Time to focus on our Constituencies

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This week sees Parliamentary recess begin again, giving us MSP’s some time to focus on our Constituencies. I have meetings and appointments planned throughout the Constituency, and if at any point you would like to meet with me, please contact my office via 01467 631364.

I am absolutely delighted to announce that The Disabled Persons’ Parking Badges (Scotland) Bill, commonly known as the Blue Badge Bill which I introduced last year has now received Royal Assent by Queen Elizabeth. Royal Assent is the final step in the legislative process that formally instates a Bill into law.

The main provision of the Bill is the strengthening and extending of powers to local authorities to enforce laws against Blue Badge misuse. Local authorities will now have the ability to designate certain persons (other than parking attendants in uniform) to cancel or confiscate a badge in fraud or misuse of a Blue Badge.

Blue Badge violations have been, and continue to be, a major infringement on the rights of people with disabilities, and I am pleased that this very necessary legislation has come into effect to uphold their rights to accessible parking spaces. I look forward to our outreach efforts to fully implement the law in the coming months.

As ever we have been extremely busy in Parliament. Last week we were joined by some guide dog puppies. The puppies along with their walkers and trainers were invited to the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness for guide dogs week. Guide Dogs Week is an annual fundraising, awareness building week which this year ran from October 4 to 12.

It was fantastic to meet with some of the staff from Breast Cancer Care Scotland while they were in Parliament, information about how to check your breasts can be found at www.breastcancercare.org.uk.

I welcome the news that use of General licences is to be restricted with evidence of wildlife crime. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) will prevent the use of general licences to trap or shoot wild birds on land where there is evidence of wildlife crime against birds.

Decisions will be made on the basis of strong evidence provided by Police Scotland, and will be based on a civil standard of proof, rather than the criminal standard of proof.

The new measure complements other recent actions to reduce wildlife crime, including vicarious liability for offences against wild birds, which was introduced in 2011, and the review of penalties for wildlife crime offences that is currently underway.

Restrictions will prevent people from using the general licences on the land in question for three years. This period will increase if more evidence of offences comes to light.

The illegal persecution of raptors is totally unacceptable and barbaric given typically it is associated with great suffering on the part of the birds when they are illegally killed. It is also, quite rightly, roundly condemned by all responsible land managers and those in the conservation community. I am both angry and very frustrated that a criminal minority continues to kill and persecute these magnificent birds for their own selfish ends.

Nature-based tourism is worth £1.4 billion a year to Scotland’s economy.

The Scottish Government is committed to working strongly in partnership with Police Scotland, and other members of the Partnership for Action against Wildlife crime Scotland (PAWS) to stamp out wildlife crime in Scotland.

The growing support and membership for the SNP is fantastic and I am very confident that the energy and enthusiasm our members have will help lead the party and Scotland to greater things. We will continue to hold the Westminster parties to ‘The Vow’ – and the people of Scotland are waiting for it to be honoured. It is vital the Scottish Parliament is given full powers over tax and welfare.