Forgive me for stating the obvious: weíre at the start of 2014. Itís a
momentous year for all of us here in Scotland and all of you watching us
from further away.
got the 2014 Year of Homecoming
http://tinyurl.com/cokeqbc Scotlandís year-long programme of events
and activities to showcase all that's great here; mouth-watering food &
drink events, lots to get you active in our great outdoors plus
spectacular arts, cultural and ancestral heritage to explore. Whenever
you come and wherever you visit, youíll be very welcome so join us and
be part of Homecoming Scotland 2014.
Then thereís the Ryder
Cup for all you golf fans:
www.rydercup2014.com and the Commonwealth Games as well. Find out
more about that here:
And I havenít even
mentioned the European Parliament elections in May:
http://tinyurl.com/nvzusnr. All of these events are important for us
in the SNP of course and this last one will have a real impact on how we
make out in the Biggest One of All.
Itís the year of Yes. On
18 September, everyone here in Scotland will vote on whether to continue
with the dodgy Westminster system that does us no favours or to take the
plunge and go independent Ė because then the people of Scotland make
their own decisions about their own future.
Change is always a bit
frightening but if you donít embrace it, you meet the same end as the
dinosaurs did. You have nothing to sustain your survival.
Nicola Sturgeon at St
To me itís so obvious
where we should go but of course I know not everyone feels the same.
Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister and head of the Referendum
campaign, put it very well when she spoke at St Andrews University at
the turn of the year. See the full speech here:
She made the point very
clearly that it isnít a choice between ďchange and no change.Ē Itís a
choice between two futures: one with Westminster making our decisions or
one where we can make our own choices for our own situation and
She asked the audience to
put this question to themselves: ďWill it be better for me, my family
and for generations to come if decisions about Scotland continue to be
taken at Westminster or will it be better if they are taken here in
The answer is pretty
obvious to a lot of us.
What the polls are
In fact, the SNP
published a poll at the end of December that showed we still hold a
substantial eight-point lead after more than six and a half years in
government. That is a remarkable achievement.
The Scottish people trust
this government for one simple reason: we deliver. The electorate isnít
stupid. They see that weíre better at making Scotlandís decisions by a
margin of nearly four to one.
You canít argue with
There are so many
examples of effective Scottish government that it is difficult to
isolate specific ones, but letís stay topical.
On Tuesday 7 January, we
had an interesting debate in the Chamber about Scotlandís future. Our
First Minister made it very clear that the transformation of childcare
is top of the agenda.
I also spoke in this
debate, setting out the importance of our children and how we protect
and promote their interests; how do we make the right choices so as to
make sure we shed some of the worst stereotypical images and move
towards a more balanced perception of who does what in the workforce.
You can read the whole
Only with a Yes vote will
we be able to take over the levers of power properly and decide for
ourselves how best to build a future that gives every child the best
tools to achieve their ambitions.
Yet Labour, allegedly the
supporters of alleviating child poverty, actually voted against the
motion to provide free school meals to all children for their first
three years at school.
The three Labour MSPs in
Central Scotland, which includes my constituency, are Mark Griffin,
Margaret McCulloch and Siobhan McMahon. Talk about cutting off your nose
to spite your face! All three have voted against providing children with
free school meals.
How will they justify
that to the people who voted for them? That means they want to deprive
some 10,375 children of that benefit from next January, even though it
would save families at least £330 a year and guarantee a solid, balanced
lunchtime meal for each child.
The price of town
The rise of the big
supermarkets and extensive shopping malls has drastically disadvantaged
the smaller, independent town centre retailers.
One of the main reasons
for that diaspora is the difficulty and the cost of town centre parking.
In Edinburgh, an hourís parking can cost you around £5 while in smaller
towns or around the city centre periphery, the cost is probably about
£1. Thatís always assuming you can find a spot.
In Hamilton, there are
streets where it is almost impossible to find a space and South
Lanarkshire Council has been quick to punish parking offenders with a
I can understand the need
to manage parking effectively in town centres. What I donít understand
is the Labour-led Councilís apparent desire to do so at the cost of our
Rather than raking in
parking fines, shouldnít they be thinking about alternative ways of
encouraging people to use town centre shops?
We want our town centres
to be busy, active, dynamic and prosperous. South Lanarkshire Councill
should be looking at ways in which to attract footfall back into
Hamilton rather than forcing it outwards.
You can read what the
local newspaper had to say on the subject here: