We’ve all been watching the images from Ukraine with a feeling of dread and helplessness in the face of Russian aggression. We had thought such conflicts were consigned to the history books. On Tuesday I attended a rally against the Russian invasion outside the National Gallery in Edinburgh with my party leader Alex Cole-Hamilton. Shetland has united in solidarity with Ukraine. People have not been slow in backing international aid projects before, especially those where children are involved and as the humanitarian crisis unfolds in Ukraine, with people fleeing to neighbouring countries, the spirit of generosity in Shetland once again shines. Kate Niescuir and others across Shetland have been smashing fundraising expectations as Shetlanders give almost £9,000 for those suffering in Ukraine within days. The link to Kate’s crowdfunding site can be found here.
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal is also raising funds in support of charities providing shelter, food, water and medicine.
SMS: Text SUPPORT to 70150 to donate £10 (You must be over 16)
It was good news that a UK-wide port ban for Russian tankers was enacted in time for the NS Champion to be blocked from Flotta, before its arrival in Orkney this week. In a letter to all UK ports late Monday afternoon the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, confirmed they should not provide access to any ship which they believe is: owned, controlled, chartered, or operated by any person connected with Russia, owned, controlled, chartered, or operated by Designated Persons, flying the Russian flag or registered in Russia. Stopping Russian vessels accessing Shetland ports will help to limit inadvertent funding of the Ukrainian invasion. More can be done by governments in the UK and across the world but this is a significant and symbolic step. We must do all we can to oppose Putin’s regime and support the Ukrainian people.
In the Rural Affairs, Islands and Natural Environment Committee this week members heard evidence from fishing organisations, environmental groups and an academic about the Scottish Government’s ‘cod box’ measures in the Clyde. This involves a closure of a specific area to fishing, intended to protect spawning cod. This year the measure has been changed to remove exemptions for nephrops trawlers, creels and scallop dredgers. Concerns were raised about the handling of the change, the impact on livelihoods and the lack of up-to-date scientific evidence regarding the size of the cod stock, their spawning locations and monitoring of the closure’s effectiveness. I asked the panel of fishing organisations how the handling of the change had impacted trust in Scottish Government decision-making, and heard from witnesses that their confidence in Marine Scotland’s implementation of policy is low, particularly given the sense that the scientific evidence to underpin the decisions is lacking. I am concerned about the issues raised and look forward to questioning the Cabinet Secretary on the ‘cod box’ closure changes next week.
On Tuesday I was able to raise the issue of dog welfare to help prevent livestock worrying with the Scottish Government asking what more action the government could take. ‘Latchkey’ dogs are those which are able to escape from private gardens leaving them at increased risk of dognapping, and in some cases they are responsible for livestock worrying without the knowledge of the owner. The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs responded that she would be happy to correspond with me on the subject also stating the importance and legal requirement for dogs to be microchipped. Last September I raised the issue of irresponsible dog owners and livestock worrying in the Rural Affairs Committee and was told the best means to ensure a well-trained dog was to place a lead on them in public alongside oral training. There are many responsible dog owners out there but it only takes one irresponsible one, or accidental means for a dog to get out, to have a devastating impact on livestock. It is distressing for the animals, and distressing for crofters and farmers who have to deal with the aftermath. Some dog owners don’t realise the impact there can be on a flock of pregnant ewes simply by walking near them with a dog but we must tackle this issue from all possible angles which is of particular significance during the approaching lambing season. My question can be seen here. You can read more about my question in September here.
This week Asthma and Lung UK was launched as a merger of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation. I am proud to be a lung health champion and support the efforts to tackle deaths from lung related conditions. Scotland has the third highest level of respiratory deaths in Western Europe. Too many people breathe toxic air, hospital admissions for lung conditions are rising and yet there are misconceptions that illnesses like asthma, bronchiectasis and COPD are not life-threatening or serious, preventing people from getting timely and effective diagnosis and treatment. And less than 2% of all publicly funded research in the UK is spent on finding cures and treatments for breathlessness. You can find out more at: https://www.asthmaandlung.org.uk/
This coming Tuesday marks International Women’s Day, the Scottish Parliament has scheduled two debates in the chamber. On Thursday I took part in the first, you can watch my speech here. I spoke about the women entangled in conflicts in Ukraine and Afghanistan and the role that women can play in peacekeeping. This coming Tuesday I plan to take part in the second debate where I hope to focus on the issues surrounding women domestically. This year’s theme is break the bias.
This month marks one year since Sarah Everard was had her life stolen from her at 33 years old. On Thursday evening I attended a rally organised by Strut Safe outside the Scottish Parliament. Since Sarah Everard's death, at least 125 more women have been killed, and 125 more families and communities have been left devastated. That number highlights that despite a national outrage and work being done by activists, little has changed. Some speakers called for more men to be involved in making the changes needed to address violence and inequality. We must remember Sarah and all others that have lost their lives as we do so.