We must offer refugees hope as well as a home

Yesterday I led a debate for the Scottish Labour Party on the ongoing refugee crisis. The debate was an opportunity to discuss Scotland’s response to the crisis and to push for more help for refugees both in Syria, its neighbouring countries and in Europe

Prior to the debate I called for the Scottish Government to increase the number of refugees to be accommodated in Scotland to be at least 2,000 and I was pleased that following a meeting of their refugee taskforce they committed to meeting these numbers.

Scotland has led the UK in our response to the refugee crisis and it is important that we continue to do so. That is why I called for the number of refuges to be welcomed in Scotland to be at least double the 1,000 originally announced.

I also moved an amendment – that was passed by Parliament – which looks to build on the work of the University of Glasgow in accommodating Syrian students and academics.

Studies have been disrupted, jobs and trades lost and carers halted by this crisis. We must look at how we rebuild the lives of refugees and help them to build a better future.

We must ensure that refugees that come to Scotland are given more than just a home, they must be given hope of a better future.

You can read my speech here.

Creative Industries debate and BBC Charter Renewal

On Thursday I questioned the First Minister during FMQ’s about the future of the BBC before going on to lead for the Scottish Labour Party in a debate on the Creative Industries in Scotland.

We know that the BBC is facing a very tough licence fee settlement and we need to balance being ambitious alongside maintaining quality. That is why I called for an open debate that is led by licence fee payers during FMQs.

During the debate I cautioned that I have yet to see evidence that the Scottish public are calling out for a Scottish-only channel and we must ask if such a move is an appropriate use of licence fee payers’ money considering the considerable cost of such a move.

I also raised my reservations about moving to a federal system within the BBC. Many will remember the controversy when STV didn’t show Downton Abbey when it first aired in the rest of the UK. If we move to a system of buying and selling shows within the BBC then we could find popular BBC programmes not being available in Scotland. Continue reading

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

Quad Bike Debate

Directly after First Minister’s Questions on Thursday I held a debate on the illegal and anti-social use of off-road motorcycles, particularly quad bikes and scramblers. The debate was an opportunity to make the case for action to address the problems we are seeing throughout Fife, particularly the examples I raised in Levenmouth and Kirkcaldy.

I have been campaigning for action on this issue for some time and I’m delighted that following my meeting with the Justice Minister earlier this year that he met with Police Scotland and they introduced a new police data management system.This will hopefully aid them in their attempts to tackle the issue of stolen bikes.

However, I am clear that more still needs to be done. We need to ensure that our local police have all the relevant tools in their box to deal with this problem, and we must look at what more can be done including looking at compulsory registration.

You can watch the debate on the video below, along with a copy of my motion and speech.

Continue reading

Positive and progressive vision for Europe needed

Today I called for a positive and progressive vision for Scotland and the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. As we move towards the EU referendum it is important that the ‘Yes’ side does not get fixated on process and instead wins the argument for staying in the EU.

I made the calls during a debate on the EU referendum today in the Scottish Parliament and I was delighted to lead for Scottish Labour as our spokesperson on Europe.

The benefits of Scotland and the UK continuing as part of the European Union are considerable and all those in favour of a Yes vote must now work towards making the positive, progressive case for our continued membership.  Continue reading

Scotland’s Place in Europe

Yesterday I led for Scottish Labour during a Scottish Government debate on Scotland’s Place in Europe.

During the debate I highlighted the benefits of the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union and the access to the single market that membership brings.

I also called for a clearer focus from the EU on tackling youth unemployment and inequality, including opposing cuts to the Horizon 2020 funds that greatly benefit Scottish Universities. 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

Claire and Greener Kirkcaldy Shine on Fife for Earth Hour

On Thursday I held my members debate on local organisation Greener Kirkcaldy, following the debate we both teamed up to lend our support to WWF’s Earth Hour which takes place on Saturday 29 March.

The members’ debate followed my motion submitted following Greener Kirkcaldy’s annual gathering. The community based charity helps locals take action to ensure environmental issues are being tackled both at home and in the wider community.

It was great to get the opportunity to support and debate the hard work of Greener Kirkcaldy in the Scottish Parliament and promote their work to other MSPs and the Scottish Government.

Continue reading

Claire to debate Greener Kirkcaldy in Parliament

Local organisation Greener Kirkcaldy will this week be debated in the Scottish Parliament as Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Claire Baker secured an opportunity to discuss the Fife based charity.

The charity helps locals take action to ensure environmental issues are being tackled both at home and in the wider community.

The organisation has ran initiatives such as Shine on Fife and Cosy Kirkcaldy with a consultation on plans for a community food hub currently running.

Continue reading