Ian Murray MP begins Industry and Parliament Trust Fellowship

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Ian will begin a series of placements learning about the UK’s cultural and creative industries this week as part of the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT) Fellowship programme. The unique programme is designed to promote better understanding between industry and Parliament.

 

Ian will visit a range of organisations across the UK to develop a better understanding of the national significance of the cultural and creative industry and its impact on the UK economy. The IPT Fellowship offers a mutual, non-political and non-lobbying platform for both parties to gain a better understanding of the drivers for both industry and Parliament. Fellowships investigate all aspects of business, from shop-floor to board room offering the opportunity to see first-hand the impact of Government legislation.

 

The Fellowship will begin with placements closer to home as Ian spends some time with Creative Scotland in Edinburgh, where he will see first-hand their investment in the arts and how it benefits the people of Scotland. The programme incorporates some further regional placements with visits to Realise Digital Design and WASPS Studios. Ian will then cross the border visiting organisations such as PACT, ITV and the Royal Opera House as he explores the performing arts, broadcasting and production, and the wider media and creative industries across the UK.

 

Andrew Dixon, CEO, Creative Scotland said, “Creative Scotland is pleased to host Ian so that he can see at first hand the energy and new thinking that Creative Scotland is delivering to promote Scotland’s cultural strengths. Ian will see at first hand our work across the creative industries and festivals.”

 

Ian said, “Across the UK our cultural and creative industries are varied and thriving – whether it’s film making, theatre production or the design and manufacture of computer games. And as a member of the shadow Culture team, I recognise the importance of this sector.

 

“I think it is incredibly important that we understand the impact the cultural and creative sector has on the UK economy and the job opportunities it offers. And that’s why I’m pleased to have access to these placements, as part of the Industry and Parliament Trust’s Fellowship programme.

 

“I hope these visits will enable me to explore the range of issues that impact on our cultural and creative industries. And I am particularly interested in looking at the training and apprenticeships opportunities that the sector could offer to our young people.

 

“Edinburgh is the cultural capital of the world and I’m keen to ensure we have the best foundations to continue to build on our wonderful city’s reputation.”

 

The Fellowship programme for Ian will include 18 days of placements over the next two years and is an excellent example of how parliamentarians and industry can work together to help improve scrutiny of Government legislation.

Ian wears it pink to fund a cure for breast cancer

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Ian is joining forces with Breast Cancer Campaign to raise awareness of its biggest fundraising event, wear it pink day.

On Friday 28 October 2011 supporters in schools, colleges and businesses throughout the country are encouraged to don an item of pink in support of Campaign and each donate £2 to fund innovative world-class breast cancer research.

Last year hundreds of thousands of people took part in wear it pink to help improve survival rates for the one in eight women who experience breast cancer during their lifetime.

Ian says “Every year in the UK, around 48,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women. Although it is rare, men can also suffer from breast cancer, with around 340 men diagnosed each year. I know people who have lost friends and family members to the disease and I would like to encourage everyone in my constituency of Edinburgh South and throughout the country to support wear it pink on October 28, to raise valuable funds for breast cancer research.”

To take part in the UK’s original and best pink day visit www.wearitpink.co.uk and register to receive your free fundraising pack now. wear it pink is supported by Vanish, which has committed to raising an incredible £250,000 for the charity this year.

South Edinburgh Homes set to go Super

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Ian was today welcoming the news that BT have included the Morningside area as part of the latest phase of their £2.5 billion super-fast broadband connection programme.

 

Ian said “It is great news that more than 6500 residents and businesses in the Morningside area are to benefit from having super-fast broadband installed as part of BT’s £2.5 Billion roll out programme.  Once this latest round of upgrades is complete more than 84,000 Edinburgh homes and businesses will be passed by the new super-fast BT network.  However I want everyone in South Edinburgh to have the opportunity to access super-fast broadband and I have asked BT to make sure they stick to their promise of having two thirds of the UK covered by the new network by 2015.  ”

 

Today’s announcement includes six Scottish exchange areas – the others are Peebles and Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, Perth, Bannockburn and Strathaven in South Lanarkshire – and takes the overall number of Scottish homes and businesses now included in the roll-out to more than 372,000.  The latest upgrades are due to be completed by Autumn 2012.

