Frustration at meeting with Minister

Midlothian Council HQ

Midlothian Council HQ

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The Secretary of State for Scotland has praised Midlothian Council for its offer of support to Syrian refugees coming to Britain.

David Mundell met with council leader Councillor Catherine Johnstone (SNP) and chief executive Kenneth Lawrie as part of a tour of Scottish councils.

However, Councillor Johnston has branded the meeting “a waste of time” after trying to raise the issue of welfare cuts with the government 
minister.

Mr Mundell told the Advertiser: “We had a good discussion around the proposed Edinburgh City Deal which will obviously encapsulate Midlothian.

“I am very supportive of that. The Glasgow City Deal has been a huge success for Glasgow and councils surrounding it.

“I think there is no reason why a similar arrangement couldn’t be successful for 
Edinburgh and Midlothian.

“The deal can deliver infrastructure projects but also deliver help with employability and skills and that is a particular focus for the council.”

The first of 40 Syrian refugees are expected to arive in Midlothian in the new year.

“I am grateful and the UK government is very grateful for that offer. Scotland has really stepped up to the mark and responded well as we move forward to bring refugees to Scotland. I thank Midlothian for playing its part in that process.”

Councillor Johnstone described the meeting as “frustrating” and “pointless” when Mr Mundell claimed there was no evidence to link benefit sanctions and the uses of food banks.

She said: “The number of food bank referrals in Scotland has increased to over 60,000 in the last quarter – 44 per cent of these were for benefit delays and cuts and this is a pattern we are also seeing in Midlothian. Mundell gave me no answers for them, and no assurances that this wouldn’t get worse. His visit was a waste of time.”