Nov 162015

ChildHopePeruWith thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR.

Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation has selected ChildHope as its fourth emerging markets charity partner.

The Foundation has made a three year commitment, with an initial six-figure donation, to ChildHope.

ChildHope was established in 1989 and grew out of the recognition of the huge and growing but neglected problem of children living and working on the streets of Africa, Asia and South America.

Over the last twenty years, the charity has been working to develop long lasting solutions aimed at tackling the root causes of the poverty and the injustice faced by children around the world.

Aberdeen’s support will focus on the regions immediately surrounding Lima, Peru where despite rapid economic development within the city, around a third of children live on less than $2 a day.

Many of these children are subject to violence in schools, where despite national policy, they are often chastised by teachers using sticks, belts or ropes. The project aims to create safer school environments in eight schools. It will identify those children within the schools that are most at risk of educational underachievement and support them with additional supportive educational sessions.

In total, the project is estimated to benefit 7,300 children who will pass through these schools over the term of Aberdeen’s partnership, as well as having associated impact on 400 teachers and 4,500 parents.

Anne Richards, Chief Investment Officer of Aberdeen Asset Management and Chairman of the Foundation, comments:

“Aberdeen has a significant presence in Latin America and so I am delighted that employees globally have chosen to support ChildHope. Education plays a crucial role in the development of society so the charity will have an impact not only on the children but the country as a whole.”

ChildHope UK’s Executive Director Jill Healey said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to have been selected as Aberdeen Asset Management’s next emerging markets charity partner. By working together we can fundamentality transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in Peru and give them a chance for a better future.’’

ChildHope becomes the fourth emerging markets charity partner to be supported by the Foundation, alongside ABC Trust, SeeBeyondBorders and AfriKids.

The Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop Aberdeen’s charitable giving strategy. It has two main themes:

Emerging Markets – Aberdeen has committed to develop a number of strategic partnerships with charities tackling the educational needs of disadvantaged young people in emerging markets. Each year, an emerging market is selected by the Foundation’s Board and employees have the opportunity to vote for a project in that country which will receive support for a three year period.

Local Communities – To complement this international focus, each Aberdeen office around the world has established its own charity committee, whose remit is to manage local giving activities and to promote volunteering.

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Nov 122015

Eilidh WhitefordWith thanks to Kenneth Hutchison, Parliamentary Assistant to Dr. Eilidh Whiteford MP

Following the debate on the Scotland Bill at Westminster, the SNP are calling for clarification over the Secretary of State David Mundell’s failure to guarantee that there would be no claw back of payments made by the Scottish Government to mitigate welfare cuts.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, SNP Social Justice and Welfare spokesperson commented:

“Following tonight’s debate  we need absolute clarity from the  UK  Government  that if the Scottish Government tops up  a benefit it will not be clawed back by Westminster  – David Mundell failed to answer that.

“For that and many other reasons tonight will be a huge disappointment to all those people watching and hoping for the Vow to be delivered.

“Whilst I welcome the changes the Government is belatedly bringing forward, all the flowery rhetoric in the world won’t hide the fact that this Scotland Bill still falls some way short of the Smith Commission proposals. More than that, still falls a long way short of the promises made to the people of Scotland.

“The SNP amendments in this Group would have significantly strengthen the Bill, and brought it closer to the expectations and aspirations of the people who voted in unprecedented numbers for real powers and meaningful change. As things stand, it will be those on low and average incomes, especially families with children, who will pay the price of these missed opportunities.’’

Commenting on this evening’s debate  – SNP Leader at Westminster – Angus Robertson MP said:

“The sole purpose of the Scotland Bill has been to implement the Smith Commission in full.  We welcome the government’s late admission that it had failed to do that but this bill still falls far short.

“We have seen with this debate a Westminster failure to support the devolution of powers over tax credits – industrial relations and workers’ rights powers and on the sovereignty of the people of Scotland.

“People should look and learn because if this is the way to bring forward legislation – we don’t need it. The Scottish parliament is a 21st century parliament and if ever there was a case put for the Scottish parliament being able to exercise all issues that matter to the people of Scotland – this was it.”

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Sep 072015

Oil Strike cover By Mike Shepherd.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of first oil from the Forties field in September 1975.

A quick search of the internet and you will find photographs of the Queen inaugurating the Forties field on the 3rd November 1975. But don’t tell her majesty, the Forties field was already in operation by that time.

It wasn’t quite the first oil on stream from the UK side; the Argyll field had been producing since June that year, but given the scale of the Forties development, it was a major event.

The Forties field figures prominently in my new book Oil Strike North Sea which is out next week.

In terms of reserves it is the largest field in the UK North Sea and deserves attention for that alone; but not only that, I was to take a prominent role in its development and this allows me to give a first-hand account of what it takes to operate a North Sea field.

Between 1981 and 1986, I was responsible from the geology side in planning a large number of wells in the oil field. I worked both onshore and offshore. After planning the wells in British Petroleum’s (BP) office in Dyce, working closely with the drilling engineers, I would then go offshore to monitor the reservoir section. Amongst other responsibilities, I would tell the drillers when to stop once we were below the oil pay.

The Forties field wasn’t the first commercial oil field discovered on the UK side, that honour goes to Amoco’s Montrose field which was discovered in 1969. When Amoco discovered oil in the first well, the offshore personnel were astonished. They were looking for gas and had no idea that there was oil in the North Sea. Other companies had come across oil shows in wells before, but had kept this highly secret.

There were no sample jars for oil on the rig, so the first sample of commercial oil in the North Sea was brought onshore in a pickle jar that had been grabbed from the rig’s galley.

Amoco had hired the Sea Quest drilling rig from BP to drill the well and handed it back afterwards. The BP geologists were rather surprised to find that a copy of a log showing that oil had been found had arrived with the rig. It had been accidently left on board.

BP had identified the Forties prospect on their seismic data, a massive dome covering 90 square kilometres. It looked enormous and the unintended gift from Amoco gave them comfort that there could be an oil field there.

Yet the BP management had been most reluctant to drill the prospect and for good reasons too; the oil price had been low since 1950 as a result of the large-scale production from the Middle East and North Africa, and a large offshore field requiring very expensive infrastructure could not be assured to make a profit. On top of that, the engineering capability of providing the infrastructure was an unknown, the oil companies had never ventured into such deep and stormy waters.

One of the reasons BP drilled the discovery well was out of desperation. BP had been thrown out of several countries after the oil had been nationalised and the future of the company was somewhat uncertain at the time. It was only with the Yom Kippur war in 1973, when the oil price quadrupled on the back of OPEC sanctions, was it likely that the North Sea would be a profitable concern.

The Forties field is still producing after forty years, with over 2.7 billion barrels of oil recovered. The current operator Apache is still actively chasing the remaining oil in the field by drilling new wells. The Forties field, like many other fields in the North Sea had not been expected to have produced for as long as they have. It’s a testament to the amazing skills developed in the North Sea that our fields have recovered so much oil.

The book launch for Oil Strike North Sea is at Waterstones in Union Street on Wednesday 9th September at 7pm, all are welcome.

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Jul 162015
Christian Allard at Instant Neighbour foodbank

Christian Allard MSP at Instant Neighbour Foodbank, Aberdeen

With thanks to Lee Robb, Caseworker to Christian Allard MSP.

North East MSP, Christian Allard, has welcomed the news that Aberdeenshire is ahead of Scotland’s capital city in terms of average disposable income. However, the SNP MSP warns that a rising number of foodbanks in the region indicates that many families are being left behind.

This comes in response to a recently released study conducted by SPICE (Scottish Parliament Information Centre) that reviewed levels of average disposable income in areas of Scotland, compared to the UK average.

The SPICE study reports on figures from 2013 and showed Scotland’s average disposable income to be at £17,039 – compared to the UK average of £17,599.

Commenting on the findings, Mr. Allard said:

“The good news is that people are prospering here in the North East. However, it cannot be ignored that there has been a rise in foodbanks in Aberdeenshire over the past few years.

“This is a clear indication that there is an imbalance of wealth and opportunity, leaving families behind to rely on charitable food parcels.

“This, in the most affluent area of the country, is frankly unacceptable. This year, we saw an Aberdeen-based foodbank running out of food!”

Aberdeen’s Instant Neighbour foodbank appealed for help in March after running out of supplies and having to turn away families. Mr. Allard has volunteered with local foodbank collections in Aberdeenshire, the latest one being at the beginning of this month.

“People in Aberdeenshire know the problems that some families face. Unrelenting cuts to basic welfare needs have meant that families cannot sustain themselves. It was incredibly touching to see such a great contribution from the local community to Inverurie Tesco’s push for foodbank donations.

“I would like to congratulate the local Tesco store for their efforts, and thank all those who donated to this cause.”

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Feb 122015

MartinFordatUTGWith thanks to Martin Ford.

Two Aberdeenshire councillors are calling for an end to the Council Tax freeze as their council faces up to £50 million in budget cuts over the next four years.

The call comes in the week Aberdeenshire and other councils across Scotland set their revenue budgets for the next financial year.

“This cannot go on,” said Green councillor Martin Ford.

“It’s the elephant in the room on budget day. Most councillors know the Council Tax freeze is unsustainable, but aren’t prepared to say so.”

Allowing for inflation, a freeze in cash terms is actually a real-terms cut in income to the Council. Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire is having to plan for demand-led spending pressures due to rising school rolls and increasing numbers of very elderly people.

“The inevitable consequence of a continuation of the Council Tax freeze is more cuts in public services,” said Democratic Independent councillor Paul Johnston.

“Expecting the Council to do more with less, year after year, is not realistic.”

The Scottish Government has ensured that councils do not increase the Council Tax by threatening a lower grant settlement if the Council Tax is increased – ensuring any reasonable increase in Council Tax would leave the council in an even worse position financially than maintaining the Tax freeze.

“Local Government has effectively been reduced to local administration,” said Cllr Martin Ford.

“The Council’s total budget is essentially decided for it by the Scottish Government. The councillors are just left with deciding which are the least damaging cuts to make – the alternative option of avoiding cuts by raising some additional tax revenue having been blocked.

“The decision on the balance to strike between cutting council services or raising some additional tax income should be taken locally, not by the SNP government in Edinburgh.”

The current Band D Council Tax in Aberdeenshire is £1,141. A one per cent increase would result in a Band D rate of £1,152, or eleven pounds a year more, only 21 pence extra per week. An increase equal to the current Retail Price Index (RPI) of 1.6 per cent would see the Aberdeenshire Band D Council Tax set at £1,159.

“Scottish Government politicians must trust the people of Aberdeenshire with tax raising powers, in the same way as they want tax powers from Westminster,” said Cllr Paul Johnston.

“This is all about trust on tax. Trust Aberdeenshire to take decisions on tax for Aberdeenshire.”

Cllr Ford added:

“Even a one per cent rise in the Council Tax would prevent some cuts in public services,”

Aberdeenshire Council is budgeting for a Council Tax income in the next financial year of £124.658 million. A one per cent increase in the Council Tax would increase revenue to £125.905 million. An RPI-linked 1.6 per cent increase in the Council Tax would bring the Council almost £2 million extra income.

“An extra £2 million annual income would certainly not enable the Council to avoid cutting some services over the next several years,” said Cllr Paul Johnston.

“But it would prevent the most undesirable cuts.”

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Feb 122015

Alex-Salmond-cropWith thanks to Ann-Marie Parry.

Alex Salmond MSP has written to three Inverurie businesses to congratulate them on their success at the Scottish Independent Retail Awards.

The Aberdeenshire East MSP also lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament in recognition of the awards.

Davidsons Butcher won the Butcher Shop of the Year for the North East area, Mitchells Dairy won Convenience Store of the Year for the North West region and the town’s Vanity won the Fashion/Accessories Retailer of the Year accolade for the North East.

The awards were announced on Sunday night at an awards ceremony in Glasgow.

Aberdeenshire East MSP Alex Salmond said:

“Inverurie has a wealth of independent retailers who offer so much variety and quality to local residents and visitors.

“I am delighted that these businesses have been recognised for all the hard work they do in promoting local produce and supporting the local economy.

“Both owners and staff alike should be very proud of their achievements.”

Salmond also welcomed new figures showing that Scotland is on course to exceed the target of 25,000 new Modern Apprenticeships this year – including a total of 1,034 starts in Aberdeenshire.

The figures released by Skills Development Scotland show that by the end of the third quarter of 2014/15 there were 19,517 modern apprenticeship starts in Scotland – 78 per cent of the total annual target and a two per cent increase on the same point last year.

Alex Salmond MSP said:

“These very welcome figures are testament to the Scottish Government’s commitment to investing in youth employment – creating almost 100,000 new apprenticeship opportunities over the last four years including a total of 1,034 starts in Aberdeenshire in 2014/15 so far.

“Apprenticeships play a key role in the Scottish Government’s efforts to promote youth employment and these figures are further evidence of the real results being achieved for young people across Aberdeenshire– but there is always more which could be done.

“With the full range of economic powers in Scotland’s hands rather than Westminster’s we can do even more to boost youth employment and give local young people the opportunities they deserve.

“It is time for the ‘extensive’ new powers we were promised from Westminster to be delivered to the Scottish Parliament as this would allow us to do even more to support young people in Aberdeenshire in to work.”

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Dec 112014

With thanks to Richard Bunting. 

SCRT piggybank moneyScottish Community Re:Investment Trust, a new independent charity aiming to transform how Scotland’s third sector uses and thinks about its finances, has been launched.
The trust’s first initiative is a specially designed new savings account to be introduced at today’s Glasgow Social Enterprise Trade Fair.

With a lack of Scottish-focused banks offering any longer a transparent way for people or third sector organisations to invest in line with their values – and with the existing financial framework failing to adequately meet the needs of charities and socially focused organisations – the trust is setting out to create radical change.

It plans to help independent charities and socially beneficial organisations to harness their collective assets, strengthen their financial expertise and gain access to financial services tailored to their specific needs.

The new Anchor Savings Account – provided by Airdrie Savings Bank, Britain’s last independent savings bank – offers a fresh and tailored focus for third sector savings. By connecting hundreds of separate accounts beneath one umbrella, the pioneering account will increase the impact of the sector’s shared financial clout.

“Scotland’s third sector, which does huge amounts of public good, desperately needs access to a financial infrastructure that matches its values and ways of working. For charities and socially beneficial organisations, the current financial system is broken beyond repair – leaving them hampered by scattered resources, unsuitable products and unmet needs,” said Deirdre Forsyth, Chair of Scottish Community Re:Investment Trust.

“By acting together and harnessing its collective assets – and by strengthening its understanding and knowledge of socially responsible use and management of money – the third sector can use its substantial financial resources to invest in its own future in alternative and better ways than is currently possible.”

Scotland’s third sector includes an estimated 45,000 different and richly varied organisations. Its investable assets have been calculated to be approximately £3.8 billion, according to the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations – but these substantial resources are currently spread across financial institutions that are mostly uninterested in the third sector’s work or needs.

If just one per cent of these assets were invested more strategically, it could transform the sector’s economic independence and its influence on banking practices.

Malcolm Hayday, Advisor to Scottish Community Re:Investment Trust, said:

“By building a common, collective and shared wealth there is huge scope for organisations to invest in and support the development of the wider third sector – recycling its investment resources and creating significant benefits for its crucial work for society, our environment and people’s well-being. In the sector, we focus on the positive impact of everything we do except when it comes to our financial reserves.”

Scottish Community Re:Investment Trust cites evidence of widespread third sector dissatisfaction with current financial services. This includes recent research for Charity Bank, which revealed that although 65% of respondents believed that loans can benefit charities’ work, only 31% of those approaching a high street bank for a loan took one, 29% were declined and 40% could not take up offered loans because of onerous terms.

With many UK social investment schemes underpinned by a focus on private investor returns rather than social, environmental and wider economic benefits, third sector organisations can also struggle to meet increasing expectations that their business decisions should be ethically based.

Another problem is that while a key third sector role is to act as society’s social antennae – identifying new needs, and inventing and testing new social solutions – such work is traditionally unbankable, often being viewed as too experimental and risky for commercial and even many social funders. Yet the sector needs supplies of relatively small amounts of high-risk investment, as well as micro loans and unsecured loans, to incubate new generations of start-ups.

Although the social finance market within the UK – and especially Scotland – is relatively small, since the financial crisis it is gaining recognition as an important funding source for third sector organisations, including the supply of early stage investments and start-ups, fostering innovation and supporting community-based investments.

But as the third sector’s resource needs increase – and as its requirement to invest in its own future becomes more acute – its members will need to act together more whenever possible.

As it explores the third sector’s appetite to work across Scotland in a new, more cooperative way on finance, Scottish Community Re:Investment Trust’s own long-term future will depend on the response of the sector. The Anchor Savings Account allows organisations to choose to donate a proportion of earned interest to the trust – allowing the charity to become self-sustaining following an initial period of grant funding.

Discussions are underway with several organisations to act as early standard bearers for the new initiative.

The trust has been established with a founding Board and team with extensive experience of social banking institutions and the third sector, founded by several organisations – Senscot, CEIS, Penumbra and Ekopia – and chaired by Deirdre Forsyth, Chair of ScotWest Credit Union. It is registered as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) and is to be owned and managed by Scotland’s third sector.

During an initial two-year implementation phase, the trust will build its membership amongst Scotland’s third sector organisations, from which a new board will be elected in late 2015. For more information, visit

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Jun 062014

Banff & Buchan MP Dr Eilidh Whiteford has praised volunteers at South Church Hall, who have helped support local families over the past year.

MP 2014 Joseph Storehouse1Dr Whiteford met with volunteers Linda and John Sorrie, and Evie Watt on Thursday, to discuss the work the food-bank is doing locally.

The South Church Hall facility operates on the basis of referrals from Home Start North East Aberdeenshire, and currently supports six local families. The need, however, is estimated to be much greater.

Volunteer Linda Sorrie said:

“I have no doubt whatsoever that many more people need a bit of help when it comes to buying shopping. However, many will be too proud to accept a food parcel.”

Dr Whiteford said afterwards:

“Linda, John and Evie deserve our admiration for the time and hard work they have put into this project. That a volunteer group can do so much good is testimony to the strength of the community in Fraserburgh, the generosity of the congregation at South Church, and the kindness of those who have donated food and money.

“The fact, however, is that in this day and age, we shouldn’t need food banks. Leaning on the generosity of volunteers should not and cannot be a substitute for a properly funded system of social protection, and we have reached this stage because of swingeing UK Government cuts, which have hit families on low incomes hardest.

“Constituents can be assured that I will continue to pursue the ConDem UK Government on their reckless austerity agenda that is hitting people on low incomes the hardest. However, the only way to banish coalition austerity for good is by bringing full control of tax and benefits to the Scottish Parliament.”

The Scottish Government has recently announced a £500,000 Emergency Food Fund, to compliment the £500,000 already committed to charity FareShare for distribution of surplus food from retailers. The new fund will be used to respond to increasing demand for food banks, as well as responding to the underlying causes of food poverty.

Grants are on offer to food aid organisations in Scotland, and interested bodies should apply by July 11, via the Scottish Government’s website at

The volunteers at Fraserburgh South accept donations of food and money. These can be donated through Home Start North East Aberdeenshire on 01346 518930, or dropped off at Fraserburgh South Church Hall, Seaforth Street, Fraserburgh. Anyone in need of assistance from the food bank should contact Home Start NEA for a referral.

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Dec 132013

unison grampianWith thanks to Hall Hamilton Harper.

Due to the high cost of living in the Grampian Region, health union UNISON are campaigning for pay equality in the area to help alleviate recruitment and retention issues in the oil capital of Europe and provide local NHS workers with a reasonable living wage.

The matter of a High Cost Area Supplement for NHS staff in Grampian was raised during Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 11th December (question number 8).

In response, Health Secretary Alex Neil said:

 “I do not believe that a High Cost Area Supplement would be appropriate.

“I think that when you get into that you have to look at other parts of the country, for example one of the major shortages in the Western Isles is finding a maintenance engineer because of the renewable energy’s success in the Western Isles.

“Do we then introduce a high cost living supplement or a skills shortage supplement for the Western Isles?”

Responding to Mr Neil’s comments Laura McDonald, Branch Secretary for UNISON Grampian Health Branch commented:

“Our claim is for our members in the Grampian region who are struggling to make ends meet due to the very high costs associated with living in the area”

Ruaraidh MacKinnon, Branch Treasurer for UNISON Grampian Health Branch added:

“The Western Isles was a great example for Mr. Neil to use as it already has an allowance that is paid to all Western Isles staff – it’s called a Scottish distant islands allowance.

“The High Cost Area Supplement for Grampian is about much more than an isolated incidence of a difficult to recruit post, it is about the huge difference in the general costs of living within the Grampian area when compared to neighbouring boards.”

The figures produced by UNISON show that low paid NHS employees in Aberdeen only have, on average, £76.64 per month left to live on after deductions for rent, council tax and ‘bus travel compared with their counterparts in Dundee and Inverness who are left with £483.67 and £396.33 respectively.

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Nov 082013

By Duncan Harley

clock changing177

Aberdeen Voice is not currently considering teaming up with Home Energy Scotland to reflect on the situation of the 8000 or so citizens receiving the now abolished Incapacity Benefit in and around Scotland’s Granite City.
ESA, or Employment Support Allowance, seems to be the current title and seemingly:

“Claimants already receiving Incapacity Benefit, Income Support paid because of an illness or disability or Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) continued to receive those benefits as long as they remained eligible. However, the government announced in 2010 that these claimants would all be migrated to ESA between spring 2011 and 2014.”

Hopefully this migration has taken place since fuel bills are going up yet again by another 8% or so, and with that in mind it is time to consider energy saving measures. You may feel disempowered, you may be on benefits or you may simply feel overwhelmed by the problem of how to keep warm this winter.

With those clocks changing and the outside temperature sliding downwards, it’s time to take control and manage your energy use in the 21st Century.

Top tips include:

  • Home Heating: Did you know that by just turning down your home thermostat by just 1 degree you can cut your home heating bill by 10%?  Great news for your bank balance.
  • Your floor: Did you know that by insulating an under floor space and sealing those pesky gaps around your skirting boards you could save 1% of your annual spend on household heating? Great news for your bank balance.
  • Loft insulation: Did you know that most heat is lost via the roof? By making sure you have the recommended 270mm of insulation recommended by the government you could save around 30% on your annual bills for home heating. Great news for your bank balance.
  • Cremation: Did you know that the average cremation consumes around £200 of carbon rich resources. Many families choose cremation because it’s seen as a more environmentally friendly route than a traditional burial.  Embalming, expensive sealed caskets and burial vaults are not required by law and although traditional memorial parks may require them, a green cemetery or memorial nature preserve does not.  The simplicity of a green burial is in tune with nature and need not be expensive. Great news for your bank balance.

A green burial can relieve your loved ones of the distress that comes in having to make difficult, and often costly, decisions after your passing.  Involve your friends and family now, so difficult decisions do not need to be made in a time of grief. Great news for your bank balance.

frond177A green burial is a cremation alternative, and a viable alternative to traditional burial practices in the UK.  It is an eco-earth friendly option when considering burial vs cremation.

Home Energy Scotland?  Seems it’s at

It is apparently a one stop shop for people looking to save energy and lower fuel bills during the winter months.

Measures include offering free energy saving gadgets worth £50 in the form of a digital electricity monitor and a stand-by plug which will help households to save, on average, £47 a year on fuel bills and CO2 that would fill 361 wheelie bins.

Great news for your bank balance.

Kenny MacAskill MSP says:

“The range of help available through the Home Energy Hotline includes free or discounted insulation, central heating, help to switch to cheaper tariffs and help to ensure people are claiming their full pension and benefit support.

“By offering this help the Scottish Government are once again ensuring people are able to stay warm and keep their bills down this winter. If we see a winter similar to last year this will be a very welcome measure. The free energy-saving devices and other help will assist households in saving money at a time when everyone is counting the pennies.

“I would encourage anyone in Edinburgh East & Musselburgh who is unsure of what they can do to call the Home Energy Hotline on 0800 512 012.”

Great news for your bank balance.

The government and the energy companies wish you well this winter but advise you to remember to turn down your thermostat.

They also would like to take this opportunity to remind you that a warm home is a privilege not a right.

Great news for your bank balance.

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