Parliament meeting to discuss BiFab’s future

This week a cross-party meeting will take place in the Scottish Parliament to discuss the future of Burntisland Fabrications with major energy company SSE, who own a 15% stake in BiFab.

I arranged the meeting with representatives from the Scottish Green Party, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats. Attending from SSE will be their Director of Renewables, Director of Procurement, Beatrice Liaison Manger and their Public Affairs Manager.

The meeting will discuss the awarding of SSE’s upcoming Beatrice contract, which could bring much needed jobs to the region and follows a lobbying of Parliament from BiFab trade union representatives who made their case for the future of the Methil yard in November.

Securing the future of BiFab is above party politics and I am therefore encouraged that a cross party group of MSPs have joined me in campaigning for the yard’s future.It is only by working together that we will be able to save the future of the yard in Methil. Continue reading

Claire calls for a Warm Homes Act for Mid Scotland and Fife

I am calling for a Warm Homes Act across Mid Scotland and Fife as figures show that nearly 1 million households in Scotland live in fuel poverty.

Latest fuel poverty figures released this week (15th December) highlights that the number of households fuel poor or living in extreme fuel poverty has remained similar to the previous year.

According to figures released by the Scottish Government and Scotland’s Chief Statistician, 34.9%, around 845,000 households, live in what is classified as fuel poor housing. A further 9.5% live in extreme fuel poverty.

Fuel poor households are more likely to report difficulties staying warm in the winter. 21% say that their heating keeps them warm in winter only “sometimes” whilst 9% say “never”. Fuel prices have increased by 3.5% in the last year.

In response I have called for an overhaul of Scotland’s planning, building and housing regulations to enable critical improvements to housing stock thus tackling fuel poverty through a Warm Homes Act.

The Act would also lay the framework to deliver affordable energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption and cutting carbon emissions. Continue reading

Claire Gives Evidence to the House of Lords

In my role in Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet as our democracy spokesperson I lead on issues relating to the constitution and where power lies in Scotland.

That is why today I was at the Centre on Constitutional Change at the University of Edinburgh, where I gave evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee.

The committee chaired by Lord Lang of Monkton, the former Secretary of State for Scotland, is currently holding an inquiry into the Union and Devolution.

Previously the committee has held evidence sessions with leading academics on Scotland and our constitutional arrangements with Professor John Curtice and Professor Jim Gallagher on previous panels.

Today it was the turn of politicians and I was joined by The Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, Baroness Goldie from the Scottish Conservatives, Maggie Chapman from the Scottish Greens and Cllr Robert Brown from the Scottish Liberal Democrats in giving evidence.

Questions focused on Scotland’s relationship with the UK, the devolution of further powers to the Scottish Parliament, fiscal redistribution and the impact of English votes on English laws.

Following the result of last year’s referendum and with further powers coming to the Scottish Parliament it is important that we continue to work positively and productively across the UK.

Now, more than ever, people in Scotland are having conversations about our democratic structures, conversations about where power lies and how it is used.

This goes beyond the question of whether Scotland should be independent or not to include our role in Europe, reform of local government and the House of Lords, even reform of how we vote.

I believe that power is best held in the hands of the many, not the few, in participation in our democracy, in accountability and transparency and in a Scotland where power is challenged from the bottom up.

 

Claire celebrates Coalfields Regeneration Trust

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.

Claire backs National Guarantee for care workers

I’m calling for a national guarantee for care workers in Mid Scotland and Fife that will see all workers paid the living wage and an end to exploitative zero hour contracts.

With an aging population and patients suffering from complex and multiple conditions, social care will be one of the biggest challenges facing the health service in the years ahead.

The easiest thing to do would be to continue a sticker plaster approach to health and social care in Scotland but we must meet this challenge head on.

As a result of the Chancellors spending review carried out last month, the Scottish Parliament will receive health consequentials of around £400 million.

I joined colleagues in the Scottish Parliament in putting forward proposals for using the majority of extra revenue to invest in social care.

We need to ensure that we have a health service that is fit for the future and meets the health needs of Scots in the years ahead.  Continue reading

Claire raises Forth Road Bridge timetable concerns

Today the Scottish Government made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the closure of the Forth Road Bridge for the next three weeks.

It was the first opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to ask the Scottish Government about the closure of the bridge and it is clear from the range of questions on maintenance, funding, and governance that we must have a parliamentary inquiry.

As someone that uses both the road and rail bridge to get from Fife to Parliament I fully understand the frustrations of commuters as they struggle to get to and from work.

I understand that the closure is especially having an impact on shift workers who many not be able to rely on public transport due to the hours that they work.

It is right that we do not take risks with the safety of the public and as such the Government were correct to shut the bridge due to structural faults.

I appreciate that Scotrail has laid on extra carriages for their peak time services but people are still being left at stations, or forced onto cramped conditions. Those who are taking the busses or car are also facing long delays on diversion routes.

It is important that the work to repair the bridge is carried out as quickly as possible to ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum.

That is why I took the opportunity during the statement to ask for assurances from the Scottish Government that their timescale of having the bridge open by the new year will be met.

You can read a transcript of my question below:

Claire Baker MSP (Mid Scotland and Fife): It is clear from the questions in the chamber today that we would benefit from a parliamentary enquiry on this issue.

The Minister has said it is anticipated that the bridge is to be open for people returning to work in the New Year. How confident is he in the timescale and which factors might lead to a delay. It is obviously of great concern to commuters in Fife, particularly shift workers that we see the bridge open as soon as possible.  

Minister for Transport: The last briefing I had – which was just before I left the national traffic control centre where the multi-agency response is being coordinated to come to parliament – was the work is on track as per the timetable that has been published.

Factors that may change that, of course, is the fact that the works are weather dependent because we won’t have people working in unsafe conditions but we are working around the clock to get the bridge open as quickly as possible.

Claire raises Fairer Fife Commission in Parliament

During Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament I tackled the Education Secretary on tackling the attainment gap in Fife and used the opportunity to highlight the launch of Fairer Fife Commission’s report ‘Fairness Matters’ which took place this week in Kirkcaldy.

The Fairness Matters report recommends that “all schools in Fife…develop and deliver a plan for significantly reducing the educational attainment gap…based on what is proven to work and with dedicated financial and in-kind support.”

The report is right to highlight the work that needs to be done to address inequality and poverty throughout the Kingdom and I welcome their recommendations. They will draw together partners and provide a focus for tackling poverty in the region.

Fife Council has made great strides in tackling educational attainment in our schools and their work is a positive example for other local authorities throughout Scotland. Continue reading

Claire publishes Jennie Lee Pamphlet

Over the weekend I was delighted to launch my pamphlet celebrating the work of the famous Fife politician Jennie Lee at well-attended events at the Lochgelly Institute and Edinburgh University.

Launching the pamphlet in Jennie Lee’s hometown and also at her old university, it was great to be able to count on the support of so many people that still love and appreciate all that she has done for arts and the Labour movement.

As someone who has grown up in Fife I know all about the work of Jennie Lee and the respect held for her by those who knew her. That is why I was determined to mark the 50th anniversary of her ground-breaking white paper.

Her story is a great one to tell. Like Jennie, I am a former pupil of Beath High School and I was delighted to be joined by the headteacher and senior pupils as well as pupils from Benarty Primary School keen to learn about Jennie Lee.

I was also delighted that Kevin Sayers from Fife Council was able to come along and talk about the work Fife Council is undertaking with community groups to recognise Jennie’s legacy in the upcoming years.

Jennie Lee is an inspirational figure for young people in the Fife area and I am pleased that my pamphlet kick starts recognition of her work.

Continue reading

Fife Gingerbread AGM

This week I went along along to Fife Gingerbread AGM. It was a moving and inspiring event. We heard from families who have worked with Fife Gingerbread and their experiences of supporting their children, building their own confidence and getting on in life.

It was great to see the way Fife Gingerbread are imaginatively using creative writing and art with families. It was clear to see how much everyone had benefited from expressing their creative side.

It was also great to hear about the progress of the Teen Fife Teen Parent Project and the awards they have been winning. It was a real pleasure to present the AGM awards this year and help recognise the women’s achievements. Looking forward to next year!

Keep Calmac and Carry on

Today Scottish Labour held a debate on keeping CalMac ferry services in public hands. Before the debate started I was pleased to join colleagues and members from RMT in protesting against the possibility of the service being privatised.

This service is a lifeline for many people in rural Scotland and I am proud to support our campaign to keep Calmac in public hands.

You can show your support to the campaign by signing our petition at the following link –> http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/…/keep-calmac-ferries-in-p…