YMCA Be Real research – body image and young people

YMCA logoYMCA have recently launched new research into investigating the impact of Body image anxiety on young people in the UK. The research is titled ‘Somebody Like Me’ and was carried on by YMCA on behalf of the Be Real Campaign who are founding partners. The Be Real Campaign is a UK wide campaign and seeks to change people’s attitudes towards their body image.

YMCA Scotland works with over 10,00 individual children and young people each week from all over Scotland. YMCA looks to bring social justice and peace to communities by empowering young people to be agents of change.

The Be Real Campaign conducted research with more than 2,000 young people between the ages of 11 and 16 years old, and more than 500 teachers.  It sought their thoughts and experiences of body confidence and body image anxieties. Some of the key findings were:

  • 52% of young people said they often worry about the way they look
  • 36% of young people said they would do whatever it took to look good
  • 76% of young people who learnt about body confidence in school said it made them feel more confident about themselves

These statistics clearly show that there is a massive issue with young people feeling confident about their body.  It also shows that giving young people the opportunity for open discussion and proper information on body image can have a big impact on improving body confidence.

You can download a copy of the Somebody Like Me research here.

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Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

smear-test-takes-5-minsIn a rather coincidental moment this week I received my letter in to go for my smear test and it just happens to be Cervical Cancer Prevention week. I was surprised to read this week that only 69.2% of women in Scotland are going to their smear test appointments. Meaning that 1 in 4 women are delaying or not attending this potentially lifesaving test.

Jo’s trust, the cervical cancer awareness charity, is using this week to improve the awareness of going for your smear test. With over 400 women in Scotland every year being diagnosed with Cervical Cancer it is worrying that the uptake of the smear test is at a 10-year low.

I know going for your smear test can be a daunting prospect however it could also save your life.  For more information visit www.jostrust.org.uk/smearforsmear


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Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day 2017Today we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, an annual day of remembrance that marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945.

Holocaust Memorial Day provides the opportunity for people around to world to remember the millions of people who were murdered during the Holocaust. We also remember the victims of other genocides the world has seen in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

These dark moments in history remind us of the dangers of discrimination, and the imperative that these acts are never permitted to happen again.

This year, the theme is “How can life go on?” It asks us to consider what happens after a genocide – how survivors, communities, and countries can adjust back to life. People will have to begin to try to come to terms with their trauma, and consider whether reconciliation and forgiveness is right for them. Questions of justice will have to be carefully considered. Communities will try to rebuild, and many may be displaced from their homes during the social upheaval that accompanies genocide.

These issues are complex, and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust notes that there are few known answers. It is so important that we remember the stories of the persecuted, both from throughout history and ongoing today. We can all take time on Holocaust Memorial Day to consider how we can stand against hate and discrimination in the future.

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Alcohol Focus

The charity Alcohol Focus has produced alarming statistics about the downside to Scotland’s relationship with alcohol. While most of us drink responsibly the impact alcohol abuse has on society is worrying.

Every week 22 Scots die from alcohol, 6 out of 10 violent crimes involve alcohol and 51,000 children live with a parent who has an alcohol problem.

The annual cost of alcohol harm across Scotland which includes health, social care, crime and productive capacity is at least £3.6 billion.

We all need to think about our own relationship with alcohol. Irresponsible drinking has far reaching consequences.

Alcohol harm affects not just the drinker but those around them; children, partners, friends, co-workers and the wider community.  Indeed, I was a young carer although I didn’t know it at the time due alcohol problems of a close family member.

‘Alcohol harm’ includes injury, chronic illness, assault, traffic incidents, workplace accidents, child neglect, partner abuse, relationship problems, anti-social behaviour, damaged property, the list goes on.  This is a problem for everyone in our communities. We are all affected even if it’s indirectly.

Scotland has to have a healthier relationship with alcohol so we can all enjoy the benefits that follow.  Better health, less pressure on our emergency services, safer communities, improved workplace productivity.

Alcohol Focus Scotland has produced a range of recommendations which will inform the Scottish Government’s strategy. What stood out for me was the need to raise awareness about the health and social problems caused by drinking too much and the earlier we can do this the better, also the need to ensure that there is timely access to quality treatment.

I would urge anyone with an alcohol problem or concerned about alcohol misuse to contact Drinkline on 08007314314.

There are more facts and figures at: http://www.alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk/alcohol-information/alcohol-facts-and-figures/

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Scottish Labours Local Government Commitments

Protect public servicesLast week Scottish Labour launched their vision for Local Government in Scotland. With the Local Government elections coming up in May, Scottish Labour have sent a clear message that we are the last thing standing between local communities and the SNP cuts. Scottish Labour are promising to overhaul the tax system in Scotland to make it fairer and more progressive for our local communities. This includes:

  • A 50p tax rate of income for the richest 1 per cent in society
  • Scrapping council tax and introducing a fairer system.
  • A basic rate of income tax 1p higher than that set by the UK Government.

The correct funding is vital to allow the local councils to provide the local services they do in South Scotland. From education to helping our elderly, all these services need protected. Throughout the next few months I am looking forward to helping the Labour candidates in South Scotland continue to fight for local services and against the damaging cuts the SNP Government are implementing.


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Big Garden Bird Watch

big-garden-birdwatch-2017-1Every year I take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird watch which this year runs from  the 28-30 of January. All the RSPB ask you to do is count the birds in your garden for an hour on one of those days and let them know what you have seen.

This exercise helps the RSPB build up a picture of the species of wildlife that are spread throughout the UK and what birds need help. Last year saw a massive amount of people take part in the weekend with over 519,000 people counting 8,262,662 birds. You could help encourage the birds to your garden by putting up bird feeders as I do. This will help birds find extra food when it is scarce, which will keep them healthy and happy all year round. For guidance on feeding birds properly please visit: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/read-and-learn/helping-birds/feeding/

If you would like to take part this year’s Big Garden Watch please apply for a pack at https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch.


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Supporting the TIE Campaign.

thD00T9PMSLast week the TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) campaign launched a national five point plan to tackle homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying in Scotland’s schools. They were asking all MSPs for their help by signing up to the campaign and  I was of course more than happy to do so.


I am saddened to see that LGBTI bullying is still such a big issue in this day and age. I was shocked to see the statistics that 90% of LGBTI people experience bulling at school and over a quarter attempt to commit suicide as a result. This is one of the main reasons why I think it is essential that the people that can help listen to the TIE Campaigns five pledges. Training Should be available to teachers and statistics should be recorded by local authorities of how many people are reporting LGBTI bullying in their schools. All this needs to be monitored. These are simple steps which could improve so many people’s lives on a daily basis.

I urge the people in power to support this with actions and not just words.



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Unclaimed social security payments

The Scottish Government must ensure more is done to raise awareness of social security entitlements.

Scots are missing out on £2 billion of social security payments according to new research. This includes unclaimed working or child tax credits, housing benefit, pension credit, carers allowance and council tax reduction.


Hundreds of thousands of Scots are missing out on support they are entitled to. Part of a fairer society is making sure that people know what help is available to them.


Labour last year won a parliamentary vote to ensure that the forthcoming Social Security Bill makes it a legal duty on the new Scottish Social Security Agency to maximise uptake of social security payments. We will continue to press for this requirement.


Times are financially tough enough without people missing out on benefit payments they are rightfully due.

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Scotland’s International Development Strategy – Parliamentary Debate

The first week back in the Scottish Parliament saw a debate on the Scottish Government’s new international development strategy, and I was pleased to join the debate. Internationalism is a proud facet of socialism, and so my Scottish Labour colleagues and I welcomed the new strategy.

I was keen to pay tribute to Ban Ki-moon, whose term as secretary general of the United Nations recently ended, who recently said “this generation is the first in humanity’s history with the capacity to end endemic poverty, and the last with the chance to halt catastrophic climate change.”

Members across the Chamber spoke of the importance of the UN global goals for sustainable development as a powerful guiding force for the path that we all hope our global community will take. I highlighted that it is absolutely right that the climate challenge fund is featured in the strategy. Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge that we face.

The creation of partnerships in the four targeted countries (Pakistan, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania) means that we can share the valuable expertise that has been garnered at home.

My speech highlighted the work of Tearfund Scotland, which through the climate justice fund has been able to assist with water-resource management in Malawi, in making clean and safe water more available, setting up district and community systems for governing resources, and empowering targeted communities with strategies to adapt to climate change. The benefits of community empowerment initiatives such as those are far reaching: from the reduced risk of waterborne disease, to making bricks and mortar for new infrastructure, to saving valuable time for those who collect water—often women and children.

The charity also asks us to act here in Scotland on a number of issues. In the climate change plan, it is right that we have a robust link between what we do here and what we do globally. Last year, at COP23—the 23rd conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—the Marrakesh vision was launched. It is a pledge by 48 nations to cut emissions dramatically. As I highlighted in a parliamentary motion in December, the most inspiring part of the vision is the commitment from some of the poorest nations around the world—the nations that have contributed least to climate damage. Scotland is resplendent with opportunities for renewable energy creation. The Marrakesh vision should remind Parliament that we must not squander that privilege, and that we must strive for greater progress in decarbonisation.

As a member of the cross-party group on Malawi in the previous session, I was able to witness further the strength of the links between Scotland and Malawi, strengthened by The Scotland Malawi Partnership. The Scotland Malawi Partnership works to develop relationships between schools here and in Malawi. In my region, South Scotland, a number of schools including Beeslack community high school, Newtongrange primary school, Penicuik high school, Carstairs primary school and Libberton primary school—the list continues—have been involved.

In my view, this was an important opportunity to raise a plea for the Scottish Government to seize every opportunity to contribute to conflict resolution through the new strategy—not least through involvement in whatever way possible in supporting the development of non-proliferation treaties in order to rid our world once and for all of nuclear weapons.

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NFUS launch survey to hear from women in agriculture

HAVE YOUR SAYThe National Farmers Union Scotland has kicked off the new year with a fresh look at how to encourage female engagement in the union. While agriculture has traditionally been a male dominated industry, there are currently 25 women contributing to NFUS regional boards and committees, and a further 39 women in the head office and group secretary network. However, there is more to be done, and the NFUS recognise that the time has certainly come for more female engagement across all levels – from grassroots to the union Board.

The survey is designed to gather views from the membership to properly understand the barriers or issues women face. I strongly encourage any NFUS member to complete the survey and share their views – this is a fantastic opportunity to continue to modernise the union and add fresh perspectives to the agricultural sector.

NFU Scotland members can submit to the survey until 13 February, and can be filled out by visiting – https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NFUSwomeninagriculture

Furthermore, the NFUS Conference (6-7 February) will include a drop-in session on women in agriculture, providing an opportunity for members to discuss the subject directly.

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