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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.”
This 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 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.”
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.”
Margaret McDougall MSP recently visited Hunterston after concerns were raised by constituents over EDF Energy’s application to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to allow them to transport intermediate-level radioactive waste from other sites to the North Ayrshire facility to be stored.
Speaking about the visit, Margaret McDougall MSP said; “Given the serious nature of the concerns raised by my constituents I felt it was critical to organise a meeting with EDF Energy as soon as possible.”
“During the visit we had a full and frank discussion regarding EDF’s application and what it would mean in practice.”
“I have now received assurances that waste will not be stored at Hunterston for any longer than at present and in fact less waste would be stored at Hunterston if the application is accepted due to it being moved off site for processing.”
“Further to this, in addition to 10 Lorry loads per year that currently go to Hunterston, EDF expects this to increase by only one or two additional loads per year, and they will also consider looking at the possibility of the lorries driving a different route rather than any waste being transported through Fairlie.”
“If the application is accepted the Scottish Environment Protection Agency will impose conditions on it to make sure there is minimal risk to the public and I will also be keeping a very close eye on the situation to watch how it develops to make sure none of my constituents are put in any risk. I will remain in touch with EDF and shall make sure Hunterston is never used as a long term dumping ground for radioactive waste.”
Local Councillor Alex Gallagher added:
“I was happy to get a commitment from EDF that they would be happy to make presentations on their application to local Community Councils and I have already passed on the invitation to Fairlie and Largs CCs. It is vital that local people and organisations are involved in and fully aware of the implications of EDF’s plans and I would urge the Community Councils to accept this offer.
I was also pleased to get the assurances from EDF, but I still have concerns about the looseness of the wording of the planning application and the indeterminate periods that material might be kept at the Hunterston site. In my opinion these matter still require clarification.”
On Thursday the 27th of November the Smith Commission report in to more devolution for Scotland was published. This historic report will serve to make Holyrood a powerhouse Parliament controlling £20 billion worth of taxation and £3 billion worth of welfare as well as giving the Scottish parliament the power to create Scottish specific benefits.In addition Scotland will gain control over:
- Income tax
- 50% of VAT
- Air passenger duty
- Crown estate
- Disability Living Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
- Attendance Allowance
- Carers Allowance
- Motability Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Allowance
- Severe Disability Allowance
- Sure Start Grant
- Cold Weather Payment
- Winter Fuel Payment
Commenting on the report Margaret McDougall, MSP said; “The Vow made before the referendum has now been signed, sealed and delivered. The Smith Commission recommendations represent a massive transfer of power from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament.”
“Politics in Scotland has changed forever and people want power close to them. This agreement meets that demand with extensive new powers over tax, welfare and job creation being passed to the Scottish Parliament. The new powers will enable Scottish solutions for Scottish problems and we must establish how we use these powers to change Scotland.”
“Labour will deliver these new powers in our Queen’s speech next May. More power is now in Scotland’s hands and it is for all of us to work together to create the best country we can.”
Margaret McDougall MSP supports Usdaw’s campaign to protect shopworkers from violence, threats and abuse
Margaret McDougall MSP has joined with members of the retail union Usdaw to campaign for respect for shopworkers as part of the Freedom From Fear Campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse directed at retail staff.
Attending a campaign event at Holyrood, Margaret has pledged to support a protection of workers bill that would introduce a specific offence of assaulting a worker serving the public, thereby extending existing protections for police officers, immigration officers and emergency service workers.
Margaret McDougall, Labour MSP for West Region says: “Too often retail employees are confronted with violence, threats and abuse and it is really important we stand together and ask people to respect shopworkers.
“I support Usdaw’s campaign for stiffer sentences and I’ve been very disappointed that the Scottish Government rejected a Bill promoted by Hugh Henry MSP in 2011. The abuse of shopworkers persists and I will continue to campaign with Usdaw for a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out. We must give a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.”
John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We are grateful to Margaret for supporting our campaign to keep our members safe at work.
“Often, in the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law, whether that is preventing under-age purchases of products like knives, tobacco or alcohol, or detaining shoplifters until the police arrive, they can be put in real danger. Parliament has given shopworkers the duty to enforce the law, so Parliament should provide the necessary protection.
“I have been shocked by the leniency of some of the sentences for assault of workers. Over 300 shopworkers are assaulted every day and it is time to say enough is enough. The Government must act to address this issue and act quickly.”
Speaking about the visit, Margaret McDougall MSP, said, “I’d like to pay tribute to all the food bank staff for the work that they do here in North Ayrshire, all the staff and volunteers do wonderful work, in helping out people who are struggling to put food on the table. I would urge my constituents to donate anything they can to the Foodbank this Christmas.”
“However, it’s a disgrace in modern day Scotland that people are struggling to put food on the tables and whilst food banks do wonderful work, we need to do more to tackle the crisis caused by the rising cost of food and fuel resulting in people being unable to buy food. We have a cost of living crisis not just in Scotland but across the United Kingdom and it’s time we tackle it head on”
Nicola Sturgeon’s first Programme for Government is a missed opportunity to cut inequality.
On Wednesday (26th November) the First Minister announced that the commission to reform Council Tax will not report until at least autumn next year.
Scottish Labour has said that the decision to kick long overdue council tax reform into the long grass again will hurt vulnerable people across Scotland.
Since the SNP came to power, every council in the country has had a real terms cut to funding. The effects can be seen in cuts to services, increased charges for local people and the loss of 70,000 jobs in local government since 2008 – that’s 1 in 5 local government jobs.
The SNP’s underfunded council tax freeze has seen councils either cut local services back; charge for previously free services and increased other charges – such as the care tax.
The Care Tax is the name for client contributions or charging for non-residential community care services.
Comment on the Programme for Government, Margaret McDougall MSP, said
“Those under 65, living at home, increasingly have to contribute a higher proportion of their benefits towards care costs.
“This care tax is a tax on the most vulnerable members of our communities.
“It’s a tax we can and should abolish.
“We believe the Scottish Government should promote better pay with a living wage strategy and a living wage unit.
“Just a few months ago we asked the First Minister to support the living wage in all public sector contracts. She has the power to do so but has yet to do so.
“It would guarantee a pay rise to workers in low paid jobs such as cleaning, catering and caring, the majority of whom are women. In North Ayrshire alone it would benefit an estimated ten thousand workers who are paid less than the minimum wage.
“But in 2014 alone the SNP voted against the living wage no fewer than 5 times.
“The people of Scotland deserve better than that.
“Scottish Labour’s values are all about social justice, fairness and equality. We know by closing the gaps in education, in health and in the work place we can build a better nation.
“That takes action, not warm words and that is the basis on which the Scottish Government will be judged. If they truly believe in social justice, they will cut inequality, not public services.”