During general questions, I answered on behalf of the Scottish Government, what its position is on the procedures used by the Public Defence Solicitors’ Office and the Scottish Legal Aid Board to investigate workplace bullying and harassment.
UK DRAFT AGREEMENT COULD COST SCOTS £1,600 PER PERSON
Following the UK Government’s announcement that agreement has been reached with the EU on the terms of withdrawal, SNP MSP, Ash Denham has written to organisations across Edinburgh Eastern to hold urgent discussions on the needs and concerns of businesses in their constituency.
This week the Scottish Government published an assessment of the deal, putting forward alternatives that would secure a better outcome for Scotland and the UK as a whole.
The SNP supports full EU membership, but has also put forward a compromise proposal to keep Scotland in the European Customs Union and Single Market, which is around eight times the size of the UK alone.
Nearly 6,800 companies operating in Scotland exported goods to the EU last year and over 10,000 companies were reliant on imports from the EU.
The UK’s deal would take Scotland out of the Single Market, erect trade barriers, and end free movement, inevitably making it harder for Scottish businesses to access skills and talent from Europe – resulting in higher costs, a loss of competitiveness and production delays.
Commenting, SNP MSP Ash Denham said:
“Since Scotland voted emphatically to remain part of the EU in 2016, the SNP has been leading discussions to explore all possible options that protect our place in Europe.
“Based on the current Withdrawal Deal that’s being put forward by Theresa May, business investment, productivity, earnings and employment in Scotland will all suffer.
“Compared with continued EU membership, Theresa May’s proposal could cost the equivalent of £1,600 for each person in Scotland by 2030.
“It is vital that the voices of organisations here in Edinburgh Eastern are heard, and respected, as we look to secure a bright future for Scottish business.
“I would urge businesses to get in touch to make their views known on how Brexit will affect their interests and the economy here in the Lothians.”
Notes to editors:
Scotland’s Place in Europe: An Assessment of the UK Government’s Proposed Future Relationship with the EU www.gov.scot/isbn/9781787814226
LOWER-INCOME FAMILIES IN EDINBURGH EASTERN TO BENEFIT FROM EARLY PAYMENT
SNP MSP Ash Denham has welcomed the announcement that the first payments of the Best Start Grant will be delivered to families in Edinburgh Eastern in time for Christmas.
The Best Start Grant – which provides low-income families with financial support during the early years of a child’s life – will see eligible applicants receive £600 for their first child, £100 more than the UK government’s equivalent in England.
Best Start Grants replace and expand on the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant by providing eligible families with £600 on the birth of their first child and £300 on the birth of any subsequent children.
Ash Denham said:
“I am delighted that families in [area] will be eligible for their first payments of the Best Start Grant in time for Christmas. These new payments will ensure that our under 5’s get the best possible start in life.
“It’s vital that the SNP government can provide help at a time when families in Edinburgh are seeing UK government social security support drastically reduced, and Universal Credit is causing hardship across Scotland.
“By reversing and mitigating the Tory cuts that have been so damaging to families in Edinburgh, and ensuring that we support those on the lowest incomes, the SNP are building a social security system based on dignity and respect.
That the Parliament commends the bravery and dedication of emergency service workers in the north east and across the country; recognises what it sees as their extraordinary efforts to keep everyone safe, working long hours in often difficult circumstances; acknowledges that this can include heading towards danger when others are running away; understands that, in 2016-17, over 3,000 offences were committed against these workers, with attacks often carried out by the very people that they were trying to help; condemns such assaults; regards an attack on any emergency worker as an attack on society itself, and thanks all emergency workers with the police, fire, ambulance, search and rescue, prison and other services for all the work that they do.
Last week, the headlines were focused on the Chancellor and his autumn Budget. Philip Hammond used his speech to declare that “austerity is coming to an end,” but it turns out that only half of the cuts to Universal Credit work allowances are being reversed, and the Westminster government will continue with their contentious two-child cap on tax credits.
This month will see the controversial Universal Credit scheme rolled out across our city. The new system – which has been condemned by charities and trusts across the country – merges six benefits into one, and will come into effect in Edinburgh on 28 November.
Universal Credit has been blighted by problems from the very start. All claimants have to wait a minimum five weeks before their first payment – with many having to wait for much longer. These delays are causing real hardship, with families being forced to use food banks and falling behind with their rent.
In really shocking evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee, MSPs were told about a young boy in Glasgow who was so hungry he was mixing ketchup sachets with hot water to make soup before a concerned teacher referred his family to a food bank. It’s a tragic case, and one which should shock us all. Nobody should be living like this in one of the most developed and wealthiest countries in the world. But that is the sad reality of Tory welfare cuts.
Charities and food banks – those who deal with the victims of welfare cuts first hand – are clearly worried about the potential impact of Universal Credit. Earlier this year it was reported that food bank use in Scotland had hit a record high and cited Westminster’s benefits cuts as a major reason for this rise.
Edinburgh City Council expect to lose £9million in unpaid rent over the next five years due to the system – money which should be spent on delivering public services in the city.
This cruel policy means that families across Scotland are being forced to make the stark choice between paying their rent and feeding their children. It’s callous, heartless and clearly a broken system. The UK government should halt the rollout of Universal Credit, and fix its fundamental flaws.
After a recent debate in parliament on poverty and inequality, one of my Conservative colleagues came under fire for defending Westminster’s two-child cap. The Tory MSP said that “it is fair that people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like” while those in work “have to make decisions” on this. As well as ignoring the fact many people on tax credits and Universal Credit are of course working, this ignores the basic tenet we should not be putting a cap on our children and the two child limit is a policy which simply should not exist. Any of us could who have three or more children, and due to illness or redundancy have to rely on tax credits, yet would be subject to the cap. That is devastating and will risk pushing 150,000 Scottish children into poverty – and I cannot stand for that.
The UK government had a real chance to call a halt to a number of their harmful welfare policies last week, but not taking that opportunity means that thousands more people will face real hardship and financial difficulty over the Christmas period. Unfortunately, it seems that austerity is not over – it has simply been recast. But it’s still austerity for all that and – as ever – the poorest will bear the cost.
This article was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News.
During topical questions, I was asked what action the Scottish Government is taking to protect emergency workers during the firework season, in light of the reported increase in levels of violence and intimidation that they face at this time of year.
The Justice Committee held a debate on remand. I spoke to open and also close the debate for the Scottish Government.
I responded on behalf of the Scottish Government to the Members’ Business Debate: The Cycle to Syracuse to Mark the 30th Anniversary of the Lockerbie Disaster.
I answered a General Question as Minister for Community Safety.
Dean Lockhart asked what assessment the Scottish Government has made of the impact of staff shortages on local fire services.
It was a pleasure to open my first debate as Minister for Community Safety and to be able to highlight the significant progress that has been made in reducing violence in Scotland and talk about our future priorities in the area. The Scottish Violence Reduction Unit takes a health approach to justice. Due to its success in Scotland, the Mayor of London recently announced that it will now be implemented in London.