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MARTIN DOCHERTY-HUGHES SWORN IN AS MP FOR WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE

MARTIN DOCHERTY-HUGHES SWORN IN AS MP FOR WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE

The SNP’s Martin Docherty-Hughes has been sworn-in as the Member of Parliament for West Dunbartonshire.

Following his re-election at the General Election on 8 June, Martin has re-dedicated himself to serving the people of Clydebank, Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven.

During the swearing-in ceremony, Martin continued his tradition of promoting West Dunbartonshire schools in parliament by wearing a school tie from Braehead Primary in Dumbarton.

Commenting, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“It is an honour and a privilege to have been re-elected as MP for West Dunbartonshire. I am hugely grateful to the voters for placing their trust in me once again.

“Over the past two years I have worked hard to represent our local communities in parliament. I am determined to continue representing the people of Clydebank, Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven to the very best of my ability.

“I am very fortunate to have been supported by a wonderful team of supporters and activists. We ran a positive campaign and every single person who volunteered their time during the election has my heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

“I re-dedicate myself to serving the people of West Dunbartonshire and will work tirelessly to ensure they have a strong voice in Westminster. I will not let you down.

“My ambition is to be the most accessible MP that West Dunbartonshire has ever had. I am here to represent all of my constituents regardless of how you voted in this election.

“I would encourage anyone with any issues they’d like to discuss to get in touch via email to martin.docherty.mp@parliament.uk or by calling my constituency office on 0141 952 2988.”

MP CALLS FOR FIRE SAFETY REVIEW AT WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE TOWER BLOCKS

MP CALLS FOR FIRE SAFETY REVIEW AT WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE TOWER BLOCKS

Image credit: Google Maps

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP has expressed his sympathies for those affected by the tragic fatal fire at the Grenfell Tower block in London.

The SNP MP has written to the Chief Executive of West Dunbartonshire Council on behalf of local residents calling for a review of fire safety measures at high rise flats in the area.

Commenting, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“My thoughts are with all of those affected by this devastating fire at Grenfell Tower.

“Many people have lost their lives and I have been contacted by constituents in West Dunbartonshire who are deeply saddened by this terrible tragedy.

“Although investigations into the cause of the fire are still in their early stages, there are a number of high rise tower blocks in West Dunbartonshire and local residents are understandably concerned about fire safety in these buildings.

“It may be some time before the investigation into what caused the fire at Grenfell Tower is completed. In the meantime, I have written to West Dunbartonshire Council to ask that it works in conjunction with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service to prioritise a review of its fire risk assessments for high rise buildings in the area.

“It’s important that we ensure the highest possible fire safety standards are being met. I have also asked the council to consider reminding local residents of the practical steps they can take to minimise the risk of fire such as the installation of fire alarms.

“For those who don’t have one, the Fire Service will fit a smoke alarm free of charge, and will recommend other fire safety measures they consider necessary. Further information is available by calling the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service on 0800 0731 999.”

ENDS

Letter sent to West Dunbartonshire Council

14 June 2017

Joyce White
Chief Executive
West Dunbartonshire Council
Garshake Road
Dumbarton
G82 3PU

Dear Joyce

Fire safety in high rise flats

I write to you following the tragic fatal fire at the Grenfell Tower in London. At the time of writing we know that at least six people have lost their lives, with a number of individuals unaccounted for and many others seriously injured. My immediate thoughts are with the residents and families affected by this devastating fire.

Although it is still too early to know the cause of the fire, I have already been contacted by constituents who live locally in high rise flats who are deeply saddened by this incident and understandably concerned about fire safety in their own buildings.

As the investigations into the cause of the Grenfell Tower blaze continue – and I appreciate that these investigations may take some time – its implications for fire safety in tower blocks and multiple occupancy buildings will become clearer.

In the meantime, given the number of high rise flats in West Dunbartonshire, I believe that the council should work in conjunction with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service so that all reasonable steps are being taken to ensure that these buildings meet the highest possible standards for fire safety.

I know that West Dunbartonshire Council takes the health and safety of local residents very seriously, so I would ask that the council considers undertaking a review of its fire risk assessments for each of the high rise buildings it manages. Furthermore, I would welcome a commitment from the council to reassure residents and remind them of the practical measures they can take to minimise the risk of fire including the installation and regular testing of fire alarms.

Please note that I have also copied this letter to Chief Fire Officer Alasdair Hay and would wish to reiterate my gratitude to the fire services across the country who put their own lives at risk to keep us safe.

Sláinte

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP

Snap General Election #GE17

Snap General Election #GE17

Statement from Martin Docherty-Hughes MP

“The Prime Minister’s announcement is timed to take advantage of a Tory surge in the polls south of the border. The ineffective and contradictory leadership of the Labour Party has been extremely damaging, and it is clear that the Labour Party will lose yet more seats to the Tories in the coming election.

“In contrast, SNP MPs have been effective at challenging the UK Government on many of the worst excesses of the right wing of their party, and we are opposed to their hard Brexit plan that will be devastating for our economy. My colleagues and I also continue to represent our constituents, providing help to thousands of people in our constituencies, hit hard by Tory austerity and the on-going dismantling of the Social Security system.

“I will stand on the SNP’s record and my own personal work in the constituency, and I welcome this opportunity Scotland has to reject the Tory Government and re-elect a strong SNP Opposition, fighting for Scotland’s interests.”

 

Statement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP

“This announcement is one of the most extraordinary U-turns in recent political history, and it shows that Theresa May is once again putting the interests of her party ahead of those of the country.

“She is clearly betting that the Tories can win a bigger majority in England given the utter disarray in the Labour Party.

“That makes it all the important that Scotland is protected from a Tory Party which now sees the chance of grabbing control of government for many years to come and moving the UK further to the right — forcing through a hard Brexit and imposing deeper cuts in the process.

“That means that this will be — more than ever before — an election about standing up for Scotland, in the face of a right-wing, austerity obsessed Tory government with no mandate in Scotland but which now thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it.

“In terms of Scotland, this move is a huge political miscalculation by the Prime Minister.

“It will once again give people the opportunity to reject the Tories’ narrow, divisive agenda, as well as reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists for giving the people of Scotland a choice on their future.

“The SNP will always put the people of Scotland first — and between now and June 8, we will work harder than ever to retain the trust of the people.”

Vale of Leven Hospital: Joint Statement from Martin Dochetry-Hughes MP & Brendan O’Hara MP

Vale of Leven Hospital: Joint Statement from Martin Dochetry-Hughes MP & Brendan O’Hara MP

Following our meeting with both the Chair John Brown CBE and new Chief Executive Jane on NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Chair has issued a letter to local media confirming some of the points raised in our discussion.

Click here to read the letter

 

It was an extremely positive meeting where all present agreed that the Vale of Leven Hospital is an asset to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and that it will continue to deliver vital services to our communities for the foreseeable future.

 

We were delighted to see that our request for clear communication with the public about current issues relating to the Vale of Leven Hospital and other local health services has been acted upon so swiftly, and look forward to working with them to see continuous improvement to communication with our community.

 

Further to the content of the letter, the Chair and the new Chief Executive also confirmed / agreed to the following:

  • Despite what unofficial sources have been saying, the Dispensing Pharmacy at the Hospital is not under threat of closure.
  • The issues with the out of hours GP service are being caused by a problem with GP contracts. They hope to have this resolved soon, which will have a positive impact in terms of the future of the service operating from the Vale of Leven Hospital. The current review and proposals are at the earliest stage and haven’t yet taken any possible future contract changes into account.
  • The Board will keep the public informed about services in the local area through the press, Facebook and their website.
  • The Board will update their Vale of Leven Hospital page on the website to bring it up to date with a list of the services available at our hospital.

 

The Chair and Chief Executive are aware that NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde must improve its lines of communication with our community and I am glad that we are starting to see swift and appropriate action to make that happen.

