Thewliss Calls on Chancellor To Lift Benefits Freeze

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, has today called on the Chancellor to use next week’s budget as an opportunity to lift the ‘benefits freeze’.

Thewliss, who is the SNP’s shadow spokesperson on Treasury, called it “appalling” that individuals and families who are struggling financially are being forced into poverty by the UK Government’s refusal to allow social security benefits to keep pace with inflation.

Generally, working-age benefits including Working and Child Tax Credits, and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), would increase in line with the annual rate of inflation. Instead however, the UK Government has actively chosen to restrict these benefits since 2015. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has previously estimated that the measure will push half a million families over the poverty line by 2020.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The callousness of this Tory government never ceases to shock me. It is truly appalling that they have presided over a freeze on working-age benefits for hundreds of thousands of people across the country, while living costs have increased.

“It seems that the UK Government will pursue a budget surplus at any cost, and if that means forcing thousands of families below the poverty line, then so be it. This is purely ideological and cruel, and it must stop.

“The Tories have rightfully received harsh scrutiny on their shambolic Universal Credit policy, but the benefit freeze could potentially be even more damaging to low-income families.

“In September this year, inflation stood at 2.4%, meaning that everything is 2.4% more expensive than it was 12 months ago. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has estimated that this will translate to a £150 shortfall in household budgets over a 12 month period, leading to families being up to £800 a year worse off by 2020.

“Theresa May has the audacity to say that austerity is over. It certainly isn’t in my constituency.

“This government has form when it comes to balancing the books on the backs of low-earners, but to perpetuate a benefits freeze – particularly against the backdrop of the Brexit shambles – would be particularly malevolent. I urge the Chancellor to lift the freeze, and to give ordinary people a break”.

Thewliss welcomes funding award for Kinning Park Complex

MP for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, has today welcomed the news that the Kinning Park Complex in Glasgow is to receive £197,650 from the Scottish Land Fund, following a recent funding application.

It is understood that the complex – which is popular with local groups such as artists and musicians – will use the funding to purchase the main building, as well as the former nursery that lies adjacent to the site. It is the centre’s intention to renovate and extend the existing space, with a view to offering additional activities and services to the local community.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“It really is marvellous to see the Kinning Park Complex benefitting from the Scottish Land Fund, and taking this key local asset into community ownership.

“I have been lucky enough to host my surgeries at the centre for a number of years now, and it is clear what high regard it is held in by the local community, many of whom attend classes and meetings on a regular basis.

“The range of services on offer at the Kinning Park Complex is remarkable, and includes dance and music classes, theatre and drama rehearsals, public meetings and art exhibitions, with a chance for everyone to get involved. The prospect of extending these activities given this new funding award should be a real cause for celebration.

“The Kinning Park Complex is a unique example of cohesion between the various volunteers, organisations and individuals from the community, who all pull together to make it such a success. I look forward greatly to this new, exciting chapter for the centre, and continuing to support it in any way I can.”

Alison Thewliss MP shows her support for Christian Aid Week

Alison Thewliss, the local MP for Glasgow Central, this week attended a Christian Aid Big Brekkie event in Parliament, to show her support for Christian Aid Week (13-19 May). This year Christian Aid Week is encouraging the British public to stand together with the millions of displaced people who have been forced to leave their homes around the world.

Ahead of Christian Aid Week, Alison Thewliss MP attended the event in Parliament to find out about activities and events taking place during the charity’s annual fundraising week in Glasgow Central. Last year, £12,614 was raised in Glasgow Central during Christian Aid Week.

Today, more than 40 million people are internally displaced by conflict, accounting for approximately two thirds of those who find themselves forced from their homes. A further 24 million were displaced by disasters in 2016 alone. Yet, because they haven’t crossed a border, the general public rarely hear about them.

Despite the huge number of people affected, situations of internal displacement receive almost no political attention, funding or support.

Christian Aid works with local partner organisations around the world to help internally displaced people. This includes working with partners in Haiti, where thousands of people have been displaced by natural disasters in recent years.

Vilia was left homeless by the earthquake in 2010 and her mother was killed. Bereaved and homeless, for Vilia, her husband and their seven children, life became a struggle. They didn’t even have a safe place to sleep.

