Last week I asked the new Transport Secretary to meet with myself and local MSPs to make the united case for the re-introduction of the Levenmouth Rail Project.
There is a clear cross-party consensus in Fife that the Levenmouth rail project should go ahead, and I hope that there is a similar consensus that it should be one of the Government’s next big infrastructure projects.
The Government reshuffle before summer has seen the transport portfolio promoted from a Junior Minister position to one that is now in the Cabinet. It has also combined transport with infrastructure and we need to use this opportunity to make our case to the new Cabinet Secretary.
With every passing year, the argument for the reintroduction of the Levenmouth rail link grows stronger. I hope my question is the beginning of a fruitful relationship with the new Cabinet Secretary.
If we can convince him of the clear benefits of the rail link then we will be one step closer to its introduction. Goodwill will only get us so far, it is time that we see concrete action by the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland.
Earlier this month I was delighted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Kinghorn Loch Ecology Centre at Kinghorn Loch by holding a debate in the Scottish Parliament.
I was also pleased to meet with staff and volunteers prior to the debate, giving them a tour of Parliament and hosting them afterwards for a small reception.
The Ecology Centre is a great example of an inclusive, community-led charity that aims to inspire positive change through connecting people and the environment.
Over the years the site has developed and is now an impressive facility with many different projects engaging with local people of all ages, involving them in making positive change in their community.
I am once again backing Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and their work to try and increase the rate of cervical screen in Fife and across Scotland.
The latest annual cervical screening statistics show that there has been a slight fall in Fife and Scotland in the number of cervical screenings. According to statistics attendance is lowest amongst those aged under 30, women living in areas of deprivation, or from black, Asian, and minority ethnic, communities.
This is despite the fact that cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 and is largely preventable through screening and HPB vaccination programmes. Therefore, any decrease in screening rates is disappointing and I would urge all women who are eligible to attend regular check-ups to take part in what can be a potentially life-saving test.
That is why increasing the rate of screening must be a priority. We need to ensure appointments are more accessible, we are targeting the groups that are less likely to take a smear test for a variety of reasons and we are looking at innovative solutions such as increasing access through sexual health services and the introduction of self-sampling.
I have written to Fife Council to call for an urgent meeting to discuss the cuts to many high school budgets in Fife.
According to reports, secondary schools in Fife are facing a reduction of £1.3m in the next financial year. This includes Bell Baxter (£272,688), Balwearie High (£265,167) and Levenmouth Academy (£85,164).
Local parents have raised concerns that the proposed changes could result in restricting the curriculum and guidance teachers. Teaching union EIS have written to all Fife councillors calling for them to reject any proposals that would see staffing levels reduced.
I have serious concerns about the scale and pace of the changes that some secondary schools are having to manage. Schools are already facing a challenging time and these proposals could undermine pupils’ futures.
Questions have to be asked as to why schools who are facing challenging inspection reports, or situated in places of high deprivation, are facing cuts, though others are seeing increases. Even with an element of redistribution, £1.288m is still being removed from the budget. That is why I have written to Fife Council and I am calling for an urgent meeting and full explanation of this decision.
They need to demonstrate full transparency when it comes to these changes and be prepared to justify why so many schools in Fife are being hit with such a significant reduction to their yearly budget.
Latest figures from ISD Scotland show that NHS Fife is still failing to meet the 18-week standard set for tackling child and adolescent mental health.
Despite the standard being set at 90% of patients being seen within the 18-week period, only 70.2% were seen within that time in the past quarter. Whilst this is up from the 67.7% in the quarter previous, it is down on the 74.8% for the same time last year.
These figures must serve as a wakeup call for NHS Fife and the Scottish Government. I am regularly contacted by constituents concerned by their, or their child’s, long waiting times and we need to see action taken to ensure all patients are seen within 18 weeks.
Yesterday, the independent review into police conduct during the 1984/85 miners’ strike issued a call for evidence.
The long-awaited review will look into the protests against closure of pits across the UK by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Government. During that time 500 Scottish miners were arrested – this was 30% of arrests from the year-long strike despite the country only having 10% of the UK’s mining workforce.
We need to ensure that we achieve the justice that miners and Scottish mining communities deserve. We need answers to the tactics used by police during that time, including as to why the proportion of arrests where 3 times higher than the proportion of workforce.
The call for evidence is open until the 30th of November and views can be submitted online at the link below.
We deserve to know the truth about what happened in Scotland during that period. I’d therefore urge anyone involved in the strikes to make themselves known to the review and submit their evidence.
I recently visited Tullibody Healthy Living Project, a voluntary organisation which provides vitally important services to promote healthy living to the local communities of Tullibody, Cambus and Glenochil.
The service works in partnership with local volunteers and agencies to provide local access to various healthy living activities from walking groups and fitness classes, a fruit ‘Barra’ every Thursday, a work club and a Singing for Memories group, which all positively benefit local people.
I acknowledge that local authority funding is under pressure, but it is important that we recognise the benefits of organisations like the Healthy Living Project and seek to protect the good work they do.
In light of STV’s announcement that they are closing STV2, reducing their news provision and axing 57 jobs, the station’s Chief Executive was hauled in front of the Culture Committee yesterday to be grilled by MSPs.
There I asked – in light of £18m in profits and his own salary and remuneration package in excess of £1.2m – why they are putting shareholders before staff and viewers.
Mr Pitts’ also refused to rule out compulsory redundancies, which is deeply concerning for all involved at the station. There are real fears within the sector and from myself that job losses and the reduction in news programming will damage the company’s ability to properly serve all of Scotland’s communities.
These cuts are being carried out by a chief executive who is paid a gold-plated salary package equivalent to UK national broadcast bosses whilst at the same time he is turning STV from a national news broadcaster into little more than a regional outfit.
Scotland needs a vibrant and strong independent broadcaster to hold governments at Westminster and Holyrood to account. STV’s ability to carry out that role is being put at serious risk with these cuts.
Transport Scotland have announced that they will be introducing a pedestrian crossing on the A92 at Glenrothes. It will be near the site of where Logan Carrie was tragically knocked down and killed three years ago.
This is welcome news for Logan’s family, who have been campaigning for such action since the youngster’s death and for local campaigners who have been tirelessly campaigning for improvements to the A92 in Fife.
I, along with other MSPs, MPs and councillors, have been supporting their efforts and it is good to see this progress being announced.
Yesterday in Parliament I quizzed the Cabinet Secretary for Finance on the SNP’s latest plans for an independent Scotland.
With plans to get Scotland’s deficit below 3% from the current 8.3% it is clear that under the SNP an independent Scotland would face at least a decade of austerity max. This is not a Growth Commission but rather a Cuts Commission.
Scotland cannot afford another decade of austerity. With over a quarter of a million children living in poverty and pensioner poverty having increase by 33% since 2010 we need action now.
That is why a Labour Government would invest to grow our economy, including £70 billion in Scotland over the next decade.
Only Labour is proposing the real and radical change that Scotland needs.
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