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.
You can phone or email me at any time but I am unable to hold face-to-face surgeries while the Covid-19 regulations are in place.
But I am very much still here to help you. Just leave a message on the main number below and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.
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Into the Campaign
May’s elections for the Scottish Parliament are gaining momentum as more and more polls reveal a clear majority in favour of an independent Scotland, able to make our own decisions for the people here, and able to re-join the EU. In 2014, the Remain campaign promised Scots that staying in the UK would protect the EU membership. So much for that betrayal, just one among too many to count.
The 21st poll in a row shows a majority for independence of at least 53 per cent. A couple of polls have put that figure much higher.
Our First Minister’s level of popularity is hugely impressive, whatever way you look at it!
These results are from Mark McGeoghegan, Research Manager at Ipsos MORI in Glasgow.
But we cannot be complacent. Opposition parties will attempt to distract us, but we have to remain focused on what this election is about - putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.
We have selected amazing candidates all across Scotland, and we’re going to need to work hard to get them elected this May.
We know this election will be like no other, because of the pandemic.
So we’re asking you to help spread our message digitally, so everyone in Scotland sees our positive message for the future.
Don't neglect to encourage people to take up the option of a postal vote during the pandemic. It's easy to apply for one online:https://www.snp.org/postal-vote/
Tories in a panic
The Tories are "clearly in a panic" over growing support for independence - as new figures show the Tory government is spending millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on its anti-independence campaign.
Newly released Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, and newly published job adverts, reveal the Tory government is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on new staff for its 'Union Unit'. It follows a separate FOI response in December, which revealed soaring expenditure on spin doctors, communications and advertising at the Scotland Office.
Together, the data shows the Tory government is spending millions on its anti-independence campaign, despite publicly claiming there won't be a referendum:
Commenting, SNP Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Stewart Hosie MP said: "Boris Johnson is clearly in a panic about rising support for independence - if he is spending millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on political campaigning.
"Despite what they claim in public, the Tories know there will be an independence referendum if the people of Scotland vote for one in May - that's democracy.
"But the Tories are completely clueless if they arrogantly think a No campaign run by Vote Leave Brexiteers in Westminster, with no understanding of Scotland, will persuade anyone.
"People in Scotland have the right to decide their own future. The issue at the election in May will be this: who has the right to decide what sort of country we should be after the pandemic – the people of Scotland or Boris Johnson?
“Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s."
If you would like to read more around this, here are some helpful links:
'Union unit: Does soaring wage budget reveal ‘panic’ at Number 10?' -
Cabinet Office Freedom of Information response on current Union Unit spending (8th February 2021) revealing four current staff (Oliver Lewis, Jack Sellers and two unnamed policy advisers):
Special Adviser Pay (Oliver Lewis page 5, Jack Sellers page 9)
Cabinet Office job advertisements for "at least" four new heads of role posts with an advertised salary of £64,500 - £70,877 each: https://cabinetofficejobs.tal.net/vx/lang-en-GB/mobile-0/appcentre-1/brand-2/xf-c64db99f3369/candidate/so/pm/1/pl/16/opp/6218-6218-Head-of-Policy-Strategy-and-Analysis-Engagement-and-Strategic-Communications/en-GB?utm_source=ziprecruiter
Scotland Office Freedom of Information response on Scotland Office spending (18th December 2020):
EU exit and Covid-19 business support
I was delighted, along with Angela Crawley MP, to welcome new support for hard-hit businesses post-Brexit. The Scottish Government announced on 3 February support for hard-hit businesses announced by the Scottish Government.
A new £7.75 million funding package will offer support to fishermen, seafood businesses and ports and harbours threatened by the ongoing effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) and EU Exit.
The package includes:
We are starting to see the very real bite of Brexit on our economy. Rather than the oven-ready deal we were promised Boris has left us with rotting seafood. I had visited companies locally before Brexit who had invested substantial sums in preparing for the huge increase in bureaucracy but what they are having to deal with is worse than anyone could have reasonably prepared for.
Angela and myself have been working closely with local businesses affected to make sure their concerns are being heard at all levels of government. This vital lifeline from the Scottish Government will bring a sigh of relief to our world leading seafood sector in a time of great uncertainty.
It is time for the UK Government to pull the finger out and properly support the companies they have landed in this mess with their out of touch Brexit obsession.
Angela adds: “Despite promises to the contrary, leaving the world’s largest single market has presented huge barriers for local employers.
“Exporters of fresh seafood based in my constituency have already lost out on millions of pounds in reduced custom, ruined produce and additional administration.
“And whilst welcome, the funding announced by the UK Government doesn’t come close to meeting the fall in revenue experienced by exporters as a result of these changes.
“The Tories must remove the bureaucracy, allow fresh seafood to flow from Scotland to the EU and until they do, provide adequate funding to ensure local businesses can continue to thrive.”
Viridor plans at Overwood plant
Renewable energy is a vital resource for Scotland and our Government has already reached demanding targets in our efforts to move away from damaging fossil fuels.
But we need to plan carefully for minimum disruption to our communities.
That’s why myself, my colleague, Angela Crawley, MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, and SNP MSP candidate for Clydesdale, Mairi McAllan, have called on Viridor to give more time to its consultation process.
We have written to ask the company to consider residents who may struggle with the use of online formats or who don’t have ready access to a computer, to be able to put forward their anxieties. Covid-19 has, by necessity, ruled out face-to-face group meetings.
We have explained to Viridor: “We have serious reservations that during the Covid-19 pandemic with continuing restrictions on face-to-face meetings, that proper consultation of some of the most vulnerable residents in Stonehouse and Blackwood will not be allowed to take its course. In order not to disadvantage these constituents, we would strongly urge you to consider delaying this planning application until we are back to a more normal state of affairs.”
There are strong feelings in the constituency around this application and I firmly believe they all deserve to be heard. That is why we have written to Viridor to ask them to delay consideration of this application until we have returned to a more normal state of affairs.
Angela Crawley said: “We know that there is a great depth of feeling about this proposal and it would not be right to proceed with a consultation on this scale during the current restrictions. To do so would disenfranchise hundreds of people and I would encourage you to delay the start of the consultation until such times as a physical meeting can be held.”
Màiri McAllan, SNP candidate for Clydesdale, added: “Given the strong feelings there are in the community about this proposed development, it does feel appropriate to request a delay in the submitting of this planning application.
"This would allow the people of our area the full opportunity to examine the proposal in detail and for a proper and more accessible consultation event to take place once circumstances allow.
"With the necessary restrictions we have in place at present, there is a clear risk that not every resident would have the means to participate to put their views across, and I would urge Viridor to consider a delay.”
I’ll be keeping you posted.
Missing Larkhall man
Jamie Waugh was last seen more than a fortnight ago.
Jamie’s family is ‘extremely concerned’ for the 28 year old who was last seen around 4.30am on Sunday 31 January when he left an address is Glen Avenue, Larkhall, intending to go to another address.
Sergeant Audrey Peat said :"It is out of character for Jamie not to be in touch with friends or family for this length of time. They are extremely concerned about him and just want to know he is safe".
Jamie is described as 5ft 11 inch tall, brown receding hair, blue eyes, facial hair and was last seen wearing Black T-shirt, Navy blue zipper top, black Adidas shorts and grey trainers.
He may also have a pair of dark coloured tracksuit bottoms. Jamie has a tattoo on his right arm with the letters "JAMIE" and a skull and roses tattoo on his left arm.
Jamie has links to both the Larkhall and Blantyre areas of Lanarkshire. If you have seen Jamie or have any information about where he might be, I urge you to contact Police on 101 quoting incident number 1830 of 06/02/21.
Scottish Water Road Closures in Hamilton
Might be a bit irritating, but it’s vital work and at least you can plan ahead with information.
From Monday, 1 March, Muttonhole Road will be closed between Highstonehall Road and Newhousemill Road to enable Scottish Water to carry out upgrades to the local water infrastructure.
Road traffic management has been agreed in conjunction with South Lanarkshire Council.
It is anticipated that it will be in place for approximately one week.
Drivers are urged to follow local diversions.
Georgina Reid, Scottish Water’s corporate affairs manager in the west, said: “It’s important that our customers continue to enjoy clear, fresh drinking water. This essential work to improve the resilience of existing infrastructure, and help reduce the chance of pipes bursting, will help us achieve that.
“Some customers may experience a change in water pressure and/or discoloured water. If this happens, simply turn on the cold water tap in your kitchen and let the water flow slowly until it runs clear.”
She added: “We apologise for any inconvenience and thank affected road users and local residents in advance for their patience and understanding.”
Scottish Water personnel and contractors will adhere to Scottish Government Covid-19 guidance for the construction industry and the public. Measures will be in place to ensure safe working and allow for safe distancing by the workforce. This also ensures the safety of people in the communities and locations where we are working.
UK Government challenged to act on strict hotel quarantine rules
The SNP has said the UK government risks “actively undermining Scotland’s COVID suppression strategy” if UK Ministers continue to refuse to enforce strict mandatory quarantine rules for those travelling back to Scotland from airports in other UK nations.
New Scottish Government rules will see travellers from all international flights required to quarantine in supervised hotels from Monday last, 15 February, but in England hotel quarantine only applies to 33 ‘red list’ countries.
SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford said any refusal to implement the policy undermines vital public health advice - and shows a blatant disregard for the ability of UK nations to impose different rules to tackle the spread of Covid-19.
Ian Blackford MP said: “The UK government risks actively undermining Scotland’s COVID suppression strategy unless it urgently rethinks plans to ensure those travelling to Scotland comply with the rules set out by the Scottish Government.
“The decision to introduce managed quarantine in Scotland has been led by the best scientific advice and on lessons learned from our experience with the virus.
“These new measures are a crucial part of tough action that Scotland has taken throughout the COVID pandemic - which effectively eliminated the virus last year. The current position of the UK government stands in the way of stopping the spread of Covid-19 and shows a blatant disregard for devolved governments making policy in the best interests of their residents.
“I’m urging the UK government to think again. If Westminster chooses not to adopt the tougher measures that will be in place in Scotland, it must at least work with the Scottish Government to ensure that the rules of each UK nation are respected and, crucially, implemented.”
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 epecially important for us all to look after our neighbours and family.