Here is a copy of my contributions in Mays Blair Hub magazine.
I was pleased to see the first of the Blairgowrie berries hitting the shelves last month. Perthshire soft fruit is renowned across the country and I am always keen to do what I can to support local growers.
Whilst it is great to see the first of this year’s crop in the shops, there is a great degree of uncertainty about how much of this and future year’s crop will be able to get to our plates on time, because of the lack of a fit for purpose scheme to help our growers attract seasonal labour. I will continue to do what I can to support Perthshire growers and I will continue to lobby UK Ministers for a fit suitable scheme.
I was concerned to hear of the forthcoming closure of the Blairgowrie Learning Centre. This centre is a great example of widening access to further education, as it offers a wide range of courses supported by tutors in Blairgowrie. It is there to offer specific support for those who need extra assistance and to provide an opportunity to those with a lifelong interest in learning, or those who want to brush up on skills and languages. I recently visited the centre to speak to those concerned about the impact of the closures. I hope that Perth College University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) reconsiders this closure. The UHI model was designed to bring learning to communities and the closure flies in the face of that objective.
I welcome the launch of two new advice services from Perth Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Perth Citizens Advice have launched their Community Advice Project, which offers financial health checks, energy advice and help with benefit claims. They have also launched a telephone service specifically to help people with new Universal Credit claims.
With the number of Universal Credit claims in Perth and Kinross increasing considerably, the launch of this new telephone support service couldn’t be better timed. The number of people coming to my office with concerns about Universal Credit has also skyrocketed, with many facing delays to payments or unfairly imposed sanctions.
The Community Advice Project will help people to ensure that they are making the most of their money and that they can access the most cost-efficient energy tariffs. Perth CAB can be contacted at 01738 450580 (Helpline) or 01738 450 581 (Appointment Line). Their website is https://www.perthcab.org.uk/