Friday, 28 May 2010

SNP COMMENT ON DEVOLUTION REPORT



SNP COMMENT ON DEVOLUTION REPORT
FINANCIAL POWERS FOR SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
Commenting on the Devolution 2010 report to be published by IPPR which suggests looming spending cuts could damage the devolution settlement SNP MSP Dr Alasdair Allan said:

“The SNP believes the only sensible solution to the questions dogging devolution is for Scotland to become a normal independent nation with the same powers over our economy and policy making as any other.

“This report highlights the problems of Westminster controlling the Scottish budget and the importance of moving to financial responsibility for the Scottish Parliament as soon as possible, adding it's voice to a chorus of economists, business people and academics who now see the logic of Scotland being responsible for both sides of her balance sheet.

“What is clear from this report is that the devolution settlement for Scotland is a continuing process and the argument for more powers for the Scottish Parliament is increasingly compelling to all.”

Thursday, 27 May 2010

PARLIAMENT BACKS TALKS ON FURTHER FINANCIAL POWERS



PARLIAMENT BACKS TALKS ON FURTHER FINANCIAL POWERS

The SNP tonight welcomed a vote of the Scottish Parliament to take forward discussions on fiscal responsibility.

The vote sees the Parliament engage in a new discussion with the UK Government over fiscal responsibility for the Scottish Parliament, moving on from the damaging financial proposals in the Calman Commission.

Commenting after the vote SNP MSP and Finance Committee member Linda Fabiani said:

“Parliament has taken the sensible decision to discuss real fiscal responsibility for Scotland and to move on from the economically damaging proposals of the Calman Commission.

“What is needed to grow Scotland’s economy, to recover from recession and to protect Scotland from future cuts from a Westminster Government is genuine financial responsibility for raising and spending revenues in Scotland.

“Not only would that help deliver the economic growth Scotland needs but it will also put the financial relations between Scotland and the UK Government on a fairer base.

“The Calman plans have always been a political fix designed by Labour’s hand picked Commission rather than by the economists recruited to advise them, and were immediately condemned.

“That a bitter and disappointed Labour party is clinging to proposals that were rejected even by their own Government is a sign of how far Labour still has to come to represent the interests of the people of Scotland.

"Following this vote I hope we will now see serious discussion between the Scottish and UK Government over genuine financial responsibility for the Scottish Parliament in the best interests of Scotland."

SNP WELCOME MOVE TO SCRAP ID CARDS



SNP WELCOME MOVE TO SCRAP ID CARDS

Welcoming confirmation of plans to by the Home Secretary to scrap ID
cards within 100 days, SNP Home Affairs spokesman Pete Wishart MP
said:

“The SNP campaigned from the outset for the ID cards scheme to be
binned and this is one cut that everyone will now welcome.

“The scheme was unwanted and unaffordable in the current financial
climate and presented an unacceptable threat to citizens' privacy and
civil liberties, with little tangible evidence to suggest it would do
anything to safeguard against crime and terrorism.

“Labour wasted hundreds of millions developing these cards – money
which should have been used to invest in essential public services.”

GREEN LIGHT FOR ALCOHOL BILL



GREEN LIGHT FOR ALCOHOL BILL

SNP WELCOME COMMITTEE REPORT

The SNP today welcomed the green light for Scotland’s alcohol legislation from the Parliament’s Health committee.

The Committee has recommended that Parliament back the bill in the first vote as it confirmed the Government’s view that minimum pricing for alcohol is legal.

Commenting on the Committee’s report SNP MSP and Committee member Michael Matheson said:

“The Committee’s green light for this legislation is welcome and I hope Parliament will follow the Committee’s recommendations and back the bill.

“The Committee’s agreement with the Government’s view that minimum pricing for alcohol is legal and that there is a key connection between price, availability and consumption is a strong step forward and something I hope all parties will now support.

“This report shows that the Government’s plans are about more than minimum pricing and support for a social responsibility fee, action on discount sales and tighter controls on sales to young people through ID schemes is all welcome and will help build a package of measures to tackle our relationship with alcohol.

“There can be no denying that we need to deal with the problem of alcohol in our society, it's social and economic cost, and that what is needed are serious and considered proposals such as those from the Scottish Government, not gimmicks, and I hope all opposition parties will take that approach.”

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

LABOUR COMMISSION MISSES THE POINT



LABOUR COMMISSION MISSES THE POINT

SCOTLAND’S ALCOHOL PROBLEM GOES BEYOND BUCKFAST

Commenting on the interim report of Labour’s Alcohol Commission – which does not address the key issue of minimum pricing SNP MSP Michael Matheson said:

“Banning Buckfast on its own will not put a stop to Scotland’s problem with alcohol, nor will it stop alcohol related violence.

“This is an interesting report but it misses the key point in the alcohol debate.

“Focussing alcohol strategy on one drink is not a credible approach.

“The real answer, that the Commission fails to address, is to tackle the link between price and consumption as one of a series of measures to target Scotland’s drinking culture.

“Instead of focussing on public health Labour have been focussed on political opportunism.

“I hope when the Commission does consider price before it’s final report it will look at the evidence and the wide support for minimum pricing and see the logic of the Scottish Government’s proposal”

SNP RESPOND TO CONSTITUENCY BOUNDARY CHANGES



SNP RESPOND TO CONSTITUENCY BOUNDARY CHANGES

Responding to the final report of the Boundary Commission for Scotland
into new constituency and regional boundaries for the Scottish Parliament,
SNP Business Convener Bruce Crawford said:

“It is policies to improve lives and deliver economic growth that will win
the next Holyrood elections not the lines on a map.

“Certainly, the new boundaries create new opportunities for the SNP across
Scotland, and we are extremely enthusiastic about contesting the next
Holyrood election on our strong record of delivery and success.”

EMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE MUST BE FIRM BUT FAIR




EMPLOYMENT ALLOWANCE MUST BE FIRM BUT FAIR

SNP MSP Bill Kidd has called for any further changes to employment support allowance and the benefit system to be firm but fair after Citizens Advice Scotland revealed that people are being wrongly categorised by the benefits system and that some people with serious illnesses are being forced into work.

A new report from Citizens Advice Scotland has highlighted the high number of cases in which people have been placed on job seekers allowance - for those who are fit to work - instead of employment support allowance which supports those who are currently unable to work due to illness.

As preparations are underway to review the ability to work of all those claiming the old incapacity benefit allowance and the Tory-Liberal government plans a further reform of the welfare system the Glasgow MSP who will join a parliamentary debate on the issue tomorrow (Thursday) said:

"The welfare and benefits system must be firm but fair. Those who can work should be encouraged to do so, but where people are genuinely unable to work through ill health or disability we must ensure there is support available.

"For people genuinely suffering illness or debilitating conditions to be told they are fit to work and pushed into jobs they will not be able to do seems to defeat the point of the system and is a fundamental failure of Labour's reforms.

"Concerns have been raised in the past that health checks and assessments are being conducted by private companies who are paid not to ensure people receive the right support but to get people off the benefits list - even if they genuinely need help. With more people about to go through the assessment system and further reforms planned by the Tory-Liberal coalition it is essential that the system remains firm but fair."

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

STRATEGIC DEFENCE REVIEW MUST INCLUDE TRIDENT



STRATEGIC DEFENCE REVIEW MUST INCLUDE TRIDENT

The SNP has welcomed a Queen’s Speech commitment to ‘support the armed forces and undertake a Strategic Defence Review’ but called for the review to consider the issue of renewal of the Trident weapons system.

SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:

“A strategic defence review is necessary to prioritise our defence needs in a changed world, and top of the list for that review must be ditching Trident.

“It will be a sham exercise if the UK Government proceeds with a strategic defence review that does not include the future of the hyper-expensive Trident programme while considering cuts to other conventional forces and operations.

“Renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system will cost £100bn over the next 20 years. David Cameron and Nick Clegg need to get real. It cannot be right to proceed with its procurement whilst aiming to cut other conventional areas of defence spending at a time when our forces need support most.

“Anyway that you look at it; on moral, economic or political grounds, renewal of these weapons of mass destruction is untenable.

“This strategic defence review must also take into account the defence footprint and spending in the different nations and regions of the UK. In Scotland, Labour presided over a £4.3 billion defence underspend with almost 10,000 jobs lost, and the new Conservative Lib Dem coalition must not continue that record.”

WESTERN ISLES MP WARNS AGAINST ‘SUPER CONSTITUENCIES’



WESTERN ISLES MP WARNS AGAINST ‘SUPER CONSTITUENCIES’

TORY RESPECT AGENDA MUST BEGIN AT BOUNDARIES

SNP MP for the Western Isles and Shadow Scotland Office Spokesman, Angus MacNeil has called on the Conservative Liberal coalition to respect the unique geography of many of Scotland's rural and remote constituencies in any boundary review following the commitment in the Queen’s Speech to “create fewer and more equal sized constituencies”.

The Conservative party have advocated creating seats with 77 000 constituents as standard. In parts of Scotland, this would result in constituencies spread across huge land masses making it very difficult for constituents to access their MP.

Commenting, Mr MacNeil said:

“Many rural and remote constituencies across Scotland - such as my own in the Western Isles - cannot be parcelled into neat population bundles. The geography just doesn't allow it.

“By creating these massive seats, the UK Government risks undermining democratic representation in Scotland for the sake of convenience.

“If David Cameron is serious about his respect agenda and real electoral reform, then he will drop these ill considered plans for super constituencies and at the same time ditch his proposals to cut democratically elected MPs whilst appointing more unelected peers to the House of Lords.”

QUEEN’S SPEECH CONFIRMATION OF ROYAL MAIL PRIVATISATION PLAN



QUEEN’S SPEECH CONFIRMATION OF ROYAL MAIL PRIVATISATION PLAN

Confirmation in the Queen’s Speech that the UK government will seek part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson Mike Weir MP warned that the move would lead to job losses and service cuts.

Mr Weir said:

“Even part-privatisation would spell the beginning of the end for Royal Mail, and open the door to job losses, service cuts and a deterioration in the working conditions of postal workers.

“Despite Labour being forced to shelve the exact same plan because offers were inadequate, now the Tory’s and Liberals are set to pick up and push on with this crazy plan.

“Postal services must remain in public hands and the SNP will continue to fight for the retention of the publicly-owned Royal Mail."

SNP COMMENT ON QUEEN’S SPEECH



SNP COMMENT ON QUEEN’S SPEECH

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP has welcomed some of the measures outlined in the Queen’s Speech, including the proposed Scotland Bill, but stressed that the Scottish Parliament must gain the financial powers needed to ensure that Scotland’s economy prospered.

Commenting, Mr Robertson said:

“While the legislative programme was light on detail, some of the ideas contained within it have potential to deliver improved economic decision making for Scotland.

“The opportunity to devolve more powers to the Scottish Parliament is welcome – but these have to be the right powers. On areas such as air weapons, the drink drive limit, and responsibility for Holyrood elections, there is no disagreement, and these powers should be transferred as quickly as possible. Granting the Scottish Parliament control over drink driving and airgun legislation is clearly the right thing to do, and if the Labour Government hadn’t dragged its heels, these life saving measures would already be in place.

“On financial responsibilities, we need the powers to grow the Scottish economy and to give Scottish business a competitive advantage – decisions relating to Scotland’s finances should be taken in Scotland. This would settle the age-old disputes about funding, and allow both governments to focus on economic recovery.

“The SNP and many others have argued that the limited financial regime put forward by the Calman Commission is unworkable. However, there is real scope to devolve real financial powers which would enhance the Scottish economy. By giving the Scottish Parliament fiscal responsibility we can deliver prosperity for our people and give Scottish business a vital competitive advantage – and the SNP will urge the UK coalition government to work with the Scottish Government to make this happen.”

