Exam Results Helpline

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has a *free helpline offering advice, information and support for young people and their parents. The helpline will be open from 8am to 8pm on 9 and 10 August and from 9am to 5pm until 17 August. The number to call is 0808 100 8000

Qualified Careers Advisers are on hand to help and have unique access to information on UCAS course vacancies at UK colleges and universities, confirmation and clearing, advice about Modern and Foundation Apprenticeships and employment or volunteering.

Post-results information for pupils and parents is also available at myworldofwork.co.uk. There’s also information about Modern Apprenticeships and Foundation Apprenticeships, at apprenticeships.scot. Foundation Apprenticeships help young people gain valuable, real-world work experience and access work-based learning while they are still at school.

Students can also access help, advice and support via My World of Work’s Facebook page which has practical help and links to UCASSAASYoung Scot and the SQA

 

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Fair Hospitality

The hospitality sector contributes billions to the Scottish economy every year and yet it’s workers are the lowest paid and least contractually secure in our economy. The median income of workers in the hotels industry, for example, is 50p less than the Minimum Wage at only £7 per hour.

Fair Hospitality is the campaign to improve conditions alongside workers within the hospitality industry. Their aim will be to provide hospitality workers with the legal knowledge, the organising skills and collective confidence to transform their workplace and ultimately re-build a collective bargaining framework for the industry.

Earlier in the summer I attended a drop in event in the parliament where I showed my support to the campaign. As the MSP for South Scotland, I strongly believe that everyone should be paid a fair wage no matter what their occupation is. This is why I will work hard to ensure that those who work in the hospitality industry get paid a fair wage.

If you would like more information on the campaign I would direct you to their website here.

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SNP drag their heels over welfare power transfer to Scotland

The SNP have asked the UK Government to retain welfare powers until 2020. This means 128,000 disabled Scots will have to go through the cruel PIP assessments. The Scottish Government now has wide ranging powers over social security thanks to the 2016 Scotland Act – the post-referendum Vow delivered in full. It’s an opportunity to build a social security system that is there for all of us in our time of need, and it means that these assessments can be scrapped in Scotland. Scottish Labour has more radical plans than any other party for social security, such as:

  • Halting the roll-out of Universal Credit
  • Kicking the private sector out of the welfare system
  • Increasing Child Benefit by £240 a year by 2020
  • Increasing the take-up of tax credits and housing benefit to ensure everyone gets what they are entitled to

Read more here – http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/blog/entry/snps-welfare-powers-delay-will-punish-130000-disabledscots

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Carstairs Post Office

The Post Office is looking for your views on changes to Carstairs Post Office.

A number of branches are being modernised by the Post Office and one of these is the Carstairs facility in the local McColls shop.

They want to hear what’s important to you.  They welcome any feedback but specifically on why you use the post office, what you like about it, views on the proposed extended opening times (Monday to Sunday 07:00 to 22:00) and the access and the queuing area.

Find the online questionnaire at www.postofficeviews.co.uk

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Comma butterflies in Scotland

Photo by Woodland Trust

The comma butterfly is an orange and brown butterfly with a small white comma-like shape on each wing. It was previously only found in south east England and Wales, but in the last 40 years its population has flourished further north.

The comma has been spotted in many parts of my region, across the Scottish Borders and Lothians, and as far north as Inverness. For the first time ever, the comma was spotted in East Lothian at Pressmennan Wood. The comma has adapted to changing landscapes – once associated with the hop plant, it now specialises on the stinging nettle, which is commonly found across the country. Warmer temperatures from climate change has also driven the comma further north.

It is always a delight to see a butterfly in the wild. I am the Species Champion for the Forester Moth – an exquisite emerald green moth that can be found in parts of Scotland (if you are luckier than me!)

Until the 6th August, you can help contribute to the world’s largest butterfly survey – the Big Butterfly Count. All it takes is to pick a sunny spot outside for 15 minutes, and note any butterflies you see.

Check out www.bigbutterflycount.org for more information.

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Our Missing Peace

Our Missing Peace is a campaign based in Renfrewshire, which aims to break the silence around child loss while supporting the family members who have been affected by the death.

The campaign has supported over 500 families who have suffered from a loss. I couldn’t start to imagine what these families must go through. This is why I am proud to support the campaign and wear their badge.

No one should be ashamed of a child loss. The badge is a way of telling the world we people are dealing with child loss. It is a way of taking back control of conversations. A way of not feeling like people have to lie about their lives.  It is a way of creating a community and it is a way of breaking down the walls of isolation that surround us. 

If you would like more information on the campaign please visit their website.

 

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Safe cycling routes – We should do it too!

Leaving home for Amsterdam to check out the traffic arrangements for cyclists there, my partner Michael and I saw a van parked on the small rural road near our house in Clydesdale. Near it was a man with a red flag – this was not the red flag resulting from the Red Flag Act of Victorian times, through which any motor vehicle had to be preceded by a red flag.

As we found out, it was to slow us down because the finish line for a women’s cycling road race was up ahead. This felt like a fortuitous,  encouraging sign for our research adventure. Indeed a mere quarter of an hour elapsed before the winning cyclist Julie Fitzpatrick passed the checkered flag!

A couple of days and a Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry trip later, we were heading from the port to the city. Along our route was my first sight of a parallel cycling route linking the two.

The next morning we were hiring bikes to  check out one of the world’s best cycling cities.


As a Co-conveyor of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group for Cycling Walking and Buses, and having been involved in developing safer cycling in Scotland in the last parliamentary session, I was determined to experience this myself. Now here I was!

The experience of going from the suburbs where we were staying near Erasmus Park  into the city and on to the museum area and back was magical!

We went along segregated on road cycle routes which flowed into narrow roads parallel to canals and then on through two parks to reach our destination. Once we grasped the traffic protocols for such things as junctions and for traffic direction on the on road segregated cycle lanes, we felt safe and empowered as equal road users with both motors vehicles and pedestrians.

 

 

 

 

I will return to Scotland understanding how well this can work and inspired to inform and galvanise those in my own party and other parties, Government and councils to grasp the opportunities to plan and budget  for change here. It will be to the benefit of all travellers!

     Let’s make it happen!

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Plastic pollution in our seas

Greenpeace campaigners outside the Scottish Parliament deliver 124 bottles of small pieces of plastic from Scottish beaches to MSP Claudia Beamish and an artwork made by artist Mandy Barker, created from marine plastic waste found during the Greenpeace campaign.

Greenpeace visited the Scottish Parliament recently to continue their campaign for a Deposit Return Scheme to stop plastic pollution getting into our marine environment.

A team from Greenpeace travelled around the Scottish coast in the Beluga II documenting the impact of plastic pollution on iconic Scottish wildlife such as seabirds and basking sharks, conducting remote beach surveys and taking samples of seawater in key feeding grounds to analyse plastic pollution. The team told me seeing the reality of how much plastic gets into our marine environment was shocking.

To commemorate the expedition I was given a small glass vial full of small bits of plastic that they found on the voyage. Although it is little bits of plastic rubbish, it is a lovely way of reminding me of our globally significant marine life and the serious need to clean up our seas.

Scottish Labour supports the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme in Scotland. This would add a small upfront charge to bottles sold, that will be returned to the customer when they bring the container back for recycling or reuse. I am mindful that there will need to be serious consideration given to exemptions and special circumstances, but this is an exciting policy that has shown real success in tackling littering in other countries around the world.

 

 

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Kez Dugdale responds to Brexit Bill

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale today said Labour will not support the Tories’ EU Withdrawal Bill unless there is a ‘clear presumption of devolution’.

Ms Dugdale said the Tories are intent on forcing through a Brexit that risks jobs and livelihoods, and the SNP has no interest in the deal that works for the entire UK, meaning only Labour is committed to an alternative to Theresa May’s Brexit plans.

Ms Dugdale this week met with Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Exiting the European Union, Keir Starmer, in London.

Commenting on the publication of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said:
“This Bill may have changed name yet again, but that can’t disguise Theresa May’s attempt to force a Brexit on the UK that risks jobs and livelihoods.
“Labour believes there should be a jobs-first Brexit; not one that allows the Tories to erode workplace rights, consumer rights or environmental standards.
“Labour will seek a clear and binding commitment to repatriate powers in devolved areas to the Scottish Parliament. We will insist this must be done in a short, but achievable timeframe.
“If there is not a clear presumption of devolution, as well as the other demands set out by Keir Starmer, Labour has been clear that our MPs will not support this Bill in the Commons.
“It is my firm belief that we must not lose sight of the potential to strengthen the powers of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies or the regions of England as part of a more federal United Kingdom.
“The Bill must also set out an acceptable financial settlement to accompany the newly devolved powers, as the Tories cannot be allowed to simply inflict further austerity on UK nations and regions.
“The SNP has absolutely no interest in a Brexit deal that works for the entire UK, and it’s now fundamentally clear that Labour is the only party committed to an alternative to Theresa May’s Brexit that will deliver for the many, not the few.”

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Labour pledged to increase minimum wage to £10 an hour.

Scottish Labour will increase the statutory minimum wage currently at £7.50 per hour to £10 and scrap the lower youth rate of £5.60 an hour for those aged 18-20, and £7.05 for 21-24 year olds, in favour of a single £10 rate.

I am proud of our commitment to ensuring this increase.  Being in work doesn’t always mean people have enough to live on.

Scottish Government statistics show that 129,000 people between the ages of 18 and 24 earned less than £8.25 last year. Increasing the minimum wage would give at least 130,000 young Scots a pay rise.

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