Irvine Times column, 26 December 2018

With Christmas now past, the approach of the New Year marks a turning point, an opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months as we prepare for the future.

Across many walks of life in Scotland, so much has been achieved over the last year. In sport, for example, Glasgow co-hosted the superb European Championships, our national women’s football team qualified for the World Cup, whilst our men’s rugby team won the Calcutta Cup. 

One of our Scottish Government’s biggest achievements this year was the establishment of Social Security Scotland, our new benefits agency, which will be responsible for the delivery of 11 devolved benefits to 1.4 million people a year, worth around £3.3 billion.

I am delighted that the Carers Allowance Supplement and the first Best Start Pregnancy and Baby Grant payments have already been paid, whilst in the near future Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, and Discretionary Housing Payments will be amongst the many new payments to be administered. At long last Scotland has the makings of a social security system that treats our people with dignity, fairness and respect.

There have been many personal highlights for me in the past year within our Parliament. In February I was delighted to vote for, and help pass, the world leading Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, and to support the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill.

I further had the privilege of being appointed Convener of the Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee and was proud to be able to introduce the Scottish Parliament’s Human Rights Take Over event, commemorating the 70th anniversary of Human Rights Day, and which included our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and human rights activist Bianca Jagger amongst the speakers.

It has been an equally busy year across my constituency, I’ve enjoyed meeting with many local businesses, groups and organisations who all work hard for our communities.  Amongst the many highlights were opportunities to meet many of our young modern apprentices at the Paper Mill, at the Owl and Pussycat Nursery, and at the GlaxoSmithKline plant in Irvine.

With the help of my fantastic constituency team I have provided support and assistance to many hundreds of constituents on a wide range of matters.

As 2019 approaches, there will be undoubtedly many more challenges and opportunities ahead to look forward to.

Happy New Year to one and all, and I will see you on the other side!

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