Edinburgh Evening News column 9/7/19

Later this month, 120,000 Tory members will choose the next leader of their party, the replacement for Theresa May, and as a consequence, the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Looking ahead at who is running to fill the vacancy in Number 10, the options make for depressing reading. Unfortunately, this Tory leadership contest has been a horror show from beginning to end.

The next Prime Minister could be Boris Johnson – who once argued that “a pound spent in Croydon will generate more for the economy than a pound spent in Strathclyde,” and said that Muslim women looked like “letterboxes”, among a long list of outrageous comments.

The other option is Jeremy Hunt, who as Health Secretary ran the National Health Service into the ground – forcing junior doctors to strike for the first time in 40 years, called for the abortion limit to be halved from 24 weeks to 12 weeks, and previously said he wanted the NHS to be dismantled and replaced by a run-for-profit system.

Each of these would-be PMs is mired in controversy, and their extreme views will rightly spark concern with voters across the UK.

On the 23 July, one of these men will be foisted upon Scotland – ready to deny the people of Scotland a chance to decide their own future, but also ready to lurch even further to the right in an attempt to pander to Nigel Farage and his right-wing Brexit Party.

Edinburgh voted three to one to remain in the EU – so did Scotland – but the next Prime Minister is intent on delivering a Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for, and which will wreak enormous damage on our businesses and our economy.

Beyond the hollow rhetoric about protecting the Union, both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are two peas in a pod, who are both willing to drive Scotland and the UK off an economic cliff-edge with a no-deal Brexit – no matter the cost.

Neither of the candidates are fit to lead the country out of the dire situation in which we find ourselves. The prospect of Johnson or Hunt becoming the next Prime Minister illustrates the divergent paths that Scotland and the rest of the UK are on.

The people of Scotland deserve the choice of a better future than the shambles offered by a Westminster government which has let Scotland down at every turn – ignoring our people and locking our government out of crucial discussions that would shape our nation’s future.

It is clearer than ever that the only way to properly protect Scotland’s interests is by taking our place as an equal, independent European nation.


Edinburgh Eastern MSP, Ash Denham, has written to Lothian Buses asking the company to reconsider changes to the number 15 bus service which are set to take effect from Monday 14th July.

The Service 15/X15 route from the City Centre to Lochend is due to be withdrawn due to “low customer usage” and the Saturday service will also be withdrawn.

However, several of Ms. Denham’s constituents have contacted her office complaining the changes to the number 15 service, which travels between Lochend and Penicuik, would force elderly bus users to walk a longer distance to access an alternative bus route to take them into the city centre.

She said:

“A number of constituents in my Edinburgh Eastern constituency have contacted me to express their anger that the number 15 service bus they rely on to travel into the city centre is due to be withdrawn.

“Many constituents who use this service are elderly and may have disabilities which prevent them from walking a longer distance to reach the next bus stop to take them into town. Walking a longer distance will also be particularly difficult in bad weather or in the winter months.

“I have now personally written to the Managing Director of Lothian Buses, Richard Hall, asking for the company to look again at this route and for the service from Lochend to the city centre to be reinstated when this new timetable takes effect from July 14th.”

Constituent, Fraser Renton (pictured on the right in the attached photo), 78, said:

“This service is essential for older people like myself in what is a heavily populated area to get up into the town and access the train station.

“It saves people walking all the way along to Restalrig Road or down to Sleigh Drive, which can be a considerable walk for a lot of elderly people in the area – and would be even more challenging in the winter.

“I believe the number 15 service is a popular one and if they’re taking it away it’s in the interests of profit and not of the local people from this area who rely on it.

“I and others made this point to Ash, our local MSP, and we’re really pleased she has taken this up and contacted Lothian Buses. At the very least we’re looking for some form of compromise where perhaps the bus could be changed to a single-decker or as a last resort could be made an hourly service.”


Bus timetable changes: https://www.lothianbuses.com/news/2019/06/lothian-service-change-14-july-2019/


Edinburgh Eastern MSP, Ash Denham, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that a new benefit will be introduced for low income families to reduce levels of child poverty in Scotland.

The Scottish Child Payment will give eligible families £10 a week for every child under 16 by the end of 2022. For a family with two children under the age of 16 this is an additional £1,000 a year.

According to figures published in May this year by the End Child Poverty coalition, 3,946 children (30.1%) in Ms. Denham’s Edinburgh Eastern constituency live in poverty, and almost one in four children in Edinburgh as a whole.

Commenting on the announcement, Ms. Denham said:

“The Tories should be ashamed that half a million more children across the UK are living in poverty compared to when they took office in 2010.

“It’s a disgrace that almost one in three children in my constituency are living in poverty after housing costs.

“Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be absent from school due to illness, to have a long standing illness, and are nearly three times more likely to suffer mental health problems.

“This announcement from the Scottish Government to create a new Scottish Child Payment benefit is another landmark moment for our Parliament and will help families like many in my Edinburgh Eastern constituency who are struggling to make ends meet – often with at least one working parent in the household.

“The SNP is determined to eradicate child poverty. That’s why we are the only UK country to have set statutory income targets to end child poverty in the Child Poverty Act, we then brought forward our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan and have spent £527 million across all government policies to support low income families with children.

“This latest announcement shows the SNP is working for families across Scotland.”



Read more about the new payment on the Scottish Government website: https://news.gov.scot/news/new-gbp-10-benefit-targets-child-poverty


Edinburgh Eastern MSP, Ash Denham, visited the Debra-Ann Dancers at the Jack Kane Centre in Niddrie last week to congratulate them on their success in performing a fundraising dance across the Forth Road Bridge earlier this month.

The group, made up of girls aged between four and 20 years old, welcomed the MSP by performing a number of dance routines.

The practice session was one of the last before the group departs at the end of June to take part in a Highland Dancing competition in Canada.

Next year the dancers are also set to compete in the Highland Dancing Champion of Champions event in Brisbane, Queensland.

Ash Denham MSP said:

“I was delighted to meet Debra-Ann and her fantastic school of Highland dancers, who put on an amazing show when I arrived.

“It really wanted to come and congratulate the girls on their recent fundraising dance across the Forth Road Bridge and to hear about their upcoming trip to Canada to compete at the Scot Dance Canada Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick.

“I wish the group well at the championships and I’m sure they’ll do Niddrie and Scotland proud!

“The group relies on fundraising to travel to national and international competitions so I would encourage constituents to donate to Debra-Ann’s School of Dance and to follow their success on the group’s Facebook page.”

Debra-Ann Brown added:

“The dancing group started at the Jack Kane Centre more than 40 years ago now and currently we have around 15 girls who train and compete, many of whom are the daughters of previous dancers in the group who hail from the Niddrie area.

“The recent event on the Forth Road Bridge was a fantastic occasion and the kids had an amazing day. It was a real family event where the girls’ parents and brothers and sisters came along too.

“It was really, really lovely for our local MSP, Ash Denham, to come to our practice session and meet the girls. The girls don’t get enough recognition so it’s nice whenever someone visits us to see how good the dancers are.”



Learn more about the group on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/debraannschool/

Donate to their fundraising page here:



Latest figures from the Scottish Government show that school leavers in the capital continue to go on to positive destinations after finishing secondary school – with the latest figures showing 93.6% of young people in Edinburgh are going into further or higher education, employment or training nine months after leaving school. A rise on 2016/17 levels that sat at 92.3%.

Across Scotland, the number of school leavers reaching a positive destination has risen to 93.2% – the highest level since comparable figures began in 2009/10 when 85.2% of young people entered a positive destination.

Of those in positive destinations across Scotland, 39% are at University and 22.7% are at college, while 28.3% are in employment.

The proportion of looked-after children entering further and higher education is now also at a record high. The proportion of looked-after young people in positive destinations nine months after leaving school has increased to 76% over the past five years.

Commenting on the latest stats, SNP MSP Edinburgh Eastern, Ash Denham, said:

“Education is the Scottish Government’s number one priority and these figures show that the SNP’s approach is working for young people here in Edinburgh.

“More young people across Edinburgh are going on to positive destinations than before – up from 92.3% to 93.6% over the last year.

“This is fantastic news for our community and testament to the hard work of our teachers here in the capital and across Scotland.

“While these figures are extremely encouraging – this SNP Government will keep working tirelessly to improve Scotland’s education.

“Perhaps it’s now time for local politicians to stop sniping and get behind the SNP’s positive efforts to ensure all our young people have the opportunity to fulfil their full potential.”


Notes: https://public.tableau.com/profile/sg.eas.learninganalysis#!/vizhome/SchoolLeaverAttainmentandDestinationsDashboard/Home



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 







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.