Palestinian Firefighters

As the Deputy convenor of the Cross Party on Palestine I was delighted to co-host a delegation of Palestinian firefighters alongside the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and MSPs Ross Greer and Sandra White.

In 2015 the FBU were contacted by the Mayor of Hebron, Dr Dauod Zatari and were asked to assist the city’s firefighters, as a recent multiple fire fatality had severely tested the skills and knowledge of the firefighters in Hebron.
The FBU has a long and proud history of supporting freedom for Palestinian and of giving practical support to the Palestinian Fire Brigade, and as a result they responded by visiting the city and assessing what could be done to support the Mayor’s request. Upon their visit they found that the service in Hebron was poorly equipped and had receive little formal training in modern day firefighting.

The FBU did all it could by delivering breathing apparatus, personal protective equipment, and a training course on breathing apparatus. In 2016 the FBU worked with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and International Fire and Rescue to obtain the kit and equipment. However, as before, when it arrived in Israel in October, the Israel Military Customs impounded the delivery. The FBU travelled to Israel and Palestine in an attempt to secure the release of the donation and in January last year the kit was released to firefighters in Hebron, Nablus, and Ramallah.

The course ran from the 6th-17th of January and the trainees have responded well to the challenges and opportunities that were presented to them. The skills learnt will now allow the firefighters to work safely in hazardous environments and maintain safe procedures for the benefit for the Palestinian people.

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Parliament backs Labour Bill to repeal the Football Act

On Thursday the Parliament voted to back the Bill to repeal the Football Act, introduced by my colleague James Kelly MSP.

The Football Act is discredited legislation which has failed to make any progress in tackling sectarianism, while at the same time dividing fans and the police.

James Kelly MSP said:

“It is time for the SNP government to listen to the will of Parliament and get behind repeal. Instead of continuing to pursue this broken law, it must work to unify parties, anti-sectarian organisations, faith groups and education leaders, and start taking the problem of sectarianism seriously.

“For too long the SNP has hidden behind the Football Act and pretended it is some sort of silver bullet. It is not.

“It is not tenable for the one party, the governing party, to continue to argue for a law condemned by legal experts, equalities organisations and human rights groups, which is now without the support of Parliament. The Football Act has got to go.”

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The Agri-Environment Climate Scheme is open for applications

Farmers and land managers can apply to the Scottish Government’s Agri-Environment Climate Scheme for funding to carry out projects that will help our environment.

I encourage anyone involved in land management to consider applying to this scheme as it promotes practices that will enhance our environment. Measures taken now to protect our natural habitats and reduce carbon emissions through carbon capture will help mitigate climate change and to develop a range of environmentally friendly farming methods. These may well also be cost saving for the framer or group involved, both in the short and longer term.

The deadline for applications is 13 April, with 31 May for collaborative projects which involve 5 or more businesses.

For more information https://www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/all-schemes/agri-environment-climate-scheme/

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The Warm Home Discount

You may still be eligible for The Warm Home Discount for this winter, if you think you could be eligible you should apply as soon as possible. The Warm Home Discount is a scheme which allows some energy (Gas or Electric) customers a rebate of £140 off their electricity bill. You may be eligible if you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit or if you are on a low income and meet Your energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme. You can still qualify if you use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity or gas meter.

British or Scottish Gas Customers should visit britishgas.co.uk/warmhomediscount or call 0800 072 8625. It’s 0800 294 8604 if you are a Pay As You Go Energy customer.

Find out more at gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme.

or from your energy supplier, the following suppliers are part of the scheme:

 

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Electric Shock Collars

Electric shock collars were debated in Parliament today, and it is welcome that pressure from Labour and animal welfare campaigners forcing the SNP government into a u-turn on the use of electric shock collars.

These collars don’t belong in the 21st century and cause unnecessary pain that is detrimental to the welfare of dogs. The Government now needs to listen to views on whether this proposed guidance goes far enough.

I tried out the shock for myself – and you can see from my reaction that it was very painful and distressing! This was only 1/3 of the power of electricity that dogs experience. Time to legislatively ban these devices.

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Violence – Threats – Abuse… Not part of the job

 

My colleague Daniel Johnson MSP is consulting on a Members Bill – Proposed Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-Restricted Sales etc.) (Scotland) Bill.

This is an excellent proposal which will give shop workers the protection they require to carry out their jobs without the constant barrage of abuse, threats and violence that they face on an ongoing basis. At present shop workers are tasked with upholding the law on age restricted products without being offered any protection to do so.

Please respond to the consultation at this address notpartofthejob.com

Daniel has said…

For too many people, violence and abuse at work has become just ‘part of the job’.

My proposal is to put this right. I want to bring forward a bill that ensures crimes against workers are taken seriously, that they receive better protection from the law, that recognises their responsibilities and that provides a clear and lower threshold at which obstructive, abusive or threatening behaviour is considered a crime and can be prosecuted.

This is particularly the case for retail workers, bar and pub staff, who all have to challenge customers for proof of age. The law means that these workers must check people’s ages, but the evidence shows that all too frequently, this can lead to unacceptable levels of abuse and violence. 

At this stage, I am consulting on my proposal. I want as many responses as possible – to improve the Bill I bring forward. 

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Sorcha Cantwell – Hero of the Month for beach clean-up dedication

I was delighted to welcome Sorcha Cantwell to the Parliament last week. Sorcha was recently recognised by Keep Scotland Beautiful for her incredibly determination to keep our shorelines clean and plastic free, winning the ‘Hero of the Month’ award for her dedicated voluntary hours. Sorcha is an inspiration to the many of us who are deeply concerned by marine plastic pollution.

As Spokesperson for the Environment, I think it is vital to celebrate those people who make a significant individual contribution to enhancing and protecting our environment. Many of us are affected by images of beautiful marine creatures caught up in plastic, or noticing plastic waste washed up on our local beach. At First Minister’s Questions, I asked the First Minister to explain how the Scottish Government can best encourage and support such individual, community and sectoral initiatives to help us all to tackle this global problem. You can watch my question and the First Minister’s response below. I will also write to the Cabinet Secretary for more detail on this.

Sorcha gave me the following comment:

“I am extremely grateful to Claudia for giving up her time to meet with me today to discuss such an important issue. I was born with my feet in the sea and I think this is what has made me so passionate about keeping our beaches clean. I have come across some disturbing things while doing beach cleans. One which strikes me was when I was sent a message by Andreas from the West Coast of the Isle Of Lewis, when deer, more than likely foraging on the beach (if it can still be called a beach), became badly entangled in plastic pollution. It must have struggled for a great length of time before succumbing to either shock and exhaustion or starvation/dehydration. It’s body still lying tangled in its silent assassin. I would urge as many people as possible to volunteer even if it’s for an hour to help at a beach clean. If you want to become involved you can find more information on my social media page ‘Scottish Costal Clean Up Project.” 

Marine plastic pollution is a global and growing problem, but we can all do our bit  – it can be small changes to your life, like using a bag for life or recycling plastic bottles, or spending a day volunteering with your local beach clean-up.

 

 

 

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Ramblers Scotland – celebrating recreational walking

I recently attended a reception in the parliament to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. I was joined with representatives from Ramblers Scotland. Ramblers is an organisation which protect the places for people to walk in Scotland and also promote the health and social benefits of walking such as countryside, recreation and outdoors.

I have supported Richard Lochhead’s motion which notes the importance that Scotland’s framework of access plays to make sure all of Scotland can enjoy the health and social benefits of keeping active.

Walking can boost health –  but an independent survey by Ramblers Scotland showed poorly maintained paths are one of the biggest barriers to getting out there. This is reflected on the National Performance Framework as peoples use of Scotland’s outdoors has increased by 13% over the past 6 years . I hope within 2018 we will see this increase even further and we can help more people #GetOutThere.

 Motion Number: S5M-09781
Lodged By: Richard Lochhead
Date Lodged: 08/01/2018

Title: 15th Anniversary of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act

Motion Text:

That the Parliament notes that 23 January 2018 marks the 15th anniversary of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003; congratulates outdoor organisations, land managers, volunteers and public bodies for collaboratively delivering Scotland’s world-class access rights and supporting a range of outdoor recreation opportunities; acknowledges the Scottish Government-led report, Get Scotland Walking: A National Walking Strategy for Scotland, which shows a 13% increase in recreational walking over a six-year period; understands that VisitScotland estimates that the annual economic impact of walking tourism is £1.26 billion; recognises the critical role that Scotland’s framework of access rights and responsibilities plays in supporting everyone in Scotland to enjoy the health and social benefits of being active in Scotland’s natural environment; commends all involved in what it considers this success, and aspires to see even more people getting the most from Scotland’s wonderful landscapes.

 

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Be flood prepared

There has been a tremendous amount of snow over the last few days which could lead to flooding in vulnerable areas.  In the event of flooding it is important that people make their health and safety a priority and act quickly.  The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have a Floodline that can assist on 0345 988 1188 with updates on http://www.floodlinescotland.org.uk/  Or in an emergency call 999.

If travelling in the next few days also check the risk of flooding at www.trafficscotland.org or for public transport https://www.travelinescotland.com/

The Association of British Insurers has released a guide on how to deal with your insurance company and how to protect your property from future flooding.  Information on this can be found https://www.abi.org.uk/search/?q=flooding+protection

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Labour MSP David Stewart Proposes Making Sprinklers Mandatory

My Labour colleague David Stewart MSP is proposing to bring forward legislation to make the installation of sprinklers mandatory in all new-build social housing.

Prior to the Grenfell disaster, fire injuries and deaths in Scotland have been significantly higher than the rest of the country. In 2015-16, there were 5,673 dwelling fires in Scotland, 46 per cent higher per million inhabitants than in England and Wales.

Fires are also more prevalent in areas of socio-economic deprivation. The 2009 Scotland Together Report into Scottish fire deaths and injuries found that 31 per cent of all accidental dwelling fires occurred in the 15 per cent of most deprived areas of Scotland.
David’s proposal will begin a consultation period running until 16th April this year, and will also seek views on what action can be taken to retrofit sprinkler systems into existing high-rise social housing stock.

 Labour MSP David Stewart said:

“House fires are more prevalent in areas of socio-economic deprivation. This simple change in law is a practical step that will save lives. The scandal of Grenfell last summer was that protection was not available to those who were most in need. My consultation opens tomorrow for 12 weeks and I would encourage as many members of the public and organisations as possible to respond”

For those who would like to respond more information can be found on the Parliament website, including the consultation survey: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/107479.aspx

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