Category Archives: Politics

Historic Sexual Offences Act: public consultation required?

Photo Above: Human  Rights and LGBT campaigner  Peter Tatchell (second from right) ©  Alisdare Hickson on Flickr

A public consultation on the bill to give an automatic pardon to gay men convicted of same-sex consensual sex crimes, has been launched in the Scottish Parliament.

Continue reading Historic Sexual Offences Act: public consultation required?

Fire service union calls for an end to emergency service cuts

By Peter Urpeth

Photo Above: Denise Christie © FBU Scotland on Twitter

Ahead of its march and rally to the Scottish Parliament tomorrow,  the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called for an end to cuts to the fire service, and for the Scottish Government to use its tax-raising powers to fund public services across Scotland. Continue reading Fire service union calls for an end to emergency service cuts

Scottish Labour in dissarray as interim leader resigns over allegations of abuse and threats

Photo Credit: Scottish Labour

Scottish Labour has been thrown into disarray just days before the announcement of the results in its leadership election.

Interim leader Alex Rowley has resigned his post and referred himself to party investigation chiefs  following allegations of abuse and threats of violence to an ex-lover – claims Rowley denies.

In a statement, the Mid Fife and Central Scotland MSP said:  “I totally refute these allegations and will take all steps necessary to clear my name. These allegations must be properly and thoroughly investigated in line with our party’s procedures – and I will refer myself to the party so such an investigation can take place. While that investigation is carried out, I will step aside as Deputy Leader, as well as Interim Leader, of the Scottish Labour Party.”

The Labour Party confirmed in a short statement: “Alex Rowley has stood aside as Interim and Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour and referred himself to the Party’s internal complaints procedure regarding allegations made against him.”

Rowley stepped in to run the party and to steer Labour through new leadership elections after Kezia Dugdale’s surprise resignation in August.

But his interim leadership has been dogged by allegations of bias and increasingly bitter tone between MSPs supporting rival candidates Anas Sawar and Richard Leonard, has lead to claims that the party in Scotland is deeply divided.

In September secret recordings, claimed to have been made of a discussion between Rowley and a student activist in a queue for an event at the party’s Brighton conference, suggested that Rowley and fellow left labour MSPs had plotted the ending of Kezia Dugdale’s leadership of the party and declared his support for Richard Leonard as its new leader.  The claim led to calls for Rowley to stand down as chair of an important Labour committee.

Richard Leonard’s campaign for the Scottish Labour leadership has been spear-headed by Alex Rowley’s daughter, Danielle Rowley, MP for Midlothian, who has refused to comment on her father’s resignation.

Expectations in the face of tomorrow’s Autumn Statement

by Noemi Distefano

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The Autumn Statement will be announced tomorrow. Photo credit: Robin Gillie

Tomorrow at 12.30 am, the Chancellor Philip Hammond will deliver first Autumn Statement to the Parliament in London.

The Autumn Statement is one of two big economic statements made by the government every year. It is based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) for the economy and public finances.
The first Autumn Statement was held in London in 1982, although people used to refer to it as a Spending Round.
Under the last Labour government, it was called the Pre-Budget Report – George Osborne changed the name back to the Autumn Statement in 2010.

Continue reading Expectations in the face of tomorrow’s Autumn Statement

Scottish Councils Set to Lose £46million in EU Funding

by Andy Grozier

 

Local councils are under threat as Brexit looms
Local councils are under threat as Brexit looms

 

Scottish councils are set to lose out on 46 million pounds in funding for local projects when the UK leaves the European Union.

The news comes following figures released through a freedom of information request made by the Liberal Democrats.

The party’s Europe spokesman, Tavish Scott said that the figures demonstrate the importance of EU funding for Scottish councils;

“These figures reveal just how beneficial EU funding has been for council projects and the material threat posed by the UK’s departure from the EU. The UK and Scottish governments must now explain how disruption to these projects will be minimised and the loss of funding mitigated.”

The European funds have this year supported a variety of projects; everything from youth employment in Aberdeenshire, infrastructure projects in the Highlands and Islands to support for anti-poverty programs in Fife.

Jo Cox’s killer refuses to give evidence

by Cormac Rae

 

The Old Bailey has heard today that Thomas Mair, 53, will not give evidence in his defence.

The victim’s husband Brendan Cox reacted on twitter to Thomas Mair’s decision:

The Labour MP for West Yorkshire was murdered outside a constituency surgery, serving her community and listening to local concerns.

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour party posted this tribute on July 15th, the date of Mrs Cox’s funeral.

