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Fixed odds betting terminals
Having been elected to serve Midlothian at the last election, I feel it is essential to keep you updated with my constituency and Parliamentary activities.
This edition of the newsletter will contain:
- Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT)
- Women's Matters Midlothian conference
- Questions in Parliament.
- McDonald's follow up
- Free at the point of use cash machines
- Helping you (May's casework analysis)
- Contact details
After campaigning for change, I welcome the Government's announcement to cap fixed odds betting terminal stakes to £2. Labour has consistently spoken out against FOBTs and the long-lasting detrimental effects that they have on communities. I am glad the Tories have listened and taken on board our 2017 manifesto pledge.
Research shows FOBTs cause significant social hardship and snatch profits from those who can least afford it. These money grabbing machines were previously able to take £100 per spin; allowing addicts to burn through thousands in a matter of seconds. Last year there were more than 230,000 incidents in which users lost more than £1,000 in a single session.
There are 43 constituencies that are home to over 30 betting shops, nearly 70% of those are areas where the number of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants is higher than average.
Thankfully, under Labour pressure at Westminster, the UK Government has set what I hope to be a trend in clamping down on predatory practices within the gambling industry.
I am pleased that the concerns expressed by myself and SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh Colin Beattie about this particular scourge on Midlothian have finally been heeded. This announcement marks the beginning of the significant regulation of these machines and will limit the damage they have had on gambling addicts and their families here and across the United Kingdom.
But more can be done to help the victims of gambling addiction. Sadly, the Tories ignored recommendations from the Gambling Commission and decided not to introduce a compulsory gambling levy. When it comes to balancing the greed of the industry against human misery it is clear that they are still hedging their bets.
Labour is committed to such a levy and will continue to fight against exploitative practices. We have delivered on one important manifesto promise while still in opposition. But real change will only come when we are in power. For those in the grip of this damaging addiction that day cannot come soon enough.
My monthly newsletter is distributed across the constituency and helps spark up debate around critical issues. I thoroughly enjoy interacting with you, and digital communications are an important part of that.
Women's Matters: Representation,
Support and Equality in Midlothian
In May I organised the first Women's Matters conference in Midlothian. The day was a massive success with women from all backgrounds being given a platform to discuss their experiences and speak candidly about the issues they face in their lives and within broader society.
The day included a fascinating and thought-provoking panel discussion chaired by Lesley Laird MP with contributions from Dr. Marsha Scott (Women's Aid), Carolyn Currie (Women's Enterprise Scotland), Cat Boyd (Trade Unionist and Journalist), and Ellie Hutchison (The Empower Project).
The day then proceeded to introduce a series of workshops on the topics of breastfeeding, pensions (WASPI), young women, and campaign skills. The attendees were all extremely enthusiastic and appreciated the space to express themselves.
We are currently drawing up a report of the day which will be sent out to all those that registered for the event. However, if you didn't register and would also like to see the report, please request one over social media or email, and we will be happy to provide you with one
I called for Universal Credit payments to be routinely split between partners to help women experiencing domestic abuse ensure that they have financial independence.
While arrangements currently exist for split payments, the benefit tends to go into one bank account per household, charities including Engender and Scottish Women’s Aid are concerned this could trap people in abusive relationships.
In my last newsletter, I informed you of my letter to the chief executive of McDonald's. Many constituents had contacted me with worries about the environmental impact of their new store in Hardengreen. I raised these concerns with McDonald's, and I am pleased to attach a copy of the response that I received. I hope that this will answer the questions of many of my constituents. Please click the images to enlarge.
I questioned the Government over the abhorrent rape clause and its risk of needlessly prosecuting women in Northern Ireland for failing to report the details of a crime.
The rape clause forces women to disclose rape to receive financial support for a third child born of 'non-consensual conception.' This policy is a profoundly inhumane and the Government must acknowledge that it instills fear and exasperates trauma for victims across the U.K.
Forcing rape victims to feel further humiliation and stress coupled with the fear of prosecution is both cruel and callous; this clause has no place in a fair society.
asking the right questions:
Questions in parliament
MCDONALDS FOLLOW UP
My constituency office is always open to the public, in May we have been very busy with people in need of help or advice. I like to provide an overview of the types of issues that we are facing in Midlothian to the readers of my newsletter.
We commonly see issues around: housing and planning, social security and pensions, local government and asylum, as well as immigration and nationality. These issues continued to be the case throughout May.
Below I have provided you with a more detailed breakdown of the types of cases we have been working on over the month.
May continued in the same vein as April with the most inquiries being about housing and planning. Homelessness made up a large part of this, something I am keen to see addressed. My constituents continue to suffer from local government issues, which made up nearly 20% of all of Mays cases, council tax, roads, and parking persist as the major issues within this field.
Which? have found that 90% of people believe free at the point of use ATM's are essential to their everyday lives.
The principled stance that this Bill takes will establish that right to free cash and enshrine it into law.
There are concerns that a change to the existing funding formula may result in thousands of free to use cash machines disappearing across the UK. Similar changes in America have seen an average of nearly $5 to access your cash become the norm.
I feel that acting now is the best way to guarantee free-to-use cash machines are available for all in Midlothian and across the country. This service is vital to the lives of many, it isn’t just a moral issue but a practical one too, for some living in poverty the cost of the fee may be the difference between going hungry or not.
Cash Machine charges and the financial inclusion bill
I am very proud to support my colleague Ged Killen MP and his Bill seeking to ban ATM charges for consumers. It is unfair to have to pay to access your own money, and you should have the right to do so without incurring fees.
Machines which charge are most often found in deprived or rural communities, meaning the most vulnerable are forced to pay more.
0131 663 9675
When breaking down the issues that make up the housing and planning casework load, it is disturbing to see the sharp rise in foodbank referrals within the constituency. It is harrowing to see my constituents live with food insecurity and it saddens me that it is necessary to work so closely with local food banks.
If you need any help or advice, please contact, and we will do our best to help.
I hold surgeries on Fridays at various venues across Midlothian; the information will circulate on my social media throughout the month and within the local press.
Please see the next page for more information regarding ways to contact me if you are in need of assistance, or wish to discuss local issues.
Ways to get in touch
97 High Street, Dalkeith, Midlothian, EH22 1AX