MARTIN SLAMS UK GOVERNMENT FOR “DEVASTATING” CUTS TO DISABILITY BENEFITS

MARTIN SLAMS UK GOVERNMENT FOR “DEVASTATING” CUTS TO DISABILITY BENEFITS

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP has criticised the Tory UK Government for the introduction of devastating benefit cuts for sick and disabled people.

From 1 April 2017, new claimants for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – which offers support to people unable to work due to illness and disability – have had their benefits cut by £30 per week.

The SNP MP has said that these cuts will cause severe financial hardship for the most vulnerable in West Dunbartonshire and called on the UK Government to make good on its promise to introduce a support package to help disabled people meet the additional costs of disability.

Commenting, SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said:

“The Tory Government has decided to press ahead with these cruel welfare cuts despite strong opposition from MPs, Lords and third sector organisations representing disabled people.

“The Tory party’s misguided justification for these cuts is that they will somehow help more disabled people into employment. The truth is that no evidence exists for the claim that reducing benefit payments actually helps people into work.

“What we do know is that people with chronic illnesses and disabilities face significant barriers to finding employment and are much more likely to be living in poverty. These ESA reductions are counterproductive and risk exacerbating ill health and pushing disabled people further from the workforce.

“Here in West Dunbartonshire, more than half of local residents living with a disability are unemployed. At a time of rising food prices and inflation due to Brexit, these cuts will put a further financial burden on the most vulnerable people in society.

“The UK Government must recognise that this is no way to treat its citizens and act urgently to ensure that adequate support is delivered for sick and disabled people when they are unable to work.”

CUT TO CHILD TAX CREDITS TO INCREASE CHILD POVERTY BY 10%

CUT TO CHILD TAX CREDITS TO INCREASE CHILD POVERTY BY 10%

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT SPEND £400 MILLION MITIGATING IMPACT OF TORY CUTS

 

SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has said it is clear the UK government “remains wedded to austerity” as independent analysis finds new cuts to child tax credits will single-handedly increase child poverty by 10% by 2020.

 

The report, published by Policy in Practice, used national data collected every year by the Family Resource Survey to estimate that across the UK 104,000 third or additional children will be born to low-income families in receipt of tax credits in the next 12 months – and that the UK government’s two child policy alone will drive an increase in child poverty of more than 10 per cent, with 266,000 additional children living in poverty by the end of the parliament.

 

The report also estimates that more than a quarter of a million children – 256,000 – who are already living in poverty will fall deeper into poverty as a result of this policy and 609,000 children in ‘just about managing’ or low to middle income households will be pushed closer to the poverty line.

 

The Scottish Government has spent £400 million since 2013 mitigating the impact of Tory cuts in Scotland with £152 million spent on the Scottish Welfare Fund and £125 million on Discretionary Housing Payments among other mitigation measures.

 

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, Social Justice Spokesperson, said:

“It’s clear that this Tory government remains wedded to austerity and these latest cuts – which fall on already stretched low and middle income households – will actually increase child poverty and exacerbate the deep-rooted injustices that exist in our society thanks to a bombardment of cuts from Westminster.”

 

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“Universal Credit will leave families with children worse off by an average of £960 a year in 2020 and single parent families by a huge £2380 on average. The UK government continues to shirk its responsibility to protect children from poverty. Instead of portraying poverty as a lifestyle choice, the Tories must ditch austerity and stop pursuing policies that disadvantage people on low and middle incomes.”

 

Gil Paterson, MSP for Clydebank & Milngavie, added:

“The SNP Scottish Government is determined to deliver a more equal, fair and inclusive society and that’s why they are committed to using every ounce of the limited powers we have to reduce poverty and tackle inequality.

 

“But it should not fall to Scotland to mop up the devastation left behind as a result of the Tories’ ideological obsession with cuts – a party with only one MP north of the border – and the SNP will always work to support the most disadvantaged in our society.”

 

ENDS

 

Notes:

Two child limit on tax credits set to drive child poverty by 10% by 2020: http://policyinpractice.co.uk/two-child-limit-tax-credits-set-drive-child-poverty-10-2020/

 

Broken Promises:

What has happened to support for low-income working families under universal credit: http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/broken-promises-what-has-happened-support-low-income-working-families-under-universal-credit

RULE OUT POWER GRAB AND SET OUT PLAN

RULE OUT POWER GRAB AND SET OUT PLAN

TORIES MUST END SPECULATION ON POWERS RETURNING TO HOLYROOD
 
Following a national press report that ‘Holyrood is at risk of a grab for power by the Tories’, the SNP is calling on the UK government to urgently rule out any attempt to use Brexit as a cover for the appropriation of devolved powers.
 
In a letter to Scottish Secretary David Mundell, the SNP’s Ivan McKee – who sits on Holyrood’s Finance and Constitution committee – also pressed for a detailed strategy for the orderly return of any powers currently exercised by Brussels to the Scottish Parliament, alongside a guarantee that this process will not be subject to interference by the Westminster government.
 
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has indicated that she wants to see powers over agriculture on fishing taken away from Holyrood, despite being prescribed as devolved areas of legislation in the Scotland Act.
 
Commenting, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:
 
“The report confirms that the UK Government are planning a Scottish power grab in an attempt to reverse the gains we have made from devolution and hand power back to Westminster.
 
“We must not allow a Tory government with only one MP in Scotland to trample all over our national parliament, undermining the very foundations on which it was established, under the guise of Brexit.
 
“The SNP has often asked the question, what is the purpose of the Secretary of State for Scotland? The role should be to fight Scotland’s corner in the House of Commons and ensure our interests are protected, not damaged.
 
“To leave such fundamental questions hanging indefinitely just won’t wash with my constituents, whose futures are at stake, and further betrays the commitment to a powerhouse parliament at Holyrood.
 
“When the Tories are done picking fights with Spain and picking their favourite shade of blue for new passports, perhaps they could turn to the more serious matter of what Brexit will mean for the Scottish Parliament.”

 

ENDS

 

Notes to editors:
 
Herald front page story (04/04/17):“Holyrood at risk of grab for power by the Tories” – http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15201060.Holyrood_at_risk_of_grab_for_power_by_the_Tories__MPs_warn/
 
“Ruth Davidson raises prospect of power grab over farm subsidies”: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/davidson-raises-prospect-of-power-grab-over-farm-subsidies-bssr50nr9
 
Text of letter from Ivan McKee MSP to David Mundell MP, Secretary of State for Scotland:
 
Dear David,
 
You will be aware of the Exiting the European Union Committee report published today, which has received widespread attention in the media. 
 
The report warns “there is a real issue… of the protection of the position of the devolved nations in relation to decisions taken in London”.
 
You will be fully aware of the SNP’s clearly held position that all powers to be repatriated from the EU in areas that are currently wholly devolved – agriculture and fisheries for example – must come to the Scottish Parliament. The publication of this report gives an ideal opportunity to you, as Secretary of State for Scotland, to rule out any suggestion to the contrary and provide a guarantee over which powers will be returned to Holyrood.
 
As things stand, Westminster cannot legislate on Scottish farming and fishing policy. The question is whether that will remain the case under your Brexit plans – yes or no?
Professor Nicola McEwan of Edinburgh University is cited in the Committee’s report describing your government’s current prevarication on the repatriation of competences as “ambiguous” and “an obvious source of tension as the negotiations get underway”. A clear statement that Westminster will not seek to take back control of powers currently within the competence of the Scottish Parliament would bring a welcome end to such tension.
 
Furthermore, your government’s white paper on the Great Repeal Bill offers little in the way of clarity over how you will work with devolved administrations on a plan and timescale for the repatriations of powers. Indeed, rather curiously, the document does not refer to Scotland at all. Perhaps you would be kind enough to set out the detail of that strategy?
 
I look forward to your response in early course.
 
Yours,
 
Ivan McKee MSP

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT SPENDS £400M FIGHTING TORY WELFARE CUTS

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT SPENDS £400M FIGHTING TORY WELFARE CUTS

The Scottish Government has spent nearly £400m since 2013 in an effort to alleviate Tory cuts to household incomes, new figures reveal.
 
