GREENS BACK ‘LIVING RENT’ RALLY AT HOLYROOD

Green MSPs today backed a demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament calling for new measures to make private renting more affordable.

The rally, organised by the Living Rent campaign and backed by NUS Scotland and the University and College Union, is calling for rising rents to be brought under control, greater protection from eviction and more secure leases for tenants.

The Scottish Government is expected to bring forward a Bill to reform the private rented sector. Patrick Harvie has been running a Rent Rights campaign, collecting case studies from constituents in Glasgow.

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP said:

“For a growing number of people, private renting is the only option available to them but while wages are stagnant, rent increases in parts of Scotland just keep spiralling upwards.

“We need a much fairer deal for private tenants – one where you feel like you have a home and are paying for a service, not just living in someone’s investment.”

YOUNG WORKERS: JOHNSTONE CALLS FOR RETROFIT APPRENTICESHIPS

 

Alison today called on ministers to create training courses and apprenticeships in energy efficient housing.

Yellow_hard_hat

During a Government debate on Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce, Ms Johnstone pointed out that such apprenticeships do not exist, despite the construction industry warning of a serious shortage of skills.

Ms Johnstone secured agreement from Finance Secretary John Swinney in November that making Scotland’s housing stock energy efficient should be a national infrastructure priority.

Alison said:

“Tackling youth unemployment is vital, and we should seize the opportunity to equip young people to enter meaningful jobs rather than the low-wage low-skill economy being encouraged by Westminster.

“Retrofitting energy efficiency measures such as insulation and double glazing will cut household bills, tackle fuel poverty, and create thousands of new jobs in construction and new opportunities for young people through the modern apprenticeship scheme.

“With surveys of the construction sector showing a real challenge in finding a workforce with energy efficiency skills, I again urge ministers as they decide next year’s budget to invest in the courses and apprenticeships that will improve the quality of our homes, and the job prospects of young Scots.”

 

PUPIL-TEACHER RATIO UP: JOHNSTONE CALLS FOR FUNDING RETHINK

Alison today urged Scottish ministers to rethink their squeeze on local authority funding after figures showed there are fewer teachers dealing with more pupils.

Binders

The Pupil-Teacher Ratio across Scotland has risen to 13.7 from 13 in 2007. The biggest annual increase has been in Edinburgh where the ratio is now 14.9 compared to 14.3 last year and 13.5 seven years ago.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Fewer teachers dealing with more pupils is a worrying indicator of a wider problem. Local authorities have had their funding squeezed by Scottish ministers, while teachers are dealing with an increasing workload. We’re also seeing councils considering options such as shorter school weeks to cope with budget pressures.

“I have real concerns that our councils are being put in an impossible position. Our schools have been relatively protected from the funding squeeze but unless local government has the flexibility to properly invest in education there’s a risk we cannot provide our children with the high quality learning experience they deserve.”

Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland

EIS submission on the 2015-16 Draft Budget

“A continued real terms fall in education spending will impact detrimentally on pupils and families and upon educations staff.”

JOHNSTONE DEMANDS FUNDS TO SUPPORT WAVE ENERGY JOBS

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, has today (9 Dec) written to Energy Minister Fergus Ewing calling for urgent answers to growing concerns about the future of the wave energy industry in Scotland.

Pelamis

The Greens are calling for the Scottish Government to use some of the money it received from last week’s UK Autumn Statement to support jobs in the companies affected. Edinburgh-based Pelamis, which employs 50 people, is in administration, while Aquamarine Power, also based in the city, is making most of its 50 staff redundant.

Following earlier questions from Alison Johnstone, the Scottish Government announced the setting up of an agency to share knowledge about wave energy. But it has emerged that this body has no staff, budget or timescales for development as yet.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Wave energy has huge economic potential for Scotland. Public funding clearly remains crucial to the industry at this stage, so I’m calling on the Scottish Government to use some of the millions it received last week from Westminster to support wave power jobs.

“The new agency being promised by the government has no staff, no funding and no timescale as yet – it appears to be window dressing. Jobs and expertise risk being lost from Scotland while other countries advance on the technology.

