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.”

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.”

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.”

MP plea to UK Ministers on Yemen humanitarian crisis

A campaigning MP has issued a plea to UK Ministers to act without delay and stop Yemen from descending into further chaos and crisis as it teeters on the brink of famine.

Co-leading a House of Commons debate on the second anniversary of the Yemen civil war, Alison Thewliss – MP for Glasgow Central – called upon UK Ministers to intervene and ensure humanitarian aid gets into the country.

Thewliss, who is an Officer of the Parliament’s APPG on Yemen, said that the situation in Yemen is incredibly precarious, with 1.2 million public sector workers unpaid since September 2016. In addition, 3 million people have been displaced and 7 million Yemenis are on the brink of starvation.

Ms Thewliss’ speech focussed on the need for opening up access for humanitarian aid and food imports, which is being hampered by both parties to the conflict. She called on Ministers to secure the port of Hodeida, which has been bombarded by Saudi air strikes. On a practical level, she asked Ministers to help get cranes installed which would speed up the importing of much needed food.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Yemen is in dire straits. Acute and severe malnutrition is resulting in innocent children dying needlessly. There have been a suspected 22,000 cholera cases in the last six months and, heartbreakingly, 63,000 children died in 2016 from preventable causes linked to malnutrition. This is a political decision; blockades by the Saudi-led coalition are preventing and delaying aid agencies from getting food into the region. Military action

“The UK talks a good game when it comes to international aid for Yemen and it’s right to say that £85 million has been given in the last year. The UK Government is less keen to trumpet its revenue from Saudi Arms, with 143 licences granted at an eye watering value of £3.3bn. These arms are causing deaths, injuries and destruction of vital infrastructure in the port of Hodeida.

“Yemen has been debated many times in Parliament. The time for talk is over – we need firm action now to help some of the most vulnerable people and children on the face of the planet who are seeking shelter every day from the British-made bombs being dropped on them by Saudi Arabia.

“Without an immediate ceasefire and a political settlement, Yemen’s people will continue to be starved in a man-made and preventable famine. The UK Government must act for peace in Yemen.”

Alison Thewliss MP supports Be Cervix Savvy roadshow in Glasgow

Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss is supporting Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust’s first ever cervical cancer prevention Roadshow. The Be Cervix Savvy Roadshow is in Glasgow from 20 – 31st March and aims to raise much needed awareness about cervical cancer and how to prevent it.

Commenting on the roadshow, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Cervical screening provides the best protection against cervical cancer yet the number of women attending this potentially life-saving test in Scotland is at a 10 year low and Glasgow has the lowest attendance rate across Scotland. This needs to change. I am proud to support Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust in their efforts to raise awareness of cervical cancer and how it can be prevented. It is vital more women understand the signs of cervical cancer and how the HPV vaccination and cervical screening can reduce risk of the disease.”

Robert Music, Chief Executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said:

“We are delighted that Alison Thewliss is supporting our Roadshow. Cervical cancer is largely preventable, yet every year over 3,000 women are given a life-changing cervical diagnosis, and every day two women lose their lives to the disease. Through our Roadshow we hope to reach hundreds of women across Glasgow, providing vital and potentially life-saving information about how they can reduce their risk of the disease and where they can access support. I want to encourage anyone with worries or questions to come and have a chat with our trained team.”

The Be Cervix Savvy Roadshow will visit 11 cities over a 14 week period across the UK. The Roadshow will visit four locations in Glasgow, George Square (20-21 March), Buchanan Street (23-24 March), Shandwick Square (27-28 March) and Forge Market (30-31 March), and the charity hopes to engage with over 800 women in the city.

MP makes Earth Hour pledge for climate change

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has signed up to support WWF’s tenth Earth Hour by making a special pledge to help protect the planet. The world is changing – fast – and it’s never been more important to show support for action on climate change. Ms Thewliss is one of many who joined WWF in Westminster at their reception this week to show they care about the future of our planet, ahead of the global lights out event, taking place on Saturday 25 March at 8:30pm. Earth Hour Heroes is supported by the players of the Peoples’ Postcode Lottery who joined the event.

MPs from all political parties are celebrating Earth Hour, sending a united message that this is a pivotal time for our planet and more needs to be done to tackle climate change and build a sustainable future.

Commenting on the pledge, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am delighted to support WWF’s Earth Hour this year to demonstrate how important it is that we take climate change seriously. The SNP-led Scottish Government have already exceeded the level of their world-leading 2020 target for a 42% reduction six years early. I will continue to urge the UK Government to follow the excellent example set by the Scottish Government on reducing emissions and tackling climate change.”

Each year, millions of people around the world come together to call for action to protect our brilliant planet. Last year a record 178 countries took part and iconic landmarks across the UK switched out their lights, from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, to Brighton Pier, Edinburgh Castle and Caerphilly Castle. This year is set to be the biggest yet as it’s the 10 year anniversary of Earth Hour. With 2016 breaking temperature records for the third consecutive year, it’s never been more important to tackle climate change.

Naomi Hicks, Head of WWF UK’s Earth Hour, said:

“We are at a real crossroads when it comes to our planet’s future. We all need to act and do what we can to protect our planet from the impacts of climate change. That’s why it’s great that MPs are giving their support to this year’s campaign and we hope they will inspire many others in their constituencies and communities to sign up and get involved on 25th March.