In Scotland, we are still progressing steadily with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. This month it was announced that, as of Monday 21 March, the legal requirements for businesses and service providers to collect customer details for contact tracing and having other safety measures in place will end. Furthermore, from Monday 4 April the legal requirement to wear face coverings in places of worship or whilst attending a commemorative event (i.e. weddings, civil partnership registration, funeral service) will change to being only a recommendation. This dropping of the legal requirement to wear a mask will extend to wider settings (i.e. shops, other indoor settings, and public transport) from Monday April 18. Please do still practise caution and be mindful of others.
The First Minister confirmed that people without Covid-19 will no longer need to take regular lateral flow tests from 18 April. The change forms part of the Test and Protect Transition Plan which sets out how testing will become more targeted, with the aim of reducing serious harm from Covid-19. My sincere thanks go to those part of the Test and Protect workforce for their efforts throughout the pandemic.
Finally, following agreement at a cross-UK meeting, all international travel restrictions for people coming into Scotland ended. This means fully vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to complete Passenger Locator Forms or take pre-departure and day two PCR tests.
It is simply devastating to see the scenes of invasion in Ukraine by President Putin and his Russian Administration. President Putin has already caused so much devastation for the families and individuals living in Ukraine, destroying their livelihoods. I condemn Russia’s actions in the strongest possible terms.
In Scotland, we stand united with Ukraine. Scotland is taking action now to become a Super Sponsor – this would enable Ukrainians to get clearance to come to Scotland more quickly and be accommodated temporarily whilst the UK Government then works with local partners to provide longer term accommodation, safeguarding and access to vital services. As an immediate commitment, Scotland has offered to support 3,000 refugees in the initial wave.
Scotland recently sent a second shipment of medical supplies to Ukraine – this included more than 130,000 medical items which were specifically requested by the Ukrainian Government. Additionally, the Scottish Government is fully supportive of any measures which target the wealth and assets of the Russian regime and its backers. Therefore, the Scottish Government and its economic agencies will use all available powers not to support trade and investment activity with Russia and has encouraged all Scottish businesses to withdraw from trading with Russia. Support and advice will be offered to businesses as they adapt to removing links with Russia.
I know many people, like myself, are feeling frustrated and helpless watching the invasion unfold on the media. Many of us want to help but do not know where to turn. Below I have included some information on how you can help support Ukraine’s effort from afar:
- Funds are almost always the most useful donations you can give, especially to charities with experience of crisis zones.
- Find out how to give safely here: https://www.oscr.org.uk/search/
- Those who wish and are able to donate to the DEC Ukraine appeal can do so in the following ways:
- Donate online at https://www.dec.org.uk/
- Telephone donation on 0370 6060900;
- £10 text message donations, by texting DONATE to 70150.
- The Ready Scotland website has further information, advice and support on how you can safely and most effectively support the relief effort in Ukraine.
Tackling Cost of Living
In response to the cost of living crisis, three key Scottish Government energy efficiency and heat programmes will be boosted from April. These include:
- Expanding the Home Energy Scotland (HES) advice service, which provides free, impartial advice available to all households in Scotland on making homes warmer, greener and easier to heat. Capacity will be increased by 20% to support an extra 12,000 households a year, whilst a service offering bespoke advice to the most vulnerable households will be doubled.
- Widening the eligibility criteria of the Scottish Government’s flagship Warmer Homes Scotland fuel poverty programme to include more groups within the 60 – 75 years age range.
- Increasing the level of funding individual fuel poor households could benefit from through the local authority-led Area Based Schemes.
More than £160 million of funding is being invested this year to help make Scotland’s homes and buildings more efficient and warmer, supporting efforts to tackle fuel poverty whilst helping householders manage their increasing energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.
In the Constituency
- I had great fun visiting Pirie Park Primary for World Book Day. I read a chapter of David Walliam’s ‘The Midnight Gang’ and answered some tough questions from the pupils about politics and Boris Johnson!
- I was delighted to record an interview with a valued member of our constituency, Olufunmilayo Fajemiseye who has set up Safety Awareness Glasgow. This is a great initiative which seeks to educate, encourage and support vulnerable individuals and organisations in Glasgow about health and safety. The platform helps inform new Glaswegians of local safety information from how to properly cross the road to cyber safety. If you haven’t done so already, then I highly encourage you to check out Safety Awareness Glasgow.
- I took a trip to Damshot Crescent to visit GHA’s new builds site. The development is coming on great and the properties look fantastic – modern and spacious. I was lucky enough to get to go inside a property to view the space for myself. I think a great community will grow from Damshot Crescent and I look forward to seeing many of our own constituents move into these properties.
- I spoke with the South West Kinship Carers Group and heard about the wonderful work they are doing, but also learned about the difficulties Kinship Carers face in obtaining financial support such as the Clothing Grant. I am looking into this and will relay these experiences to the Government.
- Following their opening in Cardonald, I visited the IncludeMe2Club. They provide an inclusive and affordable service for local communities to engage with to build stronger and more sustainable communities. They have done great work to create fair and inclusive communities with equal opportunities for all.
- I rounded off the month with a visit to Govan’s Fairfield Club where there was a School Music Jamboree! It was great to see the student performances – it is clear that a lot of practice went into it. Luckily for the audience of school children and supportive members of the community, I was not asked to perform. However, I did make a wee speech to thank everyone for organising the fun filled event and to acknowledge how lovely it is to finally have such events back on and in-person.