SNP Government is leading the way in the UK, in building affordable and social rented housing, in welfare reform and in serious plans to tackle child poverty

As regular readers know, I’ve stopped watching TV News and reading newspapers, for health reasons, so I don’t know for certain that they’re not covering all this good news and covering it fairly,  I’ve been finding and sharing. If you’re one of those strong enough to keep watching and reading them, you can let me know if they are.

The three reports below are from the Scottish Housing News website which describes itself as : the leading daily newsletter for Scotland’s social and affordable housing sector highlighting issues from homelessness to welfare.’ There’s no sign of Scottish Government control or influence anywhere.

I find all three reports encouraging. I’m sure more is needed but it looks like the Scottish Government’s efforts are evidence of a greater focus on the needs of the wider population rather than on the needs of elites.

Higher proportion of new builds are affordable housing in Scotland

‘Scotland is leading the way in the UK in building affordable and social rented housing, the SNP has claimed following the publication of new figures from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).’

This was posted on 13th February 2017. In a striking contrast, for 2015-16, 41% of new homes built in Scotland were affordable homes. In England for the same year it was only 22%. SNP MSP Ruth Maguire, who sits on Holyrood’s local government and communities committee, said:

‘With the Scottish Government’s budget committing £470 million of direct capital investment this year to begin the delivery of 50,000 affordable homes over the course of this parliament backed by £3 billion of funding, it is clear that the SNP remains steadfast in our efforts to keep growing the housing supply across Scotland.’

http://www.scottishhousingnews.com/13891/higher-proportion-of-new-builds-are-affordable-housing-in-scotland/

Up to 700,000 households to benefit from flexible Universal Credit payments

At the moment, payments are made monthly leading to problems for individuals and families living very close to the line especially toward the end of the month. This could be helpful for up to 700 000 households. The Scottish Government will introduce the option of fortnightly payments. Further, tenants in the private sector will have the option of payments being made directly to landlords.

In the report published on 30th January 2017, SNP MSP Graeme Dey, goes on to say:

‘These reforms will provide the flexibility that claimants have told us they needed, and in doing so it will help hundreds of thousands of families to manage their household budgets.’

Perhaps worthy of a headline of its own, he concludes with:

‘And with our welfare powers we’ll scrap sanctions from employability programmes – putting dignity, fairness and respect at the heart of our social security system.’

http://www.scottishhousingnews.com/13661/up-to-700000-households-to-benefit-from-flexible-universal-credit-payments/

Scottish Child Poverty Bill published

Posted on 14 February 2017, this is, of course, only the first step in a serious attempt to tackle the shame of child poverty.

‘Once housing costs are taken into account, relative poverty ranges from one in five children in Scotland (21 per cent) to nearly twice this (37 per cent) in London’. (State of the Nation’: 113)

While the percentage living in child poverty is lower in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK, it remains shameful.

Here’s what the post says:

‘The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill has been published and will see Scotland become the only part of the UK with statutory targets in a bid to reduce the number of children experiencing the damaging effects of poverty by 2030. The government will publish a three-year child poverty delivery plan by April 2018, which will be updated every five years, and annual reports to measure progress.’

I know this only a plan but at least it is a plan and where else do you start?

http://www.scottishhousingnews.com/13907/scottish-child-poverty-bill-published/

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/485926/State_of_the_nation_2015__social_mobility_and_child_poverty_in_Great_Britain.pdf

 

North Sea oil and gas is on the crest of a ‘Third Wave’ and the SNP Government is already supporting plans for it

beware-the-third-wave

(c) http://socialbusinessstrategy.com

When I decided to put down the BBC attack dog after it kept biting me and adopt a friendly Pointer that would spot well fed Scottish wood pigeons for me, I thought it might be more difficult than it has been. I apologise for that astoundingly bad though dogged metaphor. Seriously, it has been remarkably easy to find good news about Scotland if you just don’t look in the mainstream media, especially BBC Scotland, for it. Today, it’s back to oil and gas with some surprisingly very optimistic stuff from the industry and its communication wings, posted daily. If I can find it then why can’t or don’t…..?

North Sea oil and gas is on the crest of a “third wave” in its evolution following a series of major deals worth more than $6billion (£4.8billion), energy professionals have claimed.

I had though Shell’s recent £3billion sale of North Sea assets to Chrysaor meant more evidence of declining expectations but it’s not at all.

According to Energy Voice, on 13th February 2017, the above sale: ‘is expected to be a catalyst for more mergers and acquisitions in the UKCS following the resurgence of oil-focused equity capital market investment……In the last six months £4.9billion worth of North Sea assets have changed hands, including last week’s £993million acquisition of Ithaca Energy by Israeli-based Delek Group.

One of the benefits of the above deal will be the extended life of the Armada field which had been expected to be shut down.

Pinsent Masons’ head of corporate finance, Rosalie Chadwick said:

‘The Shell-Chrysaor deal will prove to be the tipping point which leads to the third wave of the North Sea’s evolution and a number of other significant transactions in the months and years ahead. More availability of funding, a stable oil price, better alignment of price expectations for both buyers and sellers, and a fresh approach to decommissioning responsibilities, means that all the chess pieces are lined up with the North Sea poised for a period of productive M&A activity.

So the change of ownership and sales by large corporations may look at first sight like signs of uncertainty but is in fact evidence of this ‘third wave’ as: ‘well-capitalised new blood enter the sector and embracing new technologies, which make smaller recoveries in the more mature fields economically viable.’

https://www.energyvoice.com/oilandgas/north-sea/131460/north-sea-crest-third-wave-evolution/

Scotland could become a world leading exporter of oil and gas field extension and decommissioning solutions, according to government ministers.

Also from Energy Voice on 12th February 2017 we see the above claim from Scottish Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, made at the opening of the new the Oil and gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen.

The claim was made as North Sea industry heads met at the launch of the new Oil and gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen. Wheelhouse said:

‘This is a sign of confidence in the industry from both governments, saying we’ve got faith in the future of the oil and gas industry. We are not at the end of the road, far from it.’

 https://www.energyvoice.com/oilandgas/131400/scotland-become-world-leader-decomm-field-life-extenstion/

Industry body Oil and Gas UK has hailed the Scottish Government’s multi-million pound backing of a decommissioning fund as a major boost for the struggling supply chain.

Finally, from Energy Voice again, on 8th February, we can see the Scottish Government is right behind these developments. The headline is a bit OTT for the amount, £5 million, on offer but hey. You can find what Labour and the Tories thought, yourselves.

Oil and Gas UK chief executive Deirdre Michie said:

‘The First Minister’s announcement today of a new £5 million fund to support Scottish companies looking to take advantage of decommissioning sector opportunities is encouraging news for the many supply chain companies still struggling in the downturn… Our forecasts suggest an average of £1.7 billion will be spent on decommissioning in the UK each year over the next ten years and so it is helpful that we should support the UK supply chain to develop its capacity to compete effectively.’

https://www.energyvoice.com/oilandgas/decomm/131148/scot-govs-decomm-fund-welcome-boost-supply-chain/

Like me, many of you will be strong supporters of the expansion of carbon-free technologies. I’m reporting this because in the fight for independence, I think we still have to counter the endless negativity about the North Sea and the associated implication that it somehow puts an end to Scotland’s future viability as an independent nation.

Food and Drink Special: Scotland’s exports surge and new SNP policies will maintain the growth.

13th February 2017

Today’s good news report begins with the mouth-watering prospect of making UK Environment Secretary, Andrea 'Scotland is full of subsidy junkies' Leadsom, eat her own words about Scotland. Her plan to boost UK food and drinks exports by £2.9bn in the next five years is a complete non-starter if we can get out of the Union before then.

