Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 570

Issue # 570                                     Week ending Saturday 19th September  2020

By the Hair on My Chinny Chin-Chin, Boris Will Not Hand Over Covid Fight to Nicola by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Few of us are that confident yet to go out for a proper slap-up. When we last out dined out at one of Stornoway’s finest eateries at the beginning of the year, a husband and wife were next to us. When their food arrived, his wife reminded the man: “Murdo, you always say grace at home to give thanks for the meal that the Lord has provided. You should bless the food now.” He wasn’t keen, saying: “Yes a’ Mhairi, but here they have a chef who knows how to cook...”

Mairi told me later that Murdo had heartburn afterwards - and it served him right. Putting up a few words may have brought approval, and presumably better digestion. There were quite a few stories in the last week to chew over. Don Fear was the mild-mannered teacher who won a cool £1 million on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? Personally, I thought I did quite well. I’m not saying I got all of them and I certainly hadn’t a clue of the answer to the final big money question. It was: “In 1718, which pirate died in battle off the coast of what is now North Carolina?”

Hmm, I have Carolina in my mind. Thank you, James Taylor, but that doesn’t help right now. How many non-fictional pirates can I remember? Er, Captain Kidd? The choice was Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Bartholomew Roberts or Captain Kidd. Ach, the first two are made up. Bluebeard is from a fairytale by Charles Perrault, I reckoned, so it must be yon Roberts or the captain. Don chose Bluebeard. A cartoon pirate? Seriously? Ha-ha-ha. Sorry for laughing but that is never, never, never going to be the answer.

Guess what? It was Bluebeard. Ker-ching. One million smackeroonies for Don. I was the dummy. Just because we think we know does not mean we actually are, apparently. Boris Johnson, are you listening? We all remember when Boris said everything was ready for an easy Brexit because the Internal Markets Bill was oven-ready, don’t we? Or that was what he apparently thought. In reality, that Bill is so poor the government is thinking of breaking the law and ditching parts of it.

Then along comes former Labour leader Ed Miliband from the political wilderness the other day to show how Boris had no idea what was in that Bill. Ed roasted Boris in the Commons challenging him to admit he hadn’t even read it. Boris couldn’t even respond. He just shook his head, as glaikit as if he had just been asked about the death of a pirate off Carolina in 1718. You had to feel sorry for him. Maybe you had to, I didn’t.

Boris isn’t doing well with the battle against Covid either. Since the Dominic Cummings episode, there is a bit of a suspicion that the UK’s series of precautions are not due to planning but because of happenstance and that the leadership doesn’t have its eye on the ball. It keeps falling out with advisers. It is playing catch-up with other countries. Yesterday, the big question on the Jeremy Vine show on Channel 5 was not how well the UK government is coping but whether it should pack it all in.

There are suggestions Boris has enough to deal with getting his head around Brexit and that he should hand over the entire UK Covid response to cool, calm Nicola Sturgeon to implement. Seriously? Ha-ha-ha. Sorry for laughing but that is never, never, never going to happen. Then again, I have been wrong before. Is this another Bluebeard moment?

My former home island of Great Bernera is still waiting to hear when they are going to have a proper bridge to the rest of mainland Lewis after the existing one suddenly went shoogly. Heavy vehicles are now banned. Maybe like Mairi’s idea for improving Murdo’s digestion, they should put up a few words. My friend Norman Angus tried that.

He was looking across to Caolas Iarsiadair, that just means the Earshader Channel, when he said out loud: “Oh Lord, grant me one wish.” Suddenly, a booming voice said: “Go ahead. You're through now.” Norman pleaded: “Build us a proper bridge to mainland Lewis so the big bin lorry can come over here every fortnight.” The Lord replied: “But think of the logistics. Those big supports required to reach the bottom of Caolas Iarsiadair. I can do it, of course, but it would cost £5 million. Think of another wish - a wish to honour and glorify me.”

Being a man of the world, Norman Angus thought for a bit. Finally, he said: “Lord, I wish I could understand women. I want to know how they feel inside, what they are thinking when they give me the silent treatment. Why they cry and what they mean when they snap “nothing” when I ask what is wrong.” In a flash, God said: “Sorry Norman, there’s a limit to what even I can do. Now, do you want two lanes or four on this new bridge to Bernera?”

