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Keeping up with you

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

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

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

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

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

 

International Day of Peace

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

 

Covid-19 Catch up



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flu vaccines

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Have Your Say in the Future Governance of Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When this consultation is concluded the politicians will know precisely what we want, and what we expect them to do about it, and that is what a constitution is all about. And Scotland will have a constitution which truly represents a modern popular democracy.
 
 
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
HELP SERVICES AVAILABLE

For Scottish Government information - https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Keeping up with you

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

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

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

If you haven’t yet subscribed to receive your personalised copy of this newsletter which we are sending out every two weeks, then please do sign up here or copy and paste to christina-mckelvie.org/newsletter.


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


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

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

h

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Help for those with sight-threatening conditions


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


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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Larkhall Covid-19 Rainbows

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Keeping up with you


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

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

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

If you haven’t yet subscribed to receive your personalised copy of this newsletter which we are sending out every two weeks, then please do sign up here or copy and paste to christina-mckelvie.org/newsletter.
 
Scotland’s Future
The momentum is certainly gathering. You can almost taste it in the air. Yet another poll this week shows support for independence rising all over Scotland. Boris Johnson’s feeble attempts to hold back the tide like King Canute are becoming ever more unsustainable. Scotland’s future will be ours.
 


Consecutive polls have put support for independence above 50%. This is no freak single poll. This is becoming the established will of the Scottish electorate.
 
When we look at Mr Johnson’s ineptitude in failing to grasp the scale of Covid 19, his total disaster over exam results in England, to say nothing of his general contempt for the rights of Scottish people, it’s no surprise.
 
It’s no wonder we would prefer to make our own choices.
 
Exam Results
Despite calling for resignations in Holyrood, the Scottish Tories have been completely silent when it comes to seeking resignations in Westminster when the Government there was forced to do a U-turn over the decision by qualifications watchdog Ofqual.
 
Labour and the Tories are guilty of rank hypocrisy on this issue, and voters will see them as the opportunists they are. The silence from Douglas Ross and Richard Leonard is deafening.
 


By playing petty political games with the futures of our young people, Labour and the Tories have been left utterly humiliated by the decisions of their party leadership in England and Wales.
 
Clear Your Head #ClearYourHead
Covid-19, and all the anxiety associated with it, impacts upon different people in different ways. I feel tremendously the awful distress over exam results, though at least we moved quickly towards a remedy, unlike Mr Johnson’s government.
 
A lot of people, across every age and background, are struggling with restrictions that have seen them unable to spend time with family, get a holiday, or go for a wander around town shops.


 
As life starts to move on, make sure that you look after yourself by moving more too. Getting outside or doing something you really enjoy really does boost how you feel, especially if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
 
You can find out more about this initiative at #ClearYourHead and at the Healthier Scotland webpage, clearyourhead.scot.
 
Here, you can see lots of tips about encouraging and keeping your mental health buoyant.
 
 
Covid-19 news
It’s such an ever-moving environment with Covid-19 that it has become almost impossible to make decisions and be certain you will be able to follow them through.
 
There has been a burst of new infections. The First Minister reported mid-week that there had been a jump of 77, bringing the total number of cases recorded to 19,534.
 

A food processing plant in Perth was closed after four members of staff tested positive for the virus. Aberdeen remains in local lockdown and a poultry facility in Coupar Angus is out of production.

The number of cases linked to the 2 Sisters food processing plant in Coupar Angus has now leapt up to 68, and Nicola Sturgeon confirmed 59 employees have now tested positive for the virus, along with nine of their contacts.

Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on the day Scotland recorded its second-highest number of new cases since May, Ms Sturgeon said 31 of the 71 new positive tests recorded overnight were in Tayside.

A total of 10 of the new cases were in the Grampian health board area, 16 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and four in Lanarkshire.



Though prevalence of the virus has slowed considerably, there are fears that the R number – the average number of people who pick the virus up from someone who is infected – may be rising.
 
For the moment at least, the First Minister has confirmed that Scotland will remain in Phase three of her four-part plan for easing restrictions.
 
Gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports courts, including dance studios, will be able to re-open from 31 August. From today (Monday), organised outdoor contact sports, some outdoor live events, driving lessons, child contact centres, face-to-face advice services, bingo halls, amusement arcades and casinos, snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling and both static and travelling funfairs can re-open – subject to strict adherence to guidance and appropriate physical distancing.
 
Changes in police powers will allow police the right to disperse large indoor gatherings.

 

Linda Fabiani standing down



My good friend, mentor and all round good gal will be a huge loss to our Parliament. Linda Fabiani, MSP for East Kilbride and Deputy Presiding Officer, has put in a brilliant shift on behalf of us all over the last 20-plus years, in other words, since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999.
 
Announcing her decision to stand down, Linda said: “It was a massive privilege to have helped bring about, and then be appointed to serve in the first ever SNP Government in what was a whirlwind period of change.
 
““For decades, even before joining the SNP, I believed Scotland - like other small and successful nations - should make its own decisions. As with so many dedicated activists I’ll never stop campaigning for independence.

“Everyone who believes Scotland has the right to determine its own future has a role to play in making that happen. Being at the ‘forefront’ as an elected member was just one way of doing my bit and making my contribution.



“The betrayal of The Vow given to the Scottish people in 2014 means Indyref2 is needed; the Smith Commission accepted the principle of Scotland’s right to choose. The UK Government’s decision to strip Holyrood of the powers it needs to protect Scotland’s interests means public demand will become unstoppable. When it happens, I’ll be there.

“But I’m looking forward to having more time, I hope, for a bit of travel, to see family and friends overseas and at home who I would dearly love to spend quality time with.

“I’ll keep fighting against injustice and probably carry on with some of my international work. I hope I can contribute in some way to my own community, too.

“And, of course, I will be campaigning for independence – that never stops.”

I am confident that the East Kilbride MSP and Deputy Presiding Officer will not go gentle into that good night and I know we haven’t heard the last of Fabulous Fabiani who made different coloured tights into a fashion statement and a trademark around Holyrood!
 
The very best of luck, my dear friend.
 
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?
The community spirit shown by people across Lanarkshire has been heart-warming. If you would like to offer your help, there are a whole host of new groups working across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping up with you

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

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

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

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

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

As of this week, the Scottish Parliamentary Chamber will be back in action following the summer recess.
 
And what a strange summer it has been! Normally filled with lots of community events, festivals and sporting fixtures, our normality has changed dramatically. People in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse have been fully supportive of the essential restrictions, recognising the need to help everyone.
 
There remain a small number of incredibly thoughtless people who are not following the guidance. By doing this they are not only putting their own lives at risk, they are risking the lives of the most vulnerable in our communities.

Covid 19 update
This is such an insidious virus. No sooner do we think that just perhaps we are tentatively beginning to find our way through and out of it when it comes back somewhere with its vicious bite.
 
Aberdeen has the latest cluster of 101 cases on Friday 7 August, including two Aberdeen Football Club players. The First Minister expressed her frustration at the eight players who visited a bar in the city last Saturday night (31 July).


 
Lockdown measures were reintroduced last Wednesday as the cases in the cluster grew. By the First Minister’s Press Briefing on Friday 7 August, there were 22 new cases within that total of 101.

Ms Sturgeon said: "It is now clear that all eight of these players visited a bar in Aberdeen on Saturday night.

"In doing so they blatantly broke the rules that had been agreed between the SFA, the SPFL, and the Scottish government, which, to put it mildly, is completely unacceptable."

The First Minister added: “"We are asking members of the public to behave in a highly precautionary manner," she said.

"When a football club ends up with players infected with Covid - and let's remember this is not through bad luck but through clear breaches of the rules - we cannot take even a small risk that they then spread the infection to other parts of the country."

The situation in Aberdeen shows what happens if we let our guard down. The virus is suppressed across Scotland, but that does not mean it is gone. It is opportunistic, simply waiting for a chance to catch us when we become at all complacent. It doesn't need any encouragement. If we relax, then the virus will be back again and so will the restrictions needed to control its spread.




Hospitality and leisure rules
Settings where face coverings must be legally worn in Scotland is expanding to include certain indoor public places such as cinemas, galleries, museums and banks, from Saturday (8 August).
 
Further rules for the hospitality sector, including the introduction of new statutory guidance, have been announced to increase compliance and keep the sector safely open. From Friday (14 August), it will be mandatory to collect contact details of customers in a range of hospitality and public settings.
 


The First Minister said: “We’ve seen – every day of this outbreak – how easily Covid 19 can spread. We need to do everything we can to stop it in its tracks and that is why we are expanding the mandatory use of face coverings in more indoor public spaces, and will be implementing further regulations for the hospitality sector.

Many of these measures should already be in place as part of the guidance, but in order to keep the sector open – safely – we are now placing them in law.”

 
More people to get the seasonal flu jab
This winter, to protect those most at risk from concurrent infection of Covid 19 and flu, the government is expanding the vaccination programme to new groups and increasing capacity to vaccinate more people than ever before.
 
Social care workers, people over 55 and household members of those who are shielding will all be eligible for the free seasonal flu vaccine.  The Scottish Government will look to extend to those aged 50-54, if vaccine supplies allow.


Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, said: “The seasonal flu vaccination programme helps to protect the most vulnerable and alleviate pressure on the NHS. This will be more important than ever this year, in light of the Covid 19 pandemic.”
 

Further £63 million to maintain bus services
As my colleagues and I continue to press for the continuation of our X1 bus service – we are meeting with First again later this week – it is good news to note that the Scottish Government has approved additional expenditure 8 November. This extends the support of up to £46.7 million which is being provided to increase bus services since 22 June.
 


Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson said: “With bus travel typically accounting for just under three quarters of all public transport journeys – this funding for bus services is vital in keeping Scotland moving during the Covid 19 crisis.

"People all over the country are reliant on bus services to access employment, health services and to see family and friends. This additional funding of up to £63 million seeks to support those people, by anticipating their needs and keeping them safe – by providing an uplift in bus services with physical distancing measures in place.”
 

Cleaning up in Hamilton
Volunteer group, Helping Hands, are putting their shoulders to the task of cleaning up litter.
 
The group started up in response to the onslaught of Covid 19 to help people when and wherever they could do so. They have been delivering care packages, groceries and other vital supplies to families and individuals in need of support.
 


Now Helping Hands founder, Sean Boyd (pictured right, courtesy of the Hamilton Advertiser) and a group of other volunteers are heading off to the streets, parks, wooded areas, paths and woodlands to clean up after others.
 
South Lanarkshire Council Leader, John Ross (SNP) popped along to join the team at Eddlewood. They were delighted to have his help.
 
For further information on the group please visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/878856882613432/
 
Hamilton Town House Library to re-open
Today (10 August) will see the Town House Library able to re-open with freshly installed protection measures to ensure safety for staff and visitors.


The measures in place include:
Controlled numbers of visitors in the early stages
Reception screens and PPE for staff
Enhanced cleaning regimes
Test and Protect registers
Sanitising stations
Compulsory wearing of face coverings by visitors
Social distancing observed
 
If you’re not already a library member, and would like to join, you can do so online at www.slleisureculture.co.uk

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Covid-19 has meant that my staff are working from home, but you can phone or email at any time. Leave your name and outline details and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

I obviously can't run constituency surgeries for now. I will let you know when it's safe to re-open this valuable facility.

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

 

Covid-19: Progressing with Phase 3
We all want it to be over, we want to have back the freedom to throw a party, get back to the leisure centre, go into a supermarket without having to queue, meet up with friends and relatives without feeling anxious, of course we want it.

But this pandemic is no more about what we would prefer to be doing than it is about indulging choices that could endanger not just ourselves but perhaps hundreds of people near us.

I do feel frustrated by that group of people who have nothing more in common with one another than their selfish disregard for everyone else. These are the Covid Deniers, or those who think it’s all part of some kind of conspiracy, or that the virus is carried by telegraph poles.

Some of the scenes you will have seen of packed beaches and pubs, of parks awash with people and beer, make most of us shake our heads in amazement. The offenders are more likely to catch the virus than those who follow the advice but that doesn’t seem to weigh much with them.


In Scotland, our First Minister is following a very cautious and carefully thought out approach in the phased re-opening stages of the route map out of lockdown.


From Friday 10 July, up to three households are able to meet indoors for the first time - up to a maximum of eight people. Meanwhile, up to five different households to a maximum of 15 people are now able to meet outdoors.

A household can meet up to four other households per day in total. Two metre distancing between households should continue, with heightened hygiene measures to avoid creating bridges which allow the virus to spread.

Mandatory face coverings are now required in shops. Physical distancing of two metres remains the law, however on public transport and in retail settings exceptions will be allowed once appropriate mitigations are in place.



From today (Monday 13 July), organised outdoor play and contact sports can resume for children and young people under 18 (subject to guidance), non-essential shops inside shopping centres can re-open, and dental practices can see registered patients for ‘non-aerosol’ procedures.

From Wednesday 15 July, indoor restaurants, cafes and pubs will be able to re-open. Hospitality venues can be granted an exception to the 2 metre distancing requirement, however this requires mitigating measures in place such as clear information for customers, revised seating plans, and all hospitality venues are required to record contact details of customers to support Test and Protect.

All holiday accommodation can re-open from Wednesday, as well as the childcare sector, hairdressers and barbers. Museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries can also open from Wednesday, with strict physical distancing and for many of these facilities advanced ticketing will be required.

Places of worship can re-open from Wednesday for communal prayer, congregational service and contemplation with limited attendance numbers and physical distancing. Specific guidance is being finalised with faith communities. Restrictions on attendance at services and ceremonies for funerals, weddings and civil partnerships will be eased, although full-scale gatherings are still not permitted and some mitigation measures will remain.

During a statement to parliament, the First Minister said: “Scotland has made major progress in tackling COVID-19 – prevalence of the virus in Scotland is now several times lower than it is across the UK as a whole. And it is because of that action we can move into Phase 3.


“Today marks the most significant milestone yet in Scotland’s emergence from lockdown. Measures announced today are, of course, dependent on us keeping the virus under control and we will not hesitate to re-impose restrictions if we consider it necessary to halt the spread of the virus and save lives.

“During Phase 3 we will start to resume and re-open many activities and settings such as opening indoor pubs and restaurants, allowing more indoor meetings between households, and re-opening places of worship.

“Eliminating the virus as far as possible now - ahead of the almost inevitable challenges we will face come winter - remains our objective.

“The five principles behind our facts campaign – face coverings; avoiding crowded spaces; cleaning hands and surfaces; two metre distancing; and self-isolation if you have symptoms – are more important than they have ever been.”

Our X1 bus service
Many of you will have a sense of groundhog day, of having been here before. Without any consultation with any of the stakeholders, FirstBus has arbitrarily decided to withdraw the X1 express route between Hamilton and Glasgow city centre. They argue that it’s all down to Covid-19 and the challenges it brings.


We went through this whole debate in February, less than five months ago, and we thought we had secured the continuation of the service. But Covid-19 is cited by FirstBus as the reason for cutting off this vital service.

But it is precisely the moment that the service is required more than ever. Restrictions are being lifted, people are returning to work and many of my constituents have already told me that the need the X1 service to be able to do that.

Angela Crawley MP, Margaret Ferrier MP and I have written to FirstBus demanding an urgent meeting to highlight the demand that exists for the X1 service and the damage cancellation would cause to those returning to work from Hamilton and the surrounding area as lockdown eases.

The meeting will take place on Friday 17 July. I will keep you up to date on the outcome.

It is a gross insult to the communities of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse for FirstBus not to even consult with elected representatives protecting the interests of constituents. I am angry and I feel let down on behalf of all of my constituents who are going to suffer if this action goes ahead.

I know, because constituents tell me so, that this route is a lifeline for many and will be even more so as the lockdown eases and people return to work.

I will be making sure that FirstBus is left with a clearer understanding of this vital service and how crucial it is as we all try to get our lives and employment back to something approaching normality.

My colleague, Angela Crawley MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, says: “I am extremely disappointed that FirstBus have decided to remove this vital service with very little communication.

“After months of working alongside the company to promote the service, it is a slap in face to receive an email late on a Friday night advising of their decision.

“I understand the pressures on public transport as a result of lockdown and social distancing, but to scrap the service without understanding the demand is the wrong decision."

Colleague, Margaret Ferrier MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West added: “Cutting the X1 service sends out entirely the wrong message about our priorities as we start to ease lockdown and recover from Covid-19. Remobilising bus services safely is an essential part of getting our economy moving again and dropping the X1 will do nothing to help my constituents get to where they need to be.

“The X1 provides a lifeline for Hillhouse residents to get to Glasgow, a fact recognised by FirstBus when they decided to retain the service in February amid a public outcry. The demand is there for the X1 service and FirstBus needs to adapt their strategy to encourage safe and sustainable use of the X1, as more and more people return to work and leisure activities in the coming weeks.”

 

Prayer Walk
I am delighted to see that a Prayer Walk has been created at St Ninian’s in Stonehouse. The initiative is guided by the minister there, Stewart Cutler, and has already seen an enthusiastic response on social media.



The church, run jointly by the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed church, is making a great contribution to everyone in the community, You don’t need to be a member of St Ninian’s or any church for that matter.
The Prayer Walk is open to all.

 

50.5% of South Lanarkshire candidates would not be allowed to work and live in Scotland if Tory plans go ahead
New Tory immigration plans could halve the number of people coming to Scotland, not only creating misery for applicants but also creating labour shortages in key sectors.



An independent expert group warns that the proposals would shut the door on our ability to recruit talented, skilled and dedicated workers from Europe and elsewhere.


According to previous analysis by the Expert Advisory Group, 53% of roles filled by employees in Scotland earn less than £25,000, including up to 90% of jobs in the care sector.

Holyrood’s Finance Committee has also warned that demographic changes could pose risks to Scottish public spending, and our ability to fund the NHS.

The Covid-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated the UK’s reliance on key workers who have come to Scotland from all over the world. 

This pandemic has shown beyond doubt that people working in the roles which the Tories describe as ‘lower-skilled’ are absolutely vital to our communities.

Without migration, South Lanarkshire could face a demographic crisis that could hammer public services like the NHS – as an ageing population leaves Scotland with fewer working-age taxpayers. 

But despite the clear evidence, the Tories seem utterly determined to back Boris Johnson’s closed-minded plans which will be immeasurably damaging to South Lanarkshire and Scotland.

We need the power to attract and retain the workers we want to welcome into our public services and who make a major contribution to our communities, our wellbeing and to our economy.

 

South Lanarkshire Council grass-cutting services
Take some nice warm sunshine, add some friendly rain, and you have a perfect recipe for spectacular speed in grass growing. You can almost watch and hear it.


Add in Covid-19 and restrictions upon council maintenance staff and you have, well, a perfect storm.



South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) has a lot of catching up to do but they have assured us that is exactly what they are doing.

In some areas, the grass has reached around two feet high or more. The Council has managed to catch up with some recreational areas but they clearly have a lot of extra work to catch up with.

It’s only when services like this are not available that we really notice how their absence make the areas look scruffy and uncared for.

Recovery action is being made by the Council but they can only go as quickly as their resources and safety precautions allow.
 
Additional £1.77m support for families in South Lanarkshire
I am delighted to pass on to you the welcome news that South Lanarkshire children normally entitled to school meals will be among those who continue to be supported over the summer.



As well as the £852,000 required for the continued provision of free school meals across the summer holiday period, there will be another £924,000 for the wider provision of food support to help low income families during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We know that this virus has put real financial pressure on families, and it’s right that the Scottish Government has ensured schools across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse Constituency can continue to provide free school meals and support families, children and young people who need some extra help at this challenging time. 

Free school meals are vital for families in South Lanarkshire and an important way of ensuring their children receive the nutritious food they need. That is why it is so important that support continues while schools remain closed. 

This extra support will make a huge difference to children and their families in South Lanarkshire and across Scotland, and help to ensure the most vulnerable people in our society receive support during this pandemic. 
 
 
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?
The community spirit shown by people across Lanarkshire has been heart-warming. If you would like to offer your help, there are a whole host of new groups working across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Keeping up with you

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

There is protective guidance:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting Scotland’s environmental standards after Brexit



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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