The figures were revealed in response to a parliamentary question by SNP MSP Ruth Maguire, and show that £152m was spent on the Scottish Welfare Fund and £125m on Discretionary Housing Payments over the past four year period.
 
The Scottish Welfare Fund provides a safety net for vulnerable Scottish families, while Discretionary Housing Payments covers households affected by the UK Government’s Bedroom Tax making sure no–one has to pay. The Scottish Government has increased funding in 17/18 to £47 million to fully mitigate the Bedroom Tax for more than 70,000 households.
 
Commenting, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:
 
“These figures show the extent to which the SNP Scottish Government is having use vast sums of money from the Scottish budget to mitigate the Tories’ ideological attack on vulnerable people.
 
“That this £400m has had to be spent mitigating the effects of the inhumane Tory welfare cuts, rather than being spent fighting the root causes of poverty in communities across Scotland, is outrageous.
“The UK Government seek to undermine the work of the Scottish Government at every turn, and they don’t seem to care that my constituents, and hundreds of thousands of people in communities across the United Kingdom, are suffering.”
 
“A mere 15% of welfare powers are being devolved to Scotland, but even with these limited devolved powers, the SNP are committed to creating a Scottish Social Security system with dignity, fairness and respect at its heart.

 

“I would encourage anyone who has experience of the UK Social Security system to sign up to be on the Scottish Government’s User Experience Panel. Your knowledge of the faults and flaws in the current system will be vital in shaping the new Scottish Social Security system, not just for yourselves, but for generations to come.”
 
ENDS
 
Notes:
 
Question S5W-07259: Ruth Maguire, Cunninghame South, Scottish National Party
To ask the Scottish Government how much it has spent on mitigating the impact in Scotland of the UK Government’s welfare reforms.

Answered by Angela Constance:
The Scottish Government has invested considerable resource directly mitigating the impact of the UK Government’s welfare cuts. The following table sets out the amount invested to date in a range of different mitigation activities.

Welfare Reform Mitigation activity Investment made March 2013 to March 2017 
(£ million)
Scottish Welfare Fund 152.4
Discretionary Housing Payments 125
Council Tax Reduction Scheme 92
Welfare Advice Provision 20
Addressing Food Poverty 3
Other welfare mitigation projects 4
Total 396.4

In addition, the Scottish Government has made investment across a range of portfolios to tackle poverty and inequality. This includes increasing access to free childcare, the provision of free school meals and a range of community-led regeneration activity. Much of this will provide additional support people affected by welfare reform.

Hardgate Mineshaft Collapse – Update (31-03-17)

Hardgate Mineshaft Collapse – Update (31-03-17)

I have been contacted by the Coal Authority to confirm that they will finish their cavity in-filling and stabilisation works next week.

 

The Council have confirmed to me that they have plans in place to get on-site as soon as the Coal Authority give them the go ahead, to start road reinstatement works. The Council expect to finish this work by the end of June.

 

When the Council take over, they will still have a 5m by 15m hole to fill with concrete. They will then have to reroute some of the electric, gas, sewer and water services, some of which have been temporarily diverted during the in-filling, before undertaking reconstruction of all layers of the road (this is far more involved than simple resurfacing).

 

I will continue to post updates on this website and my Facebook Page as I get them.

JOINT COMMITTEE SESSION HELD ON SOCIAL SECURITY POWERS FOR SCOTLAND

JOINT COMMITTEE SESSION HELD ON SOCIAL SECURITY POWERS FOR SCOTLAND

MPs and MSPs from the House of Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee and the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee took part in a joint session last Monday (20th March 2017) to discuss the devolution of social security powers to Scotland.

MPs and MSPs questioned Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green and Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Securities and Equalities Angela Constance on the transfer of 13 benefit payments from Westminster to Holyrood – which represents control of around 15% of social security spending.

 

Margaret Ferrier MP, who is a member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, said:

“The SNP has consistently raised concerns about the roll-out of Universal Credit and what appears to be some very deep flaws right at the heart of the Tory’s flagship benefit.

“The UK Government must act now to ensure that our most disadvantaged families and individuals are protected – new claimants of Universal Credit are forced to endure a six week wait for Universal Credit payments. It is vital that steps are taken to make sure disadvantaged people do not fall into rent arrears and are not forced to rely on foodbanks or payday loans simply to get by.”

 

Local SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes added:

“The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green MP, is out of touch with the misery facing my constituents if he thinks the catalogue of failures with the payment are just ‘teething problems’ or that they are over. He must act now and introduce a full review and immediate reconsideration of the arbitrary six week waiting period.

“It would be unacceptable if the Scottish Government provided help to individuals and families in Scotland, for example, by mitigating the impact of the UK Bedroom Tax, only for the UK Government to negate that support by imposing the benefit cap on the 85% of benefits being kept under UK control.

“We still need a firm guarantee that the UK government remains committed to the fiscal framework established by the Smith Commission and will not, in any circumstances, take with one hand while the Scottish Government seeks to give with another.”

TRIGGERING OF ARTICLE 50 SHOWS UK WIDE APPROACH “SHATTERED BEYOND REPAIR”

TRIGGERING OF ARTICLE 50 SHOWS UK WIDE APPROACH “SHATTERED BEYOND REPAIR”

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP has commented on this week’s triggering of Article 50, which formally begins the process of the UK leaving the EU.

Any notion of a UK-wide approach, as promised by the Prime Minister following the referendum, is “shattered beyond repair”, and leaves Scotland and Northern Ireland in a position where we are being dragged out of the EU against our democratically expressed will.

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP commented:

“This week’s decision to unilaterally trigger Article 50 shatters beyond repair any notion or position that the Prime Minister is seeking UK-wide agreement.

“For nine months since the EU referendum, there has been no attempt by the UK government to seek a meaningful discussion or agreement with the devolved administrations, despite all efforts being made by our First Minister to facilitate a compromise.

“Scotland is a nation within this United Kingdom of nations and yet is it being treated as a region; worse than that, it is not even being given the same consideration as private companies such a Nissan, to whom the UK Government have been happy to give special consideration.

“Scotland is at a hugely important crossroads and we cannot be in a position where we are ripped from the EU and Single Market despite voting against such a move.

“That is why it is more crucial than ever that the Scottish Parliament is able to give the people of Scotland a fair, legal and informed choice on the direction this country takes.

“The SNP agree with Theresa May that now is not the time for a new referendum on Scottish Independence. That is why we are proposing a referendum at a time, some years in the future, when we know what the Brexit deal will mean for Scotland, but before it’s too late for Scotland to choose a different path.

“I believe it is for the communities of Scotland to decide our future, not politicians. The Prime Minister must allow the people of Scotland make their voice heard.”

Job Centre Closures

Job Centre Closures


Thank you to my colleague Chris Stephens MP for securing this cross-party debate on Job Centre closures, which are affecting constituencies across the UK. We are all working together to keep pressure on the Minister and wider Department for Work and Pensions.

You can view the whole debate here.

You can view my statement following my recent meeting with the Minister for Employment Damian Hinds MP about the plans to close Alexandria Job Centre by clicking here.

BUDGET DEBATE: CHANCELLOR URGED TO RETHINK NATIONAL INSURANCE INCREASES FOR SELF-EMPLOYED

BUDGET DEBATE: CHANCELLOR URGED TO RETHINK NATIONAL INSURANCE INCREASES FOR SELF-EMPLOYED

Speech from House of Commons debate on UK Government Budget

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)

I want to focus on a couple of issues: the Chancellor’s assault on the Scottish whisky industry and the ill thought out increases in national insurance contributions for the self-employed. Let me declare an interest as the treasurer for the all-party group on Scotch whisky—a position that has offered me the opportunity to establish a close working relationship with this vital industry, which is very local to West Dunbartonshire.

