Older and Active in East Kilbride! I could be describing myself, but of course I’m talking about the launch of Older and Active last week – mobility scooters, Tai Chi, snacks and chat, and so much more. Thoroughly enjoyed the occasion, and as so often, seriously impressed with the work carried out by volunteers in our community.
Straight from the fun at Older and Active EK to another kind of activism altogether – my Party’s Annual Conference at the SECC in Glasgow. It was the 83rd annual national conference of the Scottish National Party, and the theme was ‘Progress’.
Amidst discussion, debate and indeed a few healthy disagreements, conference built on the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government: The economy and energy development, land and tax reform, education and young people, help for families.
The First Minister announced that as well as a National Investment Bank to work entirely in the interests of Scotland, her Government will establish a publicly-owned, not-for-profit energy company to deliver low-cost renewable energy. The company will buy energy wholesale or generate it here in Scotland and sell it to customers as close to cost price as possible. I’m sure this will be welcomed by many.
Again, in all our interests I believe, I was delighted that the Scottish Land Commission has been tasked to research the introduction of a Land Value Tax. We do need a discussion on taxes, of course we do! But it’s not all about income tax; serious consideration has to be given to land ownership in Scotland, and the responsibilities of those who hold it. Community ownerships have proceeded over the last few years, the latest bid from residents of Ulva, an island off the west coast of Mull. Ulva residents have now been granted Scottish Government go-ahead for their community right to buy bid to go to the next stage. I’d like to see Community Asset Transfers in urban settings gaining some momentum too!
Affecting families here in East Kilbride directly, a welcome announcement is the planned further increase in free childcare. We have already increased free childcare to 16 hours a week for all three and four year olds and extended provision to vulnerable two year olds. The plan is to extend that provision to 30 hours per week. I know there are some issues locally about provision, partner-nurseries and Child-minding – I’m working along with local Councillors to bring some clarity to that situation.
These free child-care hours can save working parents around £350 per month on the costs of childcare. Times are hard for some, and this will, I am sure, alleviate some of the concerns in families. Likewise, the First Minister’s pledge to lift the public sector pay cap. Our Government will work with the Trades Unions to deliver an affordable settlement that recognises the cost of living and ensures fair wages for our public sector workers.
Our future workforce was discussed at our Conference too – the importance of the ‘STEM’ subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – to avert a damaging skills’ shortage in Scotland. East Kilbride schools have recognised this and encourage girls and boys to consider careers in the varied engineering disciplines. We also of course have the excellent South Lanarkshire College and the EK Group Training Association in the town. More action is needed, however, so bursaries of £20,000 are to be created for those wishing to change career and become a teacher in priority subjects – maths, computing science, physics and technical education initially, but reviewed each year according to need. Again, sensible action to secure our future.
There was of course much more discussed, but no space here! Can’t sign off though without thanking Brancumhall Bowling Club for their hospitality when I came along to present the season’s trophies. As always, I had a lovely time with great comradeship and company – older, and extremely active!