Claire meets politicians and business leaders over Brexit

Since becoming Deputy Convener of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations committee I have already held a number of meetings on Brexit.

Brexit is the biggest political issue in British politics and it will continue to dominate the political discourse in the years ahead. As we move towards trying to achieve a deal it is vital that we listen to as many people as possible and ensure that Scotland’s voice is being heard in the debate.

That is why I was pleased to be able to go to London, Belfast and Dublin last month to ensure that the views and voices of the Scottish Parliament and my constituents were heard. We need to work hard to ensure that any deal does not hurt our economy, workers and jobs.

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Cross party meeting to secure BiFab’s future

Yesterday in Parliament I held a cross party meeting at the Scottish Parliament to discuss the future of Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab). The meeting saw trade union representatives and workers from the yard lobby and answer questions with a number of MSPs from Scottish Labour, the SNP, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

With the company coming to the end of its Beatrice Contract there are concerns that a gap in the order book could see reductions to full time staff with the possibility of two of the three yards having to close their gates.

I am pleased that workers had the opportunity to lobby MSPs directly just as they successfully did in 2015. I’d also like to thank all the MSPs that turned up to listen to their concerns, the turnout shows that BiFab workers have the clear support of the Scottish Parliament.

We must use that political will to try and secure the long term future of the yard. We must now put pressure on the UK Government and engage with the consortiums tendering their contracts for the year ahead. Continue reading

Polish Paths to Freedom

I was really pleased to see Polish Paths to Freedom exhibition in the Rothes Halls as part of the celebrations around the 70th Anniversary of Glenrothes.

The new display of archival photography, which was gifted to Fife Council by the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region in central Poland, documents the 3000 officers and 10,000 Polish First Division Corps stationed in Scotland between 1940 and 1947 who provided support to Scottish regiments during the First World War.

I know that Scotland, and in particular, the region of Fife and Poland have a long shared history, and that these photographs are an important part of Fife’s rich history of migration.

I was really interested to read stories in the exhibition log book of local people’s familial connections and memories and would encourage visitors to contribute.

Claire raises BiFab’s future at FMQs

Recently I met with BiFab workers and trade union representatives at their yard in Methil to discuss their future and concerns as we near the end of their current Beatrice contract.

I also raised the issue directly with the First Minister during FMQs where I called for continued Government support to ensure we can protect jobs and the company can survive any gap in their order book.

That is why I am hosting a meeting in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow to allow trade union members to meet and lobby MSPs from all parties as we work to secure the future of the yards.

I previously held a similar lobby in 2015, which led to cross party pressure on the UK Government ahead of the awarding of the current Beatrice contract. Continue reading

Ravenscraig Probus Club visit Parliament

Last week I was delighted to welcome members of Ravenscraig Probus Club to the Scottish Parliament, where I gave them a tour of the building before they were able to watch First Minister’s Questions from the public gallery.

Following the opening of the Scottish Parliament, there was a conscious effort to ensure that Holyrood was open to voters and constituents. It is right that schools, clubs and the general public are able to see the workings of their Parliament and meet and question their representatives.

Ravenscraig Probus Club were able to do that and get a front row seat to what turned out to be a lively First Minister’s Questions. I was pleased to answer all their questions and hope they had as good a time visiting Holyrood as I had showing them around.

Claire meets Clackmannanshire Group leader over council cuts

I recently met with the leader of the Labour Group on Clackmannanshire Council to discuss the threats facing the local authority’s budget. According to reports, the council is under threat of bankruptcy in the years ahead due to funding issues.

The Accounts Commissions has found that the council, along with Moray and North Ayrshire, facing running out of spare money for emergencies and face a “challenging year” ahead.

With budgets down 7.6% in real terms from 2010-11, local authorities across Scotland are facing having to either identify even more cuts or continue to dip into their reserves. If Clackmannanshire was to continue to use its General Fund reserves at the level planned for 2017-18 it will have run out within two to three years’ time.

We can all see in our communities the impact cuts to local authorities’ budgets are having. These are cuts to local services that we all use and has an impact on many, young and old. Further cuts, initiated by Westminster and passed on by the SNP Government in Holyrood will only make things worse. There are real threats that further valued services will close down. Continue reading

Claire speaks out against bank closures

Over the course of last year, it was announced that Mid Scotland and Fife would lose 26 local bank branches.

The Royal Bank of Scotland announced the closure of 14 branches over the course of 2 rounds of closures. Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank and the TSB also announced the closures of 4 branches each.

Amongst the areas hit in the region are Alloa, Dunblane, Perth, Cowdenbeath, Kirkcaldy, Leven, Cupar, Bridge of Allan, and Lochgelly.

I spoke out against these closures during a debate in the Scottish Parliament. We will now see a whole host of towns and villages without high street banks.

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Claire calls for Government action on quad bikes

Following a Christmas period where quad bikes will have been bought and sold as presents I have once again called for the Scottish Government to step up its attempts to tackle anti-social behaviour on them.

Whilst I am sure most owners will want to use their vehicles safely and within the full confines of the law, many that will have bought or received such vehicles will have no idea that their use could be a criminal offence.

That is why the Scottish Government must start taking action in promoting responsible ownership and selling of quad bikes and similar vehicles. I first asked them if they would take action in promoting the registration and selling of quad bikes in Scotland in 2015 but two years later and we are still waiting for them to take action.

Meanwhile the problem of anti-social behaviour continues to blight communities across Mid Scotland and Fife. This is a real issue for many across the region. Whilst it might not be amongst the top priorities for the Scottish Government it is an issue that regularly fills my inbox.

Locals are concerned for their safety. These vehicles are used in local parks and public pathways, they are a danger to children out playing, dog walkers and their dogs and residents as they come and go. Local communities want to see as much effort as possible from everyone in tackling this nuisance.

You can read more about my calls on Fife Today’s website by clicking here.

Claire raises ‘unacceptable’ SPA accounts

Last week the Auditor General released a report into the accounts of the Scottish Police Authority, the watchdog for Police Scotland. She identified a “number of instances of poor governance and poor use of public money” which she deemed “unacceptable.”

This included a payoff of £56,666 for the former chief executive who presided over the SPA as it lurched from crisis to crisis – we should not be using public funds to reward failure.

Three temporary appointments to the SPA and Police Scotland were also calculated to have costs an extra £344,819. This included an interim chief financial officer which whose appointment was “inconsistent with procurement procedures.”

During topical questions I quizzed the Cabinet Secretary on who agreed to these payments and, with the case of the former Chief Executive’s lucrative pay-out, if that payment can be challenged.
 

Claire joins Day of Action Against Blacklisting

On December the 6th I joined colleagues in attending the Day of Action Against Blacklisting lobby outside the Scottish Parliament. The day was part of a long running campaign from Unite the Union into blacklisting within the construction industry.

Cases of blacklisting within construction companies is unacceptable. These workers give their time and skill to their employers and should be rewarded for their duty, not punished.

As part of the campaign, Unite is calling for a full public enquiry into blacklisting, for the process to be considered a criminal offence, and for companies found blacklisting to be barred from bidding for public sector contracts.

I am disappointed at the lack of clarity on the Scottish Government’s stance on this issue, with the reluctance to launch an inquiry into blacklisting. Our workers deserve full justice and to have their voices heard. Continue reading