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Hello and welcome to all of you in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

Thank you for taking a moment to look at this email. I want to keep everyone in touch with what’s going on in the constituency and what it might mean for you.During the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all working from home. If you need help, phone the office as normal and leave an outline message. Someone will soon get back to you. You can also email me at any time. All the contact details are at the end of this email.

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Independence is coming home to Scotland!
In spite of all the protests coming out of Boris Johnson’s Government – or maybe because of them -  more and more Scots are realising that making our own rules is the only way forward.
 


A Survation poll shows 64% of Scots believe that Scotland would vote Yes in a second referendum and a majority (56%) of Scots said an independence referendum should go ahead if a pro-independence majority of MSPs are elected to the Scottish Parliament next year.
 
The latest figures come after consecutive polls showing independence for Scotland is now backed by a majority of Scots. The poll, commissioned by Progress Scotland, show that nearly twice as may ‘No’ voters in 2014 have moved to ‘Yes’ than have gone in the opposite direction.


 
The Tories “lack any moral or democratic authority” to block a referendum, says SNP Depute Leader, Keith Brown. Independence, he says, "is the settled will of the Scottish people.”
 
We are already seeing the Westminster attempt at a power grab that would dilute our current powers. We are not going to accept that.
 
The results of the earlier Ipsos/Mori poll conducted for STV shows that of those expressing a view, 58% of people would now vote Yes in an independence referendum – and that the SNP is on course to win a historic majority in next May’s Holyrood election.
 
The poll puts support for independence at the highest ever level, and shows the SNP would also 58% of the constituency vote in next year’s election, putting the party on course to win an outright majority of seats at Holyrood.

Averaging out all four recent polls, the vote in favour of independence sits at 53%. This is no straw in the wind as polling expert Sir John Curtice has already recognised.

It shows strong support for the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, with 72% saying they are satisfied with the job she is doing as First Minister - a net approval rating of +49.

The poll also finds a majority of people in Scotland (51%) feel Boris Johnson “definitely should” grant a new independence vote if the SNP win a majority of seats in May 2021.

Commenting, Keith Brown MSP said: “Faced with the chaotic and incompetent treatment of Scotland as an afterthought at best, more and more people are deciding that the best way forward for Scotland is as an equal, independent country.

“And if there is a clear majority for pro-independence, pro-referendum parties in next year’s election – as this poll shows there would be by some considerable margin – then no Tory or any UK Government has the right to stand in the way.

“Quite simply, in those circumstances, the Tories would lack any moral or democratic authority whatsoever to try and block the will of the people, and it would not stand up to scrutiny.

“Already, the Westminster wall of opposition to a referendum has started to crumble, with private acknowledgement that a result like this in next year’s election would have to lead to a referendum, and this poll will only solidify that growing view.

“The poll also shows strong support for the outstanding leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, both among SNP supporters and the public as a whole, as she leads the country through the unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic.



“The SNP takes absolutely nothing for granted and we will redouble our efforts between now and next year’s election to retain the trust of the people. But it is clearer than ever that Scotland’s future lies as an independent country.”

 

Covid-19 restrictions



The wearing of face coverings has become mandatory in communal workplace areas, such as corridors, canteens and social spaces, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last Thursday (15 October).
 
During a statement to Parliament, which was delivered virtually, the First Minister also announced that the business support scheme will start taking online applications from Tuesday (20 October). In total, £40 million of support is available, including a £20 million grant fund which will be administered by local authorities.

Changes to face covering regulations are:

  • The wearing of face coverings in a workplace canteen, when not seated at a table, such as when queueing, entering or leaving the canteen (in line with other hospitality venues) – from Friday 16 October
  • The wearing of face coverings in other indoor communal workplaces, such as corridors and social spaces – from Monday 19 October
  • Exemption for couples during their indoor marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration, providing there is a partition or 2 metres can be maintained between the couple and other people – Friday 16 October

Existing coronavirus Covid-19 restrictions will remain in place and will be kept under review. The First Minister said: “We introduced restrictions on household meetings three weeks ago, together with very tough additional restrictions last week.

“However, the most recent of those changes, in particular, will not yet be having an impact on case numbers.

“And there is no doubt that we are currently in a precarious position.

“That explains why I can confirm to the parliament that all of our existing Covid restrictions will remain in place.”

