I was delighted to be able to support to Small Business Saturday by paying a visit to my local SPAR convenience store on Logans Road in Motherwell on Saturday 7th December.
It was a real pleasure to be able to pay a visit to a local retailer and recognise the huge contribution small businesses make to our economy and I would like to thank Mr Arshad, the manager of the store, for inviting me along.
Small Business Saturday is an American initiative which was driven in the UK by Labours Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umanna and aims to encourage shoppers to support local, independent businesses, with many retailers offering special promotions on this day to encourage consumers to shop locally.
It took a broad coalition of businesses, politicians and other organisations to come together to make this a reality. This recognition is important as small businesses play a vital role in Britain’s economy, providing almost two-thirds of private sector employment, and can help foster a strong sense of community.
However, we need to make sure that they receive support every single day of the year. In order to compete with bigger organisations, small businesses need to be given access to finance, advice and support which will allow them to flourish.
It was a Labour MP who drove this initiative, showing that Labour can be the party of small business and enterprise. Policies such as our energy price freeze, which both the SNP and Coalition Governments have refused to back, would not only benefit homeowners but also businesses that need all the help they can get in these difficult times. I would urge both the Scottish and UK Governments to do everything in their power to ensure that small businesses are able to compete and flourish.
Kashain Arshad, Manager at SPAR Logans Road, said “As an independent retailer, I was very pleased to have the support of Siobhan McMahon MSP at my store for Small Business Saturday; a day that is set aside and urges customers to shop locally and support the community. As a family run business, we have been here for 30 years and have served our community in North Motherwell with loyalty, trust and exceptional service and I hope that this day helped reinforce this and demonstrate the importance that local businesses are within the community. Furthermore, it was great chance for me to voice any concerns that I may have as a retailer and how Siobhan and other local political members can support”
On the 26th November, the SNP finally published their long awaited white paper on an independent Scotland.
Alex Salmond promised us a “prospectus” on independence back in May last year. However, what we got was an uncosted wish list by a party who will do anything and say anything to get Independence.
Incredibly, following the publication of the white paper we now have more unanswered questions about what an independent Scotland would look like than there were before. Amongst those that the Nationalists have repeatedly failed to answer are the simple but crucial questions: on the currency where there is still no plan B; and on membership of the European Union where we still have no legal advice.
However, as an MSP, what I found most perplexing about this publication was the SNP’s ‘headline’ policy on childcare.
The truth is that childcare is an area which is already fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Devolution means that the SNP could introduce this policy today if they wanted to but, as the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted when she was questioned on the subject, the reason they have so far avoided doing so is because the extra tax that would be generated from getting more women into work would go to the Treasury in London.
This shows us that devolution can work for Scotland but unfortunately the SNP are not interested as it simply does not suit their political agenda. The people that are paying the price for this inactivity are Scottish families who badly need the Scottish Government to deliver their promises on this issue.
It is a fantasy to say we can leave the UK but at the same time keep all the benefits of the Union. In fact, this White Paper underlines the benefits of remaining in the UK by highlighting everything they wish to remain the same.
I will continue to work hard to press the SNP on the important questions they fail to address so that the Scottish people will know what separation would really entail for them.
I was happy to be able to pledge my support to the ‘Start The Conversation’ campaign which is raising awareness of the importance of appointing a power of attorney. I have also called on a similar campaign to be rolled out across Central Scotland.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Glasgow City Council have joined forces with Alzheimer Scotland, Scottish Care and local law firms to highlight the need to ‘Start the Conversation’ with family members on putting a power of attorney in place. The campaign aims to encourage people to talk to their loved ones about this so that if the person takes ill and is unable to make decisions someone can step in.
It is really important that people are made aware of the benefits of appointing a power of attorney. Not doing so can leave people in a state of limbo which can cause stress and confusion for them and their family.
Contrary to popular belief, the power of attorney is not just for elderly or wealthy people. Anyone over the age of 16 can grant a power of attorney and it is not just about looking after your financial affairs. It also allows you to choose who should decide personal welfare issues such as where you live and who looks after you.
Whilst it is perfectly understandable that people are reluctant to think about the possibility of this happening to them it is important that everyone is prepared should such an unfortunate situation arise. Appointing a power of attorney can help relieve some of the stress and anxiety that often accompanies the experience of a loved one being in hospital and I would therefore urge both NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Forth Valley to adopt this campaign and make sure the people of Central Scotland are made aware of its benefits.
Visit the ‘Start The Conversation’ campaign website here.
I was happy to be able to back The Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) ‘Health Visitors for Scotland’ campaign in Parliament.
The campaign urges the Scottish Government to seize the opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s children by ensuring all families have access to health visitors. Supported by a range of nursing organisations and children’s’ charities, the campaign’s petition calls on the Scottish Government to enshrine a statutory entitlement to universal health visiting services and to ensure that the Named Person for the 0-5 year-old age group is the health visitor in the Children and Young People Bill.
