Thursday 2 February

WASPI

02-17-waspi-campaignersMembers of the WASPI campaign in Scotland gathered at the Scottish Parliament this week to listen to MSPs debate my member’s motion on their campaign.

The motion highlighted the injustice facing women born in the 1950s, a matter which I believe has been debated in Westminster no less than 5 times and raised on over 40 occasions, yet the situation remains the same.

No one disagrees that there should be equalisation with the state pension but what we do disagree with is the way the changes have been implemented. Hundreds of thousands of women born in the 1950s have been hit particularly hard.

Successive Governments since the Pensions Act 1995 have been negligent in communicating the changes proposed with many women having received no notification at all of their pension age increase.

As a result of these actions we now have thousands of women suffering financial hardship and no time to re-plan for retirement.

The SNP commissioned the Landman Economics report into the impact of the changes to pension arrangements. This report identifies an affordable solution which would slow down that increase in order to give adequate time for women affected by the acceleration to make alternative arrangements. The UK Government have rejected both the report and its recommendations despite the fact these measures would alleviate very difficult financial situations for women across the country.

You can read my full contribution here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10765&i=98737

Budget

The SNP Government put forward a serious budget for growing Scotland’s economy and committing substantial funding for public services.

Despite drastic Westminster cuts to Scotland’s budget, the SNP is proposing an additional £304 million in funding for the NHS this year, £120 million more for schools to tackle the attainment gap with money going straight to headteachers, extra spending power for local councils and extending the Small Business Bonus to ensure that 100,000 premises pay no rates whatsoever.

While the Tories at Westminster are cutting Scotland’s budget to the bone, their MSPs at Holyrood have demanded spending increases and tax cuts of over £3 billion. Labour too have amassed a £2 billion wish list of budget demands, without setting out how these would be paid for and keeping silent about the years of Tory cuts inflicted on Scotland.

The Tories are absolutely shameless. On one hand they’re inflicting ever deeper, more damaging cuts upon Scotland’s budget, and the next they’re demanding £3 billion in extra public spending and tax cuts for the most well off. They can’t have it both ways.

But duplicity is par for the course when it comes to Ruth Davidson and her Tory MSPs. Just look at her record on Scotland staying in the EU and the Single Market – she’s flipped, flopped and now completely sold out to a Tory hard Brexit which would devastate Scotland’s economy.

Labour are guilty of meekly sitting on their hands, failing to speak out on round after round of Tory cuts, but asking for more and more of the SNP Government. They’ve racked up a £2 billion wish list of policies, but not spared a thought to how they’d afford them.

By contrast, the SNP has brought forward a serious budget to bolster our public services and make a huge positive impact upon communities the length and breadth of Scotland. It’s a budget to deliver the priorities we were elected to government on – closing the attainment gap, delivering record funding for our NHS and supporting small businesses to help our economy grow and prosper.

Trump Travel Ban

01-17-trump-banIt was inspiring to see and take part in such a show of strength both here in Glasgow and across the world in defiance of Donald Trump’s latest Executive Order on Monday. I attended and spoke at the march in Glasgow along with many others. I also took the opportunity to raise my concerns at Holyrood this week about the executive order effectively banning people from a number of Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

In a topical question I referenced the case of Dr Hamaseh Tayari a postgraduate vet studying at the University of Glasgow, who was prevented from returning home from Costa Rica via New York as she travels on an Iranian passport.

It’s outrageous that someone should have a travel ban slapped upon them, merely because of where they were born or because they hold a particular set of religious beliefs. That’s not a measure designed to keep people safe – in fact, it will have the entirely opposite effect in creating more division and exacerbating tensions.

Over centuries, the United States has been built on immigration – welcoming people of all creeds, colours and faiths, particularly those escaping hardship or persecution in their own countries.

Hamaseh Tayari’s story is just one among many which demonstrates the madness of Donald Trump’s policy. Although it was a distressing experience for her, we should thank all those – including Women for Independence – for their generous efforts in securing Hamaseh’s safe return to Glasgow.

The exemption for UK passport holders – secured after much dithering by the Westminster government – does not go nearly far enough and it’s important that the SNP works with friends across the global community to impress upon the United States this travel ban is a policy as unreasonable as it is inhumane.

You can access the full exchange at http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10762&i=98695

Student Accommodation

01-17-student-accom-public-meetingThe public meeting I organised this week was very well attended by a cross section of the local community. It gave everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion on both the current situation and future development plans.

As I have said before we do not want to end up in a situation where every available space across the city is developed for student accommodation by companies looking to line their pockets. We need to be looking at the needs of the city as a whole particularly with regards to social housing.

There were many key considerations noted from the meeting which I will be taking forward with GCC and the Scottish Government including looking at the provision and costs of student accommodation across the city with a comprehensive strategy put in place; new regulations to develop more affordable housing; supporting student led initiatives such as housing co-operatives; stronger spatial spread in future planning directives; review protected status of heritage buildings to safeguard for the future and establishing initiatives to seek better community integration.

Employment Contracts

Contracts worth up to £96 million will be put out to tender to deliver Scotland’s full programme of employment services from 2018.

Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn confirmed during an evidence session to the Social Security Committee this week that nine contract areas will deliver employment support across Scotland next year, with one of the contracts set to be reserved for a supported business. The contracting process will commence in March.

The 2018 service follows the transitional services Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland, which will start in April 2017, in one of the first exercises of devolved powers under the 2016 Scotland Act.

BHF

01-17-bhfI was delighted to sponsor the British Heart Foundations Social Science event at the Parliament this week.

I would like to thank Professor Mandy Maclean MBE from the BHF Centre of Research Excellence at the University of Glasgow and her colleague Professor Rhian Touyz also from the BHF Centre at the University of Glasgow for their very informative contributions.

I was particularly interested in Professor Touyz research into hypertension which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

You can find out more at https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health

Scotrail

More details of a package of discounted travel for Scotland’s rail passengers have been confirmed today.

Addressing the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said the £3 million initiative would go ahead this summer as a thank you to passengers for their patience during a significant period of upgrading and improvements to key rail services.

Monthly and annual season ticket holders will benefit from a free week of travel.  The ScotRail Alliance will be announcing details on how to claim the free week shortly. In addition to the offer of a free week, there will also be extra incentives for season ticket holders who switch to smart ticketing. Further detail on how this process will work will be announced soon, however the benefits will be:

  • Annual season ticket holders on Smartcard – free week for them or a friend/family member, plus two off-peak return trips anywhere in Scotland
  • Monthly and above season ticket holders on Smartcard – free week added to next season ticket purchase, plus one off-peak return trip anywhere in Scotland
  • Weekly season ticket holders on Smartcard are also set to benefit with a complimentary one day return ticket anywhere in Scotland.
  • A further offer for leisure passengers is in the pipeline for later in the year

 

ScotRail will release details on how to claim the free week and free tickets shortly.  The details will be available on this webpage: www.scotrail.co.uk/fares-thankyou

 

 

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