HARVIE CITES MARGO IN FINAL HOLYROOD INDYREF DEBATE

Patrick Harvie used today’s final Scottish Parliament debate ahead of the independence referendum to invoke the memory of Margo MacDonald, who urged rivals to recognise they have opponents not enemies.

Grindies

The independent MSP for Lothian, who died in April, urged mutual respect in the debate. Margo helped form a Green-Independent grouping at Holyrood with Patrick, his Green MSP colleague Alison Johnstone and former SNP MSPs John Finnie and Jean Urquhart.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“Margo was right. Scotland deserves a respectful debate, and both sides should strive to achieve this over the final weeks of this creative and engaging campaign.

“Whatever the result on the morning of 19 September we must not return to the kind of politics that left so many people unimpressed and disconnected; the kind of politics Westminster has shown no desire to change. This referendum has reignited public discussion and big ideas and beyond the result we must keep alive the deeper question of what kind of country we want to be.”

Mr Harvie also highlighted the Green position on North Sea oil:

“Greens will continue to oppose the obsession all other parties have shown with squeezing out every drop of North Sea oil. That goes for the SNP just as much as successive UK governments.

But it’s the No side which shows a lack of ambition either for Scotland’s economy or for our environmental responsibilities. They want to extract every last drop in the face of climate obligations, and at the same time fail to invest the revenue in new industries that can take oil’s place.

“By voting yes we’d have the opportunity to build an economy on resources that will last for all future generations.”

And he urged undecided voters to look beyond the White Paper:

“A Yes vote is not an endorsement of everything in the SNP’s White Paper. The most exciting element of this national debate is the creative and broad movement which has developed as the opportunities of independence have become clear.

“The campaign to win a Yes vote must connect voters with the wide range of ideas out there for an independent Scotland, and not just what the current government proposes.”

Rivals urged to behave ‘the Margo MacDonald way’ (Evening News)

 

LESS ASSESSMENT WOULD BENEFIT PUPILS AND TEACHERS

Alison Johnstone MSP says lower levels of assessment in schools would benefit pupils and reduce the massive workload of teachers.

A report published today looking at the first year of the Curriculum for Excellence qualifications says that the new qualifications have been a success overall, but highlights ‘significant and unsustainable level of over‑assessment in many parts of the system’ and a ‘higher level of assessment than was necessary or desirable’. (1).

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian said:

“I congratulate every teacher who has worked hard to make a success of this last year with the new qualifications. We need to get the balance right between learning and assessment and this report reflects my concern that the system is still too heavily weighted towards exams, which doesn’t always lead to better educational outcomes.

“Workloads in the teaching profession remain far too high and the Scottish Education Secretary must address this as one of his top priorities. I believe the Curriculum for Excellence has set us on the right path in Scotland but there is more work to do to achieve a school system that is sustainable and rewarding for both pupils and teachers.”

FRACKING: HARVIE WELCOMES MINISTER’S VIEW ON PIPELINES PLAN

Patrick Harvie is welcoming comments by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing that the Scottish Government intends to resist a plan by the UK Government to allow fracking companies the right to run pipelines under private land.

Pipe

Scottish Greens called for the proposal to be blocked earlier this year.

The Infrastructure Bill put forward at Westminster by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, and supported by Labour, would overrule trespass laws, enabling drilling firms to install pipes to transport gas without landowners’ permission.

A huge swathe of Scotland, from Argyll to Aberdeenshire and from Ayrshire to East Lothian, has been earmarked as ripe for fracking by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“Greens have been calling for this proposal to be blocked in Scotland, so these comments from Fergus Ewing are a good step. Holyrood should reject the UK Infrastructure Bill when it gets the chance to do so by way of legislative consent motions.

“Meantime Scottish ministers should continue to consider the use of existing regulations to ban unconventional gas completely. We are risking our economy, not just our environment, if we encourage yet more fossil fuel extraction.

“Communities such as Airth near Falkirk and Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway are already facing a battle against gas drilling. Given the Scottish Government’s failure to support a ban on fracking or clear buffer zones, and the First Minister’s description of shale gas as an opportunity, many other communities across Scotland will remain deeply concerned at these unwanted, unnecessary developments.”

Scottish Greens Challenge Fracking Plans

Labour to support Government on fracking trespass law change (Click Green)

Minister opposes change in fracking residential drilling rules (BBC)

 

ARMED POLICE: HARVIE WELCOMES REVIEWS

Patrick Harvie is welcoming the announcement of reviews into the controversial routine arming of police officers.

Police

The reviews are being carried out by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority.

Mr Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, said:

“These reviews are a welcome response to the growing public and political pressure. The police do need to deploy firearms in response to serious incidents, but the sight of armed police on our streets while carrying out routine duties has alarmed many Scots and we deserve to know why it happened and why our communities were not consulted.

“To date the Justice Secretary has brushed this issue off as an operational matter but I believe there is a strong case for ministers being held to account on this dramatic change in our policing culture. Greens opposed the merger of Scotland’s police forces, warning of centralised decisions that didn’t reflect local needs. If the firearms policy isn’t challenged it will represent a major failure of accountability.”

 

LOCAL DEMOCRACY: NEW REPORT ECHOES GREEN IDEAS

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, is welcoming today’s report on strengthening local democracy.

CoverRenewingLocalDemocracyAndyWightman

Earlier this year the Green MSPs published a set of ideas for revitalising local democracy, including creating smaller units of government that have the power to raise the majority of their funding locally.

Today’s report from the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy says 50 years of centralisation has failed to tackle Scotland’s biggest problems, and calls for more local decisions, greater accountability and public participation.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“As Scotland debates whether powers should shift from London to Edinburgh we should also consider how we shift control from Edinburgh to local communities. The current system is unfair and unsustainable. Other European countries take proper local government for granted, and we should aspire to that.

“This report, along with our own ideas, will add momentum to the need to improve how we deliver local services and involve the public. While I think there’s a greater chance of devolving power to communities if we become an independent country, it’s essential we push the issue up the agenda whatever the result of the referendum.”

 

Renewing Local Democracy in Scotland (Report by Andy Wightman for the Green MSPs)

Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy

 

WELFARE: OPPORTUNITY FOR FAIRER SYSTEM

Ahead of today’s Scottish Parliament debate (13 Aug) on welfare, Alison Johnstone says that a Yes vote in the independence referendum would give Scotland the chance to rebuild a welfare state that gives people dignity.

Since 2010, 80 per cent of the £15billion cuts to benefits has been taken from women’s incomes, while foodbanks in Scotland have reported seeing 22,000 children in the past year. The Labour opposition at Westminster has said it will go further in slashing the benefits budget.

Changes to tax and benefits have also harmed lone parents more than other household types.

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, said:

“By taking responsibility for welfare, the Scottish Parliament could rebuild a compassionate welfare system and explore Green ideas such as a Citizen’s Income. This
would reduce red tape and end the stigma associated with receiving benefits.

“The Scottish Government’s Expert Group on Welfare has recognised a citizen’s income is a long term option. Such positive and constructive ideas contrast sharply with
the varying flavours of austerity on offer from Westminster.

“We know from the latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey that voters strongly associate independence with reducing inequality. What we have on 18 September is an
opportunity to show that a more equal society is possible, one where everyone can live with dignity.”



Green Yes publications

Since 2010, 81% of the £14.9 billion worth of cuts to benefits, tax credits, pay
and pensions has been taken from women’s incomes (Engender)

TRIBUNAL FEES: JOHNSTONE SECURES SUPPORT FOR CAMPAIGN

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, today secured a pledge from Scottish ministers that they would put pressure on the UK Government to protest at employment tribunal fees.

Note

The Coalition introduced fees of between £160 and £1,200 a year ago. Since then there has been an 80 per cent drop in the number of cases going before tribunals.

Today during Youth and Women’s Employment Questions at Holyrood Alison Johnstone raised the issue with Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Access to justice and employment rights is incredibly important. The TUC have said women have been among the biggest losers of the introduction of employment tribunal fees.

“A year down the line we see equal pay claims have dropped and sex discrimination cases are down. I don’t believe there should be any fees, and I am pleased that Scottish ministers will make representations to the UK Government.

“I support the Law Society of Scotland’s call for a review of these patently unfair charges.”

 

Lawyers urge rethink on employment tribunals after fee system leads to slump in number of cases (Daily Record)

TRIDENT: HARVIE ON CHANCE TO TIP BALANCE AGAINST RENEWAL

During today’s Scottish Parliament debate, Patrick Harvie spoke of the opportunity presented by a Yes vote in the independence referendum to strengthen the case against renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

Trident sub

The Government motion highlighted the predicted cost of around £4billion a year by the mid-2020s.

The Green amendment lodged by Patrick Harvie called for a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons in Scotland and stated support for a global ban on nuclear weapons.

The Labour Party did not lodge any amendment for the debate.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“Trident is an absurd relic. Its removal from Scotland would strengthen the case against its renewal by the UK Government.

“A Yes vote shouldn’t just be viewed as a chance to move Trident but to scrap it altogether. It was disappointing to hear the Libdems describe CND and its supporters as naive, while Labour simply resorted to the worst kind of hand-wringing on this crucial moral issue.

“Nuclear weapons are unsafe and unstable. They have not kept the peace.”

GAZA: HARVIE WELCOMES SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL ARMS EMBARGO

 

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, is welcoming the Scottish Government’s support for an arms embargo on Israel in light of the military campaign in Gaza which has killed almost 2,000 Palestinians in just four weeks.

 

During Topical Questions in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Mr Harvie urged a programme of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli government.

In response external affairs minister Humza Yousaf said Scottish ministers support calls for the UK Government to impose an arms embargo.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“There has been a clear difference in the responses of the UK and Scottish Governments to the appalling situation in Gaza, and I welcome the stronger line of support for the Palestinians taken by Scottish ministers. By putting economic pressure on the Israeli Government Scotland and the UK could play a part in the international effort to control the situation.

“David Cameron today lost one of his ministers over his stance on Israel’s brutal campaign against a blockaded population. The strength of feeling on this issue in communities across Scotland highlights the need for Scotland to have the ability to determine its own foreign policy.”

FRACKING: EXPERT REPORT UNDERLINES CONCERNS

 

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, says today’s report by the Expert Panel on unconventional oil and gas underlines the serious concerns surrounding fracking and other forms of onshore drilling.

Flare

Scottish ministers are to set up a working Group to consider the findings of the report. These include:

- The impact of unconventional oil and gas resources in Scotland on the Scottish Government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases is not definitive.
- The high population density of those parts of Scotland most likely to host significant unconventional oil and gas resources would be a challenge for any form of re-industrialisation.

A huge swathe of Scotland, from Argyll to Aberdeenshire and from Ayrshire to East Lothian, has been earmarked as ripe for fracking by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“This report, coming on the day that the UK Government invites firms to apply for fracking licenses, underlines the absurdity of chasing after yet more sources of polluting fossil fuels. The experts warn that developing unconventional gas may increase the climate change emissions we need to cut, and that the chance of being able to use this resource to maintain electricity supplies is negligible.

“Communities across Scotland are rightly concerned at the hype surrounding shale, with thousands of people in the Falkirk and Stirling areas already voicing opposition to gas extraction proposals there. I would again urge Scottish ministers to ban any such developments and instead focus on Scotland’s undoubted potential for clean, renewable energy and the high quality employment already being created.”

 

Independent Expert Scientific Panel –
Report on Unconventional Oil And Gas