The SNP’s scrapping of tuition fees has allowed 270,000 Scottish students to graduate free of charge since the policy was introduced a decade ago, figures from SPICe have shown.

Today marks 10 years since the Graduate Endowment Abolition Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament – removing the backdoor tuition fees introduced by Labour and the Lib Dems. This policy ensured that students in Scotland would not have to pay for tuition either during or after their studies. By stark contrast, Tory policy south of the border sees students charged up to £9,250 a year for attending university. The Welsh Labour government also charges students to study in Wales.

Since the fees were scrapped in 2008, Scotland’s universities have gone from strength to strength – climbing up the international league tables, improving access for those from the most deprived communities, and seeing more people apply to study.

Commenting, SNP MSP Sandra White said:

“As we reflect on a decade of free university tuition in Scotland, it is clear that this policy has been a resounding success – giving 270,000 people the opportunity to gain a qualification free of charge.

“The scrapping of Labour’s unfair graduate tax has been transformational for many people across Scotland – and stands in stark contrast to the Tory approach south of the border, which forces people to pay tens of thousands of pounds to get their degree.

“And just this week, the Scottish Government announced yet another significant investment in our universities and colleges, which will benefit from £1.8 billion in funding for the coming year, money which will help us achieve our aim of ensuring students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds represent 20% of university entrants by 2020.

“With more students applying thanks to the SNP Scottish Government’s unwavering commitment to free tuition, it’s clear that more and more people will graduate from our world-leading universities in the years to come.”

Scottish Government’s £50m fund and action group to fight homelessness

£50 million ‘Ending Homelessness Together’ fund


Further details of a new short term action group which will identify the actions and changes needed to end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation in Scotland, has been announced by Housing Minister Kevin Stewart in a Ministerial statement today.

The announcement also included a new £50 million ‘Ending Homelessness Together’ fund which will be used to back the commitment and fund homelessness prevention initiatives over the next five years.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of the homelessness charity Crisis will chair the action group and a panel of members will be appointed shortly. The action group will meet next month and will examine:

  • Plans to minimise rough sleeping this winter;
  • How to eradicate rough sleeping for good;
  • Ways to transform temporary accommodation;
  • How to bring about an end to homelessness in Scotland.

 Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:

“We want to see an end to rough sleeping and the appointment of our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group will lead the way in recommending the actions and legislative changes we need to take across all levels of government, to tackle homelessness and the use of temporary accommodation.

“I am delighted to announce Jon Sparkes will chair the Action Group. Jon brings with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise in homelessness and will provide real value and leadership to the group.

“We are committed to erradicating rough sleeping in Scotland and know this requires more than just the provision of housing- every individual has their own unique needs and challenges. To achieve this we need to ensure we have a joined up approach across all sectors to improve prevention.

“Scotland has led the way in ensuring rights for homeless people and we want to continue to lead the way and transform the outcomes for those that feel they are stuck in a cycle of homelessness and poverty.”

Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin said:

“I am delighted to see that tackling homelessness is high on the priorities of SNP Scottish and Glasgow City Governments, with an action group, £50m fund, and a Glasgow City Strategy.

“We have already seen how Scottish Government action groups on widening access, children in care, and Brexit have delivered priority focus and significant outcomes; I am pleased that homelessness will receive this vital attention.”

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said:

“It’s an honour to be asked to Chair this Action Group which will bring forward solutions to help end homelessness in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has rightly identified that a renewed effort is required to stop more people experiencing different forms of homelessness. Their £50million ‘Ending Homelessness Together’ fund along with their commitment to end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation will change people’s lives.

“I firmly believe we can end homelessness for good, we know the scale of the problem and this Group will focus firmly on deliverable solutions which prevent, tackle and end homelessness for people. There’s some hard work to be done but I believe the expertise and knowledge of those on the Group means we will be up to the challenge and I look forward to quickly getting to work.

“This year marks 50 years from when Crisis was founded, but this is not a cause for celebration with homelessness still so prevalent. It is time for us to think afresh about solutions to the problem and Crisis is working across Great Britain to develop an evidence-based plan for how to end homelessness. For Crisis there is simply no place for scepticism or hesitation. It is our firm belief that together, we will end homelessness.” 

Update on fire safety in Glasgow Kelvin

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy many of my constituents who reside in high rise tower blocks have contacted my office seeking reassurance over their own fire safety.

With a view to ascertaining the safety of these blocks I wrote to the Chief Executive of Glasgow City Council, all Housing Associations, and all Universities with student residences in Glasgow Kelvin to seek assurances about their fire safety measures, both in materials used and also with a view to their procedures should a fire occur. While investigations into the London fire are still ongoing, I feel it is crucial that as much support, reassurance and certainty is provided to concerned residents here in Glasgow Kelvin at this time.

I asked for a brief report on how many residential multi-story blocks are in Glasgow Kelvin, who the relevant property managers are, when they were constructed, and how many have been refurbished recently. I also asked if exterior cladding has been applied and whether it was the same or similar to the cladding used in the Grenfell Tower and whether or not it is fire resistant. I asked for more information about the fire safety measures and procedures currently in place including the number of blocks that currently have sprinklers, fire and smoke alarms, and fire doors; what fire action advice is given to residents in the event of the fire; and how often fire assessment checks are carried out. Finally, I’ve asked to be kept up to date on any reviews and assessments that are currently ongoing, including any recommendations for improvements, and I will post this information on my website when it is available.

While I have not received a response from GCC or the Universities at the time of publication I have heard from the majority of Housing Associations and can now provide you with a brief outline of what they have said.

Glasgow Housing Association and Cube (The Wheatley Group) own 82 multi-story blocks of nine stories or more. My colleagues and I have been assured that the cladding used is different from the cladding used in Grenfell, and all building regulations, designed to prevent the spread of fire, have been followed. Fire non-combustible materials have been used, and many blocks have been fitted with sprinklers in the bin store areas with a programme in place to complete this work. Daily patrols are carried out to identify any risks in multi-story blocks. They have assured me that further recommendations or advice following investigations in London will be implemented.

Glasgow West Housing Association are undertaking a review of the cladding and external wall insulation installed in their properties, and all materials meet minimum Scottish Building Standards Technical Regulations. This includes fire separation between flats and installation of non-combustible materials. There is ongoing safety awareness, including regular fire safety checks, concierge patrols, and investments in bin shoots.

Partick Housing Association own one multi-story block, Fortrose House in Fortrose Street, where there are 53 properties and 43 PHA tenants. It was refurbished by PHA in 2012, and the cladding used was phenolic foam insulation board, manufactured by Kingspan, which has a zero rating for inflammability. During recent renovations 43 flats had fire-rated flat entrance doors and smoke detectors fitted, along with an alarm system and fire doors in the common areas. There is no sprinkler system fitted, however a fire risk assessment is due on the 5th of July and all safety measures will be reviewed then. The insulation material in the over-cladding will also be verified by sampling and testing if necessary.

Maryhill Housing Association own 3 multi-story blocks of 21 floors, with 360 flats in total. They also own 12 multi-story blocks of 8 floors, with 336 flats in total. The blocks were constructed prior to stock transfer in 2011, and all blocks have fire resistant Recticel and Structherm cladding. All have fire resistant doors, hard wired smoke alarms and dry risers on each floor. Regular fire safety checks are undertaken, and the next fire audit will be carried out in July 2017.

Queens Cross Housing Association own 10 multi-story blocks in Dundasvale, Woodside (Cedar Court) and Westercommon. The cladding used in Cedar Court is called StoTherm Mineral K, and in Dundasvale Court it is PermaRock Mineral Fibre, both are non-combustible, have no cavities between the boards and the concrete walls, and meets the Scottish Building Regulations. The communal fire doors and ground floor exits are also currently being upgraded, and there will be fire escape balconies and new canopies at the ground floor level. A new internal working group has been set up following the tragedy and will look at all aspects of fire safety.

Fire Safety Advice
All housing associations in Glasgow Kelvin are working closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue service. In the event of a fire, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service advise multi-story residents to stay in place to allow controlled fire-fighting and evacuation, as deemed appropriate by them at the time. You can find more detailed advice about what to do in the event of a fire, via the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service leaflet here. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will continue to carry out additional operational assurance visits to high-rise buildings across Scotland, and since the Grenfell Tower fire, over 200 visits have been carried out by the SFRS to residents in high-rise buildings.
I have been informed by colleagues that SFRS are awaiting confirmation that no privately owned buildings have the cladding, and local authorities are completing these investigations as a matter of urgency.

Scottish Government
As you may be aware, Scottish Building Standards are devolved, and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service works closely with local authorities and housing associations to ensure the safety of occupants in high rise buildings. Following the events at Grenfell, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Communities established a Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety. Last week this Working Group reported that all 32 local authorities across Scotland have confirmed that no council or housing association high rise domestic building have the type of cladding reported to have been used in the Grenfell tower – Aluminium Composite Material (ACM).

Please be assured that along with my colleagues in the Scottish Government, Westminster, and Glasgow City Council, I will continue to monitor the situation over the coming weeks and publicise more information as I have it.

Contact Details
Should you have specific concerns or questions about the block you live in, please contact your local housing team. These details can be found below:
Glasgow Housing Association or Cube HA – The Wheatley Group are in the process of setting up a helpline, so in the meantime contact 0800 479 7979.
Glasgow West Housing Association – Direct calls to the property services team on 0141 331 6652.
Partick Housing Association – Direct calls to 0141 357 3773 or visit their office at 10 Mansfield Street. More information is also on their website:
Maryhill Housing Association – Direct calls to 0141 946 2466 or email
Queens Cross Housing Association – Direct calls to 0141 945 3003 or email

The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service are at available to offer more information and should you wish to arrange a fire safety assessment please contact them directly on 0800 0731 999.

If you have any difficulties do feel free to contact my office on 0141 339 7693 or via email on

New plans for soft opt-out organ donation system unveiled

SNP MSP Sandra White has welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce legislation for a soft opt-out system of organ and tissue donation, which was backed by 82% of those who contributed to their consultation.


The 14-week consultation looked at various ways to increase the number of people being referred to the donation services in Scotland.


Currently in Scotland, organ and/or tissue donation after a person’s death only occurs if they have given advance authorisation or if their nearest relative authorises on their behalf.


A soft opt out, or deemed authorisation system, means that a donation can go ahead if the person has not opted out or told their family they do not wish to donate.


Commenting Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin said:


“Today’s decision to legislate for a soft opt-out system is great news for our health service & for many people who are waiting for life saving surgery.


“With the amazing help of donors and their families, NHS Scotland has already made great progress, including a 34% increase in donors this past year alone. Scotland now has the highest donor rate in the UK.


“However, we can do better and moving to a soft opt-out system is a really important step towards further reducing the number of people in Glasgow Kelvin waiting for transplants.


“We should always keep in mind the tragic circumstances that give rise to organ donation and forever appreciate the selfless acts of donors and their families that enable others to live. Organ and tissue donation saves lives and is one of the greatest gifts a person can give.”







•             The consultation ran from 7 December 2016 to 14 March 2017.

•             Anyone wishing to join the Organ Donor Register can do so by visiting the Organ Donation Scotland website. This website can also be used by those who wish to update their registration details or to register their wish not to be a donor.


The Donation and Transplantation Plan, 2013-2020 has been the catalyst for meaningful improvement in organ donation in Scotland with:

•             146% increase (54-133 between 2007/8 and 2016/17) in the number of people who donated organs after their death.

•             In 2016/17, Scotland had the highest rate of donors per million of population of any UK country – currently 25.5 donors pmp.

•             45% of the Scottish population have joined the organ donor register (over 116,000 in 2016).


Social Security Bill – Landmark legislation published

Historic legislation to establish Scotland’s first social security system has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

The Social Security (Scotland) Bill will give the Scottish Government the powers to deliver eleven benefits devolved as part of the Scotland Act 2016.

It also provides powers to top up reserved benefits and provides a mechanism to pay a Carer’s Allowance supplement at the earliest opportunity.

Chairperson for the Social Security Committee, Sandra White MSP, agreed with the Social Security Minister, Jeane Freeman, who said it represented a significant milestone in the process of transferring these social security powers safely and securely.

Ms White said:

“This is an extremely important day in both this Parliament’s history but more importantly for Scotland and the history of devolution. The Social Security Bill provides this Government and this Parliament the opportunity to make different choices – and shows that we can create a fairer and more just society when we take matters into our own hands.

“I believe strongly that everyone has a right to social security – so much so that I have put these principles on the very first page of this Bill.

“The core principle that everyone has a right to social security are embedded throughout this Bill – whether it is how entitlement to benefits is determined, a more just review and appeals system, or the Government’s decision to remove the private sector from disability benefit assessments.

“As the First Minister has often repeated, dignity and respect are at the heart of our social security policy – a marked contrast to the approach that the current UK Government is taking, as their unjust welfare cuts continue to cause misery, push more people into poverty and attract international criticism.”


The Social Security (Scotland) Bill is available online

The Bill sets out an over-arching legislative framework for the administration of social security in Scotland, making provision for operational functions such as overpayments, fraud, error, re-determinations and appeals.

It places a duty on the Scottish Ministers to give assistance to persons who are entitled to it and provides a brief description of each type of assistance that Scottish Ministers will give. Secondary legislation will provide detail on what assistance will be available and how the system will work. This will follow once the Bill has been agreed by the Parliament. The legislation is expected to come into force within the current Parliamentary term.

The first social security payments to be delivered by the Scottish Government from summer 2018 will be the increased Carer’s Allowance, followed by the Best Start Grant and the Funeral Expense Assistance from summer 2019.

The full list of the eleven benefits being devolved to Scotland can be viewed on the Scottish Government website. 10 of the 11 devolved benefits, totalling around £2.9 billion of annual payments, will be delivered directly by the new social security agency itself. Discretionary Housing Payments will be delivered by local authorities.