Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 331

Issue # 331                                                 Week ending 16th  January 2016

They Run Buses But Can Our Councillors Fly Our Planes? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

More than 40 years ago, a popular beat combo called Typically Tropical burst onto the music scene with a song about flying with Coconut Airways. Woh, I Am Going to Barbados was an incredibly catchy wee ditty which brought a little bit of sun, sand and something else even to the rain-lashed streets of Stornoway back in 1975.

At the beginning of the song, Captain Tobias Willcock welcomed us aboard the flight to Bridgetown. Of course there was no such airline as Coconut Airways. They made it up to add to the holiday island atmosphere. The name chimed with many people and there is now an actual company called Coconut Airways. Well, it’s a actually a flying school but the name lives on, as do those lyrics:

Far away from London Town, and the rain
It’s really very nice to be, home again.
Mary Jane met the Coconut airplane.
Now I know, she loves me so ...
Woh, I’m going to Barbados.


Decades later, community leaders on another chain of sparkling island jewels are contemplating setting up their own airline. It’s also far away from London Town and, er, that’s it. The transport bosses at Western Isles Council - or as we  call it - the comhairle, are not happy with the punctuality of Loganair. They’re thinking of putting on their own service.

If our islands council does try and create its own airline, you can be sure that Loganair, which calls itself Scotland’s Airline, will not give in very easily. It could mean an almighty air war over the Minch. Not since air maverick Freddie Laker tried to take on the big boys, long before Virgin and Ryanair, will there be such a dogfight. The council will have to promote it properly to persuade us that it is worth switching.

They would have to be decent aircraft and the cabin staff would have to be slick and professional. Penny-pinching Loganair has scrapped the free drams so a gratis tot of Abhainn Dearg malt whisky from Uig or a generous driblette of Harris Gin from the Tarbert distillery would lure many people. “Thank you for flying Comhairle Airways today. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

Despite the temptation, I don’t think they should call it Comhairle Airways. Comhairle sounds too much like coconut. Do you see what I mean? How long would it be before people started taking the mickey and chant:

Mary Jane met the Comhairle airplane.
Now I know, she loves me so.
Woh, I’m going to Benbecula ...


That could work. But will the council be able to hire people with the right sorts of skills to be polite and efficient cabin staff? That is the big question.

An island businessman tried to squeeze his tightly-packed bags into the overhead lockers on the flight to Stornoway. The hostess said she would have to check his oversized luggage. “When I fly other airlines,” he snapped, “I never have this problem.” She smiled and said softly: “Sir, when you fly with other airlines I don’t have this problem either.”

They could make it policy that all Gaelic singers must sit together in the rear of the aircraft. No Mod winner has ever refused to sing on request - especially when a wee dram is inside him or her. That would be the in-flight entertainment sorted at no cost. You know, I want commission for these ideas.

Punctuality aside, the council will have to go above and beyond with customer service. The problem is that councils are run by committees and they are a mish-mash of people with widely differing opinions and agendas. They worry interminably about budgets. Everything is about budgets. Private companies are different and while directors can offer their opinions, it’s what the chief executive decides that is actually done.

Maybe the council could take a few ideas from the churches. For instance, when you go into a service, you will be expected to contribute to the expenses by putting some of your hard-earned in the collection. How much you put in is up to you. So maybe they could do that with their new air service. A sort of mile-high honesty box, if you like.

Then when you board, you may hear: “Captain Angus Campbell and the crew welcome you aboard this Eilean Air flight from Stornoway to Glasgow. Passengers should note that fares on this flight are a free will offering. Cabin crew councillors Catriona Stewart and Catherine Macdonald will be round shortly with refreshments and the collecting tins. Please note this plane will not land until the budget is met.”

Scientists Warn Climate Changes Means Wild Weather in Scotland is the 'New Normal'
The record-breaking rainfall and devastating floods that have drenched Scotland over the last few weeks are the “new normal” – and they could force some communities to abandon built-up areas and move to higher ground.  Experts warn that we will have to get used to more winters like this one, as climate pollution from vehicles and industry warms the globe and wreaks havoc with the weather. Without action to curb carbon emissions, they say, it is likely to get much worse. “There is no natural weather any more,” declared Professor James Curran, the former chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and a leading climate expert. “The world is now warmer by one degree centigrade than it would be without climate change – so there is no weather anywhere, at any time, that isn’t man-made these days.”  It was wasting time to endlessly debate to what extent the current bad weather was caused by climate pollution, he argued. After last month’s climate summit in Paris, the priority was to tackle the problem.  “It’s been long predicted and is almost certain now that, whatever we do, flooding both from the sea and from rivers will become more severe and at least twice as frequent by 2100,” he said.  He urged decision-makers to look urgently at how we manage our hills, forests, moors, wetlands, fields and flood plains. “The last resort should be to build concrete walls but they’ll be necessary as well - although, eventually, we may also need to abandon some built-up areas and relocate.”  What most worries Curran is the summertime melting of the Greenland icecap, which creates a big north-south temperature difference in the Atlantic to the west of Scotland. “This creates and drives ever more powerful storms onto our shores – producing gales and driving rain,” he said. “It’s no coincidence that we’ve moved from prodigious flooding straight into sleet and snow,” he added. “Our weather is getting increasingly variable and severe.”  Many scientists now agree that global warming is at least partly to blame for the floods – something that they wouldn’t have said a few years ago. They point out that warmer air holds more moisture, which then falls as rain.  The point was forcibly made yesterday by Professor Alan Jenkins, deputy director of the UK’s leading flood research body, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. “We are absolutely convinced that there is weighty scientific evidence that the recent extreme rainfall has been impacted by climate change,” he said.  A study by researchers at the University of Oxford analysed links between global warming and storm Desmond in December. It concluded that heavy rain is now 40 per cent more likely than it was in the past. According to Simon Tett, professor of earth system dynamics at the University of Edinburgh, said changes are happening faster than anticipated. “We have long expected winters in the northern hemisphere to be wetter, and for rainfall to be more intense,” he said.  “As humans have increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and warmed the planet, rainfall amount and intensity have, indeed, increased - and by more than we predicted.”  Tett thinks there’s been an important change since the start of the millennium. “My impression is that there has been a significant shift since 2000, and we now have a new UK climate, a new normal.  “I worry this means more rain and an increased risk of floods for many communities in Scotland. That is something which the Scottish Government should respond too.”  December was by far the wettest Scotland has seen since records began over a century ago in 1910, with more than twice the average amount of rain. Some 50 of the river gauges run by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for decades measured record levels.  Environmental groups warned that this was just the start, unless the world got serious about cutting climate pollution. “The scale of flood-related damage we've just witnessed will pale into insignificance when compared to the devastation that we can expect in the future if we fail to properly address climate change,” said Lang Banks, the director of WWF Scotland.

Indyref Enemies Join Forces for EU Referendum
During the last referendum, they were so far apart they were almost in different time zones. As the SNP’s veteran spin doctor and a former adviser to Alex Salmond, Kevin Pringle helped mastermind the key messages of the Yes campaign.  While as political coordinator of Better Together, Labour MP Frank Roy was brought in to repair the struggling Unionist operation. But in the next referendum - this time on the EU - the two men will work side-by-side.  The political odd couple will head up the Scottish operation of Britain Stronger in Europe, one of the campaigns urging voters to stick with the EU in the looming in-out referendum.  Acknowledging the pair’s past differences, Pringle said a successful In campaign could also help “bridge the divide of the independence referendum” for Scotland as a whole.  Roy, who lost his Motherwell & Wishaw seat to the SNP in the general election, will be the ‘Stronger In’ campaign director for Scotland.  Stronger In has also hired the PR consultancy Charlotte Street Partners to provide “communications support”, with Pringle, who moved from the SNP to the firm in August, taking the lead on the account.  Stronger In will also announce an advisory group in the coming weeks. Executive Director Will Straw, son of former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw, said: “Frank and Kevin have both served their different parties well, and I believe will serve Scotland as a whole well by working together in an inclusive Stronger In campaign.  We are stronger, safer and better off in Europe, and Scotland has an important role to play in helping to achieve that outcome, whenever David Cameron calls the referendum.”  Pringle said: “In the independence referendum, both the Yes and No campaigns stressed the importance of European membership, and therefore we can bring people together in Scotland on what is a widely shared position of wanting to keep the benefits of remaining in the EU.  “Indeed, a successful In campaign can be an important element in helping to bridge the divide of the independence referendum.” Roy added: “Just as there are powerful business and economic reasons to keep our EU membership, social Europe initiatives have safeguarded rights for working people that I also believe most people in Scotland and across the UK want to keep.”  Theresa Villiers, the Eurosceptic Northern Ireland secretary, was yesterday urged to resign if she campaigns for an Out vote, amid claims a Brexit could damage the peace process.  With the EU giving £950m to Northern Ireland since 1995 to fund peace-building programmes, LibDem MEP Catherine Bearder said it would be “highly inappropriate” for Villiers to remain in post while advocating withdrawal from the EU.

Bumper Year for Renewable Energy in Scotland
Scottish wind and solar power experienced a bumper year in 2015 with record breaking wind output generating enough electricity for almost all of the country's homes.  WWF Scotland also claimed that in the tens of thousands of households with solar panels, half or more of their electricity or hot water was met from the sun for most of the year.  The charity, who have analysed data from monitor WeatherEnergy, said the figures show last year was "huge" for green energy.  WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "Without doubt, 2015 was a huge year for renewables, with wind turbines and solar panels helping to ensure millions of tonnes of climate-damaging carbon emissions were avoided.  With 2016 being a critical year politically, we’d like to see each of the political parties back policies that would enable Scotland become the EU's first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030."  The data shows that, on average, wind power generated enough to supply the electrical needs of 97 per cent of Scottish homes - or the equivalent of 41 per cent of Scotland’s entire electricity needs for the year.  A record December also meant turbines produced enough power to supply more than 100 per cent of Scottish households on all but two days that month.  Mr Banks added: "December will be rightly remembered for the damage done by the extreme weather, so it won’t surprise many to learn it also turned out to be a record-breaking month for wind power output.  For 2015 as a whole, thanks to an increase in installed capacity, overall wind power output broke all previous records and was up by almost a fifth year-on-year."  The figures have been welcomed by the Scottish Government, who have pledged that all of Scotland's electricity will be provided by renewable energy by 2020.  Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: "I welcome this analysis from WWF Scotland which highlights that 2015 was a very good year for renewable energy in Scotland. Scotland’s renewables sector is stronger than ever and our early adoption of clean, green energy technology and infrastructure was the right thing to do.  Renewables are now Scotland’s biggest electricity generator with nearly half of gross electricity consumption coming from renewables." Referring to the UK Government's decision to cut subsidies for onshore windfarms, he added: "Despite damaging policy changes from the UK Government, we will continue to harness – and bolster – Scotland’s renewables potential, both in generation and infrastructure. Devolved administrations, like the Scottish Government, will be strong drivers of a progressive climate agenda. A low carbon economy is more than just a practical way forward – green energy plays a crucial role in the security of Scotland’s energy supply."  For homes fitted with solar PV panels, there was enough sunshine in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow or Inverness during April and May to generate an estimated 100 per cent or more of the electricity needs of an average home.  While for properties with solar hot water panels, there was enough sunshine in the same cities in May to generate an estimated 100% of the hot water needs of an average home.  Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy said: "Despite misconceptions, Scotland has massive potential for using solar power. The data clearly shows that there’s plenty of sunshine to meet a significant proportion of an average family’s electricity needs for the majority of months of the year.  With hundreds of thousands of household roofs, it would not take much to tap more of the sun’s power."

Plastic Bag Use Plummets in Caithness Stores
Supermarkets in Caithness have reported the number of plastic bags which are being used by its customers has dropped by at least 75 per cent since the five pence charge was introduced. Tesco stores in Thurso and Wick have both seen dramatic decreases with customers increasingly coming with their own bags.  The five pence charge for plastic bags came into force in October 2014 which, according to the Scottish government, has resulted in a reduction of 650 million bags in Scotland.  Tesco Thurso store manager Ryan Maclean said the charge has had a major impact.  “Its fair to say we have seen a significant drop in the use of the five pence bags since the introduction of the charge,” he said.  “We have run various campaigns since its launch to encourage people to re-use their carrier bags or to use bags for life.  We also provide boxes which is of benefit to many of our customers.  It would be impossible to put a precise figure on the drop in bags we provide but it would be in the region of 75 per cent less.”

Scottish Government Announces £12million Fund to Help Flood Victims
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has today announced £12million of funding to help areas worst hit by the recent flooding.  The First Minister made the announcement during a visit to Inverurie – one of the areas worst hit by the floods – and, as well as announcing the budget, Sturgeon also praised communities across the north-east for pulling together in wake of the flood devastation. Every home directly affected by the flooding will be eligible for a £1,500 grant as part of a £5.8 million budget to support households and business properties.  Within the budget, £2million has been allocated for Aberdeenshire, with a further £500,000 for Aberdeen city.  Local authorities which have suffered the most damage as a result of the flooding have been allocated a share of the fund, however, people in any part of Scotland who have suffered flood damage as a result of the severe weather can apply for a grant, with Scottish Government meeting the cost.  In addition to flood relief support, businesses whose ability to trade has been severely affected by flooding will be able to apply for an additional grant of £3,000.  Extra capital funding of up to £5 million will also be made available to local authorities to replace infrastructure severely damaged by flood waters – including support for the reinstatement of the A93 between Ballater and Braemar. An Agricultural Floodbank Restoration Grant Scheme of up to £1 million will also be made available to the farming community to seek financial support to restore damaged floodbanks and discussions will continue next week with the industry as to how government can support them through severe weather.

David Mundell: Scots Poised for ‘Holyrood 2.0’ in 2016
The Scottish Parliament will undergo a “reboot” in 2016 with new powers over tax and welfare poised to bring about the biggest overhaul in the way Scotland is governed since devolution, according to Scottish Secretary David Mundell.  The UK cabinet minister will use a keynote speech to hail the changes as “transformational” and urge Scotland’s political parties to set out how they will use the new powers to improve the lives of Scots ahead of the Holyrood election in May.  Labour leader Kezia Dugdale will reaffirm plans to raise taxes for the high earners in a separate address today, as she warns that the enhanced powers coming to Holyrood will “change the political debate in Scotland.”  Mr Mundell  described 2016 as “the year of a new Scottish Parliament” as he attempts to set out the scale of the changes in Scotland’s governance during an address in Edinburgh. “It’s going to be the biggest shift of power in the history of the UK,” a source close to Mr Mundell said. “This is going to be transformational and almost as big a change in the way Scotland is governed as introduction of the Parliament in 1999.”  Mr Mundell’s intervention marks the start of a public awareness raising drive by the by UK Government.  “The political parties need to start being a but more upfront with the public about the scale of the change, but also what they will do with the new powers – not just in a theoretical sense but what they will do to help people throughout their lives and increase their life changes,” the source added.  The incoming Scottish Government will take control over income tax rates and bands in the next few years under the package of powers being handed to Holyrood as part of the post-referendum Smith Commission package. This could allow ministers to tax high-earners, which Labour has already pledged to do. Nicola Sturgeon has indicated she could back this, but the Tories are committed to keeping taxes in line with the UK level.  The new welfare powers have been a source of contention with Nationalist’s insisting they don’t go far enough. But Mr Mundell insisted MSPs will have powers to create programmes which will help some of the “hardest people to reach” to get back into work.  “It will be a very different Parliament with a very different job to do when you compare it to its predecessors,” the source added. “It’s almost like a reboot of Holyrood – or Holyrood 2.0 if you like.”  But a spokesman for the Scottish Government said it is a “premature” for Mr Mundell to call on parties how they will use the powers proposed in the Scotland Bill, because final negotiations are still being carried out on the fiscal framework which underpins the financial powers.  Mr Mundell cannot just sweep these issues under the carpet,” the spokesman said. The Scottish Parliament should not give consent to any further powers being devolved without an agreed fiscal framework that is fair for Scotland.”

Archaeologists Solve the Royal Mile Riddle of James Vi’s Feast
Remains of a kitchen used to prepare a lavish 16th century royal banquet have been uncovered hidden by the wall of a former ladies’ toilet in one of the oldest buildings on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.  Archaeologists have made the remarkable discovery inside one of the city’s least-known historic treasures, which thousands of tourists traipse past each day.  The vast fireplace and an oven where bread and cakes would have been made have been found during an extensive survey of Riddle’s Court, a rare courtyard house with links to the town planner Patrick Geddes, philosopher David Hume, comic Stephen Fry, actress Dame Maggie Smith and Sir John Clerk, one of the key architects of the 1707 Act of Union. The new evidence of the feast prepared in honour of Scottish monarch James VI, his Danish wife Anne and her visiting brother-in-law, the Duke of Holstein, was found ahead of work to transform the building into a new seat of 21st century learning.  They have also uncovered a series of painted roof beams dating back to the late 16th century, when the building was built by John MacMorran, one of the city’s wealthiest merchant burgesses, who was later shot dead by a schoolboy.  The new evidence appears to show that the dinner was held in two different chambers, rather than one as had been previously thought.  It was held there as the town council did not then have a grand enough venue for such occasions. Records show that five gallons of wine were ordered for the event. It is hoped the ongoing archaeological survey will shed new light on more than 400 years of history since the earliest parts of Riddle’s Court, which was to become home to many members of the aristocracy and merchant class in Edinburgh, were created in 1590.  The building is named after George Riddell, a wealthy tradesman, who reconstructed part of the building facing into the Lawnmarket in the early 18th century, before David Hume moved in.  It was acquired by Patrick Geddes, one of the key figures involved in the late-19th century revival of the Old Town, and became part of University Hall, the city’s first halls of residence for students.  Dr Mike Cressey, from CFA Archaeology, which has been leading the ongoing survey of Riddle’s Court, said: “We found the fireplace behind the back wall of a couple of cubicles in the ladies’ toilets.  There was actually a fireplace marked on a very early plan on the building, but we really didn’t expect to find anything like we did.  We have effectively found a big kitchen range from the 16th century, including the oven, which would have been lined with fire bricks and would have been heated up before the main fire was lit. There’s also a cupboard on the other side of the kitchen where salt would have been stored to ensure it was kept dry.” Audrey Dakin, senior project officer at the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT), said the hidden kitchen had been buried beneath tonnes of rubble which was gradually removed to reveal the 16th century remains.  She said: “We moved into the building in 2011 and have done a lot of research to learn about the building and how it has functioned over the years.  We are coming to understand a lot more about the development of Riddle’s Court, which has changed a lot over time and it has also changed its purpose quite a lot.  The great and the good of Edinburgh lived in this courtyard right through from when it was built until they started to move away when the New Town began to be built.” Riddle’s Court was taken over by the city council in 1947 and was latterly used for adult education classes and as offices, until it was declared surplus to requirements eight years ago, by which time it was lying virtually unused.  However, the prospect of it falling into private hands was averted after the council agreed to lease it to the SHBT, which hopes to open it to the public next year after a £6 million overhaul to turn it into a learning centre, cultural venue and visitor attraction.  Modern spaces for courses, workshops and events will be created, along with offices, -exhibition galleries, a cafe-bar, a Patrick Geddes Library and a residential flat for visiting scholars and academics.  Una Richards, director of the SHBT, added: “Riddle’s Court is one of the most exciting projects we have undertaken in our 35-year history of finding new uses for derelict and redundant buildings in the heart of communities throughout Scotland. To succeed takes a lot of hard work, determination and funding which we raise from public bodies, private trusts and individuals who care about our heritage and the built environment.”

Millions Are Being Left "Confused" by Bungling Government Over Pensions
Millions of people may be planning their retirements on wrong information after "bungling" by the UK Government, according to a new report.  Officials have been accused of sending out inadequate and 'confusing' information to people about their state pensions and how much they are worth.  Women are particularly vulnerable to problems as their retirement ages are being brought into line with those of men, claim MPs.  The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has raised the alarm in an interim report on the New State Pension (NSP), which replaces the basic and additional state pensions from April. The MPs said the situation was so "urgent" that they could not wait for the full inquiry to be completed before speaking out. "The Government is right to want people to engage more with their pensions. Central to achieving this is making pensions more approachable," the report said.  "At a crucial time of reform to the state pension and the state pension age, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) statements are insufficiently clear.  This lack of clarity increases the chances that people misunderstand the value of their state pension or the age from which they will receive it. In turn, this increases the chances that they will not best plan for retirement."  The committee called for statements to be on a single page, with key messages highlighted in boxes to ensure they stand out clearly. The documents should clearly declare the current value of state pension built up, the age at which people will be eligible to receive the income, and how they can build up extra entitlement. Committee chairman Frank Field said: "Successive governments have bungled the fundamental duty to tell women of these major changes to when they can expect their state pension. Retirement expectations have been smashed as some women have only been told a couple of years before the date they expected to retire that no such retirement pension is now available.

Anger As Mundell Rejects Consensus and Blocks Plan to Keep International Talent in Scotland
Plans to allow skilled student migrants to remain in Scotland after graduating have been torpedoed by the UK Westminster Government despite widespread backing for the move. SNP ministers, universities and businesses have called for the return of a post-study work visa system north of the border, which would hand international students from outside the EU special permission to remain in the country and work for a limited period.  Advocates believe reintroducing the scheme, which was axed by the UK Government in 2012, would boost the economy and society by retaining those with "world-class talent" who would otherwise be forced to leave. A survey completed last year found that 85 per cent of Scottish businesses and all educational institutions supported the move, which would see those who establish successful careers able to apply to stay permanently after the temporary post-study period expires.  However, Scottish Secretary David Mundell said in a written statement at Westminster that UK Government had "no intention" of allowing Scotland to bring back the visas, despite the Smith Commission saying that the possibility of introducing schemes to allow international students to remain in Scotland should be examined.  Mr Mundell said that existing UK-wide schemes for international graduates were "excellent" and that the Conservative UK government, which has failed to hit its own targets for curbing immigration, would continue to welcome "genuine" international students. The Scottish Secretary was accused of "utter hypocrisy" by SNP international development minister Humza Yousaf, after quietly making the announcement on the same day that he delivered a major speech in Edinburgh in which he hailed the scale of the new powers destined for Holyrood. Universities Scotland expressed disappointment at Mr Mundell's position, saying there is "overwhelming evidence" that a more attractive post-study offer would bring economic, societal and educational benefits.

Jack McConnell, the Labour peer who as First Minister brought in the 'Fresh Talent' initiative which saw international graduates in Scotland offered two-year visas as part of a scheme designed to halt a declining population, also hit out at the move.The Fresh Talent scheme, which was launched in 2004 with Home Office approval, saw almost 8,000 students granted visa extensions in Scotland between 2005 and 2008. It was then brought into the UK system with the two-year offer made across Britain until 2012.  Lord McConnell said: "From 2005 onwards it was a huge success for the individuals, for our Higher Education institutions, and absolutely for our economy and the country. It brought fresh talent to Scotland who stayed. I think it is desperately disappointing, when all the evidence points to the success of the scheme in transforming Scotland, growing the population, increasing economic and educational activity, that the Government has decided not to bring it back.  There are two things, nearly 10 years on from being First Minister, that strangers cross the street to thank me for. One is the smoking ban, the other is the Fresh Talent initiative. Just three weeks ago a complete stranger approached me on a tube train to say it had changed his life."  The announcement, part of an update on areas in which the Smith Commission had stopped short on making firm recommendations, took many in the sector by surprise. One source said that positive discussions over the re-introduction of an international student visa scheme had taken place as recently as a few weeks ago.  Mr Yousaf, who chaired a cross-party working group on post study work visas which last year recommended that a scheme was reintroduced, said he was "deeply disappointed".  He added: "Scotland has different immigration needs to the rest the UK. There is consensus in Scotland, across parties, in business and in education, that we need a return of the post-study route to allow talented students to remain and contribute to the Scottish economy.  By ruling out a return of this route, the UK Government has ignored this consensus, and has dismissed Scotland’s call to positively and meaningfully engage on this issue. It is utter hypocrisy for David Mundell to say the UK Government have delivered at the same time as admitting he has fundamentally failed to deliver this key economic policy."  Mr Mundell said visa applications to study at Scottish universities were 11 per cent higher than they were in 2010 and that controlling migration and increasing genuine student numbers are "compatible aims."  He added: "The UK has an excellent post study work offer for graduates of Scottish universities seeking to undertake skilled work in the UK after their studies. The Smith Commission did not recommend that the two Governments discuss the re-introduction of the former Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa, and there is no intention to do so."

Comment
Mundell: his English masters' mouthpiece in Scotland, announcing their rules about how Scotland is to be governed, what Scotland can and cannot do. This dictate of the London appointed viceroy for Scotland - a man who is intent on ensuring that no possibility of independent decision making should be possible in The country.  This is reverse devolution syndrome in all its bitter reality - and they expect to gather Tory support for the Scottish Parliament elections - that's what better together means!!

First Use of Evel At Westminster Condemned by SNP As An "Absolute Mess"

The first use of the UK Government’s controversial English Votes for English Laws rule, that bans Scottish MPs from certain votes, has been condemned by the SNP as an “absolute mess, a bourach guddle,” that will speed the end of the United Kingdom.  Pete Wishart, the Nationalists’ Shadow Commons Leader, denounced Evel and the creation of an English grand committee as a legislative procedure, that would create two classes of MP at Westminster and for the first time divide Members on the basis of nationality and geography. “Several English members say today that they're doing this to save the Union; can I just add a word of caution to my friends who represent English constituencies. What you're doing today by establishing this committee and pursuing this issue in the way that you have, you're driving Scotland out of the door. This is how it's being observed in Scotland," claimed the MP for Perth.  He was supported in his criticism of Evel by Labour's David Winnick, who said: "I feel…the Tories are making precisely the same mistake as their predecessors did over Ireland."  But John Redwood, the former Conservative Cabinet Minister, who insisted the Tories were “speaking for England”, welcomed how Evel was taking England “on its first step on the journey to justice and fairness for our country”. His colleague, Yorkshire Conservative Graham Stuart, argued that given the Nationalists had completely failed to persuade the Scottish people to end the Union, their greatest hope now was that English grievance at the devolution settlement would push Scotland out of the UK. “This modest step is a way of alleviating that grievance,” declared the backbencher, claiming that was why Mr Wishart was “quite so angry”.  John Healey for Labour said his party supported a stronger voice for England at Westminster but insisted it should be a “voice not a veto” and setting up an English grand committee should not be happening in a “unified parliament of the United Kingdom”. The Government believes Evel is a fair procedure, which, in light of Holyrood gaining more powers, gives English MPs their say over England-only legislation. John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, has certified large sections of the UK Government’s Housing and Planning Bill relate exclusively to England, including measures designed to ensure more "starter homes" are built to help young first-time buyers.

Comment
This is just the start. A newspaper very recently featured a slot on an English national anthem. Nothing wrong with that. It started off , however, by stating that most English people look upon 'God Save the Queen' as their national anthem, but, of course, it is the British national anthem. Therein lies the heart of the problem with EVEL. It is supremely unnecessary because so many people south of the border equate English with British and vice versa. They view the British parliament as theirs, and the British government even went so far during the run-up to the referendum to commission a report from two academics that stated quite baldly that Scotland had been subsumed, but that England and its parliament had carried on, with Scotland now a part of a Greater England, not Britain, note. EVEL is also unnecessary because the Scots, Welsh and NI cannot affect any English legislation unduly, and neutral English voices have admitted as much, explaining that very, very few laws pertaining to England were affected in any way by the other three parts of the UK.   Scottish legislation, however, undergoes the utmost scrutiny from English MPs, under the guise of being British. The powers in the Smith Commission will affect directly, Scottish legislation at Holyrood, but were passed almost exclusively by English MPs. The EU referendum will be settled by English votes and Trident renewal will almost certainly be passed on English votes alone.  This whole thing is a total farce and just another constitutional mess. The Union took place for England's benefit. All that happens at Westminster is, essentially, for England's benefit. Anyone who tries to deny that simple fact is either a dissembler or a fool, or both.

