I was honoured to be the opening speaker at Head Information Day in Glasgow last Wednesday (20th May).
The event was organised and run by Digby Brown Solicitors in support of the Brain Injury Network Group.
You can read my speech here: Head Injury Information Day speech
iParkomat have launched a campaign to create a worldwide database storing information about any parking spaces for people with disabilities.
You can find out more about this here http://www.gofundme.com/easyparking.
Championed by local MSP Siobhan McMahon, the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan is searching for more local heroes in Central Scotland to join its bone marrow donor register and help in the fight against blood cancer.
The charity has revealed today that, in Central Scotland, there are 6782 selfless people willing to donate their stem cells, or bone marrow, to save the life of a stranger. More than 550,000 people are currently on the Anthony Nolan register and the average per constituency is 790.
Anthony Nolan was the world’s first bone marrow register. The charity has been saving lives for four decades by matching remarkable people willing to donate their bone marrow to patients in desperate need of a transplant.
Two thirds of UK patients will not find a matching donor from within their families; instead they turn to Anthony Nolan to find them an unrelated donor.
In Scotland the charity works with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to recruit donors, but currently a perfect match can only be found for 60 per cent of transplant patients.
Siobhan McMahon MSP said:
“There are 6782 heroes on the register here in Central Scotland but the challenge continues. I’m hunting for more crusaders to sign up today, so we can fight blood cancer together. It is something truly heroic to give a stranger a second chance at life. This is why I’m proud to champion this cause to my constituents and why I’m a registered stem cell donor myself.
“I appreciate that already having this significant number of registered stem cell donors in the region is remarkable, but adding to this number on the donor register will help save the lives of people with blood cancer.”
Ann O’Leary, Head of Register Development at Anthony Nolan, added: ‘We are delighted that Siobhan has been inspired to encourage others to sign up as donors. Donating is an incredibly selfless thing to do and will give someone with blood cancer their best chance at survival. What many people don’t realise is that it is also surprisingly simple.’
To join the Anthony Nolan register you must be 16-30 and in good health. It involves filling out a simple online form and spitting into a tube.
The charity needs heroes of all ages to champion the register at a local level and help us spread the word – from schools, communities and workplaces to your own friends and family. Be a hero – find out how you can help by going to www.anthonynolan.org/capes.
For the full interactive map of the bone marrow register (broken down by Scottish Parliament constituency), visit www.anthonynolan.org/capes.
Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon has pledged her support for the proposed British Sign Language (BSL) (Scotland) Bill.
Ms McMahon made her calls during a debate at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 5th May on the proposed private members Bill. Following the debate, the Bill passed stage one proceedings.
The Bill is being put forward by Ms McMahon’s fellow Central Scotland Labour MSP Mark Griffin and aims to promote the use of BSL by placing a requirement on the Scottish Ministers and relevant public authorities to prepare and publish BSL plans. It would also place a requirement on the Scottish Ministers to prepare a strategic plan and set out its plans in relation to BSL.
During the debate, Ms McMahon spoke about the attainment gap for deaf learners, highlighting Scottish Government figures for 2011-12 which show that 36.4 per cent of deaf pupils attained highers or advanced highers, compared with 60.2 per cent of hearing pupils. She also highlighted Scottish Government data which shows that only 26 per cent of deaf school leavers are likely to go on to higher education, compared with 39 per cent of hearing school leavers.
Ms McMahon also spoke of the postcode aspect of service provision for BSL users, drawing attention to Deaf Services Lanarkshire who are critical of current standards in the area, saying that “the provision to the Deaf Community is Dismal”.
Speaking in the debate Ms McMahon said “We have to start changing how we think about deaf people in our society. It is not acceptable that there are only 80 interpreters for the deaf community in Scotland. That is around one for every 100 deaf people, whereas in Finland—a country that already has a sign language act—the figure is one for every six.
“It is horrifying to learn that hearing parents are finding it difficult to communicate with their deaf children because parents cannot get access to BSL classes. That represents a significant number of people across Scotland, given that 90 per cent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. The bill could ensure that those parents get the right help when they require it and that the barriers that are currently in place are removed.
“It has been made clear by Mark Griffin and organisations that support the Bill that it is the first step on the journey to improving the lives of deaf people in Scotland. It will not solve all the problems that deaf people face but it represents an important first step, which the Parliament must take today.”
You can read Ms McMahon’s speech here.
It is an atrocious fact that every year more people are killed at work than in wars. That is why this day serves to “remember the dead, but fight for the living”
It was fitting that on this day, I was able to take part in a debate on the Future of Employability Services in Scotland.
As Scottish Labour’s Shadow Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment, it was an opportunity for me to table an amendment to a motion put forward by the Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training, Roseanna Cunningham.
My amendment sought to address what I consider to be a big problem in the Scottish Government’s flagship Modern Apprenticeship scheme, which is the shockingly low levels of people with disabilities involved in the programme, as highlighted by the Human Rights Commission. They have stated that:
“The uptake of Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland is typified by significant gender segregation, with ethnic minorities and disabled people also appearing to have low levels of access to all forms of apprenticeships.”
This is an issue which I have raised a number of times since I became an MSP.
It’s a sad fact that less than 0.5% of all Modern Apprenticeship placements are taken by someone with a declared disability. The Government have known about this for a number of years now and yet the figures aren’t getting any better.
I find this simply unacceptable.
Work should be available for everyone and there should be equal opportunities for all. In order to achieve social justice our employment sector has to be open to everyone regardless of their background, their ethnicity, sexuality, gender, religion or physical and mental abilities.
Therefore during my speech I reiterated Scottish Labour’s commitment for a review of all employability services currently helping disabled people find work so that we can best utilise the further powers we will be receiving in a matter of weeks.
I urged the Scottish Government to use its powers of procurement to extend the living wage and back Scottish Labour’s initiative to promote Make Work Pay contracts, as well as bringing an end to insecure employment with a ban on exploitative zero-hours contracts.
I also spoke of my desire to see investment in the next generation of workers by setting up a future fund for all young people not in education to give all young people in Scotland the best possible employment support.
We have a chance to change the way things have been done in the past when the new powers are delivered to the Scottish Parliament in the coming weeks. I hope we take this opportunity.
You can read my full speech here.
With only nine days to go until Scotland goes to the polls at the General Election, the people of Scotland have a big decision to make.
What has been clear for a long time however is that only the Labour party are prepared to stand up for hard pressed families and against the vested interests of the big six energy companies.
For far too long, the energy market has not worked for consumers. There is a real lack of trust in the energy companies and I hear this regularly from constituents across Central Scotland.
Energy bills have risen by almost £300 since David Cameron became Prime Minister, and businesses say energy is the biggest cost they face. When wholesale energy prices go up, bills go up fast, but when they fall, bills stay high.
This terrible situation we find ourselves in, where some of our poorest families are choosing between heating and eating, is a result of five years of Tory austerity and eight years of an SNP government in Edinburgh pre-occupied with the constitution.
That’s why Ed Miliband announced in September 2013 that a Labour Government would freeze energy bills until 2017 while we reform the energy market, saving Scottish households £120 a year.
We know that the energy companies won’t like it but it’s time a UK Government stood up for consumers and a Labour Government will do exactly that.
While the SNP like to talk about making Labour bolder, the SNP are silent on the energy price freeze. This is yet another radical Labour policy that the SNP cannot and will not match.
We have strong Labour candidates in Central Scotland who, if elected, will ensure we can implement an energy price freeze that will help some of the poorest people in our country. It would save Scottish families and businesses £500 million.
On May 7th, a vote for Scottish Labour is a vote for a UK Labour Government that will stand up to the energy companies and set us on the road to a fairer Scotland.
Last Monday, the Prime Minister David Cameron went to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament and call the General Election. This marked the first day of the campaign which will culminate in voters going to the polls on May 7th.
The decision the people of Scotland now to face is whether they want five more years of Tory austerity, or Scottish Labour’s plans to improve the lives of working class people.
Under the Tories, 61 children a day are using food banks. In a country as wealthy as ours this is a simply unacceptable figure. It’s scandalous that so many Scots are forced to depend on food hand outs. That’s why Scottish Labour have pledged to end the need for food banks in Scotland by establishing a £175 million Scottish anti-poverty fund, which we will establish with savings made from abolishing the bedroom tax.
Last week I listened to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown expose Treasury documents which show the SNP government has accepted Tory plans for “zero additional spending” to tackle austerity over the next year. He also announced Labour’s plans to spend an additional £800 million in Scotland on the NHS, tackling poverty and creating jobs.
For me, it’s simply not an option to wait another year to put an end to Tory austerity.
It is looking increasingly likely that the people of Scotland will decide the outcome of the election, and they have a clear choice to make. The Labour party are the only party who is big enough and strong enough to beat the Tories and their plans for more austerity.
We have already seen how the SNP’s damaging plans for full fiscal autonomy would cost 138,000 jobs in Scotland and mean extra cuts to our NHS, schools and pensions worth £7.6 billion. That’s austerity-max under the SNP.
Only Scottish Labour is the anti-austerity party in Scotland.