Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian, has expressed disappointment after the European Parliament’s trade committee today passed a resolution with regard to the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, failing to criticise the controversial ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ (ISDS) mechanism.
TTIP is being negotiated behind closed doors by the EU and USA, and aims to remove barriers to multinational corporations which could enable them to sue governments over profits in offshore corporate courts.
Almost two million people across Europe have signed a European Citizens’ Initiative opposing the secretive trade deal, but MEPs appear to be siding with business lobbyists rather than constituents. In Holyrood, only the Scottish Greens are speaking out in opposition to TTIP, with SNP ministers supporting the principle of the deal, as do Labour.
Alison Johnstone, Green MSP said:
“This resolution was adopted with a large majority, despite the clear opposition to TTIP from citizens all across Europe. It is crucial for the most basic democratic credibility that mounting public concern over this corporate power grab does not continue to go ignored.
“There is a very real danger that governments will be sued if they put up wages or improve employment conditions, while important environmental and public health protections will undoubtedly be weakened by this treaty – undermining decades of political progress towards a fairer and more sustainable world.
“TTIP is an assault on public protections with little evidence of any reward, while the prospect of democratically-elected governments being sued under ISDS will rightly alarm many. It is vital we keep up public pressure on our MEPs and our governments (both Scotland and the UK) to represent the wishes of the public on this.”
Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, tonight (27 May) expressed hope that following the vote on the Assisted Suicide Bill the Scottish Government will recognise the strong demand for clarity in law.
Mr Harvie, the member in charge of the Bill following the death of Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, said he was disappointed that a majority of MSPs voted it down but given the support of 36 MSPs the problems the Bill highlighted must be addressed by the Government.
The Bill’s aim was to provide clarity in law and give people facing life-shortening conditions control over the end of their life.
By a clear majority public opinion backed the Bill.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“Today’s debate in parliament was conducted with respect and I thank members for that. However, it’s clearly a disappointment that the Bill will make no further progress.
“The significant support in the chamber reflects the clear public desire for people to have choice and for the law to be clarified. I know many supporters of assisted suicide will now be hoping that the Lord Advocate issues prosecution guidance and that the Scottish Government considers alternative approaches to the problem.”
Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, today responded to the Queen’s Speech by challenging the Scottish Government to take a meaningful stand against the pursuit of more austerity and weakening of workers’ rights.
The proposals put forward by the UK Conservative Government at Westminster will continue with welfare cuts and restrict the ability to take strike action.
Alison Johnstone MSP said:
“The UK government is turning a blind eye to the urgent need to create a more equal society and a fairer economy. The attack on Trades Unions and social security will simply worsen the inequality we see and put yet more stress on already struggling households.
“Policies already forcing many into poverty are set to continue apace, and I have serious concerns for those who will bear the brunt of further cut-backs. The Scottish Government must resist this continued assault, and ensure more devolution within Scotland so our communities have more control over their economies so we can create skilled jobs and protect public services.”
Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, is welcoming the shift in position by Edinburgh University on its investments in firms contributing to climate change but is warning the institution to deliver on its promises.
The University is writing to three fossil fuel firms it invests in to inform them that it intends to divest from their activities within the next six months.
“This shift in position is welcome. Edinburgh University’s reputation was clearly being damaged by a very poor decision not to divest from unsustainable fuels. Credit must go to the students who staged a sit-in and campaigned to build broad public support for a change in policy. I was pleased to join them and praise their principled stance.
“While the new position only appears to affect coal and tar sands, it is a step in the right direction. The university’s pledge to engage with these companies will only buy a short amount of time; they will need to start divesting soon. Edinburgh needs to catch up with the likes of Glasgow University on this issue. Actions not words are what matter.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s debate and vote in the Scottish Parliament (27 May) on the principles of the Assisted Suicide Bill, Patrick Harvie MSP has published a detailed response to the Health Committee’s report on the Bill.
Mr Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, is the member in charge of the Bill following the death of Independent MSP Margo MacDonald.
The Bill aims to provide clarity in law and give people facing life-shortening conditions control over the end of their life by enabling a sequence of checks before they are prescribed a lethal dose of drugs to take.
Mr Harvie said:
“There are strongly held convictions on both sides of this debate, and I am sure that Wednesday’s debate will be conducted with respect. Public opinion is clearly of the view that people should have the right to make their own choice if they find themselves faced with an illness or condition which leaves them with a quality of life they find unacceptable and from which they have no prospect of improvement.
“I have responded in detail to the committee’s concerns, and reiterated my willingness to consider constructive amendments to improve the Bill. I would appeal to MSPs who support the basic argument, and to those who agree that a need exists to address the lack of clarity in the current law, to support the Bill at Stage 1 and allow the debate to continue.”
Patrick’s response to the Health Committee
Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, is calling on the Scottish Government to explain how it will support the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service as an Audit Scotland report reveals it faces a £42million funding gap.
Alison previously campaigned against the threatened closure of the fire control room at Tollcross in Edinburgh. In the end the single service, formed by the merger of Scotland’s eight brigades, agreed to close control rooms in Aberdeen, Inverness, Dumfries, Fife and Falkirk.
Audit Scotland claims the merger had “no impact on the public” but warns that “potential future funding reductions may result in a funding gap of £42.7 million in 2019/20.”
Alison Johnstone MSP said:
“The creation of the SFRS was a Scottish Government centralisation Scottish Greens opposed. While the auditors suggest there has been no impact on the public, that ignores the enormous stress and upheaval the very skilled and experienced staff have endured. And it remains to be seen what impact there will be from the loss of local knowledge in those regions affected by closures.
“With a warning of a huge funding gap ahead, I am concerned that frontline staff will again bear the brunt. Having met with concerned workers over the control room closures, I want assurances from the Scottish Government and the fire board that they will seek any further savings in a more responsible way.”
Ahead of today’s Scottish Parliament debate on new powers, Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s Devolution Committee, called for an inclusive process so the public has a say in agreeing new powers devolved to Scotland.
Scottish Green Party co-conveners Patrick Harvie MSP and Councillor Maggie Chapman took part in the cross-party Smith Commission negotiations last autumn, securing agreement on proposals including devolution of fracking licenses, energy company obligations and the power to bring railways back into public ownership.
The Devolution Committee inquiry found that the legislation proposed by the UK Government falls short in some areas, including a lack of power to top up benefits and a double-stream Crown Estate.
Alison Johnstone MSP said:
“As Scotland debates which powers should be transferred from Westminster we must allow proper public input into the process. The Smith Commission was rushed, party political and behind closed doors; let’s properly open this process up so we get a settlement that reflects the needs and aspirations of our communities.
“While the Scottish Government is right to argue for extra devolved economic powers such as the minimum wage and workplace rights, this discussion should not be driven by one political party. We’ve seen widespread public engagement in Scottish politics like never before, and we must capture the enthusiasm and ideas out there.”
Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, today asked First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, for clarity on the issues surrounding UK Government welfare cuts.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Mr Harvie asked whether the Scottish Government has made an assessment of the likely impact on Scotland of a £12 billion reduction in the UK welfare system.
The First Minister responded by saying that a full assessment is not yet possible, but that the Scottish Government will “never seek to stigmatise the most vulnerable in our society”, and will continue “as far as we can” to mitigate the impact of cuts.
Ms Sturgeon also welcomed the invitation to do what is necessary to help marshal wider opposition to attempts to remove the safety net of social security, a hallmark of a civilised society.
Mr Harvie said:
“We can’t know what the impact of these cuts will be, given that the Conservative Party committed to them without caring how they are to be achieved.
“No wonder then that one of the attendees at the Poverty Alliance event in Holyrood last night told me that she has never seen such a tangible level of fear amongst so many people, in the face of this threat to what remains of the welfare state.
“We can argue for greater control of social security in Scotland, but we also have a responsibility to build opposition to these cuts across the whole UK following years of stigmatising and blaming people in poverty, indeed a propaganda war against the welfare state itself.
“That is why I urge the Scottish Government, in its actions and in its use of language, to reclaim the principle of a society based on mutual care and compassion, where everyone’s dignity matters, not just those labelled “strivers” or “hard working families”.
Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, says today’s figures showing a rise in unemployment in Scotland of 19,000 in the first three months of this year prove that the economy is still not working for most people.
The number of Scots in employment fell over the quarter, dropping by 3,000. Meanwhile 19,000 fewer women are classed as economically inactive while 19,000 more are classed as unemployed.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“We continue to see problems in our economy with an insecure jobs market, coupled with the threat of further cuts to public services and the stripping of workers’ rights.
“We should also recognise the sizeable shift from economic inactivity to unemployment among women. This could suggest many who have caring responsibilities are still struggling to make ends meet and feel under pressure to find new sources of income.
“The Scottish Government is right to argue for extra devolved economic powers, and many of the STUC’s ideas for workplace devolution which were blocked during the Smith Commission should be back on the agenda. But we also need an urgent focus on existing devolved areas such as skills and support for small businesses if we’re going to see secure, high quality employment that is rooted in our communities.”
Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, today (12 May) used Topical Questions in the Scottish Parliament to warn of the fragmentation of human rights in Scotland if the UK Government succeeds in scrapping the Human Rights Act.
The UK Conservative Government plans to abolish the Act, which provides protections against discrimination, torture and inhumane treatment, and the right to a fair trial, privacy and freedom of expression.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“Scrapping the Human Rights Act and abandoning the European Convention would be unjust and lead to fragmentation of rights here in Scotland, given the differing approaches of the UK and Scottish Governments and the mixture of devolved and reserved responsibilities. It would make it much harder to take cases to court, and it would strip our own citizens of basic rights, but also send a terrible message to the world that the UK is willing to disregard international human rights standards, undermining our ability to challenge overseas oppression.
“It’s alarming to think that the UK Government’s effort will be led by Michael Gove, who once called for the return of hanging. This ideological assault must be opposed, and we must be prepared in this new political landscape to argue for devolution of responsibility for human rights so we can protect them.”