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If the UK Gov refuse to allow Scotland to decide our own future here is what we must do to win our independence 

In 2016 the people of Scotland went to the ballot box. They returned an SNP Government with the highest ever amount of constituency votes. That election was only a month before the people of Scotland again went to the polls in the EU referendum. The SNP were clear – a vote for us meant that if Scotland voted to Remain in the EU, but we were taken out of the EU by the rest of the UK, then we would have the right to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. That is the mandate the people of Scotland gave our government of Scotland.
The moment for exercising that mandate is coming fast upon us. We are teetering on the cliff edge watching on as the UK Government stands ready to fritter away our membership of the EU. Despite the Scottish Government putting forward a raft of compromises to safeguard Scotland, and indeed the entire UK, from a disastrous Brexit, we have been ignored and disregarded at every opportunity.
The contrast with the Irish position is telling. In the days after the 2016 referendum the two cases of remain voting Scotland and Northern Ireland being dragged out of Europe were given a parity of esteem as key issues arising from the UK Brexit vote. How different now.
The Irish border has been the dominating issue of the Brexit bourach while the cause of Scotland has disappeared without trace. The entirely reasonable arguments of the Scottish Government have been swept aside by Westminster with total contempt. We have ever so politely played the game and we have ever so politely been sent to the subs bench.
Be under no doubt, the weakest Government in the history of the UK has no appetite to make whatever positive case that may be left for Scotland staying in the UK at a time of Brexit despair. That weak Government does not respect the Scottish Government because they do not fear it in the way that David Cameron feared Alex Salmond.
It is our preferred choice to achieve our independence through a referendum, but if we are denied the right to hold a referendum on our future then we must take our destiny into our own hands.
The consented referendum policy of the SNP is not integral to our National cause. It was devised and deployed by Alex Salmond to create our first ever SNP Government and then our first opportunity at independence in the modern era. If, at the time, Alex had been required to find another route forward then he would most assuredly have found one.
The 2021 Scottish Parliament election cannot be an election to gain a mandate to hold a referendum, we already have such a mandate. If the UK government continue to refuse us our right to exercise democracy via a referendum then we should rely on our own sovereign and democratic parliament to deliver that.
First we have to look like we mean what we say. Let us deploy the referendum demand as it should be deployed with democratic determination.
Of course it is extremely likely that Westminster will arrogantly continue to say No, so what then – should it be UDI or Catalonia. No it should be neither.
The first parliamentary test – be it Westminster or Holyrood – should then feature an SNP manifesto commitment to secure a mandate by a majority of pro-independence Scottish seats for our Government to then open independence negotiations with Westminster.
Faced with that clearly stated proposition Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Westminster could well reconsider their contemptuous refusal to accept that a majority of people in Scotland favour a Scottish referendum. If they do not then so be it.
If a section 30 order is denied, and a referendum is not held, then, in 2021 (or sooner) a parliamentary vote for the SNP should be a vote for Scottish independence. And if we win that vote then we shall deliver what our Party was born to achieve.

Ends.

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Sometimes crimes hurt communities badly, vigilantism is not the answer 

There’s been some vigilantism tonight on the back of a crime and I just wanted to say a short word on it. 

If someone committed the worst imaginable act to your child, or young family member, I too would probably want to be locked in a room with that person and all my rage out on them. Protecting children and young people in our lives is problem the most basic human instinct we have. 
Being rationale is also human. 
The police in Inverclyde, and Scotland, really are good at their job. If you think someone is responsible for an despicable act, tell them right away. 
A mob mentality of going after people doesn’t work. You might even find that you end up the victim yourself if your actions lead to violence, or as alleged an innocent persons car being smashed up. 
One member, or a few members of a group of people from a certain background aren’t responsible for everyone from that background. There will be people tonight, worried, that because they look a certain way people may think they are responsible for something when they’re likely as outraged as every other reasonable person. 
Sometimes allowing the police to carry out justice is hard, especially when a situation is so close to home. But it’s really important we let them do their job. 
I hope you can take this message in the spirit it intended and if you get the chance to speak to your neighbours, understand the anger they might be experiencing there born out a genuine care for vulnerable people in their community, but please, if you can, get across reason that we need to always let the police get on with the job we trust them to carry out for us. 

Today we celebrate international day against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia 

Today (Friday) the 17th of May 2019 marks 30 years since homosexuality was removed from the World Health Organisation’s international classification of diseases and the 15th International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia, commonly abbreviated to ‘IDAHOT’. Since its initial inception back in 2004, IDAHOT has come to represent a day in which social activists and equality campaigners seek to raise consciousness regarding the discrimination and prejudice that LGBTI people still face in communities across the world. 

In recent decades our country has made significant progress towards removing many legal barriers that prevented LGBT people from becoming equal members of society and in 2015 ILGA-Europe rated Scotland the best in Europe for LGBT Equality. Though we should celebrate our hard-won achievements, there still remain many issues regarding social exclusion and provision of services in our society. The Equality Network (Scotland’s National LGBTI equality and human rights charity) published a report in June 2015 regarding the experiences of prejudice and discrimination in Scotland. The Report found that 79% of LGBT respondents had witnessed or experienced prejudice or discrimination within the past year. Additionally, 33% of LGBT respondents felt isolated in their communities due to being LGBT. 

 

As part of our commitment to pursuing social equality for all, my council is today participating in IDAHOT by flying the pride flag above our municipal buildings – something I proposed in February. 

I hope you will join Inverclyde Council in commemorating IDAHOT and striving to ensure all people may realise their true potential as equal members of our society regardless of gender, race, religion or sexuality.

 

What the Scottish Government’s budget actually means for Inverclyde 

Dear editor, it has been welcome that as of late Greenock Telegraph readers have been engaging in the letters page regarding the Scottish Government’s budget. I thought it would be helpful to set out more accurately what it means for people in Inverclyde. 
While Westminster crumbles further into utter chaos, and the UK government ceases to function, the Scottish Government offers stability with a budget that protects public services, supports the economy and helps build a fairer country.

With this budget, we’re taking Scotland down the path of progress. Here’s how:
We’re building a fairer Scotland. The life chances of Scotland’s young people must not be determined by where they’re born, or what their background is. That’s why we’re investing £180m, including £120m to headteachers, to close the attainment gap in schools and ensure no one is left behind. Labour’s Cllr Jim Clocherty, the councils education Convener, spoke in this newspaper recently of the best results in all of Scotland we have been achieving in closing the attainment gap. Long term educational success for Inverclyde’s young people is a path to better jobs and better life chances, which improves Inverclyde to us all. Without this budget this money wouldn’t be there. 
This budget also delivers the fairest income tax system in the UK that asks the richest 1% to pay a little more than last year, with everyone else paying the same or less. When I speak to people across Inverclyde they agree with me that this is fair. It also means that 55% of income taxpayers, will pay less than those in the rest of the UK.
Since we introduced our fairer tax system this year, our economy has grown faster than the UK – demonstrating that those who predicted our tax policy would hit the economy are simply wrong.
The budget continues delivering a welfare system that puts dignity, fairness and respect at its very core.

While the UK Government pursue their damaging austerity programme that hurts those most in need, we’re working hard to protect Scotland from the worst of the cuts. This includes mitigating the callous UK government Bedroom Tax. Thanks to this budget nobody in Inverclyde or across Scotland needs to pay the bedroom tax. I’ve listened to the difference this makes first hand to so many people in the communities we were elected to represent. 
The £435m of direct assistance through our social security interventions includes £283m for Carers Allowance, £33m for the Scottish Welfare Fund, and £12.4m for Best Start Grant. Without Inverclyde getting its share of this money, the impact welfare reform has on people that live here would be life threatening. 

With additional £729m extra for health and care services, this budget gives our NHS a significant and vital funding boost. 

We’re also actively supporting mental health services for young people with additional £27m, and strengthening healthcare provision in communities up and down Scotland.
Tory austerity and the threat of Brexit are putting real pressures on the NHS, but despite that, we will invest over £9bn for Health and Social Care Partnerships for primary and community health services. This means that more money will be going directly to some of the services we value the most, like looking after elderly family members and the most vulnerable people in Inverclyde. 
This budget sees over £5bn of capital investment for affordable housing, roads and infrastructure, including a new £50m Town Centre Fund to breathe life into high streets and make town centres fit for the future. The latter fund is something that could bring the improvement to Inverclyde town centres that people believe we need. 
We’re also providing record investment of over £825m, as part of our total investment of over £3bn to deliver 50,000 affordable homes over the course of this Parliament. As you drive through Inverclyde you see first hand the transformation this funding has made to the area. 
Despite the Tories recently suggesting that ‘austerity is over’, our resource block grant has been cut by £2bn in real terms since 2010.
We’re mitigating this austerity, which allows us to offer stability in the face of the chaos and confusion of Tory Brexit.

