COMMENT PIECE: EAST FIFE MAIL
The Scottish Government is continuing to move forward with the phased lifting of coronavirus restrictions. This has been possible because of the success in controlling the spread of the virus. It’s vitally important that we all continue to stick to the new guidelines because the virus is still present in the population and is easily capable of spreading out of control.
I’m continuing to work from home as I still believe that the risks to public health of having a full return of 650 MPs to parliament are too high. Westminster is one of 36 areas in England that have been reported to be at risk of a second wave of infections and it’s incumbent on all MPs only to travel there is we have to.
I’ve had a busy few weeks with the Public Accounts Committee where we’ve been looking at how well prepared the UK Government was for the pandemic. Successive UK Governments are supposed to have been “contingency planning” for a full scale viral pandemic for over ten years but a lot of the planning seems to have been done in a blind panic after the outbreak started.
The Committee has just published a report into how the UK Government protects people from getting into serious problems through gambling. There are estimated to be 395,000 people in the UK with a gambling problem. Shockingly, this includes over 50,000 children who are legally too young to gamble at all. These figures are likely to have increased during lockdown.
People are finding themselves plunged into debt, losing their jobs, losing their homes, families are breaking up, and tragically some people are taking their own lives, all because gambling has taken over their lives.
The gambling industry deserves some of the criticism directed at it but the UK Government, and the Gambling Commission it has set up, are responsible for regulating the industry and they are failing to do this. They both came in for severe criticism from the Committee.
The latest monthly stats from my casework system show how busy my constituency team have been recently. In June 2020 they handled over two and a half time more constituent cases than in June 2019. In the last four months over two thirds of all my casework has been related to the pandemic.
This week we’ll know how much additional funding the UK Government is willing to invest to support everyone who has been so badly affected, and to get businesses and the economy back to work when the pandemic is finally over. I’m not optimistic about what the Chancellor will say.