Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Guidance – Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme

The U.K. Government have launched a scheme for if you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus.

This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.

Full information around the scheme can be found on the U.K. Government website here.

Although the government has finally bowed to pressure and announced support for the self-employed delaying the first payments till June is not parity with employees, and it will do nothing to relieve the anxieties of people who have lost their entire incomes.

 

Stewart plugging away for answers about A82 road safety improvements

Road safety campaigner MSP David Stewart has expressed disappointment that the Scottish Government does not seem to know which sections of the A82 have benefited from roadworks over the past five years.

The revelation comes after Mr Stewart tabled a question following the death of a family-of-four who lost their lives in a crash on the notorious road last month.

The response received this week says an average of £11.8 million was spent on improvements each year – but the government is “unable to break down this investment by location”.

The question was lodged after the Cousins family lost their lives on the road on February 20.

Mother Gemma Cousin, 26, was driving a green Mini Cooper when it crashed with a red Ford Fiesta by Hillfarm, Torlundy, near Fort William.

Her husband Rhys, aged 25, was also killed along with their two daughters Peyton, three, and Heidi, one.

Mr Stewart said: “The A82 has a history of tragic road deaths and serious injuries and lack of investment is causing unimaginable suffering for families like the Cousins and the Davidsons. That’s why I tabled a question to Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Parliament, asking what improvements and investment has been given to the A82, and in which locations, since 2016.

“I was stunned to receive this completely inadequate response. It seems bizarre that the government doesn’t know where it carried out infrastructure improvements along the route. I am lodging a Freedom of Information request to try to get those details. I realise that the current priority for our government is tackling the coronavirus but it will be in everyone’s interests to get this information.

“There have been a number of accidents and incidents on the A82 and it is hard to know, unless there have been fatal accident inquiries or court cases, what the actual causes have been.  Many could be down to driver error or road conditions or weather conditions but it is well known locally that the road does need major improvement which, I argue, would in turn make it safer.”

The response to the Parliamentary Question is below.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

WRITTEN ANSWER

Index Heading: Transport Scotland

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour):

S5W-27702

Michael Matheson: Since 2016 this Government has invested over £58 million* on maintaining the A82 trunk road.

 

2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 2019-20**
£9,312,907 £11,287,720 £12,803,038 £14,361,468 £11,025,050

 

* We are unable to break down this investment by location.

** As Financial Year 2019-20 is not complete the figure above contains a small amount of projected spend through to the end of the financial year.

Our detailed programmes of maintenance work for 2020-21 are currently under development and will be shared with stakeholders, including MSPs, once confirmed. Information about our transport projects on this route can be found at https://www.transport.gov.scot/projects/

Detailed development and assessment of the preferred option for the A82 Tarbet to Inverarnan improvement scheme is ongoing with a view to preparing draft Orders later this year. Delivery of the scheme will depend on completion of statutory procedures and thereafter a timetable for its progress can be set.

 

 

 

MSP extremely concerned Caithness airlinks will suffer long term damage

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart is extremely concerned that Caithness airline links will suffer long term damage as coronavirus takes its toll.

Mr Stewart wrote to Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, after Loganair announced the axing of its Edinburgh-Wick service which takes place this Friday, March 27.

The MSP had previously asked the Scottish Government for swift action following the collapse of Flybe when the Wick-Aberdeen route was taken over by Eastern Airways which previously ran it under a franchise for Flybe. Mr Stewart argued that the Wick-Aberdeen service was fragile due to falling passenger numbers.

Mr Matheson has now replied that he understood Eastern Airways had stopped its Aberdeen service from Monday this week with the suspension continuing to at least April 20 and subject to developments with coronavirus which has hit every airline in the region.

“I understand that the Government has to concentrate on the coronavirus crisis and people should be staying at home, so any movement is restricted and I totally back that,” said Mr Stewart.

“But the writing was on the wall for these routes last year when I asked the Scottish Government to consider backing a Public Service Obligation on both, a move which would have been welcomed by local groups and individuals. As it stands Wick will have no airline flights to Aberdeen and Edinburgh from the end of this week until at least April 20.

“If a PSO had been progressed, there could have been protection given so the links were in place when the country recovers. The airlines could have been there for the transport of key workers or other resources during this crisis.

“The axing of one service and the suspension of the other is truly worrying in the longer term and I will continue to press for ring fencing both the Wick Aberdeen and Edinburgh routes when the coronavirus crisis is over.”

Mr Matheson said he understood the issue faced by Caithness due to the loss of the Wick-Edinburgh service and more generally.

He added: “We are considering carefully the business case submitted by Caithness Chamber of Commerce and will respond in due course.

“I am sure that you will appreciate, however, the wider issues that the Government is collectively dealing with during the Covid-19 crisis. While we respond to the business case as soon as we can it will not be immediate.”

  • A PSO, under EU transport law, is a permitted state aid which maintains scheduled air services on routes vital for the economic development of the region they serve.

 

Scottish Government to give up to £1million for NHS Highland’s bullying cases

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has been told the Scottish Government will give a maximum of just over £1million to NHS Highland to cope with the number of bullying and harassment cases being lodged.

