Thursday 23 November 2017

Budget

The UK Chancellor laid bare his budget this week which has been met with sharp criticism.

Scotland’s resource block grant for day to day spending will fall by over £200m in real terms next year and while money for the NHS in England should see a proportionate share come to Scotland, cuts in other UK departments mean that instead of receiving over £30m this year the Scottish Government will receive only £8m – a fraction of that spending.

The reality is that over £1.1bn of the money being promised to Scotland over the next four years are loans that the Scottish Government cannot spend directly on frontline public services and that have to be paid back to the Treasury.

This budget has failed to lift the public sector pay cap. The Scottish Government believes all public sector workers deserve a pay rise and we will deliver one.

On business rates and stamp duty the UK Government are following the Scottish Government’s lead. And ending the VAT obligation on police and fire services and supporting the oil and gas industry is welcome, but in both cases these moves are well overdue, and the UK Government must now pay back the £140m of VAT they have already taken.

The reality of this budget is that Scotland continues to be hit by UK austerity and the decision to leave the EU. Compared with the £1bn awarded to the DUP, the funding settlement for Scotland unveiled is disappointing.

Children’s Day

11.17 BarnardosUnited Nations Universal Children’s Day was established in 1954 and is celebrated on November 20th each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.

November 20th is an important date as it is the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Since 1990, Universal Children’s Day also marks the anniversary of the date that the UN General Assembly adopted both the declaration and the convention on children’s rights.

In recognition and marking Universal Children’s Day I took the opportunity to visit our local Barnardos shop on Dumbarton Road. I had a great meeting with the shop manager and the volunteer staff who offer their time to help an extremely worthy cause.

Building Regulations

The Local Government Committee report Building Regulations and Fire Safety findings were debated in Parliament this week and I took the opportunity to contribute raising constituency concerns particularly with regards to regulations, developers and fire safety measures.

The Committee’s initial work into, and interest in, the issue of building regulations and the verification process was focused on complaints from a number of individuals relating to private house builders. However, during the course of their inquiry, their work was catalysed as a result of two events. Firstly, the publication of the Report on the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools by Professor John Cole CBE and secondly the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London which led to the Committee agreeing in June 2017 to widen its ongoing scrutiny of building regulations in Scotland to include the fire safety aspects of these regulations.

You can read my full contribution here http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/ormain.aspx

Money Advice Service

11.17 Money Advice ScotlandMoney Advice Scotland (MAS) were exhibiting in the Parliament this week highlighting their newly launched e-learning module on financial capability.

I took time to stop and have a chat with them about their work and to find out what the module would offer people.

It is designed to help you improve your money management and budgeting skills covering eight different topics around personal finance.

It will help create a personal household budget with hints and tips on saving money.

You don’t need to go online to seek support from MAS you can also use their Freephone no 0800 731 4722 or if you would like to have a look at their e learning modules or find out more about their work go to www.moneyadvicescotland.org.uk

Imprisoned Writers

My colleague Ivan McKee MSP led a members debate this week on the Day of the Imprisoned Writer which is marked on 15 November. It commemorates writers around the world who have been imprisoned, threatened or attacked for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

I highlighted the arbitrary detention of blogger Raif Badawi, currently serving a 10-year sentence in Saudi Arabia. I fully support PEN International’s call for Badawi’s conviction to be overturned and for him to be released immediately and unconditionally. You can read the full debate here: www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/ormain.aspx

Bike for Good

11.17 Bike for GoodAs an ardent supporter of Bike for Good I was more than happy to go along to their family fun day at their Haugh Road base at the weekend to see their host of cycle themed family friendly activities.

Bike for Good are Scotland’s largest bike recycling charity which takes any and all unwanted bikes, no matter their age or condition.

Every bike they get helps support their work promoting cycling, providing training and offering volunteering and other opportunities.

By selling secondhand bikes it also helps individuals who may not have otherwise afforded a bike the opportunity to get cycling.

Now 7 years old having grown from a small stall on the Barras they now have two branches across the city as well as a team of 50 + individuals, with their work changing thousands of lives for the better.

Fairer Scotland

Public sector bodies now have a duty to consider what more they can do to reduce poverty and inequality when making key decisions.

The Fairer Scotland Duty, the first action in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and the first of its kind in the UK, comes into force in April 2018.  Public sector bodies including the Scottish Government, NHS and local authorities, will all have a duty to tackle social and economic disadvantage in local areas.

Actions that have been completed include:

The ambitious Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill unanimously passed by Parliament

Establishing a National Poverty and Inequality Commission

Establishing a £29 million fund dedicated to tackling poverty

Delivering the first baby boxes of basic essentials

Funding two new organisations in Dundee and North Ayrshire to help people with direct experience of poverty speak out to improve public services

Year of Young People Survey

People are most likely to hold positive views of young people as trustworthy and helpful to others, new research from the Scottish Government shows.

The survey, published during the launch week of Year of Young People 2018 examined the attitudes and perceptions of more than 1,000 adults towards 13-19 year olds.

It found that those who said they personally knew a young person were much more likely to be positive in their views of young people in general.

But a quarter viewed young people as lazy, more than a third saw them as irresponsible and almost four in ten thought they were lacking in communication skills.

Read the Scottish Government report Public attitudes to young people in Scotland and click here Year of Young People 2018 to find out more.

 

Grill Guru

11.17 Grill GuruLast Friday I had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon to officially open Grill Guru on Oswald Street.

Shrinivash Kumar and his staff welcomed invited guests to the celebrations and to mark the grand opening Grill Guru teamed up with Cancer Research with all proceeds from sales going to the charity.

Bowel Screening

Thousands more people across Scotland will benefit from the roll-out of a new and easier screening test to detect symptoms of bowel cancer.

The Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) requires participants to collect one bowel motion sample, rather than the current test which requires samples over three days.

Research suggests FIT’s ease of use will encourage more people to take part in the programme. The test is being offered to all men and women in Scotland aged 50 to 74, every two years.

Detailed information about the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme can be found on the bowel screening pages on the NHS Inform website.

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