COLIN BEATTIE MSP DELIGHTED AS SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO DELIVER BENEFITS TO MIDLOTHIAN AND EAST LOTHIAN
Colin Beattie has expressed his delight at the news that the SNP Scottish Government continues to press ahead with delivering Scotland’s new benefits system despite the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville, announced this week that Social Security Scotland will continue to press ahead with rolling out a raft of new benefits that will benefit those in Midlothian and East Lothian.
The next benefit that will be rolled out across Scotland will be the Child Disability Payment, with applications opening in the Summer of 2021.
This will be followed by the Adult Disability Payment, which is set to be piloted from Spring 2022 and rolled out across the country by the Summer of that year.
Once the Adult Disability Payment is fully rolled out, those who are on Personal Independent Payment or Disability Living Allowance will be automatically switched to the new system, and not have to face another DWP face-to-face assessment.
Commenting, Colin Beattie said:
“I am delighted that the Scottish Government can continue with the rollout of its game-changing social security system, despite the challenges presented to it by COVID-19.
“Alongside the Job Start Payment, Child Winter Heating Assistance and the Scottish Child Payment, Scotland continues to develop a benefits system which benefits those that need it most.
“The transition from the UK government benefits to the new Scottish benefits will be stress free and people in Midlothian and East Lothian will have peace of mind that they will not have to go through what can be a distressing DWP assessment.
“As the pandemic continues, it is vital that the Scottish Government continues to support people in Midlothian and East Lothian, especially into the winter months.
“The SNP and the Scottish Government will continue to develop a benefits system which is kind, compassionate and caring.”
OVER 1,250 NEW TEACHERS AND SUPPORT STAFF RECRUITED SINCE SUMMER
Local MSP Colin Beattie has welcomed news that 1,250 new teachers, and 155 support staff, have been recruited in schools across Scotland in recent months.
The SNP Government pledged £80 million of support this summer to help local authorities’ recruitment for the safe re-opening of schools.
Councils across Scotland indicate that an estimated further 200 teachers are also in the pipeline with 100 extra support staff also expected to follow.
Last month, figures from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) showed that the number of newly-qualified teachers going straight into employment has risen by nearly 30% under the SNP’s leadership.
Analysis also revealed that the number of teachers in Scotland under the age of 45 has risen to 61.5% of the workforce as of 2019. In 2009, the majority of teachers were over 45.
Commenting, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie said:
“In the middle of a global pandemic, it’s absolutely vital that local authorities are fully supported to ensure that our schools remain safe for pupils, teachers and staff.
“Thanks to significant investment from the SNP Government this summer, we now have hundreds of extra teachers and staff in our schools to support their safe re-opening.
“These additional teachers and support staff will not only bring much needed resilience to Scotland’s education system, but they will help compensate for the loss of learning suffered by pupils during lockdown.
“I want to express my appreciation once again for our amazing teachers, and wider school’s workforce, right here in Midlothian and East Lothian, who are helping to ensure our young people continue to get the education they deserve during these tough times.”
Local SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie, has welcomed calls for a fundamental shift in the way fireworks are bought and sold in Scotland.
The independent Firework Review Group, established by the Scottish Government, has called for the introduction of no firework zones and tighter restrictions on the use of fireworks to help tackle anti-social behaviour at this time of year.
The group, chaired by former Chief Fire Officer Alasdair Hay, also recommended:
• the introduction of mandatory conditions when fireworks are purchased from retailers
• restricting the times of day fireworks can be sold and volume of fireworks that can be purchased at any one time
• restricting the days and times fireworks can be set off
• the creation of a proxy purchasing offence to prevent adults from buying fireworks on behalf of those under the age of 18
Welcoming the recommendations, SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“Here in Midlothian and East Lothian, and right across Scotland, there is widespread public support to crack down on the negative impact of anti-social firework use.
“This SNP Government is determined to make these recommendations a reality and help keep our local communities safe from the harmful use of fireworks.
“Tomorrow is Bonfire Night, and I would ask those who plan on using fireworks to do so responsibly and be mindful of their neighbours – the noise of fireworks can have a real impact on those with sensory issues, on pets and on livestock. Stay safe.”
Chair of the Review Group and former Chief Fire Officer, Alasdair Hay, said:
“I am pleased to set out the recommendations from the Firework Review Group. We have carefully considered the available evidence and believe a step change is needed in how fireworks are accessed and used by the general public.
"This is not to prevent adults using fireworks sensibly and safely – rather, to ensure all safety requirements are fully understood and adhered to, and the impact on others has been fully considered.”
SNP TACKLING CHILD POVERTY WHILE TORIES DUCK RESPONSIBILITIES
The new Scottish Child Payment - which has been described as a “game-changer” in the fight to tackle child poverty - will open early for applications this month.
MSP Colin Beattie has encouraged parents and carers in Midlothian and East Lothian who are eligible to apply now so that the Scottish Government can process and start making payments as quickly as possible once the benefit starts in February next year.
The SNP Government has prioritised the early introduction of the new benefit, which will provide eligible families on low incomes with a child under 6, an extra £10 per week for each child.
Latest figures estimate that 194,000 children aged under-6 in Scotland will be eligible for the new Scottish Child Payment – with around 4,100 children in Midlothian and over 4,000 in East Lothian set to benefit.
MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie said:
“The Scottish Child Payment is an ambitious, game-changing new benefit which will directly tackle child poverty in Midlothian, East Lothian and across Scotland.
“This support is needed more than ever, and it’s early introduction for under 6s - almost two years ahead of the original commitment for a new payment - will be a lifeline for so many families in Midlothian and East Lothian.
"While the SNP does everything it can to tackle poverty, the Tories at Westminster are still helplessly trying to defend their shameless decision to deprive children of free school meals over the holidays.
“Children and families simply shouldn’t have to depend on the whim of Boris Johnson’s callous Tory government to get through this Covid-19 crisis.
“This benefit will be a lifeline for many children, young people and their families in Midlothian and East Lothian. I’d encourage anyone who is eligible to apply as soon as possible.”
HOLIDAYMAKERS IN MIDLOTHIAN OWED NEARLY £1.4 MILLION AND IN EAST LOTHIAN OVER £1.6 MILLION IN WITHHELD REFUNDS
LOCAL MSP SAYS REGULATOR MUST DO MORE TO SUPPORT CUSTOMERS
SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh has demanded action after the latest estimations from Which? suggested people in Midlothian and East Lothian could be owed millions in withheld refunds for cancelled trips.
Customers across the UK are waiting on more than £1 billion in refunds according to the results of the survey of more than 7,500 people who had a package holiday cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
Expressed as proportion of population, the findings of the survey suggest that holidaymakers in Midlothian could be owed nearly £1.4 million, and those in East Lothian could be owed over £1.6 million.
Holiday companies are required to refund money within 14 days but the huge number of cancellations has left many of firms overwhelmed. 21% of those surveyed who requested a refund in March were still waiting at the beginning of October.
The research also found that the average cost of a cancelled holiday was £1,784.
During the summer, the Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into package travel companies' handling of cancellations and refunds.
Commenting on the figures, local SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“For many people, this saga has rumbled on for far too long – it’s time for the UK government and the market regulator to get a hold of this situation.
“Times are tough financially for many local families, and while I appreciate holiday companies were inundated with refund requests earlier in the year, we are now in November.
“We aren’t talking about spare change here – the average cost of a cancelled holiday was £1,784 according to this survey.
“While we all recognise the travel industry’s acute financial difficulties, there can be no excuse for them hoarding the hard-earned cash of their hard-pressed customers.
“As a matter of urgency, the UK government needs to set out how travel companies will be supported financially to fulfil their legal obligations to passengers – and take firm action against those who continue to drag their feet.
“I would urge anyone in Midlothian or East Lothian who is still waiting on a refund from March to get in touch with my office – I will offer any support I can to make sure you get your money back.”
Earlier this month, TSB made the shock announcement that the bank is to close 73 branches in Scotland and cut 300 jobs as part of wider UK cuts. The closures, set to begin in early 2021, represent more than half of the TSB branches currently operating in Scotland. The Dalkeith branch of TSB was amongst these closures.
Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, has subsequently met with representatives from TSB to contest these changes.
Colin Beattie MSP commented:
“I know that many locally have been disheartened by the news that yet another bank will be closing its local branch. Dalkeith was one of the branches announced within the 73 TSB branch closures across Scotland – more than half of the branches in the country.
“I requested an urgent meeting with TSB to discuss the impact that this would have on the community, and to highlight that this closure would be detrimental to the residents of Dalkeith who rely on this service.
“I had a long discussion with TSB regarding the closure of the Dalkeith branch, which unfortunately did not result in the desired outcome of keeping the branch open. The representatives informed me that they only have 23 customers per week going into the branch, and due to this there is simply no basis on which they can stay open.
“I made it clear to the representatives that a local post office was not an adequate substitute for a branch. Following my negotiations with them on this matter, they agreed that they would set up a facility where they would provide on the ground support for people who need face to face services. This would include, for example, enquiries about mortgages or more complex transactions which might need face to face assistance. This will allow locals to continue to get the financial support they need.
“As it stands currently, they need accommodation for the facility, and I am actively working with TSB to look at the options and to help them find some suitable local contacts. Despite the fact it is not feasible to keep the branch open fully, I am glad that they were cooperative in looking towards other means to support the community and to continue providing a service, albeit more limited than what is currently in place.
“I look forward to working with them on this proposal, and updating the community about the new services once these have been put in place.”
SNP GOVERNMENT LEADING THE WAY TO “RIGHT A HISTORIC WRONG”
MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie, has welcomed news that Scottish miners convicted during the year-long strike in the 1980s are to be pardoned by the SNP Government.
Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, made the announcement in Holyrood today following the publication of an independent review into the matter.
It is believed about 1,400 miners were arrested across Scotland and more than 500 were convicted.
The pardons scheme will require new legislation to be introduced by the SNP Government and passed by the Scottish Parliament in due course.
Commenting, local SNP MSP, Colin Beattie, said:
“A great number of local miners from Midlothian and East Lothian have suffered for years due to the excessive convictions handed out during the strike.
“The strike may have taken place 35 years ago, but there is still much anger in many of our local communities about how the miners were treated – and rightly so.
“For decades, hundreds of men and their families have had to deal with the consequences of the strike and their heavy convictions.
“This collective pardon also applies posthumously and is clear evidence of the SNP Government’s aim to right a historic wrong.”
Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf MSP, said:
“The pardon is intended to acknowledge the disproportionate impact arising from miners being prosecuted and convicted during the strike - such as the loss of their job. It will also recognise the exceptional circumstances that resulted in former miners suffering hardship and the loss of their good name through their participation in the strike.
“It is also vital to acknowledge that many officers involved in policing the strike found it an incredibly difficult time – being rooted in their communities and having family members who were miners.”
16,290 LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS IN MIDLOTHIAN AND 11,455 LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS IN EAST LOTHIAN SUPPORTED BY SNP GOVERNMENT
CRISIS GRANTS HIT RECORD HIGH OVER LOCKDOWN
The Scottish Welfare Fund made 815 crisis grant payments to people in Midlothian and 665 crisis grant payments to people in East Lothian in the last financial quarter – an increase of 19% for Midlothian and 23% for East Lothian on last year - to help pay for essentials such as food, heating costs, and household necessities.
Latest figures show that the Scottish Welfare Fund has paid out a total of 16,290 crisis grants to households in Midlothian, and 11,455 crisis grants to households in East Lothian since it was established in 2013.
The Scottish Welfare Fund awarded £5.2 million in crisis grants across Scotland between April and June 2020, up 77 per cent on the same period last year - after Scottish Government increased the amount of funding available for the fund.
SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“The Scottish Welfare Fund is an important example of the kind of action the SNP has taken to ensure there is additional financial support in place for people in Midlothian and East Lothian coping with the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This vital support stands in stark contrast to what is happening at Westminster, with Tory MPs voting to deprive children of free school meals, and robbing Scotland of crucial funding to support our most vulnerable.
“While the Scottish Government works to improve provision for families in Midlothian and East Lothian facing poverty, we continue to have to spend money to protect the most vulnerable in our communities from UK government benefit cuts.
“For as welfare decisions remain at Westminster, the SNP will continue to do everything in our power to tackle poverty and support people in Midlothian and East Lothian to get through this challenging time.”
SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie, has branded the UK Tory government’s decision to allow the temporary suspension of VAT on personal protective equipment (PPE) to expire as “shocking”.
VAT on PPE was cut to 0% in May following a campaign from trade union groups and opposition parties, with the cut applying to items such as face masks and aprons.
It was initially due to return to 20% in August, but was extended until October 31.
The Tories’ planned changes mean that businesses, charities and individuals in Midlothian and East Lothian will now be slapped with extra charges when purchasing essential PPE to protect against the COVID-19.
Commenting, local SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“The UK government’s decision to slap extra charges on the cost of essential PPE in the middle of a global pandemic is absolutely shocking.
“Right now, cases are rising across the UK and the safety of our key workers and care providers in Midlothian and East Lothian is more important than ever.
“Many local businesses are struggling just to get by, and our care sector is already stretched as they deal with the Covid-19 crisis. The last thing anyone needs right now is to be penalised for protecting themselves or their staff.
“Boris Johnson must reverse this decision before these changes come into effect at the end of this week.”
3190 CHILDREN IN MIDLOTHIAN AND 1140 CHILDREN IN EAST LOTHIAN TO BENEFIT AS FREE SCHOOL MEALS EXTENDED
SNP GOVERNMENT PROVIDING £10 MILLION FOR SCHOOL MEALS OVER HOLIDAYS
More than 3190 children across Midlothian and 1140 children in East Lothian will benefit from extra funding to extend free school meals over the Christmas and Easter holidays.
£10 million has been made available by the SNP Government so that councils can continue providing free school meals through the winter breaks with future funding confirmed to extend support over Easter.
On Wednesday, Tory MPs voted rejected a plan to extend free school meals into the school holidays, arguing that it was not the job of schools to “regularly provide food during the school holidays”.
No Scottish Tory MP voted to support the plan, despite recent indications from Douglas Ross that he wishes to end the Tories’ opposition free school meals provision.
SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“Many families in Midlothian and East Lothian are under considerable financial pressure at this time, and with less than two weeks until the UK government prematurely shuts down the furlough scheme, that’s unfortunately only set to get worse.
“This important investment will support around 3190 children and young people in Midlothian and 1140 children and young people in East Lothian, helping families meet the cost of meals over Christmas, February and Easter holidays.
“The Scottish Government’s decision to extend the free school meals scheme will be a great relief for many hard-pressed parents.
“The Tories at Westminster had an opportunity to support thousands of families worrying about how they will put food on the table in the weeks ahead, but they refused to do so.
“It’s clear that Westminster has a lot to learn from the SNP’s approach to tackling food insecurity and building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect.”
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