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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 this constituency up to date on the issues that matter to them.

I am privileged to represent the people of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse as their Member of the Scottish Parliament.

My aim is to be an accessible MSP, available to respond to my constituents’ needs whenever and wherever possible.


 
Scotland’s Future


A new poll shows support for Scottish independence at the highest ever point in a Panelbase survey: Yes 56% and No 44%.
 
Boris Johnson needs to recognise that his ‘no, no, no’ line is parallel to Donal Trump squatting in the White House. Both are refusing to accept reality.
 
The 13th and 14th polls together reveal a clear majority of Scottish voters who say they will vote for independence. The poll also shows that the SNP holds a commanding lead over opposition parties and Scottish voters are continuing to put their trust in the party.
 


A YouGov poll shows the SNP on course to win 56% of the constituency vote in next year’s Scottish Parliamentary election – with the Tories on 19% and Labour on 15%.

The Panelbase survey also predicts the May election will see an SNP vote of 53% in the constituency vote and 46% on the regional vote. That would be a majority vote for independence.
 
SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “These are yet more significant polls for the SNP, which show voters across Scotland continue to place their trust in the party to deliver – in stark contrast to the Westminster government, which is acting against Scotland's interests.

“They should be a wake-up call for the Tories – their Trump-like attempts to ignore free and fair elections and deny the people of Scotland the right to choose their own future is utterly unsustainable.


“If the UK remains a democracy, then Scotland must have the right to choose a better path than the shambolic, hard-Brexit Tory government at Westminster.

“And that decision is for the people of Scotland, not a Tory government we didn’t vote for, led by Boris Johnson.

“The SNP is taking absolutely nothing for granted and we will continue working hard to retain the trust of people in Scotland at next year's election. But it is clearer than ever that voters believe Scotland’s future lies as an equal, independent country."


Scotland’s glory night
We were all thrilled, chuffed, delighted, and cheered by our win in Belgrade where Ryan Christie and David Marshall won the hearts of people all across Europe.

Ryan’s  post-match interview left me with a lump in my throat. It was clear to see how much it meant to the team to be taking Scotland to the Euro’s.

Steve Clarke’s side brought Scotland back on the world stage and, for the first time in 22 years, Scotland will be going to a major finals at Euro 2020.



Scotland’s new-found talent for winning penalty shoot-outs helped carry us over the line. Hopefully this new found skill will be put to good use next year at the tournament.
 

LGBTI Police Scotland recruitment drive
It is totally unacceptable that the percentage of Police Scotland recruits from the LGBTI community is so low.
 
Long-lived prejudices are still very much alive in the 21st century and that is shaming for all of us. The Scottish Government has been putting a lot of work into trying to change this situation and have a clear ongoing strategy about how we can keep moving forward.


The report points up that “Scotland is considered one of the most progressive countries in Europe in terms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality.

“We aim to preserve and advance Scotland's reputation as one of the most progressive countries in Europe in terms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality.”

I am delighted, therefore, to learn that Hamilton Police (@HamiltonPolice) are hosting a national recruitment event on 3 December between 6.30 and 8pm, via Microsoft Teams.
 
The event will be LGBTI focused as this group is currently under-represented in Police Scotland.


Older People’s Strategic Action Forum
I was delighted to meet with the Older People’s Strategic Action Forum on Wednesday 11 November. The Forum ensures the views of older people, those who support them, and their discussions around ensuring that the rights of older people are heard throughout the #Coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
 


There is already high awareness of how much the Scottish Government has done and continues to do for this vital group, and that we have the Scottish Older People’s Assembly is a vital part of our work. You can find out more at @Scotopa


For more about the Older People’s Strategic Action Forum (OPSAF) look here: https://www.gov.scot/policies/independent-living/ and here: https://www.gov.scot/groups/older-peoples-strategic-action-forum/

The Scottish Government wants to hear from older people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse about their views on how #coronavirus is impacting upon them.
 
The survey will only take a few minutes to complete and your views will contribute to a better understanding of how we manage the pandemic among older people.
 
https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ImpactofCOVID19OnOlderPeople

The Older People’s Strategic Action Forum (OPSAF) was set up to ensure that the views of older people, those that support them, and their representative groups are heard. 
 

Scottish Child Payment
The Scottish Government is taking applications now for the Scottish Child Payment. In fact, more than 28,000 requests for the “game-changing” scheme were reached in the first two days of applications, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
 


Parents and carers who receive other welfare support such as Universal Credit or unemployment benefits can now apply for the £10 a week/£40 a month payment for each child under the age of six.

The payment is part of the Scottish Government's efforts to reduce child poverty, and it should be rolled out for all qualifying children aged under 16 by 2022.

When the payment was first announced last year, John Dickie, director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, said it was "an absolute game-changer in the fight to end child poverty".

The First Minister added: "This payment is intended to tackle child poverty and with the economic impact of the pandemic meaning more households are reliant on benefits, we need to make sure that reaches all eligible families.

"The plans we have to promote the Scottish child payment have been set out publicly and include carrying out an extensive advertising campaign, but also making information available through a number of other routes including midwives and health visitor packs, the baby box and nursery and school enrolment packs.

"I would encourage all parents and carers of the 194,000 children that could be eligible to make sure they apply for this new benefit."

The benefit was due to be operational by the end of this year but was delayed because of coronavirus, with the payments now starting from February.

The Scottish Fiscal Commission has predicted the benefit will be claimed for 155,000 children of the 194,000 who are believed to be eligible.

A cause for hope
We are all exhausted and frustrated by the fight against Covid so it is especially cheering to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

While of course we must be cautious, Scots could be vaccinated against coronavirus before the end of the year, 

The First Minister said while there are no guarantees yet around a meaningful date by which stock of a coronavirus vaccine could be available in Scotland, but early in 2021 looks realistic.

That would be an incredible leap forward for the entire world, though the logistics of getting the vaccine to everybody will be massive.

Drugs manufacturer Pfizer revealed earlier in the week that its Covid-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective at preventing the virus. The creator of the vaccine says that he is "confident" that next winter will be "normal" with 300 million jabs set to roll out worldwide.

Nicola Sturgeon has been responding to some of the ludicrous conspiracy theorists posting myths and  trying to scare people on social media platforms. Anti-vaccine protesters spin negative nonsense that is a real threat to our lives and the lives of the people around us.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie had claimed research suggests as many as a third of people could be "uncertain or unlikely to accept a vaccine when it is available". That is a depressing outlook. When the smallpox vaccination was introduced, there were sceptics then. Education won the day and the disease has been eradicated.

MMR created anti-vaccs based on a piece of 'research' which connected it to autism. The 'research' turned out not only to be untrue but to have been made up, yet that paper cost children to be born deaf, blind or sterile because of parental anxiety. I imagine that if those parents could have that chance again, they'd be first in the queue.

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..

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. All 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.
 
 
Covid-19 update
 From 6am this morning (2 November), Scotland has moved to the new 5-tier system of Covid-19 restrictions.
 
In South Lanarkshire for once, we’re not proud to be in the top position.
 
The First Minister could not have been clearer: if you don’t follow these new rules, coming into force you’re heading for the top level of restrictions “within the next few weeks”.

No area will be placed in the lowest, level 0, which is close to normal life, but neither will any local authority be in level 4, which is the most severe level of restriction.

