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Interview with Chris Kane: “Plan for a Minimum Student Income would help meet cost of living needs”

Brig caught up with Labour candidate for Stirling Chris Kane, and discussed the upcoming election, Labour manifesto, and what it mean for Stirling voters and students.

11 mins read

Chris Kane is the Labour candidate for Stirling hoping to win votes tomorrow at the Parliamentary Election.

“I understand what’s important across this constituency because I live here, I work here, I was born here and I’m raising my family here.  I have a track record of delivering resources and creating opportunities in communities I’m ready to do more as your MSP to help across the constituency. 

” The Labour movement has always addressed the problems in front of us with the tools available at the time we are called to act.  As we emerge from Covid-19, we need a National Recovery.   

” From the first day I walk into parliament I’ll get to work fixing real problems, not reworking the old, tired and divisive arguments that have defined our politics for far too long. 

“I promise to be an MSP who’ll work hard for everybody.  But I need your help to get there. 

” If you want to prioritise a national recovery and elect an MSP who will be a champion for all of Stirling’s communities, then on Thursday cast your constituency vote for Chris Kane and your party vote for Scottish Labour.”

Why should the student voters of Stirling cast theirs for Scottish Labour? 

“Scottish Labour recognise that the learning that takes place at Scotland’s universities and colleges is vital to the economy and society – something that has never been more important as Scotland recovers from the pandemic.  It is therefore essential that students are supported to get the most out of their time while studying. Scottish Labour will work to ensure this by reinvesting in further and higher education, increasing the cap on government-funded student places and increasing the amount invested in teaching, research and innovation.  In addition to this, Scottish Labour will introduce a Minimum Student Income, place rent controls on student accommodation and work with institutions to end gender-based violence and harassment. All of this will help ensure that students are free to learn in safe, inclusive and supportive environments.”

Scottish Labour have committed to guaranteeing a job for every young Scot under 25. What could this mean for students and young people in Stirling who are having a hard time finding a job post-pandemic? 

“Creating new work opportunities for Scotland’s young people is central to Scottish Labour’s Jobs Recovery Plan. Everyone under 25 who does not have a job, which are not already benefiting from other job schemes, will be guaranteed a job within the Scottish public sector, working to support Scotland’s recovery with a wage paid for an average of six months by the Scottish Government. A training guarantee will be offered to everyone on the Jobs for Recovery scheme, with 20% of their time dedicated to developing skills and seeking the next employment. Supplementary funding to kick-start ‘Kickstart’ by providing a further six months of subsidy for wages, encouraging employers to employ young people in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance. In exchange for the wage subsidy, employers would need to guarantee a permanent job at the end of the scheme. By creating 5,000 properly paid apprenticeship places, with protected time for training, we can deliver a brighter future for thousands of young Scots. We will also act to keep jobs locally, giving young people the option of staying in their community.”

Scottish Labour does not support the independence movement, and has instead committed to further devolution. What powers could Scotland gain and how might they be relevant to Stirling citizens? 

“For a decade, discussions about power in Scotland have only been concerned with the power that sits in the hands of MSPs and Scottish Government Ministers in Holyrood.  Labour have a broader and more ambitious vision which involves a radical redesign of the UK’s democratic institutions, more powers of scrutiny for Holyrood, and a radical transfer of powers from Edinburgh into communities across our country.  It must also involve as close a relationship with the EU as possible.”

As of 2020, Stirling has seen a rise in homelessness by 27%, sitting above the national average for the number of homeless households per 1,000 of population, with Stirling’s rate at 7.5 compared to the Scottish rate of 6.9. How could you work with local government to tackle these rates in Stirling? 

“Scottish Labour will eliminate the housing crisis over two parliamentary terms by: Giving everyone the opportunity to have a warm, well-built, affordable home for life;  Creating a National Housing Agency to end the housing crisis for good; Guaranteeing fair rents and improving tenants’ rights in the private rented sector; Committing to building at least 120,000 social houses over the next decade, with the aim of building 200,000 in that time; Supporting people to own their own home, with specific support for young people and first-time buyers; Ending rough sleeping within the next five years. There are nearly 150,000 people on social housing waiting lists, 70,000 of whom are children. To address that, we plan to deliver a minimum of 120,000 zero-carbon social houses built over the next decade, with the aim of building 200,000 social homes in that time. We will provide parity of grant funding between councils and housing associations. Councils and housing associations should also consider purchasing existing housing to help speed up the growth in the supply of social housing. Good affordable housing helps tackle poverty, underpins health, wellbeing, and feelings of self-worth. Having a decent, affordable home provides security and stability, providing the platform for a successful life.”

Labour’s manifesto includes a dedicated support plan for every young person in education with a comeback plan and personal tutoring. Would this apply at University level and how might it affect the current education curriculum? 

“Thanks for highlighting Scottish Labour’s commitment to assisting and supporting to school students in their education to which that manifesto commitment is primarily directed. However, specifically dedicated to the active promotion of the health and well-being of those engaged in University education to make the best of that University experience, Scottish Labour is committing itself to develop a college estate plan to repair and improve infrastructure and develop the on-site provision of childcare services. Additionally, Scottish Labour will commit to sustainable funding for students’ associations. We will improve teaching practice on health and wellbeing throughout the education system with consistent training and additional mental health counsellors in colleges. There should be an action plan for students to improve access to mental health services in colleges. We will also work with the education sector, as well as industry, to ensure leavers have positive destinations to move into – something that will be especially important as the jobs market is re-shaped by Covid-19.”

One manifesto point is to give every young person access to sport, transport, outdoor activities and culture over the summer. How could this apply to students and young people around Stirling this summer and is the access free?

“As with the previous question this manifesto commitment for primary and secondary pupils. However, the question you ask does raise the issue about meeting the additional support needs of those in Further Education during their university and college education.

“As you are well aware often the pressures to meet more immediate and pressing economic or financial demands impact significantly on the ability and opportunity to engage in more cultural, social and sport oriented activities during the Summer and at other periods during their university and college lives.
 
“To address this Scottish Labour’s plan for a Minimum Student Income would ensure that Scottish domiciled full-time students, studying up to degree level enrolled in Scotland’s universities and colleges, have access to funding to help meet the cost of living while they study. We agree that no student should lose their benefit entitlements because they are in receipt of student funding and support a “special support payment” for those students receiving benefits. Scottish Labour will improve support for estranged students, helping them to meet the cost of living in the absence of family help and looking at options for a bespoke package of support, similar to that received by care experienced students. We will also explore the possibility of student guarantor schemes at all Scottish colleges and universities so no student needs to worry about accessing housing while in education.

To read the full Labour manifesto for the election, click here.

To read Brig’s manifesto guide at a glance for Labour, click here.

Featured Image Credit: Chris Kane

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