Newcastleton Land Buyout Deal with Buccleuch Completed
A "very significant" buyout has been completed between a community trust and one of Scotland's biggest landowners.  It will see Newcastleton and District Community Trust (NDCT) take over 750 acres - known as Holm Hill - from Buccleuch's Borders Estate. Buccleuch executive chairman Benny Higgins said the trust's "passion and commitment" had been "tremendous".  Talks are ongoing with community groups in Langholm and Wanlockhead about other buyout bids in southern Scotland.  Mr Higgins said: "This is a very significant community buyout and demonstrates what can be achieved through people working shoulder to shoulder in order to turn hopes and dreams into reality. We heartily congratulate the trust team who spared no effort in ensuring the transfer of this land has been completed as quickly and smoothly as possible.  We look forward to watching their plans come to fruition."  Holm Hill, which lies above the village of Newcastleton, has been farmed by the community for generations.  It is now hoped to use the area for renewable energy, leisure activities and further farming.  The buyout bid was awarded £850,000 by the Scottish Land Fund earlier this year. NDCT secretary Barbara Elborn said it was "delighted" to have concluded the deal.  Huge effort from lots of people and many organisation have enabled this to happen and we thank them for their support, but now the hard work really begins," she said.  We are looking forward to putting our plans into action; building a brighter, more diverse economy, delivering a dynamic, positive outlook for our future.  Owning Holm Hill means we can build a legacy for our families and their children and that is the best news of all."  Buccleuch has been reducing the footprint of its landholdings in the last decade and said it had sold approximately 30,000 acres of land over that period to farmers and community organisations.  It said it had reinvested revenue from land sales in a variety of business projects across the farming, forestry, renewable energy and leisure and hospitality sectors.

West of Scotland Household Visits Ban Extended

Stricter restrictions barring household visits in the west of Scotland have been extended for another week.  The measures cover 1.75 million people living in and around Glasgow. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged everyone living in the areas to follow the rules in a bid to "get more control over the virus".  The restrictions apply in Glasgow city, East and West Dunbartonshire, North and South Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, and East Renfrewshire. People living in the seven areas are not allowed to host others inside their home, or visit anyone else's home anywhere in Scotland.  The announcement comes on the same day that lockdown restrictions across the country were tightened, with gatherings now restricted to a maximum of six people from two households.  The Scottish government said reported cases of Covid-19 were higher than average in the seven council areas, although an "early assessment" had suggested the tougher measures were "working to slow the increase in cases".  The first minister said it was "clearly regrettable" that the restrictions would have to continue, but said "we must act to get more control over the virus in these areas".  Ms Sturgeon said: "I would ask everyone in the affected areas to continue being extra vigilant, to follow all guidance and to isolate and book a test if they have any symptoms. Do not lose ground now."  The only exception to the bar on indoor meetings is for those in extended households, while only essential indoor visits are being permitted in hospitals and care homes.  People from two different households are still allowed to meet up outdoors and in hospitality settings, as long as groups do not exceed six and wider guidance around hygiene and physical distancing is followed.  The local restrictions will be reviewed again on Tuesday 22 September.  The rules, which had already covered Glasgow city, East and West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, and East Renfrewshire, were extended to cover Lanarkshire. Those seven areas had the highest rates of new Covid-19 cases in Scotland. The seven-day rate is calculated by adding up all the new cases over the previous week, then dividing it by the total population of the area.

Nicola Sturgeon Seeks 'Urgent' Talks Over Testing Backlog
Nicola Sturgeon has voiced "very serious concerns" about an apparent backlog of coronavirus test results.  The Scottish first minister said she was seeking "urgent discussions" with UK ministers over delays to results.  Only 70 new positive cases of the virus were confirmed in Scotland on Monday, compared with 244 on Sunday.  Ms Sturgeon said the figures were "not yet complete", and suggested that schools going back in England could be causing a spike in demand for tests.  The system in Scotland was hit by "exceptional demand" when pupils returned to schools in August.  The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said a "significant" number of people had been seeking tests, including some "who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible" - but that capacity was at its highest level ever.  The "vast bulk" of Scotland's coronavirus testing is carried out as part of a UK-wide network of test centres and mobile testing units, with the results processed in Lighthouse labs such as the one in Glasgow.  Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish government had been "fully engaged and involved in that system", and wanted to work "in partnership with the UK Westminster government" to solve any problems.  However, amid reports of a backlog of tests, she said UK ministers needed to "share the scale and nature of the issues" so that "we can collectively and very quickly find solutions".  Ms Sturgeon said: "We now have a very serious concern that the backlog of test results being faced by the UK lab network is starting to impact on the timeous reporting of Scottish results. We have reason to be concerned that the figures that have been reported today are not complete, because some of the turnaround of the tests done in Scotland over yesterday is longer.  I'll be seeking urgent discussions later today with UK Westminster government counterparts just to make sure we are doing everything possible to get on top of this before it becomes a bigger issue." On Sunday, the DHSC said the Test and Trace system was working and that "our capacity is the highest it has ever been".  However, it added: "We are seeing a significant demand for tests, including from people who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible.  New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for those who need them and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.  Our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week and we recently announced new facilities and technology to process results even faster."  At her daily coronavirus briefing, the first minister said Scotland was in a "precarious situation".  Even with a lower number of positive results on Monday, they still represented 2.7% of people tested. A few weeks ago that figure was usually around or below 1%.  Ms Sturgeon said the number of new cases was trebling roughly every three weeks, a pattern which is "not sustainable".  New restrictions on the number of people who can meet up were imposed on Monday, limiting gatherings to six people from two households. Ms Sturgeon said: "We have to act now, we have to act quickly to prevent an even greater increase in cases as we go through autumn and into winter."

Climate Change Threat to Scotland's Seabed, New Study Warns

One of Scotland's most important marine ecosystems is at risk of almost vanishing if climate change continues at the current rate, scientists have warned.  New modelling shows the majority of maerl beds will disappear if action isn't taken to slow global warming.  The maerl beds form a spiky "carpet" on the seabed and are an important habitat for smaller marine plants and animals.  But rising sea temperatures are putting the reef-like beds at risk.  Experts from the Lyell Centre in Edinburgh, a collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and the British Geological Survey, have modelled the impact on maerl beds of various climate change scenarios.  They found that even in the best-case option, where greenhouse gas emissions fell significantly, about 38% of Scotland's maerl beds would still be lost by 2100. In the worst case scenario, about 84% of our maerl beds would disappear by the end of this century.  PhD student Cornelia Simon-Nutbrown, who led the research, said: "Maerl beds' survival depends on us making major changes to our greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the beds from anthropogenic activities."  Although maerl beds - also known as red coralline beds - are found all over the world, Scotland provides their European stronghold. They are found mainly around the west coast and northern isles. As well as scallops, the beds are important nursery grounds for commercially-valuable fish stocks including pollack and hake.  The nooks and crannies of the structure provide shelter for the juvenile fish. The Lyell Centre study found those areas most likely to survive even the worst case scenario were around Orkney, Shetland and Loch Laxford in the far north-west.  Although the modelling predicts what will happen between now and 2100, there are more immediate concerns, according to marine conservation expert Prof John Baxter.  He said: "We found that the biggest changes are likely to happen between now and 2050, making the need for conservation action to protect maerl beds even more urgent, not only to protect biodiversity but also their potential to capture and store blue carbon, which is important for climate change mitigation."  NatureScot - Scotland's nature agency - regards maerl beds as a priority marine feature, meaning their protection is critical.  As well as climate change, the beds also face an additional threat from dredging and trawling which can cause serious damage to the seabed where they form.