Continue reading Jo Cox’s killer refuses to give evidence

Sturgeon says Yes to Brexit-vote could trigger Scottish Independence Referendum

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By Nicholas Mairs, Jasper Farrell & Frederik Gammelby

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that a Yes to June’s Brexit vote could trigger a new Scottish independence referendum. Her statement comes Monday after one of the most politically intense weekends in recent British EU-membership history.

Saturday saw Prime Minister David Cameron announcing that the Brexit referendum will be held on June 23rd this year, coming in the immediate wake of securing a reshaping of the British membership of the EU last week.

Despite Cameron himself being a supporter of staying in the EU he has already had to face multiple unforeseen consequences of finalizing the date for the Brexit vote – one of them being the reactions in Scotland.

The announcement of the Brexit referendum comes as a new cross-party Scottish independence movement, The Radical Independence Conference, was setup Saturday, pushing for a new Scottish independence referendum in 2021.

The SNP now has more then 150.000 members nationwide, but a new YouGov poll shows that only 36 per cent of Scots supports a new independence referendum within the lifetime of the next Scottish government. Meanwhile, 46 per cent of respondents in the YouGov poll also say that a new independence vote will be a bad thing for the Scottish economy.

The Brexit referendum has been announced just in time for Scottish parties beginning preparations for the Scottish General Election in May.

This story will be updated throughout the day.

 

Hope for deal as Paris climate summit ends

By Frederik Gammelby

Negotiators at the COP 21 Paris climate conference are finalising an agreement among the 196 participating countries, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said.

Last night, Mr Fabius called on the second all-night round of negotiations and has postponed the presentation of the deal to Saturday.

The outcome is expected to meet the key goal set out by the conference 11 days ago, that of limiting global temperature growth to a 2 degree Celsius increase over the next 100 years.

Members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which consists of representatives from 113 low-lying countries vulnerable to rising sea levels, want to stick to a 1.5 degree Celsius increase.

Today’s negotiations will however concentrate on sorting out how finances to developing countries should be managed. The developed countries have demanded that developing countries cut back on emissions as well as improve their infrastructure. Securing transparency in the flow of climate finances to the developing countries is expected to be on today’s agenda.

Hector Grant, spokesman for the Scottish Energy Association, an energy industry members organisation said: ‘We are very pleased with the optimism coming from Paris. We would certainly welcome a deal at COP21.’

‘If policies are being put into place, the energy industries will take on the challenge of securing lower carbon emissions. There are lots of technologies for lowering carbon emissions, and a multitude of industries that can contribute to that.

‘Wind and solar power industries plays a key role in securing lower emissions, and the technologies becomes better all the time.’

Mr Grant also suggested that much more could be done to tackle carbon emissions: ‘The chemical industries and the transportation sector are for instance important in this regard.

‘However, we need to keep moving the goal posts. The government must focus on areas that needs to be developed, and help out via imposing tax breaks, legislation and so on.’

The talks in Paris have been seen as disappointing by some in terms of addressing the risk of land loss and migration issues.

University of Edinburgh Professor of Sociology and Scientific Knowledge Steven Yearley, while accepting that securing a deal in Paris would be a positive development, said: ‘If we are being serious about decarbonisation, we need to address all areas of this issue. For instance, the commercial aviation industry is constantly expanding globally, and we have no substitute for jet fuel. We need to ask ourselves how we can turn this thing around.

‘However, a deal in Paris will be very important for the global social awareness on the importance of climate issues. If we get a deal at COP 21, the participating countries will gone from having no deal, to have a tangible agreement which will obviously be important.’

Professor Yearley added that Scotland is ‘very well placed’ for decarbonisation. He said: ‘This deal could create the initiative for Scotland to become a clean energy exporter.’

Public opinion in Edinburgh divided on Trump Petition

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By Laurenci Dow

Edinburgh locals show a clear divide in opinion on the petition to ban Donald Trump from the UK, while the petition continues to gain over half a million signatures.

Petitions with more than 100,000 signatures will be considered for debate in parliament and the Petitions Committee is expected to discuss this one on the 5th of January 2016.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Labour home affairs spokesman Jack Dromey have both backed the petition to ban Trump from entering the country under the ‘unacceptable behaviours or extremism policy.’

However, the petition, which is the most signed currently hosted  on the Parliament website, does not express the opinions of some of the locals from the Scottish capital.

Elijah Jones, an Edinburgh local businessman said he felt that Trump’s comments were ‘bold’ although he did not agree with them.

Mr Jones felt that it was contradictory for the UK to call for a ban on a person who themselves wants to ban people from their own country.

Mr Jones said: ‘I don’t think the petition is the best course of action, in my opinion it’s quite contradictory.’

A local Costa Coffee manager, Casper Van Eeden agreed with opinions expressed by Mr Jones saying he felt that the petition was an infringement on Trump’s freedom of speech.

