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

BBC Charter can’t be driven by political ideology or grievance

Today (16th July) the Conservative Government at Westminster launched a Green Paper on renewal of the BBC’s Charter which is due in 2016. For the first time in the charter renewal process, the Scottish Parliament will have a consultative role in the process, following the Smith Report.

The BBC is one of our greatest institutions, envied the world over and treasured by many here at home. That is why today I warned against using the upcoming charter renewal process as a time to settle old scores and have it driven by political ideology or grievance.

In the lead up to last week’s budget, the Conservative Government blindsided the BBC by essentially cutting their budget. This was achieved by forcing the BBC to take control of free TV licensees for over 75s, something that was previous paid for by the Government. This week we have the announcement of a hand-picked group of advisors to report directly to the Government on charter renewal, weakening the public’s voice in the process.

This cannot be allowed to happen in Scotland. Continue reading

Fife Circle fears raised by Claire

I have raised concerns with Abellio ScotRail that the new Borders Railway could see a reduction in the number of trains and carriages available on the Fife Circle. These concerns arise from the Transport Minister’s reply to a written question where he said that the trains “planned to be used on Borders services also work across other routes in central Scotland, including, predominantly, Fife.”

Once again it looks like it will be Fife commuters that will be disproportionately hit and questions have to be asked as to why it is consistently the Fife Circle that is hit with carriage reductions.

The opening of borders railway should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially Abellio who were awarded the contract after work on the new line was already well underway. We have the iconic, and now UNESCO awarded, bridge over the Forth, we must now ensure that the line is fully serviced for the people of Fife. Continue reading

Government must commit to Fife Energy Park during Fife visit

The news confirming that Samsung are pulling out of Methil is another massive blow to the local Levenmouth economy and to the future of Fife Energy Park. Samsung’s pullout takes with them the promise of 500 jobs made by former First Minister Alex Salmond and follows fears of potential job losses at Burntisland Fabrications, (BiFab).

On Monday (6th July) the Scottish Government will be visiting Fife to hold a cabinet meeting and I have called for them to visit Fife Energy Park during their trip and respond to concerns of the workforce over the park’s future.

Announcing the trip, the First Minister said these visits were the opportunity for the Scottish Government to learn about the important issues affecting locals. If the First Minister is serious about listening to concerns of locals then she will agree to visit the park, less than 30 minutes away. Continue reading

Quad Bike Debate

Directly after First Minister’s Questions on Thursday I held a debate on the illegal and anti-social use of off-road motorcycles, particularly quad bikes and scramblers. The debate was an opportunity to make the case for action to address the problems we are seeing throughout Fife, particularly the examples I raised in Levenmouth and Kirkcaldy.

I have been campaigning for action on this issue for some time and I’m delighted that following my meeting with the Justice Minister earlier this year that he met with Police Scotland and they introduced a new police data management system.This will hopefully aid them in their attempts to tackle the issue of stolen bikes.

However, I am clear that more still needs to be done. We need to ensure that our local police have all the relevant tools in their box to deal with this problem, and we must look at what more can be done including looking at compulsory registration.

You can watch the debate on the video below, along with a copy of my motion and speech.

Continue reading

UCG concerns must be heard by Scottish Government

I have called for the Scottish Government to bring forward their proposed consultation on unconventional gas and fracking. The current delay is leaving the people of Fife and Mid Scotland voiceless as plans for underground coal gasification (UCG) continue in the area.  

In January, following pressure from campaigners, the Scottish Government announced that it was bringing forward a moratorium on granting future consents on unconventional oil and gas developments in Scotland. At the same time they announced plans to hold a public consultation.

However we are 5 months on and a consultation has still to be published. Meanwhile proposals for UCG are continuing and people across Mid Scotland and Fife are not being given the opportunity they need to voice their concerns. 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

Support for unpaid carers vital

This week is carers’ week and I have taken the opportunity to back calls for more support for unpaid carers across Mid Scotland and Fife. With an estimated 61,000 unpaid carers throughout the region, with almost half providing over 20 hours of care a week, support is vital.

It is important that the work of unpaid carers does not go unrecognised and unsupported. According to Carers UK, Scotland’s carers save the country £10 billion a year. The least we can do is work to deliver more support for the thousands of unpaid carers across Fife.

Fife is home to over half of Mid Scotland and Fife’s unpaid carers, with Kirkcaldy top of the region with 7,580 unpaid carers ahead of Mid Fife and Glenrothes, which also has over 7,000. Continue reading

Shocking cuts to Fife College numbers

Statistics released to me by Fife College has shown the full brunt of the Scottish Government’s cuts to college budgets. The statistics show that Fife College will have to cut thousands of student numbers for the upcoming academic year as 3,638 part time student numbers will be axed.

The sheer scale of cuts to student numbers at Fife College is shocking and it is clearly unsustainable in the long run.

We are seeing part-time students, often carers, parents and mature students, facing the brunt of these cuts and this will only end up locking many people in Fife out of further education.   Continue reading