This month saw Scotland reach the milestone of having carried out over 15 million Covid-19 PCR tests. The 15 million tests, which include those carried out by NHS Scotland at the three NHS regional hubs set up around Scotland and the network of Health Board diagnostic labs, is a massive milestone reached and recognition must be given to the hard working and dedicated testing teams across the country. As we know, testing has played a vital role as restrictions are phased out and we learn to live with the virus. However, we cannot become complaisant. It is crucial that individuals report their LFD test results so the Government can quickly identify new outbreaks and put appropriate measures in place, as this will remain at the heart of the Government’s strategy to help break chains of transmission.

Due to the progress we as a nation have made, Covid-19 restrictions have been eased in schools. As of 28 February, high school pupils and staff will not be required to wear face coverings in classrooms, however those who wish to continue to wear them will be fully supported in doing so. Face coverings will still be required in communal areas. Specific mitigations relating to assemblies and transition visits for learners who will start primary or secondary in August 2022 will also be eased as of 28 February. This will be very welcomed news to all schools, staff, students, and parents, and I would like to thank them all again for their patience and sacrifices to help reduce the spread of the virus.

In Parliament

Nearly 82,000 carers benefit from additional double payment

Since September 2018, over 658,000 Carer’s Allowance Supplement payments have been made to 126,055 carers in Scotland, totalling £188 million. In December 2021, just under 82,000 eligible carers received a payment.

In recognition of the impacts of the pandemic on unpaid carers, these payments included an additional Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement payment, which set the total December payment received by individuals at £462.80.

There are two Carer’s Allowance Supplement eligibility dates each year: one in April and one in October. The eligibility dates for 2022 will be Monday 11 April 2022 and Monday 10 October 2022.

Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Bill Published

New legislation has been published on the Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Bill to improve community safety. This Bill follows the report of an independent Firework Review Group which recommended tightening legislation to reduce the harm fireworks can cause.

The bill will focus on reducing the negative impact of fireworks and pyrotechnics on communities across Scotland. Proposed measures include: the introduction of a fireworks licensing system; a new power for local authorities to designate firework control zones; restricting the days fireworks can be sold to and used by the general public; a new offence to criminalise the supply of fireworks and pyrotechnics to under-18s to ensure adults do not purchase such products on behalf of children; a new offence of being in possession of a pyrotechnic while at, or travelling to, certain places or events, without reasonable excuse.

Adult Disability Payment Legislation Unanimously Approved

This month, legislation was unanimously approved by the Scottish Parliament which will see that working age disabled people, those with a long-term health condition and people who have a terminal illness be able to apply for disability assistance to the new Scottish system. The payment will be the twelfth to be delivered by the Scottish Government and will replace Personal Independence Payment, which is currently delivered by the UK Government.

The new Adult Disability Payment will open for applications in three pilot areas from 21 March 2022. The first will be for those living in Dundee City, Perth and Kinross, and the Western Isles council areas. Adults of working age with a disability or health condition as outlined above, who are not already in receipt of PIP or DLA, and live in these pilot areas, will be the first to be able to apply. Further council areas will be introduced in phases until the Adult Disability Payment rolls out nationwide on 29 August.

People already receiving DWP payments will not need to apply for this as their awards will transfer to the Scottish social security system automatically in August.

Further Support for Culture Recovery

The Government’s Omicron business support fund will help cultural organisations, events, museums, and freelancers recover from the economic impact of coronavirus restrictions. A total of £16 million funding for this financial year is being allocated as follows:

  • £12 million to Creative Scotland towards support for a hardship fund for creative freelancers, a recovery fund for cultural organisations and for Edinburgh Festivals celebrating their 75th Creative Scotland will announce details of this fund.
  • £2 million additional support for the Museums Recovery Fund to support a wider range of museums to recover from the pandemic
  • £2 million for EventScotland to increase the total support for EventScotland’s national and international events programmes.

In the Constituency

  • I was very grateful to attend the grand opening ceremony of the new and improved Elder Park Entranceway. Its restoration is wonderful and it is great to see the beautiful lamps in place to keep everyone safe in the dark. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to everyone, including the two youngest members of Friends of Elderpark who had the honour of cutting the ribbon.
  • Local students will hopefully be glad to know that it remains the Government’s firm intention to hold National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams this Spring. Taking into consideration the ongoing disruption within schools, the SQA has decided to invoke its Scenario 2 contingency and will provide revision support in early March to aid learners in preparing for their exams. The SQA have announced measures to support the delivery of the qualifications this year in recognition of the disruption of the pandemic including:
    • exceptional circumstances back-up for learners who are unable to attend their exam(s) due to illness or bereavement;
    • grading exams this year will look to factor in the impact of the pandemic on learners;
    • and once the results have been published, learners will have free direct access to appeal.
  • I stopped by to visit SWAMP this month – a fantastic organisation who I am glad to have a very strong working relationship with. It was great to get on the hi-vis vest and see the progress of their site development. I’d like to congratulate SWAMP on securing their latest funding from the Council to assist with thHumza ateir development. I look forward to seeing the project shape up and getting the public back through their doors.
  • After making the move to our new office at the Fairfield Heritage Centre in Govan, I am glad to announce that we are open for business! The office will be open to constituents for the first time since March 2020. We have put measures in place to make visiting the office safe. Such measures include encouraging anyone who visits the office to take a lateral flow test on the same day, we will provide hand sanitiser, and we have partitions between desks to keep my staff safe. Constituents and groups can make an appointment to visit by calling 0141 882 4647 or emailing . Alternatively, if you are out and about, feel free to pop your head in and my staff will help assist you.