July 10 – 14
I'm the SNP's Fair Employment spokesperson so I took part in a debate on social mobility policy this week. Tory and Labour governments have both failed people badly here – that's the conclusion of work by the Social Mobility Commission who I think will not be long for this world given their findings! My speech focussed on the issues for young people who get paid less now than they did back in 1997. I took an intervention from one of our new Scottish Tory MPs who wanted to talk about the 2014 independence referendum. Seems they just don't get it. (Clip below, full debate here.)
EU Withdrawal Bill
This week saw the 'Repeal Bill' published (can't think why they dropped the 'Great'). This is how the UK Government wants to end the rule of EU law – it'll transfer all the thousands of pieces of EU legislation into domestic law. There's nothing in it to make sure that Scotland keeps control over devolved policy areas – it even puts more restrictions on the Scottish Parliament's work! The First Minister and Welsh FM signed a joint statement that they would not support this bill, describing it as 'a naked power-grab, an attack on the founding principles of devolution and could destabilise our economies.
I questioned the Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom on whether there were plans for debating time on devolving more powers to Scotland, given the mess they are making of things. From her irrelevant response churning out the usual Tory lines I guess not
Away from the chamber...
Protecting Scotland's food and drink
I was invited to a food and drink federation reception by David Thomson, CEO of Food and Drink Federation Scotland. Some sceptical muttering from some of the audience as they listened to the guest speaker, Michael Gove, painting a glowing post-Brexit future. Everything in tomorrow's garden will be rosy, he thinks.
I've been asking questions about the impact of Brexit on Scotland's food and drinks industry and the special protections that are in place for our speciality foods like the Stornoway Black Pudding or the Arbroath Smokie – it seems even this is up for grabs in the Brexit talks! Those protections are really important for the industry – especially for companies that export food and drink – so this is really worrying for Scotland.
All Party Parliamentary Groups
I became a Vice-Chair of two All Party Parliamentary Groups this week – on the BBC and Japan. I was glad to be asked, I've long had an interest in broadcasting and particularly public service broadcasting - my father worked in the ABC in Oz as a presenter, film critic and radio announcer. I'm keen to stay informed of developments for the new Scottish Channel, Radio Scotland and BBC Alba etc. I intend raising issues of interest to Scotland regularly .
My interest in Japan is in part because of Scotland's long standing links with it, the many successful Japanese companies based in Scotland and the genuine affection many Japanese people I've met always seem to have for Scotland - not least for our golf, our history and Outlander!
Also I have a cousin who has lived in Tokyo for 30 odd years, having married a Japanese guy, and has made a successful career in business. I was one of the first school pupils in Western Australia to take Japanese when it was introduced to the curriculum - its introduction caused quite a stir at the time, WW2 still fresh in many minds, but it was recognising that Australia's future in trade, cultural, business ties etc really lay with neighbours in Asia and away from the UK, as has proved to be the case. Sadly I didn't keep my study of the language up, my Gaelic's better these days! (Photo below is in Edinburgh, from a meeting with Consul General Daiksuke Matsunaga with his wife Midori.)
Also this Friday I visited a care home in Leith and had some lovely chats with residents there and took away some issues to look into. I also spoke to the congregation at Annandale Mosque and had another busy old surgery at McDonald Road - lots to take forward from that but always great to meet folk.
My office is well supplied with biscuits from constituents we've been working with at the moment (see pic below!) Thanks from me and my staff team who are munching their way through them - although our waistlines won't be thanking you! :)