City Centre Incident
I was appalled and extremely disappointed with the sights we witnessed across the city centre at the weekend.
The disregard for not only the restrictions we are all living in due to the pandemic but the right for people such as nurses to leave their work without feeling threatened by those taking part in the illegal gathering is completely unacceptable.
I raised this in Parliament this week during Topical Questions. I sought assurances from the Scottish Government that those scenes will not be repeated. In addition, I also called for an inquiry.
You can access the full exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=13184&i=119359
The First Minister set out some very slight changes to the current restrictions in an update to Parliament this week.
Up to four adults from two households will be able to meet locally in any outdoor space, including in private gardens, for social and recreational purposes as well as exercise from today. People should only go indoors if it is essential in order to reach a back garden, or to go to the toilet.
Outdoor non-contact sports and group exercise will also resume for adults in groups of up to to 15 people from this date.
Young people aged 12 to 17 will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to four people from four different households, participate in outdoor non-contact sports, and other organised activities in groups of up to 15 and travel across local authority boundaries to participate in such activities.
Should progress suppressing the virus continue, the Scottish Government intends to reopen places of worship with attendance limits increased from 20 to 50 where there is space for social distancing on Friday 26 March. A final decision will be taken on Tuesday 23 March ahead of Passover, Easter, Ramadan and Vaisakhi.
Please continue to follow the updated Scottish Government guidance which can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
Invitations to coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination appointments will start to be issued this week for people aged 50-59, who were not included in previous priority groups.
Vaccinations to those aged between 55 and 59 years old (group 8 on the priority list) will begin week beginning 15 March, with those aged 50-54 (group 9 on the priority list) starting to receive their injections the week after that.
Over the next few weeks the volume of vaccine available to Scotland is expected to increase and provided these supplies arrive, the vaccination infrastructure in Scotland is ready to deliver around 400,000 vaccines a week from the end of the March.
The national vaccination programme is currently moving through group 6 on the priority list which includes those with particular underlying health conditions and unpaid carers. Next week a self-referral online service will launch to enable any eligible unpaid carers who have not received an invitation to register themselves.
In addition, 148,026 people (43%) in group seven – those aged 60-64 – have received their first dose.
The Scottish Budget passed this week in Parliament despite Tory and Labour MSPs voting against it.
The Scottish Government’s budget for 2021/22 secures additional funding for our NHS, education, local government, and other vital frontline services with total investment increasing by £3.8 billion.
The Budget will ensure the introduction of free school meals for all primary school pupils by August 2022, free bus travel for all under-22s, £15m for active travel and £10m for energy efficiency projects.
The deal will also include an £800 pay rise for public sector workers earning less than £25,000, a 2% uplift for those earning up to £40,000, and an extra pandemic support payment of £130 for households in receipt of council tax reduction.
This budget is being delivered in exceptional circumstances as we continue to battle a pandemic that has shaken our society and economy to the core, and as we face the harmful impacts of a hard Tory Brexit.
Support for Survivors
It is the courage, determination and perseverance of survivors of abuse in care that we now have the Redress for Survivors (Historical Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill.
This legislation enables survivors to apply for financial redress payments of up to £100,000, as well as access to apology and support.
Survivors will be able to apply for a fixed rate redress payment of £10,000, or an individually assessed redress payment which will involve a more detailed examination of their experience. The individually assessed redress payment levels are set at £20,000, £40,000, £60,000, £80,000 or £100,000
In some circumstances, next of kin of deceased survivors will be able to apply for a redress payment of £10,000.
Financial contributions are being sought by the Scottish Government from those involved in the care of the children at the time they were abused and COSLA has already offered to contribute £100 million to the scheme.
The scheme will be open for applications as soon as possible and before the end of 2021.
The final stage of the Hate Crime Bill reached the Parliament chamber this week. This has certainly been a contentious piece of legislation but I do believe what we have reached is both right and necessary.
I very much welcome the Misogyny and Criminal Justice Working Group set up by the Scottish Government and led by Baroness Kennedy which will look in detail at what is required in legislation to tackle misogyny.
You can access the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=13188&i=119416 and the open debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=13191&i=119442
I was extremely disappointed with the recent vote in the European Parliament, which has resulted in the lifting of immunity for Clara Ponsati MEP, Carlos Puigdemont MEP and Toni Comin MEP. This action opens the opportunity for the Spanish Government to extradite and charge these MEPs for their role in the Independence Referendum on 1 October in Catalonia.
I stand in solidarity with the people of Catalonia and their elected representatives. I believe they should be respected when exercising their democratic right to self-determination, and I consider the actions of the Spanish Government during and after the referendum to be a direct contravention of the principles of democracy, human rights and civil liberties.
The number of student nurses, midwives, and paramedics entering Scottish Government funded degree programmes will increase by 5.8% in 2021/22 – the ninth successive increase in a row.
In recognition of the mental health and wellbeing impacts from the coronavirus pandemic, mental health nursing sees the largest percentage increase this year to a recommended intake of 740 places, up 13% from the previous year, and 76% over the course of this Parliament.
Further increases in student intakes to support sustainable workforce numbers also include midwifery, which will increase to 287 places, up 6.3% from 2020/21, as well as paramedic science, which will increase to 300 places, up 7% from last year.
Tuition is free for Scottish-domiciled nursing and midwifery students, and these students are supported by a bursary of £10,000 per annum – the highest value nursing bursary anywhere in the UK.
Tenant and Landlord Loans
Tenants and private sector landlords facing financial difficulties caused by the pandemic have more time to access support after two loan schemes were extended.
The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund and the Private Rent Sector Landlord (non-business) COVID-19 Loan Scheme, both of which offer interest-free loans, will continue to receive applications beyond the original deadline of 31 March 2021.
It comes after the Scottish Government extended temporary regulations banning the enforcement of eviction orders in the private and social rented sectors, giving further safeguards to tenants during the pandemic.
Please keep following the Scottish Government guidance https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-stay-at-home-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.