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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
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