Challenge Poverty Week – Right to Food

This week is Challenge Poverty Week and Scottish Labour is continuing to work to address the drivers of poverty in our communities – calling for the scrapping of Universal Credit and the maximisation of benefits.

As part of Challenge Poverty Week I will be writing to organisations across Mid Scotland and Fife asking them to sign up to support the Right to Food as a core part of the forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill.

Food insecurity continues to be a critical issue and key to addressing inequality is ensuring everyone has the right to available, accessible and adequate food. This is why the Right to Food must be  enshrined in law.

This Bill offers an opportunity to address inequality and rising demand for food banks by making a commitment to ensure everyone in our country can access the food they need and reduce the reliance on emergency food aid.

25 Years of Fife Community Interpretation Services

This week I was delighted to attend celebrations in Kirkcaldy to mark 25 years of Fife Community Interpretation Services. It’s a fantastic organisation providing a vital service which supports equality and inclusivity in Fife.

Fife Community Interpretation Services has around 60 interpreters on its register and has helped people communicate with health and welfare services, around legal matters and when dealing with other local services. They also provide translation services for official documents, letters, reports and media.

For 25 years they have provided interpretation services across Fife in a large number of different languages and I extend my very best wishes for continued success in the future.

Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight

As part of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight it was a pleasure to visit Novelli’s ice cream parlour in Burntisland to celebrate their fantastic ice cream, which is made in the parlour, and recognise its contribution to the vibrancy of the local High Street.

Claire Baker MSP with Nova Gamble of Novelli's

It’s great to see an innovative business providing a quality Scottish product and I enjoyed hearing about how Novelli’s, as a fairly new business, has flourished as well as its future plans.

This year Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight (31 August to 15 September) is celebrating 10 years of showcasing our counbtry’s food and drink sector. It’s an opportunity to highlight the success of businesses like Novelli’s which invest in quality produce and their contribution to our economy and communities.

Art in Action in Strathkinness

This week I visited the 201 Telephone Box Gallery in Strathkinness as part of the nationwide Art in Action campaign led by Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN).

The Gallery is located in a disused telephone box which was adopted by Strathkinness Community Trust and converted into a contemporary art gallery in a project led by local artist and curator Lada Wilson.

The Art in Action campaign is promoting the valuable role visual art plays within communities across Scotland – and calling for stronger recognition of this value when it comes to decision-making.

The gallery provides a fantastic opportunity for the community to connect with visual art and has generated a lot of local discussion. I hope that through the Art in Action campaign, the role of art and artists in communities can be better understood so we can work to ensure better recognition of its value in decision-making at all levels.

The gallery itself demonstrates how the smallest of spaces can be used innovatively to explore ideas and bring visual arts into communities so it can be enjoyed and engaged with on people’s doorstep.

Welcome News on Levenmouth Rail Link

The decision to take forward the reopening of the Levenmouth rail link is very positive news. The reintroduction of a rail service will bring huge economic, educational, social and cultural opportunities to Levenmouth.

The announcement is testament to the determination and commitment of the Levenmouth Rail Campaign group. I have supported their campaign since I was elected in 2007 and am proud that Labour gave a commitment to reopening the line in our 2016 manifesto.

We recognised the strong case for the economic and social benefits it will bring to Levenmouth, and I am delighted that the Scottish Government is now convinced of the argument.

New Jobs at BiFab Methil Yard

The confirmation that DF Barnes is to reopen the BiFab yard at Methil, creating 40 new jobs, is welcome news and provides a much-needed boost for the local industry in the short-term. However, work must continue to secure the long-term future of BiFab and for its skilled and committed workforce.

The new jobs are being created in Fife as part of BiFab’s contract for pin piles for the Moray East Offshore Windfarm, and are expected to be in place by 4th August.

We await news on the awarding of contracts for EDF Renewables’ Neart Na Gaoithe wind farm and I continue to urge EDF to award work to the Fife yards.

Out of Hours Service Needs to Provide for All Fife Residents

Following the decision not to retain Out of Hours services in Glenrothes, I have called on NHS Fife to ensure all residents continue to be supported in accessing available services in the region. It is extremely disappointing that Glenrothes will not have an Out of Hours service within the town and I understand people’s anger at this decision. Assurances must be provided to Glenrothes residents on the provision of free taxis as soon as possible to ensure those without transport can access services elsewhere in Fife.

I do welcome the news that overnight services will be provided in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, and that new arrangements will be in place in St Andrews. Fife residents have undergone months of uncertainty and it has taken far too long to reach this decision. The NHS board must act quickly to put the new arrangements in place and raise awareness of the changes. What we cannot see is any further delay or confusion.

At the core of these changes is a shortage of GPs and the knock-on effects are being felt across NHS services. Urgent action needs to be taken by the Scottish Government to increase GP numbers so services across Fife and Scotland can improve.

#LoveYourLungs Week

This week marks British Lung Foundation’s #LoveYourLungs Week, with the focus on encouraging people to take an online breath test as part of looking after their lung health.

While feeling short of breath from time to time is healthy and normal, sometimes it can be a sign of something more serious. Taking the online breath test can help you find out if you should get it checked out.

Visit breathtest.blf.org.uk to take the 5 minute test.

A Right to Pulmonary Rehabilitation

This week I got the chance to meet people living with chest conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) at the Scottish Parliament’s gym, where I got a “Pulmonary Rehab experience” with the help of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

Rehab is proven to keep people well and help them stay out of hospital, but thousands of people struggle to access rehab programmes or have long waits to get on one. Figures for Fife indicate that of the 4,837 people with COPD who would benefit from Pulmonary rehabilitation only 501 (11%) are being referred.

Claire with Morag Allison, Hazel Crombie, Mostyn Tuckwell and Linda Gray in the Scottish Parliament gym

Pulmonary rehabilitation is life-changing for people with lung conditions like COPD.  Everyone who needs it deserves access to this.Pulmonary rehabilitation prolongs lives and saves the NHS money by reducing hospital admissions – it is precisely the kind of service we should be offering more of.

I am fully behind Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s campaign to make pulmonary rehab available to all who need it.  There should be a universal and equal right to pulmonary rehab across the country. 

Carers Week 2019

I was delighted to receive my accreditation as a Carer Positive employer ahead of Carers Week (10-16 June), the annual awareness campaign to support Scotland’s 759,000 carers and 29,000 young carers.

The Carer Positive scheme recognises employers who offer support and flexibility to carers.

Claire receiving her Carer Positive accreditation from Sue McLintock of Carer Positive

The vital work of unpaid carers must be recognised and supported and employers have a responsibility to develop workplace policies and working practices which do this. I’m encouraging all employers to engage with Carer Positive on steps they can take to provide a supportive workplace for carers.

I also visited a Young Carers Group afternoon tea event in Lochgelly, just one of the hundreds of events taking place across Scotland as part of Carers Week. A parliamentary reception will celebrate 25 years of Carers Week and five years of the Carer Positive Award.

Most of us will care for someone, or be cared for, at some stage in our lives so it’s important for everyone to speak more openly about caring and for all of us to help support our carers practically and emotionally.

Claire with Kirstie Howell and Charlie Bowie from the Young Carers Focus Group in Lochgelly