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

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

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

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

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

General Election

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

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

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

Independence

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That is anti-democratic and unfair.”

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

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

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

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

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

“We have talent and resources in abundance. 

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

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

“With independence, our country will thrive.”

Asda, Larkhall store

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping up with you 4 November

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

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

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

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

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

Our independence

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton Food Bank

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

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

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

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

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

* Brilliant team, doing a fantastic job.

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

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

Hamilton Churches Drop-In Centre

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

Low income families helped

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

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

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

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

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton Churches Drop-In Centre

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

Low income families helped

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

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

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

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

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know your menopause

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

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

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

Keeping up with you 22 October

 

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.

SNP Annual Conference

The buzz, the excitement in Aberdeen was electric. It is always great to see people whom I’ve not seen in ages as well as be with all the SNP MPs and MSPs that I’m talking to every day.

But this felt different, dramatically different. I had a sense of the urgency, the desire for us all to get so much closer to our own independence and so much further from Westminster’s bizarre activities.

There was a host of great debates and Fringe events. One of the two fringe meetings I spoke at was about how technology will better connect older people to health professionals and their communities.

I wanted to emphasise – as does our Scottish Older People Strategy released in April - that loneliness and isolation remain a sad and enduring problem, especially as we approach the Christmas season.

Emerging technologies and design solutions are set to become increasingly familiar. These new developments are going to play an important part in improving the lives and independence of our older people.

The second Fringe meeting, alongside Aileen McLeod MEP, focused on the question of whether Scotland can become a beacon in the world to a wellbeing economy?

In 2018 Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand established the Group of Wellbeing Economy Governments to challenge the acceptance of GDP as the ultimate measure of a country’s success - the goal of economic policy should be collective wellbeing, how happy and healthy a population is, not just how wealthy a population is. Collective wellbeing, not GDP, should be the most important measure of a country’s success.

We had important contributions from Dr Katherine Trebeck from the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, and Jane Morrison, also from the same organisation.

It was a great debate that brought in lots of fresh ideas about the best routes forward from a wide range of enthusiastic people.

Two debates I led were on the newly launched Gypsy Traveller action plan and another was on the importance of Human Rights and the value of ECHR. Something the UK, including Scotland, will lose post-Brexit.  

We had a number of exciting announcements. For example, a £3m action plan to tackle the discrimination and challenges faced by the Gypsy/Traveller community has been launched.

The plan, co-produced with local government body Cosla, will support a number of initiatives.

Local authorities will use £2m of the funding to improve accommodation and sites.

The remaining funding will go towards third sector children's education projects and health and social care.

A report published in 2018 found a failure by some local authorities to provide sites for travelling people which meet government standards.

It found that just two sites - in Angus and Falkirk - did so.

The action plan will focus on five key areas:

1 Providing more and better accommodation

2 Improving access to public services

3  Maximising household incomes

4  Tackling racism and discrimination

5  Strengthening community development and engagement

This action plan seeks to tackle deep-seated inequalities and discrimination experienced by Gypsy travellers by addressing the challenges they face.

Naturally, It was our quest for independence that dominated Conference. We all woke on last Sunday to read the Times poll showing support for independence up to 50%. That kind of figure has already been the result in two other polls, but it’s great to see it confirmed.

The SNP leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, put the new sense of urgency, brought by Brexit very clearly: 

“When it comes to choosing Scotland’s future, we should demand and win the gold standard for democracy and for our country.

“The excuses for keeping Boris Johnson in office are running dry, and the patience of people in Scotland is running out. We must take the power out of Boris Johnson’s hands - and put it back in the hands of the people. 

“We will not play Boris Johnson’s games and give in to his demands. But after years of Brexit crisis and chaos the only option – the only option that truly puts a stop to this chaos -  is to call a general election.

“A win for the SNP in any election will be a win for the right for immigrants to live and work in Scotland as their home.
 
“It will be a win for fair and decent pensions.
 
“A win for the right to help and support when you’re sick or out of work.
 
“We have the mandate, we have a majority in Parliament and we’ve absolutely got the momentum.
 
“And no one – not Boris Johnson – not Jeremy Corbyn, not anyone -  has any democratic right to block that decision from being made.

“The choice facing the people of Scotland is now abundantly clear.

“Scotland can be part of a broken Brexit Britain or choose to take our place as an equal, independent European nation, determined to deliver a fairer, greener, and more just society.”

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, speaking on the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday morning, restated her determination: ““I am putting legislation through the Scottish Parliament right now to put the rules and regulations in place. I’ve said as recently as a few weeks ago that as legislation progresses, we will make request for a section 30 order. We see rising support for independence,”

On a timescale, she said: “It’s likely to be over the next matter of weeks. It is coming soon.”

Depute Leader, Keith Brown, added: “There is no doubt that independence is coming – and Scotland will soon get to make that choice.

 
“We have an undeniable mandate for a referendum, we have a majority in the Scottish Parliament and we have momentum on our side – with support continuing to grow in favour of taking our future into our own hands.
 
“In a democracy, no politician should stand in the way of the people. Scotland must have the chance to choose a better future as a matter of democratic necessity.
 
“We have seen hundreds of thousands taking to the streets, making clear that Scotland’s voice will be heard.
 
“And while Westminster politics are well and truly broken, more and more people are convinced that Scotland should grasp the opportunity to become an independent country.
 
“Though the Tories will always try to hold us back, the unstoppable energy of our movement will ensure we keep moving Scotland forward to independence.” 

If I may risk offence to Rabbie Burns, “it’s coming Yes for a’ that, as come it will for a’ that.”

Campaign to save the First Glasgow-Hamilton express bus route

There were more than 4,600 people who backed our campaign to save the X1 Hamilton to Glasgow service.

I was delighted to hear it. I think First really understood what I had said to them about just how difficult and damaging such a loss would be to our Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse communities.

It’s been a rewarding experience to achieve this outcome, working alongside the many other individuals and groups supporting the campaign.

But First remain cautious, so get out and use that bus! First Glasgow commercial director Graeme Macfarlane said: “Service X1 is a route that has been in decline for a number of years in terms of passenger numbers, despite a number of efforts to make the route attractive to service users.

"The removal of any service is always the absolute last resort in this scenario and something we do not take lightly.

“Despite the numbers involved in the very public petitions against the removal of this service, we are simply not seeing this level of customer volume actually using the service.

"This must change if the service is to have a long-term and viable future as a commercial service, but we have taken on board the strong views of the paying public and local stakeholders who we have met with.

“As a result, we have taken the decision to reinstate the service as of 27 October.

"This registration has now been accepted by the Traffic Commissioner’s office, meaning there will be no gap in service from a customer’s point of view.”

So get out there and use that bus! Use it or lose it!

New fund to improve benefit take-up 

I welcome the news that a £500,000 fund is being opened for organisations who help people accessing their benefit options to be delivered by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Benefit Take-up Fund will support charities and third sector organisations in their work to tackle the barriers that can stand in the way of getting benefits someone is entitled to.  

This includes tackling perceived stigma and supporting people through the application process. Computer understanding and access to it can act as a significant limitation among folk who are unfamiliar with the technologies.

As we develop our own Scottish Social Security Agency, we believe it is vital to ensure that the systems we create are easy to access.

"The removal of any service is always the absolute last resort in this scenario and something we do not take lightly.

“Despite the numbers involved in the very public petitions against the removal of this service, we are simply not seeing this level of customer volume actually using the service.

"This must change if the service is to have a long-term and viable future as a commercial service, but we have taken on board the strong views of the paying public and local stakeholders who we have met with.

“As a result, we have taken the decision to reinstate the service as of 27 October.

"This registration has now been accepted by the Traffic Commissioner’s office, meaning there will be no gap in service from a customer’s point of view.”

Lifting people out of poverty

By August next year the SNP in government will have all but doubled the hours children receive. It will give them 30 hours a week of high quality, free care and education - saving families in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse £4,500 per year for each child.

As announced by Nicola Sturgeon at the SNP conference last week, the SNP will scrap all non-residential social care charges and expand childcare into the school holidays for primary pupils from the poorest backgrounds if re-elected at the 2021 election.

 The First Minister pledged the new policies to ensure that everyone in Scotland has access to the support they need without cost - providing high quality care for those in most need, and helping parents continue working over holiday periods.

We’re determined to help families with the cost of living throughout their lifetimes – ensuring that fairness and equality are embedded in our society from birth to retirement.

That progressive, ambitious vision for government is exactly why people in Scotland continue to put their faith in the SNP.”

Teenage carers in Scotland to benefit from new grant

A new benefit will open for applications on Monday 21 October, with the Scottish Government investing £600,000 to support almost 2,000 young carers in 2019/20.

The Young Carer Grant will be available for 16, 17 and 18 year olds who spend an average of 16 hours caring for someone who receives a disability benefit.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“I am delighted that we are using our new social security powers to recognise the extraordinary contribution these dedicated young people make to the lives of those they care for. This is the first time young carers anywhere in the UK will receive a cash benefit.

“With more responsibilities and less free time, many young carers don’t get the same opportunities as their peers and we want this benefit to support them with activities that many of their peers will take for granted.

“We are putting this extra money in their pockets in what could be a pivotal stage in their lives – when they may be finishing school, looking for employment or starting further education or training.

“This new grant will ensure they are treated with the dignity, fairness and respect they deserve.”

Paul Traynor, Policy and External Affairs Manager, Carers Trust Scotland, said:

“Carers Trust Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government’s innovative Young Carer Grant, which goes some way to recognising the immense contribution of unpaid young carers in Scotland.

“It is vital that young carers are able to live their own life alongside their unpaid caring roles and are provided with appropriate support to give them a better chance to reach their full potential in all aspects of their lives. At this key transitional time for many young carers aged 16–18 years old, this financial support has the potential to make a positive difference to their lives and alleviate some of the financial difficulties that these young carers may experience.”

Young Carer Grant opens for applications today,  Monday (21 October). Applications can be made online at mygov.scot, by phone or by post.

 

Scottish Veterans Fund opens

Organisations that want to work with veterans and their families are being urged to apply to a fund that benefits former services personnel.

Veterans Minister Graeme Dey opened the Scottish Veterans Fund (SVF) at the Armed Forces and Veterans Champions Gathering in Glasgow on 6 October..

The fund, supported by the Scottish Government and Standard Life Aberdeen, backs projects that provide new or innovative approaches to improving the lives of veterans.

This year also sees the fund emphasise that it is open to supporting schemes that help the families of veterans, not just those who have previously served.

Since its inception in 2008, the fund has backed more than 150 projects across Scotland, investing more than £1.4m.

It is particularly aimed at helping the veterans community overcome any disadvantage experienced as a result of service, as well as supporting projects that help veterans and their families successfully transition to civilian life.

Application forms and guidance will soon be available on the Veterans Scotland website and the fund application closure date is 30 November.

Green investment programme opens

Projects helping Scotland transition to a net-zero economy by 2045 can apply to be included in a new green investment programme, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The Green Investment Portfolio will give local authorities, developers and third sector organisations the opportunity to pitch for large scale investment to support projects reducing Scotland’s emissions in areas like renewables, waste, transport and the circular economy.

Announcing the launch at the Ethical Finance 2019 conference in Edinburgh, the First Minister said: “Scotland is determined to lead the transition to a net-zero carbon economy, and we have been clear that we must leave no-one behind.

“With 85% of the finance for this transition coming from the private sector, we must do everything we can to help all parts of the economy contribute to net-zero emissions by 2045.


“The Green Investment Portfolio supports our ethical finance ambitions by matching projects which are reducing emissions with investors so we can fully maximise their potential and promote them globally.

“This could include projects that are making buildings more energy efficient, reducing industrial emissions or even restoring peatlands. Our aim is to take to market a £3 billion portfolio of investable projects over the next three years.”

 

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.

Retain the X1 Hamilton to Glasgow bus route

I have now had an initial meeting with the Managing Director and Commercial Director of First Bus last Monday regarding the plans to remove the X1/X1A service.


I explained to them the real damage this change would do to the people of Hamilton and the surrounding area who use the service to get in to Glasgow for work and study. Alongside this I highlighted my concerns about High Earnock losing out from the proposed replacement service, which would see many vulnerable locals having to walk much further to get the bus.

First has recognised they need to improve how they consult with local elected members and authorities, though they maintain that the route as it stands is currently extremely unprofitable outwith peak times.


I have also spoken with SPT to discuss how this decision was reached and what can be done to reverse it from their end. I will also be continuing my conversations with South Lanarkshire Council.

✏️ A petition has been started by local Rebecca Creechan to show the public support for keeping the X1 service. You can show your support by signing and sharing the petition at bit.ly/savex1
It is unacceptable to remove a vital service without any proper consultation with passengers and other stakeholders.

As a society, we are trying to get more people to use public transport - First's decision to axe this service flies in the face of that ambition.
 
I’ll keep you up to date.

Walking Football
All you folk who know you need a bit more exercise but can’t figure out what to do, try Walking Football. Every Wednesday from 2-3pm at Larkhall Leisure Centre. There are no age restrictions and there is no cost. Give it a go!


 

Jubilee Club
I’ve often spoken and written about the wonderful work of the Jubilee Club members and volunteers. I’d just like to remind you of their regular meetings in Larkhall as well as in Stonehouse.
 


The club aims to provide support and entertainment for those with dementia and for their carers. Looking after a near relative with dementia is exhausting and lonely, so it’s vital to ensure some enjoyable social life along with people in similar situations.
 
So join the club on the 4th Tuesday of the month from 2pm until 3.30pm at the Raploch Bowling Club. You’ll find a great welcome and the chance to join in the fun and joy of the group.
 
Phone 01698 884537/07760283210 

Basic Bicycle Maintenance Workshop
For all of you who are either already keen cyclists or those who are beginning to take to two wheels, here is a great opportunity to learn more about looking after your bike.
 


The evening workshop is on 4 October from 6.30 until 9 at the Ferniegair Hall on the Carlisle Road in Hamilton. The cost is £30 and you can book here: https://ticket.global-events.org/e/2517
 
This is a workshop designed to provide the basic know how in maintaining a cycle. It will be relevant to all kinds of cycles which makes it ideal if you may be lucky enough to own a number of cycles.

It will be taught by a Cytech qualified mechanic and cycle coach who has many years of experience.

Larkhall Community Growers
Another fantastic charity that brings adults and children together. Larkhall Community Growers will soon hold their Harvest Celebration and scarecrow display at Hareleeshill Community Garden on Saturday 5 October from 11am until 1 pm.

 

A spokesperson said: “The entries from our School's Scarecrow Competition will be on display along with some of the produce from our Growers and Volunteers. Light refreshments will be on offer and some activities for the children. Come along and visit us and see the fruit of all our labours.

“The entries from our School's Scarecrow Competition will be on display along with some of the produce from our Growers and Volunteers. Light refreshments will be on offer and some activities for the children. Come along and visit us and see the fruit of all our labours.”

Trust Jack Foundation
We were all profoundly shocked and saddened to hear that another young man has taken his own life, leaving behind a devastated family.
 
We know that young men make up a particularly vulnerable group of people. Encouraging them to talk among themselves is important, but there remains a real stigma about men sharing their feelings, anxieties and loneliness.
 


Jack’s Lads is a community support group of men where people can express their feelings without fear of judgment. Instead, people can share their own experiences and build trust with others suffering from the same issues.
 
No one is going to force you to speak or share your story if you don’t want to. You will be met with a warm welcome and a friendly face.
 
Trust Jack Foundation, 36-38 New Street, Stonehouse ML9 3LT
Phone 01698 793980

 
www.trustjackfoundation.co.uk

Scotland to become a net-zero society
The Scottish Climate Change Bill was passed by 113 votes to zero, with the Scottish Greens abstaining after MSPs rejected the party’s bid to target an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.
 
The SNP, Scottish Tory and Scottish Lib Dem MSPs all supported an amendment from Scottish Labour MSP Claudia Beamish for a 75 per cent cut in emissions by 2030.
 
Scotland was the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, and our groundbreaking Climate Change Bill – which was passed by the Scottish Parliament this week – was hailed by the UN as “an inspiring example of the level of ambition we need globally to achieve the Paris Agreement“.
 


The landmark legislation commits Scotland to becoming a net-zero society by 2045 – five years before the rest of the UK and in line with the advice from the government’s independent expert advisors, the UK Committee on Climate Change.

The Scottish Government will also respond to the global climate emergency by adopting an ambitious new target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2030 – the toughest statutory target of any country in the world for this date going above and beyond what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said is required worldwide to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. 

To ensure we continue to take an evidence based approach the Scottish Government will commission new advice from the Committee on Climate Change on the UK wide pathway to 2030.

Accountability for meeting the targets will be strengthened, with Ministers now required to report on progress to tackle climate change in every sector, every year.

A Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change will be created to make recommendations to Ministers on how Scotland’s net-zero transition should be achieved.

Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP said: “Our new Climate Change Bill demonstrates what international leadership on climate action means. Not only are we setting legally binding targets to reduce emissions to net-zero in direct response to the Paris Agreement, we are also putting in place the most stringent framework of statutory targets of any country in the world.

“We have already almost halved emissions since 1990. The second half of Scotland’s journey to net-zero emissions will, undoubtedly, require different, and in many cases much more difficult, choices than has been the case to date but it is clear people across Scotland want to see action.

“No one should be in any doubt of the Scottish Government’s commitment to use every policy lever at our disposal to rise to this challenge.

“Our end target is firmly based on what we are told is the limit of what can currently be achieved.  It is the maximum possible ambition based upon the best available science and requires the UK to take action to meet their targets if Scotland is to meet ours. In the interim, while there is some uncertainty over the precise route that can be taken, we believe it is right to be as ambitious as possible to drive the action required to make the changes we need.”  

Childhood Abuse
I want to tell you about a Scottish Government fund designed to provide emotional and practical support to survivors of childhood abuse.
 
The fund has started to accept applications from eligible organisations.
 
The £10 million Survivors of Childhood Abuse Support Fund aims to help organisations improve access to services which can reduce the impact of inequalities and disadvantage experienced as a result of childhood abuse. The fund will run from 2020 to 2024.

The support can range from individual talking therapies and group work to peer support, physical and outdoor activities, arts and cultural activities, and is available over the next four years.

Scottish registered charities, community-based organisations and eligible social enterprises can apply from Monday 23 September 2019. Application forms will be available from the Inspiring Scotland website and the deadline for bids is Friday 1 November 2019.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP said: “Childhood abuse devastates people’s lives in many ways, and we want to help ensure that they get the support that they need and deserve.

“Many third sector and community-based organisations are doing remarkable work with survivors of abuse, reducing inequalities, improving mental and physical wellbeing and reducing social isolation. 

“We know that individuals' needs vary considerably and so we expect to see a wide variety of creative and high quality applications, aiming to strengthen resilience and wellbeing, and connect our local communities.”

The application process is managed on behalf of the Scottish Government by Inspiring Scotland, whose Chief Executive Celia Tennant said: “It has been a privilege to work alongside Scottish Government’s Survivor support team for the past three years to help manage the Innovation and Development Fund.

“Comprising 25 charities across Scotland, this fund has helped survivors who have told us directly how they have benefitted from this work.

“This fund has enabled us to take significant steps towards the key Scottish Government commitment of reducing inequality for survivors and it is encouraging to see a new fund announced today, which will build on the successes so far, while striving to make further progress towards this ambition.

“We are delighted to continue providing support to Scottish Government through the new Survivors of Childhood Abuse Support Fund.”

Brexit is a threat for families struggling to afford food
The Scottish Government is to provide an additional £1 million to help families pay for increased food costs that Brexit is likely to bring.

A ‘no deal’ Brexit is likely to push more people into poverty and result in rising food costs.

The charity FareShare will use the additional funding to support organisations like community cafes, food parcel providers and holiday clubs that provide essential support for people struggling to afford healthy meals.

Recent figures show 9% of adults are worried they could run out of food due to a lack of money. This increases to a quarter of single parents and almost one in five adults living in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP said: “Increased living costs pose a significant threat to people who are already struggling to make ends meet and are experiencing food insecurity.

“This new funding of £1 million is in addition to the money we committed earlier this year to help organisations manage the impact of Brexit. It is also on top of the £3.5 million we are making available to tackle food insecurity this year.

“We are considering how best to support those most at risk because it is a prudent thing to do – even though the exact Brexit situation is not yet clear.

“It is outrageous that we are yet again having to fill gaps left by poor decisions from the UK Government, but we continue to tackle poverty head-on. Our support to low income households is estimated at £1.4 billion in 2018-19, and includes £100 million to mitigate UK Government welfare cuts.”

Head of FareShare in Scotland Gillian Kynoch said: “The Scottish Government has recognised the need to support vulnerable people in our communities and FareShare’s role in getting good food onto the plates of people who need it most.

“We welcome the funding, which will be used to supplement stocks of available surplus food with additional essential supplies.”
 

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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.

International Day of Peace

 

Not in living memory have we ever needed world peace more. From Donald Trump in the USA, to India, Kashmir and Pakistan, the threat to peace in Northern Ireland and the many other implications of a no deal Brexit as set out in the Government’s own Yellow Hammer paper.
 
We’ll be celebrating at the Scottish Parliament on Saturday 21 September, marking all the desires and aspirations we have. The main theme, appropriately, is a focus on Climate Action for Peace which draws on the UN Sustainable Development Goal 13.
 
The impetus set off by 16 year old Greta Thurnberg has brought a huge jump in awareness and action to tackle the climate crisis.
 
This International Day of Peace is a space for all of us to rethink assumptions and to ask ourselves what more we can do as small components in a great world movement, and how peace is the guiding light for progress.
 

Car parking in Hamilton
 Myself and the team at #HamiltonBID have been talking with the South Lanarkshire Council about car parking in the town and now the Council has commissioned a survey to ask you - customers and businesses - to feed in your opinions. This is your opportunity. Click on the link below to complete the short survey.
 
Chair of South Lanarkshire Council’s Community and Enterprise Resources Committee, Councillor John Anderson, said: “We want to hear from as many people as possible that use council parking facilities in Hamilton, whether for business, leisure, shopping or as part of their commute.
 


“The survey will look at a number of issues,” he explained, “including the reasons for people’s trips to the town centre, how often they make them, what type of payment system is most appropriate and what their priorities are in terms of balancing the needs of everyone who visits Hamilton.
 
“As well as the set questions, there will also be an opportunity at the end of the survey for people to add their own comments.
 
“All responses are anonymous and will be considered in the development of an appropriate strategy for parking in the Town Centre.”
 
I am delighted to see action being taken to gauge public opinion on parking in the Town Centre. In 2016 myself and Angela Crawley MP launched the “Our Town, Your Voice” consultation which helped kickstart Hamilton’s Town Centre regeneration.



Parking was one of the key issues which shone through in the responses to this and it is one of the key issues we need to fix to drive more shoppers back in to Hamilton’s Town Centre.
 
The survey will be open from today (Monday, 9 September) until Monday, 7 October 2019. 
http://bit.ly/hamiltoncarparking
 

Fairhill Fun Day
Last Saturday I joined the joy at the Fairhill Fund Day and it was great. Wonderful to see people of all ages enjoying themselves doing everything from bouncing on the castle to chatting to Police Scotland’s Lanarkshire Division.

These pictures tell the story:


 







Supporting our Communities

 I began off this week with a visit to Supporting Our Communities (SOC). SOC is  a tremendous group who took over the old exodus hall in Hillhouse and have transformed it in to a brand new community hub.
 
The group is dedicated to:
 
1.       Create a social hub for the local community.
2.       Run new activities and programmes for family and children.
3.       Create new well-being and mental health services for our local area.
 
With activities ranging from coffee mornings, to crochet and guitar lessons SOC offers an absolutely amazing service to the community and I would urge those living nearby to go and visit when they can.
 
 
 


The Scottish Household Survey 2018 Annual Report
 High satisfaction with childcare and a sharp increase in concern about climate change are two of the key findings in this year’s Scottish Household Survey.


Of households with a child aged two to five, 86% said they are either very or fairly satisfied with the overall quality of funded early learning and childcare they received.

Meanwhile, concern about climate change has soared to a record high. Almost two thirds of adults viewed climate change as an immediate and urgent problem. The greatest increase in concern is among adults aged 16-24, rising from 38% in 2013 to 67% in 2018.

Scotland’s communities and housing also fared well in the survey. Findings include:

  • nine in ten households are very or fairly satisfied with their housing
  • more than 8 out of 10 people who have used their local schools or health service are satisfied with them
  • the number of households managing well financially has risen from 42% to 55% in the 19 years to 2018
  • home ownership among young people aged 16- 34 has increased since 2014
  • internet access in homes is high, and continuing to increase, and the gap in connectivity is narrowing between lower and higher income households
  • 83% of adults living in Scotland believe their neighbourhood is one where people are kind to each other

Responding to the findings, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The Scottish Household Survey is a unique opportunity for people to share their views and experiences and help the government understand how people feel about life in Scotland.



“This survey shows that parents are ready to benefit from the Scottish Government’s £2 billion investment in the expansion of early learning and childcare, with the increase in flexibility and choice that this will bring, including options like year-round provision. We know the transformative impact that a high quality, nurturing, early learning and childcare experience can have, and from August 2020 children will be able to access almost twice as many funded hours.

“We want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up, and that means that every child, regardless of their circumstances, should be given the opportunity to realise their full potential so it is great to see parents are satisfied with their early learning and childcare.

“I am pleased to see the positive trend in the number of households managing well financially in recent years and that the majority are happy with their housing and neighbourhoods. It was also interesting to see those who use our local services report to be more satisfied than non-users.   

“The gap in home internet access is also decreasing and work is ongoing to ensure this continues so that all citizens can benefit from the advantages access to the internet brings.

“Climate change remains a concern and people are clearly worried about the negative impacts it will have. It is one of the Scottish Government’s top priorities and this year’s Programme for Government committed Scotland to lead the way in tackling this global emergency.”

Background
Scottish Household Survey 2018 Annual report 
Scottish Household Survey 2018 Key Findings report 
All childcare data presented is from households with children aged two- to five-years-old who have not yet started school.
 
The Scottish Household Survey is the largest social survey of people across Scotland, giving them an opportunity to provide information to government on their experiences, views, attitudes and behaviours. 

The survey has run since the outset of devolution in 1999.  It provides robust data on a wide range of different topics, including housing, neighbourhoods, sport and physical activity, internet use/digital engagement, views on local services, culture, the environment, and volunteering, at both national and local authority level.
 

 

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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.
 
Kicking off the new season
 
First, today is the end of the recess at the Scottish Parliament. It’s looking to be a historic time for the UK to put it mildly, but we in the SNP haven’t given up yet!
 
Far more important, Saturday 7 September is the first Hamilton League Game of the season at the Rugby Club in Hamilton.


 
I’ll see lots of you there, I’m sure!
 
It’s been a busy summer, with lots of interesting events and people to talk to. I’ve enjoyed myself, even if the weather hasn’t  been great!

Talking about suicide
 
Suicide is a very difficult subject for a lot of people to talk about, including those who have been directly affected by it. That the @FFAMS_UK charity offers brilliant support makes a huge difference to the lives of people who continue to live with that special kind of grief.
 
I walked the Let’s Walk and Talk about Suicide route with a family who had lost a brother/uncle. I heard from many families who have had amazing support from FFAMs. The concept of walking and talking really works.
 

 

Paddy, my border collie, loved the long walk and numerous dips into the loch. I got a medal and Paddy got a rosette!
 
Here’s how FFAMS describes their work: “FFAMS is a Lanarkshire based charity that provides emotional and practical support to anyone affected by murder, suicide or suicidal behaviour. It provides a grass roots befriending service that can be accessed by telephone, email, face to face or in group support. All support services are free of charge.
 
“FFAMS befrienders will have personally experienced the loss of a loved one through murder and suicide, or experienced the distress caused by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.”
 
The Helpline number is 01698 717 424 9 to – 5 on weekdays or 07932 855 82412 outside normal working hours.
 
Hamilton Citizens Advice Bureau
 


Hamilton CAB held its AGM on 23 August, and it was wonderful to hear about the valuable work they do in our community, and present them with a Scottish National Standards for information & advice providers award. Hamilton CAB is the first advice organisation in Lanarkshire to be accredited by the new scheme, the award was accepted by trustee Rosemary Robinson, congratulations to everyone at Hamilton CAB on their hard work.
 
Future care in Blantyre
 
At the end of July, I joined an extremely useful information session on the future of care in Blantyre, with South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care partnership.
 
The plans for the new Care Hub opening in Blantyre were discussed in detail with opportunities for feedback from visitors. 
 
The new style of care being put forward here helps ensure that as many people can be supported to continue living as independently as possible in their own homes through the support on offer in this hub. 
 
The hub is also set to contain houses with technology enabled care as part of placing independence at the heart of the social care system. 
 
A few days before that, I joined a coffee morning at the Douglas View Care Home. I met with some of the residents and staff and found out more about the support provided to those living with Parkinson’s Disease.
 

 
Ivan McKee MSP and Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, visits the Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse constituency
 
I was delighted to welcome Ivan McKee MSP to show him around a couple of fantastic businesses here.
 
We had the perfect weather for our visit to Equis Ice Cream, one of Hamilton's best known exports. Thanks to Scottish Enterprise Equis is receiving extra funding to take advantage of their success and grow their business future.
 

 
Then we visited Probe Test Solutions Ltd who are blazing the trail when it comes to electronics right here in Scotland! They are competing with companies all over the world and investing that success in training and employment opportunities for young people living in Scotland. 
 

 

Mobile Men’s Shed
 

 
On a lovely bright, sunny day in Larkhall at the end of July, I met up with the Mobile Men’s Shed as part of its South Lanarkshire Tour!
 
It was great to hear about all the work being done bSeniors Together and volunteers across South Lanarkshire as part of Scottish Men's Sheds Association to help make social isolation and loneliness a thing of the past.
You can keep up to date with their work and find out how to get involved here:  https://www.facebook.com/SouthLanarkshireSeniorsTogether/
 
 
Best Start Grant pays out nearly £13 million
 

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

Since it started making Best Start Grant payments last December, Social Security Scotland has made more than 42,000 payments to families in Scotland, totalling £12.9 million.

Of the total paid out between December and June, £6.1 million was for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment, which replaced the UK Government’s Sure Start Maternity Grant in Scotland.

In the entire 2017/18 financial year DWP paid out a total of £2m Sure Start Maternity payments in Scotland.

The Best Start Grant also introduced two brand new payments, the Early Learning Payment, which has paid out £4.3 million and the School Age Payment, which has paid £2.4 million.