Universal Credit Report

Citizens Advice Scotland have this week called for an immediate halt to the roll out of Universal Credit and highlighted a number of “major flaws” which are plunging people into poverty.

In areas where Universal credit has been introduced in Scotland, there has been a ten-fold increase in people contacting the charity about crisis grants, and a 600 per cent increase in clients with rent arrears.

I have had a number of constituent’s contact me about this issue and these statistics will come as no surprise to people who have experienced dealing with the Universal Credit. You may also recall that I recently spoke about the tragic effects of the Universal Credit roll out in Kirkintilloch and surrounding villages during a debate in Parliament. A video of my speech is available below.

The UK Government must halt this disastrous roll out now and listen to the voices of MPs and organisations such as CAS, who have been left to pick up the pieces after the damage caused by Universal Credit.

 

Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

Disappointing the High Court has ruled that the UK can continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

The UN and other organisations have already highlighted the serious human rights breaches by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the catastrophic number of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes.

Our SNP Westminster Group will continue to press for the UK Government to immediately suspend all arms sales to Saudi Arabia and support calls for an independent investigation into Saudi Arabia’s conduct.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-sale-of-arms-saudi-arabia-lawful-high-court-rules-legal-trial-theresa-may-a7832961.html

Parliamentary Meetings

Among interesting meetings this week, were events held by Age UK and Arthritis Research UK.

Arthritis is the single biggest cause of disability and pain across the UK with 10 million people living with arthritis, and other musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain. The pain, fatigue and lack of mobility caused by arthritis affects every aspect of a person’s life, making everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea, travelling to work or getting out of bed extremely difficult.

MPs heard how we can help tackle issues affecting older people locally and across the country, including loneliness and isolation, social care and ‎the importance of a decent income.

June Newsletter 2017

After a hectic few months of campaigning for the snap General Election, it’s great to be back at Westminster to continue to represent the people of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East.

My monthly newsletter is now available and you can follow the link below to find out more information about some of the work I have undertaken as the local MP, both in Parliament and in the constituency:

http://mailchi.mp/…/working-hard-for-cumbernauld-kilsyth-an…

Lennoxtown All Weather Football Pitch

Well done to Councillor Paul Ferretti – Bishopbriggs North & Campsie – SNPfor getting the issue of an all weather pitch in Lennoxtown on East Dunbartonshire Council’s agenda tonight – and securing cross-party support so the motion passed 19-3. There’s a long long way to go – but this a very welcome first step.

http://www.kirkintilloch-herald.co.uk/news/council-to-consider-new-all-weather-football-pitch-for-lennoxtown-1-4487839

Baby Box

The Scottish Government is gifting a baby box to every child born in Scotland to help ensure that every child has the best possible start in life, tackle deprivation and provide support for parents during this important time.

Each baby box comes filled with essential items for a child’s vital first few weeks including clothes, blankets, towels, a changing mat and a thermometer. The box will also provide a safe space for babies to sleep next to their parents to promote bonding and early attachment.

If you’re an expectant mum-to be, with a due date on or after 15 August 2017, please take the opportunity to register for a baby box at your next midwife appointment.

SNP MOVES TO SAFEGUARD SCHOOL POSTS BLOCKED

While angry classroom assistants gathered outside the Motherwell Civic Centre on Thursday and sat in the public gallery,the North Lanarkshire Council SNP Group made two moves to try to maintain and safeguard Classroom Assistant and Additional Support Needs Assistant posts at North Lanarkshire Council’s meeting in Motherwell on 22nd June. SNP councillors later met the protesters outside the Civic Centre.

First,SNP Group Education Spokesman and former teacher,Councillor Tom Johnston,moved suspension of Standing Orders to allow the Council to consider re-instating 198 Classroom Assistants posts which had been cut in February’s Council Budget for 2017-18 .

Explained Councillor Johnston: “ Council decisions can’t be changed until after six months have elapsed. You have to suspend Council Standing Orders if you wish to reconsider a decision within the 6-month period.month period. The SNP group wants to reverse the February budget move to get rid of 198 Classroom Assistant posts. We are disappointed that our move to suspend standing orders was blocked 41-32, with the Tory councillors backing Labour.”

In a second move,a tabled SNP motion to safeguard Additional Support Needs Assistants (ASNA) posts in North Lanarkshire schools was defeated 42-29.

The motion read: “North Lanarkshire Council agrees to maintain provision of Additional Support Needs Assistants (ASNA) employed personnel at current levels and ensure that no current personnel – whether on permanent or temporary contracts – have their services terminated in order to accommodate Classroom Assistants who,following Council Budget decision,move into ASNA employment.”

Moving the motion,SNP Education Spokesperson,Councillor Tom Johnston said: “The SNP Group’s first aim is to reinstate the 198 classroom assistant posts. Our second aim is to ensure that no Additional Special Needs Assistants on temporary posts are not put out of their posts to make way for in-coming former Classroom Assistants. Redeployment of classroom assistants should be additional to current ASNA numbers. There can be no ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.”

“It is simply wrong to cut classroom assistant and ASNA posts. Modern schooling is hugely demanding. There has been a big rise in the number of Additional Special Needs diagnoses in recent years and a legal ‘presumption of mainstream’ right for all pupils. Policies for children are highly individualised,under ‘GIRFEC’ – ‘Getting it Right for Every Child,. Many vulnerable children rely on individual relationships with auxiliaries. Safety during intervals is important.”

SNP Councillor Agnes Magowan, a former secondary Depute Head, seconded the motion.

HIGH COURT RULES THAT TORY POLICY CAUSING “REAL MISERY” FOR “NO GOOD PURPOSE”

The Tories shameful benefits cap for lone parents under two has been ruled ‘unlawful’ and ‘discriminatory’ by the High Court.

This is a humiliating defeat for the UK Government – accused of causing “real misery” for “no good purpose” – and highlights the human cost of continuing with callous welfare cuts.

The Tories’ disastrous policies have been proven to force low-income families into unnecessary hardship. It’s time that the UK Government learn from this ruling and listen to calls to end their obsession with austerity altogether.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40367686

NLC Bin Collections

On April 15th (3 weeks before council elections) the local Labour party told voters that newspaper reports of plans to reduce the frequency of bin collections in North Lanarkshire were untrue, and encouraged followers to share their post so people could know ‘the truth’.

Yesterday, (barely 2 months on and just a few weeks after those elections) the local Labour council has indeed just decided to reduce the frequency of bin collections.

Local people will no doubt draw their own conclusions as to who was being straight with the public back in April.

Ravenswood Survey

Based on a recent survey of Ravenswood residents where we sought views on the current provision of play facilities in the area, my colleague Jamie Hepburn MSP and I have now written to North Lanarkshire Council setting out the responses we received. Within our correspondence we stated that the majority of respondents consider there are few suitable places in the Ravenswood area for children to play and call for consideration to be given to implementing new and enhanced playpark facilities. We also highlighted additional points raised from the survey in relation to issues concerning street cleanliness, common ground maintenance, dog fouling and littering in Ravenswood.

If you would like to receive a copy of our correspondence or wish to be added to our mailing list for any updates as they arise, please contact us on stuart.mcdonald.mp@parliament.uk or jamie.hepburn.msp@parliament.scot. In addition, if there is anything you would wish to raise on these matters, or indeed any other matter concerning your own area, please do not hesitate to let us know.