Breastfeeding Friendly Campaign

Greenock Morton recently declared Cappielow Park as a breastfeeding friendly football ground, following a nationwide campaign by the SNP MP, Alison Thewliss.  Almost 70% of football clubs in Scotland have now signed up to the campaign for breastfeeding friendly stadiums. 

I am delighted that Greenock Morton have signed up to this excellent initiative.  It’s very encouraging that so many folk are uniting to make Scottish football a breastfeeding friendly environment.

The 2005 Breastfeeding Act specifically makes it an offence to stop a mother or child from breastfeeding in public and that is a hugely welcome protection.  However, what gives further reassurance to breastfeeding mums is for as many places as possible to be pro-active and declare themselves ‘breastfeeding friendly’.

Football crowds have changed a lot over the years and stadiums are becoming a much more family friendly environment.  The vast majority of clubs understand the need to build future generations of fans.

By making a positive declaration that stadiums are breastfeeding friendly, this will go some way to letting people know that breastfeeding is normal and no-one should feel excluded from coming along to the football. 

Warren Hawke, Morton chief executive added: 

“We at Greenock Morton were keen to show our full support for Alison’s campaign by declaring Cappielow a breastfeeding friendly stadium. 

“As a community club, we feel it is vitally important that we offer as inclusive an environment as possible for all supporters and so we are eager to reassure breastfeeding mothers that they will me made most welcome and fully accommodated within the ground.”

 

First Minister – Bute House Press Conference

The manifesto on which the SNP were elected said ‘The Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum…….if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will’.

On the back of that, the First Minister has today set out a controlled and measured approach to protecting Scotland’s interests. The UK Government have been asked time and again to consider Scotland’s position and have been found wanting. Their lack of a coherent response to the Scottish Government’s proposals on Europe has exasperated the situation.

The First Minister is putting the interest of Scotland at the heart of her intentions as she does not want to see the country dragged out of Europe, against its will.

The timetable of approaching a second referendum provides the UK Government with ample opportunities to take the Scottish Government’s proposals seriously and find common ground.  If not, the First Minister will ask the people of Scotland, when the options are clear, to choose which path we follow.

We can’t drift along for two years just hoping for the best. The people of Scotland have to decide what sort of country they want to live in and their voice will be heard.

You can view the First Minister’s speech in full here: https://www.snp.org/nicola_sturgeon_speech_scotland_s_referendum

 

Westminster diary w/b 6th March

Monday

The opportunity arose to stay in Inverclyde as there were no votes at Westminster. Naturally I took it. Constituency work is so important and never ending. I had a number of constituents that came to my office and I attended the inaugural meeting of the Inverclyde ‘A’ team Autism support group in Boglestone.

Tuesday

I pay the price for staying at home on Monday as my day starts at 4:30 a.m. My select committee starts at 9:15am and I make it with minutes to spare. We are finalising our report on the lessons learned from the EU referendum, the report will be published soon. I got lucky in the ballot for questions to the Justice Department. I took the opportunity to question the minister over the process that is seeing an increasing number of people losing benefits for around ten weeks and then being reinstated after appeal. These benefits can include Motability cars. I pressed him to consider not imposing the sanction until after the appeal process was exhausted and therefore not punish people who are winning their appeal. I attended a big lottery fund drop in session and was pleased to hear that following the events my office ran last year more applications from Inverclyde has been successful than previous years. We will build on this for future years.

Wednesday

My first event was the all party parliamentary group for the campaign for nuclear disarmament. We received a briefing from Dr Ian Fairlie on the links between civil nuclear power and nuclear weapons in the UK. His theories surrounding Tritium and its creation are very interesting. Prime Ministers question time constitutes Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn acting like a couple of badly behaved spoiled brats. This is really no way to run a country. But today they are just the warm up act for the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond who for one day only thinks he is a comedian. The spring statement is poorly thought out and punctuated by surly jokes at the expense of everyone that isn’t a Tory. Of course the real joke is on the Tories as within hours of the budget statement it is clear that they have broken manifesto promises and hiked the tax on the self employed. To say it was met with a cool response from his back bench is a massive understatement. And one group that were openly less than happy were the Woman Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI). Once again they were ignored by the UK government. A contract broken and many comfortable lives in retirement ruined. I spoke in a debate on the advertising standards authority responsibility to broadband users. The claims being made by providers are dubious to say the least. In the evening I attended ‘Barefoot in Business’ as part of international woman’s day. It was an opportunity to talk with the makers of the documentary about female entrepreneurs in Uganda. There are lessons to be learned by us all.

Thursday

I attended a fantastic lecture organised by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in their London HQ. Its title is ‘Utopia for Realists’ and is presented by Rutger Bregman. It covers his plans for a shorter working week, Universal Basic Income and open borders. His influences range from Thomas More to Richard Nixon. More wrote his ‘Utopia’ in 1516 so it’s an idea 500 years in the making. I get a tea time flight home.

Friday

I have casework to catch up with. A meeting with the Ardgowan Hospice and a meeting in the council buildings. On Saturday I plan to visit the Inverclyde street pastors and watch the rugby at Twickenham.

 

UK Budget

Today (Wednesday) I’ve highlighted my disappointment with the UK Budget as the UK Government remains wedded to austerity and is driving further inequality. 

Annual borrowing is £51.7bn in 2016-17. Borrowing forecast to total £58.3bn in 2017-18, £40.6bn in 2018-19, £21.4bn in 2019-20 and £20.6bn in 2020-21.  Debt rose to 86.6% this year, but will fall to 79.8% in 2021-22. 

The UK Budget contrasts dramatically to the recent Scottish Government Budget which protected and reformed vital public services.  Alongside this, the Scottish Government is shaping a tax system that is fair and protects the poorest taxpayers.

This is a right-wing Tory Government which remains wedded to austerity and is driving further inequality.  It’s clear a hard Tory Brexit is the major threat to the economy of Inverclyde and Scotland as a whole.

Today is international women’s day but yet again the Chancellor has refused to take action on the punitive two child limit.

The SNP has long opposed the Tory UK Government’s austerity agenda which disproportionately hurts the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

The Chancellor’s Budget will attack low paid families and only widen the gap between the richest and poorest people in our society.

 

Questions to UK Govt on PIP Appeals

Today I questioned the Ministry of Justice about the UK Government’s Personal Independence Payments (PIP) appeal process after receiving continued correspondence from constituents who have lost their benefit entitlement and Motability cars, while their appeal is being heard.

Today’s oral question to the Ministry of Justice indicated that 52% of appeals in 2015, in Greenock, for PIP were successful.  This rose to 57% in the latest period, between January to September 2016.

It is clear that a rapidly increasing number of my Inverclyde constituents are losing their benefits but subsequently winning their appeals.  The current process is causing much grief and anguish for my constituents and leaving many vulnerable and isolated.  

My constituents are informing me, on a daily basis, they are experiencing 8-10 weeks without benefit entitlements and many are having their Motability cars removed.

Therefore, I am urging the UK Government to ensure sanctions are not enforced until the appeals process is exhausted.  I believe this will help ensure many of my constituents no longer have their benefits unjustifiably withdrawn.

 

Written Question – Treasury [06/03/2017]

Question: To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what comparative estimate he has made of the number of children living in poverty in (a) the UK, (b) Scotland and (c) Inverclyde constituency if child benefit is (i) frozen and (ii) increased in line with inflation in the next three years. (66159)

Tabled on: 01 March 2017

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what estimate he has made of the number of children living in poverty in Airdrie and Shotts constituency if child benefit is (a) frozen and (b) increased in line with inflation in the next three years. (66179) Tabled on: 01 March 2017
  2. To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of freezing rates of child benefit and child tax credit on families in Blaydon constituency. (66164) Tabled on: 01 March 2017
  3. To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the effect of freezing rates of child benefit and child tax credit on families in Poplar and Limehouse constituency. (66165) Tabled on: 01 March 2017

Answer: Mr David Gauke:

The Government has considered the impact on all benefits and tax credits rates that are included in the four year uprating freeze. The Government has published an impact assessment at:

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/impact-assessments/IA15-006C.pdf

The answer was submitted on 06 Mar 2017 at 15:22.

World Kidney Day 2017

I’m support for the upcoming World Kidney Day UK 2017 which takes place on Thursday 9th March. 

World Kidney Day (WKD) is an annual global awareness and education event, held on the second Thursday in March. Every year, countless local, national and international events are organised by kidney charities, healthcare professionals, patient groups and individuals who want to make a difference. 

The 2017 theme is ‘Kidney Disease and Obesity’.

I’ve decided to ‘do my bit’ for World Kidney Day to highlight the increased risk that can be brought on by obesity. In individuals affected by obesity, the kidneys have to work harder, filtering more blood than normal to meet the metabolic demands of the increased body weight. The increase in function can damage the kidney and raise the risk of developing Chronic Kidney Disease in the long-term. 

The good news is that obesity, as well as Chronic Kidney Disease, is largely preventable. Education and awareness of the risks of obesity and a healthy lifestyle, including proper nutrition and exercise, can dramatically help in preventing obesity and kidney disease.

We need to raise awareness of this life-threatening problem and the more people know about kidney health, the better.