The Scottish drinks industry has another cause for celebration this Burns Night as new government figures reveal that beer and gin exports are catching up with those of ‘guid auld Scotch’

This is from The Drinks Business on 25th January, 2017:

‘HMRC overseas trade statistics revealing that Scotch exports are currently shipped at a rate of 34 bottles every second….With two-thirds of the UK’s gin produced in Scotland – accounting for more than half the world’s total exports – and a record 22 breweries opening last year – bringing the total number of breweries to more than 100 for the first time in more than a century – the demand for traditional Scottish drinks shows no sign of slowing.’

“Scotch whisky is a driving force of the UK food and drink industry, accounting for nearly one-quarter of all our food and drink exports each year,” Leadsom said.

I think she might have more accurately said ‘the driving force’. We make most of the gin too? That’s a bit of a tonic.

https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2017/01/scottish-drinks-industry-receives-burns-night-boost/

Readers will probably already know that Scotch whisky is a big part of the UK’s export trade. You won’t be surprised to hear that it creates almost £5bn a year for the UK economy and that it supports more than 40,000 jobs across Britain.

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-4157184/Scotch-whisky-creates-5bn-year-UK-economy.html#ixzz4YYdutbqH

I didn’t know, though, that in 2015 it was the biggest net contributor to the trade in good s by the UK.  For those like me requiring a definition of ‘net contributor’, it’s: ‘excess of selling price over variable costs per unit’ or ‘profit margin?’

 https://www.allbusiness.com/barrons_dictionary/dictionary-net-contribution-4958982-1.html

So, unlike arms sales, for example, we can sell Scotch and gin for far more than it costs to make them. I have serious doubts about the net contribution from the sales of advanced weapons. Leaving aside the ethics and I know there have to be some reservations about alcohol sales too, the profit margin on an F16 fighter is allegedly 11%. It’s 60% for Scotch. Also, I doubt that the profit margin on the F16 takes into account government grants and development costs. The development costs for the F35, which the UK hopes to buy for its aircraft carriers, have risen from 233 to 379 billion dollars! Those costs will have to be recouped in the sales.

https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2015/07/government-told-to-intervene-in-scotch/

https://www.fool.com/investing/2016/07/17/fighter-jets-2016-who-makes-the-10-top-sellers-and.aspx

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/04/f-35-stealth-jet-fighter-uk-faces-billions-extra-cost

Potential £750M boost to Scottish food industry

On 10th February 2017 foodmanufacture.co.uk reported enthusiastically on a new Scottish Government initiative:

‘Scotland’s food and drink industry could get a £750M boost, as the government plans to make public-sector catering contracts more accessible to Scottish businesses.’ 

At the moment only 48% of food contracts for schools, hospitals and other public-sector organisations are supplied by Scottish businesses. Rural economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing wants to see this figure increase. Obviously, preferential treatment is not allowed but a public contracts website that businesses sign up to will, it is hoped, ‘bring the whole supply chain together’ and ‘increase local sourcing’.

http://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Business-News/Scottish-food-and-drink-industry-could-see-750M-boost

Scottish fund to support organic conversion opens

Farmers Weekly on 12th February 2017 announced:

‘Scottish farmers who want to convert to organic can apply to the Scottish government for support under a new scheme. Farmers have until March 31 to apply for the five-year agreements which will start in 2018 and are guaranteed for the full five years. The payments are front-loaded for the first two years to support conversion, with reduced support available for a further three years.’

According to Scottish government figures there has been an 11.7% increase in spending on organic food in the last year. The total spend was £57.8 million. Crucially, home-grown supply is insufficient to meet demand and so there is a big domestic gap to be filled.

http://www.fwi.co.uk/business/scottish-fund-to-support-organic-conversion-opens.htm

Reader figures are falling after my abandonment of the ‘attack dog’ strategy but I’m still feeling better so…..

