Friday, 28 November 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has told housing charity Shelter which song reminds him of home
The Song that he choose was Indiana written by Highland songwriter/musician (and good friend of Rob's) Andy Mitchell.
The song was written by Andy when he was living in Ullapool. It is about the imminent return to Scotland/Ullapool of two friends of Andy who had emigrated to the USA years previously. He wrote a song to see it from their point of view.
"This song is the perfect encapsulation of what home means to me. It talks about people returning home, the pull of home in the face of reasons for staying elsewhere. It is about people wanting to bring up their children in their own land of roots and personal connections as opposed to material riches in a different country. It reminds us that Scotland has plenty of land and too many planning restrictions that stop Scots living in their own country."
Mr Gibson joined other MSP's and over 4,000 people in signing up to the charity’s Hometime Scotland campaign.
Shelter revealed the top song that reminds the public of home at the special handover event outside Parliament. From the 4,000 songs logged by the charity over the summer months, the number one choice was The Proclaimer’s foot stomping ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)’.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, housing and homelessness charity, made the announcement as he handed the thousands of song postcards to Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing.
The postcards are all in support of the charity’s Hometime Scotland campaign, which was launched in July, to ensure Scotland delivers on the internationally acclaimed 2012 homelessness target (2). Support has also been registered online at www.hometimescotland.org.uk
Scottish party political leaders and other MSPs from across Scotland are among those to have told Shelter what song that reminds them of home.
Scottish singer KT Tunstall, rock band Idlewild, and DJ Calvin Harris are also among those to tell the charity what song reminds them of home. Support for the campaign has also come from Scottish folk legend, Dougie MacLean, whose song ‘Caledonia’, was in second place in the Hometime Scotland song poll.
The Proclaimers said: "We'd be the ones who'd walk 500 miles to make sure that everyone in Scotland has a home. Having a house is an inherent right for people and one they shouldn't have to fight for, or fork out more than they can afford. We're delighted to be the top Hometime Scotland song and the one that reminds people of home. It's an honour."
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “In this, the 40th year of Shelter Scotland, the Hometime Scotland campaign underlines the need to provide the unintentionally homeless with settled accommodation, which can be a base for themselves and their family.
“Homelessness is a blight on Scottish society and at odds with our ambition to build a modern, successful economy. This Government’s commitment to the homelessness 2012 target is unwavering, as are our ambitions for housing more generally.”
Shelter director Graeme Brown said: “If the 2012 homelessness target seems like 500 miles away, then we’re about 250 miles towards meeting it right now. But we need to pick up speed to travel the extra distance. Our next hurdle is the 2009/10 budget. We need to see increased cash for housing through that budget to ensure housing for all. We know times are tough just now but a home is a right, not a luxury.”
CONTACT: Christina Cran, Nicola Baxter (shelter) 0844 515 2442 (connects to out of hours)
NOTE TO EDITORS
Lyrics to Indiana
by Andy Mitchell
Fare thee well, now, Indiana, your green land has been good to me.
There I traveled, there I settled, there I raised up my family.
But the cord has never severed, and the longing each day it has grown.
So, tomorrow, I'll be leaving for the land that I call my home.
All my friends say that I'm crazy, going back to such poverty,
America is, so they say now, the land of opportunity.
But the shy hare runs so swiftly and the heron slowly flies.
These are treasures from my homeland that all your money can never buy.
As our ship lies in the harbor, I shall look back on your shore.
And I'll feel sadness that I'm leaving your green land forever more.
But as our ship lies on the ocean and each day we are out on the sea.
All the dreams I've had for years now, drawing nearer reality.
Fare-thee-well, now, Indiana, your green land has been good to me.
There I traveled, there I settled, there I raised up my family.
But the cord has never severed, and the longing each day it has grown.
So, tomorrow, I'll be leaving for the land that I call my home.
List of MSPs by region (R) or constituency (C) who showed their support for the Hometime Scotland campaign and told the charity what song reminds them of home.:
-Bashir Ahmad, SNP, Glasgow (R)
Long Live Pakistan: “When Pakistan came into being when I was aged 7, everyone was singing this song”.
