Holyrood Dog of the Year!

DSC_0018 (002)I am very excited to have the opportunity on the 8th of May to take part in Holyrood Dog of the Year competition, organised by The Kennel Club and The Dogs Trust. I will be joined by my beloved dog Roujan in the Scottish Parliament Park and we will show them why he is so special.

Our family dog has a very unique story to tell. We were on holiday in the South of France around 8 years ago when we discovered Roujan at the side of the road, very badly injured as he had been knocked over. We couldn’t just leave him there, so we took him to the vet who managed to save him. After a while in France recovering, no one claimed him so we brought him home to Scotland where he has been happy ever since.

Roujan is such a loving and resilient dog who is very loyal and brave with lots of determination. He hasn’t had an easy life. A few years ago he was attacked by another dog which has resulted in his still very cute but lopsided nose.

As well as the event on the 8th of May you have the opportunity to vote for Roujan to be voted top “Pawlitical Dog” here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HDOTY2017




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Cycling will reduce heart disease

Cycling 1 WebA five-year study, based in Glasgow and published in the British Medical Journal surveyed 250,000 UK commuters showed cycling and walking had benefits to your likely hood of cancer and heart disease over sitting on public transport or taking the car.

The team who conducted research in Glasgow said cycling took no willpower once it became part of the work routine – unlike going to the gym.


The five-year study compared people who had an “active” commute with those who were mostly stationary.  Overall, 2,430 of those studied died, 3,748 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,110 had heart  problems.

But, during the course of the study, regular cycling cut the risk of death from any cause by 41%, the incidence of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46%. The cyclists clocked an average of 30 miles per week, but the further they cycled the greater the health boon.

Statistics also show that obesity costs the NHS millions every year.

In 2014, 65% of adults aged 16 and over were overweight, including 28% who were obese, and the Scottish Government estimated physical inactivity contributed nearly 2,500 deaths in Scotland, and a cost of £91 million per year.  If we continue to cycle and keep active, we will reduce the amount of money that the NHS spend on obesity which can then be spent elsewhere.

Cycling will also reduce the number of cars on the road and will be therefore less air pollution – another serious health issue that costs the NHS £1.1billion a year.

I have a bike of my own and cycle to the parliament on a regular basis. I am also the co-convenor of the Cross Party Group for Cycling, Walking and Buses and will continue to promote cycling within the South of Scotland.

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Fracking Ban Update

dreamstime_xl_20822603Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit to my consultation on my proposal to ban “fracking”. The results of my public consultation have now been processed, and 87% of the 1067 respondents were in favour of a ban. I am delighted with this overwhelming support.


My final proposal for a bill to prohibit the onshore extraction of unconventional oil and gas has now been formally lodged, and I will move on with the next step of the process.

The climate science is irrefutable. Scotland does not need a new fossil fuel as we shift towards a low carbon economy. Most respondees argued that we should be focussing on the development of jobs in the renewables industries.

Many are also concerned about the potential health implications of unconventional oil and gas extraction.





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Working poverty hits its highest level since devolution

xShocking failure from the Scottish Government – working poverty in Scotland is at its highest level since devolution.

Since 2007 the number of households in poverty where at least one adult works has increased by 150,000 to 420,000.

That’s a failure of the SNP in government, and a sign of a broken economy.

Why isn’t a job enough to keep people above the breadline in Scotland today?

This is unacceptable. So here is what Labour would do to change that:
Use the social security powers

We’d increase Child Benefit by £240 by 2020 and ensure that £2 billion worth of unclaimed payments like tax credits and housing benefit go to the people who are entitled to them. Increasing Child Benefit would lift around tens of thousands of children out of poverty, according to expert groups like the Child Poverty Action Group.

Make work pay

While the SNP dishes out millions of pounds in taxpayer funded grants to companies like Amazon, Labour will ensure that no business receives a public contract or taxpayer grant without guaranteeing to pay the real living wage.

We’ll work to extend the real living wage into the jobs where it needs to be: low paid industries like hospitality and retail.

Tackle the cost of living

A decade on from promising to the scrap the council tax, all the SNP has done is scrap the council tax freeze.

Labour would abolish the council tax and replace it with a fairer system where 80% of households would pay less.

We would move towards more flexible childcare, starting with a breakfast club in every school.

And we would take back control of public transport, meaning we could freeze or even cut fares on our trains and buses.

Invest for the long term

We’ll only end working poverty for good if we give our people the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future.

That means investing in education with more resources in our schools and fairer bursaries for our students.

We would reform our schools system to tilt the balance away from the richest and towards the rest.

And we’ll future proof our economy to take steps towards coding being as vital in our classrooms as literacy and numeracy.

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Borders Care Voice Annual Meeting


Annually I am asked to attend the Borders Care Voice carers forum to meet with carers and members of the organisation to answer any questions they may have. As always it was a pleasure to attend this year on Monday of this week.

I was joined on the panel discussion by my colleagues Rachel Hamilton MSP and Christine Graham MSP.  A wide range of topics were covered from Brexit to the new welfare powers that are being devolved to Scotland.  Mental health and supporting mental health services was a continuous thread throughout the discussion, which you may already know is an area I am always keen to support.

As a co-convener on the Cross Party Group on Carers, I enjoy taking part in this discussion and hearing from the people who live these experiences day in day out. I am looking forward to being invited back next year.


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Tesco Bags of Help Scheme

Tesco has recently been in touch to ask me to let people in the Clydesdale area know that they are looking for applications for their Bags of Help scheme.

This scheme, in conjunction with Greenspace Scotland, uses the 5p bag charge to fund capital and revenue projects to benefit the community. Lots of different organisations can apply from community and voluntary organisations to schools, social housing providers, health bodies and local authorities. This list isn’t exhaustive and many other types of groups can be considered.

Projects will be awarded on a bi-monthly basis and will be decided by people voting in their local store.  For more information, please go onto http://greenspacescotland.org.uk/bags-of-help.aspx

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Marie Curie Collection.

IMG_3704This morning, alongside Councillor Lynsey Hamilton I was delighted to take part in a collection in Tesco Carluke for Marie Curie.

The Great Daffodil Appeal is Marie Curie’s biggest annual fundraising campaign and they are asking people to simply give a donation and wear a Marie Curie daffodil pin. All funds raised help Marie Curie Nurses support people living with a terminal illness in their own homes or at the charity’s two Scottish hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

I was delighted to help out such an important charity who provide vital support in the local community for those with long term illnesses and their families. I would like to say thank you to all the people who donated during our collection, the support shown was fantastic.

There are plenty of ways in which you can donate to the appeal. You can go onto the website at www.mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil or call 0800 304 7025. To donate £5, text DAFF to 70111*

*Texts cost £5 plus your standard network rate. 98% of your donation is received by Marie Curie

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Big Garden Bird Watch Results.

top_10_3As you may remember a few months ago I did a blog on the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I am delighted to see that the results are now in and have been published on the RSPB website.

This year I was pleased to take part in this annual event on the weekend of the 28th-30th of January. It got me out in the garden and made me appreciate the amount of different birds you can see in your area.

Not surprisingly the house sparrow and the starling were the top two birds spotted this year throughout the UK. Interestingly however, there was an increase in the numbers of birds visiting gardens with 10% more starlings been seen this year to last.

The RSPB are trying to encourage people to “give nature a home” and bring it into their gardens. The RSPB report that people feeding birds in their garden and putting up nesting boxes are having a positive effect. I would like to thank everyone for taking part in the Big Garden Bird Watch this year and encourage you to continue taking an interest in the wonderful nature around us.



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World Earth Hour

EDINBURGH, UK - 9th March 2017: MSP's back WWF's Earth Hour which takes place on Saturday 25th March at 8:30pm. Now celebrating it's 10th year Earth Hour brings together people all across the world who will be switching out their lights for one hour to show their support for action on climate change and for a more sustainable future. (Photograph: MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY) For more information please contact Mandy Carter at WWF Scotland on 0131 659 9026.

Saturday (25th of March) from 8:30-9:30pm, is World Earth Hour. On this day people from around the world will switch off their lights to show that they are committed to change. An hour may not seem much but it will make a huge difference to our planet for action on climate change.

Climate change poses a fundamental threat to everything we love. Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and new and more frequent weather extremes will leave no continent untouched. Impacts are already being felt by many communities and ecosystems worldwide. Water supplies are shrinking, crop yields are dropping, forests are burning, and our oceans are becoming more acidic. This has huge implications for our livelihoods and human security.

Last week in the Scottish Parliament I spoke on the Draft Climate Change Plan. I highlighted the importance of getting this right as it will be our proposals and polices until 2032.  By then children in primary 1 will be in early adulthood so this really is about protecting our planet for future generations.

We must ensure that they can benefit from warm homes and green spaces in urban communities.  We need to promote good, integrated public transport to reduce our reliance on cars. We need to provide safe cycling and walking routes and so must more.

Through a combination of changes and proper monitoring of the Plan, we can lower our greenhouse gas emissions. This will protect our communities against flooding, protect our coastal communities and our marine environment. It will also help build on the 21 thousand jobs that already exist in Scotland’s renewables sector and create more manufacturing and sustainable fisheries jobs.

Switch off your lights during earth hour. You can find more information about Earth Hour and sign up here

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Britain remains an open and tolerant nation

My thoughts are with those affected by the dreadful events, and I thank the police and emergency services for their bravery. After the horrible attack outside Westminster this week, our message to terrorists must be that Britain remains an open and tolerant nation. We will remain true to our values of solidarity and tolerance.
At First Minister’s Questions today, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:

“No matter the religion, nationality or identity of the attacker, this cannot and must not turn into a war on any one community. Bringing people together must be part of the solution to tackling terror, rather than creating further division within communities.

We must send a strong message that Britain remains an open and tolerant nation that is home to people of all faiths and nationalities. The best message we can send following this terrorist attack is that we will remain true to the values of tolerance and integration, freedom and solidarity.

“Our Houses of Parliament are a beacon of democracy for so many around the world. They represent freedom, tolerance and the rule of law. But Westminster is also a place of work for cleaners, catering staff, janitors, police officers, administrators and many more.

Many public servants all across Britain are going to work today concerned about the safety of others – including police officers, nurses and teachers. It’s essential that everything that can be done is being done to ensure the safety of public servants.” 

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