Rona pays tribute to closing-down Balmore Coach House — UK’s oldest fair trade shop

Rona pays tribute to closing-down Balmore Coach House — UK’s oldest fair trade shop

II have recognised the excellent work of John and Nena Riches, who run Balmore Coach House, in the Scottish Parliament. Balmore Coach House is regarded as Britain’s oldest fair trade shop.

 Closure of the Balmore Coach House, the UK’s Oldest Fair-trade Shop

That the Parliament acknowledges that the Balmore Coach House in East Dunbartonshire, which it believes to be the oldest fair-trade shop in the UK, is to close after 37 years; recognises the work of John and Nena Riches on running the shop and raising more than £1 million for good causes over the years; understands that the couple were inspired to tackle the bridge between rich and poor people after a spell in South Africa in 1975, and notes that, although the business, which opened in May 1980, is closing, it is to be handed over to another fair-trade organisation in the area.
Rona Mackay: Bliss is doing incredible work for premature babies

Rona Mackay: Bliss is doing incredible work for premature babies

MSP Rona Mackay has praised the work of a charity that helps premature and sick babies after a parliamentary reception in Holyrood.

Before MSPs and stakeholders on January 24, Bliss Scotland revealed findings of a ‘Baby Report 2017: An opportunity to deliver improvements in neonatal care’.

The charity is calling for urgent action to address a rack of problems premature babies are facing.

Ms Mackay said: “Bliss Scotland is an incredible charity and I have heard how they help not just premature and sick babies, but the families surrounding them.

“The reception in the Scottish Parliament was a fantastic event — it was very productive to meet many of its stakeholders and learn more about the charity.

“Children are at the very top of my parliamentary agenda, so it was a great privilege to attend this reception held by Bliss.”

Visit for more information about Bliss Scotland.

ALSO: Just last week Rona hosted a reception for Children 1st. Find out more here.

MSP Rona: More has to be done to tackle LGBTI+ bullying in schools

MSP Rona: More has to be done to tackle LGBTI+ bullying in schools

HOMOPHOBIC bullying was the subject of a question MSP Rona Mackay asked after the ministerial statement on hate crime. Ms Mackay referenced to the TIE Campaign’s findings that 90 per cent of LGBTI+ school pupils in Scotland have been subjected to homophobic bullying.

  • Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP):

    Does the minister agree that more should be done to prevent homophobic bullying at school, in light of the shocking statistics that 90 per cent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people have experienced homophobia, biphobia and transphobia at school and 27 per cent of LGBTI people have attempted suicide once as a result of bullying, in addition to the fact that 79 per cent of teachers support the LGBTI time for inclusive education—TIE—initiative?

  • Annabelle Ewing:

    Obviously, every child should feel safe and respected at school, and each one of us has a duty to ensure that that happens.

    On the TIE campaign specifically, I echo what the First Minister said at First Minister’s questions last week: there is a commitment to take forward the issues that the TIE campaign has brought to our attention, and we wish to do that in consultation with the excellent TIE campaigners.

Rona calls on council bosses to speed up resettlement of refugees

Rona calls on council bosses to speed up resettlement of refugees

COUNCIL bosses have been urged to speed up the resettlement of refugees in East Dunbartonshire by MSP Rona Mackay.

In December, councillors rubber-stamped plans to provide asylum to four Syrian families and four unaccompanied children from ‘The Jungle’ in Calais.

However, there has been radio silence since December 27 when the council leader Rhondda Geekie confirmed the wheels were in motion.

Ahead of meeting refugees at a Scottish Parliament breakfast on February 2, the MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden urged the council to speed up the process.

She said: “East Dunbartonshire Council has been terribly slow on showing compassion to the innocent victims of war in Syria, and the children escaping the nightmarish camp in Calais.

“It was unacceptable to begin with how the local authority was the second last in Scotland to even consider helping out in this humanitarian crisis.

“I am proud to be part of the plans to form a community welcoming group for the incoming families and children, and we would like to get helping as soon as possible.

“Syria lies in ruins and the brutal war shows no signs of ending – we must do all we can to help the civilians who have been forced to flee their homes. I call on East Dunbartonshire Council to show some commitment to its decision and speed up this resettlement process.

