John Slams Home Secretary’s Traveller comments

John has lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament condemning recent comments from Priti Patel on Travellers.

In an online meeting with Jewish leaders, the Home Secretary suggested that violence and criminality were endemic in the Traveller community.

Her comments have been condemned in an open later signed by more than 80 academics and race equality organisations.

John Finnie’s motion calls on the Home Secretary to apologise and retract her comments.

John said: “The Traveller community has always been part of the Highlands and Scotland more widely. Despite that they remain routinely and unfairly stigmatised in the UK and comments like these from senior public officials perpetuate the problem. The Conservatives have a lamentable track record of stirring up hatred against Travellers and their casual bigotry has a real impact on people’s lives. Whether made through malice or ignorance the Home Secretary must apologise for these comments and the Tories must work to eradicate this prejudice from their party.

”I’ve also written to the Home Secretary requesting she avail herself of some much needed diversity awareness training at the earliest opportunity.”

John calls for Rural Committee to investigate impact of Kent border

John has called on the Conservative Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Committee to call UK Ministers before it to explain how chaotic Brexit plans will impact Scotland’s food producers.

In a Letter to Sir Edward Mountain, John highlighted recent reports that queues of 7,000 port-bound trucks could be delayed for up to two days in Kent, where hauliers would require a Kent Access Permit to enter, and the need for the committee to understand the impact this would have on Scotland’s food exporters.

Commenting John said:

“We’ve heard this week that hauliers will require Kent passports to join queues of 7,000 lorries which could be delayed for two days because of the Tory’s chaotic post-Brexit plans.

“The Westminster Government’s casual acknowledgement of the delays for trucks in Kent adds to the worry for exporters of Scottish produce, including valuable, time-sensitive sea food exports from the Highlands and Islands, who were already facing uncertainty before this latest calamity was revealed.

“The Scottish Parliament has a duty to understand the problems that our constituents will face as a direct result of the UK Government’s self-inflicted mayhem. It’s vital that UK Ministers are brought before the committee urgently to explain what consideration they have given to Scotland’s valuable food producers and how they will ameliorate the undoubted chaos that will result at the end of the transition period because of their plans.”

John Calls for Rail and Road fix for Rest and Be Thankful

Responding to a statement on the Scottish Government’s infrastructure plan, John as Scottish Greens Transport Spokesperson has called on the Transport Secretary to consider a rail and road solution to the ongoing Rest and Be Thankful saga.

Speaking afterward, said:

“Events at the Rest and Be Thankful illustrate the devastating impact the climate emergency is having and will continue to have on Scotland’s infrastructure.

“Some excellent work has already been done by Cowal Fixed Link Working Group on a rail and road option, not only to solve the Rest and Be Thankful problems but also to facilitate necessary regeneration in the Cowal Peninsula.

“The Scottish Government must accept that connectivity doesn’t always require a roads-only solution and give urgent consideration to delivering future proofed infrastructure investment to my constituents in Argyll.

“I note that the Cab Sec states this option hasn’t been considered, sadly, that suggest more of a focus on roads only. I’ll continue to press for wider considerations.”

John backs striking sleeper workers

Responding to reports that Caledonian Sleeper staff are to strike, John as Scottish Greens Transport Spokesperson said:

“The Caledonian Sleeper staff can count on the solidarity and support of the Scottish Greens in their current dispute. Serco is a disreputable outsourcing giant that should never have been awarded the Caledonian Sleeper contract, or indeed any public contract, as I’ve repeatedly reminded the Scottish Government. Serco’s refusal to adequately facilitate rest breaks is typical of its approach to industrial relations. It’s a company that doesn’t respect fair work practices and should be nowhere near Scotland’s public services.”

Abuse redress scheme could let organisations off the hook

The redress scheme for survivors of historical child abuse risks letting organisations where abuse took place off the hook, Scottish Greens Justice Spokesperson John Finnie MSP has said.

