Tag Archives: Scotland

Wendy Chamberlain recounts her first experience of violence against Police Officers

This week, the Commons debated a Statutory Instrument which introduces Police Restitution Orders in Scotland. This means that fines can be levied and the money from those will be used to finance extra support for Police officers who suffer from the effects of those assaults.

Wendy used to be a Police Officer, as were her father and husband. All of them suffered violent assault. Wendy described the first time it happened to her:

I, my father and my husband have all served, and I have other family members currently serving in Police Scotland. All of us were assaulted during our police careers. My husband was knocked unconscious during the policing of a football match. My father was head-butted by a prisoner in the police cells and required stitches.

My own most vivid memory is from early in my police career—within months of leaving initial training at the police college in Tulliallan in fact. It relates to attending a call about a report of a domestic dispute in a high-rise block of flats in Edinburgh. On arrival at the landing in question, my tutor and I could hear a loud argument and decided to call for additional officers to make their way to support us in case they were required. I am glad we did so. The door was answered by a man who, after telling us where to go, was then attacked by his girlfriend, but from behind with a knife. A toddler was visible at the back of the flat hallway. My colleague managed to baton the knife from the women’s grasp, and in anger both of them then turned on us, and a violent struggle ensued.​

Luckily for us, colleagues came quickly, and both people were arrested. The man, in particular, struggled violently throughout the arrest and attempted to spit at all the officers, claiming that he was HIV-positive. It then transpired that he had been responsible for an assault and robbery nearby earlier that evening. Other than bruising, my colleague and I were unharmed, but it was a salutary lesson to me in being prepared for any eventuality and in being responsive to events.

Her whole speech follows:

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Alistair Carmichael questions government on ending of virtual parliament

If the Government produces guidance it should stick to it, right? After this weekend, that idea seems old-fashioned.

One of the 5 main steps of the UK Government’s guidance on safe working is about helping people to work from home.

3. Help people to work from home

You should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:

  • discussing home working arrangements

  • ensuring they have the right equipment, for example remote access to work systems

  • including them in all necessary communications

  • looking after their physical and mental wellbeing

     

For people who are mainly office based, the guidance is clearer:

Objective: That everyone should work from home, unless they cannot work from home.

We have seen over the past few weeks that MPs have been able to work pretty well from their dining rooms, studies and kitchens. Some might say that Parliament has even come across as being a bit more mature and responsible in that time as we’ve not been subjected to the weekly pantomime of Prime Minister’s Questions at full pelt.

But Jacob Rees-Mogg has decided that MPs should all return to Westminster from next week. Unless they live within driving distance of Commons, they will have to take public transport unnecessarily. They will require on-site staffing, not necessarily from their own parliamentary staff, who can continue to work from home, but from House cleaners, security staff and clerks.

Rees-Mogg, a representative of a Government who doesn’t like being held to account at the best of times, argues that Parliament can’t operate effectively if they aren’t all there. How effective a use of people’s time is it going to be to take up to an hour carrying out votes which could be done at the touch of a button? Chris Bryant, in an article in today’s Observer, describes the bizarre procedure:

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Lib Dems bid to pave the way for safe street cafe culture in Scotland

Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed an amendment to the latest coronavirus emergency legislation to help pave the way for more cafes, restaurants and bars to use closed roads to enable social distancing between customers, once they are permitted to re-open. Alex Cole-Hamilton will lead on this when the vote takes place on Tuesday.

The amendment confirms that it shall not be an offence to place tables and chairs in the road outside a premises, provided it is done with the local authority’s consent and doesn’t cause an obstruction to disabled people.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will also ask the Scottish Government to publish advice to alert businesses to these possibilities and help local authorities prepare their own plans for the reopening of these businesses when the time comes.
This comes as Lithuanian capital Vilnius is to be turned into an ‘open-air cafe’, with businesses allowed to use nearby plazas, squares and streets free of charge.

Australia this week allowed restaurants and cafes to open but have initially limited the number of people dining inside to 10, causing some to reportedly say it isn’t worth their while to re-open at this stage.

