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.

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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

Positive and progressive vision for Europe needed

Today I called for a positive and progressive vision for Scotland and the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. As we move towards the EU referendum it is important that the ‘Yes’ side does not get fixated on process and instead wins the argument for staying in the EU.

I made the calls during a debate on the EU referendum today in the Scottish Parliament and I was delighted to lead for Scottish Labour as our spokesperson on Europe.

The benefits of Scotland and the UK continuing as part of the European Union are considerable and all those in favour of a Yes vote must now work towards making the positive, progressive case for our continued membership.  Continue reading

Film and TV studio vital for Scottish film industry

Today I have called for the Scottish Government to clarify what plans it has for a new film and TV studio to ensure that the Scottish film industry is not left behind its UK counterparts. I have made the calls following news that Screen Yorkshire has announced its new plans for film studio outside Leeds.

Scotland has the skills, talent and scenery to be at the forefront of the film industry, not just here in Britain but across Europe and the world. However without a dedicated national film and TV studio it faces being left behind.

Recently the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Energy and Tourism Committee published a report on the economic impact of Scotland’s creative industries (including the film and TV industry). Continue reading

Scotland’s Place in Europe

Yesterday I led for Scottish Labour during a Scottish Government debate on Scotland’s Place in Europe.

During the debate I highlighted the benefits of the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union and the access to the single market that membership brings.

I also called for a clearer focus from the EU on tackling youth unemployment and inequality, including opposing cuts to the Horizon 2020 funds that greatly benefit Scottish Universities. Continue reading

Action needed over NHS missed targets

Last week it was announced that the number of patients being treated in Accident and Emergency within the 4 hour waiting time target had dropped to 90.9% in December 2014. This is a significant drop from the 98.5% that was recorded in the same month in 2013 and down from the 95.2% in November 2014.

As I result I have written to the Scottish Government to call for them to take appropriate action to address this fall and ensure that the resources are available to staff to enable them to treat patients within the waiting time target.

Staff within the NHS do a great job under ever increasing pressures and therefore it is vital that they have the right resources available to them to ensure that our patients are being treated to the highest possible standards.

We knew previously that NHS Fife is struggling from bed blocking and increasing locum costs. We now know that they are also struggling to meet their four hour waiting time target. That is why the Scottish Government must take action. Continue reading