Look Up! – the sequel

Climate Change Fighting for our future

This View has been written by Midlothian Reader Bill Kerr-Smith

It seems only yesterday that audiences were commenting knowingly on the follies of the authorities and pundits who were ignoring the obvious dangers presented by an oncoming asteroid, on course to impact the Earth.

The parallels with the inevitable oncoming climate catastrophe we face were clear for all to see and, for a short time, there appeared to be a heightened awareness of the existential risks inherent in our collective failure to address the climate challenge. Then the circus moved on, as one eye-catching “dead cat” after another landed in our media on an almost daily basis.

I’m prompted to revisit this theme by the astonishing outpouring of scorn, ridicule and outright glee being expressed over the collapse of the Bute House Agreement and the ousting of the Scottish Greens from Government.

To read most of the commentary this week, it would appear that almost every mis-step made by the SNP in government has been caused by the Greens and that our politics is much improved by their removal from the Government ranks. In particular, scorn has been poured on the Gender Recognition Bill, the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and proposals for de-carbonising home heating.

It’s worth pointing out that every one of these issues was included in the SNP manifesto for 2021, and were not imposed on an unwilling SNP by the Scottish Greens.

In government office, for the first time anywhere in the UK, there is no denying that the Greens have sometimes faltered and, to quote The Guardian, had “a tendency to legislate ambitiously and to consider the implementation problems, and sometimes the public’s anxieties, only afterwards.”

I would add that they also failed to take large numbers of their members with them, specifically regarding gender reform concerns, which led to a large number of resignations (including mine) from the party.

Having said all that, I would make the plea; “give them a break”.

The SNP will abandon none of those policies now that the Greens are gone, because they all still make sense, but they are likely to take the short-term decision to delay some implementation, particularly now that they are running scared of the climate sceptics.

With only two first-time appointed (Junior) Minister posts embedded in a 17-year-old established government how much responsibility do the Greens really bear for the ongoing cavalcade of chaos in Scottish government performance? And how does Greens’ performance compare with the epic fiascos that are on display across the UK and have cost us hundreds of Billions of £££?

There is little doubt that Humza Yousaf ditched the Greens because he was afraid that they would ditch him first, and make him look weak.

Harvey and Slater deserve much of the criticism being levelled at them, but they are now out of a job because it looked very likely that the Green membership would reject the Bute House agreement, after the SNP abandoned Scotland’s climate targets.

At a time when the main UK parties are busy abandoning every principle they ever had, I think we’ll miss the Green influence in Scotland, but not until we get over the gloating and decide to Look Up, once again.

Are you being overcharged by your vet?

Heritage Vets

The vets from Heritage Vets performing keyhole surgery.

This View has been written by Midlothian Dog Trainer Nick McMechan.

The Competition and Markets Authority recently announced an investigation into the Veterinary industry. Following a survey of pet owners and veterinary surgeons in the UK. They have found multiple concerns in the industry which include being overcharged for medicines, reduction of choice and poor competition in some areas with pricing being unclear to the pet owner.

Many people may not be aware but there are six large chains in the UK which own 60% of practices. The proportion of independent practices has halved in ten years. When I look at my local practices in Dalkeith, who my own clients do rate highly, both practices are owned by large chains yet it took a bit of digging around on their websites to find this. As is often the case, its not obvious that your local practice is part of a big chain.

I do feel well placed to comment here. Having previously been an Area Manager with a large pharmacy chain, involved with healthcare professionals & supply of medicines and now a Dog Trainer, owning Esk Valley Dog Training. I also understand the the pricing and supply of medicines is not as straightforward as it seems. At the same time I have wondered at being charged in the region of £40 for medicine for my dog which can be supplied at a pharmacy for a couple of quid.

However, its more complicated than that. In particular medicines which have an animal licence will be priced differently to similar (or the same) medicines that are licensed for humans. Indeed, it is illegal for a vet to prescribe a human medication if there is a version licensed for animals, and the animal licensed options are usually far more expensive. These prices are set by the pharmaceutical companies, not the vets. Many factors go into pharmaceutical production and supply and economies of scale are indeed a factor as well as many others.

One of the actions we can take is to request a veterinary prescription from our practice and take that elsewhere to an online veterinary pharmacy to supply or you can take your veterinary prescription to your local pharmacy (note that in that case the pharmacist will have to make a professional judgement to supply and can refuse; please don’t be offended if they do as it won’t be personal). Your practice will charge you for the supply of the private prescription so you should take that into account as well as it may not necessarily be cheaper in the long run.

What you may also wish to consider is that your vet is a private healthcare provider. This means they are a business and have a responsibility to make a profit in order that they continue to provide their invaluable service and to invest in the advancements in veterinary healthcare that come along in the future. If we all take our veterinary prescriptions elsewhere those businesses will have to make up those lost profits somehow.

So, as I sit in the middle of this, what’s my choice. Its to move to an independent practice. My belief is that, whilst there are advantages to the large chains, I want somewhere local and personal that has the freedom to make decisions for the care of my animals that we need and want. I recently asked the new team at Heritage Vets about the recent media coverage:

“We will never be able to price our medications as low as the online pharmacies, and written prescriptions can be offered where appropriate for the client to source their own medications. At Heritage Vets we are in a privileged position due to being an independent vet practice.

“We have full control over our pricing, and we will be able to strike a balance between medication pricing and pricing for our services to be as accommodating as we can. The costs of veterinary care are increasing and will continue to do so though, so we would encourage all pet owners to take out pet insurance where possible to help cover unexpected costs.”

Heritage Vets will open in Thornybank, Dalkeith on 22nd April 2024. I’ve already registered to move my animals across and my family has too. We’ve had excellent service over the years with our previous vet but the attraction of a local independent vet and people who I respect have recommended them highly, means I have made the decision to have their care looked after there.

 

Nick specialises in Loose Leash Walking and Reactivity as well as everything you would expect from a great Dog Trainer. You can find out more here: eskvalleydogtraining.co.uk

Torfichen wind farm – eighteen turbines, 180 metres high in Midlothian

Gladhouse Reservoir Dougie Johnson

Here is my favourite photo of Gladhouse Reservoir taken for us by Dougie Johnson for the Mount Lothian application. This wind farm would be behind and along the Moorfoot Scarp.

This View has been written by Midlothian View Reader Celia Hobbs

I am grateful for the opportunity to contact the people of Midlothian about a planning application affecting Gladhouse Reservoir through Midlothian View.

Penicuik Environment Protection Association, PEPA, supported Midlothian Council from 2005 to 2015 to uphold the Local Plan and defeat two wind farms Auchencorth and Mount Lothian. We were both entirely vindicated as Government Reporters deemed Midlothian was too small and compact a county to accommodate turbines as high as 102 metres. I was the PEPA spokesperson so feel responsible at this present time to alert Midlothian residents to a new wind farm application which was submitted on November 28th 2023.

There is an application for eighteen turbines, 180 metres high in Midlothian along the Moorfoot Scarp, Torfichen wind farm. Compare this application to the failed Mount Lothian application, the other side of Gladhouse Reservoir, that had nine turbines 102 metres high and which the Reporter said was out of scale.

Objections to Torfichen were submitted to the Energy Consents Unit, ECU, but only two were posted on their website in time for Midlothian Councillors to read before a Preliminary Council Meeting on 12th March. I submitted mine on January 12th and it was posted with some others of a similar date on March 12th. As I will explain below, there is no statutory requirement for the ECU to publish representations and they warn it may take up to three months to publish them.  I think Councillors who represent the public should be able to view public representations when they are submitted.

I would be grateful if you would read the reasons for my objection to Torfichen wind farm.

