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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.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all working from home. If you need help, phone the office as normal and leave an outline message. Someone will soon get back to you. You can also email me at any time. Att the contact details are at the end of this email.

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.

If you have a friend who might be interested, you can forward this email to them so that they can decide whether or not to subscribe.
 
Back to school
Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, says that, providing we continue to make progress on suppressing the Covid-19 virus, schools will return full-time and for all students in August.
 


This is good news not only for parents but for the kids themselves who, by August, will have missed out on five months of teaching.

The way forward has to be conditional on infection rates being sufficiently low to continue to control the virus, public health and testing systems being in place and protective measures and risk assessments being carried out in schools.

Thanks to the united effort of people here in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse Constituency, and across Scotland, who have stuck to government advice we have now made significant progress in the fight against Covid-19.

I’m absolutely delighted by the announcement that if we stay on the right path, and continue to suppress this virus, our young people can return to school full time from August.

This is an important step not only in ensuring our young people get the education they deserve, but it’s also positive news for working families.

I want to send my gratitude to our amazing teachers and school staff in South Lanarkshire who have helped us get to this stage.

There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but this SNP Scottish Government is working hard to support families and communities across the country.

Support for students in South Lanarkshire
I have welcomed the Scottish Government's announcement of extra financial help for students facing financial hardship over the summer months. 

The Scottish Government has brought forward early access to £11.4m of discretionary funds - which will be administered by colleges and universities - to support higher education students. 
Students are, due to UK government rules, unable to claim Universal Credit or other benefits.

h

Scottish students studying in Europe as part of EU Portability or historically arranged schemes will also be able to access a £100,000 emergency fund administered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). 

Many students in South Lanarkshire will have expected to find paid work over the summer to cover their rent or save for the following term – but are now, through no fault of their own, unable to do so. 
This Scottish Government support will be welcome news for those students who rely on part-time jobs over the summer months, who could find it difficult to cover their living costs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

No student should face financial hardship as a result of this crisis - and these new measures will support students until the start of the next academic year when bursary, grant and loan payments will begin again.
 
Covid-19 update



The news in the First Minister’s daily briefings is gradually becoming a little more hopeful, always with the caveat that a new wave could hit us at any time.

There have been no deaths in Scotland over the last four days up to 29 June.
 
Nicola Sturgeon has said that she thinks Scotland is “not far away” from eliminating the virus in the community. She warns, though, that “elimination is not eradication.”
 
The First Minister said: “The sacrifices that have been made – and I know how hard and at times painful they have been – have suppressed the virus. They have also protected the NHS, and have undoubtedly saved a significant number of lives.



“They have also brought us to the position where we can now look ahead with a bit more clarity to our path out of lockdown, and I hope details announced today will provide people and businesses with more certainty in their forward planning.

“But let me be clear that each step on this path depends on us continuing to beat the virus back. That is why we must do everything in our power to avoid steps being reversed.

“The central point in all of this is the virus has not - and it will not - go away of its own accord. It will pose a real and significant threat to us for some time to come.

“Maintaining our progress also means all of us abiding by public health guidance. Wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces, avoiding crowded places, washing our hands and cleaning surfaces regularly, maintaining physical distancing, agreeing to immediately self-isolate and get a test if we have symptoms - all of these basic protections matter now more than ever as we all get out and about a bit more.”

From today [Monday] onwards, all retail shops with entrances and exits directly onto the street (that is, not shopping malls) are now able to open.

There is protective guidance:

  • Wear a face mask to protect yourself and others
  • Shop locally, within 5 miles if possible
  • Shop on your own or in as small a group as possible
  • Try to shop at quiet times

 If progress continues, then we should be able to move onto Phase Three with further restrictions removed by mid-July.
 
To continue to stop the spread of the virus and saves lives, there are 5 things we all still need to do. Remember FACTS. You can check your knowledge in this short video from the Scottish Government https://tinyurl.com/ya25v7sd
 
Holyrood backs £15,572m for South Lanarkshire to tackle Covid-19
I have warmly welcomed a Holyrood vote approving £15.572 million extra funding for South Lanarkshire in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost £258 million extra funding has been approved for vital local services across Scotland, such as food provision for those in need, education and social care.

The Scottish Government is in discussions with local authorities over providing a further £72m  – which will bring the total additional funding to almost £330m.

This extra funding is on top of the local government finance settlement of £11.4b, which already provided an increase of £589.4m (5.8%) compared to the previous year.

The pandemic has put real pressure on families and local services, and it’s right that the Scottish Government has ensured South Lanarkshire has more cash to deal with this.

This funding boost is supporting access to food, welfare payments and frontline services.

I also welcome the additional flexibility given to councils in how money is spent, allowing resources to be diverted to the Covid-19 response if required.

Protecting Scotland’s environmental standards after Brexit



Allegedly, Wednesday 1 July is the final date by which an extension to the transition could be requested. I’ve given my full backing to a Bill that would protect our environmental commitments so that they keep up with the EU standards after 31 December.

The UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill will allow or provide for continuity of provision that would otherwise be lost on withdrawal from the EU.

The Bill’s proposals on environmental principles and governance will help Scotland maintain high standards, in line with the EU, to support our world-leading efforts tackle the climate emergency. 

The SNP has also renewed calls on Boris Johnson to agree a two-year extension to the transition period - warning that the Tory government's failure in the Brexit talks is threatening the economy.

South Lanarkshire voted to remain in the European Union, along with every other local authority in Scotland. Not one voted for Brexit.

Brexit must not mean a race to the bottom on environmental standards – which is why the Scottish Government is rightly seeking to keep pace with European regulations.

The UK is already facing the worst economic crisis in decades – yet the Tories are determined to crash out of the transition period this year, imposing yet more uncertainty on Scottish businesses during a global health emergency.

The SNP believe the best future for Scotland is as an independent member of the EU - but this Bill will enable us to keep pace with Europe in devolved areas and will complement Scotland’s world-leading ambitions to tackle climate change.
 
Child Maintenance Service
Campaigners have called for a review of the Child Maintenance Service and for effective enforcement action to be taken in the collection of maintenance arrears – calls that have repeatedly been made by my colleague, campaigning SNP MP Marion Fellows. The Motherwell and Wishaw MP has also called for the introduction of a minimum maintenance payment.

This is a shocking situation but it is somehow not really penetrating our collective consciousness. I have often raised it as an issue everywhere from the Scottish Parliamentary Chamber to Women’s Aid, or from Gingerbread to women’s rights more widely.
 
DWP figures show that 43% of children covered by Collect and Pay – where CMS collects maintenance on parents’ behalf – are not receiving a penny of the maintenance they are legally entitled to. There are £354m of CMS arrears, yet just £31m has been collected through CMS enforcement actions – less than 10% of the figure that is owed.

The single-parent charity Gingerbread says that for families living in poverty, the proper payment of child maintenance could lift 60% out of poverty.
 
Commenting, Marion Fellows MP said: "For years, the UK Government has ignored warnings from myself and others that the Child Maintenance Service is totally unfit for purpose in the collection of arrears and that it requires a root and branch review. I’m glad that campaigners are taking the fight to the UK Government and seeking justice through the courts to get what they and their children are entitled to.
 
"This will be a moment of reckoning for the UK Government. They must heed our calls and introduce a Minimum Maintenance Payment now. Families must be guaranteed a dignified standard of living to prevent them being forced further into poverty, which is currently being exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis.

"Arrears have been allowed to grow out of control and into hundreds of millions. Families have been forced to turn to foodbanks and into debt, with many having to choose between heating and eating. The abandonment of single-parents – the vast majority of whom are women – and their children has been unacceptable. The UK Government cannot ignore families any longer."
 
