In the past fortnight I had a lot to speak about in Parliament. First up, was a debate on a motion written by a Tory MSP. The motion was perfectly reasonable; it pointed out the effects that inequalities have on people’s health.
This is something that I, and many others fully acknowledge. The World Health Organisation itself recognises these links, and across many studies it has been proven time and again that healthcare isn’t the whole picture when it comes to people’s health. Instead, things such as employment, income, access to services and having friends and family all have a huge impact.
Inequalities in these areas really do make people sick.
What was extremely frustrating about this motion, was that the person who raised it was a Conservative MSP.
The Conservatives not only preach fewer services for ordinary people, they practice it at Westminster. Their austerity policies are the single biggest cause of health inequalities, and to raise the effects of inequalities in the Scottish Parliament was dumbfounding.
Across Scotland, many of those seeking work are being sanctioned, with families being pushed closer to, and sometimes under the breadline, and the funding for the NHS in England is being cut, which has a direct impact on and reduces the Scottish Government’s budget.
Also, the Tory government are cutting one in five job centres across the UK at a time of economic uncertainty and desperate need for support. If this wasn’t bad enough, the greater Glasgow area is being singled out for extreme measures, with half of our job centres being cut.
In our area, this means that the Cambuslang job centre will be closed, with all job seekers forced to travel to Rutherglen.
We in the SNP are incensed by this treatment of Glasgow especially, and I spoke in a debate in the Parliament two weeks ago on this very subject. All Glasgow MSPs and MPs, from all Parties bar the two Tory Regional MSPs, are supporting a strong campaign to have this decision reversed.
On the streets of Rutherglen last Saturday, a petition against the closure of the job centres drew great public support. The petition can also be signed at my Constituency Office at 85, Main Street, Rutherglen.
As we were stepping up the fight against Job Centre closures, we heard the news that Clydesdale bank will be closing its branch in Cambuslang.
Customers will now have to travel to Shettleston – which is two bus rides away – if they want to visit the Clydesdale bank. How much more stressful will going to the bank now be for those who will need to use public transport, and those with mobility issues?
I have written to Clydesdale Bank management asking them to review this decision, particularly the transfer of customer accounts to Shettleston. Both I and Margaret Ferrier MP will be meeting with the Bank this Friday to press the case for a rethink on this.
We also learned last week that Greggs the bakers are looking to restructure their business, with the potential loss of up to 100 jobs at its production unit in Cambuslang. I will be meeting with Greggs this week to find out what the company’s plans are and how they will mitigate any impact on the local community.
On to more positive news, I also gave a speech in Parliament in a debate that marked the 30-year anniversary of the Caterpillar Worker’s strike in Uddingston. For readers who may not recall, the closure of the Caterpillar plant was a landmark action in Scottish trade union history. The closure announcement was sudden and unexpected and affected many workers across the Rutherglen, Cambuslang and Blantyre area.
When the company closed the factory, workers refused to take it lying down and they staged a protest that delivered a much better redundancy deal for them and their families.
It shows that when decisions are made that you don’t agree with, ordinary people can come together and make a real difference.
An organisation creating a real difference today in our area is Healthy N Happy, who I had the privilege to visit recently to discuss their latest initiatives in Springhall and Whitlawburn. Healthy N Happy are a community-owned organisation who work on local priorities. Funded by a host of organisations including the Scottish Government, they support people, promote healthy choices, and allow people to get the experience in activities as varied as cycling and radio production.
When we’re fighting against job centre closures and Tory policies, and aiming to improve access to services not cut them back, we can all take inspiration from the positive examples we see every day.