SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh Colin Beattie welcomed the beginning of Book Week Scotland, sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust, this Monday. Book Week Scotland, which runs from Monday, the 23rd of November until this Sunday the 29th, sees hundreds of events taking place all across the country, with events perfect for all age groups. Midlothian itself will host a number of free events for children, families, and adults this week including the Bookbug events in Roslin, Bonnyrigg, Penicuik, Gorebridge, and Dalkeith on Thursday and the Midlothian Authors’ Night—featuring local authors Rebecca McKinney and Catherine Simpson—and a talk from crime writes Neil Broadfoot and Douglas Skelton for the adults on Wednesday evening.
Commenting, Colin Beattie said:
“I am delighted to see Book Week Scotland’s packed schedule of events in Midlothian! As an avid reader myself, I wholeheartedly encourage the Scottish Book Trust’s great efforts at getting everyone in the community more involved with reading.
“Book Week Scotland is a great chance to engage whole families in reading. With plenty of events featuring local Scottish authors from every genre, they’re certain to have something for every interest.
“Literacy and education are vital in ensuring that every child has their best start in life, and I’m glad to see such great events being held in Midlothian to get people excited about reading.”
It has recently come to light that government ministers at Westminster are planning to slash the Big Lottery Fund budget—which grants funding to everything from small community groups to larger national charities—by a reported 40%, with a total loss of £320 million every year. This cut would see Scotland’s Big Lottery Fund lose nearly half of its current allocation, dropping from £70 million to £40 million. Ministers at Holyrood were not consulted on these potentially devastating cuts, which would see a sharp reduction from the 13,000 BLF grants made last year alone. Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, has since written to both the Scottish Secretary in Westminster, David Mundell, and the Social Justice Secretary at Holyrood Alex Neil, calling for a reconsideration of the BLF cuts and labelling Westminster’s stance on the issue ‘perverse.’
Commenting, SNP MSP Colin Beattie said:
“I am appalled at the news of Westminster’s plans to raid the Big Lottery Fund of nearly half their budget. This funding is essential to the survival of community organisations that do some real good in our country.
“In my constituency, I have seen first-hand the incredible good that the aid provided by the Big Lottery Fund can have for the most disadvantaged of our communities. I recently visited the Play Therapy Base in Dalkeith and was delighted to see that, after a successful funding bid to BLF Scotland, they were able to install an IT system and water heaters to help them continue to provide a safe and welcoming space for distressed and traumatised children. Funding from the Big Lottery Fund is a crucial resource for organisations like the Play Therapy Base that allows them to stay afloat and gives them the opportunity to provide the best possible service to the people of Scotland.
“This issue only serves to reinforce that matters that directly affect the people of Scotland, matters like Lottery good cause distribution, should be completely devolved to avoid this kind of confusion. Until they are devolved however, I call upon the government down at Westminster to consider the welfare of the people of the UK and to rethink these damaging cuts. Small charity groups that rely on the Big Lottery Fund are an integral part of every community, and I hope that the ministers will keep them in mind as they take another look at the BLF budget.”
Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North & Musselburgh, has today welcomed new figures which show that the number of empty shops in Scotland dropped to 8.7 per cent in October – the lowest retail vacancy rate for four years.
The figures, published by the Scottish Retail Consortium, also show that this rate is lower than the UK rate of 9.1 per cent. There has also been a slight improvement in retail footfall compared to last month.
Commenting, Mr Beattie said:
“These encouraging figures show that the proportion of empty shops in Scotland is now lower than at any time over the last four years and lower than in the UK as a whole – a welcome sign that ahead of the busy Christmas season Scotland’s high streets are getting back to business.
“The SNP government is serious about revitalising our town centres – that’s why a new £1.7 million fund to regenerate town centres was launched in August and local authorities have been given more powers over local business rates.
“These new figures are also another sign that the SNP government’s work to support entrepreneurs is bearing fruit – the number of businesses now benefiting from the Small Business Bonus Scheme in Midlothian has reached 1,235, contributing to the highest number of businesses in Scotland since devolution.
“The SNP is determined that Scotland remains the most competitive place to do business in the UK and that our high streets flourish – creating jobs, boosting local growth and supporting local communities.”
Following the publication of new figures which show that 1,177 are affected in Midlothian, SNP MSP Colin Beattie has called on the UK Government to immediately abolish this unfair charge. The SNP remains committed to abolishing the Bedroom Tax when new social security powers in the Scotland Bill are devolved.
The Scottish Government has now committed £90 million since the introduction of the Bedroom Tax to ensure it is fully mitigated in Scotland.
Commenting, Colin Beattie said:
“These figures highlight the shocking impact the Bedroom Tax could have had on families in Scotland – 1,177 people in Midlothian would have otherwise been affected.
“While families in England and Wales continue to face iniquitous charge, the SNP government has fully mitigated its impact in Scotland – something the Labour government in Wales has refused to do. The SNP has consistently opposed the Bedroom Tax and is committed to abolishing the levy when the Scottish Parliament has the powers to do so.
“The UK Government must recognise the impact of this hated levy on families across England and Wales and on public finances in Scotland. The simplest and fairest solution remains for the measure to be dropped by the DWP.
“When he sets out his spending plans later this month, George Osborne should use this as an opportunity to protect the poorest and abolish the Bedroom Tax.”
As pressure from all quarters mounts on George Osborne, including from his own backbenchers, the SNP has demanded that he change course and scrap his plans for damaging cuts to Tax Credits.
The Resolution Foundation has this week called on the Chancellor to reverse the most damaging cuts to Tax Credits and set out a number of options to do so – without undermining his own savings targets. Their director, Torsten Bell, has previously said that: “Even if you did not go ahead with any of the tax credit changes in April, the chancellor would still meet all his fiscal targets by the end of the parliament.”
The Centre for Social Justice, a right-of-centre think-tank set up by Iain Duncan Smith, has set out a number of alternative solutions for George Osborne and urged him not to take an approach that would not reduce work incentives in Universal Credit. Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has said that income tax cuts or increases in the minimum wage are also not the best way for the Chancellor to mitigate the cuts, saying: “The answer to tax credits, is tax credits.”
Commenting, Clare Adamson MSP said:
“The SNP has consistently opposed damaging Tory cuts to Tax Credits. Just as pressure is growing on the Chancellor to reverse this callous reduction in support for low income families, now is not the time to let-up on our opposition to the Tories.
“From the outset SNP MPs at Westminster have voted against the changes and have lodged amendments to the Scotland Bill to devolve Tax Credits in full. And the SNP government has committed to bringing forward credible and costed plans to support low income households if the cuts do go ahead.
“This week we have seen another two well respected think-tanks line up to offer George Osborne alternative approaches that will reduce the impact of the cuts – alternatives that wouldn’t even break the Chancellor’s self-imposed austerity targets.
“Even leading Tories have criticised the cuts, including Boris Johnson, Tory backbenchers and Scottish Tory Leader Ruth Davidson. Last month they were also rejected by the House of Lords.
“Scottish Labour may have run up the white flag and chosen to attack the SNP rather than the Tories but we will keep the pressure on George Osborne. George Osborne said he is in ‘listening-mode’ – if he really is then he should hear this groundswell of opposition and halt these cuts which will hit millions of working families across the UK.
Local MSP Colin Beattie has today welcomed the announcement of an increase in the Living Wage – and urged more local businesses to mark Living Wage Week 2015 by signing up as accredited Living Wage employers.
As announced today, the Living Wage rate – calculated independently by the Living Wage Foundation in partnership with the Poverty Alliance - will increase by 40p to £8.25 per hour.
Already, 370 firms in Scotland have become accredited Living Wage employers – and Colin Beattie has highlighted the benefits to businesses as well as staff in urging more local employers to sign up.
Commenting, Colin said
“Everyone has the right to expect a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work – and so I am delighted to see today’s increase in the Living Wage, which will provide a much-needed boost to the paypackets of many hard-working people in Midlothian.
“Paying the Living Wage isn’t just good for staff, it’s also good for business, with improved productivity, better staff morale and lower absence rates – and the Scottish Government has made excellent progress in promoting fair pay, with 81 per cent of workers in Scotland now receiving at least the Living Wage.
“But there is more work to be done to ensure fair pay for those not yet receiving it – and I’m encouraging all employers in Midlothian to consider the benefits of signing up to the Living Wage for their business.
“I myself am a Living Wage employer, and I’m pleased to see such an increase in the number of Scottish workers now being paid fairly. Providing a living wage is extremely important to the welfare of both employees and the businesses that employ them.
“The Living Wage is good for workers, good for business and good for Scotland as a whole – and I hope that more employers in Midlothian will mark Living Wage week by becoming accredited Living Wage employers and joining the growing numbers of businesses paying their staff a fair wage.”