Four fifths of teachers think Scottish exam replacements are unfair and blame SQA for ‘disaster’ – The Scotsman

Teachers have described the new pupil assessment process, designed after exams were scrapped as a result of Covid lockdowns, as a “nightmare” for youngsters and colleagues, as a new survey found just 20 per cent think the tests are “fair and reasonable”.

In a survey by the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, which represents 6,500 high school headteachers and staff, 75 per cent of teachers said their pupils had difficulties providing suitable evidence to be assessed.

A total of 85 per cent send said the “collection, marking and moderation of evidence” had created “substantial additional workload for their pupils” and 92 per cent said the whole process had added to the stress of their pupils.

The poll of 1,711 teachers also found 86 per cent of teachers had pupils missing from classes when schools were open because of Covid, 90 per cent had children missing through other illness, and 78 per cent said pupils were absent because of stress.

Overall just 20 per cent of teachers believe the Alternative Certification Model (ACM), set out by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), is a fair and reasonable method of assessment, with 76 per cent calling for teacher professional judgement to be the major factor in their assessment this year.

The formal exam diet for Highers and Advanced Highers was cancelled in December for the second year running, while the National 5 qualifications, normally sat by fourth-year pupils, were also halted for the second consecutive year.

The ACM was then designed by the SQA with input from the Scottish Government’s new National Qualifications body, which included teaching union, the Educational Institute for Scotland.

However, the SSTA was not involved in the process, and Seamus Searson, the union’s general secretary, said his members’ survey responses “gave a clear indication of the difficulties teachers and pupils are facing in trying to deliver the ACM.”

He said: “The SQA is in its own world, oblivious to the real situation in schools. It has shown little understanding of the situation in schools and the damage it is doing to pupils and teachers.

“The collecting of evidence demanded by the SQA in such a short time period, without making any allowance for the disruption caused by the pandemic, is putting a heavy burden on teachers and pupils.

“Worryingly, only 36 per cent of members believed that the evidence that they have collected truly demonstrated their pupil’s attainment. This highlights the potentially high number of pupils who will get grades lower than would have been expected in a normal year.”

He added: “The SQA’s focus on collected evidence, which doesn’t adequately take into account the disruption in schools, will lead to a large number of disillusioned young people and very unhappy parents.

“The SQA must change its stance and allow the flexibility for teacher professional judgement, in addition to the collected evidence, to ensure all young people achieve the results that they deserve.”

Comments by headteachers in the survey roundly condemned the assessment process with one saying: “This whole ACM has been a nightmare of stress for both staff and pupils. I have visibly seen the stress on the faces of my staff and the pupils. This has been the worst, most pressurised time of my whole career.”

Another headteacher said: “Workload has been phenomenal. Teaching and leading for over 20 years. I have never had a workload like this year.

“My staff and I are exhausted, stressed and deeply concerned about the mental health of pupils within our care. The logistics and timescale of what we are being asked to do is unachievable within a normal working week.”

Subject teachers were also critical of the SQA, saying “crazy expectations” had put pupils “under so much stress”.

One said: “This session has been a total disaster from the SQA. Persistent changes in outgoing information have made it very frustrating with regards to keeping pupils informed and composed.

“The ACM and guidance surrounding it has only gone on to cause a total nightmare for pupils, teachers and senior managers. We have practically inherited the workload of the SQA in terms of administering, marking and moderating assessments.”

“Parents have not read the SQA advice that we have to work to, and just hear that teachers supposedly have more control than we actually do.

“If [the] SQA did not follow the advice they were given by the politicians, then that needs looked at immediately. It is too late to institute major change, but the inclusion of teacher judgement and consideration of individual circumstances would be welcome.”

A third teacher said: “Assessments are a disgrace. They are exams pure and simple.

“Pupils, teachers and parents [are] fully aware the SQA has done nothing to aid mental health and has exacerbated the situation by providing guidance AFTER most of the course work was completed.”

Mr Searson, has now written to newly-appointed education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville asking her to call a halt to the assessment process.

In his letter, which includes the survey results, he said: “The ACM is a process that may, with some adjustments, be something that will benefit the Scottish National Qualifications in the future, but is currently causing severe problems for schools, teachers and most importantly the pupils.

“The ACM leaves no space for teacher professional judgement and makes no allowance for the disruption caused to the education system by the Covid-19 pandemic. The ACM, as it is presently constructed, and its obsession for collected evidence, will penalise a large number of pupils this year.”

He added: “The SSTA urges you to intervene and allow teachers to use their professional judgement to supplement the collected evidence and ensure no pupils are penalised this year as a consequence of the pandemic. Pupils who will not receive levels of attainment, to which they are entitled, will have an impact not only this year but may restrict any plans they may have in the remaining years at school and beyond.

A SQA spokesperson said: “We fully appreciate that the impact of Covid has been extremely challenging for learners, teachers and lecturers. Everyone is working hard to ensure young people across Scotland get the qualifications they deserve.

“The approach to certification has been developed by the National Qualifications 2021 Group, which includes the EIS, School Leaders Scotland, the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland and learner and parent representatives. This is a flexible framework for schools and colleges that combines professional judgement with evidence of learning.”

“As the Cabinet Secretary confirmed in Parliament the outcomes of the appeals consultation will be announced next week. This is a very important part of the overall model. Learners and teaching staff should be reassured that a comprehensive appeals process will be in place in good time.”

Covid crisis: Nicola Sturgeon needs to realise the buck stops with her in Scotland – The Scotsman

The early days of the pandemic seem long ago. As the cases began to multiply in northern Italy, we joined planeloads of Scottish rugby followers for the jaunt to Rome, the only hint that something was amiss being the temperature checks on arrival at Fiumicino Airport.

Nicola Sturgeon leapt on Dominic Cummings’ testimony as an opportunity to attack the UK government when the evidence shows the outcomes north and south of the Border were the same, says John McLellan.
Four days later, delegates gathered at Edinburgh’s Hilton Carlton Hotel for a Nike sports conference, but one of them was carrying the virus and we now know at least 25 people linked to the conference were infected, probably more. The public wasn’t informed because the Scottish government chose not to, using the cover of patient confidentiality to keep the outbreak quiet.

By the time this was revealed in a BBC Scotland investigation broadcast mid-May last year, Covid-19 had killed 3,500 people in Scotland and, as readers of this column might recall, one of them was my father.

That investigation included a study by a team of Edinburgh University epidemiological scientists which concluded that had lockdown been introduced in Scotland two weeks earlier than March 23 then 2,000 coronavirus deaths could have been prevented, but the Scottish government insisted it acted on the best advice available.

The scientists drew the same conclusion about the UK as a whole, something which ex-Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings went into in brutal detail this week, blaming the NHS’s lack or preparedness and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s indecision for causing “tens of thousands” of unnecessary deaths.

The 2,000 avoidable Scottish deaths equates to just short of 20,000 fatalities across the UK, so Mr Cummings wasn’t exaggerating, but neither was he saying anything particularly new.

He delivered an extraordinary inside account of internal chaos far sooner than a public inquiry, but thanks to the success of the vaccine programme the public has moved on, as demonstrated in a Survation UK poll this week showing Conservative support up five per cent at the expense of Labour.

We have no similar account of what happened in Scotland because no senior Scottish civil servant has had such a spectacular falling-out with the boss as Mr Cummings, but it’s fair to assume there was a similar sense of desperation as realisation dawned that they faced an unimaginable health crisis with no plan to cope.

According to an Audit Scotland report in February, the Scottish government’s initial response was based on a 2011 UK flu pandemic strategy, having not fully implemented the findings of three subsequent preparedness exercises. “These included measures to ensure access to enough PPE and to quickly address social care capacity, both of which became significant issues during the first wave of Covid-19,” said the report.

But that’s not the impression conveyed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week. “Sometimes I’m afraid, in the interests of health and human life, it is necessary for people in leadership positions like me to take very quick decisions, because as we know from bitter experience over this pandemic, it’s often the failure to take quick and firm decisions that leads to loss of life,” she said. “Anybody who’s in any doubt about that only had to listen to a fraction of what Dominic Cummings outlined about what he described as the chaotic response of the UK government at key moments of this pandemic.”

Memories are indeed short, so perhaps Ms Sturgeon had forgotten about the Edinburgh University study, or the Audit Scotland report, or that having taken full control of the pandemic response she presided over the clear-out of elderly patients from hospitals to care homes.

Perhaps she had forgotten that now retired Health Secretary Jeane Freeman had admitted they “didn’t take the right precautions to make sure that older people leaving hospital going into care homes were as safe as they could be”.

Over 3,000 people in Scottish care homes died from Covid-19, and it’s probably where my father picked up the virus after he was discharged from Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth hospital, a failure Ms Freeman attributed to “not understanding the social care sector well enough”.

Not understanding the social care system after running it for 14 years was an extraordinary admission. With that background, a dignified response from Ms Sturgeon would have been to acknowledge that all leaders faced difficult decisions in the face of a fast-advancing and unknown deadly threat.

Instead she leapt on Mr Cummings’ testimony as an opportunity to attack the UK government and portray herself as the epitome of calm and effective control when every statistic, expert opinion and even her own ministers demonstrate the outcome was identical.

“The point I was making,” she emphasised, “was about the importance of careful, cautious, responsible decision-making in the face of a deadly virus.” Tragically, the expert view is that 2,000 people might have lived had she been careful, cautious and responsible a fortnight earlier.

