All posts by mmhalliday

Pluto Photos…. Not the Planet!

I used some birthday money to buy myself a little gadget called a “Pluto Trigger”. It attaches to my camera and I can trigger it from a distance to take photos using an app on my phone.😍 😍

 Tried it out first by setting my tripod up near some of our bird feeders and then triggered it from our  front room! I’m impressed with how good they are. It’s clear that the blackbird and one of the bluets heard the shutter moving and looked over to the camera.

This is what it looks like. More info on the Pluto Trigger Website.

Photo Flaneuse 6: Mary Barbour

(Posted 29Apr2018)

I was over in Govan this week and had a wee walk round Govan Cross where the latest example of Glasgow’s public art was unveiled a month or so back. It’s a statue, actually a group of statues to celebrate Mary Barbour. It’s unveiling is significant for several reasons. It’s one of only four Glasgow statues of women, the others being Queen Victoria in George Square, philanthropist Lady Isabella Elder in Govan’s Elder Park, and down beside the Clyde Dolores Ibarruri, who was dubbed “La Pasionaria” (the Passionate Flower) because of her leadership to the Republican and Communist movements during the Spanish Civil War. 

That’s quite a spread: Royalty, upper class local philanthropist, Spanish political revolutionary, and working class activist who was one of the early 20th century Red Clydesiders.

Mary Barbour became a town councillor in 1920. One of the first group women to be elected. And she served as a Baillie and then Magistrate. But she came to prominence when she led the 1915 rent strikes  when, the Govan women – many with their men away in the First World War trenches – were faced with rent rises and being thrown out of their homes if they couldn’t pay them.  Mary led marches, she led shipyard men to the factors’ offices and successfully demanded the extra rent back. Christine Finn wrote this poem for an exhibition in 2011 called “26 Treasures” in National Museum of Scotland. It was inspired by one of the treasures, the rattle that Mary Barbour used in the rent protests.

Here’s the photos:

I was in two minds about the installation. I liked the idea of the set of figures, Barbour in the lead and the others following along behind, some holding placards. The thing is though that I drove past the statues several times and my impression was of a wee, smaller than life thing. And I thought maybe it didn’t do her justice. I mean just  50 metres away from the Barbour statue is a statue of William Pearce, a 19th century ship builder and designer whose wife built and bequeathed the Pearce Institute to Govan. The Institute is just across the road from his statue and it’s a vibrant social hub.  The Pierce statue is not wee. It’s a very typical piece of Victorian larger-than-life statuary  showing William Pearce in confident pose no doubt satisfied with his latest ship launch just a hundred metres away on the Clyde. And I’m sure he would have liked his wife’s bequest in his name.

And to be honest when I walked over to it, I was still rather disappointed at the modesty of the Barbour statue. Did they not have the money for something a bit bigger? Well maybe not, a lot of fundraising was required to commission it. Did they not want something a bit more imposing? Well, again, maybe not. Maybe they wanted something human sized and approachable. 

And, well, it is human sized. It is approachable. And it’s in an open space. People and kids walk by it on their way to the Underground Station, or the bus stop, or the local shops. She’s not on a high pedestal. Just a foot or so of pink granite. And she does feel like one of us. And so she was.

So maybe the statue has after all given her a fitting memorial, and restored her to the place she claimed for herself a hundred years ago.

The Great British Power Heist

Watch this.

Over the top? Exaggerated? Think again.

You can find the actual text of the amended Bill here in Hansard. Or you can download it in  this PDF file.  You’ll find the details dealing with retained powers are in Clause 11 on page 6 of the file.

But this is the important bit:

OK, that is clear. From the day of Brexit onwards, the Scottish Parliament cannot make any changes to legislation on retained powers.

The Bill continues:

 

So that’s also clear. A Westminster Minister needs to have a consent decision from the Scottish Parliament before he can go ahead with taking forward legislation on any retained powers. Holyrood has forty days to respond to notice from the Minister. If there is no response from Holyrood the Westminster Minister can go ahead with putting motions before the House of Commons or the Lords.

Then the Bill helpfully defines what is meant by a “consent decision”:

So a “consent decision” is not a decision to consent to a piece of legislation. A “consent decision” is just a response from Holyrood to notice of proposed legislation for a retained power in Westminster whether our response is: 

(a) We’re OK with this

(b) We’re not OK with this.

or

(c) We have agreed a motion which refuses consent to your proposed legislation

In other words it doesn’t matter one iota what the Scottish Parliament wants, says, refuses,  or how it votes on any area of the retained powers, Westminster can go ahead anyway and put its proposals to the vote in the Commons and the Lords.

Westminster can lay such proposals for a period of two years after Brexit and any regulations which are passed in that time will remain in force for five years after they come into force. After that – so that’s seven years after Brexit – any regulations can be revoked by a subsequent Act in Holyrood. 

Nicola Sturgeon was asked about all this in this week’s First Minister’s Question. Ash Denham asked:

 

 

 

Indy Memes: True or False?

dictionary definition: meme (noun) 

1. an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one     individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means. 
2. an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

Or this from Wikipedia:
A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

I log into various Scottish Indy groups on Facebook. There are lots of ‘memes’ in these groups. Most of them are positive, often funny, sometimes inspiring.  Here are a few taken from Yes Scotland’s Future.

There are other memes though which are attempting to communicate something but which are doing it by disseminating misinformation. I’m not going to go far as to say that their creators are deliberately lying. Or cynically trying manipulate other people. I think it’s likely that most of the misleading memes are genuinely intended to spur others to come over to the Yes side of the Scottish constitutional debate.
 
I think it’s only fair that whoever first creates a meme needs to have thought about and researched their topic. At least to have googled it. I think it’s also fair  that people who share a meme over social media also need to consider how likely it is to be true or false.
 
Having said that, it’s also true that the aspirations and emotions behind these memes are shared by all of us who want Scotland to be its own independent country. But the question is: are those aspirations well served by misleading slogans and posters?
 
Look at this one:
 
Two statements and an image.  And the “You Yes Yet?” and “The Way Forward” slogans at the bottom makes it clear what the aim of the poster is. Behind what you see here are some basic facts about Scotland and being Scottish:
  • we Scots make one of the best, most appreciated, and sought after drinks in the world. No, not IrnBru. Whisky. 
  • it’s an iconic part of being Scottish
  • it carries a great deal of cultural and social weight here. It’s what you offer your guests when they come through the door. It communicates values of friendship and trust.
  • whisky is exported all over the world and to some extent it carries those Scottish cultural memes with it

As well as those cultural associations, whisky produces a lot of revenue from the various ways those exports are taxed. It will be a significant part of an independent Scotland’s GDP and revenue stream.

This is where things get muddy. HMRC does the sums about the UK’s trade. The UK’s trade. There is no Scottish HMRC which does the sums for Scottish trade. Instead what we have are a series of estimates made by HMRC. It can’t be an easy task because although Scotch is made in Scotland, it is exported from ports all over the UK. It’s probably often sold on to secondary firms elsewhere in UK who then arrange for its export from, say, Felixstowe or Liverpool. Add to this practical nightmare, it seems that in the past HMRC didn’t count anything as a Scottish export, or a Welsh export, unless it did leave through a Scottish or Welsh port. I’m saying ‘seems’ because I have no way of confirming that actually happened. But it is widely held to have happened. And more to the point, it is still held to be happening now.

The meme works because it plays into a sense that Scotland is treated unfairly by the current tax and financial arrangements. Something that we create and which has value to us is somehow lost to us. It doesn't count, literally. And it's not a big step from that to "we don't count".

Hence the the two statements on the poster. The first statement is true. But whatever export accounting system that HMRC may have used in the past, the second statement is definitely false.

 This is what I commented when this meme appeared on the Pensioners4Indy Facebook page last month:

I’m as much in favour as anyone else in this group to get accurate figures for Scottish economic activity. But this is just not true. Or I should say it’s mostly not true, and it’s all untrue as stated in the poster above. Please don’t share it.

If a Scottish company exports its product even if it goes via a port in rUk, then HMRC classes it as a Scottish export.

What does appear to be true is that if something is exported from a Scottish company to a separate company elsewhere in rUK and then that second company exports it from rUK, then that ‘second port of export’ won’t count towards Scottish export figures.

You don’t have to take my word for it, just google “HMRC Scottish exports” and you find this on the HMRC website:

Are Scottish goods which are exported via ports from the rest of the UK counted as international Scottish exports?

Yes. The ESS publication measures the destination of goods exported from Scotland regardless of the port from which they leave the UK.

How are Scotch Whisky exports treated?

All international exports relevant to Scotch Whisky are counted as Scottish exports, irrespective of the port at which they depart the UK. The data is sourced from the HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics report.

Scotch Whisky exports to the rest of the UK are estimated based on GCS responses, as HMRC do not collect information on trade within the UK[1].

How does ESS treat the situation where Scottish goods are initially exported to the rest of the UK, and subsequently re-exported?

The ESS estimates only capture the first point of export. This means if a good is exported to a company in the rest of the UK and that company then exports it somewhere else, ESS will only capture the export to the rest of the UK.

Direct sales from Scottish companies to international destinations are counted as international exports regardless of where they leave the UK.

 After a couple of days, with quite a few ‘likes’ appearing on my comment, the original post was deleted by whoever posted it. I counted that as a success. Though I have to say that before it was deleted it had been shared about four times. On that basis it wasn’t a success. And if those shares were themselves shared then by this time it will have appeared in hundreds of Facebook posts. 
 
Now if you’re reading this and you’re someone who does share Indy memes on your Facebook page then you might be feeling a bit grumpy or offended with me. If you are, I don’t mind that. It might be  good thing if it makes you  hesitate the next time before you click that share button. 
 
If you’re now wondering about other misleading Indy memes, look under the Indy Snippets tab at the top of the page. I’ll add them there as I come across them.

Indy Meme Culture: Passion, Reason & Debate

I’m linked in to a number of Facebook groups which support Scottish Independence. I see a lot of what’s posted in these groups. I reckon that there’s lot of overlap between me and the other people in the group in terms of our aspirations for Scotland. Also in terms of our sense of humour. Also in terms of our politics.  There’s a bit of mild abuse directed towards Tories in general and towards Ruth, Theresa and Boris in particular. On the whole we don’t think much of Labour’s new saviour Mr Corbyn. Nor his Scottish lieutenant, Richard Leonard. And mostly we don’t even bother to mention the Scottish LibDems or any other LibDem variety. But of course we like Nicola and her cohorts. And we also approve of the Scottish Greens.

It’s true that hese groups are echo chambers for like-minded independence supporters. There aren’t even many unionist trolls to be seen off. But we also inform each other, bring news from elsewhere to each other’s attention, promote events and fundraisers, and cheer ourselves up when yet another inaccurate mainstream media item hits the headlines. Some people in the groups are a dab hand at creating great posters. Some of us like me write on our own blogs and post to the groups.

But every now and then I see stuff that is completely wrong factually. Continue reading Indy Meme Culture: Passion, Reason & Debate

Matching Scotland to EU/EFTA : Populations and Size

Scotland makes up exactly one third of the total area of the UK. And it’s getting on for two thirds the size of England. (Actually 62%.). Population is where England massively outnumbers the other three home nations with 84% of the UK population.

Some time back I posted about my irritation with the map that BBC Weather people used. Some of my friends thought I was being overly picky. It’s only a map, they said. What does it matter if the foreshortening makes Scotland look a bit smaller that it actually is. Well OK, but it was more than a ‘bit’ smaller, it was as a certain US President might say ‘Hu-uugely’ smaller. Look below, I proved it to them by matching up the BBC version  of the UK (the green filled map on the left below) with a photo of  UK taken from the International Space Station. I matched up the south coast of England and discovered that according to BBC the Orkneys were about the same distance north as Crieff is from the ISS. Now I’ve used maps a lot and I know about the foreshortening effect. But a lot of people don’t. For a lot of people the map they see most often is a weather map. Would anyone think from that weather map that Scotland makes up one third of the UK? Aye, right!

A few weeks back the Beeb stopped using that foreshortened version and started using one (on the right below) which is very similar in proportion to the ISS photo. And picky or not, I reckon the knew map gives a very different and more accurate  sense of just how big Scotland is in comparison to the rest of the UK. 

 

Honey, I shrunk Scotland!!

Anyway all this got me wondering about how Scotland matches up to the EU27 and the EFTA4 countries. Obviously a few of them – France, Germany, Spain – are much larger countries with larger populations. On the other hand some of them – Cyprus, Malta, Luxembourg – are pretty small with small populations. Turns out that Scotland is pretty average among the EU/EFTA countries.

 

We’re also pretty average when you look at populations. There’s a bunch of similarly sized populations Ireland, Norway, Slovakia, Finland, Denmark and we’re in the middle of those. And in fact of the 32 countries, including Scotland, most have populations of less that 10million people.

Of course some countries are more densely population than us. I’ve missed Malta out from the population density chart as it’s so densely populated at 1410 people mer sq km, that it skews all the rest.

 

Now if you notice, there's one country that Scotland matches up with pretty well in terms of size, population and population density and that's Ireland. In fact if we were in a country dating website, Scotland and Ireland would be each other's most likely partner!!

Police Scotland – Crisis Hit? Stormy? Or Crime Rates Lowest in 40 Years? You Takes Your Choice…

Crime Falling, Police Scotland Doing an Excellent Job, reported No-one.(Except John Robertson in Talking Up Scotland and possibly other online bloggers. And possibly The National.)

Recorded crime is at its lowest level since 1974. The total number of crimes recorded by the police in Scotland in 2016-17 was 238,651. This is 3% lower than the level recorded in 2015-16. Crime has been on a downward trend in Scotland since 2006-07, having decreased by 43%. This continues a generally decreasing trend in recorded crime in Scotland, from a peak in 1991 when crime reached a record high of 572,921. (ScotGov Report, Sep2017)

And what does our Scottish media tell us? (My bold emphases)

Well this week, the Scotsman said, quoting Scottish LibDems:

‘MSP urges independent review of crisis-hit police: Police Scotland today faces calls for an independent review into its operation in order to trigger an “honest conversation” about where it has gone wrong over the last five years. For five stormy years, Police Scotland has been mired in controversies that have seen the departure of two chief constables, rows over police accountability and concern over operational policing.’

And BBC Scotland said, quoting Scottish Conservatives

‘Police Scotland in particular has faced criticism over a number of issues. The service is currently looking for its third chief, while the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – one of several bodies created by the legislation – is on its third chief and third chairperson.’

And STV News said, quoting Scottish Labour

The committee must assess how this turmoil has affected policing and public safety.The SNP Government must acknowledge these issues and their own mistakes to improve Police Scotland over the next five years, rather than the same old intransigence they have shown over the past five years.’

Though STV also said, having done a bit of research and quoting Scottish Government official figures:

‘Despite criticism, national statistics published this week show crime in Scotland has fallen by around a third and 58% of respondents said police were doing a good or excellent job.’

"..assess how this turmoil has affected policing and public safety"...says Scottish Labour

Oh please yes, let’s do that. Though it makes you wonder why Scottish Labour didn’t do it for themselves since it only took me a minute to google Scottish Crime Figures. But they will have their reasons, I dare say. 

So here are the facts about crime in Scotland

There’s an upwards blip in the Scottish crime figures in 2004. This is because the criterion of what constituted a serious crime was changed and some crimes, which hadn’t been categorised as serious before 2004, were recategorised as serious. 

And just for interest here are also the crime figures for England and Wales. Spot the difference?

This first thing that struck me about these two sets of figures is how similar they are! And then how much crime has decreased in the whole of the UK in the last 15 years. So really police forces everywhere deserve a bit of praise, eh? Or at least if our Scottish Conservatives, LibDems and Labour politicians – let’s call them Scottish Unionists for the sake of brevity – are worried about Scottish policing they should also be feeding equally concerned stories about the state of policing in England & Wales to the media.

If you look carefully at the two sets of figures though you’ll soon see evidence that in fact our Scottish Unionist politicians should really be much less worried about policing in Scotland. Or to put it another way, perhaps they should more concerned about policing in their beloved Union. 

Look at 2016: in 2016 there were just under quarter of a million reported crimes in Scotland. And there were about six million recorded crimes in England wales. Yes, if you read this blog you can probably tell there is a comparison pie chart about to appear. (See here for other pie charts.)

and here’s another one I did earlier:

 

So let’s do some assessing of policing and public safety:

  • has there really been ‘turmoil’ in Police Scotland? Well it’s not good that two Police Chiefs have come and gone in five years. And it’s not good that the Scottish Polics Authority is on its third Chairperson. I don’t know how this compares with rUK but that doesn’t really matter. It’s clearly been a tough five years bedding in our new nation-wide Polis unitary force.
  • reported crime is down to its lowest level in 40 years in Scotland, and it’s much the same in England and Wales.
  • per head of the population, reported crimes in Scotland are half what they are in England.
  • per head of the population, there are one and a half times as many polis men and women in Scotland as in UK as a whole.
  • What do people feel about safety and crime? 58% of Scots say that the Polis are doing a good or excellent job.

I rest my case!! But I’m not holding my breath waiting for this is be reported in the Scotsman, BBC , Herald, or even STV though at least they did a bit of research themselves. Wouldn’t it be great to have a Scottish media who are even-handed in their reporting?

38 Degrees: Why I’ve Stopped Signing Their Petitions

Over the years I’ve responded to many a plea from the online petition organisers 38 Degrees and added my name to many of their petitions. And I’m sure that they have shone light on unfair practices, targeted unethical actions, and righted wrongs. But I’ve been getting more and more frustrated with them.

The Self Congratulations

It started about a year back when it seemed to me that they began sending extremely self-congratulatory emails with statement of this ilk:

We’ve done it! After months and months of campaigning by 38 Degrees members and many others, the Scottish Government have said: “Fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland“. (Link)

The one about fracking particularly annoyed me. It certainly implied that 38 Degrees with some months campaigning could take much credit for the ban . Whereas in fact the ban came about after some years of an interim moratorium on fracking, applied by the Scottish Government through its planning powers. During those years, ScotGov set up a body of advisers to examine scientific evidence on how fracking would impact Scotland given the particular geology of the fracking areas,  to identify any problems likely to arise from opening fracking wells, and to look into the  legal situation of imposing a complete ban. There was an official public consultation process so that anyone in Scotland, individual or group, could add their views. Local communities in areas likely to be impacted by fracking were consulted. So yeah, over the space of some months 38 Degrees organised an online petition and added it to the body of evidence being collected. But ScotGov hardly needed brought to its senses by 38 Degrees. 38 Degrees didn’t put up the money involved in all these years’ background efforts. And 38 Degrees won’t be paying the legal fees if fracking companies take ScotGov to court.

The Over-Statement

Then in January, they sent out an email implying that NHS Scotland was on it knees.  This is what it said (bold fonts as in email)

Dear Marlene

Scotland’s NHS needs our help. New figures show that in one week this year almost 1,500 Scots were forced to wait more than 8 hours – and some as many as 12 hours – to be treated in A&E departments. [1] That’s just not good enough.

The Scottish Government say the flu crisis is to blame. [2] But this is a problem that’s been bubbling under the surface for a long time. [3] Scotland’s NHS simply needs much more money to provide the world-class service our country deserves.

The Scottish Government is working out the details of its new budget at the moment. [4] That means there’ll be intense conversations behind closed doors to iron out the details of where money will get spent. If we can get our voices heard in those debates,we can make sure our NHS gets the money it needs.

Will you sign the petition telling the Scottish Government’s health minister to make sure our NHS gets the funding it needs?

SIGN THE PETITION
Things might not be as bad up here as they are down south. But that isn’t much consolation to someone stuck in a waiting room for 12 hours.

People in Scotland deserve the best healthcare possible – and right now, that isn’t what we’re getting. Whether it’s waiting times, or local hospital services facing cuts, it’s clear that our NHS needs much more funding that it’s getting right now. [5]

It doesn’t have to be this way. If enough of us speak up, we can show the Scottish Government that they need to take bold actionand give the NHS the money it desperately needs.

Will you sign the petition now to get our NHS the funding it deserves?

Notes:
[1] Daily Record: A&E 12-hour wait shame continues as flu chaos continues to strain NHS.
[2] The Telegraph: SNP Health Minister: Scottish flu cases have doubled but NHS problems here not as bad as England’s:
[3]You can read more about issues the NHS is facing in Scotland here:

The Independent: NHS winter crisis: Lanarkshire health trust drafts in office workers to help with cleaning amid soaring demand for A&E services:
BBC: Scottish NHS ‘urgently’ needs long-term staffing plan:
Scotsman: NHS Scotland staffing time bomb as one in five Scots nurses over 55
PlanetRadio: Highland hospitals closure threat sparks huge demonstration:
The Scotsman: Hospitals and NHS Scotland facilities ‘may need to be axed’:

 

[4] BBC News: What does 2018 have in store for Scottish politics?:
Summary of draft budget: Key points at a glance:
[5] The Telegraph: A&E chiefs from 68 hospitals warn patients are ‘dying in hospital corridors’ amid ‘intolerable’ safety risks:

I keep in touch with what’s happening in NHS Scotland, mostly via John Robertson’s excellent website “Talking Up Scotland”. I know that NHS Scotland is more than keeping to it’s targets for waiting times. It’s doing much better than NHS in other parts of UK. I get highly irritated with statements such as :

“Scotland’s NHS needs our help. New figures show that in one week this year almost 1,500 Scots were forced to wait more than 8 hours – and some as many as 12 hours – to be treated in A&E departments. [1] That’s just not good enough.”

Things might not be as bad up here as they are down south. But that isn’t much consolation to someone stuck in a waiting room for 12 hours.

Well, 38 Degrees, that’s just not good enough. The waiting times are not about being stuck in a waiting room. They are the time for the complete process of being admitted to A&E to be discharged after treatment or transferred to non-A&E ward. If the total admittances to A&E on some unspecified one week this year  were 1501, well yes then clearly, 1500 of them waiting more than 8 hours to be seen, treated, transferred or discharged would not be good enough. But if the total weekly admittances were 30,000 then 1500 is  5% of the total meaning that 95% of patients were seen, treated, transferred or discharged within 8 hours. And yes, 38Degrees, it’s good to give references but your reference for this figure is the Daily Record. Now, call me picky but if you’re going to bandy about numbers then OK you might begin by reading something in the Daily Record but you really need to delve into the official statistics to verify it.

For example here are the A&E statistics for A&E admittances in first three months of 2018:

To put that into perspective, in the week which began on Hogmanay, 21% of A&E admissions had to wait more than 4 hours before either being treated and sent home or being admitted to a non-A&E ward. That 21% corresponded to 5600 people. The other 19,700 got treated in less than 4 hours. Of that 5600 people, 1461 (about 6% of the total) had to wait more than 8 hours and of those 1461 folk 463 (about 2% of the total) waited more than 12 hours. So that first week of 2018 is roughly comparable to the state of affairs that 38Degrees is starting a petition about. But we know what we Scots get up to in and around Hogmanay. We get drunk. We fall over. We head out on office parties in the snow and ice. And the rest of us get the flu! Come on 38Degrees, Is it  fair to use statistics that are comparable to the effects of our favourite 2-day holiday break?

By the way the average NHS Scotland A&E performance so far this year is :

13% wait more than 4 hours.

2% wait more than 8 hours.

1% wait more than 12 hours.

And remember that’s not how long someone waits in the A&E waiting room. That’s how long it takes to get admitted, treated, and either transferred or discharged. You can check the figures at ISD Scotland. PS You won’t find them in the Daily Record

Context, Context, Context 

Context is important. It’s only fair that if you ask folk to sign a petition you tell them about the context for your concern. You know, like telling me that on one week it taking more than 8 hours to be discharge 1500 patients from A&E is comparable to what our A&Es has to deal with at Hogmanay! 

So let’s have a look at some other context about NHS Scotland. Oh look, it seem that we have twice the number of nurses per head of population as the rest of the UK.

What about GPs?

Not quite as good as the nurse numbers but still a quarter more GPs for us Scots than my English friends and relatives have access to.

The Nuffield Trust has done a detailed study of called “Learning from Scotland’s NHS“. Here are some of it’s conclusions:

  • Scotland has a unique system of improving the quality of health care. It focuses on engaging the altruistic professional motivations of frontline sta to do better, and building their skills to improve. Success is de ned based on speci c measurements of safety and e ectiveness that make sense
    to clinicians.
  • Scotland’s smaller size as a country supports a more personalised, less formal approach than in England. e Scottish NHS has also bene ted from a continuous focus on quality improvement over many years. It uses a consistent, coherent method where better ways of working are tested on a small scale, quickly changed, and then rolled out. Unlike in the rest of the UK, this is overseen by a single organisation that both monitors the quality of care and also helps sta to improve it.
  • There is much for the other countries of the UK to learn from this. While comparing performance is very difficult, Scotland has had particular success in some priority areas like reducing the numbers of stillbirths. Scotland’s system provides possible alternatives for an English system with a tendency towards too many short-term, top-down initiatives that often fail to reach the front line. It also provides one possible model for a Northern Irish NHS yet to have a pervasive commitment to quality improvement, and a Welsh system described as needing better ways to hold health boards to account while supporting them in improving care.
  • Scotland faces particular issues of unequal health outcomes, and very remote areas. There are pioneering initiatives to address these, like the Links worker programme and Early Years Collaborative to support people in very deprived areas, and use of video links for outpatient care on remote islands. These should be considered in other parts of the UK facing similar issues.
  • Scotland has a longer history of drives towards making different parts of the health and social care system work together. It has used legislation to get these efforts underway while recognising that ultimately local relationships are the deciding factor.  There is much for England and Wales to learn from this.

In the face of this in depth analysis, maybe 38Degrees should be asking us Scots to support a campaign to improve NHS England?

Is there nothing wrong with NHS Scotland then?

As the Nuffield people also point out, NHS Scotland is grappling with some hard pressures and has to make some hard choices. One is the pressure of providing care out of hospitals so that bed-blocking doesn’t add to waiting times for operations. That’s a pressure facing the NHS everywhere. Audit Scotland has quite a lot to say about taking action on integrating health and social care in its NHS in Scotland 2017 Report. Not heard of the Audit Scotland? Maybe 38Degrees haven’t either since they don’t include them in their references. Here are some of the Scottish Auditor General’s responsibilities are: 

  • examine how public bodies spend public money
  • help them to manage their finances to the highest standards
  • check whether they achieve value for money.

Have a look on page 6 and the following pages on their views on integrating social care.

Finance is the other problem for NHS Scotland. According to Audit Scotland

  • in 2016/17, the health budget was £12.9 billion, 43 per cent of the total Scottish Government budget.
  • Health funding continues to increase but NHS boards had to make unprecedented levels of savings in 2016/17, at almost £390 million, as operating costs also continue to rise.

Scottish health budget is primarily funded from the Westminster block grant to Holyrood. The amount calculated and allocated to ScotGov is a ratio which depends on the amount of NHS spending in the rest of the UK. That’s all and well, except that NHS England is privatising more and more of its services – eg a GP Practice may be owned by Virgin Health. So if the amount of public health spending is being reduced proportionately in England then that is reflected in the amount allocated to Scotland despite there being no such privatisation of NHS Scotland’s services. And on top of the effect of privatisation in health services, there is the general austerity policy of the Westminster government which beings about decreases in ScotGov’s budgets overall. 

All NHS has performance targets. Here is how NHS Scotland is getting on. It’s taken from the Audit Scotland report, page 22.

I’ve looked diligently for an equivalent chart for overall NHS England performance but I can’t find one. However here is a King’s Fund report on how England’s A&E Depts are getting with reaching their 95% target for seeing people in less than four hours.

 In December 2017, 77% of A&E admissions to Type 1 Depts had to wait longer then 4 hours to be seen. All Scottish A&Es are Type 1 Depts. Note that this report talks about  waiting to be seen. It doesn’t say anything about how long to be treated and discharged or tranferred. It’s possible that the performance is the same as in Scotland and it is about being seen, treated and discharged from A&E. I haven’t been able to find out. However it is clear that NHS Scotland reaching 90% is doing better on reaching the 95% target than NHS England is hovering around 85% on average.

Conclusions?

NHS Scotland is bearing up. It has problems. It also has a very proactive Government at Holyrood who are trying their damndest to support the NHS and help it stick to its original vision set up 70 years ago in 1948. That in itself is a big advantage over NHS England where chunks of its services are being tendered out to private interests who are in it to make money.

38Degrees people may be trying to support NHS Scotland. But they need to:

  • give proper context to their assertions. It’s not on to create a whole campaign on the basis of quoting one bad week for NHS Scotland.
  • make sure they know the definitions of the terms they are using. Waiting times in Scotland are not about how long someone is sitting in the A&E waiting room. They cover the whole process from arriving at A&E through being treated to being discharged. 
  • cut back on the emotive language. In other words don’t ‘Cry Wolf’ unless there actually are wolves.
  • provide accurate facts and figures to back up their assertions. It’s not difficult. I found the references in this post in a few minutes of googling.

I’ll stop there. Up your game, 38 Degrees, if you do I might sign your petitions again.

Frogs, frogs and more frogs..

The frogs arrived back in our pond a week or two before the Arctic cold spell at end of February. The pond promptly iced over. Whether they were under the ice or under the snow, most of them reappeared once normal weather had resumed.

And then they got on with what they had come for….

SCOxit: Putting English Gas O’an a Peep….

Posted on 14 Mar, 2018

Read on to find out where these figures come from …..

There was a report last week, Perfect Storm for Energy Supplies as UK Runs on Empty about UK gas supplies running low in the Siberian cold snap and snow storms we’ve had. It’s in the Telegraph and has a lot of background detail (though they’ll only let you read it once before asking you to register).  In 2004 North Sea gas production meant that the UK was self-sufficient in gas. Since then our production has fallen and  we are now importing about 60% of our needs. And it’s not going to get any better : the National Grid estimates that we will be importing over 90% by 2040. The Guardian has a good article about this too though they are mostly concerned with the fact that a third of the imports are from Qatar.

Here are the facts.

In 2015, UK  production of natural gas, including natural gas liquids (NGL), was 429 Terawatt Hours (ref: Oil & Gas Stastistics) and in 2016 it had climbed to 463 (ref: UKGov Natural Gas, Ch4). This got me wondering how much if that comes from Scottish waters. I expect you see where I’m going with this!

How much natural gas does Scotland and rUK produce?

Overall, 96% of UK oil & liquid natural gas production comes from Scottish waters, so it’s very tempting to think that, post-SCOxit, the situation for England  will be hugely worse when it comes to them having to import  gas!

But then I remembered that the southern sector of the North Sea mostly has gas fields and this sector will be within English territorial waters. So the proportion of gas production from Scotland compared with rUK is much less, though it’s still more than half:

By Gautier, D.L. – US Dept. of Interior USGS Bulletin 2204-C, Public Domain, Link

I’ve also done a bit of researching into other sources for how much gas is produced from the Southern North Sea . It’s all there in the Oil & Gas Authority Offshore Production figures, gas field by gas field, except you need to know which fields are in the south. Fortunately  Wikipedia has a list of North Sea oil and gas fields by sector. So by putting the two sets of info together I’ve got an estimate for gas production coming from English sector of the North Sea. It amounts to around 150 Terawatt Hours in 2017. This is gas from offshore North Sea. There is some onshore gas production and some from Irish Sea sector. That all fits with this 150 tWh estimate being a bit less than the 170 tWh that I calculated from the Oil & Gas Statistics.  

But the main point is that in 2016 we produced 60% of UK’s natural gas and  LNG, liquid natural gas. (Ref: Scottish Government Oil & Gas Statistics)  

How much natural gas does Scotland & rUK consume?

In 2016, UK consumed 891 tWh of natural gas. (Ref: UK Energy Brief, p23) Initially I assumed that 10% of that consumption happens in Scotland, based on us having 8% of the UK population plus a bit because it’s colder up here. But since then I’ve found these stats which show that in terms of gas meters, we only account for  4.5% of UK metered usage. 

However that doesn’t include other ways in which gas is used, the big one being power generation. Now Scotland is fast approaching self-sufficiency in electricity production from renewable sources, ie not from gas fuelled power stations. But let’s be generous and assume that Scotland still takes 8% of total UK gas usage, ie 71tWh. That means rUK consumption is 820 Terawatt Hours. If they produce 170 tWh and assuming that all imported gas, 418tWh,  will go to  rUk then they will still need a further 232 tWH supply to plug the production hole post-SCOxit.

Where do our gas imports come from?

It’s from these countries that we import gas to UK at present:

According to Reuters, Norway won’t be able to plug a post-SCOxit gap (Ref: Reuters, 2012) Another option is to import it from elsewhere in Europe but that in effect means becoming more reliant on  Russian gas.  The easiest option will be for rUK to buy it from Scotland. But can Scotland plug the rUK gas shortfall? No, not all of it.  We’re producing about 260 tWh and using about 71tWh. So we have a surplus of about 189 tWh. In the short -term rUK’s gas imports will look like this. 

OK, so that prompts another question. What’s the wholesale cost of natural gas? And how much income would come to Scotland from exporting 189 tWh of it to England? 

The wholesale gas market in Britain has one price for gas irrespective of where the gas comes from. This is called the National Balancing Point (NBP) price of gas and is usually quoted in price per therm of gas. (Ref: Ofgen)

Current price is around 50p/ therm (Ref: ERC Equipose) so that just needs converting to tWh….. OK, 1 tWh equals 34.1 million Therms. UK therms, of course, just in case you’re worried that I’m using the right units. So Scottish exports of 189 tWh of gas will sell for – Wait for it :

 

Now this exercise isn’t about me finding a new source of income to the Scottish Exchequer. Tax income from this £3billion is presumably already included in the GERS estimates under Oil & Gas Revenue. What this is about is showing that rUK will be dependent on us for its gas supply. There’s no way they can do without Scottish gas imports. So next time we hear some Unionist telling us that independence will put Scottish trade at risk cos they might just stop trading with us, just wait till they draw breath and say: 

Aye, right!! but whit aboot yon 180 terawatt hours of gas ye need frae us?

 

 

 

 

 

Scotland 8% of UK Population: Too Wee, Too Poor?

I’m a fan of John Robertson’s website Talking Up Scotland. If you search for ‘8%’ on his website you get a list of his posts where he gives various examples of how Scotland, with 8% of the UK population, repeatedly achieves much more per head of the population than rUK. 

I used one of his posts, about the number of nurses in Scotland compared to England , to make up this visual: 

It proved popular on various Indy supporting Faceboook groups and I know that it’s been shared around quite a lot. So I thought I should produce a set of such visual aids for other examples where Scotland punches above its weight. All of them give a reference for how you can find the original data if you’re so minded. Most of them are taken from Talking Up Scotland, some I’ve found myself. 

I’ve tried to compare Scotland with whole of the UK. But to be honest, England is so much the biggest share of UK, that adding in Wales and NI doesn’t make that much difference to the overall percentages.

Here they are. Don’t know about you but it makes me think that the “Scotland’s too wee and too poor to be an independent country” slogan is just not true. Well I’ve never thought it was true but it’s good to have some examples of just why that slogan is such as insult to what we’re already doing for our society, never mind what we could do if we held all the political lives of power in our own hands.

 

A Brexit Cat amongst the Scottish Parliamentarian Pigeons?

On 28 Feb 2018, the Scottish Government started the procedures for a Scottish EU Withdrawal Bill. A previous post, Holyrood’s Own EU Withdrawal Bill and Why We Need It
 has video coverage of Mike Russell, the Scottish Brexit Minister, introducing the Bill.  
 
 

However before the Bill 
proceedings began, the Presiding Officer, Ken Mackintosh, made a 
statement that in his opinion the Bill does not fall within the legal competency of the Parliament. And while the Presiding Officer does have a duty to say if he considers a Bill incompetent he has quite possibly released a Brexit Cat amongst the Scottish Parliamentarian Pigeons. Because of this the Lord Advocate of Scotland came to the Chamber to give his legal opinion. The video is further down this post.
 
Why bring in a Scottish Bill? The gist of why it’s happening comes back to the UKGov’s current failure to alter their own EU Bill at Westminster to safeguard the basis of the devolved governments of Scotland & Wales. (Possibly of Northern Ireland too but unfortunately Stormont has not been sitting since last year when DUP and Sein Fein could not agree to work together.) As it stands, neither Holyrood nor Cardiff are prepared to give their consent to the Westminster Bill. In their view, the Westminster Bill contains a “power grab” taking matters which are currently devolved back into Westminster’s remit. So both places have started the introduction of their own Bills which will bring all current EU Law covering devolved matters over into Scottish and Welsh law respectively. EU Law covering matters currently retained by Westminster will be dealt with under the Westminster Bill. 
 
Why now? Because it’s crucial that EU Law is transferred smoothly to Holyrood when UK leaves EU in March 2019 with no interruption of those Laws. If UKGov does not alter the Westminster Bill to Holyrood and Cardiff’s satisfaction then we run the risk of just such an interruption of legal continuity.. Both the Scottish and Welsh Bills prevent that possibility. But getting a Bill through takes time and if the process doesn’t start now it will be too late. If eventually UKGov alters the Westminster Bill in terms of the power grab section of it, then there will be no need for the Scottish and Welsh Bills and they will be revoked. 
 
Why is the Lord Advocate involved? It’s normal practice to take legal advice before introducing any Bill that Holyrood is competent to deal with it.  It needs to relate to something that is within Holyrood’s remit. The Lord Advocate (LA), James Wolff, was asked and gave his view on this Bill that it is within the legislative competence of Parliament.
 
What’s not normal is for him to come to the Chamber. This is unprecedented. He’s doing it because of the Presiding Officer’s very unexpected declaration. The Bill can still proceed but it is open to legal challenge by anyone so minded. We already know from the day before that Labour, Greens and LibDem MSPs support the bill. That only leaves the Scottish Conservative MSPs whose spokesman, Adam Tompkins, describes it as “unwelcome and unnecessary.” So it’s a fair bet that the Scottish Tories are probably going to be so minded to challenge it. But that’s for another day.
 