Mr Van Eeden said: ‘I feel that people should be able to say what they want, I don’t agree with banning people for expressing an opinion.’

Jane Thompson, a student from Edinburgh Napier University said she agreed with Robert Gordon University stripping Trump of his honorary degree as she felt this showed the UK’s stance towards his ‘racist’ comments.

However, she said she would not sign the petition as she felt that it was another way for Trump to gain more attention.

Renay Clerk, a student from Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University said she agreed with the petition as she would not want someone who expresses ‘radical opinions’ in the UK.

She said Trump would have a ‘negative effect on the UK’  if he was to visit the country.

Suzanne Kelly, the Aberdeen woman who started the petition says: ‘The signatories will not show any support for Trump’s unacceptable behaviour.’

Saudi women to cast first ever vote

Saudi Arabia

By Koldo Sandoval

Women will vote on Saturday 12 December in Saudi Arabia for the first time in history. The municipal elections take place across Saudi Arabia where women are expected to vote for the first time. Many people are optimistic that women’s voices will finally be heard in Saudi politics – even if only at a local level.

The president of Muslim Women Association in Edinburgh, Tasneem Ali, said: ‘Every woman should have the right to vote. It’s a matter of democracy. Realistically is how it should be.’

Women were previously barred from voting or being elected to political office, but in 2011 King Abdullah declared that women would be able to vote and run in the 2015 local elections, as well as be appointed to the Consultative Assembly.

The first two female registered candidates were Jamal Al-Saadi in Medina and Safinaz Abu Al-Shamat in Mecca, the Saudi Gazette reported. An estimated 70 women are planning to register as candidates and an additional 80 as campaign managers, according to local media in Saudi Arabia.

Neither male nor female candidates will be allowed to use pictures of themselves in campaign advertising and on election day there will be separate polling centers for men and women.

Women’s rights activists had long fought for the right to vote in the oil-rich gulf kingdom.

‘Female participation in December’s elections is an important step towards creating greater inclusion within society’, said Nouf al-Sadiq, Saudi citizen and graduated student in Middle East studies at George Washington University.

Women’s rights in Saudi Arabia are limited in comparison to many of its neighbors in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most restrictive countries for women by the International Community. The World Economic Forum in 2013 ranked Saudi Arabia 127th out of 136 countries for gender parity.

Many women has been registered across the country, especially in the capital Riyadh. The government also requires voters to have personal ID cards, and many Saudi women do not.

Ali supports the advances that Saudi Arabia women are getting, she insisted that it’s a democratic matter separated that it not just a problem for Islamic states, she said: ‘Islamically women have the right to vote but when a country prohibits it, it’s not about Islamism. This is how every society can go forward’.

Saudi women still have to contend with limits on their freedom of movement, and since it is illegal for them to drive, many of them will have to rely on male members of their family to take them to register and vote. Male relatives who oppose female voting rights could also be a barrier.

Despite the right to vote suppose an advanced for women in the Middle East, international media such as CNN have reported that ‘public political dissent is illegal in Arabia Saudi’. According to Freedom House’s annual report on political rights and civil liberties; Saudi Arabia is a mainstay of the 10 worst countries in the world for women’s civil rights. Citizens that even hint that political and human rights should be expanded are considered as a terrorist action by the monarchy.

US authorities look for terrorist links after California mass slaying

By Yasmeen Fekri

US authorities look for terrorist links after California mass slaying.

Bomb equipment, weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were found by police in a raid after Wednesday’s shootout.

Authorities have not yet found a motive in the attack by Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27.

The names of the victims have now been released by San Bernardino’s coroner.

Wearing black tactical gear and wielding assault rifles, the couple sprayed as many as 75 rounds into a room at a social service center for the disabled, where about 75 of Farook’s co-workers had gathered. Farook attended the event but stormed off in anger and returned in battle gear with his wife.

Farook, a county restaurant inspector and his wife Malik, met online and married two years ago. Malik got pregnant and registered at Target with a cheery newlyweds’ catalog of wishes: a car seat, diapers and safety swabs.

But for all the outward signs of suburban normality, this couple, according to the police, used their comfortable home in a middle-class community to build and stockpile on weapons.

They left their six month-old daughter with her grandmother before heading to a holiday party.

Five hours later, they died in a crush of bullets in a brutal face-off with the police.

As the FBI-led investigation pressed on, local authorities completed formally notifying the families of the 14 people who died.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said at a news conference that the search of the suspects house in the nearby community of Redlands turned up with flash drives, computers and cellphones.

Officials in Washington said so far there was no hard evidence between the couple and any militant group abroad, but the electronics would be checked to see if the suspects had been browsing on jihadist websites or social media.

“It is possible that this was terrorist-related. But we don’t know,” President Obama told reporters. “It is also possible that this was workplace-related.”

Farook, a US citizen, was born in Illinois, the son of Pakistani immigrants. Malik was born in Pakistan and lived in Saudi Arabia until they married.

The couple entered the United States in July 2014 after a trip that included Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Farook had no criminal record and was described by friends as a soft-spoken, intelligent and nice person.

“This shooting has caused each victim’s family, friends and co-workers, along with the first responders, to suffer an enormous personal tragedy,” Sheriff John McMahon said.

Twenty-one people were wounded in the shooting. All the victims were from Southern California and ranged in ages 26 to 60.

The couple have emerged as one of the most perplexing pairs in the recent history of mass homicide. And this attack ranks as the deadliest instance of US gun violence in three years.

 

 

Germany decided military intervention in Syria

Jasmin Seidl

The German Parliament has approved the German army mission against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) by a large majority this morning.

Up to 1,200 German soldiers will support the fight against IS with reconnaissance ‘Tornado’ flights, a tanker and a frigate.

The mandate is initially valid until the end of 2016.

445 deputies voted for the mandate while only 146 were against and there were seven abstentions.

Green and Left parties voted against it, because they consider the decision to be made too rashly.

Petra Sitte, deputy of the Left party said: “We do not want to get caught up in this war in ‘Tornado’ tempo.” Many questions are still unanswered, she added.

Union Group CEO Michael Grosse-Brömer called the behaviour of the opposition” irresponsible”.

Germany’s role in the fight against international terrorism has to be grounded in law properly, according to him.

His Green Party colleague Britta Haßelmann argued that a mandate of such importance should be discussed at length.

Meanwhile, the SPD parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann  defended the fast decision.

This was necessary, Oppermann said. “France has asked us for help.”

It does not have to be discussed for weeks or months, Oppermann said. “We can decide quickly, when it matters.”

But he ruled a deployment of German ground forces in Syria out. “In any case we won’t send a European Army, German soldiers so to speak, as ground troops to Syria,” the SPD politician said.

 That would be the wrong signal, Oppermann added.

Even the SPD defense politician Rainer Arnold said, the use is justifiable and also affordable.

To counter criticism of the planned deployment, he said: “Reconnaissance fliers are no contribution to heedless bombing.”

If Germany stayed out, it will be even harder to demand solidarity in Europe. “We Germans should not be a bad example there”, Arnold said.

The parliamentary leader of the Left Sahra Wagenknecht clearly spoke against the deployment in Syria: War makes it worse.

“In Paris 130 people had fallen victim to the terrorist attacks and in response, innocent people in Syria shall be killed”, she complained. What is this madness?”

Addressing the government Wagenknecht said: “It’s simply a lie that this war will weaken the IS.” The opposite is the case in her opinion.

“Bombing is also terrorism,” she admonished. “War is terror, which produces new terror.”

 

Danes vote No to Europol

By: Frederik Gammelby

Danish voters yesterday voted No to change their Europol opt-out into an “optional arrangement” membership.

Despite a majority of parties in the Danish Parliament recommending a Yes-vote, 53 per cent of voters voted against the optional arrangement, which would have led the Danish government to choose which parts of the Europol they wanted to cooperate on.

With the No vote, Denmark becomes the first EU member state to withdraw from the Europol supranational policing network. On Monday, the Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen (Venstre/Liberal Party ed.) will meet with EU President Donald Tusk and EU Commission Chairman Jean Claude Juncker to work out a parallel agreement with Denmark on policing.

Professor Soeren Dosenrode at European Studies from Aalborg University in Denmark said about The Prime Minister’s upcoming meeting with Mr. Juncker and Mr. Tusk.

“The Danish referendum is not a big deal in Europe, although it’s a big thing in Denmark. This is chiefly due to the fact that Denmark with this vote is not blocking any treaties. The negotiations depend on what Mr. Juncker and President Tusk are going to say, although the Danish Prime Minister should not count on their goodwill.”

Getting the details of the deal right might prove to be a complex task since Denmark, as an EU member state, will still have to live up to the common interest of the EU.

“Getting parallel agreements is a slow process,” said Professor Dosenrode. “First it has to be approved by the Commission, then the Council of Ministers and finally the European Parliament. This process normally takes between one and five years. Furthermore, EU regulation states that parallel agreements are temporary.”

Danish EU elections have traditionally been associated with EU scepticism, with Denmark having voted No to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, which later resulted in the Danish opt-out deal under the Edinburgh agreement. Denmark also opted out on membership of the euro in 2000. But why are the Danes so sceptical of the EU?

Professor Dosenrode said: “Fundamentally, the Danes are fond of the EU. However, they are scared of giving away their sovereignty. The idea of the big, federal, European state is frightening for the Danes. At the same time the Danes are deeply suspicious of their politicians, because various politicians from parties across the Parliament have been involved in a string of gaffes in resent years, and this suspiciousness has definitely been reflected in the referendum.”

The Danish referendum has gained attention in the UK, and UKIP leader Nigel Farage has already congratulated the Danes on their No vote. Commenting on what the Danish No vote could mean for Prime Minister David Cameron’s bid to change Britain’s EU-membership, Professor Dosenrode said: “It is definitely a signal to Brussels that EU scepticism is alive and well. In connection to the Danish No vote however it is difficult to say whether Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker would approach Britain in the same way as it would with Denmark.”

Edinburgh Council Pledges First City-Wide Renewable Energy Plan

City of Edinburgh Council has unveiled a new sustainable energy action plan for the city, which aims to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

The Council’s Media Officer Noel Miller revealed that several organisations had met with council representatives on 1st December “to pledge their commitment to the City of Edinburgh Council led Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP).”

The scheme marks the city’s first energy action plan, and aims to “transform the capital’s energy use by reducing demand and encouraging local generation.”

The decision comes as world leaders convene in Paris for the ongoing Climate Change Conference.

Several prominent businesses in the city have already pledged their support to the council’s action plan, including Edinburgh Napier University, Heriot-Watt University, NHS Lothian, Standard Life, and BT Scotland.

Environmental Convener at City of Edinburgh Council, Lesley Hinds said: “The SEAP is a city-wide plan, not just a council initiative. Everyone who lives and works in the city can play their part in reducing carbon emissions and the SEAP target is only achievable through city-wide support. The SEAP will seek to develop and therefore be constantly evolving to reflect this involvement with as many stakeholders as possible.

“The eight organisations who have pledged have a large sphere of influence throughout the city, and our combined efforts to find innovative solutions to energy requirements and to reduce our carbon emissions has the potential to make a much larger impact through this partnership.”

Jamie Pearson, Environment and Sustainability Manager for Edinburgh Napier University, commented that the university was “excited” to take part in the council’s scheme. “The plan itself actually ties in with a lot of what we do already at the university, though this is on a somewhat larger scale.

“What this also represents is a bigger partnership between the institutions of Napier, Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College, as well as businesses such as RBS and Standard Life.”

Professor Gillian Hogg, Deputy Head of External Relations at Heriot Watt, said: “This is a practical step towards an ambitious goal. The proposed partnership would allow our staff and students to share that expertise and hopefully offer them practical opportunities to contribute towards the wider aims of the project.”

The Paris Climate Change Conference is expected to conclude on the 11th December. Edinburgh Council hopes that the conference will play a role in spurring the wider community to participate in the new energy scheme.

 

Anti-radicalisation conference takes place in Aarhus a week after Paris-attacks

By Frederik Gammelby

An international conference on de-radicalization takes place in the city of Aarhus, Denmark, today a week after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The radicalisation prevention programme popularly labeled the ‘Aarhus-model’ has gained international attention for its focus on creating dialogue with radicalised elements as a means of preventing radicalised youths to travel to conflict zones like Syria.

Mayor of Aarhus Jacob Bundsgaard has been speaking in the US, Lebanon, and Sweden about the programme, why the conference has garned huge interest.

While French police have increased police presence after the attacks in the French capital, the de-radicalisation conference in Denmark looks for softer ways of preventing radicalisation of especially young people estranged from society.

The conference in Aarhus comes as next week’s government spending review is expected to present significant financial cutbacks for policing in the UK and Wales.

Home Secretary Theresa May has been warned by police that cutbacks might have an effect on their response to a Paris-style terror attack.

In Aarhus, police are already playing an active part preventing radicalization of youths in cooperation with social workers, parents, and mentors.

 

 

Peers call for halt to Scotland Bill

A House of Lords committee has called for the Scotland Bill to be delayed, citing uncertainty over how Holyrood will be funded.

In a report published today, peers claim a lack of scrutiny of financial arrangements in the bill by MPs, could lead to problems in future devolution settlements.

The report by the economic affairs committee states that despite the “unprecedented” nature of devolving income tax revenue as well as giving almost full power to set the rates of tax, the bill has proceeded with “undue haste”.

Scottish and UK ministers are still negotiating terms in relation to funding.

The committee raised concerns in relation to Scotland’s block grant, claiming that given a lack of clarity over the economic risk the Scottish Government should take on, as well as its devolved income tax revenues, reaching a preferred option is currently “impossible”.

They also concluded a need to reform the Barnett Formula, used to calculate Scotland’s share of funding, and to increase transparency and scrutiny of how funding is allocated to the devolved nations.

The report recommends that the UK and Scottish Governments agree “simple and clear borrowing rules and a maximum ceiling on Scottish Government debt”,  doubting that the current “no bail out” proposal between the UK and devolved governments would be believed by the markets.

Lord Hollick, Chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, said: “The Scotland Bill has the potential to fundamentally change the UK and impact on us all both politically and economically. It is crucial that what is proposed is stable and sustainable. Parliament is being asked to pass the Bill before we are told full details about the fiscal arrangements that will underpin this new era of devolution. That cannot be right.”

The Scottish Government have previously claimed that Holyrood would reject any fiscal settlement perceived as not benefiting Scotland.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I would be against there being a delay in the House of Lords because I think fundamentally we need to make progress on the Scotland Bill so that the Scottish Parliament can take its final decision on whether the bill is to be adopted before we get to the Scottish Parliament elections next May.”

 

 

 

 

Fears of academic freedom being affected by new counter terrorism bill

Theresa May’s proposed counter terrorism bill has come under fire from activist groups and teachers unions.

Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech where she proposed a new bill to fight terrorism within the UK has been criticised by the Open Rights Group and the Human Rights watch.

One of the proposed measures for the bill is a new statutory duty on colleges, schools, prisons, probation providers, police and councils to prevent individuals being drawn into terrorism. Ministers will have powers to issue directions to organisations that repeatedly invite extremist speakers or fail in the duty in other ways.

Mary Senior, Official for the Scotland University and Colleges Union (UCU), said:

“Universities and colleges have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their students and staff and not to allow activities which are intended to foment hatred or violence, or to recruit support for unlawful activities such as terrorism.

“At the same time, universities and colleges rightly cherish, and must continue to promote, academic freedom as a key tenet of a civilised society.  It is essential to our democracy that all views are open to debate and challenge within the law.”

Tom Lawrence, from the Home Office Press office said:

“The purpose of our Prevent programme is stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It deals with all kinds of terrorist threats to the UK.

“Prevent activity in local areas relies on the co-operation of many organisations to be effective. Currently, such co-operation is not consistent across the country.

“The new duty will require specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. This will include local government, the police, prisons, providers of probation services, schools, colleges, universities and others.

“Universities’ commitment to freedom of speech and the rationality underpinning the advancement of knowledge means that they represent one of our most important safeguards against extremist views and ideologies.

“However, extremist preachers have used higher education institutions as a platform for spreading their messages. Universities must take seriously their responsibility to deny extremist speakers a platform.

“This duty is not about the government restricting freedom of speech — which the government is committed to – it is about universities taking account of the interests and well-being of all their students, staff and the wider community.”

The bill, which will be published tomorrow, will also give police the power to seize passports and travel documents for up to 30 days, from people thought to be leaving UK to engage in terrorism-related activities, and force internet services providers to release Internet Protocol addressees to the police in order to target individuals.

Edinburgh Airport hosts public safety event for Counter Terrorism Awareness Week

By Marion Guichaoua

Police Scotland will be present today at Edinburgh Airport to alert the public about safety travel, as part of Counter Terrorism Awareness Week.

Police Scotland,  the British Transport Police are amongst UK forces taking part in Counter Terrorism Awareness Week which will run from Monday 24 November until Sunday 30 November 2014.

They will be present in transport hubs all across the UK to help the public understand the threat to the UK and emphasise the importance of reporting any suspicious activity.

The Police Scotland website explains that: “The aim is not to alarm the public. No one is better placed to notice someone or something out of place within a community than those who live and work in that community.”

Staff who work across transport hubs will receive training to look out for suspicious behaviour and learn what they should do if an attack should happen.

Speaking ahead of the Safer Travel Days, Superintendent Alan Crawford said: “Police Scotland Border Policing Command welcomes this opportunity to raise the awareness of Counter Terrorism across the transport hubs and wider business community in Scotland.

“Airports and seaports are vibrant transport hubs where the public work and transit on a daily basis. These ports are, in their own right, communities where there is an opportunity for us all to report suspicious activity no matter how insignificant this may seem.

“At a time of increased threat levels, and with the focus on Syria and the Middle East, it is vital that collectively we work together to protect our border.”

Police Scotland also said: “Although the threat level has recently been increased to severe, meaning that a terrorist attack in the UK is “Highly Likely” there is no specific intelligence of any planned attack, however this raised threat level does mean that we all need to be vigilant.”

During Counter Terrorism Awareness Week, the focus will be on five key areas: vigilance in crowded places and transport hubs, preventing violent extremism, preventing financing of terrorist groups and ensuring the safety and security of goods and materials which could be used by terrorists.

There will be a range of activities taking place across Scotland including increased police patrols and additional training for those responsible for safety and security of buildings, businesses and neighbourhoods to help them recognise, respond to and report any suspicious activity.

Today also sees The Safer Travel Day initiative being held at airports and ports across Scotland where travelers will receive information and advice to help keep them safe.

David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: “Keeping our passengers safe and secure is our number one priority and we work very closely with Police Scotland to ensure Edinburgh Airport is a safe environment for everyone.

“By supporting Counter Terrorism Week we’re playing our part in a much wider operation to ensure the safety of all passengers and employees. Events like today’s Safer Travel Day are vital to help educate people on how to spot potentially suspicious behaviour.”

“There will be high visibility police patrols throughout the airport with officers available today to talk to passengers and staff about how to spot potentially suspicious behaviour.

“Police Scotland is also working with OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator to remind everyone to be cautious of donating to charity via third parties.

“OSCR’s Head of Engagement, Judith Turbyne, said:”We are pleased to support Counter-Terrorism Awareness Week, to alert the public in making sure that they check the organisations seeking donations from them.

“As with any requests for donations, there are a number of simple checks that you can make.  You can check the Scottish Charity Register and view our guide to Safer Giving at www.oscr.org.uk.”

 

New app to help modernise the health system

By Madalina Dichiu

Care Minister, Norman Lamb announced that the health system must be “modernised” and a new online application will be developed to help young people with mental health issues.

Experts say that the current situation is a “national disgrace” and the Government should spend more money on children and young people, while also stressing the importance of contact with therapists.

The Scottish Government says that the best approach to change the system is to be able to measure the things that matter most to the people using them. They are also reviewing health visits and school nursing services to ensure staff have the right training to identify and help parents, children and young people with mental health problems.

The Government has already developed an online service to provide guidance and training on child mental health for teachers, police, health professionals and other people working with children called MindEd. The research shows that mental health services are not meeting the needs of some groups of people. Only one in six older people with depression ever discusses it with their GP.

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said, “For far too long mental health has been in the shadows and many people have suffered in silence as a result. It is time to turn a corner on outdated attitudes and bring mental health issues out into the open. It is time that the whole of society started providing the care and support to those with mental health conditions in the same way that they would to those with a physical condition.”

Sarah Brennan Chief Executive of YoungMinds charity said: “It is a national disgrace that while three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental illness, only 6% of the NHS mental health budget is spent on children and young people. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that if we get it right for children and young people we will greatly reduce the burden of mental health for future generations.

“YoungMinds has been warning for several years about the dangers in cutting children and young people’s mental health early intervention services. Over the last few months we have seen the consequences of these cuts with reports of children and young people with mental illnesses ending up in police cells, being transferred hundreds of miles away or placed on inappropriate adult wards because there haven’t been the beds available.

“Local services providing much needed mental health services  should not have to operate in crisis-we have to get this right for children, young people and their families who are in desperate need of support.”

The NHS argues that many issues can be managed without the help of a GP by using the variety of sources now available, whether it’s through books, local organisations or online.

The charity Mind says: “Electronic media is increasingly being utilised as a medium to deliver psychological therapies. There are significant potential advantages to using this mode of delivery, including increased reach and improved access to psychological support and treatments.

“Some children and young people find interacting with electronic media a preferable first step to help and most are more used to such interaction than older generations.”

The Scottish Government published alarming statistics about mental health problems. Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health condition. Only a quarter of people with a common mental health problem get treatment, mostly in the form of medication.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 9.6% of children and young people between the ages of 5 and 16 years in the UK have a mental health problem.

Murphy’s plan to devolve income tax control

By Paul Malik

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Jim Murphy has said he understands how much Scotland desires “change” in a speech proposing devolution of income tax powers made this morning.

Announcing from a campaign office in Glasgow, the MP for Falkirk said his proposal to devolve full powers over income tax if he was elected leader was a “big moment for the Scottish Labour Party and a big moment for Scotland.”

He said the commitment to introduce the powers, a policy previously opposed by the Scottish Labour Party, would show Scotland that Labour have “changed”, that they now “get it”, and, with him as leader, they will “stand up for Scotland”.

Mr Murphy said: “The difference between Scottish Labour and our opponents when it comes to constitutional reform is that we have never seen it as an end in itself but as a means to an end.

“We want the best constitutional settlement for Scotland because we want the best deal for Scotland.

“Our interest is in making devolution work, not simply in taking with one hand and demanding more with the other, regardless of the consequences.

“Even before the Smith Commission reports, we should agree to the full devolution of income tax to Scotland, if that is what emerges.”

A spokesman for Neil Findlay MSP, who is also in the running for leadership, said Mr Murphy’s stance on full devolution of income tax powers was “understandable”, but that if this was achieved, the party needed to ensure that Scotland was not “worse off.”

Mr Findlay’s spokesman said: “It’s all very well devolving [full control over income tax] but we’ve got to make sure that Scotland isn’t worse off.

“We have to ensure that as well as having the constitutional willingness for change, we also have the political willingness to prioritise change.”

The SNP have said that the people of Scotland “rightly expect” these powers and that in the past, Scottish Labour offered “less than the Tories.”

Stewart Maxwell MSP of the SNP said: “Voices across civic Scotland have already backed the devolution of extensive powers over tax and welfare, and people in Scotland rightly expect to see a broad range of taxation powers transferred beyond income tax.

“If Labour have now caught up on this one aspect, having offered even less than the Tories, I hope that they will back the calls by many independent organisations in Scotland for other tax and welfare powers to be devolved, such as the minimum wage.”

At a hustings event on Sunday, Mr Murphy said that Scottish Labour must “match” the “energy” that the SNP have for “constitutional nationalism” and appeal to the “hundreds of thousands of decent people who voted Yes, but are not nationalists.”

Mr Murphy has based his campaign on “bringing Scotland together”.

However, several senior Labour Party members have warned against the devolution of income tax powers.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP said that the move was a “Tory trap”.

The leadership campaign was triggered after former Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont resigned, claiming that several senior Labour Party MP’s were “dinosaurs” who treated the Scottish Labour Party as a “branch office”.

The Smith commission was set up in an effort to “further strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament within the UK” after Scotland voted to remain a part of Britain after September’s referendum.

The report is being compiled by Lord Smith, a cross party independent member of the House of Lords.

 

 

 

UK charity Refuge opposes launch of Clare’s Law pilot scheme

By Charlotte Barbour

Domestic abuse campaigners yesterday called into question the effectiveness of Clare’s Law, a scheme which will be piloted across areas of Scotland today.

Domestic abuse charity Refuge expressed concerns that the Law is not enough to help protect women from violence.

The scheme is named after Clare Wood, a 36-year old woman who was murdered by her abusive boyfriend George Appleton at her home in Salford, Greater Manchester, in 2009. She was not aware of his history of violence against women.

“Clare’s Law” will be piloted in Ayrshire and Aberdeen today and will last for six months. It will allow people suffering from domestic abuse access to information on a partner’s potential violent history. If successful the scheme will then be rolled out across Scotland.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said:

“Clare’s Law sounds good on paper, but in reality it will do very little to help the hundreds of thousands of women and children who experience domestic violence in this country.

“Some people will say that if Clare’s Law saves just one life, it is worth it. But let’s be clear – two women are killed every week as a result of domestic violence in England and Wales. Saving just one life is not enough.

“What will happen if a woman is told that her partner does have a history of violence? Will she be expected to pack her bags and leave straight away? At Refuge, we know that it isn’t that simple.

“Leaving a violent partner is an incredibly difficult step to take. It is also extremely dangerous – women are at greatest risk of homicide at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner. And if women do leave, where are they supposed to go? Refuges are closing up and down the country because of huge funding cuts.

“Clare’s Law may help a few individuals but we need to help the majority of victims – not the few. The most effective way to save lives on a large scale is to improve police practice and protect the vital services run by specialist organisations like Refuge. Let’s get our priorities right.”

Lily Greenan, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, fully supports the scheme. She said:

“Clare’s Law allows people who are concerned about the behaviour of their partner now have the right to ask if they have a history of abuse.

“We are supporting it because anything that potentially helps to prevent domestic abuse against a person is worth having a go at. The levels of domestic abuse in Scotland are very high, and these can become quite extreme before people feel that they can contact the police about it.

“We see the law as a pro-active approach to try and encourage people who feel uncomfortable about what their partner is doing to quietly enquire about whether or not there is a history of domestic abuse.

“Obviously it is not a replacement for a criminal investigation if what is happening to them is already definable as abuse but it may be helpful to some people to have that information in advance.”

According to the Scottish government website, the number of reported incidents of domestic abuse last year reached 60,080, a rise of almost a third in a decade.

Half of all incidents recorded in 2012-13 led to the recording of a crime or an offence, and of these, 78 per cent were reported to the procurator fiscal.

Factors which may increase women’s vulnerability to some types of violence include age, disability and poverty.

Clare Wood’s father, Michael Brown, believes that had his daughter been able to access information on Appleton’s criminal history it may have saved her life.