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Showing posts with the label Scotland

Poverty

At the end of last year in The Holyrood magazine there were a series of posts asking Scottish based political leaders the question, What’s more important - tackling poverty, tackling inequality or mitigating the impact of poverty?


 Being born poor in order to be exploited as a waged slave,  creating wealth for the enjoyment and luxury of a parasitic economic class, or leading an existence full of poverty both relative and absolute can't fit in with the principle of healthy and meaningful living, can it ?


 In truth, the majority is impoverished. It is impoverished insofar as it has no other option than to sell its working abilities to those who monopolise the means of living and whose conspicuous wealth must irresistibly provide the very yardstick by which that poverty will be starkly exposed.

 This may not only be the poverty of material destitution. But if the measure of a human being consists in the accumulat…

A breath of fresh air (Not)

Since the demise of most of the smoke stack industries in Scotland and elsewhere the, passing of the Clean Air Act 1956 which was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed in response to London's Great Smog of 1952. It was in effect until 1964, and sponsored by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in England and the Department of Health for Scotland.

  The Act introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution, especially by introducing "smoke control areas" in some towns and cities in which only smokeless fuels could be burned. By shifting homes' sources of heat towards cleaner coals, electricity, and gas, it reduced the amount of smoke pollution and sulphur dioxide from household fires. Reinforcing these changes, the Act also included measures to relocate power stations away from cities, and for the height of some chimneys to be increased.

  The Act was an important milestone in the development of a legal framework to protect t…

Soup Kitchen Scotland

The number of people using food banks in Scotland has risen by two-thirds. A total of 117, 689 people - including more than 36,000 children - received a three-day supply of emergency food from the organisation last year. That was a 65% increase on the figures for the previous year.
In 2011, there was one food bank in Scotland operated in partnership with the Trussell Trust. The charity said that as of April 2015, it had 50 food banks in 27 Scottish local authorities. The main reasons behind people being referred to its food banks were due to a benefit delay, low income or a benefit change.
18,000 people in Glasgow using one of its food banks in the financial year from 2014/2015, In Edinburgh, the figure was about 14,000 people and in Fife more than 10,000 required an emergency food supply.
Low income showed the biggest numerical rise, with 24,609 people referred for this reason in 2014/15 compared with 13,552 the previous year, an increase of more than 80%.
Ewan Gurr, Scotland networ…

The Godly Scots

A Freedom of Thought report, published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) criticises Scotland for the religiously privileged position afforded to three “religious representatives” who are required by law to be appointed to all 32 local authority education committees.
These positions require at least one Roman Catholic and one Church of Scotland representative, but non-religious people are excluded. The report also highlighted the disparity of sex and relationships education, and religious education between Roman Catholic faith schools and others in Scotland.
Douglas McLellan, Chief Executive of the Humanist Society Scotland said:  “Many commentators in Scotland still seem unable to mention humanists or atheists without adding the term ‘militant’ or ‘aggressive’. I hope this report will make them reflect on how hurtful that is to the many millions of Scots who wish to lead an ethical and fulfilling life without reference to religion.”

Alienated Lives

Why are Scots sicker than the rest of the UK?

Dr Phil Hanlon and researchers at the Centre for Population Health have compared life, incomes and health outcomes in Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. They found “deprivation profiles” were almost identical, but premature deaths in Glasgow were 30 per cent higher.

This excess mortality ran across almost all ages, males and females and deprived and non-deprived neighbourhoods. It was not, surprisingly, lung cancer, heart and liver disease were not the factors tipping Glaswegians over the UK average.  It was higher levels of drug and alcohol misuse, suicide and death through violence.

Why are some Glaswegians so prone to self-harming and life-shortening behaviours?

Chief Medical Officer Harry Burns cites the work of Aaron Antonovsky, who maintained that a sense of coherence (SOC) is necessary for adult health. The  medical sociologist defined the SOC as “the extent to which one has a feeling of confidence that the stimuli deriving from on…

The Glorious 12th

The grouse season opens.  A week of fishing and stalking in Sutherland's Reay forest estate is being offered for £6,500.

Scotland has the most inequitable land ownership in Europe. More than half of of all privately owned in Scotland is in the hands of 432 people. In Scotland, the largest eight landowners own 908,000 acres or 3.2 per cent of accessible land. 50 individuals own  20 per cent of Scottish land.

 According to the academic and land reformer, Jim Hunter explains "We're now six years into an SNP government which has so far done absolutely nothing legislatively about the fact that Scotland continues to be stuck with the most concentrated, most inequitable, most unreformed and most undemocratic land ownership system in the entire developed world."

Agricultural subsidies and forestry grants are weighted so that the largest farms, owned by the biggest landowners, receive the largest handouts. Such owners can claim five-figure sums a week in subsidies. The lando…

Separate Scotland

The voices of millions of Scots on low and average incomes rarely being heard, according to a report by a leading Scottish think tank. The Jimmy Reid Foundation's report, Not By The People concluded: "Scotland is run by people who pay higher-rate tax and they seek advice on how to run Scotland primarily from other people who pay higher-rate tax."

 Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teachers' union, said "This report describes a Scotland of two peoples; one runs the country, the other just lives here... Democracy is about more than simply voting twice a decade."

