Coronavirus: SNP politicians welcome Scot Gov commitment on resilience funding

Stirling MP Alyn Smith and MSP Bruce Crawford have welcomed the commitment from the Scottish Government to pass on any additional benefit Scotland could see as a result of spending announcements made by the Chancellor this week for England.

 

The Chancellor has pledged to suspend business in England for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 – this includes cinemas, restaurants and hotels.

 

The Chancellor also committed at least £5 billion in additional funding for the NHS in England to tackle the coronavirus.

 

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said that all additional funding coming to Scotland, as a result of Barnett consequentials, will go directly to the areas of resilience they are intended for.

 

Alyn Smith MP said:

 

“Providing that Scotland gets its share of this funding, there are parts of this week’s Budget that are to be welcomed as sensible measures to help health services and businesses weather the challenges that the current coronavirus pandemic poses.

 

“This week, I met with Scottish Government Finance Secretary Kate Forbes to discuss this Budget, and raised this specific point. I am pleased, therefore, that the Scottish Government has committed to ensure that any extra funding Scotland sees, as a result of this announcement, will go towards these areas of resilience.

 

“Scotland already has the most business-friendly environment in the UK, with the fairest non-domestic rates settlement thanks to the SNP Government. We will always seek to find ways to boost, promote and support businesses – particularly through difficult times.”

 

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford raised this issue during First Minister’s Questions. The First Minster made clear that the Scottish Government is still awaiting clarity on exactly what the Chancellor’s additional spending announcement will mean for Scotland.

 

Bruce Crawford MSP said:

 

“The spread of Covid-19 presents what is likely the biggest challenge Scotland has faced since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999. Depending on the rate of the spread of this virus, and how many people are affected at any given time, it will have an impact on health services as well as business.

 

“For a period of time, business will not be as usual for many people. For some, that’s much easier said than done, and I have already been contacted by local businesses who are feeling the pinch.

 

“Therefore, this commitment from the Scottish Government is welcome, but it is with the caveat that we need to see the flow of money coming from Westminster in order to make it happen.”

Coronavirus: Stirling MP and MSP urge caution but not panic

Stirling SNP MP Alyn Smith and MSP Bruce Crawford are urging local people to follow the advice of health professionals following the first case of Coronavirus (COVID-19) found in Scotland (Tayside area) over the weekend.

 

Over 700 screening tests have been carried out in Scotland since the outbreak began at the beginning of the year. Those who have spent 15 minutes or more within two meters of an infected person are being contacted by the NHS for precautionary screening.

 

There is not enough information currently available to know exactly how this new Coronavirus spreads, however similar viruses spread by droplets in coughs and sneezes.

 

Current advice from NHS Scotland on reducing the risk of infection is:

 

  • Avoid direct hand contact with eyes, mouth or nose.
  • Maintain good hand hygiene, washing with soap and water or hand sanitiser: after coughing/sneezing; using the toilet; or before eating/drinking.
  • Avoid direct contact with people who have a respiratory illness and avoid using their personal items, such as a mobile phone.
  • Covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a disposable tissue and disposing of it in the nearest waste bin after use.

 

There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.

 

A helpline has been set up for people who do not have symptoms but are looking for general information:

0800 028 2816.

 

Those who think they may have the virus or have recently travelled to an affected area are encouraged to contact their GP or call NHS 24 on 111.

 

Alyn Smith MP said:

 

“Due to how interconnected a world we live in, it was only a matter of time before the new Coronavirus arrived here in Scotland – and my thoughts are with the person affected.

 

“There are a number of measures that people can take in order to significantly reduce the chances of catching the virus, all of which are generally good practice in maintaining hygiene.

 

“What’s important is not to panic but rather take the precautionary steps set out by health professionals.”

 

Bruce Crawford MSP commented:

 

“Scotland has been able to conduct hundreds of screening tests for Coronavirus in an efficient manner. This is the first case that has tested positive, however it is expected that there will be more.

 

“I’d like to commend the work of our health professionals who have had to put in extra effort to ensure that all that can be done is being done to reduce the spread of the virus in the country.

 

“Those who have potential symptoms should contact their GP or NHS 24 for advice – including if you have travelled to an area where the infection is rife.

 

“I would also encourage people to familiarise themselves with up to date advice from the NHS by visiting nhsinform.scot.”

 

Coronavirus testing: Stirling MSP praises work in Scottish labs

Coronavirus screening being carried out in Glasgow and Edinburgh has led to 202 tests being completed in the first 10 days since testing began in Scotland.

 

Previous tests had to be sent to a facility in Colindale, London. The combined total tests from Scotland reached 290 at the close of play yesterday (18 Feb).

 

Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh began screening earlier this month, and has meant that results can be returned more quickly.

