May I start this monthly round up by wishing everyone a happy and safe Christmas. I know the end of the year and the festive season can be exhausting, difficult and expensive for many people, but I hope you can find your own moments of joy, peace and calm.
World’s First Online HIV Prevention Service
The Scottish Government has allocated £200,000 to develop an online clinic which will work on preventing people from contracting HIV, focusing on those most at risk of being exposed to the infection.
This pilot online clinic will make those most at risk of contracting HIV have easier access to ordering pills which prevent the infection, all from the comfort of their own home.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the tablet which is used to prevent HIV and has saved thousands of lives across the world since it was introduced to Scotland in 2017. There has been a significant reduction in new diagnoses of HIV among gay and bi-sexual men in the four years since it was launched.
By making it easier for people to test at home and manage their medication without attending a specialist clinic, it means that time is freed up for more complex cases, resulting in easing pressure on the NHS.
This marks a step in the Scottish Government’s HIV Transmission Elimination Proposal which sets a clear path to stop the spread of HIV by 2030.
Self-Isolation Support Grant Update
The temporary Self-Isolation Support Grant is the longest running scheme of its kind in the UK, and it helped support low income workers who lost earnings when they self-isolated after contracting Covid-19.
From October 2020 to October 2022, the scheme made more than 150,000 awards, totalling £72 million. The scheme will close to new applicants on 5 January 2023 as most people now no longer need to take a Covid-19 test or self-isolate. Guidance is to stay at home if you feel ill.
Alternative financial support will continue to be available, depending on individual circumstances, through Scottish Welfare Fund Crisis Grants, alteration to Universal Credit rates and Statutory Sick Pay for absences lasting longer than three days.
Addressing Racial Inequality in the Workplace
This month saw the launch of a Scottish strategy to close the employment and pay gaps for all ethnicities.
‘A Fairer Scotland for All: An Anti-Racist Employment Strategy’ sets out the actions the Scottish Government will take and how it will work with employers to help make Scotland’s workplaces more diverse, fair and inclusive.
The strategy will support employers to:
- Improve their collection of workforce data, including reporting their pay gap, and take action on the findings;
- Take an anti-racist approach to remove barriers in their recruitment, retention and progression practices to improve representation of workers;
- Drive cultural, attitudinal and organisational change through building an understanding of the impact of institutional racism and the processes and practices in an organisation that lead to the unfair treatment of people on the basis of race.
Scottish Budget 2023 – 24
The Scottish Budget for 2023 – 24 has been announced by Deputy First Minister John Swinney. He commented that;
“The Scottish Government, like governments all over the world, is faced with a difficult set of choices. Through this Budget we are facing up to our responsibilities while being honest with the people of Scotland about the challenges which lie ahead.”
The Scottish Government is choosing to take a different path, one which will commit substantial resources to protect the most vulnerable people of Scotland from the impact of decisions and policies made by the UK Government.
Supporting sustainable public services through the cost of living crisis is apriority, with health and social care services receiving the highest ever budget settlement of £19 billion over the next year. This record package will help tackle the immediate pressures caused by the pandemic and a tough winter, while supporting the delivery of health and care services that are fit for the future.
In addition to already increasing the unique Scottish Child Payment to £25 per week to drive the eradication of child poverty, the Budget will also invest £428 million to uprate all other devolved benefits in April 2023 by September’s Consumer Price Index inflation level of 10.1%.
Full details on the Scottish Budget can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-budget-2023-24/
In the Constituency
- At the beginning of the month I visited Cardonald, and Priesthill & Darnley Railway Station with Network Rail. At Cardonald station, we met with a constituent who is blind, and their assistant from Guide Dogs. The constituent explained the difficulties they have with safely accessing the train station due to the poor quality of footpaths, wrongly parked cars and unsuitable lighting in the area. I am following up with Network Rail and Glasgow City Council to raise this issue and seek a positive resolution.
In addition, at the Priesthill and Darnley station, we explored the issue of safe crossing at this station. Worryingly, I have been informed that many people, mainly students, are reaching the opposite platform by crossing on the rail tracks instead of using the overhead bridge. I am working with Network Rail and Glasgow City Council to improve the quality and safety of the path so everyone feels safer using the bridge. I want to highlight that nobody should be crossing train tracks at any station as this is extremely dangerous and is a massive threat to your life. People caught crossing the tracks can expect a fine and monitoring cameras are now in place at this station.
- I hosted another surgery at the Pollok Civic Realm to hear and respond to the concerns of local constituents. If you are a constituent of Glasgow Pollok, please keep an eye on my Facebook page for surgery details or contact my constituency office on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about bringing your casework and concerns to my office’s attention.
- Thriving Places Govan hosted a great outreach stall in Govan Cross this month. Funded largely by the Scottish Government, Thriving Places support places to help improve the quality of life for people who live and work there, for example by improving health and wellbeing support, community safety, income support, and access to local services. There is a Thriving Places also well-established in Priesthill and Househillwood. These Thriving Places groups have built up longstanding partnerships with local organisations and engage with local residents via Community Breakfasts, Gala Days and a range of weekly activities for example. If you would like to be put in contact with your local Thriving Places group then please email email@example.com or call 0141 287 0060 for more information.
- I have been made aware that a business based in the constituency, Hubbell Factory, is due to close their Glasgow base within the next year. Many employees are understandably concerned by this, so I have written to the relevant Scottish Government Minister to highlight the situation and ask for confirmation on the employment support being provided to employees at this time. Local MP Chris Stephens is also writing with concerns to the business owner, and I understand union representatives are involved in discussions with the business.
- For the foreseeable future, my constituency office in Govan will continue to be open to the public, face-to-face on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays between 10am – 4pm, but we do ask that you phone before visiting to make an appointment on 0141 882 4647. We have a mix of staff members being based in the office and also working from home, so the phonelines for calling my office will be open from Mondays to Fridays between 9am – 5pm, and you can email in any time.