-Claire Baker, Lab, Mid Scotland and Fife (R)
Kelty Clippie: “It reminds me of home because I grew up in Kelty”.
-Richard Baker, Lab, North East Scotland (R)
Alive and Kicking: “Because it’s an upbeat Scottish song that is full of optimism and confidence”.
-Sarah Boyack, Lab, Edinburgh Central (C)
Isn’t it good to be home again: “It reminds me of how nice it is to have a home”.
-Rhona Brankin, Lab, Midlothian (C)
Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel: “It reminds me of being at home when my children were young.”
-Malcolm Chisholm, Lab, Edinburgh North and Leith (C)
Green green grass of home: “It’s a sad song and a bit sentimental.”
-Angela Constance, SNP, Livingston (C)
Wild Mountain Thyme: “It was the song I walked down the aisle to”.
-Rob Gibson, SNP, Highlands and Islands (R)
Indiana by Andy Mitchell (a friend of his): “It’s about people coming back home to Scotland, to where they were from, to bring up their children”.
-Karen Gillon, Lab, Clydesdale (C)
Going Home by Runrig: ”When I am away it reminds me of home, wherever that is.”
-Marlyn Glen, Lab, North East Scotland (R)
Over the Rainbow: “It reminds me of my parents.”
-Iain Gray, Lab, East Lothian (C)
“My family all originate from Leith, and Easter Road is a second home to
me, wherever I am living. So it has to be Sunshine on Leith by the Proclaimers.”
-Robin Harper, Green, Lothians (R).
Octopusses Garden in the Shade, Beatles: Possibly because it is happy (Home always was. And bright too).
-Christopher Harvie, SNP, Mid Scotland and Fife (R)
My choice would be 'The Master's song' by Robert Louis Stevenson, from 'The Master of Ballantrae', beautifully set by Vaughan Williams:
Home, home no more to me!
Whither must I wander?
Hunger my driver, I go where I must.
Rough blows the winter wind
O'er the barren moorland,
Thick drives the rain,
And my roof is in the dark.
-Patrick Harvie, Green, Glasgow (R)
Dr Who theme tune: It reminds me of home because I watch it all the time.
-Jamie Hepburn, SNP, Central Scotland (R)
Firhill for Thrills: “I support Partick Thistle Football Club.”
-Cathy Jamieson, Lab, Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (C)
Ye banks and braes and bonnie doon: “Because it’s so near to my home.”
-James Kelly, Lab, Glasgow Rutherglen (C)
500 Miles, The Proclaimers: “It’s my kids favourite song so it reminds me of them.”
-Johann Lamont, Lab, Glasgow Pollok (C)
Sailing By: “My family are from Tiree, and when we all lived in Glasgow we would listen to this song on the radio together and it reminded us of Tiree.”
-Margo MacDonald, Ind, Lothians (R)
'My choice is John Denver's Grandma's Feather Bed. I never had a grandma with a feather bed. However, my family experienced homelessness at a time when that song was getting a lot of radio plays, and it gave me a warm, homey impression. It probably meant more to me than most because of our situation.'
-Tricia Marwick, SNP, Central Fife (C)
Our House: “Love the song, love the group.”
-Nanette Milne, Con, North East Scotland (R)
The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen: “I was born and bred there and have never got away”.
-John Park, Lab, Mid Scotland and Fife (R)
Into the Valley: “The band who sing it are from Dunfermline, and I’m from Dunfermline.”
-Alex Salmond, SNP, Gordon.
Caledonia by Dougie Maclean. “It’s the complete modern anthem of home and homecoming.”
-Tavish Scott, LD, Shetland (C)
The Norseman’s Home: “The song that reminds me of Shetland, my home. This is one of the songs sung at the Up Helly Aa fire festival held in Lerwick every January and at the smaller versions of the festival held elsewhere around Shetland. The Norseman's Home is the Viking funeral hymn sung by the guisers as they stand round the galley after they have set it alight with their flaming torches.”
-Shirley-Anne Somerville, SNP, Lothians (R)
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: “Because this song is on my baby’s mobile”.
-Jamie Stone, LD, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (C)
Leaving Stoer: “It’s a very sad song about depopulation and eviction from the crofts and highlands.” Jamie said he will email us reason.
-Nicola Sturgeon, SNP, Glasgow Govan (C)
These Streets by Paolo Nutini: “It’s a song about homesickness”
-Jim Tolson, LD, Dunfermline West (C)
Mull of Kintyre: “The openness and beauty of Scotland”.
-Maureen Watt, SNP, North East Scotland (R)
A Cornkister, Nicky Tams (trad.): “The only song my father could sing at ceilidhs, a great North East bothy ballad”.
-David Whitton, Lab, Strathkelvin and Bearsden (C)
Scotland the Brave: “The lyrics remind me of home.”
-John Wilson, SNP, Central Scotland (R)
Flower of Scotland: “A traditional song that is sung at rugby matches and is part of the national identity.”
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed a vote in the Education Committee which allow free school meals to be extended to a further 5, 616 P1-3 pupils throughout the region by 2010.
The vote was 3-2 in favour of providing free school meals to primary 1 to 3 pupils. The SNP members voted in favour, Labour abstained with the Lib Dems and Conservatives forming an alliance against the proposal.
Mr Gibson said....
"I am proud that the SNP members of the education committee have voted through this measure which will tackle poverty head on. i would expect nothing more from the Conservatives however i though that the Lib Dem's had a social conscious. it seem that by siding with the Tories in this vote that they have lost it.
"The fact that Labour can't even bring themselves to support the principle (even though it is supported by trade unions, charities and teachers) is symptomatic of their current political malaise and bitterness towards the SNP."
"The aim of the Lib Dems/Tory alliance was to try and take food out of the mouths of around 118,000 children throughout Scotland. It is quite astonishing. i am genuinely shocked to see the Lib Dems lurch to that point of the political spectrum."
"The Highland Council has received an extra 5.8% in their budget from the Scottish Budget so therefore the Lib Dem administration in Highland Council should be able to fund this fair policy which will see 7,569 (see 2) pupils benefit."
1. The legislation passed by 3 for (SNP), 2 against (Con / LD) and 3 abstentions (Lab)
2. based on 2006/7 figs Highland Council has 1,953 children receiving free school meals if legislation is voted through that will go up to 7,569 an increase of 5,616
For Scotland the figures are an increase of 117,521 to 161,899
3. The text of the letter sent to all Committee members from the following organisations is below; Save the Children, Child Poverty Action Group, Unison, The Poverty Alliance, One Parent Families Scotland, Scottish Women's Committee, Association of Head Teachers and Deputes in Scotland, the Church and Society Council and the Scottish Local Government Forum against Poverty
Draft Provision of School Lunches (Disapplication of the Requirement to Charge) (Scotland) Order 2008 :
We are writing to urge you as a member of the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee to recommend that the draft Provision of School Lunches (Disapplication of the Requirement to Charge) (Scotland) Order 2008 be approved as moved in Committee this coming Wednesday 19th November.
Approving the Order is essential to allow local authorities to roll out provision of free school meals to all P1 to P3 pupils in their areas, a provision that we believe will make an important contribution to children's education, health and well being, as well as providing much needed relief to hard pressed family budgets.
Given the consensus that exists on the importance of nutrition to children's development we believe it would be a tragedy if a scheme which has boosted healthy school meal uptake so significantly was prevented from being rolled out by local authorities.
We would therefore be grateful for your reassurance that you will work to ensure that the Committee recommends the approval of the Order.
Monday, 24 November 2008
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has questioned the Environment Minister over proposed special protection areas for seabirds for Cape Wrath.
Mr Gibson asked Michael Russels in chamber last week if the decision to extend the 31 special areas was based on sound science and if the health of breeding seabirds could be monitored in one of those areas, Cape Wrath, which is part of a live bombing range?
Mr Russell l responded that proposals were based on robust scientific areas and that idea of extending the Cape Wrath protection area by 2 KM was part of Scottish Government's commitment to protecting wildlife. He ended by saying that the bombing could be undertaken more sensitively—if he said 'bombing can ever be undertaken sensitively'.
Speaking after Mr Gibson said…
"I was interested to see that Cape Wrath had been included as one of the 31 special areas. Whilst marine spatial planning can accommodate the protection of seabirds and marine energy devices it seems more difficult for a live bombing range and a special protection area to co-exist."
"The Minister indicates that at present the situation regarding bombing could be more sensitive of that is possible. I would urge him, the community, conservation bodies and the MoD to work closely together so that a balance can be wrought to protect one of the wild places of Europe which has a true bio diversity."
"However this will balance will need to come about by dialogue a bit of give and take from all parties. In my experience the one organisation which has been the most intransigent is the MoD I hope that they will be willing to discuss the matter and compromise."
Note to editor:
Copy of exchange from last week (13/11/08)
Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): Is the decision to extend 31 special protection areas into sea areas based on sound science? Can the health of breeding seabirds be monitored in one of those areas, Cape Wrath, which is part of a live bombing range?
Michael Russell: The proposed boundaries of the extended areas are based on robust scientific data, but it is obvious that there must also be a justification that local people accept and understand. In all the work that I and my colleague Mr Lochhead have done with communities on such issues, we have been determined to ensure that proposals are acceptable and have support, because the health of the local environment should be important to every citizen. The proposals on Cape Wrath were endorsed in the context of the science by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Scottish Natural Heritage. The proposed 2km extension for Cape Wrath is part of the Scottish Government's commitment to protecting seabird populations. I have communicated with the member many times about bombing activities at Cape Wrath, which I think could be undertaken more sensitively—if bombing can ever be undertaken sensitively.
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has called for the freeing up of areas of the sea for aquaculture to take place.
His call came during the debate on the subject in the Scottish Parliament.
Mr Gibson raised the issue of Crown Estate marine sites which had been leased out yet have not been used.
During the debate Mr Gibson was congratulated by the Fishing Minister Mike Russell on raising the issue, whilst the Labour Party also recognised its importance.
It emerged that for the first time a map of the areas which are leased has now been published by the Scottish Government.
Speaking after Mr Gibson said…
"The planning framework which governs the sites for lease by the Crown Estate needs to be tightened up. For years the Crown Estate have been leasing sites claiming rent for aquaculture activities on productive sites but taking little action against unused sites."
"This practice has to stop and I am greatly encouraged by the Minister's comments during the debate. It is vitally important that we can see where these leased sites are and who leases them. So that action can be taken to turn them into productive areas."
"There is enormous potential however in 2006 the were 140 fish farming sites (leased by the Crown Estate) which were producing nothing."
Rob also called for a greater marketing campaign and increased home sales to help aquaculture producers beat the credit crunch. He said that sales to continental Europe this year were very slow and part of the short fall could be made up from home sales. However he said that for that to happen the abundance and quality of food from the seas on the doorstep of Scotland had to highlighted to the people of Scotland.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
This annual service was well attended by several generations of Polish and Scots/Polish families from Easter Ross. Guests included the Polish Vice Consul to Scotland Piotr Leszezynski. The ceremony at the distinctive memorial at Castle Drive, Invergordon has an important place in many hearts as Polish families and service personnel chose to stay in Scotland after the war when conditions under the Russian occupation made it impossible for them to return home.
Rob Gibson and Maxine Smith took their turn to lay their wreath of red and white flowers, the colours of the Polish flag, at the memorial which proclaims 'for your and our freedom', a most appropriate dedication to remember the Second World War and in today's very different world.
The comradeship of world war and the fellow feeling of two of the peoples among the 27 member European Union of today maintains the ceremony at Invergordon. It includes a mixture of long established families in Easter Ross, young Poles working in the Highlands and families such as that of top piper Duncan MacGillivray of Calrossie whose American wife Jane is of Polish origins. Duncan piped for the flag bearers, the reveille and the Polish anthem. Their children and friends placed candles at the memorial after the wreath laying as a poignant tribute to the fallen of both lands.
Meanwhile in Warsaw, Linda Fabiani, Europe and Culture Minister in the Scottish Government was laying a wreath on a memorial to Scots in Poland signifying the close links between our countries over several centuries.
Rob Gibson said, "It is good to maintain the traditions of Scottish and Polish friendship. While the British declaration of war on Germany in 1939 tried to aid Poland in her hour of need, we remember the brave people who fought and fell for their countries and join with them in friendship today as Scottish-Polish links remain strong.
"The ceremony at Invergordon is organised each year by Vanda Hardy. She deserves wide praise for this lasting commemoration in Easter Ross."
Monday, 17 November 2008
A call has been made for Wick Airport to be the pilot for a state of the art landing system.
SNP MSP Rob Gibson and Councillor Jean Urquahart the SNP Westminster candidate for the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Consitusency, are calling on the Civil Aviation Authority to give the go-ahead for a GPS Satellite system to be tried out at the Caithness airport.
One of the key proposals of the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership is to fit all-weather landing equipment at Wick airport. However given the lack of action from Highlands and Islands Airports HIAL (which operates Wick airport) it was agreed by an SNP gathering in Wick at the weekend that a more radical solution is required.
Said Rob Gibson....
"Infrastructure improvements to our rail, roads, harbours and airport are key to the development of Pentland Firth marine renewables. While Kirkwall has a modern instrument landing system ILS, it's time Wick was spared so many cancellations due to fog and low cloud.
"I have not been impressed by HIAL in anticipating the need for reliable air link to bring in experts for Dounreay decommissioning and very soon the high tech personnel required in marine renewable development. No more need for taxis from Aberdeen for diverted passengers, thank you.
"It seems that worldwide we will be moving towards the universal use GPS landing systems. I have been reliably informed that GPS systems, Satnavs, in our cars are fitted in aircraft. I believe that Wick airport would be an ideal pilot project for GPS landing equipment."
Cllr Urquhart who has written to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said....
"Aviation management is a reserved matter for the London Government. I believe the CAA should press ahead with a GPS trial at Wick. The airfield is an open site with limited traffic and is often affected by fog and low cloud. While the ILS system installed at Kirkwall can help aircraft land safely down to 200 feet, I understand that GPS is capable of landing in zero visibility and installing the necessary ground equipment is cheaper than ILS.
"The airport for the Far North deserves to have cutting edge landing gear. Our marine renewable prospects are on the frontiers of technology, they deserve an aircraft management system to match."
Monday, 10 November 2008
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed the news that two new NHS dental premises are planned for Easter Ross.
Last week Mr Gibson questioned Health Secretary Nicol Sturgeon over NHS dentist's in the region. During the exchange Ms Sturgeon confirmed that they were plans to establish new dental premise's in Tain and Invergordon (as well as others at Portree and Grantown).
Mr Gibson said…
"This is great news for Easter Ross as well as the Highlands and Islands. It is estimated that the announcement will lead to more surgeries with many more people being able to register under NHS conditions."
"In recent years a persistent issue from many constituents is the lack of NHS Dentist's available in the area. The Cabinet Secretary's announcement shows that the issue is still very much a priority for the Scottish Government as well as NHS Highland."
"Figures released last week showed that dental registration with NHS dentist had risen 4% in Scotland. The figures also showed that the number of registrations with dentists for both adults and children are the highest since registrations were introduced in October 1990. Progress is being made but it is still ground to be made up and I am confident that the Government will make it happen."
"This announcement will see a real difference on the supply of NHS dentists in the North and West. I am sure the people of Easter Ross and beyond will welcome the fact that the centers, such as the Loch shell dental clinic in Wick, will be situated in the two towns. There will be real benefit to accrue to the area and a positive impact is sure to follow."
Transcript of Q & A From last week (06/11/08):
National Health Service Dentists (Highlands and Islands)
8. Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that all adults and children in Caithness and other parts of the Highlands and Islands are able to register with an NHS dentist. (S3O-4739)
The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Nicola Sturgeon): Responsibility for the overall provision of NHS general dental services rests with NHS boards.
NHS Highland has already expanded its salaried dental services and has a number of other projects planned to expand services further. New dental surgeries have been established in Wick, Fort William and Inverness, and there are plans to establish new premises in Portree, Grantown, Invergordon and Tain. Those developments will result in the creation of an additional 29 dental surgeries and the registration of a minimum additional 29,000 patients under NHS arrangements.
NHS Highland is raising awareness of the grants that are available under the Scottish dental access initiative, and it has been provisionally allocated £4.14 million from the primary and community care modernisation fund.
Rob Gibson: I thank the cabinet secretary for that detailed answer. At present, there is a shortfall of graduates who are able to take up posts. For example, in Orkney, around 2.4 full-time posts are required. The figure in Caithness would probably be double that. Will the cabinet secretary give us an idea of the flow of graduates who will be able to fill the posts in the new dental premises that we are about to build?
Nicola Sturgeon: Rob Gibson raises an important point. As we expand the opportunities and the incentives for dentists to do NHS dentistry, we must ensure that the flow of dentists through education and into those posts is as smooth as possible. That is one of the key reasons why the Government took the decision to open the Aberdeen dental school. It opened on 6 October, and I am pleased to say that it has now accepted its first intake of students. That will increase the number of students training in Scotland, so in time it will increase the number of graduates.
In the 2007-08 academic session, 492 students across Scotland applied for the dental bursary.
That will ensure a future stock of dentists for NHS dentistry.
Friday, 7 November 2008
Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has sought Scottish Government backing to ensure the EU Commission relaxes regulation that dictates shape, size and appearance of many fruit and vegetables produced across the continent.
He was speaking after a Highland Council-led Conference on Local Food in the Highlands.
Mr Gibson said,
"Tough regulations have led to 20 percent of fruit and vegetables produced in the UK going to waste. In credit crunch times taste is more important than shape.
"I have asked the Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Richard Lochhead to lobby the EU Commission on this issue.
It has been reported that the EU are to discuss relaxing shape, size and appearance regulations on the 12th of November. If the go-ahead is given the changes would come into force until next July.
Mr Gibson says that the time frame is too long...
"Producers and consumers deserve a speedier relaxation as the price of food hits pockets hard in this credit crunch. Tasty fruit and vegetables should not be wasted.
"As we develop a National Scottish Food Policy, Highland producers and consumers will play a key part. I applaud the Highland Council conference and seek EU support to relax unnecessarily strict regulations that create discards in fresh fruit and veg. The current regualtions are like the ones which accounts for the discards of perfectly edible fish which are thrown back dead after our hard pressed fisherman catch them. Smart regulation can increase our food supply in each case. "
Monday, 3 November 2008
Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has received correspondence from hundreds of constituents about the lack of broadband connection in remote and rural areas in the Highlands and Islands
At the end of last month Mr Gibson sent out the first part of a consultation to enquire about the state of broadband around selected communities in the region. To date he has received over 500 responses with more consultations still to go out and more still coming in.
Mr Gibson says at the moment a trend is emerging that broadband across the region is very patchy and has called on broadband providers to sharpen up their act.
"The responses so far shows that whilst some areas have broadband they are functioning on a level which is barely better than dial up. Indeed there are still areas that rely on dial up. This situation is intolerable and shows that parts of the Highlands have a second class broadband service."
"Much of the complaint is levelled at the BT monopoly for rural broadband. The exchanges are full or they are 'at the end of a thin copper line' therefore the high speed connections they are promised is substantially below that. Companies that supply broadband should offer the people throughout the region the best possible service or give them a rebate."
Mr Gibson said that once the he has gathered the responses then he would be presenting the findings to the responsible Minister Jim Mather as well as the providers of broadband in affected areas. Parts of Orkney and Ross-shire will receive consultation papers in the near future. In the mean time he has asked those affected by poor broadband connection (or those that do not receive it) to contact him with the details - email@example.com.