Tag Archives: holyrood

Lib Dems could double Holyrood seats according to new poll

Well, this looks interesting…

I know, I know, it’s only a poll, but an almost doubling of support for us should encourage Scottish Lib Dems to get campaigning.

The Survation poll for the Daily Record shows what could be on offer for the Scottish Liberal Democrats and should give the party confidence. The findings echo what people are finding on the doorsteps.

For a few fraught years, …

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Tackling the taboos – Alex Cole-Hamilton leads Holyrood debate on incontinence

As we reported last month, Alex Cole-Hamilton brought a motion calling for a National Continence Strategy to the Scottish Parliament. It was debated yesterday. Here is Alex’s speech. He is pictured here with Elaine Miller, his constituent whose show Gusset Grippers highlighted the issue at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.

If we ask anyone in this chamber or beyond it what their top five fears of age or infirmity might be, we can be sure that the subject of this debate will sit right up there. However, I state from the outset that, if we, as legislators, assume that incontinence is a condition only of the old or infirm, we are mistaken and are part of the problem. I called for the debate because women and men of all ages suffer in silence. It is high time that they are made aware of, and given, treatment, support and—most important—hope.

Incontinence is still taboo. Patients are shy and embarrassed to talk about it or to seek medical help, and many of them assume that nothing can be done for them. This may be the first time that we have debated the problem with such a focus in the Parliament. I am glad that members from all parties are present today and are prepared to put aside our hang-ups on the issue and look collectively towards relatively straightforward solutions.

Here are the facts: one in three women and one in nine men leak urine. A remarkable 30 per cent of women who have given birth vaginally will have damage to their pelvic floor, while those who sustain a third or fourth-degree tear during childbirth are likely to have problems with faecal incontinence. Statistics show that incontinence has a bigger impact on a person’s quality of life than nearly any other condition, and a recent survey of those over the age of 60 and in hospital characterised incontinence as a fate worse than death.

We do not know the true cost to Scotland of incontinence, associated products and the causal impact on physical and mental health. However, in 2010, Australia made a stab at researching the scale of the problem. A study there examined the cost not only of sanitary wear, medication and surgery, but of dealing with the depression and anxiety that can arise from the condition. It amounted to $43 billion dollars annually, which is astronomical. Our two countries have similar societies and face similar health challenges, so we can extrapolate that to around £5,000 for every Scot with the condition every year.

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Willie Rennie’s programme for government: Better schools, mental health care, more democracy in police

Yesterday the Scottish Government unveiled its Programme for Government for the coming year. It wouldn’t have to go far to beat last year’s which saw precious little legislation. However, there is some stuff that we can welcome, so long as it delivers what it says on the tin. Lib Dems pardons for those convicted of consensual same sex activity, consultation on gender recognition and more inclusive sex education, presumption against prison sentences under 12 months, free personal care for people under 65 with seriously disabling conditions and raising the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12. This last measure is one which they shamefully and resolutely refused to do during the last Parliament despite pressure from the then Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes.

There is still precious little investment in mental health. The warm words doesn’t match up to the facilities available on the ground. One real pinch point is the transition from child to adult mental health services. Young people have to wait up to a year and more to even be seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Once they have managed to be seen, the treatment is good – but when they hit 18, there is very little for them and the services are arranged in a very different way. A child can go from fairly intensive support to nothing.

Below is Willie Rennie’s full speech in response to the Government’s programme in which he sets out Lib Dem priorities of using the tax powers to invest in education and to provide more and better mental health services.

He also suggests that the Lib Dems are sceptical about Holyrood voting against the European Withdrawal Bill because he thinks that the SNP are using it to drive a wedge between Scotland and England. Certainly the issue is more complex – both Scotland’s governments are letting it down in this regard.

“On Saturday afternoon, together with Alex Cole Hamilton, I joined a group of breast cancer survivors called the Port Edgar Dragons.  We were on their magnificent dragon boat Isla May on the River Forth.  They are a wonderful group of women who show gutsy human spirit to improve their health.

We had an alternative view of the Queensferry Crossing whilst thousands of lucky people enjoyed a stroll over the magnificent new structure.  The engineers and workers should be proud of their achievement.

“Those who argued it was not necessary only need cast their mind back to the winter of 2015 when the old bridge was forced to close or a little further back when it was discovered that the main cables were corroding.

“As with any project of that scale it has not been without its problems but it was a necessary investment to guarantee one of the major arteries down the east of the country.

“The summer recess should have allowed us all to reflect on one of the most turbulent periods in politics for some time.  With nine sets of elections and referendums in the last six years people have had their fill.

“People want elected politicians to deliver real improvements to their lives. They are fed up with the endless focus on independence. To give credit to the First Minister she recognised that in June when she signalled that she was cooling on independence.  I was sceptical at the time and will always be suspicious but for now we have a chance to focus on real change.

“And today’s announcement on a presumption against prisons sentences of twelve months or less is a start.  We have been calling for this for some time.

“After opposing it twice I am pleased to see the SNP are now prepared to raise the age of criminal responsibility. These are real liberal measures which we will support. Yet the problems our country faces are significant.

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Willie Rennie’s masterclass in what to do when you say something you shouldn’t

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was interviewed today on Sunday Politics Scotland. Like Tim Farron earlier, he made some excellent points on the issues of the day.

This week, it looks as though the SNP could fail to get their budget through. The SNP does not have a majority at Holyrood. The Greens are pushing them for a 60% tax rate, which finance minister Derek Mackay has ruled out. Willie has been talking to Derek Mackay for weeks now and has made clear that unless he is prepared to put in significant investment in mental health and education, then the Liberal Democrats won’t support it.

Willie made that point very clearly in the interview, coming across very reasonably. You can watch the whole thing here towards the end of the programme.

It was when he was asked about the possibility of an election, that he made a wee slip of the tongue, though. We know that he loves campaigning. Remember the fun he had in last year’s election.. Unfortunately, rather than saying “I love campaigning”, he said “I love myself.” Believe me, those of us who work closely with him will make sure he never hears the end of that one.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton’s debut speech: EU is most important charter for freedom the world has ever seen

There is a reason I have spent so much time and energy over the past decade trying to get Alex Cole-Hamilton elected to the Scottish Parliament. I hope the video of his debut speech this morning will help you understand it too.

I had pretty high expectations, if I’m honest. The subject, the EU, is one of his strong points. Last year he won best speaker in the Charles Kennedy Memorial Debate on our continued membership of the EU. Alex managed to exceed even my lofty expectations today.

He paid tribute to his immediate predecessor and to Margaret Smith, who, as Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh West until 2011, had played such a huge role in getting Free Personal Care through.

On Europe, he highlighted the role of the EU in preserving the peace. Only the last two generations of his family have been free from the losses of European war. As well as preserving the peace, the EU helps us tackle the challenges facing our world which know no borders, like climate change and human trafficking, he argued.  The case he made for the EU was persuasive, inspiring and optimistic.

The full text is below:

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It’s Willie vs Goliath in Holyrood

This afternoon, MSPs will choose the new First Minister of Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the largest single party will not be unopposed, though. Willie Rennie, on his fifth anniversary as Scottish leader, is standing against her. Willie is a massive optimist, but I doubt even he expects to get more than a handful of votes. We won’t have a Wales scenario in Edinburgh. However, it is important that someone lays down a marker that the SNP, which no longer has a majority, has to work to make its case to Parliament. Nicola Sturgeon’s comments that she expects Parliament to respect her mandate are not the sort of comments you would expect from a leader without a majority. She has to show a bit of humility and respect for Parliament.

This will not be the only time when the Liberal Democrats will lead the opposition to the SNP, as we did so often in the last Parliament. On Thursday, Sturgeon presents her list of Ministers to the Parliament. Under its standing orders, Parliament can only reject any new names. It can’t pass judgement on any of the people already in post. Willie Rennie has appointed Mike Rumbles to be Business Manager (or chief whip). This is a role that he took during the last period of Holyrood minority government from 2007-11. His experience of the Parliament’s procedures will be helpful.

The Liberal Democrats have been horrified at the total muck-up the SNP has made over payments to farmers. During the election, Tavish Scott slammed the SNP for seeking to charge interest to farmers on emergency payments made to them while they sorted out their IT system. It seems incomprehensible that Parliament should not even get a say as to the performance of the Minister responsible. The Parliament has an opportunity to assert itself and reject that Minister. The Press and Journal reports:

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Willie Rennie on the four key Liberal Democrat values and the Lib Dem record of achievement

Willie Rennie put in a strong first day at work and set out the ideas on which the Scottish Liberal Democrats will fight the election in just 4 months’  time.

 

Willie Rennie values

He firstly intervened on the First Minister whose government promised to give 27% of 2 year olds nursery education. They’ve managed barely half that.

Before the First Minister moves on from education, new official Government figures show that only 7 per cent of two-year-olds are receiving nursery education. The First Minister’s promise was that 27 per cent would. How can she talk about a revolution in education and in childcare when she cannot even meet her timid plans?

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65,000 job losses doesn’t constitute an employment crisis, according to SNP MSP

One of the weirdest things about Scotland at the moment is that there is no great sense of an asteroid, let alone a bullet, being dodged. The SNP’s predictions about oil prices, based on them being around $113 a barrel, have been shown to be well wide of the mark. They said we’d have this massive oil boom. That’s before some of their more excitable supporters started going on about secret oil fields whose existence was being kept from us by a malevolent Westminster establishment.

Nobody really appreciates how lucky we are. Scots could be facing independence, which the SNP had said would happen on 24th March this year, that’s in less than 10 weeks’ time,  with the price of oil barely above a third of their estimates. It wouldn’t be much freedom for people who desperately needed public services. There would have to be either massive cuts or massive tax rises to cope with that massive hole in the public finances.

The plummeting oil price had, according to Oil and Gas UK, cost 65,000 jobs as far back as last September. It’s had a devastating effect on the economy of North East Scotland. Aberdeenshire West MSP Dennis Robertson doesn’t seem to think so, though. He said that there was no jobs crisis in the North East.

From the Official Report:

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Lib Dem Jim Hume’s Bill to stop smoking in cars with children present passes first Holyrood hurdle

Jim HumeThis week it’s become illegal to smoke in a car where there are children present in England. The responsibility for this area of law for Scotland lies with the Scottish Governemnt. For some time, Jim Hume, Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland has been preparing to introduce legislation as a private member to do the same thing in Scotland. Today his bill passed its first Holyrood hurdle.

This is one of these controversial issues where you can come to agree with the proposal or disagree with it from liberal principles. We don’t like banning things unless there is a very good reason to do so and we also want to look at the enforceability of such a law. I take a very dim view of anyone who breathes poisonous fumes over children in a metal box, but I am worried about the slippery slope of such a measure. I’d have been happy with a massive public awareness campaign. However, JS Mill would, I feel, back the Bill. While people have the right to cause harm to themselves, do they have the right to inflict toxic by-products on to their children in a manner that it is proven causes much more damage than smoking at home or outside would do.

Jim’s speeches from the debate are reproduced in full below:

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Willie Rennie and Greens’ Patrick Harvie support launch of Open Rights Group Scotland

WR  at ORG Scotland LaunchScottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie and Greens’ co-convener Patrick Harvie both attended the launch of Open Rights Group Scotland yesterday. Immediately after First Minister’s Questions, they gathered in a smoke-filled Garden lobby (the cafe was having an indoor barbecue to celebrate the start of the Summer holidays) to talk to journalists and pose for photographs.

As the SNP Government ramps up its plans for a National ID database that’s more powerful and intrusive than anything Labour ever came up with, and as Edinburgh plans to integrate all its CCTV systems, there is a lot for the digital rights organisation to do.

Willie Rennie said:

The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed dramatically since the digital revolution.

But government and politicians have responded at a snail’s pace and have failed to ensure the rights of citizens, consumers, journalists, businesses and children are protected online.

I am delighted to be part of the launch of Open Rights Group Scotland. It will help drive digital rights up the agenda in Scotland so that we can build a fairer society which enshrines civil liberties in every part of our lives.

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Opinion: ‘Scotland – where now?

 

The referendum is over and has settled nothing. The election has raised more questions than answers. And the Conservative Government’s first Queen’s Speech has set the direction of travel, while leaving the specifics nicely vague. What we do know is that plans for ‘English Votes for English Laws’, barring Scottish MPs from voting on whatever the executive decides are England-only matters, will see Scottish Votes for British Laws made increasingly irrelevant. We also know that further devolution to Scotland is going to happen, but not if the offer can satisfy the SNP’s short term ambitions.

So where are Liberal Democrats in all this? Our historical commitment is of course to Federalism, which differs from devolution in that the members of a federation usually cannot be abolished by their federal government, and that such members are usually equals – each state has the same amount of control over its own affairs, and the same relationship with the federal government. Not so with devolution, which has led to the creation of several assemblies in the UK, each with differing powers and responsibilities.

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Devo 15: 15 great achievements in 15 years of the Scottish Parliament

Tomorrow, it’s 15 years since the first meeting of the Scottish Parliament established after may years of work and campaigning by the Scottish Constitutional Convention. In that first decade and a half, it’s done some groundbreaking and pioneering things. It has a lot to be proud of. Here are some of Holyrood’s highlights.

1.  Free personal care for the elderly – Enabling older people to live at home for as long as possible

Stay Well At Home Service, Evesham, Britain

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Liberal Democrats put mental health on the agenda in Holyrood and Cardiff

Phrenology head - mental health - Some rights reserved by evansvilleWe know that mental health has always been one of Nick Clegg’s top priorities. His first major speech as Liberal Democrat leader was on the subject. In the coalition, he, Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb have been pushing forward improvements to mental health care from making sure people in crisis see health professionals and not the inside of a Police cell, to a massive expansion of talking therapies to action to tackle the stigma that still exists.

A friend of mine has recently had some time off work for Depression. She wrote on Facebook, and asked people to share, the following:

What I do want to say is that until being off work for eight weeks with depression is regarded on equal footing with the same period of time off with a physical ailment of any kind ( from a hip replacement, to heart attack,stroke, badly broken limb, severe diabetes, or any of countless medical conditions ) then we will all suffer individually and as a society.

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Bedroom Tax no more in Scotland – with Scottish Liberal Democrat support

It’s been a big week for the Scottish Parliament. On Tuesday, Holyrood passed a much stronger equal marriage bill than we have south of the border. Yesterday it passed a budget which, with different ideas incorporated from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, will make a huge difference to many people in Scotland.

The Holyrood budget process is very different. You’d never find George Osborne publishing his budget 3 months in advance, letting all parties contribute to the process and then putting an amended budget through Parliament incorporating new ideas. It’s to Finance Secretary John Swinney’s great credit that he adopts …

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Willie Rennie: “In 20 years, they’ll be glad they had nursery education at an early stage because it might just change their life chances”

There were extraordinary scenes in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon. First of all, the Scottish Liberal Democrats didn’t even vote for their amendment, and nor did anyone else. They didn’t have to, because the Scottish Government had taken a big step to doing what they wanted.

For months, Willie Rennie has got up at virtually every First Minister’s Questions session and doggedly asked, pleaded, cajoled with Salmond to extend nursery places to 40% of 2 year olds from its current figure of 3%, just like Nick Clegg had done south of the Border.  And every time, Alex Salmond replied with varying …

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Rennie: “You are a joyous, happy force for good” as Scottish equal marriage bill passes first stage

Willie at equal marriage rallyFive years ago, the embryonic Equal Marriage campaign could scarcely imagine that they would get to the point where the Holyrood Parliament would debate, and most likely pass with a stonking majority, a bill legalising its aim.

That they have captured Scotland’s imagination is down to its relentlessly positive, simple campaign, culminating with the It’s Time video. I defy anyone to get to the end of it without smiling.

Tom French, the spokesperson for the campaign, has had to endure some pretty unpleasant, inaccurate, disrespectful challenges during live debates on the media. He is one of my heroes of the year for dealing with such provocation in a very calm, unflappable manner.

Today, the Bill passed its first parliamentary hurdle. Before the debate, a rally took place outside Parliament. I went along with Andrew Brown who writes the widow’s world blog. The weather might have been freezing cold, but the atmosphere was the exact opposite. We sang (although probably best we didn’t attempt the re-written I am who I am on the back page of the song sheet), we chanted, we laughed, we cheered. Oh, and we listened to some politicians, too.

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Opinion: Changing demand without changing supply puts prostitutes at risk

It is with some concern that I read of proposals to criminalise paying for sex in Scotland.

Prostitution is a catch-all term that describes arrangements that should make the state very concerned indeed – trafficking of children for brutal sexual exploitation for example. There are also arrangements that the state has no business interfering in – the work of a self-employed, financially comfortable escort making very good money to supplement another income in an environment over which he or she has control.

Changing demand by criminalising the purchase of sex will have a number of unintended and undesirable consequences.

Firstly, we should consider …

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Opinion: Speaking up for Scots – a referendum on independence needs democratic legitimacy

All sorts of scare-stories surround a future Scottish referendum – from practical questions about the debt rating of an independent nation to more emotive fears of a new wave of Highland clearances.

Yet amidst all the manoeuvering by both the pro and anti-unionists seeking to define the framework under which the question will be answered (in particular whether it should be a straight in-out decision) the respective leaders at Westminster and Holyrood retain one glaring blindspot.

Scotsman columnist Bill Jamieson is entirely correct when identifying an “effective disenfranchisement which could undermine the referendum vote as envisaged,” but perhaps not …

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Time to scrap P.E. targets for schools

The SNP government in Scotland has come under fire – again – for missing its self-imposed target that every child do two hours of formal P.E. a week. Only 35% of primaries and 23% of secondaries have achieved the two hour goal.

But why have the target at all? What’s it actually achieving? Surely it’s sensible to only impose this sort of national target when there’s clear evidence of benefit.

Will two hours of P.E. make our young people more lithe and reduce obesity? Not according to the evidence.

A study published in the BMJ journal Archives for

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Our correspondents in Scotland

This is the first in a regular series of articles by Scottish-based bloggers giving their thoughts about developments in Scottish politics. Bernard Salmon is a Lib Dem activist based in Inverness and blogs at thesoundofgunfire.blogspot.com.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond proved himself to be a wee sleekit cowerin’ tim’rous beastie last week.

His betrayal of the SNP pledge to abolish the council tax and replace with a so-called ‘local’ income tax (in reality a nationally-set tax of 3p in the pound) was supposedly motivated by the fact that the parliamentary arithmetic was against him. Although the Scottish Lib Dems supported …

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  • User AvatarDavid Raw 22nd Mar - 1:10pm
    @ Catherine Jane Crosland. "it was frequently pointed out how easy it would be to register multiple times with multiple email addresses." Funny you mention...
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    Should have added that one of the most intelligent, shrewd (and humorous) persons I ever knew left school at twelve and went down the pit...
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    @Catherine Jane Crosland You mustn't point out contradictions in what LD's say when the situation suits. That does not go down very well on these...
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    Three million !
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    @Glenn I tend to agree. I just find it irksome that some seem to believe that the petition has democratic legitimacy because a couple of...
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