Middle East

I fully support Anas Sarwar’s comments at FMQs yesterday and the First Minister’s response.  I have also signed MSP Pauline McNeill’s motion. See details of both below.

From the Official Report 7 December 2017

Yesterday, President Donald Trump made the frankly dangerous decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It is now clear that under his leadership the US cannot be seen as an honest broker for peace and that, in fact, he is a threat to a just settlement, to a viable independent Palestinian state and to wider middle east peace. Will the First Minister add the voice of the Scottish Government, and urge the United Kingdom Government to add its voice, to the growing consensus in the international community, from the Pope, the United Nations secretary-general, the European Union and our NATO allies, including Germany, France and Turkey, in condemnation of President Trump’s decision? Will she resolve to work right across the UK in order to urge the international community, in our world of chaos, to make the case for middle east peace?

Yes, I will. I have already condemned Donald Trump’s decision on behalf of the Scottish Government and I am glad to see that, for once, the UK Government has also condemned that decision.

Let us remember that Jerusalem includes occupied Palestinian territory. The decision that Donald Trump took on Jerusalem was reckless, wrong and a real threat to peace in the middle east. That is why the decision has rightly been condemned across the international community.

The status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and ultimately, of course, Jerusalem should be the shared capital of the Israeli and Palestinian states. That is an important principle.

Yesterday’s decision, as I say, was reckless and wrong. It threatens peace in the middle east and it is incumbent on all of us to condemn that decision and to work even harder to secure peace in the middle east and, even at this late stage, to call on Donald Trump to think again.

Motion S5M-09446: Pauline McNeill, Glasgow, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/12/2017

That the Parliament is very concerned that President Trump has said that he recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; notes that this is despite East Jerusalem remaining occupied Palestinian territory; believes that this move destroys successive United States commitments that Jerusalem and its final status be decided by negotiation; understands that Pope Francis has called for the status quo in Jerusalem to be respected in line with UN resolutions; believes that Trump’s announcement contradicts the United States’ international commitments and historic foreign policy and expresses its deeps concern that this could damage that nation’s ability to play a constructive role in any initiative toward achieving a just and lasting peace; considers that this will contribute to the further destabilisation of the region, and believes that it will set back efforts to achieve a peaceful solution after decades of systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.

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Everyone Can Swim

Swimming is a sport for all and a sport for life. I am passionate about ensuring people of all ages and abilities can take advantage of the many benefits being able to swim can bring.

Swimming can help to keep our nation fit and healthy. By learning to swim children can raise their attainment level while adults reduce their risk of a stroke and other health problems. It also improves mental health and well-being, reducing stress and relieving tension.

Furthermore swimming can open up opportunities to many other sports like triathlon, diving, water polo and canoeing.

Here are some key facts about swimming took from the “Everyone Can Swim Manifesto”

  • More than 900,000 people in Scotland swim at least once a month
  • Over 100,000 children are learning to swim – a life skill which saves lives
  • As a gentle form of exercise swimming supports the inactive to become active
  • It promotes family fun and parent and child bonding in the local pool and on holiday
  • Swimming is an inclusive and equitable sport with opportunities for all

You can download the UK drowning prevention strategy by clicking here. The purpose of this strategy was to prevent accidental drowning fatalities in the UK by working in partnership to ensure consistent guidance for the safe enjoyment and management of activations in and around water.

I would also encourage you to visit the Everyone Can Swim YouTube channel where they post various videos about events they have held and interviews with professional swimmers.

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Small Business Saturday – Tempest Brew Co.

I was thrilled to visit Tempest Brewing Co in Tweedbank this year for Small Business Saturday on the events 5th year running. Small Business Saturday is a national campaign setup by the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) to support small businesses all over the UK. Tempest are not only a great Scottish Borders Start-up success story but an accredited living wage employer. The Tempest team are looking forward to the next stage in their brewing adventure as part of the proposed Tweedbank industrial complex regeneration. Their vision is to have their own purpose built Brewery building on the doorstep of Tweedbank Borders Rail Station.

I was so pleased to meet Annika and her husband Gavin who co-founded the Brewery which started from scratch using second hand equipment and has went to become the success they are today. Please check out their Website here: tempestbrewco.com

Annika explained to me how they are selling their brilliant multi award winning beers all over the UK and the World while supporting their 12 colleagues with the living wage. I wish Tempest all the very best in their future plans and thoroughly recommend you check them out.

While discussing the living wage Annika said “We are very proud of our living wage status, our staff are the core of what we do and their quality and enjoyment of life is important to us as is having a profitable and successful business in our view the two go hand in hand, we found the process of becoming accredited very simple and think that it not only ensures our staff have the pay they deserve but sends out the right message about the kind of business we are”.

Please remember, wherever and whatever you are shopping for this Christmas, shop locally where you can.

Tempest’s Bottling Machine


Myself and Annika Meiklejohn (co-owner and Director)

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16 Days of Activism

16 Days of Activism against gender based violence runs from 25 November until 10 December.  To mark this year’s campaign, I am displaying a banner and art work completed by women who have been supported by Women’s Aid South Lanarkshire and East Renfrewshire.

This unique and moving display represents the fear, despair and also hope women suffering domestic abuse experience.

It will be on display in my office window until 10 December so I hope you will take the opportunity to see it.

I’d also like to highlight the work of White Ribbon Scotland an organisation who involve men in working to end violence against women.  Men engaged in this campaign send a strong, clear message that violence against women will not be tolerated.

More on 16-days-action and whiteribbonscotland

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Remembering Jimmy Hood

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Jimmy Hood, who was our Labour MP for Clydesdale for so many years’ service. He was a compassionate and committed constituency MP, and very generous with his time.

His work on the Defence Select Committee and European Legislation Select Committee in the House of Commons was often challenging and perhaps not so well known as his commitment to the labour movement, from his earlier days as a miner and with the NUM, right through. He was a fine mentor to me and gave me much wise and kind advice.

I will be attending his funeral to pay my respects and will be writing more here about Jimmy in the near future. My thoughts are with his so special family who were such a support to him throughout his political career.

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Proposed Closure of RBS Branches

I have started a Petition calling for a halt to the proposed Closure of RBS branches in Clydesdale, Scottish Borders and Midlothian South at Biggar, Carnwath, Douglas, Duns, Eyemouth, Hawick, Jedburgh, Lesmahagow, Melrose, North Berwick, Penicuik, Selkirk and Strathaven.

The public bailed the Bank out and the public deserves better. RBS must engage fully with trade unions, staff, customers, communities and elected representatives, including the Scottish and UK Government, to ensure that local customers and workers are fully protected.

I’ve started this Petition as I am determined that as many branches are kept open as possible. I would encourage everyone one to sign it. There are many who rely on local facilities and these closures would be very detrimental to communities.

RBS assume that everyone is able to travel to get to a bank and this just isn’t the case. Internet banking is also not an alternative for many in rural areas where connections are poor. Face-to-face contact is necessary for many banking transactions such as discussions about mortgages and loans.

If any of these closures do go ahead, we need to know what provision will be made to ensure people have access to banking facilities through both ATMs and mobile branch banking to maintain these face-to-face discussions.

The impact this will have on staff would be devastating and is completely unacceptable. Unite the Union argues for a network of ‘regional banking’. Scottish Labour supports this position.

Please Sign and share the Petition with this link. RBS_CLOSURES_PETITION

Posted in Culture, Economy, Employment, Equal Opportunities, Farming, Health, Housing, Local Issues, Public Safety, Rural Affairs, Transport | Leave a comment

World AIDS Day

Today marks World AIDS Day. A day to remember the estimated 35 million people who have died globally from AIDS related illnesses. It also gives us time to reflect on Scotland’s HIV response and reinforce our commitment to reduce the number of new infections and ensure that those currently living with HIV are able to have a healthy and stigma free life.

It is estimated that there are currently around 5134 people living in Scotland who have been diagnosed HIV positive. I find it disappointing to learn that there are around 13% of people living in Scotland haven’t been tested and so, are unaware of their status. These statistics show that that there is still a lot of work to be done to raise awareness.

In support of World Aids Day I wore a red ribbon at First Ministers Questions yesterday.

Stigma affects everyone living with HIV and it can cause severe negative health and social problems. It continues to be a barrier to testing and we must all work together to eradicate it. As the MSP for South Scotland, I will send out a strong message that I will step up to the mark and take a leading role in the on-going effort to end HIV transmissions and HIV related stigma in Scotland

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British Red Cross, Flooding Support


The British Red Cross has vast experience of looking after people in flooded communities, and our volunteers all over Scotland are specially trained in a range of skills needed to support people and communities affected by flooding.

Emotional support: Our volunteers across Scotland are trained to provide emotional support, which means we provide care for those affected, often in rest centres that we establish, while the emergency services carry out their vital response work. For example, in December 2015 the Red Cross established a rest centre in Hawick for people who had been evacuated from flood-threatened homes.

Partnerships: The Red Cross has several emergency response partnerships in place that means we can offer swift and effective support to statutory services in times of crisis. For example, our partnership with Tesco means that when a major incident occurs, our volunteers can rapidly access food and other vital supplies from Tesco stores to bring relief to affected communities. This Emergency Agreement partnership is the only one of its kind in the UK.

Communications support: Many emergencies demand a co-ordinated, often large-scale, response – and we’re in a position to provide quick and robust support. Our emergency communications programme means we can keep in touch both with each other and statutory partners during emergencies of all scales.

British Red Cross resources for flood-threatened individuals and communities

As well as providing emotional, partnership and communications support, the British Red Cross also has a range of resources that can be used by flood-threatened individuals and communities:

Emergency app: Our unique app is free to download, and delivers real-time alerts, severe weather warnings and practical advice in an emergency. The app also allows users to tell others that they are safe and well.

Resources for schools: The British Red Cross website contains resources to be used in schools to teach children in flood-threatened areas how to prepare for and respond to flooding in their home.

Online advice: The British Red Cross website contains a range of information on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from flooding. www.redcross.org.uk


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Co-operative Party centenary banner

Last Friday I attended a gathering at New Lanark to celebrate a new banner created to mark the centenary of the Co-operative Party.  The Co-operative Party exists to promote co-operative working and was founded in 1917. As a Co-operative Party elected member, I was honoured to be one of the MSPs for New Lanark which has such a strong, historic connection with the co-operative movement through Robert Owen.

The banner is a beautiful depiction of the ethos of the co-op movement and the back of it shows people moving towards a future where wealth and power are shared. I believe that our economy would be better if people had more say in how companies are run.

There is more information on the banner centenary-banner

Back of banner

Claudia with Richard McCready, Political Officer, Cathy Peattie Chair, Iain Miller and other members of the Scottish Co-operative Party.


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Renewables in Scotland Conference

I recently had the opportunity to chair a fascinating conference with Scottish Policy Conferences on the topic of renewables in Scotland; funding, innovation, and the next steps for policy. Scottish Policy Conferences arrange speakers and discussions on a variety of topics, and it is always a pleasure to be asked to chair one of their events.

The discussion focussed on how to develop a resilient and flexible electricity network, giving consideration to issues of storage, demand-side response, and regulation. These are complex issues, and the speakers from SP Energy Networks, Logan Energy, Ofgem, and National Grid were all very illuminating in their expertise. There was also a speaker from the Scottish Government, who gave a very interesting presentation on the upcoming Energy Strategy. I will be involved in scrutinising the Strategy when it comes to Parliament to ensure a progressive and just energy mix for Scotland’s future.

If Scotland is to reach its renewable energy potential, we need to overcome the barriers to all scales and types of ownership in renewables.


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