This morning I was delighted to host a Cumbrnauld meeting of WASPI – Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign Glasgow and Lanarkshire branch, which was packed to capacity at the Muirfield Centre.

The changes to state pension age have not been implemented in any fair or reasonable way. Women born in the 1950s are incredibly badly affected, with some finding out that they have to work an extra 7 years at very short notice – or with no notice at all. The UK Government is continuing to let women down and must bring in a transitional arrangement to allow people the opportunity to manage their retirement and ongoing finances.

Thanks to the 140 women and men who packed out the Muirfield Centre, and to June, Elaine and Anne for all their hard work in helping to spread the word, and making such informative presentations. I will continue to do whatever I can to support this campaign for pensions justice.

Party Conference

Many very welcome announcements in the First Minister’s speech this afternoon:

-The SNP Scottish Government will establish a publicly-owned, not-for-profit energy company to deliver low-cost renewable energy

– Extending free high quality childcare to 16 hours a week for all three and four year olds and vulnerable two year olds to 30 hours per week, saving working parents around £350 a month on the costs of childcare

– New support for children leaving care, by exempting care experienced young people from Council Tax

– Free sanitary products will be provided in schools, colleges and universities from the beginning of the next academic year.

– Protect our public services from Brexit, by ensuring we continue to benefit from the estimated 20,000 EU citizens who help deliver them.

Having rushed ahead without consultation and directly in contradiction to a pledge made just weeks before May’s council elections, Labour and Tory members on North Lanarkshire Council really should be debating and addressing the many concerns and problems that changes to waste collection have caused – not stifling discussion. Very frustrating for all affected.


Thanks to North Lanarkshire SNP group for getting this important but what should have been utterly uncontroversial motion passed last night – despite totally incomprehensible Labour opposition:

“North Lanarkshire Council agrees that its planned impact assessment on any loss of HMRC in Cumbernauld will be as equally rigorous and far-reaching as that carried out by West Lothian Council in the threatened closure of HMRC in West Lothian. Matters covered in North Lanarkshire’s impact assessment should include such aspects as the total loss of salaries in the Cumbernauld area,the impact of this on local businesses and services,the impact of longer commutes to proposed Glasgow and Edinburgh HMRC hubs and other relevant matters.

“The Council might consider entering into dialogue with Public and Commercial Services Union representatives”

As folk will know, this follows from a very simple request Jamie Hepburn MSP and I made to the council months ago. Having been ignored and then refused we made a call for cross-party support (to all 3 parties represented in Cumbernauld) for this idea.

Yesterday I wrote to every MP – regardless of party – who has an affected HMRC office in their constituency seeking support for another debate on this issue. For the sake of HMRC employees I hope – and expect – a faster and more positive response than we received from NLC.

Kirkintilloch Funding Fayre

Thanks to all the funding organisations who came along to the funding fayre hosted by Rona Mackay MSP and me this morning in Hillhead Community Centre, Kirky. We were very grateful to the Big Lottery Fund, SportScotland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Children’s Lottery, The Robertson Trust, Climate Challenge Fund and East Dunbatonshire Voluntary Action for coming along.

Most importantly – thanks to the local community groups and charities for coming along with all sorts of ideas about how funding opportunities could be put to good use locally – and we hope some will indeed now be able to attract funding

Working with my colleague Jamie Hepburn MSP I sent in a joint submission to the planning committee about the Westerwood development between King’s and Queens Drive.

95% did not want to see more housing developments in Westerwood and 98% did not support this specific application. 40% believed the site should be turned into a public park with an additional 56% content with the land as it is, but wanting it to be maintained more regularly.

If you would like to read our submission then feel free to contact me via email and I’ll send you a copy.

Dogs Trust Community Event

Thanks again to everyone who popped by the Dogs Trust community event last week!

It was great to have so many people along and given the high level of interest for this event in the community – I’m already looking forward to hosting a similar event with Dogs Trust in the future.

Overall, the Dogs Trust team were full of praise for local pet owners and it’s safe to say they left very impressed by the health and well-being of the dogs who visited. They have also produced a detailed summary from the day with some really positives statistics – more details below:

• Out of the 57 dogs that attended the event in Cumbernauld, 53 (93%) were believed to be in good health and did not require a visit to their vet.

• 41 dogs (71%) were considered to be of an ideal weight, whilst 16 (28%) were considered to be overweight.

• In total, 22 different dog breeds attended the event in Cumbernauld. Crossbreeds were the most commonly seen breed on the day, accounting for 26% of dogs present.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Lhasa Apso’s came joint second, both accounting for 9% of dogs seen and were closely followed by Shih Tzu’s and West Highland Terriers, who each accounted for 7% of dog breeds seen.

• The Dogs Trust team met a total of 57 dogs and their owners. Despite the law change in April 2016, which saw microchipping become compulsory, microchipping was the most popular service on the day with 34 dogs (60%) being microchipped. Health checks also proved popular, with 20 dogs (35%) receiving a health check.

Ivory Trade

I recently attended an interesting but alarming International Fund for Animal Welfare meeting on the Ivory Trade at Westminster.

The UK and Europe’s legal trade in ivory antiques is far too easily used as cover for trade in new ivory – thus adding to the demand for ivory that sees 55 elephants poached each day in Africa. Earlier this summer I raised this with the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who confirmed the government was committed to an all-out ban – but we need action sooner rather than later. (