Commenting on the announcement that the UK Government will bring forward several referenda on voting reform, powers for the European Union and more powers for the Welsh Assembly, Mr Robertson added:

“It is nonsensical that Conservative and Liberal MPs back referenda on these issues but remain determined to deny the people of Scotland their say over their own constitutional future.

“SNP MPs will continue to champion Scotland’s interests at Westminster. In every piece of legislation brought forward, we will fight for the best deal for Scotland.”

HEALTH IMPROVEMENTS CONTRAST WITH LABOUR FAILURE



HEALTH IMPROVEMENTS CONTRAST WITH LABOUR FAILURE

FIGURES SHOW REAL ACTION ACROSS HEALTH SERVICE

SNP MSP and former GP Dr Ian McKee today praised the health service for its achievements as he highlighted the stark contrast between the last three years of achievement by the NHS and the failure of Labour to deliver for the health service.

Statistics released today show waiting times at their lowest ever, more people registered with a dentist and more dentists in Scotland and that delayed discharges are at zero.

Other figures released today show the NHS has saved £23 million for investment in frontline services through changes to purchasing policy.

Dr McKee said:

“In 2007 one of the SNP’s key commitments was to make Scotland healthier. Under Labour hospitals were closing, patients were being pushed onto hidden waiting lists, hospital infections were up and there was a shortage of dentists across the country.

“The contrast between the achievements of the NHS in the three years of SNP Government and Labour's failure to deliver for the health service is stark.

“As today’s statistics show in April 2010 there are no patients staying in hospital longer than they need to, under Labour there were over 200 delayed discharges in April 2007 and over 2000 in 2001.

“Under the SNP there are now more dentists across Scotland and more dental registrations with the number of children registered increasing from only 67% when Labour left office to 81% in 2010 and the number of adults registered increasing from just over 40% to over 60%.

“For patients, not only have Labour’s hidden waiting lists been abolished, but waiting times are at their lowest ever with over 99.5 % of people being treated and receiving tests ahead of the target waiting times.

“And with MRSA and C.Diff rates also falling dramatically, Accident and Emergency units kept open and investment going into new facilities under the SNP Government these figures show real improvement in the NHS over the last three years."

Monday, 24 May 2010

CUTS REINFORCE CASE FOR FISCAL AUTONOMY



CUTS REINFORCE CASE FOR FISCAL AUTONOMY

GROWING ECONOMY KEY TO CUTTING DEFICIT

Commenting after the Chancellor of the Exchequer unveiled plans for £6.25 billion cuts in public spending – including £332m in Scotland - SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie said details of the cuts reinforced the case for the Scottish Parliament gaining full control of tax and spending.

Mr Hosie said:

“These cuts are a warning of what is to come from the Tory/Liberal coalition, and totally reinforce the need for the Scottish Parliament to gain full control of tax and spending so that we can tailor our own growth strategy and boost government revenues.

“The key to cutting the deficit is growing the economy, which is why cutting public spending now is the wrong approach. News that the deficit has fallen by £11 billion due to a generally better economic performance underlines why the Scottish Government is absolutely right to prioritise economic recovery and defer further cuts - on top of the £500 million made by Labour - so that we maximise jobs and recovery now.

“The Liberal Democrats fought the election insisting that cutbacks should only start when the economy is ready. The economy is not ready and now, like Labour, they are risking a double dip recession.

“Labour’s Finance spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament has made a huge blunder by siding with the Tories against the process of economic recovery and by calling for even more cuts on top of the £500 million his party already made to the Scottish budget this year. Labour are now part of the Tory/Lib Dem cuts coalition.

“With the likelihood that first quarter 2010 growth will be revised upwards, from the original 0.2 per cent, there is a risk that cutting now will choke off further recovery. Indeed, taking more than £300 million out of Scotland’s economy would jeopardise around 5,000 jobs.”

QUEEN'S SPEECH SHOULD CONTAIN REAL POWERS FOR SCOTLAND



QUEEN'S SPEECH SHOULD CONTAIN REAL POWERS FOR SCOTLAND

FULL FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY NEEDED FOR SCOTTISH GROWTH

Commenting ahead of the Queen's speech tomorrow and following differing reports as to whether tax powers for the Scottish Parliament will be included in the Coalition Government's legislative programme the SNP repeated the party's call for the Scottish Parliament to take full responsibility for taxation and spending in Scotland.

The SNP is urging the new Tory-Liberal coalition to support full fiscal powers for Holyrood and to transfer those powers as soon as possible instead of sticking with Labour's limited and potentially damaging proposals in the Calman Commission report.

SNP MSP and Finance Committee member Linda Fabiani said:

"The new Liberal-Tory government has the opportunity tomorrow to put real powers for Scotland on the table.

"There is a growing consensus in Scotland that the powers needed to stimulate growth and build our economy are full responsibility for taxation and spending not the limited and damaging plans of the Calman Commission.

"Building up the Scottish economy is key to cutting Labour's deficit and today's cuts announcement from Westminster highlights the need for the Scotland to take full control of our own financial affairs.

"With full responsibility over taxation and spending the Scottish Parliament could build a system that supports Scotland's jobs and businesses and allows Scotland's economy to flourish instead of suffering cuts at the hands of others.

"The tax proposals from the Calman Commission are already out of date and have always been unfit for purpose. Devised by Labour to keep Scotland in check the new Government now has the opportunity to reject Calman's plans and put forward real financial powers for the Scottish Parliament."

Sunday, 23 May 2010

RESPECT AGENDA MUST BEGIN AT BOUNDARIES



RESPECT AGENDA MUST BEGIN AT BOUNDARIES

SUPER CONSTITUENCIES WOULD 'UNDERMINE' DEMOCRACY

SNP MP for the Western Isles and Shadow Scotland Office Spokesman, Angus
MacNeil has called on the Conservative Liberal coalition to respect the
unique geography of many of Scotland's rural and remote constituencies in
any boundary review which takes place as part of their electoral reform
measures expected to be announced in the Queen's Speech.

