One Week of Campaigning Left

Stuart McMillan talking support for people dealing with alcohol problems.

While there are still 8 days to go until the polls open, most of the 5th of May will be spent getting the vote out and ensuring everything goes smoothly. That means we really only have 7 more days to actually campaign – canvass, deliver leaflets and newspapers, man the stalls, hold the shop, and so on. As I’ve said before, I’m concentrating on our campaign, not those of other parties, but discussions about some SNP policies have been occurring on social media. Stuart himself has seen fit to respond, and I have reposted them here (some party names changed to protect the innocent).

First of all, on the Living Wage:

The SNP Government, wrote to the European Commission asking them for clarity on the introduction of the Living Wage into the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill. The European Commission indicated that making the Living Wage a mandatory requirement for those bidding for public contracts would be in breach of obligations under wider EU legislation and Treaty principles. (Therefore unlawful).

The Scottish Government considered carefully what else could be done on this important issue. The bill was passed and is now an Act and it provided statutory guidance on how purchasers should take account of a company’s approach to recruitment and terms of engagement (which would include pay) of staff when assessing the suitability of a company to bid.

The SNP Scottish Government has paid all staff within their pay scheme, including NHS staff, a Living Wage since 2011. The SNP Government are working to promote the Living Wage, and had set a target of having over 500 businesses as Living Wage accredited employers by March 2016. This target has now been doubled. 80% of Scots are now receiving the Living Wage or higher.

This also ties in with the SNP Scottish Government’s wider commitment to support those on low incomes. This includes a requirement on the NHS in Scotland to pay the Living Wage, and increasing the low pay threshold beneath which employees receive a minimum pay increase of more than one per cent to £22,000.

It also comes after the Scottish Government confirmed it would fully implement the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body for 2016. Scotland is the only part of the UK to accept the Review Body’s recommendations for all of the last three years, meaning NHS staff in Scotland are, and will continue to be, the highest paid in the UK.

Moreover, while employment law remains reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government is taking action wherever it can to promote fair work throughout Scotland’s workplaces. While there is still much to be done, the establishment of a Fair Work Convention, promotion of the real Living Wage, and promoting a positive, partnership-based approach to employment relations are all helping to improve outcomes and drive up employment standards for workers in Scotland.

Finally, when the SNP Govt consulted with public bodies, including (the Other Party) run Inverclyde Council, those public bodies came back and agreed with the SNP Government. So (the Other Party) in Inverclyde have accused the SNP and locally me, on this whilst (the Other Party) run Inverclyde Council agreed with the SNP Govt on its legality at the same time.

Below are a list of some (the Other Party) run Local Authorities and their comments on the introduction of the Living Wage. Makes interesting reading.

FOI replies from the Welsh Government and councils with (the Other Party) in power or minority have confirmed that they are not introducing the living wage as a mandatory requirement:

Inverclyde Council: “Public bodies cannot address payment of a living wage as part of the award criteria for a public contract nor make it a condition of contract performance. However, Inverclyde Council encourage suppliers to pay the Living Wage by including the information attached (above) in our tenders.”

– Welsh Government: “There is currently no Ministerial policy or directive to adopt the Living Wage into Welsh Government contracts…There are a range of contracted staff across the Welsh Government employed via contracts, at present there is no contractual stipulation that these employers pay their staff a Living Wage.”

– Glasgow Council: “At present the EU regulations do not allow the Living wage as a mandatory requirement within our contracts”

– West Dunbartonshire Council: “No contracts signed by West Dunbartonshire Council since the Council election in 2012 include the living wage as a mandatory requirement.”

– West Lothian Council: “West Lothian Council do not mandate the paying of the living wage within any contracts. The Scottish Government have advised this would contravene the European Procurement Regulations.”

– Fife Council: “At present there are no Fife Council contracts with external providers that have a living wage clause contained within them as a mandatory requirement…Fife Council do not believe it is legally possible to introduce the living wage as a mandatory requirement within our contract arrangements.”

– Aberdeen Council: “The Council is guided by Scottish Procurement Policy Note SSPN 4/2012 dated 22 August 2012 which upholds the clarification provided by the European Commission confirming that public bodies cannot require contractors to pay their employees a living wage as a condition of participating in a tendering exercise.”

– Dumfries and Galloway Council: “The Council has not signed any contracts with third parties to provide services where the payment of the living wage was mandatory as we would breach European legislation by doing this… current legislation states that we can encourage suppliers to pay the living wage but cannot require them to do so.”

– When asked if all contracts signed by the council included the living wage as a mandatory requirement North Lanarkshire Council and Renfrewshire Council replied stating ‘No’.

Secondly, education and student bursaries:

Some bullet points to get started with.

• Scotland has the highest package of support available to students living at home anywhere in the UK.
• The SNP scrapped Tuition Fees and they will NOT be introduced whilst the SNP are in power.
• The Scottish Government’s minimum income guarantee for undergraduate students from the poorest households living at home with £7625 per year through a combination of loans and bursaries.
• At the same time, from academic year 2016-17, the Scottish Government is raising the household income threshold for the maximum bursary (£1875) from £17,000 to £19,000.
• The Scottish Government has retained the Educational Maintenance Allowance when it was abolished in England. This benefits 35,000 school pupils and college students ever year.
• On 24th August 2015, the First Minister announced that from this January (2016), an additional 22,000 16 to 19 year olds will be eligible for the weekly EMA. See link:
http://news.scotland.gov.uk/…/22-000-more-young-people-elig…

The SNP Government is committed to investing in frontline health spending, with the Budget announcement in December outlining an additional £500 million for health boards in 2016/17, bringing the overall health budget to a record total of just under £13 billion. This announcement was agreed during Stage 3 of the Budget. (The Other Party) voted against this additional money. See the link:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentar…/report.aspx…

The Scottish Government is investing in the NHS workforce with a 5.6% increase in trainee nurses and midwives confirmed for 2016/17 – with student bursaries protected.

This increase in student intake numbers highlights the on-going commitment from the SNP to investing in the future of the NHS.

The Scottish Government will, for the first time, start projecting student intake figures over a three year period with a built-in annual review. Initiating three year projections will help predict student numbers needed and will be carried out in partnership with all stakeholders.

This is the fourth consecutive rise in nursing and midwifery training places and comes on top of a previous announcement of a 3% increase.

This is the kind of careful long term planning and investment our NHS needs.

The SNP are committed to protecting the Nursing and Midwifery Student Bursary at existing levels for 2016/17. This package of support remains distinctive and generous by comparison with England. Our approach to student support – alongside our commitment to free tuition fees – is in stark contrast with actions of the UK Government where free nursing tuition and bursaries are to be removed entirely. See link:
https://www.gov.uk/governme…/publications/nhs-bursary-reform

Free tuition saves over 120,000 undergraduate students up to £27,000 compared with the cost of studying in England.

The SNP have no intention of expecting our young people to pay for their education either up front or after they have graduated. Our support for free education is keeping student debt levels the lowest in the UK. We believe education is a right and not a privilege and should be based on ability and not ability to pay.

Scottish domiciled students do not have to pay fees of up to £27,000 charged for tuition elsewhere in the UK. This is a real saving that does not become a debt.

The average student loan debt on entry to repayment is significantly lower for Scotland relative to other UK countries.

Student Loan Company figures published on 18 June 2015 show that average student loan debt in Scotland is the lowest in the UK (Scotland £9,440 (up from £7,430 in 2014); England £21,180; Wales £19,010; Northern Ireland £18,160).

During their period of study, the poorest English students will accumulate around £12,000 more in student loan debt than the poorest Scottish students, if both groups access all of the loan they are entitled to.

I hope this information has been of assistance and shows why BOTH VOTES SNP next Thursday helps protect the NHS in Scotland.

Can’t believe it’s almost a week to go already: seems only yesterday I was gearing up for the UK election campaign. Time flies, doesn’t it?

StuPoint

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