As I am the Member for West Dunbartonshire—a constituency that is home to two well-known distilleries, Auchentoshan and Loch Lomond, and that has seen massive investment over recent months in a new bottling plant by Chivas Regal—the House will understand why I have strong reservations about the impact of the Government’s decision to increase excise duty on spirits by 3.9%. That money grab has been described by Loch Lomond distillery as a

“spectacularly poor decision by the chancellor”

and by the Scotch Whisky Association as a “major blow” to the industry which will undermine the progress that the industry has made in recent years. I therefore urge the Chancellor to use the opportunity to carry out an urgent review of the UK’s alcohol taxation system to give the industry—described by the Prime Minister only a week and a half ago as

“a truly great Scottish and British industry”

producing “the world’s pre-eminent spirit”—the support it requires to remain competitive in this vital global market.

I turn from the ill thought out increase in excise duty to the potentially disastrous impact on the self-employed of the increase in class 4 national insurance contributions by nearly 11% over the next two years. In my constituency, the local community and economy are built on a strong foundation of small businesses, and I have serious concerns—similar concerns have been expressed by many Members in the House—about the long-term impact and pressure of these increases on small businesses.

In a briefing that it sent to my office, the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland voiced its concerns about the proposed policy and stated:

“The risk that the self-employed face makes them fundamentally different to employees. This is why the proposed National Insurance tax grab on this group is an absolute kick in the teeth, just at a time when we need to create more entrepreneurs, not fewer.”

The fact that Members on the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s own Benches do not support this policy—we hear them in the Lobby all the time—sends a strong message to the Chancellor and the Treasury that the business community must be understood and consulted before any drastic changes are made. There is still time for the Chancellor to see sense and give small businesses the respect and support they deserve. To fail to do so would be a dereliction of duty and a show of no confidence in those who ensure that the economy is built on a strong base.

Finally, the utter failure in the Budget to even mention the WASPI women shows that the Treasury has failed to grasp the reality facing women born in the 1950s: poverty, destitution and a political state unwilling—not unable, but unwilling—to offer them equality in the 21st century.

MP ISSUES CALL TO HELP SHAPE SCOTLAND’S NEW SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM

MP ISSUES CALL TO HELP SHAPE SCOTLAND’S NEW SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM

RESIDENTS URGED TO SIGN UP TO SOCIAL SECURITY EXPERIENCE PANELS

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP has called on his constituents in West Dunbartonshire to sign up and help shape Scotland’s new social security system – with the Scottish Government seeking to learn from the experiences of those currently using the service

At least 2,000 people with experience of the current social security system are being recruited to help shape Scotland’s new system – allowing the Scottish Government to learn from mistakes made in the past. The panels will work with the expert advisory group on disability and carers’ benefits.

Martin has said that it marks an important step on the Scottish Government’s plans to build a social security system based on dignity and respect.

Commenting, SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said:

“The Scottish Government has been clear that it intends to build a fairer and more respectful social security system once the full powers are devolved over this area – and it is good to see them continue to make good on this promise.

“I hope people across West Dunbartonshire take the opportunity to sign up to the Scottish Government’s panels and play their part in creating a social security system with fairness at its heart.

“Any government system, be it in education, health, immigration or social security, needs to take fully into account the views and experiences of the people who have used this service at the frontline – and asking 2,000 people with service experience for their views is a clear example of the Scottish Government doing exactly that.

“We have seen for too long the damage that has been wrought by the callous and ideological system operated by the Tories at Westminster – putting the needs of people last and doing all they can to scapegoat and stigmatise those that need the safety net of welfare.

“The Scottish Government’s is committed to building a new social security system based on dignity and respect for people across Scotland, and this development is an important step on the way to achieving this.”

You can find out more about social security in Scotland and how to join the Experience Panels at: www.gov.scot/socialsecurity.  You can apply online or by phoning freephone 0800 029 4974. Deadline for registration is 12 May 2017.

MARTIN MEETS TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY ON MP DELEGATION VISIT TO DUBLIN

MARTIN MEETS TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY ON MP DELEGATION VISIT TO DUBLIN

APPG ON IRELAND & THE IRISH IN BRITAIN DISCUSSES BREXIT AND THE RIGHTS OF IRISH CITIZENS

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP with Taoiseach. Credit: Irish Post

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP has met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny as part of a delegation of MPs on a visit to Dublin to discuss matters of concern to the Irish diaspora in Scotland and in the UK.

The MP for West Dunbartonshire, who is also vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ireland and the Irish in Britain, joined a cross-party group of MPs during an historic visit to Dublin organised by CHAMP.

CHAMP, which promotes peace and prosperity in Ireland and the UK, arranged a series of meetings between MPs and senior politicians in Ireland to discuss British-Irish relations, Brexit and the Northern Ireland elections.

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“As vice-chair of the APPG on Ireland and the Irish in Britain, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a number of TDs and Senators to discuss the rights of Irish citizens in Scotland and in the UK.

“There is a large Irish diaspora here in West Dunbartonshire and many of my constituents tell me they are concerned about what Brexit will mean for their rights to live and work in the UK.

“This is an issue I have been pursuing with the UK Government in parliament for a number of months. Whilst Brexit Secretary David Davis has offered me his assurances that the special status given to Irish citizens through the Ireland Act (1949) will be protected and there will be no hard border, I will continue to press this government on the importance of ensuring there’s no change to the rights of Irish citizens post-Brexit.

“During the visit we held very positive meetings with the Taoiseach and leaders of the opposition parties and I took the opportunity to raise a number of issues on behalf of the Irish diaspora in Scotland. It’s more important than ever that we work to protect the rights of Irish citizens here in Scotland and further strengthen the links between our countries, critically during Brexit.”

Statement on Independence Referendum Announcement

Statement on Independence Referendum Announcement

Scotland stands at a hugely important crossroads but the position we find ourselves in isn’t one of our choosing – 62% of people in Scotland voted to Remain in the EU referendum last year but we now face being taken out against our will and against the promises that were made in 2014. In common with most people across Scotland, I wish that we weren’t in this situation. The Prime Minister has set her course towards hard Brexit, without listening to Scotland’s voice at all and the collapse of Labour means we face a prolonged period of uninterrupted and unchecked Tory government at Westminster. We can’t drift along for the next two years and hope for the best.

 

Since the referendum in June, the Scottish Government’s extensive and genuine attempts at compromise with the UK government – attempts to protect Scotland’s interests – have fallen on deaf ears. All of this has massive implications for Scotland – for our economy, jobs, public spending, and living standards. That Scotland can be ignored on an issue as important as our membership of the EU and the single market, only serves to highlight that our voice and our interests can be ignored at any time and on any issue.

 

However, the SNP believe that it’s not just our membership of the EU at stake, but the kind of country we want to be. That’s why, after careful consideration, Nicola Sturgeon has set out a plan for the way ahead – to allow the people of Scotland, as best she can, to be in control of events, not just at the mercy of them. The SNP believe it is important that Scotland has the right to choose our own future at a time when the terms of Brexit are clear, but before it is too late to decide on our own path.

 

In our manifesto the SNP stated,

 

“We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”

 

Scotland is being dragged out of the EU against the will of not just our nation as a whole, but every voting community across the country, and the UK Government is still refusing to even consider and discuss in a constructive manner, Scotland’s future within the single market.

 

Having been elected to serve an historic third term in Government based on our manifesto commitments, the SNP now have a clear mandate and responsibility to call a new independence referendum.

 

That is why the Scottish Government is taking the steps necessary to make sure that Scotland will have a choice – whether to follow the UK to a hard Brexit, or to become an independent country able to secure our relationship with Europe, build a stronger and more sustainable economy and create a fairer society. That choice will not be taken by MPs, the Scottish Government, the UK Government or political Parties but will be decided by the people of.

Statement following meeting with Employment Minister Damian Hinds MP

Statement following meeting with Employment Minister Damian Hinds MP

“I was disappointed with the unwillingness of the Government to consider the circumstances of deprivation in the Alexandria Job Centre catchment area and also to hear of his refusal of Jackie Baillie’s invite for him to visit the area; it is clear that the UK Government are not going to reconsider their position that the current building is not economically viable.

 

“It is helpful that the Council have agreed to work with the DWP to look at other publicly owned buildings that could be used to house an Alexandria Job Centre, at a lower cost than their current private rented accommodation.

 

“I have convinced the Minister of the merits of close collaboration and partnership working to meet local need and overcome the DWP’s financial situation, and he has indicated he would look at such a solution. He is now expecting a letter from West Dunbartonshire Council to start this process.

 

“I am adamant that we need to retain a job centre in Alexandria and whether that means a new standalone location or the DWP co-locating with other public services, the public sector locally must work together to find a solution.

 

“It’s critical that all partners work together to keep the pressure on the DWP to engage constructively. It is extremely helpful that politicians are approaching this on a cross party basis and I am grateful for the strong support myself and the SNP Council Group have had from Jackie Baillie MSP, the Labour Council Administration and other local Councillors.”

BREASTFEEDING FRIENDLY FOOTBALL GROUNDS

BREASTFEEDING FRIENDLY FOOTBALL GROUNDS

DUMBARTON FC COMMENDED IN PARLIAMENT FOR BREASTFEEDING FRIENDLY CAMPAIGN

 

Martin Docherty-Hughes, MP for West Dunbartonshire, has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, congratulating Dumbarton Football Club for signing up as a Breastfeeding Friendly Football Ground.

Dumbarton FC recently declared their stadium beneath Dumbarton Rock as a breastfeeding friendly football ground, following a nationwide campaign by the SNP MP, Alison Thewliss.  Almost 70% of football clubs in Scotland have now signed up to the campaign for breastfeeding friendly stadiums.

 

 

Speaking after tabling the motion of commendation in the House of Commons, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

 

“I am delighted that Dumbarton FC have signed up to this excellent initiative.  It’s very encouraging that so many folk are uniting to make Scottish football a breastfeeding friendly environment.

“The 2005 Breastfeeding Act specifically makes it an offence to stop a mother or child from breastfeeding in public and that is a hugely welcome protection.  However, what gives further reassurance to breastfeeding mums is for as many places as possible to be pro-active and declare themselves ‘breastfeeding friendly’.

“Football crowds have changed a lot over the years and stadiums are becoming a much more family friendly environment, with Dumbarton FC leading the pack, having been a welcoming environment for fans young and old for many years now.  The vast majority of clubs understand the need to build future generations of fans and bridge the gender gap.

“By making a positive declaration that stadiums are breastfeeding friendly, this will go a long way to letting people know that breastfeeding is normal and no-one should feel excluded from coming along to the football”.

ENDS

 

Note for Editors:

 

The EDM can be viewed online at http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2016-17/1044

 

It reads as follows:

 

“That this House warmly congratulates Dumbarton Football Club on declaring The Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium as a breastfeeding friendly football ground; commends The Sons’ initiative as being a very positive and proactive step to making football grounds all across the country accessible to families, and women in particular; notes that almost 70 per cent of Scotland’s 42 professional football clubs have now signed up to the breastfeeding friendly scheme; and looks forward to many more clubs in the UK joining them in the very near future.”

PRESS COMMENTS: SPRING UK BUDGET STATEMENT

PRESS COMMENTS: SPRING UK BUDGET STATEMENT

(All quotes attributable to Martin Docherty-Hughes MP unless otherwise specified)

 

General Comment and BREXIT

“Brexit was the elephant in the room during the Budget statement, as the Chancellor barely mentioned the UK leaving the European Union, despite it being the biggest single threat to Scotland’s economy.
 
“The Tory Government remain wedded to austerity, which is driving the biggest inequality since Thatcher, I would highlight:

  • A lack of action on rising inflation, and slower wage growth which will squeeze living standards, which the IFS described as ‘dreadful.’ 
  • Scotland’s budget faces a real terms cut of £2.9 billion as a result of ten years of a Tory Government that the people of Scotland did not vote for.
  • The review of tax relief for the oil and gas industry is welcome but a failure to act now demonstrates an alarming lack of urgency.

 

 
“Forecast debt, deficit and borrowing levels have barely changed since last autumn, with little hope for any significant improvement.
 
“The Tories talk about helping working people, but their lack of action on rising inflation and slower wage growth means that already diminished living standards will continue to be squeezed.

 
“Scotland’s budget faces a real terms cut of £2.9 billion as a result of ten years of a Tory Government that the people of Scotland did not vote for, and now we face being taken out of the European Union despite the majority of people voting in Scotland to remain. The Chancellor failed to set out how he will mitigate the economic crisis Scotland and the UK as a whole is facing. 
 
“We welcome the Chancellor’s review of tax relief for the oil and gas industry but a failure to act now demonstrates an alarming lack of urgency.

“From the failure to safeguard the rights of EU citizens and inaction over business uncertainty, to ongoing under-investment and the need for a just transition to a low carbon economy, this budget will be remembered for what it missed out, rather than what it addressed.”

 

On the £350m Barnett Consequential Funding

“Scotland’s budget faces a real terms cut of £2.9 billion as a result of ten years of a Tory Government that the people of Scotland did not vote for. By comparison, the refurb of Buckingham Palace will cost an estimated £370m with the planned work on the Houses of Parliament costing upwards of £4 billion. The Scottish Government will make full and good use of this money, but £350m really is a drop in the ocean in the context of Tory Austerity measures.”


On the National Insurance Rise

“I am extremely concerned that this tax-hike will hit many hard working businesses in my constituency and across Scotland as a whole. 
 
“In recent weeks the Tories have been arguing for tax breaks for the wealthiest in Scotland, all the while storing up a tax hike on the self-employed, small business owners and planning to break their own manifesto commitments.

“The Tories arguments on taxation in Scotland have been completely destroyed. The SNP has protected incomes with a freeze in income tax rates while the Tories have just hiked up National Insurance without thinking through the consequences.

“Many self-employed people in Scotland do not earn large amounts of money, and have had to become self-employed in response to changing economic conditions; they do not benefit from paid sick leave, holiday pay or other benefits that employees have.

“Being self-employed is a risk they have had to take, and while they should rightly contribute to public services, I believe this change leaves them in a more precarious financial position.”

 

On 1950s Women’s Pensions

“The silence from the Chancellor on state pension inequality was deafening for WASPI women campaigning outside the House of Commons.
 
“The Chancellor had an opportunity to right this wrong and deliver measures that would give these women the pensions that they have rightfully earned; at every opportunity this Tory government fails to act.

“What the UK government must realise is that pensions are not a benefit, they are a contract, and this Budget should have shown the UK government living up to that contract.

“Delivering fair pensions is clearly not a UK government priority. With inflation spikes forecast, this budget was completely devoid of any mitigating measures to future-proof pensioner incomes. What we needed was a clear commitment to the triple lock beyond 2020 and action for the pension injustices WASPI women have suffered for too long.”

 

On the Review of Oil/Gas Taxation

SNP Energy Spokesperson, Callum McCaig MP said: 
 
“While any action is welcome, the Chancellor has moved at a glacial pace. The fact the Chancellor is just getting around to this now shows an alarming lack of urgency and a gives the industry a clear sense of where this Tory government’s priorities lie.
 
“Where was the Chancellor when thousands of oil and gas workers were facing redundancy, and why didn’t they listen to repeated and sustained calls from the SNP throughout this time for a more stable, competitive fiscal regime?
 
“Reform of decommissioning tax relief could mean that assets are in the hands of the companies best placed to boost production, but this is just one side of the coin – we still see no action from the UK government on boosting exploration, which is key to long term investment, revenue and crucially jobs in the North Sea. 
 
“The new panel must focus on boosting production in the here and now, and consider very carefully how best to maximise the tens of billions of barrels of reserves which remain in the North Sea. Extending the lifespan and revenue potential of the basin must be central to considerations here.
 
“Now that the Chancellor has announced his expert panel it must get to work, and fast. The UK government should set out the remit of the expert panel and the timescale for reporting its findings in early course. This Tory government cannot be allowed to stall yet again on supporting this vital industry.”

MORE TORY AUSTERITY ON TOP OF AUSTERITY

MORE TORY AUSTERITY ON TOP OF AUSTERITY

FURTHER CUTS WILL HIT POOREST HARDEST
 
Despite years of sustained austerity under the Tories, the UK government this week (Monday 27th February 2017) snuck out the news that it will seek to hammer the poorest people in our society with a further £3.5 billion in cuts – demanding that Whitehall departments find 6% in savings by 2020.
 
The latest call from Chancellor Philip Hammond confirms a litany of failures by successive Tory governments, reveals the economic harm being perpetrated through Brexit, and the folly of refusing to heed repeated SNP calls to halt the cuts
 
After seven years of slash and burn Tory austerity – which has hit poorest households the hardest – the SNP is calling on the UK government to finally accept that their economic policies have failed for good. This comes on the back of a new budget briefing by the Resolution Foundation showing that current Tory policies are “expected to drive the biggest increase in inequality since Thatcher.”
 
The SNP is also seeking assurances about what wholesale departmental cuts could mean for Scotland’s budget settlement.
 
Commenting Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“The manner in which the UK government have snuck out this significant announcement under cover of darkness, while not untypical, is completely reprehensible.
 
“More fundamentally, these further deep cuts to public spending pile further austerity on top of austerity and will hammer some of the poorest people living in our communities. Deprived communities such as those in West Dunbartonshire stand to suffer the most, taking a disproportionate share of Westminster’s abuse.
 
“It’s an admission by the Tories that seven years of relentless austerity hasn’t worked. They need to accept that reality instead of burying their heads deeper and deeper into the sand. When something isn’t working, there is nothing to be gained by continuing to follow the same flawed path.
 
“The evidence is staring them right in the face – with public services such as the English NHS in crisis under the Tories and prison officers in England on the brink of strikes. It’s little wonder experts believe that continuing to pursue austerity will drive the biggest increase in inequality since Thatcher.
 
“Scheduling more cuts for a time when the UK will be on the brink of leaving the EU could compound the very worst risks of the ruinous hard Brexit which the Tories are intent on pursuing.
 
“And critically, we need clarity on what this announcement means for Scotland’s finances? We’re already in line for a drastic 9% real terms reduction in the Scottish Government’s budget by 2019-20, and while the SNP Scottish Government have sought to use their finances carefully to mitigate the worst of Tory austerity, further cuts could prove devastating.
 
“The SNP have consistently called for a reasonable, modest increase in public spending to boost productivity, trade and investment. It’s time for the Tories to listen, and finally bring a halt their failing austerity agenda. To heap yet more austerity on top of the mess and uncertainty they’ve created through Brexit would be completely reckless.”
 
ENDS
 
Notes for Editors:
Resolution Foundation briefing: “Economy drive: Prospects and priorities ahead of the last Spring Budget” http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/app/uploads/2017/02/Economy-Drive.pdf
 
Prison officers in England and Wales to take industrial action – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/28/prison-officers-england-and-wales-industrial-action

CALL TO HALT “UNACCEPTABLE” CUTS TO PERSONAL INDEPENDENCE PAYMENTS

CALL TO HALT “UNACCEPTABLE” CUTS TO PERSONAL INDEPENDENCE PAYMENTS

TORY MP’s MENTAL HEALTH COMMENTS “CRASS AND UNHELPFUL”

 

The Scottish National Party have called for clarity from the UK government over cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) which could see around 160,000 disabled people stripped of their financial support.

 

The UK government has announced emergency legislation to change PIPs, which replaced Disability Living Allowance, and overturn two tribunal rulings last year.  The support is designed to help people cope with the extra costs of living with ill health or disability.

 

Tory MP and head of the Number 10 Policy Unit George Freeman drew criticism from disability organisations when he said the changes would ensure that benefits went to people who are “really disabled” rather than people “who suffer from anxiety”.

 

 

Corri Wilson MP, the SNP’s Disability spokesperson, said:

 

“George Freeman’s crass and unhelpful comments seeking to differentiate between mental and physical disabilities once again highlights this Tory government’s utter lack of understanding or compassion when it comes to providing for those who are less fortunate than others – he should be ashamed of himself and must apologise for the offence he has caused.

 

“We were told that there would be no further cuts to disability support during this parliament but once again this Tory government has shown that austerity – no matter what the impact is on people’s lives – is to be pursued at all costs.

 

“The UK government must urgently clarify what these new proposals will mean for people who currently receive PIPs and give an assurance that any changes will not result in a reduction in financial support as the Tories promised.

 

“I have signed a “prayer” motion in the House of Commons to formally object to this legislation and I call on all MPs to unite in opposition against these changes by adding their signature too.”

 

 

West Dunbartonshire MP, Martin Docherty-Hughes, said:

 

“These changes will exclude disabled people from vital financial assistance and sends a dangerous message to the public that people suffering from mental health conditions are less worthy of support than those with physical disabilities. That is an abhorrent policy position for any Government to take

 

“With condemnation from opposition MPs – as well as some Conservative MPs – and from disabled people and countless disability organisations, I also urge the Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green to rethink these callous changes.  The Tories must explain why those with mental health conditions are not entitled to the same levels of support as others?

 

“It’s imperative that we get clarification on what this means for future disabled people who are in need of PIP support, and it is vital that MPs are given the opportunity to debate and fully scrutinise these cuts.

 

“Clearly, this emergency legislation is about the Tory government trying to make savings at any cost and with absolutely no thought for the most important element at stake here; the disabled people whose lives will be affected.”

 

ENDS

 

 

Note for Editors:

 

A ‘prayer’ is a particular type of Early Day Motion that is used when MPs wish to object formally to a statutory instrument. If a motion ‘praying’ that an instrument ‘be annulled’ is tabled within 40 days of it being laid before Parliament, a debate may be arranged in a Delegated Legislation Committee or in the Chamber.

 

http://www.parliament.uk/site-information/glossary/pray-against/

MP TO MEET EMPLOYMENT MINISTER

MP TO MEET EMPLOYMENT MINISTER

DWP MUST “THINK AGAIN” AND WORK WITH WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE COUNCIL

 

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP has secured a meeting with Minister of State for Employment, Damian Hinds MP. The two will meet today (Monday 6th March 2017) to discuss the future of the Alexandria Job Centre, earmarked for closure and transfer of services by the Department for Work and Pensions.

 

Hundreds of people have signed the MP’s petition against the closure, with many people worried about the increased travel costs and higher risk of being sanctioned for late or non-attendance at compulsory meetings.

 

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said,

 

“I appreciate the Minister agreeing to meet with me so quickly and I hope that willingness bodes well for a constructive discussion.

 

“The Vale of Leven and wider catchment area for this Job Centre includes some of the most deprived areas in the country and surely the very real need of the community must outweigh any decision taken purely on the basis of a ruler on a map.

 

“I will be urging the Minister to think again and following Cllr McColl’s successful motion at Council, I’ll be asking that the Minister ensures the DWP engages with West Dunbartonshire Council to try and find a solution that meets the needs of my constituents.”

RATES RELIEF ACTION RECEIVES BACKING FROM BUSINESS

RATES RELIEF ACTION RECEIVES BACKING FROM BUSINESS

TOURISM AND BUSINESS CHIEFS WELCOME SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

The substantial package of rates relief confirmed by SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has received widespread support from across the business and tourism sectors – with commerce chiefs offering their backing to the relief proposals.

Many hotels, cafes, pubs and restaurants were set to see their rates rise substantially following the revaluation by independent assessors – but the relief package announced yesterday will ensure that businesses in this sector will not have any rise in their rates capped at 12.5%. Offices across the North East and Scotland’s renewables sector will also benefit from tailored rates caps. 

The measures are part of a package that extends the eligibility for the small business bonus to 100,000 premises, ensuring that more businesses pay no rates at all, whilst the poundage has been cut by 3.7% to reduce the bills burden for many and support those that have seen revaluations.

