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.

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Motion: The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil

That the Parliament notes that 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the first tour of the play, The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil; understands that it was performed by the 7:84 theatre company across the Highlands and Islands, and in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ireland, and was written by a group of artists with many talents, including Gaelic singing and fine traditional music making; considers that it was effective in raising issues affecting the Highlands and Islands over the last few centuries, including land ownership, class divide and economic change; believes that its commentary on the cause and effect of the Highland clearances, inequitable land ownership and the discovery of North Sea oil still have relevance; considers that the arts play a vital role in political debate and thought in Scotland, particularly ahead of the 2014 independence referendum, and welcomes the work of writers and artists that articulates contemporary Scotland as well as The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil.

Event: Abolition 2000, April 18th 2013

 

 

 

 

I was able to attend the closing event in the Scottish Parliament for “Abolition 2000”.

Abolition 2000 is a network of over 2000 organisations in 90 countries who are working to achieve nuclear disarmament, and it was great to have a chance to meet and share experiences with international experts on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, including the Scottish Parliament’s own Bill Kidd MSP, an A2000 Global Council Member and Co-President of PNND.

We also heard from Dr. Tad Akiba, Chairman Middle Powers Initiative, former Mayor of Hiroshima, and Karipbek Kuyukov, Honorary Ambassador, ATOM Project.

Abolition 2000 Part 2

 

Abolition 2000

 

SPEECH: Closing Speech, Trident Debate, 20th March 2013

16:27
Jean Urquhart: We have had a good debate and, again, I repeat my support for the Scottish Government’s bringing this entirely relevant matter to the chamber.

Ruth Davidson’s suggestion that the retention of Trident nuclear missiles showed responsible government led to Alasdair Allan’s brilliant question whether she was also suggesting that every country without a nuclear deterrent was irresponsible. Of course, the answer was that they were when perhaps the answer should have been that countries without nuclear weapons are more responsible with regard to global as well as local security.
Ruth Davidson: My point was that the UK was a responsible signatory to the NPT and that countries such as North Korea and Iran that, since the NPT’s establishment, were seeking to bring on nuclear weapons were indeed irresponsible.
Jean Urquhart: I rest my case. We still have not heard a reasonable answer to Alasdair Allan’s still relevant question.

All sides of the chamber will agree that multilateral disarmament is to be desired, but how do we achieve that? Somebody has to go first and I believe that, with independence, Scotland could do that and be the leader in the world as it has been in so many other areas.

We heard extraordinarily emotive language from Ms Davidson, who talked about us

“walking away from our neighbours”.

In fact, we will be walking towards our neighbours.

Ruth Davidson gave us a terrific list of alternative uses for the money that would be saved by ending the nuclear deterrent, all of which have been suggested by members of the SNP. There is no lack of ideas—it is a shame that she could find nothing to recommend Trident.
Ruth Davidson: The comment about

“walking away from our neighbours”

was a direct quote from Angus Robertson at the SNP conference, which I believe the member attended. My point in listing the huge number of alternatives was to point out the number of times her former colleagues in the SNP have spent the £163 million for Trident. By my reckoning, it is about 20 times per year.
Jean Urquhart: I am well aware of what the member intended, but the point is that those are all worthy areas on which to spend the money and areas where it is needed.

Ken Macintosh stated that the SNP is somehow not serious about getting rid of Trident and that the debate was some kind of jokey waste of time so that a bit of rhetoric about independence could be heard. How dare he? Many people have an ambition to rid the United Kingdom of nuclear weapons, but the difference is that his party has had its shot and failed.
Ken Macintosh: I certainly did not think that the SNP was joking—independence is a deadly serious matter. However, how does the SNP’s desire to get rid of Trident square with its desire to remain as a member of NATO?
Jean Urquhart: The SNP has explained its position on that. I do not agree with it, so why would I try to explain it?

There is a real issue for the Labour Party. We know about the number of people with Labour Party membership cards who believe that the only route now to be rid of Trident on the Clyde is to vote yes in the referendum.

Mr Macintosh suggested that the issue that he again highlighted is shattering the unity of the SNP. I should know about that. The disagreement is not over the outcome of unilateral nuclear disarmament; it is about the route that we take to achieve the goal. The big common factor—and the big difference with the Labour Party, which has failed in its ambition—is self-determination by the Scottish people. I can assure Mr Macintosh that, on that, there is no disunity. Labour needs to understand that inescapable fact. Better together? I do not think so.

What a funny wee speech from Mr McMahon. When someone knows that they are wrong, they often cover it up by poking fun at people who are trying to deal with a serious subject. He is right that the Scots arnae stupit. They have had 60 years of political rhetoric and claims that we will be rid of Trident from the Clyde, but nobody has achieved it. Now, it is within the grasp of the Scottish people to achieve self-determination and unilateral nuclear disarmament, and to head towards multilateralism. I urge them to do that.

Those members who are not in the SNP or the Independent and Green group need to think on this: if they believe, as most of us seem to do, that the only option that is open is the one that everybody has, come October 2014, will we be closer to being free of Trident if we vote yes to better together, or if we vote to be able to make the decision for ourselves? I ask members to support my amendment.

16:33

 

SPEECH: Opening Speech, Trident Debate (20th March 2013)

15:04
Jean Urquhart (Highlands and Islands) (Ind): I am sure that it has not escaped the notice of those members in the chamber that I am the only member of the independent and Green group to speak in the debate. It is unfortunate that business has been scheduled during the PCS strike, and that it has kept my fellow group members away from the debate. Members of all parties had to cross picket lines today but the topic of Trident is so central to my support for independence that I decided to come in to speak to my amendment.

At the outset, I make it clear that I support every element of the Government’s motion and applaud its decision to bring the subject to the chamber for debate. Our amendment is designed to add strength to the motion and not to replace, denigrate or contradict it. I also express my sadness, but not my surprise, at the better together campaign for issuing a briefing in advance of today’s debate on what they think is the positive case for Trident and attempting to score points against the Government over the issues raised in my amendment. I thought that, at least on the issue of squandering billions of pounds on unnecessary, unworkable and immoral weapons of indiscriminate slaughter, there would be some sort of consensus and serious debate, regardless of constitutional preference. However, it seems that the better together campaign is now a cold house for anti-Trident campaigners. It has alienated churches, unions, peace groups, and the majority of the people in Scotland.

It will not come as news to many in the chamber that the issue of an independent Scotland’s NATO membership led me to become an independent member. I cannot support Scotland’s membership of a nuclear alliance, particularly when it pressurises its members to spend a minimum of 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence, regardless of the geopolitical circumstances of the time. Not surprisingly, NATO expects a contribution to its military common fund from each member state. In 2011-12, that amounted to £106.7 million from the United Kingdom. That means that, even if we could secure an opt-out from any collective military efforts, we would still be contributing financially to drone attacks on civilians and other aggressive military action.

I doubt that those who rail against NATO actions in Afghanistan will make allowances for Scotland because we were not the country that pushed the button. The UK should have been outraged when two innocent young Afghanis were killed recently by NATO troops because they thought that they were terrorists. There was hardly a whisper from the UK Government.

Nuclear weapons are a stain on humanity, whether they are in Scottish waters, American bases or Russian silos. The argument of those who wish to keep Trident essentially boils down to, “After you, I insist,”; in the Labour Party’s case, if it is cheap enough, it does not seem to mind. However, a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament report entitled “Nowhere to Go” highlights the fact that there are no viable alternative bases for Trident in the UK. If we get rid of Trident from Scottish waters, it is gone for good. My concern is that the disarmament of the UK would not be in NATO’s interests and that barriers will be erected against such a step.

Although Canada and Greece have removed nuclear weapons from their soil as members of NATO, I believe that those weapons had reached their sell-by date and those countries had the strategic cover of close neighbours who host nuclear weapons. The imposition of nuclear missiles on German, Belgian and Dutch soil, against the wishes of their Parliaments and citizens, should be a warning to us all about the co-operative nature of NATO.

Norway’s experience with NATO should also be a lesson. Although Norway has successfully resisted the imposition of nuclear weapons on Norwegian soil, it has not succeeded in changing NATO’s nuclear policy, which was reaffirmed last year at its Chicago conference. Every member of NATO is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but no significant efforts have been made to reduce the number of weapons that the alliance holds and shares. The treaty has therefore failed.
Bob Doris (Glasgow) (SNP): I have a lot of sympathy with much of Jean Urquhart’s amendment but will she also acknowledge that the Scottish Government has made it clear that if it comes to a choice between NATO and a nuclear-free Scotland, a nuclear-free Scotland will win every time?
Jean Urquhart: I accept the member’s statement—of course I do. However, there is a positive alternative to NATO membership that allows Scotland to act as a responsible global citizen. There are many examples of other nations that operate outside NATO and yet are more than adequately prepared to defend themselves. Those countries are not pariahs on the world stage and are not subject to threats from abroad. Given the recent St Patrick’s day celebrations in America, one would have to be very brave to claim that Ireland’s non-membership of NATO has somehow resulted in its isolation or affected its ties with the world’s remaining superpower. Ireland, along with a number of other non-NATO countries such as Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and much of central and eastern Europe, is a member of partnership for peace, which promotes bilateral co-operation between NATO and the partnership for peace countries on a case-by-case basis.
The Presiding Officer: The member needs to start winding up.
Jean Urquhart: Although some of those countries plan to accede to NATO, others view partnership for peace as an opportunity to co-operate internationally without compromise and without signing up to a military alliance that is predicated on a nuclear first-strike policy.
The Presiding Officer: You must bring your remarks to a close, Ms Urquhart.
Jean Urquhart: As the SNP campaign for nuclear disarmament briefing in advance of the NATO debate stated, an independent Scotland

“should not sneak timidly onto the world stage, afraid of our own shadow.”

Getting rid of Trident would herald the beginning of real nuclear disarmament, as would a distinctly different Scottish defence policy.

I move amendment S4M-05988.1, to leave out from “and further” to end and insert:

“; considers membership of NATO to be a barrier to the removal of Trident, whether as part of the UK or as an independent Scotland; believes that membership of an alliance predicated on a nuclear first strike policy is as harmful to Scotland’s international reputation, and poses the same threat from external agents, as the presence of a nuclear deterrent in Scottish waters; notes that European countries such as Ireland, Finland and Sweden are not members of NATO and are still considered to be full, cooperative members of the international community; further calls on the UK Government to disarm Trident and not to replace it with any other nuclear weapons system, and commits to ensuring that, in the event of independence, Trident will not be permitted to operate from Scottish waters.”

15:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: JEAN URQUHART TO SPEAK AT WELSH CND EVENT

Jean Urquhart MSP is to join a cross-party demonstration against nuclear weapons at the Welsh Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday 16th October.

Jean will be joined by four Labour Party Welsh Assembly Members (AMs), as well as the leaders of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Welsh Green Party in condemning the continuing support for Trident amongst some policy makers. The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, has also sent a message of support.

Jean, an SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, said:

“I have been a member of CND for many years, and have long opposed the abhorrence of nuclear weapons, both in Scotland’s waters and beyond.

“Spending obscene amounts of money on redundant weapons of mass destruction is an affront to society, and one that must cease immediately.

“I will be proud to share a platform with speakers of all parties and none who also oppose Trident and any proposed replacements that will take money from where it is most needed and fritter it away where it is least needed.”

PRESS RELEASE: JEAN URQUHART WELCOMES ANNOUNCEMENT OF PROGRAMME FOR GOVERNMENT

Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has welcomed the announcement of the Scottish Government’s legislative programme for the next year, describing it as a “statement of our ambition for Scotland”.

A package of 15 Bills was unveiled – led by the flagship Referendum Bill – including legislation to establish a national framework for sustainable public procurement.

Jean said:

“I am very happy to see the Government continuing to take steps to create fairer, more equal and more prosperous communities.

“In the autumn of 2014, the people of Scotland will take the most important constitutional choice in 300 years and the Referendum Bill will lay the important groundwork for this.

“We need full control and the normal responsibilities of any independent nation to fully realise Scotland’s potential.

“But with the powers we do have, we are continuing to improve Scotland, with the announced Procurement Reform Bill of particular interest to myself.

“As ever, I am honoured to have the privilege of representing the Highlands and Islands as the Scottish Parliament continues to legislate effectively and in the interests of Scotland.”

Motion: Saltire Housing Awards 2012

Saltire Housing Awards 2012
That the Parliament congratulates the award winners from the Saltire Housing Awards 2012; welcomes the record number of submissions received for the awards; understands that 14 projects were given awards, with a further four receiving commendations; notes that the awards covered the length and breadth of Scotland, with seven of the awards and one of the commendations going to projects in the Highlands and Islands; further congratulates the Highlands and Islands-based architect firms that were successful, including Skye-based Dualchas Architects, winner of what is considered the prestigious 2012 Saltire Medal, Skye-based Rural Design Architects, winner of the 2012 Innovation in Housing Award and Shetland-based Richard Gibson Architects, winner of both an award and a commendation; considers the intelligent use of sustainable design in many of these projects to be a template for the future, and hopes to see this innovative approach to architecture continue.

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.