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Branch growth in Hamilton

All over the country, we’re seeing SNP branches suddenly bursting with new life and Hamilton is no exception. From a very solid but not very large group of dedicated supporters has grown exponentially through the Referendum campaign. We now have 917 members in the town – 731 joining since the Referendum - and we’re very open to more of you coming along to share the journey towards a better Scotland for everyone.

Here is new member  Viktoria Cameron  being interviewed by the BBC’s chief political reporter, Brian Taylor.




New voices bring new ideas, new approaches, new ways of doing things. Besides, the SNP is a great family to be part of. You’ll find yourself making friends and enjoying events around home and further afield – and perhaps you’ll want to go on, become an office bearer, stand for the Council, become an MSP, First Minister…the sky’s the limit! Are you the next Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon?

There’s a lot to be done, from providing information and explanation to working on how to get more devolved powers from an unwilling Westminster government more set on austerity and cuts than on the agenda of the people of Scotland.

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander’s has admitted that he is committed to an additional “tens of billions of pounds” of further cuts. He’s looking ahead to the general election. He knows that voters want to see where the cuts will fall. Scotland isn’t therefore a priority. We didn’t vote the Tories in and we won’t in 2015 either – but we’ll still get them. Yet another glaring reason for why we need to have full fiscal control of our own economy.

Big Lottery Funds for Hamilton

It’s always great news when I hear that the Big Lottery Fund has given some money to our local community organisations. I normally put a Motion up in the Scottish Parliament to draw attention to these awards and to heighten general awareness of the organisations involved.

St Mary’s Primary School Larkhsll  has received £1,800 to be used for coaching from community sports clubs and sportsscotland  coaches across a variety of sports. Already keen footballers, the school pupils are keen to improve their fitness and develop skills in athletics, basketball and tae kwon do as well. Maybe some of these kids will be playing in future Commonwealth Games!

 young footballers from St Mary's primary

Stonehouse Primary School  secured a grant ot £2,000 to organise a residential trip for P6/7. 81 pupils will enjoy the chance to spend at the outdoor centre in Ardentinny. They’ll be involved in a whole range of outdoor activities designed to build teamwork, communication and responsibility for others. That’s a great opportunity.



South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Ltd has received £1,851 to work on an ongoing project which, over the last three years, has seen more than 2,000 people get involved in mountain biking. The money will help spread the message, especially to females, that this is a great outlet for fitness and general enjoyment.

Larkhall Community Growers

I love the Larkhall Community Growers project. It’s literally ground level and ground breaking. People of all ages are involved in the growing of flowers and vegetables on the raised beds and the whole initiative draws all kinds of people together in its community garden.

So this isn’t Big Lottery money but I sometime get paid as an MSP for doing certain surveys. I always pass this money on to a local charity and this time I’ve given the £100 to Larkhall Community Growers for their good work. I suppose you might call it seed funding for a grass-roots level project…




SNP Annual Conference with a difference

We all love the few days we spend at our Annual Conference in Perth. We normally hold it in October but this year, because of the Referendum, we pushed it back a bit. You’ll see the bright yellow SN{ lanyards all over the lovely city of Perth will people enjoying hotels, food, bars and the delights of the Tay flowing by.

It’s great to see people you mightn’t have seen in months, to catch up on the chat and to talk about how we move on from here. It won’t be a sad occasion at all. We may have lost the Referendum but all of us are fired up with the momentum created during the campaign and it’s a great feeling.


The biggest difference is going to be in the sheer weight of numbers. Political party conferences are always book at least a year in advance and we’ve become accustomed to the limitations caused by our membership being too large for most locations. We’ve always more or less fitted into Perth Concert Hall. Rightly, the voting delegates get first go for the seats at the big debates but most folk will manage to fit in.

I think it’ll be a bit different this year! Having leapt from 25,000 to over 83,000 members in the two months since the Referendum, there will have been a lot more people looking for a space at Conference.

In fact, the entire membership IT system collapsed under the strain of the huge number of new applications. Getting a pass for Conference became a bit like getting a ticket for some huge gig in the Hydro, though without that kind of price tag.

It’ll be fantastic to see lots of new members in Perth pitching up their ideas, discovering more about the party family and meeting up with the MSPs, councillors, other activists and members who’ve been around for maybe as long as 70 years.

Nicola’s Tour

Speaking of big gigs in the Hydro – and I’m not thinking especially of Still Game’s huge success – then you’ll have been as impressed as all of us by our incoming Party Leader and First Minister elect, Nicola Sturgeon.

This is the start of a new era, one that will have a different kind of leadership from Alex Salmond’s style, each of them brilliant and so, so different!

People are getting more of a flavour of what the change may mean as they follow the venues for Nicola’s tour. She’s been to sell-out events in Edinburgh, Dumfries and Dundee. She’ll be in Inverness on 10 November then the biggest one of all, to a sell-out audience of 12,000 at the Glasgow Hydro. In fact, all the tickets had gone in 24 hours. I doubt if Rod Stewart could do that!

Nicola says: It is a privilege to have been chosen by the SNP to succeed Alex Salmond as Party Leader. Alex is a hard act to follow but I am determined to lead the SNP - and the country - from strength to strength.

"The SNP was re-elected in 2011 on the basis of our record as a good government. My job will to be to build on that record and deliver strong, competent government with job creation, fairness and the protection of high quality public services at its heart. If elected by Parliament to be the next First Minister, that will be my priority each and every day that I hold office.

"I will also work to ensure that the Scottish Parliament gets the extensive new powers that Scotland was promised before the referendum. I will always make the case for Scotland to be an independent country, but with the Westminster parties already backsliding on the delivery of new powers, my immediate job will be to hold them firmly to account - and I am today putting them on notice that I intend to do just that.

