Claire launches culpable homicide consultation

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.

You can view my draft proposal and consultation on the Scottish Parliament website: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusin…/…/110169.aspx Continue reading

Action must be taken over ScotRail’s poor performance

I’ve called for the Scottish Government to use the break clause in ScotRail’s franchise agreement and bring the railway back into public ownership.

Statistics released to me show that between April and September peak time services between Kirkcaldy, Cardenden and Edinburgh were cancelled 110 times. This figures only looked at services from Fife to Edinburgh in the morning, and return evening journeys, meaning the total figures for the Fife Circle could be much higher.

It is no wonder that passengers are frustrated. Bearing in mind that ScotRail calculate a train being ‘on time’ as one that arrives up to 5 minutes late, the 17:02 Edinburgh to Dundee service, calling at Kirkcaldy, was only ‘on time’ in 55% of cases in June, and 56% of times in August and September. The 17:41 Edinburgh-Inverness train, calling at Kirkcaldy, was only ‘on time’ 54% of the time in June.

We have known for some time that Fife commuters are having to deal with delayed, cancelled or over-crowded trains and spiralling high ticket prices. For far too long, Fife has had a second-class rail service that is far below the standard we should expect. Continue reading

Claire visits Kingdom Abuse Survivors Project in Kirkcaldy

It was a pleasure to visit Kingdom Abuse Survivor Project to talk about the important work they do supporting people across Fife who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

KASP are a vital local service that “exists to provide support which aims to eliminate the debilitating effects that childhood sexual abuse can have on adult survivors.”

Since its formation in 1995, KASP have offered support to 3,548 people from across Fife, with 321 in contact in just the last year and 171 receiving continual support over the year.

KASP offers vital face-to-face support and receive referrals from police, GPs, other organisations and self –referrals.

Demand is growing and it is vital that we continue to support KASP and organisations like them. If you wish to support them in the work that they do, or wish to find out more information about the services they provide, you can find out more on their website: http://www.kasp.org.uk/

News Transport Secretary must meet over Levenmouth Rail

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.

20th Anniversary of Ecology Centre celebrated in Parliament

Earlier this month I was delighted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Kinghorn Loch Ecology Centre at Kinghorn Loch by holding a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

I was also pleased to meet with staff and volunteers prior to the debate, giving them a tour of Parliament and hosting them afterwards for a small reception.

The Ecology Centre is a great example of an inclusive, community-led charity that aims to inspire positive change through connecting people and the environment.

Over the years the site has developed and is now an impressive facility with many different projects engaging with local people of all ages, involving them in making positive change in their community.

Baker urges action over cervical screening

I am once again backing Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and their work to try and increase the rate of cervical screen in Fife and across Scotland.

The latest annual cervical screening statistics show that there has been a slight fall in Fife and Scotland in the number of cervical screenings. According to statistics attendance is lowest amongst those aged under 30, women living in areas of deprivation, or from black, Asian, and minority ethnic, communities.

This is despite the fact that cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 and is largely preventable through screening and HPB vaccination programmes. Therefore, any decrease in screening rates is disappointing and I would urge all women who are eligible to attend regular check-ups to take part in what can be a potentially life-saving test.

That is why increasing the rate of screening must be a priority. We need to ensure appointments are more accessible, we are targeting the groups that are less likely to take a smear test for a variety of reasons and we are looking at innovative solutions such as increasing access through sexual health services and the introduction of self-sampling.

Baker calls for urgent meeting as school cuts hit Fife

I have written to Fife Council to call for an urgent meeting to discuss the cuts to many high school budgets in Fife.

According to reports, secondary schools in Fife are facing a reduction of £1.3m in the next financial year. This includes Bell Baxter (£272,688), Balwearie High (£265,167) and Levenmouth Academy (£85,164).

Local parents have raised concerns that the proposed changes could result in restricting the curriculum and guidance teachers. Teaching union EIS have written to all Fife councillors calling for them to reject any proposals that would see staffing levels reduced.

I have serious concerns about the scale and pace of the changes that some secondary schools are having to manage. Schools are already facing a challenging time and these proposals could undermine pupils’ futures.

Questions have to be asked as to why schools who are facing challenging inspection reports, or situated in places of high deprivation, are facing cuts, though others are seeing increases. Even with an element of redistribution, £1.288m is still being removed from the budget. That is why I have written to Fife Council and I am calling for an urgent meeting and full explanation of this decision.

They need to demonstrate full transparency when it comes to these changes and be prepared to justify why so many schools in Fife are being hit with such a significant reduction to their yearly budget.

NHS Fife once again misses 18-week CAMHS target

Latest figures from ISD Scotland show that NHS Fife is still failing to meet the 18-week standard set for tackling child and adolescent mental health.

Despite the standard being set at 90% of patients being seen within the 18-week period, only 70.2% were seen within that time in the past quarter. Whilst this is up from the 67.7% in the quarter previous, it is down on the 74.8% for the same time last year.

These figures must serve as a wakeup call for NHS Fife and the Scottish Government. I am regularly contacted by constituents concerned by their, or their child’s, long waiting times and we need to see action taken to ensure all patients are seen within 18 weeks.

Continue reading

Miners’ strike call for evidence

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.

You can do so here.

Claire grills STV Chief Exec on job losses

In light of STV’s announcement that they are closing STV2, reducing their news provision and axing 57 jobs, the station’s Chief Executive was hauled in front of the Culture Committee yesterday to be grilled by MSPs.

There I asked – in light of £18m in profits and his own salary and remuneration package in excess of £1.2m – why they are putting shareholders before staff and viewers.

Mr Pitts’ also refused to rule out compulsory redundancies, which is deeply concerning for all involved at the station. There are real fears within the sector and from myself that job losses and the reduction in news programming will damage the company’s ability to properly serve all of Scotland’s communities.

These cuts are being carried out by a chief executive who is paid a gold-plated salary package equivalent to UK national broadcast bosses whilst at the same time he is turning STV from a national news broadcaster into little more than a regional outfit.

Scotland needs a vibrant and strong independent broadcaster to hold governments at Westminster and Holyrood to account. STV’s ability to carry out that role is being put at serious risk with these cuts.