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Keeping up with you

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

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

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

The 2020-21 Budget

budget 2

The Scottish Government has announced a progressive and ambitious budget that demonstrates the vision and leadership of the SNP in Government – supporting our public services, helping family incomes and tackling climate change.

The backdrop is of heightened uncertainty and risk created by the UK Government following its decision to delay the Westminster budget until March.

That means Scotland has to estimate the Barnett consequential that could be forthcoming for Scotland. The promises the Tories made to Scotland during the election campaign need to be delivered upon in full.

I am pleased to see South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) announce that it plans an ambitious programme of investment in homes is at the centre of spending plans approved by councillors.

Chair of South Lanarkshire Council's Housing and Technical Resources Committee Councillor Josh Wilson said: “We are committed to delivering the highest possible standards in public housing, giving people quality homes to live in and helping them save money and protect the environment by investing in energy efficient, well insulated homes.”

Josh

The Council has approved the 2020/21 Housing Capital Programme which will see £97 million being invested into maintaining and improving council houses across South Lanarkshire and in continuing to build  new homes to the highest standard.

 “From an online survey of council tenants 84% of the returns felt that the rent they pay represents good or very good value for money.

“The coming year will also see the continuation of South Lanarkshire’s rent harmonisation with the  Committee agreeing that tenants currently paying less than the harmonised level should not face an additional increase of more than £2 per week."

SLC housing pic

It’s fantastic to see support for public services reaching a record investment of £15 billion in health and social care services. There is an additional £645 million for the expansion of early learning and childcare, £117 million for mental health services and £37 million to help Police Scotland.

Local authorities will receive total funding from the Scottish Government of £11.3 billion in 2020-2021.

Majority of Scots think UK is undemocratic

A Panelbase poll, commissioned by The National newspaper, found that 49% of voters in Scotland now agree it is undemocratic for the UK Tory government to block Scotland's right to choose its own future.

The poll also found that 53% of voters believe the SNP’s overwhelming victory in December’s general election gives the party a mandate to hold a referendum – with 52% now backing a ‘Yes’ vote.

SNP Depute Leader, Keith Brown commented: “Support for independence is growing every day, with the latest polling showing a majority for Yes. Boris Johnson’s position is simply unsustainable – he cannot indefinitely stand in the way of democracy.

Keith

“The Tory excuses for blocking Scotland’s democratic right to decide its own future are becoming more desperate by the day – and also betray the fact they are running scared of the verdict of the people.”

Funeral support payment to be increased

The Funeral Support Payment’s rate for expenses such as funeral director fees, a coffin, and flowers, is to be increased from £700 to £1,000 for all applications received from 1 April.

Introduced in September last year, the Funeral Support Payment replaced the UK Government’s Funeral Expense Payment in Scotland, greatly increasing eligibility. It is intended to help alleviate the burden of debt faced by those on low income benefits when paying for a funeral.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, said: “This increase, alongside the extended eligibility we have introduced, means the Funeral Support Payment is there to ease the pressures on up to 5,000 people annually at such a difficult time in their lives. So far the total average pay-out has been around £1,500.”

Dundee Women’s Festival

A small promotion to all of the women in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse. Here is the small and committed board of the annual festival explaining what’s coming up ahead.

 “A diverse programme of events for Dundee Women’s Festival has been unveiled ahead of the extravaganza’s 20th anniversary.

“Beginning on February 29, a fortnight of events will include arts and crafts workshops, STEM discussions, child-friendly sessions and a rowing expedition on the Tay.

“There will also be comedy, film, art, history and international food and dance events.

“Meanwhile a more sombre series of talks and debates will address issues such as reproductive loss, mental health, domestic abuse and learning difficulties.

“One of the keynote speakers will be Christina McKelvie MSP, the Scottish Minister for Older, People and Equalities, who will deliver the opening address.

“This year’s theme is Women Making Waves, celebrating the achievements of Dundee women in the past and present in a variety of fields.

“Festival committee chair Prue Watson said: “We usually get about 3000 people coming to the festival and we are hoping to get a few more this year.

“We’re in the process of giving out 5000 programmes.

“Like always, we’re putting on a diverse range of events to appeal to families, older people, anyone really.

“There are hands-on workshops, talks, rowing, a silent disco, music, comedy, you name it.”

Between February 29 and March 14 there will be a total of 75 events in venues across Dundee.

Prue said that this year there would be more STEM events than usual because the committee has taken over the running of the Women’s Science Festival.

She added: “There are lots of new things this year.

“We’re partially sponsored by Dundee City Council and now we’re also getting funding from the Wellcome Trust through Dundee University.

“We’d like to acknowledge that help  – funding is always a problem for us because there are quite a few costs to putting on this festival.

“There are only five of us on the board.”

Dundee Women’s Festival has grown over the past 20 years, from humble beginnings as just a handful of celebrations at community centres for International Women’s Day on March 8 to a major event on the city calendar.

Programmes are available from local libraries, community centres and other venues throughout Dundee or from the festival’s website www.dundeewomensfestival.org.uk 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

Thank you for taking a moment to look at this email. I do 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 for anyone who seeks advice and support, so you can phone or email me at any time.

You also have the option of visiting my constituency sugeries each Monday. You don't need to make an appointment.

If you haven't yet subscribed to receive your personalised copy of this newsletter, which we send out every two weeks, please do sign up here. Do feel free to forward it on to anyone else you think might be interested in reading it.

Holocaust Memorial Day
On Monday, 27 January, we all marked Holocaust Memorial Day. It is now 75 years since the liberation of the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The miserable historical record of 1.1m people, mainly Jews, but also LGBT people, Roma and other communities, who were murdered at Auschwitz.



These individuals can never be forgotten or ignored. In total, somewhere in the region of 6m Jews died at the hands of the Nazi regime, and a total of something around 11m when other groups are included. 

Statistics don’t equate with the real people, the families, the older people and the youngest ones. Their personal stories, how they were taken, how little they understood about what was going on at the time.
 

Continually, and rightly, we urge that these innocent people are never forgotten. We try to make sure that our children have an understanding of these tragic events

Pictures, voices, memories bring to life what ‘life’ in one of the death camps was like - for as long as a life lasted. Many went straight to the gas chambers from the station at the end of the line, especially those who were sick or disabled in any way, and the babies who were unable to work.
 
There seems to be no depths to which human depravity will not sink.
 
40,000 disabled Scots lose benefits
High levels of human depravity are daily occurrences. Almost 40,000 disabled Scots ‘have lost benefits completely’ as more than half of applications in Scotland to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) have been rejected since 2013 when it took over from the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).


 
Since then, there have been 167,000 new claims in Scotland that have been rejected, accounting for 54% of all applications. The share of new claimants securing PIP has decreased since its introduction from 74% to 56%.
 
The data suggests 39,000 people in Scotland have lost their disability benefits completely, costing them income loss of between £1200 and £7740 a year, after loosing their DLA entitlement before being reassessed and refused PIP.
 
Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Scottish Government’s social security secretary, was critical of the findings, saying 30,000 people had gone through a “stressful” appeals process since the introduction of PIP – 21,000 of those going to court.



She said: “For disabled people, the stress and anxiety of the application process and face-to-face assessment process are already hallmarks of the UK Government’s welfare reforms.

“Now this latest analysis shows that those most in need in our society are less likely to get help or have to fight through the courts to get what they are entitled to.

“Tens of thousands of disabled people are facing greater hardship because they have completely lost their benefits.”

She added: “We will do things differently as we start delivery of disability benefits over the next 18 months.

“Social security is an investment in the people of Scotland and we want people to receive all the support they are entitled to.”

I have battled against PIP since it began. Its method of assessment leads to people recovering from a heart attack (Remember ‘I Daniel Blake’), veterans suffering from PTSD, people with serious mental problems such as schizophrenia, agoraphobia,  paranoia and many other conditions that qualified them for DLA, are being told that they are fit to work.



Not because their condition has improved but that overnight, by some remarkable flight of fancy, they are all fit for work.
 
The Scottish Government is working to at least mitigate some of the worst examples. We don’t yet have the power to run a social services system that puts people at its centre, but we’re working on it enthusiastically.
 
This Tory government doesn’t make positive change easily. Boris Johnson prefers to chase an imperialist, colonial British Empire at his centre. The impossibility as well as the undesirability of this escapes him.
 
Leaving Europe
It’s now only a couple of days until the UK leaves Europe.

In Westminster, on Friday 24 January, Ian Blackford SNP MP, said: “In just one week’s time, Scotland faces being dragged out of the EU and into the Brexit abyss against its will – harming people’s livelihoods and jeopardising our communities and businesses.”
 


We have enjoyed more than 40 years of peace in Europe, with the benefits of the prosperity which has come with that, at least until the start of Tory austerity.
 
Keep a particular eye on whether Boris Johnson decides to go for an extension in July – that’s the latest point at which that option is open to him – and, if not, then I fear we will begin to see the real damage of Brexit.

Many experts have written and spoken around the issues and almost all, including the Government’s own advisers, see only lost jobs, rising prices, and the loss of many of the protections the EU gives us.
 
The Brexit Job Loss index put the figure at 420,348 UK-wide and 29, 836 in Scotland, at the end of September. That is, job losses as a direct result of Brexit, not the knock-on impact which is impossible to measure.
 
Glasgow is placed number one of the 10 cities that are going to be hardest hit. The UK total annual amount of wages lost is calculated at £12,054,319,596
 
The cost of the reduction in annual income tax and national insurance receipts stands at £3,610,314,326.76. You can find more information and detail at https://smallbusinessprices.co.uk/brexit-index/
 
The cost of Brexit to date comes in at £83bn and rising by around £727 every second. See:  https://costofbrexit.netlify.com/

Ian Blackford added: “Despite the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all refusing to give consent to Westminster's Withdrawal Agreement, the Tory government has continued with its policy of riding roughshod over devolution and threatening its very foundations.

“The Tories' toxic, race to the bottom Brexit plans and their contempt for Scotland and the other devolved parliaments will seal the fate of the union. It's little wonder they are running scared of democracy in Scotland – but their anti-democratic stance is unsustainable.

"Our voices and votes have been disregarded, our Parliament disrespected, and our democratic decision to stay in the EU overridden. It’s clear beyond any doubt that Scotland will never be treated as an equal partner in the UK. 

“With the SNP winning a landslide victory at the general election - securing 80% of seats in Scotland on a cast-iron mandate to hold an independence referendum – the people of Scotland must have that choice over our future.
 
“That decision lies solely with the people of Scotland - not a detached and dangerous Tory government acting against Scotland’s interests.”
 
We won’t see big changes instantly. There are another 12 months before the solid black curtain falls and the so-called UK becomes a small backwater of little interest or relevance globally; certainly not the Utopian Empire that has been the focus of leaving Europe.
 
Never have these four nations ever been so disunited. Three of us are tiny minorities and are treated as either loathed or irrelevant, as revealed particularly when both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted decisively to remain in the EU.
 
I will not be celebrating departure from the EU; I am lamenting it along with the majority of voters here and in Northern Ireland.
 
Pupil exclusion in South Lanarkshire
Children across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse have missed out on 2217 days of schooling last year.
 
It’s a shocking figure, though on the low side of the national average. While SLC say that exclusion is a ‘last resource’ and recognises that missed days may have a long-term impact upon a child’s ability to gain qualifications that will provide entry to career options.
 
The greatest number of exclusions are classed as ‘general or persistent disobedience’ but damage to school property, fire-raising and verbal abuse were just some of the other reasons given.
 
The overall rate per 1000 pupils sits at 21.2, putting Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse at the low end of the scale.

Furthermore, the number of exclusions in the SLC area has been more than halved since 2006-7 as a result of the commitment from the Scottish Government to help schools build and improve relationships with pupils and parents.
 
What makes children behave badly at school? The reasons are numerous – problems at home, abuse, bad company, lack of responsible parenting as well as less common but highly significant other factors.
 
In my view, we need to do more of what we are already doing. That is, to develop stronger networks between pupils, staff and parents so that all are involved in school life. We need to help those children who begin to show signs of repetitive bad behaviour so that a negative cry for help can be turned into a positive sense of belonging and of taking responsibility rather than just kicking out.
 
Many interventions are already in place, as Anne Donaldson, Head of Education (inclusion) at SLC says: “The important part about planning around an exclusion is the process to reset the situation so that the pupil returns in a frame of mind that reduces the chances that further exclusions will occur.



“This is around what we call return-to-school planning and will involve the pupil, parents and school staff in creating a restorative approach to the circumstances that led to the exclusion and building on the positive experience the child will have in school.

“Exclusion from school is not in itself a cause of further difficulties in later life, but it is an indicator of other issues which contribute to antisocial behaviour.

“Giving every child a strong start in life includes meeting the needs of young people who need more choices and chances, and who are at risk of not engaging with or benefiting from compulsory education.

“During an exclusion, the school will provide work and engage in structured interactive contact with the child and family.


“During and after the exclusion, the school staff will look at the interventions that are in place for the child in order that they can manage their school experience.

“These interventions are too numerous to detail in full but can include therapeutic work in nurture rooms, behaviour support, changes to class environments and support through visual timetables and support in class to help the child manage their time and work.

“This work is done through our Staged Intervention process, which all our schools use to take forward planning for individual children.

“Anything that is agreed with pupils and parents can be set out in additional support plans or behaviour assessment and support plans.”

Exclusion from school can have a huge impact on the pupils excluded, their families and the wider school community. It is clear that it should only ever be considered in cases as an absolute last resort.

Where possible other less disruptive ways of resolving problem behaviours and situations should be used to keep pupils in the school system. Sadly for vulnerable young people the loss of their place at school can exacerbate any problems they face.

I know this belief is something that the education team in the council agree with strongly and that is likely one of the reasons that South Lanarkshire Council’s number of exclusion incidents is lower than the national average. I welcome this but of course there is always more we can do.

I am confident that the SNP administration in South Lanarkshire Council will continue to build on their success, giving all our young people the best chance to succeed in life.

Every teacher puts fantastic effort into helping children to reach their full potential. This Scottish Government recently offered the best pay deal of any UK country and SLC has taken steps to markedly reduce the number of teaching vacancies.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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.

Free wi-fi for Millar Park residents in Hamilton 
It was a real delight to switch on the free wi-fi service in Millar Park a few weeks back. The world of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse is acting on the realisation that the web and all the associated services isn’t just for the under 25s!


The team at Millar Park spent most of a month installing the free service to all residents throughout the 38 flat complex in Hamilton.

The delightful and friendly residents were thrilled to be getting the chance to speak on Skype – and to see – their children and grandchildren in countries like Australia and New Zealand.

 And the Silver Surfers aren’t being abandoned if they’ve not yet had the opportunity to try out some of the technology available to them. Ipads have been handed out so that people can start to learn the ropes and discover the possibilities out there in cyberspace.

Lorraine Masterton from Millar Park Homes said: “We were delighted to welcome Christina to the official launch of our new wireless internet system and to join us for lunch. The staff have been working tirelessly to get the system up and running to ensure our residents have first class access to the internet.

“Just having that ability to access the internet really does help empower those living here in a way that some might struggle to otherwise. We are looking forward to building on this with ongoing opportunities for residents to improve their digital skills so that they can take full advantage of the digital age.”

It was heartening and a great pleasure learning from the residents what a difference this service is beginning to make in their lives. Not only talking in real life to family members across the world, but watching classic movies they’ve loved, or classic football games if that’s your interest.

The vast array of catch-up services, film options, music, news and current affairs is all there at the touch of a few buttons.

Great to see technology opening up communications, especially for people who may be feeling a little lonely and isolated.
 
Best Start Grants and Best Start Foods Schemes in South Lanarkshire
I was delighted to welcome new figures showing that 3,780 payments have been made to low income families under this scheme.

The Best Start Grant package is putting more money in the pockets of low-income families than the DWP system it replaces.
 

The Grant is comprised of three cash payments: The Pregnancy and Baby Payment for parents with babies of up to six months old; the Early Learning Payment for children between two and three and a half years old, and the School Age payment when a child reaches school age.

Best Start Foods is a prepaid card that can be used in shops and online to buy healthy foods for children under three.
 

It’s another great example of what this country could do so much more of if only we had full powers over social security.
 
Self-Directed Support Network in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse
I recently had a great meeting, finding out about the enduring and invaluable support work this group offers in supporting people seeking self-directed care.
 

Founded in 2011, the mission of the group is to help disabled people and their carers to live their lives, whether ordinary or extraordinary, without having to negotiate continuous obstacles imposed by the systems in place.

As a user-led network, these are the people who can share their concerns, their ideas and how they have managed to work through challenging systems imposed by Westminster.

A spokesman said: Since 2011 we have been the local voluntary user-led independent Self -Directed Support champions of choice and we continue to empower and signpost to ensure people have full flexibility, choice and control over their own lives.”

I look forward to supporting the group in whatever ways I can.

 
Refugee children
Boris Johnson’s large group of loyal MPs in Westminster has happily voted down proposals to enshrine protections for child refugees as part of the Brexit deal.

The row-back from the previous Government’s acceptance of the provision is as miserable as it is predictable.

In 2016, after a long campaign by the Labour peer, Alf Dubs, the Conservative government consented to what became known as the “Dubs amendment” to the 2016 Immigration Act. 

But then, first Theresa May, and then Boris Johnson decided they didn't want that kind of compassion in the post-Brexit UK. Lord Dubs wrote to the Conservative MPs:



But outrage greeted Theresa May reducing the number from 3,000 to just 350 children at the height of the refugee crisis where countless parentless children were destitute all over Europe.

Lord Dubs escaped from the Nazis through Nicholas Winton’s humanitarian evacuation scheme. He escaped the Nazis in Prague with the Kindertransport at the age of six.

He vividly recalls his mother waving him off on the train and to this day, he hates railway departures. “I much prefer to meet people off the train than to say goodbye to them,” he comments.

And even though councils insisted that they could accommodate more and the number was upped, fewer than 300 children have been offered the opportunity to join family in the UK.

In the Commons chamber, SNP home affairs spokeswoman, Joanna Cherry MP, urged the Government to accept the proposals to protect child refugees after Brexit or risk “tragic consequences.”

But Mr Johnson and his loyalists prefer to hammer the nails into a lot of new and probably rather small coffins.

Ms Cherry told MPs “Right now, across Europe, there are thousands of unaccompanied children living in the most desperate circumstances. Legal family reunion is a lifeline to these children who otherwise risk their lives in dinghies or in the back of lorries in order to reach a place of safety with family: or, indeed, die in the attempt.


                        Lord Alf Dubs in Calais with fellow campaigner, Claire Mosley

New accommodation for UWS students
Plans to give the former UWS campus in Hamilton a lease of new life are inching forwards as councillors have granted permission for the proposals to be taken forward.
 
The Caird Building is set to provide student accommodation alongside a new residential four-storey building and a car park.
 

Bernard Darroch, Hamilton area manager for Planning and Building Standards services said: "The applicant seeks detailed planning permission for a change of use of the former university accommodation contained within the Caird Building to student accommodation with associated alterations in addition to the erection of a four storey building which would provide 96 bed spaces with associated parking."

A total of 206 beds should be available for students by May 2022.

 
Surgeries 

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.

General Election
On Friday, the SNP won 80% of seats in Scotland. We now have 48 MPs in Westminster. We were the third largest party at Westminster already but with Labour decimated and the Lib Dems disappearing, our Scottish Members are more important than ever before.

They have work to do, work that they will all be relishing, work to bring an end to the job in London and take up the one in an independent Scotland’s parliament.
 
Here in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, I’d be knocking the doors with lots of friends and colleagues campaigning for our local MPs. It was great to see Angela Crawley and Margaret Ferrier safely returned with an increased vote.


 


Perhaps the biggest gasp of the night – even from us – was Amy Callaghan’s fantastic result that felled Jo Swinson as both leader of the Lib Dems and MP for East Dunbartonshire. Well done her!

 

I am weary and depressed by the ‘Get Brexit Done’ slogan. I am reaching out for Scotland’s Future in Scotland’s Hands.

It cannot be democratic for Boris Johnson to phone our First Minister and tell her not to waste her time writing to him in search of a second referendum. He arrogantly and absolutely declares that there will be no referendum in Scotland.



Commenting on the call, the First Minister said: “I pointed out to him, politely of course after I congratulated him, that the Scottish Tories, having fought the election on the single issue of opposition to an independence referendum, had lost – lost vote share, lost more than half of their seats.

“It was a watershed election on Thursday and it’s very clear that Scotland wants a different future to the one chosen by much of the rest of the UK.

“Scotland showed its opposition to Boris Johnson and the Tories, said no again to Brexit, and made very clear that we want the future of Scotland, whatever that turns out to be, to be decided by people who live here.

“You can’t bludgeon a nation into accepting your view of the world when it is made very clear that it doesn’t have that view of the world.

“It couldn’t really be any clearer from the results of this election that Scotland doesn’t want a Boris Johnson government, it doesn’t want to leave the European Union and it wants to be able to determine its own future, whatever that future turns out to be…”



“It is for the Scottish Parliament – not a Westminster government – to decide whether and when there should be a new referendum on independence. The people of Scotland have spoken – it is time to decide our own future.”
 
In both Westminster and in Edinburgh, all the SNP MPs and MSPs are working for the same goals. While I am the MSP in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, I am constantly working alongside Westminster colleagues like Angela Crawley.

Although the Westminster and Scottish constituencies are different, we have so much crossover that of course we are always going to work together in support of everyone in our area.
 
While the myths and legends of the Conservatives in London gradually get untangled and Leave voters begin to see every aspect of their lives negatively impacted. The First Minister has said of the PMs deal that: “Compared with EU membership his deal could cut Scotland’s national income by £9 billion by the end of the next decade.
 
“And if Scotland is taken out of the EU with no trade deal at all next year – which is looking increasingly likely – the cost could be £12.7 billion.
 
“That’s the equivalent of around £2,300 per person in Scotland.”
 
I’ll leave the last word to our First Minister’s speech from St Andrew’s Day.

“It will be a Tory government unlike any we have seen before.
 
“It won’t just be a threat to the NHS.
 
“It will put our economy, jobs and living standards at risk.
 
“In no sense will Brexit be done.
 
“The whole future relationship on trade, security, migration, fishing and a host of other issues has still to be negotiated.
 
“The Westminster chaos will continue.
 
“But the difference is that the ultra-Brexiteers will feel free to put into practice their right-wing vision.
 
“They look to Donald Trump’s America, not Europe’s social model, as their inspiration.

“Outside the EU they will feel free to tear up workers’ rights, environmental and food standards.
 


“Let’s never forget that the leading Brexit supporter, Lord Lawson, hailed the result of the EU referendum as a historic opportunity to finish the job Margaret Thatcher started.
 
“On our national patron saint’s day we owe it to the people of Scotland to set out a different vision for Scotland.
 
“It is of a country where everyone can grow up believing in a sense of possibility.
 
“That means a more prosperous and a more equal Scotland.
 
“In government the SNP is working hard to bring about that better Scotland.
“We’ve already abolished tuition fees.
 
“We’ve set up a genuinely progressive tax system, which helps low paid and middle-income earners.
 
“We’re setting up a National Investment Bank.
 
“We’ve kept the water industry in public hands.
 
“While the Tories have been cutting police numbers in England, we’ve increased the number of police officers by more than 1,000.
 
“We’ve massively out-stripped the rest of the UK in social and council house building. And we are helping with the cost of living.
 
“The SNP is investing in a huge expansion of early learning and childcare for vulnerable 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds.
 
“This will be introduced in full next year, saving families up to £4,500 per child, per year.
 
“With limited powers we have also established a social security system with dignity and fairness at its heart.
 
“We’re introducing a new £10 a week Scottish Child Payment for low income households by the end of next year – it will lift 30,000 children out of poverty when fully implemented.
 
“In this election we’ve set out what we will demand on behalf of the people if the SNP holds the balance of power.
 
“An end to austerity.
 
“A £4 billion boost for Scotland’s NHS.
 
“Greatly enhanced maternity and parental leave.
 
“More action on climate change.
 
“The end of the two child cap on tax credits and associated rape clause.

“These, and a range of other measures, are practical benefits to people’s lives that the SNP will seek to deliver through a progressive alliance.”
 
And that's just part one.
 
Surgeries
A reminder to everyone - sugeries at local venues.

 

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.

General Election

It’s coming yet for all that, and all that…yes, we are campaigning for our MPs – Angela Crawley, Lanark and Hamilton East; Margaret Ferrier, Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

Come out and help us cheer them on! You can check at your local SNP office to get details of what campaigning is planned and in which communities.

And make sure you and your family of over 18s are on the electoral register. Check it out here: https://www.mygov.scot/register-to-vote-scotland/

Independence

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning, Ian Blackford MP, head of the SNP’s Westminster group, declared: “Scotland’s desire for independence is unstoppable and must not be blocked by the next Prime Minister…it will not change whether there is a Corbyn or a Johnson government in London.”

 

There seems to be a complete schism between Labour in London and Labour in Holyrood. While Mr Corbyn says that there is no way, never, unquestionably that he would grant the right for Scotland to have control of its own destiny, his Scottish party seems to take a very different view saying that they would not try to stop a referendum.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson keeps finding more toys to chuck out of his pram while he tries to hide under the quilt and say nothing because every time he speaks, he makes a gaff. I have a mental image of Dominic Cummings, his chief advisor, with a great big iron key in his hand and shouting, ‘get back in your pram.’

Do you think would he ‘die in a ditch’ to stop a Scottish Referendum?

What clearly puts the SNP into the ascendency is our progress on mainstream policies like getting rid of the Bedroom Tax, improving access to free childcare, better care for older people in their own homes, free university tuition, free prescriptions, banning fracking and much more.

This party, this Parliament, is doing everything it can in Scotland and in Westminster to mitigate some of the most damaging impact caused by, for example, Universal Credit.

I am constantly seeing the evidence of the ongoing devastation caused by London Tories. I talk to constituents who are on the edge of despair, who fear losing their homes, their benefits and their family lives because of a decision imposed by Westminster.

The worst of all in these terms is, of course, Brexit. Put it this way, ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet’ in the famous rock classic.

Our voice is ignored. Predictably but no less disgracefully for that, the BBC has excluded Nicola Sturgeon from its leadership debates. Where’s that promised equality, that ‘family of nations,’ that refuses representation from Westminster’s third largest party?

Moving forward

At the SNP National Conference last month, our First Minster said: “Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU has been ignored.

“The Conservative Party has ridden roughshod over the Scottish Parliament.

For the first time ever the UK Government has legislated on devolved matters without the consent of Holyrood.

“With so-called ‘moderate’ Conservatives in full retreat and the hard-line Brexit ultras on the march, that is surely only a taste of what is to come. 

“The Tories’ number one pledge at this election is to take Scotland out of the EU against our will.

“Now, I doubt there is anyone in Scotland who is not heartily sick of the Brexit nightmare.

But the Boris Johnson deal does not ‘get Brexit done’ - it just opens the door to the next episode of the Brexit horror show. 

“His Brexit deal covers the exit terms not the future relationship. Ahead of us would lie many years of wrangling over the UK’s future economic relationship, justice and security arrangements, fisheries, migration and much more.

“What we do know is that the Tories will take Scotland out of the Customs Union and Single Market, a trading block eight times bigger than the UK.

“That will hit jobs and living standards hard. Economic analysis says it will cost every person in Scotland £1600.

“It will take away rights and opportunities. And it will put Scotland at a competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland, with no say over our future.

“Under the Tory deal England will have voted to leave and will leave. Wales will have voted to leave and will leave. Northern Ireland will get a special deal.

“Scotland – with the highest remain vote of any nation in the UK  - will be taken out of the EU against our will.

“That is anti-democratic and unfair.”

It is ‘democratic’ not to have a second referendum on the biggest question in our modern history after a first attempt that depended upon a margin-of-error 2% win for Leave, along with an unclear amount of ‘dark’ money being poured into the campaign. But we can’t have an investigation into that question.

It is ‘democratic’ to deny Scotland to make its own decision about its own future.

Brexit is the new democracy. If you stray from it, you will be labelled a ‘traitor,’ ‘scumbag’ or worse. You may be threatened with verbal abuse on the streets or in a pub and the abuse you will receive on social networks makes me ask just how deceived voters have become. What now passes for normal is as surreal as 1984 was when Orwell wrote it. It couldn’t possibly happen.

The only answer is Scottish  independence. As the FM said at Conference: “There can be no Westminster veto over Scotland’s right to choose our own future and build the kind of country we want to be.

“The fact is Scotland is one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

“We have talent and resources in abundance. 

“Nations of our size -  many with fewer advantages than Scotland - top the league for national income per head, wellbeing and happiness.

“With our world-class universities, cutting-edge industries, vast green energy potential, and one of the world’s most highly skilled populations we should be entering a golden era for Scotland.

“With independence, our country will thrive.”

Asda, Larkhall store

I was delighted to join the Happy Little Helpers make shopping easier for children with autism. The Larkhall Asda Store has become the 385th in the chain to supply the free Makaton shopping aids.

Makaton is a unique language programme, using symbols and signs for objects to help children ask for items they want, but might struggle to communicate verbally.

It helps develop a range of communication skills including, understanding, attention, listening, recall and organisation of language.

Created by Asda employee Jenny Barnett, whose son has non-verbal autism, the Happy Little Helper shopping lists feature a whole range of products from milk and eggs to bread and bananas that can be added to the list then ticked off when they go in the trolley.

It was wonderful to see Asda’s Happy Little Helpers scheme in action.

Many parents use Makaton as an aid to communicate with their young children and the scheme helps to remove the stress of in-store shopping for children and parents.

I encourage more businesses across the country to consider what they can do to make the shopping experience more inclusive for all.

Asda Larkhall store manager, Amie MacLean, said: “The aim of the new boards and symbols is to make shopping that little bit easier for Makaton users, so I was delighted with the positive feedback from the minister.

“Asda is proud to be the first major UK supermarket chain to offer Makaton nationwide.

“Any shoppers who would like to try out the shopping lists should visit the customer services desk in store on arrival, and a colleague will be able to advise on how to borrow a board and symbols for use throughout their shop.”

Keeping up with you 4 November

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.

Our independence

What a day it was last Saturday! Tens of thousands of people in George Square listening to our brilliant speakers. Never mind the fact that it was cold and wet, there was such an atmosphere of shared enthusiasm and excitement that everybody felt a huge resurgence of anticipation.

You can see more at #indyref2020. Or catch more of the pictures on you tube: https://tinyurl.com/yxrecd6d

Our First Minister has stated clearly that our independence ‘is within touching distance.’

So while Boris Johnson says he won’t allow Scotland the right to vote on its own future, and Jeremy Corbyn says a new independence referendum is ‘not necessary or desirable,’ we know where we are going and we will make it happen.

The SNP has taken on many challenges from Westminster and we’ll make many more. We have a strong team there now, so make sure you use your vote so that we can increase our numbers there.

With an election round the corner, one that the FM describes as ‘the most important one Scotland has faced in modern times,’ Nicola Sturgeon expressed the determination of everyone in the Yes movement when she said, prior to the demonstration: ‘So much is on the line – people are completely fed up with the mess at Westminster. But George Square will be packed today as people from all backgrounds join together to demand a better future for Scotland.’

 

As promised at Conference, the FM has confirmed that she will seek a section 30 order, which transfers the requisite legal power to Holyrood, immediately after the election regardless of what party was in Downing Street.

We’re on the campaign trail again and it feels great! Even if you’ve never previously considered voting for the SNP, think about it now and think about getting more involved. This is your country and your independence, wherever you have come from within or without of Scotland.

Brexit

I’ve been staying away from Brexit for obvious reasons. Every time I finished up the Newsletter on a Monday morning, there would be some new and ever more confusing development that made me out of date before the afternoon had started.

But now the Prime Minister has really come a cropper among his supporters. He has not died in the ditch and he has even half-heartedly apologised for his complete failure to deliver his promised Brexit deal by 31 October. He’s had to start melting down the Brexit 50p pieces which have proven to be as much use as his water cannon, the Garden Bridge. He was called out in the Guardian in August 2017 https://tinyurl.com/y8qttf3y for eight failed vanity projects upon which £940m of tax payers money had been wasted during his time as Lord Mayor.

You have to ask why people believe his known lies and still think he’s the right man for the job. I do try hard to understand how his supporters think but I do find it very difficult. Why would anyone want to make their own lives worse? Lose human and workers’ rights, put tariffs on goods we want to export and lose access to the open market of the EU?

Now we have a brief breather. What will happen by 31 January 2020? I have no idea but I have a horrible feeling it won’t get any better in Westminster.

Scotland needs independence to escape from this imbroglio and make the decisions that are right for people here.

You can see more at #indyref2020. Or catch more of the pictures on you tube: https://tinyurl.com/yxrecd6d

Our First Minister has stated clearly that our independence ‘is within touching distance.’ She is not going to take any nonsense from Boris Johnson either: “I wonder if at any point during #GE19 the media will subject this unsustainable and undemocratic position to any serious scrutiny [referring to the PM saying that he will reject any request for a second referendum] You know, instead of just asking if they will ‘allow’ actually asking them to justify saying they will ignore the votes of the Scottish people?”

So while Boris Johnson says he won’t allow Scotland the right to vote on its own future, and Jeremy Corby says a new independence referendum is ‘not necessary or desirable,’ we know where we are going and we will make it happen.

The SNP has taken on many challenges from Westminster and we’ll make many more. We have a strong team there now, so make sure you use your vote so that we can increase our numbers there.

With an election round the corner, one that the FM describes as ‘the most important one Scotland has faced in modern times,’ Nicola Sturgeon expressed the determination of everyone in the Yes movement when she said, prior to the demonstration: ‘So much is on the line – people are completely fed up with the mess at Westminster. But George Square will be packed today as people from all backgrounds join together to demand a better future for Scotland.’

As promised at Conference, the FM has confirmed that she will seek a section 30 order, which transfers the requisite legal power to Holyrood, immediately after the election regardless of what party was in Downing Street.

We’re on the campaign trail again and it feels great! Even if you’ve never previously considered voting for the SNP, think about it now and think about getting more involved. This is your country and your independence, wherever you have come from within or without of Scotland.

Hamilton Food Bank

I want to emphasise, yet again, just how vital, how brilliant, how committed the people who run the food bank in Hamilton are. Apart from Brexit MEPs, they are the only people I know who would like to lose their jobs. If Brexit does happen – and it is still an if – we will be depending upon our food banks more and more.

Let me just give you a small example of a few of the Tweets that have accompanied their recent call for donations in the run-up to Christmas.

* Really humbling to see the great work you are all doing running such a vital support network in our community. well done Isobel and your team and thank you for all the help you provide.

* Can't give the people who run this enough credit. Just amazing. Keep up the good work

* I’d encourage anyone to try to donate what they can to help them

* Brilliant team, doing a fantastic job.

Isobel and her team are awesome, as are all of the generous people of Hamilton and district who donate time, goods and enthusiasm.

So please add your own donations and help the food bank make Christmas better.

Hamilton Churches Drop-In Centre

This great charity group puts its emphasis on the exterior rather than the interior. They are looking for any old winter jackets or coats that people no longer need. They will pass them on to some of their visitors to help keep folk warm over the winter. Find out  more about the group here: https://tinyurl.com/yyhn4s84

Low income families helped

Nearly £210 million has been paid to 347,045 low income households by the Scottish Welfare Fund since it was established in 2013, latest figures show.

Crisis grant applications to the fund for basic essentials such as food and heating increased by 12% from April to June compared to the same period last year.

In addition, for the first time exceptional pressure is the main reason for Community Care Grant applications. Previously, the biggest reason for these applications was helping people to stay in their community.

The fund, which enables local authorities to provide grants for people on low incomes, is part of the Scottish Government’s mitigation efforts for UK Government welfare cuts. Estimates suggest social security spending in Scotland is set to reduce by £3.7 billion per year by 2021.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“These are yet more signals of how much families are struggling.

“In the face of UK Government cuts and with the threat of a ‘no deal’ Brexit still alive – the risk is real that tens of thousands more people could be pushed into poverty in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government will not stand by and let people who are already struggling continue to face a reliance on food banks and the stress of debt and rent arrears.

“We will continue to spend at least £100 million each year to mitigate the worst effects of the UK government welfare cuts – part of the £1.4 billion we spent last year to support low income households.

“This is money we should be able to invest elsewhere to help pull people out of poverty but we instead we need to use to protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our country.

“And we are introducing the Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty head on. But there is no doubt that without the cuts inflicted on families by the UK Government this could go so much further

Hamilton Churches Drop-In Centre

This great charity group puts its emphasis on the exterior rather than the interior. They are looking for any old winter jackets or coats that people no longer need. They will pass them on to some of their visitors to help keep folk warm over the winter. Find out  more about the group here: https://tinyurl.com/yyhn4s84

Low income families helped

Nearly £210 million has been paid to 347,045 low income households by the Scottish Welfare Fund since it was established in 2013, latest figures show.

Crisis grant applications to the fund for basic essentials such as food and heating increased by 12% from April to June compared to the same period last year.

In addition, for the first time exceptional pressure is the main reason for Community Care Grant applications. Previously, the biggest reason for these applications was helping people to stay in their community.

The fund, which enables local authorities to provide grants for people on low incomes, is part of the Scottish Government’s mitigation efforts for UK Government welfare cuts. Estimates suggest social security spending in Scotland is set to reduce by £3.7 billion per year by 2021.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“These are yet more signals of how much families are struggling.

“In the face of UK Government cuts and with the threat of a ‘no deal’ Brexit still alive – the risk is real that tens of thousands more people could be pushed into poverty in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government will not stand by and let people who are already struggling continue to face a reliance on food banks and the stress of debt and rent arrears.

“We will continue to spend at least £100 million each year to mitigate the worst effects of the UK government welfare cuts – part of the £1.4 billion we spent last year to support low income households.

“This is money we should be able to invest elsewhere to help pull people out of poverty but we instead we need to use to protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our country.

“And we are introducing the Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty head on. But there is no doubt that without the cuts inflicted on families by the UK Government this could go so much further.”

Know your menopause

Many of you will already know that trying to take the stigma out of the menopause continues to be an abiding campaign of mine.

So I’m delighted to see #knowyourmenopause launch a poster campaign. They aim to get a poster into every GP surgery and health centre right across the whole country in an effort to raise awareness, particularly of early menopause.

You can download your own poster at http://www.positivity.co.uk/ or @positivity2