Supporting PCS Members

Alison says:

“Greens support the PCS members on strike today. For too long the pay packets of those on the frontline of vital public services have been squeezed.

“I urge Scottish ministers to show a different approach to the austerity agenda of the UK Coalition. The Scottish Parliament doesn’t have the flexibility many of us would like but we shouldn’t duck the responsibility we already have, and we should prioritise spending that protects the public sector, its workers and the economy that supports.”

SPORTS FACILITY FUNDS: JOHNSTONE URGES TALKS WITH USERS

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, is calling for consultation with user groups to determine how £20million should be used to improve sporting facilities.

GLW 2014 TRAINER MSPs-LW

The public funding from Sportscotland is expected to be topped up by other bodies to upgrade existing sites and create new centres.

Alison Johnstone MSP, a former competitive athlete and qualified athletics coach, said:

“While I welcome investment in facilities that cater for a broad range of needs, it’s vitally important that we see meaningful consultation with all user groups. In deciding where this money is spent we must listen to the needs of athletes, coaches, governing bodies and leisure facility users.

“The demise of Meadowbank stadium in Edinburgh is a classic example of what not to do. We need to ensure new and upgraded facilities come with realistic maintenance budgets and appropriately trained staff. We need to make sure no area is left behind in the race to create a Commonwealth Games legacy.

“Given the health issues our society faces from inactive lifestyles, and the growing cost to the NHS, we must take every opportunity to make sport accessible, enjoyable and affordable.”

 

Sportscotland National and Regional Facilities Investment

SHALE: SURVEY SHOWS FUTURE ISN’T FRACKING

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, says a study by the British Geological Survey shows that potentially modest reserves of shale oil and gas prove fracking shouldn’t figure in Scotland’s energy future.

Flare

The BGS estimates there are 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in central Scotland – just six per cent of the reserves thought to be present in northern England – and it warns that drilling and testing of wells would be required to understand if commercial production rates could be achieved.

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:

“This study puts paid to all the hype we’ve been fed about a shale bonanza. Not only would fracking divert attention from our undoubted renewables potential but any economically viable extraction would be modest and short-term. Greens want a long-term energy plan for Scotland, and we have abundant clean sources to do this.

“As communities across Scotland realise the risk to their local environments from the prospect of fracking, and as climate science tells us we must start to leave unburnt fossil fuels in the ground, it’s clear that any such developments will face strong opposition.

“It all serves as a reminder that Westminster controls energy policy in Scotland. The chance to pursue clean, long-lasting power rather than polluting, finite fuels is a compelling reason to vote Yes in September.”

 

The Carboniferous shales of the Midland Valley of Scotland: geology and resource estimation (BGS)

IMMIGRATION: GREEN MSP ON LOCAL AUTHORITY STUDY

 

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, is highlighting a study by the Centre for Population Change which suggests local authorities in Scotland have insufficient resources to welcome migrants to their communities.

 

Earlier this year a poll for the Scottish Green MSPs showed two-thirds of Scots want Holyrood to have control over immigration policy, with almost half of those planning to vote No to independence backing the idea.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Immigration presents huge economic and social opportunities for Scotland, and it’s pleasing to see local authorities are keen to attract more people to their areas to address issues such as population decline and an ageing population. But it’s a real concern to hear that many are struggling with resources.

“Immigration policy is determined by the UK Government and there’s no offer to devolve responsibility for it, so if Scotland votes No we will continue to struggle to adopt the more welcoming approach so many of us want to see.

“What this study also shows is that local authorities should have greater control, with the ability to raise revenue and direct resources where they’re needed. Local decision making, at Scottish and community level, will be key to securing the benefits of immigration for our society and economy.”

 

Immigration poll by Survation in March 2014 for Scottish Green MSPs

Centre for Population Change

FINAL DAY OF HOUSING BILL: GREENS SEEK BETTER DEAL FOR TENANTS

Ahead of todays’s final stage of the Housing Bill at Holyrood, the Scottish Greens have set out their amendments to the Bill to improve the experience for tenants in the private rented sector.

The Green amendments, part of Patrick Harvie’s ‘Rent Rights’ campaign, aim to:

- extend the new code of practice for letting agents to include individual landlords, an unused power which has existed since 2004

- require the code of practice to end discrimination against prospective tenants on socio-economic grounds, being in receipt of benefits (“No DSS”), or immigration status

- require tenants to be given compensation for any rent they’ve paid while a letting agent is in breach of the code of practice

In addition, the Greens will support amendments by James Kelly MSP on rent controls and improved security of lease for tenants – both ambitions of their ‘Rent Rights’ campaign. (1)

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow said:

“This Bill contains many positive ideas but at this final stage it still needs to do more to improve the lives of those who’ve been left with no choice except the private rented sector. The new Code of Practice should apply to landlords as well as letting agents, as tenants should expect a decent quality of service regardless of who they pay rent to.

“Parliament has the opportunity to send a clear message about acceptable standards in the private rented sector. Ruling out tenants who might need housing benefit is outdated discrimination that needs to end, just as Scotland should set a different tone to the Westminster Government with our approach to housing and immigration.

“There is growing debate on how to tackle rising rents and insecure leases, and I look forward to the Scottish Government setting out its response to these amendments. Greens are clear that the growing size of the private rented sector means that we must ensure it is an affordable, well-managed housing option which meets a social need instead of only serving the interests of investors and other businesses”

YOUTH EMPLOYMENT: GREEN MSP SAYS FLEXIBILITY AND FINANCE KEY

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, today welcomed a pledge by the Scottish Government to implement findings from the Wood Commission to tackle youth unemployment.

AJ students

Ministers have announced £4.5 million for apprenticeships, regional employer partnerships, careers advice and addressing gender segregation.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Across Scotland there are tens of thousands of young people whose potential is going untapped, and it’s welcome to see the Scottish Government starting to take this issue seriously.

