I was shocked to learn that 133 jobs are to be lost at the Philips Lighting plant in Hamilton following the company’s recent announcement that it will phase out the production of luminaries at the plant. It was extremely disappointing to learn that these jobs will be outsourced to other countries, including France and Poland, on the grounds of cost. The announcement came as a massive blow to the loyal and long-standing workforce in Hamilton who I believe have been totally disregarded in this decision taken by Philips. Philips has been a major employer in Hamilton for more than 65 years, and these further redundancies are yet another devastating blow to the local economy.
Despite repeated assurances from the Management of Philips that the factory retained sufficient production and demand to maintain its current workforce, it is now apparent that these latest job losses show that this is evidently not the case. I have also written to the company on several occasions in the last year seeking assurances on the viability of the luminaires plant and on each occasion I was told that there were “no substantial developments around our activities here in Hamilton”. I also wrote to Sheila Leenders, the General Manager of Philips Lighting in Holland on a number of occasions, without any response.
In August 2012 Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism assured me that the Scottish Government would do all it could to help secure the continued presence of Philips in Hamilton. I have again written to Mr Ewing to urge him to ensure this pledge is now fulfilled. I also had the opportunity to ask John Swinney MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, a question in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday to ask what assistance the Scottish Government was providing to staff following the company’s announcement:
I was delighted to be able to host a town regeneration event along with my Scottish Labour colleague Sarah Boyack, the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Local Government & Planning, at Hamilton Town House. The event brought together business owners, politicians and local people to discuss regeneration of the town centre.
As an MSP, it is important for me to meet with constituents to hear their views on how we can best help develop and regrow the town. There was a healthy turnout and a good debate about the main issues in Hamilton town centre. I’d like to thank all those who came along and contributed to the debate and I hope that positive moves will be made in the near future to ensure the long term prosperity of Hamilton Town Centre.
I have backed a petition calling on the Scottish Government to review its policies on the funding of the Bus Service Operators Grant and concessionary bus travel and to consider the re-regulation of the bus industry. I met local campaigner John Nelson who led the petition, which aims to ensure that people across Scotland are provided with affordable and reliable local bus services, and Sandy Livingston and Jim Lee who were also involved.
The petition was brought to the Scottish Parliament via the Public Petitions Committee who have referred the matter onto the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee for their consideration.
Scotland’s local bus and inter-city coach services are provided by private sector operators. Services are provided on a purely commercial basis, unless a local authority wishes to offer a subsidy for the operation of a socially necessary service which cannot be provided on a commercial basis. However, some areas are being let down by these providers as services are cut and fares are increased.
I am delighted so many people have signed the petition and that it is making progress through parliament, and would like to congratulate John Nelson and the other campaigners for their tireless work on this issue. The bus services in Central Scotland are inadequate and have been for a long time. We need better regulation of the service as some areas are being let down by the private market. Many residents in areas across my constituency, which has some of the lowest levels of car ownership in the country, are not able to afford expensive taxi journeys and therefore depend on adequate public transport services for a good quality of life.
I was glad to have the opportunity to speak in yesterday’s debate in the Scottish Parliament on youth unemployment. You can view my speech in full on the DemocracyLive section of the BBC website at 51.40 in the first half of the debate.
There were thoughtful and insightful contributions from across the Chamber, and I would like to extend special thanks and congratulation to my colleague Jayne Baxter for her excellent maiden speech.
Youth unemployment is too important and immediate an issue for us to allow it to become mired in petty political point scoring, and I was relieved that, for the most part – although with a few notable exceptions – there was a degree of consensus on the gravity of the problem, if not its solution.
The stark facts state that long term youth unemployment has escalated with frightening rapidity, especially in areas such as North Lanarkshire. As was pointed out in yesterday’s debate, Lanarkshire has already suffered the ravages of endemic unemployment, following the dismantling of its once vibrant coal industry and the closure of the Ravenscraig steelworks. We have a responsibility to do everything in our power to bring jobs and investment to the area, and to ensure that young people have access to the advice, education and training they need to enter the jobs market.
As I highlighted during the debate, although the Scottish Government has invested considerable funds in youth employment schemes, it has also reduced funding for further education by 24% between 2011 and 2015, This may well lead to the closure of some courses, and deny many young people the opportunity to gain the training and qualifications they need to enter employment or higher education.
In another negative move, the Government skills and training agency Skills Development Scotland has withdrawn front line careers advisory services, replacing them with the website “My World of Work”. Although Angela Constance, the Minister for Youth Employment, assured me that this website constitutes “a service enhancement and is certainly not a replacement for face-to-face contact”, the closure of local Skills Development Scotland offices and the reduction in staff numbers suggests otherwise.
Cutting back on further education funding and careers advisory services is, I believe, antithetical to the Scottish Government’s stated objective of tackling youth unemployment.
I hope that Angela Constance and her Scottish Government Colleagues – especially the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell – listened carefully to the contributions to yesterday’s debate, and will take the advice offered in the collaborative spirit implied by its “all Government, all Scotland” approach.
I participated in last Thursday’s debate in the Scottish Parliament about the closure of Remploy factories in Scotland. My contribution can be viewed on the BBC’s Democracy Live at 53.40.
The coalition Government’s programme of closures has already had a devastating impact on Remploy workplaces across the UK. What’s more, and despite the Government’s assertions to the contrary, not enough is being done to secure employment for the disabled workers who have lost their jobs.
To date, 31 factories have closed with the loss of 1061 workers, only 35 of whom have since found work.
In Scotland, the former Remploy factories at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Netherton, in my own region of Central Scotland, have already closed. Last week, we heard that the factory at Springburn, which manufactures wheelchairs for the NHS, will also close, following the breakdown of takeover talks. Altogether, over 100 disabled former Remploy employees will have lost their jobs.
As I said during Thursday’s debate, politicians in Scotland have a responsibility to help protect the remaining Remploy factories, as well as other sheltered workplaces. We must also strive to assist disabled former Remploy workers secure alternative employment. To facilitate this, I urged the Scottish Government to follow the example of the Welsh Assembly, which has already assembled a £2.4 package to encourage suitable businesses to employ former Remploy Workers.
In addition to this, the Scottish Government should use its upcoming Public Sector Procurement Bill to ensure that sheltered workplaces have access to public sector contracts.
Unfortunately, we cannot stop the coalition Government’s attack on Remploy. However, we can mitigate its effects. There was a large degree of consensus across the Chamber on this point, and I look forward to working alongside the Scottish Government on this issue.
I was delighted to give my support to “Clean up Scotland”, a new campaign launched by the independent environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful.
The campaign, which launches in January, will encourage people to organize clean-ups in their local communities and to adopt a zero tolerance approach to littering. In particular, the campaign will highlight the problems caused by dog fouling, fly-tipping, fly-posting, graffiti, and abandoned cars.
It is hoped that over a million people – individuals, groups and businesses – will take part in the campaign, from signing the pledge to coordinating a clean-up.
As an MSP, I get many complaints about the issues highlighted by the campaign, especially casual littering, fly-tipping and dog fouling, and I am well aware how frustrating this can be. In this day and age, with plenty of bins and refuse collection points, there is absolutely no excuse.
We need to get the message out that littering, in any form, is selfish, lazy and completely unacceptable. Not only does it ruin the environment for everyone else, it is a health hazard and damages the local economy by discouraging visitors.
Scotland is a beautiful country. It deserves to be treated as such.
I was shocked and dismayed to hear that electronics manufacturer Philips is planning to lay off 40 workers at its lamps and luminaries factory in Hamilton.
According to Philips, the redundancies are necessitated by the transfer of some product lines to factories in Poland (where the cost of labour is presumably cheaper).
I would expect Philips to have explored all alternatives to redundancy; if they have not, I urge them to do so.
Whatever the reason behind the job cuts, my primary concern is for the employees affected. I have spoken to representatives at Philips, and I understand that they hope the majority of redundancies will be voluntary.
Whilst this is a positive development, responsibility lies with the Scottish Government and Finance Minister John Swinney to ensure that arrangements are in place to give workers seeking alternative employment the appropriate advice and support.
First and foremost, representatives from PACE and Skills Development Scotland must be on hand to give counsel during the redundancy period.
The welfare of workers apart, the redundancies are obviously a blow to the local economy, especially during this period of economic adversity. From a historical perspective, it is sad to observe the continuing diminution of Philips as a major employer in the Hamilton area.
This notwithstanding, the Scottish Government must now do all it can to boost the local and national economies, and to ensure that people across Central Scotland have access to a range of employment opportunities.
I am delighted that a range of organisations and groups have been awarded funding in the latest round of allocations from the Big Lottery Fund.
Amongst those allocated substantial funds under the Investing in Communities programme are the North Lanarkshire based Getting Better Together project, and Larkhall Community Growers in South Lanarkshire.
Getting Better Together, based at the Healthy Living Centre in Shotts, will use its grant of £39,000 to finance an 18-month project to transform an unused area of ground into a garden. This will include a sensory garden and an area for children from local nurseries and schools that will allow them to grow and provide produce for the community food co-op and café in the nearby healthy living centre.
Not only will the project help to promote healthy living, it will also create opportunities for volunteering, training and work experience.
Larkhall Community Growers, meanwhile, will use its grant of £57,814 to develop its community garden to promote healthier lifestyles, and provide training opportunities to improve people’s ability to secure employment. Approximately 1,400 people, including residents, local primary school pupils, volunteers and garden users, are expected to benefit from the programme.
It is essential that we continue to invest money in grass roots projects; I welcome the Big Lottery Funds ongoing commitment to enhancing Scotland’s local communities, as I have acknowledged in several parliamentary motions.
Last week I spoke in a parliamentary debate on the future of tourism in Scotland.
This gave me a welcome opportunity to highlight the wealth of tourist attractions located across Central Scotland.
As a Central Scotland MSP, I span three local authority areas, and every single one has a lot to offer.
Visitors to (or residents of) North Lanarkshire can experience Scotland’s industrial heritage at the Sumerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life, sample the tranquil delights of Drumpellier Country Park, or engage in more active pursuits at Strathclyde Country Park, a major water sports venue and home to theme park M&D’s.
South Lanarkshire has some of Scotland’s finest scenic and historical attractions, such as Chatelherault Park, Low Park Museum (both rated 5 star by VisitScotland), and Hamilton Mausoleum.
And no visit to Falkirk is complete without a trip to the Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first and only rotating boat lift, and one of Lonely Planet’s 10 works of engineering genius.
Tourism provides and creates jobs and boosts the economy. It is therefore vital that we realise our potential as a major tourist location. The Government should look at ways of extending opening hours to suit working families, and should continue to invest in the transport infrastructure, to maximise accessibility.