9,005 Families in Edinburgh to Receive Child Payment Increase

ALL ELIGIBLE FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN UNDER-16 ELIGIBLE FOR SUPPORT

The Scottish Child Payment has been increased from £20 to £25 per week per child, meaning 9,005  families in Edinburgh are set to receive a boost to their household incomes from the Scottish Government.

Eligibility for the payment – which is only available in Scotland – has also been extended, meaning eligible families in Edinburgh with children under the age of 16 can now apply for the Scottish Child Payment.

Tommy Sheppard is encouraging families in Edinburgh East to apply for the support.

Commenting, Tommy Sheppard MP said:

“The extension of the Scottish Child Payment could be a turning point for families in Edinburgh East and across Scotland as the support is extending from £20 to £25.

“We have already heard from anti-poverty charities about how the payment has been ‘game-changing’ for families with children under-6, and now as the support is extended to families with children under-16 more will have extra cash in their pockets to get through this Tory-made cost of living crisis.

“The Scottish Child Payment is only available in Scotland and demonstrates how the SNP Scottish Government is building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect.

“However, the Scottish Government continues to work with one hand tied behind its back by a UK government which is preparing to inflict austerity 2.0 on families across Scotland.

“There is only one way we can escape the chaos of Westminster and build a fairer, more equal Scotland and that is by becoming an independent country.”

Apply here: https://www.mygov.scot/scottish-child-payment

Local Campaign Opposes Controversial Student Housing Development

Proposed development

The Save Jock’s Lodge campaign, a grassroots campaign group opposing the controversial plan to build a major student accommodation development at Jock’s Lodge, is holding a public meeting so that local residents can learn more about the proposal and how to register their concerns.

The meeting will take place on Monday 17 October at 7:30pm, and will be held at Northfield-Willowbrae Community Centre. All local residents are encouraged to attend.

The proposal itself would involve demolishing a popular pub at the historic crossroads in the east of the city to make way for a seven storey block of student flats. The pub, currently called the Willow and previously known as Jock’s Lodge, is much-loved in the area for its beer garden, food and family friendly atmosphere. The group’s research has found that there has been a pub on the site for at least 150 years.

The Jock’s Lodge application would join eight other student accommodation blocks within a mile’s radius which have already been built or have planning permission. This would tip the number of student bedrooms in the area to over 2000, which the group says represents overconcentration. There are also fears this development would accelerate the already changing the character of the neighbourhood due to the increasing transient population.

The Save Jock’s Lodge campaign already has the backing of Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard and local Craigentinny-Duddingston councillor Danny Aston.

Commenting, Tommy Sheppard MP said:

“I’ve repeatedly spoken out against the dramatic increase of student accommodation developments which have grown like a rash in Abbeyhill and Meadowbank over the last few years. This one at Jock’s Lodge would take the number of student bedrooms in the area to over 2000.

“Too many potential good housing sites have already been taken by student accommodation developers. This one would involve the loss of a popular local pub too.

“I held a surgery at the church opposite a few weeks ago where nearly 50 people turned up to express their concerns about this. That number is completely unprecedented. Local people are understandably really angry about this. Our message is clear: enough is enough.”

Cllr Danny Aston added:

“I’ve received so many emails about this and it’s not hard to see why. As well as the loss of an excellent and historic pub, and the sheer number of student developments in the area, people are also very concerned about a number of other issues.

“The seven storeys proposed by Alumno the developer will completed dominate the main approach to this crossroads from Willowbrae Road and from Portobello. The junction is currently composed of historic stone buildings, including the B-listed church and C-listed Piershill tenements. This huge, bland modern block will ruin the historic character of Jock’s Lodge. And a lot of folk are understandably worried that it will add to congestion at what is already a very busy junction.

“Alumno hasn’t submitted their detailed application so far so it isn’t yet possible to submit a formal comment. I’d urge local residents to come along on Monday, share their opinions and find out how to make their views known when the time comes.”

Tommy Sheppard MP Invites Public to Event to Help with Cost of Living

Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, is hosting a free advice event with key local and national organisations to help constituents through the current cost of living crisis.

Confirmed attendees include: Home Energy Scotland, Citizens Advice Edinburgh, Age Scotland and the Edinburgh Food Project. It will take place on Tuesday, October 4 at Richmond Craigmillar Church, 227 Niddrie Mains Road, EH16 4PA, and will run on a drop-in basis from 2pm to 4pm.

Commenting, Tommy Sheppard MP said:

“Every day people are waking up to reports that the cost of living crisis is spiralling out of control – with each headline more worrying than the last. I’m determined to do everything I can to help those in Edinburgh East who are struggling, and ensure they have the information they need to tackle the rising cost of living.

“From practical ways to save money on your energy bills to pointing you towards extra money you may be eligible for, the organisations invited have been chosen to cover a range of problems that local residents might be facing right now.

“The measures introduced by the UK government to tackle this emergency have fallen far short of what is needed to help ordinary families get through the winter. Therefore, the work done by these organisations will be even more important in the coming months as more people see their incomes slashed by rising energy bills and Brexit price rises.

“Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend, help and support is available.”

More details: tommy.sheppard.mp@parliament.uk

Liz Truss’s fuel bill plan is just Robin Hood in reverse

The last item of parliamentary business of Boris Johnson’s premiership was a debate on sewage pollution. Fitting, don’t you think? After all, more than anyone he turned our political discourse into a cesspit, setting mendacity as standard and jettisoning integrity and morality as he went. So, farewell then, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. You won’t be missed. 

But could the next one be even worse? Liz Truss emerged victorious this week from a long Tory leadership race that was tedious and terrifying in equal measure. Early signs aren’t promising. 

Rarely has there been such a mismatch between the problems facing a government and their prescription for dealing with them. Truss seems ideologically opposed to the measures necessary to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. 

Her mantra of tax cuts may have won votes from the small clique of middle-aged right-wing people that comprise the Tory rank and file, but it makes absolutely no sense in the real world. The Tory party was founded to give voice to the rich and powerful, and Liz Truss is taking them back to their roots. That’s why she will protect those with capital and penalise those without. 

Her attitude to energy prices is a case in point. Of course it’s right to freeze energy prices. If we don’t, millions will face extra hardship, small businesses will go to the wall and inflation will run rampant. But the freeze should be paid for by taxes on the obscene profits corporations are now making, rather than by consumers. 

The Truss plan protects profits, keeps siphoning money out of the real economy to be accumulated as private wealth, and places a future burden on all of us to fund it. And those who are worst off, on low and fixed incomes, will pay the biggest proportion of their income in future bills. It’s basically Robin Hood in reverse. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, the UK government should do four things. First, levy a windfall tax on excess profits of the giant corporations and use it to peg domestic energy bills. Second, uprate social security payments generously. Third, bring in a more extensive business support programme to help small business meet rising costs. And fourth, use an emergency budget to fund cost-of-living wage increases for public sector workers. 

The Tories won’t do this of course. Nor will they devolve economic powers to Scotland to allow us to take a different approach here. So, the Scottish Government will do what it can, and commendably has already done a lot. Freezing rents, outlawing evictions, increasing child payments to low-income households, increasing free school meals and other measures will help people here. But we still have no control over most social security, business taxes, government borrowing, and the essential levers we need to manage our economy. 

There is a way to make sure government policy serves the people rather than the corporate elite. To have the capacity to deal with rising living costs and the increasing poverty and inequality that follows. we need independence.

The arguments in the Supreme Court next month about having another referendum matter.  As a normal independent country we could be sure to have both the agency and the will to make the changes necessary to protect the people the Tories keep letting down.

Edinburgh Festival: Big Fringe companies’ attacks on organisers are sad to see

I was at Murrayfield last Friday. The opening event of the Edinburgh International Festival was quite possibly the best thing I have ever seen on stage.

A collaboration with Adelaide saw dozens of Australian circus athletes and dancers present a stunning physical display: elaborate choreography with jaw-dropping strength and skill. Bodies climbed over each other, sometimes stacked four up, to make living sculptures, amplified by precision lighting and video projection.

All throughout the National Youth Choir of Scotland vocalised a dramatic soundscape, sounding sometimes Gaelic, sometimes Arabic, always intensely human.

It was brilliant in concept and execution. But perhaps the most wonderful thing of all was that, despite what must have been a massive budget, it was free to go.

And thousands of local people went. This is the sort of thing that only happens when artistic ambition combines with public funding. We should be proud it happens here.

The international festival delivers the prestige stuff, but it’s the Fringe that fills the city. More than 3000 shows, tens of thousands of performers and crew, and hundreds of thousands of punters combine to bring Edinburgh alive. The world’s largest festival of the arts is back for its 75th year.

As ever, what makes it aren’t the names you have heard of, it’s the ones you haven’t. The city is host to a massive cultural experiment, a cauldron of creativity.

A lot works, a lot doesn’t. And from failure performers learn and improve. That’s the opportunity of the Fringe. There’s nowhere else in the world they can take an idea and perform it night after night to different audiences, refining it until it works.

It’s been three years since the city bustled like this. In the darkest days of the pandemic, it seemed like it might never again. Artists and venues were hit hard. Sheer determination brought things back to life.

This month’s festival isn’t the same as the last. 2019 broke all records. Coming back after Covid and in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, those new records were always safe. Yet the size of this year’s Fringe is on course to be more than 80 per cent of the pre-pandemic peak. That’s an amazing comeback.

Sadly, in three years many people who made shows happen have left: retiring, changing industries, or exiled by Brexit. It’s been a nightmare for many venues to recruit technical and front-of-house staff with experience. The Fringe as an entity has lost a big slice of its collective memory.

So, it saddens me when some of the bigger commercial operators attack the organisers, looking for someone to blame lower ticket sales on. Bounce-back will take more than a year and there will be bumps in the road. Success requires the myriad venues and performers that make up this amazing festival working together, not taking chunks out of each other.

Importantly we need to rebuild anew. The economic potential of this great event needs to be harnessed for all the people who live here. The festival needs closer links with the city and its communities. That’s why the rethink of values which the Fringe Society is promoting is so welcome.

Edinburgh is the world’s biggest festival. It could be the most diverse and the fairest too.

Tory Leadership Race Reveals Just How Foul The Conservatives Really Are.

It’s a bit like watching a dysfunctional family on the other side of the street fight amongst themselves. They’re all as bad as each other. There’s no way you can intervene, except to try to get the whole lot evicted because of the harm they are doing to the neighbourhood. And so, the Tory leadership election trundles on, oozing with bad intentions.

The most remarkable thing is that Johnson is still Prime Minister. Lying to parliament. Breaking the law. Protecting his mates. Disowned by his party. But still, he occupies Number Ten. And they let him.

Rather than do the right thing and remove this man from office, the parliamentary Conservative Party shamefully enables his delusions. He still believes he is the victim here.

In truth, they have been saved by the summer holidays. Parliament takes a break next Thursday and returns on September 5. They are hoping Johnson can do no further harm in the time he has left and that, by the time we’re back, someone else will be in charge. Boris will be consigned to the backbenches.

The early stages of the Tory leadership race are over and those whose only intention was to set a marker for the future excluded. But the process so far tells us a lot about the nature of the Conservatives in Britain today.

Most alarming is the race to the right with candidates vying to see who can be the most illiberal and regressive. Not one of them will review deporting refugees to Rwanda, an ugly policy which is a stain on Britain’s humanitarian credentials. Not a single voice is heard in dissent from these wannabe Tory leaders. It’s foul.

In part, this is because they all have an eye to the final ballot of 160,000 Tory members. These are a group of people quite unlike the population they live amongst. They are older, whiter, better-off and, for the most part, more reactionary.

You might think the best leader would be the one who will tell this privileged elite like it is. But not a bit of it. Contestants are pandering to every prejudice. I am convinced that, were equal marriage not now the settled position of the body politic, that would also be firmly in their sights.

To make matters worse, social prejudices are combined with economic illiteracy resulting in drivel about tax cuts and smaller states. Some on the hard-right are quite serious about this, others just parroting what they think their Tory base wants to hear.

If these ideas gain traction, they spell more trouble for those already at the sharp end. Suella Braverman, knocked out yesterday, said Universal Credit should be taken off part-time workers to make them work more hours.

Let’s just unpick that. The people she had in mind were mothers with children (single people don’t get UC), working for wages so low they qualify for state support. That was her target.

The Tory small state means fewer health workers, teachers, police officers. Weakened protection for you and your environment. A squeeze on wages while prices soar and the rich pay less tax.

We do not need to put up with this anymore. Now is the time to choose a different course. Now is the time for independence.