You can respond to John’s proposals by writing to John at: John Finnie MSP, Room M3.19, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Responses should be in by the 27th of January 2014
Below is John’s speech from the Stage 1 Equal Marriage debate
John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind):
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I apologise to you and the cabinet secretary for missing the opening remarks.
I am a member of the committee that put together the report, which reflects a wide range of views. It is very important that all voices are heard. My colleague John Mason, who is also a member of the committee, talked about the importance of the bill in negative terms, if I heard him correctly. For me, there is little more important than equality and fairness and, for that reason, I fully endorse the bill.
A number of members have talked about changed attitudes. That is reflected in attitudes to gender, disability, race and sexual orientation. As a police officer who commenced work in the mid-1970s, I learned laws about homosexuality that seem bizarre and are totally unacceptable nowadays.
The Equality Network’s recent briefing says that marriage equality “matters to LGBT people”. That is very apparent, and we have heard powerful testimonies from Ruth Davidson, Marco Biagi, Kevin Stewart, Jim Eadie and other members. I have received many communications from people of faith and I hope that I showed that I was
respectful of their views. Those views were clearly individual ones. There were individual interpretations individually made from self-selected sources.
I am sure that the faith groups recognise that attitudes have changed, not least to things such as mixed-race marriages and divorcees. If members check the Official Report, they will see that Professor John Curtice talked about the“liberalisation of attitudes even among regular worshippers.”
It is clear that there is no requirement to marry same-sex couples and that protection is afforded to faith groups by article 9 of the ECHR. I, for one, commend the legislative co-operation with the UK Government on aspects of that. I hope that faith groups will participate at some future point, and I commend the humanists, Quakers, Unitarians,
liberal Jews and others.
Not much has been said about registrars; I thought that more would have been said about
them. They are public servants and should complete public duty. We would not tolerate
people saying that they would not participate in conducting a mixed-race marriage so, frankly, they need to get on with it.
There has been a lot of talk about the nature of communications. Unlike Margaret Mitchell, I have not found opponents to be inhibited in any way in their contact with me. I have received individually written letters, mass postcards and personal representations. Some people have strange obsessions with physical acts. I found reading about some of them to be very uncomfortable.
Like many others today, I got a communication that started, “Dear Frequent Sinner”. Uniquely, however, when I tried to explain things to someone in the range of other parliamentary work, I got back, “Nice work, Satan.” It is important to recognise that there are genuine, strongly held views on both sides and that those remarks are not representative of all the faith organisations. Other members have touched on the issues that the Scottish Transgender Alliance raised; time will not permit me to go into them.
I commend the cabinet secretary for his comment that he will think further about those issues. There are a number of issues and they are challenging to discuss, not least the age aspect, but I was reassured by what I heard from the cabinet secretary at the Equal Opportunities Committee and I look forward to those issues being addressed.
The future will not be without challenges, but it must be without prejudice. The bill will make Scotland fairer and more equal and, I hope, an enlightened and inclusive nation. Equality in love, and the opportunity for that love to be publicly displayed via marriage, must trump intolerance and inequality, and that will happen if we support the general principles of the bill tonight.
John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind):
In his opening speech, the minister mentioned the unparalleled budget restraints that have been placed on the Scottish Government. Those restraints are not in dispute, except in the Tory amendment. However, politics is about priorities and competing demands, and it is evident that the motor lobby has a very strong voice that has been listened to.
I am disappointed that there has been no mention of ferries, which are a vital part of our infrastructure. Given the fact that the motion talks about “strategic transport networks”, it is strange that there has been no mention of ferries. There is good news for the Scottish Government in relation to the Raasay ferry, which has an innovative design and was built in Scotland. I would like to see that replicated, with a replacement programme that would put our shipbuilding yards to some constructive use, and an enhanced, less polluting fleet.
I was heartened to hear the minister say that he is keen to encourage people to move from road to rail. Of course, the practicalities of rail travel will shape people’s view on whether it is worth while. I received a detailed email from a constituent who travelled twice on the Inverness to Aberdeen line at the weekend. He outlined the various challenges connected with his journey and said that “26 got on at Insch, 50 at Inverurie and 15 at Dyce. We
became a sardines tin!”
That is good news in that plenty of use is being made of the service, but he had a similar
experience on the return journey. That raises the question why, 10 years after we were promised that the short platforms at Elgin and Insch would be lengthened, that has not happened. That is what people are interested in—they want practical opportunities to use rail.
As things stand, it is quicker to use the train than to travel by road between Inverness and
Aberdeen. It is, therefore, disappointing that the Scottish Government seems intent on reversing the position with its plans to dual the A96. How does that square with the minister’s assertion that he wants to encourage people to move from road
to rail? A cost benefit analysis must be done on that. The phrase “modal shift” is used a lot, not just about freight, but about passengers. What analysis is done? We must make rail an attractive option, and part of doing so will involve considering how it integrates with other policies—not just transport policies, but policies on the environment and planning.For example, how transport links with developments such as those at Kishorn will be important.
Reference has been made to the briefings that members have received. I will talk about the one from Friends of the Earth Scotland in the context of the damage that air pollution does to health. We all want to encourage more cycling and walking as well as more and better public transport, but those things will require less traffic.
