Thursday 15 December 2016
UN International Migrant Day 2016
Representing such a diverse constituency I was pleased to take part in the debate this week to celebrate UN International Migrant Day which will be marked on Sunday.
I fully support the message from UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon:
“On International Migrants Day, let us commit to coherent, comprehensive and human-rights based responses guided by international law and standards and a shared resolve to leave no one behind.”
You can take a look at my contribution here:
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution Derek Mackay laid out the Scottish Governments budget this week for growth and public services, announcing new investment in healthcare, education and local services, combined with support for jobs through lower business rates.
Introducing his first Draft Budget, Derek Mackay unveiled a programme that will improve public services, maintain and support jobs and ease the financial burden on families, including:
- An additional £304 million in resource funding for the NHS, £120 million above inflation and a significant step towards the commitment of an extra £500 million above inflation over this Parliament
- £120 million for schools to use at their discretion to close the attainment gap in 2017-18 – £20 million more than previously announced – funded from Scottish Government resources
- Support for jobs by extending the number of business premises that pay no business rates through the Small Business Bonus Scheme to 100,000 and cutting the Business Rate Poundage by 3.7% for all business properties
- Through the proposed local government finance settlement and local taxation over £240 million of additional spending power to support local government services, with all revenues raised locally being spent locally by councils
- protection in real terms for the revenue budget for policing, £60 million of investment the workforce and infrastructure necessary to begin the radical and ambitious expansion in the provision of free early learning and childcare entitlement to 1,140 hours by the end of this Parliament
The Finance Secretary also announced investment in new and existing infrastructure projects, to support sustainable economic growth including:
- completing the Queensferry Crossing
- Over £470 million of direct capital investment to begin delivery of 50,000 affordable homes,
- Over £140 million for Energy Efficiency programmes to help us deliver our climate change targets
- Over £100 million investment in digital and mobile infrastructure, to improve digital connectivity, grow Scotland’s digital economy and increase digital participation, including support for our commitment to deliver 100 per cent broadband access by 2021
You can access the full statement here:
Social Security Committee
We had a very good session this week in the Committee on Universal Credit. We took evidence from Neil Couling, Universal Credit Director General, and Denise Horsfall, Scotland Work Services Director, Department for Work and Pensions.
The recent announcement of Jobcentre closures was high on the agenda and I’m hopeful that the very short consultation period which starts tomorrow will be extended to take into consideration the festive period.
You can access the full transcript here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/ReportSelectPage.aspx?type=committee&year=2016&page=0&meeting=-1
An energy summit looking at ways to help low income households living in fuel poverty and facing a ‘poverty premium’ of paying more for their energy was hosted this week with representatives from the ‘Big Six’ energy companies.
Energy companies were invited to the meeting to discuss and identify further actions they could take that will make a material and important difference to low income families in Scotland.
Two independent reports looking at fuel poverty in Scotland were recently published and made over 100 recommendations, including two key recommendations for energy companies on energy costs. The Government will formally respond to the reports next year.
Recommendations from the report include –
- Energy companies to launch a proactive engagement campaign to guide customers on restricted meters through an assessment of their heating needs and ensure they are transferred to the cheapest and most appropriate deal for their needs.
- Identifying specific measures to support customers in rural and off-gas grid areas who suffer from higher energy prices than the rest of Scotland.
The growth in teacher numbers across Glasgow is very welcome, and reflects the Scottish Government’s commitment to getting it right for every child. Teacher numbers have increased from 4838 in 2015 to 4942 in 2016.
The SNP has made closing the attainment gap a priority during this parliament, and actions such as the Attainment Scotland Fund, which has driven this increase in teacher numbers, shows the positive difference the Scottish Government is making for children.
The SNP is determined to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up, and that means making sure our children are able to benefit from high quality education – and the increase in teacher numbers over the last year is one way in which we are doing this.
The £750 million Attainment programme is already having a tangible impact in getting more teachers into our schools, and I look forward to working with the Scottish Government to ensure that local children continue to benefit.
I was up at the crack of dawn to get down to the sorting office at Clarence Drive on Friday to meet up with our posties who have been working flat out to make sure our cards and presents get to friends, family and colleagues in time for Christmas.
A huge thank you to all the staff at Clarence Drive and Royal Mail staff across the country without whom our parcels, letters and cards would not reach their destinations.
The Scottish Government has donated £250,000 of humanitarian aid to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Yemen Crisis Appeal, which was launched this week.
After years of political turmoil, Yemen is facing a major humanitarian crisis, which has left children and families in urgent need of food, water and medical supplies.
The DEC – Disasters Emergency Committee – brings together 13 leading UK aid agencies to raise money at times of humanitarian crisis in poorer countries.
Donate to the Yemen Crisis Appeal at: http://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/yemen-crisis-appeal
The 20th anniversary reception for the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins Scotland was held in the Scottish Parliament this week. I was delighted to meet up with the charity’s Patron Barbara Dickson as was my colleague Bill Kidd MSP.
The charity’s co-chairs, Donald Macleod and Heather Gardner lead the reception and members heard first-hand from families accessing music therapy which has been and continues to be essential to their children’s progress.
I raised the issue of apprenticeship accreditation in the chamber this week after being contacted by a constituent with concerns that some apprentices do not have the same benefits associated with those apprenticeships that are accredited.
I will be following this up with a letter to the Minister to see if we can get something done for certain careers which do require training on the job but are not accredited by the modern apprenticeship group.
You can access the exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10691&i=98173