Urgent Question – Fire Cuts

Today I asked an urgent question in the Scottish Parliament following reports from the BBC that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service plans to close fire stations and reduce firefighter numbers.

These reports are concerning; it is vital that any ‘transformation’ of our emergency services is carried out in response to evaluating risk. However, reports point to these changes being made as the result of a squeeze on resources.

Audit Scotland have previously warned of a £43 million budget gap, the leaked report claims that our fire service is facing “the greatest financial challenge seen in decades” and the Chief Fire Officer has admitted that the current model is “unsustainable” and could not last beyond the current financial year. Continue reading

Claire welcomes fracking ban

Today I questioned the Energy Minister as he announced that the current moratorium on fracking will be extended indefinitely.

As a long time campaigner against fracking in my region welcome this move, however it still stops short of an outright ban. I’ve been campaigning against fracking and UCG locally since 2012 and I will continue to support any efforts to introduce a full legislative ban.

I do not believe that the potential risks to public health and the environment have been addressed and I believe that the exploitation of another fossil fuel will hamper our climate change priorities. Continue reading

Claire raises GP crisis in Fife

I will be raising the GP crisis in Fife with the Health Secretary as I ask what support the Scottish Government is offering to struggling practices in the Kingdom.

The question follows a series of stories regarding the crisis facing GPs and patients in the region. This included the closure of a practice at Kirkcaldy Medical Centre despite NHS Fife trying to run the service with locum GPs.

Following numerous failed attempts to hire a replacement full time GP, Fife Health and Social Care took the decision to close the practice. As a result over 1,600 patients were dispersed to new practices.

Nationally over 52 practices have been transferred to local health services. As a result more than 160,000 patients are now served by an NHS run practice. According to the Royal College General Practitioners there is estimated to be a shortfall of 856 GPs by 2021.

Fife has been facing a growing GP crisis for some time and as RCGP highlighted it is expected to get worse not better in the years ahead. Patients deserve to been seen quick, by their regular GP and without being ferried from practice to practice. Continue reading

Claire visits Pink Saltire

I was really pleased to visit Fife based Pink Saltire and have a chat with its founder Stuart Duffy recently.

Pink Saltire is an equalities media based charity which works to improve the visibility and understanding of LGBT matters across Scotland.

It was good to hear about how they were focusing on capacity building and also the rural LGBT+ voices group connections.

Stuart also currently chairs the new Fife Pride organisation, and I was pleased to talk about how I enjoyed the first event in July and plans to build on its success for the 2018 Fife Pride event.

There has been great progress in the Scottish Parliament on LGBT matters, for example the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014. However, we also discussed the challenges and the ongoing work that is still required to help improve the daily lives of people in the LGBT community living in Scotland.

Parsons Green Terror Attack

Yesterday I raised a topical question on the Scottish response to last week’s terrorist incident at Parsons Green in London. Following the raising of the threat level we have seen an increase in the number of armed police throughout the country.

It is right that we thank the emergency services for their quick response and we must also thank the transport staff that were, for many, the first responders on Friday. Continue reading

Official crime stats hide true extent of crime in Fife

This week I called for a change in how official Government statistics are collected after it was revealed that the true extent of violent crime in Fife is 8% higher than thought.

Currently the official figures for ‘non-sexual violent crime’ in Fife stands at 410 for 2015/16, a rise of over 22% for the year pervious. However, these figures fail to take into account common assaults which can include, kicking, punching and result in injuries such as broken noses.

Last year there was 4,604 common assaults in Fife, meaning that the true total of violent crime was 5,014 during 2015/16, a twelvefold increase on official figures.

Many people, especially victims, will be shocked to see that the official statistics do not consider assaults that can include punching and kicking as ‘violent.’ Whilst this is down to what is considered a ‘crime’ and what is considered an ‘offence’, there will be thousands of victims throughout Fife living with the aftermath of such assaults. They will be rightly asking why such a distinction is being made and why these attacks are not being classified as the violent crimes they are.

Non-Sexual violent crime already saw a worrying increase in Fife in the past year and if we are to ensure that we can fully address problem areas and increasing crime then we must know the true extent of crime in our communities.

That is why it is only right that we look at how crime statistics are compiled in Scotland and we can understand any trends in crimes across Fife and beyond.

Claire calls for Justice Centre for Kirkcaldy

I can reveal that the number of jury trials in Kirkcaldy have almost doubled in the past 5 years and that is why I have reiterated my calls for a new, state of the art, Justice Centre in the town.

Statistics released to me have revealed the strain been felt by the current court. In the past 5 years, the total number of trails called has increased from 1,196 to 2,060, amongst those the number of jury trails called have increased by almost 100%.

At the same time, there has been a 55% increase in the number of trails adjourned, a quarter of which were adjourned due to a lack of court time in the past year. This is despite an increase in the number of days the court has sat.

In 2012 a consultation document from the Scottish Court Services that led to the closure of local courts across Scotland highlighted the need for change in Kirkcaldy. Continue reading

Claire calls for Charity event to mark bridge opening

With the Queensferry Crossing opening this year I have called for a charity event to celebrate the new bridge and raise vital funds for local and national charities.

The event would follow the success of the ‘M74 bike and hike’ which took place before the opening of the M74 extension in Glasgow in 2011. This event saw around 20,000 participants take part in 2 separate courses; a short 4km route or the longer 14km round trip.

Participants could raise money for the charity of their choice but the event officially recognised 8 main organisations, including SAMH, Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Heart Foundation.

This was a great way to open the M74 extension and simultaneously raise awareness and money for charity and it would be fantastic if such an event could be arranged for the opening of the Queensferry Crossing.

I have no doubt that Fifers would love the opportunity to be amongst the first to cross the bridge and take part in what could be a full day of fun stretching from one side of the Forth to the other.

With great views of the rail and road bridge along with the coast of Fife, the opportunity for people to cross the bridge before it is open to cars should be fully considered. This would be a great initiative to raise money for local charities such as MND Scotland but also for the many local charities across Mid Scotland and Fife that do great work day in day out.

I hope that people across the region can get behind an event to mark the opening of the crossing event and that the Scottish Government will make such an event a reality.

Government must “step up and take action” on quad bikes

I have called for the Scottish Government to step up and take action on the illegal and anti-social use of quad bikes and motorised scooters after they confirmed to me that they were not taking any action to encourage the responsible selling and ownership of such vehicles.

I am disappointed and deeply frustrated that despite a commitment from the previous Minister for Community Safety, the Scottish Government have now decided to hide behind the UK Government rather than take action.

I have been campaigning against such anti-social behaviour for some time and I have organised roundtables, met with the Police, campaigners, and concerned members of the public, and raised the issue many times in Parliament.

The illegal and anti-social behaviour on motorised off-road vehicles, such as quad bikes, continues to blight our local communities and the public rightly want to see as much effort as possible from everyone in tackling this nuisance. Continue reading