“We Poles are a freedom loving nation.”

Polish-Scot actor Tomek Borkowy

Actor Tomek Borkowy is urging fellow Poles to vote Yes on 18 September.

Jean has welcomed Polish-Scottish actor Tomek Borkowy’s announcement that he will be voting Yes in the independence referendum. Tomek is a household name in Poland, as the star of the hugely popular drama series Dom (“Home”), which ran for twenty years from 1980 to 2000. He first came to the UK in 1977, unable to speak English, and is now a British citizen and runs Edinburgh-based international performing arts agency Universal Arts.

Tomek said:

“A Yes vote is a vote for the new opportunities for all people in Scotland, but especially for Poles, who left their country because they felt marginalised by Polish politics and politicians. A lot of us have succeeded here and many more will. Scotland gave us an opportunity, and we will repay our debt.

“I will vote Yes because I strongly believe that this is the best deal for the people. We Poles are a freedom loving nation. Only 25 years ago we reclaimed our full independence. We understand the need of a nation for self-determination and most of us, I hope, will support it.

“Scotland has more economic potential than most European countries which regained their independence in the last quarter of a century and I urge all of my countrymen to vote Yes and be involved in the social, cultural and political life of our adopted country.

“Unlike the rest of the UK, which persistently is more inward looking, Scottish parties supporting independence are outward thinking. Scottish independence will open more self-development opportunities for Poles and the prospect of a balanced and enhanced life for them and for their children.”

Jean is Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Groups on Poland and Culture. She said:

“I’m really delighted that Tomek will be voting for independence in September. The Polish community has contributed so much to Scotland, and should grab this opportunity to shape our shared future with both hands. They’ve more than earned it.

“I am proud that Scotland has a good record of welcoming not just Poles, but generations of New Scots from every corner of the globe, in contrast to the UK establishment’s increasingly xenophobic rhetoric. The chance to build a country of mutual respect and friendship, not fear and loathing, is one of the great prizes of independence.

“As Scotland considers our constitutional future, we have much to learn from Poland’s example. The 1791 Constitution of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was one of the first in the world to recognise the people as sovereign, and we can take heart from Poland’s centuries-long but successful struggle for independence, first from occupation and latterly from Soviet domination.

“As Tomek says, the Polish people know more than most the value of freedom. I am so proud to work with the Polish community in Parliament, and will be even more proud to celebrate with them on the 19th of September.”

The Electoral Commission have provided Jean, as Convenor of the CPG on Poland, with a factsheet on the voting rights of Polish citizens in Scotland – like all EU citizens, Poles have the right to vote in the referendum as well as in the European Parliament election on 22 May, Scottish Parliament elections and local government elections.

Everything you need to register to vote is available at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.

Poet George Gunn on George Robertson’s ‘cataclysm’

George Gunn

Thurso poet, playwright and educator George Gunn

You might have seen George Robertson’s ridiculous doom-warning yesterday, that independence would be “cataclysmic” for the West and a boon for supposed “forces of darkness”. Here’s a brilliant and funny response from Thurso poet and playwright George Gunn:

Good Morning & Here Is The News

Good morning & here is the news
on the evening of 7th April 2014
former Labour politician George Robertson
(now Lord Naw Naw & self proclaimed prophet)
has reportedly experimented in public
with a new chemical element
recently discovered in the production
of apocalyptic scare-mongering
against the democratic process
in a small European country
of just over five million people

this element is called Pomposherous
its properties are that when it is exposed
to the cool air of reason
it becomes very unstable
& begins to smoke alarmingly
producing intense heat but strangely no light
& then eventually it combusts violently
emitting a hot gas
that is nauseous to the human senses
& fatal for most small mammals
if inhaled

last night former Labour politician George Robertson
was apprehended by authorities in New York City
for illicitly selling Pomposherous without a license
& for inciting public cataclysm

Lord Naw Naw this morning was unavailable for any serious comment

Record voter registration in Scotland ahead of referendum

You can vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum if you are 16 or over. Make sure you register. Click for more information. The Electoral Commission.Jean has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament celebrating the news that voter registration in Scotland is now at its highest ever figure – 4.1 million are now registered, including 92,000 16- and 17-year-olds.

Jean’s motion highlights the great work of Radical Independence, who have been canvassing and registering voters in working-class areas where both registration and turnout have historically been low, especially since 1989 when many removed themselves from voting rolls to avoid the notorious and unjust Poll Tax.

You can join in with RIC’s canvassing at upcoming events including Inverness this Saturday 5 March, East Kilbride on Sunday 6 April, and Castlemilk in Glasgow on Wednesday 16 April.

Jean also congratulates the Electoral Commission on their work to inform those from other EU citizens who are resident in Scotland of their right to vote in the referendum. They have provided Jean, as Convenor of Holyrood’s Cross-Party Group on Poland, with a factsheet on the voting rights of Polish citizens in Scotland – the same rules apply to all EU citizens. The Electoral Commission also provide voting forms in English, Welsh and 14 other languages including French, Polish and Portuguese.

The motion, whose full text is below, has so far been supported by John Finnie (Ind, Highlands and Islands), Alison Johnstone (Green, Lothians), Patrick Harvie (Green, Glasgow), Bill Kidd (SNP, Glasgow Anniesland), John Mason (SNP, Glasgow Shettleston), and Kevin Stewart (SNP, Aberdeen Central). As always, if you’d like your other MSPs to support the motion, you can find and contact them at WriteToThem.com.

Motion Number: S4M-09585
Lodged By: Jean Urquhart
Date Lodged: 02/04/2014

Title: Voter Registration in Scotland

Motion Text:
That the Parliament welcomes the news that the number of voters registered in Scotland is, at 4.1 million, the highest it has ever been; notes that approximately 92,000 of the 120,000 16 and 17-year olds in Scotland have added their names to the electoral roll; reaffirms its support for extending the franchise for the independence referendum to 16 and 17-year olds; believes that a high electoral turnout across all age groups, ethnic backgrounds and social classes is of paramount importance; cautions that there is still progress to be made to ensure that those not currently on the electoral roll, particularly from working class areas, are registered in time to vote in the referendum; welcomes the moves taken by groups such as Radical Independence to register residents of working class areas and to provide legal advice for those who removed themselves from the electoral roll at the time of the “Poll Tax”; further welcomes the Electoral Commission’s work in engaging with citizens of other EU countries who are resident in Scotland to inform them of their voting rights, and encourages everyone, regardless of whether they intend to vote Yes, No or to spoil their ballot, to engage in the independence debate and the vote on 18 September 2014.

Motion: Lerwick’s Waterfront, One of Scotland’s Best Places

I was pleased to see Lerwick’s continued regeneration recognised in this national competition. You can vote for Lerwick waterfront- or the others on the shortlist!- at http://www.rtpi.org.uk/scotlandsbestplaces .

Motion Number: S4M-09550
Lodged By: Jean Urquhart
Date Lodged: 31/03/2014

Title: Lerwick’s Waterfront, One of Scotland’s Best Places

Motion Text:
That the Parliament welcomes the shortlisting of Lerwick’s waterfront as one of Scotland’s Best Places by the Royal Town Planning Institute; notes that the waterfront will compete against what it considers iconic vistas such as the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and Loch Lomond for the prize; understands that the shortlist of 10 places was chosen from 55 public nominations; believes that the establishment of the Mareel cinema, music and arts complex on the waterfront, which also houses the Shetland Islands Council headquarters, the Shetland Amenity Trust and the Shetland Museum and Archives, has contributed significantly to the waterfront’s vibrancy; understands that the public vote to choose the top three places is open until June and can be accessed online at rtpi.org.uk/scotlandsbestplaces , and hopes that the competition sparks interest, debate and enthusiasm about the country’s natural and built environments.

Motion: UHI Appointment of Gaelic Research Professor Dr Conchúr Ó Giollagáin

Motion Number: S4M-09537
Lodged By: Jean Urquhart
Date Lodged: 28/03/2014

Title: UHI Appointment of Gaelic Research Professor Dr Conchúr Ó Giollagáin

Motion Text:
That the Parliament welcomes the appointment of Dr Conchúr Ó Giollagáin as Gaelic Research Professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and director of Soillse, the national research network for the maintenance and revitalisation of Gaelic language and culture, which is effective from April 2014; understands that Dr Ó Giollagáin has an international reputation in language planning and minority language culture and sociology; further understands that, as director of Soillse, Dr Ó Giollagáin will lead a team of four research fellows, one lecturer and 10 PhD students in their research; notes that his research will cover the intergenerational transmission of Gaelic practice and policy in Gaelic medium education and the assessment of government policies on the revitalisation of the language; considers this appointment to demonstrate the commitment of UHI to Gaelic language and culture and the growing reputation of UHI as a centre of academic excellence; further considers the work of academics, the Scottish Government and other partners in supporting Gaelic language and culture to be of paramount importance to the Highlands and Islands and to Scotland, and looks forward to working with Dr Ó Giollagáin and others in support of the Gaelic language and culture.

“Purple Day” for epilepsy: Think Drink? Think Drugs? Think Seizure!

Jean wearing her purple ribbon (and sporting a purple folder!) for Purple Day.

Jean wearing her purple ribbon (and sporting a purple folder!) for Purple Day.

Jean is wearing a purple ribbon today to mark international ‘Purple Day’ for epilepsy awareness. Epilepsy Scotland supporters across the country are also wearing purple and organising fun purple-themed events in schools and workplaces, and landmarks like McCaig’s Tower in Oban, the SSE Hydro in Glasgow and even the sheep at the Pyramid Business Park on the M8 are turning purple for the day.

This Purple Day, Epilepsy Scotland are urging Scots to “Think Drink, Think Drugs, Think Seizure” – to be aware that people who look as if they are drunk or on drugs may in fact be having an epileptic seizure. The charity has produced a simple guide on providing first aid for a seizure.

Jean said:

Download Epilepsy Scotland's quick guide to first aid for seizures

Download Epilepsy Scotland’s quick guide to first aid for seizures

“I’m supporting Purple Day because epilepsy is such a common condition yet many of us still know little about it. Hundreds of Highlanders and Islander, including over 200 children in the NHS Highland area alone, have epilepsy.

“Purple Day is a great way to get people talking about epilepsy, which is essential because just a little knowledge about the condition could save a life. As with so many medical conditions, there’s also a social stigma – even a fear – that needs to be broken down through greater public understanding.

“Please take a moment go to the Epilepsy Scotland website and learn how to recognise and respond to a seizure. It will take just a couple of minutes but it could turn you into a lifesaver.”

Jean is a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Epilepsy, and has signed motions by Bob Doris MSP and Gil Paterson MSP supporting Purple Day.

Jean marks UN World Down’s Syndrome Day

Jean Urquhart with Down's Syndrome Scotland spokesperson Kim Scott

Jean at the Scottish Parliament with Down’s Syndrome Scotland spokesperson Kim Scott

Jean Urquhart welcomed the charity Down’s Syndrome Scotland to the Scottish Parliament last Thursday to mark United Nations World Down’s Syndrome Day on 21 March and Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week which ran from 17 to 23 March.

Down’s Syndrome Scotland is the only Scottish charity focused solely on the needs of people with Down’s syndrome and their family carers. It provides information, support and services for people with Down’s syndrome, their families, carers and those with a professional interest. It also seeks to improve knowledge and understanding and champion the rights of people with Down’s syndrome.

Jean said:

“It was a delight to meet Kim and the others from Down’s Syndrome Scotland, and hear about the great and vital work they do to support so many families, and new projects like the Communication Skills Pilot that started this year.

“People with Down’s syndrome can work, do their job well and have a great quality of life, as Kim proves. But for that to happen there need to be opportunities, and far greater public understanding.

“Everyone has a right to be listened to, but people with Down’s syndrome are often ignored or discriminated against. As a society we have to do more to include people with learning disabilities and their carers. For my own part I’d like to start by urging anyone in the Highlands and Islands who feels politics isn’t delivering for them to get in touch – it’s my job to help all local people navigate the system and make their voice heard.

“I want to thank Down’s Syndrome for giving MSPs their time and expertise, and for the incredible work they do all year round.”

Pandora Summerfield, Chief Executive of Down’s Syndrome Scotland, said:

“This information session at the Scottish Parliament is a great opportunity to raise awareness of Down’s syndrome. By informing MSPs about the condition and about our services, we want to ensure that the interests of our members are not forgotten in political debates.

“As a charity, we are committed to helping our members reach their full potential. Through our work, we know that issues like speech therapy, welfare, employment and dementia are major causes of concern to people with Down’s syndrome and their families. These are important topics that need to be discussed. Improving knowledge of Down’s syndrome is key to our mission. We look forward to organising similar events in the future, including hosting the World Down Syndrome Congress 2018 in Glasgow.”

Down’s syndrome is caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21 inside some or all of the body’s cells. Approximately 1 in 1,000 babies are born with Down’s syndrome in the UK. It is one of the most common congenital conditions, which occurs in all ethnic groups. It is the most prevalent chromosomal disorder and also the most frequently recognised cause of intellectual disability.