The Highland Council Must “Get a Grip” of Repair Backlog

Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie has called on the Highland Council to deal with its £100 million building repair backlog urgently before someone is seriously injured.

The P&J revealed on Tuesday that Highland Council has over £100 million of building repairs outstanding, with some requiring urgent action.

The news came the day after rubble fell through the ceiling of Inverness Library, landing close to public areas.

John Finnie said:

“The Highland Council must get a grip of their repair backlog before someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of unsafe buildings. It will rightly concern many people that public buildings we use every day are in urgent need of repair and require immediate attention.

“What is perhaps more alarming is that auditors were unable to confirm whether more buildings were effected. Clarity must be provided as soon as possible.

“Urgent action must be taken to ensure that any buildings which pose a serious risk of injury are taken out of commission until these repairs are completed.

“Whilst the Council Leader may bemoan her budget and shrug her shoulders perhaps she and other senior members of the administration would do better to reflect on who saddled the council with the obscene levels of PFI/PPP debts which could have financed a robust inspection and repair regime and much much more.”


Finnie Slams HIE Arms Event

Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie has called on Highlands and Islands Enterprise to cancel an arms industry event it is organising in which, “Businesses in the Highlands and Islands are being invited to a free workshop to find out how the region can benefit from opportunities in the aerospace, defence, security and space industries.”

Mr Finnie has previously raised concerns with HIE about using public monies to support the defence industry.

The free workshop will be held in at An Lòchran, Inverness Campus on Tuesday 26 September and invites local businesses to find out how the region can benefit from opportunities in the aerospace, defence, security and space industries. It is organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and ADS Scotland which is the Scottish branch of the aerospace, defence, security and space industry trade organisation, ADS.

Mr Finnie has submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament condemning this event and the use of public monies to promote the an industry that produces weapons that can be used to maim and kill innocent civilians which also calls on the Scottish Government to review its agencies’ policies on the promotion of such organisations and for HIE to cancel this event.

John said:


“Public money should not be used to support the design, manufacture and sale of arms.

“The arms industry around the world is obscenely wealthy and needs no encouragement, let alone public finance to support its sordid trade.

“When I’ve previously raised issued with HIE about their support I’ve been told it’s hard to separate the manufacture of items which could have an application for the defence industries.

“There’s precious little public money about and it certainly should not be used to advance this particular sector.

“I have contacted the Chief Executive of HIE asking that she cancel this event and hope the Scottish Government will be progressive and stop all public support to the arms sector.”


Finnie Slams UK Government on Human Rights Approach

Green MSP for Highlands and Islands, John Finnie, today (19/09/2017) slammed the UK Government for its approach to Human Rights and disability benefits during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

Finnie’s amendment to Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance’s motion, highlighting the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) inquiry into violations of rights in the UK, was passed by 85 votes to 31 with only the Conservatives voting against.

The amendment stated that the parliament ‘is resolved that dignity, equality, and human rights for all cannot be realised as long as disabled people continue to experience violations of their basic rights under the policies adopted by the UK Government.’

During the debate Mr Finnie highlighted how the UK government was failing disabled people and spoke of Tory hypocrisy – highlighting Ruth Davidson’s photo op in a Motability scooter earlier this year at the same time her party were stripping claimants of their mobility vehicles.

Following the debate John said:

“There is a clear need to ensure that a fair Scotland is underpinned by respecting and implementing human rights. I was pleased to take part in a largely constructive debate and happy to lend my support to the Scottish Government, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all of whom, in addition to ourselves, put forwards amendments which focused on different areas of human rights.

“The constructive tone of debate of course ended when the Conservatives, the nasty party, had the gall to stand up in the Scottish Parliament and say they support human rights, while systematically attacking some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The UK government have repeatedly been condemned by the UN for violations of human rights through their vindictive ‘welfare reform’ programme.

“The most telling example of Tory hypocrisy was earlier this year when their Scottish Leader, Ruth Davidson, took a joy ride in a Motability scooter at the same time as her government in Westminster are stripping 800 mobility vehicles from those who need them every week.

“In my closing remarks I offered members on the Tory benches the opportunity to intervene and defend their government’s actions. It is quite telling that instead they chose to hide behind their lecterns silently, rather than attempt to defend the indefensible.”



Finnie Responds to SFA Decision

Responding to today’s announcement by the Scottish Football Association that Douglas Ross will not be charged following offensive comments regarding the gypsy-traveller community, Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie said:

“No-one with a passing knowledge of Scottish Football will be surprised that the blazeratchi at the SFA have decided there’s nothing wrong with one of their own, Douglas Ross’s deeply offensive remarks.”

John’s Speech Closing in the Programme for Government Debate

On Thursday 7th September John spoke in the closing stages of the debate on the Scottish Government’s debate on its Programme for Government 2017-2018. You can read John’s speech below or you can watch it here:

  • John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green):

    I welcome many of the announcements in the programme for government. For example, we are very pleased that the public sector pay cap is to be scrapped. However, we need to realise that expectations will need to be managed as there is a requirement to deliver on years of lost income for valued public servants.

    Part of the discussion that we need to have is about tax powers, and the Scottish Green Party should be counted in on that discussion. Two years ago, we proposed using the new tax powers to cut taxes for people who are on lower-than-average incomes and to raise taxes for those who are on higher-than-average incomes. That is more progressive than the across-the-board rises that others are proposing, and it is entirely about making Scotland fairer and raising funds for high-quality public services. We will be happy to engage with others on the issue. However, we have one plea. Let us be creative with those powers rather than just making tweaks to a system that we have inherited from the United Kingdom Government. Last year, we got the Scottish Government to cancel a tax cut for higher earners, so let us see if we can go much further this time.

    It has been suggested that this is the greenest programme ever. Time will tell, but in the interim, the Scottish Green Party will scrutinise. We recognise that we have no monopoly on environmental issues and we welcome the growing consensus that the planet faces significant challenges and that collaborative working is required.

    Many of the First Minister’s announcements have the potential to mitigate climate change but, as ever, the devil is in the detail of, for example, the finances behind each of the announcements, the policies that will be developed, the way in which those policies will interact, their overall direction of travel, and their review and assessment.

    I will talk about some of the policies individually. The phasing out of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032 is to be welcomed, as is making the A9 Scotland’s first fully electric enabled road. If that is the plan, let us start from the north and head south from Thurso for once. It is a good ambition but, given the fact that many of the manufacturers are stopping making petrol and diesel engines, was it not going to happen anyway?

    Shifting to electric cars can help to reduce air pollution and climate change emissions, but it will not tackle congestion. Investment in our railways, buses and bike lanes will do that. The programme for government says that the electric superhighway sends an important signal on the future of motorised transport in Scotland. It certainly does—it sends the signal that the motor car is still king.

    There is a similar push to electrify the railway that runs alongside the A9. The Scottish Government had an aspiration to electrify all the lines between Scottish cities by 2030. Next year, the Highland main line will get refurbished high-speed trains. I spoke to a rail expert about that and he described them as diesel guzzlers. Surely that situation cannot go on beyond 2030, because those trains will be more than 50 years old.

    We welcome the doubling of funding for active travel to £80 million from 2018-19 but that, of course, reflects the previous underinvestment and should be compared with the annual £150 million subsidy that the Scottish Government plans to give the most polluting form of transport by cutting the air departure tax. A cut for aviation will increase inequalities, which is entirely inconsistent with the Scottish Government’s commitment to social equality. Aviation is used disproportionately by those in higher income groups, and 70 per cent of all flights in the UK are taken by the wealthiest 50 per cent of the population.

    In contrast, people on lower incomes depend disproportionately on buses, walking and cycling, and the recent Scottish budget saw spending frozen on those modes of transport. To put the £150 million into perspective, it is almost three times the total support for buses through the bus service operators grant. We welcome the extension of the bus fund, but it is quite apparent that the Scottish Government has low expectations for buses. Indeed, our transport minister recently said:

    “Our own survey data shows that the proportion of bus journeys undertaken in rural areas is significantly lower than that of urban areas. As such, currently in rural areas there can be limited capacity for mode shift to bus.”—[Written Answers, 14 March 2017; S5W-7631.]

    There is no reason to believe that that is a limiting factor in modal shift. Rather, it is a recognition of the shortcomings in the quality of transport in semi-rural and rural areas. However, the Scottish Government’s position was that it did not envisage growth in bus use. I hope that the new approach signals a change.

    On the innovation fund, the £60 million to deliver wider low-carbon energy infrastructure solutions for Scotland is very welcome. It will, of course, take a lot of energy in every respect to deliver on that. A bill is coming up on planning, which the Green Party maintains a keen interest in. There are opportunities to reflect some of the policy announcements in the decisions that are taken on that bill.

    I turn to the ScotRail franchise contract. We welcome the cross-party engagement. The Scottish Green Party’s call is unequivocal: we want to see rail nationalised. Although that is not presently possible, we would like the service to act like ferries in serving our communities, not shareholders.

    Low-emission zones in the four largest cities are very welcome. That announcement is maybe an example of Green pressure bearing fruit. My colleague Mark Ruskell led a debate on the issue earlier this year and has asked questions at First Minister’s question time on it. Of course we welcome the creation of four zones in the cities, but there are 38 pollution hotspots across Scotland in a number of areas, including in Inverness, which is my home town. There must be consultation. In the consultation that is going on, the Scottish Government must consider the funding options and it must jointly fund with the local authorities.

    The advisory group on reducing waste, the possible levy on coffee cups and the deposit return scheme are good.

    On what is missing, a Government that allowed dogs to be mutilated could have offset that shameful episode by having a complete ban on fox hunting and closed-circuit television in abattoirs.

    The announcement on a human rights advisory group is very welcome.

    The position on education is unacceptable. In addition to a reform of school governance, the plans include

    “a comprehensive review of how local decisions are made and how local democracy is working”.

    Education is a huge part of local government, and if the Government proceeds as planned, local democracy will not work. I ask the Government to listen to the range of voices on that.

    Finally, I welcome, of course, the announcement on care for under-65s with degenerative illnesses. I hope, like the cabinet secretary, that Westminster will not claw back the benefits.

    The presumption against custodial sentences of 12 months is very positive, but Conservative colleagues would do well to understand the intention and that sentencing judges have autonomy. Sheriffs must, of course, have confidence in alternatives to custody. The £20 million for drug and alcohol services has to take into account the moneys that have been lost.

  • The Deputy Presiding Officer:

    Please close.

  • John Finnie:

    I thank the Government for the support for the proposed bill on equal protection from assault for children. I hope that it does the same for my colleague Mark Ruskell’s proposed 20mph limit bill.

Finnie Welcomes Equal Protection Support

John has today (5 September 2017) welcomed the support of the Scottish Government for his proposed Member’s Bill to provide children with equal protection from assault.

The support, outlined in today’s programme for government, comes as a welcome boost to the campaign to make Scotland one of the greatest places in the world for children to grow up.

Mr Finnie held a public consultation on the proposal earlier this year, with an overwhelming response in favour of the proposal from both Individuals and organisations. Professional bodies, children’s and health and social care organisations who have campaigned for this change in the law include Children 1st, NSPCC Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner, the Royal College of Paediatricians and the Scottish Police Federation.

John Finnie said:

“I welcome the support offered today by the Scottish Government for my equal protection proposal. It is simply unacceptable that we offer the most vulnerable in our society the least protection. The ‘justifiable assault’ defence is from a different age and it is vital that we move forward and afford our children the protection they deserve – the protection all adults enjoy – and send a message to the whole of society that we don’t tolerate violence in any setting.

“I have been studying the responses to my consultation, with the support of the Scottish Parliament’s Non-Government Bills Unit, over the past few weeks and expect to be in the position to outline my final proposal in the near future.”

Mary Glasgow, Acting Chief Executive, Children 1st, Scotland’s National Children’s Charity said:

“It’s fantastic to see the Scottish Government recognise that all children need the same protection from violence that we enjoy as adults.

“Children 1st have campaigned on this issue for many years as we believe it can make a real difference to the lives of the children and families that we work alongside. The current law is out of step with what we now know about child development and the harm physical punishment can do to children, families and society. We look forward to continuing our work with John Finnie MSP, the Scottish Government and Parliament and the many other organisations and individuals who have joined us in supporting this change, to ensure legal reform is urgently progressed.”

Overwhelming Support For Child Protection Proposal

John has welcomed the overwhelming support for his proposed Member’s Bill to give children Equal Protection from assault.

A three-month public consultation on removing the defence of “justifiable assault” of children from Scots law, giving them the same protection as adults, has resulted in more than 650 responses from individuals and organisations with almost 75 per cent of respondents supportive. All responses from those happy to be published have been placed online.

A number of high profile organisations offered their support to the proposal, including the Scottish Police Federation who said:

“Child Protection forms a significant part of the Police Service of Scotland’s work and there are therefore extensive resources deployed to this area of policing across all geographical areas of Scotland. The Bill will provide greater protection to our children and convey to society that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable. In the longer term evidence suggests that it may reduce violence and bullying on and by our children.”

Rape Crisis Scotland also fully supported the proposal, with their response stating:

“Legal reform sends a very clear message and promotes cultural change to end the use of physical punishment in Scotland. Giving children full protection against assault will send a clear message to all of us about how we treat each other as human beings, and underpin Scotland’s efforts to reduce violence across the whole of society. Without legal reform some children will have less protection from violence and assault than others, depending on whether their parents use physical punishment. Given the irrefutable evidence that physical punishment is harmful, it is not acceptable to wait for every parent’s approach to catch up with the evidence, before introducing legal reform. This is particularly important because in the absence of clear messaging from the Scottish Government some parents may not even be aware of the evidence.”

John Finnie, Justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for the Highlands & Islands, said:

“I am grateful to all organisations and individuals that contributed to the consultation. It is clear from the responses that there is overwhelming support for the proposal.

“There is widespread recognition that children should receive the same legal protection from assault that adults enjoy, a position that children’s rights organisations and charities have been arguing for some time. It is also clear from all the available research that the status quo can be damaging to children and must not be allowed to continue.

“I will now work with the Scottish Parliament’s Non-Governmental Bills Unit over the coming weeks to thoroughly analyse each response.”


The next step for the Bill is that the Non-Governmental Bills Unit will compile an analysis of the responses, which John will then reflect on before deciding whether or not to seek the cross-party support of 18 MSPs to enable him to bring the Bill before Parliament for scrutiny.

Consultation responses:

List of organisations:, Highland Children’s Forum, Befriending Networks, NHS Tayside, Moray Women’s Aid, Highland Council, Circle – Supporting Families in Scotland, Upstart Scotland, North Lanarkshire Child Protection Committee, Scottish Out of School Care Network, Children’s Parliament, Eighteen and Under, Unicef UK, Edinburgh Montessori Arts School, Scottish Youth Parliament, YouthLink Scotland, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, One Parent Families Scotland, Lochaber Women’s Aid, Barnardo’s Scotland, Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, Clan Childlaw, South Lanarkshire Child Protection Committee, PAMIS (Promoting a More Inclusive Society), Scottish Police Federation, Children and Young People Public Health Group, Edinburgh Women’s Aid, LGBT Youth Scotland, Equality & Human Rights Commission, National Parent Forum of Scotland, Shetland Integrated Children and Young Person’s Strategic Planning Group, Scottish Childminding Association, The Highland Council, The Scottish Child Law Centre, Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance, Argyll and Bute Council, Includem, Social Work Scotland, NHS Health Scotland, Parenting Across Scotland, The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, Edinburgh Childrens Partnership, Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector, Anonymous, (Scotland) Family Fund, NHS Borders, Scottish Association of Social Work, Rape Crisis Scotland, University of St Andrews, School of Medicine’s WHO Collaborative Centre for International Child and Adolescent Health Policy and the Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit, Homeless Action Scotland, Stepping Stones for Families, Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland, CARE for Scotland, Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), Scottish Directors of Public Health Group and Scottish Health Promotion Managers Group, Children 1st, Renfrewshire Council Children’s Services, NHS Tayside, NHS Orkney, NHS Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire Child Protection Committee, Orkney Islands Council, Children in Scotland, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Dumfries and Galloway Council, The Christian Institute, The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, Who Cares? Scotland, Aberlour Scotland’s Children’s Charity, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, CELCIS Centre for Excellence and CYCJ Centre for youth and criminal justice, Scottish Women’s Convention, Aberdeen City Council, Humanist Society Scotland, The British Psychological Society, Scottish Women’s Aid, NSPCC