£5 Million to Help Make Homes Cheaper to Heat

9th June 2015

Paul Wheelhouse MSP (SNP, South Scotland) has welcomed a £5 million boost to benefit some of South Scotland’s poorest households to help make their homes cheaper to keep warm.

The Scottish Government’s £5 million HEEPS: Cashback – Social Landlords Scheme offers funding to housing associations and local authority landlords towards energy efficiency measures. 

It forms part of the Scottish Government’s record £119 million budget for fuel poverty and energy efficiency in 2015/16, and means social landlords can apply for up to £250,000 in funding to help drive down the cost of tenants' fuel bills.

The cash will help meet the cost of installing measures, such as solid wall insulation or hard-to-treat cavity wall insulation, in their housing stock. Under last year’s scheme 24 social landlords across Scotland received funding to improve over 1,600 properties across Scotland.

Following applications to the scheme opening on Monday 8th June, Paul said:

“One of the key aims of the Scottish Government is helping Scotland to become a fairer and more prosperous country with quality housing. This is why we have seen the Scottish Government go to great lengths to provide sustainable and energy efficient housing stock.

“These energy efficient houses not only benefit those who live in them, but also the south of Scotland region as a whole by providing economic growth, employment and stronger communities. The cashback scheme is also aimed at saving householder’s money by reducing their heating bills and will also help to cut carbon emissions at a time when there is a great imperative to bring down emissions to prevent catastrophic effects of climate change.

“Fuel poverty is not just a problem for the Scottish Borders; it is a problem for communities across Scotland and beyond.  It is unfortunate that the Scottish Government is required to mitigate for the increased austerity agenda the Tory UK Government has forced on us, such as in helping those affected by the bedroom tax, but I believe these energy efficiency measures have the ability to help families across the Scottish Borders and I hope landlords and housing associations take up the opportunity to benefit their tenants.”

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Wheelhouse Comments on Scottish Government Redundancy Support in Scottish Borders/East Lothian

8th June 2015

SNP MSP for South Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, has commented on the Scottish Government’s PACE scheme, which assists employees affected by redundancy.

The Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) initiative to find work following redundancy has helped 115/52 people in the Scottish Borders/East Lothian who have been made redundant.

PACE is delivered by Skills Development Scotland in conjunction with other partners and provides guidance and support to help reduce the time people are out of work.

Commenting on the figures, Paul said:

“I greatly regret that there is a need for these services at all but the figures demonstrate the commitment of the SNP Scottish Government to providing real, practical support to local workers facing redundancy. 

“PACE provides an important service in minimizing the time people who have been made redundant are out of work and helping them into further employment by providing skills development and employability support – and these figures show this is providing real, tangible help to people in the Scottish Borders/East Lothian.

“Facing redundancy is an extremely difficult outlook for anyone, and their family, and it is absolutely right that the Scottish Government provides this type of support and does everything it can to help reduce the time people are out of work.

“I would like to thank all involved in PACE for the support they have provided to my constituents over the last year.”

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Wheelhouse Welcomes Improvements to Farm Payment Scheme

15th May 2015

SNP MSP for South Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, is urging farmers to beat the last minute rush and apply for farm payments using the Single Application Form (SAF) as the Scottish Government announced improvements to the operation of the new Rural Payments and Services website.

The complexity of the new Common Agricultural policy (CAP) has resulted in implementation challenges right across the UK and Europe – and as a consequence Scotland, along with 15 other EU countries, have extended the deadline for farmers and crofters to submit their SAF until the 15 June.

Paul said:

“Our farmers have just one month left to complete their SAF forms and we already know this task has been made more difficult by the complexity of the new policy, so I hope farmers take heed of the advice to avoid leaving it until the last minute to apply.

“I am pleased that the Scottish Government has also taken action to improve the performance of the Rural Payments and Services system - particularly the speed at which it runs, an issue that had been raised with me previously by constituents and through my regular meetings with NFUS office bearers and local NFUS members from across the Borders and the Lothians.

“Scotland, along with 15 other EU countries, have extended the deadline for farmers and crofters to submit their SAF until the 15 June – but, if possible, farmers should beat the last minute rush and apply now.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“This is the first year of the new payment system for the more complex Common Agricultural Policy and, although delivery has been challenging, we are now seeing real improvements to the system’s operation.

“While the new system is different from the previous one that farmers will be familiar with, it offers significant benefits to farmers, ensuring they get paid what they are due and is designed to minimise errors and penalties.

“We are aware that some farmers and agents have experienced issues and we have a dedicated team working to ensure all problems are sorted as quickly and we have extended the deadline for the submission of applications by one month to 15 June 2015 to allow for more time to get used to the system and rules of the new Common Agricultural Policy Programme. In addition, we recognise that that online applications do not suit everyone and paper applications have always been welcome.”

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SNP Parliamentarians Meet St Abbs Lifeboat Crew

15th May 2015

SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse (South Scotland) and newly elected MP Calum Kerr met with the crew of the St Abbs Lifeboat on Friday (15th May) to hear their concerns about the station closure.
Following news of the closure constituents, including several current and former crew members, contacted Paul to raise concerns about public safety off the Berwickshire cost at St Abbs.  Paul then offered to meet with the crew and station managers to find out more.

After the meeting Paul said:

“When I was contacted by my constituents at the start of the week I was struck by the strength of feeling locally on this closure and the impact it will have on, not only the local community, but also visitors to the St Abbs area.

“Walking on the coastal paths, diving and angling are seeing an increase in activity, from what the crew have told me, and the safety of the public in the area must be considered at all times.

“I appreciate that the RNLI will have their reasons for the closure of the St Abbs lifeboat station, however if they insist, as they have done, that it is not a cost-cutting measure then I strenuously advise them to revisit their decision in this instance.  Amongst other matters the crew are concerned about response times and the strain on Eyemouth having to crew two boats, so sincerely I hope this is taken into account by the RNLI.

“I will continue to work alongside Calum Kerr and the crew to encourage the RNLI to reconsider this decision.”

Calum added:

“I was grateful for this opportunity to meet with the crew, who we should remember are all volunteers and provide their services because they want to make sure their community is a safe place to live and visit.

“The concerns raised range from the benefit of having local knowledge when responding to call-outs and response times to the issue of poor mobile phone coverage for emergencies.  The latter is an issue I am keen to pursue for the whole of the Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency and one of my top priorities.

“In the meantime, I will continue to work with Paul Wheelhouse to encourage the RNLI to re-think their plans for St Abbs lifeboat station and support the crew in their efforts to retain the station in the interests of public safety.”

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Wheelhouse Says Scotland Needs Financial Control to Build Jobs and Growth

12th March 2015

Scottish Government figures published yesterday (Wednesday) show Scotland's fiscal position improved over the past year with the deficit falling by £2bn, to £12bn, in the context of a UK deficit of £97.2bn.

The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) 2013-14 figures also show tax take in Scotland for the last financial year was £400 per head higher than the rest of the UK.

This means that tax revenues in Scotland have now been higher per person than in the rest of the UK for each of the last 34 years, regardless of oil prices.  In fact, over the last five years, this additional revenue has totalled £4,100 per person, but, unlike independent Norway, which discovered oil at a similar stage to Scotland, but which has saved surpluses to create an oil fund worth over £500 billion to draw upon as needed, Scotland, stuck within the UK, is not empowered to develop an oil fund and has instead seen over £300 billion in oil and gas taxes from Scotland squandered by the UK Treasury.

However, today, further Tory and Lib Dem Westminster austerity cuts risk a fall of £1,000 in day-to-day spending per head of population in Scotland or around £15bn– highlighting the need for Scotland to be in charge of our own tax and spending decisions.

Following publication of the GERS figures Paul Wheelhouse MSP (SNP, South Scotland) said:

“The cuts that are coming down the track from the Tories and Lib Dem UK Government's slash and burn austerity are already clear - and Labour plan similar cuts.  Under Tory plans, supported by Lib Dems, between 2014/15 and 2019/20 alone, day-to-day spending per head is forecast to fall by £1,000 per head, and 

“In Scotland, this would be equivalent to a cumulative cut of £15 billion to our budget over the five years to 2019/20.  That is a totally unacceptable price of Scotland's finances and welfare policy being dictated by Westminster, which will continue to be the case even after the minimal devolution proposals of the UK Government are implemented.

"In contrast, today’s GERS figures show that Scotland's finances are robust and improving - despite record capital investment in the North Sea lowering oil revenues, as these exceptional investment costs were written if against tax.

“For 34 years in a row, Scotland has generated more tax per head than the UK average - £400 higher in 2013/14.

"The toxic Westminster alliance between the Tories and Lib Dems is causing untold damage to people in the Scottish Borders - our Lib Dem MP recently voted arm in arm with the Tories for £30 billion more cuts while both parties also plan to spend £100 billion on Trident renewal - which is an abhorrent waste of resources that could be tackling the welfare issues we face in the south of Scotland. The ConDems should remember public spending cuts affect our shops through reduced spending by public sector workers and reduced procurement opportunities directly affect private firms too.

"It is clear that Scotland needs to be in charge of collecting our own revenues and our spending decisions - such as dumping the £100 billion cost of wasteful and immoral nuclear weapons. A strong team of SNP MPs will use its increased clout to get full control of job-creating powers for Scotland, so that we can build an economic policy based on creating and sustaining jobs and growth - and keep the proceeds of that growth in Scotland."

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Wheelhouse Welcomes Chance to Develop Empty Properties

3rd March 2015

Paul Wheelhouse MSP (SNP, South Scotland) has welcomed new Scottish Government funding enabling communities to develop empty and underused properties.
The new Asset Mapping Funding Pots will give development trusts the opportunity to conduct surveys, work with stakeholders and consult with their communities on the best methods of rejuvenating their town centres.
Paul said:
“Empty properties are a constant struggle for communities in the Borders looking to revitalise their town centres and make them more attractive for locals as well as visitors.

“I am delighted that the Scottish Government recognises the vibrancy of our town centres as key to boosting local economies and who better to understand the assets in the area than the local community? This new funding gives development trusts the ability to take things into their own hands in terms of consulting directly with their community and prioritising the aims of local people and businesses.

“Across the Scottish Borders we are seeing some fantastic examples of businesses and residents taking the initiative on regeneration issues, for example, the Eyemouth and District Community Trust has established itself brilliantly as a highly credible group who are working hard to boost the town’s fortunes and morale.  With the Selkirk Regeneration Company exploring BIDS options they are also well on the way to making great progress for the Selkirk area.  I believe Hawick would similarly benefit from establishment of a development trust model tailored to the town’s needs, but are, in the meantime, working hard to establish the way forward for the High Street and I am happy to support them.

“Giving our development trusts the means to conduct regeneration work is vital to seeing our town centres re-establish themselves as a hub of local activity and I look forward to seeing what communities in the Scottish Borders can do with the tools to make a better future for our area.  With the Community Empowerment Bill on track for completion of Stage Three by May, I am keen that Borders communities are as well placed as possible to capitalise on the opportunity.”

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