Motion: EHRC Coalition Cuts

EHRC Coalition Cuts
That the Parliament acknowledges what it considers to be the vital role that is played by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in providing guidance to the public in promoting and enforcing equality legislation; expresses its deep concern over the reported 62% reduction in EHRC’s budget by 2015 and how this could impact on EHRC’s operations in Scotland; believes that the proposals will cause the closure of the EHRC’s Edinburgh office, resulting in a loss of half of its workforce in Scotland; notes that the UK Government plans to close EHRC’s direct expert helpline and replace it with a referral-only service, with no presence in Scotland or Wales; considers that, the decimation of the EHRC’s budget and the concurrent impact on its ability to provide an effective service, runs contrary to the Equality Act 2006; condemns what it understands is the UK Government’s decision to continue with these regressive reforms, despite it consultation showing that people were against this by a margin of 15:1, and considers that this is a typical example of what it sees as the fiscal vandalism of the UK Government and how it is harming Scotland and society’s most vulnerable and marginalised groups.

Motion: Shetland’s Message in a Bottle

Motion S4M-03953: Jean Urquhart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 31/08/2012

Shetland’s Message in a Bottle

That the Parliament congratulates Scottish skipper, Andrew Leaper, on setting a new world record after discovering a message in a bottle that was released 98 years ago; notes that this beats the previous record, held by Mark Anderson, by five years; understands that Mr Leaper discovered the bottle while skippering the Shetland-based vessel, Copious, which had discovered the previous record-holding bottle; notes that the recovered bottle was part of a 1,890-strong batch of bottles released in 1914 to help map Scotland’s sea currents, of which only 315 have been retrieved; considers the find to be of historic and scientific interest, and welcomes both the bottle and Mr Leaper’s world record certificate, being donated to the Fetlar Interpretative Centre in Shetland for future generations to experience.

Event: Jean Urquhart MSP to Chair Festival of Politics Event

Scottish poets George Gunn, Aonghas MacNeacail and Janet Paisley will take part in a debate on the place of poetry in politics at this year’s Festival of Politics. This year’s festival includes a four-day programme of politics, music, art, theatre, literature and debate. The session, titled “What Place for Poetry in Politics?”, will be an opportunity to debate with some of Scotland’s most highly respected writers and poets, with the discussion focusing particularly on the place of poetry in contemporary politics, if it matters in today’s society and the impact of political poetry on influencing change.

Jean Urquhart, MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, will chair the session, she said:

“Writers and poets have always played an important part in recording our history and folk probably don’t always acknowledge that. 

“A good example for the Scottish Parliament of course, was when Sheena Wellington sang, ‘A Man’s A Man’, Burns famous poem, at the official opening in 1999.  

“But where stands the poet today?  Are they revolutionaries?  Can they influence us, should they influence us? 

“A welcome awaits those who will come along, listen to and chew the fat with three of Scotland’s fine poets who have a great deal to say on the subject.”

The session, ‘What Place for Poetry in Politics’ will take place on 25 August at 15.30-16.30 in the Scottish Parliament and is free of charge.

Event: What Place for Poetry in Politics?”

Jean will be chairing an event at the Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics on August 25th. Called “What Place for Poetry in Politics?”, Jean will discuss the role played by poetry in shaping politics with leading Scottish poets and cultural figures Aonghas MacNeacail, Janet Paisley and George Gunn. For tickets and more information, please visit:

Press Release: Local MSP Highlights Hill Walking Advice Website

Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has urged hill walkers across Scotland to take full advantage of Scottish Natural Heritage’s online advice service during stag stalking season this year.

The stag stalking season (1st July to 20th October) is a popular time of year for walkers, so three years ago SNH set up the Heading for the Scottish Hills website, The web service has proved popular with walkers with 7500 hits last year.

The website includes general information about stalking on all participating estates and contact details for further information. Some estates provide detailed information on the site up to a week in advance, describing where and when stalking will take place, as well as suggested walking routes. There is also information about responsible behaviour for land managers and walkers.

The website has expanded in 2012 to include more of Scotland’s most popular hill-walking areas, including in the Cairngorms National Park, Breadalbane and the west coast.

Jean Urquhart MSP said:

“The increasing popularity of hill walking as a recreational activity is welcome, but must be accompanied with better information for all to ensure safety on Scotland’s hills.

“SNH’s website is undoubtedly a vital tool in helping walkers and deer stalkers alike to make the most of our beautiful landscape without impacting on each other’s activities.

“I would urge all hill walkers to make full use of this innovative tool.”

Press Release: SNP Brush Off Desperate Stuff From Lib Dems (August 6th)

The Northern Isles will be better-off in an independent Scotland than under UK Government rule, local SNP MSPs Jean Urquhart and Mike MacKenzie have said.

The Highlands and Islands MSPs made their comments following claims by Alistair Carmichael that the islands should be ruled from London in the event of independence.

Jean Urquhart said that the Lib Dem MP’s comments were of little significance and that they should not distract from the bigger issues surrounding the debate on Scotland’s future.

She said:

“The days of London politicians telling us how things are going to be in Scotland are over – these comments only demonstrate just how much Westminster MPs live in cloud cuckoo-land.

“The people of Scotland elected an SNP Government in overwhelming numbers at last year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections and the SNP is totally committed to ensuring the people of the Islands and throughout Scotland can have their say the referendum in 2014.

“Residents of the Northern Isles need only look east to our Nordic neighbours for a vision of the economic prosperity they will enjoy under independence.

“The Northern Isles, in common with much of Scotland, voted in favour of devolution in 1997. The 2001 Census shows that the percentage of people saying they are Scottish is greater in the islands than a number of mainland areas of Scotland. The option of “Other British” and “Other” was available; this highlights the attempts by Mr Carmichael to say the islands are not Scottish as little more than really desperate stuff.”

SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie added:

“As an islander myself, I am a frequent visitor to Orkney and can empathise with Orkney issues. On my latest trip to Orkney I encountered many voters who wanted to have a full and frank conversation on the benefits of independence – something they are being deprived of by their Westminster representatives, whose first resort is to scaremongering, distraction and threat.

“I urge Alistair Carmichael and his Conservative cronies in Westminster to stop playing games and to have a mature and sensible discussion on the benefits that Scottish independence will have for all communities across the country.

“The big issues that people on the Northern Isles are having difficulties with including fuel poverty, transmission charges and mobile coverage are all currently issues reserved to Westminster. The Scottish Government are far more in touch with the needs and aspirations of the people of the Northern Isles than our Westminster counterparts.”