This week Ruth:
• Joined campaigners and politicians from all of Scotland’s parties apart from the Conservatives outside Holyrood to protest the Tory imposed family cap and ‘rape clause. The family cap limits tax credits to only two children per family – unless the mother can prove that a third child was conceived as a result of rape or during an abusive relationship. Many sexual violence support charities such as Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid have said they will refuse to act as third party verifiers for the UK government, not least due to the trauma and stigma that the rape assessment process will cause both survivors and children of rape. SNP MP Alison Thewliss has led the campaign to scrap the grotesque two child policy and rape clause, and has received cross-party support with the exception of the Tories.
• Wrote to West Scotland Tory MSPs, Jamie Greene, Maurice Corry, and Maurice Golden calling on them to stop acting as mere mouthpieces for the UK government and oppose the shocking and inhumane two child limit and rape clause – and then blasted the misinformation and factual inaccuracies in their joint statement in response and called on them to clarify their false claims. The three Tory MSPS claimed that women applying for an exemption through the rape clause, by proving that they have been raped, will be ‘offered appropriate support from experienced third-party professionals who will be able to confirm that exceptions should apply.’ But, in reality, not a single third party agency in Scotland is willing to verify a woman’s claim to have been raped for the purpose of obtaining benefits. They also claim that the two child cap policy is ‘something which the majority of people think is fair’ – whilst setting out no supporting evidence for this statement, and ignoring the fact that every party in the Scottish Parliament, with the exception of the Scottish Tories, has unequivocally condemned the two child cap policy, and that Scotland did not vote for the UK Tory Government which introduced the policy.
• Became a member of Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee in an Easter reshuffle. After serving on the Local Government and Communities Government between September 2016 and March 2017, Ruth attended her first meeting as a member of Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee on Wednesday 19th April. The role of the Education and Skills committee is to consider and report on matters falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, including areas such as early years and childcare, schools and teaching, further and higher education, and child protection and looked after children. At the meeting on Wednesday 19th April, the Committee took evidence from Russell Gunson, Director of Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)Scotland, on the IPPR report Equipping Scotland for the future: Key Challenges for the Scottish Skills System. Ruth questioned Mr Gunson on the challenges around learners and employers being able to co-design learning along with providers – a recommendation in the report.
• Held MSP advice surgeries to listen to and help consituents in Castlepark and in her Irvine Office
• Secured a detailed survey into the A737 at Dalgarven in response to the serious and longstanding safety concerns of local residents. On 3rd March 2017, Ruth held a site meeting and walkover attended by Transport Scotland, Scotland TransServ, Police Scotland, and a number of residents and business owners. Following this meeting, Transport Scotland instructed their Operating Company, ScotlandTranserv, to conduct an investigation into the A737 at Dalgarven to identity potential measures to improve safety, reduce risk, and ensure safer travel. Transport Scotland have advised that the study is intended to begin towards the end of July this year and take 3-4 weeks to complete, with a report expected by September.
• Attended a parliamentary reception hosted by the Public and Commercial Services Union Scotland (PCS) to gain insight into their views on how Scotland should build a social security system based on dignity and respect. The PCS is the largest trade union representing the civil service workforce in both the UK and Scotland, including over 51,000 in the Department for Work and Pensions, and is well placed to positively participate as Scotland develops its own social security system. The PCS is committed to working with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to ensure that Scotland creates a social security system that ‘truly works for those in need of social security, and for the workers administrating it.’ Amongst the key recommendations discussed at the reception were that ‘dignity and respect should be extended to those employed to deliver social security as well as those in receipt of it’, through, for example, ensuring that workers have decent pay, terms and conditions, and ensuring that Scotland has a welfare system ‘based on need and not moral judgements.’