Religious Festival in Peru

No country wants to be known for such cruelty to animals. The issue has been brought to the attention of a number of Peruvian officials following online awareness campaigns and I hope that they will take these international concerns about animal welfare laws very seriously.

 

In addition, I understand that the President of Peru has also been presented with the following petition: https://www.change.org/p/detengan-este-maltrato-animal-en-per%C3%BA?recruiter=323352298&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive

 

I hope that these representations will bring about consideration and reflection by the festival organisers and action by the appropriate Peruvian officials.

Maximum Workplace Temperature

I firmly believe that all people deserve humane working conditions, irrespective of which sector of the economy they happen to work in. I therefore welcome the excellent work of the TUC in highlighting the areas where more work needs to be done to improve conditions for working people.

I have a lot of sympathy with the recommendation for a maximum working temperature and I agree with the TUC that this is an area where the UK Government must do further work to establish the scale of the problem, and what measures can be taken forward in partnership between Government, trade unions, employers and employees to address any shortcomings. I have therefore added my signature to Early Day Motion 344. My signature will appear online after the summer recess.

 

You can view the Early Day Motion here

You can read the TUC position paper here

Hinkley Power Plant

It is vital that we ensure a sustainable, safe, and secure energy network but I am profoundly concerned about the UK Government’s plans for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point. The disastrous Hinkley Point C project exemplifies the failure of the UK Government’s energy strategy and lack of a long-term plan that could cost billions to taxpayers.

The UK Government’s obsession with nuclear energy will do nothing to lower energy bills and will only burden future generations with great financial and environmental risk. Even the board of EDF, the French energy company involved in the project, have been re-evaluating their involvement in the project in recent months.

That the UK Government have seemed happy to write a blank cheque for nuclear power at a time when they have made deep cuts to the renewable energy sector beggars belief. In particular, the closure of the carbon capture and storage scheme risks damaging our place as a world-leader in renewable technology.

In contrast, the SNP Scottish Government is developing an ambitious and long term Scottish Energy Strategy which aims to make electricity cleaner, more affordable and more secure for all consumers. The strategy will take a “whole system view” and encompass demand reduction, energy efficiency, a balanced energy generation mix, a role for storage, and the requirement for a low carbon transition in transport and heat use. It is this approach that has seen Scotland achieve a 38.4% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and been praised by the UN as taking an exemplary approach to tackling climate change.

The UK Government were due to sign the deal to build this new power station on Friday 29th July 2016, but it has been announced that the final decision will now be delayed until the autumn of the year to allow a review of the project to be undertaken by the department of for business, energy and industrial strategy.

Pressure from the SNP has no doubt contributed to forcing this review and my SNP colleagues and I will continue to robustly pursue the UK Government on the risks of the Hinkley Point C project.

Civil Service Performance Management Systems

I am grateful to the trade union PCS for bringing this issue to the attention of the public and MPs. My SNP colleague Chris Stephens MP has tabled an Early Day Motion on this issue, and I too am concerned that performance management systems operating in UK Government departments are discriminatory and unfair. I am particularly concerned to read research from Keele University which indicates that there are statistically significant differences in performance outcomes based on gender, age, grade and working patterns and, particularly, in relation to disability and ethnicity.

I should point out at that this study focussed on the UK Civil Service and it is this service with which there is an identified issue. The UK Civil Service is distinct from the Civil Service which supports the Scottish Government.

I have added my signature to Chris Stephens’ EDM, which will appear online after the summer recess, and am pleased to join him in calling on the UK Government to ensure that performance is managed in the civil service in a way that is supportive of staff, and enables them to reach their full potential.

You can view the Early Day Motion here

You can read the PCS press release and find links to the research here

Homelessness

This is a matter which is devolved to the Scottish Parliament. I am pleased that the SNP Scottish Government has pioneered the most progressive approach in the UK towards tackling homelessness.

 

In 2012, the Scottish Government passed groundbreaking legislation requiring local authorities to provide every unintentionally homeless person with a home. In December 2012, we achieved our homelessness commitment that all of those assessed as unintentionally homeless by local authorities will be entitled to settled accommodation as a legal right. We believe in an approach to housing challenges which puts the needs of individuals and communities at the heart of public policy decisions.

 

In addition to fully mitigating the UK Government’s iniquitous bedroom tax, the Scottish Government have also achieved targets of building new affordable and council homes. Over the last term of the Scottish Parliament, over 33,000 affordable homes were delivered. This includes almost 6,000 council house completions – almost 20% more than the five year target that the Scottish Government set for itself.

 

I hope this reassures you that homelessness and the supply of quality, affordable housing remains a priority for the Scottish Government.

Action on Air Quality

This is an issue which is largely devolved to the Scottish Parliament. The SNP Scottish Government has been taking concerted action to tackle air pollution.

The Scottish Government has recently launched Cleaner Air for Scotland, our first distinct air quality strategy. It sets out actions across government portfolios that will further reduce air pollution, with a particular emphasis on protecting human health and reducing health inequalities. There are currently 32 Air Quality Management Areas in place across Scotland, the vast majority declared on the basis of transport emissions.

 

These pollutants, which include fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, are largely invisible but no less significant in terms of their impact. Successfully addressing air pollution requires a partnership approach, involving the Scottish Government, its agencies, local authorities, business and industry, professional institutions, non-governmental organisations, and the general public.

 

Whilst there is still a long way to go, the Scottish Government is taking concerted action to improve air quality.

Sex and Relationships Education

Education is a matter which is wholly devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

 

I firmly believe that young people have a right to comprehensive and age-appropriate education to enable them to make healthy and responsible choices in their lives. With specific regard to sex and relationships education,  there is extensive evidence that high-quality relationship, sexual health and parenthood education helps reduce teenage pregnancy, delays the onset of sexual activity and increases the likelihood of young people using contraception when they do start sexual relationships.

 

In Scotland, the SNP Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all children and young people receive high quality and age-appropriate relationships, sexual health and parenthood education. The latest guidance for schools was issued in December 2014, with reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which includes new information about the steps that need to be taken to address the dangers of child sexual exploitation. The implementation of this guidance in all schools across Scotland is a key part of our strategy to keep our children and young people safe.

Attendance Allowance

Control over a select number of social security payments has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament in the Scotland Act 2016. Attendance allowance is one of these social security payments that will be controlled by the Scottish Government.

 

The SNP Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice has said that Scotland’s social security policy will be distinct from the iniquitous approach of the UK Government, and will be based on principles which will ensure people are treated with dignity and respect. In due course, the Scottish Government are to bring forward a Social Security Bill which will outline how the devolved social security payments will be operate in Scotland.

 

I am sorry that I cannot give a more fulsome response at this time, but I would like to thank you for drawing this issue to my attention and I would encourage you to make contact with your Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) to bring this to their attention too.