The video covers the Lord Advocate giving his considered opinion followed by questions deem MSPs. To make this easier to navigate through here are some times:
 
Lord Advocate’s Statement:
  • 14.11 He lays out the basics of how legal competency is decided. He also confirms that he considers it is with legal competency of the Parliament. 
  • 14.15 Any Bill has to be compatible with EU Law. Presiding Officer has said that this Bill is not so compatible. LA explains why he considers this to be wrong and why the Bill is compatible with EU Law.
  • 14.19 This Bill is modelled on UKGov Bill. If this Bill is not compatible, then neither is the Westminster Bill. 
  • 14.20 Nothing in this Bill comes into effect until we leave the EU. For this reason it is compatible and it is for this reason that the Welsh Presiding Officer has decided that it is compatible with EU and therefore that it falls within the legal competency of the Welsh Assembly

Questions from MSPs:

  • 14.22 to end.
 
 

Siberia Comes to Glasgow

It’s not often that Glasgow gets snow, snow and more snow. But it has just happened. Siberia came to us. Here’s the proof.

Things are slowly getting back to normal. Slowly being the operative word. I got my walking boots and crampons on yesterday to venture out for some milk. Nae milk to be had! McColls had none. Coop had none. And somebody told me that Sainsbury was still closed. Fortunately this morning, McColls had had a delivery and my coffee is white again.

And my car is appearing from under the 25cm of compacted snow it’s been hiding under. And she’s all charged up again, bless her!

And one from the BBC The Social YouTube channel : The Snow Day

Holyrood’s Own EU Withdrawal Bill and Why We Need It.

Why are Holyrood and Cardiff introducing EU Withdrawal Bills of their own when Mrs May has one Ring to Rule Them All (except for the DUP) in Westminster? Sorry, I should of course have said she has one Bill for the strongly and steadily united United Kingdom.  I watched the introduction of the Scottish Bill to find out more. After Mike Russell spoke on behalf of the Scottish Government there was a series of responses from party spokespeople and from individuals. The clips shown here are a breakdown of various statements and questions and each clip should play for a few minutes but in case they don’t,  then I’ve given you the start time for that question.
 
Mike Russell (photo from his website) is Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, usually shortened to Brexit Minister. Here he tells MSPs what the Bill is intended to do, why it is necessary, and why it is urgent. (start time 16.17)
.

 
.
Below: Adam Tompkins of Scottish Tories declares the Scottish Tory opposition to the Bill on the grounds of it being unwelcome and unnecessary and then  asks three specific questions of Mike Russell:
 
 

Below: Neil Findlay pledges Scottish Labour’s support for the Bill and lays the blame squarely on the shoulders on David Mundell and ruth Davidson for the current unsatisfactory situation regarding the UK Bill. He has some concerns regarding the time available to debate it. Don’t know why he apologised for his shambolic keyboard skills! (Start time 16.37)

 

Below: Patrick Harvie pledges the support of Scottish Greens, describes his view that UK Parliament has handled Brexit utterly incompetently and already eyeing up various powers to retain to themselves. He expresses his appreciation that further time for debate has been included, and asks Russell to confirm that any withdrawal of this Bill – assuming that agreement is reached with the Westminster Withdrawal Bill – will be a decision for Parliament and not only for the Scottish Government. Russell confirms that it will be a decision for Parliament. He also informs Patrick Harvie that this Bill reintroduces  the Charter of Fundamental Rights unlike the the Westminster Bill. (Start time 16.42)

 

Below: Joan McAlpine, SNP, asks for some more details about reintroducing the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. (Start time : 16.47)

 

Below: Not sure if Tavish Scott pledges Scottish LibDems support or not but he does deplore the lack of an agreement emerging from talks with Westminster. (Start time : 16.44)

 

Below: Then we get Bruce Crawford’s heartfelt reaffirmation of the  basis of devolution as set up when Holyrood was reestablished in 1998 and his request for a statement that there will be no agreement to any diminution of Holyrood’s powers.  Mike Russell does not hesitate in giving him that assurance. (Start time: 16.49)

 

Below: Mairi Gougeon, SNP, asks how Mike Russell will work with the other devolved administrations to ensure no diminishing of devolved powers. Russell speaks about the identical interests of the Welsh and Scottish Governments and regrets that no Northern Irish voice is now present at the Joint Ministerial talks in the absence of a Stormont Adminstration. (Start time: 16.52)

 

Below: Donald Cameron Scottish Tory asks something. Can’t be bothered to listen again to find out but don’t want to be accused of not including Conservative opinion.  (16.54)

 

Below: Richard Lochhead states his support for the Brexit Secretary but asked him to play close attention to any special Border arrangements that may be made for the Republic of Ireland that could leave Scottish economy at a disadvantage in international trade if we are not also part of that. (16.56)

 

Below: Two questions from SNP members Christine McElvie and Ivan McKee which give Mike Russell a chance to spell out the difference between a UK single market which he says does not exist and a UK uniform market which is what we have at the moment which has different powers in the four UK countries as required. He takes minimum alcohol pricing as an example of how Scotland in some instances diverges from UK and hence needs its own arrangements. Another example would be fracking. (time: 17.00)

 

Below: And finally Alex Neil, SNP, asks for a guarantee that the Scottish Government will fight tooth and nail any challenge by the UK Government to this Bill in the light of the Presiding Officer’s view of its lack of legal constitutional competency. (Start time: 17.03)