Ebrief

Thursday 16 March 2017

#ScotRef

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed plans to seek parliamentary approval to begin discussions with the UK government to bring forward an independence vote.

Ahead of the UK government’s triggering of Article 50 and the beginning of the process of leaving the EU, the First Minister said that the Westminster government has been guilty of complete intransigence in the face of Scottish Government attempts to find a compromise – and has continually acted against the best interests of Scotland, not least by ruling out membership of the single market without consulting the Scottish Government.

It has become clear that the UK government has no intention of respecting Scotland’s 62% vote to remain in the EU and Glasgow’s 66% vote to remain in the EU. Throughout the entire Brexit process to date, the Scottish Government has been consistent in its pursuit of a compromise with the UK government, putting forward substantial proposals for Scotland to remain in the single market – yet the UK government has rejected these and is pursuing an ever harder line.

It is within this context, with the UK government intent on pursuing a damaging hard Brexit and set to trigger Article 50 without communicating with the devolved governments, that it has become ever clearer that the people of Scotland must be offered a choice over our future.

Scotland now stands at a crossroads, and we cannot drift along for two years hoping for the best.  We face the real prospect of right-wing Tory governments until at least 2030 and being dragged out of the EU and Single Market with all the damage to our economy and society that will cause.

You can find out more here: www.ref.scot

Mexico’s Missing Students

03.17 Mexico's Missing StudentsFor 20 years Scottish artist and filmmaker, Jan Nimmo, has been making artwork and films that highlight human and environmental rights issues through people’s personal stories. Jan’s most recent project exhibited in the Parliament, is a response to the events of 26th September 2014 when students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Teacher Training School in Ayotzinapa, Mexico were attacked by police in the city of Iguala. 6 people, 3 of them students, were murdered and 43 students were forcibly disappeared. The whereabouts of the students is still not known.

You can find out more here http://jannimmo.com/Ayotzinapa.html

Social Security

The DWP has ordered benefit assessors to single out those with mental health conditions – even when the impact is identical to those suffering physical conditions.

New guidelines tell assessors that mental health conditions are “not relevant” to the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) even if their mobility is limited to the same extent as someone with a physical impairment.

The updated guidance follows the UK government introducing emergency legislation to block a tribunal ruling that PIP payments should be extended for those with mental ill health.

Tory MP George Freeman, director of Theresa May’s policy unit, said that the changes were simply “tweaks” aimed at “people who take pills at home who suffer from anxiety.”

These reports are deeply worrying – and are just the latest in a long line of dangerous attitudes coming from the heart of the DWP.

Mental ill health can have a profound impact on somebody’s life and it deserves to be treated the same as physical illness.

But the Tory axemen in charge of the DWP have consistently put cost-cutting ahead of the well-being of claimants. This guidance will come as no surprise to many of those who’ve suffered under the DWP’s sanctions regime or work capability assessments.

The UK government need to urgently look at this again.

INSP Exhibition

If you’re looking for something to do locally I’d encourage members to go along to the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) exhibition at The Lighthouse which tells the story of vendors and celebrates the impact and difference that street papers make on their lives.

The free exhibition, which runs until April 9, combines the best of global street paper cover design; quotes from vendors of the impact street papers have made on their lives; and excerpts from recent street paper interviews with famous names – including Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama – on poverty and homelessness.

The covers range from The Big Issue UK’s first edition in September 1991 to the front page of The Springs Echo, the world’s newest street paper published early this year in Colorado Springs by Raven Cannon, a former vendor with Seattle street paper Real Change. Raven herself was experiencing homelessness at the time of Spring Echo’s launch.

Accessible Tourism

The Parliament marked the beginning of national tourism week with a debate on inclusive and accessible tourism. Tourism contributes significantly to Scotland’s prosperity both in financial terms and Scotland’s place in Europe particularly when seven of our top 10 key markets are European—as well as the wider world.

The industry continues to grow. People who come to visit us are drawn to Scotland for a wide variety of reasons: they want to see our exceptional natural landscapes, visit our award-winning attractions and taste our wonderful food and drink.

Scotland’s economic strategy is not just about delivering sustainable economic growth it is also about tackling the inequalities that continue to exist in our society and which are, unfortunately, still very real for many people. We often say that tourism is everyone’s business, and we have made great progress in making that so, but tourism is not yet for everyone. One in every three people in Scotland misses out on being a visitor in his or her own country. The Scottish Government want to change that, and have made significant steps in addressing this with the ScotSpirit initiative giving over 100 disadvantaged families a holiday.

You can read the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10838&i=99260

Exodus

03.17 RefugeesI attended the Exodus – A Modern Phenomenon event this week in Parliament. The event discussed the current situation regarding the mass displacement of people across the world as it relates to destabilisation, poverty and marginalisation.

There was also the opportunity to highlight the work being carried out with refugees in Scotland with representatives from the Scottish Refugee Council, Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance and the main address was given by Imam Razawi from the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society.

Equal Pay

With Glasgow City Council employees still embroiled in their equal pay dispute I took the opportunity to raise the matter with the Scottish Government during General Question time this week in the chamber.

Labour-run Glasgow City Council is now the only council in Scotland not to have reached a comprehensive settlement

You can view the exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10841&i=99294

Womens Support Project

03.17 Womens ProjectI took time to visit The Women’s Support Project exhibition in the Parliament this week. The Project aims to raise awareness of the extent and effects of violence against women and children, and works to improve services for those affected by violence.

Key themes in their work have been highlighting links between different forms of male violence and promoting an interagency response to the abuse of women and children. Their work is informed by a feminist analysis of male violence and an understanding of the links and overlaps between different forms of violence, discrimination and oppression.

If you would like to find out more about their work go to http://www.womenssupportproject.co.uk/content/aboutus/168/

Experience Panels

From today, people across Scotland will begin to receive letters inviting them to join the Experience Panels which will shape the country’s new social security system.

The invitations are being sent to people who have recent or current experience of the social security system. The letters are being sent on behalf of the Scottish Government by the Department of Work and Pensions, which holds details of people with recent experience of using the social security system. The letters will arrive in white envelopes rather than the standard brown envelopes used for DWP correspondence

East Africa Crisis Appeal

The Scottish Government will donate £200,000 to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s East Africa Crisis Appeal, which was launched this week.

The appeal will support those affected by famine in parts of South Sudan, where more than 4.9 million people currently do not have enough food to eat.

Caused by more than three years of conflict and violence, the situation in South Sudan has displaced millions of people and been exacerbated by severe drought, which is also affecting neighbouring countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, with 16 million people in need of food, water and medical treatment.

Donate to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal at: www.dec.org.uk

 

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