Achieving Women’s Equality

Rhoda Grant Graphic (2)

The Scottish Labour Party have launched our consultation paper “Achieving Women’s Equality.

You can read the consultation document here:

Our Equalities Spokesperson Rhoda Grant MSP has written a piece on LabourHame about the consultation:…/achieving-womens-equality

Rhoda says: “If we are to tackle our society’s many inbuilt inequalities that prevent women from achieving their potential we need to focus on specific areas where inequalities are at their worst, and also ensuring women have access to power to make real change.

“That is why Scottish Labour has launched “Achieving Women’s Equality” – a consultation paper covering a range of issues from health, to the economy to justice.

“This paper asks how we should achieve this, not only looking at the age old problems of caring responsibilities and childcare, but how we value women for being women.”

Speaking in the ‘Scotland and Malawi Co-operation Agreement’ Debate

I was pleased to be able to speak in a debate at Parliament on Wednesday 11th November the Scotland and Malawi Co-operation Agreement. Please see below a copy of my speech:

David Livingstone played a major role in improving public health and freeing the indigenous population from the scourge of slavery in Africa and particularly in Malawi. He is a Scottish hero in the true sense. He left the world a better place than it was when he entered it. It is therefore only fitting that our former First Minister Jack McConnell recognised the work that David Livingstone did and which others have done in Malawi by establishing our partnership with that country 10 years ago. Jack McConnell can and should be proud of many achievements, but I am sure that that partnership remains among his greatest.

Many of us who have spoken or will speak in the debate have our own partnership with Malawi. I have spoken many times in the chamber and in other forums about my experience of Malawi and about my memories of it and friendships from my visit some three years ago.

Malawi remains among the poorest countries in the world. In the 2014 UN human development index report, it is ranked 174th out of 187. That ranking might improve when the latest report is issued in December, but it is a deeply depressing statistic. Malawi has a population of 16.36 million people, and their life expectancy is just 55. On average, people spend just four years in a school environment. In less developed rural areas, the incidence of HIV and AIDS is six times higher among women than among men because of the sex trade that is so evident in the country.

In education, much of the discrimination that women experience is deeply ingrained in Malawian culture. Until the early 1960s, Malawian girls were not allowed to attend school. Female education is still viewed by many as irrelevant. Far fewer girls progress through primary education, and female literacy levels are substantially inferior to male literacy levels.

It is important that our partnership with the country strives to make the situation better. The Scottish Government has a large part to play in gaining greater equality for women, particularly in education, but it is heartening to know that local schools, churches and organisations are also taking up that cause. I often talk about the role that St Margaret’s high school in Airdrie has played in that regard, but Falkirk high school, which is another school in my region, has also worked to support female education. Falkirk high school is linked with Bandawe secondary school. The partnership dates back to 2007, and the motto of the partnership is:

“The Two Will Make a Difference”.

That is a simple but powerful statement.

Projects such as the mother group project and the girls go for health initiative, which are part of the North Lanarkshire healthy lifestyle project that is run by Charles Fawcett in conjunction with the Forum for African Women Educationalists in Malawi, have been working hard to narrow the gender divide. The mother group project works to encourage more women to attend school, and the girls go for health initiative strives to keep them there. Women are provided with hygiene and sanitary products and with financial aid for school fees and educational materials, and workshops are organised to encourage male pupils to respect and value their female peers.

A further project that I am aware of because of a local connection is classrooms for Malawi. Its chairperson is James Kelly, who is a parishioner of St Bernadette’s parish in Motherwell. As I have said in previous debates, that parish has its own partnership with Malawi.

Classrooms for Malawi believes

“that the only sustainable route out of poverty is education.”

It says:

“We work throughout Malawi to improve places of education in some of the world’s poorest communities. Recent estimates show that around 2 million children in Malawi are either taught in unsafe and unfit classrooms, outdoors, or simply cannot go to school as the facilities are not there. We want to put an end to this.”

St Bernadette’s parish, of which I am a parishioner, has a partnership with St Anne’s parish in Namulenga. Through that partnership and through classrooms for Malawi, it has helped to renovate Namulenga girls school. It would have been understandable if the parish had stopped there, but it has now switched its focus to helping to foster a better educational environment by providing backpacks, school supplies, transport and furniture as well as toys for the children in the nursery. The parish sent a container in September, which should arrive any day now.

We often speak in the chamber about education, and rightly so, but we can too often forget how privileged we are to have access to education in our country. My experience of Malawi still drives me to this day. It is not an exaggeration to say that my visit made me a better person and changed my outlook on life.

We have achieved a great deal in 10 short years. I am sure that we can achieve a whole lot more in the next 10 years.

Scottish Labour votes to abolish charges for Social Care

As you may know, I’m currently undertaking a consultation on the abolition of charges for non residential social care. It is an issue close to my heart.

I’ve made my thoughts clear on this a number of times. Access to a high standard of non-residential social care is an equality and human rights issue; it cannot be fair that wealth is ever allowed to come into it. The unfairness of charges is exacerbated by the fact that charges for care services vary wildly between local authorities. An easier and fairer way would be for the Scottish Government to assist councils with the cost of the delivery of care and ensure that it is free at the point of delivery.

As a Member of the Scottish Parliament for Central Scotland I hold surgeries across Lanarkshire and Falkirk. Everywhere I go, I hear of the struggles from disabled people from all walks of life brought on by social care charges. Living as a disabled person incurs all sorts of extra costs in the form of paying for things like more heating and specialised diets. Further social care charges means many are left unable to enjoy the things in life that non-disabled people take for granted. The result is that many disabled people fall below the poverty line while others who need additional help go without it for fear of cost.

I brought forward the consultation because I sensed there was a real mood among people with disabilities to tackle this issue. I know from my years on the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee that charities representing people with disabilities have long wanted to see an end to charges for social care. Even at the height of the Referendum last year, a petition from “Scotland Against the Care Tax” garnered signatures from thousands of individuals.

I was delighted that members voted to commit our party to axe the care tax at the Scottish Labour Party’s annual conference at the end of October. So much credit must go to those behind the motion, Pam Duncan-Glancy, who has grown up having care charges a constant in her life, and her friend Sean Morton. Both Pam and Sean made impassioned pleas for the removal of charges that resonated with the hall. You can find Sean’s impressive speech below.

The success of the motion is something our whole party can be very proud of and means that we go into the coming election committed to scrapping this unjust charge on disability. This creates a real dividing line between Labour and other parties.

My consultation on the care tax is still open and will be until the January 31st. I would welcome as much feedback as possible, so if you have something to add please do not hesitate to offer your submission.

You can read the consultation document here and respond to the consultation via the online smart survey here.

Siobhan McMahon MSP: Families in Central Scotland will be protected by Scottish Labour

Families not flights

Working families across Central Scotland will be protected by Tory cuts to Tax Credits by Scottish Labour.

The party announced that they would protect working families in Scotland from tax credit cuts using the new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament.

Party leader Kezia Dugdale announced the move in her keynote speech to Scottish Labour conference in Perth last week, outlining that the party would pay for the move by cancelling planned SNP tax cuts on air passenger duty and Tory cuts for higher rate tax payers. 

Local Scottish Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon said the move could protect as many as 58,300 families in Central Scotland.

Ms McMahon said:

“Tax credits work. They make work pay for families in Central Scotland and across country. They lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, and they allow families to aspire to more than just making it to the end of the month.

“That’s why the Labour Government introduced them in the first place and why Scottish Labour would use the powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to reverse the Tories plans to cut them.

“This is about different choices between Labour and the SNP when it comes to priorities. It’s about standing up for working families.

“The SNP want to make a plane ticket cheaper. I don’t think that’s the right priority when there are families in Central Scotland who can’t afford the weekly shop.

“This is about what we stand for and who we stand with. Labour will put the incomes of working class families before the price of a business class flights. “

Questioning the Minister for Children and Young People on Reforms to the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme


Siobhan McMahon (Central Scotland) (Lab):

To ask the Scottish Government whether it considers that the recent reforms to the protecting vulnerable groups scheme are sufficient.

The Minister for Children and Young People (Aileen Campbell):

Yes. We believe that the reforms of the disclosure and rehabilitation regimes in Scotland that took place on 10 September strike the right balance between public protection and the right of an individual who has spent convictions for less serious offences, and who has put their past offending behaviour behind them, to move on with their life. The reforms will continue to ensure that vulnerable groups are protected and that the background of an individual seeking to work with children and protected adults is assessed for relevant convictions. To that end, convictions for serious offences will continue to be disclosed even if spent.

Siobhan McMahon:

I fully accept the need for additional scrutiny of a person’s background if that individual wants to work with vulnerable groups or in other sensitive roles. However, I am aware of a case in which my constituent has “Other Relevant Information” on his protection of vulnerable groups scheme record, which was placed there at the request of the then chief constable of Strathclyde Police. Despite approaching Disclosure Scotland, Police Scotland and the Information Commissioner’s Office, my constituent has been unable to obtain details of the “Other Relevant Information” that is held on his file, which has now had a detrimental effect on his coach and taxi business. What recourse, if any, does my constituent have in this situation? In addition, are there any plans to give Parliament a further opportunity to scrutinise the reforms and to change that anomaly?

Aileen Campbell:

I thank the member for raising the issue. It is important to realise that the reforms are about making sure that the regime that is in place is proportionate, so that it ensures that people can move on with their lives. However, that has to be balanced with making sure that the right information is there, so that people can make good decisions about who is going to be working with, for example, people who have vulnerabilities.

We have been in a period of consultation on the disclosure regime since the cabinet secretary made the statement on the reforms to Parliament. I am happy to meet the member to hear from her the specifics of the case that she is involved with to see whether that will help to move the issue forward. I am also happy to make available to her the opportunity to make any other representations that she wants to make to the justice minister.


Hemiplegia Awareness Week

As a patron of the HemiHelp Charity, I’m always delighted to promote the charity and help raise awareness of Hemiplegia in any way that I can.

For readers who don’t know, hemiplegia is a disability caused by damage to the brain, most often before or around the time of birth. It results in a weakness and lack of control in one side of the body, not dissimilar to the effects of a stroke. The physical severity of the condition varies from one person to the next, from someone with little or no use of one hand and a sever limp to another person who’s hemiplegia may only show when attempting specific physical activities. Half the children affected by hemiplegia have additional difficulties, both physical and mental.  Every day in the UK between one and two babies are born with it, which means that up to one child in 1,000 is affected by this lifelong condition.

It is a condition that I was born with, yet for me prior to becoming an MSP I never really thought of myself as a disabled person. My parents never discouraged me from trying anything and so I tried everything, from Irish Dancing to the Sea Cadets. I was the only female on the school football team, the goalkeeper in the netball team and one of four squad members of the badminton team. Yet hemiplegia has always been a part of my life. My proudest moment so far came the day I learned to ride my bike without stabilisers, not a great achievement for most 11 year olds but for me it was the culmination of a lot of effort.

More recently I’ve had cause to bemoan the difficulties facing people with Hemiplegia. As friends will know, I’m getting married in November and getting comfortable wedding shoes has been difficult. So far I’ve bought three pairs, all of which have been unsuitable.

That is why the services that HemiHelp offer are so important.  From the helpline that is run by volunteers who have personal experience of hemiplegia, the “try it” fun days that occur

throughout the country, the conferences run for parents and professionals, the pen pal system or the transition service which supports people aged 16-25 who need assistance  moving from education to employment, HemiHelp is there every step of the way.  The diversity of services they provide is nothing short of astounding.

As someone who has hemiplegia, it is an honour to be a patron of HemiHelp and I am all too aware of how important it is to raise awareness of the condition. Better awareness enables families and individuals to get the support they need and leads to increased understanding, allowing those affected to reach their full potential.

That is why I have decided to write this blog. The HemiHelp awareness week runs between 12-16th of October and involves a range of fun activities to raise awareness. As always, the week’s events kicked off on Mitten Monday, which encourages people to wear a mitten as a symbol of support for those with hemiplegia.

The key focus of this year’s campaign is to help people with hemiplegia raise understanding with people they interact with regularly. In particular, in key daily contexts such as schools and workplaces. To do this, HemiHelp have developed ‘My HemiCheck’ a pioneering online tool to make this easier.See My HemiCheck at

I would like to thank all of those at HemiHelp for their commitment for in making Hemiplegia Awareness Week a success and I hope you will have learnt a little more about the condition at the end of this week.

HemiHelp is the UK’s national charity for hemiplegia and its primary aim is to help each child with the condition reach their full potential. It provides information, support and events for children and young people with hemiplegia, their families and the professionals who support them.

Over 100 days of GP sessions not covered in the last 3 months

New research from Scottish Labour has found that more than 100 days’ worth of out of hours sessions for general practice were not staffed in the last 3 months.

An out of hours session is a GP covering a period outside of the normal working hours of 9 to 6. These sessions tend to be 3-4 hours long and with longer sessions through the night.

Information uncovered by Dr Richard Simpson found that there had been 826 unfilled sessions in the last 3 months.

Taking each session at three hours, these 2,478 hours of unfilled sessions equates to 103 full days.

In NHS Lanarkshire, where out of hours services have been reduced from 5 to 2 centres, there were 209 unfilled sessions.

In Tayside where the centres in Perth & Angus are partly closed there were 275 unfilled sessions

The news comes after a summer which has revealed a crisis in Scottish general practice, which saw:

  • Investment in General Practice having fallen by over £1 billion since 2005/06.
  • Around 2 million patients in Scotland served by understaffed and under resourced practices
  • For the first time Scotland having less GP’s per head than the North East of England
  • Scottish domiciled medical students entry cut by 15%  since 2008/09, reversing the trend of the previous Labour-led Scottish Government.
  • More practices without GP partners and vacancies increasing for both partners and sessional doctors and now under direct Health Board control. More practices restricting new patient registration.
  • One in five trainee GP posts vacant. 

Central Scotland Scottish Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon said: “GP surgeries are the first port of call for families in Lanarkshire but the truth of the matter is that under this SNP Government we are facing the biggest crisis in general practice for a generation.

“Our research suggests that more than twenty days’ worth of GP sessions have not been filled in the last three months in Lanarkshire

“Under the SNP Government we have seen a drop in funding totalling over £1 billion, fewer medical students, fewer trainee vacancies being filled and now fewer out of hours sessions being staffed.

“This problem is only going to get worse in the next decade and SNP Ministers need to get to grips with it.

“Action now is vital because general practice in trouble will affect every part of our NHS, from missed waiting times for mental health to increasing pressure on A&E because people can’t see a local doctor. These figures reflect the situation in the middle of summer; if it is still this bad in winter we will begin to see real problems.

“Since the SNP came to power they have squeezed health spending in Scotland harder than the Tories in England and our communities are feeling the effects.” 



GP Out of Hours FOI

Question 1) How many GP out of hours centres do/did you operate in (a) 2013/2014, (b)2014/2015 and (c) currently

Question 2) What is the normal number of GP sessions expected to cover the centre each week in (a) 2013/2014, (b)2014/2015 and (c) currently

Question 3) How many out of hours GP sessions have you been unable to fill in the last three months by centre

FOI for press release

“Scottish GP surgery teams carrying out an estimated 24.2 million consultations each year — an 11% rise over ten years.  At the same time, the share of NHS funding spent on general practice in Scotland has been falling year on year. The GP percentage has fallen from 9.8% in 2005/06 to a record low of 7.8% in 2012/13. This drop has led to a real terms cumulative loss of investment of £1.1 billion into Scottish general practice compared to a scenario where funding had remained at 9.8%.”
Research from the Royal College of General Practitioners has shown that investment in GP services has fallen by a cumulative total of over £1 billion since 2005/6, with demand rising by over 10% during the same time period.


Siobhan McMahon MSP wears it pink in Holyrood in aid of Breast Cancer Now

Scotland's MSP's Wear it Pink in support of Breast Cancer Now

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon has shown her support for women with breast cancer by dressing up in pink and encouraging her constituents to take part in Breast Cancer Now’s flagship fundraiser, wear it pink, on Friday 23rd October.

wear it pink, the UK’s biggest pink fundraiser, calls on supporters across the country to ditch the day-to-day colours and pull on some pink to raise money for Breast Cancer Now’s life-saving breast cancer research.

Siobhan McMahon joined fellow parliamentarians in wearing it pink in Holyrood to encourage people across Scotland to get involved. Now in its 14th year, wear it pink raises over £2 million each year for world-class research into breast cancer, and this year it is back and bigger, brighter and bolder than ever before.

Anyone can take part, whether in school, at work or at home. All you have to do is wear something pink and donate whatever you can.

Siobhan McMahon MSP said:

“Right now breast cancer is at a tipping point. Every year in Scotland around 4,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and sadly nearly 1,000 people still lose their lives to the disease. This is why we all must come together to support Breast Cancer Now’s cutting-edge research, and, in wear it pink, there is a fun and simple way for everyone to get involved. 

“Together, we can make a big difference for women with breast cancer, now and in the future; I hope everyone in the local community will join me in wearing it pink on Friday 23 October and show their support for Breast Cancer Now.”

Launched in June 2015 with the ambition of ensuring that no one dies from the disease by 2050, Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, created by the merger of Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

This is a day when we stand out, stand together and stand for something: wear it pink on Friday 23 October to support Breast Cancer Now’s life-saving research. For more information or to register for wear it pink visit 


About Breast Cancer Now:

  • Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s largest breast cancer charity working in Scotland.
  • Breast Cancer Now’s ambition is that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live. The charity is determined to stop women dying from the disease, working in a new, collaborative way and bringing together all those affected by the disease to fund research, share knowledge and find answers.
  • Breast Cancer Now’s world-class research is focused entirely on breast cancer. The charity supports nearly 450 of the world’s brightest researchers at more than 20 locations across the UK and Ireland.  In Scotland we support 21 scientists, working on research projects in locations such as Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling. Together, they’re working to discover how to prevent breast cancer, how to detect it earlier and how to treat it effectively at every stage so we can stop the disease taking lives.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in Scotland.  Over 4,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and around 1,000 people die from the disease in Scotland each year.
  • Breast Cancer Now launched in June 2015, created by the merger of leading research charities Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
  • For more information on Breast Cancer Now’s work, visit org or follow us on Twitter or on Facebook.

Siobhan McMahon MSP Launches Consultation on Abolition of Social Care Charges

Launch event with Siobhan McMahon MSP, Ken Macintosh MSP, Cara Hilton MSP, Michael McMahon MSP, and Anne McTaggart MSP

Scottish Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon today launched a consultation on the abolition of non-residential social care charges.

The consultation was launched at the Scottish Parliament and will be open until Friday 30th January 2016.

Currently, many disabled people are being driven into poverty due to the increasing amounts of money that they have to pay as a contribution towards their social care.

Ms McMahon believes that non-residential social care is an equality and human rights issue and, therefore, should be free at the point of delivery. She also believes that the current system is unfair, because charging procedures for these care services differ considerably between local authorities.

Previously, a petition was lodged at the Scottish Parliament by the ‘Scotland Against the Care Tax’ group which was signed by 4013 people and urged the Scottish Government to abolish all local authority charges for non-residential social care services.

The consultation has received backing from many organisations including the ‘Scotland Against the Care Tax’ group, Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, and Quarriers, who were all represented at the launch event.

There were also a number of people present from across Scotland who have experienced first-hand the difficulties these charges can present to disabled people who wish to enjoy the things in life that non-disabled people take for granted.

Also in attendance offering their support was Ken Macintosh MSP, Cara Hilton MSP, Michael McMahon MSP and Anne McTaggart MSP.

Siobhan McMahon MSP said: “By carrying out this consultation I hope to encourage debate on the system of social care charging in Scotland and find out the public’s views on the issue.

“For those people who use it, social care is an example of the essential practical assistance and support needed to participate in society and lead an ordinary life. Enabling disabled people to participate in the economic, social, cultural and civic life of the community not only allows them the freedom to exercise their human rights, but also benefits society as a whole.

“I believe that it’s now time to complete the journey that Scotland began 13 years ago when it became the first part of the UK to provide a degree of security for all older people when they started to need care to live in their own homes. We should make sure that this security is extended to everybody who needs social care to enjoy their basic human rights. That surely would be a fairer Scotland.”

Ian Hood, Coordinator at Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, said: “At Learning Disability Alliance Scotland we understand how important this issue is and I would urge as many people as possible across Scotland to respond to Siobhan McMahon’s consultation.

“Social care is essential to many disabled people in order to help them take part in the lives of the communities they were born and grew up in. It’s also essential for those who are facing the end of their lives and want to spend their time with dignity and respect in their own communities.

“One in five people in Scotland have a disability and the number of people living into their 80s and 90s is increasing. Finding an answer to the question of how our society manages their support and helps to keep as many people as possible being fully active and a functioning part of our community is essential.”


Notes to editors:

  • You can read the consultation document here, and respond by completing the online Smart Survey here.

For more information please c

Siobhan McMahon MSP Finds Out More About Energy Company Obligation Installations

Siobhan McMahon MSP finding out more about ECO installations

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon this week met with representatives of ofgem to find out more about Energy Company Obligation Installations.

The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is a government scheme to obligate larger suppliers to deliver energy efficiency measures to domestic premises in Britain.

You can find out more information about this here.