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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.

You can  phone or email me at any time but I am unable to hold face-to-face surgeries while the Covid-19 regulations are in place.

But I am very much still here to help you. Just leave a message on the main number below and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

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.


Sunflower growing anybody?

It’s so heartening to see the signs of spring. We’ve all had a pretty difficult year and seeing a bit of colour around makes us all feel a bit better.
So it’s nice to see:

The organisers tell us: “Each set is packed with activities for kids and adults to enjoy. Sow from April and have a sunflower-growing competition this summer.
“This pack contains the following items:

1.  One packet of sunflower seeds (15-20 seeds) with full sowing instructions.

2.  A5 colour postcard with learning facts about sunflowers

3.  A5 activity postcard - colour-in sunflower and bird bingo!

4.  Manila brown envelope

5.  Costs £4, free UK shipping included

6.  10% goes into our 'good causes' seed giveaway fund


“Sunflowers are easy to grow and famously, get very tall - the world record currently stands at just over 30 feet!

“The seeds provide food for birds, and the flowers are a popular source of nectar for bees.

“The variety we currently provide is Giant Yellow Single - a lovely, traditional type of sunflower suited to children's growing competitions.

“Sow your sunflower seeds April-May. You can find out lots more about our sunflower seeds and how to grow them at

 A5 colour postcard

“This postcard features a very cute and bright sunflower by graphic designer Marceline Smith, of Asking for Trouble.   “On the reverse we've added lots of interesting facts about sunflowers, so children and adults can learn more about them. There's also plenty of space to include a personal message.  

A5 activity postcard  

“This double-sided activity postcard is packed with stuff to keep children occupied.  

“On the front there's a black and white sunflower for them to colour in themselves - and on the back there's a 'bird bingo' game.  

“See how many of the birds you can spot on your daily walk, or in your garden. When you find one, choose a colour you like and fill in the box!  

“The more sets you buy, the bigger the discount  

“We've set up this listing to help you save money on larger orders. Just use the 'how many sets would you like?' dropdown above.  

“And if you'd like to buy more than 10 sets, drop us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can work out a bulk discount just for you.  

“Remember, we spend 10% of everything we make on running seed giveaways to good causes in Scotland. Thank you for helping us to help them.”  

Shine a bit of light!


Drama Kirk's Passion Play in Hamilton
The Passion Play returns to Hamilton this Easter, adapted to account for Covid-19 regulations.
The group has creatively turned the steps on Castle Street into the steps of the great temple in Jerusalem. Meanwhile additional protocols like a body double for Mary Magdalene and duplicate props have been introduced to keep the cast as safe as possible.


A recent surge in good weather favoured Drama Kirk, who were able to film in the sun and get great shots of the town.

The play is set to broadcast on Easter Weekend, this time with a new perspective through the eyes of Gospel writer Luke, who puts the story of Jesus together years after his death.

A Passion play tells the story of the last week of Jesus’ life through drama, taking people on a journey to the cross and ultimately finding renewal through resurrection.

The cast is traditionally drawn from the community, with a professional actor in the role of Jesus.

Director of the short film, Liz Blackman, explains: “We needed a script for this year that was quite different to anything we had performed in the past – something which could easily be adapted to social distancing, with a small number of people in each scene.

“I was delighted to find the script of ‘With Arms Wide Open’ by American actor Peggy Barnell. The script is around 20 years old but is really fresh in its approach.

“We see Luke finding out about how Jesus changed people – and we hear his views on what many of Jesus’ teachings meant. For us, this feels like a much more direct way of sharing the Gospel story.”

Parts of the story of Jesus’ life are told in a series of flashbacks, which allowed the group to film safely in small groups to show a range of Biblical scenes.

The group also acknowledged a number of other challenges in filming under current restrictions, including filming the upper room where the iconic Last Supper took place.

Scottish Government guidelines state that filming can only go ahead outdoors, which presented the group with fresh challenges. Liz added: “Filming outside gave us the opportunity to use the wonderful performance spaces Hamilton has to offer. With very little imagination, the steps at Castle Street can easily be seen as the steps and walls of the great temple in Jerusalem – and we can see Jesus and his disciples teaching there.

“Thankfully the weather was kind to us, too, so the film will show Hamilton at its best.”

Reverend Ross Blackman, minister at Hamilton Old Parish Church, helped to build the set, putting his skills as a former joiner to great use to bring the play to life.

He said: “Building an outdoor set of an indoor scene was a challenge. Fortunately it didn’t rain or that would have given the game away!”

Further information can be found at or on twitter @PlayLanarkshire
The play will be broadcast on YouTube on Easter Saturday, April 3, at 2pm at:

Stabbing at Hamilton Central
A man was stabbed on the platform at Hamilton Central station last Saturday night, 13 March.
Emergency services rushed to the scene at around 9.30pm where the victim and his partner got off a train at the same time as three men and a woman.

A spokesperson for the British Transport Police said: “A short time later an altercation took place between the victim and the group on the station’s platform during which the victim was stabbed.

The victim suffered serious injuries and was taken to a local hospital by paramedics for treatment where he remains.
Officers are keen to hear from anyone who was at Hamilton Central railway station between 9.15pm and 9.30pm on Saturday night, 13 March.
Any witnesses or anyone with information can contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 522 of 13/03/21.

Care home residents have received both Covid-19 vaccine doses

NHS Lanarkshire is the first health board in Scotland to have vaccinated all eligible care home residents against the coronavirus.


The health board has now vaccinated more than 3000 residents with both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Trudi Marshall, Health & Social Care North Lanarkshire nurse director, who is managing the care home vaccination programme across the whole of Lanarkshire, said: “Care home residents are amongst our most vulnerable residents and this is a very worrying time for many of them.

“I know it will be greatly reassuring to residents, their loved ones and staff that they have now received both doses of the vaccine.

From the very outset of this pandemic health and social care staff have worked closely with care home staff to keep residents as safe as possible and this is another significant milestone in this journey.

“The care home vaccination programme has been carried out as quickly as possible. Each step of the programme has further highlighted just how dedicated and flexible our staff and care staff are in protecting residents.”

Ms Marshall emphasised the importance of continuing to adhere to guidance around physical distancing, hand washing and face coverings.

“Now that a number of homes are opening with care, I’d urge everyone not to drop their guard. Indeed, it’s even more important that people wear face coverings, clean their hands regularly and keep a two metre distance especially when visiting care homes.

“This remains the most effective way of preventing Covid-19 transmission across the whole of Lanarkshire,” added Ms Marshall.

SSPCA closing in on puppy farmers
Like most people, I am profoundly shocked by people who farm puppies, keep them in filthy conditions where they contract the deadly parvovirus and pick up bacterial infections.
Then the puppies are cruelly taken from their mothers before being weaned and are sold off for around £1,000 each.

Frequently, these abused animals will die within a couple of days. One purchaser who received a very sick animal managed to contact the seller in Glasgow. The man laughed in her face and told her he’d got his money and there was nothing she could do.
The puppies have been farmed mainly in Ireland and are then brought to Scotland for sale. That Brexit rules mean puppies cannot be imported to Scotland seems not to matter a jot.
One SSPCA inspector explains: “We have the most blatant patterns of behaviour, which involve connected people coming over from Northern Ireland with dogs in the back of cars and in bags, which are already advertised on Gumtree and other places.
“The dogs have been taken to rental homes in places like Glasgow, Paisley and Renfrew, where there are no proper facilities to look after them.

“They are using multiple mobile phones and fake identities and using adverts for cut-price dogs to draw in the quick sale.

“They prefer not to have people come to their home, as that can lead to then getting arrested.

“But they don’t stay in any address for very long, just enough time to move on litters of pups.”

More and more people have decided to take on a dog during lockdown. Little do they know how not only are the puppies abused, but the purchasers too.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We are being overwhelmed with reports of sick and dying pups because the public continues to fuel the low-welfare puppy trade.

“These dealers are master manipulators and will use any means necessary to sell you that pup. They are using the pandemic as an excuse to drop the pup to you.

“They are also using rented accommodation to sell pups under the pretence they live there. Once the transactions are over, they up and leave with little chance of being traced.

“We need the public to help us tackle this abhorrent industry. As long as public demand exists, then pups will still become sick and die because these bad breeders put financial gain over animal welfare.”

The SSPCA advises that “Anyone who doubts the credentials of a puppy seller should trust their instincts and pull out of the sale.

“Suspicious activity should also be reported to the police or Scottish SPCA.”

The Scottish SPCA helpline number is 03000 999 999.


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.

You can  phone or email me at any time but I am unable to hold face-to-face surgeries while the Covid-19 regulations are in place.

But I am very much still here to help you. Just leave a message on the main number below and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

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.

Thursday 6 May, in case it isn’t already etched onto your brain, is election day in Scotland!

There are 64 days between today, 3 March, and Thursday 6 May and all of the political  parties are going to be very busy getting their messages out to voters. 

Do make sure that you and your family have your details on the Electoral Register and that you have applied for a postal vote if required.

You'll find all the details here:


International Women's Day
The 2021 campaign theme for Women’s Day on 8 March is #ChooseToChallenge.
A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.

We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.

So, hand up high to show you're in!

Strike the Choose To Challenge pose and share on social media using #ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021 to encourage further people to commit to helping forge an inclusive world.

Send in your #ChooseToChallenge images hand high.



Individuals and organizations are invited to send in their #ChooseToChallenge images as we share images from around the world in the lead up to International Women's Day 2021.

So strike the #ChooseToChallenge pose with your hand high to show your commitment to choose to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world.

Submissions are photographs of individual or group compositions striking the #ChooseToChallenge hand up pose to potentially be shared on the IWD website and social media feeds - and are ideally 16:9 aspect ratio (landscape composition; max 3000 pixels width). All gender identities welcome.

Please submit #ChooseToChallenge images as early as possible.


Rapid Covid-19 tests now available for people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse without symptoms
The community testing initiative – in partnership with the Scottish Government, NHS Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Council – aims to drive down local Covid-19 rates and transmission by identifying positive cases more quickly, as people can spread the virus to others before symptoms appear.

And South Lanarkshire residents who don’t have any of the three Covid symptoms (a new continuous cough, temperature, loss or change in sense of taste or smell) are encouraged to get tested.

Testing is available at Larkhall Leisure Centre, 9.30am to 5.30pm, and there is no need to book.

This site is only for people without symptoms. Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should book a test in the usual way via or by calling 0800 028 2816.

Residents will be tested using lateral flow devices, which can give people their results in around 45 minutes. Any positive cases will then be confirmed by PCR test.

Anyone who receives a positive LFD or PCR test result will be asked to self-isolate.

Dedicated support is available to those who meet certain criteria and who need to self-isolate, including food packages and financial support.

Gabe Docherty, NHS Lanarkshire’s director of public health, said; “Covid-19 can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms or the symptoms are so mild people may not recognise that they have the infection.

“For the benefit of yourself and your community, I would encourage people who do not have Covid-19 symptoms to get a test. The test results will help to detect the virus and limit its spread.”

Michael McGlynn, South Lanarkshire Council’s executive director of community and enterprise, said: “The majority of people across South Lanarkshire have been doing their bit and keeping to the restrictions but, inevitably, some people in our towns and communities will be infectious with Covid-19 but won’t have any of the known symptoms. Because they don’t know they are infectious, this means they may be unwittingly spreading the virus while they are moving about in public.

“The new rapid community testing facility provides a further opportunity to identify and support people who may be positive so they can isolate, and it will help to reduce the spread of coronavirus and keep people in South Lanarkshire safe.”

Further advice and information on what support is available for people who need to self-isolate is available from

Fund to back locally sourced food and drink projects
The Scottish Government fund to celebrate locally sourced and produced food and drink has received a welcome additional £50 million for 2021-22.
So if that’s your sector, get your application in soon! The deadline is 15 March.

The Scotland Food & Drink Partnership was launched to help the sector with its recovery from COVID and prepare for Brexit, supported by £5 million from Scottish Government for 2020/21. An additional £50 million will be provided over 2021/22. 

Since 2018 the fund has awarded over £350,000 to 79 creative, innovative & collaborative projects across the regions of Scotland.

Grants of up to £5000 are available to applicants.

Our world-class food and drink sector has faced an extremely challenging year, so this funding - which will contribute to recovery from Covid-19 - comes at an important time.

Between Brexit and Covid-19, there are very few food and drink businesses which haven’t been seriously affected - but it’s vital our food and drink industry keeps growing and bringing benefits to Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse and throughout Scotland.

This money will play an important role in promoting food and drink in local communities and delivering benefits to Scotland’s local food and drink sector over the long-term.

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:

If you are in Larkhall, you can find out more information about the COVID-19 Rainbows – Larkhall here:

If you are in Stonehouse, you can find out more information about Stonehouse Coronavirus Community Support here:

If you do not have Facebook but are keen to do your bit locally, then feel free to email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I can put you in touch with one of your local groups.

At this time, it has never been more important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.



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.

You can  phone or email me at any time but I am unable to hold face-to-face surgeries while the Covid-19 regulations are in place.

But I am very much still here to help you. Just leave a message on the main number below and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

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.

Into the Campaign

May’s elections for the Scottish Parliament are gaining momentum as more and more polls reveal a clear majority in favour of an independent Scotland, able to make our own decisions for the people here, and able to re-join the EU. In 2014, the Remain campaign promised Scots that staying in the UK would protect the EU membership. So much for that betrayal, just one among too many to count.

The 21st poll in a row shows a majority for independence of at least 53 per cent. A couple of polls have put that figure much higher.
Our First Minister’s level of popularity is hugely impressive, whatever way you look at it!

