BUDGET SECURES FUNDING BOOST FOR MIDLOTHIAN NORTH AND MUSSELBURGH IN FACE OF WESTMINSTER CHAOS
SNP MSP Colin Beattie has voted to pass the Scottish Government’s budget for 2020/21– securing a cash boost for NHS Lothian, investment in vital public services in Midlothian and East Lothian, and a more progressive tax system.
The amended budget delivers on key issues raised by all parties in the parliament – and will see the SNP Government take the radical step of introducing free bus travel for those aged 18 and under, benefitting an estimated 13624 young people in Midlothian North and Musselburgh.
The agreement builds on key Scottish Government commitments to invest £15bn in health and care services – with NHS Lothian benefitting from a cash boost of £98.6 million, an increase of 6.8% since 2019/20.
Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“In the face of massive Westminster cuts - the SNP has always taken a different, fairer approach to give people living in Scotland the best deal in the UK.
“I’m proud to have voted for a progressive budget which protects our cherished health service, supports our schools and allows us to play our part in tackling the climate emergency.
“Despite being set a backdrop of heightened uncertainty and risk, created by the UK government’s decision to delay their own budget – the SNP government’s budget delivers certainty and stability for our economy, industry and businesses in Midlothian and East Lothian.
“These figures speak for themselves. This budget is a good deal for Midlothian and East Lothian, and a good deal for Scotland – and I’m delighted it has now received the support of the support of the Scottish Parliament.”
MSPs have shown their support for a campaign to ensure that Scotland’s new social security does not fail people living with disabilities across the country.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) Society Scotland visited Holyrood last week [25-27 February] to urge the Scottish Government to scrap the nonsensical and unfair ‘20-metre rule’.
The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) UK-wide system which people living in Scotland currently apply for is set to be devolved next year for new applicants.
The Scottish Government has pledged to end to PIP when powers are transferred to Holyrood but is yet to confirm whether the nonsensical arbitrary 20-metre rule, which states that anyone who can walk this short distance is not entitled to the higher rate of mobility assistance, will remain a part of the devolved system.
This widely unpopular rule can severely hit people’s independence and is a particularly poor fit for conditions like MS where people’s symptoms fluctuate.
Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, pledged his support for a new system that offers the right level of support to ensure that people can remain as independent as possible.
Colin Beattie said: “The PIP system is unfair to many and needs to be changed. The UK Government needs to transfer this power to Scotland so that we can enact a fairer system that works for those who need it most. I support and appreciate the work of MS Society Scotland to create a fair system.”
More than 15,000 people live with MS in Scotland and nearly one in six will lose out on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) support because of the 20-metre rule. As a result of this rule, thousands with MS have been stripped of their Motability cars and left trapped in their homes and unable to work, seen their health deteriorate, and been forced to face stressful and lengthy appeals to get their benefits reinstated.
Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “We’ve long known about the enormous harm caused when PIP takes vital support away from people with MS. Not only does the process lack respect for people and their lives but arbitrary and nonsensical conditions like the 20-metre rule can deprive people of vital support.
“We urge the Scottish Government to reform the assessment system – including the nonsensical and arbitrary 20-metre rule.
“We have heard pledges that under devolution the system will treat people with respect and dignity and what we have heard from our community is that for that to happen then, simply put, this rule must be scrapped.
“MS can be painful and exhausting, it shouldn’t be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense.”
Colin Beattie, the MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, has expressed his frustration over a lack of action in connection with faulty field drains in Easthouses Park.
Mr Beattie commented:
‘I visited Easthouses Park with a constituent who had expressed concerns about flooding in the area. I was shocked to see the flooding in the park, and even more so to find out the issue has been ongoing for years. This has been because of faulty field drains and little more than “safety” fencing has been put in place to secure the area.
Since the visit, I have investigated the situation and have found that the repair falls under the remit of Midlothian Council who are the landowners of the park. I have brought the issue up with them and they are now looking into making the necessary repairs.
I am disappointed that this problem has been left for so long given that this was a known issue. This matter should not have been left all this time without the issue being investigated and repairs undertaken. I am pleased that Midlothian Council readily agreed to effect repairs. I intend to monitor the situation and ensure that the essential works are carried out within an appropriate amount of time.’
Local MSPs Christine Grahame and Colin Beattie have criticised the Scottish Green Party for demanding a halt to improvements to Sheriffhall as a condition of them agreeing to the Scottish budget. As a minority government, the Scottish Government has to make a deal with at least one opposition party to get its budget passed, in this case the Greens.
The budget, negotiated by Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes MSP, will see measures including investments of £15 billion in health and care services, a £60 million overall budget increase for Police Scotland with £50 million of investment for frontline services and £95m of additional funding for local government, taking total Scottish Government support for local authorities to £589 million.
It will also include a £45m package of investment in low carbon projects to help tackle climate change, however the Greens have insisted Sheriffhall improvement plans are subject to review as part of their agreement. The Greens have long demanded a halt to what they see as road improvements, arguing roads should be left as they are so as to put people off of using their cars, having opposed work at Sheriffhall for some time.
Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, said:
“The review of planned improvements to Sheriffhall will simply cause the current bottleneck to continue with longer delays whilst vehicles spew out more fumes as they idle from the A1 to the Pentlands and on the A7 and A6106 because of the continuing congestion. Cyclists and pedestrians will also continue to not have safe passage across the bypass, plans for which are in the current improvement plans, and buses will be trapped in the tailbacks.
Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, said:
“I understand why the Scottish Government have agreed to this pause in order keep our public services properly funded in other areas of the budget, however what the Green Party need to understand is that there is nothing Green about blocking these plans. The Sheriffhall upgrades include important provisions for cyclists and pedestrians which don’t currently exist. These upgrades are vital in offering alternative routes of transport in the constituency. These improvements are also urgently needed to improve the traffic flow of all vehicles, including public transport and the plans would lower emissions from idling cars. Anyone who uses the bypass regularly understands this is a major issue that needs to be addressing, and the Sheriffhall roundabout upgrades could be the solution to this issue.
“I have no doubt our constituents will remember this when they go to the ballot box next year.”
SNP MSP Colin Beattie has welcomed an agreement to pass the Scottish Government that will see Midlothian receive an additional £1.597m in the next year and East Lothian an additional £1.833m.
The amended budget will also see the Scottish Government take the radical step of introducing free bus travel for those aged 18 and under from January 2021.
Police will benefit from a total uplift of £60 million in the next financial year, with £13m of additional investment in frontline services and a further £5m of additional capital investment, on top of the £42m already committed.
Commenting, Colin Beattie said:
“This SNP budget invests a record £15bn in health and care services, delivers Scotland’s unique child payment to lift our youngest out of poverty and supports Scotland’s world-leading efforts to tackle the climate crisis.
“The Scottish Government had already backed Police Scotland with a budget increase of £42m. That will now increase that support to £60m overall with £50m of investment for frontline services.
“Midlothian and East Lothian will benefit from our share of an extra £95m for local government – with an extra £1.597m and £1.833m of investment.
“We have made significant investments to tackle the climate crisis, with funding for a green deal, low carbon travel and £1.8bn of low emission infrastructure.
“The introduction of free bus travel for those aged 18 and under will make an enormous difference to young people – and alongside the £500 million bus infrastructure fund will help deliver a step change in the use of public transport.
“This budget is a good deal for Midlothian and East Lothian – and I’m delighted it is now set to receive the support of the Scottish Parliament.
“In light of the Scottish Government’s willingness to compromise on issues identified by all parties, I hope every party can get behind the budget tomorrow.”
13,624 of young people in Midlothian North and Musselburgh will benefit from free bus travel to be introduced by the SNP government.
The new concessionary scheme was set out in the Scottish Government’s budget, which will give free bus travel to those aged 18 and under.
Latest figures produced by National Records of Scotland estimate there were 13,624 of people aged between 5 and 18 in Midlothian North and Musselburgh in 2018.
The Scottish Government will undertake work on design and due diligence with a view to introducing such a scheme in January 2021.
Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“Free bus travel will be an enormous benefit to young people in Midlothian North and Musselburgh – keeping money in their pockets and improving their opportunities to work, study and socialise.
“Alongside the £500 million investment in bus infrastructure previously announced by the Scottish Government, this radical and innovative approach will help deliver a step change in the use of public transport.
“Encouraging the use of public transport is an essential part of our world-leading efforts to tackle the climate emergency.
“Concessionary travel has brought enormous benefits to those aged over 60 and I’m delighted that it will now be extended to young people.”
RECORD PROPORTION OF YOUNG SCOTS IN STUDY, WORK OR TRAINING AFTER SCHOOL
SNP MSP Colin Beattie has welcomed new figures showing more Midlothian and East Lothian school leavers are in study, work or training than a decade ago.
Across Scotland, a record proportion of young people were in a positive destination three months after leaving school last year. The gap between those from the most and least deprived communities achieving a positive destination the lowest since 2009-10.
In Midlothian, the number of unemployed school leavers seeking work fell from 13.7% in 2009/10 to 4.6% in 2018/19. In East Lothian, the number fell from 10.4% to 3%
Over the same time period the number of school leavers going towards positive destinations rose from 83% to 93.8% in Midlothian and 85.8% to 95.8% in East Lothian.
Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“It is very welcome that significant progress that more young people in Midlothian and East Lothian are going on to positive destinations such as work and study straight from school.
“For the ninth consecutive year, more young Scots are in study, training or work three months after leaving school than ever before.
“It’s particularly welcome that the gap between the richest and poorest communities for those moving into a positive destination continues to narrow.
“This demonstrates that Curriculum for Excellence is delivering one of the ultimate aims of school education - to secure a positive next step in learning, life and work for our young people.”
Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, visited the severely flooded underpass on Easthouses Road at the weekend.
‘This is a vital link in the walking route for local school pupils. I am concerned for the safety of young people who may try to cross the busy road overhead, or enter into the water filled underpass in order to try to get to school. The area must be urgently secured, and I have alerted Midlothian Council and the other relevant agencies to ensure that this is quickly remedied.
It is imperative that safety measures are taken immediately. Heavy rain has obviously contributed to increasing the potential danger, but this has been made immeasurably worse due to unknown parties driving a trench from the industrial estate above which directs water back into the underpass. I will be pressing for urgent action from Midlothian Council to find a solution to this situation to ensure it is not only resolved, but that this doesn’t happen again in future.
I urge local residents to take great care in using this route and to warn others, in particular those who may be vulnerable, of the inaccessibility of this underpass.’
LOCAL ECONOMY AT RISK FROM HOSTILE PROPOSALS SAY INDUSTRY LEADERS
SNP MSP Colin Beattie has said the UK Tory government’s controversial points-based immigration risks “devastating local businesses” and causing long-term harm to public services in Midlothian and East Lothian.
Unveiled earlier this week, Boris Johnson’s plan to block most European workers from entering the UK has come under fire from employers and industry leaders.
Reacting to the announcement, FSB Scotland Policy Chair Andrew McRae said: “when you consider that only 5% of Scottish small businesses have used the current immigration system, it’s no wonder small employers will be concerned at these plans. The system is notoriously complex and costly and few small businesses will be able to absorb high administration costs – or have the resources to prepare for new rules in ten months’ time. Scotland’s small employers have a greater reliance on EU workers than the UK average. These staff are central to the success of many businesses in Scotland and therefore it’s crucial that employers encourage them to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.”
A cross-party report by Holyrood’s Finance Committee previously warned that demographic changes could pose risks to Scottish public spending, and our ability to fund the NHS, if Scotland does not have powers to grow our population.
Now, the MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh has renewed calls for immigration powers to be handed to Holyrood – with the SNP’s proposals for a ‘Scottish Visa’ gaining the backing of a wide range of expert organisations.
Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“Our local industries, public services and NHS here in Lothian are in danger. You simply can’t trust Boris Johnson - his government’s proposals will cause catastrophic damage for businesses in Midlothian and East Lothian and are completely out of touch with the needs of the Scottish economy.
“Industry and employers across the country recognise that getting the migration system right is absolutely vital for the future. As Scotland’s population grows older, we need the power to attract and retain the workers we need to fund our public services, and allow our economy to flourish.
“This is the stark reality of the Tories’ Brexit Britain. It’s now absolutely vital that the political parties and industry leaders come together to back the SNP’s plans for a tailored migration system which works for Scotland.”
ANTI-POVERTY PAYMENT TO BENEFIT 7,500 CHILDREN IN MIDLOTHIAN AND 7,700 IN EAST LOTHIAN
Colin Beattie MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh has called on local politicians from all parties to get behind historic funding for Scotland’s new social security agency – a move that will put money directly into the pockets of low-income families and carers in Midlothian and East Lothian.
SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has committed a landmark £3.4billion allocation for benefit spend in the next year – including funding to deliver the “game-changing” Scottish Child Payment by the end of this year.
An estimated 7,500 children in 4,300 families across Midlothian will benefit from the Scottish Government’s new anti-poverty payment – with the first payments made before Christmas 2020. In East Lothian, this estimated figure is 7,700 children in 4,500 families.
The Scottish Government has already introduced seven benefits including Best Start Grant, which offers financial support to low-income families in the early years of a child’s life and the Funeral Support Payment, the standard rate of which is being increased from £700 to £1,000, from April.
The Scottish Welfare Fund also increases by £3 million, from £38 million to £41 million for 2020/21.
SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“The SNP’s plan to commit £3.4 billion to social security is central to our commitment to tackling child poverty, and create a social security system with fairness, dignity and respect at its heart.
“This £3.4 billion will go directly to the people in Midlothian and East Lothian who need it the most. Yet, these are just the first steps in the delivery of even more benefits to support people in our society as the Scottish Government looks to tackle inequality and reduce poverty.
“Tory cuts are driving too many families into poverty – but the SNP are determined to use every power at our disposal to help families make ends meet.
“MSPs across Lothian should now get behind the SNP’s proposals, and secure substantial funding support for carers and low income families.”
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