Speaking in response to a parliamentary statement from the Education Secretary this afternoon, Mr Finnie noted that the scheme would likely afford survivors, who would be forced to give up their right to pursue a civil claim,  substantially lower sums than they may otherwise receive if they took an organisation to court.

John Finnie MSP said:

“I’ve heard from upset and concerned survivors that the redress scheme as proposed by the Scottish Government risks letting organisations where abuse took place off the hook.

“The payments proposed as part of the redress scheme are substantially lower than survivors could receive if they pursued a civil claim in the courts, yet they would be barred from pursuing such a claim if they signed up to the scheme.

“I don’t doubt the Scottish Government’s good intentions in introducing the Bill, but it is vital that the payments do not simply act as a shield for organisations to avoid paying out larger sums of compensation. Scottish Greens will work constructively to ensure a fairer system of redress emerges as this Bill progresses through parliament.”

Action needed to protect key infrastructure from severe weather

Commenting on reports that the main Glasgow – Edinburgh rail line may be forced to close because of the impact of severe weather, Scottish Greens Transport Spokesperson John Finnie MSP said:

“The Scottish Government must finally take the threats posed by the climate crisis to Scotland’s transport infrastructure seriously.

“In just the last week we’ve seen landslips in Aberdeenshire leading to an awful rail tragedy, widespread flooding across the country leading to significant rail closures and the Union Canal collapsing at Polmont leading to this huge problem on the Glasgow – Edinburgh rail line.

“We know that Scotland will experience more severe weather in the coming years as the climate crisis takes grip, so it’s vital that the Transport Secretary urgently puts in place a robust plan of action detailing exactly how he will protect and enhance Scotland’s rail network. I’ve been calling on Ministers to do this for some time and it’s quite clear that it can’t wait any longer.

“It’s irresponsible of the Scottish Government to continue to commit billions to road expansion projects when Scotland’s existing transport infrastructure is being starved of the investment it requires.”

Grouse Season Must Be The Last Seen In Scotland

the driven grouse shooting season which began on Wednesday must be the last seen in Scotland, the Scottish Greens have said.

The cruel Victorian hobby, enjoyed by very few people, was the subject of a two-year review led by Professor Alan Werrity which reported in January. Despite the fact its recommendations appeared to have been watered down at the request of landed interests, the Scottish Government has yet to respond.

The Scottish Government also failed to act to prevent the mass killing of mountain hares in preparation for today, despite parliament backing Alison Johnstone’s amendment to the wildlife bill to protect the species last month.

Commenting, Scottish Greens rural economy spokesperson John said: “Up to a fifth of Scotland is given up to this cruel hobby practised by a very small group of people. It is a hobby which tears up and burns our land, it kills all kinds of wildlife, yet the Werrity review couldn’t even recommend licensing.

“What’s worse, the Scottish Government has dragged its heels since. It hasn’t responded to the review, and it hasn’t prevented the mass killing of mountain hares despite parliament and public calling for the species to be protected. Birds of prey, too, continue to disappear, like Tom the Golden Eagle who vanished this week.

“There’s nothing glorious about the 12th of August or about the intensive and damaging killing, burning, and degradation of our landscape that is associated with driven grouse shooting. Scotland’s land needs to be freed up for the economic and social benefit of all of its people and used in ways that contributes to a thriving rural economy and natural environment. It’s time for the Scottish Government to get off the fence, come into the 21st century and end this cruel practice.”

Research by Common Weal shows that if grouse moors were used for almost any other purpose it would have more economic benefit. Forestry, for example, would have an annual economic impact of £973m, creating new jobs for approximately every 42 hectares. This would also tackle the climate emergency due to the carbon-storing value of trees.

Meanwhile, grouse shooting creates £32m, with one job every 330 hectares of land.

John Calls For Action To Understand Impact Of Tourism

John , the Scottish Green Party’s spokesperson on Tourism, has called on Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP, “to commission independent research into the social and environmental impact of tourism in Scotland.”

