Ebrief

Thursday 9 November 2017

Child Poverty Bill

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

The Bill will:

Set in statute targets to reduce child poverty by 2030

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

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

Establish a Poverty and Inequality Commission

Partick Jobcentre

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

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

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

Historical Sexual Offences

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

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

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

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

Dyslexia

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

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

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

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

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

We are working to help turn the negatives into positives.

We are #positiveaboutdyslexia

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

Sexual Harassment

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

You can read the full exchange here:

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

Living Wage

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

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

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

Fuel Poverty Consultation

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

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

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

You can access the consultation here:

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

Gender Recognition Act

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

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

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

EU Nationals

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

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

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

High School of Glasgow

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

We had some very interesting questions from the pupils.

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

Tearfund Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Glasgow University Performs Strongly in Latest World Rankings; University Excellence Under Threat From Tory Brexit

SNP MSP Sandra White has welcomed the latest Times Higher Education university rankings which have seen Glasgow University rise from 88th to 80th – despite the severe threat posed to our universities and colleges by Tory plans for a hard Brexit.

Scotland’s universities continue to rank strongly in the Times’ rankings, with five universities in the top 200 in the world. Yesterday’s Programme for Government announced extra measures that will benefit Scottish universities, academia, and students, including extra funding for research and development, and free provision of sanitary products.

The SNP is committed to attracting students from across the world to come and study in our world leading universities – but warnings from academic institutions about the threat posed by a damaging hard Brexit, and Tory proposals to continue clamping down on international students, risks holding Glasgow University back.

Commenting, SNP MSP Sandra White, who represents Glasgow University, said:

“These rankings are extremely positive, and prove once again how resilient Scotland’s academic sector is.

“It is particularly good news to see Glasgow University performing so strongly in these rankings – and there is absolutely no doubt that this institution is one of the best in the world.

“However, we must be wary of the impact that Tory Brexit plans are set to have on our universities – no matter what support the Scottish Government is able to offer them.

“Universities and academics have made it perfectly clear what they think of the Tories’ disastrous Brexit proposals – from the impact it’ll have on research funding to our ability to attract the best and brightest from across the world to come and study in Glasgow.

“The Tories must urgently wake up to the threat their plans pose to our universities’ global standing and support our efforts to strengthen Scotland’s academic sector.”

Parliamentary Motion:

Motion Number: S5M-07506
Lodged By: Sandra White
Date Lodged: 05/09/2017

Title: University of Glasgow in the World’s Top 80 Higher Education Institutions

Motion Text:

That the Parliament welcomes the news that the University of Glasgow has been placed in the top 80 in the prestigious Times Higher Education World University Rankings; understands that the university has risen eight places since the previous year and sits alongside five Scottish institutions in the global top 200, and congratulates the students and staff of the university on their ongoing success and contribution to Scotland’s vibrant and world-leading higher education sector.

Sandra congratulates Glasgow University Union’s European Debates win and Scottish hosting of 2018 Championships.

Sandra White MSP has congratulated the Scottish participants of the European Universities Debating Championships in Tallinn on their achievements as Scottish teams picked up top awards, and as Glasgow University Union wins the Europe-wide Open Finals.

In recognition of the achievements of participating groups, individuals, and the Scottish Student’s Debating Council, Sandra has lodged a congratulatory motion to the Scottish Parliament.

Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, said:

“I was delighted to hear about Glasgow University Union’s winning of the Open Finals in the European Universities Debating Championships, which I was pleased to record in a congratulatory motion to Parliament.

“This win also accompanies many other fantastic achievements including Glasgow’s Bethany and Owen being hailed amongst Europe’s best debate speakers, and Scottish teams from Strathclyde to Aberdeen taking their place alongside the best in Europe at the Tallin Championships.”

“These achievements are also fitting as Scottish debating societies prepare to welcome over 750 university debaters from across Europe to the 20th edition of the Championships which will be hosted in Edinburgh.

“I am pleased to recognise their efforts, and want to wish all involved in the Tallin and Edinburgh editions the very best!”

Congratulatory Motion to the Scottish Parliament:

Motion Number: S5M-07199
Lodged By: Sandra White
Date Lodged: 21/08/2017

Title: Glasgow University Union’s European Success

Motion Text:

That the Parliament congratulates the Scottish Student’s Debating Council’s (SSDC) participants on their success at the 2017 European Universities Debating Championships (EUDC) in Tallinn; notes that Glasgow University Union’s “A” Team won the Europe-wide open finals, and was the fifth-highest ranked team in the Open category, and that Edinburgh University Debates Union reached the quarter-finals; believes that the Glasgow team’s success was the second time that a team from Scotland has won at the EUDC, following the University of St Andrews victory in 2015; notes that Glasgow’s Bethany Garry, who was named the joint-first best speaker with an average of 83.3 points, was the first woman to win the top prize since 2005, and that, with an average of 83.2, the team’s Owen Mooney was joint-third; understands that 11 SSDC teams from Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Strathclyde and Aberdeen universities, grouped alongside teams from Durham and Newcastle, were among the 216 that took part; understands that 14 judges from Scotland’s institutions helped to facilitate the event, including seven group judges from the SSDC, and that University of Glasgow graduates, Duncan Crowe and Elliot Porter, served as independent adjudicators; congratulates everyone involved, and welcomes the news of the return of the EUDC to Scotland in 2018, where it understands over 750 participants will take part in the 20th edition in Edinburgh.

33k children benefit from free school meals in Glasgow

With pupils across the country preparing to go back to school, 33,000 pupils will be eligible for free school meals this year.

Throughout Scotland, over 250,000 pupils will be eligible for free school lunches – a figure that has doubled in the last three years.

Thanks to an SNP Government initiative in 2015, all primary 1-3 pupils are eligible for free school meals, which is of huge financial help to families.

Commenting, Sandra White SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin said:

 “It’s fantastic that 33,000 of school pupils in Glasgow are eligible for free school meals – an integral part of ensuring that every child gets the best start in life and as much as possible out of their time in the classroom each day.
 
“Guaranteeing our youngest pupils a healthy meal during the school day helps them to learn and can save families an estimated £380 a year.  
 
“This is just one of the steps the SNP Scottish Government is taking to tackle child poverty and help household incomes – and is an essential part of our central ambition to drive up standards in Scottish schools.
 
“I wish teachers and pupils alike the best of luck as they start the new academic year.”