FAILING AND DELAYED procurement projects are burning a very big hole in Scottish taxpayers’ pockets – SNP ministers can’t seem to stop themselves from scuppering contracts they oversee themselves.

The scandal of the CalMac ferry contract is a good example. In 2015 the SNP chose the highest bidder, the shipyard Ferguson Marine, to build two ferries. Constriction began before design was completed and six years later the ferries are still not complete and a £97 million contract is now expected to cost at least £230 million.

The £840 million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, which eventually opened in 2015, was another SNP procurement disaster, with sewage leaking into operating theatres and a series of other dangerous contamination problems. At least four people died as a consequence. Infections caused by pigeon droppings spreading through contaminated air vents caused the deaths of two patients. Staff had raised concerns about safety but were ignored. For example, in 2014, before the hospital opened, a consultant microbiologist raised issues in writing but was told, “you’re new to Glasgow, but here we don’t put things in writing because of inquiries and things.” The SNP has since been forced to appoint a public inquiry but these take time and will not report until well after the May 2021 elections.

Other procurement disasters include the saga of the sick children’s hospital in Little France, Edinburgh, which was originally due to open in 2012, but only opened at the end of March after incessant delays over the last decade. It was originally meant to cost £150 million, but faults in the air conditioning and drainage systems not only delayed opening, but added a further £90 million to the bill while it lay empty.  An inquiry into the repeated failure of the Edinburgh hospital is due to begin in September 2021.

The U.S. National Intelligence Council has released the seventh edition of its quadrennial report ‘Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World’.

The report is an unclassified assessment of the forces and dynamics that the NIC anticipates are likely to shape the national security environment over the next 20 years.

“States will face a combination of highly destructive and precise conventional and strategic weapons, cyber activity targeting civilian and military infrastructure, and a confusing disinformation environment. Regional actors, including spoilers such as Iran and North Korea, will jockey to advance their goals and interests, bringing more volatility and uncertainty to the system.”

As for ‘other major powers’ besides the USA and China, the report says that Russia is ‘likely to remain a disruptive power’; while the UK is ‘likely to continue to punch above its weight internationally given its strong military and financial sector and its global focus.

“The United Kingdom is likely to continue to punch above its weight internationally given its strong military and financial sector and its global focus. The United Kingdom’s nuclear capabilities and permanent UN Security Council membership add to its global influence. Managing the economic and political challenges posed by its departure from the EU will be the country’s key challenge; failure could lead to a splintering of the United Kingdom and leave it struggling to maintain its global power.”

NHS Lothian has been shown to have one of the worst A&E waiting times in the country, according to new research.

The health board was ranked as having the third longest wait to be seen in hospital, alongside NHS Borders and NHS Ayrshire and Arran.

The new data comes despite the fact that accident and Emergency (A&E) attendances have plummeted to the second-lowest level recorded.

A total of 80,423 patients visited a Scottish A&E department in February, 47,918 fewer than the same month last year – before coronavirus was discovered in Scotland.

However, despite the low attendance rates, thousands of people still had to wait longer than four hours to be seen, with NHS Lothian only managing to see 81.8 per cent of patients within this time.

The only areas where this rate was worse was in NHS Borders, where only 74.7 per cent of patients were seen, and in NHS Ayrshire and Arran, where 81.1 per cent were seen.

Meanwhile, 98.2 per cent of patients were seen within four hours in Shetland, followed by Tayside and the Western Isles (both 96. per cent.

Asked about the latest figures at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “Our increasing focus now is on remobilising and recovering the NHS to start to bring down the waiting times and the backlogs that have been created by Covid.”

Glasgow’s £2million wage bill for 16 senior council workers

Almost £2million was paid in wages to just 16 senior Glasgow City Council workers. Chief Executive Annemarie O’Donnell earned an annual salary of £182,161, closely followed by three of her executive directors, Maureen McKenna (education), George Gillespie (land and environment) and Richard Brown (development and regeneration) – each on £142,862 a year.

Scottish politicians should focus their attention on the transition to renewable energy if they are to raise the growth rate, a report has said.

A study of low growth in output and productivity has found economic policy lacks focus and can be too complex.

It forecasts Scotland is on course to see a widening gap with countries such as Norway, the scale of which compares to the entire global output of Google.

However, renewable energy is an area where there could be an advantage.

It says the government could focus its industrial policy to supporting the renewable sector, though at a cost to other priorities.

The report, by the Oxford Economics consultancy, states: “It is not implausible to suggest that there are business opportunities that resemble those that generated Silicon Valley, several decades ago.”

The study says that tax policy – controlled at both Westminster and Holyrood – fails to encourage work, savings or investment.

It suggests major changes to the way the tax system is structured, using a broader range of taxes to spread the burden, saying “fundamental rather than piecemeal reform is needed”.

The report was commissioned from Oxford Economics by the foundation set up by Sir Tom Hunter, the Ayrshire-based entrepreneur and philanthropist.

He says the current election campaign features good ideas for spending more, but little focus on how to make more money.

