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.

Scottish Labour Policy on Fracking and Response to the Vote on the 26th.

Fracking
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 and bountiful 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 forced an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill going through the UK Parliament to block fracking until the right regulation and inspection is in place. This amendment can be found in Col. 622 of the official report and adds the following conditions:

HYDRAULIC FRACTURING: NECESSARY CONDITIONS

Any hydraulic fracturing activity cannot take place:

(a) unless an environmental impact assessment has been carried out;
(b) unless independent inspections are carried out of the integrity of wells used;
(c) unless monitoring has been undertaken on the site overthe previous 12 month period;
(d) unless site-by-site measurement, monitoring andpublic disclosure of existing and future fugitive emissions is carried out;
(e) in land which is located within the boundary of a groundwater source protection zone;
(f) within or under protected areas;
(g) in deep-level land at depths of less than 1,000 metres;
(h) unless planning authorities have considered the cumulative impact of hydraulic fracturing activities in the local area;
(i) unless a provision is made for community benefit schemes to be provided by companies engaged in the extraction of gas and oil rock;
(j) unless residents in the affected area are notified on an individual basis;
(k) unless substances used are subject to approval by the Environment Agency
(l) unless land is left in a condition required by the planning authority, and
(m) unless water companies are consulted by the planning authority.—(Tom Greatrex.)

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/chan99.pdf

If the Infrastructure Bill is enacted with these conditions, it will mean that tougher environmental standards will apply elsewhere than exist in Scotland, unless the Scottish Government adopts the same approach.

We abstained on New Clause 9, which would have instituted a temporary, 18-30 month moratorium on shale gas development. The SNP voted in favour of this measure, which was defeated. The New Clause 9 would have led to a pause in developments, but wouldn’t actually have obliged Government to make any changes – normal service could have resumed after the moratorium had elapsed. This is a much less robust position than Labour’s New Clause 19, which establishes concrete conditions without which no development can take place at any time, and provides real protection in relation to water supplies, areas of natural beauty and to ensure fugitive emissions are monitored.

Labour also forced a vote on a New Clause 2, which was for the immediate devolution of licensing to the Scottish Parliament rather than waiting until a Scotland Bill after the general election. We failed to secure the early devolution of licensing, which makes it all the more important that the Scottish Government uses its existing on planning and environment to ensure that there is no fracking in Scotland

Our amendment has now lead to fracking being banned in large parts of the country as you can see from this map,  https://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/issues/uk_fracking_map_41274 , this wouldn’t have happened under the Moratorium.

Here in Scotland, Scottish Labour will 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.

The SNP Government are running out of places to hide on Fracking, and it will be interesting to see what comes of Fergus Ewing’s statement in the Scottish Parliament today.

If anyone would like to read in to this more might I suggest starting here: http://utilitiesscotland.com/2015/01/27/snp-running-out-of-places-to-hide-on-fracking/

Margaret McDougall MSP Seeks Clarity over Stagecoach’s Wheelchair Policy

Margaret McDougall wrote to Stagecoach to seek clarity on Stagecoach’s wheelchair policy after being contacted by numerous constituents who stated they were left waiting at the bus stop after being refused access by the bus driver due to prams being present in the wheelchair space.

Margaret McDougall MSP, said: “I welcome Stagecoach clarifying that the wheelchair space is designed and legislated for the use of wheelchairs and while other passengers can use them a wheelchair should take priority.”

“It seems that far too often this policy is not adhered to and that Stagecoach need to reaffirm this policy so drivers are aware of the correct processes to follow so that no wheelchair user is left waiting.  It does say on the buses that they have designated wheelchair areas but all too often this policy is not being practised.”

“I would like to hear from other disabled constituents who have had trouble getting a bus due to the wheelchair space being occupied by a non-wheelchair user, if you have had issues please feel free to get in touch with my office.”

Disabled Access Day is the 17th of January – http://www.disabledaccessday.com/

Margaret McDougall MSP  Supporting Locally Owned Independent Convenience Stores

photo

Margaret McDougall MSP has shown her support for locally owned independent convenience stores by attending the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) exhibition in the Scottish Parliament.

SGF is the national trade association for the independent convenience store sector and the exhibition aimed to highlight the contribution convenience stores make to the community and to the local economy.

There are 5,500 convenience stores in Scotland, they provide over 42,000 jobs and the total value of sales is about £3.7 billion a year. A typical convenience store also re re-invests hundreds of thousands of pounds back into the local economy by using local services and suppliers and, of course, by providing jobs.

Margaret McDougall MSP, said;

“It was a pleasure to attend this event and show my support for locally owned independent convenience stores. These stores provide over 42,000 jobs have a total value of sales of around £3.7 billion a year. Many of these stores also re-invest in the communities that they are based in.”

John Lee, Public Affairs Manager with SGF, said;

“We were are delighted to see Margaret at our exhibition. The support of MSPs for locally owned convenience stores is vital if we are to sustain vibrant high streets and town centres.”

Margaret McDougall MSP joins leading dog welfare organisations call for a ban on electric shock collars in Scotland

MSP's try out Electric Shock Collars at Scottish ParliamentPic Peter Devlin

Margaret McDougall MSP for the West Region joined forces with two of the UK’s largest dog welfare organisations, the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust, in the Scottish Parliament today (8 January) at an event calling for a ban on the use and sale of electric shock collars in Scotland. The event for MSPs, which was sponsored by Christine Grahame MSP and held in conjunction with a debate on the issue in the chamber, raised awareness of the negative effects of electric shock collars on dog welfare and saw a number of MSPs in attendance try out the painful device on themselves.

Electric shock collars are fitted around a dog’s neck and deliver an electric shock via a remote control or automatic trigger. They train dogs out of fear of further punishment by administering shocks to the dog when they do not perform what is asked of them.

Research published by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) concluded that the use of electric shock collars as a training method has a long term negative welfare impact on dogs. Furthermore, an independent survey commissioned by the Kennel Club earlier this year found that 73 per cent of the Scottish public are against the use of electric shock collars and 74 per cent would support the Scottish Government in introducing a ban on their use.

Speaking at the event, Margaret McDougall MSP, said:

“I am pleased to attend today’s event and support the Kennel Club and Dogs Trust campaign for a ban on the use and sale of electric shock collars in Scotland. With recent Defra research as well as a Scottish opinion poll indicating that electric shock collars are both detrimental to dog welfare and unpopular amongst the general public, I strongly believe that the time is right for the Scottish Government to show their commitment to the welfare of dogs in Scotland and ban these cruel and unnecessary devices.”

The Kennel Club and Dogs Trust strongly believe that every dog should be trained using humane, reward-based methods. These are proven to be highly successful in modifying behaviour including aggression, without subjecting dogs to cruelty. To find out more about the campaign to ban electric shock collars, visit:

http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/our-resources/kennel-club-campaigns/electric-shock-collar/

or

https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/whats-happening/news/dogstrust2015dogmanifesto.pdf.

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Road Improvements in North Ayrshire.

Margaret McDougall MSP recently asked an oral question of the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure in the Scottish Parliament on what improvements would be made to North Ayrshire roads over the next five years, with specific focus on the A78, in light of EDF’s application to Scottish Environment Protection Agency to transport intermediate level radioactive waste to Hunterston.

Margaret McDougall, MSP, said: “I welcome the news that the Scottish Government is investing in North Ayrshire’s roads over the next five years and that some safety improvements have been made to the A78, such as new signage and speed management.”

“However, I don’t believe this goes far enough and will be taking the opportunity to meet the Transport Minister as soon as I can in the New Year. I hope to discuss what other safety improvements can be made to the A78, more so if this road is to be used to transport intermediate radioactive waste. I will also take that opportunity to discuss other issues like the progress of A737 Dalry bypass.”

MARGARET MCDOUGALL MSP “CHIPS IN” TO HELP DOGS TRUST SPREAD FESTIVE CHEER IN SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

Margaret McDougall PicThis week (11th December), Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity with two rehoming centres in Scotland, joined forces with Margaret McDougall MSP and special guests Dennis and Gnasher to help raise awareness for the charity’s compulsory microchipping campaign at a photocall event in the Scottish Parliament.

8,847 Scottish owners have availed of the free microchipping service offered by Dogs Trust across the country this year, demonstrating a real enthusiasm for this important component of dog welfare. The charity is dismayed, however, that the Scottish Government has still failed to announce its decision on the proposed introduction of compulsory microchipping, despite launching a consultation on the issue nearly a year ago.

Speaking at the event, Margaret McDougall, MSP for  West Scotland, said:

“Microchipping has a number of welfare benefits – the most important being the ability to rapidly identify a stray or lost dog and return it to its owner. In 2014, 4,893 lost or straying dogs were picked up by Local Authorities in Scotland. Dogs Trust believes that compulsory microchipping will help to reduce these numbers, thereby cutting kennelling costs for Local Authorities and reducing the burden on animal welfare charities.”

Adrian Burder, Dogs Trust CEO, added:

“We were delighted to bring Dennis and Gnasher to the Scottish Parliament today and highlight our on-going campaign for compulsory microchipping with MSPs.

Sadly, Dogs Trust has been calling on the Scottish Government to introduce this vital tool of dog welfare and reunification for years now. We strongly welcomed the consultation on this issue that was launched last year, but nearly twelve months later we are still waiting on a Government decision.

Reducing the nation’s stray dog population is at the very heart of Dogs Trust’s ethos, which is why we have committed a considerable amount of money, for a limited time period, to ensure no dog owners will lack the financial ability to microchip their dog. We have chipped over 10,000 dogs in Scotland since our roving “chip teams” began their work in September 2013, and also offer free chipping by appointment at our two Scottish rehoming centres in Glasgow and West Calder. It is clear that the Scottish people want compulsory microchipping, and it is now the turn of the Scottish Government to act and legislate for its introduction without delay”.

To find out more about when the roaming Dogs Trust teams will be in your area or learn more about the benefits of microchipping visit www.chipmydog.org.uk.

