Irvine Office

Constituency Office:

29A Eglinton Street, IRVINE KA12 8AS

TELEPHONE NO: 01294 311976 

I will be holding constituency surgeries on the last Monday of each month in my office. Just telephone the office to arrange an appointment.

Thousands of children in North Ayrshire at risk from Tory cuts

Nearly 17,100 children in North Ayrshire  at risk from Tory cuts to tax credits according to shocking figures released by Margaret McDougall  MSP.

With the Tory Government looking to slash £12 billion from the welfare bill, tax credits like child tax credit and working tax credit are in the firing line, risking vital income to 9900 thousand families in North Ayrshire.

Scottish Labour MSP Margaret McDougall  has blasted Tory plans to cut tax credits, first introduced by the last Labour Government to tackle in work poverty.

The West Region MSP also urged the SNP Government in Edinburgh to adopt Scottish Labour plans to tackle poverty, by extending the living wage and banning rip off rent rises in the private sector.

Scottish Labour MSP, Margaret McDougall said:

“During the general election the Prime Minister promised the ‘good life’ for families but now he plans to cut vital support for families in North Ayrshire Scotland and across the UK

“With thousands of families in Scotland struggling from week the week the absolute last people the Chancellor should target is low income families, but instead his plans to slash welfare puts nearly 9900 families in North Ayrshire, and 17,100 children at risk.

“The last Labour Government introduced tax credits to tackle working poverty, and it worked.  There are thousands of people in North Ayrshire who can attest to that

“Recently new information has shown that over 200,000 children in Scotland are living in poverty – on what planet does slashing tax credits help those kids?

“The SNP Government Edinburgh need to stand up for these families. New powers coming to Scotland will help but there is so much that could be done at Holyrood now.

“The SNP should back Scottish Labour plans to extend the living wage to more low paid jobs like cleaning, catering and caring. With rents and poverty levels soaring in our private rented sector the SNP Government should also back Scottish Labour plans to ban rip off rent rises.

“Families in North Ayrshire need action, not warm words from the Scottish Government.”

Progress on Child Poverty has Stalled.

One of the most ambitious pledges of the last Labour Government was the promise to eradicate child poverty by 2020; it is unfortunately an ambition that we will never be able to complete, but it will always remain our goal. However, good progress was made and across the United Kingdom between 1998/99 to 2010/11 child poverty  fell from 3.4 million to 2.3 million, a reduction which was unmatched by any other wealthy nation over the same period and a record which I am immensely proud of.

Yet, progress on tackling child poverty has now not only stalled but is at risk of going in to reverse according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The purist of an Austerity agenda at all costs has brought devastating harm upon the most vulnerable in society and with £12Bn further welfare cuts to come this is only going to get worse. Make no mistake even if the plan was deficit reduction these cuts go to the bone, far beyond what would actually be required to bring the deficit down.

Combined with the introduction of the bedroom tax, rise in both living and housing costs, lack of affordable childcare, low paid and zero hours contacts, the work done by the previous Labour Government to eradicate child poverty by 2020 is being systemically wiped out by a Tory Government who seem to be more concerned with lining their own pockets than protecting vulnerable people. They now wish to ignore child poverty by changing the way in which it is measured, it is an outrage, and all parties should stand against this.

In Scotland the situation is slightly different, between 1999/00 till 2007/8, under the Labour/Liberal administration child poverty in Scotland fell at a steady pace. In 1999/00, children defined in absolute child poverty after housing costs was, 38%, by 2007/8 this was, 22%, a reduction of 16%.

Since 2007/8, and the SNP Government, there has been little reduction in these levels.  According to the most recent figure, 2013/14, it is now 24%, that’s over 200,000 children and progress, according to the Scottish Government’s own figures has not only stalled but is going backwards.

The Scottish Government says it wants to tackle child poverty; that it wants to see a fairer and more equal Scotland, but this does not seem to translate in to real and meaningful action. Many reading this are now probably thinking to themselves that the Scottish Government is doing the best it can in a difficult financial climate with limited powers.

While it’s true that Scotland has been hit hard by Westminster austerity measures, consider this fact, in the last two financial years the Scottish Government has had underspends of both £444m and £376m. If this year’s figure is similar over £1Bn will have been underspent. As any struggling family in Scotland will know, all too often the money runs out before the end of the month.

I also agree that Scotland should have more powers, that is why Labour are fighting hard to bring new powers to Scotland. Through the Scotland Bill we will get a range of job creating powers, welfare powers, income tax raising powers and a host of other measures. The SNP are, however, arguing for Full Fiscal Autonomy, which would see Scotland plunged in to unbearable levels of Austerity, FFA isn’t even supported by Yes Campaign backers the Greens as they realise the damage it could cause. On this issue the SNP stand alone in demanding further hardship for Scottish families and our children.

I also question whether the SNP would actually utilise these powers, they have been so busy demanding new ones they seem to have forgotten about the ones they already have.

For example here is a list of measures that the SNP could introduce, that Scottish Labour would support, to tackle child poverty : a cap on childcare costs, set at no more than 10% of a family’s income; more flexible childcare to ensure wrap round and availability during work hours and out of school hours and more places; the immediate introduction of the living wage in all public procurement contacts, which the SNP voted against; tackling low pay; construction of more social housing and a cap on rip off rents and finally increasing education attainment, reversing colleges cuts to ensure all our children can succeed.

Child poverty is a national scandal, the Tories are targeting the vulnerable while progress has stalled under the SNP and key protections aren’t in place. I want to see child poverty wiped out in both the UK and Scotland. I will work with the SNP to do that but we need action, not just words The measures outlined above are positive, affordable and sensible and my challenge to the Scottish Government is this, stop looking to place blame elsewhere and just get on with it.

Comment on Quarry Road Leisure Centre Development

Speaking about the proposed Quarry Road Leisure Centre Development, Margaret McDougall MSP, said:

“I spoke with Katrina McCauley from North Ayrshire Council on Friday to raise my concerns about this development as well as the lack of consultation.  She explained that she is new in post but advised me that there had been extensive consultation on this, I beg to differ, I live in that area and have never been contacted, neither have my neighbours.”

“It is totally unacceptable to say people will get neighbour notification, as by this point the plans will be fairly well developed and only the immediate neighbours will get these.  I am all for improving facilities in Irvine, strengthening the local economy and bringing jobs to the area however, my concerns about the proposals, as I read in the local press, is the impact this will have on the traffic.”

“There already are tail backs at the junction with Quarry Road and East Road at peak times.  Quarry Road/Crocus Grove is already pretty dangerous because of sight restrictions and when there is Meadow Park football traffic or funeral parlour parking along the surrounding roads it is even more so.
“I asked for a meeting with Ms McCauley and I await her contacting my office to arrange a meeting on her return from annual leave and I have notified Elma Murray of my feelings on the lack of consultation with people who will be directly affected by this.  Proposal to develop this site were thrown out years ago for exactly the same concerns so what has changed?

“I have looked at the Irvine Vision Report and failed to see the development plans mentioned in it.

“I am disappointed in this Councils attitude to residents and elected members who have North Ayrshire’s interests at heart.”

Local MSP blasts  SNP underspend on public services

Margaret McDougall MSP has blasted the Scottish Government for denying public services in North Ayrshire vital funding

Figures released this week revealed the annual underspend in Scotland’s budget for last year is £376 million.

Of this amount, £151 million is the amount of cash the Scottish Government has chosen not to spend funding our schools, hospitals, housing and other public services.

West Region MSP, Margaret McDougall  blasted the decision, saying it was “astonishing” that local services were being underfunded whilst the Scottish Government sit on millions

In 2008 SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney boasted that the days of hundreds of millions in underspends were over – but for the second year he has been sitting on millions whilst local communities suffer brutal cuts to budgets.

Margaret McDougall MSP said:

“It is absolutely astonishing that, during a time of unprecedented austerity, the SNP Government in Edinburgh has decided to deny millions of pounds worth of funding for public services in North Ayrshire

 “Across Scotland we are seeing a NHS which is failing on nearly every measure, an unacceptable attainment gap between rich and poor children in education, and a social housing crisis which sees waiting lists stretch into decades – why isn’t the available money being spent to help communities in North Ayrshire and across Scotland?

“Underspending a budget is a sign of poor financial management, and it is vulnerable people in our poorest communities who feel the effects.”

Addition Information: 

This year’s underspend is the second highest under the SNP, beaten only by last year.

This year: (2014-15): £376m in total

Last year (2013-14): £444m in total

John Swinney previously said:  “Long gone are the days when hundreds of millions of pounds of government money would be underspent each year, doing nothing to help communities around the country.”

 

Margaret McDougall MSP calls for Football Act Review

Margaret McDougall MSP calls for Football Act Review  

Margaret McDougall has called for the Scottish Government to conduct a review of the controversial ‘Football Act’

The MSP believes that the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 is not tackling Scotland’s problem with sectarianism.

The Act has attracted criticism previously, with one Sherriff describing it as “mince”

Last week the SNP Government backed away from plans to conduct a review of the legislation.

Margaret McDougall MSP, said:

“The Football Act has been a huge source of controversy, criticised not just by football fans but by legal experts too. It has created a culture of mistrust between football fans and the authorities which does nothing to help Scotland have an honest debate about how we tackle, and beat, sectarianism.

“The reality is that bigotry and intolerance are not confined to 90 minutes on a Saturday at football matches. If we want to be the generation that makes sectarianism a thing of the past we must address the issue head on, in our classrooms and communities in North Ayrshrie

“That is why I am calling on the Scottish Government to deliver what they promised – a thorough review of the Football Act.”

Additional Information.

Sheriff Richard Davidson has previously described the Football Act as “mince”

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/crime/crown-office-appeal-after-celtic-1826448

The previous Minister for Community Safety Roseanna Cunningham said that a review should wait until August 2015, once the research released today was complete

“Minister for community safety Roseanna Cunningham had earlier insisted that the review would not be moved from August 2015; when Stirling University researchers are due to publish findings.

http://news.stv.tv/west-central/266111-celtic-condemn-negative-football-laws-and-call-for-urgent-review/

Margaret McDougall wants more support for carers

Local MSP Margaret McDougall has backed more support for carers in the West Region

The Labour MSP will back amendments to the Carers Bill to beef up the powers of the Care Inspectorate.

Under Scottish Labour plans the Care Inspectorate will be given responsibility for inspecting the standards and provision of carer services across Scotland.

This will mean that support groups, information and advice centres for carers meet a national standard.

There are an estimated 72795 carers in West Region.  Margaret McDougall said that too often carers feel isolated, and that Labour’s plans will deliver the extra support carers deserve.

Speaking ahead of Carers Week, Margaret McDougall MSP called on Scotland’s other political parties to back their plans.

Margaret McDougall MSP said:

“Carers Week is one of the most important weeks of the year, as for too long the work of Scotland’s unpaid carers goes unrecognised and unsupported.

“Carers UK estimate that Scotland’s carers save Scotland £10 billion a year, the absolute least we can deliver is more support for the estimated 72795 carers in the West Region and across Scotland.

“That’s why I will be voting to beef up the powers of the Care Inspectorate, to make them responsible for carers services and support. I am calling on the other political parties at Holyrood to put people before politics and deliver a better deal for Scotland’s carers”

Margaret McDougall MSP backs better buses

The Scottish Government should work with Scottish Labour to deliver better bus services.

That’s the message from West Region MSP, Margaret McDougall

Scottish Labour have written to SNP transport Minister Derek Mackay asking him to adopt the  Bus Regulation (Scotland) Bill as a government bill after parliament officials said it would not have the time to be delivered as a private members bill.

Scottish Labour plans would have given more powers to local councils to set up bus networks as rail style franchises.

It would also have given transport authorities the power to combine profitable and loss making routes for tender, potentially saving local routes which have been routinely under threat.  Communities would have more say in routes, timetables, ticketing and fares.

Prior to 2007 the SNP supported bus regulation, however they u-turned on this position ahead of the 2007 election and have opposed attempts to re- regulate since.

Margaret McDougall MSP said:

“I believe our buses should serve the communities they drive through, not merely line the  pockets of private companies.  Scottish Labour plans would have allowed local routes to be protected.

“There is cross party support for re-regulating the industry. The SNP used to agree with Labour on this but u-turned in 2007 on it. However I believe they should look again at our plans, it would benefit people in West Region and across Scotland.

“Bus companies may not support these measures, but passengers do.  Scottish Labour believes that buses should be run in the interests of passengers rather than the industry.  It’s time for the SNP Government to pick a side.”

Scottish Parliament Salutes Volunteers

18426417226_df2399a5c7_kTo mark Volunteer Week, Volunteer Scotland and the Scottish Parliament’s Cross- Party on Volunteering & the Voluntary Sector today organised a photo-call for Volunteers and MSPs in the Garden Lobby area of the Scottish Parliament.

The photo-call provided an opportunity for MSPs to show appreciation of the fantastic work carried out by volunteers in Scotland and the contribution that they make to the Scottish economy and Scotland’s civic society.

Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Justice & Pensioners Rights attended the event and spent time with the volunteers to hear of their experiences.

The event was hosted by Margaret McDougall MSP, Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross- Party on Volunteering & the Voluntary Sector.

Margaret McDougall MSP said “I am delighted to have hosted the event. It is important that, as politicians, we recognise the terrific contribution made by volunteers across Scotland. Also, it important that volunteers see that we appreciate the role that they play in our society”

NHS Bombshell as Waiting Times Skyrocket and Targets are Missed

The NHS is falling short on every measure because of the SNP’s inability to fund it properly.

The most recent figures show that:

  • A&E waiting times missed for the 294th week in a row
  • More than 150,000 beds unavailable to delayed discharge in the first   quarter of 2015, up on last year
  • Failure to meet the 18-week referral to treatment target for the sixth month in a row
  • The SNP breaking their own Treatment Time Guarantee law almost 5,000 times, with performance worse than last year
  • Significant rise in patients waiting more than six weeks for key diagnostics tests

In NHS Ayrshire and Arran waiting times for key diagnostic tests have sky rocketed, according to the statistics in March 2013 only 2 people had to wait more than six weeks for key diagnostic tests while in March 2015, 1123 people were waiting more than 6 weeks for the same tests. This was the second highest in Scotland with over 21.1% of patients having to wait six weeks.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran was also one of 7 health boards that missed the 62-day standard for Cancer waiting times, furthermore it was the worst performing health board in terms of meeting the 90% target for 18 Weeks Referral to Treatment coming in at 78.4%

Speaking about the figures, Labour MSP Margaret McDougall said:

“Firstly, I would like to pay tribute to all the hard working NHS staff who are being asked to do more with a lot less, the staff are being put under immense pressure and these missed targets are not a reflection on them.”

“What we are seeing here is our NHS creaking under the strain of a failure to resource frontline services adequately and it is patients who are paying the price with longer waiting times.” “

“The SNP Government is squeezing the health budget harder than even the Tories and this has left NHS staff without the funds or in some cases equipment to do the job properly.”

“We need an open and honest debate in to the state of our NHS, it’s not appropriate for our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon or Shona Robison, current Health Secretary  to tell us the everything is under control when the facts and figures say otherwise.”

“It’s time for the SNP to admit that the Health Service is under strain and as this is a devolved matter the buck stops with them. After eight years in government, there are now no more hiding places. It was their decision to target our NHS for a deeper spending squeeze than even the Tories managed in England and now patients are waiting longer for treatment as a result.”

Labour MSP Margaret McDougall Demands Proper Funding settlement for Cooriedoon Care Home.

Labour MSP, Margaret McDougall, is calling on North Ayrshire council to provide an enhanced funding settlement for Cooriedoon Care Home on Arran, after it was revealed that the care home may have to close due to reductions in its funding.

In 2004 the care home received £75 per resident; this was reduced to £35 in 2014, and now has been reduced further to just £14 per resident, this means that after 28 years the care home may have to close its doors.

This will lead to job losses, residents being rehomed on the mainland and future islanders not being looked after on the Island.
Margaret McDougall MSP,  said: “Cooriedoon Care Home structured its business model on receiving £35 per council residents and although £14 is a 2.39% enhanced rate it is simply not enough subsidy for Cooriedoon to remain open, as operating a care home on an Island comes with much higher costs than operating one on the mainland.”

“This reduction in cost will see staff lose their jobs, elderly couples being split up and elderly residents being moved further away from their families, losing, what for some will be crucial and much needed support of their family and friends.”

“I’d urge North Ayrshire council to look at this situation again, Cooriedoon are clear, cutting their funding to this level will force them to close their doors on council residents.  This cut in income could also see the care home close its doors completely.”

“It’s imperative that North Ayrshire council now sit down with Cooriedoon and come to a funding arrangement that allows the care home to remain open on the Island.”