Extra £6.3m for Scottish Ambulance Service to further strengthen the world’s best A&E service

You may remember that Scotland’s Accident & Emergency services consistently outperform the others in the UK and were described as the best in the world in 2016:

 Scotland has the best and still improving A&E performance in the World. (Royal College of Emergency Medicine, 2016) http://www.rcem.ac.uk/CEM/document?id=9891

 Not content with that, the SNP Government will invest £6.3 million in extra funding for the Scottish Ambulance Service, a major element in that A&E success. Here’s an extract from the Scottish Government announcement yesterday:

‘Extra funding for the Scottish Ambulance Service will help them up-skill paramedics, treat more patients in the community and reduce the numbers requiring hospital admission. A total of £6.3 million Scottish Government funding will support delivery of the Towards 2020: Taking Care to the Patient strategy – focusing on increasing the Service’s capacity for care at home or in the community. A key output will see more specialist paramedics trained – who carry an extended range of medicines and equipment, meaning unnecessary A&E admissions can be avoided. With 46 specialist paramedics set to complete training in September, their numbers will more than double, from the 32 already in post to 78.’

Writing as one with a predisposition for falling and hurting myself, I couldn’t be more pleased to hear this.


SNP and STUC are together on the same track to improve worker equality in Scotland

The STUC has called for extra powers to be allocated to the Scottish government post-Brexit. In particular, they want the ability to set a higher minimum wage, to protect the rights of EU nationals living in Scotland and greater control over immigration.

Looking at yesterday’s announcement by the Scottish Government on breaking down employment barriers you can see an affinity between government and workers’ leaders unknown previously in the UK. It reminds a little of my previous piece on Scots seeing their country as more like the Scandinavian ones than Britain. These countries, indeed most EU countries, have a more constructive relationship between their governments and their trades unions. It’s no accident that they also have healthier manufacturing industries, greater innovation in the workplace and better productivity. You may already have noticed that Scotland’s productivity outstrips that of rUK. See:

Scotland’s productivity has grown by almost 10% since 2007 while the rest of the UK’s has only grown by 0.1% so the SNP government pushes on by increasing funding for digital skills by £36 million.

The traditional ‘us and them’ mentality of British industry was a major cause of our industrial decline in the past and sadly still persists in England.

Here’s a short extract from the Scottish Government initiative announcement:

‘£500,000 for Workplace Equality Fund.’

‘Funding of £500,000 to address long standing barriers in accessing the labour market has been announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The Workplace Equality Fund will reduce employment inequalities so that everyone – irrespective of gender, race or disability – has the opportunity to fulfil their potential, and improve Scotland’s economic performance as a result.’

This kind of thing makes me really proud to be a Scot.

I really respect the loyalty of the 18% or so of the voters still, according to the polls, committing themselves to voting Labour but the need to keep out the Tories in Scotland is surely paramount. Look at the policies on offer and vote SNP this time. You can always return to Labour after independence. As for those former Labour supporters who are now part of the Tory surge, I daren’t say what I think here.


Scottish manufacturers are upbeat, expecting strong domestic and export orders

A CBI Scotland survey has revealed further evidence of a strengthening economy. The percentage of firms reporting growth was up 19%. The percentage of firms reporting employment numbers was up 11%. Across the 33 firms, average domestic order growth was up 7% and export order growth was up an impressive 15%.

The full report is, needless to say, a bit more grudging and hesitant than my highlights but you’ll remember CBI Scotland came out in favour of No in 2014, before some of their members threatened to pull out as they had not been properly consulted.

Overall, though, it adds to the good news I’ve reported recently on general unemployment down, the demand for professionals up, businesses showing greater health than in rUK and  construction and energy sectors positively booming.

Hugh Aitken, CBI Scotland Director, said:

‘Scottish manufacturing output has strengthened and employment in our factories has also risen at a decent rate. Domestic and export orders growth remains decent and firms are optimistic that they will pick-up over both the next quarter and the year ahead.’

‘Decent?’ Some folk are never happy.


Boom in Scottish housebuilding by smaller and medium-sized businesses

© scottishfinancialnews

The Federation of Master Builder’s survey for the first quarter of 2017 has revealed that workloads rose faster than they have since the end of 2007. That is now five quarters in a row of sustained growth in Scottish housebuilding. While they express some concern about the ‘uncertainty’ caused by next Independence referendum, this seems to me to be unfounded and a bit of a cliché being rolled out by businesses.  The Scottish Financial News has already reported that Indyref2 is unlikely to have any negative effects on deals and major UK housebuilder, Bellway, has already insisted Scottish independence would be no barrier to further growth. See:

Major UK Housebuilder says Scottish Independence no barrier to continued growth

Here are the main points from the FMB survey:

  1. Scottish construction SME workloads rose faster than at any time since Q4 2007;
  2. One in two construction SMEs predict rising workloads in the coming months, with just 5% predicting a decrease in activity;
  3. However, 85% of builders believe that material prices will rise in the next three months;
  4. 58% of firms are struggling to hire carpenters, the highest reported level since the financial crisis.

I think we all know where the blame for point 4 lies – decades of Tory and New Labour neglect of the real economy in favour of the financial sector.

This follows on from another very positive report in March:

‘Scottish construction employment closes 2016 at 3-year high’

Both of these also follow on from a Scottish Government budget announced for 2017/18, of over £470m of direct capital investment to begin delivery of 50,000 affordable homes,



Still too close to call: Support for Scottish Independence continues to hold, contrary to the headlines.

Today’s BMG/Herald poll is headlined in the Herald as:

‘Independence support fails to rise after Theresa May’s vote snub’

The other mainstream media outlets are all saying the same thing and they’re all making the same two mistakes.

First, is there any evidence that Scots believe Westminster can really stop us holding a referendum, properly monitored and declaring independence on a positive outcome? Do any of us feel snubbed? We all know that the international community would make it impossible for them to refuse us. So, the fact that it’s holding steady, after three years, in the shortest of striking distances, calls for a different kind of headline, I’d say:

‘Anxiety in Westminster as support for independence holds steady and the result is too close to call even before campaigning begins.’

Second, here are the figures:

‘Excluding those who haven’t yet made up their mind, that puts support for independence at 49 per cent, and 51 per cent in favour of the Union.’

Right at the end of the article an SNP spokesman gets a chance to say:

‘This latest poll again shows a dead heat between Yes and No and that’s before the potential re-election of an extremist Conservative government and its devastating Hard-Brexit agenda. With the potential for more years of tax cuts for the rich, attacks on the disabled, horrific policies such as the Rape Clause and huge cuts to essential public services, all of which Scotland did not vote for, it is essential that the people of Scotland can choose between this nightmare and putting our own future in our hands with independence.’

 Reading the above and getting to start the race from this position, I have no fears.


Why this Tory ‘surge’ is not a surge for the Union

You’ve seen the two recent polls suggesting a wee fall for the SNP and some kind of surge for the Tories:

Survation Poll:

SNP 43.1%
Conservatives 27.9%
Labour 17.8%
Liberal Democrats 8.8%


Panelbase Poll:

 SNP 44%
Conservatives 33%
Labour 13%
Liberal Democrats 5%

I’ve already written to explain why this will make little difference to the outcome in June. In most seats the SNP vote is larger than all the others put together. Tactical voting by the other three is almost impossible to organise even if you could persuade people who naturally despise Tory policies to abandon their principles and vote for them. Also, where will the Green vote go? For me, the SNP fall is a wee protest at lack of progress on getting independence. They’ll come back. As for the Tory ‘surge’, this is the high water mark for the Labour defection to them. Once they see the manifestos and have a good think, many of them will return to their left-of-centre principles and either abstain, vote Labour grudgingly or even decide this is the time to support the only party that can protect them, the SNP.

More important for me than the SNP vote is the Yes vote at the next referendum and the polls in the same period tell us it’s holding up even before the campaign starts.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Survation Poll:

Yes 46.9% (+0.1)
No 53.1% (-0.1)

Panelbase Poll:
Yes 45% (+1)
No 55% (-1)

So, maybe a wee bit of dissatisfaction with the SNP but support for Yes still hovering within striking distance of a win after campaigning gets going properly, after we see the Tories for what they really are, as the renewables boom grows and after the recovery of the oil and gas sector in the North Sea becomes more clear.

Keep calm, the SNP will keep nearly all of their seats

© Daily Record

You have no doubt seen all the headlines predicting a Tory surge of up to 12 seats gained from the SNP based on recent polls showing SNP support falling to around 43 or 44% and Tory support climbing to between 28 and 30%. Fear not, it won’t be enough and it’s not as solid as it looks. The idea is that tactical voting by unionists will result in numerous Tory victories. This is unlikely for at least three reasons. According to Ipsos Mori Scotland, reported in the Scotsman yesterday:

  1. In 38 of the 56 constituencies won by the SNP in 2015, the nationalist vote is larger than that of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined.
  2. Even in seats where it would be possible, it would require an ‘extraordinary feat of organisation’ to make it happen
  3. Tactical voters would have to know who the strongest unionist candidate is and this is not always clear.

The Scotsman piece based on Ipsos Mori Scotland, predicted the SNP to hold around 50 seats and concluded:

‘Tactical voting will have a “limited effect” in Scotland with only a handful of constituencies expected to change hands, experts have said. Analysts poured cold water on calls for voters to abandon their principles and vote for the strongest Unionist, non-Tory or anti-Brexit candidate, warning that only a handful of seats were close enough for tactical voting to have an impact.’

I’d add another two thoughts. The long-standing hostility between Tory, Labour and LibDem supporters will limit just how many are prepared to betray their social values and vote for the still often despised Tories. As we get closer to the day, leaflets popping through the doors will make clear just what else you are voting for if you vote Tory. Many will balk at this at return to their old loyalties.