Labour bid to introduce world leading legislation on period poverty

Scotland could become the first country in the world to provide universal free access to sanitary products, under new plans from Scottish Labour and my colleague Monica Lennon MSP.

This week a consultation was launched on the proposal to create a law in Scotland which would:

  • Put a duty on Scottish Ministers to introduce a universal system of free provision of sanitary products.
  •  Put a duty on all schools to provide free sanitary products in school toilets.
  • Put a duty on all colleges and universities to provide free sanitary products in campus toilets.
  •  Introduce measures to allow Scottish Ministers to extend these duties to other bodies in future, following a period of review, if deemed appropriate or necessary.

Thanks to Monica’s campaign, the Scottish Government has recently launched a pilot scheme in Aberdeen where low income women and girls are to be offered free sanitary products.

Access to sanitary products should be a basic right, but sadly in Scotland we know not everyone can afford or obtain what they need. Sanitary products are a common demand in food banks.

The proposal also includes a statutory duty on schools, colleges and universities to provide free sanitary products in their toilets, so no one has to miss class because of their period.

Monica Lennon MSP said:

“This is a big step towards creating a fairer and more equal society and I hope to hear from people right across Scotland during the consultation.”

This is a really important issue – please share your views here:

http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/EndingPeriodPoverty/

 

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Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code Relaunched

Scottish Natural Heritage has updated the best practice code for watching marine wildlife watching Scotland.

The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code (SMWWC) aims to raise awareness about the best and most enjoyable ways to watch marine wildlife such as dolphins, birds, seals, otters, whales and basking sharks.

The SMWWC is complemented by a Guide to Best Practice for Watching Marine Wildlife, which provides additional information about the animals you are most likely to see in the seas around Scotland, along with practical guidance on responsible behaviour around these animals.

The SMWWC was developed through widespread consultation, particularly with wildlife tourism operators. The code, originally launched in 2006, has been updated to reflect changes in legislation, advances in technology and updated contacts.

Both documents can be freely downloaded from SNH’s website – www.snh.gov.uk/marinecode  –  and special water-proof printed versions have been issued to marine wildlife tour boat operators.

This is a very useful guide to help everyone enjoy Scotland’s magnificent marine wildlife in a respectful and responsible way.

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A better transport system with Labour

We need investment in a modern, integrated, accessible transport system – that people across Scotland can rely on and afford. ScotRail trains are failing to match the national punctuality target at nearly 60% of stations where trains terminate. While there has been an improvement in performance in recent months following an outcry from passengers, ScotRail is still falling short of its contractual target.

After my staff member’s train journey was cancelled and disrupted today, and knowing the importance of rail reliability for rural areas like my region – it is clear to me that transformative change is needed.

Here is Scottish Labour’s blueprint to improve Scotland’s railways, with a publicly-owned network as the backbone.

Here is our plan:

• Bring ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper into public ownership when the franchises expire – a demand first made by Scottish Labour when the First ScotRail franchise ended, which was ignored by the SNP.
• Automatic refunds to passengers for tickets purchased by card if their train is delayed.
• Fairer fares for passengers – the SNP refused Labour’s demands for a price freeze this year, but Scottish Labour will press for a fair deal in 2018.
• Free WiFi across the entire network under a UK Labour government.
• End the expansion of driver-only operations.
• Introduce legal duties to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
• Retain Network Rail in whole, rather than letting the Tories strip it of powers.
• Support the completion of the HS2 high-speed rail line to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
• Encourage public and private sector bodies to take part in ‘active travel’ schemes to persuade workers to commute by train.

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Exam Results Helpline

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has a *free helpline offering advice, information and support for young people and their parents. The helpline will be open from 8am to 8pm on 9 and 10 August and from 9am to 5pm until 17 August. The number to call is 0808 100 8000

Qualified Careers Advisers are on hand to help and have unique access to information on UCAS course vacancies at UK colleges and universities, confirmation and clearing, advice about Modern and Foundation Apprenticeships and employment or volunteering.

Post-results information for pupils and parents is also available at myworldofwork.co.uk. There’s also information about Modern Apprenticeships and Foundation Apprenticeships, at apprenticeships.scot. Foundation Apprenticeships help young people gain valuable, real-world work experience and access work-based learning while they are still at school.

Students can also access help, advice and support via My World of Work’s Facebook page which has practical help and links to UCASSAASYoung Scot and the SQA

 

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Fair Hospitality

The hospitality sector contributes billions to the Scottish economy every year and yet it’s workers are the lowest paid and least contractually secure in our economy. The median income of workers in the hotels industry, for example, is 50p less than the Minimum Wage at only £7 per hour.

Fair Hospitality is the campaign to improve conditions alongside workers within the hospitality industry. Their aim will be to provide hospitality workers with the legal knowledge, the organising skills and collective confidence to transform their workplace and ultimately re-build a collective bargaining framework for the industry.

Earlier in the summer I attended a drop in event in the parliament where I showed my support to the campaign. As the MSP for South Scotland, I strongly believe that everyone should be paid a fair wage no matter what their occupation is. This is why I will work hard to ensure that those who work in the hospitality industry get paid a fair wage.

If you would like more information on the campaign I would direct you to their website here.

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SNP drag their heels over welfare power transfer to Scotland

The SNP have asked the UK Government to retain welfare powers until 2020. This means 128,000 disabled Scots will have to go through the cruel PIP assessments. The Scottish Government now has wide ranging powers over social security thanks to the 2016 Scotland Act – the post-referendum Vow delivered in full. It’s an opportunity to build a social security system that is there for all of us in our time of need, and it means that these assessments can be scrapped in Scotland. Scottish Labour has more radical plans than any other party for social security, such as:

  • Halting the roll-out of Universal Credit
  • Kicking the private sector out of the welfare system
  • Increasing Child Benefit by £240 a year by 2020
  • Increasing the take-up of tax credits and housing benefit to ensure everyone gets what they are entitled to

Read more here – http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/blog/entry/snps-welfare-powers-delay-will-punish-130000-disabledscots

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Carstairs Post Office

The Post Office is looking for your views on changes to Carstairs Post Office.

A number of branches are being modernised by the Post Office and one of these is the Carstairs facility in the local McColls shop.

They want to hear what’s important to you.  They welcome any feedback but specifically on why you use the post office, what you like about it, views on the proposed extended opening times (Monday to Sunday 07:00 to 22:00) and the access and the queuing area.

Find the online questionnaire at www.postofficeviews.co.uk

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Comma butterflies in Scotland

Photo by Woodland Trust

The comma butterfly is an orange and brown butterfly with a small white comma-like shape on each wing. It was previously only found in south east England and Wales, but in the last 40 years its population has flourished further north.

The comma has been spotted in many parts of my region, across the Scottish Borders and Lothians, and as far north as Inverness. For the first time ever, the comma was spotted in East Lothian at Pressmennan Wood. The comma has adapted to changing landscapes – once associated with the hop plant, it now specialises on the stinging nettle, which is commonly found across the country. Warmer temperatures from climate change has also driven the comma further north.

It is always a delight to see a butterfly in the wild. I am the Species Champion for the Forester Moth – an exquisite emerald green moth that can be found in parts of Scotland (if you are luckier than me!)

Until the 6th August, you can help contribute to the world’s largest butterfly survey – the Big Butterfly Count. All it takes is to pick a sunny spot outside for 15 minutes, and note any butterflies you see.

Check out www.bigbutterflycount.org for more information.

Posted in Biodiversity, Climate Change | Leave a comment

Our Missing Peace

Our Missing Peace is a campaign based in Renfrewshire, which aims to break the silence around child loss while supporting the family members who have been affected by the death.

The campaign has supported over 500 families who have suffered from a loss. I couldn’t start to imagine what these families must go through. This is why I am proud to support the campaign and wear their badge.

No one should be ashamed of a child loss. The badge is a way of telling the world we people are dealing with child loss. It is a way of taking back control of conversations. A way of not feeling like people have to lie about their lives.  It is a way of creating a community and it is a way of breaking down the walls of isolation that surround us. 

If you would like more information on the campaign please visit their website.

 

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Safe cycling routes – We should do it too!

Leaving home for Amsterdam to check out the traffic arrangements for cyclists there, my partner Michael and I saw a van parked on the small rural road near our house in Clydesdale. Near it was a man with a red flag – this was not the red flag resulting from the Red Flag Act of Victorian times, through which any motor vehicle had to be preceded by a red flag.

As we found out, it was to slow us down because the finish line for a women’s cycling road race was up ahead. This felt like a fortuitous,  encouraging sign for our research adventure. Indeed a mere quarter of an hour elapsed before the winning cyclist Julie Fitzpatrick passed the checkered flag!

A couple of days and a Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry trip later, we were heading from the port to the city. Along our route was my first sight of a parallel cycling route linking the two.

The next morning we were hiring bikes to  check out one of the world’s best cycling cities.


As a Co-conveyor of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group for Cycling Walking and Buses, and having been involved in developing safer cycling in Scotland in the last parliamentary session, I was determined to experience this myself. Now here I was!

The experience of going from the suburbs where we were staying near Erasmus Park  into the city and on to the museum area and back was magical!

We went along segregated on road cycle routes which flowed into narrow roads parallel to canals and then on through two parks to reach our destination. Once we grasped the traffic protocols for such things as junctions and for traffic direction on the on road segregated cycle lanes, we felt safe and empowered as equal road users with both motors vehicles and pedestrians.

 

 

 

 

I will return to Scotland understanding how well this can work and inspired to inform and galvanise those in my own party and other parties, Government and councils to grasp the opportunities to plan and budget  for change here. It will be to the benefit of all travellers!

     Let’s make it happen!

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