Busy end to the year for parliament
They say a week is a long time in politics.
The last week of the 2016/17 sitting of the Scottish Parliament, before it rose for summer recess, did not seem that long, but it was certainly very busy.
At the beginning of the week, I held my first street surgery in Rutherglen. My team and I went out to visit neighbourhoods in the constituency, knocking doors and speaking to residents about any issues they may have.
The surgery was advertised in advance, so I had a fantastic response. Having teamed up with local councillor, Janine Calikes, it was particularly pleasing that many constituents had taken the trouble to prepare questions on a range of issues, both local and national, in expectation of me chapping their door.
The previous week, I also held a street surgery at Rutherglen Exchange. Going to such a public space as the shopping centre again encouraged people to speak to me who would not otherwise have engaged with their MSP, or felt that their issues merited support.
In parliament, I had the opportunity to speak in the debate on the Charter of Rights for people with dementia. As a registered mental health nurse, I have first-hand experience of caring for people with dementia, and in the effect this has on their friends and families. Dementia is a disease that can affect both the relatively young as well as the elderly, and it will become an increasing problem for individuals, families and employers in the years ahead.
The Scottish Government, working with various dementia charities have produced the third Scottish Dementia Strategy, which responds to these challenges and focuses on listening to the experiences of those with dementia, whilst also working in collaboration with their carers and third sector organisations to improve quality of life for those affected.
In the past week there have been several significant Scottish Government announcements, including the introduction of an organ donation opt-out scheme.
After consultation, the Scottish Government will bring forward legislation to create a “soft optout” scheme that will mean more people will receive life-saving transplants, while also seeking to protect the wishes of those who do not wish their organs to be donated. The plans were welcomed by the BMA and the wider health community, so I am very hopeful about the impact this policy will have on the lives of those who need treatment, as well as the lives of their loved ones.
Another welcome announcement was the Scottish Government lifting the pay cap for public sector workers in Scotland.
This breaks with the UK-wide one per cent restriction to public sector workers’ annual pay rises which has been in place far too long. The Scottish Government announcement follows an attempt at Westminster to lift the cap across the whole of the UK, but this was defeated in parliament by the DUP and the Conservatives.
One of the highlights of the National Health and Social Care Workforce Plan, which was published on June 28, was the announcement that an estimated 2,600 extra nursing and midwifery training places will be created over the next four years. The workforce plan sets out how the Scottish Government will work with partners to secure sustainable NHS staffing alongside its programme of change in health and social care.
Furthermore, in news that will please many commuters, transport minister, Humza Yousaf announced that a public sector bid for the ScotRail franchise was viable and that he was committed to creating a level playing field, which will allow public sector bids for the rail franchise. The minister is working with Transport Scotland to gather more evidence around how this can be implemented, and this move was also welcomed by transport unions.
As a busy week concluded, I was privileged to chair an important meeting between the Scottish Government Regeneration Unit, Scotland’s Towns Partnership, Cambuslang Community Council, and local elected representatives, where we looked at options to regenerate Cambuslang town centre.
There were a lot of great ideas, and a real willingness to revitalise the town centre which has, for too long, been neglected. I am looking forward to what can be done to breathe life back into the main street and great credit is due to Cambuslang Community Council for the work they have done on this issue.
After a short break I will be spending even more time around the constituency during recess.
I will be holding more street surgeries – alongside my regular surgeries in Rutherglen, Cambuslang, Halfway, and Blantyre – visiting local businesses and organisations, and ensuring that I am accessible to all my constituents to support them.
Scottish weather aside, I hope everyone enjoys the summer and I look forward to meeting with many of you over the next couple of months.
Out and aboutClare Haughey MSP with Councillor Janine Calikes and caseworker Gerry McGuire during her street surgery