James Calder is backing the Scottish Liberal Democrat plan for a penny in education. This will me that those with the means to afford it will pay 1p in the pound more to boost education funding in Scotland by almost £500 million. After years of underfunding under the SNP Government, James feels this will have a great benefit to schools and colleges in the local area.
James has commented, “With family and friends of mine working in the education sector, I know fully well how badly underfunded these have become as a direct result of the poor funding settlement that our Councils, including Fife, have received from the SNP after its Council Tax freeze policy. College places have been cut, schools closed and there has been increased pressure on those working in the education profession. Something must be done.”
“Our proposal is that we will invest in our children’s future by having those who can afford it to pay a 1p in the pound rise in income tax. This will raise the money we need to pay for increased childcare, a Pupil Premium to help disadvantaged pupils, more for our schools and also increased college places. This will pay dividends in the future and ensure a world class education service in Scotland which the SNP have been putting at risk.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and list Candidate for Mid Scotland and Fife Willie Rennie also mentioned, “To be the best again Scottish education needs transformational investment. The Liberal Democrats have been crystal clear about our plans to use the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to achieve investment of £475m in our education system.”
You can read more about the Scottish Liberal Democrat Education plans here.
James Calder, prospective Parliamentary candidate for Dunfermline has called for better investment in NHS Fife. Deficiencies have included a big shortage of GPs in Fife leading to long waiting times for patients.
James has commented, “Under the SNP, the NHS in Scotland has gone backwards, is underfunded and has not had the care it needs. Frontline staff in NHS Fife have been doing fantastic job considering the limited resources they have, but I call on the Scottish Government to do more to help them.”
“We need a Scottish Government that will do more – people in Fife and Scotland deserve better!”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also mentioned, “I have conducted a survey of all GPs and have raised the issue with the First Minister in Parliament. I believe the SNP took their eye off the ball and I am backing a plan to recruit over 700 GPs in 5 years.”
By Tom Leatherland
The Scottish spring conference this year was in Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms on George Street, making it an easy venue for those of us in Fife to get to, except for the many members who are still at work who therefore couldn’t make the Friday. The band of pensioners who went along on Friday were fortunate to hear some of the best debates, before numbers were increased on Saturday by younger elements of the team.
As ever, the atmosphere throughout was positive and cheerful, with a real feeling that with a good effort and some effective campaigning on the Liberal Democrats’ positive policies in the lead-up to the May Holyrood election, we should be able to get back more MSP’s than won seats in 2011 when anti-Westminster coalition feelings were at their strongest.
As an environmental scientist, I was particularly supportive of the second motion on ‘Tackling Climate Change and Protecting Nature’. There was a proposed amendment, making the point that fracking could be adequately regulated to ensure that it didn’t cause excessive local environmental damage. The debate was particularly lively, but unfortunately my bid to speak against the amendment wasn’t called. While I agree that fracking could be adequately controlled, the regulatory measures required could make it uneconomic if the price of oil stays low, and it would increase our carbon emissions. I’m pleased that the executive has subsequently confirmed that our manifesto will confirm our continuing support for the current moratorium on the grounds that it would be incompatible with Scotland’s aim to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction targets. My wife was luckier, and did get invited to the podium to make her point.
The ‘Plan for the Islands’ promoted (unsurprisingly?) by Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur, sought an ‘Islands (Scotland) Bill’ which would among other things transfer management of the seabed around islands to the relevant Councils, rather than to Holyrood; extend ‘road equivalent tariff’ ferry fares to the northern as well as the western isles and introduce a working, active ‘Islands Plan’ to address the interests of islands including better mobile phone and broadband coverage. It was passed unanimously.
Willie Rennie’s clear and rousing address was perhaps inevitably very well received, but his themes of fairness and actions to ensure equal opportunity for all, in all things but particularly through the education system, must surely chime with us all.
The last two debates on Friday concerned ‘Empowering Public Sector Workers’ and ‘Supporting the Rights of Children and Young People’. The first of these called for the Scottish Parliament to champion a liberating agenda to roll-back the top-down, target-driven, one-size-fits-all culture coming from the SNP which distorts our public services, a reduction in form-filling by staff and the safeguarding of public sector workers who whistle-blow on practice which may put individuals or communities at risk. The second gave rise to some lively contributions on whether or not all physical punishment of children should be prohibited by legislation.
Saturday brought an even more lively debate on Willie’s plan to get more women MP’s and MSP’s elected by having all-female candidate short-lists in the 5 top Scottish seats most likely to be won and not held by incumbents. Several of the contributions were clearly heartfelt, and it’s noteworthy that the award given at the end of the Conference for the best contribution from the floor went to a lady who’d gone to the podium and put up a terrific argument against positive discrimination in favour of women. This was however ultimately the losing case, and the crucial amendment was passed with a 75/25% majority. I voted for the change, but this was only after I’d had a chat with Willie about it one (freezing, damp) day when we were out campaigning in Anstruther.
Other highlights of the second day were Tim Farron’s speech, which demonstrated just what a good ‘front man’ and presenter we have as our new leader; the financing of local government (we voted for changes to the current banding system, to collect more ‘top-end’ money, plus seeking additional new income sources, rather than making a wholesale change to some sort of local income tax); and our ‘pre-manifesto’ for the Holyrood election. While I’m happy with the pre-manifesto as far as it goes, I did submit a speakers card seeking to try to emphasise that Scotland doesn’t just need ‘an innovative economy’, it needs a ‘growing and thriving innovative economy’ with wealth-creating industries (includes food & farming) helping generate the taxes and personal incomes we need to support the services and welfare provisions we need. I again wasn’t called to speak, but this didn’t stop me from subsequently submitting my views to the policy team, and I’ll be interested to see if they’re picked-up in later editions of the manifesto!
All in all it was an interesting couple of days and we were sent away by Tim Farron to go out and get our message across to voters, maybe on the doorstep, before the May election.
by Aude Boubaker
The only thing I knew about Robert Burns was his famous song “Auld Lang Syne” that I sang every 31st December to celebrate the end of the year. With the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats, we organised on Saturday 23rd January at one of our member’s house, Anne O’Brien, what would be my first Burns Supper and I was at the point to discover another part of the Scottish culture.
Some of you will certainly shout aloud that the Burns Night has to be celebrated on the 25th January but for the comfort of everybody we went a bit ahead and honoured Robert Burns work on the 23rd. Our lovely hard-working hostess Anne O’Brien spent the day (and the week) to prepare for 26 people who gathered in her charming house near the centre of Dunfermline.
As the time came, people installed themselves chatting about the last news in the Party until everybody who booked has arrived.
Jim Burke, member of our committee, invited the guests to join him for what I call a really strange (but rather humorous) tradition: reciting The Address to a Haggis.
Even though I didn’t understand a word of it (I am not yet fully fluent in Scots sorry), it was quite a fascinating to see people listening respectfully the animated monologue he served us.
The question you will — without doubt — ask me is “And? Did you eat it?“. And my answer is Yes! Not only I ate this delicious haggis but served myself twice. In addition to it, I would like to give a special mention to Jim Burke’s Neeps and Tatties with his secret ingredient (if you want to know it, you will have to come to our next Burns Supper!). We continued with the delicious desserts made, amongst others, by Anne O’Brien and Wendy Chamberlain.
After filling our stomachs, it was time to fill our mind by some Burns poetry read by Teresa Little. And once again, everybody was listening to her religiously.
We finished our night by a prize draw and a speech of the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats convenor, James Calder preparing ourselves for the months coming.
“And then? How did you find it?”
I found this celebration really entertaining. I discovered a bit more of the Scottish culture, enjoyed good food and was surprised how a writer can gather people around a simple dinner. You will never stop to fascinate me, Scottish people!
Mind and stomach filled we are all ready to tackle the next few months campaigning for our candidates.