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?
The community spirit shown by people across Lanarkshire has been heart-warming. If you would like to offer your help, there are a whole host of new groups working across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

They are working together to help spread cheer and make sure the most vulnerable in our area are getting the necessities they need.

The range of services provided include delivering shopping to elderly or vulnerable neighbours, using online group chats to combat social isolation and loneliness, and handing out care packages to the elderly and vulnerable.

If you are in Hamilton, you can find more information about the Hamilton COVID-19 Warriors here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/213851619986142

If you are in Larkhall, you can find out more information about the COVID-19 Rainbows – Larkhall here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1092656721095368/permalink/1092743704420003

If you are in Stonehouse, you can find out more information about Stonehouse Coronavirus Community Support here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3402877913061116

If you do not have Facebook but are keen to do your bit locally, then feel free to email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I can put you in touch with one of your local groups.

At this time, it has never been more important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.
 
HELP SERVICES AVAILABLE
For Scottish Government information - https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

For NHS Scotland information - https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus

For Resilience planning information - https://www.readyscotland.org/

For young people - https://young.scot/

Parents  https://www.parentclub.scot/ and https://www.children1st.org.uk/help-for-families/parentline-scotland/

For older people - https://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/

 For information on charities and third sector - https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus

For non-domestic rates business support - https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/
 

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.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all working from home. If you need help, phone the office as normal and leave an outline message. Someone will soon get back to you. You can also email me at any time. Att the contact details are at the end of this email.

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.

If you have a friend who might be interested, you can forward this email to them so that they can decide whether or not to subscribe.

Covid-19


While Covid-19 certainly hasn’t gone away, and families all over the country are grieving for their own losses, the Scottish Government is taking a very careful and cautious approach to the safest way forward.
 
Westminster’s enthusiasm for watering down ‘lockdown’ procedures while the UK stands at number three (After the USA and Brazil) in the world count of Covid-19 deaths seems bizarre. Experts argue that the UK figures probably underestimate the true numbers and most agree that it's too soon to relax restrictions so extensively.
 
The First Minister is more cautious. The Scottish Government is not prepared to put lives at risk so as to bolster the economy. But she is optimistic that we can start to move on to Phase Two of the Government’s route map out of lockdown, while carefully monitoring the outcome of changes.
 
All being well, 18 June will allow meetings indoors with one other household permitted, as well as meetings with people from multiple households outside, always following the 2 metre social distancing guidance.


 
Smaller non-essential shops can then reopen, as can beer gardens and outdoor areas of restaurants and cafes.
 
Staff at warehouses and factories would be able to return, and professional sports could restart.
 
But Nicola Sturgeon has stressed that the virus may be in retreat, but it is far from being gone. Moving too quickly could see Covid-19, as she puts it: “roar back with a vengeance” in a second wave.

Shielded people
For those who are shielding, the Scottish Government wants you to stay put at least until 31 July with one change: From 18 June, you will be able to leave your own home for daily exercise.
 

Yes, it’s tough when you want to meet your friends for coffee, or wander around the supermarket, go to your classes, see your family and friends and be able to give them a big hug.
 
There is more detailed updated guidance for those shielding here: https://tinyurl.com/yb257lsm

Leaving Europe
Under cover of Covid-19, many people barely noticed the promise of ‘No Deal’ over Europe.

Michael Gove confirmed there would be no extension beyond 31 December. On Twitter, he said: “I formally confirmed the UK will not extend the transition period & the moment for extension has now passed. On 1 January 2021 we will take back control and regain our political and economic independence."
 
This, as the SNP has argued all along, is complete madness and is thrust upon us in spite of Scotland decisively voting to remain in Europe. Our voice was not heard. The vote cast by a ‘family of nations’ produced a tiny margin small in favour of leaving.
 
After talking to Boris Johnson at Bute House last July, the First Minister said: “It is clear to me that the UK government is on a dangerous path to a catastrophic exit from the EU.

“I was a very lively exchange" she added. Johnson reiterated his total opposition to any movement on Scottish independence and it sounds as if the “robust exchange” reiterated Tory deafness to Scottish input on anything.

Our First Minister has the depth of political insight that Westminster so lacks.
 
Here, briefly, are a few of the ways in which you and I will quickly see changes after 31 December – just six months’ time. There are many others to come, not least the anticipated fall in the value of the pound against the Euro which will make everything more expensive for us. It will, in particular, hit UK pensioners living in the EU. Their pensions will diminish in value.
 

  1. What you can find on supermarket shelves will contract and what there is will probably cost more. Almost 30% of our food comes from the EU, so it’s likely that everything from Dutch tomatoes, Danish butter, Spanish strawberries or French cheese will be harder to find and more expensive. Even food like avocados, bananas, peppers, melons come to us via the bilateral agreements set up with the EU and the UK will no longer be able to access those free market systems.
  2. Shoppers planning to buy from companies based in the EU have been warned that credit and debit card charges may be higher and take longer. Tariffs, customs and delivery charges may need to be factored in.
  3. Border controls will likely mean that UK citizens will face long queues at Passport Control while watching EU, EEA and Swiss citizens alongside move much more rapidly.
  4. You will lose your right to live, be educated and work freely in any EU country.
  5. The automatic healthcare available throughout the EU under the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will stop. Travellers will need to have solid insurance to cover them and this will become much more expensive because that EHIC cover will have gone.
  6. You will need to carry a ‘green card’ if you intend to drive in the EU. You will need a GB sticker and probably an International Driving Permit.
  7. Bringing your pets on holiday will become much more difficult because travellers will not have access to the EU Pet Passport scheme. That will mean additional expense and at least 4 months preparation for every trip.
  8. The question of medication availability at home has already caused anxiety. Though home to giants like GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, the UK pharma sector employs less than half the number of people it does in Germany for example. At the very least, supplies could face disruption on arrival into UK ports. About 12,000 medicines are used by the NHS and about 7,000 of those come via the EU.

Covid-19 and ethnic minorities
The Scottish Government has announced an expert group to examine the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minority communities in Scotland.

Academics and Scottish Government officials will consider evidence gathered by Public Health Scotland, National Records of Scotland and the NHS and will make recommendations on policy actions to address inequalities.



Nicola Sturgeon said that she hoped the group would “take full account of the needs and experiences of our ethnic minority communities.”

Public Health Scotland published preliminary evidence in May from an investigation into the adverse impact of Covid-19 on minority communities, finding “no signal of increased risk of Covid-19 to people from an ethnic minority in Scotland”.

However, the study acknowledged that “low volume and incomplete data limits the conclusion we can draw at this time.”

The First Minister noted that other studies from around the UK and other parts of the world did find evidence of ethnic minorities having worse health outcomes, as well as being hit harder by the economic impact of the lockdown.

She also said that the Scottish Government may add additional funding on top of the £500,000 already awarded to organisations that work with ethnic minority communities.

In my role as Equalities Minister I said: “The Scottish Government is deeply concerned by reports that suggest people from ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 both in terms of health and wider social and economic impacts.

“Although the current analysis in Scotland appears to show that there is not a higher level of Covid-19 cases than would be expected, I understand that many people will be anxious about protecting themselves and their families. I want to reassure them that we are taking this issue extremely seriously.

“We are working to better understand the data on how the pandemic is impacting on our minority ethnic communities in Scotland so we can take the appropriate action and this new group will use their expertise to challenge, inform and shape future work.

“Equality and human rights issues such as this are at the heart of our policy response to the impact of COVID-19, and in particular in our recovery and renewal work. This is part of our wider work to advance race equality, backed by over £2.6m in the last year.”
 
Closer to home
Away from national and international news, we at home in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse are managing our homes, families and work lives as best we can.
 
With Covid overshadowing everything, the community just cannot have the kinds of activities we would normally see at this time of year. Even the big school exams are off the desk and while for some that might be reason to rejoice, for those about to undertake Standards or Highers, the route ahead is suddenly much less predictable.
 
I was delighted to see that the Scottish Government is bringing more funding to help pupils in deprived areas, including Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to improve attainment.
 
South Lanarkshire Council will receive £1,963,488 investment specifically directed towards pupils from deprived backgrounds.
 
This extra money comes from a £50m package that is in addition to the £250m Pupil Equity Funding announced in May for the next two years and an investment of £9m to provide 25,000 laptops to assist pupils learning at home.
 
It’s great news and reinforces the SNP’s determination to close the poverty-related attainment gap and to put achieving that goal front and centre of our plans to improve education.

Students facing hardship
Students facing hardship this summer due to COVID-19 can now receive financial support within a package of new measures.

The Scottish Government has brought forward early access to £11.4m of discretionary funds - support for higher education students in financial difficulty – to be administered by colleges and universities.

Unlike continuing higher education students, most former further education students can receive benefits if they are unemployed. Colleges will now have flexibility to offer discretionary funds to bridge the timing gap between bursary payments ending in June and Universal Credit payments starting.

Scottish students studying in Europe as part of EU Portability or historically arranged schemes will be able to access a £100,000 emergency fund administered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS).

SAAS has also suspended all new debt recovery actions in respect to grants and bursaries until September for students whose circumstances have changed and may have to return overpayments. Students are encouraged to contact SAAS to discuss what help is available.

Hamilton CAB
I am delighted to be able to say that Hamilton CAB is bringing nine of its experienced Volunteer Advisers back to work – from home of course.



A spokesperson said: “Over the next couple of weeks we are getting them set up with mobile phones and laptops (huge thanks to Scottish Government Wellbeing Fund) so they can join the weekly rota of home based advisers.
 
“They have already held a Zoom meeting, with more planned, to ensure they are fully inducted into our new working arrangements. Supported by Jen and Michelle they will bring much needed capacity to our fabulous team.”
 
Ferniegair Wastewater Treatment Works Update 
I have received some news from Scottish Water regarding the Wastewater Treatment Works at Ferniegair.
 
They have now submitted a planning application to South Lanarkshire Council to expand and future proof the capacity of the facility for new housing in the area. This should not see an increase in the actual boundaries of the site area.
 
Alongside this they have changed how they handle some of the site works in an effort to deal with some of the noise issues as part of ongoing work.
 
 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?
The community spirit shown by people across Lanarkshire has been heart-warming. If you would like to offer your help, there are a whole host of new groups working across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

They are working together to help spread cheer and make sure the most vulnerable in our area are getting the necessities they need.

The range of services provided include delivering shopping to elderly or vulnerable neighbours, using online group chats to combat social isolation and loneliness, and handing out care packages to the elderly and vulnerable.

If you are in Hamilton, you can find more information about the Hamilton COVID-19 Warriors here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/213851619986142

If you are in Larkhall, you can find out more information about the COVID-19 Rainbows – Larkhall here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1092656721095368/permalink/1092743704420003

If you are in Stonehouse, you can find out more information about Stonehouse Coronavirus Community Support here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3402877913061116

If you do not have Facebook but are keen to do your bit locally, then feel free to email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I can put you in touch with one of your local groups.

At this time, it has never been more important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.
 
HELP SERVICES AVAILABLE
For Scottish Government information - https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

For NHS Scotland information - https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus

For Resilience planning information - https://www.readyscotland.org/

For young people - https://young.scot/

For parents  https://www.parentclub.scot/ and https://www.children1st.org.uk/help-for-families/parentline-scotland/

For older people - https://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/

 For information on charities and third sector - https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus

For non-domestic rates business support - https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/

 

 

 

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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.

There aren't any constituency surgeries at the moment, but you can still contact my office if you need help of any kind. Staff are working from home, but i f you leave a message, someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

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.

 

Covid-19 Test and Protect
A survey has found a high level of support for testing measures to control the spread of coronavirus in Scotland.

 

The survey, carried out days before NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect was rolled out across the country, showed 91% of adults in Scotland recognised the importance of testing while 89% agreed that staying home helped to save lives. In total 88% said they would want a test if at all possible if they developed symptoms, and 88% would be happy to provide details of people with whom they had been in contact.

Under the system, people will need to isolate with their household as soon as they have symptoms and get tested straight away through NHSInform.scot. If they have a positive test result, they will be asked to provide details of all recent close contacts to NHS contact tracers, and those people will be contacted and asked to isolate for 14 days.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Test and Protect is an essential step in our response to Covid-19. We are taking this step now because it's the appropriate thing to do for this stage of the virus.

 

“As with lockdown, we need everyone to take this next step very seriously. They have done this so far, and I am very confident they will step up to show the same spirit of solidarity and care for each other as before.

“It is a collective national endeavour. People will need the help of family, friends, colleagues and employers. But support from us and our local authority partners will be available for anyone who needs extra help to self-isolate.

“If we all agree that some of us will have to stay home at times - when we have symptoms, test positive, or have been in contact with someone who tests positive - we can gradually move away from a situation where everyone has to stay home all of the time.”

The aim of this updated system is to be able to move from containing coronavirus to actively suppressing it which would allow our society and economy to avoid a return to lockdown.

The system operates by identifying cases of COVID-19 and tracing anyone who may have been in close contact with the infected person.

These people will then be supported to self-isolate which means they are less likely to infect anyone else with the virus.

This means that even if you have no symptoms but have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive to the virus you will be asked by the NHS to self-isolate.

Everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be put in touch with their local contact tracing team, so that other close contacts can be identified. These close contacts, as well as household contacts, will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 – a new cough, fever, or a loss and/or change of taste and/or smell – you must self-isolate at home for 7 days.

If you live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive, you will be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

If you have symptoms, contact the NHS to arrange to be tested at 0800 028 2816 or on the NHS Inform website at https://www.nhsinform.scot/

When self isolating you should remain at home and DO NOT go to work, school, public areas or go to buy food or other essentials.

When self-isolating you should:

  • stay at least 2 metres (6 feet, or 3 steps) away from other people in your home
  • stay in a different room from other people in your home, ensuring it is well-ventilated
  • sleep alone in a separate bed
  • spend as little time as possible in shared areas (sitting room, kitchen, bathroom)
  • avoid using your kitchen while others are present
  • use a separate towel to dry your hands after you wash them; and
  • clean your kitchen, bathroom and other surfaces throughout the house every day

We will only be able to avoid a return to lockdown with your help. If we can suppress the spread of the virus by following the guidelines and self-isolating when we need to then we the restrictions we are facing can continue to be eased.
 
Moving to Phase 1
Changes to Scotland’s lockdown restrictions were confirmed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on 28 May.

While some outdoor activity restrictions will ease as of Friday, the public are still urged to stay at home as much as possible and maintain strict physical distancing when outdoors.

From 29 May, two households will be allowed to meet in outdoor spaces up to a suggested maximum of eight people. However, it is important that physical distancing and hygiene rules are maintained.

 

Announcing the measures, the First Minister said: “The only reason the Scottish Government can make these changes [today] is because of the sacrifices that all of you have made. So thank you, to each and every one of you.

“No change will be risk free - and there are no certainties. While I am confident of that, there is also the chance that even these limited changes will lead to much greater change in reality.

“So please act within the rules. Be respectful of each other’s space, be kind, be prepared for things to be very different and remember that each individual decision you take affects the wellbeing of all of us. How well we follow these practices now determines whether we can go further in the future. We can only take these steps towards a less restricted lifestyle, and then consider taking further steps, if people continue to obey the guidance.

“My advice is to stay home as much as possible – the virus has not gone away. If you have symptoms, get tested; wash your hands and surfaces regularly; and if you do meet family or a friend stay outdoors. Don’t put them or yourself at risk.

“People who are shielding will be well into their third month of isolation, of not being able to leave the house at all. They are uppermost in our thoughts as we think about how to safely come out of lockdown and we’ll provide more information for them in the coming weeks.
“We can only take these steps towards a less restricted lifestyle because people have, overwhelmingly, stuck to the guidance. And we will be able to take more steps more quickly in the future – if we continue to do the right thing, and to stick to the rules.”

Measures introduced in Phase 1 and in place now include:

  • One household can now meet up with another outdoors. This can be in one household’s garden, but physical distancing is still required. It is expected households will only meet one other household within the same day and up to a recommended maximum of eight people in the overall group.
  • Public outdoor spaces can now be used for recreational purposes, for example to sit in a park, sunbathe or have a picnic. People should not share food and drink between households and should avoid using shared facilities like toilets. If eating, each household should bring their own food separately and avoid sharing utensils, dishes or cups and use a hand sanitiser before eating. Physical distancing between households should be maintained at all times.
  • You can now travel short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise but should remain in your local area, suggested to be five miles from your house, although we ask people to use their judgement. People are encouraged to walk, wheel or cycle where possible.

  • Staff can return to schools subject to risk assessments and appropriate physical distancing and hygiene measures being in place to support this. This is to plan and prepare for the new blended model of learning to be implemented from 11 August.
  • Child minding services and fully outdoor nursery provision will be available, although capacity will be limited. Both measures will be subject to increased hygiene measures, small group working and physical distancing of adults.
  • Most outdoor workplaces to resume with physical distancing measures in place once guidance is agreed, including horticulture, landscaping and garden centres, forestry and environmental management. Associated cafes should not reopen at this stage except for take-away and physical distancing measures should be followed.
  • The construction sector is expected to be able to implement the first phase in its restart plan. A move to ‘phase 2’ of the construction sector’s plan will follow consultation with government to ensure it is safe to do so in line with public health advice.

  • Food outlets, restaurants and cafes are able to provide delivery, take-away and drive-through food options in line with guidance and complying with safe physical distancing measures.
  • Unrestricted outdoor exercise and some non-contact outdoor activities within the local area – such as golf, outdoor tennis and angling – can resume provided physical distancing is followed. It does not mean that taking part will always be safe. You should use judgement and take part only if you can do so safely, maintaining physical distancing and not putting yourself or others at risk.
  • Household Waste Recycling Centres will begin to reopen. Sites must operate safely, ensuring physical distancing is maintained, and should only be visited when absolutely necessary to minimise journeys.

South Lanarkshire Council - June 1

Carluke Household Waste and Recycling Centre
East Kilbride Waste and Recycling Centre
Eastfield Waste and Recycling Centre
Hamilton and Blantyre Waste and Recycling Centre
Larkhall Waste and Recycling Centre
Strathaven Waste and Recycling Centre
 

A virtual Parliament at Westminster
MPs will descend upon the House of Commons on Tuesday. The uproar there is Boris Johnson’s preferred environment; it suits his bluster and his tendency to toss out unproven information.


 
For the SNP the end to virtual participation is ‘unworkable and unsustainable’ according to a report from the Procedure Committee. MPs will still need to sit two metres apart and they will be unable to vote because, as Speaker Lindsay Hoyle confirmed, “the House simply cannot conduct divisions safely via the lobbies.”
 

Commenting, SNP Shadow Leader of the House Tommy Sheppard MP said:

"Boris Johnson's plans to shut down virtual participation in Parliament are a total shambles - they are unworkable, unsustainable and unravelling further by the day.

"The SNP has been clear from the start that virtual participation must continue - that is the best way to do our jobs and protect public health, in line with the guidance across the four nations.

"The Tories have some serious questions to answer. Instead of accepting the cross-party consensus to retain hybrid proceedings, they are forcing MPs from across the UK to travel hundreds of miles to Westminster - and all because the Prime Minister isn't very good at his job and wants to be surrounded by braying backbench Tory MPs.

"It just goes to show how broken the Westminster system is – many MPs from Scotland and elsewhere, through no choice of their own, will find themselves locked out of Parliament as quarantine and self-isolation requirements continue.

"SNP MPs will continue to press for full virtual participation and we urge the Tories to scrap and reverse their botched plans. If they do not, we will balance protecting public health and Scotland's democratic voice by sending the minimum number of MPs required to hold the UK government to account, while the majority of MPs will work in their constituencies and committees that meet remotely.

"Yet again, Westminster is failing Scotland. It has been proven that MPs can safely and effectively work remotely using virtual technology, and the only way to ensure equality of representation during this crisis is to reintroduce virtual votes and debates. Once this crisis is over it will be all the more important that the people of Scotland have the choice to shake off Westminster for good and build a better future as an independent country."

Commenting, SNP Shadow Leader of the House Tommy Sheppard MP said:

"Boris Johnson's plans to shut down virtual participation in Parliament are a total shambles - they are unworkable, unsustainable and unravelling further by the day.

"The SNP has been clear from the start that virtual participation must continue - that is the best way to do our jobs and protect public health, in line with the guidance across the four nations.

"The Tories have some serious questions to answer. Instead of accepting the cross-party consensus to retain hybrid proceedings, they are forcing MPs from across the UK to travel hundreds of miles to Westminster - and all because the Prime Minister isn't very good at his job and wants to be surrounded by braying backbench Tory MPs.

"It just goes to show how broken the Westminster system is – many MPs from Scotland and elsewhere, through no choice of their own, will find themselves locked out of Parliament as quarantine and self-isolation requirements continue.

"SNP MPs will continue to press for full virtual participation and we urge the Tories to scrap and reverse their botched plans. If they do not, we will balance protecting public health and Scotland's democratic voice by sending the minimum number of MPs required to hold the UK government to account, while the majority of MPs will work in their constituencies and committees that meet remotely.

"Yet again, Westminster is failing Scotland. It has been proven that MPs can safely and effectively work remotely using virtual technology, and the only way to ensure equality of representation during this crisis is to reintroduce virtual votes and debates. Once this crisis is over it will be all the more important that the people of Scotland have the choice to shake off Westminster for good and build a better future as an independent country."

Calls for post-coronavirus blueprint to help Hamilton
I’m delighted to be playing a part in starting up new local discussions about protecting jobs and helping Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse towards post-virus recovery.
 
While of course we’re not yet out of this pandemic, we do have a meaningful opportunity for politicians, business leaders and other stakeholders to work together positively for the good of all the communities we serve.
 
If we can create an agreed blueprint in preparation for improving conditions, then we will be ready to move immediately, unlike the Westminster Government when the pandemic first arrived.
 
Had it headed the warnings and acted more quickly, lives could have been saved and PPE dispatched quickly to every location in need of it.
We already have a solid foundation in our Hamilton Town Centre Action Plan. In fresh joint discussions, we can build a post-Covid plan.
 
Boy Scout motto: ‘Be prepared’ is sound advice.
 
Foodbanks
A reminder that our foodbanks urgently need items including:

  • UHT MILK
  • SUGAR
  • DILUTING JUICE
  • TINNED FRUIT
  • TINNED RICE PUDDING / CUSTARD
  • TINNED TOMATOES
  • TINNED FISH
  • TINNED VEG
  • PASTA / RICE
  • COFFEE / TEA
  • BISCUITS / CHOCOLATE
  • TOLIETRIES 

Covid-19 has increased pressure on foodbanks hugely. Many people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse have lost jobs in retail, in hospitality and pretty much every sector, while many more are just about hanging on under the furlough scheme but even that is under threat. If Westminster withdraws 20% from the present 80% payment, then a host more jobs will go overnight. Businesses, except the few multi-nationals, just can’t afford to pay even 20% of the wage bill while they cannot trade.
 
You can donate items for the Hamilton foodbank at any of these locations:
 
Asda, Palace Grounds Road, Hamilton
 
Co-op, Mill Road, Hamilton
 
Co-op, Larkhall
 
Asda, Larkhall
 
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?
The community spirit shown by people across Lanarkshire has been heart-warming. If you would like to offer your help, there are a whole host of new groups working across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

They are working together to help spread cheer and make sure the most vulnerable in our area are getting the necessities they need.

The range of services provided include delivering shopping to elderly or vulnerable neighbours, using online group chats to combat social isolation and loneliness, and handing out care packages to the elderly and vulnerable.

If you are in Hamilton, you can find more information about the Hamilton COVID-19 Warriors here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/213851619986142

If you are in Larkhall, you can find out more information about the COVID-19 Rainbows – Larkhall here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1092656721095368/permalink/1092743704420003

If you are in Stonehouse, you can find out more information about Stonehouse Coronavirus Community Support here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3402877913061116

If you do not have Facebook but are keen to do your bit locally, then feel free to email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I can put you in touch with one of your local groups.

At this time, it has never been more important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.
 
HELP SERVICES AVAILABLE
For Scottish Government information - https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

For NHS Scotland information - https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus

For Resilience planning information - https://www.readyscotland.org/

For young people - https://young.scot/

For parents  https://www.parentclub.scot/ and https://www.children1st.org.uk/help-for-families/parentline-scotland/

For older people - https://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/

 For information on charities and third sector - https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus

For non-domestic rates business support - https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/

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Keeping up with you

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

In these difficult times, with most of our normal activity at a standstill, it's difficult to share with you much about what is happening in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

But keep going. It will pass. The more we avoid anything that might increase the spread of Covid-19, the sooner we will be able to begin returning to our normal lives.

I can't carry out local surgeries for now, but if you have an issue, please do seek support by phoning the normal office number 01698 403 310 or you can email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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.

 
COVID – 19
We may all be a bit weary of the restrictions on our movement, the closed shops and our inability to go to the gym, wander around the park for hours with a handful of pals, go to a football match or enjoy your leisure time as you normally would is helping to save lives.
 
It is essential for all of us to hang on in there, not only for the sake of others but for our own sake too.


 
The Scottish Government has published an outline of the circumstances under which the lockdown may be gradually lifted and I urge everyone to take the time to read the document.
 


It is vital that any decision to ease restrictions is based on the best scientific advice possible – but we are in uncharted territory and we must be prepared to adapt. That might mean having to reapply restrictions after they are lifted.
 
It is only when we are sure the virus is under control that we can even start to ease any of the restrictions because the virus will not have gone away.
 
In the coming days and weeks members of the public will be invited to contribute their thoughts and views on the next steps we must make together.

Even with this guidance, it is crucial we still follow social distancing.  That means staying at home, maintaining physical distance (2 metres/ 6 feet), washing hands and good hygiene remain the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of facial coverings must not be considered an alternative to any of these most important precautions.

The Scottish Government has stressed that face covering do not mean surgical or other medical grade masks, instead a piece of fabric such as cloth or other textiles which cover the mouth and nose and are able to breathe through such as a scarf.

It is also important to note that you wash your hands first to avoid touching your face. After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or dispose of safely. Face coverings should not be used for children under the age of two years and may not be appropriate for those with certain health conditions - for example asthma.

You can find lots more information about aspects of Covid-19 on my Facebook page.
 
Supporting victims of domestic abuse
As you all know, I've been a powerful voice for the interests of anyone who is a victim of some kind of domestic abuse.

I have been challenging this kind of abuse - and it takes very many forms - for many, many years. It has, and always will be, an issue close to my heart. I have met with so many people who have been on the wrong side of domestic abuse, I have developed not only an empathy but an understanding of just how important it is that we squeeze out this criminal behviour.

Social isolation measures put in place to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) may be adding pressure to those in abusive domestic situations.

No one experiencing this kind of violence can be ignored. There is no excuse for isolation or helplessness among victims of this horrific abuse.

All of the essential services for anyone in that kind of situation are up and available. Do not,, for one moment, feel that in the current time, your issues are any less important than Covid-19. Get in touch with people who can help you. There are contact points listed at the end of this Newsletter, or contact me directly.

Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline is available on 0800 027 1234 or visit sdafmh.org.uk to email or webchat. Visit Safer.Scot for further information.

Our foodbanks need donations
If you can spare some tins and long-life product to help the Hamilton District Food Bank, I urge you to donate them to people for whom the lockdown has taken or reduced their incomes. Many people are falling through the cracks and can’t get help from the existing support mechanisms. That can leave families struggling to put food on the table.
 
Some 90% of the food distributed comes from public donations, so to coin someone else’s catch phrase, ‘every little helps.’
 

Most needed foods are:
UHT milk
Sugar
Diluting juice
Tinned fruit
Tinned rice pudding/custard
Tinned tomatoes
Tinned fish
Tinned veg
Pasta/rice
Coffee/tea
Biscuits/chocolate
Toiletries
 
You can go to the Facebook page. Look for Hamilton District Foodbank.
 
If you are happy to drop off food donations there are trolleys located in Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s & Co-Op in Hamilton and Asda in Blantyre. You can also drop off at any of the Foodbank centres during the opening times. The Hamilton District one is at 22 Townhead Street.
 
Price gouging
You may not have heard the phrase, but you'll have seen - and felt - the impact of crazed price inflation for items in high demand.

There will always be firms out to raise a quick buck out of a tragic situation. I have heard numerous accounts of people paying out ridiculous amounts of money to get a hand sanitiser or a couple of toilet rolls.
 
Campaigning SNP MP Owen Thompson has called for UK government action to help prevent unjustifiable hikes in prices of essential items by online retailers during emergencies.
 


The call comes after reports of excessive prices were being charged for in-demand items such as cleaning products and baby formula during the Covid-19 crisis - particularly through online marketplaces such as Ebay and Amazon. Which? found a 1000% increase from the typical price on products like Dettol cleaning spray by some third-party sellers online - and in response has launched an app whereby consumers can report price gouging.
 
The Midlothian MP has welcomed the app and said that stronger regulations are required to enable the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate and take more effective action to tackle the issue. Mr Thompson has tabled a series of parliamentary questions to the Chancellor on the issue of price gouging.
 
Commenting, Owen Thompson MP said: “Making excessive profits on high demand products during a global health crisis is disgraceful. I’ve heard too many reports of sellers charging ridiculous prices for things like cleaning spray since the crisis began.
 
“Many vulnerable people may feel they have no choice but to stump up, while others go without. It could prevent charities and keyworkers accessing the products they need – and could ultimately cost lives. Stronger action is needed to stop this kind of unscrupulous practice.
 
“I welcome the launch from the consumer champions Which? of a tool to help people more easily report coronavirus profiteering and would urge constituents to report any incidences they come across.
 
“I am urging the big online marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay to do more to monitor what their sellers are charging and take action when bad practice is found.
 
“There is still a lack of existing legislation to protect from price gouging, however, and this is something that needs tackled. The UK government must take the necessary steps to give Competition and Markets Authority the powers it needs to investigate and take stronger action on this. That way we can protect people now and in any future emergency by keeping prices reasonable.”



The Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA) is the watchdog body and it has set up a coronavirus taskforce to crack down on companies that cash in during the outbreak by bumping up prices or exploiting people’s fears with misleading claims about products.
 
The Authority says it has already been in contact with traders and online  trading platforms about excessive pricing of hand sanitiser, sales of which have soared as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

Action, say the CMA, will be taken against firms that breach consumer protection or competition laws if they do not respond to warnings. The taskforce will also advise government on emergency legislation if problems cannot be addressed through existing powers.

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, said: “This is obviously a time when we all have to behave responsibly to protect our fellow citizens, and particularly those who are most vulnerable. We urge retailers to behave responsibly in the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 outbreak.



“But if they do not, our taskforce is monitoring market developments to enable us to intervene as quickly as possible. We have a range of options at our disposal, from warnings to enforcement action to seeking emergency powers. We hope that such action will not be necessary but we will do whatever is required to stop a small minority of businesses that may seek to exploit the present situation.”

Report the scammers
Another group keen to exploit public misery are the scammers. I’m encouraging people in South Lanarkshire to be aware of scams following an increase in reports across Scotland about scam emails, text messages and doorstep callers.



Police Scotland has now launched a new ‘Shut Out Scammers’ resource to protect the public and businesses from COVID-19 related scams. The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has also launched an email reporting service, which the public can use to report any suspicious activity.
 
While the community response to the coronavirus outbreak in South Lanarkshire has been overwhelmingly positive, it's disappointing to see a few individuals taking advantage of the situation with unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages. 
 
During this coronavirus crisis, everyone in South Lanarkshire should take extra care to ensure that they only share information from trusted sources, ask for identification from all doorstep callers, and never hand over any personal information.
 
It’s vital that people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse remain vigilant against scams during this challenging time and report any suspicious activity to the relevant authorities.
 
Universal basic income for all 
Our SNP colleagues in Westminster are pressing hard for a Universal Basic Income for all as the right way forward, not only now but as the economy starts to recover post-Covid-19. Drew Hendry SNP MP, says: “A universal basic income will help settle economic stability and lead to increased spending in local economies, supporting businesses and communities.
 


“UK Government schemes such as the 'Job Retention Scheme' have been a welcome lifeline to a lot of people. Their financial woes are on ice because they have a temporary safety net.

“Yet still, insecurity remains.  Sure, they can benefit from 80% of their wages, but people don't routinely save 20% of their salaries. With their household income reduced, any savings on regular transport costs can quickly be eaten up by higher domestic bills.

“And they are the lucky ones. Just think of what it's like for those who rely on seasonal work, people who have been working in the gig economy and the newly self-employed. They find themselves having to live off the woefully inadequate 'Universal Credit' social security payment. That's after they wait over two weeks for a call-back, with a further five-week wait for payment.”
 
Universal Credit Claims
Household claims for Universal Credit in Scotland have increased from an average of 20,000 per month in 2019 to over 110,000 between 1 March and 7 April, highlighting the impact the pandemic is having on people’s finances.



That’s why the Scottish Government, in partnership with the Citizens Advice network, is launching a new campaign to raise awareness of the financial support available to people.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “This huge increase in claims for Universal Credit demonstrates just how many people across the country are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These are difficult and worrying times for everyone, with many people requiring financial support for the first time and even more pressure on those who were already struggling to make ends meet.

“It is welcome that people are claiming the support that they are entitled to from the DWP, and I would encourage people to look into what additional help is available. Even if you are not entitled to Universal Credit, there could be other assistance that you can access so it is worth checking.

“That’s why we’ve been working with the Citizens Advice network in Scotland to create this central source of information - with everything from guidance on benefits, right through to what you can do if you are worried about paying your mortgage or rent.”



Citizens Advice Scotland Chief Executive Derek Mitchell said: “The Citizens Advice network in Scotland is known for always being there to help and the support we give will be more important than ever to help people avoid getting into crisis. There may also be lots of people who have never used our services before and it’s crucial that they know our information and advice is there for them too.

“Our national network of Citizens Advice Bureaux is still operating for those who need it – if you have been financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help make sure you have access to all the income you are entitled to, as well as giving tailored advice about what’s on offer within local communities across Scotland.

“There’s increased demand for our advice on financial services, that’s why we’ve created dedicated COVID-19 content online so people get the information they need 24/7 and from the comfort of their own homes.

“We’ve also got a dedicated helpline for people who might not be able to access our services online. If you have been financially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and require free, confidential, financial support, please visit cas.org.uk or call 0800 028 1456.

“Local Citizens Advice Bureaux are situated around the country. To find your local service, simply enter your postcode at https://www.cas.org.uk/bureaux 
 
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?
The community spirit shown by people across Lanarkshire has been heart-warming. If you would like to offer your help, there are a whole host of new groups working across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

They are working together to help spread cheer and make sure the most vulnerable in our area are getting the necessities they need.

The range of services provided include delivering shopping to elderly or vulnerable neighbours, using online group chats to combat social isolation and loneliness, and handing out care packages to the elderly and vulnerable.

If you are in Hamilton, you can find more information about the Hamilton COVID-19 Warriors here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/213851619986142

If you are in Larkhall, you can find out more information about the COVID-19 Rainbows – Larkhall here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1092656721095368/permalink/1092743704420003

If you are in Stonehouse, you can find out more information about Stonehouse Coronavirus Community Support here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3402877913061116

If you do not have Facebook but are keen to do your bit locally, then feel free to email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I can put you in touch with one of your local groups.


At this time, it has never been more important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.
 
HELP SERVICES AVAILABLE
For Scottish Government information - https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

For NHS Scotland information - https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus

For Resilience planning information - https://www.readyscotland.org/

For young people - https://young.scot/

For parents  https://www.parentclub.scot/ and https://www.children1st.org.uk/help-for-families/parentline-scotland/

For older people - https://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/

 For information on charities and third sector - https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus

For non-domestic rates business support - https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/

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.

 

Covid-19
It’s some surreal sci-fi movie where the aliens are taking over the planet, isn’t it? Of course not, yet even though we all know that and have learned to comprehend the realities, we still have people who will selfishly refuse to accept the rules. They don’t seem to perceive the damage they are doing, the death threat they are adding to.
 

 

So it grieves me to discover that Lanarkshire is the fourth largest area in the country for people breaking lockdown rules.
 
While most of us comply with social distancing rules, accepting (if not particularly enjoying) that we all need to care for one another and staying at home is the only way to do that effectively
 
Yet people flout the guidance. Police have so far handed out more than 144 penalty notices to offenders in Scotland, 17 of them in Lanarkshire.
 
According to media sources, dozens of cars filled with families were in the car park at Chatelherault a few days ago, ignoring the many times repeated warnings to stay at home.

The regulations have not been set down out of some sort of aggression; they exist for the protection of everyone. For a small minority to threaten the lives of the many is irresponsible and cruel as well as incomprehensible.
 
David Booth, General Manager of South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture, has been in touch with the police who are now running spot checks at the entrance. They have been giving out advice as well as Fixed Penalty Notices.

 

 

There is now no access for any vehicles other than emergency ones.

Remember and pay attention to the rules: go out for a nearby walk with members of your own household only.

Don’t take the car off to some scenic park or beach and start chatting to other visitors.

Helping the most vulnerable
For those of us who are in the highest risk category, who are ‘shielding’ from the virus for at least 12 weeks, getting essentials can be a challenge.

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced in Sunday’s briefing that the Government is providing an extra £38m for local authorities to address local needs in ways they feel are most appropriate and urgent in their own areas.

These are the people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse who have existing medical issues that mean catching the virus could be fatal for them. The reasons could be old age, diabetes, immune suppressant drugs, MS, MND, cancer or heart conditions for example.

 

At an earlier Scottish Government briefing, the First Minister announced an initiative allowing this group of people to receive deliveries of food and other essential items through a text messaging service.

This is great news. While family and friends are a great support for some, others may not have access to that kind of help.

 

 

Information on how to register for the service was included in a letter to people in the ‘shielded’ group. Already, more that 8000 people have signed up.

The First Minister has asked everyone who receives the letter to sign up for the service.

She said: “You might not feel you need help right now, you might have family and friends who are providing the support you need.

“But registering now will help us to keep in touch with you if you need help later on.”

Universal Credit


The muddle, chaos and general misery around the entire Universal Credit scheme has yet again been exhibited. 

In Westminster, the SNP MPs have been highlighting the failures that are emerging alongside a million new applications in the last two weeks.

 

My colleague, SNP Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Neil Gray MP has rightly said: "The staggering news that almost a million people have applied for Universal Credit in the past fortnight alone highlights the huge scale of the crisis we face - and proves beyond doubt that more support is needed.

"The UK government must listen to those of us who have been calling for welfare protections to be significantly strengthened to help people through this unprecedented emergency.

"The SNP has repeatedly called for the Chancellor to introduce a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. That is the simplest way to ensure everyone has the support they need. It is clear that the current jobs retention and self-employed schemes are failing to cover everyone.

"A huge proportion of the popuation is worried about how they are going to make ends meet. Every MP will have constituents who are desperate for greater help. The UK Government rightly brought in the rules to keep people socially isolated but they must now match that by protecting their incomes. With Universal Credit they have not done nearly enough.

"The flaws in the UK's welfare system are not new - but the scale of this crisis means they must now be urgently addressed so millions are not left struggling to get by."

 

Would you like to help?

The community spirit shown by people across Lanarkshire has been heart-warming. If you would like to offer your help, there are a whole host of new groups working across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

They are working together to help spread cheer and make sure the most vulnerable in our area are getting the necessities they need.

The range of services provided include delivering shopping to elderly or vulnerable neighbours, using online group chats to combat social isolation and loneliness, and handing out care packages to the elderly and vulnerable.

If you are in Hamilton, you can find more information about the Hamilton COVID-19 Warriors here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/213851619986142


If you are in Larkhall, you can find out more information about the COVID-19 Rainbows – Larkhall here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1092656721095368/permalink/1092743704420003


If you are in Stonehouse, you can find out more information about Stonehouse Coronavirus Community Support here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3402877913061116


If you do not have Facebook but are keen to do your bit locally, then feel free to email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I can put you in touch with one of your local groups.

At this time, it has never been more important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.

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 not as open as it normally would be and we are working from home.

If you need help or advice, it's still very much available so  phone or email me at any time.

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.

Covid-19


The Covid-19 virus

Whatever I write just now will be out of date by the time you read it. That much, we can be certain of. The only other certainty in this surreal environment is that it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
 
Expert assessment suggests that the peak of the virus will be around 18 June.
 
We all know the rules and for the most part, people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse will be sticking to the key advice – keep washing your hands, avoid touching your face, don’t shake hands or hug people as you might normally do, avoid crowds anywhere and don’t travel in crowded buses, trains or planes unless it’s genuinely essential.
 
To date, in Scotland, 14 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died.
 
In the Lanarkshire Health Board area, we have 41 cases confirmed but there will be more every day.
 
There may well be more people, perhaps many more, who have the virus but have not been tested, as well as those who have already had the virus and recovered from it.
 
Vulnerable people
We know that people over 70 have been advised to self-isolate for the next three months.

And according to the UK advice, that means staying in your own house but the advice can be very changeable.

Listening to a radio programme, government 'expert' told a 79 year old that certainly "you can take your dog for a walk as normal. It's good for you to be out of doors."

A little later, PM Boris Johnson said than anyone over 70 should remain isolated in their own home and avoid contact with anyone.
 
Anyone with a history of respiratory problems such as asthma or COPD is at high risk. People with weakened immunity as a result of chemotherapy for instance and including everyone who has had a transplant of any kind, will be at high risk regardless of age.
 
If you can reach out to elderly or infirm people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse who are self-isolating, then I would encourage you to do that in a risk-free way. 

If someone needs food or medications delivered, you can speak on the phone (or through the front door!) then leave the items on the doorstep. You should not have physical contact.
 
The Scottish Government
Our devolved powers limit how much our Government can do in this crisis. It was, though, a relief to hear from Boris Johnson with Friday’s package of support to employees unable to work.

They are guaranteed 80% of their normal salary/wage paid by the UK Government. The remaining 20% will hopefully made by employers but they will not be forced to pay this. Still, at least 80% of your normal pay is guaranteed.
 


The self-employed, from window cleaners to high-tech engineers and including a wide group of services suppliers like journalists, couriers, delivery drivers, taxi drivers, mechanics, repair people, farmers and many more are in a different situation entirely.
 
These people have absolutely no employment protection. They pay tax and national insurance but they are not entitled to sick pay or to that 80% pay guarantee by Westminster’s government.
 
Those on zero-hour contracts will be in the same situation, without worker protection.
 
SNP MP Alison Thewliss has said introducing a financial package of support for self-employed and unemployed people "must be a key priority" for the Chancellor this week.



The SNP Shadow Chancellor has repeated calls for an urgent cross-party meeting to discuss the range of measures that should be taken to protect the incomes of freelancers, the self-employed, and unemployed people.
 
Commenting, SNP Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP (above) said:

"Millions of freelancers, self-employed and unemployed people are understandably concerned about their incomes during this unprecedented emergency.

"There is broad consensus that bringing forward a comprehensive financial package of support for self-employed and unemployed people must be a key priority for the Chancellor this week.

"The SNP want the UK government to use the tax and welfare system to introduce a guaranteed income for everyone, raise UK Statutory Sick Pay to the EU average, and strengthen welfare protections by increasing Child Benefit and making Universal Credit more flexible.

"Political parties should get round the table on Monday to ensure all measures are considered and a meaningful financial package can be introduced as soon as possible. I urge the Chancellor to make that happen so we can ensure no one is left behind."
 
Scottish Government funding to support local communities



The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell MSP announced a £350 million package which will be focussed on specifically on mitigating the impact COVID-19 will have on local communities.

The money is designed to dispense with as much red tape as possible to allow areas to feel the benefit as soon as possible. It will be open to councils, charities, businesses and community groups across Scotland.

£95 million of this will go direct to councils with £45 million of that being added to the existing Scottish Welfare Fund which makes Community Grants and Crisis Grants available to those in immediate need.

This more than doubles the current £35.5 million fund, which is administered by local authorities. They will be given more flexibility in how it is used to ensure they can fully support people in financial crisis, including workers in the ‘gig economy’.

In addition:

  • a £70 million Food Fund will help organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors address issues of food insecurity, especially for older people, and families who may not be able to rely on free school meals
  • a £50 million Wellbeing Fund will help charities and others who require additional capacity to work with at-risk people who may be worst affected by the crisis, including homeless people and those experiencing fuel poverty
  • a £40 million Supporting Communities Fund will be used to support the rapidly growing and inspiring community efforts at a local level which will be vital to national resilience, including supporting people at risk because of age, isolation, carers, homeless people and asylum seekers and signposting people to sources of help such as applying for benefits
  • £50 million will go to meet an anticipated increase in applications for the existing Council Tax Reduction Scheme and Scottish social security benefits
  • £20 million will be allocated to a Third Sector Resilience Fund, to help ensure the health and continued viability of the third sector organisations affected by cash flow and other problems, which have a key role to play in our national response
  • £25 million will be kept in reserve to allow swift and flexible responses to rapidly changing circumstances


Hamilton COVID-19 Warriors     
The folk who make up the Hamilton COVID-19 warriors show community support in action. The group formed up just last week to make sure that no one in the community would be left without anywhere to turn. Social distancing can be very isolating and lonely, so having help and support – on the phone, the doorstep, via Skype, Facebook, Twitter – is invaluable.  

I took part in a meeting with local elected members to see how we could help them overcome some of the challenges new volunteer organisations face in this new and uncertain environment. I will continue to work closely with local organisations like the Hamilton COVID-19 warriors. 

You can find some useful guidance on volunteering here: http://www.gcvs.org.uk/blog/community-responses-to-covid-19-do-the-right-thing-safely/

You can find the Hamilton COVID-19 Warriors Facebook page here:https://www.facebook.com/groups/213851619986142/

Helplines
During these challenging and unprecedented times, many of us are going to feel at least unhappy, bored, sometimes thoroughly miserable and depressed.
You are not alone.  Support is out there so long as you know where to seek it. Here is a list of helplines you can reach out to: 
📞 Call Age Scotlandon 0800 12 44 222 for coronavirus advice, help, or simply a friendly voice of support.
📞 Call Breathing Space Scotland on 0800 83 85 87 for listening, advice and information if you're feeling low, stressed or anxious.
📞 Call the Scottish Government's official helpline for businesses on 0300 303 0660 for all questions related to #COVID19financial support and essential advice.
📞 Call the Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 for confidential support from highly-trained female advisers.
📞 Call Healthy Working Lives on 0800 019 2211 for practical advice on health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace.
📞 Call LGBT Helpline Scotland on 0300 123 2523 for information and emotional support, or simply a friendly voice.
📞 Call Shelter Scotlandon 0808 800 444 for advice and answers on homelessness, evictions, housing benefit, repairs and more.
📞 Call Parentline Scotland on 0800 028 2233 for tips, advice and support for parents, or if you simply need to talk.
📞🖥 Email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call my office on 01698 403 311 if you are a constituent and you need help.
 
 
 
Hand sanitizer


You can’t get it anywhere. So The Glasgow Distillery Company stepped up to the problem and offered to make some up and give it away free to both the NHS and places like care homes, homeless hostels, charities helping provide support, and to others who need the product. Other distilleries have offered to follow Glasgow’s lead.
 


But…the idea hit a brick wall when it emerged that Glasgow North MP Patrick Grady (above) was contacted by The Glasgow Distillery Company face the challenge of paying duty on the product even if it’s not being sold - because of the Ethanol/Grain Neutral Spirit (pure alcohol) needed - costing around £20 per litre of hand sanitiser produced.
 
Rather than washing your hands with whisky, Patrick Grady MP has suggested that the Chancellor might offer, in the same ‘spirit,’ a duty waiver so that the distillers can deliver on their kind offer

The change is backed by Scottish Government Finance Secretary Kate Forbes MSP who has written to Rishi Sunak calling for greater flexibility on alcohol tax and regulations for alcoholic drink manufacturers that are now looking to produce hand sanitiser in response to Covid-19.

Commenting, Patrick Grady MP said:

"We know many local companies like Glasgow Distillery are looking to do their bit to tackle Coronavirus and support their communities by producing hand sanitiser. HMRC should be helping them by waiving the duty, which can otherwise make it prohibitive.

"There is a real shortage of hand sanitiser in the quantities needed for our care homes, homeless charities, and other bodies. Small distilleries can help out with this emergency, if the UK government is willing to lift the red tape."



Liam Hughes (above), co-founder and CEO of the distillery said: “Glasgow Distillery and many other distilleries across Scotland are ready and willing to help meet the demand for sanitiser. 

"We’ve been inundated by calls from care homes and other front line organisations including the NHS and Councils, but HMRC’s red tape means we have to pay duty of up to £20 per litre produced – so we literally can’t give it away.

”A stroke of a pen and some common sense at HRMC is all that’s needed to get more of our distilleries helping towards the effort to tackle coronavirus.”
 
A plea to Boots
I have written to the Managing Director of Boots calling on the company to scrap their delivery charges to ease the pressure on many vulnerable households during the COVID-19 outbreak.
 


Boots faced a public backlash after first introducing the charges back in September 2019. It can cost customers £5 for delivery of prescriptions with an annual subscription for the year costing an eyewatering £55. Boots offers free delivery for prescriptions ordered online but this does not help many older scots who may not have access to the internet.
 
I am particularly concerned that older people and those on lower incomes may face having to choose between risking infection and paying up to £5 for medications to be delivered. 
 
At a time when Government is strongly advising older people to limit social contact, it is entirely wrong that they may be forced to choose between exposing themselves to risk of infection or cutting back on essentials. 

More than 500,000 over 60s in Scotland do not use the internet and more than 150,000 older Scottish people live in poverty. This group of people is particularly vulnerable to the dangers posed by the Covid-19 we should all be working together to ensure they are as protected as possible.
 
While it has been heart-warming to see the community coming together to provide support for so many different groups who are at risk we want to ensure that the burden placed on volunteers is as light as possible.
 
That is why Boots have an opportunity to take real leadership here. By scrapping these charges during this crisis, they can help to ensure that members of Scotland’s older community are not forced to take unnecessary risks and give volunteers the time to focus on other vital tasks.
 
 
The outlook
Sadly, Covid-19 is going to infect more people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse than it has already.

The First Minister announced on Friday, quickly followed by Boris Johnson, that no pubs, clubs, restaurants, leisure centre will be allowed open as attempts to stop the spread of the virus continue.

All SQA examinations have been cancelled, the first time since 1888 this move has ever been made. It came after schools were closed until summer on Friday.

The First Minister announced the action in Scotland to protect the resilience of the emergency services until the impact of the virus has lessened substantially.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: "We expect the number of cases to rise and Scotland is well-prepared for a significant outbreak of coronavirus. There is currently no treatment or vaccine so early detection measures will continue to be vital in helping to prevent the spread of the virus."

The Scottish Government has warned up to 80% of the population could become infected, with potentially 4% of this group requiring hospital treatment.

As I write, there are 499 positive tests in Scotland, and there have been 14 deaths.

Figures can be misleading. Most people are following the UK advice to stay at home and have no contact with anyone for up to 14 days.

I am sorry that this Newsletter is so sad. I really do appreciate how difficult it is for those who are essentially confined to home for the next three months. I encourage everyone who can help in any safe way to do what they can, especially for the older and more vulnerable people in your community.
 
Use the phone, use messaging, use Facetime and Skype where you can. Some people who don’t have access to this technology will be feeling even more isolated, so if you’re able, call at the door from a distance and see if you can help somehow.
 
Meantime, stick to the social distancing advice plus the hand-washing, sneezing or coughing symptoms.
 
If you are in the slightest doubt, then self-isolate.
 
Please find below a link to all up to date information on the current crisis.
https://spice-spotlight.scot/…/coronavirus-covid-19-consti…/
Also please follow my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ChristinaSNP/
And my Twitter @christinasnp for regular updates.
 
I know this is a difficult time for everyone but the amount of local activism to support people is amazing if you know of any group/individual/business stepping up please let me know. There is funding from ScotGov for some of this life saving activity.

Take care of each other and be careful of fake news.