As we near the two-year anniversary of the Brexit vote, politics in Scotland and in the UK is as tumultuous now as it was in June 2016.
With the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill currently going through Westminster, sadly, there hasn’t been much positivity coming from London’s political sphere. With the Tories attacking our devolution settlement (and with Labour abstaining), and then with the Tories opposing our continuation in the EU single market (and with Labour abstaining), the outlook from Westminster is increasingly bleak.
However, whilst Westminster offers despair and negativity, Scottish politics, and in particular that of the SNP, is ambitious and positive.
Since my last column, along with many constituents from Rutherglen and Cambuslang, I visited Aberdeen for the SNP conference. Although I was only there for one day, as I was back in the constituency for the tremendous Landemar Day, it was very worthwhile and it was full of exciting policies and announcements.
None more so, than with our commitment to our prized NHS staff.
The Scottish Government are currently in negotiations to agree a 3 year pay deal for NHS staff which will exceed the deal agreed in England. It is hoped these talks should reach a positive conclusion as soon as possible, however hardworking NHS staff should not have to wait for this agreement to get a pay rise. At conference, the SNP committed to investing £160 million immediately to increase NHS staff pay. All staff working under NHS Agenda for Change contracts and earning up to £80,000, will get an immediate 3% pay rise which will be in their pay packets from this July.
Since my election, I’ve met with Rutherglen Community Carers a number of times to see the great work they do in my constituency. Carers play an incredible role in our society, and their contribution socially and economically cannot be overstated. As such, I was delighted that the SNP re-affirmed our commitment to carers by announcing that from this summer, Carers Allowance will be increased by the Scottish Government by more than £500 a year – and the increase will be backdated to April.
And on top of this, the SNP have committed to delivering 3,000 new homes – which is on top our existing target of 50,000 affordable homes this Parliament; providing £600 to low income families on the birth of their first child through the Best Start Grant; increasing college bursaries and university grants for students from the lowest income families; and much more.
In government, the SNP are working every day to build a better Scotland.
Whilst at Conference, I also had the opportunity to speak to a resolution condemning the disappointing move by the US President to impose tariffs on steel imports from the EU. President Trump’s decision is completely unjustified and it could have serious consequences on the steel industry in Cambuslang – therefore myself and my SNP colleagues will be pushing the UK Government to stand up to the US President.
This will be my last column before Parliament breaks up for the summer, so I’m delighted that I’ll be in the constituency more often. I’ll have more time to spend speaking with constituents, local businesses and organisations, so as ever, please get in touch.