Here's a taste of my week in the Commons
Monday 3 to Friday 7 July 2017
Northern Ireland and DUP deal
As the SNP's Northern Ireland spokesperson, the political situation there was high on the agenda this week. It was disappointing that a deal was not reached to restore power sharing governance – these are issues with potentially serious consequences for the peace process as well as Brexit talks.
I suggested to the Secretary of State James Brokenshire that the impartiality of the UK Government was in question following their dodgy deal with the DUP, along with the whole murky affair of political donations.
I also quizzed Mr Brokenshire about what representations the Scottish Secretary David Mundell had made about the DUP deal - unsurprisingly there was no response. (link to the exchange: https://goo.gl/6zKyJ7)
On Tuesday I was at a debate on the benefits cap led by SNP colleague Alison Thewliss. This cruel, unjustified policy has done nothing but add to the financial stresses of vulnerable families, making them choose between essentials such as food, clothing or heating - forcing struggling single parents out of their homes. A recent High Court judgement ruled that ""real misery is being caused to no good purpose". I've seen this in my constituency where many families face eviction partly as a result of this cap– we're working to support them but the policy needs to be scrapped to prevent it causing further damage and upheaval. (full debate here: https://goo.gl/RBkzVC )
I raised the issue of Jobcentre closures and asked the Minister to reconsider the government's utterly callous policy of imposing benefit sanctions for lateness (as called for by the Poverty Alliance), given the extra distance people will have to travel now. The central Edinburgh jobcentre in St Andrew's Square is on the closure list, with services moved to the jobcentres in High Riggs or several miles away in Wester Hailes. It makes no sense to put extra barriers up for people seeking support to find work, or to push them into greater poverty. https://goo.gl/eVTqJK
Northern Ireland business on Wednesday meant I couldn't make the WASPI debate as I wanted to do, but SNP colleagues kept up the pressure for pension justice for the women affected by the changes. When the Tories find a billion for a deal to keep themselves in power they can find the money to pay women what they are due. This is an issue I've long supported and I'm disappointed we still have to debate it but we'll keep at them (https://goo.gl/xSq2tw )
Brexit and trade at Forth Ports
Brexit and its impact on international trade through Forth Ports was another issue I raised in the chamber this week. Increased need for customs regulations and costly tariffs will all take their toll on our successful international industries. No details of a plan or reassurances were given by the Brexiteer Minister, Dr Fox – seems we've just to cross our fingers and hope we get "as open a trading deal as possible" and that politics doesn't take "precedence over the economics, prosperity and wellbeing of the people" . Maybe staying within the EU single market would achieve that, Dr Fox? Here's the exchange - note my incredulous face at the response!
Away from the chamber....
I had a very productive meeting in my role as Fair Work and Employment Spokesperson with Scottish Government Minister for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown MSP, also our Economy Spokesperson at Westminster Drew Hendry MP (both in selfie below!)
I was at the London launch of the Edinburgh Fringe in its 70th year.
I'm pictured with (from r to l), Judith Docherty of @gridirontheatre, comedian and presenter Susan Morrison @suziem and Collin Wood who are all on the board of Directors of the Fringe Society.
Performances at the Fringe launch included the extremely fabulous Hackney Colliery Band who kind of blew the roof off the Speaker's Hoose!