Rona Mackay speech: ‘Bridging attainment gap for all children is Scots government’s defining mission’

Rona Mackay speech: ‘Bridging attainment gap for all children is Scots government’s defining mission’

Debate: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare Provision: That the Parliament notes the publication of the Financial Review of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland: the Current Landscape, which provides a comprehensive picture of how the funding provided by the Scottish Government to deliver early learning and childcare in Scotland is being used; welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to transform provision by almost doubling free entitlement from 600 to 1140 hours for every 3- and 4-year-old and eligible 2-year-olds; agrees that this transformational expansion must deliver a high-quality experience for children, involving a highly-skilled and qualified workforce, which is geographically accessible and meets the needs of children who require additional support, while also delivering the flexibility, affordability and choice, which parents need to support them in work, training or study, and agrees that the Scottish Government should consult on a policy blueprint for early learning and childcare in order to achieve this and ensure that this entitlement helps to ensure that more of Scotland’s children get the best possible start in life and contributes to the Scottish Government’s ambitions to close the attainment gap, tackle inequalities and boost inclusive economic growth.

Rona Mackay’s speech:

The Scottish Government has said that bridging the attainment gap for all children is its defining mission—and rightly so.

I believe that bridging that gap should start as early as possible in a child’s life and that is why I am delighted that our Government is investing in expanding early years education.

As we have heard in the chamber, our Government is doubling free early learning and childcare entitlement by 2020. The extension in provision will help around 120,000 children per year and will save families up to £707 per child per year.

It is an ambitious goal but one that we believe it is crucial to implement, as investing in our children is surely the best investment that any Government could make.

As the minister has said, as well as doubling the provision, we are determined to deliver provision of the highest possible standard. Quantity without quality is not what we are striving for.

Our childcare staff are not glorified babysitters; they are highly skilled professionals who are entrusted with the care and education of our children—the future generation of Scotland.

Scotland is one of the few countries in Europe that employs multidisciplinary professional teams to support individuals or small groups. I am proud that, during 2017-18, the Scottish Government will pilot approaches to providing support for the up-front costs of childcare to parents in low-income households.

We will ensure that every child in early education in the most deprived communities has access to an additional teacher or childcare graduate by 2018. That, in my view, is bridging the attainment gap and I welcome those initiatives.

Of course, our third sector agencies play a huge part in helping us to achieve our aims. Barnardo’s Scotland works with expectant and new mothers in the home on attachment-based approaches, as does the excellent Home-Start organisation. They believe that adopting a nurturing approach across early learning and childcare should make a significant difference to children’s attainment levels later in life.

They agree that it is crucial that investment in the expansion of early learning and childcare includes disadvantaged children and families as a central part of the system and that support should be continued for better attainment as children grow older.

A nurturing approach to early learning and childcare helps children to learn, thrive and ultimately achieve better educational outcomes.

Childminders, too, will be central to providing more flexibility and choice for parents, as my colleague James Dornan has already said. We will create a new quality standard and induction programme for childminders in order to deliver best practice in the profession.

Our aim is to develop a high-quality and—crucially—flexible early learning and childcare system, which is accessible and affordable for all. In short, we want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up.

A shining example of excellence in early years learning is the Lullaby Lane nursery, based in my Bearsden constituency. Despite being open for just three years, it has just won Nursery Management Today’s 2016 training and development award at the Scottish nursery awards. I am very much looking forward to visiting the nursery with the cabinet secretary next month. Lullaby Lane, along with other first-class nurseries in my constituency such as the Tower Nursery in Lenzie, which is currently undergoing accreditation, represents exactly the model that we aspire to create throughout Scotland.

I believe that parents are the best judge of how good a nursery is, and I know that many of my constituents believe that the money should follow the child when it comes to nursery choice. While we balance the need to ensure that all nurseries in Scotland are of the excellent high standard that we expect for our children, hence the need for nursery partnership with local authorities, there is a little confusion over how much autonomy local authorities have to fund placements. I am pleased to hear that the minister will look at all options for funding during the consultation.

We need nurseries that parents and children are happy with and that provide the best possible start for all our children, regardless of family background or circumstances.

Our transformational increase in childcare is a remarkable achievement, and once again we are leading the way against all odds. Despite an ever-decreasing budget handout from Westminster, the fact that Scotland punches way above its weight on this issue in comparison with the rest of the UK and many other countries shows just how important investing in our children is to us in Scotland. I am proud that we are leading the way in this area, and I whole-heartedly support the motion.

Young Kirkintilloch artist has Thomas Muir portrait unveiled in Scottish Parliament

Young Kirkintilloch artist has Thomas Muir portrait unveiled in Scottish Parliament

A YOUNG artist from Kirkintilloch has unveiled her portrait of Thomas Muir in the Scottish Parliament.

Gabrielle Joy Henderson was welcomed by her MSP, Rona Mackay, and the presiding officer Ken McIntosh at Holyrood on Friday September 23.

She beat hundreds of others to become the winner of East Dunbartonshire Schools Art Competition for her portrait of political reformer Thomas Muir. Gabriella painted the portrait while an S6 student at St Ninian’s High School in Kirkintilloch.

Thomas Muir (1765-1799) was persecuted and eventually banished in 1793 for his work to champion reform, freedom of speech and voting rights for all. Gabrielle’s portrait was painted to marked the 250th anniversary of Muir’s birth.

Thomas Muir portrait by Gabrielle Joy Henderson
Thomas Muir portrait by Gabrielle Joy Henderson

Rona said: “I was very proud to welcome Gabrielle to the Scottish Parliament to unveil her fantastic portrait of Thomas Muir. I am sure the MSPs, staff and visitors to the parliament will find the painting a fine addition to the collection. I wish Gabrielle all the best for the future and hope she continues to impress others with her artistic talent.”

The East Dunbartonshire Schools Art Competition was held as part of the Thomas Muir 250 celebrations and attracted 300-400 entries from primary and secondary school pupils.

You can come and see Gabrielle’s work at the Scottish Parliament between now and January. See for information about visiting.


Policing policies of SNP sees huge decline in recorded crime in East Dunbartonshire

Policing policies of SNP sees huge decline in recorded crime in East Dunbartonshire

FIGURES showing a steep decline in recorded crime in East Dunbartonshire since 2007 have been welcomed by Rona Mackay MSP.
Nine years after the Scottish National Party entered office, recorded crime in the local authority area has fallen by 46 per cent, and 41 per cent nationwide.

It comes as a National Statistics for Scotland publication by the Scottish Government, Recorded Crime in Scotland 2015/16 was published on Tuesday, September 27.

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP believes this sharp decline over the SNP’s period in office shows the party’s policies on policing are working.

Recorded crime in Scotland
Recorded crime in Scotland

Ms Mackay said: “These are welcome figures that show a steep fall in recorded crime in the period since the SNP entered office in 2007 – and shows that SNP policies, such as having more police officers, have made our communities safer.

“It is excellent to see a decline in recorded crime of 46 per cent across East Dunbartonshire, part of a Scotland-wide picture that shows an overall fall of 41 per cent since 2006/07.

“Having safe communities where everyone feels welcome are vital to creating the Scotland that we all want to see – and these figures show that, under the SNP, we have made significant progress in achieving this goal.”

Crime statistics chart showing local authority areas
Crime statistics chart showing local authority areas



Changes in total recorded crime between 2006/07 and 2015/16, by local authority area, available here:


Rona Mackay: ‘It is unacceptable to see environmental protections rolled back with Tory Brexit’

Rona Mackay: ‘It is unacceptable to see environmental protections rolled back with Tory Brexit’

PROGRESS on climate change risks being rolled back by an “increasingly right-wing” Tory Brexit, Rona Mackay MSP has warned.

The SNP MSP’s statement comes as Scotland marks its national Climate Week, which runs from September 16 to 23.

The opposing approaches of the Scottish and UK governments in the last week were highlighted by the Strathkelvin and Bearsden representative.

A Scottish Government supported world-leading tidal energy project was unveiled days before the Tories approved the costly white elephant Hinkley Point, Ms Mackay pointed out.

A Climate Change Committee report also showed that Scotland is leading the UK in cutting carbon emissions, despite Tory cuts to renewables damaging the industry.

Ms Mackay said: “The Tory government at Westminster are in serious danger of damaging our efforts to tackle climate change and build a sustainable future for East Dunbartonshire.

“This is completely unacceptable and light-years away from our efforts in Scotland, marked by the annual national Climate Week.

“Time and again, the Tories have failed to adapt to the need to develop a more sustainable energy policy that would benefit our local communities in Strathkelvin and Bearsden.

“From the appointment of Andrea Leadsom, who once asked if climate change was real, to the environment portfolio and harrowing cuts to renewable subsidies, to a willingness to spend billions on nuclear power whilst scraping innovative Carbon Capture and Storage schemes, we can see that their priorities lie elsewhere.

“Their record on the environment leaves a lot to be desired – and with an unwanted Brexit now looming over the towns and villages of my constituency, I don’t have high hopes for the vital protections that the EU provides on animal habitats, air and water pollution and carbon emissions being maintained.

“If the increasingly right-wing Tory government had any sense, they would prioritise and strengthen environmental legislation – but given their desire to roll back the decades and cut out the ‘Brussels red-tape’ which provides many vital protections across all areas of public life in East Dunbartonshire, I can’t say I’ll be holding my breath on that.”



Details of Climate Week are available here:
The lack of new renewable energy schemes is detailed here:
The 2014 to 2020 European Environment Action Programme is detailed here:

Revealed: Number of women impacted by pension age change in East Dunbartonshire

Revealed: Number of women impacted by pension age change in East Dunbartonshire

THOUSANDS of women in East Dunbartonshire are set to be affected by plans to hike the retirement age, a study has shown.

A new independent report by Landman Economics showed about 4,300 women in the region will be impacted – and 242,500 across Scotland.

Researchers found it would cost £8 billion to return to the original timetable set out in the 1995 Pensions Act – a significantly cheaper option for the UK Government which would go some way to ending the gross injustice served to these women and would help to alleviate pensioner poverty.

The National Insurance Fund (NIF) had a £20.9 billion surplus at the end of March 2015 and the latest forecasts project a surplus of £26.3 billion at the end of this year and £30.7 billion at the end of 2017/18.

The report outlines five possible options to compensate the women adversely affected, who were born on or after April 6 1951.

Rona Mackay MSP has welcomed the report and has backed calls for the UK Government to look at the recommendations and bring an end to the inequality that has seen retirement plans “shattered with devastating consequences”.

The Pensions Act 2011 enacted by the UK Government accelerated the timetable for increases in women’s State Pension Age (SPA). Women’s SPA will rise from 63 to 65 between April 2016 and November 2018, and from 65 to 66 by October 2020.

Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) has been at the heart of raising the profile of the issue. Its members ask for a ‘bridging’ pension to cover the gap from age 60 until State Pension Age for women born in the 50s.

The majority of those impacted in East Dunbartonshire are the 2,500 women age 56 to 60 born between 1955 to 1959.

Rona Mackay MSP said: “The results of this independent report are absolutely staggering – thousands of women are affected in Strathkelvin and Bearsden alone. As WASPI says, this legislation has seen retirement pans shattered with devastating consequences.

“We now have a clear idea of how this inequality can be eradicated – and the UK Government has to face up to the facts and look at the options we have unearthed.

“I’d like to comment the work done by the women in WASPI, who have championed this noble cause for millions of women across the United Kingdom.”

Constituency snaps of August revealed — get involved in September!

Constituency snaps of August revealed — get involved in September!

CONSTITENTS who enjoy snapping scenes of Strathkelvin and Bearsden are being called upon to get involved with a photo project.

Rona Mackay MSP is looking for members of the public to send in their best pictures taken in and around the constituency.

The MSP is looking to promote the wonderful landscape, culture and people by showcasing all of the photos every month.

The snaps can be taken on a camera, phone or anything – it’s a fun amateurs’ project to celebrate the constituency, as opposed to a professional photography competition.

Rona Mackay MSP said: “Thank you to all of those who submitted pictures to during August. We’re looking for ordinary people who enjoy taking pictures to get involved. Every month, we’ll showcase the best ones.”