Vulnerable Highlanders Given Technology to Help Them Access Vital Services During the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic; Beneficiaries Include Highland Residents Everywhere From Thurso in the North to Fort William in the South
Hundreds of vulnerable Highlanders are to be given web connections and devices to help them access vital services and stay connected.  Some 230 smartphones, tablet computers and Chromebooks have been donated to families in remote parts of Scotland – helping more than 500 people.  And they have also been handed a combined 17,250 GB of data to help get communities online.  The technology was handed out by the not-for-profit social enterprise The Libertie Project.  It is thought that about 500 children, families and elderly people in an area of the Highlands bounded by Fort William, Thurso, Nairn and Ullapool will be helped by the move.  The devices – including 30 smartphones, 40 Chromebooks, 85 MiFi tablets and 75 WiFi tablets – and data were targeted at a range of people, including older people who have been left socially isolated due to Covid-19.  Other beneficiaries included domestic abuse victims who were provided with secret phones, and children who otherwise could not access online school resources.  Another 100 devices will be distributed to vulnerable people between now and Christmas.  The Libertie Project handed out the devices after being matched with digital transformation consultancy Level 5 by the National Business Response Network.  Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Business Response Network has made 2093 matches between local community groups, schools and charities and UK businesses that have been able to meet their urgent needs during the crisis.  Liberty Bligh, CEO of The Libertie Project, said: “Digital exclusion is a massive problem for Scotland’s most vulnerable communities, and Covid-19 has highlighted how isolating a lack of internet connection is.  So much of life takes place online these days that an internet connection is really a human connection – and in many cases it’s the only contact that some people have.  Across Scotland, thousands of children, families and elderly people are being excluded from modern life.  We were delighted to help these people to get online, and would like to thank The National Business Response Network for helping make it possible.”  Gaurav Malhotra, Director of Level 5, said: “The last few months have been hard for many people, especially those who are cut off from human contact and cannot get online. My team jumped at the chance to help The Libertie Project to bring invaluable connections to the people who needed them.  It’s up to the wider community to make a difference in difficult times, and I urge all businesses to do what they can to assist those who need it.”

'Boring' Research Reveals What Lies Beneath Glasgow

Boreholes drilled deep beneath Glasgow are revealing the secrets of the rocks on which the city stands. It is part of a project aiming to find out more about how warm water moves in abandoned, flooded mine workings. The big idea is to harvest the energy stored beneath the east end of the city and Rutherglen as a source of renewable heat for homes and industry. It is centred on an observatory that studiously avoids looking at the heavens.  The UK Geoenergy Observatory in Glasgow is looking in the opposite direction - up to 199 metres below the city's surface.  It is using a network of 12 boreholes which have been fitted with more than 300 sensors to measure the chemical, physical and microbiological properties of the subsurface environment.  Now the observatory, run by the British Geological Survey, has released data and images revealing the world up to 199 metres below the city's streets. The cores of the boreholes have been subjected to high-resolution scanning to show some things Glaswegians might not expect.  Among them, mussels.  These molluscs are far from fresh. In fact, they were last alive alive-oh (to quote the song Molly Malone) around 300 million years ago and are preserved as fossils.  Palaeontology is not the primary purpose of the Glasgow project and its sister sites in Wales and England. Mine water heat is geothermal energy which could help the UK decarbonise its heat supply and meet net-zero emissions targets. Dr Alison Monaghan, the science lead at the Glasgow Observatory, says its boreholes "are giving us an unprecedented look into the subsurface.  Data from underneath Glasgow can now be used by scientists around the world to close the knowledge gaps we have on mine water heat energy and heat storage," she says.  The new information includes drilling logs, hydrogeological test data and images taken underground.  The data is open for scientists to use, and the observatory team hope that researchers from around the world will get in touch to use the boreholes and better understand the subsurface.  The boreholes beneath Glasgow Observatory are expected to produce data for the next 15 years. Upcoming data releases will include details of groundwater chemistry and pump test results, all in the cause of harvesting cheap and carbon-free energy.  But why stop at 199 metres rather than a nice round 200? Going to 200 might be neater but it would involve more regulation and paperwork - and there is nothing that extra metre could tell them that the researchers will not have gleaned from the first 199.  This is one boring story that's actually quite interesting.

Man Dies After Glasgow Street Stabbing

A man has died in hospital after he was stabbed on a Glasgow street.  The 32-year-old was discovered on Boydstone Road, Pollok, at about 13:25 on Tuesday.  The man, who has not been named, was taken to the city's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later. A Police Scotland spokeswoman said inquiries into the incident were ongoing and urged anyone with information to contact officers.

NHS Staff in Scotland to Be Rewarded with Pay Rise
Pay negotiations on behalf of NHS staff in Scotland have reached an amicable agreement. Yesterday (Tuesday) representatives of trade union UNISON met Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman to request reopening of the present three-year pay deal and to agree a fair pay rise for health workers.  Tom Waterson, chair of UNISON Scotland’s health committee, said: “We’re pleased the health secretary has listened to our members and has recognised the need for them to be paid fairly for the essential work they do.  “The applause and kind words shown during the difficult days of the pandemic were a huge source of comfort to NHS staff, but it’s only right that the government now shows its appreciation in a different way.  Our NHS staff are just ordinary people who have been thrust into an extraordinary situation. Proper recognition and pay to match it is the least the government can do to show they value the hard work and dedication of our NHS workers, not just during the pandemic but each and every day.”  Willie Duffy, UNISON Scotland’s head of health, said: “Since the start of this pandemic, our NHS workers have shown immense dedication, commitment and compassion and it is time they are fairly rewarded.  We’re pleased the health secretary has agreed to reopen the present three-year pay deal and reward our NHS staff with a pay rise this year. We hope to move forward quickly to ensure we get pay into the pockets of our hard-working, dedicated NHS workers.” Ms Freeman said: “The response of NHS staff during this crisis has been extraordinary, and I want to make sure this is recognised.   I am committed to achieving the fairest possible pay settlement for NHS Agenda for Change staff for 2021-22, working with unions. I have indicated that if we can conclude these negotiations relatively swiftly then I am sympathetic to bringing the implementation date of that settlement forward to an earlier juncture if at all possible. This year the majority of NHS Scotland staff including nurses, ancillary, administration and Allied Health Professionals, have received a 2.95 per cent pay rise as part of our three-year NHS Agenda for Change pay deal, which has delivered a minimum nine per cent pay increase for most staff, and over 27 per cent for some still moving up their pay scale.  This is in excess of the 2.8 per cent uplift announced for NHS dentists and doctors in England and Scotland.”

Animal Campaigners Criticise Grouse Shoot Covid Exemption

Animal welfare campaigners have criticised the decision to exempt grouse shoots from Covid restrictions limiting gatherings to six people.  Scottish charity OneKind said wildlife had "thrived" during the lockdown, but was now being "shot for fun".  Outdoor activities, including shooting, are permitted provided they are organised, licenced and physical distancing rules are adhered to. However, most other indoor and outdoor gatherings have been limited.  Scottish Land and Estates, an organisation representing estate owners and land managers, said country sports had been "unfairly singled" out for criticism. Earlier this week, the Huffington Post reported a row over the UK Westminster government's handling of its permission for grouse shoots while strict limits on people meeting up were in place.It reported a special meeting had been due to take place at the weekend to discuss the exemption, but instead the matter was dealt with through ministerial correspondence.In Scotland, shoots are permitted provided guidance and laws to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are followed.The Scottish government said: "Under the regulations, a maximum of six people from two different households are able to gather together.However, there are some exemptions in place for organised activities. Outdoor and sporting activities such as shooting may be permitted if they meet criteria laid out in the legislation and adhere fully with physical distancing requirements."  OneKind said it was "deeply disappointed" by the exemption.  Director Bob Elliot said: "In many places wildlife was left alone to flourish during the spring lockdown and many of us took great pleasure in immersing ourselves in nature and admiring Scotland's native animals.  The shooting industry is designed around cruelty and it is alarming that the killing of Scotland's wild animals is being allowed during this crisis." Scottish Land and Estates chief executive Sarah-Jane Laing, said: "Over recent days, we have seen an array of calls being made for country sports including grouse shooting to be halted, which would deliver a crushing blow to the rural economy at a time when it has already been struggling during the pandemic.  Country sports is an open air pursuit where social distancing is easily practiced and a Covid-19 framework is adhered to. A range of other activities in the events and tourism sector are also unaffected by changes to maximum gatherings."  The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said grouse shooting supported 2,640 full-time jobs in Scotland, with 8,800 people employed in different roles in total. It said a "significant proportion" of the jobs were in remote areas, adding that holding no shoots at all this year would have led to overall loses of £8.5m across 32 estates. SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: "Shoots have worked extremely hard to put in place the guidance which the sporting bodies agreed with Scottish government." Measures include transporting smaller numbers of shooters in more vehicles, compulsory hand sanitising and staff wearing face coverings. Catering is also run in line with rules applied to restaurants.

