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.




Thursday 25 January 2018

Palestinian Firefighters

IMG_1323I was delighted to welcome and host a delegation of firefighters from Palestine in the Parliament.

The firefighters received training from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) in their National Training Centre in Cambuslang.

This training was only possible through the commitment of the FBU and I commend them on their support and solidarity with the firefighters and the people of Palestine.

The CPG on Palestine has also been instrumental offering support when needed and the Scottish Government have provided funding to ensure the training can take place.

A very well done to all the Palestinian firefighters in training and a huge thanks to the SFRS trainers and the FBU.


There was a recent parliamentary debate on the issue of loneliness and isolation focusing on what more can be done to tackle this issue.

A new national strategy, one of the first in the world, is being developed to tackle loneliness and isolation.

The draft plan, now open for consultation, will look at the causes of social isolation and loneliness and how they can be addressed.

Views are also being sought on how communities can build on the work of the Scottish Government, and lead on ensuring those at risk of becoming lonely or isolated have access to the right support networks.

I took the opportunity to contribute to the debate highlighting some of the excellent work being carried out across the constituency to combat loneliness and isolation. Many of you will be familiar with the Glasgow Older Peoples Welfare Association who provide some fantastic opportunities for older people to get out, socialise and enjoy life.

You can read both the debate and my contribution here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11309&i=102951


Scots all over the world will be coming together to celebrate our national bard with Burns suppers and recitals of his great works. I too will be celebrating his contribution to our great literary history and his verses that have stood the test of time and recited many times over across the world.

If you are also celebrating and toasting the bard…enjoy!

Clydeside Distillery

01.18 The Clydeside DistilleryI had a return visit to The Distillery at The Old Pump House, Queens Dock now it is open to the public. Housed in the beautifully restored Pump House is an incredible interactive museum that mixes the shipping history of the Clyde, with Glasgow’s vibrant whisky heritage, as well as the role the Morrison family have played in both industries.

The fact there is an on-site operational distillery certainly offers visitors an up close and authentic experience of all things whisky! I have no hesitation in saying this is easily one of Glasgow’s premier attractions and I have every faith this excellent venue will be attracting people down to the Clydeside for many years to come.

Slàinte mhath!

Visit Scotland

01.18 Visit Scotland Year of Young PeopleIn 2018 Scotland puts its young people (with a focus on 8-26 year olds) in the spotlight, celebrating their talents, contributions and creating new opportunities for them to shine.

The Year of Young People 2018 (YOYP) is a year-long programme of events, activities and ideas that will give young people in Scotland the opportunity to show the world what they are made of.

Year of Young People 2018 is led by the Scottish Government, working in collaboration with a core group of delivery partners including VisitScotland who were in the Parliament exhibiting some of their work, EventScotland, Young Scot, Children in Scotland, Scottish Youth Parliament, Creative Scotland and YouthLink Scotland.

Digital Classrooms

20180124_112616Fantastic news this week for our Digital Classrooms campaign. The collection of tablets for a children’s digital classroom for refugee camps established by Glasgow based tech firm Equator has been supported by Angus Appeal and local Angus South MSP Graeme Dey.

I am thrilled that the collection efforts for the refugee digital classroom has become a national activity, well done to Angus Appeals for their brilliant collection efforts which has brought many more tablets to the scheme.

I am also very grateful to all so far who have generously donated their old tablets and iPads to help provide children in refugee camps with an education. For those interested in adding to the collection efforts, my office still welcomes any spare or old tablets which will be cleaned and utilised by Equator to help child refugees.

Old phones, computers, iPads and tablets can so often gather dust after Christmas. But there’s some great initiatives out there to put them to better use – and potentially change someone’s life in a big way.

20180122_131918I would urge people to donate tablets, old or new, to help ensure that more Digital Classrooms can be delivered, and am happy to be able to support Equator with this collection.

Members of the public can help provide educational support to children in the Calais refugee camp by donating iPads and other tablet devices.

Any tablets which are donated will be restored to factory settings and sent on to refugee camps with learning software installed – alongside a projector and charging kit.

They can be sent in a padded envelope or dropped off in person at Sandra White’s constituency office at 1274 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8AA.

Trimontium Trust

01.18 RomansTrimontium Trust were in the Parliament this week showcasing their work and I stopped by and had a fascinating chat with the Trust representatives.

They are a historical society based in the Scottish Borders which concentrates on Roman / Iron Age history.

The Trust’s aim is to educate and connect people, of all ages and from all walks of life, with the history of the Roman / Iron Age in Scotland and what it means for us today.

They curate the site of the largest Roman Fort in Scotland (called Trimontium by the Romans after the three Eildon Hills) and lead a small but active research group who investigate the frontiers of knowledge of the Roman Iron Age.

Young Carers

To mark Young Carers Awareness Day, Ministers have announced additional support and engagement activities.

Minister for Public Health Aileen Campbell outlined an enhanced programme of events for young carers, which includes hosting the annual Scottish Young Carers Festival in two locations for the first time.

And ahead of the introduction of a new Young Carers Grant by autumn 2019, Social Security Secretary Angela Constance has launched a recruitment campaign asking carers aged 16 to 25 to help design parts of the new Scottish social security system.

If you would like to take part you can register online at https://response.questback.com/isa/qbv.dll/ShowQuest?QuestID=5134319&sid=wMDsVbBMjh

Or Freephone: 0800 029 4974 (includes language line translation), Text: Prefix 18001 or SMS: 07467 447375



Trainee Palestinian Firefighters welcomed to the Scottish Parliament

Palestinian Firefighters receiving training in Scotland have been welcomed to the Scottish Parliament by the cross-party group on Palestine.

In Scotland to receive training in a joint-initiative between the Fire Brigades Union Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and the Scottish Government, trainee firefighters from the Hebron Fire Brigade were supported by MSPs on their visit to Holyrood prior to their passing out ceremony at the National Training Centre this week.


Since 2009, over 100 firefighters have received such training, additionally the programme has consisted of training, support, and the provision of donated equipment to firefighters across Palestinian towns, cities, and refugee camps.

The programme has long been supported by Sandra White MSP in her role as Convener of the Parliament’s cross-party group on Palestine.

Sandra White MSP said:

“For many years I have been pleased to support this vital programme training Palestinian firefighters which will help save lives whilst providing practical solidarity and support to the Palestinian struggle.”

“I am proud of the work of the Scottish Government, the Fire and Rescue Service, and the Fire Brigades Union to assist Palestinian firefighters, and welcoming these trainees to our Parliament to show that Scotland stands with them is always a highlight of my year.”