Photos taken by Jane Coyle, Pamela Marshall and Ray James have been added to the album on Rona Mackay’s Facebook page and website.

Send the pictures to Rona Mackay’s communications manager at and remember to say what the picture is of and include your name, and where you’re from.

Mugdock Castle by Pamela Marshall
Mugdock Castle by Pamela Marshall
A sunset snap of the canal bank by Jane Coyle
A sunset snap of the canal bank by Jane Coyle
Canal festival scene from Ray James
Canal festival scene from Ray James


Rona Mackay: ‘Children are often the forgotten victims of domestic violence’

Rona Mackay: ‘Children are often the forgotten victims of domestic violence’

RONA Mackay has welcomed the inclusion of psychological violence in new domestic abuse legislation in Scotland.

Ms Mackay pointed out a number of issues in a speech in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday September 15, including how domestic violence affects children.

The new law includes plans to create a specific offence of “abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner” as well as proposals to ensure that psychological abuse, such as coercive and controlling behaviour, can be effectively prosecuted under criminal law.

In her speech, Rona Mackay MSP said: “This is a debate that I sincerely wish that we were not having. Domestic abuse is repugnant on every level, which is why I am pleased that the Scottish Government is introducing the domestic abuse bill, which will show just how seriously we take our zero tolerance approach. The bill is an important part of the Government’s approach to tackling violence against women and children, as set out in the equally safe strategy. It will ensure that the true nature and severity of domestic abuse is recognised on every level—physical abuse and, crucially, emotional and psychological abuse.

“Until recently, there has been a common misconception that domestic abuse is just physical abuse. Over the years, we have all seen the campaign posters of battered and bruised women. That is why I am pleased that the Scottish Government has recognised that abuse can be psychological, too, as such abuse results in concealed bruises that are just as painful but far more difficult to detect.

“Domestic violence exists in all sections of our communities and across all levels of society. Abusers and victims can be male or female, from any race or religion and from all types of background.

“As we have heard, some 60,000 incidents are reported to the police in Scotland each year, of which 79 per cent involve a female victim and a male perpetrator. Shockingly, the number of women in prisons who have suffered brain injuries is almost double the number of men in prisons who have done so, and it is known that domestic violence is to blame for that figure.

“Mental and emotional abuse includes threats, including threats of violence, criticism of appearance and intellect, name calling and control of what the victim can do, where they go, how they dress and who they speak to. The cowardly abuser knows no bounds: they threaten the victim’s children, isolate the victim from their friends and family, accuse them of being unfaithful, threaten to out their sexual orientation to their family, friends or employer, and much more. It is all about control—control by fear.

“Children are often the forgotten victims of domestic violence. For example, there are children who cry when they hear someone laugh because they think that the fighting has started again. Children’s innocence can be stolen by a brutal, inadequate coward who is intent on expressing themselves through violence. Research has shown that children in a home where the mother is being abused are also at greater risk of being abused themselves. The ways in which children can be harmed by domestic abuse are wider than simply witnessing the abuse itself; the trauma is long lasting and far reaching. Giving evidence in domestic abuse cases or in any court setting can be extremely stressful and traumatic for children. I am fully supportive of Children 1st’s manifesto proposal to radically change the way in which children give evidence—my colleague John Finnie alluded to that. However, that subject merits an entire debate, which I hope that we will have in the chamber sooner rather than later.

“Our Government can take measures to help adult victims of domestic abuse by giving them greater access to justice. As the cabinet secretary outlined, the Scottish Government is making huge changes to the status quo through the work of the equally safe expert group on justice, which is developing an action plan that will look at both medium-term and longer-term improvements that can be made to the justice system for all victims of domestic violence.

“Today, we heard the news from the UK Government confirming that refuges will be exempt from changes to the housing benefit cap until 2019 and from the 1 per cent rent reduction, which will ensure that refuges remain financially sustainable and, crucially, open for women and children who are fleeing violence.

“The Scottish Government has committed to a welcome funding boost to tackle the scourge of domestic abuse across Scotland. That has allowed additional investment of £2.4 million each year to boost resources for our courts and prosecutors, ensuring that there are no undue delays in court waiting times in domestic abuse cases. Of course, as has been discussed during the debate, we have excellent organisations that offer support to victims, such as Scottish Women’s Aid, the national domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland, to name but a few. Incidentally, anyone who visits those organisations’ websites will see the chilling statement, “Click here to leave this site quickly”, which surely speaks volumes about fear and control.

“East Dunbartonshire Women’s Aid is an example of an organisation that offers support, information and advice on welfare rights and benefits, housing options and legal issues; it also offers refuge accommodation for women and their children, an outreach service for children and young people, and follow-on support for women after they leave the refuge. Women’s Aid groups throughout Scotland deal with around 25,000 new cases of abuse a year, which is a chilling statistic, and help children and young people through those crises.

“As my colleague Fulton MacGregor highlighted, homelessness is also exacerbated by domestic abuse, with 46 per cent of women victims having been made homeless more than once because of domestic or sexual abuse; 39 per cent of them have suffered homelessness more than twice. When women leave their family home, they often move house multiple times, which leaves them feeling isolated from friends, neighbours and belongings, and often having to cope with huge financial debt. The abuse often continues even after they have moved out of their home, but most of the women do not feel that they have a choice: they move because, as is the case for all refugees, it is not safe for them to stay. Scottish Women’s Aid would like to see the onus being put on the perpetrators of violence to move out of the home, rather than the women and children, and I agree with that view.

“We cannot put a price on what those organisations do for the victims of domestic violence. Scotland is leading the world with the work that is being done on tackling domestic abuse. I know that, realistically, our work to rid our country of this hateful crime might never be finished, but I am convinced that our determination to tackle this vile problem will have a positive impact.”

Young men urged to become stem cell donors by Rona Mackay MSP

Young men urged to become stem cell donors by Rona Mackay MSP



RONA Mackay MSP has added her support for the fight against blood cancer by calling for more people in Scotland aged 16-30 to sign up to the stem cell donor register.

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP attended an event at the Scottish Parliament in support of blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, which searches for lifesaving stem cell donors on behalf of patients in desperate need of a transplant.

Ms Mackay said: “It’s fantastic to hear that 58,000 people in Scotland have signed up as potential stem cell donors. The charity Anthony Nolan has set a target of recruiting another 10,000 people to the register in the next year – and it’s vital we meet that target to save the lives of more patients. I have no doubt that the people of Scotland will rise to the challenge, and save even more lives in the future.”

The call came in response to Anthony Nolan’s new strategy for Scotland, which outlines ambitions to increase the numbers of potential stem cell donors and provide more support for patients.

Henny Braund, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan, said: “We are delighted Rona Mackay MSP has been inspired to encourage others to join the Anthony Nolan stem cell donor register. Donating is an incredibly selfless thing to do and will give someone with blood cancer the best possible chance of survival. What many people don’t realise is that it is also surprisingly simple – for 90% of people it is a straightforward process similar to giving blood.”

To join the Anthony Nolan register you must be 16-30, weigh at least 50kg and be in good health. Joining the register involves filling out a simple online form and spitting into a tube. Visit to find out more and register.

Among the charity’s many supporters are Scottish Friends of Anthony Nolan, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, volunteers at the Sheriff Court Tea Rooms, runners in the Edinburgh and Glasgow Marathons, and Police Scotland. There are also a number of Marrow branches at universities across Scotland, a network of student volunteers who support Anthony Nolan by holding recruitment and fundraising events.


For more information on Anthony Nolan, please call the Anthony Nolan press team on 0207 424 6636 or email


About Anthony Nolan

Anthony Nolan saves the lives of people with blood cancer. The charity uses its register to match potential stem cell donors to blood cancer and blood disorder patients in need of stem cell transplants. It also carries out pioneering research to increase stem cell transplant success, and supports patients through their transplant journeys. Every day Anthony Nolan gives three people a second chance at life. Find out more at

Key statistics from Anthony Nolan

  • About 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell transplant from a stranger every year
  • 90% of donors donate through PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell collection). This is a simple, outpatient procedure similar to giving blood
  • We need more young men to sign up, as they are most likely to be chosen to donate but make up just 15% of the register
  • We need more people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to sign up. Only 60% of transplant recipients receive the best match. This drops dramatically to around 20% (one in five of transplant recipients) if you’re from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background.
  • It costs £60 to add each new donor to the register so we always need financial support
  • To join the Anthony Nolan register, you must be 16-30 and healthy. Anthony Nolan’s world-leading Research Institute has shown younger donors offer better outcomes for patients.


East Dunbartonshire Council called out in parliament for welcoming ‘absolutely no’ refugees

East Dunbartonshire Council called out in parliament for welcoming ‘absolutely no’ refugees

COUNCIL bosses have been criticised in the Scottish Parliament for welcoming “absolutely no” refugees to East Dunbartonshire.

Rona Mackay MSP called out East Dunbartonshire Council in the chamber during a debate on refugees on Thursday September 9 in Holyrood.

Building on her solid record of speaking up for children and young people, Ms Mackay also asked a question to Deputy First Minister John Swinney during a ministerial update on the Named Person policy earlier in the day.

In her speech, the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP said: “I have to say that my local authority, East Dunbartonshire Council, is one of the three that welcomed absolutely no refugees, citing lack of housing as the reason. That is the same Labour-Tory-led coalition that takes 81 days to rehouse people into vacant social housing, despite an enormous waiting list. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man or woman to find a way to accommodate refugee families in a predominantly affluent area such as Dunbartonshire. Many people I know have said that they would happily open their doors and take in a family.”

The debate marked Scotland resettling 1,000 Syrians fleeing war from Syria.

Earlier in the day, the MSP asked the deputy first minister a question at the ministerial update on the Named Person policy.

Ms Mackay, a strong advocate of the policy, asked: “I could not agree more with the cabinet secretary’s concern about the debilitating impact of the peddling of misinformation on the morale and confidence of practitioners who day in, day out do one of the hardest jobs there is: supporting vulnerable children and families. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the Tories should tone down their hysterical rhetoric on the named person and accept the judgment of the Supreme Court, which stated that the intent of the legislation is ‘unquestionably legitimate and benign’?”

Child poverty and domestic abuse bills stand out in SNP plan for year

Child poverty and domestic abuse bills stand out in SNP plan for year

ALLEVIATING child poverty and tackling domestic abuse are two focuses of the Scottish Government for the next year, Nicola Sturgeon announced earlier in the week.

The Child Poverty Bill and the Domestic Abuse Bill are two of the most important to me, when the First Minister gave her statement on the programme of government for 2016/17.

On the Child Poverty Bill, Nicola said: “Presiding officer, we understand that our work to ensure equality in education must extend well beyond the gates of our nurseries, schools, colleges and universities.

“That’s why the new Child Poverty Bill is arguably the most important piece of legislation we will introduce this year. This Bill will establish Scotland as the only part of the UK with statutory income targets on child poverty.

“It will also be backed by real action. For example, our new Best Start grant will provide financial support to low income parents when their child is born, when they start nursery and again when they start school.

“And over the coming year, I am proud to say we will also introduce the Baby Box – offering essential items such as clothing, bedding and books for all new-born babies.

“Our overall aim is clear. From the moment parents receive their baby box, right through to when young adults go to college or university, into apprenticeships and jobs, supporting children and families is at the heart of this government’s priorities. We want to ensure that every young person can fulfil their potential, because that’s the only way in which Scotland can fulfil its potential.”

And on domestic abuse, Nicola said: “Finally, the Domestic Abuse Bill will ensure that our law is able to deal with the true nature and severity of domestic abuse. At the moment, physical abuse can be prosecuted, but it is often more challenging to prosecute psychological abuse.

“The new bill will therefore ensure that coercive and controlling behaviour can be dealt with more effectively. It will also help to shape public attitudes by explicitly acknowledging that psychological abuse is unacceptable and criminal.

“The bill is an important signal of our determination to tackle domestic abuse in all its forms. It will therefore make an important contribution to our aim of achieving true gender equality.”

These are transcripts from the whole speech Nicola Sturgeon gave, and the full statement can be found online at:…