Brexit threatens rights of women
Parliament is back to work after the festive break and the first week saw plenty of activity.
In the area of health the First Minister outlined details of a £107 million boost for health and social care integration which will enable more patients to be cared for at home and cut demand for hospital stays, reducing the problem of delayed discharge or bed blocking, as it is often called.
This funding will ensure that patients can receive more treatment in their communities, where we know they are more comfortable, but it also reduces demand for acute hospital usage by reducing avoidable admissions and lengths of stay.
There was welcome news last week on how our hospitals are performing.
The latest figures on core accident and emergency performance show Scotland’s NHS performing some 10 percentage points higher than England in November 2016 and 15 points better than Wales.
It was also good to hear that, following a challenging period and the intervention of the transport minister, Abellio Scotrail performance has improved significantly over the festive period. Nearly 90 per cent of trains arrived within five minutes of schedule in the four weeks to January 7. This was a six per cent rise on the previous four weeks and a 2.8 per cent improvement on the same period last year.
Whilst there is still room for improvement, this will be welcome news to local commuters and the government will be pressing Abellio to deliver continued improvements to meet their contractual targets.
We also had an important debate in parliament on Scotland’s relationship with Europe, which focussed on the importance of ensuring that human rights and fundamental freedoms are protected and promoted during the Brexit process.
Speaking in the debate, I was able to point out that EU legislation ensured that my rights as a woman, an employee and parent are all protected.
EU law also underpins the rights for women to take paid time off for antenatal appointments, it safeguards the rights of pregnant women in the workplace and it also guarantees maternity leave for mothers.
The introduction of parental leave, which guarantees 18 weeks for parents, was also a direct result of EU law, as is the right for parents and carers to take emergency leave to care for their children.
Without these progressive measures women would have remained second-class citizens in the workplace and the care of many thousands of children would have suffered.
Progressive policies and workers’ rights have always been hard-won in Britain but they are often underpinned by European legislation.
These rights continue to protect people in all walks of life every day to ensure that equality is maintained, discrimination is tackled and above all that fairness is enshrined in our legal system.
Without the pressure of the obligations that the UK is required to uphold as a condition of single market membership, we should all be concerned that progressive policies on workers’ rights would be at substantial risk from successive administrations in Westminster.
Not content with dragging Scotland out of the EU against our will, the Tories are also planning to repeal the Human Rights Act and to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
This clearly signals the Tories’ desire to shred the rights of ordinary people. They are promising to introduce a British bill of rights but we can have no confidence that Theresa May’s government will draft a bill that provides the same level of hardwon protections we currently enjoy.
Thankfully for Scotland, the Human Rights Act is embedded in the devolved settlement and I am certain that this parliament will not allow fundamental rights and freedoms to be removed at the whim of a UK Tory government we did not vote for.
Workers’ rights have always been hard-won in Britain
Holiday over Clare Haughey returned to Holyrood after the festive break