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.
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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: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/241584/signatures/new
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 http://www.leap-project.co.uk/ 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. https://tinyurl.com/Leap-Hamilton
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 https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/debate-international-womens-day-2019-balance-for-better-march-7-2019 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!