Only 1 in 5 new windfarm bids to ministers are from Scottish-owned firms

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Just a fifth of windfarm bids under consideration by the Scottish Government have come from Scottish-owned developers, it has emerged.

There are currently 39 proposals in front of ministers which are either too large for councils to determine or are subject to appeal after local authority rejection.

But only eight are from Scottish-owned firms, with 19 submitted by overseas companies, and a further 10 from English-owned firms.

Campaign group Save Our Hills said the statistics show yet again that the Scottish Government was viewed as a “soft touch” by foreign-owned developers keen to make money from renewable energy.

It also scotches any claim that every onshore windfarm provides economic benefits for Scotland, when so many of these plans would result in profits either going abroad or south of the border.

Among the foreign-owned companies to target Scotland for windfarm development are those from Canada, France and Germany.

Even major firms owned by the Norwegian and Swedish governments are involved.

The data was obtained by Save Our Hills through Freedom of Information.

Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:

“It is clear from these statistics that foreign-owned energy companies consider Scotland a soft touch when it comes to windfarm development.

“They are lining up to cover our landscape in turbines in the hope of making considerable profits at our expense.

“It is a complete myth to suggest Scotland always stands to benefit economically from the seemingly limitless spread of windfarms.

“They create little in the way of good, sustainable jobs for local communities, and most of the big money leaves Scotland straight to the bank accounts of big business either overseas or south of the border.

“It’s time the Scottish Government stood up to these developers and sent them packing.

“We’re at saturation point with windfarm development, and ministers must now consider other forms of renewable energy for the sake of our economy – which is so dependent on tourism - and our precious landscape.”

Notes to editors:

Below is the list of windfarms being considered by the Scottish Government, and their developers by nationality

Scottish-owned

Arecleoch Extension (South Ayrshire/Dumfries and Galloway) – Scottish Power

Clauchrie (South Ayrshire/Dumfries and Galloway) – Scottish Power

Cumberhead West (South Lanarkshire) – Cumberhead Ltd

Energy Isles (Shetland) – Energy Isles Ltd

Euchanhead (Dumfries and Galloway/East Ayrshire) – Scottish Power

Kilgallioch extension (Dumfries and Galloway) – Scottish Power

Pencloe variation (East Ayrshire) – Pencloe Ltd

Sheirdrim Hill (Argyll and Bute) – Scottish Power

English-owned

Blarghour (Argyll and Bute) – Coriolis Energy

Cloiche (Highland) – SSE

Douglas West extension (South Lanarkshire) – 3R Energy

Glendye (Aberdeenshire) – Coriolis Energy

Glenshero (Highland) – SIMEC

Greenburn Wind Park (East Ayrshire) – REG Power Management

Kirkan (Highland) – Coriolis Energy

Limekiln Extension (Highland) – Infinergy Ltd

Sanquhar 2 (Dumfries and Galloway/East Ayrshire) – Community Wind Power

Scoop Hill (Dumfries and Galloway) – Community Wind Power

Shepherds Rig (Dumfries and Galloway) – Infinergy Ltd

Strathy South Variation (Highland) – SSE

Foreign-owned

Berry Burn extension (Moray) – Statkraft (Norway)

Clash Gour (Moray) – EDF (France)

Clashindarroch II (Aberdeenshire) – Vattenfall (Sweden)

Corriegarth 2 (Highland) – BayWa (Germany)

Craiginmoddie (South Ayrshire) – EnergieKontor (Germany)

Crystal Rig IV (Borders/East Lothian) – Fred Olsen (Norway)

Enoch Hill Variation (East Ayrshire) – RWE (Germany)

Faw Side (Borders/Dumfries and Galloway) – CWL (Canada)

Fetteresso (Aberdeenshire) – Fred Olsen (Norway)

Golticlay (Highland) – E.ON (Germany)

Kennoxhead Extension (South Lanarkshire) – Brookfield (Canada)

Narachan (Argyll and Bute) – EnergieKontor (Germany)

North Kyle (East Ayrshire) – Ramboll (Denmark)

Rothes III (Moray) – Fred Olsen (Norway)

Stornoway 2018 (Western Isles) – EDF (France)

Stranoch 2 (Dumfries and Galloway) – EDF (France)

Strathy Wood (Highland) – E.ON (Germany)

Whitelaw Brae Variation (Borders) – BayWa (Germany)

Windy Standard III (Dumfries and Galloway) – Fred Olsen (Norway)


Councils should act now to support the Covid ‘accidental entrepreneurs’

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Councils and the government should start making plans to support the many “accidental entrepreneurs” who’ve emerged in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic, a business expert has said.

Workers all over the country have been forced to diversify their own business or set up on their own as restrictions have hit the economy.

Writing in today’s Times, Glasgow-based business development firm Frejz said local authorities should be reaching out now to such individuals to help them expand their enterprises and create jobs.

Managing director Finlay Kerr said while those who’d adapted in the last year would be good at their trade, many may lack the business connections and links to investors to go to the next step.

He urged councils to get to work in linking new business owners with investment, and ensuring courses and tuition was on offer to those who had the potential to expand.

This could lead to increased job creation, providing a boost for local economies all over Scotland and kickstarting a Covid-19 recovery.

Finlay Kerr, managing director of Frejz, said:

“Scotland is now full of accidental entrepreneurs – people and companies who have been forced into massive change through necessity rather than choice.

“They may not fit the stereotype of a successful business owner, but they hold the key to growth and job creation.

“Local authorities as well as both of Scotland’s governments need to step in now to ensure they reach their potential.

“Given the lack of notice the pandemic provided, many of these skilled individuals won’t have prepared for a life in business or thought about scaling up.

“So cash should now be set aside to incentivise these brilliant people to become ever better.

“The economic climate has been such that thousands have been forced to do something new.

“But that’s also the sort of climate which can produce the very best new businesses.

“If done correctly, the dividends in tax receipts and economic activity could be significant for the whole country.

“The pandemic hasn’t presented many win-win opportunities, so when one arrives we need to take it.”

Notes to editors:

To see the article in today’s Times, visit: www.thetimes.co.uk/article/embrace-accidental-entrepreneurs-for-inclusive-recovery-6q60xvb5q


City business to start accepting cryptocurrency from customers

Tuesday, March 31, 2021

An Edinburgh music school is to start accepting payments from customers in the form of cryptocurrency.

Morningside School of Music said it was responding to requests from students and believed the payment format would eventually become the norm.

Director Linda Boyd said many of the school’s adult pupils work in the Capital’s growing fintech industry and had suggested the new service.

The school has 700 pupils across the east of Scotland and has recently invested in technology to carry out more music lessons online.

Cryptocurrency involves a digital transaction of virtual money traded over computer networks and not typically backed up by banks.

It is estimated there are now more than 100 million cryptocurrency users around the world.

Linda Boyd, director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“Some larger companies across the world are already doing this, so it’s just a matter of time before smaller businesses like ours start doing the same.

“It’s just about giving our customers another way of paying and making life easier for them.

“Edinburgh’s got a big fintech industry and many of our pupils work or study in that sector, so for them this is a perfectly natural way to pay.

“We sometimes use things like Bitcoin to pay for goods for the school, so we know how fast and easy it is and want our music students to be able to do the same.

“Cryptocurrency is here to stay and will eventually become a routine way for people to pay for services of all descriptions.”

Notes to editors:

For more information on the new payment system, visit:

www.morningsideschoolofmusic.co.uk/pay-with-cryptocurrency



Scot Gov report reveals ‘unprecedented increase’ in child eating disorders

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Eating disorder services have recorded “an unprecedented increase” in child patients during lockdown and cases are “increasing in severity”, a new Scottish Government report has stated.

There has been an 86 per cent rise in referrals since 2019, with some health board areas reporting a hike of 280 per cent.

The Scottish Eating Disorder Services Review stated that eating disorders “thrive on isolation” and have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

It states: “The Scottish Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) eating disorder leads have reported an unprecedented increase in the number and severity of children and young people presenting with eating disorders.

“This increase in number and severity has also resulted in an increase in adolescent psychiatric admissions.”

The report adds that UK eating disorder charity Beat saw an increase in calls from Scotland between April and October of 162 per cent.

UsForThem Scotland, which has campaigned for schools to remain open through lockdown to minimise the impact of restrictions on children, said the report showed the need for urgent action.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“This report makes for harrowing reading and shows once again just how badly young people are suffering through lockdown.

“They are isolated, missing out on vital social experiences and being hung out to try by decision-makers.

“Schools staying open as normal throughout lockdown may not have solved everything, but it would have at least allowed young people to retain a largely normal life.

“Instead they’ve been locked up at home and left to suffer.

“This report from the Scottish Government’s own experts makes clear that eating disorders have become a massively bigger problem through the period of lockdown.

“It will be no consolation to see crocodile tears from politicians on this issue months down the line.

“They need to step in now to stop this unbelievable harm being caused to an entire generation.”

Notes to editors:

The full report can be accessed here:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-eating-disorder-services-review-summary-recommendations/


Make online retailers pay more tax to help out the post-pandemic high street

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Online retailers who’ve enjoyed a “boomtime” through the Covid-19 pandemic should be forced to pay more taxes to help out those who have suffered, it has been argued.

Glasgow-based tax specialists MCC Accountants said companies like Amazon had enjoyed too lenient a tax regime even before the coronavirus crisis.

Writing in today’s Scotsman, director Andrew Morrison said the UK and Scottish governments had to work together to develop a new taxation system which would ensure web-based retailers would pay the same as their counterparts with physical stores.

The extra revenue generated could help revive town and city centres across the country, and go toward the public finances rebuild.

One possibility would be creating a virtual “footfall” levy, where big companies would be taxed according to online visitors, much in the way high street shops with prime locations pay more in rates because they can attract a higher volume of customers.

Small businesses which operate online should still be given the same tax breaks as small shops, ensuring any measure focused only on those who made large profits which are then often diverted overseas.

MCC Accountants represents around 150 small-to-medium sized businesses across Scotland.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“The restrictions brought in by coronavirus have really shone a light on the need for tax reform.

“It’s time for those web-based companies who’ve made a pretty penny from the stay-at-home culture to stump up the tax needed to bail out the high street.

“A system needs to be urgently developed which forces mega-rich companies – who’ve enjoyed a boomtime pandemic – to cough up the sort of tax they’d be paying if they had city centre stores in prime locations.

“This is clearly the right and fair thing to do, and the government would benefit from significantly increased tax receipts.

“Many will argue these levers should have been installed long before the pandemic.

“But now everything’s being shaken up, the government must finally act to end these glaring discrepancies and get us all back on the road to financial sustainability.”

Notes to editors:

The full piece in today’s Scotsman:

www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/covid-crisis-means-internet-retail-giants-must-now-pay-their-fair-share-of-taxes-andrew-morrison-3143701


Scotland’s ‘open door policy’ on windfarms must change after appeals revelation

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Scotland must reverse its “open door” policy on windfarms, after it emerged ministers overruled councils on 19 controversial developments in the last five years.

Research by campaign group Save Our Hills has revealed 24 occasions where local authorities have booted out onshore windfarm applications, only for the developers to go over their heads to the Scottish Government for permission.

And on 19 of those instances, ministers in Edinburgh dismissed local democracy and granted the application.

It means the success rate of appeals for onshore windfarms is almost 80 per cent, compared to the wider planning permission appeal rate of one in three.

The information, obtained by Save Our Hills through Freedom of Information, comes as one major developer conceded windfarm companies see Scotland as a soft touch compared to England.

Praising Scotland’s “open door policy”, Frank Elsworth, Vattenfall’s UK development director, added: “England has primarily pushed everything offshore. It has introduced policy which is quite a barrier to development.

“We’re having this conversation in Scotland and this conversation can’t happen in the rest of the UK because they haven’t provided the opportunities.”

Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:

“It’s astounding that the Scottish Government has overturned this many applications for windfarms in the last few years.

“The message it sends to windfarm developers is not to worry when local people say no, community councils say no, and the local authority says no.

“Just pass it up the chain to ministers in Edinburgh and you’ll almost certainly get approval.

“This attitude from the Scottish Government encourages developers from across Europe who now see Scotland as a soft touch.

“That means our landscape is far more likely to be wrecked by huge windfarm developments than anywhere else in the UK and, what is more, largely by foreign-owned developers who care not a jot for Scotland’s landscape.

“Vattenfall, one such developer, has basically admitted that it targets Scotland because it knows it’s easier to get through the planning system here.

“Everyone accepts the need for sustainable, renewable energy for the sake of supply and the environment.

“But Scotland is at saturation point, and we need a government that is more willing to look at other ways of producing energy that doesn’t cause irreparable harm to our unique and world-famous landscape.”

Notes to editors:

The Freedom of Information response from the Scottish Government is available by contacting Shorthand PR. It shows 19 of 24 onshore windfarm planning appeals were allowed in the last five years.

The general success rate for planning appeals of all types is around one in three:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/row-over-scottish-governments-role-planning-decisions-1458999

Vattenfall recently admitted Scotland had an “open door policy” when it came to windfarm development, in contrast to England:

https://www.heraldscotland.com/business_hq/19047396.argyll-dumfries-galloway-economies-set-windfarm-boost/


Fresh concerns for kids as eating disorder admissions soar

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Fresh concerns have been voiced for the welfare of children after it emerged admissions to Scotland’s main eating disorder facility rose sharply during lockdown.

Research by UsForThem Scotland has revealed there were 46 girls aged between 12 and 17 taken to the specialist ward at the Sick Kids hospital in Glasgow last year.

That compares to just 10 in 2019.

The figures were obtained through Freedom of Information from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, who run the Ward 4 unit in the city.

Their response added: “Colleagues in the service have noticed that there seems to be a national trend of more eating disorder presentations in that last quarter of 2020.”

Although the girls were treated in Glasgow, the facility takes patients from across the country.

UsForThem Scotland, which campaigns for the full reopening of schools and has more than 13,000 members, said the statistics showed the increasing problems facing young people.

The FoI response also stated that boys and girls aged between five and 11 had been admitted, but the numbers were too small to disclose full details.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Lockdown is hard for everyone, and the decision on whether or not to reopen schools is of course a very difficult one to make.

“But we’re beginning to see the dreadful harms across the UK being caused to children through a lack of education and social isolation.

“The fact eating disorder admissions among teenage girls has increased so starkly suggests there are major problems to deal with as a result of the pandemic and its impact on young people.

“Not all of these admissions will necessarily be related to lockdown, but we really need decision-makers to start taking into account the damage schools closures is doing to the welfare of vulnerable young people.”


Ministers urged to take a stance over 11 large-scale windfarm applications

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Ministers have been urged to stand up for Scotland’s countryside by facing down a number of large-scale windfarm applications due for decision.

Research has revealed there are 11 proposed developments comprising 258 turbines which have bypassed local planners and gone straight to the Scottish Government for approval.

However, newly-formed campaign group Save Our Hills have said Scotland is at saturation point and should reject any more onshore windfarms, at least until development has been planned for Scotland as a whole, and not on the current piecemeal basis.

They said the live applications, which involve communities from Dumfries and Galloway to the Highlands, presented ministers with a chance to prove their commitment to Scotland’s landscapes.

Data from the official Scottish Government planning portal reveals there are 11 live Section 36 windfarm applications.

Those are windfarm developments deemed too large to be considered by council planning departments.

10 have been allocated to the planning reporter, while ministers will decide imminently on the 11th.

They include a 48-turbine proposal at Sanquhar in Dumfries in Galloway, an 18-turbine plan in South Ayrshire, a 39-blade submission in the Highlands and an application for 48 turbines in Moray.

Save Our Hills said while it accepted the need for windfarms as part of a mixed-energy approach, too much focus was being placed on onshore wind, often at the expense of scenery and the local economy, and without any comprehensive plan.

Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:

“The Scottish Government has some huge projects in front of it and has the chance to either wave them through or stand up for Scotland’s landscape.

“Communities across the country feel that we are at saturation point and it’s time for the Scottish Government to start pushing back against these massive developments.

“Too often they ruin the landscape, as one developer after another picks off an area where the last one left off, and offer very little in the way of local employment or profit for the community.

“In many cases where tourism and hospitality is involved, they result in a net loss.

“We completely understand the need for clean energy, and don’t expect every single application for a windfarm to be rejected.

“But it’s time for the Scottish Government to change tack and start siding with Scotland’s unique scenery over the current incoherent planning and piecemeal windfarm developments.”

Notes to editors:

Below is a list of live section 36 windfarm applications before the Scottish Government:

Sanquhar ii Community Windfarm, Dumfries and Galloway – 48 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=121337

Limekiln Windfarm Extension, Caithness, Highlands – 5 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=121292

Shepherds Rig Windfarm, Dumfries and Galloway – 17 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=121226

Clauchrie Windfarm, Barrhill, South Ayrshire – 18 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=121198

Strathy Wood Windfarm, Sutherland, Highlands – 13 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=121110

Arecleoch extension, Barrhill, South Ayrshire – 13 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=121046

Glenshero Windfarm, Laggan, Highlands – 39 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=120792

Blarghour Windfarm, Inveraray, Argyll and Bute – 17 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=120707

Rothes iii Windfarm, Moray – 29 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=120637

Clash Gour Windfarm, Moray – 48 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=120515

Crystal Rig iv Windfarm, Borders – 11 turbines

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=120491


Survey reveals toll of school closures on mental health of kids and parents

Friday, January 29, 2021

The mental health impact of schools being closed on pupils and their families has been revealed in a survey completed by almost 500 people.

UsForThem Scotland asked members to detail the impact of home-schooling in the weeks since schools have been shut.

Three-quarters of parents said the situation had caused them increased anxiety, 71 per cent said they felt isolated on a daily basis, and 72 per cent said they felt “low or depressed”.

The exercise patterns in children had changed for 88 per cent of families, while more than a third said their child didn’t spend any time outside.

In addition, nearly three-quarters said their child felt isolated again, while 61 per cent reported their youngster to be “low or depressed”.

In total, UsForThem Scotland received 474 responses to the survey, with feedback from every local authority area except Shetland.

82 per cent of parents said they were getting less sleep.

The Scottish Government is expected to announce on Tuesday if school closures are to continue and for how long.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“This survey offers a snapshot of the impact of school closures on children and parents.

“It’s clear that the vast majority of families forced into home-schooling are struggling on a number of fronts.

“These problems don’t just make for a miserable present, they stack up problems for the future too.

“We understand the decision on schools isn’t an easy one for governments to make.

“But we really need to see ministers taking into account the impact these prolonged closures are having.

“It’s affecting every part of a child and their family’s day – from diet and exercise to how much sleep they’re able to get.

“Parents across Scotland are desperate for schools to open again, and will be watching closely when the Scottish Government provides an update next week.”

Notes to editors:

Key points from the survey are below. 

Þ     For parents, 76% have anxiety with almost all of these feeling this impacts their daily life.

Þ     71% of parents feel isolated again with almost all of those feeling this impacts daily life.

Þ     72% of parents feel low or depressed with the majority feeling this all the time

Þ     88% of children’s exercise patterns have changed, with virtually all of these having less exercise

Þ     37% of children do not spend time outside

Þ     66% of children have anxiety with virtually all of these feeling it impacts their daily life

Þ     73% of children feel isolated, again with almost all of them feeling this impacts their life

Þ     61% of children feel low or depressed and half of them feeling like this all the time.


Boost for Scottish small businesses as tax deadline extended

Monday, January 25, 2021

Small businesses across Scotland have been handed a tax boost after it emerged they would be handed a month’s grace for filing self-assessment returns.

HMRC said today anyone submitting tax returns by the end of February would avoid a fine because of the unique circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, MCC Accountants said the January 31 deadline should be extended as millions of small and medium-sized businesses would be struggling to get records together.

Director Andrew Morrison said it would give hardworking owners some breathing space after a year of uncertainty and changed working environments.

HMRC announced that while they wanted as many as possible to file on the usual January deadline, the waiving of a penalty until February 28 would provide some comfort for those affected by the pandemic.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“Having spoken to the small businesses we represent, we knew it was vital HMRC extended this deadline given the unique circumstances.

“I’m glad the plea of SMEs across the UK has been heard – this is some rare good news after a dreadful year.

“It just enables them to have that bit more time to gather all the necessary records and get their accounts together.

“As a society, we’ve become used to delaying and postponing because of this virus, so there’s no downside to this decision.

“If anything, HMRC has done itself a favour because hundreds of thousands of appeals from across the UK will now have been averted.”

Notes to editors:

The HMRC decision can be seen here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/no-self-assessment-late-filing-penalty-for-those-who-file-online-by-28-february

MCC Accountants called for the move in the Scotsman earlier this month:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/tax-return-deadline-covid-crisis-means-firms-should-be-given-more-time-andrew-morrison-3088293


Push back self-assessment deadline to help SMEs

Friday, January 8, 2021

The UK Government should push back the self-assessment tax deadline of January 31 to help small businesses across the country, a Glasgow-based accountancy firm has said.

Writing in today’s Scotsman, MCC Accountants argued that firms needed more breathing space after a chaotic year, and that that extending the deadline by a couple of months would benefit everyone.

Director Andrew Morrison pointed out that many business owners will have been unable to gather all the necessary information for a tax return because of Covid-19 restrictions, or even suffering the effects of the virus themselves.

Those who have been shielding would have found it particularly difficult to meet with accountants or travel to banks and Post Offices.

And given so many SMEs have been operating a working-from-home strategy, that would also make gathering records more difficult.

Mr Morrison, whose firm represents 150 Scottish SMEs, added that HMRC itself would benefit from an extension.

Last year, 700,000 people missed the self-assessment deadline, with that number likely to increase significantly this time around.

Many of those would appeal any penalty handed down, causing the tax office considerable administrative problems further down the line.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“Both the UK and Scottish governments have worked together well to help out firms struggling through the pandemic, but now HMRC could step in with further assistance.

“Many small and medium-sized businesses use the festive period to get their books in order, but for thousands across the country that just won’t have been possible because of the pandemic.

“Extending the self-assessment deadline by a couple of months would be a much-needed fillip for thousands of small businesses, and wouldn’t have any material impact on the public purse.

“It may even prove cost-effective when you consider the number of people who could miss the deadline then launch very credible appeals against penalties.

“Over these past 10 months the world has become used to events being cancelled and milestones delayed, from local town galas to the Olympic Games.

“Handing 60 days’ grace to SMEs after the year they’ve just had would be a welcome and uncomplicated move, and one that should be announced as a matter of urgency.”



Get teachers to front of vaccine queue and keep schools open

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Teachers should be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccinations in a bid to keep schools in Scotland open, a parents campaign group has said.

Schools won’t return until January 18, and there are fears that may be pushed back further.

Now UsForThem Scotland have said teachers should be offered the coronavirus jab as a matter of urgency to help in efforts to open schools.

They have warned that forcing children to be home-schooled would be damaging for education and the welfare of young people, particularly those from deprived areas.

The latest Scottish Government science shows teachers aren’t at increased risk of contracting the disease, and that children don’t generally transmit it.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Either teachers are at more risk of contracting Covid-19 and therefore need to be vaccinated as a matter of urgency.

“Or they are not and therefore schools should remain open as they have since August.

“Whatever the scenario, if we move teachers to the front of the queue to be offered the vaccine, it will ensure schools definitely stay open.

“As it stands, the re-opening date is January 18 but already there is significant agitation for that date to be extended.

“And if it is, schools simply won’t open again this academic year, and that will be a catastrophe for young people and struggling families.

“It’s the responsibility of this government to ensure children receive a good education, and the only way to do that is keeping the school gates open.

“If that means moving teachers to the front of the vaccination queue, then that’s what has to happen.”


Revealed: 31% rise in under 10s going missing through lockdown

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The number of children under the age of 10 going missing through the first eight months of lockdown rose by nearly a third, new research has revealed.

According to Police Scotland figures, the force received 151 reports of youngsters aged nine and under vanishing between April and November.

That compares to just 115 reports for the same period in 2019.

The statistics were obtained by parents campaign group UsForThem Scotland through Freedom of Information.

They reveal that, since restrictions were imposed, officers received 5692 reports of missing young people (aged 0-18), the equivalent of 23 a day.

The organisation said the figures showed lockdown may have caused more vulnerable children to go missing, and urged the Scottish Government to consider the impact of restrictions on the most vulnerable youngsters.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Clearly lockdown restrictions made life incredibly tough for young people, particularly those who are vulnerable or from deprived areas.

“It’s impossible to say for sure, but we need to be open to the possibility that lockdown caused this increase in very young people running away.

“The Scottish Government is now considering what to do next in terms of restrictions for the coming weeks and months and whether or not to keep schools open.

“We would urge ministers to look at these statistics in relation to children aged nine and under and reflect on the further difficulties closing schools may cause.

“Keeping schools open normally is the best way to ensure children, especially vulnerable ones, can access education, support and as normal a way of life as possible through this very challenging period.” 

Notes to editors:

The full FoI response from Police Scotland is attached to this press release.

It shows the following number of reports of missing children aged 0-9 over the following times frames:

First eight months of lockdown:

Nov 20 – 17

Oct 20 – 19

Sep 20 – 31

Aug 20 – 25

July 20 – 23

June 20 – 21

May 20 – 10

April 20 – 5

Total – 151

Same period for 2019:

Nov 19 – 24

Oct 19 – 11

Sep 19 – 11

Aug 19 – 8

July 19 – 11

June 19 – 16

May 19 – 15

Apr 19 – 19

Total – 115


Group launched to protect Scotland’s landscape from mass onshore windfarm development

Sunday, December 27, 2020

A campaign group has been launched to force a policy change on windfarm applications at council and Scottish Government level.

Save Our Hills will mount a nationwide appeal to bring together communities fed up with large-scale windfarm developments in their local area.

The group will also work to persuade decision-makers in local authorities and within government to slow the spread of onshore developments.

The campaigners said while they were supportive of green energy, many parts of the country were at saturation point and the time had come to look at alternatives.

Work has already begun in Dumfries and Galloway to rally local people about the rise in planning applications there – an increase which has left the council’s planning department overwhelmed.

And they’ve demanded that all windfarms in the planning stage extend their consultation periods until Covid-19 restrictions have eased to allow for maximum local scrutiny.

Save Our Hills has a steering group of 12 people in the south-west of Scotland, but will now work to expand to other areas, particularly those popular with windfarm developers like Perth and Kinross and Aberdeenshire.

The campaign will make a number of demands, including compensation for residents and businesses adversely affected by turbines.

And they want to see fewer foreign-owned companies and absentee landlords profiting from developments.

Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said:

“Scotland is in the process of considering what its energy future may look like, and that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for any government to do.

“But communities, particularly in the south-west, are at saturation point with onshore windfarm development.

“We feel it’s time for other sources to be investigated, and for government to understand that a fairer balance has to be struck between onshore windfarm development and the importance of protecting residents and preserving Scotland’s landscape.

“Many of these developers are owned by foreign companies and built on land owned by people who don’t live anywhere near them.

“That means the profits generated by these developments don’t stay in the local area, and indeed don’t even stay in the country.

“People have had enough and will not put up with the further spread of enormous windfarms which wreck the landscape and local ecology, risk damaging property prices, jeopardise businesses – particularly tourism - and bring nothing of significant benefit to the community.

“We need to see the decision-makers take a tougher stance on these applications, and begin to ensure that when windfarms do receive planning permission, it is with the blessing of those affected by them.

“All over Scotland there are groups who oppose one development here or another there.

“We will bring those groups together and force a meaningful change.

“Scotland has some of the best scenery in the world and, as it stands, mass windfarm development poses a grave risk to that.”


Scots firms innovating through lockdown could be missing out on millions in tax rebates

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Scottish firms who have been forced to innovate and develop new ways of working through lockdown could be missing out on millions of pounds in tax rebates.

Businesses of all sizes have been urged to investigate whether or not they qualify for hefty bonuses through the UK Government’s Research and Development tax credits.

Writing in today’s Times, Glasgow-based MCC Accountants said many firms which have had to adapt as a result of Covid-19 may unwittingly be missing out.

Director Andrew Morrison said anyone from distilleries which had changed practices to make sanitiser, to restaurants who’ve developed technology to allow them to deliver home meals, should look into it.

Last year, around 2000 Scottish companies claimed £300 million in R&D tax credits.

The credits allow companies to claim 230 per cent of tax back on investment in innovation.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“The phrase research and development tends to evoke images of folk in white coats and test tubes.

“But as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, any business which has had to adapt their practices and develop new ways of working may qualify.

“Basically, anyone who’s developed something of their own using a degree of trial and error should be looking into this.

“There could be millions of pounds waiting to come back from government into Scotland’s small business economy as a result of this.

“The R&D tax credits scheme won’t have been applicable for many firms before but, in the chaotic and unprecedented year we’ve just had, it could be now.”

Notes to editors:

To see the full article in today’s Times, visit: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/thunderer-taxman-may-have-a-bonus-for-shrewd-small-businesses-pdz0qbhps

For more information on MCC Accountants, visit: www.morrisonscca.co.uk

Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Nurseries should be allowed to stay open through new lockdown

Monday, December 21, 2020

Nurseries should be allowed to stay open should they want to through new lockdown restrictions, a parents group has said.

As it stands, nurseries across the country won’t be able to open their doors until January 18 at the earliest as part of new Scottish Government measures, in line with school closures.

However, UsForThem Scotland said facilities which care for babies and toddlers should be allowed to continue with agreement from staff and parents.

By allowing at least some childcare and education facilities to remain open, it would take some strain of parents who need to go to work or have older children who will need to now be home-schooled.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“We’ve spoken to a number of parents of nursery-aged children and some nursery workers themselves in recent days.

“It is clear to us that many want to stay working, and are only closing because the government is forcing them to do so.

“They value the education and care they provide and understand there is basically no risk of Covid-19 spreading among babies and toddlers.

“That’s why the Scottish Government should devolve that decision to the nursery businesses themselves: if they want to stay open through these next few weeks, then they should be able to do so.

“The closure of nurseries will really harm the development of young children, for whom time passes extremely quickly and even a few weeks away from key activities can be damaging.

“This would also help working parents – it’s hard to home-school children of that age, but it’s impossible to hold down a job and care for a baby or toddler at the same time.”


The following piece appeared in the Scotsman on Saturday, December 12, 2020

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/scotlands-musicians-must-hold-out-against-rip-merchants-who-offer-poke-chips-instead-pay-linda-boyd-3064384

By Linda Boyd, director of Morningside School of Music

It’s been a turgid year for professional musicians – and that’s probably an understatement when you consider the dire situation many are now facing.

The traditionally dead two months of January and February have been immediately followed by another 10 of enforced inactivity.

The phrase “stick together” has become commonplace throughout the pandemic, almost to the point it has lost its meaning.

But for musicians across Scotland, sticking together might be even more essential when the venues they play in reopen. The battle to save the live music sector in Scotland is only just beginning.

Many high-profile recording artists have spoken of the problems caused by streaming music services replacing traditional means of buying music.

It makes it harder than ever for people to make money from writing, recording and producing music, and world-famous acts like Elbow and Taylor Swift have long called for collective action.

Good luck to them, but a more urgent coalition may be required from those who make their money in pubs and restaurants as cash-strapped businesses vie for custom after a year of financial hell.

We recently received a call from a major entertainment venue asking for musicians to perform at a future city centre event.

Their payment? Food and drink.

Of course, the workers pulling pints at this event would have been paid, as would the door staff, the organisers, the promoters and the cleaners.

But for those laying on the entertainment, drawing the customers in and keeping them happy, there was no financial reward.

They would be expected to offer up their professional services - with skills acquired over hundreds of hours of practice and often professional tuition, along with their thousands of pounds of equipment – for nothing but a poke of chips and a glass of cola.

Of no other trade in the world would this be expected, but perhaps everyone directly and indirectly involved in the live music scene have made it a little bit too easy for penny-pinchers over the years.

Now, the only way to beat it will be if the musicians of Scotland stick together.

Owners must respect the hard yards performers have put in to advance their own discipline. At Morningside School of Music we see hundreds of pupils who quite literally dedicate their life to their music.

Over lockdown, and in the absence of opportunities to perform, these people have been shutting themselves away in their bedrooms and improving their skills and talents even further.

We cannot reach a situation where venues know they don’t have to pay bands because, if one says no on those grounds, there will be another 10 willing to do it for nothing.

There always have and always will be venues that try this, sometimes through ignorance but usually through malevolent design.

I’m worried that, with such intense financial pressure on these businesses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, this will become commonplace as the hospitality industry enters a recovery phase.

It’s important to say that many venues across the country are passionate about live music and committed to paying their acts fairly and on time.

And let’s not forget that for these businesses 2020 has been awful. They’ve been shut suddenly, urged to invest in new equipment for social distancing, then closed down again.

Publicans in Edinburgh have had to watch on while huge sporting occasions, the Festival and the Christmas Party season have all passed without reward. Usually these places depend on such set-pieces to pay the bills for the rest of the year, so who knows how they’ll manage now.

Going forward, it’s vital musicians share their positive stories with each other about these venues and, more importantly, call out those who are taking liberties.

A failure to stick together in this way will only damage the earning potential of musicians who’ve been so acutely hit by this pandemic.

There’s a role for government too, both in Scotland and the UK.

For Westminster’s part, there is some making up to do after the disgraceful – if exaggerated in some quarters – suggestion that those in creative industries should simply retrain in creativity-sapping, 9-5 industries.

That was particularly painful for musicians who’ve already been forced to give up a life’s work in recent months and embark on every kind of trade, from delivery driving to labouring.

The Scottish Government could look at ways to help too, perhaps gathering and publishing information on venues who pay fairly and squarely and promoting those places, or offering tax breaks or cash incentives to them.

Naming and shaming those who don’t would probably be an impossible and controversial step for authorities to take, but perhaps being excluded from such coveted lists would serve a useful purpose in itself.

Governments certainly shouldn’t be afraid to interfere and legislate to protect such a treasured sector which we would all miss were it to vanish.

There may well be the odd musician who accepts a few free pints as compensation for their talents.

But for the vast majority those days are gone. Professional musicians have lives to lead, bills to pay and families to feed.

Venues should resist the temptation to rip off live artists, however bad the books look after a year of destitution.

And if they try, Scotland’s musicians – to a man and women - must rally, hold fast, dig in their heels and ensure it’s not an option.

They’ll be more aware than anyone after these last barren months just how sacred their industry is.

 


Poorest kids now nearly 3x more likely to miss school

Friday, November 13, 2020

Councils and government must work together to ensure children from the most deprived areas remain in school through the pandemic, after it emerged the gap between rich and poor widened again.

New figures have revealed that, last week, those from the least wealthy backgrounds were nearly three times more likely to miss school than their better off contemporaries.

On November 6, the absence rate among the poorest fifth of Scottish youngsters was 17.6 per cent, compared to just 6.2 per cent at the other end of the scale.

And on November 10, the latest date for which statistics are available, there were a record number of overall absences due to Covid-19, with 29,486 staying at home.

The previous high was 25,022 on August 26.

UsForThem Scotland said children from the poorest areas were increasingly losing out through the coronavirus crisis, and the local authorities and government needed to do more to ensure they stayed in school.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Higher absence rates among children from poorer backgrounds has always been an issue, but the pandemic has increased that gap, and it’s getting wider.

“There is a major problem at the heart of Scottish society if you are nearly three times more likely to miss school purely because of your postcode.

“We already know the least wealthy families suffered most during the first lockdown and, for them, blended learning was nothing short of a disaster.

“But if we don’t take action now, thousands of these children will be lost to the education system, and that will have catastrophic consequences for society.

“The legacy of Covid-19 must not be a widening of the attainment gap and the crushing of hopes and aspirations of children who’ve already had a less privileged start in life.”

Notes to editors:

Statistics for school absences up to November 10 can be seen here:

https://public.tableau.com/profile/sg.eas.learninganalysis#!/vizhome/COVID19-SchoolsandChildcareInformation/Introduction

They show there were 29,486 absences on November 10, a new high.

On November 6, the attendance rate for the poorest quintile was 82.4 per cent. For those in the wealthiest quintile, it was 93.8 per cent.


Scrap air departure tax to revive tourism industry, MSPs urged

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

MSPs have been urged to revisit plans to scrap the tax on flights in a bid to revive the tourism and hospitality sectors in the wake of Covid-19.

In a submission to the Scottish Government, Glasgow-based MCC Accountants said abolishing the levy would encourage an influx of foreign visitors to Scotland as soon as it was safe for them to come.

Writing in today’s Herald, director Andrew Morrison argued that the move would make use of a tax power already held in Holyrood, and would allow a sector badly hit by Covid-19 the chance to recover.

The Scottish Government recently requested the views of businesses and interest groups on how to use devolved powers to trigger a post-pandemic recovery.

The scrapping of air departure tax (ADT) was Scottish Government policy, and backed in principle by the largest opposition party.

However, concerns over the climate emergency declared by the Scottish Government last year led to the policy being dropped.

In today’s article, Mr Morrison argues air travel could be encouraged while government works in other areas to offset the environmental impact.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“Cutting the levy on incoming flights would provide an immediate boost for the hospitality and tourism sectors who have been worst hit by this crisis.

“Making it cheaper to fly to Scotland not only means more people will come here, but they will have additional cash in their pockets to spend during their stay.

“This would make bold use of one of the Scottish Parliament’s most recently-devolved powers.

“Our message to ministers would be to embrace air travel for what it is, then go above and beyond in other areas to offset the environmental concerns.

“Scotland’s economy will simply not recover with the pounds and pence of holiday-makers.”

Notes to editors:

The article by Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, appeared on p15 of today’s Herald.

Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Teachers should be among first to be offered Covid-19 vaccine

Monday, November 2, 2020

Teachers should be among the first group in Scotland to be offered a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19, a parents campaign group has said.

Some reports have suggested early jabs may be available before Christmas for key groups like health and care workers.

UsForThem Scotland said giving teachers the chance to be vaccinated would help keep schools open and ease fears they had about their own safety.

The grassroots organisation has successfully campaigned for schools to remain open even as other parts of society have closed down.

However, Scotland’s largest teaching union wants a return to blended learning for areas which are placed in tier four restrictions, while their counterparts down south have called for schools to close during England’s second lockdown.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Keeping schools open is absolutely vital not just for the education of pupils, but for their mental wellbeing too.

“The best way for that to happen is with Scotland’s teaching community feeling safe when they enter their work each day.

“So if and when a safe vaccination is ready for an initial group of people, we’d like to see teachers to be among the first to be offered it.

“They are every bit as vital as healthcare workers as Scotland battles Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions continue.

“Children suffered so badly during the first lockdown and blended learning proved to be a complete shambles, especially for the most disadvantaged children.

“We can’t afford a repeat of that, so when priority groups are being chosen for initial rounds of a safe and effective vaccine, teachers should absolutely be in that discussion.”

Notes to editors:

Leaked emails from NHS Lothian have suggested healthcare workers could receive a vaccination in around six weeks:

https://www.edinburghlive.co.uk/news/edinburgh-news/leaked-emails-reveal-nhs-lothian-19201701


Music school donates ukuleles to children's hospice


Tuesday, October 28, 2020

A Scottish music school has donated £250 worth of ukuleles to the country’s only children’s hospice.

Morningside School of Music, which has 700 pupils and 17 full-time teachers, made the presentation to Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) at its Edinburgh studio.

The wooden instruments are themed with popular children’s characters like Spongebob Squarepants and Dennis the Menace.

The school has a long history raising money for CHAS, including generating thousands though its annual grand ball.

CHAS is the only charity in Scotland that provides hospice services for babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions.

It has two facilities – Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch - while the CHAS home service supports families across Scotland in their own homes.

Through the Covid-19 pandemic it has innovated to launch the UK’s first virtual children’s hospice.

Linda Boyd, managing director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“It’s more important than ever to try and raise money for vital charities like CHAS.

“We’ve worked with them for a number of years and want to continue to find ways of doing so even through the pandemic.

“Hopefully these instruments can bring joy to the children and families who are helped by CHAS and raise much-needed funds for them.”

Sarah Dannfald, community fundraiser for CHAS, said:

“We are so grateful to Morningside School of Music for their continued support of CHAS.

“It really means the world to us to know that they are standing by our side, even when times have been tough over the last few months.

“This donation of ukuleles will bring joy to all who receive them.”


Ministers must watch emotional video by soft-play owner whose business is on the brink

Friday, October 23, 2020

Scottish Government ministers have been urged to watch an emotional video posted by the owner of a soft-play centre whose business is on the verge of collapse.

The plea by Craig Meikle, who runs Saltire Soft Play in Midlothian, has been watched 350,000 times since being posted last night.

In it, he warns his business is only weeks away from going to the wall, having being closed since lockdown was introduced in March.

He pointed out that he hadn’t received any government funding, and that other similar facilities had been allowed to reopen to make money.

He said: “The Scottish Government are still treating us with utter disdain. We’ve now been closed for over seven months.

“I’m watching my business go down the pan so the very least I deserve is an explanation as to why we have to remain closed while other businesses are allowed to be open.”

He added that the government had failed to provide them with guidance, despite asking them for seven months.

His company has had “zero financial assistance” from the government.

There are more than 3500 comments on the video from users of the soft play centre in Dalkeith, and it has been shared 13,000 times.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to watch this video, and so do other decision-makers in government.

“If they do, they will soon change their minds on this cruel and ridiculous rule which forces soft-plays to remain shut.

“As Mr Meikle points out in the video, there is very little risk from children mixing with each other, and other similar facilities have been given the green light to open.

“It’s astonishing the centre hasn’t been given any financial assistance, but the best way to keep these places is going is to let them open their doors and do business.

“These centres are hugely important for the wellbeing and socialisation of children, and also provide an outlet for parents, many of whom have been stuck inside struggling for months.

“It makes no sense to keep these centres closed, and I hope the First Minister takes five minutes out of her day to watch this video and take positive action.”

Notes to editors:

The video can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/saltiresoccercentre


Poorest children more likely to miss school because of Covid-19

Friday, October 16, 2020

New figures have exposed a gulf in coronavirus school absences between pupils from Scotland’s wealthiest and poorest areas.

Analysis has revealed the average attendance rate for the last month was 95.27 per cent among the most privileged youngsters.

But in the least wealthy children, the rate was just 88.14 per cent - a gap of more than seven per cent.

On certain days, the gap in attendance rate between the two quintiles was 11 per cent.

The research was conducted by parents group UsForThem Scotland, which said it provided more evidence that children in areas of poverty have been worst-hit by pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

The Scottish Government figures – which were analysed from September 14 to October 13 – show the gap between rich and poor has extended as a result of Covid-19.

Last year, the overall attendance rate for the poorest 20 per cent was 90.4 per cent, compared to 95.3 per cent for the wealthiest – a gap of 4.9 per cent.

Jo Bisset, organiser for UsForThem Scotland, said:

“It’s been long suspected that children in the poorest areas have been worst-hit by coronavirus – now these statistics prove it.

“Schools should be more-or-less running as normal, yet in the last month more one in 10 vulnerable youngsters have missed out on vital education.

“This obviously places them at even more of a disadvantage for now and the future.

“The Scottish Government makes the right noises about keeping schools open even when other parts of society are closed down.

“But that’s not translating into action for children from the least privileged backgrounds, and that will have hugely negative consequences.”

Notes to editors:

The official data is available here and shows the following attendance rates by the 20 per cent least wealthy, and the 20 per cent most wealthy:

https://public.tableau.com/profile/sg.eas.learninganalysis#!/vizhome/COVID19-SchoolsandChildcareInformation/Introduction

October 13 – 87.8 per cent / 94.6 per cent

October 12 – 87.5 per cent / 94.4 per cent

October 9 – 81.5 per cent / 92.6 per cent

October 8 – 85.2 per cent / 94.6 per cent

October 7 – 87.4 per cent / 95 per cent

October 6 – 87.6 per cent / 94.9 per cent

October 5 – 87.7 per cent / 94.9 per cent

October 2 – 86.1 per cent / 95.2 per cent

October 1 – 88.6 per cent / 95.6 per cent

September 30 – 88.6 per cent / 95.6 per cent

September 29 – 89.2 per cent / 95.7 per cent

September 28 – 89.6 per cent / 95.6 per cent

September 25 – 88.1 per cent / 95.2 per cent

September 24 – 88.3 per cent / 95.8 per cent

September 23 – 89.4 per cent / 96 per cent

September 22 – 89.6 per cent / 95.6 per cent

September 21 – 89.4 per cent / 95.8 per cent

September 18 – 88.1 per cent / 95.7 per cent

September 17 – 89.9 per cent / 96.1 per cent

September 16 – 89.8 per cent / 95.9 per cent

September 15 – 89.9 per cent / 95.7 per cent

September 14 – 89.8 per cent / 95.5 per cent

Month average – 88.14 per cent / 95.27 per cent

Statistics for the full 2018/19 year are available here:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/summary-statistics-schools-scotland-no-10-2019-edition/

They show the following attendance rates:

Least deprived – 95.3 per cent

Most deprived – 90.4 per cent


Government campaign to retrain artists blasted by music school

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A government campaign urging people in the creative industries to retrain has been heavily criticised by a leading Scottish music school.

Adverts appeared yesterday featuring a ballerina with an accompanying message suggesting she could instead work in “cyber”.

Morningside School of Music, which has around 700 students, said the campaign was wrongheaded and was “code for abandoning work to which many people in the arts have dedicated decades of their lives”.

Writing in today’s Times Thunderer column, the school’s managing director Linda Boyd also pointed out that musicians were professionals who had spent thousands of hours practicing and had often invested tens of thousands in equipment and training.

Linda Boyd, managing director of Morningside School of Music, said:

“The message is wrong and insults thousands of musicians across the UK who, for months on end, have been denied almost any opportunity to make a living.

“The government should be saying: ‘Stick with it, and once we’re through this pandemic the UK will have the best damned arts scene in the world.’

“Urging musicians to retrain is not a harmless piece of career advice. It is asking them to give up their life’s work.

“When the pandemic is over, people will want to go to pubs with live music again. They will want to go to the theatre with actors, to operas with singers, to nightclubs with DJs and, yes, to the ballet.

“If all the ballerinas have traded their discipline for nine-to-five lives in cyberspace, that does not bode well.”

 

Notes to editors:

The full article can be seen here:

www.thetimes.co.uk/article/telling-artists-to-retrain-is-insulting-and-short-sighted-m0zr2nkv6

For more information on the school, visit:

www.morningsideschoolofmusic.co.uk


Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Reform corporation tax to embrace to home-working revolution


Monday, October 12, 2020

Corporation tax should be reformed to allow for regional variation in response to the home-working revolution caused by Covid-19, a Scottish accountant has said.

Writing in today’s Scotsman, Andrew Morrison argued a shift in policy would help redistribute wealth from London and improve the quality of life for those who no longer attend the office regularly.

The director of MCC Accountants said allowing businesses to pay lower levels of corporation tax if they set up offices in towns and cities across Scotland would save companies money and “level up” the economy from its London-centric base.

Such a move would also benefit London, he argued, which could start repurposing offices as accommodation in a city which is “bursting at the seams” and has astronomical renting costs and house prices.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“With the working-from-home revolution underway, we need government to get on board and make it work for everyone.

“With the right policy decisions, it could actually make an economic boon out of it, and come good on the ‘levelling up’ rhetoric we saw ahead of the 2019 General Election.

“Scotland stands to benefit from this change as much as anywhere.

“One policy that would achieve this is the introduction of regional corporation tax cuts.

“The would immediately encourage large firms to move out of London, perhaps even just in part, and set up satellite offices in the rest of the UK.

“If people want to work from home, and employers want their teams back together in the office, let’s meet in the middle – let’s look at having teams working together, and collaborating with colleagues in other satellite offices remotely. It’s the best of both worlds.

“As with everything, the balance is critical.

“It’s a balance that has to be investigated now and, if struck correctly, the months of enforced change to working habits could actually become a prosperous future to the benefit of everyone.”

Notes to editors:

To read the full piece in today’s Scotsman, visit:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/working-home-how-tax-changes-could-help-fundamentally-change-our-london-centric-economy-andrew-morrison-3000240



Huge increase in adults turning to music lessons through lockdown


Friday, October 9, 2020

The number of adults seeking music lessons increased significantly during lockdown, a Scottish music school has revealed.

Morningside School of Music, which teaches around 700 pupils, said restrictions had encouraged people to take up music for the first time.

Analysis of their own figures showed that 71 per cent of bookings are now by adults who want to learn a new skill.

That coincided with the school moving lessons online through technology like Zoom after government restrictions made teaching face-to-face impossible.

It means the Edinburgh school, which was established in 1999 and has 17 teachers, teaches more adults than children for the first time.

Singing lessons are the number one choice for women, the school said, followed by guitar and piano.

Drum lessons are the most popular lessons for men, ahead of guitar and then piano.

Linda Boyd, spokeswoman for Morningside School of Music, said:

“We have seen a significant rise in bookings in recent months as we have had to move most lessons online.

“Our research indicates that the biggest rise is due to adults looking to learn a new skill.

“We have had to take on more teachers to cope with demand, including three singing teachers, two piano teachers and a guitar teacher in the past few months alone.

“We initially thought lockdown was going to be challenging for the school.

“But we’ve adapted the way we work, and adults are obviously pursuing perhaps old hobbies from childhood – or brand new ones – as they have a little more time on their hands.

“The pandemic and changed behaviour within that has led to something of a revolution in learning a musical instrument.”

Notes to editors:

For more information on the school, visit: www.morningsideschoolofmusic.co.uk


Schools must be spared from threat of second lockdown

Friday, September 18, 2020

Schools must be spared from any future lockdown measures being considered by the government, a children’s campaign group has said.

It’s being reported today that ministers may introduce tougher restrictions across a number of areas as Covid-19 cases rise across the UK.

However, UsForThem said schools must be kept running as normal, even if other parts of society and the economy shut down.

They warned that closing schools again would have a severely negative impact on children across the country, and place their prospects and wellbeing in jeopardy.

UsForThem, which has 15,000 members across England, formed in May to campaign for a return to normal schooling and the prioritising of children’s wellbeing.

Christine Brett, co-founder of UsForThem, said:

“If the government is considering the introduction of more restrictions, schools must be spared from this.

“Even if other parts of society and the economy shut down, schools have to carry on as normal.

“UsForThem represents thousands of parents who are already frustrated by classes being sent home to isolate and the threat of schools closing again will be a disaster for many children who are only just re-adapting to school and restarting learning.

“Children are at very low risk of the virus and their overall wellbeing must be prioritised.

“The first lockdown caused children across the UK a great deal of harm – they missed months of education, had friendships disrupted and missed out on so many activities and opportunities.

“A second closure of schools would see that misery repeated, and for a generation of children that’s simply not acceptable.

“Whatever the Government decides to do, it should make an unequivocal statement now that schools will continue as normal.”

Notes to editors:

It’s being reported that the UK Government is considering further lockdown measures:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54199642

For more information on UsForThem, visit:

www.usforthem.co.uk


SMEs should be encouraged back to the office to improve GDP

Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Both governments can introduce measures to turn around Scotland’s economy after it emerged GDP slumped by 19 per cent. 

Figures released today confirmed the downturn which has been mirrored across the world as Covid-19 restrictions set in between April and June.

Now MCC Accountants, which represents 150 small and medium businesses in Scotland, said action was needed in Holyrood and Westminster to boost the fortunes of companies.

Director Andrew Morrison said the Scottish Government should start encouraging SMEs to return to the office, as many are struggling to provide the IT infrastructure to keep employees working at home.

He said a number of his clients were keen to open up their offices again, and should be permitted if they can show it can be done safely and with the agreement of staff.

That would also benefit catering and retail businesses which relied upon people working in offices, he added.

He also urged the UK Government to consider extending job retention schemes for sectors which can’t get back to work this year, such as the TV and film industry.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“It was obvious that Scotland’s economy was going to take a pounding just like everywhere else.

“But there are things both governments can do now to ensure things pick up.

“The Scottish Government should now be allowing SMEs to return to the office, which would help their productivity and output.

“I understand the public health requirements to avoid public transport from returning to pre-Covid levels of use.

“But encouraging SMEs with a small workforce to return to the office strikes the right balance between helping those who lack the large administrative support structures while keeping workers safe.

“SMEs often lack the in-house mailroom, admin teams, scanning and IT support systems which are crucial in facilitating people working from home efficiently for the long-term.

“In my experience, company owners are picking up the slack to the detriment of growing their business, and that’s not sustainable for the economy.

“If these companies can show they can operate safely and their employees agree, they should be getting on with returning to the office.

“The UK Government should also consider extending job retention schemes for sectors like TV and film which stand no chance of returning before the end of the year.”

Notes to editors:

The full GDP figures are available here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/first-estimate-of-gdp-2020-q2/

Andrew Morrison called for action to help the TV and film industry in a piece last weekend: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/6034181/outlander-game-of-thrones-james-bond-skyfall-scotland-1917/


Scotland’s film and TV sector at risk unless both governments step in, MSPs told

Andrew Morrison, MCC Accountants

Scotland’s film and television industry will never recover from a loss of talented workers unless both the UK and Scottish governments step in to help, MSPs have been told.

In a submission to Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, it was warned the coronavirus has hit that sector harder than most.

And Glasgow-based MCC Accountants – who represents more than 30 companies in the industry – said huge progress made in growing the sector before Covid-19 was now in jeopardy.

They said an extension of UK Government job retention schemes would be essential for small companies who won’t receive any work until the new year at the earliest.

But director Andrew Morrison also pointed out there were funding schemes the Scottish Government could be investigating to help out too.

In his evidence to the committee, he pointed out the number of enterprises working in Scottish film and TV had increased from 240 to more than 400 in the space of a decade.

But those who ensured that growth happened will be lost to the industry forever unless urgent help is delivered, he warned.

The Scottish Parliament committee called for expert evidence earlier this year into the impact of Covid-19 on Scotland’s culture and tourism sector.

Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, said:

“Both Scotland’s governments need to work together urgently to help out this sector.

“Everyone’s been affected by coronavirus and the lockdown that ensued, but TV and film have felt particular pressure.

“For them, there’s no real end in sight, so we need to see the UK Government extend the job retention scheme for that industry and the Scottish Government to investigate more funding packages.

“Failure to do so could see the sector lose these talented people for good – and it would never recover from that.

“Scotland’s film and TV industry was booming before Covid-19 hit. We can’t afford for that progress to be lost.

“It’s vital for the economy and for the hundreds of companies who contribute to the industry.”

Notes to editors:

A full version of the submission is below:

CULTURE, TOURISM, EUROPE AND EXTERNAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

INQUIRY ON THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON SCOTLAND’S CULTURE AND TOURISM SECTORS

SUBMISSION FROM Andrew Morrison, director of MCC Accountants, Glasgow

MCC Accountants represents more than 30 businesses in Scotland’s film and television industry.

As such, we see very starkly just how badly these companies have been affected by coronavirus and the resultant lockdown.

Of course there’s barely an industry in the world which hasn’t been impacted, but the particular problems caused for Scotland’s emerging film and television industry are particularly acute.

We’ve set out some proposals for MSPs to consider which could help these companies through an exceptionally dark time.

Of course, the UK Government’s job retention schemes are the most obvious ways to help this sector, and we appreciate that’s not something this particular committee has any control over. Separately, we are calling for these schemes to be extended at least until the end of the year for this industry.

But beyond that, there are measures the Scottish Government can take to help out.

The television and film industry is a growing one, and before Covid-19 hit there were many exciting initiatives to make Scotland attractive to production companies the world over.

In a post-Covid world, there will be new challenges for these companies, and Scotland can lead the way in meeting them.

It is likely production companies will need larger spaces to account for social distancing, and they will need these spaces for longer as everything will take more time under these restrictions.

As such, the Scottish Government should ramp up its efforts to create large studio space. If it does not, backlogs could occur and that may well drive these companies to look elsewhere to record their productions.

Clients have made representations to me that, pre Covid-19, there was a shortage of such facilities in Scotland, and they expressed desire for developments such as Pentland Studios to progress.

We also have to acknowledge the difficulties faced by these small companies in Scotland.

Before the pandemic, more clients approached my firm for services because they were encouraged by production companies to change from being sole-traders to limited companies, or enter into a PAYE contract, which was and remains financially detrimental to workers within the screen sector.

As a result, those who became limited companies lost out on the government support they would have received had they stayed as sole-traders. That’s because the coronavirus job retentions schemes were only eligibly on the PAYE element of their remuneration, and not dividends, which generally constitute the majority of their drawings.

Many productions that were shelved through the crisis won’t now resume until 2021. That means, when the furlough scheme ends in October, these companies will have to somehow cope with zero income for several more months.

I note the supplementary support previously offered via Screen Scotland in the form of bursaries, and the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 resilience fund, which were both very useful to a number of my clients who fell through such gaps.

Of course it’s the UK Government’s decision whether or not to extend job retention initiatives, but the Scottish Government should also consider some grant support specifically for these individuals who, again, are missing out through no fault of their own.

That’s especially important given the strategic importance of the screen sector to the Scottish economy – research conducted last year showed the number of enterprises within this sector grew from 240 in 2008 to 400 in 2018, a 66 per cent increase.

Scottish film and television had a very bright future before coronavirus, and that was down to the talented individuals who make up the industry north of the border.

Both the Scottish and UK governments now need to work together to ensure these people can be supported through this time, meaning they can get on with boosting Scotland’s cultural economy when the times comes to resume normal work.

Failure to do so could see the sector lose these workers for good, and that’s something from which it would never recover.

ENDS