South Lanarkshire feared a move to Tier 4. We have avoided that for the present. Let me emphasise once again we all need to comply with the rules. They don’t exist to please the Government. They exist to protect all of us.
 
The Government will be monitoring rates of infection in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, checking the number of people in hospitals, the number of infections recorded and any deaths on a day-to-day basis.
 


The First Minister will not hesitate to move us into Tier 4 if the figures continue to increase. It is up to each one of us to take responsibility for ourselves and our family members so that we can contain this unrelenting virus.
 
The five-tier lockdown restriction plan
The First Minister has announced exactly how the new procedures apply.
 
Nicola Sturgeon gave an assurance that there would be no return to the March-style lockdown. Even under the highest level of restrictions schools and businesses will remain open.


The new measures will allow the government to impose different measures across Scotland depending on the prevalence of the virus.

Level 0 is broadly comparable to the position we reached in August when the virus was very suppressed, but still a threat, the First Minister says.
 
Level 1 sees slightly more restrictions - for example, indoor household meetings would reduce to 6 people from 2 households - but there would still be a reasonable degree of normality overall.
 
Level 2  entails restrictions broadly similar to those currently in place just now outside the central belt – with limitations on hospitality and no gatherings in people’s homes.
 
Level 3  is broadly similar to the tougher restrictions which currently apply across the central belt, with much of hospitality being closed completely.
 
Level 4   would apply when transmission rates are, or are threatening to become very high, with corresponding pressure on the NHS. The restrictions at level 4 are closer to a full lockdown. For example non-essential shops would close.

 

Police in Lanarkshire have been called to over 300 house gatherings since the end of August.
A total of 26 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued and 11 people were arrested.

 

Half of these were in South Lanarkshire and half were in North Lanarkshire. However, most of the 156 gatherings that were in breach of coronavirus regulations were in North Lanarkshire.

In total, 64 of the 119 gatherings in South Lanarkshire were found to be in breach of the regulations while 92 of the 119 in North Lanarkshire breached Covid rules.
Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham has called on the people of Lanarkshire to “do the right thing” after the region narrowly escaped being placed into the top tier of the Scottish Government’s new five-tier system of restrictions.

DCC Graham said: “Despite overwhelming levels of co-operation and support from communities across Scotland, a small minority of people continue to host or participate in house parties and gatherings.

“These are not confined to certain age groups and people should not be in any doubt that house gatherings allow coronavirus to spread. Where we encounter wilful, repeated, persistent or flagrant breaches we will, as the public would expect and support, act decisively to enforce the law.
 
“The chief constable has made it clear that we are asking people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to stay safe, protect others and save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.

“Recent figures highlighted public confidence in Police Scotland has risen by around 20 per cent because of the way our officers and staff have carried out their duties with common sense and courtesy during the pandemic.

“Assaults on police officers and staff carrying out their duties during this challenging time are disgraceful and will not be tolerated as we remain committed to improving and ensuring their safety.”

Police were called to more gatherings in Monklands and Cumbernauld (96) than anywhere else in the region.

They were also called to 92 in East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Rutherglen, 77 in Hamilton and Clydesdale and 73 in Motherwell, Wishaw and Bellshill.
Monklands and Cumbernauld (49) also saw the most gatherings against the regulations.

In Motherwell, Wishaw and Bellshill there were 43 gatherings in breach of the Covid rules as well as 36 in East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Rutherglen and just 28 in Hamilton and Clydesdale.

Most of the FPNs (11) and arrests (six) were also in Monklands and Cumbernauld.

Seven FPNs were issued in East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Rutherglen while six were issued in Hamilton and Clydesdale and just two in Motherwell, Wishaw and Bellshill.

There were two arrests in both East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Rutherglen and Motherwell, Wishaw and Bellshill but just one in Hamilton and Clydesdale.



In one weekend last month, police in Lanarkshire attended 58 house parties as tighter restrictions were brought in amid an increase in Covid cases.

Between Friday and Sunday, September 11 and 13, police responded to 405 house parties across Scotland, 14 per cent of which were in Lanarkshire, despite new restrictions specifically targeted at stopping the spread of coronavirus by gathering in houses having been brought in that weekend.

Two weeks later First Minister Nicola Sturgeon slammed Scots still hosting and attending house parties as police attended another 300 across the country.
 

‘Supporting our Community’ wins top national award

Supporting Our Community (SOC) members were delighted to be named the winners in the Celebrating Communities category at this year’s Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) charity awards.



The award recognises the enthusiasm, commitment, and extraordinary lengths that voluntary groups go to in order to work with individuals, communities and organisations.

SOC was set up by a group of volunteers from Hillhouse, Burnbank and Blantyre, including couple Mark and Donna Rouse.

The initial plan was to open a centre to provide support to families who were struggling to access the statutory services required regarding mental health.

But, following the tragic death of Mark and Donna’s 16-year-old daughter, Darian, from suicide in December 2018, the plan was strengthened and included many more services for the community.

These services include offering programmes designed for full family engagement allowing everyone to be involved.

Before announcing the winner, Alan Sherry, chair of CLD Standards Council Scotland, emphasised that the finalists ‘have made a significant impact and difference in the communities in which they work’.

During the virtual awards ceremony, Mark, project co-ordinator, accepted the accolade on behalf of SOC and told event host Sally Magnusson: “This will help us to grow and hopefully provide lots more support to people in our local community, who live in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland".

Sally was moved by the development of the community hub and replied: “It must be good to see something positive coming out of the tragic loss of Darian. It is such a great initiative and it’s wonderful to hear how well you are doing. Congratulations.”
 
Mark said: “We are delighted to win the Celebrating Communities award. We are only able to achieve this thanks to the people who have supported us, the dedication and hard work of all of our staff and volunteers in addition to the positive and strong partnerships we have developed.”

Darian, a pupil at Calderside Academy in Blantyre, had suffered her own mental health issues over the years and had struggled with anxiety.

Her death was a major turning point for the Rouse family who, with a group of fellow activists, set about providing the vital community-based service that also runs classes such as guitar and crochet lessons, community gardening and arts and crafts sessions for all the family.
 
[with thanks to the Hamilton Advertiser]

 

Keeping the lights on
As many of you will know, I’ve been working hard with energy providers over the last few years. The campaign to help people crippled by fuel poverty to the extent that the family had to be either cold or hungry continues to be a crucial issue to resolve.
 
Now Ofgem, the energy watchdog, under pressure from myself and support from SNP colleagues, has ruled that energy suppliers must provide emergency credit for vulnerable households.
 
The point of this ruling is that it will reduce the number of pre-payment customers who are left without energy because they have no money to put in the meter.
 
I have worked with Scottish Power for a few years now, starting off with the pilot Quick Credit Voucher scheme and developing onwards to add in other energy supply companies.

To say I am delighted by the news that energy companies will now have to offer support for our most vulnerable households is an understatement.

I see first-hand the impact fuel poverty has had on some of my own constituents in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse and the sheer relief they experience when offered the breathing space that comes with the Quick Credit Voucher scheme. It has literally kept the lights on for many.

Following the success of the pilot, we teamed up with the Citizens Advice Bureau to host the Energy Credit Summit which brought together the Big Six energy suppliers in Scotland. The summit called on Ofgem to fund a country-wide initiative to help those in fuel poverty.



It has been a long campaign and there are many organisations that deserve credit for the work done to get us to this point. My thanks to all of you.

