Incredible news this week with the announcement of the roll-out of a vaccine for Covid-19. We have been waiting and anticipating this news for some time and is by far the best news we have heard over the past 10 months.
The vaccine, which must be stored at well below freezing, will be transported to 23 locations around the country in temperature controlled lorries.
Everyone being vaccinated will need two vaccines, between 21 and 28 days apart.
Those giving the vaccination to others will receive the injection first. The programme will then follow the independent advice received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which recommends prioritising those with the greatest clinical need – including those aged over 80, and health and social care workers. The storage requirements mean logistics around delivery to care homes are more challenging and they are currently under consideration.
Support for NHS and Social Care Workers
We all came together to show our thanks and support to our NHS staff during the lockdown and in those darkest days of the pandemic. They have been at the forefront and I welcome the announcement from the First Minister of a £500 bonus payment for those staff.
It comes as no surprise the Tories have been peddling their nonsense that this is somehow a gift from the UK Government. What we do want from the UK Government is a commitment the bonus will not be taxable and that everyone eligible for the bonus receives it in full. It’s appalling that we are having to ask them to do this and even more so when Labour and Lib Dems won’t back those calls despite their colleagues in Wales seeking the exact same support.
The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills has confirmed the Scottish Government will not be extending the school holiday’s over the festive period.
I know from the level of correspondence I have received on this issue that there have been arguments for and against the possibility of an extension to the holidays.
In a letter to the Scottish Parliament Education Committee the Deputy First Minister said:
“The Public Health advice that I received is to keep schools open as planned as the controlled school environment is more preferable to social mixing outside of school if schools are closed early. In addition, vulnerable children may be at greater risk if they are out of school for an extended period. The view of the Chief Social Work Advisor is that being in school is a very significant protective factor for the most vulnerable children and the longerchildren are out of school the more chance there is of hidden harm.
Public Health advice is, on balance, that there would be less transmission of COVID-19 through children and young people being in school than mixing out of school. Adding this tothe issues around vulnerable children and the need for childcare for key worker children,public health advice is to not change term dates at either end. I am also mindful that an extension to the school holidays could cause significant difficulties for working parents.“
I’m pleased that this issue has now been addressed and that we have clarity on the situation and for those who are interested you can access the advice received by the Scottish Government on this issue here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-advisory-sub-group-on-education-and-childrens-issues—advisory-note-on-school-holidays-over-the-festive-season/
The Petitions Committee brought forward their Inquiry report Mental Health Support for Young People for debate in Parliament this week and I took the opportunity to contribute.
I focused my contribution on our student population across the constituency and the support available in particular relation to the impact of the pandemic on their studies and student experience.
You can access my contribution and the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12981&i=117360
Self-Isolation Support Grant Extension
The £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant is being extended to include parents on low incomes whose children are asked to self-isolate.
The grant will also become available to those who may be eligible for Universal Credit, but have not yet applied.
Both changes will be introduced from 7 December.
For more information go to: https://www.mygov.scot/scottish-welfare-fund/self-isolation-support-grants/
Support for Young People
Two new incentives to increase apprenticeships and create opportunities for young people were announced this week.
Recognising the challenging circumstances for employers as a result of the virus, and the impact on opportunities for young people, more businesses will be able to access financial support to help them take on young people through a new £15 million Apprenticeship Employer Grant.
Supporting the Scottish Government’s aim of maximising apprenticeship opportunities in the coming months, the grant will help increase the number of employers able to take on an apprentice or upskill an existing staff member.
Young people will have the chance to train and get qualifications thanks to another new initiative Pathway Apprenticeships. This has been created for school-leavers up to 18-years-old who might be facing fewer options due to the economic impact of COVID-19, around 1,200 opportunities will be available to young people in the first phase.
These new initiatives are in addition to support for apprentices who have been made redundant as a result of the pandemic through the Scottish Government’s £10 million Adopt an Apprentice scheme.
Christmas and Current Restrictions
I wanted to highlight again the guidance which has been set out regarding the festive period for clarity.
The measures being introduced will allow up to 3 households to form a bubble over a very limited time in the run up and during the festive period.
Households will be able to travel between local authorities and between the four nations during December 23 and 27 to form a bubble, and must only join one bubble.
The five-day period provides time for travel, and for those who may have to work over Christmas. Households are not required to use all five days and should keep visits to no more than one or two days if possible.
You can access the guidance here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-festive-period/
For the time being and until 11 December Glasgow will remain in tier 4 and you can access the details of what you can and cannot do here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-protection-levels/
General information covering everything from business support to travel guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
Finally I wanted to welcome the 15th poll which has support for independence at well over 50%.
The Ipsos/Mori poll indicated 56% in favour of independence with the SNP gaining a majority in the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.
However, we cannot and will not take anything for granted. We must work hard for every single vote ahead of next year’s election to protect our NHS and jobs in the face of the Tories’ disastrous hard Brexit.
As we rebuild from this pandemic, it should be Scottish Governments, elected by the people of Scotland and with the priorities and interests of Scotland at heart, who lead our recovery – not Westminster governments.
As always please follow the FACTS – Face coverings, Avoid crowded places, Clean hands and surfaces regularly, Two metre distancing; and Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.