Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green MSP for Glasgow and Rent Rights campaigner, today welcomed publication of the Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill.
“The publication of this bill is overdue but very welcome, and comes after long campaigns by organisations such as NUS and Shelter. Many Scots have no option but to rent privately, and figures from Shelter show that almost a fifth of homeless applications come from the private rented sector. The need for action is clear, and it’s good to see ministers finally bringing ideas forward.
“Scottish Greens look forward to examining the detail of the bill and engaging constructively with it as it works its way through parliament. Over the last five years, average rents across Scotland have gone up by 17.5 per cent. By bringing in greater security for tenants and the option of rent controls we can provide the fairer, more affordable housing system Scotland needs.”
Rent Rights campaign site
Patrick Harvie MSP, economy spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, says Scottish ministers should have done more to prevent giving a £350 million contract to a private water company for supply of services to Scotland’s public sector.
At the moment the billing and servicing of water for council buildings, hospitals, universities, prisons and the Scottish Parliament is carried out by Edinburgh-based Business Stream, which is 100 per cent owned by publicly-owned Scottish Water.
Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green MSP for Glasgow and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, said:
“A decision on this £350million contract should have been made in February, and the delay by Scottish ministers has caused uncertainty for Edinburgh-based Business Stream, its employees and contractors. It has also been a source of uncertainty for the 100 public sector organisations in Scotland currently billed by Business Stream.
“This was an opportunity to prevent the supply of water services to Scotland’s public sector falling into the hands of a private firm whose profits won’t benefit the Scottish economy, and specifically a company that paid no corporation tax this year yet handed shareholders a £180million dividend.
“The market for business customers in Scotland was opened up due to competition legislation brought in by Tony Blair’s government. Scottish ministers must show determination to defend the public sector’s role in Scotland’s economy.”
THE owners of Anglian Water took a £180m dividend last year — and paid no corporation tax. (Sunday Times, July 2015)
Motion lodged in February by Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone calling for water services to remain in public hands
Patrick Harvie MSP, economy and energy spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, is urging Scottish ministers to go further and faster on the development of community and locally-owned renewable energy.
Ministers have today said an estimated 508 megawatts (MW) of community and locally owned capacity is now operational in Scotland, exceeding their 500MW target.
Yet this represents only three per cent of renewables ownership in Scotland and includes small private ownership. By contrast Germany has 65 per cent in local or community hands.
Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green MSP for Glasgow and a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, said:
“Scottish Greens have consistently pushed for community and public ownership of energy assets so the profits can be used to fund the transition our local economies need. What ministers are trumpeting today is a drop in the ocean compared with what we could have.
“We could be copying Germany’s Energiewende programme of switching to renewables and reducing demand through widespread local ownership. Giving communities and public bodies control not only creates jobs and cuts bills but provides revenue to invest in other priorities.
“The barriers and challenges faced by local ownership and community ownership are different and require specific support. It’s a huge opportunity and ministers need to go much further and much faster on this or Scotland will continue to be left behind.”
“In Scotland, if all targets are achieved, 3% of renewable energy will be community or locally owned. This is in comparison to Germany, where over 65% of the turbines and solar panels are owned by individuals, farmers and communities.”
Alison Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Greens’ health spokesperson, today welcomed the call from the Royal College of General Practitioners for a clear strategy for general practice.
RCGP Scotland says the funding share for GPs from the Scottish Government has fallen for the tenth year in a row, while the number of consultations has risen by eleven per cent in the same period.
Alison Johnstone MSP said:
“GPs are under enormous pressure and patients are struggling to get appointments, while the Scottish Government lacks a clear strategy. Scottish Greens welcome the contribution of the RCGP to this important issue.
“Scottish Greens have a track record on getting government to go faster and further on key issues, whether that’s energy efficient housing, community ownership of football clubs or fracking. We are clear that GPs need greater investment and support to provide high quality, connected care. GPs are a vital link in our complex, in-demand health service.”
RCGP manifesto for 2016
Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green MSP for Glasgow, today used Topical Questions at Holyrood to raise concerns about the Scottish Government’s consultation on civil partnerships.
The consultation says that ministers are “not persuaded” to extend civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.
Responding to Mr Harvie, Community Empowerment minister Marco Biagi made reference to perceived low demand for the extension but said the government would fully consider consultation responses.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“For over a decade I have said that civil partnerships should be available to all couples. Given the clear support across Parliament for equal marriage, I am surprised and disappointed at the position ministers are taking.
“Mixed-sex couples should have the choice of co-habiting, entering a civil partnership or getting married. I would urge people to respond to the consultation and I hope that the Scottish Government will keep an open mind to the principle of giving all couples the same legal rights, regardless of their sexuality or genders.”
Review of Civil Partnership – A consultation by the Scottish Government
Alison recently lodged the following question for ministers:
To ask the Scottish Government whether, in considering its policy, it will request from the Australian Government information on pollution incidents associated with underground coal gasification projects in Australia.
The minister’s reply is here. In short, no such commitment has been given.
“Fergus Ewing appears to be unwilling to learn lessons from disastrous underground coal gasification experiments elsewhere. I do hope that that the SNP aren’t blinded by the promises of short-term economic gains that the fossil fuel industry are laying out before them. We have to remember that these promises are based on the self-interest of the companies involved, not on a long-term vision for Scotland’s future.
