Thursday 19 January 2017
The Prime Minister made it clear this week that the UK is heading for an economically disastrous hard Brexit.
Nearly seven months since the referendum – the Scottish Government is still the only administration to publish a detailed plan on how to deal with Brexit and the economic, social, democratic and cultural risks associated with it.
Scotland voted overwhelming to remain in the EU and the Scottish Government is doing all it can to make sure the Tories cannot ignore and act against Scotland’s interests.
Theresa May has confirmed she plans to take the UK towards an economically dangerous hard Brexit. The Prime Minister has chosen to pander to the obsessions of the hard-right of her Tory party, rather than act in the best interests of the country.
Her speech made it clear she’s looking at replacing our membership of the single market with a low wage, de-regulated economy that would see a race to the bottom – leaving everyone worse off as a result.
If the Tories get away with dragging Scotland out of the EU and the Single Market they’ll think they can get away with anything.
The Scottish Government has published compromise proposals that will keep Scotland in the Single Market and the Tories at Westminster must now show they are taking these plans seriously.
The Tory government must not be able to take Scotland out of the EU and the single market, regardless of the impact on our economy, jobs, living standards and our reputation as an open, tolerant country, without Scotland having the ability to choose between that and a better future.
The feasibility of introducing a citizen’s income will be investigated by the Social Security Committee. The concept of a citizen’s income works on the basis that individuals are guaranteed a minimum regular payment unconditionally. The possibility of a citizen’s income scheme is currently being investigated for Glasgow and Fife in Scotland and it has also been piloted internationally.
We all know the current benefits system is riddled with complexity, and on the face of it the concept of a universal income for everyone is an interesting alternative. However whilst there is much talk at the moment of the benefits of a citizen’s income, the Committee wants to investigate if the principle can work in practice. Whilst we all want a system that is fairer and looks after those most in need, it’s clear that the implementation of such a concept is far from straightforward.
With the new social security powers now devolved to the Parliament, it is the role of this Committee to consider new social security policy for Scotland and that includes different ideas and approaches for how this might be delivered.
You can watch the meeting which is being broadcast live on the morning of 9 March here: www.scottishparliament.tv
I contributed to the members’ debate in the Parliament this week on the closure of half of Glasgow’s Jobcentres which was brought forward by my colleague Bob Doris MSP.
You can read the full debate including my contribution here:
Minister for Employability and Training Jamie Hepburn also met with Damian Hinds the UK Employability Minister to ask for clarity and assurances about the future of Jobcentre Plus facilities in Scotland.
UK Government Ministers have a duty to meet Scottish people who use Jobcentre Plus to get a full understanding of how potential office closures could affect these vital services.
Charities and community amateur sports clubs are able to keep more of the money they raise under an exemption scheme. Since 2015, the Water and Sewerage Charges Exemption Scheme has helped more than 7,700 charities and amateur sports clubs to save around £4 million every year.
The scheme means eligible charities registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, as well as community amateur sports clubs with an income of less than £200,000, do not need to pay water and sewerage charges. Those with incomes between £200,000 and £300,000 will pay a reduced rate.
Applications for the 2017-18 scheme is now open and I would urge all charities and sports clubs to check their eligibility and apply as soon as they can.
Charities and community amateur sports clubs must apply each year to the Scheme. Applications can now be made for the 2017-18 scheme. Applications for 2016-17 can continue to be made up until 31st March 2017.
Further information on the exemption scheme is available at: https://www.mygov.scot/water-sewerage-exemption/
I stopped by UN House Scotland who had a stall in the Scottish Parliament this week promoting the work they carry out to support Human Rights, Sustainable Development, Peace and Security.
UN House Scotland based in Edinburgh is a shared facility with representation from UN agencies, civil society organisations and charities, working to support UN values.
Universal Credit Consultation
The SNP Government has been busy gathering views to better understand the issues facing those affected by the Tories’ punitive welfare system – with the aim of doing as much as possible with the devolved powers in Scotland to shape an informed and effective social security system. The consultative approach of the Scottish Government to ensure the right measures are in place is sensible.
The new flexibilities on when Universal Credit payments are made and that payments can be made direct to all landlords is very welcome – and reflects a government that listens and responds to people.
This Government’s attitude to social security is in sharp contrast to the Tory government’s shameful and thoughtless attitude to welfare.
A consultation has been published on the regulations which you can find at:
Early Years Workforce
The Scottish Government have announced there will be an extra £1.5 million investment for more nursery teachers and graduates in deprived areas across Scotland with Glasgow set to receive 112 additional teachers or graduates.
The new staff, part of 435 nationwide, is part of the wider strategy of tackling the attainment gap and giving every child an equal start in life. The provision of extra high qualified childcare professionals will ensure that young people benefit from the highest quality care and early years education.
The Scottish Government is taking decisive action to improve early years learning and childcare, including expanding guaranteed free provision from 1140 hours to 2020 hours – which will have a positive impact for families across Glasgow.
Spirit of Scotland
Scotland’s rich heritage, history and archaeology were celebrated at an event in the Scottish Parliament this week. As you can see I got into the spirit and dressed for the occasion!
Both Heritage Environment Scotland (HES) and Visit Scotland were present providing information on how we can celebrate Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.
The historic environment supports more than 60,000 Scottish jobs, contributes over £2 billion a year to Scotland’s economy, and boosts the wellbeing of our communities? In 2017 HES are joining VisitScotland and partners across the country to celebrate the value, significance and enduring appeal of our history, heritage and archaeology.
You can find out more at https://www.historicenvironment.scot/history-heritage-and-archaeology/