Living up to our
Politicians are constantly being accused of failing
to live up to the promises they make in their campaigns. And it has to
be said, governments do often fail to deliver.
One of the most
memorable failures in Westminster in recent years was when the Lib Dems
campaigned in the General Election saying they would never, ever accept
university tuition fees. As soon as party leader Nick Clegg joined David
Cameronís coalition government as Deputy Prime Minister, the policy was
dumped and tuition fees of £9,000 a year became the norm for students in
the rest of the UK.
That didnít happen in
We live up to our
commitments and the statement that students living and going to
university or college in Scotland would not be paying any fees has
stayed good. Education should be based on ability, not on the depth of
Scots donít pay fees
folk enjoy life
Free personal care for
older and disabled people has been a touchstone of the Scottish
Governmentís commitments and now people have very clear proof that we
are delivering. Another commitment that weíre delivering on.
Thanks to this SNP-led
Government, instead of just 57 per cent of people needing free personal
care at home actually getting it as in 2003-2004, the figure is now 95
South Lanarkshire has
seen a near doubling in the number of hours since 2006-07, rising from a
figure of 14,000 hours then to the 2012-13 figure of 25,800 hours.
For me, itís simple. I
want to see every older person treated as I would treat my own parents.
People live longer these days and may, in later life, suffer from
several medical conditions that require ongoing help and support.
Westminster seems to
have little interest in the quality of life for our older and disabled
folk. We have already seen that time and again in the way they cut back
benefits to the most vulnerable in society.
For us in Scotland,
that wonít do. We are absolutely determined to protect those vulnerable
people and to respect their needs and values. They have paid their
taxes, have contributed to the economy and society, and some politicians
would have us now ignore them.
Not for us. In
2003-04, average hours for personal care were 6.9 a week. Now itís 8.44
hours. In 2003-04, the total number of hours a week in Scotland was
226,00. Now itís 398,400. Thatís an increase of 76 per cent.
And of course that
matters to people and they see it in their daily lives, even while
Westminster eats away at the weekly income. Free personal care allows
people to remain at home, with support, rather than having to go into
residential care. It means that they can enjoy the quality of life they
deserve for much longer than they could without this service.
As well as that, there
is a knock-on effect for the hard-pressed families who cannot always
cope with the needs of family members who have complex medical needs.
Instead, they are freed up to go back to work, take care of young
families and still look after the relatives they love.
While older people
form a larger percentage of our population Ė and will continue to do so
Ė the public sector needs to be able to respond appropriately to their
needs. Current projections suggest that our population will rise to 5.78
million by 2037 and that the number of people aged 65 and will increase
by 59 per cent from 0.93 million to 1.47 million.
Scotland is not alone.
Every country in Europe will have to manage an aging population over the
next generations. There is no easy or cheap way out. We either care for
our old people or we donít.
This government knows
its priorities and the priorities of the people here. We will not
tolerate poor or inadequate care for people in later life. Our
commitment to free personal care is a very clear statement of our
recognition that people deserve to be able to live in their own homes
for as long as they can.
Weíre busy on Europe.
Thereís the European elections coming up on 22 May when weíre hoping
weíll manage to land a third seat over and above the two MEPs we already
We in Scotland know
very well that Europe is good for us Ė but it would be so much better if
we had representation of, say, 11 or 12 MEPs rather than 6 on the coat
tails of Westminster. That demands a Yes vote. Without that, we could
find ourselves dragged kicking and screaming out of Europe because
thatís what voters in the rest of the UK seem to want.
Nigel Farage, the
leader of the anti-European and anti-immigration Ukip party, made a
tentative visit to Edinburgh on Friday, declaring that Scots were about
to back his policies. Since his supporters were well outnumbered by
protesters, I donít think the Scots are daft enough to fall for his
The European Parliament
As regular readers
will know, I am Convener of the Scottish Parliamentís European and
External Affairs Committee, so Iím closely involved with both the theory
and the practice of how Europe works for and in Scotland. We also bring
a lot to the European table Ė huge resources of wind and wave power, oil
and gas, renewable energy skills, life sciences, for example Ė so I thin
we have the making of a very happy marriage!
We celebrated Europe
Day on 9 March, commemorating the Schuman Declaration which recognised
the start of the modern European Union. That declaration outlined
Schumanís vision for maintaining peace and unity in Europe, making war
between member states something to never again be contemplated.
What the Schuman
Declaration also did was prepare the soil for planting seeds that would
develop enlargement, draw in new members and spread the word on how
important it is for nations to work together without conflict.
benefited from EU membership not only on economic grounds but also on
cultural and social grounds. We see our place at the heart of Europe and
we know continued membership is vital to the economic wellbeing of
Community gardening project
More on planting seeds! Gardening is good
for all of us, but there are some folk who especially benefit from the
opportunity to share something creative and develop their own sense of
So I was delighted to hear that Larkhall
Community Growers has been awarded £39,017 under the Young Start funding
The project has two
distinctive strands: to be creative in music and radio on the one hand
and to be creative in the garden on the other. Participants are young
people with a range of abilities and some additional support needs.
Some 80 children will
benefit from the award, 40 of them under 11 years old. The grant comes
from the Big Lottery Fund New Start scheme wich aims to distribute money
from dorman bank accounts in order to develop opportunities for eight to
24 year olds and to help them realise their potential.
The project is a
non-profit making enterprise that aims to positively impact upon the
lives of its members and the wider Larkhall community. The first project
proposal is to create a community garden with raised beds to grow fresh
produce on a formerly vacant site.
The Growers also
promote health lifestyles and seek to enhance education and
environmental awareness with a mind to community development. That
process, in turn, helps young people to develop a greater sense of how
their own actions impact on others and how accepting responsibility and
enjoying shared citizenship makes life a lot better.