RENT: SCOTTISH GREENS CONFERENCE TO DEBATE CONTROLS

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

A policy motion supporting rent controls in Scotland is due to be debated at the Scottish Green Party Conference in Glasgow this October.MaggieEdin

The motion was proposed by Maggie Chapman, Co-convenor of the Scottish Greens and candidate for North East for the Scottish Parliament election in 2016.

If passed, the Scottish Greens will start working for a points-based system to set rent levels in the private rented sector, as well as a cap to ensure rents do not rise beyond an affordable level. The policy would also mandate the Greens to call for longer tenancies and the creation on a Scottish Living Rent Commission.

The two Green MSPs, Alison Johnstone and Patrick Harvie, have already given their support to the Living Rent Campaign, a campaign calling for the reintroduction of rent controls in Scotland.

The Scottish Private Rented Sector has doubled in size over the past decade, while there has been a clear reduction in home ownership and tenancies in the socially rented sector. Simultaneously, many areas in Scotland have seen significant increases in rent levels.

Patrick Harvie, MSP and Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, said:

“Green MSPs have been campaigning for years on rent controls, and greater security for tenants in Scotland. The current reality is that people are being pushed out of their homes because of unaffordable rents and lack of rights for tenants.

“The private rented sector has grown rapidly over the past decade, but it has been treated simply as a market choice when in reality it’s the only housing available to huge numbers of people. Many European countries already have rent controls in place to ensure tenants can feel safe and secure in their homes. It’s time Scotland followed suit.

“Scotland also needs urgent investment in the socially rented sector, but we can’t use that as an excuse to leave people vulnerable in private tenancies. We need to make the sector work for tenants, not just for landlords’ profit margins.”

Maggie Chapman, Co-convener of the Scottish Green Party and candidate for North East for Holyrood 2016, said:

“The impact of runaway rents is painfully clear in Aberdeen, where many tenants have to spend a huge portion of their income just to have a place to call home.

“Falling wages have not been matched by falling rent, leaving many struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Rising poverty levels, decreasing incomes and increasing homelessness have a disastrous impact on our society. We need to put a stop to this.

“Housing is a basic need and a human right. With effective controls on rent levels, we can begin to make housing affordable for ordinary people in Aberdeen and all across Scotland.”

 

With effective controls on rent levels, we can begin to make housing affordable for ordinary people in Aberdeen and all across Scotland.
Maggie Chapman, Scottish Greens Co-convenor

HOUSE RESIGNS: FINNIE WELCOMES EARLY DEPARTURE

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

 

Commenting on Sir Stephen House’s decision to step down early as chief constable of Police Scotland, John Finnie, Independent MSP for the Highlands & Islands and justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said:

“It was clear from start of Police Scotland that Sir Stephen House had the necessary drive and authority to transform the various elements of policing across Scotland into a single public service. Sadly, despite assurances that best practice from all the former constituent forces would be adopted, it very swiftly became the case that it was the House way or no way in Police Scotland.

“Rather than responding to wise counsel, both within and outwith the police service, Sir Stephen placed armed officers in our communities and inflicted industrial levels of stop and search across the country. It is inappropriate to pre-empt outcome of the ongoing inquiry into tragic loss of life following the M9 road incident, however, it has long been apparent that the Chief Constable does not enjoy the public support that his post demands and regrettably this has fed down to negative perceptions of police officers and support staff who are doing a great deal of good work across our communities.

“His early departure is one call that Sir Stephen has got right.”

 

Rather than responding to wise counsel, both within and outwith the police service, Sir Stephen placed armed officers in our communities and inflicted industrial levels of stop and search across the country.
John Finnie

COAL GAS: JOHNSTONE CHALLENGES CLUFF, PRESSES FOR BAN

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian and a leading campaigner against unconventional gas extraction, is challenging coal gasification firm Cluff over their claim that “it is neither necessary, nor in the public interest” to examine the risks of their plans.

Cluff wrote to all MSPs before yesterday’s announcement that their plans for drilling under the Forth are on hold, and today Alison replied, challenging the company’s views.

Scottish Green MSPs Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone have been campaigning against unconventional gas extraction since the 2011 election. Alison led Holyrood’s first debate on the issue in May 2014, proposing a ban. All other parties voted against it.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Before Cluff got cold feet and announced a delay in their plans, they wrote to all MSPs as part of a charm offensive. Scottish Greens support the many community groups around the Forth who have made their opposition to coal gasification clear, and I have written back to Cluff challenging their claims.

“Cluff have attempted to downplay coal gas disasters elsewhere but I believe we must look at where things have gone wrong to help us understand the risks. We know of serious problems in Australia, resulting in widespread contamination of land. We know investigators were hospitalised with suspected gas poisoning during soil testing.

“It is therefore essential that Cluff lays out in detail the safety record of its projects rather than dismissing concerns out of hand. Cluff also choose to ignore the fact that we already have far more fossil fuels than we can burn if we want to limit climate change.

“Scotland is in a privileged position to end its reliance on fossil fuels earlier than other countries and create many more jobs by investing in sectors such as renewables, green chemistry, home insulation and forestry.

“In the meantime the Scottish Government must come off the fence, extend their temporary fracking moratorium to include coal gasification given it requires onshore infrastructure and turn it into a permanent ban, to protect our communities, our economy and our climate.”

 

Letter from Cluff to MSPs

Response from Alison to Cluff

Scottish Greens support the many community groups around the Forth who have made their opposition to coal gasification clear.
Alison Johnstone MSP

PATIENTS SEEN WITHIN 18 WEEKS: JOHNSTONE CONCERNED AT LATEST DROP

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

 

Alison Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Greens’ health spokesperson, today (25 August) expressed concern as new figures showed a continued decline in the percentage of NHS patients being seen within the 18 weeks Referral to Treatment target.

The figures for June show 88.3 per cent of patients were seen within 18 weeks, a drop from 91.1 per cent last year and below the 90 per cent standard expected. Since the target was set in 2011 the percentage has steadily declined from 92 per cent.

The health boards below 90 per cent are Highland, Ayrshire and Arran, Grampian, Lothian, Tayside and Dumfries and Galloway.

Alison Johnstone MSP said:

“Behind these statistics are real people experiencing lengthy waits for treatment. Our NHS staff are under increasing pressure due to tight budgets, rising costs and more complex health needs.

“The Scottish Government and health boards need to renew their efforts to tackle recruitment problems. We need better connections within the NHS to smooth the flow of patients through the system, and more focus on preventative spending to try to reduce demand for NHS services.”

 

18 Weeks Referral to Treatment publication (NHS)

 

We need better connections within the NHS to smooth the flow of patients through the system, and more focus on preventative spending to try to reduce demand for NHS services.
Alison Johnstone MSP

ECONOMY: MAJOR RESEARCH PAPER SHOWS ROUTE TO 200,000 NEW JOBS

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

The Scottish Green MSPs are today (25 Aug) publishing a major research paper outlining how Scotland could create 200,000 jobs over the next 20 years by pursuing a new economy built on strengths such as renewables, green chemistry, home insulation and forestry.

The report, “Jobs in Scotland’s New Economy”, uses government and industry assessments to calculate that significantly more people could be employed in sustainable industries than are currently employed in fossil fuel industries.

Policy ideas in the report include:

-Creating a publicly-owned renewables company to encourage offshore wind, tidal and wave developments.
-Prioritising North Sea decommissioning work.
-Taking the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemicals plant into public ownership.
-Converting Grangemouth to make and use synthetic gas to enable a long-term future.
-Launching a national insulation retrofit programme.
-Launching a large-scale reforesting programme.
-Making available support packages for fossil fuel workers to aid their transition to new sectors.

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone said:

“In recent months there have been mass layoffs in the oil and gas industry. The ongoing insecurity due to the volatile price and finite nature of this resource has devastating consequences for families and communities. The only credible and responsible course of action is a managed transition towards sustainable sectors as outlined in this major report.

“We can enhance skills, encourage innovation and increase supply chain opportunities for Scotland’s small and medium-sized businesses. We have the chance to become a world centre of expertise in oil and gas decommissioning, with imminent global demand for such knowledge. Making housing insulation a national infrastructure priority is a point the Finance Secretary already agrees with me on.

“By showing in detail the opportunities we have for upscaling renewables and forestry, and retrofitting housing and green chemistry, we hope to prompt a serious debate about how we build a jobs-rich, low-carbon economy. To make the most of these opportunities we need to reject austerity, prioritise investment and reconsider the billion pounds annual subsidy we give oil and gas multinationals.

“The need for a clear vision has never been greater.”

 

“Jobs in Scotland’s New Economy”, commissioned by the Scottish Green MSPs, written by Mika Minio-Paluello

 

To make the most of these opportunities we need to reject austerity, prioritise investment and reconsider the billion pounds annual subsidy we give oil and gas multinationals.
Alison Johnstone MSP

EDUCATION: JOHNSTONE SAYS MINISTERS MUST BE CHALLENGED

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

 

Alison Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Greens’ education spokesperson, responded to today’s speech on education by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by urging the Scottish Goverment to reverse cuts to college places and increase spending on primary pupils.

Figures compiled by the Scottish Greens show:

-Classroom sizes (pupil-teacher ratio) have gone up since 2007 from 15.7 to 16.7.
-The number of college places has fallen by 156,000 since 2007.
-Spending per pupil in primary schools has remained flat, resulting in a real terms cut.

In recent months Alison Johnstone has highlighted the need for:

-More support for pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN), as they have less chance of achieving a positive school-leaver destination such as further education or employment. ASN disproportionally affects those children from lower income families and areas of deprivation.

-More support for teachers, many of whom work 11 hours per week beyond their contractual commitment. Much needs to be done to reduce excessive workloads.

-More support for college students from the most deprived backgrounds, as around 35 per cent do not successfully complete courses.

-Greater effort to address severe gender imbalance in further education sectors such as the care profession (73 per cent female), engineering (92 per cent male) and construction (89 per cent male).

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, said:

“Closing the attainment gap is of course important but pupils need confidence that they can continue their journey beyond school. Further Education is not in a good shape, and Scottish ministers must be challenged on their decision to cut back so brutally in this sector.

“In our schools spending per pupil has been flat for years, and classroom sizes are gradually going up. This isn’t sustainable. When parliament returns in September I hope the First Minister will listen to the wide range of voices urging her to prioritise our education system.”

 

Further Education is not in a good shape, and Scottish ministers must be challenged on their decision to cut back so brutally in this sector.
Alison Johnstone MSP

CANCER: JOHNSTONE URGES ACTION AS 33 PER CENT RISE PROJECTED

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Alison Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Greens’ health spokesperson, today urged Scottish ministers to improve efforts to screen for cancer and provide early diagnosis, as figures show the number of new cases is predicted to rise by 33 per cent over the next fifteen years.

The Cancer Incidence Projections also show the average number of new cases per year will increase from over 30,500 in 2008-2012 to over 40,000 in 2023-2027. Lung cancer is predicted to continue to be Scotland’s most common cancer.

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, said:

“Screening and early diagnosis of cancer is essential as our population ages and historic levels of smoking start to come through. Equally important is prevention, and these statistics are a reminder that more needs to be done to address factors influencing cancer.

“We need to improve our diet, our relationship with alcohol and tackle obesity. Scottish ministers need to go beyond modest marketing campaigns and really drive a culture change if we are to beat cancer.

“We need to look at how all major government decisions affect health inequality, and in tackling diet, alcohol and obesity, we should support more community-led efforts.”

 

Cancer Incidence Projections for Scotland

We need to look at how all major government decisions affect health inequality, and in tackling diet, alcohol and obesity, we should support more community-led efforts.
Alison Johnstone MSP

LONGANNET AND COCKENZIE: HARVIE ON FUTURE ENERGY AGENDA

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Patrick Harvie MSP, the Scottish Greens’ economy and energy spokesperson, today called for an energy agenda focused on demand reduction, storage and low-carbon, in light of the announcement by Scottish Power that Scotland’s last coal-fired power station, Longannet in Fife, is to close on 31 March next year.Patrick Harvie

Scottish Power has also dropped plans for a gas-fired power station at Cockenzie in East Lothian.

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green MSP for Glasgow and a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, said:

“The cost of connecting to the grid is certainly a factor in Scottish Power’s decisions but more importantly Longannet was always due to close due to the polluting nature of its production and the advance of clean, renewable energy generation. While Scottish Power hopes to avoid compulsory redundancies, it is utterly unacceptable that the workforce and local communities have been left in limbo for so long. The Scottish Government and Fife Council should have been drawing up a plan for a jobs transition long ago.

