WATCH: Roddick asks Scottish Government about undoing Right to Buy “damage”

Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick has asked the Scottish Government what work they are doing to support councils to buy back homes sold off under Right to Buy.

Cabinet Secretary Shona Robinson confirmed that local authorities are encouraged to buy back ex-council properties in order to help tackle Scotland’s housing crisis.

Roddick commented:

“We are currently experiencing a housing crisis, exacerbated by the disastrous Right to Buy scheme – a short-sighted, damaging plot to reduce local government involvement and cut costs.

“Thousands of ex-council properties across Scotland are now rented out by private landlords at extortionate rates or used as short-term lets. Homes that were originally built for people on low incomes are now inaccessible to the very people they were intended to house.

“The Social Justice and Fairness Commission paper published earlier this year included a policy that would see councils have first refusal on ex-council properties placed on the market. I think now is the time to see action on that front.

“Regaining ownership of ex-council properties, alongside building new homes and regulation of short-term lets and second homes, will allow us to tackle the housing crisis much more quickly.

“I’m glad to see that the Scottish Government considers this a viable option, and I hope to see progress on this policy going forward.”

WATCH: Emma Roddick MSP speaks out against Tory-led Universal Credit cuts

The SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands challenged the UK Government in a Scottish Parliament debate today, describing plans to end the £20 Universal Credit uplift as “as ridiculous as it is morally reprehensible.”

The Universal Credit uplift was introduced six months ago in response to rising household bills and formed a vital lifeline for many claimants throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

In a speech to the Scottish Parliament, Roddick called UK Government plans to end the uplift “the biggest overnight cut to social security in my and most people here’s lifetimes” and accused the Conservatives of “using poverty as a punishment for not working hard enough”. She also noted that removing the uplift could plunge tens of thousands of residents of Scotland, including over 20,000 children, into poverty.

Speaking on the subject after the debate, Roddick said:

“This measure can only be described as a direct attack by the UK Government on the poorest in our society. According to statistics provided by the Trussell Trust, 1 in 5 Universal Credit claimants would struggle to get to work or pay their heating bill over winter, and over 115,000 people would likely have to skip meals.

“Boris Johnson’s government cannot be described as compassionate in the best of times but to cut Universal Credit at a time when household bills are continuing to rise due to rising fuel prices is particularly cruel. It contrasts with the actions of the Scottish Government, which has recently announced a national roll-out date for the new Scottish Child Disability Payment and whose Scottish Child Payment has already helped more than 108,000 children across Scotland.

“This is truly a tale of two governments and illustrates well why Scotland requires the powers of independence to truly transform our society into the kinder and more caring one we all desire.”

MSP welcomes boundary proposal rejection

Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick has welcomed today’s unanimous recommendation of the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee to reject Boundaries Scotland proposals to redraw Highland Council wards ahead of the 2022 elections.

The proposals, which would see Sutherland, Culloden and Ardersier, and Skye lose councillors and move much of rural Inverness into wards shared with the middle of the city have attracted criticism from across the region since they were published last year, with many claiming they damaged rural and island representation.

Emma said:

“The rejection of the woeful boundary proposals by the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee this morning is a welcome development.

“I wrote to John Swinney soon after my election to make clear my views that the boundary proposals are inappropriate, particularly in terms of serving rural areas.

“Many of us in the Highlands have raised a number of issues, including wards covering rural and urban areas, the splitting of communities like Hilton in Inverness, and the underrepresentation of many communities.

“The unanimous recommendation from the Committee to reject the Highland proposals demonstrates just how unfit for purpose they are.”

Emma Roddick MSP expresses concerns over disability benefit appeals

Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick has expressed concerns over the number of successful disability appeals following declined applications.

Roddick said:

“It worries me that three in five appeals for disability benefits were successful after initially being declined by the DWP, with Personal Independence Payment being the worst hit.

“Many disabled people do not have the means to appeal, and the process can be a terrifying and mentally taxing prospect. This leaves me wondering how many people entitled to disability benefits face poverty after being declined in the first instance.

“These figures show that DWP’s assessment process is woefully inadequate; public funds are being spent on appeals when the application should have been approved initially, and people are being left struggling without money they are entitled to – not to mention the stress and uncertainty the appeals process brings with it. The DWP’s focus is on denying benefits, rather than supporting those in need.

“The Scottish Government is committed to creating Social Security Scotland’s Adult Disability Payment with disabled people in mind, reforming the application system with input from disabled people and ensuring money goes to the people who need it most.

“I look forward to a Scotland that puts the needs of disabled people first.”

MSP marks Poverty Week with surgery tour – “you will be met with understanding”

Emma Roddick MSP is marking Challenge Poverty Week 2021, which is taking place between 4th – 10th October, by holding three surgeries around the Moray Firth area during the event.

The first two will be held on Friday 8th, with Emma stationed in Nairn Community Centre from 09:30 – 11:30 and then Merkinch Community Centre from 14:00 – 16:00.

The third is in Tain on Saturday the 9th, from 13:00 – 15:00 at the Duthac Centre. Cllr Derek Louden, one of the councillors representing the Tain and Easter Ross ward, will also be ready to help constituents with Council issues.

Emma said:

“Poverty affects all areas of your life, and it can be really hard to get out of the cycle of money issues once you’re stuck in it. From personal experience, I know it can affect your health, your family life, your housing situation, and your work all at once.

“While these surgeries are, as always, open to any constituent with an issue, I hope that holding three during Challenge Poverty Week will make it clear to folk who are really struggling and don’t know where to turn that they can come along and be met with understanding.

“I’m glad that my colleague Cllr Derek Louden could join me in Tain to offer his assistance at a Council level. Whether it’s rent arrears, debt, or issues with the Council, my team stand ready to help.”

Constituents can book a slot within the times listed above by emailing emma.roddick.msp@parliament.scot or calling 07557 789612.

WATCH: Emma Roddick speaks up for carers in Parliament

In the Stage 1 debate on the Carer’s Allowance Supplement (Scotland) Bill, which aims to double the winter payment of CAS this year, Emma Roddick highlighted the importance of giving money straight to carers to help them weather a perfect storm of Universal Credit cuts, the end of furlough, and rising fuel prices.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Roddick said:

“The Carers Allowance Supplement is a step in the right direction towards supporting unpaid carers in Scotland.

“Unpaid carers, the majority of which are women, do not often choose to take on caring commitments, instead doing it out of necessity.

“This bill will mean over £230 goes into the pockets of individual carers this winter, which will give many the security of not having to choose between putting food on the table or keeping the lights on.

“With this Bill, the Scottish Government is showing its commitment to a fairer Scotland based on security, dignity and respect – much to the contrary of the UK Government’s cuts.”

Watch a clip of the contribution below:

Meetings with organisations

When groups lobby MSPs, Ministers, Civil Servants, Special Advisers or Law Officers, they should submit a return to the Lobbying Register. Entries can be searched at: https://lobbying.scot/SPS/LobbyingRegister/SearchLobbyingRegister

However, many meetings do not meet the criteria for lobbying, and MSPs cannot submit their own entries, meaning their Lobbying Register may seem incomplete.

During the first few months of being an MSP, I met with many groups and organisations. After a constituent queried the list on my Lobbying Register, I have decided to provide a list below for transparency covering the period of May – September.

In the interest of simplicity and privacy for those seeking assistance, I have not included: meetings with colleagues; meetings with individual constituents; surgeries; party business; interviews, such as with journalists; Cross-Party Groups; meetings which I would normally have undertaken as a councillor, such as public committee meetings or group meetings; or Parliamentary Business undertaken such as taking part in debates, question times, and committee work.

May

Merkinch Partnership: as a member of the Board, I attend as many Merkinch Partnership meetings as possible. (12th May, 2nd June)

South Kessock Community, Velocity, and the Highland Council staff: I attended a litter-pick on the 17th of May in the fields around Carnarc Crescent. During this, I had conversations with the Highland Council Tenant Participation Officers, the Community Payback team, Velocity Cafe, and other attendees.

Youth Highland: I attended the virtual launch of Youth Highland’s book, Where’s Your Head At, which aimed to get the voices of young people otherwise with very few communication channels to influence holders and decision makers heard, and spoke with facilitators and young people who were present. (21st May)

NHS Highland: I attended my first stakeholder engagement session with other Parliamentarians and their staff. This is a monthly commitment.

June

Scottish Environment LINK: I attended a meeting with this group at which they lobbied MSPs on the need to stand up for various species in Scotland. Following this, I was named “Nature Champion” for the capercaillie.

Scottish Canals: I attended a public meeting and discussion on Scottish Canals’ Carse projects. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/06/03/msp-welcomes-carse-investment/)

Living Rent: I attended a meeting with local and national representatives from Living Rent and discussed many issues around housing, including short-term lets regulations, rent controls, data, and other issues important to their members.

Centre for Homelessness Impact: I took part in a panel as part of the Impact Forum 2021, discussing my experience and the importance of considering invisible homelessness and issues which are exacerbated by living in a rural or island community.

NHS Shetland: I had a virtual meeting with the Chief Executive of NHS Shetland ahead of a visit to the islands the following week. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/06/11/new-highlands-and-islands-msp-makes-first-regional-visit-to-shetland/)

Merkinch Primary: I had a tour of the new Merkinch Primary School and discussed with the Head Teacher various issues including recovery from the pandemic, free music tuition, and how the children were enjoying learning in the new building.

Disability Equality Scotland: I had a brief call with Disability Equality Scotland following taking part in their hustings in March, during the election. I agreed to write an op-ed for their magazine.

Shetland Islands Council: I met with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the SIC at the Town Hall to discuss issues facing the council area including fuel poverty, transport issues, and many other topics.

Hjaltland Housing Association: I met with the Chief Executive to discuss issues facing the association such as the cost of building materials and decarbonisation, as well as related fuel poverty. We discussed various potential policies to combat some of the issues and also chatted about current projects.

Shetland Women’s Aid: I met with SWA to discuss violence against women and girls, funding, rape and sexual assault, and mental health, amongst other topics important to the organisation.

Ability Shetland: I met with the organisation to discuss their ongoing work, including beach wheelchairs and transport.

Crisis: I met with national representatives from Crisis, the homelessness charity. We discussed homelessness and potential policies which could help to combat it.

EHRC Scotland: Introductory meeting to discuss their role in Scotland and current issues around human rights.

The Open University in Scotland: Interview as a past student to discuss what the OU does well. Afterwards, we had an introductory meeting and discussed various current issues and stories in the news about the university. A follow-up meeting was held a few weeks later.

ENRG Debrief: agreed to an interview discussing being disabled in politics.

Rest and Be Thankful Campaign Group: I attended a meeting alongside other MSPs to discuss the issues facing the Rest and Be Thankful, mainly landslips, and the merits of various routes to tackling it. I later signed a motion marked for Members’ Business to discuss the issue further in Parliament.

Women 50:50: I had a brief chat with Women 50:50 during which I agreed to take part in a virtual panel event which was hosted by them on 21st June at 20:00.

Orkney Islands Council: I met with the Leader of the Council to discuss issues facing Orkney.

Orkney Housing Association: I met virtually with the Housing Association to discuss issues facing them, and agreed to a future visit to one of their projects to find out more.

Orkney Pride: I attended the first Orkney Pride and discussed various issues with the organisers plus attendees from the Equality Network/Scottish Trans Alliance. I later attended a fitness class at the Pickaquoy Centre which was Pride-themed. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/06/28/islands-msp-supports-orkneys-first-pride-march/)

Orkney Blide Trust: I visisted the Orkney Blide centre and garden, then spent around an hour discussing various issues around mental health and services with its manager.

Orkney Advocacy: I had a brief conversation with a representative from Orkney Advocacy about current issues facing the group following withdrawal of funding.

The Place, Alness: I officially opened the Field, the new location of the youth group The Place, which supports young people to gain employability skills and provides a safe space for social events. I discussed related issues with a number of attendees. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/06/28/snp-msp-returns-home-to-ross-shire-to-open-new-youth-facility/)

Stonewall: I met with Stonewall to discuss ongoing issues facing the LGBTQI+ community in Scotland.

Equate Scotland: I met with Equate and discussed women in STEM and other gender inequalities in the workplace.

July

Police Scotland: I had an introductory meeting with the new Chief Superintendent for the Highlands and Islands. We discussed policing issues around the region.

CalMac: I had an introductory meeting with the Public Affairs Manager for CalMac and discussed a number of issues which had been raised by constituents.

Dignity in Dying: I met with the group ahead of a Members’ Bill expected later in the year and following an email campaign by its members.

Developing the Young Workforce: I met with a DYW representative from Easter Ross to discuss how I can help get young people in the area into work and engaged in politics. I agreed to record a “#NoWrongPath” video to be shown in schools following exam results.

John Muir Trust and Nevis Landscape Partnership: I travelled to Glen Nevis to meet with representatives from both groups as well as HighLife Highland staff on-site. We took a walk around the foot of the ben and discussed the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, youth rangers, land management, deer management, depopulation, disability access, and many more related topics.

Inclusion Scotland: I met with Inclusion to discuss upcoming issues and debrief from the election campaign which had a fair bit of focus on disability rights.

SeeMe Scotland: I met with representatives of the group to discuss mental health awareness, personality disorders, suicide prevention, and other issues. I also made it clear I would be joining the Mental Health CPG.

SSPCA: I met with the local SSPCA centre to discuss animal welfare issues, particularly in the context of COVID. We discussed how the new 2019 Act will make it easier to help animals they rescue. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/07/14/local-msp-celebrates-new-act-after-visiting-sspca-in-inverness/)

Highland2Holyrood: I met with a family who had cycled from Farr to Holyrood, raising awareness of active travel as well as collecting money for rewilding charity Trees for Life. I talked about sustainability, active travel, and other issues with both the parents and children and later lodged a motion in Parliament commending their actions.

August

Engender: I met with Engender to discuss gender inequality, including in politics. We discussed how to improve diversity in political representation and tackle misogyny and other issues.

Scottish Young Carers: I attended the Scottish Young Carers Festival 2021 and took part in the mental health workshop. I listened to young carer representatives and the issues they raised.

Prospect: I met with Prospect to discuss ongoing issues with the HIAL ATMS proposals. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/09/09/roddick-makes-call-in-scottish-parliament-for-hial-to-reconsider-air-traffic-management-scheme/ )

MS Society: I met with the MS Society to discuss various issues, including that the incidence of MS is much higher in parts of H&I than the national average. I had been approached as a member of the Social Justice and Social Security Committee.

Alness First Responders: I went on shift with the group over a Friday evening to find out more about what they do and the issues they face. We discussed the Scottish Ambulance Service and how Community First Responders can complement their work. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/09/02/roddick-announces-local-hero-nomination-as-volunteer-first-responder-michael-oneill/)

SSEN: I met with SSEN to discuss their work in the region, including improving infrastructure and their inclusion of subsea broadband cables when replacing their own cables, improving connectivity in the Northern Isles.

Friends at the End: I met with the group following a meeting with Dignity in Dying to discuss the issue of assisted dying with more groups. I had also approached other groups on the subject at this point.

Living Rent: I met with the group again and attended a protest after one of their members had a fuse box fire in their council property.

Orkney Harbour Authority: Introductory meeting to discuss current work and future plans. Agreed to visit their facilities at some point in the future.

Blue Cross: Met to discuss issues around animal welfare, including vet availability, diversity, and cost around the region.

HIAL: Introductory meeting with HIAL including a discussion around the current ATMS proposals.

Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers: I met with the ASSC to discuss short-term lets regulations proposals.

North Highland College: I met with the Principal to discuss issues facing the College, tackling depopulation, sustainability, and many more topics.

Caithness Broch Project: I met with the Project to discuss the issues they were having finding a location for a recreated iron-age broch and how to find funding. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/08/13/roddick-supports-historic-caithness-with-broch-project/)

Caithness Roads Recovery: I met with the group to discuss road improvements and how I can help.

Trees for Life: I travelled to Dundreggan to meet with representatives from Trees for Life and other organisations involved in the rewilding centre. I visited the tree nursery and heard about what they are doing to help native species survive and thrive. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/08/18/dundreggan-rewilding-centre-fantastic-idea-says-emma-roddick/)

Federation of Small Businesses: I met with the Development Manager for FSB in the Highlands to discuss issues facing small businesses in the region, including recruitment difficulties, lack of accommodation, and the potential short-term lets regulations.

ROCKWOOL UK: I met with ROCKWOOL to discuss fire safety in high-rise buildings, including hospitals and schools in the region.

Save the Children: I met with Save the Children to discuss child poverty targets and how the Scottish Government can meet them. Introductory meeting as a member of SJSS Committee which has child poverty in its remit.

SCORSS: I met with SCoRSS to discuss poverty and social security, including the impact of the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift.

HighAbility: I met with HighAbility to discuss a number of issues facing disabled people in the Highlands, including transport issues like the implementation of the pavement parking ban. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/09/06/roddick-asks-scottish-government-how-local-authorities-can-support-parking-ban/)

SSEN: I met with SSEN to discuss issues in Dalmally and Kylerhea raised by constituents.

SAMH: I attended a training session with SAMH on mental health in the workplace in order to ensure I am doing what I can to support staff.

September

Nairn Book & Arts Festival: I attended the event and spoke with individuals and businesses in the area.

UHI: Introductory meeting with the new Principal of the UHI. We discussed the importance of a diverse offering to Highlands & Islands students to promote studying and staying in the area. (https://emmaroddick.scot/2021/09/13/roddick-reaches-out-to-uhi-head-over-end-of-vanity-courses/)

Citizens’ Advice Bureau: I met with CAB to discuss current issues including the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift, rising fuel prices, and the end of furlough.

HISA: I met with students from HISA to discuss the same issues discussed with the Principal. We also covered COVID and vaccines.

Merkinch Partnership: I had a meeting with a representative of the Merkinch Partnership to discuss a report which had just been published on the effect of COVID on those in poverty, including the effect on the attainment gap and around digital exclusion and digital poverty.

CARE for Scotland: I met with a representative of the group to discuss assisted dying following a number of meetings with other campaign groups on the subject.

Highland Poverty Action Network: I had a brief chat with one of the members as I was unable to attend the full meeting which took place during Parliamentary Business

BiTastic: I met with organisers ahead of hosting a session on the 24th during their programme.

NHS Highland: at the stakeholder group, I queried issues around young people and vaccines.

If you would like your entry above removed or edited, please email emma.roddick.msp@parliament.scot

Roddick tells Scottish Government that over-provision of short-term lets is “devastating” Highlands and Islands

Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick has raised concerns with the Scottish Government that short-term lets are “devastating” housing stock in the region.

Speaking on Thursday morning, Roddick said:

“The high density of short-term let properties is having a devastating effect on the availability of housing in the Highlands and Islands.

“The number of holiday lets in the Highlands and Islands has increased exponentially over the past few years, pushing people out of their local areas due to lack of affordable housing. Long-term rental prices are soaring as more and more properties become short-term lets.

“In Shetland, the NHS is struggling to find staff as those offered employment can’t find suitable accommodation. In Skye, young people are most likely to present as homeless or homeless at home out of the whole Highland Council area, while 11% of whole properties are listed as AirBnBs.

“It is important that regulation for short-term lets is implemented as a priority in order to control over-saturation of holiday rentals and minimise their impact on availability of affordable housing.”

WATCH: Roddick calls for rail improvements across the Highlands

Still from a video. Emma Roddick, 24yo with shoulder-length brown hair and brown glasses and a red dress on, gestures while making a speech in the Scottish Parliament debating chamber.

MSP for the Highlands and Islands Emma Roddick has called for due attention to be paid to the Highlands in the process of improving rail services across Scotland.

Roddick hailed the Scottish Government’s plans to take ScotRail into public ownership, saying it “provides us with a massive opportunity to get things right” but expressed her disappointment at ongoing service reductions across the Highlands, and joined the call of The Friends of the Far North Line that the Highland Main Line needs to be dualled as it is a vital intercity link between Inverness and the Central Belt of Scotland.

Speaking at the Scottish Parliament, Roddick said:

“I find it bizarre that ScotRail is using current passenger numbers to justify service reductions. We cannot use passenger numbers as any kind of basis for decision making at a time when people have been actively told not to use the train. We should be looking to the future and using the opportunity of service changes to encourage more users.”

Roddick also called for Inverness to be serviced by high-speed trains, noting the current trains on the Highland Main Line have been described as “not suited for intercity travel” by ScotRail and the Scottish Government.

Commenting on the debate, Roddick said: “Taking ScotRail into public ownership next year is a vital first step in building a public transport system fit for the 21st century. It is crucial that Highland communities are not forgotten in building that system.

“The reality is that for many people across the Highlands and Islands going car free remains impossible, and that will continue until we can offer them reliable and accessible railway services.”

Watch the contribution below: