Thursday 11 June 2020
It’s been another busy week in Parliament. I had my weekly Health and Sport Committee meeting where we were taking evidence on the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill.
I also took the opportunity to ask a question at FMQs on the Minimum Unit Pricing report which shows a reduction in the consumption of alcohol, certainly good news considering the detrimental effects alcohol can and has had on so many people in Scotland.
Wednesday afternoon was spent chairing the Cross Party Group on Older People, Age and Ageing. We had very moving contributions from Donald Macaskill from Scottish Care and Jane Douglas from Queens House Care Homes as well as Yvonne Boyle whose father is currently a resident at a care home in Edinburgh who all spoke of the impact of Covid-19 on the residents, staff and families.
My fortnightly meeting as a member of the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body took place this week and over the past few months we have had to deal with some new normals with many staff working from home and ensuring they are supported.
Thursday afternoon brings virtual portfolio question time and this gave me the opportunity to highlight the incredible work of Glasgow and Clyde Rape Crisis. They have added a text service during lockdown which allows survivors to make contact by text on 07712719520 to allow for the difficulties survivors will face finding a private space where they can speak confidentially. They also have an email firstname.lastname@example.org and telephone 08088 00 00 14 service.
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice was extremely receptive to the text service and pledged to continue to support all organisations offering survivors assistance.
Parliamentarians from across the benches joined in a debate this week to show solidarity with anti-racism. The debate as many of you will know was a direct result of the senseless murder of George Floyd in the USA.
While it is incredible that racism continues to be a scourge on society, that is the case and I will continue to challenge inequality in all its forms.
I would recommend reading the transcript of the debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12685&i=114774
People who are shielding are being advised that though they should continue to do so until at least the end of July, they can if they choose to go outdoors to exercise from 18 June while maintaining strict physical distancing.
Those affected will receive letters from the Chief Medical Officer explaining that the decision on outdoor exercise has been taken after careful consideration by clinical advisors. Prevalence of COVID-19 has decreased and the evidence now shows the risk of outdoor infection is very low if people stay two metres apart. The exercise can be a run, wheel, walk or cycle but those shielding should not meet people from other households.
In all other respects, the advice for those who have been advised to shield has not changed as there remains a risk of infection in indoor and crowded places where physical distancing may not be possible. However, the CMO’s letter also sets out that work is underway to develop a new approach which allows people to better understand their individual risk and make choices which are right for them. This will be made available over the summer.
The support currently in place for those who are shielding, in terms of free grocery boxes and priority access to online supermarket delivery slots, will continue throughout this time.
I very much welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement of extra financial help for students facing financial hardship over the summer months.
The Scottish Government has brought forward early access to £11.4 million of discretionary funds – which will be administered by colleges and universities – to support higher education students.
Students are, due to UK government rules, unable to claim Universal Credit or other benefits.
Scottish students studying in Europe as part of EU Portability or historically arranged schemes will also be able to access a £100,000 emergency fund administered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).
Many students in Glasgow Kelvin will have expected to find paid work over the summer to cover their rent or save for the following term – but are now, through no fault of their own, unable to do so.
This support will be welcome news for those students who rely on part-time jobs over the summer months, who could find it difficult to cover their living costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
No student should face financial hardship as a result of this crisis – and these new measures will support students until the start of the next academic year when bursary, grant and loan payments will begin again.
Small businesses which share properties but do not pay business rates are now eligible to apply for grants to help with the impact of COVID-19.
The extension to the Small Business Grant Fund will apply to firms occupying shared office spaces, business incubators or shared industrial units and who lease the space from a registered, rate-paying landlord. Separately, eligibility has also been extended to companies occupying multiple premises with a cumulative value of more than £51,000.
From this week, eligible businesses will be able to apply to their local authority for grants of up to £10,000.
You can access further information here: https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/grants-to-help-non-domestic-businesses-during-coronavirus/
New public health measures came into force this week to help suppress coronavirus and prevent new cases being brought into Scotland.
The range of measures, which will be broadly similar to those in other parts of the UK, will include:
- a requirement for residents and visitors entering the UK from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days
- the completion of an online passenger locator form by all travellers prior to travel to supply contact details, travel details and the address of where they will self-isolate
- spot checks at the border by Border Force, who may impose fines on travellers who refuse to comply
- arrangements for some of those arriving into Scotland to be contacted during their period of self-isolation for the provision of public health advice and information
- powers for police to impose a fixed penalty notice for anyone failing to comply with the mandatory conditions, with the ability to report persistent offenders to the Procurator Fiscal for potential prosecution
You can access further information here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-public-health-checks-at-borders/
£300,000 from the £350 million communities funding to support people and communities affected by COVID-19, is being given to support young carers across Scotland.
Young Scot will receive £200,000 to provide online subscriptions and e-vouchers for young carers. Meanwhile £100,000 will go to expanding the Time To Live small grants scheme.
The additional funding comes as National Carers Week begins.
A new Scottish Recovery Tourism Taskforce will assist with the ongoing reset of the sector and a provisional date of 15 July has been set for when tourism businesses may be able to resume operations, dependent on public health advice and progression to Phase 3 of the Scottish Government lockdown route-map.
The taskforce will look at the sector’s recovery needs as well as actions being taken by the UK Government and the development of a new domestic visitor marketing campaign.
Test and Trace
The first set of data from week one of the coronavirus (COVID-19) Test and Protect system has been published.
The data, which will be published weekly, shows:
- the number of positive index cases from 28 May to 7 June
- the number of index cases where contact tracing has been completed
- the number of contact traces
Since Test and Protect was launched, 681 cases have tested positive with 741 contacts traced.
The level of data published will continue to improve once the data is robust and validated.
A group established to explore the feasibility of conducting a Citizens’ Basic Income pilot has released its final report which you can read here https://basicincome.scot/ .
The Citizens’ Basic Income Feasibility Study Steering Group is made up of four local authorities – Glasgow, Fife, Edinburgh and North Ayrshire – and partners including Public Health Scotland.
The group concluded that while a basic income pilot is desirable, it is not feasible within the current devolved settlement as necessary welfare and tax powers remain with the UK Government through the DWP and HMRC.
The Scottish Government agree with the report’s conclusion that while introducing a basic income pilot is desirable, it can only be done with the full co-operation and collaboration of all relevant parties, particularly the UK Government.
The Cabinet Secretary for Communities has written to UK Ministers urging them to engage constructively with the Scottish Government on this matter and discuss next steps towards a universal basic income pilot.
Children and protected adults will be better protected under new legislation.
The Disclosure (Scotland) Bill, which has passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament, will transform how criminal record disclosures operate and improve the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme.
Under the new legislation, PVG Scheme membership will be mandatory for those carrying out regulated roles with children and adults, including individuals working in sports, for example, youth coaches and agents.
The Disclosure (Scotland) Bill will modernise and simplify Scotland’s disclosure system. The number of disclosure levels will decrease and individuals will have greater control over sharing their information whilst ensuring Disclosure Scotland can continue their vital safeguarding work.
As always if you require any assistance please contact me at email@example.com or by telephone on 0141 339 7639 leaving a message.
Please follow the Scottish Government guidelines and stay home, stay safe.