Police Scotland concerns in Fife

Today in an exclusive from the Courier the impact on Police Scotland’s “challenging” budget has been laid bare.

According to a whistleblower from Fife, moral amongst local officers is “dreadful” and the number of staff “decimated”.

Concerns have also been raised that the force came close to not being able to pay wages on time. This has been denied by the Scottish Police Authority, the Scottish Government and Police Scotland, although the latter did admit that managing their budgets was “challenging”. Continue reading

Claire backs National Guarantee for care workers

I’m calling for a national guarantee for care workers in Mid Scotland and Fife that will see all workers paid the living wage and an end to exploitative zero hour contracts.

With an aging population and patients suffering from complex and multiple conditions, social care will be one of the biggest challenges facing the health service in the years ahead.

The easiest thing to do would be to continue a sticker plaster approach to health and social care in Scotland but we must meet this challenge head on.

As a result of the Chancellors spending review carried out last month, the Scottish Parliament will receive health consequentials of around £400 million.

I joined colleagues in the Scottish Parliament in putting forward proposals for using the majority of extra revenue to invest in social care.

We need to ensure that we have a health service that is fit for the future and meets the health needs of Scots in the years ahead.  Continue reading

Tax credit cuts – the new poll tax

As the Conservative continue their plans to introduce cuts to tax credits, official statistics has shown that this will impact up to 43,000 families in Mid Scotland and Fife.

According to figures, Kirkcaldy may be the hardest hit, with just under 7,000 families receiving child or working tax credits, which face being cut by the Conservative Government. Cowdenbeath will see just under 6,000 facing cuts with 5,700 in Mid Fife and Glenrothes under threat

Tax credits where introduced by Gordon Brown and the Labour Government to tackle in work poverty. Under the proposed cuts working families could be hit by on average £1,300 a year.

The ideological cuts to tax credits by the Conservative Government has the potential to be their new poll tax and I hope you will stand up for families in Scotland and join us in opposing the cut. Continue reading

Havelock Europa concerns raised

Earlier this month Havelock Europa announced a restructuring of its business that will see up to 50 workers lose their job. Following this news I raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament with the Business Minister.

During that question I received assurances that those currently going through their apprenticeships would not be affected by the plan to cut the company’s workforce by 10%. This is a move that I welcome.

However it has since been announced that the company has reported a pre-tax loss in the first 6 months of this year of £1.8 million, combined with a drop in group revenues of 5.2%.

This will bring further worry and insecurity to the workforce, which is why I have written to both Havelock Europa and the Scottish Government to seek reassurances there will be no further job losses.

I appreciate that for many business the current climate is challenging and the local Fife economy has been dealt many blows in recent weeks and months from the closure of Tesco in Kirkcaldy, the closure of Tullis Russell and redundancies at Bi Fab. That is why we must work together.

You can read my letters to the Chief Executive of Havelock Europa and the Business Minister below. Continue reading

Post study work visa steering group

I am pleased to announce that I will be taking part in a cross party steering group established by the Scottish Government to work towards the reintroduction of the Post Study Work Visa in Scotland. The group will include members of all the major Scottish parties such as the Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf, and John Finnie MSP as well as representatives from the business and college and university sector.

The post study work visa was first introduced by the then First Minister Jack McConnell and his Labour led executive. Then it was part of the Fresh Talent scheme and its success in Scotland led to it being rolled out across the UK by the then Labour Government. Unfortunately it was then cancelled by the coalition during the last Westminster term.

The previous post study work visa allowed international students to remain and work in Scotland for 2 years following graduation from university, with the aim is to attract and retain world-class talent in Scotland. Continue reading

Film and TV studio vital for Scottish film industry

Today I have called for the Scottish Government to clarify what plans it has for a new film and TV studio to ensure that the Scottish film industry is not left behind its UK counterparts. I have made the calls following news that Screen Yorkshire has announced its new plans for film studio outside Leeds.

Scotland has the skills, talent and scenery to be at the forefront of the film industry, not just here in Britain but across Europe and the world. However without a dedicated national film and TV studio it faces being left behind.

Recently the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Energy and Tourism Committee published a report on the economic impact of Scotland’s creative industries (including the film and TV industry). Continue reading

Claire praises Fife at Big Lottery Fund reception

Last week I had the honour of hosting the Big Lottery Fund reception in the Scottish Parliament. The event, which was held in the Scottish Parliament restaurant, was held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Lottery’s first draw and the 10th year of the Big Lottery Fund. 

I was honoured to host the Big Lottery Fund event and to use the opportunity to highlight the excellent work being done across Fife as a result of their funding.

The aim of the event was to highlight the work of the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland and I was pleased to be able to use the opportunity to praise the excellent work being done across Fife as a result of their funding. Continue reading

Fife needs a pay rise

Last week was Living Wage week and Scottish Labour held a debate in Parliament calling for the wage to be the ‘expectation not the exception’. With over 400,000 workers across Scotland earning below the living wage, including 26,000 in Fife, during the debate calls were made for the Scottish Government to extend payment to all public sector contractors.

The minimum wage was introduced in 1999 but I believe that now is the time to go further. The figures mentioned above from accounting firm KPMG highlights the need for action. The fight for fair pay is sadly far from over.

Earlier this year I supported extending the living wage to staff on public contracts just as I supported colleagues during the debate on the 5th. Unfortunately the Scottish Government failed to support both calls.

Continue reading

Action needed to help Kingdom’s renters

Ahead of the Housing (Scotland) Bill Stage 3 debate next week I have called for action to reform the rental market in Scotland. Amongst proposals brought forward by Scottish Labour are plans to limit rent increases to once a year along with capping those increases. We have also, through my colleague James Kelly MSP, called for an increase in the level of tenancy from 6 months to 3 years.

These proposals come on the back of recent figures that highlights that over a fifth of those receiving benefits in Fife find themselves within the private rented sector. The moves that we have brought forward are essential to tackle the housing crisis faced by many across Scotland.

With many households facing ever increasing bills we must do all that we can to relieve the pressures families are continuing to face. Affordable rents are one way to achieve this and that is why I support Labour’s proposals for a capping rent increases in the private sector and limiting them to only once a year.

Continue reading

Claire calls for promotion of the living wage

I have urged for active promotion of the living wage in Fife after a YouGov poll found that 90% of Scots believe companies should be paying the wage to their workers. Figures estimated that there are over 23,000 workers in Fife who are paid less than the living wage, the 3rd highest total across local authority areas in Scotland. The wage, currently set at £7.65 an hour, would see a rise of £2,600 per year for a full time worker currently earning the minimum wage.

I have called for the living wage to be actively promoted amongst the private sector and has urged the Scottish Government to back a tax rebate for firms who pay it, along with establishing a National Living Wage Strategy.

I met with workers outside the Parliament as the Procurement Reform Bill was passed by Parliament. During the passage of the bill proposals from Scottish Labour to deliver the living wage to workers on public contracts were defeated by the SNP and Conservatives. Continue reading