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.
Covid-19 has meant that my staff are working from home, but you can phone or email at any time. Leave your name and outline details and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.
I obviously can't run constituency surgeries for now. I will let you know when it's safe to re-open this valuable facility.
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Covid-19: Progressing with Phase 3
We all want it to be over, we want to have back the freedom to throw a party, get back to the leisure centre, go into a supermarket without having to queue, meet up with friends and relatives without feeling anxious, of course we want it.
But this pandemic is no more about what we would prefer to be doing than it is about indulging choices that could endanger not just ourselves but perhaps hundreds of people near us.
I do feel frustrated by that group of people who have nothing more in common with one another than their selfish disregard for everyone else. These are the Covid Deniers, or those who think it’s all part of some kind of conspiracy, or that the virus is carried by telegraph poles.
Some of the scenes you will have seen of packed beaches and pubs, of parks awash with people and beer, make most of us shake our heads in amazement. The offenders are more likely to catch the virus than those who follow the advice but that doesn’t seem to weigh much with them.
In Scotland, our First Minister is following a very cautious and carefully thought out approach in the phased re-opening stages of the route map out of lockdown.
From Friday 10 July, up to three households are able to meet indoors for the first time - up to a maximum of eight people. Meanwhile, up to five different households to a maximum of 15 people are now able to meet outdoors.
A household can meet up to four other households per day in total. Two metre distancing between households should continue, with heightened hygiene measures to avoid creating bridges which allow the virus to spread.
Mandatory face coverings are now required in shops. Physical distancing of two metres remains the law, however on public transport and in retail settings exceptions will be allowed once appropriate mitigations are in place.
From today (Monday 13 July), organised outdoor play and contact sports can resume for children and young people under 18 (subject to guidance), non-essential shops inside shopping centres can re-open, and dental practices can see registered patients for ‘non-aerosol’ procedures.
From Wednesday 15 July, indoor restaurants, cafes and pubs will be able to re-open. Hospitality venues can be granted an exception to the 2 metre distancing requirement, however this requires mitigating measures in place such as clear information for customers, revised seating plans, and all hospitality venues are required to record contact details of customers to support Test and Protect.
All holiday accommodation can re-open from Wednesday, as well as the childcare sector, hairdressers and barbers. Museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries can also open from Wednesday, with strict physical distancing and for many of these facilities advanced ticketing will be required.
Places of worship can re-open from Wednesday for communal prayer, congregational service and contemplation with limited attendance numbers and physical distancing. Specific guidance is being finalised with faith communities. Restrictions on attendance at services and ceremonies for funerals, weddings and civil partnerships will be eased, although full-scale gatherings are still not permitted and some mitigation measures will remain.
During a statement to parliament, the First Minister said: “Scotland has made major progress in tackling COVID-19 – prevalence of the virus in Scotland is now several times lower than it is across the UK as a whole. And it is because of that action we can move into Phase 3.
“Today marks the most significant milestone yet in Scotland’s emergence from lockdown. Measures announced today are, of course, dependent on us keeping the virus under control and we will not hesitate to re-impose restrictions if we consider it necessary to halt the spread of the virus and save lives.
“During Phase 3 we will start to resume and re-open many activities and settings such as opening indoor pubs and restaurants, allowing more indoor meetings between households, and re-opening places of worship.
“Eliminating the virus as far as possible now - ahead of the almost inevitable challenges we will face come winter - remains our objective.
“The five principles behind our facts campaign – face coverings; avoiding crowded spaces; cleaning hands and surfaces; two metre distancing; and self-isolation if you have symptoms – are more important than they have ever been.”
Our X1 bus service
Many of you will have a sense of groundhog day, of having been here before. Without any consultation with any of the stakeholders, FirstBus has arbitrarily decided to withdraw the X1 express route between Hamilton and Glasgow city centre. They argue that it’s all down to Covid-19 and the challenges it brings.
We went through this whole debate in February, less than five months ago, and we thought we had secured the continuation of the service. But Covid-19 is cited by FirstBus as the reason for cutting off this vital service.
But it is precisely the moment that the service is required more than ever. Restrictions are being lifted, people are returning to work and many of my constituents have already told me that the need the X1 service to be able to do that.
Angela Crawley MP, Margaret Ferrier MP and I have written to FirstBus demanding an urgent meeting to highlight the demand that exists for the X1 service and the damage cancellation would cause to those returning to work from Hamilton and the surrounding area as lockdown eases.
The meeting will take place on Friday 17 July. I will keep you up to date on the outcome.
It is a gross insult to the communities of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse for FirstBus not to even consult with elected representatives protecting the interests of constituents. I am angry and I feel let down on behalf of all of my constituents who are going to suffer if this action goes ahead.
I know, because constituents tell me so, that this route is a lifeline for many and will be even more so as the lockdown eases and people return to work.
I will be making sure that FirstBus is left with a clearer understanding of this vital service and how crucial it is as we all try to get our lives and employment back to something approaching normality.
My colleague, Angela Crawley MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, says: “I am extremely disappointed that FirstBus have decided to remove this vital service with very little communication.
“After months of working alongside the company to promote the service, it is a slap in face to receive an email late on a Friday night advising of their decision.
“I understand the pressures on public transport as a result of lockdown and social distancing, but to scrap the service without understanding the demand is the wrong decision."
Colleague, Margaret Ferrier MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West added: “Cutting the X1 service sends out entirely the wrong message about our priorities as we start to ease lockdown and recover from Covid-19. Remobilising bus services safely is an essential part of getting our economy moving again and dropping the X1 will do nothing to help my constituents get to where they need to be.
“The X1 provides a lifeline for Hillhouse residents to get to Glasgow, a fact recognised by FirstBus when they decided to retain the service in February amid a public outcry. The demand is there for the X1 service and FirstBus needs to adapt their strategy to encourage safe and sustainable use of the X1, as more and more people return to work and leisure activities in the coming weeks.”
I am delighted to see that a Prayer Walk has been created at St Ninian’s in Stonehouse. The initiative is guided by the minister there, Stewart Cutler, and has already seen an enthusiastic response on social media.
The church, run jointly by the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed church, is making a great contribution to everyone in the community, You don’t need to be a member of St Ninian’s or any church for that matter.
The Prayer Walk is open to all.
50.5% of South Lanarkshire candidates would not be allowed to work and live in Scotland if Tory plans go ahead
New Tory immigration plans could halve the number of people coming to Scotland, not only creating misery for applicants but also creating labour shortages in key sectors.
An independent expert group warns that the proposals would shut the door on our ability to recruit talented, skilled and dedicated workers from Europe and elsewhere.
According to previous analysis by the Expert Advisory Group, 53% of roles filled by employees in Scotland earn less than £25,000, including up to 90% of jobs in the care sector.
Holyrood’s Finance Committee has also warned that demographic changes could pose risks to Scottish public spending, and our ability to fund the NHS.
The Covid-19 crisis has clearly demonstrated the UK’s reliance on key workers who have come to Scotland from all over the world.
This pandemic has shown beyond doubt that people working in the roles which the Tories describe as ‘lower-skilled’ are absolutely vital to our communities.
Without migration, South Lanarkshire could face a demographic crisis that could hammer public services like the NHS – as an ageing population leaves Scotland with fewer working-age taxpayers.
But despite the clear evidence, the Tories seem utterly determined to back Boris Johnson’s closed-minded plans which will be immeasurably damaging to South Lanarkshire and Scotland.
We need the power to attract and retain the workers we want to welcome into our public services and who make a major contribution to our communities, our wellbeing and to our economy.
South Lanarkshire Council grass-cutting services
Take some nice warm sunshine, add some friendly rain, and you have a perfect recipe for spectacular speed in grass growing. You can almost watch and hear it.
Add in Covid-19 and restrictions upon council maintenance staff and you have, well, a perfect storm.
South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) has a lot of catching up to do but they have assured us that is exactly what they are doing.
In some areas, the grass has reached around two feet high or more. The Council has managed to catch up with some recreational areas but they clearly have a lot of extra work to catch up with.
It’s only when services like this are not available that we really notice how their absence make the areas look scruffy and uncared for.
Recovery action is being made by the Council but they can only go as quickly as their resources and safety precautions allow.
Additional £1.77m support for families in South Lanarkshire
I am delighted to pass on to you the welcome news that South Lanarkshire children normally entitled to school meals will be among those who continue to be supported over the summer.
As well as the £852,000 required for the continued provision of free school meals across the summer holiday period, there will be another £924,000 for the wider provision of food support to help low income families during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We know that this virus has put real financial pressure on families, and it’s right that the Scottish Government has ensured schools across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse Constituency can continue to provide free school meals and support families, children and young people who need some extra help at this challenging time.
Free school meals are vital for families in South Lanarkshire and an important way of ensuring their children receive the nutritious food they need. That is why it is so important that support continues while schools remain closed.
This extra support will make a huge difference to children and their families in South Lanarkshire and across Scotland, and help to ensure the most vulnerable people in our society receive support during this pandemic.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP?
The community spirit shown by people across Lanarkshire has been heart-warming. If you would like to offer your help, there are a whole host of new groups working across Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.
They are working together to help spread cheer and make sure the most vulnerable in our area are getting the necessities they need.
The range of services provided include delivering shopping to elderly or vulnerable neighbours, using online group chats to combat social isolation and loneliness, and handing out care packages to the elderly and vulnerable.
If you are in Hamilton, you can find more information about the Hamilton COVID-19 Warriors here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/213851619986142
If you are in Larkhall, you can find out more information about the COVID-19 Rainbows – Larkhall here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1092656721095368/permalink/1092743704420003
If you are in Stonehouse, you can find out more information about Stonehouse Coronavirus Community Support here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3402877913061116
At this time, it has never been more important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.
HELP SERVICES AVAILABLE
For Scottish Government information - https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
For NHS Scotland information - https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus
For Resilience planning information - https://www.readyscotland.org/
For young people - https://young.scot/
Parents https://www.parentclub.scot/ and https://www.children1st.org.uk/help-for-families/parentline-scotland/
For older people - https://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/
For information on charities and third sector - https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus
For non-domestic rates business support - https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/