WATCH: Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton talk about saving his 4 year old daughter from choking

I was heading to my bed on Saturday night when I saw this tweet from Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton: Not your average Saturday night. I had to partially resuscitate Darcy (4) after she swallowed a coin. Blue lighted to Sick Kids and had coin (E50 cents) removed under general anaesthetic. Staff have been wonderful […]

I was heading to my bed on Saturday night when I saw this tweet from Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton:

Scary, scary stuff. The thought of my child choking was probably one of the things that scared me most. I made sure I knew what do do if that happened, but I’m glad I never had to demonstrate the skill.

Thank heavens little Darcy was fine, due to skills learned by her Dad  a quarter of a century ago.

I had a friend who doesn’t do social media and who’s on holiday in Australia contact me to say they’d seen Alex featured in the press so many people across the world will have seen his new found mission to raise  awareness of what happened to his daughter to make sure that every parent is equipped with first aid skills.

His actions will save more lives than Darcy’s.

The very next  morning a member of my family faced a medical emergency at which first aid was required. 

You never know when that situation could arise when your action could save a life. Or when someone else’s swift and knowledgable action could save yours.

You can see Alex and Darcy here from 15:56 as Alex talks to BBC Reporting Scotland (where there is a demonstration on what to do from St Andrew’s Ambulance) and you can check out the St John Ambulance advice on what to do if a child is choking here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Scottish Lib Dems pass policy to make it easier for domestic abuse victims to stay in their homes

I was really pleased that Scottish Conference passed a motion I proposed which aims to ensure that victims of domestic abuse don’t have to suffer the added nightmare of going through the homeless procedure when they finally seek help. It should be much easier for them to be able to stay in their home and […]

I was really pleased that Scottish Conference passed a motion I proposed which aims to ensure that victims of domestic abuse don’t have to suffer the added nightmare of going through the homeless procedure when they finally seek help. It should be much easier for them to be able to stay in their home and for the perpetrator to leave.

Commonspace reported on the debate:

Across the UK, two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week.

Scottish Lib Dem member, Vita Zaporozcenko told the conference of her personal experience of being raised in a house with domestic abuse.

She said: “I have always wondered why my mum did not leave and I have come to the conclusion that she had simply no where else to go.”

Zaporozcenko added: “I want you to support this motion because I don’t think anyone who has gone through this at whatever age can understand the emotional strain that this puts on the person or the people who have been abused and the fear of leaving. We should not be making it harder and by removing the perpetrator is the right way to do it.”

Specifically, the conference backed calls for the Matrimonial Homes Act – where abusers can be swiftly moved out of the family home – to be updated, claiming that it is not fit for purpose.

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP told the conference how the rollout of Universal Credit has impacted on those who are victims of domestic abuse, saying the ending of split payments within the household was “a tool of coercive control” for men.

Below is the speech that I made proposing the motion.

“Why should we have to move everywhere and everything because of him?”

That question is on the front of Change, Justice, Fairness, a Scottish Women’s Aid community research project into homelessness caused by domestic abuse in Fife.

Too often, the trauma suffered by victims of domestic abuse is exacerbated when they are forced to leave their homes, often with their children. It is not acceptable that they should be forced into this situation.

It is unlikely that the event that led to them seeking help was the first incident. Safe Lives suggest that someone will endure 50 incidents of abuse or violence before getting effective help.

So you have very vulnerable, traumatised individuals, the vast majority of whom are women, having to declare themselves as homeless. That means that they are put in temporary accommodation, perhaps for short periods into bed and breakfast accommodation with no cooking facilities, where they don’t have the comfort of having their own things around them, the children don’t have their toys. They are perhaps in an unfamiliar area away from their support networks. They could get moved at any time to different temporary accommodation. That instability and insecurity piling even more distress on to them.

Those who aren’t married and aren’t named on the tenancy face a lengthy and complicated battle to gain occupancy rights if they wish to stay in their home.
The process of transferring a tenancy can also take time, during which the victim can be homeless. This needs to be sorted with greater speed. The Scottish Government needs to produce guidance that strengthens the rights of the victim to prevent them going down the stressful homeless route.

Conference, this motion demands better for victims of abuse.

We call on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that they have the right to stay in their own home if they wish to do so.

If they are to be moved, that should be done in a planned way. We recognise that the statutory homeless route is not appropriate for families who are suffering the effects of abuse.

We call on housing associations to do more to support people in this situation. I was surprised to learn that not al social housing providers have stand alone domestic abuse policies.

The Women’s Aid research identified serious flaws in the way victims were treated. Women described how they had to talk about what had happened to them in an open plan office.

One said:

“having to repeat my circumstances over and over again was humiliating and distressing to me. I was also worried about a negative reaction of not being believed every time I had to explain to a new person.”

A third of the staff who dealt with disclosures of abuse said that they had not had any training.

Particularly troubling was the fact that the majority of service providers didn’t have any idea that the moment of leaving an abusive partner was the most dangerous for the victim.

Last year the Chartered Institute of Housing, working with Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance launched the Make a Stand campaign to encourage the housing sector to do more to support victims of domestic abuse. They have asked housing providers to sign up to four goals, to be completed by September this year.

It’s not just about writing a policy, it’s about embedding it and making sure that one person in the organisation is responsible for making sure it works.

It’s about making sure people have easy access to domestic abuse services.

And it’s about putting in place HR policies aimed at supporting their own staff who may be experiencing domestic abuse. It’s changing the culture of the whole organisation and its understanding and awareness of this issue.

Our motion recognises the need for the Scottish Government to provide a destitution fund for those who can’t access benefits. If you are leaving an abusive relationship and you are here as an under some other form of immigration control, you may have no recourse to public funds. That means you can’t get child benefit, universal credit, and disability benefits. You can’t even access the Scottish Welfare Fund.

So if you leave, you have no way of feeding or clothing yourself. Shakti Women’s Aid in Edinburgh’s evidence to the committee was horrendous. Women described how they were having to resort to using pillowcases as nappies. That is no way to treat people who are in an incredibly vulnerable position, who were already terrified about their future being in the hands of the Home Office.

And EEA nationals, even now face difficulties – from the Equalities and Human Rights Committee report:

“We heard changes to UK benefit entitlements for European Economic Area nationals had created additional barriers and risks for women from these countries experiencing domestic abuse. These rule changes failed to take account of gendered patterns of care and employment. Victims of domestic abuse were “doubly disadvantaged” from being able to meet these requirements, due to the coercive and financially controlling behaviour of the abuser.”

We should also be aware now that one of the effects of Brexit will be that EEA nationals who come to live here after the end of next year will be subject to the same brutal immigration system as the rest of the world and could find themselves without access to public funds if they leave home because of domestic abuse.

Conference, this motion gives real choice to women who are leaving an abusive situation. It gives them the chance to stay within their own homes if they wish so that their whole lives and those of their children are not thrown into even more turmoil.

It makes sure that the services they access give them the financial and practical support they need.

Conference, show victims of domestic abuse that we stand with them by passing this motion.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

And this is why I spent 10 years trying to get this man elected to the Scottish Parliament

I  wanted Alex Cole-Hamilton to be elected to the Scottish Parliament for a decade for many reasons, but one took precedence over all the rest – that he would  be a fantastic voice for children and young people. Yesterday he proved why, arguing in committee for his amendment for the Scottish Government to raise the […]

I  wanted Alex Cole-Hamilton to be elected to the Scottish Parliament for a decade for many reasons, but one took precedence over all the rest – that he would  be a fantastic voice for children and young people.

Yesterday he proved why, arguing in committee for his amendment for the Scottish Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility from a “medieval” 8 to a much more civilised 14. The SNP Government would only go as far as 12. He lost, 5-2, but listen to his passionate arguments.

After the vote, he said:

The Scottish Government has found itself firmly on the wrong side of history and human rights. I can only assume it is terrified of losing favour with some aspect of its already fragile base.

The Minister is still pretending this bill is worth celebrating but the sombre mood of the Committee says otherwise. The SNP should never speak of this bill with pride.

Refusing the meet international recommendations sets back our ability to act as a children’s rights leader on the world stage. Scotland cannot lean on some sense of self-perceived exceptionalism. It has twice been pointed out that every country has unique and progressive ways of dealing with young people. While our children’s hearing system is something we should be proud of it doesn’t mean we get to bypass international minimums.

We cannot lead the world from the back of the pack.

Scotland’s children need Alex to keep fighting for them.

PS Don’t ever tell him I wrote this. I will never live it down.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Poll suggests if Labour backs Brexit it could fall behind Lib Dems

Ok, so get your pinches of salt out, because you’ll need them, but a story in The Sunday Times (£) suggests that Labour could lose its place as the official opposition to the Lib Dems if Labour backs any sort of Brexit deal. The YouGov survey of 5,000 voters, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign, […]

Ok, so get your pinches of salt out, because you’ll need them, but a story in The Sunday Times (£) suggests that Labour could lose its place as the official opposition to the Lib Dems if Labour backs any sort of Brexit deal.

The YouGov survey of 5,000 voters, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign, shows that support for Labour could fall from 36% to 22% if they helped the Tories to pass a compromise deal with Brussels like the one advocated by Theresa May.

Under those circumstances, the Lib Dems would soar from 10% to 26% — their highest rating in any poll since they entered coalition government with the Tories in 2010.

The poll shows that Labour’s supporters want a People’s Vote by a margin of almost three to one — and an even bigger proportion would stay in the European Union if they were given the chance.

Alex Cole-Hamilton urged Labour to think again:

.

When will Labour stop helping the Tories? They need to get their act together and slap down a no-confidence motion this week, even if they lose. But they don’t want to do that because they will then have to get off the fence and back the People’s Vote. Corbyn really doesn’t want to do that but he needs to stop faffing about and do what his members and supporters want. Time is running out. This poll is an indication that they won’t be forgiven if they act as midwives to a damaging Tory Brexit that stands to leave us all worse off.

The potential gains for the Liberal Democrats are clear. The party stands to gain support from the sorts of people who are motivated by the types of things Corbyn says about the need to tackle poverty and inequality, so we need to dispense with the centrist mush. We have to articulate ourselves as the bold, radical, insurgent left leaning party that we always have been. The time for hiding our radicalism under a bushel has long gone.

This poll doesn’t mean that we’re going to be the opposition at the next election or anything like it, but the door to our comeback is opening for us. It’s up to us to push our way through.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Alex Cole-Hamilton has called for age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, a former youth charity worker, has called for the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to be raised to 14. The UN suggests that 12 should be an absolute minimum baseline. On both sides of the border, we fall short of this. In England and Wales, it’s 10 and in […]

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, a former youth charity worker, has called for the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland to be raised to 14. The UN suggests that 12 should be an absolute minimum baseline. On both sides of the border, we fall short of this. In England and Wales, it’s 10 and in Scotland just 8.

The Scottish Government is putting forward legislation to raise it in line with the UN minimum guidelines, but Alex says that it doesn’t go far enough:

Scotland is the only country in the EU where children as young as eight can find themselves with a criminal record, in defiance of UN and Commonwealth guidelines. Some could be required to declare convictions for the rest of their lives. That means a bad decision made when a child is of primary school age can destroy their chances of getting on throughout their working life.

Despite a host of evidence, the Scottish Government has slow walked these proposals. Twice in the last Parliament it voted down Scottish Liberal Democrat proposals to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

Now that we have an opportunity for action, the Government should not be content to do the bare minimum. They should set their sights higher and raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 in line with best practice.

We all want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up. That means treating children as children, not criminals.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

It’s Pumpkin Time….

No Hallowe’en could ever be complete without an Alex Cole-Hamilton pumpkin. The only #pumpkin I managed to carve to ‘hall of fame standard’ this year. #HappyHalloween from Vladimir Pumptin: #pumpkincarving #Halloween pic.twitter.com/B9GhYWZcOO — Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP (@agcolehamilton) October 31, 2018 And he let us into some of the secrets of production: Pre production: pic.twitter.com/5GZBRpf5OG — […]

No Hallowe’en could ever be complete without an Alex Cole-Hamilton pumpkin.

And he let us into some of the secrets of production:

Former Scottish Party Manager Linda Wilson came up with Death Star Pumpkin


The one outside my house, made by my husband, is a bit more traditional:

And from Jenni Lang in Edinburgh,  we give you Hermione Grainger:

 

Send us photos of your Lib Dem pumpkins to voice@libdemvoice.org and we’ll update this post.

Happy Hallowe’en!

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings