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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.
Scotland is gearing up for the Euro elections on 23 May. Don’t be tempted to fall for David  Lidington CBEde facto deputy PM to Theresa May, who welcomed the European elections like the promise of a complete disaster for the Tories.
It will be if polls prove even vaguely accurate. Everything suggests that Nigel Farage’s Brexit party will sweep the boards. Still more of a kick in the teeth for the Tories following hard on the local election decimation they suffered last week.

The slough of despond gets more and more miserable.
If Mrs May's Government didn’t show quite as much contempt for Scotland and for our interests, I might even begin to feel slightly sorry for Theresa May. But she has only herself to blame.
So do make sure you get out on the 23 May and project your voice. The SNP’s number one candidate is Alyn Smith who has been a highly effective MEP for the last 16 years and is really committed both to Europe and to Scotland. See more here:

We have five more SNP candidates, all of whom are highly worthy of a vote so all you need to do is put an X for SNP.
The SNP’s six candidates – three men and three women – are led by Alyn Smith, who has been an MEP since 2004. Christian Allard, who was born in France, is second on the list of candidates, followed by the party’s former environment minister Aileen McLeod, ex-Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP Margaret Ferrier, Scottish Borders councillor Heather Anderson, and SNP national executive committee member Alex Kerr.

I must give a special mention to Alex Kerr, who currently works for me and very successfully too. It’ll be a marvellous challenge for him and I wish him every good fortune.
We need to send a clear message of rejection to the Westminster Tory government of its damaging plans to drag Scotland out of the EU, and inflict harm upon Scotland’s public services, economy and people’s living standards.

As our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, explained at the launch of the SNP’s European campaign: “Westminster is paralysed by Brexit with its two main parties broken by infighting and indecision.

“These European elections are Scotland’s chance to make our voice heard.

“The Tory government has ignored the people of Scotland, and treated our parliament and our government with contempt.

“But they can’t ignore us forever, we must continue to fight to stop Brexit and the damage it will inflict on everyone, in every walk of life.

“Scotland’s future belongs in Europe - let’s make it loud and clear on May 23rd.”

Candidate Christian Allard, French-born and working within the fishing sector here for many years, brings an interesting perspective: “For three years Theresa May has tried to make Brexit about one thing – ending freedom of movement.

“EU nationals have been used as a bargaining chip and have faced fees to apply to stay in their home. 

“Well, EU nationals should use this election to send Theresa May a message.

“Try running our NHS without nurses and doctors from the EU.

“Try running our world-class universities without researchers and staff from Europe.

“Try running our fruit farms or our fish processors without us. 

“Freedom of movement is essential to Scotland’s public services and our future prosperity.

“Scotland’s future lies in Europe. A vote for the SNP is a vote to make clear Scotland says No to Brexit.”

Last weekend, on Saturday, SNP activists were out distributing half a million STOP BREXIT flyers as part of three ‘Super Saturdays’ the party is holding in the run up to the elections.
The move comes as a new poll this week found voters see the SNP as the most anti-Brexit party in the UK – the survey by YouGov found that 65% of respondents said they thought the SNP was against Brexit, the highest figure for any political party in the UK.
Speaking ahead of the first Super Saturday, Depute Leader of the SNP Keith Brown said: “The SNP will be out in force today across the county making the case that Scotland’s future lies in Europe – a vote for the SNP is a vote to stop Brexit.
“Never before have European elections been so important. We need strong SNP voices in Europe to send a clear message that we will not accept a Brexit process which fails to represent Scotland’s interests.
“A vote for the SNP is a vote to make clear that Scotland says no to Brexit.”

Larkhall Community Plan
Many of you already know that I’ve been encouraging and supporting the Larkhall Community Plan from when it was initially set up.

It’s great to see that participants like the fantastic Larkhall Growers are now developing what they’ve been doing. The Growers have been working on the Plan and encouraging people to take part in the survey so as to make their views known.


Take part here:
Hamilton Rugby Youth Festival
I had a fantastic time at the Hamilton Rugby Youth Festival on 5 May. The brilliant volunteers at the club put on a marvellous event every year. I think this is about the 25th one!

"It was a huge success, as it always is," says Youth Convenor, David Vickers. "In what is always a great day, our youth festival welcomed hundreds of youth players to Laigh Bent at all MINI and MIDI age groups. A perfect end of season bonanza of sport!"

"Both MINI and MIDI teams participated. Our annual P1-3 All Blacks vs British Lions match played their match at noon with all the enthusiasm and vigour they always show."

There were children and young people, plus their families of course, around about 600 of them in all from all over Lanarkshire, plus Dumfries who ran off with most of the trophies!

David adds: "We've take on a new full-time employee, Steven Meenagh, who's been managing festivals elsewhere for a long time so this was his first Hamilton Youth Rugby Festival. Plus we had the new Regional Manager for Scottish Rugby, Ailidh Hood.

"But of course, far more important than all of those people, even the Glasgow Hawks, is our own Christina McKelvie! She has been great and really loyal in her support for us. We really do appreciate it."

Hamilton Jobs Fair
I’ll be co-hosting the Jobs Fair in the Hamilton Town House on Friday 5 July between 11am and 2pm.

Myself and Angela Crawley MP have brought aboard an impressive group of big employers who are looking for staff. So far, we have confirmed include Social Security Scotland, ALDI and Aspirare.
I’d like to encourage other businesses to join us. There’s no cost to take a stall so contact me by email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone the office if you prefer 01698 403 310.
It is a tremendously important that people are encouraged to reach their full potential and if we can help you to do that by meeting with the right employer, then that’s a big plus.
So whether it’s an apprenticeship, a new career direction or a way to develop your skills and training, please do join us at the Hamilton Town House.
Climate change
Many of us have come suddenly to recognise the real threat of Climate Change. Extinction Rebellion may have irritated and annoyed Londoners, but it has been hugely successful in pushing the climate crisis up the political agenda.

Even at a personal level, individuals and families are suddenly doing more environmentally friendly things such as using low-energy lights, recycling everything possible, reducing waste in a range of smaller ways. Yes, we need big action at Government level but we all have a personal responsibility as well.

In fact, Scotland will have the most stringent statutory targets in the world. The proposed targets were already world-leading – now Scotland is redefining what world-leadership means.

Scotland will go greener faster under new, tougher climate change proposals that set a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for 2045 which will see Scotland become carbon neutral by 2040.
We have already halved greenhouse gas emissions from Scotland while growing the economy, so we know we can do it. We are committed to meeting the most ambitious targets possible and doing so while continuing to build an inclusive and fair economy.
Age of Criminal Responsibility

No child aged under 12 will be treated as an offender beyond this autumn, since the Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill received Parliamentary support last Tuesday.

At present, although children under 12 cannot be prosecuted in Court, they can be referred to the children’s hearings system on the basis they have committed an offence. 

Under current legislation, this means they can gain a criminal record.  This can often compromise childhoods and also limit opportunities and life chances in adulthood, particularly around employment.           
The Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill raises the age from eight to 12, meaning that Scotland will lead the way in the UK in terms of ending the treatment of children under 12 as criminals.
The Bill will make far-reaching changes to the way that the law treats children under 12 with Scotland leading by increasing the age of criminal responsibility to the highest in the UK.

Evidence shows that early involvement in formal criminal justice systems can be severely detrimental to children and their future behaviour.
Children’s Minister Maree Todd said on Tuesday: “Today is an historic day. This ground-breaking law delivers a bold, progressive, child-centred approach that will make a real difference to children’s lives.

“We can be proud that Scotland is leading the way in the UK. This new law means that no child under 12 will ever again be arrested or charged with an offence in Scotland. But the Bill also ensures that serious harmful behaviour will be investigated appropriately and victims will continue to get the support they need.

“Currently young children can be left with criminal records that can follow them into adulthood and affect their chances of getting training or a job. The measures in the Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill will end that.”

Ballantyne shows her true colours
Embattled Tory welfare spokesperson Michelle Ballantyne has come under renewed pressure after “callous” comments about changes to pension credit rules that could leave low-income Scots up to £7000 a year worse off.

Asked whether she would support a cross-party letter to the UK Government calling for a delay to pension credit changes, the Tory front-bencher replied: “Do I care one way or the other? I probably do not, actually, if I am honest”.
The Tory government recently announced changes to force mixed-age couples to apply for Universal Credit instead – meaning a cut in income of up to £7000 a year.
Ms Ballantyne has previously faced criticism for calling for the Scottish Government to have “nothing to do” with the NHS, saying that “people on benefits cannot have as many children as they like” and claiming that “there’s no such thing as a bedroom tax."

Spring Conference in Edinburgh

The atmosphere was electric in Edinburgh’s Conference Centre at the weekend. I could not only feel the energy and commitment all around me – I could sense a new excitement, a new drive towards stronger, more compassionate, better government for Scotland. In other words, an independent Scotland with full powers to govern.

“We gather in Edinburgh, in our beautiful capital city,” said First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. “Soon to be, we hope – and how good does this sound – the capital city of an independent Scotland.”

Her speech was inspirational and the response of the crowd in the auditorium was filled with enthusiasm – pretty loud enthusiasm too! – proof, if proof was needed, of the scale and size of the voice of independence for our land.

“Scotland’s enlightenment legacy is not just about our history. The search for knowledge, invention and innovation is the foundation on which we will build our future too.Few countries are better placed than Scotland to help lead the world into a new age.”

In the climate of Brexititis – a new virus that attacks democracy by infecting people so that they live in a malicious fantasy world riddled with delusions of imperial grandeur where Britannia rules the waves and India is exploited and ravaged – Scotland’s very evident desire to remain in Europe continues to be ignored by Westminster’s collapsing Cabinet.  

A new Survation poll commissioned by the arch-unionist campaign group, Scotland in Union, show that the Tories have fallen behind the Labour party on Westminster voting intentions.

Westminster voting intentions delivered 41% SNP, Labour on 24% and the Tories third on 22%.

The Scottish Government has used its devolved powers for the good of everyone. A new social security system that, within the last year, has brought nearly £200m to carers and families.

In a spectacular boomerang attack, the poll also shows a 63% majority in favour of Scotland having a referendum on independence.

Those who voted to remain in the UK in 2014 on the grounds that this would ensure Scotland would stay in the EU have had an unexpected kick in the teeth. Had Scotland voted for independence then, we probably wouldn’t be living with Brexititis now.

But, as we continue to try and stop Brexit, SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP points out: “With the Westminster parties making a mess of Brexit, the European elections are Scotland’s chance to shine.
“Scotland is being dragged out of the European Union against our will. All our efforts to be heard on Brexit have been met with a brick wall.
“The people of Scotland have been ignored, the Scottish Parliament has been ignored. And, when the Scottish Government offered compromise, it was ignored too.
“Enough is enough.”

I couldn’t agree more. Now let’s move forward.


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.


The Petition to remain in the EU
At the latest count – Tuesday at 1630  - the Petition to Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU stands at 5,746,570 That is well over 10% of the UK’s electorate of 46,148,000.

If you don’t like your MP and you want to have a by-election called, then 10% of the electorate have to sign a petition to say so.
It’s certainly not all over yet. If you haven’t yet signed it, I hope you will. You can find it here:
Even many of the Tory MPs who were pro-Brexit now admit, privately at least,that there is no deal that is better than the one we’re trying to throw away; the one that is being a member of the EU and its free trading bloc of more than 500 million people.
The whole Brexit referendum was founded on lies and dishonesty, with its promises of an extra £350 million a week for the NHS and saving truck loads of cash to do all kinds of things to improve our public services.

So far, the entire Brexit plan has cost us some £40 billion a year in lost income, according to the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, Gertjan Vlieghe.

The estimate for the weekly cost of Brexit so far is more than twice the £350 million that Leave campaigners claimed could be saved. Our EU membership costs us each 85p a week and people forget how much we get back in CAP payments, infrastructure projects, community initiatives and educational projects like Erasmus for example.

Free trade, ease of travel to other countries, free movement of people and all of the EU agencies that uphold our human rights, the rights of disabled people, rights of children, right to justice and fair employment, regulatory systems for drugs, food, drinks, toys that keep us safe.
Now none of us can tell what is happening. On Saturday more than a million people marched in London – lots came from Scotland – to demand a People’s Vote and the SNP fully backs that position and our First Minister joined in alongside SNP MPs and MSPs.

Democracy isn’t a one-way ticket in support of a Prime Minister's own decision. That is a dictatorship or tyranny.

It’s a bit disconcerting to find that Leave voters describe a new vote as ‘a remainers’ vote’, and 'undemocratic' yet the 52:48 vote was ‘the people’s vote.’
A new referendum would be just that: a new vote, not a repetition of 2016, any more than the 2017 general election was a repeat of the one in 2015, just two years before.


I hugely enjoyed welcoming staff and volunteers from  LEAP, in the Parliament last week.
These folk provide and absolutely invaluable services to the older community across South Lanarkshire through services such as befriending and handyperson project.
These activities make a huge difference to older people who so often feel lonely and isolated.
You can see the wide variety of other services they offer and get involved as a participant or a volunteer.

Local elected Members visit Burnbank to discuss anti-social behaviour
I organised a walk-around in the Burnbank area a couple of weeks ago. I know how many people are seriously concerned about anti-social behaviour there, so I wanted to talk to Inspector Derek Hamilton. Councillor Stephanie Callaghan also wanted to find out more.

We discussed ways of improving security. Extra police patrols and CCTV to see the action.
I found Inspector Hamilton was very responsive and genuinely wants to do more to tackle the problems.
It’s behaviour that most of us find totally unacceptable. It is frightening, vicious and threatening.
Stephanie added that “It was helpful to speak to business and residents in the local area about their concerns and what they want to see happening to improve the problems they are facing.

"The Council and the Police are totally committed to tackling this unacceptable behaviour and will be working together closely to ensure this happens.”
Inspector Hamilton said: “In recent months Burnbank has been a priority area for local police in relation to acts of anti-social behaviour and violence. 

"We have worked with South Lanarkshire Council Housing Department and Joint Problem Solving Team, local business owners and elected officials to improve CCTV provision and directly address the behaviour of known individuals. 

"We have carried out daily hi-visibility patrols in Burnbank and engaged with parents of young people frequenting the area.  A number of arrests have been made and alcohol seized. 

"We will continue to work with partners, consult with the members of the community and elected officials, and carry out additional patrols in the coming days and weeks.  I would encourage anyone experiencing problems to contact Police via '101', or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111”
World Down's Syndrome Day
March 21st was World Down’s Syndrome Day. To raise awareness on that day people across the world took part in Lots of Socks Day!

Why socks? The Down's Syndrome Association explains: "Well, because chromosomes look like socks and people with Down's have an extra chromosome.

"We invite you to help us celebrate and wear your socks with pride."

And that's just what lots of us MSPs did on the day!

Fresh increase in support for Scottish Independence
It’s not hard to see why more and more Scots who voted ‘No’ in 2014 are beginning to see the advantages that come with independence. The noticeable thing is that everything ‘No’ voters feared would happen with independence has now taken place because of the UK Government.


In 2014, many No campaigners said that independence would force us out of the EU and how awful that would be. In fact, of course, it’s the UK that is taking out of the EU by force.
So guess what, all the things the No voters feared would happen if Scotland left the UK started to happen under the UK government: Benefits would be cut, more austerity than ever, more racism, more violence, there would be more zero  hour contracts, the Health Service would be struggling even more, investment would fall, jobs would be lost.
The big difference was, and still is, that we don’t make our own decisions in Scotland. We are told what to do. Only the fundamental change in that equation will change anything.
It was no surprise in a way, but still encouraging to see the impact Brexit is having upon the independence campaign. A Panelbase poll for The Times, Scots backed independence over No Deal by 52% to 48% - ironically, exactly the same balance as is bringing us out of the EU and so profoundly altering the UK’s status in the world.
When it came to backing independence over Theresa May’s Deal, then the margin increased to 53% and 47%.
Since December then, independence beats both the Brexit options and almost a quarter of No voters would now prefer to leave the UK than leave the EU.
International Women’s Day in the Scottish Parliament

I was delighted to be involved in the debate in the Chamber on International Women’s Day. I had put up the Motion about the Balance for Better campaign and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Services and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville, began the debate by “celebrating women’s social, economic and cultural contribution to society and to raise awareness of the structural  inequalities, discrimination and violence that are experienced by women and girls in Scotland and around the world.
“It is a day on which to reaffirm our commitment to women’s rights and to galvanise our collective efforts to end gender inequality.”
After several great speeches, I contributed to the debate (see at 1652)
My emphasis I upon how women are held back so severely – 63 million girls don’t have access to an education – and until that is changed, there will be no gender equality.
Women have just as much of a right to reach their goals as do have men, but that’s not the reality we are seeing. Women have the right to feel safe, not to have limits set on them by others, educated, valued and most importantly of all, equal.
Here are a few extracts from what I said in the Chamber:
“As many members will know, over my 11-plus years as an MSP, I have been an advocate—some might say an outspoken one—for equalities issues. I am proud to have spoken in just about every international women’s day debate in Parliament, because the day holds a special significance for me.
“In years gone by, international women’s day was one of the few opportunities when we found space to discuss women’s equality and to raise awareness of the systemic change that is required for women to achieve their rightful place in society. We have heard many examples of how we can do that and many examples of the work that is still to be done.
“However, I now see a Scotland where women and girls, and men and boys, are making space to discuss such issues daily—in schools and colleges, in workplaces, in people’s homes and, of course, on social media. The debate on women’s equality can no longer be contained to just one day, or even 16 days; it is now a debate for everyone, every day.”
Here's to women everywhere in the world!


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.

‘No deal’ economic impact for Scotland

Here we are, staring into the abyss, with just 3 weeks to go.

A new report by the Scottish Government’s Chief Economist, ‘No Deal’ Brexit – Economic Implications for Scotland’ that all forms of Brexit will harm Scotland’s economy and result in lower household incomes.
Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU but our interests are deemed irrelevant. Only independence will release this nation to create the kind of international, EU member country, outward looking with creative, innovative ambitions and a society which operates with dignity, compassion and respect for everyone.
All those big promises of the wonderful increase in funds for the NHS, how there would be fantastic new opportunities to do trade deals better than the ones already negotiated with the EU, how giving up membership of the single market and customs union would offer better deals with countries like the US.

In 2017, Liam Fox promised that the UK would be able to replicate 40 EU free trade deals by Brexit day.
So far, the trade department has only been able to finalise ‘continuity agreements’ with seven of the 69 countries and regions with which the EU has trade deals.
The countries are Switzerland, Chile, the Faroe Islands, Eastern and Southern Africa, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The trade deals that the EU has already made give the UK excellent benefits. Nothing Liam Fox and his cronies can do could be anything like as good. It’s one country instead of 29; it’s 62 million people rather than 520 million.
On top of all that, Scotland is forced to watch Donald Trump’s aggressive demands for a deal there. We in the SNP have been warning that the UK Government most not agree to any ‘bargain basement’ trade deals with the USA. So far, Trump is demanding ‘comprehensive market access’ for US agricultural products and the ‘rapid removal of unwarranted barriers’ blocking the import of American food and drink products into the UK.

We may not be offered a choice.

Food and hygiene standards in the EU mean that American agricultural products are deemed not to meet the Food and Drink regulatory standards of the EU. There are good reasons for that refusal and underlining them is our health and wellbeing - and that of the animals we choose to eat.

International Women’s Day
From my Facebook page: I want to thank and praise all the women in my life who inspire, motivate, love and lift me up every day. Sisters you are my shining stars & I love you all for it.  I am blessed to work with amazing women too. #Balancedforbetter 

Collective action and shared responsibility for driving a gender-balanced world is key. International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women - while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance.

The first International Women's Day was in 1911, supported by over one million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific.

Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activisonce explained: "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."

The future is exciting. Let's build a gender-balanced world.

We had a great debate in the Chamber on Thursday last which pulled together all the passions and determination in the Scottish Parliament to work ever more towards the SNP’s objective of equality for women.
Equality for women is at the heart of the SNP Government’s vision for a fairer Scotland. We are progressing gender equality because it supports a basic human right and will help people flourish and reach their full potential, which will ultimately create a wealthier and fairer society.
New Modern Apprentice target
More than 29,000 people will benefit from Modern Apprenticeship opportunities next year in a continued effort to support youth employment, Fair Work Minister Jamie Hepburn has announced.  

The 29,000 target includes Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships and puts Scotland on course to reach a longstanding commitment to 30,000 new apprenticeship starts each year by 2020.

This increased goal will help give more people the opportunity to work, learn and earn while providing employers with the skills they need for their workforce. The 2018/19 target of 28,000 Modern Apprenticeship starts is on course to be met.

Around 1300 Graduate Apprenticeships will be available this year across 13 different subjects. Up to 5000 Foundation Apprenticeship places for secondary pupils to choose alongside their other school subjects are also available. 27,145 people stared Modern Apprenticeships in 2017/2018, surpassing the 27,000 target. 
Visit to the Larkhall District Volunteer Group 
This is one of my favourite community-based groups and I am hugely appreciative of what they do. I went along with SSNP Councillor Peter Craig to hear about how their work is moving on.

The wide variety of services being offered by the Larkhall District Volunteer Group never ceases to astound me. Never content to rest on their laurels they are constantly innovating, for example, they are now hiring out their kitchen for use by local businesses or groups.

I look forward to working with the group to support them in continuing the high-quality services to the huge number of people who benefit from them. Well done, all of you.
Views sought on a new Mental Health and Wellbeing strategy to be rolled out across Lanarkshire
NHS Lanarkshire is asking for views and comments about a new mental health and wellbeing strategy.
This is a perfect chance for everyone, especially those with direct experience, to contribute to forming the mental health priorities over the coming years.
Please do give your comments at:
GP practices in NHS Lanarkshire to receive funding boost this year
The Scottish Government has announced that an additional £20 million support will be given to GP practices across Scotland to help with the costs of running their practice.

A total of 172 practices have successfully applied for loans – around 50% of the total eligible. 16 of these have come from GPs in NHS Lanarkshire.

The new GP contract in Scotland is backed by £110 million in 2018/19 to ensure that GPs are able to spend more time with patients, and less time on paperwork. The Scottish Government is investing a further £7.5 million to improve GP recruitment and retention in 2018/19.

The extra investment will make becoming a GP an attractive career choice and encourage more people to join the profession - which will in turn make it easier for practices in Scotland to retain and recruit staff.

This news is extremely encouraging, especially for those practices in rural areas who may struggle to recruit new members of staff. I encourage eligible GPs in NHS Lanarkshire to consider whether they would benefit from this scheme.

The NHS is one of our most treasured institutions, and the SNP in government is absolutely committed to ensuring it stays fit for the future.
Christina and Angela visit Stonehouse-based Galloway & McLeod
Angela Crawley, SNP MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, and myself went along to specialist animal feed production company Galloway & McLeod in Stonehouse to find out more about the work they do.

Managing director of G&M, Donald Harvey, gave the group a tour around the offices and facilities at the Stonehouse base. He highlighted the positive move towards further automation of their process for mixing animal feed and work on using more environmentally sustainable packaging for shipping.
G&M have been successfully making their way into European markets over previous years, with plans in place to continue growing their international and digital footprint with the launch of an e-commerce site.
Donald also noted the 33% increase in profitability since the company took the decision to become employee owned in 2010. This is just one example of the company’s local focus. G&M try to hire from the local community where possible and provide progression for those who come to work, with the average length of service for their employees being 15 years.
The level of dedication to the local community at G&M is wonderful to see. They are the perfect example of the benefits that come to both the residents and the company when these strong links are forged. I look forward to seeing the ongoing successes of the company in the future.
Positive destinations for increasing number of school leavers
94.4% of pupils had a ’positive destination’ including work, training or further study within three months of leaving school last year, official statistics show.

The figures also reveal that the gap between those from the most and least deprived communities achieving a positive destination has halved since 2009/10, with an increase in positive destinations for school leavers from both backgrounds.

Over the same period there have been increases at all levels of attainment – the qualifications young people are achieving.

For the first time more than 30% of pupils left school with a minimum of five passes at Higher Level or better, up from 22.2% in 2009/10. The gap between those from the most and least deprived areas achieving a pass at Higher Level or better is now at a record low, reducing for the eighth successive year.

In addition, more young people are choosing to remain at school, with almost two thirds leaving in S6.
‘Historic moment’ as responsibility for devolved benefits to be transferred in April 2020
Our Government has hailed a “historic moment” for social security in Scotland, as we laid out the timetable for the delivery of all devolved benefits.

From 1st April next year, we in the Scottish Government will take full responsibility for the remaining devolved benefits.

By the end of 2021, the Scottish Government will be delivering new claims for all Disability and Carer’s Assistance, and supporting families with their winter fuel bills.  

Social Security Scotland made its first payments in September 2018, delivering the Carer’s Allowance Supplement, which has paid out over £33 million to more than 77,000 carers, and the Best Start Grant, which has put £2.7 million into the pockets of more than 7,000 families in just its first two months.

In spite of welfare cuts from Westminster, we have relished the chance to develop a social security system that is right for people in Scotland.
While most social security powers remain reserved to Westminster, we will at least have some powers that will allow us to make the system fairer and get the decisions right first time.
We wholeheartedly reject the Tory Government's approach to social security. It has already been described by the UN as ‘punitive, mean-spirited and often callous.’

Increasingly, I hear people saying, including those who haven't supported the SNP in the past, 'independence has to be better than the chaos that reigns now.'



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.


Scottish Budget Passed


On Thursday 21st February the Scottish Parliament voted to approve the 2019/20 budget put forward by the Scottish Government. This Scottish Budget provides £42.5 billion of investment to Scotland’s public services and economy.

Westminster has delivered cuts to Scotland of almost £2 billion over the last decade but in spite of this the SNP has committed £729 million extra for health and care services, which includes a £430 million increase for NHS boards.

This comes with an £8 billion investment in Scotland’s education system, including £120 million delivered directly to head teachers – helping schools address the poverty related attainment gap. Scotland’s colleges will benefit from a £606 million investment over 2019-20, while universities will receive more than £1 billion.

As part of the Scottish Government’s plan to almost double the paid-for provision of childcare to 1,140 hours from August 2020 for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds, the budget also commits £500 million to support the expansion of early learning services and facilities across Scotland.

Not only that, the budget also ensures that council tax increases will be kept below the 5% cap in England and ensures that 55% of income taxpayers will pay less in Scotland than they would in the rest of the UK.


No Deal Brexit Danger Looms

Westminster is failing Scotland. We are being dragged to the brink of Brexit disaster while Labour and the Tories are in meltdown.

With a week of resignations re-igniting fights within both parties at a time of crisis. They are guilt of gross negligence and Scotland is looking on in horror. Their childish game playing is putting the livelihoods of real people at risk.

Only this week CBI Scotland and the Scottish Government released figures which highlight the damage a no deal Brexit would do to Scotland. The report published by the Scottish Governments top economic adviser warned that a no deal Brexit could result in a recession even worse than the one suffered in 2008, with a fall in our GDP of up to 7% and a rise in unemployment of around 100,000.

The games being played by the Tories and Labour are simply unacceptable when we are only weeks away from crashing out of the EU. Westminster will not be forgiven for the way it has handled our futures in this moment of national crisis and if they have any sense they will get behind the SNP calls to extend article 50 and to hold a second referendum to stay in the EU.


Meeting with Larkhall Town Plan


On Monday 4th February I met with some of the Larkhall Town Plan members in the Lighthouse and invited along the CEO of Scotland’s Town Partnership, Phil Prentice, to discuss ongoing plans to build on the regeneration of the area.

We discussed a wide range of success local projects and developments, including the Larkhall Growers.

The Larkhall Town Plan agreed that the best way forward was to carry out a survey to find out what local residents want to see. I am really excited to see what comes out of the survey and look forward to helping however I can!


New Wetherspoons

South Lanarkshire Council’s Executive Committee unanimously approved the sale of the former Baird’s site to Wetherspoons for £750,000 to be used as a brand-new pub on the corner of Quarry Street and Duke Street.

This was one of the major concerns addressed in the report carried out by Angela Crawley MP and myself into condition of Hamilton Town Centre and as such I am delighted to see the vacant lot being brought back into use.

The Wetherspoons is projected to increase the number of visitors to Hamilton and thus benefit many of the surrounding businesses in the High Street.

The Council have worked hard to organise this deal and should be commended for seeing it through. Bringing the site back into use shows that Hamilton Town Centre is once again open for business.


Hamilton Town Centre Project Leads the Way


I visited Glasgow University with Angela Crawley MP to speak to give a presentation about the work being carried out as part of the regeneration of Hamilton Town Centre through “A Strategy for Hamilton Town Centre”.

The plan was announced by the Council on March last year and passed by committee in November 2018. This followed on from a consultation carried out by myself and Angela in 2016 which received more than 1800 responses from residents and business owners in Hamilton and found a real desire for regenerating Hamilton’s historic town centre.

Speaking at the presentation Christina said: “At a time when High Streets everywhere are struggling to deal with the challenges presented by changing patterns of shoppers, who are increasingly ordering online, we need to do all we can to make it easier for people to get in to our high streets. The work of the partners shows that there are options available to achieve this.”

Christina also welcomed the £50 million Town Centre Fund made available for towns like Hamilton as part of the Scottish Government budget and hoped that South Lanarkshire Council would make an application for a share of the funding.


Newfield Primary School Win Gold Award


I had a great visit to the fantastic Newfield Primary School who have been awarded the Sports Scotland Gold Award for the second time!

There were fabulous displays of talent in karate, basketball, football, gymnastics and dancing! I was very impressed with the work of everyone including the pupil committee, teachers, staff and all the students!

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.

Brexit update

It’s just 53 days until 29 March when the UK’s membership of the EU is extinguished. The genie is released from the lamp and the outcomes really start to kick in. Westminster has to let go of the notion that Theresa May’s failing government can re-negotiate the deal no one wants.


The EU has made its position clear. The deal is wrapped, completed, sealed. The Withdrawal Agreement is not up for discussion. But the UK is ignoring these statements and sending Theresa May back to Brussels ‘to reopen negotiations.’
Scotland, is sidelined and shafted by Westminster and we are paying a heavy price for a chaotic Tory government that we didn’t vote for.
We have been denied our democratic right to remain in the EU, as we voted to do. 
Scottish budget

Health services, the economy and public services will benefit from more than £2 billion of additional spend, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has announced.

As he confirmed an agreement had been reached that saw the Scottish Budget voted through the different stages in Parliament. Mr Mackay outlined a package of reforms at stage one of the Budget Bill, hailing the proposals as a ‘substantial devolution of power to local government’.

The Finance Secretary also confirmed the Scottish Budget will provide an additional £90 million to support local government and as well as further flexibility and increased income from council tax.

Taken together this enhanced package offers up to £187 million of increased funding and flexibility to councils.

Under the deal reached, South Lanarkshire Council will receive an additional £10,932m from the Scottish Government on top of a total overall settlement of £11.1bn.

With the UK government in complete chaos, the SNP in government is offering certainty and stability with a budget which protects public services, supports the economy, and helps build a fairer country.

This budget uses our powers in a progressive way in order to protect and invest in our public services – with a major boost for the NHS.

Giving our schools, hospitals and other vital services in South Lanarkshire the money they need to deliver better services for our communities is vital to this government. This is why I welcome Holyrood’s support for the budget.

Despite Westminster cuts of almost £2 billion in a decade to Scotland’s block resource grant, the SNP is proposing additional funding of almost £730 million for Scotland’s health and care services – including £1,199m for South Lanarkshire.

South Lanarkshire Council will receive an additional £10,932m from the Scottish Government on top of a total overall settlement of £11.1bn.

The budget also includes more than £180 million to raise attainment in schools, and almost £500 million for the expansion of early learning and childcare.

I believe this budget uses our powers in a progressive way in order to protect and invest in our public services – with a major boost for the NHS.

Giving our schools, hospitals and other vital services in South Lanarkshire the money they need to deliver better services for our communities is vital to this government.
Tackling social isolation and loneliness

Last week, Parliament unanimously backed my motion to recognise that social isolation and loneliness are issues that can affect people at any age, stage or walk of life, welcoming the publication of the Scottish Government’s national strategy, A Connected Scotland. You can watch the debate here
Everyone has a part to play to tackle social isolation and loneliness and to build a more connected Scotland. Listening to visitors sharing their sense of isolation with me, I see many, many different reasons for people finding themselves in such a lonely place.

I firmly believe we have the caring, compassionate communities in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to ensure that people don’t get rejected or ignored. We can – and we will – implement this strategy to build a more connected, caring Scotland.
I was pleased to announce the membership of the national implementation group for a connected Scotland. The group will develop and implement a shared delivery plan for the strategy, along with a shared performance framework to help us understand the difference that we can make.
In support of the strategy, the Scottish Government has committed £1 million of investment over the next year to help build our collective capacity to implement the strategy and to pilot innovate approaches to tackle social isolation and loneliness.
Fall in youth convictions
Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, has welcomed the news that the number of young people convicted of a crime or offence has gone down by two thirds in the last decade.

The use of custodial sentences under 3 months has fallen over the last decade, while the proportion of community sentences has risen from 14% in 2008-09 to 20% for the last two years. The average length of custodial sentence is at its highest in the last ten years, increasing by 21% since 2008-09.

The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape increased by 8% compared with the previous year and there was a 14% rise in the number of convictions for sexual assault.

Commenting on the fall in convictions for under 21 year olds, Mr Yousaf said: “A child’s early years are their most important and can have a considerable impact on their future.

"Our emphasis across portfolios on early intervention and support for families, coupled with a youth justice strategy focused on prevention and diversion is helping to reduce the number of children and young people falling into a cycle of crime that could shape the rest of their lives.

"Clearly there is no room for complacency and we continue to work with national and local partners to help sustain and build on this progress.

“Short custodial sentences are not effective and Scotland must go further to increase the use of robust, community-based sentencing.

"We know that murderers and others given life sentences are serving longer in custody and these latest figures show an increase in average prison sentences for a range of the most serious crimes including rape, attempted rape and homicide.”

Domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline
It was a huge personal success for me to see Scottish Women’s Aid securing £1.7 million contract to deliver the domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline.

Domestic abuse and forced marriage are fundamental violations of an individual’s human rights and we are committed to supporting survivors.

This helpline offers support and potential routes out of abuse. We want anyone experiencing domestic abuse or feeling trapped in an unwanted marriage to have somewhere to turn to for help and advice.

Lydia Okroj, Helpline Manager at Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline said: “We are delighted to have secured this tender, and we are looking forward to working with partners to continue to provide a high quality, specialist service to survivors of domestic abuse and forced marriage in Scotland.

“Domestic abuse and forced marriage are both isolating and frightening experiences and no-one should go through them alone; our helpline is there to ensure that no-one has to.  We want to make sure that our number is known by everyone like another emergency service, giving a lifeline to those who need it.

“As the implementation of Scotland’s new Domestic Abuse Act gets closer our helpline has already seen an increase in calls where callers recognise the harm caused by emotional and other non-physical abuse.

"This funding brings with it the potential for reaching and supporting more people than ever before, and that is exactly what we plan to do.”

The helpline is available 24/7 on 0800 027 1234.

Tories face debate on back-door pension credit cut
The SNP has tabled a motion forcing the UK government to give MPs a vote on the cut to Pension Credit, which would see the lowest income pensioners up to £7000 a year worse off.

The provision was made in the Welfare Reform Act back in 2012, but now the UK Government has said it intends to implement this clause without a debate – seven years and two governments later.
This change would mean that for couples where one person is of state pension age and the other is below, the individual in receipt of state pension would no longer be eligible to claim Pension Credit to top up their household income.
Commenting, Airdrie and Shotts SNP MP and spokesman on Work and Pensions, Neil Gray, said: “It is outrageous that the UK Government are content with slipping through a huge change to Pension Credit without allowing MPs to vote on these substantial changes passed two governments ago.
“The UK Government must urgently make time to debate these changes on the floor of the House so that MPs have the opportunity to make their views heard. To ignore these calls would be a democratic outrage.”