Last week I spoke in a parliamentary debate on the future of tourism in Scotland.
This gave me a welcome opportunity to highlight the wealth of tourist attractions located across Central Scotland.
As a Central Scotland MSP, I span three local authority areas, and every single one has a lot to offer.
Visitors to (or residents of) North Lanarkshire can experience Scotland’s industrial heritage at the Sumerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life, sample the tranquil delights of Drumpellier Country Park, or engage in more active pursuits at Strathclyde Country Park, a major water sports venue and home to theme park M&D’s.
South Lanarkshire has some of Scotland’s finest scenic and historical attractions, such as Chatelherault Park, Low Park Museum (both rated 5 star by VisitScotland), and Hamilton Mausoleum.
And no visit to Falkirk is complete without a trip to the Falkirk Wheel, the World’s first and only rotating boat lift, and one of Lonely Planet’s 10 works of engineering genius.
Tourism provides and creates jobs and boosts the economy. It is therefore vital that we realise our potential as a major tourist location. The Government should look at ways of extending opening hours to suit working families, and should continue to invest in the transport infrastructure, to maximise accessibility.
I recently visited Seaforth House, home to the Falkirk branch of Ypeople. Ypeople, formerly Glasgow YMCA, provides supported accomodation for young people affected by homelessness, helping them to find their feet, offering guidance and advice across a range of issues, and working to improve their confidence and self-esteem.
I was extremely impressed by the passion and commitment of the staff, and by the courage of the young residents, many of whom have experienced difficult circumstances.
Talking to the staff and residents gave me a real insight into the problems that affect young homeless people, and the strains on organisations like Ypeople which endeavour to help and support them.
This week I was pleased to be able to welcome staff and residents to the Scottish Parliament for a screening of “Speak Out”, a film written, directed, acted and produced by residents of Seaforth House. It is a brutal yet moving piece of work, which portrays some of life’s harsh realities without ever losing its sense of empathy.
The turn out for the screening was very good, and I was glad that some of my fellow MSPs managed to come along. I will certainly be encouraging those who could not to watch the film.
I would like to thank the residents and staff for coming to the Parliament, and to congratulate them all on their remarkable achievements. I would also like to congratulate everybody associated with Falkirk Ypeople, which this year celebrate its 10th anniversary, in recognition of which I have tabled a Scottish Parliament Motion.
In stark contrast to most high street banks, Airdrie Savings Bank pays no shareholder dividends (it does not have shareholders) but is run by a board of unpaid trustees. This means that any profits made are reinvested into the business, rather than being salted away into the pockets of a select few.
It is a responsible bank run according to the traditional virtues of prudence and probity. It does not take reckless risks, and it provides secure deposit and lending facilities to its loyal customers.
As a Central Scotland MSP, I am delighted that this Airdrie institution has expanded outwith its traditional Lanarkshire base by opening a branch in Falkirk. I am sure the new venture will be run according to the same principles, and will provide the same excellent level of service to local residents.
I look forward to further branches of Airdrie Savings Bank being opened throughout Scotland.