Thursday 10 January 2019
Welcome back and Happy New Year to you all! I hope that you had time to relax and enjoy the festive season with family and friends and that you are re-invigorated for the fresh challenges 2019 will bring.
It’s hard to believe, however this year marks the 20th anniversary of the re-convening of the Scottish Parliament on 1 July 1999.
This photograph was taken on 12 May 1999 and shows the first cohort of elected representatives after they had been sworn in. I was privileged to be part of the first session of our new Parliament representing the Glasgow Region and I am still here 20 years on privileged still to have the opportunity to represent the Glasgow Kelvin constituency.
The Presiding Officer has announced a year-long programme to mark this milestone with events to showcase the positive impact the Scottish Parliament has had on the lives of those living in Scotland over the last two decades.
The Parliament is also starting a nationwide search for the babies that were born on 1 July 1999 to invite them to take part in the celebration on Saturday 29 June. The young people were central to the Parliament’s 10th anniversary in 2009 and the Parliament are asking them to make contact. Any young people who were born on 1 July 1999 in Scotland should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can keep up to date on the programme of events at www.parliament.scot
Legislation will be introduced in this Parliament to close potential loopholes in the law protecting foxes and other wild mammals.
Delivering a statement to Parliament on improving animal welfare, Minister for Rural Affairs Mairi Gougeon announced her intention to bring forward a bill that will implement changes proposed by the Right Honourable Lord Bonomy’s review on the subject.
These changes will limit to two the number of dogs that can be used to flush or find a fox.
The Minister also announced an intention to explore the option of a licensing scheme to permit the use of more than two dogs, if it were deemed necessary for pest control.
Additionally, the bill will include pre-emptive measures to address the likelihood of ‘trail-hunting’ becoming established in Scotland.
Scottish Ministers are on course to invest over £125 million in 2018-19 to mitigate the worst impact of UK Government welfare reforms and to protect those on low incomes.
Meanwhile, as at the middle of December, the new Social Security Scotland agency had spent £34 million making over 150,000 payments of Carers Allowance Supplement and Best Start Grants, with applications for the latter only opening on 10th December.
In the first three months of its operations Social Security Scotland has been able to provide significant extra help to carers and low income families with children.
However these figures starkly illustrate the significant challenge the Scottish Government faces in providing support to those who need it without having all the powers to make a greater difference.
Legislation is to be brought forward this year requiring abattoirs to record on CCTV all areas where live animals are present.
This is intended to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare in abattoirs, by helping those responsible for enforcing welfare legislation.
The proposal was backed by the vast majority of respondents to a recent consultation carried out by the Scottish Government.
The Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee has launched an inquiry to understand the challenges of Scotland’s construction sector, and is looking for a wide range of views on how the industry can be developed to help further drive the Scottish economy.
Specific areas that will be explored are economic impact, access to finance, skills, procurement, infrastructure, and innovation. The Committee is also keen to hear views on how to encourage young people to take up apprenticeship roles in construction and particularly to tackle the gender gap in the industry.
I’m pictured at City of Glasgow College Construction Department which I visited in the Autumn of last year. They offer fantastic facilities and resources for apprentices.
You can find out more on the inquiry at https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/110467.aspx
The Mental Health Minister has encouraged people experiencing depression, low mood or anxiety to seek help particularly at this time of year.
The Minister was visiting the Breathing Space call centre in Glasgow. Breathing Space is a free, confidential phone line offering advice to people experiencing anxiety, depression or low mood. Support is also available at Living Life, which offers more in depth telephone-based and online therapy, and Samaritans, who provide confidential non-judgmental, free emotional support 24 hours a day for people struggling to cope.
If you need someone to talk to call 0800 83 85 87, 6pm to 2am Monday to Thursday; and 24 hours at the weekend. Calls to Breathing Space are free from landlines and from mobile networks. Breathing Space provides a wide range of useful information and advice about coping with low mood, depression and anxiety.
You can find out more information on the Scottish Government’s plans on this at https://www.gov.scot/publications/programme-government-delivery-plan-mental-health/
More people than ever are signed up to the Organ Donor Register in Scotland, latest figures show.
In 2018, there were 148,000 new registrations from people willing to be organ donors, and the new registrations mean that the total number of people registered in Scotland has risen to a record high of almost 2.8 million – or 51.7% of Scotland’s population.
Meanwhile, in the last year 829 people in Scotland received a transplant. However there are currently more than 550 people in Scotland waiting for an organ transplant which could save or transform their lives.
The Scottish Government is working on a package of measures to further increase the number of potential donors. This includes legislation introduced to the Scottish Parliament to move to a soft opt-out system for organ and tissue donation. A public consultation in 2017 showed 82% of respondents supporting this move.