THE Scottish Government today came under pressure to follow the example of Chancellor George Osborne and pledge a major cash injection to provide life-saving defibrillators in public places.
Mr Osborne announced £1 million for defibrillators south of the Border as part of yesterday’s Budget – which will result in around an extra £100,000 for the Scottish Government to spend.
That’s enough for more than 75 of the heart-start machines.
Today, ministers here were to confirm they will use the cash to pay for defibrillators.
The move follows months of campaigning by the Evening News and the family of city schoolboy Jamie Skinner, who suffered a fatal cardiac arrest at Saughton in December 2013.
The Shockingly Easy campaign aims to ensure a defibrillator is installed in every sports club in the Lothians.
I felt like crying when I heard that. It is so exciting. They are finally realising that defibrillators are needed and not before time.”Karen Greechan
Scottish Labour deputy leader and Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale said the Scottish Government must put every penny of the cash it receives towards making the vital equipment easily available here.
She said: “I welcome the UK government’s decision to set aside £1m to help buy defibrillators for public places.
“We all remember the terrible tragedy of Jamie Skinner. More than 600 apparently fit and healthy people under the age of 35 die in the UK every year from undiagnosed cardiac problems – and many of these deaths are easily preventable.
“If you have a heart attack outside hospital, you are three times as likely to survive if one of these heart-start machines is nearby and used to treat you quickly.
“That is why I’ve backed the Shockingly Easy campaign and why I’m calling on the Scottish Government to use every penny they receive from this announcement to do all they can to get more defibrillators in our schools, for our sports clubs and support training on how to use them, so we can save more lives.”
Jamie’s cousin Karen Greechan, one of the founders of the Jamie Skinner Foundation, described her delight at the Chancellor’s announcement.
She said: “I felt like crying when I heard that. It is so exciting.
“They are finally realising that defibrillators are needed and not before time. It needs to be recognised that this is a problem.”
Mrs Greechan, 44, of Liberton, said: “The Scottish Government has to take a stand and realise that these are needed. It is a life-saving piece of equipment, not a fad, and they should be in public places.
“The government needs to take a stand on this and take responsibility for it. They can’t just leave everything up to the little people. We don’t just do this for us, we are doing it for everybody as a cardiac arrest can affect anyone.
“I think it is absolutely brilliant news that this money is being provided.”
Jamie, a popular pupil at Liberton High School, was just 13 when he lost his life. Since the launch in July, the campaign has raised enough to by 18 defibrillators.
Earlier this month city chiefs announced plans to buy defibrillators for all 23 secondary schools in Edinburgh.
More than 1500 Scots died last year after suffering a cardiac arrest and a shock from a defibrillator within three to five minutes, administered alongside CPR, can increase the chances of survival by nearly 75 per cent.
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone also called on Scottish ministers to follow the Chancellor’s example and invest in the equipment.
She said: “If we are serious about having them in all public places, that would be a great step in the right direction. The impact these machines can have in saving lives is well documented.”
And Lothian Tory MSP Cameron Buchanan said that although the rules allowed the Scottish Government to spend the money as it wishes, there was a moral obligation to use it for heart-start machines.
He said: “The Scottish Government must give a commitment to spend it on defibrillators and not allow it to be diverted to something else.”
The UK government said Scotland would get additional funding of £31m in 2015-16 as a result of measures in the Budget.
And it said 2.33 million people in Scotland would benefit from changes in personal allowances, leaving them better off by an average of £555 in real terms.
Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart welcomed news that the government will provide £3.5m to protect vulnerable consumers from nuisance and scam calls.
This will include trialling innovative call-blocking technology, research and a campaign to raise awareness of how to reduce and report nuisance calls.
Mr Crockart said: “This day has been a long time coming, but £3.5m is a significant investment in protecting vulnerable consumers and will make a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of people across the country.
“What we need now is for the telecoms and financial services industries to step up and match this commitment.”
The Chancellor also used the Budget to announce negotiations for “city deals” for Aberdeen and Inverness. Glasgow already has such a deal, which has seen a £1 billion-plus infrastructure fund set up with money from the UK and Scottish governments.
There was no mention of Edinburgh, which is hoping for a similar boost.
But council leader Andrew Burns insisted the Capital was not being left behind. He said: “Good progress is being made and I’m sure we will be in discussion with both governments very soon.”
Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said: “I know Edinburgh have already had exploratory discussions and it is very much up to Edinburgh City Council to work with other local partners with a view to bringing a strong set of proposals to the table in the future.
“Once they do I’m confident any future government would be delighted to hear concrete proposals as to how the city deal model could be extended to the Edinburgh City region.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Ministers will take decisions in due course about how consequentials arising from the UK Budget will be allocated.”
Mother-of-two Liz Power, 55, from Craiglockhart, was not impressed with George Osborne’s Budget day package.
“For our family it’s not particularly good,” she said.
Ms Power and her husband have two teenage children, Matthew and Adam, aged 18 and 15, below.
“The change in the personal allowance for income tax isn’t much help. I’m a housewife and carer and my husband earns too much for it to make much difference.
“We have a decent income, so we don’t have to worry about that.
“But I’m not very happy about the reduction in the money you can put into your pension pot. I know it only affects people at the higher end of the salary range, but when the government is trying to encourage people to save, that is a disincentive. Since I’m not working my husband’s pension will have to cover us both.
“But the new £1000 tax-free allowance for savings is good. That’s something we could benefit from.
“There was no mention of anything for the NHS in the Budget, which seems bad. As the parents of a child with autism, we’re interested in services.
“But the announcement ahead of the Budget of more money for mental health was a good one.”
There were other measures she was also pleased about.
“I’m glad the fuel duty is being kept down again. Combined with the drop in fuel prices, that can only be good for household budgets.”
But she has concerns about the drive for yet more savings in the welfare budget. “I’ve not been impressed with cuts for disabled people. They should not be targeted unfairly, which I think they have been in the past.”
Richard Haig, owner of recently-opened Black Fox bar on Leith Walk, believes the Chancellor has not done enough to help small businesses.
He said: “As a small business owner, I’m underwhelmed by this Budget.
“As usual, it seems to be policies aimed at grabbing attention and votes without making any real change.
“And they fail to differentiate between big business and small business.”
He said it was all very well to talk about going after big multinational brands over tax avoidance.
But he said: “If they want to stop big businesses from behaving badly, the best way to do that is to help small businesses because we’re the ones that keep them on their toes.”
He said the increase in the minimum wage was “a step in the right direction” but warned there were also problems with the move. “You should increase the minimum wage because at the moment it’s impossible to live on and people do deserve better,” he said. “But without some kind of help for small businesses already coping with sky-rocketing rents and increasing prices, all it will do is hurt small firms while big businesses shrug off the extra costs.
“The 20p-an-hour increase means £30 a month for a full-time worker, but £2600 a year for a small firm with six to eight employees. That’s a major hit in the wallet.”
He would like to see relief schemes to help firms with corporation tax, national insurance contributions and rates.
“At a time when banks aren’t lending to new businesses, there’s not enough help out there. The cards are stacked very much in favour of big business and this Budget has done little to change that.”
THE SENIOR CITIZEN
SENIOR citizen Mary McNaughton gave a mixed verdict on the Budget measures.
She was happy to welcome duty reductions but criticised changes to pension annuities and identified a range of areas where she felt the Chancellor should have acted.
Mrs McNaughton, 75, a retired post office manager from Polwarth, said: “The freeze on petrol duty and reductions in alcohol duty are good and so is the increase in the personal tax allowance.
“The thing I hate is they never do anything about VAT. I think that’s an awful tax.
“If I get a room decorated, I’m having to pay 15 or 20 per cent extra in tax and I don’t class getting a room decorated as a luxury.
“I had to get my roof fixed and it cost £2900, but then I had to pay another £600 in VAT.”
She praised the new personal savings allowance, saying: “That’s fair – people have already paid tax on that money.”
But she does not approve of the controversial changes to pension arrangements which the government claims will “liberate” people by scrapping the need for them to buy an annuity and instead allowing them to take their whole pension pot in one go.
Mrs McNaughton said: “I’m not in favour of allowing retired people to take their whole pension in one lump sum.
“It’s too easy to squander it. They might blow it in one go but then live for another 30 years.”