Renfrewshire to receive £1.4million to support town centres.

Renfrewshire is set to receive over £1.4million as part of a new Scottish Government £50million fund to help boost town centres.

The Town Centre Fund, which has been set up in partnership with COSLA, is supporting councils to ensure their high streets are more diverse, sustainable and successful in the face of changing and evolving retail patterns.

It will be for local authorities to allocate this fund against the themes of the Town Centre Action Plan.

The money will fund a wide range of investments which will make town centres more vibrant, enterprising, and accessible.

This could include the re-purposing of empty buildings for housing or social and community enterprises.

Speaking as he announced the launch of the fund in Renfrew Town Centre, Renfrewshire MSP and Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said:

“Town centres are facing challenges across Scotland in adapting to a changing retail climate, and it is important that we help them to diversify and adjust to overcome these challenges.

“I want to make sure we can keep life in our high streets, and ensure they continue to be thriving places for communities to live, work and enjoy.

“This fund, which Renfrewshire will receive £1.4 million from, will enable local authorities to stimulate and support a wide range of investments which will encourage town centres to diversify and flourish, and create an increase in footfall through local improvements and partnerships.

“It is part of a wider boost to the economy through providing more than £5 billion of capital investment to grow and modernise Scotland’s infrastructure, and a wider package of support to businesses, including maintaining a competitive business rates package and providing the most generous package of non-domestic rates reliefs anywhere in the UK.”

MSP Supports Charities’ Services for Older Veterans who have Hearing Loss

Derek Mackay MSP is backing a charity’s call for Renfrewshire residents to volunteer for a service supporting older veterans whose lives have been affected by hearing loss.

The MSP for Renfrewshire North and West found out about the local Hearing Forces service when speaking with veterans and Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s Angela Paton and Caroline McDonald during a visit to a hearing aid support session in the Erskine Reid Macewen Activity Centre, Bishopton.

George Sharp said:

“Hearing Forces provides a friendly service which helps us to hear our friends and family much better through the maintenance and cleaning of our hearing aids, and the provision of batteries to keep them working. When I see people at the centre struggling with hearing loss, I always encourage them to visit the support sessions.”

The MSP was also advised that Hearing Forces, which is part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium led by Poppyscotland, also informs veterans aged 65 or over about assistive equipment, such as amplified telephones or personal listeners, that can make life easier.

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s Angela Paton said:

“We thank Derek Mackay MSP for visiting our Hearing Forces session to see how our one-to-one support is transforming the everyday lives of older veterans by enabling them to follow conversations, listen to their favourite television programmes or hear sounds such as birdsong which they haven’t experienced, in some cases, for many years.

“We’d love to speak with people in Renfrewshire who are interested in volunteering for our service so that we can run sessions more frequently to reach more veterans and help them to hear their comrades and relatives through using hearing aids or assistive technology.”

Derek Mackay MSP said:

“I was delighted to speak with several veterans at the Hearing Forces session who have hearing loss and are being supported by Erskine and Action on Hearing Loss Scotland to live independently and develop their IT or art skills as well as access mindfulness and holistic therapies.

“It’s great to see the charities working together in the Unforgotten Forces partnership to help those who served the country to overcome issues relating to their hearing loss and become both socially and physically active.

“I encourage residents in Renfrewshire to come forward to volunteer and provide life-enhancing support which can be appreciate by many more older veterans in our communities who have lost their hearing.”

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland is looking for volunteers to give a few hours of their time every month. Training about deaf awareness, communication tips and assistive equipment will be provided by the charity and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s audiology department will show the volunteers how to carry out basic hearing aid maintenance.

For more details, email: hearing.forces@hearingloss.org.uk or telephone/text 07388 227407.

MSP Launches Consultation on McGill’s Service

Over 1,000 responses received in first 12 hours.

Renfrewshire North & West MSP Derek Mackay has launched a consultation survey on the McGill’s X23 and 23 service, which currently travels from Erskine to Glasgow, via Inchinnan and Renfrew.

At a public meeting in Renfrew this week McGIll’s confirmed they propose to make changes to the service, as they prepare to replace their current fleet of coaches with new ones.

Following the meeting, which between 350 and 400 people attended, Mr Mackay has launched a survey to receive feedback from users of the service.

Over 1,000 people have already responded to the survey, which is available online or in paper form by contacting Mr Mackay’s office.

Speaking Mr Mackay said:

“McGill’s have confirmed they are proposing to make changes to this service. However, unfortunately, the meeting this week did not result in any clear understanding on what their plans are or the proposals they intend to bring forward.

“In order to fully represent my constituent’s views on the potential proposals McGill’s have agreed to go away and draw up, I have launched by own consultation survey.

“If you use the service I would encourage you to complete the survey soon. Once I have the results I will send these to McGill’s and use it to lobby the company on behalf of locals.”

Survey can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LT2SLBB

Paper copies can be requested by e-mailing Derek.Mackay.msp@parliament.scot

MSP “very disappointed” by news Town’s Bank to close

Renfrewshire North & West MSP Derek Mackay has spoken of his disappointment at Santanders decision to close their Renfrew branch.

The bank announced their intention to close the branch in the towns High Street in July.

Mr Mackay has written bank bosses to seek more information over the plans, including the possibility of the ATM remaining after closure – something which has been successful in other branch closures.

Mr Mackay said:

“I am very disappointed that Santander has decided to close the Renfrew branch. This is a branch not only used by people from Renfrew, but is also also used by people from Erskine, Inchinnan, Bishopton and other villages.

“I am seeking an urgent update from bank bosses, when I will be pressing the management to consider allowing the much used ATMs to remain. This is something other banks have committed to doing when closing banks in the past.

“It is also essential that the bank ensures there is sufficient capacity elsewhere, to cater for all the needs of the customers and local businesses that will be let down by this decision.”

Mackay welcomes additional help for funeral costs

Mackay welcomes additional help foNew benefit will increase eligibility by around 40%.

A new benefit providing help for people on low-incomes to meet the costs of a funeral is on course to be delivered by the Scottish Government through Social Security Scotland by summer 2019.

The move has been welcomed by Renfrewshire North & West MSP Derek Mackay.

Funeral Expense Assistance (FEA) will replace the current DWP Funeral Payment in Scotland and improvements mean around 40% more people will be eligible to apply. FEA will provide financial support directly to those who need it most at the point of bereavement. Regulations enabling delivery of this new system have been laid in Parliament today.

As with all Scottish Government benefits, Funeral Expense Assistance has been developed with input from those with experience of the present system – helping identify and address the parts of the DWP application process that people currently find difficult or distressing and improving the process and removing barriers to apply.

Mr Mackay said:

“Coping with the death of a loved one is a very difficult time for anyone, and it’s even harder when there’s extra stress finding the money to pay the funeral costs.

“The new assistance, which is being backed by around £2 million of additional funding, will increase eligibility for help by around 40%.

“Help will be provided towards burial or cremation costs, certain transport costs, plus £700 for other costs such as funeral directors fees or flowers. The Scottish Government have committed to up rating the £700 per year to take account of the impact of inflation – something the UK Government has not done since 2003.

 “I am pleased that this benefit will be available later this year and will deliver an improved scheme to help those on lower incomes pay for the cost of a funeral.”

West College Scotland and UWS to benefit from increased Budget Funding 

WRenfrewshire MSP and Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has challenged Labour MSPs to back the Scottish Government’s draft budget that plans to increase higher education spending by £12.1 million and increase spending on colleges by £18.3 million over the coming year.

The proposal, set out in the Scottish Government’s draft budget plans for 2019/20, will maintain investment in Scotland’s universities at over £1 billion and will take college investment to over £606 million.

MSPs will vote on Mr Mackay’s budget plans next month.

Commenting, Derek Mackay said:

“The Scottish Government will deliver over £600 million for Scotland’s colleges, which will be great news for West College Scotland here in Renfrewshire and other institutions across the country.

“I am calling on Labour politicians to get behind the plans to secure substantial funding for our colleges and universities.”

Investing in Scotland’s future

Budget delivers increased funding for health, education and economic investment.

A significant cash injection to health and care services and funding to help prepare Scotland’s economy for Brexit are at the heart of the Scottish Government’s spending plans for the year ahead. 

The 2019/20 Scottish Budget, published today, proposes an increase of almost £730 million in health and care services. This includes additional revenues generated by tax decisions that mitigate the shortfall in NHS funding promised by the UK Government.

Unveiling the spending plans in Parliament, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay also announced more than £180 million to raise attainment in schools.

The budget includes more than £5 billion of capital investment to grow and modernise infrastructure – including a new £50 million Town Centre Fund to support the future of our high streets.

Real terms increases in funding for local government, education, health and the police will support the transformation of our public services to meet new challenges, while investment in skills, social security and training will help ensure we deliver opportunity for all.

The Scottish Government will continue to deliver on its commitments to end homelessness and tackle child poverty, while investment in culture is also protected.

Mr Mackay also confirmed that the Scottish Government’s tax policy will ensure 55% of income taxpayers in Scotland will pay less than people earning the same income in the rest of the UK, while continuing to raise revenue to support investment in the economy and public services.

Mr Mackay said:

“This is a budget of stimulus and stability. It delivers for today and invests in tomorrow and does so with fairness, equality and inclusiveness at its heart.

“It provides an increase of almost £730 million for our health and care services, invests more than £180 million to raise attainment in our schools and gives a vital boost to our economy through a £5 billion infrastructure programme.

“As a result of these decisions, we have been able to invest in essential public services, particularly the NHS, while ensuring 55% of income taxpayers in Scotland pay less tax than those earning the same income in the rest of the UK. Taken together with the personal allowance, 99% of taxpayers will pay less income tax next year on the same income.

“This budget delivers the public services, social contract and economic investment people expect while mitigating, where we can, the impacts of the UK Government’s policies of austerity and Brexit that are causing so much harm.”

Assessing the impact of ongoing uncertainty around the UK’s exit from the EU on this year’s budget, Mr Mackay added:

“Our spending plans for 2019-20 include a commitment to mitigate the risks of Brexit as best we can, to enable our economy to thrive in any circumstances, now and in the future.

“It is disappointing that we are facing the prospect of having to revisit these plans in the event of a chaotic no-deal outcome. If leaving the EU can be avoided, those resources currently being directed towards essential preparations can be reinvested into our public services and economy.”

The 2019/20 Scottish Budget includes:

  • More than £180 million in raising attainment in schools, including £120 million for head teachers to spend on closing the attainment gap
  • Continuing to deliver a progressive income tax system
  • A public sector pay deal that continues the journey of restoring pay levels and provides an above inflation pay uplift of 3% for those earning up to £36,500
  • Providing the most generous package of business rates reliefs in the UK, and ensure more than 90 per cent of properties in Scotland will be charged a lower tax rate than other parts of the UK
  • More than £600 million in colleges and maintain investment at more than £1 billion in universities
  • Increasing direct investment in mental health by £27 million, taking overall funding to £1.1 billion, including improving mental health services for young people, and providing support in schools, colleges and universities
  • Increasing investment in Health and Social Care Partnerships to more than £9 billion for delivery of primary and community health services
  • Delivering new and improved social security benefits based on dignity and respect
  • Providing local government with a real terms increase in both revenue and capital funding, and a real terms increase in total overall support, through a £11.1 billion settlement
  • Almost £500 million to expand funded early learning and childcare, supporting the recruitment and training of staff and investment in building, refurbishment and extension of around 750 nurseries and family centres
  • Initial funding of £130 million towards the establishment of a Scottish National Investment Bank
  • Protect the police resource budget in real terms
  • More than £20 million for zero waste, supporting the transition towards a more resource-efficient, circular economy, including design and implementation of a deposit return scheme
  • £80 million for Active Travel to help build an Active Nation
  • More than £825 million, as part of our total investment in excess of £3 billion to deliver 50,000 affordable homes over the course of the Parliament
  • Continuing to invest in the £50 million Ending Homelessness Together fund
  • More than £70 million in 2019/20 to drive forward sustainable and inclusive growth in the rural economy

Budget sets out plans to protect low and middle income taxpayers.

Fairness and investment in public services will continue to be ‘front and centre’ of the Scottish Government’s tax policies in the year ahead, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has said.

Speaking as he delivered his budget statement in parliament, Mr Mackay confirmed 55% of taxpayers will pay less income tax next year than if they lived elsewhere in the UK, and 99% will pay less income tax than they do this year on their current income.

Increasing the starter and basic rate bands by inflation would protect low and middle income taxpayers, he said, whilst freezing the higher rate threshold – paid by only the top 15% of taxpayers in Scotland – at £43,430 is forecast to deliver an extra £68 million.

The additional revenue will be invested in public services and supporting economic growth and will help ensure health and care services are not affected by the £55 million shortfall in additional funding committed to by the UK Government in June 2018.

The Finance Secretary also confirmed Scotland will implement a below inflation increase in the poundage, meaning 90% of business properties in Scotland will be charged a lower rate than in the rest of the UK and 100,000 small businesses being lifted out of business rates all together.

Mr Mackay set out plans to:

  • Maintain the current rates of income tax for the coming year
  • Increase the Additional Dwelling Supplement for Land and Buildings Transaction Tax from 3%to 4% for the purchase of an additional property
  • Reduce the lower rate of non-residential Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) from 3% to 1%, increase the upper rate from 4.5% to 5%, and reduce the starting threshold of the upper rate so it applies from above £250,000
  • Introduce a below-inflation increase in the non-domestic rates poundage, ensuring more than 90% of properties in Scotland will be charged a lower rate, set at 49p, than other parts of the UK
  • Maintain the Small Business Bonus Scheme and transitional support for businesses in hospitality,and for office premises in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire as part of a £750 million package of rates reliefs
  • Increase the standard rate of Scottish Landfill Tax (SLfT) to £91.35 per tonne and the lower rate of SLfT to £2.90 per tonne in 2019-20, in line with RPI inflation and Landfill Tax charges in the rest of the UK

Mr Mackay said:

“Our decisions on taxation have resulted in a more progressive tax system, protecting those lower and middle income taxpayers, while raising additional revenue to invest in our public services and the Scottish economy. Those priorities will continue to be front and centre of our tax policy in the year ahead.

“Freezing the higher rate tax threshold will ensure Scotland’s health and care services gets the full budget increase they deserve, despite a £55 million shortfall from the UK Government’s autumn budget.

“In addition, our rates of Land and Buildings Transactions Tax continue to protect first time buyers and support people as they progress through the property market, with more than 80% of taxpayers paying no tax or less tax than in England.

“Our decisions on business rates also mean that more than 90 per cent of properties in Scotland will be charged a lower tax rate than the rest of the UK.

“This, alongside our commitment to lift 100,000 properties out of business rates altogether,will support businesses, contribute to economic growth, boost employment and generate the revenues that enable continued investment in public services.”

Scottish budget will prioritise health and education spending

Investing in public services and growing the economy will be prioritised in spending plans to help protect Scotland’s prosperity as far as is possible in the face of continued uncertainty over Brexit.

Speaking ahead of the Scottish budget, Derek Mackay said:

“On Wednesday, I will set out the Scottish Government’s spending plans for the year ahead. The Budget will protect vital public services and prioritise spending on health, education and economic investment.

“The Programme for Government set out our vision to build on the progress of the last decade. The 2019-20 Scottish Budget will support that vision by ensuring we remain focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow.

“Our policies have already ensured that Scotland benefits from quality public services and our progressive reforms to income tax have protected those on the lowest incomes. We will take forward discussions with others on this budget in the weeks ahead and into the New Year.  However, it is incumbent on anyone proposing additional spending in one specific area to say how they would propose to fund the change.

“Brexit remains the biggest threat to Scotland’s prosperity. In every area of the country there will be businesses, organisations, communities, people and families who will suffer if we leave the Single Market and Customs Union, which is eight times larger than the UK market alone. That is why staying in the EU is in Scotland’s best interests.

“However, this Scottish Budget will not be defined by Brexit.  It will set out how we help protect Scotland as far as we can from the damaging uncertainty of the UK Government’s Brexit policy and how we will deliver on our vision of a healthier, wealthier and fairer Scotland.”

Mackay Welcomes U-Turn as Fixed-Odds Betting Terminal Stakes to be reduced from April.

Derek Mackay MSP has welcomed today’s u-turn by the UK Government’s on the reduction of stakes of fixed odds betting terminals, with the reduction to £2 per spin to come into play from April.

Research from Landman Economics has shown that the average FOBT user loses £192 a month, with the average user of machines already capped at £2 a spin losing just £22 in comparison.

In 2016 over £6million was lost on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in Renfrewshire.

The analysis shows in total, £25,625,215 was inserted into machines in Renfrewshire in 2016, with £6,406,304 lost. Between 2008 and 2016, £43,401,749 has been lost in Renfrewshire.

Currently there are approximately 150 FOBTs spread across Renfrewshire’s 40 betting shops.

The power to legislate on the regulation of gambling, including the power to change the limits on the machines, remains largely reserved to the UK Government.

In December 2016 the Scottish Government brought forward new legislation, meaning anyone intending to change the use of a premises to a betting shop is now likely to have to apply to their local planning authority for permission. Previously, some shops or services on the high street could easily be transformed into betting offices without needing any planning permission.


SNP MSP Derek Mackay said:

“I am glad the Tory Government has finally come to its senses and will bring forward the changes to cap the limit on these machines from April.

“FOBT games such as roulette are linked to gambling addiction, debt and family breakdowns. It has been one of the biggest social issues of the past decade in Scotland.

“But it’s imperative that we go further, such as tackling the link between young people and gambling and the easy availability of online gambling.”