IN my first column since the Scottish Parliament election, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who once again put their faith in me to represent our communities of Dumbarton, the Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond.

Whether you voted for me, for someone else, or even if you didn’t vote at all, my job is to represent everyone in our community and I was pleased to get straight back to work on Monday.

This election was like nothing we have ever experienced before. Families, communities and the country are still suffering from the effects of the pandemic and they will continue to do so for a long time to come.

Loved ones have been lost, and livelihoods are at risk. And while I am delighted that many local businesses are reopening, I am saddened that so many remain closed or have had to reduce what they are able to offer.

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I, along with Scottish Labour candidates across Scotland, ran our election campaign with one key call – for recovery, not another referendum.

Fighting for recovery in every aspect of our community – from local schools, to businesses, families and our cherished Vale of Leven Hospital – will be my number one priority over the next five years.

My time as MSP for the constituency of Dumbarton over the last 22 years – as well as the thousands of conversations I and my team had with local people over the last few months – has proven that there is one overarching issue that local people care about: the future of our Vale of Leven Hospital.

For years now I have stood shoulder to shoulder with local people, campaign groups such as Hospitalwatch, and dedicated healthcare professionals to protect services at the Vale. We must continue this fight not only to protect existing services, but to expand them and bring in new ones too.

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My vision for a brighter future at the Vale of Leven Hospital will see services brought back, expanded and strengthened. We need new, state of the art equipment alongside on-site labs in order to see, diagnose and treat more local people more quickly than has been the case in the past.

I also want to see more emergency care services brought back to the Vale so that more people can be treated locally and safely. And let’s use the spare theatre capacity at the hospital to catch up on the backlog of operations caused by the pandemic.

I look forward to continuing to work with local people to protect and improve the Vale of Leven Hospital, as well as on many other issues that matter to our local community in the months and years ahead.

As restrictions ease, I wish you all a safe and happy time as families reunite, businesses start back up and more of a sense of normality is returned.

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