MSP Rona Mackay has received confirmation the Scottish Government is in contact with the UK Treasury over a crisis facing lottery funding.
National Lottery funding to good causes is falling year-on-year, with a 14 per cent decrease in 2015/16 and a further four per cent in the first half of 2017/16.
Ms Mackay questioned Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop on the matter at Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament on November 15.
She asked: “The cabinet secretary will be aware of the significant impact that a reduction in the national lottery income of good causes will have on organisations that rely on it, including Creative Scotland. What representations is the cabinet secretary making to the UK Government to ensure that the impact of that reduction will be mitigated?”
The Cabinet Secretary responded: “It will be of concern to all members to realise that the national lottery income for good causes reduced by 14 per cent between 2015-16 and 2016-17, and by a further 4 per cent in the first half of 2017-18.
“Aileen Campbell, the Minister for Public Health and Sport, and I have written to our counterparts in the UK Government to urge them to take cognisance of that reduction in the forthcoming budget, because some of the reduction in that income is a result of decisions that were made by the United Kingdom Government about the lottery.
“I have also written to Karen Bradley MP, and Derek Mackay has written to the UK Treasury, to relay our concerns about a number of issues, including the reduction in lottery funding for culture and sport.”
SCOTLAND is a world leader in the war against damaging booze culture, Strathkelvin and Bearsden’s MSP has said.
It follows the announcement that the UK Supreme Court ruling minimum unit pricing for alcohol.
In 2012, the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly passed the Bill, so now the government can proceed enacting it.
The ruling makes Scotland the first country in the world to introduce minimum pricing per unit of alcohol.
The law is aimed at tackling the purchasing of low priced high-strength beverages fuelling alcohol abuse, not at deterring the responsible drinkers of Scotland.
Rona Mackay, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, said:
“Scotland has a rich heritage of producing fine alcohol and exporting it around the world but the dark side of this legacy is heavy alcohol abuse.
“Alcohol abuse causes untold misery to families across Scotland, who have lost parents and children to the devastating effects of addiction and easy access to high strength low priced booze.
“Minimum pricing strategy is one part of a bigger movement in Scotland to curb the levels of alcohol people are consuming by making the prices less desirable. It is targeted at cheap, low quality booze with high levels of alcohol in it, and will not impact on your moderate or many Whisky drinkers in Scotland.
“I am glad legal challenges to minimum pricing for alcohol are finally over and the will of the Scottish Parliament on this policy is finally respected.
“Given that it is a world-first, it shows Scotland up again – not for the first time in our history – to be a guiding light progressive thought and actions.”
Background (from the Scottish Government)
Annual alcohol deaths statistics published in August show there were 1,265 alcohol-related deaths in 2016. This is up from 1,150 in 2015, an increase of 10%.
On average, alcohol misuse causes about 670 hospital admissions and 24 deaths a week – death rates are almost 1.5 times higher than in the early 1980s.
Alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6 billion each year – £900 for every adult.
Scotland’s problem is significantly worse than the rest of the UK. In 2016, 17% more alcohol was sold per adult in Scotland than in England & Wales.
Affordability drives increased consumption – alcohol is now 60 per cent more affordable in the UK than it was in 1980
Weekly lower-risk drinking guidelines of 14 units can be bought for £2.52 – 18 pence a unit.
51% of alcohol sold in off-trade is less than 50 pence per unit.
Modelling from Sheffield University shows a minimum unit price of 50 pence is estimated to result in:
121 fewer deaths per annum by year 20 of the policy; and
A fall in hospital admissions of just over 2,000 per annum by year 20 of the policy
A preferred 50 pence per unit would mean:
A three litre bottle of strong cider at 7.5% ABV strength would cost £11.25.
Four 440ml cans of five per cent strength lager would cost at least £4.40.
A bottle of wine of 12% alcohol strength would cost at least £4.50.
A 70cl bottle of whisky could not be sold for less than £14.
MSP Rona Mackay is marking Adoption Week by a special screening of award-winning film ‘And Violet’.
On November 23, the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP will host a screening in Campsie Memorial Hall from 7.30pm to 10pm.
The film is described as a “coming of age drama” about the lives of a teenage daughter and her adoptive mother.
‘And Violet’ is a double winner at Arizona International Film Festival 2017, winning Best Dramatic Feature as well as a Special Jury Award for Best Performance from Hana MacKenzie.
Adoption Week Scotland will be held from November 20 to 25 with assistance from Adoption and Fostering Alliance Scotland.
Ms Mackay said: “It is fitting to mark Adoption Week Scotland, as it lays bare the issues and struggles surrounding adoption and why it is so important in Scotland.
“Scotland aims to be one of the best places in the whole world for children grow up, and adoption is one way a child can thrive in the family environment.
