News

Ebrief

Thursday 23 November 2017

Budget

The UK Chancellor laid bare his budget this week which has been met with sharp criticism.

Scotland’s resource block grant for day to day spending will fall by over £200m in real terms next year and while money for the NHS in England should see a proportionate share come to Scotland, cuts in other UK departments mean that instead of receiving over £30m this year the Scottish Government will receive only £8m – a fraction of that spending.

The reality is that over £1.1bn of the money being promised to Scotland over the next four years are loans that the Scottish Government cannot spend directly on frontline public services and that have to be paid back to the Treasury.

This budget has failed to lift the public sector pay cap. The Scottish Government believes all public sector workers deserve a pay rise and we will deliver one.

On business rates and stamp duty the UK Government are following the Scottish Government’s lead. And ending the VAT obligation on police and fire services and supporting the oil and gas industry is welcome, but in both cases these moves are well overdue, and the UK Government must now pay back the £140m of VAT they have already taken.

The reality of this budget is that Scotland continues to be hit by UK austerity and the decision to leave the EU. Compared with the £1bn awarded to the DUP, the funding settlement for Scotland unveiled is disappointing.

Children’s Day

11.17 BarnardosUnited Nations Universal Children’s Day was established in 1954 and is celebrated on November 20th each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children’s welfare.

November 20th is an important date as it is the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Since 1990, Universal Children’s Day also marks the anniversary of the date that the UN General Assembly adopted both the declaration and the convention on children’s rights.

In recognition and marking Universal Children’s Day I took the opportunity to visit our local Barnardos shop on Dumbarton Road. I had a great meeting with the shop manager and the volunteer staff who offer their time to help an extremely worthy cause.

Building Regulations

The Local Government Committee report Building Regulations and Fire Safety findings were debated in Parliament this week and I took the opportunity to contribute raising constituency concerns particularly with regards to regulations, developers and fire safety measures.

The Committee’s initial work into, and interest in, the issue of building regulations and the verification process was focused on complaints from a number of individuals relating to private house builders. However, during the course of their inquiry, their work was catalysed as a result of two events. Firstly, the publication of the Report on the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools by Professor John Cole CBE and secondly the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London which led to the Committee agreeing in June 2017 to widen its ongoing scrutiny of building regulations in Scotland to include the fire safety aspects of these regulations.

You can read my full contribution here http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/ormain.aspx

Money Advice Service

11.17 Money Advice ScotlandMoney Advice Scotland (MAS) were exhibiting in the Parliament this week highlighting their newly launched e-learning module on financial capability.

I took time to stop and have a chat with them about their work and to find out what the module would offer people.

It is designed to help you improve your money management and budgeting skills covering eight different topics around personal finance.

It will help create a personal household budget with hints and tips on saving money.

You don’t need to go online to seek support from MAS you can also use their Freephone no 0800 731 4722 or if you would like to have a look at their e learning modules or find out more about their work go to www.moneyadvicescotland.org.uk

Imprisoned Writers

My colleague Ivan McKee MSP led a members debate this week on the Day of the Imprisoned Writer which is marked on 15 November. It commemorates writers around the world who have been imprisoned, threatened or attacked for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

I highlighted the arbitrary detention of blogger Raif Badawi, currently serving a 10-year sentence in Saudi Arabia. I fully support PEN International’s call for Badawi’s conviction to be overturned and for him to be released immediately and unconditionally. You can read the full debate here: www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/ormain.aspx

Bike for Good

11.17 Bike for GoodAs an ardent supporter of Bike for Good I was more than happy to go along to their family fun day at their Haugh Road base at the weekend to see their host of cycle themed family friendly activities.

Bike for Good are Scotland’s largest bike recycling charity which takes any and all unwanted bikes, no matter their age or condition.

Every bike they get helps support their work promoting cycling, providing training and offering volunteering and other opportunities.

By selling secondhand bikes it also helps individuals who may not have otherwise afforded a bike the opportunity to get cycling.

Now 7 years old having grown from a small stall on the Barras they now have two branches across the city as well as a team of 50 + individuals, with their work changing thousands of lives for the better.

