First and foremost, I want to take this opportunity to say that my thoughts are with everyone affected by the horrific recent events in Israel and Palestine.

I fully condemn the terrorist actions of Hamas which have seen many innocent people killed, injured, and taken hostage.

However, innocent civilians living in Gaza should not be paying the price of the attacks by Hamas. Collective punishment cannot be justified and will do nothing to set the conditions for peace in the region.

While I welcome the recent announcement of a four-day pause in fighting, this does not go far enough and will only temporarily stop the distraction and bloodshed. I fully support the growing international calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire.

The last few months have been busy, to say the least, and they are only due to get busier with the festive period approaching. I’m very much looking forward to attending the many local festivities I have in my diary, from carol concerts to pantomimes!

I recently attended a moving ceremony in Clydebank Town Hall to mark this year’s Remembrance Day, and also had the privilege of laying a wreath at Old Kilpatrick War Memorial on behalf of the people of Clydebank Waterfront.

The sacrifices made by those who lost their lives in conflicts, past and present, should never be forgotten. I’ve also had the chance to meet with various local organisations, including West Dunbartonshire Kinship Carer Support Group, Moments of Freedom, and Y Sort It.

I know from my conversations with them that times have been challenging, given the additional pressures of the cost of living, cuts to their funding, and the closure of several community spaces.

However, I understand how lucky we are to have so many remarkable community groups in Clydebank and I recognise the invaluable work that they do. As I have done before, I’ll always do what I can to assist, whether it be standing up against Labour’s cuts in the council chamber or helping with funding.

On another note, the UK Government recently announced a bleak Autumn budget containing little to help with the cost-of-living crisis which was created by the Tories themselves.

Despite calls from the SNP, the Chancellor:

  • Failed to introduce a £400 energy bill rebate for households
  • Failed to match the SNP government's council tax freeze and Scottish Child Payment, which are putting thousands of pounds back in the pockets of families
  • Failed to introduce mortgage interest tax relief

The UK is trapped in a vicious cycle of deprivation and poverty as a result of Brexit and Tory cuts, yet not even Sir Keir Starmer will change course from the damaging Westminster policies that got us into this mess.

More than ever, Scotland needs the full powers of independence.