Spending on Scottish sport slashed due to SNP cuts

21 August 2016

The SNP Government cuts have forced spending on Scottish sport to be slashed, Labour reveals today.

As the 2016 Olympic Games draw to a close, it is revealed SportScotland has reduced spending halfway through a two year business plan, after the last SNP budget slashed spending on Scotland’s sporting agency.

Labour's analysis of the revised business plan highlighted a close to £2 million cut for schools and education, including PE, and more than £1.5 million cut from community sports hubs.

In total SportScotland has been forced to cut the amount it invests in the sports stars of tomorrow by 17%, from £55 million to £46 million.

Labour has called on the SNP Government to commit the Barnett consequetials from the UK government ‘sugar tax’ to invest in after school sports clubs.

Scottish Labour Culture and Sport spokesperson Lewis Macdonald said:

“The last month has been incredible for Scottish sport, as Scottish athletes as part of Team GB recorded their best ever results at an overseas Olympics.

“It may have been Rio rather than Glasgow but the spirit of Glasgow 2014 and London 2012 lived on this summer as we racked up the medals.

“Thousands of boys and girls across Scotland will have watched the exploits of Laura Trott, Mo Farah, and of course Andy Murray and be inspired to get on their bike or pick up a racket.

“Rather than build on this excitement and enthusiasm, the SNP have instead slashed funding for our sports agency.

“This isn’t just about discovering the next generation of gold medallists – more Scottish children playing sport will pay off in the classroom and, in the long term, in our health service.

“These short sighted cuts from the SNP will sell Scotland short in the long term.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop these cuts and invest in our young people.”



Cutting air passenger duty would be the wrong move at the wrong time

19 August 2016

“Across Scotland our schools, NHS and police force are facing hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts - it shouldn’t be the SNP Government's priority to make a business class flight cheaper.

“Cutting Air Passenger Duty won’t make Scotland fairer or greener. It would be the wrong move at the wrong time.

“When the SNP Government consulted on this, they were embarrassed to find that most responses agreed with Labour.

"With record passenger numbers at Scottish airports it would be the wrong move to offer a huge tax break to airlines who simply don’t need it, and kick off a race to the bottom with other parts of the UK.

“The SNP need to scrap their plans to cut air passenger duty.”



SNP delivery plan for Scottish teachers already behind schedule

17 August 2016

The SNP’s flagship delivery plan for Scottish teachers is already behind schedule.

On June 28 John Swinney announced his Delivery Plan for education and excellence in attainment promising a clear and concise framework for teachers in time for the new school session in August.

However, as teachers go back to work this week the SNP Government has confirmed the guidance won’t be published until August 29th, well beyond the SNP target and at a point where teachers will have already set out lesson plans in advance.

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“Whilst the First Minister is posing for photos at schools her flagship education plan is already behind schedule.

“Teachers were promised concise and clear guidelines to declutter the curriculum and clarify what is expected of them especially when it comes to teaching literacy and numeracy.

“Teachers were promised this for going back to work but the wheels have already come off that plan with the SNP now promising it by the end of the month, long after schools have come back and when teachers will be well on with lesson planning.

“If the SNP are going to make promises to teachers and parents they need to keep them. This was a fairly modest target and the SNP government have still missed it.

“After nearly a decade of the SNP treating education as an afterthought they need to do better than press releases and photo ops to convince Scotland’s teachers they are serious about sorting out education.”


SNP must publish details of European meetings

17 August 2016

The SNP Government must publish details of key meetings in Europe, Labour said today.

In an answer to a parliamentary question, Fiona Hyslop refused to publish minutes of meetings between the First Minister and the President of the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The SNP Government have also refused to publish the terms of the discussions it plans to have with European member states.

Labour supported the SNP Government’s attempts to secure Scotland’s place in Europe on the condition that the attempts would be transparent and parliament kept fully informed.

The SNP have also refused to confirm plans to publish any legal advice they commission on Scotland’s place in Europe.

Scottish Labour Economy spokesperson Richard Leonard said:

“The SNP promised to be open and transparent in their dealings with the EU on Scotland’s behalf, instead we are seeing a secretive, self-serving approach.

“The Scottish people have a right to know what was discussed in Brussels. Anything less would be unacceptable from the SNP.

“Whilst Labour supported Nicola Sturgeon going to Europe, the Scottish Parliament did not give the First Minister complete freedom of action, the SNP Government should not behave as though it did.

“The minutes of the meetings on the 29th of June in Brussels with Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Shulz should be published. The First Minister should authorise this herself.

“People in Scotland deserve to know whether these meetings have been substantive or if they are simply photo-opportunities to give the appearance of activity.

“This is about transparency, accountability and democracy. If it was simply about making Scotland’s voice heard what is there to hide? The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people should have access to the details of these discussions.”


 

The SNP government must now step in to stop cuts to local services

16 August 2016

Commenting after the board meeting of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde today, which confirmed a consultation on cuts to local services including Lightburn Hospital, the Vale of Leven. Inverclyde Royal Hospital and Royal Alexandra Hospital, Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP Government must now step in to stop cuts to local services in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. To do anything less would be unacceptable. The SNP promised to protect these services.

“The NHS in Greater Glasgow and Clyde is facing £69 million worth of cuts under the SNP Government, and that is putting local services on the line.

“Labour’s manifesto for the Scottish Parliament committed to protecting local services across Scotland, including the children's wards at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, emergency services at the Vale of Leven and Lightburn Hospital.

“Thousands of parents and children depend on the help and support they get from their local hospitals.

“Local candidates who warned of these proposed closures were branded as liars. It is now clear that they were right. The SNP must step in and keep their promises otherwise it will be obvious that they just said what they had to dupe the public."

Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon's visit to Burnfoot Community School in Hawick today

16 August 2016

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"Labour have outlined a series of positive policies to cut the gap between the richest and the rest. We would scrap unfair charges for exam appeals, which favour private school pupils over those educated in state schools, and we would introduce a Scottish Graduation Certificate to replace the failing baccalaureate.

"Whilst the First Minister poses for photo ops in the Borders her government is only delivering attainment funding to two schools out of sixty-three in the area.

"If the SNP were serious about cutting the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms they would deliver more investment by stopping the cuts to education and backing Labour's plan for a 50p top rate of tax for those earning over £150,000 per year to invest in our schools."

Time to secure trust and confidence in policing in Scotland – Baker

16 August 2016

Scottish Labour have today called for greater leadership from the SPA and Police Scotland on the big challenges facing policing in Scotland to “secure the trust and confidence of the wider public in policing in Scotland.”

The call comes as they respond to the Scottish Government Consultation on the Strategic Police Priorities which will give strategic direction for policing going forward.

Labour also use the consultation to call for a Scottish Parliament committee for Emergency Services.

Scottish Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said:

“Since its creation only three years ago we have seen several high profile controversies hit Police Scotland.

“Local police stations and call centres have closed. We have had the tragic deaths of Lamara Bell and John Yuill at the side of the M9 and the death in police custody of Sheku Bayoh. We have seen the routine deployment of armed officers on the streets and spying on journalists.

“Under the SNP Government the reputation of policing in Scotland has been dragged through the mud. It is therefore vital that we use the Strategic Police Priorities to improve the levels of public satisfaction and confidence with the force.

“That is why the Priorities need to provide real leadership on the big challenges facing Scotland in the years ahead whilst tackling the problems that Police Scotland has been facing since its inception.

“That is why we are calling for greater efforts in dealing with crimes historically under-reported, the ability to respond to new and developing threats and a robust and accountable SPA.

“The public must be confident that Police Scotland and the SNP have learnt from their past failings and that hardworking officers and staff are giving the support and guidance they need to keep our communities safe.”

 

Fall in pupils taking STEM subjects at Higher

11 August 2016

Number of pupils studying Higher Mathematics drops by 10%

The number of pupils in Scotland studying Higher Mathematics fell by 10%, Scottish Labour said today.

Analysis by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) of results published this week shows a drop in pupils taking Science and Mathematics subjects at Higher compared to last year. There have also been drops in the number of pupils taking Physics and Chemistry.

These falls are disproportionate to the reduction in the number of pupils sitting exams overall. Across the board there was a 6.6% fall across the STEM subjects with 4,048 fewer sitting this year – from 61,483 to 57,435.

Labour said that STEM subjects are vital for developing a workforce with the skills needed to compete for the jobs of the future.

Last year’s Higher Mathematics paper attracted thousands of complaints for being poorly written, with the SQA ultimately having to drop the pass mark to 34%.

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“These are concerning figures. STEM subjects will be absolutely vital if Scotland is to develop a workforce ready to compete for the jobs of the future. We want to see more young people take these courses, not fewer.

“The fall in pupils studying Higher Mathematics is particularly concerning. Given the problems with last year’s paper, with pupils leaving the exam hall in tears, the pass mark dropped and an online petition of complaint attracting thousands of signatures, some pupils may have been put off from studying Maths at Higher level. That is a great shame for our young people.

“The SNP Government should be doing more to encourage young people to study STEM subjects, but that will be made all the more difficult by hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and local services by the SNP Government.

“Labour will continue to make the case to use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy and stop the cuts to schools and local services.”



Comment on suicide figures

10 August 2016

Commenting on figures released today by the National Records of Scotland, which show that the rate of suicide was three times higher in the most deprived tenth of the population, Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokeswoman Monica Lennon MSP said:

“These figures should be a cause of real concern for all of us, and the Samaritans have rightly called on the SNP Government to tackle link between deprivation and death by suicide.

“If we are to prevent more deaths and spare more families the pain of dealing with a death by suicide, more must be done to provide targeted support in the most deprived areas.

"Instead under the SNP we have seen a pattern develop on mental health - warm words but no meaningful action and scores of missed targets for mental health treatment. We can start to reverse this trend by using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts to public services."



The SNP are only now waking up to the GP crisis on their watch

9 August 2016

The SNP are only now waking up to the GP crisis on their watch, Scottish Labour said today.

As the SNP Government announce a drive to fill training posts, Labour highlighted a range of problems from across the sector such as:

- The Royal College of General Practitioners estimate that funding for general practice has been cut by over a billion pounds under the SNP Government.

- BMA Scotland estimate that more than a quarter for GP practices struggle to fill vacancies

- Average practice list sizes in Scotland have increased by 10% since 2005.

- Between 2011 and 2015 the SNP cut funding for medical students in Scotland.

Labour welcomed the launch of the recruitment drive, but said the SNP were trying to undo the damage of their own cuts, and called for Health Minister Shona Robison to consider a roll out of a minor ailments service across Scotland to help address the pressure on GPs.

Scottish Labour Health Spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“These GP training places are welcome but are ultimately an attempt by the SNP to undo the damage done by years of cuts to general practice on their watch.

“We know that family doctors across Scotland are struggling with increasingly difficult workloads. The sector is facing a demographic time bomb and filling posts in rural Scotland is difficult.

“If the SNP had taken the role of family doctors seriously, funded general practice properly and not cut medical student numbers then this crisis could have been avoided.

“Now that they have woken up to the GP crisis, the SNP should give GPs the resources and support they need to help current and future doctors provide the service the public need.

“I want to see Shona Robison roll out plans for a minor ailments service in Scotland’s pharmacies to start taking the pressure off of GPs and deliver better, faster care for patients.”



Any post-Brexit stimulus from both the SNP and Tory Governments must include an end to austerity – Baillie

9 August 2016

Responding to the First Minister’s announcement bringing forward £100 million of infrastructure investment, Scottish Labour Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“It is welcome that the First Minister has agreed with Labour’s calls to bring forward infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy, although the SNP could be much bolder with this investment.

“For context the SNP announced £100 million today – the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow cost £850 million and the Queensferry Crossing will cost over £1 billion. Any investment is welcome but this feels like a drop in the ocean.

“Labour outlined a series of policies in our Brexit Action Plan two weeks ago including the establishment of a Brexit support fund for at risk sectors. The SNP Government should adopt this Labour policy to give support to key industries.

“Today's announcement must be only the start of the increased investment. Nicola Sturgeon must stop the cuts her government is imposing on public services in Scotland. The SNP Government is cutting hundreds of millions of pounds from schools and local services, our police force is facing cuts and our health boards are tens of millions in the red. It is not sustainable. Any post-Brexit stimulus from both the SNP and Tory Governments must include an end to austerity.

“Labour will continue to make the case to use the new tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our economy and stop the cuts to public services. The recent interventions from senior SNP figures like Kenny MacAskill show that a debate about tax is very much back on the agenda."

 

SNP need to be honest about tax and spending cuts

8 August 2016

The SNP need to be honest about tax and public spending cuts, Kezia Dugdale said today.

Writing in the Daily Record the Scottish Labour leader highlighted Angus Robertson admitting independence would mean economic challenges, despite the promises of the SNP in 2014.

Ms Dugdale also says that a debate on tax is back on the agenda after former SNP minister Kenny MacAskill admitted that more investment in public services and a fairer society would mean an increase in tax.

Kezia Dugdale writes:

“Trust in politics is pretty low at the moment.

"For many voters politicians will say one thing, yet do another.

"People watch politicians in the same party rip each other apart day after day on the TV.

"And after some spectacular U-turns from senior SNP figures last week, it’s not hard to see why politics can be a real turn off.

“During the independence referendum, SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson and his colleagues told us that leaving the UK would be a great, fault-free thing.

"Big spending cuts? Not a chance.

"Problems with the currency?

"Nah, it’s all bluff from the other side.

"The oil price is a bit unstable, surely? Stop your scaremongering.

“Yet now that they are standing to be SNP Deputy Leader, Mr Robertson and his fellow candidates are falling over themselves to talk about the need to be honest when it comes to the downsides of independence.

“Each admitting that yes it would be hard and come at a significant economic cost.

"Telling the truth is welcome but it stills sticks in the throat.

"I spent two and a half years campaigning for Scotland to remain in the UK, and I remember the outrage people like Angus Robertson would espouse, all too well, when anyone dared tell what he now accepts is the truth about independence.

“Former SNP Cabinet Minister Kenny MacAskill had his own Road to Damascus moment last week too, when he said that to create a fairer society and invest in public services taxes would need to increase.

“That’s the Kenny MacAskill who voted against Labour’s plan to do exactly that earlier this year.

“We have repeatedly called for a 1p increase in income tax to stop the cuts and invest in public services.

"When they were seeking votes in the Scottish Parliament election in May, the SNP opposed our plan.

"We also called for a 50p top rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000 a year so we can invest in schools.

"Again, in the pursuit of votes in May the SNP opposed this.

“If only Mr MacAskill had had the courage of his convictions back when he was one of the most senior ministers in the SNP Government and was able to directly influence policy.

“We need ministers in office with a backbone now. Not the ability to grow one after they leave.

“What's more, it’s taking voters for mugs to campaign for one thing in advance of an election and then turn round later and say something completely different.

"Yet that’s what we are seeing with the SNP.

“Kenny MacAskill’s intervention proves one thing, though.

"A debate about tax is back on the political agenda and that can only be good thing.”



Child Poverty

8th. August 2016

Commenting on the launch of the Child Poverty Bill consultation, Scottish Labour Communities spokesperson Alex Rowley said:

"The existence of child poverty in Scotland should be a source of shame to us all.

"Labour supports plans for a Child Poverty Bill but we can't change Scotland without doing things differently.

"This Bill cannot be yet another entry in a long list of SNP laws which grab headlines but change nothing.

"The SNP need to recognise that hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to schools and local services will harm the poorest children in Scotland.

"These are the services that low income families rely on the most.

"Labour will continue to make the case for using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our young people to reduce poverty and inequality.

"The SNP face a choice - they can work with Labour to stop the cuts that will fall hardest on the poorest, or work with the Tories to force those cuts through.”



NHS repairs bill skyrockets

5 August 2016

Commenting on the Annual State of NHSScotland Assets and Facilities Report for 2015, which shows an increase in the maintenance backlog of more than £100 million taking the total bill to nearly £900 million, Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“The SNP have allowed our NHS to fall into disrepair with a near billion pound bill to fix the problems with our hospitals and our medical equipment.

“Our NHS is Scotland’s most valued public service.

"Scots will be horrified to see these costs increase at a time when the SNP won’t give our health service the resources it needs.

"NHS staff do amazing, lifesaving work and they deserve the best possible resources.

“SNP Health Minister Shona Robison has been facing calls from NHS staff to stop underfunding our most vital public service.

"Now today we learn of the growing repair bill for the facilities these staff work tirelessly in.

"Patients and staff deserve better.

"Scottish Labour will continue to press for our NHS to get the resources it needs.”



Publicly provided holiday childcare in Scotland the most expensive in Britain

4th. August 2016

The cost of publicly provided school holiday childcare in Scotland is the highest in Britain, a new briefing from Scottish Labour reveals today.

Despite Nicola Sturgeon claiming that childcare is the ‘most important infrastructure project of this parliament’, Labour’s briefing on publicly provided school holiday childcare in Scotland reveals:

- It is the most expensive in Britain, 11% higher than in England and 17% higher than in Wales.

- It is as expensive as heating, eating and rent combined.

- The availability has halved under the SNP and slashed for those with additional needs.

The average single parent will spend £110.93, or almost 20% of their income, on publicly funded school holiday childcare for each child every week this summer in Scotland, while the average couple with two children will spend 30% of their income.

Labour said it was time for Scotland to begin moving towards a flexible year-round approach to childcare and that starts with stopping the cuts to local services.

Labour also called for the SNP to follow the lead of the last Labour UK Government and give parents a legal right to access affordable, flexible childcare.

Scottish Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“Under the SNP childcare is not being delivered effectively. There has been a comprehensive failure in delivery after a decade of SNP Government.

“The summer holidays are a difficult time for working families. Accessing and affording good quality childcare is difficult.

“It’s just not right that in Scotland in 2016, publicly provided school holiday childcare costs as much as rent, heating and food bills combined.

"Childcare in Scotland is becoming more and more unaffordable and yet more painful SNP cuts won’t help. That’s why Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts to our local services that deliver childcare.

“Experts, providers, academics and above all parents agree that childcare has to be about affordability as well as free nursery hours, but government ministers just refuse to listen. We need the SNP Government to stop coming up with childcare policies written to fit on election leaflets and instead to start delivering childcare that fits around the lives of working families.”



Comment on Police Scotland statistics

2nd August 2016

Commenting on the police officer quarterly strengths statistics, which show police numbers at their lowest level since 2010, Scottish Labour’s Justice spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said:

“No amount of spin from the SNP Government can hide the fact that the number of police officers in Scotland are at their lowest levels since 2010.

“Considering the significant pressures being placed on Police Scotland’s budget, many will worry that these statistics are an indication of what is to come. This cannot be allowed to happen.

“The public must have confidence in the Government and Police Scotland to keep our streets and communities safe.”



New official statistics show decline in key cancer screening programme in Scotland’s poorest communities

2nd August 2016

The level of people from Scotland’s poorest communities being screened for bowel cancer has fallen according to figures released today.

The news comes as the SNP Government missed their official target for bowel cancer screening.

Figures show that only around 45% of those from the most deprived communities took part in the Screening programme despite a target of 60%.

Scottish Labour have called on the government to step up its efforts to increase the number of people taking part in the programme.

Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“These latest figures show that the level of uptake for Bowel Cancer Screening in Scotland’s wealthiest communities is going up slightly which is to be welcomed.

"But the SNP Government’s record for our most deprived communities is now going backwards.

“Only last week we saw a shocking link between deprivation and late cancer diagnosis, and today’s figures only add to the record of failure on Scotland’s biggest killer from the SNP government.

“Its high time Shona Robison started to address the appalling connection between deprivation and ill health, and a concerted effort to improve the uptake in screening is clearly needed. We can’t afford to let this decline continue.”



SNP don't know how many apprentice jobs have been lost in oil crisis

2nd August 2016

The SNP Government in Edinburgh don’t know how many apprentices have lost their job in the oil crisis.

In an answer to a written parliamentary question to Labour Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie, SNP minister Jamie Hepburn confirmed the Scottish Government cannot provide a breakdown of how many apprentices have been lost each month since the price of oil began to fall dramatically in January 2015.

Scottish Labour Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie said:

“This underlines how poor the SNP’s response to the oil jobs crisis has been.

"After months of ignoring the impact of the falling price of oil on jobs and the economy in the North East because it was politically embarrassing to them, the SNP promised to support apprenticeships – yet they can’t even tell us how many apprentices have lost out since the fall began.

“Between the falling price of oil and the impact of the EU referendum action is needed to protect jobs, living standards and public services in the North East and across Scotland.

"Labour has outlined a Brexit Action Plan which would bring forward infrastructure investment to create jobs and stimulate our economy, and a Brexit Support Fund for sectors at considerable risk.”



Capacity issues in Scotland’s hospitals sees rise in cancelled planned operations

2nd August 2016

New figures show that the number of planned operations in Scotland’s hospitals cancelled due to ‘capacity or non-clinical’ issues has gone up.

Scottish Labour said that the statistics suggested a strain on the NHS and its staff.

Figures from ISD Scotland show that the number of cancellations due to capacity issues increased by over 200 on the same time last year.

Scottish Labour Health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said:

“Behind every cancellation is a patient, and their friends and family, but there is also a team of dedicated NHS staff who want to provide the high level of care which the public expect.

“Our NHS staff are doing the best they can under the circumstances, but they are over worked, undervalued and under resourced.

“With numerous health boards already indicating they will have to make cuts things don’t look like improving anytime soon.

“It’s time the SNP Government made sure our NHS staff have the resources and support they need to deliver the services the public need and expect.”








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