The Citizens Advice Bureau, Scottish Power, Npower and the many others who took part in the Energy Summits in the Scottish Parliament have been vital in pushing this forward.

Alongside this there have been many individuals like Matt Cole from the Fuel Bank Foundation who have worked tirelessly to push for more support.

There is more to do - and we can do it. Under the current rules laid out by Ofgem there is still the option for suppliers to demand repayment of their individual credit scheme if they wish.

While Ofgem has stated that they believe suppliers should consider customers’ ability to pay and agree an affordable rate, I still have my concerns that these rates will be unaffordable for many.

With more than £200m being gathered by Ofgem from fines and redress payments from energy firms there is a real opportunity to make these credit payments truly transformative for the 174,000 people in Scotland in extreme fuel poverty.

I will continue to work with Ofgem and the major energy providers to build on this progress and make fuel poverty a thing of the past in Scotland.

Momentum now firmly behind independence
The 11th consecutive poll shows a majority supporting the Yes vote and control over our own affairs in Scotland.
 


Support for independence continues to be the "settled will of the people of Scotland" - with another new poll showing a majority would vote Yes in an independence referendum (56%).

The poll, conducted by Theresa May’s former pollster, is the 11th consecutive poll to show a majority for Yes and puts the SNP ahead on 58 percent of the constituency vote.

Brexit and the UK government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic were among the most persuasive arguments for independence - with 79% of voters surveyed agreeing that “Boris Johnson is not the leader I want to have for my country.”

The study also found that Boris Johnson’s opposition to an independence referendum is unpopular, with 53 % of voters saying the UK government would be wrong to deny a referendum if the SNP win a majority in next year's Scottish parliament elections.

SNP Depute Leader, Keith Brown, said: “People in Scotland believe they have the right to take their own decisions rather than being subjected to those of the Westminster governments, led by the likes of Boris Johnson, whom we don’t vote for.



“With consecutive polls putting support for independence above 50%, it’s clear that majority support is no longer a trend, but now the settled will of the people of Scotland.

“The Westminster parties' undemocratic attempt to deny the people of Scotland the right to choose their own future in a fresh referendum is now utterly unsustainable.

“The Westminster government clearly can’t be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests. In the middle of a global pandemic and economic recession, the Tories have unbelievably decided to impose a disastrous hard Brexit on Scotland which will hit jobs hard. 

“Scotland must have the chance to escape this Westminster mess and choose a better future as an equal independent, European nation - and that right lies solely with the people of Scotland.”

The new poll, by JL Partners for Politico, puts Yes 12 points ahead, assuming another vote was held now.

The result would be 56-44% for independence, excluding those who don’t know which way they would vote.

Politico's separate poll of polls suggests Yes is at 50 with No on 42, while eight per cent are undecided.

Voters are also likely to bring an SNP clear majority, putting Nicola Sturgeon back in Bute House as First Minister at the Holyrood election next March, putting more pressure on Johnson to agree to a second vote.

JL Partners had done polling analysis for former PM Theresa May, who had always said "now is not the time" for another referendum.

The firm now says the picture has "dramatically changed" and was "bleak" for unionists.
 
"It is hard not to look at these figures and assume the Union is doomed. It is certainly the gravest situation the Unionist cause has found itself in in recent history," JL Partners founder James Johnson said.

He added that polling saw Boris Johnson is "loathed" by people in focus groups.

Read more here:  https://tinyurl.com/y46pzlbj

 

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.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. All 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.

 

Independence is coming home to Scotland!
In spite of all the protests coming out of Boris Johnson’s Government – or maybe because of them -  more and more Scots are realising that making our own rules is the only way forward.
 


A Survation poll shows 64% of Scots believe that Scotland would vote Yes in a second referendum and a majority (56%) of Scots said an independence referendum should go ahead if a pro-independence majority of MSPs are elected to the Scottish Parliament next year.
 
The latest figures come after consecutive polls showing independence for Scotland is now backed by a majority of Scots. The poll, commissioned by Progress Scotland, show that nearly twice as may ‘No’ voters in 2014 have moved to ‘Yes’ than have gone in the opposite direction.


 
The Tories “lack any moral or democratic authority” to block a referendum, says SNP Depute Leader, Keith Brown. Independence, he says, "is the settled will of the Scottish people.”
 
We are already seeing the Westminster attempt at a power grab that would dilute our current powers. We are not going to accept that.
 
The results of the earlier Ipsos/Mori poll conducted for STV shows that of those expressing a view, 58% of people would now vote Yes in an independence referendum – and that the SNP is on course to win a historic majority in next May’s Holyrood election.
 
The poll puts support for independence at the highest ever level, and shows the SNP would also 58% of the constituency vote in next year’s election, putting the party on course to win an outright majority of seats at Holyrood.

Averaging out all four recent polls, the vote in favour of independence sits at 53%. This is no straw in the wind as polling expert Sir John Curtice has already recognised.

It shows strong support for the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, with 72% saying they are satisfied with the job she is doing as First Minister - a net approval rating of +49.

The poll also finds a majority of people in Scotland (51%) feel Boris Johnson “definitely should” grant a new independence vote if the SNP win a majority of seats in May 2021.

Commenting, Keith Brown MSP said: “Faced with the chaotic and incompetent treatment of Scotland as an afterthought at best, more and more people are deciding that the best way forward for Scotland is as an equal, independent country.

“And if there is a clear majority for pro-independence, pro-referendum parties in next year’s election – as this poll shows there would be by some considerable margin – then no Tory or any UK Government has the right to stand in the way.

“Quite simply, in those circumstances, the Tories would lack any moral or democratic authority whatsoever to try and block the will of the people, and it would not stand up to scrutiny.

“Already, the Westminster wall of opposition to a referendum has started to crumble, with private acknowledgement that a result like this in next year’s election would have to lead to a referendum, and this poll will only solidify that growing view.

“The poll also shows strong support for the outstanding leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, both among SNP supporters and the public as a whole, as she leads the country through the unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic.



“The SNP takes absolutely nothing for granted and we will redouble our efforts between now and next year’s election to retain the trust of the people. But it is clearer than ever that Scotland’s future lies as an independent country.”

 

Covid-19 restrictions



The wearing of face coverings has become mandatory in communal workplace areas, such as corridors, canteens and social spaces, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last Thursday (15 October).
 
During a statement to Parliament, which was delivered virtually, the First Minister also announced that the business support scheme will start taking online applications from Tuesday (20 October). In total, £40 million of support is available, including a £20 million grant fund which will be administered by local authorities.

Changes to face covering regulations are:

  • The wearing of face coverings in a workplace canteen, when not seated at a table, such as when queueing, entering or leaving the canteen (in line with other hospitality venues) – from Friday 16 October
  • The wearing of face coverings in other indoor communal workplaces, such as corridors and social spaces – from Monday 19 October
  • Exemption for couples during their indoor marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration, providing there is a partition or 2 metres can be maintained between the couple and other people – Friday 16 October

Existing coronavirus Covid-19 restrictions will remain in place and will be kept under review. The First Minister said: “We introduced restrictions on household meetings three weeks ago, together with very tough additional restrictions last week.

“However, the most recent of those changes, in particular, will not yet be having an impact on case numbers.

“And there is no doubt that we are currently in a precarious position.

“That explains why I can confirm to the parliament that all of our existing Covid restrictions will remain in place.”

Regarding travel during this time, the First Minister continued: “People living in any of the central Scotland health board areas under tighter restrictions should not travel outside their own area unless they really need to - and people in other parts of Scotland should not travel into these areas unless absolutely necessary.

“Please avoid travel to other parts of the UK considered high risk areas. We specifically ask people not to go on trips to Blackpool unless necessary – there are now 286 infection cases in Scotland associated with Blackpool.

“These restrictions are hard - for individuals and businesses - but they are essential.”


Hamilton Covid-19 update
NHS Lanarkshire has provided a Mobile Testing Unit (MTU) because of the significant increase in Covid-19 in the Hamilton area. It is more important than ever that anyone showing symptoms of Covid self-isolate and book a test.


Example of a mobile testing unit

Hamilton has a particularly high prevalence rate of Covid with a 7 day average showing 413.6 (per 100,000) which makes the Lanarkshire-wide rate 273.3.

The MTU will be set-up in the car park adjacent to the Low Parks Museum and is operational from 10am on daily. You will need an appointment.

I would urge anyone showing symptoms of Covid to self-isolate immediately and book a test. By following the guidance and looking out for each other we can stop the spread of this virus.

The best way to keep yourself and your friends and family safe is to remember the FACTS:

😷 Face coverings in enclosed spaces
👥 Avoid crowded places
👐 Clean hands regularly
📏 Two metre distances
👩‍⚕️ Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.
 
Figures change every day, but on 15 October, Lanarkshire NHS had recorded 309 new cases in the previous 24 hours; 1,743 in the previous seven days which works out at  263.3 per 100,000 population.

For the most up to date figures, you can look here:
https://tinyurl.com/y6mfh6u8


Apply for self-isolation support grant
I heartily urge constituents who face financial hardship as a result of needing to self-isolate to apply for a £500 self-isolation grant offered by the SNP Government.

The new Self-Isolation Support Grant will help people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse who would lose income if they needed to self-isolate, such as those unable to work from home.

 



The fund will focus particularly upon people who are in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits, with some discretion to make awards to others in financial hardship.

Applications for the Self-Isolation Support Grant opened on 12 October and will be delivered through the existing Scottish Welfare Fund, which is administered by local authorities.

We know that self-isolation can be tough, but it is essential to protect people and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

To ensure people do not experience financial hardship as a result of doing the right thing, the SNP Government has introduced this new £500 grant for people on low incomes who have been asked to self-isolate.

It’s essential that we do everything we can to support people throughout this challenging time.

These payments will help ensure people in the constituency do not have to make a choice between self-isolating and supporting themselves financially.

Applications for this new benefit are now open, and I'd urge anyone in Hamilton, Larkhall or Stonehouse who is facing a loss of income due to self-isolating to apply for it.
 
Read more here: https://tinyurl.com/y5rzgygl


Handbags for Christmas
I promise that I will search ampng my handbags in support of  WomanKIND Clydesdale who are working with Hamilton Food Bank to promote a little extra happiness in what may not be the perfect Christmas.



Covid-19 New business support fund of up to £40 million
The Scottish Government has earmarked up to £40 million to support employees and businesses impacted by these restrictions consistent with our established commitment to sustainable and inclusive growth and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): fair work statement.
 
We will work with the STUC, employer organisations and HMRC to deliver targeted support  to employees as we recognise that employers are now liable for 20% of salary costs for furloughed workers. 
 
We will also provide support to businesses closed or impacted by these new restrictions -  see below for more detail.
 
We will also work with business and sector representative organisations to provide additional support flexibly through a new £11 million contingency fund for businesses that need support but do not fall into the above categories.
 
These new and temporary business support funds will be administered by Local Authorities, providing one-off grants to businesses very directly impacted by the restrictions implemented on 9 October 2020. 
 
A Covid-19 Restrictions Fund will be available to hospitality and other businesses required to close because of these new restrictions.

It operates as a two-tiered scheme, with a smaller grant of £2,000 for businesses with a Rateable Value (RV) of under £51,000 and a larger grant of £3,000 for those businesses with a RV over £51,000.  An upper limit of £15,000 in total will apply.

At the same time, Local Authorities will invite applications for a business hardship fund -  with payments of £1,000 or  £1,500, dependent on Rateable Value -   to  support some businesses that remain open but are still significantly impacted by the restrictions, including those in the direct supply chains of firms that must close.

 An upper limit of £10,000 will apply in total to any eligible business operating multiple premises.
 
There is a finite budget available for this support and we will to do all we can to minimise the risk that applications from businesses exceed the funding available. Therefore we will target the first round of applications on:

·         Hospitality businesses and some gyms, required by these new regulations to close or operate in a restricted way and able to evidence a minimum 25% reduction in turnover during the brake period.
·         Producers/wholesale businesses based in Scotland supplying primarily short-life goods or produce to hospitality businesses required by the regulations to close or operate in a restricted way and able to evidence a minimum 25% reduction in turnover during the brake period.
 
For clarity, retail and businesses that provide takeaway food as the core and established basis of their operations are not eligible for these closure or hardship funds.
 
Eligibility
To be eligible for this support you must meet the following criteria. 
 
For the business closure fund you must be a hospitality or other business  required by law to close under these new restrictions.
 
For the discretionary business hardship fund you must be:

·         a hospitality business and some gyms, required by the regulations to operate in a restricted way
·         a producer/wholesale business based in Scotland supplying primarily short-life goods or produce to hospitality businesses required by the regulations to close or operate in a restricted way and able to evidence a 25% reduction in turnover during the brake period
 
If your business operates multiple premises you can apply for grants for each premise, applying only once to the local authority in which your business is headquartered. The maximum any one business can receive will be restricted, regardless of the number of premises: the upper limit for the  business closure fund is £15,000; the upper limit for business hardship fund is £10,000.
 
Your businesses must have been open and trading before 9 October.
 
You must have a business bank account. This is the account your grant will be paid into if your application is successful.
 
Your business premises must be registered for Non-Domestic rates. Businesses that pay rates through their landlords rather than directly to a Council are eligible to apply (evidence to be provided through copy of lease agreement). 
 
Businesses which have breached wider Covid regulations/requirements prior to local restrictions are not eligible to apply. 
 
Applications are welcome from Limited Companies, Sole Traders, Trusts and Partnerships provided they meet the other criteria. 
 
Retail and businesses that provide takeaway food as the core and established basis of their operations are not eligible for these closure or hardship funds.
 
How to apply
We are working with local authorities to prepare and finalise all the administrative arrangements required to ensure efficient and effective application, processing, payment and appeal arrangements -  and access to the information and advice you may need.
 
Local authority websites will be updated at 9 am on Tuesday 20th October, allowing businesses to complete applications. At this point in time there is no merit in contacting your local authority.
 
Applications will close on Tuesday 3rd November at 5 pm.
 
Local Authorities will prioritise processing of applications with a view to making as many decisions as possible within the brake period while restrictions are in place.  Local authorities will ensure any payment is made within 3 working days of notifying you of their decision.
 
Local authority websites will provide information on appeal arrangements.
 
Read more information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Restrictions Fund

 

New report confirms Tory Government’s power grab attempts through the Internal Market Bill

When Boris Johnson effectively walked out of trade talks in Brussels on Friday, he made clear that there would be ‘No Deal’ with Europe unless the EU, all 27 countries, would roll over and surrender to the UK Prime Minister’s demands, however absurd they are.

