Emergency contacts

My office is now closed for the festive period and will re-open on Monday 5 January.

In the meantime, if you require emergency assistance, I hope that the following contact numbers are of use to you.

Best wishes

Graeme Pearson

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A Public Inquiry has been announced…

Today the Scottish Government made a very welcome announcement, that there is going to be a Public Inquiry into Historic Institutional Child Abuse.

I have been campaigning, along with survivors, for a number of years for such an Inquiry – so I very much welcome the commitment from the Scottish Government to set up an Inquiry with statutory powers which will be able to compel witnesses to attend and give evidence if required.

The next step will be setting the terms of reference for the Inquiry, which is to be done by April. The Scottish Government has said that they will be consulting with survivors regarding this, something that I warmly welcome.

As I have said before, those who have been affected by historic institutional child abuse seek true accountability, an acknowledgement of responsibility and an apology from those organisations still in existence, alongside comprehensive recommendations for the future in terms of prevention.

We need to ensure that there is a provision of counselling services and appropriate prosecutions. There is also a need to address who, when and on what authority decisions were taken to destroy records in respect of victims’ histories.

We need this Inquiry to ensure that we get the answers survivors need and crucially to do all we can to ensure that these horrific crimes will never be repeated in Scottish institutions.

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New responsibilities for all

Jim Murphy has announced his Shadow Cabinet today. No one has remained in the same post so it is moving day for everyone.

I have been moved from the Justice portfolio to Enterprise. My new responsibilities in regard to business and enterprise offer an interesting challenge on many levels.  I anticipate I will need to take our Scottish Labour message into business communities – to ensure that there is an awareness of what a future Labour Government would mean for business, both in a Scottish and UK context, but also to listen carefully to the return commentary from business in regard to what needs to be delivered to ensure enterprise.

I am sure that my long term involvement as Convenor of the Cross Party Group on China will help me in developing the relationships so necessary to good business within Scotland.

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New Leadership team for Scottish Labour

New Scottish Labour Deputy Leader, Kez Dugdale, and Leader, Jim Murphy

New Scottish Labour Deputy Leader, Kez Dugdale, and Leader, Jim Murphy

After a well fought campaign, Jim Murphy was elected as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party today. He won the leadership contest over Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack, with 55.7% of the first preference votes.

The party also elected a new Deputy Leader, in which Kezia Dugdale won over Katy Clark.

With a new leadership team in place, we will be getting to work a fresh and I look forward to working with them both.

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Cumnock Delivery Office

This morning I visited Royal Mail’s Cumnock delivery office to meet with the postmen and postwomen working there, to get an idea of the volume of work that they have at this time of year and to pass on my best wishes for Christmas to them.

I was shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager, Grant Lee and was introduced to a number of the men and women who are working hard sorting and delivering mail in the Cumnock area in the run-up to Christmas.

The operation in place was staggering, with many dedicated postmen and women ensuring that people receive all their cards, letters and parcels at this time of year.

Our postal workers work so hard all through the year, but at Christmas the pressures are significantly increased. And at Christmas we rely so much on them, and I saw today just how much effort they put in to delivering for us. I was grateful to Grant and his team for taking the time, especially when they are so busy.

 

We can do our bit to help them, the thousands of postal staff across the country, and ourselves, by ensuring that we post early, use postcodes and, for valuable packages and gifts, use special delivery.

To ensure that cards and parcels arrive before Christmas, the last recommended posting dates are:

  • Second Class – Thursday 18th December
  • First Class – Saturday 20th December
  • Special Delivery – Tuesday 23rd December 
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Working for better bus services

My colleague, Iain Gray, has launched a Private Member’s Bill to create new powers for transport authorities over bus services. Iain’s Bill proposes to give more power to local authorities in running bus services in their area. Currently, bus operators choose the most profitable routes, leaving local authorities to subsidise the remaining services.

More power for local authorities will mean better services for passengers. There are many areas where bus services need to improve to better serve communities. That I why I was happy to add my name in support of Iain’s proposals, and why it has also received from a number of other parties including the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

I do hope that the Scottish Government will back this bill as it is important to give people services that they can rely on, and to allow communities to have a say on their own public transport.

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New lower drink drive limit in force

Just a quick reminder that the reduction in Drink Driving Limits took effect at midnight.

