Tail shortening

The SNP and Tories have worked together to revoke the ban on tail shortening in certain breeds of working dog. 61 in favour of lifting the ban and 57 against.

The Scottish Labour government instigated the ban on what most animal welfare charities agree is a cruel, disproportionate, and very painful procedure carried out on puppies only days old.

This process involves the cutting through or the crushing of skin, muscles, up to seven pairs of nerves, bone and cartilage in puppies under five days old – without anaesthetic.

There is evidence to show that shortening tails limits a dog’s ability to communicate or balance. There is also evidence to show that there is little proof required to show that the dogs whose tails are shortened will actually be used for work in later life.

There is no robust research into alternatives to tail shortening despite a decade of opportunity to conduct this. I also remain unconvinced that this procedure is proportionate in relation to the injuries which working dogs might sustain to un shortened tails in adult life.

Scottish Labour has repeatedly spoken out against reinstating this cruel procedure as part of its comprehensive package of animal welfare policies and will continue to do so.

Tail shortening has no place in civilised society and by voting to reintroduce it the SNP has set back the cause of animal welfare in Scotland.

Here are my comments at committee and my colleague MSP David Stewart’s speech prior to the vote.



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Smart Energy

Last week I attended an event in the Scottish Parliament, hosted by the voice of the smart meter rollout, Smart Energy GB. Smart meters are a great opportunity to take control of your gas and electricity and there is no additional cost to having one installed.

Key benefits include:

  • The ability to see exactly how much gas and electricity you are using, as you use it, in pounds and pence
  • Accurate bills – no more estimates
  • Smart meters are easy to use with all the information you need available on a simple in-home display screen

Being able to see how much energy you use, when you use it, allows you to make the right choices for your household. Smart meters also bring an end at last to the uncertainty of estimated bills.

More information on smart meters https://www.smartenergygb.org/en

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Carers Week 2017

This year, Carers Week runs from 12th – 18th of June. I am also very keen to support Carers Week – an important time to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution carers make to families and communities throughout the UK.

This year, the focus is on building Carer Friendly Communities which supports carers to look after their loved ones well, while recognising they also have their own needs as individuals. There are at least 759,000 carers aged 16 and over in Scotland and 29,000 young carers, and the value of care provided by carers in Scotland is £10,347,400,000 a year.

Throughout my time as a MSP, I have been very passionate about carers, their rights and support that is available to them. As I was a young carer myself, I know the stress that young carers can go through, and how difficult it can be to remember to look after yourself too. Over 3 million people juggle care with work, school and many other things, however, due to the high demand of being a carer, 1 in 5 carers are forced to give up work and school altogether to look after their loved one.

I will continue to work with young carers to ensure that they are heard and supported. I look forward to getting involved, and I encourage you to see how you can help make your community more carer friendly. Learn more or get involved on the website here.

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World Oceans Day

The 8th June marked World Oceans Day, a day for global recognition of the importance of the oceans and marine conservation collaboration. As I am particularly interested in marine conservation, I was pleased to lodge a Parliamentary motion celebrating this. You can see which MSPs support it here.

This year’s theme is Our Oceans, Our Future, and the conservation-action focus is on preventing marine litter. A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation stated that at least eight million tonnes of plastic leaks into the oceans each year, the equivalent of one truckload every minute. This is one reason why Scottish Labour are in favour of introduced a Deposit Return Scheme. If appropriately tailored to Scottish circumstances, this scheme could significantly reduce the amount of litter that ends up in our marine environment.

The other threats to the marine environment are caused by unsustainable fishing practices and climate change raising sea levels. We must acknowledge the dependence on the sea that many coastal communities have and the importance of this for their livelihoods and to future generations.

There is a need for more research into blue carbon as climate mitigation, and this is something I have pushed the Scottish Government on repeatedly in my role as Scottish Labour Spokesperson for the Environment.

Scotland has made good progress towards protecting the marine environment, and I am delighted to celebrate the fascinating beauty of the seas and oceans in Scotland and around the world.

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General Election 2017

Last night was an incredibly exciting night, with encouraging results coming in from across Scotland. I spent a long night at the BBC studios in Glasgow, and this morning I am elated yet exhausted!

Congratulations must go to the brilliant new MPs Scottish Labour is sending to the House of Commons.

Hugh Gaffney – Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill

Ged Killen – Rutherglen and Hamilton East

Lesley Laird – Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Ian Murray – Edinburgh South

Danielle Rowley – Midlothian

Martin Whitfield – East Lothian

Paul Sweeney – Glasgow North East

All our candidates and volunteers poured their hearts into this surprise campaign, and it is wonderful to see this dedicated 7 elected – all new faces, and the return of the fantastic Ian Murray.

As MSP for South Scotland, the success in East Lothian and Midlothian, part of which falls into South Scotland, is inspiring for the future.

Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour leader, said, “They’re going to be champions for their local communities, they’re going to be opposed to a second independence referendum, and they’re also going to be for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity platform and for raising investment in our public services. I’m hugely encouraged by results across the country tonight.”

This result shows that a united Labour Party under Jeremy and Kezia can progress politics in Scotland and the U.K. Let’s see how long a Tory /DUP deal holds together.

Anti-austerity and anti-independence were the two big stories in Scotland. We are at the heart of both these and are ready to go forward robustly –  for all those who believe in working for the many not the few.

Thanks to all those who put their confidence in Labour at the ballot box.


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Cystic Fibrosis Week 2017

19th-25th of June marks Cystic Fibrosis (CF) week where people from across Scotland and the UK will come together and raise awareness of Cystic Fibrosis.

The gene affected by CF controls the movement of salt and water in and out of cells. People with cystic fibrosis experience a build-up of thick sticky mucus in the lungs, digestive system and other organs, causing a wide range of challenging symptoms affecting the entire body There will be different events for you to get involved in throughout the week which are;

Monday- Campaigning

Tuesday- Researching

Wednesday- Supporting

Thursday – Trialling

Friday- Wear Yellow Day

Saturday + Sunday- Fundraising

On Monday 26 June between 1pm-4pm CF are holding a day of action for Orkambi. They are calling urgently on Orkambi’s manufacturer Vertex and governments across the UK to agree on an affordable price that can make the life-changing drug immediately available to those who so desperately need it. The message is clear- we need Orkambi now.

If you would like more information about #CysticFibrosis week can be found here.

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Trump pulls out of Paris Climate Agreement

The global community has condemned President Trump following his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement.

When President Trump was elected in November last year, we knew the Paris Agreement could be under threat. Trump has displayed a consistent and dangerous denial of science, most famously stating “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

So while unsurprising, I am overwhelmingly disappointed and angry at this decision. I travelled to Paris to witness the climate summit, and remember the victorious atmosphere in the city when the global leaders committed themselves to limiting the global temperature rise to 2C, with efforts to limit it at 1.5C.

This is a shameful abdication of responsibility on a global scale. Climate change is one of the greatest threats we face as a planet, and it needs collective action. Rising sea levels are an imminent threat to small island nations and some coastal areas – including Florida in President Trump’s own United States, which is undergoing constant investment in anti-flood infrastructure.

The Environmental Justice Foundation estimates climate change could lead to 150 million refugees displaced by 2050.

It has been inspiring to see the outpouring of renewed commitment from other nations around the world. President Trump is in a very small minority, and the rest of the global community will not be bullied – we will continue to play our part, and tackle climate change for now and for everybody’s future.

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Respecting carers



USDAW is one of Britain’s largest Trade Unions with over 443,000 members nation-wide. Their goal is to recruit, organise and represent workers in the retail, distributive, manufacturing and service sectors in the hope of securing the best possible terms and conditions and providing support for protection at work.

Many people in USDAW are balancing their working life as well as caring for someone at home, whether that’s a child, friend or a family member. This can be really tricky to balance at times and USDAW ensure that the right protection and support is available in the workplace.

18 months ago the SNP government made a commitment to raise Carers Allowance and to use the powers we have here in the Scottish Parliament. The Social Security Statement this week at long last explained  that the arrangements would be activated for summer 2018.  Being a young carer for my mother, I know how it feels. It was challenging at times and I missed out on a lot of things as a result. Back then there was no such thing as carers allowance and today this allowance can be absolutely vital. If the SNP government was to use the powers we have, carers would be £400 better off by now, but we are still waiting to hear if the Scottish Government will backdate to last September, when the powers were devolved.

I really welcome the Government’s commitment to build the principles of dignity and respect into the new system, so giving real clarity on when and how the increase will be paid is now urgently needed.

As the c0-convener of the Cross Party Group on Carers and a former young carer myself, I have been a strong supporter of carers’ rights. I recently wrote to the Scottish Government asking whether it would increase carers allowance. The full question and answer can be found here.

Last year I also held a consultation exercise with pupils from Carluke High School who classed themselves as carers. The pupils highlighted that teachers can sometimes be unaware of their additional responsibilities at home, and this leaves them without the extra support they might need.

It goes to show this isn’t an issue just in the workplace, it’s an issue all around us and this is why I will continue to hold the Scottish Government to account in regards to Carers

If you would like any more information on Carers, I would encourage you to visit their website here.

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Keeping up the pressure – no fracking in Scotland

There was a fantastic atmosphere outside the Scottish Parliament today, as people from across Scotland gathered to send a message to the Scottish Government – no to fracking in Scotland.

Today marks the final day to submit to the Scottish Government’s consultation on fracking, and Friends of the Earth Scotland presented a list of 40,000 signatures against fracking to the Government. I was delighted to have the chance to address the crowd, thanking them for their efforts, and encouraging us all to keep up the pressure.

This is a fantastic number of responses, and I look forward to finding out the final number when the Scottish Government collates the submissions.

A number of community groups and individuals had gathered to sing and shout out their message. It was great to meet with members of SLAUG – South Lanarkshire Against Unconventional Gas – from my region of South Scotland.

The SNP track record on fracking is pitiful – full of abstentions, delays, and uncertainty. While we cannot rely on the SNP to do the right thing for our environment, our communities, our jobs, and our future – my member’s bill to ban fracking will keep driving forward.

For more information on my Bill – click here.

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Security in Scotland

The First Minister gave a statement to the Chamber yesterday, following the terrorist attack in Manchester on 22nd June 2017.

You can watch the statement below.

Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour Leader, asked for assurances for people going about their everyday lives, and how might the public support the police in their efforts to keep us all safe.

  • Kezia Dugdale:

In light of the new threat level, extra security is visible in this building and around Westminster, embassies and other civic locations, yet we are all too aware that many of the recent attacks across Europe have been at markets, high streets, music events or sporting occasions. Will the First Minister provide any additional reassurance about what people across Scotland can expect when going about their everyday lives? Separately, are there any practical steps that the public can take to support the police in their work?

  • The First Minister:

I will answer that question in three quick ways. First, not everyone on every street corner in Scotland will see this, but the most obvious visible difference to the general public will be more armed officers on the streets. They will be particularly visible around transport hubs, crowded places and city centres. A lot of people in Scotland who do not normally see armed police will see armed police while the increased threat level is in place.

Secondly, on what the general public can do, they have a key role to play. It is the police’s responsibility to keep the public safe, but we all know that the public’s co-operation is an important part of that. My message, again, to the public is to be vigilant. People should make sure that anything at all that is of concern or which creates suspicion is reported to the police. More generally, they should be co-operative and patient, as I know the vast majority of the public will be.

The public will be inconvenienced over the next few days—or however long the increased threat level lasts. It will take longer for people to get into places that they are visiting and there may be other inconveniences. If people find that it is taking longer for them to get into a sporting or some other event, they should remember that the reason for the delay is their safety.

Thirdly, on events more generally, I said yesterday and I have repeated today that a review of all public events is on-going. I will not go into too much detail but, clearly, a broad spectrum of public events take place, such as football matches that take place in confined spaces over limited time; there are also more open events, such as this weekend’s Edinburgh marathon or the outdoor festivals and markets that people attend. The police have all that under review in their assessment process and, because of the different nature of the events, the responses will vary from one to the other. However, we must have confidence and trust in the police to carry out those assessments and to provide the appropriate level of response. I assure those in the chamber that that work is well under way.

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