Regarding travel during this time, the First Minister continued: “People living in any of the central Scotland health board areas under tighter restrictions should not travel outside their own area unless they really need to - and people in other parts of Scotland should not travel into these areas unless absolutely necessary.

“Please avoid travel to other parts of the UK considered high risk areas. We specifically ask people not to go on trips to Blackpool unless necessary – there are now 286 infection cases in Scotland associated with Blackpool.

“These restrictions are hard - for individuals and businesses - but they are essential.”


Hamilton Covid-19 update
NHS Lanarkshire has provided a Mobile Testing Unit (MTU) because of the significant increase in Covid-19 in the Hamilton area. It is more important than ever that anyone showing symptoms of Covid self-isolate and book a test.


Example of a mobile testing unit

Hamilton has a particularly high prevalence rate of Covid with a 7 day average showing 413.6 (per 100,000) which makes the Lanarkshire-wide rate 273.3.

The MTU will be set-up in the car park adjacent to the Low Parks Museum and is operational from 10am on daily. You will need an appointment.

I would urge anyone showing symptoms of Covid to self-isolate immediately and book a test. By following the guidance and looking out for each other we can stop the spread of this virus.

The best way to keep yourself and your friends and family safe is to remember the FACTS:

😷 Face coverings in enclosed spaces
👥 Avoid crowded places
👐 Clean hands regularly
📏 Two metre distances
👩‍⚕️ Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.
 
Figures change every day, but on 15 October, Lanarkshire NHS had recorded 309 new cases in the previous 24 hours; 1,743 in the previous seven days which works out at  263.3 per 100,000 population.

For the most up to date figures, you can look here:
https://tinyurl.com/y6mfh6u8


Apply for self-isolation support grant
I heartily urge constituents who face financial hardship as a result of needing to self-isolate to apply for a £500 self-isolation grant offered by the SNP Government.

The new Self-Isolation Support Grant will help people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse who would lose income if they needed to self-isolate, such as those unable to work from home.

 



The fund will focus particularly upon people who are in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits, with some discretion to make awards to others in financial hardship.

Applications for the Self-Isolation Support Grant opened on 12 October and will be delivered through the existing Scottish Welfare Fund, which is administered by local authorities.

We know that self-isolation can be tough, but it is essential to protect people and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

To ensure people do not experience financial hardship as a result of doing the right thing, the SNP Government has introduced this new £500 grant for people on low incomes who have been asked to self-isolate.

It’s essential that we do everything we can to support people throughout this challenging time.

These payments will help ensure people in the constituency do not have to make a choice between self-isolating and supporting themselves financially.

Applications for this new benefit are now open, and I'd urge anyone in Hamilton, Larkhall or Stonehouse who is facing a loss of income due to self-isolating to apply for it.
 
Read more here: https://tinyurl.com/y5rzgygl


Handbags for Christmas
I promise that I will search ampng my handbags in support of  WomanKIND Clydesdale who are working with Hamilton Food Bank to promote a little extra happiness in what may not be the perfect Christmas.



Covid-19 New business support fund of up to £40 million
The Scottish Government has earmarked up to £40 million to support employees and businesses impacted by these restrictions consistent with our established commitment to sustainable and inclusive growth and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): fair work statement.
 
We will work with the STUC, employer organisations and HMRC to deliver targeted support  to employees as we recognise that employers are now liable for 20% of salary costs for furloughed workers. 
 
We will also provide support to businesses closed or impacted by these new restrictions -  see below for more detail.
 
We will also work with business and sector representative organisations to provide additional support flexibly through a new £11 million contingency fund for businesses that need support but do not fall into the above categories.
 
These new and temporary business support funds will be administered by Local Authorities, providing one-off grants to businesses very directly impacted by the restrictions implemented on 9 October 2020. 
 
A Covid-19 Restrictions Fund will be available to hospitality and other businesses required to close because of these new restrictions.

It operates as a two-tiered scheme, with a smaller grant of £2,000 for businesses with a Rateable Value (RV) of under £51,000 and a larger grant of £3,000 for those businesses with a RV over £51,000.  An upper limit of £15,000 in total will apply.

At the same time, Local Authorities will invite applications for a business hardship fund -  with payments of £1,000 or  £1,500, dependent on Rateable Value -   to  support some businesses that remain open but are still significantly impacted by the restrictions, including those in the direct supply chains of firms that must close.

