This week is Challenge Poverty Week and Scottish Labour is continuing to work to address the drivers of poverty in our communities – calling for the scrapping of Universal Credit and the maximisation of benefits.
As part of Challenge Poverty Week I will be writing to organisations across Mid Scotland and Fife asking them to sign up to support the Right to Food as a core part of the forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill.
Food insecurity continues to be a critical issue and key to addressing inequality is ensuring everyone has the right to available, accessible and adequate food. This is why the Right to Food must be enshrined in law.
This Bill offers an opportunity to address inequality and rising demand for food banks by making a commitment to ensure everyone in our country can access the food they need and reduce the reliance on emergency food aid.
The decision to take forward the reopening of the Levenmouth rail link is very positive news. The reintroduction of a rail service will bring huge economic, educational, social and cultural opportunities to Levenmouth.
The announcement is testament to the determination and commitment of the Levenmouth Rail Campaign group. I have supported their campaign since I was elected in 2007 and am proud that Labour gave a commitment to reopening the line in our 2016 manifesto.
We recognised the strong case for the economic and social benefits it will bring to Levenmouth, and I am delighted that the Scottish Government is now convinced of the argument.
The confirmation that DF Barnes is to reopen the BiFab yard at Methil, creating 40 new jobs, is welcome news and provides a much-needed boost for the local industry in the short-term. However, work must continue to secure the long-term future of BiFab and for its skilled and committed workforce.
The new jobs are being created in Fife as part of BiFab’s contract for pin piles for the Moray East Offshore Windfarm, and are expected to be in place by 4th August.
We await news on the awarding of contracts for EDF Renewables’ Neart Na Gaoithe wind farm and I continue to urge EDF to award work to the Fife yards.
Following the decision not to retain Out of Hours services in Glenrothes, I have called on NHS Fife to ensure all residents continue to be supported in accessing available services in the region. It is extremely disappointing that Glenrothes will not have an Out of Hours service within the town and I understand people’s anger at this decision. Assurances must be provided to Glenrothes residents on the provision of free taxis as soon as possible to ensure those without transport can access services elsewhere in Fife.
I do welcome the news that overnight services will be provided in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, and that new arrangements will be in place in St Andrews. Fife residents have undergone months of uncertainty and it has taken far too long to reach this decision. The NHS board must act quickly to put the new arrangements in place and raise awareness of the changes. What we cannot see is any further delay or confusion.
At the core of these changes is a shortage of GPs and the knock-on effects are being felt across NHS services. Urgent action needs to be taken by the Scottish Government to increase GP numbers so services across Fife and Scotland can improve.
This week Scottish Labour led a debate in Parliament on the BiFab construction yards. Ahead of the debate I met with representatives of Fife – Ready for Renewal and gave my support to their campaign, which calls for work to be delivered to the yards in Methil and Burntisland.
The debate highlighted the location of EDF’s planned Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) Offshore Wind Farm off the Fife coast, calling for related contracts for turbine jackets to be awarded to BiFab rather than to overseas firms.
The idea that EDF will award the contracts for wind-turbine jackets for the NnG Offshore Wind Farm, sitting off the coast of Fife, to Indonesia to then be shipped over seven thousand miles to Scotland is just not acceptable.
I am urging EDF to do the right thing, to honour commitments they have given to local investment, to support the Scottish industry. In return they will receive a highly skilled, committed workforce.
Ahead of the introduction of new timetables in parts of the rail network, including on the Fife-Edinburgh line, ScotRail is promoting upcoming increases in available seats for passengers through its introduction of more high-speed trains and class 385 electric trains.
However there are no planned improvements for passengers travelling on the Fife circle, where commuters continue to experience delays, overcrowding and cancellations. ScotRail is failing to address the frustrations of Fife passengers and continues to deliver a sub-standard service.
While increases in available seats might be good news for other passengers, I am really disappointed that there is no good news for Fife commuters. Fife is again forgotten about while passengers continue to travel on overcrowded trains and have to put up with cancellations. Fifers spend a significant portion of their income on rail transport and this service continues to be not good enough.
We need to see improvement on the Fife circle sooner rather than later and I will continue to push for the Fife service to either be brought up to standard or for travellers to have a fare cut in compensation for the ongoing poor service.
Tomorrow I will use a speech in the Scottish Parliament to call for ScotRail to be stripped of its franchise agreement at the earliest opportunity and for it to be taken back into public ownership.
The poor performance of ScotRail in Fife is one of the biggest complaints that I hear about in my role as an MSP.
My inbox is regularly full of emails from frustrated commuters who are often faced with delays or cancellations to their trains.
As a regular user of the service to get to Parliament during the week, I know only too well the misery faced by commuters every day. Action needs to be taken.
Instead, we have the SNP Government doing a secret backroom deal with ScotRail that allows them to continually deliver late running services and not face any consequences. Giving ScotRail a licence to fail is not the answer. With ScotRail persistently to breach their contract, we must not be content to continually let them off the hook.
Over a hundred peak time Fife Circle services heading to Edinburgh in the morning, and coming from Edinburgh in the evening, were cancelled between April and September this year. Services that were not cancelled often fell below ScotRail’s punctuality target which is when a train arrives within 5 minutes of its schedule time.
This is not good enough. Fife deserves better and I will be putting your concerns directly to the Government tomorrow.
On average, 17 people in Scotland die each year as result of an ‘industrial incident’. It is simply unacceptable to have workers dying because of negligence or recklessness by their employers.
Far too many people in Scotland still do not return home to loved ones after going to work – this must change. That is why I have today lodged my proposal for a member’s bill on Culpable Homicide.
I would like to thank Scottish Hazards for their support and allowing me to launch my consultation at their conference in Glasgow this morning. I want to thank Thompsons Solicitors and Unite the Union for their continued support as well.
I especially want to thank Louise Taggart, whose brother Michael was killed at work in 2005 for joining me and telling her heart-breaking story.
Louise’s story shows the real human cost behind our failure to take the action needed. That is why I hope all political parties in the Scottish Parliament will join with myself and Louise to end the scandal of death and injury at work.
Last week I asked the new Transport Secretary to meet with myself and local MSPs to make the united case for the re-introduction of the Levenmouth Rail Project.
There is a clear cross-party consensus in Fife that the Levenmouth rail project should go ahead, and I hope that there is a similar consensus that it should be one of the Government’s next big infrastructure projects.
The Government reshuffle before summer has seen the transport portfolio promoted from a Junior Minister position to one that is now in the Cabinet. It has also combined transport with infrastructure and we need to use this opportunity to make our case to the new Cabinet Secretary.
With every passing year, the argument for the reintroduction of the Levenmouth rail link grows stronger. I hope my question is the beginning of a fruitful relationship with the new Cabinet Secretary.
If we can convince him of the clear benefits of the rail link then we will be one step closer to its introduction. Goodwill will only get us so far, it is time that we see concrete action by the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland.
Yesterday, the independent review into police conduct during the 1984/85 miners’ strike issued a call for evidence.
The long-awaited review will look into the protests against closure of pits across the UK by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Government. During that time 500 Scottish miners were arrested – this was 30% of arrests from the year-long strike despite the country only having 10% of the UK’s mining workforce.
We need to ensure that we achieve the justice that miners and Scottish mining communities deserve. We need answers to the tactics used by police during that time, including as to why the proportion of arrests where 3 times higher than the proportion of workforce.
The call for evidence is open until the 30th of November and views can be submitted online at the link below.
We deserve to know the truth about what happened in Scotland during that period. I’d therefore urge anyone involved in the strikes to make themselves known to the review and submit their evidence.