Thursday 20 April

Election

Speculation all round with the announcement of a snap General Election. I would think that Ms May is betting that her party can win a bigger majority in England given the utter disarray with the opposition.

The people will have their choice. They could reject the narrow, divisive agenda, as well as reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists for giving the people of Scotland a choice on their future.

Welfare

Women are being unfairly impacted by recent UK Government cuts to benefits and welfare eligibility.

An estimated 20% of women’s income comes from benefits and child tax credits, compared to 10% of men’s. Meanwhile, of all in-work families receiving child tax credits, 87% of recipients were women. For in-work single parents, 94% of recipients were female.

By 2020-21 it is estimated around 50,000 Scottish households will be affected by the changes to child tax credits, which will be capped at two children. This means anyone with two children or more will no longer receive tax credits at the birth of their next child or subsequent children, unless an exception applies. The policy also affects those making a new Universal Credit claim.

The capping at two children policy is particularly galling and I have lodged a motion in Parliament condemning the UK Government on this and calling on an immediate withdrawal of this move. I have also written to both Annie Wells MSP and Adam Tomkins MSP on this issue and await their response.

As usual we are seeing an alarming lack of understanding from the UK Government about the impact of their ideologically-driven policies. This is most evident in the extremely ill-thought through ‘rape clause’, where – shockingly – women have to provide evidence they’ve been raped to access benefits.

The UK Government’s callous policies make the Scottish Government’s efforts to eradicate child poverty even harder. The Scottish Government are spending some £100 million a year on welfare mitigation to protect the vulnerable and those on low incomes, which should be invested in anti-poverty measures. In Scotland the reality is we are tackling deep seated issues of inequality with one hand tied behind our back.

Social Enterprise Fund

A scheme to encourage the launch of new companies that benefit and involve communities has seen annual funding double to £1 million for each of the next three years.

The Social Entrepreneurs Fund offers grants and business support to help people make their ‘social start-up’ aspirations a reality. Increased backing for the fund is just one of 92 commitments made in the 2017-2020 Social Enterprise Action Plan.

The plan follows publication of Scotland’s first-ever Social Enterprise Strategy, aimed at sustainably growing the sector over the next decade. Already, Scotland has more than 5,000 social enterprises – business that reinvest profits to address important issues like homelessness, unemployment or climate change – with 200 new enterprises starting up every year.

The latest round of funding awards saw a Kelvin resident who owns Lewalicious Cakes secure £5000 to set up a community bakery in the east end of Glasgow, offering training, volunteering and employment support to unemployed young people.

You can find out more information at http://www.firstport.org.uk/

SAAS

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) is now open for business and asking full-time students to submit their 2017-2018 applications for funding at www.saas.gov.uk

SAAS have also launched a new SAAS Account, which allows students to manage their applications from their mobile and desktop devices and within one portal: including submitting an application, uploading documents and supporting evidence, checking on progress and sending and receiving enquiries.

Students should apply now to ensure they have their funding in place for the start of their course and must submit an accurate application along with all the required supporting evidence. And we’re here to help, we have extended our opening hours to support students through the registration and application process.

If you have any queries please ring the SAAS helpline on 0300 555 0505.

Visit http://www.saas.gov.uk now for more information and to complete applications 

Organ Donation

The number of patients living in Scotland whose lives were saved or improved by an organ transplant has reached a record high.

New figures show that in 2016/17 there were 133 deceased organ donors in Scottish hospitals – up from 99 the previous year. This equates to a donor rate in Scotland of 24.8 per million of population – the highest rate in the UK. 348 people in Scotland waiting for an organ received a deceased donor transplant, which is also the highest ever number of transplants.

The NHSBT figures also show that the number of people in Scotland waiting for a transplant dropped to the lowest on record and that nearly 2.4 million people in Scotland are now on the NHS Organ Donor Register, which is approximately 45% of the Scottish population.

If you would like to register or find out more information please go to https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/

LGBT

A working group is being established to examine how the education experience for LGBTI young people in Scotland can be improved.

It will be chaired by the Association of Directors of Education (ADES) and will include education leaders, equalities experts and young people, as well as representatives of the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign.

The detailed remit of the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group will be agreed at its first meeting. Its membership includes representatives of Association of Directors of Education (ADES), Education Scotland, Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Equality & Human Rights Commission, LGBT Youth Scotland, National Parent Forum Scotland, respectme, School Leaders Scotland, Scottish Catholic Education Service, Scottish Youth Parliament, Stonewall Scotland and TIE.

Parking

This is just a reminder that the consultation on the future of parking in Scotland is now open and can be accessed at:https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/road-policy/improving-parking-in-scotland/

I know from both on my walkabouts across the constituency and the correspondence I receive that this is a huge issue. Your views matter and I would encourage you to participate in the consultation.

Sectarianism

Projects that challenge sectarian behaviour will share £500,000 funding from the Scottish Government.

The 11 successful projects have a strong educational focus, work directly with young people and adults and will deliver projects directly tied to the recommendations of Dr Duncan Morrow’s review of the Independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland.

I was particularly glad to see that North Kelvin received £22,592 to provide anti-sectarian education through an after-school club model that brings local schools together. This will ensure that anti-sectarian messages that are given in school are reinforced outwith the formal school environment thereby helping to embed these messages in the minds of young people from a range of backgrounds.

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