‘Schools for the Future Programme’ – funding for new schools
On Monday 25th January, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced that more than 6,500 pupils are set to benefit from the construction of 19 new schools across Scotland which will be completed by 2020.
The SNP Scottish Government is investing £230 million pounds as part of the final phase of the ‘Schools for the Future’ programme. Total investment in the programme is £1.8 billion and the overall number of schools being delivered through it is 112. This is more than double the SNP Scottish Government’s original target of 55.
Since 2007, the SNP Scottish Government has worked with local authorities to rebuild or refurbish 607 schools. This means that the number of children educated in ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ condition schools has fallen by 60 per cent.
Since the ‘Schools for the Future’ programme began it has created an estimated 11,000 construction jobs and 230 apprenticeships. And these new developments are expected to give a further boost to the economy right across the country.
The First Minister said:
“We are working hard to improve educational standards across the country to make sure that every child in Scotland has the ability to achieve their potential.
“Part of that is making sure that children have the right physical environment to learn in. This ambitious plan will replace older schools across the country with new, modern buildings that will bring benefits to the whole community.”
SNP challenges Westminster on Pension Inequality
During Prime Minister’s Question Time at Westminster on Wednesday 27th January, SNP’s Angus Robertson MP called on the Prime Minister to take action on State Pension inequality to help women born in the 1950s affected by the later retirement age. Earlier in the month, Westminster’s youngest MP – Mhairi Black of the SNP had also led a backbench debate highlighting these issues.
Plans to increase the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020 were initially set out in 1995. But the coalition government decided to speed up the process in 2011, resulting in the state pension age for women increasing to 65 in November 2018 and then to 66 by October 2020.
The coalition government were warned that the 2011 decision to accelerate the rate at which state pension age is to be equalised with men directly discriminates against women born on or after 6 April 1951 on the basis that these women have been forced to rethink their retirement plans on relatively short notice, causing undue hardship.
A petition by the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) Campaign, which calls on the UK Government to make fair transitional state pension arrangements for women born in the 1950s, has attracted more than 100,000 signatures and will be debated in Parliament on Monday 1st February.
In the backbench debate led by Ms Black, MPs backed calls for the government to introduce further transitional arrangements for those women negatively affected by the changes.
Commenting, Angus Robertson MP said:
“Women born in the 1950s have been badly let down by the UK Government when it comes to their pensions and it is morally reprehensible that many thousands of women will actually lose out financially as a result of changes that were designed to make pensions more equal.
“We have vastly different situations across the UK with a person aged 65 in Scotland today likely to live until they are 82 if they are man and 84 if they are a woman – nearly two and a half years below life expectancy in England meaning a pensioner in Scotland – no matter whether they are a woman or a man – has much less time to enjoy a secure and comfortable retirement.
“The SNP fully support equalisation but now, more than ever, it is absolutely vital that the same mistakes are not repeated which is why the UK Government should establish an independent pensions commission to fully investigate the effects of the pension reforms.”
Housing subsidies increased for affordable homes for rent.
The SNP Government continues its commitment to boost the supply of affordable homes in Scotland. Recommendations on increasing subsidy levels – made by an expert group, which included representatives of housing associations and local councils – have been agreed in full by the SNP Scottish Government and will now be implemented for all new grant applications.
The housing subsidies are for affordable homes for rent being delivered by councils and registered social landlords (RSLs), including housing associations, over the next three years. Subsidies help councils and RSLs acquire land or buildings and to build, convert or improve housing for social and affordable rent.
Grant subsidies have been increased by up to £14,000 for each new home with incentives being offered for those homes achieving the higher greener standard. This means for RSLs in city and urban areas subsidy goes up from £58,000 to £70,000, and for council homes from £46,000 to £57,000.
Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said:
“Housing is at the heart of our ambitions to create a fairer and prosperous country and councils and registered social landlords will play a critical role in realising that.
“We have a strong record on housing, having exceeded our target to deliver 30,000 affordable homes in this Parliament. We also started a new generation of council house building and have taken steps to safeguard social housing for the future by abolishing the right to buy.
“Our new target will be to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes, which will be backed by over £3 billion of investment.
“The new target is a 67 per cent increase in affordable housing supply, with 70 per cent of the new target being for social rent.”