Thursday 22 February 2018


The Scottish Government’s budget was passed this week in Parliament. This budget will protect low and middle income earners and deliver for public services and public sector workers.

The budget delivers progressive reforms to Scotland’s income tax system, with modest increases on higher earners, while 70% of taxpayers will pay less than they did last year and 55% will pay less than the rest of the UK. Opinion polling found that Scots back the SNP’s tax plans by 2 to 1.

The Budget will also deliver an additional £400 million for the NHS, an expansion in childcare, more spending on broadband, extra funding for our police and fire services, and a pay rise for hard-working public sector employees.

This is a budget for a stronger economy and a fairer society – with increased funding for the NHS and protection for low and middle income earners.

In the face of massive Westminster cuts, ongoing austerity and a damaging hard Brexit – this budget provides investment to seize the opportunities of tomorrow.

Trust Housing

IMG_0557I was delighted to sponsor the Scottish Ethnic Minority Older Peoples Forum in the Parliament this week.

The Older People Services Project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and is developed and managed jointly by Trust, Hanover (Scotland) and Bield Housing Associations.

The purpose of the project is to encourage and maximise benefits and services uptake by older people from Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, carry out research on their changing needs and aspirations and to set up BME Older People’s forum in Scotland.

The Older Peoples Services Project will help ethnic minority older people with access to benefits and services to improve their lives and deal with issues of isolation and loneliness. There will be a specific focus on raising awareness on the effects of isolation on health, wellbeing and respect and dignity.

Agent for Change

Good news from the Scottish Government – developers building new residential buildings near music venues will be responsible for taking appropriate measures to ensure local people are not disturbed by noise. I know that many music venue owners in Glasgow particularly those affected by this issue and whom I’ve been working with to change the current guidance will very much welcome this change.

New guidance on this Agent of Change principle will be included in the new version of the National Planning Framework and local authorities will be asked to implement it immediately.

Music venues should not have to make high cost changes or deal with expensive disputes because of new developments.  Developers will be responsible for identifying and solving any potential issues with noise, giving residents of new homes a better quality of life and allowing our music venues to continue to operate.

Development and consultation on the next National Planning Framework (NPF4) will begin in 2018, and it is expected to be adopted in 2020.

A Chief Planner letter has been sent to all planning authorities highlighting existing guidance on noise issues and asking them to ensure decisions reflect the Agent of Change principle.

You can access the letter here https://news.gov.scot/resources/agent-of-change-planner-letter-2


IMG_0554Purple Friday is LGBT Youth Scotland’s annual fund and awareness-raising campaign and I was delighted to take part in a photo – opp with my colleagues to highlight the campaign.

The campaign was established to shine a spotlight on LGBT Youth Scotland’s essential work with young people and give allies an opportunity to declare their support for LGBTI equality and inclusion in Scotland.

This year’s theme is #EverydayHero and here I am with MSPs spanning all the party’s in the Scottish Parliament.


02.18 HISHealthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) were in Parliament this week exhibiting their services and I took the opportunity to have a quick chat with them.

The purpose and aims of HIS are to support and provide better health quality and social care for everyone in Scotland.

They work with people at every level of the health and social care system making sure improvements in care are informed by the experiences of people who deliver and people who use services.


New funding will support research into the causes, diagnosis and treatment of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

Funding of £90,000 will be provided for a Scottish university to host a new Ph.D studentship focussed on improving understanding of ME – a condition characterised by long-term fatigue and other symptoms that can make it more difficult for a person to carry on their daily life.

The studentship, jointly funded by Scottish Government and Action for ME, is in response to calls from ME organisations for increased research into the condition.


The Scottish Government has announced schools will be allocated £3 million this year to support pupils learning additional languages with Glasgow City receiving £301,000.

A lack of language skills has been estimated to cost Scottish businesses hundreds of millions of pounds a year in lost exports.

The Scottish Government funding will enable every primary school pupil to start learning an additional language in Primary 1 and a second additional language by Primary 5, and for language learning to continue to the end of S3. This includes Mandarin, Gaelic and British Sign Language as well as European languages.

There has been a sustained increase in language Highers and skills-based qualifications in recent years and the Scottish Government’s continued investment will build on this success, ensuring the workforce has the right skills to make the most of international economic opportunities.

Best Bib n Tucker

02.18 Best Bib n TcukerIt was lovely to meet up with representatives from Best Bib n Tucker CIC in Parliament this week, a local Edinburgh Community social enterprise.

They have developed a range of professionally produced protective clothing, including bibs, smocks and tabards particularly for adults but also for children who have additional needs at meal times.

They also provide training with workshops in sewing, photography, health, employability and the environment. These all tie in with the groups aim of improving the local communities’ health, environment and connection to friends.

The work they do goes some way in alleviating loneliness and isolation whilst teaching and learning new skills.


The Joint Programme Board overseeing the integration of British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland into Police Scotland has agreed to review the timetable.

A longer timetable will allow for enhanced engagement with officers, staff and their representatives on key issues, including pay and conditions.

A detailed re-planning exercise will now take place over the coming months to ensure robust delivery plans are in place for all of the key elements of the programme and to establish a new delivery date.





Thursday 8 February

Womens Votes

100 Years since the first women were allowed to voteMarking the centenary of Women’s right to votes, female MSPs gathered in the chamber prior to the debate this week.

In contributing to the debate I spoke about Janie Allan a Glasgow woman who was at the forefront of the suffrage movement in Scotland. Janie was instrumental in re-founding the Glasgow branch of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage as the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women’s Suffrage and served on its executive.

I also took the opportunity to highlight Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington one of Ireland’s most ardent promoters of women’s rights. She was an influential figure during the suffragette movement, tirelessly campaigning for the equal status of men and women in Ireland. There is also a family connection with Hanna being my granddaughters great, great, great grandmother. An inspirational role model.

You can read my full contribution here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11353&i=103243

#Share Aware

02.18 #ShareAwareHuge congratulations to my colleague Gillian Martin MSP on her campaign to boost internet safety for young people which I wholeheartedly support.

Parents should speak with their children to make sure they know how to stay safe online and understand the risks of posting certain information – and I am glad to be involved in the campaign to raise awareness of this serious issue.

I would also encourage pupils across Glasgow to take part in a nationwide film competition that aims to raise awareness of the dangers related to sending nude photos online. This is a great initiative that gives children across Glasgow the opportunity to engage with these dangers in a creative manner.

We must all do what we can to help protect our children when it comes to their online activity.

Mental Health

02.18 Childrens Mental Health WeekChildren’s Mental Health Week 2018 is running from 5 – 11 February. Children’s Mental Health Week theme this year is encouraging children, young people and adults to celebrate their uniqueness. It’s all about #BeingOurselves!

Charitable organisation Place 2 Be launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 to support children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Now in its fourth year, they hope to encourage more people than ever to get involved and spread the word.

I stopped by their stall in the Parliament this week to chat with them about their work with young people and what work they are doing to support children and young people.

You can find out more about Place 2 Be and Children’s Mental Health Week at https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/about-the-week/

Stand Up to Racism

02.18 Stand Up to Racism ConferenceOn Saturday I was asked to take part in the Stand Up to Racism conference at the Unison Offices on Bell Street.

We covered many areas including welcoming refugees and migrants, defending EU nationals rights and freedom of movement, racism, Islamophobia and anti Semitism.

It is heartening to have so many people come together to articulate on these issues and lend their support to the campaign however it is also appalling that we should be in a position where we are having to defend other human beings rights. 

Celtic Connections Showcase Scotland

02.18 Celtic Connections Showcase ScotlandApproaching its 19th year, I was delighted again to address this year’s Creative Scotland event Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections which introduces international and worldwide audiences to new music.

Its aim is to secure performances for Scottish based artists on a global scale – creating new audiences for existing artists and introducing new artists to existing audiences.

This year there was a very close partnership with Culture Ireland maximising international exposure for Scottish artists who share so much in common.

And of course this is the 25th year of Celtic Connections and the Year of Young People what better way to celebrate than the success of the Scottish Government funded Youth Music Initiative.

Afghan Interpreters

Afghan interpreters who worked for the British army will receive support to attend Scottish universities and colleges after the Scottish Government announced a change in residency criteria.

Locally employed staff interpreters from Iraq who had settled in the UK were entitled to support as they had been given indefinite leave to remain.   Afghan interpreters, however, had been given five years’ leave rather than indefinite leave to remain, and were therefore not previously eligible for student support.

I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has taken action to help Afghan interpreters who served with UK forces build a new life in Scotland.   This discrepancy was caused by the fact that Afghan interpreters were given temporary, rather than indefinite, leave to remain – unlike Iraqi interpreters. That UK government decision left Afghan interpreters ineligible for student support.   I’m glad that, after I raised this issue, the Scottish Government has taken action and will allow these brave interpreters to access education. 

Widening Access

02.18 Widening Access Glasgow UniGood to meet up with representatives from Caledonian University, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow University (pictured), Royal Conservatoire and Strathclyde University this week at a parliamentary reception organised by Universities Scotland.

The event was highlighting widening access to higher education following the publication of Working to Widen Access last month. Whilst most institutions are making progress to ensure that people from the most deprived areas of Scotland have access to higher education there will always be room for improvement.

Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science and Universities Scotland Convener Professor Andrea Nolan OBE, were keynote speakers.

All 19 higher education institutions were represented by both practitioners and students, sharing their personal stories about how they have been working to widen access and why it’s important that everyone should be able to benefit from higher education.


Scotland’s population projections show there is an ‘overwhelming case’ for Scotland to have the power to tailor its own migration policy, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop has said.

With the number of deaths expected to outweigh the number of births for every year until 2040, action is required to maintain and grow Scotland’s working age population to help support the welcome fact that people are living longer.

A new Scottish Government discussion paper on migration looks in detail at the impact that falling migration levels would have on Scotland’s economy and what a devolved migration policy could look like.

The paper sets out ways in which the Scottish Government could be given a greater say on UK migration policy in support of Scotland’s needs, as well as options for a Scotland-specific migration system.

You can read the discussion paper here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00531087.pdf


Please note there will be no Ebrief next week due to recess. The Ebrief will resume on Thursday 22 February.

Afghan Translators Given Access to Education

I was privileged to welcome a group of Afghan Interpreters to The Scottish Parliament today. These individuals have been seeking access to further and now higher education.

Through a lot of hard work this access to education has now been secured with no small measure of thanks going to Shirley Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, who today announced steps are being taken to enable these interpreters the opportunity to continue their educations.

These Afghany interpreters risked their lives in Afghanistan by assisting the British armed forces there. It is no exaggeration to say that without their assistance many more servicemen and women would have come to harm.

As such I am delighted to say the 320 Afghan interpreters here in Scotland will now be eligible to apply for the 2018-2019 academic year for any course provided, at both colleges and universities, should they meet the entry criteria.

It disappoints me to say that the Tory Government continues to deny this vital opportunity for Afghan interpreters south of the border. I very much hope they will revisit their position upon witnessing what I hope will be a very successful scheme.

Please find the Ministers statement on this topic below and should you be interested my contribution is at 14:40 & 40 secs.



Thursday 1 February 2018

Boys Brigade

01.18 BBs Coffe Morning KelvinbridgeI was delighted to join my colleague Patrick Grady at the 1st Company Boys Brigade coffee morning on Saturday at Kelvinbridge Parish Church.

The 1st Glasgow Company is the original company of the Boys’ Brigade Movement, founded in Glasgow on 4th October 1883. They are part of Kelvinbridge Parish Church and have three sections. Anchor Boys, for boys in Primary 1 – 3, Junior Section for boys in Primary 4 – 6, and Company and Senior Section, for boys in Primary 7 to S6.

A huge thanks to all the boys involved the morning was a great success.


Holyrood has backed the Scottish Government’s progressive budget at Stage 1 – despite other parties voting against a budget that invests in the NHS, ends the public sector pay cap and provides a real terms increase in local government spending.   Under the progressive tax changes, Scotland will become the lowest taxed and fairest taxed part of the UK, with higher earners facing a modest increase to fund investment in public services.   The budget has been welcomed by COSLA, with Resources Spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor saying “today, I give credit where it is due.”    In the face of massive Westminster cuts, the Scottish Government is using its powers progressively to invest in our schools and our hospitals. The tax proposals deliver both fairness and much needed investment, no wonder the public support them by 2 to 1.

You can read the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11337&i=103148


Glasgow Academy

01.18 Glasgow Academy giftsA huge thank you to the staff and Advanced Higher Modern Studies pupils at the Glasgow Academy. They all gave me a very warm welcome to a question and answer session at the beginning of the week.

It’s encouraging to meet with so many young people who are eager for knowledge. Having a Scottish Parliament and elected representatives to quiz gives them an incredible insight.

I also have to thank them for the lovely gifts of a Glasgow Academy calendar and keyring – they will certainly be utilised!

Pupil Fund

A Scottish Government fund aimed at boosting the attainment levels of the most deprived pupils is set to pay out £21,785,160 to schools across Glasgow next year.


More than 2,300 schools across Scotland are set to benefit from the funding – including 191 across Glasgow. The significant investment gives money directly to headteachers, allowing them to spend the money on local initiatives that will close the poverty-related attainment gap.


Closing the attainment gap has and continues to be a priority for the Scottish Government in this parliament – and the latest investment in our schools and our children across Glasgow is a key part of that.


Every child should have the best possible start in life, no matter their background – and the role that schools play in giving children the support they need is absolutely vital.


World Hijab Day

01.18 Hijab Day 2018World Hijab Day (WHD) is an annual event in its sixth year. On February 1st of every year, World Hijab Day Organisation asks global citizens of all faiths to wear the Hijab (head-covering) for a day in solidarity with Muslim women worldwide.


A local group from Falkirk were in the Parliament this week chatting to MSPs about their campaign and seeking support of their aims. In my support of World Hijab Day 2018 I highlighted that people should have the right to choose.

The overall mission of WHD is to create a more peaceful world where global citizens respect each other. Particularly, WHD focuses on fighting bigotry, discrimination, and prejudice against Muslim women. This is most crucial in these times where Hijab is being banned in some countries while in other countries, Muslim women are being targeted and harassed verbally and physically.


Social Media

Good news this week with social media giant Snapchat announcing they will block “primary schools” and related terms from search and map results. Pressure from my colleagues Kevin Stewart MSP and Gillian Martin MSP has ensured this move.

Whilst this is a good start, it certainly isn’t the end of what Snapchat should be doing to encourage safe use of their app. Secondary schools must also be removed from these searches and the company must urgently work with children’s charities and schools to better educate young people and parents on how their app works, and the risks involved.


01.18 UNCRCogether were exhibiting in the Scottish Parliament this week. They are an alliance of Scottish children’s charities working to improve the awareness, understanding and implementation of the UNCRC.

They have over 360 members ranging from large international and national NGOs through to small volunteer-led after school clubs.

Their activities are extremely important and include collating an annual State of Children’s Rights report to set out the progress made to implement the UNCRC in Scotland.


Glasgow Schools Receive £21.7m Boost From Pupil Equity Fund


A Scottish Government fund aimed at boosting the attainment levels of the most deprived pupils is set to pay out £21,785,160 to schools across Glasgow next year.

More than 2,300 schools across Scotland are set to benefit from the funding – including 191 across Glasgow. The significant investment gives money directly to headteachers, allowing them to spend the money on local initiatives that will close the poverty-related attainment gap.

 Commenting, SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin Sandra White, said:

 “The SNP has made closing the attainment gap our priority in this parliament – and the latest investment of £21,785,160 in our schools and our children across Glasgow is a key part of that.

 “Every child should have the best possible start in life, no matter their background – and the role that schools play in giving children the support they need is absolutely vital.

 “That is why it is right that this significant investment to close the poverty-related attainment gap goes straight to headteachers – giving those with the most intimate knowledge of their schools the ability to develop initiatives to benefit children across Glasgow. 

“And with 191 number of schools benefiting from this latest round of funding – following a similar significant investment last year – even more of our children are going to benefit from creative new initiatives that will help to tackle the attainment gap in our schools.”