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.”

 

ARCHES: HARVIE DISAPPOINTED AS LICENSING AMENDMENTS FALL

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, is expressing disappointment that MSPs have voted down amendments to the Air Weapons and Licensing Bill which attempted to address issues arising from the hugely unpopular closure of The Arches music and arts venue in the city.

The Arches-large

Mr Harvie’s amendments would have added “promoting social and cultural life” to Licensing Objectives and consideration of the impact of decisions on a Licensing Board’s whole area when reviewing a venue’s license.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“It’s unrealistic to imagine that recreational drug use will be reduced by closing one venue, especially one with a record of staff training, medical facilities and a willingness to report problems rather than hiding them. The loss of The Arches leaves a huge gap in the social and cultural scene of Scotland’s biggest city, and it’s disappointing MSPs have chosen not to take the opportunity to reconsider licensing objectives.”

 

FORT KINNAIRD: JOHNSTONE QUIZZES MUNDELL OVER DEVOLUTION EXEMPTION

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s Devolution committee, today pressed Scottish Secretary David Mundell on the UK Conservative Government’s plans to resist devolving control of Fort Kinnaird retail park in Edinburgh.Ft Kinnaird

The Scotland Bill aims to devolve the management and revenue of the Crown Estate in Scotland but the UK Government is proposing a complex transfer scheme managed by the Treasury which exempts “property, rights or interests held by a limited partnership”.

Fort Kinnaird is the only land held by the Crown in partnership, so under the current proposals would become an island of Crown land in Scotland run from London with profits still flowing to the UK Treasury.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Fort Kinnaird is a money-maker for the Treasury and it’s notable that the UK Government wants to exempt it from devolution of the Crown Estate as agreed by the Smith Commission. It’s simply not credible for the Scottish Secretary to say he doesn’t accept that this arrangement is overly-complex.

“I’m sure most of us in the Edinburgh area familiar with Fort Kinnaird will find it ludicrous that it is destined to become a satellite of the Treasury rather than under Scottish control like the rest of Crown Estate land in Scotland. It is illogical and inconsistent, and it cannot go unresolved.”

 

GREEN INVESTMENT BANK SELL-OFF: HARVIE HITS OUT

Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow and a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, is criticising the UK Government for preparing to privatise the Green Investment Bank.

Turbines

Treasury ministers have hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on the sell-off of the Scottish-headquartered bank.

Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“The sell-off of the Green Investment Bank proves that David Cameron’s comment about wanting to ‘cut the green crap’ has now become a full-blown mantra for a right-wing Government determined to wreck our renewable energy opportunities. The bank was a half-hearted effort by the Tory-Libdem Coalition, with limited powers and funding. Rather than taking another backward step we need governments to go further and faster on developing new energy sources and cleaner industries as the need to leave fossil fuels in the ground becomes ever more urgent.”

 

CHILDCARE: JOHNSTONE WELCOMES REPORT URGING RADICAL ACTION

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, is welcoming the report of the Commission for Childcare Reform, which calls for “radical action to transform childcare” in Scotland.Crayones de cera

The report calls for 50 hours a week of free or subsidised childcare, with a system that takes account of parents’ income to ensure affordability.

The Scottish Government’s current aim is 30 hours a week by the end of the next parliament in 2020.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“This report rightly keeps childcare on the agenda. The current arrangements are patchy and inflexible, and Scotland’s childcare system remains one of the most expensive in Europe.

“We know that if we invest in good quality childcare we have a better chance of tackling unemployment, giving parents easier access to further and higher education, and it can help reduce inequality. We must focus on quality as well as quantity, with more opportunities for learning and training for childcare providers, and decent rates of pay.

“Given that this issue requires a joined up approach across local, devolved and reserved responsibilities, it is crucial that all levels of government work together to make progress.”

 

POLICE CALLS: JOHNSTONE COMMENTS ON MERGER PROBLEMS

Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, has expressed alarm at figures presented today (24 June) to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), showing dozens of calls to the Bilston Glen service centre are abandoned every week as people give up waiting for assistance.Police

Ms Johnstone previously warned that the control room would be adversely affected by mergers that now see it also handling calls from Fife, with this situation replicated nationally, as 11 control centres were reduced to four.

Police Scotland cite staff illness and problems with recruitment as the reason for emergency calls taking up to three minutes to answer, with non-emergency calls unanswered for as long as 11 minutes.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Scottish Greens campaigned strongly against the merger of Scotland’s police forces and fire brigades, warning of the implications for local jobs and accountability. The call centre mergers were a terrible blow for the highly skilled staff, and I share the deep concern of many of my constituents who now worry about the ability of the police to provide the support that their communities require.  It is very distressing for staff who know that they are unable to deal efficiently with the high volume of calls and suggests that increasing staff resources and capacity should be a priority.”

“The trend of centralisation under the current Scottish Government is creating stresses and strains on our public services and employees. I welcome Police Scotland’s pledge to tackle recruitment but I also want to hear from the Scottish Government what they are doing to ensure the safety and security of the public is given priority.”

 

 

 

Update on Contact, Command and Control Division for today’s SPA board meeting

 

 

 

 

LAND REFORM: JOHNSTONE URGES GOVERNMENT TO BE BOLDER

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian and rural affairs spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, is welcoming the publication of the Scottish Government’s Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, but is urging ministers to be bolder.

Today’s publication includes positive measures that would end tax relief for shooting estates, provide a community right-to-buy land to further sustainable development, and force the sale of land where owners block development. But it does not include recommendations made by the independent Land Reform Review Group such as placing an upper limit on the total amount of land that can be held or giving consideration to a land value tax.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“We still have a long way to go if we aspire to truly reform our undemocratic system of land ownership, and end the vast inequalities where half the country is estimated to be owned by as few as 432 people. This Bill can allow us to begin to address some of the deepest problems of land ownership in Scotland, but we cannot pretend it is now job done.

“Scottish Greens have long advocated the introduction of a Land Value Tax as an example of how we can improve conditions for both urban and rural Scotland. Last year’s report by the independent Land Reform Review Group recommended that LVT be given serious consideration and that there be an upper limit on the total amount of land in Scotland that can be held by a private land owner. I would urge ministers to reconsider these ideas, so we can pursue a truly bold land reform agenda.”

PRISON: JOHNSTONE COMMENTS ON CORNTON VALE REPLACEMENT

Responding to the announcement by the Justice Secretary that a new women’s prison for 80 prisoners is to be built to replace Cornton Vale along with five smaller regional units, Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s cross-party group on Families Affected by Imprisonment, said:

InDefens

“The Scottish Government’s original idea of a single, massive jail would have gone completely against all the evidence. Today’s announcement is a clear sign that ministers have listened to the wide range of voices urging a rethink.

“Given that most women in prison have complex needs, often due to abuse and health problems, it’s good to see those issues being focused on through the creation of small-scale support units. Imprisonment of women has a huge impact on families, and a more dispersed approach will enable us to protect the public while reducing reoffending.”

 

ERI HYGIENE: JOHNSTONE URGES NHS TO IMPROVE PROCEDURES

Responding to a report by inspectors who found dirty equipment and poor hand hygiene at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, said:ERI

“Hospital hygiene is a big challenge but it’s incredibly important and public patience is starting to run out. It’s therefore disappointing to hear of contamination during an inspection of the emergency department and the labour ward at ERI.

“Trust in our health service is vital, and I want to hear from NHS Lothian how they plan to improve procedures for good hygiene in our hospitals.”