International Women’s Day 2017 – Why we need Feminism.

Since 1911, women have been celebrated on this day on an International stage, their achievements rigorously applauded. Yet, 105 years on and an estimated 170 years still to go before gender equality is achieved, time feels like it is standing still. Where is society going wrong? Why is it the case that women are paid on average 81p for every £1 that a man is paid for the exact same work? Why are women forced to conform to society’s standardised female dress code? Why have 130 million women and girls worldwide been subjected to female genital mutilation against their will?

I am fortunate enough to be employed full-time in a wonderful office in a job that I am incredibly passionate about. I earn just as much as my male counterparts and I am empowered in my job. I work in an office full of other inspiring, intelligent women and going to work every day for me is not a chore, nor a money motivated task; but rather a reason to get up in the morning. However, I’m considered “one of the lucky ones”. As a woman, being employed full-time, in a non-discriminatory environment, in a job I was employed into based on merit and capability is considered a luxury amongst the female community. What an incredibly frustrating concept.

Parliament heard just yesterday of the ever-prominent discrimination women are forced to face in the workplace. From enforced female-only dress codes to full-face of makeup policies; we heard how women were forced to the point of injury into wearing high heels for long shifts, how a woman was asked to unbutton her blouse in order to promote sales whilst serving male customers and how women are frequently asked suggestive and unwelcome questions by customers. Many women must choose, employment in a discriminatory environment or no employment at all.

Is the notion that women are in any way inferior to men really a notion we wish to impose on another generation of young women as we raise them? Every young woman should have the opportunity to grow, to flourish and to achieve whatever she wishes whenever she wishes to do so. Every woman should be presented with the right not to conform to society’s standards for women, to dress as and how she pleases and to be paid an equal amount to her male counterparts in the same line of work.

Although International Women’s Day is rightly so a day of celebration for women across the globe, let it also be a day of awareness, a day of vigorous campaign. Although we are closer, gender equality is still so far from our reach and we must exercise every platform and exhaust every avenue, until we achieve the equality that we deserve. We owe it not only to ourselves to continue this fight, but to the women before us who fought, who died, who starved, and who tirelessly campaigned for our emancipation. The Glass Ceiling awaits us, ladies. Use this International Women’s Day to #BeBoldForChange, I know I will be.

All lives have equal value” is not just a principle; it’s a strategy. – Melinda Gates.

Article by Kelly Given, SNP Youth Equalities Officer and unapologetic Feminist.

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Kelly Given: SNP Youth Welcomes signing of historic bill by Dr Eilidh Whiteford.

 

On Friday, SNP MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP passed a historic bill on the Istanbul Convention, a major step forward for women today. Kelly Given, SNP Youth Equalities Officer welcomes this:

“The passing of arguably the most significant piece of Legislation for women and girls in the history of the UK Government is an incredible step in the right direction for equality. I would like to personally pass on my thanks and congratulations to Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP for the tremendous effort she has put in to this success, she will forever be written in history as one of the great feminists of our time. I was disgusted to see Philip Davies MP yet again try his hardest to filibuster such a progressive, positive bill and it forces many questions to arise regarding his motives; but his efforts were defeated. To see such overwhelming cross-party support for this cause is extremely refreshing and I very much look forward to the positive change that the ratification of the Istanbul Convention will bring for women and girls all over the country.”16295767_10208643511708727_484256851_n

Kelly Given, SNP Youth Equalities Officer

More information on the Istanbul Convention:

The Istanbul Convention is a Pan-European treaty which is aimed at obliterating Violence against Women in all its forms and manifestations.

The UK Government signed the treaty in 2012 however, without its formal ratification; the treaty was not legally binding in the UK. Now that the bill has been passed by Parliament, the Istanbul Convention will become legally binding legislation and will oblige the UK Government to take progressive measures towards ending violence against women.

Statistics –

  • On average, the police receive a domestic abuse related emergency call every thirty seconds in the UK
  • 2 women per week in the UK die as a direct result of Domestic Violence
  • Domestic Violence is the single most quoted reason for homelessness
  • In 2010 the Forced Marriage Unit responded to 1735 reports of possible forced marriages
  • Domestic Violence is the violent crime which is least reported to police, despite accounting for 16% of all crime

Key points on the Istanbul Convention –

  • Obliges the government to supply funding for rape crisis centres, counselling, and refuge centres for women who fall victim to gender based violence
  • Provides funding for a 24/7 free of charge helpline for victims
  • Age appropriate education in schools to help pupils spot signs of abuse and seek help
  • Promotes international co-operation against all forms of gender based violence
  • Seeks to protect and empower women
  • Defines and Criminalises the various forms of violence against women (FGM, rape, forced marriage, domestic and sexual abuse, emotional violence or harm, stalking)

Gender equality cannot be achieved whilst women remain victim to gender-based violence and abuse. The passing of this bill marks a hugely progressive step for women and girls across the country and SNP Youth enthusiastically welcomes this.

Theo Forbes: Young Scots, Westminster is not our future.

In 2014, the Scottish Independence Referendum galvanised a passion for political engagement in young people across Scotland. They proudly demonstrated what we have argued for many years: that young people are switched on and interested in politics, and willing to vote to express that fact. With the chance to articulate young people’s arguments and beliefs, we voted in droves. The Referendum saw a gateway to change; we saw a democratic chance, we saw hope, and most of all we felt part of a beautiful movement.

I wanted independence.

I wanted change.

But I didn’t get it… and I felt the inconceivable sorrow that so many others endured on the day of 19th September 2014.

Emotive as politics can be; I’ve never felt so strongly for a cause as I did in the case for the referendum. As a 17-year-old student many reasons drew me to the changes and prospects that an independent Scotland promised to bring, and I have many reasons why I remain so passionate about the “Yes” campaign. One is that not once in my life have I ever felt the interests of those my age were being looked after or represented by the Westminster government. Successive Conservative governments that we in Scotland didn’t vote for but instead had imposed on us, have caused many unnecessary difficulties.

The referendum in 2014 was a chance for people – some of whom the most ignored in society – to finally have a say, a chance to change things for a better Scotland. I recognise the fortune I have by living in an affluent area in Aberdeen, but it’s heart-breaking for me to know that just down the road from me is one of the most neglected areas in our country. The stark contrast, just streets apart, is so emblematic of the ‘United’ Kingdom we live in today. This Post Code Lottery’ – ruled by a right-wing, neo-Thatcherite, Conservative government – is not what Scotland needs, nor what Scotland wants.

Since 2014, Westminster has done nothing but represent the worst in politics. If it weren’t for the SNP and the opportunities they have presented to the youth, people like me would have nothing to engage in politically. The UK Government is bent on disenfranchising the youth from politics through their negative and failed approach to ‘making a difference’.

Last night the UK government quietly spoke out that they would shut the door on unaccompanied child refugees around Europe. Unsurprised: but it fills me with fury. As a young person, it is incomprehendable that a leading, Western civilisation such as the UK can fail to aid those fleeing from war zones. The UK’s obsession with nuclear weapons, which may be added, are experimented with in Scottish waters, contrasts perfectly with their stance on child refugees. Able to fund the renewal of trident, but unable to assist those who need us the most, lamentably demonstrating the priorities of this government.

Recently, the Turing Bill tabled by SNP MP John Nicolson was filibustered out of parliament by a Conservative UK Government Minister. The bill was by no means controversial, but Tory ministers later on confirmed they would not pass the bill based on ‘principle’. It was utterly shocking and completely unnecessary.

Then, of course, we have the completely disgraceful and quite frankly horrific treatment by the Westminster government of the Brain family. Scotland was a voice for this family, and thankfully they remain in Scotland today, thanks to the tireless campaigning of SNP MPs Ian Blackford and Alex Salmond. These are both situations that arose purely because of the Tories pandering to xenophobic obsessions elsewhere that simply don’t exist in mainstream Scotland.

