GERS shows the strength of the Scottish economy; Brexit threatens it.

By Bruce Crawford MSP

 

Today the annual GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) figures have been released and again what we see is Scotland’s strong and growing economy.  We have seen the total revenue reach an amazing £62.7 billion in the year 2018-19 with onshore revenue growing by £3 billion.  This has been the fastest growth since 2010-11 and shows the amazing strength of the Scottish economy.  It is important to remember however that the figures presented in the report also includes UK government spending in Scotland including allocated funds to Scotland for areas like Trident nuclear weapons and high speed rail HS2 (which is planned to only come as far north as Leeds).  Other reserved areas are included in these figures such as defence which the Scottish Government has no control over.

 

This is good news for people here in the Stirling area, and across Scotland.  People and businesses in Stirling will benefit hugely from our strong economy.  Scotland’s deficit is also falling at a faster rate than anywhere else in the UK as a result of the strength of the Scottish economy.  For Stirling, we could see more money coming into the local economy improving jobs, investment and living standards.

 

Our success is in large part due to our relationship with other EU countries; the fastest growing market for Scottish goods is the rest of the EU.  The current UK Government’s Brexit plan poses a huge risk to that success.  Brexit is a threat jobs, investment and living standards to people across the UK, Scotland and right here in the Stirling area.  Brexit could see Scotland’s revenue fall by £2.5 billion per year, and the choice between leaving with or without a deal is similar to choosing between a disaster and a catastrophe.

 

Ultimately, today’s GERS figures underline the need for independence. The UK Government continues to make key economic decisions which are bad for Scotland – leaving the European Union being the most prominent of those today.  An independent Scotland will have the ability to make our own decisions in the interest of our country.

 

Scotland has a strong, growing economy and our future will be far brighter and prosperous with independence in Europe.

BLOG: We all have to consider how we can help fight climate change

By Bruce Crawford MSP

First Published in the Stirling Observer, 17 July 2019

 

In recent weeks, the Stirling area has seen some mother nature at her most spectacular. From hot summer days, to flash floods. It is a reminder of the power of the environment and the impact that it can have on our livelihoods when it turns.

 

For those who have been affected by recent flooding, I would urge you to get in touch with the Association of British Insurers, who may be able to offer helpful advice, and can be found online.

 

However, recent weather may tell us part of a wider story about climate change. We know that the continuation of greenhouse effect gasses being released into our atmosphere is affecting global temperatures, and that this in turn is resulting in more extreme weather phenomena.

 

The more we learn about how human activity is leading to the warming of our atmosphere, the more urgent we find the situation to be. As such, earlier this year, the First Minister declared a Climate Emergency, and committed the Scottish Government to undertaking the recommendations of the UK Committee on Climate Change’s report.

 

The Scottish Government now has a target, the most ambitious of its kind in the UK, of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045. This will affect almost every area of government, business and will require for all of us to begin to think differently about how we use energy, and manage waste.

 

Of course, to achieve this target, we will need similar cooperation from the UK Government due to the fact that many areas where work is required to tackle climate change remain under the control of Westminster. Theresa May’s final commitment to the environment as Prime Minister saw her announce a UK Government target for emissions reduction to net zero being 2050 – a significantly less ambitious target.

 

Some people have contacted my office, expressing a wish to see these targets achieved on a much smaller timescale. Whilst I am deeply sympathetic to this view, and would personally like to see us eradicate our detrimental impact on the environment much sooner, the Scottish Government has set an ambitious target, but also must be pragmatic and mindful of what can realistically be achieved.

 

In managing to achieve our 2045 target, the Scottish Government has introduced a wide-ranging conversation to encourage members of the public to share their view about what can be achieved and what we should be doing to tackle climate change. The Big Climate Conversation has been launched by the First Minister, with consultation events taking place around the country. In Stirling, there will be an event held in the Stirling Engine Shed, on 24 July at 1pm with the specific aim of engaging local young people in this important conversation.

 

The purpose of this exercise is to establish what changes people in Scotland are willing to make in order to help us reach net zero of greenhouse gas emissions. And I would encourage young people across the area to get involved with this event.

 

The SNP Government has made huge progress in this area. Last month, the Transport Secretary announced more than £20 million of additional funding to help the rollout of electric vehicle infrastructure, the Housing Minister has recently announced £17.6 million of loan funding to help homeowners make their houses more energy efficient, and recent figures have told us that in the first quarter of 2019, Scotland produced enough renewable energy to fuel 88% of Scottish households for a whole year.

 

Nobody denies the scale of the task ahead, but we owe it to ours and future generations to repair the damage made to our environment. Our record shows what can be achieved in tackling climate change, and by working together, we can take on these challenges and help to heal the only planet that we will ever call home.

BLOG: The UN has found that the Tories have violated human rights on welfare cuts and poverty

By Bruce Crawford MSP

First published in the Stirling Observer, 12 July 2019.

 

The United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has published his findings following an investigation into poverty across the UK – and the results are of a shameful legacy from this Tory Government.

 

The report itself has found that Tory austerity has inflicted misery upon millions of citizens across the UK.

 

According to the UN, the UK Government has violated its obligations to human rights across these islands through their sustained and widespread cuts to social support.

 

Despite the United Kingdom economy boasting itself being the fifth largest in the world, a staggering one-fifth of its population lives in poverty.

 

No developed economy should have its citizens experience destitution, yet 1.5 million people in the UK suffered exactly that in 2017.

 

On top of this, the UK government-issued State Pension is amongst the lowest in the developed world. At around £150 per week here in the UK, weekly state pensions in France are £304, Germany are £507 and Spain are £513.

 

The author of the report, Professor Philip Alston, described the Tories’ austerity approach and how it has impacted on poverty and inequality across the UK by saying:

 

“The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.”

 

Meanwhile, devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales are working flat out to mitigate what they can in terms of cuts to welfare and other areas of public spending.

 

Here in Scotland, the Scottish Government provides crisis grants to those who are being sanctioned by the DWP, and has eradicated the Tory Bedroom Tax.

 

In last year’s Scottish Budget, the SNP Government committed over £125 million into mitigating the worst of the Tory Government’s welfare cuts.

 

As the UN report has pointed out, this is not a sustainable model considering the rate in which the UK government has been cutting welfare spending.

 

Every pound of Scotland’s money spent on offsetting Tory cuts means that it is not being spent on other areas like local government, fixing our roads or building new schools and hospitals.

 

By 2021, the UK government will have cut £3.7 billion from Scotland’s social security annual spend. This is at a time when the block grant that the Scottish Parliament receives has been reduced by £2 billion a year due to Tory austerity.

 

And, to add insult, Tory ministers have taken to blaming opposition parties for trying to obstruct their dismantling of social security, they’ve blamed the media for how it’s been reported, and they’ve blamed members of the public for failing to understand the changes that they have made.

 

But it doesn’t need to be this way. New figures have shown that Social Security Scotland – the Scottish Government’s welfare agency – has made almost £200 million of welfare payments in the first year. This has been achieved with the limited powers we have devolved to us over welfare; and first reports have shown a 100% satisfaction rate with the new agency.

 

Support includes the Carers Allowance Supplement, which tops up the Carers Allowance from the UK Government – giving a 13% increase, totalling £442 a year – and recognising the important work that carers do.

 

Scotland is demonstrating that there is a different way to manage social security and poverty in our country – and that’s with the limited powers that we have on welfare. Just imagine what we could achieve if we had full control over welfare and our economy.

Crawford backs SNP European Manifesto ahead of crucial election

SNP MSP Bruce crawford has called on voters in the Stirling area to back the SNP as the “only party in Scotland who can stop Brexit” ahead of Thursday’s European election.

 

The SNP’s manifesto was launched today (Friday) setting out the party’s key pledges in the election.

 

The 5,000-word document sets out the SNP’s four political priorities:

 

  • To keep working with others across the UK to stop Brexit.
  • Back a People’s Vote that will give the option to Remain.
  • Offer people a choice of a future for Scotland as an independent, European nation.
  • Support revoking Article 50 if a no-deal Brexit is the only alternative.

 

And the document identifies six key policy pledges for SNP MEPs:

 

  • CLIMATE – Support an EU-wide Green New Deal that recognises the scale of the climate emergency, and presses the EU and member states to increase the scale of their ambition accordingly.
  • EU CITIZENS – Defend the rights of European Scots and their families, and support Scotland having powers to deliver our own tailor-made migration policy.
  • FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT – Stand up for freedom of movement, and the ability of every person in Scotland to live, work, travel and study freely across the EU.
  • SINGLE MARKET – Protect Scotland’s place in the single market as non-negotiable – whatever the outcome of Brexit.
  • EDUCATION – Seek to preserve European funding to Scottish universities and the right of Scottish students to study in Europe through the Erasmus+ programme.
  • FARMING AND FISHING – Be relentless in efforts to help the farming and fishing sectors flourish for the future – protecting vital markets for our food and drink exporters.

