I am always filled with respect when I come across people who devote themselves to particular causes, campaign and charities? Those who work voluntarily pushing for change and helping individuals. Years and years of selfless work. I am privileged to know many of these folk and it would take pages and pages of this newspaper to mention them all.
However, this weekend there were some local events with such dedicated people.
The first I want to mention is Theatre Nemo. It must be more than 20 years since Greenhills woman Isabel McCue MBE founded Theatre Nemo, in her firm belief that those suffering from poor mental health could benefit from culture and the arts. Theatre, painting, pottery, Taiko drumming, music, dance – confidence building, friendship, peer support. It works, and since its inception Theatre Nemo have gone from strength to strength, dedicated volunteers working in our communities, our prisons and our hospitals. Isabel was recently given a Saltire Society Outstanding Women of Scotland Award – well deserved. Cllr Collette Stevenson tells me that the Theatre Nemo event on Friday evening was brilliant – I was gutted I couldn’t make it, as I am sure that it was the usual uplifting experience.
I was happy though to be able to attend the West Lanarkshire Girl Guides Annual Review on Sunday, hearing all about the year’s adventures of East Kilbride’s Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers. Girlguiding Scotland is a super organisation and over the last few years in particular they’ve been been doing great work in the promotion of girls and young women, helping them face up to today’s social challenges. Again, the local companies rely on volunteers; women who work extremely hard and give up a lot of their time to support and mentor the girls. I’m always astounded when it comes to the ‘Long Service Awards’ – 5, 10, 20 years of turning out weekly to run a Brownie or Guide pack. One lady on Sunday received a 40-year Long Service Award – respect! Congratulations also due to East Kilbride’s Greer Litster who has been appointed County Commissioner.
Both of these events were full of joy – people having a good time, positive occasions, celebrating success, years of dedicated volunteering producing some great results. Sadly, not all dedicated campaigning produces tangible results in the short or medium term. Just ask the doughty CND East Kilbride members who have been campaigning for decades to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons!
Sunday afternoon saw the twice-yearly Dungavel Vigil. In 2001 the Dungavel Open Prison was sold to the UK Home Office and turned into a Detention Centre for asylum seekers. It’s now an Immigration Removal Centre, but still houses many awaiting asylum judgements. There’s barbed wire and high security, and the Scottish Parliament has no say whatsoever in how the facility is run, or who is placed there. Asylum seekers are not criminals, have not been convicted of any crime or awaiting trial. Asylum seekers are people who have fled their own country, and are looking for a safe haven.
Although this is a matter reserved to Westminster, myself and fellow Lanarkshire MSPs Aileen Campbell and Christina McKelvie joined other long-standing campaigners on Sunday. Volunteers from Justice and Peace Scotland, Churches and Friends of Refugees Groups have been consistently attending Dungavel for 16 years now, calling for alternatives to detention. I am in no doubt that this campaign to raise awareness and to end this cruel practice will continue for as many more years as it takes. After all, to quote the President of Justice and Peace Scotland, Bishop William Nolan, who is fondly remembered for his service to East Kilbride, says “The humane thing to do is to welcome these people and care for them in the community while their case is being heard – not lock them up in what was an open prison, but is now even more a prison than it ever was before.”
As the Festive season approaches, I must give a mention to those who have for years and years been entertaining East Kilbride – I am looking forward to Greenhills Panto Club’s Alice in Wonderland, and EK Rep Theatre Club’s Jack and the Beanstalk – oh yes I am!