Alex said:

Once it is safe and they are permitted to reopen, it seems inevitable that cafes, restaurants and bars will need to operate at a much reduced capacity to enable social distancing.

Embracing a new street cafe culture with more covers outside could for many make the difference between their business being viable or not.

Temporarily allowing these businesses to use nearby streets and other open-air spaces would help them lift the shutters when the time is right, protecting jobs and keeping people safe.

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The real north

I have been feeling grim about the prospects of the union, should there be another referendum. I’m trying to figure out what we can do to stop it breaking apart, beyond the empty soundbite of “working together for now, cross-party, towards a better Scotland, regardless of its constitutional state”. Basically making some progress on “the day job” stuff for a while. To do that, we need to figure out what it is nationalists want, because like it or not, there is no Scottish Parliamentary election result in 2021 that doesn’t see us having to find some common ground with …

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8 November 2019 – the overnight press releases

  • UK family of nations must work together to stop Brexit
  • Jardine: The Tories visa plan is a tax on nurses

UK family of nations must work together to stop Brexit

Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson will tomorrow make the case to Remain voters in Scotland to back the Liberal Democrats to protect Scotland’s place at the heart of the EU, as she visits North East Fife as part of her Leader’s Tour of the UK.

Jo Swinson will be visiting Crafty Maltsters Farm in Auchtermuchty alongside Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie. Speaking ahead of the visit, Jo Swinson said:

Voters in Scotland who despair

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Cole-Hamilton’s pride as Scotland passes smacking ban

If Alex Cole-Hamilton were to slap me, he would, rightly, face the full force of the law. If he were to slap his 5 year old daughter Darcy (which would never happen), he could do so with the full support of the law, which allows “reasonable chastisement.”

That is an inconsistency that he has been campaigning against for years. Today his work and that of many others was rewarded when the Scottish Parliament voted to give children the same protection from assault in law as adults, becoming the first country in the UK to do so.

I’ve known Alex for almost two decades. In that time I’ve teased him on many occasions, always with justification. But there have been many more times when I have been proud of him and today is one of the biggest. One of the reasons I spent a decade trying to get him elected was that I knew he would be an amazing advocate for Scotland’s children.

He’s been working to change the law on physical punishment of children for a long time. And he had an uphill battle trying to change party policy. In 2013, we lost by just 9 votes. Three years later, the result went the opposite way – and overwhelmingly. The proposer of the amendment in favour of keeping the law as it is changed his mind during the course of the debate, persuaded by the arguments. This move ensured Lib Dem support for the Bill today.

Today’s Bill was originally brought by Green MSP John Finnie but it had cross party support across Holyrood – except from the Conservatives, of course.

Here is Alex’s speech in favour of the Bill.

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Lib Dems oppose SNP plans to delay Gender Recognition Act Reform

The SNP Government announced yesterday that it was kicking the can down the road on gender recognition act reforms.

While acknowledging the need for reform, Cabinet Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville told the Scottish Parliament:

I am a feminist, and I am deeply—and rightly—proud that this Government has taken such clear and concerted action to protect women’s rights and to promote gender equality. I have stated before, as has the First Minister, that I do not feel a conflict between my support for women’s rights and my support for trans rights. However, I know and I understand that many people do. It is important that we listen to and address those concerns.

This is a very disappointing decision not least because the government is pandering to scaremongering and misinformation. Trans people are suffering every day from abuse and discrimination. Ministers should look at evidence not media hyperbole.

Every day in the media, we see yet another attack on trans people and the organisations that support them. And every time these have been scrutinised – such as when the charity Mermaids was subjected to a review for funding which they eventually got – they have been found to be completely without foundation.

All GRA Reform does is make it easier for trans people to change their birth certificate. Scotland’s feminist organisations are all in favour of reform. Last year at Conference, Lib Dem Voice hosted a meeting at which Emma Ritch from Engender and James Morton from the Scottish Transgender Alliance explained how their organisations in Scotland had worked together for equal rights for all.

Christine Burns, who was at the forefront of campaigning for the law to be changed to protect transgender people from discrimination back in the 80s and 90s, highlighted the dangers of the Scottish Government’s approach:

Women are women. And trying to draw divisions between cis and trans over who gets women’s rights is exactly the divide and conquer tactics used by the people who want to diminish *all* women’s rights and all human rights.

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Sheila Ritchie heads Scottish European list

As he launched the Scottish Liberal Democrats list of candidates or the European election, Willie Rennie stressed that every vote for a Lib Dem MEP will help stop the division and damage imposed by Brexit.

The list includes a partner in an Aberdeen law firm who has spent 20 years supporting start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in the North East, the former head of the European Parliament’s office in Scotland, and an EU citizen who represents the hundreds of thousands of people who have made their home in Scotland but whose futures are put at risk by Brexit.

The list is as follows:

  1. Sheila Ritchie
  2. Fred Mackintosh
  3. Catriona Bhatia
  4. Vita Zaporozcenko
  5. John Edward
  6. Clive Sneddon

Willie said:

I am delighted to announce our list of candidates for the European elections. We have a strong group of people who are committed to protecting our place in Europe.

This election gives voters an opportunity to demand an end to the constitutional chaos we’ve endured for years. People are fed up with Brexit and listening to all the arguments. It has divided our country and damaged our economy for long enough.

A vote for Scottish Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Brexit and will send a message to the SNP on their unwanted independence plans. Every MEP we gain in Scotland will help make the division and damage stop.

Sheila Ritchie said:

I am thrilled to be leading the fight to secure Lib Dem seats in Brussels and a chance to stop the chaos of Brexit dead in its tracks. This election provides us with a tremendous opportunity.

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And this is why I spent 10 years trying to get this man elected to the Scottish Parliament

I  wanted Alex Cole-Hamilton to be elected to the Scottish Parliament for a decade for many reasons, but one took precedence over all the rest – that he would  be a fantastic voice for children and young people.

Yesterday he proved why, arguing in committee for his amendment for the Scottish Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility from a “medieval” 8 to a much more civilised 14. The SNP Government would only go as far as 12. He lost, 5-2, but listen to his passionate arguments.

After the vote, he said:

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WATCH: Willie Rennie questions Nicola Sturgeon about restraint of vulnerable and disabled children

In December, Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner published a shocking report which stated that local authorities risked breaking the law and breaching vulnerable and disabled children’s human rights with the way they used restraint and seclusion.

Out of the 18 local authorities which record such incidents, almost 400 children were subjected to these procedures a total of 2764 times. And 14 local authorities gave no information at all so the overall figure may be higher.

The report made 22 recommendations to which the Scottish Government was to respond to by the end of January.

There was one particularly disturbing account of the seclusion of a child with the mental age of 3:

One time I was called and he was being kept in the cloakroom with the door shut on his own incredibly distressed and not allowed out until I arrived. He was 5 years old with the mental age of a three year old… X very traumatised re the holds and not sleeping well and screaming in his sleep, very reluctant to go into school…

The staff had even put him in a room on his own in a totally unregulated state and held the door handle from the other side and wouldn’t let him out. X. was Distraught.

Willie Rennie asked Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions what the Government was going to say.

Watch the exchange here. The text is below:

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Scotland’s way out

No deal is better than a bad deal.

Theresa May

My prediction is that the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit. If Theresa May thinks what she had was a good deal, then all other deals must be a bad deal, so if all other deals are bad deals, then by her logic, we’d all be better off with no deal.

No one will get a deal that suits the majority because you can’t have the Customs Union without freedom of movement. One side don’t care about the Customs Union as long as freedom of movement is cancelled, and the other side don’t want a deal without the Customs Union.Therefore, a majority in the Commons will never be achieved no matter what deal is brought to the table by whoever – leaving this country in a situation where disaster contingency plans are being put in place and businesses are relocating their HQs.

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Willie Rennie pulls Lib Dems out of Scottish budget negotiations

While all eyes are on a key vote on a proposal put forward by a minority government at Westminster this week, another political drama looms. On Wednesday  the Finance Minister of a minority government at Holyrood will present his budget.

