Thereís been a great buzz at the Scottish Parliament this week as we
opened up the shop for business again on Tuesday, following the recess.
Thereís an almost tangible sense of excitement and enthusiasm as we set
about the new legislative programme and soon we will mark the one-year
to go point for the Referendum on 18 September 2014. Time flies!
First Minister set out a hefty chunk of work for all of us. You can see
the full statement here:
We are seeing very
clearly just how successful this Government is. As the FM put it,
ďindependence should be about empowering Scotlandís people as well as
Our powers remain limited
for the present but in the year ahead we have 13 new bills to accelerate
economic recovery and create more jobs. We want to reduce, as best we
can, the negative impact of economic austerity and to help create a
record of this Scottish Government is reflected in opinion polls both
about him and about votersí attitudes to what has been achieved.
as we all know, are not completely reliable but it was good to see that
our First Ministerís backing has gone up another 11 points to 48 per
cent of people being ďtotally satisfiedĒ with his leadership. Set that
beside the Westminster party leadersí support. UK Prime Minister David
Cameron gets a 21 per cent satisfaction rating while Labour leader Ed
Miliband and Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, both get 13 per cent.
Scotlandís people know full well where the best hope for the future
lies. We are fed up being subjected to legislation like the Welfare
Reform Bill coming out of Westminster from a Government we didnít vote
for. Now we have the opportunity up ahead to change all that. That is
our history in the making.
also showed that they overwhelmingly trust the Scottish Government to
make the best decisions here with 60 per cent in favour and just 16 per
cent wanting Westminster to make those decisions.
Speaking of daft decisions by Westminster, you have already viewed my
opinions on the so-called Welfare Reform Bill and I was talking in the
Chamber about its inequalities on our first day back.
first principle, one of the most outrageous points about this
cost-saving exercise is that the Chancellor, George Osborne, is reaping
the cash to subsidise mortgages for £600,000 properties in Kent for his
rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The UK is now the fourth most
unequal society in the developed world. An independent Scotland would
become the fourth most equal.
women and families are disproportionately affected by the UK
governmentís benefit reform programme can hardly come as any surprise to
its leaders. This is a landmark policy in the current Westminster
governmentís investment in future generations.
National Childrenís Bureau produced a report last week
http://tinyurl.com/l6qeflh that found up
to 1.5 million more children are growing up in poor households than in
1973. That means there are now about 3.6 million children in the UK
growing up in poverty. Thatís UK fairness for you.
freeze on Child Benefit, the benefit cap, reduction in the proportion of
childcare costs covered by Working Tax Credit, increase in the taper
rate for all Tax Credits, removal of the baby element of Child Tax
Credits, the requirement for lone parents on Income Support with a
youngest child aged five or six to move to Job Seekers Allowance,
abolition of the Health in Pregnancy Grant Ė and thatís all before the
assault of the bedroom tax where families have the audacity to give
their two children separate rooms or those with disabilities need space
for special equipment.
a reply to a letter I had written to Lord David Freud, the Minister for
Welfare Reform at Westminster, regarding some of the brutal inequalities
being endured by people in my constituency.
reply? He said they should get jobs or take in a lodger. Some of these
people are terminally in, unable to walk or move, dress or eat on their
own. I donít suppose Lord Freud has many lodgers in his Kent mansion,
which he only uses at weekends and for holidays.
constituency, I was deeply saddened to learn that Philips Lighting
company in Hamilton is cutting 133 staff at its factory in the town.
That equates to more than half of the workforce there so it is
devastating to all of those individuals and to their families.
factory workers at Philips are a kind of family, all of them very loyal
and committed staff. Being paid back with redundancy is a hard blow to
positively, it was great to see a new scheme to help older people stay
safe and secure in their own homes. I put forward a Parliamentary Motion
in support of Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLan).
The charity is beginning a new call line
providing regular contact with older people so as to ensure that they
are safe and well at home. The service also acts as an early warning
system, highlighting any problems that could become more serious.
Christina McKelvie, MSP for Hamilton,
Larkhall and Stonehouse, visited the team at its Montrose Crescent
office a couple of days ago for the launch of the new service.
I met with Teeda Boyd, the Locality Officer
of Reshaping Care for Older People and with some of the young people who
are being trained to up to make the calls.
I was really impressed to see sound
community action at work, helping not only the vulnerable older people
but the young people who are providing the service. There is real
commitment, compassion and care at VASLan and I could see that these
young volunteers are keen to help the older people in their community.
Older people can refer themselves for daily
calls or a relative or carer can do so on their behalf. Social services
may also make a request.
The calls are short, just two or three
minutes to check the individualís wellbeing. The young volunteers, part
of VASLanís Employability Project, are also trained to be alert to any
possible source of distress, such as fearfulness or isolation, and to
refer any issues onwards.