Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin

Happy New Year and I hope you managed to have a restful festive period despite the current pandemic. I know this is not the start we would all have wished for, but there is hope for a better year to come with the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine. What we need to do at this time is follow the Scottish Government guidance and stick to the restrictions and drive down the spread of the virus.

Restrictions

The First Minister made a statement in Parliament this week tightening the current level 4 restrictions due to concern that the virus is still spreading too quickly.

The new restrictions are:

Nobody who lives in a Level 4 area should leave or remain outside their home except for essential purposes.

Working from home arrangements will be strengthened through updated statutory guidance. Working from home should now be the default position for all businesses and services, and only those who cannot do their job from home should be asked to go to the workplace. 

From Saturday non-essential click and collect retail services will be prohibited in Level 4 areas and further changes will be put in place to how services open for essential purposes operate. Timeslots will be required for collection and people should not enter a store to collect an item.  Businesses providing takeaway food will also operate on a ‘non-entry’ basis only, meaning customers cannot enter the premises when placing or collecting orders.

Restrictions banning the consumption of alcohol in public places will also be introduced.

You can access the updated guidance here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/

Vaccine

We now have 3 vaccines approved and two currently available. I and I’m sure everyone welcomed the statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport updating Parliament on the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme this week. You can access the full statement here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-19-vaccination-plan-1/

I know many older constituents and those with underlying health problems are anxious to access their vaccine and it is the intention of the Scottish Government to have all over 80’s vaccinated by the first week of February.

The Scottish Government have distributed this leaflet http://www.healthscotland.com/uploads/documents/37397-__Adult%20information%20covid-19%20vaccine%20leaflet-Jan2021-English.pdf which provides further details on the vaccine as well as a contact number for enquiries on the vaccine.

Business Support

The Scottish Government has announced additional funding support for hospitality, retail and leisure businesses due to the tighter restrictions as a result of the pandemic.

In addition to the grants businesses receive through the Strategic Business Framework Fund, eligible businesses will also get a one off grant of:

  • £25,000 for larger hospitality businesses on top of the 4-weekly £3,000
  • £6,000 for smaller hospitality businesses on top of the 4-weekly £2,000
  • £9,000 for larger retail and leisure businesses on top of the 4-weekly £3,000
  • £6,000 for smaller retail and leisure businesses on top of the 4-weekly £2,000

In most cases, eligible businesses that have already applied for the 4-weekly payment from the Strategic Framework Business Fund will get an automatic top-up.

For the majority, this top-up will be combined with the next tranche of payment for the Strategic Framework Business Fund due to go to businesses on 25 January.

Businesses that haven’t yet applied for either of these funds should submit an application as soon as possible through their local authority website. Applications are now open and you can access further information here: https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/covidstrategicframework

Schools Funding

A new package of £45 million has been announced for local authorities to provide support to schools and families as they deal with the challenges of remote learning during lockdown.

Councils may use the funding – sufficient to fund 2,000 additional teachers – for purposes including recruitment of additional staff, additional digital devices or to provide additional family support. This is on top of £160 million already committed for education recovery since the start of the pandemic, bringing the total additional support provided to more than £200 million since the start of the pandemic. Private and third sector day care of children settings will also receive almost £4 million in temporary financial support.

The Scottish Government has also asked HM Inspectors of Education to commence with a national review of the quality and effectiveness of remote learning across the country with the first report published next Friday, 22 January.

Support for Drug Users

Take-home Naloxone will be given to people at high risk of accidental overdoses, in a move designed to reduce the number of drug deaths.  This will include those who have been resuscitated by the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) following an accidental overdose.

The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) is handing out the kits, which can reduce the risk of a fatal overdose from opiates, in a programme funded by the Drug Deaths Taskforce.

SAS crews responded to around 5,000 incidents in which Naloxone, an opiate antidote, was administered in 2019. Providing take-home kits means friends and relatives of those at risk will be able to administer Naloxone themselves while the ambulance is on its way, further reducing the chance of a fatality.  

The kits will be supplied at incidents after 999 has been called for a person experiencing an accidental overdose. Those at risk of witnessing a future opiate overdose, such as family and carer groups, will be given a kit and training in how to administer it.

In addition to this the Minister for Drugs Policy announced a new project which helps the families of people at risk of dying through drugs will start work in early January.

Families as Lifesavers, which is being funded through the Drugs Deaths Taskforce, helps family members to increase their understanding of drug addiction, while building coping strategies and helping them to continue to support their relative.

The project, run by Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, is one of a number of schemes funded through the taskforce.

Brexit

I think most of us knew the chaos Brexit would bring and the damage to so many areas of our lives.

The latest but by no means the least industry to have run into problems is our Food and Drink sector who have faced a series of challenges with hospitality supplies essentially suspended with the seafood industry hit particularly hard.

What’s appalling is the response from the Scotland Office Minister David Duguid who was asked in an interview how long it would take to fix the supply chain problems and he responded with “how long is a piece of string?”

I wholeheartedly support the Scottish Government’s calls for the UK Government to compensate those businesses affected after all it was the UK Government who promised a seamless trade with Europe instead they are tied up in endless red tape, gridlocks at ports and thousands of pounds lost with goods being stuck in transit.

As always please follow the Scottish Government guidance and remember 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. Please also if you have not already done so download the Protect Scotland App which you can access here: https://protect.scot/