ABERDEEN CENTRAL CONSTITUENCY (Scottish Parliament)
KEVIN STEWART MSP
Born and bred in the city, Kevin Stewart was elected as the MSP for ABERDEEN CENTRAL on 5 May 2011. Re-elected on 5 May 2016 and 6 May 2021.
Formerly Convener of the Local Government & Regeneration Parliamentary Committee. Minister for Local Government & Housing 18 May 2016 – 5 May 2021. (Planning was added to his portfolio on 26 June 2018). Minister for Mental Wellbeing & Social Care from 19 May 2021.
First elected to Aberdeen City Council, for Auchmill ward, in 1999, and led the SNP group for 12 years. Depute Leader of the Council 2007-11.
As Finance & Resources Committee convener, successfully dealt with the Council’s £50million debt, accumulated by previous unionist administrations. Stepped down as a councillor in May 2012.
Contact KEVIN STEWART at his CONSTITUENCY OFFICE:
1 Pitstruan Place,(cnr. of Broomhill Road)
Tel. 01224 624719 * Text relay calls welcome.
Office hours: Monday to Friday. 10.00–12.00am and 1.00–5.00pm.
Surgeries: Every Monday from 2.30pm at the Constituency Office. Write, phone or e-mail to make an appointment.
Tel.: 0131 348 6382 (Parliament).
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CORONAVIRUS could be with us for some time
We have “come through the worst” of the Omicron variant, but it is essential that we do all we can to control it. Get vaccinated, and wear your mask in indoor settings, including shops and buses. Social distancing and working from home are still advised. Nicola Sturgeon says: “COVID is still with us, and could be for some time yet –- so we simply cannot afford to let our guard down.”
* My PRIORITIES *
Ensuring Scotland’s future is in Scotland’s hands, by delivering Independence ♦ funding for a just energy transition that creates and protects jobs in Aberdeen ♦ investment in schools, hospitals and community facilities ♦ free school meals, bus transport and laptops for young people ♦ a National Care Service that respects and supports our older folk ♦ the Scottish Child Payment to be doubled to £20 per week to combat child poverty ♦ 100,000 more affordable homes in Scotland, with 70% for social rent ♦ ensuring public safety remains at the forefront of our fight against Covid-19.
* How the SNP has delivered for ABERDEEN since 2007 *
► Giving children the best start in life. Investing in 13 new schools in the city, and over 18,000 baby boxes for newborns in the Grampian area.
► Over £1.1billion invested in vital transport connections, including the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and upgrades to the rail network to keep people moving.
► New health infrastructure, such as the Emergency Care Centre at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and the Aberdeen Community Health & Care Village.
► 9,141 new homes built in the city, including over 1,600 Council and Housing Association homes.
► Supporting small businesses to the tune of over £230million, thanks to the Small Business Bonus.
► Helping families on low incomes, including the Best Start Grant, the Carers’ Allowance Supplement and the new Scottish Child Payment, to tackle child poverty head-on.
On March 6, KEVIN STEWART MSP said: I have just donated to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Why not join me by clicking on this link:– https://standwithukraine.live/
GRANITE CARE CONSORTIUM
The Granite Care Consortium is made up of local third- and private-sector providers, with decades of experience in delivering health and social care services.
The consortium was set up to create market stability, improve outcomes and build a consistent trained and skilled workforce. Bringing together ten highly experienced and trusted providers with over 400 years’ combined experience, the consortium collaborates both internally and externally, achieving the best outcomes for individuals in the most efficient way. Underpinned by its unparalleled knowledge and expertise in Aberdeen, this true spirit of partnership maximises market stability and reliability, all while driving up standards of care locally. In addition to Voluntary Service Aberdeen (VSA), the consortium’s members are: Aberdeen Cyrenians, Ann Inspired Care, Archway, Blackwood, Inspire, myCare, Paramount Care Aberdeen, Penumbra and Specialist Resource Solutions.
On February 14, Mental Wellbeing & Social Care Minister, Kevin Stewart, said: “Thanks to all at the Granite Care Consortium for meeting with me to discuss social care in Aberdeen and the National Care Service. I was very impressed by their empowerment of frontline staff, and their progress and achievements in delivering care in Aberdeen.”
No CARBON CAPTURE deal for Peterhead
A key component in the achievement of Net-Zero is carbon capture, utilization & storage. Carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes are transported to a site where they can be buried deep underground.
The St. Fergus gas terminal is about 3 miles NW of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, and is fed by three major pipelines from over 20 gas fields in the North Sea. The terminal consists of plants operated by a number of oil and gas companies, and processes up to 60million cubic metres of gas per day, amounting to around 35% of the UK’s consumption. Acorn CCS is an enterprising carbon capture and storage project based at the terminal. Depleted oil and gas fields are ideal locations for storing carbon dioxide (CO2), and it was intended that existing pipelines would be used to take processed material from the terminal, the Peterhead Power Station and the Grangemouth refinery, and store it in Shell’s redundant Goldeneye oilfield.
Peterhead power station is operated by Scottish & Southern Energy plc (SSE), who have been attempting to install carbon capture technology at the Boddam site since 2006. BP had plans to generate 350MW of power from hydrogen produced from the pyrolysis of methane, with carbon capture used to pump the resulting emissions into the depleted Miller oilfield. It would have been the first large-scale hydrogen power plant. However, on 23 May 2007, BP pulled the plug on the project, after losing patience waiting for the UK Government’s approval. No other similar scheme has ever come to fruition, due to a continual lack of backing from Westminster. In May 2021, SSE and Shell agreed a deal with the Norwegian company Equinor to capture 1.5million tonnes of CO2 annually, and pipe processed emissions to the Goldeneye site by 2026. The power station was to be rebuilt as a 900MW gas-fired plant, which would be fitted with carbon capture technology.
On 19 October 2021, there was considerable dismay — even disbelief –when the UK Government announced that the “first phase” of its carbon capture programme would instead take place at the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery at Immingham, Lincolnshire and ENI-Uniper’s Liverpool Bay project at the Connah’s Quay power station in Flintshire. The diktat was strongly condemned by the SNP, including Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart, who immediately wrote to UK PM Boris Johnson, demanding that the decision be reversed. Mr. Stewart said: “In 2015, the Tory Government pulled the plug on £1billion of carbon capture investment at Peterhead, and has now confirmed that the North-East will miss out again. This is completely and utterly shameful. I don’t expect much from these charlatans, but this is beyond the pale. Every man and his dog knows the North-East is the clear and obvious site for carbon capture and storage, so the political decision to award the sites to England is unforgivable. Any notion that the UK Government cares a jot about Aberdeen or Scotland is out-the-window now with this nonsensical decision. Our net-zero ambitions have been dealt a devastating blow by a Tory Government that does not care one iota. The so-called ‘Union of equals’ is redundant, and this is yet another example of why Scotland should have its independence.”
### More information on the Acorn CCS Project at:– https://theacornproject.uk/
Support for OIL & GAS workers
The Scottish Government has pledged £14.3million to support North-East based workers adversely impacted by the pandemic and the downturn in oil and gas prices.
The funding will provide opportunities for more than 3,000 individuals in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, through training and enterprise projects across a number of sectors, including: entrepreneurship, business start-ups, digital, tourism & hospitality, food & drink manufacturing and production, health and social care, life sciences, energy transition, climate change and general skills support. There will also be a climate emergency training programme, to help businesses diversify towards net-zero, and a scheme to assist employers to develop business plans to ensure long-term sustainable jobs.
Speaking on 25 August 2021, Kevin Stewart, the MSP for Aberdeen Central, commented: “I’m absolutely delighted to see this crucial investment from the Scottish Government to support workers in the North-East. Our corner of the world has a highly-skilled workforce, and we must do all we can to ensure the skills of these folk are utilised in a fair and just transition. This funding follows the £500million investment announced last week, and makes it absolutely clear that our city will be at the forefront of any Just Transition. Now it’s time for the UK Government to stop paying lip-service to North Sea oil and gas workers and provide the cold, hard cash they have talked so often about.”
### See below for Assistance and transition for the ENERGY SECTOR.
After eighteen long months, the end of the coronavirus lockdown appears to be finally in sight. It’s been an experience that has tested everyone. As 4 July 2021 was the day before the NHS’s 73rd birthday, it was a perfect time to say ‘THANK YOU.’
But from the beginning, we’ve been helping each other through. As families, streets and communities – checking on each other; making sure neighbours are OK; going to work when we had to, and staying at home whenever we were told. The crisis has reminded us all that when it really matters, we’re here for one another, and that’s something to be grateful for.
Before normal life takes over again, we want to pause and say ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped. From care workers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and vaccination organisers and staff; various charities and volunteers; our ever-vigilant police; supermarket staff and local shop-keepers who stayed open; tradesmen who continued to visit homes to carry out essential repairs; bus, lorry and van drivers; mum and dad for putting up with us under the same roof; and everyone who obeyed the rules. We couldn’t have done it without each other.
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart, said: “On ThankYouDay, I’d like to thank all the folk who have helped others during these tough times. I have made donations to four amazing Aberdeen charities: Aberdeen Cyrenians, Aberdeen FC Community Trust, Community Food Initiatives North-East (CFINE) and Mental Health Aberdeen to show my support. If you can spare a bob or two, why not do likewise?”
► Scotland’s paramedics have done an amazing job keeping us safe in the pandemic. To support the next generation, Scottish-domiciled student paramedics will be able to apply for a bursary of £10,000 a year to study in Scotland.
BREXIT deal completely ignored SCOTLAND
Boris Johnson’s Brexit farce resulted in Scotland being completely ignored.
Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, commented: “While England and Wales both voted to leave the EU, and would do so under the deal, Northern Ireland was handed a special deal, effectively keeping it within the single market and customs union – with the power to change their relationship in future.”
“The best deal for Scotland was to remain as part of the European Union. I cannot see a single thing that is going to lessen the adverse impact of Brexit on our ccountry, and the people who live and work here. Importantly, this alleged “deal” has left Scotland, unique among the four nations of the UK, in facing an outcome we did not vote for, and having no say over our future relationship. Aberdeen — along withevery other Council Area — voted to remain in the EU, and has been predicted to be the city hardest hit by Brexit. Yet we’ve been entirely sidelined and ignored by the Tory Government throughout this process. It is clearer than ever that the best future for Scotland is as an equal, independent European nation.” Cartoon: by Jari Elsila of Helsinki, Finland.
EUROPEAN UNION REFERENDUM on 23 June 2016 BREXIT “BONUS” FOR EXPORTERS:
Result in the City of ABERDEEN:–
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
How SCOTLAND voted:–
REMAIN 1,661.191 62%
LEAVE 1,018,322 38%
ALL of our 32 Council Areas voted to REMAIN in the European Union.
► BREXIT is costing every person £1,200, and is directly responsible for: empty supermarket shelves; higher food bills; rising energy prices; threats to the NHS; critical shortages in fuel and lorry drivers; and mobile phone roaming charges.
VSA opens Abergeldie House
Voluntary Service Aberdeen (VSA) has opened a new £3.2million mental heallth facility in the city.
The purpose-built Abergeldie House, at 450 Holburn Street, will offer accommodation for 20 people, and support an additional 40 others living in their own homes through a mental wellbeing outreach service. The charity says the facility will support adults diagnosed with a mental health condition on their journey to recovery, and change lives.
Across all of its residential services, VSA provides a range of individualised person-centred support which promotes independence, peer support and social integration. Its “recovery model” is at the heart of its work, ensuring people receive the support required to enable them to build skills that allow them to self-manage their condition. Referrals for residential support are made through health and social work professionals, and VSA provides mental health care homes, housing support and rehabilitation facilities.
On 29 June 2021, Mental Wellbeing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “It was great to visit VSA’s new mental health services facility in Holburn Street. It is a cracking building, designed to meet the needs of service users. Thanks for the tour, and for the chat about mental health, social care and the formation of our National Care Service.”
KEVIN’s new Government role
The major reshuffle of Cabinet Secretaries and Junior Ministers undertaken on 19 May 2021 resulted in new responsibilities for Aberdeen Central MSP KEVIN STEWART.
As Minister for Local Government & Housing (later including Planning) since May 2016, Kevin’s proven ability was recognised by his being appointed to a radically different, but equally demanding, position in the Sturgeon Government. He will be the Minister for Mental Wellbeing & Social Care. His ministerial remit will cover the mental health of adults, adolescents and children; dementia; augmentative and alternative communication (AAC); the Mental Welfare Commission; survivors of childhood abuse; Forensic Mental Health Services & Reform; suicide prevention; social care & integration; the Care Inspectorate; self-directed support; adult support and protection; care, support and rights; the social service workforce and delivering “Anne’s Law.”
He will also assist Cabinet Secretary for Health & Social Care Humza Yousaf in the establishment of the new National Care Service, which will oversee the delivery of care, improve standards, training and staff pay and conditions, while giving support for unpaid carers. The Carers Allowance will be replaced by Carers Assistance. Anyone looking after more than one disabled person will receive an extra £10 per week, benefiting around 16,350 carers. Until Carers Assistance is introduced, payment of the Carers Allowance Supplement will continue.
Looking forward to his new role, Kevin Stewart said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on all of us, and I am honoured to have been appointed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to help build our National Care Service and improve the mental wellbeing of our people. While lockdown restrictions have been vital in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, they have had an adverse effect on some vulnerable people’s mental health. So I welcome the SNP Scottish Government’s commitment to invest over £1.1billion in mental health services. I’m also proud that our Government has offered NHS staff a 4% (at least) pay increase, giving frontline nurses an average rise of £1,200. That would be on top of our £500 ‘thank you’ payment.”
Funding for NHS, MENTAL HEALTH and DRUG services
Record funding to support NHS Scotland through the most challenging period in its history was delivered in the 2021-22 Scottish Budget.
The Health portfolio will receive more than £16billion, an increase of 5.3% on 2020-21 spending, with a further £869 million for tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19). Funding for frontline NHS boards has increased to £11.6billion, building on a record level of health spending and ensuring frontline services can respond to the unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic.
The Budget also has £550million capital funding for NHS Scotland, including funding for the construction of new Elective Care Centres. Aberdeen will benefit from the North of Scotland Trauma Centre, the Baird Family Hospital and the Anchor Unit at Foresterhill. ♦ £883million to invest in social care and integration, including funding for local authorities to deliver the Living Wage, implementation of the Carers Act and uprating of free personal care ♦ £145.3million for alcohol and drugs services, including £50million for our national mission to reduce drugs deaths ♦ £139million will be invested in mental health services, supporting overall mental health spending of more than £1.1billion. It is intended that every GP practice will have access to a dedicated mental-wellbeing link worker. This would create a network of 1,000 additional dedicated staff.
► 1,300 people in the Grampian Health Board area have received hospital treatment for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and it is estimated around one-third could have long-lasting mental health problems as a result of their experience.
SEE ME programme
The national “See Me” programme tackles mental health stigma and discrimination. Funded by the Scottish Government, it is managed by the Scottish Association for Mental Health and the Mental Health Foundation.
On 27 September 2021, Kevin Stewart, the Minister for Mental Wellbeing & Social Care, said: “I am pleased to announce continued funding for See Me of £1million a year until March 2026. This is not only a sign of our trust and belief in the programme, but also in recognition of the importance of tackling the stigma and discrimination. We know that the pandemic has had a substantial impact on the mental health of the population, and is likely to continue to do so. It has never been more important to look after our mental health. That is why we are working to create a Scotland where people can get the right help at the right time, and to fully enjoy their rights, free from stigma and discrimination.”
