Puffin Champion

Today the Species Champions initiative is relaunched in the Scottish Parliament. The initiative, run by Scottish Environment LINK, asks MSPs to become champions for wildlife in Scotland.

I am delighted to been one of the first champions announced on its launch date as I continue to champion the puffin, an iconic bird that can be found off the coast of Fife.

In the last parliament I tabled many questions and motions on puffins and the risks that they face and I look forward to working with RSPB Scotland once again in this parliament.

So far 48 MSPs have signed up to champion a specific Scottish species, which means over 80 MSPs have still to take part.

To find out who has already signed up and who you need to politely ‘badger’ to take part, you can check out the species champions webpage here: http://www.scotlink.org/work-areas/species-champions/

Scottish Government’s Legislative Programme

Yesterday the First Minister launched her Government’s programme for 2015-16. This will be the legislation that the Scottish Government will bring forward ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

With the Scottish election on the horizon, we have a shorter parliamentary year than normal so it is important that we use the time that we have to make progress in a number of key areas.

I was delighted to be able to speak during the debate. I want to see the transfer of power to local communities, empowering them to deliver the change that they need. It won’t be easy for a number of factors but the rewards will be huge if we see people engaging more in their communities, making decisions every day rather than just at the ballot box. Continue reading

Action now needed on Land Reform

Below is my Herald newspaper Agenda column from Friday 23rd of May

Today the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group will be publishing their final report and the onus is on them to provide a comprehensive and radical argument for the reform of land in Scotland.  

So far they have yet to match Johann Lamont’s pledge for extended community right to buy – even if there is no willing seller – as long as it is in the public interest. Nor have they proved to be as challenging and questioning as the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster who propose a robust and workable land register and a review of taxation and financial benefits.

Instead we had an interim report that was widely criticised for having too narrow an agenda, for being cautious, lacking ambition, and, in the straightforward words of Brian Wilson, of being “the most useless 52 pages ever committed to print”. Continue reading

Land Use and Sustainable Development – Blog

Last week I gave the opening address of the SEPA and SRUC two day conference on land use and sustainable development, a text of my speech follows:

Since the first conference in 1995 there have been a number of legislative changes to land management, including the abolition of feudal tenure, the agricultural holdings act, the Climate Change Act and the subsequent development of a land use strategy, as well as the introduction of right to roam and the establishment of National Parks. However, despite these changes the challenges of implementation still remain and these are ones we must all address, be that as politicians, campaigners and activists, land owners, managers and users. 

Like many Fife villages Kelty, where I grew up, illustrates how diverse land use in Scotland can be. From electricity pylons stretching across farmland, to St Ninian’s opencast and wind turbines by Mossmorran.  Next to the opencast is Blairadam Forest owned by the Forestry Commission, beyond Benarty Hill is RSPB’s Loch Leven nature reserve, while on other side sits Lochore Meadows Country Park.  Continue reading

Raptor deaths

Following the shocking and unacceptable deaths of the raptors in Ross-shire I have written to the Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse. The raptor deaths are the latest in a long line of attacks on our iconic wildlife.

The Scottish Government are consulting on greater powers for SSPCA officers which Scottish Labour support however we believe the Government should be going further. I am calling on the Scottish Government to review wildlife crime legislation in Scotland and vicarious liability.

A copy of my letter to the Minister can be found below. Continue reading

New food body can’t be a smokescreen for further cuts

Last year’s horsemeat scandal highlighted the SNP’s cuts to the very services that would ensure high food standards. The number of food safety samples taken dropped from over 16,000 in 2008-09 to 10,236 in 2011-12, Unison found that the number of meat inspectors has dropped by over 50%, from 170 in 2003 to 75 in 2013. There has also been in Scotland an 11% fall in the number of environmental health officers and a 21% drop in the number of specialist food safety officers.

It is therefore vital that the launch of a new food body, included in the Scottish Government’s Food (Scotland) Bill does not just consolidate existing groups or be a smokescreen for further cuts. Continue reading

Claire raises mackerel certification concerns

Yesterday in Parliament I quizzed the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment during Topical Questions on mackerel certifications.

The topical question was raised by Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands Jamie McGrigor following the breakdown of negotiations on the mackerel dispute with Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The breakdown was extremely disappointing for both Scottish fishermen and the communities that rely on the industry. The dispute has been ongoing for far too long and all attempts at talks have failed to provide an adequate solution. Continue reading

Claire calls for action to tackle the need for food banks

Yesterday in Parliament I raised the challenges facing food banks across the Kingdom during a Member’s debate. Having attended the launch of the food bank in Kirkcaldy I have seen first hand the demand for these services and the vital role they play in helping those that need it most. 

Recent reports that the food bank in Glenrothes is running low on food as it struggles to keep up with demand highlights how important these services are for the Kingdom. Those that have taken the time to help, from volunteering in the banks or donating food whilst they do their weekly shop, deserve our thanks. Without them the situation throughout Fife would be a lot worse.

My full speech can be found on the Scottish Government website.

Continue reading

Common Agricultural Policy – Parliamentary Debate

This week I opened for Scottish Labour on the Government debate on the Common Agricultural Policy. Farming plays an important role in Scotland’s economy, society, and well-being.  Our agricultural sector not only produces food for our country and beyond, but also contributes to the vitality of our rural communities.  CAP reform is the opportunity to make sure the support, which is public money, is directed to areas where it delivers the widest public benefit.

When we consider some of the current payments – subsidy being given to land which is not actively being used, highly profitable businesses receiving significant sums of public money, while other areas receive no or little support but, it can be argued provide greater community and social benefit – this is an opportunity to deliver a fairer system that is clear about what it values.  Continue reading

Clear to see local community group at open day

It was great to be able to pop along to the open day at CLEAR Buckhaven and hear about the work that they carry out throughout the local community as they hosted an open day for the public to open their new office on 36 College Street Buckhaven.  

The Fife based community group was established by local residents interested in improving the surrounding area in Buckhaven along with the local environment with the aim to build a better Buckhaven.