Thursday 22 June 2017
This was a horrific attack and my thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected. I know that everyone will be saddened to see yet another terrorist attack.
While there is no intelligence of any specific threat to Scotland, Police Scotland remain vigilant and visible across communities to provide reassurance to members of the public.
Muslim communities will understandably be anxious just now and it is in these moments that we must come together as a country and unite against extremism and hate from wherever it comes.
Social Security Bill
Historic legislation to establish Scotland’s first social security system has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament this week. The Social Security (Scotland) Bill will give the Scottish Government the powers to deliver eleven benefits devolved as part of the Scotland Act 2016.
It also provides powers to top up reserved benefits and provides a mechanism to pay a Carer’s Allowance supplement at the earliest opportunity.
You can access a copy of the Bill here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/105267.aspx
The first social security payments to be delivered by the Scottish Government from summer 2018 will be the increased Carer’s Allowance, followed by the Best Start Grant and the Funeral Expense Assistance from summer 2019.
The UK Government must provide greater clarity on its Brexit plans following the Queens Speech particularly when the bulk of the speech centred on the legislation necessary for the UK to withdraw from the European Union, demonstrating that as well as being harmful to the country, Brexit is set to take up all the UK government’s resources, forcing other important issues to be sidelined.
Brexit must not see the UK Government attempt to reduce devolved competence or attempt to avoid the need for legislative consent from Holyrood.
The list of contents for Scotland’s Baby Box is now available at http://www.parentclub.scot/baby-box as registration for the nationwide roll out begins.
All babies due on or after 15 August 2017 will receive a box of essential items to support parents and promote a fair and equal start for all children in Scotland.
The final research of the successful pilot which took place in Orkney and Clackmannanshire has also been published. The findings have informed the logistics and contents of the initiative and responses have been positive, with some suggestions for improvement already implemented for national delivery.
The first meeting of a Ministerial Working Group, convened to examine building and fire safety regulatory frameworks, has taken place this week.
The meeting was chaired by Communities Secretary Angela Constance with Housing Minister Kevin Stewart and Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing. They were joined by officials from fire and rescue, building standards, local government and housing.
This group is overseeing a review of building and fire safety regulatory frameworks with an initial focus on high rise domestic buildings, following the Grenfell Tower fire in London. It will agree any improvements or actions identified.
I had a great start to the week with a wonderful visit to the Tron Theatre.
Andy Arnold the Artistic Director kindly extended an invitation to me for a tour of the building and a chat on the theatres plans for the future.
The Tron Theatre is one of Glasgow’s cultural hubs which has been producing and presenting an eclectic programme of work for over 20 years in the 16th century Tron Kirk building.
I was delighted with their recent funding success from the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund of almost £40,000 of which they will use to refurbish The Tron Theatre’s Changing House.
The theatre is going from strength to strength and for those who haven’t already attended one of their many productions I would highly recommend a visit.
Applications for a degree course offering exisiting graduates a new route into medicine will open in September, Health Secretary Shona Robison has confirmed.
The four-year course will have 40 places available and is being delivered by the medical schools in St Andrews and Dundee in collaboration with the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The course, which will begin next Autumn, will be open to existing graduates from any discipline with an interest in pursuing a degree in medicine.
Details will shortly be posted on the medical schools’ websites, and a social media campaign will be used to encourage applications.
Candidates interested in the new course will need to sit the GAMSAT aptitude test by 4 August. UCAS applications will open in September.
Air Departure Tax
A bill to replace Air Passenger Duty in Scotland has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.
The Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill sets the structure of the new tax and how it will be collected and managed by Revenue Scotland. Detail on tax bands and tax rate amounts will be set out in secondary legislation in the autumn, as part of the Scottish Government’s budget process and alongside other devolved taxes.
I took the opportunity to stop by the Kirkcaldy Foodbanks stall at the Parliament this week to discuss the latest initiative on food poverty.
Nourish Scotland and the Poverty Truth Commission are working together to develop a Dignity Framework with and for community food providers supported through funding from the Scottish Governments’ Fair Food Transformation Fund.
It is hoped that the framework can be a tool for community food providers and community members to consider how placing dignity at the heart of community food provision can support a transition away from emergency food aid as a primary response to food insecurity.
You can access more details on the project at www.nourishscotland.org
The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill published this week sets an objective for public boards that 50% of non-executive members are women by 2022.
It will apply to certain public bodies, colleges and Higher Education Institutions in Scotland, subject to the Bill receiving parliamentary approval.
The Bill will drive further improvements, building on the success of the Scottish Government’s ‘50/50 by 2020’ pledge – which has seen nearly 200 organisations across the public, private and third sectors sign up voluntarily to improve gender balance on board.
A fund to incentivise film production in Scotland has generated £17.5m for the economy – returning £10 for every pound spent.
The Production Growth Fund, a combination of Scottish Government and National Lottery Funding administered by Creative Scotland, provides an incentive for major film and TV producers to base their work in Scotland. T2: Trainspotting, Churchill and The Loch were among the first productions to benefit.
Responding to Creative Scotland figures that underline the impact of the first £1.75m awarded, Ms Hyslop confirmed the Scottish Government will allocate an additional £250k to the Production Growth Fund, taking its total to £3.25 million.
With MND Awareness taking place this week I was pleased to see that applications are now being taken for a scholarship fund set up in memory of motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner, Gordon Aikman.
The Gordon Aikman Scholarship is worth £50,000; with Scottish Government funding of £25,000 and MND Scotland announcing this week that it will match this funding.
It will support individuals affected by MND or their carers and healthcare professionals to research and develop practical improvements in the way people with MND are cared for.
Social Enterprise Awards
Scotland’s annual awards for achievement in social enterprise are open for entries – with just 3 weeks left to apply.
Social Enterprise Scotland is calling on all social enterprises to step up and demonstrate how they’re helping people or the environment – gaining real recognition for their many achievements and with many social enterprises across the constituency doing some great work I’d encourage you to get your applications in.
The deadline for award applications is Monday 10 July 2017. All information is at: socialenterpriseawards.scot
A ten-year strategy to ensure Police Scotland is equipped to tackle new and emerging threats has been published.
Policing 2026 includes a commitment to recruit more civilian cyber specialists to counter the threat posed by cyber-crime and calls for greater emphasis on addressing vulnerability and mental health issues.
As well as maintaining officer numbers for 2017-18, the strategy also proposes a workforce model that frees up officers from support work to increase the number available for frontline policing.