Following a flurry of bad publicity surrounding the irresponsible behaviour of a number of tourists in the Highlands, John said:

“The present problems are not new but, perhaps magnified by the staycation. Whether it’s the disrespect for the Commando Memorial, the cutting down of tress for camp fires or the reckless disposal of human waste, some visitors have made communities across the Highland and Islands anxious and, in many cases, angry.

“All of these issues require to be robustly dealt with by local authorities and the police now and a clear signal given about what responsible tourism means.

“I strongly welcome the support that the Scottish Government has given to the tourist sector, during the present crisis, often making business-saving interventions. However, whilst the economic impact of Scotland’s important tourism sector is well documented, the social and environmental impacts of tourism are much less understood.

“This isn’t an exclusively rural issue. The implications of the non-availability of year-round, affordable rented accommodation, due to short term lets, applies equally to the north of Mull and Edinburgh’s Old Town.

“If we are to see informed policy decision-making we need to fully understand impacts.

“It may be there needs to be some sort of trade off. Who benefits from the promotion of the North Coast 500? It isn’t the bulk of the population on the remote west coast, losing lambs to those encouraged to think they’re on some race track.

“Likewise, who benefits from the large influx of tourist to our islands where, during summer months, some can’t get on ferries to get to funerals or get their livestock to the Mainland?

“Scotland is not a theme park or some living museum. Our communities gain work from tourism but there can be a downside and independent research will show whether we’re getting that balance right.

“My view is we’re well short of understanding what we’re actively encouraging and that seems reckless.

“The Scottish Green Party supports responsible tourism and are keen to see the Scottish Government have an evidence base to ensure that’s delivered.”

You can read John’s letter to Fergus Ewing here:20200804 Letter to Fergus Ewing- Review into impact of Tourism

John Demands Scottish Government Stops Neglecting Argyll

Scottish Greens Transport Spokesperson John has called on the Scottish Government to stop neglecting Argyll and demanded a radical rethink on how the Scottish Government’s transport budget is spent after yet more landslips at the Rest and Be Thankful.

John made the call following the most recent incident of large, multiple landslips blocking not only the vital A83 into Cowal, Mid Argyll, and beyond, but also the Old Military Road typically used as a diversion during previous incidents.

Commenting, John  said:

“There is a £3 billion backlog on road maintenance, £1.8m is for trunk routes the Scottish Government is directly responsible for. Yet, rather than maintain these roads, the Scottish Government charges blindly on spending £6 billion on dualling two roads, encouraged all the way by the other opposition parties.

“On behalf of my constituents in Argyll, I say ‘enough is enough’.

“The Scottish Government must urgently rejig its roads budget and provide Argyll respite from a 60-mile diversion I wager would not be acceptable anywhere outwith the Highlands.”

John Delivers Free Bus Travel for Young People

John Finnie has hailed a deal struck by the Scottish Greens to deliver free bus travel for young people aged 18 and under as “transformational”.

The Scottish Government has agreed to implement free bus travel for young people in a major concession to the Scottish Greens as part of the annual Scottish budget process. This means from 2021 all under-18s across Scotland will be able to use a concessionary scheme to travel for free on bus routes, in a similar way to the entitlement currently held by over-60s.

Commenting John said:

“Free bus travel for young people is a transformational step towards tackling the climate emergency. This scheme could save young people and families thousands of pounds a year, and encourage whole generations of public transport users.

“Buses are the backbone of local public transport and the key to employment and training opportunities for so many of those starting out in life.”

The Scottish Greens have also secured an additional £95 million for vital local services including £9.962 million for councils across the Highlands and Islands, and an additional £13 million for community policing and prevention work across Scotland.

John added:

“Since the 2016 election the Scottish Greens have pushed the Scottish Government to provide councils with a fairer share of funding. I’m delighted that this year Greens have been able to deliver £9.962 million for councils across the Highlands and Islands to help protect vital local services upon which my constituents depend.

Council share of additional funding

Argyll and Bute- £1.701M

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar- £729,000

Highland- £4.509M

Moray- £1.620M

Orkney- £665,000

Shetland- £738,000