As UK employment levels fall, Scotland’s rises


Linked by the Guardian to the aftermath of the Brexit vote, UK employment levels have fallen for the first time since then.

In contrast, Scotland’s employment rate rose to 75.2% above the UK rate of 75%. Female employment is higher at 72.1% compared with 70.6% and youth unemployment remains significantly lower than the UK figure at 9.4% as opposed to 13.2%.

Also, unemployment in Scotland remained lower than in the UK, falling over the year, by 0.8% to 4.0% as opposed to 4.3%.

With particular regard to youth unemployment, Scotland has among the best rates in Europe. See:

Scottish Government meets its youth employment target four years early to place Scotland as among the most successful in Europe

‘Scottish electrical apprenticeship numbers rise to nearly pre-recession heights’ as Scotland’s youth unemployment falls to 5th best out of 29 European countries

 There is rarely a day when I cannot find good news about Scotland. I don’t watch or listen but I’m guessing our Unionist broadcast media find it impossible at times. To be fair, the BBC website often manages but how many No voters read that?


SNP Government defeats the Scotch Whisky Association to introduce life-saving minimum prices for alcohol sales


The UK supreme court has ruled that minimum alcohol pricing is legal under EU law after a five-year battle between the Scottish government and the Scotch Whisky Association. Minimum pricing will be introduced as quickly as possible with a timetable put before parliament in a matter of days.

In these five years, alcohol-related deaths in Scotland rose as supermarkets sold alcohol at as low as 18p per unit. Though the plan to increase that to 50p per unit will mean a bottle of whisky costing no less than £14, it seems unlikely that whisky consumption was the main target but rather the incredibly low cost of packs of high strength lagers and of often dubiously sourced vodka used with mixers by younger drinkers.

According to the First Minister, in the Guardian today:

‘Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high-strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.’

As with the banning of smoking in public enclosed spaces, Scotland is leading the way on improving public health and putting the interests of the wider community ahead of those of the corporations. How soon will Tory England follow?

Shop closures across Scotland down 35% in 2017 and net increases in openings in Paisley, Dundee and Falkirk. Yet another sign of growing economic strength?



Though we are still seeing a net decline with more shops closing than opening, the rate seems to be slowing. Statistics from Local Data Company for Accountants PwC and reported in Insider, show 132 closures and 90 openings in the last year giving a net loss of 42. In the previous year there were 203 closures and 116 openings giving a net loss of 87.

Across the country there was some variation with Paisley, Dundee and Falkirk all showing net increases. Glasgow and Edinburgh had the most closures dropping from 50 to 44 and 82 to 37 respectively. The quite large decline, greater than the overall national decline at 45, in Edinburgh is surprising given the city’s overall economic health reported before here:

Sunshine on Leith? Edinburgh the most prosperous city after London

‘Staggering’ 175% increase in Edinburgh office take-up is further evidence of booming Scottish economy

There is presumably a local explanation for the Edinburgh figures and they must be distorting the overall Scottish picture to suggest a decline nationally which is not actually there. Perhaps the declines in Edinburgh and Glasgow can been seen as signs of over-reach or saturation in already buoyant centres while the increases in the smaller and less affluent centres in Paisley, Dundee and Falkirk can be seen as very good news and signs of recovery there.  The main decline was in banks, women’s clothing and shoe shops and the main increases were in recruitment agencies and fast food takeaways.

The slowing decline or the actual lack of decline outside of Edinburgh is one more factor suggesting growing strength in the Scottish economy. At risk of over-repeating, see these as other recent indicators:

Scotland’s economy continues to show signs of good health and growth

Reports of a strong Scottish economy just keep coming. Now debt decrees down 93% in the last three months

More evidence Scottish economy is strong: Demand for office space in Glasgow highest for ten years

Scottish businesses continue to show signs of health with insolvencies down 23% as the Scottish economy holds strong


Europe’s biggest hydrogen-powered bus fleet and now the UK’s biggest hydrogen cell installation are both in Scotland


(c) Annenberg Learner

With a little irony, ‘Oil City’, Aberdeen, already has the UK’s largest hydrogen-powered bus fleet. The buses hold only 40Kg of hydrogen and have a range of 260 miles. The project cost £19 million and will make a major contribution to improving air quality in the city. I don’t think Aberdeen has ever had a red alert for pollution levels, like London but it’s good they’re working to pre-empt such a situation in the future.

Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen-fuelled buses is in Aberdeen

From the Scottish Business News Network:

‘Now the UK’s largest hydrogen fuel cell installation in the UK is being installed at the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC). From the Scottish Business News Network: The cells, which will deliver clean, sustainable and reliable energy for the facility, will have a total electrical output of 1.4MW, which is on a par with the largest fuel cell installations in Europe. UK energy engineering specialist Doosan Babcock has supplied three cells which will provide an independent source of dependable, affordable, low-emission heat and power for the 150-acre site.’

While the wind-farms are getting all the attention setting productivity records monthly, hydrogen-power is an important element in an overall strategy for renewables in Scotland. I don’t know why but I’m guessing there’s a good reason for electric battery-powered cars but hydrogen-powered buses. A scientifically-literate reader will no doubt explain.

Scotland is already ahead of the game in hydrogen production too. For the first time anywhere in the world, the Scottish Government’s £3 million-funded European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has produced hydrogen gas using electricity generated from tidal energy, in Orkney. Here’s how it works as explained in the EMEC report

‘By harnessing the power of the tide at EMEC’s tidal energy test site at the Fall of Warness, Eday, Orkney, prototype tidal energy converters – Scotrenewables’ SR2000 and Tocardo’s TFS and T2 turbine – fed power into an electrolyser situated next to EMEC’s onshore substation. Supplied by ITM Power, the electrolyser uses the electricity to split water (H2O) into its component parts – hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2). The electrolyser is housed in a standard 20’ by 10’ ISO container with hydrogen generation capacity of up to 220kg/24hours.’

Remember, this was done with electricity from one marine turbine in the Orkneys. There’s a four hundred marine turbine field being built in the Pentland Firth.

MAJOR NEWS: World’s first tidal-powered hydrogen generated in Scotland after £3 million funding from SNP Government

Finally, there is a solution to the problem of storing the gas too, but the Germans are ahead of us on this one. I wrote a few weeks ago about a solution to storing surplus energy produced by our already massive renewables capacity to extract hydrogen simply and cheaply and safely from water and to store the gas in tanks on unused oil rigs. It’s already being looked at seriously by the Germans, so you know what that means:

Suddenly there’s a brilliant alternative to oil rig decommissioning costs. You can store Scotland’s surplus renewable electricity with it and it’s low-tech.

Already the best staffed and least stressed in the UK, Scottish GPs to get better contracts



See this from

‘A new GP contract, jointly designed and agreed with the British Medical Association, will be the biggest reform of GPs services in over a decade. The proposals will ensure that all patients get the support they need from an extended community healthcare team – led by GPs and including nurses, physiotherapists, community mental health workers, paramedics, and pharmacists – to ensure more patients get the best and most appropriate care.’

I’m all for this. Having been a patient more often in recent times, I can see what they have to put up with. However, it’s important, I think, to remember that general practice in Scotland has been better staffed than in rUK for some time and that Scottish GPs seem to consider themselves less stressed and less overworked too.

First, Scotland has significantly more GPs per head of population:

Scotland –1 GP to 1083 people.

England – 1 GP to 1338 people.

Wales – 1 GP to 1375 people.

Northern Ireland – 1 GP to 1445 people

Second, Scottish GPs are the most satisfied with practising medicine:

Scotland – 80%

England – 65%

Wales – 67%

Northern Ireland – 71%

Third, fewer Scottish GPs work excessive hours than those in the rest of the UK (percentages):

                  England          Scotland         Wales              N Ireland

1-34                 22                    15                    20                    20

35-44               29                    34                    33                    34

44-54               28                    39                    32                    28

50 or over       21                    12                    15                    19

Fourth, Scottish doctors are the least stressed in the UK (percentages)

                 England          Scotland         Wales              N Ireland

Extremely       19                    7                      18                    15

Very                 43                    25                    37                    27

Somewhat       34                    57                    36                    47

Not too            3                      11                    8                      10

Not at all         1                      0                      1                      0


All of the above come from a rigorous academic study carried out by professional researchers, not interested parties like the BBC, BMA or RCGP, at the Commonwealth Institute (USA):

I had to make a special request for the breakdown of the UK figures.

The Commonwealth Institute also identified the NHS across the UK as superior to most other systems across the globe, especially that of Obama’s USA.

Add the new contract to the above and we can at least be satisfied with the Scottish Government’s clear lack of complacency.

Scottish Government ‘tacks to the left’ as it taxes private schools



According to the Times on 12th November, ‘Nicola Sturgeon has been accused (no sources) of fighting a class war’ as the Scottish government brings in the requirement that private schools pay full business rates. Small schools educating children with special needs will almost certainly be exempt. They then suggest that the Scottish Government is ‘tacking to the left’ with plans to raise income tax for high earners and to reduce university entry requirements for children from deprived areas. All of this is good news for Scotland, I’d say, though not so good for the Labour Party here as it struggles to find a boat, any boat, in which it can ‘tack’ even further left. I see the article was written by a John Boothman. Can it be the same John Boothman ‘moved on’ by BBC Scotland News after accusations of bullying in his department? Did he buy a yacht with his compensation and now thinks and writes like a yacht-owning Tory?

Just in case you need a reminder of why private education is bad, for all of us, see this from Owen Jones in the Guardian:

As the latest Sutton Trust study into the backgrounds of Britain’s elites underlines, we shouldn’t be surprised. It underlines the findings of repeated studies: that from politics to the media (yes, this newspaper included) to high court judges to film and theatre, the privately educated – 7% of the population – reign supreme. More than seven in 10 of Britain’s top military brass had parents with the means to send them to private schools; the proportion is even higher with top judges. The world of journalism is dominated by gilded backgrounds: according to the study, over half of the top journalists are privately educated, with just 19% having attended a comprehensive. As for politics: well, half the cabinet went to fee-paying schools very few of their electors could hope to attend. Further, over two-thirds of all Oscar-winning Brits are privately educated; and while that figure drops to 42% among Bafta winners, it still remains completely out of sync with the population as a whole. Unless you believe that being privileged and being gifted are the same thing, then nobody can look at these figures as a fair distribution of talent and ability.