 

SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said:

 

“The European election on Thursday is our opportunity to make Scotland’s voice heard.

 

“68% of people in the Stirling area voted to remain in the EU – just as an overwhelming majority did across Scotland.

 

“The SNP are the only party in Scotland who can stop Brexit.

 

“With both Labour and the Tories hopelessly divided, there is now a real chance to keep Scotland in the European Union.

 

“This coming Thursday we can send Theresa May a strong, resolute message: Stop Brexit and let’s keep Scotland at the heart of Europe.”

Stirling MSP to EU citizens: stay in Scotland, this is your home

SNP MSP Bruce Crawford has made an impassioned plea to EU citizens living in the Stirling area to stay in Scotland amid ongoing Brexit uncertainty.

 

This week First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, made a commitment to EU citizens that Scotland remains their home – promising to continue making a strong case for their rights to be protected in any EU exit scenario.

 

The SNP leader has written an open letter to EU citizens to confirm a new ‘Stay in Scotland’ package that will consist of:

 

  • £250,000 for community based support across Scotland

 

  • a support and advice service for EU citizens with more complex needs or particular challenges

 

  • a toolkit for employers, including posters, factsheets, digital content and guide directing EU citizens to further guidance

 

Mr Crawford has previously written to EU citizens in the area following a successful campaign to push the UK government to scrap the £65 “settled status” fee.

 

Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:

 

“It is important to make clear that EU citizens will always remain welcome in the Stirling area, and I will continue to do all I can to help people stay in Scotland.

 

“It’s wrong for the UK government to oblige EU citizens who have built their lives in Scotland, and who contribute massively to our economy and communities, to apply for the continued right to remain in their own homes.

 

“With absolutely no clarity from Westminster, this announcement from the First Minister will provide welcome support for EU citizens in across Scotland.

 

“I’d like to urge anyone who has issues or concerns they would like to discuss with me to please get in touch.”

Brexit puts UK on brink of recession

The UK economy looks set to shrink over the coming months, as businesses and economists warn of the economy “sliding into a deepening downturn” due to Brexit.

According to reports, output from the UK’s services sector – which accounts for the bulk of GDP – has fallen for the second consecutive month.

The drop in growth has been described as “a seriously worrying development,” and prompted warnings of a recession in the UK.

Analysis has consistently shown that any form of Brexit will be damaging for Scotland, with a recent report by Scotland’s top economic adviser revealing a No Deal Brexit could result in a recession worse than 2008.

Bruce Crawford MSP said:

“Scotland has seen its economy hold up well amid the Tories’ Brexit uncertainty in the past few months – with encouraging growth and low unemployment figures.
 
“Despite this, the Tories’ Brexit obsession risks thousands of jobs, and serious damage to our economy.
 
“Brexit – which Scotland did not vote for – is a clear and present danger to our economy, our communities and our public services.
 
“The Tories forced us into this mess, and have consequently become the anti-business party – putting an anti-jobs Brexit first at all costs, and refusing to compromise to avoid damage to the economy.
 
“Throughout this Brexit process, the Tories have threatened to take us over an economic cliff edge.
 
“The only way to protect our economy and our vital national interests is to stop Brexit. Failing that, we must be able to remain in the single market, which is around eight times bigger than the UK market alone, and customs union.”

BLOG: NHS Scotland offers advice ahead of potential no-deal Brexit

First published in the Stirling Observer on 3rd March, 2019

By Bruce Crawford MSP

 

The situation regarding Brexit is chaotic and fast moving, therefore between me writing this column and it being printed, we may well have seen the debate move on in another direction entirely.

 

But what is hugely important is that health professionals in Scotland have given further advice on the preparations being made in the event of a no-deal Brexit and how this could impact the availability of medicines.

 

The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Pharmaceutical Officer have confirmed that the Scottish Government is working with all relevant agencies to ensure that people receive the medical supplies and medicines that they need, as far as is possible, if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.

 

The advice also assures that medical items and medicines that can be stored, have been stockpiled by the NHS. In addition to this, arrangements are being made to ensure that those medicines which cannot be stockpiled can be transported into the UK, including by air.

 

In addition, assurances have been sought from the UK Government that, if there are delays at the UK Border, medical supplies will have top priority for entry into the UK.

 

It is not recommended by the Government that members of the public, GPs, community pharmacies or hospitals stockpile medical supplies.

 

The advice does recognise that shortages may unfortunately occur, but that NHS Scotland will do its best to manage the situation if necessary, and will seek to provide alternatives to treatment and medicines whilst the regular supplies are restored to normal levels.

 

I commend the efforts being made by organisations across the country in order to tackle the very real threat of leaving the European Union with no deal.

 

As the MSP for an area that voted so overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union (by 68%), I would not be doing my job if I did not speak out against this utter madness.

 

Therefore, I was involved in a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week on Europe and our place in it, and I would like to share my perspective on the situation we face right now.

 

Last week, more than 12,000 Stirling people signed an online petition to revoke Article 50 and halt the process of the UK leaving the EU.

 

The legal default position is that the UK leaves the EU with no deal. I have personally read the UK Government’s secret economic analysis (under the supervision of civil servants), where they confirmed that there would be an expected decline in the value of Scotland’s economy of around 9% given such a scenario.

 

Indeed, their own impact analysis states that the Prime Minister’s own deal would hit Scotland’s economy, threatening thousands of jobs and potentially affecting overall day-to-day living costs.

 

But Theresa May continues to ask MPs to choose between disaster of her own deal, and the catastrophe of crashing out of the EU with no deal.

 

As a compromise, the Scottish Government put forward a series of proposals in 2017 for a Single Market and the Customs Union arrangement, therefore limiting economic damage caused by Brexit.

 

However, this debate goes much wider than our economy.

 

I campaigned against Brexit in 2016, and my mind has not changed. If anything, the past two years of shambolic negotiations have only strengthened my view that our place in Europe is crucial to our economy, social fabric and overall identity.

 

And whilst the 62% of Scots who voted to remain are completely ignored by this Tory Government, I remain determined to work with colleagues across the spectrum – of all parties and of none – to see article 50 revoked and Brexit stopped. Then, the people must have a say on our future relationship in a People’s Vote referendum on our EU membership.

Bruce assesses what can be done to protect Red Squirrels in Argaty

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford has visited Argaty Red Kites, to discuss the issue of red squirrels being killed on the local road.

 

It has been widely reported that a number of red squirrels have been hit by cars in recent weeks in the area. Locals are calling for measures to be put in place to help protect them.

 

Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:

 

“Red squirrels are part of the rural Scotland setting and we should be doing everything we can to protect them.

 

“There are a number of difficulties with this particular road in that there is not street lighting, which limits the type of safety features that could potentially be installed.

 

“I have now written to Highland Council to seek their advice on what measures they have taken on their local roads in order to protect species such as the red squirrel. Once I have a better understanding of what options are available, I will work with locals and Stirling Council to assess what can be implemented here.”

MSP encourages spring clean

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford met with representatives of Keep Scotland beautiful in parliament this week to discuss their Spring Clean 2019 campaign.

 

Clean Up Scotland is the national campaign to build community pride and make Scotland clean for future generations. But litter and flytipping levels at the worst in a decade.

 

Events are taking place across the country, with a Clean Up event organised at Bannockburn High School on 31st May.

 

Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:

 

“I am biased when I tell people that I represent the most beautiful constituency in the whole country. From a striking urban setting, to the spectacular Stirling highlands.

 

“However, it is disheartening on those occasions when I am out and about, visiting rural Stirling areas and finding areas where fly tipping has taken place. It’s a scar on our otherwise beautiful countryside.

 

“I fully support this grassroots initiative to tackle the problem and would urge locals across the area to get involved.

 

“Finally, if you see someone fly tipping, please ensure that you report this to the authorities.”

Crawford supports Great Daffodil Appeal launch

Charity organisation Marie Curie have launched their 2019 Great Daffodil Appeal.

 

Organisers were in the Scottish Parliament this week, giving MSPs an opportunity to show their support.

 

Volunteers have been in supermarkets and elsewhere this weekend, raising funds.

 

Marie Curie provides much-needed expert care to people with terminal illnesses. Providing them and their families with support.

 

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford attended the parliamentary event, and met with volunteers in Morrisons supermarket Stirling.

 

Supporting the appeal, Bruce Crawford said:

 

“I am delighted to support Marie Curies Daffodil Appeal again this year. The work that they do for people with terminal illnesses is so valuable, and I know from speaking to people who have received their help how much is means to them and their families.

 

“Stirling has a great volunteer base for organisations like Marie Curie. Their team are dedicated to the cause, and it’s always fantastic to see them out and about, raising funds for this fantastic cause.

 

“However, Marie curie are always looking for more people to volunteer. If you have time to dedicate to this brilliant organisation, I would highly recommend you check out their website and find out more about how to get involved.”