BBC One’s political flagship debate show Question Time was broadcast from Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange last night, in front of an audience of 16-17 year olds who will be able to vote for the first time on 18 September 2014.
The panellists included SNPs Angus Robertson, Labour’s Anas Sarwar, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and journalist Lesley Riddoch.
Controversially, UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Respect MP George Galloway who represents Bradford West, were also invited to appear despite having no apparent political mandate in Scotland. Thier appearance led to pro-independence campaigners protesting outside the Corn Exchange prior to the show.
First question fell to Kieren Fitzgerald who asked whether surveillance is an acceptable price for national security.
George Galloway argued strongly against it and called for a Nobel Prize for the whistle-blower whilst Anas Sarwar praised the work of the intelligence agencies but questioned William Hague’s response to Parliament.
Ruth Davidson backed the work of GCHQ and insisted that the framework does not allow them to get round existing law then Lesley Riddoch questioned the role of Google in the USA. Angus Robertson was concerned about the storage of intelligence data and Nigel Farage urged people to be cautious on social media sites.
The subject then changed to independence and Fiona Murray asked what benefits would independence bring to young people in Scotland.
This sparked an angry exchange between Angus Robertson who protested about the make-up of the panel, with four anti-independence and only one pro-independence, while host David Dimbleby insisted that there was no BBC bias.
Angus Robertson then explained that in an independent Scotland, we would always have the government that we elect, there would be job creation and we could get rid of nuclear weapons.
Anas Sarwar countered that we need social and economic change and all should have equality of education throughout the UK, while Lesley Riddoch said that she wanted to live in a country with no Trident, has equality of education and embraces renewables, so she will vote yes.
George Galloway then turned on Angus Robertson for his narrow-minded attitude regarding who should have been allowed on the panel and also criticised Alex Salmond’s behaviour as unstatesmanlike after the recent incident involving the UKIP leader who was ‘run out of town.’ He demanded that everyone should have the right to speak.
Angus Robertson supported Alex Salmond and said that he defended the people’s right to protest, but Nigel Farage also criticised the First Minister who supported the protestors who acted like ‘yobs’ when he came to have a debate in Edinburgh.
Ruth Davidson said that the people deserved answers, and pointed out that one in five jobs in the private sector were in companies with headquarters in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
When David Dimbleby asked for the opinion of the audience, one teenager stated that he thought that Scottish independence would bring people one step closer to discovering aliens!!!
Nigel Farage said that independence would be like swapping masters from Westminster to Brussels. Lesley Riddoch stated that the UK was the most regionally imbalanced country in Europe and quoted figures which suggested that one in 29 people from London were dollar millionaires, a fact which George Galloway disputed as false as there is ‘mass poverty and unemployment throughout the UK’.
Anas Sarwar demanded a debate based on fact and accused the SNP of not being straight with the people of Scotland.
Scott Mann then said that he felt that 16/17 year olds did not have enough experience to vote, but George Galloway, Angus Robertson, Lesley Riddoch and Anas Sarwar disagreed.
Ruth Davidson suggested that the current voting age of 18 should remain in place, and Nigel Farage said that lowering the age for one election was ‘silly and cheap.’
Cameron Gilchrist then asked the panel whether the UK should intervene in Syria, which started an argument between Angus Robertson and George Galloway,
Angus Robertson blamed the President of Syria, but George Galloway pointed out that President Assad was prepared to negotiate and had been since the beginning then warned of the dangers of arming the opposition. He stated that the opposition should be forced to sit round the table.
Nigel Farage stated that since Blair’s time, there appears to have been ‘glee’ about going to war and our history of interventions in the Middle East have not been successful so we should not get involved.
Lesley Riddoch pointed out that the population the size of Wales had been displaced and that the priority was dialogue. Meanwhile, Angus Robertson pointed out that the UK had armed the Taliban to fight the Soviet Union and said that we should not arm one side, although Russia was arming President Assad.
Last word went to Lesley Riddoch who stated that of the 93,000 killed so far, a high proportion were children.
Midlothian South Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame is today condemning ITV Borders after learning that some people living in her constituency won’t be able to watch STV’s first televised debate on Scotland’s Independence Referendum tonight.
Ms Grahame believes it is an injustice that people in certain parts of her constituency will have access to the debate but others will have to view it later on STV Player.
She said:-“It is ridiculous that people in Penicuik will be able to watch the debate as it is broadcast but those living in Melrose may have to wait several hours before being able to hear it online. Even then some people may not be able to access it. And of course the irony is that this debate is between Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Moore MP, who of course happens to be a local member and even his constituents won’t be able to hear it.”
Ms Grahame has been campaigning for several years to see changes made in broadcasting in the Borders and on the issue of ITV Borders’ failure to cover Scottish News and current affairs from its English base at Gateshead.
She added: -“People in the Borders have an interest in seeing a referendum that fully meets modern democratic standards of which acceptable coverage throughout Scotland including the Borders by the broadcast media must be a part of. At present some of my constituents are being denied the opportunity to hear this debate on what is fundamentally very important to the future of our country.
“If the Borders doesn’t have the same extent and range of coverage then this only results in a democratic deficit in public service broadcasting.”
Well, according to the Yes Scotland campaign it certainly is.
People from a range of EU countries and now living in Scotland came together today to voice support for a Yes vote in next year’s independence referendum. Citizens from countries such as Poland, Italy, France and England gathered in Edinburgh to say why they want Scotland to stay in the EU – and why independence is the best way to guarantee it.
Olga Uflewska, who works in a coffee shop, said:- ‘As a Polish Scot living in Glasgow I want Scotland to remain in the European Union. That’s why I’m voting Yes next year. Westminster’s isolationist agenda is damaging to Scotland and is putting our EU membership at risk.
‘The fact is that Westminster is failing to protect our national interest in Europe. On employment protection, on cross border crime, on agriculture, on financial regulation, on fisheries – Scotland’s distinct needs and priorities are being ignored.
‘The only way to guarantee our future in Europe and safeguard our interests is for Scotland to represent herself on the European and international stage.’
Europe Day marks May 9, 1950, when the then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presented his proposal on the creation of an organised Europe, to help maintain peaceful relations between European countries. This proposal, known as the ‘Schuman declaration’, is considered to be the act that created what is now the European Union.
Today retired Post Office worker Jack Howarth, originally from Manchester but who now lives in Edinburgh, said:- ‘Scotland has so much to offer. With our first class universities, our natural resources, our renewable technologies, our world leading research and our skilled workforce we’ve got what it takes to make a valuable contribution to both Europe and the world.
Italian-born Toni Giugliano, Yes Scotland’s community groups adviser, said:- ‘Next year the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to choose between isolation and participation in Europe. Over the past 40 year we have been on the edges, never shaping the European debate, but simply reacting to it.
‘And while Westminster casts doubt overt our future in Europe, the Irish Republic holds the EU Presidency – a small nation setting the agenda for 500 million Europeans. An independent Scotland, too, should and could have a strong voice in Europe.’
Photo Bill Fleming
Gordon Macdonald MSP has pledged to help ensure that all people living with MS in Scotland have access to the right treatment, care and support, regardless of where they live.
This comes as the largest ever survey of people with MS showed that good progress has been made in Scotland and other parts of the UK, as well as illustrating areas in which further work and improvements are required.
On Wednesday 1 May the MS Society showcased the results from their report, A Lottery of Treatment and Care, during their Garden Lobby reception. Gordon attended to show his support for the ‘Stop the MS Lottery’ campaign and to meet people living with the condition.
Gordon said:-“I’m pleased to be able to show my support for this important campaign and I know the SNP Government is committed to ensuring that everyone with MS is able to access the care and support that they need. MS affects many of my constituents and everyone should be able to get the treatment, services and support they need. I will continue to work with my constituents, fellow MSPs and organisations to drive this campaign forward”.
Christine Carlin, MS Society Director for Scotland said:- “There are over 10,500 people living with MS in Scotland and it is essential that these people can access the right treatments, services and support in order to manage their condition. We have been delighted by the support we have received from MSPs throughout MS Week and at our reception. By working together we can stop the MS Lottery.”
Cat Johnson, who spoke at the event, was diagnosed with MS when she was 21 years old. “Living with a fluctuating condition like MS means that you never really know how you’re going to feel from day to day. It is absolutely essential that we can access the right treatments, services and support when we need them. When all this is in place, people with MS can live independent lives. Without it, you’re struggling with the symptoms of your condition and the physical and social barriers that stop you from living your life to the full. I was overwhelmed to see so many MSPs there showing their support. Working together we can make a difference people like me who live with MS.”
Stop the MS Lottery - Launching its ‘Stop the MS Lottery’ campaign the MS Society has asked the Scottish Government to ensure improved and equitable access to treatment, care and support by people living with MS. For more details about the Campaign visit www.mssociety.org.uk
If you are old enough to remember glass lemonade bottles, then you will recall that taking these back to the shop resulted in a few pennies being refunded. Now that we are a recycling nation (again!) we are being coaxed back to old-fashioned ways. The Scottish Government is introducing a scheme to give money for cans and bottles being handed in at several centres around Edinburgh.