Christian Aid’s local partner, KORAL, helps local people prepare for disasters. In the aftermath of the earthquake, it reached out to Vilia and built her and her family a new home, that was safe, stable and strong enough to stand up to natural disasters.

Ahead of Hurricane Matthew, KORAL was able to warn local communities, helping to evacuate around 5,000 families and saving many lives. In the immediate aftermath Christian Aid and KORAL distributed urgently-needed shelter materials, hygiene products such as soap, food seeds and cash, so people could buy other items that they really needed. Disaster-resistant homes were built, giving people safe, secure places to live. Of the dozens built before the hurricane hit, only one lost its roof in the disaster, and Vilia’s home was able to shelter 54 people over several days following the hurricane.

Alison Thewliss said: “I was pleased to meet with Christian Aid this week, to hear about the great work that is being done in Glasgow Central and across the country to help people around the world who have been forced from their homes. For millions of people across the globe, Christian Aid’s work provides vital support. I encourage my constituents to get involved in Christian Aid Week events in Glasgow Central where they can.”

Simon Kirkland, Christian Aid’s UK Parliamentary and Political Adviser, said: “We are very grateful for Alison Thewliss’s support for Christian Aid’s important fundraising events in Glasgow Central. Everyone can do something to help this Christian Aid Week, whether it’s attending a local event, giving money or praying for the world’s many displaced people at this difficult time. Thank you to everyone who is able to take part in this year’s Christian Aid Week.”

Alison Thewliss MP celebrates Nurses’ Day 2018

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, celebrated the work of nursing staff in the UK and around the world by meeting frontline nurses as part of the RCN’s International Nurses’ Day celebrations on Wednesday 25 April.

The event in Parliament brought together MPs and nurses and give Ms Thewliss the opportunity to hear about the valuable contributions nursing staff make to patient care. Nursing is a highly-skilled profession and nursing staff care for patients in a variety of settings such as, at music festivals, in prisons and in accident and emergency departments.

Nurses’ Day is an international event held annually on Florence Nightingale’s birthday (12 May). This year, the RCN is showcasing nurses’ dedication to delivering outstanding patient care and the innovative and diverse roles nurses have in healthcare teams. The RCN is also encouraging nursing staff to use the hashtag #ThisNurse to share stories of colleagues who went the extra mile to provide patient care and times which reminded them why there are nursing in 2018.

Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Nurses’ Day is a fantastic way to show our support for nursing staff in our health and care services. It’s our chance to thank them for the care they provide to our families, friends, neighbours and colleagues. I encourage everyone to celebrate the remarkable work of nursing staff in Glasgow and across Scotland.”

Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said

“Nursing is a dynamic profession with caring for people at its heart. Nurses’ Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the incredible work nursing staff do every single day of the year.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ rule for nursing staff. They work in a variety of settings and have a diverse range of skills. But what unties them all is their dedication, even in difficult circumstances, to delivering outstanding patient care.”

Alison Thewliss MP pledges support for Diabetes UK food labelling campaign

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has lent their support to a campaign from leading charity Diabetes UK, calling for the public to be given clear nutritional information in restaurants, cafes and takeaways, as well as on the front of all pre-packaged food and drinks.

Ms Thewliss made the pledge at a parliamentary event hosted by the charity as part of its ongoing Food Upfront campaign. Through the campaign, Diabetes UK is making the following calls to government:

  • Mandatory front-of-pack traffic light labelling on all pre-packed foods and drinks sold in the UK,
  • Mandatory calorie labelling on menus in key high street restaurants, cafes and takeaways, with carb content available online or when you ask for it in store,
  • Ensure carbohydrates are labelled on the back of products, per portion and as prepared.

Clear food labelling is vital for millions of people living with diabetes, to help them manage their condition and reduce their risk of serious complications. In a 2017 survey of more than 9,000 people living with or affected by diabetes, almost three quarters of respondents (73%) said that if all companies used the same food labelling system it would help them to make healthier choices.

Clear food labelling also helps the wider public, with or without diabetes, make more informed decisions about what they eat and drink. Recent public polling carried out by ComRes on behalf of

Diabetes UK revealed that 9 out of 10 people said traffic-light food labelling helps them make healthier decisions, while only three in ten people (29%) said they felt they had enough information about what’s in their food.

In addition, more than three quarters of people (76%) said that cafes, restaurants and takeaways should display calorie information on their menus, so that customers understand the content of the food and drink they buy.

Traffic-light labelling assigns a red, amber or green value in relation to fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt, as well as giving information on the calories in a product, to help consumers find out what’s in the food and drink they’re buying. Evidence shows that both front-of-pack traffic light labelling and calorie labelling informs consumers and helps making the healthier choice the easier choice.

However, clear and consistent food labelling is not currently compulsory. Companies don’t have to provide any information on the front of their goods, and one in three products in shops don’t have clear traffic-light labels. Many restaurants, cafes and takeaways also still do not provide calorie labelling on their menus or other nutritional information online or when asked for it in store.

Commenting on the campaign, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“The public have made it clear that they support clearer labelling on food and drink to help them make healthier and better informed decisions about what they eat, so I’m happy to lend my support to Diabetes UK’s Food Upfront campaign.

“Putting these simple measures into place could make a huge difference to the nation as a whole. Obesity and weight related chronic health conditions – including Type 2 diabetes – continue to rise, and it’s important that we do everything that we can to halt this growing health crisis.”

Helen Dickens, Assistant Director of Campaigns and Mobilisation at Diabetes UK, said:

“We know that consistent and clear food labelling can help all of us to make informed choices. For people with diabetes, easy access to clear and consistent labelling, for example on carbohydrate content, is vital to supporting them with their diabetes management.

“With around two-thirds of adults, and almost a third of children in the UK classed as overweight or obese, and therefore at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and other chronic health conditions, it’s really important that we have measures in place that help make it easier for all of us to know what’s in the food we’re buying.

“That’s why we are calling for the government to strengthen and, when possible, introduce mandatory front of pack traffic-light labelling on packaging, and calorie labelling on menus. The British public overwhelmingly support these moves, so we are grateful to Alison Thewliss MP for her efforts in helping put these potentially life-changing measures into practice.”

SNP MP presents Bill on supervised drug consumption facility

ALISON THEWLISS: ‘WE CANNOT STAND STILL ON THIS ISSUE ANY LONGER’

SNP MP Alison Thewliss has said she has brought her debate on supervised drug consumption facilities today (Wednesday) to Westminster because ‘we cannot stand still on this issue any longer.’

Alison Thewliss is presenting her ten minute rule Bill to ask the UK Government to allow for the piloting of a Supervised Drug Consumption Facility (SDCF) in Glasgow city centre. The MP for Glasgow Central has been a long-standing advocate for an alternative approach to tackling drug-injecting, and the associated public health concerns. The Bill has drawn support from all political parties, with many supporters recognising that the status quo was failing to adequately tackle the matter.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“With this Bill, I want to send a very clear message – with widespread and cross-party support – to the UK Government that the status-quo is doing nothing to help the drug-injecting population. Today’s Bill is on the issue of Supervised Drug Consumption Facilities, and the associated proposals for a pilot facility in my constituency of Glasgow Central.

“The problems associated with public injecting are patently clear: my constituency office regularly receives reports of needles and other drug paraphernalia being discarded in public places, and I have seen drug-injecting taking place in locations not far from where my office is located.

“The complex health issues for the drug-injecting population in Scotland are becoming ever more alarming, especially for an ageing population who have been injecting for a long time. In Scotland in 2016 there were 867 deaths from fatal overdoses of drugs – the highest number of deaths from drug overdose in Europe. We cannot stand still on this issue any longer.

“Doing the same thing, over and over, is failing families, communities, and those using drugs. Supervised injecting facilities may not solve everything, but they have worked elsewhere and the Home Office must support my Bill and allow Glasgow to go ahead and assess these proposals with the pilot.”

Parliamentary event invites politicians to ‘Come On In’ to Fairtrade

To mark the start of Fairtrade Fortnight Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, attended a celebratory event at Parliament.

The event, sponsored by Co-op, gave parliamentarians from across the political spectrum the chance to show their support for Fairtrade, chat to supporters and campaigners, hear the stories of Fairtrade producers and sample some delicious Fairtrade produce. Parliamentarians also got the chance to pose for photographs with Fairtrade Ambassador Nick Hewer, famous for his roles on Countdown and The Apprentice.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2018 will challenge the British public to open their doors to Fairtrade and help close the door on the exploitation facing farmers and producers in developing nations.

The nationwide campaign ‘Come On In’ runs from Monday 26 February until Sunday 11 March and will invite the public to come in to the world of the people who grow our food to see what life can be like when farmers and workers aren’t paid fairly. The campaign will explore how businesses, farmers, workers and shoppers can come together through Fairtrade to change this.

Thousands of events will be taking place around the country including breakfasts, breaks, bake-offs and more as people ‘Come On In’ and find out more about Fairtrade.

Alison Thewliss MP said:

“It is wonderful to be able to show my support for Fairtrade alongside my fellow parliamentarians.

“Fairtrade Fortnight is a hugely important event and I would encourage the people of Glasgow to get involved wherever they can.

“We can all play a role in ensuring a fair deal for farmers and producers in developing nations simply by ensuring we buy Fairtrade wherever possible.”

Cheryl McGechie, Director of Public Engagement, The Fairtrade Foundation said:

“This Fairtrade Fortnight, we are inviting people to ‘Come On In’ to find out what Fairtrade does for farmers and see what exploitation looks like when trade doesn’t deliver.

“There has never been a better time to stand alongside the people who produce the things we love to eat, drink and wear. People who often do not earn enough to feed, or provide for their own families.

“This unfairness must end. By buying Fairtrade you are guaranteeing farmers a fair price for their efforts. This Fairtrade Fortnight ‘Come On In’ to Fairtrade.”

Brad Hill, Fairtrade Strategy Manager at Co-op, said:

“From selling the UK’s first Fairtrade bananas and the world’s very first own-brand product with the Fairtrade Mark, through to making entire own-brand categories Fairtrade we at Co-op have continued to drive the benefits of Fairtrade. We will continually look for ways and areas that we can develop to help make positive impact and life changes for farmers in developing countries.

“Last year we extended our commitment further in a retailer first and announced that all the cocoa sourced for own brand products will be sourced on Fairtrade terms. This year we will be increasing our sourcing of the other core Fairtrade commodities to drive further Fairtrade Premium to producer communities. Our recent move saw us become the first in the world to adopt the new Fairtrade Sourced Ingredient program on flowers, meaning that all the African roses Co-op sources for use across our entire flower range will return a Fairtrade Premium. Some 35 million Co-op rose stems a year are now certified as Fairtrade and will go to help graduate nurses find employment in Kenya.

“We believe the right approach is to build upon the success of Fairtrade. That’s why in addition to our sourcing commitments we are investing directly to extend further the benefits of our trading relationship and investing directly in our producers and their communities.”

Tony Rowson, Head of Retail at Greggs said:

“As a responsible business, we believe in doing the right thing and are incredibly proud to be a long-standing partner of Fairtrade.

“A number of our products, including coffee, tea, sugar and bananas, are certified Fairtrade and we continue to add more items to the menu, including green tea and peppermint tea more recently.

“Having worked with Fairtrade for over ten years now, it has been incredible to see the positive impact and difference it makes to producer communities and we look forward to strengthening our relationship further in the future.”

Thewliss ‘hugely disappointed’ at Royal Mail decision to relocate G5 sorting office

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has today voiced her disappointment at the recently announced decision by Royal Mail to move their operation for the G5 postcode area – currently based at Victoria Road – to the delivery office at Baird Street, on the north side of the city. The move is expected to take effect from June 2018. People in the other postcode areas served by Victoria Road delivery office will be unaffected.

Whilst Royal Mail have stated that the changes will not affect deliveries made to customers, those picking up letters and parcels which were unable to be delivered will have to travel around 2.5 miles over the Clyde and across the city centre to retrieve items.

Commenting, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am hugely disappointed at this decision by Royal Mail, which will cause a massive amount of inconvenience for residents in the G5 postcode area of my constituency.

“I first became aware that Royal Mail were considering this move at the tail end of last year, and wrote to every resident in the G5 area to gauge opinion about the proposals. Unsurprisingly, the weight of objection was staggering, with over 96% of respondents stating they were against it.

