Greens Secure £17.7million for Highlands and Islands communities

The Scottish Green Party have secured an additional £17.7m for local services in the Highlands and Islands as part of a £160m concession won during budget negotiations with the Scottish Government.

The deal means vital extra funds will be given to the six local authorities in the Highlands and Islands, as follows:

  • Highland Council £8.2m
  • Argyll and Bute Council £3m
  • Moray Council £2.8m
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar £1.3m
  • Shetland Islands Council £1.3m
  • Orkney Islands Council £1.1m

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie said:

“Greens stand firmly with Highlands and Islands communities and public sector workers affected by cuts and closures, and these new funds secured by Green MSPs mean we can start to repair the damage done by years of underfunding and lack of local flexibility.

“This deal means £17.7m additional funding for local services in Highland.

“This is the biggest budget concession in Holyrood’s history. Other parties effectively ruled themselves out of constructive dialogue. Green MSPs have achieved more in a single budget than the Labour Party has in a decade of opposition.

“This is, however, only the start of a journey on restoring financial powers at local level.”

 

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation

Today (Monday 6th February) marks International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. To mark the day last week the Parliament debated how to best prevention and eradication Female Genital Mutilation and all other forms of so-called honour-based violence. 

You can read John’s speech below.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green):

“Yesterday, as part of the work done by small groups of members in the Justice Committee, my colleague Mary Fee and I took evidence from a gentleman in his 50s who described a whole childhood of abuse. In the previous session—when you chaired the committee, Presiding Officer—we took evidence in private from victims of domestic abuse and heard the harrowing details of what they had gone through. Likewise, in the previous session, the Equal Opportunities Committee held three evidence sessions on the issue of female genital mutilation and heard harrowing testimonies from individuals. It is important to say that those sessions took place in private with appropriate support and safeguards. I, for one, am full of admiration for those individuals for the strength that they have shown in coming forward to inform us, as lawmakers, about such complex issues—and there is no issue more complex than FGM.

The answer is not more laws, which is why we have the national action plan on the prevention and eradication of FGM. It is not an issue for Parliament, as many members have said, and for that reason we will support the Labour amendment, which recognises the key role that community leaders can play. It is not lost on many of us that those community leaders will be men and that the power that is an intrinsic element of this obscene practice lies with men—this is gender-based violence. I am amazed at the ability that humans have to abuse each other, and FGM is linked to abusive and coercive power, as members have said.

I have difficulty with the phrase “honour-based violence”, as does Pauline McNeill. I do not get that terminology at all. Similarly, to the overwhelming number of victims, the term “female genital mutilation” means nothing. Many euphemisms are used in front of those young girls and women. For example, they are told that they are going to a party or on a holiday. They are tricked by their family and community, which in itself is a huge breach of trust that resonates for a lifetime.

I acknowledge that there are cultural pressures, but let us be quite clear about how those pressures manifest themselves. They manifest themselves in a child being attacked, sexually assaulted, mutilated, restrained and detained, often for days. The most worrying thing is the psychological effect that that has on them, which is immeasurable, and the fact that their dignity has been stolen. I will not rehearse the various medical issues that follow FGM, but the reproductive issues are significant and the victims suffer many lifetime medical issues as a consequence of it.

The legacy paper of the Equal Opportunities Committee from the previous session says that

problems identified could have been avoided if staff had been trained”.

There are issues there. That is not a criticism; there are issues around cultural sensitivities such as some women appearing at medical practices accompanied by a male and the challenges that people will understand. However, we have to get on despite those cultural sensitivities. I do not want a monoculture for Scotland—I think that Scotland grows from the growing diversity of our culture—and this is not an attack on any individual culture. It is entirely in line with the United Nations approach, which is to afford the utmost protection to all females and give the maximum support to those who seek to end this abhorrent practice.

It is not easy, but I can cite examples of where there have been sizeable changes both in the reporting of the practice and in the courts. There has been a wholesale change in the approach to domestic violence, including in police practices in courts and the support that is available. Likewise, there have been changes in how we deal with child abuse and sexual assault. Although there is some way to go on all those issues—we can all see that these things never happen straight away—progress can be made.

Education is vital in those challenging communities in which men often have undue sway. Training is important in raising awareness, particularly among health professionals. I am grateful to the British Medical Association for its briefing paper. It talks about those who are at risk and the assistance that the medical profession gives to identify them. The education authorities also help people who are returning to countries where their previous generation came from by raising awareness about what might happen at key moments in a young girl’s life.

I commend the professionals who have been involved. I also commend the volunteers, many of whom are unsung because, to be effective, regrettably, they must remain anonymous.

It is important to have international days and this is an international issue. We will support the Conservative Party amendment and—I need to take a deep breath to say this—I commend the UK Government for its support on the issue.

The reality is that we have an action plan. As others have said, it is tied into the equally safe strategy. This is about equality and it is about gender-based violence. We must have zero tolerance towards gender-based violence and, as the BMA says, we must break the generational cycle of FGM.

The motion agreed to after the debate and amendments agreed unanimously read:

That the Parliament recognises 6 February as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM); is clear that FGM, along with all other forms of violence perpetrated against women under the guise of gender, culture or religion, so-called honour-based violence, is a violation of the human rights of women and girls; acknowledges that a preventative, supportive and legislative approach is crucial to tackling, preventing and eradicating FGM; recognises that communities and individuals affected by honour-based violence must be at the heart of work to effect significant social, cultural and attitudinal change over the long term; further recognises that faith leaders of communities potentially affected by FGM and so-called honour-based violence have a role to play in working to change cultural attitudes; welcomes the positive engagement and ongoing partnership approach across the police, NHS, education, social services, third sector and community-based organisations, in taking forward the actions from Scotland’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate FGM, and recognises the international work of the UK Government, which has allocated £35 million to reduce FGM by 30% in 17 countries across Africa

Ship to Ship Update

Earlier this week it was confirmed that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has asked the Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA)  to prepare a new application if it wants to continue with its highly controversial  unacceptably dangerous plans to carry out ship to ship oil transfers in the Cromarty Firth.

While this is a welcome announcement, CFPA have made clear their intentions to move forward with a fresh application. So the fight against these plans must go on. Hopefully this time the Scottish Government will stand with the communities of the Cromarty Firth, in opposing this renewed application.

There are currently two open petitions on these proposals.

First the petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee (http://external.parliament.scot/gettinginvolved/petitions/shiptoshiptransfers) which calls on the Scottish Government to “ensure that environmental legislation in Scotland is sufficient to prevent ship-to-ship transfers of crude oil in environmentally sensitive locations, such as the Inner Moray Firth, and to enhance the accountability of trust port boards to their stakeholders.”

Secondly the 38 Degrees petition which is addressed to the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling MP (https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/danger-to-sea-life-from-oil-spills).

I would strongly encourage you to sign both of these petitions to show both the UK and the Scottish Government the strength of feeling in the community and wider against these dangerous proposals.

If you are interested in joining the campaign against please see the community campaign website (http://www.cromartyrising.com)

Wick Nuclear Flights

Before Christmas John posed a number of questions to the Scottish Government following serious safety concerns raised in the press regarding flights leaving Wick Airport for the United States of America, carrying highly enriched weapons grade Uranium from Dounreay. you can read more about the questions posed here: https://johnfinnie.scot/2016/12/21/john-questions-scottish-government-over-unsafe-nuclear-flights

The questions have now been answered, unfortunately the information gleaned from these questions are has been minimal at best. It is clear that the Scottish Government is not even willing to provides answers for agencies which Ministers are directly responsible such as Highlands and Islands Airport (HIAL).

John will be following up with HIAL, Highland Council, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the UK Secretary of Transport.

You can read the Scottish Government’s replies to John’s questions below.

 

S5W-05741

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will take action to stop Wick Airport being used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US pending an independent assessment of the safety of such activity.

Roseanna Cunningham:

There will be on-going regular dialogue between the Scottish Government and the UK Government on the programme of movements of nuclear materials from Dounreay. The Scottish Government will continue to seek assurances on the safety and security of any movements.

 

S5W-05742

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government which minister is responsible for airports that it or the Scottish Ministers own, either directly or through Highlands and Islands Airports Limited.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The Minister for Transport and the Islands is responsible for Highlands and Islands Airports Limited. The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work has portfolio responsibility for Glasgow Prestwick Airport.

 

S5W-05743

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government how much it has spent on the Wick Airport site in each of the last five years, and how the money was spent.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The Scottish Government provides funding to Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) to meet the operating costs and to fund the capital investment programme at its 11 airports. Funding is not broken down by individual airport. The total funding provided to HIAL in each of the last five years is outlined in the following table.

