INDEPENDENCE THE ONLY WAY TO PROTECT SCOTLAND'S ECONOMY
SNP MSP Colin Beattie has said the Tory government must perform an urgent U-turn over its reckless decision to withdraw support for jobs - after more companies in Midlothian and East Lothian voiced fears of redundancies after the furlough scheme ends next month.
Bakery chain Greggs, which has 25,000 workers across Scotland and the UK, is the latest company to indicate it may have to cut staff hours or jobs when the scheme ends, warning "with the Job Retention Scheme planned to end in October we are taking steps to ensure that our employment costs reflect the estimated level of demand from November onwards."
It comes as a new survey revealed four in ten (42%) small and medium businesses think they will have a smaller workforce in December than they did in September, and a quarter think they might go out of business next year if there is a second wave of Covid-19.
Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
"The announced cuts at Greggs will affect staff across my constituency, in Loanhead, Dalkeith and Musselburgh. This is just one example of a business that is directly affected by the UK Government’s decision to not extend the furlough scheme that provides full job protection.
“The devastating impact of the UK government's decision to withdraw support for jobs in the middle of a pandemic is starting to hit home, and it is adding to growing fears of job losses in Midlothian and East Lothian.
"Boris Johnson was repeatedly warned that thousands of people could lose their jobs unnecessarily as a result of Tory cuts - and those warnings are now starting to become reality.
"The Tory government must perform an urgent U-turn, reinstate a full job protection scheme, and devolve financial powers to the Scottish Parliament so we can protect our economy,
"We shouldn't have to wait for Westminster to act while the livelihoods of people in Midlothian and East Lothian are on the line. If the Tories won't act now to save thousands of Scottish jobs they will demonstrate beyond doubt that the only way to protect Scotland's interests is to become an independent country."
SNP GOVERNMENT INVESTING £1.1 BILLION ACROSS SCOTLAND’S HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE SECTOR
Health and social care services in Lothian are to receive an additional £89 million from the SNP Government to support the local response to the Coronavirus pandemic and prepare for winter.
The extra funding has been allocated to help local services meet COVID-19 related costs such as additional staffing or sickness expenditure, enhanced infection prevention and control measures, and the purchase of PPE.
Welcoming the news, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie said:
“Coronavirus is the single greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes, and in recent months our health and social care sector has been there to protect us.
“As we approach winter, the SNP Government is taking action to ensure local services have the capacity to deal with Coronavirus and the wider pressures of the colder seasons.
“From consultants to cleaners, carers to nurses, hospital porters to delivery drivers; thousands of people across Lothian have been working tirelessly in our health service to keep us safe and overcome the challenges of this pandemic.
“As your local MSP, I want to send every one of you my sincere thanks. While this is a tough time for all of us, let’s not forget that by continuing to work together, we will beat this virus.”
I am pleased to support the work of a local artist, Janette Donoghue, who recently contacted me to make me aware of her artwork. Throughout the pandemic, Janette has been doing what many across Scotland have been, and has taken to creating art to occupy her time during lockdown. She has captured some of the moments that define this time, and you will see below one of her fantastic pieces of Nicola Sturgeon giving the daily briefing.
Janette had this to say about her work:
'My name is Janette Donoghue. I'm a primary teacher. I taught in Midlothian, Plockton in Wester Ross where I lived for 4 years and now back in Edinburgh.
As a teacher I have always tried to inspire young people to develop their own creativity. I believe we should not be constrained by what we think are our limitations. I also believe the people of Scotland are very resilient and will often strive to create positivity from a difficult situation, as is with our current Covid-19 crisis.
Many people throughout Scotland have joined together to clap for the NHS workers, developed inclusive community work, created painted stone snakes, developed a variety of skills in craft; making facemasks, soft toys, home furnishings, communicated through online media for example Zoom. Some musicians/choirs continued to create songs via internet producing full songs/concerts. Created stories of lockdown through pictures and movies. We have learned to work from home.