“I have two friends who are going through the adoption process, who are providing a permanent home and loving family to a child who cannot be brought up by their birth family, so I know how important the issue is with this unique insight.
“Adoption transforms lives of some of the most vulnerable children in Scotland, so I could not be happier to mark Adoption Week with this special screening on November 23.”
HISTORIC wounds have been “healed over” by pardoning and apologising to all of those convicted under anti-gay laws in Scotland, MSP Rona Mackay has said.
First minister Nicola Surgeon’s apology coincided with new legislation that will automatically pardon gay and bisexual men convicted under historical laws.
The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill will also allow the removal of the convictions from criminal records.
Consensual homosexual acts between men older than 21-years old in Scotland were only decriminalised in 1981. It was not until 20 years later that the age of consent for gay men was lowered to 16.
Ms Mackay said: “By apologising, Nicola Sturgeon has healed over the historical scars Scotland has with treatment of gay and bisexual men.
“Not long ago, in most people’s lifetime, Scotland had laws against consensual same-sex acts which people were convicted of.
“These now abolished laws still affect people living in Scotland today, and can be obstacles in their lives. For example, finding work.
“This has been an issue close to the SNP’s heart, we have seen tremendous work from our elected representatives. This includes former MP for East Dunbartonshire, John Nicolson, who put the Turing Bill to the House of Commons, which would have wiped clean the criminal records of thousands of gay men convicted for same-sex offences. Sadly, the Bill was talked out by the Tories, so failed.
“I could not be happier that we are finally pardoning and apologising to all of those affected and the wider LGBT community in Scotland.”
From Rona Mackay MSP by Alan Ferguson 07342 061722
THE MINISTER for Transport agreed to explore MSP Rona Mackay’s call to re-twin the Westerton to Milngavie railway line.
The Strathkelvin and Bearsden asked Humza Yousaf during a portfolio questions session in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday November 9.
She highlighted the line was the worst performer in Scotland in the last year, and that trains are regularly skipping stations.
The main cause of that disruption is the single track. A twinned track, as formerly existed, would ease disruption and allow the rail halt that has been proposed by East Dunbartonshire Council.
Ms Mackay said: “This is massive progress, to have the Minister for Transport on board with investigating the potential re-twinning of the Westerton-Milngavie line.
“I was glad to get the opportunity to put this to the minister, because constituents of mine and Gil Paterson’s have had enough of these delays and skip-stopping.
“Gil and I will be pushing for this line to be re-twinned and then for the proposed rail halt at Allander to be built. It is a simple solution to solving these massive problems on the line.”
FULL TRANSCRIPT FROM PORTFOLIO QUESTIONS ON NOVEMBER 8 2017 IN SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT. VIDEO LINK.
Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP):
The data for the past 12 months shows that the Westerton to Milngavie line in my and Gil Paterson’s constituency was listed as the worst performer, with trains regularly using the practice of skipping stations, and only 26 per cent arriving on time. The main cause of that disruption is the single track. A twinned track, as formerly existed, would ease disruption and allow the rail halt that has been proposed by East Dunbartonshire Council. Can the minister confirm that that possibility will be investigated with Network Rail with some urgency?
Yes. We will explore that, but I want to put some context around what Rona Mackay said
The Presiding Officer:
Do so very briefly, minister.
Although ScotRail reports the on-time performance, the industry standard is the public performance measure, which offers a more balanced approach.
On skip-stopping, I understand the frustration of Rona Mackay’s constituents. We have said to ScotRail on many occasions that it should look to minimise that practice. In fairness, it has been trying to do that during peak times; in the past 12 months, 1 per cent of trains skipped stops. That 1 per cent is still 1 per cent too much.
I will explore the measures that the member asked us to explore and I will give her an update on how the discussions go.
MSPs are making the case for simple transformations on the railway between Westerton and Milngavie that will vastly improve the service.
Gil Paterson and Rona Mackay have put forward their vision of re-twinning the track and adding the much-desired rail halt in Allander.
In the latest data published on June 24 for the last 12 month shows, of all 77 stations in the statistics, that Milngavie was listed as the worst performer.
The practice of skipping stations to make up for time is adding even more problems for rail users.
MSPs believe that a major cause for this disruption is the single track.
Mr Paterson has written to Network Rail, ScotRail and Transport Scotland looking for answers to the deplorable rail service to Milngavie, and putting forward the need for infrastructure change.
Mr Paterson, MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie, said: “The Westerton to Milngavie line needs transformed for the greater good of the public using the line on a daily basis, who are currently facing unacceptable delays.
“At the moment, there is a single line, but we’re calling for the line to be returned to a twinned track to allow trains to move up and down the line faster and with greater ease, and less delays.”
Ms Mackay, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, added: “Commuters and communities along the Westerton-Milngavie line are crying out for this change, and we will be representing these views as strongly as possible.
“When the line is re-twinned we can go ahead with the plan – which has been approved by East Dunbartonshire Council – to build a new rail halt at Allander with a park and ride.
“With such poor results on this line, we need action as soon as possible, and everyone knows what the answer is. It’s time to get the ball rolling, re-twin the track and make the changes the public is demanding.”
MSP Rona Mackay points out the double standards of the Tory UK Government on refusing to let Scotland’s police and fire services claim back VAT in a parliamentary speech on October 31. It was part of the VAT Charges (Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service) debate.
I thank my colleague Ben Macpherson for bringing this crucial debate to the chamber, and I welcome the chance to take part in it.
When Ben Macpherson lodged the motion, he received an onslaught of criticism on Twitter, which I was copied into. I did not respond to any of it, because I prefer not to enter antagonistic dialogue on social media.
However, as with Murdo Fraser’s speech, the main thrust of those who support charging Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service VAT—which has resulted in a loss of £140 million over the past four years—appears to be, “We told you so,” and that we were warned before setting up merged services.
My overriding thought on those comments has always been this: does that make it right? If anyone’s answer is yes, I ask them to explain why it is acceptable that Scotland is the only devolved nation to be hit with those punitive charges. As Ben said, everything that Police Scotland or the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service buys costs 20 per cent more than it would cost in the rest of the UK. That is simply outrageous and unacceptable. Its only effect is to starve our vital services of £35 million per year that would enhance law and order, justice and the safety of the public in Scotland.
The UK Government’s hypocrisy on the issue has been astounding. It rightly praises the tremendous work that our emergency services do, while starving them of much-needed resources. It has point-blank refused to reverse the VAT charge, despite there being a clear precedent for doing so. As we have heard, Highways England and academy schools are examples. It is a spiteful and disgraceful way for a national Government to act and there is no excuse for it.
Now would be the best time for Ruth Davidson to use her growing popularity with Westminster and the British establishment to do something useful for Scotland, for once. Will her motley crew of Tory MPs stand up for Scotland? Of course they will not. Why break the habit of a lifetime? I will certainly not hold my breath for that.
It is good to see that Labour has come on board, albeit grudgingly, to ask the Tory Government to hand back our money. Better late than never. It is shameful that, until now, Labour has stood side by side with the Tories and the Lib Dems to Scotland’s detriment.
I am proud of the work that the great forces of our emergency services do to keep us safe and well. Last month, I attended the annual review of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. While discussing the challenges and the ever-growing demand that the service faces, the much-respected chairman of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service board, Pat Watters, stated simply, “We will make it work,” because that is what the emergency services do and always have done, against all odds.
We need the excessive VAT charge to be dropped. It serves only to hamper the efforts of our police officers and firefighters. The people of Scotland deserve better, so I ask the Westminster Government to see sense and end the petty and punitive charge.
MSP Rona Mackay has hosted Battersea Dogs and Cats Home at the Scottish Parliament for a drop-in session.
The event in late October follows the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP speaking out in favour of raising the maximum jail-term for animal cruelty.
Ms Mackay indicated on BBC Radio Scotland recently the maximum term should be raised to five years in prison for the most extreme cases.
At the time, she said: “I am very much in favour of exploring opportunities to increase the sentencing for those charged with crimes of cruelty to animals. We need to send out a strong message that these vile crimes against defenceless animals are unacceptable, and we need to put it into perspective of all types of violent crime.”
In hosting Battersea, it gave a chance for fellow MSPs and staff to drop in and hear about the case for increasing prison time for animal cruelty.
MSP Rona Mackay has spoken of her relief that there will be no fracking in the constituency or anywhere in Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament last week backed the SNP Government’s motion to ban fracking by 91 to 28, following an announcement from Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse.
The extraction of unconventional oil and gas from beneath the ground would have been a disaster, the MSP said.
Ms Mackay added: “I am overjoyed that MSPs have, by a landslide, rallied behind the SNP government’s fracking ban. The democratic will of Scotland is that fracking will not, under any circumstances, take place in our beautiful country.
“We know that Torrance and Bishopbriggs, at least, were targeted by energy giants, who sought to take in huge profits from the destruction of our environment.
“This would have seriously risked the contamination of our water supply, torn apart greenspace and caused great upheaval in the earth below us. And, that is just scratching the surface of the problems it causes.
“I’m sure the majority of people in Strathkelvin and Bearsden will be delighted that our ban on fracking has been backed by the Scottish Parliament.”
From Rona Mackay MSP by Alan Ferguson (07342 061722)