Disappointing news this week for the people of Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire following an increase in the number of coronavirus cases. Many of you will be aware of the additional restrictions that were introduced for an initial two week period. However, I thought it would be helpful to restate those restrictions here:
• People should not meet with people from other households in indoor household settings, whether in these areas or elsewhere. Members of different households can continue to meet outdoors, including in gardens, and in hospitality settings, provided all existing guidance is followed
• If anyone living in these areas is identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they and all those in their household group should self-isolate for 14 days
• Indoor visits to hospitals and care homes will be limited to essential visits only to protect the most vulnerable. Outdoor visits to care homes are permitted by three people from a maximum of two households, in line with current guidance
• Those households who have formed an extended household and people providing care and support – for example caring for an elderly family member or delivering shopping – can continue to meet indoors with enhanced hygiene measures in place
• People who were previously shielding are asked to be particularly vigilant
• Schools and nurseries will remain open, and plans for the opening of colleges and universities remain in place
These new measures are a timely reminder that the virus has not gone away please be vigilant, follow all guidance and isolate and book a test if you have any symptoms.
Programme for Government
I wholeheartedly welcome the commitment on a draft bill for an independence referendum from the First Minister this week during her statement to Parliament on the last Programme for Government of this session.
The draft bill will be published before the end of this Parliament, setting out the proposed terms and timing of an independence referendum, as well as the proposed question that people will be asked in that referendum.
Not only will we have the draft bill but, there were a raft of other ambitious measures announced including:
• All young people in Scotland aged 16 to 24 will be guaranteed a job, education, apprenticeship or formal training through a new £60 million government scheme.
• By this Autumn, a £100 million Green Jobs fund will be launched to help up to 10,000 people of all ages retrain for jobs in growth sectors such as renewables.
• A new £10 million Tenant Hardship Fund, which will open later this year and offer interest-free loans to those unable to access other forms of support for their housing costs.
• A comprehensive independent review of adult social care will also take place – setting out options for the creation of a National Care Service.
This is a Programme for Government that protects people’s livelihoods, guarantees opportunities for all our young people and points the way to a future with better, greener jobs as Scotland looks to becoming a net-zero country.
We can’t simply go back to how things were – we have an opportunity to build back a fairer and better Scotland. I very much welcome measures to help us reform social care, protect our young people and invest in our local economy – all while continuing to suppress the virus.
As ambitious as these commitments are, the Scottish Government continues to fight Coronavirus with one hand tied behind its back. Westminster’s plans to end to the furlough scheme prematurely and crash out of the EU without a deal later this year, will be deeply damaging.
As an independent European nation, we could do so much more.
You can access the full Programme for Government here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/protecting-scotland-renewing-scotland-governments-programme-scotland-2020-2021/
Scotland is set to become the first country in the UK to directly incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law.
The UNCRC (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill will make it unlawful for public authorities to act incompatibly with the incorporated UNCRC requirements, giving children, young people and their representatives the power to go to court to enforce their rights.
The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world and sets out the specific rights that all children have to help fulfil their potential, including rights relating to health and education, leisure and play, fair and equal treatment, protection from exploitation and the right to be heard.
This Bill will revolutionise the way we listen to children and take their rights into account.
Winter Heating Assistance
The Scottish Government will lay legislation to enable delivery of the new Child Winter Heating Assistance this week.
This is the first disability benefit to be introduced using new social security powers.
Families with children in receipt of the highest rate care of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Child will receive an extra £200 to help with their heating costs.
These payments will be made automatically to eligible families through Social Security Scotland. This benefit is on track to be delivered this winter.
More people will be able to benefit from free debt advice following investment from the Scottish Government.
More than £2.4 million will be distributed among a number of advice organisations to expand their services and invest in more effective methods to help individuals with problem debt.
The investment will assist projects offering face to face advice using video calls and projects aimed at moving debt solution processes online. This investment will also help the debt advice sector to manage the expected increase in demand as a result of the economic impacts of coronavirus.
AdviceUK will be one of the new recipients of funding and has 70 Scottish-based partners who will now be able to extend their services.
As always and particularly in light of the restrictions across the city please follow the FACTS:
Face coverings in enclosed spaces
Avoid crowded places
Clean hands and surfaces regularly
Two metre distancing; and
Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms