Archive for June, 2011

Chair’s Blog – SYP’s position on tuition fees

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

It is great to know the First Minister reads the material we send him, at least according to today’s FMQs. Grant Costello Msyp Following a question from Annabel Goldie MSP on the Scottish Government’s plans to charge English, Welsh and Northern Irish Students up to £36,000, Alex Salmond MSP cited the SYP along with a number of university principals in his response.

The source for this is the Scottish Government consultation, ‘Building a Smarter Future’.  The SYP was part of the consultation, and one of the statements we put to our membership was whether students from the rest of the UK should be charged ‘English’ levels of fees at Scottish Universities. Nearly 60% of those who responded to this survey indicated they agreed with this statement.  Only 30% disagreed.  As a result the SYP recommended to the consultation:

“Students from the rest of the UK attending Scottish universities should have to pay tuition fees at the same level as they would pay in England to avoid Scottish universities being seen as a ‘cheap option’ and places for Scottish-domiciled students being reduced as a result.”

Of course, the situation has changed since February.  In England and Wales it has become clear most Universities, rather than a small number, will now be charging fees of £9,000.  This means the funding shortfall facing Scottish Universities compared to their competitors from south of the border has increased markedly.  This changes the whole framework of the tuition fees discussion.

As a Youth Parliament, we face a new situation.  I am delighted the First Minister pays attention to what we have to say about higher education funding.  I hope he was listening when 85% of young people agreed with our Manifesto statement that access to University should be kept free.  It will be up to our new membership to decide if we agree with the conditions of the Higher Education settlement when the bill is finally published in full.  Until then, feel free to post comments below on what you think the SYP’s position should be on this.

Document: Building a Smarter Future – SYP Response

Riding of Parliament

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

  Tomorrow is the Riding of the Fourth Session of the Scottish Parliament, 15 MSYPs recruited via Facebook shall attend the opening.

2010 Riding

The Riding will involve around 1,500 people selected to highlight achievements across every constituency and region of Scotland, ensuring it reflects Scotland’s achievements and aspirations.  We’re all extremely excited about being so directly involved, so look out for info and photos on the SYP Website and FB pages to see how it went.

Vice Chair Rae Cahill will be attending, she said: “Im really excited to be taking part. Its great that we’re getting recognition and have been invited to such a high profile event. I cant wait to update everyone about it.”

A Riding of the Royal Mile will take place, marking the centuries-old Scots tradition.  This essential part of the ceremonial opening of the old Scots Parliament was successfully updated to mark the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the Holyrood building in 2004 and the start of Session Three in 2007.

Later that day, The Scottish Parliamentwill open its doors to the public. There will be many events including the sound of ‘youngScotland’ – a showcase the best of young Scottish musicians. There will be plenty of other entertainment; Scottish pipes and African Drums, new and traditional music, opera, rock, choirs and samba. The Members Restaurant will also be open for afternoon tea.

Chair’s Blog – June

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

“Hi everyone, I have been busy getting to work and pushing forward our manifesto and agenda to the Scottish Government and other organisations. Grant Costello Msyp

Last week I took part in the cross parliamentary group on children and young people where I made it clear that I would like the group to focus on the key issues identified by young people in our Manifesto. We agreed we will devote our time over the next few months working on youth unemployment and work experience. At our last sitting the campaign for a National Work Experience program was narrowly beaten by Equal Marriage equality, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a priority for SYP. Youth unemployment in Scotland is a national scandal and we all need to work together to help change that. This group is just one of many different channels I will use to push forward our agenda to the Government and Scottish Political Parties.

As you all know we have just moved offices to Gordon Lamb House and I have to admit it’s a good feeling being in our own offices. Hamira and I have been working in the direction that you as MSYPs have set out for us, as well as working on our National Campaign for Marriage Equality. The office space is much more suitable for us as an organisation and it really show that we are on the up. We have an amazing new membership, a new board that represents that membership, new offices, brilliant staff and the mandate to represent the hundreds of thousands of young people that live in Scotland today!

But obviously we won’t just been working in Scotland, we have the ability and the opportunity to influence the British Government through our improving relationships with the British Youth Council and the United Kingdom Youth Parliament. Your Vice Chair, Rae Cahill, and I will be going down to Leeds with two other MSYPs to represent the Scottish Youth Parliament at the UKYP’s national sitting and we hope to be able to come back here with a great new relationship between our organisations and a new platform to stand up and raise the young people of Scotland’s voices higher than ever before.

The past 2 weeks have been amazing serving as your new Chair. I would like to take this opportnity to thank you for electing me as your chair. I hope this first blog has given you a little bit of an insight into what I have been doing recently and I will be doing these regularly to keep you all update. Thanks everyone and I can’t wait to start working with you all to make this year our year.”

Some more thoughts on International Aid

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Whilst waiting for Andrew Mitchell MP to finish his phone call to Germany, I had the opportunity to muse on the debate about development aid. Aid is one of these issues which seems to be uncontroversial – there really isn’t much of a case for a rich nation like the United Kingdom not helping the poorest people in the world. But like most areas of politics, the cosy consensus hides a number of tough questions. When Mr Mitchell was able to extricate himself and join us, some of the controversial areas where put across to him – with some interesting answers resulting.

The most obvious, and the one some right wing commentators are most vexed about, is about the UK providing aid to economically successful nations such as India, who have a space programme. At a time when at home the Government is having to make significant cuts, it seems reckless for us to be spending money subsidising these nations. Mr Mitchell’s answer to this point was robust, he pointed out there were more people in poverty in India than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, and the UK had as much of a responsibility to help these people as anywhere else on the planet.

The second area of discussion was on the problems of working with African nations who were siphoning aid off for their own projects; or states such as Malawi which have policies which are antithetical to our beliefs. Mr Mitchell’s response was these cases are difficult. However, the only people who are harmed by cutting aid are the poorest people in that society, and he didn’t believe it was morally defensible for more people to be malnourished, or for fewer girls to go to school in order to make a political statement. Instead aid in these cases tends to go to NGOs or specific government health or education departments who can ensure it is distributed as fairly as possible.

The final area which was discussed is the work done by smaller organisations in support of development aid. The SYP are sending a delegation out (you can read more about their trip here). Mr Mitchell congratulated everyone on the project and spoke about the work the Scottish Parliament has done on supporting work in Malawi.

These are just a few of the major issues involved in International aid at the moment – it would be great to get your comments below on what you think the big issues are.

MSYPs in Malawi

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

A group of  Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) are currently in Malawi! They will be there for 22 days to work with the National Youth Council of Malawi (NYCoM).

This is a very exciting opportunity and one which will allow them to build a strong relationship with partners in Malawi and assist them. During their visit, they will be volunteering in a school, hospital, orphanage and young offenders institute.

They have set up a blog and will be posting in it regularly, so if you want to keep updated with their work visit

Eco issues

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

The SYP June sitting is approaching and as you will already know, Saturday has an environmental theme! We are really excited about the action projects and eco festival on Saturday night. But why is it so important to be green?

What is Global Warming?

 Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases and is already causing major changes to our global climate. The target of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees doesn’t look likely, this article by the Guardian explains why – Click here

How will it affect me?

But how will this actually affect our lives?  Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, and author of the Stern Report into the economics of climate change for the Treasury in 2006 estimates a 50% chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100 and says “Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce.”

There is plenty evidence to show how climate change has already had an impact:

  • Sea temperatures have risen by on average 0.5 degrees C (0.9 degree F) over the last 40 years [Tim Barnett, Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California]
  • 20,000 square kilometres of fresh water ice melted in the Arctic between 1965 and 1995 [Ruth Curry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Connecticut]
  • Worldwide measurements from tidal gauges indicate that global mean sea level has risen between 10 and 25 cm (18 cm average) during the last 100 years [Warrick et al., 1996]
  • Global surface temperatures have risen about 0.7°C in the past 100 years [Met Office]
  • 11 of the last 12 years rank amongst the 12 warmest years on record for global temperatures (since 1850) [IPCC, 2007]
  • Since 1975, the increase of the 5-year mean temperature is about 0.5°C – a rate that is faster than for any previous period of equal length [NASA, 1999]
  • Average annual temperature in the Arctic has increased by about 1° C over the last century — a rate that is approximately double that of global average temperatures [IPCC, 1998]
  • There is widespread evidence that glaciers are retreating in many mountain areas of the world. For example, since 1850 the glaciers of the European Alps have lost about 30 to 40% of their surface area and about half of their volume [Haeberli and Beniston, 1998]



Food Damage

Even the food you eat can damage the environment. Eating meat is more energy intensive than being vegetarian. 10 % of energy is lost at every link in the food chain so there is a lot of wasted energy involved in eating meat. In terms of greenhouse gases, livestock is said to contribute around 15% of total GHG emissions as they produce methane which is 23 times worse than CO2. It is also very wasteful to produce meat such as beef. Roughly 10kg of grain to feed up a cow will only give you 1kg of beef.

There are other factors to be taken into consideration such as food miles (the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer) but on the whole, being vegetarian is better for the planet. Why not follow the advice of Paul McCartney and try giving up meat for one day a week.  

What can you do?

  • Day to day things
    There are loads of simple things you can do on a daily basis to help the environment. One of the projects at the sitting involves collecting litter and making it into art, this is something really popular in modern art – could maybe even make you some money! Don’t forget obvious things like making sure you turn your lights and power off when you aren’t using them and keeping your washing machine low. 
    Use this calculator to get your personal carbon footprint!
  • Activities
     Project A at the sitting is a fantastic example of an event you can plan yourself. Get your mates together and create an eco fest, you could have local bands playing, a vegetarian buffet, arts and crafts, and you could also raise money for a good cause while you’re at it! Maybe you could have a mini Big Tent Festival!
  • National Campaigns
    There are many national organisations you could get involved with to promote being green. Have a look at these links-