Thursday 30 April
We are now many weeks into lockdown and trying to come to terms with our new normal. That also extends to the Parliament and work still goes on although this is now, in the main, being carried out virtually. I took part in a virtual Health and Sport Committee meeting this week where we were joined by Professor Hugh Pennington who is emeritus professor of microbiology at the University of Aberdeen as part of our Covid-19 scrutiny work.
You can access the full official report of the meeting here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12617
The Scottish Government has made a number of announcements this week including the use of face masks. To reiterate the First Minister’s guidance while the evidence on their use is still very limited, there may be some benefit in wearing a facial covering when you leave the house and enter enclosed spaces, especially where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people you do not usually meet.
However, it is crucial to stress that staying home, physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene remain the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of facial coverings must not be considered an alternative to any of these most important precautions.
You can access further guidance on face masks here: www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-use-of-face-coverings/
I very much welcome the news that all families of frontline NHS staff who die as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) will receive financial support.
A total lump sum of twice the staff member’s annual earnings and continued survivor entitlements will be provided in the event of a death in service. This benefit will be available immediately and backdated if necessary.
The majority of NHS workers are already eligible for this through their NHS Pension Scheme membership, but the Scottish Government want to ensure that all NHS staff who provide frontline services will be covered for the duration of this crisis.
I also wanted to highlight again the Scottish Government framework for a pathway out of the current situation which can be found here https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/strategy-plan/2020/04/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making/documents/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making/govscot%3Adocument/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making.pdf
A £100 million package of additional grant support for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) and newly self-employed people opens for applications later today.
The three separate funds will be administered by local authorities and Scotland’s enterprise agencies and will begin to pay out grants in early May.
They include a £34 million hardship fund for the newly self-employed, a £20 million fund for small and micro enterprises in the creative, tourism and hospitality sectors and £45 million for viable SMEs crucial to the Scottish economy which are vulnerable.
Applicants can access these funds and more via the http://www.FindBusinessSupport.gov.scot website.
As a follow up to last week’s Ebrief I wanted to highlight the tremendous work being carried out by Charandeep Singh from Sikhs in Scotland. Charandeep quickly responded to the Covid-19 outbreak by setting up the Sikh Food Bank (SFB).
SFB and their volunteers have delivered over 20,000 meals across Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen, as well as food packs for families and individuals, which include a variety of essential groceries. They are also offering to collect and deliver shopping for people shielding in the community.
They also offer advice and support to those in hard-to-reach communities understand exactly what they need to do in order to stay safe, through a multi-lingual interpretation service.
This entirely voluntary contribution has ensured that many people, including key workers across our public services, are being supported. More information on their service can be found here https://www.sikhsinscotland.com/sikh-food-bank/
Finally, I wanted to highlight the centenary of the birth of Edwin Morgan, our city’s first Poet Laureate and Scotland’s first Makar. Whilst it is disappointing that the celebrations organised to mark Edwin’s birth on 27 April have had to be curtailed, his life’s works are still being celebrated across the world virtually and will continue until April 2021.
I have added an image of Edwin’s words etched onto the Scottish Parliament building. This was not his only collaboration with the Parliament, he also wrote a poem for the opening of the building on 2004 titled ‘Open the Doors’.
You can find out more at The Edwin Morgan Trust https://edwinmorgantrust.com/edwin-morgan-centenary/ they have quickly adapted to our virtual world and have been instrumental in the #EDWINMORGAN100 and #HOLDHANDSAMONGTHEATOMS
Please continue to follow the Scottish Government guidelines on staying safe. Our actions to date are making a difference but we must continue to stay at home until we are certain it is safe to start lifting some of the restrictions, this is still the biggest and most important contribution we can make during this outbreak.