The National [18/02/16]

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A Greenock Charrette!

From Wednesday 2nd of March to Friday 4th March there will be an inclusive consultation taking place for Greenock’s town centre. All Greenock residents have been invited to participate, there will be planning workshops which will engage local people in the design process for the community. And the final exhibition will take place in the Oak Mall on Saturday 5th of March and a report-back session in the saloon at Greenock Town Hall on the 10th of March.

This is a welcomed opportunity allowing residents and traders of Greenock to participate in the planning of their town centre. Being able to contribute and participate in the planning of your town centre is a positive thing. It is essential we get as many different points of view together to ensure that Greenock’s town centre is truly representative of the Greenockians living here.

This consultation could act as a feasible way of establishing our community’s priorities, build on existing facilities and services and improve access throughout. Let’s think about what we want our community to look like and then roll up our sleeves and get involved with making that happen.

Dormant Money Is A Safe Bet

At a time when both the national and personal debt in the UK increases, the nation’s fix for gambling continues to grow. Here in Inverclyde our high streets are filled with an assortment of bookmakers all trying to entice the ‘punter’ into their shop to have a ‘responsible flutter’. Much has been made in the press, and rightly so, about the rise in the use of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and the amount of money people can stake on one spin. These machines have been dubbed the crack cocaine of gambling, due to their addictiveness and the amount players can win/lose in an instant.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded that in 2013 the Total Weekly expenditure on ‘Bookmaker, tote, other betting stakes’ was £12m. This figure doesn’t take into account the amount of money that has also been spent on, for example, lottery tickets and scratch cards.

Plainly, the country’s love of gambling and betting is not waning, it continues to grow. Only today (16th Feb) Scottish Racing said about 308,000 people visited racecourses at Ayr, Hamilton Park, Kelso, Musselburgh and Perth – a seven year high. It’s evident that people from all walks of life enjoy a bet and as long as it’s done responsibly and within a financial budget then there shouldn’t be anything wrong with this. The real issue is the other end of the scale and the people who are spending their monthly wages on betting and getting into more debt, through credit cards and bank loans, sometimes taking out loans with questionable individuals.

The ease with which someone can place a bet today is staggering. You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to place a bet these days. The bookmakers all have state of the art betting applications (apps) which at a tap of a button can allow a punter to place a bet on any number of outcomes on nearly any sporting or cultural event, such as the Oscars or Mercury Music Prize.

Action needs to be taken to further educate and support people who are gambling with regards to the misery it can cause for some individuals and their families. It is encouraging that bookmakers seem to be recognising the rise in problem gamblers and are taking much needed action to not only highlight responsible betting but also highlighting what help is available.

However, more can and should be done to support those whose lives have been affected by gambling. In 2010 a report was prepared to consider whether money from unclaimed winnings and dormant betting accounts should be used to fund improving sports provision. The report explained how unclaimed winnings and dormant accounts occur. It also explained what happens to unclaimed winnings/dormant accounts at present.

I believe aspects of this report should be acted upon and any money HM Treasury claims from dormant betting accounts should be given to good causes and also to help those individuals and families affected by gambling.

I have since raised the matter in Parliament by asking the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether the UK Government will take the report forward and look to obtain the money from dormant betting accounts. The response I received was both weak and lacked empathy. I’ve now written to the UK Government urging the Department for Culture to finally address this issue and discuss the matter with the Association of British Bookmakers and other interested parties so we can hopefully make a positive difference to a great number of people’s lives.

Gambling addiction blights communities and households across the country. Therefore, it is right that those high street betting operators who profit from gambling should help tackle the problem of addiction.

Rather than bolstering profit margins this unclaimed money could instead be put to good use and help make a positive difference to people’s lives.

Picture from Paul

Official Steel Cutting

I was back at Ferguson Marine today with our Transport Minister, Derek MacKay MSP for the official steel cutting of the hull of the new CMAL ships 801 and 802.

This is an exciting time for both Ferguson Marine and CMAL and a fantastic opportunity for Inverclyde. Every speech delivered to mark the event today, quite correctly, gave credit to the workforce. It is the highly skilled and dependable workforce that give the Scottish Government so much confidence in the future of shipbuilding on the lower Clyde.

Let’s Find The Foodbank A Van

Our local foodbank have been in touch to ask if anyone can help by donating them a van.

The Inverclyde foodbank is currently trying to expand into Port Glasgow and in order to deal with the huge amounts of food that they are currently having to transport from one place to another they are on the lookout for a warm hearted resident of Inverclyde to donate them a van.

We know it is a big ask but hey, if you don’t ask you don’t get. Do you know anyone who can help? Please share this post to see if we can find the foodbank a van.

Picture by RL GNZLZ

English Votes For English Laws

Today the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) of which I am a member released a report titled “The Future of the Union: English Votes for English Laws”. The report raises several concerns about the “complexity and workability” of EVEL.

EVEL has been an absolute dog’s dinner from the start. What has transpired has been a farce with no opposition party now supporting these changes to the Standing Orders. What is clear about this report is that Cameron doesn’t even have support for EVEL from within his own party. What we have before us in an unsustainable solution and the wrong answer to the constitutional question. I echo the report’s recommendation for the UK Government to use the twelve month review period we are now in to urgently establish a set of comprehensive proposals that all parties can support.

Picture from Dan Forest

TI Discussions With The Scottish Secretary

Today [Wed 10th Feb] I held a telephone discussion with the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell MP to discuss the situation at Texas Instruments (TI). It was a constructive discussion where I highlighted to Mr Mundell what was discussed at the first taskforce meeting and that my priority is to ensure the workforce is fully supported. The main priority right now is the workforce and no stone can or should be left unturned to support them.

Alongside this Mr Mundell indicated he is in contact with the Scottish Government and has regular discussions with Minister for Enterprise Fergus Ewing MSP and Texas Instruments will be on the agenda. Mr Mundell has said he will aslo speak to the UK Business Secretary to highlight to issues at TI and how the manufacturing site may becoming available and if he could look for a potential buyer.

I hope all interested parties can continue to work together to find a positive outcome from this difficult situation.

Picure from Fernando Clavijo

What Can An Orange Teach Us About Dementia?

Many people think dementia is just a natural part of ageing which means they don’t realise that it is something we could, one day, defeat. Alzheimer’s Research UK has put together this video and 10 things you need to know about dementia below.

1. Dementia itself is not a disease – it’s actually caused by lots of different diseases. The word ‘dementia’ is just an umbrella term for the symptoms caused by these diseases such as memory loss, confusion and personality change. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause but other dementias include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.(1)

2. Dementia is not an inevitable part of getting older – while it’s true that the majority of people with dementia are over 65, the condition is not a normal part of getting older. The likelihood of developing dementia rises with age, but it’s not a given that an older person will develop it. In the UK over 40,000 people under 65 have dementia.(2)

3. Dementia is more than just memory loss – most people associate dementia with memory loss, but the condition affects people in a wide variety of ways. That might include changes in behaviour, confusion and disorientation, delusions and hallucinations, difficulty communicating, problems judging speeds and distances and even cravings for particular foods. Everyone’s experience of dementia is different.(3)

4. It’s possible to live an independent and active life with dementia – there are many people in the UK and across the world who are facing dementia head on and developing support mechanisms and strategies to live well with the condition. That includes anything from taking up new hobbies to making new friends or taking part in research.

5. Dementia has a bigger impact on women – with more and more women living well into their 80s, half a million women in the UK are now living with dementia.(4) The condition is the leading cause of death in women in the UK.(5) Women are also more likely to take on unpaid caring roles for other people with dementia and are more than twice as likely as men to provide intensive, 24-hour care.(6)

6. Dementia is a global issue – it’s a common myth that dementia is only an issue in the western world. The largest increases in dementia expected over the next 20 years are actually in places like China, India and Sub-Saharan Africa. Dementia is a truly global health issue, affecting 44million people worldwide.(7)

7. Dementia doesn’t discriminate – dementia is a condition that can affect anyone regardless of background, education, lifestyle or status.

8. There are no treatments to stop the diseases that cause dementia – while some treatments can help people to live with their symptoms a little better, there are no treatments that slow or stop diseases like Alzheimer’s. This means that the diseases will continue to get worse over time unless new treatments can be found quickly.(8)

9. Investment in dementia research is still low – despite a welcome government focus on dementia over the past three years, research into the condition still only receives around three per cent of the government’s medical research budget.(9) Combined government and charity investment in dementia research is seven times lower than cancer research.(10) Raising investment in dementia research to a similar level will help to drive forward much-needed progress towards a cure.

10. You can help – dementia research desperately needs volunteers. A lack is slowing efforts to find new preventions and treatments. A new service called ‘Join dementia research’ has launched to help people with and without dementia register their interest in taking part in studies in their area. If you or someone you know might be willing to help, you can sign up online by visiting www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk.

View our references.