British Services Association

Today I attended a meeting organised by the British Services Association in my capacity as Shadow Enterprise Minister.

It was a very useful meeting to outline Scottish Labour’s approach to Enterprise and to discuss policy areas that are already dealt with by the Scottish Parliament; and those which could be devolved in the near future.

I am grateful that to those who took the time to meet with me, it was very interesting and helpful.

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Election time

May 7th will see the people of the United Kingdom voting for a new Parliament. Much has been written about it, but I want to highlight Scottish Labour’s stated commitments. The Party’s

  1. 1,000 extra nurses for our NHS, funded by a UK-wide mansion tax;
  2. More powers for the Scottish Parliament, including the final say on benefits;
  3. Guarantee a job and training for all young people;
  4. £1,600 for 18 and 19 year olds who don’t have an apprenticeship, go to college or university, to invest in themselves or start a business;
  5. Raise the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour;
  6. Guarantee the Barnett Formula to deliver billions of pounds more for our schools, hospitals and pensions;
  7. Increase the bursaries for the poorest students by £1,000;
  8. No tuition fees for Scottish students;
  9. Ban exploitative zero hour contracts;
  10. End the need for food-banks with £175m to tackle the causes of poverty.

This is a big election for people in Scotland and the whole UK. No matter which party you plan to vote for, I hope you make sure you go out and vote.

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New Dumfries and Galloway Food Trail

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink. This is a real opportunity for us to celebrate Scotland’s outstanding food and drink industry, which produces iconic Scottish produce ranging from Irn Bru and Scotch whisky to Scottish lamb and craft beer.

Dumfries and Galloway Council and DG Food and Drink have collaborated to create Scotland’s Artisan Food Trail, a tourist attraction aimed at encouraging visitors and locals to sample and experience the area’s fantastic food and drink.

With a summer of events and activities planned for the whole region, the Artisan Food Trail is a great opportunity for local businesses to showcase their produce and solidify Dumfries and Galloway’s reputation as a destination for food and drink lovers.

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One in Five Campaign

I was pleased to be be able to add my support to the “One in Five” campaign aimed at increasing the political participation and representation of disabled people in Scottish politics. I believe that more must be done to encourage, empower and increase political participation amongst disabled people in Scotland.

The ‘One in Five’ campaign calls on political parties and organisations to sign up to a charter which pledges to make society and politics more accessible for those living with disabilities.

The Charter has five pledges:

• All members are asked about individual needs which are actioned to ensure inclusion
• Meetings are held in accessible venues
• Material is available in a variety of formats
• Organisational tasks and responsibilities are clearly defined yet remain flexible enough to empower individual member ability
• The organisation aims to increase the awareness and understanding of issues affecting people with disabilities and strives to include and empower all members.

I am pleased to support all of these aims and hope that the campaign will go from strength to strength. For more information on the campaign, please visit http://www.oneinfive.scot/

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NFU visit

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI was delighted to be able to meet with some local farmers and representatives of the National Farmers Union this weekend. I was fascinated by the experiences of farming communities in the South of Scotland and will certainly take forward several of the issues that they raised.

Farming is the lifeblood of our rural communities and the insight given to us on a regular basis by the NFU is essential in helping elected members at all levels to keep in touch with the needs of farming communities.

I look forward to being able to get out and visit as many people as I can and taking the issues that I hear from them forward in the coming months.

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The Tour of Britain Comes to the South of Scotland

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The South of Scotland will feature heavily in this year’s Tour of Britain cycling championship. All 3 Scottish legs of the Tour will go through the South of Scotland, with stops at Kelso, Hawick, Selkirk, Montrose and Floors Castle in Kelso.

The Tour’s decision to come back to the South of Scotland emphasises the area’s statust as a terrific cycling venue. The Tour will bring visitors from across the country and give local people a unique opportunity to see elite cycling close-up.

Race director Mick Bennett said: “This year’s route gives us the fantastic opportunity to have two days of racing in Scotland and to make first visits to the east of the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh”.

“I am sure many cycling fans will be excited, just like we are, at the prospect of seeing the world’s top riders on the streets of the Scottish capital, and will hopefully use the race as an opportunity to visit the areas we pass through”.

For more information, please visit:

http://www.tourofbritain.co.uk/stages/index.php#.VQmE6pRdP3c

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Making Renting Right

Making Renting Right

I am pleased to have added my name in support of Shelter Scotland’s campaign Making Renting Right. The campaign aims to improve the private rented sector, so that it works better for tenants and landlords.

This is important because 13% of all Scottish households currently live in the private rented sector – that is 312,000 households.

In the last ten years, the number of families living in the private rented sector has more than doubled in the last 10 years; and now 80,000 children live in private rented housing.

It is important that the current system be improved so that there is transparency and fairness for tenants.

In all the campaign has five aims, which are:

  1. Stability for people wanting to make rented housing their home
  2. The flexibility for people to stay in their home as long as they want to
  3. A modern tenancy that gives security and flexibility for tenants AND landlords
  4. A fair system for sorting out renting problems when they occur
  5. Predictable rents for tenants and landlords

More information on the campaign and the work of Shelter Scotland can be found here.

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#whysportmatters

At Scottish Labour Conference on Saturday I was delighted to be able to speak to the Scottish Sports Alliance about their project, #whysportmatters. #whysportmatters details the impact of sport and being active across all areas of society: health, mental health, older adults and social care, education, the workforce, the economy, communities and social cohesion. Participating in sport/being active have been described as “the best buy in public health” – it fundamentally supports people to live longer, healthier and happier lives and provides benefits to individuals, society and the whole population.

The report is a great contribution to the research on the impact of sport on society. In this report and beyond, the Alliance does great work and I was pleased to be able to support them at Conference.

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Supporting Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal

With Susan Lowes of Marie Curie

With Susan Lowes of Marie Curie

All this week, representatives from Marie Curie have been in the Scottish Parliament encouraging MSPs to support this year’s Great Daffodil Appeal and I was proud to put on my daffodil.

I met staff and heard about the work of the charity that cares for terminally ill people and their families across Scotland. As you can see I also posed with a placard pledging support for people with a terminal illness.

The Great Daffodil Appeal is Marie Curie’s biggest fundraiser, which encourages everyone to give a donation and wear a daffodil pin in March. The money raised will help Marie Curie Nurses to provide more free care to local people with terminal illnesses in their own homes and in the two Scottish Marie Curie Hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

I am delighted to add my support to this year’s appeal, to help spread the word in the hope that vital funds can be raised to support terminally ill people in Scotland. Every March millions of people across the UK support our biggest fundraising campaign and it’s easy to join in, simply give a donation and wear your daffodil pin.

To find out how you can get involved in the Great Daffodil Appeal click here or call 0845 601 3107

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Living Wage

According to the Scottish Trades Union Council (STUC), nearly one in five Scots in work currently earn less than the Living Wage. That means that 18% of people in Scotland receive less than £7.85 an hour.

We also know that the proportion of jobs paying below the Living Wage is highest among the younger age groups, with 72% of 18-21 year olds earning less than the Living Wage, compared to 27% of 22-29 year olds.

Women are also significantly more affected than men, with 27% receiving less than the Living Wage compared to 16% of men, and part-time workers are more than three times more likely to receive low pay than full-time workers.

This is unacceptable. It is important that governments do all that they can to fix this problem. Words are not enough; action is needed now.

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