Motion: S4M-07857: Scotland’s Growing Diversity and the 2011 Census

I lodged the motion below last week following the most recent release of the 2011 census breakdown.

That the Parliament welcomes the recently released findings from the 2011 Census, which show that Scotland is now more ethnically diverse than it has ever been; further welcomes that Scotland’s ethnic minority population doubled from 2% in 2001 to 4% in 2011; notes from the findings that people from ethnic minorities represented 12% of the population of Glasgow, 8% in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and 6% in Dundee in 2011; notes, in particular, the increased presence of the Polish community in Scotland, which now numbers 61,201 people, or 1.2% of the Scottish population; considers the growing multitude of religious and ethnic backgrounds present in Scotland to be a positive development; believes that immigration has been of great benefit to Scotland’s economy, society and understanding of the world, and looks forward to future releases of Scotland’s census data in the coming months.

Motion: The Community Energy Efficiency Programme at the Scottish Green Awards

That the Parliament congratulates Shetland Islands Council and Community Energy Scotland on being finalists at the 2013 Scottish Green Awards as a result of their joint grant scheme, the Community Energy Efficiency Programme; understands that the programme is a two-year grant aid scheme designed to help volunteer-run community facilities to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint; further understands that 43 grants, worth almost £355,000, were awarded to 32 different community groups across Shetland, including public halls, youth centres, heritage centres, boating clubs and sport and leisure clubs, resulting in the upgrading of 26 facilities; believes that energy and carbon reductions could range from 12% to 48% less once all improvement works have been carried out, and considers that the Community Energy Efficiency Programme is a model example of how a joint partnership between a council and a charity can help communities to become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint.

Speech: Al-Anon Family Groups

On September 24th, I spoke in Gordon MacDonald’s Members’ Business debate on Al-Anon Family Groups. Below is a transcript of my contribution.

I thank Gordon MacDonald for securing the debate. This is a topic that should be debated in the Parliament again and again. Our relationship with alcohol is such a big issue that I hope that a debate on it is secured on at least an annual basis so that we can talk openly about Al-Anon.

Most folk in Scotland have relatives or friends who live abroad. Most of us also have an alcoholic in the family or within our circle of friends. At first, most of us do not understand the relationship with alcoholism, but we need to come to understand what is happening to the alcoholic, the symptoms of alcoholism and the effect that the condition has on other members of the family. I think that I am right in saying that, for every person suffering from alcohol addiction, another eight or 10 people are suffering all the symptoms. The madness, the irrationality and the extraordinary behaviour of the alcoholic are often reflected in what become the madness and the irrationality of the lives of those who are trying to live with that person. Al-Anon absolutely understands that.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Al-Anon is the friendships that are made when the alcoholic first comes to understand or realise that he or she is sick. The organisation that befriends and understands and is constantly there to remind the person suffering from the symptoms of alcoholism is a wonderful thing to be part of.

For the wives—and, increasingly, the husbands—who attend Al-Anon, there is the knowledge that they are part of not only a self-help group, which is literally what Al-Anon is, but an organisation that is truly international. As we have heard, AA started in Ohio in the United States, but the organisation is now international to the extent that, wherever one might go, there will be an Al-Anon meeting taking place, if not that night, the following night or the following morning. There are Al-Anon friends around the globe, because, as we know, every addict is a recovering—not a recovered—alcoholic.

Many of us have had the experience of living with alcoholism or someone who is recovering from alcoholism, and nothing settles it like an Al-Anon meeting. The genuine help from Al-Anon is to be welcomed, so I am delighted that Gordon MacDonald has raised the issue in the Parliament. We need to spread the word about Al-Anon to the many hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland who still do not know about it, as it brings incredible comfort. I thank Gordon MacDonald very much for bringing the debate to the Parliament, and I thank the members of Al-Anon who are in the public gallery for the work that they have done and continue to do to bring people to sobriety in Scotland.

Motion: Condemning Moray Council Library Closures

That the Parliament condemns Moray Council’s decision to close seven rural libraries; notes that the closure of the libraries, based in Burghead, Cullen, Dufftown, Findochty, Hopeman, Portknockie and Rothes, was subject to an equality impact assessment (EIA), which recommended retaining three of the libraries; understands that, despite opposition plans to keep all seven open or to keep the three libraries highlighted in the EIA open, the council administration pressed ahead in closing all seven; considers this decision to be a short-sighted penny-pinching one that will harm the cultural and societal fabric of some of Moray’s more remote communities by removing a hub used by some of society’s most vulnerable groups; notes that the EIA expressed concerns that “the council could be at risk of falling short of its statutory duty to secure adequate library provision and would thereby be exposed to legal challenge by way of judicial review”; believes that this decision, coupled with an earlier decision by Moray Council to cut its arts budget entirely, demonstrates a lack of understanding of the importance of the arts to society and may, if challenged, cost more money through legal challenge than is saved by the closures in the first place, and calls on Moray Council to reconsider the closures as a matter of urgency.

Motion: Shetland and North West Highland Geoparks Retain International Status

I was delighted to hear that both of Scotland’s Geoparks were recently revalidated by the European Geopark Network- here’s hoping that it’s the first step to wider recognition for Scotland’s unique geological heritage, and that the money granted to the Geoparks by the Scottish Government can help to secure their long-term future.


That the Parliament welcomes the news that both of Scotland’s current geoparks have been revalidated by the European Geopark Network (EGN); understands that membership of the network, which is part of a global network supported by UNESCO, illustrates the outstanding geological heritage of a territory and is subject to revalidation every four years; considers membership of the EGN to be vital to the sustainability and success of both the Shetland and North West Highland geoparks; further considers that the Scottish Government’s welcome announcement of a £280,000 investment in both geoparks demonstrates the importance of geotourism in Scotland, and looks forward to both geoparks developing as educational centres and increasing grassroots community involvement.