Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 619

Issue # 619                                             Week ending Saturday 11th September 2021
Though Sometimes I Gather Honey, At Home I Must Endure the Stings of A Swarm of Bees by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Greta Thunberg is great. She tells it like it is. The switched-on Swedish teen activist has been sharing she doesn't regard Scotland as a world leader on climate change. Greta reckons some countries “do a bit more than others” but none come close to what’s needed. On the power-sharing SNP and Scottish Greens deal, Ms Thunberg muttered some politicians were “less worse” than others.

That must have stung. Progress on climate change is dismal. Neither the UK nor Scotland politicos should be patting anyone on the back - least of all themselves. You wait till wee Patrick Harvie of the Greens starts thumping his wee fist on the table and asserting to Nicola what he wants. Will it make a difference? Nah, not holding my breath either.

It made a difference to us to hear from concerned readers after I wrote how Mrs X and I got into a stooshie at Pizza Express in Inverness. When a young, swarthy dark-skinned individual began to bad-mouth Mrs X and call her names that even I don’t get away with, he and I had a forehead-to-forehead moment. Then I was rescued by a softly-spoken guy in a security guard’s uniform. He took over and diplomatically ushered away the persistent pest.

A supportive unsigned letter sent to the P&J and onto myself last week, declared: “This particular person was probably attracted by your benign and kindly appearance so thought he’d “have a go”.” Benign? Me? I don’t think I have ever thought of myself as benign. Call me fine and I’ll be thine, but not benign. That’s gentle, kind and, medically, harmless. My dander was up. Sorry, despite my outward Brad Pitt-type coolness, I wasn’t benign on the inside.

Methinks I recognise this handwriting. This may be a former regular who was moved to pick up a pen again. If you are who I think you are, it assures me some Invernessians are, contrary to my experience, actually very nice. Most of the people round here just said they wished I had been walloped and knocked onto my backside. Then I really would have something interesting to write about - for a change. That stung.

I did not get to thank that guard properly which is why I want to find him. His dreadlocks are about all I can remember after the adrenaline rush.

Rushing back on the ferry after the contretemps with the pizza pain, I met a man from Harris who was amazed how many visitors had been staying down there but were leaving now as the end of the season neared. After restrictions eased, he had realised a lot of Harris people with a spare cottage or two were now doing Airbnb. He could not understand its popularity and he asked me how it all worked and how it had become so popular. I explained it was an online system used for booking bed-and-breakfasts or small holiday cottages.

Many Airbnbs actually don’t offer breakfast at all, I told him. He couldn’t figure out why it was called Airbnb. It was just clever marketing, I said. Airbnb was just short for air bed-and-breakfast. He scratched his head and said: “Och, that’s just a fad. It won’t catch on. Breakfast or not, the last thing I would want is to stay for a week in a wee cottage on a blow-up bed.”

No, I meant ... I’d explained enough. My lower back would ache on an airbed though and I’d be at the quack. That would be my sting in the tail.

This housewife, let’s call her Rachel, got badly stung by a wasp in her garden the other day. She phoned the surgery and to her surprise, after telling them of her pain and suffering, got asked to go in. No phone consultation, no fuzzy Facetime video of her swollen neck - just come. The doctor will see you now. Off went Rachel.

She was not kept waiting very long. The doctor, who must remain nameless or I will be in big trouble, asked where she was stung. She showed him the big red circle on the side of her neck. As the doc examined the bite, Rachel said: “You should have seen it. It was a really, really big wasp.” The GP assured her saying: “Don’t worry. I’ll put some cream on it.” Rachel replied: “There is no way you can catch it. That wasp will be miles away by now.”

Covid in Scotland: Opposition Increasing Towards Vaccine Passports
Scottish Labour is refusing to support the Scottish government's plans to introduce vaccine passports.  A debate on the proposals is due to take place at Holyrood but opposition is building to the controversial scheme.  Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar claims the Scottish government is trying to look like it is in control of the virus.  The first minister says it is the least restrictive way of keeping people safe.  If MSPs agree on the vaccine passport system, nightclubs and many large events will only be able to allow entry to people who can show they have had two Covid jabs.  From Friday, Scots have been able to download a QR code of proof of vaccination and a mobile app is planned for later this month.  The scheme is seen as a way of allowing events to go ahead despite surging cases of Covid-19.  However, the hospitality industry and football clubs have questioned the logistics of such a scheme. Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) chief executive Neil Doncaster has said there are a "significant number of questions and real concern" for clubs.  And Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said businesses needed urgent clarity on where vaccine certifications could be required, fearing a "deterrent" such as a vaccine certificate could prove damaging to business and consumer confidence.  Mr Sarwar told BBC Scotland's Sunday Show that Labour would vote against the plan.  He said: "This is not opposition for opposition's sake. Neither is this an ideological opposition to the principle of vaccine passports. This is about what works, and what's going to make a meaningful difference.  We all agree the vaccine is working in helping to reduce hospitalisations and reduce deaths but there is a fear that using vaccine passports might actually entrench vaccine hesitancy rather than encourage uptake."   He added that it was important to recognise that those who had had the vaccine could still get the virus and spread it and that he felt a more important test should be whether someone had tested negative going into a large-scale event, rather than whether they had had a vaccination.  He said: "We have a government that has machinery and tools in this pandemic. One tool is the vaccine and we should be ramping up vaccine rollout . Another tool is Test and Protect but Test and Protect is not working. Let's sort the systems that we have instead of creating a new system.  My fear is this is an attempt to look in control of a virus that is clearly out of control."  Health Secretary Humza Yousaf admitted that one of the main reasons for giving the vaccine passport scheme the green light was to incentivise younger people to get vaccinated.  "We know the uptake is lower amongst the younger age cohorts and therefore anything that helps to incentivise that is helpful," he said.  "I have said in the past I am sceptical about Covid passports so it is not a decision we have taken lightly, but bearing in mind the number of cases we have been seeing, we want to increase that vaccine uptake in the younger age cohort.  Looking ahead to the pressures we are probably going to face in the autumn and well into the winter, doing everything we possibly can, plus a Covid certification scheme could hopefully help us from a public health perspective but also to increase vaccination rates."  Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that one in 75 people were believed to have had Covid-19 in Scotland last week, a sharp rise from one in 140 the previous week.  Latest estimates for the proportion of 18 to 29-year-olds who are unvaccinated stand at 25.6% in Scotland.  On Sunday, UK Westminster government vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said checking people's Covid-19 vaccine status was the "right thing to do" to ensure the whole economy remained open.  Downing Street confirmed that the government intended to press on with plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs in England this month.  In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford last month said there were "no plans" to introduce mandatory vaccination certificates for venues due to "ethical and equality considerations". And Stormont ministers have yet to reach an official position on using vaccine access passports within Northern Ireland.

Glasgow Company Fined £150,000 for Making Nuisance Calls
A Glasgow company has been fined £150,000 for making more than half a million nuisance marketing calls.  The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found that DialADeal Scotland Ltd (DDSL) had made the unsolicited calls between August 2019 and March 2020.  They were about non-existent Green Deal energy saving schemes, including boiler and window replacement, loft insulation and home improvement grants.  There were more than 500 complaints - one of the highest numbers received.  The calls were made to telephone numbers which had been registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) where people had not given their permission to receive them. This is against the law.  The complaints suggested that DDSL had used several false trading names and the ICO's investigation found that the company also disguised the telephone numbers they were calling from. This is also illegal.  Ken Macdonald, head of ICO regions, said: "DialADeal were breaking the law on a number of fronts, not only were they making calls to people without their permission, they were also hiding their identity using false names and spoof numbers.  Calls about Green Deal schemes can be a real problem as people often believe they are legitimate but, thanks to the complaints made by the public, we've been able to take action.  Companies making similar nuisance calls should take note, we use our powers where we see serious breaches of the law."  As well as issuing the fine, the ICO has also given the company an enforcement notice ordering it to stop making unsolicited marketing calls and has successfully blocked its attempt to be struck off the Companies House register to try and avoid paying any fine.

