Thursday 17 May

Nakba

05.18 Nakba Whole GroupOn 15 May 1948 an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled, with hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages depopulated and destroyed – this is the Nakba and those who fled and are alive are still waiting to return.

On 15 May 2018 I marked the 70th anniversary of this atrocity by leading a member’s debate in Parliament and hosting an event in the evening to both mark the Nakba and celebrate Palestinian culture.

My contribution as with the majority of those that participated condemned the actions of the Israeli Government and its allies in the USA and UK Governments in their oppression and utter disregard of the Palestinian people.

However, what we witnessed this week in Gaza was nothing short of a massacre. Whilst members of Trump and co opened the US Embassy in Jerusalem, Palestinian’s including children were killed and injured by state sponsored violence.

From the time when Britain administered Palestine after the first world war until it abandoned it in 1948 resulting in the Nakba, UK involvement in Palestine has been quite shameful, from the promises of an independent Palestinian state to refusing to support UN efforts for a two-state solution, leading to the 1948 war and the subsequent loss of Palestinian land.

Let us be clear, regardless of the history, the way forward and the only way to achieve a lasting peace is to recognise a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one. That was not possible in 1947 but, for me and many others, it is the only viable option. Let us also be clear that the time is now—not tomorrow, next year or some point in the future. People are dying every day. We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand.

You can read the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11533&i=104617

05.18 Nakba Ghazi HusseinDuring the Naka evening event we heard a very moving poem by acclaimed Palestinian poet Ghazi Hussein now living in Scotland.

Ghazi was born to a family in exile from Palestine, and was first imprisoned at the age of 14. He was never charged but was ‘guilty of carrying thoughts’. Repeatedly imprisoned and tortured over the next 20 years, he says that poetry saved his sanity. ‘If I still remained in my place of birth…..my voice would be silenced. Here in Scotland I have the opportunity to tell my story, one which I believe is important and relevant to what is happening across the world at this time’.

05.18 Nakba Graham WattGraham Watt from Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) gave a very comprehensive presentation of the work MAP carry out in Palestine to support the health and wellbeing of Palestinians despite the blockades imposed by Israel. They are however entirely supported through the generosity of donors and I would urge those of you who support their efforts to commit to donating at https://www.map.org.uk/donate/donate

Everyone was mesmerised by the very talented Omar Saad, Tibah Saad and Ahmed Dwiddar.

05.18 Nakba Omar and Tibah SaadThese young musicians entertained the Nakba event guests with their performance of some very moving and beautiful traditional Palestinian music.

Omar and Tibah are currently studying at the Royal Conservatoire. Whilst they would have preferred to stay at home to study music the opportunity to do this is not available at home for them. Whilst financially this can be crippling they have managed to secure funding from various sources but still find following their ambitions a huge financial struggle.

Brexit

The Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, has called on the UK Government to listen to concerns from across the Scottish Parliament and respond positively by amending the EU withdrawal Bill to protect devolution following the vote in the Scottish Parliament to withhold consent for the Withdrawal Bill.

The Scottish Government has put forward two proposals to ensure the bill respects devolution – remove the legislative constraint on the Parliament and proceed on the basis of mutual trust, or amend the bill so the Parliament’s consent is required before any orders restricting its powers are made. It is now incumbent on the UK Government to amend the bill in line with the principles of devolution.

Childcare

Thousands of parents will no longer have to pay expensive upfront childcare deposits under a pilot scheme.

Families who use either a childminder or nursery before their children become eligible for publicly-funded childcare, usually at age three, can be asked to pay a deposit of as much as £900.

In Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish Government will cover that cost for eligible families until December 2019 through a deposit guarantee. Almost half (44%) of parents in the pilot areas with a child under two who are taking up childcare for the first time can benefit from the scheme.

Epilepsy Connections 

03.18 Epilepsy ConnectionsI was delighted to sponsor a drop in session for representatives of Epilepsy Connections at the Scottish Parliament this week. I am pictured with the team from Glasgow when I visited them earlier this year.

The event was led by Shirley Maxwell Epilepsy Connections Director with area representation from Glasgow, Forth Valley and Ayrshire and Arran. MSPs from across the parties took time to drop in and chat about the issues facing those diagnosed with epilepsy and in particular the damaging effects of changes to the benefits system with the replacement of DLA with PIP. 

Funeral Costs

An extra 2,000 people will be eligible for financial support to help pay for a funeral, under Scottish Government plans.

Improvements to Funeral Expense Assistance will also see an annual increase to the contribution for other funeral costs as well as quicker processing times – within 10 working days.

A public consultation is now open, seeking views on proposals including how to consider difficult family circumstances which you can access here: https://consult.gov.scot/social-security/funeral-expense-assistance/

With Kids

05.18 With KidsChild mental health is a topic that everyone can support and I took time to talk to representatives from WithKids who were exhibiting in the Parliament this week.

WithKids has supported over 3500 children across Scotland. They specialise in working in some of the most fragile communities and working alongside families that often struggle to engage in other services.

They use Play Psychotherapy as their main approach to supporting children aged 3 – 11 as well as providing a comprehensive package of support for families and the wider community.

As we know a child’s early experiences are crucial to healthy development and those who experience childhood difficulties are more likely to suffer mentally and physically and adopt harmful behaviours.

WithKids deliver interventions that have been proven to reduce the impact of difficulties on children and help build resilience and self-esteem in families.

Childcare

Thousands of parents will no longer have to pay expensive upfront childcare deposits under a pilot scheme.

Families who use either a childminder or nursery before their children become eligible for publicly-funded childcare, usually at age three, can be asked to pay a deposit of as much as £900.

In Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish Government will cover that cost for eligible families until December 2019 through a deposit guarantee. Almost half (44%) of parents in the pilot areas with a child under two who are taking up childcare for the first time can benefit from the scheme.

 

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