As parliament returned from recess in September I was pleased to welcome the Programme for Government (PfG), which was the result of negotiations between the Scottish Green group in parliament and the Scottish Government. It is an urgent and ambitious programme with poverty-relief and the environment at its heart.
With a rent freeze and eviction ban coming into force, this is the radical action that Greens in government are delivering in the face of a cost of living crisis. Average rents have increased by over 40% in the Lothian region over the past 10 years, so it was a very welcome announcement.
Over the course of this parliamentary term Scotland will see the biggest expansion of tenants’ rights since devolution, with more rights for tenants to make a house a home by keeping pets and decorating, better protections from eviction and, perhaps most importantly, a robust system of rent controls.
I am proud that we are able to introduce this emergency legislation to help in the short term whilst longer term plans for rent controls are worked on.
I was also excited to see the Scottish Government officially supporting my Green colleague Gillian Mackay’s Private Member’s Bill on buffer zones around abortion clinics. Nobody should be abused or intimidated when accessing healthcare and the huge increase in anti-choice campaigners outside health centres which provide these services is shameful. I am delighted that the Scottish Government is supporting this bill and look forward to the day when people can access these services without feeling intimidated or threatened.
The PfG also outlined my work on the Circular Economy Bill and the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) which are progressing well. I have met with stakeholders from the retail industry and environmental NGOs such as Marine Conservation Society to discuss the progress on Scotland’s DRS.
I am confident that it will be one of the best and most ambitious return schemes anywhere in Europe. Over the last few weeks we have announced the official logistics partner for the scheme and that the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency have published a campaign to help businesses understand their legal responsibilities and the steps they need to take to prepare for the introduction next August.
Unfortunately the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the national period of mourning changed the dynamic of our first weeks back. However, we are now back in parliament and are continuing to deliver the PfG and other vital changes that Scotland needs.
There will be staff changes happening at the end of this month, with my Office and Communications Manager, Andrew, leaving our team to join the parliamentary group comms team full time. It has been a pleasure to have him in my team over the past year and I look forward to working with him in his new central team role. Kayleigh O’Neill is stepping up to become my new office manager while Cameron’s role is adjusting to include comms work. Over the last few months we have been joined by a fantastic Inclusion Scotland Intern called Kelly, who I am very glad will be joining my team permanently as a caseworker.