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The Tories and Workers’ Rights: The Real Fantasy Land.

The Conservative Party Manifesto opens with a bold premise on introducing new rules for a changing economy, that they believe if we value something, we must reform it to conserve it. Further down the page, the manifesto promises further protections for those in the ‘gig’ economy, where they are legally self -employed, but the reality is quite different. This is, in all likelihood, down to the Employment Appeals Tribunal Decision in the Uber BV case, the Court of Appeal ruling in Pimlico Plumbers (yes, that one) and the highest of the mighty, Autoclenz v Belcher. There’s also a plan to introduce a year off for workers needing to care for families. As far as workers’ rights go, so far so good, right?

No. Wrong. I’ll explain why.

Firstly, the increased protection for ‘gig’ workers, although the courts have already made great strides in determining some of these working arrangements as clear shams, we need more, and as far as policies go, this is one I welcome. However, it’s about as useful as a Philip Davies MP, our favourite little misogynist. You see, while increased rights for gig workers are useful in theory, in the modern practicalities of our court system render them pointless to have. Take an example, if the Conservatives guarantee a minimum wage for these workers, the hours won’t be guaranteed, as the work given will only match demand. For argument sake, let’s say Jane works 20 hours a week on average for a delivery service who once classified her unfairly as self-employed, but thanks to the new rights the Conservatives have codified, she’ll get the living wage of £7.50 per hour. She’ll make £150 a week, not great, but better than what she had been making. Jane pays her rent, her bills, and her other outgoings, and is left with very little of that paycheque. Say her employer then infringes her brand new rights and refuse her holiday pay, in such a clear cut way that bringing a claim is a slam dunk. Jane planned to take two weeks holiday, where she would be entitled to £300 in holiday pay. She goes to a lawyer and discovers that bringing a claim to an Employment Tribunal to enforce these rights will cost her £160 to lodge a claim, then a further £230 to pursue the hearing before a tribunal. That’s £390 off the bat. Then add to that the lawyer’s fees. Let’s say she’s a generous lawyer and agrees to charge her £20 an hour for her case. After the preparation work, the trial itself, and all the little ancillary stuff, this can add up to dozens of hours. Let us say, in this case, there’s 20 hours of work all in. That’s £400 pounds. Will she get legal aid for the claim? Don’t make me laugh, criminal defendants struggle to get legal aid these days, a serious national scandal, but one I’ll avoid. Her total costs amount to £790 pounds against a claim value of £300, and the Tribunals don’t always award costs for the victor, so even if she wins, she could be £490 out of pocket. That’s more than 3 weeks wages, and in all reality, when she only makes £600 per month, and deals with her outgoings, how can she afford it? Why on earth would she bother to bring her claim, even though she would be very likely to win? The dirty secret is most won’t. Most won’t. In fact, since the fees for Employment Tribunals were introduced by the Conservatives, the number of claims has fallen 70%. I can tell you from personal experience working in a pro bono law clinic, even when we think victory is dead certain, most will not pursue because they cannot afford the fees. These promises on increased rights are welcome in principle, but they are useless and unenforceable in law, so don’t buy this Conservative “compassion” for even a second.

Secondly, the Conservative Manifesto pledges a year off work for those seeking to care for those needing it. Super, right? Again, wrong-o. The year is unpaid. Yes, completely unpaid. What good is it caring for a family member who needs it when you can’t afford to keep the heating on, or the lights on, or buy food and necessities? It’s no good, that’s what. The Conservatives are no good, that’s what.

If you are a worker, and employee, anyone who takes heart in these new measures, don’t. They are useless, they are unenforceable, and they are typical of the faux concern of the Conservative Party. If you want workers rights, don’t vote Conservative. If you want a fairer society, do not vote Conservative. If you have a shred of compassion, of humanity, do not vote Conservative.

To those reading this, and calling it nonsense, research it for yourself. Ask a lawyer, an academic, they will tell you the same thing. Read the twitter and blog of the Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret), who will do this infinitely more justice than I have. Just please, do your research. The Conservative Party are not the party of the workers, they never have been, and they never will be, and to those falling for their same old tricks, my heart only goes out to you, because they are lying to you.

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Ross Wilson

LLB Student and Law Clinic Operations Manager.

Breaking the Stigma

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

At a time when suicide is the biggest killer of young men in Britain, it is more imperative now than ever that mental illness, particularly in young people, is discussed openly and frequently. Youth mental illness is so frustratingly misunderstood and the consequences are devastating. Negative feelings are often put down to typical teenage hormones and the stresses of school/work and other trivial, typical youth related problems. However, the reality of mental illness for young people is far from the trivial every-day, hormone induced stresses that youth mental illness is so wrongly and  frequently categorized under.

It is exhausting, it is lonely and it is terrifying. It’s being surrounded by hundreds, even thousands of people and feeling like you are all by yourself. It’s waking up in the middle of the night unable to even move because you are so consumed by anxiety. It’s being unbearably irritable and not understanding why. It’s the struggle of trying to silently understand your own feelings while at the same time being too scared to admit your struggle for the fear of being judged.

Roughly 1 in 5 young adults currently suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition at the same time as 3 in 4 young people aren’t receiving the help that they need. These figures are horrifying and opening up inclusive discussion on this topic is incredibly important as we take steps towards a more effective society-wide attitude towards mental health. The sad reality is that even with the fantastic efforts of the Scottish Government and organisations like SAMH, we can’t beat the destructiveness of mental illness until we defeat the societal stigma attached to it and discussion is one of the best places to start. Having someone to talk to in your loneliest moments makes all the difference to your situation and I urge anybody who recognises any symptoms I’ve described to reach out to someone, anyone – even me.

Stigma kills. People are literally opting to end their own lives rather than seek help because society tells them that having a mental illness is something to be ashamed of. They are suffering in painful silence because society tells them that mental illness is less acceptable than physical illness. We need to spread the message that it’s ok not to be ok and it’s equally as ok to admit it.

In case you hadn’t worked this out – I suffer from mental illness. I was relatively recently diagnosed with a combination of anxiety and depression after years of suffering in silence. At times it has been almost debilitating and incredibly limiting, but the help I needed was out there when I looked for it and it has dramatically changed my life for the better. People were surprised by my diagnosis when I finally built up the courage to speak about it. I seem like a normal, happy person with a stable job and a loving home – but that is precisely the point. Depression doesn’t care if you have a stable job or a loving home or anything else for that matter and this is something society as a whole massively struggles to understand. We must emphasise that there doesn’t always have to be a reason for mental illness, much like I very much doubt there was a specific reason that the little boy down the road fell and broke his arm last week. It can happen to any of us, and it happens to more of us than we think.

Unlike physical ailments, those of us who suffer mentally are expected to just carry on and help ourselves because after-all it is our own bad attitude towards life that has caused us to feel this way, right? I too believed this to be true, until I realised that there is in fact no difference in severity when it comes to physical vs mental illness. Would you expect someone with a fractured spine to just help themselves? Well, unless said person has extraordinary healing powers, I very much doubt this suggestion would be feasible and mental illness is exactly the same. You can’t heal your bones overnight and you certainly can’t heal your brain overnight.

It’s time we changed the conversation when it comes to mental health. Let’s #BreaktheStigma.

-Kelly Given, SNP Youth Equalities Officer

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What is Westminster afraid of?

On May 4th I proudly cast my first ever vote in the Scottish local government elections. It was a great feeling, knowing that I was helping to contribute to my local area in some way. I must say though, my mood was dampened somewhat when I remembered that only a month later there shall be another election, in which I will not have a say.

There is no reason that the voting age shouldn’t be lowered to 16. I understand why the Right wing is resistant to young people voting, since we so rarely vote for them, but it is unacceptable. The Scottish Government are leading by example, it’s time for Westminster to follow suit.

I strongly believe if young people get into the habit of voting early we will see improvements in turnout. The Scottish referendum saw 75% of 16 and 17 year olds registered voting compared with 54% 18-24 year olds. Due to this lack of engagement, young people are being outvoted by older generations. The referendums in both Scotland and the UK saw the majority young people on the losing side. We should be doing anything we can to increase turnout from young people, to ensure that the outcome of votes are representative of what all the people want, not just a specific age group.

At 16, Westminster are more than happy to accept our taxes, but they deny us a vote. To simplify this, our money is paying for things we have no control over. We can’t even have a vote on what those tax levels will be!

While I appreciate not many 16&17 year olds earn enough to pay tax it’s the principle. Westminster will use us for our money, but when it comes to hearing our voices, they slam the door in our faces.

I’m fed up of being patronised by the UK Government. I’m angry that my voice doesn’t count at all levels of government. This idea that 16 year olds can’t make educated, informed decisions on who to vote for is absolutely ridiculous. In Scotland we have proved that notion wrong, yet Westminster still refuses to give us a vote. What are they so afraid of?

-Logan Unwin

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Making History

It is not often that a political party continues to win elections after ten years in Government. In fact, it is almost unheard of. Yet that is exactly what happened yesterday as the SNP swept across the country, becoming the largest party in 19 of 32 Councils and increasing the total number of SNP Councillors.

The people of Scotland have had ten years to see what we are capable of in the SNP and they have decided once again that they like what they see.

The SNP have won 431 seats to the Tories’ 276 (Almost all of which came from hardline unionists abandoning Labour in droves) and have become the largest party in the four biggest cities in Scotland.

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In Glasgow, a city which has been voting for Labour for 80 years, saw the fate of Labour sealed. A humiliating collapse of their vote to the Tories and loss of the Council to the SNP have consigned Labour in Scotland and their horrendous mismanagement to the people of Glasgow to the history books – where they belong.

Now the city of Glasgow, like most Councils in Scotland, will have a tremendous team of SNP Councillors fighting to empower local communities and build the self-belief and trust that will help lead us towards independence for Scotland.

We in the SNP have made history once again.

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As always though, there is another election around the corner and some of the results in the Council election show that we cannot afford to be complacent. With the self-inflicted demise of Labour the race is now between the SNP and the Tories. It is a straight fight between a progressive, optimistic and internationalist SNP who will stand up for Scotland, or the regressive, fearful and insular Tories who will dance to whatever tune Theresa May plays. It is a choice of baby boxes or rape clauses. A choice of hope for a better future or the brutality of more austerity for our poorest and most vulnerable.

It may sound clichéd but these next elections will have a huge impact on how protected the people of Scotland are and how well placed we are for another referendum when it comes. Let’s make sure we grab this opportunity with both hands. Let’s get out there and make history again.

Alex Kerr – SNP Youth Glasgow Convener

Tories for Independence

This week, nasty Ruth Davidson, in a bid to avert the public’s attention from her despicable support for the vile rape clause, decided to talk about independence again. She said that Nicola Sturgeon’s statement that the general election wasn’t about independence was a “whopper”.

It’s an amazing feat of doublespeak that the Tories can claim that the SNP is obsessed with independence whilst constantly pivoting in any conversation to discuss independence themselves. Only this week, Davidson demanded that Sturgeon outlines the Scottish Government’s plans for a second referendum which were going to be released following the council elections but have since been postponed till after the snap general election. Who could blame her for postponing?

A vote for the SNP would strengthen, not the case for independence, but the right for the Scottish people to decide themselves and the sovereignty of the Scottish Parliament. Not that it’s required. The mandate for a second referendum has already been achieved in the 2016 Scottish election.

This election is also about providing a strong opposition to the Tories and their narrow mindedness and austerity obsession that is tearing the fabric of our communities apart.

In one breath, the Tories are the defenders of the union crusading to put the topic of independence in the ground whilst in the same breath demanding that the First Minister outlines full plans for a second referendum.

Believe it or not, there is method to this madness. The reason why the Tories are obsessed with independence is because opposing it is their rallying cry.

Unfortunately, the old system of class being the deciding factor on how people vote has weakened its grip on the electorate, although not completely. Figures have shown that the more money you had, the more likely you were to vote for the union. The comfortably numbs and the ‘I’m alright Jacks’. Likewise, the poorer people were the more likely they were to vote for independence. Regardless, most people now vote on constitutional lines: independence vs the union.

Because Labour are so unconvincing/useless in their support for the union, the Tories have been able to take up the mantle. As they claim the raison d’être of the SNP is independence, the reason for Toryism in Scotland is to protect the union. Making every election – even local elections – about independence taps into that fear of tearing up the Act of Union. There is no programme for government; no benefit to ordinary peoples’ lives; no reason – only fear that their sacred union from which they have benefited so much from may end.

The mandate for a referendum has already been achieved. The SNP is right to make this election about opposing the Tories. The Tories have independence. Labour have nothing. And the SNP has a vision for Scotland.

Rory Steel

SNP Youth Vice Convener

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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.