‘Fuel poverty kills six a day in winter – that’s a disgrace’

Our latest look at the big issues before Scotland goes to the polls on May 6.

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In the race to hit climate targets, a stark warning comes from those on the frontline: don’t leave families behind.

Over the last few months, more than 500 pressure cookers have been delivered to homes in the central belt. Not as a gimmick, but to address a very real need.

“It began last autumn,” says Frazer Scott from Energy Action Scotland. “Reports were coming in that more and more families were asking local food banks for cold packs.”

Cold packs mean food that can be eaten without the need of heat, with the demand suggesting people were finding their budgets so tightly squeezed, they could no longer afford to turn on the oven.

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Lower-energy pressure cookers were a quick way to stick a plaster on far too deep a wound.

It’s a big problem for government which, at the same time as tackling fuel poverty, wants to achieve climate targets of getting Scotland’s homes off gas and onto climate-friendly energy.

Heating: ‘I worry people will get left behind’

The Skopa family from Ruchazie in Glasgow are trying out pressure cookers from their local housing association.

“It’s very upsetting that families are struggling and this is an idea that could help,” says 15-year-old Aleksandra Skopa.

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“I also like how food banks are helping people and I think they could maybe put recipes in with the food packs to help people use the pressure cookers.

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The Skopa family

“I would like to see more electric cars in the future, but at the same time not many people can afford it. I think what they’re [the government] are doing so far is okay but they just need to push a bit more.”

‘I was sitting there with two jerseys, a dressing gown and gloves’

For pensioners like Robert Leslie environmental groups such as South Seeds in Glasgow have been a lifeline. He got hit by a large bill after his energy company miscalculated his readings.

“I was left with almost two years of underestimated bills for £1200 which I couldn’t afford on my pension,” he says.

“They said I could pay instalments but it was so high it would have left me eating peanuts and porridge every month. I went into South Seeds and they managed to reduce it for me and moved me to a green energy company instead, which is much cheaper. They did a magnificent job, it was like a huge hump was taken off my back.

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Robert Leslie

“There are planned increases in energy bills ahead, which is quite shocking given Scotland in renewables is generating something like 98 per cent of its own electricity. It should be cheaper but it’s not and no-one seems to care.

“Until I got this sorted out I was sitting there at night with two jerseys on and a dressing gown and gloves.”

‘At the end of the day it means diddly squat to those on the ground’

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Glasgow South East Foodbank launched a fuel bank five years ago to help people heat and light their homes.

“It’s great to hear what the politicians want to say, all their big nice fancy words, but at the end of the day it means diddly squat to those on the ground,” says Audrey Flanagan.

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Audrey Flanagan

“You need to ensure there is decent housing, you need to ensure people have enough money to feed themselves, they can heat their homes and their kids are safe and going to school properly.

“You need to ensure jobs. If we don’t have any of that, then I’m sorry, a greener society means nothing because there will be none of us left to be green the way we’re going.”

Frazer from Energy Action Scotland shares the concern of the food banks.

“Right now, 600,000 households in Scotland live in cold and damp homes and it isn’t fair that more than 25 per cent of all Scottish households have to make choices every single day between heating or eating,” he says.

“It is an absolute disgrace that in the 21st century in Scotland we still have this situation.

“I do worry that people will get left behind as we strive to meet those incredible important climate-change targets. I do worry that we will not take people with us unless we prioritise those in need first.

“Don’t leave them behind. Six people die every day in winter in Scotland from fuel poverty. It takes a terrible toll.

“We need to improve the efficiency of all our homes in Scotland and increase the rate at which we do this.

“More has to be done for households with all-electric homes. They on average pay £600 more than a house in Scotland which has gas and electricity to live a similar life.

“We need to get a balance of benefits and support in place to help lift them out of fuel poverty.”

Oil and gas: ‘Morale is quite low’

In the North Sea, a parallel story. As climate targets are set, what does that mean for those who work in an industry that directly conflicts with them?

William Kirkcaldy has more than 30 years’ experience in the offshore drilling industry but due to the pandemic and the downturn in offshore work he was made redundant in April 2020.

He is now back on a zero-hour contract as a lab technician. While he believes in a transition to renewable energy, he wants more done to support himself and his colleagues while the oil and gas industry is still needed.

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William Kirkcaldy

“Morale is quite low,” he says. “A lot of these companies have taken the opportunity to cut wages with less work about. We’re just not earning the same as we used to, there’s been too many cutbacks.

“A lot of these companies now are too top heavy; your executives, your HR department, and the guy offshore is being battered left, right and centre.

“We should still keep the main knowledge base of the workforce in oil and gas as we’re still going to need it for the foreseeable future. You can train the young guys coming up in renewables but keep the current knowledge base in the drilling.

“I’d like to see the government fund the likes of myself to keep the oil and gas industry going until it comes to the time when solar panels are up, wind farms are going and we have that sort of infrastructure.”

Fossil fuels: ‘Nothing compares to the damage massive companies can do

Groups such as Extinction Rebellion want swifter action from Holyrood, especially regarding the climate deliveries of bigger companies such as Barclays.

A recent report by a coalition of NGOs found that the world’s 60 biggest banks have provided £2.75tn of financing for fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal in 2015, and that Barclays provided the most among all European banks.

“I would really like to see them [the government] prioritise future generations rather than short-term goals,” says campaigner Catherine Idle.

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Catherine Idle

“I’d like to see much heavier regulations of banks and how they invest their money and to try and focus much more on people and wellbeing and sustainability rather than profit and constant growth.

“We talk a lot about individual changes, things like recycling or cycling instead of driving and those things are important, but they are nothing compared to the damage that massive companies can do.”

Barclays say they have pledged to be a net-zero bank by 2050.

Farming: ‘We want to be part of the solution’

As pressure mounts to cut carbon emissions, farmers such as Jackie McCreary from Yester Farm Dairies in East Lothian want to be part of the solution but say they need support.

“I think we are still at the start of our journey in adapting to climate change, lots of farms are at different places along the journey, but I think the common element is that we all have to embrace climate change now and adapt our practices,” she says.

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Jackie McCreary

“We can produce really high-quality, climate-friendly sustainable food in Scotland.

“Farmers don’t want subsidies, we don’t want to be farming for subsidies, we want to be providing public goods and be adequately rewarded for what we’re providing for society.

“We have world-renowned scientists in climate change here in Scotland so we have a real depth of knowledge of the subject but I’m not sure it’s reaching farm level yet.

“There’s so much information out there, it can be really a minefield for a farmer to see where to start… I think there is a need for some way of disseminating that knowledge into a usable format.

“It needs collaborations at all parts of the chain and some method of transferring that knowledge to help farmers on the ground to be part of the climate solution to upskill and retrain farmers and farming advisors.”

Recycling: ‘Where you live decides whether you can recycle a yoghurt pot’

From what we eat to how we package it, Kelly Wright, who launched plastic free shop The Refillery in Edinburgh, wants to see greater improvements in Scotland’s recycling rates.

“I think recycling for households in general is so confusing in this country and I think there needs to be more clarity on what can and can not be recycled, standardise it across councils as it all depends on where you live as to whether you can recycle a yoghurt pot or not,” says Kelly.

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Kelly Wright

“I’d like to see more clarity and more milestones put in place to reach our climate targets.”

Nature: ‘We must protect these environments for the future…’

How we tackle waste directly links with Scotland’s fragile eco-systems and the measures conservationists such as Susan Davies say are needed to protect them.

“One of my childhood memories is coming to North Berwick and going out to Bass Rock to see the gannets,” she said.

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Susan Davies

“It’s just really important that we protect these environments for the future and we know that they’re under threat from things like climate change and other activities which are unsustainable in the marine environment.

“The first thing for us is to follow through on the commitment to have a strategy for the conservation of seabirds in and around the coastline of Scotland, but also beneath the waves and along the shoreline we’ve got some very very important habitats.

“We would like to see legally binding targets to restore those habitats. I’m thinking about habitats that lock up carbon such as seagrass meadows, blue mussels and also salt marsh habitats.

“It’s really important we don’t lose any more of those and can restore them back to their former presence and glory.”

School strike for climate: ‘Climate is more than just what we do as individuals’

Finding routes forward for nature and people is key for the road ahead, especially for the younger generation.

Coll McCail, 17, a climate and human rights activist from New Lanark, is voting for the first time.

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Coll McCail

“Just recently it’s been found that the world’s top richest one per cent are responsible for double the carbon emissions of the poorest 50 per cent and these statistics speak to a drastic need to unpick how things currently work if we want to build a sustainable and just climate future,” he says.

“As young people we need to recognise that, we need to organise with that in mind and that’s how we’ll change things.”

What are the parties pledging?

SNP

  • End Scotland’s contribution to climate change by 2045;
  • Increase progress and accelerate toward becoming a net-zero nation by bringing in a £100m Green Jobs Fund;
  • Decarbonise Scotland’s rail services by 2035 and invest £120m in zero-emission buses
  • Invest £1.6bn over the next parliament to eliminate emissions from heating buildings.

Scottish Conservatives

  • Achieve a net-zero Scottish economy by 2045;
  • Work with the UK Government to transition our oil and gas sector to renewables while ensuring jobs are protected;
  • Work with the UK Government to host COP26 in Glasgow to inspire global environmental cooperation and action;
  • Pass a Circular Economy Bill about re-use, recycling and reducing materials.

Scottish Labour

  • Tackle deep seated inequalities by retrofitting homes to tackle fuel poverty, and creating a national energy company to direct and invest in the growth of domestic green energy, including skills and manufacturing supply chains;
  • Develop the skills needed for a green recovery, and protect jobs and communities impacted by the transition to net zero.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Help every household install energy-saving technology and zero emission heating;
  • Help nature to tackle climate change with restored woodland and peatlands and create new national parks;
  • Declare a nature emergency to tackle the loss of species in Scotland and propose a Nature Recovery Law to set legal targets across government for air, soils, seas and rivers.

Scottish Greens

  • Tackle climate change with the urgency it requires by redirecting all subsidies from high carbon and polluting sectors such as fossil fuels into low carbon alternatives;
  • Boost public transport and prioritise renewable energy;
  • Upgrade homes to make them warmer and more efficient;
  • Restore Scotland’s nature while creating more than 100,000 jobs.

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Coronavirus: Another 18 Omicron cases recorded in Scotland

Scottish Government data shows one coronavirus-linked death and 2067 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours.

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A total of 48 people have contracted the Omicron variant in Scotland.

A total of 18 new cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been recorded in Scotland in the past 24 hours, taking the overall number to 48.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the largest rise, with 12 more cases, taking its total to 23.

NHS Lanarkshire recorded four new cases in 24 hours and has 13 overall.

One more case was confirmed in the Forth Valley health board area, taking the total to six.

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A case of the new variant was recorded in NHS Lothian for the first time. Case numbers in NHS Highland and NHS Grampian remain at three and two respectively.

Scotland has also recorded one coronavirus-linked death and 2067 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data.

The Scottish Government said Public Health Scotland is aware of an “ongoing processing issue with UK Government lab tests which may impact on cases and tests” in the daily figures and investigations are under way to resolve the problem.

The death toll under the daily measure, of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days, is 9649, but the Scottish Government said registry office are generally closed at the weekend which can impact figures.

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The daily test positivity rate was 9.6%, up from 7.6% the previous day.

There were 586 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 as of Saturday night and, of these, 45 were in intensive care.

So far, 4,352,104 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 3,958,162 have had a second, and 1,859,735 have been given a third dose or booster.

Body found in the search for missing 28-year-old man

The family of Joel McDiarmid has been informed of the discovery.

Police Scotland
Joel McDiarmid went missing in the Bathgate area last month.

A body has been found in the search for a 28-year-old man who went missing in West Lothian last month.

The family of Joel McDiarmid from Bathgate has been informed of the discovery, although formal identification is yet to take place.

There are no suspicious circumstances and a report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.


Mountain rescue teams battle blizzard after man injured in avalanche

They assisted a man who injured his leg during an avalanche.

Cairngorm MT via Facebook

A climber who injured his leg during an avalanche in the Scottish Highlands was rescued as mountain teams faced heavy blizzard conditions.

In dramatic footage posted by Cairngorm MRT, rescuers can be seen battling the elements to assist the man.

The climbers were able to self-rescue down to the floor of Coire an t-Sneachda where they were met by rescuers and stretchered back to the ski area.

The footage was captured on Saturday, with multiple reports of avalanches.

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In a Facebook post, Cairngorm MRT wrote: “MRT just back from a call out for an male with a lower leg injury sustained during an avalanche. The climbers were able to self rescue down to the coire floor, where they were met by team members and stretchered back to the Cairngorm ski area.

“There were multiple reports of avalanches in Coire an t-Sneachda this afternoon.

“Many thanks to Cairngorm Mountain for their assistance duringWe rely on public donations to fund the work that we do, if you would like to contribute, you can also go to our website – https://cmrt.org.uk

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 12.50pm on Saturday, December 4, we received a report of two people falling in an avalanche at Coire A S-Sneachda.

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“Officers and the Cairngorms Mountain Rescue Team were dispatched, and the man and woman were later traced at a nearby rescue post.”

“The man was stretchered off the hill and transported to Raigmore Hospital for treatment to a leg injury.”


Teenagers arrested after 21-year-old man stabbed in city centre

The incident took place on Saturday afternoon.

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Police say that the teenagers will appear in court at a later date, whilst the investigation continues.

Two teenagers have been arrested and charged by police after a 21-year-old was stabbed in Glasgow City Centre.

Officers responded to a report of a man being stabbed on Ingram Street at around 3.30pm on Saturday, December 4.

The man was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary and remains there with “serious injuries”.

Police say that the teenagers will appear in court at a later date, whilst the investigation continues.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We were called to a report of a man being stabbed on Ingram Street around 3.30pm on Saturday 4 December 2021.

“A 21-year-old man was taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where he remains with serious injuries.

“Two 17-year-old males have been arrested and charged in connection with the incident, and will appear in court at a later date.

“The investigation is continuing.”


Growing concern for missing man after belongings found at loch

Lawrence Penswick was last seen on Babylon Road in Bellshill in the early hours of Friday morning.

Police Scotland
Lawrence Penswick was last seen in the early hours of Friday morning.

Police in North Lanarkshire are appealing for help to find a missing man whose belongings were recovered near Strathclyde Loch.

Officers are looking for 57-year-old Lawrence Penswick, who was last seen around 2.40am on Friday at Babylon Road in Bellshill.

It’s believed he has travelled to Strathclyde Country Park after some of his belongings were recovered near the south side of Strathclyde Loch.

Lawrence is described as a black male, 5ft 10 inches tall, of a medium build and with short black hair.

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He was last seen wearing a grey “bubble” style jacket and a dark-coloured baseball cap.

His family are growing increasingly concerned for his welfare and anyone with information is asked to call 101, citing reference number 2311 of 4 December.

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Former Scotland rugby captain Gary Callander dies aged 62

Callander made six international appearances and captained the side on five of those occasions.

SNS Group
Gary Callander had been living with pancreatic cancer.

Former Scotland captain Gary Callander has died at the age 62.

Callander, who had been living with pancreatic cancer, made six international appearances, skippering the team on five of those occasions.

He also captained Kelso, whose president Scott Forbes, as they announced Callander’s death on Sunday, said his “contribution to the history of the club cannot be overstated”.

With Callander as skipper, Kelso claimed a first Border League title in 50 years in the 1985-86 season.

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He subsequently led the club to the Scottish First Division Championship in 1987-88.

Callander also won secured five Melrose Sevens winners’ medals with the club.

Forbes added in Kelso’s statement on their website: “He was a captain, leader and an outstanding rugby player. He will be sorely missed by his ‘rugby family’.

“Our thoughts are with Gary’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time. May he rest in peace.”


Power firms warned of operations review after Storm Arwen outages

Energy Networks Association says more than 3000 homes across the UK were still waiting to be reconnected on Sunday.

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Storm Arwen brought down thousands of trees across the UK.

Energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has warned power firms that the UK Government will review their operations following continuing outages caused by Storm Arwen.

It comes as the Energy Networks Association (ENA) said that 3190 homes were still waiting to be reconnected as of 2pm on Sunday. This was down from 4025 homes on Sunday morning.

The majority of the impacted homes were in the north-east of England, the ENA added.

Kwarteng visited the north-east of England on Sunday to survey the damage done by the storm.

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During a visit to a Northern Powergrid call centre in Penshaw near Sunderland, Kwarteng told the PA news agency: “I think we can make the system a lot more resilient.

“I had an experience on August 9, 2019, when a million people in the South East were commuting and they had a power outage.

“Immediately after that we had a review and we looked at the system and we held the transport and train companies’ feet to the fire and we have got a more resilient system.

“That’s exactly what I want to happen this time.

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“We will have a review, we will see if the distributor companies have enough infrastructure, we may even have enforcement action if necessary.”

Speaking at the call centre, Kwarteng said: “I don’t accept that (the power cuts would have been resolved quicker in the South).

“The physical infrastructure, lay out and landscape is very different.

“One of the particular reasons why we haven’t got people back on the power supply is the weather conditions and they are very challenging (with) people in sparsely populated, very rural areas, and that represents a challenge.”

It comes as Storm Barra is set to hit the UK on Tuesday, bringing strong winds and rain.

As a result, yellow wind weather warnings are in place across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, with yellow snow warnings in place in Southern and Western Scotland.

On Saturday, gusts of between 35 to 50 miles per hour battered the country overnight, with temperatures plummeting to below zero in parts of Scotland.

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As well as weather warnings, the Met Office predicts further wet and windy weather heading into next week, with poor weather conditions continuing in areas already impacted by Storm Arwen.

Met Office meteorologist Rachel Ayers said: “It will be a relatively nice day today, but overnight tonight it will be windy.

“Temperatures, with the wind and cloud cover, should stay up tonight.

“That should help things a little bit, but we are expecting some more changeable and unsettled weather.

“This unsettled weather isn’t going to help areas that have been impacted by Storm Arwen too much.”

The Ministry of Defence told PA that 297 personnel from the British Army and Royal Marines were still providing support to civil authorities and conducting door-to-door checks on vulnerable people on Sunday morning.

On Saturday, Boris Johnson said he had held calls with those leading the response to Storm Arwen and the Government was ready to further support the recovery work “in any way we can”.

The long delays have prompted energy regulator Ofgem to warn it will take enforcement action against network companies who failed to restore power to customers quickly enough.

It has also agreed with firms to lift the £700 cap on compensation which could be offered to those stuck without power.

The change will allow those affected to claim £70 for each 12-hour period they have no electricity, after an initial £70 for the first 48 hours of any cut.

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Man arrested over ‘driving offences’ following pensioner’s death

Police say a man was arrested and then released pending further enquiries after the death of Douglas Forbes.

Police Scotland
Police are investigating the death of Douglas Forbes.

A man has been arrested in relation to driving offences following the death of a pensioner in Edinburgh.

Police Scotland said a 69-year-old man was arrested ater Douglas Forbes, 78, was found fatally injured at Academy Park in the Leith area of the city at around 8.50pm on Thursday night.

The man under arrest has since been released and enquiries are ongoing.

Forbes was pronounced dead at the scene on Thursday.

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A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Following the death of 78-year-old Douglas Forbes, at Academy Park in Edinburgh, on Thursday 2 December, we can confirm a 69-year old man has been arrested in relation to driving offences.

“He’s been released pending further enquiries and the investigation continues.”

Anyone with information can contact 101, quoting incident number 3329 of 2 December 2021.


Three people in hospital after multi-vehicle smash on the A9

The two men and a woman were taken to Raigmore Hospital.

© Google Maps 2020
Police have appealed for information who may have information about the incident to contact them.

Two men and a woman were taken to hospital following a three-vehicle crash in the Highlands.

The collision took place on Friday, December 3, at around 6.36pm on the A9 at Cuach, north of Dalwhinnie.

A Black Vauxhall Zafira, a red Audi A3 and a silver Volkswagon Touran were the vehicles involved.

The two men and the woman were taken to Raigmore Hospital where they were treated for their injuries.

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None are believed to be life threatening. 

Police are now appealing for anyone who may have information about the incident to contact them.

Sergeant Neil MacDonald of Roads Policing Unit said: “Our enquiries into the cause of this crash are ongoing and we are appealing to anyone who was in the area at the time to please get in touch.

“In particular, we are keen to speak to anyone who saw the cars or who may have dash-cam footage that can help with our investigation.

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“If you can help, please contact us on 101, quoting reference 2819 of December 3.”


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