Tag Archives: Scotland

Jardine challenges Scottish Secretary over Gender Reform

Women and Equalities spokesperson Christine Jardine challenged Scottish Secretary Alister Jack to come up with a single clause in Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill which undermined the provisions of the Equality Act. Spoiler, he couldn’t. She accused him of playing fast and loose by the Union by attempting to block the Bill.  Watch her comments here.

Later he issued a flimsy Statement of Reasons for issuing the Section 35 Order. In a later speech, Christine said that to call it weak would be to flatter it. There certainly is much in the way of conjecture within it and absolutely zero evidence to back that up.

At this point it is worth remembering that, not only was a Labour amendment stating the primacy of the Equality Act on the face of the Bill, but even before that every major feminist organisation in Scotland supported it. I can’t see how they would have done if they had thought for a second that it would harm women’s rights. They have certainly not held back in criticising government legislation before. This is one of the most scrutinised pieces of legislation ever, with several consultations, a draft Bill and, finally, the Bill that has been passed.

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“Cynical” move to block Scotland’s Gender Recognition Bill

The Guardian reports:

Rishi Sunak’s government has blocked legislation passed by the Scottish parliament that would make Scotland the first part of the UK to introduce a self-identification system for people who want to change gender.

The Scottish secretary, Alister Jack, announced that he would use section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 for the first time to halt the gender recognition bill after a review by UK government lawyers.

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Paying for Social Care

The current crisis in the NHS should be persuading us to re-consider the idea of a 10 per cent retirement levy to pay for social care. Everyone knows that bed- blocking is at the root of the over-crowding in our hospitals and the long waits for ambulances and in accident and emergency departments. But “delayed discharge” cannot be solved without more resources in home care and nursing homes. Massively more resources.

The lack of political courage over this issue is shameful, from all parties. Back in 2011, the Dilmot Report called for something to be done. Since then, Andy Burnham’s attempt to introduce a 10 per cent retirement levy was abandoned, even by his own Labour Party. It was ignored by the Coalition. Theresa May and Boris Johnson made various suggestions but quickly backed away from them. And Rishi Sunak thinks that by spooning out a little more money for the NHS will solve the problem.

The issue is much bigger than that, with Britain’s population aging as fast as it is. Age UK reckons we need £10bn a year extra to fund a National Care Service similar to the NHS. To raise that kind of money, we need a radical solution. An obvious source of money is a tax on wealth, and most pensioners have plenty of it.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton’s Christmas Message

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has released his Christmas message:

Christmas is a time for reflection, and I think it’s important to take stock of the challenges we’ve faced over the last year.

In February we saw the return of war to Europe for the first time in decades. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has rewritten international relationships and prompted an astonishing wave of generosity from Scots opening their homes to take in those fleeing Putin’s war.

The soaring cost of energy bills and inflation has bitten into household finances, and our health service has faced unprecedented challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and more than a decade of SNP mismanagement.

On each of these issues Scottish Liberal Democrats have sought to offer considered and constructive solutions, from pressing the government to support refugees, to an emergency national insultation programme and new support for mental health.

Despite these challenges, I remain optimistic about the future of our country. The spirit of Christmas reminds us that no matter how difficult things may seem, we can always find hope in the love and support of our friends, family, and community.

It would be strange to end any reflection on the year gone by without mentioning the death of Queen Elizabeth II. For many she has been a symbol of constancy in our lives and it will be strange for a Christmas to pass without her address to the nation.

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Scotland finally passes Gender Recognition Reform Bill

After 6 years of consultations, draft bills, more consultations and, finally, 3 days of debate with over 150 amendments, the Scottish Parliament passed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill by 86 votes to 39. The Conservatives opposed the Bill, although two of their MSPs voted for it.  There were 9 SNP and 2 Labour rebels opposing it. That must be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, SNP rebellions ever.

Although the debate was often fractious, there was a lot of cross-party working on amendments to develop consensus.

Here’s Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton speaking in the debate:

All Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs voted for the measure which had the backing not just of LGBT+ organisations in Scotland, but also feminist organisations like Engender and organisations which support survivors of rape and domestic abuse. In its briefing to MSPs ahead of Stage 3, they said:

Another feature of the debate we are concerned by relates to the inference that trans inclusion, and as such trans people, pose a threat to women’s safety and experience of services. These claims are not borne out by evidence of women’s experience of services or violence at the hands of men, here in Scotland or internationally. They also risk stigmatisation and associated harm to trans people; a group who are already at increased risk of discrimination and violence.

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Christine Jardine: Donald Trump is a warning, not an inspiration

Christine Jardine has been sharing her dream in her Scotsman column this week. And it isn’t pretty:

In this sleep-induced scenario, some Donald Trump sound-alike was holding court in Edinburgh, draped in tartan, surrounded by saltires and spouting endless meaningless slogans. Fortunately, they had stopped short of wearing a bright blue Tam O’Shanter bearing the motif “Make Alba Great Again”.

And people in the crowd which had gathered were not all there to cheer and applaud the separatist dream being espoused at the flag-laden centre of events. No. Many of those in the imaginary demonstration were instead calling for help for the nurses and other health workers who have to cope with long shifts looking after wards with too many patients and too few staff.

This echoes the feeling of many Scots that the Scottish Government needs to sort out the crisis in its public services instead of looking to populism to stoke up division over the constitution.

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Wendy Chamberlain to lead Policy Commission on ending men’s violence against women

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has asked his Deputy Wendy Chamberlain to lead a Policy Commission on ending men’s violence against women and girls. Wendy, as the only former woman police officer in the House of Commons, is best placed to lead this work.

Back in March 2021, in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, Scottish Liberal Democrats called on the Scottish Government to create such a Commission to look at all aspects of tackling this scourge on our society.

Since then the Government has made little progress.

Alex said:

In 1623 John Donne wrote, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind”. I’ve always found that to be such a Liberal sentiment.

Well Conference, any woman’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in womankind.

And right now, in the villages and cities of Iran, we see women fighting for their lives against the vicious morality police, fighting against the twisted interpretation of Islam used to justify and normalise the brutality of men.

They are casting off hijabs and cutting their hair in the name and in the memory of Mahsa Amini.

And Conference, whether it is in faraway Isfahan or nearby Clapham Common, that brutality is still far too normal an aspect of modern life.It’s why the phrase, ‘she was only walking home’, has now become an epitaph. 

Conference, we cannot go on like this. I am tired of waiting for the Scottish Government to act on Liberal Democrat proposals, led by Caron Lindsay, to establish a taskforce to better shape our policy response to this grim reality.

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Carmichael: Scottish Independence is a double dose of Brexit disease

Alistair Carmichael is in blistering form in a Scotsman article in which he argues that the SNP’s push for independence is like treating the Cold with Flu.

He compares Nicola Sturgeon’s pursuit of independence against all the evidence to Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s ideological trashing of the economy:

The accusation has never been that leaving the UK would be “too good” for our economy. The concern was that those advocating the nationalist cure-all were blithely or intentionally ignoring the harm to businesses and livelihoods.

In Brexit and the disruption of recent weeks, we have had an abject lesson in the harm caused by ignoring reality in favour of fervently held beliefs. The only surprise is the SNP think that these failures are an endorsement.

He reminds us all what the SNP Government does (or doesn’t) with the powers that they already have:

Set aside for a moment the cack-handed, indifferent approach taken by the SNP over the aspects of the economy they are already responsible for; the drip-drip of scandals around hundreds of millions spent on overdue ferries, the reckless gambling of our taxes in the Lochaber deal, or businesses’ struggles under their watch.

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Liam McArthur wins right to bring forward Assisted Dying Bill to Scottish Parliament

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has earned the right to introduce a Members’ Bill to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill people in the Scottish Parliament.

His proposal is supported by 36 out of the 129 MSPs.

Last month Liam  published the outcome of his public consultation on the proposals.  Out of 14,038 responses, 76% of individuals who responded expressed full support with a further 2% partially supporting a change in the law.

Mr McArthur will now work with the Scottish Parliament’s Non-Governmental Bills Unit to draft the actual bill which he hopes to introduce in Parliament next year.

Liam said:

“I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all MSPs who have put their names behind my proposed change in the law. The support among colleagues has been deeply heartening, and demonstrates the growing recognition that there is a need to end the ban on assisted dying in Scotland.

“The Scottish public has long been ahead of the parliament on this issue. The public consultation on these proposals, published last month, demonstrated that there is strong and passionate support for offering people more choice at the end of their life.

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Liam McArthur lodges Assisted Dying Bill

Liam McArthur, MSP for Orkney,  will today lodge a final proposal in the Scottish Parliament for his Members Bill  which would enable assisted dying in Scotland if passed.

A report detailing the responses to the public consultation on the bill’s proposals will also be published. In total, 14,038 consultation responses were received – the highest number of responses received to date for a consultation on a proposed Members Bill.

The report’s findings include:

  • A clear majority of respondents, 76%, were fully supportive of the proposal, with a further 2% partially supportive.
  • Many respondents gave first-hand experiences of living with, and caring for, family, friends and patients with a terminal illness who had experienced great pain and suffered what was often described as a “bad death”.
  • The majority of respondents believe that assisted dying should be available for terminally ill people in Scotland, as it is in other parts of the world, and that a humane society should make provision to spare its dying people from unbearable pain and suffering and allow them the autonomy to legally choose to end their lives in a safe and regulated manner.
  • Many supportive respondents believe the proposal is an improvement on previous attempts to legislate for assisted dying and are fully satisfied with the proposed safeguards. Many believe that the proposal successfully balances the provision of a right to assisted death for competent terminally ill adults with a clear and appropriate set of safeguards built in to every step of the process, together with a right for health professionals involved to conscientiously object.

Liam said:

The public consultation received an overwhelming response and I am grateful to everyone who took the time to engage in this vitally important process.

It is clear that a majority of people who responded are in favour of a new assisted dying law in Scotland and that the choices we have around how we die is an issue that needs addressing.

As well as thoughtful perspectives on how an assisted dying law would work in Scotland, I have heard from dying people who would very much like to have this choice available to them as their illness progresses. People who, right now, face a series of unimaginable choices and would have peace of mind in their final months knowing that if they need it when the time comes they can have a peaceful death that is right for them.

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Reflections on my first year as Drugs Policy spokesperson

It’s been a year since Alex Cole-Hamilton appointed me  Scottish Lib Dem  spokesperson for Drugs Policy. This is a new portfolio shadowing the Minister for Drugs Policy Angela Constance in response to an increasing trend of drug-related deaths in Scotland that has made us the Overdose Capital of Europe.

Since my appointment I have sought to learn, make connections and speak to people most affected by substance misuse while putting forward common sense proposals such as accelerating the rollout of Naloxone (overdose prevention kits), introducing supervised consumption centres, and calling for widespread drug law reform at the UK level. Here’s one TV interview with GB News where I put forward such proposals:

My primary focus  is reducing overdoses and drug-related deaths.  My first job involved travelling to Holyrood to attend a vigil  for Overdose Awareness Day.

I spoke to people who have lived with addictions and families who have lost loved ones to overdose. I even had the honour of meeting Peter Krykant, a former addict who took action into his own hands to start up Scotland’s first ever mobile overdose prevention centre in the back of a van. After being shown around the back of Peter’s old ambulance which  he’s modified into a mobile safe consumption centre, and upon hearing about all the lives he had saved, I was struck by the power of direct action, and how often it’s ordinary people taking matters in to their own hands who achieve far more than Government Ministers ever can.

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Half of all new primary teachers in Scotland are without a job

Newly qualified primary teachers in Scotland have been the victim of mismanaged recruitment planning.

According to the TES this year only 50% of those who have completed their training and probationary year have found a job in the profession. This has dropped from 77% last year (which was still a rather worrying figure).

And we are not just talking about full-time permanent contracts – the fact is that only half of the cohort will get any teaching job at all, whether full or part-time, permanent or temporary. Many will be forced to take up irregular supply teaching, or to abandon the profession before they have even started.

Within the overall figures, the numbers obtaining permanent posts is falling quite rapidly. Back in 2017, 58% of all newly qualified teachers were given permanent contracts, whereas in 2021 only 32% had found permanent jobs. However, by 2021 there was a marked difference between primary and secondary teachers – 45% of secondary teachers got permanent jobs but only 23% of primary teachers.

All this, of course, makes life very difficult for teachers who were hoping for some stability in their careers, especially those lured into teaching as mature entrants.

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We should not let Scotland’s period dignity law be overshadowed by unnecessary controversy

Scotland led the world this week as the Period Products Act, which requires councils and educational establishments to make free period products available, came into force.

Although the measure was passed by the Scottish Parliament, the bulk of the credit for this has to go to Labour MSP Monica Lennon. She set the ball rolling by introducing a Members’ Bill and fought so hard to persuade the Scottish Government to back the measure. It took them longer than it should have done, but they got there in the end.

From Holyrood Magazine:

Labour’s Monica Lennon, who campaigned for the provision, said councils and partner organisations have “worked hard to make the legal right to access free period products a reality”.

She said: “This is another milestone for period dignity campaigners and grassroots movements which shows the difference that progressive and bold political choices can make.

“As the cost-of-living crisis takes hold, the Period Products Act is a beacon of hope which shows what can be achieved when politicians come together for the good of the people we serve.”

Back in 2017, Scotland’s  feminist organisation, Engender, held a roundtable discussion on period poverty. Later their response to the consultation on the Bill highlighted the barriers to accessing period products.

It is vital that the provision of free period products not be linked to, for example, the social security system. Poverty is not the sole reason behind women’s lack of access to sanitary products. For example, the link between access to sanitary products and domestic abuse was made by a number of roundtable participants, who explained that the denial of access to products can be a method of control by an abusive partner.

Income and other resources are often not controlled or shared equally within the household. In many cases, women take on the role of acting as the buffer between their children and the impact of household poverty. Put simply, mothers forego their own consumption to meet the needs of their children.

Whilst income level may be one of the contributing factors to period poverty in Scotland, the solutions developed to meet women and girls’ menstrual needs must recognise that slightly increasing household income (e.g., by the cost of menstrual products) will not directly result in women gaining greater access to period products.

Soaring living costs put even more pressure on household incomes so this measure is more needed than ever.

However, this Scottish success story was overshadowed by controversy. There was a huge furore over the appointment of Jason Grant as Period Dignity Officer to Dundee and Angus colleges. Even Martina Navratilova got involved, calling the appointment absurd.

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Carmichael accuses SNP of “criminal negligence” over ferries

In today’s Scotland On Sunday, Alistair Carmichael rips through the SNP for their failure to ensure basic ferry services to Scotland’s islands.

Alistair grew up on Islay and now represents Orkney and Shetland so he knows exactly how important this is.

“The fundamental rules of island life and island economics are if you get the transport right, then just about everything else falls into place because without decent transport links you don’t have the access to the full range of medical facilities that the community will need

“You cannot grow your economy because the people who are catching fish or farming fish or raising stock are not going to be able to get them off the island.

“This is absolutely criminal. This just should not be allowed to be happening.

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Lib Dems uncover massive fall in permanent contracts for new teachers

Children in Scotland go back to school this week. You would think that after three hellish years of pandemic related disruption and a widening attainment gap, the SNP Government would want to make sure that there were as many permanent teachers in the classroom as possible.

Every year the Scottish Liberal Democrats at Holyrood look for the number of newly qualified teachers being offered permanent posts rather than fixed term or supply contracts. In the past 5 years, that has fallen from 56%, which was low enough, to just 23%.

On the back of those figures, STV News has spoken to three teachers about the impact that this uncertainty has had on them. Heaven knows we need more girls doing STEM subjects, and here is a woman teacher in those subjects who can’t get a permanent job:

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LibLink: Christine Jardine on how the Scottish Greens are letting voters down

In her Scotsman column week, Christine Jardine takes the Scottish Greens to task. Since they joined the Scottish Government, the future of the planet seems to have taken a back seat to nationalism as they parrot SNP lines on independence.

Like their more senior nationalist partners at Holyrood, the party’s leadership has declared that if there is no second referendum on Scotland’s future within the UK, they will fight the general election solely on the constitutional question.

If they don’t get their way, they will re-define the General Election to suit themselves, calling every vote cast for a Green candidate as a vote for independence.

This is despite fewer their voters being split roughly half and half on the independence issue.

Activists who have spent decades awakening us all to the dangers of global warming now find that those in whom they placed their faith have become merely a bit player in the separatist narrative.

For the past decade and a half of SNP rule, Scottish politics has been governed by two different factors: actual policies and nationalism.

When the first fails the second is rolled out as a metaphorical fire blanket to dampen the anger while a target is found to redirect blame towards.

Usually, they call it Westminster.

Ironically, ignoring the fact that instead of being the stronger voice for Scotland there, which the SNP once promised, they are simply the whining voice of nationalism.

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Scots and Welsh Lib Dems call for action after drug deaths rise

Figures from the Office for National Statistics released this week revealed that the number of drug-related deaths in England and Wales rose for a ninth successive year in 2021, by 6.2% to a record 4,859. The highest rate of deaths was seen in those aged 45-49. While more than 45% of drug deaths involved opiates, the biggest increase over the last decade has been in cocaine-related deaths, up from 112 in 2011 to 840 in 2021.

Jane Dodds in Wales called for a much more holistic approach to those reported for drug offences, treating offenses as a public health issue rather than a criminal one, learning from best international practice. Earlier, Scottish Lib Dems called for radical action to help those most at risk, including ending the destructive use of imprisonment for people misusing drugs and instead diverting them to treatment.

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Scotland’s national drink could be costing more for a dram in Scotland

The SNP Conference in October is proposing a new tax on whisky, to “mitigate the impact of this cost of living crisis”.

The Scottish whisky trade is one of our biggest assets in Scotland, with exports of £4.51bn in 2021. To Moray, whisky is a key part of the barrel in our local economy. You don’t need to look far to see a distillery across our area, with Moray Council listing 16 across the region.

The motion has been penned by the Glasgow Southside branch of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon’s own local branch! How can a Scottish First Minister not understand how important this trade is to us in Moray? Or has she turned a blind eye?

This new levy on whisky may be reasoned as a consequence of the Tory-led cost of living crisis, but in real terms, a higher cost would mean Moray is hit even harder. Distilleries would suffer the cost, and that could in turn impact jobs in Moray.

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Why I will vote No in a referendum

Back in 2013, I wrote an article for the Scotsman newspaper outlining what issues were important to me in deciding what way to vote in the then upcoming Independence referendum.

In the end I decided to vote Yes, as at that time I believed the risks involved were worth taking. Nearly ten years on, the circumstances are now quite different and if, as proposed yesterday by Nicola Sturgeon, there is another referendum next year, I would now vote No.

It is very unlikely that the Supreme Court will confirm legality on the new proposals, as it is clear to even the SNP, that without the consent of Westminster the Scottish Parliament will not be able to hold a lawful referendum and as the SNP have already declared that they will then make the next Westminster election a single issue campaign on independence, there is time to consider what is the best way forward. We have seen before how splitting the vote on any single issue can let a party with a minority of the votes win first past the post elections on that issue.

Firstly, we need to understand why the SNP will never give up on their demands for a referendum on independence. It is similar to Liberals wanting a fair voting system and losing a referendum on it. A fair electoral system is at the heart of our beliefs, and regardless of how little support other parties, or the public give electoral reform, we will never give up our call for a system where those elected fairly represent the way people have voted. The SNP have a similar core belief, but they depend on the lack of a fair electoral system to deliver it for them.

There will also be support from those who oppose independence, for a referendum, as the best way to give the public their say and to deal with the question which has dominated Scottish politics for many years. It is a debate that will not go away by refusing to have it.

Since 2014 much has changed, not least the fact of Brexit.

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Don’t pause, support the games industry

Scotland, the country that gave the world the Grand Theft Auto series and Minecraft on console. We have 147 game development companies, with over 2000 people employed in the industry. There’s no doubt, over the past few years the gaming industry has grown exponentially. Recent industry-led reports have even shown that Scotland is growing faster than the rest of the UK.

As a Games Designer and having worked in the industry the past few years, I’m worried about what the future may hold for our games. The video games industry in Scotland and the United Kingdom face massive funding shortages since leaving the European Union. A shortfall that is yet to be adequately addressed.

In May, the European Games Developer Federation (EGDF) announced record-breaking levels of funding support from Creative Europe, a scheme that the United Kingdom is no longer a part of thanks to the calamity that has been Brexit. This announcement also detailed plans for the MediaInvest fund, a scheme that will provide vital support to new startup companies in the industry – a possible vital lifeline in helping these new companies to survive.

Whilst it’s welcome news from a Scottish perspective that Kate Forbes, Finance & Economy Cabinet Secretary, will invest £45m into 300 “high-quality” tech startups, there’s no clarity on how and if this will even reach the aspiring video games industry. The plan also mentions establishment of 5 ‘scaler hubs’ to support this scheme and improve access to “ensure new and existing tech innovators have access to high quality commercial education”. Being a ‘tech’ company could mean a great many things. So what funding support is there to plug the massive hole of possibilities left by Britain leaving the EU? There is the much smaller UK Games Fund, which allows grants of up to £25,000 per company (barely enough to cover the yearly salary of one full-time employee). In the last round of funding, 21 companies were given funding by this grant – only 3 were from Scotland.

£25,000 a year in a possible grant. Enough for one full-time employee. How will that sustain a new startup? Games can take years to make from the initial concept.

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Moray Deserves Better – Douglas Ross Should Resign

The people of Moray deserve better from our elected Member of Parliament. Douglas Ross should resign now as an MP. Let someone do the job who actually wants to make a positive difference in the lives of those who live and work in Moray.

Our MP has not only backed down on calling for a Prime Minister that has committed a criminal offence to resign, but he has also got a track record for missing key votes that would benefit his Moray constituents due to his commitments as MSP and as a Scottish party leader.

Only last week, our MP was absent for a vote for an emergency VAT tax cut from 20% to 17.5% that would have saved Moray residents an average of £600 per household. This at a time where there is a cost-of-living crisis in our country.

The Scottish Conservatives have already proven to be led by someone with the backbone of a jellyfish. Our former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called Douglas Ross out for his lack of backbone after he withdrew his letter of no confidence in the party-animal Prime Minister.

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Scotland’s results – a story of Lib Dem GAINS

There has been very encouraging news from Scotland today. If you had told us at the start of the campaign that we would gain TWENTY seats, we would accused you of being wildly optimistic.

So far we are up 6 seats in Edinburgh, doubling the size of our group.

Sanne Djikstra-Downie wins in Forth ward in Edinburgh:

Longstanding councillor Dobbie Aldridge is joined by Ed Thornley in Drum Brae/Gyle.

It was pretty audacious to put up 3 candidates in a 4 member ward, even if in 2017 Kevin Lang won with the highest ever vote of any councillor in Scotland. But it paid off and Kevin and his sister Louise Young are now joined by Lewis Younie who takes a seat from the Tories.

And we get two in the three member ward of Corstorphine/Murrayfield  with two new councillors, Al Beal and Euan Davidson.

Wins for Jack Caldwell in Leith Walk and Pauline Flannery in Southside/Newington complete our sextet of gains.

In Dunfermline, Aude Boubaker-Calder regained the Dunfermline Central and Crossford ward. She had come so close in a by-election in 2019, losing out by a handful of votes. Her husband James regained his Dunfermline South seat and they both topped the poll.

Elsewhere in Fife, we gained councillors in both St Andrews and the Howe of Fife. Al Clark and Gaz Holt join Jane Ann Liston and Donald Lothian. We’ve also gained Eugene Clark in Leven Kennoway and Largo. Fiona Corps and Sean Dillon make it two in East Neuk and Landward. The total number of gains in Fife increased to 6 with John Caffrey joining Mags Kennedy in Cupar.

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Election results open thread – Lib Dems biggest winners in England

As Andy has already said, it’s been a good night for the Liberal Democrats so far, regaining control of Hull after 11 years and gaining from the Conservatives in places like Colchester and West Oxfordshire.

ALDC has done a great job in getting many of its staff members elected. Its Chief Exec Tim Pickstone has left Bury and won a seat on the new Cumberland Council. Frankie Singleton, Chris Twells, Alex Warren and Tim Verboven are among others who have won.

Today we wait for results from Scotland and Wales, English councils and the rest of London.  And we are off to a healthy start:

The Tories are expected to suffer substantial casualties in Scotland. They won many of their seats under STV on the first count last time. They might struggle to pick up a lot of transfers if their vote falls. If it falls by as much as it did in Tweeddale West in the Borders, 16%, they are in trouble.

Lib Dems held that seat with a new Councillor, Dr Drummond Begg.

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John Stewart: 1972-2022

This is not an obituary; I just want you to understand what a special person John Stewart was. John has died, aged 49, of lung cancer. John was a good man, and a lovely one.

His (much older) husband, Neil Fletcher, has been my friend since he, Neil, was at Aberdeen Uni in the 80s.. And we had some gey times back then. I knew his life, his friends and his boyfriends……and then John arrived on the scene to study Divinity. Neil was maybe not at his sylph-like best at the time (I know, I know), and the two of them were quickly christened “Fats and the child”. John was soooo young. Bear in mind that, back then, in the early 90s, their relationship was illegal. But we were Liberals and no-one cared about such a silly law.

John was, in those days, a quiet soul. And, if you know Neil, you will realise that meant John was a bit in the shadows. But he always knew who he was. He took an Honours degree, after a subject switch, in Church History, and, no surprise, Politics. John was active in his local church, Langstane, in Aberdeen, and, always happy to serve, became the Presbytery’s youngest elder.

Given the company he kept he became, quickly, an active Party member. Having graduated in 1996, he spotted that Sir Robert Smith’s campaign was in a bit of trouble and turned up at Bob’s house, to help. He then persuaded the Feds to pay him, and donated his salary to the campaign fund! He didn’t leave for 10 years.

He resigned as an elder over the Church of Scotland’s stance on homosexuality. Although he was blessed in a long and loving (if sometimes stormy) relationship, he had to deal with homophobia, and, when it hit, he met it head on. That quiet soul never put up with it.

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: SNP pension plans a good reason to stay in UK

So the SNP Government has assured Scots, with all the confidence of a Vote Leave spokesperson saying that there would be £350 million a week for the NHS, that their State Pensions would continue to be paid by the UK Government if Scotland became independent.

Will this persuade older Scots, who overwhelmingly voted to remain in 2014, that independence is worth pursuing? Alistair Carmichael, in a column for the Scotsman, thinks not.

By Blackford’s reckoning, if Scotland secedes from the United Kingdom we can still keep the good bits (like the currency or our pension entitlements) while leaving behind the bad bits (like the taxes that pay for the pensions). The SNP believe that they can reject any responsibility to pay for your pension, but demand that our neighbours to the south cover the tab.

I am no economist. There are others who have outlined far more eloquently than I could the challenges that our people and pensioners would face if the SNP actually tried to embark on this “offloaded pensions” policy – and the harsh spotlight this throws upon the fiscal challenges of secession generally.

He points out an inherent contradiction at the heart of the SNP’s thinking:

It seems more than a little odd that the SNP think that the rest of the UK is simultaneously irredeemable and yet eminently reasonable – made up solely of monstrous, thieving Tories who nevertheless will empty their pockets at the moment of asking. Is this Schrödinger’s United Kingdom?

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Why waiting times matter in mental health

18 weeks. That’s the target waiting time, often missed, from referral to being seen.  From now in deepest darkest December to  Mid April, what an age that is. It’s hard on adults. Arguably harder when that’s how long some of our most distressed young people have to wait for support. 18 weeks or  4 months is a very long time if you are 13. If you are being bullied, if life is becoming more complex and you feel ill equipped to cope. It’s more than a school term, it’s too long and that’s the best on offer. Too often, currently for  1600  children,  the wait was over a year. Let’s be realistic, any child that has asked for help and waits over a year will undoubtedly experience that response as  No, there is no help.

The last 18 months has seen very few of us untouched by the pressures of the pandemic and the impact on the mental health of both adults and the young has been significant. From a self-reported rising anxiety across the population generally to increased rates of disordered eating and self harming amongst young people.  

In my work as Counsellor I have seen this in the increased waiting lists for our third sector services, parents seeking private services for children to avoid waiting times that seem to be never ending and referrals to online services. Even before Covid we were in trouble. One young person I worked with, told me what she’d learnt from 5 years bouncing between referrals from her GP  to the private sector, to CAMHS and to online services as she now transitioned to adult services.

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WATCH: Wendy Chamberlain’s first speech as Scottish Deputy Leader

Wendy Chamberlain has been elected as Scottish Lib Dems Deputy Leader.

 

She spoke to a gathering of party members in Edinburgh:

She said:

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Beatrice Wishart challenges media on reporting violence against women and girls

Thursday was White Ribbon Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. At Holyrood MSPs paused for a minutes silence to remember those women murdered by men over this past year.

Later there was a debate on ways to eradicate men’s violence against women. Beatrice Wishart, our MSP for Shetland, who has a long record of helping women who have suffered domestic abuse made a brilliant speech in which she called for a Commission to look at ways of ending men’s violence against women in all its forms. She drew attention to the way the media reports violence against women, often victim shaming and she talked particularly about how they talk about this awful practice of “spiking”, drugging someone’s drink in order to assault them.

You can watch her speech here. The text is below:

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a trustee of Shetland Women’s Aid.

I, too, pay tribute to Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and other services and individuals across Scotland for the good work that they do, not just on international day for the elimination of violence against women, but every day. It is worth saying again that 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the global 16 days of activism campaign. It has been 30 years, and, each year, the debate exchanges statistics that are unacceptable and horrific, as Pam Duncan-Glancy stated.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about one in three women worldwide will, in their lifetime, be subjected to

“either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.”

It is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights, and we know that Covid has impacted on women’s equality progress across the globe.

Earlier this year, Jess Phillips MP, the UK shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, read out the names of the 118 women who had been killed in the preceding year and in whose case a man had been convicted or charged as the primary perpetrator. It took her a little over four minutes and the list did not include the names of the women referenced in the motion, who were tragically killed after March this year.

The number of domestic abuse incidents reported by Police Scotland has risen for the fourth year in a row, with one in four women in Scotland experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic violence is a plague that not only affects women but impacts whole households. Children are tragically caught in it, too. It was seeing the lifelong impact of domestic abuse on children and the financial abuse of women that drew me into my voluntary trustee role.

I know that all speakers in the debate are striving to ensure that women and girls across the globe and closer to home can live their lives free from fear. Scottish Liberal Democrats have previously called for—and we do so again—the establishment of the new commission to look at ways of preventing men’s violence against women and girls in all its forms, to ensure a co-ordinated approach across all levels of government. Along with providing increased training for those who work in education and on the front line in public authorities, we can work together to build better public understanding of the drivers behind violence against women and take action to eradicate it.

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Scottish Lib Dems’ Joe McCauley criticises SNP over Angus Robertson book event

It’s been an embarrassing weekend for Scotland’s Culture Minister Angus Robertson. The SNP MSP has pulled out of a promotional event for his new book which had been paid for by a grant for his own department.

From the Sunday Mail: 

But Angus Robertson cancelled his appearance last night – after the Sunday Mail started asking about the £30,000 handed to it by a group under his remit.

The Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture had been due to appear at the Borders Book Festival to plug Vienna – The International Capital.

The event was awarded the significant grant in August from Creative Scotland – a government- funded and accountable body ­falling under Robertson’s brief.

He has now cancelled the lecture and an advert was quickly removed from the festival website after this newspaper began asking questions about it.

In the newspaper’s report, the first opposition party quote, and it was a blistering one, goes to Scottish Lib Dem Culture Spokesperson Joe McCauley. The SNP’s cutting of cultural services in Glasgow was not lost on him:

“At the same time as the SNP takes a scythe to cultural centres in Glasgow, the Culture Secretary is trying to plug his book at a taxpayer-funded literary event.

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WATCH: American diplomats try out Scottish delicacies ahead of COP26

For me, this won the internet this week. US diplomats filmed themselves trying out some Scottish delicacies, including Haggis, Irn Bru and Deep Fried Mars Bars ahead of spending a couple of weeks in the city for COP 26.

It’s charming, funny (especially when you see their diplomatic skills being put to good use) and exactly what you need on a rainy Sunday morning.

 

On a more serious note, Joe Biden has yet to appoint a US Ambassador to the UK as Mark Johnston pointed out on Twitter:

It was reported back in July that Jane Hartley was going to be appointed …

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