Standard Replies

Pavement Parking

The Transport Bill offers a chance to examine and possibly change legislation surrounding pavement parking, as well as low emission zones and bus franchising to name some of the other issues it may address.

The Scottish Conservatives welcome the Transport Bill in principle but we will likely aim to lodge amendments to strengthen the Bill at Stages Two and Three to ensure it is a robust and sound piece of law.

Frequent parking on footways can cause damage that eventually manifests as uneven pavements. Such damage can represent a real danger to pedestrians, especially vulnerable ones, with local authorities having to foot the bill for repairs.

We can all agree that inconsiderate parking must be tackled and I am pleased that there are plans to look at it. A blanket ban on pavements must be properly researched and proportionate. Inconsiderate parking should not be tolerated, but there are many instances when parking partly on a pavement is the only available option and can be done without obstructing pedestrians’ access.

As you will be aware there may be instances in which parking with two wheels on a pavement has left sufficient room for pedestrians to pass while allowing traffic to flow freely on the road. That is a key point because it would obviously be counterproductive to impose a ban only for it to result in constant road blockages. As long as such parking can be done in a way that allows more than enough room for all pedestrians to pass freely, it is not always necessary to impose a blanket ban. I am not convinced that a blanket ban with no room for exemptions by local authorities in places might be too much of a catch all approach, I know of many areas where pavement parking is the only option to allow free passage of vehicles, including emergency vehicles, through narrow streets – in those examples perhaps local authorities may need to approach this pragmatically. Blanket centralisation of such individual circumstances in my view has historically caused unintended consequences.

The compromise that we would like to emerge would be to find a balance between protecting vulnerable pedestrians and allowing harmless pavement parking to continue. I suspect our amendments will be of this ilk.

I can understand the temptation to push through a blanket ban because it is right to say that we should not tolerate forcing vulnerable pedestrians to move around parked cars on pavements or dropped footways. However, we would not be serving the public if we simply imposed a blanket ban and left motorists, as well as law enforcement officers, to clear up the mess.

I hope you find the above position helpful and I thank you for contacting me regarding this important subject.

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Devolution After Brexit Standard Response: 21 March 2018

Thank you for contacting me about Brexit and the devolution settlement.

I understand your concerns about the status of the devolution settlement during Brexit. Brexit allows powers returning from the EU to come to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament will therefore be more powerful than ever before due to Brexit. The Scottish Conservatives have been consistently clear that Clause 11 of the UK Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill, as introduced, did not reflect the presumption of devolution.

The Scottish Conservatives are satisfied with amendments to the Bill since tabled by the UK Government, which do presume devolution for returning powers. We support continuing discussions between the Scottish and UK Governments on this matter. I and my Scottish Conservative colleagues have been consistent and vocal in our support for a strong devolved settlement, and will continue to be so.

The Scottish Conservatives have been clear that powers over farming and fisheries must be devolved where possible and that we also need to protect our UK internal market so that our farmers, fishermen and food producers do not face new barriers to business with Scotland’s most important market. So there are also areas where common frameworks are necessary.

We should also think of the current EU regulations on the environment as the floor, not the ceiling for our own new system.

When the UK becomes an independent Coastal State in 2020, we have the opportunity to take back control of waters and deciding who can access our waters and on what terms. The SNP, by contrast, are determined, at any cost, to get back into the EU, which under Article 38 of the Lisbon Treaty, means we would have to join the CFP.

Thank you again for contacting me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Gender Recognition Legislation

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns regarding proposed legislation on gender recognition.

The Scottish Conservatives will consider any legislation introduced by the Government carefully. As you rightly point out, it is important to strike the right balance between ensuring the safety of women and girls and working to end the widely-recognised discrimination suffered by transgender people in Scotland.

There may indeed be issues which must be addressed, but it would be wrong to prejudge this issue before the relevant legislation is brought forward and we can as parliamentarians examine the detail of any changes and how they will work in practice.

Thank you once again for taking the time to write.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Live Animal Exports Ban Standard Response

September 2018

Thank you for your contacting me regarding live animal exports.

The safe and humane transport of live animals is hugely important to Scotland’s farmers and crofters. The transport of animals within the UK from remote areas and islands, where access to local markets or abattoirs is limited, is a regular and important feature of livestock production. There are robust regulations in place for this, namely the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 and the Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005, to ensure that the highest standards of animal welfare are maintained. As such, the Scottish Conservatives do not believe that this requires further regulation.

The live shipment of Scottish animals to mainland Europe currently involves breeding animals and a small number of young stock destined for breeding, store and slaughter stock. The Scottish Conservatives recognise that the export of live animals is an important market for Scottish farmers and crofters. We support this where it is done in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards as enshrined in UK and EU law, because we know that these animals are kept and treated to the same standard as animals that remain in Scotland.  We agree with the NFUS that while animals should be reared as close to origin as practical, if animals are to live a productive life then safe and humane transport to other countries should be a legitimate option.

The issue highlighted on the BBC on 10 September regards the live export of about 5,000 male dairy calves from Scotland. Most of these are exported as there is no market for these animals within the UK. We would like to see this number reduced. This could be done through a range of measures, and we join the call for the Scottish Government and industry to quickly work towards this.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Please help plan a better Scotland

The Planning Bill contains some positive steps, such as simplified planning zones, which we would support. However, we will oppose the proposed infrastructure levy if it empowers the Scottish Government to gather and distribute those funds, in the place of local authorities.  The bill includes the draconian power to transfer functions from a local authority if a minister decides a council’s planning department isn’t performing. This measure within the Bill is unnecessary. The Bill as currently drafted would even allow the Scottish Government to take over a Council planning department. This bill could enable the Scottish Government to centralise decision making and undermine local democracy.

The Scottish Conservatives support measures that will speed up the planning process, ensure that planning decisions are made locally and that money gained from developers is ploughed back into local communities. The planning bill, as it stands, is a missed opportunity. It could go much further to revitalise the planning system and help more young people seeking to get on the property ladder.

With regard to equality of appeal, we are still considering the issue and will come to a view as the Bill progresses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Local Suicide Prevention - The Samaritans

I understand there are widespread concerns about the new Suicide Prevention Action Plan due to be published by the Scottish Government this summer.

The previous strategy expired in 2016, meaning Scotland has been without a strategy for two years at a time when suicide rates in Scotland have been rising. Suicide rates in Scotland are higher than the UK average and action must be taken now to reduce these numbers, which represent hundreds of personal tragedies.

We welcome the Samaritans work in this area, including their Local Action Saves Lives campaign and agree that local work is key to effective suicide prevention across Scotland.

We have previously written to the Mental Health Minister, Maureen Watt, twice requesting that local suicide prevention action is given a key role in the upcoming plan.

However, I understand the consultation paper published earlier this month failed to include many of the recommendations made during the Scottish Government’s own engagement events.

The Scottish Conservative Shadow Mental Health Minister, Annie Wells MSP, will write to Maureen Watt raising concerns about the Suicide Prevention Action Plan, and calling for the views and recommendations of those affected by suicide to be reflected in the new plan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Mountain Hare Culling 

The Scottish Conservatives are committed to the highest standards of animal welfare. Mountain hares are Scotland’s only indigenous hare and almost all of Britain’s mountain hares are found in Scotland. It is therefore important to ensure their survival.

Mountain hares play an important role in the ecology of the uplands and their role should not be understated. Indeed, a harvestable crop of hares is needed by important species such as wildcats, golden eagles and other predators. However, an overabundance of hares can threaten other species such as grouse, wading birds and trees.

The pro-active management of all herbivores (deer, hares, sheep etc.) is vital to the health of the land they graze on. Both over and under grazing are potentially very damaging to upland moorlands and will affect the biodiversity of both flora and fauna.

Mountain hare populations fluctuate and periodic culling is required when numbers are high.  Grouse moors are often the best habitats for mountain hares anywhere in the country. We therefore appreciate that they need to be proactively managed in order to combat overgrazing and disease problems, when populations fluctuate.

Mountain hare management is carried out within a regulatory framework of closed seasons and licenses administered by SNH.  It has many similar aspects to the management of deer where large numbers can damage habitats and spread ticks, therefore they are controlled according to local population densities. Similarly, to deer, shooting is the only really effective method of controlling numbers and the carcasses then go into the food chain.     

We believe local management of land will ensure that biodiversity can be maintained and where necessary improved. A central policy will not achieve the grazing targets needed in specific areas. We believe we must encourage land managers to ensure a local balance of all species.

In January, the results of a three-year study conducted by SNH, the James Hutton Institute and GWCT, looking at the best methods of counting mountain hares were published. Land managers are now taking this forward in population surveys being carried out across Scotland.

A detailed Best Practice Mountain Hare Guidance Note, agreed by rural stakeholders, has been published by the Scottish Moorland Forum. The Guidance sets out issues that practitioners need to be aware of and an example of a management plan for controlling numbers of mountain hares. I am confident that this Guidance will assist in ensuring that management of mountain hares is sustainable in the short and long term.

Thank you once again for getting in contact with me regarding this important issue.

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Raven Culling

The Scottish Conservatives are committed to the highest standards of bird welfare.

As you are aware, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) can grant licences to permit the killing or taking of wild birds to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock and wader species.

Farmers and landowners know all too well the damage that ravens can inflict on their livestock. Ravens often target and kill new born lambs by the barbaric removal of their eyes and tongues.

The licences are granted as part of a five-year collaborative trial which will help improve the understanding of factors affecting key wader species. Ravens have increased their breeding range across the UK by over 70 per cent in the last few decades, whilst species of other birds, such as waders, have seen numbers have declined by a similar percentage.

The ‘Understanding Predation’ report by Scotland’s Moorland Forum, published in February 2016, was agreed by a range of stakeholders, including SNH, RSPB, the Scottish Government and Scottish Land & Estates. The report found strong support from survey data and stakeholders’ knowledge, that all six wild birds studied in detail (black grouse, curlew, golden plover, grey partridge, lapwing and oystercatcher) had shown widespread declines across Scotland since the 1960s. The report acknowledged that over the last 25 years, there has been wide-spread increases in the abundance of buzzards and ravens.

SNH take a robust evidence-based approach when issuing licences. Photographic evidence and records of attacks and losses of livestock must be provided in order to apply for a licence. SNH must also be satisfied that farmers and landowners have tried sufficient scaring techniques. They make it clear that licences are only offered when no other solution is possible to control raven numbers.

 Raven management is carried out within a regulatory framework by SNH.  It has many similar aspects to the management of deer where large numbers can have a negative impact on biodiversity and therefore they are controlled according to local population densities. Similarly, to deer, after all avenues of control have been explored, shooting is only the effective method of controlling numbers. 

SNH have been clear that if it becomes obvious that actions are not being carried out in accordance with the terms of any licence, then they will have no hesitation in removing a licence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Defamation Law in Scotland

Thank you for contacting me about defamation law in Scotland.

I agree with the Scottish Law Commission's conclusion that there is an important balance to be struck between freedom of speech and press on the one hand and the right to restore one's reputation swiftly when it has been unfairly tarnished on the other.

It is for the Scottish Government to bring forward legislative proposals based upon the Law Commission's recommendations, and when that happens the Scottish Conservatives will ensure any reform to the law receives the rigorous scrutiny it deserves.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Crisis Campaign ‘A Life in Crisis’ – unsuitable temporary accommodation

We back the campaign.

The Homelessness in Scotland: Bi-annual update highlighted that between 1 April and 30 September 2017, local authorities received 17,797 homelessness applications, an increase of 330 (2%) over the same period in the previous yea. There were 6,581 children in temporary accommodation on 30 September 2017, an increase of 594 (+10%) compared to 30 September 2016 (National Statistics for Scotland: Homelessness in Scotland: Bi-annual update 1 April to 30 September 2017, Link).

We support the ambition and many of the ideas in the Programme for Government on homelessness set out by the Scottish Government. Currently, the Scottish Parliament is examining the different approaches to eradicating homelessness so that we have a multi-layered approach to combating this social evil.

This issue is fundamentally one of housing supply and the SNP have repeatedly failed to meet housing targets. The number of new homes completed has fallen by more than a third under the SNP.

The Scottish Conservatives have proposed a range of ideas to increase the housing stock available, from planning reform through innovative infrastructure funding to meaningful action on empty homes. We urge the SNP to back these ideas.

The future direction of temporary accommodation in the coming years in Scotland, depends on the policy implementation of the SNP and future Scottish Government legislation.

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Standard Response on Common Weal Trade Campaign – 17 May 2018

Following the vote to leave the European Union, the UK will operate a fully independent trade policy.

The UK Government’s Department for International Trade is examining options to ensure continued access to trade agreements negotiated by the European Union to which the UK is already party.  In addition, the UK Government has committed to making new free trade agreements more transparent and inclusive. The UK Government is determined that the UK will become a world leader in free trade, and ensure that we secure the right deals for the United Kingdom. These bespoke deals will be scrutinised by our Parliament, as all treaties are.

As to your concern about the effect of the bill on the devolution settlement, the Secretary of State for Trade has made clear that public services in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will be unaffected by this bill and that the devolved administrations will be able to implement transitioned arrangements.

As the UK takes back independent trading powers from the EU, the voices of the devolved administrations and MPs from all parts of the UK will be more clearly heard than was previously the case. I hope you would agree with me that the Scottish Government should deal constructively with all UK administrations as the UK forges an independent trading future.

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Live Animal Exports for Fattening Standard Response - May 2018

The Scottish Conservatives support the highest standards of animal welfare.

Currently, the live shipment of Scottish stock to mainland Europe involves a small number of breeding, store and slaughter stock.

There are robust regulations in place, namely the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 and the Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005, to ensure that the highest standards of animal welfare are maintained.

The safe transport of live animals, whether store or to slaughter, is hugely important to Scotland’s farmers and crofters, particularly for those in remote areas or on islands where access to local markets or abattoirs is often limited.  This is particularly relevant following the recent closure of the slaughterhouse in Orkney. While the regulation would not ban this practice, it could appear to the public as being out of step, especially if live shipping to slaughter is allowed within the UK whilst being banned for export.

Journeys within the UK, where animals are transported, are often much longer than those going abroad to the EU. Long distances, including ferry journeys, operate under the EU regulations mentioned and they protect animal welfare using vehicles and transporters specifically designed with welfare in mind. A small minority of journeys can take a few days, however much of that time is off the lorry. There are approved sites for resting with food and water, for minimum periods of 24 hours.

Where animals are transported on ferries operating roll-on and roll-off systems, the highest welfare standards are upheld. Lorries must be properly secured on the ferry with the captain of the vessel assuming responsibility of the livestock’s welfare. Crossings with livestock will only take place when it is felt that the conditions are suitable.

Concerns have been raised regarding the issue of live exports to the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland, as they would be covered by a ban too. We must remember Northern Ireland exported £16.7 million of live animals to the Republic of Ireland in 2016, which was 98 per cent of the total value of its animal exports.

When it comes moving animals for fattening, it is essential for farming practices in Scotland where the climate and landscape challenges often do not allow for animals to stay in the same place due to lack of good quality grass and forage. Moving livestock to better quality ground for wintering or fattening is in fact in the interests of welfare of the animal.

We back farm assurance schemes, that link farms, transporters, markets and abattoirs in order to ensure that the highest animal welfare standards are being maintained.

With all of these points taken into consideration, we will not support a ban on live exports, as we believe the animal welfare standards are sufficiently robust. However, we do believe that more could be done, by ensuring current legislation is rigorously enforced making sure the highest levels of animal welfare are upheld.

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The Climate Change Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the Climate Change Bill.

The Scottish Conservatives are committed to the highest standards of environmental protection. Last year, we won cross-party support to enact stronger energy efficiency targets for homes by 2030. We have committed to promoting a secure and low-carbon based energy sector, supporting sustainable transport, and to maximising Scotland’s resources, all of which can help achieve ambitious emissions reduction targets. Our policy paper outlines the specific areas we would like to see more progress on.

While the Scottish Government claims Scotland will be one of the first countries to achieve zero emissions, the Bill in its current form does not commit to that. The Scottish Conservatives will continue to stand up for the best interests of the planet and hold the Government to account on climate change issues. We will work to champion the environment and push the Scottish Government to be more ambitious in their Climate Change Bill as it progresses through Parliament. As always, we will take an evidence-based approach.

I was pleased to see that both the UK and Scottish Governments wrote to the Committee on Climate Change to ask advice on setting a net zero emissions target following the publication of the IPCC’s special report. This advice will be published on 2 May 2019, at which point I will be able to come to an informed view on this matter.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

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Pavement Parking Standard Response

The Transport Bill offers a chance to examine and possibly change legislation surrounding pavement parking, as well as low emission zones and bus franchising to name some of the other issues it may address.

The Scottish Conservatives welcome the Transport Bill in principle but we will likely aim to lodge amendments to strengthen the Bill at Stages Two and Three to ensure it is a robust and sound piece of law.

Frequent parking on footways can cause damage that eventually manifests as uneven pavements. Such damage can represent a real danger to pedestrians, especially vulnerable ones, with local authorities having to foot the bill for repairs.

We can all agree that inconsiderate parking must be tackled and I am pleased that there are plans to look at it. A blanket ban on pavements must be properly researched and proportionate. Inconsiderate parking should not be tolerated, but there are many instances when parking partly on a pavement is the only available option and can be done without obstructing pedestrians’ access.

As you will be aware there may be instances in which parking with two wheels on a pavement has left sufficient room for pedestrians to pass while allowing traffic to flow freely on the road. That is a key point because it would obviously be counterproductive to impose a ban only for it to result in constant road blockages. As long as such parking can be done in a way that allows more than enough room for all pedestrians to pass freely, it is not always necessary to impose a blanket ban. I am not convinced that a blanket ban with no room for exemptions by local authorities in places might be too much of a catch all approach, I know of many areas where pavement parking is the only option to allow free passage of vehicles, including emergency vehicles, through narrow streets – in those examples perhaps local authorities may need to approach this pragmatically. Blanket centralisation of such individual circumstances in my view has historically caused unintended consequences.

The compromise that we would like to emerge would be to find a balance between protecting vulnerable pedestrians and allowing harmless pavement parking to continue. I suspect our amendments will be of this ilk.

I can understand the temptation to push through a blanket ban because it is right to say that we should not tolerate forcing vulnerable pedestrians to move around parked cars on pavements or dropped footways. However, we would not be serving the public if we simply imposed a blanket ban and left motorists, as well as law enforcement officers, to clear up the mess.

I hope you find the above position helpful and I thank you for contacting me regarding this important subject.

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Coul Links Standard Response

Thank you for your concern,

We have been monitoring the Coul Links application since it was submitted and acknowledge your concerns about the potential environmental impact of the development.

My colleague, Edward Mountain MSP for the Highlands and Islands Region, has spoken to our group leader on Highland Council. The group leader attended the meeting as an observer and he has confirmed that the planning committee have approved the proposed development.

Approval for the development was granted on the basis that the local councillor was in favour of the proposal, SEPA did not object to the development (having reviewed the additional information) and the developer has agreed to considerable additional works to mitigate any possible damage to the flora and fauna and in particular invertebrates.

As SNH did not withdraw their objection, this matter will need to be considered by the Scottish Government and I do hope that they will do so carefully. It is important the Government fully consider the concerns of the objectors and bear these in mind when they consider the comments of the statutory consultee, SNH.

We believe it is very important that planning permissions continue to be dealt with at a local level. I have always supported local determination as I believe it will achieve the most democratic outcome.

However, as this development potentially will affect an area that is designated it is right that the Government reviews the decision to examine the potential environmental impacts. I will raise your concerns with the Scottish Government.

Thank you for contacting me.

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General Practice

Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns with GP contracts.

General Practice is at the front line of our NHS and plays such a vital role. A meltdown in GP services would lead to additional pressures on emergency and acute health services.

It is a worrying time with a record number of GPs returning their contracts. The Scottish Government has known for many years about the crisis and the consequences of its failure to do more on workforce planning are clear to see. The Scottish Conservatives held a debate on this matter in Parliament a few months ago and we called for significant investment in GP practices across Scotland.

The share of NHS funding to GPs is too low. That’s why we have launched the “Save our Surgeries” campaign to ask for 11% of all NHS spending to go directly to local practices, helping to boost not only recruitment but also working conditions.

Please rest assured that the Scottish Conservatives will always support and fight for better GP services. When general practice does well our NHS does well.

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Perjeta

Thank you for contacting me regarding the availability of Perjeta in Scotland.

We understand the frustration which must be felt when seeing that Perjeta is available in England and Wales, while being denied to patients in Scotland.

For secondary breast cancer patients time is a gift - which many are being denied due to the drug not being available.

This is in large part an issue of how drugs in Scotland are approved, and we believe there is a long way to go before patients and staff have faith in the system. On Perjeta in particular, our leader, Ruth Davidson, raised the case of Perjeta’s availability at First Minister’s Questions last month. Our health team have also raised the question of drug availability in the Scottish Parliament to the Health Secretary Shona Robison, and have called for a cross-border arrangement to ensure that no-one misses out on crucial care due to where they live.

Our health spokesperson, Miles Briggs MSP, hosted cross-party talks on the availability of Perjeta for Breast Cancer Now on June 6th. These talks heard that the NHS and SMC have communicated to Roche how a new submission could be considered as flexibly as possible.  Roche has confirmed that they will be making a re-submission to the SMC.  The SMC still need to approve any submission made by Roche, but this is a positive first step.

Please rest assured that we will be pushing to get the best possible care for cancer patients.

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Unpaid Carers

Thank you for writing to me about unpaid carers.

The Scottish Conservatives have long campaigned on behalf of unpaid carers, we campaigned for the National Carers’ Break Guarantee, and welcomed the acceptance of our amendments to the Carers Bill which meant all local authorities are now obliged to provide short breaks for those who look after others.

Carer’s Week is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the contribution of the 6.5 million unpaid carers within the UK.  The Scottish Conservatives will continue to champion carers so further support is made available to them.

Thank you again for contacting me.

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Diabetes Scotland Flash Glucose Monitoring campaig

Thank you for contacting me about flash glucose monitoring technology.

I appreciate your concerns, and I agree that it is extremely important for people with diabetes to easily be able to check their glucose levels in a less painful way.

Our health spokesperson, Miles Briggs MSP raised the case of the technologies availability in the Scottish Parliament with the SNP Health Secretary, Shona Robison. He was pleased when it was then included on NHS Scotland’s list of available drugs.

I understand the frustration that access to the device is still dependent on your postcode with different approaches in different health board areas, something that drives patients to lose faith in the system. I will therefore support the Fight for Flash campaign which I hope will lead to further awareness of the availability of the technology, and end the postcode lottery.

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Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Conservatives currently have no plans to amend the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill.

We are waiting for the conclusions of the Environment Committee’s report prior to Stage 1 which is estimated be to completed by January 2019.

We absolutely think emission reductions are necessary – and that with enough notice, and proper support, and the potential of new technology, we can afford to be ambitious.

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Lyme Disease

Thank you for contacting me on the important issue of Lyme Disease.

Alexander Burnett MSP has been working hard to raise awareness to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government over recent months.

After holding a parliamentary event and bringing the topic to a Member’s debate, a roundtable was co-hosted with Donald Cameron MSP between Scottish Government officials, MSPs from all parties, NHS workers, Lyme Disease patients and researchers.

As you are maybe also aware, there is currently a petition going through the Scottish Parliament urging the Government to improve testing and treatment for Lyme Disease and associated tick-borne diseases. We are fully supportive of this petition and are grateful that the NICE guidelines are being heavily regarded.

We are aware that the Scottish Government are now working on liaising with organisations across Scotland to help push for a Scotland wide awareness campaign that is informative without having an impact on the tourism industry.

In regards to the recent news regarding John Caudwell, we are supportive of proposals which would seek to improve testing and treatment and would urge the UK and Scottish Government to allocate properly funds for this.

Please be assured that Alexander Burnett and the Scottish Conservatives are continuing to put pressure on the UK and Scottish Government to ensure that real attention is given to this important issue and will continue to stand up for those with Lyme Disease and other tick-borne related illnesses.

Thank you again for contacting me.

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GIRFEC - Getting it Right for Every Child

Thank you for contacting me about the human rights impact of GIRFEC.

As you will be aware, this petition was heard on 28th June by the Petitions Committee and various concerns were expressed by the petitioners Alison Preuss and Lesley Scott, both of whom have been in touch with my colleague Liz Smith MSP about the central issue. We await further developments with this petition given that the committee was keen to see more evidence presented.

On a separate, but nonetheless related issue, the Education and Skills Committee members will reconsider any amended proposals to the Scottish Government’s named person policy should that be brought before the committee again. These proposals were due to be debated this autumn but there has been a further delay given the concerns amongst key stakeholders about the information sharing aspect of the named person policy and where responsibilities lie.

The Scottish Conservatives have always been opposed to the named person policy for two reasons; firstly, we believe it allows the state to undermine the role of parents in determining how to bring up their children and, secondly, its universal basis means that scarce resources are diverted away from our most vulnerable children who are most in need of support. We remain opposed to named persons and to any attempts to introduce the policy by the back door.

Instead, the Scottish Conservatives are willing to get round the table and find a fresh solution to help and protect vulnerable youngsters. We believe that is the view of other political parties including many in the SNP too.

Thank you again for contacting me.

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Communities Vs Blood Cancer campaign

Thank you for contacting me about the Communities Vs Blood Cancer campaign.

It is very important to increase the number of stem cell (cord blood and bone marrow) donors in Scotland and so I welcome the vital work undertaken by Anthony Nolan.

In 2015 the UK Government announced an extra £3 million in additional funding for stem cell services, part of £19 million in additional investment that the UK Government has committed since 2010 to improve the provision of cells in the UK.  This funding is being used to encourage young adult donors as well as those from under-represented populations, such as black, Asian and ethnic minority communities who find it difficult to secure a suitable match.

No patient should be denied a stem cell transplant due to the availability of a lifesaving donor. The Scottish Conservatives know the importance of the stem cell donor register and support its expansion.

I will attend the Anthony Nolan’s parliamentary drop-in on Thursday the 20th of September to support this campaign.

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Fox Hunting Standard Response

Firstly, let me assure you that the Scottish Conservatives are committed to the highest standards of animal welfare. We are clear that those who abuse and inflict cruelty on animals should be punished in accordance with the law.

By contrast, the SNP are weak on animal welfare issues. They have failed to impose a ban electric shock collars for dogs and have not brought forward legislation on extending sentences for the worst forms of animal cruelty, despite including this pledge in their Programme for Government last year.

The Scottish Parliament’s Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 made it an offence for a person to deliberately hunt a wild mammal with a dog, and for landowners or dog owners to knowingly allow this to occur. Where the Act permits dogs to be used to flush out foxes for pest control, there are rigorous requirements for their swift dispatch. There is a need to do this in order to reduce fox numbers to protect biodiversity and the welfare of other animals.

As this is a sensitive issue, I believe it is down to individual MSPs to carefully consider all of the evidence on both sides of the argument, and then decide how they wish to vote on any future proposals to review legislation.

I do not believe that the legislation requires strengthening to limit the number of hound packs to two or ban hound packs altogether. Lord Bonomy made it clear that limiting hound packs would ‘seriously compromise effective pest control in the country.’

Lord Bonomy’s report seems a largely balanced attempt to provide greater accountability and clarity around the law. We expressed concerns about the drafting of the Act in 2002 and have no problems with increasing transparency. A Code of Practice has helped pest control activities and would help to achieve this goal.

The SNP national council voted to limit hunts to just two hounds, and to make it illegal for mounted hunts to use dogs to chase foxes from cover. The vote followed an announcement by Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who vowed to bring forward a member's bill at Holyrood to impose a total ban.

These proposals directly contradict Lord Bonomy’s recommendations.

In Scotland there are only eleven hunts, and only one hunt takes place north of Edinburgh. Therefore, I would question whether it was prudent for the Scottish Parliament to spend time legislating on fox hunting at a time when Scotland’s schools are dropping down international league tables and the NHS is struggling.

I am unlikely to support any future proposals to review the current legislation should it limit hound packs to two dogs or impose a total ban.

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Kelp Harvesting Standard Response

The Scottish Conservatives value the rich biodiversity and natural resources of Scotland’s landscape. We believe it is essential to maintain and restore them, when necessary, to the highest environmental standards. 

At Stage Two of the Scottish Crown Estate Bill, Mark Ruskell MSP introduced an amendment in relation to the harvesting of wild kelp. This amendment prevented managers of a Scottish Crown Estate asset granting the right to carry out the commercial harvesting of wild kelp. This amendment was introduced without the Committee receiving evidence on the subject and was attempting to circumvent the existing licencing regime. Scottish Conservative MSPs on the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee abstained on the issue at this time to ensure an evidence-led approach could be taken.

I acknowledge concerns about the potential impact of mechanical dredging for harvesting kelp on the marine environment. For this reason, the Scottish Conservatives supported amendments on the subject of wild kelp harvesting put forward at Stage Three of the Scottish Crown Estate Bill. These amendments create a restriction on the removal of wild kelp from the seabed.

We are urging the SNP Government to ensure we have a licencing regime which recognises sustainable development and we will monitor this closely.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me on this issue.

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Pancreatic Cancer Standard Response

Thank you for writing to me about Pancreatic cancer.

With Pancreatic cancer being a cancer that advances quickly, faster treatment times are a necessity to give people with this terrible disease a fighting chance.

Every day in Scotland 100 people will have a new cancer diagnosis. How we can transform services to deliver better supportive care as well as the best

use of resources and services is vital. By 2027 it is estimated that around 40,000 cases of cancer will be discovered in Scotland every year.

We firmly believe the Scottish Government is letting down cancer patients. Recently, waiting times for key diagnostic tests, including those to detect cancer, have increased. This has left thousands of patients waiting too long for vital tests. Waiting time targets for cancer treatment are also being missed.

We believe it is vital that we continue to hold the Scottish Government to account. We will write to the Health Secretary, asking for her to commit to Pancreatic Cancer UK’s 20-day treatment goal.

Thank you again for contacting me.  

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Standard Response

Thank you for writing to me regarding Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

We know that up to two-thirds of people with COPD remain undiagnosed and, without optimal treatment, the disease reduces their quality of life.

That is why the Scottish Conservatives filed a Parliamentary motion recognising World COPD Day’s theme of diagnosis.

We know the importance of early diagnosis and screening, both ensuring that those affected by COPD receive the treatment that they need.

We support Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland’s Right to Pulmonary Rehab campaign.

Scottish Conservatives call on the Scottish Government to support the pledges within the campaign to ensure that people across Scotland get the treatment and support that they deserve.

Thank you again for contacting me.

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Give Scots the best chance to improve their health, beat obesity and prevent cancer

Thank you for contacting me.

Failure to address the rising levels of obesity in Scotland is storing up enormous health problems for the future.

We need to see urgent action to address this issue. There’s no point telling people how to live healthily if they can’t put it into practice, and in their 11 years in charge, the SNP have failed to make progress.

The Scottish Conservatives believe preventative measures are essential to reduce these problems, and believe that any policy aimed at consumers should be seen as part of a wider strategy. Last year we published a policy paper exploring how an active lifestyle and good nutrition can help promote a healthy lifestyle and reduce inequalities.

Research has found that 35 per cent of all food and drink purchased in Scotland was on promotion, and unhealthy food is more likely to be bought on promotion than healthier alternatives. We support Cancer Research UK’s excellent work on tackling obesity and believe that looking at how people access and consume unhealthy food should be one component of an overall strategy to address this growing problem.

Obesity is one of the great public health challenges of our time. If we don’t take steps to tackle this problem now, the consequences for both the population and the future strain on the NHS will be severe.

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Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Conservatives welcome the publication of the Census (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

As you are aware, the Census has not previously included questions about sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill intends to make the new questions voluntary, and will not remove the existing mandatory questions. It is also important to note that the wider issue of gender assignment, and how people legally define their gender, will not be affected by this bill.

We therefore intend to support the bill, but will seek to introduce amendments that will clarify the distinction between mandatory and voluntary questions. This will include looking at how the census will define, structure and communicate the voluntary questions on gender identity.

We believe this will achieve the intended aim of providing the most accurate and effective data, but make sure that it is done clearly and consistently and without undermining existing information the census provides.

Thank you for contacting me.

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Amendments to Planning Bill - Amendments 14 to 18 to the Planning Bill

Thank you for contacting me on this matter.

Amendments have started to be submitted last week.  My colleagues are examining all amendments in great detail in advance of the Stage 3 debate.   We shall make a  final consideration in due course.

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