APPLICATIONS FOR NEW SCOTGOV BENEFIT OPEN THIS WEEK

95 families in Clackmannanshire received a payment of £600 on the birth of a first child, and £300 on the birth of any siblings, thanks to the Scottish Government’s Best Start Grant scheme.

Since opening for applications in December, nearly 10,000 low income families across every area of Scotland got help from the new Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby payment, with the new benefit paying out £3.5 million in the first three months.

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Keith Brown MSP has called on all pensioners living on a low income with a partner of working age to urgently check their eligibility for Pension Credit and Housing Benefit and put in a claim before the Government changes the rules on 15th May.

The UK Government’s change, snuck out during the first ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit in January, will see the right to claim Pension Credit and Housing Benefit – important tools in the fight against pensioner poverty – withdrawn from future claimants who happen to have a partner who hasn’t yet reached their own pensionable age.

This move will have severe financial consequences for all those affected.  Keith Brown MSP and Age Scotland are warning that this could have a devastating impact on some of Clackmannanshire’s poorest older residents.

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Last week I was in Canada to celebrate 150 years of friendship between our two nations and discuss future trade links.

I was honoured to be gifted by the Canadian Government a hand-carved stone sculpture featuring the ship that carried some of the first Scottish settlers to Canada.  This sculpture was crafted from a stone from the shores of Loch Broom, where Hector set sail for Nova Scotia in 1773, the gold-leaf sculpture features an etching of the 18th century ship. The timber base is made from a piece of recovered elm felled in the garden of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Gaelic text on the plaque translates into “Forever Friends”.

This gift commemorates Scotland’s historic friendship with Canada and celebrates the millions of people who share, and have shared, that special connection throughout the ages.

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Yesterday I was delighted to attend a Toronto based food and drink event in Canada to celebrate the lifting of the 46 years old Canadian ban on importing Scottish haggis.

Haggis is known the world over for being a truly iconic symbol of Scotland and this great news for the Scottish food industry and I am sure that many Canadians and ex-pat Scots are looking forward to having Scotland’s national dish at the centre of their table at the next Burns’ supper.

This development is an indication of the increasing interest in, and love of, Scottish food and drink produce in North America. The SNP Government have been supporting Scottish businesses to grow and will continue to support them in unlocking the significant opportunities to be found in this fast-growing market.

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Local MSP, Keith Brown, has welcomed the recent announcement by the Scottish Government to double childcare spending to £840 million a year by 2021-22 in a bid to transform the life chances of children in Scotland.

In total, this investment means a near doubling of free childcare entitlement to 1140 hours – around 30 hours a week - from August 2020.  As a result, parents and carers of three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-old will save an expected £350 per child, per month.

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Clackmannanshire and Dunblane MSP, Keith Brown, has welcomed the news that The Scottish Government has joined with Police Scotland and the Crown Office (COPFS) to launch a new campaign against hate crime – ‘Hate has no home in Scotland’.

This campaign launches during Hate Crime Awareness Week and will run until the 26 November. It aims to increase public understanding of what hate crime is, and how to report it for both those who personally experience it and bystanders who witness hate crimes.

More than 5,300 cases of hate crime were reported in Scotland over the past year, with many other incidents going unreported.

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