Thursday 26 October
MSPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Scottish Government’s decision of not supporting unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland.
It means that an effective ban using devolved planning powers is now in place. The approach ensures that decisions on onshore unconventional oil and gas developments will be made against the framework of Scottish Government policy.
The vote marks the culmination of the Scottish Government’s cautious, evidence-led approach to unconventional oil and gas including a four-month public consultation which received more than 60,000 responses.
Scottish Women’s Convention
I had the pleasure of sponsoring an exhibition at the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Women’s Convention (SWC).
Set up in 2003 in recognition of the need to ensure women’s voices reached policy makers the SWC has been working to ensure that women throughout Scotland have an opportunity to be involved in activities and events.
Using their voices ensures that the true grassroots impacts of public policy are reported.
The Referendum debate allowed women the opportunity to engage in something which was so important to Scotland’s future. They recognised that they were speaking, not only for themselves, but also their families and communities.
You can find out more information on the work of the SWC at https://www.scottishwomensconvention.org/
The Scottish Parliament has backed a call for the UK Government to stop a “no deal Brexit”, guaranteeing the rights of our fellow EU citizens in the UK without imposing charges and amending the EU Withdrawal Bill to respect devolution.
In a debate this week, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell updated Parliament on the latest developments on Brexit. This included the latest on EU negotiations and the outcomes of the recent Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations. He also spoke about the growing public support for Scotland to remain within the EU.
You can read the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11145&i=101657
Faith in Older People
Maureen O’Neill and Bob Rendall from Faith in Older People were my guests in Parliament this week. We held a reception to mark their 10th Anniversary!
As Convener of CPG Older People, Age and Ageing I recognise the importance of Faith in Older People in supporting older people and their work in educating, encouraging and supporting volunteers, health and social care workers, members of faith communities and other agencies to increase their understanding of spiritual care and issues around ageing.
We should recognise the importance of the contribution of faith communities in supporting people as they age even if they are not of faith. This happens through dementia clubs, tackling loneliness and isolation, pastoral care in care homes and long stay wards.
Social Security IT
A two-year contract to build the first phase of Scotland’s new social security IT system has been awarded to IBM UK Ltd.
The £8.3 million contract will support the implementation of two new Scottish Government benefits – Best Start Grant and Funeral Expense Assistance. These will be delivered by Scotland’s new social security agency by summer 2019. The contract includes provision for up to two further benefits to be included within the scope once the timeline for delivery is clear.
Growth in Scotland’s population will slow significantly if levels of EU migration are reduced, new figures from the National Records of Scotland reveal.
Scotland’s population is projected to rise from 5.40 million in 2016 to 5.58 million in 2026, and to continue to rise to 5.69 million in 2041 – an increase of 5% over the 25 year period.
All projected population increase over the next 10 years is due to net in-migration – 58% from overseas with 42% from the rest of the UK.
However in a situation where EU migration to Scotland falls to half of current levels, Scotland’s population is projected to rise by just 4% over the same period.
And in an illustrative scenario with no future EU migration, the population of Scotland is projected to rise by only 2% by 2041, peaking in 2032 and declining thereafter until 2041.
In this scenario, Scotland’s working age population is projected to decline by 3% over the next 25 years, while at the same time the pensionable age population is projected to increase by 25%, resulting in an increase in the dependency ratio.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue were exhibiting in Parliament this week and I took the time to stop by their stall to find out more about their work across Scotland.
They were formed in 1988 by a group of divers who got together in a response to a disease that was killing harbour seals along the east coast.
They are the only specialist marine mammal rescue organisation covering Scotland, Wales and England. Seals remain a core for rescuers however they have also rescued porpoises, dolphins and whales.
In fact any marine animals in distress are assisted by its dedicated teams of Marine Mammal Medics.
As well as regular rescues the medics have also helped release captive dolphins back into the wild in Turkey and disentangled a humpback whale in Iceland.
You can find out more about their work at www.bdmlr.org.uk
Affordable Homes for Older People
Older people will have greater access to affordable homes with the introduction of greater flexibility to shared equity schemes, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart has announced.
For the first time, older people will be able to access a range of home ownership schemes offered by the Scottish Government. These can remove the requirement for a mortgage contribution and make older people a priority access group. It can also provide options that brings older people closer to family and care support, and are more affordable and suitable for their needs – including downsizing, or the option to buy a retirement or supported home.
The schemes older people can now benefit from are:
Representatives from the Musicians Union (MU) were in Parliament this week to highlight their campaign to protect musicians’ rights after Brexit.
The campaign has been gathering pace over the past few months. To date, nearly 20,000 people have signed the online petition backing the campaign.
The MU campaign centres on five key areas: free movement, copyright protection, workers’ rights, rights of EU citizens in the UK and arts funding.
Leaving the single market and customs union, risks the imposition of a costly, bureaucratic regime that could make touring unviable for all but the most established acts. Consequently, it would hinder fledgling talent in Scotland in building a European audience and make it more difficult to attract acts from Europe to perform in Scotland.
Local Housing Allowance
Around 12,000 young people could be facing a shortfall up to £8.6 million through UK Government plans to introduce Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the social rented sector.
The UK Government propose to cap the housing element of Universal Credit for social housing tenants at LHA rates, including for those living in supported accommodation. This could lead to single people under 35 facing a substantial shortfall on their rent, facing increased rent arrears and a risk of homelessness, as their allowance will be capped at the Shared Accommodation Rate.
The Scottish Government and COSLA have written a joint letter to David Gauke MP urging him to rethink the policy.