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Inside Holyrood: Worker for a fairer deal for everyone

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MSP Emma Roddick.
MSP Emma Roddick.

Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Emma Roddick on the need for changes to the benefits system.

People often refer to Parliamentary recess as a “holiday” – it is absolutely not! The next two months are my opportunity to undertake regional work without having to be in Edinburgh for most of the week. I’m looking forward to some virtual surgeries, visiting local organisations and charities, and speaking to as many people as possible before I have to head back down the road.

However, I am delighted to have been placed on the Social Justice and Social Security Committee, work which is worth the travel. I believe a fair social security system which respects and ensures the dignity of those who use it is vital in a modern, civilised country. As someone who’s had to endure the traumatic experience of applying for Personal Independence Payment, I know it’s a test the DWP is currently failing; and one I’m determined to make sure Scotland gets right.

Perhaps most exciting is the discussion around implementing a Minimum Income Guarantee. The premise of Universal Credit – that someone need only apply once for multiple benefits, that it could apply to anyone, even in work, and that changes were automatically updated – was a good one.

The problem lay in the execution, which sees people wait months for a payment and penalises caring responsibilities, self-employment and casual work. A minimum income guarantee could take forward the principles in Universal Credit and build on them, ensuring everyone has enough money to eat, drink and put a roof over their heads.

In the last week before recess I made my first remote speech from the Highlands, during the Scottish Government’s Women’s Health Debate. I raised the issue of endometriosis diagnosis, using my own experiences to warn of a bigger issue than simply waiting times – that patients are sent home from the GP over and over, with nothing more than a pack of paracetamol, having presented with debilitating period pain.

It’s important that we normalise talking about this; endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women, and, on average, it takes eight and a half years to get a diagnosis. We have to do better – and that starts with an awareness, including within the medical community itself, of just how terribly some are suffering.

I also spoke in Neil Gray’s Members’ Business Debate on the Social Justice and Fairness Commission report. If you haven’t read it, I can recommend it to anyone who wants to hear some progressive ideas about the kind of country Scotland can be – including things we can do now, with current powers.

I was most excited about the Housing section, which encourages us to move away from seeing homes as an easy investment, and back towards seeing them as a place to live. While the areas with the highest homeless presentations also have the highest numbers of short-term lets, often owned by absentee landlords, we cannot justify letting this sector go unregulated.

I’ve got engagements across the region until we return in September, for what I’m sure is going to be a hectic, but important, term.

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