New Act of Union Would Turn Devolution on its Head

Proposed laws are being drawn up by cross-party politicians to create a new Act of Union that would “wrest back the initiative from the separatists” and help save the 300-year-old United Kingdom by creating a bottom-up federal system.  The group hope to win the backing of the devolved governments for their plans, which if passed into law, would be put to the people of the UK's four nations in a new referendum within the next few years.  It would have to win approval from voters in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, for the new system to be implemented, meaning any one of them would have a veto.  Labour peer Lord Hain, who is a member of the steering group of the Constitution Reform Group (CRG), said: “What is distinctive about the model we are proposing is whereas devolution up until now has been a top-down process…this is a bottom-up process.”  The former Welsh Secretary said the four nations would “federate upwards to the UK and decide what is done at the centre and at a national level”.  He claimed this would make the UK a lot stronger and more appealing, particularly to Scotland, as, under the proposal, it would be “deciding what is done at the centre rather than the centre deciding what is allowed to be done by Scotland”.  The Marquess of Salisbury, who chairs the group, told the Lords Constitution Committee, which is inquiring into the Union and devolution, that powers which might be reserved to the centre could include economic security, defence, basic levels of health and social care, human rights and distributing help from the wealthy south east of England to the rest of the UK.  In its written evidence to the committee, the group said: “We see an immediate threat to the constitutional future of the United Kingdom in the likelihood of a repeated referendum on Scottish independence in the near future.” Lord Salisbury told the committee: “Those who want to keep Scotland in the UK need to wrest back the initiative from the separatists, which has been lost (to them).”  He explained the “neatest way” of doing that was to propose a new Act of Union; some 300 years or so since the original acts created one united kingdom of Great Britain.  The group is likely to propose two main options - a fully federal system or, once central functions are identified, using the current system of devolution to distribute power to local, regional and national institutions.  The formal introduction of draft legislation would be preceded by consultation and parliamentary scrutiny but Lord Salisbury explained: “It could be brought into force only by a post-legislative referendum; which would obviously have to be approved by all four parts of the kingdom.” The former Conservative Leader of the Lords argued that draft legislation would enable the idea of a new constitutional settlement to be “injected into the political bloodstream” in the run-up to the May 5 elections in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. “We have made very considerable progress in a first attempt at a draft bill, which we hope to have at least three-quarters cooked within the next relatively few days.”  The draft bill would be accompanied by a number of opinion polls and focus groups, “particularly in Scotland,” to gage the level of public support. These are due to take place in the next few days.  Labour peer Baroness Taylor pointed out how it might become clear in the consultation that the Scottish Government would not “buy in” to the proposed new Act of Union.  Lord Salisbury admitted there was a “high risk” of this happening but said the polling over the next two months would ascertain the level of Scottish interest in the group's proposal.  Asked about the sharing of resources from richer to poorer parts of the UK under the federal model, Lord Hain said a key attraction of a Union was fairness and equal rights but noted that if the devolution of tax powers went too far it would hamper the redistribution of resources to the poorer parts. This Act of Union has to address that seriously and have a taxation mechanism in which there is considerable room still to redistribute,” he stressed.

Comment

Sorry but a federal or any other deal that doesn't enable a complete overhaul of the banking and general financial services sector to allow the establishment of the financial system the Scots need to grow, broaden and add value to the Scottish economy isn't worth the paper its written on.  These Westminster types need to wake up to the fact that the financial sector monster they've created is not just strangling Scotland but all of the rest of the UK except of course London.  Even after the weak Scotland Bill gets made Law, if it manages even that without more mauling and diminishing, the proposal as outlined above is Devolution Minus, as it's actually taking powers BACK to Westminster - health and by the sound of it, revenues and some of the little extra powers devolved in Scotland Bill 2015/16.  Northern Ireland has the power to hold at any time (and every 7 years) a referendum on unification with Ireland, so I can't see it going down well there either.  As for the Act of Union, it either gets strengthened for Scotland, or the Scottish Government as the reconvened Scottish Parliament refuse to enact an appropriate Union with England Bill, possibly with a Referendum.  But I thank the Lord he has confirmed that the Act of Union is /are fully extant after 308 years, and since they enact the Treaty of Union, that it still sounds in International Law - Crawford & Boyle will be well pleased to see their Annex A thus ripped to shreds, the annex to the UK Government's most peculiarly twisted first white paper during the Referendum campaign whereby, apparently, Scotland was extinguished and incorporated into an enlarged England which was renamed the UK.  By the sound of it though, if I had a dog he/she'd have this for breakfast.