A scathing new report has criticised the Tory government’s international law-breaking Internal Market Bill and echoed warnings that the Bill sets up for an attempted power grab against the devolved Parliaments.

In further mounting evidence over the dangers of the Bill, the report, published by the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee also warned that it “authorises conscious and deliberate breaches of the UK’s obligations under international law.”

In it’s finding the Committee concluded that:

·      “We are not convinced that opportunities for managing the UK internal market through the common frameworks process have been exhausted. This contributes to our doubts about the necessity for the Bill.”

·      The Bill “provides the UK Government with powers that could allow it to alter the competences of the devolved administrations in significant ways.”

·      The Bill “takes power to override future devolved legislation. As such, it would limit the scope for the devolved administrations to pursue policy divergence.”

·      The UK Government must explain “why such a broad power for the UK Government to spend money in devolved territories has been included in this Bill.”

·      And that the delegated powers in the Bill “are extraordinary’ and ‘unprecedented’, and many of them are constitutionally unacceptable.”

It's more proof, if proof was needed, that Scotland just doesn't figure in Boris Johnson's Brexit decisions. It is yet another reason why more and more Scots are realising that independence is the only way forward that will reflect this nation's real values.

Any other direction will take us backwards!

 

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.

 

My re-selection for May’s Scottish elections
Great news. It’s a little like sitting an exam when you’re fairly confident of the result but who knows what might happen!
 
That the SNP has confirmed that I will be standing for election to the Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse seat once again is music to my ears.
 
I would like to thank all of you who voted for me in 2016 and I hope that you will continue to do that. I take nothing for granted.


If you have any questions or you would like to find out more about the issues in the constituency that I will be campaigning with, please do get in touch with me. Contact details are below.

And if you are interested in becoming involved with the campaign, then do either email me or phone the office for more information about that.
 
It has been brilliantly good to hear your support on social media. Here’s just a smattering. There are many more at @christinaSNP, I’m happy to say!
 

  • Mark Young Best candidate for the job! Congratulations! Glad that Hamilton will still have the one of the best MSPs in Scotland in 2021 and beyond!! 😎

    If I could still vote in Hamilton you know I'd have been first in the queue for Townhill that morning (while Colin Dewar likely still sleeping even though he lives closer 😂)
  •  

Christine Hunter Your a really nice approachable lady and care about your constituents, you have my vote x

  • David Bell It was never in doubt. We have an excellent MSP, and we look forward to keeping it that way in 2021. Congratuations.
  •  

Cllr Maureen Chalmers SNP Ward 15 Blantyre Congratulations Christina! xx
Charlie Bent Thoroughly deserved Christina.

 

People on low incomes may receive £500 support 

An announcement from Nicola Sturgeon will help those on low incomes who will lose money as a result of having to self-isolate. Applications will open on 12 October and will be delivered through the existing Scottish Welfare Fund which is administered by local authorities.

The new Self-Isolation Support Grant will help those who would lose income if they needed to self-isolate, such as those unable to carry out their work from home.



Recipients are likely to be people in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits but with discretion to pay the support to others in financial hardship.The First Minister said: “Where people who are self-isolating and are well and can work from home, they should of course continue to be supported by their employers, and I would ask again today, that all employers play their full part in making sure that their employees are able to comply with the self-isolation requirement when they are asked to do so.

“However the self-isolation support grant will help people on low incomes who will lose money as a result of self-isolation and who therefore might find it financially challenging, or in some cases even impossible, to comply unless they have support.” 

And Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “Self-isolation can be tough, but it is essential to protect people and reduce the spread of coronavirus. To ensure people do not experience financial hardship as a result of doing the right thing, we are introducing this new £500 grant for people on low incomes who have been told to self-isolate.

 



“While we continue to press the UK Government for clarity around consequential funding for the support scheme they recently announced, it is essential that we act swiftly so that people who need support are able to access it. I am glad that the scheme has the support of local authorities and that we have a means of delivering it from next month.”

COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson Councillor Kelly Parry said: “COSLA, on behalf of Scottish local government, welcomes this scheme.  It will help ensure those who are affected and qualify are looked after and won’t need to go to work, which will help reduce the community spread of the virus. 

“Councils have vast experience of providing local support of this type to communities and are the best placed to deliver this measure.  We are keen to agree the details with the Scottish Government as soon as possible and look forward to getting much needed support to the people who need it.”
 
 
Larkhall TSB
I am incredibly disappointed that the Larkhall branch is on the list of local branches earmarked by TSB for closure.



The digital by default model excludes many of my constituents especially older people and those with disabilities. This is especially true at a time when many are feeling isolated, a face-to-face banking service in the local community is indispensable for my constituents.

I have requested a meeting with TSB bosses regarding the future of services in the area – the bank need to rethink this decision and allow our high streets to fully recover from this pandemic. I'll be pushing TSB to reverse this short sighted decision.
 
SNP MSPs have demanded an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive of TSB after the shock announcement that the bank is to close 73 branches in Scotland and cut 300 jobs as part of wider UK cuts.

Kenneth Gibson MSP, who raised the closures at First Minister's Questions, said: “Closing local bank branches amidst a global pandemic, when people need financial advice and support more than ever, is not just an inconvenience. Every one of these branches is hugely important to the community it serves.

“Alongside my SNP colleagues, I have requested an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive of TSB regarding the future of services in Scotland. TSB must urgently reverse their plans to close these branches.”
 

Independence for Scotland
 
A new study has found that business leaders across the UK are confident that their companies would thrive in an independent Scotland.

The Ipsos MORI survey, which interviewed 102 British business leaders between February and July discovered "little resistance" to the concept of an independent Scotland.

It revealed that 95% of business leaders are confident that “my company would adapt to the consequences if Scotland became an independent country" with just 4% saying they didn’t believe Scotland would become independent.

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “This poll of business leaders shows that, overwhelmingly, they are confident that independence will prove beneficial for businesses and the economy.

 

"Scotland is already one of the most productive parts of the UK outside London, with resources few countries can match, and independence would allow us to make the most of that huge potential.

“With independence, we will gain the tools we need to ensure that decisions over our economy always match Scotland’s needs and priorities.

“This stands in stark contrast to a Westminster government intent on leaving the EU and a single market eight times bigger than the UK's alone - and the catastrophic no-deal outcome the Tories are now preparing for.

“Majority support for independence is now the established position of the people of Scotland. And no wonder, when only independence will enable the people of Scotland to build a more prosperous country which reaches its full potential on the global stage.”

 

High levels of trust in Scottish Government
A new study has found that business leaders across the UK are confident that their companies would thrive in an independent Scotland.

The Ipsos MORI survey, which interviewed 102 British business leaders between February and July discovered "little resistance" to the concept of an independent Scotland.

It revealed that 95% of business leaders are confident that “my company would adapt to the consequences if Scotland became an independent country" with just 4% saying they didn’t believe Scotland would become independent.

Constitution Secretary Michael Russell said: “We are currently dealing with the biggest crisis our country has faced since wartime so, even though these data were collected before lockdown, it is heartening to see public trust in the Scottish Government remain so high.

 
“Throughout the pandemic we have recognised the importance of maintaining public trust and confidence in Government which has been absolutely vital in allowing us to control the virus effectively. We will strive to do all we can to maintain and deliver upon this trust and see the country through this challenging period.”

