Keeping up with you
Hello and welcome to all of you in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.
Thank you for taking a moment to look at this email. I want to keep everyone in touch with what’s going on in the constituency and what it might mean for you.
My door is open to anyone who seeks advice and support, so you can phone or email me at any time.
You also have the option of visiting constituency surgeries on Mondays. You don't need to make an appointment.
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It’s just 53 days until 29 March when the UK’s membership of the EU is extinguished. The genie is released from the lamp and the outcomes really start to kick in. Westminster has to let go of the notion that Theresa May’s failing government can re-negotiate the deal no one wants.
The EU has made its position clear. The deal is wrapped, completed, sealed. The Withdrawal Agreement is not up for discussion. But the UK is ignoring these statements and sending Theresa May back to Brussels ‘to reopen negotiations.’
Scotland, is sidelined and shafted by Westminster and we are paying a heavy price for a chaotic Tory government that we didn’t vote for.
We have been denied our democratic right to remain in the EU, as we voted to do.
Health services, the economy and public services will benefit from more than £2 billion of additional spend, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has announced.
As he confirmed an agreement had been reached that saw the Scottish Budget voted through the different stages in Parliament. Mr Mackay outlined a package of reforms at stage one of the Budget Bill, hailing the proposals as a ‘substantial devolution of power to local government’.
The Finance Secretary also confirmed the Scottish Budget will provide an additional £90 million to support local government and as well as further flexibility and increased income from council tax.
Taken together this enhanced package offers up to £187 million of increased funding and flexibility to councils.
Under the deal reached, South Lanarkshire Council will receive an additional £10,932m from the Scottish Government on top of a total overall settlement of £11.1bn.
With the UK government in complete chaos, the SNP in government is offering certainty and stability with a budget which protects public services, supports the economy, and helps build a fairer country.
This budget uses our powers in a progressive way in order to protect and invest in our public services – with a major boost for the NHS.
Giving our schools, hospitals and other vital services in South Lanarkshire the money they need to deliver better services for our communities is vital to this government. This is why I welcome Holyrood’s support for the budget.
Despite Westminster cuts of almost £2 billion in a decade to Scotland’s block resource grant, the SNP is proposing additional funding of almost £730 million for Scotland’s health and care services – including £1,199m for South Lanarkshire.
South Lanarkshire Council will receive an additional £10,932m from the Scottish Government on top of a total overall settlement of £11.1bn.
The budget also includes more than £180 million to raise attainment in schools, and almost £500 million for the expansion of early learning and childcare.
I believe this budget uses our powers in a progressive way in order to protect and invest in our public services – with a major boost for the NHS.
Giving our schools, hospitals and other vital services in South Lanarkshire the money they need to deliver better services for our communities is vital to this government.
Tackling social isolation and loneliness
Last week, Parliament unanimously backed my motion to recognise that social isolation and loneliness are issues that can affect people at any age, stage or walk of life, welcoming the publication of the Scottish Government’s national strategy, A Connected Scotland. You can watch the debate here https://tinyurl.com/connected-scotland
Everyone has a part to play to tackle social isolation and loneliness and to build a more connected Scotland. Listening to visitors sharing their sense of isolation with me, I see many, many different reasons for people finding themselves in such a lonely place.
I firmly believe we have the caring, compassionate communities in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse to ensure that people don’t get rejected or ignored. We can – and we will – implement this strategy to build a more connected, caring Scotland.
I was pleased to announce the membership of the national implementation group for a connected Scotland. The group will develop and implement a shared delivery plan for the strategy, along with a shared performance framework to help us understand the difference that we can make.
In support of the strategy, the Scottish Government has committed £1 million of investment over the next year to help build our collective capacity to implement the strategy and to pilot innovate approaches to tackle social isolation and loneliness.
Fall in youth convictions
Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, has welcomed the news that the number of young people convicted of a crime or offence has gone down by two thirds in the last decade.
The use of custodial sentences under 3 months has fallen over the last decade, while the proportion of community sentences has risen from 14% in 2008-09 to 20% for the last two years. The average length of custodial sentence is at its highest in the last ten years, increasing by 21% since 2008-09.
The number of convictions for rape and attempted rape increased by 8% compared with the previous year and there was a 14% rise in the number of convictions for sexual assault.
Commenting on the fall in convictions for under 21 year olds, Mr Yousaf said: “A child’s early years are their most important and can have a considerable impact on their future.
"Our emphasis across portfolios on early intervention and support for families, coupled with a youth justice strategy focused on prevention and diversion is helping to reduce the number of children and young people falling into a cycle of crime that could shape the rest of their lives.
"Clearly there is no room for complacency and we continue to work with national and local partners to help sustain and build on this progress.
“Short custodial sentences are not effective and Scotland must go further to increase the use of robust, community-based sentencing.
"We know that murderers and others given life sentences are serving longer in custody and these latest figures show an increase in average prison sentences for a range of the most serious crimes including rape, attempted rape and homicide.”
Domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline
It was a huge personal success for me to see Scottish Women’s Aid securing £1.7 million contract to deliver the domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline.
Domestic abuse and forced marriage are fundamental violations of an individual’s human rights and we are committed to supporting survivors.
This helpline offers support and potential routes out of abuse. We want anyone experiencing domestic abuse or feeling trapped in an unwanted marriage to have somewhere to turn to for help and advice.
Lydia Okroj, Helpline Manager at Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline said: “We are delighted to have secured this tender, and we are looking forward to working with partners to continue to provide a high quality, specialist service to survivors of domestic abuse and forced marriage in Scotland.
“Domestic abuse and forced marriage are both isolating and frightening experiences and no-one should go through them alone; our helpline is there to ensure that no-one has to. We want to make sure that our number is known by everyone like another emergency service, giving a lifeline to those who need it.
“As the implementation of Scotland’s new Domestic Abuse Act gets closer our helpline has already seen an increase in calls where callers recognise the harm caused by emotional and other non-physical abuse.
"This funding brings with it the potential for reaching and supporting more people than ever before, and that is exactly what we plan to do.”
The helpline is available 24/7 on 0800 027 1234.
Tories face debate on back-door pension credit cut
The SNP has tabled a motion forcing the UK government to give MPs a vote on the cut to Pension Credit, which would see the lowest income pensioners up to £7000 a year worse off.
The provision was made in the Welfare Reform Act back in 2012, but now the UK Government has said it intends to implement this clause without a debate – seven years and two governments later.
This change would mean that for couples where one person is of state pension age and the other is below, the individual in receipt of state pension would no longer be eligible to claim Pension Credit to top up their household income.
Commenting, Airdrie and Shotts SNP MP and spokesman on Work and Pensions, Neil Gray, said: “It is outrageous that the UK Government are content with slipping through a huge change to Pension Credit without allowing MPs to vote on these substantial changes passed two governments ago.
“The UK Government must urgently make time to debate these changes on the floor of the House so that MPs have the opportunity to make their views heard. To ignore these calls would be a democratic outrage.”