Tag Archives: Scottish Parliament

Scottish Labour Conference Round-up

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This weekend saw Scottish Labout hold its annual conference in Inverness. With Scotland just over a year away from the independence referendum, the conference was an opportunity for the party to establish its agenda for the coming months. Here were a few of the talking points.

Lamont pledges to help SNP on social justice

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has vowed to work with the Scottish government to help those affected by Tory cuts. In an emotional speech to conference, Lamont pledged to work with the SNP to protect Scots from the “injustice” of the much-maligned “bedroom tax”. She told delegates “Scotland can stand united against the Tory cuts and I call upon the SNP to work with us. If they truly believe in social justice, we can work together.”

Labour attacks Thatcher legacy

Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar accused George Osborne of carrying on the “vandalism” of Margaret Thatcher with his austerity measures. In a fiery speech to conference Sarwar blasted the Chancellor in the wake of the former PMs funeral last week. He said “(Osbourne) has shaped his whole political ideology and cut his political teeth so he can carry on the work of his political hero. Today, he is carrying on the vandalism Thatcher started and his targets are just the same.”

Future Employment Taskforce Launched

Margaret Curran MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, used conference to launch a taskforce on Employment for the Future. The taskforce will be in place to explore ways in which Scotland can increase employment opportunities in the years to come. Speaking at the launch, Curran said “We have close to 200,000 people unemployed in Scotland, and 17,000 people have spent the last two years on the dole, trying to find jobs. This is a challenge that is too urgent to wait until we are in Government again.” The taskforce will be chaired by Lord John McFall and leading tech entrepreneur MT Rainey.

New Health Watchdog Proposed

Labour announced proposals for a new healthcare watchdog, which would have the power to monitor and turn around troubled hospitals with troubleshooting “Change Teams”. Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health Jackie Baillie said that it would be a body “with teeth”, to “regulate, inspect, enforce and encourage continuous improvement.”

Johann Lamont was praised by attendees for her keynote speech to her party. However the SNP took the opportunity to criticise her “obsession” with the nationalists, claiming that it overshadows the party’s lack of policies. A spokesman said “There were 22 mentions of the SNP in Johann Lamont’s speech and Alex Salmond was name-checked 13 times. But sadly she was unable to come up with even one new policy.”

Napier University Independence Referendum Poll

Earlier this month Buzz Magazine asked Napier students their opinions on the issue of Scottish independence. 569 students (3.3% of the student body) were asked the question “If you were to vote on Scottish independence now, how would you vote?” Both the Better Together and Yes Scotland campaigns refused to comment on the results of the poll, which will be revealed later today.

Scottish Law Commission proposes online change

The bill will be discussed at the Scottish parliament Image: Mathhew Ross

The Scottish Law Commission has published a discussion document proposing changes to the law surrounding online contracts.

It suggests that laws governing signing international contracts in Scotland are lagging behind England.

According to Charles Garland, project manager at the Scottish Law Commission, businesses do not trust electronic signatures and often have to fly to Heathrow to meet in person to sign contracts.

Under new law, the protection around electronically agreeing contracts would be legally more solid, providing protection for contracts to be signed over the internet without the inconvenience of meeting in person, cutting away the red tape surrounding deals.

The bill would also propose safer contracts for individuals who do their shopping online and effectively sign contracts every time they buy something.

The Commission is looking for input and suggestions from businesses and law firms before it the bill is discussed in parliament.

Read the publication here: http://www.scotlawcom.gov.uk/law-reform-projects/contract-law-in-light-of-the-draft-common-frame-of-reference-dcf/

Edinburgh set to celebrate its remarkable women

March sees the annual return of International Women’s Day (IWD) with events planned throughout Edinburgh to mark the occasion.

For over 100 years, the world has celebrated the achievements of women and their contribution to the arts, sciences, medicine and numerous other fields. On and around 8th March the celebration continues as countries around the world host their own events.

Beginning life in 1909 as National Women’s Day in the United States the day was instigated by the Socialist Party of America. It soon spread overseas to socialist countries in Europe before being recognised as an international event in 1911.

The UN’s theme for this years IWD will be Empower Women: End Hunger and Poverty. The United States have also planned a Women’s History Month to coincide with IWD and Google will change its search engine icon to show their support.

Founder of the internationalwomensday.com, Glenda Stone explains why IWD has become so popular, “Activity on International Women’s Day has skyrocketed over the last five years. This is due to the rise of social media, celebrity involvement, and corporations taking on the day sponsoring and running big events. Our twitter.com/womensday community with around 10,000 followers is phenomenal for sharing videos, information and news as it happens. Offline large scale women’s rallies have become even larger through the use of social media. It would be hard to find any country that did not celebrate the day in some way.”

This year, Edinburgh will recognise IWD with a calender of events kicking off this evening at Surgeons Hall with a series of talks acknowledging women often overlooked in Edinburgh’s medical community. The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh University and the Film House will also play host to events and talks.

For more information on these events click here.

NUS Scotland reacts to spending review

NUS Scotland President Robin Parker "very worried" about cuts.

By Joseph Blythe

NUS Scotland have welcomed Scottish Government plans to increase funding for universities by around £75million. However they have said that they are “concerned” at proposed cuts to college funding, and warned that the government should ensure the number of places available doesn’t fall. The plans, announced yesterday by Finance Secretary John Swinney, are part of the government’s spending review, outlining the budget for the next three years.

There had been fears that austerity measures would lead to cuts in education, but Swinney was able to deliver on his party’s campaign promises of increased financial support and no tuition fees for Scottish students. He pledged a minimum income of £7000 for the poorest students, and the protection of the EMA for young students and pupils.

NUS Scotland President Robin Parker said “Taken together these proposals are a major step in right direction towards making access to education in Scotland fairer. This progress is very welcome news and testament to the hard work and campaigning by thousands of students across Scotland in the run-up to the last election.”

But he was less enthusiastic at the cuts facing the budget for colleges, saying “Colleges serve some of the most deprived communities in Scotland, offering an educational lifeline and local access to education to some of the most excluded in our society. They must make sure that no matter what, the number of places at college is at least protected and that quality is maintained.”

Last days before dissolution

by Gráinne Byrne

Third session of Holyrood about to go into recess

As we approach the last official day for Holyrood MSPs before Parliamentary recess, opposing parties are marking their line in the sand ahead of tomorrow’s final questions session.  This final session, before dissolution, sets the tone for a battle between the parties leading to the election on 5 May 2011.

In an attempt to engage with the public, First Minister Alex Salmond and his main opponent, Labour leader Iain Gray, will take part in various debates over the next few weeks.  Key issues in the frame include higher education, the economy, the health system and, perhaps most importantly, how they will deal with the financial cuts. Continue reading Last days before dissolution

Public sector hit by budget cuts

By Gavin Harper

Parliament hit by budget cuts. Picture courtesy of Daily Telegraph

MSPs will have their pay frozen for the next two years, as part of a scheme that plans to reduce the running costs of the Scottish parliament by up to 12% and save nearly £10 million over the next four years.

These plans still require the approval of MSPs, but they are expected to accept the freeze in their pay, albeit reluctantly, in order to reduce the costs of the multi-million pound building at Holyrood.

The parliament’s budget for the forthcoming year has been set at £75.3 million, which is almost 5.3% lower than the already approved budget, which is still a sizeable figure.

Furthermore, the necessary cuts will not result in any members of staff being made redundant, while it was also confirmed staff numbers would be cut by 50 in two years time “through other means”.

Presiding Officer for the parliament, Alex Fergusson, said: “It is vitally important that the parliament continues to play its part in responding to the financial pressures facing public sector finances.”

These cuts come in the wake of some major financial cuts, announced by the coalition government at Westminster last month, which will see the public sector hit hard.

There are also significant cuts being made in the National Health Service (NHS) with one nurse revealing that staff no longer receive donations from patients or relatives, with the money instead going to the local trust.

Staff nurse Terrie Scott said: “We are having to tell relatives not to make donations, as the money all goes to the trust, and the nurses don’t see a penny of it.

“We used to be given a portion of this money for ward maintenance and for our nights out but now this is being capped”

NHS Lothian were unavailable to comment on this matter.