All posts by johnrobertson834

Retired Professor of Media Politics Not-for-profit independent political analysis

Scotland drifting away from nasty place as SNP Government launches funeral benefit for those on low income

From holyrood.com:

A new benefit to help people on low incomes pay for the costs of a funeral will be available from next week, the Scottish Government has announced. The funeral support payment launches on 16 September and has three elements: burial or cremation costs; a flat rate £700 toward expenses including funeral director fees, coffin and flowers; and some transport costs. It will be available for recipients of universal credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, pension credit, housing benefit, child tax credit and disability or severe disability elements of the working tax credit.

https://www.holyrood.com/articles/news/new-scottish-funeral-benefit-launches-next-week

It’s only one thing, but together with many other emerging differences between Scotland and rUK, the first days of a better country are surely in the past. See these:

Different NHS Scotland and Wales reject England’s hostile environment for vulnerable migrant mothers-to-be

Scotland IS a different place as its universities offer guaranteed places to care leavers

Abuse of women and the disabled far higher in England than in Scotland

Less homicide, less knife crime, less domestic violence, safer cities and now much lower alcohol problems: should Scotland’s old stereotypes be sent south?

Racial hate crimes increase by 33% in England & Wales while falling by 10% in Scotland: Who says we’re not different?

Scottish Muslim students far less likely to report abuse or crime?

Only in Scotland! ‘A review of small country’s approaches to public policy reform in response to economic, demographic and other pressures found that only in Scotland could this ‘golden thread’ be so clearly discerned’

With 1 in 4 living wage employers already in Scotland, the Scottish Government aims to make this a ‘Living Wage Nation’

8% of the UK population and 28% of living wage employers. More evidence that we are different enough to want to run the whole show?

80 000 lowest paid workers in NHS England still on poverty wages as NHS Scotland follows Scottish Government policy to pay a living wage to all public-sector employees

Scottish care workers to receive Living Wage for ‘sleepover’ hours while English care workers receive only the National Minimum Wage.

Different Scotland in the UN report on ‘Workhouse Britain’

Scottish values making oil and gas firms a tad different too?

Are Scotland’s employers also different – more willing to pay a decent wage?

With 1 in 4 living wage employers already in Scotland, the Scottish Government aims to make this a ‘Living Wage Nation’

8% of the UK population and 28% of living wage employers. More evidence that we are different enough to want to run the whole show?

Another difference as UK small and medium-sized business people prefer Boris while Scots prefer…

Another difference between Scotland and rUK?

Scottish Government support for small businesses superior to that in non-Scottish parts of UK

Glasgow to host largest summit ever in UK

The venue for COP26 (Image: SEC)

From the BBC website yesterday:

A major United Nations climate change summit will take place in Glasgow. Up to 30,000 delegates are expected to attend the event at Glasgow’s Scottish Events Campus (SEC) at the end of next year. Glasgow will host the main COP summit while Italy will host preparatory events and a significant youth event, as part of the agreement. The conference has been described as the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015. Lasting for two weeks, it would be the largest summit the UK has ever hosted, with up to 200 world leaders expected to attend for the final weekend. 2020’s conference is seen as a major crossroads in the battle against global climate change. It will likely be held just after the next US presidential election.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-49650909

Earlier evidence that Glasgow is ‘going places’, so to speak, has been reported here:

153% increase in Glasgow conferences puts it above Chicago!

Glasgow getting miles and miles better with help from that ‘Sturgeon’s SNP’

Glasgow Gallery and Museum beats Edinburgh and London

‘Glasgow’s blistering commercial property market’

Miles Better? Glasgow hotel revenue growing eight times faster than UK average

Massive increase in spending by international visitors to Glasgow

‘Edinburgh and Glasgow in top five cities to work in UK’

More real economic strength revealed as demand for Glasgow office space increases dramatically

NHS Scotland increasing mental health discharges by 33% in 10 years with 95% treated near to home

This trend suggests improved treatment of what can be difficult and complex conditions against a background of increased demand as, for example, opioid painkiller addiction soars. From the ISD yesterday:

In 2018/2019 there were 47,790 mental health discharges, an increase of 3% from 2017/2018 and the highest number of discharges since 1997/1998.

In 2018/2019, the most common diagnosis for mental health discharges was mental & behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance (including prescription painkillers and anxiety medication) use.

In 2018/2019 most mental health inpatients were treated within the NHS Board area in which they lived with approximately 5% treated elsewhere.

Click to access 2019-09-10-MentalHealthInpatientCare-Summary.pdf

Reporting on child poverty in Scotland with one source and NO context again

Experts say child poverty will increase in Scotland if radical action is not taken.

Once more Reporting Scotland return to one of their favourite themes – child poverty – but contrary to their own editorial guidelines rely on one source and offer no contextual data to help viewers make sense of it. To make sure that what they offer is more than poverty porn and for the piece to be comprehensive, balanced and fair, would have been mention of these major initiatives, unique to Scotland and designed to moderate the effects of Westminster austerity:

People in crisis made more than 165,000 successful applications to the Scottish Welfare Fund in the last financial year, according to new statistics. The Fund paid out £35 million, including £10.4 million in Crisis Grants to people in financial emergency, such as those struggling on low incomes or benefits – a 14% increase on 2017-18. The money helped people with essentials such as food, heating costs and household items. A further £24.8 million in Community Care Grants helped those facing extreme financial pressures with one-off costs for purchases including beds, washing machines and cookers. The Scottish Welfare Fund is part of an annual package of over £125 million to mitigate against the impact of UK Government welfare cuts. Since its launch in April 2013, the Fund has paid out more than £200 million to support over 336,000 households, with a third of recipients being families with children.

https://news.gov.scot/news/336-000-households-helped-in-times-of-crisis

Finally, we heard nothing of those Westminster austerity policies which have created these problems in the first place and which the SNP Government fights to compensate.

While it might be too much to expect greater detail in a bulletin, perhaps a fuller report could cover some of this?

Though today’s report from End Child Poverty shows that Glasgow does have one of the ‘top’ parliamentary constituencies for child poverty, before taking account of housing costs, Scotland has no entries at all when housing costs, as they would be in actuality, are considered:

povertytablke

Click to access child-poverty-indicators-2019-report-to-ecp-1.pdf

Why is the situation regarding child poverty a bit better here?

In 2018, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation had this to say about the Scottish Government’s intentions to reduce child poverty:

‘The Scottish Government’s commitment to building a social security system that has dignity and respect at its core and offering routes into employment for those currently excluded from the labour market, could change the family incomes and prospects of thousands of children for the better.’

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 1: Less vulnerable to benefits cuts

‘The IFS found that low-income families in Scotland currently have a higher proportion of their income coming from earnings than low-income families in some (but not all) parts of the UK, so have a lower proportion of income that is vulnerable to benefit cuts compared with some of the hardest-hit regions of the UK.’ (Hood and Waters,2017). 2

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 2: Fewer large families

‘In addition, one key change to UK benefit policy – the two-child limit on tax credits and Universal Credit– will particularly hit families with three or more children born after 6 April 2017. The IFS analysis found that Scotland has proportionally fewer families with three or more children than elsewhere in the UK, and around half the proportions found in Northern Ireland and the West Midlands.’ (Hood and Waters, 2017). 3

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 3 and 4: Higher increases in median income and less relative poverty

Note: The predicted dramatic increases above neglect impact of further welfare devolution to SNP Government:

‘Many of the key drivers of changes in poverty have been felt UK-wide. However, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has supported some research that showed a clear rise in Scottish median incomes relative to the rest of the UK from around 2003/04 and a relatively bigger improvement in the relative poverty rate from 2004/05.’ (Bailey, 2014).

Persistent poverty refers to children who have been living in relative poverty in three out of the last four years – a measure of the number of children who have been in poverty for a prolonged period of time.

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 5 and 6: Stronger decreases in poverty rates and increases in employment

‘The research identified strong decreases in poverty rates for the working-age population compared with the rest of the UK, alongside improving employment rates, especially for families without children. Over the period from 2000/04 to 2008/12, Scotland saw a bigger reduction in out-of-work families compared with the rest of the UK and similar growth as the rest of the UK in ‘intermediate work intensity’ (‘partly working’ families). 8

Differences with non-Scottish Parts 7 and 8: Affordable rents and mortgage costs

‘The analysis also pointed to more affordable rent and mortgage costs relative to income than in England, with social rents being 20–25% lower in Scotland by 2012/13. As a result, poverty after housing costs, compared with before housing costs, rose by a smaller amount than in England.’ 8

SNP Government Initiatives

‘In the coming months, the Scottish Government will launch two strategies that could make a crucial difference for our society. The first is an action plan on halving the disability employment gap, and the second is an action plan on the gender pay gap that is due to be published by the end of the year. This could be transformational for tackling poverty.’ 9

https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/poverty-scotland-2018

TODAY, we hear of the ongoing commitment of the SNP government, despite the Westminster constraints, to go beyond words and to act:

‘Vulnerable families are set to benefit from new funding to support households in financial hardship. Seven projects aimed at tackling child poverty will receive a total of £450,000. The money is a part of the ‘Every Child, Every Chance’ Innovation Fund, which is jointly supported by the Scottish Government and The Hunter Foundation. The fund aims to support innovative approaches which could have an impact on reducing child poverty by 2030. The projects range from job training and a befriending service, to school-based mentoring and support for lone parents. One of the successful projects is Stepwell, a social business based in Inverclyde, which provides support to people in the local community with health and finance issues as well as training and employment opportunities.’

https://news.gov.scot/news/funding-to-tackle-child-poverty

Scotland’s North Sea producing more commercial innovations than ANY OTHER PART of the world!

In Energy Voice yesterday:

The North Sea is producing more commercial innovations than any other part of the world, according to a boss at Baker Hughes GE (BHGE). Romain Chambault, European director for oilfield equipment, said he has been impressed with the level of resilience the region has shown in the wake of the downturn. He added that the type of innovation has gone beyond technical, with new ways of working with partners.

Though it’s been some time since we last reported on this topic, see these earlier indicators of benefits beyond the simple extraction of oil and gas:

More Scottish technological expertise!

Scotland’s oil and gas expertise will aid and earn abroad

Scottish offshore expertise at the fore, again

Scotland’s solar energy expertise shines (😊) again

Scottish Subsea expertise to make billions raising World War 1 and 2 wreck cargoes

Scottish expertise produces breakthrough in ‘out-of-autoclave’ manufacturing

Scotland’s sub-sea expertise earns £15 million research fund to work with Japan

Scotland’s tidal energy expertise to help poor communities in South-East Asia

Scotland’s European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) to be test centre for 3 out of 6 new EU-funded offshore renewable energy projects as our expertise begins to earn billions

Asthma deaths: One big reason why free-prescriptions really matter in Scotland

In Nursing Standard yesterday this horrific news:

Asthma patients are putting their lives at risk by skipping medication due to the cost, nurses have reported. The trend, revealed in an Asthma UK survey of 636 nurses in England, has prompted the RCN to call for prescription costs for asthma medication to be scrapped, as they have been for diabetes medication. In the survey, 58% of nurses said they had seen patients have an asthma attack or require emergency care as a result of not taking medication because they were unable to afford it.

Once more the contrast with Scotland is stark:

Deaths still increasing at end of 2017
Deaths beginning to decrease from end of 2016.

Asthma deaths are soaring in England and Wales but beginning to fall in Scotland. Clearly prescription costs will play a part but there seems to be another factor – a lack of basic checks in treatment plans including regular tests:

https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs25/documents/briefing-paper

Scots asthma sufferers seem significantly more likely to have a treatment plan in place than those in England. The situation in Labour Wales is very bad with less than a third being treated properly.

As NHS England denies single women Scotland’s IVF service is 100%

Photograph: Sang Tan/AP

In the Guardian yesterday:

NHS bosses have apologised for justifying denying single women IVF treatment by saying they would be a burden to society and “unable to bring out the best outcomes for the child”:

NHS South East London has said sorry for the “offence and distress” it caused, which prompted 175 single mothers to complain about its “misguided and offensive” language. Guidance explaining the policy was based on a document it had put together that stated: “Single mothers are generally poorer; they are likely to have greater support needs compared to two-parent couples, thereby placing a greater burden on society in general. Aristotle’s principle of equality says treat equals equally, so a couple compared to a couple is equal. A woman or man compared to a couple is not equal, and by attempting to think of them as such has no ground or support.” It added: “A sole woman is unable to bring out the best outcomes for the child.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/sep/09/nhs-bosses-apologise-calling-single-mothers-burden-society

Once more there is a different approach in Scotland. An IVF service which has been 100% successful for 5 years in a row will have had immeasurable benefits reducing both the human and financial costs of infertility. More on this below.

From ISD 30 May 2019:

During the quarter ending March 2019:

  • The four IVF centres in Scotland screened 366 eligible patients, compared with 385 in the previous quarter.
  • In all four centres, 100% of patients were screened for IVF treatment within 365 days, 75.7% of which were screened within 182 days.
  • The 90% standard continues to be met since it was first measured in March 2015.

Why does this matter so much? See this:

Reducing associated mental health complications

Failing to treat infertility can result in problems and further costs for the NHS in other areas. A Danish study of 98 737 women, between 1973 and 2003, showed that women who were unable to have children were 47% more likely to be hospitalised for schizophrenia and had a significantly higher risk of subsequent drug and alcohol abuse.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22020-infertility-may-increase-risk-of-mental-disorders/

Meanwhile in Tory-run NHS England, only 12% of boards offer three full cycles in line with official guidance. 61% offer only one cycle of treatment and 4% offer none at all.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/ivf-nhs-treatment-fertility-lists-wait-patients-lottery-budget-cuts-a8028116.html

A warning for Scotland’s 100% IVF post-Brexit: How moneygrubbing Tory IVF policies are creating massive distress now in England

How IVF became a licence to print money.

As we tumble toward a hard Brexit and trade deals with the USA allowing the private sector into the heart of the NHS, we can see how things will work out in the already privatised IVF service in England and contrast it with the state-controlled and regulated version, in Scotland. See this from the Guardian:

‘Private fertility clinics routinely try to sell desperate patients add-ons that almost certainly don’t help – why isn’t more done to monitor the industry?  Around three-quarters of all IVF cycles fail. And results vary with age. Figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) published in March state the average live birth-rate for each fresh embryo transferred for women of all ages is 21%; for those aged under 35, it is 29% – the highest it has ever been. For older women, the picture is bleaker: 10% for women aged 40-42, for example. IVF is expensive. And what makes it worse, says Hugh Risebrow, the report’s author, is the lack of pricing transparency. “The headline prices quoted may be, say, £3,500, but you end up with a bill of £7,000,” he says. “This is because there are things not included that you need – and then things that are offered but are not evidence-based.”’

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jun/18/how-ivf-became-a-licence-to-print-money

Creating opportunities for the private sector

In Tory-run NHS England, only 12% of boards offer three full cycles in line with official guidance. 61% offer only one cycle of treatment and 4% offer none at all. Private treatment costs between £1 343 and £5 788 per cycle.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/ivf-nhs-treatment-fertility-lists-wait-patients-lottery-budget-cuts-a8028116.html

Why UK politicians would like more privatisation in the NHS

There are 64 Tory and Labour (New) MPs with ‘links’ to private health care. Why would we trust them to protect the NHS? See this:

https://defendournhsyork.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/selling-off-nhs-for-profit-full-list-of-mps-with-links-to-private-healthcare-firms/

Majority of UK voters including Scots would encourage a United Ireland and are prepared to vote tactically for a Brexit outcome

Perhaps reinforcing the impression that the protestors on the streets of Glasgow in the last few days were not too representative of wider opinion, an opinion poll from Deltapoll, with more than 2 000 respondents on 5th to 7th September, showed quite strong support for the notion of a United Ireland:

Take out the don’t knows and 56% support United Ireland?

Indeed, only in Wales (Why?) did there seem to be a majority against it:

Take out the don’t knows and 54% of Scots support a United Ireland?

As for being prepared to vote tactically for a party supporting your preferred Brexit outcome, leave or remain, nearly three times as many said Yes as said No:

Take out the don’t knows and 70% would vote tactically on the basis of Brexit, leave or remain?

While the majority for such action was notably smaller in Scotland (and London)than elsewhere, it surely remains a factor that the SNP planners need to keep in mind:

Take out the don’t knows and 65% of Scots would vote tactically on the basis of Brexit, leave or remain?

After Reporting Scotland called them ‘dysfunctional’ forcing an unnecessary inquiry did NHS Tayside’s chemotherapy dosage variations actually do good?

Because it was always a good thing to try with those patients?

The Herald, above, still milking the story yesterday despite BBC Scotland seeming to have, if quietly, admitted they were wrong:


The deaths between 2016 and 2018 WERE NOT linked to treatment variation.’

Five months after Reporting Scotland had accused Tayside’s oncology department of being ‘dysfunctional’, the BBC Scotland website reported:

Dr David Dunlop told NHS Tayside the deaths between 2016 and 2018 were not linked to treatment variation. NHS Tayside had been criticised for offering lower doses of the drugs than in the rest of Scotland. Dr Dunlop said two cases were not relevant, one refused chemotherapy, and the rest had very poor prognoses.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-49481813

The patients had been given the lower doses to help them cope with frankly terrifying side-effects.

You’ll not be smiling when you hear what we’ve found someone to say!

Reporting Scotland have not returned to the story to apologise for their initial reporting. On April 2nd, they said:

 ‘The report today pointed to the possibility of a dysfunctional department. ‘Detectives’ spoke of pharmacy and nursing staff who said they had concerns about the change of procedures, but they felt they were not being listened to and that their position was one above.’

Only Reporting Scotland used the word ‘dysfunctional’. The BBC website and all the papers I looked at (8) did not use the term either. Why?

TuS reported at length on this disgraceful episode:

Exploitation of the sick to undermine the SNP Government: Reporting Scotland’s dysfunctional health correspondence

August 13, 2019

Dysfunctional Reporting Scotland dabble in complex cancer treatment and cause damaging patient anxiety

May 2, 2019

Why did we not see this man at the beginning of this dark and confused saga? After weeks of confused and agenda-driven poking around in the, too complex for them, matters of cancer treatment, Reporting Scotland have apparently stumbled upon…

‘Dysfunctional’ NHS Tayside fights back as BBC Scotland fiddle with their vocabulary to fool you

May 1, 2019

‘Oncologists under investigation for giving lower dosages of chemotherapy to 300 breast cancer patients refute claims they were wrong to do so. That’s according to a senior clinician at NHS Tayside. Last month doctors at NHS Tayside were ordered to…

Why does Reporting Scotland’s ‘dysfunctional’ breast cancer department have ‘average’ death rate?

April 6, 2019

Should read: ‘after BBC attack’ In fact, the department looks ‘average’ and by no means ‘dysfunctional’. See the statistics below. On the evening of April 1st, Reporting Scotland said of NHS Tayside’s Oncology Department at Ninewells in Dundee: ‘The report…

Reporting Scotland ‘detectives’ think they’ve found a ‘dysfunctional department.’ They have.

April 2, 2019

On Reporting Scotland last night, from Jackie Bird: ‘A health watchdog has criticised NHS Tayside after breast cancer patients were given lower doses of chemotherapy than patients in other parts of Scotland. Healthcare improvement Scotland say patients should have been…

Scottish Lib Dems fume as NHS England told to copy NHS Scotland?

After 3 failed attempts to persuade the Scottish Government to adopt 3 failed Westminster policy initiatives and, thus, demonstrate the strength of the Union (link below), Stephanie Jones-Berry has undone all their good work. In the Nursing Standard today:

Implementing safe staffing ratios would solve the workforce crisis in England, according to an expert in the field. Linda Aiken, a specialist in nurse safe staffing research, roused nurses into rapturous applause on the issue at the RCN International Nursing Research Conference, held in Sheffield this week. Dr Aiken, a University of Pennsylvania professor of nursing and an RCN honorary fellow, said workforce shortages should not be used as an excuse for inaction. Dr Aiken also said NHS employers could pay back newly-qualified nurses’ student loans if they guaranteed to remain with the organisation for a set period.

https://rcni.com/nursing-standard/newsroom/news/implement-safe-staffing-to-solve-recruitment-crisis-says-nurse-expert-152906

Now, Dr Aiken has a Scottish-sounding name. Does she keep in touch with developments in NHS Scotland? See this from 2nd May:

Legislation to support staffing across health and social care services has been passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Health and Care (Staffing) Bill is the first comprehensive multi-disciplinary workload and workforce planning legislation in the UK…..Speaking after the vote, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This is an important Bill that will promote safe staffing across our NHS and social care services and, in doing so, improve patient experience.

https://www.gov.scot/news/safe-nhs-staffing-law-passed/

Here’s the Lib Dem ‘Copy England wee jocks’ link:

UK-obsessed Scottish Lib Dems want us to copy a third Westminster policy to do something we are already doing better ourselves.

The adoption of safe staffing is of course made feasible by earlier developments:

As NHS England is pulled into ethnic nationalist self-destruction why there is no Scottish crisis in nurse staffing

June 4, 2019

Scotland’s nursing and midwifery staffing and student recruitment are Miles better!

May 24, 2019

SHOCK NHS Scotland has 50% more nurses per head of population!

April 27, 2019