Plans to formally recognise the parenting responsibilities and rights of kinship carers and work towards making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up have today been unveiled.
Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell today launched the consultation on the Children and Young People Bill designed to support children and families.
The new Bill will also compel councils to use Scotland’s national Adoption Register and increase provision of free, flexible and family friendly childcare for three and four year olds and looked after two year olds from 475 hours to 600 hours per year – the best free nursery care package in the UK.
Jean Urquhart, member of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee, has welcomed the bill, stating:
“Common sense dictates that the most important time in any individual’s development is their early years.
“By continuing to invest in our children and young people, the SNP is working as hard as it can to ensure that Scotland’s families and youth are put at the heart of our society.
“Our commitment to helping working families during tough economic times is also shown by proposals to put in place flexible childcare opportunities, increased nursery provision and improved financial support for kinship carers.
“I would urge everybody who this Bill aims to help- whether that be carers, parents or those working with children and young people- to take part in the consultation and ensure that the most comprehensive and constructive package of measures can be built.”
The consultation can be found HERE.
Jean Urquhart MSP has welcomed the latest statistics from the Big Lottery Fund which have shown 52 grants totalling over £2 million being awarded to projects across the Highlands and Islands.
The £2 million granted includes 3 large grants given to the Isle of Luing Community Trust, Golspie Recycling and Environmental Action Network and the SHIRLIE project totalling just over £1.6 million.
Commenting, Jean Urquhart said:
“It is particularly heartening when, at the start of every month, I see sums of varying sizes being awarded to worthwhile projects across the region.
“Although the three largest awards are undoubtedly welcome boosts, it must not be forgotten that ostensibly small sums can make a huge difference too.
“For example, the £2,000 grant awarded to Foula Primary School in Shetland will enable primary school children from the more remote areas of the Islands to participate in a mini-Olympics, helping to bring together communities in a way that may otherwise have been impossible.
“I would once again encourage community groups and projects across the region to apply for sources of funding like the Big Lottery Fund.”
Jean Urquhart MSP has welcomed the announcement of a comprehensive sanctions package against countries engaged in unsustainable fishing practices.
The SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands spoke after an agreement was reached that could see Iceland and the Faroe Islands face sanctions for their unilateral setting of massive quotas for mackerel.
Commenting, Mrs Urquhart said:
“A vibrant fisheries sector is a vital part of the economy for my region, so I was pleased to see the introduction of these long-awaited measures.
“Ensuring that sustainable fishing practices are adhered to by all nations is a vital step in maintaining the future of the sector, and this package should strengthen the hand of responsible fishing nations in dealing with those who put short-term desires over long term co-operation.
“Iceland has unilaterally increased its mackerel quota to over 400 times of its 2005 size, an exponential increase that clearly is to their long-term detriment.
“I hope that this package will encourage both Iceland and the Faroe Islands to return to the negotiating table in October and agree to a sensible and sustainable fisheries deal that will benefit us all.”
On Wednesday 27th June, I was proud to vote for the establishment of this new service that returns powers to local communities and helps to preserve our record high numbers of police officers, placing resources where they are most needed.
In contrast to the Scottish Government’s commitment to public services, the Conservative-Liberal Coalition Government is set to slash 16,000 officers down south, an act that the Police Federation has described as being ‘on the precipice of destroying’ the police service in England and Wales.
Contrary to the claims of other parties, this new service does not move power away from communities. Instead, it places them in a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with their local commander, strengthening the ties between the service and the community it serves.
The fact that Shetland Islands Council, for example, must now have its approval sought on the delivery of services on Shetland is surely an improvement on the current arrangements.
I call upon people of all parties and none to help realise the potential of this new service by working with local communities to increase co-operation across all levels of government.
Jean Urquhart MSP
Jean Urquhart MSP has described the announcement by Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney of £100 million of nationwide capital investment, which includes significant funding for the Highlands and Islands, as a demonstration of the Scottish Government’s economic competency.
Ms Urquhart, one of three region-wide SNP MSPs and a former member of the board of the University of the Highlands and Islands, particularly welcomed the confirmation of a £6 million investment in its Inverness campus.
Commenting, Ms Urquhart said:
“As a Member of the Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee and a supporter of the establishment of the University of the Highlands and Islands, I was certainly pleased at the £6 million boost to the Inverness campus, as well as the £1.5 million infrastructure funding for West Highland College in Fort William.
“This funding has demonstrated the commitment of the Scottish Government to institutions both old and new, and at a time of economic difficulty is very welcome.
“Despite Westminster’s cuts continuing to harm communities across the Highlands and Islands, the Cabinet Secretary’s sound management of Scotland’s budget has created the conditions for additional investment where it is most needed.
“This programme of investment further shows that Scotland will only function at its best when it has all the economic levers for investment under its own control.”
Jean Urquhart MSP welcomed the announcement by Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex Neil of a £120 million investment aimed at improving broadband connectivity across the Highlands and Islands.
Coming from a £250 million Scotland-wide fund for improving broadband, the investment will enable Highlands and Islands Enterprise, in conjunction with BT, to roll out a programme of modernisation across the region. The investment will form part of Scotland’s Digital Future Infrastructure Action Plan, which aims to deliver world-class digital connectivity by 2020.
Commenting on this welcome injection of cash, Ms Urquhart said:
“The Internet has revolutionised our world, bringing communities closer together and enabling those in rural or remote locations to access the same information and services as those in urban surroundings.
“Education provision, health care services and businesses across the region will all benefit from this announcement, as will families with loved ones across the globe.
“Access to superfast broadband should not be restricted by geography, and I am delighted that, by directing this cash towards the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Government is continuing to recognise the specific needs of local communities for Internet services that are as fast and reliable as they are in other parts of the country.”
Jean Urquhart MSP welcomed figures released this week indicating that homelessness applications have fallen by 40% in the Highland Council area over the last year.
Figures released by the Scottish Government have revealed that applications for homelessness have decreased in 30 of the 32 local authorities, with Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council, Argyll and Bute Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar all also posting reductions since 2010-11.
Ms Urquhart, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands and a former member of Highland Council, said:
“Working to put in place as many safety nets as possible to prevent individuals from becoming homeless has to be one of our top priorities.
“These figures demonstrate the positive impact of the SNP’s Scottish Housing Options Approach Scheme, particularly when it is implemented alongside local authority initiatives as has been the case in the Highlands.
“The SNP is dedicated to ensuring that our target of all unintentionally homeless people are entitled to settled accommodation by the end of 2012.
“When compared to the swingeing and indiscriminate welfare benefit cuts being imposed by Westminster, it is clear that Scotland is best served when decisions are 100% taken by those it elects.”
Brian Pack, an expert in agriculture and former Senior Agricultural Economist with the North of Scotland College of Agriculture, has called for Scotland to have its own voice in Common Agricultural Policy dealings.
Mr Pack, Speaking at Farmers’ Question Time session at last weekend’s Royal Highland Show, said that Scotland would benefit if it had an independent voice at future CAP dealings.
“In terms of CAP Scotland needs a seat at the table; we need to argue our own case, because what is right for English agriculture isn’t what is right for Scottish agriculture.”
Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands SNP MSP, said:
“Mr Pack’s comments only add further weight to our argument that Scotland will only get the best deal when it represents itself at the negotiating table.
“There are obvious and natural differences between what is best for rural Scotland and what is best for rural England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“The myopic deal-making of Westminster politicians has condemned Scotland in the past to receiving far less than its fair share. As an independent nation, we would hold far more influence and be able to secure an equitable solution for our farmers and crofters.”
ean Urquhart MSP welcomed the announcement of a new postgraduate course offered by the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The MLitt in Highlands and Islands Culture, which can also be studied as a PgCert or PgDip, is thought to be the first of its kind. Complementing a course already offered in Highlands and Islands Literature, the course will examine various aspects of Highland life, including its customs, history, literature, music and geography.
The delivery of the course through video conference seminars and online distance learning has also marked out the course as a unique opportunity to learn more about the Highlands and Islands.
Ms Urquhart, a Highlands and Islands list MSP, commented:
“As a local MSP, former councillor and member of the Education & Culture Committee, watching UHI go from strength to strength and helping to bring vibrancy to the region has been a particular pleasure.
“As part of their development, I am therefore delighted to see the UHI offer such an innovative and flexible course pertaining to the local area.
“As the course is offered on both a full time and part time basis, as well as being accessible in a distance learning format, it will enable as many people as possible to explore our past and present, maximising the appreciation of our rich and vibrant local culture.
“I welcome the extra attention this course has brought our part of the world, and look forward to people across the globe learning more about the journey the Highlands and Islands has taken and continues to take.”
Highlands and Islands list MSP Jean Urquhart is to chair one of the events taking place this August under the “Festival of Politics” banner.
Ms Urquhart, an SNP MSP who stays in Ullapool, will chair the “What Place for Poetry in Politics?” discussion on Saturday 25 August at the Scottish Parliament, which will examine political poetry and its relevance today. Poets Aonghas MacNeacail, Janet Paisley and George Gunn will help assess how political songs and poems have effected change worldwide, and whether its impact is as strong today as it has been in the past.
Ms Urquhart, a member of the Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee and a lifetime patron of the arts, commented:
“This year’s Festival of Politics, which will explore the links between politics, culture and creativity under its ‘Force for Positive Change’ banner, will hold great personal and professional interest for me.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to chair this discussion on how culture can inform our politics, which is just one of many thought-provoking debates taking place in August.
“From Hugh MacDiarmid to Edwin Morgan, Scottish poets have more than held their own at the crossroads between politics and culture, and have shaped our national debates over the generations.
“I hope that as many people as possible take the opportunity to attend one or more of these events over the two weekends in August, and that they will inform our current national debate over what path Scotland should take.”