The level has dropped from 80mg/100ml to 50mg/100ml.  In practice this means that one pint of lager, or one glass of wine could be enough to put you over the limit so the best advice is don’t drink if you are driving.

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Campaigning to end Violence Against Women

25 November was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, it was also the start of a 16 days of action campaign, which is an annual global campaign to raise awareness of the need to eliminate violence against women.

As part of that campaign the Cross Party Group on Men’s Violence against Women scheduled a meeting for today, to allow, and indeed encourage, MSPs to sign the Statement of Intent 2014. The statement asks for a commitment to furthering equality and respect, safety, prevention and accountability of perpetrators. It acknowledges the Scottish Parliament’s efforts towards ending men’s violence against women, as well as a re-commitment to the prevention and eradication of violence against women and girls.

The Scottish Government also scheduled a debate on Violence Against Women for this afternoon.

I was proud to sign the statement, and was proud to lead for Scottish Labour in the debate.

In my previous career as a police officer, I saw too often the brutal reality of violence against women. And it is still going on.

In 2012-13, more than 60,000 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded in Scotland. It is a matter of record that women often suffer the abuse more than five times before they make an official report. Once that report is made, the women and the children whom they seek to protect are left in limbo as they try to deal with the consequences of the abuse.

In the past, the authorities have often encouraged those who are being abused to move away and leave the home that they share with their abuser. However, between 2003-04 and 2012-13, the number of incidents in which ex-partners and ex-spouses have abused a victim rose from 32 to 44 per cent, so merely separating women from their abusers in order to try to bring a conclusion to the abuse is limited in its impact. As a result, services need to consider how they can best support women who are abused.

We must ensure that the significant funding for dealing with domestic abuse, in particular funding of third sector organisations, is utilised to its best. Victim Support, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis and many other agencies operate very effectively in the circumstances, but together they can do only so much.

As part of my contribution I urged the Government, and us all, to open minds to considering the further efforts that the Government can and should make in order to change the nature of relationships between men and women in this country. Such as efforts to create – in the education environment – a new ethos that seeks to engender respect between boys and girls, and between men and women.

During the debate we also noted the growing number of men who are subjected to domestic abuse. It is important that there are services and support for them. While this abuse is predominately perpetrated against women – and that is necessarily where the majority of attention is focussed, we must not forget the men who are victimised.

The debate was consensual, with support clear from all sides to protect and improve the lives of women who are suffering from violence, and many other forms of abuse. And there was also clear support to do more to change cultural attitudes to minimise the numbers of people who are abused in the first place.

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Smith Commission reports

Today the Smith Commission published its report of recommendations for new powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The Commission was announced on 19 September, after the result of the referendum was known. The Commission was to report before 30 November and to recommend the devolution of more financial, welfare and taxation powers, strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom.

The main parties involved in the referendum campaign – Scottish Labour, SNP, Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens – each nominated two members to the Commission. In addition to these 10 members, some 17,000 submissions from a variety of organisations and individuals were received and considered.

The recommendations from the Commission will make the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved legislatures anywhere in the world, even in some federal countries.

Holyrood will set all rates and bands for personal Income Tax, control the programmes which get unemployed people into jobs, and take responsibility for £2.5 billion worth of welfare benefits.

Pensions, Social Security and Child Benefit will remain reserved to Westminster to ensure that the cost of them is spread across 64 million rather than 5.4m people. However, the Scottish Government will be able to create new benefits.  Scots will be guaranteed the support they need when they are elderly, unemployed or raising a family, but the Scottish Government will be able to make tax fairer, the work programme more effective, and people living with disability or long term illness treated with greater respect and dignity.

Tax and Welfare was the core of the report, but it includes many other powers too, not least control over the licencing of controversial “Fracking” for gas to come to Scotland too.

MSPs will face greater responsibility and more accountability for raising public funds.

These powers will present exciting opportunities to make our country and the life of people living here better. So all in all, a good day.

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Parliament asks for input from young first-time voters

The Scottish Parliament’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee is looking to hear from 16 and 17 year olds who voted in the referendum.

The Committee has created an online survey for the young voters, and want to hear from 16 and 17 year old voters in South Scotland.

The short survey should take no more than five minutes to complete. Participation is voluntary and people are not asked to provide any information that would allow them to be personally identified.

Click here if you want to take part.

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