Spectre of Brexit casts a dark shadow on food and drink sector

CRAWFORD: SCOTTISH FOOD AND DRINK FORTNIGHT COMES WITH A SERIOUS WARNING THIS YEAR

 

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford has warned of the impact that Brexit will have on Scotland’s food and drink sector during a debate in the Scottish Parliament, marking Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight.

 

During the debate, Mr Crawford said:

 

“Make no mistake: a no-deal Brexit is a direct and specific threat to the future of Scotland’s highly successful food and drink sector. The fact that about two thirds of food exports go to the EU demonstrates just how valuable the EU market is. All the great work that has been done to ensure that food and drink exports from Scotland reached a record high of £6.3 billion last year would be hugely undermined by crashing out of the EU without a deal. That is a future that I dare not contemplate; I hope that colleagues across the chamber share that view.”

 

Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:

 

“Scottish food and Drink Fortnight is a fantastic opportunity to highlight the many successes in the local sector. From excellent whisky and gin distilleries, quality beef and lamb producers, and a highly successful diary industry, I am biased in my view that the Stirling area produces the highest quality food and drink products in the country.

 

“However, the spectre of Brexit casts a dark shadow this year. The recent Yellowhammer documents released by the UK Government confirm the damage that leaving the EU, and especially leaving without a deal, will have on our food and drink sector, as well as our wider economy.

 

“The Tory Government have tried talk-up a no-deal Brexit, and trading on World Trade Organization rules, but it’s just not as easy as that – not least because our current WTO tariffs, quotas and subsidies are negotiated through the EU, and the UK would have to take time negotiating a new set of schedules.

 

“In the meantime, trading tariffs with the EU would be the same for the UK as it would be for any third country that does not currently have a deal with the trading block. Such a scenario would present potentially impossible challenges for many of our country’s food producers.

 

“Whilst Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight is a chance to celebrate the very best of Scottish produce, this year it comes with a very stark warning. The only way to stop the potential damage of Brexit is to stop Brexit.”

Crawford disappointed at Strathyre crossing decision

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford has spoken of his disappointment, following the decision from Transport Scotland not to install a pedestrian crossing in Strathyre.

 

Mr Crawford has supported efforts from the local community in campaigning for a pedestrian crossing, and has previously written to the Chief Executive of Transport Scotland, calling for such a crossing to be considered.

 

In response to Transport Scotland’s decision, Mr Crawford has written to residents in Strathyre, expressing his disappointment and committing to meet with local residents to discuss the matter further.

 

Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:

 

“This is indeed a disappointing decision from Transport Scotland, and I intend to meet with local people at the earliest opportunity to discuss the matter in detail and to assess what can be done from this point.

 

“The face of Strathyre has changed over the years; with a growing number of visitors and expanded primary school, there is clearly more of a need for a pedestrian crossing to better facilitate a safe environment when crossing 5he main road through the village.”

Scottish Government authorise red squirrel signs at Argaty

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford has welcomed the authorisation from Scottish Ministers in erecting red squirrel caution signs for motorists.

 

Mr Crawford had previously written to Stirling Council, to ask about possible measures to alert drivers to the presence of red squirrels in the Argaty area, and to calm traffic. The call came after a number of squirrels had been found killed on the road in recent months.

 

Subsequently, the Council’s Network Team have been in discussions with Transport Scotland to gain permission to use a non-prescribed sign to alert people to the presence of native red squirrels. Transport Scotland have provided with a design of the sign which may be used – which Mr Crawford has given his support to.

 

Commenting, Mr Crawford said:

 

“I’m pleased that Scottish Ministers have taken the view that non-prescribed signs can be used to help protect the local population of red squirrels in the area.

 

“Reports of red squirrel deaths in the area are upsetting, and we have to do what we can in order to protect the species.

 

“I look forward to the signs being introduced, to let drivers know to take care on the road, and to watch out for native red squirrels.”

“Game Changer” anti-poverty payment to benefit 5,200 children in Stirling

An estimated 5,200 children in 3,100 families across Stirling are expected to benefit from the Scottish Government’s ground breaking anti-poverty payment, it has been 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.

 

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.

 

The Scottish Government this week published estimates, based on the number of Tax Credit recipients prior to the rollout of Universal Credit Full Service, showing how many children and families are expected to benefit in each local authority.

 

Commenting, SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said:

 

“The Scottish Child Payment is an ambitious and ground breaking new benefit that will directly tackle child poverty.

 

“When fully rolled out, the Scottish Child Payment will benefit over a third of all children – giving families £10 per week for every eligible child under 16 years old.

 

“Tory cuts are driving too many families in my constituency into poverty – but the SNP are determined to use every power at our disposal to help families make ends meet.”

2,920 of Stirling households helped in time of crisis

The Scottish Welfare Fund made 2,920 payments to people in Stirling in the last financial year, new figures show.

 

A total of 725 Community Care Grants and 2,195 Crisis Grants were awarded in Stirling over the year.

 

The money helped people with essentials such as food, heating costs and household items.

 

The SNP introduced the Scottish Welfare Fund in 2013. The Fund is part of a £125 million annual package to mitigate the impact of UK government austerity.

 

Since its launch in April 2013, the Fund has paid out more than £200 million to support over 336,000 households across Scotland, with a third of recipients being families with children.

 

SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said:

 

“The Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital lifeline for many people facing poverty or personal crisis.

 

“The fact that so many households in Stirling are in need of emergency financial help is appalling, and a sad indictment of the UK Government’s record on austerity and welfare changes.

 

“The SNP would prefer these resources were invested directly to tackle poverty rather than protecting people from Tory austerity. 

 

“Indeed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty described it as outrageous that the Scottish Government had to divert funds to protect people from Westminster’s mess.

 

“The SNP will continue to do everything in our power to tackle poverty and support low income families. It’s time for the Tories to end their austerity agenda and stop forcing Stirling families into poverty.”

 

 

 

 

Tory government warned aginst “callous” threat to pensions in Stirling

Stirling SNP MSP, Bruce Crawford, has warned the Tory government against increasing the state pension age, which would have dire and disproportionate consequences in Stirling and across Scotland.

The Tories’ threat comes following a report published by the Centre for Social Justice – chaired by close Boris Johnson ally, Iain Duncan Smith – which concludes that the state pension age should rise to 75 over the next 16 years.

Mr Crawford has said that any further increases in the state pension age could have a hugely disproportionate impact on Scotland due to its unique demographic needs.

The MSP also called on the UK government to heed warnings raised in a new report that found the proportion of elderly people living in severe poverty in the UK is five times what it was in 1986 – the largest increase among western European countries.

Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:

“The Tory’s government’s approach to the UK’s elderly population and state pension policy has been cruel and callous.

 

“From the burning injustices facing the WASPI women who have been denied the right to their state pension, to the stripping away of free TV licences for the over 75s, this government’s attitude towards its older people is shameful.

“Instead of taking on board policies written up by one of the architects of Tory austerity, the new Prime Minister must take action to address the dire levels of pensioner poverty in the UK.

“The Tory government must take a step back and tackle these injustices – rather than ramping up the threats.”

Substantial work to be done to improve safety following landslides

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford has said that there is significant work that must now be carried out in the Loch Katrine area in order to make it a safer place, following recent landslides.

 

Mr Crawford has discussed the scale of the challenge with Scottish Water, who own much of the surrounding land, and has since received an update from their Head of Corporate relations:

 

“Last week we worked to clear as much of the road as possible of debris, earth and stones.

 

“The affected road remains closed to through traffic and warning and information signs to deter walkers and cyclists from using the road due to safety concerns also remain in place.  

 

“Our focus this week is to continue clearing debris, carry out further ground investigation studies, lift infill materials to the affected areas, design the remedial work on the road and establish the next phases of work required.”

 

Following concerns raised by local businesses that footfall in the area has decreased due to the inability of walkers and cyclists to access certain parts of the damaged road, Mr Crawford has written to the Scottish Government, asking for advice on what potential support may be available through government agencies for businesses facing similar circumstances.

 

Mr Crawford has also written to the Chief Executive of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, highlighting his concerns about the lack of mobile signal in the Loch Katrine area, and asking if there is any way in which the National Park can help to facilitate the instalment of mobile phone infrastructure.

 

This comes following the accounts of residents who were unable to get the message out to friends and family following the landslides as the main BT line was down and they had no mobile signal.

 

Mr Crawford has had confirmation from BT that the phone line is back up and running in a number of properties who had lost it due to the landslides.

 

Commenting, Bruce Crawford said:

 

“I’m continuing to work closely with the relevant agencies and the local community to see that every effort that can be made to get the place back up and running as normal is being done.

 

“However, these incidents have highlighted a very serious issue about mobile signal in the area. Many of us take mobile signal for granted, or view it as a luxury. However, for many in the Loch Katrine area, having mobile signal could have meant that they had a means with which to get a quick message to family and friends – when they were otherwise cut off from the world.

 

“I have therefore written to the National Park in order to find out more about what can be done to help facilitate better mobile infrastructure in the area.

 

“I have also contacted Finance Secretary Derek Mackay for advice on what possible support may be available to local businesses who are facing challenges as a knock on effect to trade as a result of these landslides.

 

“On a number of fronts, there is significant work that must be carried out to repair the damage of these landslides, and I would encourage anyone with any specific concerns to contact my office.”

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.