Fairer Scotland

Public sector bodies now have a duty to consider what more they can do to reduce poverty and inequality when making key decisions.

The Fairer Scotland Duty, the first action in the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and the first of its kind in the UK, comes into force in April 2018.  Public sector bodies including the Scottish Government, NHS and local authorities, will all have a duty to tackle social and economic disadvantage in local areas.

Actions that have been completed include:

The ambitious Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill unanimously passed by Parliament

Establishing a National Poverty and Inequality Commission

Establishing a £29 million fund dedicated to tackling poverty

Delivering the first baby boxes of basic essentials

Funding two new organisations in Dundee and North Ayrshire to help people with direct experience of poverty speak out to improve public services

Year of Young People Survey

People are most likely to hold positive views of young people as trustworthy and helpful to others, new research from the Scottish Government shows.

The survey, published during the launch week of Year of Young People 2018 examined the attitudes and perceptions of more than 1,000 adults towards 13-19 year olds.

It found that those who said they personally knew a young person were much more likely to be positive in their views of young people in general.

But a quarter viewed young people as lazy, more than a third saw them as irresponsible and almost four in ten thought they were lacking in communication skills.

Read the Scottish Government report Public attitudes to young people in Scotland and click here Year of Young People 2018 to find out more.

 

Grill Guru

11.17 Grill GuruLast Friday I had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon to officially open Grill Guru on Oswald Street.

Shrinivash Kumar and his staff welcomed invited guests to the celebrations and to mark the grand opening Grill Guru teamed up with Cancer Research with all proceeds from sales going to the charity.

Bowel Screening

Thousands more people across Scotland will benefit from the roll-out of a new and easier screening test to detect symptoms of bowel cancer.

The Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) requires participants to collect one bowel motion sample, rather than the current test which requires samples over three days.

Research suggests FIT’s ease of use will encourage more people to take part in the programme. The test is being offered to all men and women in Scotland aged 50 to 74, every two years.

Detailed information about the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme can be found on the bowel screening pages on the NHS Inform website.

“UK budget falls short for Scotland” – Sandra White MSP

Glasgow Kelvin SNP Sandra White says UK Government financial plans are a bad deal for Scotland.

The Chancellor’s Statement reports increased funding for Scotland amid a consequential real terms cut to Scotland’s revenue block grant of over £200m next year, whilst Scotland’s share of increases in NHS funding are a fraction due to UK cuts elsewhere.

£1.1bn, half of additional funding announced for Scotland, are financial transactions which the Scottish Government cannot spend on frontline public services, and which have to be repaid to the Treasury.

 

Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin said:

“This budget once again shows that the Tories cannot be trusted to act for Scotland’s interest.

“Whilst they are claiming a funding boost for Scotland, the reality is that a majority of it takes the form of restrictive loans which cannot be spent on public services facing UK cuts.

“I am pleased that the Scottish Government will press ahead with lifting the public sector pay cap despite the UK’s budget failing to do so.

“This was a spin budget today from a Chancellor only able to deliver the axe to Scotland because of his dodgy £1bn DUP bribe holding him in power; we will continue to fight and deliver for Scotland’s interest.”

Ebrief

Thursday 16 November 2017

Cladding

The Cabinet Secretary for Communities Angela Constance gave a statement to Parliament this week and I took the opportunity to put forward a question which I have attached below

Sandra White (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP): The two buildings in Glasgow that have been mentioned are on the Glasgow harbour site in my constituency. Indeed, evidence received from constituents states that completion certificates were received after May 2005. What evidence has the working group received from Glasgow City Council that it is doing everything in its power to ensure that residents are kept informed of everything that is going on, including the on-going work, and that they are told where they can access further advice?

Angela Constance: The issue around completion certificates is one of the many issues that the review panel on building standards compliance and enforcement will look at in further detail. Glasgow City Council has been keeping the ministerial working group updated regularly on the work that is going on at a local level and it remains proactive in addressing the situation of the two towers that Ms White has referred to. The council has written to property owners, detailing the actions that it has taken to date, including interim measures to improve the fire safety of the buildings that will allow residents to continue to live at home, and the work that will need to be done to remove and replace the cladding. If that does not capture everything that the constituency member requires, we will endeavour to write to her in the fullest detail.

