23 May 2013
Patrick Harvie MSP has urged the Energy Minister to make sure that those communities most affected by decades of opencast coal mining in Scotland are represented on the new Scottish Mines Restoration Trust, which has been set up following the collapse of Scottish Coal.
A recent meeting in the Scottish Parliament saw representatives from every coal mining area in Scotland come together to form the Scottish Opencast Communities Alliance.
He also want to see the minutes of the independent trust made public, to give maximum transparency to a murky industry with a history of inaction and abandoned, unrestored sites.
Patrick Harvie said:
“Yet again, communities across central Scotland face the prospect of the coal industry walking away from its historic liabilities and a new player cherry picking the sites with coal left in them. The new Restoration Trust must not become the vehicle that allows the coal barons to delay restoration of opencast sites for another decade.
“The Trust must include the broad range of community voices that live with opencast coal literally on their doorstep. Those communities should settle for nothing less than full transparency from all the players currently carving up an industry with a terrible record of meeting its environmental and social responsibilities.”
Image credit: Coal Action Scotland
22 May 2013
Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, is calling on the Scottish Government to outline a timetable for the equal marriage bill, following this week’s approval of similar legislation by MPs at Westminster.
“While it is welcome that same-sex marriage legislation has been approved by the Commons, it is worth remembering it still has to clear the unelected and much more hostile House of Lords. In Scotland we should not lose the leadership we have established on this issue.
“The Scottish Government’s consultation on a draft bill closed two months ago. Ministers need to lay out a timetable as soon as possible, and give an assurance that we can expect to see the bill in parliament before the summer recess. The statement on the government’s website that it will introduce it ‘later this year’ isn’t good enough.”
21 May 2013
Responding to a position paper by the Scottish Government on economic reasons for independence, MSP Patrick Harvie is appealing to undecided voters to consider the opportunity a Yes vote presents to create a fairer society.
The government paper points out the gap between rich and poor has been widening in the UK and the Scottish Government believes tackling inequalities will enhance Scotland’s “competitive position”.
A poll earlier this year for the Green MSPs showed most Scots view the prospect of a more equal society as more important in next year’s referendum than whether the nation is richer or poorer.
Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, said:
“The growing gap between rich and poor is one of the most compelling reasons to vote for independence. By deciding for ourselves how we want to run our economy we have a better chance of tackling inequality.
“To date we’ve witnessed successive Westminster governments in thrall to the City and its culture of greed and risk-taking, and a Scottish Government that advocates cutting corporate taxes for wealthy firms. A vote for independence would mean the people would have more of a say in our economic priorities.
“By taking a different approach to Westminster we can invest our energy revenues in the cleaner industries we must move towards. We can consider welfare systems that lift the poorest people out of poverty. And we can ensure those with broad shoulders contribute a fairer share.”
16 May 2013
Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian, is urging the Scottish Government to recall its grant funding of Amazon UK following news of its 0.1% tax rate in the last financial year despite UK sales of £4.3 billion.
A briefing provided to MSPs visiting Amazon’s Dunfermline centre earlier this year showed that the Scottish Government has offered up to £10.6m to the company in funding, far more than the £2.4m paid by the company in corporation tax in 2012/13.*
Alison wants to see the public grants and procurement system reformed so that companies’ tax record can be taken into account before public funds are given out.**
“Amazon clearly have absolutely no intention of playing fair when paying tax but are happy to take millions from the public purse in Scotland. The latest revelations should prompt the Scottish Government to urgently end its handouts and demand a complete refund.
“It is quite incredible that Scottish Ministers still think that writing big cheques to Amazon is a good use of public money. That lost tax income and grant funding could completely transform the small business sector, providing secure jobs to more people. Amazon are shameless but the Scottish Government must take a stand.
“We need far stricter rules on companies getting public money so that their record on tax or use of zero-hours contracts can be taken into account. Public money should be used to support the high standards we want more of in Scotland.”
*A briefing to MSPs on the Economy committee by Scottish Enterprise in February contained the following figures: £4.3m offered in RSA and training awards, £6.3m made available through SE Scottish Property Support Scheme for the Dunfermline building
**Alison Johnstone questioned John Swinney on Amazon’s tax avoidance and the issue of zero-hours contracts at the Economy committee. Page 8 of this Official Report:
15 May 2013
Alison Johnstone MSP is warning against celebrating a deal struck in Brussels by EU fisheries ministers on the issue of discards.
“It’s too early to celebrate this deal. It still allows for a lot of fish to be dumped dead overboard. And while devolving some control to regional level makes sense we must ensure we follow the science.
“If we want sustainable fisheries that support our economy without wrecking the environment we need bold reform and I’m not persuaded we have that yet. If the European parliament agrees this deal it will be a small step in the right direction but the fight will go on.”
Campaign group Oceana says this is a “weak discard ban that still allows a substantial amount of waste”.
15 May 2013
Alison Johnstone, MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy committee, is welcoming the latest jobs figures but is calling for action on underemployment and zero-hours contracts.
Employment in Scotland increased by 54,000 between January and March this year while unemployment fell to 199,000.
Alison Johnstone said:
“While the headline figures are welcome we must not lose sight of the underlying problem of underemployment. There are still too many people who want to work more hours but the work isn’t available.
“We must also crack down on so-called zero hours contracts, which mask the fact that some people in employment have no idea how much money they’ll get in their pay packet. I continue to urge the Scottish Government to look at barring companies who use these contracts from getting public money.”