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.

Claire Welcomes Malawi to the Scottish Parliament

Recently I was delighted to welcome representatives from Malawi and give them a tour of the Scottish Parliament.

The group were visiting Scotland as guests of Dalgety Bay Parish Church who have a working partnership with Engcongolweni’s Church of Central Africa Presbyterian.

It was really good to meet members of both churches and hear about their relationship which has brought many positive benefits to communities in rural northern Malawi. This includes a project that provides clean water supply to the area, reaching over 7,500 people.

I was pleased to play my part in continuing efforts to strengthen the strong relationship Fife has established with this community in Malawi and I very much hope that they enjoyed their visit to Scotland.

BBC Charter Renewal

Yesterday the UK Government published their white paper on the future of the BBC.

I welcome their recognition of the importance of the BBC to both the general public and the creative industries. I am also pleased that the BBC’s scale and scope has not been reduced and that the licence fee has been secured for the duration of the upcoming charter.

There is a recognition in the white paper of the need for more decentralised decision making which will lead to greater Scottish content but this must be balanced with delivering a sustainable BBC, where skills and jobs are secured and high quality programmes produced.

Scottish Labour will continue to work towards securing the best deal for viewers in Scotland and throughout the UK.

You can read more about charter renewal here.

Fife Library Consultation

Fife Council is currently consulting on the future of library services in the Kingdom. In the face of a £77 million budget gap over the next three years the current proposal will see a change in current library structure.

The structure proposed would establish three models of library services: libraries open for up to 20 hours a week, libraries open 20 – 40 hours a week and libraries open 40 hours or more a week. Unfortunately under this structure 16 libraries are earmarked for closure.

Nobody wants to see libraries close and following a recent coffee morning and constituent survey in Kinghorn, I fully understand the strength of feeling within the community for keeping their local library open.

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River City visit

Yesterday I joined local MSP Jackie Baillie in visiting Shieldinch, the set of River City, on a tour of their studios in Dumbarton. There we met the show’s newest stars Sanjeev Kohli (Navid from Still Game) and Dawn Steele (Lexie from Monarch of the Glen)

As Scottish Labour’s Democracy spokesperson I’ll be leading our response to the BBC’s Charter Renewal Process so it was great to see how important the studios are to the sector and the local economy.

Charter Renewal must be about securing the best deal for the licence fee payer and ensuring we have a have a sustainable BBC in Scotland, where skills are harnessed and quality programmes produced.

Claire raises film studio at FMQs

During First Minister questions yesterday I raised the lack of progress on a film studio in Scotland. When I first came into the role as culture spokesperson for the party the Scottish Government were on the verge of announcing their plans. Nine months later I am still waiting but for the sector the wait has been much, much longer.

Their frustration at this lack of progress was clear to those who attended a Creative Industries conference in Edinburgh this week. I chaired a session in the morning of the conference that included the progress, priorities and next steps of Scotland’s screen industries and it was clear to me that the long wait for the studio is, according to many, beginning to hinder the growth of that sector.

Arabella Page Croft, a leading producer that can count the recent (and popular) Sunshine on Leith amongst her works, highlighted that 20 years ago Scotland was the biggest production cluster outside London. Now we are 6th behind Wales, Northern Ireland and regions of England. Continue reading

Creative Industries debate and BBC Charter Renewal

On Thursday I questioned the First Minister during FMQ’s about the future of the BBC before going on to lead for the Scottish Labour Party in a debate on the Creative Industries in Scotland.

We know that the BBC is facing a very tough licence fee settlement and we need to balance being ambitious alongside maintaining quality. That is why I called for an open debate that is led by licence fee payers during FMQs.

During the debate I cautioned that I have yet to see evidence that the Scottish public are calling out for a Scottish-only channel and we must ask if such a move is an appropriate use of licence fee payers’ money considering the considerable cost of such a move.

I also raised my reservations about moving to a federal system within the BBC. Many will remember the controversy when STV didn’t show Downton Abbey when it first aired in the rest of the UK. If we move to a system of buying and selling shows within the BBC then we could find popular BBC programmes not being available in Scotland. Continue reading

Scottish Government’s Legislative Programme

Yesterday the First Minister launched her Government’s programme for 2015-16. This will be the legislation that the Scottish Government will bring forward ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

With the Scottish election on the horizon, we have a shorter parliamentary year than normal so it is important that we use the time that we have to make progress in a number of key areas.

I was delighted to be able to speak during the debate. I want to see the transfer of power to local communities, empowering them to deliver the change that they need. It won’t be easy for a number of factors but the rewards will be huge if we see people engaging more in their communities, making decisions every day rather than just at the ballot box. Continue reading

First Minister must distance herself from Salmond’s BBC remarks

Today the First Minister gave the Alternative MacTaggart at the Edinburgh International Television Festival to discuss the upcoming BBC Charter Renewal.

Yesterday I visited BBC Scotland’s headquarters at Pacific Quay and I made the call for Nicola to distance herself from Alex Salmond’s recent attacks on the BBC. It is vital that the charter renewal process isn’t driven by political ideology or grievance, it cannot be about settling old scores.

Throughout the Charter Renewal process I will be calling for increased investment for BBC Scotland and for the retention of the quotas system for commissioning. It is important that we have a sustainable BBC in Scotland, where skills are harnessed and quality programmes are produced.   Continue reading