LGBT History Month Scotland 2017 – 22nd Feb 2017

Motion S5M-03713: LGBT History Month Scotland 2017 (Annie Wells MSP)

“That the Parliament celebrates and raises awareness of LGBT History Month Scotland 2017; notes that the nationwide event, which is coordinated by LGBT Youth Scotland, takes place in February each year and is aimed at promoting equality and diversity in society with the specific goals of increasing the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their lives, history and experiences in educational, political and cultural institutions as well as the wider community; recognises the importance of raising awareness of the issues effecting LGBTI+ people so that every individual reaches their full potential and leads a fulfilling life, and notes that LGBT Youth Scotland is encourageing as many people as possible to get involved in the full programme of events, which will be delivered by a wide range of people, partners, community groups, schools, universities, colleges and local authorities.”

(From 36:20)

I thank Annie Wells for bringing today’s debate to the chamber to raise awareness of LGBT history month in Scotland. I also thank LGBT Youth Scotland for co-ordinating the incredible nationwide event.

Throughout history, minorities have had to fight for their rights. Women were given the right to vote only 88 years ago, the first legislation to address racial discrimination was passed only 50 years ago, and transgender people were able to change their legal gender only 12 years ago. What the suffragists, the abolitionists and the LGBT movement all have in common is that they have struggled to obtain the same rights as those of us who are members of the majority, and who automatically enjoy basic human rights due to our gender, sexual orientation or race. Those basic rights are the right to choose whom we want to marry, the right to change our gender legally, the right to adopt a child, the right to join the military, the right to serve openly in politics, the right to employment equality and opportunity and—most important—the right to love whomever we want to love, the right to look however we want to look and the right to be whomever we want to be.

That is why we celebrate LGBT history month. We acknowledge those who have not had it easy: those whose rights have been taken away from them by their own Government simply because they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender; those who feel as if they were born in the wrong body; and those who have been exposed to violence and trauma because of who they are. We recognise not only our own LGBT community, but those in other countries and societies who still live under a law in which being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is punishable by death. Most important is that we recognise that every individual can and should reach their full potential and lead a fulfilling life regardless of gender or sexual preference.

As a country, we have made immense progress. On a national level, the UK holds the world record for having the most LGBT members in Parliament, and I am proud to say that Scotland is recognised as the best country in Europe for LGBT legal equality. Scotland now meets 92 per cent of the criteria, compared with 86 per cent for the UK as a whole. I truly believe that that is the result of this Government’s willingness to communicate properly with the LGBTI community.

In my constituency, the “flavours of Fife” LGBT youth group is open to young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and their friends and supporters. NHS Fife offers advice and support services to point LGBT youth in the right direction for health services. The mood cafe in Kirkcaldy promotes mental health and national helplines for the local community. Such services make Scotland the most progressive country in Europe for LGBT rights.

Scotland—a country whose leaders are open about their sexuality—has a duty as Europe’s most progressive country for LGBTI equality to set an example to the rest of the world. However, Scotland still has room to improve and there is much more to do to achieve full equality for people in Scotland. It is important to note that changes in the law are not always reflected in everyday life. LGBTI people in Scotland and around the UK still face unacceptable levels of discrimination and disadvantage every day.

With my fellow MSPs—there has been crossparty support for the motion—I pledge to support fully the events of LGBT history month in Scotland, and I encourage colleagues to attend as many events as possible in order to raise awareness of the issues that the LGBTI community faces.

I thank Annie Wells again for securing today’s debate, and LGBT Youth Scotland for its efforts in promoting equality and diversity in our society.

 

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.


Barnado’s Scotland, Nurture Week – 9th Feb 2017

Motion S5M-03336: Barnardo’s Scotland, Nurture Week (Stuart McMillan MSP)

“That the Parliament welcomes Barnardo’s Scotland Nurture Week, which runs from 13 to 19 February 2017; understands that this is a week-long series of events and activities aimed at showcasing the importance of nurture and attachment in child development; notes that Barnardo’s works in Inverclyde in partnership with schools and nurseries and takes a unique approach to health and wellbeing by working to embed nurture principles in early years settings and the classroom; further notes that this approach provides wrap-around support to families with the aim of using nurture principles to support the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people as well as help raise attainment, and notes calls for all parties to come together to support this approach.”

(From 21:12)

I thank Stuart McMillan for bringing the debate to the chamber to welcome Barnardo’s Scotland nurture week. A special thank you also goes to Gordon MacDonald for the loan of his glasses so that I can actually see my speech.

As a father of two, I stress the importance of building a supportive and long-lasting relationship with my children—a relationship that has lasted throughout their childhood and is just beginning to touch their young adult lives. However, as any parent will know, the first few years of a child’s life are crucial for their emotional, social, psychological, neurological and physical development. To support children who have insecure attachments, all members of the Scottish Parliament should encourage leaders and players in education to promote a nurturing approach to help to create strong attachments, which are the foundations of children’s positive emotional development.

Key to that mantra is Barnardo’s Scotland, which is Scotland’s largest children’s charity. It provides more than 130 local services throughout Scotland and works with more than 26,500 vulnerable children, young people and their families. It provides help with issues such as attachment and early development, it supports parents in the community and it provides guidance and advice on a case-by-case basis. That individualised service is a distinguishing feature of Barnardo’s Scotland. The charity has successfully developed a structure in which staff can acknowledge and respond to children, young people and families based on their individual circumstances, needs and background, rather than on their age, gender, class or status.

I am sure that my fellow MSPs will agree that closing the poverty-related attainment gap, especially through working with young and vulnerable children, is a priority. Barnardo’s Scotland has taken a unique approach to health and wellbeing in order to ensure that children who are living in the most disadvantaged areas are receiving as much attention as possible to literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. Support services in Fife are an excellent example of how Barnardo’s Scotland individualises its support case by case, especially by working with other support groups including the Fife advocacy forum, Fife Council and NHS Fife. Barnardo’s child and family support service has been providing services to children and families in need for more than a decade. That Fife-based service currently has eight strands of service, including children’s rights, intensive family support, assessment of parenting capacity, family carers, family health, a nurture hub and substance abuse services.

I stress that those services often do not just involve a one-off appointment; families are encouraged to follow up with staff for up to a year after the initial meeting, which ensures that the services that Barnardo’s offers can make a long-lasting impact on our communities. I have confidence that Barnardo’s Scotland nurture week will bring awareness not only to children and young people who are suffering, but—crucially—to parents, who often take on an extremely emotional and physical role in dealing with the day-to-day struggles of their children in need.

Barnardo’s nurture service offers a space not only for children to express themselves, but for parents of vulnerable children to meet and socialise, essentially by creating ad hoc support networks. Barnardo’s Scotland is aiming to create a domino effect by fostering support and extending that support in everyday life, not just under the care of compassionate staff and volunteers.

Crucially, the getting it right for every child agenda brings all those initiatives together. Nurturing Inverclyde has set a great example for the rest of the country by putting children at the centre of the local community. Inverclyde Council has adapted GIRFEC to suit the needs of the local area; I call on every constituency to do the same by working with and consulting their council services and leaders of community development planning, and with a range of stakeholders who can contribute to wellbeing outcomes.

In conclusion, I once again thank Stuart McMillan for this important debate, and I commend Barnardo’s for its invaluable contribution to Scotland’s young people and their families.

 

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.


Scotland’s Veterans – 31st Jan 2017


Motion S5M-02578: Scotland’s Veterans (Graeme Day MSP)

“That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the report by the Scottish Veterans Commissioner, The Veterans Community: Employability, Skills and Learning; understands that the study looks at the crucial issue of veterans’ employability and makes recommendations that both seek to promote the skills, experience and attributes of veterans more vigorously and remove barriers to civilian employment; acknowledges that this is the third report published by the commissioner; understands that the commissioner believes that there is an increasingly enlightened attitude towards ex-military personnel, and welcomes the part that it hopes this report can play in the formulation of policy pertaining to skills, training and employment for veterans in Angus South and across the country.”

 

(From 21:23)

I thank Graeme Dey for bringing the motion to Parliament for debate, and for raising awareness of the significance, strength and qualities of Scotland’s veterans.

The veteran-civilian relationship is complex and often challenging. Throughout history, veterans have served their country and returned with an expectation that the country would ease their transition back into civilian life. That has not always happened, of course. The UK Government spends billions of pounds a year on the military—2.7 per cent of its gross domestic product—but only a tiny fraction of that is spent ensuring that veterans are employed, or, if they are not employed, that they build skills or receive training to ease their transition back into society.

I welcome the publication by the Scottish veterans commissioner, Eric Fraser, of the report, which studies the crucial issue of veteran employability in Scotland. I hope that the Scottish Government and my fellow MSPs embrace the report’s findings and recommendations, as we have an obligation as policy makers to invest in programmes that will help veterans adapt to social, political and economic life. The area in which that can most powerfully and successfully be demonstrated is employment, as the report on employability, skills and learning clearly exhibits.

I highlight the paradox that veterans are able to provide us with protection but struggle to secure employment at an acceptable rate upon returning to the civilian world. The Ministry of Defence recently published statistics that highlight the problem and show that former military personnel are less likely to be in work and more likely to be unemployed than their counterparts among the general Scottish population. Although the numbers show a significant improvement when compared to studies conducted in 2014, they continue to highlight the gap between veterans and non-veterans.

I make special mention of some of the organisations and programmes that help veterans and support them back into employment: SaluteMyJob, Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce, Veterans Scotland, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish veterans employment and training service, to name a few. It is crucial that those partners not only secure meaningful and sustained employment for veterans but aid personal fulfilment and development. In my constituency, veterans first point Fife, which was established only last year, consists of veterans along with peer-support workers, clinicians and therapists, who provide information, support, social networking and understanding to promote wellbeing.

I also highlight the importance of addressing the challenges that many female veterans face. We need to recognise that women veterans experience military service in different ways from men. Without intervention, those and other issues can put women veterans at greater risk of unemployment. Therefore, we need to address the individual needs of women through specialised programmes.

The Scottish political agenda emphasises that education is a tool for ensuring a certain level of veteran employability, as barriers to significant and sustainable employment are intensified by the absence of educational attainment. Veteran higher education is often met with resistance due to monetary challenges, lack of acceptance and stress about competing with younger students. In most cases, opting out of higher education is an economic decision. As a response, the Scottish veterans fund has provided crucial financial support in the form of grants. Apprenticeships, mentoring and sponsorship opportunities are not only available but actively encouraged to help to establish networks, while our sense of community allows for an ambitious and generous charitable sector on which many veterans rely.

Although the Scottish Government is supportive of veterans, there remains work to be done to shift the stigma surrounding them that still exists among employers, the media and the public. There are often assumptions and stereotypes regarding veterans that can make some employers reluctant to hire them. However, veterans are assets. Their skills can easily be transferred into a variety of different employment opportunities. I am confident that we can mend the veteran-civilian relationship by guaranteeing that the credentials and talents of veterans are more extensively acknowledged not only by employers but, as importantly, by Scottish society in general.

I again thank Graeme Dey for securing this important debate. I hope that the Scottish veterans commissioner’s recommendations are taken on board.

 

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.