Meanwhile, trust o the Government in Westminster has slumped to a record low. Scots are not fools. We can see the direction of the Westminster government and we don’t want to be part of it against our will. We don’t want to process refugees either on the Scottish islands or in Ascension Island 4,000 miles away.
 
We don’t want to levy huge fees on employers who may be seeking staff across Europe after January. We have no desire to see chaotic traffic build ups and a lack of the foods we are used to buying through EU trade deals. Regarding medicines, we really have no idea about security of supplies for the drugs that many of us are life-dependent upon.

 

Early medical termination available from home

During the pandemic, women have been able to take both pills required for an early medical termination of a pregnancy at home where this is considered clinically appropriate for the patient.

The current arrangements will remain in place as long as the virus remains a risk, but a wide range of views – including from women who have had the treatment - are now being sought through a consultation on making the current arrangements permanent.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “All women in Scotland should have access to clinically safe abortion services, within the limits of the law.”

The consultation is available here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/protecting-scotland-renewing-scotland-governments-programme-scotland-2020-2021// and will run from 30 September until 5 January 2021.

 
£1.18 bn for health and social care sector 

Scotland’s health and social care sector will receive £1.1 billion in additional funding to support its work through coronavirus (COVID-19) pressures, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced.

The funding will be allocated to NHS Boards and Health and Social Care Partnerships across Scotland to help them meet COVID-19 related costs such as additional staffing or sickness expenditure, enhanced infection prevention and control measures, and the purchase of PPE.

Jeane Freeman said: “As we continue to safely remobilise our health and social care sector, the Scottish Government is taking action to support services’ capacity to deal with the ongoing presence of COVID 19 and continue preparations for the wider pressures of the winter season.”

 

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.

 

International Day of Peace

Today, 21 September, is the UN International Day of Peace, observed all over the world.

This year’s theme is ‘Shaping Peace Together’. Each year this celebration day is devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.



In the turmoil of violence, corruption, racism and worldwide diminution of human rights, it is a good day to take a little time out and find a way, however small it seems, to share the importance of peace.

The UN information says: “This year, it has been clearer than ever that we are not each other’s enemies. Rather, our common enemy is a tireless virus that threatens our health, security and very way of life. COVID-19 has thrown our world into turmoil and forcibly reminded us that what happens in one part of the planet can impact people everywhere.

“As we struggle to defeat COVID-19, your voice is more important than ever. In these difficult times of physical distancing, this International Day of Peace will be dedicated to fostering dialogue and collecting ideas. The world will be invited to unite and share thoughts on how to weather this storm, heal our planet and change it for the better. Even though we may not be able to stand next to each other, we can still dream together.

“The 2020 theme for the International Day of Peace is “Shaping Peace Together.” Celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic. Stand together with the UN against attempts to use the virus to promote discrimination or hatred. Join us so that we can shape peace together.”
 
Independence has never been closer”



Now, more than ever before, independence for Scotland is an ambition becoming a reality.
 
The next Scottish Parliament election will be held on Thursday 6 May 2021.
 
I recently pledged to stake my claim (11 September) so that with your help and support, I intend to be back in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse with the privilege of serving all of you.
 
I’m working out the strategy and am gathering the pairs of comfortable shoes for the many miles I’ll walk between now and then.
 
I firmly believe that an SNP majority this time will make a second referendum unavoidable, no matter how much PM Boris Johnson tries to fight us off.
 
It’ll be a great time, full of enthusiastic volunteers who see our independence within our grasp.
 
Campaigning is exciting. You’ll meet some interesting people, share the SNP goals and achievements in Government and probably win another SNP vote or ten.

You’ll also make new friends who have the same kinds of beliefs as you do, and who will come from a vast array of backgrounds in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how important it is that decisions about Scotland’s future are made in Scotland. The last seven polls have shown that Scottish independence is fast becoming the established position of the people of Scotland.

A year before I was born the SNP’s historic 1967 Hamilton by-election was won by Winnie Ewing. For all that time, all of my life, Winnie has been an inspirational icon for the SNP and especially for women. We need to work together and focus all our efforts on the election in 2021 to achieve Scotland’s independent future. 



By putting Scotland’s right to choose at the heart of that campaign we can turn the popular support for independence into a demand for a second referendum. A referendum we will win.

Let us honour the foundation that Winnie Ewing and countless other activists have laid out for us. We can achieve the dream that they have worked so hard for. Independence is coming and it is coming soon.

If you’d like to get involved in the campaign, contact the SNP office at 18 Townhead Street, Hamilton, ML3 7BE. Phone 01698 476 707.

 

Covid-19 Catch up



Imperial College London has produced interactive map that reveals nine Scottish regions projected to become coronavirus hotspots within a fortnight. Inevitably, that is going to mean tough new measures and local lockdowns are likely.

The map shows clusters in red within each UK nation.
The areas projected to see an increasing number of cases from 4 October are:

  • North and South Lanarkshire
  • Glasgow City
  • Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire
  • East and West Dunbartonshire
  • East Lothian
  • Scottish Borders

Imperial College London created the maps, which are updated daily, to reveal areas of concern and encourage local authorities to take action before it is too late.

Researchers there define a hotspot as a local authority where there are more than 50 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 of the population per week.

The predictions are based on the current government measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, and each local authority is treated independently of its neighbours in the modelling.

An increase in cases in a local authority can be due to a rise in testing, which the model does not account for, the researchers said.

Information about the pandemic is excellent in Scotland because unlike Westminster, our First Minister provides it daily.

We also have in place a test and protect system that works. You can install the app at protect.scot. There is no cost. To get the best out of this system, we need to maximise the number of people using it.

When cases are increasing, as they are at present, the app will alert you if you have been in close contact with another app user who tests positive for coronavirus.

It also means that if you test positive, the app can help determine contacts that you may have otherwise missed while keeping your own information private and anonymous.
 

Flu vaccines

This year, NHS Lanarkshire is delivering flu vaccinations to everyone who is eligible – this is more than 300,000 people.



Dr Linda Findlay, Medical Director South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The scale of the programme and the need to observe physical distancing means that clinics need to be held in large community venues. We expect there to be a high demand for this year’s vaccine and would like to thank everyone in advance for their patience with this new way of delivering this important vaccine.”

The eligible groups are:
·         2 to 5 years (not yet in school)
·         Everyone aged under 65 at risk
·         Everyone aged 65 and over
·         People who have been shielding and members of their households
·         55 to 64 years (who are not otherwise eligible, if vaccine supplies allow later in the programme)

If you are eligible for the flu vaccination you will receive an invite with an allocated appointment at a local community vaccination clinic. If this appointment is not suitable, please call the number on your invite to reschedule.

Invites will be sent in batches, from mid-September, to make sure that the service can cope with the demand. You may receive your invite on a different date than usual, but you will receive one.

Appointments need to be allocated this year due to the sheer number of people to be vaccinated. There will be no drop-in clinics as we need to manage the number of people at each clinic to ensure physical distancing.

Pregnant women will receive their vaccine from their midwife and primary school children will receive it at school.

Dr Findlay added: “This year, more than ever, it is important that you receive your flu vaccine if you are eligible. Flu is serious and with covid-19 still circulating in the community we all need to play our part to keep ourselves as healthy as possible over the winter months. Receiving the vaccine will help protect you, your loved ones and the NHS.”

For more information on the delivery of the local flu programme, visit http://www.nhslanarkshire.scot.nhs.uk/flu


Have Your Say in the Future Governance of Scotland

A public consultation was launched on 1 September to provide the first real opportunity for everyone interested in the future governance of Scotland, to contribute to the content of a draft written constitution.

This online consultation will be conducted via a fully independent and transparent website: www.constitutionforscotland.scot

A non-aligned Scottish charity - Constitution for Scotland (SCO 49193) – is providing an opportunity through an interactive, internet-based platform for a public consultation on a written constitution for Scotland in the event of regaining our independence. 

A constitution is, in some ways, a job specification for parliamentarians, setting out the conditions under which the people of a nation agree to be governed.

The consultation has evolved from a decision taken some 11 years ago by a 22-strong group of Scots to draft a 'model' written constitution for Scotland rather than just talk about the need for one.

The model constitution has been formulated to stimulate debate on specific proposals rather than vague notions - but is not in itself prescriptive.

It is offered as the groundwork for a skeletal outline of the future fundamental law of Scotland - based on the concept of popular democracy. The document within the website contains a summary outlining the 15 articles that are set out into 174 sections within the 'model' constitution. 

The interactive debate will provide choices, enabling participants to read either the summary or the full model constitution. You can choose to read the summary and then use a Quick vote facility, or, use the Links or Searchbox to locate a section of interest, and from that section, another click will take you to the Vote, Amendment and Blog panels.   

Then you may add your own ideas and comment on those of others. You will be able to return again and again to see the latest vote counts and rankings or update your own input and vote – right up to Independence Day. 

When this consultation is concluded the politicians will know precisely what we want, and what we expect them to do about it, and that is what a constitution is all about. And Scotland will have a constitution which truly represents a modern popular democracy.
 
 
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. All 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 or copy and paste to christina-mckelvie.org/newsletter.


What’s up ahead in Scotland?
 
First, let me set down a reminder that Covid-19 hasn’t gone away yet. NHS Lanarkshire has put out an alert about virus levels locally. The message is simple: follow the guidance, don’t take risks and wear a facemask when you are in public places.
 


Now for something more positive news – and there is a lot to be positive about. The SNP’s vision to create a flourishing economy and a fairer society could not be further at odds with the Brexit chaos on offer at Westminster.
 
We have never had as much support for independence and the powers to make different charges and different results.
 
70% of voters expressing an opinion have more confidence in the SNP Scottish Government to manage the economy compared with Westminster according to a new Panelbase poll. This is a ringing endorsement of the SNP’s record in government, with voters choosing to put their trust in Nicola Sturgeon instead of Boris Johnson.
 
More and more of you are now backing independence. We can see what Johnson is doing every hour of every day. As we move ever closer to the end of the transition phase and the crash into exit-EU, the future of the UK as currently constituted is going to see confusion and shortages such that none of us – least of all, the Prime Minister – could ever have imagined.
 
It’s time to go and make our own decisions.

 

Fifth consecutive poll shows voters believe Scotland will vote ‘Yes’ in a fresh referendum

The Panelbase poll, conducted by Business for Scotland, also found that 60% of voters expressing an opinion agree that a pro-independence majority at next year’s Holyrood election has the right to call an independence referendum.
 
Commenting, SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “Nearly two thirds believe we are winning the argument over Scotland’s future.
 
“And no wonder. The SNP’s ambitious plans to rebuild a fairer Scotland, announced yesterday by the First Minister, are in stark contrast to the bleak Brexit Britain that’s on offer from Westminster.
 
“Coronavirus has been the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime and the SNP Government will continue to work hard for the people of Scotland.
 
“But the pressure on Boris Johnson to respect the democratic rights of voters in Scotland is now immense. Make no mistake, a referendum on Scotland’s future is coming – and we will win.”Programme for Government

 
The First Minister has announced her Programme for Government for the year leading up to the May 2021 Scottish elections.
 
To get the full story, go to https://www.gov.scot/publications/protecting-scotland-renewing-scotland-governments-programme-scotland-2020-2021/
 


Briefly:
This Programme for Government sets out the Scottish Government's response to these connected challenges and opportunities. It commits to:
This Programme commits us to:

  • Continue to develop a world-class public health service that builds on our COVID-19 response.
  • Continue to suppress - and preferably eliminate - COVID-19. We will also provide support to those who have the virus and to those who are recovering from it, focusing not just on physical health but also on mental health and social support.
  • Launch in September a new proximity app, Protect Scotland, to enhance and support Test and Protect.
  • Remobilise our NHS Services focusing on (1) a move to deliver safely as many of its normal services as possible; (2) ensuring the capacity that is necessary to deal with the continuing presence of COVID-19; and (3) preparing the health and care services for the wider pressures of the winter season.
  • Extend the seasonal flu vaccine to those working in social care who provide direct personal care, those over 55, those living with someone who is shielding, and those aged 50‑54 depending on vaccine supplies, to protect people and our NHS this winter.
  • Immediately establish an independent review of adult social care. This will examine how adult social care can most effectively be reformed to deliver a national approach to care and support services. This will include consideration of a national care service.
  • Create a new role of Patient Safety Commissioner.
  • Scale up access to digital care - for both physical (Near Me video consultations) and mental health (Cognitive Behavioural Therapies) care.
  • Introduce a high quality and clinically safe thrombectomy service in Scotland which will ensure that those who experience severe stroke receive the best possible care, reducing their risk of long term disability.
  • Develop a nationwide network of community treatment centres to help patients manage their conditions and get treatments closer to home.
  • Redesign our accident and emergency services to ensure patients get safe and effective care in a way that protects them from exposure to COVID-19.
  • Expand mental health and wellbeing support for health and social care staff, including the development of a Health and Social Care Mental Health Network and enhanced access to digital resources.
  • Implement a Workforce Specialist Service, which will provide confidential assessment and treatment for mental ill health. This will be delivered through a multi‑disciplinary team of mental health care providers, and be supported by the continued delivery of digital wellbeing resources through the National Wellbeing Hub and the National Wellbeing Helpline.
  • Establish community health and wellbeing services that will support children, young people and their families - and have a particular focus on mental health - across all local authorities in 2021.
  • Work with Boards to retain, develop and support Mental Health Assessment Centres, as part of a broader approach to improving access to appropriate help as quickly as possible for people with mental health needs or distress.
  • A national mission to create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs - with a particular focus on our young people, supporting retraining and investing in our Green New Deal to tackle climate change.Promoting lifelong health and wellbeing - by tackling COVID-19, remobilising and reforming the NHS and social care and tackling health inequalities.
  •  
  • Promoting equality and helping our young people fulfil their potential.

I can’t condense the whole report but I certainly encourage you to take a look. The sound of commitment and honesty is a very welcome change from the daily nonsense we hear from elsewhere.
 
The Scottish Budget will work alongside the Programme for Government. In advance of the Budget 2021-22, the Scottish Government is seeking views on the role of Scotland’s devolved taxes and Fiscal Framework in supporting the COVID-19 economic recovery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered twin health and economic crises on a global scale. The Scottish Government has taken unprecedented steps to support the people and businesses of Scotland and we will continue to do so. We also remain committed to being an open and consultative government, which values and encourages accountability.

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The pandemic has underlined the importance of providing timely information about the decisions we are taking to support public understanding and provide opportunities for the public and stakeholders to participate in those decisions.

In the Programme for Government 2020-21, we committed to building on our strong track record of taking a consultative approach to tax policy by launching an open representations process in advance of Budget 2021-22.  This process will seek views on the role of our devolved taxes and the Fiscal Framework in the COVID-19 economic recovery, and to inform the decisions we take at the upcoming Budget.

The Scottish Government considers this to be a crucial time to seek wide-ranging views on how we can best deploy our limited tax, borrowing and reserve powers to support the recovery, and how we can seek to address any deficiencies in our current devolved fiscal arrangements exposed by the crisis, in order to build stronger fiscal foundations for Scotland’s future.

I really encourage you to participate. There are just 6 main questions and the closing date is 8 October:

1. Devolved and local taxes as part of the Covid-19 recovery, with a focus on Budget 2021-22

2. Are there any further tax powers that should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament to facilitate our ability to support the economic recovery?
 
3. Are there any new tax proposals you would like to see implemented by the Scottish Government?
 
4. What particular fiscal challenges have been highlighted as a result of the COVID-19 emergency?
 
5. What changes, if any, should be made to the scope of devolved fiscal powers under the Fiscal Framework?
 
6. What fiscal rules should the Scottish Government follow?
 
The form is here:
https://consult.gov.scot/financial-strategy/budget-2021-22-supporting-covid-19-recovery/consultation/subpage.2016-07-07.1474135251/

 

Help for those with sight-threatening conditions


Patients with chronic eye conditions will be now be able to be assessed by community optometrists as part of a new plan supported by £3 million in funding.


Due to changes in hospital services because of COVID-19 - including health, safety and physical distancing measures – there has been limited capacity to see all patients with chronic and sight-threatening conditions.

Under the new plan, the skills of community optometrists will be utilised to support hospital eye services, ensuring more patients can be seen for their appointments. 


Community optometrists are qualified to undertake this care – and the new initiative will help patients as well as supporting the existing optometry workforce.
 
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to accelerate the reform of NHS eye care services.



This includes funding to support an additional 50 optometrists to train as independent prescribing optometrists, who can safely treat more patients within the community.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “As we steadily re-mobilise, we are implementing new ways of working to enable our highly skilled workforce across the whole NHS to deliver care in a safe and timely manner.

“I’m pleased that as we continue to see positive results in dealing with the virus, hospital patients with eye conditions will now be able to be reviewed by community optometrists.

“Community optometrists have worked very hard during the pandemic to embrace new ways of working, and these clinicians will now also play a key role in this initiative.

“This plan utilises the capacity within community optometry – their expertise, staffing and readily equipped practices can support the NHS both during the COVID-19 pandemic recovery, and beyond.”



Director of Royal National Institute of Blind Scotland James Adams said: "We welcome any move that ensures people receive timely eye-care examinations and treatment.  It remains as crucial as ever that eye problems are diagnosed as quickly as possible so that people don't lose sight unnecessarily.

“As with all our health sector staff, optometrists have worked incredibly hard to maintain their vital service in very challenging conditions. RNIB Scotland has worked closely with them to assure the public that it is safe, and important, to attend appointments."Review of adult social care
 
In Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, we constantly seek to maintain adult care services at the highest possible levels. In a population with an ever larger older population, it is more important than ever that we properly protect older and more vulnerable people.So I welcome the forthcoming independent review is to consider the idea of a national care service.
 
The review, a Programme for Government commitment, will aim to ensure Scotland provides consistently excellent support for people who use these services, as well as their carers and their families.

It will be chaired by Derek Feeley, former director general of Health and Social Care in the Scottish Government, and will report by January 2021.

Adult social care comprises a wide array of services and non-clinical support in a range of settings, involving care homes, care at home, day services, and community support for people with a range of needs.

Social care supports more than 200,000 people across Scotland - those with disabilities, older people, people with mental health problems and those with drug and alcohol problems.

The review will take into account the experiences of those supported by, and who work, in social care, as well as looking at funding, governance, administration and delivery.

The review will consider the needs, rights and preferences of people who use services, their families, and their carers.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This will be a wide ranging review of all aspects of a service which supports and involves so many people across Scotland. I am looking forward to recommendations that help ensure high standards of service and support into the future.

 

The Larkhall Covid-19 Rainbows

The Larkhall Rainbows have been absolutely amazing in their work to support people in need during this pandemic. Working in partnership has been key, from the bottom of my heart I could not be more grateful for the support and joy given to many of my constituents in the Larkhall area.


 

As one of the organisers explains: “We can all agree that the last few months have been extremely difficult as we have all needed to learn and adapt to a new way of living and working. The lockdown period has been particularly difficult for vulnerable people who were isolating or shielding, as many were unable to leave their home to collect essential items - such as food or prescribed medication - due to service closures and restrictions.
 
“The Larkhall COVID-19 Rainbows Group was set-up in March 2020, and has delivered a remarkable amount of support to the local Larkhall community. Local businesses, charities, projects, services and groups have all joined together to provide essential support to local people.
 
“It goes without question that this would not have been possible without local people giving up their own free time to help out through volunteering. Your selflessness and dedication have been truly inspiring for us all and we appreciate the work of all the volunteers who have done so much off their own backs to help give that extra bit of help to those who needed it most during lockdown. Their level of passion, dedication and loyalty has gone beyond the ‘call of duty’.”
 
Every volunteer, everyone who helps in any way, gets my heartfelt thanks. It’s people like you who remind us that there are still generous, kind, compassionate people who really do care about their communities.
 
 
Review of adult social care
 
In Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, we constantly seek to maintain adult care services at the highest possible levels. In a population with an ever larger older population, it is more important than ever that we properly protect older and more vulnerable people.
 
So I welcome the forthcoming independent review is to consider the idea of a national care service.
 
The review, a Programme for Government commitment, will aim to ensure Scotland provides consistently excellent support for people who use these services, as well as their carers and their families.

It will be chaired by Derek Feeley, former director general of Health and Social Care in the Scottish Government, and will report by January 2021.

Adult social care comprises a wide array of services and non-clinical support in a range of settings, involving care homes, care at home, day services, and community support for people with a range of needs.

Social care supports more than 200,000 people across Scotland - those with disabilities, older people, people with mental health problems and those with drug and alcohol problems.

The review will take into account the experiences of those supported by, and who work, in social care, as well as looking at funding, governance, administration and delivery.

The review will consider the needs, rights and preferences of people who use services, their families, and their carers.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “This will be a wide ranging review of all aspects of a service which supports and involves so many people across Scotland. I am looking forward to recommendations that help ensure high standards of service and support into the future.

“This independent review will examine how adult social care can be most effectively reformed to deliver a national approach to care and support services - and this will include consideration of a national care service.

“It will also build upon our existing commitments to improving provision - long standing issues in adult social care have been thrown into sharp relief during the pandemic, and they demand our attention.

“We owe it to those who use and work in adult social care services to acknowledge these challenges, to learn from them, and to consider carefully how we can most effective plan for the future.”

Chair of the Review of Adult Social Care Derek Feeley said: “I am grateful to the Health Secretary for the invitation to chair this independent review and to the advisory panel for agreeing to bring their considerable expertise to our work to recommend improvements to adult social care in Scotland.
 
“I look forward to views of everyone involved in our social care system and, in particular, to hearing from service users about what it will take for us to better meet their needs, rights and preferences.
 
“We have a broad remit that touches on every part of the social care landscape; from the experience of those using and working in the system to how it should be funded and regulated. We will look at every option and opportunity to bring about the improvements that I know everyone working in the system aspires to achieve."