It feels like such a long time ago but, as this is my first column for the Barrhead News in 2023, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone living and working in the area a very happy new year.

I have been very busy since my last update, getting out and about across the constituency to catch up with people and organisations in our local communities.

My annual Christmas card competition was another roaring success. The calibre of entries sets the bar that bit higher every year and it is becoming increasingly difficult to select a winner from all of the amazing designs sent in by primary school pupils.

From the dozens of fantastic designs received, I chose one submitted by Olivia McCreery as the winner, as it fitted perfectly with the theme of a ‘green Christmas.’

I was delighted to kick off the new year by visiting Olivia at her school to present her with a prize and a framed copy of my Christmas card featuring her beautiful drawing.

I also caught up with Stephen McLellan and John Leckie, of Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH) at my constituency office.

The past few years have been particularly busy for organisations such as RAMH, which provides a range of free, confidential services to East Renfrewshire residents.

These include everything from one-to-one counselling sessions with a qualified counsellor to a range of social, creative, therapeutic, educational and physical activity groups.

I was keen to meet up with Stephen, who is CEO at RAMH, and John, who performs the role of chairperson, again to get their take on the deepening cost-of-living crisis and subsequent challenges to their services as a result.

It is very clear that support providers in the local area and all over Scotland are faced with a huge growth in demand for their services and it is so important that, wherever possible, we find ways to work in partnership to give our most vulnerable the help they so desperately need.

To that end, I reached out to the Wise Group a few months ago, following their successful cost-of-living advice events in nearby areas.

We were able to arrange an event for local residents that was also attended by representatives from Citizens Advice, Home Energy Scotland, Social Security Scotland and many others.

The session was a great opportunity for people to come along and get support and the most up-to-date advice from experts in a confidential and friendly environment.

Anyone who didn’t manage to make it along can still contact my office on 01505 331990 or send an email to if they would like to be put in touch with the organisations involved.

During 2023, my focus will also be on linking in with as many local businesses as possible, finding ways of working together in our common interest of serving this constituency’s residents and visitors.

The last few years have been challenging for all businesses but particularly those operating from our towns and villages whose high streets have seen a significant drop in footfall, both during and after the pandemic.

I’ll be reaching out to them over the coming weeks and months but would also encourage any business owners to get in touch with my office if they would like to arrange a meeting soon.