Letters to the editor, November 13, 2020

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Sir,

I write to ask your readers to support my petition to the Scottish Parliament to urgently support Citizens Advice Scotland.

Citizens Advice Bureaux are a familiar name that people regard as part of their daily life
and a place to seek help with issues. Funding cuts mean that a number of offices are now facing reduced budgets or possibly closure.

These offices serve all Scottish citizens, and in the most deprived areas of the country, and are a lifeline to the people in those communities when it comes to matters relating to benefit entitlements including Universal Credit, Housing, etc.

The particular difficulties in relation to Universal Credit are around the fact that many of those applying have no means of accessing the online application process. Some applicants do not have English as their first language and Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) offices have experience in obtaining advice via interpreters.

Outreach clinics, centred in local area job centres, are also a feature of the CAB service and enable job centre staff to refer clients directly to a CAB Advisor based there for a day.

Any cuts will increase the workload on CAB offices exponentially as thousands more may be made redundant, find they have no income of any kind, and turn to CAB for advice. Cuts will undoubtedly affect the vulnerable in our society immediately, with the
consequences extending much more widely soon after. The effects of the COVID-19
pandemic are severe enough in themselves.

In cities such as Glasgow, the closure of offices would mean that many claimants could find it impossible to travel to other parts of the city and, in any case, with an already growing list of applicants those offices would soon be overwhelmed, if they are not already.

Several members of CAB staff have already been made redundant. I believe that more may follow without additional funding.

In Glasgow alone, five offices face closure, though it is estimated that in excess of 12,000 people in Glasgow sought advice from these offices in the last year. This is likely to be the case in major cities around Scotland.

Our petition calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to provide urgent funding to Citizens Advice Scotland. It can be found on the Scottish Parliament website – petition number PE01834: Urgent funding for Citizens Advice Bureaux.

Thank you for your support.

Alistair S Stephen, by email

Sir,

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill currently going through Westminster, dubbed the Spy Cop Bill, gives agencies including police, armed forces, HMRC, and even the Food Standards Agency permission to break the law with impunity.

These agencies will be permitted to break international and domestic law in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention on human rights.

Why is this legislation being brought in, and why are HMRC and the Food Standards Agency being given such powers? It is beyond belief that the majority of MPs actually voted for this bill.

A clue may come from recent comments made by the home Secretary and endorsed by the prime minister about ‘leftie lawyers’ and ‘do-gooders’, referring to human rights lawyers and refugee organisations.

As for the Food Standards Agency, clues might come from the other very concerning bill in process at present which is the Internal Market Bill which contravenes the Good Friday Agreement and the devolution settlements for Scotland and Wales by undermining the authority of the devolved governments, as well as breaking an international treaty signed less than a year ago.

This bill contains some deeply concerning clauses which would come under the remit of The Food Standards Agency which normally only has jurisdiction south of the border, but this bill would enable a UK trade minister to unilaterally overrule Scottish legislation on food safety standards to allow for a trade deal with the US, and the importation of sub-standard foods and food products.

It is also the case that any UK minister or appointee would be able to overrule any Scottish legislation. This could affect all aspects of our lives.

The Spy Cop Bill is a means of enforcing the Internal Market Bill by using the threat of underhand means. Thus piling illegality on illegality with regard to international law.

We need to be very concerned on both counts.

Amnesty International has already voiced its grave concerns, as have other international bodies and governments.

Surely independence is now the best option for Scotland, where we can build a better, fairer nation for ourselves; one that obeys international laws and respects the basic human rights of all its citizens, with a written constitution to ensure that no future Scottish government could ever impose such draconian legislation on the people of Scotland.

Cecilia Rees , Lochgilphead.

Sir,

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be exceptionally difficult for all of us, but has also led to crisis levels of ‘pet poverty’ in the UK.

PDSA is a charity that provides free and low cost vet care for those who struggle to pay treatment costs for their sick and injured pets.

Since the first UK lockdown began, we’ve seen an overwhelming number of additional enquiries from pet owners who have hit hard times. In the first three months of lockdown alone, we carried out more than 6,400 operations and 15,000 x-rays for pets in need.

On average, we’re providing 2,300 phone appointments every day to desperate pet owners. We predict there will be as many as 50,000 more pets eligible for our services over the months ahead, as a direct result of the economic hardship caused by the pandemic.

For many sick and injured pets, whose owners are struggling financially, PDSA is their only emergency service.

Visit our website for more information on PDSA.

Paul Manktelow, PDSA vet