International Women’s Day

iwdToday, the 8th of March, marks International Women’s Day throughout the world. Over the years this day has been a very important catalyst in driving forward the agenda for gender parity and it is well known and marked throughout the world.

 To mark the day this year I am looking forward to attending the STUC’s annual women’s dinner in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday evening. I am sure, as always I will meet lots of interesting and inspirational women from all over Scotland.

This year the theme for the day is #beboldforchange.  The theme highlights that each and every one of us can be a leader in our own way and within our own organisations to make a change which can lead to gender equality. We just need to be bold in the way we go about it!

Proud to work with my all female team of staff

Proud to work with my all female team of staff

It has been predicted that the gender gap will not close entirely until 2186 if we keep going the way we are. This is not acceptable in this day and age. In the UK we have grown a lot in the past and there are many examples of how women have become more equal to men. However, there are statistics that never fail to shock me, for example, last Friday saw the first day the average women would have got paid the same as the average man. This is because women in 2017 still get paid, on average, 18% less than a man. This equates to 66 days a year and in some key industries women have to wait to April or even May for their Women’s Pay Day.

With spinners and weavers on IWD

 Spinners and weavers with cross party support on IWD

I am very grateful every year for International Women’s Day. Throughout the year, in everything I do, I do my best to fight for women’s rights. However, International Women’s Day just gives me that reminder that there is so much more that needs to be and can be done. It has given me the motivation I need to be bolder and fight harder for what I believe in.


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Fairtrade Fortnight

Fairtrade FortnightEvery year at this time I celebrate Fairtrade fortnight, whether it is holding coffee mornings or going on visits to meet Fairtrade farmers who have come over to Scotland to tell their story, my celebrations are always wide and varied.

I do my bit during the year, whether it is always using Fairtrade produce or making sure I promote it in Parliament and my region where I can.  It is amazing the amount of Fairtrade produce that is now easily available which we can all check out during Fairtrade fortnight.

Throughout the world, millions of farmers in developing countries are not paid what they deserve for their produce. It is easy to forget, when in the supermarket, where the products we are buying comes from. Fairtrade Fortnight is there to change this; there to give the people who are marginalised a voice to change their lives for the better.



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Ending the gender pay gap matters


The Scottish Parliament’s inquiry, by the Economy, Job and Fair Work Committee, into the gender pay gap in Scotland is asking for your contribution.

As part of their evidence taking the Committee is asking everyone to submit a selfie stating why ending the gender pay gap matters. You have until Friday 10 March 2017 to get your submission in.

The inquiry will look at ‘Why there is a gender pay gap?’.  This includes looking at how the gender pay gap is defined and measured, in what sectors the pay gap exists and how to reduce the gender pay gap.

 I’ve submitted my own selfie stating that women’s contribution to the economy still isn’t recognised equally after years of fighting.  Our pay must be equal and it’s our legal right.

It’s not just about pay; pension inequality is another example of the discrimination women face in the workplace.

Unfair changes to the state pension age imposed on women born in the 1950’s mean that many are left with their working life extended from 60 to 65 with very little notice.

Those who have plans to retire on their original date will be left without a state pension for a number of years.  This is not a dilemma faced by men.

Send your selfie!

Gender Pay Gap

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Eating Disorder Week

This week has been Eating Disorder Week, time to work to raise awareness of serious mental illnesses that can cause someone to change their eating habits and behaviours.


2017’s theme is early intervention – highlighting the importance of getting people into treatment as quickly as possible, both when someone first develops an eating disorder and in the case of relapse.

GPs, friends and family all play a vital role in helping to get people into treatment as quickly as possible. Recovery from an eating disorder is always possible and a person’s chance of making a full and sustained recovery is greater with the support of professionals and friends and family. Early intervention addresses the thoughts and feelings that are the root cause of the original eating disorder.

B-eat’s new Tips campaign aims to draw attention to the first warning signs of eating disorders which in the long run will reduce the number of people who suffer from eating disorders. It is so important that everyone is able to recognise the first warning signs of an eating disorder which are likely be psychological or relate to the person’s behaviour. Early spotting can help the person get treatment before physical symptoms emerge leading to an eating disorder.

You can find more information here.

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New Lanark Mill Hotel wins Prestige Award

Congratulations to New Lanark Mill Hotel on winning the Prestige Hotel Award for Front of House Team of the Year.

New Lanark Mill Award

The awards established to showcase outstanding service in the industry are voted for by the public.  Those shortlisted in each category are then independently judged by mystery shoppers.When something is voted for by the public it’s all the more valuable.  The public have high standards and the New Lanark Mill Hotel can take great pride in the fact their Front of House Team has been recognised.

The World Heritage Site is a popular attraction for locals and tourists. To know that the Hotel is providing a warm welcome and service that clearly stands out is a great asset to the area.

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Lockhart Hospital Meeting

Lockhart meeting

This is an opportunity for people to ask questions and find out what NHS Lanarkshire’s intentions are for the Lockhart. Once people have heard what progress is being made to get this facility back into our community, they will be able to assess if they judge there to be enough progress being made. I look forward to hearing residents’ views from across our communities.

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Purple Friday

Group MSP PhotoThis February is LBGT History month, and today we are celebrating #PurpleFriday. This is a time to highlight the contribution that LBGTI people have made to their local communities and culture across Scotland. However, it is also a time to reflect on what changes are yet to be made. There is still progress to be made –  changing people’s attitudes in society, improving LBGTI young people’s life experiences and much more.

In a survey which conducted research with LGBT+ young people from across Scotland, almost 70% said that they had experienced homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying in school. These issues, particularly in schools, can have a  huge impact on LGBTI young people and can lead to suicide in some cases. Furthermore, 69.2% of those who had experienced transphobic bullying consider themselves to have a mental health problem.

The work that LGBT Youth Scotland does is amazing. It provides lifesaving and life changing youth work across Scotland. I am proud as a Labour MSP to help stand up against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia this Purple Friday by wearing my purple ribbon.

You can find more information about LBGT Youth Scotland here.

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Chinese New Year

A Chinese rooster I gave to my grandson

A Chinese rooster I gave to my grandson

On Wednesday the 25th of January, Mary Fee MSP and I attended the Chinese New Year reception at the Usher Hall. Mary is Convenor of the Cross Party Group on China. This year is the year of the Chinese rooster – people born in the Year of the Rooster are said to be hardworking, strong-willed and confident.

The night was very successful and was kicked off by Lord Provost of Edinburgh Consul and General giving the welcoming remarks, followed by a speech from the Chinese Consul General.

Before our magnificent dinner we were also invited to the Chinese New Year concert which had a mixture of East and West cultures of China, and wonderful singers and dancers.

I also sit on the CPG for China and I understand how much of a benefit China is to us here in Scotland. I look forward to working alongside everyone on the CPG.

Reece Harding, who is doing an internship at my parliamentary office, had the opportunity to visit China in April last year along with 15 other young people from across South Lanarkshire. The trip was organised by Universal Connections and The Chinese Confucius Hub. They all spent two years fundraising to go this once in a lifetime trip. Reece added ‘The 2 weeks I spent in China was amazing! I travelled between Beijing and Tianjin. I had the opportunity to visit schools, spend a day with a Chinese family, walk the Great wall and much more. One of the most interesting parts for me must have been spending the day with a Chinese family. Chinese families are very traditional in the fact that they do everything together and it was great to see the contrast between Scottish and Chinese families. I even got to teach them some Ceilidh dancing’.


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Show Racism the Red Card commends Anna Signeul

show racism the Red Card 2017A ceremony in the Scottish Parliament recently saw Anna Signeul inducted into the Show Racism the Red Card Hall of Fame. Anna Signeul is the Head Coach of the Scottish Women’s Football team, and was commended for her outstanding efforts in teaching young people about discrimination.

She has supported the Show Racism the Red Card campaign through events held for young people at Hampden Park,  and educating them about the importance of non-discriminatory behaviour towards people because of their skin colour, nationality, culture or religion.

This work is commendable, and it was excellent to join members of the football team to celebrate Anna’s achievements. By having open and frank discussions about discrimination at an early age, we can prevent dangerous attitudes and behaviours and help keep racism out of sporting events.


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Who Cares? Scotland

Who Cares? Scotland are raising awareness today for young people who have experienced being in care.  Today is a celebration of their identity, successes and the relationships they have built.  Today also recognises the commitment of the Scottish Parliament to improve outcomes for care experienced individuals.

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