Year Subsidy Provided  (£)
2011-12 26,714,000
2012-13 22,333,000
2013-14 21,788,074
2014-15 34,093,946
2015-16 38,434,150

 

S5W-05744

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government who was consulted regarding the use of Wick Airport for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Roseanna Cunningham:

Prior to any movements of nuclear materials from the Dounreay site, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority consults widely with stakeholders and local authorities.

 

S5W-05745

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government what factors were considered prior to the decision to allow Wick Airport to be used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The UK Government owns the nuclear materials currently stored at Dounreay and is responsible for any movements of that material. Any transfers to the United States are covered by an agreement for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy between the European Atomic Energy Community and the United States of America. This agreement rules out the military use of any material transferred under its terms. The Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) Board are responsible for operational decisions, and for the safe operation of Wick Airport.

 

S5W-05746

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government who has responsibility for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The UK Government owns the nuclear material currently stored at Dounreay and is responsible for any movements of that material. The regulation of any such movements is a reserved matter.

 

S5W-05747

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the person or organisation that has responsibility for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The UK Government owns the nuclear materials currently stored at Dounreay and is responsible for any movements of that material. There is regular official contact between the Scottish Government and the UK Government, and Ministerial correspondence on significant matters.

 

S5W-05748

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will publish any risk assessments associated with the use of Wick Airport for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The Scottish Government does not hold this information.

 

S5W-05749

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government what additional costs Police Scotland will incur as a result of the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Michael Matheson:

The Police Scotland policy for commercial organisations requesting policing services is one of full cost recovery in line with section 86 of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.

 

S5W-05750

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government how communities close to Wick Airport were consulted regarding it being used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Roseanna Cunningham:

Prior to any movements of nuclear materials from the Dounreay site, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority consults widely with stakeholders and local authorities.

 

S5W-05751

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it had with the Highland and Orkney Islands councils regarding Wick Airport being used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has made contact with these local authorities with respect to the programme of movements of nuclear materials from the Dounreay site, including the option of an air route from Wick Airport.

 

S5W-05752:

John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government what assurances it has received that the highly enriched uranium transported from Dounreay to the US will not be used to arm nuclear warheads.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The UK Government is responsible for any transfers of nuclear materials from Dounreay. Any transfers to the United States are covered by an agreement for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy between the European Atomic Energy Community and the United States of America. This agreement rules out the military use of any material transferred under its terms.

 

S5W-05753

John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government whether it sought assurances, and from whom, that the use of Wick Airport by C-17 US Aircraft complies with all regulations that relate to the specifications of the airport runway and hard standing areas, and that the airport’s use by this type of aircraft was safe, and what responses it received.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The UK Government owns the nuclear materials currently stored at Dounreay and is responsible for any movements of that material. The Scottish Government has been kept informed on the programme of movements, and has sought and received assurances about the safety and security of any movements.

 

S5W-05754

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government, in light of reports that the runway at Wick Airport is unsuitable for use by C-17 US Aircraft, whether Highlands and Islands Airports Limited has discussed its license to operate with the Civil Aviation Authority.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The safe operation of Wick Airport is the responsibility of the Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) Board, and fulfilling this responsibility is an operational matter for HIAL.

 

S5W-05755

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government, in light of reports that the runway at Wick Airport is unsuitable for use by C-17 US Aircraft, whether it or Highlands and Islands Airports Limited have met the Health and Safety Executive to discuss this issue.

Roseanna Cunningham:

The safe operation of Wick Airport is the responsibility of the Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) Board, and fulfilling this responsibility is an operational matter for HIAL.

 

S5W-05756

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Government how the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 and other (a) health and safety and (b) aviation legislation applies to Wick Airport being used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Roseanna Cunningham:

These Regulations are reserved, so this question is not within the responsibilities of the Scottish Government.

 

 

 

Comment on Today’s HIE Debate

Today the Scottish Parliament will debate a motion from the Scottish Conservatives regarding the future of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

The Scottish Government as part of the ongoing enterprise and skills review, and would see a new Scotland wide-statutory body co-ordinating the activities of Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council. This would mean the dedicated local board of HIE would be lost and replaced by a national board overseeing several organisations.

John and the Scottish Green Party are fully signed up to the Press and Journal’s ‘Keep HIE Local’ campaign. John has been working and campaigning to keep HIE local for as long as he has been an MSP, highlighting especially HIE’s role in community development and not solely commerce. It is this function that John is most worried will be lost.

In September of 2016 following rumours of the merging of HIE and Scottish Enterprise John challenged the First Minister to ensure this special aspect of HIE would be retained and HIE be able to continue in its role.

Questioning Ms Sturgeon, John said:

“First Minister, you’ll be aware that Highlands and Islands Enterprise, like the Highlands and Islands Development Board before it, provides a valuable role in the Highlands and Islands. That’s because of its dual remit of not only economic but also community benefit.

“You’ll be aware of press speculation regarding its future. Can you give an assurance that these two important functions will continue to be discharged by HIE in the Highlands and Islands?”

The First Minister replied:

“Yes. HIE has done a fantastic job over the last fifty years. I can give the assurance to the Member that we will make sure it is in a position to continue to carry out those functions and provide the excellent services it does to the Highlands of Scotland.”

However the proposal of the Scottish Government to abolish the HIE board and have a single national board covering four bodies simply does not hold to the spirit of the question John posed in September, nor its answer.

Unfortunately due to ill-health John will not be able to take part in today’s debate on HIE, his colleague Andy Wightman MSP will be speaking on behalf of the Scottish Greens. We will be supporting the motion to oppose the Scottish Government’s plans to abolish the board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

John Welcomes news that High Court to Return to Inverness

John is delighted by the announcement from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service that the High Court will return to Inverness once the proposed new justice Centre is completed replacing the current court facilities at Inverness Castle.

This followed John writing to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service in December highlighting some of the difficulties faced with Highlands and Islands cases being heard in Glasgow and Edinburgh, including the inconvenience it can cause for victims and witnesses and highlighting the excellent opportunity the new facility would provide for the return of the High Court to Inverness.

In response a spokesman for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said:

“The high court will sit in the new justice centre. It will deliver a wide range of services and problem-solving approaches to help reduce reoffending and offer specialist facilities, support and advice for victims and witnesses of domestic abuse, sexual violence and child abuse. “

Commenting on the confirmation that the High Court would return to Inverness John said:

“The administration of justice, and the roll our courts play in that, is a foundation stone of our communities.

“Whilst I am entirely supportive of schemes to divert people from prosecution, and therefore the need to appear in court, our courts still play an important part in our communities. Justice must be seen to be done.

“When Inverness was removed from the High Court circuit I raised concerns that a judge and a few advocates heading north could be replaced by bus loads of witnesses heading south for Highlands and Islands cases. That turned out to be the case with Highlands and Islands cases being heard in Glasgow or Edinburgh.

“Now, with this wonderful new court development this is an ideal opportunity to bring the High Court back to Inverness, to allow people to have justice in respect of the most serious cases, once again, dispensed in Inverness.

“It is therefore welcome news that the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service confirmed earlier this week that the high court will return to Inverness.

John Questions Scottish Government Over “Unsafe” Nuclear Flights

https://theferret.scot/safety-rules-broken-highland-nuclear-flights/

Over the weekend (17&18th December) serious safety concerns were raised regarding flights leaving Wick Airport for the United States of America, carrying highly enriched weapons grade Uranium from Dounreay. John sought to raise the matter with the Scottish Government during Tuesday’s (20th December) Topical Question time, however the question was not selected.

Following this John lodged a number of written questions to the Scottish Government which you can read below. All questions are expected to be answered by: 17/01/2017. You can check on the questions here: http://bit.ly/2hUAu0f , on John’s Website or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JohnFinnieHI/

 

Question S5W-05749: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government what additional costs Police Scotland will incur as a result of the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Question S5W-05747: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the person or organisation that has responsibility for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Question S5W-05744: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government who was consulted regarding the use of Wick Airport for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Question S5W-05751: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it had with the Highland and Orkney Islands councils regarding Wick Airport being used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Question S5W-05756: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government how the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 and other (a) health and safety and (b) aviation legislation applies to Wick Airport being used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Question S5W-05741: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will take action to stop Wick Airport being used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US pending an independent assessment of the safety of such activity.

Question S5W-05752: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government what assurances it has received that the highly enriched uranium transported from Dounreay to the US will not be used to arm nuclear warheads.

Question S5W-05745: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government what factors were considered prior to the decision to allow Wick Airport to be used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Question S5W-05750: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government how communities close to Wick Airport were consulted regarding it being used for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Question S5W-05748: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will publish any risk assessments associated with the use of Wick Airport for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.

Question S5W-05746: John Finnie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/12/2016

To ask the Scottish Government who has responsibility for the transportation of highly enriched uranium from Dounreay to the US.