aUK GOVERMENT BACKTRACKS ON CORONAVIRUS SUPPORT FOR SCOTLAND
Midlothian North and Musselburgh MSP Colin Beattie has called on local Tory MSP Miles Briggs to make the case for coronavirus funding pledges to be honoured by Boris Johnson - after the UK Government backtracked on £70 million worth of funding for business and charities in Scotland.
On 2nd May, the UK Government announced a £617 million extension to business grants, which it advised would generate £60 million of funding consequentials for Scotland under the Barnett Formula.
However, the UK Government informed the Scottish Government this week that this additional funding would not now materialise, which will cause concern for businesses and industry in Midlothian and East Lothian.
Furthermore, last month £35 million of consequentials was earmarked to the Scottish Government in respect of charity support direct grant, but this was amended by the Treasury to £25 million at a later date.
Commenting, Colin Beattie MSP said:
“Funding commitments from the UK Government have to be taken in good faith as we work through this pandemic, but the fact that Boris Johnson's government has simply pulled the rug on £70 million of funding completely undermines the whole process.
“The Scottish Government committed to spending that money in the belief that the UK Government would honour its word – Tory MSPs in Lothian should urgently seek reassurance from their colleagues in the Treasury that future funding announcements will be robust and reliable enough to act upon without creating unnecessary financial risks.
“We’ve already seen the Scottish Government take action to fill gaps in UK-wide support schemes, so the last thing we need is an additional financial burden put on businesses in Midlothian and East Lothian because of the Treasury’s shameful decision to short-change Scotland.
“The UK government must act immediately to ensure the £70 million they promised is allocated as quickly as possible and in its entirety, so that the Scottish Government can continue to protect jobs and businesses in Midlothian and East Lothian.”
PRESSURE MOUNTS AFTER DOMINIC CUMMINGS GIVES INSULTING No10 STATEMENT
Midlothian North and Musselburgh MSP, Colin Beattie, has joined calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to sack his most senior adviser Dominic Cummings for repeatedly breaking his own government's lockdown rules.
Over the weekend it emerged that Mr Cummings drove his family 264 miles to his parents’ estate in Durham while his wife was suffering coronavirus symptoms.
And in an extraordinary press conference in the Downing Street garden on Monday night, instead of resigning Cummings admitted to a series of further breaches of lockdown.
Cummings refused to apologise or even accept that he had fatally undermined the essential public health message that people who have the virus should stay at home.
MSP Colin Beattie said:
“People in Midlothian and East Lothian have made huge sacrifices over the months to obey the rules, while Boris Johnson's most senior adviser was breaking them on multiple occasions.
"He should have resigned but instead he showed no contrition and refused to say sorry for his behaviour which has left millions of people - who have been sticking to the rules - justifiably furious.
“Cummings’ double standards are breath taking. His convoluted excuses to justify his inexcusable behaviour were frankly insulting to the people of Midlothian North and Musselburgh.
“Prime Minister has no option but to sack Mr Cummings. His failure to do so by now is a failure of leadership that could have a catastrophic effect on how Coronavirus is contained.
“As Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said: 'There cannot be one rule for bosses and another for everyone else'. People must have confidence that the Tory government is following its own rules - not protecting advisors who break them.
“Boris Johnson has apparently known about this for weeks, has failed to offer any answers himself and now has no option but to sack Dominic Cummings and answer questions about his own role in the Downing Street cover-up.
"Leading public health experts have warned this failure of leadership is damaging the public health message and putting lives at risk.
"The longer the Prime Minister allows this farce to continue the more the Tory government will lose credibility and respect. He must sack Mr Cummings without further delay."
“In Scotland, the clear public health advice has not changed. The Scottish Government will review the current rules on Thursday and hopefully this will lead to a gradual easing of some restrictions, evidence permitting.
“But for now, people in Midlothian and East Lothian should continue to stay at home - it really is helping to save lives.”
SAFE RETURN PLANNED THROUGH MIX OF SCHOOL AND HOME LEARNING
Local MSP Colin Beattie MSP has welcomed the Scottish Government announcement that pupils will return to schools in August, subject to scientific advice that it is safe to do so.
Schools in Midlothian and East Lothian will return on 11 August, while Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings will open over the summer.
An agreement reached between councils, professional associations and parent representatives means that physical distancing, staggered arrival and departure times, staggered break times, increased hand hygiene, enhanced cleaning regimes and a range of other measures must be implemented.
To maximise the time pupils can have in the classroom and support children in the new model of schooling, including digital home learning, the SNP Government is also investing £9 million for 25,000 laptops or tablets – with internet access provided – for disadvantaged children as part of the first phase of provision to support learning outside school.
SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“In reopening schools in Midlothian and East Lothian, ensuring the safety of children, young people and staff and giving parents the confidence that schools are safe is the overriding priority.
"To allow appropriate physical distancing, children in Midlothian and East Lothian will return to a blended model of part time in-school and part time at-home learning from 11 August - subject to scientific advice that it is safe to do so.
“Of course, these arrangements will not represent a complete return to normality by August. We don’t know how long schools will have to work this way, just as we don’t know how long Coronavirus will be a threat.
“I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone in Midlothian and East Lothian when I share my gratitude towards parents, carers and teachers who are doing so much to ensure that children continue to learn during this lockdown period, and to those young people who have stayed at home in extremely challenging circumstances.
“By doing the right thing, all of us have helped to slow the spread of the virus, to protect our NHS from being overwhelmed, and to save lives.”
Today in Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the nation to explain the Scottish Government’s routemap that will guide the country out of lockdown.
The routemap gives practical examples of what people, organisations and businesses can expect to see change over time.
If the evidence shows transmission of COVID-19 is under control and the number of infectious cases continue to decline the Scottish Government will consider moving to Phase 1 of the route map following the next end-of-cycle review date on 28 May.
The NHS Scotland test, trace, isolate and support system – known as Test and Protect - will be ready for expansion in all 14 health boards from 28 May.
A plan agreed between councils, professional associations and parent representatives to partially reopen schools from 11 August, subject to scientific advice that it is safe to do so, has also been published today.
Commenting, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie said:
“We all know that we can’t live this way forever and we all want to get back some sense of normality.
“While we need to move carefully and gradually, the route map laid out today by the First Minister clearly sets out the steps that will take us there.
“Too many people in Midlothian, East Lothian and across Scotland have lost their lives to this disease and we can’t risk another peak – so we must move in line with our own circumstances.
“We will get through this by working together by sticking to the advice to suppress the virus further and get back a way of life that is as close to normal as possible.”
Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, has criticised Midlothian Council’s decision to disband the community safety teams last year. In an open letter to the leader of Midlothian Council, Cllr Derek Milligan, Mr Beattie has condemned a lack of support for those experiencing issues with anti-social behaviour in Midlothian, as a result of council cuts.
Colin Beattie MSP commented:
‘Anti-social behaviour can be life changing, and deeply upsetting for those who have to go through these experiences. Those who are victims of anti-social behaviour deserve proper support and thorough investigation into the incidents. I have been contacted by many constituents where anti-social behaviour has taken over their lives, but they are not being given sufficient support in dealing with it.’
‘Personally, I find it completely unacceptable that Midlothian Council have disbanded their Community Safety Team. It seems to me that residents of Midlothian are being left to sort out their own issues and being offered inadequate specialist support in cases of anti-social behaviour.’
‘The Council seemed to think that they could simply add the responsibilities of the community safety teams to the workload of the police. The issues which are now mounting up are proof that this plan is not fit for purpose. The police already have their resources stretched and by adding this extra work it means they are strained in dealing with urgent cases, and also that they are less likely to have the time needed to put into ASB cases, which are often complicated and need thorough investigations.’
‘More often than not, these cases are complex and they need time and understanding to receive a full picture of what is happening in our community. The remit of the police is already too broad to adequately cater for this.’
‘That’s why I have written to the Leader of the council, Cllr Derek Milligan, pleading with him to rethink his decision on the Community Safety Teams and to reinstate them, so that constituents experiencing anti-social behaviour get the help that they so desperately need.’
An extension has been announced for free car parking at PFI hospital car parks, with charges suspended until September. This will allow for free parking at hospitals such as Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and this has been extended from the Scottish Government’s initial announcement in March, which originally suspended the fees for 3 months.
Colin Beattie MSP commented:
‘I am glad that these parking fees have been removed for staff, visitors and patients at this time, and that this will continue on until September. Though the Scottish Government abolished charges for NHS car parks in 2008, PFI obligations prevent us from removing these charges in 3 hospital car parks in Scotland. One of these, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, services my constituency and this policy change is likely to help many of my constituents in this troubling time. I am pleased that the Scottish Government have worked with these providers to lift these charges in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The abolishment of these costs means that there is one less thing to worry about for those working in and using hospitals.’
‘This will remove any barriers to patients, visitors and staff accessing hospitals, which should be a top priority at this time. We want all those affected by Coronavirus to be well supported, and not face any unnecessary difficulties in this period.’
‘I would like to, once again, thank all our health and social care workers who are going above and beyond at this time. They are essential in getting us through this pandemic and I am extremely grateful for their selflessness and hard work in tackling Coronavirus.’
The Scottish Government have announced that everyone over the age of five with Coronavirus symptoms is now eligible to be tested. This extension is as part of a UK-wide expansion of testing.
Colin Beattie MSP commented:
‘I am pleased that testing has now been expanded so that everyone over the age of 5 now has access to a test if they are displaying symptoms of Covid-19. There are now provisions in place so that people can book a test at a drive-through or mobile test centres. In a limited number of cases there is also the option of a home test kit.’
‘This testing is available for anyone who is displaying the three symptoms of Covid-19 – that is a continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss of taste or smell.’
‘Expansion of testing will allow us to quickly identify if those with symptoms actually have Covid-19 and whether they need to be isolating or not. This will allow us to move towards accurate tracing, and lowering transmission within communities, which will be crucial when we begin to ease out of lockdown. This will also bring much needed reassurance to those who are anxious about whether they have the virus or not and this will help to ensure they get the right treatment.’
‘There are now more stringent policies in place to protect those in our care homes across Scotland. These policies include testing all staff and residents in care homes which have an active case, and in homes with no active cases all staff will be tested every 7 days. If a patient has been in hospital with Covid-19 then they need to have two negative tests before they are discharged, and those with non-Coronavirus hospital admissions need to test negative 24 hours prior to returning to the care home. ‘
‘If you need to get a coronavirus test you can do it online at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus'
MSP Colin Beattie is urging constituents to consider shopping locally and making use of produce offered by Scottish food, drink and farming industries. He is encouraging people to think how they can support local businesses through the Covid-19 pandemic.
MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie, said:
‘Now more than ever, it is vital that we look at shopping locally. This is a good time for us all to think about changing our shopping habits to be mindful of Scottish companies and to ensure we are championing our local businesses and to help them survive through the Covid-19 pandemic. If you would like to help Scottish producers in the food, drink and farming industries, there are many ways you can support them.’
‘Our food vendors and farmers are essential workers, and many are still operating at this time. I would encourage my constituents to think about buying local products from smaller businesses so that we can all play our part in helping producers through this difficult period.’
‘We have fantastic and well-known producers in Midlothian and East Lothian, such as Macsween Haggis, Stewart Brewing, J K Thomson Fish, amongst many others. We can all help these producers by incorporating their products into our weekly shops.’
‘Even where you are using bigger supermarkets, you can look at the labels for Scottish brands such as Scotch beef, Scotch lamb and Scottish salmon and seafood. You can also use local farm shops for your fruit, veg and dairy products. By using independent butchers and bakers, community shops, farm shops and even your local convenience store for basics and essentials you are helping keep businesses alive.’
‘From the 18 May an online portal will be launched by Scotland Food and Drink’s called ‘Support local’. This site already gives access to over 260 Scottish food and drink producers, who have all have signed up to promote what they provide in their local area and can deliver direct. This will be available at: https://www.foodanddrink.scot/support-local/’
SNP MSP Colin Beattie has welcomed an initial £820,000 for Midlothian and £947,000 for East Lothian funding to help the social care sector in Midlothian and East Lothian deal with the financial implications of coronavirus.
The funding was confirmed by the Scottish Government as part of a £50 million package for the sector across the country.
The funding will help address immediate challenges faced in the social care sector and support ongoing provision of social care.
Health and Social Care Partnerships across Scotland have all put in place mobilisation plans to ensure the health and social care system is as well placed as possible to address the Covid-19 pandemic.
SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“The social care sector is at the frontline of the current pandemic and will inevitably face additional costs.
“This funding demonstrates the Scottish Government’s commitment to social care – and will ensure that any increasing need for social care as a result of the pandemic is met.
“I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone in Midlothian and East Lothian when I share my gratitude towards those working in social care, and all of our frontline key workers, who are doing vital work in the most difficult of circumstances.”
MSP’S PLEA TO ACT RESPONSIBLY WITH HOUSEHOLD WASTE & REPORT “DUMB DUMPERS”
Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, has called on the support of the local community to crackdown on illegal fly tipping in the area during lockdown.
Councils across Scotland have temporarily closed waste and recycling centres to help them prioritise the collection of general refuse and protect public health during the coronavirus outbreak - a course of action described as ‘necessary’ by Zero Waste Scotland.
However, while those maintaining essential waste services in Scotland work hard in difficult circumstances, reports of fly tipping across the country have increased. This has led to calls for local residents to keep a watchful eye out in Midlothian and East Lothian, and report anyone dumping rubbish illegally to the ‘Dumb Dumpers’ website online.
Responsibility for recycling centres lies with councils but the Scottish Government is working closely with COSLA and its partners in local authorities on the prioritisation of waste services and on what further guidance and practical steps may be required on recycling centres.
The MSP has also echoed calls from Zero Waste Scotland and SEPA for the public to act responsibly with their waste until recycling centres re-open – stressing that now is not the time for large-scale clear-outs.
Commenting, Colin Beattie said:
“This is a difficult time for all of us, but we owe a huge thank you to those in the waste industry who are working to keep as many services running as possible.
“The safety of these workers and the general public has to be the priority, and councils also need to consider staffing shortages and physical distancing before our local recycling centres can re-open.
“While these workers do their best for us, it’s important that we continue to do what we can to help them by pitching in to crack down on illegal fly tippers in Midlothian and East Lothian.
“Now more than ever, we also have to responsibility for managing our waste during this period – that means keeping larger items at home until the centres re-open.”
Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said:
“Refuse collectors are working in exceptional conditions to maintain as many essential services as they can. Now is a good time to avoid wasting so much as this is ultimately the best way to help councils cope.
“Zero Waste Scotland is working with key partners to communicate changes to householders and businesses in Scotland in the meantime. We’d encourage everyone to visit the campaign website to find out how they can best manage their waste.”