But like Mr Johnson, polls will probably show public opinion remaining on Ms Sturgeon’s side, which makes her sneery insinuations all the more unnecessary, especially as significant problems persist with the Scottish vaccine system which are resulting in thousands of missed appointments, while the English roll-out motors.

This is the sort of responsibility which Ms Sturgeon cannot dodge and these issues are only going to mount as the NHS struggles to cope with the surge in demand for delayed treatment and the diagnosis of illnesses undetected because of lockdown.

There will be a limit to how much slack the public will cut the Scottish government when relatives are kept waiting for life-saving or enhancing operations and the buck stops at Bute House.

It must also face up to the challenge of dealing with the damaged education of thousands of children in a system which was failing before the pandemic, and for which the response has been to avoid, fudge or delay the tools for measuring progress.

No wonder the SNP keeps the sword of a referendum dangling over Scotland’s head; like Mr Cummings, Ms Sturgeon needs someone to blame.

Nicola Sturgeon ‘red listing’ Scotland as holiday bookings slump amid confusion over coronavirus rules – Daily Record

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “red listing” ­Scotland as holiday ­bookings slump amid confusion over Covid-19 rules.

Industry leaders have warned ­hundreds of millions of pounds is being lost because tourists don’t know if the country is open for business.

While much of the nation has moved to Level 2, the First ­Minister announced on Friday that Glasgow – a major transport hub – will remain in Level 3 for at least another week.

It means people cannot travel in or out of the city without a good reason or visit one another’s houses. ­Hospitality firms also face tighter rules.

Meanwhile, even in Level 2, strict social distancing rules mean many venues and visitor attractions are closed or operating at reduced ­capacity.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA), said: “We carried out research which showed very clearly that forward ­bookings are exceptionally low across the country, particularly in our cities.

“From my conversations with ­businesses and ­representatives across all tourism sectors, it’s apparent that guidance in some respects is not clear enough.

“We receive a number of inquiries every day from people unsure about what they can and can’t do in Scotland. So it’s critical there is clear communication from the Scottish and UK Governments to ensure anybody looking to visit or holiday in Scotland is equipped with clear facts.

“There needs to be a very strong and clear message coming from the ­Scottish Government that Scotland is open and we welcome all.”

An STA study found 83 per cent of hoteliers believe their business will be financially unsustainable if trading at two metres physical ­distancing – a requirement even at Level 2.

Stephen Montgomery, of the ­Scottish Hospitality Group, added: “The danger is that the First Minister is effectively red listing Scotland as a destination this summer. It’s crucial for the ­hospitality sector to get back on its feet and start ­employing people again.

“As things stand, people ­thinking of visiting Scotland on ­holiday don’t know whether they’re even allowed to travel through ­Glasgow or if they’re allowed to book a hotel. Public health is paramount but it feels like the ­Government is just not interested in listening or ­working with business and that’s putting hundreds of ­millions of pounds worth of ­economic activity at risk.”

The decision to keep Glasgow in Level 3 has come after Covid ­outbreaks, mainly on the city’s south side, although hospital admissions have not risen significantly.

Every other area of Scotland is in Level 2 or Level 1. In England, tiered rules have been dropped after being deemed ­ineffective and too hard to ­understand.

Paul Waterson, owner of the Golden Lion Hotel in ­Stirling, said: “The ­situation is dire, bookings are way down and this idea that everyone was going to be rushing out on staycations just hasn’t ­happened. We’re sitting from one day to the next not knowing what the rules are going to be, it feels like the Government has learned nothing.

“In Glasgow, you have this crazy situation where you can go into a pub but you can’t get a drink.

“Potentially hundreds of millions in revenue will be lost over the next few months which should be some of the busiest of the year.

“We still don’t have weddings of any size, we don’t have ­conferences, we don’t have many attractions open which bring in ­tourists.”

Sturgeon has said she hopes ­Glasgow will be able to move to Level 2 on Saturday and it’s hoped the rules will ease further in mid-June.

But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said Glasgow firms had been “struggling to survive” and that the SNP’s approach to business needed a “complete overhaul”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has said there needs to be a “proper route map and exit plan”. He added: “I think there is a real risk that public trust and ­confidence is breaking down.”

‘Minimum income of £37,000’ plan for families in independent Scotland – Daily Record

SNP MSP has claimed an independent Scotland could guarantee a couple with children a minimum income of more than £37,000 a year.

Neil Gray admits the plans have not been costed.

But the deputy convener of his party’s flagship Social Justice and Fairness Commission said a future Holyrood Parliament could unite behind a minimum income policy to beat poverty.

He also called for a “greater distribution of wealth” as a way of paying for a more generous social safety net.

The Commission, announced by Nicola Sturgeon in 2019, aims to offer a policy “blueprint to future governments” if Scotland breaks away from the UK.

In an exclusive interview with the Record, Gray said the proposals in the Commission – which also include the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use – have yet to have the costs outlined.

But he points to work by social justice charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to back up one of the Commission’s key ideas, which is for a pilot of a minimum income guarantee. The report says the concept is based on a combination of minimum wage, tax allowances, income-related and other benefits, as well as pensions.

Gray, 35, said: “We very much based our work around the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. I think their figures for a single person were £19,200 a year, and for a couple with children around £18,700 per person a year.

“I think that would provide a far greater investment in people than we are seeing at the moment, and would provide far greater security.”

Asked if he believed an independent Parliament could reach the levels outlined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, he said: “Yes, I think we could.”

A land value tax and increasing social security payments are also ideas the Commission’s final report said should be considered. Another key call is the eradication of poverty.

Gray gave credit to the last Labour government for cutting poverty levels but said progress on social security under devolution can be undercut by Tory policies such as scrapping the £20 uplift in Universal Credit.

On the economy, an independent Scotland would be likely to start with a large budget deficit and the SNP will face detailed questions on the affordability of the Commission’s recommendations.

Asked if the focus of an independent Scotland would be on deficit reduction, Gray said: “I don’t think it is necessarily going to be that at all.

“The negotiations around creating an independent Scotland, obviously the deficit will be part of that, but we are inheriting a deficit that has been made on our behalf. It’s not been made by us.”

Asked how the Commission’s recommendations will be paid for, Gray said: “We very deliberately said this is not a costed manifesto.”

The report looks at potential tax rises and is positive about the introduction of a land value tax which could hit large estates. Gray said: “There needs to be a greater distribution of wealth in Scotland at the moment. We have a huge amount of wealth tied up in land.”

Scottish education system is ‘on the verge of a crisis’, teaching union warns – The Courier

The Scottish education system is “on the verge of a crisis”, the new president of a Scottish teaching union has warned.

Speaking at the NASUWT Scotland’s virtual annual conference, Kirkcaldy primary school teacher Bernadette Easton said that teachers feel “demoralised, unsupported and unrecognised”.

The cumulative impact of the pandemic on top of pre-existing pressures of excessive workload, assessment requirements and the failure to equip schools with the resources and support they need to meet the needs of all pupils were among the concerns raised.

‘Teachers have gone the extra mile’

Ms Easton also warned there had been a rise in stress and mental ill-health among teachers in the last year.

She said: “Teachers have gone the extra mile to facilitate remote learning for all young people and this has not been without its challenges.

“The pressure on every professional speed learning how to use Teams, how to innovate with digital technology, how to deliver an effective level of education.

“There was an expectation of near normal education, in a situation which was anything but normal. It is no wonder there has been an increase in mental health issues by teachers.”

Ms Easton said teachers have been left vulnerable due to a lack of safety mitigations in some schools and the pressures of trying to juggle remote teaching with in-person teaching.

She said: “The workload involved in trying to support pupils back in to the classroom, the unpaid hours given to meet deadlines and prepare for variable platforms of learning have placed the profession under tremendous strain.

“Teachers have been undertaking live lessons, often on their own devices, worrying about having to teach from their home, concerned about how they were judged and perceived on these new platforms by pupils, parents and senior management.

“The government certainly needs to look at teacher workload again.”

“We need an education system which is prepared”

She called upon the Scottish Government and employers to equip, prepare and support teachers for the ongoing impact of Covid and ensure teachers are “not lighting a candle in the dark and trying to find a way out”.

Ms Easton added: “We need an education system which is prepared – prepared for the challenging effects of Covid on children, prepared to bridge the digital divide in ensuring all children can access remote learning, and prepared in case there is another wave.

It is no wonder there has been an increase in mental health issues by teachers.”

Bernadette Easton, president of NASUWT Scotland.

“We must ensure everything is in place so we are not lighting a candle in the dark and trying to find a way out.

“There must be consistency and a uniform approach to remote learning moving forward.  And, there must be greater focus on the physical and mental wellbeing of teachers, making sure they can feel safe and are not overloaded.”

The Scottish Government has previously pledged more than £200 million in funding for local authorities to help provide support to schools and families during the pandemic.

A government spokesperson said: “In the last year, teaching and non-teaching staff in our schools and early learning and childcare settings have performed extraordinarily under challenging circumstances.

“They have refocussed their work to support pupils in a range of imaginative, creative and stimulating ways.

“This government will put the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff at the forefront of our Covid recovery plans.

“We look forward to working constructively stakeholders to ensure we nurture an environment that has at its core the highest quality of learning and teaching.”

£166 million cash injection for green technology and 60,000 UK jobs – Gov.uk

Government announces major cash injection for green technology and development as part of Green Industrial Revolution.

