Anne McTaggart MSP

Welcome to Anne McTaggart MSP's biography pages

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Anne McTaggart

Meeting of the Parliament 18 December 2014 : Thursday, December 18, 2014
Anne McTaggart (Glasgow) (Lab)

I am pleased to have another opportunity this week to contribute to the debate on welfare reform and the Smith commission. I welcome the findings in the Welfare Reform Committee’s interim report and thank it for all the hard work that it has done to date.

As I am sure members throughout the chamber will agree, welfare and its challenges are among the most common subjects of the conversations that we have with our constituents. The welfare state was founded as a safety net for the most vulnerable in our society, and it is a great shame that in 2014—it is nearly 2015—we are still having discussions about hungry children and their families having to turn to food banks to survive. Sadly, it seems that the problem is not going to disappear soon.

I welcome the welfare proposals that have been put forward by the Smith commission, which will allow the Scottish Parliament to provide greater support to our nation’s most vulnerable people.

I welcome in principle the efforts that the Scottish Government’s Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill seeks to make to alleviate these problems, although in my speech to Parliament earlier this week I raised concerns about certain aspects of it. I also welcome my party’s commitment to ensuring that welfare and work programmes are devolved not just to Holyrood but to the towns and cities of Scotland. It is apparent to me that local authorities, charities and third sector groups, which are embedded in their communities, can make better decisions about getting people back into work and breaking the dependency cycle than someone sitting either here in Edinburgh or in Westminster.

One of the most common issues raised by my constituents is benefit sanctions. Indeed, just this week, a constituent told me that she had had no idea that her benefits had been sanctioned until she discovered that her payment had not been made to her bank account, and she expressed frustration that no one seemed to speak her language and that she had been left with no alternative but to turn to a food bank. Although I welcome the proposals in the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill, it is clear that without the appropriate awareness raising, training, advertising and provision of materials to Jobcentre Plus and third sector agencies, many initiatives such as the Scottish welfare fund and the community care grant will not be widely known to our most vulnerable, and the money will remain shockingly underspent.

It also strikes me that, when new proposals are drafted, one group that is not consulted enough on them is the most vulnerable. Given that they unfortunately have to rely on the system, surely they have a role in ensuring that it is as stress free and as simple as possible. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises access to food as part of the right to an adequate standard of living, but the committee’s report found that, since 2012, the use of food banks has increased by 400 per cent. In many cases, people who are sanctioned wrongly have their housing benefit stopped, but relatively few who are sanctioned receive hardship payments, and the committee’s report highlights cases in which people living in Scotland had to walk up to 12 miles to get to a food bank and notes that some users had to refuse the food provided because they could not afford to turn their oven on to cook it. With its welfare reforms, the coalition Government has denied the right that is set out in article 25 to the 71,000 people in Scotland who are dependent on food banks.

Finally, as I suggested in my speech about the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill, anonymous case studies could be used to ensure that organisations that get people back into work and help them live a full and independent life have a better grasp of the needs of our most vulnerable and are able to explain things to them as clearly as possible.

It is not the job of the Scottish Parliament simply to acknowledge welfare challenges; it would be incredibly easy just to note such concerns and say that we have done our duty. However, I am sure that all members across the chamber will agree that that is simply not enough. If we are not here to challenge, we are wasting our time; if we are not here to listen, we are not doing our job; and if we are not here to change, we have lost all hope.

15:58  

Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Anne McTaggart

Do you think that what is proposed now is fine and will do the job?



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Anne McTaggart (Glasgow) (Lab)

I go back to the point that one of you made way back at the beginning about the proposal to create a criminal offence of supplying alcohol to someone under 18 in a public place. Does that go far enough?



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Anne McTaggart (Glasgow) (Lab)

I thank John Mason for securing this important members’ business debate. The on-going issues to do with the Bellgrove hotel have been of great concern to many of my constituents in Glasgow.

A fundamental responsibility of society is to protect the wellbeing of all its citizens, and particularly its most vulnerable members. John Mason’s motion seeks to do exactly that. It seeks to protect the wellbeing of the vulnerable individuals who reside in the Bellgrove hotel in Shettleston.

We have all become familiar with the wretched conditions that residents experience at the Bellgrove. It is a place that epitomises deprivation and squalor. In every sense, it is a modern-day poorhouse. Given the simple reality that the Bellgrove represents a great risk to many of the most vulnerable people in Glasgow, it is time for the Scottish Government to take action. It is absolutely necessary to create new regulations for establishments such as the Bellgrove hotel so that they cannot continue to sneak by and pose a risk to the residents who stay there.

As the motion notes, even after a lengthy investigation, the Care Inspectorate concluded that it had no ability to order changes for the hotel on the basis of poor health conditions. That should immediately signal to all members of the Parliament the need for change and reform to a system that is obviously broken.

What is worse is that while these horrid conditions are left unchanged, those who are responsible for them are swindling the taxpayer out of £1.5 million every year through the housing benefits that are given to people in need to find lodgings. Anyone who is even remotely aware of the issue knows that that is a complete falsehood. That is yet another reason why I ask the Scottish Government to produce legislation that controls and changes places such as the Bellgrove, so that people cannot profit from the misfortune of others while providing utterly substandard accommodation.

Given that we as a country pride ourselves on looking out for all our citizens and that we seek to provide a good standard of living for everyone, it is a shame that action has not yet been taken. It is time for us all to do the right thing and do everything in our power to put an end to this cycle of abhorrent behaviour on the part of the proprietors of the Bellgrove hotel and stop pushing the problem aside. We all know that what is happening is wrong. Now let us do something about it.

I fully support the motion lodged by John Mason and I look forward to helping create real change in this respect.

17:12  

Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Anne McTaggart (Glasgow) (Lab)

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the stage 1 debate on the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill, which is vital to many of my constituents in Glasgow. I am broadly in support of the general principles of the bill. However, there are a number of reservations that I and a number of support organisations are of the opinion will have to be addressed.

A principal aim of the interim Scottish welfare fund—the SWF—is to provide a safety net in an emergency when there is an immediate threat to health and safety, by providing a non-repayable grant known as a crisis grant, and to enable people to live independently, or to continue to live independently, and thereby to prevent the need for institutional care by providing a non-repayable grant known as a community care grant. That includes providing assistance to families that face exceptional pressures—for example, when there has been a breakdown in family relationships, perhaps involving domestic violence, that results in a move.

Although it is a vital issue, the Government has not explained clearly or discussed why the interim Scottish welfare fund was so underspent. Others have already said this, but it merits repeating that in 2013 the SWF was underspent by 12 per cent; it handed out grants totalling £29 million in 2013-14, which amounted to only 88 per cent of the £33 million that was available. Scottish Government figures show that more than 82,000 crisis grants were paid out to 56,000 households, while 36,000 community care grants were awarded to 33,000 applicants.

I am aware that Heriot-Watt University has published a review highlighting a number of concerns regarding the interim scheme, and has made recommendations in relation to those concerns. Although most people who applied to the community care grant found out about the SWF from their existing networks—their social workers or third sector organisations with which they were involved—awareness of the SWF among staff across those organisations was extremely varied. The report found that the applicants did not commonly find out about the SWF through local advertisements or online information. A number of third sector respondents felt there is scope to improve marketing greatly in order to make people less dependent on the third sector or public sector providers for access to and awareness of the scheme.

I strongly believe that, as is recommended in the report, local authorities should pro-actively signpost and advertise existing training and advice and support and should consider developing online training resources. Local authorities should also raise awareness of the SWF through information materials that are provided to their own departments, third sector agencies, Jobcentre Plus and others.

Another concern that was raised concerned the fact that third sector staff commonly felt that not all SWF staff fully appreciated the nature of the poverty and vulnerability of applicants, and that there was an emphasis on strict adherence to rules and criteria, rather than on discretion, in the decision-making process. There were also some worries that some applicants were discouraged from applying. That is a vital issue that should be addressed by the Scottish Government. That could be achieved through anonymised case studies of people who have accessed the scheme and how it has helped them. That would provide third sector staff and applicants with useful insights into how discretion could or should be used.

I also strongly believe that guidance on awarding discretionary grants is needed to ensure that people are treated equally throughout Scotland. I am aware that guidance is an on-going problem with the SWF; I note that it has been changed numerous times, and that it will change again in the passage of the legislation. It is therefore vital that the bill incorporate permanent guidance arrangements, which would benefit from more clarity on the roles and responsibilities of the SWF.

In conclusion, although I am broadly in agreement with the aims of the bill, in order to ensure that the SWF operates properly in the coming years, the Scottish Government must clarify why there has been a repeated underspend, and it should also address the concerns that I have just expressed, in order that the bill fulfil its principal aim, which is to provide through crisis grants a safety net for people on low incomes during a disaster or emergency.

16:13  

Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Anne McTaggart

Yes, I most certainly agree with Kevin Stewart that we could learn lessons from some areas.

Part of the issue is that the powers that community authorities hold are not those that community members believe most affect them. I therefore agree with the recommendation in the report that powers be moved to the lowest appropriate level. However, part of moving power closer to communities is about seeking to engage them in decisions. That is also brought up in the report. Community members will be engaged simply by having issues of importance put under the authority of community bodies, but those bodies must also actively engage citizens. That will create two mechanisms of engaging people in the workings of local government.

The second area that we recommended for reform is the process by which local authorities and community government get their funding, namely the current council tax system, which we say should be moved away from. We recommend that, within this session of Parliament, steps should be taken to create a new system for taxation prior to the local government elections of 2017. That would best be done through an independent cross-party commission. The goal, which I support, is to fix a broken system and, in the process, to use help from local authorities to determine what is appropriate for them. That is inclusive government and not top-down direction.

Going hand in hand with the two strands that I have mentioned is the desire to outline a better way to guarantee for local government legal flexibility and autonomy from central Government. I note that the report recognises that structures that are put in place to affirm local control will be different throughout the country, or even within authority areas, in a way that is seen as fit for each area. That strand is ultimately about how the devolving of power to local government, and indeed the whole notion of local governance, should be framed.

The Scottish Parliament must have the goal of moving more power to local authorities, but that should not be an impediment to any community. Just as important in respect of that strand of the report is the determination that we will not create a process and we do not deem it appropriate to say who should do what. It is a local issue, and we trust local authorities to devolve powers to the lowest appropriate level.

I am happy to see the report from the Local Government and Regeneration Committee and I offer my support for the results, particularly in the areas that I have spoken about.

15:42  

Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Anne McTaggart (Glasgow) (Lab)

I am particularly pleased to speak in this debate because I am a member of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee. I thank and congratulate my colleagues on the committee and our wonderful clerking team. Given that we have produced our eighth report, I am sure that the clerks will take a well-earned rest now.

I hope that the report’s recommendations will inform the decisions that the Parliament makes on how to promote flexibility and autonomy in local government, right down to its lowest levels.

I know that I share with most members the belief that, on many issues, government is best when it is local. As Scotland prepares to receive more devolved powers from the Westminster Government, we should be considering what powers should move down from this Parliament to local authorities and from local authorities to community level.

In its report, the committee cited the president of COSLA, who told the committee:

“Power should lie at the most appropriate level. Sometimes it is appropriate for it to be at community level; sometimes at local authority level; and sometimes at national level.”—[Official Report, Local Government and Regeneration Committee, 23 April 2014; c 3388.]

In seeking to follow that suggestion, the committee explored five strands, each of which represented an important area that requires some sort of determination about where power should lie. In each case, the desire is to move power as close to the community as is appropriate and to enable local authorities to do so, too.

An important area on which we made suggestions was public engagement and interaction with local government, including turnout at local elections. The committee found that low levels of public engagement in local politics are largely the result of the lack of a relationship between citizens and communities, and local government.



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 10 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Anne McTaggart

No. I have finished.



Local Government and Regeneration Committee 10 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Anne McTaggart (Glasgow) (Lab)

Good morning, panel. I want to ask about the creation of the offence of supplying alcohol to someone who is under 18. That has changed from what it used to be. What difficulties might arise from that, particularly for retailers and staff?



Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Anne McTaggart

I thank Mr Russell for his presentation, and I would also like to take up the offer to see the Tinkers’ Heart. However, I am concerned about Historic Scotland’s reply. It worries me that, although this is Scotland’s only site of this nature, the issue does not seem to be being taken seriously. Can we meet representatives of Historic Scotland to discuss the matter further?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11901.1 Mary Scanlon: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11830.2 John Swinney: The Smith Commission—As an amendment to motion S4M-11830 in the name of Ru
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-11830 Ruth Davidson: The Smith Commission—That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Sm
>> Show more
NoCarried

Amendment 6 moved by Dr Richard Simpson on motion S4M-11826 Maureen Watt: Food (Scotland) Bill—That
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11825.3 Claire Baker: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11825.2 Jamie McGrigor: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11825.1 Tavish Scott: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
AbstainDefeated

S4M-11825 Richard Lochhead: End of Year Fish Negotiations—That the Parliament welcomes the successfu
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-11763.3 Margaret Burgess: Private Sector Rent Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-11763 in the
>> Show more
NoCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Anne McTaggart
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11932: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11851: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11824: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11776: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11712: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11704: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11665: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 24/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11611: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11589: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 18/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11575: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Anne McTaggart
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03880: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23700: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23701: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23604: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23603: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23488: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23256: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23129: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03704: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23016: Anne McTaggart, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/11/2014 Show Full Question >>

Further information

Email our Public Information Service for more information.