MSP discusses East Dunbartonshire on Woman’s Hour radio show

MSP discusses East Dunbartonshire on Woman’s Hour radio show

MSP Rona Mackay has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to discuss why East Dunbartonshire topped the list of best places for women to live across Scotland, England and Wales.

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP cited the closeness of the area to Glasgow, its accessibility to the countryside and great schools as local reasons.

Ms Mackay said: “It was great to be speaking on Woman’s Hour about why East Dunbartonshire is the best place for women to live across the whole of Britain.

“It’s a resounding achievement the Scottish Government, that two of the best areas, including East Renfrewshire, are in Scotland.

“I spoke about how on a national level, the SNP government has been promoting gender equality and helping women out of poverty with measures like expanding free childcare and the baby box.

“At a local level, we talked about the proximity of East Dunbartonshire to both Glasgow and the countryside, these are two very important factors in making this area so convenient.

“I told how our great schools are sending 97 per cent of leavers onto positive destination and how nationally, we’re seeking to improve all education by lowering the attainment gap.

“It was also important to point out the women of East Dunbartonshire do not all live well – we discussed pockets of poverty still do exist in our communities. It is important we remember this as we move on.”

ENDS

LISTEN: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b093hwcr#

 

Funding opportunities up for grabs at fayre hosted by MSP And MP

Funding opportunities up for grabs at fayre hosted by MSP And MP

KIRKINTILLOCH’S SNP parliamentarians have invited good causes to come to a funding fayre they have organised next month.

The Big Lottery Fund, Sportscotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Robertson Trust will be on hand with information about funding opportunities.

Rona Mackay MSP and Stuart McDonald MP organised the event for Monday October 2 at Hillhead Community Education Centre from 10am to noon.

Ms Mackay said: “There are so many amazing community groups and charities that Stuart and I have worked with which can benefit from our funding fayre.

“I consider it an opportunity for good causes to access funding that many might not have known they would be able to before, which would in turn help them fulfil their goals in our communities.”

Mr McDonald said: “Rona and I are very excited about this event, as it’ll give us the chance to meet with more local groups and help them get hooked up with some funding, that many desperately need.

“As a general principle, it is incredibly important that MSPs and MPs support the charities and good causes at work in their constituencies.”

ENDS

Rona Mackay: It’s time to blow the whistle on homophobia in sport

Last week I attended the cross-party group on sexual health and blood-borne viruses. There we heard a moving account from an HIV-positive woman who based her talk around the word “stigma”. The dictionary definition of the word is:

“a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”.

I believe that everyone in this chamber would agree that being gay should have no stigma attached to it. Sadly, despite Scotland being one of the most progressive nations in the world when it comes to LGBT+ equality, when it comes to sport, there is still much work to be done.

In sport, players face a disproportionately difficult time coming out, for a variety of reasons that are too complex to detail in a four-minute speech. Recently, Gareth Thomas, a Welsh rugby player with 100 caps, gave a grim account of his experiences of being a gay man in rugby. He believes that sport, and football in particular, must not be allowed to remain in the “dark ages” of homophobia. He says that unless homophobia in football is

“policed as stringently as racism is policed, then it will always be a problem”

…and I agree with him.

Recently, three former Rangers players started working with the excellent time for inclusive education campaign to clamp down on homophobia. Education is the key to changing attitudes and helping people to realise that it is simply not acceptable to perpetrate this inequality.

As we have heard, sporting events can also be unwelcoming and threatening environments for LGBT fans. Seventy per cent of sports fans in Scotland have witnessed anti-LGBT language or abuse in a sports setting in the last five years. Almost half of LGBT people—46 per cent—think public sporting events are not a welcoming space, and one in 10 who attended a live sporting event in the last year experienced discrimination. In 2017 that simply is not good enough.

Problems with racism, sectarianism and homophobia are taken seriously by the Scottish National Party Government, and our hate crime legislation exists to eradicate it. That is why the Scottish Government is concerned that an outright repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 might send the message that prejudice-based and threatening behaviour at football is acceptable, even when other legislation could also apply.

Stonewall Scotland supported the introduction of that bill in 2012, noting the serious impact that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic behaviour in sport has on LGBT people’s safety and on their confidence to participate in sport. Discrimination discourages participation and cultivates exclusion and a lack of diversity. Football and the sporting culture must not be left behind while the rest of society sees progress in equality. There is clearly a lot of work being done, with 13 clubs signed up to the Equality Network LGBT charter and more poised to do so, as we have heard.

Sportscotland believes that education, positive role models, embracing LGBT+ policies and promoting gay, lesbian and bisexual sports stars is the way forward, and that is the path that we should follow.

There is still a lot to be done and, until we need no longer debate this subject in the chamber, until it stops being a story, and until people wonder why someone’s sexual orientation is even being raised as an issue, we need to continue to strive for equality. It is time to blow the whistle on homophobia in sport.

MSP’s concern over Bishopbriggs Delivery Office closure

MSP’s concern over Bishopbriggs Delivery Office closure

MSP Rona Mackay has spoken of her concern over the planned shutdown of Bishopbriggs Delivery Office by Royal Mail.

Services would be integrated into the Kirkintilloch Delivery Office which would then serve all customers in the G64 area, the company has announced.

Royal Mail has entered talks with the Communications Workers Union (CWU) on the closing down of services in Bishopbriggs.

Ms Mackay, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, has arranged a meeting with the Director of External Relations for Royal Mail to hear more about the plans and to request that no redundancies are made if services are going to be moved.

She said: “This is what we feared when arguing against the privatisation of Royal Mail – one of the LibDem/Tory coalition’s worst crimes when they were in Government at Westminster.

“It is particularly disturbing to close a parcel depot when increased parcel delivery was cited as one of the main reasons Royal Mail increased its annual profits by 25 per cent in 2016/17.

“I have arranged a meeting with Royal Mail to ask for reassurance that no jobs are cut in closing down the Bishopbriggs Delivery office if this proposal goes ahead.”

ENDS

The Kirkintilloch Disaster victims remembered by MSP

The Kirkintilloch Disaster victims remembered by MSP

The 80th anniversary of the Kirkintilloch Disaster has been commemorated by the town’s MSP.

Rona Mackay, SNP MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, lodged a motion with the Scottish Parliament on Friday September 15.

On September 15 1937, 10 young men and boys from Achill Island on the West coast of Ireland died in a bothy fire on a Kirkintilloch potato farm.

The accommodation they were housed in was “not fit for cattle” and that lessons can still be learned by the tragic death in modern day Scotland.

Ms Mackay said: “It is so important that we remember the tragic Kirkintilloch Disaster where so many young men were killed.

“The bothy these Irish migrant workers were housed in was not fit for cattle, reports in the aftermath concluded.

“I was glad to commemorate this event with the Scottish Parliament 80 years on. I have done this both as a matter of respect for the dead and to serve as a reminder of the need to respect all workers and EU nationals as Brexit looms.”

ENDS

Motion Number: S5M-07719
Lodged By: Rona Mackay
Date Lodged: 15/09/2017

Title: Commemorating the Kirkintilloch Disaster

Motion Text:

That the Parliament commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Kirkintilloch Disaster; notes that, on 15 September 1937, 10 young men and boys from Achill Island on the west coast of Ireland died in a bothy fire on a Kirkintilloch potato farm; understands that their accommodation was described as “not fit for cattle”; believes that there are still problems unique to migrant workers in Scotland, and hopes that lessons can still be learned from the disaster when it comes to treatment and respect for all workers and EU nationals, particularly after Brexit.

Rona Mackay questions justice secretary on impact of shorter sentences on prison population

  • Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP): 

    What impact will the presumption against short sentences have on the Scottish Prison Service?

  • Michael Matheson: 

    The impact on the prison population of extending the presumption against short sentences to 12 months will depend on how sentencers choose to take it forward. For example, if there is a greater use of community sentencing, that could result in a reduction in the number of individuals who receive short-term prison sentences of less than 12 months.

    As we have moved to a presumption against sentences of less than three months, we have seen a reduction in the number of people who have received sentences of less than three months. It would be reasonable to anticipate that we will see a reduction in the overall prison population should more of our sentencers choose not to sentence someone to custody for less than 12 months and to make use of a community disposal instead. However, that will depend entirely on how our judiciary chooses to take it forward.

MSP supports Equal Protection for Children Bill on BBC show

MSP supports Equal Protection for Children Bill on BBC show

MSP Rona Mackay has made the case for a Bill which seeks to legislate against smacking children on the Victoria Derbyshire show.

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP debated the matter with Mary Glasgow from Children 1st and Richard Lucas from the Scottish Family Party on the BBC morning show.

She said: “It was great to go on the Victoria Derbyshire show and make the case of why hitting children is never justifiable and can have long lasting effects in later life.

“I was delighted to hear strong evidential arguments from Mary Glasgow, a director of Children 1st, Scotland’s national children’s charity. This Bill does not create a new offence, it removes the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ and ‘justifiable assault’ from the existing offence of common assault.

“The evidence against hitting children is overwhelming and I fully support this Bill.”

ENDS

From Rona Mackay MSP by Alan Ferguson

REPORT: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/research-reports/equally-protected.pdf

Background:

  • John Finnie MSP is proposing and has consulted on the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill
  • The First Minister said during the Programme for Government: “While it is not our proposal and indeed it may be an issue on which parties will give their members a free vote, the Scottish Government will not oppose John Finnie’s proposals to prohibit the physical punishment of children.”
  • The Bill proposes ending the existing common-law position that physical punishment by parents can be defended as reasonable chastisement and therefore be lawful. The Bill will not create a new criminal offence, as the common law offence of assault will apply International comparisons:
  • There are now 52 countries where physical punishment is unlawful, including France, Germany, Norway and Denmark
  • Sweden became the first country in the world to change the law in 1979, with one of the most recent being the Republic of Ireland, where the law was changed in 2015
  • The UK is now one of only 6 EU Member States, out of 28, not to have changed the law.

Current law:

  • The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 prohibited certain forms of physical punishment of children in Scotland (blows to the head, shaking, hitting with an implement)
  • The 2003 Act left room for parents and others caring for or in charge of children to plead a defence of “justifiable assault” under the existing common law.
  • In other parts of the UK, as is the case in Scotland, whilst there are restrictions on the physical punishment of children (largely by the 1998 ECHR ruling), there is no outright ban.
Grand roll-out of shambolic Universal Credit is ‘simply madness’

Grand roll-out of shambolic Universal Credit is ‘simply madness’

THE PLANNED accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit is “simply madness”, MSP Rona Mackay has said.

The new all-encompassing benefit’s pilot runs have been riddled with problems – prompting calls for a halt to the mass roll-out.

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work. It replaces six main benefits, including Housing benefit, Child Tax Credit, Income support, Working Tax Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance.

Ms Mackay joined the debate Support for Citizens Advice Scotland’s Call to Stop Accelerated Roll-out of Universal Credit on Thursday, September 7.

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP said: “In my speech, I highlighted why the accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit mustn’t be allowed to happen — and it is mostly due to how disastrous the pilot runs have been.

“Also, the words ‘Universal Credit’ are misleading and cruel because they give the illusion of something for everyone, whereas the reality is that it is anything but that. It’s just another means of the Tories imposing austerity.

rona speaking universal credit 2

“I referenced to when I was a former board member of East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau, I was all too aware of the fears of the bureau’s staff before the implementation of the Universal Credit system. These fears have come true.

“People are sinking into poverty with having to wait six weeks for their first payment, forced to become indebted. The application can only be made online, which is a disaster for many disabled people, and on average claimants who spoke to CA have had to call the helpline ten times.

“Universal credit is emblematic of the bitter and cruel treatment of people under this UK Tory Government.

“Thankfully, the Scottish Government’s approach to shaping our own social security system could not be more different, even with the limited powers that we are receiving.

“In the name of humanity, will the Tories admit that the system is a disaster and stop the roll-out? To err is human, but to compound a mistake is simply madness.”