Assistance and transition for the ENERGY SECTOR
On 20 August 2021, the SNP Government announced it would take forward a ten-year £500million Just Transition Fund for the North-East and Moray.
“Energy transition” refers to the global energy sector’s shift from fossil-based systems of energy production and consumption — including oil, natural gas and coal — to renewable energy sources like wind, wave, solar and lithium-ion batteries. At the same time, the fund is designed to assist the energy sector to recover from the dual economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and a severe downturn in oil and gas prices — and is a considerable increase on the £62million Energy Transition Fund instituted in June 2020.
The SNP Government’s investmentwill support oil, gas and energy businesses over the next ten years as they grow and diversify, and will help to attract private sector investment in the region. There is an urgent need to reduce energy-related CO2 emissions to limit climate change. Renewable energy can potentially achieve 90% of the required carbon reductions. “Net-zero” refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net-zero when the amount we add is not more than the amount taken away. Net-zero projects to receive support include: a Global Underwater Hub in Aberdeen, aimed at helping the subsea and underwater sector grow with a focus on diversification and export support; a new Energy Transition Zone business park in proximity to the Aberdeen South Harbour; and a range of innovation projects led by the Oil & Gas Technology Centre’s Net-Zero Solution Centre. The fund will also position the North-East as a hydrogen model region, contributing early funding to projects including: Acorn CCS & Acorn Hydrogen, Aberdeen Vision and the Aberdeen Hydrogen Hub.
Kevin Stewart stronglyinsists that the Westminster Government should match the funding. He commented: “Oil and gas are still of major importance to Aberdeen, but we need a fair transition. That’s why I’m very pleased that the SNP Government has put in place the £500million Just Transition Fund. But we need to match job for job. Successive Westminster Governments have treated the resource and industry as a cash cow for decades. Since 1970, almost £330billion in revenues have been gobbled up by the London Treasury from Scotland’s North Sea oil. Now it’s time for the Tories to match the SNP Government’s commitment — to invest in a sustainable energy sector and create jobs for the future, which are so vital for Aberdeen and the North-East.”
INFRASTRUCTURE Company & INVESTMENT Bank
The re-elected SNP Government will create a SCOTTISH NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE COMPANY which “will place public assets in public hands” and will mark the end for private financing of major projects in the country.
Plans for the its establishment were largely motivated by the record of companies like the Wolverhampton-based Carillion plc — the main contractor for the AWPR Aberdeen bypass — which went into liquidation in 2018. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has outlined a “mission on infrastructure” for an extra £7billion, invested by 2025-26 in hospitals, schools, houses, transport, low-carbon technology and digital connections.
►The SCOTTISH NATIONAL INVESTMENT BANK commenced operations in Nov. 2020, and will support ambitious companies and important infrastructure projects. By aligning its aims and objectives with Scotland’s Economic Strategy, the bank has the potential to transform and grow our country’s economy. The SNP Scottish Government has committed to investing £2billion over 10 years to capitalise the bank.
Major improvements to MOTORWAYS and ROADS
The SNP is committed to the largest transport investment programme that Scotland has ever seen, despite relentless Westminster budget cuts. While the Scottish Government is entirely committed to a just transition towards a net-zero emissions society, road upgrades remain a vital part of this.
The SNP Government has completed 23 major improvements to ourmotorways andtrunk roads. These include the M80 Stepps to Haggs, the M74 Completion project and the £745million AWPRbypassat Aberdeen. The latter opened in February 2019, producing savings in journey times. and reductions in HGV traffic through the city.
The SNP Scottish Government delivered the £1.35billion marvel on the Forth – the Queensferry Crossing. The new crossing is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world. What’s more, it was delivered £245million below budget..
Work is underway to improve the A92-A96 Haudagain junction in Aberdeen. The £48.5million project will provide a new link road and housing in the Middlefield area.
The SNP Government has connected Glasgow to Edinburgh with continuous motorway for the first time.
The first section (Kincraig to Dalraddy) of the £3billion project to dual the A9 from Perth to Inverness has been completed. The construction of the second section (Luncarty to Pass of Birnam) is progressing well.
In the south of the country, the Scottish Government is taking forward the construction of the Maybole bypass on the A77, making further improvements to the A75 and exploring how to better connect Dumfries and the M74.
Getting rid of TRIDENT
Faslane on the Gare Loch is home to the UK’s nuclear arsenal. It is the base for four Vanguard class nuclear submarines, which each carry Trident ballistic missiles.
The legally-binding UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into effect early in 2021, with the aim of banning and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons. But, despite signing the treaty, the UK Government has announced it intends to INCREASE its stockpile of Trident nuclear warheads from 180 to 260. The cost of maintaining this British vanity project is truly mind-boggling and totally unjustifiable. It has been calculated that the bill for the next generation of Trident will be a staggering £179billion over its lifetime, with other estimates putting it as high as £205billion. And yet the biggest threats we face won’t be deterred by Trident. For instance, terrorism and cyber-attacks can never be addressed by nuclear submarines. Only nine nations in the world possess nuclear weapons, which includes only three of NATO’s 30 member countries.
Scots have strongly opposed nuclear weapons being here for many years, not least because they are based a mere 25 miles from our biggest city. Just to add insult to injury, the UK Government has scaled down defence jobs in Scotland, year after year. While the Tories have been prepared to spend billions on Trident renewal, defence personnel north of the border have been cut by 3,300 – an 18.7% reduction. For its part, Labour has fully endorsed the Tories’ plans. Their defence spokesman has stepped up the party’s backing for Trident, declaring their support “non-negotiable” and “unshakeable” in a recent speech. Not surprisingly, the SNP has registered its total opposition to any increase in nuclear weapons on the Clyde. The party has reaffirmed that the achievement of Independence will give us the power to remove them completely from our country. Faslane would become the country’s principal, but non-nuclear, naval base — under full Scottish control.
On 23 March 2021, Kevin Stewart said: “The SNP wants to see a world free from nuclear weapons, and we will be a principled advocate for nuclear disarmament on the global stage. The UK Government is intent on increasing their nuclear weapons stockpile. Spending money on abhorrent weapons of mass destruction that could be spent on public services. It’s time to say “Nurses — not Nukes”, “Teachers — not Trident” and “Bairns — not Bombs.”
Aiding our ECONOMIC RECOVERY from the PANDEMIC
Immediate investment, aimed at aiding the country’s economic recovery from Covid-19, has been announced by the SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT. The specific areas targetted for financial support include the following.
►► The SCOTTISH WELFARE FUND made 2,975 crisis grant payments to people in Aberdeen in the last financial quarter – an increase of 57% on last year – to help pay for essentials such as food, heating costs and household necessities.
Nationally, the fund awarded £5.2million in crisis grants between April and June 2020 — up 77% on the same period last year — after the Scottish Government increased the amount of money available for the fund.
On 27 Oct. 2020, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, said: “The Scottish Welfare Fund is an important example of the kind of action the SNP has taken to ensure there is additional financial support in place for folk in Aberdeen who are coping with the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Aberdeen is suffering from both the effects of coronavirus and the oil-price crash. Our city is also set to be hardest hit by Brexit, so this support could not be more vital. This is in stark contrast to what is happening at Westminster, with Tory MPs voting to deprive children of free school-meals, and robbing Scotland of crucial funding to support our most vulnerable. While the Scottish Government works to improve provision for families in Aberdeen facing poverty, we continue to have to spend money to protect the most vulnerable in our communities from UK Government benefit cuts. For as long as welfare decisions remain at Westminster, the SNP will continue to do everything in its power to tackle poverty, and support people in Aberdeen to get through these immensely challenging times.”
►► Over the next ten years, a £500million Just Transition Fund will assist the ENERGY SECTOR to recover from the dual economic impacts of coronavirus and a severe downturn in oil and gas prices, while also shifting the country from realibility on fossil-based systems of energy production and consumption.
Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, suggested that the Westminster Government should match the funding. He commented: “Our oil and gas industry has filled the coffers of the Treasury for decades and successive Westminster Governments have treated it as a cash cow. Last week we saw the Scottish Government put the industry front and centre with a massive investment of cash. Now it’s time for the Tories to match the SNP Government’s commitment, to create a sustainable sector which is so vital for the North-East.”
►► A £1million fund to assist ABERDEEN businesses was announced on 19 Aug. 2020.
Grants of up to £1,150 will be provided to hospitality businesses that were required to close — as well as other businesses that took a financial hit — due to the emergency coronavirus lockdown in the city.
►► A further £10million has been pledged to help companies recruit and retain APPRENTICES facing redundancy due to the coronavirus emergency.
On 11 Aug. 2020, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The young people who will make up our future workforce are among those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic. As such, it is crucial that we support them and ensure they are at the heart of our economic recovery from Covid-19. This targeted funding will extend the reach of our support for apprentices, including our Adopt an Apprentice programme. Combined with our commitment of at least £50million for youth employment and the Youth Guarantee, we will ensure no one is left behind.”
She added: “Apprenticeships are not only valuable for our young people, they are a key way for all employers to invest in their workforce, and provide the skills the economy needs both now and in the future. Our focus is on protecting jobs, creating jobs, ensuring quality jobs and supporting skilled jobs. By taking this action to protect and support skilled jobs now, we will rebuild a stronger, fairer and greener future for Scotland.” The Chair of Skills Development Scotland Frank Mitchell commented: “This welcome announcement underlines the importance of apprentices to the Scottish economy and the crucial role they will play in supporting individuals and businesses in the recovery from Covid-19. We will continue to liaise with the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board and other employer organisations on the development and delivery of employer incentives and subsidies.”
►► A new Scottish Government benefit will help 16 to 24 year-olds into work, if they have been UNEMPLOYED for over six months.
The Job Start Payment is a one-off grant introduced on 17 Aug. 2020, Applicants who qualify will receive £250 to help with the cost of starting a new job. The upper age limit rises to 25 for care leavers, and the payment is increased to $400 if the person has a child. It is estimated around 5,000 young people in Scotland will benefit from this new financial support in its first year.
Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, commented: “The job prospects of our young people in Aberdeen have been hit hard by this pandemic and the oil-price crash, so this announcement of extra support to help folk into work really couldn’t come at a better time. This payment will help local people cope with the extra expenses that are often incurred when starting a new job, such as travel costs, new work clothes or even childcare. In Government, the SNP is working hard to create new opportunities for work as we rebuild our economy, and I’d encourage anyone in the North-East who thinks they may be eligible to apply online.”
SOCIAL SECURITY SCOTLAND website. For more information and how to apply for the benefit.
### See also Protection from UK AUSTERITY below.
96,750 HOMES delivered since 2007
Welcoming these impressive figures, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, added: “It was a privilege to serve as Scotland’s Housing Minister for the last five years, and to help deliver quality homes — and there’s more to come!”
Scotland’s first long-term plan, Housing To 2040, was published by the SNP Government on March 15. It will aim to provide 100,000 more affordable homes by 2032, with at least 70% being for social rent. The programme would entail total investment of £16billion and create up to 14,000 jobs a year.
A rented sector strategy will result in major improvements in accessibility, affordability and standards. Tenants will be closely involved in the development of the strategy, with a national network of social rented tenants developed alongside a Tenant Participation Panel. A new Housing Bill could be introduced early in the next Parliament, in order to take forward further reforms in the rented sector and increase the rights of tenants.
Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s virtual Scotland’s Housing Festival 2021, Kevin Stewart said: Housing To 2040 sets out Scotland’s approach to improving the nation’s housing over the next two decades, and making improvements in the rented sector is a vital part of that. In the private rented sector, we need to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and ensure homes are affordable now and in the long term. Local authorities need to be able to tackle unreasonably high rents, so we will also reshape the existing Rent Pressure Zone legislation to make it an effective tool for them to use.”
► The SNP Government set a target of building 50,000 affordable homes in the current Parliamentary term. Unfortunately, this was adversely affected by the unforeseen coronavirus pandemic. Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We were on track to deliver on our commitment to meet the target by the end of March 2021 but, due to the impact of the pandemic, it is now unlikely we will do so. The lockdown meant nearly a third of the year saw little or no activity taking place, and a necessary pause in the delivery of affordable homes. However, backed by a commitment of more than £3.5billion, we will continue to work with partners across the housing sector to ensure the delivery of the remainder of these homes, as quickly as it is safe.”
► In the four years to 2018-19, Scotland has delivered over 80% more affordable homes per head of population than in England & Wales, 50% more homes per head than in Northern Ireland, and over eight times more social rented properties per head than in England.
► The SNP Government has ended Right To Buy, keeping up to 15,000 existing homes in the social rented sector over the next decade, and for future generations.
► The SNP Government is protecting 70,000 households from Westminster’s Bedroom Tax, and will abolish it as soon as it has the powers to do so.
Protection from UK AUSTERITY
Since Westminster’s draconian austerity measures were introduced in 2016, the Scottish Government has had to spend more than £100million each year to alleviate their effects on poor families in Scotland.
The money has been channelled into support for those most in need, including mitigating the Bedroom Tax in full through Discretionary Housing Payments (£64.4million); crisis grants as part of the Scottish Welfare Fund (£38.0million) and Advice Services to households worst affected by the cuts (£1.5million). The Scottish Government also offers claimants flexibility in how they receive their Universal Credit payments, such as twice monthly rather than monthly, and their housing element being paid directly to their landlord.
On 30 Dec. 2019, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We are spending more than £100million each year to mitigate the worst effects of UK Government austerity –- part of the £1.4billion we spent last year to support low income households. This essential funding could be better invested to help pull more people in Scotland out of poverty. A policy like the Scottish Child Payment, which we announced this year to tackle child poverty head-on, is an example of what we can do. Once fully rolled out in 2022, the benefit could help up to 410,000 eligible under-16s, and lift an estimated 30,000 children out of poverty – and for families with a child under six. They will start benefiting by December next year.”
Families struggle to pay RENT
It has been estimated that some 3,320 Scottish families, who require help with their housing costs, are £64 a week worse off because of the cuts.
The Welfare Reform group found that about 460,000 working age households have been adversely affected by the £300million cut in welfare spending by the Tory Government. Since the roll-out of Universal Credit, rent arrears in Scotland have sharply increased. In March 2019, the total for all council properties stood at £74million — up £9million on the previous year. The SNP Government has spent £64.4million on Discretionary Housing Payments, to top up benefit shortfalls so that people don’t get behind in their rent.
On 7 Jan. 2020, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart commented: “UK Government welfare cuts are squeezing more families into poverty and leaving them struggling to afford appropriate accommodation. As the private rental market becomes increasingly less accessible to those on low income, cutting housing benefit by £64 per week for some families puts them at risk of homelessness. The UK Government must act urgently to reverse these cuts and support those renting in the private sector. It is not feasible for the Scottish Government to completely mitigate the impacts of UK cuts, but we will do all we can to support families through the Scottish Welfare Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments. and by protecting people against the Bedroom Tax. We could do so much more to help lift families out of poverty if Scotland had full control of its welfare policy.”
WINNING FOR SCOTLAND !
The SNP won all three ABERDEEN constituencies in the Scottish General Election on 6 May 2021.
Election result: ABERDEEN CENTRAL
Kevin Stewart SNP 14,217
Douglas Lumsden Con. 7,623
Barry Black Lab. 6,294
Guy Ingerson Green 2,087
Desmond Bouse Lib. Dem. 1,417
SNP HOLD. Maj. 6,594. Turnout 56.0%.