President of the National Farmers Union Scotland, Andrew McCornick, has called on the UK government to rule out a no-deal Brexit claiming leaving the EU without a deal would be “catastrophic for Scotland’s farmers and crofters”.
In a speech to NFUS members, Andrew McCornick said:
“No deal means a hard Brexit and this means the UK falling out of Europe on 30 March and the application of World Trade Organization tariffs.
“Under a WTO regime the rules will deliver no continuity on what we are currently doing for many key sectors of our economy. This means massive disruption, amongst which will be the introduction of tariffs.
“Agriculture and agri-food will be the most seriously affected where the highest tariff rates are found. Red meat for example would see tariffs of around 40 per cent.”
The SNP have backed calls for the UK government to extend Article 50 and bring forward legislation for a second EU referendum.
The National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) supports the SNP’s position that all decisions affecting agriculture in Scotland should be taken in Scotland.
Commenting, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie said:
“The UK government is taking Scotland’s farmers and crofters to the brink of a Brexit disaster – a no-deal Brexit would be deeply damaging for jobs, businesses and livelihoods here in Midlothian and East Lothian.
“With Theresa May’s Brexit deal dead in the water, the Tories must put their narrow-minded party infighting to one side and focus on limiting the negative impact that leaving the EU will have on rural Scotland.
“It’s time for the UK government to listen to the concerns of our local farmers, take a no-deal Brexit off the table and extend the Article 50 process.”
Today Colin Beattie, Midlothian North and Musselburgh MSP, set out his position on the extraordinary budget statements made recently by Council leader Derek Milligan. Cllr Milligan was quoted on 6th February as saying:
‘In Midlothian, we are still faced with a 1.5 per cent cut when our population growth requires that spending increases considerably….It’s horrendous that the continued underfunding of this council by Scottish Government means we find ourselves in an even more acute position…Midlothian’s position is particularly acute, given we are the fastest growing local authority in Scotland.’
Colin Beattie MSP responded by saying:
‘Frankly, this statement is risible and not worth the paper it was printed on.
‘The simple fact of the matter is that, with the additional funding powers made available to the Council, the recent Scottish Government budget proposal is giving Midlothian Council an additional £10.35 million over last year’s budget. That’s an inflation busting 5.98% overall increase over the previous financial year when all elements are included.
‘Midlothian may well be the fastest growing local authority, but projected growth does not automatically equate to an immediate requirement for expenditure.
‘Cllr Milligan’s own internal auditor was reported as blaming elected councillors and officers for the drastic reduction in the Council’s reserves over the past three years, adding a stark warning that these reserves could run out in the 2019-20 financial year. If this report is accurate, I’m afraid to say he has a nerve calling on the Scottish Government to fix the Council’s own errors – especially when there is tangible proof that the Council is being treated fairly.
‘We must also not forget that council funding is set by the Labour controlled local authority umbrella body COSLA, of which Midlothian Council is a signed up member. The Labour administration previously formally agreed the formula for allocating funding to councils. If Cllr Milligan had real concerns the time to raise them would have been during the funding process.
‘Frankly I now have to question the competence of the Labour Administration to manage the finances of the Council.
‘I call on Cllr Milligan to stop creating alarm and fear for the people of Midlothian and to balance the council budget and deliver the essential services which are needed.’
A report published this week by the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee has called for the urgent reversal of UK government welfare cuts that have caused “significant damage” to the income of working Scots.
Introduced by the Tories in 2016, the working-age benefit freeze gives a real-terms cut to households claiming benefits such as Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Child tax credits, and Tax Credits – forcing families to bear the brunt of what will be an estimated £3.7 billion in cuts by 2020.
The report found that, “the benefits freeze has a disproportionate impact on the poorest and those in most need.”
While the SNP has pledged almost £100 million for the coming year to continue mitigation of the Bedroom Tax and the UK government’s reserved welfare cuts, the committee has said it should not be left for only the Scottish Government to ensure the income of claimants north of the border does not drop in real terms.
The report, ‘Social Security and In-Work Poverty’, has also urged the UK government to re-think its controversial Universal Credit system, backing calls to end the five week waiting period for first-time claimants to receive a payment – suggesting a maximum of two weeks would be more appropriate.
The report continued, stating that “Universal Credit is a significant cause of the rise in demand for food bank services.”
The Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest foodbank charity, recently came forward with figures that show a 52% increase in demand at local foodbanks in the 12 months after the roll-out reaches an area.
Neither the Work and Pensions Secretary nor the UK Employment Minister accepted the committee’s invitation to give evidence during this inquiry.
Commenting SNP MSP for Midlothian North & Musselburgh, Colin Beattie said:
“In Midlothian and East Lothian and across Scotland, families are falling behind on rent payments and daily living costs thanks to the Tories damaging welfare policies.
“More and more households simply can’t get by – forcing many of those on Universal Credit to rely on emergency welfare support and foodbanks to feed themselves.
“The UK government cannot continue to stick their heads in the sand - it’s time to listen to the pleas from claimants, campaigners and charity groups for fundamental reform of Universal Credit and an end the benefits freeze.”
SNP SUPPORT INCREASE IN INVESTMENT IN MIDLOTHIAN AND EAST LOTHIAN
Holyrood has backed the SNP’s budget plans, offering economic stability in the face of Brexit while giving a cash boost to the NHS, schools and other vital services.
Despite Westminster cuts of almost £2 billion in a decade to Scotland’s block resource grant, the SNP is proposing additional funding of almost £730 million for Scotland’s health and care services – including £57.2M for NHS Lothian.
Under the deal reached, Midlothian Council will receive an additional £8.08M and East Lothian Council will receive an additional £3.91M from the Scottish Government on top of its share of a total overall local authority settlement of £11.1bn.
The budget also includes more than £180 million to raise attainment in schools, and almost £500 million for the expansion of early learning and childcare.
SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“With the UK government in complete chaos, the SNP in government are offering certainty and stability with a budget which protects public services, supports the economy, and helps build a fairer country.
“This budget uses our powers in a progressive way in order to protect and invest in our public services – with a major boost for the NHS.
“Giving our schools, hospitals and other vital services in Midlothian and East Lothian the money they need to deliver better services for our communities is vital to this government. This is why I welcome Holyrood’s support for the budget.”