These results are from Mark McGeoghegan, Research Manager at Ipsos MORI in Glasgow.



But we cannot be complacent. Opposition parties will attempt to distract us, but we have to remain focused on what this election is about - putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.
We have selected amazing candidates all across Scotland, and we’re going to need to work hard to get them elected this May.

We know this election will be like no other, because of the pandemic.

So we’re asking you to help spread our message digitally, so everyone in Scotland sees our positive message for the future.

Don't neglect to encourage people to take up the option of a postal vote during the pandemic. It's easy to apply for one online:

Tories in a panic 

The Tories are "clearly in a panic" over growing support for independence - as new figures show the Tory government is spending millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on its anti-independence campaign.


Newly released Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, and newly published job adverts, reveal the Tory government is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on new staff for its 'Union Unit'. It follows a separate FOI response in December, which revealed soaring expenditure on spin doctors, communications and advertising at the Scotland Office.

Together, the data shows the Tory government is spending millions on its anti-independence campaign, despite publicly claiming there won't be a referendum:

  • £110,000-£114,999 on salary for Oliver Lewis, the former Vote Leave staffer and Brexit apprentice of Dominic Cummings who heads the Union Unit
  • £57,000 - £80,000 on salary for Jack Sellers, a Union Unit special adviser who works jointly with the Wales Office, and an undisclosed amount for two additional unnamed policy advisers
  • An estimated £280,000+ for "at least" four new "heads of role" posts in Michael Gove's Union Directorate - including, heads of communications, policy, analysis and engagement, advertised at a salary of £64,500 - £70,877 each
  • £8,538,000 on soaring Scotland Office expenditure, which has risen by 73 per cent since 2013/14, with spending on communications tripling from £509,343 in 2013/14 to £1,354,776 in 2019/20
  • The soaring expenditure has seen the number of Scotland Office communications staff triple from 6 to 17, and overall staffing increase by 43 per cent from 58 to 83 from 2011/12 to 2019/20, despite the diminishing responsibilities of the department

Commenting, SNP Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Stewart Hosie MP said: "Boris Johnson is clearly in a panic about rising support for independence - if he is spending millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on political campaigning.

"Despite what they claim in public, the Tories know there will be an independence referendum if the people of Scotland vote for one in May - that's democracy.

"But the Tories are completely clueless if they arrogantly think a No campaign run by Vote Leave Brexiteers in Westminster, with no understanding of Scotland, will persuade anyone.

"People in Scotland have the right to decide their own future. The issue at the election in May will be this: who has the right to decide what sort of country we should be after the pandemic – the people of Scotland or Boris Johnson?

“Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s."
If you would like to read more around this, here are some helpful links:
'Union unit: Does soaring wage budget reveal ‘panic’ at Number 10?' -

Cabinet Office Freedom of Information response on current Union Unit spending (8th February 2021) revealing four current staff (Oliver Lewis, Jack Sellers and two unnamed policy advisers):

Special Adviser Pay (Oliver Lewis page 5, Jack Sellers page 9)

Cabinet Office job advertisements for "at least" four new heads of role posts with an advertised salary of £64,500 - £70,877 each:

Scotland Office Freedom of Information response on Scotland Office spending (18th December 2020):

EU exit and Covid-19 business support

I was delighted, along with Angela Crawley MP, to welcome new support for hard-hit businesses post-Brexit. The Scottish Government announced on 3 February support for hard-hit businesses announced by the Scottish Government.

A new £7.75 million funding package will offer support to fishermen, seafood businesses and ports and harbours threatened by the ongoing effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) and EU Exit.
The package includes:

  1. £6.45 million for the Seafood Producers Resilience Fund which will provide support to eligible shellfish catchers and producers, in addition to trout farmers who have faced issues exporting to the EU and have lost access to domestic food markets as a result of COVID-19
  2. £1 million to be made available to support the investment plans of ports and harbours faced with a loss of income through landing fees
  3. up to £300,000 to assist the welfare and emergency support activities of the Fishermen’s Mission in recognition of the hardship facing people working in the sector at this time
  4.  Angela have been working closely with businesses across their constituencies who are involved in these sectors to make sure their concerns are being addressed.

We are starting to see the very real bite of Brexit on our economy. Rather than the oven-ready deal we were promised Boris has left us with rotting seafood. I had visited companies locally before Brexit who had invested substantial sums in preparing for the huge increase in bureaucracy but what they are having to deal with is worse than anyone could have reasonably prepared for.

Angela and myself have been working closely with local businesses affected to make sure their concerns are being heard at all levels of government. This vital lifeline from the Scottish Government will bring a sigh of relief to our world leading seafood sector in a time of great uncertainty.

It is time for the UK Government to pull the finger out and properly support the companies they have landed in this mess with their out of touch Brexit obsession.

Angela adds: “Despite promises to the contrary, leaving the world’s largest single market has presented huge barriers for local employers.

“Exporters of fresh seafood based in my constituency have already lost out on millions of pounds in reduced custom, ruined produce and additional administration.

“And whilst welcome, the funding announced by the UK Government doesn’t come close to meeting the fall in revenue experienced by exporters as a result of these changes.

“The Tories must remove the bureaucracy, allow fresh seafood to flow from Scotland to the EU and until they do, provide adequate funding to ensure local businesses can continue to thrive.”

Viridor plans at Overwood plant

Renewable energy is a vital resource for Scotland and our Government has already reached demanding targets in our efforts to move away from damaging fossil fuels.
But we need to plan carefully for minimum disruption to our communities.
That’s why myself, my colleague, Angela Crawley, MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, and SNP MSP candidate for Clydesdale, Mairi McAllan, have called on Viridor to give more time to its consultation process.

We have written to ask the company to consider residents who may struggle with the use of online formats or who don’t have ready access to a computer, to be able to put forward their anxieties. Covid-19 has, by necessity, ruled out face-to-face group meetings.

We have explained to Viridor: “We have serious reservations that during the Covid-19 pandemic with continuing restrictions on face-to-face meetings, that proper consultation of some of the most vulnerable residents in Stonehouse and Blackwood will not be allowed to take its course. In order not to disadvantage these constituents, we would strongly urge you to consider delaying this planning application until we are back to a more normal state of affairs.”

There are strong feelings in the constituency around this application and I firmly believe they all deserve to be heard. That is why we have written to Viridor to ask them to delay consideration of this application until we have returned to a more normal state of affairs.

Angela Crawley said: “We know that there is a great depth of feeling about this proposal and it would not be right to proceed with a consultation on this scale during the current restrictions. To do so would disenfranchise hundreds of people and I would encourage you to delay the start of the consultation until such times as a physical meeting can be held.”

Màiri McAllan, SNP candidate for Clydesdale, added: “Given the strong feelings there are in the community about this proposed development, it does feel appropriate to request a delay in the submitting of this planning application.

"This would allow the people of our area the full opportunity to examine the proposal in detail and for a proper and more accessible consultation event to take place once circumstances allow.

"With the necessary restrictions we have in place at present, there is a clear risk that not every resident would have the means to participate to put their views across, and I would urge Viridor to consider a delay.”

I’ll be keeping you posted.

Missing Larkhall man 

Jamie Waugh was last seen more than a fortnight ago.

Jamie’s family is ‘extremely concerned’ for the 28 year old who was last seen around 4.30am on Sunday 31 January when he left an address is Glen Avenue, Larkhall, intending to go to another address.

Sergeant Audrey Peat said :"It is out of character for Jamie not to be in touch with friends or family for this length of time. They are extremely concerned about him and just want to know he is safe".

Jamie is described as 5ft 11 inch tall, brown receding hair, blue eyes, facial hair and was last seen wearing Black T-shirt, Navy blue zipper top, black Adidas shorts and grey trainers.

He may also have a pair of dark coloured tracksuit bottoms. Jamie has a tattoo on his right arm with the letters "JAMIE" and a skull and roses tattoo on his left arm.

Jamie has links to both the Larkhall and Blantyre areas of Lanarkshire. If you have seen Jamie or have any information about where he might be, I urge you to contact Police on 101 quoting incident number 1830 of 06/02/21.

Scottish Water Road Closures in Hamilton 

Might be a bit irritating, but it’s vital work and at least you can plan ahead with information.

From Monday, 1 March, Muttonhole Road will be closed between Highstonehall Road and Newhousemill Road to enable Scottish Water to carry out upgrades to the local water infrastructure.

Road traffic management has been agreed in conjunction with South Lanarkshire Council.
It is anticipated that it will be in place for approximately one week.

Drivers are urged to follow local diversions.

Georgina Reid, Scottish Water’s corporate affairs manager in the west, said: “It’s important that our customers continue to enjoy clear, fresh drinking water. This essential work to improve the resilience of existing infrastructure, and help reduce the chance of pipes bursting, will help us achieve that.

“Some customers may experience a change in water pressure and/or discoloured water. If this happens, simply turn on the cold water tap in your kitchen and let the water flow slowly until it runs clear.”

She added: “We apologise for any inconvenience and thank affected road users and local residents in advance for their patience and understanding.”

Scottish Water personnel and contractors will adhere to Scottish Government Covid-19 guidance for the construction industry and the public. Measures will be in place to ensure safe working and allow for safe distancing by the workforce. This also ensures the safety of people in the communities and locations where we are working.

UK Government challenged to act on strict hotel quarantine rules

The SNP has said the UK government risks “actively undermining Scotland’s COVID suppression strategy” if UK Ministers continue to refuse to enforce strict mandatory quarantine rules for those travelling back to Scotland from airports in other UK nations.

New Scottish Government rules will see travellers from all international flights required to quarantine in supervised hotels from Monday last, 15 February, but in England hotel quarantine only applies to 33 ‘red list’ countries.

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford said any refusal to implement the policy undermines vital public health advice - and shows a blatant disregard for the ability of UK nations to impose different rules to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

Ian Blackford MP said: “The UK government risks actively undermining Scotland’s COVID suppression strategy unless it urgently rethinks plans to ensure those travelling to Scotland comply with the rules set out by the Scottish Government.

“The decision to introduce managed quarantine in Scotland has been led by the best scientific advice and on lessons learned from our experience with the virus. 

“These new measures are a crucial part of tough action that Scotland has taken throughout the COVID pandemic - which effectively eliminated the virus last year. The current position of the UK government stands in the way of stopping the spread of Covid-19 and shows a blatant disregard for devolved governments making policy in the best interests of their residents.

“I’m urging the UK government to think again. If Westminster chooses not to adopt the tougher measures that will be in place in Scotland, it must at least work with the Scottish Government to ensure that the rules of each UK nation are respected and, crucially, implemented.”


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:

If you are in Larkhall, you can find out more information about the COVID-19 Rainbows – Larkhall here:

If you are in Stonehouse, you can find out more information about Stonehouse Coronavirus Community Support here:

If you do not have Facebook but are keen to do your bit locally, then feel free to email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I can put you in touch with one of your local groups.

At this time, it has epecially important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.


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.

You can  phone or email me at any time but I am unable to hold face-to-face surgeries while the Covid-19 regulations are in place.

But I am very much still here to help you. Just leave a message on the main number below and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

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.

Change of day

So as I can be as up to date as possible, the day for distribution has moved from every other Monday to every other Wednesday from today onwards.
Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who might be interested. We always look forward to seeing new subscribers joining our group.

Changes at Westminster

Ian Blackford MP has announced a reshuffle of SNP MPs including changes to his front bench team.
The SNP Westminster Leader said the reshuffle would draw on new talent and ensure the SNP has the best possible team in Westminster as Scotland faces the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit.
Ian Blackford MP welcomed four new additions to his front bench;

Patricia Gibson MP as Shadow Spokesperson for Housing, Communities and Local Government

Angela Crawley MP as Shadow Spokesperson for the Attorney General

Richard Thomson MP as Shadow Spokesperson for Northern Ireland

Stephen Flynn MP as Shadow Spokesperson for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Commenting, Ian Blackford MP said:  "We have a wealth of talent and experience and this reshuffle of SNP MPs ensures we are in the best possible position to hold the UK government to account during this global pandemic and the aftermath of Brexit, to support colleagues ahead of the Scottish elections, and to deliver independence. 
"Team working and cooperation are key to ensure results and this reshuffle will give us a strong team to take us forward. We have an incredibly hard-working group of MPs - I thank them all for their commitment and congratulate those in new positions. 
"Neil Gray MP will coordinate our Inclusion and Wellbeing team before he steps down as a MP and seeks election to the Scottish Parliament. I thank him for all his work and wish him the very best. 
"We are at a crucial time in politics. Never before have we faced a challenge as great as the global pandemic, and Scotland is acutely feeling the ramifications of leaving the European Union. With the Scottish elections on the horizon and independence in touching distance, our new team is ready to work hard for Scotland." 

Virtual Burns Night

I can’t help but wonder what our famous national Bard would have made of a virtual Burns Night. He’d probably have joined in, I imagine! He was always up for a great gig.
Well, must needs and Friday 5 February at 7pm, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse SNP friends and colleagues will be joining together to celebrate the life and works of Rabbie Burns, all online so full social distancing will in place. And of course you can join in from wherever you happen to be.
Apart, naturally, from wanting to see me, other guests include Angela Crawley MP, Neil Gray MP, John Ross, leader of South Lanarkshire Council and Cllr Josh Wilson but there will be many more.
The night will be hosted by Angela Crawley MP and includes a host of guest speakers. There will also be a special video message from Janey Godley for our guests to enjoy.
We all invite you warmly to join us. Tickets are £10 and are available from

Universal Credit
Local Tory MSPs have been urged to back a U-turn on Tory plans to cut Universal Credit in the middle of an economic crisis  - after new figures revealed that Boris Johnson’s plan to remove the £20 per week uplift in April would hit 29,478 people in South Lanarkshire.

Latest statistics show that in November 2020 there were 29,478 people claiming Universal Credit in South Lanarkshire in November. If all these people remain on Universal Credit until April, then they will be affected by the removal of the £20 uplift.

The SNP has repeatedly called on the Westminster Tory government to maintain the £20 boost to Universal Credit and extend it to legacy benefits - yet all six Scottish Tory MPs abstained on a vote which would have ensured that. 

Anti-poverty think-tank the Resolution Foundation estimates that the cut to Universal Credit by £20 a week could see the incomes of low-income families fall by more than four per cent (4%) and plunge a further 820,000 children into poverty across the UK.

By slashing social security payments by £1000 a year, in the middle of an economic crisis, the Tories could push 29,478 people here in South Lanarkshire further into hardship and poverty.

There must be an immediate U-turn on this, to avoid worsening poverty and inequality across the country during the Covid-19 crisis - and I would urge local MSPs to support this. 

Although the SNP government has led the way in tackling poverty, with new benefits like the Scottish Child Payment and a social security system based on dignity and respect, this progress is being severely undermined by Tory cuts. 

It is crucial that the £20 uplift to Universal Credit is made permanent and extended to legacy benefits, as part of a wider package to boost incomes after a decade of damaging Tory austerity cuts. 

Scotland shouldn't have to wait for Westminster to act to protect the incomes of the most vulnerable in our society. The only way to secure a strong, fair and equal recovery is for Scotland to become an independent country - with the full powers needed to build a fairer society.


Scotland’s Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, has unveiled a draft budget that secures a major cash boost for the NHS, more investment in local public services and further financial support for families.

In Holyrood on Thursday 28 January, the SNP Government announced record funding of over £16 billion for Scotland’s health services, with a further £869 million to directly support the fight against the pandemic. Public sector workers will also be handed a pay rise.

£90 million will be made available to local authorities to freeze Council Tax levels, keeping more money in the pockets of families, while a majority of taxpayers will continue to pay less than they would elsewhere in the UK.

Ms Forbes also announced over £1 billion for the creation of a Green Workforce Academy to help people build skills for the future, £711 million to create more affordable housing, £98 million to improve broadband speeds and mobile coverage and £567 million to support the UK’s most ambitious childcare programme.  

During his flying visit north on the same day, what Boris Johnson deemed an ‘essential’ trip - though that is hard to swallow given the Stay at Home message. Our First Minister doesn’t feel it is ‘essential’ for her to make comparable visits.

Predictably, Mr Johnson came to talk down Scotland’s lower levels of Covid-19 and to tell us independence is a distraction. It’s odd that he is always first to introduce our right to choose as well as first to condemn and reject it.

SNP MSP Tom Arthur said that the budget “shows that where Scotland has the power, the SNP will take a different approach to give Scots the best deal in the UK.

“In unprecedented circumstances, and with one hand tied behind our back, the SNP is using its powers progressively to invest in our schools and our hospitals – while protecting household incomes during these tough times.

“Against the backdrop of added uncertainty caused by Boris Johnson’s Tory Brexit, the SNP Government has offered positive vision and leadership at a crucial moment for Scotland.

“While the Prime Minister has flown north to tell Scotland we couldn’t tackle this pandemic without Westminster’s support, back in the real world the SNP is getting on with the day job – creating a more prosperous equal society for us all.

“The question for voters at May’s election is simple. Who should be in charge of Scotland’s economic recovery from this virus, a government democratically elected by the people who live and work here, or Boris Johnson?”

Scotland's tax bands stay the same, though will increase with inflation.
The majority of taxpayers in Scotland will pay slightly less income tax than the rest of the UK.

The Finance Secretary will freeze the top tax rate of income tax at £150,000 and said that taxes will go down for all Scots compared with this year.

On the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax levied on home purchases, which was lowered to a temporary nil rate last year up to purchases of £250,000 will return to the £145,000 limit on 1 April and increase in tiered levels on more expensive properties.

First time buyer relief remains.


Spending on Scotland's NHS will increase by £800 million over and above the core budget in the coming year.

This means the total budget reaches more than £16 billion, including £869 million to provide specific support for Covid-19 care.

A total of £145.3 million has been allocated to help tackle alcohol and drug issues, fulfilling the First Minister’s pledge of £50 million per year for five years.

Kate Forbes also announced that mental health funding would exceed £1.1 billion to cope with the effects of coronavirus as well as improve services across the country.

Public sector pay 

Public sector workers earning under £25,000 will get a three per cent pay rise. People on higher wages will receive a 1% increase capped at £800 above £80,000.


Local authorities will be given financial incentives to freeze council tax for the year ahead. Additional funding of £90 million will be made available to Scotland's 32 councils if they choose to keep local rates at the current level.

The Finance Secretary pointed out that  freezing council tax would help households suffering financially due to lockdown.

Business support

There is to be an extension in business support funds to help cope with the pandemic.

The strategic framework business fund, which provides grants based on restrictions put on businesses, will continue beyond this financial year, provided funding is forthcoming from the UK Government.
Full details of the Budget are here:

Help for home schooling
Almost 6000 digital devices have been distributed by South Lanarkshire Council to help families with home schooling during lockdown.

Already, 5177 Chromebooks and 750 MiFi devices are in homes across the region - allowing pupils to keep up with their studies while schools remain closed.

Head of senior phase education Stewart Nicolson said that "this has been a phenomenal logistical and technical exercise" and the council is now "much better prepared for remote learning" than in March 2020.

On Tuesday, January 19, the education committee heard how Scottish Government funding of £1.46 million has allowed the council to improve digital inclusion across the region.

Priority was given to families in receipt of free school meals that had no digital devices at home and this saw 2200 Chromebooks and 480 MiFi devices distributed in the first stage.

Chromebooks are laptops optimised for browsing the internet and using office-based software such as word processors, spreadsheets and presentations.

MiFi devices are wireless routers which provide access to the internet via WiFi hotspots and the devices supplied by SLC come with a one-year Vodafone contract providing unlimited data.

To widen access, a further 3200 Chromebooks were needed to help families with "extremely limited digital access".

In practice, that means families whose only internet access was through a mobile phone or families with a device split between parents working from home and children at school.

Consideration was also given to pupils with additional support needs and 400 of these Chromebooks have touch screens.

Most of these have already been delivered, but SLC is expecting that remaining devices will be delivered in the next few weeks.

In a bid to support digital inclusion, families were given follow-up technical support through a named contact which has allowed the council to directly link up with targeted vulnerable families regarding set up, connectivity and user access issues.