  • £166.5 million cash boost will drive forward developments in critical technology needed for a green industrial revolution including carbon capture, greenhouse gas removal and hydrogen
  • funding package will help benefit energy-intensive businesses like Tate & Lyle, BAE Systems and Celsa Manufacturing, creating over 60,000 well-paid green jobs across the UK, cutting business costs and helping to revitalise industrial heartlands
  • UK government powering ahead with ambitious commitments set out in the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a green revolution just 6 months ago

The green technology required to help the UK meet its world-leading climate targets has been given a £166.5 million cash injection, just 6 months on from the publication of the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

The multi-million pound investment, awarded to innovators, businesses, academics and heavy industry right across the UK, will accelerate the delivery of the critical game-changing technologies needed to further drive Britain’s climate change ambitions, while creating over 60,000 jobs across the UK.

The £166.5 million funding package announced today (Monday 24 May) will develop technologies in carbon capture, greenhouse gas removal and hydrogen, while also helping find solutions to decarbonise the UK’s polluting sectors including manufacturing, steel, energy and waste.

This investment will help put the UK at the forefront of the green technologies of the future, while supporting British industries to lowers costs, remain competitive and protect jobs as they improve their energy efficiency and transition to a green economy.

This significant investment will help the UK meet its ambitious climate commitments, including reaching net zero emissions by 2050 and the world’s most ambitious climate target of reducing UK emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:

We are determined to tackle climate change and make it win-win for both our planet and our economy. Today’s major cash boost – targeted at our most polluting industries – will encourage the rapid development of the technologies we need to reign in our emissions and transition to a green economy, one that reduces costs for business, boosts investment and create jobs.

Just 6 months ago, the Prime Minister set out a clear 10 Point Plan for creating and supporting up to 250,000 British jobs as we level up and build back greener from the pandemic. Today we’re boosting our armoury for the fight against climate change and backing innovators and businesses to create green jobs right across the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister’s ambitious 10 Point Plan committed to removing 10 megatonnes of carbon dioxide, generating 5GW of hydrogen by 2030, and creating 250,000 green jobs.

Today’s announcement takes the UK closer to delivering on these commitments and includes:

  • £60 million to support the development of low carbon hydrogen in the UK and to identify and scale-up more efficient solutions for making clean hydrogen from water using electricity. This will take the UK one step closer to using low carbon hydrogen in key industries across the UK – from powering transport such as trains and ships to factories and the heating systems in our homes. This funding will help create around 8,000 hydrogen jobs set out in the 10 Point Plan
  • £37.5 million to fund the largest government programme of greenhouse gas removal methods helping cement the UK’s status as a world-leader in this technology. Of this, 24 projects across England and Wales will receive up to £250,000 to fund innovative designs that develop new ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them safely, and a further 5 projects will receive up to £4.5 million each to investigate the viability of adopting greenhouse gas removal methods at scale
  • £20 million to support the development of the next generation carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) technologies so they can be deployed at scale by 2030. This could include funding innovative technologies that widen the suitability of CCUS to a larger range of UK industrial uses such as chemicals and cement, reducing the cost of deploying CCUS and helping industrial waste or power sector companies to capture and store harmful emissions from the source, before they are emitted into the atmosphere
  • £20 million to establish a new virtual Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre that will accelerate the decarbonisation of key energy-intensive industries which currently make a significant contribution to UK emissions. Run by Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, the Centre will bring together new technologies and address the challenges faced by industrial areas, helping to provide solutions that reduce costs, risks and emissions. This centre will connect and empower the UK industrial decarbonisation community with over 140 partners, including industry and business, government and regulatory agencies and world-leading academics, working together to deliver an impactful innovation hub for industrial decarbonisation
  • £16.5 million through the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund to develop new technologies and processes that help energy-intensive sectors cut their emissions, while reducing their energy bills. Projects receiving funding include Tate & Lyle to decarbonise its London sugar refinery and cut emissions by up to 90% and Celsa Manufacturing to install new technologies that improve energy efficiencies in the process to melt scrap metal and produce steel. BAE Systems will also receive funding to install energy efficient technology that could save equivalent annual emissions of around 700 households
  • £8 million for projects to develop innovations, such as repurposing textile waste, new clay production techniques for the ceramics industry and concrete manufacturing that support the rapid recovery and sustainability of UK industry. Projects include developing glazes for fast-fire manufacturing of ceramic tiles made entirely from recycled waste, creating a cost-efficient, low carbon concrete manufacturing solution using waste materials and developing the world’s first, high temperature heat pump that can compete commercially with burning fossil fuels
  • £4.7 million will establish a new Transforming Foundation Industries Research and Innovation Hub. The hub will be led by Cranfield University and will help industries like metals, glass, cement, paper and glass to work together and address their common challenges while accelerating the development and adoption of new technologies and business models. This could include creating new, smart materials and processes that enable cheaper, lower energy and low carbon products

On Wednesday, the newly formed Net Zero Expert Group will meet for the first time. Chaired by the Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, this group was a key commitment set out in the PM’s Ten Point Plan, and brings together an expert group as part of Task Force Net Zero to drive forward net zero targets, providing advice on tackling climate change and helping to develop new polices to support the development of the government’s Net Zero Strategy. This will be published ahead of the UN climate summit COP26 taking place in Glasgow this November.

Challenge Director for UK Research & Innovation’s (UKRI) Industrial Decarbonisation challenge Dr Bryony Livesey said:

The introduction of the Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre concept shows the commitment to not only fund large scale decarbonisation efforts, but to make sure we continually learn from and adapt to their early results and challenges. By enabling the Centre to build evidence on a range of areas from direct costs and emissions to skilled jobs and wider net zero policy, we believe we are creating a more adaptive and responsible path for the UK’s big industry to take to remain at the forefront of a global low carbon culture.

Challenge director of UKRI’s Transforming Foundation Industries challenge Bruce Adderley said:

For the Foundation Industries there are huge benefits to be gained by looking at reducing and re-using waste materials that arise from the creation, processing and use of the products manufactured by these sectors, so it is inspiring to see so many innovations that tackle this challenge head on. The focus these projects bring on greener alternatives, lower emissions, and energy saving, will have an impact across the economy, support the move towards net zero in the UK, and we look forward to helping them bring their innovations to fruition. The research hub also represents a crucial step forward in addressing innovation in these industries, by introducing a more collaborative environment to share knowledge and experiences.

Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer at Heriot-Watt University said:

The role of the Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre will be to consider a wide-range of opportunities and challenges for the industrial sector to decarbonise– starting with the industrial clusters and our joint ambition to deliver the world’s first net zero industrial hubs by 2040. The research and evidence we’ll work through with our academic and industry partners across the UK will not just focus on industry itself, however, but also how it will shape society and economies at both a local and national level. It’s a key part of making sure the UK heads down the most effective path with its decarbonisation efforts and I’m looking forward to starting the journey.

£86 million of the total funding package announced today comes from the government’s £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, which provides funding for low-carbon technologies and systems, helping the UK end its contribution to climate change.

Projects receiving funding include:

  • Professor Christopher Evans, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology is being backed with almost £4.5 million to manage and restore peatlands to maximise their greenhouse gas removal potential at farmland near Doncaster, and at upland sites in the South Pennines and in Pwllpeiran, West Wales. Peatlands store more carbon than any other ecosystem on land, but as a result of human disturbance they are rapidly losing this carbon to the atmosphere. This project will re-create, and where possible enhance, the environmental conditions that lead to peat formation, and to re-establish a secure long-term carbon store in the landscape
  • Celsa Manufacturing, Cardiff, Wales, will receive £3 million to install new technologies to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiencies in the process to melt scrap metal and produce steel. Further, this project could increase domestic scrap processing and production of steel in the UK, reducing the next to import materials from around the world – lowering the country’s carbon footprint
  • Saint-Gobain Glass, Eggborough, North Yorkshire, will receive over £1.4 million to deliver a new flat glass production furnace to improve the efficiency of its UK plant while reducing energy consumption, emissions and on-going maintenance costs. The company has designed a new furnace and production line component replacements that utilise the latest technological advances
  • Tate & Lyle, London, will receive over £500,000 to study how it can decarbonise its sugar refinery and reduce greenhouse gas emission by 90%. The company’s Thames Refinery currently uses boilers fired with natural gas to generate steam and power for its refining operations, which emits carbon dioxide. The aim of the project is to explore new technology that reduces emissions and can also remove carbon from the air that could be deployed at Tate & Lyle’s refinery and also at other sugar refineries around the world
  • Phillips 66 Limited, Humberside, will receive over £500,000 explore switching fuel in its gas refinery’s industrial fired heaters with renewable and low carbon hydrogen. Doing so will help to decarbonise these heaters and significantly reduce emissions, while demonstrating the importance of hydrogen for industrial fuel
  • over £250,000 for a Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology project led by Storegga, owned subsidiary Pale Blue Dot Energy, with technology partner Carbon Engineering (CE), engineering partner Petrofac Facilities Management, and support from the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh. DAC technology has the potential to accelerate UK net zero efforts by capturing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere so it can be stored permanently underground. This project will research and develop an alternative to using natural gas to power the calciner, which is a kiln that operates at high temperatures and a key step in the process. This will enable the system to run on clean energy only, eliminating the current requirement to co-capture the carbon dioxide from natural gas which is used in other systems
  • Scotland’s Rural College alongside partners University of Strathclyde, Agri-EPI Centre and No Pollution Industrial Systems Ltd, is receiving over £200,000 to reduce the environmental impact of beef production. The project aims to capture the greenhouse gas methane from housed cattle and convert it to carbon dioxide and energy using a novel system. At the same time, manure and waste feed will be converted to a fertiliser and biogas that will be used to power farm sheds and produce low-carbon fruits and vegetables. As a result, farmers could improve their profitability, increase their selection of goods to sell and utilise natural resources through more sustainable low-carbon farming that reduces their carbon-footprint
  • BAE Systems, Glascoed, Wales, has been awarded over £82,000 to incorporate energy efficient technology that replaces a steam heating system at the company’s Glascoed site. The project aims to reduce energy consumption and the company’s carbon footprint by up to 25%, saving the equivalent annual emissions of approximately 700 households
  • William Cook Holdings Limited, Sheffield, will benefit from over £38,000 to improve energy efficiency and reduce its environmental footprint by recovering waste heat from its furnaces to produce electricity, among other uses

Westminster must stop Sturgeon’s separatist empire-building – The Spectator

It is so rare to see a Conservative push back against devolution creep that I didn’t believe my eyes at first. Stephen Kerr, newly elected to the Scottish parliament as a list member for Central Scotland,  highlighted this week the £2 million per year the Scottish government spends on a Brussels office with 17 staff members. This crypto-embassy is joined by similar set-ups in Washington DC, Beijing, Dublin, Berlin, Ottawa and Paris. All in, Nicola Sturgeon’s administration is spending just shy of £6 million each year to run these offices and employ almost 40 staffers across them. Kerr says: ‘It’s clear the SNP are doing this to try and boost international support for separation, using taxpayers’ money to do so.’

Now, it’s true these overseas ‘Scottish government offices’ didn’t begin with the SNP. They started under the deservedly forgotten first ministership of Labour’s Henry McLeish. It’s another one of those things set up by Labour that definitely wasn’t going to undermine the Union and help the SNP. Those always work out well. What the SNP has done, however, is aggressively expand the quasi-diplomatic estate established by Labour, something I’ve been banging on about for years. While a separatist-run Scottish government creating an embryonic network of embassies for a future independent state is audacious enough, it is far from the only facet of the SNP’s foreign policy strategy.

Glorified junkets to foreign capitals are stage-managed by the Scottish government as state visits, and dutifully reported as such by much of the Scottish media. Following the Brexit vote, Sturgeon sought meetings with representatives of European governments (sometimes successfully, sometimes less so) to ‘set out Scotland’s perspective on the result of the UK referendum on the EU’. She even delivered a speech at the French parliament in which she pronounced that ‘Scotland and the Scottish government is committed to the European Union’, branded Brexit ‘isolationism’, condemned the UK government as ‘unwilling to recognise the complexity of the vote across the UK’, and talked up independence. This was not Sturgeon firing off some tweets from her personal Twitter account. Holyrood’s First Minister — a minister of the Crown — addressed another country’s parliament in the name of the Scottish government to undermine the policies of the UK government on reserved matters. This brought no censure or sanction.

Westminster’s complacency about such challenges to its authority has only spurred the nationalists on to further power-grabs over reserved matters. Law professor Andrew Tettenborn has noted how the SNP’s recent incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international treaties into Scots law will create potential obligations on the UK that ministers in Whitehall have hitherto avoided by not making them domestic law. The Scottish government is openly pursuing a foreign policy not only independent of that pursued by the UK government but at times directly contradictory to it. A folly begat by Scottish Labour’s diet nationalism (and political vanity) has, with the relentless efforts of the full-fat nationalists, become a serious challenge to Westminster’s sovereignty.

Nor are such challenges limited to foreign policy. When a mob prevented UK Border Force officers from detaining two suspected illegal immigrants in Glasgow earlier this month, Sturgeon branded their actions ‘unacceptable’. The actions of the Home Office, that is, not the mob. ‘To act in this way, in the heart of a Muslim community as they celebrated Eid and in an area experiencing a Covid outbreak was a health and safety risk,’ she opined. Her justice secretary Humza Yousaf said: ‘I abhor Home Office immigration policy at the best of times, but to have taken the action they have today is at best completely reckless, and at worst intended to provoke.’ Yousaf, now health secretary, later agreed with an interviewer that it was proper for him to ‘delegitimise’ the UK rule of law because, he reasoned, ‘I think people look to me for ensuring that I, and the Scottish government, are the voices of justice’.

While it is commendable that Stephen Kerr is pushing back against the Scottish government’s separatist empire-building, it is a dismal state of affairs that it has been left to an MSP, barely five minutes in the door, to do what the UK government should have been doing years ago. Maybe the blame lies with Boris Johnson’s utter terror at having to even think about Scotland, let alone act like the prime minister of the place. Maybe it’s down to Michael Gove, whose love-bombing strategy seems to begin from the assumption that Westminster needs permission from the SNP or the wider Scottish establishment to govern Scotland. Maybe it’s the quality of advisers at Downing Street, some of whose ideas for saving the Union have major 9 a.m.-tutorial-and-not-done-the-reading energy. Whatever the cause, if the UK government wants to keep the ‘UK’ in its name much longer, it might want to start doing some governing.

SNP councillor on Eurovision: ‘We hate the UK too’ – The Spectator

fter the UK finished bottom of Eurovision on Saturday, you might have thought British hopeful James Newman was the big loser of the night. But step forward, Rhiannon Spear, SNP Greater Pollok representative, who managed to embarrass her newly re-elected party with a late night display of classlessness.

The SNP’s national women’s convenor posted: ‘It’s ok Europe we hate the United Kingdom too. Love, Scotland.’ Spear also serves as chair of Glasgow City Council’s education committee, tasked with the development of school curricula and educational attainment of children – what an example she sets them.

Predictably her tweet sparked a social media backlash, with Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr leading the charger over her ‘abhorrent language’ claiming: ‘the mask has again slipped from the SNP and this is another example of their toxic obsession with division’ and adding ‘We should be teaching tolerance and inclusion, not hate and division.’

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And now as sure as night follows day, Spear has deleted the tweet and apologised ‘for any offence caused’ only after her words gained traction online. Steerpike wonders why a party which created the new offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ as recently as March should have so many members obsessed with repeatedly publicising their own hatred of the UK.

Good to see that ‘civic nationalism’ on show once again…

Scotland’s GPs ‘at breaking point’ amid rising Covid workloads – The Scotsman

The BMA survey of 669 GPs also found 88 per cent said they or their staff had been subjected to verbal or physical abusive behaviour from the public in the last month.

Almost two-thirds (65.9 per cent) said the abuse had grown worse since the beginning of the pandemic.

Some 82 per cent said they lacked confidence that plans for NHS recovery would support GPs and 66 per cent said they were considering cutting the number of sessions they work.

Dr Andrew Buist, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, said: “The results of this survey make for extremely difficult – and disappointing – reading.

“GPs in Scotland are at breaking point with ever-increasing workloads. We are still involved with the vaccination programme rollout and staffing Covid assessment centres as well as trying to ensure those patients in our communities with greatest need get the care they require.

“Let’s be clear and absolutely put to bed the damaging myth that GP practices have been closed during the pandemic.

“Yes, we’ve had to clinically assess people differently, but all the evidence suggests that means we are working harder than ever.”

He said there was a shortage of GPs and the need for physical distancing had made consultations more difficult.

Dr Buist continued: “We urgently need reassurance from the Scottish Government that general practice will be adequately supported as we recover from this pandemic.”

Scots Indians accuse Nicola Sturgeon of ‘silly gesture politics’ over Indian variant name change – The Sun

SCOTS Indians have slated the government for “political correctness gone mad” after a deadly new variant of Covid was renamed in case it caused offence.

The double-mutated strain which originated in India has ripped through Glasgow’s southside community causing the city to be placed in Level 3 lockdown limbo.

In a gesture to the Glasgow’s Indian minority communities on Friday Nicola Sturgeon vowed to use the term April-02 instead of “Indian” variant amid concerns the term would offend.

But Neil Lal, president of the Indian Council of Scotland blasted the decision as “silly”and “gesture politics.”

In a scathing rebuttal he told the Sunday Mail: “I’ve not heard from one Indian who has voiced any concern over a Covid strain being called the Indian variant. Not one.

“No one is taking offence to it. It’s an overused term, but it’s political correctness gone mad.

“We’ve certainly not been asked our views on it. We’ve had the Brazilian, South African, Kent and other variants. There’s been no indication any people from these areas have suffered after a strain was named after the region they were from.

“It just looks like gesture politics and empty ones at that. India has bigger problems on its plate than a variant name.

“When I heard about it, I just thought it was very silly.

“This is just playing to the galleries. The facts speak for themselves. People don’t feel stigmatised because a variant developed in India.”

It is feared to be more contagious that the Kent variant that caused the Boxing Day Level 4 shutdown with a ramped up vaccination program underway to combat its spread.

On Friday Humza Yousaf, MSP for Glasgow Pollok and Cabinet Secretary for Health & Social Care said: “There is also a reason why we are calling it the April-02 variant.

“I think it’s so, so important for us not to allow this virus to divide us as communities and people, and I think I would just like to reiterate that message.”

Pollokshields, at the heart of the Glasgow outbreak, was the scene last week of a major protest when the Home Office tried to remove two men targeted in immigration raid.

On Sunday, Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, said some members of Asian minorities had been reluctant to have the jab.

She said: “There are some question marks right now, and there will be more data published in days to come, over the efficacy of the vaccine with the Indian variant.”