There are no moral victories at the ballot box and no consolation prizes. The losing side sometimes tells itself otherwise to cushion the blow of another rejection. Neil Kinnock is said to have won ‘the battle of the campaigns’ in 1987, because his ground operation was savvier and his presentation slicker, but come election night Mrs Thatcher was returned for the third time in a row with another landslide majority. Democracy is not a morality play, it is cold, hard numbers.

The cold, hard numbers tell us that the SNP won more than double the constituency vote of the Conservatives and Labour in 2016. For the Tories to become the largest party after May 6, they would have to hold on to every seat they took last time then take a further 17 from the SNP. To say this is a prospect not entertained by current polling would be an understatement.

No political party is entitled to win an election but oftentimes governments deserve to lose them. No government in the devolved era has deserved to lose quite as thoroughly as this one.

Nicola Sturgeon’s response to Covid-19 has been spun as a triumph but when the lights go down on her daily BBC Scotland slot, the facts remain the same. As of last week, Scotland has a higher infection rate than England or Wales and a higher daily mortality count than any other part of the UK. The UK Government has serious questions to answer over its handling of the pandemic but at least it gets asked them. The SNP has been underscrutinised for its lack of preparedness ahead of the pandemic and its management in the early weeks and months of the crisis.

Health chiefs warned during a 2016 pandemic planning exercise that there were ‘significant business-as-usual staff shortages, making stepping up in an emergency even more challenging’. Internal emails have also shown that the Scottish Government was aware of shortages in PPE supply before the pandemic hit. In the event, hospital staff were issued with expired equipment, including out-of-date respirators.

Nicola Sturgeon deserves to lose

(https://thecritic.co.uk/issues/april-2021/how-to-scotch-independence/)

If the Scottish National Party does well enough in the elections on 6 May, the UK Supreme Court may soon become the focus of public attention once again. At stake will be nothing less than the future of the United Kingdom. The SNP is committed to holding a second referendum on independence for Scotland. The 2014 vote — which rejected independence by 55 to 45 per cent — had the blessing of the UK government. This one will not.

Unlike its Westminster progenitor, the Scottish parliament has limited powers. Any act of the Scottish parliament that “relates to” the “Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England” is outside its legislative competence. That’s one of a number of matters that were reserved to UK legislators by the Scotland Act 1998.

How, then, was an independence referendum possible? Section 30 of the act allows the Westminster government to modify reserved functions. Ministers simply made a temporary order allowing Scotland to vote in 2014. Well, say the SNP, we’d like another of those section 30 orders, please. And if Boris Johnson refuses? We’ll pass the legislation anyway — and dare you to challenge it.

That’s where the Supreme Court comes in. Whenever the Scottish parliament passes legislation, the attorney general has four weeks to ask the court whether it was within the legislature’s competence. The Supremes are surely bound to conclude that — in the absence of a section 30 order — Scottish legislation authorising an independence referendum is of no effect.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have committed to help provide mental health first aiders for every workplace to help tackle the mental health crisis.

At an election campaign stop in Edinburgh, party leader Willie Rennie said adults regularly waited up to two years for mental health treatment.

This delay had a “huge personal cost” for those affected and employers lost working days to mental health, he said.

The party called for training for mental health first aiders to restart.

In February, the Scottish parliament officially recognised there was a mental health crisis in the country following a Holyrood debate brought by the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Rennie said training for both new mental health first aiders and instructors by Public Health Scotland had been suspended during the pandemic, unlike in England where training switched to a virtual classroom.

THE SNP ARGUES CONSTANTLY that Tory austerity imposed by an overbearing Westminster government is an evil that strongly affects Scotland. The reality is the SNP leadership has imposed more widespread and extremely damaging cuts than ever considered in Westminster.

Local councils are amongst the worst-affected by a slew of cuts inflicted by the SNP since its politicians came to power. Glasgow has suffered a real-term reduction in local authority spending of £233 per Glaswegian resident from 2014-2019, a fall of 11 per cent. Glasgow City Council has reported a funding gap of £12.2 million for next year. South Lanarkshire Council will in 2021 miss out on £53 million.

Unfortunately, SNP-controlled councils refuse to fight back. They instead toe the party line, endorse every new cut from Sturgeon in Edinburgh, and endlessly express gratitude for any small funds that are promised by central government.

The Scottish government’s funding per person is almost 30% higher than the English equivalent, a leading economic research group has said.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said this was mostly due to the Barnett Formula.

It also found the Scottish government had used temporary coronavirus funding to pay for some permanent policies.

But excluding pandemic funding, the IFS said Scotland has 2% less spending per person in 2021-22 compared to 2010-11.

The findings were published in the IFS’s first briefing note ahead of the Holyrood election, focusing on how funding has changed in recent years.

A large chunk of the Scottish budget comes from the block grant – a share of the UK-wide budget as calculated via the Barnett Formula – but tax revenues raised in Scotland have played an increasingly large role in recent years.

Scottish income tax will contribute 27% and other Scottish taxes 5.5%, with borrowing contributing the remaining 0.5%.

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