An SNP parliamentary delegation led by Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Alex Salmond MSP MP, has been visiting Tehran over the last few days opening a dialogue aimed at boosting economic and cultural links between Scotland and Iran.
The delegation of six also includes the SNP’s Holyrood Chief Whip Bill Kidd MSP, who co-chairs the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, and SNP Westminster Trade and Investment spokesperson, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP, who is vice-chairperson of the APPG on Iran.
Two members of staff are supporting the group as well as Azzam Mohammad - Director of the Ahl Al Bait Society in Scotland, whose knowledge of Iran and the the Middle East have been influential in preparing for the visit.
Speaking about the visit, Mr Salmond said:
“The international agreement with Iran and rapprochement with the West which has accompanied it is the single most positive development in international relations over the last year and the most important diplomatic achievement of the Obama administration.
“Now that Iran has taken these steps forward to return to international community, many countries have been pursuing the prospect of a new market place for their goods and a new trading partner.
“It is vital that Scotland is not left behind as our key strengths, particularly in education, agricultural technology and oil and gas and finance, are precisely what Iran will find useful after 25 years of sanctions.
“This mission, which involves talks with ministers from a range of portfolios including foreign affairs, education, agriculture and energy and the Governor of the Iranian Central Bank, is paving the way for an education and business delegation in the spring which will then be reciprocated by a similar group from Iran to Scotland.
“By establishing a dialogue based on the sound Scottish principle of enlightened self-interest, we are building a partnership that will serve both countries well for the future.”
Mr Kidd said:
“As a Co-President of PNND, with almost 900 Members of over 80 Parliaments world-wide, I am very pleased to be visiting the Islamic Republic of Iran at a time of great international importance.
“The news that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced that there is no evidence of a possible military dimension in Iran’s nuclear programme will open many possibilities for trade and cultural exchange, but also of major importance will be the opportunities for Iranian parliamentarians to engage with PNND and other global organisations working for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
“Scotland has a world-wide reputation, both civically and politically, for opposition to the continued existence of nuclear weapons both at home and internationally and the Scottish Government is both in favour of a nuclear weapons convention and of UN General Secretary, Ban Ki Moon’s Five-Point-Plan for a world free from nuclear weapons. We believe that Iran’s re-emergence on the world stage as a full international partner in the debate on nuclear disarmament can only enhance the prospects of achieving that goal, which is the aim of the great majority of nations and peoples across the globe.
“I have been discussing with parliamentarians and those from across civil society in Iran the benefits of becoming involved in giving their considerable capabilities to these initiatives of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament internationally and joining with their Scottish colleagues and those of other nations in achieving a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons.”
Ms Ahmed-Sheikh said:
“Reestablishment of formal links will go a great way to facilitating the process of restoring significant trade links between our countries. However, the SNP believes that we need to ensure that cultural, educational and economic links with Iran are strengthened to rebuild our bilateral relationship. One of the main purposes of this visit.
“We are also taking the opportunity in every ministerial meetings to raise human rights issues both international and domestic to Iran including gender equality.
“In particular, we believe the opportunity for developing educational links with Iran is huge. Currently, more than half of Iranians aged 18 to 24 are enrolled in some form of higher education in the country. Of these, around 85 percent of students pay privately for their education.
“Iranian parents annually spend more than 3 billion dollars supporting their children through Higher Education. Of the approximately 900,000 students who applied in 2011 for a master’s degree in Iran, only 60,000, or 6 percent of applicants, were accepted.
“The figures for PhD candidates are disappointing too: only 4 percent of those seeking a doctorate made it into a programme, leaving over 121,000 Iranian applicants disappointed.
“This would indicate a key area of investment within Iran, and an opportunity for educational institutions elsewhere to meet this demand. Educational partnerships will be good for us, and good for Iran.”
Alyn Smith MEP and Colin Beattie MSP have highlighted a new £40 million deal to support local businesses, courtesy of the European Investment Fund and credit facility iwoca.
The guarantee scheme will allow iwoca to lend to small businesses, backed financially by the European Commission. A small business can apply for funding under the programme at www.iwoca.co.uk, where the risk-platform automatically analyses thousands of data points for each application, meaning local businesses can be approved for up to £100,000 within a few hours.
“This is a fantastic boon for those Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs who need rapid access to finance to grow their business.
"At a time when credit can be hard to come by and cash flow remains the single biggest problem facing business, this scheme might not be for everyone but it has its place, and businesses in the constituency should certainly be aware of it."
“There is no doubting that small businesses can find it very difficult to get suitable funding. This is great news for those with the entrepreneurial spirit in Midlothian North and Musselburgh.
“I warmly welcome this scheme – and of course I wish the best of success to those businesses who apply!”
Last Friday (4 December 2015), Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, visited Dalkeith’s Tesco Superstore to help with their neighbourhood food collection for local foodbanks. Tesco has held regular foodbank collections since December 2012, so far donating a total of 27.5 million meals to local Trussell Trust foodbanks and regional FareShare depots to help feed people in need across the UK.
Tesco has expanded their efforts since beginning in 2012, extending the Neighbourhood Food Collection over three days instead of two, or to two weeks in smaller stores, and installing permanent food collection points in 500 of their stores countrywide. Since 2013 Tesco—working with FareShare and FoodCloud—has provided over 1,800 tonnes of food by donating surplus groceries at the end of the working day, reducing food waste and providing more than 4,000 meals to those in need.
Commenting, Colin Beattie said,
“I am delighted to help at Tesco’s Neighbourhood Food Collection this year in Dalkeith, and I give my thanks to all of the customers, volunteers, and staff who make such successful programmes like these possible.
In the past three months, 802 people in Midlothian alone have been referred to foodbanks, including 299 children. It is our moral duty to ensure that we do all we can to help those most in need, and food collections like these are making a real difference in people’s lives.”
Colin Beattie, MSP supports local people by raising awareness for those living with the daily struggle of a debilitating bowel disease
Local MSP Colin Beattie is supporting international Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week 1-7 December; highlighting the impact of living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis¹, the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). These are unpredictable diseases that affect more than 300,000² people in the UK and as many as 26,000 people in Scotland - a higher incidence rate than anywhere else in the UK.
National patient charity, Crohn’s and Colitis UK³, have joined other international groups to raise the awareness and understanding of these complex, life-long and potentially life-threatening conditions. Living with IBD can have a huge impact on every aspect of a person’s life, with serious physical and mental health implications.
Colin, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh said;
“Helping increase understanding as part of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week is a very important issue, as there are hundreds of people in our community who suffer from these hidden, often misunderstood and dreadful conditions. In this special week it’s particularly vital that we try and reach out to more people who may be feeling isolated or coping badly with their health.”
Living with IBD can be daily struggle, some symptoms of the diseases can be embarrassing and that can lead to people feeling isolated and suffering without adequate support. As part of the Awareness Week, Crohn’s and Colitis UK are asking people to share their 7 days of IBD and other activity through digital and social media to highlight what it is like to live with IBD every day. To find out more about the awareness week and all the activities please visit www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/awarenessweek