Claire calls for action over child homelessness

This week I called for the Scottish Government to ‘wake up’ to the growing housing crisis facing Scotland after Shelter Scotland released figures showing that over 4,000 children in Scotland will be homeless this Christmas

These figures will shock anyone who has read them and must act as a wake up call to the Scottish Government. Nobody wants to see a single child spend Christmas homeless, let alone 4,000, and we all must work together to fix this growing crisis.

According to Shelter Scotland, a shortage of affordable social housing is the root cause of the problem, which is why I have called for the Scottish Government to back Labour’s proposals for a National Housing Action Plan. Continue reading

Claire calls for the Government to reconsider rent cap opposition

Today I have called for the Scottish Government to reconsider their opposition towards capping rent rises after the SNP rejected the plan for the third time in Parliament yesterday. I am disappointed that for the third time the SNP have voted against our calls despite advice from their own Expert Working Group.

The Expert Group on Welfare earlier this year recommended a rent cap that would rise in line with inflation. Their decision to reject these simple but effective proposals benefits those landlords within the renting system that are keen to make a quick buck at the expense of hard working families looking to make ends meet.

Earlier this year, Scottish Labour proposed a cap on rent rises during the passing of the Housing (Scotland) Act with the aim to stop tenants being exposed by landlords imposing excessive rent hikes. I supported these proposals but they were blocked by the SNP and Conservative parties when they voted against them.  Continue reading

Claire raises antisocial behaviour in Fife

Yesterday I raised concerns over antisocial behaviour with quad bikes in Fife following fears raised by constituents. I raised the issue with the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs during General Questions in the Scottish Parliament.

I called for the Government to look at strengthening fixed penalty notices to give the police more ‘tools in their box’ to deal with problems around quad bike usage. I raised the issue following concerns that anti-social behaviour on quad bikes was taking place in Fife with the bikes being used on pavements and streets.

I have seen an increase recently in the number of people contacting me about the issue of quad bikes and antisocial behaviour. This is not just an issue for rural Scotland but is becoming an issue and nuisance on the streets and pavements of Fife. Continue reading

Claire writes to Justice Secretary as crime in Fife rises

Today I have written to the Scottish Government to call on them to tackle Fife’s rising crime rates after the release of the latest official Recorded Crime Statistics has shown a 6% increase in reported crime in Fife. 

These statistics highlight the unacceptable increase in crime in Fife, despite the level in Scotland reaching a 40 year low. We must now look beyond these figures and ask why this rise in Fife has taken place.

The increase in reported crime follows on from concerns I raised last year regarding the restructuring of police services in Fife after it was announced that the number of chief inspectors throughout Fife was being more than halved, down from seven to three.

With the advent of Police Scotland concerns were raised over the future of local policing and the ability for the new force to respond to local concerns. Questions must now be asked of the new Justice Secretary if the current structure and planning has negatively impacted on local policing, particularly in Fife. Continue reading

Claire praises Fife at Big Lottery Fund reception

Last week I had the honour of hosting the Big Lottery Fund reception in the Scottish Parliament. The event, which was held in the Scottish Parliament restaurant, was held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Lottery’s first draw and the 10th year of the Big Lottery Fund. 

I was honoured to host the Big Lottery Fund event and to use the opportunity to highlight the excellent work being done across Fife as a result of their funding.

The aim of the event was to highlight the work of the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland and I was pleased to be able to use the opportunity to praise the excellent work being done across Fife as a result of their funding. Continue reading

Claire backs ‘Make Renting Right’

Last week I backed a new campaign for a fairer deal for Scotland’s private renters. Shelter Scotland’s “Make Renting Right” campaign has called to reform the sector to make it work for both the people who live in rented housing, and landlords who let out their properties.

The campaign has 5 key aims, calling for a private rented sector that has; stability, flexibility, a modern tenancy, a fair system and predictability.

The campaign follows warnings from Professor David Bell of the University of Stirling that young people faced a choice between living in “increasingly expensive private rented accommodation, which limits their ability to save, or to remain living with parents.” Continue reading

Fife needs a pay rise

Last week was Living Wage week and Scottish Labour held a debate in Parliament calling for the wage to be the ‘expectation not the exception’. With over 400,000 workers across Scotland earning below the living wage, including 26,000 in Fife, during the debate calls were made for the Scottish Government to extend payment to all public sector contractors.

The minimum wage was introduced in 1999 but I believe that now is the time to go further. The figures mentioned above from accounting firm KPMG highlights the need for action. The fight for fair pay is sadly far from over.

Earlier this year I supported extending the living wage to staff on public contracts just as I supported colleagues during the debate on the 5th. Unfortunately the Scottish Government failed to support both calls. Continue reading

Action needed on zero hours contracts

A new report from Citizens Advice Scotland has claimed that zero hour contracts are leaving thousands of working Scots on the brink of poverty. Citizens Advice Bureaux’s have reported concerns over the legal protection workers on these contracts have from poor employment practices. This includes workers finding their hours suddenly cut in an attempt to make them resign.

These contracts in a lot of cases aren’t being used to offer flexibility to the employer or the employee. Instead they are the only employment option available to those wanting to work.  If we are to fully tackle issues of poverty and exploitation in Fife and beyond then we must ensure that we don’t just condemn them but act on the misuse of zero hour contracts.

According to the Office of National Statistics there are around 1.4 million employees with zero hour contracts. Many of these workers are more likely to be female, either under 25 or over 65, and more likely to want to work more hours than they currently do.  Continue reading

March for Gaza

On Saturday I joined with approximately 700 fellow Fifers in marching through the driving rain in Kirkcaldy to show our support for those affected by the terrible atrocities taking place in Gaza.

The march, organised to show solidarity with those in Gaza and Palestine, highlighted the strength of feeling within the Kingdom to speak out against what is taking place in the Middle East.

Fife Council has taken action to raise awareness by flying the Palestinian Flag over Fife House for a week. With Council Leader David Ross stating that he hopes it will “add strength to the public pressure for a lasting cease fire which can help bring about peace and stability in the area.”  Continue reading

Claire writes to Health Secretary over NHS Fife funding

This week I have written to the Health Secretary Alex Neil MSP following reports that NHS Fife is on the brink of a staffing shortage. According to the Courier NHS Fife is suffering from a shortage of 40 consultants and finding the hiring of locum staff difficult.

This has contributed to NHS Fife failing to meet its six-week waiting time target with breaches now at their highest ever level and double what they were at the same time last year. At the end of April it was recorded that 1,540 patients out of the 5,765 who were waiting for a diagnostic test have waited for longer than the six week period.

The increase in breaches and the staff shortage highlights deeper problems within the NHS in Fife. It is becoming increasingly clear that due to Government underfunding staff in NHS Fife are being continually stretched beyond their means. Continue reading