SHORTLY after being elected in 2011 I spent a day shadowing a wonderful woman named Magteld Darroch-Jansen, carer for her two young autistic sons.

Now I consider being an MSP to be a tiring job but I have never been as exhausted as I was after a day of helping Magteld with her two beautiful, but very energetic, sons.

Devastatingly for her family and all those she inspired, Magteld passed away last year from breast cancer.

I will never forget the time I spent with her and her family and I continue to be in total admiration of the work unpaid carers do - day in, day out.

This week is World Autism Awareness Week, a week dedicated to educating the public about the everyday challenges people with autism face, as well as dispelling myths about autism.

Efforts like these mustn't be contained to one week a year though - which is why the Scottish Government has made autism a national priority.

In 2011 the Scottish Government, in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, launched the Scottish Strategy for Autism.

People with autism have unique conditions and needs which require tailored services and support; the Scottish Strategy for Autism has invested £13.4 million in developing a holistic, joined-up approach to ensuring people across the autism spectrum are allowed to live as independently and as happily as possible.

During this year's World Autism Awareness Week, why not learn more about the challenges facing people with autism and their families by visiting the National Autistic Society website at

Democracy is at its most powerful when communities at their local level are empowered and actively hold their local representatives and institutions to account.

As a Glasgow MSP I regularly liaise with community council groups and local press which are dedicated to doing just that.

However, I have recently been particularly impressed by how quickly and effectively a group of local residents in Linthouse and Shieldhall in the South-West of Glasgow have organised themselves to oppose a local parking control order from Glasgow City Council.

Calling themselves the G51 Free Parking Group, these residents are rightly incensed by Glasgow City Council plans to impose a £50 annual charge for permits to park in their own streets.

Even worse, anyone who works in the area - mostly small business owners and their staff - are to be expected to pay £700 a year each for parking permits.

When I first heard about these proposals I was angry - these charges are an entirely unnecessary burden on a community which has already been hit hard by the public spending cuts being forced by the current UK Government.

On April 10 the G51 group will stage a protest outside Glasgow City Chambers where they will hand in the many letters of objection they have collected from residents over the past few weeks.

I hope the leader of Glasgow City Council, Gordon Matheson, will be there to personally collect those letters - it's the least local residents deserve.