We also have the whole Brexit pandemonium. In 2014, the Better Together campaign tweeted “What is the process of removing your EU citizenship? Voting Yes”, this was consistent with their message. How bitterly ironic this looks in 2017. Many people in 2014 based their vote on the principle that their EU citizenship was to be safeguarded by the UK – these people were let down. Brexit illustrates the undeniable differences between countries within the UK, with Scotland overwhelmingly voting Remain. Despite this, Westminster insists on ignoring the democratic will of the Scottish electorate by dragging us out of our European alliance of economic trade, partnership, and cooperation. The EU is a place of potential for young people, like free interrailing for 18-year-olds to experience different cultures.

It has been made clear that Westminster will not listen to our voices. The lies that have transpired make a complete mockery of the 55% who voted No. Pensions at risk? It’s the Tories who are determined to create the worst state pension in Europe. The recent increase in women’s pension age backfires on their stance in 2014 and 1950’s born women are being denied their deserved pension. It was said by the better together campaign, and further backed up by the steel workers union that steel workers’ jobs were ‘safe’ within this ‘union of equal partners’, it turns out it was actually quite the opposite with the recent job losses implemented by the UK Government. Of course, the story is different in Scotland, with the SNP Scottish Government through Liberty Steel saving our Tata Steel Site. When the UK government needed and had to intervene to protect crucial jobs in the UK’s job sector, they didn’t – instead, it was the SNP Scottish Government that stood up for the job losses faced in Scotland and worked tirelessly to prevent such a disaster.

They said all these fearful things that won over 55% of the nation – and I can understand why, but their determination for the Union was really their desire to continue their austerity-ridden regime that worsens every day and panders to right wing xenophobia such as that spouted by Donald Trump.

Westminster should remember that in 2015, 56 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies voted to send SNP MPs down to London to make sure Scotland’s voice was heard, loud and clear. Already our MPs are delivering on their commitment to be “Stronger for Scotland”, whether the Westminster elite like it or not. These are the people who were elected to represent their constituents in Scotland and their concerns and views must be listened to. The Government’s reaction to Mhairi Black’s recent Benefit Sanctions Bill demonstrates Westminster’s clear determination to disregard the ideas of their Scottish colleagues.

We see what happened in America, where a campaign based on racist, misogynist ideologies won the election. Instead of seeking innovative strategies to create a prosperous future, Trump’s supporters blamed immigrants and the most vulnerable for their problems. It was effective in causing a significant divide whilst planting an unfounded fear of people who were different. This same rhetoric is winning the argument in the UK, exemplified by UKIP’s infamous “Breaking Point” poster in the latter stages of the Brexit campaign, and culminating in Theresa May holding Donald Trump’s hand – figuratively and literally.

The UK voted for Brexit and a lurch to the right. Scotland did not – but we’re getting it anyway. I cannot comprehend settling for life within a union that prioritises the rich over the poor and refuses to acknowledge the benefits immigration brings to our economy and culture. In Scotland, we have escaped this negative, diminutive way of scrutinising the future. We have a chance to do something different. A chance to create a welcoming, forward-looking Scotland – and it is much closer to reality than you might think.

I think it is, therefore, telling that the SNP Youth now have a larger membership than the whole of the Scottish Tory Party – this serves to demonstrate that the youth of Scotland are dissatisfied with the Tories’ domestic and external policies. In particular, the Tories failure to believe in young people, they fail to stand up for the youth, and therefore they fail to invest in the future of Scotland. They try to fit young people into a place in politics of non-engagement and ignorance, furthering the government’s mistaken view that young people are not interested: when in fact we are the inevitable architects of the future.

The years of deprivation from Tory governments which punish all but the most comfortable in society have hit Scotland hard. We haven’t had a fair or equal say in matters, and lies have been unraveling quicker than the Brexit plans themselves. It is too late for the Tories to expect to drag us on their shambolic Brexit roller coaster, and when they ask us again to “lead the UK, not leave the UK” please ask yourself what type of country you want to live in, what type of country you want your children and grandchildren to live in, and please vote Yes.

Theo Forbes

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Interrailing for 18s: Davidson and May Must Answer for Missed Opportunities

In the few short months since the EU Referendum, we have had many of our fears about leaving the EU confirmed. It seems Theresa May’s Government will opt for a hard Brexit meaning closed UK borders, an end to EU passporting for UK companies, and the removal of current opportunities to travel and work in our neighbouring countries. This week’s Tory Conference has shown that these retrograde steps will be accompanied by xenophobic rhetoric and the impositions of mandatory company lists of foreign workers.

It was against this background that the European parliament’s plenary session on Thursday was set. The parliament discussed and approved plans to give free interrailing tickets to every European on their 18th birthday. This initiative, if successful, will allow young people the experience of European travel and will build bridges around Europe for its young citizens. I am passionate about European citizenship, as both a good in itself and as a tool to strengthen the common market. This initiative is exactly the right move to help young people engage with the European project.

“That young Scots will also miss out on opportunities such as free interrailing is insult to the already debilitating injury of Brexit.”

Unfortunately for young Scots, this will not include them. David Cameron’s desperate attempt to quash the threat of UKIP with the gamble of a referendum has resulted in Brexit. His attempt to placate eurosceptics has resulted in the most right-wing UK Government in decades. If this government is true to its word, the Brexit train will have long left the station before this interrailing scheme is put into place.

In the summer after leaving school, I and many friends took the opportunity to holiday away from our parents and travelled in Europe. After summer, some of my friends went off to European universities and paid the same fees (or, typically, lack of fees) as students from that member state.

“Overnight the Scottish Tories contortionist leader has transformed her right-wing rabble into a band of born-again Brexiteers.”

If Theresa May has her way, young Scots who finish school in 2019 may have to pay for visas for the opportunity to travel in the EU and will have to pay large fees if they wish to study in EU countries. That young Scots will also miss out on opportunities such as free interrailing is insult to the already debilitating injury of Brexit.

It once seemed that Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories might be a diluent which would take the edge off Theresa May’s hard Brexit Cabinet but overnight the Scottish Tories’ contortionist leader transformed her right-wing rabble into a band of born-again Brexiteers.

It now falls to Davidson as much as to May to face Scottish teens and tell them what opportunity Brexit will provide to counterbalance the loss of initiatives such as 18th birthday interrailing. They must tell young Scots why their country – that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU – should follow them down the hard Brexit rabbit hole.

George Bruce

SNP Youth National Communications Officer

@GeorgeBrvce

 

 

 

The Scottish Stabilisation

With the UK leaving the EU, Scotland voting to Remain, and independence being a necessary option for Nicola Sturgeon, Youth’s Alex Kerr looks at how Scottish EU membership may steady the European ship.

“the most stabilizing injection the EU can receive in the foreseeable future would be the rapid ascension of an independent Scotland to membership status”

My support for Scottish independence is not entirely founded on my Scottish national identity. In fact, within the movement I would probably be known as a pragmatic nationalist and though it could be seen as derogatory, fundamentally, I guess this is correct.

If remaining within the UK had provided a path to provide for the most vulnerable in our society more effectively than Scottish independence, then there would have been less of a need for Scottish Independence.

It was clear that the UK was not going to be able to address the issues that needed fixing whether that was the economy or welfare

“One of the strongest cases made for remaining a member of the UK was centred around preserving the countries position as an important actor in world politics. That vision has now been shattered.”

The case was strong then, but the pragmatic case is now unassailable. This is probably why Duestche Bank and JP Morgan now believe that Scotland will be independent by 2020.

One of the strongest cases made for remaining a member of the UK was centred around preserving the countries position as an important actor in world politics. That vision has now been shattered following the decision on June 23rd to leave the EU and the shambolic aftermath culminating in Boris Johnson being made Foreign Secretary which I’m pretty sure is one of the signs of the apocalypse.

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Alex Campaigning for EU membership

Not only did this chain of events irreversibly damage Britain’s reputation as a capable international player, it also delivered what could yet prove to be a fatal wound to an already ailing European Project at a time when it is needed more than ever.

In a world with so many existential threats facing humanity, we need a reformed EU to coordinate European action whether it be on terrorism, climate change or mass migration.

The price of failure would be a continent turned in on itself: reactionary, backward and unstable.

The EU faces fights on multiple fronts and unless it is stabilised soon it will meet a demise similar to that seen by many other large civilizations throughout history.

And like those other empires that fell apart under centrifugal pressure from within, the collapse will not create stability or prosperity for those living within its boundaries.

The challenge for those interested in Europe’s success lies in how best to stave off the rise in Euroscepticism across the continent. I would argue that the most stabilizing injection the EU can receive in the foreseeable future would be the rapid ascension of an independent Scotland to membership status. The Project would trade in a reluctant and often outright unhelpful partner for one that will likely have a significant proportion of the population feeling like citizens of Europe in a key strategic location in the North for the Atlantic Ocean covering the entrance to the Baltic.

A partner that is leading the way in democratic participation, in LGBT rights and in research and innovation.

Perhaps with this push the EU might finally make headway towards a more federal union that has the powers necessary to deal with the issues faced by Europeans across the continent.

Regardless, an independent Scotland’s smooth entrance to the EU will at the very least give enough breathing space for action to be taken. Action that is drastically needed to move towards a brighter future.

 

 Alex Kerr

SNP Youth Glasgow Convener

@AlexKerr3

Named Persons: Legitimate, Logical and Long Overdue

This week John Swinney addressed the Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee to discuss Named Persons. Following the Supreme Court case which ruled the purpose of the Named Persons scheme entirely legitimate, the SNP Scottish Government plan to roll out the scheme in 2017 after intense engagements with stakeholders and amendments to data sharing provisions. Below, SNP Youth’s Christopher Adam describes why Named Persons needs to be supported and why we need Named Persons.

Named Persons: the hatred it has attracted from some is misguided. This most endearing policy passed the Scottish Parliament unopposed, has been ruled legal and legitimate in its purpose, and is supported by scores of children’s charities. Yet it has been brutally misrepresented to the point it is now a political mine-field. Named Person is needed urgently and we must defend it.

The Scheme Itself

The Named Person Bill, introduced in Part 4 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act of 2014, is an act designed to ensure the wellbeing of children across Scotland. It works like this: every child up to 18 years of age will have a designated ‘Named Person’ who would act as a single point of contact between services if they are in the best interests of the child. The family is not obligated to follow the advice of their child’s Named Person, who is the child’s Guidance Teacher (or Depute-Head or possibly Head-Teacher) in the vast majority of cases and would fulfil their role as a supportive coordinator for the child; their role is only made more official by the scheme.

The scheme is designed such that cases of child abuse and other horrors, along with issues such as coping with disability, possible difficulties at home, or bullying, are all addressed in double-quick time. For example, say a child suffers a speech impediment and is being mocked by some of their classmates. Their Named Person would take the child aside, deal with the bullies and advise possible courses of action to help the child’s wellbeing and confidence, in this case speech and language therapy, which the child is not obliged to take; it is only advice. If the child wishes to attend speech therapy sessions, their Named Person would coordinate the appropriate services. In other words the Named Person would act like any qualified Guidance Teacher in ensuring the child’s welfare. It’s as easy as that.

Its Opposition

“when it comes to Labour’s stance on Named Person you are as clueless as me.”

Named Person has faced opposition from political parties. For example, Ruth Davidson has rallied her troops against the bill, claiming it is “unworkable” and “confused”; David Cameron labelled it “absurd”; Liz Smith, Conservative spokeswoman on Young People described it as “wrongheaded” and “an assault on the responsibility of families”. Scottish Labour’s stance has been far less concrete: the party voted in favour of the named person bill in 2014; Kezia was an avid supporter of the scheme, calling the bill’s opposition “ignorant”. Then last year Ms. Dugdale called for it to be “paused”, having since dubbed the policy an “absolute mess” and is supporting a legal challenge led by the Christian Institute. In other words, when it comes to Labour’s stance on Named Person you are as clueless as me. Just this last week, as John Swinney set out plans to consult on the scheme, Labour has maintained their ‘maybes aye, maybes no’ stance; the bill was a good idea, but shouldn’t be used for 16 and 17 years olds, the purpose was legitimate but the public has to be persuaded. Perhaps if Labour spent more time convincing the public and less time explaining that the public had to be convinced, they would not have to worry about the scheme being misconceived.

As you can see, the policy has been twisted and abused by both Labour and the Tories in order to frighten parents into voting for them. It looks as if Labour have used this policy in scare tactics – why else would their stance invert so dramatically, and in the run-up to the Scottish Parliamentary Election earlier this year? The same goes to the Tories; after two years of being quietly sceptical of Named Person (note that they didn’t vote against it; the bill passed parliament 103 votes to 0), it was instantly the bogeyman-bill.

There also exists a campaign: ‘NO2NP – Say No to the Named Person’, which transcends political lines to unite against the Named Person Bill. This campaign commands a brilliant website teaming with articles, information and upcoming events, its main centrepiece a petition with over 33,000 signatures. The only fault with the whole thing was the latent sense of paranoia which pervaded absolutely everything. Every article, every backer, every resource had a kind of manic twinge to it, the kind of mild psychosis commonplace at an emergency PTA meeting staged against the dangerous rise of funkyfresh American hip-hop. You know what I mean? Manic-mothering. Para-parenting. For example, one article released at the end of April this year was titled:  GPS, HOUSING OFFICERS AND CHARITIES RECRUITED TO SPY ON FAMILIES. I needn’t say that the article drew very broad and creative conclusions concerning the ‘invasive’ nature of the scheme, being slightly deranged all the while, quote: “they know you don’t like what they are doing – but they are going to do it anyway” unquote.

“In this twitching tirade of traditional values, opponents to Named Person have lost sight of what’s important: children.”

I challenge the NO2NP campaign to consider this: isn’t their family’s precious privacy violated every time their child attends school, or hospital or indeed any other institution for that matter? Guidance Teachers (i.e. Named Persons) already have access to pupils’ sensitive information concerning mental illness, home life – you name it – so what’s the big hoo-ha about? For argument’s sake, signing a consent form; discussing a teenager’s career prospects – where exactly does one draw the line on the privacy of a family, especially when the welfare of a child is at stake? Furthermore, aren’t Guidance Teachers, General Practitioners etc (soon to be Named Persons) in their respective professions because they actually want to help young people? They aren’t the baddies, believe it or not. You are woefully mistaken and inordinately anxious to believe that children across Scotland are at the mercy of a bunch of uncaring, glaket-eyed nutcases with the collective emotional capacity of a baked quiche.

And in this twitching tirade of traditional values, opponents to Named Person have lost sight of what’s important: children. Kids who turn up to school under-equipped or in ill-fitting, unwashed clothes; who are mocked and mimicked due to disability by their peers; who sometimes go to bed hungry – who else is reforming policy for them? I writhe in anger that these religious and traditionalist institutions pipe up: ‘no – you’re invading my children’s privacy – you’re destroying the family unit!’ when anyone dare try to shake things up, to reform change for the better when all the time they rest on their laurels and do absolutely hee-haw.

“The resistance from the traditionalist opposition will, over time, be more and more disregarded, and the Named Person Act will be proved essential.”

Then again, is this resistance to be expected? The NO2NP campaign’s main backer is the Christian Institute, a religious-right body which ‘believe[s] that the Bible is the supreme authority for all of life and we hold to the inerrancy of Scripture’. Organisations such as this, who command a very traditionalist viewpoint on the family unit, have a track record of opposing progressive policy. From observation, a pattern emerges: religious organisations oppose progressive policy; the policy is shown to be beneficial to society as time goes on. Take same-sex marriage for example: the legalisation of same-sex marriage was seen as progressive; the policy faced resistance from religious groups such as the Christian Institute; the societal consensus now is that same-sex marriage was a pivotal milestone for equality and was the right way forward. The same thing will happen with the Named Person scheme: the resistance from the traditionalist opposition will, over time, be more and more disregarded, and the Named Person Act will be proved essential.

This very pattern was perfectly demonstrated on the 3rd of September 2015 when the Christian Institute and several other organisations and individuals challenged Named Person in the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court. Their contest was on the grounds that Named Person was heavy-handed in its approach; invasive of family life; its implementation would breach the privacy of children and would ultimately interfere with the structure of the family. The proposition headed by the Christian Institute presented the aforementioned arguments; the Scottish Ministers presented their defence of Named Person, and the Court of Session ruled the following:

“The mere creation of a named person, available to assist a child or parent, no more confuses or diminishes the legal role, duties and responsibilities of parents in relation to their children than the provision of social services or education generally.  It has no effect whatsoever on the legal, moral or social relationships within the family.  The assertion to the contrary, without any supporting basis, has the appearance of hyperbole…the [proposition’s] challenge was speculative and premature…

“The legislation does not involve the state taking over any functions currently carried out by parents in relation to their children. For these reasons, the [proposition’s] challenge…must fail.”

The Court of Session has ruled in Named Person’s favour. And the UK Supreme Court has agreed that the purpose of the Named Person is entirely legitimate with data sharing being its only concern. In light of this, I challenge this opposition: what is your alternative? You are ludicrously paranoid. What is your solution to ensuring the welfare of every child in this country? Well? Some of Scotland’s leading children’s charities suspect you might be running clean out of things to say…

I recall an open letter, published 9th March 2016 in newspapers across Scotland:

‘Supreme Court must throw out appeal against Named Person.’

The letter stressed that the Scheme was not a ‘State Guardian’; “health visitors or promoted teachers,” would fulfil the Named Person roll and that they “are already looking out for children…they already handle sensitive information and offer support when needed. They don’t snoop…or share information inappropriately.” In other words, the letter was chock-full of common sense. It was signed by nine of Scotland’s leading charitable organisations and others: Barnardo’s; Parenting Across Scotland; Action for Children; the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association; the Scottish Child Minding Association; the NSPCC; the Royal College of Nursing; Aberlour; Social Work Scotland; One Parent Families; Children in Scotland and Children 1st.

“Social Work Scotland or the Scottish Conservative Party? I know who I’m more inclined to believe.”

Literally hundreds of established children’s charities and organisations have shown their support of the Named Person Scheme. Barnardo’s, Scotland’s largest children’s charity have highlighted that “Named Person is central to making sure that we get it right for every child in Scotland”. Jackie Brock, chief-executive of the charity Children in Scotland and an avid supporter of the scheme, wrote a brilliant article for Third Force News showing her enthusiasm for the scheme and her frustration with the opposition: “I have argued,” she writes, “and will continue to argue, that there is no evidence of increased state intrusion into family life”. Chief Executive of Aberlour Alison Todd, one of Scotland’s largest children’s charities with a 140 year pedigree, has confirmed “we have always viewed [Named Person] as strengthening existing practice to ensure children get the help they need when they need it.” The Scottish Police Federation supported Named Person in their official press release, asserted the scheme would “help keep children safer”. Alistair Gaw, President of Social Work Scotland writes in the Scotsman: “it’s not about creating a nanny state, it’s about supporting children and their families”. The director of the Royal College of Nursing (Scotland) Theresa Fyffe writes in the Holyrood Magazine: “we fully support the named person role and believe its intention to promote, support and safeguard the wellbeing of children and young people in Scotland is the right approach”.

All the supporters above work with children and young people day-in day-out, they grapple with child policy every working day. They know what they’re talking about, and they support Named Person avidly. The Christian Institute or Barnardo’s? Social Work Scotland or the Scottish Conservative Party? I know who I’m more inclined to believe. But maybe that’s just me.

Finally, the shrieking from the religious and political right has turned this debate, which was once healthy and constructive, sour. People don’t want to stand up for it anymore. It’s too divisive. But when the Scottish Government roll-out the Scheme at the delayed date in 2017, it is in the interest of everyone that it succeeds. After cutting through the noise I learned just how much we need the policy. It is legitimate, logical and long overdue. Hopefully you will realise the same. This policy must win for children across this country and the hour is late.

Christopher Adam, 

SNP Youth West of Scotland

 

 

 

Within or Outside the Law: How Can We Best Control Cannabis?


It is important to recognise that we as a credible party must have a sensible and mature discussion about our current drugs policy.  As Scotland’s largest political party, the SNP will have to make a choice, determine who we would like to see control the production and supply of cannabis… Britain’s organised crime groups or our government?  Decade after decade of the failed ‘war on drugs’ is evident that there is no alternative.  Billions of pounds spent and thousands of people criminalised. It is time we finally acknowledge that drugs are always going to exist, members of the public will always have ways and methods to access drugs and we should be trying to help and educate them rather than punish them.

For decades successive UK governments have made a concerted effort to continue the war on drugs at huge expense to our legal system, the everyday taxpayer and our society as a whole.  It has become apparent that continuing the failed war on drugs is a waste of our country’s resources and is having a negative impact on many members of the public that use cannabis medicinally or recreationally.

So, who is benefiting from the war on drugs?  At first glance it would be easy to say no one is actually benefiting.  But perhaps at second glance, it becomes clear the beneficiaries are actually the organised crime groups, the very groups of which are supposed to be the target of the said war.  These groups have a monopoly over the production and supply chain of all illicit drugs throughout the country. We have indirectly handed organised crime groups free reign to prosper off the proceeds of selling Britain’s most widely used illicit drug, cannabis.

Creating a controlled, safe environment where people could purchase and use cannabis would remove the process where members of the public may potentially enter into an unsafe environment where the transaction of buying the drug would take place.  Also note that many drug dealers coincide selling cannabis with other, harder, more harmful substances.  This factor would be removed in a regulated environment.

Under prohibition, members of the public that use cannabis are often not only entering the unsafe environment of a drug dealer’s den, they are also buying product of which they will have less than basic knowledge of the quantities of each compounds within the drug, well-known compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  Compare this to a system in which as a country we could carefully regulate retail sale where cannabis would be prepared and packaged up to pharmaceutical standards with the quantity of each compound clearly labelled for users to safely consume with full knowledge and understanding of drug usage.

The Institute for Economic Research predicted that legalising cannabis could approximately add an additional £900,000,000 in tax revenue.  Further to this, it has predicted yearly savings of approximately £400,000,000 to policing costs which could be better spent elsewhere within our police forces in the UK.  If correct, this would make an extra £1,300,000,000 available for our public services or deficit reduction.

From a credible medical perspective, the U.S Government’s Department of Health has recognised the medicinal benefits of using cannabis.  Some medicinal benefits include, muscle relaxation, pain relief, anti-anxiety and appetite modification for people with eating disorders. Particularly for pain relief, the equivalent pharmaceutical interventions carry addictive and dangerous side effects. Under the current UK system, patients do not have the choice of medicinal cannabis.

On a global scale, many western countries are progressing toward a sensible system in which cannabis is legalised and carefully regulated for medicinal and recreational use.  Many European countries, states in the U.S.A and more recently Canada are evident of this.  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the case, “to ensure that we keep marijuana (cannabis) out of the hands of criminals, we (Canada) will legalise, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana”, effectively taking back control of the drugs trade from organised crime groups.

Canada is the latest western country to realise that the most effective way to safeguard users is not to continue to allow organised crime groups to have a monopoly over the drugs trade.  Instead, Canada has chosen to take back control of a large chunk of the drugs industry.  With Scotland’s hunger for progressive change, could the SNP be next to overhaul our current drugs policy?

Josh Mennie, 

SNP Youth North East Convenor

@Josh_Many

 

Photo by Charlón