“I hope in the future we can accept more than a handful of people fleeing the carnage of Syria.”

Ms Mackay is also attending a breakfast in the Scottish Parliament on February 2 to meet activist Bruna Kadletz, who has been intensely involved in the refugee crisis, as well as others who have fled the war.

Rona urges Strathkelvin and Bearsden charities to apply for up for lottery funding

Rona urges Strathkelvin and Bearsden charities to apply for up for lottery funding

CHARITIES in Strathkelvin and Bearsden are being urged to apply for lottery funding by MSP Rona Mackay.

The People’s Postcode Lottery is accepting applications from January 23 to February 10 – of up to £20,000 each.

A total of £3 million has been allocated for the first funding round, with the second scheduled for August.

People’s Postcode Trust seeks applications for projects that focus on the prevention of poverty, promotion of human rights, equal rights and conflict resolution for some of society’s most vulnerable groups. Postcode Local Trust supports wildlife, sustainability and volunteering initiatives. Postcode Community Trust focuses on grass-roots sports, arts, recreation and healthy living programmes.

Ms Mackay said: “I hope charities in Strathkelvin and Bearsden can make use of this excellent opportunity for substantial funding across a range of great causes.

“The third sector in this constituency has so many incredible people behind it carrying out life changing work, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of them during my first 10 months as an MSP.

“The application process is very simple, and involves organisations submitting an expression of interest form, before they are shortlisted to complete a full application for funding.”

For more information on how local charities can apply please visit the following websites:,,

MSP Rona hosts Holyrood reception for Children 1st charity

MSP Rona hosts Holyrood reception for Children 1st charity

A RECEPTION for Scotland’s largest children’s charity was hosted by MSP Rona Mackay in the Scottish Parliament.

At the event on Wednesday, January 18 Children 1st showed off its new kit bag initiative to help build family relationships to improve children’s lives.

A short play was held by a volunteer family using the kit bag and its tools to resolve an argument that had broken out between the mother and daughter.

Several speeches were made, including the charity’s chief executive Aileen Todd and the minister for children and early years, Mark McDonald MSP.

Ms Mackay, who chaired the event, said: “I am proud to have hosted Children 1st for a reception in the Scottish Parliament. The event was very well attended and a total success.

“It was great to see the kit bag in action during the play – a big well done to the family and children who, with no acting experience, braved the performance.

“Children are at the front and centre of my plan as an MSP, so I am very happy to be working with Children 1st – a charity doing amazing things for families and young people in Scotland.”


Shared space u-turn dominates Kirkintilloch press coverage

Shared space u-turn dominates Kirkintilloch press coverage

COVERAGE of the shared space u-turn has continued onto the front page of this week’s Kirkintilloch Herald. Council Leader Rhondda Geekie admitted live on BBC Radio Scotland the initiative at the Catherine Street junction had failed, and that the council could reverse it. I have called on the council to begin a consultation with vulnerable groups on how it can be made safe again. Here is the coverage:

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Rona: Growth in tourism employment boosting East Dunbartonshire’s economy

Rona: Growth in tourism employment boosting East Dunbartonshire’s economy

THE TOURISM industry in East Dunbartonshire is going from “strength to strength”, Rona Mackay MSP has said.

Fresh statistics from Visit Scotland show the number of people working in tourism increased by 16 per cent from 2014 to 2015, to 2,200 in the local authority area.

The study also revealed eight per cent of total employment in East Dunbartonshire is in the tourism industry.

The increase was mirrored across the whole of Scotland, with the sector employing 217,000, 11 per cent increase.

Nine per cent of total employment in Scotland is in the tourism industry, the highest level since Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) records began in 2009.

Ms Mackay told how there is “a lot to offer” in East Dunbartonshire, from visitor attractions, food and drink, the great outdoors and town centre shopping.

Rona Mackay, the SNP MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, said: “This is a substantial increase in tourism employment in East Dunbartonshire, and shows the industry is going from strength to strength.

“Given tourism covers eight per cent of total local employment, it is vital to the economy of East Dunbartonshire. The businesses and organisations involved deserve credit for expanding their workforces.

“There are some beautiful destinations for tourists in East Dunbartonshire, like the Kilpatrick Hills, Campsie Fells and picturesque countryside. And before this stunning backdrop, we have great restaurants, bars, museums, golf courses and unique shops across our towns and villages.  East Dunbartonshire can even boast the West Highland Way, Antonine Wall, Thomas Muir Heritage Trail and Kirkintilloch Canal Festival – we have a lot to offer for visitors.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of Visit Scotland, said: “Tourism is more than a holiday experience. It creates jobs and sustains communities in every corner of Scotland all year round and is at the heart of the Scottish economy.

“These fantastic new figures show that, from hotel owners to waiting staff, tourism really is the driving force for providing the jobs of today and tomorrow. They also demonstrate the industry’s commitment to the 2020 strategy – which aims to generate economic growth through tourism.”

Council leader admits shared space failure after pressure from campaigners

Council leader admits shared space failure after pressure from campaigners

COUNCIL leader Rhondda Geekie has admitted on national radio that the Kirkintilloch shared space initiative at the Catherine Street junction has failed.

Live on BBC Radio Scotland she told presenter John Beattie that East Dunbartonshire Council can reverse the controversial changes after saying she is “disappointed it’s not worked in Kirkintilloch”.

Rona Mackay MSP, who was also on the BBC show, welcomed the statement from Councillor Geekie and has written to the council’s Deputy Chief Executive Thomas Glen to ask how and when the process can be started and when arrangements will be made to consult with residents and vulnerable groups on safety changes.

On the show, the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP outlined the problems at the junction, such as vulnerable constituents being effectively excluded from the town, and how drivers and pedestrians are left confused as to who has the right of way.

Police have dealt with several accidents at the junction, and there have been social media reports of drivers in minor collisions and episodes causing commotion.

Rona at the BBC newsroom at the Scottish Parliament
Rona at the BBC newsroom at the Scottish Parliament

Ms Mackay said: “I am glad the council leader and I are finally on the same page when it comes to this shared space shambles in Kirkintilloch town centre.

“I would like to thank all of those who spoke out against this, and Liz Gallacher at the Kirkintilloch Herald for excellent and impartial coverage. Though we still have to keep up the pressure.

“I have written to Depute Chief Executive Thomas Glen, asking how and when we can go about consulting in detail with vulnerable groups over what they would like to see implemented to places like Catherine Street.

“I’m looking forward to this disastrous vanity project by our Labour-led council being sorted out to ensure the needs of all of my constituents are taken into consideration.”

Campaigner Sandy Taylor spoke on BBC Radio Scotland shortly after Ms Mackay and Cllr Geekie.

Rona added: “I applaud the tenacity Sandy has shown to help our community.”


  1. Listen to the interviews from 36 minutes in on the John Beattie show:
Rona calls on constituents to help shape Scotland’s future planning system

Rona calls on constituents to help shape Scotland’s future planning system

OPINIONS are being sought from constituents in Strathkelvin and Bearsden on reforming the planning permission system.

Rona Mackay MSP is appealing for residents to give their assessment on a raft of proposals from the Scottish Government to ensure maximum public input before the bill goes to the Scottish Parliament later this year.

There are a number of suggestions across a range of categories, from community engagement, house building for the future and reducing bureaucracy.

The consultation opened on Tuesday, January 12 and will close on April 4.

Ms Mackay, the SNP MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, said: “The Scottish Government has put forward some very worthwhile proposals on how we can revolutionise the planning system in Scotland.

“Later this year, a bill will be proposed to the Scottish Parliament on these reforms, so it’s important we get as much feedback from the public as possible, and I’d like some of that to come from the constituency I represent.

“The planning process is often thought of as sluggish and full of red tape, so it’s great we are going to make substantial reforms. I hope as many people as possible can take part in shaping our new system.”

In 2015, ministers commissioned an independent panel to undertake a review of the planning system. The review included opportunities to get involved through both written and oral evidence and an online discussion forum.

Since then the Scottish Government has been working with a wide range of stakeholders, including community representatives, public and private sectors, to explore potential changes to the planning system.

Visit to take part in the consultation.