Tomorrow the Scottish Parliament can vote for a ban on fracking in Scotland after Scottish Labour submitted an amendment to a Government motion that calls for the ban to be introduced.
I have been campaigning for some time for a Frack Free Fife and this week offers the perfect opportunity for all Fife politicians to unite behind that goal.
Currently the Scottish Government has stopped short of implanting a full ban on fracking, introducing a moratorium (a short term pause) on the process instead. This is despite repeated calls from Scottish Labour, the Lib-Dems and the Green’s for an outright ban.
The Scottish Government can take decisive action against UCG and fracking in Fife and we know that from community groups, to national environmental organisations, to Fife Council there is support for an outright ban. Continue reading →
Today I took part in a member’s debate celebrating the work of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
The trust is based in Alloa and has worked across the Mid Scotland and Fife region in the past 15 years carrying out excellent work regenerating and addressing the challenges facing former mining communities.
Thirty years after the decline of the coal industry, there is a continuing legacy of poverty and deprivation, a set of circumstances which in recent years, has faced further pressure. There are still worse levels of deprivation in coalfield committees when compared to other areas, and the Trust report that Fife, by some margin, has the largest and most pronounced concentration of coalfield deprivation in Scotland.
I was able to highlight the Trusts work in Methil, where they provided grants to groups and projects through their Participatory Budget Fund. The fund has proved a success and for every £1 invested though participatory budgeting an additional £5 of external funding has been secured.
Communities living with poverty often feel remote from decision making or feel as if their vote at the ballot box doesn’t change their lives or community very much. Projects such as this give communities power, control and decision making, bring people together to improve their community and I am happy to continue to work with them in delivering change in Mid Scotland and Fife.
The Scottish Parliament held a debate to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the signing of the cooperation agreement with Malawi. The agreement, delivered by then First Minister Jack McConnell, was signed in November 2005 and linked two countries and 17 million people together.
The co-operation agreement was also the first step towards the Scottish Government’s international development fund, which has led to many positive successes around the world.
At the time of the partnership agreement, Malawi was one of the poorest countries in the world. Its income per person was $160 per year, and despite having a population and land area more than double that of Scotland’s its economy was little more than 1 per cent of ours. At the time Falkirk’s local economy was twice the size of Malawi’s.
The country was suffering one of the worst HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world’ life expectancy had fallen from 45 to 37 years, and the number of orphans in Malawi numbered the entire population of Edinburgh.
Since the agreement 150 schools, 15 local authorities, all of Scotland’s universitites, most colleges and hundreds of NGOs, businesses, charities and ambassadors throughout Scotland has engaged with Malawi.
This includes a large number of partnerships within Mid Scotland and Fife. Fife Council was linked with team Malawi in the Glasgow Commonwealth games, and Fife College has a number of links to the country.
Local schools such as Kirkcaldy High and Burntisland Primary are linking pupils in Scotland with Malawi, informing and inspiring future generations in both countries. St Kenneth’s parish church has links with villages in the north of Malawi and is helping to build infrastructure, fresh-water boreholes, schools and sustainable income-generating projects to help to lift people out of poverty.
We now must look at the future of the next 10 years of the agreement and the 10 after that. The work and progress already achieved in health and education is to be celebrated but more can still be done to help boost the country’s fragile economy.
The co-operation agreement is a success story that the Parliament should be proud of. The past 10 years are an example to other nations and an example that we must continue. If we can assist in any way towards a sustainable economy, we will have laid the building blocks of a stable and, I hope, peaceful and prosperous country.
You can watch the debate below or read my speech in the official report here.
As Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for Democracy I opened the debate in the Scottish Parliament on trident for the Party.
I was pleased that the Scottish Government accepted my amendment calling for the protection on jobs and the setting up of a strong jobs diversification strategy. It is vital that if trident is not renewed that the jobs and skills within the sector are not lost.
You can watch the debate on the video below.
The amendment I moved was:
“recognises the number of workers in the British defence system in Scotland and throughout the UK whose employment is linked to Trident-related activities and that firm commitments must be made to the trade unions on the retention of defence workers’ jobs; believes that, in the event of the cancellation of Trident, the establishment of defence diversification agencies at Scottish and UK levels is essential to deliver a strong defence diversification strategy that provides workers with high quality employment through the retention of skills developed in the sector, while delivering a UK defence sector equipped to deal with the world and dangers that it possesses, and calls on the UK Government not to renew Trident.”
Today I led for Scottish Labour in a Parliamentary debate on the Scotland Bill and the issue of more powers for the Scottish Parliament.
During the debate I called for the Bill to be strengthened to ensure that more powers come to the Scottish Parliament. Labour has laid amendments to the bill that would see the bill go beyond what was agreed in the Smith Commission and ensure that all VAT raised in Scotland would stay in Scotland.
I also called for full transparency in that discussions taking place between the Scottish and UK Government over the fiscal framework that will underpin the bill. We must ensure that we are getting a fair deal for Scotland.
Yesterday I led a debate for the Scottish Labour Party on the ongoing refugee crisis. The debate was an opportunity to discuss Scotland’s response to the crisis and to push for more help for refugees both in Syria, its neighbouring countries and in Europe
Prior to the debate I called for the Scottish Government to increase the number of refugees to be accommodated in Scotland to be at least 2,000 and I was pleased that following a meeting of their refugee taskforce they committed to meeting these numbers.
Scotland has led the UK in our response to the refugee crisis and it is important that we continue to do so. That is why I called for the number of refuges to be welcomed in Scotland to be at least double the 1,000 originally announced.
I also moved an amendment – that was passed by Parliament – which looks to build on the work of the University of Glasgow in accommodating Syrian students and academics.
Studies have been disrupted, jobs and trades lost and carers halted by this crisis. We must look at how we rebuild the lives of refugees and help them to build a better future.
We must ensure that refugees that come to Scotland are given more than just a home, they must be given hope of a better future.
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 →
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 →