More of the SNP Government’s planned actions in 2016 and early 2017 to make sure that NHS Scotland succeed in 2017 and beyond and good news somehow sneaks onto Good Mourning Scotland

chris-hogge-large

©nes.scot.nhs.uk

12th February 2017

Maybe two of these four reports had some passing, perhaps grudging, attention in the mainstream media at the time but we need to be reminded of them to maintain confidence in the best NHS in the UK and beyond.

More GPs recruited for hard-to-fill posts

We hear regularly of a coming crisis in GP recruitment especially in remote and rural areas. But on 17-October-2016, there was reassuring news when NHS Scotland announced:

‘Results from the latest GP trainee recruitment round show that 15 junior doctors have been recruited to ‘hard-to-fill’ posts, out of a total of 37 trainees altogether. This year, a total of 276 new trainee GPs have taken up or accepted a post in Scotland – a 15 per cent increase on 2015.’

http://www.nes.scot.nhs.uk/newsroom/media-releases/more-gps-recruited-for-hard-to-fill-posts.aspx

Scottish Government funding supports refugee doctors to re-train to work in NHS Scotland.

This more recent (8.2.17) story in particular warmed me. Last time I looked, Scotland with less than 10% of the UK population had taken 40% of the Syrian refugees. Again just the facts from NHS untainted with media or political grudge:

‘Trained doctors who have come to Scotland as refugees are to be given support to re-enter the medical profession in Scotland via a project run by the Bridges Programmes in partnership with the BMA and NHS Education for Scotland, and Clyde College and the City of Glasgow College. Funded by £161,692 from the Scottish Government, the New Refugee Doctors Project is unique in the UK in supporting medically trained and qualified refugees to achieve medical registration and contribute their skills to NHS Scotland, as well as offering a long-term package of support. The funding will help suitably qualified refugees access training, language support and professional mentoring to help them meet the standards for professional registration with the General Medical Council and practise medicine here in Scotland. As part of the funding, the doctors have committed to working for NHS Scotland.’

It’s difficult to see why they would train in Scotland then want to move and work in the now only ‘so-called’ NHS England

http://www.nes.scot.nhs.uk/newsroom/media-releases/refugee-doctors-programme.aspx

NHS dentist numbers get the all-clear

This one from 3rd October 2017 has two unusual phrases for such announcements. Can you spot them?

‘Scotland’s increasing demand for NHS dental services are expected to be more than matched by an increase in the number of dentists, according to latest projections. While the aging population and people generally visiting the dentist more should increase demand over the next decade, this is expected to be outweighed by dentists entering or re-entering NHS practice.’ 

‘More than matched?’ ‘Outweighed?’ What’s going on here? Have we trained too many dentists ‘in the teeth of the harsh winds of Tory austerity?’ Will the surplus have to re-train as something else? Suggestions?

http://www.nes.scot.nhs.uk/newsroom/media-releases/nhs-dentist-numbers-get-the-all-clear.aspx

‘No reason’ for an independent Scotland not to be accepted into EU, says European Commission representative

This came up in the Google list after one of my pretty basic search terms ‘good news Scotland’. It also found a list of obituaries. I didn’t look. People’s deaths’ mostly, shouldn’t be considered ‘good news’ by one of those notorious algorithms. This Independent newspaper report on the 11th February 2017 quoted Jacqueline Minor, the European Commission’s head of representation in the UK, speaking on GMS, saying:

‘The country would already be aligned with the EU requirements and that is it would be starting from a different point that any other countries applying for the EU membership process. Speaking on BBC’s Good Mourning Scotland radio show, Ms Minor was asked whether an independent Scotland would be able to enter the EU.’

I don’t know who asked the question but I bet they had a face like fizz when they heard this:

‘I think, had Scotland achieved independence, there would be no reason why it would not be accepted into the normal accession process,’ she said. Although Ms Minor did not say that an independent Scotland would have priority in gaining EU membership, she hinted the process could be made easier.’

I did a bit of in-depth research into GMS, in 2014. Such was the trauma, I haven’t listened since.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/no-reason-independent-scotland-accepted-eu-membership-european-commissions-jacqueline-minor-a7575266.html

Don’t forget what I said in:

https://thoughtcontrolscotland.com/2017/02/10/ive-been-thinking-again/

How many English students are there at Scottish universities? There are lots and lots and it’s a good thing because they’re not like the ones on Question Time, in UKIP or in the Tory Cabinet. They’re some of the nicest people I’ve met. But, you can’t find out how many there are.

article-0-05484c790000044d-615_468x424

Professor Nesbit, Dean of Life Sciences

(c) dailymail.co.uk

I’ve searched and searched and can find no answer to this question. I know from personal experience that there are lots of English-born students and staff in Scottish universities but keeping stats on this seems to be a no-go-area – anti-English?

I did find that Edinburgh Univahrsity (where else) might be taking too many and especially rich ones:

‘A “Greedy” Scottish university is offering more places to English students than Scots for the first time in its history. The prestigious Edinburgh University has been accused of treating English students like “cash cows” after charging £36,000 for a four-year degree – more expensive than England’s most elite institutions.’

http://www.deadlinenews.co.uk/2012/04/29/greedy-scottish-university-offers-more-places-to-english-students-than-scots/

Someone did try a Freedom of Information request but the links to the supposed answers don’t work:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/english_students_in_scottish_uni?unfold=1#incoming-692297

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/283088/response/692297/attach/5/foi%20response.pdf

Let me know if you can get anywhere with this. In the end, I settled for sharing this entertaining exchange from a student chatroom:

Barborazel: I’m ecpecially interested in University of Glasgow. I’m from the Czech Republic and I wanted to apply for university in england but because of money I applied to Scotland. So I would at least want to spend time with some English students.

Barborazel: Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against scottish people but I’m a little scared of scottish accent (actually I don’t really like it but I love english accent).

Ambusrocks: I would say there will definitely be english students at scottish universities  Dont worry  Im from Ireland and I have an unconditional offer from Edinburgh Napier . You should apply here as well and you can spend some time with an irish student 

Clannem: I am Scottish and go to a Scottish uni and to be honest, there are a whole host of different accents in the universities here. You can’t really predict how many people will come to the uni from a specific place. But, as far as I’m aware, there are “quotas” that have to be filled with Scottish students so there is always going to be a large proportion of Scottish students. On my course, most students tend to be Scottish or from outwith the UK, there are definitely many students from Europe.  And the Scottish accent actually isn’t scary. It’s just more broad than the different English accents. If you’re honestly going to choose a university based on the accent of the people you’ll study with (and I’ll just add, accents vary all over England and Scotland and even some of the English accents aren’t very appealing at times) then you probably shouldn’t apply if you don’t feel like you want to be around many people with Scottish accents when you’re applying to go to university and move to that country!

Jneill: See you, Jimmy!  There is no single “English” accent. Similarly there is no single “Scottish” accent.

THE END

https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=3662165

Czechs are scared of Scottish accents? After World War II?

SNP responsible for massive increase in dolphins! More help for small businesses from RBS but can we trust them? And now we have more devolution so now more responsibility to end child poverty in Scotland. Let’s do it

dolphins-jumping-out-of-the-water-wallpaper-1
(c) http://pcwallart.com

I keep finding ‘more’ of things when I search for good news of Scotland. That must be good. You know I’m finished attacking the MSM but they always seemed to find ‘less’. I wonder why?

Surveys record highest numbers of three dolphin species in Hebrides: SNP take credit

Here’s an excerpt from the report from the conservation charity, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, in its marine research expeditions in 2016:

‘From the trust’s specialized research yacht Silurian, volunteers and scientists recorded 2,303 individual common dolphins, 42 bottlenose dolphins and 94 Risso’s dolphins – the figures for all three species being the highest ever recorded in its annual survey seasons. Average annual figures documented over the previous 14 years were 463 individual common dolphins, 14 bottlenose dolphins and 12 Risso’s dolphins. For common dolphins, these records range from 0 individuals encountered in a couple of the earlier field seasons to 1,862 during the 2007 season.’

A short film about the surveys can be seen at https://youtu.be/M_3r-GKfh8o.

https://voluntarynews.org.uk/news/2017/02/surveys-record-highest-numbers-of-three-dolphin-species-in-hebrides/

Suspecting, naturally, that SNP marine policies might be responsible, I did a quick ‘SNP dolphins’ search and found what looks like confirmation in:

Genome-Wide SNP and Population Divergence of Finless Porpoises at: https://academic.oup.com/gbe/article/5/4/758/589369/Genome-Wide-SNP-and-Population-Divergence-of

I’ve not had time to read the article but the title seems clear. I suppose another explanation might be a softening of the ‘Wee Free’ kirk’s disapproval of having fun in recent years? Or, could Donald Trump’s policies be driving them away from Florida to a country with a more positive attitude to migrants?

Royal Bank of Scotland offers a boost to Scottish small businesses growth

shark

(c) dailymail.co.uk

This is just what we always wanted them to do isn’t it? To put it mildly, they’ve been more prone to ripping-off and busting small businesses in the past but hey, maybe they’ve changed? It’s ‘entirely free.’ Here’s what they’re promising now:

‘The Boost programme will offer a digital source of support, and access to a team of Business Growth Enablers servicing every region of Scotland. Through a dedicated digital portal, small businesses can get access to valuable business insight and be connected to a team of 11 Business Growth Enablers operating across Scotland. Launched by Royal Bank of Scotland, Boost is a new initiative designed to help companies move forward by establishing the right connections between businesses and offering access to relevant experts and resources. Through a dedicated digital portal, small businesses can get access to valuable business insight and be connected to a team of 11 Business Growth Enablers operating across Scotland. The Business Growth Enablers will provide their local knowledge and networks, help businesses to connect with each other, provide hands-on expertise and training, and host regular workshops and events in their areas.’

http://www.rbs.com/news/2017/january/royal-bank-of-scotland-offers-a-boost-to-scottish-small-business.html#vyBH37CXpdMrxvcP.99

I suppose the only question is ‘CAN WE TRUST THEM NOW?’

Child Poverty Bill published by Scottish government

Read below for the basic facts of the matter, free of Dugdale, Davidson and Rennie trying to tell us the SNP should have done this before even though their own parties have done nothing about it for decades (centuries?) and the English Tories are driving England back to the world of Dickens.

‘Ambition to end cycle of poverty.

For the first time since devolution, the Scottish Government will be responsible for meeting ambitious targets to reduce and ultimately end child poverty in Scotland.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill has been published today and will see Scotland become the only part of the UK with statutory targets in a bid to reduce the number of children experiencing the damaging effects of poverty by 2030.

The government will publish a three-year child poverty delivery plan by April 2018, which will be updated every five years and annual reports to measure progress.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance visited Fairy Job Mother, an innovative programme that helps 16-24 year olds into work, with 70% of those completing the programme finding employment, to mark the publication of the Bill.

Ms Constance said:

“It’s utterly unacceptable that one in five children in Scotland live in poverty and this Bill sets out statutory targets to reduce and ultimately eradicate child poverty.

“Child poverty has been a systemic problem for decades. Tackling the immense challenge is an ambition all of Scotland – be that national and local government, health boards, businesses, the third sector or others – must work together to overcome.”

http://news.gov.scot/news/child-poverty-bill-published

I haven’t heard of any murders, rapes, child abuse or SNP failures for three days now. Is it safe to go outside? How’s this for lack of self-awarenesss?

‘The proportion of people who think crime has risen has seen a large increase, despite overall rates of crime falling, a survey suggests.’

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8368310.stm