BBC Will Screen TV Briefings in 'Coming Weeks'
BBC Scotland will continue to screen Nicola Sturgeon's coronavirus briefings live on TV in the "coming weeks".  The pledge came following criticism of the broadcaster's announcement last week that televised coverage would be based on "editorial merit".  Donalda MacKinnon, BBC Scotland director, said there had never been any intention to stop coverage.  She added that "other voices and perspectives" would now feature alongside the FM's weekday briefings.  In an email to staff, Ms MacKinnon explained: "We've said now that we'll look at the briefings in the round - meaning we'll broadcast them live on TV when we are in a period of the pandemic when there is significant public information being shared, such as new measures being introduced and implemented, rising rates of cases, a three weekly review update or other public information."  The first minister had said that it was a matter for the BBC to decide what it broadcast, but she believed that her "ability to communicate directly with the public has never been more important".  The possibility that not every briefing would be covered live on BBC One Scotland and the BBC Scotland channel prompted criticism from Donald Macaskill of Scottish Care, the body which represents independent care homes.  A spokesman at the corporation said that while there continued to be major developments in the pandemic in Scotland the BBC would "over the coming weeks - and as we have done this week - look to cover the Scottish government health briefings live on TV".  In addition to continued live TV programming, there would be "significant" coverage of the briefings on TV news bulletins, radio and online.  The spokesman added: "As we said last week, such decisions will always be made on the basis of editorial judgment and listening to our audiences.  We will always take full account of how the pandemic continues to evolve to inform that judgment.  Our coverage of coronavirus and public health issues in Scotland will continue to incorporate a range of voices and perspectives, and this will be further enhanced as part of our ongoing coverage of the Scottish government briefings.  This will allow us to bring news and views from around Scotland and beyond, involving politicians from across the political spectrum, as well as commentators, analysts and other experts.  We remain committed to having this broad coverage of voices and perspectives across all our news outlets on television, radio and online."

Doctor 'Lost Job After Challenging Ward Closure'

A doctor says she was bullied before losing her job after raising concerns about the closure of Argyll's only dementia assessment unit.  Dr Jan Calder was a locum consultant psychiatrist with Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership.  She said matters "turned sour" after she challenged the closure of the Knapdale Ward in Lochgilphead. The partnership declined to comment on Dr Calder's case, but said it treated bullying "very seriously". Over the course of 18 months, Dr Calder worked in several roles within the partnership, which also involves Argyll and Bute Council and NHS Highland. Her contract, due for renewal in September 2019, was terminated in July that year.  She had raised concerns about a review of the 12-bed Knapdale Ward in Mid Argyll Community Hospital.  The ward, which is now in the process of being closed, is to be replaced with an "enhanced" community care model.  Dr Calder argued that the unit supported people who could not be adequately cared for under the new arrangement. She said: "It wasn't until I began to raise concerns about the manner in which the review of dementia services was taking place that things began to turn a little bit sour."  I ultimately raised a whistle-blowing concern with NHS Highland's board at the beginning of July 2019.  Three weeks later, on the basis of a spurious complaint, and certainly one I should have been allowed to answer, I was effectively put out of a job and my contract was not renewed."  Dr Calder said she continued to campaign against the ward closure and raised concerns again with Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership in March this year. She said: "Despite my concerns they went ahead with the decision to close the Knapdale Ward. I felt that my concerns had been marginalised and ignored."  Dr Calder said the experience left her feeling "demoralised and disempowered".  She said the partnership should be a mature enough organisation to allow people to speak out if they disagreed with decisions, and still be able to work together.  Dr Calder has spoken out following the results of the latest Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership staff survey. Of the 1,500 staff surveyed, 508 responded, with 68% of them saying they had experienced bullying and harassment.  Argyll and Bute councillor and joint chairman of the health partnership, Kieron Green, said a system was in place to address bullying.  He said: "That has included investing in additional resources in HR to make sure staff have the greatest possible support." Mr Green said as far as he was aware everyone was treated fairly.  He added: "If that hasn't been some people's experience then obviously if that needs to be worked on then that's something that will be addressed through the processes that are in place."  Allegations of bullying at NHS Highland were the subject of a review led by John Sturrock QC, but the focus was on examining issues raised by staff working in the Highlands and did not include Argyll and Bute.  The results of the review, published last year, suggested hundreds of health workers had potentially experienced inappropriate behaviour at the health board.  In May this year, NHS Highland offered staff who experienced bullying an "independent healing process" for handling their concerns.  Current and former employees have been given four options, which include "being heard", an apology and access to psychological therapies.  They can also opt to have their case heard by an independent review panel.

Welsh and Scottish Leaders: Johnson Hasn't Talked to Us for Months
The first ministers of Wales and Scotland have attacked Boris Johnson for failing to speak to them directly about the possibility of a new national lockdown in England.  Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, said there was a “vacancy” at the heart of the UK Westminster government and argued his country’s porous border with England made it crucial for the prime minister to communicate directly with him regularly.  The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, backed Drakeford, saying the UK was at “the most critical point of decision-making” since March, and calling for a Cobra meeting involving the heads of all four nations to be convened immediately.  Keir Starmer echoed the demand. The Labour leader said: “There is mounting concern about whether we have got the virus sufficiently under control. This is the time for swift, decisive national action. We cannot afford to be too slow. That’s why I’m asking the prime minister to convene a Cobra meeting and to update the country on the measures the government is taking to keep the virus under control, including to fix testing.  The British public want to know what the situation is and what the government is going to do about it.” There is growing frustration in the Welsh and Scottish governments at a lack of direct communication from Johnson. Drakeford said he had only spoken to the prime minister once since the end of May, while Sturgeon said she could not remember the last time she talked to him. At a press conference on Friday, Drakeford said there were lockdowns in north-west England, close to the Welsh border, and “speculation” of a “circuit-breaking” lockdown across England but he had had no recent direct communication from the prime minister. “This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together,” Drakeford said. “We need a regular, reliable rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start.  I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.  There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”  Sturgeon called for an immediate Cobra meeting, warning that politicians needed to act “quickly, decisively, early” to prevent the virus getting out of control again.  Speaking at her daily briefing, she said: “I want to give the nation advance notice that the coming days are likely to see some hard but necessary decisions.  “This weekend is a critical moment for us to take decisions about the additional steps we need … I do want to have four-nations discussions around this, I have asked the prime minister to convene a Cobra, we will ideally align as much as possible. But if there are things that I think, based on my data and advice, are essential in Scotland, I am not going to hold back. I hope we will have discussions over the weekend and try to come to a shared position on the steps that are necessary.”  She underlined that she was not talking about a full lockdown but about further measures to avoid such severe restrictions again and allowing Scotland to keep schools open. Sturgeon also cautioned against non-essential overseas travel and travel to parts of the north of England under tougher restrictions. Asked about Drakeford’s comments, Sturgeon said she could not remember the last time she had spoken to the prime minister directly, “which maybe tells its own story”.  She added: “Mark Drakeford is not saying anything that is not correct. It would be very helpful to have a PM-led, four nations Cobra-type discussion over this weekend.”

Devolved Leaders Urge PM to Help Aerospace Sector

The first ministers of the devolved nations have called for "urgent" UK Westminster government intervention to help the struggling aerospace sector.  Scotland's Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford of Wales and Arlene Foster from Northern Ireland have signed a joint letter. They believe a task force should be launched to help the industry, which has been hit hard by coronavirus. The letter is also signed by leaders of the Unite union which brought the politicians together for the initiative. Unite says tens of thousands of jobs in the sector and associated industries are on the "brink of being lost forever".  In May, MPs were told up to 8,000 jobs could go in the aerospace sector in Wales.  Scotland has also been hit hard with more than 1,200 jobs likely to go at companies such as Rolls Royce and GE Caledonian. In Northern Ireland Bombardier, Collins Aerospace and Thompson Aero have announced plans to lay off more than 1,300 staff.  The political leaders said the creation of an aerospace task force "would be a positive signal to the sector". They added such a move would show "all our governments remain committed to working together in order to preserve this sector that is hugely important to the whole of the UK". And they stressed the need to act quickly, warning: "Urgent intervention is now required to preserve capability and avert further damaging losses."  The proposed task force would include "active participation" from the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as unions and companies working in the sector.  Ms Sturgeon said: "As we approach the closure of the furlough scheme at the end of October, there is a real possibility of significant job losses across the UK.  "We have repeatedly called for the UK Westminster government to reconsider its position and to extend the scheme, especially for sectors that have been particularly hard-hit like aerospace." She added "sector-specific approaches" were necessary to prevent a "severe" long term impact.  The Scottish government has already set up an aerospace response group to help the industry address the challenges posed by the pandemic.  Pat Rafferty, Scottish secretary of Unite, said: "Tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs and those supported by the aerospace sector in the supply-chain are on the brink of being lost forever. It's clear that many of the measures required to support the sector reside with the UK Westminster government, which is why we are collectively asking the prime minister to immediately establish a UK aerospace task force to coordinate support." He added the situation in Scotland alone "risks a £185 million blow to the economy".