With the whole of Scotland to choose from would you

  1. Choose a site where Scottish Water states that it appears at least ten turbines are sited in a Public Drinking Water Catchment area of a reservoir (Gladhouse) serving Midlothian and parts of the capital city of Edinburgh?
  2. Choose a site in a self-contained basin with hills on either side which four Government Reporters have already stated is too small and confined to accommodate large turbines?
  3. Choose a site which is in sight of a World Heritage site?
  4. Choose a site a short distance from a city of 554,000 and in a small county of 90,470 with high visibility?
  5. Choose a site that will destroy the view of the Moorfoot Hills from the Pentland Hills which has six hundred thousand visitors a year?
  6. Choose to ruin a view from a Regional Park that Edinburgh Councillors voted to be put forward for the next National Park?
  7. Choose a site near the biggest tourist destination in Scotland, Edinburgh? Foreign tourists spend just over twenty- seven million annual bed nights in Scotland. Forty-seven percent are spent in Edinburgh. The city benefits from just under half of the total spent by international tourists in Scotland.
  8. Choose a site next to the largest body of freshwater in the Lothians, Gladhouse, which is not only beautiful but is increasingly popular for recreation?
  9. Choose a site where there would be peat disturbance? NatureScot states the amount of peat disturbed would be ten times greater than presented.
  10. Choose a site that is next to a reservoir which is a Ramsar site, of international importance for birds such as pink-footed geese, osprey, curlew, black grouse and others, the disturbance of which concerns RSPB?

The application is for greater than 50MW so Scottish Ministers will decide whether this goes ahead using an Act of 1989 designed to force through traditional power plants. These were applications for plants sited with care by the Government with compensation for those affected, as with roads and airports. Sensibly they made public intervention in the decision difficult.

In the case of wind farms there is no grand plan, no compensation for those affected, just bribes for their neighbours with so-called Community Benefit. Wind farms are sited where a landowner puts their hand up, regardless of the merit of the site. I consider the 1989 legislation inappropriate.

Councils are the determining authority under different legislation for proposals under 50MW. If refused, applicants can appeal to the Department of Environmental Appeals costing Councils a great deal of money at Public Inquiries. The Government has overruled 46% of Council decisions since 2007 according to the Government website. As stated above, Midlothian Council defended their Local Plan twice with two applications, Auchencorth and Mount Lothian. A win does not mean Councils win their costs. With a Council Tax Freeze, this makes these decisions even more difficult.

To show the extent of control by the Scottish Government, there has not been a single wind farm built in England since Councils were given control of planning in 2012.

There must be a happy medium. I do not think it is right that in Scotland applications go to the Energy Consents Unit under 1989 legislation behind closed doors with little input from the public. Councils are only able to object and call for a Public Inquiry at great expense. This is happening all over the country with a petition before Parliament by Scotland Against Spin for the public to have more say.

This application makes a mockery of the assessment of four Government-appointed Reporters who spent weeks here over the years drawing their own independent conclusions that Midlothian is unsuitable for tall turbines.

In 2023 a New Planning Framework, NPF4, was adopted in Scotland, only giving protection from wind farms to the two National Parks and National Scenic Areas, a manifesto pledge of the Green Party. There is though the question of planning balance between the climate crisis and the nature crisis.

The DPEA has just announced an Appeal has been rejected for turbines at Corsock under the new NPF4. The Reporter discusses the planning balance and states

 Nevertheless I find the proposal would not comply with the development plan due to the lack of sufficient information relating to the additional requirements relating to peat disturbance and biodiversity enhancements.

NatureScot in their submission for Torfichen is not satisfied with this aspect and requires significantly more information especially due to the incorrect data on peat disturbance.

Statutory regimes still apply to wind farm applications and Scottish Water suggests this application does not conform to Drinking Water Protected areas under Article 7 of the Water Framework Directive. They need accurate measurements to confirm ten of the eighteen turbines are within the water catchment. In response to a different application in 2015, Scottish Water said, “We would request that turbines, infrastructure and other associated activities are located outwith the catchment to prevent any effects to drinking water quality.”

NPF4 states that “All Ramsar sites are also European sites and/or Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are extended protection under the relevant statutory regimes.”

It is an insult to Midlothian Council taxpayers to expect them to pay again for a Public Inquiry when they have had to pay for a previous Public Inquiry and Hearing for nearby failed applications.

It seems to me the sensible and right course of action would be for applications to be assessed by the ECU at an early opportunity with suggestions that applications should be withdrawn if not conforming to Directives and Statutes before any more expense is incurred by the developer, our hard-pressed Councils and our tax- funded Energy Consents Unit.

Thank you for reading this.

The application is on the Energy Consents website. Type Torfichen into the Simple search box

It is also now on the Midlothian website Planning – Applications Number 23/00795/S36 Click HERE

Representations to be sent to the ECU not Midlothian Council.

Comments on the application may be submitted to the ECU in the following ways quoting (Reference Torfichen  ECU00004661)