Christina McKelvie SNP MSP, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, has reacted angrily to a statement from the Bank of Scotland that it intends to close the last remaining bank branch in Stonehouse.

She said: “On receiving this news, I wrote immediately to Bank of Scotland seeking what I regard as an urgent meeting to discuss this decision.

“The Bank’s own impact assessment concedes that 71% of account holders use the Stonehouse branch. Just 16% of customers also use the Post Office which the Bank says will provide all the necessary banking facilities required in the area.”

The Bank argues that changes in how people do their banking has impacted on its decision. Many more people now bank on line. Nevertheless, it is not possible to withdraw or deposit money online.

“For many people, some with mobility issues, some who are a little older and don’t wish to travel to the next town, some who just enjoy the human contact with familiar and trusted staff at the bank, some who have neither the access or the understanding of online banking, are being ignored.

“Bank of Scotland must, certainly, behave in a competitive manner – but that cannot mean that profits are so much more important than people. The bank has a social responsibility as well as responsibilities to its shareholders and I will be emphasising at this meeting just how vital that role is.”

Improved support and information is being made available for drivers using the trunk road network to help keep Scotland moving this winter.

These improvements come following the ‘Beast from the East’ weather event earlier this year, which saw the Met Office issue its first red weather warning for snow in Scotland since the introduction of the colour coded warning system.

New equipment has been added to the winter fleet, new police travel advice will help give clear guidance to drivers and the Met Office has launched an online forecast dedicated to conditions in Scotland.

The new equipment includes:

  • ·         a customised Unimog, capable of spreading enhanced liquid de-icer, which will be strategically located for use during high level snow and flooding events.
  • ·         an electric powered spreader, which will be deployed as patrol vehicle on the M8.
  • ·         a Hilltip Icestriker from Finland, fitted with a V plow, will be trialled on the M80 to ensure recovery teams can access incidents in the most challenging conditions.

As well as the fleet of emergency response vehicles, we have more than two hundred traditional gritters located at 42 depots across the country. Specialist snow plans are being developed, in conjunction with our operating companies and Police Scotland, for the M8, M74, M77 and M80, following the significant snow events on these routes in recent years. We also continue to liaise with the haulage industry to ensure their members are aware of conditions and advice.

Salt barns are full and further live brine trials will be carried out to give teams alternative treatments during the lowest temperatures. The gritter tracker is once again up and running, letting people see where our gritters have been carrying out treatments.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:

“We can’t prevent the challenging weather we see during the winter period, but our teams work all year round to ensure we’re fully prepared and ready to respond when difficult conditions set in.

“The challenges faced during the ‘Beast from the East’ are still fresh in the memory, so we have looked to make improvements across the board, from equipment and treatments to information and advice for travellers.

“As always, the Traffic Scotland mobile site – my.trafficscotland.org – provides up to date information on the trunk road network, the @trafficscotland twitter page is regularly updated and the popular gritter tracker is also available.

“Transport Scotland officials will continue to work with Police Scotland, the Met Office and other partner organisations to ensure we have a joined up approach to keep Scotland moving this winter.”

Representatives from Police Scotland and the Met Office will be based at the Traffic Scotland National Control Centre in South Queensferry during the winter period.

Following heavy snowfall during the ‘Beast from the East’, Police Scotland has revised its travel advice to ensure drivers get clear, concise advice on conditions.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said:

“Motorists found the numbering system we were using to indicate the severity of travel warnings confusing, as it didn't directly relate to the weather warnings issued by the Met Office. As a result, we've decided to replace it with a system which is more specific and targeted.

“Our new system will make advice much clearer for drivers of all types of vehicles and we'll be issuing specific guidance to drivers of Goods Vehicles, buses and also to drivers of vehicles which may be vulnerable to being blown over on exposed routes.

“Winter driving is a question of common sense and drivers should ask themselves if they really need to travel when conditions are poor. No-one should ever place themselves at risk on the road and it may be worth considering postponing your journey or making alternative arrangements such as delaying travel until conditions improve.

"If you are travelling on the roads you should ensure you and your vehicle are adequately prepared for the conditions, making sure you have sufficient fuel and supplies such as warm clothing, food and water in the event you are delayed. Charge your mobile phone and plan your route in advance. Listen to media broadcasts, especially local radio, and visit the Traffic Scotland website for more advice."

The Met Office revised its own weather warnings earlier this year and has launched a daily YouTube broadcast, dedicated to conditions in Scotland.

Andy Kirkman from the Met Office said:

“The Met Office is delighted to continue working closely with our partners in Transport Scotland, delivering key weather information and advice to decision-makers to help them get through the winter season. Adverse winter weather such as snow, ice and heavy rain can cause disruption to transport services - our forecasters and advisors work closely with authorities in Scotland to prepare for these types of weather.

“As part of our commitment to continually improve, this year we introduced daily Scotland weather broadcasts on our YouTube channel and we are now able to issue weather warnings up to 7 days in advance, enabling people, businesses and emergency responders to know what the weather has in store and what impacts that weather may bring.”

 

 The MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse helped raise awareness of the dangers of pavement parking at Guide Dogs’ (un)fairground

Christina McKelvie MSP spoke with the charity Guide Dogs Scotland at the SNP Conference recently about the challenges pavement-parked cars create for blind and partially sighted people, who may have to risk their safety by walking into the road just to get by.

A survey by Guide Dogs showed that 97% of blind or partially sighted people encounter problems with street obstructions, and 90% of those had experienced trouble with a pavement parked car.

The MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse heard of the difficulties that councils face in trying to tackle the issue with their current powers, and why Guide Dogs is calling for a clear law on pavement parking.

To illustrate the problem, the charity asked Christina to clear the streets of pavement parked cars against the clock on a specially-themed whack-a-mole game.

Guide Dogs Scotland is supporting proposals in the Transport (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish Parliament that would prohibit pavement parking, except in areas which need a legitimate exemption. Christina McKelvie MSP is supporting this Bill and Guide Dogs’ campaign to make pavement parking an offence. This would give local authorities real power to properly tackle this problem.  

Christina McKelvie MSP said: “I think people with limited or no sight face more than enough restrictions on their movement already. To park in ways that present a danger to those who are visibly impaired is something we cannot accept. We need to respect everyone on the footpaths and roads – other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, motor cyclists, wheel chairs and motorised vehicles as well as small children. Those with limited sight deserve that same attention.”

Niall Foley, Engagement Manager at Guide Dogs Scotland, commented:

“Cars blocking pavements are a nuisance for everyone but can be a real danger for people with sight loss, potentially forcing them out into the roads to get by. The powers that councils and police have at the moment aren’t sufficient to tackle the problem, and that’s why we are supporting the Scottish Government’s proposals in the Transport (Scotland) Bill for a clear law where drivers cannot park on the pavement unless they’re in a specifically designated area.

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Keeping up with you

Hello and welcome to all of you in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

Thank you for taking a moment to look at this email. I want to keep everyone in touch with what’s going on in the constituency and what it might mean for you.

My door is open to anyone who seeks advice and support, so you can  phone or email me at any time.

You also have the option of visiting  constituency surgeries on Mondays. You don't need to make an appointment.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to receive your personalised copy of this newsletter, which we are sending out every two weeks, then please do  sign up here.

Back to School, back to costs!


Pupils from across all of South Lanarkshire have been helped out with the price of school uniforms. COSLA confirmed that all 32 local authorities have implemented an increase for school clothing grant. 

The £100 minimum grant to all eligible families was put in place for the start of the academic year, relieving the financial pressure for South Lanarkshire families and pupils as they return to school. 

This announcement from the Scottish Government will provide real, tangible help to families feeling the strain. 

We all know the stress and pressure that the return to school can bring, with clothes, shoes, bags and all the accessories. 

In South Lanarkshire, we have already made great strides in providing pupils with school clothing through the Back to School Bank. 

It's great to see our Scottish Government taking an action that provides real help.


Motor Neurone Disease 

Some of you already know that I take a close interest in living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), as my own father did for many years before he died.

In June, just before we went off for the summer holidays, we marked MND Awareness Week. 

The Scottish Government has invested £2.5 million annually in the Specialist Nursing and Care Fund since 2015, more than doubling the number of MND specialist nurses across Scotland.


The new Health and Social Care Standards, introduced in April, seek to provide better personal outcomes for everyone and to ensure that the basic human rights we are all entitled to are upheld.

Everyone is entitled to care that meets their needs and upholds their rights.

The Euan MacDonald Centre, at Edinburgh University, https://www.euanmacdonaldcentre.org was started up with funds from Euan - just 29 when he was diagnosed - and his father, Donald. It's a fantastic resource, and I was directly involved with Euan on the building of a voicebank for patients to access, allowing them to pick out a voice sound that is closest to their own natural voice.




The Scottish Government recognise that research is essential for the development of new and effective approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of Motor Neurone Disease – investing in both research capacity and in bringing MND studies to Scotland.
 
Are you being scammed?

Watch out! What do you know about skimming or fake ATMs? The cleverer technology gets, the cleverer online scammers get to keep up. Phishing, harvesting, identity theft, hacked information such as BA's embarrassment last week. British Airways is facing a possible fine of around £500 million over a data breach that compromised 380,000 card payments after regulators said they were "making inquiries" into the incident.

 

So I took up the cause at Larkhall Trinity Church last week and invited in experts to explain more.

The ‘Scam Awareness Surgery’ was designed to make sure the citizens of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse are made more aware of the latest scams and frauds. 

Research from Citizens Advice Scotland had shown that over 61% of over 65s have been approached by a scammer. Other schemes include computer repair/ phishing scams and home and identity fraud

Scammers can target anyone, but especially older people and anyone who has a vulnerability that makes them an easier target.

I thought it was important to give you the opportunity to ask questions and find out how best to protect yourselves against this ever more sophisticated form of theft.

Thanks especially to Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau, Trading Standards and Police Scotland for coming along to give east to understand help and guidance that will make sure people here are more protected and secure whether that's at an ATM or purchasing something online.

I'll be back in a couple of weeks with more news.