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..
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.During the Covid-19 pandemic, we are all working from home.
If you need help, phone the office as normal and leave an outline message. Someone will soon get back to you. You can also email me at any time. All the contact details are at the end of this email.
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.
From 6am this morning (2 November), Scotland has moved to the new 5-tier system of Covid-19 restrictions.
In South Lanarkshire for once, we’re not proud to be in the top position.
The First Minister could not have been clearer: if you don’t follow these new rules, coming into force you’re heading for the top level of restrictions “within the next few weeks”.
No area will be placed in the lowest, level 0, which is close to normal life, but neither will any local authority be in level 4, which is the most severe level of restriction.
South Lanarkshire feared a move to Tier 4. We have avoided that for the present. Let me emphasise once again we all need to comply with the rules. They don’t exist to please the Government. They exist to protect all of us.
The Government will be monitoring rates of infection in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, checking the number of people in hospitals, the number of infections recorded and any deaths on a day-to-day basis.
The First Minister will not hesitate to move us into Tier 4 if the figures continue to increase. It is up to each one of us to take responsibility for ourselves and our family members so that we can contain this unrelenting virus.
The five-tier lockdown restriction plan
The First Minister has announced exactly how the new procedures apply.
Nicola Sturgeon gave an assurance that there would be no return to the March-style lockdown. Even under the highest level of restrictions schools and businesses will remain open.
The new measures will allow the government to impose different measures across Scotland depending on the prevalence of the virus.
Level 0 is broadly comparable to the position we reached in August when the virus was very suppressed, but still a threat, the First Minister says.
Level 1 sees slightly more restrictions - for example, indoor household meetings would reduce to 6 people from 2 households - but there would still be a reasonable degree of normality overall.
Level 2 entails restrictions broadly similar to those currently in place just now outside the central belt – with limitations on hospitality and no gatherings in people’s homes.
Level 3 is broadly similar to the tougher restrictions which currently apply across the central belt, with much of hospitality being closed completely.
Level 4 would apply when transmission rates are, or are threatening to become very high, with corresponding pressure on the NHS. The restrictions at level 4 are closer to a full lockdown. For example non-essential shops would close.
Police in Lanarkshire have been called to over 300 house gatherings since the end of August.
A total of 26 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were issued and 11 people were arrested.
Half of these were in South Lanarkshire and half were in North Lanarkshire. However, most of the 156 gatherings that were in breach of coronavirus regulations were in North Lanarkshire.
In total, 64 of the 119 gatherings in South Lanarkshire were found to be in breach of the regulations while 92 of the 119 in North Lanarkshire breached Covid rules.
Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham has called on the people of Lanarkshire to “do the right thing” after the region narrowly escaped being placed into the top tier of the Scottish Government’s new five-tier system of restrictions.
DCC Graham said: “Despite overwhelming levels of co-operation and support from communities across Scotland, a small minority of people continue to host or participate in house parties and gatherings.
“These are not confined to certain age groups and people should not be in any doubt that house gatherings allow coronavirus to spread. Where we encounter wilful, repeated, persistent or flagrant breaches we will, as the public would expect and support, act decisively to enforce the law.
“The chief constable has made it clear that we are asking people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to stay safe, protect others and save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.
“Recent figures highlighted public confidence in Police Scotland has risen by around 20 per cent because of the way our officers and staff have carried out their duties with common sense and courtesy during the pandemic.
“Assaults on police officers and staff carrying out their duties during this challenging time are disgraceful and will not be tolerated as we remain committed to improving and ensuring their safety.”
Police were called to more gatherings in Monklands and Cumbernauld (96) than anywhere else in the region.
They were also called to 92 in East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Rutherglen, 77 in Hamilton and Clydesdale and 73 in Motherwell, Wishaw and Bellshill.
Monklands and Cumbernauld (49) also saw the most gatherings against the regulations.
In Motherwell, Wishaw and Bellshill there were 43 gatherings in breach of the Covid rules as well as 36 in East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Rutherglen and just 28 in Hamilton and Clydesdale.
Most of the FPNs (11) and arrests (six) were also in Monklands and Cumbernauld.
Seven FPNs were issued in East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Rutherglen while six were issued in Hamilton and Clydesdale and just two in Motherwell, Wishaw and Bellshill.
There were two arrests in both East Kilbride, Cambuslang and Rutherglen and Motherwell, Wishaw and Bellshill but just one in Hamilton and Clydesdale.
In one weekend last month, police in Lanarkshire attended 58 house parties as tighter restrictions were brought in amid an increase in Covid cases.
Between Friday and Sunday, September 11 and 13, police responded to 405 house parties across Scotland, 14 per cent of which were in Lanarkshire, despite new restrictions specifically targeted at stopping the spread of coronavirus by gathering in houses having been brought in that weekend.
Two weeks later First Minister Nicola Sturgeon slammed Scots still hosting and attending house parties as police attended another 300 across the country.
‘Supporting our Community’ wins top national award
Supporting Our Community (SOC) members were delighted to be named the winners in the Celebrating Communities category at this year’s Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) charity awards.
The award recognises the enthusiasm, commitment, and extraordinary lengths that voluntary groups go to in order to work with individuals, communities and organisations.
SOC was set up by a group of volunteers from Hillhouse, Burnbank and Blantyre, including couple Mark and Donna Rouse.
The initial plan was to open a centre to provide support to families who were struggling to access the statutory services required regarding mental health.
But, following the tragic death of Mark and Donna’s 16-year-old daughter, Darian, from suicide in December 2018, the plan was strengthened and included many more services for the community.
These services include offering programmes designed for full family engagement allowing everyone to be involved.
Before announcing the winner, Alan Sherry, chair of CLD Standards Council Scotland, emphasised that the finalists ‘have made a significant impact and difference in the communities in which they work’.
During the virtual awards ceremony, Mark, project co-ordinator, accepted the accolade on behalf of SOC and told event host Sally Magnusson: “This will help us to grow and hopefully provide lots more support to people in our local community, who live in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland".
Sally was moved by the development of the community hub and replied: “It must be good to see something positive coming out of the tragic loss of Darian. It is such a great initiative and it’s wonderful to hear how well you are doing. Congratulations.”
Mark said: “We are delighted to win the Celebrating Communities award. We are only able to achieve this thanks to the people who have supported us, the dedication and hard work of all of our staff and volunteers in addition to the positive and strong partnerships we have developed.”
Darian, a pupil at Calderside Academy in Blantyre, had suffered her own mental health issues over the years and had struggled with anxiety.
Her death was a major turning point for the Rouse family who, with a group of fellow activists, set about providing the vital community-based service that also runs classes such as guitar and crochet lessons, community gardening and arts and crafts sessions for all the family.
[with thanks to the Hamilton Advertiser]
Keeping the lights on
As many of you will know, I’ve been working hard with energy providers over the last few years. The campaign to help people crippled by fuel poverty to the extent that the family had to be either cold or hungry continues to be a crucial issue to resolve.
Now Ofgem, the energy watchdog, under pressure from myself and support from SNP colleagues, has ruled that energy suppliers must provide emergency credit for vulnerable households.
The point of this ruling is that it will reduce the number of pre-payment customers who are left without energy because they have no money to put in the meter.
I have worked with Scottish Power for a few years now, starting off with the pilot Quick Credit Voucher scheme and developing onwards to add in other energy supply companies.
To say I am delighted by the news that energy companies will now have to offer support for our most vulnerable households is an understatement.
I see first-hand the impact fuel poverty has had on some of my own constituents in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse and the sheer relief they experience when offered the breathing space that comes with the Quick Credit Voucher scheme. It has literally kept the lights on for many.
Following the success of the pilot, we teamed up with the Citizens Advice Bureau to host the Energy Credit Summit which brought together the Big Six energy suppliers in Scotland. The summit called on Ofgem to fund a country-wide initiative to help those in fuel poverty.
It has been a long campaign and there are many organisations that deserve credit for the work done to get us to this point. My thanks to all of you.
The Citizens Advice Bureau, Scottish Power, Npower and the many others who took part in the Energy Summits in the Scottish Parliament have been vital in pushing this forward.
Alongside this there have been many individuals like Matt Cole from the Fuel Bank Foundation who have worked tirelessly to push for more support.
There is more to do - and we can do it. Under the current rules laid out by Ofgem there is still the option for suppliers to demand repayment of their individual credit scheme if they wish.
While Ofgem has stated that they believe suppliers should consider customers’ ability to pay and agree an affordable rate, I still have my concerns that these rates will be unaffordable for many.
With more than £200m being gathered by Ofgem from fines and redress payments from energy firms there is a real opportunity to make these credit payments truly transformative for the 174,000 people in Scotland in extreme fuel poverty.
I will continue to work with Ofgem and the major energy providers to build on this progress and make fuel poverty a thing of the past in Scotland.
Momentum now firmly behind independence
The 11th consecutive poll shows a majority supporting the Yes vote and control over our own affairs in Scotland.
Support for independence continues to be the "settled will of the people of Scotland" - with another new poll showing a majority would vote Yes in an independence referendum (56%).
The poll, conducted by Theresa May’s former pollster, is the 11th consecutive poll to show a majority for Yes and puts the SNP ahead on 58 percent of the constituency vote.
Brexit and the UK government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic were among the most persuasive arguments for independence - with 79% of voters surveyed agreeing that “Boris Johnson is not the leader I want to have for my country.”
The study also found that Boris Johnson’s opposition to an independence referendum is unpopular, with 53 % of voters saying the UK government would be wrong to deny a referendum if the SNP win a majority in next year's Scottish parliament elections.
SNP Depute Leader, Keith Brown, said: “People in Scotland believe they have the right to take their own decisions rather than being subjected to those of the Westminster governments, led by the likes of Boris Johnson, whom we don’t vote for.
“With consecutive polls putting support for independence above 50%, it’s clear that majority support is no longer a trend, but now the settled will of the people of Scotland.
“The Westminster parties' undemocratic attempt to deny the people of Scotland the right to choose their own future in a fresh referendum is now utterly unsustainable.
“The Westminster government clearly can’t be trusted to act in Scotland’s interests. In the middle of a global pandemic and economic recession, the Tories have unbelievably decided to impose a disastrous hard Brexit on Scotland which will hit jobs hard.
“Scotland must have the chance to escape this Westminster mess and choose a better future as an equal independent, European nation - and that right lies solely with the people of Scotland.”
The new poll, by JL Partners for Politico, puts Yes 12 points ahead, assuming another vote was held now.
The result would be 56-44% for independence, excluding those who don’t know which way they would vote.
Politico's separate poll of polls suggests Yes is at 50 with No on 42, while eight per cent are undecided.
Voters are also likely to bring an SNP clear majority, putting Nicola Sturgeon back in Bute House as First Minister at the Holyrood election next March, putting more pressure on Johnson to agree to a second vote.
JL Partners had done polling analysis for former PM Theresa May, who had always said "now is not the time" for another referendum.
The firm now says the picture has "dramatically changed" and was "bleak" for unionists.
"It is hard not to look at these figures and assume the Union is doomed. It is certainly the gravest situation the Unionist cause has found itself in in recent history," JL Partners founder James Johnson said.
He added that polling saw Boris Johnson is "loathed" by people in focus groups.
Read more here: https://tinyurl.com/y46pzlbj
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.