MP calls for enhanced status for Scots Gaelic

Alison Thewliss MP sitting at her desk in Parliament

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has called on the UK Government to ensure that regional and minority languages, including Scots Gaelic, are given enhanced status in the UK Government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations.

The European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages currently confers protection to Irish, Scots Gaelic, Cornish and Welsh languages and encourages the promotion of these languages in educational and cultural contexts. The UK signed and ratified the treaty in 2001, but the UK Government have so far failed to commit to retain the protections conferred by the Charter post-Brexit, and imbalances remain in the classification of languages that have protected status in UK public bodies which deal with reserved issues across the whole of the UK.

Ms Thewliss has written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley MP, asking the Government to bring forward legislation to guarantee the status of all languages that are currently protected by the Charter and to ensure that Irish, Scots Gaelic and Cornish are given the same status as English and Welsh by public bodies who deal with matters reserved to Westminster.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Scots Gaelic and other languages play an important role in the UK’s cultural and national life. I am fortunate to be the constituency MP for Glasgow’s two Gaelic Schools and I know from speaking to parents that there is increasing demand for these languages to be part of the educational and cultural life of the UK.

“With Brexit negotiations starting to take shape, there is a very real risk that the cultural diversity of the UK could be watered down by the loss of these significant protections through the automatic withdrawal from Treaty obligations that would occur when the UK leaves the EU.

“Significant imbalances already exist in the promotion of regional and minority languages in the UK. Although the Scottish Government has made significant progress in promoting the Gaelic language in devolved areas, UK public bodies are under no obligation to use the language when contacted by members of the public who use it. Far more needs to be done to ensure that these languages are treated equally by bodies which deal with reserved matters.

“As a minority government which depends on the votes of MPs from across the UK, there is a real opportunity for the UK Government to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the UK’s nations and ensure that this heritage is preserved in the Brexit process. I hope the UK Government will recognise the need for all the devolved nations to be involved in the negotiation process and guarantee the protected status of these languages now.”

Campaigning MP: Tories must scrap cruel benefits cap

Alison Thewliss MP sitting at her desk in Parliament

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has today called on the Tory Government to scrap its cruel and unfair household benefits cap, after a High Court judgement ruled that the cap was causing severe hardship to single parent families.

In a damning judgement on the cap, which restricts income obtained from benefits to £20,000 for households in Scotland, Mr Justice Collins stated that “real misery is being caused to no good purpose” in the ongoing implementation of the benefit cap. The judgement ruled that the cap should not apply to single parents with children under two, who would find it “impossible” to obtain exemption from the cap.

Following the announcement of the decision by the High Court, Ms Thewliss is now calling on the Tory Government to drop their appeal and scrap the benefit cap entirely.

Speaking after today’s decision by the court, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Today’s judgement is yet another damning indictment on the Tories’ cruel and callous approach to reforming social security.

“It’s clear from the judgement handed down today that the Tories’ reforms are causing untold misery and plunging thousands hard-working families into poverty. Far from helping those just about managing families that Theresa May is so fond of talking about, Tory policies are hurting families deeply.

“It’s high time that Theresa May and the Tories recognised the real and serious damage that they are inflicting on families across Scotland. If they are truly serious about helping families that are just about making ends meet, they should honour today’s decision and ditch the unfair restrictions on benefits immediately.”

City MP welcomes progress on safe injecting facility

Alison Thewliss MP sitting at her desk in Parliament

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has today welcomed progress on the introduction of a Safe Injecting Facility (SIF) in Glasgow.

The decision to approve a site and commence planning applications for the supervised injecting facility was taken today at a meeting of the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board. It follows several months of consideration, research and scrutiny of the proposal for an SIF by the Alcohol and Drug Partnership, which received approval in principle by the Integration Joint Board in October 2016.

Today’s approval of the plan means that leasing of a site for the SIF will now go ahead, alongside a range of measures to engage local residents and businesses regarding the implications of the SIF and obtain the planning permission required for the facility.

Speaking after today’s decision, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The issues of drug injecting and needles being discarded in Glasgow are not going to go away, without serious steps being taken to address them. These issues have been raised with me regularly in the 10 years I’ve represented Glasgow, both as a councillor and now as an MP; with the recent increase in drug deaths and infections I support action to tackle this difficult and sensitive issue head-on. The status quo leaves people injecting in dirty back lanes, on waste ground and in closes, which is unsafe for everyone.

“It is evident from research and the experiences of other countries that have opened such facilities that safe injecting facilities save lives, take drug injecting off the streets and reduce the amount of needles being discarded. These facilities often open up vital conversations between drug users and support services, which is the all-important first step in promoting recovery from drug addiction. It’s for these reasons that I believe that a safe injecting facility is the best option to reduce deaths from overdose and reduce the risk of harm to the public from needles being left in closes and lanes.

“I welcome the progress that has been made today by the Integration Joint Board to take the action needed to reduce harm to both drug users and the general public. I hope that the SIF will make a significant contribution towards improving the health of the drug-injecting population and reducing the amount of drug-related litter on Glasgow’s streets.”

Alison Thewliss MP supports campaign to revolutionise Parkinson’s research

This Parkinson’s Awareness Week Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has pledged their support to the charity Parkinson’s UK’s We Won’t Wait campaign, calling for urgent action to unlock the promise of research developments that could pave the way to better treatments and stop Parkinson’s drugs ‘falling behind’.

Alison Thewliss MP said;

“While great strides have been made over the past 200 years, people with Parkinson’s are still waiting for a treatment that can tackle the condition head on.

“Because of this, I am supporting Parkinson’s UK’s We Won’t Wait campaign: we need a complete step change to deliver better treatments and a cure faster.”

Research released by the charity revealed that despite being an incurable, degenerative condition which can affect anyone, in Scotland:

• Almost half (48%) of people are unsure, or wrongly say that it is possible to prevent Parkinson’s.
• Four in five (83%) are unsure, or incorrectly think that there is no limit to the amount of time Parkinson’s medication works for.
• Two in three (65%) wrongly believe that Parkinson’s medication does more than mask or ease the symptoms of the condition.

Parkinson’s UK wants to drive forward crucial developments in Parkinson’s research and to pioneer more effective treatments that are desperately needed for the 11,000 people in Scotland currently living with the condition.

Commenting on Alison Thewliss MP’s pledge, Katherine Crawford, Scotland Director at Parkinson’s UK said;

“We are delighted that Alison Thewliss MP is supporting our crucial campaign to transform Parkinson’s research. People with Parkinson’s across Scotland are telling us that they need access to new and better treatments to improve their lives, and ultimately a cure for this cruel condition.”

Two child policy and rape clause comes into force

A two child limit and rape clause for tax credits came into force today, which a campaigning MP says will unleash untold chaos and poverty for ‘just about managing families’ and rape survivors.

In July 2015, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced in his summer budget plans to slash child tax credit payments to just two children per family and implement a ‘non-consensual sex exemption’, dubbed the rape clause.

The new policy, which came into force at midnight last night, requires tax credit claimants, whose third or subsequent child was conceived as a result of rape, to prove this to social workers and health professionals in order to qualify for the exemption.

Faith leaders, women’s welfare groups, trade unions and child poverty campaigners have all condemned the policy, with many sexual violence support charities refusing to act as third party verifiers for the Government.

Alison Thewliss MP – who first uncovered the policy – said:

“Today the UK government stooped to a new low, even by their austerity obsessed standards. Minister are now unleashing untold chaos and poverty for some of the most vulnerable women and families in this country – indeed, the very “just about managing” families Theresa May spoke about upon taking office as Prime Minister.

“As of midnight last night, a two child limit on child tax credits and universal credit – which is tantamount to social engineering – came into force. It largely penalises families who are already in work, so this has very little to do with reducing the welfare bill but is, instead, an ideological attack on the lowest earning families in our society.

“Independent analysis shows that the two child limit alone will mean a loss of up to £2,800 every year per child for hardworking families. If you had a third child at 11.59pm last night, over the next 18 years you could be £50,000 better off than a family whose third child was born a minute later.

“Analysis also shows that well over 200,000 children will now move into relative poverty as a result of this deeply flawed two child limit. We should be reducing child poverty, not adding hundreds of thousands more to this miserable statistic.

“What’s most horrifying is the rape clause, which is a vile policy in total chaos. Ministers are willing to give an exemption to those women whose third child was conceived as a result of rape, but they want them to prove this in a traumatic assessment from healthcare professionals and social workers. This is utterly appalling and will only seek to make rape survivors relive the trauma and brutality of the sexual violence they experienced at the hands of their perpetrator. It must be one of the most inhumane and barbaric policies ever to emanate from Whitehall.

“The rape clause has been found, even today, as being totally unworkable, with wholly inadequate guidance sneaked out during the night. There has been no proper sexual violence awareness training for healthcare professionals and social workers who’ve been asked to arbitrate on whether a woman’s child was conceived as a result of rape.

Ministers have ducked and dived at every turn to try and avoid talking about this policy, presumably because they know it’s so unpalatable. The UK government railroaded this through Parliament using a statutory instrument which meant MPs couldn’t vote upon or debate it. It’s all well and good that the UK government has now conceded that this will need to be referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee when Parliament returns after the Easter recess. However, the fact remains, the policy is now live and will cause untold distress. The UK government must step in today and suspend this right now before serious damage is done.”

SNP politicians welcome rejection of city centre student accommodation proposal

Angus Millar, SNP Councillor for Anderston/City ward and Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, have today welcomed the decision by Glasgow City Councillors to reject a student accommodation development in Glasgow city centre.

Ms Thewliss and Cllr Millar, along with many other local residents and organisations, objected to the proposals to build a large student accommodation complex directly in front of Glasgow School of Art’s iconic Mackintosh building. A decision on the application was originally deferred on 7th March to allow a further hearing to take place and enable residents to voice further concerns about the proposed development.

Following the hearing this morning, councillors decided to reject the application entirely.

Commenting on the committee’s decision, Cllr Angus Millar said:

“I am delighted that this application has been refused, having attended the hearing this morning to argue against these proposals, which were overwhelmingly opposed by the community.

“The Mackintosh Building is a unique part of Glasgow’s cultural heritage and any development on this site must respect and enhance the character of the area – unlike these deeply damaging plans to throw up yet more private student accommodation.

“Communities in the city centre are all too clear that their areas are saturated with unwanted private student housing, instead of the kind of positive development and mixed communities we should be creating.

“I am so pleased to congratulate the Garnethill community, the Art School and all of the others opposed to these damaging plans for their brilliant success in persuading the council to refuse planning permission.

Commenting on the application, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Like many others, I was pleased to learn today that yet another monolithic student development, which would dwarf an iconic part of Glasgow’s skyline, has been refused planning permission.

“The decision to reject this application is very much welcome. I am delighted that councillors have taken on board the views of residents at today’s hearing, which further exposed the folly of these plans and highlighted the significant misgivings the local community have about this wholly inappropriate development.

“Whilst today’s decision is excellent news for many residents, it’s clear that significant concerns remain about the saturation of student accommodation in the city centre. Currently there is no means of establishing the need for this type of accommodation, this must be addressed urgently through a comprehensive housing strategy.

“The SNP understands that Glasgow needs a mixed approach to housing; voting for SNP councillors on 4th May will deliver the high quality housing Glasgow needs for future generations to come.”

Alison Thewliss MP supports Bowel Cancer Awareness Month

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central is supporting Bowel Cancer UK’s campaign to urge more people to take part in bowel cancer screening and save lives, as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April.

More than 1,500 people die from bowel cancer in Scotland every year, it’s the country’s second biggest cancer killer.  However, it shouldn’t be. It’s treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. Bowel cancer screening can save lives but at the moment in some areas of the country only half of those who receive a test complete it. Thousands of people are missing out on the chance to detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat.

Alison Thewliss MP said, “I am committed to improving uptake rates for bowel cancer screening, both locally and nationally. Glasgow has one of the lowest uptakes of screening for bowel cancer and I would urge my constituents who are sent a bowel screening test to use it.  Taking part in bowel cancer screening is the best way to get diagnosed early.  If you are over 50, take the test when you receive it in the post. If you are younger, tell the people over 50 in your life to take the test. Early diagnosis really can save lives.”

Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said, “I’d like to thank Alison Thewliss MP for supporting our campaign during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to raise participation levels for bowel cancer screening. In Scotland, one in 15 men and one in 19 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime but it is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early.”

The Scotland Bowel Cancer Screening Programme can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms when it is easier to treat. If you’re registered with a GP and aged 50-74, you will receive a test in the post every two years. You carry out the simple test at home in private and it comes with step by step instructions. The test looks for hidden blood in your poo, which could be an early sign of bowel cancer.

Campaigning MP welcomes Lords’ condemnation of rape clause

Alison Thewliss MP joins supporters at the launch of her campaign to scrap the rape clause

Campaigning MP, Alison Thewliss, has today welcomed the publication of a House of Lords’ Delegated Legislation Committee report which raises serious concerns about the UK Government’s two child policy and rape clause.

The Committee has called for the Regulations, which are due to be enacted in under a week, to be examined again by the House of Commons. According to the report, the Committee have “cast doubt as to whether the system will be fully set up by 6 April, when the legislation takes effect, and on whether the exception relating to non-consensual conception can ever be made to work.”

Members of the Committee have also rounded on the DWP’s inadequate provision of training for the rape clause third party reporting mechanism, saying that the DWP “takes no account of the training that may be necessary for the assessors eventually chosen.”

This shocking criticism highlights the poor preparations that Tory Ministers have put in place for the policy, with no training offered for the hundreds of thousands of nurses, doctors and social workers who will be expected to judge whether or not a woman’s child has been conceived as a result of rape.

Commenting on the report, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“With just days left until the two child policy and rape clause comes into force, the House of Lords’ Delegated Legislation Committee have highlighted a raft of serious flaws that are embedded within this pernicious and medieval policy.

“The cruelty of expecting benefit claimants to have to re-live the ordeal of a rape in order to access their benefits to help pay the bills and feed their family is undeniable. This report could not be any clearer – Tory Ministers’ plans for the two child policy and rape clause will not work, forcing vulnerable women to relive the ordeal of rape just to claim a benefit.

“With time ticking away, Ministers must now wake up to the warnings that the two child policy and rape clause are ill-thought-out and that they will cause unbearable hardship to families. It’s not too late for the UK Government to change tack and ditch this unworkable and medieval policy and I urge Ministers to do so now.”

Rubbish response from UK Government on post-Brexit waste and recycling policy

Two SNP MPs have criticised the UK Government’s lackadaisical attitude towards waste and recycling policy, as the UK today formally started the process of leaving the European Union.

SNP duo, Alison Thewliss and Calum Kerr have rounded on Tory Ministers, following a letter from Secretary of State, Sajid Javid. They say the Government was left “floundering” to explain which policies UK Councils will be expected to implement regarding waste and recycling after Britain leaves the EU.

SNP Local Government spokesperson, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“All 400 Councils across these islands have been working hard over many years to reduce waste and ensure that we send as little as possible to landfill. This has been good for our environment, and has transformed the way we deal with our resources. Our current EU membership provides local councils with clear guidance when it comes to important waste and recycling policies, yet all of this could soon be thrown on the Great Repeal Bill bonfire.

“Not for the first time, the rubbish response from the Secretary of State shows that this Government is absolutely floundering when it comes to the real detail of Brexit. Ministers obviously don’t have a clue what Councils will be asked to do, which has an impact on the decisions local authorities are making now about future investment in waste and recycling services.

“At the moment, the UK generates over 200 million tonnes of waste every year and we need to be doing more – much more – to reduce that figure if we’re to leave a better environment for the generations to come after us. Local authorities need more detail so they can plan for the future, not the usual recycled Brexit soundbites from the UK Government.

The SNP’s spokesperson on Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Calum Kerr MP said:

“Across all departments and at all levels of government, Brexit is sowing confusion. We recently learned from DEFRA that their long awaited 25 year plan for the environment has been shelved until after the UK leaves the EU. Yet a long-term strategic vision on environmental issues is more vital than ever.

“The EU has led the way in promoting the circular economy and setting ambitious waste reduction targets. This isn’t just red-tape: we know that prior to joining the ECC, Britain was known as the “dirty man of Europe”; there can be no return to that state of affairs.

“The refusal of the UK government to offer clarity and reassurance on the question of waste and recycling is yet another indication that it is prepared to pursue a reckless Brexit at any cost, with no plan for what comes next.”