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.

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/

 

Ebrief

Ebrief

Thursday 2 November

Balfour Declaration Centenary

On 2 November 1917 The UK Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour promised British Government support for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, however the declaration included a significant caveat “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non Jewish communities”.

100 years on Palestinians are dispossessed, oppressed in their own land, refugees in neighbouring countries or scattered throughout the world. The UK Government and their predecessors bear much responsibility.

I held an event in the Parliament on Wednesday 1 November to mark the centenary bringing together people who actively support the Palestinian people and their calls for the recognition of the State of Palestine.

Liz Lochhead who held the post of Scotland’s Maka10.17 Balfour Declarationr from 2011 to 2016 kindly agreed to host our event. Liz read from A Bird is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry to which she contributed as well as many other Scottish and Palestinian writers.

We were also fortunate to have 3 young people deliver their own very moving perspective on Palestine and their experiences, including Sana who had lived near Nablus until she was 9 and then moved to Scotland and has just been granted indefinite leave to stay. Rachel who grew up and became friends with Sana has just returned from Palestine and gave a very poignant account of her visit and the oppression she witnessed.

I lodged the following motion in Parliament:

Legacy of the Balfour Declaration 100 Years On

That the Parliament recognises the 100th year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration which proclaimed “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” on the explicit understanding that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” ; notes the continued criticism of the UK Government and it’s reneging on the promise given in the Balfour Declaration to the Palestinians who are today under military occupation in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem preventing them from exercising their own inalienable right to self-determination; acknowledges that since the Balfour Declaration Palestinians are dispossessed, oppressed in their own land, refugees in neighbouring countries or scattered throughout the world and calls on the UK Government to recognise immediately the State of Palestine; uphold rigorously the Geneva Conventions which Britain co-wrote and ratified after World War II; give practical effect to the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap.

Sexual Harassment

Many of you will be aware of allegations of sexual harassment and assault regarding employees and elected members within Westminster and Holyrood. Swift action was taken by both the Presiding Officer and the Chief Executive as well as political parties.

A zero tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour has always and will remain my position. I took the opportunity of raising the matter during topical questions in the chamber this week where the Deputy First Minister John Swinney responded.

You can read the full exchange in the chamber here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11157&i=101717

It is incumbent on all of us to stamp out this behaviour and not remain bystanders.

Glasgow College

10.17 Glasgow College Level 5 Social SciencesIt was great to meet up with students on the Access to Social Studies course at Glasgow College this week.

They are currently studying democracy in Scotland and the UK. For some of the young people, this is their first opportunity to learn about politics and representatives.

We had a very lively discussion on politics and current affairs in the world today as well as grilling me on my role and duties as an MSP.

Fire and Police VAT

I fully support my colleague MSP Ben Macpherson’s demands for the UK government to allow Scotland’s Police and Fire services to reclaim VAT, and for them to be refunded the £140 million they are already owed.   Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue are the only two territorial forces in the UK that are unable to reclaim VAT and the UK government’s refusal to allow our police and fire services to reclaim VAT is illogical and totally unjust.   We know that it is possible for the required changes to be made – the UK government have already done so for Highways England and Academy schools – however the UK Government continue to drag their feet when it comes to supporting Scotland’s emergency services.

Income Tax

A discussion paper on the way forward for income tax was published this week and the First Minister stated that income tax in Scotland should protect low earners, be progressive, proportionate to the ability to the pay and support the economy.

Any new income tax policy must meet four key tests, and there was a call for all political parties to engage in an open debate about tax in Scotland.

Any changes must:

Maintain and promote the level of public services which the people of Scotland expect;

Ensure the lowest earning taxpayers don’t see their taxes increase;

Make the tax system more progressive and reduce inequality; and

Along with corresponding decisions on spending, support the economy.

The paper sets out the powers the Scottish Parliament has over income tax, the contribution income tax makes to the budget, who pays tax and the benefits of taxation for individuals and businesses.

You can read the discussion paper here http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/11/5307

Macmillan

It’s always a pleasure to catch up with the members of the Ahmadiyya Mosque Women’s10.17 Amadiyya MacMillan Group and Saturday morning was no exception. We all came together including my colleague and former MP Margaret Ferrier to raise funds for Macmillan.

Macmillan support patients and their families as well as carrying out vital research. They are there to help people take back some control in life. From help with money worries and advice about work, to someone who’ll listen if you just want to talk.

10.17 Coffe Morning MacmillanAs you can see from the photograph there was a delicious variety of cakes to choose from thanks to the women of the mosque who contributed to this very successful fundraising event and I look forward to welcoming them to the Parliament at the beginning of the year.

Travel Consultations

I wanted to make you all aware of the current consultations on Local Bus Service and Smart ticketing.

You can access information on the bus consultation at : https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/transport-scotland/improving-bus-services

And for Smart Ticketing visit:

https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/transport-scotland/smart-ticketing-in-scotland

Scottish Welfare Fund

The Scottish Welfare Fund continues to help Scottish households in need. Since the scheme began in April 2013, more than 265,000 individual households have been helped, with awards totalling £140.0 million to 30 June 2017.

Statistics released this week on the Scottish Welfare Fund covering the period from 1 April 2013 to 30 June 2017 showed that of the 265,000 households helped to 30 June 2017, almost 144,000 were single person households and more than 87,000 were families with children.

The Scottish Welfare Fund comprises of Community Care Grants – which help people to live independently – and Crisis Grants, which provide a safety net in a disaster or emergency.

Between April and June 2017, a total of £8 million was awarded through the Scottish Welfare Fund, this was 23% of the £34.4 million budget available (£33 million allocated for 2017/18 by the Scottish Government, plus £1.4 million underspend carried forward from 2016/17).

More information on the Scottish Welfare Fund can be found at: https://beta.gov.scot/policies/social-security/income-related-benefits/

Sandra back musicians fight against Brexit work and travel barriers

Sandra White MSP has supported the Musicians Union’s call to ensure no barriers for work and travel in Europe following Brexit.

Joining over 150 parliamentarians in signing the pledge to fight for free movement and crucial access for musicians and lodging a motion to the Scottish Parliament on the issue, Sandra continues to highlight the need for citizens rights to be protected following the UK’s Brexit plans.

With the largest cultural economy in the world, relative to GDP, the creative industries provide significant contribution to our economy worth over £87bn in GVA and employing 1 in 11 people. However, it is reliant on free access across Europe, and musicians are very concerned about the potential for work permits and visas.

 

A petition launched in September has attracted over 19,000 signatures, with the majority of people signing via a Change.org petition.

The Musicians Union is also encouraging all musicians to share their experiences of touring, performing, teaching and other work in the EU on social media using the hashtag #WorkingInTheEU.

Recognising Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU, and the needs for workers rights across the country, Sandra is committed to halting Brexit and supports the Scottish Government’s efforts to put citizens rights at the heart of negotiations.

For musicians and other workers, Sandra wishes to maintain the ability to tour and trade easily with Europe, our largest export market, and to attract talent, secure IP protection, EU arts funding, workers’ rights, and the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

Horace Trubridge, Musicians’ Union General Secretary said:

“British musicians have long enjoyed easy access to touring in Europe, as UK venues and festivals have benefited from easy access to European performers. We know from touring in the US elsewhere, that visas and other restrictions impose significant costs and administration, and occasionally considerable financial loss when visas aren’t processed in time. We are calling on MPs and the Government to help secure a deal that will ensure ease of movement for touring and performing post-Brexit”.  

Sandra White, MSP for Glasgow Kelvin says:

“Today, I confirmed my support for professional musicians and performers, I will continue to work with the Scottish Government to put citizens rights at the heart of our Brexit negotiations with the UK Government, and to ensure that Scotland’s ambitions to remain European citizens with all the rights that confers is recognised.

“As with all of our citizens, I want to see our musicians continue to have crucial access to Europe, and I join colleagues calling for their rights to tour and perform with minimum administrative burdens”.

 

Ebrief

Thursday 26 October

Fracking

MSPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Scottish Government’s decision of not supporting unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland.

It means that an effective ban using devolved planning powers is now in place. The approach ensures that decisions on onshore unconventional oil and gas developments will be made against the framework of Scottish Government policy.

The vote marks the culmination of the Scottish Government’s cautious, evidence-led approach to unconventional oil and gas including a four-month public consultation which received more than 60,000 responses.

Scottish Women’s Convention

10.17 Scottish Womens ConventionI had the pleasure of sponsoring an exhibition at the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Women’s Convention (SWC).

Set up in 2003 in recognition of the need to ensure women’s voices reached policy makers the SWC has been working to ensure that women throughout Scotland have an opportunity to be involved in activities and events.

Using their voices ensures that the true grassroots impacts of public policy are reported.

The Referendum debate allowed women the opportunity to engage in something which was so important to Scotland’s future. They recognised that they were speaking, not only for themselves, but also their families and communities.

You can find out more information on the work of the SWC at https://www.scottishwomensconvention.org/

 

Brexit

The Scottish Parliament has backed a call for the UK Government to stop a “no deal Brexit”, guaranteeing the rights of our fellow EU citizens in the UK without imposing charges and amending the EU Withdrawal Bill to respect devolution.

In a debate this week, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell updated Parliament on the latest developments on Brexit. This included the latest on EU negotiations and the outcomes of the recent Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations. He also spoke about the growing public support for Scotland to remain within the EU.

You can read the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11145&i=101657

Faith in Older People

10.17 Faith in Older People 10th AnniversaryMaureen O’Neill and Bob Rendall from Faith in Older People were my guests in Parliament this week. We held a reception to mark their 10th Anniversary!

As Convener of CPG Older People, Age and Ageing I recognise the importance of Faith in Older People in supporting older people and their work in educating, encouraging and supporting volunteers, health and social care workers, members of faith communities and other agencies to increase their understanding of spiritual care and issues around ageing.

We should recognise the importance of the contribution of faith communities in supporting people as they age even if they are not of faith.  This happens through dementia clubs, tackling loneliness and isolation, pastoral care in care homes and long stay wards.

 

Social Security IT

A two-year contract to build the first phase of Scotland’s new social security IT system has been awarded to IBM UK Ltd.

The £8.3 million contract will support the implementation of two new Scottish Government benefits – Best Start Grant and Funeral Expense Assistance. These will be delivered by Scotland’s new social security agency by summer 2019. The contract includes provision for up to two further benefits to be included within the scope once the timeline for delivery is clear.

Population

Growth in Scotland’s population will slow significantly if levels of EU migration are reduced, new figures from the National Records of Scotland reveal.

Scotland’s population is projected to rise from 5.40 million in 2016 to 5.58 million in 2026, and to continue to rise to 5.69 million in 2041 – an increase of 5% over the 25 year period.

All projected population increase over the next 10 years is due to net in-migration – 58% from overseas with 42% from the rest of the UK.

However in a situation where EU migration to Scotland falls to half of current levels, Scotland’s population is projected to rise by just 4% over the same period.

And in an illustrative scenario with no future EU migration, the population of Scotland is projected to rise by only 2% by 2041, peaking in 2032 and declining thereafter until 2041.

In this scenario, Scotland’s working age population is projected to decline by 3% over the next 25 years, while at the same time the pensionable age population is projected to increase by 25%, resulting in an increase in the dependency ratio.

Marine Rescue

10.17 Marine RescueBritish Divers Marine Life Rescue were exhibiting in Parliament this week and I took the time to stop by their stall to find out more about their work across Scotland.

They were formed in 1988 by a group of divers who got together in a response to a disease that was killing harbour seals along the east coast.

They are the only specialist marine mammal rescue organisation covering Scotland, Wales and England. Seals remain a core for rescuers however they have also rescued porpoises, dolphins and whales.

In fact any marine animals in distress are assisted by its dedicated teams of Marine Mammal Medics.

As well as regular rescues the medics have also helped release captive dolphins back into the wild in Turkey and disentangled a humpback whale in Iceland.

You can find out more about their work at www.bdmlr.org.uk

Affordable Homes for Older People

Older people will have greater access to affordable homes with the introduction of greater flexibility to shared equity schemes, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart has announced.

For the first time, older people will be able to access a range of home ownership schemes offered by the Scottish Government. These can remove the requirement for a mortgage contribution and make older people a priority access group. It can also provide options that brings older people closer to family and care support, and are more affordable and suitable for their needs – including downsizing, or the option to buy a retirement or supported home.

The schemes older people can now benefit from are:

https://www.mygov.scot/open-market-shared-equity-scheme/ https://www.mygov.scot/help-to-buy/ and https://www.mygov.scot/new-supply-shared-equity-scheme/

Musicians Union

Representatives from the Musicians Union (MU) were in Parliament this week to highlight their campaign to protect musicians’ rights after Brexit.

The campaign has been gathering pace over the past few months. To date, nearly 20,000 people have signed the online petition backing the campaign.

The MU campaign centres on five key areas: free movement, copyright protection, workers’ rights, rights of EU citizens in the UK and arts funding.

Leaving the single market and customs union, risks the imposition of a costly, bureaucratic regime that could make touring unviable for all but the most established acts. Consequently, it would hinder fledgling talent in Scotland in building a European audience and make it more difficult to attract acts from Europe to perform in Scotland.

Sign the petition here https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-theresa-may-mp-support-free-movement-for-musicians-post-brexit

Local Housing Allowance

Around 12,000 young people could be facing a shortfall up to £8.6 million through UK Government plans to introduce Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the social rented sector.

The UK Government propose to cap the housing element of Universal Credit for social housing tenants at LHA rates, including for those living in supported accommodation.  This could lead to single people under 35 facing a substantial shortfall on their rent, facing increased rent arrears and a risk of homelessness, as their allowance will be capped at the Shared Accommodation Rate.

The Scottish Government and COSLA have written a joint letter to David Gauke MP urging him to rethink the policy.