Thursday 9 March
The Chancellor confirmed a real terms cut to the Scottish budget of 9.2 per cent between 2010/11 and 2019/20. While the additional Barnett consequentials are welcome no one should think that this budget provides an end to austerity from the UK Government – in fact there is still a further £3.5 billion of cuts to come.
On top of that the Chancellor continued with the UK Government’s damaging welfare cuts that will make many vulnerable and low income households worse off.
The real elephant in the room in this budget was Brexit. There was no mention of the UK Government’s plans to protect and grow the UK economy as the Prime Minister gets ready to trigger Article 50. This is simply not acceptable. Brexit is a real threat to people across Scotland in so many ways.
And amongst the utter chaos of a hard Tory Brexit, a hike on NICs threatens to undermine and deter the type of entrepreneurial behaviour that we should seek to encourage. I wholeheartedly believe in a flexible labour market, but that flexibility must be guarded against vulnerability. Some self-employed workers, particularly those on low incomes, do not always enjoy the same guarantees as those in employment such as pensions and sick leave. The UK Government has a poor track record on workers protection and rights, and it is vital that we seek every option to ensure that self employed workers are fully protected.
International Women’s Day
Tearfund Scotland showcased their photo exhibition to mark International Women’s Day, 2017 on the Scottish Parliament.
The event celebrated the stories of seven Malawian girls who have been rescued from child marriage to continue their education.
These inspiring stories were brought to life by seven girls from Scottish schools.
A very brief update for you all on where we are with the issue of responsible parking. I met with representatives of Transport Scotland on Monday to discuss the work they are doing in taking this forward.
I can confirm that the formal consultation will open in the Spring but I will also ensure to highlight the launch in the Ebrief including links to participate.
On Tuesday I took the opportunity to participate in Alex Rowley’s member’s debate on Local Government Finance and the State of the Debt. Essentially the motion asked for the UK Government to write off local government debt accrued through the Public Works Loan Board.
The sentiments of the motion are well over a decade late – throughout the years of the debt accruing there was a Labour Government in Westminster and a Labour Administration here in Holyrood – why was this never suggested then.
The UK Government and both Labour and Lib Dem administrations exacerbated the debt by piling further debt onto local government with the now much maligned PFI scheme. The total annual PFI cost is £30.3 billion, the total local authority borrowing was £15.146 billion.
The proposal provided in the Unite paper requesting HM Treasury write off the debt is likely to be met with a requirement that the Scottish Government provides an offsetting reduction in its Budget and the Scottish Government are not financially in a position to accommodate this due to the reduction in the funding provided by Westminster.
The concept of a minimum guaranteed income, known as the citizen’s income, is being explored by the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee.
A citizen’s income works on the basis that individuals are guaranteed a minimum regular payment unconditionally. The possibility of a citizen’s income scheme is currently being investigated for Glasgow and Fife.
With the new social security powers now devolved to the Parliament, we should be looking for new ideas and different approaches to social security policy. We must also ensure that these policies are right for Scotland and today’s session will help us do just that.
Marie Curie were in the Parliament this week to raise awareness of their Great Daffodil Appeal campaign and I was more than happy to offer my support.
The proceeds of money raised through the appeal will be used to provide care and support for more than 7,400 people living with a terminal illness in Scotland each year, employing over 200 Marie Curie Nurses to care for almost 5,000 people living with a terminal illness and their families in their homes each year.
The funds make a huge difference in the operation of their hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow which care for around 2,500 people each year, including people staying in the hospices and those coming in for the day to use the hospices’ services.
The Scottish Government have launched an awareness campaign this week encouraging people to claim benefits they are entitled to with the backing of a number of key social security organisations including Citizens Advice Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland and Age Scotland.
Throughout Scotland, it was estimated that there were over 500,000 cases of individuals or families not claiming the tax credits and other main income-related benefits they were entitled to in 2014-15 – and the campaign seeks to correct this by raising awareness through a week of radio and press adverts.
It is vitally important that families and individuals get the support that they are entitled to and the support that they need – and I encourage everyone to check what support they can receive through the social security system.
Many people both here in Glasgow Kelvin and across Scotland might be missing out on a whole range of benefits that they are entitled too – causing their existing income to become increasingly stretched and leaving many in financial difficulty. By raising awareness that there is a whole range of benefits that people can claim, we can help to alleviate the difficulties that many people face on a day to day basis.
The Scottish Government is committed to putting dignity and respect at the heart of social security policy in Scotland, and this campaign is a step in the right direction towards doing that.
The World Wildlife Fund were in the Parliament this week promoting Earth Hour.
Around the globe, millions of people, businesses, and landmarks set aside an hour to host events, switch off their lights, and make noise for climate change action.
This year Earth Hour is at 8:30pm on 25 March 2017 and I would encourage readers to join in and show your support for climate change action.
Almost £58 million will be spent mitigating the harmful impact of the UK Government’s welfare cuts on households across Scotland.
The £7.7 million increase in funding for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) next year comes as the Scottish Government takes full responsibility for DHP funding, including £18.5 million transferred from the Department of Work and Pensions as part of a negotiated 3 year settlement.
The £57.9 million made available to local authorities will be split as follows:
£47 million to fully mitigate the bedroom tax for more than 70,000 households – up from £45.4 million.
£10.9 million, up from £4.8 million, to help mitigate other UK Government policies such as the Benefit Cap and Local Housing Allowance rates.
Funding for a charity supporting children with dyslexia is being doubled, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has announced.
Dyslexia Scotland will receive £200,000 funding in 2017/18 to support their work, which includes a helpline, dyslexia assessments and tutoring.
New tools to help teachers address the needs of pupils with dyslexia are also being developed. The Addressing Dyslexia toolkit has been revised to make it more accessible and easier to use.
Free online training courses are also being developed to help teachers identify dyslexia early and improve support for pupils as they learn and when preparing to leave school.
The Addressing Dyslexia toolkit was first launched in 2010.
Scotland-based organisations are invited to develop projects to contribute to the global fight against poverty and inequality, International Development Minister Alasdair Allan said today.
In keeping with the priorities detailed in the refreshed International Development Strategy, a new four and a half-year funding round will target support for communities in Zambia and Rwanda.
Since 2005, the Scottish Government has supported hundreds of projects in sub-Saharan Africa contributing to the Millennium Development Goals and their successor, the new UN Global Goals.
Zambia and Rwanda will each be allocated project funding up to £1.8 million each year over a period of four and a half years. The International Development Strategy is available at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/12/4633
Organisations can find out more and submit concept notes at: