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Covid-19 has altered our lives in so many different ways that we could never have anticipated. The experience of our National Conference being entirely virtual is a new one for all of us! On the upside, you don’t need to queue up and you can’t get trapped behind a very tall man in the seat in front!
We won’t be travelling or contributing to global warming with hundreds of vehicles on the road, and we don’t need to sleep in a hotel bed! You can follow the action from the comfort and virus-free space of your own home.
I won’t come home feeling exhausted – but how much we are all missing the chance of catching up over a coffee with someone we haven’t seen for ages, the special conference atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm as we look ahead towards Scotland’s independence.
This is the biggest and most interactive conference of any political party during the Covid-19 pandemic. Conference is taking place on events platform Hopin, and includes all the key features of a physical conference venue, with a main stage, fringe events and an exhibition area.
Networking is also available through the 'Blether' function, allowing members to make new connections and meet new friends from across the world, including Australia, Canada, Europe and Qatar.
Both within our virtual conference and far more widely throughout Scotland, we are seeing support for independence rising continuously. No surprise there for us in the SNP but a recognition from many more people that to have control over our own governance is by far the best choice for our choice.
For now, the primary focus is on the pandemic but at the same time, we are looking ahead to a refreshed and resilient economy that is the prelude to an independent future that is equal, fair and compassionate for everyone.
We can protect and invest in public services like our NHS. We can overcome poverty, inequality and we can make our contribution to tackling the climate emergency.
The people of Scotland have the right to choose their future. It’s time to put all our efforts into making sure we bring about the better country that we, and future generations, deserve.
At Conference, the First Minister said: “We know that it is the people who live here, wherever they come from, who can best harness Scotland’s immense human and natural resources to the benefit of everyone.
“So this weekend, and over the next few months, let us reach out – to all of Scotland – like never before.
“Let us demonstrate – with cool heads and patient persuasion – that Scotland is ready to take its place in the global family of independent nations.
“Scotland is now a nation on the brink of making history.
“Independence is in clear sight – and if we show unity of purpose, humility and hard work, I have never been so certain that we will deliver it.
“The people of Scotland have the right to choose their future.
“Let’s now focus all our efforts on making sure we bring about that better country that we and future generations deserve.
“An independent future lies ahead - lets grasp it."
Protecting Scotland’s NHS
SNP members have backed calls for a renewed drive to tackle the determinants of health inequalities – including an expansion of emergency mental health support in Scotland.
At the party’s virtual annual conference this weekend, SNP delegates welcomed the Scottish Government’s intention to establish a National Care Service.
The SNP also reaffirmed its long-standing commitment to free universal education in Scotland and called on the Scottish Government to put an end to exclusionary practices in schools, such as additional costs in music or home economics classes.
Commenting, Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Our NHS has been there for us for over 70 years, and in the middle of this terrible global pandemic, the importance of our health service is clearer than ever.
“We owe our thanks to each and every member of Scotland’s health and care sector. It is our duty as a government to ensure high standards of support are available to our most cherished public resource – now, and in the future.
“That’s why I have commissioned an expert independent review of adult social care that will take into account the experiences of those supported by, and who work, in social care, as well as looking at funding, governance, administration and delivery.
“This review will examine how best to deliver a reformed national approach to care and support services – and will help us create a National Care Service should our party be re-elected.
“I’m delighted that SNP members have reaffirmed the party’s commitment to supporting Scotland’s NHS and to tackling the root causes of health inequalities in our communities.”
SNP MSP, and Convener of Holyrood's Education Committee, Clare Adamson added: “Closing the poverty-related attainment gap is the defining mission of this SNP Government and that commitment is more important than ever in the current circumstances.
“Education is, and will always remain, free in Scotland under the SNP. But there’s work to do as a government if we are to ensure that every child has the ability to reach their full potential.
“Helping schools get rid of extra charges for music lessons or home economics classes is part of that, but we must continue our work to empower local councils and headteachers to make the best decisions for their individual circumstances.”
Hamilton SNP councillor Josh Wilson raises over £600 for Hamilton Advertiser Toy Appeal
A Hamilton SNP councillor put his best foot forward to help the Hamilton Advertiser Christmas Toy Appeal.
Josh Wilson ran 50km in a week to raise a whopping £630 for underprivileged children.
The funds will now be spent on brand new toys that will help to make Christmas Day special for hundreds of little ones.
Josh said:: “This year has been hard for most of us, but particularly for those who are struggling financially. Many people have already lost their jobs and the redundancy rate is at record levels.
“Christmas will be a difficult period of time for many people and I just wanted to do a little something to help.
“Every year, the Hamilton Advertiser runs a successful toy drive, along with the Salvation Army, that supports families who are struggling to make ends meet. To support their brilliant campaign, I decided to run 50k in one week to raise cash to buy children gifts this Christmas and I’m delighted to report that I completed the challenge on Sunday afternoon.
“A huge thank you to everyone who donated – the support I have received has been overwhelming and it goes a long way in helping to make Christmas more special for hundreds of local children.”
The Hamilton Advertiser’s toy appeal is in full swing now, but with just over two weeks left until donation deadline day – on Monday, December 7 – they are hoping for many more toys and gifts.
A spokesperson said: “In particular this year we are lacking in baby boy and girl items as well as toys or gifts for children aged eight to 12.
“Items could include new clothing with tags, nightwear and baby and sensory toys. For the older children there could be arts and crafts sets, fashion accessories, Lego, science kits, age-appropriate make-up sets, football and sports equipment or games.
“And fragrance/make up sets or gift vouchers always go down a treat with the teenage age group.”
Breakfast and lunch free for all primary school children
Every Primary School pupil will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch, all year round if the SNP is re-elected in May, John Swinney announced at Conference.
The Deputy First Minister set out this latest step in the drive to tackle child poverty, with the programme being implemented from August 2022, making Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals.
In the face of predictions that Tory welfare cuts will drive child poverty rates even higher, the expansion - estimated to cost around £230 million per year in additional expenditure - will introduce a free year-round breakfast and lunch for all primary school pupils.
In his speech to conference, John Swinney said: “The callous cuts to welfare imposed by the Conservatives are bad enough. But we now face a tsunami of child poverty if the Tory Chancellor imposes a second wave of austerity. Scotland’s children cannot afford that.
“This is not just an issue for the very poorest. This is an issue for working families, forced to feed children from foodbanks or go hungry themselves.
“Right now, all P1 to P3 pupils are entitled to free school lunches. Given what I fear we are facing from the Tories, we will not leave a child at the mercy of a Tory Chancellor just because they are in P4, P5, P6 or P7.
“If elected next May, from 2022 we will extend universal free school lunches to all primary school pupils, P1 to P7.
“We want every child to have every chance to learn every minute of every school day, starting from the moment they arrive in class. So, we will also extend free provision of a healthy breakfast to all primary school pupils as well.
“But one of the lessons of 2020 is term-time isn’t enough. Hunger doesn’t take a holiday and so neither can we.
“If re-elected we will extend free school meals through every school holidays.
“All primary school pupils. All classes. All year round.
“That is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty, support families, and make Scotland the best place to grow up.”
Free period products
I am so delighted to see this historic move. Women, indeed girls from the age of 12 or 13, have been paying for the natural occurrence of being a woman. With a heavily male-dominated government at Westminster, nobody has tackled this ‘female only’ issue. It’s easier for them to just not talk about it.
Fortunately, our SNP Government isn’t so precious. We talk about the realities of our daily lives.
Scotland will become the first country in the world to 'make period poverty history' - after MSPs at Holyrood voted to put into legislation that anyone in Scotland can access free period products.
The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill enshrines the right to access free period products for anyone who menstruates in Scotland. This will be through a duty placed on local authorities and education providers to make period products obtainable for free to anyone who needs to use them.
The Scottish Government became a world leader as the first country to provide free products for pupils and students in education, as well as to women on low-incomes across a range of community settings - investing over £21 million in the scheme.
Every Hamilton resident generates the weight of a cow in waste each year
Every person in Hamilton generates almost half a tonne of waste a year – that’s the equivalent weight of a small dairy cow.
Statistical data released by SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) has revealed that households in South Lanarkshire generated 0.44 tonnes of household waste per person during 2019. Of that, 90kg (14 stone) goes to landfill – that’s the same weight as the average man in Scotland.
In South Lanarkshire a total of 146,941 tonnes of waste was generated, 68,135 tonnes of that was recycled which accounts for 46.4 per cent of the total. That’s up from 44.3 per cent the previous year when 66,676 tonnes was recycled by South Lanarkshire Council.
Another 41,761 tonnes, that’s 28.4 per cent of household waste, was diverted from landfill and disposed of by other mean such as incineration or composting.
That’s a huge increase on 2018 when 11,261 tonnes were diverted – 7.5 per cent of the total waste collected.
Encouragingly, the percentage of household waste recycled in South Lanarkshire is now above the Scottish average of 44.9 per cent.
And the amount of household waste it now sends to landfill has decreased significantly on the previous year.
Just over a quarter of the collected waste (25.2 per cent) went to landfill in 2019 – 37,044 tonnes – almost half of the previous year’s total of 72,533.
The amount of household waste going to landfill in Scotland dropped to less than a million tonnes for the first time ever during 2019.
The total of 760,000 tonnes, is a reduction of 273,000 tonnes, the eighth consecutive decrease in landfilled household waste. This is mainly due to an increase in incineration and partly due to less waste being generated.
Hamilton Mausoleum competition winner John Kennedy
For over 160 years it has towered above the town, an immutable and iconic landmark that spans the generations.
Now however, we are getting a tantalising glimpse into what Hamilton Mausoleum could become.
A design competition has produced a number of remarkable ideas – some practical and some perhaps more fanciful – for the 128ft structure.
Over 100 people submitted their ideas for giving the mausoleum a face-lift. And the judges were impressed with the submissions that ranged from landscaping the area around the structure to filling it with water so that people can dive and look at tropical fish.
But it was John Kennedy who grabbed first place in the competition with a design called ‘The Invisible Landscape’ that combined an immersive virtual reality experience within the mausoleum with a new design of the land that surrounds it.
John Kennedy grabbed first place in the competition to re-imagine Hamilton Mausoleum with a design called ‘The Invisible Landscape’.
Ian McAllan, Provost of South Lanarkshire Council, said: “I was absolutely delighted to be one of the judges in this fantastic competition. The entries were inventive, inspirational and at times quite moving – a true testament to Hamilton’s iconic mausoleum.
“After much deliberation, the entry by John Kennedy which sought to re-imagine the landscape around the mausoleum in a more formalized manner was chosen by the judges as the first-placed winner.”
The design competition invited ideas on how Hamilton Mausoleum and the nearby Keeper’s Lodge could be preserved for the cultural benefit of future generations.
And John’s winning entry showed how the mausoleum could be re-purposed into a small museum presenting the history of the Hamilton estate. Exhibition cases would display artefacts associated with Hamilton Palace, on loan from other museums from around the world.
He also made the case that virtual reality reconstructions of the original palace could also create an immersive experience on a grand scale inside the mausoleum.
John even had plans for the area surrounding the landmark, creating a new grand avenue lined with birch trees to the Keeper’s Cottage. The cottage itself would have a small coffee kiosk and public washroom for visitors to the Low Parks.
The Glasgow Institute of Architects invited the design ideas and their president Phil Zoechbauer said: “Having lived in Hamilton and passing the iconic mausoleum structure many times, this competition has been an opportunity to look at it – and the possibilities that surround it – with fresh eyes.
“As a panel, we were collectively impressed by the originality of ideas and quality of submissions. The selected schemes were diverse in their approaches to re-imagining what Hamilton Mausoleum and its Keeper’s Lodge could be, ranging from the fantastical to the light-touch, and their potential for bringing these monuments back to life are inspiring.”
Guest Judge Professor John Hume OBE commented: ”The proposal greatly enhances the setting and improves the landscape value of the area around the mausoleum whilst facilitating the competition brief and drawing attention to the mausoleum and keeper’s lodge, whilst also being an asset to the town of Hamilton.”
Ross Lambie, representing the Hamilton Mausoleum Trust, also noted: “The winning proposal by John Kennedy set out a robust and adaptable masterplan for the wider site, breaking the hinterland up into defined zones, each taking advantage of an existing underutilised attribute.
"The trust congratulates John for his winning entry: it certainly has given us delicious food for thought on the future of the mausoleum and Keepers Lodge.”
And from further afield, president of the New Zealand Institute of Architects Judi Keith-Brown also said: “John Kennedy’s scheme taught me a lot about the history of the site, especially around the great north avenue. The reinstatement of this, combining the manmade with the bio-diversity of the site including the wetlands, makes for a very beautiful and achievable scheme.”
New social housing for Larkhall
New social housing is to be built in Larkhall after plans were approved by South Lanarkshire Council.
Plans for 20 new homes on land between Robert Smillie Crescent, Glengonnar Street and Riverside Road were approved by the council’s planning committee on Tuesday, 4 November.
The development includes 10 two-storey semi-detached dwellings, eight two-storey cottage flats and two one-and-a-half storey detached homes.
Planning and building standards manager Bernard Darroch told the committee that the scale and principle of the development was “acceptable” at the brownfield site and that the plans “comply with local plan policy”.
Currently, a number of footpaths run across the site and plans include maintaining pedestrian access from Robert Smillie Crescent to Riverside Road.
Conditions have also been attached to ensure existing footways surrounding the site are resurfaced.
No objections were submitted to the plans from members of the public.