CLIMATE: HARVIE URGES MINISTERS TO LISTEN TO SCIENTISTS’ PLEA

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, is urging the Scottish Government to adopt bold policies for a low-carbon economy in response to today’s communique from leading scientists calling for action on climate change.

Turbines

An unprecedented coalition of eminent UK bodies says governments must act to avert the worst impacts of climate change, while seizing economic opportunities and protecting public health.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“Scotland is in an amazing position to show real leadership on this issue with our abundant renewable resources but we have yet to see the step-change required in our transport, our housing and our land use. The Scottish Government, which has missed the first four years of climate change targets, has the opportunity to rebuild its credibility by showing it is serious about the bold policies required to lead the way.

“A low carbon economy is good for jobs and good for public health. Scottish ministers can help influence a global deal at the Paris summit at the end of this year by moving faster and going further on a transition here at home. Today’s call from the scientific community underlines the need for effective policies and international commitment.”

 

UK academics call for strong action on climate change at Paris summit (Carbon Brief)

 

LGBT PREJUDICE: HARVIE COMMENTS ON EQUALITY NETWORK REPORT

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, is urging the Scottish Government to act on the findings of the Equality Network report showing LGBT people in Scotland continue to face discrimination.

Incidents reported ranged from homophobic comments to physical attacks.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“This report shows that while Scotland has clearly made progress there are still challenges in ensuring LGBT people have a genuinely equal experience of life. Some of the comments suggest we need to step up efforts to actively challenge discrimination in workplaces, colleges and universities and to ensure that the best practice becomes normal practice everywhere.

“I welcome the idea of the Scottish Government publishing an equality and human rights strategy to measure progress, and I would like to see ministers agree to the recommendation of a review of the operation of the Hate Crime legislation now it has been place for five years.”

 

Scottish LGBT Equality Report

CHILDCARE: JOHNSTONE WELCOMES CALL FOR BOLD ACTION

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, is welcoming the call from charities including Barnardo’s and Children 1st for co-operation across the political spectrum to bring about flexible childcare.

Crayones de cera

Last month Alison welcomed the findings of the Commission for Childcare Reform, which called for radical action.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“It is essential we keep childcare high on the political agenda as Scotland’s current system is patchy, inflexible, and one of the most expensive in Europe. By challenging the Scottish Government to be bolder, and by working constructively with others at Holyrood I am sure we can make progress to improve the situation.

“We must remember at the centre of this are children, so we need to invest in high quality training and properly paid staff to deliver an experience that really benefits the child. The benefits for parents in terms of access to employment and education are well understood.

“As well as finding common ground at a political level we must strive for a joined up approach across local, Scottish and UK Governments.”

 

Letter in today’s Herald from children’s charities, calling for “co-operation across the political spectrum”

 

FRACKING: JOHNSTONE REJECTS CORPORATE BLUSTER

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, is sceptical of claims made by Jim Ratcliffe, billionaire chief executive of chemical company Ineos, that Scotland is soon to be opened up for fracking.

The unpopular technique for fossil fuel extraction has consistently been opposed by the Greens from day one, on the grounds that the evidence of health, environmental, and climate change impacts that this industry has brought elsewhere make it incompatible with both our climate change targets and the need to deliver secure, sustainable jobs – particularly for those currently working in fossil fuel industries.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“We know that the Scottish Government’s moratorium is only temporary, however, the strength of public opinion on the matter that helped us achieve that measure gives me full confidence that the Scottish public will continue to be heard.

“The latest comments from Mr Ratcliffe are not surprising given his vested interest, but what I would find surprising is if his vision of a Scotland with more polluting fossil fuels at the heart of our industrial future is shared by the majority of Scots.

“Scotland has what it takes to develop a jobs-rich economy focusing on a reindustrialisation programme which respects the environment, and also respects the rights of employees to organise and have their interests represented by a Trade Union.

“Unconventional gas extraction doesn’t lend itself to community ownership as renewables do, but sucks investment and talent away from jobs in the industries of the future. I hope the wishes of the Scottish electorate carry proper weight with SNP Ministers.

“We have come a long way since I led Holyrood’s first debate on fracking in May 2014, proposing a ban. All other parties voted against my calls at that time, but the Scottish Greens will continue to lead calls for the current pause to become a full ban on this dirty and unnecessary method of extracting yet more fossil fuels.”

A&E WAITING TIMES: JOHNSTONE QUESTIONS E-R-I SLIPPAGE

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, is questioning the latest waiting time figures for Accident and Emergency departments as they show that the proportion of people waiting more than four hours to be seen at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has fallen to 10 per cent below the national target.

ERI

Health bosses are supposed to ensure that 98 per cent of people who attend A&E are seen within four hours.

According to the latest weekly statistics, only 88.3 per cent of people were seen within 4 hours at ERI A&E. This is a drop from 93.8 per cent the previous week and 93.7 per cent when weekly figures began being published in February. It is also lower than the current Scottish average of 94.6 per cent and the Lothian health board average of 90.9 per cent.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“We need to understand the reasons for this. Is it due to staff shortages or lack of capacity, or do the figures tell us that other parts of the health service, like GP practices, are nearing crisis? We also need to invest properly in the integration of health and social care if we are ever to achieve these targets.”

 

Emergency Department Activity (NHS Performs)

Health chiefs apologise for long A&E waiting times at Royal Infirmary (STV, May 2014)

 

Johnstone: Spare kids from callous cuts

It’s the school holidays, and for many parents and young people these lazy days of summer will be bookended with ­emotion as the transfer from one school year to the next takes place.

Indeed, for those leaving school it can be a real ­life-changing experience, going from a school ­environment into (hopefully) work, training, college or university.

Recent figures showed that most school leavers are going into such positive destinations but there’s another set of figures that has been overlooked and to which we should pay more attention.

The proportion of school leavers with Additional Support Needs (ASN) ending in a positive destination such as further education or employment has gone up slightly from 82.5 per cent in 2012-13 to 84.4 in 2013-14 but this remains below the rate for those without ASN at 93.4 per cent.

A young person with ASN might be being bullied, have behavioural or learning difficulties, be deaf or blind or be looked after by a local authority.

Across the Lothians 20,000 children have ASN. The main factors tend to be learning disabilities and dyslexia. Across Scotland there are more than 140,000 pupils (21 per cent of the school population) with ASN, and it disproportionately affects children from lower income families and areas of deprivation.

The requirement for additional support varies across a spectrum of needs and circumstances. It tends to be best that support is integrated rather than singling out the pupil. Children and young people usually want to be seen as no different from their classmates. The approach should be to view children as individuals and tailor support to their needs.

The Scottish Government has admitted that not all children with additional requirements have received the support to which they are entitled, and as ministers continue to collect information about this issue, more children are being recorded as having additional support needs. We need to ensure best practice is being shared so we can ensure an inclusive and equal education system.

Local authority budget cuts impact on the learning of our most vulnerable pupils, and I know teachers are worried that there are bigger cuts to come. We cannot ignore the link between deprivation and additional support needs, and we cannot stand by while local authority budget cuts impact upon the most vulnerable young people in our society.

All too often ASN provision is seen as a soft target for cuts and those in the sector tell me they feel their already under-funded vital services are increasingly regarded as a luxury.

The earlier a child’s additional support needs are identified and provided for, the more likely they are to enjoy a healthy development into adulthood.

We have a responsibility in Holyrood to support local authority service delivery and I urge the Scottish Government to speak to councils without delay to identify how we can protect and enhance the provision for those with additional support needs across Scotland.

This article was originally published in the Evening News (7th July).

SQA FUNDING: JOHNSTONE URGES SUPPORT FOR TEACHERS

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, is urging the Scottish Government to do more to support teachers delivering new qualifications in light of the SQA asking ministers for an additional £4.9million.

Binders

The exams body is facing rising costs connected with Curriculum for Excellence reforms.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“The roll out of new National and Higher exams has clearly required more support for teachers and it’s essential that the Scottish Government resources this properly. Looking ahead, it’s equally important that the SQA looks for ways to minimise bureaucracy for teachers, so they have more time for learning and teaching.

“Curriculum for Excellence has many strengths but I would like to see Scottish ministers put more effort into supporting and developing teachers so they are free to focus on educating the whole child, not just getting them through exams.”

Alison Johnstone Comments On Lancashire Fracking Decision

Responding to the decision by councillors in Lancashire to reject an application to start fracking, Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian said:

“This is a great result for local communities and campaigners, and will apply more pressure to the Scottish Government to turn its temporary moratorium into a permanent ban. We also remain at risk in central Scotland from underground coal gasification, which is already licensed and not covered by the moratorium. Unconventional gas extraction in any form is not needed and not wanted, when we could be pursuing much better job and energy opportunities.”

 

ARCHES: HARVIE DISAPPOINTED AS LICENSING AMENDMENTS FALL

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, is expressing disappointment that MSPs have voted down amendments to the Air Weapons and Licensing Bill which attempted to address issues arising from the hugely unpopular closure of The Arches music and arts venue in the city.

The Arches-large

Mr Harvie’s amendments would have added “promoting social and cultural life” to Licensing Objectives and consideration of the impact of decisions on a Licensing Board’s whole area when reviewing a venue’s license.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“It’s unrealistic to imagine that recreational drug use will be reduced by closing one venue, especially one with a record of staff training, medical facilities and a willingness to report problems rather than hiding them. The loss of The Arches leaves a huge gap in the social and cultural scene of Scotland’s biggest city, and it’s disappointing MSPs have chosen not to take the opportunity to reconsider licensing objectives.”

 

FORT KINNAIRD: JOHNSTONE QUIZZES MUNDELL OVER DEVOLUTION EXEMPTION

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s Devolution committee, today pressed Scottish Secretary David Mundell on the UK Conservative Government’s plans to resist devolving control of Fort Kinnaird retail park in Edinburgh.Ft Kinnaird

The Scotland Bill aims to devolve the management and revenue of the Crown Estate in Scotland but the UK Government is proposing a complex transfer scheme managed by the Treasury which exempts “property, rights or interests held by a limited partnership”.

Fort Kinnaird is the only land held by the Crown in partnership, so under the current proposals would become an island of Crown land in Scotland run from London with profits still flowing to the UK Treasury.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Fort Kinnaird is a money-maker for the Treasury and it’s notable that the UK Government wants to exempt it from devolution of the Crown Estate as agreed by the Smith Commission. It’s simply not credible for the Scottish Secretary to say he doesn’t accept that this arrangement is overly-complex.

“I’m sure most of us in the Edinburgh area familiar with Fort Kinnaird will find it ludicrous that it is destined to become a satellite of the Treasury rather than under Scottish control like the rest of Crown Estate land in Scotland. It is illogical and inconsistent, and it cannot go unresolved.”