MSP report

Lothian Green MSPs’ report – Jan 2020

Grouse moor management, fox-hunting, short-term lets regulation, empty homes, NHS hospital concerns, support for low income households, and more.

Alison Johnstone MSP and Andy Wightman MSP report to Party colleagues, focusing on their work as MSPs in recent weeks.

To keep up with their work from day-to-day, you can follow us via our social media pages, and the Party website:

Twitter@alisonjohnstone and @andywightman
Facebook@Alison.Johnstone.Green and @AndyWightmanMSP

  • Having originally been commissioned in 2017 to consider the options available for reform of Grouse Moor Management, the First Minister confirmed to Alison at FMQs that the Werritty review would finally be published. Sadly, the report was a wash-out. The questions also secured a commitment from the Scottish Government to tighten the laws on foxhunting, and Alison responded to polling that shows the vast majority of Scots support a real ban.
  • With the Scottish Government finally announcing they will act on Andy’s long-term campaign to regulate Short Term Lets, introducing a licensing scheme by 2021, Andy responded to the Ministerial Statement, and gave further reaction in this twitter thread.
  • Alison was quoted about news that the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston could take up to five years to fully re-open, calling for immediate action to support NHS staff, rather than waste valuable funds maintaining PFI projects for hospitals they can’t even use. Alison then questioned the Health Secretary over Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, calling for action to ensure that staff feel confident enough to report concerns, and in her regular column for the Evening News, once again called for working conditions and other staffing issues in the NHS to be addressed urgently.
  • In a Local Government and Communities Committee debate on Empty Homes, Andy highlighted that in Scotland one household is losing its home approximately every 17 minutes, while there are more than enough empty homes to meet the housing needs of those families, and this requires housing not simply to be viewed as private property, but as part of public infrastructure.
  • Alison has called for an urgent review following new data showing that waiting times targets for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have been met for fewer than two-thirds of young patients seeking help. Having commented on figures revealing that child suicide rates have risen by 160% in Scotland, Alison called for the conversation to focus more on prevention and early interventions.
  • Andy asked the Scottish Government what fire safety checks it has undertaken on the building cladding used in private student accommodation.
  • In a debate about support for low income households, Alison called for the Scottish Welfare Fund to be reviewed to ensure it can protect the most vulnerable; for greater urgency and more ambition around low pay, childcare for primary age children and youth employment; and for action to take forward commitments, secured by the Greens, to reform local taxation.
  • Andy asked the First Minister about the cuts to journalist jobs at Newsquest, and whether the Scottish Government agrees that at a political level we need to explore what can be done to restore and sustain a healthy, vibrant print media.
  • As part of its inquiry into benefit take-up, Alison’s Social Security Committee visited Wester Hailes to learn about initiatives being undertaken to increase take-up. The following week, also on the issue of social security support, Alison debated the “untold misery” still being caused by Universal Credit, and raised the case of a constituent made homeless due to benefits not being enough, having to now raise children in hostels and temporary accommodation.
  • Andy secured confirmation from the Scottish Government that private schools will be made to pay business rates from September 2020, losing their charity relief unless they are responsible for teaching children with additional support needs.
  • Alison reacted to comments about a vote on Scottish Independence being held in 2020, as the UK Government continues the process of pulling Scotland out of the EU against its will.
  • Andy launched a crowdfunder in support of a constituent under threat of eviction from his home of 27 years in Leith, by a company wishing to wind itself up and distribute the capital receipts to its members. The case highlights questions over whether Scotland’s private tenancy legislation violates human rights legislation.
  • Holyrood debated Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, where Alison highlighted that while this has the lowest survival rate of any cancer, 73% of Scottish residents cannot name one symptom of the disease. Alison asked the Scottish Government to develop a national campaign for raising public awareness, with a focus on prevention and early detection, and taking into account the impact of health inequalities on detection and survival rates.
  • Andy commented on the latest data showing that Help to Buy subsidies “make housing more expensive for everyone else by pushing up prices generally and does little to benefit those on low incomes or in rural areas.”
  • Alison hosted a discussion in Holyrood about Menu For Change – a partnership between Oxfam Scotland, the Poverty Alliance, CPAG Scotland and Nourish, set up to address food insecurity and help end the need for foodbanks. Alison also spoke in the debate on the topic.
  • Andy spoke at an event in Edinburgh discussing Community Action on the Climate Emergency, where his contribution focused on the role of local democracy in enabling community action.
  • Alison wrote in the National about the serious questions raised for our democracy by “deepfake” technology, such as through misleading videos created by artificial intelligence.
  • Andy and Alison met with UCU members, to show the Greens’ support for their campaign against casualisation, pay gaps and unpaid overtime.
  • Alison spoke in a debate about cutting TV licences for the over-75s, another austerity measure from the UK Government, leaving older people facing an additional £154 a year to pay, while the UK has the lowest State Pension of all the most advanced economies in the world.
  • Andy hosted a session of the Cross Party Group on Social Science, discussing the impact of Brexit on the sector, with insights from Niall Hamilton-Smith on Brexit, Crime & Justice; Kate Sang on Brexit & Work; and James Smith on Brexit, HE & Research.
  • In the Evening News, Alison wrote about efforts to stop the flow of neglected, abused and ill dogs that are flooding the internet for sale to unsuspecting buyers, and how we can all play a part in improving animal welfare in Scotland.
  • Andy’s Local Government & Communities Committee took evidence on the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill. The Committee is also planning future work into community wellbeing, and is looking for people to share their views about what this work should focus on.
  • In a debate on Women, Peace and Security, Alison asked whether we in Scotland are really doing our best to create a society in which women and girls are not silently bearing the burden of violence and inequality in their physical and mental health.
  • At Stage 2 of the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, Andy made the case for amendments to enhance transparency, provide greater accountability and augment the current system with a robust form of taxation that will strengthen local government.
  • Holyrood debated Health and Social Care Investment, with Alison reiterating her call for general practice to receive 11% of the overall Scottish NHS budget, having secured Parliament’s backing for this in April.
  • Andy’s Economy, Energy & Fair Work Committee is exploring how the Scottish Government can best protect retail workers, with a call for views for the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Bill. The Committee is also calling for views for their Energy Inquiry.
  • Alison responded to figures revealing that 22% of Primary 1 children are at risk of becoming overweight or obese and that, although this figure has remained fairly constant since 2001/02, there are now substantial inequalities in children’s unhealthy weight across Scotland.
  • Andy welcomed publication of the Defamation and Malicious Publication Bill, which will seek to modernise defamation law in Scotland for the first time in decades.
  • Alison asked the Scottish Government what steps it will take to reduce gear conflict in Scotland’s fisheries.
  • Andy’s work to protect communities from the rise of Short Term Lets gets a mention in this Guardian article about Edinburgh residents having access to their own homes restricted by the organisers of Hogmanay celebrations.
  • Alison responded to the publication of the general election manifesto from the Poverty Alliance, revealing how policies at Westminster have driven inequalities that have left over a million Scots in poverty. As well as reflecting on the General Election outcome, Alison’s National column in December looked ahead to Christmas, and the need to ensure that people are not pressurised into spending sums they cannot afford, leading to months and more of debt and misery.