Having met Orkney Rape and Sexual Assault Service (ORSAS) staff on my most recent visit to the islands, I’ve been following their work closely.
The global theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, from 25th November to 10th December, is “Orange the world: End violence against women now!”, and I was thrilled to see the ORSAS campaign unfold. This has included the lighting up of St Magnus Cathedral in orange and their peedie birds springing up around the county. These birds represent the women and girls in Orkney that are affected by domestic and sexual violence.
Violence against women and girls is both prolific and preventable; harm should not be a daily reality for us to navigate. We must listen to all survivors, activists, and women’s rights advocates – lived experience is not up for debate.
I pledge to continue to advocate for inclusive long-term strategies and support. We must create safe spaces and have resources to protect, prevent, and eliminate violence against women in public and private spaces, prioritising the most marginalised women and girls.
The past weekend has been a busy one for SNP members, with the annual conference hosted once again online. I was overjoyed to hear Nicola Sturgeon, during her keynote conference speech on Monday afternoon, reveal that the Scottish Child Payment is going to be doubled to £20 a week as part of the forthcoming Scottish Budget and will apply from April 2022.
No family should have to struggle – it is vital that we support children and give them a fair start to life. This welcome increase is critical at a time that has seen other sources of financial support for struggling families, such as the £20 Universal Credit uplift, removed by the Tories at Westminster. This additional income will make such a difference in tackling child poverty in Scotland, and is a unique benefit within the UK.
Also unique to Scotland within the UK is the Baby Box, and this gift to the families of new-born children in Scotland, which was of course piloted in Orkney, has now been delivered to over 200,000 babies throughout the country since its launch four years ago. I love the fact that the Baby Box isn’t means-tested and that the contents of the box are designed to inform and support positive parenting behaviours, with the box itself able to be used for the baby to sleep in.
Parents accepting the boxes obviously agree, with a take-up rate of over 90% since the launch and with 97% of parents taking part in a recent survey rating them as “very” or “fairly” good.
Finally, and talking of surveys, I am currently looking for constituents in the Highlands and Islands to answer seven short questions to help me understand what folk want from me and how I can serve you better as one of your elected representatives.
The survey can be found on my social media pages, or you can answer it here: https://sprw.io/stt-ea211d
This is a regular column by Emma Roddick, SNP MSP . All Highlands and Islands MSPs have been offered the same space to share their personal views.