Stonehouse Gala Day last Saturday. This is a great community event that
has lots of competitions for the best decorated house, a scarecrow
competition and a big parade down through the town to the Alexander
Hamilton Memorial Park.
amazing to see the amount of work people put into it all, and of course
none of them gets paid for it. I am hugely impressed by that commitment
and by the way the whole event brings people together.
children make up the Queen’s Court and get to ride in carriages drawn by
traditional Riverndale Clydesdale horses. Then there’s a pipe band,
fancy dress competition, even best-dressed bicycles, strollers and
fantastic kids from John Ogilvie High School in Hamilton (http://www.johnogilvie.s-lanark.sch.uk/)
came on a visit to the Parliament this week. Aidan and Megan, both
heading off to university in the autumn, were full of praise for the
Scottish education system, saying it had given them chances they could
never have hoped to get anywhere else in the UK – and, as they added,
they don’t have to pay the £9,000 a year tuition fees that English
students do. The Scottish Government firmly believes that a first-class
education should never be based on an ability to pay for it and should
be available to everyone.
Delegates from the Congress of the Council of Europe who visited us last
Friday were genuinely interested in what the future of Scotland as an
independent country might mean. They were particularly pleased that
Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has already set in motion the
means to ensure that local government and civic society would be safe in
an independent Scotland because their work would be enshrined in law.
been shocked and appalled by what goes on in the world when it comes to
sexual violence against children. I have worked over the years to do
anything I can to help crush it and all of the contingent behaviour that
goes with it, such as human trafficking.
people think that this is a problem only in developing countries and
that somehow Europe and the USA are free of it. Not true unfortunately.
was in Strasbourg on Monday, I was talking to some of the people in the
Council of Europe’s One in Five Campaign who are seeking to stamp on
this kind of behaviour. (http://www.coe.int/t/dg3/children/1in5/default_en.asp)
reliable data is incredibly difficult to gather for such an underground
activity, what is available suggests that about one in five children in
Europe are victims of some kind of sexual violence, usually from someone
they know. The real figure may be far higher.
Campaign is seeking to get more effective implementation of the Council
of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual
Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. You can find out more here:
driving to better equip children themselves, their families and carers,
with the knowledge and tools to prevent and report such abuse, thus
raising greater awareness. That seems to me a vital move forward if we
are to wipe out this kind of abuse.
different kind of abuse is dogging us more and more. It is Pay Day
Loans. These loans are handed out to folk who are already struggling
financially and are often available from high street loan shops – or
loan sharks more accurately.
Citizens Advice Scotland
wants to hear from people who have had a bad experience with one of
these companies and I doubt if they will be short of replies to their
survey. Interest rates can be 500 per cent.
Citizens Advice Scotland spokesperson Lucy
Manson says: “For some time now we have been very concerned about the
way that many payday lenders operate. CAB advisers across the country
have seen large numbers of people who are drowning in debt because of
the actions of payday lenders – particularly things like high interest
rates, poor background checks and harassment. 6 months ago the payday
loans companies promised they would clean up their act. We have been
running a survey to allow people to report whether they are sticking to
that promise or not.
“Our CAB colleagues in England and Wales
have today published the initial results of their part of the survey,
which shows that many payday lenders have broken their commitment to the
good practice charter they signed last year. They pledged then to carry
out checks on the customer’s finances to ensure they could afford the
loan, and agreed to freeze charges when customers are in financial
difficulty. Stories from customers south of the border show that in many
cases, lenders are falling short of keeping these promises.
Unfortunately, our evidence here in Scotland shows that this echoes
The Scottish Government is watching you.