Yesterday I asked expert witnesses on the Finance and Constitution Committee about Investor- State Dispute Settlements and their potential inclusion in future trade deals negotiated by the UK Government on behalf of Scotland, in a session focusing on the UK Trade Bill.
Ash Denham MSP has called on the Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox to preclude any commitments to investor-state dispute settlements in the UK Trade Bill.
Expert witnesses at the Finance and Constitution Committee today raised concerns that the UK Trade Bill remains unclear over the potential use of investor-state dispute settlements in any future trade agreements to settle international trade disputes.
Investor-state dispute settlements are an instrument of international law that enables international corporations to sue host states for alleged discriminatory practices, such as loss of profits stemming from public policy.
The Trade Bill as currently drafted would grant the UK Government sweeping powers to negotiate future trade deals on Scotland’s behalf- including in areas that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament such as agriculture and health. But at present the Bill contains no provisions for allowing parliamentary scrutiny by Holyrood.
Ash Denham, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern, has criticised the UK government for “driving families to food banks” after new figures reveal the number of food parcels has increased over the past year.
The Trussell Trust’s annual foodbank statistics show that the number of food parcels distributed in Scotland surged by 17% in 2017-18 to record levels – with Tory welfare policy remaining the main driver.
Benefit delays and sanctions are the primary reason for referrals, with the roll-out of universal credit a factor in the rise.
The SNP have called on the UK government to reverse the benefits freeze and introduce a real living wage to help ensure families have enough money to live on.
Yesterday I asked the Minister for Employability and Training, Jamie Hepburn MSP, what the Scottish Government’s response is to the recent publication of large companies’ gender pay gaps, which show that there remains a large pay gap among many companies across the UK, including in Edinburgh. Watch to see his answer.
A witness panel giving evidence to the Finance and Constitution Committee this week contended that any future trade deals the UK Government seeks to pursue must only be secured with the consent of the Scottish Government.
The Committee took evidence from witnesses on the possible impact of the UK’s Trade Bill on Scotland. The Bill would grant the UK Government sweeping powers to negotiate future trade deals on Scotland’s behalf- including in areas that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament such as agriculture. But at present the Bill contains no provisions for allowing parliamentary scrutiny by Holyrood.
According to Professor Aileen McHarg of Strathclyde University the Bill in its current draft contains ‘no requirement for UK Ministers to gain devolved consent before exercising regulation making powers in devolved areas.’
Asked by SNP MSP Ash Denham if the UK Government should be able to proceed with trade deals that the Scottish Government didn’t agree to, Graham Kemp, from St Andrews TTIP Action Group, answered,
“The answer is no. They shouldn’t be able to proceed. We have been told we are an equal partner to the union and should be treated as such.”
Yesterday I asked the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Shona Robinson the question “Whether the independent OSCR’s investigations will extend to other Health Boards.” See below for her answer.
Since being elected in May I have had constituents contact me regarding their concerns with prostitution in Edinburgh; both the street selling and the saunas and massage parlours side. After speaking at an event in September about human trafficking, I have also been contacted by women and a few men from all over Scotland regarding their concerns about trafficking.
The SNP Haddington Branch put forward a motion that I presented at Conference, in March 2017, for a Scottish Model of Legislation on Prostitution. This motion seeks to legalise the sale of sex while criminalising the purchase of sex, thereby protecting those exploited by prostitution and punishing the exploiters. It would also offer a system of support for those wishing to exit prostitution.
This mirrors the Nordic Model such as successful legislation in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and France.
Statistics show that neighbouring jurisdictions result in the demand being displaced to nearby countries. Thus, Scotland is at risk for an increase in demand for paid sex.
The motion successfully passed and is now SNP party policy.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is defined by NHS Scotland as including “a wide range of often linked sexual activities which (typically) men profit from or buy from women and which objectivity and harm women. It includes prostitution, phone sex, internet sex/chat rooms, stripping, pole dancing, lap dancing, peep shows, pornography, trafficking, sex tourism and mail order brides.
“The women involved are often on low incomes, substance users and victims of other forms of gender-based violence. Based on a lack of alternatives and often on coercion, such activities are rarely a ‘free’ or ‘vocational’ choice.
The Scottish Government includes prostitution, pornography and other forms of involvement in the ‘sex industry’ in its definition of violence against women. It considers that the exploitation of women through these forms of ‘entertainment’ legitimises negative attitudes towards women and is inextricably linked to gender inequality and sexual violence.”
–NHS Scotland: Commercial Sexual Exploitation
SNP MSP Ash Denham is encouraging consumers in Edinburgh Eastern to shop locally and support the 18,710 small businesses in the local economy.
The Scottish Government is committed to supporting businesses in Scotland, including retailers, providing the most competitive package of non-domestic rates reliefs anywhere in the UK in the 2018/19 budget. This includes the Small Business Bonus scheme that has already saved smaller firms £1.5bn, lifting 100,000 business premises out of rates altogether.