Scotrail have announced the withdrawal of some services tomorrow as a result of safety concerns about the newest storm to hit our shores, dubbed Gertude by the Met Office. The storm has been forecast to bring winds of up to 90mph as well as heavy rain, high tides, and snow.
As a result of these severe winds and high tides, which are expected to hit the north and west of Scotland in particular, it is expected that there will be no trains running on the following lines from start of service tomorrow morning until late afternoon:
- Glasgow-Oban/Fort William/Mallaig
- Dumbarton Central-Helensburgh Central
- Kilmarnock-Stranraer (services will operate between Glasgow Central and Kilmarnock)
- Kilwinning-Ardrossan/Largs (services will operate between Glasgow Central and Kilwinning
- Glasgow Queen Street – Dunblane
The following services will reduce in frequency:
- Edinburgh-Glasgow (via Falkirk High) will operate half hourly
- Edinburgh-Dunblane will operate hourly
As roads are also expected to be affected by the extreme weather, including snow and ice, replacement buses are expected to be extremely limited.
Scotrail say that they are monitoring the weather conditions closely and have specialist teams ready to deploy quickly to deal with any issues caused by the storm and to inspect lines, repair damage and to reopen routes as quickly as possible.
For latest updates, please go to the dedicated page on the Scotrail website.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, when people across the UK can come together to remember the 6 million Jewish men, women and children murdered in the Holocaust and all those persecuted and murdered by the Nazis and in subsequent genocides.
Holocaust Memorial Day is held on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps, in 1945. Since 2001, 27 January has been designated as Holocaust Memorial Day to help ensure that we never forget what happened in these death camps, and across Europe. And to ensure that we never forget what horrors humans can inflict upon each other. By remembering we hope to ensure that it never happens again.
One organisation that carries out such work all year round is the Holocaust Educational Trust. The trust aims to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today. The Trust works in schools, universities and in the community to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust.
Representatives from the Trust have been good enough to come in to the Scottish Parliament this week to, among other things, help educate MSPs about some of the people who were killed by the Nazis.
For more information about the work of the Trust, including their important Lessons from Auschwitz programme, click here.
Many people in the Cairnryan area have been worried by the level of speeding in and around the port there. The port is a vital local and regional service, but it is important that local residents are safe on the roads.
We have been successful in having a series of counter measures installed in the area, including new 30mph speed limit warning signs, signs warning drivers that they are entering a populated area when they near the village, and mobile cameras to enforce the limit (including in the evenings to cover those returning from evening ferry sailings). It is also important that they road haulage industry prioritised road safety in the area.
There was unanimous agreement amongst all Community Councillors, local Councillors, local MSPs and officials that the only real way to control the situation was to take this action. It was necessary to meet with the Transport Minister, Derek Mackay, to ensure that this action was taken. I was pleased to be able to meet him along with Alex Fergusson MSP to call for the installation of the new measures, and am grateful to him for arranging the meeting.
These measures will be installed through Spring and Summer this year, with statistics gathered and closely monitored throughout the period. At the end of the year the Scottish Government will assess the statistics and evaluate what options are available going forward.
Yesterday I spoke in a debate about Protecting Children from Harmful Online Content. It was a members’ debate, based on a motion circulated by Stewart Maxwell and drew a number of participants.
Members’ debates are mostly quite consensual in tone, and yesterday proved no exception. Issues raised included classification of music videos and video games; filters for adult content on the internet; being aware of the tools that are available to monitor and control unsuitable content; and genuinely engaging children and young adults about online content, and how best to protect children and vulnerable people.
It was an interesting and also worrying debate. More can surely be done to help protect children and young people. The internet is a remarkable tool which can help us all access so much information and content, however, we also need to recognise that as well as things that we want, there are aspects of the online world which are unwanted and can be frankly dangerous. For the full transcript of the debate, click here.
Further education is incredibly important to ensure that people have an opportunity to learn skills, gain knowledge and qualifications, and improve their employability. Yet the SNP Government’s record on Further Education is nothing short of a disgrace.
There are now 152,000 fewer students in colleges than there were when the SNP came to power. In particular, second chance learners, women returners to work, workers seeking new skills and people with learning disabilities have all been squeezed out. Even numbers of full time students are at a lower level than they were five years ago.
Those students who are attending are often travelling further to get to classes as college mergers have changed local provision; and in some cases local college sites have been closed. In a recent poll of college lecturers, 90% of them say mergers have not improved learning for students.
So we have 152,000 fewer students, and those who do manage to secure places have not had their learning improved by the Scottish Government’s reforms.
The Scottish Government has failed to understand the importance of further education and the role that it plays in enhancing the skills, knowledge and confidence of our workforce. As a result, with college budgets slashed and mergers enforced, communities are being failed by a lack of provision in further education and the opportunities of new skills and experience for their local residents. Ultimately so is our economy.
There will be a final public meeting with regard to the flooding in New Cumnock on Monday 8 February 2016 at 7pm in the New Cumnock Community Centre.
I will be chairing the meeting and I have invited the various agencies to address residents and local business people attending and to update us all on the current plans in relation to flood prevention.
The severe flooding over this festive period have caused destroyed property and has had a devastating impact on the community. It is therefore important that the plans which have been developed over the past year are finally implemented and that the community can see how the plans will affect them and time scales for work to commence.
The meeting will also have an opportunity to hear evidence from the working group and I have asked Councillor Crawford to report on their behalf. Mr Walter Young will be speaking on behalf of local farmers and an invitation has been extended to NFUS.
Today, The Fostering Network published their annual statistics on the number of new fostering families needed during 2016 to ensure the provision of stable, secure and loving homes for fostered children in Scotland.
Over 800 fostering families are needed right across Scotland in 2016, to give loving homes and supportive family environments to children. In particular there is an ongoing and urgent need for more foster families to provide homes for teenagers, disabled children, and sibling groups.
At the moment, 5,533 children live with over 4,450 foster families across Scotland each day. However, without more foster families coming forward during 2016, some children will find themselves living a long way from family, school and friends, being split up from brothers and sisters, or being placed with a foster carer who does not have the right skills and experience to meet their specific needs. There is then a significant risk that a child’s placement will breakdown, further disrupting an already traumatic childhood.
Our figures show that two in five (40 per cent) fostered teenagers are already living with their third foster family since coming into care, and one in 20 (five per cent) teenagers are living with their tenth family in foster care. With a rising number of children coming into care, and around 12 per cent of foster carers retiring or leaving fostering last year, there is a need to not only recruit more foster carers, but also better utilise the current pool of foster carers to best meet the needs of the children and young people in foster care.
The Fostering Network are encouraging everyone who is keen to learn more about fostering to visit couldyoufoster.org.uk, find their local fostering service, and contact them to find out whether they can foster.
Like too many times before, the South of Scotland has borne the brunt of flooding this winter. My team and I have seen some of the devastation first hand.
Roads have been closed across South Scotland and communities in Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Galloway and the Borders have been ravaged by torrents over this Christmas period. Residents and local businesses alike have been seriously affected, with many losing electricity as well as belongings being destroyed.
In New Cumnock, hundreds of people whose homes were flooded just a couple of years ago are having to go through it all again.
My thoughts and sympathies are with constituents at this time, as well as thanks to those who are doing everything they can to keep communities safe and connected.
My office is now closed for the festive period and will re-open on Tuesday 5 January.
In the meantime, if you require emergency assistance, I hope that the following contact numbers are of use to you.
On Wednesday John Swinney announced his budget for next year and anyone and everyone who relies on the vital services delivered by local councils across Scotland will feel the pain of his cuts. Many Scots are already suffering from George Osborne’s austerity policies but far from making things better, the SNP Budget made the cuts in our communities a whole lot worse.
A 7% cut in addition to the council tax freeze means local people will have nowhere else to turn. This will be played out in reductions to our learning support services and our libraries, in the closures of our day centres and the removal of help for the elderly.
Thousands of jobs are going to be lost – and every one of those decisions can be laid at John Swinney’s door. These are cuts which John Swinney and the SNP are imposing, not the Tories.
It makes no sense for the SNP Government to say they want to put education at the top of the agenda then impose brutal cuts to the councils who deliver budgets for our schools and teachers.
John Swinney said he would ‘consult’ with his ‘partners’ in local government before implementing his budget. We need to test him on his promise. Every council and every councillor in Scotland, no matter which party they are a member of, needs to let John Swinney know that if goes ahead with these cuts, the effects will be devastating.
The poorest and most vulnerable members of our communities will be hardest hit, but every family will be affected. Every cut will be the responsibility of John Swinney and the SNP Government in Edinburgh.
It’s time for our Councils to fightback.