The UK Parliament is in the midst of its ridiculously long summer recess (for the non-political geeks, that's the time when parliament doesn't meet). You'd think we had nothing to talk about (what's that Brexit thing again?). I see some Scottish MPs (of the non-SNP variety) were in London for the last chimes of Big Ben – I don't know how they found the time! Meanwhile I've been working away across the constituency. Here's a brief 'summery' of my recent work (pun intended)
With my Fair Work and Employment spokesperson hat on, I had a useful meeting with Princes Trust to discuss ways to improve life chances for young people particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds. Things are improving in Scotland, with a record number of school leavers now going on to continued education, training or work, and Princes Trust play an important role in supporting those who are most at risk.
I also caught up with the co-founder of the charity Social Bite, Josh Littlejohn (pictured). They are behind the homeless village proposal for land near the old gasworks in Granton. The plan is to create a safe and affordable alternative to hostels and B&Bs for about 20 people with extensive support and training to get their lives back on track.
Staying in Granton, I visited the site of the Granton walled garden and got an update on all the fantastic community gardening projects going on there. (you can read more on these here grantoncastlewalledgarden.wordpress.com/ and here http://www.facebook.com/grantoncommunitygardeners. )
Talking of green things, one of the many interesting new businesses in the constituency is the Multrees Walk branch of TESLA motors. They are working to help the transition towards the use of electric vehicles and sustainable energy, producing items like longer life storage batteries for household use. New cars are coming out in UK shortly at half the price of current ones and they are growing the 2nd hand market making electric cars. It also meant I got to pose with a swanky car with a clear conscience!
In Leith I had a lovely trip to St Nicholas sheltered housing on Ferry Road for coffee and a lot of chat (political and otherwise) with the residents. Terrific garden there too! (see photo)
I caught up with the Leith Theatre Trust which is doing exciting work to bring this amazing place back into action for the community. I also attended the community conference ran by Leith Creative, 'how to make Leith better' and got an update on the 'Leith Hub' project for the old tram depot sheds on Leith Walk. These plans are being developed by Out of the Blue Arts & Education Trust together with the council and they will be seeking views on what is needed and what is possible and how to make it happen – I'll keep you informed.
In the New Town, I attended the annual Queen Street garden party organised by the Central Edinburgh New Town Association which was a great chance to meet lots of people from this part of the constituency, with a great bit of piping thrown in for good measure! I attended quite a few festival related events. I was particularly pleased to have the chance to meet Iranian illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi at the Book Festival, who had initially had his visit visa refused. I was involved in the campaign for a rethink of this absurd Home Office decision. I've been speaking to festival organisers about the growing problem of Home Office refusals of visas for performers and their unequal treatment of those from particular areas such as the Middle East. We discussed how the more hostile environment may impact on the nature of future festivals - it's something I intend to pursue to make sure people remain welcome here.
I also had a good catch-up with the local police Inspector for North East Edinburgh, Alan Carson. We discussed many crime related issues that constituents have raised with me including housebreaking, the ongoing issues with motorcycle crime and hotspots for anti-social behaviour. There's a lot of action being taken to tackle these problems and to make sure community policing works well. The statistics show improvements but there's more to be done. Inspector Carson told me he is leaving his post in the area – temporarily at least - so I want to take this opportunity thank him for all his efforts for the community and we look forward to his return.
I also met with Fraser from the Humanist Society of Scotland who told me about their global work defending human rights and freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, and also the role they play in the constituency; Humanists officiated 76 weddings in Edinburgh North and Leith last year and 91 funerals.
Surgeries continued as normal over the summer and as my growing pile of casework shows, there are many worrying issues for disabled people in the constituency, partly as a result of the appalling Tory cuts creating greater poverty and affecting people's ability to remain independent. It was good to have a chance to chat with Leonard Cheshire Disability about the issues faced and the support that is out there. There is lots to take back to Westminster.
MPs return to the House of Commons for just 2 weeks in September then tools are downed again for three more weeks as Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem's enjoy their conference silly season and perhaps cry a little more about how Big Ben has chimed its last for a while. Meanwhile I'll be getting on with the day job.