Less than a month's campaigning left!
We’re into the last few weeks of campaigning for Scotland’s future. The Parliament has gone into recess so that we can all spend extra time out on the streets, at debates, in people’s homes, at Yes events and wherever we can find the opportunities to tell people why our future is safe only in our own hands.
Of course we’ve been giving the news out for two years now, and all of the activists, councillors, MSPs and Yes folk must have worn out a million or so pairs of shoes between them on the campaign trail!
It’s exciting, it’s encouraging and it’s an incredible moment in our history. To be playing a part in that, along with all the local activists around the constituency, is a privilege and huge responsibility.
You can find out more about what we’re up to via the Yes site: www.yesscotland.net
Join us at the Hamilton Yes office
for the Yes office in Hamilton: www.facebook.com/YesHamilton You’ll get a warm welcome there and we’re always looking for more people to get involved, especially in these last weeks of the campaign.
If you’ve never done anything like this before, then now’s your opportunity to play your part in changing the history of our nation. You’ll meet lots of like-minded people, find new friends and discover you had abilities you never even knew about.
Larkhall Community Growers
I had a fantastic time earlier this week with the Larkhall Community Growers: www.larkhallcommunitygrowers.com and on Facebook at: http://tinyurl.com/pjprjym
Over the summer weeks, they’ve been running art sessions with local children who’ve now made a beautiful 45 foot mural with a garden theme. One of the panels is by a local historian who has depicted the history of Larkhall and it’s absolutely brilliant. Other pictures hung around the garden show lots of wonderful, imaginative images of gardens and growing.
It was obvious that the kids love what this community social enterprise does, and the volunteers and staff involved in it are fantastic.
You will find the exhibition at the Hareleeshill Community Garden so go and celebrate the fantastic art and craft work produced by children and young people through the Summer Arts Programme.
As well as the mural, there are flower sculptures, woven fences, mini ‘faeri-gardens’ and much, much more. Do go and see for yourself.
Just one of the fantastic pictures at the exhibition
I was delighted to hear from the Big Lottery Fund that Family Mediation South Lanarkshire www.familysupport.org.uk has been given an award of £248,297.
The five-year project offers enhanced support to children and families experiencing the trauma of family change, in particular parental separation and divorce. It’s a sad fact of life but if children get the right support, they don’t need to be emotionally damaged by the experience.
Around 520 families will be able to access the support in different ways, helping to steer them through when they feel at their most vulnerable in challenging times.
The importance of positive mediation in challenging times
More opportunities for women
As you are probably aware, I’m a very active supporter of delivering better gender balance across everything we do, from childcare to industry or board members to new business growth.
So it was great to have the opportunity to speak in a debate in the Chamber this week on the subject of increasing opportunities for Scottish women.
Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment opened the debate with the good news that women’s employment is at its highest ever level of 1,250,000 and that there is a significant drop in female economic activity.
Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment
The Scottish Government continues to work hard through various forums but our powers to improve opportunities are significantly limited by those reserved to Westminster. Only with independence can we really develop and apply a strategy that will work for the Scottish people and give women genuinely equal economic opportunities.
Scotland’s history is full of interesting and dynamic women who didn’t give up easily. St Margaret was the 11th century power behind the Benedictine monastery at Dunfermline and the restoration of the monastery at Iona.
St Margaret of Scotland
The opportunities for women to make an impact in Scotland in the eleventh century were, well, limited. My namesake, Christina, the sister of Robert the Bruce, moved things on a bit a few centuries later. She commanded the garrison of Kildrummy Castle and successfully held out against pro-Baliol forces led by David of Strathbogie prior to their defeat by her husband, Sir Andrew Murray, at the Battle of Culblean.
Kildrummy Castle in Aberdeenshire
In more recent times, we’ve seen the powerful and continuing impact of Professor Ailsa McKay. Her voice as a feminist economist at Glasgow University has transformed the culture there. Her influence and input to the Scottish Government, and especially her support for transformational childcare policy, means women will be freed up to work while their children are young.
