DENHAM DEMANDS TORY U-TURN ON TV LICENCES FOR ELDERLY

Edinburgh Eastern MSP, Ash Denham, has again called on the UK government to ensure that her constituents over the age of 75 will not be forced to pay for a TV licence.

Despite the Conservatives making the retainment of free TV licences a key pledge of their election manifestos in 2015 and 2017, over-75s not in receipt of pension credit will be demanded to pay an extra £154.50 per year.

Restrictions were due to come into force from 1 June this year but this date was delayed by two months due to the coronavirus pandemic but have not been extended any further past 1 August.

Denham has supported calls in Scotland for the licence to remain free and last year visited Age Scotland to support their petition to the UK government to see the disgraceful decision over-turned.

Commenting, the Edinburgh Eastern MSP said:

“When a political party makes a promise, people expect those promises to be kept – particularly to our elderly, who have worked hard all of their lives and deserve dignity and our immense respect.

“If these restrictions are brought forward, free licences will only be available to households with one person aged over 75 who receives pension credit, totally contradicting Tory manifesto promises in 2015 and 2017 and ending almost 20 years of free licences for this age group.

“After years of Tory austerity and after the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the last thing our older people need is money being taken out of their pockets. The extra burden of £154.50 to their household bills could have a serious impact on already hard-stretched finances.

“In the UK, over half of over-75s live alone and many – two fifths of older people according to an Age UK survey – say the television is their main company. A television is something which has the ability to make someone who lives alone feel less lonely as it helps connect them with what is going on in the country and the rest of the world. For the Tories to remove this free service to the elderly is cruel.

“It’s vital that we keep TV licences free for over-75s as the cost of buying a TV licence could be a real barrier to many people.”

ENDS

IMMIGRATION SALARY THRESHOLD WOULD HARM ECONOMY & NHS AND SOCIAL CARE IN EDINBURGH

50.9% OF CAPITAL WORKERS INELIGIBLE UNDER TORY IMMIGRATION PLANS

The UK’s proposed new immigration system could halve the number of people coming to Scotland, risking labour shortages in key sectors, an independent expert group has warned.

New research shows that 50.9% of migrants who want to work in Edinburgh would be ineligible to come to the UK under Westminster proposals – shutting the door on our ability to recruit talented, skilled and dedicated workers from Europe and elsewhere.

According to previous analysis by the Expert Advisory Group, 53% of roles filled by employees in Scotland earn less than £25,000, including up to 90% of jobs in the care sector.

Holyrood’s Finance Committee has also warned that demographic changes could pose risks to Scottish public spending, and our ability to fund the NHS.

SNP MSP Ash Denham said:

“The COVID-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated the UK’s reliance on key workers who have come to Scotland from all over the world.

“This pandemic has shown beyond doubt that people working in the roles which the Tories describe as ‘lower-skilled’ are absolutely vital to our communities.

“Without migration, the Capital could face a demographic crisis that could hammer public services like the NHS – as an ageing population leaves Scotland with fewer working-age taxpayers.

“But despite the clear evidence, the Tories seem utterly determined to back Boris Johnson’s closed-minded plans which will be immeasurably damaging to Edinburgh and Scotland.

“We need the power to attract and retain the workers we need to fund our public services, and allow our economy to flourish.”

ENDS

HOLYROOD BACKS £19.27 MILLION FOR EDINBURGH TO TACKLE COVID-19

SNP MSP Ash Denham has welcomed a Holyrood vote approving £19.27m extra funding for The City of Edinburgh Council in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost £258 million extra funding has been approved for vital local services across Scotland, such as food provision for those in need, education and social care.

The Scottish Government is in discussions with local authorities over providing a further £72 million – which will bring the total additional funding to almost £330 million.

This extra funding is on top of the local government finance settlement of £11.4 billion, which already provided an increase of £589.4 million (5.8%) compared to the previous year.

SNP MSP Ash Denham said:

“The pandemic has put real pressure on families and local services, and it’s right that the Scottish Government has ensured The City of Edinburgh Council has more cash to deal with this.

“This funding boost is supporting access to food, welfare payments and frontline services.

“I also welcome the additional flexibility given to councils in how money is spent, allowing resources to be diverted to the COVID-19 response if required.”

ENDS

DENHAM WELCOMES “AMBITIOUS” INDEPENDENT REPORT ON SCOTLAND’S ECONOMIC RECOVERY FROM COVID-19

Ash Denham MSP has welcomed the findings of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, which was tasked with recommending solutions to ensure a transition towards a greener, net-zero and wellbeing economy, and to advise on measures to address different challenges the economy will face as Scotland recovers from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Among the recommendations with the report, ‘Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland’, were:

  • an urgent need to access low cost debt requires an accelerated review of the Fiscal Framework, and a significant increase in access to capital investment to support an investment-led recovery
  • a Scottish jobs guarantee, in partnership between business and government, should be introduced to address unemployment, with refocused skills strategies and decisive steps to align teaching and learning in universities and colleges to the needs of business
  • prioritisation of sector plans to deliver a green recovery, where the coincidence of emissions reductions, the development of natural capital and job creation are the strongest
  • critical investment in the country’s digital infrastructure to improve connectivity, reduce inequalities and build the country’s resilience
  • urgent action to develop a stronger relationship between business and government on the strategy for Scotland’s economic recovery

The Group, led by Benny Higgins, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, is an independent advisory group which was set up on 17 April 2020 to provide expert economic advice to the Scottish Government in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Commenting, Ms. Denham said:

“I welcome the findings of this report by the Advisory Group which set out to provide expert advice to the Scottish Government with a strong and comprehensive set of recommendations, which are both ambitious and far-reaching.

“It is particularly pleasing that the Group recognised that Scotland’s economic recovery should be based upon four pillars of ‘capital’ – business, people, communities and environment – and the report sought to treat each pillar as equally important.

“Benny Higgins has said that “radical intervention” is needing to transform our economy to stop inequalities in our society from widening with long-term “scarring” for communities, and for young people in particular. We cannot allow this to happen.

“I look forward to the Scottish Government’s detailed response to this report which will be published before August. I will continue to work with local people and businesses in Edinburgh Eastern to deliver the action needed to ensure recovery from the impact of the coronavirus.”

ENDS

The report of the advisory group: https://www.gov.scot/publications/towards-robust-resilient-wellbeing-economy-scotland-report-advisory-group-economic-recovery/

Scottish Government press release: https://www.gov.scot/news/working-towards-economic-recovery/

EDINBURGH EASTERN MSP WELCOMES RETURN TO FULL-TIME SCHOOLING

Ash Denham, MSP for Edinburgh Eastern, welcomed the announcement last week by Deputy First Minister John Swinney that schools will return full-time in August if Scotland continues to make progress on suppressing COVID-19.

The move comes after significant progress was made in reducing incidence rates of the virus, putting Scotland on a more positive trajectory than previously expected.

As a result, the Scottish Government has now made it a central planning assumption that pupils will return to class full-time, without distancing, in August. This is conditional on infection rates being sufficiently low to continue to control the virus, public health and testing systems being in place and protective measures and risk assessments being carried out in schools.

Mr Swinney also revealed that an additional £100 million will be invested over the next two years to tackle the impact of lockdown on schools and pupils, including ensuring every current probationer teacher who meets the standard for full registration having a teaching post for the year ahead.

Commenting, Ash Denham said:

“This is extremely welcome news and it is thanks to the significant sacrifices of people here in Edinburgh and across Scotland during the lockdown that pupils can return to a school setting full time in August, if the virus continues to be suppressed.

“I will continue to engage with The City of Edinburgh Council, as I have already been doing in recent days, on the safe return of our pupils and staff to ensure our young people get the education they deserve.

“I want to send my gratitude to our amazing teachers, school staff, pupils, and their families for their patience and their help during these uncertain times.

“I am also delighted to see an additional £100m, to be invested over the next two years, to tackle the impact of lockdown on schools and pupils, which will ensure every current probationary teacher who meets the standard for full registration will have a teaching post in the year ahead.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but this announcement is another important step in our recovery from this pandemic and shows the Scottish Government is doing all it can to support families and communities across the country.”

ENDS

MORE MONEY FOR CAPITAL’S SCHOOLS AND NURSERIES AS SNP BOOST EDUCATION SPENDING

NEW FIGURES SHOW HALF A BILLION IN EXTRA SPENDING LAST YEAR

Ash Denham, MSP for Edinburgh Eastern has welcomed new figures showing spending on education in the Capital rose by £41,616,000 last year.

The figures show councils spent £547 million more on education in 2019-20 than the previous year – a real terms spending increase of 8% across Scotland.

The increase was driven in large part by the SNP’s flagship policy of expanding free childcare.

Commenting, Ash Denham MSP said:

“This SNP Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that our young people here in the Capital, and across Scotland, get the best possible start in life.

“We’ve handed local councils the cash needed to increase free childcare and early learning and are continuing to invest to improve attainment in schools.

“The coronavirus pandemic has understandably been a difficult time for schools and nurseries, and has underlined the importance of investing in education – which is why the Scottish Government is expanding free school meals over the summer holidays and providing extra financial support for higher education students.

“Despite these uncertain times, the Education Secretary has been clear that even more children and families will be able to benefit from this childcare expansion in the year ahead.”

ENDS

ANIMAL WELFARE LAW TO INCREASE PENALTIES FOR WORST OFFENDERS

Ash Denham MSP is delighted that MSPs gave their support last week to a Bill which will see an increase in penalties for serious animal and wildlife crime offenders.

Under the Scottish Government’s Animals and Wildlife Bill, the maximum penalty for the most serious crimes will increase to five years imprisonment and the fine will be unlimited.

The Bill also gives new legal protections for service animals such as police dogs and horses, also known as ‘Finn’s Law’, named after a police dog which had to undergo several hours of surgery to save its life after being stabbed in the line of duty.

Animal welfare enforcement agencies, such as the Scottish SPCA, will also be given innovative new powers, allowing animals taken into their care to be quickly rehomed without the need for a court order.

Commenting, the Edinburgh Eastern MSP said:

“I’m delighted this Bill was brought forward by the Scottish Government and has been supported by MSPs from across the chamber.

“This is a landmark Bill for animal welfare in Scotland, and sends out a very strong and clear message that the consequences of abuse or cruelty towards animals, domestic or wild, are extremely serious and can lead to a long custodial sentence.

“The inclusion of Finn’s Law in this Bill recognises the important role services animals play in protecting us all in very difficult circumstances.

“I am also pleased for the Scottish SPCA, who I visited earlier this year at their Lothians Rescue Centre, who will be allowed to quickly rehome animals in their care, powers which the charity has described as “transformational”.”

ENDS

Background

The Bill’s full title is the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.

An independently-chaired taskforce will start work this summer to consider whether the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) should be given extra powers to investigate wildlife crime, following a Scottish Government commitment on the matter during Parliament’s consideration of the Bill.

ASH DENHAM CALLS FOR BLACK HISTORY TO BE MANDATORY IN SCHOOLS

Ash Denham MSP last week wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills to ask for the teaching of black history to be a mandatory part of the school curriculum.

The full letter reads:

Dear Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills,

I am writing to request that the Scottish Government considers including the teaching of black history, including Scotland and the UK’s links to the slave trade, in our schools’ national curriculum.

This is something constituents have contacted me seeking support for, and I share their desire to see Scotland’s school children taught these subjects at both primary and high school levels.

At present, as I understand it, school children are only taught about slavery as part of social sciences in their second year of high school. I believe this needs to change.

This would include the teaching of Scotland and the UK’s role in the slavery trade, where we should not shy away from informing our children about all aspects of the past. History shouldn’t only includes the elements we are proud of.

It has been encouraging to see so many schools across Scotland promote Black History Month each October, but it’s not enough to do it just one month of the year.

And the history of other ethnic minorities should also be taught in addition to black history.

Changing the way Scottish schools promote black history and other ethnic minorities on its own will not lead to the elimination of racism in our society, but it would be another important step in reaching that goal.

The killing of George Floyd in the United States has sparked an outcry from not just black people, but from people of all skin colours, who are shouting louder than ever that more needs to be done to ensure black lives matter.

We have taken important steps to eradicate racism in Scotland thanks to the Scottish Government Equality Unit which provided over £2.6m for the period 2019-20 to advance race equality in Scotland, as well as the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill which was introduced to parliament in April this year.

But I believe more needs to be done and that the mandatory teaching of the history of black people and other ethnic minorities to our school children would be another important step.

Yours sincerely,

Ash Denham MSP

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS

SNP MSP Ash Denham has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of extra financial help for students facing financial hardship over the summer months.

The Scottish Government has brought forward early access to £11.4 million of discretionary funds – which will be administered by colleges and universities – to support higher education students.

Students are, due to UK government rules, unable to claim Universal Credit or other benefits.

Scottish students studying in Europe as part of EU Portability or historically arranged schemes will also be able to access a £100,000 emergency fund administered b the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

Ms. Denham said:

“Many students from my constituency and across Edinburgh will have expected to find paid work over the summer to cover their rent or save for the following term – but are now, through no fault of their own, unable to do so. 

“This Scottish Government support will be welcome news for those students who rely on part-time jobs over the summer months, who could find it difficult to cover their living costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No student should face financial hardship as a result of this crisis – and these new measures will support students until the start of the next academic year when bursary, grant and loan payments will begin again.”

ENDS

EDINBURGH EASTERN MSP WELCOMES BASIC INCOME FINDINGS

Ash Denham MSP has welcomed the findings of a report into the feasibility of a Citizens’ Basic Income, which concluded that a pilot is desirable.
However, the Citizens’ Basic Income Feasibility Study Steering Group – made up of four local authorities, including The City of Edinburgh Council – said that a pilot is not feasible within the current devolved settlement, as necessary welfare and tax powers remain with the UK Government through DWP and HMRC.
The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell MSP, has now written to UK Ministers urging them to engage constructively with the Scottish Government on the scheme.
The Scottish Government had invested £250,000 into this study over 2018/19 and 2019/20 to look into the practicalities of introducing a pilot Citizens’ Basic Income scheme, also referred to as a ‘Universal Basic Income’.
Commenting, Ms. Denham said:
 
“I welcome the findings of this report published by the Citizens’ Basic Income Feasibility Study Steering Group, which included representation from the City of Edinburgh Council, that it would be desirable to pilot a universal basic income.
 
“There have been many calls from politicians, third sector organisations, and the public that a universal basic income should be introduced to provide support to people and reduce poverty – and those calls have been louder during the coronavirus pandemic.
 
“I fully support the Scottish Government in writing to the UK Government urging them to engage constructively on this matter and discuss the next steps towards a pilot for a Citizens’ Basic Income.”
ENDS