During lockdown I decided it would be a great opportunity to teach myself to paint and draw. I spent most of the week preparing home learning for the young people I had been teaching then gave myself a target of at least one painting a week.
The first paintings were terrible. Over time I learned to be a bit more creative with the colours from the numerous mistakes made. My skills have improved enormously in a few months. I attempted to paint pictures that were a real challenge but each small step led to a better outcome.
In this exhibition consisting of a handful of contributors I hope to show examples of our resilience and creativity from some of the people of Scotland."
You can view the work of Janette and other creative Scots at the following website:
Yesterday in the Scottish Parliament the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, discussed the topic of relatives visiting their loved ones in care homes and how the Scottish Government are taking steps to make this more accessible. The response came as Ms Freeman was challenged on the topic of relatives having difficulty accessing their elderly relatives in care homes.
Ms Freeman highlighted that 40% of care homes in Scotland already meet the criteria for indoor visiting. To meet this criteria, the care home must be free of Covid-19 cases for 28 days, and the home must also take part in a staff testing programme.
She also highlighted that many care homes have stopped visiting in light of the recent Scottish Government guidelines on not meeting indoors, but it was emphasised that this should not be the case and that care home visits should continue. The Health Secretary noted that she would be contacting care homes to ensure they understood that where it has been deemed safe to have visits, then they should continue to have them at this time.
MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie, commented:
“I know that many people in my constituency have struggled with restrictions which have meant that visits to loved ones in care homes have not been possible, so I am glad that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport has directly addressed this topic in the Scottish Parliament Chamber.
“I am pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has made it clear that the new Scottish Government guidance does not mean that there will be a stop to care home visiting, and that those in care homes can continue to have visits from their loved ones.
“It is important that those who are in care homes do not feel like they are isolated from their families, and I hope that these discussions make it clear that the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring visits can continue where it is safe for these to occur. I am glad that the Health Secretary has also indicated that they are looking at how to increase the frequency and length of visits, and I welcome the discussions that are being had around this, as well as talks about allowing outdoor visits with those in homes.
“The recent guidance which has been announced by the Scottish Government will help us maintain freedoms such as visiting those in care homes. These restrictions are put in place to help lower the rates of cases, and to allow us to continue to have the ability to visit our care homes safely.
“We all need to accept our individual responsibility to keep others safe, by following guidance that means we should not be visiting other households at this time, and by continuing to wash our hands regularly, and social distance from others. We need to do all that we can to protect our loved ones.
“I do not underestimate the difficulties experienced by those in care homes and their relatives over the last few months, and I hope these discussions provide hope and comfort to them.”
Colin Beattie MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh has announced that he will hold his annual Christmas card competition for local schools. The competition will be open to all primary school children from the Midlothian North and Musselburgh constituency. Mr Beattie has written a letter inviting all eligible schools to take part.
Commenting, Colin Beattie MSP said:
‘The Christmas card competition is one of my highlights of the year, and this is the now the fourth year that I have ran the competition. I really enjoy having the opportunity to engage with the local schools and to provide the children in my constituency with a fun activity in the run up to Christmas season. The winning design becomes my official Christmas card, which I send to local organisations, businesses and politicians. I love seeing the variety of different designs and the creativity of our local young people.
‘All of the primary schools in the constituency have been sent an invitation to take part and this also outlines the deadlines and the prizes. I hope that we get just as many entries as we have had over previous years.’
Given that it has been a difficult year I wanted to make sure that local children had something exciting to look forward to, and so this year I have put more prizes on offer and have also made them bigger. This year, there is a prize for first, second and third place. There is also a first, second and third place prize on offer for the ‘best class’ category.’
‘Choosing the winner is always a challenge because we have such high quality entries, but getting to pick the unique design for my Christmas card, and meeting all the talented children who put their efforts into making them, is one of the best parts of the festive season for me. I can’t wait to see the work they put into this and hopefully if it is within Coronavirus restrictions then I will be able to visit the schools to thank them for their entries.’
Scotland’s approach to implementing the ‘test, trace, isolate, support’ strategy, Test and Protect, is now live across the country.
Test and Protect will help us gradually change the restrictions that help to suppress COVID-19 so society can adapt to a new normal.
If you experience any one of the symptoms - a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – you must immediately self-isolate.
As soon as you start showing symptoms you should go to www.nhsinform.scot or call 0800 028 2816 to arrange to get tested.
When contacting individuals who have tested positive, contact tracers will ask people to identify others who they’ve been in close contact with and places they’ve been 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms up until the time they’ve self-isolated. This information will then be inputted into contact tracing software and used to identify and contact those identified.
The positive individual will not be named by the contact tracer in line with patient confidentiality, unless they agree to have their details disclosed to help the contact tracing process.
Importantly, contact tracers will not ask anyone for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything. The data gathered will be stored securely by NHS Scotland and safely destroyed as soon as possible after the pandemic concludes.
Commenting, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie said:
“I understand that people may be worried about the risks of potential phone scams, but the NHS already has a number of protections in place to stop potential fraudsters and ensure all information is kept confidential.
“Contact tracers will introduce themselves, state the reason for their call, and will always identify who they are calling by name. They will not ask for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything.
“The tracers are supported by software which builds on a tried and trusted platform, allowing teams to identify outbreaks and reduce transmission for high risk groups here in Midlothian North and Musselburgh.
“Trace and Protect is one way we will tackle this pandemic, but physical distancing and good hand hygiene continues to play a huge role as minimise the spread of infection.”
60.5% MORE HOUSEHOLDS IN EAST LOTHIAN AND 49.5% MORE HOUSEHOLDS IN MIDLOTHIAN CONNECTED TO SUPERFAST BROADBAND
SNP GOVERNMENT DELIVERING FOR SCOTLAND WHILE TORIES FAIL ON BROADBAND COMMITMENT
Local MSP Colin Beattie has welcomed new figures that show a huge boost to connectivity in Midlothian and East Lothian, thanks to significant investment from the SNP Government.
According to the latest coverage statistics from Thinkbroadband, 92.4% properties in East Lothian and 93.5% properties in Midlothian are now connected to superfast broadband – a 60.5% rise for East Lothian and a rise of 49.5% for Midlothian from 2014 when only 31.9% East Lothian households and 44% of Midlothian properties were connected to internet speeds of at least 30Mbps.
A report published this week from Ofcom also found that 172,889 properties across Scotland have been connected to superfast broadband in the last year alone.
Despite connectivity and broadband remaining reserved to Westminster, Scotland is the only part of the UK that has guaranteed 100% superfast broadband access.
While the SNP is investing £600 million in the R100 programme, the single biggest public sector investment in digital connectivity in the UK, Westminster has contributed less than £21 million to the project – just 3% of the total funding.
Welcoming the latest figures, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh Colin Beattie said:
“These latest figures are clear evidence that Midlothian and East Lothian has reaped the rewards of SNP broadband investment.
“Broadband is a reserved issue to Westminster, but successive UK governments have sat on their hands and done next to nothing to connect Scottish homes to superfast internet speeds.
“It’s been left to the SNP Government at Holyrood to take up the mantle and invest £600 million in the R100 programme to ensure superfast broadband speeds reach every corner of Scotland.
“The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity - helping thousands of people in Midlothian and East Lothian work from home, keeping us in touch with loved ones and supporting our local health service.
“While the Tories might be happy to sit in the slow lane, this SNP Government won’t stop until 100% of Scottish homes are connected to superfast broadband by the end of 2021.”
COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION SCHEME SUPPORTS 7,060 LOCAL HOUSEHOLDS IN EAST LOTHIAN AND 6,160 HOUSEHOLDS IN MIDLOTHIAN
SNP GOVERNMENT ASSISTING LOW INCOME HOUSEHOLDS DURING PANDEMIC
New figures released this week reveal that 7,060 households across East Lothian and 6,160 households across Midlothian were supported by the SNP Government’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme in June 2020.
Across Scotland, almost 500,000 Scots received the support in June, with the number of local households in receipt of the Council Tax Reduction support rising by 350 households in East Lothian and 170 households in Midlothian since April 2020.
The scheme that provides financial support to low income households, saved families in East Lothian an estimated total of £110,000 a week in June and families across Midlothian saved £103,000 a week in June.
Commenting, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie said:
“With many families struggling to get by in the face of this pandemic, the SNP Government is supporting almost half a million households with their council tax bill.
“In June alone, the Council Tax Reduction scheme has helped 7,060 households in East Lothian and 6,160 households in Midlothian.
“While the Tories at Westminster are gearing up to prematurely end the furlough scheme, and throw thousands of Scottish jobs on the scrap heap, the SNP Government is standing up for low income households in Mid- and East Lothian, and helping relieve the financial pressures caused by Coronavirus.”
FREE, ANONYMOUS APP WILL HELP STOP THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 AND SAVE LIVES
SNP MSP Colin Beattie has urged people in Midlothian and East Lothian to download the new ‘Protect Scotland’ app - to help slow the spread of Coronavirus and support the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The app can be downloaded onto phones and will let users know if they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
The app will automatically alert users if someone reports that they’ve tested positive for Covid-19 and that they have been in close contact recently.
No personal identifiable information will be entered on the app and the Scottish Government has assured that it will not monitor the location of individuals as the app uses Bluetooth technology, and not GPS, to identify contacts.
Since launching last night, the app has already been downloaded more than 50,000 times.
SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“The Scottish Government has now launched the ‘Protect Scotland’ proximity tracing app, to help stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus and complement the person-to-person approach of Test and Protect.
“The app - which takes less than a minute to download - will allow us to alert people at risk far more quickly, so that we can all take steps to reduce the risk of infecting others.
“Scotland’s official contact tracing app will help us all to protect ourselves, our family, our friends and our community by enabling faster contact tracing.
“The more people who have the app, the more it can help to slow the spread of Coronavirus.
“That’s why I’m urging people in Midlothian and East Lothian to download the app, and let’s all protect Scotland.”
ANTI-POVERTY PAYMENT COULD BENEFIT AROUND 4,100 CHILDREN IN MIDLOTHIAN AND OVER 4,000 CHILDREN IN EAST LOTHIAN
“GAME-CHANGER” BENEFIT CENTRAL TO SNP AMBITION TO TACKLE CHILD POVERTY
An estimated around 4,100 children across Midlothian and over 4,000 children across East Lothian could benefit from the Scottish Government’s ground-breaking anti-poverty payment, new figures have revealed.
The Scottish Child Payment will be worth £10 per child for low-income families by the end of 2022, with introduction for under-6s starting by early 2021.
Latest figures from the Scottish Fiscal Commission estimate that 194,000 children aged under six in Scotland will be eligible for the new Scottish Child Payment - with 4,100 children and families estimated to benefit from the payment in Midlothian and over 4,000 children and families in East Lothian.
The brand new benefit was described as a “game changer” and a “lifeline” by anti-poverty campaigners and is central to the SNP’s ambitions to tackle child poverty.
Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“The Scottish Child Payment is an ambitious and ground-breaking new benefit which will directly tackle child poverty across the country.
“This support is needed more than ever, and when this additional £10 per week per child becomes available in February, it will be a lifeline for many such families in Midlothian and East Lothian.
“It will help reduce financial pressures and demonstrates the potential of social security to make a positive difference and reflect our society’s shared values of compassion and fairness.
“Tory cuts are driving too many families in Midlothian and East Lothian into poverty – but the SNP is determined to use every power at our disposal to help families make ends meet.”