Claire calls for better ScotRail services during Edinburgh Festival

I have called for better services during the Edinburgh Festival season following a weekend of complaints regarding ScotRail services from Fife to Edinburgh.

Over the weekend many commuters were left stranded in Edinburgh as they were turned away from trains that had reached full capacity.

Saturday saw the worst of the complaints as commuters were returning from Hibernian v Dunfermline at Easter Road and the Edinburgh festivals but many Fife services only ran with two carriages.

Whilst I appreciate that it can be difficult to gauge the number of commuters during any one weekend it is inevitable that during the Edinburgh festivals the number of passengers using Sctorail to go to and from the capital will rise.

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2016 Coalfields Home Internationals

I’m pleased to support the 2016 Coalfields Home Internationals – which take place at the end of this month – with a motion in Parliament. Good luck to all teams taking part, including the teams from Benarty and Alloa, in my region.

I lodged the motion after meeting with staff at the Coalfields Regeneration Trust in their offices in Alloa last week. I was pleased to catch up with the team and hear about the work they are doing to support former coalfield communities across Scotland. Continue reading

Claire hosts quad bike roundtable in Kirkcaldy

Today I held a roundtable meeting in Kirkcaldy to tackle the growing instances of illegal anti-social behaviour on quad bikes and motorised vehicles in the area. This was an opportunity for those concerned about anti-social behaviour on motorised vehicles to get round the table and try and find a solution.

The meeting follows my recent visit to Rabbit Braes, which has been described as a ‘problematic area’ after concerned locals got in touch with me to highlight a rise in dangerous behaviour on such vehicles.

It is clear that the problem in Kirkcaldy is escalating and following my campaign in Levenmouth it is important that we all work together to replicate the success we had in tackling such behaviour.

Locals are rightly concerned for their safety. These vehicles are being used in parks and pathways causing huge danger to children, residents and dog walkers. Many fear it is only a matter of time before a serious injury takes place. Continue reading

ScotRail to increase peak time Fife Circle services

I am delighted to have secured a victory in my campaign for better rail services in Fife after ScotRail have confirmed to me that they were planning to increase the number of coaches during peak time services.

Train services, or rather lack of train services, is one of the biggest issues to fill my inbox as an MSP. From the Levenmouth Rail Link to peak time services on the Fife Circle it is clear that the Kingdom often gets short changed.

That is why I am pleased to see that ScotRail is committed to increasing the number of coaches available for their peak time service to 5, when electric trains are introduced to the Edinburgh and Glasgow route. However, it is worth remembering that this service was originally scheduled to run with 6 coaches so there is still room for improvement.

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Police Office Numbers at lowest level since 2010

Today the Scottish Government released statistics that show the number of police officers in Scotland are at their lowest level since 2010.

We know that Police Scotland is facing significant pressures on its budget and that many will be concerned that today’s statistics could be an early indication of what is to come.

The public must have confidence in both the Government and Police Scotland to keep our streets and communities safe.

That is why in the coming weeks I will be meeting with representatives from the police to discuss today’s statistics and other issues.

Scrap the Act

Today my colleague James Kelly MSP launched a consultation into scrapping the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act with the intention of introducing a private members’ bill.

The act, the first in Holyrood to be passed without any cross-party support, has been controversial since its inception and was opposed by clubs, fans, legal experts and academics.

While we can all share the frustration at the progress made in eradicating sectarianism  in Scotland, these problems cannot be fixed in 90 minutes at a game of football.  We must see greater effort to tackle sectarianism in our schools and communities, and address the root causes of these attitudes and behaviours.

The consultation is now open and I would encourage everyone to take part.   You can read the consultation documents and submit a response here:

Kelty local recognised at Scottish Parliament’s official opening

Saturday was the official opening of the Scottish Parliament by the Queen and I was delighted to nominate Kely resident, Janet Buist, as my local hero for the occasion.

As someone who grew up in Kelty, I have known Janet for years and I have seen her drive and determination in working with other to deliver many successful community projects.

Janet is dedicated to supporting the village and it was a privilege invite her to the Scottish Parliament as my local local hero and recognise her contribution to Kelty.

Claire comments on presumption against short sentences

Today the Scottish Government announced £4 million of funding for community sentences. As Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson I welcomed today’s announcement and called on the Government to bring forward plans to increase the presumption against short sentences.

My call comes ahead of the transmission of a BBC Scotland investigation to air tonight called Women Prisoners: Throw Away the Key?

You can read what I said below:

Scottish Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said:

“Evidence shows that those who receive prison sentences of six months or less are reconvicted twice as often as those given community payback orders. This shows that the presumption against short prison sentences is working.

“As a result the Scottish Government should bring forward plans to increase the presumption against from the current three months and deliver a justice system that pursues sentences that deliver real rehabilitation.

“That is why Scottish Labour called for and welcomed the move to scrap the proposed female ‘super-prison’ and instead move towards smaller facilities with a better focus on prevention.

“At the same time we have always been clear that this can only be one part of how we modernise prison and sentencing in Scotland. This includes more alternatives to custody and support for organisations that help deliver this.

“The Government’s announcement of extra support for community sentences goes some way to addressing this and must now be followed up by taking further action on short sentences.”

Claire asks Topical on LGBTI hate crimes

Today I asked a topical question in the Scottish Parliament on tackling LGBTI hate crimes in Scotland. During the exchange with the First Minister I called for a full breakdown of LGBTI hate crime statistics.

The Scottish Parliament has a proud history in the work and legislation it has delivered to make Scotland a more inclusive and tolerant society, especially on LGBTI issues.

However we must always be vigilant that intolerance and hatred in Scotland is never given the space to grow. The 20% rise in LGBTI hate crimes shows that we must redouble our efforts to tackle violence and aggressions towards people based on their sexuality.

To fully tackle LGBTI hate crimes we must fully understand where and how these crimes are taking place. That is why I am calling on the Scottish Government to publish a full breakdown of LGBTI offences in Scotland so we can better understand the nature of these crimes.

Claire comments on Hate Crime Statistics

Today the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service released statistics relating to hate crime charges in Scotland. As Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson I commented on behalf of the party.

You can read my response below:

Commenting on the publication of Hate Crime in Scotland 2015-16 report from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said: 

“It is deeply concerning to see a rise in hate crime in Scotland. As a tolerant and inclusive society, Scotland has no place for such prejudices and the country must unite behind tackling these shameful acts.

“With the doubling of Islamic hate crimes and the year on year increases in crimes relating to both sexual orientation and disability it is clear the Scottish Government must take greater action to reverse the increase in these crimes.

“This should include supporting the Time for Inclusive Education campaign, providing a strategy which will underpin this ambition, deliver an update to the Toolkit for Teachers, and set out clear standards detailing how to support LGBTI young people and meet their needs.”