Thursday 7 September

Welcome back! I hope that you managed to make the most of the summer. There was plenty going on in and around the constituency and I took the opportunity of recess to get out and about.

Programme for Government

I very much welcome the legislative programme announced by the first Minister this week in Parliament. Seizing the opportunities of the low carbon revolution, investing in future economic growth and improving the lives of all our young people is central.

Action will be taken to phase out the need for petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032 and fast-track the development of a Scotland wide charging network as well as plans for a Scottish National Investment Bank to deliver long term financial support for innovative industries.

Education bill will be the centrepiece of the legislative programme for the year ahead, with major reforms also taking place in health and justice and a review of local democracy.

Other measures within the Programme for Government – which confirmed 16 new pieces of legislation – include:

  • support for key business sectors including low carbon, screen, manufacturing and financial technology
  • extending free personal care to all those under 65 who need it, known as ‘Frank’s Law’
  • rolling out new social security powers as part of a package of measures to tackle inequality, child poverty, end rough sleeping, reduce drug deaths and provide free sanitary protection to students in school, college and university
  • extending the presumption against short prison sentences to 12 months to break the cycle of offending and encourage the greater use of more effective community sentences
  • record investment in the NHS and a pledge to lift the public sector pay cap for NHS and other public sector workers
  • doubling the provision of free childcare
  • Improving public health with action on air quality, increased investment in active travel and measures to restrict the marketing of fatty and sugary food and drink
  • A discussion paper on the use of income tax in Scotland to support public services

I also took the opportunity to contribute to the debate focusing on social security you can read my contribution here:  http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/ormain.aspx

You can access the full programme here https://beta.gov.scot/publications/nation-ambition-governments-programme-scotland-2017-18/

Glasgow Gaelic School

09.17 Glasgow Gaelic School

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney MSP had a visit to the Glasgow Gaelic School during the recess which I attended. It was very productive and gave the staff an opportunity to discuss issues with both the Cabinet Secretary and myself.

I’d also like to draw people’s attention to the recent Scottish Women’s Award ceremony which saw the school’s Headteacher Dr Donalda McComb being recognised with an Award for Services to Education – many congratulations.

In accepting the award Dr McComb paid tribute to the parents, teachers and children at the school.

Universal Credit

Citizens Advice Scotland’s report on Universal Credit was the subject of a members debate in Parliament this week and as Convener of the Social Security Committee I took the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

The UK Government are railroading through a system which is causing financial hardship. For too many people, a system that is intended to support them through difficult times is making their situation much worse. Families are falling into debt and rent arrears and having to turn to foodbanks just to survive.

This situation is not acceptable. The UK Government needs to do more to reduce how long people have to wait for payments and to improve the support available. I as well as many others across the chamber are calling on the UK Government to pause in the accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit, so that these problems can be fixed before more families find themselves in crisis.

You can access my full speech here http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/ormain.aspx

New Ventures

09.17 KMR CandlesI found this wonderful new shop KMR Candles on the High Street selling handmade candles made with natural eco-soya wax.

Rebecca Macraild is the entrepreneur behind this business and is pictured with me in the shop. It’s great to see new ventures opening up in the city centre stocking handmade Scottish goods.

If you can’t manage into the shop they also have an online presence www.kmrcandles.co.uk


Workforce Development

The Flexible Workforce Development Fund (FWDF) will be available to organisations across the private, public and third sectors who are subject to the UK Government’s Apprenticeship Levy. The FWDF was developed in line with the Scottish Government’s 2016 consultation on the UK Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, and is part of a range of support for Scottish Levy payers, which includes the expansion of our Modern Apprenticeship programme.

The one-year pilot fund will focus on the up-skilling and re-skilling of existing employees of any age, with individual organisations able to apply for up to £10,000. From today, Scotland’s employers can apply for part of a new £10 million fund to partner with colleges to deliver in-work skills training.


The process for post-Brexit planning needs to change so that the position of the Scottish Government – particularly in areas that directly affect devolution  – is properly represented.

In a letter to the UK Government, the Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe has asked for the change in process to be made, setting out concerns over the lack of engagement on documents covering devolved areas such as science and innovation and areas that impact significantly on Scotland, such as future immigration and customs arrangements.

The process for post-Brexit planning needs to change so that the position of the Scottish Government – particularly in areas that directly affect devolution  – is properly represented.


09.17 Pamiloo PamisThousands of people with complex needs across Scotland are unable to attend events or visit outdoor venues due to the lack of appropriate toilets. While locations sometimes offer ‘accessible toilets’, these are not suitable for people with complex needs who need specialised equipment and additional space.

I met up with PAMIS (Promoting a more inclusive society) at Buchanan Galleries. They have just acquired the first Scottish Mobile Changing Places toilet, this vehicle – the pamiloo can now be used by families and used at leisure events held by PAMIS to provide fully accessible toileting facilities.

PAMIS are still fundraising to pay for the cost of the vehicle, and very much appreciate any support. You can make a donation to the campaign on JustGiving.

You can also take part in their fundraising efforts inspired by their 25 anniversary year – The PAMIS Challenge 25. They are looking for 25 teams from across Scotland to turn £100 seed money into £1000 for the Pamiloo. How you do it is entirely up to you! You can be as creative as you like. You can start your challenge on a date of your choosing and then you have 12 weeks to complete it. If you would like to take part, or would like more information, please contact Fiona Harper from our fundraising team on f.k.harper@dundee.ac.uk or call 01382 339560.

Franks Law

At least 9000 families in Scotland will benefit from the introduction of free personal care for everyone who requires it, regardless of age.

Known as ‘Frank’s Law’ after the campaign led by footballer Frank Kopel’s widow Amanda, the policy will take effect by April 2019.

This change will help thousands of families across Scotland and Mrs Kopel has played a crucial role in bringing issues around personal care for under 65s to light and in ensuring they have remained prominent in the public’s mind.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced free personal care for everyone who requires it, regardless of age, as part of the Programme for Government on Tuesday, September 5.

This has become known as Frank’s Law after a campaign led by Amanda Kopel. Mrs Kopel has campaigned for the change in care provision since her husband, the former Dundee United player Frank Kopel, was diagnosed with and later died from early onset dementia.

Landlord Registration

Guidance on regulating landlords in the private rented sector has been issued to all local authorities. The new guidance is available to read here- Landlord Registration Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities

The guidance will support local authorities to effectively regulate the landlord registration system, which requires councils to maintain a register of private landlords and ensure that only landlords it judges to be fit and proper are allowed on the register.

Landlord registration gives local authorities the ability to control and regulate who can operate legitimately as a private landlord.

The Scottish Government want to see a sector that is characterised by more good quality homes, being managed professionally and where tenants feel secure.  Where there are poor standards, local authorities should be taking tough, targeted enforcement to ensure every landlord is fit for purpose.

New plans for soft opt-out organ donation system unveiled

SNP MSP Sandra White has welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce legislation for a soft opt-out system of organ and tissue donation, which was backed by 82% of those who contributed to their consultation.


The 14-week consultation looked at various ways to increase the number of people being referred to the donation services in Scotland.


Currently in Scotland, organ and/or tissue donation after a person’s death only occurs if they have given advance authorisation or if their nearest relative authorises on their behalf.


A soft opt out, or deemed authorisation system, means that a donation can go ahead if the person has not opted out or told their family they do not wish to donate.


Commenting Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin said:


“Today’s decision to legislate for a soft opt-out system is great news for our health service & for many people who are waiting for life saving surgery.


“With the amazing help of donors and their families, NHS Scotland has already made great progress, including a 34% increase in donors this past year alone. Scotland now has the highest donor rate in the UK.


“However, we can do better and moving to a soft opt-out system is a really important step towards further reducing the number of people in Glasgow Kelvin waiting for transplants.


