Elected Members Briefing - 20th January

Key Messages

Following identification of a new variant of COVID-19 in Brazil, the Scottish Government has imposed additional restrictions on arrivals.

Community testing for COVID-19 has been expanded.

Further measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and limit non-essential contact were introduced at the weekend.

A new fund to support taxi and private hire drivers affected by the pandemic will be launched this week.


Over the course of last week, COSLA used social media to build on the key messages within the ‘Respect our Communities, Protect our Funding’ lobbying document, further highlighting the financial and social impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on individuals, families, businesses, communities and Local Government.

The campaign received a wide range of national and local press coverage – both in print and online, as well as on social media, including in The Herald, The Scotsman, Daily Record, Press & Journal, The Courier, The National, Holyrood Magazine, Mail on Sunday, Edinburgh Evening News, Glasgow Evening Times and the Evening Express, as well as in the trade press -The Municipal Journal, Scottish Housing News, and Health and Social Care News. There was also a comment piece in the Sunday Times.

This week will see a further series of messages delivered via social media in the build up to the Scottish Budget on January 28.

View our ‘Respect our communities, protect our funding’ document.

View the the full press release from COSLA.

As part of ongoing budget engagement, COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Macgregor, had a third meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance on Friday, January 15 when they continued their discussions on public sector pay policy, council tax and the Local Government settlement for 2021-22.

Councillor Macgregor reiterated the need for a settlement that allows councils to recognise the effort of all staff, and that recognises the ingoing pressure that COVID will place on budgets, including loss of income. She also took the opportunity to highlight Local Government’s wider role, and COSLA’s long-held view that there should be an end to small pots of funding out with the main settlement that place an unnecessary administration burden on councils.

On January 13, the Depute First Minister announced £45m for local authorities to further support education and remote learning during the ongoing pandemic. The funding will allow councils to address three main areas - the recruitment of additional staff, support for parents and families, and digital connectivity. In the statement, the Depute First Minister explained that Local Authorities will have flexibility in planning and deploying this funding. Proposals for distribution will be considered by Leaders on January 29.

Remote Learning
Following a review of the COVID-19 restrictions, the First Minister confirmed yesterday (Tuesday) that current lockdown measures will stay in place across mainland Scotland and some island communities until at least the middle of February.

This means that schools across the country will continue to use remote learning until then, with schools remaining open only to vulnerable children and those of key workers.

During her update to Parliament, the First Minister said that lockdown appears to be having an impact on case numbers, but transmission of the virus remains too high to relax any restrictions.

Further information is available here.

Digital progress in Scottish Local Government
COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, welcomed the release of the Accounts Commission report on digital progress in Scottish Local Government last week.

She said: “We welcome the report and the recommendations it sets out. The report makes it clear that significant steps have been taken to progress digital transformation across Local Government. This includes the rapid deployment of digital technologies, under the most of challenging of circumstances that we have seen. It is essential this momentum is built on and further enables support for individuals and communities in the response to COVID-19.”

The report can be read here.

COVID-19 Vaccination Programme
With the ongoing efforts to vaccinate the population against COVID-19, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport gave an update on the vaccine deployment programme on January 13.

The linked Vaccine Deployment Plan can be viewed here.

Information for members of the public on receiving the vaccine can be found here.

The Scottish Government has published Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19 vaccinations, aimed at health and social care professionals.

Information on the number of individuals vaccinated is included in the weekly PHS COVID-19 statistical report.

COVID-19 Adult Social Care Testing
Care at Home, Sheltered Housing and Housing with multiple occupancies, adult day centres/adult day care services, and personal assistants

COVID-19 testing of the workforce working in the above settings/groups commenced on January 18. Further information and guidance can be accessed here.

Right Care, Right Place
A national Right Care Right Place door drop is being delivered to all households in Scotland this week.

It highlights the range of NHS services available and how they can be accessed, so that people can continue to get the care they need, where and when they need it.

The booklet and a cover letter from the First Minister is available here alongside translated and accessible formats.

Clear Your Head
The latest phase of the Scottish Government’s Clear Your Head mental health campaign has been launched.

With the festive period now over, January can often feel like a difficult month and the campaign encourages people to be kind to themselves at this time.
This phase of Clear Your Head runs on TV, VOD, digital, radio and press until January 31.

COSLA’s Don’t Stay on Mute video:

Home Office ‘Ask for Ani’ scheme launched
Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) is a codeword scheme developed by the Home Office for operation across the UK with the intention of providing a discreet way for victims of domestic abuse to signal that they need emergency help from the safety of their local pharmacy. It was launched nationally on Thursday, January 14.

The Home Office intends that the ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme will work alongside and build on existing work and provide an additional tool that can be used to help the most vulnerable victims access emergency support in the community.

Where the scheme will apply in Scotland, supporting and promotional materials and information direct Scottish users to correct avenues for support – including Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days and week and offers help to any person experiencing Domestic Abuse or Forced Marriage.

In Scotland 277 Boots pharmacies are running the scheme, as well as 27 independent community pharmacies.  Access to details of where Scottish pharmacies are delivering the scheme is available to Elected Members upon request via katie@cosla.gov.uk.

Local Violence Against Women Partnerships (VAWPs) have also received this information along with a Home Office briefing paper.

The Local Government workforce and partners across sectors are working hard to support our communities.

We continue to highlight this across our social media channels - retweets and follows would be greatly appreciated.

Our Twitter and Facebook channels, Khub and website will be regularly updated.

If you or your officers require any clarity from COSLA officers on policy matters, please contact the team in the usual way. If you are not sure who to direct your email to, please contact COSLA member support.

Thank you all for your efforts during this challenging time.

Other Useful Links
* The current number of COVID-19 cases and the risk level can be found on the Scottish Government website
* NHS Inform’s webpage continues to be the source of up-to-date public health information
* All Scottish Government COVID-19 related guidance
* Help and support for those experiencing domestic abuse is available; and the helpline number is 0800 027 1234.