“I remain concerned that young parents affected by Westminster’s welfare cuts are struggling to increase their work hours, and I will continue to press not just for more childcare but for more flexible working and part-time college places. Our young people, especially young women, must have genuine choice.

“I will also continue to press ministers to recognise the importance of micro, small and medium-sized businesses in recruiting young people, and the need for finance for young people to set up their own businesses.”

GREENS ON PLANNING: MUCH TO WELCOME BUT NOT ON FRACKING

Green MSPs have welcomed the focus on low carbon projects in the Scottish Government’s strategies launched today, but expressed dismay at the lack of a standard ‘buffer zone’ that would enforce a distance between communities and fracking developments.

On the Parliament’s Energy Committee, the Greens had pushed for a minimum 2km buffer zone to protect communites facing unconventional gas extraction, such as in Airth, near Falkirk. A standard buffer zone is already required for opencast coal mining and for wind farm developments, but the Scottish Government has decided to leave the design of buffer zones for developers to propose.

Positive projects in the third National Planning Framework (NPF3) include a number of large regeneration projects, expanding hydroelectric pumped storage, cycling and walking networks, continued support for the Central Scotland Green Network, and the rollout of a digital fibre network in the Highlands and Islands.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian said:

“They may not be as gung-ho as Westminster but the Scottish Government has failed to come down on the side of communities worried about the impacts of fracking. Greens proposed a 2km buffer zone but this has been rejected and now it will be up to developers to put forward a plan for approval. We already have standard buffer zones for wind farms and coal mines, so why not gas extraction?”

On the NPF3:

“There are plenty of ambitious projects here for regenerating Scotland and building a more sustainable country. The focus now must be on creating the maximum number of high-quality jobs and ensuring that Scottish companies get the boost they deserve.”

MASS SURVEILLANCE: HARVIE QUESTIONS JUSTICE SECRETARY

 

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, is highlighting the challenge Scotland faces to oppose the mass surveillance of ordinary citizens by UK Government agencies.

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During General Questions at Holyrood today (19 June) Mr Harvie questioned Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, pointing to recent revelations about the interception of online messages.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“It’s clear that the UK security services are no longer content to monitor the communications of those who pose a genuine security threat – they are in fact keeping the entire population under routine mass surveillance.

“We have an opportunity this September to take responsibility for security, and protect the rights of innocent citizens by ending these uncontrolled and deeply invasive practices. The Justice Secretary gave a clear commitment to the principle of opposing mass surveillance but the challenge will be living up to that aim, especially given the nature of our communications infrastructure.

“Our citizens have the right to know their privacy isn’t being threatened by their own state or any other. But if the Scottish Government intends to co-operate with the UK on security issues, we need to ask whether we can really trust the UK Government not to spy on Scottish citizens in future, if it can’t even be trusted not to spy on UK citizens today.”

 

Social media mass surveillance is permitted by law, says top UK official (Guardian)

Vodafone reveals existence of secret wires that allow state surveillance (Guardian)

FOOD POLICY MUST COME WITH FUNDING, SAYS ALISON JOHNSTONE

 

Responding to the Scottish Government’s launch of a discussion on a new food and drink policy, Alison Johnstone is calling for funding to transform Scotland’s relationship with food.

Cutlery

Ministers are proposing ideas that the Scottish Greens have long advocated, including:

- Using the public sector to lead by example in offering fresh, seasonal, local and sustainable produce
- Tackling the impact of food on the health of young people
- Making it easier for people to grow food locally

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, said:

“This change of tone from the Scottish Government is welcome, and suggests they’ve finally woken up to the fact that good food should be available for everyone, not just for export.

“There are clear challenges in our relationship with food, its effect on our health and the corporate control of a handful of supermarkets and multinationals.

“On so many issues we hear a lot of warm words from ministers but little action. Whether it’s tackling the unhealthy food pupils eat outside school at lunchtime, upgrading dining and kitchen facilities in our schools, or addressing the huge waiting lists for allotments, we need a Scottish Government that puts its money where its mouth is.”

 

EQUAL PAY: POLL HIGHLIGHTS INDYREF OPPORTUNITY

 

A new poll by us highlights how a Yes vote 3 months today would present an opportunity to close the huge pay gap between men and women.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On average women earn 13 per cent less than men in full-time jobs, and almost 34 per cent less in part-time jobs. Equal pay laws are controlled by Westminster and at the moment only public sector employers are required to take steps to ensure pay equality.

A Survation poll of 1,000 Scots asked: “If Scotland had responsibility for these laws would you welcome the idea of large private sector employers also being required to ensure pay equality?”

75.7 per cent supported the idea, and of those 51.2 per cent said they strongly support it.

Women are keener on the idea, with 56.8 per cent saying they strongly support it compared to 45.2 per cent of men.

The idea also enjoys greater support among those identifying as Yes voters in the independence referendum, at almost 90 per cent compared to 72 per cent of No voters.

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

“It’s clear there’s a very strong desire among Scots for action to close the shameful pay gap between men and women. The opportunity we have in September is to take responsibility for this issue here in Scotland and make big employers do the right thing.

“We already know that fairness matters more than wealth in the independence debate, and I believe we have a greater chance of achieving that fairness if we decide for ourselves rather than leave it to Westminster.”

 

Poll results in full:
Strongly support – 51.2%
Somewhat support – 24.5%
Neither support nor oppose – 21.7%
Somewhat oppose – 1.1%
Strongly oppose – 1.5%

Pay gap measurements – see table 1 (Close the Gap)

A poll by the Scottish Greens of 1,000 Scots reveals the prospect of a fairer and more equal society is a huge motivating factor (Scottish Greens)