Lib Dems respond to “troubling” dip in College qualification attainment

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has voiced concern about the “troubling” dip in college qualification attainment, as new data released today revealed that the number of full-time college students successfully completing their course decreased in 2018-19 and attainment targets were missed.

The percentage of students successfully achieving a recognised qualification in 2018/19 did not meet Scottish Funding Council Targets. The further education target of 73.2% success was only met by one college, and the higher education target of 74.4% success was again, only met by one college.

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Wishart calls on Government to halt Air Traffic Control Centralisation

Today, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart led a debate in the Scottish Parliament on HIAL’s plan to introduce remote towers and centralisation of air traffic control to Inverness. Ms Wishart used her speech to call on the Islands Minister to halt the controversial project which has raised concerns across the Highlands and Islands.

Ms Wishart told Parliament that HIAL is “pushing on” with the plans despite “genuine concerns” that have been raised by stakeholders, including Air Traffic Controllers, about safety and resilience of remote towers and the lack of consultation.

Ms Wishart highlighted Liberal Democrat research showing that there were 79 incidents involving degradation of air traffic control communication between 2013 and 2018, raising concerns about the suitability of cost of introducing remote towers to the Highlands and Islands. Ms Wishart also highlighted a survey from Prospect Union which found that 94% of its members oppose the remote towers plan and that 82% would be more likely to seek to leave HIAL if it was implemented and the lack of meaningful consultation with staff thus far.

Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, reiterated the need for modernisation of air traffic control services ahead of new air space regulations and encouraged HIAL to continue to engage with stakeholders as the project develops.

 

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Wishart welcomes approval of new treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has welcomed news the Ocrelizumab has been approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium for use in NHS Scotland.

Ocrelizumab is used to reduce and slow the symptoms of adults with early primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). It is the first disease modifying treatment for PPMS to be made available on the NHS in Scotland.

Ms Wishart has welcomed the decision as an important step which offers hope for individuals affected by PPMS and their families.

MS is a life-long condition in which the immune system attacks the brain or spinal cord causing symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and visual and memory problems. Shetland has a higher rate of people living with multiple sclerosis than in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

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Wishart to bring air traffic control centralisation debate to Holyrood

Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart is set to lead a debate in parliament highlighting ongoing concerns over plans to centralise air traffic control services across the Highlands and Islands.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently made clear their opposition to proposals which would see air traffic controllers removed from airports across the region and replaced with a single, ‘remote’ tower based in Inverness.

The controversial plans were first brought forward by HIAL’s management over two years ago, since when serious questions have been raised about the cost, reliability and impact on local jobs. While it is widely accepted that modernisation of air traffic control infrastructure is needed across the region, HIAL’s own consultants acknowledged that the ‘remote tower’ model was the most ‘costly’ and ‘risky’ of the options available.

Shetland’s MSP has now lodged a motion in parliament that will see a debate on the issue take place later this month.

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Northern Isles MSPs Criticise Government Failure to Deliver on R100 Commitment

Northern Isles MSPs, Liam McArthur and Beatrice Wishart, have today (Thursday) criticised the government’s failure to meet their commitment to delivering superfast broadband to all premises in Orkney and Shetland by 2021.

Mr McArthur and Ms Wishart were responding to a statement in parliament by the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, on the roll out of the government’s R100 programme.

During the statement, Mr Wheelhouse announced that the majority of the R100 programme would be delivered in the South and Central Lots by 2023 but failed to provide any timescale for the North Lot.

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Wishart questions government on “exponential” ASN teacher workload increase

The MSP for Shetland Beatrice Wishart took to the Scottish Parliament’s chamber to challenge the Scottish Government on what it is doing to address the increasing workloads of Shetland’s Additional Support Needs teachers.

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Wishart encourages over 55s to take part in Age Scotland Housing Survey

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is encouraging over 55s in Shetland to respond to Age Scotland’s housing survey. The national charity for older people is seeking the views of older people about their housing needs and household energy usage to help shape future Scottish Government policy.

Scotland’s population is ageing at a faster rate than the rest of the UK and a quarter of Scotland’s population set to be over 65 by 2043. The Scottish Government has pledged to build 50,000 new homes by the end of this Parliament, and Age Scotland wants to ensure the government have as much information as possible about the housing needs of older people to ensure the right kinds of homes are being built.

It is hoped that the findings from this survey will help to shape the Scottish Government’s housing policy as it relates to older people, with a view to how to help people live well and independently in their own or new home for as long as possible.

 

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Resources needed to realise aims of National Island Plan

Beatrice Wishart MSP today called on the Scottish Government to ensure that the National Islands Plan is backed up with adequate resources to meet the needs of island communities, having raised in Parliament the issue of road infrastructure in Shetland. Improving transport services is a strategic objective of the Proposed National Islands Plan.

Ms Wishart asked the Transport Secretary what support will come from the Plan to help fund rural road upgrades in Shetland as several roads have been identified as requiring upgrades.

The Minister replied that the transport connectivity is being addressed through the National Transport Strategy, currently at draft stage, but that it is up to local authorities to make any improvements.

Earlier today, Island Minister, Paul Wheelhouse appeared before the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s evidence session on the Plan. Mr Wheelhouse was questioned on the lack of detail in the plan and the lack of clarity on funding that will be available to fulfil the 13 strategic objectives.

 

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Wishart calls on Scottish Government to reimburse childcare costs

Following the news that 139 applications for deferred entry Early Learning and Childcare funding have been rejected by local authorities this year, Scottish Liberal Democrats have called on the Scottish Government to reimburse parents who have been forced to self-fund an additional year of childcare because they exercised the right to defer their child starting primary school.

Following the campaign run by ‘Give them Time’, the Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd, made a commitment last month “to introduce legislation to entitle all children whose school start is deferred to access funded early learning and childcare in their deferred year”.

The figures published today, however, show that there are parents who have requested such funding for the current academic year and have been rejected.  

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Shetland Times Column 01.11.19

With the Scottish Parliament having been in recess for a couple of weeks, I want to take the opportunity to highlight an important campaign that I am delighted to be supporting.

You may have read about Shaunee Jamieson’s story in the Shetland Times a few weeks ago. Shaunee is a mid-wife from Sandwick, now living in Aberdeen. She lived with chronic pain for years before being diagnosed and starting treatment for endometriosis. Shaunee has started a petition to the Scottish Government, with the help of Endometriosis UK, for menstrual wellbeing to be taught in all Scottish schools.

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