We’re proud to protect and invest in Scotland’s public services, while building a strong economy fit for the challenges of tomorrow.
Of course in the face of such massive cuts in just eight years by the UK government somethings tough choices are required. 
If people think different choices should be made then it’ll be welcome if they put those ideas forward and explain which of the above areas shouldn’t get investment to pay for them. 

THE MONSTERING OF SALMOND: A Scottish Media Masterclass

Three weeks into the Salmond saga and the MSM are getting increasingly desperate. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the breathless excitement of reportage of the Daily Record and their Sunday sister the Sunday Mail.

Three successive days they jointly led on the “story” last week which, for the Sunday edition, meant it was the third week running where Salmond appeared on the front page. As I demonstrate below, this week’s frenzy was based on nothing very much, indeed next to nothing at all.
However, our friends down in Central Quay have a problem. Over his thirty years in politics Salmond would at times have been the most examined politician in the country. In 2014, in particular, he held the fate of the “precious Union” in his hands. His entire life story would have been minutely inspected by those who hate him and those that hated the prospect that Scotland would vote for self determination. In all of that time, little or nothing appeared which suggested a dark side – plenty of personal attacks, of course, but nothing of any substance.
That is not to say that Salmond does not have a temper. Most top, and virtually all, successful politicians demand a great deal of their staff. However as the ever present and truly exceptional Kevin Pringle has noted, Salmond has the abiding virtue of always demanding more from himself than he does from others.
However, we are now expected to believe that what had been overlooked was more substantial than that – a Daily Record “investigation” no less has alleged that multiple complaints had been made to anonymous trade union sources and documents released under FOI were cited to demonstrate the true secret extent of the Salmond villainy. Indeed it was even implied that an entire new procedure was introduced in the civil service to deal with an out of control First Minister. This, it should be said, in the total and complete absence of any evidence of any complaints whatsoever about Salmond during his term of office.
Now I can’t do much to fully discredit the unnamed sources, other than perhaps highlight that any trade union rep worth their salt wouldn’t wait ten minutes to defend a member never mind ten years, but I have examined in detail the previous FoI documentation and lo and behold not only does it NOT back up the claims it actually suggests exactly the OPPOSITE picture.
These documents, released as long ago as last February, are basically minutes of the Scottish Government “Partnership Board” which met over an 18 month period to agree a new policy called Fairness at Work under which, among many other things, Government Ministers were included in a general staff conduct policy for the very first time. Hitherto, in all Government Departments, it had been thought that the statutory base of the Ministerial Code, under which the Prime Minister/ First Minister solely determined the fate of any Minister, would preclude such a development.
And which Minister was it who specifically approved and endorsed this radical and progressive step? Alex Salmond himself, or, as an email from 22nd February 2010 puts it, he was specifically consulted and was “content” with what was being proposed.
Thus we are expected to believe that Salmond effectively introduced a policy designed to operate against himself! As we contemplate this thought (strangely absent from The Record copy) it should be remembered that many things have been said about Salmond over the years but rank stupidity has never been one of them!
However, at no stage do the minutes claim that that this policy was somehow aimed at Salmond. For example the Partnership Board of 23 November 2009 quotes a trade union official explaining that the unions ambition to include Ministers in the policy were provoked by a “history of alleged bad behaviour by Ministers in the former Scottish Office/Scottish Executive and now Scottish Government”. In other words to take that as justification for attacking oor Eck you might as well point the finger at the late George Younger or the late Donald Dewar. Nor is it true that formal complaints had never been made before by officials about Ministers. As I recall the formidable Wendy Alexander as Enterprise Minister was on the receiving end of one way back in 2001.
However, what is true and this is the absolute clincher, as the Scottish Government has now repeatedly confirmed, there is no record of any complaints made about Salmond, or indeed any other SNP Minister, during his term of office. There were no such complaints before Fairness at Work was introduced in June 2010 and there were none afterwards.
That is the inconvenient truth with which The Record and other MSM protagonists have had to grapple. How do you suggest a pattern of Salmond bad behaviour when there were no complaints. And their solution is secret briefings, anonymous sources and reference to mysterious FoI documents which actually on examination show exactly the opposite.
One point has preoccupied me in writing this piece. Why should the civil service unions (or rather some figures in them) be apparently co-operating in this campaign to monster Salmond? This is a particular puzzle since my STUC sources tell me that the civil service unions rated Salmond as the most pro-Trade Union First Minister in their history who, even in the face of the recessionary financial squeeze, gave them unprecedented influence and implemented progressive polices such as no compulsory redundancies and the living wage.
Perhaps the answer lies in a little noted meeting reported in The Herald of 30th August where the Permanent Secretary is reported as having met three of the civil service unions to secure support for the new process of complaints which she herself had established. In the same report in The Herald it cites the intemperate comments of David Penman, General Secretary of the First Division Association of civil servants (“nasty vindictive Salmond undermining the civil service” – https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16608579.union-boss-says-nasty-vindictive-alex-salmond-undermining-civil-service/ – ) made in a series of broadcasts, tweets and articles. The FDA is of course the mandarins union and the bold Patrick Thistle supporting David represents the very top civil servants across the entire civil service from his base in East Tilbury, Essex.
I have previously written the clear and obvious problems with the apparent absence of natural justice in the new process established by the Permanent Secretary and first used against Salmond. Now that I have fully read the Fairness at Work Policy the contrast between the two could could not be starker. Fairness at Work was carefully crafted after 18 months of discussion and introduced in June 2010. It balanced the rights of all concerned. The new policy was cobbled together in, at most, a few weeks at the end of 2017 and then,in a totally unprecedented way, applied to someone more than three years after he left office.
And so the MSM have been making hay at Salmond’s expense. But here’s the thing. I have been struck by Salmond’s demeanour in the face of the storm. His comments are cool to the point of relaxed. God knows what pressure he is really under but his answers are brief and unwaveringly to the point. He shows not the slightest sign of bending to the winds from the MSM.
“We’ll do our talking in court” he says. He is entirely focussed on the judicial review currently before the Court of Session and won’t be deflected from it. Matters of defamation will be dealt with afterwards and the The Daily Record and others have been placed on specific notice. 
In Daily Record headquarters on Central Quay, voices are no doubt starting to whisper “what if Salmond wins?” and praying that isn’t the case. Well I have another prayer for them: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. For Alex Salmond is not only one of the wisest politicians Scotland has seen in over 300 years but also one of the most courageous.

Ends.

The role of Local Government in reaching the challenge of ageing. 

Introductory Remarks
Thank you and Good Morning. As was mentioned my name is Councillor Christopher McEleny and I am an Elected Member in Inverclyde Council, one of the 32 Council municipal bodies in Scotland. I will also today discuss the work of the European Committee of the Regions and the Reflecting on Europe Initiative.  

 

It is good to be here as the challenge of an ageing population, the subsequent impact on public services and our collective efforts to ensure the highest standards of integrated health and social care are crucially important to us in Local Government.

 

For anyone who is yet to discover Inverclyde, we are situated just 25 miles from here on the south bank of the River Clyde encompassing the towns of Gourock, Greenock and Port Glasgow as well as the surrounding villages.

 

Our location in the mouth of the river made it possible in the 19th and 20th centuries for the rapid development of shipbuilding and marine engineering. We therefore have a legacy of rich cultural heritage, built environment and natural, coastal and marine resource.

 

In recent years, the Council has sought to counteract decline and build on these resources, with the understanding that health outcomes are directly linked to socio-economic deprivation and poverty.

 

Transforming our local waterfront area and focussing on urban renewal in housing for example has been part of efforts through economic development to improve public health.

 

We plan strategically with recognition of the inter-relationship not only between health inequalities and deprivation, but stress, mental health, financial inclusion and employability.

 

The preventative agenda is also at the centre of our approach, which we advance in our capacity as elected local representatives with duties to community well-being.

 

Attempts to grow and diversify the local economy however depend on a stable population and it is known that Scotland experiences the challenges of ageing demographics and of rural decline.

 

Inverclyde is no exception, being one of the 12 Council areas expected to see population decreases despite the recent general growth in Scotland’s total. This downwards trend has been happening in Inverclyde since the 1990s.

 

We also have locally a larger percentage of persons aged 60 and above (26.3%), higher than the Scottish average (24.2%), making the need for active ageing policies that optimise health, participation and security and enhance quality of life as people age, even greater.

 

We see that ageing demographics not only present a challenge to the long-term delivery of public services, the workforce and finance but to the very fabric of rural and remote communities.

 

At the same time, public services, including in health and social care, across Scotland, UK and Europe are facing common, multiple challenges.

 

For example, national austerity policies and reduction in available budgets gives grounds for real concern and we are yet to see improved rates of investment in the face of increasing demand.

 

And this with the additional concern of the UK leaving the EU and a possible restriction in EU mobility in turn restricting our own ability to grow our economy, staff our workforce and tackle problems associated with an ageing population.

 

This local perspective provides the backdrop to which today’s event on Meeting the Challenge of Ageing: Putting Citizens at the Heart of Integrated Care in Europe is so welcome.

 

Collaboration at EU level and professional efforts to work together to deliver the best standards in care and the most innovative solutions for active and healthy ageing such as those to be discussed today, have never been needed more.

 

The work to develop a tool for self-assessment and facilitate peer learning, led by NHS24 is a very welcome contribution and should be congratulated.

 

At EU and international level, Scotland has a high reputation not only for technology, research and innovation but collaboration and exchange.

 

The innovative and collaborative nature of this work is a concrete demonstration of that. It shows that Scotland is recognised across the EU as having sector leading practice in the use of technology to improve health efficiency.

 

 

Reflecting on Europe

Today’s event is also welcome in that it is the first Reflecting on Europe event to be held locally in Scotland.

 

Reflecting on Europe is an initiative by the European Committee of the Regions to listen to the views of people on the future of the EU.

 

It is in that capacity that I am speaking today, as one of Scotland’s nominated representatives in the European Committee of the Regions.

 

The Committee of the Regions is the European body for locally and regionally elected members where we have a formal role to scrutinise and comment on EU policy and legislation to ensure it adheres with to the principle of subsidiarity.

 

As a body of 350 elected members from across the 28 EU Member States, we work to ensure decisions can be taken as closely to people as possible. Scottish representation is shared jointly by Local Government and the Scottish Parliament.

 

Given that role to ensure decisions are taken at the level closest to communities, the Committee of the Regions has been asked by European Council President Tusk to contribute to ongoing reflections in the EU on its future, to ensure the views of communities, citizens and service users are captured as part of that process.

 

The result is Reflecting on Europe, with the idea to create the space for local and regional authorities and for citizens to present their thoughts and ideas about the past, present and future of Europe.

 

Committee of the Regions members are therefore supporting a series of local listening events to ask people about the most pressing challenges at regional and local level. It is with recognition that many in Europe perceive the EU institutions as not responsive enough to the needs of people and local communities.

 

But we in the Committee of the Regions are listening. There have already been 90 local events held across 20 European countries, with plans for many more.

 

As many of you will know, all these discussions come after European Commission President Junker presented MEPs with a new White Paper on the Future of Europe which outlined five scenarios ranging from the status quo to a federal EU.

 

These scenarios include carrying on as now; stripping back to nothing but the Single Market; providing for those Member States who want to do more; trying to do less, more efficiently; or going further and agreeing to share more powers at EU level.

 

A “reflection period” in preparation for the UK’s Withdrawal and on the back of the Future of Europe White Paper was launched at the same time.

 

And that is what Reflecting on Europe is really about – listening to the views of people at local and regional level to feed into future considerations and options for EU integration. What are people’s expectations in respect to the EU, what are the key issues the EU should try address to improve people’s lives and enhance European citizenship.

 

I strongly underscore that despite the UK leaving the EU, Scotland needs to be part of these discussions. This is because no matter what formal relationship is negotiated, we will still be affected by decisions taken at EU level and also in cross-border matters.

 

Challenges are in general, but also in health increasingly cross-border. Areas where there are clear benefits for cross-border collaboration, such as procurement, pricing and access to medicines, as well as cost-intensive and highly specialised medical equipment, would be just a small example of what is potentially affected by the UK leaving the EU.

 

This is while we see across Europe, need to improve equity and health outcomes by guaranteeing equal access to quality healthcare everywhere for everyone. Integrated care is fundamental to achieving this, as are active policies for an ageing population.

 

Health Inequalities

While today’s event is about perspectives and approaches in integrated health and social care, to frame our reflection discussions, I will make a few comments about health issues that present themselves to me as a local politician.

 

The most pressing, is the issue of health inequalities which presents it to me every day. It is widely known in Scotland for example that the wealthiest males can live up to 7 years longer than those living in deprivation. Scotland also has the lowest life expectancy for men and women in the UK and that gap is widening.

 

While we have robust equalities legislation to protect a number of key characteristics including disability, recent statistics show that progress on tackling all forms of inequality in Scotland has slowed, and is actually increasing in many areas.

 

A key priority for all Scottish Councils is to close this equality gap, address health inequalities and invest in preventative spending. While are committed to prevention but also give priority focus to early years; early intervention in later years; a multi-agency systems approach; a high-quality workforce; and investment in programmes that work and improve outcomes.

 

But despite much progress and Scotland being the first in Europe to introduce legislation for integrated health and social care, we still too often prioritise immediate crisis intervention and crisis based services.

 

Top down policy-making can also come at the expense of Local Government’s ability to be flexible and shift spending and, in health and social care, shift the balance of care. We are still too focussed on input measures, sometimes without a full appreciation of their effectiveness or whether they deliver outcomes for people.

 

For me in my role as a local elected politician, public health resources in the round are not adequately set up to address the root causes of health inequalities. As I said in my introduction, my Council is working hard to address this but working together we need to shift the focus of resources from crisis management to the consequences of poverty, preventing it and tackling root causes.

 

While we are moving in the right direction, lifting more people out of poverty and breaking the cycle in many places, there remain some communities that continue to be characterised by poverty despite our best efforts.

 

There therefore needs to be a more holistic, cross-cutting approach, looking at the wider effects and contributors to poverty, covering health inequalities, employment and employability, learning, and financial inclusion.

 

We can all recognise that focussing on one factor alone will not improve health outcomes given the interconnections – poor physical or mental health is often a direct consequence of poverty. We see it happening at local level in communities and when we talk with constituents.

 

In the spirit of integration, we should work further to develop a coherent and unified approach also between the actions of agencies and delivery partners to deliver holistic approaches to tackling poverty and the knock-on negative health consequences.

 

Too many inflexible and top down targets and indicators, can disempower us as local system leaders and managers to be bold, innovative and to take appropriate risks in how and where we invest in improvement.

 

National level should support these local considerations around the connections between inequalities, negative outcomes and failure demand, and invest in Local Government as a means to address these.

 

Fundamentally at EU level, we need to continue best practice exchange, such as is being provided for in the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, because improving outcomes and addressing health inequalities, cannot in my view be done as effectively in isolation.

 

The Innovation Partnership also demonstrates the potential of technology and digital solutions to address increased demand on health services and make care more flexible.

 

Not only does technology provide a foundation for self-assessment and peer support, but it provides new opportunities for prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, information and communication. We need pioneers to maximise fully the use of technology in the health sector.

 

Ageing Demographics

Active and healthy ageing and empowering older people to remain in control of their own lives as long as possible, is incredibly important to European economy and society.

 

Many in Europe, face the double compounding problem of people living longer and having less children which results in older individuals making up a proportionally larger share of the total population over time.

 

For Scottish Local Government, this challenge means greater financial pressure on social care. As people live longer, the most common need for service use is not for acute care, but rather for care related to long term conditions such as dementia.

 

But it also creates increased budgetary and operational pressures on other service areas such as housing and planning who must take into account the housing needs of elderly people and have a role in relation to modification or adaptation of accommodation.

 

We also working to prepare for an ageing workforce, plan for large numbers of people to retire over the next few years, and ensure that we can attract sufficient young, skilled professionals. All while working to provide the best terms and conditions possible for the workforce.

 

Supporting people and communities to ensure that they have capacity, knowledge and skills to be resilient and take control of their own and their families circumstances and outcomes is a key component of a more equal and more sustainable Scotland.

 

With disabled and elderly people making up a large number of the people who use the services councils provide, they have a significant role as planning partners in designing support services and this, in our view, should be facilitated through co-production.

 

Preventative solutions that focus on prevention and care rather than hospitalisation, provide much better support for ageing people especially those in remote areas and it is in the long-term much more efficient than institutionalised healthcare in hospitals or elderly care home.

 

Improving outcomes in the earliest years of life, in recognition of the effect this has on negative social outcomes in later life is also key.