All requests from families for MiFi devices have been met with over 750 families now able to access the internet.

Mr Nicolson added: "Funding of £1.46 million was made available to the council to support digital inclusion in response to the situation noted during the first lockdown, where some children were unable to access education in a meaningful way due to having either limited or no access to appropriate devices and internet connections.

"This has been a phenomenal logistical and technical exercise to get these devices set up and they have been configured so that not only will they work in the children's home, but they will also be compatible if they want to bring them into school."

Good news for South Lanarkshire taxis
I was delighted to hear that taxi and private hire drivers in South Lanarkshire will have access to three times the amount of Scottish Government support than they did last year.

Eligible drivers will be able to claim a £1,500 grant to cover fixed costs, boosting the support available to them by the Scottish Government.

A total fund of £57 million has been available to taxi and private hire drivers.
I’m pleased that the Scottish SNP Government has been able to increase the funding available to taxi and private hire drivers.

Many of these drivers in the Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse Constituency have gone above and beyond the call of duty by providing transport for key workers and taking people safely to hospital appointments.

This substantial increase in support for them is the recognition they deserve in what has been a tough time for the industry due to the lockdown restrictions.

Many fixed costs have remained for drivers even though business is much reduced. Insurance, general maintenance, licence plate fees and rental fees still have to be paid, so the increase in funding will cover these expensive costs.

I urge SLC to contact firms quickly to ensure they can receive the money as soon as possible.

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.

You can  phone or email me at any time but I am unable to hold face-to-face surgeries while the Covid-19 regulations are in place.

But I am very much still here to help you. Just leave a message on the main number below and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

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.
Covid-19 update and progress
On the plus side, it’s great news that Scotland is rolling out the vaccination programme as quickly and effectively as is humanly possible. We’re dependent upon receiving the vaccines in the first place but providing we get them as indicated so far, our plan will stay deliverable.

The Scottish Government set out the deployment plan on 12 January.
The first wave includes:

  • Over 80s and elderly care home residents.
  • Care home staff.
  • Frontline NHS and social care workers.

From mid-February:

  • All over 70s.
  • Beginning of March: All over 65s plus Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people.
  • Early May: All over 50s and vulnerable younger people.

There’s more information via this link:
But South Lanarkshire had a large number of 1052 new cases between 3 and 9 January. Between 6 and 12 January, we begin to see some reduction with cases in that seven day period at 925. We need to do everything we can to reduce infection rates.
The First Minister took the decision, at lunchtime on Wednesday 13 January, to tighten restrictions further.

Click and collect services will be restricted to essential services only, while customers will no longer be able to collect food or drink from inside takeaway premises.

Only retailers selling essentials, such as clothing, baby equipment and books, will be able to offer collection services.

For those allowed to continue, the First Minister said “staggered appointments” will be needed to end queuing, as well as not allowing people inside premises.

The First Minister said: “I know that businesses affected by this change will be disappointed and that many have gone to great lengths to make services as safe as possible.

“But we must reduce as far as is possible the reasons people have just now for leaving home and coming into contact with others.

“I welcome the actions of those businesses that have voluntarily suspended click and collect and tightened their procedures in relation to face coverings.”

Further measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus and limit non-essential contact were introduced over the weekend.

Nobody who lives in a Level 4 area should leave or remain outside their home except for essential purposes.

Working from home arrangements will be strengthened through updated statutory guidance. Working from home should now be the default position for all businesses and services, and only those who cannot do their job from home should be asked to go to the workplace.

From Saturday 16 January, all non-essential click and collect retail services were prohibited in Level 4 areas and further changes will be put in place to how services open for essential purposes operate.

Timeslots will be required for collection and people should not enter a store to collect an item.

Businesses providing takeaway food will also operate on a ‘non-entry’ basis only, meaning customers cannot enter the premises when placing or collecting orders.

Police patrols to be increased
There will be more patrols making sure that people are following the Covid rules. Those who fail to do so may face arrest if they leave home without a good reason.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone warned Scots they would face arrest if they engaged in "wilful and blatant offences" by not sticking to the tough new restrictions introduced this week.


He revealed more than 7,000 fixed penalty notices had been issued to members of the public since the introduction of the first lockdown in March, with 550 people being arrested.

Speaking at the Scottish Government's daily media briefing, Livingstone said: "This is a critical time in the country's response to the pandemic. To support the public health imperative, I will maximise policing's visible presence in our communities and on our roads.

"I'll do that to help people and offer reassurance - but also to act as a deterrent to those who may be thinking of breaching restrictions.

"Although restrictions have changed again, the approach of Police Scotland has not changed. Our response has been, and will remain, proportionate, reasonable and fair.

"Officers overwhelmingly discharge these new responsibilities with compassion and common sense - but be reassured, if officers encounter wilful and blatant offences, they will continue to act decisively and enforce the law."

Speaking alongside the Chief Constable, Nicola Sturgeon shared a message to potential victims of domestic abuse who may be reluctant to leave home during lockdown.

"We know that during a period of lockdown, there is a very real risk that those who are already experiencing domestic abuse will feel especially isolated and vulnerable," she said.

“So I want to take this opportunity to emphasise a few really important points.

“Firstly, the lockdown restrictions do not prevent you from leaving your home if you are escaping domestic abuse or if you’re taking other measures to protect yourself.

“Secondly, Police Scotland will respond to every report of domestic abuse and they are continuing to treat this issue as a priority.”

Sturgeon added: “Fundamentally, it’s unacceptable that for some people home is not the place of safety it should be.

“So for anyone who’s experiencing domestic abuse, I want you to know that services are still open and urge you to seek help.”

I am very aware of the heightened risk of domestic abuse at the present time. Charities like Rape Crisis Scotland have seen a steep rise in cases.

So I’m particularly glad to see the introduction of a codeword scheme that means a victim can ask for help at branches of Boots and many independent pharmacies who are participating. You simply ‘Ask for Ani.’ You’ll then be led into a private consultation room where staff will help you contact police and specialist support services without an abuser or anyone else knowing about your call.

While it’s shocking that domestic abuse still takes place, we want to ensure women and families get as many opportunities to escape from it, and this new resource provides another way for those experiencing abuse, or at risk of it, to reach out for help.

It has remained a priority for the Scottish Government throughout the coronavirus pandemic to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are aware that services remain open so people can access the help they need to keep them safe from harm. We have worked with the UK Government to inform the development of Ask for ANI to ensure those experiencing domestic violence are signposted to appropriate support in Scotland.

As set out in our joint strategy with COSLA, Equally Safe, we all have a role to play in tackling violence against women and girls. We will continue to consider the impact of initiatives to support those experiencing domestic abuse, and engage our local communities to work to create a society which embraces equality and mutual respect, and rejects all forms of violence against women and girls.

People can use the codeword at 2,300 Boots branches and nearly 300 independent pharmacies.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, call Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 027 1234. More information on support is available online at

Scottish Child Payment
It’s been great to see thousands of families have applied for the Scottish Child Payment. I’d like to urge anyone else who may be eligible but has not yet have applied to do so. Don’t miss out on any payments you may be entitled to.

So far, Social Security Scotland have 56,000 applications since the process opened in November. The Scottish Child Payment is set to be rolled out on 15th February.

This is just the start of the work Social Security Scotland is introducing to make a difference to the lives of people in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, with the Scottish Child Payment described as ‘game-changing’ by anti-poverty charities. 

New takeaway will create 35 jobs on Hamilton
There are a few sectors that can thrive in a lockdown – online shopping (Amazon must be making a fortune) and takeaways must be two of them.

That you won’t now be able to queue up inside may be a bit annoying but it totally makes sense. A dozen or so people waiting together in a limited space is asking for trouble.

But I don’t think that’s going to be a problem for The Original Mr Chef, the curry house opening in Hamilton on 29 January. Owner Wasim Arshad, who grew up in the town, says he is tremendously excited and looking forward to the big opening.

The curry house will also have a new dessert parlour within the shop, also opening on the 29 January.

Wasim told the local paper: “What an amazing way to start the year with some positive news and bringing 30-35 jobs to the area when sadly many people are losing their jobs. We constantly get asked when we are opening in Hamilton and the demand and excitement from the locals is truly humbling to see.

“We look forward to bringing them quality, quantity, freshness and innovation with our food menu items and not just a boring old normal Indian takeaway.”

Extra delivery drives have joined the team already and other job opportunities are available.

Every best wish to Wasim. I’ll certainly be calling in an order!

Keith Brown MSP announces independence taskforce
SNP Campaign Director Keith Brown has announced the creation of the Independence Taskforce at SNP NEC. 

The taskforce, working within SNP headquarters, will lead on strategy around independence as the party heads towards a referendum in early stages of the next parliamentary term. 

Mr Brown, the SNP's depute leader and campaign director, said: 
"Our Independence Taskforce at SNP headquarters will be welcomed by party members and grassroots Yes activists across the country.

"I really believe that when I make the appointment it will also fire-up the wider Yes movement.

“The staff at SNP HQ do an amazing job, with a huge membership to look after. On top of the vast amount of administrative, member care and support work they have been putting on world class events, off and now online, as well leading on digital political messaging - and of course coordinating campaigns that have won numerous elections.

“And now we’re ramping things up. The Independence Taskforce will bring strategic direction and expertise which I believe is the final piece in the jigsaw that will help deliver independence."   

Latest from the polls
An 18th poll in a row has shown a majority of people in Scotland would back independence – with 57% of people supporting an independent Scotland.
The poll carried out by SavantaComRes for the Scotsman newspaper also found strong support for the SNP and reported the worst polling for the Scottish Tories since 2016.
Respondents to the poll continued to show confidence in the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon and also show that more than 1 in 3 2019 Scottish Labour voters would now vote for the SNP.
Commenting, SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP said:
“An 18th poll in a row showing support for Scotland’s right to choose its future underlines that it is becoming the settled will of the people of Scotland.
“The SNP will take nothing for granted and will continue to work every day to defend and promote the interests of Scotland.
“People in Scotland have the right to decide their own future instead of a Boris Johnson led Tory government which has imposed a disastrous hard Brexit in the middle of a pandemic.
“The Westminster system is broken, and Boris Johnson cannot continue with his Trump-style denial of the right to people in Scotland to choose a better future. Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands – not those of Boris Johnson.”  

Independent Scotland 'top of the list' to re-join EU
Remember when Project Fear told voters in the Referendum that if Scotland became independent, we would be forced out of the EU? There’s a rich seam of irony in that claim!

Barbara Lippert, Director of Research at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, has said that Brexit has been a “gamechanger” for many in Europe and she understood why Scots might want to leave the UK and return to the EU.

She said she believed there would now be “broad openness” to an independent Scotland becoming part of the EO.

An expert of EU enlargement, Ms Lippert insisted that Scotland would not be put “in the same basket” as Western Balkan states seeking to join, such as Montenegro, Serbia and Albania.

Ms Lippert told an online event, organised by the European Movement in Scotland, that Scotland has a “far better image” than those nations.

She added that in terms of membership criteria, “Scotland will look like a bright spot”.

Commenting, SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP said:

“Scotland has been dragged out of the European Union against our will, but it is extremely encouraging that our European friends and neighbours have not forgotten about us.

“Our ambition to re-join the European Union demonstrates what an independent Scotland would look like as we reach out to the world - while Westminster isolates itself.

"People in Scotland have the right to choose their own future and escape the chaos and damage of Boris Johnson’s Brexit and from a Tory government we didn’t elect.

“As an independent member of the EU we will be an equal partner and able to take advantage of the huge opportunities of the European Single Market which is seven times the size of the UK.”  

Kay Ullrich 

Commenting on the death of former SNP MSP Kay Ullrich, First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said:

“I am utterly heartbroken to hear the news of Kay Ullrich’s death. My thoughts and love are with her husband, Grady, her children, John and Shelly, and her beloved grandchildren.

“Kay was a huge personal influence on me and was absolutely instrumental in helping to shape my early career. A lifelong advocate of independence, it was through Kay that I first became involved with the SNP, and her role in helping me take my first steps into active politics is something that I have never forgotten and will always treasure.
“She was a valued mentor, role model and friend whose kind advice, insights and wisdom I learned so much from. She was someone I looked up to for many years, and whose passing now leaves a huge void in many people’s lives, my own included.
“Kay was an outstanding person, deeply loved by many, and those of us who today mourn her loss will continue to be guided by the principles of compassion and integrity which ran through everything she did in life.”

Ms Ullrich, who represented the West of Scotland region in the Scottish Parliament from 1999 to 2003, was a lifelong campaigner for independence.

It is understood that, as a close neighbour of a young Nicola Sturgeon, Ms Ullrich convinced the future First Minister to join the SNP.

Today on Twitter, Ms Sturgeon described her as one of “the most influential figures in my life”, adding that she was “devastated” by the news of her death.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said it was “very poignant” to be told of Ms Ullrich’s death by Ms Sturgeon, describing the former MSP - and SNP member for 55 years - as “a great friend and ally in good times and in tough times.”

“Love and condolences to her family,” his tweet concluded.

Ms Ullrich, who studied at Queen’s College Glasgow, was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 after a 24-year-long career in social care.
Initially serving as the SNP’s shadow minister for Health and Community Care, she was appointed Chief Whip when John Swinney won the party leadership in 2000.

She stood down from the Scottish Parliament at the 2003 election, and ran unsuccessfully for the SNP presidency in 2005.

She is survived by a husband and two children, including BBC Scotland journalist Shelley Jofre.

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.

You can  phone or email me at any time but I am unable to hold face-to-face surgeries while the Covid-19 regulations are in place.

But I am very much still here to help you. Just leave a message on the main number below and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

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. If you have friends who might be interested, please do forward this email and encourage them to sign up.

Here's 2021
A guid New Year to you all. I don’t think there’s anyone who won’t be relieved to leave the last one behind. It’s been mostly dreadful for everyone in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.
Now, vaccines are being delivered into our arms, protecting the most vulnerable first, then getting around the rest of us as soon as practicable. By 30 December, nearly 100,000 people in Scotland had received their first dose of the vaccine.

That the new Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is becoming available should certainly help. Boris Johnson claims that there are many more doses of this vaccine available. We will wait and see how the distribution system works.
That Westminster seems to be confused, even chaotic, in its failing efforts both on a tracking system and now on distribution of the vaccine, probably isn’t a surprise to Scots.
Here, we absolutely need to continue to follow the FACTS guidance. In the week up until 31 December, South Lanarkshire’s health board area clocked 552 new cases, a rise of 31.4% from the previous week.

The First Minister has already warned that the new variant of Covid-19 is becoming dominant with 42.8% of positive tests tracked to it. That the variant spreads so easily and quickly is a major cause of concern.
Nicola Sturgeon said: "As I indicated before Christmas, the severity of this challenge means we can't rule out the need for restrictions that are even tighter than those in the current level 4." 
All mainland council areas were placed in level four of the Scottish Government's lockdown framework on Boxing Day in an attempt to curb a sharp increase. Hospitality businesses were forced to shut and people were banned from mixing with other households indoors.

So don’t say you weren’t warned!

Hamilton District Foodbank
It’s no surprise that the pandemic has brought with it a huge rise in the use of foodbanks. Figures show that almost 700  children within the Hamilton district needed their help.

My friend, Isobel Graham, the Manager of the Hamilton Food Bank has always wanted to put herself out of a job. She would love to see a time when food banks are no longer needed.

Meantime, though, she and her volunteers give of themselves with incredible generosity and selflessness.
“We’re dedicated to ensuring that people in our community without enough money for food are able to access emergency support.

“Our vital work in the community has only been possible in the last year because of the incredible generosity shown by local people in donating food, time and funds.

“Support from local organisations and the public is more important than ever this year after the impact and fallout from the pandemic.”

And don’t forget, those volunteers put themselves at risk when helping customers and handling donated goods.

Donations can be dropped off at the Foodbank bases in Hamilton: 13-15 Cadzow Street onTuesday, Thursday and Saturday 11am until 2pm and The Salvation Army, Burnblea Street, Hamilton on Mondays 11am until 2pm (closed on public holidays).

The distribution centre opening times are at 24 Quarry Street on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 11am until 2pm and at The Salvation Army, Burnblea Street, on Monday 11am until 2pm.
For more information, call the foodbank on 07884 451512 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Hamilton District Foodbank is part of The Trussell Trust, who run the UK’s network of foodbanks.


A little Christmas cheer

Families were out at Chatelherault Country Park on New Year’s Eve. Youngsters From Hamilton were having a great time.

I hope everyone was staying within their own family groups and kept aware of keeping at a safe distance apart!

But it’s great to see people out enjoying themselves after such a subdued Christmas.

The inventiveness of some of those snow-travelling devices is testament to the Scottish ability to think out of the box!

Picture courtesy of The Hamilton Advertiser


That Gordian Knot


Back in 333BC, Alexander the Great arrived in Gordium, in today’s Turkey. He came across an ancient wagon with its yoke tied on using an incredible tangle of tight knots. An oracle of the time suggested that any man who could untangle it would become ruler of all Asia.
Whether Alexander managed to untangle it or whether he just took his sword and cut through the knots declaring that it didn’t matter how the knots were undone is uncertain. But he did go on to conquer Egypt and vast tracts of Asia before he died at a tender 32.
Thus we arrived at the notion of a Gordian Knot – something virtually impossible to untangle. Now, Bill Cash MP and Brexit enthusiast has declared that Boris Johnson has cut that Gordian Knot in achieving the UK’s departure from the EU.
I was a bit taken aback by this MSP's description of Johnson’s Alexander-style heroism. The very concept of democracy began in ancient Greece where the word democracy was introduced by combining ‘demos’ the (common) people with ‘kratos’ which means strength. I don’t see any evidence of its use in the current Westminster government, especially where Scotland is concerned.
So I would like to emphasise to a certain MSP that I am not unfamiliar with ancient Greece in spite of his Twitter claim that I would be incapable of  having ‘dreamt up this tweet.’



First Minister’s New Year Message
“This Hogmanay, as we look forward to a new year, most of us will be relieved to be ringing out the old one.
“2020 has been unimaginably difficult: thousands have lost loved ones, our society has been upended, our economy has taken a severe hit, many have lost jobs, families have had to cancel holidays, and of course Christmas plans had to be cancelled too."); color: rgb(117, 117, 117); font-family: Helvetic

"We have had to deny ourselves so many of the things that we most value in life, human companionship, hugs from loved ones, the comfort and the pleasure we get from meeting and spending time with each other.

“I can simply never thank all of you enough for the sacrifices you have made, and the patience you have shown, during these last difficult months.

“One of the continuing consolations of this year has been seeing how often the worst of times have brought out the very best in people.

“Our health and care workers, in particular, have shown the most extraordinary dedication, in the most testing of circumstances. The entire country is grateful for your efforts.

“But there are so many other examples too. When we asked for volunteers to help people in their local communities, more than 40,000 people signed up in the first 48 hours alone.

“Thousands of others signed up for vaccine trials, or helped to track Covid symptoms.

“And many more of you supported charities and local businesses; or helped in your local communities; or kept in touch with neighbours and friends who otherwise would have been lonely.

“These have all been points of brightness in dark times. They have reminded us again of what truly matters in life - kindness, compassion, solidarity and love.

“As we look forward to 2021 – for all the difficulties that still lie ahead - there is a lot we can now look forward to.

“Tens of thousands of people in Scotland have now received their first vaccination against Covid.

“And that number will grow in the weeks and months ahead.

“2021 will also see the expansion of free nursery care, the introduction of the Scottish Child payment to tackle child poverty, and the first full year of Scotland’s new investment bank. As we rebuild after this pandemic, we can, we must, focus on making Scotland a fairer country and a greener country.

“And of course, towards the end of the year, the eyes of the world will be on Glasgow, and the COP 26 climate change summit – a gathering that has the potential to set the whole world on a path to a more sustainable future.

“So even as we reflect on this darkest of years, we can see light ahead.

“Of course our first priority must be to get through these next few weeks and months. They will be tough for all of us.

“So let’s stick with it, and stick together.

“Let’s continue to show each other kindness, compassion, and love.

“And let’s all of us resolve to make 2021 Scotland’s year of recovery.

“I wish all of you a Happy New Year.”