Sunday, 9 July 2017

Five Key Questions on Farming for UK Tory Environment Secretary

SNP Demand: Honour Promises Made to Scottish Farmers

The SNP has challenged new Tory Environment Secretary Michael Gove to answer five key questions on Scottish farming, following his promises in recent weeks that farmers and crofters would not lose out after Brexit.

The Tories have so far failed to give farmers and wider rural interests guarantees over future funding beyond 2022 and most fear that Michael Gove, an economic right-winger, is gearing up to scrap them altogether post-Brexit.

When asked directly if Scottish farmers would lose out on subsidies through Brexit, Mr Gove gave a direct “no” in response. However senior Tories have raised the spectre of a Westminster power grab – stating that devolved powers over agriculture would not automatically return to the Scottish Parliament. And Tory plans for a new “agri-environment system” suggest future funding decisions and priorities will be imposed upon Scotland.

Deputy convener of Holyrood’s Rural Economy Committee, Gail Ross, has challenged Michael Gove to continue his frank approach by offering Yes or No answers to the following five questions:
  • Will the UK government guarantee that Scotland’s farmers and crofters will receive at least the same level of support as they do at present?
  • Will Michael Gove now guarantee funding for Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) for 2019?
  • In any future system, will Scotland get the equivalent or more than the 16.5% share it currently receives in EU agricultural funding?
  • Will Michael Gove demonstrate his intent by honouring a previous promise dating back to 2013 to give Scotland’s farmers their £160 million convergence monies?
  • Will the Tories rule out the possibility of a Westminster power grab over Scottish farming and food production once and for all?
Commenting, Gail Ross MSP said:

“It’s no secret that Michael Gove is the sort of laissez faire right-winger who would happily sell off, or sell out anything he gets his hands on in government.

“Throughout his time in politics he’s pushed for the NHS to be dismantled and for schools to be marketised. People should be extremely sceptical about what’s in store for farmers, crofters and our wider rural community in Scotland.

“But if we take him at his word that Scotland’s farmers will not lose out on subsidies through the Tories’ damaging plans for Brexit then he still has key questions to answer.

“The UK government got us into this mess – they now have the responsibility for reassuring farmers that they won’t pull the plug on much-needed agricultural support after Brexit.

“What happens beyond 2022? Does rural support fall off a cliff edge? Does Scotland get the funding to match the powers we must get to support farmers? Or will Westminster undermine our nation’s parliament and reverse the gains of devolution with a shameless Tory power grab?

“It’s high time we had some straight answers from Michael Gove and his colleagues – it’s the very least that Scotland’s farmers and crofters deserve.”

Friday, 7 July 2017

Mhairi Black - Moray MP Douglas Ross Must Deliver On His Promise To Support Women Under Pension Threat

Mhairi Black MP has called on new Tory MP Douglas Ross to sign a parliamentary motion to support WASPI women - as he has so far failed to do so, and he has refused to confirm if he will - despite pledging to support the campaign while he was seeking election.

The Tory MP posed for campaign photographs while he was seeking votes – pledging to support women who will lose their pensions as a result of the changes to state pension age, "and to work in Parliament to find a solution to those affected."

Yet he has so-far failed to support the women in Wednesday's parliamentary motion, and refused to say if he intends to do so.

Mhairi Black MP said:

“Douglas Ross must sign this motion in support of these women- otherwise his actions reek of hypocrisy. He was happy to pose with these women during his election campaign while seeking votes - now he must show a stand against his party's damaging policy.

“I cannot believe we are still having to argue the case for WASPI women, and that the UK government has failed to listen.

“For the government to say they can’t afford to pay these women what they are owed is laughable. They can find a billion pounds to cling on to power, but they can’t find the money to give women the pensions that they are due.

“These women are guilty of nothing. They have had the misfortune of being female and being born in the 1950s and live under this UK government who refuses to do the right thing.

"This is an issue of equality. The UK government must take responsibility and Douglas Ross must do the right thing for these women who are missing out on their pension."

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Nuffield Trust Report Shows Scotland's NHS Leading the Way

Continual Focus on Quality Improvement Key Success of NHS Scotland

Today’s Nuffield Trust report shows that Scotland’s NHS is leading the way and health services in other parts of the UK have much to learn from Scotland’s approach.
The report highlights a number of areas where the other UK nations could benefit from adopting policies taken by the Scottish Government – particularly on areas such as quality improvement and patient safety, but also on health and social care integration, reducing the number of still births and on initiatives to tackle unequal health outcomes and support remote areas.

The SNP is committed to continually improving Scotland’s NHS, and the Scottish Government is investing an additional £2 billion over the course of this parliament to help the NHS cope with increasing demand. The NHS in Scotland already benefits from record high funding and staffing – and the SNP is committed to increasing these levels even more.

Commenting, SNP MSP and deputy convener of Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee, Clare Haughey, said:

“This report provides a very welcome insight into the state of Scotland’s National Health Service.

“What this report shows is a Scottish NHS that is adapting to the challenges it is facing in the coming years – highlighting a number of areas where Scotland is leading the way, particularly our approach to quality improvement which allows best practice to be rolled out across the health service in Scotland.

“The report suggests that England, Wales and Northern Ireland could all learn from Scotland in areas such as patient safety, health and social care integration, tackling health inequalities, and on reducing the number of still births.

“The SNP Government is investing record levels of funding in our NHS – and we are committed to spending an additional £2 billion by the end of this parliament to keep on improving our NHS. We are also benefitting from record levels of staffing – and the Nuffield Trust report also shows that the nurse vacancy rate is less than half that of England and Wales.

“We recognise the challenges that lie ahead and the work that needs to be done, which is why the SNP Government is taking forward a twin programme of investment and reform.

“The SNP will always work to support our NHS – and this report shows the approach we are taking is leading the way across the UK.”

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Mundell Cave-In on DUP Deal May Cost Scotland Cash

"Smoking Gun" Treasury Letter Reveals Other Departments Face Cuts

The SNP has condemned David Mundell for his failure to stand up for Scotland after it was revealed in a letter from the Treasury that there has been no increase in overall UK departmental spending as a result of the Tories' deal with the DUP.

The admission, by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss in a letter to the Scottish Government, means that other government departments face cuts, which would see reductions – so-called negative Barnett consequentials – passed on to Scotland.

This follows newly-elected Scottish Tory MPs failing to oppose the deal or to secure any benefit for Scotland, in contrast to the boats that they have made since the election.

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said:

“This letter has let the cat out of the bag – David Mundell’s cave-in over the grubby deal with the DUP risks seeing Scotland’s budget cut.

“The Treasury’s admission that there has been no increase in overall UK departmental spending as a result of the deal has given the game away.

“It is a smoking gun, which exposes the fact that other departments now face cuts to pay for this Tory cash-for-votes stitch-up – and that means Scotland faces cuts too.

“So – far from standing up for Scotland as he promised – David Mundell’s craven surrender means Scotland could actually end up worse off.

“Mr Mundell’s role in this has been a fiasco – only a week ago he said he would not allow any extra cash go to Northern Ireland without similar benefits coming to Scotland.

“But he went back on that promise, and the result is Scotland’s budget now faces being slashed.

“David Mundell has shown he is not fit for the job of Scottish Secretary and his credibility lies in tatters.

"Why is it that 10 DUP MPs can extract £1bn for Northern Ireland but 13 Scottish Tory MPs are unable to extract one single penny for Scotland?

"This whole episode has exposed Ruth Davidson’s post-election boasts have been exposed as empty bluster.”
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