John Robertson backs NSPCC campaign to stop grooming in its tracks

Backing the NSPCCJohn Robertson is lending his support to an NSPCC campaign to help tackle online grooming.

John Robertson is backing the charity’s Flaw in the Law campaign, which is calling on the UK Government to ensure it is always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.

The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 makes this behaviour illegal in Scotland but there is no such legislation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This means sex abusers can often get away with effectively ‘fishing’ for child victims on social networks, mobile apps, chat rooms, and in online gaming environments.

Now, John is calling on the UK Government to ensure children in the rest of the UK receive the same protection from online sex abusers as children in Scotland.

John Robertson said: “It’s pleasing to know that Scotland has legislation in this area to help protect children but, given the alarming rise in online child abuse, it is very concerning that this is not the case across the whole of the UK. I urge the UK Government to listen to the NSPCC’s concerns and to create a new offence through the Serious Crime Bill so that it is always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child”.

NSPCC Head of child safety online, Claire Lilley said: “We are very grateful to John for supporting the Flaw in the Law campaign. The law in Scotland gives police the tools they need to prosecute abusers who are using the internet to facilitate the abuse of children, but this isn’t the case for the rest of the UK where laws are fragmented and sex offenders are able to, and often do, exploit the loopholes”.

“The Serious Crime Bill currently going through Parliament provides a timely opportunity to learn from the law in Scotland and introduce a new offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to better protect children online, and we hope MPs and the public will back the campaign calling on the Government to do this”.

The NSPCC’s campaign comes as ChildLine, a service run by the NSPCC, saw a 168% increase in the number of children counselled about online sexual abuse last year.

People can find out more about the NSPCC campaign and sign the petition at www.nspcc.org.uk/flaw and join the debate on social media by following #FlawedLaw.

Anyone looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, can contact the NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk

Children worried about online safety or any other problem can call the free, 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help online at www.childline.org.uk

ENERGY MP “SHOCKINGLY WORRIED” BY SUPPORT FOR VULNERABLE

Energy companies are failing vulnerable customers, says new report by fuel poverty campaigner John Robertson MP.

 

Following meetings with major energy suppliers, Mr Robertson concluded that there is some good work being done for elderly, disabled and other vulnerable customers, but there is no consistency across companies.

You can read the report here: Supporting Vulnerable Customers

 

The report includes a draft code of practice, which would emphasise the necessity to check vulnerability when installing a prepayment meter and reduce the number of days that a supplier will wait before checking to see if vulnerable customers are safe.

 

John Robertson said: “I was shockingly worried about the length of time that energy companies wait before contacting elderly or disabled customers. Some would wait 50 days before sending someone round to check and see if they were alright.”

 

“Energy companies are in a unique position to see whether someone is having problems, through checking when they are using their heating. The energy barons make a fortune out of us, so they really need to be giving back.”
“There were some good practices in place, but more needs to be done. And customers need to be sure they will get the best service, whichever supplier they are with.”

John Robertson MP joins the ‘Nation of Lifesavers’ campaign to save 5,000 UK lives

~ Calls for secondary schools in Scotland to register for free innovative CPR training kit ~

John Robertson MP is urging people to join the campaign to dramatically increase the number of local people trained in life-saving CPR and help create a Nation of Lifesavers.

More than 30,0001 people suffer an out of hospital cardiac arrest in the UK every year – 80%2 of which occur in the home, often in front of family members and loved ones.

But fewer than one in ten people survive3, partly because not enough people have the skills and confidence to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland says that the Nation of Lifesavers initiative could save around 5,000 additional lives a year in the UK, based on survival rates in countries like Norway (25%)4 where CPR training is mandatory in schools.

BHF Scotland is calling for CPR and public access defibrillator (PAD) awareness to be taught in all local secondary schools and a recent survey showed 82%5 of people in the UK would be behind this move.

Since the launch of the campaign on October 16, more than 5,000 people have already signed the petition to make these skills part of the curriculum.

Today, John Robertson MP has pledged their support for the Nation of Lifesavers campaign and called on secondary schools and community groups in Glasgow North West to order their free Call Push Rescue Training Kit.

Mr Robertson said: “Cardiac arrest survival rates in Scotland fall way behind survival rates in other countries where CPR training is part of the curriculum.

“By joining the Nation of Lifesavers I want to see every child in Scotland finish school equipped with the necessary skills to respond in a medical emergency.

“CPR is an important skill and just 30 minutes of training could save someone’s life.”

John Robertson was joined by Samantha Hobbs, who at 14 helped to save her mum’s life by performing CPR. With her dad, they kept her mum alive until the emergency services arrived and could get her heart beating again with a single electric shock from a defibrillator.

Samantha had been trained in CPR so she knew what to do. Now she’s campaigning to raise awareness amongst others so that more people are trained and more lives can be saved.

