Tackling Edinburgh housing crisis crucial to reducing poverty

Report says one in three families in the city living below the poverty line are only in that position due to their housing costs.

More than 77,000 Edinburgh residents live in poverty. SNS
More than 77,000 Edinburgh residents live in poverty.

The “single most important” part of reducing poverty in Edinburgh is tackling the housing crisis, according to a new report.

The Edinburgh Poverty Commission (EPC) released their report on Wednesday, which found that almost one in three families in the city living below the poverty line are only in that position due to their housing costs.

This compares with one in eight households who are in poverty across the country as a whole.

More than 77,000 Edinburgh residents live in poverty – about 15% of the total population, including one in every five children.

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Dr James McCormick, chairman of the EPC, said that the housing crisis was a “distinctively Edinburgh challenge, because so many families are only dragged below the poverty line by an unaffordable rent”.

He added that a big chunk of the city’s poverty issues could be solved if the housing profile was expanded.

The report called for 20,000 more affordable homes to be built in Edinburgh over the next decade.

Dr McCormick, who is also associate director for Scotland at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “If you’re working you should not be poor – it’s as simple as that.

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“The single most important part is solving Edinburgh’s housing crisis.”

However, Dr McCormick believes that private landlords also have a part to play, saying: “People are being housed in quite high cost private rented accommodation.

“What’s really helpful is when some of those homes are brought into the private leasing pool for the city, so landlords get a three-year deal they get security of income and some degree of predictability about costs.

“The private rented sector has a crucial long-term role to play in the city.

“What we’re saying is too many families are there long term when they can’t afford to be.

“They’re constrained not through choice, and so if people can move over time into lower cost tenancies that goers a very long way to bring down housing costs sustainably.

“The other thing it does importantly is it improves work incentives.

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“If you’re facing a very expensive rent and the jobs available to you are minimum wage or just above, then even with universal credit improving tapers, it will often not be worth your while taking that job, when you factor in child care costs.

“So secure tenancies, lower rents are good, not just for housing, but for work.”

Dr McCormick said that he would be against exploring rent control in the city, saying: “I think we’re not persuaded by the case for some of the things that have been tried in other counties because they tend to have a detrimental effect if we’re not careful on supply of housing.”

Cammy Day, Labour depute leader of Edinburgh City Council, added that the council had also been pushing for regulation on short term let, Air BnB style accommodation in the city.

He said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that on an average day in Edinburgh we’ve got 500 people in temporary accommodation yet hundreds of houses lying empty for probably 75% of the year, only being used for Festival times.”

He added that the council had been pushing the government for rent pressure zones to be brought in, to “curtail some of the ridiculous rents in the capital city”.

However, Mr Day added: “It’s not proven successful entirely yet but I hope we’re still on that path, to get as many tools the city can to stop rogue landlords and stop high private rents being the reason why somebody can’t have a safe and warm family home to live in.”

From end-of-life care to feeling ‘fantastic’ thanks to new drug

Hailey Mann is living with cystic fibrosis but her life has completely transformed after receiving Kaftrio.

STV News / STV News
Hailey Mann is living with cystic fibrosis but her life has completely transformed after receiving Kaftrio.

A woman with cystic fibrosis says she’s feeling ‘fantastic’ just a year on from preparing to receive end-of-life care.

Hailey Mann, 25, had potentially just months left to live when was given the new drug Kaftrio on compassionate grounds last summer, several weeks before it was approved for widespread use by the Scottish Government a year ago.

Fast-forward 12 months and Hailey’s outlook has improved considerably thanks to the revolutionary medicine.

“I don’t know what I expected because it was a last resort but if it’s a last resort, you try,” Hailey told STV News.

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“It’s definitely exceeded 100 times what I thought would happen. Just before this time last year I was bed-ridden downstairs because I couldn’t get myself upstairs. It was more that I was existing, rather than living.”

Kaftrio is a “triple combination therapy” and contains three drugs – ivacaftor, tezacaftor and elexacaftor – which improve lung function and helps those with cystic fibrosis to breathe more easily.

The heriditary condition is caused by a genetic mutation that disrupts the body’s ability to regulate salt and water transport in the body, causing damage to the lungs, digestive system and other organs.

The medication, which is now available on the NHS, has improved Hailey’s lung function and helped her put on weight.

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Before Kaftrio, she was preparing for end-of-life care. Hailey’s condition was so urgent that she was eventually granted the drug on compassionate grounds two weeks before it was officially approved.

When Hailey, from Westhill, Aberdeenshire, was too weak to fight her cause, her mother Alison was always in her corner.

She told STV News she is thrilled at her daughter’s progress.

“It’s a bit of a blur last year if I’m honest – this time last year. We had been given weeks for Hailey and we were told that that drug, as much as she might get it, might not work for her because she was so poorly,” she said.

“But we still had to fight for it and thank god we did.”

And Hailey is not alone as experts say Kaftrio has exceded all expectations.

Dr Keith Brownlee, director of medical affairs at the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, said: “Truly and utterly remarkable to tell you the truth.

“I worked as a paediatrician for around 30 years caring for families and children with CF and throughout those 30 years we were dealing with the consequences of CF, but these drugs begin to treat the fundamental cause of CF, so they are truly revolutionary.”

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Now with her whole life ahead of her, Hailey is looking forward to the little things which mean so much.

She said: “I want to see my little sister growing up, learning new things and doing new things, climb up the stairs and go down the slide with her – just things I never thought I would be able to do again is amazing, and she loves it too.”

Starmer: Future of Scotland is question for Scottish people

The Labour leader said the priority should be on recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

STV News
Sir Keir Starmer spoke to STV News during his visit to Scotland.

By Lewis McKenzie & Bernard Ponsonby

The future of Scotland is a question for the Scottish people, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said.

However, he insisted that for the lifetime of the current Scottish Parliament, the focus should be on recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

Sir Keir also dismissed suggestions that a UK Government could take the Scottish Government to court in order to strike down Holyrood legislation brought forward to hold an independence referendum.

“The priority has to be the recovery, that is uppermost in people’s minds.”

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader
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Speaking to STV News on the second day of his visit to Scotland, Sir Keir was asked whether he accepts that people in Scotland should not need Westminster’s permission to choose the government they want.

“It is a question for the people of Scotland. That isn’t a principle that any of us quarrel with,” he said.

“It has to be a matter for the people of Scotland, I don’t quarrel with that principle.

“What I am saying is that the priorities at the moment are the recovery from the pandemic.”

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Sir Keir continued: “The priority has to be the recovery, that is uppermost in people’s minds.

“And it was only a few weeks ago that every party going into that election said it should be the priority.”

Asked whether the UK Parliament should have the right to veto a second referendum, he said: “Well, that’s the current arrangement in Westminster.”

He added: “Stepping back from that, the question about the future of Scotland, it’s obviously a question for the Scottish people.”

The Labour leader said that the constitutional question had diverted focus from the concerns facing people in their everyday lives.

Pressed on when an appropriate time would be for a referendum to be held, he responded: “When we have come through the recovery and started to grapple with some of the issues in relation to climate change.”

He continued: “For the lifetime of this Parliament, we should be concentrating on the recovery.

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“But I am frustrated that there is a burning issue, which is what is the future of those communities and those jobs in the north east of Scotland and nobody is addressing that.

“The SNP promised thousands of jobs in the wind sector, they’ve delivered about one in 20.

“And the constitutional issue is a way of diverting focus from some of the very real concerns that we have here in Scotland that affect people in their everyday lives and affect probably the next generation of jobs in places like the north east of Scotland.”

The Labour leader insisted that politics should be kept out of the courts when asked about a potential for a legal challenge to any future referendum legislation.

“I have never thought that politics should involve going to court,” he said.

“I think politics should be kept out of the courts, and I say that as a former lawyer.

“Politics should be fought in the political arena and I’m sure that’s where in the end it will be fought.”


No quarantine for double vaccinated arrivals from France

India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE removed from travel red list but travellers from Mexico now have to hotel quarantine.

Hollie Adams / Stringer via Getty Images
Travellers returning from France no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.

India and three Middle Eastern countries have been removed from Scotland’s coronavirus travel red list – and arrivals from France will no longer need to self-isolate if fully vaccinated, the Scottish Government has said.

But travellers from Mexico and Georgia will now have to quarantine in a hotel.

It comes as part of a host of changes to the traffic light system for international travel.

The Scottish Government said the new lists will come into force at 4am on Sunday.

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Travellers from Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will join those from India in not having to isolate in a hotel on entry to the country.

Mexico, Georgia and the French overseas departments of La Reunion and Mayotte will be put in the red tier.

Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway are among seven countries being added to the quarantine-free green list.

Arrivals from France will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.

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It will be aligned with all other amber nations, from which arrivals only need to quarantine at home if they are not fully vaccinated.

While Spain remains on the amber list, travellers are advised to be cautious due to a new variant originating in South America.

The Scottish Government said passengers should get a PCR test prior to departure from Spain rather than other available tests such as lateral flow.

Quarantine hotel costs will also change “in light of a decision taken by the UK Government, which manages contractual arrangements on behalf of the four nations”, the Scottish Government said.

The price of a stay in managed isolation is to increase from £1750 to £2285.

Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said: “These latest changes make it clear that international travel remains challenging.

“Recent relaxations to travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people were due to the huge success of the Scottish Government’s vaccination programme.

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“It is vitally important we protect that progress through continued vigilance on importation, and we continue to urge caution given the risks caused by variants of concern.”

Teens accused of ‘leaving unconscious boy on live railway track’

It is claimed the boy was struck on the head with a piece of concrete as well as being repeatedly punched and kicked

© Google Maps 2020
Court: Five teenagers are to stand trial.

Five teenagers are to stand trial accused of trying to kill a boy and leaving him unconscious on a railway track.

Jordan Duncan, 18, Stephen Fairservice, 18, Adam Tennant, 18, Josh Todd, 18, and a 17-year-old boy – who cannot be named for legal reasons – faced the allegation at the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday.

The indictment lists two locations for the May 4, 2018 incident including Lanark train station in South Lanarkshire.

It is claimed the boy was struck on the head with a piece of concrete as well as being repeatedly punched and kicked.

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He is said to have ended up on the ground unconscious.

Prosecutors claim the boy was then dragged onto a “live railway line”.

The attempted murder charge states this was to his severe injury, permanent disfigurement and to the danger of his life.

Lawyers for the five pled not guilty on their behalf at the hearing.

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A trial was fixed for March next year.


Coronavirus: 11 deaths and 1381 new cases recorded

A total of 381 people were in hospital on Wednesday with recently confirmed Covid-19.

Peter-gamal via Pixabay
Covid-19: The fight to stem the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further 11 deaths and 1381 new cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Scotland overnight, according to official figures.

The daily test positivity rate is 4.9%, up from the 4.7% reported on Wednesday.

Of the new cases reported on Thursday, 290 are in Lothian, 289 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 220 are in Lanarkshire, and 118 are in Grampian as well as Fife.

The rest of the cases are spread out across eight other health board areas.

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A total of 381 people were in hospital on Wednesday with recently confirmed Covid-19, two fewer than the day before. Out of those, 55 patients are in intensive care.

The lab-confirmed death toll of those who tested positive within the previous 28 days currently stands at 7976, however figures including suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now at least 10,370.

It was also confirmed that 4,018,503 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 2177 from the day before.

A total of 3,268,887 people have received their second dose, a rise of 19,265.


Hairdressers, hotels and retailers ‘broke minimum wage laws’

Companies have been 'named and shamed' by the UK Government for underpaying workers.

RUBEN RAMOS via IStock
List: Scots businesses 'named and shamed' for breaking minimum wage laws.

Hairdressers, hotels, retailers and an amusement park are among the Scottish businesses “named and shamed” by the UK Government for breaking the minimum wage law.

The breaches by the 22 companies took place between 2013 and 2018.

A total of £31,000 was found to be owed to 209 workers after investigations by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

The businesses have been made to pay back what they owe, and were fined an additional £46,000.

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Among the companies named are J Ren Ltd, trading as Mooboo, a bubble tea shop in Glasgow’s St Enoch Shopping Centre.

It owed £3114 to 24 workers between 2014 and 2017.

John Codona’s Pleasure Fairs Limited, which runs Codona’s Amusement Park in Aberdeen, owed more than £1318 to 90 workers between March and November 2017.

Ian Littlewood, a member of the management team at the amusement park, said the company “do pay the minimum wage – 100%”.

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He added: “There was an error where we deducted the cost of a uniform from staff which was pointed out by HMRC and all monies were paid back for that but we have never not paid the full minimum wage.”

Harbour Havens Limited, which trades as Kildonan Hotel on the Isle of Arran, was named for racking up £2478 in arrears to four workers between 2014 and 2017.

Anne Acuna, one of the company directors, said they have always paid above minimum wage and said she was “disheartened” to be named on the Government’s list.

She said the issue stemmed from paying room and board for seasonal workers as the hotel is on an island.

“They have always been paid more than minimum wage but sometimes it looks like it’s under minimum wage when you take off room and board,” she said.

“They had contracts when they came in, they knew what the room and board was, they were happy with that.

“We’ve been doing that for years when all of a sudden this comes up and we immediately stopped paying them in that fashion.

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“We were caught in a situation that had no bad intention whatsoever.”

Also named were Rainbow Rooms International hairdressers in Glasgow, South Ayrshire and East Dunbartonshire, owned by Brittain & McMail Limited, Riccardo Corvi, Janine McMahon, and Fleeson & Robb Limited.

The Department for Business said minimum wage breaches can occur when workers being paid on or just above the minimum wage have deductions from their pay for uniform or accommodation.

Other breaches can involve paying the incorrect apprenticeship rate or failing to pay workers for all the time they had worked, such as overtime.

Business minister Paul Scully said: “Scottish employers can’t take their eye off the ball when it comes to upholding workers’ rights.

“There is never an excuse to short-change workers and paying the minimum wage isn’t optional.

“It’s up to all employers in Scotland, including those on this list, to check government guidance and pay workers properly.”

Chairman of the Low Pay Commission Bryan Sanderson said: “These are very difficult times for all workers, particularly those on low pay who are often undertaking critical tasks in a variety of key sectors including care.

“The minimum wage provides a crucial level of support and compliance is essential for the benefit of both the recipients and our society as a whole.”

Tributes paid to 11-year-old boy who drowned in river

Dean Irvine was pulled from the River Avon in South Lanarkshire after getting into difficulty on July 24.

PA via PA Media
Tributes: Dean Irvine died after getting into difficulty in the River Avon.

Tributes have been paid to an 11-year-old boy who died after getting into difficulty in water last month.

Emergency services were called to the Alexander Hamilton Memorial Park in Stonehouse, South Lanarkshire, on Saturday, July 24.

Dean Irvine was recovered from the Avon Water, also known as the River Avon, which runs through the park and was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Thursday, around 100 local residents, friends and family gathered to pay their respects in Fleming Way, near the 11-year-old’s family home in the Hillhouse area of Hamilton.

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Many wore green, including Celtic shirts, with flares of the same colour set off as the hearse moved off.

Relatives and friends had the word “Deano” printed on the back of their football tops along with the number 11.

The crowds applauded and set off fireworks as the hearse carrying the coffin left the area with a convoy of cars following towards Celtic Park.

Some cars in the convoy played the club anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone, with the words also on a card beside the coffin and flowers reading Deano, Son, Brother beside a bouquet made into a football.

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Club staff gathered at the stadium to applaud the cortege, which then continued to a funeral home in Hamilton.

The 11-year-old was one of seven people to die after getting into difficulty in Scotland’s waters in a single week.

Edina Olahova, 29, Rana Haris Ali, nine, and Muhammad Asim Riaz, 39, died after getting into difficulty in Loch Lomond, near Pulpit Rock, on Saturday, July 24.

A 13-year-old boy lost his life in water at Hazelbank in Lanark the same day, while a 16-year-old boy died at Balloch at the south end of Loch Lomond the previous day.


Puppy abandoned in park ‘dehydrated and in poor condition’

The Scottish SPCA is now appealing for information with concerns over the mother of this puppy and any others in the litter.

Scottish SPCA via PA Media
Staffordshire bull terrier: Found in Victoria Park on Monday.

A puppy has been found abandoned, “dehydrated and in poor condition” in a park in Aberdeen.

The tiny dog was spotted by a member of the public in Victoria Park at around 5.50pm on Monday.

Scottish SPCA officers were alerted and recovered the female Staffordshire bull terrier, which is thought to be between six and eight-weeks-old.

The animal welfare charity is now appealing for information amid concerns for the mother of the puppy and any others in the litter.

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Inspector Fiona Mckenzie said: “The dog is a tan, female Staffordshire bull terrier puppy. She is between six and eight-weeks-old.

“She is very lucky she was found by the member of the public as she was dehydrated and in poor condition – unfortunately she is not microchipped.

“We are now extremely concerned for the welfare of the mother of this puppy and any other puppies in the litter.

“We appreciate that the person who left her may have intended for her to be found but this is not the correct procedure to follow if you can no longer care for an animal.

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“The puppy is now at one of our animal rescue and rehoming centres, where she is receiving the veterinary care she needs.

“If anyone recognises this puppy we would ask that they contact our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999.”


Musicians to be able to tour visa-free in 19 EU countries

New rules which came into force at the beginning of the year do not guarantee visa-free travel for musicians in the EU.

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Pete Wishart said the decision to scrap touring visas was 'politically motivated'.

UK musicians and performers will be able to tour in a number of European countries without the need for a visa or work permit, the UK Government has announced.

New rules which came into force at the beginning of the year do not guarantee visa-free travel for musicians in the EU and have prompted fears that touring artists will incur large fees in many of the countries they visit.

However, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) said they have negotiated with 19 EU Member State countries to allow musicians and performers from the UK to conduct short tours visa-free.

These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.

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The Government said talks are ongoing with remaining EU Member State countries, including Spain, Portugal and Greece, to align their arrangements with the UK’s, which allows touring performers and support staff to visit for up to three months without a visa.

DCMS said in a statement: “We want the UK’s fantastic performers and other creative professionals to be able to tour abroad easily.

“We recognise challenges remain around touring, and we are continuing to work closely with the industry.

“We want to ensure that when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, touring can resume and our world-leading creative and cultural artists can continue to travel widely, learning their craft, growing their audiences and showing the best of British creativity to the world.”

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It comes after months of campaigning from musicians such as Sir Elton John and Ed Sheeran on the issue of post-Brexit touring, with Sir Elton previously warning the rules threatened “a generation of talent”.

SNP MP and former Runrig band member, Pete Wishart said it is right that the UK Government has “finally seen sense”.

“The decision to scrap touring visas in the first place was politically motivated by the Tories and their ‘Brexit Britain’ ideology – and should never have been made. Especially given the EU was ready and willing to continue them reciprocatively,” he said.

“It is right that the UK government has finally seen sense, done what should have been done from the get go, and negotiated to allow our musicians and performers to tour visa-free around Europe. 

“Although visa-free travel for artists to nineteen countries is good, it is not the full access we had as part of the EU, and I hope the UK government continues to negotiate to ensure our artists can travel freely throughout all 27 EU countries.

“Anything less than that will still drive up the costs and cut long-standing creative ties between Scotland and some European countries. 

“The fact remains that Scotland continues to suffer at the hands of a Brexit and a Westminster Government we did not vote for. The only way our creative sector can truly be protected is with independence.”


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