POWERS coming back to the UK after Brexit must be devolved to Scotland, Strathkelvin and Bearsden’s MSP has said.
Rona Mackay has backed the First Minister’s call against a “Westminster power grab” after Britain leaves the European Union.
On Tuesday, December 20 Nicola Sturgeon announced a raft of measures to “mitigate damage to Scotland” due to Brexit, including bespoke membership of the EU single market and further devolution of former EU powers.
The SNP MSP told how the “ball is well and truly in the UK Government’s court”, and emphasised the region’s pro-EU vote in June’s referendum.
Ms Mackay added: “The ball is well and truly in the UK Government’s court after the First Minister launched the paper, Scotland’s Place in Europe at Bute House today.
“The people of Strathkelvin and Bearsden deserve these proposals to be listened to by the UK Government. Further devolution and access to the single market only serves to benefit communities from Twechar to Bearsden, and Bishopbriggs to Milton of Campsie.
“The proposals in Scotland’s Place in Europe deal with many of the complexities arising from the Brexit vote – but they also serve to benefit all parts of the UK and the EU. It is going to go far in reducing the negative impacts of a hard departure from Europe.”
STRATHKELVIN and Bearsden’s business community is being asked to get involved with a new inquiry on the gender pay gap in Scotland.
Rona Mackay MSP is backing the Scottish Parliament’s economy, jobs and fair work committee’s investigation that looks to “explore the effect of the gender pay gap on the Scottish economy”.
The SNP MSP is appealing to small and medium business people, academics, interest groups and expert individuals in the constituency to answer various questions on the gender pay gap.
The inquiry, which will also look at the public sector, is to advise the Scottish Government on reducing the gender pay gap.
The deadline for submissions to the inquiry is Friday, March 10 2017 which will be followed by evidence-giving sessions in the Scottish Parliament.
Ms Mackay said: “There are a lot of impressive small and medium enterprises, across the whole of Strathkelvin and Bearsden that I know would have a lot to contribute to this inquiry.
“Around 80 per cent of working people in Scotland are employed by the private sector, so it’s important we explore how the gender pay gap may affect business performance.
“I hope we can find out more on the reasons women are under-represented in many roles and industries across Scotland and explore the wider effect it may have on our economy.”
The inquiry remit says: To explore the effect of the gender pay gap on the Scottish economy, with a particular focus on business performance, the Scottish public sector and Scottish Government action required to address the issue.
THE CABINET secretary for communities has applauded community welcome plans for Syrian refugees coming to East Dunbartonshire.
Angela Constance MSP said “considerable predatory work” must be carried out to resettle refugees in the area by East Dunbartonshire Council.
Efforts for a community welcome by Rona Mackay MSP and Sandra Sutton at the Twechar Healthy Living and Enterprise Centre were raised in the Scottish Parliament chamber during a General Questions session on Thursday, December 15.
Ms Constance, cabinet Secretary for communities, social security and equalities, said: “I welcome East Dunbartonshire Council’s decision to participate in the resettlement programme. I am pleased to say that, by 2017, all local authorities in Scotland will be involved in supporting refugees to settle in Scotland. It has to be acknowledged that considerable preparatory work needs to be done by local authorities before refugees arrive in their communities to ensure, for example, that the right accommodation, services and supports are in place.”
She added: “I am pleased to acknowledge that Ms Mackay is working closely with the Twechar healthy living and enterprise centre to arrange a community team to help with that integration from day 1 and to give a very warm welcome to refugees when they arrive in East Dunbartonshire.”
Ms Mackay, the MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, said: “I was glad to ask the cabinet secretary Angela Constance about how it is so essential we provide evacuees from war-torn Syria and unaccompanied children with not just housing and education, but a community orientated welcome to help integrate them in the area.
“Ms Constance is well aware of the situation in East Dunbartonshire at the moment and fully agreed with our voluntary efforts to get a programmes, befriending and support in many different forms to the families and children coming to the region.
“The suffering the people of Syria have endured in the last five years is unimaginable for most people in Scotland. This is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response – Scotland should stand ready to help to offer sanctuary to refugees who need our help.”
Ms Mackay also spoke during a debate on refugees in the parliament on Tuesday, December 13. In her speech she conveyed the economic, social and cultural benefits international migrants bring to Scotland.
A total of 1,250 Syrians have been resettled in Scotland since 2015.
A full transcript of the question and answering and Rona’s speech can be found on Rona Mackay’s website, at www.ronamackay.scot.
Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP):
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding Scotland’s role in supporting refugees entering the UK. (S5O-00481)
The Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities (Angela Constance):
Scottish Government officials are in regular dialogue with Home Office officials about support for refugees who settle in Scotland. Ministers have also discussed the issue and I discussed the resettlement of refugees and unaccompanied children, among other issues, when I met the immigration minister in October. I am very proud that Scotland has now welcomed around 1,250 Syrian refugees under the Syrian resettlement programme since October 2015.
I welcome the fact that East Dunbartonshire Council has at long last agreed to take refugees: four families and four unaccompanied children. Does the cabinet secretary agree that, in addition to providing the refugees with housing and education, it is essential that a welcoming committee from the communities involved helps to integrate the families socially by helping with language and local knowledge?
Like the member, I welcome East Dunbartonshire Council’s decision to participate in the resettlement programme. I am pleased to say that, by 2017, all local authorities in Scotland will be involved in supporting refugees to settle in Scotland. It has to be acknowledged that considerable preparatory work needs to be done by local authorities before refugees arrive in their communities to ensure, for example, that the right accommodation, services and supports are in place.
I know that there is a wealth of expertise in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, other local authorities and third sector organisations that East Dunbartonshire Council is drawing on as it prepares to welcome refugees. Many councils have engaged closely with their local communities through volunteering programmes or other means to make best use of the enormous good will that is out there to provide befriending and other support, whether it is English language practice or other ways to welcome refugees into our communities. I am pleased to acknowledge that Ms Mackay is working closely with the Twechar healthy living and enterprise centre to arrange a community team to help with that integration from day 1 and to give a very warm welcome to refugees when they arrive in East Dunbartonshire.
I SPOKE at the welcoming refugees to Scotland debate on Tuesday, December 13 in the Scottish Parliament. Here is my speech, both in video and text form.
Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP):
My colleague Sandra White stole my introduction, but I think that it is worth repeating. The late William McIlvanney famously said, “Scotland’s not full”, and that we are “a mongrel nation”. Both statements are true. Scotland was founded by immigrants and we all have immigrant ancestors somewhere down the line in our family tree. However, as well as being a mongrel nation, Scotland is a welcoming nation. It is in our DNA to welcome people, particularly those who are in crisis or distress. It is anathema to us to turn away people in need if we can help them when they are seeking refuge.
As has been said in the chamber many times, the current situation in Aleppo, the Yemen and other parts of the world ravaged by war and terrorism is a humanitarian crisis. Scotland has proportionately punched way above its weight when it comes to taking in refugees, with the numbers we have welcomed topping more than 1,200. As Ross Greer said, East Dunbartonshire—my local authority—has at long last agreed to take four families and four unaccompanied children. I look forward to being part of the welcoming committee to help them to integrate when they arrive early next year.
Of course, welcoming immigrants does not just mean providing refuge; it means welcoming people from any part of the world who want to work here and contribute to Scotland’s economy and culture. There is no reason to differentiate between immigrants and refugees. Who would want to start a new life in a country and get a pittance to live on, with the most basic accommodation and second-hand furniture and hand-outs? Immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers want to work and should be encouraged to work for their own dignity and wellbeing. These are families who deserve no less than us. They have pride and want the best for their children. Why would they not?
When it comes to welcoming migrant workers, why would we not do so with open arms? As has been said many times during the debate, migrant workers contribute immensely to the Scottish economy and culture. In fact, without them we would face a serious shortfall in skilled—and unskilled—workers.
Did Rona Mackay disagree with Nicola Sturgeon when she said that an independent Scotland would not have unmanaged immigration and that
“nobody’s suggesting uncontrolled and unmanaged immigration”?
I did not allude to that, and Liam Kerr is in no position of strength to talk about our immigration policy.
Why does the Tory Westminster Government make it so difficult for migrants to come and work here? Since Brexit, the Tories have given workers and EU citizens no security, preferring instead to adopt an I-will-if-you-will mentality and to insist that workers from this country are given security in other EU countries. What utter hypocrisy and arrogance. The Tory Government gambled with our European identity and lost, and now it thinks that it can set the rules.
The fact is that Brexit is a no-win situation. We are all losers, and that is why our First Minister and excellent European cabinet team are working so hard to give Scotland access to the single market, which is vital to our economy and cultural wellbeing. Why would we want to be an insular country, cutting ourselves off from trading and interacting at all levels with our European neighbours? That is the path that that right-wing Government is going down, but we will never follow it. Europe is too important to us, for all the reasons that members have mentioned in this passionate debate.
On 23 June on the steps of Bute house, the First Minister said that all our EU citizens were welcome in Scotland. She said what we were all thinking—what all right-minded people were thinking—in the depths of our shock and despair at the news that we were to be dragged out of Europe.
The indisputable facts are that international migrants make important economic, social and cultural contributions to our communities, and the UK Government’s focus on arbitrarily reducing net migration is wrong for Scotland. I certainly would not want to live in a country that has put up the shutters and in which we were unable to benefit from international migrants culturally and economically, just as much as I would not want to live in a country that did not welcome with open arms families who are fleeing from war and persecution.
