National Epilepsy Week

This week is National Epilepsy Week and today in Parliament I signed up to Epilepsy Scotland’s campaign #epilepsygetsmyvote.

Epilepsy is a serious neurological condition that affects one person in 97 and over 55,000 in Scotland suffer from the condition.

Research findings suggest that whilst just over half of people with epilepsy have seizure control, seven in ten could become seizure free if they received optimum care.

That is why support for people with epilepsy gets my vote.

BBC Charter Renewal

Yesterday the UK Government published their white paper on the future of the BBC.

I welcome their recognition of the importance of the BBC to both the general public and the creative industries. I am also pleased that the BBC’s scale and scope has not been reduced and that the licence fee has been secured for the duration of the upcoming charter.

There is a recognition in the white paper of the need for more decentralised decision making which will lead to greater Scottish content but this must be balanced with delivering a sustainable BBC, where skills and jobs are secured and high quality programmes produced.

Scottish Labour will continue to work towards securing the best deal for viewers in Scotland and throughout the UK.

You can read more about charter renewal here.

Claire pledges and NHS fit for Fife

This week I launched my first pledge of the Scottish Parliament election – An NHS Fit for Fife.

Under the SNP we have seen a GP crisis grip the constituency. All 8 general practices in Kirkcaldy have restricted their list for new patients and current patients struggle to get a quick appointment.

At the same time patients are waiting too long in A&E to be treated and far too many waiting time targets are being missed.

Elderly patients are waiting too long at the end of their treatment to receive the care and support that they need in their own homes.

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Claire launches Kirkcaldy Campaign

Yesterday I was delighted to officially launch my campaign for the upcoming Scottish Parliament Election. I am asking voters in Kirkcaldy to put their trust in me to represent them as I have done as their regional MSP since 2007.

As someone who lives in the constituency and has had an office based in the area since I was first elected I understand the real change needed now.

This includes changes in our health services to ensure a better quality of care for all, support for our schools to close the attainment gap and for Fife College to be able to provide opportunities for all learners in their community.

Change is also needed to tackle nuisance behaviour in our streets and replace the not fit for purpose Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court with a state of the art Justice Centre. It is about delivering local jobs across the constituency, from Fife Energy Park and Levenmouth rail link, to Kirkcaldy High Street.

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Parliament meeting to discuss BiFab’s future

This week a cross-party meeting will take place in the Scottish Parliament to discuss the future of Burntisland Fabrications with major energy company SSE, who own a 15% stake in BiFab.

I arranged the meeting with representatives from the Scottish Green Party, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats. Attending from SSE will be their Director of Renewables, Director of Procurement, Beatrice Liaison Manger and their Public Affairs Manager.

The meeting will discuss the awarding of SSE’s upcoming Beatrice contract, which could bring much needed jobs to the region and follows a lobbying of Parliament from BiFab trade union representatives who made their case for the future of the Methil yard in November.

Securing the future of BiFab is above party politics and I am therefore encouraged that a cross party group of MSPs have joined me in campaigning for the yard’s future.It is only by working together that we will be able to save the future of the yard in Methil. Continue reading

Claire calls for a Warm Homes Act for Mid Scotland and Fife

I am calling for a Warm Homes Act across Mid Scotland and Fife as figures show that nearly 1 million households in Scotland live in fuel poverty.

Latest fuel poverty figures released this week (15th December) highlights that the number of households fuel poor or living in extreme fuel poverty has remained similar to the previous year.

According to figures released by the Scottish Government and Scotland’s Chief Statistician, 34.9%, around 845,000 households, live in what is classified as fuel poor housing. A further 9.5% live in extreme fuel poverty.

Fuel poor households are more likely to report difficulties staying warm in the winter. 21% say that their heating keeps them warm in winter only “sometimes” whilst 9% say “never”. Fuel prices have increased by 3.5% in the last year.

In response I have called for an overhaul of Scotland’s planning, building and housing regulations to enable critical improvements to housing stock thus tackling fuel poverty through a Warm Homes Act.

The Act would also lay the framework to deliver affordable energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption and cutting carbon emissions. Continue reading

Claire Gives Evidence to the House of Lords

In my role in Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet as our democracy spokesperson I lead on issues relating to the constitution and where power lies in Scotland.

That is why today I was at the Centre on Constitutional Change at the University of Edinburgh, where I gave evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee.

The committee chaired by Lord Lang of Monkton, the former Secretary of State for Scotland, is currently holding an inquiry into the Union and Devolution.

Previously the committee has held evidence sessions with leading academics on Scotland and our constitutional arrangements with Professor John Curtice and Professor Jim Gallagher on previous panels.

Today it was the turn of politicians and I was joined by The Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, Baroness Goldie from the Scottish Conservatives, Maggie Chapman from the Scottish Greens and Cllr Robert Brown from the Scottish Liberal Democrats in giving evidence.

Questions focused on Scotland’s relationship with the UK, the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament, fiscal redistribution and the impact of English votes on English laws.

Following the result of last year’s referendum and with further powers coming to the Scottish Parliament it is important that we continue to work positively and productively across the UK.

Now, more than ever, people in Scotland are having conversations about our democratic structures, conversations about where power lies and how it is used.

This goes beyond the question of whether Scotland should be independent or not to include our role in Europe, reform of local government and the House of Lords, even reform of how we vote.

I believe that power is best held in the hands of the many, not the few, in participation in our democracy, in accountability and transparency and in a Scotland where power is challenged from the bottom up.

 

Claire celebrates Coalfields Regeneration Trust

Today I took part in a member’s debate celebrating the work of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.

The trust is based in Alloa and has worked across the Mid Scotland and Fife region in the past 15 years carrying out excellent work regenerating and addressing the challenges facing former mining communities.

Thirty years after the decline of the coal industry, there is a continuing legacy of poverty and deprivation, a set of circumstances which in recent years, has faced further pressure. There are still worse levels of deprivation in coalfield committees when compared to other areas, and the Trust report that Fife, by some margin, has the largest and most pronounced concentration of coalfield deprivation in Scotland.

I was able to highlight the Trusts work in Methil, where they provided grants to groups and projects through their Participatory Budget Fund. The fund has proved a success and for every £1 invested though participatory budgeting an additional £5 of external funding has been secured.

Communities living with poverty often feel remote from decision making or feel as if their vote at the ballot box doesn’t change their lives or community very much. Projects such as this give communities power, control and decision making, bring people together to improve their community and I am happy to continue to work with them in delivering change in Mid Scotland and Fife.

Claire backs National Guarantee for care workers

I’m calling for a national guarantee for care workers in Mid Scotland and Fife that will see all workers paid the living wage and an end to exploitative zero hour contracts.

With an aging population and patients suffering from complex and multiple conditions, social care will be one of the biggest challenges facing the health service in the years ahead.

The easiest thing to do would be to continue a sticker plaster approach to health and social care in Scotland but we must meet this challenge head on.

As a result of the Chancellors spending review carried out last month, the Scottish Parliament will receive health consequentials of around £400 million.

I joined colleagues in the Scottish Parliament in putting forward proposals for using the majority of extra revenue to invest in social care.

We need to ensure that we have a health service that is fit for the future and meets the health needs of Scots in the years ahead.  Continue reading