“We should always keep in mind the tragic circumstances that give rise to organ donation and forever appreciate the selfless acts of donors and their families that enable others to live. Organ and tissue donation saves lives and is one of the greatest gifts a person can give.”









•             The consultation ran from 7 December 2016 to 14 March 2017.

•             Anyone wishing to join the Organ Donor Register can do so by visiting the Organ Donation Scotland website. This website can also be used by those who wish to update their registration details or to register their wish not to be a donor.


The Donation and Transplantation Plan, 2013-2020 has been the catalyst for meaningful improvement in organ donation in Scotland with:

•             146% increase (54-133 between 2007/8 and 2016/17) in the number of people who donated organs after their death.

•             In 2016/17, Scotland had the highest rate of donors per million of population of any UK country – currently 25.5 donors pmp.

•             45% of the Scottish population have joined the organ donor register (over 116,000 in 2016).




Thursday 22 June 2017

Finsbury Park

This was a horrific attack and my thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected. I know that everyone will be saddened to see yet another terrorist attack.

While there is no intelligence of any specific threat to Scotland, Police Scotland remain vigilant and visible across communities to provide reassurance to members of the public.

Muslim communities will understandably be anxious just now and it is in these moments that we must come together as a country and unite against extremism and hate from wherever it comes.

Social Security Bill

Historic legislation to establish Scotland’s first social security system has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament this week. The Social Security (Scotland) Bill will give the Scottish Government the powers to deliver eleven benefits devolved as part of the Scotland Act 2016.

It also provides powers to top up reserved benefits and provides a mechanism to pay a Carer’s Allowance supplement at the earliest opportunity.

You can access a copy of the Bill here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/105267.aspx

The first social security payments to be delivered by the Scottish Government from summer 2018 will be the increased Carer’s Allowance, followed by the Best Start Grant and the Funeral Expense Assistance from summer 2019.

Queens Speech

The UK Government must provide greater clarity on its Brexit plans following the Queens Speech particularly when the bulk of the speech centred on the legislation necessary for the UK to withdraw from the European Union, demonstrating that as well as being harmful to the country, Brexit is set to take up all the UK government’s resources, forcing other important issues to be sidelined.

Brexit must not see the UK Government attempt to reduce devolved competence or attempt to avoid the need for legislative consent from Holyrood.

Baby Box

06.17 BabyboxThe list of contents for Scotland’s Baby Box is now available at http://www.parentclub.scot/baby-box as registration for the nationwide roll out begins.

All babies due on or after 15 August 2017 will receive a box of essential items to support parents and promote a fair and equal start for all children in Scotland.

The final research of the successful pilot which took place in Orkney and Clackmannanshire has also been published. The findings have informed the logistics and contents of the initiative and responses have been positive, with some suggestions for improvement already implemented for national delivery.

Building Safety

The first meeting of a Ministerial Working Group, convened to examine building and fire safety regulatory frameworks, has taken place this week.

The meeting was chaired by Communities Secretary Angela Constance with Housing Minister Kevin Stewart and Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing. They were joined by officials from fire and rescue, building standards, local government and housing.

This group is overseeing a review of building and fire safety regulatory frameworks with an initial focus on high rise domestic buildings, following the Grenfell Tower fire in London. It will agree any improvements or actions identified.

Tron Theatre

06.17 Tron TheatreI had a great start to the week with a wonderful visit to the Tron Theatre.

Andy Arnold the Artistic Director kindly extended an invitation to me for a tour of the building and a chat on the theatres plans for the future.

The Tron Theatre is one of Glasgow’s cultural hubs which has been producing and presenting an eclectic programme of work for over 20 years in the 16th century Tron Kirk building.

I was delighted with their recent funding success from the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund of almost £40,000 of which they will use to refurbish The Tron Theatre’s Changing House.

The theatre is going from strength to strength and for those who haven’t already attended one of their many productions I would highly recommend a visit.


Applications for a degree course offering exisiting graduates a new route into medicine will open in September, Health Secretary Shona Robison has confirmed.

The four-year course will have 40 places available and is being delivered by the medical schools in St Andrews and Dundee in collaboration with the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The course, which will begin next Autumn, will be open to existing graduates from any discipline with an interest in pursuing a degree in medicine.

Details will shortly be posted on the medical schools’ websites, and a social media campaign will be used to encourage applications.

Candidates interested in the new course will need to sit the GAMSAT aptitude test by 4 August. UCAS applications will open in September.

Air Departure Tax

A bill to replace Air Passenger Duty in Scotland has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The Air Departure Tax (Scotland) Bill sets the structure of the new tax and how it will be collected and managed by Revenue Scotland. Detail on tax bands and tax rate amounts will be set out in secondary legislation in the autumn, as part of the Scottish Government’s budget process and alongside other devolved taxes.


06.17 Food PovertyI took the opportunity to stop by the Kirkcaldy Foodbanks stall at the Parliament this week to discuss the latest initiative on food poverty.

Nourish Scotland and the Poverty Truth Commission are working together to develop a Dignity Framework with and for community food providers supported through funding from the Scottish Governments’ Fair Food Transformation Fund.

It is hoped that the framework can be a tool for community food providers and community members to consider how placing dignity at the heart of community food provision can support a transition away from emergency food aid as a primary response to food insecurity.

You can access more details on the project at www.nourishscotland.org


The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill published this week sets an objective for public boards that 50% of non-executive members are women by 2022.

It will apply to certain public bodies, colleges and Higher Education Institutions in Scotland, subject to the Bill receiving parliamentary approval.

The Bill will drive further improvements, building on the success of the Scottish Government’s ‘50/50 by 2020’ pledge – which has seen nearly 200 organisations across the public, private and third sectors sign up voluntarily to improve gender balance on board.

Film Fund

A fund to incentivise film production in Scotland has generated £17.5m for the economy – returning £10 for every pound spent.

The Production Growth Fund, a combination of Scottish Government and National Lottery Funding administered by Creative Scotland, provides an incentive for major film and TV producers to base their work in Scotland. T2: Trainspotting, Churchill and The Loch were among the first productions to benefit.

Responding to Creative Scotland figures that underline the impact of the first £1.75m awarded, Ms Hyslop confirmed the Scottish Government will allocate an additional £250k to the Production Growth Fund, taking its total to £3.25 million.


With MND Awareness taking place this week I was pleased to see that applications are now being taken for a scholarship fund set up in memory of motor neurone disease (MND) campaigner, Gordon Aikman.

The Gordon Aikman Scholarship is worth £50,000; with Scottish Government funding of £25,000 and MND Scotland announcing this week that it will match this funding.

It will support individuals affected by MND or their carers and healthcare professionals to research and develop practical improvements in the way people with MND are cared for.

Social Enterprise Awards

Scotland’s annual awards for achievement in social enterprise are open for entries – with just 3 weeks left to apply.

Social Enterprise Scotland is calling on all social enterprises to step up and demonstrate how they’re helping people or the environment – gaining real recognition for their many achievements and with many social enterprises across the constituency doing some great work I’d encourage you to get your applications in.

The deadline for award applications is Monday 10 July 2017. All information is at: socialenterpriseawards.scot

Policing 2026

A ten-year strategy to ensure Police Scotland is equipped to tackle new and emerging threats has been published.

Policing 2026 includes a commitment to recruit more civilian cyber specialists to counter the threat posed by cyber-crime and calls for greater emphasis on addressing vulnerability and mental health issues.

As well as maintaining officer numbers for 2017-18, the strategy also proposes a workforce model that frees up officers from support work to increase the number available for frontline policing.


Social Security Bill – Landmark legislation published

Historic legislation to establish Scotland’s first social security system has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament.

The Social Security (Scotland) Bill will give the Scottish Government the powers to deliver eleven benefits devolved as part of the Scotland Act 2016.

It also provides powers to top up reserved benefits and provides a mechanism to pay a Carer’s Allowance supplement at the earliest opportunity.

Chairperson for the Social Security Committee, Sandra White MSP, agreed with the Social Security Minister, Jeane Freeman, who said it represented a significant milestone in the process of transferring these social security powers safely and securely.

Ms White said:

“This is an extremely important day in both this Parliament’s history but more importantly for Scotland and the history of devolution. The Social Security Bill provides this Government and this Parliament the opportunity to make different choices – and shows that we can create a fairer and more just society when we take matters into our own hands.

“I believe strongly that everyone has a right to social security – so much so that I have put these principles on the very first page of this Bill.

“The core principle that everyone has a right to social security are embedded throughout this Bill – whether it is how entitlement to benefits is determined, a more just review and appeals system, or the Government’s decision to remove the private sector from disability benefit assessments.

“As the First Minister has often repeated, dignity and respect are at the heart of our social security policy – a marked contrast to the approach that the current UK Government is taking, as their unjust welfare cuts continue to cause misery, push more people into poverty and attract international criticism.”


The Social Security (Scotland) Bill is available online

The Bill sets out an over-arching legislative framework for the administration of social security in Scotland, making provision for operational functions such as overpayments, fraud, error, re-determinations and appeals.

It places a duty on the Scottish Ministers to give assistance to persons who are entitled to it and provides a brief description of each type of assistance that Scottish Ministers will give. Secondary legislation will provide detail on what assistance will be available and how the system will work. This will follow once the Bill has been agreed by the Parliament. The legislation is expected to come into force within the current Parliamentary term.

The first social security payments to be delivered by the Scottish Government from summer 2018 will be the increased Carer’s Allowance, followed by the Best Start Grant and the Funeral Expense Assistance from summer 2019.

The full list of the eleven benefits being devolved to Scotland can be viewed on the Scottish Government website. 10 of the 11 devolved benefits, totalling around £2.9 billion of annual payments, will be delivered directly by the new social security agency itself. Discretionary Housing Payments will be delivered by local authorities.


Thursday 15 June

Expert Panel

06.17 Expert Panel LaunchI attended the inaugural meeting of the External Experts Panel held this week in the Parliament. The group has been established as a collaborative venture between three parliamentary committees, Social Security, Finance and Constitution and Culture, Tourism, European and External Relations as well as the Centre on Constitutional Change based at the University of Edinburgh, with the support of the ESRC.


The meeting brought together the members and provided an opportunity for the experts to outline their views on the forthcoming challenges and opportunities that MSPs will need to consider over the next 12 months in the three areas of, constitutional policy and territorial financing, Brexit and EU matters and the implementation of new social security policy in Scotland.


Human Trafficking


The Scottish Government pledged support for victims of human trafficking will be doubled to at least 90 days. The announcement was made during a debate in the Parliament this week on the issue of human trafficking and I took the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

The extended period of support will be three times longer than the Council of Europe minimum period and twice as long as the rest of the UK. The change is being made after consultation with victims’ groups and other justice agencies, and is a key part of the new Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, launched in May and aimed at eliminating human trafficking in Scotland.

Funding of almost £800,000 will be provided this year through support groups TARA (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance) and Migrant Help UK.

You can read my contribution here http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11003&i=100549


Ahead of Brexit negotiations beginning, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to Prime Minister Theresa May to express the Scottish Government’s concerns over the UK’s current Brexit plans.

The First Minister has called for membership of the European Single Market and the EU Customs Union to be protected and for the negotiating team to include representation from the devolved governments.

She has also called for the UK government to immediately guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK beyond the date of the UK’s exit from the EU.

You can read more at: https://news.gov.scot/news/first-minister-writes-to-prime-minister-ahead-of-brexit-negotiations


A new £2.5 million fund will improve the help delivered to people looking to access employment and training.

The Employability Innovation and Integration Fund will look to join up employment support with health and social care, justice and housing services, making sure people receive the level of support they need to find sustainable employment.

Bodies responsible for delivering community planning partnership priorities which include health boards and local authorities, are being invited to submit proposals for the Fund.

If you would like more information on the Employability Innovation and Integration Fund including an application form, please send an email to employabilityiif@gov.scot

Care Opinion

06.17 Care OpinionThe not for profit social enterprise Care Opinion were in the Parliament this week and I stopped by their stall to have a chat to them about their work.

Care Opinion aims to make it quick, easy and safe for people who use services and their carers to give feedback about their health and social care, and for providers to respond to and make use of feedback for service improvement.

Anyone can share their stories on the Care Opinion website and when the story is published on site they will automatically notify relevant health and social care services who may then also respond online.

The result is short public online exchanges which show how people are experiencing services and how services are listening and responding to that experience.

You can see more at www.careopinion.org.uk

Hate Crime

A series of practical measures have been set out to tackle and prevent hate crime in Scotland, focused on tackling prejudice and building stronger communities.

Responding to the recommendations of the Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime which reported in September, Communities and Equalities Secretary Angela Constance has confirmed:

Creating a delivery group of key partners with Ministerial oversight to ensure the advisory group’s recommendations lead to meaningful changes on the ground

Work with transport providers and disabled people’s organisations to deliver a hate crime charter for public transport

Tackling hate crime in the workplace, focusing on frontline staff, working with the STUC and others to gather evidence

A public campaign aiming to prevent hate crime by raising awareness of what hate crime is and how to report it and showing perpetrators the impact of these crimes on victims

Adopting the International Holocaust Memorial Trust’s definition of anti-Semitism – driving work to tackle this form of prejudice

Fair Hospitality

The hospitality sector contributes billions to both our local and national economy every 06.17 Fair Hospitalityyear 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. Our 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.

 I know across Glasgow Kelvin there have been successes for this campaign but there remains several issues highlighted by the Fair Hospitality campaign that remain unresolved.

I support the aims of this campaign and hope to work in collaboration as the local MSP for the area to reach an agreement.

European Championships

Glasgow and Berlin will co-host the inaugural European Championships in August 2018, bringing together the existing championships of seven of Europe’s leading sports into one coordinated, exciting multi-sport event.

Aquatics, cycling, gymnastics, golf, rowing and triathlon will be held in Scotland, with the German capital hosting the athletics.

Scotland’s sporting reputation has never been higher, following what is now widely recognised as the best ever Commonwealth Games and the spectacular 2014 Ryder Cup.

Commonwealth and European champion swimmer, Ross Murdoch, who has been named as the first Glasgow 2018 sporting ambassador, joined young people from across Scotland at a sporting street carnival in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street to celebrate tickets going on public sale and you can get yours at https://www.glasgow2018.com/tickets

National Clean Air Day

Scotland is making progress tackling air pollution, a new report launched today on National Clean Air Day has shown.

The report showed that in the last 18 months 40 key actions have been progressed as part of the Clean Air for Scotland (CAFS) strategy involving the Scottish Government, local authorities, the NHS, Transport Scotland and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Key activity includes:

working with local authorities to introduce the country’s first Low Emission Zone by 2018, including on-going engagement with the bus and freight sectors

Scotland becoming the first country in Europe to adopt in law the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on fine particulate matter and funding for 13 new monitoring stations (adding to the 16 already in place)

the creation of four new Air Quality Management Areas, bringing the total to 38 in Scotland, all in locations designed to give the best insight into pollution country wide

the development of an app which advices people about alternative routes to help reduce exposure to pollution, and a permanent exhibition at the Glasgow Science Centre dedicated to air quality

encouraging alternative methods of travel through the launch of the National Walking Action Plan and an updated Cycling Action Plan