You can read the full text of the statement here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11193&i=102025

St Andrews Day

11.17 SaltireThe public are being asked to do a good deed on St Andrew’s Day to celebrate Scotland’s history, culture and the nation’s shared values.

The #BeLikeStAndrew campaign marks the start of Scotland’s Winter Festivals – which opens with St Andrew’s Day, followed by Hogmanay, and then Burns Night.

Charity partners Princes Trust Scotland, Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, Crisis Scotland, have joined the Scottish Rugby Union and Stoats to back the campaign.

Scotland’s Winter Festivals will see dozens of events and activities taking place across the country highlighting the best of music, arts and entertainment.

Get more information on the campaign here: http://www.scotland.org/events/st-andrews-day/be-like-st-andrew

New Role

I was delighted to be nominated and elected to serve on the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) this week.

Many of you will not be familiar with the work of the SPCB but it’s main role is to make sure that the Scottish Parliament can operate effectively and that MSPs are able to carry out their duties.

The Corporate Body considers and makes decisions on a wide range of issues to do with the running of the Parliament including the financing of the Parliament and allocation of the budget, the staffing of the Parliament, accommodation and the use and security of Parliamentary facilities at Holyrood.

I am looking forward to my new role and the responsibility which comes with it.

ESB

11.17 ESBI attended the launch of ESB’s new office in George Street this week along with the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse.

ESB is Ireland’s foremost energy company with a 90 year track record. They have earmarked 800MW of clean electricity generation in Scotland. They will be working in partnership with windfarm developers including Coriolis and REG Holdings.

They are committed to growing a low carbon and renewable generation as part of the transition to a low carbon economy , powered by clean electricity.

Digital Classrooms                              

11.17 Digital Classrooms EquatorI was delighted to host Equator and their presentation to MSPs and invited guests on their work with children in refugee camps across Europe.

Their idea was created because of their commitment to education and innovation so unlike the majority of us they shelved their plans for sending a Christmas card in 2016 and instead set themselves the challenge of coming up with something that would make a real difference to people’s lives.

From those first steps they resolved that they would aim to transform the prospects of every one of the 150 refugee children in ‘La Linière’ camp on the outskirts of Dunkirk.

The result was a fully wireless digital classroom in an easily transportable container that would create the opportunity to learn languages and skills.

They visited the camp to deliver the package and saw first-hand the huge impact it would have on the lives of the children there and they are now developing the concept to make it available for displaced communities worldwide.

I think most of you will agree with me that this is an incredible idea that has immense possibilities and I hope that Equator will continue to develop this concept.

Minimum Pricing

The UK Supreme Court has this week ruled that minimum unit pricing for alcohol, which was passed overwhelmingly by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, can now proceed.

Following the unequivocal backing of the highest court in Scotland – and a referral to the European Court of Justice – the UK Supreme Court has now dismissed an appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association and others, ruling that the proposed minimum unit pricing policy is appropriately targeted, lawful and proportionate.

Prior to implementing the policy, Ministers will now conduct a consultation on the proposed 50 pence per unit price and refresh the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) that is required by Parliament.  The Scottish Government anticipates setting the minimum unit price at 50 pence per unit, subject to the outcome of the consultation and the refreshed BRIA.

Landscape Institute

11.17 Lanscape for ScotlandThe Landscape Institute is the professional body and regulator for landscape architecture and they were exhibiting in the Scottish Parliament this week.

Under its Royal Charter the Landscape Institute is charged with protecting, conserving and enhancing the natural and built environment for the benefit of the public by the planning, design and management of outdoor space.

Glasgow city centre has benefitted from the expertise of landscape architects just take a look at the ‘style mile’ a great walkable space created through visionary design.

For more information on the Landscape Institute go to http://scotland.landscapeinstitute.org/

GP Contracts

Plans for investment and reform to give GPs more time with patients most in need of their skills have been published.

A new GP contract, jointly designed and agreed with the British Medical Association, will be the biggest reform of GPs services in over a decade

The proposals will ensure that all patients get the support they need from an extended community healthcare team – led by GPs and including nurses, physiotherapists, community mental health workers, paramedics, and pharmacists – to ensure more patients get the best and most appropriate care. This means GPs are able to best use their skills as expert medical generalists to spend more time with the people who need them most.

Alongside this, the Scottish Government is also announcing an additional £30 million over three years to help reduce the risks to GPs of leasing or owning premises and improve practice sustainability.

The move is part of an overall transformation in community health services which will see an additional £500 million invested every year by 2021, £250 million of which will be invested in direct support of general practice.

Year of Young People

11.17 Year of Young People 2018A major programme of events and activities to celebrate Scotland’s young people will take place in 2018.

A global first, the Year of Young People 2018 will provide a platform to showcase the personalities, talents and achievements of Scotland’s young people.

It will give young people, aged 8 to 26, new opportunities to influence decision making on issues affecting their lives and be involved in cultural and sporting opportunities across the country.

Young people have been involved in designing the programme, with more than 500 signed up to volunteer as Year of Young People 2018 Ambassadors.

EventScotland will deliver a programme of events for all ages, and Young Scot, Children in Scotland, the Scottish Youth Parliament and YouthLink Scotland will lead youth participation and involvement in the Year.

Find out more here: http://yoyp2018.scot/

 

Sandra White MSP welcomes Supreme Court Minimum Price Ruling

SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, Sandra White has welcomed the UK Supreme Court’s ruling that the Scottish Government’s minimum unit pricing policy is legal, allowing the legislation to proceed as part of efforts to improve Scotland’s damaging relationship with alcohol.

The policy was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, but has been delayed due to a long-running legal challenge. Today’s ruling allows it to go ahead, setting a minimum unit price on alcohol of 50 pence.

Minimum unit pricing is backed by academic research, which suggests that the policy will cut alcohol-related deaths and reduce hospital admissions linked to alcohol misuse, which costs Scotland £3.6 billion every year.

Commenting, SNP MSP Sandra White said:

“This is excellent news, and a clear vindication of the Scottish Government’s policy.

“This ruling now allows us to go ahead with the policy that was overwhelmingly backed by the Scottish Parliament five years ago and take the action that is needed to cut alcohol-related deaths and reduce hospital admissions

“The health and wellbeing of people across Scotland is absolutely paramount – and the fact that alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6 billion every year shows how damaging our relationship with alcohol is.

“Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.

“We will continue to support the whisky industry and work alongside them to ensure their economic success, while maintaining our commitment to promote safe and responsible alcohol consumption.

“Scotland is the first country in the world to implement such a policy – and we should be proud of our pioneering approach that will benefit Glasgow and Scotland for generations.”

 

Ebrief

Thursday 9 November 2017

Child Poverty Bill

As the Convener of the Social Security Committee which took the lead on the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill I am extremely pleased Scotland is to become the only part of the UK with statutory targets to tackle child poverty after the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament. As the Convener of the Social Security Committee which took the lead on the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill I am very proud of the work of the Committee on this Bill.

The Bill will:

Set in statute targets to reduce child poverty by 2030

Place a duty on ministers to publish child poverty delivery plans at regular intervals and to report on progress annually

Place a duty on local authorities and health boards to report annually on what they are doing to contribute to reducing child poverty

Establish a Poverty and Inequality Commission

Partick Jobcentre

11.17 Partick JobcentreI had a very interesting and informative visit to Partick Jobcentre at the end of last week with my colleague Patrick Grady MP.

With the continued problems with the roll out of Universal Credit we took the opportunity to question the staff on the impact of the roll out.

I also took the opportunity to raise the issue of partnership working with other services and voluntary organisations. These additional services are more than ever vital in providing assistance to clients and I wanted to ensure that staff within the Jobcentre were not only aware of this provision but were providing this information to ensure clients have access to this support.

Historical Sexual Offences

Legislation to provide gay men convicted under historical discriminatory laws with an automatic pardon has been published.

The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill will also enable men to apply to have convictions for same-sex sexual activity that is now legal removed from central criminal conviction records.

The bill delivers on a commitment made in the Programme for Government when it was published in September.

You can read the full text of the statement by the First Minister here:http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11174&i=101857

Dyslexia

11.17 Dyslexia ScotlandDyslexia Awareness Week runs from 6 – 11 November this year and I took the opportunity to stop by and chat with representative from Dyslexia Scotland whilst they were in the Scottish Parliament this week.

The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Positive about dyslexia’ and they had this to say about the campaign:

We are positive about the skills and talents of children and adults with dyslexia.

We are positive that with the right support, children and adults with dyslexia can reach their full potential.

We are positive that children and adults with dyslexia can be successful in education, work and life.

We are working to help turn the negatives into positives.

We are #positiveaboutdyslexia

You can get more information on the campaign and Dyslexia Scotland at https://www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/dyslexia-awareness-week

Sexual Harassment

Further to my question to the First Minister last week on the allegations of sexual harassment I submitted a further question to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) asking what measures will be put in place not just in terms of sexual harassment but all harassment in whatever guise it may be.

You can read the full exchange here:

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/ReportSelectPage.aspx?type=plenary&year=2017&page=0&meeting=-1 

Living Wage

11.17 Living WageScotland has 1,000 accredited living wage employers compared with around 3,500 across the whole of the UK, meaning Scotland contributes more than a quarter of the UK total and I’m pleased to say I make up one of the 1,000.

81.6% of Scottish workers earn the real living wage, the highest rate in the UK.

The new Real Living Wage rate was announced this week as £8.75 an hour.

Fuel Poverty Consultation

People are being asked to give their views on a new long-term strategy to tackle fuel poverty.

The consultation will run until 1 February 2018 and will seek opinions on, among other things, ambitious targets for fuel poverty reduction – with a revised definition recommended by an independent, expert review – and the timescales for meeting them.

Responses to the consultation will inform the new strategy and the development of a Warm Homes Bill, due to be introduced in 2018, which will enshrine the proposed new fuel poverty target in legislation.

You can access the consultation here:

https://consult.gov.scot/better-homes-division/fuel-poverty/

Gender Recognition Act

Plans have been unveiled to make it simpler – and less intrusive – for transgender people to be legally recognised in their acquired gender.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on proposals which would bring Scotland into line with international best practice including:

Replacing requirements to provide medical evidence and to live in an acquired gender for two years when seeking legal gender recognition, with a self-declaration system; Reducing the age at which recognition can be obtained to 16, and considering options for under-16s; Options for the legal recognition of non-binary people – people who do not identify as male or female

EU Nationals

EU nationals working in Scotland contribute an average of £34,400 each to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – more than £4.4 billion a year – according to new data analysis.

Evidence submitted to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) by the Scottish Government demonstrates how the economy benefits from the presence of 128,000 workers born elsewhere in Europe.

It is the first time economists have calculated a figure which highlights the possibility that if net EU migration to the UK was to fall Scotland’s predicted population growth would be disproportionately affected.

High School of Glasgow

11.17 High School of GlasgowMy colleague Bill Kidd MSP and I welcomed S3 Modern Studies pupils from the High School of Glasgow to the Scottish Parliament this week.

We had some very interesting questions from the pupils.

Theses ranged from allowing for members of the public to question the First Minister at weekly FMQs to what issue would be paramount should Scotland become independent to our views on Brexit and what if any transition arrangements should be stipulated on our exit from the European Union.

Tearfund Scotland

11.17 TearfundTearfund Scotland were in the Parliament highlighting a paper jointly published by Tearfund and the Institute of Development Studies.

The paper Virtuous Circle outlines what the circular economy offers for low and middle-income countries.

They report that the current way of doing things is linear. We take natural resources, make items, use them and then throw them away. At this end point all the energy, water and materials used in making the items are thrown away too.

The circular economy, however, keeps resources in use for as long as possible. Many items, such as cars, can be shared rather than left sitting idle. They can also be repaired or rebuilt rather than being thrown away when they break. This creates new job opportunities and reduces health-damaging waste.

You can find out more about their work and this particular report at https://learn.tearfund.org/en/resources/policy_and_research/sustainable_economics/the_circular_economy/