Where Could Scotland Site A New National Park?
A deal between the SNP and the Scottish Green Party has opened the door to a new national park for Scotland.  There are currently two parks - the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs - and both were created almost 20 years ago.  The power-sharing agreement says that "at least one" will be designated by the end of this parliamentary session.   It will likely be "smaller in scale" than the existing ones, but where could any new national park be located?  The news has been cause for celebration at the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP).  John Mayhew is project manager for the Scottish National Parks Strategy - a joint scheme between the SCNP and the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS).  The basic premise is that Scotland has amazing landscapes and really it is surprising at the least that we have only got two national parks," he said.  Scotland should certainly have more."  Seven potential areas were suggested back in 2013: 1. Ben Nevis/Glen Coe/Black Mount   2. Cheviots and Border Hills 3. Galloway 4. Coastal and Marine Park.  5. Glen Affric.  6.  Wester Ross.  7.  Harris.  Mr Mayhew described them as a "real mix of places" which had prompted different reactions in the areas involved.  "Two campaigns were set up locally - one in Galloway and one in the Borders - we did not expect that," he said.   "It is only going to work if there is national agreement - but there also has to be local support for it.  "There are two places where there is clear evidence of that local support."  Mr Mayhew said anywhere securing the status should witness a number of changes.  "You should see better conservation of nature and the landscape," he said. "You should see better provision for visitors. You should see local socio-economic development - but things that are not going to damage the very thing that people are going to come and see.  It is a difficult job to balance all these things."  Not everyone is enthusiastic, however, including NFU Scotland. Dumfries and Galloway regional chairman Colin Ferguson, who farms near Newton Stewart, said the union continued to "seek assurances" that a new park would benefit agricultural businesses and the wider rural economy.  He said it had "yet to be convinced" it was compatible with farming's "ambitions and aims".  "It is not yet clear to NFU Scotland what additional benefit or value could be driven through a new national park operating as a separate entity in the region but we continue to discuss the matter with all interested stakeholders," he said. What is a national park?  The term is used to describe an area set aside by a national government for the preservation of the natural environment.  It may be designated for purposes of public recreation and enjoyment or because of its historical or scientific interest. Most of the landscapes and their accompanying plants and animals in a national park are kept in their natural state.  The national parks in the United States and Canada tend to focus on the protection of both land and wildlife, those in the United Kingdom focus mainly on the land, and those in Africa primarily exist to conserve animals.  The team behind the Scottish Borders National Park proposal described the SNP-Green deal as a "major change of stance" and welcomed the news.  Campaign leader Prof Jane Bower said it already had an independent feasibility study which made a "strong case" for the status.  She said the team would continue to seek cross-party support for its plans and keep refining them to reflect "constructive comment and feedback".  Rob Lucas, who chairs the neighbouring Galloway National Park Association, said he hoped the strong local support - including from the council - could bolster its case.  "We set off by asking people the question did they think the national park was a good idea and they said yes," he said.  "The thing that really gets me excited is our young people who are saying this would really be a badge of honour - it would give them pride in their area."  He said that while the region already enjoyed other designations they did not bring the international recognition the new status could deliver.  "A national park is shorthand for something that people understand," he said.  However, he accepted there was a lot of work to be done, including consulting with communities on where park boundaries would be.   "The announcement from the government is not the end of the race - it's the starting gun," he said.  Indeed, Mr Mayhew said that the deal had already sparked interested in other parts of Scotland.  "I think the flood gates are already open," he said.  "I think now in other areas of Scotland people will be thinking: 'That should be us'."  That could mean more than one new national park in the years to come.

Scotland's Prostitution Laws 'Outdated and Unjust'
Scotland's laws on prostitution are "outdated and unjust", an alliance of frontline agencies has said.  At present, soliciting in public, "kerb crawling" and brothel-keeping are illegal but running a pimping website or paying for sex are legal.  Campaigners want to shift the burden of criminality to those who pay for sex.  At May's election, the Scottish government pledged to develop "a model for Scotland" that challenged men's demand for purchasing sex.  The results of a Scottish government consultation on prostitution, published in June, said it wanted to "design future policies which fully support and protect women and girls". Community Safety minister Ash Denham told BBC Scotland  the government was committed to developing this "Scottish model" but there was no timeframe as yet.  Meanwhile, an alliance of frontline agencies are demanding more action from the government.  The agencies - including Tara (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance), the Encompass Network, Routes Out and Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland - want to "decriminalise" victims of sexual exploitation and wipe previous convictions for soliciting from their criminal records.  They want Scotland to adopt something similar to the "Nordic model", introduced two decades ago in Sweden, which decriminalises the sale of sex but targets the buyers of sexual services.  Supporters argue that it would make Scotland less attractive to traffickers, while targeting the demand for sex work.   However, some sex-workers' groups claim the policy increases the risk of violence and leads to a reliance on more dangerous customers.  They argue that full decriminalisation, better financial support and workers' rights would better serve those involved in prostitution.   Mia De Faoite, an activist and survivor of prostitution who campaigned for Ireland to adopt the Nordic Model, told the BBC one of the main reasons for the need for reform in Scotland was the trafficking of women from places such as Eastern Europe for sex work.  She said the only reason women were trafficked to Scotland was that there were men who would pay for them.  The law as it stands has a "loophole" that traffickers can take advantage of, she said.  "The only way to stop the trafficking of women is to have 'end-demand' laws," she added. "You target demand and supply diminishes." Ms De Faoite said there was no other industry that would tolerate the level of violence and exploitation seen among sex workers.  "Scotland has already acknowledged prostitution as a form of violence" she said. "It is time Scotland shifted the burden from the women to where it belongs, to the buyers."  However, one sex worker told BBC Scotland she wanted to see full decriminalisation of sex work.  Alice, not her real name, said she recognised the good intentions of the plans but felt they would bring more harm to people who were selling sexual services.  "If my client is criminalised it is going to be far more difficult for me to get them to send me 'screening' information," she said.  "I would not be able to get deposits or references, screening would become almost impossible because of the risks to the client would be so great they would be too anxious.  "If you criminalise the client you take away what little safety tools we have."   Alice, who sells her services online, said that criminalising the activity would push people back on to the streets instead of working from her home with clients that had been vetted.   Anastacia Ryan, of sex workers advocacy project Umbrella Lane, is also against the Nordic model.  Instead, she favours full decriminalisation, with wraparound support for women.   She said the plans would effectively criminalise sex work and increase the risk of violence.  "When you criminalise the purchase of sex all you do is drive the industry further underground," she said.   The community safety minister said the Scottish government needed to "take time to get it right".    Ms Denham said: "There are lots of international examples that we can look at and we would like to work on this."  She said she would like to work across parliament to build support for the Scottish model.   "I can't give you a timeframe at the moment but we are working on it and we are taking those steps now," she added.

