TODAY I’ll be joining Airdrie-based St Andrew’s Hospice as they embark on their annual fundraising hike up the highest mountain in the UK – Ben Nevis.

Earlier this year I met with St Andrew’s Hospice executives to hear directly about the challenges they are facing in the current economic climate.

As the cost of living continues to harm Scotland – fuelled by Westminster’s economic mismanagement – it has increased the pressures on many families, businesses and organisations.

St Andrew’s Hospice, which is partly funded by the NHS, has ramped up fundraising efforts to safeguard the care of residents and support for their families.

As I gear up for the challenge of climbing Ben Nevis, I am reminded of the value of charity.

St Andrew’s Hospice is not far from Airdrie town centre, and one of its charity shops sits on a street corner near my constituency office.

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Upon the shopfront window rest the words “Because you care, we can care”. This short phrase epitomises the importance of charity, by stating the stark reality of the hospice’s reliance on the generosity of others.

Without such public generosity, St Andrew’s Hospice would be unable to provide specialised palliative care for those with life-limiting illnesses – and those around them, who will likely be experiencing a period of real difficulty.

For me, St Andrew’s Hospice embodies values that we hold so dear to us. Values such as generosity, kindness and compassion. The Abrahamic faiths place significant importance upon charity – I cannot help but ponder over the wider significance of how this, in turn, impacts people from across the four nations.

For followers of Christianity, charity stands as a poignant expression of selfless affection and concern. I know many of the churches across my constituency are a valuable resource for those in need, and reports show that 87% of Christians donate regularly.

In Judaism, Tzedakah takes the form of embracing philanthropy to extend a helping hand, with 93% of those practising in the UK donating at least once per year.

Every economically able Muslim is required to donate 2.5% of their wealth as Zakat annually. By having charity enshrined within the faith, an estimated £150 million was donated by Muslims across these four nations in 2020 alone.

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Shifting to Hinduism, the ideals of Dana and Seva gracefully guide charity, seeing it as a selfless service that uplifts fellow souls.

Meanwhile in Sikhism, charity finds its anchor in Dasvandh, sprouting from an innate desire to sow positivity in the lives of others.

Whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, or Islam, what is evident is that charity and generosity play a central role in the lives of many – regardless of faith. It has an immediate and tangible impact in sparking transformative change that builds individuals and entire communities alike.

However, the charity sector is facing a burden in addressing the worsening inequalities in the ongoing cost of living crisis.

I’m sure the Conservative government is a supporter of charity – yet its actions over the past 13 years suggest that its version of charity lies in ensuring the rich stay rich. With Labour’s Tory-lite policies and their refusal to commit to more public spending, it seems unlikely that Starmer’s government would put any greater importance on generosity in 10 Downing Street.

In Scotland, the SNP are committed to upholding the significant role of third-sector workers by backing them with more than £23m in investment to ensure their continued operations.

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Through bold initiatives, such as extending the Fuel Insecurity Fund until 2023-24, we protect people and families from the Westminster-driven cost of living crisis.

So, why am I – as someone who fears the gym – climbing Ben Nevis? Ultimately those core values of generosity, kindness and compassion resonated with me when I visited St Andrew’s Hospice.

They were embodied by the many nurses and volunteers I met. By the executives working to guide the hospice through these difficult times. And, vitally, by those who donate regularly to ensure the continued care of residents and their loved ones.

I suspect that these same values will be the reason why many will be marching through the streets of our nation’s capital tomorrow. Generosity, kindness and compassion are at the heart of our vision for an independent Scotland.

The payment for this month’s article was donated to St Andrew’s Hospice, based in Airdrie

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