The Conservative party have advocated creating seats with 77 000
constituents as standard. In parts of Scotland, this would result in
constituencies spread across huge land masses making it very difficult for
constituents to access their MP.

Commenting, Mr MacNeil said:

"Many rural and remote constituencies across Scotland - such as my own in
the Western Isles - cannot be parceled into neat population bundles. The
geography just doesn't allow it.

“By creating these massive seats, the UK Government risks undermines
democratic representation in Scotland for the sake of convenience.

"If David Cameron is serious about his respect agenda and real electoral
reform, then he will drop these ill considered plans for super
constituencies and at the same time ditch his proposals to cut
democratically elected MPs whilst appointing more unelected peers House of
Lords.”

SNP HIT OUT AT MOD PLAN TO AXE SCOTS INFANTRY UNIT



SNP HIT OUT AT MOD PLAN TO AXE SCOTS INFANTRY UNIT

SCOTLAND ALREADY ENDURED DECADE OF DEFENCE CUTS

SNP Westminster Leader and Defence Spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, has
hit out at reports the MoD is planning to axe a Scottish infantry unit as
part of its efficiency saving program. Mr Robertson said that Scotland had
already endured a decade of defence cuts under Labour and warned that the
Tories risked making a sham of their respect agenda by making further
reductions.

Commenting, Mr Robertson said:

"Thirteen years of Labour Government saw Scotland's historic regiments
amalgamated and over 9500 defence jobs lost North of the Border. The
Conservative haste to wield the axe even further makes a sham of David
Cameron's respect agenda.

"Infantry units are already overstretched and underfunded in Afghanistan
and cutting manpower further will only make this situation even more
dangerous.

"Instead of reducing troop numbers and decimating Scotland's military
traditions, the Conservative Party should commit to scrapping Trident - an
abhorrent waste of money which does nothing to enhance national security."

COALITION VAT BILL COULD COST NHS £23 MILLION



COALITION VAT BILL COULD COST NHS £23 MILLION

A Parliamentary Question (PQ) released today has revealed the damaging
consequences Tory-Liberal coalition plans to increase VAT to 20% would
have on the NHS in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon’s answer to former GP Ian McKee MSP reveals that the UK
coalition could place a burden of £26 million on the NHS in Scotland
through increased VAT payments with over £23 million directly affecting
Health Boards.

Lothians SNP MSP Dr Ian McKee said:

“£23 million is huge chunk of Health Board budgets and this is the last
thing the NHS needs.

“With resources getting tighter in coming years, increasing taxes paid by
the NHS and other public bodies to the Treasury seems ridiculous.

“It may be slightly less than the £36 million Labour planned to take from
the NHS in National Insurance, but it is still an unacceptable cost at a
difficult time. There is simply no sense in taking money from public
services to put back into the Treasury’s coffers.

"Increasing VAT will put a strain on our public services at a time when
they need support more than ever.

“The SNP Government will do everything in our power to protect frontline
public services and NHS jobs and I challenge the new coalition’s Holyrood
colleagues and the Labour opposition to join with the SNP in opposing what
would be a drastic attack on NHS spending at a crucial time.”

IAIN GRAY 'STILL THIRLED' TO LONDON LABOUR



IAIN GRAY 'STILL THIRLED' TO LONDON LABOUR

BROWN ANNOUNCES COMEBACK FOR HOLYROOD CAMPAIGN

Commenting on the announcement that Gordon Brown is to play a role in
Labour's campaign for the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections, an SNP
Spokesperson said:

"This is good news - Gordon Brown was in charge of Jack McConnell's
campaign in 2007. It shows that Iain Gray remains thirled to London
Labour, even when they aren't in government - perhaps no surprise given
that he used to work for Alistair Darling at Westminster.

"The SNP have a fantastic record of achievement in government, and will
be proud to stand on our record of delivery - so far, the SNP Government
have delivered 65 of our 94 headline manifesto commitments."

"BAKER BLUNDER" OVER PROTECTION FOR HEALTH WORKERS



"BAKER BLUNDER" OVER PROTECTION FOR HEALTH WORKERS

ANOTHER MANIFESTO COMMITMENT MET

In response to Labour’s press release - in which Richard Baker falsely
states that the SNP Government has not acted to extend the protection of
the Emergency Workers Act to health service personnel who had been
excluded when the then Lab/Lib Scottish Executive passed the Act - SNP MSP
Dr Ian McKee said:

“This is yet another 'Baker blunder' - he is a serial embarrassment to the
Labour Party and completely clueless about this important issue.

“The reality is that in 2008 the SNP Government delivered on our manifesto
commitment to extend the Emergency Workers Act to give legal protection to
the health service staff excluded by Labour and the Lib Dems when they
were in office.

"Richard Baker's party did nothing - the SNP delivered.

“As we approach the Scottish Parliament election, SNP MSPs will be proud
to stand on this record of delivery. To date, the SNP Government has
delivered 65 of our 94 headline manifesto commitments - including
extending the Emergency Workers Act.

“This is another pathetic attempt by Labour to mislead Scots. Just a few
short weeks ago, they claimed that a vote for Labour would keep the Tories
out of Number 10 - before they let in the Con/Dem coalition by refusing to
work with the SNP."

Saturday, 22 May 2010

PREPARATIONS FOR HOLYROOD UNDERWAY AS SNP OPEN NOMINATIONS




PREPARATIONS FOR HOLYROOD UNDERWAY AS SNP OPEN NOMINATIONS

SNP preparations for the 2011 Holyrood election are underway as the party
confirmed selection procedures for constituency and regional list
candidates have begun.

Anyone wishing to put themselves forward should contact their local
Constituency Association or SNP Headquarters for details.

The opening of nominations comes as the party turns its attention to the
2011 Holyrood election and the importance of a strong SNP Government to
put Scotland’s interests first through the tough times ahead.

All constituency candidates are to be selected by 7th August.

Nominations for regional list candidates will close on the 16th August
with postal ballots being issued to the SNP’s 15,000 members at the end of
August. Results will be declared in late September.

SNP Business Convener and Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford said:

“The SNP in the Scottish Parliament has put Scotland first at all times
over the last three years and will continue to do so.

“SNP MSPs have helped bring real change to Scotland over the last three
years and I hope that others will take this opportunity to think about
what they can contribute to Scotland at Holyrood and consider stepping
forward to represent their local communities with the SNP.

“Attention is fixed firmly on the Holyrood election in 2011 and the way
forward for Scotland as we face the tough times and spending cuts coming
from the new Tory- Liberal government as a result of Labour’s economic
mess.

“Scotland’s voters have been misled by Labour’s claims that they would
keep the Tories out and let down by the Liberals rush for power. At the
2011 election voters will be looking for a party that unlike them will put
the people before party politics at the next election.

“Over the last three years, the SNP team in Holyrood has taken Scotland
forward, delivering a council tax freeze for three years, removing tolls
from the Forth and Tay Bridges, scrapping the graduate endowment,
improving waiting times and cleanliness in our hospitals

“The SNP has put investing in sustainable growth at the heart of our
government creating and sustaining jobs through the recession, building
new council homes and passing world leading climate change legislation
backed by real support for Scotland as Europe’s renewables energy capital.

“With the Tories back in power in London, and Labour powerless across the
UK it is essential that we see a strong team from the SNP stepping forward
to campaign for Scotland in 2011 and to continue the work of building a
strong future for Scotland in the Holyrood Parliament.”

TESCO SUPPORT FOR MINIMUM PRICING WELCOME



TESCO SUPPORT FOR MINIMUM PRICING WELCOME

SUPERMARKETS URGED TO JOIN CALLS FOR MINIMUM PRICE

The SNP today welcomed a statement from Tesco Supermarket that the chain wants to see minimum pricing for alcohol introduced and has called on other supermarket chains to support the move.

The SNP proposal for minimum pricing has won support from a range of drinks firms including Tennents, the Society of Independent Brewers, Edradour distillery, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, the Innkeepers Association and health professionals and police forces. The legislation is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament.

SNP MSP and Health Committee member Michael Matheson will be writing to Scotland’s other supermarket chains to urge them to support the measure.

Mr Matheson said:

“There is growing recognition of the problems and cost of alcohol to our society and that a minimum price for alcohol is the most effective way forward.

“Tesco’s action comes with the support of their customers showing that people would rather see steps put in place to change our relationship with alcohol than continue to have access to cheap drink.

“That Tesco continue to sell low cost alcohol is disappointing but emphasises the need for legislation to tackle this problem in a competitive market. I will be writing to Asda, Sainsbury, Morrisons and Co-operative urging them to add their support to Tesco’s and to back the Scottish Government’s proposal for minimum pricing.”

Thursday, 20 May 2010

TIMELY REMINDER OF TORY DEEDS IN GOVERNMENT



TIMELY REMINDER OF TORY DEEDS IN GOVERNMENT

LABOUR'S FEEBLE OPPOSITION ALSO REMEMBERED

Commenting on the release of government records from 1989 to 1994 -
which reveal the contemptuous attitude of the Tory party over the
implementation of the poll tax in Scotland - Glasgow SNP MSP Anne
McLaughlin said:

"These papers are a timely reminder of the contempt of the Tory Party
for Scotland. The words may have got warmer, but their deeds in
government will haunt them for years to come.

"I remember those years well and how they thought the Tories could get
away with imposing the poll tax on Scotland because Labour let them
get away with it. However the grass-roots opposition to the poll tax -
supported by the SNP - help see that policy off.

"These papers show that Scotland needs a party that is prepared to
stand up for Scotland against a Con/Dem government in London with no
real mandate in Scotland – and avoid the failed opposition we saw from
the Labour Party in the 1980s and 1990s."

LABOUR QUESTIONED ON PLAN TO INCREASE COUNCIL TAX



LABOUR QUESTIONED ON PLAN TO INCREASE COUNCIL TAX

LABOUR RAISED COUNCIL TAX 60% OVER 10 YEARS

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick - a member of the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee - has called on Labour’s Holyrood leader, Iain Gray, to reply to a letter asking him how much Labour thinks the Council Tax should increase by since Labour politicians have attacked the Council Tax freeze.

Commenting Mr FitzPatrick said:

“Over recent months it has become apparent that Labour now support re-imposing higher taxes on the people of Scotland. Only yesterday we heard even more Labour MSPs attack this essential measure to support families .

“With Labour MSPs opposi ng a council tax freeze they must be honest and say how much they plan to increase council tax by. The SNP has fully funded councils through the freeze and will continue to do so, but Labour want the public to pay higher bills.

“I asked Iain Gray in late March what his plans were and he has had ample time to reply. Why is avoiding this fundamental question?

“Over the 10 years they were in power they increased council tax by a staggering 60%. That Labour are openly planning to do this again is astonishing when people are already struggling to make ends meet because of Labour's recession."

SNP SEIZE ON COALITION CONTRADICTION ON TRIDENT



SNP SEIZE ON COALITION CONTRADICTION ON TRIDENT

The SNP have seized on the contradiction in the UK coalition programme for government on the future of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

The document states “We will maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent…Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives”.

Commenting, SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP said:

“It’s clear from the coalition programme that that the Liberal Democrats have been taken over by the Tories on Trident. You can’t commit billions to a renewal programme while, with any credibility, simultaneously claim to be examining alternatives.

“Renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system will cost £100bn over the next 20 years. David Cameron and Nick Clegg need to get real. It cannot be right to proceed with its procurement whilst aiming to cut other conventional areas of defence spending at a time when our forces need support most.

“Labour presided over a £4.3 billion defence underspend in Scotland with almost 10,000 jobs lost, and now the ConDem coalition has picked up where Labour left off.

“Anyway that you look at it; on moral, economic or political grounds, renewal of these weapons of mass destruction is untenable.”

CON-DEM POSTAL PRIVATISATION PLAN CONDEMNED



CON-DEM POSTAL PRIVATISATION PLAN CONDEMNED

Commenting on confirmation that the UK coalition government will seek part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson Mike Weir MP warned that the move would lead to job losses and service cuts.

Mr Weir said:

“Even part-privatisation would spell the beginning of the end for Royal Mail, and open the door to job losses, service cuts and a deterioration in the working conditions of postal workers.

“Despite Labour being forced to shelve the exact same plan because offers were inadequate, now the Tory’s and Liberals are set to pick up and push on with this crackpot plan.

“Postal services must remain in public hands and the SNP will continue to fight for the retention of the publicly-owned Royal Mail."

ROBERTSON COMMENTS ON CLEGG REFORM PLANS



ROBERTSON COMMENTS ON CLEGG REFORM PLANS

Commenting on the coalition governments political reform plans outlined today Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP said the only real answer to the West Lothian Question was independence for both Scotland and England.

Mr Robertson said:

"Scottish opinion is clear and overwhelming, and shows that the constitutional status quo is not in option - either in Scotland or England.

"The only real answer to the West Lothian Question is a new 21st century relationship for our two nations, based upon equality of status and mutual respect. Independence for both Scotland and England, running our own affairs, benefiting from our own resources, with the Queen as our shared Head of State.”

Commenting on confirmation that May 7th 2015 has been chosen as the date of the next Westminster General Election – the same day as the Scottish Parliament elections – Mr Robertson added:

"Scottish Parliament and local council elections have already been separated because of the confusion for voters of multiple voting systems, and it would show a distinct lack of respect for Westminster to go for the same day in 2015 as well. With goodwill and common sense this can be resolved.”

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

REPORT CONFIRMS SCOTLAND AS OFFSHORE ENERGY CAPITAL




REPORT CONFIRMS SCOTLAND AS OFFSHORE ENERGY CAPITAL

A new report, released today in Aberdeen, shows that there is enough offshore renewable energy resource to generate the energy equivalent of a billion barrels of oil a year – exporting energy to the rest of the EU, and that this could generate the equivalent of £2700 per person by 2050.

SNP MSPs today called for this potential to be backed up with the release of the fossil fuel levy, changes to the transmission charging regime and the continued development of a North Sea grid.

Commenting SNP MSP Rob Gibson said:

“Scotland has truly won the off-shore energy lottery. This report shows that as well as the continued oil resources under the North Sea there is enormous renewable energy potential that can truly power Scotland’s future.

“Renewables in Scotland are now a serious business and there is major development taking place.

“As a key priority the new UK Government must back the SNP’s ambitions for our renewables industry and act to release the £250 million fossil fuel levy for investment in renewables and take immediate action to ensure transmission charges imposed from London do not discriminate against Scotland’s huge renewables potential.”

SNP MSP for the North East Maureen Watt added her voice to calls for investment in Scotland’s energy future as she urged the new government to support SNP efforts to deliver a North Sea grid.

“The North East has reaped the benefits of the offshore oil industry which has provided skilled employment to so many people and we now have a real opportunity to be at the cutting edge of offshore renewables development.

“However, if this industry is to live up to its potential success, then it is vital that the infrastructure to export the electricity we produce to our European neighbours is in place. As the Offshore Valuation Study recognises, the construction of a European super-grid is absolutely essential to the economic future of the North East, the Scottish Government has played a key role in the early development of that grid and the UK Government must make it a priority.”

CALMAN FINANCE POWERS SHOULD BE FULL FISCAL POWERS




CALMAN FINANCE POWERS SHOULD BE FULL FISCAL POWERS

TRANSFER OF LIFE SAVING POWERS LONG OVERDUE

SNP Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie MP today (Wednesday) called for the
“transfer of fiscal powers” to Scotland to mean the transfer of full
fiscal responsibilities - rather than the half baked proposals contained
in the Calman Commission. The coalition UK Government is expected to
outline proposals in the Queen’s Speech next week.

The call came as SNP MSP Dave Thompson welcomed reports that devolving
long over due powers over drink driving, speed limits and air guns will be
included in the Queens Speech.

SNP MP and Treasury Spokesman Stewart Hosie said:

"That this Government is willing to devolve some powers to the Scottish
Parliament is a welcome step forward, however they must look very closely
at the impact the Calman plans will have.

"Borrowing powers and genuine fiscal autonomy for Scotland would be very
welcome, but that is not what Calman or the previous government's white
paper proposed.

"It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the financial powers offered in
the Calman Commission do not offer a real level of financial
responsibility for the Scottish Parliament, but instead risk economic
damage to Scotland.

"Instead of adopting Labour's stitched up Calman plan the Lib Dems and
Conservatives should look to the only model that can work effectively and
deliver a growth strategy for Scotland – full fiscal autonomy for the
Scottish Parliament.

"The Lib Dems have long supported additional financial powers for the
Scottish Parliament - and their own Steel Commission recommended a much
more effective transfer of powers with control over corporation tax and
full control of income tax being given to the Scottish Parliament, and a
share of North Sea revenues , rather than the half baked proposals of
Labour's Calman Commission.

"In putting forward legislation on fiscal powers for the Scottish
Parliament the new coalition must live up to the "respect" agenda that it
preaches and deliver real fiscal powers not stick with the stitch up that
was the Calman Commission plan."

Welcoming news that the transfer of powers over drink driving, air guns
and speed limits should be included in the Queen's Speech Mr Thompson
added:

"The proposals in the Calman Commission that we all agree on - powers to
amend the drink driving limit, to take action on air guns and speed limits
should be devolved as soon as possible. The SNP Government was ready to
work with the previous UK Government to transfer these powers immediately
and I hope this will now be done without any further delay.

"These are powers which can save lives and their transfer to the Scottish
Parliament is long overdue."

LABOUR’S KERR BACKS EARLY TORY CUTS




LABOUR’S KERR BACKS EARLY TORY CUTS

SCOTS CAN’T TRUST LABOUR TO STOP THE TORIES

POLL SHOWS SCOTS OPPOSE EARLY CUTS

The SNP has seized on remarks by Labour’s Andy Kerr in today’s Daily Mail today (Wednesday) where he criticises the Finance Secretary John Swinney' "decision to postpone reductions" in spending this year. This would already be on top of the £500 million cuts already imposed by the previous UK Labour Government on the Scottish Government’s budget in 2010/11.

Describing Mr Kerr’s gaffe as another example of how the people of Scotland cannot trust Labour to stop the Tories, SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee – said:

“Yet again we have another example of the Labour party failing Scotland when the Tories are in power.

“This is a huge blunder by Andy Kerr as he sides with the Tories against the process of economic recovery and calls for even more cuts on top of the £500 million his party already made to the Scottish budget this year.

“The reason for not cutting any more this year, and indeed opposing the Tory/LibDem cuts of £6 billion UK-wide, is because it jeopardises a fragile economic recovery. Andy Kerr has ensured Labour in Scotland are now part of that threat. He has also set himself against the majority of Scots who, unlike other parts of the UK, oppose early cuts.

“The recession was shorter in Scotland than UK as a whole, due to decisive action of SNP Government. All the London parties are threatening a double dip recession, and it is astonishing that Andy Kerr should be calling for more cuts to Scotland’s budget this year.

“As the SNP Government do all in our power to support recovery it is Labour who are betraying workers and jobs in Scotland.”

DUNGAVEL DECISION – QUESTIONS REMAIN OVER CHILD DETENTION



DUNGAVEL DECISION – QUESTIONS REMAIN OVER CHILD DETENTION

HOME OFFICE CHARACTERISED BY CHAOS IN FIRST WEEK

Following a statement from the Home Office that children of asylum seekers will no longer be detained in Scotland at the Dungavel detention centre, but instead moved immediately to the Yarls Wood detention centre in England the SNP called for an explanation from the Home Office of events over the last week and an end to all child detention as soon as possible.

SNP MSPs will be seeking guarantees from the Home Office over the treatment of children from Scotland who are moved to Yarls Wood and that detention of children from Scotland is taking place only as a genuine last resort.

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, who highlighted the failure of the Lib Dems to bring an end to the detention of children earlier this week said:

“If this is a genuine end to the detention of children at Dungavel then it may be a positive step forward, but it does not explain the actions of the Home Office this week or bring an end to the detention of under-16s in the asylum system.

“The Lib Dems claims on asylum and detention have been badly exposed and the Conservative’s chaotic Home Office appears once again to be unfit for purpose.

“Having failed at their first test we will be keeping a close eye on the commitments of this new Government to ensure that they live up to their word and do not slip back into the system of child detention so favoured by Labour ministers.”

Glasgow MSP Anne McLaughlin who supported Glasgow based 10 year old Precious Mhango and her mother Florence, who were detained at both Dungavel and Yarls Wood said:

“From Precious we know the horrific impact detention at Dungavel has on young children, but we also know that her experience at Yarls Wood was no better.

“By removing children immediately to Yarls Wood they are being taken away from the support networks and services they have built up in Scotland.

“The House of Commons has been highly critical of child detention in Yarls Wood and we must see this practice brought to an end across the UK as soon as possible.

“For Precious and her mother Florence being removed immediately to Yarls Wood would have reduced their access to the legal system. There must be guarantees from the new Government that children are only being detained as an absolute last resort and that no one will lose access to the law, or the ability to challenge the Home Office’s decision as a result of this move.

1. House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report into the detention of Children http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmhaff/73/7304.htm

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

COALITION FAILS ON DUNGAVEL PLEDGE



COALITION FAILS ON DUNGAVEL PLEDGE

CHILD DETAINED FOUR DAYS AFTER LIB DEMS CLAIM IT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN

The SNP has today called for immediate action from the Lib Dem / Conservative Government to end the detention of children at Dungavel.

Yesterday (17th) an eight month old child was detained at the centre despite claims last week by Lib Dem Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander and Holyrood leader Tavish Scott that they had ended the detention of children at Dungavel.

In First Minister's Questions last week Tavish Scott stated:"UK Government policy is changing and children are no longer to be detained behind razor wire at Dungavel—Liberal Democrats in government having made that happen" and Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander claimed the ending of child detention as a Lib Dem gain from the coalition deal.

Commenting on the detention of another child at the centre SNP MSP Christina McKelvie whose region includes Dungavel said:

"Danny Alexander and Tavish Scott's words mean as little as Labour's when it comes to Dungavel.
"Last week the Lib Dems claimed the detention of children at Dungavel had ended. Today an eight month old baby is being held behind bars in Scotland.

"Children should not find themselves behind bars in a humane immigration system and if the Lib Dem deal means anything the new Scottish Secretary and Tavish Scott must act to ensure this child, and all others are not detained in Dungavel for one more day.

"The news that Lib Dem claims have come to nothing so quickly and that last week's announcement was made of the same spin as those from Mr Alexander's predecessor will deeply disappoint many of those who hoped for better from this coalition. Instead of something different the Lib Dems position looks just the same as Labour and Tory.

"The SNP has taken the lead in setting up alternatives to detention for children of asylum seekers and asylum seeking families. That is the approach Scotland wants to see, not cheap talk and no action from another Scottish Secretary."

Monday, 17 May 2010

SNP CALL FOR FAIR FUEL PRICES IN EMERGENCY BUDGET




SNP CALL FOR FAIR FUEL PRICES IN EMERGENCY BUDGET

Commenting on confirmation that the UK coalition government will set out an emergency budget on 22 June, the SNP called on the new administration to introduce a fair fuel regulator and cuts in fuel duty for rural areas.

The SNP has raised concerns that the vital issue of fuel prices was missing from the coalition agreement between the Tories and Lib Dems.

SNP Transport spokesperson Angus MacNeil MP said:

“The Con/Dem coalition must use the emergency budget to bring down fuel prices and ensure that Scotland’s essential industries and hard pressed households are not hit again by rising prices.

“Prices in Scotland are well above the £1.21 highlighted by the AA. In Stornoway unleaded fuel is £1.28 and diesel is over £1.30, in Inverness – home to the Scottish Secretary it’s £1.25. This has a crippling effect on family budgets and on all our industries.

“Labour repeatedly used Scotland's motorists as a cash cow. It is time drivers were given a break. People in Scotland will be deeply concerned that fair fuel prices are not a feature of the coalition agreement - despite claims by both parties to support this measure.

“Action on fuel prices in the emergency budget is a key test of the new Government, and in particular for the Scotland Secretary Danny Alexander. For years Danny Alexander has promised anything to anyone and delivered nothing. This is the real test for the Lib Dems and their deal with the Tories.

“The June Budget must include a fuel duty cut for our remote communities and a fair fuel deal for all of Scotland’s motorists.”

SNP SLAM PLANS TO CREATE 100s OF NEW LORDS




SNP SLAM PLANS TO CREATE 100s OF NEW LORDS

Commenting on the report in The Times today which reveals that the Tory-LibDem coalition plan to create hundreds of new peers for the House of Lords SNP MP, Angus MacNeil, said:

"So much for change and a fresh start. This is just shows how the Tory coalition is the same old politics continuing.

"The public will not understand why money is being wasted to pay for hundreds of partisan peers whilst massive cuts are being planned in the public sector. It smacks of political self-interest.

"Instead of this wasteful plan they should have abolished the House of Lords thus saving the public money and showing a commitment to a new way of doing politics."

TRIDENT: NOT SAFE, NOT WANTED AND NOT NEEDED




TRIDENT: NOT SAFE, NOT WANTED AND NOT NEEDED

LET’S PROTECT JOBS NOT NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Bill Kidd MSP has today reiterated the need for the removal of Trident, the UK’s Nuclear Missile System, from the banks of the Clyde and for its proposed replacement to be scrapped immediately.

Kidd, who earlier this week addressed the United Nations on the issue, made the calls after a Sunday Newspaper revealed that the Faslane Nuclear Base on the Clyde had been “plagued by nuclear accidents, radioactive contamination and fires over the last two years”.

Glasgow MSP Bill Kidd said:

“These revelations are shocking and will be of huge concern to the public.

“The Scottish Parliament, civic Scotland and the people of Scotland have repeatedly made it clear that they don’t want these weapons of mass destruction, but these revelations expose the inherent dangers and the risks to the public having these obscene weapons based on the Clyde entails.

“It just further underlines the need to rid Scotland of these terrible indiscriminatory weapons as soon as possible. Scotland is facing cuts from Westminster that will threaten jobs and public services, instead let’s cut the things that we don’t want nor need like Trident and its planned replacement, and invest in the things that really matter to people, like education, health, and policing.

“Trident will cost the cost the public £100 Billion over its lifetime. Why don’t we spend that money on jobs, on our children’s education and on our NHS?

“Anyway that you look at it; on moral, economic or political grounds, renewal of these weapons of mass destruction is untenable.

“Our message to the Westminster is clear, Scotland doesn’t need nuclear weapons and doesn’t want them. We should be focusing on protecting jobs, not spending disgusting amounts of money during a difficult economic period on obsolete and destructive nuclear weapons.”

LIBDEMS 'SOLD SCOTLAND OUT' WITH TORY ALLIANCE




LIBDEMS 'SOLD SCOTLAND OUT' WITH TORY ALLIANCE

LABOUR INACTION AT WESTMINSTER HELPS BRING TORIES BACK TO POWER

Highlands and Islands MSP Dave Thompson has today (Sunday) responded to comments from the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy, in an article in today’s Observer.

In the piece, Kennedy outlines his concerns regarding the new Con-Dem coalition deal and says he would’ve preferred to “explore the possibilities of a so-called ‘progressive coalition’” – which would’ve included the SNP,Plaid Cymru and the Labour Party.

Commenting, Dave Thomspon said:

“This revelation comes as no real surprise, and there is clearly real anger amongst their membership – particularly in Scotland.

“On polling day, Scotland gave a resounding ‘No’ to the prospect of a Tory Government with 85% of the public rejecting David Cameron. As we’ve seen time and time again though, Scotland’s voice was deemed irrelevant and not heard by those in London.

“The SNP, along with Plaid Cymru, favoured the ‘progressive coalition’ that Charlie Kennedy speaks of. The Coalition would’ve included the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Labour and the Lib Dems – and would’ve kept the Tories out of power, and David Cameron out of Downing Street.

“By jumping into bed with Cameron’s Tories, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander have sold Scotland out. But Labour must share some of the blame for allowing the Tories back in as they had no real intention of going into a progressive coalition and instead of protecting the country from the Tory cuts, they opted for the safety of opposition.

“Labour claimed that if you voted for them, they would stop the Tories. Well the people of Scotland did vote Labour, but they didn’t stop them. Blinded by their visceral hatred of the SNP, the progressive coalition talks were sabotaged by those representing Labour.

“It’s now clear that in Scotland Vote Lib Dem get Tories, vote Labour get Tories. The only way to stop the Tories is to vote for Independence, and then Scotland can take responsibility for its own actions and benefit from our vast natural resources.”