Climate Change: Shetland's Power Struggle Between Oil and Wind
Nowhere else in the United Kingdom are the spoils of oil and gas more evident than on the Shetland Islands.   Wide roads which sweep along rugged clifftops and through lush valleys are so smooth you could play marbles on them.  In the centre of the main town, Lerwick, a stunning new school gleams in the September sunshine. Next door stands the Clickimin, an impressive leisure complex, one of eight on the islands - which are home to just 22,870 people.   There is one swimming pool for every 2,859 islanders.  At Sumburgh Airport, the air throbs with the noise of helicopters shuttling oil workers to and from offshore rigs and platforms. It's not as busy as it once was, but it's still going strong.  Shetland is situated 110 miles north of the Scottish mainland, an archipelago of some 100 islands straddling the boundary between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean - and between cultures too. It retains strong Norse traditions but has been part of Scotland since the 15th Century.   Previously known for fishing and farming, when the drills struck oil in the North Sea in the 20th Century, Shetland struck black gold.   It negotiated a canny deal for the construction of a giant terminal at Sullom Voe, an inlet on the north of the largest of its 16 inhabited islands, which is known locally as the mainland.   The first crude oil from the North Sea was piped ashore in November 1978, followed in later years by supplies from fields off to the west in the North Atlantic.   In return for the disruption, Zetland County Council - now Shetland Islands Council - was paid a fee for every barrel processed at Sullom Voe.   The money was invested in an oil fund which has so far disbursed more than £320m to social care and welfare programmes; the arts, sport and leisure; and the environment, natural history and heritage on the islands.  North Sea neighbour Norway, 190 miles to the east, took a similar approach to its oil reserves and now has one of the largest sovereign wealth funds on earth. Could Scotland could have done the same and become a wealthy independent country? Could the UK have adopted a similar policy and put its public finances on a stronger footing?  Nearly half a century after the pro-independence Scottish National Party coined the campaign slogan "It's Scotland's Oil", these are questions which still provoke heated, and sometimes bitter, debate.  But as the devastating impacts of climate change driven by the exploitation of fossil fuels have become clearer, the conversation has shifted rapidly and Shetland, along with the rest of the world, now faces a new question.   Should drilling stop immediately - and, if so, how would these islands cope without their grimy golden goose?  In climate campaigners' crosshairs is Cambo, a deep-water oil field around 125km (78 miles) west of Shetland which is estimated to contain about 800 million barrels of oil.  Siccar Point Energy and Shell have applied for a production licence and hope to extract oil between 2025 and 2050. They say the project would create about 1,000 direct jobs in Scotland and 2,000 more in the supply chain, as well as supporting another 500 elsewhere in the UK.  Cambo was discovered in 2002 but approval to exploit it has not yet been granted by the Oil and Gas Authority, a UK government agency - although British government ministers are making positive noises about the project and the OGA itself has spoken of the importance of continuing domestic production rather than relying on energy imports.  The SNP has struggled to articulate a clear position on Cambo, apparently torn between its traditional support for an industry which in recent years has supported 100,000 jobs and contributed £8.8bn annually to the Scottish economy, and a desire to position Scotland as a global leader in tackling climate change, especially during the crucial COP26 summit of world leaders in Glasgow this November.   "There are hard questions to ask," admitted the party's leader, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, when she was confronted by environmental activists on the subject last month - although it seemed the difficulty wasn't so much in asking the questions as in answering them with precision and detail.  The UK's Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also struggled with questions about Cambo. In a recent BBC interview, he said he was "not aware" of the proposal.  Even if it is given the go-ahead on economic grounds, Cambo may not provide much direct benefit to Shetland.  Under the existing plans, some gas would be piped to Sullom Voe but the oil would be taken off and away by tanker, bypassing the islands.  Still, the leader of Shetland Islands Council, independent councillor Steven Coutts, tells us he is not opposed to the project, which may support some jobs on the archipelago.  "There is no point in stopping production of oil and gas where we can control it in the UK, to see it being imported from outside the UK," says Mr Coutts.  That view is shared by the oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood, who recently told the BBC it would be "absolutely crazy" to stop drilling.   Mr Coutts says it is not feasible to "flick the switch" on the oil and gas industry, adding: "We can't turn it off overnight."  Speaking to us in the Clickimin leisure centre, the council leader insists he is optimistic about the future, although he actually sounds rather worried.  It's all very well having eight swimming pools, but maintaining them and other facilities as oil fields are drained and revenue dwindles is a huge challenge.   Production at Sullom Voe peaked in the 1980s and Mr Coutts does not anticipate a similar bonanza from renewable energy.  "I think that will not be repeated," he says. "I think the circumstances have changed."  Charting Shetland's journey from fossil fuels to renewable technology is the daunting task now facing Claire Ferguson, the council's team leader for climate change strategy.  It's her job to draw up Shetland's route map to net zero - the point where the islands are conserving more carbon than they emit.   "Personally I think that we should be looking to other ways to transition to clean energy using the resource that we already have without creating new oilfields," she says.  She says the net zero map will be complex, involving six areas - energy; public and residential buildings; business and industry; waste; transport; and nature-based solutions.  But if Cambo is approved, she reckons it will become much harder to persuade individual Shetlanders and business owners to make the necessary changes themselves.   With COP26 approaching, she adds: "I feel we should be leading by example."  At the heart of the climate strategy is a vast new wind farm which is being constructed by SSE Renewables on an exposed peatland moor in the central mainland of Shetland.  On the sprawling site, roads are being carved out, concrete poured and steel installed in the foundations for 103 giant 4.3MW turbines which will measure 155m (509ft) from ground to blade-tip and provide enough power, according to SSE, to meet the needs of 475,000 homes - or roughly 45 Shetlands.   To the horror of some islanders, the scheme will transform the landscape, with turbines standing sentinel along a prominent ridge and visible from miles around.  It will also transform the production and distribution of energy in Shetland, which is currently provided by a diesel power station in Lerwick and a gas-fired facility at Sullom Voe.  The Viking Project includes the laying of a high-voltage subsea cable connecting the islands to Caithness on the Scottish mainland, linking Shetland to the UK National Grid for the first time.  The transmission cable will allow electricity to flow south from the windfarm and, on the rare still day in what is the windiest part of the UK, for it to be pushed in the opposite direction to keep the lights on.  According to Aaron Priest, who manages the Viking project for SSE, the cable heralds a clean energy revolution for Shetland.  It will clear the way for more onshore wind projects, he says, along with floating offshore windfarms and "big potential for hydrogen production."  Critics call that "the industrialisation of Shetland".  "In order to get the turbines up they're displacing the peat, which is a fossil fuel," says local writer and tour guide Laurie Goodlad.  Mr Priest accepts that the project is disrupting some stores of carbon, but he says the bog here was already badly eroded and insists SSE is committed to restoring 260 hectares (640 acres) of peatland on the 10,000 hectare (25,000 acre) site.  The actual footprint of wind farm infrastructure is just 165 hectares (408 acres), says Mr Priest, who insists the overall impact on the environment will be positive.   He says there will be "carbon payback" in less than two years, and from then on a saving of half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being produced annually.  Ms Goodlad is not convinced. Nor does she see the economic case for Viking, which was originally a joint venture with the local council but is now, after years of controversy and planning permission battles, solely an SSE enterprise.  "Our whole island is going to suffer," says Ms Goodlad.  "Tourism will suffer. The lives of the people living nearby will suffer. And there's going to be absolutely no community benefit."  At present, says Mr Priest, there are 200 people working on the site, including 80 locals. The company has spent £12m on the project so far, he adds, supporting 48 local businesses in the supply chain - although SSE's website suggests it will create just 35 permanent jobs.  SSE is setting up a community benefit fund of £2.2m a year to be spent on the islands, he adds.   "Shetland is over-dependent on oil and gas at the moment," insists Mr Priest. "It needs to diversify its economy."   But Ms Goodlad replies: "In 50 years' time, 100 years' time, we'll be looking at the rusted remains of the once-glittering wind farm and asking: 'What the hell were we thinking'?"  For her there is no contest between drilling for oil off the coast of these islands, and building a wind farm in the middle of them.  "As an environmentalist," says Ms Goodlad, "I would still choose Cambo."

SNP Vote Against New Health and Social Care Tax
SNP MPs have voted against a new UK-wide health and social care tax that is expected to raise £1.1bn a year for the Scottish NHS.  The prime minister says the increase to National Insurance will raise money to help health and care services recover from the impact of the Covid pandemic.  But SNP MP Alison Thewliss said it was "regressive" and warned against "another round of Tory austerity".  The UK Westminster government won the vote by 319 to 248, a majority of 71.   The tax will be introduced across the UK to pay for reforms to the care sector and NHS funding in England - but a proportion of the money raised will be ring-fenced and given to the devolved administrations, including the Scottish government.  The UK Westminster government's health secretary, Sajid Javid, said an estimated £1.1bn of the £12bn that is expected to be raised across the UK would be given to the Scottish government.  It would also be almost double the estimated £660m a year that the Scottish government says its plans for a new National Care Service would cost.  The tax will begin as a 1.25 percentage point rise in National Insurance from April 2022, and will be paid by both employers and workers. It will then become a separate tax on earned income from 2023, which will be calculated in the same way as National Insurance and will appear on an employee's payslip.  This will be paid by all working adults, including older workers, and the UK Westminster government says it will be "legally ring-fenced" to go only towards health and social care costs.  Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Javid said it would be for the Scottish government to decide how this additional money was spent.  But he said the "obvious place" would be for it to go towards health and social care, given the huge impact of the pandemic on areas such as hospital waiting times.   Mr Javid also dismissed as "nonsense" claims from SNP politicians that the scheme would be similar to the so-called Poll Tax that was introduced by Margaret Thatcher in Scotland in 1989.  He said basing the tax on National Insurance was "the fairest way as it would mean that "those who earn more pay more".  Mr Javid added: "Some 50% of the revenues raised will come from the highest earning 14%, and that principle of those that earn more pay more applies throughout the UK".   The SNP's Treasury spokeswoman Alison Thewliss MP said it would "unfairly burden millions" in Scotland.   She also warned Scotland risked "being sold short and receiving less in return than the money taken from Scottish-based National Insurance payers".   Ms Thewliss said: "Everyone supports investing more money into our NHS but this tax rise is regressive and, coupled with the premature withdrawal of key Covid income support schemes and the scrapping of £20 [Universal Credit] uplift, signals yet another round of Tory austerity."  The MP said in her view the only way to "protect" Scotland from "Tory cuts and regressive tax hikes" was independence.  Deputy First Minister John Swinney said his expectation was that the Scottish government would spend funds from the new tax on health and social care services in Scotland.  And he said he would be looking "forensically" at the full details of the proposal - which the prime minister has said will be set out in a spending review later this year - to ensure there were "no negative Barnett consequentials in other areas of the budget" as a result of the changes. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that the new tax would merely be a "sticking plaster" for health and social care services.  And he said the announcement broke the Conservatives' pledge at the last election not to raise National Insurance, income tax or VAT - and targeted young people, supermarket workers and nurses, rather than those with the "broadest shoulders".

