Having had a wee break, mostly in the rain, to recharge the batteries, it was back to business this week in the constituency. I received a warm welcome at Dundonald Highland Games, which was extremely well attended, and enjoyed watching the participants give their all in the sunshine.
Through the week I was delighted to visit the Age Concern Drop-In Centre in Bourtreehill and spend time with some of the regular attendees, and then the following day take part in a Blindfold Walk with Guide Dogs Scotland to get a feeling for the difficulties faced by the blind and partially sighted whilst walking through the streets of our busy towns.
Pavement parking is an issue I have written about previously and how those of us who are motorists can help reduce the problems that vehicles parked on kerbs can cause those with restricted vision. It was really interesting to experience this for myself and I am glad to have the opportunity to raise further awareness of the problem since submitting my Early Day Motion on the matter in the House of Commons in June.
As Health Spokesperson for the SNP Group in Westminster, I am pleased to see that the number of beds occupied by delayed discharge in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level since 2013. I also welcome the improvements in Accident & Emergency waiting times, which show 95.2 % of patients were seen and subsequently admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours at core A&E departments.
This is further evidence that the SNP’s commitment to protecting and improving to our health service in Scotland is second to none, and also highlights once again the benefit of health being a devolved policy area and not subject to the privatisation agenda of the UK Tory Government.
It is also pleasing to see the latest employment statistics, which show that that unemployment in Scotland has continued to fall by a further 13,000 between April and June this year. This compares to an increase across the UK over the same period. It is particularly encouraging to see that youth employment has reached its highest level since the same period in 2005, with an increase of 20,000 over the latest quarter, resulting in youth unemployment being at its lowest level since 2008.
Getting young people into work, education or training has been a key focus of the SNP Government and a great deal of work has been done to reach this point. However, it is now essential that the Scottish Parliament is given the economic powers needed to take the additional steps required to further boost our economy, create jobs and tackle inequality. And, the focus on young people continued as we marked UN International Youth Day by calling on young people aged 15 and over to register to vote ahead of next year’s Scottish general election. The 2016 election will be the first where 16 and 17 year olds will have the right to vote following the unanimous passage of the Scottish Elections (Reduction of Voting Age) Bill in June. Last week the Electoral Commission launched a campaign to maximise voter registration amongst young people who will be 16 by the time of the election.
Lowering the voting age sends a strong message to young people that we believe that their opinion does matter, their voice should be heard, and their vote will influence the future of our country.
Registering to vote is easy and will only take 5 minutes – just go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
Finally, did your family receive a CARE package after World War II? If you did, or if you know someone who did, CARE International would love to hear from you to record your story.
As well as marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, this year also sees the 70th anniversary of CARE International, an organisation through which Americans could pay $10 to send a ‘CARE package’ to someone in war-torn Europe. Tens of thousands of Britons received these packages containing urgently needed food supplies such as corned beef, tinned fruit, lard, sugar and milk powder, in an early example of international aid.
70 years later, CARE International is one of the world’s leading aid agencies, but their origins were in these simple acts of kindness from one person to another. On their anniversary year they have launched a campaign to find recipients of the original CARE packages and are using the opportunity to explain how aid and development have changed over the last 70 years.
The culmination of their anniversary campaign will be on October 20-25, with a “CARE Then and Now” exhibition, featuring the stories of aid recipients 70 year ago and today, establishing the shared humanity in these stories, while showing how far aid has progressed over the last seven decades.
If you would like to get in touch with your story, please contact Paul-Andre Wilton Wilton@careinternational.org