MACDONALD WELCOMES PLANS FOR NEW FORTH VALLEY COLLEGE FALKIRK CAMPUS

 

 

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has welcomed further detail following the announcement by Scottish Government Finance Secretary John Swinney that Forth Valley College is to receive a significant share of a £140 million NPD (Not for Profit Distribution) investment to develop a new college campus in Falkirk. 

It is proposed the new campus will be built on the site of the College’s existing Middlefield Building which is scheduled to be demolished between November 2014 and March 2015.  

The announcement will allow the college to progress to a full business case for the new campus and will kick start consultation with partners, employers and the local community.

The plans will be developed in partnership with the Scottish Futures Trust and the Scottish Funding Council.

 

Welcoming the further detail, Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald said:

 

“I am over the moon that the funding has been secured for a new Falkirk campus for Forth Valley College. There have been some disappointments along the road to securing funding however many people have been working behind the scenes to ensure this result. Indeed, I have lobbied the Education Secretary Mike Russell myself on a number of occasions, who has been very aware of the need for a new campus in Falkirk.

 

“Our SNP Scottish Government has shown yet again that it is a listening government and has delivered once more for Falkirk district in what will no doubt be a significant boost for students, staff and the wider community”.

 

Dr Ken Thomson, Principal of Forth Valley College said:

“This is fantastic news and will allow us to complete the final part of the jigsaw in our estates development strategy.   We aim to offer the very best to all our learners and a new Falkirk Campus will provide modern, inspiring learning environments similar to those which are already available at our Alloa and Stirling Campuses.    

“As part of a regional approach, we will create a state-of-the-art campus with clear links to local employment opportunities.  This is a very exciting development for the Falkirk area and we look forward to delivering a new campus which will meet local needs.”

The image shown above is an artist's impression of what the new campus may look like.

 

MACDONALD’S ANGER AS FIGURES SHOW 21% OF FALKIRK DISTRICT’S CHILDREN LIVE IN POVERTY

 

WESTMINSTER’S FAILURES ON CHILD POVERTY ‘A DISGRACE’

POWERS TO TACKLE POVERTY AND INEQUALITY SHOULD BE IN SCOTLAND’S HANDS

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has reacted angrily to a report which shows 21% of children in the Falkirk Council area are living in poverty.

The new report has highlighted the ‘disgraceful’ extent of child poverty in Scotland – and shows exactly why powers over the economy and welfare should be in Scotland’s hands, rather than Westminster’s. 

The report by the Campaign to End Child Poverty confirms that one in five children in Falkirk district now live below the poverty line – with child poverty growing by three per cent in the last year as the impact of Westminster’s cuts agenda continues to hit families and communities across the country.

Today’s report follows on from previous figures showing that Westminster’s policies could force another 100,000 children in Scotland into poverty by 2020.

Commenting, Falkirk East’s SNP MSP Angus MacDonald said:

“That one in five children live in poverty in a wealthy, energy rich country like Scotland is nothing short of scandalous. We’re one of the richest countries on earth and yet thousands of children grow up in poverty and inequality continues to grow – this is an unacceptable and unsustainable state of affairs that is only worsening as Westminster’s austerity agenda continues to hit.

“This is exactly why the powers to tackle poverty and inequality should be in Scotland’s hands rather than in the hands of a distant Westminster establishment which is engaged in a systematic and relentless attack on the poor.

“With substantial economic and welfare powers in Scotland’s hands we can take strong action to replace poverty with opportunity and to replace austerity with prosperity – ensuring that every child in Scotland has the same opportunities in life regardless of their background and that Scotland’s wealth is reinvested for the benefit of everyone who lives here.

“For too long poverty has been accepted as an inevitability by Westminster - while Tory and Labour politicians choose to spend tens of billions of pounds on nuclear weapons while cutting the services ordinary people rely on and attacking the welfare state.

“The fact that Tory conference cheered as George Osborne announced his latest round of cuts which will hit working families is a chilling reminder of the attitude of the Westminster parties to social justice – the race to the right between Labour and the Tories amounts to nothing less than a shameless and sustained attack on the poor.”

 

MacDonald makes Parliamentary call for register of interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

Speaking in the Holyrood chamber during a Parliamentary debate on a register of interests for Scotland’s Judiciary, Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has called on the Scottish Government to introduce safeguards to ensure members of Scotland’s judiciary are above reproach.

The debate in the Scottish Parliament arose from a petition to the Public Petitions Committee, which Mr MacDonald serves on.

The petition calls for all members of Scotland’s judiciary to be subject to a full and publicly available register of interests. It envisages the creation of a single, independently regulated publicly available source containing current information on judges’ backgrounds and financial interests, details of recusals and any other information that is routinely lodged in registers of interests across all walks of public life in the UK and further afield.

During the debate, Angus MacDonald said:

“Given that we as elected members and legislators are expected and obliged to declare our interests, I do not see why members of Scotland’s judiciary should be treated any differently.

“However, I am not suggesting that anything untoward is going on anywhere, but surely, to ensure that no such suggestions can ever be made in future, we must look at creating a system that gives the general public peace of mind. Thankfully, accusations of bias are rare, but situations of perceived bias are not unknown”.

Following the debate Angus MacDonald said:

This issue is not about having confidence in the judiciary but about ensuring that everything is above board.

If politicians have to register and declare our interests, I see no reason why members of Scotland’s judiciary should not be subject to a full and publicly available register of judicial interests.

I have called on the Scottish Government Minister Roseanna Cunningham and the Lord President, Lord Gill, to take the petitioner’s suggestions on board, which would help to allay concerns among the wider public in Scotland”.

Text of speech by Angus MacDonald MacDonald MSP :

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP):

“I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and, not least, to congratulate the petitioner, Peter Cherbi, on being bold enough to bring the petition to the Public Petitions Committee. Not many people are willing to take on the might of the judiciary.

As we have heard, the petition calls for all members of Scotland’s judiciary to be subject to a full and publicly available register of interests. It envisages the creation of a single, independently regulated publicly available source containing current information on judges’ backgrounds and financial interests, details of recusals and any other information that is routinely lodged in registers of interests across all walks of public life in the UK and further afield.

Given that we as elected members and legislators are expected and obliged to declare our interests, I do not see why members of Scotland’s judiciary should be treated any differently.

During our deliberations, the committee learned of a similar proposal in New Zealand, which the convener of the committee mentioned. A member’s bill sponsored by Green MP Dr Kennedy Graham was proceeding through the parliamentary process as we were deliberating on the petition. However, I believe that the bill was subsequently withdrawn following agreement with members of the House of Representatives and the New Zealand Government.

Dr Graham explained to our committee that the motivation for the bill was

“to seek to ensure that judges are assisted through institutional means, rather than relying purely on personal discretion & judgement, in determining whether they should handle a case or not. The bill would protect them from accusations or insinuations that their judgement was poor.”

It was envisaged that it would

“promote ... confidence in the judiciary”,

especially if it showed that the judicial system was above reproach.

Any member of the public watching the debate this afternoon would be entitled to ask, “What on earth is wrong with that?” As I have said, I would be inclined to agree with them.

However, it would seem that the judiciary is not exactly keen on the idea of such a register. I put on record my disappointment, as the committee as a whole did, at the lack of engagement between the full committee and the Lord President, Lord Gill. Given the spirit of openness and transparency that we in the Parliament so readily hold in high regard, it was a clear snub to the committee when Lord Gill refused to appear in public. If a register of interests is to be resisted by the judiciary, it must be borne in mind that nothing undermines public confidence in a nation’s institutions and procedures more than a suspicion that a public servant may have suffered a conflict of interest arising from, for example, a financial engagement in a particular dealing in which one was professionally involved.

I am not suggesting that anything untoward is going on anywhere, but surely, to ensure that no such suggestions can ever be made in future, we must look at creating a system that gives the general public peace of mind. Thankfully, accusations of bias are rare, but situations of perceived bias are not unknown.

I stress, in response to Jackson Carlaw’s comments, that the matter before us is not about having confidence in the judiciary but about ensuring that everything is above board. I note the minister’s comment that the current safeguards are sufficient and her observation that no amendments on the subject were lodged in advance of Tuesday’s stage 3 debate on the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. However, as the decision is for Lord Gill, an amendment to that bill should not be required.

If we as elected members have to register and declare our interests, I see no reason why members of Scotland’s judiciary should not be subject to a full and publicly available register of judicial interests.

I once again congratulate Peter Cherbi on bringing the situation to the attention of the Parliament, and I hope that the Scottish Government and the Lord President will reconsider and take the petitioner’s suggestions on board, which would help to allay concerns among the wider public in Scotland”.

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2014

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