“At Cockenzie it is important that local communities are put in charge of what happens next. There are economic opportunities for areas such as Fife and East Lothian to create more local employment that will last.

“Scotland’s energy agenda must now focus very clearly on energy efficiency and demand reduction, increased storage, a new North Sea transmission grid and low-carbon energy generation with greater community ownership.”
In February this year a Scottish Green amendment to a Holyrood energy debate called for “focus on a just transition for workers”. SNP, Conservative and Libdem MSPs voted against; Labour MSPs abstained.

 

Scotland's energy agenda must now focus very clearly on energy efficiency and demand reduction, increased storage, a new North Sea transmission grid and low-carbon energy generation with greater community ownership.
Patrick Harvie MSP

DUGDALE: HARVIE SAYS GREENS WILL OCCUPY OPPOSITION SPACE

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

 

Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, says today’s election of Kezia Dugdale as the 4th leader of the Labour party in Scotland in 4 years will do nothing to stem the loss of confidence in Labour, as the Scottish Greens build towards becoming the main voice of progressive opposition at Holyrood.

Patrick said:

“Naturally I’d like to offer my congratulations to Kezia Dugdale, and to Alex Rowley as her deputy leader. But the clock is ticking for both of them, as they wait to find out whether their party will stay on the failed path defined by New Labour, or strike a radical new pose by electing a UK leader the members want but the party machine seems determined to undermine.

“There doesn’t seem to be much chance of Kezia’s party being able to connect with voters in time for the Holyrood election in May. Opinion polls and by-elections show support for Labour continuing to fall, while support for the Scottish Greens is steadily building.”

Mr Harvie added:

“Alex Rowley is also due congratulations on becoming Deputy leader. It will be interesting to see whether he can persuade his party to back the many Green policies he supports such as bringing our railways back into public hands and ending the austerity agenda. Given the alleged plans already afoot against Jeremy Corbyn within UK Labour, we are not holding our breath for a different story in Scotland.”

Patrick concluded:

“More than one in ten of our 9,000 members are former Labour members, and with our excellent field of MSP candidates already campaigning in local communities we are in a strong position to become a serious force at Holyrood. Many former Labour supporters are drawn to the Scottish Greens because they appreciated the positive and inclusive stance we took during the referendum, and they recognise our principles on social justice, a sustainable economy and local democracy.

“Scottish Greens have shown we are capable of challenging the Scottish Government while also being constructive, pulling Scottish politics in a progressive direction, away from the Conservatives. The role of holding the SNP to account and offering creative ideas for Scotland’s future has never been more important, and it’s a role Scottish Green MSPs are more than ready to fill.”

 

The role of holding the SNP to account and offering creative ideas for Scotland's future has never been more important, and it's a role Scottish Green MSPs are more than ready to fill.
Patrick Harvie MSP

CRITICAL CARE: JOHNSTONE URGES ACTION ON NIGHT TIME DISCHARGES, TRAINING

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Alison Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Greens’ health spokesperson, today urged the Scottish Government to address areas of concern highlighted by an audit into Critical Care in hospitals.

The review shows:

-Although every patient in a Critical Care Unit should be seen each day by an appropriately trained consultant, only 77 per cent of Intensive Care Units achieved this in 2014, compared to 85 per cent in 2013.
-Night time discharges from critical care, associated with worse outcomes for patients, have remained at a similar percentage to that reported in 2013.
-Over the last ten years, mortality figures for admission to Intensive Care Units in Scotland have been reducing.

Alison Johnstone, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, said:

“This audit is a mixed report for health service managers and the Scottish Government. While it’s obviously very welcome that patients are more likely to survive their admission to Intensive Care, some key challenges clearly remain.

“The drop in Intensive Care patients being seen each day by trained consultants is worrying, and it is important that the reasons behind this are learned so the situation can be turned around. There is a serious problem in recruitment and training in intensive care medicine, and that must be addressed.

“It’s also a concern that night time discharges from critical care have not been reduced, and I would urge management and government to focus more attention on this issue to ensure patient recovery is not being put at risk. We need to see more effort to improve connections in the NHS and make beds available for people who still need care.”

 

Audit of Critical Care in Scotland

There is a serious problem in recruitment and training in intensive care medicine, and that must be addressed.
Alison Johnstone MSP