RENT INCREASE: JOHNSTONE CALLS FOR URGENT ACTION

Letting agent Your Move have today released new figures showing further increases to rent levels in Scotland.

Scottish tenants are paying 2.8% more rent than a year ago, with particularly high increases in the Highlands and Islands region at 5.4%. Average monthly rent now stands at £549.

Edinburgh and Lothians as well as Glasgow and Clyde regions, where rent levels are among the highest in the country, have seen increases of 1.8% and 1.7% respectively.

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, commenting on the figures:

“The latest figures on rent levels come as no surprise, and are yet another testimony to the broken state of Scotland’s private rented sector. There seems to be no end to increases to the already sky-high rents in the capital region, but things are now looking worse for more rural areas too.

“More and more people and families who can no longer afford to buy a house have to resort to the private rented sector to find a long-term home. Rents are rising at a faster pace than wages, leaving many people struggling to pay the bills.

“As renting has become more expensive, we’ve also seen a hike in applications for housing benefit, as well as an increase in households living in poverty. This is unacceptable in a 21st century Scotland. The Scottish Government must act now to make sure everyone can afford a roof over their head.”

MUSEUM STRIKE: JOHNSTONE CALLS ON BOSSES TO ENSURE FAIR TREATMENT

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, is renewing her call for all staff at the National Museum of Scotland to receive the weekend working allowance.Museum_of_Scotland

Today (25 August) Alison met members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) in support of this week’s strike action.

Alison said:

“Museum staff not receiving the weekend working allowance tell me they feel under pressure to find extra work to make ends meet. This is having a clear impact on morale at the museum. It is an important asset for Edinburgh and Scotland and its workers deserve better treatment.

“It is deeply disappointing that management are continuing to treat staff inequitably. Rather than bosses and the government passing blame they should be ensuring staff providing this amazing cultural service get fair treatment.”

 

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.”