MSP Rona Mackay has welcomed changes to blood donation rules to make it easier for gay and bisexual men to give blood.
The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP has been active in the Scottish Parliament calling for the 12-month ban based on sexual abstinence to be lifted.
Now, men who have sex with men (MSM) will only have to abstain from sex for three months to be allowed to donate blood.
It follows a scientific review by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
The Scottish Government has asked the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) to implement changes.
Ms Mackay, who held a Members’ Debate in the Scottish Parliament on the matter, said: “I am delighted that the Scottish Government have endorsed SaBTO’s recommendations to reduce the deferral period to three months.
“Many gay and bisexual men were effectively barred from giving blood due to the 12-month abstention period, which in my view was outdated and discriminatory. Eligibility should be based on lifestyle risk, not sexual orientation.
“These changes, based on scientific evidence, will allow these men to donate and add to the dwindling blood supply which in turn will save many more lives.”
From Rona Mackay MSP by Alan Ferguson (07342 061722)
Notes for Editors:
Before 2011 MSM were permanently excluded from giving blood. This changed to a 12-month deferral in 2011 following a review by SaBTO. In April 2016, SaBTO set up a working group to review the current donor eligibility criteria. The Scottish Government has asked the SNBTS to implement the changes recommended by the SaBTO review, including reducing the 12 month deferral period to 3 months.
THE FAMILIES of refugees should be allowed to join relatives now living in the UK, MSP Rona Mackay has said.
The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP has voiced her backing for colleague Angus MacNeil MP Private Members’ bill to change the law.
The Refugee Family Reunion Bill will address specific issues that have split up families and give children the right to be reunited with parents.
The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on Wednesday, July 19, and has already secured support from the Refugee Council, UNHCR the UN Refugee Agency, Amnesty International, the British Red Cross and Oxfam GB.
Ms Mackay said: “To think that legal red tape prevents children of whom we’re sheltering from war from being reunited with their parents, also refugees, makes absolutely no sense at all.
“To keep a child that has grown up in a warzone away from their parents, when we have the means of reuniting them, is inherently wrong and indefensible.
“The Syrian refugee crisis has been the defining humanitarian crisis of many of our lives, and we have to appreciate the gravity of this situation and do everything we can to ease the pain of its victims.”
Ms Mackay has also lodged a parliamentary motion in Holyrood supporting the Bill.
That the Parliament welcomes the proposed UK Parliamentary Bill to allow refugee children settled in the United Kingdom to sponsor their parents to join them; notes the Refugee Family Reunion Bill by Angus MacNeil MP aims to keep refugee families together, allow children to be reunited with parents and reintroduce legal aid for refugee family applications, which stopped in 2012; notes it has been supported by the Refugee Council, UNHCR the UN Refugee Agency, Amnesty International, the British Red Cross and Oxfam GB; appreciates the Syrian refugee crisis is the most defining humanitarian disaster since World War II and measures that go above and beyond the norm are needed to help those families whose lives have been torn apart through no fault of their own; thanks Angus MacNeil MP for devoting his Private Members’ bill to this cause and wishes him and his team all the best in getting the Bill passed in the UK Parliament.
MSP Rona Mackay has backed calls to end the financial abuse of taxpayers’ cash by unelected peers in the House of Lords.
SNP MPs in Westminster have revealed 14 per cent of peers clocked in for expenses in June without any recorded parliamentary contributions.
They claimed the total monthly expenses of £4,200 made up of daily payments of £300 to cover costs of their supposed duties.
It has now been suggested a new swipe-in-swipe-out system is installed for both greater accountability and enhanced security.
MSP Rona Mackay said: “It will rightly make the public’s blood boil when they hear of wealthy lords, ladies, barons and dames turning up to essentially steal £300 from UK taxpayers.
“A new means of swiping in and out will keep those peers responsible accountable to the public and allow them to be exposed for a lack of parliamentary activity relative to high expenses claims.
“The very fact this is happening, and that there seems to be this of entitlement among some peers is a slap in the face to ordinary people in Scotland and the rest of the UK.”
MSP Gil Paterson said: “While this system will be getting used legitimately by many of the peers in the House of Lords, it is absolutely being abused by some. This has to change, there’s no question to.
“Such suggestions will be a bitter pill to swallow for our Westminster elite who seem to thrive off this gravy train.
“These are the same people who have been voting through and influencing hard-line austerity and benefit cuts, causing record-high use of foodbanks in my constituency.
“Regardless of whether you agree with an unelected second chamber, I am sure there is wide consensus among the public to end this racket as a matter of urgency.”
From Rona Mackay MSP (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) and Gil Paterson MSP (Clydebank and Milngavie)
By Alan Ferguson 07342 061722
NOTES – SNP NATIONAL PRESS RELEASE W/ FUTHER INFO:
For release: Thursday 20th July
NEW SECURITY PROPOSALS ARE OPPORTUNITY FOR GREATER LORDS ACCOUNTABILITY
SWIPE IN – SWIPE OUT SYSTEM COULD END ‘SIMPLY UNACCEPTABLE’ LORDS ABUSES
SNP House of Lords spokesperson Tommy Sheppard MP has suggested a new system of ‘swiping in and out‘ for parliamentarians at Westminster, for both members of the House of Lords and MPs.
This would be both as a new security measure – but also as a means of trying to avoid some of the reported abuses of attendance allowances by members of the Lords.
Tommy Sheppard has written to the authorities at Westminster – to suggest the new attendance system for peers would also help to establish for how long those Lords who claim their daily £300 allowance for coming into the building are actually present.
Mr Sheppard has said the current system is ‘simply unacceptable’ and adds to the argument that the House of Lords is an ‘affront to democracy’.
Tommy Sheppard MP commented:
‘’There are so many shortcomings in the way the House of Lords functions – it is an utter anachronism. My suggestions are aimed at increasing their security and that of MPs – but accountability of peers is also key in this proposal. Members of the House of Lords operate under such privileged rules – which are clearly open to abuse – and it is simply unacceptable.
‘’In the last month for which figures are available (Feb 2017) – SNP research shows that 14% of those Lords who claimed the maximum £4200 for that month – made no recorded contribution to parliament whatsoever. My suggestions will allow unelected members of the Lords to demonstrate that they put in a full shift for their £300 daily allowance – or not.
‘’As with anyone receiving public funds, peers should be open to scrutiny about how much time they are involved in debates or committees – by swiping in and out – that will at least be a public record of duration of attendance and value for money.
‘’There are now over 800 Lords and we know that the Tories want to increase their number even more whilst decreasing the size of the House of Commons. This is just an affront to democracy – and while we have to put up with this laughable chamber – we should insist on greater accountability.’’
MSP Rona Mackay has applauded news that Scotland’s economy is the fastest growing in the UK.
New figures show Scotland’s economy has grown 0.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2017.
This is four-times the UK growth rate for the same quarter, the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP stressed.
In Scotland production grew by 3.1 per cent and services by 0.3 per cent.
Since 2007 Scotland’s economy has grown by more than seven per cent – the UK has grown 0.4 per cent.
The findings are detailed in the latest Scotland Gross Domestic Product report.
Ms Mackay said: “We are seeing an improving picture across Scotland – the economy is growing, the number of people in employment is rising and unemployment is at historic lows.
“Strathkelvin and Bearsden has lots to be confident about. The SNP Scottish Government’s £6 billion infrastructure plan, £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme and record investment in Modern Apprenticeships and education will continue to support the East Dunbartonshire economy.
“However Brexit, and being removed from the world’s largest single market, poses the biggest threat to this progress and Scotland’s economy. A blind crusade towards a hard Brexit cliff edge could cost our economy around £11 billion a year by 2030 and result in 80,000 fewer jobs, and the fall in Sterling since the referendum is already pushing up prices and squeezing household incomes. This, accompanied by relentless Tory austerity, means we cannot be complacent.
“The SNP has a plan to grow our economy and we will continue to work hard to support it through difficult times ahead – determined to remain an open, European nation inside the world’s largest single market.”
AN OPT-OUT system for organ donation in Scotland will save lives, MSP Rona Mackay has said.
The Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP has welcomed the SNP Government’s decision to introduce legislation for a soft opt-out system for organ and tissue donation.
Following a consultation, 82 per cent of respondents backed plans for a soft opt-out in Scotland.
The SNP government will introduce legislation to the parliament within the term.
Ms Mackay said: “I am sure constituents waiting on a transplant, or know someone going through this plight, will be delighted at this development from the SNP government.
“NHS Scotland has made a lot of progress with organ and tissue donation but there needs to be some fundamental changes help the health service save more lives.
“We should always keep in mind the tragic circumstances that give rise to organ donation and forever appreciate the selfless acts of donors and their families that enable others to live. Organ and tissue donation saves lives and is one of the greatest gifts a person can give.”
The consultation ran from 7 December 2016 to 14 March 2017.
Anyone wishing to join the Organ Donor Register can do so by visiting the Organ Donation Scotland website. This website can also be used by those who wish to update their registration details or to register their wish not to be a donor.
The Donation and Transplantation Plan, 2013-2020 has been the catalyst for meaningful improvement in organ donation in Scotland with:
146% increase (54-133 between 2007/8 and 2016/17) in the number of people who donated organs after their death.
In 2016/17, Scotland had the highest rate of donors per million of population of any UK country – currently 25.5 donors pmp.
45% of the Scottish population have joined the organ donor register (over 116,000 in 2016).
MSP Rona Mackay has said it is our “duty and responsibility, in the name of humanity” to protect children from cybersex trafficking.
At a Scottish Parliament debate, the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP told how the criminal industry of livestreaming child abuse is even happening in Scotland.
Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency have been working with the International Justice Mission (IJM) to track down buyers and enablers of online child abuse.
Ms Mackay has called on the public to support the #NotOnMyScreen campaign to raise awareness of the crisis and help authorities tackle it.
She said: “This is not just an international issue. Scottish children are becoming the subjects of online abuse in increasing numbers.
“Last year, more than 30 million indecent images of Scottish children were uncovered online over a six-week period. I repeat that 30 million images were found — everyone should think about that — and that could be just the tip of the iceberg.
“Five hundred and twenty-three children were identified as potential victims of abuse, and some victims were as young as three. Police crime statistics show that there is not one constituency in this Parliament where online child sexual exploitation is not an issue. It is here, on our doorsteps.”
Ms Mackay emphasised how the most successful way of tracking down perpetrators is via friends and family.
She said: “It is important to remember that the perpetrators are often individuals that we would not pick out on the street. They could be sitting next to us on a train. They do not have “I am an abuser” tattooed on their foreheads.
“That is why we need public engagement to tackle the problem, through awareness and reporting in communities.
“Some of the most effective information that the police gather in online child sexual exploitation cases comes from reporting by friends and family, so it is vital that the public are engaged with the issue and that we all share the responsibility to fight abuse.”
She added: “We must protect innocent children from this horrific exploitation. That is our duty and responsibility, in the name of humanity.”
MSPs debated the motion:
That the Parliament recognises the concerns raised by people in Aberdeenshire East and around Scotland regarding the online exploitation and abuse of children; commends the efforts of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in highlighting child slavery and exploitation overseas; understands that this abuse is supported and enabled by online purchasers in western countries, including Scotland; commends Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency on their work with the IJM to identify and prosecute the buyers and enablers of online child abuse and cybersex trafficking, and further commends them for raising awareness of the problem at a national and international level in order to stop this abuse of children.
Rona Mackay’s full speech:
I thank Gillian Martin for bringing this debate to the Parliament.
Like all my colleagues in the Parliament, I have attended many events since I was elected, all of which have been interesting and enlightening. The event that I attended earlier this year, which was hosted by Jenny Marra MSP, who I understand has done admirable work in the field of child sexual exploitation and cybersex trafficking, had a lasting effect on me. I found it powerful and disturbing, as I know that my colleagues did.
I came away thinking two things. First, I was shocked that this could be happening to children throughout the world, including in Scotland. Secondly, I was in awe of the amazing work that is being done by the International Justice Mission and by the specialist police officers in Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency who are dedicated to eradicating this horrible scourge. The officers who protect our children see things every day that no individual should ever have to witness, because this truly is the darker side of the internet and human nature.
Cybersex trafficking of children is a growing and devastating form of modern-day slavery, which was unimaginable before the digital age and involves the live streaming of sexual abuse of children, which is viewed over the internet. As Gillian Martin said in her powerful speech, the majority of victims who are abused and exploited are the poorest and most vulnerable.
The IJM partners with justice systems throughout the developing world to bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems. Its work is essential in preventing violence against vulnerable individuals throughout the world who have no other access to justice. In an effort to raise awareness, the IJM launched the not on my screen campaign.
This is not just an international issue. Scottish children are becoming the subjects of online abuse in increasing numbers. Last year, more than 30 million indecent images of Scottish children were uncovered online over a six-week period. I repeat that 30 million images were found—members should think about that—and that could be just the tip of the iceberg. Five hundred and twenty-three children were identified as potential victims of abuse, and some victims were as young as three. Police crime statistics show that there is not one constituency in this Parliament where online child sexual exploitation is not an issue. It is here, on our doorsteps.
The not on my screen campaign aims to educate individuals about the alarming levels of abuse and encourage everyone to take a stand against it. The IJM is the largest anti-slavery organisation in the world. As internet access increases globally, victims can be exploited anywhere, including by someone with just a mobile phone.
In the Philippines, cybersex trafficking of children is growing exponentially, and Philippine authorities are receiving in excess of 6,000 referrals every month, many of which have connections to the UK. The trafficking is being driven by online users in western countries, including Scotland. IJM programmes around the world are currently protecting more than 21 million people from violence and slavery, 54 per cent of whom are aged between one and 12 years old.
It is important to remember that the perpetrators are often individuals that we would not pick out on the street. They could be sitting next to us on a train. They do not have “I am an abuser” tattooed on their foreheads. That is why we need public engagement to tackle the problem, through awareness and reporting in communities. Some of the most effective information that the police gather in online child sexual exploitation cases comes from reporting by friends and family, so it is vital that the public are engaged with the issue and that we all share the responsibility to fight abuse.
The IJM has recommended the establishment of a working group to consider what action to take regarding online CSE. The resourcing of a data fusion centre to address online CSE would be a step forward.
I urge members to add their voices to the campaign: they can tweet, using #NotOnMyScreen, to help to bring awareness to the issue.
We must protect innocent children from this horrific exploitation. That is our duty and responsibility, in the name of humanity.
MSP Rona Mackay has welcomed through the passing of a Bill to integrate the British Transport Police with Police Scotland.
Ms Mackay, the deputy convener of the Justice Committee, had scrutinised The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill (2017) in the committee and chamber, and called its passing a “historic” moment for Scotland and the SNP government.
Following the MSPs’ approval of the Bill railway policing is now under the command of Police Scotland.
Ms Mackay said: “The passing of the Bill is a historic moment for policing and devolution in Scotland. It will see the specialism of transport policing retained, built upon and made fully accountable to the people of Scotland.
“Railway policing was answerable to the British Transport Police Authority, the Department for Transport and the Secretary of State for Transport in England and Wales. That was simply undemocratic.
“Making this change gives our railway officers access to the specialist resources of the UK’s second largest police force including, crucially, counter-terrorism capabilities.”