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.”

Stirling firms benefit from £5.5M Scottish Government support

The Scottish Government’s Small Business Bonus Scheme provided £5,498,000 of support for businesses across the Stirling area in 2017/18 – an £33.6 rise on the previous year.

 

The Small Business Bonus Scheme, delivered by the SNP in 2008/09, supports local firms by reducing their rates liability or taking firms out of business rates altogether.

 

With businesses across Scotland receiving a total support relief of £5.5 million last year, SNP MSP Bruce Crawford has said the Scottish Government’s commitment to local jobs and communities across the Stirling area is clear.

 

Commenting, local SNP MSP Bruce Crawford said:

 

“These figures prove the success of the Small Business Bonus Scheme for firms across Stirling.

 

“Stirling businesses have benefitted from a massive £5.5 million in rates support in the past year, providing stability for local jobs and communities and giving firms that valuable headroom to grow and thrive.

 

“While Labour and the Tories have no credible plans between them, the SNP is getting on with the job – creating a better business environment in the Stirling area, boosting employment and creating a business environment where local companies can flourish.”

Crawford support’s Farmers’ Union campaign to protect livestock

Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford is supporting an awareness campaign from NFU Scotland, encouraging dog owners to behave responsibly when out with their pets around livestock.

 

The campaign encourages dog owners to:

 

  • Keep dogs on a lead around livestock.
  • Be prepared with a lead, poo bags and to plan all walking routes.
  • Consider hazards such as cattle and look for alternative routes.
  • Pick up dog poo, as this can spread disease in livestock.

 

Commenting, Mr Crawford said:

 

“This is an important awareness-raising campaign from NFU Scotland, especially at this time of year when farmers will be preparing for lambing season.

 

“The Stirling Constituency is rich in countryside walks for owners to take their dogs, but people much behave responsibly and be alert to areas where there is livestock.

 

“Planning is key: always take a lead with you, and make sure you have enough poo bags to not leave anything behind that might be a health hazard to sheep and cattle.”