It is with a heavy heart that I have taken the decision not to stand for election to the Scottish Parliament as the Glasgow Kelvin candidate. I informed the Constituency Association last night of my intention.
The decision was not taken lightly. It has been an incredible honour and privilege to represent the city I know and love. However having been an MSP for 21 years and prior to that a Councillor with Renfrewshire Council for 10 years I feel that it is now the right time to step aside from frontline politics.
Make no mistake my desire for independence is as strong as ever and I will continue to fight for our right to self determination – you won’t get rid of me that easily!
I have so many people to thank for their support over these past few decades, none more so than my family and friends of whom without their confidence and backing the journey I have been on would have been so much more difficult, and for that I am extremely thankful.
To the SNP activists who have been unstinting in their dedication to the cause and to my election success I also extend my deep gratitude and thanks. Their hard work, long hours and commitment to the cause helped win those elections.
While contributing to policies at a national level that have helped make Scotland a safer, fairer, and all round better place to live over these past 21 years, it is the assistance I have been able to offer individual constituents that will stay with me as the most satisfying aspect of my role as the MSP for Glasgow Kelvin.
The people are what brought me into this life and I thank the people of Glasgow Kelvin for entrusting me with the honour of being their representative for these many years. I hope I have been worthy of this trust that has been placed in me and on my departure from office that people will remember me as a grassroots MSP who prioritised their constituency and constituents above all else.
While I may be stepping back from public office I will not be stepping back from being politically active in Kelvin, particularly as we continue on the road to independence and the next referendum! I look forward to helping the next Indy Ref campaign get over the line and I have no doubt that we will see independence for Scotland in my lifetime.
Glasgow Kelvin is home to many comedy clubs, nightclubs and venues which have been seriously impacted by the lockdown measures.
Having had a number of representations from those in the industry I took the opportunity to ask the First Minister when the remainder of the £97 million of arts and culture funding will be allocated.
You can access the full exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12763&i=115412
I was particularly pleased to see the announcement from the Scottish Government today on a package of support for this industry. A new £15 million Culture Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund will provide critical support to a range of businesses such as art galleries, studio facilities, comedy venues, large music venues, commercial theatres, orchestras, dance companies and nightclubs.
It will help to reduce the threat of insolvency, protect jobs and create conditions for a more viable and sustainable future for the sector.
It is not only the night time industry in the city centre that has felt the full impact of the lockdown measures but also the small and medium sized city centre businesses such as cafes and takeaways. They rely on the huge numbers of office based staff for business but with these all being closed over the past 5 months their businesses have been hit hard.
During portfolio questions this week I raised this issue with the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and you can read the full text here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12766&i=115453
There is always a sense of anticipation before the Government Expenditure and Revenues Scotland (GERS) report is published, and that didn’t abate with this year’s report.
However, it does highlight unequivocally the need for Scotland to have the powers of an independent country in order to make different choices, with different economic budgetary results.
We need to remember 40 per cent of spending and 70 per cent of revenue income in GERS, combined with key powers over the economy is reserved to the UK Government and outside the control of the Scottish Government.
Unlike most other countries around the world, large and small, Scotland does not currently have the full financial powers needed to chart a way to sustainable recovery from the economic impact of the pandemic and the looming economic disaster that Brexit will deliver.
It is now more urgent than ever that we gain those powers.
Many of you will already be aware that the guidance has now changed for the use of facemasks within high schools and on school transport.
In light of the latest scientific and public health advice, including World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, face coverings should now (unless exemptions apply) be worn:
• in secondary schools, by adults and all pupils moving around the school, such as in corridors and communal areas where physical distancing is difficult to maintain
• on dedicated school transport by all children aged five and over, bringing it into line with guidance for public transport
While staff and students can continue to wear face coverings if they wish to, face coverings will not generally be necessary in the classroom as there is greater scope for physical distancing and face coverings can have an impact on learning and teaching. However it remains the case that where adults cannot keep 2m distance and are interacting face-to-face for a sustained period (about 15 minutes or more), face coverings should be worn.
With Glasgow Kelvin home to many students and institutions I was interested to read the latest figures from the Student Awards Agency Scotland.
Scottish Government funding for students in higher education rose to more than £1 billion in the last academic year (2019-20).
Within that total, awards of non-repayable bursaries and grants for full-time students rose 13.4 per cent.
The latest numbers show 148,570 full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students, 20,030 part-time students and 9,580 nursing and midwifery students (a total of 178,180) were supported through SAAS in the form of a bursary, grant, fees or loan. The total support provided increased by 2.8% from £981.6 million in 2018-19 to £1.009 billion in 2019-20.
Average support per full-time student was £6,140 – an increase from £6,010 in the previous session – with the overall amount provided in non-repayable bursaries and grants increasing from £80.2 million in 2018-2019 to £90.9 million last year.
As always can I remind you to follow the FACTS:
Face coverings in enclosed spaces
Avoid crowded places
Clean hands and surfaces regularly
Two metre distancing; and
Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms