Well, sitting at my EK office window, contemplating the rain and my return to our Parliament this week – acht! It’s been good to spend the summer staying local and catching up with both work and people. I’ve enjoyed the many community events through June and July, and visiting businesses new and established. So much innovation in East Kilbride – companies with exciting ideas, volunteers with a passion for their cause, public-sector workers with a commitment to those they serve, and young people with big plans for the future.
As always at the start of the Parliamentary year, this week First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will unveil her Government’s Programme. Three days of debate covering ambitious plans in education, health and justice. I am particularly looking forward to hearing the plans for housing – such an important issue for East Kilbride. It was good to visit Clyde Valley Housing Association’s latest social housing and mid-market-rent development at Mavor Park over the last couple of weeks; a good mix of house sizes and types and good to see folk housed that I know have been waiting for a long, long time. The local East Kilbride Housing Association and the other HA providers in the town do an excellent job.
South Lanarkshire Council has just approved its own ‘key housing strategy’, their commitment to build 1000 new council homes welcome. I’ve asked for more information about the plans specifically for East Kilbride. We have particular housing issues in the town because of the level of sales of social housing over the years, and it must be a comfort to Councils and Housing Associations that the Scottish Government recently abolished the Right to Buy, safeguarding the stock that they build.
There is mention too in the Council’s statement of reviewing the Councils programme of “buying back into council ownership properties sold under the Right to Buy”. I certainly want to know more about that plan. Whilst we’re talking about ‘reviewing’, can I suggest to our local Councillors that they review the Factoring Service that owners sign up to in shared blocks etc? Yes, of course it’s necessary to jointly maintain buildings, that’s not in dispute, but I do get many constituency complaints about the service, and sometimes the complaints do seem justified. Just saying!
Also on our Government’s agenda this week of course is the progress on establishing a new social security system for Scotland, with dignity at its heart. Only some powers are being devolved from Westminster, including Disability Living Allowance. Thank goodness that power is being handed over to Scotland, where we can treat those with disabilities with respect and fairness. I don’t say that lightly; I say that because only last week an inquiry by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found that the United Kingdom has failed to meet its obligations under the UN Convention.
The Committee’s Chair, Thersia Degener, branded the situation in the UK as a “human catastrophe”. Appalling! In one of the richest countries in the world a UN Report finds that the UK Government’s welfare cuts had led to “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights. The same report notes the Scottish Government’s maintenance of schemes equivalent to the Independent Living Fund, and praises them for the inclusion of disabled people in designing their new social security system. Of course those directly affected should assist in designing a sensible system. Thank you to those EK residents that I know are involved in this – your work is crucial.
So, summer’s gone, not a lot of sunshine today certainly. Despite the rain though our wee country has just been voted the most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guides, the leading publisher of travel and reference guides. We all knew that anyway, didn’t we? Good news for all those that work in the travel and hospitality industries, and a wee reminder to all of us to sometimes look and “see ourselves as others see us”.