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Wednesday, April 28th, 2021, Renew Scotland activist, Jaspur Heer, and Joint Leader, Heather Astbury – Perfect Storm of Rising Poverty and Cuts to Drug and Alcohol Addiction Services – The Legacy of the SNP’s Failure to Help the Most Vulnerable in SocietyWith the election day in sight, now’s the time to really think back over the past five, ten years on the progress, or lack of it, under the current SNP government. With the pandemic offering a whole host of problems for everyone in Scotland, a subject that has flown under the radar, to the SNP’s delight, is the incredibly important issue of drug addiction in Scotland. On the SNP’s own website, they explain that in 2019 an equivalent of three people every day lost their lives to drug addiction, using this point to prop up their news of saying they’re going to put more money in to tackle this. The lack of perspective and empathy to expect people to see this as a positive is absolutely mind-blowing. The SNP have had a majority government since 2011, and they are seriously saying they’re going to fix the problem now election time has come around…how convenient.

With Scotland having the highest drug related death toll in Europe, with figures likely rising over the coronavirus pandemic, it is a bleak picture for the nation. The SNP have undervalued sensible drug policy but more importantly failed to improve the societal building blocks that have a grave knock-on effect for young people in Scotland. Opportunity has been slowly but surely weathered down by poor decisions coming from Holyrood, areas have become deprived, communities have been pushed out, young people left without a purpose. With community funding being neglected year after year it’s not a surprise that drug use and drug related deaths have kept climbing in number. When the problem was and still is so clearly recognised in Scottish society, the SNP still moved forward in cutting the drug and alcohol addiction services by £47 million. This has left a dire situation in which we have the perfect storm of a budget-stricken drug and alcohol service with a continuous rise in deprivation and poverty in our cities.

Most would believe that the way around the problematic relationship that Scotland has with issues of drug addiction and rising poverty is through policy. For Renew Scotland, policy is not the only tool that needs to be used to fix this incredibly deep-rooted problem. We must tackle the issues that create this black hole of addiction. The environments that children grow up in is key to providing a better future for the next generation. We must afford every child in Scotland to be provided with an education system that doesn’t discriminate, providing opportunities and help to every pupil no matter their socio-economic background. We must also provide extensive research driven mental health services to children across the country. At the end of 2020 there were 1560 children who had been waiting more than a year for mental health treatment, triple the figure reported in 2019. How can we tackle issues of addiction when we are currently neglecting hundreds of young people who need urgent help?

We are not asking for radical changes in policy and law in Scotland, this is not a debate on decriminalisation and legalisation, we are talking about areas in which the SNP has neglected or given empty promises of changing the dark path that Scotland is currently on. What is clear to you and me is that none of this is surprising is it? We can’t hold our politicians accountable to their empty promises and lies most of the time, we don’t have that power. But the single power that you and I have comes every five years via the Scottish Parliament election. It represents a moment to review what’s happened over the years and think to yourself, what have the party in power done for me? Did they deliver on their promises? What do I want for the future of Scotland? This is the time to hold your politicians accountable, it’s time for change.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2021, Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot – Chief Executive, RAF Benevolent Fund

Dear Editor,

Earlier this month the Prime Minister announced a third national lockdown. Although necessary, these measures mean many of our veterans will be facing the next several weeks – or months – completely alone.

And while the vaccine rollout out across the country provides some hope, social isolation and loneliness poses a real threat to our elderly this winter, among them many former RAF personnel and their partners supported by the Fund.

To help combat this, last year the RAF Benevolent Fund introduced a weekly Check and Chat service to support members of the RAF Family experiencing loneliness. I speak to one such gentleman every Tuesday. He lives alone and spent much of 2020 totally isolated, and for him, this service truly is a lifeline. We chat about what he’s been up to, what he’s cooking for tea, to his time in the RAF and often I’m the only person he will speak to for days.

The Fund also facilitates weekly Telephone Friendship Groups, provides access to a Listening and Counselling Service, relationship counselling support, and an online wellbeing portal to help support emotional wellbeing amongst the veteran community.

Throughout the pandemic, many of us have learnt more about our neighbours and local community. That’s why we are calling on the people of Scotland to consider whether they know any RAF veterans, or their spouses or widows, who may be experiencing loneliness. To refer someone to the RAF Benevolent Fund, please visit rafbf.org or call 0300 102 1919.

Yours sincerely

Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot
Chief Executive, RAF Benevolent Fund


Wednesday, December 9th, Carla Malseed – Local Campaigns Manager for NSPCC Scotland

Dear Editor,

The NSPCC is looking for young people in Scotland to join a new group that gives them the chance to shape and influence the charity’s work, and ensure they are at the heart of our decision making.

We are launching the Young People’s Board for Change, and want to recruit 15 members aged between 13 and 16, from across the country.

The Board members will use the platform to raise awareness of what matters most to them, take action and make change happen. They will also have a big role internally advising staff and trustees.

The young people will take part in new experiences and opportunities, meet other young people, as well as develop confidence and learn life-long new skills, such as campaigning and public speaking.

Over a two-year period, members will take part in residentials, meetings and workshops, and campaign to share their views and opinions.

We want as many young people as possible to have the chance to apply, so we are encouraging parents and carers to speak to their children about this exciting opportunity, and teachers and other professionals to share details with their students and through their networks.

At the NSPCC, we are committed to ensuring that young people are empowered and that their opinions are listened to. It’s vital that we put children and young people first and embed their views into everything we do in our fight for every childhood

Readers can find out more at nspcc.org.uk/boardforchange, or for an informal chat please contact participationteam@nspcc.org.uk.

The deadline for completed applications is 11 January and interviews will be held between 18 – 21 January.

Carla Malseed
Local Campaigns Manager for NSPCC Scotland


Monday, October 26th from Alan Stewart, Schools Service manager for NSPCC Scotland

Dear Editor,

Volunteers and staff from our NSPCC school service aren’t able to deliver our free Speak Out. Stay Safe assemblies in person at the moment, because of restrictions in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

But, so we can continue to work alongside staff in primary schools to help children know what to do and who to speak to if something is worrying or upsetting them, we have launched a virtual programme. We have teamed up with Ant and Dec to produce a virtual assembly, which can be shown in primary schools across the country.

Our dedicated schools service team across Scotland visited 833 primary schools during the last academic year, delivering our age-appropriate safeguarding sessions to more than 145,000 children in the country before lockdown was introduced.

The assembly, which features our mascot Buddy, helps children understand how to recognise different forms of abuse and identify a trusted adult should they ever have a concern.

Since May, the monthly number of referrals from the NSPCC helpline to agencies in Scotland, because of concerns about the wellbeing of a child, has been more than a third higher than pre-lockdown levels.

The national lockdown left many children trapped indoors in harmful and distressing situations for a number of months, and the main issues the helpline heard about were physical and emotional abuse and neglect.

Ant and Dec are helping us continue to reach children with our assemblies by hosting this new virtual version, addressing additional worries that children are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is vital that children know what to do and who to speak to if something is happening in their life which is making them feel scared or anxious.

By signing up to the free virtual assemblies with the supporting teaching materials, which are also available in British Sign Language (BSL), primary schools across this region can help us to protect children.

To sign up visit nspcc.org.uk/speakout

Alan Stewart
Schools Service manager for NSPCC Scotland


Monday, October 5th from Sue Brunton, Head of fostering and adoption in Scotland

Dear Editor,

Urgent appeal during Barnardo’s Scotland Fostering Campaign

The Coronavirus Pandemic and lockdown could see the need for foster carers in Scotland increasing.

Due to Covid-19 pressure on families has increased with many suffering job losses, bereavement and mental health issues which may have a drastic impact on the number of children needing foster care.

We expect referral numbers to climb now schools are open and teachers and other professionals identify vulnerable children and young people as needing support.

So we are urgently asking anyone who thinks they can help to come forward. It is more important now than ever for people to contact the charity to find out about fostering, to ensure the right foster carers are there when children and young people desperately need stability and a loving family, support when they need it the most.

Please contact us online at www.barnardos.org.uk/foster to find out more about fostering, becoming a foster carer and the support Barnardo’s can offer or call 0800 0277 280.

Yours sincerely,

Sue Brunton
Head of fostering and adoption in Scotland
111 Oxgangs Road
Edinburgh

Barnardo’s Scotland Fostering offers fostering across Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire