Rohingya Persecution

Last week I joined a demonstration outside the Parliament to protest the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. In recent weeks, more than 310,000 people have fled Myanmar to escape severe and violent discrimination. Myanmar is populated largely by Buddhists, and there have long been campaigns against the Rohingya Muslim population, escalating more recently to razing villages and extrajudicial killings, driving whole communities to flee the country. This has been condemned by the UN as a clear example of ethnic cleansing, and the eventual statement made by Aung San Suu Kyi failed to speak out against the violence.

I have signed my colleague Pauline McNeil MSP’s Parliamentary motion:

Motion S5M-07522: Rohingya Persecution

That the Parliament notes with grave concern the plight of the Rohingya minority of Myanmar; understands that tens of thousands of people have fled their homes and that 87,000 Rohingya refugees have travelled to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017, with about 20,000 more gathered at the border waiting to enter; considers it crucial that aid and monitoring from international organisations be reinstated after reports from the UN refugee agency, UNICEF, Oxfam and Save the Children that they were being denied access to the conflict area, and calls for attention to be paid and a resolution sought to human rights abuses wherever they occur in the world.


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World Car Free Day

World Car Free day on Friday 22 September encourages you to give up your car for the day and walk, cycle or use public transport instead.

To mark the day, Cycling Dumfries are holding a Bike Breakfast at the Council Buildings, English Street Dumfries between 7-9am.  Enjoy a free breakfast and meet councillors, officials and politicians to discuss what changes you’d like to see in Dumfries.

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RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards – Shortlisting Reception

I was so pleased to host RSPB Scotland in the Parliament this week, as they threw a reception to announce the nominees for the Nature of Scotland Awards.

The awards are designed to celebrate excellence, innovation, and outstanding achievement in nature conservation. In my welcome speech, I took the chance to highlight two of the categories that particularly interested me.

The first was the award for marine conservation. This is a significant time for our seas, and so much is ongoing to better enhance and protect our marine ecosystems, habitats, and species. The Environment, Climate Change, Land Reform had a fact finding trip to the Isle of Mull this summer, and on a marine tourism boat trip we were very lucky to spot Minke whales, porpoises, and sea eagles. Marine Protected Areas are vital, and that day reminded me how there is to celebrate in the contribution of organisations and volunteers.

The other category close to my heart is the Youth and Education Award. The commitment of teachers and youth workers, and the passion of young people, is an inspiration to us all.

I was of course delighted to be nominated myself for Political Advocate of the Year – this was such a surprise and honour!

It is also very exciting to see some nominees from South Scotland; the Clyde Valley Orchard Co-operative and Whitmuir Organic Farm are both well deserving nominees.

Congratulations to all nominees, which you can view here:


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Scottish Borders Council Local Development Plan 2017

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) are beginning the process of preparing their next Local Development Plan. The first stage of the process is to prepare what is known as a Main Issues Report, which will set out the important issues for consideration which will then be fed into the proposed plan for the area.

SBC has been taking forward a number of engagement initiatives throughout the local authority area and the next step is to hold drop-in and workshop sessions that can provide useful input into the content and form the Main Issues Report.

There will be a number of drop-in sessions and workshops being held throughout the council boundary which will be held on:


  • Thursday 21st of September @ Eyemouth Community Centre
  • Tuesday 26th of September @ Kelso Town Hall
  • Wednesday 27th of September @ Tesco Foyer, Galashiels (Drop-in session)
  • Wednesday 27th of September @ Galashiels Transport Interchange (Workshop session)
  • Thursday 28th of September @ Peebles Burgh Hall
  • Tuesday 3rd of October @ Hawick Heritage Hub
  • Thursday 5th of October @ Duns Council Chamber
  • Tuesday 10th of October @ Pop-up shop, 1 Tower Street, Selkirk (Drop-in session)
  • Tuesday 10th of October @ Community Connections, Back Row, Selkirk (Workshop session)
  • Thursday 12th of October @ Council Chamber, Newtown Street, St Boswells (Workshop session 2-4pm)


Unless otherwise stated, the drop in sessions will run from 2-5pm with workshops being held from 6pm. It is expected that each of these sessions will support up to 30 participants and will last about 2 hours therefore, if you wish to attend one of these please email with your name and address.


I would encourage as many people as possible to attend the workshops and drop-in sessions provided as I strongly believe that it’s important that you have an input on how your community is shaped.

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Wanlockhead Community Buyout

I recently went along to a public meeting to hear more about Wanlockhead Community Trust’s draft feasibility study for a community buyout.  The meeting hosted by the Trust and consulting firm, Urban Animation outlined the benefits of community ownership of land in and around the village.

This is an exciting prospect and I am supportive of Wanlockhead’s determination to forge a sustainable future which includes the possibility of a community buyout.

Claudia with Anjo Abelaira and Lincoln Richford, Wanlockhead Community Trust and Richard Heggie of Urban Animation

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South Lanarkshire Policing Plan 2017-2020

Police Scotland want to know what is important to you in your community. They are looking for your opinion to inform their policing. Having your say in the decision making process of Police Scotland is a vital tool for residents of Scotland to be able to shape the way their public services should operate – and it just takes 5 minutes.

The online consultation is open all year which allows you to take part when it suits you but also gives the flexibility of being able to re-submit the consultation if your priorities change.

It’s a very simple process that will shape the way that policing is coordinated across Scotland and in your local community.

You can access the consultation by clicking here

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Women’s Aid

I had a great meeting this morning with Women’s Aid South Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire.  Natalie Hopwood, Maggie Keenan and Karen Kelly gave a valuable update on the work Women’s Aid are doing in the Clydesdale area.

Clydesdale has the highest rate of referrals of women and children affected by domestic abuse across South Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire. I am inspired by the wide ranging support that Women’s Aid provides despite some very difficult challenges in rural Clydesdale.

If anyone has any concerns about physical or emotional domestic abuse, and would like advice, Women’s Aid is there to help. Contact 01355 249897 or email




L-R: Maggie Keenan, Karen Kelly and Natalie Hopwood

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Labour bid to introduce world leading legislation on period poverty

Scotland could become the first country in the world to provide universal free access to sanitary products, under new plans from Scottish Labour and my colleague Monica Lennon MSP.

This week a consultation was launched on the proposal to create a law in Scotland which would:

  • Put a duty on Scottish Ministers to introduce a universal system of free provision of sanitary products.
  •  Put a duty on all schools to provide free sanitary products in school toilets.
  • Put a duty on all colleges and universities to provide free sanitary products in campus toilets.
  •  Introduce measures to allow Scottish Ministers to extend these duties to other bodies in future, following a period of review, if deemed appropriate or necessary.

Thanks to Monica’s campaign, the Scottish Government has recently launched a pilot scheme in Aberdeen where low income women and girls are to be offered free sanitary products.

Access to sanitary products should be a basic right, but sadly in Scotland we know not everyone can afford or obtain what they need. Sanitary products are a common demand in food banks.

The proposal also includes a statutory duty on schools, colleges and universities to provide free sanitary products in their toilets, so no one has to miss class because of their period.

Monica Lennon MSP said:

“This is a big step towards creating a fairer and more equal society and I hope to hear from people right across Scotland during the consultation.”

This is a really important issue – please share your views here:


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Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code Relaunched

Scottish Natural Heritage has updated the best practice code for watching marine wildlife watching Scotland.

The Scottish Marine Wildlife Watching Code (SMWWC) aims to raise awareness about the best and most enjoyable ways to watch marine wildlife such as dolphins, birds, seals, otters, whales and basking sharks.

The SMWWC is complemented by a Guide to Best Practice for Watching Marine Wildlife, which provides additional information about the animals you are most likely to see in the seas around Scotland, along with practical guidance on responsible behaviour around these animals.

The SMWWC was developed through widespread consultation, particularly with wildlife tourism operators. The code, originally launched in 2006, has been updated to reflect changes in legislation, advances in technology and updated contacts.

Both documents can be freely downloaded from SNH’s website –  –  and special water-proof printed versions have been issued to marine wildlife tour boat operators.

This is a very useful guide to help everyone enjoy Scotland’s magnificent marine wildlife in a respectful and responsible way.

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A better transport system with Labour

We need investment in a modern, integrated, accessible transport system – that people across Scotland can rely on and afford. ScotRail trains are failing to match the national punctuality target at nearly 60% of stations where trains terminate. While there has been an improvement in performance in recent months following an outcry from passengers, ScotRail is still falling short of its contractual target.

After my staff member’s train journey was cancelled and disrupted today, and knowing the importance of rail reliability for rural areas like my region – it is clear to me that transformative change is needed.

Here is Scottish Labour’s blueprint to improve Scotland’s railways, with a publicly-owned network as the backbone.

Here is our plan:

• Bring ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper into public ownership when the franchises expire – a demand first made by Scottish Labour when the First ScotRail franchise ended, which was ignored by the SNP.
• Automatic refunds to passengers for tickets purchased by card if their train is delayed.
• Fairer fares for passengers – the SNP refused Labour’s demands for a price freeze this year, but Scottish Labour will press for a fair deal in 2018.
• Free WiFi across the entire network under a UK Labour government.
• End the expansion of driver-only operations.
• Introduce legal duties to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
• Retain Network Rail in whole, rather than letting the Tories strip it of powers.
• Support the completion of the HS2 high-speed rail line to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
• Encourage public and private sector bodies to take part in ‘active travel’ schemes to persuade workers to commute by train.

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