Private rent hikes show need for rent cap

Official figures show that the cost of private rented housing has soared across Mid Scotland and Fife as working people across Scotland have been faced with the average mean monthly rent increasing substantially since 2010.

The figures from the Scottish Government shows that Forth Valley has seen the highest increases, up 10.6% for one bedroom properties, 19.5% for two bedrooms, 21.9% for three bedrooms and 33.9% for four bedrooms.

Properties in Fife have seen a 9.1% increase for one bedroom, 18.1% for two, 17.1% for three and 26.6% for four bedrooms. Perth and Kinross have seen 8.6%, 8.7%, 11.7% and 15.8% increases respectively.

It is clear that a radical change is needed to end Scotland housing crisis and that is exactly what the next Scottish Labour government will deliver.

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Claire launches culpable homicide consultation

On average, 17 people in Scotland die each year as result of an ‘industrial incident’. It is simply unacceptable to have workers dying because of negligence or recklessness by their employers.

Far too many people in Scotland still do not return home to loved ones after going to work – this must change. That is why I have today lodged my proposal for a member’s bill on Culpable Homicide.

I would like to thank Scottish Hazards for their support and allowing me to launch my consultation at their conference in Glasgow this morning. I want to thank Thompsons Solicitors and Unite the Union for their continued support as well.

I especially want to thank Louise Taggart, whose brother Michael was killed at work in 2005 for joining me and telling her heart-breaking story.

Louise’s story shows the real human cost behind our failure to take the action needed. That is why I hope all political parties in the Scottish Parliament will join with myself and Louise to end the scandal of death and injury at work.

You can view my draft proposal and consultation on the Scottish Parliament website: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusin…/…/110169.aspx Continue reading

Baker urges action over cervical screening

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.

Tullibody Healthy Living Project

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.

Claire grills STV Chief Exec on job losses

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.

Growth Commission Topical Question

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.

Nominate your Young Scot today

Outside the Scottish Parliament I recently joined previous nominees and winners of the Young Scot Awards and youth ambassadors who are celebrating the Year of Young People 2018 on the Young Scot Awards Citylink bus.

The bus will tour around Scotland with an aim to encourage others to make a nomination for an inspirational young person for this year’s awards.

Through my role as an MSP, I hear about so many inspirational young people who make a positive impact as individuals, work hard in school, and in our local communities.

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Claire backs Asbestos Action Tayside

I am backing Asbestos Actions’ calls to improve care for asbestos sufferers across the country. That is why I joined the group at Holyrood to launch their new support booklet for those affected by the conditions.

Asbestos related conditions claim around 3,000 lives in the UK every year. To put that in context, that is more than are killed on the roads throughout the country.

Asbestos-related diseases occur when people breathe in asbestos fibre which can lead to benign conditions like pleural plaques where the lining of the lungs or ribcage calcify or terminal cancers like mesothelioma which can prove fatal just weeks after diagnosis. Continue reading

Claire meets Clackmannanshire Group leader over council cuts

I recently met with the leader of the Labour Group on Clackmannanshire Council to discuss the threats facing the local authority’s budget. According to reports, the council is under threat of bankruptcy in the years ahead due to funding issues.

The Accounts Commissions has found that the council, along with Moray and North Ayrshire, facing running out of spare money for emergencies and face a “challenging year” ahead.

With budgets down 7.6% in real terms from 2010-11, local authorities across Scotland are facing having to either identify even more cuts or continue to dip into their reserves. If Clackmannanshire was to continue to use its General Fund reserves at the level planned for 2017-18 it will have run out within two to three years’ time.

We can all see in our communities the impact cuts to local authorities’ budgets are having. These are cuts to local services that we all use and has an impact on many, young and old. Further cuts, initiated by Westminster and passed on by the SNP Government in Holyrood will only make things worse. There are real threats that further valued services will close down. Continue reading

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.

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