Earlier this month I held the Lanark and Hamilton East seat in the General Election. I am always humbled and grateful for the privilege and responsibility to uphold this office. I am proud to say it was the fourth election in two years that the SNP has won in my constituency.
I was first elected to Westminster in 2015. In 2016, the SNP won both the Clydesdale and the Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse seats in the Scottish Parliament elections. We then went on to win the council elections here in May.
As your Member of Parliament I promise to keep working hard, listening to what matters to you and to keep delivering for this constituency.
It is a privilege to be given a opportunity to influence those who hold the balance of power – but power itself is only useful if you do something with it.
Some politicians are accused of making little difference and being adverse to change. However, that is not my style. In both local politics and national politics, I want to make a difference.
When I took on the project of revitalising the town centre I knew it was bound to be a tough task. The Labour Party-controlled South Lanarkshire Council were obstinate when it came to the town centre, and brushed off any suggestion that their management had been substandard.
They made excuses for their failure to act – that town centres are dying and there is nothing we can do about it.
That response was not good enough for me and was not good enough for my constituents.
I grew up in Hamilton. Like many of you, I remember clearly what it used to be like – and for that reason I believe in its future potential.
With this in mind, I set up a town centre action plan along with my Scottish Parliament colleague Christina McKelvie. We spoke with nearly 2,000 people and took time to write a report that would meet our collective aspirations.
We knew that the South Lanarkshire Council would ignore us as opposition politicians – but they could not ignore the people they are elected to serve.
When it was time to publish our report, the council were still reluctant to shift their position. We heard the same excuses and were disappointed at the lack of movement.
We knew that with the people’s support, from the grassroots upwards, the council would have no choice but to listen.
We recommended a number of things – primarily a review of the one-way-system and a reduction in parking charges.
It has been proven across the country that pedestrianised areas in small towns do not work for businesses, and it is common sense that no one will pay to park when there is little on offer in terms of shops or services.
Whilst the pace of change has been slow, our real breakthrough on town centre progress came at the council elections. When the SNP won the majority of councillors in Hamilton, we knew the tide had turned.
Our new Council Leader, John Ross, is a Hamilton man who shares my passion for our town and has a vision for its future. When we met as a group with the council a few weeks ago, we knew change was inevitable.
Council officers will now prepare a package of proposals to go through the Council’s democratic process. If passed, a consultation will be undertaken to find what change is best implemented.
This proves that when we have the power, we act.
Thank you for giving me to honour of continuing to be your MP. I’ll do my best to not let you down.