 

Bruce Crawford said:

 

“I have been assured by the Scottish Government that our NHS is well prepared to cope with any suspected Coronavirus case – with these new screening sites being part of this preparation.

 

“At this point, all tests taken in Scotland have returned as negative, however this appears to be a highly contagious virus and being prepared to limit any outbreak is crucial.

 

“I would encourage any constituent who has travelled to areas such as China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macao within the past 14 days to check out the NHS’ Health Protection Scotland website for up-to-date advice.

 

“Generally, the main advice on helping to reduce the spread of infection for individuals centres on washing your hands – particularly for those who have close contact with vulnerable groups such as older people. However, the NHS website offers more detailed advice on this.”

Record NHS spending and climate change action: Crawford backs Scottish Budget

SCOTS CONTINUE TO GET BETTER DEAL UNDER SNP

 

SNP MSP Bruce Crawford has praised the “vision and leadership” of the Scottish budget announced today – which contains record investment for health and social care.

 

The budget also contains a package of measures to support the Scottish Government’s world-leading ambitions to tackle climate change, support families and tackle poverty.

 

For the first time, the budget provides funding of over £15 billion for health and care services, including the capital for elective care centres and investment in mental health.

 

Scotland continues to have the fairest and most progressive income tax system in the UK, with more than half of taxpayers paying less income tax in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK.

 

The budget also includes:

 

  • the introduction later this year of the Scottish Child Payment, which when fully rolled out will help 30,000 children out of poverty,
  • increased investment of £270 million in rail services and an additional £16 million in concessionary travel and bus services taking total investment in rail and bus services to around £1.55 billion,
  • a three per cent pay uplift for public sector workers earning up to £80,000,
  • an additional £37 million for the Scottish Police Authority resource budget,
  • an increase in the proportion of investment directed towards low carbon infrastructure each year, with £1.8 billion of capital investment over the coming year in specific projects to reduce emissions, investment equal to around 1% of GDP.

Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:

 

“This is a progressive and ambitious budget that demonstrates the vision and leadership of the SNP in government – supporting our public services, helping family incomes and tackling climate change.

 

“This budget is set against the backdrop of heightened uncertainty and risk, created by the UK Government following their decision to delay the UK Budget until March – as well as the complete uncertainty over our future relationship with Europe.

 

“Despite this, we’re seeing record investment in our NHS and more money for police, rail services and low carbon infrastructure.

 

“Most taxpayers will continue to pay less than they would elsewhere in the UK, and no taxpayer will pay more on their current income.

 

“This means that Scots will continue to get a better deal under the SNP.

 

“People across the Stirling area will welcome this package of investment and our focus on fairness – and I look forward to it passing through the parliamentary process.”

From education to health, Scotland’s public services are achieving great things

Published in the Stirling Observer, 29 Jan 2020.

Just recently, the Deputy First Minister announced the incredible achievement of more than 30% of pupils leaving High School with five Highers or more for the first time in Scotland’s educational history.

 

Recent years have also seen record numbers of our young people leaving High School and going onto positive destinations, which includes the world of work, modern apprenticeships, or further and higher education.

 

Over the past two years, record numbers of Scots have also gone to university – with a more-than a 10% rise in those studying a full-time degree in the past decade.

 

The recent Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) report found improvements overall for Scotland. The report, conducted by the OECD, measures the performance of 15-year-olds worldwide.

 

Scotland’s latest Pisa score has shown an overall rise in performance, with maths and science scoring roughly the same as the OECD average and reading scoring well above.

 

Whilst many education specialists would caution against using Pisa as an isolated indicator to educational performance, what these latest Pisa results do show is that, despite overall improvement, there remain some challenges in maths and science.

 

Although it is true to say that Scotland’s education system continues to outperform the majority of other UK nations.

 

The Scottish Government was re-elected in 2016 on a commitment to improve the opportunities and educational outcomes of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Part of this commitment has been through the Pupil Equity Fund, which empowers headteachers with additional spending in schools to help the educational outcomes of more disadvantaged young people. Schools in Stirling have seen £1.4 million in such funding each year for the past couple of years, which I know has enabled local schools in delivering additional equipment and support to younger people.

 

The outcome of which, as the latest Pisa assessment has found, is that the attainment gap is closing in our schools, and just five OECD countries are ahead of Scotland in terms of their educational performance.

 

I would like to talk about another major public service that is a devolved matter to the Scottish Parliament: health.

 

One of the generally accepted barometer tests on how well a health care service is doing is through the performance of accident and emergency departments. Towards the end of last year, around 89.3% of patients in Scotland were seen and resulted in subsequent admission, transfer or discharge within the 4-hour target, out of a total of 25,289 within a week. According to the latest published figures, just 79.8% of patients in England and 74.4% in Wales were seen within this target time.

 

Of course, the Scottish Government’s target is 95%. This is an ambitious target, purposefully so, and is therefore a very tough target to reach – and inevitably during winter, these numers are under pressure.  Nevertheless, the performance of Scotland’s A&E departments makes an example of the decisions made by other governments within the UK around the NHS.

 

The National Health Service has faced the longest period of austerity – imposed by the Tory government in Westminster – in its more-than 70-year existence. Despite that, NHS Scotland has received record levels of funding from the SNP Government in Holyrood. Last year, Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, committed an above-inflation increase in health funding. For NHS Forth Valley, this meant £20.2 million more to spend on the health care services of local people.

 

It’s an approach that has led to Scotland having the highest rate of patient satisfaction in the UK.

 

Scotland has more GPs (76 per 100,000 people) than the UK average (60), spends more per person than anywhere else in the UK (Scotland: £2,368, England: £2,184), and has more hospital beds, nurses and midwives per population too.

 

With this being a New year and a new decade, perhaps its timely to remind ourselves of this: Scotland’s public services achieve so much, and there’s a lot to celebrate.

2020 vision: Scotland’s right to choose independence

What an end to a politically turbulent year: a Tory Prime Minister forced to resign by her own party and now worryingly Boris Johnston as PM. Moreover, a General Election result that was the tale of two nations going in opposite directions with the SNP gaining 81% of the seat share in Scotland and the Tories only 56% across the UK.

 

Locally it was a big win for the SNP and I would like to congratulate my friend and colleague Alyn Smith on becoming the Member of Parliament for the Stirling Constituency. Alyn became our MP with a stunning with 51% of the vote. Alyn brings years of experience from the European Parliament, and he is already establishinghis place in the House of Commons as well as in his Constituency. I very much look forward to working with closely with him on behalf of local people and the communities we both represent.

 

While across Scotland the SNP also had a huge win, I recognise that people vote for parties for different reasons. For instance, I know that many people voted SNP because they wanted our Country to stay the European Union. Unfortunately, though Scotland will have to leave the EU, against her will, at the end of January.

 

The composition of the House of Commons means that Boris Johnson will take us out of the EU. However, he will do so without the expressed consent of the people of Scotland. Far from ending the political turbulence, we will now have to face months and months of political wrangling over a future Trade Deal. In addition, there is no guarantee of a Trade Deal finding agreement by the end 2020; this puts the very real risk of ‘No Deal firmly back on the table.

 

Of course, not everyone who voted SNP at the General Election are automatic supporters of Scotland becoming an independent nation.  However, a great many doagree that any such decision must for the people of Scotland to take. It is a fundamental democratic principle that the decision on whether or not Scotland becomes Independent should rest with the people of Scotland.

 

The Tories in Scotland ran a campaign with only one message: No to IndyRef2. The outcome saw them lose heavily. People across Stirling and Scotland spoke loudly and clearly.

 

Scotland is not a region questioning its place in a larger unitary state; we are a Country in a voluntary union of nations. Our friends in the rest of the UK will always be our closest allies and neighbours. However, in line with the principle of self-determination people in Scotland have the right to determine whether the time has come for a new, better relationship, in which we can thrive in a genuine partnership of equals.

 

It is perfectly legitimate for the Tories to oppose independence but it is not legitimate for them to oppose the fundamental democratic right the people of Scotland to choose their own future.

This week also saw the Scottish Parliament pass a very important piece of legislation: the Referendums Bill. It provides the legal framework for the Scottish Government to hold future referendums in Scotland.

 

As the Convener of the Finance and Constitution Committee at Holyrood, some of the work that I have been involved with recently has been in scrutinising this Bill.  I am pleased that this Bill will now become law, providing a gold standard for holding Referendums in Scotland.

 

And, with that, I would like to wish you and yours all the very best for the festive season – and a very Happy New Year.

MSP demands answers on Stirling gigafast broadband service

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford has raised concerns with the Chief Executive of Vodafone over the current service received by some constituents on the new Gigafast Broadband service.

 

Mr Crawford was contacted by a constituent from the Cambusbarron area, who found that many of his devices were not compatible with the new service, and that there has been some delay in rectifying the issue.

 

In his letter, Mr Crawford said:

 

“My constituent tells me that, following CityFibre’s installation of FTTP in Stirling, he signed

up to Vodafone in September, but after two weeks began having problems with the router

resetting itself, meaning no consistent internet or landline phone access. He says that he

complained by phone and online chat, and eventually by formal written complaint, over a

seven week period, and was advised by phone on 29 November that there is a known issue

with Vodafone’s Gigafast router firmware making it incompatible with Apple devices. He was

told that a fix would be issued across the network in the next few days and that he would

receive a refund of £84 for three months access. He has since been advised that it will take

until January to fix this issue.

 

“I would be grateful to know when this fix will be carried out, and what Vodafone is doing to

inform customers and potential customers of this issue, and what steps are being taken to

refund affected customers.”

 

Mr Crawford commented:

 

“The rollout of the new Gigafast service in Stirling is an exciting step in modernising our communication infrastructure. I have also been impressed by how quickly this has been installed in some areas already.

 

“However, people expect a seamless service and there has clearly been issues with connecting to some devices.

 

“Whilst I appreciate that Vodafone has identified the issue and is working to resolve it, I hope that this can be rectified as quickly as possible so that my constituents can enjoy some of the fastest internet speeds in the UK on all of their devices.”

SNP SHIELDING STIRLING RESIDENTS FROM TORY BEDROOM TAX

SNP MSP Bruce Crawford has welcomed Scottish Government intervention to protect Stirling residents from Tory welfare cuts.

New figures show that 1,315 Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) were made to those on low incomes in Stirling between April and September this year.

The total award value spent in Stirling in this period was £601,712 – with an average award value of £457.

The Scottish Government’s DHP scheme is an extra payment to help with housing costs, including cuts to the local housing allowance and covering in full the impact of the bedroom tax.

Mr Crawford blasted the Tories’ continued defence of the bedroom tax.

Commenting, Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said:

“The bedroom tax was and remains an attack on those on the lowest incomes. 

“The Scottish Government spends millions every year shielding Scots from UK Government welfare policy.  That our devolved Government should have to protect its citizens from the cruelty of the UK state is unacceptable and unsustainable. 

“The SNP has been mitigating the worst impacts of Tory austerity but we would not be in this position if Scotland had full control over its own affairs. 

“We can build something better.  Social security should be about compassion and dignity but the Tories have shamelessly presided over a callous and calculated dismantling of the welfare system.

“The two child cap, the rape clause, the benefits freeze, in work poverty, record food bank demand and rising child poverty – this is the legacy of the Tories in Government. 

“And now, their reckless pursuit of Brexit threatens to push yet more people into poverty – with analysis showing that a no deal Brexit would drive 130,000 Scots into poverty. 

“We must escape Brexit, escape the Tories and put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.  Only a vote for the SNP can do that.”

Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford welcomes mental health investment in Schools

Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford has welcomed news that the Scottish Government will invest £1,294,000 in Stirling schools over the next four years.

The investment will mean that professional counselling services will be available to all secondary school pupils who require it by September next year. The Scottish Government is investing £60 million in mental health provision in schools across Scotland.

Counselling services currently delivered by qualified and registered counsellors through Pupil Equity or Scottish Attainment funding will continue, enabling local authorities to reallocate those funds to other priorities to help close the attainment gap.

School counsellors help support young people’s emotional, behavioural and mental health. Importantly, pupils will also have access to counsellors during school holidays, providing vital continuity of care.

 

Commenting, Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford said:

“Children and young people can face many issues growing up and must have the right support available at the right time.

“It is hugely welcome that, thanks to Scottish Government investment, every secondary school pupil in the Stirling area who needs it, will have access to professional counselling services by next year.

“This is a significant step forward in the SNP government’s package of measures to improve the mental health support available for children and young people.”

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford commends the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund

Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford has commended the new Scottish Government funding aimed at helping the local community deal with increased tourism.

The Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund – administered by VisitScotland – is intended to help tourist attractions and the surrounding communities deal with the impact of increased visitor numbers through upgrades to infrastructure such as parking areas, toilet facilities and recycling points.

In Stirling, the Doune Tourism Development has already benefitted from this scheme. An investment of £239,560 was made towards the partnership between Historic Environment Scotland, Stirling Council and the local community. The aim of this was to address the issues that have arisen from the growth in visitor numbers at Doune Castle. The impact of this investment means refurbishment of the village toilets, extensions to the path network between the Castle and village, signage and interpretation.

On 10 October 2017 the First Minister announced £6 million as part of RTIF and a further £3 million was announced in September by the Scottish Government for a third Round of Funding in 2020.

Only Local Authorities and National Park Authorities can apply for funding.  However, Stirling Community Groups and other agencies can apply to Stirling council if they have an eligible project.

The deadline to register an Expression of Interest is January 2020.

 

Bruce Crawford MSP for Stirling said:

“It is no surprise that more and more people are choosing to visit the Stirling area.  We are rightly proud of our scenery, rich cultural heritage and captivating history. This is why it’s important for locals groups to follow Doune Tourism Developments example, and apply for this funding. 

“And while the increased number of visitors is a welcome boon to the local economy and a ringing endorsement of the warm welcome that Doune residents provide, we must ensure that we effectively manage our tourism.

“It is simply a case of dealing with increasing demand.  That is what this fund is intended to do and that is why I would encourage Stirling council, in partnership with our community, to submit an application to share in this investment.

“It is essential that we continue to fund our infrastructure so that it is adequately equipped to deal with number of people who want to enjoy our sites, culture and hospitality for many years to come.”