Scottish Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, revealed the figure in the answer to a Parliamentary Question lodged by Mr Stewart, also Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister.

The MSP has been pursuing answers on the amount of funding and the process people can use to lodge their cases following concerns from a number of constituents who continue to contact him.

“It is good that the Government has finally revealed the figure which is substantial and shows just how many people they expect to come forward and how much support it is felt those people need,” said Mr Stewart.

“I realise that Covid-19 will be extremely challenging for the health authority at this moment, but the fact that the Government has moved to help fund this process will be of some comfort to current and former staff and will hopefully cover claims for compensation.

“I hope this will mean the system will be more robust and able to give those coming forward confidence that it will be independent from the health authority and able to look anew at each individual case.”

The funding of £1,030,000 will be made available up until 31 March 2021 and Ms Freeman said, “this will support the delivery of NHS Highlands’ healing process commitments”.

The Health Secretary added that money will be made available on the basis of actual expenditure in connection with the delivery of the programme of work.

Previously Mr Stewart was told that NHS Highland did not apply to the Scottish Government for funding to set up a compensation scheme, but in the reply to his PQ Ms Freeman said the funding was made available “in accordance with NHS Highland’s financial request”.

Last year bullying and harassment victims were told they would have to seek compensation through the legal system after an NHS Highland board meeting.

Mr Stewart was concerned because there were former employees who had lost or left their jobs and, in some cases, had their careers ruined and would be unable to go to an industrial tribunal due to a time-bar on cases and would be unable to afford a civil case.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

WRITTEN ANSWER

18 March 2020

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-27515 by Jeane Freeman on 2 March 2020, how much additional funding will be given to NHS Highland for the delivery of the healing process.

 

S5W-27728

Jeane Freeman: The Director General for Health and Social Care and Chief Executive of NHS Scotland wrote to NHS Highland on 21 February 2020 confirming that financial provision to support NHS Highland’s culture commitments, specifically the implementation of a dedicated healing process, would be made available in accordance with NHS Highland’s financial request. Accordingly a maximum of £1,030,000 will be made available to NHS Highland in the period to 31 March 2021. This will support the delivery of NHS Highland’s healing process commitments.

 

Funding will be made available on the basis of actual expenditure in connection with the delivery of this programme of work.

 

Announcement: Public Advice Surgery in Nairn

A constituency advice surgery I had planned to hold at Nairn Community & Arts Centre at King Street on Friday is no longer going ahead.
I’ve pulled the ads for the lunchtime meeting to comply with social distancing measures.
It’s always good to meet people in person but for now it was practical to hear their concerns over the phone.
Anyone who would like to discuss an issue or a concern can ring 01463 716299 between 1-2pm on Friday, March 20, or email david.stewart.msp@parliament.scot
Thank you.

Scotland will follow same pandemic modelling of England where cases of Covid-19 will come in a heavily concentrated burst, Health Secretary confirms.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart, who is also Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, asked the Health Minister Jeane Freeman today to re-emphasise the need for self-isolation by confirming that Scotland is anticipating the same “heavily concentrated burst” of Covid-19 cases as predicted in England.

In chamber at Holyrood, Mr Stewart said: “The chief medical officer for England predicts that nearly all the Covid-19 cases will hit in a heavily concentrated burst – 50 per cent in a three-week period and 90 per cent in a nine-week period. Does the Cabinet Secretary for Health recognise these estimates for Scotland and share the pandemic modelling?”

Ms Freeman confirmed that Scotland was expected to see the same rise over the same period.

She went on to say that the aim of new self-isolation measures announced by the Scottish and UK Governments yesterday was to bring down those numbers “as low as we possibly can over a long period and to do that in a way that will allow our NHS to manage those who will require their particular treatment”.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Stewart said: “I raised this question because I think we cannot emphasise strongly enough the fact that there is going to be a huge surge in Covid-19 cases here – and all within a very short space of time.

“This is a fight for all of us and we can only do it if we work together in the face of this great challenge. We can only hope the massive ongoing effort to persuade people to self-isolate and to make it financially possible for them to do so will stagger the onset of infections as much as possible to reduce this swell so that our NHS will manage.”

Reduction in speed limits around Raigmore Interchange could be in place by late summer

An MSP has been told that Transport Scotland and Highland Council are working towards bringing in temporary speed reductions around Raigmore Interchange by late summer.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has now met representatives from both organisations following up constituents’ concerns about safety at a pedestrian crossing on the south bound slipway where a woman was involved in an incident with a car and later died in hospital.

The temporary scheme will see reductions to 30mph or 40mph on roads surrounding the interchange with the goal of making the reduction permanent within 24 months.

“Both organisations will be working together as there are trunk routes and local authority owned roads involved and there has to be consultation with councillors and other groups about the change,” explained Mr Stewart.

“I’m in favour of lower speed limits in that area as we know that slower traffic speeds can reduce fatalities and injuries for cyclists and pedestrians, particularly in urban areas.

“Late summer is the target for the introduction and I will be monitoring progress on this.”

Temporary changes to the site and crossing have already being carried out by service provider BEAR – action including removing vegetation and more warning signs in the lead up to the crossing.

Police Scotland previously told the MSP that the installation of two additional warning signs for the crossing is “an insufficient short-term solution” and “more permanent short-term engineering measures should be considered to minimise the potential for future collisions”.

At the meeting on Friday Mr Stewart was given more information about bigger plans that Transport Scotland and the council were undertaking with Sustrans Scotland to make the area more cycle and pedestrian friendly. There are now consultants, previously working with Transport Scotland in Inverness, being taken on to look at the traffic modelling scheme around Raigmore Interchange.

“When the consultants come up with options, I was assured that those will be made public as part of the consultation but there is still no hard and fast date for when this more ambitious vision will be in place,” added Mr Stewart.

“I will follow up the meeting with a letter to both the council and Transport Scotland asking to keep me up to date with progress.”

Transport Scotland previously said temporary traffic lights on the south bound slipway at Raigmore Interchange, an improvement suggested by Mr Stewart, was not feasible as it would lead to stationary traffic on the carriageway and would be likely to result in accidents on the roundabout.

Mr Stewart first called for a safety review of the southbound A9 slip road, which links to the A96, after the incident involving the Inverness grandmother.

There are no pedestrian crossing lights at the spot, but there are some on the other slip road which is only a few yards away.

 

David Stewart questions Health Secretary on Coronavirus and intensive care beds

Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart, who is also Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, asked the Health Minister to outline “the Scottish Government’s strategy for the final stage of dealing with the coronavirus, which is the mitigation phase, particularly with reference to intensive care beds which are in short supply relative to our European neighbours such as Italy”.

Ms Freeman explained the number of intensive care beds was the same proportionally as throughout the UK and admitted that, going by the evidence, those most seriously affected were likely to need intensive care beds.

She went on to say that part of the work now being undertaken was the doubling of intensive care beds and getting the right trained staff and right equipment and the Government would look at what more it can do to maximise capacity.

Ms Freeman added: “All of us need to understand that the situation is a serious one, that while many people will be mildly affected, for some this will be a serious infection and for many it will potentially cause their death.”

Afterwards Mr Stewart added that he hoped the two people affected with the virus on Shetland make a full recovery and sent them and their families all best wishes.

“With two cases of coronavirus confirmed on Shetland, we can’t become blasé about our position in the Highlands and Islands and need to heed the advice from the medical experts as this situation develops.

“However, we have a smaller pool of resources, both medically and in the number of hospitals and beds available in our region, so I will be monitoring how this develops and how we are able to cope.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart meets apprentices in Inverness

As part of Scottish Apprenticeship week, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, dropped in on well-established firm, Moray Firth Training Group.

The group, based in Harbour Road, Inverness, has been in existence since 1966 and operates throughout the Highlands and Islands, including Orkney and Shetland, and apprentices are generally aged between 16 and 19.

Over a three to four-year period it can have 100 apprentices through its doors. As well as training mechanics and others from the garage industry, it carries out First Aid training.

Mr Stewart not only met the apprentices from the automotive training centre, but Mark Ogilvie, Managing Director, and James Hay, Skills Development Scotland Skills Investment Advisor. This year’s theme was ‘Talent without Limits’.

“It was great to see the work carried out by this group and talk with the apprentices,” said Mr Stewart.

“Visiting this firm has strengthened my view that apprenticeships are much needed – not everyone needs a degree to get on and achieve a worthwhile career. I wish all the young people and the dedicated staff all the best for the future.”

  • Photo shows Mr Ogilvie on far left and Mr Hay on far right with David, the apprentices plus also pictured Nicol Adie – Training Director and John Craig Training Instructor

David Stewart MSP, Ironworks campaigner, makes fresh call on the government to step in to help the live music venue find a new home

Reacting to today’s decision by Bricks Capital to lodge plans to demolish The Ironworks live music venue in Inverness to build a luxury hotel, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart, who has campaigned vigorously to ensure the future of the music business is protected, said: “People are going to be really worried about what is going to happen to The Ironworks now. It’s a private business but it’s got a huge public interest, so the government must step in, and quickly.”

“This is not just about saving The Ironworks, it’s about safeguarding all the other related businesses that could be in trouble if a new home isn’t secured for the business to move into. I’m told by top industry bosses that while our summer festival circuit here in the Highlands and Islands is strong, it wouldn’t take an awful lot to change that. I look at the young acts that would be losing opportunities to play on the big stage by getting the support slots The Ironworks can give, the touring artists that would no longer be coming up to this area, and the vast numbers of people who will be denied live music with the rawness that only The Ironworks can bring, and that’s what motivates me to carry on campaigning and to continue raising this with ministers and in the Scottish Parliament. I think I echo the sentiments of all music lovers in the Highlands and Islands when I say I don’t care where The Ironworks moves to. As long as it’s here and it’s happening.”

 

The MSP’s petition is at https://bit.ly/3cwkf2M

Bricks Capital have said they are officially lodging their plans today (Friday, March 6).

The company wants to build a 162-bed hotel bearing the Courtyard by Marriott brand.

The hotel is expected to bring 100,000 guests to the Highland capital each year, with a 90 strong jobs boost during the construction phase.