21st February 2020

At the Education and Skills meeting on Wednesday committee members had the opportunity to ask further questions on the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill. It aims to reform current safeguarding legislation and one of the issues that has been looked at is around childhood convictions.

A misdemeanour which occurs during adolescence, for the vast majority of cases, should not follow a person around for the rest of their life. A spent childhood conviction that has to be disclosed in adulthood can prevent an individual reaching their full potential, and there is evidence that this has a more profound and negative effect on care-experienced people.

Children and young people are at the heart of the charity, The Miracle Foundation, who were in Parliament this week to highlight their bereavement and trauma support programme. They organise group and therapy sessions so young people can talk and express their feelings in schools and other “safe places”.

I recently met with a person in their forties who said that the last two decades have been lost to drugs and drink because of a trauma that happened in their teenage years. It is hard not to think how different that life could have been if early support had been available in their younger years, and it is why initiatives like the Anchor Project, run from the Sound School Hub, are so valuable.

A new Scottish Government Finance Secretary was appointed earlier this week. Having stepped in at short notice and ably delivering the Budget a couple of weeks ago, it was perhaps not surprising that Kate Forbes would take over the vacant post.

She is well qualified to do so. She also broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to deliver a Budget for the Scottish Government. I was pleased to be able to congratulate her in person and wish her well in her new role when Orkney MSP Liam McArthur and I met with her on Tuesday.

The meeting was to discuss the full and fair funding of the internal ferries in Orkney and Shetland. It has become an annual political football despite the principle having been accepted in 2018 that additional revenue resource was needed for the internal ferry services. Although there is some provision, it falls short, and that shortfall increases year on year, of what our lifeline services need.

Ms Forbes’ predecessor said in November 2014 that “the provision of transport services should not place a disproportionate financial burden on any council, particularly with reference to revenue support for ferry services”. It does, and the government should deliver.

Another government failure came to light this week when an update on the 4G Infill programme revealed that while the mast build process is underway at Reawick (oddly referred to as Selivoe), Foula and Skerries have been dropped because “no mobile operators have committed to using them.” So once again our most remote and vulnerable communities remain deprived of infrastructure services the central belt take for granted.

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