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.
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It’s some surreal sci-fi movie where the aliens are taking over the planet, isn’t it? Of course not, yet even though we all know that and have learned to comprehend the realities, we still have people who will selfishly refuse to accept the rules. They don’t seem to perceive the damage they are doing, the death threat they are adding to.
So it grieves me to discover that Lanarkshire is the fourth largest area in the country for people breaking lockdown rules.
While most of us comply with social distancing rules, accepting (if not particularly enjoying) that we all need to care for one another and staying at home is the only way to do that effectively
Yet people flout the guidance. Police have so far handed out more than 144 penalty notices to offenders in Scotland, 17 of them in Lanarkshire.
According to media sources, dozens of cars filled with families were in the car park at Chatelherault a few days ago, ignoring the many times repeated warnings to stay at home.
The regulations have not been set down out of some sort of aggression; they exist for the protection of everyone. For a small minority to threaten the lives of the many is irresponsible and cruel as well as incomprehensible.
David Booth, General Manager of South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture, has been in touch with the police who are now running spot checks at the entrance. They have been giving out advice as well as Fixed Penalty Notices.
There is now no access for any vehicles other than emergency ones.
Remember and pay attention to the rules: go out for a nearby walk with members of your own household only.
Don’t take the car off to some scenic park or beach and start chatting to other visitors.
Helping the most vulnerable
For those of us who are in the highest risk category, who are ‘shielding’ from the virus for at least 12 weeks, getting essentials can be a challenge.
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced in Sunday’s briefing that the Government is providing an extra £38m for local authorities to address local needs in ways they feel are most appropriate and urgent in their own areas.
These are the people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse who have existing medical issues that mean catching the virus could be fatal for them. The reasons could be old age, diabetes, immune suppressant drugs, MS, MND, cancer or heart conditions for example.
At an earlier Scottish Government briefing, the First Minister announced an initiative allowing this group of people to receive deliveries of food and other essential items through a text messaging service.
This is great news. While family and friends are a great support for some, others may not have access to that kind of help.
Information on how to register for the service was included in a letter to people in the ‘shielded’ group. Already, more that 8000 people have signed up.
The First Minister has asked everyone who receives the letter to sign up for the service.
She said: “You might not feel you need help right now, you might have family and friends who are providing the support you need.
“But registering now will help us to keep in touch with you if you need help later on.”
The muddle, chaos and general misery around the entire Universal Credit scheme has yet again been exhibited.
In Westminster, the SNP MPs have been highlighting the failures that are emerging alongside a million new applications in the last two weeks.
My colleague, SNP Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Neil Gray MP has rightly said: "The staggering news that almost a million people have applied for Universal Credit in the past fortnight alone highlights the huge scale of the crisis we face - and proves beyond doubt that more support is needed.
"The UK government must listen to those of us who have been calling for welfare protections to be significantly strengthened to help people through this unprecedented emergency.
"The SNP has repeatedly called for the Chancellor to introduce a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. That is the simplest way to ensure everyone has the support they need. It is clear that the current jobs retention and self-employed schemes are failing to cover everyone.
"A huge proportion of the popuation is worried about how they are going to make ends meet. Every MP will have constituents who are desperate for greater help. The UK Government rightly brought in the rules to keep people socially isolated but they must now match that by protecting their incomes. With Universal Credit they have not done nearly enough.
"The flaws in the UK's welfare system are not new - but the scale of this crisis means they must now be urgently addressed so millions are not left struggling to get by."
Would you like to help?
The community spirit shown by people across Lanarkshire has been heart-warming. If you would like to offer your help, there are a whole host of new groups working across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.
They are working together to help spread cheer and make sure the most vulnerable in our area are getting the necessities they need.
The range of services provided include delivering shopping to elderly or vulnerable neighbours, using online group chats to combat social isolation and loneliness, and handing out care packages to the elderly and vulnerable.
If you are in Hamilton, you can find more information about the Hamilton COVID-19 Warriors here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/213851619986142
If you are in Larkhall, you can find out more information about the COVID-19 Rainbows – Larkhall here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1092656721095368/permalink/1092743704420003
If you are in Stonehouse, you can find out more information about Stonehouse Coronavirus Community Support here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3402877913061116
At this time, it has never been more important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.