Homelessness in Scotland deemed “health epidemic” by Scottish minister

The Scottish Government must do more to combat homelessness, an opposition MSP has told EN4 News.

Homelessness deaths in Scotland rose by 19% between 2017 and 2018, according to a report published this week.

The number of deaths increased from an estimated 164 to an estimated 195 over the period studied.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton challenged the First Minister over the issue at FMQ’s on Thursday and has now said that the government’s policy implementation isn’t going far enough.

“The First Minister has outlined her plans for Housing First, and it is a good first step but 830 people in Housing First isn’t going to cure the disease of homelessness.

“Around four people a week died in 2018, a shocking statistic, and when you consider that nearly 30,000 households were assessed as homeless last year, 830 tenancies just simply won’t cut it”.

The Scottish government has been running a ‘Housing First Project’, with the goal of creating over 800 tenancies from April 2019.

Cole-Hamilton also noted the need for homelessness to be treated as a public health issue.

“This is a health epidemic, and the treatment that Housing First provides is a good model to follow, but the rollout isn’t happening fast enough and won’t be effective enough to eradicate homelessness,” he said.

“It is important to realise how many people could be put at risk if policies don’t adapt.”

The recent figures were published by the National Records for Scotland (NRS) and included those in temporary housing or with “no fixed abode” in their statistics.

(Credit: Rhi Ramsay)

Edinburgh’s death rate was higher than the national average at 42.1 deaths per million, although this was considerably lower than the rate in Glasgow and Aberdeen which were 100.5 and 67.8 per million respectively.

The jump in deaths coincided with the particularly harsh winter Scotland experienced in 2018, when “The Beast from the East” brought record low temperatures.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart claimed that the Scottish government planned to “transform” homelessness services.

In a statement, Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: “Behind these shocking figures lie individual personal tragedies. People living in desperate situations ultimately failed by the system.

“It is vital that the effort to end this loss of life does not end with the publication of the figures.”

Edinburgh MP brands Ruth Davidson’s House of Lords nomination “ridiculous”

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson’s nomination for a House of Lords peerage has been described as “ridiculous” by an SNP MP.

Tommy Shepard, the MP for Edinburgh West, told EN4 News he believes the House should be abolished.

“It’s ridiculous that people sit in a position of power over others without being accountable and elected,” Shepard told EN4 News.

“It is outrageous that in this country that says it’s a democracy, a majority of the members of [one of our] parliaments are not elected by anyone.”

It was announced on Thursday that Davidson, MSP for Edinburgh Central, had been nominated Prime Minister Boris Johnson alongside former chancellors Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond.

Her constituents have responded in a more mixed manner to the nomination.

Tricia Marwick tweets about Ruth Davidson’s nomination to House of Lords

 

Willie, speaking to EN4 News, said he supports the appointment despite not personally voting Conservative.

“She is not my party but I think she’s an excellent politician,” he said.

“She is a good asset for the House of Lords.”

Others were not so pleased.

“It is just payment for what she did over the last 5-10 years in Scotland,” Lynsey said.

“I’m a supporter of Scottish Independence and Ruth Davidson was instrumental in trying to fork that and her reward has been a seat in the House of Lords. It is absolutely a front to democracy.”

The former Conservative Leader is set to stand down as an MSP next year at Holyrood’s 2021 election but becoming a peer could mean an earlier departure.

EN4 News took to the Edinburgh streets to canvas opinion

A shock election result looks likely in the Republic of Ireland as voters head to the polls

 

 

Republican party Sinn Féin could take power for the first time in over a hundred years after a surge in their support over the last two weeks.

Irish voters told EN4 News that they felt alienated from the current government and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Ryan Lindsay from Lifford, Co.Donegal, said he was voting for change: “I’ll be voting Sinn Féin because Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have destroyed the country and change needs to happen.”

Another Donegal voter, Amy Quigley, said: “It’s Pearse Doherty and Sinn Féin for me.

“They actually care about the lower classes; Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil only care about their own pay, their own pensions and looking after other rich people.”

Change seems to be the mood of the day in the Republic, with recent polling delivering a shockwave to its political establishment.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Polling averaged out as Sinn Féin top on 25%, Fianna Fáil in second at 23% and the ruling Fine Gael in third with 20%.

The collapse in support for the current government has been drastic.

As recently as October 2019, 42% of voters were satisfied with how the Government was running the country.

Irish politics has always been dominated by three main parties: Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Fine Gael currently holds power in Dáil Éireann (Assembly of Ireland) and are one of only two parties to have done so, along with Fianna Fáil, since 1932.

Sinn Féin’s growth in support isn’t something that could have been predicted.

The Republican Party was weakened after the 2018 abortion referendum, which split the group and gave birth to breakaway party Aontú.

Emma-Jo Mullan, also from Donegal, has turned away from Sinn Féin.

“When they campaigned in favour of abortion in 2018, I decided I could no longer identify with the party.

“This is why I now vote Aontú, although having said this, it will be good to see one party in charge of the whole of Ireland for the first time.”

“It’s another step towards Irish unity.”

Despite Sinn Féin’s polling lead, the Republican Party cannot win a majority in the Dáil. This is because the party only ran 42 candidates, which is little over half what is needed to make a majority in the Dáil.

 

Podcast – US Politics Special: Trump impeachment trial, Iowa Caucas, and more

Iain Leggat, Andrew McDonald, and Chris Lamb join forces for a special EN4 News Podcast Special.

After one of the most eventful weeks in US political history the trio talk through the Iowa Caucus disaster, the Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump and The State of the Union Address.

Alex Salmond: Former First Minister appears in court charged with several counts of sexual assault against 10 women

 

The former First Minister, Alex Salmond, pictured arriving at court last year. (Credit: EN4 News)

Former First Minister Alex Salmond has appeared in court charged with counts of sexual assault against 10 women.

The former SNP leader denies the 14 charges, which include one count of attempted rape, one count of intent to rape, 10 counts of sexual assault and two of indecent assault.

The offences are alleged to have taken place while Salmond served as First Minster.

Speaking outside the high court in Edinburgh, Salmond, 64, said he was innocent and said he will defend himself ‘vigorously’.

He continued: “But the only proper place to answer criminal charges is in this court.”

The attempted rape allegation relates to an instance inside Bute House in June 2014 where it is claimed the politician is alleged to have pushed a woman against a wall, to have removed her clothes and his own, before pushing her onto a bed and lying naked on top of her.

Another is said to have taken place on a visit to Stirling Castle.

The allegations are said to have taken place over a period of 6 years form 2008 until 2014.

Salmond, served as first minister of Scotland from 2007 until 2014, when he resigned following the Independence referendum. He was then elected as member of parliament for Gordon, in Aberdeen-shire until 2017.

He resigned from the Scottish National party in August 2018 follow allegations of sexual misconduct.

His QC, Gordon Jackson, said Mr Salmond was pleading not guilty, and judge Lady Dorrian set the trial date for 9 March next year.

General election 2019: On the campaign trail with Labour candidate Ian Murray

Ian Murray was the Labour MP for Edinburgh South until parliament was dissolved earlier this month. Before the 2017 election he was the only Labour MP left in Scotland after the SNP landslide and their near-wipeout in the 2015 election. Now, he fights with six other Labour MPs seeking to keep their seats. Our reporter Andrew McDonald joined him on the campaign trail in Greenbank.

Labour’s Edinburgh South candidate Ian Murray hits the campaign trail. (Credit: Andrew McDonald)

On a sleepy Sunday in Edinburgh’s suburbs, there have perhaps been fewer more surreal sights than Labour’s Ian Murray pulling up in a tiny sports car to meet his campaign team. But he often has an explanation, even for his flashy car, which he says was a donation from a friend he accepted before he saw the car itself.

At 43, Murray is young for someone who has already been an MP for nine years. Campaigning is nothing new to him. He knocks on doors and tries to charm constituents with the confidence of someone who has done all of this before.

Back in 2017, a lot of the conventional wisdom was that Murray was in danger. After the SNP swept all before them in the 2015 general election , apart from Murray’s Edinburgh South seat, Labour’s last Scottish stronghold was under threat.

He emerged with a vastly increased majority of over 15,000, although a line he often repeats on the doorstep is that this majority is “made of sand.”

This is understandably important for ensuring that his supporting constituents still feel their vote matters – but why is Murray not confident in the stability of his huge majority?

“It was inflated because I was the only Scottish Labour MP in 2015,” Murrays says. “People thought that if they were going to vote to stop the SNP they would have to vote for Ian.

“This isn’t a Labour constituency with 15,500 majority, it’s a very mixed constituency and probably a microcosm of Scotland.”

 

Will Edinburgh South remain a Labour seat in December? (Credit: Andrew McDonald)

Murray’s assertion that Edinburgh South isn’t traditional safe Labour territory is reflected in its demographic. The area is among the highest paid in the UK and is predominantly suburban – a combination that would traditionally have swung Conservative in the UK.

But the issues of Brexit and Scottish Independence have drawn up new political lines across the country, and they almost always come up when Murray is talking to his constituents. His success here is a symptom of the fact that it sits firmly as an anti-Brexit (70% Remain in 2016) and anti-independence (65% No in 2014) area. Murray’s consistent opposition to both causes allows him to easily relate to most of his constituents on the doorstep.

But there’s something else that comes up even more at every house we visit: Murray’s boss, Jeremy Corbyn. In this affluent area dominated by homeowners they are united in their distaste for the Labour leader. Its for different reasons: some mention anti-Semitism, others perceive him as flip-flopping too much on Brexit while there are a few who openly say he is too far to the left. Murray also says that many of constituents simply can’t see Corbyn as PM.

“People tend to vote on who they can envisage walking through the door at Downing Street and we’re getting on the doorsteps, the public are speaking and saying they don’t envisage that he is able to do that,” Murray says.

Murray also told me that of the thousands of constituents his team have spoken to only two have said they are voting Labour because of its leader. It is important to note however that Murray is one of Corbyn’s biggest critics. At some of the houses we visit he sympathises with those who don’t like his leader by actually agreeing with them. Sometimes he cites Labours national polling as an indicator that there is little danger of Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister- implying that voting for Labour in this constituency will not necessarily put a man they don’t like into Downing Street.

It is Murray’s perceived independence that makes this the safest of Labours seven seats in Scotland, regardless of the party’s national performance. Nevertheless, an enthusiastic SNP campaign in Edinburgh South has the Labour team fighting to match it while some whispers of an unexpected Liberal Democrat presence are a concern. Team Murray is confident but taking nothing for granted.

Next week: we join an SNP candidate on the trail in Edinburgh.

General election 2019: Which way will Edinburgh’s five constituencies swing in December’s vote?

With December’s general election looming, EN4 News political correspondents Andrew McDonald and Iain Leggat assess the state of play in Edinburgh’s five constituencies and attempt to call the result.

 

Edinburgh South

Edinburgh South (Credit: Ordnance Survey)

A predominantly suburban constituency, starting from parts of Bruntsfield, Marchmont and Morningside and stretching out to Gilmerton and Fairmilehead in Edinburgh’s outskirts, Edinburgh South used to be a tight Labour/Lib Dem marginal until the SNP wave of 2015 – since then it has been a straight battle between them and Labour’s Ian Murray. EN4 News also joined the sitting MP, Labour’s Ian Murray, on the campaign trail.

Predictions:

McDonald: The SNP are campaigning hard here because it’s one of only two mainland seats they’ve never held. There is a reason for that though, and Ian Murray remains the safest of Labour’s Scottish MPs. Sure bet and a LABOUR HOLD.

Leggat: It’s going to take a lot to stop Ian Murray, despite the Unite union members trying to oust him before the campaign. He’s immensely popular and on course for a big win in the constituency. SNP want this bad, but Murray has full control so LABOUR HOLD.

Edinburgh South-West

Edinburgh South West (Credit: Ordnance Survey)

The only Edinburgh constituency that differs from merely being North/East/South or West, Edinburgh South-West was created in 2005 to replace the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency, while also taking some more of central Edinburgh.

It has a mix of urban-city areas like Fountainbridge moving out through half of Edinburgh’s western commuter belt and parts of Sighthill and Balerno and finishing in Edinburgh’s rural outskirts. This used to be Chancellor Alistair Darling’s seat until he stepped down in 2015 – it’s been held by the SNP and Joanna Cherry QC since then.

Predictions:

McDonald: A three-way battle can always go any way due to the nature of first past the post (FPTP) – and in winter, weather-influenced turnout could turn up a freak result. Cherry’s increased fame and declining support for 2nd-placed Tories and 3rd-placed Labour will likely see this stay SNP though, so SNP HOLD.

Leggat: The most exciting battle in the capital, but Joanna Cherry’s public displays of anti-Brexit heroism will make her a tough candidate to beat. Callum Laidlaw for the Conservatives is the biggest threat, leading with a pro-union, anti-indyref 2 argument. Very tough to predict, but SNP HOLD…just.

Edinburgh West

Edinburgh West (Credit: Ordnance Survey)

Commuter belt territory moving from parts of Gorgie and all of Murrayfield, Davidson’s Mains and Silverknowes all the way out to include the airport and South Queensferry, making Edinburgh West the largest of Edinburgh’s constituencies by land mass. Went from being safely Conservative to safely Liberal Democrat in the 1990s. Lib Dem Christine Jardine won the seat back from the SNP, who took it in 2015.

Predictions:

McDonald: Edinburgh West elected an SNP MP in 2015 and she didn’t last a year before (since dropped) fraud allegations lost her the whip. That trust is hard to win back, and Jardine remains a popular MP. Confident bet from me and a LIB DEM HOLD.

Leggat: SNP will be keen to win this back after failing to retain in 2017, and I am predicting a shock victory. They have gone for Sarah Mason as their candidate and I think she can pose a real threat to the incredibly popular Christine Jardine. A surge in SNP votes across the country will see Lib Dems lose a stronghold. SNP GAIN.

Edinburgh North and Leith

Edinburgh North and Leith (Credit: Ordnance Survey)

Holding everything from Leith to the Northside of Princes Street and stretching down to Fettes College and The Royal Botanical Gardens, it’s a constituency with a wide demographic within the city. It was a Labour seat from its first use in 1997 all the way to 2015 where the SNP took another shock victory during their storming electoral campaign. Deidre Brock claimed the victory and held her seat in 2017. It was an incredibly tight victory for Brock just fending off her nearest challenger, Labour’s Gordon Munro, by just under 2000 votes.

Predictions:

McDonald: A traditionally working class area with a high Remain vote and a high No vote, this is one of Labour’s top target seats. They’ll fancy their chances of overturning the SNP’s 1600 majority from 2017 and whether they can do it will depend on the stickiness of the Conservatives’ 2017 vote and on youth turnout in a constituency with a large student population. Hard to call but if Labour are going to win anywhere in Scotland, it’ll be here with a LABOUR GAIN.

Leggat: I think the pull to vote SNP nationwide will secure the seat for Deidre Brock. Gordon Munro will try his hardest to claim back a traditionally Labour seat and attempt to spur on the student population of Leith, but with the nationalist identity around the area, I think SNP are just about safe. SNP HOLD.

 

Edinburgh East

Edinburgh East (Credit: Ordnance Survey)

This constituency contains the city centre of Edinburgh, as well as the University of Edinburgh and one of the city’s most deprived areas in Craigmillar. It stretches from Portobello all the way to Tollcross and the Southside. Historically, Edinburgh East has been a Labour stronghold, with the party holding it all the way from the 1930s right up until 2015, where the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard claimed the seat from Sheila Gilmour. Sheppard secured the seat again in 2017, losing 7% of his majority in the process.

Predictions:

McDonald: Popular MP, decent majority and the other parties are putting in little effort here. If this doesn’t stay SNP I’ll eat Iain’s hat so therefore… SNP HOLD.

Leggat: Can Labour’s Sheila Gilmore claim her seat back? Most probably not. Tommy Sheppard is an easy bet to secure his seat. Labour are in with the only real shot and did make small gains in 2017, but the popularity of Sheppard will see him through to a SNP HOLD.

FMQs; Snap Election And NHS The Main Talking Points

First Minister’s Questions took place today on the back of the Westminster government on Tuesday voting in support of a December 12th general election.

 

With MSPs off parliamentary duty last week, there was much to catch up on. Interim Scottish Conservatives leader Jackson Carlaw opened the questioning, citing Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that Labour would allow a second Scottish Independence referendum if he became Prime Minister to suggest an alliance between Labour and SNP.

 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon replied that whether it was Labour or the Conservatives ended up in power in a December election, the Westminster system is “broken” and that only the SNP would allow Scotland the power to decide its future.

Image result for nicola sturgeon holyrood

 

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard asked the First Minister about the NHS, looking back to 2013 when the SNP said they wanted to make NHS workplaces “a great place to work.” He quoted a recent audit that said the NHS in Scotland is “running too hot, with too much pressure on staff” and said that around a quarter of staff sick hours are being taken up by stress-related absences.

 

The First Minister replied by stating that her government had increased NHS staffing by 13,000, more than a 10% increase. She also pointed out a 6% health budget increase in the last five years and said that if at the last Scottish election Labour had come into power, the NHS budget would be £758 million less than it is now.

 

Co-Leader of the Green party Alison Johnstone used her question to bring up short let controls for properties in Scotland. This has been a hot topic in Edinburgh recently, with an increase in landlords choosing short term lets being linked to a housing shortage. Johnstone asked the First Minister to put a timeline on when controls on short term letting would be put in place, with the First minister replying that she aimed to have proposals in place at the beginning of next year. Johnstone cited a 2017 short term letting control proposal that the SNP blocked, but Sturgeon insisted that it was important for constituencies to be able to decide if controls were necessary on their own rather than enforcing a “one size fits all” blanket ban.

 

As we head towards a snap election and Brexit continues to rumble on, the tense atmosphere visible at Holyrood today will only continue.

Jeremy Corbyn lauches Labour General Election Plan

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn released his General Election campaign in Battersea this afternoon.

Corbyn has made some key promises to try and win over voters. EN4 News has listed his key campaign points:

  • Brexit will be done in six months

Corbyn has said six months into winning an election he will have the Brexit negotiations sorted with a people’s vote so the UK can “leave with a sensible deal or remain”. Which Corbyn says is not a complicated issue. Corbyn wants to deliver “real change” that he said Britain needs.

  • NHS is “not for sale”

Corbyn claims that Johnson has a “sell out” deal for the NHS that will copy an American corporation style health system, with big drug companies being in control of the healthcare and drug manufacturing. Corbyn said that the NHS is “not for sale” to Trump or to anyone else.

  • Public Ownership

Corbyn said he would put rail, mail and water in public ownership, taking it away from “Tory donors and shareholders in tax havens.”

Corbyn reiterated promises that he already made a few weeks ago when launched his campaign, promising a £10 an hour minimum wage for over 16s and free childcare for those with children aged 2-4 years.

Corbyn made jabs at his Tory counterpart, Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that they are going to “fight dirtier” during this general election.  Corbyn said that he going to take on the people the Conservative Party likes to protect by going after “tax dodgers”, “dodgy landlords” and “big polluters”.

The Labour leader finished his speech by saying its “time for a change,” leaving people wondering what Labour’s next point of action will be.

 

 

‘The Big Yin’ – 250,000 marchers estimated to storm Edinburgh for last independence march of 2019, organisers claim

By James Hart and Lewis Robertson

From a crowd of 300 people in 2015 to an estimated 250,000 people due to march in Edinburgh this Saturday it is evident that the case for Scottish independence is not ready to go away.

Final preparations for the latest pro-independence rally set to hit the streets of Edinburgh, this Saturday, are underway, with event organizers ‘All Under One Banner’ (AUOB) estimating 250,000 to attend the march – doubling last year’s numbers.

AUOB was founded on the 12 October 2014 and have organized many events across the country to show solidarity and campaign for a second referendum.

Police Scotland and Edinburgh City Council claimed that there were only around 20,000 supporters at last year’s rally. However, event organizers stated that the real estimate was far higher, at over 100,000.

SNP councilor group leader for Inverclyde Christopher McEleny, West has been invited to speak at the event. McEleny has spoken at various pro-independence events and says that he is really looking forward to “standing shoulder to shoulder with people across Scotland” and hopes that the demonstration will ensure Scotland’s voice is heard.

Speaking to EN4 news McEleny said: “The Scottish Government has a mandate for an independence referendum, everyone marching supports our right to be given a choice on the future we want, whereas we have a feckless Franco in number 10 Downing Street who doesn’t want to give the people of Scotland a choice.”

Marchers from the last year’s event in Edinburgh

AUOB founder and Saturdays march organizer Neil Mackay said in an interview with EN4 News this was the 21st march that the group had coordinated and spoke highly of bringing the event back to Edinburgh, saying that Edinburgh would be a ‘beautiful’ place to conduct the latest march.

The march comes at a time when the independence movement has suffered a major blow after an Independence poll found that the majority of Scots will vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. The poll found 59% of Scottish people would vote to remain part of the union and the question posed to voters was ‘Should Scotland remain in the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?’

Speaking on the case of independence Mr. Mackay said: ‘I think it’s becoming a lot less subversive an idea Scotland getting independence, a lot less contentious’. He later added that he believes that an independence referendum ‘is a referendum that will bring Scotland together’.

When asked if he believed that another referendum would further fragment Scotland’s political climate, Mr. Mackay said that ‘everyone is divided anyway on well, you name it!’ and dismissed the notion that a referendum would add to more division.

When questioned on what this march meant, Mr. Mackay said: ‘ It’s a clear sign to Westminster Parliment  that Scottish people want independence’.

Various public figures will be speaking at the event on Saturday such as comedian Jane Godley, controversial political figure Tommy Sheridan, and Charlotte Ahmed the founding member of stand up to racism and unite against fascism in Scotland.

The response on social media to the March has been mainly positive with one Twitter user saying: ‘ On Saturday I will be so proud to marc. I will be marching for a fairer more equal future for my children and grandchildren. Join us and share the love.’

A Twitter user reacts to the news of the Independence march this Saturday

One Facebook user added ‘I wish I could join you all but I’ll not be in Scotland until the 26th. I’ll be watching though. So will the rest of the world. The message will be very clear. It’s time!’

 

More social media reaction, this time from FacebookThe march will mean yet more road closures for the Edinburgh’s busy streets. The city has been affected by recent closures and diversions with filming of ‘Fast and the Furious 9’ taking place as well as ‘Eurovision’, starring Will Ferrell.

Closures will take place between 12.30 and 6.30. Roads affected include Queen’s drive, George IV Bridge and the High Street with traffic on North and South Bridge held by Police.

A City of Edinburgh Council spokesperson said “The safety of the public is of utmost importance to the Council and we have worked closely with organizers, Police Scotland and other partners to agree a route and conditions for this march which aim to ensure its smooth passage through the city.”

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