ENDS

From Rona Mackay MSP by Alan Ferguson (07342601722).

NOTES

Full speech:

I thank Alex Rowley for bringing this important and necessary debate to the chamber.

The words “universal credit” are misleading and cruel because they give the illusion of something for everyone, whereas the reality is that it is anything but that. Universal credit, which was introduced by the Tory Government at Westminster, is merely a euphemism for more Tory austerity. It is the continuation of the attack on our poorest citizens and part of the wider destruction of the UK social security system. It is the same attack on the welfare state that the United Nations has called a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.

I remind members what has happened in the attack so far. The Tories have cut £30 a week from the disability benefit employment and support allowance, hitting those who are unable to work; they have implemented the hated two-child tax credit limit, which takes money from low-income mothers and fathers who desperately need it; they have removed the family element of working tax credits, again hitting low-income parents hard; and they have locked young people aged 18 to 21 out of housing benefit. Those are just some of the measures that have been taken by the Tories.

Universal credit has got off to a terrible start, but it is to be radically extended this autumn. That extension must be delayed. As a former board member of East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau, I was all too aware of the fears of the bureau’s staff before the implementation of the universal credit system. Those hard-working staff are on the front line and could foresee the misery that the system would cause to so many people who are already struggling to make ends meet every day. Sadly, their fears have been realised. With universal credit, benefits are paid in a lump sum, leaving many recipients unable to budget and increasing the risk of homelessness and food and fuel poverty.

East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau is one of five bureaux piloting the so-called full service universal credit. In those areas, there has been a 15 per cent rise in rent arrears, compared with a national decrease of 2 per cent. A lot of statistics have been mentioned today, but they are worth repeating. The phasing out of disability tax credits means that more than 110,000 disabled people who are in work are at risk of losing up to £40 a week. There has been an 87 per cent increase in crisis grant issues in the pilot areas, compared with a national increase of 9 per cent—just think about that. Two of the bureaux have seen increases in advice about access to food banks of 40 per cent and 70 per cent, compared with a national increase of 3 per cent. As we have discussed, 39 per cent of claimants waited for more than six weeks to receive their first payment. The six-week wait is deemed acceptable by the Tories, who evidently expect people to live on fresh air.

The fact that the application can be made only online makes the process even more shambolic. Disabled people are the group in society that is least likely to have internet access. It is estimated that 35 per cent of them do not have access to the internet. In comparison, more than 90 per cent of the non-disabled population have access to the internet.

Put simply, people are sinking further into deprivation thanks to a roll-out riddled with error, and the roll-out must be paused until key problems are addressed. No organisation would go ahead with a scheme that had failed so badly in a trial, but, as ever, the Tories will plough on with their disastrous policy regardless of the human cost.

Universal credit is emblematic of the bitter and cruel treatment of people under this UK Tory Government. Thankfully, the Scottish Government’s approach to shaping our own social security system could not be more different, even with the limited powers that we are receiving. In the name of humanity, will the Tories admit that the system is a disaster and stop the roll-out? To err is human, but to compound a mistake is simply madness.

Motion debated:

Support for Citizens Advice Scotland’s Call to Stop Accelerated Roll-out of Universal Credit

September 07, 2017 12:45

Duration: 1 hour 6 minutes 28 seconds

That the Parliament notes with concern the reported evidence from Citizens Advice Bureaux regarding the initial roll-out areas in Scotland, and elsewhere in the UK, which it believes highlights that the reality of universal credit risks leaving many people in Scotland without the support they need, pushing them into debt and leaving them unable to make ends meet; is further concerned that Citizens Advice Scotland, it understands, has reported that evidence from initial roll-out areas shows that, since universal credit was introduced, bureaux have seen a 15% rise in rent arrears issues compared to a national decrease of 2%, and an 87% increase in Crisis Grant issues compared to a national increase of 9%, and that two of the five bureaux in impacted areas have seen a 40% and 70% increase in advice about access to food banks, compared to a national increase of 3%; notes the call from Citizens Advice Scotland and a host of antipoverty organisations across Scotland for the UK Government to pause the accelerated roll-out of universal credit until the reported design and delivery problems have been addressed; notes the comments from the Chair of Citizens Advice Scotland, Rory Mair, that “universal credit has major delivery and design flaws which risk hurting families instead of helping them. These include long waits for payments that push people into crisis and debt, all the while battling a highly complicated process with little support”; considers that it is not right to proceed with the accelerated roll-out of universal credit in the knowledge that it will, it believes, result in tens of thousands of men, women and children in the Mid Scotland and Fife region and across Scotland being driven into debt and rent arrears and having to turn to foodbanks just to survive, and notes the calls on the UK Government to pause the process, listen to the evidence and act accordingly to address the issues.

 

Programme for Government heralds new beginnings for Scottish justice

Programme for Government heralds new beginnings for Scottish justice

MSP Rona Mackay has said the new Programme for Government in Scotland ushers in a new era for justice.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a host of new policies and new bills that will go to the Scottish Parliament in 2017/18.

Ms Mackay, who is the deputy convener of the parliament’s Justice Committee, told how radical plans for law and order in Scotland have been put forward.

Ms Mackay said: “Criminal justice in Scotland has received gigantic a shot in the arm with the announcements made by the SNP First Minister.

“I very much welcome plans to protect the police budget in real terms – there no task more important than keeping the citizens of Scotland safe in their homes.

“I would like to especially note the new drug driving policy that will come into force in 2019, which will go leaps and bounds into keeping our roads safer.

“There is no place for drug driving in Scotland – and any who would be so stupid, to put lives at risk by driving under the influence of drugs, will soon feel the full force of the law.

“With the increasing of the age of criminal responsibility to 12-years-old from eight, we will see young children kept out of the traumatising experience of going through courts. It is high time this was brought in line with the just standards of our international allies – it is cruel, unethical and puts children at risk of long-term problems by having them dragged through the stressful trials and tribulations of the justice system.

“The SNP government’s plan to explore a basic citizen’s income is actually one of the most radical plans put forward. This is an idea that is worth exploring, and it is very bold – so I appreciate this from our government. We cannot just deny exploring the profound and far-reaching policy ideas.

“I couldn’t be happier at the Programme for Government that Nicola Sturgeon has put forward – it represents a truly progressive vision for Scotland. It is one where we ensure we grow our economy and develop our nation in an inclusive and modern way.”

ENDS

More info from Nicola Sturgeon’s speech: https://www.snp.org/first_minister_nicola_sturgeon_scottish_programme_for_government

 

Rona Mackay joins education secretary John Swinney in high school visit

Rona Mackay joins education secretary John Swinney in high school visit

MSP Rona Mackay has praised St Ninian’s High School when she joined Scotland’s Education Secretary on a visit.

John Swinney met with staff and pupils to launch Maths Week Scotland on Spetember 11-17 at the school in Kirkintilloch on Tuesday morning.

Maths Week Scotland is a brand new initiative to help everyone in Scotland see maths positively. The Scottish Government’s aim is for everyone to experience the benefits, joy and beauty of maths in exciting new ways.

Ms Mackay and Mr Swinney discussed the school’s participation with head teacher Paul McLaughlin, East Dunbartonshire Council’s leader Gordan Low and Chief Executive Gerry Cornes and head boy and girl Jack McDowall and Monica Kierny.

Mr Swinney tweeted after the visit, saying: “Delight to visit St Ninian’s High to promote #MathsWeekScot. What an exciting programme they have lined up.”

The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP said: “I am delighted theEducation Secretary John Swinney took the time out of his busy schedule to visit the staff and pupils at St Ninian’s High School to launch Maths Week.

“I know Head Teacher Paul McLaughlin, and indeed the whole school, appreciate Mr Swinney coming to see them and listen to their own unique approach to Maths Week and their general approach to education.

“I have an excellent view of St Ninian’s High School, the staff are incredibly hard working and the pupils very polite and professional. I am always left impressed, and I know the Education Secretary was, too.”

ENDS

CAPTION:

Gerry Cornes, Gordan Low, Jack McDowall, John Swinney, Monica Kierny, Rona Mackay and Paul McLaughlin.