Family Migration

As the cabinet secretary said, the announcement on the post-study work visa is welcome, and the cross-party effort in Scotland should be recognised. It is a small step in the right direction, but we need more. Scotland is facing serious demographic challenges and migration will play…

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Strathearn Herald – August 2019

At the beginning of September the Scottish Parliament returns after a two month hiatus. Over the recess I have been working across the region, visiting community groups and recognising the hard work and commitment that goes on. The Parliamentary recess offers an opportunity to step back from the workings of Holyrood and to see first-hand the concerns of local people and to learn more about the work that goes on in our communities. It allows MSPs time to learn more about what matters to the communities and people of Scotland, so they can take these matters up in Parliament and act to address them.

That is not to say the business of politics stops when the Parliament is not sitting, and over the summer there has been no shortage of issues to address: from record drugs deaths to continuing mismanagement of the rail franchise; from GP shortages and delays in cancer treatment to overcrowding in prisons and another fall in Higher pass rates. This summer we have of course also seen the continuation of debate over Brexit, and the seemingly inevitable elevation of Boris Johnson to Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, for the First Minister, the summer recess has provided an opportunity to participate in a number of events at the Edinburgh Fringe, talking about independence and the difficulties of small talk with Theresa May.  Perhaps taking a leaf from the handbook of personality turned current Prime Minister, her team decided that this summer was an ideal time to chat with podcasters and appear on Loose Women, rather than address the key issues facing the people of Scotland.

Last week saw the publication of the latest GERS figures, stating that the country had a deficit of £12.6 billion in the last financial year which means an independent Scotland would have one of the biggest deficits in the developed world.  SNP plans to address the deficit would see unprecedented cuts for Scotland’s schools and hospitals – further austerity rather than much needed investment in our communities and public services.

When the Scottish Parliament returns the immediate focus will be on the Programme for Government, with the SNP Government unveiling its plans for legislation over the course of the Parliamentary year. Work on the Referendums Bill will continue, and the consequences of Brexit on our economy and our communities is never far from our agenda. But we must see the return to Parliamentary business which focused on addressing the issues that matter to Scots on a day to day basis.

We have much to be getting on with – from holding Abellio to account for the mis-management of the ScotRail contract, to finding better ways of addressing drugs addiction across the country, from supporting teachers and pupils in our education system, to ensuring people can get GP appointments and access other crucial healthcare services. We need to listen to the concerns of our communities and ensure our time in Parliament is used to deliver positive change.

Tourism & Hospitality (Employment Standards)

I welcome the announcement from both Governments about the city region deal and the £15 million for culture and tourism that the cabinet secretary referred to. The cabinet secretary will appreciate that tourism in Scotland relies heavily on European Union workers and that we will face challenges in that area in future years. Can she outline the work that is being done to promote tourism as a…

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Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight

As part of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight it was a pleasure to visit Novelli’s ice cream parlour in Burntisland to celebrate their fantastic ice cream, which is made in the parlour, and recognise its contribution to the vibrancy of the local High Street.

Claire Baker MSP with Nova Gamble of Novelli's

It’s great to see an innovative business providing a quality Scottish product and I enjoyed hearing about how Novelli’s, as a fairly new business, has flourished as well as its future plans.

This year Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight (31 August to 15 September) is celebrating 10 years of showcasing our counbtry’s food and drink sector. It’s an opportunity to highlight the success of businesses like Novelli’s which invest in quality produce and their contribution to our economy and communities.

Citizens Assembly of Scotland

This afternoon’s debate gives members an opportunity to consider the citizens assembly in more detail. Although the remit was published in August and the memorandum of understanding was published earlier this week, opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of the proposal has been limited…

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Art in Action in Strathkinness

This week I visited the 201 Telephone Box Gallery in Strathkinness as part of the nationwide Art in Action campaign led by Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN).

The Gallery is located in a disused telephone box which was adopted by Strathkinness Community Trust and converted into a contemporary art gallery in a project led by local artist and curator Lada Wilson.

The Art in Action campaign is promoting the valuable role visual art plays within communities across Scotland – and calling for stronger recognition of this value when it comes to decision-making.

The gallery provides a fantastic opportunity for the community to connect with visual art and has generated a lot of local discussion. I hope that through the Art in Action campaign, the role of art and artists in communities can be better understood so we can work to ensure better recognition of its value in decision-making at all levels.

The gallery itself demonstrates how the smallest of spaces can be used innovatively to explore ideas and bring visual arts into communities so it can be enjoyed and engaged with on people’s doorstep.

Welcome News on Levenmouth Rail Link

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.

Strathearn Herald – July 2019

The Scottish Parliament is now in summer recess.  Mid-Scotland and Fife is the second biggest geographical region after Highlands and Islands, so I welcome the opportunity recess brings to spend time in the region.  A recent visit to Crieff highlighted to me the important role community groups and volunteers play in preserving our towns and villages but also in developing new ventures to boost tourism and local interest. The Old St Michaels Church yard, having previously been uncared for, overgrown and even proposed as a potential car park site, now offers a place of reflection off the high street with maintained gardens and currently one of the Crieff Cowches.  Committed volunteers have created an asset for Crieff and demonstrates what can be achieved.

The Archaeology Trail at Strathearn Community Campus is another local initiative which aims to both celebrate local heritage and promote economic regeneration. The trail is a welcome addition to the area which involved local schools in its development as well as providing an education resource to connect the community with its history.
The Crieff Cowches are a welcome addition this summer.  Situated around the area, they bring the work of local artists to the community, provide interest and fun on the art trail and will be auctioned off for charity at the end of the project which is run by the local bid.  The project cleverly complements the Crieff in Leaf Coos celebrating the history of the tryst in Crieff.

Projects like these, which draw in support from local businesses and benefit from local expertise and connections, are key to stimulating ongoing interest for visitors and residents alike. With central funding for tourism always limited, finding ways of pooling local resources and securing financial backing are increasingly important.

I also appreciated a tour of the Glenturret distillery to hear about their plans following change in ownership.   Whisky tourism remains a key aspect of Scotland’s appeal to visitors and the distillery is an important attraction for the area.  Crieff has seen a shift away from traditional coach tours and increasing numbers of specialist visitors, coming specifically for the food and drink, or the history, or the wildlife.  It’s important to respond to these changes and can offer experiences which appeal.

Securing Crieff and Strathearn on tourist trails is important and opportunities need to be grasped.  The North Coast 500 show what can be achieved and the potential of cycle and walking based tourism could be promoted. What better way to explore our area of Scotland than to really slow your pace on two wheels or on foot.  Marrying up sustainable environmentally-friendly travel with the natural beauty of Scotland could open up huge opportunities for many communities and businesses.

Crieff is facing challenges as tourists need change, but we are well placed to take advantage of opportunities.  There is much to be positive about and that is reflected in the energy and commitment I have seen towards this special town.