.

 Govanhill’s housing stock as we all know is in great need of improvement. A major part of the problems in the area is the neglect of properties by private owners, so the first stage of the project announced on the 17th February 2017, will be to bring around 350 homes into public ownership so that repairs and other improvements can be made. The total investment will be £34 million with £20 million coming from the Scottish Government and the remainder hopefully from Glasgow City Council.

 Glasgow City Council’s Executive Committee will probably invest a further £14m in the programme, once it has met to vote on the package. There has already been a successful pilot scheme, the South-West Govanhill Property Acquisition and Repair Programme, where 124 flats were brought into housing association ownership so that vital repairs could be carried out.

The SNP Government and the Labour Glasgow city Council in are working cooperation? Now there’s something.

http://news.gov.scot/news/housing-improvements-in-south-glasgow

Forth Valley Royal Hospital’s Ageing and Health Integrated Care Ward Commended

After an inspection unannounced in November 2016, the report was published on 15th February 2017 by the independent inspection body Health Care Improvement Scotland. The report contains a great deal of very good news and re-assurance for us. Very minor improvements are still sought but none of these was significant in the context of the horrific reports emerging last year from private health care homes in England. Remember, hospital care involves thousands of patients and staff and a multitude of rooms and equipment so is infinitely improvable. It’s always possible to find something to suggest that could be improved. If you’ve worked in a workplace such as a school or a factory which was inspected unannounced, you’ll know that such an inspection will always find something. If the inspectors can find nothing they feel they’ve failed.

Forth Valley Royal Hospital: Older people in acute hospitals unannounced inspection

 See these comments:

The majority of patients praised the care that they had received.

The ageing and health integrated care ward should be commended for the work it is undertaking in working with patients who have a cognitive impairment.

Interactions are positive between staff and patients, and assistance is provided in a timely manner.

There is good flexibility in providing alternative or additional meals. There is also a good range of snacks and fluids available.

During our inspection, despite being busy, wards appeared calm and organised.

All the suggestions for improvement were about documentation. I’m not saying documentation is unimportant but if the staff are really busy and achieving all the fine things listed above, I’d be really pleased. We’ve all seen the secret videos of privately-owned care homes in England to know that far worse things can and did happen than documents not being up-to-date.

http://www.healthcareimprovementscotland.org/our_work/inspecting_and_regulating_care/opah_forth_valley/forth_valley_royal_feb_17.aspx

Teckle! Dundee Good News Special

brotrona

© Greg Brotherton: A Global Domination Accelerator (see below)

‘Teckle’ means ‘braw’ or ‘guid’ in Dundee. I knew some Dundonians and they taught me it. I stumbled across this wee story below, from today, but it triggered a search which revealed a bigger good news story from March 2016 which seems worth telling or retelling.

£50K Project Launches in Dundee

I know, £50K isn’t much but in the context of an already bigger vibrant economy it’s evidence of continuing confidence.

In the Evening Telegraph we read:

‘The Global Domination Accelerator for the Scottish games sector will be delivered by Elevator on behalf of Scottish Enterprise, and is now open for applications from software and gaming companies with international growth ambitions based throughout Scotland. The project will assist around 15 participants in the initial eight-month programme and was launched at the offices of Outplay Entertainment, the largest independent mobile developer in the UK.’

A Global Domination Accelerator is a possibility? Don’t tell Putin, Trump or Theresa, for that matter. We don’t want them getting their hands on one of those.

https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/50k-project-launches-dundee/

That just made me think. Isn’t Dundee already big in the world of new technologies? I found this from the 23rd March 2016

‘Dundee Listed as Top Technology City’

The Tech Nation Report for 2016 is too long for me to fully include all the details of here. I recommend you have a look at the original. This extract is probably enough to impress:

‘Whilst Dundee has traditionally been considered a ‘games’ city, it’s now mobile software development that’s playing a key role in driving the city’s economic growth. Dundee’s economic growth is now being driven by generating revenues throughout the rest of the UK (particularly London) and globally.  In the digital age, Dundee’s companies, particularly software firms, are operating on a global scale as the city continues to punch above its weight. The city scored highly as a hub for a multitude of different digital companies who work using a variety of technologies across multiple sectors. Here are some of the stats from the report:

  • Since 2010 Dundee’s digital turnover has risen by 129%
  • Dundee now has the third fastest growing digital turnover in the UK
  • Since 2010 Dundee’s GVA (Gross Value Add) has grown by 42%
  • Dundee’s GVA now sits at £61.4 million
  • There are now 3,318 jobs in Dundee related to the digital tech economy

https://waracle.net/dundee-listed-top-technology-city/

Is it still good news when Tony Blair agrees with us? From Tom Nairn’s prediction of Britain’s break-up in 1977 to Tony Blair’s forty years later with a bit of Gerry Hassan’s Trump/Brexit theory in between.

‘Tony Blair: Case for Scottish independence “much more credible” due to Brexit’

This is a headline from CommonSpace on 17th February 2017 above a great big photo of the beast itself. I really hate tony Blair. It’s a full-blown war criminal with the blood of thousands on its hands. The mainstream media have clearly got over it all and his prediction is all over the place. Repulsive though he may be, he has been very successful, winning elections and making money and getting jobs he’s clearly unfit for so maybe his opinion is savvy. I’m conflicted.

Here’s an excerpt from what Commonspace published:

‘TONY BLAIR, the former UK and Labour Prime Minister, has said the context for the pro-Scottish independence case is “much more credible” after the Brexit vote.’

‘He made the remarks during a speech on Brexit which he stated had the potential to accelerate the break-up of the UK and fasten Scottish independence. The break-up of the UK is now back on the table but this time with a context much more credible for the independence case…..We are already seeing the destabilising impact of worry over border arrangements on the Northern Ireland peace process.’

Is that the correct use of the word ‘fasten?’ He’s certainly right that the Irish border dilemma causes all sorts of knock-on effects. Why no separate immigration policy for Scotland? Why the threats of a hard border for us? Blow up parts of England and you get better treatment?

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/10351/tony-blair-case-scottish-independence-much-more-credible-due-brexit

Introducing Tom Nairn, prophet of the break-up of Britain

‘If there is a single writer and thinker who has set the movement for an independent Scotland in the larger picture of a failing ‘Ukania’ and the rising place of civic nationalism within globalisation, it is without doubt, Tom Nairn.’

In Open Democracy on 13th September, Anthony Barnett reminded us of the man who had predicted the break-up of ‘Ukania’ as he put it, forty years ago. Barnett says of Tom Nairn:

‘His wake up call to Scotland was a basso profondo within a wider chorus. His wake up call to my country, England, strikes a few lonely echoes against a stony reception – even when his diagnosis of the deep hysteria of the British elite is so well observed. Yet everyone in London who reads about politics is uneasily aware that he is the author of The Break-Up of Britain. The first to see it coming. And it is coming, in one way or another… You can excuse his impatience for that book was published getting on for forty years ago – way before you were born! But his seeing further and better has not stopped him from continuing to engage with the way that breathing fossil, the British constitution, “a Coelacanth” Tom calls it, is actually lived – and how its history, interests and ideologies continue to entrap us.’

Nairn was one of the first to point to the kind of civic as opposed to ethnic nationalism we were to see in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia in the 90s and characterise it as more a form of anti-imperialism and of anti-neo-liberalism. The inclusive form of contemporary Scottish Nationalism is a classic form of civic nationalism. I know it wasn’t always so. The progressive social and economic policies of the SNP, though not perfect, do represent an attempt to resist the brutality of neo-liberalism and there is evidence of some success in this in my last piece and some earlier ones. Nairn saw all the former ‘great’ empires collapsing and fragmenting into the original cluster of small countries many of whom get on fine now.  One of the earlier break-ups, the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia), has no conflict. The British Empire has already fragmented into numerous independent countries. None seek re-union. It’s worth a look at this to see the astonishing list:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_that_have_gained_independence_from_the_United_Kingdom#Colonies

I can’t see quickly just how many there were but Britain did at one point invade 90% of the countries in the world.

https://www.reference.com/history/were-countries-british-empire-87cae885c11a43a7

So there’s nothing unusual about Scotland leaving. It’s a popular trend. It’s normal.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/introducing-tom-nairn-prophet-of-breakup-of-britain

The day Britain died: Brexit, Trump and Scottish independence. The Article 50 vote meant the end of Britain as we know it. Everyone needs to come to terms with what that means.

Less well known than Blair, Gerry Hassan wrote a piece on 17th February 2017 supporting the view that the break-up is coming. He wrote:

Last week a Rubicon was crossed as the House of Commons voted 494 to 122 – a government majority of 372 – to give a third reading to triggering Article 50. Just as seriously on the same day – Wednesday February 8th 2017 – the UK government reneged on its promise to take 3,000 child refugees (what was called the Dubs amendment) and slashed the number to 350. If that wasn’t enough the Commons at the same time voted to refuse to offer any guarantees to EU citizens living in the UK: content to use them as pawns in a high power poker game. It is going to be difficult for many in Scotland, and for many ‘openDemocracy’ readers, but Britain is over. There is no way back. Last week the very idea of Britain as outgoing, welcoming, doing the right thing, looking after the most vulnerable and being driven by a sense of humanity, was not only trashed but finally and fatally died.

Hassan goes on to reject the notion that the Trump and Brexit wins means you don’t need a detailed highly rational case to be made for Scottish independence any more using the case made by  Iain Macwhirter in the ‘Sunday Herald’ that independence should do the same:

‘He suggested that ‘not very much’ more work should be done on independence, and instead ‘the Scottish Government should produce a short statement, more like the American Declaration of Independence’. That is an understandable statement in the age of populism and rage against elites.’

Are more Scots ‘Just about managing’ thanks to the SNP’s progressive policies to resist Tory austerity? And, Robert the Bruce wasn’t a leper!

‘Four million more people are living below an adequate standard of living and are just about managing at best, according to an authoritative report on living standards in modern Britain.’ (JRF, 2017)

The much-respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation, released ‘Just about managing: Four million more people living on inadequate incomes in modern Britain’ on 15th Feb 2017.

It warns that: ‘millions of just managing families are on the tipping point of falling into poverty as prices rise in the shops, with forecasts showing the cost of living could be 10 per cent higher by 2020.’

There’s no breakdown of the statistics into those for English regions, N Ireland, Scotland and Wales so the MSM coverage could easily confuse Scottish readers and viewers. I strongly suspect that in the light of a number of SNP policies, the figures, though still disturbing I know, will be less bad for Scotland than for most other parts of the UK. I’ve requested a breakdown but until then, I thought it might be worth reminding ourselves of the last JRF report which did have such a breakdown, Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2016 published quite recently in December 2016 and one or two other relevant comparative sources.

So from the above December 2016 report, here are some extracts of interest:

‘In the three-year average to 2014/15, the South East had the highest weekly median income of £450. The North East had the lowest weekly median income of £357. Of the countries besides England, Scotland had the highest weekly median income of £413, followed by Northern Ireland’s £372 and Wales’ £370.’ (32)

So, taking into account free prescriptions, bus passes, compensation for bedroom tax and free HE, that might be the first indicator of what to expect about poverty rates:

‘London has the highest poverty rate of 27%, 6% above the UK average. The West Midlands and Wales have the next highest rate, at 23% each. Scotland and southern England outside London have the lowest poverty rates: 19% in the South West and 18% in Scotland, the East and the South East.’ (34)

I know 18% is still too high but it is worth reporting that Scotland is less afflicted by it than nearly every other part of the UK.

https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/monitoring-poverty-and-social-exclusion-2016

With particular regard to child poverty, I’ve had to dig around. This is from a 2013 JRF report, well into the period of SNP governance:

‘In the decade to 2010/11, the child poverty rate in Scotland fell from 31% to 21% after housing costs (AHC). From having a higher rate than England and Wales, Scotland now has a much lower rate. The rate for England and Wales is 28%.’ (JRF 2013)

https://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/default/files/jrf/migrated/files/poverty-exclusion-scotland-summary.pdf

By 2014, according to Poverty and Social Inclusion it had fallen a further 1% to 20%. Still a disgrace, I know.

http://www.poverty.ac.uk/editorial/poverty-scotland-2014-independence-referendum-and-beyond

I realise this is not wonderful news by any means but it does suggest the SNP government’s policies are helping to alleviate austerity.

Robert the Bruce did not have leprosy, Western University (Ontario) research shows

This hugely significant finding was published on February 16th 2017. I didn’t know that there was any suggestion he did have leprosy. Wouldn’t his arm have fallen off when he hit Henry de Bohun with his axe? His dad had smallpox, I think. According to the Canadian researchers:

‘Robert the Bruce, long believed to have suffered from leprosy, did not have the disease that in the 1300s carried a heavy stigma, the work concluded. The suggestion their national hero may have had the disfiguring, contagious disease has long been a burr in Scotland’s thistle. But in the first examination authorized by the Bruce family descendants, has determined King Robert I did not show the tell-tale suite of signs of the disease.’

http://www.lfpress.com/2017/02/16/robert-the-bruce-did-not-have-leprosy-western-university-research-show

It was a burr in Scotland’s thistle? A burr is a rough edge. Aren’t thistles all burrs and meant to be so? Needless to say the Daily Torygraph reported that he really did have leprosy. Was that the reason why Edward 1st wanted to make Scotland into a ‘colony?’

The non-reporting of the Scottish Government’s commitment to affordable housing reflects the inability of our political journalists to highlight any good news coming out of Holyrood.

This was a response to my piece on affordable housing, from reader James McHale who has given me permission to post it separately to get more attention. He clearly knows a lot about this so I’m keen to see it shared.

The non-reporting of the Scottish Government’s commitment to affordable housing reflects the inability of our political journalists to highlight any good news coming out of Holyrood.

I am a Board member of a national Registered Social Landlord (RSL) and experience firsthand the difference in funding north and south of the border. The average Scottish Government grant for new house builds in our sector is c.£60,000 per unit (£70-£72k social rent; £44-£46k mid-market rent) compared to c.£20,000 in England. This is a solid grant regime recognising strategic and differing regeneration objectives across the Scottish affordable housing sector. This is really good news!

Over the next five years, our Group has planned to build around 1,200 mixed tenure homes in Scotland with an investment of over £1b therefore to build 50,000 new affordable homes over the next five years is a massive undertaking and financial commitment by the First Minister and her government. Yet we rarely, if ever, hear of the positive differences in the affordable housing policy trajectory between Westminster and Holyrood. Instead we get headlines such as “SNP under fire for failing to tackle housing crisis in Scotland” .

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/snp-under-fire-failing-tackle-6415283

Another major policy difference between the Scottish and UK Governments is their emphasis on solving the housing shortage. In an age when many of those who are on housing waiting lists would be unable to secure a mortgage let alone save for a deposit, The Conservative’s emphasis is on home ownership. However, the SNP recognises the real nature of the crisis and wants to build more social housing through engagement and joint ventures with Local Authorities and well established housing developers to provide quality homes where people want to live. This is really good news!

The Tories hate social housing and RSLs (David Cameron allegedly said “Why don’t you **** off and die.”)and are in the process of undermining Housing Associations in England with Right to Buy and forcing RSLs to cut social rent by 1% per annum thereby reducing the income stream to provide a surplus that would be used to build new homes. There are other mitigating risks entirely due to the austerity regime with welfare reform that will have an impact on our cash-flow and especially on our social rented customer base e.g. the Benefit Cap, the Shared Accommodation Rate (due to arrive April 2019). This is bad news!

Instead of spending £Billions on the private rented sector invest the money in more affordable housing therefore slashing huge amounts of the rent. (Average 2 bdrm social rent in Edinburgh = £80.87/week ; Average 2 bdrm flat private rent in Edinburgh = £192.69/week). That’s how you slash housing benefit while providing quality homes and a solution to the housing shortage. This would be really good news!

http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Housing-Regeneration/HSfS/HRA2008-09
https://www.djalexander.co.uk/news/349/1000plus-a-month-the-new-average-cost-of-renting-in-edinburgh

In closing, thank you Prof for highlighting the upbeat news that the Scottish Government is leading the way in providing social and affordable homes in the UK.

N.B. The political views expressed are entirely personal and under no circumstance do I speak for any of my colleagues.

‘Scotland’s youth unemployment rate is now the lowest since records began and it’s the second lowest youth unemployment rate in the EU. Scotland’s productivity grows four times faster than UK’

Spain’s youth unemployment, in October 2016 was 43.6% just below Greece at 46.6%. Even France was at 25.8%. The UK rate was 9th lowest at 12.9% and Germany’s was lowest at 6.9%. Second-lowest in the Statista figures was Netherlands at 10.5%. Scotland was not listed separately. That Scotland’s youth unemployment is now the second lowest in the EU comes from the Scottish Financial News and is apparently based on Office for National Statistics figures. As far as I can see the ONS reports have no Scottish breakdown at all so I don’t know where the SFN got them from.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/266228/youth-unemployment-rate-in-eu-countries/

http://www.scottishfinancialnews.com/11936/scottish-employment-up-by-8000/

Scottish youth employment, at 56.2% is higher than in the UK overall, at 53.3%. The only group where employment is notably higher in England are the over 65s at 10.4% to 8.8% respectively. So, is greater austerity in England is forcing more of the elderly to work on? Is that healthy?

http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0051/00513220.pdf  Table 6b

‘Scotland’s productivity grows four times faster than UK’

This is from the Daily Business Group on February 15th 2017:

‘Productivity in Scotland has grown four times faster than the UK average and the economy is now performing at the same rate, according to new data….Output per hour worked in Scotland – a measure of how much output the economy produces in each working hour – has grown 3.5% in 2015, compared to a UK figure of 0.9%. Scottish productivity has now effectively caught up with UK levels – increasing from 94.5% of the UK average output per hour in 2007 to 99.9% in 2015.’ 

 We must hope that this is a trend and we overtake the UK figure next year.

https://dailybusinessgroup.co.uk/2017/02/scotlands-productivity-grows-four-times-faster-than-uk/

Unemployment

The Daily Business Group also mentioned:

‘The Scottish unemployment rate is 4.9%, against 4.8% for the whole of the UK.’

Is 0.1% significant? Are there parts of the UK where it’s higher due to the distorting effect of the South-East and London?

I’m not watching or reading the MSM so I can only imagine how they’ve headlined the above. I did accidentally see the Daily Record’s:

‘Concerns as unemployment soars in Scotland but falls south of the border’

Could that difference be due to the Scottish over-65’s being able to retire due to better support systems and, for example, being able to visit recreation facilities and their relatives free on the bus? See the table above.

Might these unemployment figures matter little in the next few years because of this idea below from the EU?

‘MEPs have warned European countries must “seriously” consider introducing a general basic income to prepare for wide scale unemployment that could come as a result of robots taking over manual jobs. A draft report….warns preparations must be made for what it describes as the “technological revolution” currently taking place, including provisions for the “possible effects on the labour market of robotics”. The report, which passed by 17 votes to two and will be put in front of the entire European Parliament in February, urges member states to consider a general basic income in preparation for robots taking over people’s jobs.’

 They’re not the only ones saying this kind of thing. Try Googling ‘universal basic income’ and be prepared for a lot of reading. There are already planned pilots in Fife and Glasgow for this year, 2017.

The case for it is here: http://www.basicincome.org.uk/reasons-support-basic-income