I have every confidence that the Scottish Government will never allow that. Scotland will always be open for business and open for refuge. I support the motion.
POST office workers have been praised by the town’s MSP during a visit to the depot in Bearsden.
Rona Mackay MSP was shown around the Hillfoot centre and met postmen and women working with the Christmas mail surge.
Staff and delivery managers Danny Pryer and Jamie Lang told about the increased activity of Christmas period for the Royal Mail in the area.
The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP said: “I would like to thank Jamie and Danny for showing me around the Royal Mail’s depot in Bearsden. The dedicated workers, some with more than 30 years on the job, do a fantastic job at this very busy time of year with all the extra festive mail and parcels.”
RONA Mackay is appealing for donations of Christmas Gifts to East Dunbartonshire Foodbank.
The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP says the organisation is in need of new, unwrapped gift donations for adults and children, who may otherwise not receive gifts this Christmas.
She said: “It is an absolute tragedy so many people rely on foodbanks throughout the year, but especially through the cold winter months. Many of us take our Christmas dinners for granted, so I am encouraging constituents give what they can to the people who need it. I am running a collection in my office at 78 Townhead, Kirkintilloch, for people to drop off any Christmas donations.”
Ideal gifts include: games, puzzles, books, gift vouchers, DVDs, clothes, toiletries and make up sets, and chocolates or sweets.
Donations of Christmas food are also requested. Items needed include: tinned ham, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, luxury biscuits, selection boxes, boxes of chocolates, snacks and nibbles, Christmas crackers and mince pies.
Donations should be dropped off at Rona’s constituency office at 78 Townhead, Kirkintilloch, G66 8EF, by December 20.
STRATHKELVIN and Bearsden’s MSP has welcomed new statistics showing an increase in hospital and community healthcare workers in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
The health board seen an increase of 222 workers in this area, from 33,994 to 34,216 from September 2015 to September 2016.
Under the SNP government, NHS Scotland staffing levels are at a new record high, increasing by 9.1% over the last 10 years.
Nursing and midwifery is also at historically high levels with 2,378 more dedicated staff.
Rona Mackay MSP said: “Under this Government, NHS staff numbers have risen to record highs – with more consultants, nurses and midwives now delivering essential care for the people of Scotland.
“Healthcare is a key priority for the SNP and I am really encouraged that there are 222 more dedicated health care workers working in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde compared to last year – bringing the total number to 34,216.
“In government, the SNP has ensured that NHS staff numbers have risen to record highs, with nearly 140,000 staff working in hospitals and community healthcare throughout NHS Scotland – an increase of 9.1% over the last 10 years.
“With an increase in student nursing and midwifery intakes over the last four years, we are also keeping an eye on the future. The SNP is committed to both record investment in our health service and ensuring the necessary reforms to deliver the right staff, with the right skills, in the right place, long into the future.”
NICOLA Sturgeon was questioned by Rona Mackay MSP on the education of children of illegal immigrants at First Minister’s Questions.
Earlier that day, on Thursday, December 1, UK Cabinet documents were leaked, concerning the Home Office. In 2015, the department, then run by Theresa May, floated a policy that would push children of illegal immigrants to the bottom of the list for school places.
The policy suggested that schools could withdraw place offers to children, if their family were found to be illegally living in the UK. The Home Office also attempted to involve the Department of Education into immigration control plans.
Reacting to the leak, the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP asked: “Is that a chilling insight into where an increasingly right-wing Tory government wants to drag the UK?”
The First Minister replied: “Unfortunately, I think that it is. I take a very simple view of this. I know there are debates around immigration. And some of those debates are legitimate issues that we’ve got to engage with.
“But a simple view I think that all of us should take on this is: children are children.
“And when children are in this country, we should support them and we should ensure that they get access to education. And I hope that is something everybody would agree with, on the basic grounds of morality and human rights.”
In the same debate, Nicola Sturgeon pointed out that it has become increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the Conservatives and UKIP.
After the question time, Rona said: “I am very glad that the First Minister agrees with me on this issue.
“Denying children school places is not just an immigration control measure that has gone a step too far, but also a direct breach of equality.
“Children living in the UK, regardless of their family background, should have access to education.
“And for the Home Office to have even considered dragging schools and the Department of Education into their own game of curtailing immigration is disgraceful.
“This is not the first time our Prime Minister has gone out of her way to appease the xenophobic sentiment of the right-wing. And I believe I speak for many people in Scotland when I say this – we are very concerned that this post-Brexit rhetoric might be more than just a gesture, but what Theresa May and her Tory government actually think.”