In West Dunbartonshire around three quarters of rateable businesses (2,855 approx) will see their rates frozen or reduced with £200,000 of rates relief being granted to hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes across the constituency.

The package has brought a positive response across Scottish industry, with Chambers of Commerce across the country stating their support for the measures. The announcement was also supported by the Scottish Tourism Alliance, as well as organisations in the Scottish renewable energy sector.

Commenting, SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire, Martin Docherty-Hughes, said:

“The support that the SNP’s rates relief scheme has received since the announcement shows just how substantial and beneficial they will be to businesses in my constituency and across Scotland.

“This support package will ensure that our pubs, hotels, restaurants and cafes don’t see their rates rise by over 12.5% this year, something that has been welcomed by industry bodies across Scotland.

“The praise from tourism bodies shows that the support package will provide effective relief to businesses up and down the country – and having chased cheap headlines and soundbites on this issue, it proves once and for all just how politically motivated the opposition Tories are in their rhetoric.”

DELIVERING WORLD CLASS CONNECTIVITY TO WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE

DELIVERING WORLD CLASS CONNECTIVITY TO WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE

For those not familiar with the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband (DSSB) programme, the Scottish Government and its partners are busy installing the infrastructure required to bring faster internet speeds across Scotland, in areas which weren’t going to be included in the private sector’s commercial plans.

£410 million is being invested in the DSSB programme by the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), BT, the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), local authorities and the European Regional Development Fund.

The DSSB roll-out consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the rest of Scotland. The principles behind the programme involve bringing faster internet speeds to as many people as possible with the funding available. This is a really complex and challenging engineering project. In fact, it’s the most ambitious fibre infrastructure project yet undertaken in Europe.

Why fibre broadband?

Broadband is a way of connecting to the internet. Fibre broadband differs from basic broadband in that it’s much faster in terms of the data it can transfer so, if your home or business is connected to fibre broadband, it’s much easier to perform tasks that involve a lot of data – like transferring large files or downloading a film.

The faster upload and download speeds fibre broadband brings is improving the quality of online experiences and supporting exciting new developments in internet services across the country. At home everyone can be online at the same time without screens freezing or quality being compromised, which is especially important if people want to run a business or work from home.

You’ll need to contact your service provider to switch

However, in order to reap these benefits you’ll need to contact your internet service provider to switch to fibre broadband, as upgrades over to the new network are not automatic. Prices for a high speed fibre broadband connection are far lower than you might imagine. In fact, sometimes the cost can be even less than a standard broadband connection.

The latest figures show that around 6,250 premises across West Dunbartonshire can now connect to fibre broadband as a direct result of the Digital Scotland roll-out, with 6,188 premises having access to superfast coverage – more will follow. This figure is in addition to the premises in the area that are now able to connect to fibre broadband via the commercial roll-out.

Key points to note:

  • Due to the scale and complexity of the task at hand, it’s not possible to connect all areas at once.
  • Both the current commercial and DSSB roll-outs won’t be complete until the end of March 2018.
  • To find out where and when fibre broadband will roll-out in your area visit http://www.scotlandsuperfast.com
  • You’ll need to contact your service provider to switch to fibre broadband as this doesn’t happen automatically.
  • Those who can’t be reached in the current roll-outs haven’t been forgotten. Beyond the current programme, the Scottish Government has made the commitment of delivering 100% superfast broadband across Scotland by 2021.‎
  • In the interim, some residents may be eligible for a subsidised basic broadband installation; this is in effect a scheme to provide a better broadband connection for those on the lowest speeds ahead of any future public investment in superfast broadband. Further information is available at: https://www.scotlandsuperfast.com/where-when/the-programme/alternative-solutions
  • Some areas may also be eligible for a Community Broadband Scotland scheme; this scheme is aimed specifically at communities who wish to improve broadband as a collective ahead of or in place of future public investment. CBS is there to help communities in this situation – further information is available from: www.communitybroadbandscotland.org
Dumbarton Reporter Column – 28th February 2017

Dumbarton Reporter Column – 28th February 2017

Council Meeting – SNP Supports Local Communities

Last week’s Council budget saw no real surprises, perhaps with the exception of Labour’s new love of the Council Tax freeze they spent 5 years complaining about; it must an election year. In contrast to Labour’s budget of cuts in services and election grandstanding, where they have once again put more on the Council Credit Card, the SNP proposed a no cuts, no extra borrowing budget and asked for all budgets to go out for public consultation.

Presented by SNP Leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl, the SNP budget proposals showed another way of doing things; using resources to ensure no service cuts and extra investment where it’s needed most. The SNP refused to back Labour’s cuts to classroom assistants and early education staff.

SNP proposals also included £1,000,000 for roads, £50,000 for dog fouling and litter enforcement, £90,000 for maintenance of our green spaces, £100,000 for more pavement gritting, particularly in steep areas like new Bonhill and so much more.

Cllr McColl asked the Council to post all of the evening’s budgets online for public consultation. He asked Council to contact all local Community Councils, Community Groups and Council Staff to make them aware of the consultation, but terrified their budget wouldn’t stand up to public scrutiny, Labour refused and railroaded through their borrow now blame the Scottish Government later budget.

The meeting wasn’t all doom and gloom. Council passed an SNP motion supporting the local WASPI campaign and agreeing to assist them with publicity.

There have been many changes to pensions in the recent past that adversely affect men and women, all of which need to be properly reviewed, and the WASPI campaign highlights a real injustice on a particular group of women. Many women born in the 1950s are being left in financial ruin; with no proper notice of changes to pensionable age, their financial plans have been shattered. It’s unacceptable.

Also unacceptable are DWP plans to close Alexandria Job Centre, and I would like to thank the Council for backing my campaign to fight this UK Government decision. The SNP motion, backed by the whole Council, calls the DWP’s bluff by seeking to resolve the issue of high cost accommodation identified by the Minister.

It’s also very welcome that the SNP motion will allow the DWP to use the One Stop Shop in Alexandria for compulsory attendance, face to face meetings with my constituents, greatly reducing the risk of people being unfairly sanctioned as a result of the proposed move.

We will fight this all the way and the SNP have given the DWP a viable option to reconsider their decision. I will work with everyone involved to persuade the DWP to engage constructively with the Council and find a way to retain this vital service in Alexandria.

STATEMENT FROM MARTIN DOCHERTY-HUGHES MP FOLLOWING COAL AUTHORITY MEETING

STATEMENT FROM MARTIN DOCHERTY-HUGHES MP FOLLOWING COAL AUTHORITY MEETING

On Friday (17 February) I met with Tim Marples of the Coal Authority and other Senior Coal Authority Officers, and received an update on the coal shaft collapse at Hardgate. We discussed in detail a number of issues, including:

 

  • An historic overview of coal mines in the area.
  • Works to date and work still to be completed.
  • The extent of the damage to utilities and sewage.
  • Noise pollution from pumping stations impacting on local residents and the provision of low noise pumps.
  • Improving communication with local residents in the near vicinity.
  • Communication with Community Councils covering Hardgate, Duntocher, and Faifley.
  • Communication with businesses being impacted by road closures and diversions.

 

I have been struck by the professionalism of the Coal Authority staff in their tackling of this profoundly complex problem; a mine shaft as deep as the Titan Crane stands tall. We should be in no doubt that this is a major structural project which is and will impact our daily lives, especially if you live or work in Hardgate, Duntocher and Faifley.

 

I have been assured by the Coal Authority staff that they are progressing speedily. They have also advised me that due to the profoundly complex nature and the impact on utilities, such as electricity, telephony and sewage that they will continue to progress in a manner that will not disrupt these utilities; if there is disruption to the utilities the project may last a long time and that is a situation that no one wishes.

 

I have also discussed with the Coal Authority similar subsidence in other countries notably the subsidence in Japan that many constituents have highlighted as being sorted in 24 hours. The Coal Authority advised that they were well aware of this case and while it was initially seen to be completed in 24 hours it collapsed again a month later.

 

I have asked that I receive regular updates from the Coal Authority and once received I will circulate publicly via my website and social media. I will also be seeking reassurances from the Council that once the Coal Authority has completed their complex works that the superficial road resurfacing will be pre-planned and ready to start as soon as the Coal Authority is off site.

 

I will also be asking the Council to ensure direct communication with the local community and businesses is greatly improved. A partnership approach will best serve us all in ensuring that this complex project is completed as quickly as possible.

TORY VOTING ID PLOY WOULD DISENFRANCHISE POOREST

TORY VOTING ID PLOY WOULD DISENFRANCHISE POOREST

UK government plans to require compulsory ID for voting have been described as a “Tory ploy that would disenfranchise the poorest” – with more than half of adults living in low-income households not owning a full driving licence.

The UK government announced plans late last year to pilot compulsory ID for voting. Local authorities will trial different forms of ID, including driving licences, passports and utility bills. The plans were criticised by the Electoral Reform Commission as a “blunt instrument”.

Latest figures available to the Scottish Government show that possession of a full driving licence increases with income – with 45 per cent of adults living in low-income households (net annual household income of up to £10,000) held a full driving licence, increasing to 89 per cent of those in high-income households (net annual household income of over £40,000). 32% of adults in Scotland do not have a driving licence.

Commenting, SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said:

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. It’s a right that people have fought to protect and no politician should get in the way of the public exercising that right. 

“The evidence is clear that ownership of photo ID is directly related to household income, and these changes would disproportionately affect low-income voters most, especially in constituencies like mine where high levels of deprivation prevail.

“After the changes to individual voter registration saw hundreds of thousands drop off the register, these plans look like the latest Westminster ploy to disenfranchise the poorest.”

UKG CONCENTRIX SHAMBLES MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN

UKG CONCENTRIX SHAMBLES MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN

LEGISLATION NEEDED TO PROTECT LOW AND MIDDLE INCOME FAMILIES

The SNP have called for new legislation to ensure that the UK government’s tax credit shambles – where thousands of families faced hardship after their vital tax credit payments were cut off without warning or good cause by HMRC contractor Concentrix – can never happen again.

Concentrix was employed by HMRC to cut error and fraud in the tax credit system but the contract was scrapped when the company faced a number of criticisms over its practices, especially relating to the number of families who were stripped completely of their payments when no error had been made.

According to a recent Work and Pensions Committee report, out of the 59,000 cases where Concentrix tried to reduce or stop payments, 36,000 appealed and an overwhelming 87% of those had their complaints upheld.

And while it is welcome that the UK government has since pledged to review the remaining 23,000 cases where payments were stopped, the SNP are calling on the Tory government to legislate to ensure that the shambles is never allowed to happen again.

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“While it is welcome that all remaining cases where payments were stopped or frozen altogether will now be investigated it is appalling that it has taken so long for the UK Government to admit its failings when it comes to Concentrix. Especially when so many low income families rely on these payments to get through the month.

“The practices used by Concentrix are certainly questionable but the real blame lies with this UK Government who came up with a model which indiscriminately targeted low income families – a way of working which placed the burden of their failing austerity agenda firmly on the shoulders of those most disadvantaged in our society.

“My office was contacted by dozens of individuals and families struggling having had their funds stopped in error, causing them significant hardship. I am pleased that we were able to quickly resolve these issues for everyone who got in touch, but there will be many others who didn’t contact me may still be struggling.

“The Treasury needs to urgently reconsider the ongoing policy of downsizing HMRC; it is clear that these offices and resources are needed to properly notify claimants, provide support for queries and ensure that vulnerable individuals are not stripped of critical support.

“The evidence heard by the Work and Pensions Committee laid bare the real hardship families endured as a result of this utter shambles and the UK government must apologise fully for the agony it has caused, and more importantly, take steps with legislation to ensure that this cannot happen again.

“I would encourage anyone who is still having problems with their Tax Credits to contact my office on 0141 952 2988 or by email at martin.docherty.mp@parliament.uk and I will do everything I can to assist.”

NEW NUCLEAR SUBMARINE COVER UP ‘CHILLING’

NEW NUCLEAR SUBMARINE COVER UP ‘CHILLING’

MoD TOP BRASS ‘TOO SCARED TO TELL PRIME MINISTER’ ABOUT SUBMARINE FAILURES
 
Scottish National Party Defence spokesperson Brendan O’Hara MP has said reports that the entire UK fleet of attack submarines has been out of operation due to urgent repair and maintenance work leaving the UK’s maritime defence capacity highly vulnerable – is ‘chilling’.
 
The UK’s seven hunter-killer vessels are understood to be ‘non-operational’. It is also reported that the prime minister has – unbelievably ‘been kept in the dark by defence chiefs’ who have been too alarmed to inform Number 10.
 
This follows the recent attempt to cover up a serious malfunction at a Trident missile launch test, which was also covered up and caused huge embarrassment to the prime minister when she repeatedly refused to answer if she had been aware of it.
 
Brendan O’Hara MP, SNP Defence spokesperson said:
 
“Reports of all seven attack submarines being out of action are astonishing. If – as reported – our complete lack of any submarine attack capability was ‘kept from the prime minister’ – then it is simply indefensible. 
 
“First there was the recent Trident malfunction fiasco, now we have this chilling situation. How can we possibly trust those in charge of our defence when we hear about this utter incompetence and yet another Whitehall nuclear cover up? It is a scandal.
 
West Dunbartonshire MP and SNP Defence Team Member, Martin Docherty-Hughes MP added,
 
“The spiralling costs of Trident are out of control and our conventional forces are being stripped bare to pay for it. On the most basic level, surely we need to assess whether Trident is fulfilling its role.
 
‘’Do we really have an operational Continuous-At-Sea-Deterrent?  Has it been interrupted; and if so for how long? Do we have operational submarines currently at sea?  Was the prime minister told of any of these problems or were officials so scared of the reaction that they concealed it from her as is now being reported?
 
“These are all questions the SNP have submitted to the MOD. What is also worrying is whether essential repairs and maintenance, now clearly desperate and urgent, will once again cut into the ever dwindling money-pot to pay for our most basic of regular military defences?’’

MP SEEKS ANSWERS ON ALEXANDRIA JOB CENTRE CLOSURE

MP SEEKS ANSWERS ON ALEXANDRIA JOB CENTRE CLOSURE

West Dunbartonshire’s Martin Docherty-Hughes MP has lodged written questions to the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions asking for details of the number of people who will be affected by the move and what consultation the DWP intends to have with the local community.

The petition to save the centre, online at www.martindocherty.scot, has more than 300 signatures including paper signatures, and has cross party support from local MSP Jackie Baillie helping put pressure on the DWP.

 

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“I appreciate Jackie’s support for my campaign. It can only help to put more pressure on the DWP. The questions I am asking in Parliament are constructive and it’s important we get answers for local people.

“The DWP cannot possibly justify removing this service from an area with such great need and with no consultation with the local community.

“I am also seeking a face to face meeting with the Minister for Employment and will be making that request in person.

“I would urge everyone to sign my petition so that when I submit my formal response to the DWP’s closure notification, I can demonstrate the strong local feeling and need that exists in Alexandria and the surrounding communities.”

 

ENDS

 

Note for Editors:

 

Martin’s written questions will not appear on the UK Parliament until Monday 20th February 2017 due to the current recess. They are as follows:

 

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, by what criteria has the Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire site been selected for closure?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether he can confirm that no compulsory redundancies will result from the closure of the Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire site?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when an Equality Impact Assessment will be published on the proposal to close the Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire site?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether a public consultation will take place over the proposal to close the Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire site?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many claimants are currently served by the Alexandria job centre, and how many of these are a) disabled and b) women?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what are the expected costs of relocating staff and resources from the Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire site?
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment has been made of the impact on the local economy of moving 15 jobs from the Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire site?