Students need rent rebates as lessons go online

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has called on the Scottish Government to urgently publish clear and detailed guidance to help students prepare for the new academic term, following confirmation that the majority of university students will have online learning until the end of February.

The Minister for Further and Higher Education announced today “detailed sectoral guidance will be published as soon as possible next week”, despite the new timetable applying from January the 5th.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are also repeating their calls for students to get rent rebates.

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More than 2,200 racist incidents in schools

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today encouraged the Scottish Government to consider how it can tackle racist incidents in schools after research from the party revealed more than 2,200 incidents in the past three years. 

Freedom of information requests answered by 28 of the 32 local authorities recorded 2,251 racists incidents between 2017-18 and 2019-20. Four local authorities (Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Highland and West Lothian) did not provide figures. 

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1,500 years of school staff time lost to mental ill health

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today warned of the “tremendous toll” of mental health absences among staff at Scottish schools, as she revealed that 550,000 school staff days have been lost for mental health reasons since April 2017. 

Figures from 25 out of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, uncovered by Scottish Liberal Democrats under freedom of information legislation, reveal: 

  • 548,439 teacher and support staff days have been lost for mental health reasons since 2017-18.
  • The number of staff days lost has risen from 139,979 in 2017-18 to 181,191 days lost in 2019-20, the last full year for which data was available. 
  • Glasgow had the largest number of staff days lost in 2019-20 with 20,821 days lost, followed by Highland on 17,667 and Edinburgh on 13,464. 
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Isles representatives call on ministers to explore ferry and flight testing for isles

Isles representatives, Alistair Carmichael MP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Liam McArthur MSP have called for the Government to explore options for mass testing at points of entry to the Scottish islands. Writing to the Scottish health ministers, the Orkney and Shetland MP and MSPs suggested that the deployment of testing at the Channel ports could guide the introduction of improved controls to prevent further coronavirus outbreaks in island communities.

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Highlands and Islands representatives call for special measures to support exporters

Scottish Liberal Democrat representatives, Alistair Carmichael MP, Jamie Stone MP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Liam McArthur MSP have together written to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps calling for special support measures for food producers in light of recent export restrictions. The group wrote to Mr Shapps yesterday calling for extra support to be put in place for Highlands and Islands businesses which risk being disproportionately impacted by restrictions due to the long distances involved in exporting from rural and island areas of Scotland. While restrictions have been partially lifted on exports via France, there are concerns that greater disruption is to come with the arrival of new trade barriers in the new year.

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Wishart seeks urgent update on isles vaccine rollout

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is seeking an urgent update from the Scottish Government and NHS Shetland following reports that there are challenges getting the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to remote communities.

Ms Wishart has written to Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, and NHS Shetland Chief Executive, Michael Dickson, to seek clarity on the rollout in Shetland following BBC reports that vaccine hasn’t been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency for transport by sea or air once its thawed after leaving a freezer.

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Number of teachers in ELC falls by 39%

Scottish Liberal Democrats today said the SNP Government is "systematically stripping expertise from nurseries" after it was revealed that the number of teachers working in Early Learning and Childcare has fallen to 729, compared to 1,200 in 2014 - a drop of 39%.

The number of two year olds from the least well-off backgrounds using the entitlement to funded ELC also decreased.

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Isles representatives secure action from Ofgem

Isles representatives Beatrice Wishart MSP and Alistair Carmichael have secured a commitment that Ofgem will look into poor practices from energy providers.

Ms Wishart and Mr Carmichael met with the energy regulator today to present further evidence from constituents frustrated by poor customer service, inconsistent access to competitive tariffs and price hikes in the past few years. Ofgem agreed to look into the concerns raised, and reiterated that all customers must be treated equally and have a right to switch regardless of their meter. The parliamentarians have welcomed Ofgem willingness to investigate matters but have warned this must not be “a token gesture”.

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Wishart responds to R100 contract announcement

Responding to the news that BT has signed a contract to deliver the North Lot of the Scottish Government’s R100 programme, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said:

“This is welcome news that brings some more certainty to the rollout of superfast broadband in Shetland. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has made this digital divide all the more obvious. Lack of reliable internet access is hampering the ability for islanders to keep connected, whether for learning, socialising or accessing services.

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Childcare entitlement deadline pushed to August 2021

Responding to the announcement that the statutory duty to deliver 1140 hours of funded ELC will not come into effect until August 2021, Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP said:

"The pandemic has disrupted all aspects of our lives but this government cannot use it as an excuse to kick the can down the road on major commitments. There will be no recovery without properly funded and supported childcare."

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