EK News Column – 3 February 2016

It’s Burns season:Linda-Fabiani-MSP-3

“Blow, blow, ye winds, with heavier gust!

And freeze, thou bitter-biting frost!

Descend, ye chilly, smothering snows!

Not all your rage, as now united, shows”

An apt description of what we’ve suffered in East Kilbride lately, but already we’re in February with January behind us. January is a bleak month, the festive season past, and New Year resolutions already being forgotten as day-to-day life takes over again.

Local Burns Suppers have been grand again this year. The friendliness and fun with the parishioners and guests at the Old Parish Church was a mid-January treat. Our own Branch SNP Burns Supper was a resounding success again with the best Immortal Memory I’ve heard in years from local Burns expert Allan Stevenson. Tonight’s (Monday) Kilbryde Burns Club Supper was as always packed with local and visiting artistes whose knowledge of our Bard and presentation of his poetry and song was a joy.

But of course “pleasures are like poppies spread”, and work continues. It’s been a busy January in Scotland’s Parliament.

The controversy over the Westminster Government’s forthcoming legislation on Trade Union rights continues. My Committee took evidence on the Trade Union Bill from senior NHS management, the Scottish Trade Union Council and others. Our industrial relations record has been good over many years now, through the joint working of all involved, but the Committee Report concluded that the Bill could actually lead to industrial unrest right across Scotland.  The Scottish Government recognised this and pledged to leave no stone unturned in trying to block the proposals being forced upon us. The STUC backed the SNP’s call during the Smith Commission negotiations to have employment law devolved to Scotland, but unfortunately only the Green Party backed us. I wonder if the Labour Party and the LibDems regret that now?

Health is a devolved matter I’m glad to say and figures released within the last week have shown that mortality rates for coronary heart disease have dropped by 36%. Deaths from strokes have fallen 33% since 2007. Incidences of both heart disease and strokes have fallen while survival rates for those suffering their first heart attack have increased.

These figures are good news and testament that the hard work of our NHS staff is paying off. I think the publicity campaigns from our Government, the NHS itself and of course from charities like the British Heart Foundation, have meant too that people are becoming more aware of the warning signs and how to react to a heart attack or stroke. More work to do, but good that co-ordinated working means we’re successfully tackling two of the most significant causes of death.

The Justice system too is the responsibility of the Scottish Government and our Parliament. There has been much concern expressed in recent times about the way that modern technology has been used to perpetuate abuse and this has resulted in proposed legislation which has just been introduced to Parliament for debate and discussion. The ‘Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill’ creates an offence of sharing private intimate images without consent – often called ‘revenge porn’. The Bill will also strengthen powers for the police, prosecutors and courts to take action against perpetrators of domestic abuse, harassment and sexual offences.

Over recent years our justice system, along with support from agencies like Women’s Aid, has had a degree of success in raising awareness and confidence amongst victims. This has resulted in higher levels of reporting which is to be welcomed, but there is still a way to go. The ‘Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill’ will remove some of the current barriers by further improving understanding of domestic abuse and sexual harm. Additional funding of £570,000 has been announced too, to be allocated to domestic abuse and sexual assault services – every local centre or group will receive extra money to help them reach those in need. It’s important that the issue is tackled at both national and local level.

As I finish this edition’s column the wind is howling and the rain battering the windows, courtesy of Hurricane Henry or Gertrude or whoever, and reflecting the lines at the start from Robert Burns’ ‘A Winter’s Night’. Still, we’re closer to Spring and next month we have another treat at the Schools’ Burns Competition, run by East Kilbride Rotary Club – something to look forward to.

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