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.

Continue reading

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

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