IKEA, Dundee University, Network Rail and Whitmuir Organics are amongst the nine companies and organisations trialling the projects, which will reward people for recycling glass, aluminium and plastic (PET) drinks containers through a range of incentives such as money back, discount vouchers or vouchers for donations to charities.
It is hoped that the local pilot projects, part of the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Scotland programme, will encourage people to recycle more and limit the amount of used drinks containers going to landfill.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment Richard Lochhead visited IKEA in Edinburgh today to see the first of the ‘reverse vending’ machines and hear how the retailer is introducing the scheme in its Scottish stores as a key part of its sustainability programme.
At IKEA, shoppers will be able to recycle any glass, plastic or aluminium drinks containers purchased from the restaurant, shop, or vending machines in their Edinburgh and Glasgow stores. Once returned and deposited through the machine, for each item shoppers will be offered the choice of a 10p voucher to redeem in-store or a 10p donation to one of the stores’ selected charities.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment Richard Lochhead said:
“Years ago, we thought nothing of taking our empty glass bottles back to the shops with the added bonus of getting cash back in our pocket. Now thanks to modern technology we are breathing new life into this traditional approach through the Recycle and Reward scheme. By offering customers incentives such as money back or vouchers for recycling their glass bottles and cans when out shopping, at college or travelling to work, I hope we can encourage more people to recycle on the go.
“Each year, around 22,000 tonnes of plastic drinks bottles alone go to landfill in Scotland. If that was separated for recycling it could be worth around £6 million to the economy and that’s why it’s so important that we help more people to recycle what they can.
“Even small steps like recycling more drinks containers can have a big impact on our environment. I hope this new scheme will encourage everyone to go that bit further, helping us to become a zero waste society. By taking small actions to go greener together we benefit Scotland today and for future generations.”
Linton Scarborough, Store Manager, IKEA Edinburgh, said:
“At IKEA, we are committed to ensuring sustainability is at the heart of what we do. We strive to be a good neighbour and we want to inspire and enable our customers to live a more sustainable life at home, helping them to save or generate energy, reduce or sort waste, use less or recycle water. We have a number of different sustainability initiatives in place in stores across the UK and also as a company, so we are thrilled to be the first business to trial the ‘Recycle and Reward’ scheme at both of the Scottish IKEA stores. We are excited about this great addition to IKEA Edinburgh and hope it will play a part in making sure recycling is always front of mind for both our customers and co-workers alike.”
Iain Gulland, Director, Zero Waste Scotland, said:
“It’s vital that we consider fresh approaches to boosting recycling rates and capturing the value of materials which would otherwise be sent straight to landfill. Through this pilot, we want to assess the impact of this approach which has proved successful around the world, including in Germany, South Australia and Scandinavia. It’s important we change the way people view waste in Scotland and we’ll be looking at how incentivising these recycling schemes impacts on recycling rates and complements other schemes designed to capture valuable materials, including kerbside, recycling centres and banks.”
In total, nine ‘Recycle and Reward’ schemes will be piloted at 14 locations including retail outlets, event venues, shopping centres, schools and colleges, as part of the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Scotland programme. The local pilots, which will run until September 2013, will be independently monitored and evaluated to assess the potential impact the roll-out of similar schemes could have on recycling rates in Scotland.
The following projects have been awarded funding through the Recycle and Reward pilot scheme:
- University of Dundee - An on-campus initiative, with on-site reverse vending machines placed in prominent areas for use by staff and students.
- Cordia Services LLP -Reverse vending machines will be placed in the refectory areas of Glasgow Caledonian University for use by students and staff
- Heriot Watt University - An on-campus deposit and return initiative, with on-site reverse vending machines placed in prominent areas for use by staff and students.
- Whitmuir Organics - A deposit and return pilot project for the collection of glass, aluminium and plastic (PET) containers at Whitmuir Farm
- North Ayrshire Council - Reverse vending pilot for aluminium and PET at Garnock Academy, Ardrossan Academy and Largs Academy
- IKEA, in partnership with the Reverse Vending Corporation - Fully automated pilot for glass, aluminium and plastics (PET) with the 2 Scottish IKEA stores
- South Ayrshire Council - Reverse vending machines will be placed at the Council’s Community Recycling Centres in Troon and Marr College
- Network Rail - Reverse vending machines for aluminium and plastics (PET) to be placed in Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central rail stations for use by commuters
- Hebridean Celtic Festival - Reverse vending machines to be placed at the Celtic Festival
Getting out and about in the local community
How easy is it to get out and about in Edinburgh if you are elderly and / or disabled and find it difficult to access public transport? This is the challenge being looked at as part of an inquiry by members of the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee.
As part of the Committee’s inquiry, a meeting is being held in Edinburgh on Monday 22 April 2013. Committee members, MSPs Jim Eadie and Gordon MacDonald, will meet with representatives from Lothian Community Transport Services (LCTS), and with both users and providers of community transport. The Committee wants to hear about problems community transport users and providers in Scotland face and also to identify examples of where services are working well.
Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee Convener Maureen Watt MSP said:-“We know that getting out and about to visit friends and family, go shopping and attending appointments is vital to people’s health and wellbeing. If you can’t do this, the sense of isolation that can develop can be overwhelming.
“Across Scotland, there are examples of fantastic services, but there are also communities isolated from transport networks and for whatever reason, local communities have been unable to set up the community transport services they so desperately need. We want to hear from people living and working in communities and their views will be the focus our inquiry and make sure we can try to help improve the situation for those often in greatest need.”
More than 80% of people who use community transport are elderly and/or people with disabilities and with an increasing elderly population, the Committee knows how important community transport is to people’s lives. They hope to find community transport services that are working well, and uncover the problems that stop others from thriving.
The Committee is aware of the main issues which have been highlighted in previous studies, set out below, and is keen to move the debate on, identify the main priorities and make a real difference as a result of this.
* A lack of a strategic approach to community transport and the impact which a lack of transport has on people’s lives
* The growing demand for community transport provision
* A lack of a coordinated approach with NHS bodies and community transport providers
* Eligibility criteria for non-emergency patient transport and the cost to NHS of taxi use.
* Replacing community transport vehicles and funding planning.
* Access to concessionary fares schemes.
A survey for the Scottish Greens shows a strong appetite among Scots for the Government to set a target to ensure all school leavers are able to cook a basic meal from scratch.
By contrast the major supermarkets, who already control three-quarters of our grocery spending, are encouraging the growth of the ready meals sector through advertising campaigns, broadcasts and billboards. The UK ready meal market, which has been at the centre of the horsemeat scandal, continues to grow at five per cent a year and is now worth £1 billion a year.
The Panelbase survey for the Scottish Greens shows 79 per cent of 1,000 Scots agreed with the need for a target for school leavers, while only 7 per cent disagreed.
Other research suggests the majority of 18-25 year olds leave home without the ability to cook a simple recipe such as Spaghetti Bolognese, with many relying on ready meals and takeaways.
Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and spokesperson on food and education for the Scottish Greens, said:
“We have a growing problem with obesity and ready meals are nutritionally haphazard. It’s time the Scottish Government challenged the big manufacturers and retailers. The inconvenient truth about many convenience foods is they make big firms big profits while public health pays dearly.
“Curriculum for Excellence has great potential and I would urge the government to recognise the appetite there is for ensuring school leavers are able to cook. As more people question what’s in the food they’re buying due to the horsemeat scandal it’s important we establish a balanced food culture from the start.”
The peaceful and orderly conduct of Scotland’s century-long constitutional journey should stand as an exemplar of popular democracy for countries all over the world, First Minister Alex Salmond has told a prestigious institute in New York.
Speaking at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, the First Minister said the current process of self-determination had been agreed, not with the force of arms, but with a handshake and would be determined in a democratic referendum, the result of which will be respected by both sides.
In his address, Mr Salmond said this approach to the affirmation of popular sovereignty was “rare and precious”, even in the modern world, as he explained how the process contrasted with the way the Declaration of Arbroath and the US Declaration of Independence had been sealed through armed struggle.
The First Minister also used his speech – part of his Scotland Week programme – to highlight the key economic strengths that Scotland already possesses in areas such as innovation, renewables, life sciences, financial services and tourism.
And Mr Salmond told the audience, which included dozens of business leaders and investors, that an independent Scotland would be well placed to capitalise further on these strengths, participating as an active member of the international community and maintaining close ties with the United States and other major trading partners.
The First Minister said:-”An American President once famously said that the business of America is business. As a canny Scot I can relate to that. In this trip we have been demonstrating with inward investment and trade delegations and the marketing of Scotland week and next year’s Homecoming that the business of Scotland in America is business.
“However, I also know that the Coolidge quotation does not point to the fundamental principle of American society. The founding principle of this republic is popular sovereignty. The real business of America is not business but democracy. Therefore it is worth reflecting on something really important – how this process of Scottish self-determination is offering as an exemplar to the rest of the planet.”
The First Minister continued:-”For the best part of a century Scotland has been on a constitutional journey. Despite the passion of the argument not a single person has lost their lives arguing for or against Scottish independence – indeed nobody has suffered so much as a nosebleed.
“The process has been peaceful, orderly and constitutional. The Edinburgh Agreement which I signed with the Prime Minister in October is the culmination of that process. Both Scotland and London agreed on the terms of a popular referendum, agreed to accept the result and crucially in clause 30 agreed to work in the best interests of the peoples of Scotland and the rest of the UK following the result whatever it may be.
“Both the Declaration of Arbroath with its search for a Scottish legitimacy and the Declaration of Independence with its affirmation of popular sovereignty were sealed in the force of arms and struggle. Now the process of Scottish self-determination is signed in a handshake and determined in a democratic referendum of the people. Even in modern times this is a rare and precious process and one which stands as an exemplar to the rest of the world.”
Registers of Scotland is backing The Scottish Government’s drive to help young people into employment by creating a Modern Apprenticeship (MA) scheme. Fourteen MAs are getting the opportunity of paid employment combined with on the job training and the chance to gain a nationally recognised qualification.
The MAs will work towards achieving SVQ level 3 in either Business Administration or Customer Services. Within RoS, the group will be working in different departments to gain an insight into the organisation and build up valuable employment skills.
Keeper of the Registers of Scotland, Sheenagh Adams is delighted to welcome the new starts as part of the MA scheme. She said:- “Every organisation needs fresh talent and skills to help it meet its business objectives now and in the future and, indeed, to keep itself vibrant and in touch. To this end, we are extremely happy to be creating these new Modern Apprenticeship opportunities to the mutual benefit of RoS and the 16-19 year olds taking up a place here.”
The recent economic conditions have been challenging for all sectors of the work force but securing employment has proved particularly difficult for school leavers during the downturn. That is certainly an experience 18-year old Modern Apprentice Erin Quinn from Duddingston can identify with: “A lot of people my age are really struggling to find any kind of work. Most people who are lucky enough to get a job at all are getting stop-gap work just to do something.
“I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity on the Modern Apprenticeship scheme at Registers of Scotland. I’m really looking forward to being able to work and get a qualification.”
19-year old Steven Murray from Penicuik is also among those who’ve secured a place on the RoS MA scheme. He said: “Before getting this opportunity I was just doing bits and pieces of work – really whatever I could get. I had done a bit of labouring and things but I wanted more for myself. Compared to most jobs out there, this is just such a good opportunity. To get the chance to train from the ground up is fantastic.”
Minister for Youth Employment Angela Constance said: “The Modern Apprenticeships scheme is giving 25,000 young people each year the opportunity for an exceptional start on the career ladder. I am delighted that Erin, Steven and RoS have had such a positive experience and it is a message that I hear regularly from apprentices and employers across the country.
“It is a challenging time but the success of Modern Apprenticeships clearly demonstrates that employers benefit greatly from the additional support they receive to take on young people across a range of sectors.”
Damien Yeates, Chief Executive of Skills Development Scotland, the national skills body that supports the delivery of MAs, said: “A Modern Apprenticeship offers a fantastic route into a career providing the right combination of practical and theoretical experience needed to reach the top of your profession.
“The programme not only equips employees with the skills and training they need for their role, it helps employers retain valued staff as MAs helping businesses build more capable, efficient and loyal workforces.”
MSP MARKS ONE YEAR SINCE EMOTIVE DEBATE
SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire West, Dennis Robertson, will this week mark one year since his emotive and thought-provoking members debate on Eating Disorders, which saw him claim the Donald Dewar Award for Debater of the Year 2012.
The debate in 2012 was used to mark a year since his daughter, Caroline, died from Anorexia Nervosa, and since Dennis Robertson MSP has made eating disorders a priority issue for him in Parliament.
Most recently, Dennis spoke on the issues surrounding pro-anorexia sites and their consumption by children as young as 6. He regularly meets with the Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson and other stakeholder groups to keep eating disorders on the agenda.
This week is Anorexia Awareness Week, and along with young people, Dennis hopes to further raise awareness of the real support that is available to overcome the illness.
Mr Robertson commented:
“It is a very emotive issue for me, and I stand with other parents that have lost a loved one by an eating disorder. It is important to promote Anorexia Awareness Week, because people with eating disorders often feel shame and don’t want to talk openly about it.
“Everyone with an eating disorder needs to know there is real help available, that there is people out there that understand what they are going through and are willing and ready to talk and listen.
“I have had very important discussions with the Scottish Government and stakeholders to ensure that eating disorders remain a priority issue, and I am confident that much needed action will come.”