Mary listesn to local teachers on P1 tests
20th September 2018

Mary Fee MSPMary Fee MSP has welcomed a vote in the Scottish Parliament which calls on Primary 1 testing to be scrapped and refers to concerns raised by local teachers during her debate speech.

On Wednesday 19th September the Scottish Parliament voted 63 votes to 61 to scrap the Scottish National Standardised Assessment’s for Primary 1 pupils following recent concerns around the impact the tests are having on children and teaching time.

Mary, who voted to scrap the tests for 4 and 5 year olds, has welcomed the result and called it a win for Primary 1 children, their parents and all teaching staff. It has been reported that children are being left in tears and full of anxiety when taking the test and teachers are spending up to 50 hours in teaching time carrying out the tests.

During Mary’s speech she referenced emails she has received from teachers in Renfrew, Bishopton and Inverclyde who oppose the standard assessments for 4 and 5 year olds. The Labour MSP has been contacted by parents and teachers across West Scotland in recent months about the negative impact the tests are having.

Scottish Labour has called on the Scottish Government to act upon the will of the Parliament scrap the tests as it has been instructed to do following reports that the Cabinet Secretary for Education would ignore the result of the vote.

It was these reports that forced Mary Fee to call out the Cabinet Secretary’s arrogance during the debate and question why he knows more about teaching than teachers with decades of experience.

Speaking during the debate, the West Scotland MSP said “The idea that children as young as 4 and a half years old are being assessed in our schools is absurd.  Children in Primary 1 should learn in a stress-free and welcoming environment with constant support from teachers and support workers.  Instead of teachers teaching, we waste resources that are already stretched in carrying out useless tests of 4 and 5 year olds.”

After the vote result was announced, Mary said “We are elected to serve the people and deliver what they want. In voting to scrap these tests that is precisely what all opposition MSP’s done. As I said during the debate, Scottish Labour has no problem with teachers assessing pupils; teachers assess pupil’s learning every day using a whole variety of techniques and diagnostic methodologies, and deploying their professional expertise to do so.  The Scottish Government must now act on the will of the Scottish Parliament and scrap these unnecessary tests.”

Mary Fee MSP backs call to scrap Primary 1 tests
17th September 2018

Mary Fee MSPMary Fee MSP will vote today to scrap the standardised testing of 4 and 5 year olds in Primary School after concerns have been raised in recent weeks and months about the negative impact the tests are having on children and the time teachers are forced to waste on the tests.

West Scotland MSP Mary Fee is backing calls to scrap the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA’s) for Primary 1 pupils following serious concerns raised by parents and teachers over the impact the tests are having on children.

Mary has labelled the tests as unnecessary and damaging to 4 and 5 year olds emotional wellbeing after reports of children suffering anxiety and being left in tears whilst taking the SNSA’s. Trade Unions representing teachers have also highlighted the high number of hours’ teachers are forced to waste on carrying out the tests.

The SNSA’s were introduced by the SNP Scottish Government last year after they abolished the Scottish Literacy and Numeracy Survey, which showed falling rates of children learning to read, write and count in Scotland.

As Scottish Labour’s Deputy Education Spokesperson, Mary will close the debate scheduled for Wednesday afternoon called for by the Conservatives. The SNSA’s for Primary 1 pupils have only the support of SNP MSPs, with Scottish Labour, Greens, Lib Dems and Tories all uniting in opposition to the introduction of testing primary 1 pupils.

Speaking ahead of the debate and vote in the Scottish Parliament, Mary Fee MSP said “I welcome the opportunity to put the concerns of parents, teachers and education professionals to the Scottish Government during the debate. I will be voting to scrap the Scottish National Standardised Assessments for 4 and 5 year olds to allow them to learn in a friendly and supportive environment.  In recent months it has been well documented the damaging impact these tests are having on such small children and as a Parliament, we must put the needs of children first, as well as listen to parents and teachers, and scrap these unnecessary tests.”

End austerity and invest in services to prevent suicides says Mary Fee MSP
14th September 2018

Mary Fee MSPMary Fee MSP has called for early intervention, better mental health services for children and young people and an end to austerity to prevent suicides during a debate on the publication of the Scottish Government’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

The debate in the Scottish Parliament came two days after World Suicide Prevention Day 2018 and Mary, as Scottish Labour’s Mental Health Spokesperson, lead the debate on the new Suicide Prevention Action Plan: Every Life Matters, almost two years since the previous action plan expired.

In opening for Scottish Labour, Ms Fee called for greater support for every family that is affected by suicide and called on all MSPs to work together to ensure well-funded mental health services are available to those suffering in silence.

The debate followed the publication of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) statistics showing that more children and young people are waiting longer for access to treatment and Mary warned that more children will suffer if the right access and funding is not in place.

Mary’s amendment, which referred to CAMHS and the review of mental health services in Tayside, to the original Scottish Government motion was successfully passed by all MSPs.

Speaking in the debate Mary said “Behind every statistic on suicide is a loved one, family and community that faces the sad reality that a suicide was not prevented. All suicides are preventable in some way and people who have died from suicide did not need to suffer in silence or alone.  We must send a message to families that are affected by suicide that we will endeavour to prevent their suffering from happening to others because every life matters.  In times of austerity-driven public policy, it has remained harder to ensure that funding is available. That is why we must end austerity; we must invest in health and other public services that help to identify, reach out to, and support people who are at risk of suicide.  It is disheartening that the most recent child and adolescent mental health services statistics reveal a record low performance on waiting times for children and young people who access mental health services."

SNP Council Bosses spend £3,000 on Civic Reception after cutting School Meals
28th June 2018

Councillor Jim SheridanLabour Councillor Jim Sheridan has criticised Renfrewshire Council’s SNP ruling group after they committed £3000.00 of Council taxpayer’s money to host a Civic Reception for Baron Duncan Paisley of Westerlea after cutting funding for school dinners in Renfrewshire’s schools.

The Labour Councillor for Linwood, Houston and Crosslee has also blasted SNP Council bosses after they rejected a plea from the Labour opposition group to explain why they are holding this reception.

Speaking today Councillor Sheridan said, “A reception for this obscure person and his equally obscure relationship to Paisley and Renfrewshire is puzzling and the Provost of Renfrewshire, whom is ultimately responsible for this decision has refused to enter into dialogue. What does she have to hide?”

Councillor Sheridan carried on saying, “Coincidently the Civic Reception coincides with an international gathering of Clan Paisley over the same weekend. A gathering of ex-pats who love the country so well they left our shore for pastures new.”

A request from Renfrewshire Council’s Labour Group to obtain the list of 90 guests who will be enjoying tax-payer funded three course meal has been refused by SNP Councillors.

Councillor Sheridan said, “This is the same Council administration that just recently voted to increase the cost of school meals but won’t tell the public the names of those attending the lavish dinner that they are paying for. Whilst it is right that the Council welcomes visitors to Renfrewshire it is not appropriate for the SNP to ask Council taxpayer’s to foot the bill and them keep them in the dark. This smells of misuse of taxpayers money for political purposes and the SNP administration should be held to account. The spending of taxpayers money should be open and transparent. After all what do they have to hide? Please contact your local SNP Councillor and ask them.”

Mary Welcomes Passing of Pardons Bill
7th June 2018

Mary Fee MSPWest Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour Equalities Spokesperson Mary Fee MSP has welcomed the passing a Bill in the Scottish Parliament which will pardon and disregard the criminal convictions of gay and bisexual men who were criminalised for simple being who they were.

The Scottish Parliament unanimously voted for the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill on Wednesday 6th June and Scottish Labour’s Mary Fee MSP has welcomed the move after speaking in the debate preceding the vote calling the Bill “a historic and critically important piece of legislation.”

Commonly known as the Pardons Bill, thousands of gay and bisexual men will receive pardons for any criminal convictions which were forced on them for engaging in consensual homosexual relationships. The decriminalisation of consenting sexual activity between men in Scotland was decriminalised in 1981 – 14 years after decriminalisation in England and Wales.

Mary has also secured a commitment from the Scottish Government to write to the families of deceased men who were criminalised apologising and posthumously pardoning – with each letter hand-signed by the First Minister. The Labour MSP hopes this will offer some comfort to the families of men who faced discrimination, stigma and hurt because of the wrong actions taken by the state at the time.

In closing the debate for Scottish Labour, Mary said “The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill is a historic and critically important piece of legislation. It is right that we acknowledge that Scots law acted in a repressive manner in its treatment of gay men. Until recently, the law in Scotland actively criminalised and discriminated against thousands of men on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Bill admits that the state was unequivocally wrong to treat gay men as criminals.  I am extremely pleased that the Scottish Government will look to put in place an administrative process that will provide the relatives of the deceased person with a letter of comfort. Most important is that each letter will be personally signed by the First Minister, which gives a clear statement that a wrong was done to the family’s relative.  It is evident that the legacy of convictions, fines and warnings as a result of the discriminatory laws that prohibited sexual activity between two men in Scotland has had an enduring, damaging and hurtful impact on thousands of men’s lives.  The bill also says much about the country that we aspire to be. It makes an important statement that Scotland is a country that firmly rejects discrimination and celebrates our LGBTI community, and supports them to be full and equal citizens who are treated with respect.”

Speaking after the vote, Mary said  “I am delighted that the Parliament has unanimously backed the Pardons Bill and this is an important step on the road to undoing the wrongs of history and building a more equal society. However, we cannot rest on our laurels as discrimination and inequality remain all too prevalent in society and we must continue to tackle them.”

SNP Education Cuts Causing Teaching Crisis
6th June 2018

Mary Fee MSPMary Fee MSP slams the Scottish Government after an annual survey carried out by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) shows that most teachers in Scotland wouldn’t recommend the profession.

An annual survey carried out by EIS shows the mess the SNP is making of Scotland’s education system as it is revealed that over a third of teachers said their workload has significantly increased and almost 60% would not recommend teaching as a profession.

Mary Fee MSP believes that this is a direct result of Scottish Government cutting funding to education and overseeing a fall in teacher number by over 3,500 since the SNP came to power.

The EIS survey also asked teachers to rate how satisfied they are with their jobs on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being least satisfied) with an average of 4 revealed.

The West Scotland MSP said that this rating by teachers on their own jobs is a testimony to the focus the SNP Scottish Government has on improving our education system and that the dismal rating gives little confidence for the future of teaching in Scotland.

Speaking from the Scottish Parliament, Mary Fee MSP said “Scottish Labour will always be on the side of teachers and pupils. That is why we are shocked by these figures from the EIS survey. The recruitment crisis in Scottish education is a result of the SNP cutting budgets and axing over 3,500 teachers from our schools and that has left majority of teachers telling us they are overworked and would not recommend teaching to anyone. Scotland’s once proud education record is being lost because of the choices made by the SNP and the survey is a testimony to the SNP record in Government.”

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.


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