Thursday 26 April
Social Security Bill
In a major milestone for devolution the Scottish Parliament has backed the establishment of a Scottish Social Security System with dignity and respect at its heart. Holyrood has this week passed the Social Security (Scotland) Bill at Stage 3, giving the Scottish Government the powers to deliver eleven benefits devolved as part of the Scotland Act 2016. The design of the Scottish Social Security System was informed by widespread public consultation with those with direct experience of the benefits system.
The Scottish system will be different. It will be rights based, with a right to independent advocacy for those who need it; fast-tracked arrangements and no arbitrary timescale for people with terminal illness; the right to have a supporter and the right to challenge decisions without having your money instantly cut.
I am very proud of this Bill particularly as the former Convener of the Social Security Committee steering the Bill through its Stage one process.
Representatives from Colleges Scotland were displaying in the Parliament last week and I took the opportunity to stop by and chat with them about the work they are doing particularly with regards to STEM.
On the back of this I lodged a motion in Parliament recognising the work colleges across Scotland are doing in collaboration with the Scottish Government supporting and encouraging STEM.
The motion reads:
That the Parliament welcomes what it considers the excellent work that colleges across Scotland are doing to inspire young people into STEM subjects; considers that they are working closely with schools and employers to simultaneously tackle the gender imbalance and encourage more women to consider STEM careers; notes that there are almost 70,000 students studying STEM in colleges, and commends the support offered by the Scottish Government through its collaboration with colleges to increase the number of full-time college places in STEM subjects, as well as its STEM Strategy for Education and Training.
Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell has said the UK Government’s amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill make it “crystal clear in terms never seen before that the Scottish Parliament can be over-ridden by the UK Government”, if the parliament decides not to give consent to an order constraining its powers.
The amendments allow the UK Government to stop the Scottish Parliament passing laws in devolved areas for up to seven years without securing its agreement, undermining devolution.
Blue Cross for Pets
I met with staff from Blue Cross for Pets in Parliament this week who are campaigning for a clampdown on the online sale of pets, a registration and licensing system for all sellers, regulation of animal sanctuaries and rescue centres and comprehensive care and advice for potential buyers.
Blue Cross for Pets want to ensure pets are bred, sold and rehomed responsibly which I would certainly support.
Blue Cross for Pets carried out extensive research and they recorded that there were 4000 ads online selling pets in Glasgow alone over the past year. None of these sellers would be subject to any checks and I would support the campaign by Blue Cross for Pets to protect these pets and those who are looking to buy a pet.
Gender Based Violence
New practical guidance for universities to tackle gender-based violence on campus has been published.
Guidance and training for staff, better data collection and well-publicised support information for students are some of the recommendations set out in the toolkit, which has been produced by the University of Strathclyde and funded by the Scottish Government.
The toolkit, which will be adapted for colleges, takes forward the principles set out in the #emilytest campaign set up by Fiona Drouet, in memory of her daughter Emily.
An additional £396,000 of Scottish Government funding will support the roll-out and implementation of the toolkit.
You can find out more here: https://www.strath.ac.uk/humanities/schoolofsocialworksocialpolicy/equallysafeinhighereducation/eshetoolkit/
This week marks MS Awareness and with over 11,000 people diagnosed with MS in Scotland this makes MS more common in Scotland than most other countries in the world.
Kiss Goodbye to MS an international campaign has been up and running with proceeds from funds raised being directed towards the MS Society research programme and 10% going to the MS International Federation (MSIF) to support their work on international research collaboration, and access to better treatments.
If you would like to find out more about MS or this campaign or even ways in which you can raise much needed funds please visit the website here https://signup.mssociety.org.uk/page/21227/data/1
Proposals which would require all sports coaches working with children and other vulnerable groups to undergo mandatory disclosure checks were published this week by Disclosure Scotland. The consultation will review Scotland’s disclosure regime, including the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme, which covers those working with children and the vulnerable.
You can access the consultation here: https://consult.gov.scot/disclosure-scotland/protection-of-vulnerable/
It was great to catch up with Paul Fletcher this week in Parliament. Paul is the Deputy Chief Executive of Achieve More Scotland which was established in Glasgow to deliver a programme of diversionary activity to young people from areas of high social deprivation.
These activities take the form of sports, physical activity, groupwork, volunteering, employability and personal development sessions.
Their programmes have proven to contribute to improving the lives of young people as well as affecting community safety and reducing the numbers of young people going through the criminal justice system.
For more information go to http://aandm.org.uk/
International Workers Memorial Day
I attended and chatted with representatives from Scottish Hazards to mark International Workers Memorial Day this week in Parliament.
The event was an opportunity to remember those who have died at work and refresh the resolve to fight for fairer, safer and healthier working conditions both here in Scotland and across the world.
The Scottish Hazards Centre provides free and confidential information, advice, support and training to workers on workplace health and safety issues.
You can find out more about their work here: http://www.scottishhazards.org/
The Scottish Government are currently consulting on Landlord registration. The proposals are intended to strengthen the system of landlord registration in a proportionate way that will help to ensure that homes rented to private rented sector tenants are of good quality and are managed professionally.
Evidence suggests that the current application process is not robust enough to ensure that all landlords understand and comply with their legal responsibilities. The consultation therefore seeks views on proposals to ask for additional information about compliance with legal duties relating to letting houses.
You can participate here: https://consult.gov.scot/landlord-registration/registration-fee/