Thursday 18 February 2021
Vaccinations are on track with well over 1 million people receiving their first dose. This is a huge achievement for everyone involved in the delivery of the vaccine and I would like to offer my thanks to them all.
The Scottish Government have to date offered first doses to all over 70s, all care home residents, all frontline health and care workers, and all people with a serious clinical vulnerability.
And 64 per cent of 65 to 69 year olds have also now received the first dose which is ahead of the planned programme.
If you are over 70 or have an extreme clinical vulnerability and haven’t yet heard about your vaccine, it may be that your letter has gone astray or that some other administrative problem has occurred.
So please get in touch with your GP or call the helpline on 0800 030 8013.
You can also read the Scottish Government’s Vaccination Programme here: https://www.gov.scot/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination/
Many of you would have been anticipating the update from the First Minister this week in Parliament on any changes to the current lockdown measures and in particular pupils returning to school.
The First Minister confirmed the only change would be in relation to education with pre-school children, pupils in primaries 1, 2 and 3, and a limited number of senior phase students who need access to school for essential practical work, returning from Monday 22 February.
In addition, it is anticipated that a limited increase in the provision for vulnerable children – specifically those with the most significant additional support needs – where schools believe this is essential will also commence on Monday 22 February.
Guidane on the re-opening of schools can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-schools-reopening/
The First Minister announced this week a change in advice for close contacts of people who test positive for coronavirus. As of this week, all close contacts will need to isolate for 10 days and will now require to be tested. This new measure is designed to find asymptomatic cases that would otherwise go undetected.
You can access further information on contact tracing here: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronavirus-covid-19/test-and-protect/coronavirus-covid-19-contact-tracing
Further Business Support
Two funds to support people whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic are now open to applications.
Grants will be available for mobile and home-based close contact service businesses – such as make-up artists and hairdressers – as well as registered driving instructors.
The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund, which paid out more than £11 million in vital support last year, will also re-open for a second round.
Both funds will provide £4,000 grants to successful applicants. Full eligibility details are available online here: https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/service/funding/mobile-and-home-based-close-contact-services-fund and https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/service/funding/newly-self-employed-hardship-fund
More than 77,000 Scottish Child Payment applications have been received since Social Security Scotland started taking applications on 9 November.
The new benefit, which is unique to Scotland, will give qualifying parents and carers £40 every four weeks for each child under six and is in addition to the UK Government Child Benefit.
People can apply by visiting https://www.mygov.scot/scottish-child-payment/ or calling 0800 182 2222.
This action has been called a game changer in the fight against child poverty and is in stark contrast to the UK Government who are intent on pushing thousands of children and families further into poverty with their callous cuts to Universal Credit.
I also raised this matter during First Ministers Question Time which you can access here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=13130&i=118830
Dental Student Grants
A bursary of up to £6,750 will be offered to dental students who will have to repeat a year.
The support will help mitigate the financial impact on students following the necessary decision taken by Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow Dental Schools to defer graduation.
Due to the restrictions introduced to protect people from Coronavirus (COVID-19) final year dental students have not been able to gain sufficient clinical experience of aerosol generating procedures to allow them to graduate this year. Aerosol generating procedures were restricted as they often result in the release of airborne particles.
Adult Social Care
With the publication of the Feeley Report into Adult Social Care commissioned by the Scottish Government in response to the pandemic, I took the opportunity to contribute to the debate in the Scottish Parliament this week.
You can access the full debate and my contribution here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=13126&i=118817
The Report makes a number of recommendations which I fully support and which was accepted and supported by the Cabinet Secretary for Health.
The full Report can be read here: https://www.gov.scot/groups/independent-review-of-adult-social-care/
Covid Support Budget
Retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses will pay no rates during 2021-22 under proposals outlined by the Finance Secretary this week.
It is one of a series of measures proposed following confirmation of a further £1.1 billion of consequential funding arising from UK Government coronavirus (COVID-19) spending.
The move builds on the three month rates relief extension announced in the Scottish Budget and will be taken forward provided the Scottish Government receives the funding already assumed from the UK Budget on 3 March, and that requisite funds are available to maintain existing support into 2021-22.
Newspapers will also continue to benefit from 100% relief for a further 12 months, while charitable rates relief will not be removed from mainstream independent schools until 1 April 2022 due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
You can read the full statement to Parliament here: https://blogs.gov.scot/scotlands-economy/2021/02/16/budget-update-statement/
Job Start Payment
The Scottish Government has paid out more than £190,000 to eligible young people to help with the costs of starting a new job.
A total of 695 successful applications were made for the new Job Start Payment from its launch on 17 August 2020 to 31 December 2020.
The one-off payment of £250, or the higher rate of £400 if the recipient is the main carer of any children, is available to 16 to 24-year-olds who have been offered a job after being out of work for at least six months and are in receipt of a qualifying benefit.
More information on the initiative can be found here: https://www.mygov.scot/job-start-payment/who-can-apply/
Short Term Lets
Legislation for a short-term lets licensing scheme has been withdrawn from the Scottish Parliament to allow for draft guidance to be developed.
A stakeholder working group has been established to help develop the guidance and meets today for the first time. The guidance will help to provide reassurance on the operation of the scheme to operators and hosts in the sector.
Subject to the outcome of the election, the Scottish Government intends to re-lay the legislation before Parliament in June, accompanied by the draft guidance, to ensure that the timetable on introducing licensing remains the same.
The Government will continue with legislation allowing councils to establish short-term let control areas. This legislation will empower local authorities to implement short-term let control areas, if they wish to do so, to address pressures created by whole property short-term lets, ensuring that homes are used to best effect in their areas.
Support for Students
International students facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 can now access financial support from their college or university.
Ministers have extended the eligibility for overseas students at colleges and universities to access £22 million in Higher Education and £3 million in Further Education.
Around 50,000 international (including EU) students enrol at Scottish colleges or universities each year and they have less access to UK financial support than UK domiciled students.
The winter Covid funding for further and higher education, announced at the end of January, is available for all students facing hardship.
More information can be found at: https://www.studentinformation.gov.scot/
Very good news this week with the results of the Catalan elections returning and increasing the number of pro-independence elected representatives.
What is not welcome is the continued suppression and in some cases the imprisonment of pro-independence voices. This I believe is a violation of democracy and an infringement on the right to freedom of expression and should not be tolerated.
I have lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament in recognition of the recent election which can be found here: https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5M-24169&ResultsPerPage=10
Please keep following 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 stay safe.