Back to the future

Rain often leads to flooding. That is the way in which nature has evolved and areas such as flood plains are designed by nature for this purpose. On rare occasions torrential downpours can result in rivers bursting their banks or swelling beyond recognition and causing devastation to the surrounding area.

Nature takes its course, but nature has a nice habit of monitoring and regulating itself. None of this was a problem before humans started populating the valleys and riversides. As soon as we started building, we started imposing ourselves on nature and rather than work with it we bent it to suit our requirements. In some cases, this has been done well and, in many others, badly. In Inverclyde we have five towns sandwiched between rolling hills and the River Clyde. Basic physics tells us that water runs down, not up. Instantly we can see the problem. The rainfall must go somewhere. We have established that it is going to run down towards the river but the speed with which it travels is crucial. Before there was any major construction in the area, we now classify as Inverclyde, nature had created a network of burns that carried the excess. Ladyburn, Cartsburn, Dellingburn, Westburn, Bouverie and Coves were not just locations they were active burns which formed a crucial part of our local eco system. Before we filled the hills with sheep, we had forests, peat and shrubs. They soaked up rainfall and slowed the rate at which it hit the ground. Tree canopy is an important factor. It may not look like much, but every wet leaf and branch holds rain that isn’t adding to the saturation of land. But we denuded the hills and destroyed the peatland. This increased the rate and the amount of rain pouring off the hills towards the river. And we built houses, roads and railways and in doing so we diverted and even merged burns. We tried to outsmart nature and we lost. More recently we have filled in docklands, the outcome being that the water has further to travel before making it to the river. This is most obvious when the main roads flood. Much mitigating has taken place but looking to the future, every time we Monoblock a drive, put down plastic grass, build houses, cut down trees, clear hedge ways, we are once again going to increase the volume and speed of the water. The flood prevention that we are putting in place will require upgrading, again. Or we could work with nature. Restore the peatland. Inverclyde has over five thousand hectares that could be restored. This lends itself to ecological, socio-economic and cultural regeneration. Reforestation in the right places, with the right trees, ticks all those boxes too. And it doesn’t have to be trees. Nature provides us with a vast range of plants that will retain water, encourage insect life and bird life while working in a practical and aesthetically pleasing way. We don’t need engineering marvels to resolve the problems, nature has given us all the materials and we have the skills to utilise them.

I am in discussion with Inverclyde council, NatureScot, the Yearns Stane Project, Forestry Scotland, Woodlands Trust and other stakeholders and we hope to be able to attract the funding to carry out major projects in Inverclyde. With the right commitment we can, to paraphrase ex councillor Jim Hunter, put the ‘Green back in Greenock’ and go beyond that to improve the environment, carbon footprint and even flooding in Inverclyde.     

Scottish Government – Business support

£60 million for newly self-employed, close contact businesses and driving instructors.

Two funds to support people whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic are now open to applications

Grants will be available for mobile and home-based close contact service businesses – such as make-up artists and hairdressers – as well as registered driving instructors.

The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund, which paid out more than £11 million in vital support last year, will also re-open for a second round.

Both funds will provide £4,000 grants to successful applicants. Full eligibility details are available online.

Background

Full information on the Mobile and Home-Based Close Contact Services Fund and the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund

Statistics published last week showed £244 million was paid to businesses through three funds in January alone.

COVID-19 advice and funding information is available via the Find Business Support website.

Greenock Telegraph 12th February 2021

We are all aware of the effects of Covid and the devastation it has had within our communities. It has led to poor health, both physical and mental, loss of jobs and financial hardship. The good news is that the vaccine rollout continues at pace and those that were considered the highest priority have almost entirely received their jag. But there are illnesses and conditions that also ruin health, wealth, and happiness. Conditions that can lead to loss of life, that we can’t produce a vaccine for. Within our society we have a hidden killer that goes unnoticed. Addiction to alcohol or drugs tends to be noticed, there is a change in behaviour and increasingly the medical profession, who not so long ago were dismissive of alcoholics and drug addicts, are intervening. And the earlier the intervention the better.

However, gambling addiction is the poor relative. Gambling addiction leads to all the heartaches I mentioned earlier but it can go almost unnoticed until it is too late. We need to start talking about it. We need to bring it out into the open and expose the ruthless predatory behaviour of the gambling industry. Gone are the days of punters in the bookies studying form and picking a few horses to back. Now we have online casinos operating twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Punters are emailed and messaged constantly to encourage them to bet more. Free bets and inducements are used to pile on the pressure. People at their wits end are driven to suicide and all the while we are faced with celebrity endorsements and blanket advertising at sporting events. We can’t grow a vaccine but we can and we must have a ban on advertising, reduction in stakes, end VIP rooms and provide help and support and education for those that have been affected and those whom the industry is so willing to groom to be the next generation of addicted gamblers. 

Written question – Gambling [10/02/2021]

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of gambling advertising on sports shirts on (a) children and (b) vulnerable people. (147917)

Tabled on: 02 February 2021

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what plans he has to introduce a ban on gambling advertising on sports kit. (147929)
    Tabled on: 02 February 2021
  2. To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment he has made of the viability of alternative funding models for sport in lieu of gambling sponsorship. (147918)
    Tabled on: 02 February 2021
  3. To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent discussions he and his officials have had on gambling advertising in sport with (a) gambling industry organisations and (b) sports industry organisations. (147919)
    Tabled on: 02 February 2021

Answer:
Nigel Huddleston:

The government launched its Review of the Gambling Act 2005 on 8th December with the publication of a Call for Evidence. As part of the wide scope of that Review, we have called for evidence on the benefits or harms of allowing operators to advertise and engage in sponsorship arrangements across sports, esports and other areas. The Call for Evidence will remain open until 31 March, and no policy decisions have yet been made. The government intends to set out conclusions, including any proposals for change, in a white paper later this year.

The government is aware of studies which suggest an association between familiarity with operator logos in childhood, such as those which may feature on football shirts, and intention to bet when of legal age. We are also aware of international research which suggests an association between exposure to the promotion of betting brands during live sport and increased intention to bet amongst adults, including adults who score more highly on the Problem Gambling Severity Index screen used to assess problem gambling. However, we are not aware of evidence which indicates a causative link between exposure to operator logos on sports shirts and the development of problem gambling in childhood or adulthood.

Ministers and officials continue to meet with a range of stakeholders to discuss matters within scope of the Gambling Act Review. Details of ministerial meetings are publicly available and can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/search/transparency-and-freedom-of-information-releases?content_store_document_type=transparency&organisations%5B%5D=department-for-digital-culture-media-sport.

Written question – Gambling [11/02/2021]

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions he and his officials have had with the Governments of Asian countries on the sponsorship of UK sport by Asian gambling operators seeking to market products in countries where those products are illegal. (150837)

Tabled on: 08 February 2021

Answer:
Nigel Adams:

We are not aware of any approach by Governments in Asian countries on the sponsorship of UK sport by Asian gambling operators.

The answer was submitted on 11 Feb 2021 at 16:47.

Written question – Gambling [09/02/2021]

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether he has made a clinical assessment of the effect on rates of problem gambling of shirt-front gambling sponsorship in sport. (147920)

Tabled on: 02 February 2021

Answer:
Jo Churchill:

On 8 December 2021, as part of the continued commitment to address gambling-related harms, the Government launched its Review of the Gambling Act 2005, with publication of a Call for Evidence. This includes a call for evidence on the benefits or harms of allowing operators to advertise and engage in sponsorship arrangements in sport. The initial Call for Evidence will close on 31 March 2021.

The Department continues to work collaboratively with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, supporting the comprehensive review of the Gambling Act 2005, ensuring the regulatory framework is fit for purpose and protecting children and vulnerable people from gambling-related harms.

The answer was submitted on 08 Feb 2021 at 16:40.