 

BT’s local network business Openreach expects to make super-fast fibre broadband available to two-thirds of UK homes and businesses by the end of 2015*. It is building the new network using a mix of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and fibre to the premises (FTTP) technologies. Both provide much faster speeds than those previously available to many UK homes and businesses. FTTC, delivered to street cabinets, currently offers download speeds of up to 40Mbps and upstream speeds up to 10Mbps. Openreach is planning to roughly double these speeds next year. FTTP, where the fibre goes directly to homes and businesses, will offer speeds of up to 100Mbps.

 

Brendan Dick, director of BT Scotland, said: “BT’s roll-out of super-fast broadband is marching on. Residents and businesses in Morningside can look forward to choosing a high-speed connection over a network offering an unrivalled choice of suppliers, which keeps competition thriving and costs down.

 

“Our latest investment will propel internet users at home and at work into the 21st century fast lane, and marks another milestone in the development of Scotland’s next generation communications.

 

“We have plans to take super-fast broadband to two-thirds of the UK by the end of 2015 but we don’t want to stop there. We have long said reaching the ‘final third’ will require a partnership approach and we welcome the fact that the UK government has recently allocated funding of hundreds of millions of pounds for next generation broadband initiatives for these more challenging areas.

“BT has the strength and the commitment to deliver large-scale broadband projects and we want to play a leading role in bringing faster technologies to our rural communities.

“As today’s investment demonstrates, BT is playing its part in delivering faster broadband across the UK – but there needs to be a collective effort to ensure no part of Scotland  is left behind.”

 

IAN RESPONDS TO CORPORATION TAX PROPOSALS

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PROPOSALS to cut Corporation Tax in Scotland would be a multi-billion pound “gamble” that could set the Scottish economy on a downward spiral, warns Ian Murray MP.

Today the Scottish Government has released ‘Corporation Tax: Discussion Paper Options for Reform’. The report claims that setting an “attractive” corporation tax strategy could improve the competitiveness of the Scottish economy and support jobs.

But Ian – who ran his own business before being elected as Edinburgh South MP – believes the move could be hugely damaging.

He points to evidence that the move could cost the Scottish economy up to £2.6bn a year. And he has challenged the SNP to say how they would plug the financial black hole that a cut in corporation tax could create.

“Scottish Labour would not rule out any further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament – if it can be shown to be of benefit to the Scottish People,” said Ian.

“But despite having ample opportunity the SNP has repeatedly failed to deliver any evidence that a cut in Corporation Tax would be good for Scotland.

“In fact, figures suggest that a reduction to 12.5 per cent could cost Scotland more than £12bn over the next five years – the equivalent of around 8 per cent of the Scottish budget. The Scottish Government themselves admit that there would be a short term funding gap so will they tell us where the money will come from and what public services will be cut. They have no published plan on how to manage this.

“That would create a significant financial black hole in our economy.”

“To justify these plans the SNP point to Northern Ireland, where there is consultation on devolving powers to allow the Assembly to cut Corporation Tax to 12.5 per cent. But the case here in Scotland is very different.

“Northern Ireland Assembly shares a land border with Eire. And a cut would equalise the rates with Corporation Tax in Eire.  That in itself is perhaps a strong argument against devolution as they are using the consultation to argue that they need to equalise for the benefit of their economy.  Highlighting a potential race to the bottom.  Who’s to say the UK Treasury would not seek to protect businesses in England by lowering the overall Corporation Tax rate? “

“It is important for Government to support our businesses. But I have run my own businesses since I left University, and I know that in times of economic downturn Corporation Tax – which is only paid on profitability – is the last thing on your mind. “

“Business owners now are far more concerned with their economic survival, making the next payroll run and getting the support they need from their banks.

“Even independent auditors have found Corporation Tax is not one of the main drivers in strengthening economies.  And the recent economic downturn shows just how quickly Corporation Tax receipts can fall. It is a hugely volatile tax as we have seen in the current economic downturn and, therefore, would put additional pressures on public services in times when they are needed most.”

“The countries with lower Corporation Tax rates are Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Iceland and Italy.  Germany is broadly similar and Norway higher.”

“The Scottish Government are overstating the importance of corporation tax in the decision making process of major companies. The John McClaren report for the CPPR stated that companies rated it at the 17thmost significant factor in deciding where to locate their corporate HQ. Citing things the SNP currently have control over such as transport infrastructure and skills higher. The Scottish Government could have committed to GARL and EARL and it is these types of major capital projects that drive business decisions.”

“The SNP must know that these additional powers are undeliverable and potentially damaging for Scotland and the UK. They are using this as a platform to pick a fake fight with Westminster – and when so many people are worried about their finances and cuts to services that is reckless.

“We must ask ourselves what kind of Scotland we want in the future, how we make the most of the potential of Scotland and how we deal with the challenges of today and beyond.

“I’m unconvinced that a multi-billion pound transfer of financial resources from the public purse to private business at the expense of our proud public services is a Scotland that most Scots want to see.  The question must be what kind of Scotland do we want in the future?”

READ IAN’S FULL REPORT HERE: Ian_corporationtax

Ian is angry to see medical supplies from Scotland turned away from the Gaza border

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Ian is calling on the Government to do more to ensure aid is allowed in to Gaza, after he saw three Scottish trucks of medical supplies turned away at the border.

Ian travelled to the region as part of a five-day visit, organised by the Council for European Palestinian Relations.

During the trip he saw the three vehicles – which had made the 32-day journey from Scotland by road – waiting at the Rafah Crossing, between Egypt and Gaza.

But he later found out they had been turned away, because the Egyptian authorities were unhappy about some of the items they contained.

Ian believes the medical supplies would have made a real difference to the lives of people in Gaza, pointing to estimates that 500 Palestinians have died in the past three years because of a lack of medication.

Following his return he has written to Foreign Secretary William Hague to ask that the Government urgently investigates the amount of aid from the UK that is being turned away from the Gaza border.

And he says Parliament should be asked to consider whether the Government should call for the Rafa Crossing to be fully open.

Following his return from Gaza, Ian said: “At the Rafa Crossing we saw three large trucks that had travelled from Scotland with much needed medical supplies. They had already travelled by road for 32 days to get there. And they had been waiting at the Crossing for two.

“But we later found out they were refused entry – because the Egyptian authorities were unhappy with two of the items in the trucks.

“Even when it was reluctantly suggested that those two items were removed, so the trucks could continue, I am told the authorities raised concerns about another two items. The trucks were turned away.

“Hundreds of people are dying in Gaza – particularly children and cancer patients – because they don’t have access to medication. It is impossible to over-estimate the difference the aid in these trucks would have made.

“Of course the authorities’ concerns in this case may have been legitimate. I am not in a position to know. But anecdotally I hear that this is far from an isolated instance.  And that greatly concerns me.

“So now I have written to the Foreign Secretary to ask him to investigate the amount of aid that is being turned away.

“Certainly if it is the case that large amounts of aid are being needlessly turned away from a population that desperately needs it, it would be tantamount to torture. And we cannot stand by and allow that to happen.

“Whatever the increasingly polarised views of the Palestine/Israel situation are, what is clear is that people – and children in particular – are dying needlessly from political dogma.

“I believe the Rafa Crossing should be fully open and Palestine should be allowed to stand on its own two feet.”

During the trip Ian saw how desperately the supplies were needed in Gaza City, during a visit to the Al-Shifa Hospital.

“The hospital is crippled by a lack of funding, lack of training due to lack of travel, a lack of spare parts and a lack of specialists,” said Ian.

“The power supply deficiency means that every time the power goes down kidney dialysis machines have to be unplugged from patients, the blood cleaned and then restarted.

“And while Gaza City has one of the most advanced radiology units in the Middle East, it lies dormant because the import of radio-therapy drugs for cancer patients is prohibited.”

During the trip Ian also heard about the work of the UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), which provides Gaza with basic food supplies and job creation programmes.

He heard about the UNWRA’s involvement in the reconstruction of 10,000 homes and 100 schools, which he was told was hampered by lack of access to building materials.

And although the Rafa Crossing is the only legal entry and exit point between Palestine and Egypt, he was told about the network of 300 illegal tunnels which are used to transport goods and the estimated 1.5 million people are surviving on these illegal imports.

“Peace and justice in the Middle East can only be achieved through the implementation of international law and respect for human rights,” said Ian.

“In respect of Palestine this means a viable two state solution that delivers justice and freedom for the Palestinian people as called for by the overwhelming international consensus and enshrined under international law and in UN resolutions.”

A humanitarian trip to Gaza

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Ian’s report on his recent visit to Gaza

“I approached the 5 day trip to Gaza with a certain degree of apprehension.  There is no doubt that this part of the Middle East is volatile and the Peace process has virtually disappeared.  My apprehension was not dampened by having to travel from Cairo through northern Egypt to the Rafah crossing.

Peace and justice in the Middle East can only be achieved through the implementation of international law and respect for human rights. In respect of Palestine this
means a viable two state solution that delivers justice and freedom for the Palestinian people as called for by the overwhelming international consensus and enshrined under international law and in UN resolutions.

Our delegation would be examining the situation in Gaza, the lack of Fatah-Hamas reconciliation and the peace process.

Our first attempt to cross through Rafah was thwarted by a national celebration that closed the crossing for the day.  This gave the delegation of MPs and MEPs the opportunity to spend some time in Egypt meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood (who have founded the Freedom and Justice Party and are expected to win the upcoming elections) and the Trustees Committee of the Revolution in Tahir Square.  This band of young people initiated the uprising in Egypt at great personal risk.  At both meetings they spoke of their hopes for Egypt’s future and their belief the Israel is not doing enough to try and resolve the situation with Palestine.  They also believed the Rafah crossing should be fully open.

After a stalled day we travelled by bus across the Sinai Desert.  After a 10 hour trip we had to stay overnight about an hour from Rafah as it was too dangerous to go any further in the dark. After a blighted 4 hours sleep we left to reach the Rafah Crossing. Interestingly, we saw three large trucks from Scotland that had travelled for 32 days with much needed medical supplies. They had been waiting for two days to get in. We later found out they were refused entry because of two items the Egyptian authorities were not happy with but when they agreed not to take them they simply named another two items.

The Rafah crossing is not “open”.  Only 350 Palestinians per day are allowed out to Egypt and getting back home is very difficult indeed.  There were crowds of people who had been waiting since 5am to get over the border. This border is barely “open” and given that it is the only legal entry and exit point from Palestine for the Palestinians it is pretty disgraceful.  When we arrived at the other side we were met by a welcoming party of local members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)

The PLC has bases in both Gaza and the West Bank with Hamas effectively controlling Gaza and Fatah the latter.  Both parties are currently involved in a complicated reconciliation process in order to form a united Government that can negotiate for the whole of Palestine in the International Community and with Israel.

Everyone we spoke to in Gaza had one wish – the lifting of Israel’s blockade of Gaza which is keeping 1.5 million people under siege. UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) provide basic food supplies, have job creation programmes and are involved in reconstruction of 10,000 houses or shelters as well as building 100 schools. There are 300 illegal tunnels from Egypt to Gaza through which all manner of goods are transported which are not allowed through the official crossings by Israel. It is cheaper to get reconstruction materials through the tunnels. Meanwhile UNWRA can’t get access to the materials to rebuild the 50,000 homes that are needed.

The biggest travesty of the siege is that UNWRA currently provides food aid for 700,000 Gazans and they face a current funding shortage that will force it to cut all food assistance and job creation from October, if not resolved.  That will create a humanitarian disaster for Gaza and people will die of malnutrition.  It is probably the biggest threat to the people of Gaza that may result in the eruption of hostilities with Israel as the blockade is maintained.

We were  able to meet with Ismail Haniyeh who is recognised as PM in Gaza, heading up the successful Hamas Parliamentary Group. He is a popular figure, living modestly and locally in Gaza. He has been pivotal in taking Hamas down a more moderate road; renouncing violence, keeping the more militant factions within Hamas under control and promoting engagement with rival Fatah.  I asked him directly what one message we could take back to the UK from the delegation and he replied without hesitation, “lift the siege, it’s killing children.”

We were also fortunate to have met with the head of the Committee for National Reconciliation, Ashraf Jumaa, who is also a Fatah member of the PLC from Rafah. Having recently returned from Istanbul, Turkey, where Fatah and Hamas held their third meeting for reconciliation, he explained that the main issues remaining included the creation of a national unity government, sharing security, the PLO structure, upcoming elections, and public civil reconciliation between the Palestinian people, not only between politicians.

Ashraf Jumaa also explained that the Fatah position is that reconciliation needs to be respected by international community; however, there is substantial pressure from the international community to keep Salam Fayyad as Prime Minister. Hamas rejects Fayyad, but does not object to postponing a national unity government until September with elections to be held in June 2012. Ashraf Jumaa concluded: “If we can’t control the peace, then we can’t control anything.”  This seems to be the key to the future of Palestine.

The Prime Ministers wish for lifting of the siege was emphasised on a visit to the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City with the Minister of Health, Bassem Naem, who revealed a large power supply deficiency that affects kidney dialysis machines where, for example, every time the power goes down, the machines have to be unplugged from patients, the blood cleaned and then restarting. There is also a severe lack of funding, lack of training due to lack of travel, a lack of spare parts and of specialists.  The Minister emotionally told us of how children with cancer cannot be treated through lack of basic medicines.  Many of which were sitting in Scottish trucks at the Rafah crossing waiting to gain access.

Additionally, Gaza City has one of the most technologically advanced radiology units in the Middle East but it lies dormant  due to “Israel’s preoccupation with ‘dual-use’ material” that could be used potentially for civilian and military purposes prohibits the import of any radio-therapy drugs for cancer patients.   Israel also demands that patients requiring emergency treatment outside of Gaza, being transported to East Jerusalem, inform on the security situation with the Strip before receiving treatment.  500 Palestinians have died in the last 3 years simply because of a lack of medication – children and cancer patients are most at risk.

The economy of Palestine and, in particular, Gaza is appalling. We met with small and medium enterprises (SME) who told us that that unemployment has reached 50% of Gazans, of 2,800 factories about half do not function due to destruction.   Before the 2008-09 Gaza War, there were 135,000 SME workers, now there are only 15.000 employed.  Furthermore, over 100,000 Gazan workers used to work in Israel and that has now stopped.  The lack of opportunity for young men, in particular, is a danger to future piece in the region.  Of that there is no doubt.  The entire economy of Gaza relied on the 300 or so illegal tunnels that bring in goods.  Without these tunnels there would be no economy, no jobs, and no hope for the future.  1.5 million people are surviving on illegal imports.  This cannot be allowed to continue.


One of the most moving parts of the delegation was the visit to the refugee camp.  Men, women and children are living in unimaginable conditions.  They are frustrated by the fact that Palestine could be a burgeoning economy and life chances could be vastly improved.  I visited a shack where 14 of the same family lived.  The grandmother explained that their kitchen area was destroyed by fire as a result of shelling in the area.  Their “living” area had 4 pictures on the wall.  Each picture was a son who had been killed.  In the corner of the room were 2 klashnekoff rifles that she explained trough tears were for “protection”. They live mainly off  UN food aid which is expected to run out in October.  It was a desperate place.  However, the people were friendly, open and resolute in their aspirations for Palestine’s future.

I took some simple sticker books with me for the kids and I’m sure the refugee camp is now peppered with stickers of Peppa Pig and Cars.

Whatever the increasingly polarised views of the Palestine/Israel situation are, what is clear is that people, and children in particular, are dying needlessly from political dogma.  There is absolutely no need for the siege and the blockade to continue.  The Rafah crossing should be fully open and Palestine should be allowed to stand on its own two feet.  We were told that the economy would recover very quickly if the siege was lifted.  It doesn’t seem to me to be too much to ask.

The full reconciliation of Fatah and Hamas is critical and elections are pivotal in 2012.  This process will allow Palestine to speak with one voice and the Peace Process must be the next priority.  The danger is that for as long as Palestine cannot get its own political house in order the Israeli have an excuse to derail any peace process.  What is inexcusable is the illegality of what is happening to Palestine.  The UN has passed resolution after resolution to stop these practices without success.   The blockade is not only unnecessary but could become the catalyst for future conflict. People with no hope and no future end up with no choice and that is unthinkable for the future of the Middle East.”

We must act to end the famine in East Africa

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Ian is backing an urgent appeal to help the relief effort in east Africa – by donating the equivalent of one day’s salary.

There are currently more than 10 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and the Republic of South Sudan who are in desperate need of food, water and emergency healthcare.

And it has been reported that 250 people are dying needlessly every day because they aren’t receiving the help they need.

The Disasters Emergency Committee has already launched an urgent appeal to provide the aid that is desperately required in east Africa.

And Ian is urging residents to give whatever they can to the DEC’s East Africa Crisis Appeal.

“It is deeply shocking to see the images of starvation and sickness from the current situation in east Africa,” said Ian

“In today’s world any child who dies because they don’t have enough to eat is one too many. And it is impossible to truly imagine the scale of the problem faced by the population in east Africa.

“I know that in the current economic climate in the UK many people are having to make savings and are funding things tough – but every pound given to this appeal will really make a difference.

“And I want to encourage people to give whatever they can spare – even if it is just a few pence – to the appeal. Just £1 can make a real difference.

“The world must step up action to tackle this tragedy which is unfolding before us.  It is important that we all do our bit and that is why I support the appeal.”

Ian says the situation is “deeply distressing”. And he has committed to give the equivalent of one day’s pay to the appeal.

Online donations to the appeal can be made here http://www.dec.org.uk/appeals/east-africa-crisis-appeal