Scotland to Launch Vaccine Passports on 1 October
People in Scotland will need proof they have been fully vaccinated before they can enter nightclubs and many large events from 1 October.   The vaccine passport plan was formally approved by Holyrood after the SNP and Greens voted in favour.  Some businesses have complained of a lack of detail about how the scheme will work in practice.  The proposals were opposed by the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.  Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the system would reduce the risk of transmission and help prevent venues - many of which have only recently reopened - from having to close again due to Covid.   A paper published by the government on Thursday morning, just hours before the vote in the Scottish Parliament, said officials were still working to define what a nightclub actually is. And it said evidence was still being gathered about the effectiveness of similar schemes elsewhere in the world.  People in England will need to have a "Covid pass" to access "higher risk" settings such as nightclubs from the end of this month.  There are no current plans to introduce a similar scheme in Wales or Northern Ireland.  The new rules will mean people over the age of 18 in Scotland will need to show they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to: It means that many major sporting events - particularly football matches - will be affected, as will concerts and music festivals.  People who have had two vaccines in Scotland can already download or get a paper copy of a certificate with a QR code.  By the end of the month, it is expected that this code will also be available on a new NHS Scotland Status app.  These codes can be scanned at a venue to confirm the user is fully vaccinated.  Anyone who has good reasons for not getting fully vaccinated - including children and people with particular medical conditions - will be exempt.  A major goal of the scheme is to encourage more younger people to be vaccinated - with the latest figures showing that uptake among those under the age of 40 in Scotland has been lower than older age groups.  Many areas of Scotland have seen some of the highest Covid rates in Europe in recent weeks - although there are signs that the surge in cases is beginning to slow down.  The number of people in hospital and intensive care units has also been steadily rising, with health professionals warning that that NHS is coming under increasing strain.  Mr Swinney said Scotland was in a "fragile position" with Covid-19 case rates still high, telling MSPs that "we all recognise the need to try all we can to protect the return to greater normality that we have experienced in recent weeks".  He said the scheme would reduce the risk of transmission in some settings, allowing those venues to "operate more safely when the potential alternative would be closure".  Mr Swinney said it would also protect vulnerable people who cannot be vaccinated, and would encourage others to come forward for a jab. He said: "On balance - given the benefits to individuals, to the health of the population, and as a way to keep certain venues and events open - a certification scheme is a proportionate step to take."  Mr Swinney had been critical of vaccine passports when the proposals for England were unveiled by the prime minister, as had Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the SNP's partners in government, the Scottish Greens.  Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the facts on the ground had changed - and that the scheme was "worth considering when cases are running at around 7,000 a day and once the entire adult population has had two doses".  Hospitality groups have called for more details about how the system will work, while a football supporters association said it was "concerned about inequalities" shutting some fans out of games.  Leon Thompson of the trade body UK Hospitality Scotland told BBC Scotland there had been "very rushed and hurried conversations with officials" in recent days, with members "very concerned" about the practicalities of the plans.  Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said it would "directly impact on consumer confidence and risks creating further financial damage to those sectors who have already been hardest hit by Covid-19".  CBI Scotland director Tracy Black said vaccine passports had the potential to be "a useful tool in managing risk in large venues" - but that there needed to be "close cooperation and coordination" with businesses.  The Scottish Tories voted against the proposals despite the Conservative UK Westminster government planning to introduce a similar system.  Leader Douglas Ross said not enough detail had been provided about the Scottish scheme, and that the government should not be asking MSPs to "impose" a vaccine certification scheme on establishments it was not able to define.    Scottish Labour also opposed the plans, with deputy leader Jackie Baillie saying there was a "practical question about the government's ability to even implement this".  She said people with a vaccination certificate could still have the virus and be infectious, saying ministers were in danger of giving people a false sense of confidence that they were "invincible".  Ms Baillie said the government should "not simply reach for anything just to be seen to take action, and end up making things worse".  And Alex Cole-Hamilton said his Scottish Liberal Democrats were "fundamentally opposed to the plans, which he said set the country on a "disturbing and illiberal course".  He added: "Medical ID cards will be introduced by this coalition tonight and liberals will immediately begin the campaign to see their abolition."