“In Australia, attempts to burn coal underground have caused irreversible environmental damage and serious health risks. There is simply not enough evidence to prove that similar problems wouldn’t arise in Scotland. We don’t need to take those risks in order to develop out economy – a report by the Scottish Greens has recently shown that we could create 200,000 jobs in Scotland by investing in renewables, energy efficiency, green chemistry and decommissioning. Burning yet more fossil fuels is just a damaging distraction from what the real focus of the Scottish Government should be – investing in a controlled transition to a sustainable economy.
“The Scottish Government continue to dodge the question when it comes to underground coal gasification, but they cannot remain ambiguous on the issue for long.
Our communities are getting tired of the worry and uncertainty, as big business pushes for opportunities to reap yet more fuel out of the ground. The Scottish Government must put the interest of its electorate first, put a permanent ban on fracking and UCG, and start investing in a safe, sustainable, prosperous future for our country.”
Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green MSP for Glasgow and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, today responded to an advice paper on GM crops by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
The Green MSPs welcomed the Scottish Government’s recent decision to maintain a ban, urging ministers to go further on labelling to provide consumers with clarity about products from animals fed on GM crops.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“The RSE has an important voice in this debate, particularly at a time when the post of Chief Scientific Advisor has been vacant for so long. Their paper raises important questions, but we must remember that this question isn’t only a matter of science. GM technology has economic and social consequences which must be addressed, as well as the environmental factors.
“The economic consequences of GM technology are likely to involve even greater corporate control of the food chain than we see today. Allowing a few multinational companies to research and produce such crops – often the same companies selling fertilisers and pesticides to our farmers – would tip the balance too far in their favour. Their aim will always be profit, not tackling food poverty or inequality.
“Consumers have been let down too many times by governments, regulators and industry resulting in successive crises which have undermined public trust. Scotland has an economic opportunity to pursue conventional and organic food production in a way that reduces environmental impacts, supports small independent producers, and provides high quality products for local consumption as well as export.”
Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian and a leading campaigner against unconventional gas extraction, says comments by fossil fuel developer Algy Cluff show a lack of respect for communities around the Firth of Forth.
Writing in the Sun, Mr Cluff claims that “fears are unfounded” and that his plans to burn coal gas under the Forth would take place in parts of the country where “local issues are irrelevant”.
Alison Johnstone MSP said:
“These comments by Mr Cluff show a lack of respect and simply underline the case we have been making. His company wants to make a quick profit and they clearly have no intention of listening to community concerns.
“We know coal gas extraction has caused environmental damage elsewhere, and it would simply distract Scotland from the amazing opportunity we have to develop more and better jobs in sectors such as renewables, housing insulation and manufacturing. The Scottish Government needs to get off the fence on this issue to protect our communities and our climate. Their silence is allowing wealthy developers such as Cluff to attempt to pressurise local communities, although the kind of careless language they’re using will do them no favours.”
Algy Cluff in the Sun
Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green MSP for Glasgow and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, today branded as “offensive” comments by big business lobby group the CBI who claim that lower earners have done better than higher earners in terms of pay growth.
CBI Scotland gave evidence today to the committee’s inquiry into Work, Wages and Wellbeing, and Mr Harvie challenged the lobby group’s claim as “flat wrong”.
Official figures show that workers on the minimum wage have seen a 77p an hour increase over the last 5 years, worth around £1,500 a year for a full-time job. By contrast, the average pay of FTSE 100 CEOs has risen from £4.1million in 2010 to almost £5million in 2014.
Last year under questioning from Green MSP Alison Johnstone the then head of CBI Scotland said he didn’t understand the meaning of the word inequality.
Patrick Harvie MSP said:
“Too many Scots work in jobs that still leave them in poverty, yet the CBI has a track record of lobbying for fat cats and has consistently failed to grasp the scale of inequality in today’s economy.
“For years right wing governments have promised ‘trickle-down economics’, but instead their policies have left us with ‘hoover-up economics’ benefiting only the wealthiest. The top one per cent of income taxpayers in Scotland have an income greater than the bottom 20 per cent of taxpayers put together. This grotesque level of inequality cannot be tolerated.
“Scottish ministers would do well to ignore the likes of the CBI and instead focus on lifting people out of poverty, supporting responsible small businesses and cutting off public support from wealthy businesses and individuals who avoid paying their taxes.”
Alison Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Greens’ local government spokesperson, today highlighted a Scottish Parliament briefing which shows that since 2008 the Scottish Government has cut council budgets by twice as much as its own budget.
From 2008-09 to 2015-16 the local government budget has fallen by 6 per cent compared to 3 per cent for the Scottish Government.
Alison Johnstone MSP said:
“This report underlines the need to restore our local democracy and give communities greater say in how funds are raised. Local authorities should have a choice of progressive measures such as land, wealth and visitor taxes, as is commonplace in other European countries.
“Central control of funding has exacerbated the flaws in the council tax, which is based on property values from 24 years ago. This broken system has unquestionably harmed vital public services. In Edinburgh for example we now face budget plans which could see the loss of 2,000 jobs over the next 4 years.
“The Scottish Government knows that reform is needed, and has set up a local tax commission, which my colleague Andy Wightman is taking part in. We can improve our democracy and our public services by giving councils the kind of income-raising powers councils in other countries take for granted.”
Local Government Finance: facts and figures, 1999-2016