Samantha said: “I was only able to help save my mum’s life because I’d been trained in CPR. I don’t know what might have happened if I hadn’t. We’re really pleased to be able to support the BHF’s Nation of Lifesavers campaign and spread the message about the importance of CPR. I hope more lives are saved.”

On October 16, BHF Scotland trained 100 schoolchildren at the launch of a new CPR training programme which is free for schools to register for at Lagan College, Belfast.

The innovative training programme enables schools, workplaces, and community groups to become completely self-sufficient in teaching the three simple steps that could save a life: Call. Push. Rescue.

Simon Gillespie, BHF Chief Executive, said: “Too many lives are lost needlessly because people don’t have the basic CPR skills to act in life-threatening situations.

“We’re determined to radically improve the country’s shocking survival rates and mandatory training in secondary schools will go a long way towards that.

“We need every school, workplace, community group and individual to join the Nation of Lifesavers and help make Scotland a safer place to live.”

To help BHF Scotland create a Nation of Lifesavers visit bhf.org.uk/lifesavers and sign the petition at bhf.org.uk/cprpetition

Additional key statistics:

  • The majority  of the UK public (61%) would not feel confident performing CPR on a family member or loved one, despite being most likely to see a cardiac arrest at home
  • Almost half (46%) would be deterred by the ‘fear of causing more harm than good’
  • Four in ten (40%) people lack the knowledge and skills to act
  • Nearly three in five (57%) people admit that most people in Britain would look for someone else to take the lead if they were to witness a medical emergency
  • Almost half (44%) thought cardiac arrest and heart attack were different terms to describe the same condition
  • More than one in ten (11%) have never heard of the term CPR
  • Over four in ten (43%) wrongly thought that CPR becomes is effective for only up to15 minutes

How do you solve a problem like Fuel Poverty?

I recently wrote a blog about my proposal for a Fuel Poverty Champion in Government.

You can read my blog here.

A full report on the topic can be found in this collection of essays.

Parliamentary Update – 26th September 2014

This week: Referendum result and air strikes vote

John Robertson MP calls for an end to “game of chance” bus service for blind people

Getting off at the right bus stop is like “playing a game of chance”, says guide dog owner Linda, about her experiences navigating the bus network without sight.

Mr Robertson got a chance to experience for himself why people with sight loss need audio-visual announcements (AV) on buses, through playing a memory game, at the Labour Party Conference this week.

AV is essential for people with sight loss to live independently, yet only one fifth of the UK’s buses have AV. Without AV bus passengers with sight loss have to ask the driver to remember to tell them when they have reached their stop.

Finding out more about Guide Dogs’ work, Mr Robertson heard that 7 in 10 bus passengers with sight loss have been forgotten by a bus driver. For a sighted person, missing a stop is an annoyance, but for someone with sight loss, it is potentially very dangerous.

Mr Robertson commented:

“Remembering the journeys at Guide Dogs’ conference stand was a great way of emphasising how difficult it is for a bus driver to always remember to tell people when to get off. AV is such a simple solution and would ensure access for all to a form of public transport that is so vital to people’s everyday lives.”

James White, Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs commented:

“Guide dogs do fantastic work getting people out and about safely, and the lack of AV acts as a real barrier to their independence. That’s why we’re urging politicians like Mr Robertson to call for the mandatory installation of AV on buses, something that is cheap to do.”

AV doesn’t just help people with sight loss – tourists, older people and infrequent bus users all find AV useful. Guide Dogs released their Destination Unknown report this September showing that nearly half of survey respondents said they would use the bus more frequently if it had AV.

Read Harry Smith’s Speech

I was moved by the very powerful speech Harry Smith, 91-year-old veteran NHS campaigner, made at Labour Party Conference. You can watch it here, or read it below.

Harry Leslie Smith, speaking in the Health and Care debate at Labour’s Annual Conference in Manchester, said:

I came into this world in the rough and ready year of 1923. I am from Barnsley and I can tell you, that my childhood like so many others from that era was not an episode from Downton Abbey. Instead, it was a barbarous time, it was a bleak time, and it was an uncivilized time because public healthcare didn’t exist.

Back then Hospitals, doctors and medicine were for the privilege few because they were run for profit rather than as vital state service that keeps a nations citizens and workers fit and healthy

My memories stretch back almost a hundred years and if I close my eyes I can smell the poverty that oozed from the dusky tenement streets of my boyhood.

I can taste on my lips the bread and drippings I was served for my tea. I can remember extreme hunger, and my parent’s undying love for me. In my heart

I can still feel my mum and dad’s desperation as they tried to keep our family save and healthy in the slum we called home.

Poor mum and dad, no matter how hard they tried to protect me and my sisters the cards were stacked against them because common diseases trolled our neighbourhoods and snuffed out life like a cold breath on a warm candle flame.

I still remember hearing while I played as a child on my street the anguished cries that floated from a window on my boyhood street. They were the screams from a woman dying from cancer who couldn’t afford morphine to ease her passage from this life.

No one in our community was safe from poor health, sickness and disease. In our home, TB came for my oldest sister Marion who was the apple of my dad’s eye. It is why her sickness and his inability to pay for her medicine or the best care broke his heart.

Tuberculosis tortured my sister and left her an invalid that had to be restrained with ropes tied to her bed. My parents did everything in their power to keep Marion alive and comfortable but they just didn’t have the dosh to get her to the best clinics, doctors or medicines. Instead she wasted away before our eyes until my mother could no longer handle her care and she was dispatched to our Work House infirmary where she died 87 years ago. Mum and dad couldn’t afford to bury their darling daughter so, like the rest of our country’s indigent she was dumped nameless into a pauper’s pit.

My family’s story isn’t unique; sadly, rampant poverty, and no health care were the norm for the Britain of my youth. That injustice galvanized my generation to become after the Second World War the tide that raised all boats.

It is why for me in 1945, after a long hard Great Depression and a savage and brutal war, at the age of 22 and still in the RAF I voted for the first time.

Election Day 1945 was one of the was of the proudest days in my life I felt that I was finally getting a chance to grab destiny by the shirt collar and that is why

I voted for Labour and the creation of the NHS.

As I stand here today, my heart is with all of those people from my generation who didn’t make it past childhood, didn’t get an education, grow as individuals, marry, raise a family and enjoy the fruits of retirement because they died needlessly and too early in another era of austerity. But my heart is also with the people of the present, who, because of welfare cuts and austerity measures, are struggling once more to make ends meet, and whose futures I fear for.

Today, we must be vigilant, we must be vocal, we must demand that the NHS will always remain an institution for the people and by the people. We must never ever let the NHS free from our grasp because if we do your future will be my past. I am not a politician, a member of the elite or a financial guru, but my life is your history – and we should keep it that way. So say it loud and say it clear in this hall and across this country: Mr Cameron, keep your mitts off my NHS.

Labour vs. SNP Record

1.    HEALTH

SNP’s record on health

  • Health secretary Alex Neil was caught red-handed meddling in the decision making process in his local health board area, NHS Lanarkshire.
    • Labour lodged a vote of no-confidence which was backed by all the opposition parties.
    • Spend on private healthcare has gone up by 37% under the SNP to over £80million in 2012/13.
    • A&E waiting times are not being met – in March 2014, only five health boards achieved the waiting time standard of 98% of patients seen and admitted, transferred or discharged from A&E within 4 hours.
    • Rather than supporting NHS Boards to achieve the targets, the SNP downgraded the 98% to an interim target of 95% – which is still not being met by all NHS Boards.
      • The number of patients waiting four hours or more to be treated has almost trebled from 36,000 in 2008/09 to 104,000 last year.
      • According to Audit Scotland in May – “Delays in A&E can be a sign of pressure across health and social care.”
      • Cancer waiting times are not being met – the standard that 95% of patient should wait a maximum of 62 days from receipt of an urgent referral with a suspicion of cancer to first cancer treatment is not being met and the median wait is now 39 days.
        • Patients and families face more anxiety and delays as a result.
        • The out-going leader of Scotland’s doctors in June said of the NHS: “What I have seen over the past five years is the continuing crisis management of the longest car crash in my memory”.
        • In March 2014, 89.6% of measurable patient journeys, were within 18 weeks, compared to 90.6% in March 2013. This is the first time national performance has dropped below the 90.0% standard since its introduction in 2011.
        • Scandal of seven to 15 minute care visits.
        • Delayed decision on banning the use of mesh implants by a year, which meant hundreds more women will have received them.

 

Labour’s record on health

  • Between 1999 and 2007, Scottish Labour doubled per capita health spending, elevating it to record levels.
  • By 2007, there were nearly 700 extra doctors and over 5,000 extra nurses. We addressed low levels of morale by increasing pay and introducing better working conditions.
  • We made Scottish Health Boards more accountable, introducing a statutory requirement to consult with the public about changes to services, and ensuring local councillors sat on health boards to safeguard local democracy and accountability.
  • We introduced free personal care for the elderly and quadrupled investment in support for unpaid carers, to £23.7 million.
  • We led the UK in banning smoking in public places.
  • We invested hundreds of millions of pounds in new hospitals and GP surgeries, resulting in faster and better treatment for patients across Scotland. When we left office:
    • Waiting times were at their lowest level ever in Scotland, with half of all NHS patients experiencing no wait at all and seven out of ten patients treated in less than 3 months;
    • All hospital in-patients were treated within  18 weeks (a target achieved a year ahead of schedule);
    • The delayed discharge of patients had been reduced by 73% since 2002;
    • Patients were guaranteed an appointment with a GP or nurse within 48 hours;
    • Nurse-led advice was available 24 hours a day.
    • Significant progress was made in tackling Scotland’s three “big killers” – cancer, heart disease and strokes. Between 1997 and 2007:
      • Cancer deaths among under-75s fell by 15% ;
      • Stroke deaths among under-75s fell by 40%;
      • Heart disease deaths among under-75s fell by 45%
      • Our approach to improving Scotland’s health focused on prevention:
        • We enhanced pre and post-natal support, and became a world leader on breastfeeding by making it an offence for a mother to be stopped for breastfeeding in public;
        • We provided free water and fruit in nursery education, as well as supervised tooth brushing;
        • We introduced the Hungry for Success healthy school meals programme, underpinned by legislation guaranteeing nutritional standards in school meals.
        • We removed all branding from vending machines.

