For 105 of 123 MSPs who had a free vote – that is, a
vote according to each person’s individual conscience and not to a set
party line – Tuesday was a momentous day.
I felt and saw us moving Scotland forward
fundamentally in giving gay and lesbian couples the right to not only be
treated equally in law but to be bound together by marriage in any
church that is happy to host the ceremony. It gave me a great sense of
pride to be a part of that.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is delighted to see gay marriage
Some churches have chosen to opt out and will
continue only to carry out traditional marriage ceremonies. Others have
already made it clear that they are happy to opt in. No religious
institution will be forced to host a gay or transgender marriage.
Eighteen MSPs voted against the Bill because they
feel that the idea of marriage other than between a man and a woman is
fundamentally wrong. Some feel it is against Biblical instructions or
the teachings of the Qur’an; others give a range of different views on
why they feel this Bill is inappropriate.
It is vital that, as we see Scotland moving forward,
we never, ever forget that as we create a legal and spiritual freedom
for gay people, we need to ensure that we hold on to the right to
Holding one set of beliefs cannot be allowed to
suppress or suffocate differing opinions. That way lies fascism and an
end to democracy.
Today, as Scotland becomes the 17th country in the
world to legalise same-sex marriage, our Parliament has sent a strong
message to the world about the kind of country we are.
Scotland’s budget agreed
Another big piece of legislation has been passed this
week – the Scottish Budget. The careful and precise work of the Cabinet
Secretary, John Swinney, encourages economic growth, help with the cost
of living and deliver vital action to mitigate Westminster’s disastrous
Of course, what we really want and can only gain with
independence, is the right to scrap this obscene additional rent payment
because your home happens to have a spare bedroom or one that’s only
used at weekends.
The Scottish budget delivers in key areas such as
delivering free school meals, extending childcare and protecting the
Council Tax freeze which saves hundreds of pounds for households across
With Westminster cutbacks set to become much
more vicious, the austerity agenda is clearly failing Scotland. The
Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland expects another 100,000 more of
our children to be pushed into poverty by 2020 as a direct result of
these so-called ‘welfare reforms.’ See more on poverty in Scotland here:
Family Man Playgroup
We’re not talking so much Family Guy as home and
family men around Hamilton here. I had a great time meeting a recently
established group of Dads running their own playgroup in Hamilton.
Working with the Support for Play and Early Learning
in Lanarkshire (SPELL) charity, these guys are becoming far more closely
involved with their own young children and with other Dads too.
SPELL and its Family Man Playgroup is a fabulously
positive approach to parenting. These guys meet for a couple of hours on
a Saturday morning at the Hillhouse and Earnock Community Centre from
10.30 until noon. For £1, you can enjoy a drink and a snack and the
company and chat with other men who know what it’s like to have small
children in the house.
Dads are getting more involved with their young children
In the not so very distant past, the role of fathers
didn’t really include much in the way of nappies or junior playtime. I
am so delighted to see that changing. It is great to see fathers,
uncles, granddads, brothers together with these little kids, sharing the
joys and delights of big new discoveries as they happen.
I think it’s a great concept and I would love to see
the SPELL Family Man concept rolled out into different local areas
across the constituency.
End of an era
There’s a big department store in Hamilton – or at
least there was until Monday – called Bairds. Many times I’ve bought
frocks and all kinds of other items there and I have always enjoyed the
lovely courtesy and advice that the staff there offer.
Now the business has gone into liquidation. Staff
arrived at work as normal on Monday morning and were told, completely
out of the blue, that the store was closing down and that 53 people were
being made redundant.
Bosses blamed challenging trading conditions and
substantial overheads for their problems. Retail has been struggling
since 2008 and is just beginning to bounce back. It’s sad that any
recovery is going to be too late for these people and for the community
in and around Hamilton who viewed Bairds as a piece of the town’s
Sad to see the end of an era and loss of 53 jobs in Bairds of Hamilton
I’ll be meeting with the administrator tomorrow in
the hope that it might be possible to secure a buyer, but we have to be
realistic. The number of companies in the frame for this kind of
purchase isn’t substantial and all of them are being very careful in
their investment strategies.
I’m looking forward to what promises to be an
interesting meeting tomorrow in Hamilton. The Westminster Foundation for
Democracy has organised the Punjab regional assembly in Pakistan to
They will be spending some time at the Scottish
Parliament and in the afternoon, some of them will be visiting our
constituency office in Hamilton. They are keen to see the kind of case
work we undertake in our efforts to help local people with a whole range
of difficult issues and problems.