Friday 26 March 2021
After 22 years as an elected representative it was an emotional final week in Parliament as the 5th session came to a close.
We heard some fantastic valedictory speeches from colleagues across the chamber. Many of whom have been close friends and colleagues since 1999 and beyond. I wish them all well in their endeavours.
The First Minister also brought forward a motion of thanks, for the staff across the Parliamentary campus who have been incredible, from those first few days in May 1999 to our last in 2021; to the Presiding Officer and the Deputy Presiding Officers and the MSP staff.
You can access the motion here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=13221&i=119764
So for my final contribution in the chamber as the Glasgow Kelvin MSP, I took the opportunity to raise concerns regarding access to Gaelic Medium Education during portfolio questions and free tuition fees for students during First Minister’s Questions. Both issues at the heart of the constituency.
You can access the exchanges here:
I will continue to represent the people of Glasgow Kelvin until the election on 6 May.
Day of Reflection
Tuesday 23 March marked a National Day of Reflection to remember all of those people across the country who lost their lives to coronavirus.
The past 12 months have been incredibly hard, particularly for those who have been grieving the loss of a loved one, unable to have the comfort of family and friends to share in their grief and come together to celebrate their life.
The First Minister confirmed Scottish Government support for the creation of a national memorial garden in Pollok Park this is part of an initiative led by the Herald newspaper.
In addition the Scottish Government will also support Covid Community Memorial projects in locations across the country. Artists from Greenspace Scotland will work with community groups, faith groups, and those hit hardest by the pandemic, to develop projects such as commemorative gardens, memorials and public artworks.
The First Minister confirmed this week during her Covid-19 update to Parliament that places of worship would open from today in groups of up to 50 – if the premises can support such a gathering with appropriate physical distancing.
The vaccination programme is still on track with almost half of the whole adult population of Scotland receiving their first dose. And it remains on course to offer first doses to the 9 priority JCVI groups which is everyone over 50, all unpaid carers and all adults with particular underlying health conditions, by mid-April.
The guidance on current restrictions can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/
You can access the timetable for easing the restrictions here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-timetable-for-easing-restrictions/
After substantial negotiations I very much welcome the pay deal for our NHS workers. If accepted by staff, this deal will be the most generous NHS pay uplift anywhere in the UK, and would represent the biggest single year increase in pay for NHS staff since devolution.
The pay rises will benefit 154,000 NHS Agenda for Change employees – including nurses, paramedics, allied health professionals, as well as domestic, healthcare support staff, porters and other front line health workers.
The pay rise would ensure that staff on the pay bands 1 to 7 would receive at least a 4% pay rise compared to 2020/21, with the staff who earned less than £25,000 in 2020/21 getting a guaranteed minimum increase of over £1,000 in 2021/22. This means that staff on the lowest Agenda for Change pay point would get a 5.4% increase. Those on the highest pay points will receive uplifts of £800.
While pay increases are usually effective from 1 April the 2021/22 pay settlement will be backdated to 1 December 2020 in recognition of an exceptional year of significant pressure for staff. This follows the £500 thank you payment for health and social care workers.
I was extremely pleased to see the publication of a draft Independence Referendum Bill this week to give people in Scotland the right to decide their future, once the current health crisis is over.
The draft Bill is being brought forward to offer Scotland the choice of who is best placed to lead the country’s post-pandemic recovery – the people who live here or a government based in Westminster.
The draft Scottish Independence Referendum Bill publication sets out a number of key issues for a vote including:
- the timing of a referendum should be a matter for the next Scottish Parliament to decide. Ministers have separately made clear it should take place once the public health crisis is over
- the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” is the same one used during the 2014 referendum and it will be tested by the Electoral Commission
- voting eligibility will be extended to match the franchise at Scottish Parliament and local government elections
You can access the draft Bill here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/draft-independence-referendum-bill/
A bill has been proposed to enable women who paid for mesh removal surgery to be refunded.
Subject to the outcome of the Scottish Parliament election, new legislation will be introduced to allow the Scottish Government to meet the travel, medical and other reasonable expenses of those who had mesh removal surgery outwith NHS Scotland.
Currently the law does not allow for such payments to be made from public funds.
NHS Scotland is also inviting tenders to allow suitably qualified surgeons to perform free mesh removal, where this surgery is clinically appropriate and where patients wish it to take place outside of NHS Scotland.
A commitment to ensure adult social care workers receive at least the Real Living Wage of £9.50 an hour has been agreed with COSLA.
Funding of £64.5 million will be committed to ensure adult social care workers will be paid at least the Real Living Wage from May 2021, backdated to April 2021. This is an important early response to the recent Independent Review of Adult Social Care and comes as a joint statement between with COSLA has been issued setting out how they will work together to deliver on the review’s recommendations.
You can read the full joint statement of intent here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/adult-social-care—independent-review-joint-statement-of-intent/
Holiday vouchers, discounts for days out and a marketing fund are included in a new £25 million tourism recovery programme announced by the Scottish Government this week.
The programme, which has been developed by the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) in partnership with businesses, will support the Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce objectives.
The recovery programme includes:
- a holiday voucher scheme to create a more socially sustainable and inclusive tourism industry
- a days out incentive scheme to support areas such as attractions, tours, activities and experiences
- a talent development and leadership programme for tourism and hospitality staff
- a Net Zero Pathway to make Scotland’s tourism industry more green and sustainable
- a marketing fund to support organisations to promote their destination or sector when domestic travel is able to resume
A £19.4 million Scottish Government fund will support a six year mentoring programme to help young people reach their full potential.
MCR Pathways charity will roll out its successful Young Scottish Talent mentoring programme and social enterprise and charity Columba 1400 will expand its values-based Leadership Academy for Young People, working in partnership to improve education outcomes, career opportunities and life chances.
A network of volunteer mentors – drawn from business, civic society and the wider public – will offer tailored support to young people through schools as lockdown eases. They will be trained to develop strong relationships that are at the heart of the programme and key to helping young people achieve their full potential.
The programme will be delivered in partnership with local authorities that wish to participate and will be part of the Scottish Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee, to provide long term support where it is needed most.
Please keep following the Scottish Government guidance https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/ and remember the FACTS: Face coverings, Avoid crowded places, Clean hands and surfaces regularly, Two metre distancing; and Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.