Add in our own heroines of today – Winnie Ewing, Margo MacDonald, our Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and Cabinet Secretaries Angela Constance, Roseanna Cunningham, Fiona Hyslop and Shona Robison. You can read more about them here: http://tinyurl.com/9n385qb
And of course we are looking to Scotland’s future daughters. I held a baby girl in my arms this week. She was born, appropriately, on US Independence Day, 4th July. Her life in a newly independent Scotland will be filled with hope and enthusiasm in a way she could never hope for while we are ruled by Westminster.
You may have seen this video which takes the life of a little girl like this one and follows Kirsty through how things might look, depending upon which way Scotland votes on 18 September. http://tinyurl.com/6v6l6ux
A Yes vote is the greatest opportunity we will ever have to transform women’s lives for the better through transformational expansion in childcare; improving diversity in public and private institutions and targeting female representation on company and public boards.
Scottish Memories – Immigration Stories
I’ve always been involved in seeking to improve how we treat our asylum seekers and immigrants and have often spoken out against the Westminster system on the subject. Immigration policy is reserved so we have no control over it even though our approach and our needs are very different from the rest of the UK. While the immigrant population down south has increased by 50 per cent, our increase is less than 10 per cent. We need more active, committed working people from across the world to contribute to Scotland and we welcome those who manage to make it through the current system.
That’s one of the driving policies behind independence. We need to be able to manage this important area ourselves, to make our own decisions that will work best in Scotland. Many, many of our immigrants are great supporters of a Yes vote. Just look at Scots Asians for Yes to get an idea: http://www.yesscotland.net/interest-groups/scots-asians-yes
So I was especially delighted to meet up with Rohini Sharma Joshi at her exhibition stand in the Parliament. Rohini is the power behind a fascinating book called Scottish Memories which focuses on people who came to Scotland from India, Pakistan, China, Africa and the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s to build new lives. It captures the experiences of men and women who were part of a new immigration wave which led to Scotland’s emergence as a multi-cultural nation.
With Rohini Sharma Joshi at the Scottish Parliament
Many of the people who appear in the book had difficult experiences as newly arrived immigrants to Scotland and struggled with language, with the weather, and finding places to live and work. They worked very hard and have made an important contribution to Scottish life in so many ways.
The book, which was published jointly by Trust Housing Association www.trustha.org.uk Hanover Housing Association and Bield Housing Association, is the culmination of a living history project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which also includes filmed interviews by pupils from Leith Academy in Edinburgh and Knightswood Secondary in Glasgow.
If you would like to get a copy of the book for yourself, contact Trust Housing Association.
Many of the people who appear in the book had difficult experiences as newly-arrived immigrants to Scotland and struggled with language, with the weather, cold and finding places to live and work. They worked very hard and have made an important contribution to Scottish life in so many ways.
An interesting debate
I thoroughly enjoyed a panel discussion hosted by Larkhall Professional Businessmen’s Club this week. It was me and 62 men! Well, I’m not known for being backwards when it comes to moving forwards so, in the company of some clear No voters as well as the fantastically impressive Paul Fletcher from Business for Scotland http://tinyurl.com/o78tkxz This guy is superb because he knows the facts and showed it – when the nonsense scaremongering was put up, Paul was immediately able to demolish it with actual facts, citing Standard and Poor for whom he worked, for example.
Paul Fletcher, Business for Scotland, a real expert
With me on the slightly more emotional line, I think we made a great double act and I look forward to more opportunities to talk about business in an independent Scotland.
Paul is a senior management consultant whose positions include Director of Marketing (Europe) for the CIGNA Corporation of Philadelphia and Head of Strategy for Scottish Widows.
Above and beyond that, Paul is an experienced adviser on the whole issue of how best to develop entrepreneurism and has advised the European Commission and Downing Street on best practise.
One for the boys
I’m not just about women! Here’s one for the boys. Prostate Cancer UK www.prostatecanceruk.org is striving to encourage Scottish men who may be at risk to get checked out.
At Prostate Cancer’s event at the Scottish Parliament this week, I met men and women whose lives have been directly or indirectly touched by this disease.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and is predicted to be the most common cancer overall by 2030. Despite this men and their families continue to face difficulties relating to awareness of risk factors, treatments and support, geography, age, and ethnicity. I want to help make sure that all men in Scotlandhave the information, treatment options and support they need.