Sikh Festival

04.19 Sikh Festival Group Photo

It is always a pleasure to sponsor events in Parliament and this week was no exception where I had the honour of sponsoring the launch of Sikh Heritage Month.

Over 200 representatives from civic Scotland gathered at the Scottish Parliament this week to launch this first-ever!

04.19 Sikh Festival Organisers and SW ACThe Reception, was organised by Sikhs in Scotland, was a multi-faith celebration of the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi, with attendees from private and third sector, public agencies and political leaders.

Plans for a Sikh Heritage Month were first mooted after the arson attack on Edinburgh Gurdwara in 2018. There have been successful Sikh Heritage Month initiatives around the world including in Canada and the USA. In Scotland, the initiative would involve a co-ordinated series of educational events to promote awareness and understanding of Sikhs in Scotland, which settled in Scotland over 100 years ago.

04.19 Sikh Festival Youth ChoirThe evening was a huge success with speakers from across all sectors and communities as well as some amazing performances particularly from The Scottish Sikh Youth Choir who closed the event with a traditional shabad.

This year the Scottish Sikh community will run a year-long series of events including which will include the Annual Scottish-Sikhs Nagar Keertan, commemorating the Centenary of the 1919 Sikh Massacre in Amritsar, Interfaith events, community kitchens for the vulnerable in society and celebrating the 550th Anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Older People

Older people’s rights are at the centre of a new framework to ensure people can remain active, keep working if they want to, feel safe, and access the services they need.

The Older People’s Framework aims to challenge unwelcome attitudes to and discrimination towards older people.It highlights the positive contributions older people make to our society and the economy, and has been directly influenced by older people who have provided their thoughts, stories and experiences, bringing to life the issues they’ve faced over the years.

You can view the Framework here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/fairer-scotland-older-people-framework-action/

Conflict Resolution

04.19 Conflict ResolutionRepresentatives from the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) were in Parliament this week to highlight their work with young people and their families.

This is a significant week for the organisation as they celebrate their 5th anniversary.

Everything the SCCR has done to date has been made possible through support from Scottish Government funding.

You can find out more about their work here: https://scottishconflictresolution.org.uk/


I had the opportunity to contribute to no less than two debates this week on Health. The first debate centred on staffing and the second on health education.

As a member of the Health and Sport Committee I have a particular interest in this policy area.

During the staffing debate I highlighted the impact Brexit is having on the staffing levels across the NHS and the social care sector.

For the Health education debate I spoke of the wonderful projects we have across Glasgow Kelvin such as the Childrens Wood at North Kelvinside Meadow and the G3 Growers at Brechin Street. These projects epitomise good practice and are thriving.

Please take time to listen to the debates here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12038&i=108929


04.19 WASPII led a cross-party members debate in Parliament this week calling on the UK government to end the pension injustice for thousands of women. The debate was followed by a reception where women from across Scotland could discuss their concerns about the policy and it’s impact on their lives with MSPs.

As an ardent supporter of the WASPI campaign, I have been challenging the UK Government to support those who have been adversely affected by the acceleration of the increase to the state pension age.

This issue has run on for far too long – it’s time for the UK government to put an end to this serious injustice. In 2017 I led a debate on this very issue, two years on we are no further on with the UK Government still refusing to support the millions of women across the UK who have been affected.

The UK has the lowest state pension in the developed world, and the UK Government are robbing the lowest earners of vital funds in their retirement.

The State Pension is not a privilege, this was a contract entered into by hard working women with the UK Government and the UK Government has reneged on that contract.

We know there are funds available from the National Insurance Surplus Fund – just a small percentage would alleviate the situation for thousands of women and their families who are worst affected.

You can access the full debate here: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/members-business-waspi-campaign-april-3-2019


Most of you will know that I have been a fervent campaigner of responsible parking and brought forward a members bill in the last parliamentary session.

The Scottish Government made a commitment to bring this forward in their new Transport Bill and the opportunity to debate Stage 1 of the Transport (Scotland) Bill took place this week.

It will come as no surprise to hear I took part in the debate and you can access my contribution here:


John Lewis

04.19 John Lewis 20th AnniversaryI’m pictured with members of the team at John Lewis and Partners in Buchanan Galleries who were celebrating the 20th anniversary of John Lewis trading in Glasgow.

Construction got underway in 1996, by which point the Buchanan Galleries centre had also been given the go-ahead. The Partnership’s third and largest department store was built in conjunction with the Buchanan Galleries and opened in 1999 and has been home to John Lewis ever since.




Thursday 28 March 2019


03.19 Hazards

I met up with representatives from Scottish Hazards this week when they were exhibiting in the Parliament.

Scottish Hazards campaigns for improved worker health and safety throughout Scotland and joins with others internationally to campaign for improved working conditions throughout the world.

As part of the UK Hazards Campaign and the European Hazards Network, as well as with the Partnership for Health and Safety in Scotland, the Scottish Hazards Centre provides information, advice and support to individual workers and groups of workers in Scotland who are not unionised and who have inadequate access to Occupational Health & Safety expertise.

Additional Support

Councils and teachers are being given extra help to improve outcomes for young people with additional support needs.

The Scottish Government’s new guidance on mainstreaming provides clear, updated information to help decide the best learning environment for a young person. For the first time, it includes a Scottish definition of inclusion and practical guidance to deliver inclusion in schools.

The move comes as Deputy First Minister John Swinney committed to ensuring teachers have the support they require to help pupils with additional support needs, without creating undue workload.

Education Scotland has also developed online training for teachers on providing additional support to children who need it, as part of a suite of free professional learning resources for all staff.

199,065 young people are identified as having additional support needs, this is 28.7 per cent of all Scottish pupils. All teachers provide support to children and young people.

Research on the learning experiences of young people with additional support needs has also been published, which shows pupils at both mainstream and special schools generally felt positive about their experience. Almost all pupils felt their needs were well met, and while parents were also positive about the support their children received, many said it had taken a long time to get their child into the right environment.


02.19-waspi-rally.jpgNext week I will be leading a members debate in Parliament on WASPI which will coincide with a WASPI event I am co-hosting in the evening event also in Parliament.

This is an issue which I fully support. I understand the need for equality and those women campaigners are not suggesting this should not happen. However the decision by the UK Government to railroad the changes through are leaving women in desperate financial situations.

I have been campaigning for a fair transition for those women affected by the changes and I will continue to campaign until the UK Government make the necessary changes.

Cancer Diagnosis

Waiting times for patients with suspected cancer will be targeted in an action plan which will introduce new technologies, additional clinics and additional training for staff.

The revised Endoscopy Action Plan, which is backed by a £6 million investment, sets out steps to ensure all new patients will be seen within six weeks for key endoscopic tests.

And the most urgent patients – including those with suspected cancer – will be prioritised and seen between two to three weeks.


03.19 Epilepsy HelplineIn Scotland 54,000 people live with epilepsy. Children and older people are most at risk of developing this common serious neurological condition but anyone can develop epilepsy at any time, and 8 people a day in Scotland do.

Epilepsy Scotland want to make sure the needs of people with epilepsy are met. This is why they campaign for improved healthcare, better information provision and an end to stigma.

If you are affected or know of someone affected by Epilepsy and you need to talk to someone Epilepsy Scotland have a Freephone helpline where you can talk to a trained professional.

You can contact them on 0808 800 2200.

Sheep Worrying

03.19 03.19 Protection of Livestock BillWhilst my constituency is urban and sheep worrying, as far as I know, is not a problem across Glasgow Kelvin I thought it would be useful to provide some information on the problem.

My colleague Emma Harper MSP has launched a proposal for a Bill to increase penalties and provide additional powers to investigate and enforce the offence of livestock worrying.

In Scotland we all have a right to enjoy and access the countryside so long as it is done responsibly. However, over recent years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of dogs attacking livestock, and the Members Bill proposes in the law both to benefit Scotland’s agricultural community, as well as to improve animal welfare.

You can find out more about the Bill here https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/111027.aspx




Thursday 21 March 2019

Sheena Glass

03.19 SW and Sheena GlaIt was with great sadness I attended the funeral of Sheena Glass at Glasgow Cathedral this week to celebrate her incredible life.

I first met Sheena many years ago and was struck by her dogged determination and commitment to the local community. As Director of what was Glasgow’s Older People’s Welfare Association now Glasgow’s Golden Generation we worked on a number of initiatives together.

Sheena went onto be awarded for her efforts with an MBE in 2013 and again in 2017 when she was awarded Glasgow’s Community Champion Gold Medal Special Editor’s Award.

Sheena will always be remembered for her warmth and kindness and her legacy will continue through Glasgow’s Golden Generation.

Mental Health

Support for people with mental health conditions will be strengthened through an independent review of the Mental Health Act.

The review aims to improve the rights and protections of those living with mental illness and remove barriers to those caring for their health and welfare.

The review will examine developments in mental health law and practice on compulsory detention and on care and treatment since the current legislation came into force in 2005.

A review group will also make recommendations that reflect people’s social, economic and cultural rights and will consider the future shape of incapacity, mental health and adult support and protection legislation.

This follows on from work already underway to review incapacity law and practice, and a review of learning disability and autism.

You can access the Scottish Government Mental Health Strategy here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/mental-health-strategy-2017-2027/

St Patrick’s Day Celebrations

03.19-st-patricks-day-2.jpgTo celebrate St Patrick’s Day I sponsored a dinner and reception in the Parliament in collaboration with the Irish Consul and ESB Energy.

What a fantastic evening with a wonderful harpist providing the music, excellent speeches and of course a delicious dinner with both Scottish and Irish elements.

Consul General of Ireland Mark Hanniffy, Deputy Chief Executive of ESB Jerry O’Sullivan and Scottish Government Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon MSP addressed the guests.

This was an opportunity for MSPs to join with the Consul General and ESB to mark St Patrick’s Day and taking the opportunity to discuss the strong partnership between Scotland and Ireland.


03.19 Able2sailAble2sail were exhibiting in Parliament this week and I managed to speak to their representatives about the work they do.

Able2sail offers unique opportunities tailored to sailing and disability, with the objective to include disabled and those affected by disability, by sailing and sailing related activities.

Their aim is for this activity to improve quality of life, to experience sailing and to remove barriers from sailing. The Youth Forum includes able bodied and young people who are disabled working together, learning sailing skills, and progressing to become volunteers.

You can find out more about this organisation here: http://www.able2sail.org.uk/

Beautiful Scotland

03.19 Keep Scotland BeautifulI took the opportunity to chat with members of the Keep Scotland Beautiful team when they were exhibiting in Parliament this week.

They campaign, act and educate on a range of local, national and global issues to change behaviour and improve the quality of people’s lives and the places they live.

Keep Scotland Beautiful is leading the way on improving Scotland’s environment, tackling a wide range of environmental issues.

From reducing the amount of litter on our streets to cutting the carbon emissions that threaten our planet.

I am more than happy to support their #SpringClean19 campaign and would encourage everyone to do what they can to highlight the campaign and join in to Keep Scotland Beautiful!

World Down’s Syndrome Day

03.19 World Down's Syndrome DayDown’s Syndrome Scotland sent these socks to all MSPs to highlight their campaign Lots of Socks and to celebrate World Down’s Syndrome Day which takes place today!

Why socks you may well ask! Down’s Syndrome Scotland believe chromosomes look like socks and people with Down’s Syndrome have an extra chromosome – a third copy of chromosome 21.

The campaign is encouraging people to take to social media with # #WDSD19 and @LotsofSocks

If you would like to find out more go to: https://www.dsscotland.org.uk/



Thursday 14 March


03.19 Palestinian AmbassadorIt was an honour to meet with Palestinian Ambassador Dr Husam Zomlot, Head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK when he was in the Scottish Parliament last week.

As well as meeting with MSP’s he also travelled to Glasgow to meet with Lord Provost Eva Bolander to discuss cooperation and the twinning relationship with Glasgow and Bethlehem.

It would also be useful for you to know that the Balfour Project are holding an event in Edinburgh on Sunday 17 March. I will be taking part in the event as a panellist along with my colleague Dr Philippa Whitford MP.

If you would like to find out more please have a look at http://www.balfourproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Edinburgh-Jan-30v2-compressed-1.pdf


Again we are still no further forward with two votes already defeated the UK Government seem determined to forge ahead ignoring the will of the Scottish people who voted to remain and the Scottish Government who have consistently opposed the “deal” but offered an alternative which would safeguard Scotland and all who choose to make Scotland their home.

The Scottish Government are putting in measures to help businesses prepare for Brexit with the First Minister announcing an additional £2 million.

The Brexit Support Grant, administered by Scottish Enterprise, will now be available to help small and medium sized businesses manage a wide range of Brexit impacts with funding of up to £4000 each. The grant, previously only open to exporters, is now available to SME’s in Scotland for a wider variety of Brexit preparation.

You can access more information here: https://www.prepareforbrexit.scot/


03.19 CrisisCrisis the national charity for homeless people were exhibiting in the Parliament this week and I stopped by to talk to them about their work, current campaigns and homelessness in Glasgow.

I picked up a copy of the latest Homelessness Monitor a research report commissioned by Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. It has identified a number of challenges across the board in particular the introduction of Universal Credit, and the majority of local councils believe homelessness and poverty will rise due to the UK Government welfare reforms.

In contrast the report acknowledges Scotland is leading the way in its commitment to ending homelessness and the ambition set out in “Ending Homelessness Together: High Level Action Plan”.

You can access the report here: https://www.crisis.org.uk/ending-homelessness/homelessness-knowledge-hub/homelessness-monitor/#Scotland


Many of you will have already accessed the Scottish Parliaments Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee report into the Glasgow School of Art (GSA).

The Committee has concluded the circumstances surrounding the two fires at the GSA should be subject to a public inquiry with judicial powers. The inquiry concluded that the evidence they gathered raised a number of issues, which go beyond the cause of the fire itself and require further examination.

Their inquiry also found that GSA did not give sufficient priority to the safeguarding of the Mackintosh building and the board should have had more expertise in managing a building of this nature. The Committee also recommends that the Scottish Government review the remit of Historic Environment Scotland in order to ensure that it has sufficient powers to intervene to protect buildings of national significance.

You can access the full report here: https://digitalpublications.parliament.scot/Committees/Report/CTEEA/2019/3/8/The-Glasgow-School-of-Art-Mackintosh-Building–The-loss-of-a-national-treasure#Executive-Summary

Apprenticeship Week

03.19 Scot App Week Di Maggio'sLast week we celebrated the achievements of individual apprentices and all those who contribute to their success.

I was delighted to meet up with apprentices currently working within the DiMaggio’s group at the Citizen in Glasgow last Friday to chat to them about their experience as a modern apprentice.

I also took the opportunity to ask their employers about the benefits for their businesses in running an apprenticeship scheme.

Apprenticeships and work-based learning are providing the skills needed for a successful Scotland. With that in mind this year’s theme was ‘Skills for the Future’, recognising the importance of investing in our workforce.

Apprenticeship opportunities in Scotland are growing and we want as many young people and employers as possible to benefit.

03.19 Scot App WeekThere are already more than 37,000 young people working, learning and earning as Modern Apprentices. 91% of apprentices are still in employment six months after completing their Modern Apprenticeship and 96% of employers say former apprentices are better equipped to do their job.

To build on the progress of the MA programme two new strands of the apprenticeship programme have been developed. Foundation Apprenticeships which give school pupils a taste of the world of work and help employers shape future talent and Graduate Apprenticeships which takes work-based learning higher with Graduate Apprentices can study up to Masters degree level.


The Scottish Government are currently consulting on a number of issues and I thought it would be useful to remind everyone that you have the opportunity to contribute.

You can view all of the current consultations here: https://consult.gov.scot/





Thursday 7 March 2019

EU Withdrawal

This week for the first time in the 20-year history of devolution, the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament, voted simultaneously to oppose a damaging no deal Brexit.

The vast majority of Members across both Chambers voted in agreement that a no deal outcome would be completely unacceptable and that an extension to Article 50 is the best way forward to protect Wales, Scotland and the UK as a whole.

No deal would mean not just probable short term chaos, but also very real and long-term structural damage to our economy. Damage which would mean fewer jobs, lower wages and less tax revenue.

The motions in both the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales also re-iterated opposition to the deal negotiated by the Prime Minister which would do significant damage to both countries.

This united and historic step was taken to send the clearest possible message to the UK Government and Westminster that this reckless course of action must stop now.

Cancer Awareness

02.19 Maggies CentreMarch is cancer awareness month and I met up with representatives from Maggies Centre to chat to them about the work they do when they were exhibiting in Parliament last week.

Maggie’s provides free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends, following the ideas about cancer care originally laid out by Maggie Keswick Jencks.

Built in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, Maggie’s Centres are places with professional staff on hand to offer the support people need.

Their Centres are places to find practical advice about benefits and eating well; places where qualified experts provide emotional support; places to meet other people; places where you can simply sit quietly with a cup of tea.

The first Maggie’s Centre opened in Edinburgh in 1996 and since then Maggie’s has continued to grow. Gartnavel Hospital has a Maggies Centre within the grounds which offers support and advice.

Marie Curie have also been in Parliament holding a reception to highlight the work they are doing across the country to support those affected by cancer and my colleague Emma Harper led a members debate on Wednesday evening which you can access here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11979&i=108351


The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on delivering fairer Disability Assistance benefits.

From April 2020 the Scottish Government will take full responsibility for all remaining devolved benefits, with replacement disability benefits to start their introduction from summer 2020.

The new consultation asks for input to ensure the Scottish approach to Disability Assistance will meet the needs of the children and adults it is intended to help.

It will build upon work already undertaken to listen to people with lived experience of disability benefits about how the system can meet their needs.

You can access the consultation here: https://consult.gov.scot/social-security/improving-disability-assistance/

International Women’s Day

03.19 International Womens DayFriday 8 March is International Women’s Day and the theme for this year is #BalanceforBetter.

The campaign runs all year and doesn’t end on International Women’s Day.

The campaign theme provides a unified direction to guide and galvanize continuous collective action, with #BalanceforBetter activity reinforced and amplified all year.

Everyone has a part to play – all the time, everywhere. Let’s build a gender-balanced world.

From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.

New Mum’s

Scottish Government funding will provide access to treatment for an additional 11,000 women who experience mental health problems during and after their pregnancy. Perinatal mental illness affects up to 20% of women, and covers a wide range of conditions. If left untreated, it can have long lasting effects on women and their families.

New models of service delivery will be introduced, including specialist care for acute perinatal mental health problems and improved infant mental health services.

A new needs assessment report, funded by the Scottish Government, has been published by the national Managed Clinical Network (MCN) for perinatal mental health. The report outlines recommendations to improve the provision of mental health care for expectant and new mothers and their families.

Comfort Teddies

IMG_2109Meet one of hundreds of comfort teddies being used to provide comfort for children in traumatic or upsetting circumstances. Children 1st are working with Police Scotland and other agencies to use them to support families as part of the wider ACEs aware approach to address childhood trauma.

The project started as a community initiative by Police Scotland staff at Longhaugh Station in Dundee. It has been so successful the comfort teddy initiative is now being replicated across the country.

You can find out more at www.traumateddies.wixsite.com

Children’s Commissioner

03.19 Children's CommissionerAs a member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) I along with my SPCB colleagues had a wonderful visit to the new Scottish Children’s Commissioner accommodation in central Edinburgh.

The thought that has gone into making the space open and welcoming for all young people is more than evident.

As well as the welcoming space we have the Commissioner and a team of staff. Their job is to help children and young people understand their rights and to make sure those rights are respected.

The current Commissioner is Bruce Adamson and he looks after the rights of everyone in Scotland under 18 and everyone in Scotland under 21 who has been looked after or in care.

Find out more about the work they do here: https://www.cypcs.org.uk

Glasgow School of Art

The Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee will publish their report into the Glasgow School of Art Fire tomorrow in Glasgow.

You can access a copy of the report on the Parliament’s website here: https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/109520.aspx

Please note this report will only be available after the launch.