LOCAL TORY MSPS URGED TO BACK U-TURN ON REMOVAL OF £20 UPLIFT
Local Tory MSPs have been urged to back a U-turn on Tory plans to cut Universal Credit in the middle of an economic crisis - after new figures revealed that Boris Johnson’s plan to remove the £20 per week uplift in April would hit 8448 people in Midlothian and 9540 in East Lothian.
Latest statistics show that in November 2020 there were 8448 people claiming Universal Credit in Midlothian and 9540 people claiming Universal Credit in East Lothian. If all these people remain on Universal Credit until April, then they will be affected by the removal of the £20 uplift.
The SNP has repeatedly called on the Westminster Tory government to maintain the £20 boost to Universal Credit and extend it to legacy benefits - yet all six Scottish Tory MPs abstained on a vote which would have ensured that.
Anti-poverty think-tank the Resolution Foundation estimates that the cut to Universal Credit by £20 a week could see the incomes of low-income families fall by more than four per cent (4%) and plunge a further 820,000 children into poverty across the UK.
SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“By slashing social security payments by £1000 a year, in the middle of an economic crisis, the Tories could push 8448 people in Midlothian and 9540 people in East Lothian further into hardship and poverty.
"There must be an immediate U-turn on this, to avoid worsening poverty and inequality across the country during the Covid-19 crisis - and I would urge local MSPs to support this.
"Although the SNP government has led the way in tackling poverty, with new benefits like the Scottish Child Payment and a social security system based on dignity and respect, this progress is being severely undermined by Tory cuts.
“It is crucial that the £20 uplift to Universal Credit is made permanent and extended to legacy benefits, as part of a wider package to boost incomes after a decade of damaging Tory austerity cuts.
"Scotland shouldn't have to wait for Westminster to act to protect the incomes of the most vulnerable in our society. The only way to secure a strong, fair and equal recovery is for Scotland to become an independent country - with the full powers needed to build a fairer society."
Colin Beattie MSP has welcomed a new online advice service launched to help Scots consumers with free, impartial and practical advice following Brexit.
The brexitadvice.scot website from Advice Direct Scotland includes information on household expenditure, transport and travel, banking, and roaming charges.
Examples include the additional documentation needed if driving abroad, limits on alcohol that can be brought back to the UK, and steps to take if travelling with a pet.
The site is operated by the charity Advice Direct Scotland, which runs Scotland’s national advice service – advice.scot.
brexitadvice.scot includes a freephone number for advice - 0808 800 9060 and live webchat options.
Local MSP Colin Beattie has encouraged local residents to visit the website for information and free advice on any consumer rights or any legislation questions they may have following Brexit.
Colin Beattie MSP commented:
“Following the UK’s exit from the EU it is important that we know what our rights are and where we can go to get clarity on these. The advice provided by Advice Direct Scotland regarding Brexit is most welcome and will offer clarity on matters such as transport, travel, postage, food and financial services. I believe that this will be very useful in keeping people informed as our relationship with the EU changes and I’m sure many of my constituents will get the benefit of this tool.”
Andrew Bartlett, chief executive of Advice Direct Scotland, said:
“While people are advised against all but essential travel at the moment, the UK’s departure from the EU will have a lasting impact on holidaymakers and consumers when life returns to normality – as well as those who buy goods from the EU.
“We’ve launched brexitadvice.scot to help consumers understand the practical changes caused by Brexit, with impartial information on its impact and free advice.
“This is particularly important when it comes to issues such as travel insurance, travelling with pets, and driving abroad.
“As always, the experts at advice.scot are available to provide free advice to anyone in Scotland.”
SNP MSP Colin Beattie has expressed his delight that taxi and private hire drivers in Midlothian and East Lothian will have access to three times the amount of Scottish Government support that they did last year.
Eligible drivers will be able to claim a £1,500 grant to cover fixed costs, boosting the support available to them by the Scottish Government.
A total fund of £57million has been available to taxi and private hire drivers – three times more than the allocated funding in December.
Commenting, Colin Beattie said:
“I am delighted the SNP Scottish Government has increased the funding available to taxi and private hire drivers. Many of these drivers in Midlothian and East Lothian have gone above and beyond the call of duty by providing transport for key workers and taking people safely to hospital appointments.
“This substantial increase in support for them is the recognition they deserve in what has been a tough time for the industry due to the lockdown restrictions.
“Despite the restrictions, many fixed costs have still remained for drivers, such as general maintenance, licence plate fees, rental fees and insurance payments and the increase in funding will cover these expensive costs.
“I would urge the local councils to contact firms quickly to ensure they can receive the money in their account as soon as possible.”
On the 13th of January a major meeting, organised and chaired by Colin Beattie MSP, took place to discuss the steps needed to improve access to health services at Riverside Medical Practice. The meeting consisted of representatives from Riverside Medical Practice, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, NHS 24, and the Riverside Medical Practice Patient Participation Group. The meeting was set up by Mr Beattie to bring these relevant stakeholders together to address ongoing concerns about the practice, primarily but not only relating to patients having difficulty contacting Riverside via telephone.
Colin Beattie MSP commented:
‘I wanted to organise this meeting to bring together all the stakeholders who should be involved in supporting Riverside to provide a service that meets constituent’s expectations, so that we could all work together collectively towards that goal.
‘Riverside have outlined that one of the biggest issues over the last few months was that there were not enough staff members available to answer the phones, which was worsened by Covid-19 absences and a large increase in calls following the lockdown period.
‘It certainly seems that they are on the right pathway to improving these telephone access issues. Riverside have now recruited 8 call handlers to manage the volume of incoming calls to the practice. The practice has outlined that this should allow them to answer around 10,000 calls monthly, which is the capacity at which they believe telephone access times for patients becomes acceptable. This should also allow for shorter average waiting times in getting through to the practice, so that patients are not on hold for longer than normal.
‘The practice is also bringing in expertise, in the form of a senior figure with significant clinical and operational experience, who will be able to evaluate the telephony issues and work out how these can be enhanced and improved going forward.
‘I will not pretend that I expect all issues to be resolved overnight from this meeting, but I do believe that this is good progress with all parties accepting deficiencies in the service and committing to working to eliminate them. The practice, supported by East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, are eager to make some real changes that will provide patients with a service that they feel more supported by. I will continue to organise these meetings over the coming months to ensure that we remain on the right path and improve local satisfaction with the practice.
‘For now, something we can all be doing is making ourselves aware of the services that are available and can take the pressure off our GP practices, who are going to be under strain as they administer Covid-19 vaccines to keep us all safe.
‘We can play our part by checking if there are other safe, local services we can access before our GP practice. Very often, these are close to home and provide a quick and convenient response, for example contacting an optometrist for an eye problem. A great place to start is by looking at the NHS Inform website at https://www.nhsinform.scot/. NHS 24 has worked with experts and service users across Scotland to provide trustworthy information on a wide range of topics, conditions and to highlight what services are close to you.
‘Another easy option is the dedicated Riverside Medical Practice website which can be accessed at www.theriversidepractice.co.uk where some queries can be dealt with quickly and easily, such as ordering a repeat prescription. Your local community pharmacist can help with treatment of minor ailments and queries about medications. The Pharmacy First website (https://www.pharmacyfirst.co.uk/) explains how simple this is for us to use. If you have a minor injury you can use the ‘Call MIA’ service for expert help and treatment (https://services.nhslothian.scot/Emergencies/Pages/MinorInjuryUnit.aspx ). NHS 24 111 provides urgent care advice, day or night, and health and dental support when your GP practice or dentist is closed. The service can also help if you are in mental distress
‘Covid-19 has been a real challenge for our health service and we need to play our part in distributing pressure across the service where possible, and this means moving it off General Practice as much as feasible during the vaccination period. There will be a national leaflet drop to every home in Scotland later in January explaining what services are available to all people for a range of problems. I hope this leaflet will be helpful in guiding constituents to all their healthcare options.
‘I will be maintaining close relations with the practice and relevant stakeholders to ensure good progress is made. As always, if any constituents are having issues or if you would like to provide any feedback, whether that is negative or positive, I would invite you to get in touch with me at email@example.com and I would be happy to look at any feedback.’
Riverside Medical Practice is currently constrained by vaccine supply but has now vaccinated 100+ people. The team there are working their way through their list of registered patients aged 80 and over who can attend the surgery in person. If this applies to you, please be aware that the practice will contact you, so you do not need to call them to set this up. Housebound people aged 80 and over will be contacted direct by local health board vaccination teams. Find out more information on Covid-19 vaccine distribution here:
MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie, has given his backing to calls for the UK Tory government to provide compensation to Scotland’s food and drink sector after weeks of Brexit related trade issues.
The sector has faced a series of new challenges, with hospitality supplies essentially suspended, as a result of the Tory Brexit deal - after Scotland was taken out of the EU against its will. The seafood industry has been hit particularly hard.
In an interview with the BBC this week, Scotland Office Minister David Duguid was asked how long it will take to fix supply chain problems caused by Brexit. He responded “how long is a piece of string?”
Now, Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing MSP, has written to the Tory government demanding that Scotland’s exporters are compensated for their losses and for reputational damage.
Commenting SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie, said:
“Despite Tory promises of seamless trade with Europe after Brexit, Scotland’s food and drink sector has been hit hard by crippling increases in red tape causing gridlock at ports.
“The incompetence of the UK government is clear for all to see.
“Local export firms were already struggling to get by in the middle of a pandemic, but the double blow of this Tory Brexit threatens to put many companies out of business for good.
“These issues sit squarely at the door of Boris Johnson and his Scottish Tory enablers. They must now compensate local businesses for the financial disaster they have caused.
“These jobs and livelihoods might not matter to the Tories – but they matter to Scotland and the SNP.”
SNP MSP SAYS GM CROPS CONSULTATION THREATENS TO DRIVE DOWN LOCAL FOOD STANDARDS
Local SNP MSP, Colin Beattie, has slammed Westminster for breaking its promises to Scottish farmers just weeks after the end of the Brexit transition period, after the UK Tory government announced plans to consult on the introduction of gene-editing.
Commercial planting of GM crops is currently banned in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland following decisions in 2015 – but without EU protection, the Tories are now threatening to overrule the devolved administrations and drive down Scotland’s high-quality food standards.
Despite the ban, the Tory Power Grab Bill allows ministers to override Scottish Ministers in certain areas, including in farming and food standards.
The proposal to introduce pesticide neonicotinoid is a promise which has been explicitly broken after Michael Gove promised not to U-turn on it. The pesticide is used for sugar beet, but is harmful to bees.
Commenting, the MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie, said:
“The harsh realities of the Tories’ Power Grab Bill are coming home to roost now, with Boris Johnson’s government threatening to impose GM crops on Scotland – despite a ban.
“Our local food and drink sector is world-renowned for being of the highest quality, so these plans to introduce GM crops will come as a devastating blow to an industry that is already struggling to deal with the impact of Brexit.
“Thanks to the Tories, the UK’s global reputation may well be damaged beyond repair, but we want to maintain Scotland’s clean, green reputation when it comes to food and drink standards.
“If the Tories won’t listen to the warnings from Scottish farmers right here in Midlothian, East Lothian, and across Scotland, then it is clear the only way to protect Scotland’s interests is as an independent, European nation.”
RESIDENTS IN MIDLOTHIAN AND EAST LOTHIAN URGED TO APPLY IF THEY HAVEN’T YET
Colin Beattie MSP has shown his delight as thousands of families in Scotland have applied for the ‘game-changing’ Scottish Child Payment early.
The MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh is urging any families in the area who have not yet applied for the scheme to do so to ensure they do not miss out on any money.
So far, Social Security Scotland have 56,000 applications since the process opened in November. The Scottish Child Payment is set to be rolled out on 15th February.
Colin Beattie MSP said:
“It is extremely encouraging to see so many families sign up early to receive their Scottish Child Payment when it is rolled out in February by the SNP Scottish Government.
“When the payment is introduced it will provide a real difference to families across Scotland at a much-needed time.
“This is just the start of the work Social Security Scotland is introducing to make a difference to the lives of people in Midlothian and East Lothian, with the Scottish Child Payment described as ‘game-changing’ by anti-poverty charities.
“I would urge anyone who has not yet applied to the scheme to make sure they do so that they do not miss out on any money they are entitled to.”
MSP COLIN BEATTIE URGES EVERYONE TO PLAY THEIR PART
SNP MSP Colin Beattie is urging everyone in Midlothian and East Lothian to adhere strictly to the new Covid restrictions announced yesterday.
During an emergency recall of the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that, from the 5th of January and for the duration of the month, there will be a legal requirement for everyone in Level 4 areas to stay at home except for essential purposes. This is similar to the lockdown of March last year.
Commenting on the new restrictions, MSP Colin Beattie said:
“I know how difficult this further lockdown will be for everyone - but it is absolutely necessary to bring this killer virus under control.
“If the country does not act now then we risk the NHS being overwhelmed and even more people will die because of this virus.
“This is not a theoretic risk – it is the desperate reality Scotland faces now and over the coming weeks.
“That means everyone must play their part in a national fightback. And that means sticking to both the letter and the spirit of the new rules. Do not look for loopholes.
“So please stay at home and don’t go out unless it is entirely necessary. And do not travel beyond your own local authority if you are going out to exercise.
“If your usual exercise spot is busy, don’t add to the crowd. Try somewhere else close by where you are not giving the virus more opportunities to spread.
“We know there is renewed hope with the rollout beginning of a second vaccine – and they will be delivered to the population as fast as possible - but they can’t protect us all yet.
“So we must not let our guard down. Instead, we must re-double our vigilance and stick even more tightly to these toughened new rules.
“I know these sacrifices are very difficult but they will not be in place for a moment longer than absolutely necessary. But, unfortunately, they are currently more vital than ever.
“I know everyone in Midlothian and East Lothian will play their part in this national effort and together we will get through this.
“So, please, stick to the rules: Stay Home. Save lives. Protect the NHS.”
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