No illegal dredging in our Marine Protected Areas

Last week scallop divers on the west coast of Scotland uncovered evidence of illegal dredge fishing in a designated Special Area of Conservation.

This illegal dredging has provoked not only a dramatic setback for the seabed in the Firth of Lorn, but they could also lead to an involuntarily laundering of illegally caught seafood into the supply chain.

As many of you recall, another incident relating to dredging caused the devastation of the Loch Carron flame shell reef less than a year ago, proving that efforts must be made to ensure surveillance and monitoring are fit for purpose.

 These MPAs are necessary to ensure the healthy recovery of the seabed and to protect different ecosystems so future generations can enjoy them as much as we do. The designations must be respected. There should be careful assessment of the evidence, and serious consideration given to prosecution.

 The seas around Scotland are world class, and our marine ecosystems are one of the most incredible and diverse aquatic environment in the world. I am committed to protect these amazing ecosystems by ensuring legal and sustainable fishing methods are available and promoted.

 

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Leonard Cheshire Scotland reveals number of 15-minute care visits commissioned by Scottish Councils

 

 

 

Leonard Cheshire Disability Scotland has said. “Over 5,000 Scots are being subjected to the degrading practice of flying visits often referred to as ‘time and task’. At least 5,182 people received personal care visits of 15 minutes or less for support with intimate care, based on data from councils that responded to the FOI request.”

Leonard Cheshire’s Director for Scotland, Stuart Robertson said:

“These damning figures show that many vulnerable people are being failed by the social care system. Over five thousand Scots are being subjected to degrading 15 minute visits to support them with personal care needs. We have to urgently address this scandal and ensure people receive the person-centred care they deserve. No one should have to choose between going to the toilet or having a cup of tea, and this practice must come to an end.”

15-minute personal care visits must end. Visits of 15 minutes are not only short sighted they are degrading and detrimental to the mental health of those who receive them. This means that the money saved by short visits will often need to be invested in alternative care elsewhere which should have been avoided if a proper amount of time was spent on the first occasion.

The Jo Cox foundation has highlighted the connection between loneliness and premature death. Providing good quality care and allowing the time for interaction and relationship building between Service users and carers should be an obvious first step.

It is a point of shame on our Government today that in 21st Century Scotland over 5000 people received these flying visits last year. The mark of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable. Scotland must have a Social care system that ensures elderly and disabled people are given the time, attention and care they deserve and we would expect to receive ourselves.

If you have received 15-minute personal care packages and would like help challenging your package or would like to share your story please contact Leonard Cheshire on 0131 346 9040 or email at scotlandoffice@leonardcheshire.org

 

 

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Unrest Documentary and ME

 

The Award winning and emotionally heart breaking documentary Unrest was recently part of a Parliamentary reception aiming to increase awareness of ME in the Parliament.

As I was asked to attend this event by a number of constituents across the region I did so willingly and thank them for highlighting it to me.

Though I knew something of the challenges faced by ME sufferers, as a close friend of my daughter is one, nothing could have prepared me for the shock of watching the part of the film Unrest which we were shown and the Skype comments by Jennifer Brea. How brave she is to share her day to day challenges and those of others in similar circumstances with us all that night.

The issue of support for those locked inside themselves and often in their bedrooms and those of their family and friends who are carers is dreadful and unacceptable.

I have now written to NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Borders and NHS Education for Scotland asking for funding for specialist ME nurses and to enquire what specialist training provision for ME is or can be provided by NHS Education for Scotland.

I will inform those who wrote to me of their response and also put it up on social media in due course.

 

Please see more of the Film Unrest here: https://www.unrest.film

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Show the love for our environment

I am so pleased to support the #ShowTheLove campaign with RSPB Scotland and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland. So many things that we hold dear will be affected by a changing climate, and I pledge to continue to protect these landscapes, plants and wildlife in my role as MSP.

My sincere thanks go to Jan Colley for the beautiful green heart she made by hand, along with the message, “Too many of the things we love could be lost to climate change. I made this heart to Show the Love for all nature. Please do what you can to help it.”

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Scottish Parliament debates Bus services

The parliament recently held a debate on Bus services. I am dismayed at the announcement that First Glasgow have increased fares for under 16’s by 40% and over 16’s by 16%. This recent fare hike is a result of the dire de-regulation that occurred decades ago. It is now obvious that the Scottish government must use its powers to re-regulate bus Services.

I am clear that bus services must be brought back under public control. Various models or public ownership and co-operative models are available which have been shown to work across Europe. Buses run for profit have resulted in a staggering set of statistics.

Indeed, Unite the Union have published the following figures:

  • The number of bus routes registered with the Traffic Commissioner has fallen by 21% since 2006. 
  • Since 2007, the number of journeys taken by bus in Scotland is down by 74 million – a 15% drop.
  • On current prices, local bus fares have jumped by 18% over the past five years.
  • A staggering £2.6 billion in public subsidies has been handed to bus firms in Scotland since 2006/07, fuelling healthy profits

 

A number of my Labour colleagues including Colin Smyth spoke during the debate, which was held on the 31st of January. Colin said

“The matter raises fundamental issues about how we manage bus services, not only in Glasgow and West Scotland but right across the country, and that is the issue on which I will focus my brief comments. As we know, buses are disproportionately used by young people, older adults, the unemployed, students and often other people on low incomes. Spiralling bus fares therefore hit those who can least afford it, and the savage cuts to services in recent years have often removed the only viable travel option for many.

First Bus’s unacceptable fare increases reflect a wider trend of rises by bus companies right across Scotland. Adjusting for inflation, bus fares have increased by an average of 12 per cent in the 10 years from 2006 to 2016. The latest set of fare rises are not a one-off; they are a result of a system that is failing and that will continue to fail until we intervene.

The challenges that we face with bus services go beyond price hikes. There are growing problems with the regularity and availability of buses, and private bus companies often remove services with little warning and no consultation. Services across Scotland have been steadily diminished over recent years, with the number of vehicle kilometres covered by local bus services decreasing by 17 per cent from 2007 to 2016. With fares rising and services contracting, it is no surprise that bus use is plummeting. Provisional figures from Transport Scotland show that, between 2007 and 2016, the total number of journeys taken by bus each year declined by 19 per cent in Scotland and by 27 per cent in the south-west and Strathclyde.”

I will continue campaign alongside my colleagues for a regulated and fair bus system that delivers for the people of Scotland.

Please Join Unite the Unions peoples bus Campaign – Haud bus here: http://www.unitetheunion.org/how-we-help/listofregions/scotland/scotlandcampaigns/haud-the-bus-campaign-page/

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Budget fails to stop austerity

Last week’s budget announced by the Scottish Government does not do enough to stop Tory austerity and fails to tackle poverty.

We know that Local Government budgets need £545 million to stand still yet the proposals passed only deliver £159 million.  This shortfall prevents services being properly resourced to help those most in need.  When 260,000 Scottish children are living in poverty and public services overstretched, radical change is needed.

Scottish Labour’s tax plan would raise nearly £1bn extra this year which would allow us to increase Child Benefit by £5 a week and help families struggling with the cost of living. A policy supported by The Child Poverty Action Group.

Our tax proposals would tax high earners more than Scottish Government plans while setting a starter rate – this is only fair.

They would also give councils across Scotland the £545 they need to stop the cuts, and provide the NHS with and extra £100 million so desperately needed.  With less resources, public sector workers are under immense pressure to deliver services and it simply isn’t sustainable.  They would also properly fund public sector pay.

Our proposals would support integrated health and social care provision.  The UN fight to an adequate home in Scotland must of course mean a warm home.  Those vulnerable and elderly who will be increasingly cared for at home will need a warn home to go to.

The cuts could also jeopardize Council projects such as energy efficiency programmes which tackle fuel poverty and help address our climate change emissions.

I cannot support a budget which is failing the people of Scotland and allowing inequalities to deepen.

 

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Borders Buses New Bus App

Borders buses recently launched their new mobile app which allows customers to buy tickets and track bus journeys with the tap of a button.

The app hosts a wide range of functions from tracking live bus times, buying tickets, planning journeys, and many more. The live tracking machines provides real time visibility of all Borders Buses vehicles giving you the ability you track journeys and identify bus stop arrival and departure times.

The app also gives you discounted tickets. The tickets cover the full Borders Buses Network and include the following;

Single Ticket – £4.50
Unlimited Day – £7.99
Weekly – 39.99

Sharon Morrison, commercial manager at Borders Buses, said:

“We are excited to launch our Borders Buses app and following a successful pilot period, and early feedback, we expect it to be a sure hit with our customers. The technology within the app, especially the journey tracker and bus stop information, will make bus travel simple and easier for not just our regular customers but for in-frequent and new customers too. We especially hope the added assurance of tracking journeys encourages more people to ditch the car, get off the train and try the bus.”

You can download the app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store

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Culloden Battlefield

I recently met with some of the Culloden Battlefield protesters outside the parliament along with Rhoda Grant MSP

A 16 unit housing development is being proposed at Viewhill, just 400 meters from the Battlefield Enclosure. The development was opposed by Highland Council and the National Trust Scotland. The National Trust for Scotland and Highland Council are concerned that the proposal has the potential to affect the character if the battlefield conversation area by interrupting the open views and increasing the visual and physical intrusion development into the battlefield.

Colloden is more than a battlefield – it is a sacred Scottish Water Grave and should be respected as such. It is an iconic Scottish landmark of national and international importance.

I welcome the fact that over 74,000 people have signed a petition to stop the housing development. You can sign the petition here.

If you would like to find out more information regarding the Culloden Battlefield you can visit their website here.

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100 years of women’s suffrage

Today in 1918 the Representation of the People Act granted women over the age of 30 the right to vote. 10 years later universal suffrage was achieved. This was a tremendous mile stone for women but the need to continue the fight for gender equality still exists today.

Equal rights for women has progressed in many ways over the years but sadly the gender gap is still apparent. There are numerous examples of this inequality; women are still paid on average less than men and there are fewer women represented at the most senior level of industry. The #MeToo campaign has also highlighted just how shamefully widespread sexual assault and harassment is in today’s society.

Too many women feel that they do not have a voice and we need to work to change that. I was encouraged when I attending the debate by the vote in the Scottish Parliament last week to pass the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill which will now includes psychological abuse and coercive control as an offence eligible for prosecution.

The totality of abuse over time can now be considered as a single offence by the Courts. This also send a clear message to persecutors. I am proud that Scotland is the first country to take the step to criminalise this behaviour.

This Act acknowledges the traumatic and enduring harm psychological and emotional abuse causes and I hope it gives victims the confidence to come forward knowing that they will be listened to.

My colleague Rhoda Grant MSP led the debate for Scottish Labour and highlighted concern that the Act does not address the issue of contact with affected children after a divorce which was recognised by the Scottish Government.

Here’s to more progress in the next 100.

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World Cancer Day 2018

One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Today (4 February 2018), marks World Cancer Day.  A day to unite in the fight against cancer.

Cancer is the biggest killer worldwide but researchers have helped double survival rates in the last 40 years. I am showing my support on World Cancer Day by wearing my Unity Band. Every Unity Band worn, every pound donated and everyone who shows their support will play an important part in beating cancer sooner.

4 in 10 cancers could be prevented by doing things like not smoking, keeping a healthy and balanced diet, cutting down on the amount of alcohol consumed and enjoying the sun safely.

You can show Your support by using the hashtag #WorldCancerDay2018 or by donating through the Cancer Research website here.

Together we will beat cancer sooner!

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