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.

 

Ebrief

Thursday 5 October 2017

Catalan Referendum

09.17 Catalunya FirefightersI travelled to Barcelona at the weekend as an International Observer for the Catalan Referendum. In the face of adversity thousands of Catalans managed to exercise their democratic right to vote.

I am pictured with firefighters who bravely protected Catalan voters from the Spanish police.

The following motion was tabled in my name on Monday in the Scottish Parliament:

Motion S5M-08039: Sandra White, Glasgow Kelvin, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2017

Catalan Referendum

That the Parliament condemns the brutal actions of the Spanish police, which saw at least 844 people injured during the Catalan Referendum; believes that Spain has breached Article 2 of the EU Treaty, calls on EU members states to invoke Article 7, and praises the dignity and courage of Catalans in the face of intimidation and violence by Spanish police.

Supported by: Rona Mackay, George Adam, Ivan McKee, David Torrance, Christine Grahame, Ash Denham, Emma Harper, Clare Haughey, Bill Kidd, James Dornan, Graeme Dey, Gordon MacDonald, Richard Lyle, Stuart McMillan, Jenny Gilruth, Willie Coffey, Christina McKelvie, Ruth Maguire, Mairi Gougeon, Kenneth Gibson, Alex Neil, Colin Beattie, John Finnie, Fulton MacGregor, Gil Paterson, Ben Macpherson, Clare Adamson, Linda Fabiani, Bruce Crawford, Gillian Martin

In the chamber on Tuesday I raised the Catalan Referendum with the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs. You can view the exchange here:

https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/topical-questions-october-3-2017?clip_start=14:05:06&clip_end=14:10:18

Universal Credit

During a debate on Universal Credit in the Parliament this week the Scottish Government announced recipients of Universal Credit in Scotland will be offered two new ways to help them manage their money.

From this week, people in Scotland making new claims in full service Universal Credit areas will have the choice of changing the frequency of their payments from once to twice monthly, and to have the housing cost element of their Universal Credit paid directly to their landlord.

In my contribution to the debate I again reiterated my opposition to the continued rollout of Universal Credit which is failing the people it is designed to support, driving more people into poverty. The 6 week wait, which can often be longer and deliberately built into the system, is unjustifiable – pushing people into crisis and rent arrears, and having to rely on food banks and emergency payments to get by.

You can access my contribution here:

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11127&i=101487

Fracking

People in Glasgow and across Scotland had deep concerns about the development of fracking, which is why the Scottish Government put in place a moratorium while the evidence was carefully examined.

The Scottish Government has now undertaken one of the most far reaching investigations into unconventional oil and gas of any government in the world.

The judgement is now clear – we could not pursue fracking in confidence that it would not undermine public health or our climate change targets.

I am delighted the Scottish Government have put the interests of communities first.nge targets.

And, importantly, the public consent in the communities Glasgow that would be affected simply isn’t there.

It is unsurprising to see that the Tories are demanding that the SNP ignore the evidence and the 99% of respondents who said they are opposed to fracking. It is clear that the Tories cannot be trusted to either run or protect our country.

I’m delighted that the Scottish Government are putting the interests of communities first.

Show Racism the Red Card

10.17 Show Racism the Red CardI fully endorse and support the Show Racism the Red Card campaign Wear Red Day on Friday 6 October.

This campaign has gone from strength to strength. Through education they have been challenging racism in society.

By working with the next generation in schools the campaign can have a huge impact towards eradicating racism and creating a better world.

You can find out more about the campaign at www.theredcard.org/scotland

Fair Work

Contracts worth up to £96 million have been awarded to organisations across Scotland to help people find and stay in work.

From April 2018 the new Fair Start Scotland service will aim to help at least 38,000 people, to find employment, including those facing barriers to entering the labour market.

Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn confirmed that these employment support services will be delivered by a mix of public, private and third sector organisations in nine contract areas across Scotland. This new partnership approach will see more than half of provision delivered by supported businesses and by third sector and public sector bodies in Scotland.

The Scottish Government is already using its new powers through the Scotland Act to deliver one year transitional employment support services – Work First Scotland and Work Able Scotland which are helping unemployed people across Scotland, ahead of the full roll-out in 2018.

You can find out more here: For more information on the contract awards: http://www.employabilityinscotland.com/devolved-employment-services/employment-support-2018/

West End St Andrews Torchlight Parade

10.17 West End Torchlight St Andrews Day FestivalAfter a hugely successful 2016 the St Andrew’s Day Torchlight Parade returns for 2017 on Thursday 30 November starting at 6.30pm.

Get in quick to ensure your place at a brilliant family friendly community event for the West End, just make sure to wrap up warm.

Find out more at http://www.westendfestival.co.uk/

Sport

The five fastest growing sports for girls in Scotland have been revealed in new statistics to mark the start of Women and Girls in Sport Week.

The sports with the biggest increase in participant sessions between 2011/12 to 2016/17 are:

Karate – more than quadrupled

Dodgeball – more than quadrupled

Cross Country – more than doubled

Tennis – almost doubled

Rugby Union – almost doubled

The top three sports by total participation sessions are netball, football and gymnastics, according to data collected from the Active Schools programme.

 

PLEASE NOTE THE EBRIEF WILL RESUME WEEK BEGINNING 23 OCTOBER 2017

 

 

 

Sandra White MSP welcomes Scottish Government’s Fracking Ban

SNP MSP Sandra White has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that fracking will be banned.

The Scottish Government previously announced a moratorium while it ran a public consultation and examined evidence over health and public safety.

The consultation was the second largest ever run by the Scottish Government, receiving 60,535 valid responses – of which 99% were opposed to fracking.

Commenting, SNP MSP Sandra White said:

“People in Glasgow and across Scotland had deep concerns about the development of fracking, which is why the Scottish Government put in place a moratorium while the evidence was carefully examined.

“The Scottish Government has now undertaken one of the most far reaching investigations into unconventional oil and gas of any government in the world.

“The judgement is now clear – we could not pursue fracking in confidence that it would not undermine public health or our climate change targets.

“And, importantly, the public consent in the communities Glasgow that would be affected simply isn’t there.

“It is unsurprising to see that the Tories are demanding that the SNP ignore the evidence and the 99% of respondents who said they are opposed to fracking. It is clear that the Tories cannot be trusted to either run or protect our country.

“I’m delighted that the Scottish Government are putting the interests of communities first.”

 

Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church said:

“This is a victory for the environment and for local communities fighting fracking.

“The Scottish Government’s decision today to ban fracking will be warmly welcomed across the country and around the world.

“This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years.

“Having put a moratorium in place more than two years ago, evaluated the evidence and consulted the people of Scotland, the Scottish Government has reached the right and sensible conclusion that the fracking industry must be banned to avoid potentially devastating impacts to people’s health, the climate and our natural environment.”

Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said:

“It’s excellent news the Scottish Government has listened to the thousands of people, campaigners, and politicians across the country who have been calling for a permanent ban to fracking.

“The climate science is clear. The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground. It’s fantastic Scottish Ministers agree that we need to start placing them off limits.”