Following the news that 139 applications for deferred entry Early Learning and Childcare funding have been rejected by local authorities this year, Scottish Liberal Democrats have called on the Scottish Government to reimburse parents who have been forced to self-fund an additional year of childcare because they exercised the right to defer their child starting primary school.
Following the campaign run by ‘Give them Time’, the Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd, made a commitment last month “to introduce legislation to entitle all children whose school start is deferred to access funded early learning and childcare in their deferred year”.
The figures published today, however, show that there are parents who have requested such funding for the current academic year and have been rejected.
With the Scottish Parliament having been in recess for a couple of weeks, I want to take the opportunity to highlight an important campaign that I am delighted to be supporting.
You may have read about Shaunee Jamieson’s story in the Shetland Times a few weeks ago. Shaunee is a mid-wife from Sandwick, now living in Aberdeen. She lived with chronic pain for years before being diagnosed and starting treatment for endometriosis. Shaunee has started a petition to the Scottish Government, with the help of Endometriosis UK, for menstrual wellbeing to be taught in all Scottish schools.
Commenting on the news that 22% (£38 million) of Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) was not spent in 2018/19, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP commented:
“The SNP Government spent years dismissing this successful Liberal Democrat initiative in England and Wales out of hand before then appropriating it. That has contributed to it not yet fulfilling its potential.
“Teachers need help, not instruction, on how to spend this extra money. It shouldn’t be used to patch-up gaps in the core teaching budget.
“The problem is that PEF still isn’t a permanent feature of Scottish education. Its year-to-year existence doesn’t offer teachers and schools the certainty they need to make investments for children for the long-term. Making it permanent would help ensure this funding is fully used.”
Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, and Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart, have published their submission to the Post Office consultation on proposed changes to the Lerwick branch. The letter outlines a range of constituent concerns relating to the proposed move to a retail partner site, and calls for a full and open consultation, with guarantees on the future quality of the service.
Commenting, Mr. Carmichael said:
“We’ve tried to give the benefit of the doubt to the Post Office, but it is clear that there are serious procedural flaws in the way that they have handled the proposal to close the Post Office and to relocate it to a shop. There is a deep and growing concern in the community about the impact of these proposed changes. People are understandably frustrated at what appears to be an attempt to impose an unwanted change on Lerwick.
“It is no good holding a consultation when at every step of the way you tell the public that the decision is already made and that it can’t be changed. Post Office leadership should remember that this is a publicly-owned service. It must be accountable to the community.”
Ms. Wishart said:
“The Post Office plans are a substantial change that will affect users across Shetland, not just in Lerwick. The current location has important benefits for customer privacy and access that must not be compromised.”
"The lack of proper consultation is not respectful to the staff involved or service users. The Post Office needs to pause to allow proper time for community scrutiny.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart today challenged Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse to deliver fair funding for Shetland’s ferry service to meet the needs of island communities. Ms Wishart was responding to a statement on the publication of the draft National Islands Plan which sets out the Government’s objectives for Scotland’s islands for the next five years.
Ms Wishart asked the Minister to commit to full and fair ferry funding in the upcoming budget for Shetland in light of the costs of running the service and the acknowledgement in the Plan that transport is crucial in allowing islanders to “enjoy fundamental human rights”.
The Minister replied that the government will work constructively with Shetland and Orkney Islands council on funding issues.
Wishart sets out agriculture priorities at Cunningsburgh Show
Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Shetland Beatrice Wishart today attended the Cunningsburgh Show and used the opportunity to talk to crofters and farmers and set out her priorities for Shetland’s agriculture.
The 5-point plan sets out Beatrice’s commitment to:
- Ensure crofters are at the heart of designing crofting legislation to help businesses develop and diversify.
- Secure continued access to markets and end the threat of tariffs of up to 40% by demanding a no-deal Brexit is immediately taken off the table.
- Demand the Prime Minister keeps his promise on delivering the almost £200m convergence funding to Scotland.
- Urgently increase freight capacity, including increasing direct freight sailings at peak times.
Safeguard the protected food name designations of Shetland’s world class food and drink sector by demanding a no-deal Brexit is immediately taken off the table.
Lib Dem MEP warns of threat of ‘mackerel war’ with Iceland
A 'mackerel war' with Iceland threatens the future of Scottish fishermen, a Liberal Democrat MEP has warned on a visit to Shetland.
The chair of the European Parliament's fisheries committee, Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, was in Shetland to discuss the situation following Iceland and Greenland announced unilateral increases in the amount of the fish they intend to catch.
The European Commission has swung to the defence of the fishermen, denouncing the decision and raising the threat that the EU may introduce sanctions unless cooperation is restored.
A senior Commission official had told the Icelandic government that its action "demonstrates a lack of interest in contributing to the sustainable management of the stock."
Mr Davies today met the Shetland Fishermen's Association to listen to their concerns alongside local MP Alistair Carmichael and Shetland’s Liberal Democrat candidate for the Scottish Parliament, Beatrice Wishart.
Lib Dems concerned government has abandoned R100 timetable
Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has called on the Scottish Government to clarify if it has now abandoned its commitment to deliver access to high speed broadband to every household and business in Scotland by 2021.
The latest update on the so-called R100 programme published by the Scottish Government excludes any mention of the earlier 2021 target for completion.
Questioning from the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed in May that the contract tendering process will only be completed by the “end of 2019”.
Following this, Mr McArthur wrote to the relevant Minister, Paul Wheelhouse seeking reassurances that the programme was still on track to meet the SNP commitment of 30 mega-bits-per-second internet speed to every home in Scotland by the end of 2021. Mr McArthur is yet to receive a response, and has written to Mr Wheelhouse again to express his disappointment at this lack of reaction.
Meanwhile, in the progress report, published by the Scottish Government today, all reference to the 2021 target date has been quietly dropped.
Swinson and Wishart highlight scandal of broadband provision in Shetland
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Shetland Beatrice Wishart have today criticised the Scottish Government for “delays and mismanagement” of the R100 programmes and highlighted the problems poor broadband is causing Shetlanders, following a visit to software firm Mesomorphic on the campaign trail in Lerwick.
Questioning by the Scottish Liberal Democrats earlier this year revealed that the tendering process for delivering the R100 programme would take almost two years.
Jo Swinson campaigns alongside Beatrice Wishart in Shetland
Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson is in Shetland today campaigning alongside Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Shetland Beatrice Wishart. The pair will be visiting a local tech firm, celebrating Shetland Boat Week and campaigning in central Lerwick.