Just months after his doom-laden warnings about an independent Scotland, Lord George Robertson has repeated his claims – during a debate in which his colleague Jack McConnell called on the No camp to “raise its game”.
At a debate last night in the House of Lords, Lord Robertson said independence would put “the safety of the world at risk”. He also claimed that banning Trident in an independent Scotland was a “democratic outrage” – despite poll after poll finding a majority of people in Scotland oppose nuclear weapons.
In April, Lord Robertson’s claims that independence would be “cataclysmic” and an independent Scotland would be welcomed by the “forces of darkness” were widely ridiculed across the political spectrum, with the No campaign distancing themselves from his remarks.
Later in the debate, former First Minister Jack McConnell called on the No camp to “raise its game” in outlining a positive vision for Scotland.
And Labour peer Baroness Vadera said the anti-independence campaign was dominated by “grumpy old men”.
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said:
“It is beyond belief that Lord George Robertson is repeating these cataclysmic claims. Just months after he was criticised for ludicrously stating an independent Scotland would be welcomed by the ‘forces of darkness’, he now absurdly claims we will put the ‘safety of the world at risk’.
“With no real argument to justify keeping nuclear weapons in Scotland, Lord Robertson can only scaremonger on the issue. But to claim that banning Trident in an independent Scotland would be a “democratic outrage” is truly astonishing – polls consistently show a majority of people in Scotland oppose nuclear weapons.
“That the comments were made during the same debate in which Jack McConnell called on the No camp to “raise its game” perfectly demonstrates the main problem the campaign faces – it is completely devoid of a positive case for the union.
“These doom-laden prophecies are in stark contrast with the reality. The fact is an independent Scotland will play a constructive role in the world, and the positive nature of the Yes campaign reflects that. It is the UK that waded into the disastrous and illegal Iraq war - that really was cataclysmic.
“And with the most recent polls showing a Yes vote is closer than ever, it is clear that the people of Scotland like what they hear of the case for an independent, fairer and more prosperous Scotland.”
Everyone in Scotland will be asked to have their say on a draft Bill which will set out how an independent Scotland will be governed, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today.
The draft Scottish Independence Bill is now open for public consultation and includes details on how an independent Scotland could prepare a permanent written constitution in a fully participative process led by the people.
The Bill also sets out immediate arrangements for independence – such as the role of government, human rights and the rule of law - and would form the interim written constitution.
The fundamental principle underpinning the Bill is that the people are sovereign – rather than Parliament, as is the case in the UK. The United Kingdom is the only country in the European Union, and the only country in the Commonwealth, which does not currently have a written constitution or Constitution Act.
The interim constitution proposes an obligation to advance towards nuclear disarmament, the strengthening of human rights protection, the safeguarding of the wellbeing of children and protection for the particular needs of local government and island communities.
SNP MSP, Colin Beattie said:
“The UK is one of very few countries in the world without a written constitution to protect the rights of its citizens.
“The whole point of independence is to create a fairer, more prosperous country built by the people who care most about Scotland – the people who live here.
“A written constitution, written by the people to protect the people, will lay the foundations for that transition.
“I urge all on both sides of this campaign to make their views known so that we can ensure that the constitution for an independent Scotland is fully representative of Scotland and its citizens.”
A new scheme to recognise employers who give extra help and support to carers in their workforce was launched yesterday to mark Carers’ Week.
The Carers’ Kitemark is one of the Scottish Government’s key policies to help Scotland’s estimated 660,000 carers. Under the scheme, employers will be able to sign up to demonstrate their commitment to supporting employees who provide care and support for elderly or disabled relatives.
Michael Matheson, Minister for Public Health, launched the Carers’ Kitemark, developed in conjunction with Carers Scotland, in Edinburgh yesterday.
There are some simple steps employers can take to help carers, including offering flexible hours, or access to a private phone line.
Mr Matheson said:
“There’s no doubting the benefits that carers deliver and they deserve as much support as possible for the amazing job they do. Carers make up a significant proportion of Scotland’s working population, meaning there’s a strong business case for developing carer-friendly policies. If you look after the carers in your workforce you’ll have better staff retention, better morale and higher productivity. I’d urge all employers, big and small, to consider signing up to the Carers’ Kitemark.
“This Government has invested nearly £114 million in supporting carers and their families since 2007. We have introduced the Self-directed Support Act, invested heavily in the Short Breaks Fund, and consulted on proposed new legislation to further support carers and young carers.”
Welcoming the announcement, Midlothian North and Musselburgh MSP, Colin Beattie said:
“We all know that carers provide an invaluable service and I’m very pleased to see the Government recognise their efforts by encouraging businesses to give extra support to staff with caring responsibilities as well. That support will help ease the burden placed on carers and, as the Minister said, they are likely to form a greater affinity with their employer, keeping them highly motivated.
“I’d urge all of the businesses in my constituency to sign up to the Carers’ Kitemark to ensure that carers get the recognition and support that they deserve.”
New figures published by the Scottish Government have revealed that pensioners in Midlothian can expect to get less money than people south of the border.
Based on a pension entitlement of £160 per week, comparison of every local authority in Scotland with the UK averages shows that the vast majority of 65-year-old Scots across the country get less of their state pension entitlement than residents in England.
Last month, the Scottish Government published analysis suggesting that lower life expectancy in Scotland meant that female pensioners could expect to get £11,000 less and male pensioners could receive £10,000 less than their counterparts south of the border.
Commenting, Mr Beattie said:
“Pensioners across Scotland are losing out because unfortunately we have a lower life expectancy in Scotland. We are doing everything we can to raise life expectancy - through the protection of free prescriptions, free personal care for the elderly, the smoking ban and this government’s commitment to cut alcohol abuse. Though, while the situation remains, how can it be fair that pensioners north of border are paying the same into the pot but getting less back?
“In Midlothian, men can expect to get £8,000 less of their entitlement and women can expect to receive £12,000 less than citizens south of the border with the same entitlement.
“In an independent Scotland, the Scottish Government will seek to establish a commission which will examine the case for delaying the rise of the state pension age to ensure that it suits Scotland’s circumstances.
“With the limited powers of devolution we have made good progress in tackling pensioner poverty but still too many older people live in poverty – and the progress we have made risks being undermined by Westminster’s austerity agenda and welfare cuts.
“With the full powers of independence we could do even more to support our pensioners – including a triple lock on the state pension to keep pace with the cost of living and a review of the pension age – making our country a fairer place for pensioners and further tackling pensioner poverty.”
Many congratulations to the organisers of the Ladies Glitterball for raising £3,600 for charity at their recent ball at Eskmills Function Suite. This is a fantastic achievement and I know the two recipients of these donations, Cancer Research UK and Alzheimer Scotland, will be both be extremely grateful for all the effort that was put in and also to those who donated. Cancer and dementia are diseases that touch most of us in some way or another over the course of our lives, and as such these charities do outstanding work. I hope everyone who attended the ball had a great evening!
I was pleased to have the opportunity last week to visit the Army Cadets who are based at Goose Green Place, and I have to say I was extremely impressed by the whole organisation. The young cadets are quite clearly a capable and intelligent group; this is in no small measure due to the excellent training they’re given and qualifications they work towards. I’m hoping to meet both Musselburgh’s Sea Cadets and Air Training Cadets in the near future and I have no doubt they will be equally impressive.
Last week’s survey of the oil industry by the Aberdeen and Grampian Chambers of Commerce proved interesting reading. We now see 18% of firms believing that independence would be positive for the sector, while 38% stated that it would not make any real difference. This is despite the Better Together campaign’s assurances that we could see real problems in the oil industry post-independence – well, the majority of the companies involved don’t seem to think so.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Party have finally announced their proposals for further Scottish powers, but it’s difficult to take these seriously when they – and their Liberal Democrat partners – shamefacedly write reports for the UN claiming their benefit cuts are going to help children out of poverty. To make matters worse the Scottish Government’s objections to welfare cuts were not included, despite a specific request from Aileen Campbell, the Children’s Minister. Is this what they mean when we’re told we’re better together?
The SNP has welcomed new ONS figures showing that Scotland is the most highly educated country in Europe – and among the best-educated in the world.
A new regional compendium by the ONS has found that more than two-fifths of people in Scotland aged between 25 and 64 are educated to tertiary level – the highest level in Europe and one of the highest in the world.
The study has also found that Scotland has a high proportion of the population going into higher and tertiary education – which ONS chief economic adviser Joe Grice has described as “…just about the highest in the world”.
Mr Grice also went on to say that these figures are “quite strong indications of a skilled workforce in Scotland.”
Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said:
“These figures are a welcome endorsement of the strength of Scotland’s world-class education sector – and an example of the Scottish Government’s commitment to our education system paying dividends.
“In Scotland we are committed to delivering a first class education based on the ability to learn rather than the ability to pay – which is exactly why the proportion of people in Scotland going into higher and tertiary education is ‘just about the highest in the world’.
“That the ONS has also pointed out that these figures indicate the strength and skills of Scotland’s workforce confirm one of the most important underlying strengths of the Scottish economy – and shows that Scotland has what it takes to be a successful, prosperous, independent country.
“With a YES vote we can build on this progress and further strengthen our education system – ensuring that education remains free and the experience of students in Scotland is not hampered by the cuts coming down the line from Westminster.”