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This update was first published on 4th January.

Can I start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. 2022 was an exceptionally difficult year for many people and I know that the cost of living crisis has meant folk have had to make difficult decisions about how they marked Christmas and the New Year. My constituency team are continuing to support constituents and to make sure they’re getting the full range of support they’re entitled to but we know that this won’t be enough. The overwhelming majority of my constituents will have seen a fall in their living standards during the last year and we need to work to put this right as soon as possible.

Shortly before Christmas I joined Royal Mail workers on the picket line at Glenrothes Delivery Office. Like many other essential workers our posties and other Royal Mail workers kept going throughout the pandemic, sometimes wondering if they were putting their own health at risk. The recent strikes have undoubtedly caused problems for many of us but maybe we should use that s a reminder of just how much we depend on a reliable daily postal service. We can’t let the Royal Mail become just another way for shareholders to make money.

At the time of writing there are still several groups of essential workers in Scotland who have not yet reached agreement on their most recent pay awards. I welcome the progress the Scottish Government has made in reaching deals in many areas (including some where the equivalent workers in England are still on strike). There’s a marked contrast between the UK Government’s attempts to demonise the Unions compared with the Scottish Government’s determination to work with them towards a negotiated settlement to the remaining pay disputes. In the meantime while nobody wants to see strikes happening the right of workers to go on strike is something we must protect.

During 2022 my constituency office team passed the milestone of having recovered over £600,000 for constituents. Some of this is in small sums of money such as overturning a wrongly imposed parking penalty. In others the amounts we’ve recovered can be life changing; shortly before Christmas one of my caseworkers secured a pension credit payment increase of nearly £10,000 for a constituent. Very often the casework has no obvious and direct financial impact but it’s vitally important nonetheless. For example we helped many people get their passports sorted out when the service descended into chaos. When I’m out and about in the constituency I often get people telling me how impressed they’ve been with the work one or more of my team has done of their behalf, even if they didn’t always get the answer they were hoping for. So on your behalf I want to finish by saying a massive thank you to the whole team for their dedication and professionalism during the last year.

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