Funding for colleges continues to fall

A report out today by Audit Scotland shows that funding for colleges continues to fall, and further savings will be needed from the current programme of college mergers.


It also states:

“The increasing emphasis on full-time education and prioritising education for younger students may limit learning opportunities for older people.”


“The college sector has expressed concern that increasing emphasis on providing full-time courses which lead to a recognised qualification may lead to reduced learning opportunities for potential students who are less likely to study full time, such as those aged 25 and over and women returning to education.”

In my view? This report is right to remind colleges and the Scottish Government that the needs of older people and women must not be forgotten. Colleges have been put in an unenviable position thanks to budget cuts and pressure to focus on youth employment but we won’t break the cycle of poverty if we limit parental opportunities to gain life-changing skills.



Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, is warning that a new tariff structure from the energy regulator won’t adequately tackle fuel poverty.
Ofgem has decided to allow energy suppliers to include standing charges in their new tariffs. These charges discriminate against small-use or energy efficient consumers as they form a larger proportion of their overall energy bill.

Alison Johnstone said:

“While the simplification of tariffs is a laudable aim it is disappointing that the regulator has failed to consider the effects of standing charges, which effectively mean small-use consumers subsidise larger consumers.

“It means it will still be difficult to compare energy companies’ charges. I asked Ofgem to justify its proposal to require standing charges and they were unable to do so.

“It is clear we need greater control, greater political will and greater powers for regulators if we are to break the stranglehold of the big energy companies. Only then can we hope to eradicate fuel poverty.”


Alison’s correspondence with Ofgem can be downloaded here:

Letter to Ofgem from Alison re standing charges

Reply from Ofgem re standing charges

We must listen to girls to understand what would enable them to be more active

The sedentary lifestyle of children is deeply worrying, and the latest study confirms it is a particular problem among girls. Only a third are getting an hour of exercise a day compared to two-thirds of boys, and the gap widens as they get older. If we’re serious about tackling the looming obesity and diabetes crises we must make exercise appeal to girls.

Rugby ball

For starters let’s give them role models. They already exist but are invisible going by the sports pages of most newspapers, radio and TV bulletins and panel shows.

In an age of airbrushed celebrities it‘s incredibly important that girls see images of women comfortable taking part in sport. Women shone in the Olympics and for a couple of weeks their hard work and talent was showcased alongside their male counterparts. In New Zealand positive action has been taken to ensure televised women’s sport is the norm.

I want to see more coverage of homegrown talent. Eilidh Child, Lynsey Sharp and Eilish McColgan are down-to-earth, articulate and demonstrate all that is positive about being physically active.

We must listen to girls to understand what would enable them to be more active. It may be something as simple as better changing facilities. Let’s look too at the issue of gender segregation. We must offer a range of activities rather than assuming girls will prefer netball to rugby.

We also need to address misperceptions about diet. Research by Morgan Windram-Geddes of Dundee University shows that many 11 to 14-year-olds falsely believe they do not need to exercise as long as they cut down on the amount of fat they eat.

We should emphasise to girls the social benefits of sport and the skills learned like time management and goal-orientation that can be applied to exams and employment.

I’d also say to young women that sport is an excellent way of de-stressing. You become mindful of what you are doing in the moment.

We must reduce costs. Outside school hours it can be hard for parents on low and modest incomes. Use of facilities, kit, transport – it all adds up. And of course there’s the loss of public green space which deprives children of free places to play in their neighbourhoods.

The Fit for Girls initiative involving SportScotland is welcome but we need to go further, embedding physical activity from the earliest age. That’s why safe walking and cycling routes for school, work and play are so important. I’d also like to see every girl in Scotland, every child in Scotland, learning to swim.

Next year’s Commonwealth Games will be tobacco free, showing that determined action to address our national health is possible when the benefits are clear.

Like Jessica Ennis says, how you deal with setbacks is what makes you a better athlete. Our ambitions to be a healthy nation are undoubtedly suffering a setback. We must pick up the pace and make it much easier for girls to be active in a way that suits them.

Foundation of Hearts

I welcome the news that fan organisation Foundation of Hearts has been granted preferred bidder status by the club’s administrators.


This is great news for Hearts fans and for Edinburgh, and confirms that the Foundation of Hearts have put together a financially robust bid, the best solution for the club’s long-term prospects on and off the park. There’s still a long way to go, though, and a lot of hard work still to be put in by the Foundation and by the fans themselves before a new day can dawn at Tynecastle.

I’d like to see a new law to give football fans the right of first refusal when clubs come up for sale. I hope to use the forthcoming Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill to extend right to buy rules, which already exist for rural land.

We should ensure fans always get first refusal over Scotland’s clubs in situations like this, proposals which would have put the Foundation at the front of the queue automatically. They’ve got there without that help, but I’d urge all fans of football, not just Hearts fans, to support both those changes and this extraordinary bid.