 

2.     EDUCATION

SNP’s record on education

  • The SNP have not released the full costings for their ‘flagship’ childcare proposals, they refuse to publish their modelling and they have delayed the date for increased childcare provisions for vulnerable 2 year olds (the legal duty date as set out in the CYPB).
  • The SNPs focus on hours is at the expense of quality and flexibility.
  • The SNP have cut pre-school, primary school and, in particular, secondary school spending in real terms since 2007 (-8.1%, -2.6%, -8.6% respectively).
  • The SNP have presided over a real terms decline in spend on teachers with 4,000 teachers lost from Scottish class rooms since 2007.
  • The implementation of CfE put teachers and pupils under unreasonable pressure.
  • There has been a decline in numeracy attainment under the SNP.
  • The SNP have failed to tackle the attainment gap between young people from most deprived areas and the least deprived areas (in numeracy, literacy, overall tariff score and positive follow up destination).
  • Care leavers have been failed by the SNP (care leavers attainment and positive follow up destination are significantly lower than for all school leavers).
  • SNP has maintained the higher education budget, but only at the expense of the further education budget, which has been slashed by around £67 million in real terms.
  • College learning hours have been cut by 10 million hours in the last 3 years.
  • There has been a 37 per cent decrease in college student numbers (headcount) since SNP came to power in 2007.  As a result 140,000 people have lost out on going to college.
  • 25 – 59 year olds have suffered the most, but no age group has been unscathed by SNP indifference to colleges.
  • The SNP have significantly reduced grant support for students resulting in a considerable increase in student debt, particularly for students from the lowest income homes.
  • Low income university students in Scotland receive the lowest amount of grant in the UK. Low income university students in Wales receive £5,161; in Northern Ireland they receive £3,475; in England they get £3,387 but in Scotland the same group of students only receive £1,750. The SNP’s White Paper has made no mention on the issues of student grants.
  • Student lending, and therefore student debt, was 58% higher last year than the previous year, rising by £159m from £277m to £436m.
  • Under the SNP Scotland has the highest proportion of students dropping out of university in the UK (2012 figures).
  • Scotland has the lowest percentage of university entrants from the poorest backgrounds (26.2%), and the lowest proportion of entrants from state schools (86.9%) in the UK.

 

Labour’s record on education

  • When we left office in 2007 universal free early years education had been introduced, with all Scottish 3 and 4 year-olds entitled to 412.5 hours of free childcare per year.
  • The biggest school building programme in Scotland’s history was underway – over the course of two parliaments, we built 320 new and refurbished schools.
  • Scotland’s teaching workforce had increased by over 2,000, with 53,000 in post by August 2007.
  • Class sizes in primary schools had been reduced to 30 pupils or fewer.
  • The importance of teachers was recognised and valued – average salaries increased by more than 30% between 1999 and 2007, and new avenues were opened for career development within the profession.
  • Teachers were given the freedom to teach, with more classroom assistants, learning support staff and increased levels of administrative support alleviating the bureaucratic burden.
  • By age 15, young Scots were amongst the World’s best in literacy, numeracy and science.
  • The Educational Maintenance Allowance had been introduced to help pupils in difficult financial circumstances stay in education.
  • Scotland had the highest proportion of young people entering higher education in the UK, and one of the highest levels in Europe.
  • Spending on higher education had been significantly increased, including a 400% increase in university capital budgets, helping them to modernise and become internationally competitive.
  • Paid maternity leave had been increased from 13 weeks in 1997 to 39 weeks in 2007.

 

3.     INFRASTRUCTURE

SNP’s record on infrastructure

  • Under the SNP Government in 2013 the lowest number of homes was built since 1947.
  • SNP slashed the housing budget and now 2,000 more households are living in temporary accommodation.
  •  The SNP Government voted against Labour’s amendments to make the Living Wage a requirement for workers when firms bid for public sector contracts.
  • John Swinney axed Glasgow Airport Rail Link, a major transport project that would have boosted the economy and created jobs. It was later revealed that cancelling GARL cost £30 million.
  • Dualling of A9 was a flagship manifesto pledge which they have failed to deliver and other transport projects such as Borders railway and EGIP are significantly delayed and Caledonian sleeper franchise award has been disastrous.
  • Weak Procurement Reform bill – which failed to outlaw blacklisting or prevent the use of zero hours contracts on public sector workers.
  • Refused to include a cap on rent increases in their Housing bill, this would have given protection to thousands of people who rent their home across Scotland.

 

Labour’s record on infrastructure

  • In Government, we invested significant funds in Scotland’s rail network, resulting in new lines, new rolling stock, enhanced safety measures and improved timetabling. By 2007, rail passenger numbers were at their highest level since 1964.
  • We commissioned the Airdrie-Bathgate line, the Stirling-Alloa line [recommend remove ref to S-A line; this line has had a high number of problems since it opened], and the Waverley Station upgrade.
  • We also delivered free Scotland-wide bus travel for older people and introduced a young persons’ concessionary travel scheme. We increased the number of bus passenger journeys after decades of decline.
  • Recognising the difficulties faced by island communities, we introduced the Air Discount Scheme. As of 2007, almost 14,000 island residents had benefited from this scheme.
  • Our Route Development Fund created dozens of new direct air routes into Scotland, boosting the business and tourism industries.
  • We provided funds to local authorities to pay for thousands of small-scale schemes to encourage walking and cycling, including crossings, pedestrian areas, cycle lanes or advanced stop signs.
  • In 2002, Scottish Labour introduced the most progressive homelessness legislation in Europe, enshrining in statute our ambition to end homelessness. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2002, which required Scottish local authorities, as of January 2013,  which gave all councils across Scotland a duty to provide ‘settled accommodation’ to anyone who is unintentionally homeless, led to significant investment in affordable housing and improved homelessness services.

 

4.     LOCAL GOVERNMENT

SNP’s record on local government

  • Alex Salmond’s Local Income Tax would cost a family with two people on an average wage £550 more a year than they pay now.
    • Since the SNP came to power, every council in the country has had a real terms cut to funding.  The effects can be seen in cuts to services, increased charges for local people and the loss of almost 40,000 jobs in seven years.
    • SNP’s underfunded council tax freeze has seen councils either cut local services back or charge for previously free services.

 

Labour’s record on local government

  • We ensured that local authorities had the necessary funds to provide essential services with year-on-year increases to the local government grant.
  • Established a formal working agreement between ministers and councils based around parity of esteem and partnership.
  • Created a framework was set up to improve strategy and efficiency through Community Planning and Best Value legislation.
  • We gave local authorities a more prominent role in community leadership, placing the promotion of partnerships in delivery of public services on a statutory basis.
  • Paved the way for the introduction of a proportional electoral system for council elections, based on the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, and a change in the minimum age for standing as a councillor from 21 to 18.

5.     SOCIAL JUSTICE

SNP’s record on social justice

  • Child poverty has increased under the SNP, with 30,000 more children in Scotland living in poverty in 2012/13 than in 2011/12.
    • 19 per cent of children in Scotland were living in relative poverty in 2012/13, an increase from 15 per cent the previous year. In 2012/13, there were 180 thousand children in Scotland living in relative poverty, 30 thousand more than in 2011/12.
    • Scottish Government failed to act quickly enough to prevent hundreds of Scottish households being threatened with eviction as a result of the bedroom tax.
    • For more than a year Scottish Labour called on the Scottish Government to make available the £20m that would mitigate the full impact of the bedroom tax in Scotland. John Swinney’s approach was to let households suffer rather than let the UK Government “off the hook”.  It took the introduction of Jackie Baillie’s Protection from Eviction (Bedroom Tax) Bill for the SNP to act.
    • Fuel poverty budget underspent despite 900,000 households living in fuel poverty.
    • Energy Action Scotland estimate 900,000 homes were in fuel poverty in 2012.
    • Fuel poverty is increasing as energy prices rise at three times the rate of inflation.
    • The Scottish Government is not going to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 -the target set out in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001.
    • Discretionary housing payments have in some areas been poorly used and our most vulnerable people have been prevented from accessing vital funds.
    • The Scottish Welfare Fund has been substantially underspent, at a time when the need is self-evident. Ministers have been singularly incompetent at getting the money to the people who need it most.
    • Accused of tokenism by promoting two female ministers to full Cabinet posts rather than replacing any of the male Cabinet male members.
    • Failed to deliver 50% of women on public boards despite Ministers being responsible for all appointments and failed to meet the 40% target of the number of applications from women.

 

Labour’s record on social justice

  • We showed what can be achieved when Governments at Holyrood and Westminster share the same aims and ideals. Working closely with our Labour colleagues at Westminster, Scottish Labour alleviated poverty and promoted greater equality, experiencing greater success in reducing poverty than the rest of the UK.
  • Under Labour Governments at Holyrood and Westminster:
    • Living standards rose, with Labour’s tax credits lifting thousands of Scots families above the poverty line;
      • Between 1999 and 2007 200,000 more people found work under Labour in Scotland
      • The number of pensioners living in poverty reduced from one in three in 1997 to one in five in 2007
      • Long-term youth unemployment was virtually eradicated.
      • After thirteen years of Labour Government in Westminster, there were 600,000 fewer Scottish children living in relative poverty (i.e. as compared to an average income) than in 1998-99. This represented the largest fall in child poverty of any EU country over the period. The number of children living in absolute poverty (i.e. in terms of the cash coming into the household) halved under Labour.
        • The Labour-led Scottish Executive achieved a greater fall in child poverty than anywhere else in the UK. By 2007, Scotland had the lowest poverty rate of any region in the UK.
        • We achieved this by focusing help where it was needed most, introducing:
        • above inflation increases in the basic state pension and pension credit;
        • free central heating
        • the warm homes programme
        • Free personal care for the elderly;
        • The National Minimum Wage (which we subsequently increased);
        • The Winter Fuel Allowance;
        • Free nationwide bus travel for the elderly.
        • Between 1997 and 2010, Labour managed not just to halt the seemingly inexorable rise in levels of child poverty, but was able through a concerted and determined effort to reverse this long-term trend.
        • We ended years of discrimination and prejudice by repealing clause 28, which banned councils and schools from teaching and promoting homosexuality.
        • We were ahead of the curve in our efforts to tackle financial exclusion, quadrupling membership of credit unions in Scotland.
        • The Labour Government of 1997-2010 emphasized work as the best route out of poverty and towards prosperity. We didn’t do this by harrying and hectoring, but by giving people a helping hand, formulating the concept of “progressive universalism”, which ensured that whilst many people benefited from our policies, the poorest benefited the most.
        • We invested heavily on initiatives to incentivise work, making it easier for people to enter and stay in the labour market (for example, lone parents), and helped to make work pay through the introduction of the minimum wage and tax credits to top up low wages:
          • We introduced In-Work Credit which provided a weekly bonus to help lone parents in their first year back to work.
          • We devised “New Deal” Welfare-to-work programmes for the young unemployed, lone parents, long-term unemployed, and partners of the unemployed.  In addition to the New Deals, in Scotland we introduced employment programmes for ex-offenders and lone parents with complex needs.
          • In order to alleviate the strain on working parents, we introduced a childcare element to Working Tax Credit, which meant that working families on lower incomes could claim back up to 80 per cent of the cost of a registered childcare place.
          • In 1999 we increased the rate of Child Benefit for the first child in each family. We also replaced Family Credit with a more generous Working Families Tax Credit. A new Working Tax Credit was given to low paid workers regardless of whether they had children.
          • We also introduced major changes to parental leave and pay, and rights to request flexible and part-time working, to make it easier for women with children to remain in work. 

In addition we:

  • Increased income support for pensioners and extra benefits such as winter fuel payments.
  • Established a more generous second state pension for low earners.
  • Provided central heating for every socially rented home and re–insulated most socially rented homes through its warm homes programme.
  • Introduced and allocated £16m towards the Rough Sleepers Initiative to assess the extent of rough sleeping and implement proposals to address those needs. As a result, by 2003 there was no need for anyone in Scotland to sleep rough.

 6.     JUSTICE 

SNP’s record on justice

  • Justice Secretary claimed routine arming of police officers was an operational matter and should not be brought before parliament despite widespread outrage.
  • SNP have closed local courts impacting on communities dependent on jobs and they have closed 61 police front counters effectively taking away local policing.
  • Pushed through Offensive Behaviour at Football Act despite opposition from anti-sectarian groups including Nil by Mouth and community groups.
  • Rise in number of people aged over 35 dying from drug use.
  • Closed fire station control rooms and centralised the service meaning call takers are often unaware of local issues.

Labour’s record on justice

  • Scottish Labour was committed to making our communities safer and achieving a fairer and more efficient justice system. Our major achievements in office included:
    • A record number of police officers on Scotland’s streets: 1,500 more than in 1999;
    • 20,000 fewer crimes recorded by the police in 2007 than in 1997;
    • We established then expanded the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement agency giving them enhanced powers and resources;
    • Communities across Scotland afforded new powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, with the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Dispersal Orders and Closure Orders.
    • We undertook a root and branch review of the criminal justice system which reduced court delays and the use of unnecessary witnesses, and ended automatic early release from prison.
    • We worked to keep dangerous weapons off the streets, leading the way on knife crime by affording the police additional powers to stop and search those suspected of carrying a knife. We also doubled the maximum sentence for those convicted and introduced a licensing scheme for the sale of non-domestic knives.
      • We encouraged stronger links between the police and the communities in which they operate through Community Safety Partnerships.

 

7.     ENVIRONMENT AND RURAL AFFAIRS 

SNP’s record on the environment and rural affairs

  • The Scottish Government has ruled out including agricultural business rates relief within the wider land reform.
  • The Scottish Government still hasn’t supported Labour’s calls for extended community right to buy.
  • The Scottish Government has achieved a hat trick of missed targets after latest climate change emissions reported a rise compared to the previous year. This is embarrassing for a Government that continues to herald the targets as world leading.
  • Failure to take the step change needed has seen a rise in emissions and it is becoming increasingly clear that more action is desperately needed. The first three targets were the easiest for this government to meet yet they have missed all three, the next target must see a significant drop in emissions yet there are real concerns the Government hasn’t achieved this.
  • Committee on Climate Change reported in March that the SNP were failing to meet their targets and they would either have to “revise their targets, or introduce more polices and proposals”.
  • In recent years we have seen a reduction in food safety samples taken by councils (08/09 – over 16,000, 11/12 – 10,236).
  • The number of food inspectors has dropped by over 50% since 2003, (170 to 75); there has been a 21% drop in the number of food safety officers employed by local authorities in past 4 years and a 11% fall in the number of environmental health officers.
  • There is currently too much focus on our export market; we need to see a joined up strategy that links local produce to our export market, tackles food poverty and Scotland’s poor level of obesity, benefits our environment and ensures that public money is being used for public good.
  • Announcing the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy the Scottish Government announced that they will only transfer 9.5% of funds from pillar 1 to 2 despite the potential to transfer up to 15%. Pillar 2 funds can be used to help rural communities and deliver environmental gains. In comparison Wales went for the full 15% and England decided on 12%.
  • The Scottish Government’s wildlife legislation does not seem to be working, it is time for a full and frank review now rather than wait until next year.
  • The 2013 air quality monitoring results found a high number of areas across Scotland are in breach of air quality safety standards.
  • It was reported that air pollution is a contributory factor in over 2,000 deaths in Scotland annually.
    • Recent reports highlighted that Edinburgh might not meet its target until 2020 (10 years late), whilst Glasgow might not reach theirs until 2025.
    • The Scottish Government has a big role to play in ensuring that our planning and transport policies are robust enough to ensure a reduction in emissions and that Scotland’s targets are met, however we still waiting for them to bring forward their air quality action plan.

 

Labour’s record on the environment and rural affairs

  • Land Reform was a central challenge of the early devolution period, and one which Scottish Labour did not shirk:
    • We abolished Feudal Tenure, replacing it with a simple system of land ownership. In so doing, we removed 800 years of accreted legislation, the vast majority of which had become unnecessary and obsolete;
    • We established new land access rights (the right to roam);
    • We introduced the community right to buy, which has enabled rural communities to take responsibility for the land on which they live and work;
    • We enhanced the rights of crofters and made it possible to create new crofts, allowing young people to enter crofting and helping to preserve a traditional way of life.
    • As the Scottish Executive we passed legislation that ensured the protection of our nature and environment. This included the introduction of Scotland’s two, now world famous, National Parks in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms.
    • We also introduced a biodiversity duty that applies to all Scottish public bodies and office holders and provided the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy a statutory basis. We also included proposals to strengthen the protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interests (SSSIs).
    • We created a single all-Scotland public water authority in Scottish Water in 2002 through the merger of regional water authorities. The new body provides drinking water to over 2.2 million households, whilst also treating waste water before returning it to the environment. We also safeguarded public health by creating the post of Drinking Water Quality Regulator.
    • Scottish Labour has always taken the issue of animal welfare very seriously. It was Scottish Labour that introduced a ban on fox hunting in Scotland, two years before a similar ban was introduced in the rest of the UK.
    • Scottish Labour also passed legislation to ensure the ability of Scottish Ministers to prevent and react to the outbreak of infectious animal diseases such as foot and mouth.
    • We introduced the need for keepers of animals to ensure the basic needs of their animals are met and making it illegal to sell an animal to a person under the age of 16. Following this Act the Labour led Scottish Executive also banned the docking of tails in all dogs.
    • We introduced an aquaculture strategy in 2003 with the view to improving regulation of the sector in Scotland. From that strategy we passed acts such as Aquaculture and Fisheries which introduced new powers to control sea lice and escapes from fish farms. It also has a statutory underpinning of codes for good fish farming and shellfish farming practice.
    • Even in opposition Scottish Labour has been pushing forward on environmental and rural affairs issues. We held the first Land Reform debate in Parliament since the SNP came into power in 2007 and forced them to re-launch their review group with a wider remit. We also held the first air pollution debate since SNP came into power. Following the recent and abhorrent killings of raptors in Scotland we passed a motion that would ensure the Scottish Government would conduct a review of wildlife legislation across the world with a view to strengthening our laws in Scotland.

 

8.     FINANCE AND THE ECONOMY

SNP’s record on finance and the economy

  • Unemployment remains high and of particular concern is the high youth unemployment rate which has failed to recover.  Between 2008 and 2013, unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds in Scotland increased sharply, rising from 58,600 to 81,100.
  • Underemployment continues to be an issue as people look to work more hours. In 2008 the level of underemployment was 174,500 but by 2013 it had risen to 243,100.
  • The number of people in part-time jobs has increased by 47,571 since 2007 and the number of temporary employees has increased by 6,983.
  • Compare Scottish and UK growth since the third quarter of last year Scottish growth has averaged 0.59% per quarter over the two quarters while UK growth is faster at 0.73% per quarter.
  • Scottish Government refused to back Labour’s energy price freeze (which would save families an average of £120 a year and then failed to turn up on a vote on energy in the Commons.

 

Labour’s record on finance and the economy

  • Devolution helped transform Scotland’s economy. Under Labour administrations at Holyrood and Westminster, Scotland’s economy grew every year between 1997 and 2007. More than 250,000 jobs were created, and by 2007 Scotland’s employment rate was better than the UK average, higher than every G7 country and the highest in the Euro zone.
  • Labour established the National Minimum Wage. In 1997, 85,000 Scots earned less than £2.50; thanks to the introduction of the Living Wage, thousands of Scottish workers were lifted out of poverty.
  • By 2007, Scotland’s financial sector employed 220,000, having grown by 36% between 2002 and 2007 – a rate of growth twice the level of the UK as a whole.
  • We believe that those with the broadest shoulders should contribute most. Having already cut the basic rate of income tax, we introduced the new 50p additional rate of tax for those earning over £150,000 per year.
  • We also introduced the one off Bankers’ Bonus Tax (the bank payroll tax) which generated £3.5 billion.

 

9.     CULTURE, SPORT AND EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

SNP’s record on culture, sport and external affairs

  • Alex Salmond refused to meet with the Dalai Lama but heaped praise on Nigel Farage and Vladimir Putin.
  • Alex Salmond was the only senior politician who chose to meet with Rupert Murdoch, after it had been revealed Murdoch’s newspaper had hacked Milly Dowler’s phone. Mr Salmond welcomed Murdoch at Bute House for tea and biscuits in Edinburgh in 2012.
  • In April 2010 an Audit Scotland investigation set out to review The Gathering’s financial management, including a decision by the Scottish Government to loan £180,000 to the organisers behind the event. It was revealed that the Scottish Government did enquire if the company could repay the loan before writing the cheque.
  • Alex Salmond tried to keep secret the cost of his taxpayer funded luxurious hotel costs on his trip to the Ryder Cup in Chicago. He dismissed demands to reveal how much he spent at the five-star Peninsula Hotel as “ridiculous frippery”. A newspaper subsequently disclosed that the First Minister spent £3,000 for four nights with his wife in the hotel – paid for by the taxpayer.

 

Labour’s record on culture, sport, external affairs

  • We enhanced Scotland’s cultural and sporting profile, more than doubling investment in cultural activities.
  • We established the National Theatre of Scotland, and presided over successful campaigns to host the Ryder Cup and the MTV Europe Awards. We also laid the foundations for the (successful) bid to host this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
  • We recognised music’s potential to enhance children’s social, cultural and artistic development, establishing the Youth Music Initiative which entitled all school children access to a year’s free music tuition by the time they reached Primary 6.
  • We built on Scotland’s historic links with Malawi by signing a co-operation agreement allowing us to align our devolved responsibilities with Malawi’s developmental requirements.

Naming Ceremony for HMS Queen Elizabeth

I recently attended the naming ceremony of the new HMS Queen Elizabeth. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was there for the official naming.

This was a wonderful feat of engineering for all six yards, both north and south of the border. I want to pass on my congratulations to all those who worked on it, and in particular, the 2000 employees at Scotstoun yard.

Here are a few photos from the event, with MPs representing the constituencies holding the other two Scottish yards, Ian Davidson MP (Govan) and Thomas Docherty MP (Rosyth), among others.

John Robertson MP on board with Guide Dogs’ Talking Buses campaign

John Robertson MP showed his support for a campaign led by the charity Guide Dogs to make travelling by bus easier for people with sight loss.

The MP for Glasgow North West went to a reception at the Houses of Parliament on 2 July in support of Guide Dogs’ campaign to make sure all new buses have audio visual (AV) next stop announcements, which are vital for blind and partially sighted bus travellers.

The reception, which was addressed by Bus Minister Baroness Kramer, highlighted how announcements enable blind and partially sighted people to understand their location, and prevent them from missing their stops.

AV systems are only fitted to around one fifth of the bus fleet nationally, with the overwhelming majority of these buses operating in London.

Guide Dogs is calling for the Government to require all new buses be fitted with AV, as currently bus operators are under no obligation to include this technology when upgrading their fleet.

John Robertson MP said: “Blind or partially sighted people in Glasgow and across the UK are reliant on our buses, and we should be doing all we can to make public transport accessible to them. We all know the anxiety caused from ending up somewhere unfamiliar, and this can be all the more concerning to people with sight loss. I think this is an essential campaign from Guide Dogs.”

James White, Guide Dog’s Campaigns Manager, said: “Buses are a lifeline for people who are blind or partially sighted, and we welcome the support of John Robertson MP for people with sight loss to be able to travel safely and independently.”

“Without AV, bus travel for people with sight loss can be especially difficult, stressful, and dangerous when stops are missed and they end up in an unfamiliar area.”

“Safe and accessible bus services give people with sight loss much greater freedom to work, socialise and participate in the community.”