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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Thoughts with the people of Manchester

Scottish Parliament flags fly at half mast today

Scottish Parliament flags fly at half mast today

Below is the statement from Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to the Scottish Parliament following the Manchester terror attack:

“They would have been dressed in pink, in sparkles, bunny ears perched on their heads and grins on their faces. The very picture of innocence.

“The children who went to see American pop star and Disney TV actress, Ariana Grande, at the Manchester Arena last night would have been unable to contain their excitement. The atmosphere would have been electric.

“Every one of us has been there – been one of them. Enthralled by the sound and vision of a pop star at their peak. Desperate to see, in the flesh, the person whose image we’ve plastered on our bedroom walls.

“Being at a gig is a moment of sheer joy.

“Last night that joy was destroyed in a despicable act of cowardice.

“All that excitement, that innocent elation, turned to fear, to shock, and to horror.

“Just hours after they arrived, children left the concert crying, screaming, utterly bewildered by what had just happened; their ears ringing, not with the echo of pop music, but with the blast of a bomb.

“Today, those children will know that 22 of those who had shared the joy of the concert alongside them, are dead.

“That 59 people are in hospital with terrible injuries. And that too many parents are still desperately searching for the children who haven’t come home.

“Those children too will know the phrase ‘suicide bomber’ and the appalling reality of what that means.

“A story which they might have watched on Newsround, couched in age-appropriate language to soften the roughest of edges, has brutally intruded into their young lives.

“For us, as adults, hearing the news of terrorist atrocities – be they bombs, or bullets, or cars mowing people down in the street – is all too sadly now commonplace.

“We tend to cover our children’s ears and eyes to protect them from the knowledge.

“And we hold them closer, all too aware of the fragility of their precious lives.

“But for those children and young people who witnessed last night’s abominable act, there is no softening the blow, no making it better, no suggesting that these things don’t happen here, or to us, or to people we know.

“They are now fully aware that when someone determines to kill others, when someone purposefully straps a bomb to their body with a twisted plan to detonate it among innocent children, that there is nothing any one of us can do to prevent the horrific, inevitable, outcome.

“And we cannot explain it to them. How can you tell an eight-year-old that there is a justifiable reason that children died last night? How can you explain the actions, the thought-process, of someone who can look at a concert full of young people and see nothing but a target?

“But what we can do is respond well. We can teach our children that the only way to counter such barbarity is not with hate and with fear, but with compassion, tolerance, kindness and love.

“Like the people of Manchester did last night; flocking to help, taking people home, offering places to stay, and searching for children who had become separated from their parents.

“Like those who work in our emergency services did – as they always do – running, unflinching, towards horror, rather than away from it, to offer comfort and care and rescue.

“No doubt over the coming days we will discover the name of the coward who chose to kill excited children at a concert, and there will be attempts to understand why they did it.

“For those who are grieving there will be no worthy answers. For those left traumatised, there will be no comprehension.

“What there will be though is a toughening of our resolve in the face of terror.

“A renewal of our belief in the enduring British values of tolerance and respect.

“And a determination to make sure that such horrific acts will never undermine our freedom, nor our democracy.”

 

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Protest at Israeli Ambassador’s visit to the Scottish Parliament

upright speaking shotEarlier today I attended a demonstration outside the parliament to protest the visit of the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev. To those of us against the visit, it was at least a relief that the Ambassador was not in the VIP Gallery for First Minister’s Questions.

My colleague Anas Sawar MSP also highlighted to issue to the First Minister at First Minister’s Questions which you can check out on the Scottish Parliament Official Report here. 

2017 marks the 69th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, which is known by the Palestinian people as the “day of catastrophe”. This included the destruction of over 500 towns and villages which left the people of Gaza with nothing.

Along with other elected representatives, I spoke at the very well attended demonstration, stressing the international illegality and injustice which is the shocking truth of the Israeli Government’s position in relation to Palestine. Surely the time has come when the Palestinian people should have a state of their own? Only this solution can bring lasting peace in the Middle East.

Group photo

As a member of the Cross Party Group of Palastine and have had the opportunity to visit Gaza in 2011 with my colleague John Finnie just after “Operation Cast Lead”. I was able to get an insight as to what life is like for the people in Gaza. I witnessed the occupation of Gaza City which prevents people living a normal live due to the blockade and the severe restrictions placed on them, forcing dependence on aid for food and fresh water. You can read my full blog from my trip here.

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