Scottish Labour Will Guarantee a Triple Lock Against Fracking Plans

fracking_graphic

I’m delighted that Scottish Labour has announced that, if elected in 2016, we would use the new Smith powers to stop onshore fracking in Scotland.

We believe that the environmental and safety case for fracking has not been made, and that is why we are calling for no onshore fracking in Scotland until it has been shown beyond all doubt that it can be carried out safely.

We know that our communities are rightly concerned about shale gas. They are worried that it will be imposed on their community against their will and without their consent.

We want local communities to have full control over onshore fracking in their area through a local referendum. No development will be able to take place without a majority of local residents endorsing any planning decision

We also want to protect our beautiful landscape and its fragile ecosystem. Almost all of Scotland is considered to be a drinking water protection area, which makes it reckless and unnecessary to push ahead with fracking without a thorough and comprehensive review of the baseline conditions in Scotland before any applications can be permitted.

The Scottish Government has always had a veto on fracking through the planning process, but now with other decisions on shale gas effectively devolved, it’s time for Scotland to set our standards high.

Because the UK government have also failed to ensure the wider regulatory conditions are tough enough, Labour have tabled an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill going through the UK Parliament to block fracking until the right regulation and inspection is in place which Scottish Labour MPs will vote for on Monday 26th January.

Scottish Labour would introduce a triple-lock system to halt any onshore fracking taking place in Scotland until environmental and health safeguards are in place.
This involves:

  • A local referendum before final planning approval is given;
  • Halting any fracking in Scotland until the lessons of fracking in the rest of the UK are learned;
  • A comprehensive review of the baseline conditions before any planning application is granted;

With the new powers coming to Scotland through the Smith Agreement, all decisions about fracking will soon be made here.

The SNP Government already have the power now to stop any onshore fracking in Scotland immediately, Scottish Labour believe they need to use it now.

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Glasgow Labour MSP says ‘We Must Keep Fighting Hepatitis C’

hep_c_speech_2

Anne Mctaggart MSP yesterday spoke of her desire to see hepatitis C eradicated from Scotland during a member’s debate at the Scottish Parliament on the issue.

An estimated 39,000 people in Scotland, many unknowingly, are infected with the hepatitis C virus, with over half of these in the Glasgow and Greater Clyde area. It also disproportionally affects people from poor communities across the country, with 75% of sufferers coming from the lowest two socioeconomic quintiles.

Speaking in the debate Ms McTaggart said:

“I am pleased to have the opportunity this evening to contribute to the debate because hepatitis C is an on-going concern to many of my constituents in Glasgow.

“Although Scotland has made progress with the hepatitis C action plan and the inclusion of the hepatitis C virus in “The Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework 2011-2015”, which is internationally acclaimed, there is still more to be done. Recent treatment targets have not been met and further action is required. If such action is not taken, hepatitis C will remain a significant public health concern and will result in higher rates of liver disease and cancer at great cost to individuals and the health service.

“Hepatitis C is preventable, treatable and curable for the majority of patients. With new and more effective drug treatments soon to be available, hepatitis C can be eliminated from Scotland provided that there is a Scottish Government commitment to doing so and to prolonging lives, including those of my constituents.”

You can read Ms McTaggart’s speech here.

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Anne McTaggart MSP – We Must Never Forget the Victims of the Holocaust

holocaust_memorial_day_speech_3

Glasgow Labour MSP Anne McTaggart yesterday remembered the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust and warned that the lessons of history cannot be forgotten.

Ms McTaggart was speaking in a debate at the Scottish Parliament on Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January), which marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwtiz-Birkenau concentration camp. The theme of this year’s Memorial Day is ‘Keep the Memory Alive’, with it being perhaps the last significant anniversary that will be marked with the holocaust in living memory.

Ms McTaggart spoke of the significance of the anniversary in her own region Glasgow, home to a large Jewish community, and warned that racism and bigotry must be fought in all its forms across Scotland. She also identified the emergence of fascist parties across Europe in recent years as a warning that the lessons of history must be learnt, and signed the Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment.

Speaking during the debate Ms McTaggart said:

“Today is a day for everyone to pause and remember the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered by the Nazi regime in occupied Europe.  We need to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own; it is a steady process that can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked, tackled and prevented.

“We have come a long way since the liberation of Auschwitz 70 years ago. We would think that, after the revelation of such dreadful crimes, those who voiced the same views as the Nazis could never gain any votes or any credibility again, but sadly the spectre of fascism haunts Europe once more.

“People with fascist views are being elected in parts of Europe and, after recent events in Germany and France, more than ever across Europe we must learn the lessons of history. All those who believe in freedom and democracy and who oppose racism and fascism must stand together united in order to ensure that the horrors of Auschwitz never happen again.”

signing_holocaust_commitment

You can read Ms McTaggart’s speech here.

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Anne McTaggart MSP backs calls for £100 million NHS Frontline Fund

NHS Speech

Glasgow Labour MSP Anne McTaggart has backed party leader Jim Murphy’s calls for a £100 million Frontline Fund to help ease the pressure on Scotland’s NHS. This follows shocking stories emerging in recent weeks about the state of the health service.

Ms McTaggart made her calls during a debate at the Scottish Parliament on the Scottish Government’s ‘2020 Vision’ for healthcare.

In recent weeks, news has emerged that the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow has used a portakabin to deal with overspill from their busy A&E wards. Meanwhile, in Paisley, the Royal Alexandra Hospital took to Facebook looking for volunteers to help with the pressure in A&E.

In response to this, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy called on the Scottish Government to establish a £100 million Frontline Fund, paid for through Scotland’s Barnett consequentials. This would allow hospitals facing extra pressure to move to a 7 day a week operation, meaning they would be able to deliver better care, with planned surgery at the weekends and diagnostics in the evening.

Speaking in the debate Ms McTaggart said:

“Behind each of those horror stories is a vulnerable patient and their family who are suffering, which is why we need to take urgent action. We know that the NHS in Scotland is facing significant pressures while having to make major changes to services to meet future needs.

“Although I welcome the fact that the Government has committed £100 million over the next three years to reduce delayed discharge numbers, I believe that we need additional budget to help deal with the increasing pressures on A and E services. That would provide real help to front-line staff, and I urge the Scottish Government to consider our proposals. It is imperative that the NHS gets the support that it needs, so that Scots can get the care that they deserve.

“It is clear that our NHS faces significant challenges over the coming years, no matter which party is in power. I will always be proud of our NHS and I will champion its amazing staff but, without the necessary resources, they will not be able to provide the highest quality of care that they want to provide and that our patients deserve.”

You can read Ms McTaggart’s speech here

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Questioning the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs

In my new role as Shadow Minister for Europe & International Development, I questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 21st January.

 

questioning fiona hyslop

Budget Priorities 2015-16 (Culture, Europe and External Affairs)

Anne McTaggart:

How many of the organisations that receive money from that ever-decreasing budget are living-wage employers

Fiona Hyslop: 

In relation to not only this question but the next question, I would say that, as we go forward to the 2015-16 budget, there will be some increases in our budgets, with the Europe and external affairs budget rising to £17.9 million, culture rising from £150.6 million to £174.7 million and Historic Scotland rising from £37.8 million to £40.1 million.

I am happy to give the member information in relation to the organisations that she asks about. The ones that are part of the Government’s public pay policy pay the living wage. I was particularly pleased that National Museums Scotland Enterprises was one of the first organisations that is not part of the Scottish Government’s pay policy to implement the living wage for its staff.

Everybody knows that workers in all organisations in the Scottish Government’s pay policy benefit from the living wage and that those who earn less than £21,000 will benefit from an increase. That matters a lot in the culture and heritage sector, which has more people on low pay than other sectors.

 

 

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Anne McTaggart MSP – ‘We Must Support People of Pakistan During These Difficult Times’

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Glasgow Labour MSP Anne McTaggart has spoken out against the barbaric actions of the Taliban in Pakistan who killed 150 school children in Pashawar last month.

Ms McTaggart was speaking in her Scottish Labour colleague Hanzala Malik MSPs member’s business debate on the tragedy at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 14th January.

Ms McTaggart said “I express my deepest sympathies to the victims, their families and anyone else who has been affected by this horrific terrorist attack. This atrocity demonstrated that children in Pakistan are not safe even when they are in school.

“According to UNICEF UK, a child dies from violence every five minutes somewhere in the world. We need to make efforts to end violence against children not only in Pakistan, but across the world. We also need to enhance stability in Pakistan following the tragedy. Like other members, I believe that, in the long run, education provides one of the best assurances of stability.

“It is vital that we support the people of Pakistan in these difficult times, that we provide aid to improve education and that we continue to work together internationally to counter terrorism.”

You can read Ms McTaggart’s speech here.

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Anne McTaggart MSP – ‘Patients Deserve Apology’

20 patients in Greater Glasgow and Clyde are owed an apology by the Scottish Government according to Labour MSP Anne McTaggart.

In 2012 the Scottish Government gave patients the legal right to be seen within 12 weeks.

But since then there has been over 12,000 individual breaches of the law across Scotland, with 20 of these in Greater Glasgow and Clyde. 

In addition, an Audit Scotland report highlighted that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde failed to meet two thirds of its targets on waiting times and delayed discharges. The health board also faces costs of £167 million in backlog maintenance just to keep its buildings fit for purpose. This follows cancelled operations last week because its hospitals were too busy to treat patients.

Anne McTaggart MSP has said that the NHS is facing huge pressure, and has backed a policy announced by Scottish Labour to deliver 1000 additional nurses to Scotland.

The funding for the nurses will be provided by a UK wide Mansion Tax on properties over £2 million.

Ms McTaggart said: 

“These figures are shocking. The Scottish Government gave themselves a legal obligation to meet targets on waiting times but since then they have broken that law over 12,000 times across Scotland.

“20 patients in Glasgow are owed an apology by the Scottish Government, who have broken a promise when enshrined in law.

“The reality is that our NHS across Scotland is under huge pressure and the Scottish Government has been posted missing.

“From my regular surgeries to out on the doorstep it is clear to me that people in Glasgow are concerned about the NHS. The staff who work in it are doing the absolute best they can but they are under immense pressure, overstretched and underfunded.

“That is why I am backing 1000 additional nurses for Scotland, funded by a UK wide mansion tax on properties over £2 million. It will support our NHS and its staff, and only Labour can deliver this policy to Scotland.”

Stats for Health Board below 

Scottish Labour’s 1,000 Extra Nurses Plan

Scottish Labour will fund the extra 1,000 NHS nurses in Scotland using the Barnett consequentials of £250m from Labour’s Time to Care fund, made up from:

  • £1.2bn from the Mansion Tax;
  • £1.1bn from the tax avoidance measures;
  • £150m from Tobacco Firm Fees.

This is already announced Labour party policy. Further details can be found here: http://bit.ly/17xUblt

The proposal to fund 1000 additional nurses is costed, and does not spend the full amount Scotland would receive in Barnett consequentials from this additional UK Government spending.  It is also below the mansion tax share of this.

SPICE estimate the cost of recruiting a nurse to be £29,702. That puts cost of 1000 nurses at £29,702,520.

 Mid-range Band 5 Nurse salary £24,312.00
Employer pension contribution (14%) £3,403.68
National Insurance contribution (12% on earnings above £7,755) £1,986.84
Total cost £29,702.52

Zoopla have analysed the regional distribution of the mansion tax across the UK:

 Region Homes worth >£2m % of UK Total
London 85,461 88.2%
South East England 14,261 7.7%
East of England 3,718 1.7%
South West England 2,079 1.0%
North West England 881 0.4%
Scotland 895 0.3%
West Midlands 435 0.2%
East Midlands 261 0.2%
North East England 231 0.1%
Yorkshire and The Humber 168 0.1%
Wales 87 0.0%
Total 108,477 100% 

Source: http://bit.ly/14JyYnr

Last week, the RCN said the Scottish Government’s recent waiting time figures publication was “political point scoring”:

“Political point scoring on targets is all well and good but if one of the reasons Scotland’s A&Es are performing against the four hour target less badly than their counterparts in England is because patients are having surgery cancelled, it somewhat misses the point. Our concern should be about patient care, not numbers.”

Source: http://bit.ly/14AeQDD

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