Christine GrahamE MSP, Milton SPCA minder and dog,  Humza Yousaf and, top of page, dog lover Jane Heaney and her pet chihuahuas.

By Bill Heaney

There used to be a lady called Marjorie Henley Price who lived up around Gartocharn way and was a great friend of dogs – and people too, of course.
She was the woman who started the Pat Dogs campaign which involved taking pets to visit people who were housebound or in care or in hospital.
It was a a great success and pet lovers really appreciated the service.
Marjory was West Dunbartonshire’s answer to Barbara Woodhouse. Who can forget her catch word Walkies?
The Scottish Parliament heard on Thursday from another woman who has a passion for pets – Christine Grahame the SNP MP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.
For those of you who watch First Minister’s Questions each week, Christine is the lady with the spiky, trendy, blonde, and occasionally pink hair, who sits behind the First Minister.
She was Nicola Sturgeon’s old school teacher and must have known that the recently departed FM was worth keeping an eye on.
Unfortunately, Christine, who also has Dumbarton family connections, was the bearer of the bad news that  Scotland’s leading animal welfare charity, the Scottish SPCA, is in financial crisis. 
The SPCA, of course, has strong links with Dumbarton through the likes of  Jessie Forrester of happy memory, pictured right, of Clydeshore Road and Oxhill who was a leading figure in the SNPA and the establishment of Milton Animal Home.
Humza Yousaf told MSPs: “The Scottish Government takes the issue of animal welfare very seriously, and I thank Christine Grahame for drawing this important matter to my attention and the Parliament’s attention.
“I think that everybody recognises that she has a long-standing record on the matter, having raised animal welfare issues for many years in this Parliament and indeed outwith it.

“I am afraid to say that, sadly, the often callous approach by the Conservative Government, which is failing to help people, communities and charities to cope with unacceptably high inflation levels, is all too pervasive.

“Charities such as the Scottish SPCA, which are on the front line of the impact of the cost of living crisis, are no exception.

“I share Christine Grahame’s concerns. I have asked officials to liaise with the Scottish SPCA to provide support and to fully understand the issues that it faces.”

About | canineconcernscotlandtrustMarjorie Henley Price, left,  was a leading dog lover and the founder and honorary life president of the charity Canine Concern Scotland Trust.

Christine Grahame said family budgets for pet food had been cut to the bone. This was very worrying — “Companion animals in particular play a huge role in helping people’s mental well-being, but inflation   has put huge pressures on the cost of providing them and caused heartbreak for those who find that they simply do not have the resources to keep them.

“That puts more pressure on the Scottish SPCA and other animal welfare charities. At the same time, those charities have to cope with inflation themselves. For example, it costs £56,000 a day to run the Scottish SPCA, which is 14 per cent up on last year.

“Will the First Minister, following the discussions that his officials are having with the charities, report back and let us see where those discussions have gone?”

The First Minister said: “While I was giving my response to Christine Grahame’s initial question, I heard the Conservatives mumbling, “What has this got to do with the UK Government?”

“If they have not figured out what the cost of living crisis has to do with the Conservative Government, I suspect that they will find out in a pretty brutal fashion when it comes to the next general election.

“Nobody should have to give up a loved family pet. Keeping pets and people together is the best way to protect animal and human welfare. I therefore take the opportunity to highlight the work that is delivered by the Scottish SPCA’s pet aid scheme.

“That initiative aims to support people and pets who are struggling by providing essential food supplies for animals through a network of food banks across most of Scotland.

“Officials hold regular meetings with the Scottish SPCA to discuss current issues and to provide support, where appropriate, through policy advice and the sharing of wider communications. I will update Christine Grahame on the latest discussions that I have asked officials to have.

“Finally, I urge anyone who is struggling to care for their pet to call the animal helpline in the strictest confidence, because help, advice and support are available.”

  • Marjorie Henley Price was a leading dog lover and the founder and honorary life president of the charity Canine Concern Scotland Trust.

    For a number of years she was secretary of the Scottish Boxer Club and edited the club’s newsletter. She became increasingly concerned about the hostility in some quarters towards dogs.

    She was one of the earliest members of PRO Dogs network and in due course became chairman of the south of Scotland branch, which became extremely successful. She was vigilant in her fight against the anti-dog publicity that prevailed in the 1980s and developed a schools educational programme that was used throughout the UK.

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