The Named Person is a concept that is already being rolled out in many areas of Scotland, and acts as a first point of contact between a child, their family and key services. The post, which was developed in response to feedback from parents, is filled by midwives for the first 10 days of a child’s life, then the health visitor, before responsibility is handed over to schools at the age of 5. The Children and Young People Bill – which passed Stage 1 recently– aims to enshrine the Named Person in law.
Children deserve the best possible start in life in order to reach their potential. Health Visitors play a vital role in this, providing much-needed advice and encouragement for parents, particularly those who are finding things tough. Early action by health visitors can prove to be extremely important in helping combat problems later in childhood and preventing ill health in later life.
That’s why I would urge the Scottish Government to do everything in their power to ensure that there are enough health visitors to fulfil the important role of the Named Person once it is introduced across the country. Staff also need to be trained to the highest standard if they are to be able to carry out this role which will be extremely challenging to our Health Visitors. It is vital that the Scottish Government makes sure the finance is in place to make this possible.
For more information on the campaign click here.
Held in Birmingham, more than 700 of the UK’s most talented apprentices, employees and learners battled it out in 70 competitions to be named the ‘best in the UK’ in their chosen skill. Of the 235 organisations that participated, New College Lanarkshire’s success saw the institution take the top spot on the leader board – earning it the title of ‘best in the UK’.
This is a great personal achievement for each of the winners and is a testament not only to their skills and talents but also to their hard work and determination. It is also a great reflection of the dedicated staff at the college who will be extremely proud of this excellent achievement.
Below is a full list of the winners:
Gold – Richard Miller, HNC Computing, from Motherwell, aged 19
Gold – Kim Reid, HND Computing Software Development, from Lanark, aged 18
Gold – Blane Mulholland, HND Computer Aided Draughting and Design, from Bellshill, aged 23
Gold – Andrew Beel, HND Computer Aided Draughting and Design, from East Kilbride, aged 19
Silver – Shona McGarrity, HND Information Technology, from Biggar, aged 41
Silver – Neil Pardoe, HNC Computer Networking, from Airdrie, aged 28
Silver – Jack Scott, BSc Computer Networking, from Kilsyth, aged 21
Silver – Thomas Beeston, Cisco Certified Network Associate, from Motherwell, aged 29
Silver – Dylan Van Belkum, HND Computer Aided Draughting and Design, from Wishaw, aged 20
Bronze – Michael Sheppard, Cisco Certified Network Associate, from Uddingston, aged 31
Bronze – David Hogg, HND Computing Technical Support, from Coatbridge, aged 2
I was concerned to read the Healthcare Environment Inspectorates report on Monklands hospital which was published last week. The report, drawn up after inspectors visited the hospital on 12th September, found failings in infection control procedures at the hospital for the second time in nine months.
Following an inspection in January, Monklands was given five required improvements that needed to be made. I welcome the news in the report that progress has been made by NHS Lanarkshire both in terms of bringing in a new standard operating procedure which checks mattresses are clean and ready to use, as well as a new system of regular mandatory HAI update training being introduced to all staff.
However, the recent report finds that three of those requirements, relating to isolation rooms, sharp equipment and the recording of peripheral vascular catheters, had not been met. What I found particularly concerning was that after finding two mattresses that were “significantly contaminated” with body fluids, ward staff were unclear about who was responsible for cleaning mattresses before use when they arrived from the mattress store. In addition, I was also alarmed by the fact that doors of rooms that were isolated because of infection control reasons were found open, and the apparent lack of understanding of some staff as to the potential dangers of this.
These appear to be basic errors that are putting patients at unnecessary risk, and I trust that the health board will act upon the information in the recent report and ensure that all staff are trained to the required level to make sure that these problems don’t persist.
I understand that staff are under severe pressure and that budgets are increasingly tight across the NHS. I would therefore call on the Scottish Government and the health board to ensure that the necessary improvements are made at Monklands so that staff are sufficiently equipped to carry out their jobs correctly. I sincerely hope that these problems are addressed imminently as patient safety is paramount.
I was happy to lend my support to the retail union Usdaw’s campaign for respect for shop workers as part of the ‘Freedom From Fear’ campaign, which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse directed at retail staff.
The campaign event took place on Wednesday 13th November, in the middle of Usdaw’s Respect for Shop workers Week, at the Scottish Parliament.
Too often retail employees are confronted with violence, threats and abuse and it is really important we stand together and ask people to ‘keep their cool and respect shop workers’.
I support Usdaw’s call for a change in the law to provide stiffer sentences for those who assault workers. It was very disappointing the SNP Government blocked Hugh Henry’s Workers (Aggravated Offences) Scotland Bill 2010 in the last Parliament. That Bill would have included all workers serving the public in the protections we have already given to emergency service workers.
I will continue to campaign with Usdaw for a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out and to give a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.