The minister’s mention of retrofitting is welcome. That is a practical example of what we should encourage: inspecting, repairing and replacing in that order, not going straight to replacing.
Unusually for me, I will commend something from the United States. Smart Growth America, which is on the internet—I can show the link to the minister—has carried out research that says: “Public transportation investments generate 31 percent more jobs per dollar than new construction of roads and bridges, and repair work on roads and bridges generates 16 percent more jobs per dollar than new bridge and road construction.”
The research goes on to say:“Fixing existing infrastructure produces a higher return
on investment than new construction because repair prevents the need for reconstruction later, which costs 4 to 14 times as much; saves money by reducing damage from potholes and vibrations, keep existing communities vibrant. Neglecting existing places while building new infrastructure drives growth out, and means the public ends up buying two of everything.”
I do not think that we have the money for “new construction”, so I commend the inspect, repair and replace approach.
Mention has been made of the Borders rail line. It is welcome and a good example of consensus being built. In a previous debate, I also commended the additional Oban to Glasgow rail service, with which there is excellent connectivity. Members talked about shift, but the shift will require infrastructure. Members also talked about the north rail line. It is now at capacity and I understand that that is why freight now goes east and south, rather than west and south.
Rail and cycle hubs are very important, too, but their design is important. The right design must form part of the franchise so that there are storage areas for cycles and other things. I have been in touch with the minister on those matters. The national cycle network is very much to be welcomed. I ask the minister for more of that, please.
John Finnie is concerned that victims of domestic violence, particularly those in remote and rural communities, are not getting justice, and has called on the Police to provide technology for potential victims, in the form of discreet cameras, which could gather corroborative evidence .
“The practice whereby alleged perpetrators of domestic violence are arrested ON uncorroborated allegations, detained in custody ON uncorroborated allegations, only to be released when the Procurator Fiscal marks the case ‘no proceedings’ may give the alleged victim some respite but is far from satisfactory.
“If the police were to provide those alleged victims with the highly discreet cameras worn by investigative journalists then, combined with recording mechanism, a sufficiency of evidence could be obtained to secure proceedings against often very violent individuals, hopefully leading to their conviction.
“Such a system would have minimal up-front costs, save the criminal justice system a fortune in time and resources and prove invaluable to victims in remote and rural locations in gaining access to justice.”
“I have written Chief Constable Stephen House, the Lord Advocate and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice commending this approach.”
Below you can find the transcript of John’s General Question from 31st October 2013
Cyclists (Safety Improvements)
John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind):
To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to improve safety for cyclists. (S4O-02528)
The Minister for Transport and Veterans (Keith Brown): We are improving road safety for cyclists through a wide range of measures around the three Es—engineering, education and enforcement. We are increasing investment in cycling infrastructure, with additional funding of £20 million over the next two years being announced in the draft budget on top of the £58 million already allocated since the 2011 spending review, and we have developed road user awareness campaigns to foster mutual respect on the roads.
The Scottish Government’s road safety framework to 2020 includes commitments on education and training, improved signage, consideration of cycling in the context of roads maintenance and design, and the use of 20mph zones in all residential areas. A broad portfolio of approaches is needed and will continue to be developed to improve cyclist safety.
John Finnie: I thank the minister for that detailed response. Police Scotland has record numbers of officers at the moment. In the past, police officers engaged with primary schools on cycling proficiency. Things have moved on, but there is surely an opportunity for the police to engage with young people on road safety. Will the minister get in touch with Police Scotland and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to encourage that approach, which could only enhance community safety?
Keith Brown: The police have a major role to play in the enforcement measures that I mentioned in my first response, but it is also the case that substantial initiatives are under way to ensure that all children get the chance to have on-the-road safety training. Previously, training was often done in the playground, whereas now it is done on the road. That is the right way in which to proceed.
On safety in general, we have seen a decrease in fatalities; the figure is down to 174 people from the previous 185. We have seen decreases in total casualties, child casualties, child fatalities, pedestrian casualties and motorcyclist fatalities.
The stand-out is the increase that we have seen in cyclist casualties, so there is no question but that we must give the matter further attention. The best way in which to deal with the matter is to make sure that every child has the chance to have on-the-road training, which will reassure both them and their parents that it is safe to cycle
Below you will find two motions John has lodged today in the Parliament.
Motion S4M-08037: Congratulates Ross-shire Women’s Aid Date Lodged: 17/10/2013
That the Parliament congratulates Ross-shire Women’s Aid (RWA) on receiving the Highland Partnership of the Year award from Highland 3, Third Sector Partnership; understands that the award came as a result of its work with other Highland Women’s Aid groups, Victim Support, NHS Highland, Highland Council and Police Scotland in rolling out multiagency risk assessment conferences across the Highlands, and thanks RWA for what it considers its tireless efforts in its vital work.
Motion S4M-08038: National Ethical Investment Week Date Lodged: 17/10/2013
That the Parliament welcomes National Ethical Investment Week, which runs from 13 to 19 October 2013; notes that National Ethical Investment Week is co-ordinated by the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association; understands that the week aims to raise awareness of green and ethical investment opportunities for charities and trusts, financial organisations, faith groups, NGOs and community groups; believes that ethical investments can offer excellent opportunities for investors to make a positive impact on society, and wishes National Ethical Investment Week much success.