Thursday 9 January 2020
Happy New Year to you all. I hope that you had some time away from work to spend with friends and family and are ready for the year ahead.
The Scottish Parliament has refused to give consent to the UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, opening up an “unprecedented constitutional crisis”.
As part of the devolution settlement, the Scottish Parliament is asked to provide legislative consent to any Westminster laws that would impact on devolved areas.
Under the Sewel Convention, the UK government should not legislate in devolved areas without the consent of the Scottish Parliament – a principle the UK Government is now set to rip apart.
This assault on devolution follows independent analysis by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) that confirmed the Withdrawal Bill will be a power grab on Holyrood – finding it will “allow UK Ministers, acting alone, to make provision in devolved policy areas.”
I was delighted to welcome pupils from Notre Dame High School this week to the Scottish Parliament for a visit.
The group attended First Minister Question time and then we had a lively question and answer session in the Committee Room.
They have been studying democracy and the Scottish Parliament so this was a very fitting end to their project.
I thank the girls and staff for their enthusiasm and I think we may have a few future parliamentarians within the group!
For those of you who haven’t heard of WEvolution they started in 2014 with the aim of growing and supporting a movement of Self-Reliant Groups across Scotland’s communities of untapped potential.
I was delighted to meet with representatives in Parliament this week.
This is the first of a kind and grew out of a 10 day visit hosted by the Church of Scotland where 13 women from 7 of Glasgow’s most disadvantaged communities experienced the transformative impact of women’s self-help groups in India.
An SRG provides people with the means to grow as individuals by saving small amounts of money, learning new skills and gaining new experiences, but with importance being that it is achieved within the group setting which provides support, inspiration and confidence.
To date there are 40 Self-Reliant Groups across Scotland involving 200 women from Scotland’s most deprived communities.
You can find out more here: https://www.wevolution.org.uk/
Short Term Lets
The Scottish Government announced new powers for local councils to licence and limit the number of short-term lets this week . I very much welcome welcome, and also took the opportunity to ask a question on the announcement from the Scottish Government this week that local councils will be given new powers to licence and limit the number of short-term lets, such as AirBNB.
The number of short-term lets in Scotland has risen dramatically in recent years – but evidence shows that in many tourist hotspots locals are finding it increasingly hard to find homes to live in.
We must strike a balance between the economic benefits of tourism to Scotland and the impact on local communities. Short-term lets such as AirBNB are restricting the number of properties available for those looking for a home to live in.
The proposals announced by the Scottish Government will give Glasgow City Council new powers to control the number of short-term lets in the local community and ensure they make a fair contribution to the services they use.
A total of 3,320 families in Scotland claiming help with housing costs are £64 a week worse off because of UK welfare cuts.
Since the roll-out of Universal Credit, rent arrears in Scotland have increased and as of March 2019, arrears on all council properties was £74 million, up £9 million on the previous year.
The Scottish Government has spent more than £63 million on discretionary housing payments to top up benefit shortfalls and help people pay their rent so they don’t run up arrears.
You can find out more about the discretionary housing payment here: https://www.mygov.scot/discretionary-housing-payment/ and the Scottish Welfare Fund here: https://www.mygov.scot/scottish-welfare-fund/
Representatives from We Are Versus Arthritis were exhibiting in Parliament this week and I took the opportunity to chat with them about their work.
They are an amalgamation of Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care Scotland.
Versus Arthritis campaign on behalf of those affected by arthritis and other associated conditions.
From developing breakthrough treatments, campaigning relentlessly for arthritis to be seen as a priority, challenging how people see arthritis and ensuring that everyone has access to the best information, advice and support they need, whenever they need it.
You can access further information on Versus Arthritis here https://www.versusarthritis.org/
More than 45,000 baby boxes have been delivered to expectant parents in 2019.
The health board area which received the most Baby Boxes was Greater Glasgow and Clyde, with 11,258 babies being welcomed by a box, while 174 babies on the Western Isles received boxes. This year, the box which travelled the furthest was delivered to one of the northernmost isles of Shetland, more than 400 miles from the depot in Leith where the boxes are stored.
Across Scotland 96% of parents are taking up the opportunity of getting a Baby Box, while the latest parent survey shows 100% satisfaction with the box and contents, which include a digital ear thermometer, clothes and a blanket.
You can find out more here: https://www.parentclub.scot/baby-box