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Keeping up with you

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

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

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

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

If you haven’t yet subscribed to receive your personalised copy of this newsletter, which we are sending out every two weeks, then please do  sign up here.
  
20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament
 A Happy New Year to all of you. 2019 is a special anniversary for our Scottish Parliament which turns 20 on 1 July. The Corporate Body has approved a year-long programme of events and activities to showcase the positive impact the Scottish Parliament has had.


 

I understand that plans include events planned during the year include the launch of a new public exhibition telling the story of the Parliament; a series of family days; and a national photography competition to find the best images illustrating Holyrood’s 20-year history. 

We’re told by the Parliament’s Chief Executive, Paul Grice, that this is just a flavour of what is planned. 
 
68,000 newborns benefited from the Baby Box
 Latest figures reveal that 68,513 newborns across Scotland have enjoyed a Baby Box since the policy was introduced in 2017. Across NHS Lanarkshire, that means 7956 Baby Boxes have been 'delivered' - along with the babies!
 


I have seen many mums across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse and have enjoyed the delight expressed by mums. The practical, genuinely useful and well thought out contents have helped many mums to get to grips with a new baby. 
 
As well as the Baby Box, the SNP Government has also launched the Best Start Grant to support low income families with financial help during the early years of a child’s life.

The new benefit offers eligible parents or carers £600 for their first child, £100 more than the DWP Sure Start Maternity Grant it replaces. It also provides £300 for all subsequent children – there is no cap at two children as there is in the UK Government’s equivalent policy.
 
Brexit: The ongoing crisis
It’s just 81 days until 29 March, the date upon which the UK is set, not so much to leave the EU, as to fall out of it with an enormous crash. We, in Scotland. continue to fight for our interests.


 
To compound matters, we have Jeremy Corbyn completely opposed to the very idea of a second referendum. Last week he was backing it, declaring if that was what Labour party members wanted, then he was open to it. In a poll by YouGov, 72% of Labour Party members said they wanted the opportunity to vote again, armed with the increased information they now have to hand, but Jeremy said no.
 
The survey also suggests that as many as 88,000 Labour members have considered quitting the party over Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Brexit.

Then you’ve got the ongoing panic and rifts of Theresa May’s side. As I write, I can’t tell precisely what her deal (or no deal) will do in the House of Commons on 14 January, but it seems likely it will fail to get the support she needs.
 
What happens then, no one, least of all the UK Government, can know for sure. While the Leavers may get their blue passports back and can continue to declare their British identity just as they have always done, the economy will take a tremendous hit. 


Picture courtesy of The Herald

This is not Utopia. It is something more like Dante’s Inferno where jobs will disappear at a terrifying rate as European investors accustomed to free trade arrangements pull out.

Their customers are not going to pay sudden tariffs that increase costs by anything up to 40% or even more under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
 
For example, why would the EU customers for Scottish lamb, for our famous whiskies, for our fish and shellfish - of which we sell 75% to customers in the EU - for cars made in the UK, suddenly agree to pay a tariff for those goods?

Nor will the customers in the supermarkets of Spain or France be willing to pay a much higher price for imported, non-EU produce that won’t be regulated by the EU Food Standards agency.
 
I have previously talked about the issues around the drugs upon which many lives depend and which the UK mainly imports from continental Europe.



These include anti-cancer drugs, insulin, immunosuppressants, anti-asthmatic treatments and hundreds more. What happens to those supplies after Brexit?

The Government is stock-piling drugs - another huge and unnecessary cost of Brexit - but that won't last long if we aren't receiving replacements. Even if we are, then you can be certain the UK NHS will have to pay tariffs on those imports, putting ever more strain on the health service. 

The ‘poverty trap’ of the two-child cap and the rape clause



More families in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse are going to see the impact of the ill-considered two child policy from February onwards.
 
From next month, the cap will apply to all new claimants regardless of when the child was born. This will mean that families who have a third child (or more) will be negatively affected.
 
The cap also means that women must disclose if their child was born as a result of rape or coercion if they are to receive the financial support their child is then eligible for. -the rape clause. Roll up the witnesses.
 
Tory MP, Nadhim Zahawi, said benefits to families with more than two children should lose child benefits and tax credits for the third and subsequent children – unless they can prove that the child is a result of a rape.


 
Polly Toynbee, in the Guardian, said: “As the Child Poverty Action Group eloquently argues, benefits for children not only spread the cost of living between richer and poorer, but also smooth the bumps in everyone's life cycle. When children are born costs are highest and earnings meagre, but later many will earn more, pay more tax and take less out."
 
40% of parents failing to receive child maintenance under DWP scheme
 To add to the hardships of those on lower incomes and struggling to find employment, the UK government’s “collect and pay” scheme for child maintenance are failing to get the money owed. The SNP continues to renew its calls for the service to be devolved so that we can deal with it properly through our own Scottish Parliament.
 


Latest figures for the quarter to March 2018 show that compliance with the scheme is at 60%, with 8,800 parents due to pay and 5,300 paying some of the maintenance due. 
 
The UK government-run Child Maintenance Service (CMS) currently place a 4% fee on to any receiving parent and charges an administration fee of £20 to open a case. 
 
People in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse are already telling me the problems they face. The scheme is just not fit for purpose. The irony is that many of those eligible cannot afford to take up the Child Maintenance Service scheme.
 
12 months that strengthened the case for independence
 
The “abject failure” of the Westminster establishment to respect Scotland’s interests over the past year has been a “powerful demonstration of why Scotland needs independence”, says SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown.



It might not be an entirely new message, but it’s one that constantly needs to be reinforced and particularly in the context of Brexit chaos.. The UK is doing the people of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse no favours.
 
Over the past year, the UK government’s incompetent approach to Brexit negotiations has left the UK’s political establishment in chaos as March 2019 approaches.
 
Keith Brown says that In 2018, the UK government has:
* Ignored repeated attempts by the Scottish Government to pursue a compromise option of single market and customs union membership – the best option for jobs and household incomes short of EU membership

* Proposed a deal that could see Northern Ireland given a competitive advantage over Scotland

* Attacked devolution by changing UK law after the fact to undermine Holyrood’s cross-party attempt to prepare Scotland’s laws for Brexit

* Opposed the efforts by Scottish politicians to establish whether the UK can revoke Article 50 – giving us crucial clarity over future options

* Delayed a vote on the proposed Withdrawal Agreement to protect the Prime Minister – and recklessly pushing the UK closer to a No Deal Brexit

Mr Brown adds:
“The past year has been eye-opening – with the dysfunctional, self-serving and childish approach of the Westminster establishment on full view as never before. 
 
“Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and our voice and interests have been side-lined from day one.
 
“The contrast with independent Ireland – who have received overwhelming support and solidarity from other EU nations – has been startling.
 
“While we would welcome an early General Election, the sad fact is Labour have been just as divided and opportunistic over Brexit as the Tories have.
 
“Only independence will put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – rather than being stuck with a failing Westminster.”
 
He is so right and I do believe we will move forward towards that ultimate goal in the coming chaotic year.
 
Tackling social isolation and loneliness
I was proud and delighted to kick start our world-leading strategy tackling social isolation and loneliness in the Chamber on 18 December. This country has become one of the first in the world to develop a national strategy to deal with the serious problem of social isolation.
 


The strategy will be backed by £1 million over the next two years to support and expand innovative projects and approaches to bring people together. We’ll be bringing improvements to health and social care, bringing more accessible transport and investing in digital connectivity so that we can help to build more closely connected communities.
 
Actions in the Strategy include working with health and social care integration authorities to address social isolation; piloting a new housing solution for older people to test out intergenerational and co-living arrangements; working with partners to raise awareness of the value of befriending; engaging with older age groups to understand how digital technology could add value to their lives.
 


In Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, as well as throughout Scotland, one in 10 people report often feel lonely for myriad reasons. In this fast-paced world, older people can feel ignored and overwhelmed.
 
People often feel afraid to admit they are lonely or isolated yet these feelings can affect anyone at any age, or stage, or walk of life. It is known that social isolation and loneliness can have a significant impact on a person's physical and mental wellbeing which is why we are tackling this issue with a preventative approach allowing loneliness and social isolation to be treated as a public health issue.

This is just the beginning of work we are doing to tackle loneliness but we can't do it alone. It is the responsibility of all of us as individuals and communities, and within the public sector, local authorities and businesses to reach out with kindness and build a country where all of us feel welcome within our communities and valued as an important part of society.

I believe that it is not just a kindly or compassionate thing to do; it is an absolute responsibility and all of us who are able need to play our part and think ahead to when it might be you or me who feel alone and isolated.
  

 

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.

 

 

Christmas Window Competition

 


Christmas is coming and we have a special treat for the local BID businesses and their staff.

We want BID businesses to produce their best Christmas window display.  The best displays will win £200 towards a staff Christmas night out.  There will be 2 prizes this year – the business with the most likes on Facebook and directors’ choice.

So get your tinsel out and get creative and join in the fun in Hamilton this Christmas.


The competition closes at 12pm on Monday 17 December.  The winners will be announced on Tuesday 18 December.
To enter your business in the competition, please email a picture to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or send it to us through our Facebook page.

Good luck everyone.

 

World Aids Day

MSPs marked the 30th World AIDS Day in the Scottish Parliament last week. We all want to raise awareness of HIV and challenge the stigma which still surrounds the condition.

Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse is no more immune to HIV, the virus that causes Aids, than any other part of the country.

 

The debate in the Scottish Parliament was led by SNP MSP Emma Harper, who reflected on the work of the Scottish Government, alongside organisations such as Waverley Care, to make HIV a manageable condition and help those diagnosed with HIV lead long, healthy lives.
 
It was recently announced that the Scottish Government had met the UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets – a series of targets set out in 2014 to challenge aids globally.
 
In 2017, there were 369 diagnoses of HIV reported in Scotland, and there are an estimated 5,786 people living with HIV across the country.
 
Speaking in the debate, Emma Harper MSP said:
 
“I would like to thank colleagues from across the Chamber who have added their support to my motion, which has allowed me to have this important 30th World Aids Day debate in Parliament.
 
“I commend the joint work of Waverley Care and Scotland's NHS boards for their promotion of undetectable equals un-transmittable, ‘U = U’  – which is a key message of this 30th World Aids Day.
 
"This means that if a person who is living with HIV achieves and maintains an undetectable viral load by adhering to their prescribed medication, the HIV virus cannot be passed to another person through sex. Being HIV-positive today is completely different from how it was 30 years ago.
 
“Having had experience of working with prominent researchers, practitioners and medical professionals both at home and in the USA, I am acutely aware of how important it is to tackle the stigma around HIV and Aids, and I encourage everyone to know their HIV status.”

 

Cashless at Christmas

You have all heard me relentlessly pushing for an improved social security system that does not contain the kinds of horrors that continue to emerge out of the Universal Credit failed concept. I noted Theresa May declaring to Parliament that there was no such thing a five week wait for payment. She should talk to a few of my constituents in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse who will tell a very different story.

 

I find the idea of withholding money for five weeks not just abhorrent but completely horrific. Christmas highlights that, though it is as true for any time of the year.

Yes, you can get a loan, but a loan has to be paid back and when you’re struggling already, another demand on your very limited income can only push families back further into even more poverty.

Anyone making a new claim for Universal Credit faces spending the festive season without money, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said today.

The in-built wait of a minimum of five weeks before payment means that anyone making a claim this week will need to survive until January without money to which they are entitled.

Ms Somerville criticised the delay as she met with people receiving benefits on a visit to a Citizen’s Advice Scotland office in Leith –  the full service roll out of Universal Credit by the UK Government  began to be rolled out in Edinburgh last week.    

Ms Somerville said:

“Christmas is a time of additional expense for most people but it’s particularly hard for families with little money to begin with.

“It is therefore unacceptable that anyone making a claim for Universal Credit from last week will not see their money until after Christmas. This is an appalling situation for many across Scotland and why we have repeatedly called for a halt to the roll out of Universal Credit.

“The minimum five week wait for a first payment is just one of the many problems with Universal Credit, the roll out of which has led to sharp rises in the use of food banks and rent arrears. 

“While the DWP do offer advance payments, this needs to be paid back from future payments, locking families in to further debt at the start of a new year.

 “The Scottish Government cannot change Universal Credit.  It’s a benefit delivered by the UK Government. However, we do have limited powers to make the delivery of Universal Credit better suited to the needs of people. Since last year, our Universal Credit Scottish choices have given people the choice to receive their Universal Credit award twice monthly and have the housing costs paid directly to their landlord.

 “We are spending significant amounts to mitigate the worst effects of UK Government cuts and support those on low incomes - £125 million this year alone - £20 million more than last year. 

“Previous calls for the roll out to be halted have been ignored and Universal Credit will be available in all areas before Christmas. The UK Government must now make the fundamental changes needed to make Universal Credit fit for purpose before the managed migration of people on legacy benefits begins next summer.”

Background

The roll out of Universal Credit full service across Scotland has now been completed. This means that anyone who would have made a claim to one of the six legacy benefits will now have to claim Universal Credit. Anyone who currently receives a legacy benefit will also be moved onto Universal Credit should there be a change in their circumstances.

Due to the in-built minimum five week wait for a first payment of Universal Credit, anyone making a new claim will have to wait until after Christmas to receive that payment.

 

#GoodCauseSantaClaus Christina visits the Christmas charity project in Larkhall

 

I would like to encourage everyone in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to participate in ‘Good Cause Santa Claus’ a Secret Santa challenge launched by the Charity Retail Association.

Secret Santa is a popular game amongst families, friends and work colleagues in which participants randomly assign another member of the group to buy an anonymous gift for. Good Cause Santa Claus involves the same challenge but gifts are to be purchased only in charity shops.

I'm backing the challenge and highlighting the benefits of Christmas shopping in local charity shops.

Participating in the Secret Santa charity shop challenge is a fun way to give back in this festive season.

The challenge is great for the environment and beneficial for local charities who rely on shop funds to provide vital services at this time of year.

Charity shops bring huge social value to the Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse communities, support countless volunteers and boost our local high streets.

Rachel Blair, Public Affairs and Communications Officer for the Charity Retail Association in Scotland said:

“Good Cause Santa Claus allows shoppers to think about how they can help their community this Christmas.

“Gifts bought from charity shops are better for the environment, contribute to a good cause and can surprise your recipient with something a bit different.”

 Be a #GoodCauseSantaClaus this Christmas and buy your Secret Santa gift in your local Charity Shop. 

 

Bank of Scotland closures slammed in Parliament

 

I met with representatives of the Bank of Scotland, following up from my request.  I was given an opportunity to explain how negatively I believe the closure of the Stonehouse branch is in terms of the community as a whole.

I can’t declare that I have managed to persuade the Bank of Scotland to change its decision, though I tried very hard. On at least a slightly more positive note, the Bank representative with whom I met told me that BoS has put in place a services contract that will allow its local customers to be able to carry on their normal banking via the Post Office.

Meanwhile in the Scottish Parliament, the SNP MSP Sandra White led a members' debate condemning the Bank of Scotland’s latest proposed closures.
 
Following the announcement, a group of seven SNP MSPs wrote to the Managing Director of Bank of Scotland, Robin Bulloch, seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the plans.
 
Commenting ahead of the debate, SNP MSP Sandra White said:
 
“Bank branches across Scotland have been closing at an alarming rate.
 
“Since 2015 more than 230 bank branches in Scotland have been shut or marked for closure. Research suggests that local branches are closing faster in Scotland than any other part of the UK.
 
“A continued face-to-face banking service is indispensable for many of our most vulnerable constituents.
 
“Parties from across the chamber have made clear today that it’s time for Bank of Scotland to go back to the drawing board and think again about these proposals.
 
“I will continue to fight tooth and nail alongside my SNP colleagues to keep every one of the branches threatened with closure open.”

What are your thoughts? Does this decision impact upon you directly? What would you like to see Bank of Scotland do?

Drop an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

Following up: The devastating reality of violence against women and girls

 

I introduced the recent debate on violence against women and girls at the Scottish Parliament, marking the 16 days of action. Here are some extracts:

“Violence against women and girls is one of the most devastating and fundamental violations of human rights. It has to stop, and meaningful action must be taken to stop it. The 16 days of action provide an opportunity for us to come together, give new momentum to our ambitions and review just how far we have come. The occasion is being marked all across Scotland, and I look forward to joining the many events over the next 16 days.

“At the weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend an event that focused on the catalyst for the campaign. On 25 November 1960, sisters Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, three political activists who actively opposed the cruelty and systematic violence of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, were clubbed to death and dumped at the bottom of a cliff by Trujillo’s secret police. 

“The Mirabal sisters became symbols of the feminist resistance and, in 1980, in commemoration of their deaths, 25 November was declared international day for the elimination of violence against women in Latin America. The international day was formally recognised by the United Nations in 1999. Today, the campaign takes place annually to remember those who have been lost to gender-based violence and to commend the bravery and sacrifice of those activists who have striven to end violence against women and girls all over the world.

 

 

“This debate takes place at a time when violence against women and girls is very much in the spotlight. We have all been moved by the stories told through the #MeToo movement, which has prompted thousands of women to disclose that they, too, have been victims of sexual harassment or assault. If #MeToo has achieved anything, it has given women the voice to stand up to everyday sexism, gender-based stereotypes, sexual harassment, glass ceilings—the list goes on. Behaviour that was once written off or tacitly ignored is finally being challenged and perpetrators are being held to account.

“Earlier this year, I was thrilled to visit St John Ogilvie high school, in my constituency—I have visited it on many occasions—to find students giving an assembly on equally safe. Next week, I look forward to visiting Denny high school to see its work to embed equally safe principles throughout its institution. When I was in St John Ogilvie high school, one of the amazing young women activists who were delivering the project reminded me of a quote from Elizabeth Edwards: ‘She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.’

“It is important that we raise awareness of and embed understanding of gender-based violence, but the bigger challenge is in delivering a societal shift whereby women no longer occupy a subordinate position to men. We need to make progress in advancing women’s equality in a range of spaces: economic, civic, social and cultural. The work of the First Minister’s national advisory council on women and girls is important in that regard, and I look forward to seeing its first report early next year.

“We also need to act here and now to ensure that those who experience violence and abuse get the help and support that they need. Specialist third sector services play a vital role in providing that support, which is why we are providing three years’ funding for those organisations to enable them to plan for the future. I put on record my personal tribute to all the organisations that have persisted in ensuring that we get the right information in order to make the decisions that we make here in Parliament.

“More than £12 million from the equality budget is being invested this year to support services and tackle the underlying issues that create the conditions for violence. Last month, in recognition of the significant demand that rape crisis centres face for their valuable support services, I was pleased to announce additional funding of £1.5 million over the next three years to help those centres to better meet that demand. There has been a significant amount of activity this year by the Government and its partners, but I recognise that more remains to be done, and we will continue to keep up the pace.

“As I stated at the outset, the theme of this year’s 16 days concerns ending gender-based violence in the world of work. I know that this Parliament has taken steps to tackle sexual harassment in this workplace, which is welcome. I am also pleased to inform the chamber that the Scottish Government is running its own internal campaign during the 16 days, which will involve a number of events to raise awareness and send a clear message that harassment and abuse are never acceptable. It will be a clear reminder that it falls to us all to take action in this area.

“A lot has been achieved, but there is more to be done. We cannot rest until violence against women and girls is consigned to history. I will end with a quote from Emma Watson, the UN women goodwill ambassador. She says: ‘How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?’ I urge us all to actively participate in the conversation, today in this chamber, tomorrow and until we have ensured that every woman in Scotland lives free from violence.”

Domestic abuse statistics: the realities

New statistics from Scotland’s Chief Statistician have been released.

The main findings include:

Levels of domestic abuse recorded by the police in Scotland have remained relatively stable since 2011-12, with around 58.000 to 60,000 incidents a year. The police recorded 59,541 incidents of domestic abuse in 2017-18, an increase on 1% compared to the previous year.

In 2017-18, 44% of incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police in Scotland resulted in at least one crime or offence being committed.

The crime or offence that was most frequently recorded as part of a domestic abuse incident in 2017-18 was Common assault (accounting for 37% of all crimes and offences recorded). This was followed by Breach of the peace etc. which accounted for 31% of crimes and offences.

Where gender information was recorded, around four in every five incidents of domestic abuse in 2017-18 had a female victim and a male accused. This proportion has remained very stable since 2011-12.

In 2017-18, the 26-30 years old age group has the highest rate for both victims (272 incidents recorded per 10,000 population) and accused (246 incidents recorded per 10,000 population).

Incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police are more common at weekends with 35% of all incidents in 2017-18 occurring on a Saturday or Sunday.

In 2017-18, 88% of all incidents of domestic abuse occurred in a home or dwelling.

While glad that the figures aren’t getting worse, this is still a shocking, shameful set of findings. We must all pull together properly to shed this notion that domestic violence is somehow just part of what we have to live with. It isn’t.

As regular readers will know, this is a cause I’ve been talking about for many years. The Blue Ribbon campaign which I talked about in the last Newsletter tackles violence where it starts – among the men who mostly perpetuate it – and there are many other initiatives all working towards shaking off this daft notion that somehow domestic violence is so normal we need to just accept it.

I will never, ever sit back and accept that kind of mindset. Things have changed positively in the last several years but there remains a long way to go before we in Scotland completely outlaw domestic abuse.

 

Improving Alcohol and Drug Treatment

 Scotland will help people with drug and alcohol addictions by treating wider problems such as housing and employment, and supporting their families. 

 
The Scottish Government’s strategy for preventing and reducing drug and alcohol-related harm, Rights, Respect and Recovery, says Scotland will take a health approach to substance misuse and ensure services treat people as individuals. 
 
This includes diverting drug users out of the criminal justice system where appropriate, and tackling people’s wider issues such as housing, employment and mental health. Families will also get support and be closely involved in their loved one’s treatment.

The strategy also emphasises education and early intervention for young people and those most at risk of becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Launching the strategy at Gowrie Care’s Cairn Centre in Dundee, Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said:

“Improving how we support people harmed by drugs and alcohol is one of the hardest and most complex problems we face. But I am clear that the ill-health and deaths caused by substance misuse are avoidable and we must do everything we can to prevent them. This means treating people and all their complex needs, not just the addiction, tackling the inequalities and traumas behind substance misuse, and intervening early to prevent people at risk.

“We are supporting this strategy with an additional £20 million a year on top of our considerable existing investment in drug and alcohol treatment and prevention. We want to see innovative, evidence-based approaches, regardless of whether these make people uncomfortable. This money mustn’t just produce more of the same.”

Gowrie Care managing director Joy Dunlop said:

“I’m delighted to welcome Joe FitzPatrick MSP to our service to launch such an important strategy. Gowrie’s ethos encourages innovation so that services remain relevant and we continue to deliver meaningful outcomes for the people we support – key to this is ensuring the people we support are at the heart of everything we do.

“The Scottish Government’s investment is very much welcomed and will support the fantastic work that our staff and others in the sector do to support people in recovery.”

 

An end to homelessness?

 

It is truly outrageous that homelessness not only exists but thrives throughout Scotland. My colleague, Kevin Stewart MSP, put a motion put up to the Scottish Parliament on this subject. It says:

That the Parliament agrees that everyone should have a safe, warm, settled home; notes the Scottish Government’s commitment to end homelessness and rough sleeping and transform temporary accommodation; welcomes the comprehensive work of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group and the Local Government and Communities Committee to set out recommendations and actions to achieve this shared ambition; supports the publication of the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, which addresses these recommendations and sets out the steps that the Scottish Government will take in partnership with COSLA, local authorities, the third and public sectors and others across housing, and welcomes the role of the cross-sector Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group in overseeing implementation of this action plan to deliver an end to homelessness and rough sleeping.”.

The Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan sets out measures for national and local government and the third sector who provide frontline services.

It follows a list of 70 recommendations set out by the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, which were all accepted by the Scottish Government earlier this year.

The plan will focus on:

  • Providing a person centred approach to support individual needs
  • Putting prevention first, to minimise the risk of people becoming homeless
  • Prioritising the provision of settled and mainstreamed housing
  • Ensuring a quick and effective response by frontline workers
  • Joining up planning and resources

People who are living in temporary accommodation or at risk of homelessness are already being supported quickly into permanent homes through investment of £23.5 million, which is part of the £50m Ending Homelessness Together Fund.

Communities secretary Aileen Campbell launched the plan while visiting Cyrenians’ distribution centre in Edinburgh.

She said: “Everyone needs a safe, warm place to call home. It’s more than a place to live it’s where we feel secure, have roots and a sense of belonging.

“The causes of homelessness can be complex and that’s why all services need to be joined up. Working together we can end homelessness for good.

“The First Minister made a commitment in this year’s Programme for Government to end rough sleeping and homelessness and this is what will get us there. The plan builds on the many changes in homelessness and affordable housing we have delivered in recent years, including more than £3 billion to deliver 35,000 homes for social rent and the multi-million pound Ending Homelessness Together Fund.

“I’d like to thank the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group for all their hard work that has led to this action plan.”

Cllr Elena Whitham, COSLA’s community wellbeing spokesperson, added: “Access to good quality affordable housing is fundamental to us all – the key actions contained in this plan, to prevent homelessness occurring in the first place, personalise decisions for those affected and prioritise settled housing will contribute to better outcomes for communities across Scotland. The continued focus on services being joined up remains critical – I know Councils and our partners across the various sectors are committed to delivering on the actions contained within this plan.”

 Rough sleeping prevention and a shift towards rapid rehousing are among the key aims of a new Scottish Government action plan to bring an end to homelessness in Scotland.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, who chaired the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, said: “This is an ambitious plan that firmly positions Scotland as a world-leader in ending homelessness. The turnaround has been swift and the approach is bold but achievable if the commitment is shared across local government, housing associations and homelessness charities. The plan has people at its heart and makes clear that the best approach is to prevent homelessness in the first place, however we need to see a prevention duty in law for all public bodies as well as an ambitious set of targets which demonstrates that homelessness has been ended for more people.

“However, overall this plan presents us with a chance to get behind bold and transformative reforms, and see Scotland lead the way once again. It is a unique opportunity to get policies and services right for homeless people, but also to look beyond homelessness into the wider systemic issues of inequality and poverty to bring an end to the injustice of homelessness in Scotland once and for all.”

 

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.

Hear Me Too: 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls.


 
Anything, any campaign, that seeks to highlight the ever-continuing subject of violence against women and girls has to be a good idea. This week, the Parliament welcomed the global 16 Days of Activism against ‘Gender-based Violence in the World of Work.’ There are many effective activists and organisations all working towards the complete elimination of this kind of violence, not only here in Scotland but across the world.
 
Together, these voices do make a real difference. We have moved a long way from a notion that slapping the wife about a bit after a Saturday football match was somehow acceptable.
 
The Scottish Government has put forward significant levels of funding in front line services to tackle this issue. An additional £20 million has been invested between 2015-18 to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls and make better support available for victims.
 
This funding is being used to increase court capacity to reduce delays, inconvenience and stress for victims and their families; to widen access to advocacy and support services; to expand access to specialist legal advice; to explore the expansion of programmes addressing the underlying causes of perpetrator behaviour, and to improve education and information to increase public understanding.
 
 The additional funding between 2015-2018 has boosted resources to courts and prosecutors by £2.4 million each year to reduce court waiting times for domestic abuse cases to ensure there are no undue delays in court waiting times for domestic abuse cases.
 
£24 million was invested between 2015-17 from the Equalities portfolio to support a range of projects and initiatives, including a range of front line specialist services working with women and children who have experienced domestic abuse.
 
In 2016 the Scottish Government committed more than £17 million to tackle the scourge of domestic abuse across Scotland. The National Advocacy Project (NAP) which helps improve the support available to survivors of rape and other serious sexual crimes, and specifically their experience of the criminal justice process, was set up with Scottish Government funding in 2016.
 
The Scottish Government announced on 1st March the programme will be extended with additional funding of £1.7 million which will increase the numbers of advocacy workers, meaning support can be provided to more victims of sexual crimes.
 
That’s why I continue to be so supportive of the White Ribbon Scotlandcampaign. This organisation tackles the issue from the source: the men (mostly) who commit these crimes. From Sunday 25 November, the group began a campaign that involves 17 betting shops run by William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral. The group campaigns among their main customer base: the men who come in to place a bet. Staff will ask men who enter their shops to sign the White Ribbon Scotland pledge ‘never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women in all its forms.’

I have been involved and supportive of the White Ribbon Campaign in Scotland since it began here in 2006. I think it is not just important that men themselves set the example, but absolutely crucial. We need a real shift, a real cultural change to end the notion that men’s violence against women is just ‘one of those things’ that we have to accept.

It absolutely is not. And it is the normal, average kind of men who need to stress that reality. Only from within that broad group – men – where the perpetrators exist can we make that message real. It’s that peer pressure that brings about change.

#SmallBizSatUK



I look forward to happily trotting around the streets of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse on Saturday next. It is Small Business Saturday so I will be chatting to many of our local businesses and actively encouraging people to visit our local shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and other facilities on the doorstep.
 
Of course, it’s not only on Small Business Saturday that you’ll find me in my favourite shops and cafes. Most of them know me pretty well by now and I know I can be confident of a warm and helpful welcome.
 
That’s such an important part of shopping in your own community. You get to know people in your favourite café, at the butcher’s, at the baker’s, though I don’t think we have a candlestick maker in Hamilton, Larkhall or Stonehouse. Anyone like to try setting one up?
 
Quick Energy Vouchers
 


Since I and Julia Marrs, SNP Councillor for North Clydesdale, set about establishing an emergency quick energy voucher scheme to help those who face the eat or heat dilemma, events have moved on very successfully.
 
We talked about support for these households at a round-table summit with the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers a few days ago.
 
Following many months of positive dialogue and meetings with most of the ‘Big Six’ suppliers, I was delighted to host an Energy Credit Summit in the Scottish Parliament, bringing together energy solutions for my constituents.

This entire campaign comes from the selfless, tireless work of the volunteers at the Hamilton District Foodbank. Thanks to their activism, and the work of South Lanarkshire SNP Councillor Julia Marrs, Scottish Power introduced their energy credit scheme to our constituents, helping families throughout Hamilton and surrounding areas.

The summit brought all suppliers around the table, discussing what more can be done to help people experiencing energy and fuel poverty.

Along with Citizens Advice Scotland, the summit will contributed real, tangible help for constituents, ensuring everyone is safe and warm.
 
How crucial is that? The feedback from those who joined the debate was hugely positive and I will be taking that forward in the coming weeks and months to see what else we can do to maximise the advantage for those who need it most.
 
One approach comes from nPower. It is seeking to pick up donations from those people who receive Winter Fuel Payments but who do not really need them. If they donate some, or all, of their allowance through the nPower Foundation – the fuel bank charity – that money will then be passed over to those in the greatest need.
 
Dungavel Gathering


The tragedy of the Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre is already well known. Personally, I have been seeking its closure for years. It’s a retrofitted Victorian hunting lodge, where the Duke of Hamilton once spent his summers, ironically enough!
 
Since its repurposing in 2001 as a holding facility for refugees and asylum seekers awaiting deportation – the only one of its kind in Scotland - it has often felt like a relic from the past, which critics would argue has no moral right to exist in the 21st century.

Quite recently, it seemed as though hopes of Dungavel being consigned to history were going to be belatedly fulfilled. In September 2016, the UK Home Office announced that it was going to close the detention centretowards the end of 2017, replacing it with a new purpose-built facility near Glasgow airport.

Speaking at the time, then-UK immigration minister Robert Goodwill made it clear that this plan did not emerge out of respect for human rights concerns, but as a means of effecting deportations with greater speed and convenience: "The new short-term holding facility would provide easy access to London airports, from where most removals take place,” said Goodwill, “meaning those with no right to be in the UK can be removed with less delay.

"Closing Dungavel immigration removal centre as a consequence fits with that approach and will result in a significant saving for the public purse."

The awful backgrounds of several individual people give huge weight to the need to get rid of this particular asylum ‘facility.’

Common Space reported on the case of Adel Aboulkacem, originally from Tunisia, who has been living in the UK for fifteen years and has two children with a UK partner, and is now detained in Dungavel. Aboulkacem recently abandoned a hunger strike ahead of an appeal, but confirmed to CommonSpace that he had received no response from the Home Office regarding his calls for better treatment and urgent medical care.

“What can I do?” asked Abdoulkacem. “They are killing me here. They are keeping people for a long time here, for no reason. Any other country in Europe, it’s three months. Here it could be weeks, months, years. I know one man here who is four years in detention, it is ridiculous, he has two kids.”

Asked for comment on Aboulkacem’s case, a Home Office spokesperson told CommonSpace: “Detention and removal are essential parts of effective immigration controls, especially in support for the removal of those with no lawful basis to stay in the UK.

"We take the welfare of our detainees very seriously and any detainees who choose to refuse food and fluid are closely monitored by on site healthcare professionals.”

The Dungavel Gathering  which took place on Sunday 24 November was an opportunity to show our solidarity with the asylum seekers in Scotland and in this centre in particular.

The Scottish Government is helpless. We have no powers to close it, change it, create better facilities for asylum seekers. These are all reserved matters within immigration law and we have no devolved powers over what the Home Office in Westminster decide to do.

The Scottish Government needs to have powers over immigration so that we can better the outlook for people who have arrived here from war-ridden, sometimes torturous countries in search of a peaceful life of working and living.

Hamilton Mausoleum


In February 2017, almost a year ago, the Hamilton Mausoleum maintenance work was completed and the iconic landmark opened to the public on the first Sunday of every month.

I continue to be interested in  supporting any works to keep the Mausoleum open and in good condition and I am seeking information  from my colleague Cllr Stephanie Callaghan in that respect.
 
Standing at the Palace Grounds, it was built as a tomb and monument to Alexander the 10th Duke of Hamilton around 1842 and was nicknamed ‘El Magnifico’.

The duke decided that he wanted to have a proper resting place for himself and his family but he passed away before the building was complete in 1852.

The mausoleum stands at 128ft high with the main room originally being intended for a chapel, but the 15-second echo prevented these plans from going ahead.
Below the crypt is where private ceremonies were held and the Duke of Hamilton moved his ancestors’ bodies here in 1852 from the old Collegiate Church.

When Alexander died later that year he was laid to rest in an Egyptian sarcophagus. He was then laid on a black marble plinth in the chapel, which is still inside the mausoleum today, and work on the mausoleum was completed.

In the years to follow, permission was granted for the area around the mausoleum to be mined for coal, which resulted in the foundations becoming weak and the building to subside and sink 18ft.

By the 1920s, there were fears that mining subsidence would damage the mausoleum and as a result, the bodies of Alexander and his ancestors were removed and reburied in the Bent Cemetery in Hamilton.
 


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. 

Remembrance

Memories are sometimes painful. On the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, the ghosts from the past return to haunt us and perhaps warn us.
 
There were several events around Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse from last weekend through until Sunday 11 November. I was privileged to join three ceremonies across the day – at Stonehouse, then at the Cenotaph event on Bothwell Road in Hamilton during the afternoon and at 6.55pm, marking the end of the day's activity during wartime, the Last Post was played at St John’s at the top cross.


 
The Annual Garden of Remembrance ceremony on 3 November saw crosses with the names of fallen soldiers from our area placed into a specially created garden.
 
It is a very poignant event. I later read comments made by Ian Forsyth MBE, convener of the Joint Ex-Services Committee and a veteran of the Second World War. He said: Another year, more heartbreak as more young lives are thrown away. Another year, and it is now 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, the most horrific onslaught imaginable that engulfed almost the whole world, destroying everything in its path.”
 
He added: “In my lifetime I cannot remember when we were completely at peace. The list of campaigns we have been engaged in is as long as my arm. From 1919 until the present day it has never stopped, and I ask myself ‘Will we never learn?’”

At the Festival of Remembrance on 4 November, at the Town House, there were a range of representative bodies including the Salvation Army, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, South Lanarkshire Council, Poppy Scotland, Hamilton schools and ex-services organisations.
 
The festival foreword was given by Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin, national president of Royal British Legion Scotland.

He said: “This year’s Hamilton Festival of Remembrance takes place on 4 November 2018. A hundred years since the end of World War 1.


“As we gather once again in this annual act of Remembrance it would seem appropriate to remember those particular casualties, the first of so many hundreds of thousands who would fall during the course of the next four years of fighting.”

He added: “In remembering the sacrifices of 100 years ago, we should also remember the sacrifices of more modern times.


“And we should honour those Remembrances by doing whatever we can to help veterans in need today.

“It is that present help that gives true meaning to Remembrance.”


Why we need foodbanks

In an ideal world, we would not need to have foodbanks because everyone would have the resources to keep the family safe and fed. That faraway land is somewhere very far from the current one which focuses taking more and more from the least well off while providing the very wealthy with tax breaks and bonus awards.


 

The Hamilton District Foodbank provided 3,177 three day emergency food supplies to local people between 1 April and 30 September just past. They expect demand to continue rising.
 
On average, where Universal Credit has been rolled out for less than three months, the rise in demand increases by 12% After a year of UC, that increases rises to 52%.
 
The UK government has been told many times by the Trussell Trust, who run the foodbanks without any government support, that there is a direct and incontrovertible equation between benefit delays and increased poverty.
 
As Isobel Graham, manager of the Hamilton Foodbank, says: “It’s a real concern that in only six months we’ve provided 3,177 emergency supplies to local people. These figures don’t even cover our busiest time of year - as the colder weather draws in, we often find more people needing our help.
 
“It’s not right that anyone in Hamilton District is being forced to turn to our foodbank. Our volunteers offer vital support when it matters most, but they should not need to.

"We want to see an end to local people needing emergency food – with a benefits system that catches people before they fall into crisis, and secure work that provides people with enough money to cover the cost of essentials, we could reach that future.

"We’re determined to make sure that until that time comes, emergency help is here for people, but there needs to be some long-term change because we don’t want to be here forever.”  
 
I would like to encourage those who can manage to help people around them to make some donations to our foodbank in the run-up to Christmas.

I also want to convey my enormous gratitude to the people who staff and volunteer at the Foodbank and, like them, look forward to not requiring them!
 
 
Lanarkshire Rape Crisis Centre 

There’s an interesting vacancy at LRCC for the right person. The Hamilton Centre is looking for a support worker and they want to see as diverse a range of applications as they can find. No men need apply. This is a women-only post under Schedule 9, Part 1, of the Equality Act 2010.
 
The post is funded for three years by the Scottish Government to help advance support and information services and to reduce waiting lists.
 
For an application pack, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or send a large stamped addressed envelope to Catriona Hoey, Support Co-ordinator, LRCC, 23-25 Brandon Street, Hamilton, ML3 6DA

 
Applications must be submitted no later than 5pm on 23rd November 2018.
Interviews for this post will be held the week beginning 10th December 2018 in Hamilton.
 
 
Living Wage Week

The annual Living Wage Week has just past. I want to urge businesses in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to sign up and make a commitment to their own employees. Nearly all of the SNP MSPs are already signed up, some Labour and a very few Conservatives.
 
 The Scottish Living Wage is independently calculated based on the cost of living – with the real Living Wage rising by 25p to £9, above the minimum wage of £7.83 for workers aged over 25.

There are currently 65 accredited Living Wage employers in South Lanarkshire Council’s area. I will be writing to other employers to encourage them to explore the benefits of accreditation, with research showing that paying the real Living Wage leads to a fall in absenteeism and a significant positive impact on recruitment and staff retention. 

For business, paying the Living Wage makes sense - it’s an investment in people and all the evidence shows it leads to increased productivity and reduced staff absence and turnover.

It is completely unacceptable that the UK government did not use last week’s Budget to raise the National Living Wage, extend it to all workers and end discrimination against young people.  With low pay one of the main drivers of in-work poverty, it is vital that employers who can pay the real Living Wage do so.

I would strongly encourage all employers in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to look into the real benefits of becoming an accredited Living Wage employer.
 
 
Medications after Brexit 

 

There has been a lot of nervousness around Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse over the last couple of weeks. Hardly surprising since the Prime Minister is unable to guarantee supplies of essential drugs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.


I’m talking about vital medications required by people with cancer, asthma, arthritis, antibiotics, severe pain, diabetes both Type 1 and Type 2, steroids, I could list a hundred. There is no insulin whatsoever produced in either the UK or Ireland. Most of it comes from Novo Nordisk A/S in Denmark.

The people who passively say ‘oh, it’ll be alright. They won’t want to stop providing for the UK market’ worry me in much the same way as the same people believe that Aldi and Lidl will continue to supply their UK supermarkets regardless of any kind of deal or no deal.

This isn’t a problem that can be solved by the manufacturers or producers. It has to be solved within the Brexit deal. There isn’t any sign of commercial ill-will towards selling into the UK. It’s that the whole chaos of Brexit reigns supreme until or unless the UK gets a deal it finds acceptable.

 Then, and only then, can the UK seek the kind of trade deals it will need to make. These deals are long in the making. The one between Europe and Canada took 12 years to work out. Without the weight of the EU member countries behind it, the UK loses a lot of its world power.

From 28 to 27 isn’t as big an issue for Europe as it is for the one nation that has chosen to leave the club and becomes one versus 27.

We learned that the government has already begun an accelerated tender process to try and stockpile medicines at a cost of tens of millions of pounds, but most drugs have a relatively short shelf life and the Government continues to talk about enough drugs being stored away for six weeks.
 
Even the UK government’s most senior health official says he cannot be ‘confident’ that essential medicines will still be available after a no-deal Brexit. Matt Hancock did, though, confirm the issuing of a tender to buy more storage facilities.
 
It is yet another needless anxiety in the ongoing chaos that is Brexit. We talked to both Boots and Lloyds Chemists but neither could offer any reassurance because no one knows what is going to happen. We continue on in the blind hope that somehow common sense and human dignity will win out. We haven’t had any examples of that so far.
  

 

People with diabetes encouraged to take up offer of screening

An NHS Lanarkshire consultant is encouraging patients with diabetes to take up the offer of diabetic retinopathy screening.

The call coincides with World Diabetes Day, which will be held on 14 November 2018.

World Diabetes Day is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries.

300,000 people in Scotland currently have diabetes. Approximately 264,000 of these patients are eligible for screening every year. Type 1 accounts for around 30,000 while the vast majority have Type 2. Complications form in either type.

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the cells in the retina.

Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness or serious damage to your eyesight. Virtually everyone who has had Type 1 diabetes for 10 or more years will have some retinopathy present. Where control of blood glucose levels is poor, the risk of retinopathy becoming sight threatening increases. Retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness among adults in the western world.

Dr Tasmin Sommerfield, consultant in public health medicine, said: “Diabetic retinopathy screening is offered every year to anyone with diabetes aged 12 and over. Patients will receive a letter, inviting them to attend for screening every 12 months.

“Screening can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by finding the condition before you notice any changes to your sight.

“The screening involves photographs being taken of the back of your eye. The camera does not come into contact with your eyes. All photographs are then carefully examined for signs of retinopathy.”

The appointment normally lasts around 10 minutes and you will receive your results by letter within four weeks.

For further information on diabetic retinopathy screening, visit: https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/screening/diabetic-retinopathy/diabetic-retinopathy-screening-drs

 
 

Winter road traffic service launch

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

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

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

The new equipment includes:

·         a customised Unimog, capable of spreading enhanced liquid de-icer, which will be strategically located for use during high level snow and flooding events.

·         an electric powered spreader, which will be deployed as patrol vehicle on the M8.

·         a Hilltip Icestriker from Finland, fitted with a V plow, will be trialled on the M80 to ensure recovery teams can access incidents in the most challenging conditions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said:

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

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

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

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

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

Andy Kirkman from the Met Office said:

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

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



Contact Christina:


Constituency:
Christina McKelvie MSP
Barncluith Business Centre
Townhead Street
Hamilton 
ML3 7DP
Telephone: 01698 403 311
Fax: 01698 403 313

Parliament:
Christina McKelvie MSP
The Scottish Parliament 
Edinburgh 
EH99 1SP

Telephone: 0800 092 7500 

e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Scottish Parliament website: www.parliament.scot
Constituency Website: www.christina-mckelvie.org

Notification

I am registered as a data controller with the UK Information Commissioner – https://ico.org.uk/ESDWebPages/Entry/Z1210550





 

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.

Budget Day

 

On Monday 29 October we heard Philip Hammond deliver the UK budget

We didn’t expect much and we certainly didn’t get it. That 50p piece celebrating Brexit  will give you an ever decreasing amount to invest in the £25m you’ll be spending on the Brexit Festival.

The £950m ‘increase’ in funding over three years for Scotland is a bit of a con. Hammond has no choice but to give the Scottish Government its share of the Barnett Consequentials. Besides, in reality we have been short-changed to the tune of £50m for our NHS. What Scotland decides to do with that funding is up to our own Government, thank goodness.

To put this in context, the Scottish NHS costs around £13bn a year to run.

So, over and above the £350m a week that we were promised in 2016 and have never seen, we have, well, 50p. In other words, we are seeing none of this promised Brexit ‘dividend,’ just more Universal Credit suffering.

The Chancellor claims that austerity is ending; Mrs May says it has already ended. We didn’t see evidence of either in this budget.

And, of course, if there is no Brexit deal – a terrifying prospect that looks more likely every minute – Mr Hammond will have to tear up all his hard work and start again with a new budget in just five months’ time.

Items that we in Scotland really hoped to see in the Budget included the Real Living Wage, but all Mr Hammond has done is put in a small inflationary increase in the National Wage which will rise from £7.83 to £8.31 in April. No mention of our calls to extend to all workers, regardless of age.


Appalling Tory policies are increasing poverty 

 

 

The Nasty Party is living up to its name. They really seem to regard increasing poverty as some kind of success!

What we are seeing is:

  • Backed the two-child cap, which puts 150,000 Scottish children at greater risk of poverty by 2021. 
  • Argued there was no “hard evidence” explaining rising foodbank demand – despite the overwhelming evidence pointing the finger precisely at Tory policies.
  • Said that only “tiny” numbers were affected by sanctions – when figures show that Scots have been sanctioned 400,000 times since 2010. 
  • Argued that the minimum wage should be scrapped. 
  • Branded the Bedroom Tax an “opportunity” – when three quarters of those affected were forced to cut back on food. 

Have you ever watch Rich House, Poor House? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson spend a week living on the home of an average Hamilton family?

 

Michelle Ballantyne MSP

 

 

Entirely in the spirit of the Tories’ notion of welfare, Michelle Ballantyne MSP, and the Scottish Tory welfare spokesperson, has declared that “people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like.”

Since her comments, it has emerged that Ms Ballantyne claimed tax credits and child benefit for her own six children. A typical hypocrisy, the kind of attitude we have become all too familiar with.

One rule for the rich, and another for the rest of us. That’s Tory equality in the 21st century UK.

Ms Ballantyne has previously called for a debate on whether there should be a “restriction” on the number of children people can have – showing that these statements reflect long-held views. 

I wonder how you would all react, in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to that kind of ruling? I’d love to hear your views. I am reminded of the former Chinese ‘one child’ policy which was relaxed in 2013 and that is in a hard-line Communist country. An interesting model for the UK.

Lanarkshire Rape Crisis Centre

There’s an interesting vacancy at LRCC for the right person. The centre, at the Brandon House Business Centre, is looking for a Development Worker. They say: “We are keen to reach a diverse and wide range of potential applicants, including those from minority and hard to reach groups. With this in mind, it would be great if you were willing to share this opportunity with as many of your staff, volunteers, service users, patrons and contacts as possible through any channels, including social media.”

If you are interested, please call Julie Gatens on 01698 527006 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

‘Fright Night’ in Stonehouse

Everyone enjoyed the fun on Saturday past and there was a great atmosphere throughout the evening.

The Friends of Stonehouse Park mounted a fantastic even for all ages. That’s the kind of community activity I love to see.

 

Council initiative to help the third sector

 

South Lanarkshire Council has teamed up with SCVO’s Funding Scotland to provide a free online funding search facility to charities, community groups and social enterprises in South Lanarkshire.

In these very straitened times, the fantastic small local groups that make such a difference to people, really struggle to find the funding to continue what they are doing. They all do their best with street collections, local events and sales.

But the Tories have withdrawn government funding from so many of these groups, the services they have been providing, so essential for local people, have been lost.

Registration is free and fast. Just go to socsi.in/08G80 

 

 

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Keeping up with you

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

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

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

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

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

Turning the tide on marine plastics

If you have any awareness of how plastics are destroying the under-sea environment, you’ll be aware of how important it is that all of us do our bit to try to address this. I would urge everyone in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to give a bit more thought to where they can avoid using plastics or where these products can be recycled. The total saving is far more than each small part that an individual or a family plays.

So I was especially pleased to see more support for innovative projects aimed at tackling marine plastic pollution announced by Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham.
A total of £1 million – double the initial commitment of £500,000 set out in the Programme for Government – is now available to support solutions in marine plastics capture, collection and recovery.



This includes funding from Marine Scotland to trial demonstration technologies in Scotland, aimed at addressing the issue of litter sinks and the removal of plastics from our seas.

Announcing the funding at the Scottish Resources Conference, Ms Cunningham said:

“By making £1 million available to support innovative projects aimed at tackling marine plastic pollution, we are doubling our previous pledge - further demonstrating our absolute commitment to tackle the scourge of marine plastic pollution.

“We want to attract and invest in innovative projects which prevent plastics entering the marine environment or propose operational solutions to capture, collect, recover and reprocess marine plastic waste.

“I believe that investment of this nature has the potential to benefit our environment, economy and our coastlines which suffer from the unintended consequences of modern day lifestyle choices.”

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said:
“Scotland’s marine environment is increasingly suffering from our throwaway habits, and very visibly when it comes to the proliferation of single-use plastics. We know this is an issue people across Scotland are keen to see action on.  
 
“Through these funds, we are looking to invest in innovative projects which prevent plastics entering the marine environment or propose operational solutions to capture, collect, recover and reprocess marine waste plastics - allowing them to be processed for high value recovery.  These projects have the potential to benefit our environment, our economy and our coastlines.”

We all play a part, we all create rubbish. Let's seriously try to reduce are contribution to the anti-environmental litter bins.

Wearing it pink

On Friday 19 October, we have the big wear it pink event and I’d like to encourage all of you in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to look out your best pink bits and bobs!
I did did my best for the cause at the Scottish Parliament event, where lots of MSPs turned out to help raise funds for Breast Cancer Now’s research.

Breast Cancer Awareness month has raised over £31m towards that vital work.If we’ve not been victims ourselves, most of us know someone who has. Every year around 4,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Scotland and almost 1,000 people will die as a result.



Breast Cancer Now’s ambition is that if we all act now, by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live – and live well. The charity is determined to stop women dying from the disease, working in a new, collaborative way and bringing together all those affected by the disease to fund research, share knowledge and find answers.Find out more at: www.breastcancernow.org.


Universal Credit: Sorry, it's all getting worse!

Yes, I’m sorry, but if you thought that as the implementation of UC continued, it might all get better, something more like William Hague claimed at the time, then I have to tell you: you are proven wrong. I take no pleasure at all in calling out that reality, but the whole scheme seems to be even more blighted than it was before.



The annual Welfare Reform Report finds that the UK Government’s benefit freeze alone will reduce Scotland’s allocation by £370 million by 2021. has led to huge reductions in spending – around £190 million in the current year 2018/2019, rising to around £370 million by 2020/21.

The report has also found that Universal Credit claimants are over six times as likely to be sanctioned as claimants of any other legacy benefit, and young men are the most likely to be sanctioned.

I can confirm all of that from every surgery, every time that I meet with constituents in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, who explain to me just some of the absurd ways in which they have been punished by a Westminster Government who thinks in terms of an 'undeserving poor.'

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:
 
“These figures in this comprehensive report lay bare the devastating impact of the UK Government’s welfare cuts for people, families and communities across Scotland.
 
“As ever it is the poorest and most vulnerable in our society who are suffering the most, those out of work and those in low paid employment finding their benefits effectively being cut year after year.     
 
“The Scottish Government is doing what it can to protect people on lower incomes by, this year alone, investing over £125 million on mitigation measures - £20 million more than last year – and an additional £350 million for Council Tax Reduction. 
 
“Over the coming years, we will use our new social security powers to provide increased financial support for people on low incomes, including the Best Start Grant, the Job Grant and Carers Allowance Supplement.
 


On top of the general chaos and extended waiting times lies the issue of too few DWP staff trying to deal with claims.The DWP’s ‘work coaches’ each support 85 claimants is expected to rise to 373 claimants by 2024-25, emphasising just how important it is for us to have our own Social Security system in Scotland before that.Kirsty McKechnie of the Child Poverty Action Group warned that work coaches were already struggling with the existing number of claimants, saying:

“We already know that’s an issue with their current workload. We have people who are leaving notes in their journals for their work coaches and just not getting a response. That’s before this work load has ramped up”.

Victoria Todd of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group added:

“We certainly have concerns as to how you would deal with that volume… What will happen when you have got the migration and the many more claimants per work coach, to consider all of the factors you’ve just outlined, it’s definitely a worry as to whether they can cope with that.”

When will the Tories face up to the reality that the scheme is a total disaster? I suppose that’s a bit like asking when they’ll face up to the reality that Brexit is turkeys voting for an early Christmas!

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