John Mason MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Will the member give way?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
John Mason

Does the member accept that, certainly in my area, when the parents were asked whether they wanted to have more involvement in running the schools, they basically said no?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
John Mason

I am interested in the member’s point about looked-after children. Does he agree that it suggests that many problems outwith the schools are coming into the schools, which they need to deal with, rather than that they are necessarily caused by the schools, as the Conservatives seem to suggest?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

In preparing for the debate, I thought that it would be useful, as one or two other members have done—especially Ken Macintosh—to look at some of the things that the Conservative motion says and see whether we can work out what they mean.

Early on, the motion mentions the “pupil attainment gap”. There has been broad agreement in the debate so far that such gaps definitely exist between different schools and different communities. Like others, I wonder whether one of the reasons for the wide gap is income and wealth in our society. Perhaps our schools simply reflect the problems in society. Perhaps the creation of a more equal society might also benefit our schools. As Murdo Fraser accepts, richer families can already move to Newton Mearns or Jordanhill and get choice, so perhaps it is no great surprise that the schools there do better.

I wrote down that extra tuition support is there for kids from families that can afford it—that has already been mentioned. I know that a voluntary group in Glasgow that tried to give extra tuition struggled to get voluntary tutors. It is also worth mentioning that there are attainment gaps within particular schools—Mark McDonald mentioned that issue. I have a secondary in my constituency whose headteacher said to me that, such is the gap within the school, it is like having two separate schools.

The motion goes on to talk about those from deprived backgrounds being less likely to

“participate in further or higher education”.

I think that the situation is a little more complex than that and that some of the Conservatives’ points are a bit simplistic. For example, girls often do better than boys from similar backgrounds, and there can be considerable peer and family pressure against going on to further and higher education on youngsters who have the ability and sometimes the academic qualifications. One relevant factor is the need to widen horizons for some of our young people, and another is the need to increase their self-confidence.

The motion talks about “removing the barriers”, but, having listened to the debate, it is still not clear to me what the barriers are meant to be. The next section of the motion gives hints as to what the Conservatives might be looking for: it mentions “maximum parental choice”. I agree that parents have the prime responsibility for their kids’ education, which is why they ultimately have the right to home school if they choose to do that, but are we to increase choice only for richer families? Murdo Fraser, in effect, criticised that as well, but as far as I heard he did not really come up with a suggestion as to how any new system would improve the lot of people from poorer backgrounds. He mentioned specialisms—we already have that—and different kinds of schools.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
John Mason

As others have said, there are a fair variety of schools, certainly within Glasgow, and they benefit from being in an urban community. However, I do not really see Murdo Fraser’s point. It would mean, for example, that one of the families who live in Jordanhill would not get their kid into the Jordanhill school and that the family of a kid from the east end would move to Jordanhill to get them into the school there. If that is his point, I fail to see how that would improve schools. I certainly do not see how it would improve the school in the east end of Glasgow if it is one that is struggling.

Somebody said that people think that everything is fine in education, but I know nobody who thinks that. Liz Smith used the word “complacent”, but I know nobody in schools or in the Parliament who is complacent about education. Clearly, there are gaps, but the question is how we improve things. Ken Macintosh was correct in what he said about the consequences of the Conservatives’ proposals, although he was slightly more generous to the Conservatives than I might be, because he said that the consequences might be inadvertent. I think that it is fairly clear that some of the Conservatives’ proposals would make things worse.

As has been said, there is already diversity in education. For example, in Glasgow we have denominational and non-denominational schools, and schools that emphasise Gaelic, sports and dance. St Ambrose high school in Coatbridge, which I have links with, emphasises music. There is a fair bit of variety out there in our schools. Our party policy is that if there is sufficient demand from parents, we will publicly fund a particular kind of school. That is broadly what happened with the Gaelic school in Glasgow. I certainly support party policy in that regard. Equality does not mean that all schools have to be a uniform grey; it means that they all have to have equally good standards.

The motion also mentions “strong leadership” and “full autonomy for headteachers”. I would say that strong leadership can be found at a variety of levels, not just at the individual school level. We can have, and have had, at times, strong leadership at the council level—for example, in Glasgow. We can also have strong leadership at a national level. Members might not always agree with the cabinet secretary, but I think that they would say that he gives strong leadership.

The motion emphasises more autonomy for individual schools, which has been suggested before. However, when that proposal was discussed by parent councils or parent school boards in my area, there was not a lot of enthusiasm for it. I feel that such autonomy would just widen the gap. Parents in my area often lack confidence and often did not have a good experience at secondary school, so they are wary about taking on more in terms of school autonomy.

I normally criticise Glasgow City Council, but I think that a lot of good things happen because schools are run at a council level, including the ability to move resources around.

16:29  

Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I wonder whether Malcolm Chisholm might go further and talk about triple devolution. Glasgow City Council, for example, is very centralised, and we need to bring power down to the communities.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I thank Linda Fabiani for bringing up this subject. When I saw the title of the debate I was very keen to speak in it, as it has become increasingly clear to me that mental health is a major issue that needs more attention.

Recently in my constituency a care home was proposed. Assuming it was for elderly or similar residents, folk were broadly happy. When it turned out that it was for folk with mental health issues, there was a fair degree of reaction in the community. There were concerns about the residents being a danger and a lot of misinformation was spread around. Since then, the company building the home has given us a lot more information and most constituents have been reassured by that, but there has been a hard core in the area who have not been willing to listen.

Routinely, constituents come into the office about housing or other problems to which my staff and I believe that there may be a mental health angle. I am particularly grateful to the Glasgow Association for Mental Health, the Scottish Association for Mental Health and the see me campaign for their advice, information, and support.

However, the issue was underlined for me last week when three issues in my constituency, all of which had a mental health angle, made it into the media. First, I am dealing with a family in which the 19-year-old daughter has anorexia. Relations between national health service staff and the family have become somewhat fraught. I am convinced that all involved want what is best for this young woman, but we are struggling to get a meeting of minds on how to move forward. Sadly, one person involved in the case was arrested last week.

I was glad to see that the Evening Times today has a spread on anorexia, which mentioned the see me campaign. The headline is “Anorexia had wrecked my body ... but even worse was the stigma”. The story has a positive outcome: brave Leanne has battled to a normal weight and is now backing the mental health campaign, which is encouraging.

The second case, which has also had a fair amount of coverage, involves a well-known female writer and her ex-partner, who is a musician and one of my constituents. I most certainly agree that we should have adequate laws in place to protect actual and potential victims of stalking and I am happy if the law is to be reviewed. However, we have to balance that with our responsibilities to the other party, in this and other such cases, who might have a mental health issue. Often that person is not acting out of malice. One suggestion that I do not accept is that anyone charged with stalking could say that they have a mental health problem. That in itself plays down mental health issues as if they did not have an objective reality.

I very much hope that there will be no rush to change legislation without all angles on this issue being taken into account.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
John Mason

There is a debate there on how appalling behaviour is—there is a whole range. There is stalking that is malicious and there is stalking that is just stupid and unwise, and is a result of mental health issues, which is slightly more what we had in my constituency.

The third case involves the Bellgrove hotel in my constituency, which some members may be aware of. It is really a hostel for homeless men rather than a hotel and is one of the last large homeless hostels in Glasgow. It is run by a private company and so avoids the Care Inspectorate and most other regulation. Last week, it received a new house in multiple occupation licence for 160 residents—generally, it has around 140 residents. My understanding is that a number of those men have mental health issues and are regularly in contact with the local mental health team in Parkhead. I cannot believe that the Bellgrove is the right place for them to be, and I cannot accept that the only regulation that it needs is an HMO licence. That again says to me that we are not taking mental health seriously enough. Indeed, all those examples say to me that we are not taking mental health seriously enough.

One point in the motion that particularly struck me, which Malcolm Chisholm also mentioned, was about people with schizophrenia having

“shorter life expectancies by 15 to 20 years”.

Nobody should say to us, please, that the matter is not a real and serious health issue.

17:50  

Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
4. John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health issues. (S4F-02319)



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
John Mason

I came across a considerable reaction from a minority of the community in my constituency when it was proposed to open a care home for people with mental health issues, which showed that stigma was still alive. Will the First Minister commit his Government to making mental health and education about it a priority area until we overcome stigma?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11304.3 Michael Russell: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to mo
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YesCarried

S4M-11304 Liz Smith: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament believes
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YesCarried

S4M-11123 Joe FitzPatrick on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Business Motion—That the Parliament
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YesCarried

S4M-11114.2 Kenny MacAskill: Policing—As an amendment to motion S4M-11114 in the name of Graeme Pear
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YesCarried

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
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YesCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
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YesCarried

S4M-11116.1 Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-11116 in the name of Jo
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YesCarried

S4M-11116 Johann Lamont: Scotland’s Future—That the Parliament recognises the result of the independ
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YesCarried

Amendment 61 moved by Elaine Murray on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland) Bi
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NoDefeated

Amendment 62 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by John Mason
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11325: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11271: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11256: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11051.1: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11106: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11104: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10974: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10963: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10894: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10878: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by John Mason
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03652: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22768: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22752: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22753: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22751: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4F-02319: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03571: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22585: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22584: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22587: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/09/2014 Show Full Question >>