 An upper limit of £10,000 will apply in total to any eligible business operating multiple premises.
 
There is a finite budget available for this support and we will to do all we can to minimise the risk that applications from businesses exceed the funding available. Therefore we will target the first round of applications on:

·         Hospitality businesses and some gyms, required by these new regulations to close or operate in a restricted way and able to evidence a minimum 25% reduction in turnover during the brake period.
·         Producers/wholesale businesses based in Scotland supplying primarily short-life goods or produce to hospitality businesses required by the regulations to close or operate in a restricted way and able to evidence a minimum 25% reduction in turnover during the brake period.
 
For clarity, retail and businesses that provide takeaway food as the core and established basis of their operations are not eligible for these closure or hardship funds.
 
Eligibility
To be eligible for this support you must meet the following criteria. 
 
For the business closure fund you must be a hospitality or other business  required by law to close under these new restrictions.
 
For the discretionary business hardship fund you must be:

·         a hospitality business and some gyms, required by the regulations to operate in a restricted way
·         a producer/wholesale business based in Scotland supplying primarily short-life goods or produce to hospitality businesses required by the regulations to close or operate in a restricted way and able to evidence a 25% reduction in turnover during the brake period
 
If your business operates multiple premises you can apply for grants for each premise, applying only once to the local authority in which your business is headquartered. The maximum any one business can receive will be restricted, regardless of the number of premises: the upper limit for the  business closure fund is £15,000; the upper limit for business hardship fund is £10,000.
 
Your businesses must have been open and trading before 9 October.
 
You must have a business bank account. This is the account your grant will be paid into if your application is successful.
 
Your business premises must be registered for Non-Domestic rates. Businesses that pay rates through their landlords rather than directly to a Council are eligible to apply (evidence to be provided through copy of lease agreement). 
 
Businesses which have breached wider Covid regulations/requirements prior to local restrictions are not eligible to apply. 
 
Applications are welcome from Limited Companies, Sole Traders, Trusts and Partnerships provided they meet the other criteria. 
 
Retail and businesses that provide takeaway food as the core and established basis of their operations are not eligible for these closure or hardship funds.
 
How to apply
We are working with local authorities to prepare and finalise all the administrative arrangements required to ensure efficient and effective application, processing, payment and appeal arrangements -  and access to the information and advice you may need.
 
Local authority websites will be updated at 9 am on Tuesday 20th October, allowing businesses to complete applications. At this point in time there is no merit in contacting your local authority.
 
Applications will close on Tuesday 3rd November at 5 pm.
 
Local Authorities will prioritise processing of applications with a view to making as many decisions as possible within the brake period while restrictions are in place.  Local authorities will ensure any payment is made within 3 working days of notifying you of their decision.
 
Local authority websites will provide information on appeal arrangements.
 
Read more information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Restrictions Fund

 

New report confirms Tory Government’s power grab attempts through the Internal Market Bill

When Boris Johnson effectively walked out of trade talks in Brussels on Friday, he made clear that there would be ‘No Deal’ with Europe unless the EU, all 27 countries, would roll over and surrender to the UK Prime Minister’s demands, however absurd they are.

A scathing new report has criticised the Tory government’s international law-breaking Internal Market Bill and echoed warnings that the Bill sets up for an attempted power grab against the devolved Parliaments.

In further mounting evidence over the dangers of the Bill, the report, published by the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee also warned that it “authorises conscious and deliberate breaches of the UK’s obligations under international law.”

In it’s finding the Committee concluded that:

·      “We are not convinced that opportunities for managing the UK internal market through the common frameworks process have been exhausted. This contributes to our doubts about the necessity for the Bill.”

·      The Bill “provides the UK Government with powers that could allow it to alter the competences of the devolved administrations in significant ways.”

·      The Bill “takes power to override future devolved legislation. As such, it would limit the scope for the devolved administrations to pursue policy divergence.”

·      The UK Government must explain “why such a broad power for the UK Government to spend money in devolved territories has been included in this Bill.”

·      And that the delegated powers in the Bill “are extraordinary’ and ‘unprecedented’, and many of them are constitutionally unacceptable.”

It's more proof, if proof was needed, that Scotland just doesn't figure in Boris Johnson's Brexit decisions. It is yet another reason why more and more Scots are realising that independence is the only way forward that will reflect this nation's real values.

Any other direction will take us backwards!