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The Scottish Affairs Committee Report: The Two Governments Must Work Together to Improve Broadband and Mobile Coverage




|| July 23: 2018 || ά. The Scottish Affairs Committee warns that some areas in Scotland are at risk of being left behind and calls on both the UK and Scottish Government to work together to address this problem. While noting the improvements, that have been made in recent years, the Report highlights the challenges poor coverage can cause for rural communities in a 'digital-first' society and proposes solutions to strengthen consumer rights and improve Government programmes encouraging investment by private providers.

The Report welcomes the existing 'right to exit' policy, under which consumers are entitled to leave a provider, if, the service they receive falls below that advertised. However, this policy only works, if, another provider is available for them to switch to, which is, often, not the case in rural areas. The Committee, therefore, recommends that Ofcom consults on automatic compensation in areas only serviced by one provider, where speeds fall below the minimum guaranteed level. In addition, the Report highlights that the language used to describe broadband services is, often, unclear.

To ensure consumers know exactly what they are paying for, the Report recommends that service providers should not be allowed to use the term 'fibre broadband' when they are in fact using copper technology, which delivers much slower speeds.

The report acknowledges the differences between the UK and Scottish Governments in their approaches to broadband delivery but highlights that both share a commitment to improving coverage for all. Given this shared aim, as well as, an acceptance from both sides that the relationship needs to improve in this area, the Committee recommends that the two Governments find ways to effectively work together to provide coverage to the whole of Scotland, including, on their two programmes, the UK Government's USO and the Scottish Government’s R100 programme, which both aim to provide broadband coverage to the most remote areas.

The Report welcomes the actions of both Governments to provide broadband coverage to the ‘final 05%’ because people in rural areas face a much greater challenge in getting connected. The UK Government has announced its Universal Service Obligation:USO, which will give all consumers the right to request a connection of 10Mbps minimum download speed by 2020.

While welcoming this commitment the Committee questions whether this speed will meet increasing consumer needs and call on the Government to review this target and ensure it represents the absolute minimum speeds, that consumers will receive. 

The USO contains a 'reasonable cost threshold' of £3,400 for providing a property with a connection, with individuals paying any additional costs. The Report highlights the real risk, that some rural areas could be excluded by this threshold and calls upon the UK Government to set out what additional support will be made available.

The Report welcomes the funding, that the UK Government has made available to businesses and local authorities, particularly, through the Gigabit Voucher Scheme but call on the UK Government to change the funding rules to make it easier for rural communities to benefit from this scheme. 

The Report recognises the vast improvements, that Scotland has seen in mobile phone coverage, only 30% of Scotland's land mass covered by four-G services from all operators. The Committee welcomes Ofcom's plan to require mobile operators to cover 76% of Scotland landmass, and call on Ofcom to monitor the impact this has on mobile coverage on Scotland's A and B roads, where poor coverage is causing particular problems for businesses operating on the move. The Committee, also, calls on Ofcom to do more work to explore how consumer could roam between different networks in areas, that are only served by one provider.

Providers were clear to the Committee that regulatory barriers to deployment could have a significant impact on the rollout of full-fibre and five-G infrastructure, despite welcome moves by the UK Government to reform the Electronic Communications Code and establish a Barrier Busting Task Force. In order to further reduce regulatory barriers and facilitate much-needed infrastructure deployment, the Committee says that a joint approach between the UK and Scottish Governments, as well as, local authorities, is essential.

Mr Pete Wishart, the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, said, "Digital connectivity is an essential part of modern life and an indispensable tool for stimulating economic growth. Throughout the course of our inquiry, witnesses highlighted the value of reliable, fast broadband and mobile coverage and many members of the public and community groups got in touch to raises the problems they had getting online.

Scotland's challenging geography and remote communities make it one of the most difficult places to deliver broadband and mobile coverage in Europe and, while good progress has been made, there is still more to do. Our Report makes recommendations about the way forward and emphasises the importance of both Governments working together to make this happen." :::ω.

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United Kingdom The British Medical Association Annual Conference 2018 Told: The Foundation of General Practice Is at Risk of Collapse But Can Be Rebuilt

|| June 26: 2018 || ά. The UK GP Leader has told the country’s doctors that the foundation of general practice on which the NHS depends has ‘serious structural faults’ but that he is committed to rebuilding it to ensure the future of the health service. Speaking to the British Medical Association:BMA members at its Annual Conference 2018, taking place in Brighton, Dr Richard Vautrey, the BMA GP Committee UK Chair, highlighted the invaluable footing, that primary care provides for the health service, but said that that was at risk as GPs report unmanageable workload pressures, hundreds of practices close and doctors leave the profession.

Delivering his speech at the Brighton Centre, Dr Vautrey said, For 70 years, general practice has been the foundation on which the NHS has been built. For 70 years general practice is where the vast majority of patient contacts have occurred, where, generation after generation, have been looked after by GPs and their teams, embedded within their community, providing care, even, before the cradle and, often, after the grave to those left behind, grieving the loss of loved ones. It’s been on this foundation of general practice and the primary care we provide, that other NHS services have depended.

Dr Vautrey went onto saying, We’ve managed demand, enabled efficient working elsewhere in the system, directed patients to the right specialist service, been innovative in care pathway design and, above all, managed clinical risk on behalf of the NHS as a whole. But when nearly 40 per cent of GPs intend to quit direct patient care in the next five years and over 90 per cent of GPs are reporting considerable or high workload pressures, we know that the foundation of general practice has serious structural faults.

Exiting the European Union: Scotland Will Struggle to Compete for Migrant Workers

|| June 25: 2018: University of Glasgow News || ά. New research conducted by the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow suggests that a post-EU Scotland is likely to find itself losing out on much-needed low-skilled migrant labour from the European Economic Area:EEA to English-speaking countries, such as, North America, Australia, and to countries within the EEA. he study, ‘Choices Ahead: Approaches to Lower Skilled Labour Migration After Brexit’ investigated how migrants reach decisions about where to work, it found that key Scottish sectors, such as, agriculture, care, construction and hospitality are likely to lose out, when the current arrangements end in 2019.

The relatively high level of flexibility and security offered by the current arrangements gives Scotland and other areas of the UK a competitive advantage over destinations, such as, the USA. In addition to factors affecting migrant decisions, the report considered visa schemes available in other industrialised countries and assessed how these chimed with migrant motivations. The authors contrasted these options with current proposals for regulating migration to lower-skilled jobs once free movement ends. They identified a lack of joined-up thinking, meaning that the current proposals failed to balance the skills needs of key sectors with, for example, the demographic needs of Scotland and Scotland’s rural areas in particular.

Professor Rebecca Kay, Co-author, from the University of Glasgow's School of Social and Political Sciences, said, "Each year thousands of European nationals fill lower-skilled job vacancies in many UK industries like agriculture and care work. Many have stayed longer-term, raising families and contributing to their local communities.

Policy makers designing new immigration policy must consider the varied needs of these workers and the attractiveness of the UK as a destination. Policy design will impact both on our ability to attract migrant workers at all and on the types of migrants, who are willing to come to or settle in our country."

Her Co-author Dr Sarah Kyambi of the University of Edinburgh, said, "The UK is ill-served by immigration policymakers not considering the full range of goals to be pursued from immigration and not exploring the potential of the full range of programmes to meet them.

These case studies from other industrialised countries show that the range of programmes for migration into lower skilled work is wider than temporary, restrictive schemes.

Where labour needs are longer term or immigration plays a role in meeting demographic challenges, more flexible and generous regimes are more appropriate. As well as, competing to attract ‘the brightest and the best’, it is time to recognise the value of immigration into lower skilled work."

Another Co-author, Professor Christina Boswell of the University of Edinburgh, said, "Most of the discussion about immigration needs after Brexit has focused on higher skilled occupations with the assumption being that we can regulate lower-skilled immigration through temporary and seasonal schemes.

But experience from other countries suggests that such temporary schemes can have serious drawbacks, leading to vulnerability, a high level of churn and challenges with enforcement. And such restricted rights programmes are likely to be far less appealing to EEA nationals."

The report’s policy recommendations include:

Policy makers need to balance a range of labour market, demographic and social goals in developing policies to regulate low-skilled migration. But crucially, they, also, need to consider how different programmes are likely to affect decisions on mobility and settlement. A shift to a more restrictive system is likely to have substantial effects on the supply of EEA nationals into lower-skilled jobs.

Whatever programme is adopted, the UK and Scotland will have to compete with other countries as potential migrant destinations. For EEA nationals, other countries within the EEA will become attractive alternatives. Other English-speaking countries, e.g, USA, Canada or Australia, with more complex entry requirements, may, also, begin to emerge as more attractive destinations, especially, for younger migrants with good English-language skills.’

The authors of the report are Dr Sarah Kyambi, University of Edinburgh , Professor Rebecca Kay, University of Glasgow, Professor Christina Boswell, University of Edinburgh, Dr Holly Porteous, University of Glasgow.

The research was principally funded by the Economic and Social Research Council:ESRC with a small contribution from the Scottish Government. :::ω.

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The Scottish Parliament Justice Committee Repot: Too Many People Particularly Female Prisoners are Kept in Remand Unnecessarily Since Only 30% of the Female Remand Prisoners Go Onto Getting a Custodial Sentence

|| June 25: 2018 || ά. The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has found that the proportion of remand prisoners in Scotland is high, particularly, amongst female prisoners, where remand prisoners account for, almost, a quarter of the total female prison population. The Committee, also, found that time spent on remand can result in disruption to an individual’s benefits, housing, employment, medical treatment and to their wider family.

The Committee heard that being on remand is largely unproductive and that access to services for these prisoners is limited. Significantly, only 30% of the women held on remand go on to receive custodial sentences. Whilst the Committee was strongly in favour of remand being used where there appears to be a risk to wider society, it has criticised the lack of data to explain the decisions of ‘sheriffs or ‘judges’ when bail is refused.

Furthermore, the committee suggested there should be greater consistency in terms of effective alternatives to remand, such as, supervised bail models and that these are sufficiently resourced.

Speaking as the report was published, Committee Convener, Ms Margaret Mitchell MSP, said, ‘’The need to protect society and to keep those, who are a threat to the public off the streets is paramount.

However, the number of those held on remand in our prisons now is higher than in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Committee was concerned, therefore, to hear that there is a lack of clear understanding as to what lies behind this rise.

In short, we want to make sure that those held on remand are there for a good reason. This is, especially, important as the disruption to the life of a person sent to prison on remand but, who then does not receive a custodial sentence, can be profound.”

Remand is either when an accused person, following a first appearance in court, is kept in custody prior to trial or when a convicted person is kept in custody prior to sentencing or when a convicted person is kept in custody pending an appeal.

This report is primarily concerned with the first category of remand.

Read the Report:::ω.

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The Scotland Arkive

Life's Laurel Is You In One-Line-Poetry A Heaven-Bound Propagated Ray Of Light Off The Eye Of The Book Of Life: Love For You Are Only Once



Life: You Are The Law The Flow The Glow: In Joys In Hurts You Are The Vine-Songs On The Light-Trellis


























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