Derek Mackay is going to have a hard time getting his proposals through. All Willie Rennie asked for as a preoondition to negotiaions for Lib Dem support was that they just drop the idea of an independence referendum in this Parliament, fulfilling a key part of our manifesto. It chimes with what we are hearing consistently on doorsteps – that people don’t want to go through 2014 again. They want to concentrate on getting rid of Brexit.

The arguments that all parties apart from the Conservatives, have united behind in the Scottish Parliament against Brexit apply equally to breaking up the UK. While you don’t expect the SNP ever to give up campaigning for independence, keeping it off the agenda for the time being is as sensible for them as it is good for the country.

The SNP lost 21 seats in the 2017 General Election as Scottish people reacted with horror to the prospect, floated by Nicola Sturgeon, of another poll. All tests of opinion so far suggest that they would lose another referendum, which is why they won’t call one. The problem is that if they explicitly say they’ll delay, their own people will kick off.

So they wouldn’t agree Willie’s pre-condition. And so Willie has withdrawn the Lib Dems from the negotiations.

From the BBC:

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said he had met Mr Mackay and Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes on two occasions “to explore what could be done” with the budget.

Mr Rennie said his party had been willing to “step in to help address the problems that have been mounting since the SNP came to power 11 years ago”.

This included investment in education and mental health services, an improved deal for councils and action to help tackle staffing shortages in hospitals and schools.

But he said the talks ended when the SNP politicians “could not agree to even a short cessation in their independence campaign”.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton has called for age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, a former youth charity worker, has called for the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to be raised to 14. The UN suggests that 12 should be an absolute minimum baseline. On both sides of the border, we fall short of this. In England and Wales, it’s 10 and in Scotland just 8.

The Scottish Government is putting forward legislation to raise it in line with the UN minimum guidelines, but Alex says that it doesn’t go far enough:

Scotland is the only country in the EU where children as young as eight can find themselves

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Brexit’s real life impacts are already hitting the UK hard

Vince was up in Edinburgh this week (not, contrary to some reports, flying business class and staying in luxury). After an early start to do budget media stuff, he voted on the budget at 6:30 or so and caught a flight an hour later. He and Christine Jardine got to the Edinburgh West dinner at about 9:45 and both were in sparkling form.

In fact, I think that the speech Vince gave was better than his Conference speech. There was none of the schoolboy, carry-on style humour, and just a very simple, effective liberal message. He talked about needing to be honest with people about the future funding of public services – we will need to pay more tax. He talked about Brexit and our desire to stop it too, but he had plenty of vision about helping those who need it most – putting more money into Universal Credit and stopping its rollout until the problems with it are sorted out. He talked of his surprise that Labour had abstained on he Tory tax cut for better off people as he led our MPs to oppose it.

Timed to coincide with his visit was an op-ed in the Scotsman which he used to describe the detrimental impact that Brexit is already having on us:

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History made as the Scottish Parliament passes landmark Social Security Bill, improved by cross-party co-operation

Last Wednesday the Scottish Parliament passed the Social Security Bill which gives power over many disability and carers benefits as well as some aspects of Universal Credit. It was a marathon debate with over 120 amendments. One of the really good things about the Scottish Parliament’s modern systems is that you can have many more votes. Unlike the House of Commons where each vote means 15 minutes of queuing, at Holyrood, it’s a second of button pushing. This has meant a much more wide-ranging debate. To the SNP Government’s credit, Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman engaged with the opposition parties and not only listened to what they had to say but took it on board as well.

One particular issue was the issue of terminal illness. At the moment, to access benefits if you are terminally ill, you have to have six months or less to live. In a move even supported by the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament, there will be no limit.

The Liberal Democrats have no representation on the Social Security Committee, but worked with Green and Labour MSPs to ensure that there will be no unnecessary disability benefit assessments, and for those that have to take place, the person involved will have a say in when and where they should take place.

Unlike south of the border, the Bill provides for the housing element of Universal Credit to be paid directly to the landlord and, as the result of an amendment, to be split between joint claimants in a household. The latter is an important point. If there is domestic abuse in a relationship, there will likely be financial abuse as well, so it is important that everyone has some level of financial independence. That is going to be a difficult one to implement because the DWP will drag its heels. I hope, though, that they will find a way to do this for the whole of the UK.

The DWP also needs to address issues with the direct payment to landlords. At the moment, payments are being delayed. They are aware of the fault but not seeing a sense of urgency about fixing it.

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Scottish Lib Dems highlight “destructive” short prison sentences for pregnant women

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today revealed that dozens of pregnant women have served destructive short-term prison sentences in the last five years. He says that this einforces the need for the Scottish Government to press ahead with a presumption against jail sentences of less than 12 months.

He uncovered figures under freedom of information which reveal that since 2013 there have been 104 pregnant women in prison, of whom 31 gave birth while serving their sentence. Of these 104 women, 37 were given sentences of less than 12 months.

In 2012, the Scottish Government commissioned a report from former Prosecutor Dame Elish Angiolini highlighted the negative impact of custodial sentences on the children of offenders, something that affects many more women than men:

More women offenders have dependant children than men and only a small proportion (17 per cent) of children with mothers in prison live with their fathers while their mother is incarcerated. Approximately 30 per cent of children with imprisoned parents will develop physical and mental health problems, and there is a higher risk of these children themselves also ending up in prison.

Liam said:

The fact that 37 expectant mothers have been given destructive short-term sentences in recent years should have alarm bells ringing.

All the evidence shows that short-term sentences don’t work and are less effective than robust community-based disposals in reducing reoffending. Rates of reoffending amongst those who have served short stints in prison are sky high. That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently urged the Scottish Government to introduce a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months, something Ministers now accept would be a positive step.

If in the process it means more pregnant women pay for any crime they have committed through robust means short of prison then that has to be in everyone’s interests.

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Willie Rennie calls for Land Value Tax “to shape society and economy in fair and just way”

It was the Greens’ opposition day debate in the Scottish Parliament. They chose to hold it on local government finance.

It was a worthy subject, but they were a little muted. Their Andy Wightman made a speech which pretty much said “The Council Tax is bad. Let’s replace it with something.”

Don’t get me wrong, this was fine as far as it went. It was certainly a million miles better than the Tories and SNP who voted together to keep the Council Tax that the latter had once railed against.

If you are one of those liberals whose hearts beat a little faster at the mention of Land Value Taxation, you might want to sit down and have some smelling salts handy. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie espoused that old liberal idea from the dawn of time, saying that it would change the way our society and economy works in a fair and just way. Here’s his speech in full:

We have heard from Murdo Fraser and James Kelly that the SNP has been on a journey with the council tax. There was a time when it would take every opportunity to condemn it. Alex Salmond called it unfair and insisted that he would scrap it, but he did not. Nicola Sturgeon said—quite strongly—that she “hated” it. She went on to criticise any suggestion that it should be tinkered with, but then she did that.

Now SNP members seem to be the staunchest defenders of the council tax. When they secured the support of the Greens and the Labour Party for their arbitrary increases to the council tax, I argued that those would not be the first steps towards further reforms but the last steps. We have heard from the minister this afternoon that we will have to get a consensus across the Parliament from the other parties before he will even consider taking our proposals forward. Rather than being with us on developing a consensus, he is going to be a bystander, and his long-grass amendment confirms that.

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Brexit isn’t just causing problems with Northern Ireland

One of the most astonishing things about the last few days is how willing Brexiteers have been to jeopardise decades of peace in Northern Ireland.

Most of them are old enough to go better. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and remember the turmoil. I had relatives who missed being blown up by a matter of minutes. The loss of life and violence and uncertainty was horrendous and that time should not be easily or lightly forgotten.

But it’s not just that part of the UK that’s heading for constitutional issues because of Brexit. The failure of the Scottish and …

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Vince focuses on housing as he visits his old Council ward

Vince Cable is up in Scotland this weekend. He’s speaking at East Dunbartonshire Lib Dems’ dinner tonight. It’s the local party’s first dinner since Jo Swinson was re-elected as MP last June.

He took a nostalgic trip to his old Council ward in Glasgow Maryhill first. He was a Labour councillor back in the 70s. When he was a councillor he and colleagues got tenements refurbished and saved a community from dispersal.

He said:

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Scottish Lib Dems launch consultation on social care.

We will all have some contact with the social care system at some point whether it is for ourselves or for someone we love.

Social care policy is devolved to Scotland and the Liberal Democrats have a proud record. Despite what the SNP tried to tell us in their party political broadcast this week, it was the Liberal Democrats, in coalition with Labour, who introduced it back in the glorious days of the early 2000s.

Things aren’t going so well, though, as an ageing population puts huge pressure on the system.

At any one time, around 1,000 patients are stuck in hospital because …

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15 year old Lib Dem Jess Insall’s campaign gets support from Scottish Government

Last month, 15 year old Scottish Young Liberal Jess Insall successfully proposed a motion at Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference which called for gender neutral school uniforms, a simple concept that would make a huge difference to the culture in our schools. Jo Swinson backed the motion and told Conference that if uniform stopped girls doing cartwheels, then it was the wrong uniform.

Today the Scottish Government has expressed support for this move, as reported in iNews.

Schools across the country should consider making uniforms gender-neutral rather than forcing girls to wear skirts and boys to wear trousers, the Scottish Government has said.

Responding to a campaign led by a 15-year-old schoolgirl, a spokesman said ministers agreed that boys and girls “should be treated equally” when it came to the uniforms they wore. “It’s not about dictating the way anyone dresses”

The development comes after teenager Jess Insall successfully passed a motion in favour of the move at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference earlier this year.

Jess is quoted in the article:

“It isn’t saying that everyone has to wear the same uniform – it’s saying that whatever the uniform is, there can’t be any difference between genders,” she told i. “Instead of saying boys have to wear trousers and girls have to wear skirts, schools can say pupils can choose between skirts or trousers. “It’s not about dictating the way anyone dresses. ‘Gender-neutral’ can be quite an alienating term, but all it really means is not treating people differently because of their gender.”

She also talked about the practical disadvantages of strict gender rules:

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Sick absence figures reveal extent of strains on NHS staff as 45 million hours lost in Scotland alone

Last year, my husband spent 51 days in hospital. He received excellent care from compassionate and skilled staff at what was an absolutely terrifying time for us.

That experience gave us an insight into the strains and stresses that the NHS faces. The most common refrain from staff was that it was so stressful and the Winter hadn’t even started yet.

He spent a just over a month in a medical ward in our local hospital and a further three weeks in a specialist centre in our nearest city. On only one occasion in the whole 51 days did I see staff going home when they were actually supposed to. There were times when I was shocked to see the same members of staff on their 5th or even 6th 12 hour shift in a week. One day I arrived at the hospital in the afternoon to see a health care assistant who had been on night shift the previous night. Because the ward was so under-staffed, she had gone home, slept for a couple of hours and come back in for the busy stretch around lunch and dinner.

During their shifts, the nurses did not stop. They were dealing with multiple stressful situations at a time. They were stretched to the limit.

Obviously a situation like that is not sustainable. It’s going to affect people’s health in some way or another. Alex Cole-Hamilton now has evidence of that.

He revealed that more than 45 million hours have been lost by Scottish NHS boards to staff ill health during the past four years and said the immense pressure staff are under could account for rates rising.

Data obtained from health boards under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that the number of hours lost to illness increased from 11.4 million hours in 2014-15 to 13.1 million hours in 2016-17, with the number rising year on year.

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Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message: Scottish Lib Dems stand up for better mental health, education and police services

Embed from Getty Images

Here is Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message:

May I wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

2017 was the year the Liberal Democrats turned the corner. We started winning elections again with more MPs and in charge of more councils. I believe that winning is not just good for the Liberal Democrats but is also good for the country.

It means that we have moderate, outward looking, optimistic voices making the case for change and challenging authority and government.

It means that we can shout louder for people who need mental health services. The services are inadequate and must change.

It means we can challenge with greater impact the government and police chiefs on the running of Police Scotland. Without the Liberal Democrats many of the problems of Police Scotland would have gone untested and unchallenged.

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Politics Galore – a new podcast about Scottish of politics

One of the reasons I prefer writing over speaking in public is that my gob doesn’t have a backspace key. However, I am not known for my silence or unwillingness to express an opinion so when I was invited to take part in a new podcast about Scottish politics, I jumped at the chance.

On Thursday, just after the Scottish Budget was announced, I spent an enjoyable half an hour talking over the issues of the day with the hosts Andrew Jackson and David McColgan.

I don’t think I said anything too embarrassing but have a listen to try and …

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Budget drama in Scotland – Willie Rennie wants “an education focus as never before”

The Scottish Government unveils its budget this Thursday. The SNP mislaid their majority in Holyrood in the elections last year so there could be a bit of drama between now and February when the Finance Bill is finalised.

The last time a Budget fell was in 2009 when the Greens, to everyone’s surprise, voted against. A couple of weeks later, to nobody’s surprise, they voted for it but hadn’t extracted anything of consequence from the Government.

When John Swinney was Finance Minister, he used to engage pretty well with the other parties. Willie Rennie was able to get things like free school meals, tens of thousands of college places and nursery education for 2 years olds put in. However, now that we have started beating the SNP pretty comprehensively, the atmosphere has turned a bit nasty.

New Finance Minister Derek Mackay is playing games with crucial inter-island ferry services in Orkney and Shetland, both represented by Liberal Democrat MSPs. Various SNP Ministers have been giving the very strong impression that they would help the Islands Councils with the cost of these ferries without which some remote communities simply could not survive.

Now, however, they are inferring that it’ll only go in the Budget if the Lib Dems promise to vote for it. That sort of posturing doesn’t play well in those communities. The issue was debated in Parliament last week during a Lib Dem opposition day and the Transport Minister Humza Yousaf made a pretty blatant threat.

There is a window of opportunity for Liberal Democrat members of the Scottish Parliament. Either they can engage positively in the budget, have a discussion about this important issue and side with their constituents, or they can play party politics.

I mean, we’d brought the issue to the floor of the Parliament, which was discussing it at that time and made its view plain by passing the Lib Dem motion. If SNP ministers fail to honour Parliament’s wishes, that is a pretty serious thing. 

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Scottish Conference to discuss WASPI women, Exit from Brexit, mental health and gender neutral school uniform

Scottish Lib Dem Autumn Conference takes place next Saturday, 11th November, in Dunfermline.

There are keynote speeches from Willie Rennie and Jo Swinson and a dazzling array of debates and policy motions.

The Scottish Young Liberals have provided some excellent motions on getting young people more involved in shaping public services and on civil education. Also, a young member has independently put forward a motion calling for gender neutral school uniform.

Christine Jardine MP and Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP put forward West Edinburgh’s motion to support women affected by changes to the State Pension age.

Housing standards and mental health provision for rural areas will also be debated. 

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Cole-Hamilton: Children must have equal protection from assault

Well, this will probably be a controversial one as the issue over whether parents should have the right to hit their children for some peculiar reason always causes a big argument in liberal circles. My own view has always been that there are no circumstances in which it is justifiable to hit a child and that there is always a better way. Having children grow up thinking that it’s fine to hit someone smaller and defenceless to get your own way really isn’t a good look. Some children will grow up emotionally scarred from the experience of what some people …

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Willie Rennie to hold talks with SNP over support for Brexit deal referendum

The quest to build a case for an “exit from Brexit” referendum continues. In his speech to the Bournemouth Conference, Willie Rennie said he would be trying to work with the SNP to build support for the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ campaign for an “exit from Brexit” referendum.

He wrote to the First Minister and she has agreed that this merits discussion.

Willie will now meet the Scottish Government Minister Mike Russell for talks on this issue. He welcomed this invitation:

This is a welcome step forward from the Scottish Government and shows that there is support from across the political spectrum for a clear approach to Brexit that gives the British people a final say.

Both Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Russell have shown support for our campaign to give the public the final say but this can only be achieved if parties are willing to work together to protect the UK’s relationship with the EU. I know that there are colleagues across all UK parties who support this position and I urge them to join this movement and build the momentum further.

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Willie Rennie: Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of devolution

I was still living in England at the time of the 1997 election. As the results came through, I nipped upstairs in the sports centre in Chesterfield where I was at the count to watch some results on the telly. There were was one other person in the room, Tony Benn, who was eating a white chocolate Magnum. Anyway, I was quietly blubbing with joy because I knew that this result would mean that we would get a Scottish Parliament.

A lot has happened since then. Some of the Lib Dems’ finest moments came during their 8 years in coalition with Labour at Holyrood. Free personal care, STV for local government, free eye and dental checks, the smoking ban (ahead of similar measures down south), right to roam, decent freedom of information legislation were just some of the things that we got done. The paucity of the SNP’s achievements in their decade in power do not compare well.

On this 20th anniversary of the devolution referendum, Willie Rennie said:

Liberal Democrats are proud of the part we played in bringing about the devolution voted for in 1997 and enacted from 1999. A decentralised United Kingdom, with decision making closer to people, with a pluralist approach at its heart, reflected decades of campaigning for Britain to become a modern democracy.

Liberal Democrats were part of the civic movement in Scotland, through the Constitutional Convention, that set down the clear path for a devolved parliament with real powers. And they were able to take up their places inside the newly elected Scottish Parliament after the first elections.

Liberal Democrats can be proud that the big difference made to people’s lives in Scotland –free personal care for the elderly and the revolution in renewable energy to name just two – came as a result of the work of Liberal Democrats in the first term of office. People even now still demand that governments of all stripes get as much done in their terms of office as we did back then.

The whole of the UK has benefited from devolution and the transfers of powers that have taken place since 1999.

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LibLink: Willie Rennie: Lib Dems put forward a vision of Scotland at the heart of both unions

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are the place to be if you want to stay in the UK and the EU, says Willie Rennie. In a wide-ranging article for Holyrood magazine, he sets out what we would do to tackle the crisis in Scotland’s public services. Health, education and the Police are all in a mess and we have the ideas to fix them.

A strong education system is the key to a strong economy in the long term. It is critical that we educate future generations so that they have all the skills they need to succeed.

Failing at education is failing on the future of Scotland. The SNP have let Scotland’s world-leading education system fall from the best in the world to just average.

Eighty-six per cent of teachers say their workload has risen in the last year, yet John Swinney has his head in the sand and refuses to take action to relieve the pressure our teachers face.

We have had a year of assurances from the Scottish Government that they are tackling this major problem, but teachers say the problem is getting worse rather than better.

Instead of nationalist spin, teachers, parents and pupils want concrete action.

That’s why my party used budget negotiations to press the SNP over its dramatic cuts to college budgets, which have led to 150,000 fewer college places today compared to when the SNP came to power, as well as for transformative investment in Scottish education.

The health service in Scotland is under immense pressure. GP surgeries are closing their lists to new patients and others are contemplating closure because they can’t find the staff they so desperately need.

Meanwhile, children are waiting years to receive mental health treatment while the country barrels towards a staffing crisis that risks bringing the service to its knees.

This year my party have pressed the SNP to deliver the required funding and provide a new mental health practitioner in every surgery, relieving the pressure on other parts of the service. This is how we build a healthier Scotland.

Only the Liberal Democrats consistently opposed SNP centralisation of the police force and once again, this year we have been central to scrutinising the actions of the single force.

We told the SNP that their politically motivated centralisation of the police would damage those services, but they did not listen.

Instead, the closure of police control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness has caused havoc to the services in the North and North East, leading to a series of serious and potentially life-threatening blunders, like sending police to Glasgow instead of Aberdeen.

Every time the SNP attempts another power grab, mistakes are made and our communities suffer.

The Scottish Government must call an end to the one-size-fits-all agenda and find a way to give powers back to our communities.

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