The SAHC still needs a Newsletter Editor. Do you have a love of storytelling or know of someone that does?  If so, we need a newsletter editor.  Please contact me to discuss this very important role for keeping the Scottish Diaspora informed through my email address  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
I wish you all the very best and to remain safe and well in this troublesome times.
Malcolm Buchanan, President

Scotland Down Under with Robin MacKenzie on 2RRR 88.5 FM
Scottish music is a huge part of Scottish culture. It carries with it ancient stories and languages that have influenced many forms of music.  Each week from 6.00 - 7.30pm on a Tuesday Robin presents Scotland Down Under from 2RRR where he showcases all things Scottish.  Featuring music from the traditional to the contemporary, Robin will also keep you in touch with local and international Scottish news. Listen locally on the dial at 88.5FM, broadcast live from 2RRR's studios in Henley, Sydney or if out of range tune in, from anywhere in the world,  via our website, and go to Live Stream where the reception is crystal clear.  You can reach the station at the following contact points;
by Phone in the office at 9816-2988 or the Studio: 9816-2777.
By email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
To Text Robin while he is On-air  0412 777 885.
Mailing Address PO Box 644 GLADESVILLE NSW 1675.  
Street Address Henley Cottage, 4 Victoria Road, HENLEY NSW 2111

Coisir  Ghaidhlig Astrailianach (Australian Gaelic Singers) will be back rehearsing on a face to face basis at Macquarie Presbyterian Church in Eastwood as soon as this*** Covid restrictions allow.   They are looking for interested folk to join them.  If you’d like to join - the choir is open to all, whatever your background.  The only pre- requisites are willingness to learn and lots of enthusiasm! A knowledge of Gaelic and/or music is not essential. If interested please contact the Music Director on (02) 9638-2625 or email him on: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it