Positive about dyslexia

I am delighted to be supporting Dyslexia Awareness Week 2017. As someone on the Dyslexia Spectrum I understand how much it can affect everyday life.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the awareness campaign and exhibition in the Scottish Parliament this week.

Dyslexia Scotland said:
“We are positive about the skills and talents of children and adults with dyslexia.

We are positive that with the right support, children and adults with dyslexia can reach their full potential.

We are positive that children and adults with dyslexia can be successful in education, work and life.

We are working to help turn the negatives into positives. We are #positiveaboutdyslexia “






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Successes of Local Apprentices

Scotland’s annual Apprenticeship Awards are fast approaching and I’m delighted to learn about finalists that have been shortlisted in my region of South Scotland.

The awards will take place at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow on 16th November. This is the 16th year of the Awards, organised by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

The Awards demonstrate the importance that work-based learning makes to individuals, businesses and the Scottish economy. They have attracted a record breaking number of entries this year, with entries highlighting the outstanding commitment shown by apprentices and employers, family firms and national companies.

  • Ayrshire firm Braehead Foods has been chosen as one of the contenders in the Promoting Diversity Employer of the Year category. The Kilmarnock company has taken positive steps to promote equality and diversity across the business.
  • Spirit AeroSystems engineer Anna Manson is hoping for a win in the Apprentice Ambassador category. Monkton-based Anna helped raise awareness of apprenticeships during Scottish Apprenticeship Week in March.
  • Forestry company, BSW Timber Group, based in Earlston, has been chosen as one of the contenders in the Large Employer of the Year category of the Awards

Good luck to each of them!

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Kezia Dugdale MSP’s response to the First Minister’s Statement regarding an Apology to those convicted for same-sex sexual activity that is now legal.

Here is a link to a video of Kez’s response  : www.facebook.com/kezia.dugdalemsp/videos

“Presiding Officer, apologies in this place are often offered through gritted teeth and follow a period of acrimony where one party has actively pursued and proven a mistake or a flaw, a diversion or hidden truth, even a scandal.

This apology is very different. It’s offered with warmth and in the spirit of love and inclusion.

It takes a deep breath and a big heart to say sorry for mistakes of the past.

An even bigger heart when those errors are not your own.

So i offer the congratulations and gratitude of these benches to the government for stepping up and saying sorry today.

We are of course saying sorry to the men who have been arrested, charged and convicted of the crime of loving another man.

As we’ve heard already, homosexuality was only decriminalised in Scotland in 1980 and the law around sexual activity only equalised in 2001.

This matters because it affects men who are alive today. Men whose lives were destroyed by legislation which promoted fear and hate.

Laws that said the love of two men was unnatural, something other, something criminal, soothing wrong. Feeding intolerance and homophobia.

But it also matters to the those who loved and still miss the men who are no longer with us today.

Men who died with criminal records. Many who took their own lives because they could no longer bear the shame and isolation they faced. And our Scotland today, however proud we are of it, still sees gay men more likely to consider suicide. And Stonewall Scotland’s 2017 school report tells us that 1 in 4 young LGBT Scots have considered ending their own life. A truly shocking figure.

In my adult lifetime, the cause of the LGBT community has moved from fighting against homophobia and demanding human rights to fighting for inclusion and equal rights.

We should be proud of that journey but not complacent.

Proud of how far we’ve come from section 2a, through civil partnerships, equal marriage and adoption rights. The lifting of the ban on serving in the military and the introduction of hate crime legislation.

But we cannot risk complacency, and that’s why upholding and applying anti-discrimination laws is critical, ensuring the asylum system protects those fleeing violence, and sometimes death, those seeking refuge because of their sexuality.

And why we should wholeheartedly back the TIE campaign and their calls for a truly inclusive education system

Today is a landmark day in Scotland’s LGBT history. In apologising, the First Minister accepts that for Scotland to fulfil its vision of an inclusive future it must be at peace with its past.

This bill will bring that peace by pardoning all those men who were convicted of same sex sexual activity that is now legal. And I understand from the First Ministers statement that such a pardon will lead to the crucial formality of disregards – in other words, wiping the slate clean.

Clearing the criminal records of those convicted so that no such scars of history appear on documents like disclosure checks.

Presiding Officer, today we apologise to Scotland’s gay and bisexual men for criminalising their love of sex and their love for each other- but it’s worth reminding ourselves why the apology doesn’t apply to women.

The reality is that it has never been a crime for two women to be together.

The history books teach us that lawmakers did try, in fact the House of Commons passed an amendment in 1921 to make sex between two women illegal but it was rejected by the House of Lords – because they didn’t want ordinary women to know that such a thing existed.

Very often women had to pass as men to live their lives and if they were caught, they were sometimes convicted of fraud.

Most were not criminalised for their love of each other, but they were still punished.

They were both invisible and demeaned.

Ostracised from their communities and families.

Punished and painted out of history.

Yet through the year’s women and men, gay and straight. Intersex, trans and non-binary. Of all ethnicities and races. All faiths and none – have marched together. Demanding tolerance and respect with pride and passion.

That March has led us here today.

This apology is the product of their work. Their sweat and tears. And I thank them deeply and personally for it.

And crucially it allows our Scotland to take another step of progress, towards an equal and inclusive future for all.”

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Marie Curie – In South Scotland

Image result for marie curie cancer care daffodil

Marie Curie is here for people living with any terminal illness, and their families.

Through nurses, hospices and other services, they offer expert care, guidance and support to help people get the most from the time they have left.

In South Scotland* Around 22,500 people die each year. 18,000 of these people have a palliative care need. Source: nrscotland.gov.uk * In the NHS boards covered by this region

If you or someone you’re close to has a terminal illness, they’re here to support you. Call the Support Line free on 0800 090 2309, chat online with us or visit mariecurie.org.uk/help

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Active Travel Debate

I was very pleased to contribute to the debate earlier in the week on promoting active travel in Scotland. We all know there are significant health, environmental, and economic gains from getting people to be more active. and the easiest and cheapest way for individuals to achieve this is by increasing walking.

As Co-Convener of the Cross Party Group on Cycling, Walking and Buses, I take a keen interest in active travel and its integration with public transport, and the Cross Party Group on Rail is working on this too.

The Scottish Government motion rightly recognises the work that is taking place across communities and political parties to develop the active travel agenda.

For the places where we live and work, active travel is about more liveable communities, reduced congestion, better pedestrian access and cycling facilities, and more footfall in our town centres. For the environment, it is about better air quality, a modal shift away from cars and a reduction in vehicle emissions.

As the Spokesperson for Environment Climate Change and Land Reform, I understand there is still a lot of work to be done to encourage people to choose walking or cycling, but the recent debate puts us one more step ahead to becoming a more environmentally friendly nation.

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The Centenary of the Balfour Declaration

Today marks 100 years since the Balfour Declaration was made – a promise made by the Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to support “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The Declaration also committed that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

This morning I joined a number of others who were there to highlight the “Citizens’ Apology”  outside the Parliament. Together,  we mark this day, protest the British Government’s historic broken promise, and reaffirm the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group for Palestine’s   commitment to justice for Palestine.

The Cross Party Group for Palestine also hosted a Centenary reception, at  which Liz Lockhead and some very inspiring young people spoke.

I gave a short speech as one of the Co-Convenors which you can read below:


“Tonight we are here to commemorate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. To recognise the failure of that commitment by the British Government and to commit to action for future justice.

Balfour’s letter to Lord Rothchild 100 years ago tomorrow stated “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine  of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”


This was an unfulfilled, or broken promise on the part of the UK Government and subsequent UK Governments.

I want to pay tribute to Monica and Roger Spooner whose lead on the Balfour Project has highlighted the British failure to treat all sides fairly to so many people. Monica said in the Souvenir Programme for the Britain’s Broken promise – time for a new approach event held in Westminster Hall London last night. “We are discovering a vast network of people throughout the country who are equally committed to peace and justice for both Palestine and Israel.”

Last night, Emily Thornbury, Britain’s shadow foreign secretary, speaking in Westminster Hall, said “ I do not know whether the Foreign Secretary agrees with the Prime Minister about whether it is worth answering hypothetical questions, but as we mark the centenary of the vital step taken by a former British Foreign Secretary in recognition of Israeli statehood, I ask this Foreign Secretary how he believes he will be remembered in 100 years’ time. Will the Government in which he serves be remembered for recognising the statehood of the Palestinian people and taking a similarly vital step towards correcting an historic wrong? I can assure him that if the Government are not prepared to take that step, the next Labour Government will be.”

In many ways this is a sombre occasion. I have been to Gaza with The European Council for Palestinian Relations in 2012 And with my colleague John Finnie  Green Party MSP, we witnessed the  of occupation  and also saw the devastation caused by the recent disproportionate attack by the Israeli army.

The Palestinian Mission’s campaign is to “make it right.”

The Balfour Project calls on us all to “support Palestinians and Israelis in building a peaceful future based on equal rights, justice and security for all.” I respect both these calls.

This summer I went to an exhibition of Palestinian photography in the Tollcross Community Centre here in Edinburgh. One of those photos by Mohammed Asad comes to my mind recurrently. It is of an elderly Palestinian woman holding a key. The symbolism of that key will not be missed by anyone here tonight.

You have already heard from our Convenor Sandra White and will also hear from Co-Convenor Ross Greer. As convenors of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group for Palestine we welcome you here to the Scottish Parliament.

Tonight we reaffirm our commitment to justice for Palestine and its people wherever they may be!”

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Child Poverty Week

Continuing its Face Up to Child Poverty campaign, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s largest teaching union, is publicly reaffirming its commitment to highlighting the impact of poverty on education during Challenge Poverty Week this week.

Child poverty week reminds us that more needs to be done to help the most vulnerable in our community.

Poverty is an issue for many people in Scotland, in particular young people. Back in 2015 the Scottish Youth Parliament, which I actively support, ran a campaign on child poverty called ‘See it, change it’. More information about their campaign can be found here.

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Wear It Pink 2017

Please support Breast Cancer Now’s campaign if you can.

Wear It Pink 2017 Claudia with Colin Smyth MSP

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Gamekeepers Association

Myself and Alex Hogg (Chair person of the Gamekeepers Association

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association unites gamekeepers, stalkers, river and land ghillies, wildlife managers, and recreational sportsmen and women in one representative body. They aim to represent the members’ interests, highlighting the positive role they play in rural stewardship, species conservation, tourism and the economy, and defending them where their jobs or sport may be adversely affected.

I recently attended their exhibition in the Scottish Parliament, set up to raise awareness of the importance of gamekeepers in Scotland. Gamekeepers manage around 4.5 million hectares of land in Scotland, and most people only know about them through the media.

I was joined by Alex Hogg, Chairman of the Gamekeepers Association. He told me that 49/50 people have never heard of a gamekeeper. As spokesperson for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform I strongly believe that gamekeepers deserve more recognition than they currently do. Most people don’t understand their role and the importance of it and I would encourage as many of my constituents to find out more about them. You can visit their website where there is a wide range of information and some opportunities that you can get involved in.

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Bield care home closures

I am concerned by the Bield’s recent announcement that their facilities are closing, two of which are in my region, Langvout Court, Biggar and Millfield Gardens, Jedburgh.

This is a very stressful time for residents and their families and I am seeking clarity from both South Lanarkshire and Borders Councils as well as the Scottish Government on what the next steps will be.

I am also mindful of the uncertainty for care home workers who may be affected by this, I have contacted Unison to understand how this impacts them.

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