Thursday 21 June 2018


I pay tribute to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service who showed bravery and professionalism in bringing the fire under control and ensuring the safety of the public. The Mack as it is affectionately known is an iconic institution loved by many both here in Glasgow and across the globe. Many are mourning the devastation this fire has brought.

I took the opportunity to question the Cabinet Secretary for Culture on what support will be offered and when we can expect some answers on how this fire ensued. You can read the exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11610&i=105214

Glasgow City Council have offered support to residents and you can get support by calling North West team on 0141 276 6168 during office hours and 0800 838 502 out-of-hours and for Businesses within the safety cordon should contact Business Glasgow at businesssupport@glasgow.gov.uk or 0141 276 5333.


06.18 VisitorsIt’s always great to welcome constituents to the Parliament and this week was no exception. On Wednesday some members of my own family and their friends popped into the Parliament for a tour. As you can see they were delighted to be here so much so that they stayed to watch and listen to the debate on the music industry in Glasgow of which I was contributing.


International Women in Engineering Day is marked on 23 June this year with the theme of Raising the Bar. It is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. It celebrates the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world.

My colleague Gillian Martin MSP led a members debate in the Parliament on this subject and I took the opportunity to contribute highlighting a hugely successful and positive project FemEng and FemEng Rwanda.

You can read my full speech here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11610&i=105233

Mental Health

06.18 Royal Mail Mental HealthRoyal Mail and their charity partner’s Action for Children, Scottish Association for Mental Health and the Prince’s Trust were in the Parliament this week highlighting their work on improving mental wellbeing both in young people and throughout the Royal Mail’s workforce.

In May 2017, Royal Mail announced a new charity partnership with Action for Children, to focus on addressing mental health issues in young people. They raised more than £2 million for Action for Children to employ specialist youth workers to deliver face-to-face support sessions for 8,000 young people aged 15–18, to help prevent them from developing depression and other mental health problems.

Music Venues

One of the members debates this week focused on the music industry across Glasgow and in particular a recent report Growing the Value for Music Tourism in Glasgow from Scottish Enterprise in partnership with Glasgow Life.

Representing the city centre with a high concentration of popular music venues I took the time to contribute to the debate.

We are extremely lucky to have such a fantastic, thriving live music scene across the city and in order to have this we need the venues that have been catalysts for the success of so many young aspiring musicians over decades.

They are both cultural landmarks and tourist attractions as well as being the home of fantastic live music and it goes without saying with the best audiences in the world but some of them are under threat from developers in their pursuit of providing high end accommodation in the city centre. Developers don’t want to pay for soundproofing of their buildings and would instead have the venues – already established and many over decades – foot the cost.

I support the introduction of the Agent of Change whereby developers and those either building or buying property adjacent to a music venue are liable for any costs of soundproofing.

You can read the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11613&i=105267

Epilepsy Connections

06.18 Epilepsy Connections.MOVWhat a pleasure to have more guests from Epilepsy Connections visit the Parliament this week.

They had the full works with a tour of the parliamentary complex, followed by a trip to the public gallery to watch First Ministers Question Time.

I managed to catch up with them in between their full itinerary for a quick chat and this lovely photograph.


In marking World Refugee Week I spoke in the Scottish Government’s debate on Thursday. I am proud of the approach of the Scottish Government – humane, empathising, supportive and welcoming. The second New Scots Strategy builds on the work gone before with a foundation of dignity and respect at its heart.

You can read the full debate here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/ReportSelectPage.aspx?type=plenary&year=2018&page=0&meeting=-1


06.18 MNDMy colleague Christina McKelvie MSP led a parliamentary debate on MND this week where she outlined how the Scottish Government is working to ensure that people living with MND have access to the best possible care, support and research.   The SNP in government has invested £2.5 million in a Specialist Nursing and Care Fund each year since 2015, more than doubling the number of MND specialist nurses across the country.   The Scottish Government is also developing Scotland’s first National Action Plan on Neurological Conditions, investing in research capacity and bringing major MND studies to Scotland. Since 2015, the government has committed more than £750,000 has been committed in Scotland to research into MND and is funding two new recipients of the Gordon Aikman Scholarship again this year.

06.18 Charities Aid FoundationCharities Aid Foundation were exhibiting in Parliament and I took the opportunity to stop by and chat to their representatives about their work.

We spoke of charitable trends across Scotland and how these compare against the UK as a whole. Now in its second year, Charities Aid Foundation’s report Scotland Giving offers the first opportunity to draw comparisons and changes over time.

Over 100 charities also attended the event in Parliament along with MSPs who had the opportunity to hear first-hand about the climate in which Scotland’s charities are operating.

CAF’s report is now in its second year and is the only major study of its kind. It found that Scotland accounts for 11.8% of all UK charitable donations, despite representing 8.4% of the UK’s population.  The report also found that the most popular causes supported by those in Scotland were children and young people, with 28% of those surveyed saying they had donated to this cause. This was followed by medical research (27%) and animal welfare (25%).


Thursday 31 May 2018

Freedom to Run

05.18 Freedom to RunI was delighted to host the participants from Freedom to Run and Palestine based Right to Movement in the Scottish Parliament this week.

They are a collaboration of Scottish and Palestinian runners brought together to film a documentary highlighting the barriers Palestinians face on a daily basis even doing something as simple as attempting to run a marathon.

Both groups participated in the Palestine Marathon in March of this year and the Palestinian runners joined the Scottish runners at the weekend to participate in the Edinburgh Marathon.

In order to complete the documentary Freedom to Run have set up a crowdfunder here https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/freedom-to-run-sports#/ if you would like to find out more about the partnership and their journey please visit the site and if you can please make a donation.


Stage 1 of the Planning Bill was debated in the Parliament this week and I took the opportunity to participate highlighting the issue of developers and the huge rise in the number of student accommodation developments across the constituency.

As many of you will know this is an issue which I have been campaigning on for quite some time. I understand we have a huge student population across the constituency and there is a need for suitable accommodation. However, we also have a need for good quality affordable housing and with limited supplies of available land the current situation is making this impossible to realise.

You can read my full contribution here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11566&i=104862

Play Scotland

05.18 Play 1I was delighted to meet up with representatives from Play Scotland when they made their annual journey to the Scottish Parliament this week.

I was a little disappointed that they hadn’t brought along their trampoline which I tried out last year however I did have a go at hopscotch!

Play Scotland works to deliver and promote Article 31 in Scotland which states “Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural and artistic activities”.

Play Scotland works to promote the importance of play for all children and young people, and campaigns to create increased play opportunities in the community.

From promoting play for families, learning through play, play for health and encouraging children to get out into their local communities and play.

They have a huge amount of creative play ideas on their website and you can check them out at http://www.playscotland.org/


Great news this week with Glasgow’s bid to home Channel 4’s National Headquarters in Scotland and a Creative Hub reaching the shortlist. To mark this success, I lodged the following motion in the Scottish Parliament:


G4C4 Bid That the Parliament welcomes the news that Glasgow has made the shortlist for the location for establishing a national headquarters for Channel 4, as well as a creative hub to be established in 2019; understands that this will be home to 300 Channel 4 jobs, including key creative decision makers, with the intention to grow over time; commends the board, which includes Glasgow City Council with support from the Scottish Government, as well as high-level representation from the city’s creative industries, and encourages everyone to sign up and back the bid at http://www.g4c4.tv

This would be an incredible achievement for the city with an estimated 300 jobs coming to Glasgow if the bid is successful.

The board led by Glasgow City Council with support from the Scottish Government and many other high profile representatives from the creative industries are to be commended on making it to the shortlist and I will certainly be giving my full backing to the bid.

You can find out more and give your support here www.g4c4.tv

Drugs Forum

05.18 SDFI was delighted to attend the Scottish Drugs Forum Addiction Worker Training Project Completion Ceremony in the Scottish Parliament this week.

This was a fantastic event celebrating the achievements of the trainees and the success of the project with contributions from Scottish Drugs Forum CEO David Liddell (pictured).

The project which started in 2004 is a unique initiative which supports, trains, and prepares individuals with a history of problematic drug and alcohol use to work in Social Care.

Scottish Drugs Forum works in partnership with accredited learning providers and alongside drug and alcohol services throughout Glasgow to provide the training for the students, who include people who were formerly homeless and ex-offenders who have previously experienced multiple barriers to employment.

I was privileged to be part of the awards ceremony and commend the determination and commitment shown by the trainees. I wish them all the very best of luck. 


A new way of monitoring and recording bullying in Scottish schools will be introduced this autumn.

The standardised approach will make it easier for teachers to identify trends and address the problem.

Updated guidance will be issued to schools and local authorities setting out how to consistently record information about the type and prevalence of bullying, to help them further support pupils.

To support the roll out of this guidance, the Scottish Government funded anti-bullying service ‘respectme’ will continue its work with local authorities and other organisations working with children and young people to build confidence and capacity to address bullying effectively.

Discover EU

Great news for young people living in the EU with the DiscoverEU initiative, which will provide young people from across the EU with an opportunity for a funded travel experience to explore Europe.

The scheme will enable free rail travel in up to four countries between 9 July and 30 September 2018. The applications are open for people from all 28 EU member states who are aged 18 on 1 June 2018 and they have from 2 to 26 June to apply.

You can find out more here: http://www.youdiscover.eu/faq






Thursday 24 May

Pensioners Forum

05.18 SPF SSA BillI was delighted to sponsor and address a joint event in Parliament this week with the Scottish Seniors Alliance and the Scottish Pensioners Forum.

The event was held to celebrate the contribution older make within society and concentrated on the work that the Scottish Pensioners’ Forum and the Scottish Seniors Alliance have carried out over the years on older people’s issues, within communities across Scotland.

I’m pictured (right) with representatives from the Scottish Seniors Alliance (SSA). They were formed in 2007 to act as the umbrella body for local senior forums and unattached older people’s groups located throughout Scotland.

05.18 SSA SPF MinisterThe Minister for Social Security Jeane Freeman MSP also addressed the reception pictured here with Bill Johnson, Rose Jackson and myself.

The Minister welcomed the contribution of organisations dealing with issues affecting older people.

The Minister also spoke about the Older People’s Strategic Action Forum set up by the Scottish Government and the progress made to date.

The Scottish Pensioners Forum was set up in 1992 as an umbrella organisation for groups and individuals working and campaigning for a better deal for older people. It was initiated by the STUC Pensioners Committee to allow pensioners to speak on behalf of pensioners.

05.18 SPF and SSA Age ScotlandAge Scotland were also in attendance at the event. They had some very interesting information on their helpline for older people for MSPs to highlight to their constituents. This helpline provides information, friendship and advice through a confidential freephone number.

The service is available for older people, their carers and families in Scotland and advises on local services and opportunities, benefit entitlements, care rights, housing options and heating and legal issues such as Power of Attorney.

You can find out more about Age Concern at https://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/

Information on the Scottish Seniors Alliance can be found at http://www.spanglefish.com/scottishseniorsalliance/

And finally the Scottish Pensioners Forum have more information on their website at http://www.scottishpensioners.org.uk/

Child Poverty

Communities and charities with new ideas to tackle child poverty will be given the opportunity to bid for part of a new £7.5 million Innovation Fund.

Announced as part of the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, the fund, financed by the Scottish Government and the Hunter Foundation, is now open for applications from communities, local charities, health boards and councils.

A panel with membership from across the sector will judge the applications, which will support new or existing projects that will have an impact on reducing child poverty by 2030.

The Innovation Fund will support both new and the expansion of existing approaches that will have an impact on reducing child poverty by 2030 in a way that helps families to remain out of poverty for a minimum three year period and are viable and sustainable practices for public sector/third sector.

Guidance on the fund and application process can be found at http://www.thehunterfoundation.co.uk/

Applications open this week and will close at midnight on 29 June 2018 with awards being made, subject to final diligence and shortlisted interviews/project visits, no later than 17 August 2018. 


05.18 UnicefUnicef held a reception in the Scottish Parliament this week and I took the opportunity to meet with their representatives.

The reception was held to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the Unicef and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games partnership.

In 2014, Unicef and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games came together, united by a groundbreaking ambition:

To transform children’s lives by reaching children in every part of Scotland, and in every Commonwealth Country by the next Games.

For the first time in history, a global organisation dedicated to saving and changing children’s lives teamed up with a global sporting institution dedicated to humanity, equality and destiny – to deliver change on an international level.

The partnership has reached 11.7 million children including more than 500,000 children in Scotland.

NHS Anniversary

This year marks the 70th year of the NHS and the Scottish Government is encouraging people across Scotland to share their stories and memories of health care throughout the years at the launch of the celebrations to mark the run up to the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

National events to mark the anniversary include a civic reception for frontline NHSScotland staff, with local NHS board events including afternoon teas, photography exhibitions and services of celebration and thanksgiving.

Contributions from public, patients and staff will form part of the campaign leading up to the anniversary, with seven stories selected to feature in a short film of NHS memories across the decades.

For further information on the NHS in Scotland at 70, visit www.ournhsscotland.com

People can share their memories of the NHS by emailing: nhs70@smartscommunicate.com.


An independent report detailing improvements to police call handling has been welcomed by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

The report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, follows an independent review of call handling systems directed by Mr Matheson in 2015.

The review resulted in 30 recommendations, all of which have been discharged. The Justice Secretary has updated Parliament that the work to improve the system has delivered:

A revised staffing model for police call handling, ensuring the service has the right number of people at the right time;

An improved approach to training, ensuring staff have the skills needed to support the public, often in the most critical of circumstances;

Improved stability of key IT systems;

Controls to ensure Police Scotland maintains the highest standards, including the implementation of a “notable incidents” process which allows the service to learn from the few calls that haven’t been handled as they should have been.

The final report contains eight more recommendations, which aim to guide further improvements.



SNP Tax Reforms Mean Lower Taxes for Many in Glasgow

Scots back the SNP’s progressive tax plans by 2 to 1, according to a YouGov poll for the Times – leaving Tory demands to hand high earners and big business a tax cut worth £500 million looking hopelessly out of touch.

 The SNP’s tax plans will protect low and middle income taxpayers in Glasgow by setting a new Starter Rate of income tax of 19% for earnings between £11,850 and £13,850. As a result of this change as well as the increase in the personal allowance, all taxpayers earning up to £33,000 in Glasgow and across Scotland will be protected from any tax increase.

 Overall 70% of taxpayers in Scotland will pay less next year and 55% of Scottish taxpayers will pay less than they would in England. At the same time, SNP tax plans will increase the Higher and Top Rate of tax to 41% and 46%.

Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin said:

 “This poll shows strong 2 to 1 support for the SNP’s progressive tax reforms that will allow the Scottish Government to invest in our schools and hospitals in Glasgow.

 “The SNP is on the side of Glasgow’s taxpayers – ensuring that 70% pay less and that Scotland has the fairest taxed system in the UK.

 “This is a real endorsement of the SNP’s approach to protecting public services, investing in the economy and supporting households and I hope other parties will now back our tax plans.

 “While the Westminster Tory government has hammered Scotland with cut after cut, Tory MSPs have demanded the Scottish Government spend more and more money – all the while calling for tax cuts for high earners. It doesn’t add up.

 “The Tories are completely out of touch with the Scottish public, and their tax plans would leave a £500 million hole in the Scottish budget – leaving public services in Glasgow and across the country short-changed.”


Thursday 9 November 2017

Child Poverty Bill

As the Convener of the Social Security Committee which took the lead on the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill I am extremely pleased Scotland is to become the only part of the UK with statutory targets to tackle child poverty after the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill was unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament. As the Convener of the Social Security Committee which took the lead on the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill I am very proud of the work of the Committee on this Bill.

The Bill will:

Set in statute targets to reduce child poverty by 2030

Place a duty on ministers to publish child poverty delivery plans at regular intervals and to report on progress annually

Place a duty on local authorities and health boards to report annually on what they are doing to contribute to reducing child poverty

Establish a Poverty and Inequality Commission

Partick Jobcentre

11.17 Partick JobcentreI had a very interesting and informative visit to Partick Jobcentre at the end of last week with my colleague Patrick Grady MP.

With the continued problems with the roll out of Universal Credit we took the opportunity to question the staff on the impact of the roll out.

I also took the opportunity to raise the issue of partnership working with other services and voluntary organisations. These additional services are more than ever vital in providing assistance to clients and I wanted to ensure that staff within the Jobcentre were not only aware of this provision but were providing this information to ensure clients have access to this support.

Historical Sexual Offences

Legislation to provide gay men convicted under historical discriminatory laws with an automatic pardon has been published.

The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill will also enable men to apply to have convictions for same-sex sexual activity that is now legal removed from central criminal conviction records.

The bill delivers on a commitment made in the Programme for Government when it was published in September.

You can read the full text of the statement by the First Minister here:http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11174&i=101857


11.17 Dyslexia ScotlandDyslexia Awareness Week runs from 6 – 11 November this year and I took the opportunity to stop by and chat with representative from Dyslexia Scotland whilst they were in the Scottish Parliament this week.

The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Positive about dyslexia’ and they had this to say about the campaign:

We are positive about the skills and talents of children and adults with dyslexia.

We are positive that with the right support, children and adults with dyslexia can reach their full potential.

We are positive that children and adults with dyslexia can be successful in education, work and life.

We are working to help turn the negatives into positives.

We are #positiveaboutdyslexia

You can get more information on the campaign and Dyslexia Scotland at https://www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/dyslexia-awareness-week

Sexual Harassment

Further to my question to the First Minister last week on the allegations of sexual harassment I submitted a further question to the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body (SPCB) asking what measures will be put in place not just in terms of sexual harassment but all harassment in whatever guise it may be.

You can read the full exchange here:


Living Wage

11.17 Living WageScotland has 1,000 accredited living wage employers compared with around 3,500 across the whole of the UK, meaning Scotland contributes more than a quarter of the UK total and I’m pleased to say I make up one of the 1,000.

81.6% of Scottish workers earn the real living wage, the highest rate in the UK.

The new Real Living Wage rate was announced this week as £8.75 an hour.

Fuel Poverty Consultation

People are being asked to give their views on a new long-term strategy to tackle fuel poverty.

The consultation will run until 1 February 2018 and will seek opinions on, among other things, ambitious targets for fuel poverty reduction – with a revised definition recommended by an independent, expert review – and the timescales for meeting them.

Responses to the consultation will inform the new strategy and the development of a Warm Homes Bill, due to be introduced in 2018, which will enshrine the proposed new fuel poverty target in legislation.

You can access the consultation here:


Gender Recognition Act

Plans have been unveiled to make it simpler – and less intrusive – for transgender people to be legally recognised in their acquired gender.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on proposals which would bring Scotland into line with international best practice including:

Replacing requirements to provide medical evidence and to live in an acquired gender for two years when seeking legal gender recognition, with a self-declaration system; Reducing the age at which recognition can be obtained to 16, and considering options for under-16s; Options for the legal recognition of non-binary people – people who do not identify as male or female

EU Nationals

EU nationals working in Scotland contribute an average of £34,400 each to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – more than £4.4 billion a year – according to new data analysis.

Evidence submitted to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) by the Scottish Government demonstrates how the economy benefits from the presence of 128,000 workers born elsewhere in Europe.

It is the first time economists have calculated a figure which highlights the possibility that if net EU migration to the UK was to fall Scotland’s predicted population growth would be disproportionately affected.

High School of Glasgow

11.17 High School of GlasgowMy colleague Bill Kidd MSP and I welcomed S3 Modern Studies pupils from the High School of Glasgow to the Scottish Parliament this week.

We had some very interesting questions from the pupils.

Theses ranged from allowing for members of the public to question the First Minister at weekly FMQs to what issue would be paramount should Scotland become independent to our views on Brexit and what if any transition arrangements should be stipulated on our exit from the European Union.

Tearfund Scotland

11.17 TearfundTearfund Scotland were in the Parliament highlighting a paper jointly published by Tearfund and the Institute of Development Studies.

The paper Virtuous Circle outlines what the circular economy offers for low and middle-income countries.

They report that the current way of doing things is linear. We take natural resources, make items, use them and then throw them away. At this end point all the energy, water and materials used in making the items are thrown away too.

The circular economy, however, keeps resources in use for as long as possible. Many items, such as cars, can be shared rather than left sitting idle. They can also be repaired or rebuilt rather than being thrown away when they break. This creates new job opportunities and reduces health-damaging waste.

You can find out more about their work and this particular report at https://learn.tearfund.org/en/resources/policy_and_research/sustainable_economics/the_circular_economy/