Margaret McDougall continues the fight for North Ayrshire Women’s Aid

Margaret McDougall MSP has vowed to continue her fight to help North Ayrshire Women’s Aid maintain their crucial funding from North Ayrshire Council.

Following the news that North Ayrshire Women’s aid had been requested to tender for the services which they provide Ms McDougall used her speech during the Violence on Women debate on the 4th December she called up both Local MSP Margaret Burgess and Cabinet Minister Michael Matheson to intervene and make representations to secure this vital service from cuts of which will see not only job losses but the loss of services to the women and children of North Ayrshire at the most distressing time they will likely face.

Since there had not been any acknowledge Margaret has today written to Margaret Burgess MSP and North Ayrshire Council’s Chief Executive Elma Murray urging them to stop this before North Ayrshire Women’s Aid is no longer the brilliant service we know it to be.

Margaret McDougall said: “Given the lack of response from fellow MSP Margaret Burgess after my plea in the Scottish Parliament Chamber I have today written to her in a bid to urge her to intervene to ensure her SNP colleagues on the council do not put the services out to tender or cut their funding by 22%. I have also written to Elma Murray following on from previous correspondence with her in regards to the future of Women’s Aid to ensure that she is fully aware of my plea to reconsider.”

“Last year alone the service helped over 900 women and young people either by providing refuge space or counselling, in the same year Domestic Abuse in North Ayrshire fell by 4.4%. How do we expect to see this continued drop in domestic abuse when one of the agencies who helped deliver this, in conjunction with Police Scotland and North Ayrshire Council, is expected to no longer provide the services in its current form and face a 22% funding cut which translates to nine jobs loses.”

“I hope that Margaret Burgess and the SNP held North Ayrshire Council will follow my and other Labour colleagues calls to secure the future of this service which has been providing much needed support for over 20 years to women in North   Ayrshire.

Margaret McDougall MSP raises awareness of the risks of developing rheumatoid arthritis caused by smoking

Margaret McDougall MSP for West Scotland showed support for patients with the chronic autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA) by visiting a Scottish Parliament exhibition hosted by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) and NHS Fife.

RA is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease which can cause long term disability. NRAS estimates that it affects nearly 60,000 people in Scotland – equivalent to around 800 per Scottish Parliament constituency – and poses a significant economic burden on the Scottish economy.

The exhibition titled ‘Rheumatoid arthritis: raising awareness and responding effectively’ highlighted the need for greater public awareness of RA and the twofold risk of developing the disease caused by heavy smoking.

Margaret McDougall MSP was met by NRAS Ambassadors, including John Paton (pictured), and clinicians from NHS Fife, where they discussed what could be done to improve referral and diagnosis rates and raise awareness of the link between RA and smoking.

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment within 12 weeks of symptom onset, are central to improving long term outcomes for patients and reducing the likelihood of work disability. Despite this, a report by the Scottish Public Health Network, published in 2012, found that the average time from symptom onset to seeing a specialist in Scotland was 24 weeks. Delays were found to occur before people sought help from their GP and before GPs made a referral to a specialist.

Margaret McDougall, MSP, said: “It’s great to support this cause, many people don’t know that smoking can cause rheumatoid arthritis, we also need to do more to improve referral and diagnosis rates. Early diagnose can help significantly in dealing with the disease and its imperative we do everything we can to reduce referral times.”

Margaret McDougall MSP In Call To Ban Rip Off Rent Rises

West Region MSP Margaret McDougall has called for the ban of rip off rent rises – and blasted the Scottish Government for backing rogue landlords instead of hard-pressed tenants

There are 6000 private renting households in North Ayrshire and Margaret McDougall MSP backs Scottish Labour proposals to stop tenants being exploited by landlords imposing excessive rent hikes.

The West Region MSP said that the plans would cap how much rent can rise, not set the level of rent initially, meaning that tenants can budget for rent rises once a year without the worry that it would be unreasonable.

However the SNP voted to block Scottish Labour’s plans during a debate on housing earlier this month.

The number of homes in the private rented sector living in poverty has more than doubled in a decade to over 100,000, with one in four Scots who live in poverty living in the private rented sector.

Some parts of Scotland have seen rents rise by as much as 40% in the last 4 years.

Margaret McDougall MSP accused the Scottish Government of backing rogue landlords over tenants, and has pointed to the Scottish Government’s own Expert Group on Welfare recommending a rent cap earlier this year as proof that it is time to reform the market.

Margaret McDougall MSP said:

“Too many families in North Ayrshire are living paycheque to paycheque.  If the car breaks down or an unexpected bill drops through the letterbox they are in real trouble.

“The last thing 6000 renters in North Ayrshire need is a bad landlord exploiting them with a huge rent increase.

“That is why I voted to ban rip off rent rises – good landlords would have nothing to worry about from these proposals, but they would stop bad landlords hiking up rents on unsuspecting tenants.

“But the SNP have now voted against this plan three times, despite their own expert welfare group recommending rent caps. Only Scottish Labour are willing to reform the market in Scotland to give Scots in the private rented sector some security and peace of mind.”