 

This requires action across the whole population, from infants to older people, and requires us to look at reducing inequalities which are inextricably linked with poor economic, health and social outcomes.

 

We are already seeing locally the positive impact of preventative spending and earlier intervention on reducing demand for acute services and tackling health inequalities, both in preventative care and earlier intervention for older people.

 

But reductions to core budgets with little recognition of the interrelationship between all that Local Authorities do to reduce inequalities, build community capacity, resilience and assets and decrease demand for services in other parts of the system such as health and social care, is making the challenge more acute.

 

It also has an impact on Local Government’s ability to invest in the voluntary and community sectors.

 

It is for example unfortunate that so often Councils are forced to cut back on their sport and leisure provision precisely because of the financial pressures they are faced with. There is a clear physical and mental health benefits to sport and re-investing in sport and leisure is important.

 

For us in Scottish Local Government, more needs to be done to protect and improve mental health for all ages through investing in building individual and community resilience.

 

Integrated Health and Social Care

Social care is to support independent living which is preventative on its own merit. But to maximise efficiencies and ensure locally appropriate solutions are implemented, more needs to be done to devolve resource and decision-making closer to communities.

 

This will support flexibility and innovation, otherwise we risk creating a system which prioritises statutory duties and crisis intervention at the expense of preventative interventions and services.

 

We should give further consideration to the role of community development as the foundation of personal and community resilience which will improve outcomes and reduce demand throughout the healthcare journey.

 

This is crucial for the long-term sustainability of health and social care services and will require political leadership at both the national and local level to work with and empower communities.

 

UK Withdrawal

With the UK’s decision to leave the EU, we have even greater concern about demographics and the potential impact on Local Government’s ability to counteract a growing ageing population. EU migration is of course a key part of attempts to grow Scotland’s population.

 

There are already clearly identified impacts of Brexit for the labour market and local economies, but also for service areas particularly teaching, social work and the health sector.

 

Free movement of people and the mutual recognition of qualifications allows skilled and experienced health professionals from the EU to work in our NHS. Our health and public services depend on EU workers.

 

Without them, our ability to continue to provide high-quality health and social care services for the people of Scotland will suffer, particularly in remote and rural communities.

 

The effects of Brexit are also showing impact on integration policies and community cohesion, a real concern for local leaders with responsibility for wellbeing.  

 

Cross-border care, mobility of patients, workers, and retirement issues are just a selection of issues in the health field that will need to be guaranteed post withdrawal.

 

Closing Remarks

Full service integration needs us to look at service provision holistically.

 

If a more healthy and equal society is also our collective aim, all policy proposals and initiatives should be challenged as to the extent they address and target resources towards tackling inequality.

 

Evidence shows that there is a strong link between low skills, poor education, poor health, unemployment and poverty. More attention needs to be given to the prevention of poverty and tackling root causes.

 

Ultimately, investment in local government will reduce demand for health and social care provision.

 

If Local Government was to receive additional resource we could go further, do more and consider investing further in tackling inequalities, community resilience, mental health and testing and financing new models of social care.

 

Local Authorities are the sphere of democracy closest to communities. Local Councillors live and work in those communities, also relying on local social care services to help care for parents, grandparents and dependent relatives.

 

We know best our local communities and strive to work with them to produce the best possible outcomes in public health. We are committed to partnership working for the benefits of communities, and in the spirit of integration I encourage you to involve your local politicians to be health champions and communicate directly with people and service providers.

 

I would like to thank you for your attention and close with a request for you to complete the Committee of the Region’s online survey on Reflecting on Europe, for which my assistant can provide the weblink.

 

I will also be here this morning and look forward to hearing your views on the Future of Europe and the future of integrated health and social care.

 

Thank you.

 

6

 

#KeeptheBan let SNP members have their say 

Disappointed that SNP members will not be allowed to vote to debate Tail Docking as the members choice topical motion.
We are the party of Government and members of the party should absolutely be guiding our Governments policy direction.
We should not be afraid to debate policy as it might urge our parliament to take a different course of action, that’s exactly the sort of moves a progressive and mature democracy makes.
It’s an outdated and cruel practice. Major Scottish animal welfare charities are supporting our calls.
I will resubmit the motion on Monday morning and Tuesday Morning to attempt to have it debated. If your branch has not yet supported the motion please ask your branch executive, MP, MSP or SNP council group to add their support to it.
#KeeptheBan