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UK BUDGET ANNOUNCED

Despite the spin from the Tories in London, Scotland’s budget will be lower in real terms that it was when the Tories came to power. It does not reverse £13.9bn of cumulative cuts or provide our people and services with the full support they need.

I was pleased that SNP calls to act on the tampon tax was heeded, and also my own calls to end the 20% tax on digital publications. However, many of the UK Government’s abhorrent policies remain. The two-child Tax Credit cap is still affecting 8,500 Scottish families. The minimum wage is still set below the real Living Wage. And the £200bn immoral and financial blackhole, Trident, will remain on the Clyde while children live in poverty, people go homeless, and families go hungry.

There was once again no strategy for the steel sector; no protection of workers’ rights; and no commitment to match the Scottish Government’s efforts to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

Urgent action is needed to tackle the economic crisis coronavirus is causing: the UK Government should have matched the Scottish Government’s NHS spending. UK Statutory Sick Pay also lags behind the European average at £94 per week whereas Ireland is offering £266 – for all workers, including the self-employed.

The Scottish Government now needs clarity on what the UK Government’s coronavirus programme will means for spending here. Barnett consequentials must be passed on so we can effectively deal with the problem.

In summary, this year’s budget is a continuation of the budgets the Tories have been forcing on Scotland for ten years. Our economy is being undermined, our services are being hamstrung, and peoples’ incomes are being squeezed. With independence and all the powers at Scotland’s disposal, we could introduce a budget that meets the needs of people across Scotland to deliver for them and allow them to live a life of opportunity, prosperity and respect.

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UK BUDGET TODAY

Scotland – our people, communities and services – have suffered under a decade of Tory austerity. With today’s budget, it is expected that it will continue. The Scottish Government Budget 2020-21 is still 2.8% (£840 million) lower in real terms compared to 2010-11. The £1.2bn extra next financial year will not reverse the £13.9bn of cumulative cuts.

Despite these pressures, the Scottish Government has delivered record public investment. For the first time, the NHS in Scotland will have a budget of £15bn. £800 million will be invested to deliver 50,000 new homes this parliament. The £10 weekly Scottish Child Payment, which when fully rolled out from this year, will help 30,000 children out of poverty as part of £3.4 billion in social security.

This shows what Scotland can do with one hand tied behind our back. Imagine what we can do with all the powers over our economy and society. Scotland has demanded to choose its future. We can either continue with tax cuts for the richest and under investment, or we can be independent and invest in our people.

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TORIES MUST LAUNCH INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO POST OFFICE MISMANAGEMENT

Campaigning SNP MP Marion Fellows has renewed calls on the UK government to launch an independent inquiry into its mismanagement of the Post Office Limited network and the Horizon system scandal.Ahead of a Westminster Hall debate today, the SNP MP also urged the UK government to ensure that costs of the Horizon case did not hit those who work in local post offices financially.

Last month, the SNP’s Shadow BEIS spokesperson wrote to the UK government’s BEIS Secretary Alok Sharma calling for an inquiry, and greater oversight into Post Office Limited to prevent a repeat of past mistakes.

The Horizon scandal saw the Post Office Limited pay £58m in an out of court settlement over a faulty accounting system that led to fines, sackings, prosecutions, bankruptcies and jail sentences over the last decade.

Commenting ahead of the debate, SNP MP Marion Fellows said:

“The UK government’s mismanagement of the Post Office network, and its handling of the Horizon scandal, has raised serious concerns. It must now launch an independent inquiry into the Post Office network to protect vital local services and to prevent a repeat of past mistakes.

“The Horizon scandal has spanned decades and it has hit countless postmasters who have been plunged into hardship and faced financial difficulties and imprisonment. The government must right this grievous wrong.

“Boris Johnson seemingly promised an independent inquiry into Post Office Ltd’s handling of the Horizon scandal and is now backtracking on these workers who have been so grievously wronged.

“The Post Office network is vital for local communities, small businesses and rural regions – however services are closing at an alarming rate, with recent figures revealing that Scotland has suffered a net loss of 45 post offices since 2011.

“SNP MPs will continue to challenge the Tory government to live up to its role and responsibilities as the special shareholder of Post Office Ltd, and to protect our public services.

“The UK government can no longer sit on its hands – it must launch an independent investigation and ensure such miscarriages of justice can never happen again.”

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Covid-19 Latest News

SNP CALL ON BORIS JOHNSON TO EXTEND STATUTORY SICK PAY POLICY

Following Boris Johnson’s announcement on statutory sick pay at Prime Minister’s questions, SNP MP Marion Fellows has urged the UK government to go further and extend the policy.

Today Boris Johnson announced that workers who are forced to take sick leave will get statutory sick pay from the first day of their absence, instead of after four days under the current rules, as part of emergency Coronavirus measures.

However, the SNP’s Disabilities spokesperson has said this does not go far enough and that the policy should be extended to be set at an hourly rate and living wage, available to everyone regardless of earnings, working hours or contract, and available for 52 weeks instead of 28.

Commenting, Marion Fellows, MP for Motherwell and Wishaw said:

“I am pleased that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now begin from the first day of a worker’s absence instead of after four but the UK government must extend the policy further to ensure that sick pay is set at an hourly rate and available for everyone for 52 weeks instead of 28.

“Current rules around SSP are not flexible enough to meet real life needs, and fall far short of meeting a dignified standard of living – even with this new change. We must have a sick pay system fit for the 21st century which does not force people to choose between working while ill and hardship.

“Disability groups have been especially vocal in calling for an overhaul of the sick pay system. Their concerns must be factored into the UK government’s response to their sick pay consultation.

“If the UK government will not make these crucial changes then it should devolve the powers to Holyrood so it can – to meet people’s needs in Scotland and ensure their standard of living is not disadvantaged by Coronavirus or any other illness that they have contracted through no fault of their own.”

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PMQS: Sick Pay and Coronavirus

I am glad that statutory sick pay will be available from day one – not day four – so people do not present at work and risk spreading coronavirus.

I hope this policy will remain permanent so that workers with all illnesses are able to take the time off they need to recover. This will especially benefit disabled people.

People should not have to choose between working while ill and hardship. We need a modern sick pay system fit for the 21st century. Sick pay must be set at an hourly rate and living wage; available to everyone regardless of earnings, working hours or contract; and available for 52 weeks instead of 28.

For people who are self-employed and on zero hours contracts, Boris Johnson has said Universal Credit is available from day one. It is not. It is available after a gruelling five week wait forcing people to foodbanks.

People deserve dignity and support. There is no need for people to endure hardship. The lack of support from the UK Government risks the unnecessary spreading of coronavirus.

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PAN SHOWCASES SUPPORT FOR SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES

MARION WELCOMES SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR FAMILIES

The Motherwell and Wishaw Poverty Action Network (PAN) was reconvened by local MP Marion Fellows on Friday and heard from One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) and other local groups on their work.

PAN was formed by Marion Fellows to allow local bodies to work together and learn from one another with the aim to tackle poverty and its indirect effects.

Local groups spoke about the work they were doing and heard about OPFS’s work in outreach to single-parents and their services in welfare inclusion, domestic abuse, employability, and family support. Single-parents can benefit from training, income maximisation, mental health support, and financial planning.

Mrs Fellows says the Scottish Government’s new Scottish Child Payment (SCP) will be “transformative” for families. By Christmas 2020, low income families with children under six will receive payments of £10 per week. The SCP is expected to lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

The Scottish Government will have also almost doubled free provision of childcare to 30 hours a week. Free childcare has already been increased to 16 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds – up from 12.5 hours in 2007 – and extended to 2 year olds from low income households.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“It was once again a pleasure to hear from OPFS and other local groups which are doing amazing work in our communities to tackle poverty.

“OPFS are engaging with these families and giving them the support they need to stay on their feet. Our children deserve the best start in life, and they are helping give it to them through comprehensive support.

“Incomes are being squeezed by the two-child tax credit cap Universal Credit’s five-week waiting time and cuts. This will make things especially tough for single-parent families who can only earn one income.

“For these families, the Scottish Government’s transformative Child Payment and extended childcare provision will give them the funds and opportunities to get into the workplace so they can raise their household income and give their children the best start.

“Unlike the UK Government, the Scottish Government is using its powers to create a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect.”

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7000 HEALTH ASSESSMENTS TAMPERED WITH OR BINNED

FULL STORY HERE.

The complete figures of 6,850 assessment reports tampered with in the space of two years by auditors who weren’t even present for the assessment is truly shocking. There must be an immediate and independent review into this staggering practice.

This blindfolded decision making undermines the whole process and will impact heavily on peoples’ lives. From outsourcing to private companies chasing targets to DWP auditors themselves, the whole system is rigged against people with disabilities trying to access vital support.

I had to chase the DWP to provide the actual numbers despite the purpose of my question being clear. This may be yet another attempt by the DWP to prevent information about the impact of their policies getting out.

The UK Government must come clean on its processes and record. They must collect figures on whether the required amendments are resulting in increases or deductions in peoples’ PIP entitlement so we can see the true effect audits are having.

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NLC BUDGET 2020/21

Due to the continued cuts from the Tory Government in London, the SNP Group in NLC did their best to create a budget which protects frontline jobs and services by listening to the concerns of local people.

Sadly, the Labour budget was passed leading to:
🚨 New charges for community alarms of £3.40 per week.
🍞 An increase in schools meals by 25% to £3.
🚧 An end to the Safe and Sustainable Travel Team which educates our young people on road safety.
👩‍⚕️ A removal of £1.8m from the adult social care fund for “remodelling” which is supposedly going to be reinvested a year later.

🚣‍♂️ SNP Councillors attempted to re-open the discussion on Kilbowie to save the centre. Despite a majority of the council voting to do so, Labour councillors voted against and the two-thirds majority required was not reached.

🥁 Thankfully, music tuition was saved. Our young musicians will be able to continue to access the education which makes them world-class.

However, the Scottish Government has today announced an extra £6m for North Lanarkshire Council. I therefore hope Councillors of all parties will meet soon to agree how local people and services can be protected from the relentless onslaught of Tory austerity.

Only with independence can Scotland end Tory rule and Tory austerity so our services can provide the full support our communities need.

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SCOT GOV CARER SUPPLEMENT PAYS OUT £6m TO NORTH LANARKSHIRE CARERS

LOCAL MP WELCOMES FIGURES SHOWING NORTH LANARKSHIRE SECOND MOST LOCAL AUTHORTY TO BENEFIT FROM GROUND-BREAKING NEW CARERS ALLOWANCE SUPPLEMENT

Recent figures have revealed that North Lanarkshire carers were the second biggest recipient of the SNP Scottish Government’s Carers Allowance Supplement (CAS) with £6m being paid out since April 2018.

The CAS provides carers with £226.20 twice a year. The latest payment in October 2019 paid £1.5m to 6,685 carers in North Lanarkshire.

Since the launch of CAS, 26,985 payments have been paid to carers in North Lanarkshire while 317,055 have been paid across Scotland.

In terms of payments made and the total sum paid, North Lanarkshire was second behind Glasgow and came just ahead of Fife and South Lanarkshire.

Commenting, SNP MP for Motherwell and Wishaw and the SNP’s Westminster Disabilities spokesperson, Marion Fellows said:

“The SNP Scottish Government is utilising its powers over social security to deliver ground-breaking support of over £450 a year to people in North Lanarkshire and across Scotland who care for people with disabilities and illness.

“Our carers do an essential job in our communities. The Scottish Government has rightly deemed them a priority to receive this vital support. Carers and the people they care for deserve a dignified standard of living.

“In stark contrast to the UK Government’s welfare regime, the SNP Scottish Government is building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect. With independence, we can take control of all social security and employment law to deliver the support for those in need and lift people out of poverty.”

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UK HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT WILL HINDER CARE SECTOR

FULL STORY: ‘Immigration: No visas for low-skilled workers, government says’

So many people and our public services rely on workers from the EU who will not meet the conditions of the UK Government’s hostile environment.

Particularly, our elderly and disabled people rely on those 70,000 EU workers in the UK care sector. Are those most in need suppose to go without or are busy, hardworking families suppose to find more time in their already pressed schedules?

These policies will not just impact the people seeking to come to the UK, it will impact on the day-to-day lives of the people who rely on their work and on our services.