Labour Motion forces rethink on cuts to mobile library services
25th May 2018

Councillor Derek BibbyRenfrewshire's Labour Councillors have successfully forced Renfrewshire Leisure bosses to reconsider plans to withdraw mobile library services following a motion at a meeting of the full Council.

The motion tabled by Labour Councillors Derek Bibby and Carolann Davidson was opposed by the SNP administration but won backing from other parties.

Speaking at the meeting Councillor Bibby said scrapping the mobile library would affect elderly constituents and those who don’t have access to a computer.

Councillor Bibby was delighted the Labour motion won the support of a majority of Councillors and after the meeting said, “The provision of a library service in rural areas such as Kilbarchan and Howwood is crucial particularly to those who find it difficult to travel to central libraries in Paisley and Johnstone. This was simply a decision based on the need for Renfrewshire Leisure to save money and the withdrawal of the bus was bound to have a major impact on those who use the service.”

Councillor Bibby added “I am very disappointed that the SNP administration Councillors voted against bringing back the Mobile Library effectively abandoning those who use the service. I accept that there are other ways for people to access library books and materials but these need to be in the context of more resources, not less which cover the full spectrum of need.”

Renfrewshire Leisure which had announced the plans to withdraw the service at the end of April had agreed to rethink these proposals. The mobile library service was expanded in 2008 after a former SNP administration closed a number of local libraries as a cost cutting measure.

Mary leads debate on Gypsy/Traveller Culture
24th May 2018

Mary Fee MSPScottish Labour’s Mary Fee MSP calls for greater action to tackle discrimination against Gypsy/Travellers in a Members Debate initiated by Ms Fee praising the impact of Gypsy/Traveller culture in Scotland over the centuries.

Using a Members’ Debate in the Scottish Parliament, secured by votes of MSP’s from across the political spectrum, Mary Fee MSP raised the long-standing history of Gypsy/Traveller culture in Scotland which dates back to the 16th century.

The West Scotland MSP also used the debate to highlight the discrimination that the Gypsy/Traveller community faces, branding the discrimination as “the last bastion of so-called acceptable racism in Scotland”.

Mary Fee, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, has been a long-standing supporter of the Gypsy/Traveller community and has taken part in debates and inquiries to tackle the discrimination Gypsy/Traveller communities face, particularly in accessing public services.

The Gypsy/Traveller community is estimated to be around 15,000 in Scotland, although the community is not homogenous, with a distinct variety of groups such as Highland and Lowland Travellers, Occupational Travellers, Romanichals, Welsh Kale and Irish Travellers.

The first written evidence of the presence of Gypsy/Travellers in Scotland dates back to the early 16th century, however, as Mary raised in the debate, it is believed that the origins of Scotland Gypsy/Traveller population can be traced back to the Celtic age.

The Scottish Labour MSP praised the impact of Gypsy/Traveller culture in Scotland which includes storytelling, songs and language.

During the debate, Mary highlighted the discrimination that was revealed in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey which shows that a third of Scots would be “unhappy if a relative married or formed a long-term relationship with a Gypsy/Traveller” and that 1 in 3 questioned believed that a Gypsy/Traveller is unsuitable to be a primary school teacher.

Mary also gave anecdotal evidence of the abuse and discrimination Gypsy/Travellers face. In 2012 the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee invited a group of Gypsy/Traveller women to the Parliament for an event, however when they entered a restaurant on the Royal Mile, minutes away from Parliament, the manager asked them to leave based on the judgement he made that they were Gypsy/Travellers and refused them serviced.

Mary hopes that debate will allow MSP’s to hear about how the Parliament can work to raise the profile of Gypsy/Traveller discrimination in order to tackle the so-called last form of acceptable racism.

Speaking after the debate, Mary said “I was delighted to secure the support of MSP’s from across the Parliament for a Members’ Debate on Gypsy/Traveller culture and discrimination. There is a rich culture that the varied groups of Gypsy/Travellers have introduced in Scotland, going as far back as the 16th century. I have asked the Scottish Government on a regular basis what action it is taking to tackle the last bastion of so-called acceptable racism that the Gypsy/Traveller communities face. I am hopeful that the Government will listen to charities involved in tackling discrimination and take credible and serious actions. As a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee in 2012, I was horrified to hear of the experience of the Gypsy/Traveller women who we invited to Parliament when they went to a restaurant near Parliament. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey shows that discrimination against this minority group exists and it is worrying that 1 in 3 people would not accept a family member to be with a Gypsy/Traveller or have their children taught by a Gyspy/Traveller.

More support needed for bereaved parents says Mary Fee
9th May 2018

Mary Fee, Scottish Labour MSP for the West of Scotland, recently hosted an event in the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness of child bereavement. The event aimed to ‘break the silence’ around child bereavement and to highlight the lack of counselling and support services available to bereaved parents.

On Wednesday evening, seven charities, bereaved parents and over a dozen MSP’s attended the event in the Scottish Parliament, where there were calls for greater access to wide-ranging, free bereavement counselling throughout Scotland and awareness raised around child bereavement to tackle the taboo subject.

The West Scotland MSP informed guests and MSP’s in attendance of the challenges that face parents after the death of a child, particularly around access to counselling.

There are three keys issues that parents experience in trying to access support services. Firstly, there is no central resource to signpost bereaved parents to the appropriate counselling and support services. Secondly, there are few free counselling services in Scotland. This results in the third issue, which is the financial cost incurred by bereaved parents who have to pay to access private fee-charging counsellors.

Mary Fee welcomed guest speaker on the evening, Nicole Bowles, founder of the ‘Our Missing Peace’, a campaign which aims to break the silence around child bereavement by educating people about child death and supporting families who were struggling to cope with the death of a child.

Charities in attendance were Brightest Star, CHAS, Child Bereavement UK, Calum’s Cabin, Remember my Baby, Scottish Cot Death Trust and SiMBA.

Mary Fee MSP with Nicole Bowles founder of Our Missing Peace.Speaking after the event, Mary Fee MSP said “Child bereavement is a difficult subject to discuss. It is every parent’s worst nightmare and unfortunately for some, it is their lived reality. It is vitally important that we work both inside and outside of Parliament to break the silence around child death and bereavement. A variety of charities across Scotland carry out critically important work by providing support and counselling services to bereaved parents. However, the reality is, they are providing a service that they should be available in Scotland through the NHS. In Scotland there continues to be a major gap in supporting bereaved parents. There are too few free counselling services available to offer the necessary, vital support to bereaved parents in the days, weeks and months after the death of their child. I was delighted to host the event and bring together a number of charities and MSP’s. Without the charities and fantastic people like Nicole and Arlene, bereaved parents would be further missing out on vital support.”

Nicole Bowles of ‘Our Missing Peace’ said “Child Death is the scariest subject that anyone faces, it is every parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, children die daily. The taboo surrounding child loss leaves parents, who are living the reality of loss, feeling isolated and can greatly affect both physical and mental health. By Mary Fee MSP offering such an official, and public, platform helps people know that organisations are working tirelessly to support families and that parents are fighting to help others not feel alone. The event offered an amazing opportunity for MSPs to educate themselves on how the services can be supported and for the charities themselves to strengthen the network between them. The charities in Scotland are small in scale however they are packing an almighty punch and we could see just how much they are changing the world for bereaved families.”

Arlene Smith of Brightest Star added “Mary’s event was a great step forward for those who support bereaved families. Sadly, there is a massive gap in the services that are available to bereaved families through the public sector. It’s become the role of charities like ourselves to provide these vital services. The event was a fantastic opportunity for us to educate MPS on the issues surrounding child bereavement and the lack of support services and resources that are available. There is still a massive taboo around child bereavement and with the help of parliament, our voices can be heard and changes can be made.”

Cuts to Vital Bus Links
23rd February 2018

Labour Councillors today organised a public rally to give local people a chance to voice their concerns over cuts to McGills bus services in Linwood and Houston. From the 23rd March 2018 McGill bus services No. 19 and No. 8 are to cease.

Alison Dowling and Jim Sheridan, Labour Councillors for Houston, Crosslee and Linwood, have been inundated with constituent concerns that an area the size of Houston and Crosslee will have virtually no public transport link. With the growth in housing within the Houston area and increase in population, they argue there is a need to maintain if not increase public transport services, and that in Linwood, cutting the Johnstone bus link is unacceptable as this is a service that’s used by the elderly and those who depend on public transport for their shopping and other services. They are also unhappy about the environmental impact the loss of transport will have, forcing more car use in the area. The Councillors have written to Ralph Roberts, McGills managing director to express their concerns and have requested that the decision to cut the buses is reversed.

Local Labour Councillors, Neil Bibby MSP and local residents outside the Tweedie Hall in Linwood protesting the bus cuts.Councillor Alison Dowling said, “Losing these buses will remove the only public transport link from Houston and Crosslee to Paisley, the link for people who work in Paisley and for those attending the RAH. The service also provides a link for workers at the Inchinnan Business Park. The public transport link to Johnstone will become severely limited, including the vital link to Johnstone Train Station. The elephant in the room also needs to be addressed. Why are McGills allowed to operate in such a self-serving fashion? They appear to move into an area, then put up fares and cut services. We want the Scottish Government and the Traffic Commissioner to call this behavior to account”.

Councillor Jim Sheridan added: “The irony is, in Houston, Texas you can fly shuttles to the moon. In Houston, Renfrewshire, you can’t get a bus to Paisley. We ask local people to contact their MSP’s and the Traffic Commissioner to lodge their protest. Get your friends and family to support this effort too. We need to ask our elected representatives why our communities are being exposed to these bus route monopolies. De-regulation was supposed to give us more choice. Instead we’ve got no choice, and no buses either if you rely on the No.8 and 19”.

The public protest took place today Friday 23rd February from 11am to 11.30am, outside the Tweedie Hall in Linwood.

Encouraging Cyber-Resilience Key to Tackling Online Bully and Harassment
19th February 2018

Mary Fee MSP has joined politicians across the Scottish Parliament to call for more awareness to be made for children and young people to become more cyber-resilient online and on social networking websites to tackle bullying and harassment.

To mark Safer Internet Day on 6th February 2018, Scottish Labour’s Mary Fee spoke of the need to encourage children and young people to become more aware of the dangers of the internet and social media websites and to encourage parents to have more open debates with children around the advantages and disadvantages of the internet.

The motion debated in the Scottish Parliament warned that a major issue for young people today is the pressure to share intimate images online, leading to a rise in the number of children reported for sexual offences of 21%. The repercussions for the victims such as bullying, stigma and Mary Fee MSPharassment are well known, and the need to warn perpetrators of the consequences on their future careers, as well as the legal implications, were highlighted.

The West Scotland MSP also called for a connected approach to dealing with cyber-bullying and harassment that involved schools, parents, youth organisations and social media companies.

Speaking during the debate, Mary Fee MSP said “Children and young people today are connecting with each other in a wide range of ways that were not available to any other generation before, and as such we need to encourage open conversations with young people about the dangers of the internet and social media. Too many children and young people are being exposed to bullying and pressures online resulting in serious implications on mental health and social stigma.  The damaging and shocking increase in sexual offences committed by young people shows how we need a connected approach between Government, schools, parents, charities, youth organisations and most importantly social network companies to tackle the scourge of sharing private and intimate details between young people and so-called sexting.  We need to be more proactive as a society to encourage young people to become more cyber-resilient and encourage them to have open conversations when they have been subject to cyber-bullying or harassment.”

News from Councillor Jim Harte
9th February 2018

At a special council meeting, a motion put forward by the Labour Group to ask the the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Shona Robison, to reverse the decision to close Ward 15 at the RAH. The motion was carried by 21 votes 19 with support from the Independents, Lib Dem and the Tories. The SNP supported the closure.

The fight to re-instate the Multi Use Games Area (MUGA), at the new joint campus, continues with over 700 signatures on the online petitions. There will also be a chance to sign the petition at the local shops. There will also be stalls, where the petition can be signed, to raise awareness. The MUGA was in the original plans for the new joint campus, but has since been removed.

There are plans afoot to close the Erskine Bridge Hotel, demolish it and replace the area with housing. I understand that the owners of the hotel have been in talks with Persimmon Homes. No plans have been lodged with the Council, as yet, so watch this space.

Mary Fee MSP to Lead Labour’s Mental Health Focus
22nd January 2018

Mary Fee MSPMary Fee MSP has been appointed Scottish Labour’s Mental Health Spokesperson working in the Labour health team with Anas Sarwar MSP and has stressed her commitment for helping secure a better deal for mental health services, especially for children and young people.

Following Richard Leonard’s appointment as Scottish Labour Leader, West Scotland MSP Mary Fee has been given the role of leading Scottish Labour’s mental health policy.

It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience mental health problems and there is still stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health problems, as well as many myths about what different diagnoses mean.

Mary has committed to ensure that everyone who requires treatment for mental health will be seen by a trained professional and has committed to campaign to reduce the stigma and myths around mental health.

As well as leading the mental health portfolio, Mary will also be taking on education, skills, sport and equalities portfolios.

Speaking from her Paisley office, Mary said “I am delighted to be leading Scottish Labour’s mental health focus and I will be working with Anas Sarwar to ensure that treatment is available for those seeking it and campaign to tackle the stigma and myths of mental health.”

Welcoming Mary to the Labour health team, Anas Sarwar MSP, said “Mary is a great addition to the Scottish Labour health team and brings a wealth of experience and understanding of health issues. Mary has been a vocal campaigner for the protection of local health services, particularly in Paisley and Inverclyde, and that determination and drive to deliver for local communities will be a great asset to Scottish Labour’s health team.”

The opportunity of Apprenticeships must extend to all, says Mary Fee MSP
11th January 2018

Mary Fee MSPScottish Labour’s Mary Fee MSP has called on the Scottish Government and its agencies to assist more women, disabled and BME people to become apprentices and help them gain the highest level of Modern Apprentices qualification to reach their full potential.

During a debate in the Scottish Parliament, Mary Fee MSP welcomed new figures showing the Scottish Government has met its target to reduce youth unemployment by 40% four years earlier than planned.

The West Scotland MSP then called on the Scottish Government and its agencies to do more for female, disabled and Black and Minority Ethnic people to become apprentices and reach their full potential.

Statistic show that the majority of women are pigeon-holed in to certain apprenticeships and only 1.5% of construction roles go to women, with women dominating roles such as hairdressing & beauty and social care.

The quango responsible, Skills Development Scotland, also released statistic showing that women, disabled and BME apprentices are not starting the highest level of qualification compared to white males.

Speaking during the debate, Mary said “The Scottish Government must act now to improve the opportunities for female, disabled and BME young people and improve the opportunities for these apprentices to take on the highest levels and achieve their potential.

“If action isn’t taken, then we will find ourselves here next year repeating ourselves while young people are let down.”

Using her opportunity to speak in the debate, Mary also focussed also on the Scottish Government’s classification of zero-hours contracts as a so-called “positive destination” for young people leaving school and backed Labour’s calls for amend the methodology for monitoring the education, training and employment of young people.

Speaking about zero-hours contracts, Mary said “As we know, zero-hours contracts are not positive and the use of them leaves far too many Scots in temporary or insecure employment. The Government’s ‘Developing the Young Workforce’ strategy must be about developing young people, in-and-out of employment, and no use of zero-hours contracts will support the ambition of the strategy.”

Mary Fee MSP calls for an end to LGBT discrimination in Scottish sport
22nd September 2017

Mary Fee MSP leading the debate on ending LGBT discrimination in Scottish sport.Mary Fee, West of Scotland MSP, received cross-party support to hold a members’ business debate on ‘Tackling Homophobia in Scottish Sport’ in the Scottish Parliament. The debate follows recent research from Stonewall Scotland which highlighted the particular issue of LGBT discrimination in Scottish sport.

The issue of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Scottish sport has been increasingly highlighted by leading equality organisations, with reported incidents of homophobic behaviour at sporting events being 9 per cent higher in Scotland, compared to the rest of the UK.

Members of the Scottish Parliament from across the political divide united in the Scottish Parliament to condemn LGBT discrimination in Scottish sport and call for a shift in the culture of Scottish sport to ensure that it was open and accessible to all people, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Recent research by Stonewall Scotland revealed that a staggering 46 per cent of LGBT people do not find sporting events to be welcoming spaces, and more than one in ten LGBT people avoid going to the gym or participating in sports groups because of fear of discrimination and harassment.

During the debate, the Scottish Labour MSP highlighted research by Stonewall Scotland which revealed that a shocking 70 per cent of fans had heard homophobic abuse in the stands at a football game.

The statistics have prompted the Equality Network to launch the LGBT Sports Charter and Stonewall Scotland to establish their Rainbow Laces campaign to make football a more inclusive and welcoming sport for all.

The Equality Network’s LGBT Sports Charter currently has thirteen professional football clubs as signatories, including West of Scotland based Dumbarton FC, Celtic and Rangers, and Scottish football’s governing body, the SFA.

Speaking after the debate, Mary Fee MSP said “I would like to thank the Equality Network and Stonewall Scotland for all their work on eradicating LGBT discrimination and promoting inclusivity in Scottish sport.  I was delighted to take my motion ‘Tackling Homophobia in Sport’ to debate with thanks to MSP’s from all parties.  Despite the advances in LGBT rights over the last two decades, discrimination sadly still persists in all walks of Scottish society. Furthermore, it is clear that there is a particular issue with LGBT discrimination in Scottish sport.  I am pleased that thirteen professional Scottish football clubs and the sport’s governing body have signed up to the Equality Network’s LGBT Sports Charter, which aims to prioritise LGBT inclusivity in Scottish football.  I would strongly urge other professional football clubs and governing bodies to reach out to the Equality Network and to sign up.  It is vitally important that sports organisations take the lead in changing the culture in Scottish sports by tackling and eradicating LGBT discrimination, ensuring that all sports clubs, gyms and stadiums are modern, inclusive and welcoming to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Why SNP plans for Ferguslie development are wrong
19th September 2017

Labour Councillor Jim Sheridan has today criticised Renfrewshire’s SNP administration for watering down plans for a new sports facility in Ferguslie.
Councillor Jim Sheridan
Speaking today Councillor Sheridan said, “Today the SNP administration endorsed their proposals to dilute the previous labour administrations ambitious development plans for Ferguslie and the wider Renfrewshire community which in my view are short sighted.

Labours plans to develop the land surrounding Ferguslie would have generated a multi-use sports facility that would have benefited Renfrewshire’s residents and those beyond. Together with the public funding, private investment was secured for small businesses and other retail outlets that support local employment. What is even more disturbing is the Scottish Governments decision to invest £37 million in the leafy suburbs of Stirling, to support the elite sport of tennis, whilst the SNP administration denies, what where costed and progressive plans for one of the poorest communities in Scotland.

Affordable housing is crucial to our upcoming generation that is why I firmly believe that people will move to areas where quality services and facilities are available. Therefore labours approach would have encouraged private as well as public interest into providing affordable housing for those who need it. The Separatists portray an image of progressive politics, their actions prove the opposite.”

Labour accuse SNP of ditching its pre-election promise to voters to clean up Renfrewshire
12th September 2017

Councillor John HoodRenfrewshire Labour has accused the SNP administration of reneging on its election promise to clean up Renfrewshire by using its new "Team up to Clean up" programme which is asking communities across Renfrewshire to take the major lead and ownership in dealing with issues such as dog fouling, litter and fly tipping.

A series of local meetings are currently taking place to promote the strategy.

The Labour Group on Renfrewshire Council has been scathing in its response. Councillor John Hood, Labours Environmental spokesperson, said, "The cheek of the SNP really does take the breath away. Prior to the council elections in May they bombarded households across the county with leaflets that promised they would clean up Renfrewshire for the next 5 years, and that this would be their flagship policy ,yet barely 4 months on they are telling communities it is up to them to do the job."

Councillor Hood added, "Their pittance of an investment of £250,000 gives the game away ,as this hardly scratches the service. The SNP has changed the Do Your Bit Council policy to Do it Yourself.  This is not going down well, and if the SNP administration believes that hard working council tax payers are going to assume the responsibility for cleaning up Renfrewshire as opposed to the council, it has another think coming.  I and my colleagues ,fully appreciate the sterling work undertaken by various community groups in maintaining a good and clean environment, and others should be encouraged to do likewise. However, it needs to be a case of the council leading on these issues with the support of the community not the other way around.  The SNP needs to get on with the job which they promised before the election ,that is to provide the resources funding and manpower to clean up Renfrewshire and not abuse the goodwill of volunteers in the community. "

Renfrewshire Labour Councillors demand Full Council meeting over Day Centre Closures
22nd August 2017

Amid growing public outrage at the proposed closure of the day centres at West Lane Gardens in Johnstone and Whitehaugh in Paisley the Labour Group on Renfrewshire Council has called for the matter to be brought to a special meeting of the full council.

Renfrewshire Councillors have been bombarded with angry e-mails not only from service users and their Carers but also from members of the public. There has been both shock and dismay at the decision by Capability Scotland to cease providing the service.
Councillor Derek Bibby
Labour will demand that the Council take action ensure that this much service will continue. Councillor Derek Bibby Depute Labour Leader explained why Labour have called the special meeting.  "People who attend the centres who are the most vulnerable of our citizens were told of the closures on the 24th July. Over the last 4 weeks, which must have seen like an eternity to them, they have sought answers and reassurance from the SNP led council that their wishes to continue to attend these centres and receive the current service would be respected. They have received nothing of the sort and this uncertainty cannot continue.”

Councillor Bibby added, “I also suspect that plan was for the decision to be quietly ratified at the next meeting of the Integrated Joint Board for Health and Social Care as though it had nothing to do with the council. This would have meant that the fate of the service would have been confirmed by the voting members the 3 SNP and 1 Tory councillors and 4 non-elected health board representatives. This matter is far too important for that as there is no greater responsibility for a council than the best interests of its vulnerable people. All 43 councillors need to be the ones that their future Renfrewshire has a proud record of caring for people with a learning disability and there is no doubt in my mind that this should continue."

SNP silence over Day Centre closures is deafening say Renfrewshire Labour Councillors
17th August 2017

Councillor Derek BibbyAhead of the closures of the West Lane Gardens and Whitehaugh Day Centres by Capability Scotland the leader of the Labour Group on Renfrewshire Council Councillor Eddie Devine and Councillor Derek Bibby recently met with thirty Carers and Services users of these facilities to hear from them about their views on the decision to close the centres.

Labour Group Leader Eddie Devine said, “Shock and anger was prevalent amongst the feelings of the users of the day centres and this is understandable. I have written to the Council Leader Iain Nicolson to ask if his administration supports the closures and calling for clarification on what action will be taken to support those affected. So far the SNP groups silence in answering the concerns of the Carers and service users has been deafening.”

Councillor Derek Bibby said, “I have been informed that Councillor Jacqueline Cameron who is Convenor of Health and Social Care Policy Board was on holiday but has since returned and the Labour Group will be pressing for action to help ease the worry being felt by users of both these centres. The SNP administration cannot continue to allow some of Renfrewshire’s most vulnerable citizens to worry themselves sick over the uncertainty that currently persists. Elected members constantly talk about listening to and giving people choice. The choice of those people who attend these centres is to continue to do so. That choice should be respected.”


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