Talking Point: A fairer outcome

How we treat former prisoners a measure of how fair our country will have become

by Sep 17, 2014 No Comments
Unsurprisingly, the criminal justice system – given its already devolved nature – did not prove nearly as prominent in the referendum campaign as other aspects of public policy. Besides a discussion among anoraks on the fallout of a withdrawal from the UK Supreme Court, it has remained somewhat silent in the shadows, working away as usual. Yet, if this referendum is considered the vehicle through which to create a more socially just and fairer Scotland then those within our prisons mustn’t be ignored, even if their voting preferences have been. Now, I have heard Colin McConnell, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), speak on numerous occasions and indeed I have read many of his speeches. Few, however, have been as candid as the one published a month to the day of the...
Talking point: First steps

Starting school

by Sep 17, 2014 No Comments
Tom By sheer coincidence, as I stepped into the education brief for Holyrood, my daughter started her school career. Like many parents, I imagine it was probably a more traumatic experience for me than her, waving her off into a system which will dominate her life for at least the next eleven years, hopefully more, knowing that forces outside my own control can shape her education, attainment, and ultimately her choices in life. Research has shown social mobility has declined since the 1970s, and the recently published Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission study shows the UK’s key institutions are dominated by graduates from private schools and Oxford and Cambridge. Commission chairman Alan Milburn said the country’s top jobs remain “disproportionately held by people from a...
Talking point: Suck it up

by Sep 17, 2014 No Comments
I’d not seen a good Europe scare story for a while, so I was delighted when I returned from a week away to see a news story that people were rushing to their nearest Comet to buy vacuum cleaners. New legislation from the EU means that restrictions have been put on power ratings. As of 1 September, the maximum power rating is 1600 watts – this will be cut to 900 watts in three years time. The current average on the market at the moment is 1800 watts. This was followed by an outcry, particularly because a particular brand of vacuum (the one with a smiley face on) some claimed would fall foul of the new restrictions – oh, and apparently, they are coming for our hairdryers next. The reason for the cull on vacuums is to comply with new EU regulations on energy efficiency, one which the...
Talking Point: Centre Stage

by Sep 16, 2014 No Comments
It has been a year since my last column and my life has altered beyond recognition. I’m now mum to a jolly wee lad who has filled our lives with smiles, slobbery kisses, strange smells and sleepless nights. I’ve loved getting to know him as his developing personality emerges and have tried to learn from the example of his wide-eyed enthusiasm for the world around him. Professionally too it has been illuminating. In the past I’ve written about issues such as Scotland’s patient safety programme, the keen focus on early years, and the need for a universal health visiting system; and I’ve interviewed patients, carers, midwives, doctors and nurses from the Borders to the isles and everywhere in between. But to personally be on the receiving end of the health service’s...
Talking point: Brave new world

by Sep 16, 2014 No Comments
After what feels like a lifetime of bickering, argument, bad feeling, impassioned speeches and a surprising amount of sense being talked, the independence referendum is almost upon us. As those in the political bubble, the Holyrood team has lived and breathed the ups and downs of the campaign. We’ve been accused of favouring both sides; we’ve broken big stories which have found their way repeatedly into First Minister’s Questions and the televised debates; we have been there during the major announcements and listened to many, many speeches. We have analysed and we have reported the facts, and I am proud and honoured to have been party to this campaign. Regardless of what side of the debate you favour, and without fear of sounding melodramatic, this truly is history in the making....
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