Ebrief

Thursday 23 March 2017

London

My thoughts are with everyone caught up in the heinous attack at Westminster this week and those who were so tragically killed. The emergency services responded bravely to ensure the safety of many people and are to be commended.

As a mark of respect the Scottish Parliament held a minute’s silence on Thursday morning with flags flying at half-mast.

The First Minister also made a statement to Parliament during FMQs which I wholeheartedly support.

You can access the full statement here:http://news.gov.scot/news/first-minister-statement-1

Scotland’s Choice

Due to the incident at Westminster the two-day debate on Scotland’s Choice was suspended and will be rescheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday 28 March. I will be taking part in the debate and if you would like to read the contributions made so far you can access them at: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/ReportSelectPage.aspx?type=plenary&year=2017&page=0&meeting=-1

Yorkhill MIU

During general questions this week I took the opportunity to question the Cabinet Secretary for Health on the future plans for Yorkhill Minor Injuries Unit. As many of you will know from previous ebriefs I raised this matter with the Scottish Government a few months ago highlighting both my and constituents concerns on the provision of services in the local area.

The Cabinet Secretary stated that the board were currently reviewing the siting of a minor injuries unit in the west end of the city and you can view the full exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10860&i=99421

Social Security

I along with my Committee members travelled to Westminster on Monday to hold a joint meeting with the Scottish Affairs Committee taking evidence from Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mary Pattison, Senior Responsible Officer for Scottish Devolution Programme and Ageing Society & State Pensions Director, Department for Work and Pensions, Angela Constance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, and Stephen Kerr, Director of Social Security, Scottish Government.

This was a significant meeting as it was the first time a Holyrood Committee had participated in an evidence session at Westminster.

You can access the full report of the meeting here:

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/scottish-affairs-committee/intergovernmental-cooperation-on-social-security/oral/49162.html

Mental Health

03.17 Partners in AdvocacyPartners in Advocacy were in the Parliament this week to highlight the work they do across the country for child, adolescent and adult mental health.

I was particularly pleased to hear about the work they are doing in Greater Glasgow, supporting children and young people up to the age of 18. They are giving them the opportunity to have their voices heard and a greater understanding of what is happening to them. They help them to make choices about their lives and respect their views.

You can find out more information on their work at www.partnersinadvocacy.org.uk or contact them on 0141 847 0660.

Universal Credit

Ministers are requesting an immediate halt to the roll-out of the full service of Universal Credit until problems with its implementation are fully resolved and I fully support these calls.

The Scottish Government has written to the UK Government to raise urgent concerns over how Universal Credit is pushing more people into hardship and debt.

The full service of Universal Credit – i.e. where people must have an online account to manage their claim or apply for a benefit – is operational in certain parts of the country.

The way it is paid means new claimants have to wait six weeks before receiving their first payment, resulting in tenants building up rent arrears and being pushed to seek crisis or hardship payments.

Delays in payments have seen landlords, including housing associations, reporting financial difficulties, with councils reporting record rent arrears.

Apprenticeships

Thousands of young people will gain industry recognised qualifications, real-world work experience and access to work-based learning while still at school thanks to a massive expansion of the Foundation Apprenticeship programme.

As part of the drive to improve attainment, Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced that by the end of 2019, up to 5,000 young people will start a Foundation Apprenticeship, up from 351 starts during 2016-17.

Developed and delivered by Skills Development Scotland, Foundation Apprenticeships are undertaken while still at school, at the same time as pupils take traditional academic exams.  They offer young people the opportunity to gain a qualification while working with some of Scotland’s best-known employers in sectors such as engineering and software development.

You can find out more at: https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/our-products/foundation-apprenticeships/

Electrical Safety

03.17 Inequality Street Electricla Safety FirstElectrical Safety First is a Charity which aims to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by electricity.

I was happy to chat with them at their exhibition this week in Parliament on the impact of poor electrical safety on older people and those living with dementia.

Electricity is the leading cause of house fires in Scotland with older people disproportionately affected.

The exhibition provided an opportunity for the campaign to raise awareness with Members who in turn can relay that advice to elderly constituents to help keep them safe, particularly during the colder winter months when there is an increased reliance on electrical items.

If you would like to find out more go to http://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/

Domestic Abuse

A new bill to strengthen the laws against those who psychologically abuse their partners using coercive and controlling behaviour has been published.

The Scottish Government introduced the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament this week.

The Bill creates a new statutory offence of domestic abuse that recognises the damage and hurt that non-physical abuse can cause.

The Scottish Government consulted on creating a specific offence of ‘abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner’ between December 2015 and April 2016. The responses to this are published here: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/criminal-law-and-sentencing-team/criminal-offence-domestic-abuse

Childcare

Children with additional support needs will have improved access to nursery education through a £2 million package from the Scottish Government.

The money will fund specialist training and equipment to ensure all nurseries offering the free early learning and childcare (ELC) entitlement are equipped to care for children with additional support needs

These additional funds build on the pledge given last week that 8,000 existing and all additional childcare staff will be paid at least the Living Wage by the end of this Parliament and the Scottish Government’s plans to deliver a doubling of free childcare over this parliament.

Care Leavers

Hundreds of care leavers will be helped to move into work, training or education through a new £1 million Care Experienced Employability Programme (CEEP). It is a one-year pilot programme to help 270 young care leavers aged 16-29 to move into appropriate work, training or educational opportunities.

CEEP will be led by the third sector Young Person’s Consortium (YPC) which consists of Barnardo’s Scotland, Action for Children and the Prince’s Trust.

The programme will enhance and add value to existing youth employment provision and deliver intensive support to young people who are often excluded from attaining their full potential through education and employment.  It will offer  work experience, qualifications, practical skills, involvement in community projects and life coaching that are focussed on the needs of the individual.

Jobs

Good news recently with the announcement from Vodafone of approximately 100 jobs being created at their Scottish Head Office in Berkley Street.

These positions will be filled over the next 24 months, forming part of the company’s expansion in customer services roles across Scotland.

Clydeside Distillery

Great to see that work is progressing at Clydeside with the installation of the copper stills this week. This is the latest step in the project to transform the area into a bespoke whisky distillery and visitor centre.

I’m hoping to meet up with representatives at the distillery in the coming months before the opening in the Autumn.

Paragon Music Need Your Vote!

Paragon is an inclusive music company inspiring people to create and perform their own music. We are passionate about using music and the arts to raise people’s aspirations, promoting positive self-image, teamwork, communication and learning. Excitingly they’ve just been shortlisted in the People’s Projects Awards and are in with the chance of winning up to £50,000!

The decision is being put to the public vote, so they need your help to make this project possible! 

The funding will be used to develop a youth mentoring project called “Stride”, which will give young people the opportunity to develop their skills in music and dance through workshop, performance, recording, training and work placement opportunities. This will help to increase access to education and employment for people with disabilities in Scotland.

You can watch their short video on the People’s Projects website and vote online. Vote once per email address and they ask that your family and friends to do the same! Please also remember to validate your vote by clicking on the confirmation email (which may have gone into your junk mail).

There are some very worthy entrants so best of luck to all and of course to Paragon!

Ebrief

Thursday 16 March 2017

#ScotRef

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed plans to seek parliamentary approval to begin discussions with the UK government to bring forward an independence vote.

Ahead of the UK government’s triggering of Article 50 and the beginning of the process of leaving the EU, the First Minister said that the Westminster government has been guilty of complete intransigence in the face of Scottish Government attempts to find a compromise – and has continually acted against the best interests of Scotland, not least by ruling out membership of the single market without consulting the Scottish Government.

It has become clear that the UK government has no intention of respecting Scotland’s 62% vote to remain in the EU and Glasgow’s 66% vote to remain in the EU. Throughout the entire Brexit process to date, the Scottish Government has been consistent in its pursuit of a compromise with the UK government, putting forward substantial proposals for Scotland to remain in the single market – yet the UK government has rejected these and is pursuing an ever harder line.

It is within this context, with the UK government intent on pursuing a damaging hard Brexit and set to trigger Article 50 without communicating with the devolved governments, that it has become ever clearer that the people of Scotland must be offered a choice over our future.

Scotland now stands at a crossroads, and we cannot drift along for two years hoping for the best.  We face the real prospect of right-wing Tory governments until at least 2030 and being dragged out of the EU and Single Market with all the damage to our economy and society that will cause.

You can find out more here: www.ref.scot

Mexico’s Missing Students

03.17 Mexico's Missing StudentsFor 20 years Scottish artist and filmmaker, Jan Nimmo, has been making artwork and films that highlight human and environmental rights issues through people’s personal stories. Jan’s most recent project exhibited in the Parliament, is a response to the events of 26th September 2014 when students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Teacher Training School in Ayotzinapa, Mexico were attacked by police in the city of Iguala. 6 people, 3 of them students, were murdered and 43 students were forcibly disappeared. The whereabouts of the students is still not known.

You can find out more here http://jannimmo.com/Ayotzinapa.html

Social Security

The DWP has ordered benefit assessors to single out those with mental health conditions – even when the impact is identical to those suffering physical conditions.

New guidelines tell assessors that mental health conditions are “not relevant” to the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) even if their mobility is limited to the same extent as someone with a physical impairment.

The updated guidance follows the UK government introducing emergency legislation to block a tribunal ruling that PIP payments should be extended for those with mental ill health.

Tory MP George Freeman, director of Theresa May’s policy unit, said that the changes were simply “tweaks” aimed at “people who take pills at home who suffer from anxiety.”

These reports are deeply worrying – and are just the latest in a long line of dangerous attitudes coming from the heart of the DWP.

Mental ill health can have a profound impact on somebody’s life and it deserves to be treated the same as physical illness.

But the Tory axemen in charge of the DWP have consistently put cost-cutting ahead of the well-being of claimants. This guidance will come as no surprise to many of those who’ve suffered under the DWP’s sanctions regime or work capability assessments.

The UK government need to urgently look at this again.

INSP Exhibition

If you’re looking for something to do locally I’d encourage members to go along to the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) exhibition at The Lighthouse which tells the story of vendors and celebrates the impact and difference that street papers make on their lives.

The free exhibition, which runs until April 9, combines the best of global street paper cover design; quotes from vendors of the impact street papers have made on their lives; and excerpts from recent street paper interviews with famous names – including Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama – on poverty and homelessness.

The covers range from The Big Issue UK’s first edition in September 1991 to the front page of The Springs Echo, the world’s newest street paper published early this year in Colorado Springs by Raven Cannon, a former vendor with Seattle street paper Real Change. Raven herself was experiencing homelessness at the time of Spring Echo’s launch.

Accessible Tourism

The Parliament marked the beginning of national tourism week with a debate on inclusive and accessible tourism. Tourism contributes significantly to Scotland’s prosperity both in financial terms and Scotland’s place in Europe particularly when seven of our top 10 key markets are European—as well as the wider world.

The industry continues to grow. People who come to visit us are drawn to Scotland for a wide variety of reasons: they want to see our exceptional natural landscapes, visit our award-winning attractions and taste our wonderful food and drink.

Scotland’s economic strategy is not just about delivering sustainable economic growth it is also about tackling the inequalities that continue to exist in our society and which are, unfortunately, still very real for many people. We often say that tourism is everyone’s business, and we have made great progress in making that so, but tourism is not yet for everyone. One in every three people in Scotland misses out on being a visitor in his or her own country. The Scottish Government want to change that, and have made significant steps in addressing this with the ScotSpirit initiative giving over 100 disadvantaged families a holiday.

You can read the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10838&i=99260

Exodus

03.17 RefugeesI attended the Exodus – A Modern Phenomenon event this week in Parliament. The event discussed the current situation regarding the mass displacement of people across the world as it relates to destabilisation, poverty and marginalisation.

There was also the opportunity to highlight the work being carried out with refugees in Scotland with representatives from the Scottish Refugee Council, Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance and the main address was given by Imam Razawi from the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society.

Equal Pay

With Glasgow City Council employees still embroiled in their equal pay dispute I took the opportunity to raise the matter with the Scottish Government during General Question time this week in the chamber.

Labour-run Glasgow City Council is now the only council in Scotland not to have reached a comprehensive settlement

You can view the exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10841&i=99294

Womens Support Project

03.17 Womens ProjectI took time to visit The Women’s Support Project exhibition in the Parliament this week. The Project aims to raise awareness of the extent and effects of violence against women and children, and works to improve services for those affected by violence.

Key themes in their work have been highlighting links between different forms of male violence and promoting an interagency response to the abuse of women and children. Their work is informed by a feminist analysis of male violence and an understanding of the links and overlaps between different forms of violence, discrimination and oppression.

If you would like to find out more about their work go to http://www.womenssupportproject.co.uk/content/aboutus/168/

Experience Panels

From today, people across Scotland will begin to receive letters inviting them to join the Experience Panels which will shape the country’s new social security system.

The invitations are being sent to people who have recent or current experience of the social security system. The letters are being sent on behalf of the Scottish Government by the Department of Work and Pensions, which holds details of people with recent experience of using the social security system. The letters will arrive in white envelopes rather than the standard brown envelopes used for DWP correspondence

East Africa Crisis Appeal

The Scottish Government will donate £200,000 to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s East Africa Crisis Appeal, which was launched this week.

The appeal will support those affected by famine in parts of South Sudan, where more than 4.9 million people currently do not have enough food to eat.

Caused by more than three years of conflict and violence, the situation in South Sudan has displaced millions of people and been exacerbated by severe drought, which is also affecting neighbouring countries including Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, with 16 million people in need of food, water and medical treatment.

Donate to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal at: www.dec.org.uk

 

Ebrief

Ebrief

Thursday 9 March

UK Budget

The Chancellor confirmed a real terms cut to the Scottish budget of 9.2 per cent between 2010/11 and 2019/20. While the additional Barnett consequentials are welcome no one should think that this budget provides an end to austerity from the UK Government – in fact there is still a further £3.5 billion of cuts to come.

On top of that the Chancellor continued with the UK Government’s damaging welfare cuts that will make many vulnerable and low income households worse off.

The real elephant in the room in this budget was Brexit. There was no mention of the UK Government’s plans to protect and grow the UK economy as the Prime Minister gets ready to trigger Article 50. This is simply not acceptable. Brexit is a real threat to people across Scotland in so many ways.

And amongst the utter chaos of a hard Tory Brexit, a hike on NICs threatens to undermine and deter the type of entrepreneurial behaviour that we should seek to encourage. I wholeheartedly believe in a flexible labour market, but that flexibility must be guarded against vulnerability. Some self-employed workers, particularly those on low incomes, do not always enjoy the same guarantees as those in employment such as pensions and sick leave. The UK Government has a poor track record on workers protection and rights, and it is vital that we seek every option to ensure that self employed workers are fully protected.

International Women’s Day

03.17 TearfundTearfund Scotland showcased their photo exhibition to mark International Women’s Day, 2017 on the Scottish Parliament.

The event celebrated the stories of seven Malawian girls who have been rescued from child marriage to continue their education.

These inspiring stories were brought to life by seven girls from Scottish schools.

Responsible Parking

A very brief update for you all on where we are with the issue of responsible parking. I met with representatives of Transport Scotland on Monday to discuss the work they are doing in taking this forward.

I can confirm that the formal consultation will open in the Spring but I will also ensure to highlight the launch in the Ebrief including links to participate. 

Local Government

On Tuesday I took the opportunity to participate in Alex Rowley’s member’s debate on Local Government Finance and the State of the Debt. Essentially the motion asked for the UK Government to write off local government debt accrued through the Public Works Loan Board.

The sentiments of the motion are well over a decade late – throughout the years of the debt accruing there was a Labour Government in Westminster and a Labour Administration here in Holyrood – why was this never suggested then.

The UK Government and both Labour and Lib Dem administrations exacerbated the debt by piling further debt onto local government with the now much maligned PFI scheme. The total annual PFI cost is £30.3 billion, the total local authority borrowing was £15.146 billion.

The proposal provided in the Unite paper requesting HM Treasury write off the debt is likely to be met with a requirement that the Scottish Government provides an offsetting reduction in its Budget and the Scottish Government are not financially in a position to accommodate this due to the reduction in the funding provided by Westminster.

Citizens Income

The concept of a minimum guaranteed income, known as the citizen’s income, is being explored by the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee.

A citizen’s income works on the basis that individuals are guaranteed a minimum regular payment unconditionally.  The possibility of a citizen’s income scheme is currently being investigated for Glasgow and Fife.

With the new social security powers now devolved to the Parliament, we should be looking for new ideas and different approaches to social security policy. We must also ensure that these policies are right for Scotland and today’s session will help us do just that.

Marie Curie

03.17 Marie CurieMarie Curie were in the Parliament this week to raise awareness of their Great Daffodil Appeal campaign and I was more than happy to offer my support.

The proceeds of money raised through the appeal will be used to provide care and support for more than 7,400 people living with a terminal illness in Scotland each year, employing over 200 Marie Curie Nurses to care for almost 5,000 people living with a terminal illness and their families in their homes each year.

The funds make a huge difference in the operation of their hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow which care for around 2,500 people each year, including people staying in the hospices and those coming in for the day to use the hospices’ services.

Benefit Uptake

The Scottish Government have launched an awareness campaign this week encouraging people to claim benefits they are entitled to with the backing of a number of key social security organisations including Citizens Advice Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland and Age Scotland.

Throughout Scotland, it was estimated that there were over 500,000 cases of individuals or families not claiming the tax credits and other main income-related benefits they were entitled to in 2014-15 – and the campaign seeks to correct this by raising awareness through a week of radio and press adverts.

It is vitally important that families and individuals get the support that they are entitled to and the support that they need – and I encourage everyone to check what support they can receive through the social security system.

Many people both here in Glasgow Kelvin and across Scotland might be missing out on a whole range of benefits that they are entitled too – causing their existing income to become increasingly stretched and leaving many in financial difficulty. By raising awareness that there is a whole range of benefits that people can claim, we can help to alleviate the difficulties that many people face on a day to day basis.

The Scottish Government is committed to putting dignity and respect at the heart of social security policy in Scotland, and this campaign is a step in the right direction towards doing that.

Earth Hour

The World Wildlife Fund were in the Parliament this week promoting Earth Hour.03.17 Earth Hour

Around the globe, millions of people, businesses, and landmarks set aside an hour to host events, switch off their lights, and make noise for climate change action.

This year Earth Hour is at 8:30pm on 25 March 2017 and I would encourage readers to join in and show your support for climate change action.

Bedroom Tax 

Almost £58 million will be spent mitigating the harmful impact of the UK Government’s welfare cuts on households across Scotland.

The £7.7 million increase in funding for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) next year comes as the Scottish Government takes full responsibility for DHP funding, including £18.5 million transferred from the Department of Work and Pensions as part of a negotiated 3 year settlement.

The £57.9 million made available to local authorities will be split as follows:

£47 million to fully mitigate the bedroom tax for more than 70,000 households – up from £45.4 million.

£10.9 million, up from £4.8 million, to help mitigate other UK Government policies such as the Benefit Cap and Local Housing Allowance rates.

Dyslexia

Funding for a charity supporting children with dyslexia is being doubled, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has announced.

Dyslexia Scotland will receive £200,000 funding in 2017/18 to support their work, which includes a helpline, dyslexia assessments and tutoring.

New tools to help teachers address the needs of pupils with dyslexia are also being developed. The Addressing Dyslexia toolkit has been revised to make it more accessible and easier to use.

Free online training courses are also being developed to help teachers identify dyslexia early and improve support for pupils as they learn and when preparing to leave school.

The Addressing Dyslexia toolkit was first launched in 2010.

Global Poverty

Scotland-based organisations are invited to develop projects to contribute to the global fight against poverty and inequality, International Development Minister Alasdair Allan said today.

In keeping with the priorities detailed in the refreshed International Development Strategy, a new four and a half-year funding round will target support for communities in Zambia and Rwanda.

Since 2005, the Scottish Government has supported hundreds of projects in sub-Saharan Africa contributing to the Millennium Development Goals and their successor, the new UN Global Goals.

Zambia and Rwanda will each be allocated project funding up to £1.8 million each year over a period of four and a half years. The International Development Strategy is available at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/12/4633

Organisations can find out more and submit concept notes at:

https://www.ltsbfoundationforscotland.org.uk/grant-programmes/scottish-government-zambia-rwanda-development-programmes/

 

Ebrief

Thursday 2 March 2017

Child Poverty

Proposed targets for addressing child poverty in Scotland are to be scrutinised by Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee as it begins its examination of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill.

All of us can agree that there is no place for child poverty in a modern Scotland. The effects of growing up in poverty can last a lifetime and can impact on health and education long after the child has grown.

This comes in the wake of a new report by the IFS which exposes the devastating impact on children from Tory welfare reforms which will push more children into poverty, with absolute child poverty projected to rise to 30% by 2021-22. The Bill puts in place measures which require the Scottish Government to meet certain targets for the reduction of child poverty. These include seeing less than 10% of children in relative poverty and less than 5% of children in absolute poverty by 2030.

Whilst the Bill says it is ambitious, our Committee have launched a call for submissions because we want to know whether these measures go far enough in addressing this problem. We also want to know what difference this Bill will make to the lives of those children who are facing such hardship in Scotland right now.

We want to hear from all those with an interest in the Bill with written submissions to be submitted to socialsecuritycommittee@parliament.scot by 23 March 2017.

The Child (Poverty) Scotland Bill was introduced on 9 February 2017. Information about the Bill can be found here:

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/103404.aspx

The SNP are absolutely committed to tackling the deep-rooted causes of child poverty, and will introduce ambitious targets to reduce poverty rates – after the Tories shamefully scrapped the UK-wide legal targets.

Scotland House

A new Innovation and Investment Hub in London will provide companies with a place to meet clients and customers, target new markets and secure investment. It follows the opening of the first Innovation and Investment Hub in Dublin last year with plans progressing on hubs in Brussels and Berlin.

Scottish businesses are being encouraged to register their interest in ‘Scotland House’, which will provide a meeting space for businesses and other organisations as well as London-based support to businesses working with Scotland’s enterprise and tourism agencies.

Members of Scotland House will be able to use the co-working and events space when they are in the capital and access a regular programme of business events and networking opportunities.

#GenderPayGap

The Scottish Parliament Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee have launched an inquiry into the gender pay gap in Scotland, and they need your help.03.17 #genderpaygap

From now until May, they will be hearing from a range of organisations, businesses, and academics on the gender pay gap in Scotland. The Committee will be asking what can be done to ‘close the gap’ and how this could affect the Scottish economy. They will then write a report with recommendations to the Scottish Government in June.

From 1st -10th March, they are asking you to finish this sentence #Ending the Gender Pay Gap because, and send them a selfie with your answer. You can use the template on the website or just write on whatever you have to hand! Tweet your photo to @SP_Economy using #GenderPayGap, or email it to

genderpaygap@parliament.scot.

Enquire

Children in Scotland and Enquire were in the Parliament this week promoting their invaluable services to children, parents, carers and practitioners across Scotland.

Enquire is the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning. They provide information through their helpline, website and range of publications.03.17 children in scotlandFor more information go to www.enquire.org.uk/information

Children in Scotland is the collective voice for children, young people and families in Scotland, and organisations and businesses that have a significant positive impact on children’s lives.

Their vision is that Scotland becomes a world leader in securing the wellbeing of every child and improving the quality of every childhood.

To find out more about the work of Children in Scotland go to www.childreninscotland.org.uk

Electronic Tagging

Views are being sought on how electronic tagging should be expanded – to help further reduce reoffending levels and keep communities safe.

Potential new uses for tagging, including new technology to monitor alcohol consumption and voluntary schemes for persistent offenders, are being considered as part of a major expansion of electronic monitoring, which would see new legislation being introduced.

The expansion could see tagging used as a condition of a community payback order, giving added security of restricting a person’s movement while carrying out a sentence involving unpaid work in the community.

Changes being explored include:

Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking technology in addition to current radio tagging

Giving courts the option of tagging as an alternative to a fine

Using tagging as a bail condition as an alternative to custody on remand

Introducing electronic tags as a condition of release from custody while a police investigation is ongoing

If you would like to participate you can access the consultation here https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/community-justice/electronic-monitoring-in-scotland/

Unaccompanied Children

The Scottish Government has further committed to doing all it can to ensure the safety and integration of unaccompanied children, following an expert roundtable meeting this week.

The roundtable meeting, between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Equalities Secretary Angela Constance, and COSLA, local authorities and key stakeholders, focussed on a commitment to bringing forward a national framework agreement on unaccompanied children, as well as exploring further funding and capacity support.

The First Minister met with a group of unaccompanied children prior to the meeting, where she heard first hand of their traumatic journeys to Scotland, and the challenges they face while trying to integrate in a new home.

Scotland has a bespoke and well established Guardianship Service, funded by the Scottish Government, to provide additional support for unaccompanied children. Through the Dubs amendment Scotland has provided a safe place for 35 unaccompanied children, and Scottish local authorities are currently responsible for a further 75 who arrived via spontaneous routes.

Compassionate Farming

Compassion in World Farming (ciwf) are marking 50 years of campaigning for advancing the wellbeing of farm animals and ending factory farming and I was happy to meet up with them at their exhibition at the Scottish Parliament this week.03.17 ciwf

ciwf work tirelessly to improve the lives of farm animals through advocacy, campaigning, lobbying for legislative change and through positive engagement with the global food industry.

I was particularly interested in their Compassionate Food Guide which aims to raise the standards of commercial farming and to give shoppers information to help them make an informed choice when buying goods.

You can find out more about ciwf and their food guide at https://www.ciwf.org.uk/your-food/

Fair Trade Nation

Scotland has retained Fair Trade Nation status with 43% more consumers reporting that they bought Fairtrade products in 2016 than in the preceding year.

According to analysis by the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, in the last four years there has been a 30% increase in the number of towns with Fair Trade status, rising to 65 in 2016.

75% of local authority areas now have Fair Trade status with 70% of higher education institutions and 20% of schools achieving the standard.

Scotland was only the second nation in the world, after Wales, to achieve Fair Trade Nation status in 2013 and support sales of products that offer a better deal to workers in developing countries.

World Book Day

A challenge designed to instil a love of reading in young people is being extended to reach an additional 173,000 children across Scotland.

The First Minister’s Reading Challenge will now be open to children in Primary 1 to Primary 7, after the success of the initial scheme which was for primaries 4 – 7.

The challenge encourages children to read for pleasure and develop a life-long love of books by choosing from a specially-selected list of 100 top titles designed as a source of inspiration, which they can then add into a Reading Passport.

There are various awards for the number of books children read, as well as for especially creative book reviews and follow-up work.

The First Minister made the announcement to coincide with the 20th anniversary of World Book Day.

More information on how the First Minister’s Reading Challenge works and how to sign up can be found at:http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/readingchallenge