“More worrying still was the comments made by several residents who are infirm, or unable to travel. Many explained to me in their responses that they would simply be unable to make a trip to Baird Street, be it due to ill-health or for financial reasons. Whilst I welcome the promise of extended opening hours, and I appreciate that Royal Mail say they can arrange for items to be redelivered, this will not always be suitable. These measures cannot adequately replace the convenience of a local, accessible delivery office.

“The fact that Royal Mail, in spite of the evidence presented, have pressed ahead with this plan is frankly appalling, and strikes a further blow against consumers whose essential, local services are slowly being eroded”.

Thewliss speaks up for basketball in Scotland

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, voiced her support today for basketball during a well-attended Westminster Hall debate where the future of the sport was discussed at length by MPs from across the UK.

The debate was brought about following a joint request from the three basketball bodies operating in Scotland, Wales and England, and the British Basketball Federation (BBF), to raise awareness of the sport’s various benefits to society and to outline the financial challenges that it currently faces.

In the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics, UK Sport revised its funding strategy and re-directed investment towards those sports they believed to have medal potential, leaving funding for team sports such as basketball under serious threat.

Commenting following the debate, Alison Thewliss MP said:

“I am very proud to be able to say that one of the premier basketball teams in the UK, Glasgow Rocks, are based in my constituency of Glasgow Central, playing their home games at the Emirates Arena.

“The Rocks players and staff do a fabulous job of promoting basketball to the wider community, and regularly participate in outreach events and school visits. This is a real inspiration to many young people.

“It’s also great to see the Scottish Government doing its bit to support basketball at a grassroots level. The CashBack for communities programme recently awarded £492,800 to Basketball Scotland, allowing them to deliver 16 basketball school projects over a three-year period in some of the most deprived areas of Scotland. This speaks to the broad appeal that the sport is continuing to develop – something that I’m desperate to see continue.

“Like many others, I’ve been extremely concerned by recent reports that basketball in the UK is facing a funding shortfall of almost £1m. With the Commonwealth Games due to start in only a matter of weeks, it’s crucial that the UK Government do the right thing to secure not only the future funding for the sport, but the places of the Scottish and England teams who have done so well to qualify”.

Alison Thewliss MP gets things cooking during smart meter challenge

Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central, has gone head to head with MPs from across the political spectrum as part of the Westminster Pancake Challenge, an energy-saving cooking competition to raise awareness of how smart meters help people save energy.

Tasked with whisking up the best plate of pancakes for the least energy possible, Alison Thewliss MP took on several other MPs in the cook-off, which was judged by Great British Bake-Off finalist Ian Cumming.

Visualising the cost of your household energy is key to finding ways to reduce bills, and Alison had the help of a smart meter to see how much her energy was costing while cooking. Alison used 3.6 pence worth of energy to make her 3 pancakes.

Available at no extra cost from your energy supplier, a smart meter will show you exactly how much you are spending on energy in near real time, helping you to manage your energy at home, reduce waste and bring bills down.

Alison Thewliss MP said:

“Taking on the Westminster Pancake Challenge was great fun and helped me with my preparations for Pancake Day! It also demonstrated how much energy can be consumed when preparing food and how costs of using energy can mount up very quickly.

“Many constituents will find that smart meters can help with budgeting and bringing down energy bills and they should be offered the option of a smart meter by their energy provider. I and my staff are also on hand to provide advice to reduce energy bills – get in touch and we would be more than happy to offer energy saving tips and direct constituents to organisations that can help with the cost of living.”

Great British Bake-Off star Ian Cumming said:

“Pancakes can be tricky to flip at the best of times, but the politicians did an excellent job with nothing dropped on the floor or stuck to the ceiling.

“During the challenge, I kept an eye on how much energy Alison Thewliss MP was using, with the help of a smart meter in-home display. Being able to see the cost of the energy you use when you’re cooking, is key to bringing bills down.

“With so many gadgets, hobs and ovens, the kitchen can be a real draw on energy, but I think everyone was impressed by how a smart meter can help you save in the kitchen”

Robert Cheesewright, Director of Policy and Communications at Smart Energy GB said:

“The pancake challenge was great fun and I’m really pleased that so many MPs from across the country have come together to demonstrate how smart meters can help households reduce their energy bills.”