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Abolish the Lords!

Despite bringing our democracy into disrepute, the Tories want the House of Lords and all their cronies who are in it to remain. Unelected legislators have no place in any democracy – let alone a 21st century democracy. Just like this Tory government, the House of Lords is unfit.

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Education Qs: Supporting International Students and Universities against COVID

University of Stirling is taking steps to support international students from red list countries arriving for the new term to keep them and other students safe. The UK Government must provide financial assistance for all universities to replicate the good practice at Stirling.

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TORY GOVERNMENT BETRAYS SICK AND DISABLED AGAIN AND AGAIN

The SNP’s Disabilities spokesperson has described the UK government’s Health and Disability Green Paper as “long overdue but still lacking real ambition” to support those with disabilities and long-term illnesses.

Marion Fellows MP has said the Green Paper fails to address key issues affecting disabled people in the UK social security system including benefit sanctions, the payment cap within Access to Work, and accessibility of its Kickstart scheme – all of which the SNP has long called for.

After putting disabled claimants through years of degrading assessments, the UK government should use this opportunity to follow the Scottish Government’s lead by moving away from face-to-face assessments and taking a person-centred approach.

The paper also fails to acknowledge the higher costs that disabled people have faced during the pandemic, and makes no mention exploring the widespread calls from the SNP and organisations to make the £20 Universal Credit uplift permanent and extend it to legacy benefits.

Commenting, Marion Fellows MP said:

“This paper has been long overdue but is still lacking in real ambition. 

“The Tories at Westminster have been failing those with disabilities and long-term illnesses for years. A decade of brutal Tory welfare cuts, coupled with benefit sanctions, have had a hugely damaging impact on the living standards of disabled people – and now the impact of coronavirus and lack of a proper social security net is exacerbating that.

“The Green Paper was an opportunity to right these wrongs and finally offer the welfare and employment support that disabled people deserve and is already on offer in Scotland. The Tories have refused to take it.

“Scotland cannot keep waiting for Westminster to act – we can, and must, do better than this. The people of Scotland have made it clear that they want a fairer society – not a system that is disproportionately failing people with disabilities.

“The only way we can achieve that is with the full powers of independence.”

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MP URGES APPLICATIONS AS EU SETTLEMENT DEADLINE APPROACHES

Marion Fellows, MP for Motherwell and Wishaw, has urged EU citizens to make their applications to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) as the deadline approaches on 30 June.

Those who do not apply by the deadline will lose their right to work, healthcare and public funds.

Mrs Fellows is concerned that a high number of looked after children are yet to apply which can cause serious implications for them if the deadline is missed.  

The Scottish Government has provided funding to Citizens Advice Scotland to support EU citizens living in Scotland in applying to the EUSS. Their team of specialist advisors can be contacted on their freephone EU Citizens Support Service helpline, 0800 916 9847.

SNP Parliamentarians have called on the UK Government to extend the deadline and improve the EUSS to ensure those people who have the right to reside are able to do so.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“EU citizens in Motherwell, Wishaw, Bellshill and across Scotland contribute so much to their communities, the economy and our public services. It is essential that all who are eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme apply before the deadline of 30 June so they can continue to make those valued contributions.

“Brexit has created an incredible amount of uncertainty for EU citizens over their lives, careers and families. SNP MPs have called for the deadline to be extended and the scheme to be simplified. But the UK Government has ignored these calls.

“Citizens Advice Scotland are providing support to those who need assistance. I urge all EU citizens who have yet to apply to do so as soon as possible. Scotland is your home and you are welcome here.”E

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SNP MP: TESCO’S FIRE AND REHIRE OF WAREHOUSE WORKERS “A BETRAYAL”

UK GOV URGED TO BACK SNP BILL TO PROTECT WORKERS’ INCOMES

SNP MP, Marion Fellows, has called for the UK Government to back the SNP’s Bill to ban fire and rehire as Tesco looks to slash Scottish workers’ wages.

Around 290 workers at Tesco’s Livingston distribution centre are being threatened with pay cuts between £4,000 and £13,000 by forcing workers to sign a new contract under fire and rehire practices.

The Livingston depot is one of five sites across the UK that Tesco are targeting with workers having until the 13th of February to accept the cuts or face redundancy.

SNP MP, Gavin Newlands, has submitted two Bills to Parliament to end fire and rehire practices. They have received the backing of cross-party MP and unions, however the UK government has so far refused to back the Bills.

Tesco’s profits soared by 29% in the first half of last year as pre-tax profit reached £551million. Tesco’s revenue increased by 0.7% to £28.7 billion, and sales in the UK and Ireland were up more than 8%.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“Any business considering betraying their workers through fire and rehire should be utterly ashamed. Especially during a pandemic and especially a business such as Tesco which has reported soaring profits. The UK government needs to protect workers by backing the SNP’s Bill to ban fire and rehire practices.

“The use of fire and rehire at Tesco is just one of the many cases emerging. Incomes and security are under threat. By allowing it to continue, the Tory government is putting itself firmly on the side of millionaires rather than the essential workers making the profits and serving communities.

“I have joined the calls of unions UsDaw and Unite for Tesco to withdraw their threats and get round the negotiating table. These workers have been absolutely essential during the pandemic. They deserve respect and a pay rise – not a pay cut. If Tesco does not, they are forcing unions into a corner with no other option than to strike putting supply chains at risk.”

Willie Thomson, Unite regional industrial officer, added:

“Unite’s members are shocked, angry and feel betrayed by Tesco. The workforce has been deemed essential workers throughout this pandemic and they have worked tirelessly to keep families across Scotland working as best as they can during this crisis. To be told that they are facing significant pay cuts and an ultimatum of ‘fire and re-hire’ in relation to their employment contracts is disgusting.

“Tesco’s actions are not only wrong but it’s an opportunist attack on our members. As a result of our members’ hard work Tesco’s profits have boomed during the pandemic alongside government rates relief which has further cushioned the company’s profits. Tesco must withdraw this ultimatum and come to the negotiating table, or we will have to explore all options if the company doesn’t willingly come to its senses.”

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TORY POWER GRAB

Last night, I voted against the Tories’ power grab on the Scottish Parliament. Yet, the Internal Market Bill was passed despite Scottish MPs and the Scottish Parliament rejecting it.

All of the Scottish Tory MPs, including Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, voted to undermine Scotland’s will and control over devolved policy areas. They have been spineless and have failed to stand up for Scotland.

This is an attack of devolution and a danger to our NHS and other public services; Scottish food and environmental standards; and democracy.

By breaking the devolution settlement and international law, the Tories have shown they cannot be trusted. It is clearer than ever that the only way to properly protect Scotland’s interests is to take our place as an independent country.

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Covid-19 Latest News

OVER 50,000 IN NL RISK LOSING INCOMES IF CORONAVIRUS SUPPORT ENDS

MP MARION CALLS FOR EXTENSION OF CORONAVIRUS INCOME SUPPORT SCHEMES AND INTRODUCTION OF UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME

Figures from the UK Government have this week revealed that 50,300 people in North Lanarkshire have benefited from schemes to protect employed and self-employed workers’ incomes during the Coronavirus crisis.

In North Lanarkshire, 41,800 people have been supported through the Job Retention Scheme (JRS), and 8,500 through the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

North Lanarkshire was the third biggest beneficiary of the JRS, and the fifth for the SEISS in Scotland.

Up to 31st May 2020, 10,600 people in the Motherwell and Wishaw constituency were furloughed and 2,100 claims were made to the SEISS.

Mrs Fellows has called on the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend Coronavirus schemes for as long as lockdown continues in Scotland otherwise workers could be forced back to work in unsafe conditions leading to a second spike. She also warns that ending the scheme could also lead to firms taking on unmanageable debt or being unable to afford salaries which could lead to Thatcher-level unemployment.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“The UK Government must extend Coronavirus support schemes to protect incomes in North Lanarkshire and across Scotland. The Tories cannot force people to return to work in unsafe conditions and risk a second spike or risk Thatcher-level unemployment.

“Without full powers, the Scottish Government cannot continue the schemes to protect incomes. Ending the scheme prematurely is undermining the Scottish Government’s authority in protecting public health.

“Too many people have been left without help because of the serious gaps in support. The UK government must look again at introducing a Universal Basic Income and strengthened welfare protections – so no one is left behind.

“If the UK government is not going to extend the schemes or introduce a Universal Basic Income, they should devolve the powers to ensure Scotland can.”

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Covid-19 Latest News

BRIDGING THE GAPS IN COVID-19 SUPPORT

There are far too many people who are falling through the cracks in the system. The UK Government’s steps to protect incomes and welfare must be more robust and catch everyone to allow them to live with dignity.

SNP Key Asks:

🕒 Delays in receiving support. The five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment must be reduced through the UK government providing a non-repayable grant instead of a loan at the start of a claim, which pushes people into, or further into, debt.

💵 Gaps in support available. Given the gaps in the support available the UK government must introduce a Guaranteed Minimum Income. It must bridge the gaps in the Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support schemes, including amending the date of qualification so people who started work after the 28th February will qualify, and ensuring businesses have access to financial resources – not Universal Credit – until they are reimbursed for salaries or the first payments in June. Gaps in social security must also be bridged, including removing the capital tariff reduction to Universal Credit and implementing support for those with No Recourse to Public Funds.

🧒 Insufficient level of support. Social security payments – including Child Benefit, Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – must be increased.

👩‍⚕️ The rate of Statutory Sick Pay must also be increased in line with a Real Living Wage, and the weekly earnings threshold removed so that all workers can receive SSP irrespective of their weekly earnings or National Insurance contributions.

For info, click here.

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STEEL DEBATE: FORGING A FUTURE FOR STEEL

I have been repeating the calls of the steel industry for a sector deal since 2015. The SNP Scottish Government saved Dalzell in Motherwell and I am proud to have been a member of the Steel Task Force. The UK Government must now show the same commitment to steel and create a sector deal. #ForgeAFutureForSteel

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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.