Keeping up with you
Hello and welcome to all of you in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.
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Memories are sometimes painful. On the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, the ghosts from the past return to haunt us and perhaps warn us.
There were several events around Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse from last weekend through until Sunday 11 November. I was privileged to join three ceremonies across the day – at Stonehouse, then at the Cenotaph event on Bothwell Road in Hamilton during the afternoon and at 6.55pm, marking the end of the day's activity during wartime, the Last Post was played at St John’s at the top cross.
The Annual Garden of Remembrance ceremony on 3 November saw crosses with the names of fallen soldiers from our area placed into a specially created garden.
It is a very poignant event. I later read comments made by Ian Forsyth MBE, convener of the Joint Ex-Services Committee and a veteran of the Second World War. He said: Another year, more heartbreak as more young lives are thrown away. Another year, and it is now 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, the most horrific onslaught imaginable that engulfed almost the whole world, destroying everything in its path.”
He added: “In my lifetime I cannot remember when we were completely at peace. The list of campaigns we have been engaged in is as long as my arm. From 1919 until the present day it has never stopped, and I ask myself ‘Will we never learn?’”
At the Festival of Remembrance on 4 November, at the Town House, there were a range of representative bodies including the Salvation Army, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, South Lanarkshire Council, Poppy Scotland, Hamilton schools and ex-services organisations.
The festival foreword was given by Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin, national president of Royal British Legion Scotland.
He said: “This year’s Hamilton Festival of Remembrance takes place on 4 November 2018. A hundred years since the end of World War 1.
“As we gather once again in this annual act of Remembrance it would seem appropriate to remember those particular casualties, the first of so many hundreds of thousands who would fall during the course of the next four years of fighting.”
He added: “In remembering the sacrifices of 100 years ago, we should also remember the sacrifices of more modern times.
“And we should honour those Remembrances by doing whatever we can to help veterans in need today.
“It is that present help that gives true meaning to Remembrance.”
Why we need foodbanks
In an ideal world, we would not need to have foodbanks because everyone would have the resources to keep the family safe and fed. That faraway land is somewhere very far from the current one which focuses taking more and more from the least well off while providing the very wealthy with tax breaks and bonus awards.
The Hamilton District Foodbank provided 3,177 three day emergency food supplies to local people between 1 April and 30 September just past. They expect demand to continue rising.
On average, where Universal Credit has been rolled out for less than three months, the rise in demand increases by 12% After a year of UC, that increases rises to 52%.
The UK government has been told many times by the Trussell Trust, who run the foodbanks without any government support, that there is a direct and incontrovertible equation between benefit delays and increased poverty.
As Isobel Graham, manager of the Hamilton Foodbank, says: “It’s a real concern that in only six months we’ve provided 3,177 emergency supplies to local people. These figures don’t even cover our busiest time of year - as the colder weather draws in, we often find more people needing our help.
“It’s not right that anyone in Hamilton District is being forced to turn to our foodbank. Our volunteers offer vital support when it matters most, but they should not need to.
"We want to see an end to local people needing emergency food – with a benefits system that catches people before they fall into crisis, and secure work that provides people with enough money to cover the cost of essentials, we could reach that future.
"We’re determined to make sure that until that time comes, emergency help is here for people, but there needs to be some long-term change because we don’t want to be here forever.”
I would like to encourage those who can manage to help people around them to make some donations to our foodbank in the run-up to Christmas.
I also want to convey my enormous gratitude to the people who staff and volunteer at the Foodbank and, like them, look forward to not requiring them!
Lanarkshire Rape Crisis Centre
There’s an interesting vacancy at LRCC for the right person. The Hamilton Centre is looking for a support worker and they want to see as diverse a range of applications as they can find. No men need apply. This is a women-only post under Schedule 9, Part 1, of the Equality Act 2010.
The post is funded for three years by the Scottish Government to help advance support and information services and to reduce waiting lists.
Applications must be submitted no later than 5pm on 23rd November 2018.
Interviews for this post will be held the week beginning 10th December 2018 in Hamilton.
Living Wage Week
The annual Living Wage Week has just past. I want to urge businesses in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to sign up and make a commitment to their own employees. Nearly all of the SNP MSPs are already signed up, some Labour and a very few Conservatives.
The Scottish Living Wage is independently calculated based on the cost of living – with the real Living Wage rising by 25p to £9, above the minimum wage of £7.83 for workers aged over 25.
There are currently 65 accredited Living Wage employers in South Lanarkshire Council’s area. I will be writing to other employers to encourage them to explore the benefits of accreditation, with research showing that paying the real Living Wage leads to a fall in absenteeism and a significant positive impact on recruitment and staff retention.
For business, paying the Living Wage makes sense - it’s an investment in people and all the evidence shows it leads to increased productivity and reduced staff absence and turnover.
It is completely unacceptable that the UK government did not use last week’s Budget to raise the National Living Wage, extend it to all workers and end discrimination against young people. With low pay one of the main drivers of in-work poverty, it is vital that employers who can pay the real Living Wage do so.
I would strongly encourage all employers in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to look into the real benefits of becoming an accredited Living Wage employer.
Medications after Brexit
There has been a lot of nervousness around Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse over the last couple of weeks. Hardly surprising since the Prime Minister is unable to guarantee supplies of essential drugs in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
I’m talking about vital medications required by people with cancer, asthma, arthritis, antibiotics, severe pain, diabetes both Type 1 and Type 2, steroids, I could list a hundred. There is no insulin whatsoever produced in either the UK or Ireland. Most of it comes from Novo Nordisk A/S in Denmark.
The people who passively say ‘oh, it’ll be alright. They won’t want to stop providing for the UK market’ worry me in much the same way as the same people believe that Aldi and Lidl will continue to supply their UK supermarkets regardless of any kind of deal or no deal.
This isn’t a problem that can be solved by the manufacturers or producers. It has to be solved within the Brexit deal. There isn’t any sign of commercial ill-will towards selling into the UK. It’s that the whole chaos of Brexit reigns supreme until or unless the UK gets a deal it finds acceptable.
Then, and only then, can the UK seek the kind of trade deals it will need to make. These deals are long in the making. The one between Europe and Canada took 12 years to work out. Without the weight of the EU member countries behind it, the UK loses a lot of its world power.
From 28 to 27 isn’t as big an issue for Europe as it is for the one nation that has chosen to leave the club and becomes one versus 27.
We learned that the government has already begun an accelerated tender process to try and stockpile medicines at a cost of tens of millions of pounds, but most drugs have a relatively short shelf life and the Government continues to talk about enough drugs being stored away for six weeks.
Even the UK government’s most senior health official says he cannot be ‘confident’ that essential medicines will still be available after a no-deal Brexit. Matt Hancock did, though, confirm the issuing of a tender to buy more storage facilities.
It is yet another needless anxiety in the ongoing chaos that is Brexit. We talked to both Boots and Lloyds Chemists but neither could offer any reassurance because no one knows what is going to happen. We continue on in the blind hope that somehow common sense and human dignity will win out. We haven’t had any examples of that so far.
People with diabetes encouraged to take up offer of screening
An NHS Lanarkshire consultant is encouraging patients with diabetes to take up the offer of diabetic retinopathy screening.
The call coincides with World Diabetes Day, which will be held on 14 November 2018.
World Diabetes Day is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign reaching a global audience of over 1 billion people in more than 160 countries.
300,000 people in Scotland currently have diabetes. Approximately 264,000 of these patients are eligible for screening every year. Type 1 accounts for around 30,000 while the vast majority have Type 2. Complications form in either type.
Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the cells in the retina.
Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness or serious damage to your eyesight. Virtually everyone who has had Type 1 diabetes for 10 or more years will have some retinopathy present. Where control of blood glucose levels is poor, the risk of retinopathy becoming sight threatening increases. Retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness among adults in the western world.
Dr Tasmin Sommerfield, consultant in public health medicine, said: “Diabetic retinopathy screening is offered every year to anyone with diabetes aged 12 and over. Patients will receive a letter, inviting them to attend for screening every 12 months.
“Screening can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by finding the condition before you notice any changes to your sight.
“The screening involves photographs being taken of the back of your eye. The camera does not come into contact with your eyes. All photographs are then carefully examined for signs of retinopathy.”
The appointment normally lasts around 10 minutes and you will receive your results by letter within four weeks.
For further information on diabetic retinopathy screening, visit: https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/screening/diabetic-retinopathy/diabetic-retinopathy-screening-drs
Improved support and information is being made available for drivers using the trunk road network to help keep Scotland moving this winter.
These improvements come following the ‘Beast from the East’ weather event earlier this year, which saw the Met Office issue its first red weather warning for snow in Scotland since the introduction of the colour coded warning system.
New equipment has been added to the winter fleet, new police travel advice will help give clear guidance to drivers and the Met Office has launched an online forecast dedicated to conditions in Scotland.
The new equipment includes:
· a customised Unimog, capable of spreading enhanced liquid de-icer, which will be strategically located for use during high level snow and flooding events.
· an electric powered spreader, which will be deployed as patrol vehicle on the M8.
· a Hilltip Icestriker from Finland, fitted with a V plow, will be trialled on the M80 to ensure recovery teams can access incidents in the most challenging conditions.
As well as the fleet of emergency response vehicles, we have more than two hundred traditional gritters located at 42 depots across the country. Specialist snow plans are being developed, in conjunction with our operating companies and Police Scotland, for the M8, M74, M77 and M80, following the significant snow events on these routes in recent years. We also continue to liaise with the haulage industry to ensure their members are aware of conditions and advice.
Salt barns are full and further live brine trials will be carried out to give teams alternative treatments during the lowest temperatures. The gritter tracker is once again up and running, letting people see where our gritters have been carrying out treatments.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:
“We can’t prevent the challenging weather we see during the winter period, but our teams work all year round to ensure we’re fully prepared and ready to respond when difficult conditions set in.
“The challenges faced during the ‘Beast from the East’ are still fresh in the memory, so we have looked to make improvements across the board, from equipment and treatments to information and advice for travellers.
“As always, the Traffic Scotland mobile site – my.trafficscotland.org – provides up to date information on the trunk road network, the @trafficscotland twitter page is regularly updated and the popular gritter tracker is also available.
“Transport Scotland officials will continue to work with Police Scotland, the Met Office and other partner organisations to ensure we have a joined up approach to keep Scotland moving this winter.”
Representatives from Police Scotland and the Met Office will be based at the Traffic Scotland National Control Centre in South Queensferry during the winter period.
Following heavy snowfall during the ‘Beast from the East’, Police Scotland has revised its travel advice to ensure drivers get clear, concise advice on conditions.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said:
“Motorists found the numbering system we were using to indicate the severity of travel warnings confusing, as it didn't directly relate to the weather warnings issued by the Met Office. As a result, we've decided to replace it with a system which is more specific and targeted.
“Our new system will make advice much clearer for drivers of all types of vehicles and we'll be issuing specific guidance to drivers of Goods Vehicles, buses and also to drivers of vehicles which may be vulnerable to being blown over on exposed routes.
“Winter driving is a question of common sense and drivers should ask themselves if they really need to travel when conditions are poor. No-one should ever place themselves at risk on the road and it may be worth considering postponing your journey or making alternative arrangements such as delaying travel until conditions improve.
"If you are travelling on the roads you should ensure you and your vehicle are adequately prepared for the conditions, making sure you have sufficient fuel and supplies such as warm clothing, food and water in the event you are delayed. Charge your mobile phone and plan your route in advance. Listen to media broadcasts, especially local radio, and visit the Traffic Scotland website for more advice."
The Met Office revised its own weather warnings earlier this year and has launched a daily YouTube broadcast, dedicated to conditions in Scotland.
Andy Kirkman from the Met Office said:
“The Met Office is delighted to continue working closely with our partners in Transport Scotland, delivering key weather information and advice to decision-makers to help them get through the winter season. Adverse winter weather such as snow, ice and heavy rain can cause disruption to transport services - our forecasters and advisors work closely with authorities in Scotland to prepare for these types of weather.
“As part of our commitment to continually improve, this year we introduced daily Scotland weather broadcasts on our YouTube channel and we are now able to issue weather warnings up to 7 days in advance, enabling people, businesses and emergency responders to know what the weather has in store and what impacts that weather may bring.”
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Constituency Website: www.christina-mckelvie.org
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