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What a year it's been!

But let's just look at a few recent changes and events to wrap up 2015 and forge our path for the year ahead.

It's great to know that we have Stephanie Callaghan standing for what was Lynn Adams' council seat. Lynn died recently from cancer. She was a great friend and I miss her more than I can say. She was a real inspiration in all our lives with her generosity of spirit and her enthusiasm for life.

But Stephanie is an ideal choice. She will, if elected, be a tremendous person to carry on the spirit of Lynn's work and add her own character to it. She has been a committed volunteer and community activist and has already proven herself to all of us in the SNP. Good luck Steph!

I'm delighted to be able to report at least a partial success in our campaign to keep the University of the West of Scotland campus in Hamilton. Our SNP team has fought hard against the idea of moving the campus to a spot between the M8 and Eurocentral. Not exactly a hot bed of facilities for students in a former, failed industrial park owned by Cerebus.

This big American outfit has a lot of its dealings in pornography and is a big supporter of the American pro-gun lobby. There are all sorts of press reports about some of theiir rather questionable activities in the past.

So I'm pleased that the University Court rejected that option in favour of the Hamilton International Technology Park. There will be issues to iron out, particularly over what happens to the existing Almada Street site which needs some decent investment.

Reservations aside, Hamilton is a university town with lots of students using local businesses and facilities. That's important and it's the natural location as part of the life and blood of our town.

I've been busy supporting The Haven Christmas Tree Campaign this year. Visitors to my office in Hamilton were more than happy to make a contribution and to add a little card to the tree.

Coping with a life-limiting disease is a huge event in a person's life and the Haven's programme of support is there to help folk manage all the aspects of their illness. It offers three drop-in centes in Blantyre, Forth and Wishaw.

The team of specialist nurses, therapists and volunteers all work closely together to provide the highest standard of support in a non-clinical holistic environment.


At the Scottish Parliament, I've been delighted to see my personal campaign to make domestic abuse across Scotland into a ground-breaking specific offence starting to take real shape.

The Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP, has announced a consultation on how to take the concept forward. The consultation will draw in stakeholders to think about how best to structure legislation. it will run until 26 March 2016.

When we were speaking in the Parliament about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 24 November, I stressed the point again that women are still way behind in so many ways from getting safe sanitary facilities to being fairly represented in the boardroom and indeed in politics. Only by developing a culture where the idea of 'equality for women' is so ingrained that there's no debate about it required can we see a time when women will no longer be regarded as second class citizens.

I've also been talking about Westminster's welfare reforms and the damage it is causing to the most vulnerable and needy in our communities. As always, the women suffer disproportionately. When Universal Credit is fully rolled out here, women will lose out even more. They will be answerable to the 'male breadwinner' for the money to run the home and if has other ideas about just how to spend that money, then it will be the women who have to try and sweep up the mess.

Strikes me as a move right back to the 19th century when women were expected to do what they were told at all times and to be grateful for any housekeeping cash they got from the men. If that's David Cameron's idea of progress, then I dread to think what's coming next along with more cuts.

Mr Cameron once said that he was born not with one but with two silver spoons in his mouth. I say try a week living on benefits in Hamilton. He could learn a lot.