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

ASH DENHAM DEMANDS BREXIT EXTENSION TO PROTECT CAPITAL JOBS

SNP MSP Ash Denham has called on the UK government to extend the Brexit transition period in light of coronavirus – with new analysis showing billions of pounds could be wiped from the Scottish economy.

The transition arrangements currently keep the UK close to the EU and can be extended for two years – beyond 31 December – if the UK Government asks for an extension by the end of this month.

But a new study from the Scottish Government says if an extension is not agreed, Scottish GDP could be up to 1.1% lower after two years. The cumulative loss of economic activity from leaving the EU would be up to £3 billion over those two years – on top of the devastating effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The paper indicates there will be further major costs from Brexit for years to come and also highlights that without an extension or having a free trade deal in place, Scotland’s agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing sectors will be especially badly hit.

Ms. Denham said:

“Coronavirus is causing enormous economic disruption and people across Edinburgh expect government to be focused on protecting public health and the Scottish economy.

“It would be an act of extraordinary recklessness for the UK government to allow us to crash out of the transition period at the end of this year.

“The SNP believe the best future for Scotland is as an independent member of the EU.

“But regardless of your opinion on Brexit or independence, it makes no sense to crash out of the European single market at precisely the moment we need stability.

“Businesses across the Capital are focused on securing their future – they simply don’t have the capacity to prepare for Brexit on top of a pandemic.

“The UK government must do the sensible thing, protect jobs in Edinburgh and extend the transition period.”

ENDS

Notes:

COVID-19: The Case for Extending the Brexit Transition Period

https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-19-case-extending-brexit-transition-period/

DENHAM WELCOMES DECISION TO AWARD FUNDING TO LOCAL PROJECTS FOLLOWING LETTER TO COUNCILLORS

Ash Denham MSP has welcomed the decision by the City of Edinburgh Council to allocate funding to an additional 15 community projects across the Capital who had looked to have missed out following recommendations set out by council officers at the beginning of the year in the 2020/23 Communities and Families Grant to Third Parties Programme report.

The Edinburgh Eastern MSP had written to the members of the council’s Education, Children and Families Committee asking councillors not to approve the recommendations which would see the likes of the Health Opportunities Team (pictured), the Venchie Children and Young People’s Project and the Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre miss out on vital funding.

In the letter to councillors, Ms. Denham argued that the projects recommended for funding were “not evenly spread out through the city” and were not going to the areas most in need, pointing to statistics from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation Index showing Craigmillar and Gilmerton to be among the most impoverished parts of the Capital.

Last week, the council made the decision that those projects already recommended for funding would still receive it but in addition would split a total of £611,902 between a further 15 projects which weren’t initially successful, including 5 in Ms. Denham’s Edinburgh Eastern constituency: Craigmillar Books for Babies (£9,165), Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre (£5,000), Health Opportunities Team (£138,264), The Ripple Project (£101,207), and the Venchie Children and Young People’s Project (£36,132).

Commenting, Ms. Denham said:

“I welcome this decision by the City of Edinburgh Council to allocate funding to a further five community projects in my constituency, which I believe in some cases would not have been able to continue without it.

“When it looked like these charities had missed out on funding, I wrote to councillors imploring them to reconsider and I am pleased that monies have now been set aside for the projects I highlighted, as well as others in my constituency.

“I and my office have worked closely with a number of these organisations and I’m relieved that they have now been given a lifeline and will be able to continue their incredible work across the constituency, which I have witnessed first hand on numerous occasions.

“However, while I am pleased to see significant resources invested in projects based in the Craigmillar and Lochend areas, I share the concerns of many groups in the Gilmerton area – including the local community council – over the challenges the Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre will face in meeting the needs and demands of those living in Gilmerton and Liberton.

“Goodtrees has done so much for local people – not least their inspirational work in supporting the most vulnerable in our community during the lockdown – and so I ask the council to continue to engage with the Goodtrees management in order to ensure young people are heard and are supported.”

ENDS

Notes;

Funding announcement: https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/documents/b16542/Version%203%20-%20Motions%20and%20Amendments%2028th-May-2020%2010.00%20Policy%20and%20Sustainability%20Committee.pdf?T=9 (Page 17)

DENHAM CALL FOR TORY MSPS TO ENSURE £70 MILLION FUNDING PLEDGES ARE HONOURED

CALL FOR TORY MSPS TO ENSURE £70 MILLION FUNDING PLEDGES ARE HONOURED

UK GOVERNMENT BACKTRACKS ON CORONAVIRUS SUPPORT FOR SCOTLAND

Edinburgh Eastern MSP, Ash Denham, has called on Scottish Conservative MSPs, including those representing the City of Edinburgh, to make the case for coronavirus funding pledges to be honoured by Boris Johnson – after the UK Government backtracked on £70 million worth of funding for business and charities in Scotland.

On 2nd May, the UK Government announced a £617 million extension to business grants, which it advised would generate £60 million of funding consequentials for Scotland under the Barnett Formula.

However, the UK Government informed the Scottish Government this week that this additional funding would not now materialise, which will cause concern for businesses and industry in the Capital.

Furthermore, last month £35 million of consequentials was earmarked to the Scottish Government in respect of charity support direct grant, but this was amended by the Treasury to £25 million at a later date.

Commenting, Ms. Denham said:

“Funding commitments from the UK Government have to be taken in good faith as we work through this pandemic, but the fact that Boris Johnson’s government has simply pulled the rug on £70 million of funding completely undermines the whole process.

“The Scottish Government committed to spending that money in the belief that the UK Government would honour its word – Tory MSPs in Edinburgh and across Scotland should urgently seek reassurance from their colleagues in the Treasury that future funding announcements will be robust and reliable enough to act upon without creating unnecessary financial risks.

“We’ve already seen the Scottish Government take action to fill gaps in UK-wide support schemes, so the last thing we need is an additional financial burden put on businesses here in the Capital because of the Treasury’s shameful decision to short-change Scotland.

“The UK government must act immediately to ensure the £70 million they promised is allocated as quickly as possible and in its entirety, so that the Scottish Government can continue to protect jobs and businesses in Edinburgh and across Scotland.”

ENDS

Notes;

Link to Scottish Government release, including letter from Kate Forbes MSP to the Treasury – https://www.gov.scot/news/covid-funding-plea/

Link to UK Government funding announcement – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/top-up-to-local-business-grant-funds-scheme

EDINBURGH EASTERN MSP CONGRATULATES CONSTITUENTS ON BEING THE FIRST TO GRADUATE FROM SFRS’S NEW FACILITY

Ash Denham MSP has welcomed the news that four trainee firefighters from her constituency have made history alongside 20 others in being the first to graduate from Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s £10.5m state-of-the-art facility in Newbridge, Edinburgh.

The four trainees from Edinburgh Eastern – Ross Brown, Donald MacAlister, Darren McGrath, and Paul Van Rietvelde – will now join crews in the city at either the Newcraighall Fire Station or Marionville Fire Station.

The recruits will continue to hone their response and technical skills under a structured three-year training programme.

Ash Denham MSP, who officially opened the SFRS training facility at Newbridge in January, said:

“In common with our other emergency services, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service can be proud of the important work they are doing to keep our communities safe during the current Covid-19 emergency.

“Training is a key component in ensuring firefighters continue to have the skills and professional competencies they need to carry out their essential life-saving duties.

“I am pleased to see new recruits passing through the new purpose-built training centre in
the East of Scotland. These men and women will be a valuable addition in helping keep our
communities safe during the challenging times we are experiencing.

“And as their local MSP, I pass on my congratulations to Ross, Donald, Darren and Paul on graduating and thank them for choosing to become firefighters with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, an organisation that continues to keep Scotland safe.”

ENDS

ASH DENHAM ANNOUNCES POLICE CAN ACCESS TESTS FOLLOWING A COVID INCIDENT

Ash Denham MSP has confirmed that Police Scotland officers who come into contact with someone suspected of having COVID-19 can access a test, even if symptomless.

The Edinburgh Eastern MSP outlined the government’s position in Parliament on Tuesday 12th May, as Police Scotland revealed that more than 100 coronavirus-related attacks on officers and staff had now been recorded.

Ms. Denham, who is the Scottish Government’s Minister for Community Safety, said that she agreed it was “completely unacceptable” for police officers to be victims of violence or abuse whilst doing their jobs.

She also praised the police force in Scotland for achieving a strong level of public confidence and consent during the first phase of the pandemic, following a public opinion survey published this week by the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

Commenting, Ms. Denham said:

“Police Scotland officers are on the frontline each day to protect the public and keep us all safe, including from COVID-19.

“It is totally unacceptable for any police officer to be a victim of abuse or violence while trying to do their job.

“Anyone who assaults our officers or engages in such behaviour can lead to a prison sentence of up to a year, a £10,000 fine, or both following a conviction of assaulting, hindering or obstructing a police officer.

“If any officer is concerned after a COVID-19 interaction – as I imagine many would be – then they can speak to Police Scotland’s Human Resources department to access testing if that is judged to be appropriate following a risk assessment. And I can confirm that officers do not have to be symptomatic to access testing.”

On the recently published SPA report, the Edinburgh Eastern MSP praised officers working across the country:

“Police Officers are putting themselves at risk working in these challenging and unprecedented times. These positive survey findings underline officers’ professionalism during the pandemic.

“It is worth noting that public confidence in policing in Scotland was higher last month than when compared to the last survey in 2017/18, and that public support for the approach taken by policing in Scotland during the pandemic is higher than a recent YouGov survey for the UK.”

ENDS

Notes;

SPA survey link: http://www.spa.police.uk/news/618708/

Ash Denham MSP’s quotes from Tuesday 12th May’s Parliamentary session in full:

Covid-19 (Attacks on Police Officers)
2. Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con):
To ask the Scottish Government what urgent action it will take in light of reports of Covid-19-related attacks on police officers. (S5T-02152)

The Minister for Community Safety (Ash Denham):
Our police officers are on the front line each day to protect the public and to keep us all safe from Covid-19. No police officer should be the victim of abuse or violence while at work, and I support the chief constable in describing such behaviour as totally unacceptable.

Yesterday, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice spoke to the chief constable and the chair of the Scottish Police Federation, and he had very positive discussions with both. It is clear that, when an officer has a Covid-19 interaction, Police Scotland can offer facilities for an assessment and, where appropriate, a test.

The Lord Advocate has confirmed that those who assault our officers and engage in such behaviour will be dealt with robustly by Scotland’s prosecution service. The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 enables penalties of up to 12 months’ imprisonment, a £10,000 fine or both following conviction for the offences of assaulting, hindering or obstructing a police officer. Our justice system also provides for protection for all workers under our common laws of assault, threatening and abusive behaviour and breach of the peace.

Alexander Stewart:
Police officers are on the front line of enforcing the lockdown, and they continue to do their usual jobs of detecting crime and keeping us safe. For that, we cannot thank them enough. Unfortunately, some officers report being spat at and coughed at in a disgusting attempt to spread the coronavirus. Such behaviour is an attack on us all. The Scottish Police Federation has called for a guarantee that such individuals will not be released before appearing in court, so why has the Crown Office not directed that to happen?

Ash Denham:
As I have just said, any police officer who is concerned after having a Covid-19 interaction—as I imagine many of them would be—can speak to Police Scotland’s human resources department and access a test, even if they are not symptomatic. There is no barrier to accessing testing. As Alexander Stewart rightly says, the police are at the front line, putting themselves at risk on a daily basis in order to keep the rest of us safe. We want them to have confidence that those who are concerned can access testing, and we expect them to be able to do so.

Alexander Stewart mentioned automatic remand for those who carry out such an assault on a police officer. I point him towards the Crown Office’s recent guidelines, which were issued by the Lord Advocate at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. He said that liberation is a decision for the police based on the circumstances of the individual incident and that the police can detain any person to protect the public from risk of harm. A person spitting at someone and saying that they have the virus would obviously meet a reasonable description of putting someone at risk of harm.

Alexander Stewart:
The Scottish Police Federation has also called for routine testing of officers who do not have symptoms but who might be spreading the coronavirus across communities without knowing. When the Deputy First Minister was asked about that on the radio yesterday, he did not respond by saying that that would happen. Can we get a straight answer from the minister that police officers who are putting themselves at risk will receive tests?

Ash Denham:
Yes. I am happy to go on the record as saying that there is no barrier to accessing testing for police officers or staff. Any police officer or member of staff who is concerned about their health or wellbeing following an assault of any kind relating to Covid-19 should contact Police Scotland’s HR department to be risk assessed. Following that, a decision will be made about whether testing is appropriate for that individual.

Since 6 April, we have been working with Police Scotland to ensure that officers and staff can access testing at a number of sites, so that those who can be tested are being tested. Police Scotland’s HR department is now able to risk assess any officer or member of staff who believes that they are at a heightened risk, and they will be able to access testing if that is judged to be appropriate. I emphasise that people do not have to be symptomatic to access testing. If someone has had an interaction that has given them concern, they can contact Police Scotland’s HR department to access testing.

We are ensuring that Police Scotland continues to have priority access to testing. The testing of police officers and staff is important and will continue for as long as is necessary.

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP):
Police officers have performed a crucial role during the first phase of the Covid-19 emergency, and it was right for the minister to clearly state that no police officer should be the victim of abuse or violence while they are at work. Can she outline the extent to which the public has confidence in policing in Scotland during the coronavirus pandemic?

Ash Denham:
Last week, the Scottish Police Authority published the initial results from its new public opinion survey. Those results indicated a strong level of public confidence in and consent for Police Scotland during the first phase of the Covid-19 emergency. The SPA reported that

“Public confidence in policing in Scotland was higher in April 2020 than when compared to the last Scottish Crime and Justice Survey”.

The last survey was carried out in 2017-18. The SPA also reported that

“Public support for the approach taken by policing in Scotland to the Covid-19 emergency is higher than a recent YouGov survey finding for Great Britain.”