As football fever grips the nation during the Euro2020 tournament, you might be forgiven for overlooking some of the big politics stories that are rumbling along in the background. From a trade deal with Australia that’s causing concern, to worries about NHS services, missed climate change targets and infighting about how the SNP is handling its finances, our politics team has got it covered.
Here’s a look at the top 10 political must-reads from the last week:
1. Scotland misses greenhouse gas emissions targets. Again.
In November this year the focus of the world will shift to Glasgow when leaders, and thousands of delegates, descent upon the city for the United Nations’ COP26 climate summit. The Scottish government has set its own fairly ambitious targets for cutting emissions but as Press & Journal Political Editor Andy Philip reports, the government has failed to meet their own greenhouse gas emission targets for the third year in a row with the Greens saying Scotland isn’t doing enough to meet the targets or protect the environment.
2. Government nominates two women for top legal jobs
For the first time the two most senior roles in Scotland’s legal system are set to be held by women. This week the first minister lodged a motion at Holyrood seeking agreement to recommend to Her Majesty The Queen that Dorothy Bain QC be appointed Lord Advocate. Ms Sturgeon will also seek approval for Ruth Charteris QC as the new Solicitor General for Scotland. Reporter Adele Merson covered the initial news of the historic appointments, as well as reporting on the pressure facing the first minister to split the Lord Advocate’s unusual dual role.
3. Trade deal ‘betrayal’ for Scottish farmers
The UK signed a landmark trade deal with Australia this week, the first of its kind since Brexit. Lauded by the government in London, but strongly criticised by opposition politicians and farmers north of the border, the new deal allows huge increases in meat imports before any protective tariffs come into force – raising fears thousands of farms across the UK could be put out of business. Our Westminster correspondent Dan O’Donoghue has been following this story and you can read more here.
4. PPE supplies on the brink of running out
New figures showed just how close Scotland came to running out of life-saving PPE during the worst of the pandemic last year. As Calum Ross reports, Audit Scotland found that in April last year the nation’s central NHS stockpile had less than a day’s supply of long sleeve gowns, about one day’s worth of FFP3 respirator masks and enough visors to last two days. Read Calum’s full story at this link.
5. New treasurer for SNP
Former SNP treasurer Colin Beattie is to take on the role again following the controversial resignation of Dunfermline and West Fife MSP Douglas Chapman and a growing row over the party’s finances. As Derek Healey reported, there are ongoing questions about what happened to £600,000 raised by SNP activists to campaign for Scottish independence – with the party’s previous treasurer Chapman claiming he was not given enough information to do the job.
6. Drugs hospitalisation increase
New figures out this week show the number of drug-induced hospital stays across Scotland rose by 15,000 last year, but in Dundee and Tayside the increase sharply above the Scottish average. As Paul Malik reports, the Conservatives say the growing numbers are a result of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “taking her eye off the ball”. Read more here.
7. Calls to relax some Covid rules
In a week when the Scottish government confirmed they were pushing back the date when Covid rules would be completely ended – along similar lines to what the UK government is doing amid a rise in infection numbers – the Scottish Conservatives are calling for some restrictions to be eased anyway. MSP Meghan Gallacher says she’s been contacted by dozens of furious parents and guardians who have been unable to attend events at their childrens’ schools. Ms Gallacher said they were “understandably furious” that 6,000 people can attend the Euro Fan Zone in Glasgow, while parents and children will miss out on “precious moments” like school sports days and nursery graduations.
8. Calls for action on breast cancer screening for rural, island areas
Nicola Sturgeon admitted cancer screening services must be restored quickly after hearing concerns women in rural areas face longer waits of up to six years between checks. Self-referral was paused because of the pandemic but services started to reopen last August. Women between 50 and 70 get invites once every three years, while over 71s can self-refer at a local centre. There are six centres on the mainland including Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness. Read more here.
9. Whisky galore!
There was good news for Scotland’s whisky industry this week as a long-running trade war between the US, and the UK and EU , found some resolution. Crippling US tariffs of 25% on single malt whisky exports are set to be suspended for five years. The trade dispute is about subsidies to aircraft manufacturing giants Boeing and Airbus with whisky – and certain other food items – being essentially collateral damage. Since the tariff was imposed in October 2019 whisky exports to the US have fallen by more than a third – amounting to more than £500m. And in more welcome news for the industry a 5% tariff on whisky exports Down Under is being lifted as part of that new UK-Australia free trade deal.
10. And finally… meet a feisty campaigning pensioner!
A campaigning pensioner who challenged the reasons why her postal vote in the Scottish parliament election was rejected, has received a formal apology from the returning officer after holding officials to account. As reporter Rachel Amery found out, the civic-minded 75-year old decided to take local officials to task as she got to the bottom of the mystery of why her ballot had been ruled ineligible. Read Rachel’s full story here.
BONUS – Did you catch the latest episode of The Stooshie, our weekly in-depth discussion about some of the biggest political stories of the week? Don’t worry there’s plenty of time to listen to the new episode and subscribe so you never miss out again.