Thursday 23 March 2017
My thoughts are with everyone caught up in the heinous attack at Westminster this week and those who were so tragically killed. The emergency services responded bravely to ensure the safety of many people and are to be commended.
As a mark of respect the Scottish Parliament held a minute’s silence on Thursday morning with flags flying at half-mast.
The First Minister also made a statement to Parliament during FMQs which I wholeheartedly support.
You can access the full statement here:http://news.gov.scot/news/first-minister-statement-1
Due to the incident at Westminster the two-day debate on Scotland’s Choice was suspended and will be rescheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday 28 March. I will be taking part in the debate and if you would like to read the contributions made so far you can access them at: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/ReportSelectPage.aspx?type=plenary&year=2017&page=0&meeting=-1
During general questions this week I took the opportunity to question the Cabinet Secretary for Health on the future plans for Yorkhill Minor Injuries Unit. As many of you will know from previous ebriefs I raised this matter with the Scottish Government a few months ago highlighting both my and constituents concerns on the provision of services in the local area.
The Cabinet Secretary stated that the board were currently reviewing the siting of a minor injuries unit in the west end of the city and you can view the full exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10860&i=99421
I along with my Committee members travelled to Westminster on Monday to hold a joint meeting with the Scottish Affairs Committee taking evidence from Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mary Pattison, Senior Responsible Officer for Scottish Devolution Programme and Ageing Society & State Pensions Director, Department for Work and Pensions, Angela Constance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, and Stephen Kerr, Director of Social Security, Scottish Government.
This was a significant meeting as it was the first time a Holyrood Committee had participated in an evidence session at Westminster.
You can access the full report of the meeting here:
Partners in Advocacy were in the Parliament this week to highlight the work they do across the country for child, adolescent and adult mental health.
I was particularly pleased to hear about the work they are doing in Greater Glasgow, supporting children and young people up to the age of 18. They are giving them the opportunity to have their voices heard and a greater understanding of what is happening to them. They help them to make choices about their lives and respect their views.
You can find out more information on their work at www.partnersinadvocacy.org.uk or contact them on 0141 847 0660.
Ministers are requesting an immediate halt to the roll-out of the full service of Universal Credit until problems with its implementation are fully resolved and I fully support these calls.
The Scottish Government has written to the UK Government to raise urgent concerns over how Universal Credit is pushing more people into hardship and debt.
The full service of Universal Credit – i.e. where people must have an online account to manage their claim or apply for a benefit – is operational in certain parts of the country.
The way it is paid means new claimants have to wait six weeks before receiving their first payment, resulting in tenants building up rent arrears and being pushed to seek crisis or hardship payments.
Delays in payments have seen landlords, including housing associations, reporting financial difficulties, with councils reporting record rent arrears.
Thousands of young people will gain industry recognised qualifications, real-world work experience and access to work-based learning while still at school thanks to a massive expansion of the Foundation Apprenticeship programme.
As part of the drive to improve attainment, Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced that by the end of 2019, up to 5,000 young people will start a Foundation Apprenticeship, up from 351 starts during 2016-17.
Developed and delivered by Skills Development Scotland, Foundation Apprenticeships are undertaken while still at school, at the same time as pupils take traditional academic exams. They offer young people the opportunity to gain a qualification while working with some of Scotland’s best-known employers in sectors such as engineering and software development.
You can find out more at: https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/our-products/foundation-apprenticeships/
Electrical Safety First is a Charity which aims to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by electricity.
I was happy to chat with them at their exhibition this week in Parliament on the impact of poor electrical safety on older people and those living with dementia.
Electricity is the leading cause of house fires in Scotland with older people disproportionately affected.
The exhibition provided an opportunity for the campaign to raise awareness with Members who in turn can relay that advice to elderly constituents to help keep them safe, particularly during the colder winter months when there is an increased reliance on electrical items.
If you would like to find out more go to http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/
A new bill to strengthen the laws against those who psychologically abuse their partners using coercive and controlling behaviour has been published.
The Scottish Government introduced the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament this week.
The Bill creates a new statutory offence of domestic abuse that recognises the damage and hurt that non-physical abuse can cause.
The Scottish Government consulted on creating a specific offence of ‘abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner’ between December 2015 and April 2016. The responses to this are published here: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/criminal-law-and-sentencing-team/criminal-offence-domestic-abuse
Children with additional support needs will have improved access to nursery education through a £2 million package from the Scottish Government.
The money will fund specialist training and equipment to ensure all nurseries offering the free early learning and childcare (ELC) entitlement are equipped to care for children with additional support needs
These additional funds build on the pledge given last week that 8,000 existing and all additional childcare staff will be paid at least the Living Wage by the end of this Parliament and the Scottish Government’s plans to deliver a doubling of free childcare over this parliament.
Hundreds of care leavers will be helped to move into work, training or education through a new £1 million Care Experienced Employability Programme (CEEP). It is a one-year pilot programme to help 270 young care leavers aged 16-29 to move into appropriate work, training or educational opportunities.
CEEP will be led by the third sector Young Person’s Consortium (YPC) which consists of Barnardo’s Scotland, Action for Children and the Prince’s Trust.
The programme will enhance and add value to existing youth employment provision and deliver intensive support to young people who are often excluded from attaining their full potential through education and employment. It will offer work experience, qualifications, practical skills, involvement in community projects and life coaching that are focussed on the needs of the individual.
Good news recently with the announcement from Vodafone of approximately 100 jobs being created at their Scottish Head Office in Berkley Street.
These positions will be filled over the next 24 months, forming part of the company’s expansion in customer services roles across Scotland.
Great to see that work is progressing at Clydeside with the installation of the copper stills this week. This is the latest step in the project to transform the area into a bespoke whisky distillery and visitor centre.
I’m hoping to meet up with representatives at the distillery in the coming months before the opening in the Autumn.