Although only 13% of Scots have incomes above £34,000, this group accounted for 67% of those giving evidence to committees and 71% of all appointments to public bodies.

In contrast, the 70% of Scots with incomes below the average salary of £24,500 accounted for 11% of public-sector appointments and just 3% of committee witnesses between 2007 and 2012.

The Foundation said it had deliberately er…

We need a need-based health service

The NHS is failing to provide needs-based care in areas of blanket deprivation, GPs working in Scotland's poorest areas will tell MSPs. The GPs from The Deep End group, which represents 100 practices in the poorest parts of the country are expected to warn that the health service's approach is a "recipe for widening health inequality" when they appear before the Public Audit Committee.

The report warned that the distribution of GPs in Scotland does not reflect the higher levels of poor health and greater need in poorer areas and that "deep-seated inequalities remain between the least and most deprived communities" despite research showing higher rates of multimorbidity (more than one chronic medical condition) in patients from the most deprived areas.

This, combined with "dysfunctional links between general practice and other parts of the NHS", is "a partial explanation of 20 years of failure in addressing inequalities in health. The GPs calle…

Buying Scotland

Billionaire Danish fashion magnate, Anders Holch Povlsen, has become the second-largest private landowner in Britain with the purchase of the 20,000 acre Gaick estate in Inverness-shire.

 Povlsen already owns the Glenfeshie, Ben Loyal and Kinloch estates, has increased the 43-year-old's land portfolio in Scotland to around 150,000 acres. It is second only to that of the Buccleuch Estates, with an estimated 280,000 acres. He has been criticised in some quarters for mounting a "land grab" of Scotland to take advantage of farming subsidies.

Rob Gibson MSP, a member of the Scottish Government's Land Reform Review Group, told The Herald:"It will be interesting to see what plans this gentleman has in terms of biodiversity and the local community. Some estates are used as private kingdoms by their owners..."

Povlsen, whose family owns Bestseller, the Danish fashion company that last year had a turnover of £2bn, also has substantial farming interests in h…

The Scottish Propertarian Party

Another party of confusion has been added to the Scottish political arena - the Scottish Libertarian Party (see website)  which declares that the ownership of property is a requirement for human existence and therefore a right, which advocates the abolition of all taxes on business and a free trade policy with a return to the gold standard amongst its policies. Fairly standard stuff of the Right. But genuine libertarians are vehemently anti-capitalist. How easy it is to fall into the  trap of accepting re-definition of words. Check out the history of the political meaning of "Libertarian" here 

The Scottish Libertarian Party is NOT  libertarian, no matter how often they make the claim. To be clear and to use the correct terminology they are a propertarian party. Right-"libertarians" are not interested in eliminating capitalist private property nor the authority, oppression and exploitation which goes with it. They make an idol of private property and claim to defe…

Scotland and the Spanish Civil War

Steve Fullarton, Scotland's last surviving veteran of the International Brigade passed away at 87 in May 2008. The last Scottish veteran of Spanish Civil War, 99 yr old Thomas Watters, an ex-Glasgow bus driver who went to Spain with the Scottish Ambulance Unit died in February 2012. We, the working class, should always remember our history. But the heroism of individual members of the working class is not always enough. The Spanish civil war involved bravery and  imagination mixed with calculated cruelty, murder, mayhem and, not a few times, stupidity.

In the 30s fascism had already made huge advances in Europe with dictators established both in Germany and Italy. A demonstration in Hyde Park in London by the British Union of Fascists in November 1936  was attended by some 100,000 people. The BUF were controlled in Scotland by William Chalmers-Hunter of Tillery, which was a country house just outside the village of Udny.

On July 18 1936, right wing nationalist forces attempted to…

Darien - Ships of fools?

In 1632 Scotland lost Nova Scotia – her only colony – as a result of the English war against France. England’s Dutch wars subsequently compromised valuable trading privileges upon which Scottish merchants had previously relied. Scottish overseas trading activity was further hampered by the Navigation Act, which cut Scottish ships out of international trade by forbidding the import of goods into England or her colonies unless carried in English ships or ships from the goods’ country of origin. Beginning in 1651, the goal of the Act was to force colonial development into lines favourable to England, and stop direct colonial trade with the Netherlands, France, Scotland and Spain. This law was enacted despite the Union of Crowns, and effectively meant that Scots merchants were boycotted for trade in England and all her colonies. To make matters worse two powerful English trading companies – the East India Company and the Royal African Company – claimed monopolies on the rich trades with t…

Blast from the Past

Bill Knox, a one time member of Edinburgh branch of the SPGB,  produces some interesting facts from the 19th and early 20thcentury

The Inequality

In Scotland in 1867 by 10% of the population received over 50% of national income. Those in the top 1% of income earners annually received 200 times more than the bottom 30%. Some of these men were fabulously rich, with industrialists such as ironmaster James Baird leaving an estate worth £1,190,868 on his death in 1876. The uneven distribution of wealth is also shown in the fact that only 12% of Scots had estates worth making a will for in 1881, and that the yearly wage for a well-paid skilled worker, such as a compositor, only amounted to £78 in 1880. The skilled worker would have had to have worked for over 15,000 years before he could have earned what Baird left on his death.
The super-rich were followed by the substantial middle classes whose average annual income was around £145 in 1867. They enjoyed a lifestyle which revolved around wo…