Last week, I met up with SPT to discuss the future of Glasgow’s Subway. The ‘Clockwork Orange’ is in urgent need of renewal and the engineers and managers I met with explained the various alternatives there are for its future.
One option is simply to do nothing, leaving the Subway facing closure within a few years and Glasgow without a popular and effective transport resource that has been in place for over a hundred years. At the other extreme is the possibility of a major programme of extensions and enhancements – and while I’d love to shift Government spending from the road-building programme to public transport, none of the other political parties are willing to back that.
I can understand why SPT are pushing for their favoured option – modernisation of the existing network in the form of new trains, new signalling, new ticketing, and a refurbishment of the existing stations. This would still require a great deal of investment, but SPT have put together a plan in which they could borrow much of the cash and then operate the system while making repayments. This would be funded by a combination of their own revenue and about £6m per year, over 30 years, contribution from the Scottish Government. The annual Government contribution would be a relatively small amount within the overall transport budget for Scotland, and would ensure the future of this key transport system as well as creating the opportunity to improve the service and disabled access.
Beyond the questions around funding, I also took the opportunity to quiz SPT on a range of other issues and ideas. SPT could look at using heat pumps underground to bring in extra revenue from renewable energy within the system. There are disused tunnels in Glasgow which could be developed for other uses, such as safe cycle routes away from the traffic. And I’d love to see SPT release their live traffic data on buses, trains and the underground so that third party mobile applications can spring up to provide real-time information about public transport in the city. Transport for London has done this, so other people can produce cool stuff like this!
It is vital for SPT as well as all levels of government to be bold and imaginative if we’re going to offer sustainable and effective public transport systems that are fit for the decades to come. Glasgow needs it more than most parts of Scotland, and it’s scandalous that we see instead deeply damaging roadbuilding schemes while our public transport is crying out for investment.
Forty years on from the Equal Pay Act, there remains a significant pay gap between men and women in Scotland. A recent study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that women in full-time work still earn 12.2% less than men. In part-time work, the gap is even greater, with women earning on average 32% less than men. With women far more likely than men to be in part-time work, this highlights the way the institutional stubbornness of the gender pay divide.
The report also shows that the gap is much larger in certain sectors, such as financial services, so it is clear that there is an enormous distance still to travel before we can consider ourselves to be a country that truly values the work of men and women equally.
That should not have to take another 40 years.
In response to the report, I have submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament calling on my colleagues at Holyrood to back the EHRC’s call for businesses to be proactive in working to address this gap by adopting transparent pay policies and more flexible working practices. I will also be meeting with Close the Gap to discuss ideas and initiatives that can help speed progress on this matter. I believe that if politicians and businesses are progressive and imaginative, then we can surely turn this gap from a contemporary injustice into a historical embarrassment.
Here’s the full text of my parliamentary motion:
S3M-06507 Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Scottish Green Party): Gender Pay Gap—
That the Parliament recognises the pay gap that continues to exist between men and women in the workplace as illustrated by a recent Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Scotland study; notes that, on average, women still earn 12.2% less for full-time work and 32% less for part-time work; welcomes the small reduction in the pay gap since 2008, but recognises that much more has to be done, and supports the EHRC’s call to businesses to be proactive and address this pay gap by adopting transparent pay policies and more flexible working practices.
The Scottish Government’s zero waste plan was announced June 9. It attempts to say and do more of the right things on waste reduction, but many of its new targets are simply set by the EU. Following the decision to overturn Highland Council’s rejection of the Invergordon incinerator, it’s clear the SNP Government’s approach is to bury or burn our waste. They are moving slowly from landfilling to creating a stream of waste to be incinerated. The previous 25% cap on waste going to incineration – something Ministers appear to have seen as a target – was bad enough, but it’s been simply removed in favour of some even less restrictive conditions.
What we need is a radical commitment to reducing the huge mountain of waste produced in Scotland. Recycling and reusing is only part of the picture. We need to stop this mountain being produced in the first place. At a time of economic recession, there is never a better time to start saving our valuable resources and create new, sustainable green jobs for our future. There’s already significant pressure on funding for some of the best community recycling projects. The crucial test for the Minister will be whether he can protect this sector or is prepared to let it sink amongst the cuts to public services.
Two weeks ago, Parliament voted to reject the SNP’s first batch of annual targets under the Climate Change Act. It’s a serious problem for the Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson who has been criticised for proposing targets which, far from accelerating Scotland’s emission cuts, would grind them to a halt. Not only that, he’s left the Government in breach of its own “world leading” climate legislation.
Since then, we’ve not heard a word from the Government on how to move forward, until now. Here’s my response to the letter I received:
I had a wonderful morning at the Craighouse Campus of Napier University on Monday, presenting certificates to a number of nursery, primary and secondary schools in honour of their achievements in the Eco Schools programme.
I am sure that if the Scottish Green Party had designed the school syllabus it would have included many of the elements on show at Craighouse – setting up bee, bird and butterfly friendly school grounds, planting fruit trees and willow tunnels, encouraging energy conservation and recycling, fair trade fairs, links with Eco Schools in Africa and involving parents and the local community as much as possible in what they do.
Heart-warming stuff! The best start to the week I could have had!
A recent National Trust poll as indicated that most children are really keen to grow and eat their own food. The UK-wide poll of a thousand 8 to 12 year olds found that 72% of children would like to have their own space to grow fruit and vegetables. The poll also found that 51% would prefer to eat food that they had grown themselves over food bought from supermarkets.
I’ve submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament which both welcomes the findings and calls on MSPs to take action to ensure that these desires are enabled, in part by making sure that demands for allotments and other public spaces for food production are met. The motion has received support from MSPs across party lines.
It is great to see that young people are enthusiastic about the idea of growing their own fruit and veg. I want our culture to begin re-introducing the link between production and consumption. As is so often the case, it seems that the kids may be ahead of the grown ups on this issue. Local and home-grown food is not only a healthy alternative to pre-packaged supermarket meals, it is fun, environmentally friendly and can help give power and skills to local communities. I hope that these findings will serve as a welcome reminder to my fellow members to act in the interests of all those, including those not yet old enough to vote, who wish to have the opportunity to take an active role in food production.