Summer recess is now here for MSPs, but with the current political upheaval elsewhere there is a definite ‘be ready for anything’ feel about this period during which parliament isn’t sitting.
However, it is also a good time to take stock of Holyrood’s recent achievements. We have passed a host of legislation to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country while the UK government’s domestic agenda has ground to a halt due to Brexit.
The Scottish Parliament, as it celebrates 20 years since it was reconvened, has passed nine Scottish Government Bills in the past two months, including new measures on economic development, justice reforms and action on fuel poverty.
Here are just some of our achievements:
- Announced the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment, a brand new benefit to tackle child poverty.
- Passed the Fuel Poverty Bill, which will support people who struggle to pay their fuel bills.
- Announced details for a bottle deposit return scheme.
- Implemented Frank’s Law, ensuring free personal care for everyone who needs it.
- Confirmed EU students studying in 2020/21 will get the same fee support as Scottish students for the entirety of their courses.
- Announced a £150 million national pilot scheme to provide support for first-time buyers with the deposit they need when they want to buy a home.
- Passed the Vulnerable Witnesses Bill, which will ensure more child witnesses are able to pre-record evidence ahead of jury trials.
- Set out steps to tackle gender discrimination and inequalities in the workplace in the Scottish Government’s first Gender Pay Gap Action Plan.
- More than £50 million is to be spent on improving access to mental health services for expectant and new mothers.
- Free sanitary products were made available to pupils, students and learners at schools, colleges and universities across Scotland.
- Provided £50 million fund to help boost town centres.
- Scotland will become the first country in the world to have LGBTI inclusive education embedded in the curriculum.
- Published the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan that sets out the steps we will take to end homelessness for good in Scotland.
- Published a new strategy for preventing and reducing drug and alcohol-related harm.
But just as the Scottish Government continues its programme to improve the lots of Scotland’s population, the UK Government seeks to do damage. The Tories at Westminster just last week introduced legislation to increase the VAT levied on home solar-battery systems from 5% to 20%.
The Renewable Energy Association has warned that this would create a barrier to new installations and contradicted the UK government’s climate change targets.
Having heard on a recent visit to Orkney of the exciting work planned through Orkney’s ReFLEX project – not least the possibilities of cheaper electricity through solar PV and battery storage – I cannot understand this move. Quadrupling the VAT bill faced by those installing these systems could be a major step backwards in encouraging households to lower their carbon footprints.
The Tories should press pause on these plans and stop undermining our transition to renewables.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Maree Todd, all list MSPs for the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same space.