Unity Matters

Scotland to receive more than £1bn from social care levy – STV news

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Boris Johnson has said Scotland will receive more than £1bn as he announced plans to raise additional cash for social care reform across the UK.

The Prime Minister announced that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic the UK Government is to introduce a new health and social care levy, based on a 1.25% increase in national insurance (NI) contributions.

Johnson insisted this was a “reasonable and the fair approach” to paying for the reforms – despite breaching a manifesto pledge not to raise NI contributions.

However the SNP warned the changes would be the Prime Minister’s version of the “poll tax”, with the party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford accusing the Tory of taxing Scottish workers twice.

Johnson however insisted that the three devolved nations would “benefit from an extra £2.2bn a year”, adding that “this is about 15% more than they would contribute through the levy”.

Red Cross volunteers help nearly 164,000 people amid Covid-19 pandemic – STV news

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More than 7000 British Red Cross volunteers have helped nearly 164,000 people across Scotland amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures.

The charity said the ways their volunteers have assisted include delivering food and medicine to doorsteps, helping with vaccinations and manning a coronavirus support line to support people at their loneliest moments.

It published new data indicating 7418 volunteers took part in these efforts, assisting 163,782 people during the pandemic to date.

Ahead of Nicola Sturgeon announcing her Programme for Government next week, the Red Cross said its experience helping tens of thousands of people shows the Scottish Government must focus on addressing the challenges of loneliness, rising NHS waiting times and helping the most vulnerable.

The Scots iron crew behind Big Ben’s £90m revamp – STV news

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One of Scotland’s last remaining iron foundries is playing a key role in the £90m transformation of Big Ben.

Using moulding methods dating back hundreds of years, workers at Ballantine Castings in Bo’ness are creating around 2000 new cast-iron tiles.

They will adorn the revamped Victorian tower that looms large over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

Many of the original tiles were damaged during the Second World War and, as each one is slightly different, they all have to be custom-made in Scotland.

Boris Johnson should hold at least four meetings each year with Nicola Sturgeon and devolved government leaders, says think-tank – The Scotsman

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The Prime Minister should hold at least four meetings each year with the leaders of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, a think-tank has suggested.

Our Scottish Future made the plea as a report examining how the different governments had worked together during the coronavirus pandemic commented on the “seemingly dire personal relationship” between Boris Johnson and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The paper, based on interviews with senior figures in both the London and Edinburgh governments, argued the close-working relationships that have now been built up between health ministers across the UK need to be replicated and become a permanent feature of politics.

GERS: Union helped Scotland ‘weather the Covid storm’, says UK government – The Herald

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THE UK Government has said the latest figures on the Scottish economy show the country was best-placed to “weather the Covid storm” as part of the Union.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said unprecedented Treasury support helped vaccinate people, support businesses and protect jobs as public spending rose to almost £100bn.

The Union is more than a dividend – stephendaisley.com

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The annual Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report, laying out the state of Scottish public finances, is regarded as a national balance sheet of sorts. It is heavy on economic analysis and statistical methodology. The latest edition, published yesterday, was different from its predecessors in that it provided a glimpse into the financial mechanics of 2020, the year when Covid-19 arrived and upended many aspects of our lives.

Amidst thickets of tables and percentages, there can be spied the outline of a dramatic campaign, on a scale unseen anywhere since the Great Depression, to prop up the economy and save jobs and businesses from the rough torrents of a ruthless pandemic. We have heard already about the UK Government support schemes for companies and the furlough system that kept almost one million Scots off the dole queue last year. But GERS gives us the first comprehensive survey of the extent of state intervention and prompts us to consider what might have been had Scotland no longer been eligible for cash transfers from the UK Treasury.

Scotland’s public finances are in abysmal shape, a fact established by previous GERS publications, yet 16 months on from the beginning of the pandemic there are encouraging signs on the economic horizon as businesses begin to ring their tills again. In spite of a towering deficit, elevated public expenditure and a global oil price that hasn’t closed north of $100 in almost seven years, Scotland weathered the most unforgiving of storms. It did so all because of a much-maligned but enduring Union that, 314 years on from its formation, has proved itself to be more formidable and more necessary than ever. It is an extraordinary tale told in numbers.

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