Thursday 30 March 2017
The debate on a Scottish referendum continued this week with the Parliament mandating the Scottish Government to open formal talks with the UK Government on the details of a Section 30 order, to enable an independence referendum to take place when the choice between an independent Scotland and the UK’s Brexit deal is clear.
I had the opportunity to speak in the debate where I focused on the Great Repeal Bill which will drive the EU exit. You can read my contribution here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10869&i=99474
It is now the will of Scotland’s democratically elected national parliament that discussions should begin with the UK Government to enable an independence referendum to be held. People should be given that choice once the details of the UK’s Brexit deal are clear – and the Prime Minister yesterday confirmed to me that she agrees this will be in 18 months to two years from now.
This vote must now be respected. The mandate for a referendum is beyond question, and it would be democratically indefensible – and utterly unsustainable – to attempt to stand in the way of it.
The Scottish Government will now act on the mandate given to them by parliament by making a formal approach to the UK Government within the next few days, after Article 50 has been triggered.
We know that Brexit threatens a hugely damaging and uncertain future for Scotland, and it would not be right if the people of Scotland – having been told in 2014 that the only way to protect our place in Europe was to vote against independence – were denied a choice.
Every other nation in the EU will soon have a say on the terms of Brexit, and on how it impacts Scotland. The people of this nation cannot and must not be the only ones denied a say.
There is clear precedent for how the terms of a referendum made in Scotland can be agreed, and that precedent should be followed. The people of Scotland are sovereign, and they will be given a choice on their own future.
Glasgow was the focus for the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee as we begin looking at proposals aimed at tackling child poverty.
The Committee held a formal committee meeting this week in Glasgow City Chambers where we heard from witnesses including Naomi Eisenstadt, the Scottish Government’s Independent Advisor on Poverty and Inequality and Jim McCormick from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation about the impact of child poverty and about the difference the new bill will make.
The Child Poverty Bill introduces measures which require the Scottish Government to meet certain targets for the reduction of child poverty. These include seeing less than 10% of children in relative poverty and less than 5% of children in absolute poverty by 2030.
Following the meeting, we met with invited representatives including health and education practitioners working in Glasgow to combat child poverty in an informal session to get their views on the Bill.
The Cabinet Secretary for Health gave a statement in Parliament this week regarding the inquiry into transvaginal mesh implants. I took the opportunity to ask a question on behalf of some of the mesh implant patients who are very sceptical and understandably so of the moratorium on this procedure being lifted.
You can view the exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10874
International Justice Mission
I met with representatives from the International Justice Mission (IJM) in Parliament this week.
They were exhibiting their current campaign and initiative #NotOnMyScreen.
Cybersex trafficking is the live-streamed sexual abuse of children viewed over the internet. It is brutal and it is growing at an alarming rate, fuelled by the behaviour of Westerners, including people from the UK.
Cybersex trafficking is a type of sex trafficking that was unimaginable before the digital age. Now children are exposed to a global web of predators.
These children don’t get to say ‘no’, but you do and I would encourage you all to take the time to share the hashtag and find out more about what you can do to stop cybersex trafficking. Please go to www.notonmyscreen.co.uk
A new scheme to decrease health inequalities connected to cervical cancer screening rates has been given £180,600.
Charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has been awarded the funding through the Scottish Government’s Cancer Strategy, which will be used to launch a Glasgow Outreach service, targeting groups less likely to attend screening appointments.
An outreach coordinator will be employed for three years to work closely with disadvantaged groups, community and health organisations to improve uptake. They will recruit and train 90 community champions to help work with women in those communities.
More young people in Scotland will be at risk of homelessness due to UK Government changes to housing benefit.
The changes, due to take effect from 1 April, will remove the entitlement to housing support for 18 to 21 year-olds in receipt of Universal Credit who do not have a specific exemption, such as disability or childcare.
The Scottish Welfare Fund will now be extended on an interim basis to ensure those young people who will be excluded from financial support by the UK Government will still be able to receive assistance with housing costs.
However the Scottish Government will continue to press the UK Government on seeking a solution for Scotland’s young people.
I met up with employees from Combat Stress at the Parliament this week and pledged my support for Scottish veterans with mental health conditions.
Combat Stress is the UK’s leading mental health charity for veterans and provides free specialist clinical treatment to ex-servicemen and women across the UK with mental health problems.
The charity treats conditions including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. They provide a range of free services including short-stay clinical treatment, a specialist PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme, Occupational Therapy, Community support and a free 24-hour Helpline (0800 138 1619).
It is vital that all veterans have access to the specialist support they need for conditions such as PTSD, depression and anxiety. We all owe a significant debt to those who have served in our armed forces, and we must work together to ensure they have access to the support they need and deserve.
I would encourage all those who require support to contact organisations such as Combat Stress at the earliest opportunity.
EU nationals choosing to study in Scotland and enrolling in 2018-19 have been guaranteed free tuition for the duration of their entire course.
This announcement to guarantee free tuition for eligible EU students demonstrates Scotland’s determination to welcome all EU nationals who choose to live, work or study here.
Following the uncertainty caused by the UK Government hard Brexit and the imminent triggering of Article 50, the Scottish Government has moved to reassure applicants for 2018-19, confirming the guarantee already in place for eligible EU students enrolling this year will be extended to those beginning their studies the following academic year.
From 1 April, new patients referred for IVF treatment on the NHS in Scotland may be eligible for three full cycles rather than two, increasing their chances of conceiving a baby.
The change was recommended by the National Infertility Group in its report to Ministers last summer, with the ‘refreshed’ Group reaffirming the increase and start date at its first meeting last month.
The National Infertility Group report was published in June 2016 and made two main recommendations, of which this is the second.
From 1 September 2016, couples with children in the home, but where one partner does not have a biological child, are eligible for IVF access.
One full cycle of IVF includes a fresh cycle followed by the transfer of any viable embryos which have been frozen and stored, where available.
Hyndland Secondary School
The Scottish Parliament welcomed S5 and 6 pupils from Hyndland Secondary School this week. This was to be my second meeting with pupils from the school having already attended the school for a debate a couple of weeks ago.
It’s always a pleasure to meet up with young people from the constituency to discuss, debate and more importantly listen to their views.
It’s also a great opportunity for pupils to see the Parliament at work as well as grilling their representatives!
PLEASE NOTE THE EBRIEF WILL RESUME ON THURSDAY 20 APRIL FOLLOWING THE EASTER RECESS