A Sunshine Act for Scotland

Hole Ousia

On Thursday 22 March 2018 I will be making a peaceful protest outside the Scottish Parliament, two years to the day that my petition for a Sunshine Act for Scotland was closed.

But what is a "Sunshine Act"? And what is the story behind it?

In September 2013 I submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament urging the Scottish Government to introduce a Sunshine Act for Scotland.

I have worked as a doctor for NHS Scotland for over 25 years and it was his concern that marketing by commercial sector (pharmaceutical industry, device makers, imaging technologies) was routinely part of continuing medical education. Research has conclusively demonstrated that competing financial “conflict of interest” can affect the treatment decisions doctors recommend and that exposure to industry promotional activity can lead to doctors recommending worse treatments for patients.

In the early stages of the petition, when evidence was being gathered, the…

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Housing – part 11: No cars in the city

Housing – part 11: No cars in the city

Written for a housing forum

The Carbon Budget Morality Index

In the following sections, I assume a rule of thumb that a decent, morally justified lifestyle must keep with a total budget of 100 tonnes CO2e for the next 50 years. This is the basis for the Carbon Budget Morality Index (CBMI) discussed in Are you evil or very, evil?. The 100 tonnes 50 year budget is classed by the CBMI  as ‘shameful’ but at least it’s morality index is below the CBMI  ‘evil’ level. In this post the ‘shameful’ level will be referred to as CMBI-s level.

Mass car ownership cannot be sustainable or fair

Continue reading Housing – part 11: No cars in the city

Housing – part 10: A reprise.

Housing – part 10: A reprise.

Written for a housing forum

Previous parts can be grouped into three sections:

Section 1. The biggest global issue – climate change

1: Embodied carbon and climate
The way we build and the materials used damage the climate.

2: Food and the remaining carbon budget
Modern agriculture and our consumption damage the environment.

3: Carbon budgets and transport
Our travel patterns and means of transport are unsustainable.

Section 2. Planning policies burden the poor

4: We are not short of land
A very small portion of the UK is built-up.

5: Construction costs
Modern methods are reducing construction costs.

9: Greenbelts
Greenbelts protect privilege – at the expense of the majority.

Section 3. Public health & public safety

6: Pollution in the countryside
The countryside is being polluted.

7: Pollution in towns
Towns are being polluted.

8: Density and disease
Good public health allows denser settlements.

Continue reading Housing – part 10: A reprise.

Housing – part 9: Greenbelts



Written for a housing policy forum. Part 9

Also see: Housing – part 4: We are not short of land

City of York ‘greenbelt’

Traditionally green belts were seen to stop urban sprawl and were the ‘green lungs’ of the city. This emphasised public health issues such as slum clearance. The policy is seen as a major instrument in terms of protecting the environment against environmental damage as a result of overdevelopment. It is a policy which is believed will to ‘protect the countryside’.

Continue reading Housing – part 9: Greenbelts

Housing – part 7: Pollution in towns

Pollution in Towns

In the old days coal pollution killed

I grew up in Kent some 30 miles from the great London Smog of 1952, which killed 4,000 Londoners in less than a week and, eventually contributed to 100,000 deaths. When we came to York in 1970, pollution from coal fires was still a problem – I clearly remember walking through the Groves and seeing sooty particles land on the bright yellow baby suit of our year-old daughter.

With coal pollution receding, York’s air improved and so did the look of the inner city terraced houses. Since the 1970s they have gradually lightened in colour and their value has risen. Houses that 1948 Plan for York described as “worn out houses” costing a thousand or so pounds in 1970, now sell for over £200,000. That’s a 20 fold increase in real terms.

Now traffic pollution kills

Continue reading Housing – part 7: Pollution in towns

Housing – part 6: Pollution in the countryside


Written for a housing policy forum. Part 6

We pollute  the countryside

The countryside is not as clean and green as it seems. In part 2, I noted the large carbon footprint of modern non-organic agriculture, particularly the methane emitted by ruminants (cows, sheep, goats &etc.) and the use of nitrogen compounds derived from the energy intensive Harber Bosh process. I also discussed the carbon footprint of “modern”, non-organic, food production but there are other unwelcome impacts. Three of these:

  • Loss of soil fertility
  • Insectageddon
  • The nitrate time bomb
Soil fertility

Continue reading Housing – part 6: Pollution in the countryside

Housing – part 5: Construction and prefabrication

Written for a housing policy forum. Part 5

Construction is a fraction of the cost

The cost of building a traditional house is a modest part of the cost of a new home: In York it is less than the cost of the land when it has planning permission. Not long ago it has been possible to build an individual 3 bed roomed house for about £50,000. I know someone had one built for £50,000 – on land they already owned.

Bricks and mortar houses built in the conventional style

Regional prices for new houses

Continue reading Housing – part 5: Construction and prefabrication

Housing – part 4: We are not short of land

A note for a housing policy forum. Part 4


We are not short of land

Key point: Planning permission adds enormous value to land

A plot of land big enough for a house costs less than £1,000 at agricultural prices.

In places like York, that becomes £50,000, sometimes much more, once the planners give building the go ahead. Planning permission makes no immediate difference to the land: but its name on a certificate in a council office gives an enormous unearned bonus to the land owner. Continue reading Housing – part 4: We are not short of land

Sea Level Acceleration

Open Mind

Sea level isn’t just rising, it is accelerating. It did so during the 20th century, and has done so even more quite recently. ABC news reported the story, based on just-published research (Nerem et al. 2018), that the latest satellite data now show it plainly. The authors of the new study conclude:

When taken with a rate of sea-level rise of 2.9 ± 0.4 mm/y (epoch 2005.0), the extrapolation of the quadratic gives 654 ± 119 mm of sea-level rise by 2100 relative to 2005, which is similar to the processed-based model projections of sea level for representative concentration pathways 8.5 in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Stated alternatively, the observed acceleration will more than double the amount of sea-level rise by 2100 compared with the current rate of sea-level rise continuing unchanged.

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