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

Fife commuters cannot be ignored

I’ve called for the Scottish Government to stop ignoring Fife commuters after they have launched a consultation on a Rail Infrastructure Strategy.

The Government are holding workshops across the country but despite the strong case and campaign for Levenmouth rail link, the calls for a train stations at Newburgh, and complaints regarding overcrowding, unfair prices and lack of carriages, one will not take place in Fife.

The Government release states that these workshops will “reflect all distinct routes and markets that Scotland’s railways serve…and understand the needs and priorities of rail customers in those areas.” Fife’s voice must be heard.

Fife has been short changed for far too long and can no longer be ignored by the Government and ScotRail. The irony that locals will have to get a train to go to a workshop will not be lost on commuters.

That is why I have written to the Transport Minister calling for a workshop in Fife. Commuters and campaigners deserve to have their say on the future of rail in Scotland.

https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/fife/319343/msp-demands-a-fife-platform-for-rail-consultation/

Claire backs ScotRail price freeze plan

Today Scottish Labour announced a plan to freeze Scotrail prices.

Passengers across Mid Scotland and Fife are fed up with overpriced, overcrowded and unreliable trains.

Despite this, fares are due to rise in January. That is why Scottish Labour is calling for a fares freeze. After weeks of misery, people across the region deserve a better deal.

If you agree with us and back our plan then you can sign Scottish Labour’s petition below:

http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/page/s/labour-backs-a-2017-fare-freeze

Claire backs Freedom From Fear Campaign

With over 300 shopworkers assaulted every day I am pleased to support Usdaw’s campaign to call for an end to abuse in the workplace.

As part of the Freedom From Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse directed at retail staff, Usdaw members came to Parliament to highlight the problems faced by staff during Respect for Shopworkers Week.

Too often retail employees are confronted with violence, threats and abuse whilst serving the public. It is really important we stand together and ask people to keep their cool and respect shopworkers, especially as we approach the busy Christmas shopping period.

No one should have to go to work expecting abuse.

I will continue to campaign with Usdaw to provide shopworkers the support they need and deserve. We must give a clear message that abusing or assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.

http://www.fifetoday.co.uk/news/political-backing-for-campaign-to-protect-shop-workers-1-4294356

Funding cut to tackle childhood obesity

New figures have revealed that we are seeing year on year decreases in Scottish Government funding for the NHS to tackle childhood obesity. Meanwhile figures show that too many children are going to school at risk of becoming obese or overweight.

Over the past three years, funding for the NHS to tackle childhood obesity has been cut by over £100,000 despite reports that Scotland is still struggling with a childhood obesity problem.

Recent figures show that in 2015, 15% of children aged between 2 and 15 were at risk of suffering from obesity, with a further 13% at risk of being classified as overweight.

ISD Scotland have reported that the number of children in Primary 1 at risk of obesity and overweight in Fife and Tayside exceeds the national average.

Despite this, NHS Fife and NHS Tayside have both seen a cut of almost 7% between 2012 and 2016, whilst NHS Forth Valley has seen a cut of 5.5% over the same period.

Continue reading

Answers needed over police closure threat

Today I have called for answers from the Scottish Government over the threat of local police station closures. This follows news that Police Scotland are reviewing the future of 58 local stations, including a number of stations in their East division which covers my region of Mid Scotland and Fife. 

Under the SNP, Police Scotland faces a £27 million revenue budget overspend. The overspend is forcing Police Scotland’s hand and the potential closure of local stations is just the next step for a force desperately trying to make ends meet.

SNP ministers can no longer bury their head in the sand and claim that this will not have an impact on local policing. Amongst the stations reported to be under-threat are Anstruther, Bannockburn, Bridge of Allan and Tullibody.

The details where revealed following a freedom of information request after it was announced that Police Scotland intend to reduce ‘floor space’ by up to 25% through an estate strategy review. Continue reading

Time for a frack free Fife

Following the successful campaign to have underground coal gasification banned in Fife and across Scotland I have today called for the Scottish Government to back plans to ban fracking in Scotland and ensure a “frack free Fife”.

The banning of UCG was only the first step. Now the Scottish Government must work with Scottish Labour in banning fracking. Anything less is unacceptable.

All evidence points to the fact that fracking, yet another fossil fuel, will have a negative impact on our environment. It is an unnecessary and environmentally damaging process that has no place in Fife.

This is about the air we breathe, that water we drink and the communities we live in. That is why Labour will change the law and ban fracking in Scotland, just as we promised in our election manifesto.

My colleague Claudia Beamish MSP, has launched a consultation to ban the continuous process in Scotland and I would encourage everyone to put forward a submission to the consultation and unite behind calls for a frack free Fife.

Earlier this year the Scottish Parliament passed a motion calling for such a ban. The motion was passed due to Labour votes as a result of the SNP abstaining. The Scottish Government must listen to locals and community groups, the very people that will be impacted by the potential of drilling under their homes.

It is time for a frack free Fife.

Claudia Beamish’s consultation paper can be found at https://frackingbanbill.com/

The public can respond to the consultation here: http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/Fracking/