7 Jan 2013

Paisley Daily Express - 7 January 2013

Salmond’s empty promises

We hear a lot from Alex Salmond about funding for university students. Of course he conveniently forgets that he promised to write off student debt and then dumped this when he won the election. He then announced a "minimum income guarantee" for students but cut the bursaries for poorer students and increased the loan element for everyone. And since when did a loan become part of your income? My mortgage has never been part of my income, so why for students is a loan now an income? Alex Salmond has moved from writing off student debt to cutting bursaries for poorer students and forcing them to run up even more debt. In the world of the SNP this is apparently a promised delivered.

And students lose out

While on the subject of students, the treatment of colleges and college students by Alex Salmond and his Education Secretary, Mike Russell, is truly shameless. Both Alex Salmond and Mike Russell claimed college funding was rising when in fact it was being cut. They both know what they said wasn't true and eventually they were forced to come to the Scottish Parliament to apologise. Here in Renfrewshire, we can see the impact of the cuts on Reid Kerr College. Along with my colleague Neil Bibby, MSP, I visited Reid Kerr to hear first hand the problems being faced by students. Courses are being cut and potential students are struggling to find places. Scottish Labour wants the college budget cuts reversed and we are happy to campaign with local students against the £34million cuts. Alex Salmond could find the money for this by keeping the SNP's pledge to end the £75million a year needed to provide free funding for European students.

Meningitis champion

I have just become a Meningitis Champion and it is a duty I won’t be taking lightly. By agreeing to take on the role I have committed to help those who have suffered from, or been affected by the illness to fight back against meningitis and the life-changing damage it can cause. The Meningitis Trust is an organisation built up of supporters, staff, volunteers and partners who work together to raise awareness of the illness, campaign for change to improve quality of support and strive to make sure there is an increased understanding of the long-term devastation. I hope to be able to help however and whenever I can. The charity runs a 24-hour nurse-led helpline on 0800 028 18 28. Give them a call if you are worried or need advice.

Corseford is magic

As I told readers of this column before Christmas I had again decided to donate money to charity rather than send cards. This year I chose Corseford School in my constituency to benefit. Corseford School is run by the charity Capability Scotland and provides a warm, caring, first class education for youngsters with disabilities. None of the equipment the school needs for its pupils comes cheap. Their latest project is to raise funds, £15,000 to be exact, to buy a "magic carpet", an amazing piece of interactive equipment which will hugely benefit the boys and girls. I've visited Corseford School on a number of occasions and I never fail to be amazed by the spirit and determination of the pupils and the work of the staff. Corseford School is a real asset to Renfrewshire and I'm proud to be able to help, even in a small way.

It was a delight to meet amongst others, 15-year-old pupil Nicole Vallery from Paisley, her teacher Jacqueline Gunn (left), executive head teacher Sue Williams and Fiona Catterson, head of school.

Huntington’s Disease

On Wednesday, January 16 I will be hosting an event in the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Huntington's Association. Huntington's Disease (HD) is a hereditary illness. It is a neurological condition which affects the brain and central nervous system. The Scottish Huntington's Association, which is based here in Renfrewshire, works tirelessly to develop support services and create greater awareness. If you need help or advice or would like more information about their work, call 0141 848 0308, or go to www.hdscotland.org