Twin towns visit Clydesdale – Yvetot – Hemmingen

IMG_0228I have been delighted this week to take part in this year’s anniversary visit of Clydesdale’s twin towns Yvetot in Normandy, France and Hemmingen in Lower Saxony, Germany.  Clydesdale has hosted over 40 people from both places in the celebrations.

Last year, when the twinning association visited Yvetot I had the pleasure of staying with Mayor Emile Canu and this year I am pleased to return the favour and host him at my house near Lanark.

There has been a fun filled and packed calendar of events for the 5 days that we have had our French and German friends staying. This included me and my partner Michael hosting a hog roast soirée at our house. A big thank you to all the hard work CITA, Clydesdales Twinning Association, has put into it.IMG_0224

This week has got me thinking about how important international friendship such as this is. An exchange of ideas, cultures and overall a celebration of old and new friends. This old tradition still has great, some may argue even more, relevance today. Bientot!

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Sc ttish L   ur backs blood donation campaign

Scottish Labour is joining International #MissingType campaign, removing the A’s, B’s and O’s from their signage and social media to highlight the need for new A, B, O and AB blood donors.

Only 38% of Scots know their blood type, and the number of new blood donors in Scotland has declined by 30% in the last five years. The Scottish Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) increasingly relies on donors aged 55 and over to make sure that there is always enough blood for patients, as many young donors do not regularly give blood.

It’s really important that you know your blood type. The SNBTS website shows what blood type stock is low on any given day. If you see your blood type is running low, you could save lives by donating blood. On 25th August, O- blood type stocks will only last 4 more days without the help from donors.

This is part of a global campaign, with letters disappearing from signage and social media in more than 20 countries, including Australia, America, Japan, Ireland, and the rest of the UK.

Learn how to donate, and check your blood type levels here.

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Credit unions in South Scotland

CaptureI was delighted to meet this week with Alison Dowling, Head of Business Development, at Capital Credit Union. Capital Credit Union, although based in Edinburgh, has a bond area which covers a large part of the South Scotland Region.

A Credit Union is a membership owned financial co-operative who operates on a basis of providing responsible lending and other services at a competitive rate to its members.

My reason for meeting with Alison was to explore how I can further help to promote the use of Credit Unions in the Borders and Midlothian area. As a Labour and Co-operative MSP I have always been a keen supporter of the Credit Union Movement and I look forward to working closer with Capital Credit Union in the future.

If you are interested in finding out more about Capital you can visit their website here –

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NHS Lanarkshire’s proposals to shape our future health service

I recently attended a meeting with NHS Lanarkshire senior management to learn more about Lanarkshire’s health care strategy, Achieving Excellence.  By developing greater community support through an integrated health and social care service there is a desire to keep people out of hospital where at all possible and Achieving Excellence aims to deliver that goal.

The management outlined the main proposals of the strategy which would see specialist services in ‘centres of excellence’, greater emphasis on community care and Monklands Hospital refurbished or rebuilt in the longer term.

In the interest of patient safety orthopaedics and trauma services have been moved in the interim from Monklands to Wishaw and Hairmyres. There was a clear message from the meeting, which will be reassuring for constituents, that none of the three hospital’s A&E’s have been or will be downgraded.

We really are at a pivotal time in terms of health care.  There are many competing demands on the NHS along with the changing needs of people. People are also living longer. The NHS has to respond to that by helping more people to manage their health conditions through education and community support.

The proposals have already generated discussion about the best way forward but one thing that is agreed is patient safety is paramount.  People must be able to rely on the NHS.

While I am still absorbing the detail of the plans, I do welcome NHS Lanarkshire’s commitment to engaging with all stakeholders which is why I would encourage everyone to take a look at the proposals. People can make their views known through the consultation which will run until 1 November 2016.  This is an opportunity for us all to contribute to shaping a health service that we all use from time to time.

Click here to submit to the consultation:



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‘South City Way’ wins Community Links PLUS (CLP) funding for streetscape project

I heartily welcome the announcement of the winner of Community Links PLUS (CLP), a ‘streetscape’ design competition hosted by Sustrans Scotland and the Scottish Government.

I was delighted to attend the announcement by the Transport Minister Humza Yousaf.

The idea for this award was initially developed by the Co-convenors of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group for Cycling, Alison Johnstone MSP, Jim Eadie and myself. It gained the group’s endorsement before being taken to the Scottish Government.

It is encouraging for our new Parliament that such a cross party process is possible for challenging culture change initiatives.

I believe that the winning project will become an exemplar for excellent city routes and spaces for walkers, cyclists and public transport. It will cut congestion and air pollution while also contributing to lowering our greenhouse gas emissions.

This will inspire a culture change such as has happened in some European cities, bringing more pleasant and safer ways to get about in and enjoy our own cities.

Please click here for details of the winning entry to the competition and the other shortlisted ones.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that there was no new money for the Community Links Plus Award. In order for there to be the chance of a project being funded on a significant scale, this was a hard choice to make. I am supportive of the decision to process on this basis. However, I will also work hard to try to ensure there is further support for the other shortlisted entries and for other projects as they continue to come forward across Scotland – not forgetting more rural projects and the joining up of the Natioanl Walking and Cycling Network.


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Coffee and a chat at Healthy Valleys’ new Lanark Community Café.

Healthy Valleys Lanark CafeHealthy Valleys has recently opened a community café at St Mary’s Hall in Lanark and already it’s proving a popular destination for bite to eat and a blether. I went along last week to find out a bit more about the café and the other projects run by Healthy Valleys.

Healthy Valleys is a community led health improvement organisation, and is there for everyone across South Lanarkshire and the Lanark Community Café is just one of the many initiatives they run helping people in rural communities connect.  Along with a coffee they have information available about support groups and wider networks that people can access.

We can all feel isolated at times especially in rural communities and it can be hard joining in. Healthy Valleys is successfully reaching out and encouraging people to meet up and enjoy the company and support of others.  Anyone can go along and the cafés don’t charge as cost is often a barrier to people getting out. Where possible they will also provide support in arranging transport for those who don’t have access to a car or public transport.

The Lanark Community Café is open every Wednesday between 12-2pm, along with the existing café in Kirkmuirhill which is open every Monday 12-2pm at the Thornton Road Community Centre. These are to be joined on the 17th August by Rigside Community Cafe at the Rigside Community Hall Wednesday’s 11–1pm and will also run every week.

Speaking to the volunteers and those using the café, I was inspired by the difference this can make in people’s lives. People have found real strength in coming along and it is wonderful that this is available across Clydesdale. I was met with a warm welcome as was everyone who was there which is why these cafes are so successful and I hope they continue from strength to strength.

Much of this strength lies in the volunteers and Health Valleys are always looking for people to help out. I would encourage anyone who is interested in getting involved to contact:

I would also recommend that people take a look at the Health Valleys’ website for the other initiatives available. From parental and mental wellbeing support groups to practical cooking courses to tea dances – there really is something for everyone.”


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Young Carers Festival 2016

Again the Young Carers’ Festival was held at the Broomlee Centre in West Linton. Most important was the chance for so many children and young people who take on caring responsibilities to take time out and have the chance to chill in an environment where others face similar things and want to chill and chat.

Near the end of the festival, a whole range of people with an interest in supporting young carers were invited to join festival goers. Thus, we can understand their needs better and we can hopefully act on them effectively.

We witnessed the theatre forum at which some young carers acted out scenarios to create discussion points. The first scene was how not to do things! This was then repeated and the audience were asked to raise a hand if they could think of a better way of dealing with the issue at hand. One scenario was a classroom where the teacher strategies needed changing and the other was the home of a carers whose friends were not very supportive.The second run brought lots of great suggestions for us all to share and think on!

With the Carers (Scotland) Act regulations coming forward this year, it was really useful to hear the comments at the political speed dating session though quite shameful how some of the issues were being raised the first time I attended the festival 5 years ago!

Some of the issues I will take up are:

  • the initial training of teachers should include a focus on young carers
  • a young carers’ bus pass
  • transport to young carers groups

As a co-convenor of the Scottish Parliament I look forward to welcoming young carers to a meeting half way between now and the next festival to see how we addressing the issues that matter to young carers.

I recently added my support to the following motion:

Motion S5M-00948: Brian Whittle, South Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 05/08/2016
Scottish Young Carers Festival
That the Parliament recognises the Scottish Young Carers Festival, which ran from 2 to 4 August 2016; notes this highly important festival, which allows nearly 700 young carers to come together and discuss issues that are important to them, provides them with a platform to speak to MSPs, councillors and officials, allows them to have a break from their caring responsibilities and to take part in fun activities; notes the huge contribution that young carers make to Scottish society; recognises that caring responsibilities can affect a young person emotionally, physically, socially, educationally and financially; recognises that young carers can go unnoticed or unrecognised until there is a crisis; notes that there are 759,000 carers aged 16 and over in Scotland and 29,000 young carers; recognises that three out of five people will become carers at some point in their lives and one in 10 is already fulfilling some sort of caring role; notes the valuable work of Carers Trust Scotland, which reaches around 30,000 adult carers and 2,400 young carers from all groups and communities with its network of independent carers centres and young carers services; commends the work of all carers in Scotland, and aims to do more to support them.
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Sun Amp visit

OutsideI was delighted to visit Sun Amp, an exciting and ground-breaking renewable energy company based in East Lothian, along with my colleague Iain Gray MSP.

We met with a number of the staff, including the Chief Executive, Andrew Bissell and Chief Operating Officer Susan Lang-Bissell, to discuss the company’s work so far in developing energy efficient heat batteries and how they see the company moving forward.

We also learned about the exciting project Sun Amp has taken part in with two housing associations in the East Lothian and Edinburgh Area. They have provided 766 batteries to 650 Housing Association properties in order for them to meet their energy efficiency targets. This has saved each tenant on average £160 a year.Upright

Andrew and his team showed us the warehouse where the product is completed, based in Macmerry, East Lothian. He also let us know about their plans for the future in order to expand the business and develop the technology further.

From an environmental prospective I found it really encouraging to learn more about this company which is a pioneer within the heat sector of renewable energy. Energy supply is the highest emitter of Greenhouse gases and Sun Amps technology is contributing to tackle this for the future of our planet.

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Enjoying local wildlife

Ready for the night ahead

Ready for the night ahead

I had a fantastic time camping out for RSPB’s Big Wild Sleepout. Time took on a different dimension as my partner Michael and I watched house martins in the twilight, then bats taking their place in the sky search for insects.

In your garden, or a friend’s, get to know your local wildlife this summer!




The tent springing to life!

The tent springing to life!

Early morning view lying in the tent

Early morning view lying in the tent

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RSPB Big Wild Sleepout

RSPBlogoThis weekend the RSPB are encouraging people in Scotland to camp out in their gardens for the fourth annual Big Wild Sleepout. It’s an opportunity to spot some wildlife we normally miss, as many creatures in the UK are nocturnal. With the warmer weather, campers might be lucky enough to spot owls, bats, insects and even hedgehogs.

This is a fantastic idea for families to have an adventure and do something a little different. On the RSPB website they are offering wildlife spotting tips, outdoor recipes, and fun games for the night, as well as camping tips and instructions.

I will be taking part this weekend, and think it would be a fantastic idea for all. More information can be found here.

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