Media Briefing - Monday 3 February 2014
Media Briefing by a Scottish Government Spokesperson - Monday 3 February 2014
The Scottish Government Spokesperson (SGS) welcomed journalists to the briefing and ran through the day's key events:
The Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is at the West College in Paisley to announce 3,500 college places created by a £13 million funding package. The money has been made available by the Scottish Government via the Scottish Funding Council’s Skills for a Competitive Workforce project, and European Social Fund.
Ms Sturgeon has also written to the UK Welfare Minister, Lord Freud, stating that legal limits imposed by the UK Government on the help the Scottish Government can give to mitigate the effects of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ should be lifted. By scrapping the ‘cap’ it has currently imposed, the UK Government could remove the legal restrictions on Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), allowing Scottish ministers to add an extra £15 million to the help already given to hard-pressed households in Scotland.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, is attending the Perth / Stirling Bull Sale where he will be involved in a Q&A on agriculture and independence.
Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse is at Edinburgh Zoo where he will launch the Native Woodlands Survey of Scotland (NWSS) national report.
The SGS then ran through the key events for the rest of the week.
It was confirmed by the SGS that the additional college places are for full-time courses.
When questioned on a story in today’s press that the ‘Bedroom Tax’ has been abolished in Scotland, the SGS stated the current position is that the Scottish Government are restricted in what they can put in to Discretionary Housing Payments, currently capped at 150% of what the UK Government have put in. The Deputy First Minister is requesting that the cap be removed, therefore allowing the Scottish Government to increase their contribution by £15 million, and fully mitigate the effects for the 76,000 households currently suffering from the cut. The Scottish Government is clear that this is the preferred approach in terms of mitigating the effects of the ‘Bedroom Tax’, but nothing short of full powers to control welfare policy and spending would enable its abolition.
When asked if it would be possible for the first same-sex marriages to happen in 2014, should the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill be passed, the SGS noted that there were still processes needing to be followed with the Westminster government, but that she would ask the Communications Healthier desk to get in touch and provide further detail.
The SGS confirmed that she would forward on to journalists the Scottish Government’s position on plain packaging for tobacco products, following reports of possible legal action by the tobacco companies.