Thursday 22 December 2016
Christmas is almost upon us again, a time to celebrate and reflect on the year’s events and a time to try and lift the worries of the world from our shoulders and focus on those closest to us.
Politically we have witnessed extraordinary events. The SNP secured an historic third term in the Scottish Parliament elections. Then there was the EU referendum and the aftermath which is now taking us on a path that the majority in Scotland didn’t vote for. The Scottish Government are taking the lead by publishing plans on where we go from here, but more of this to follow in the next story.
2017 offers fresh challenges and opportunities. Sadly austerity measures which are failing to revive the economy and causing further misery for the most vulnerable in our society are ongoing. It is those people who need our support particularly at this time of year. The Scottish Government will do everything possible with the powers we have. We will use these new powers to provide support, not vilification.
With the New Year comes renewed hope that we can make our own lives and the lives of others better. My own hope is that we can all grow in confidence, and fulfil aspirations for ourselves, our families and our country.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Scotland in Europe
Proposals to keep Scotland in the European Single Market, retain freedom of movement, and to equip the Scottish Parliament with the powers it needs to serve Scotland’s interests post-Brexit have been published.
Scotland’s Place in Europe is the first detailed plan dealing with the implications of Brexit published by any government to mitigate the economic, social, democratic and cultural risk since the referendum in June.
The paper represents a ‘significant compromise’ on the part of the Scottish Government which believes full membership of the EU is the best option for Scotland and the UK. To read Scotland’s Place in Europe visit: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/12/9234
Scotland’s Place in Europe sets out:
- The Scottish Government’s position that the whole of the UK should remain in the Single Market.
- How Scotland could stay in the Single Market even if the rest of the UK chooses to leave. The paper addresses challenges and solutions: how continued membership of the Single Market could be achieved with Scotland still being part of the UK; the legislative and regulatory requirements; and, financial contributions.
- How free movement of goods, services and people would continue across the UK, even if Scotland is in the single market, and the rest of the UK is not. There are already a range of differential arrangements in operation within the EU and in relation to the Single Market and the European Customs Union. There is no reason ‘flexible Brexit’ – implied by the UK Government in relation to different sectors of the economy, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar – cannot be applied to Scotland.
- Why the Scottish Parliament needs additional powers to protect the rights that will no longer be underpinned by EU law. Areas of EU competence that are currently within the Scottish Parliament’s responsibility (such as fishing and agriculture must remain so. Additional devolution should be considered of repatriated powers that are not currently devolved but which would enable the Scottish parliament to protect key rights (such as employment law), and of a broader range of powers to protect Scotland’s interests and support a differentiated solution (such as power over immigration).
I stopped by the Age Scotland shop on Union Street this week to support their #Endloneliness campaign. They are calling on everyone to pledge to do something to alleviate loneliness within their local communities. I pledged to ensure my older neighbours and friends are looked after all year round. You can pledge too by popping into a local Age Scotland shop and signing one of their pledge boards.
Age Scotland are also running another winter campaign with the distribution of its annual ‘Hot Tips’ Calendar. Each month, the calendar looks at issues to help older people get prepared for winter, stay connected in their communities and keep healthy.
Copies of the calendar are available from my constituency office at 1274 Argyle Street. They can also be found in your local Age Scotland retail shop as well as your local library or by calling Silver Line Scotland on 0800 470 80 90.
I, Daniel Blake
The Scottish Parliament was host to a special screening for MSPs and staff of Ken Loachs’ I, Daniel Blake this week. I was privileged to sponsor the event which was attended by screenwriter Paul Laverty and Trussell Trust National Manager Ewan Gurr.
There was a very useful Q&A session following the screening
Air Passenger Duty
The Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill, replacing Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Scotland, has been formally introduced to Parliament.
The Bill will mean the Scottish Government can progress plans to reduce the overall burden of the new tax to reduce by 50% from April 2018 and delivered in full by the end of the current Parliament. The tax will then be abolished entirely when finances allow.
The Bill will also set out that Revenue Scotland will be the authority responsible for the collection and management of the tax, after the existing APD regime no longer applies in Scotland.
Emma Harper MSP led a debate in the Scottish Parliament this week calling for an end to the illegal puppy trade. She was joined by Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham to welcome two rescue puppies Wyatt and Serge.
With dogs popular as Christmas purchases, animal welfare charities recommend that anyone considering having a dog in their family look at rehoming an older dog first – and those who want a puppy should ensure they are buying from a reputable, licensed seller.
Some puppies are bred in horrendous conditions that can lead to illness and death, with thousands brought into the country each year. The SSPCA has been trying to disrupt the import of farmed puppies from Ireland at Cairnryan, and recommend that anyone buying a dog does so from a licensed seller and insist on seeing the puppy’s mother and, if possible, father before purchase.
The Scottish Government has confirmed increased funding to support some of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable people out of poverty and crisis.
An extra £1 million will be allocated for the International Development Fund in 2017-18, taking the fund total to £10 million.
A refreshed International Development Strategy published this week will target support for communities in Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan with a new £1 million per year Humanitarian Aid Fund also being set up.
PLEASE NOTE THE NEXT EBRIEF WILL BE ISSUED WEEK BEGINNING 9 JANUARY 2017