“Ministers need to reassess their priorities because they are abandoning wave, while leaving the door open to unwelcome energy developments such as fracking.”

 

New funding provided to the Scottish Government from the UK Autumn Statement

Wave Energy Scotland factsheet

 

Submission on the 2015-16 Budget by Scottish Renewables

 

Text of letter from Alison to the Energy Minister:

Dear Minister,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Green and Independent group of MSPs to highlight our concerns, and those of our constituents, over the wave energy company Pelamis entering administration.

As you are aware Pelamis is considered to be a world leader in the field of wave power technology, employing 55 people within Orkney and the Lothians. As well as being a world leader this Scottish born and bred company has contributed some £70 million to the economy.

Their expertise and workforce seem to have been cast aside in favour of the new development support model, Wave Energy Scotland. While we appreciate that this model will provide collaboration between academics and industry was this not already the case between developers such as Pelamis working with the Heriot Watt Campus in Orkney? Surely this is then more of a step sideways than forward?

However, the most pressing concern must be that of the former employees of Pelamis (and those still facing redundancy) who now find themselves with no job less than a month before Christmas and having not been paid for November. Many of the emails we have received from constituents express that they feel let down by the Scottish Government, that there was no meaningful attempt to save their jobs or help them since Pelamis entered administration.

I would be grateful to hear your thoughts on how the Scottish Government can ensure that the affected families receive the necessary support and assistance at this difficult time.

There is also a strong sense that the expertise of the workforce, some of whom have been with Pelamis from the beginning, should not be lost as the resulting setback could seriously damage the Scottish renewables industry in general.

Pelamis at this time is extremely vulnerable to being bought cheaply by an industry rival from abroad. This could result in the unacceptable situation of Scotland having to buy wave generators that were originally developed here. Can the Scottish Government give any assurances that this will not happen?

With the devastating announcement yesterday of a further 30 jobs being lost at Aquamarine Power, can the Minister tell us what he is going to do to safeguard the future of the industry over the coming days?

I would like to understand why funding has been cut at this time and if the Scottish Government has taken all possible steps to avoid these firms entering administration.

I would be grateful for information regarding the budget and function of Wave Energy Scotland.

I appreciate that commercial wave power generation may be a decade away, but given that Pelamis are the only company in the world to have managed to deploy large scale wave energy convertors with any degree of success I am dismayed that such progress has been jeopardised.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these vitally important issues, and in particular your plans to ensure appropriate support for the families affected.

Yours faithfully,

Alison

FUEL POVERTY: HARVIE URGES INVESTMENT IN RETROFIT JOBS

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow and a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, today called for major investment in energy efficient housing as statistics confirmed that the Government will fail its target of ending fuel poverty by 2016.

Radiator

The figures show that during 2013 there were 100,000 more households in fuel poverty than in 2012. They also show that 36 per cent of housing is in urgent disrepair, with 51 per cent of private housing failing the Scottish Housing Quality Standard. The biggest reason for houses failing is ‘Not Energy Efficient’.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“Energy efficient homes should be a national infrastructure priority and I will continue to press for this to feature in the forthcoming Scottish budget. It would help create thousands of high quality jobs while also tackling fuel poverty.

“We also need college courses and well-paid modern apprenticeships in energy efficiency. Fuel prices and profiteering by the energy companies must be urgently tackled across the UK, but unless the Scottish Government also steps up investment we’ll miss out on the potential for energy efficiency jobs in Scotland.”

 

Housing condition survey

 

FREE SCHOOL MEALS DETAIL REQUIRED SAYS JOHNSTONE

Responding to comments by Scottish ministers that “progress” is being made in preparing for the roll out of free school meals for P1 to P3 children in January, Alison Johnstone is calling for more details.

 

 

Earlier this year Freedom of Information requests by Ms Johnstone revealed that many local authorities had no school kitchens and dining facilities already at capacity.

 

 

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

 

 

“Free school meals is a sound policy but it must be matched with modern facilities. We know that many local authorities are struggling to cope as it is, so I want to hear in detail how well they have been supported in preparing for this welcome initiative.

 

 

“We have a great opportunity to improve our supply chains and invest in the skills of the catering workforce. The Scottish Government should be ready to find the funds necessary to make the most of this opportunity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUBBORN HEALTH FIGURES DEMAND FRESH APPROACH

Alison is today calling on new Health Secretary Shona Robison to take a fresh approach to tackle obesity and make active lifestyles the norm.

Running

New figures show that 65 per cent of adults in Scotland are overweight, with 27 per cent obese, a rate that has remained unchanged since 2008. The proportion of adults who are physically active to the recommended level has only increased by 2 per cent in a year.

One in eight children spends more than four hours a day watching TV or another screen, and there has been no change in the proportion of adults and children walking or cycling to work and school.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“People are suffering from poor health and the cost to our NHS is climbing. You only have to look at the situation in Edinburgh where the public funding squeeze threatens cuts to leisure facilities and programmes that help young and old stay active.

“With the appointment of a new Health Secretary we have a chance to turn things around. I will be pushing for the forthcoming Scottish budget to prioritise preventative spending so we invest in walking and cycling infrastructure, leisure facilities and a healthy food culture, all of which will benefit our communities and the public finances.”

 

Obesity Indicators 2014

 

EAST COAST DECISION ‘A RECKLESS MOVE’ WITH A GOOD SERVICE

Responding to the award of the East Coast main line contract to Virgin/Stagecoach, Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone says the re-privatisation should never have gone ahead.

The Smith Commission has announced that in future, Scotland will have the ability to put forward a public sector bid for Scotrail services. On the same day, the UK Government has taken a backward step on cross-border rail services.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian said:

“Edinburgh has been well served in recent years by the publicly-run East Coast service, but the UK Government refuses to admit that this model works. The Greens have long supported publicly-owned railways and see this as a reckless move and a backward step.

“The private franchising of our railways has fragmented a public service and has not delivered anywhere near the standard of service that many European countries enjoy. The East Coast line is a crucial route for Scotland and I really hope that passengers do not lose out as the service operates once again in the interests of private shareholders.”

JOHNSTONE: PELAMIS VITAL FOR SCOTLAND’S RENEWABLE FUTURE

Alison Johnstone has urged the Scottish Government to intervene to secure the future of wave technology firm Pelamis, which entered administration last week.

Pelamis

Questioning the Energy Minister at Holyrood, she said there was a real danger that Scotland would lose a global leader in the development of the technology to an overseas buyer, and end up importing wave technology in future years.

Pelamis employs 56 staff, with most based in Leith.

Alison Johnstone, Lothian MSP said:

“Pelamis has been a global pioneer in wave technology and a leading Edinburgh company, which we cannot afford to lose. We hear so much about Scotland’s renewable energy potential but we will not reap the rewards without support to turn research into commercially-ready technology.

“Pelamis is a highly respected company which has built up a huge amount of expertise. I urge the Scottish Government to use every possible means to support this company and its employees at this uncertain time.”

SALMOND’S LETTER TO CAMERON REVEALS TTIP CONCERNS

The Scottish Greens are calling on Nicola Sturgeon to keep up the pressure on the UK Government, after a letter written by Alex Salmond to David Cameron, released to the Greens today, showed that the former First Minister was ‘extremely concerned’ about elements of the TTIP treaty.

In his final week in office, the former First Minister wrote that the treaty must not ‘undermine the democratic decisions of the Scottish people’ on public ownership of the NHS. He described the potential for corporations to challenge governments through Investor State Dispute Mechanisms as ‘unacceptable and.. deeply undemocratic’.

Alison Johnstone MSP wrote to the First Minister in October urging him to speak out against the treaty.

Green MSPs are now urging the new Scottish Government and opposition parties to take a tougher approach during scrutiny of the treaty at Holyrood.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP and a member of the Economy Committee said:

“Alex Salmond fired a parting shot to Westminster on this treaty but the new First Minister needs to follow through. Nicola Sturgeon should align Scotland with those progressive forces that oppose a treaty that will be of most benefit to powerful corporations.”