Latest news at the time of writing is that several cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in Scotland and we expect these cases to rise, possibly significantly, in the days and weeks ahead. We do not know yet what the impact of this variant might have on the effectiveness on vaccines and the risk of re-infection. That is why the Scottish Government will continue to carefully monitor its transmission and impact. Furthermore, the Scottish and Welsh Government’s are calling on UK Prime Minster Boris Johnston to take pre-emptive action by implementing stronger quarantine and testing rules for those travelling to the UK from overseas.
The main piece of Government advice is for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the strongest tool we have in our armoury against the virus. Also, the message remains to thoroughly wash your hands, wear a face covering in public settings unless you are exempt, frequently test using the free NHS lateral flow kits, and now we are encouraging everyone to work from home where possible.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) led a study which reported the estimated number of deaths directly averted because of the Covid-19 Vaccination programme across Europe. Since starting the vaccination programme in December 2020, an estimated 27,000 deaths have been averted due to the rapid uptake of the Covid-19 vaccination in Scotland – an impact second only in Europe to Iceland. This emphasises why it is paramount for everyone to receive their course of the Covid-19 vaccine if eligible as it is the single most effective route to reducing deaths and transmission rates.
At the start of this month, Glasgow hosted the COP26 summit which saw several world leaders, delegates, representatives, scientists and activists come together to take action on climate change. The Glasgow Climate Pact does not contain everything that every country wanted and there is understandable disappointment that key issues were watered down in the final hours. However, there is no doubt that the Glasgow summit has made significant progress on some very important issues. What is clear is that the responsibility for creating widespread change falls on the shoulders of world leaders, a duty which the SNP Government are taking very seriously.
Action on single use plastic
Scotland is the first UK nation to pursue a ban on some of the most problematic, single-use plastic products. The ban of these environmentally damaging single-use plastic items will come into effect on 1 June 2022. This is an example of the bold action which is needed to be taken by world leaders if we are to deliver on the commitments made at COP26.
Free travel under 22s
From 31 January 2022, all Scottish residents under the age of 22 will have access to free bus travel. This decision was made in agreement with the Scottish Green Party to encourage young people to tackle climate change through using free public transport. This change means that around 930,000 young Scots will benefit from free bus travel.
Licensing short term lets
Local authorities will be given powers to ensure that short-term lets are safe and meet the needs of their local communities under new legislation laid before the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government has already introduced legislation which allows councils to establish short-term let control areas and manage numbers of short-term lets. This next step will make significant process to delivering a licensing scheme that will ensure short-term lets are safe and the people providing them are suitable.
This legislation was developed in response to Scottish residents raising significant concerns about the impact of short-term lets on their communities including noise, antisocial behaviour and the impact on the supply of housing in some areas. All local authorities will be required to establish a short-term let licensing scheme by October 2022.
Scottish Veterans Fund Opens
A support fund which improves the lives of former service personnel and their families in Scotland has doubled to £500,000 this year and has just opened. A priority for this year’s Scottish Veterans Fund is projects that support veterans who have left the Services early, and bids that promote collaboration between veteran’s charity sector and other bodies. Since the fund’s creation in 2008, more than 180 projects have been supported by receiving a collective £1.7 million.
In the constituency
- After receiving their well-earned national lottery community fund, I was able to visit Bikes for Refugees. They are a brilliant group based in the constituency who repair, upcycle and provide bikes to New Scots. I loved getting a tour of their workshop and speaking with their volunteers. They currently have a Christmas appeal and are asking those able to donate money to help refurbish and repair bikes for children.
- I had a productive conversation with senior management members from the Glasgow City Council South Homeless Casework Team. They provided me with insight into their new allocations system for providing homeless people with temporary furnished accommodation. We have always had a strong working relationship with the south homeless team, and it is great to reaffirm this bond.
- This month, I was delighted to visit Rearo Laminates as they celebrated 30 years in Govan HQ. Not only do they provide award winning service and quality of product, but they are providing vital apprenticeships which have benefitted many in the constituency. It was great to finally see in person the improvements Rearo have made to their factory in Govan and meet the hardworking team to celebrate their success.
- Housing Associations are at the heart of many communities in Glasgow Pollok – I’ve always valued their open-door policies when it comes to discussing the challenges they and my constituents face. During most recent engagements with GHA and other RSLs, I’ve taken the opportunity to discuss the importance of equality and diversity policies. I have been very reassured to hear clear commitments to actively considering the needs of diverse communities, and how these policies can best be put into practice at every stage of housing allocation policy.