Supporting Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal

With Susan Lowes of Marie Curie

With Susan Lowes of Marie Curie

All this week, representatives from Marie Curie have been in the Scottish Parliament encouraging MSPs to support this year’s Great Daffodil Appeal and I was proud to put on my daffodil.

I met staff and heard about the work of the charity that cares for terminally ill people and their families across Scotland. As you can see I also posed with a placard pledging support for people with a terminal illness.

The Great Daffodil Appeal is Marie Curie’s biggest fundraiser, which encourages everyone to give a donation and wear a daffodil pin in March. The money raised will help Marie Curie Nurses to provide more free care to local people with terminal illnesses in their own homes and in the two Scottish Marie Curie Hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

I am delighted to add my support to this year’s appeal, to help spread the word in the hope that vital funds can be raised to support terminally ill people in Scotland. Every March millions of people across the UK support our biggest fundraising campaign and it’s easy to join in, simply give a donation and wear your daffodil pin.

To find out how you can get involved in the Great Daffodil Appeal click here or call 0845 601 3107

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Living Wage

According to the Scottish Trades Union Council (STUC), nearly one in five Scots in work currently earn less than the Living Wage. That means that 18% of people in Scotland receive less than £7.85 an hour.

We also know that the proportion of jobs paying below the Living Wage is highest among the younger age groups, with 72% of 18-21 year olds earning less than the Living Wage, compared to 27% of 22-29 year olds.

Women are also significantly more affected than men, with 27% receiving less than the Living Wage compared to 16% of men, and part-time workers are more than three times more likely to receive low pay than full-time workers.

This is unacceptable. It is important that governments do all that they can to fix this problem. Words are not enough; action is needed now.

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Home Fire Safety Visit

SFRS-logoWe all do what we can to make our houses as safe as possible. And an extremely important part of this is fire safety.

To that end, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service offer help and advice in the form of Home Safety Fire visits. Officers will attend your home, and offer guidance as to any measures you can take to improve safety. The officers can also fit smoke alarms free of charge if you need them.

A Home Safety Fire visit is really easy to arrange. You can call 0800 0731 999; complete an online form by clicking here; or text “FIRE” to 80800 from your mobile phone.

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Ayrshire Hearing Support

Hearing loss comes to many older people. It can sometimes be difficult for them and their families. The SISG Ayrshire Hearing Support Charity helps older deaf people who are struggling with their hearing loss and how to cope with their hearing aids.

The organisation provides communication classes across Ayrshire, including in Largs, Ayr, Cumnock and Girvan. They also hold Active Living Classes, ranging from indoor bowling, waling to ten pin bowling and chair exercises.

Every month, the Communicating Together Support Group will meet from 1230 to 2pm at the Resource and Information Centre of Kyle Shopping Centre in Ayr. This will allow hearing impaired people to make new connections and friends.

The SISG Ayrshire Hearing Support Charity is a tremendous organisation that provides invaluable support and help to hearing impaired people across Ayrshire. For more information on their work and to get in touch with them, please visit

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Voter Registration App

It is so important that everyone is registered to vote. As well as making sure that you can participate in elections, it helps people get credit. Last September the household registration system was replaced by the Individual Electoral Registration system, which allows young people to take control of their own voter registration.

Too many young people are not currently registered to vote. To tackle this, East, North and South Ayrshire Councils have launched an app for all android phones as part of their #YoungVoicesMatter campaign. ayrshire_valuation_joint_board_template

The app will provide ongoing news and updates relating to the electoral events as well as a direct link to the government online registration portal. The app can be downloaded here

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Parliament Day in Dumfries

With Sam Currie and Heather Noller

With Sam Currie and Heather Noller

‘Parliament Day’ aims to take the Scottish Parliament out of Edinburgh to towns across Scotland.  It allows people to see the Parliament at work, be it ‘official’ Parliamentary business, or on a less formal level. In the past Stornoway, Dumbarton, Hawick and Arbroath have all held a Parliament Day and this time it was the turn of Dumfries to play host.

Today, as part of the programme, there was a Communities Conference in Easterbrook Hall, running workshops covering a variety of the works carried out in Holyrood. Along with Sam Currie and Heather Noller, I held workshops concerning the work of Cross Party Groups, drawing on my experience as Convener of the Cross Party Group on China and all that our CPG has sought to do during this parliamentary term.

It was great to see so many people attending the work shops during the day, and it seems to have been a success.

There will a reception tomorrow evening, again at Easterbrook Hall. On Monday morning,  a number of MSPs will be going to local schools, I will be at St Michael’s Primary, and the Public Petitions Committee will be meeting. At that meeting, Committee members will be taking evidence on a number of petitions, including some submitted by local residents and organisations.

I hope that the rest of the Parliament Day programme goes as well as the Conference today.

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Flooding Public Meeting in New Cumnock

Last night I attended a meeting regarding the ongoing flooding situation in New Cumnock. I think the large attendance reflected the strength of public feeling on the topic. All in all, it was a positive and constructive meeting in which a variety of agencies explained what action they intend on taking to rectify the situation.

I think it was important that the working group which was formed at the outset of the problems to monitor progress reported to the community and advised them of their progress. I think Mr Walter Young in particular gave a valuable contribution from the perspective of local farmers.

The actions promised would go a long way to sorting out the flooding issue. I think it is important that I, alongside other parliamentarians and councillors as well as the local community itself, maintain pressure on the authorities to fulfil their promises.

If anyone would like more information or to comment on Scotland’s Draft Flood Management Strategies, click here all the relevant information.


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Borders Railway Nearing Completion

The lengthy work on the Borders Railway has now entered its final six months. A variety of stations are in the late stages of development, as is the construction of the track itself. The creation of the line has caused some upheaval – for example, I know drivers in Galashiels will be relieved that the one way system has ended now that the Ladhope Vale station work no longer requires it. The disruption will have been worthwhile once the new line is up and running.

A great deal of progress was made in 2014 on the project. 42 new bridges were built and 95 refurbished, 10km of new roads were built, 2 Victorian tunnels were repaired and 65 kilometres of rail track were laid.

The line will provide vital connections throughout the South of Scotland and to the rest of the country. Once operational in September, the new line will be an important part of the Scottish transport infrastructure.

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No Vote, No Voice

national-voter-registration-day-2015Today is National Voter Registration Day.

Recent changes to the way voters are registered has seen many drop off the electoral register as everyone now has to register individually.

In Scotland, we saw an incredibly high turnout of almost 85% in the referendum last September. Although turnout for Westminster General Elections is generally high, it hasn’t been as high as that in quite some time. However, to be able to vote, you need to be registered.

So take 5 minutes today to check if you are on the electoral register and if you aren’t, register because come the election if you have No Vote, you have No Voice.

To register to vote click here.

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Debt Awareness Week

Last week was Debt Awareness Week, a project run by the StepChange Debt Charity aimed at helping people take control of their finances. As part of this, the charity launched its ‘’7 Days, 7 Ways’ programme.

A large number of people deal with debt problems every day. For many people it is such a frightening and debilitating problem that they do not face up to the scale of the problem or its ramifications.

The charity says that people are often reluctant to take the first step towards dealing with their debts. They have found that 50% of people waited more than a year between starting to worry that their debt was a problem and seeking help. The charity’s new 7 Days, 7 Ways email programme is aimed at guiding people through the initial stages of facing up to their debts in a way that is encouraging, confidential and manageable.

StepChange helped people deal with over £200,000 worth of debt during Debt Awareness Week. Anyone worried about debt or interested in finding out more about the scheme should call them on 0800 138 1111 or take a look at the StepChange website, available here:

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