"Of course, the SNP that I will lead has grown dramatically in recent weeks and we are now the third largest political party in the UK. We are in great heart as we look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

"Our new members bring a new energy and dynamism - and not just to the SNP. They are also a potent force who can help Scotland progress as a country.

"I am looking forward to meeting as many of our new recruits as possible and sharing with them my vision for the future. The tour of Scotland that I will undertake in the next few weeks also sets the template for the kind of First Minister I want to be - open, accessible and determined to work with others across the political divide to find common cause and build a better country.

"The hope, excitement and sense of opportunity of the referendum campaign did not end on polling day. It is alive, well and growing. This is a great time for Scotland and I look forward to leading my party and our country to even better times ahead."

The Armed Services and their support


Naturally, everyone has been very aware of the 100 year commemoration of the start of the 1914-18 war during the last week.

I visited an interesting project on Remembrance Day at Machanhill primary school, in Larkhall in my constituency. The children had identified all 257 men whose names are on the remembrance stone in Larkhall, and they were remembering them all today on poppies that they had put on the school fence. Such examples of young people remembering our past enable us to look to the future with a positive spirit.

Later on, I presented a report to our Veterans Minister, Keith Brown MSP, that examines the needs of those people who are leaving the armed services and moving into civilian life and employment.

It isn’t always a simple and straightforward process. Some will have physical injuries, others are mentally scarred. Living within an institutional environment is very different from ordinary home life. If you’ve spent 20 years in the former then the later probably looks very unfamiliar.

This report, the Armed Services Advice Project, produced by Citizens Advice Scotland with PoppyScotland, looks at what those support requirements are, how best this initiative, funded by the Scottish Government, can help meet those needs. Find out more here:

and if you would like to read what I said in Parliament, then take a look here:

I’m convinced that it’s not enough to remember those who sacrificed their lives. We have a longer term duty to those who have survived, with whatever issues they need help with, that they can all feel fulfilled and content in their lives back on civvy street.

Living with a disability: Benefit entitlement

It’s a challenge on its own, whether your disability is one that is immediately visible or one that is hidden from view. There are all the extra problems when you try to find employment, need additional help and support at home or at work, have mobility issues or your health and wellbeing is constantly under threat from a chronic condition.

You might think that any modern-day democratic government would want to protect the people in this demographic so that they can be best equipped to run their lives as independently as practical.

But as around one in three people in Scotland – probably 100,000 people – have discovered, care and compassion are not values that seem to operate in David Cameron’s government. The DLA benefit is, for many people, the difference between food and no food, heat and no heat.

By 2018, Inclusion Scotland calculates that around £270 million a year will have been lost to disabled people here.

Yet again, how we manage our welfare and benefits system is something we ought to be doing for ourselves, here in Scotland, not something imposed upon us by a government we didn’t vote for. It may work for the millionaires of the south-east but it doesn’t make much sense to the deprived and disabled people in Scotland.

With control of the levers of power we could do more than we can at the moment. The Scottish Government has added £50 million in funding to help mitigate the worst of the impact of DLA cuts, the bedroom tax and sanctions but we are not allowed to do any more because the benefit system is a power reserved to London.

It is, I’m afraid, all going to get much, much worse with the introduction of PIP, pushing still more people out of the criteria for getting any help. For those with terminal illnesses such as MND, the picture is bleaker than ever. If you can walk 20 yards, you are fit for work according to the new assessment criteria.

We had a lively debate on this subject in the Scottish Parliament this week and I grasped the chance to speak to the Motion.

The Living Wage


Another good debate on this subject: Why is it that some people seem to find it so difficult to get their heads around the idea of work providing enough income for you to live on? I genuinely ask this question because I hear people in the Chamber saying, in effect, ‘well, we don’t really need to pay people £7.85 an hour when we can get away with paying them £6.50.’

Has it somehow escaped their notice that people can’t actually live, heat a home, feed kids, buy clothes on that amount of money coming in? Short answer is yes, it has. David Cameron has no idea how much a loaf of bread costs. He makes his with expensive flour in a bread maker. His loaves cost about £1.88 each.



Staring us in the face is the brutality of the gap between rich and poor. Not so much a gap as a chasm. Did you know that the richest 25 families in the UK own the equivalent of 12 million ordinary folk?

In Scotland, this Government has already shown its determination to pay the living wage as John Swinney stressed just a few days ago when he said: "We recognise the real difference the living wage makes to the people of Scotland which is why we are the first Scottish Government ever to pay the living wage to all employees covered by pay policy.”

The Living Wage Foundation says there are about 60 Scottish-based companies who have signed up to the rate, including Standard Life, RBS and the SECC who are all accredited employers.

It’s not enough. We need to do more, much more, to prove that work is the surest way out of poverty and to win the buy-in of many more companies.

Research shows clearly that the living wage is good for business. The quality of work is enhanced and absenteeism is reduced. Recruitment retention is better too.

What’s not to like?

Beating cancer

Men aren’t great at facing up to any kind of medical issue of their own so I’m always supportive of the efforts of Men United v Prostate Cancer.

Despite being the most common male cancer, men also continue to face a number of injustices surrounding awareness, treatments and support, geography, age and ethnicity.

These five inequalities have five solutions, all set out in a document that forms the second wave of the charity’s Men United campaign, which uses the language of sport to engage men in the battle against the disease.

Prostate cancer UK is delighted that progress has already been made, with the Scottish Government agreeing to the charity’s call to introduce robot assisted surgery and a Scottish National Cancer Patient Experience Survey. That’s two of the solutions up with three more to get in place.

You can read the full report here: