As you may know, the expansion of renewable energy generation in Scotland in particular has been extremely successful. Non-carbon based energy must be the mainstay of the future as we look to reverse man-made climate change.
I have long been a supporter of the Palestinian people, whose suffering at the hands of disproportionate Israeli Defence Force (IDF) attacks has been harrowing. The occupation of Gaza and the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank is both illegal and deeply unhelpful.
The current escalation in violence is particularly concerning with the IDF effectively implementing a shoot to kill policy on Palestinian citizens.
What better way to spend a Saturday morning than down the allotments? Craigentinny and Telforton allotments is run by committee and enables local individual, families, groups and charities to work plots of land in the community. I spent some time with them recently, discussing their work and the latest threat from a bid to build on the site.
There have been allotments at Telferton for over 90 years, throughout that time they have been worked and managed by generations of people from the surrounding area. The committee have turned Craigentinny and Telferton allotments into a limited company and registered charity. However, they do not own the land.
Just made the 6pm train to Edinburgh after a mad dash from the House of Commons. The debate of the day was EVEL (English votes for English laws). This was the third – or was it the fourth – attempt by the government to force through this shoddy procedure. And they won – predictably.
History was made today - and not in a good way. For the first time ever the rights of Scottish MPs have been curtailed in the Westminster Parliament. There will now be two classes of MP – those that can vote on everything and those that can’t.
I'm writing this on the train back to Edinburgh from the SNP conference in Aberdeen. We have just had our biggest conference ever - indeed probably the biggest political conference in Scottish history.
And by any measure it was a huge success. The SNP is a big organisation now - over 114,000 members - and many people have speculated that size would bring division. Indeed, there are some sections of the press so desperate for an "SNP split" story that they will make one up. Yet the party seems more united and focussed than ever.
I was delighted to be able to open my new office hub in Craigmillar recently. The old post office, turned campaign hub, is now a sub office for the team fulfilling the promise I made to voters during the election campaign. Areas like Craigmillar and Bingham are now the bedrock of our party and people have put their trust in me. The problems that people in this community face are only going to get worse with the Tory cuts. This office will form part of the resistance to their plans.
The office was opened by my new colleague Alex Salmond MP/MSP. In his speech he stressed the importance of the community having a strong voice representing those in need.
In the last few weeks I have been continuing my visits to local schools taking in Castlebrae High, Leith Academy and St Francis R.C. Primary School.
Local people will be well aware with the challenges that have faced Castlebrae and the school remains below capacity with regard to pupil numbers. However, this is a school on the up. During my visit I was impressed by the incredible passion and commitment of the Senior Leadership Team and wider staff team. Their care for, and belief in, the pupils is outstanding and pupils respond positively to this. I also took the opportunity to express my support for a swift move forward in the building of a new secondary at the heart of the community.
Prior to the election, a number of people asked me to clarify my position on fracking, something I was happy to do. I first got involved in politics in the late seventies through campaigning against nuclear power and ever since I’ve been an advocate of renewable energy. So, I guess that even when I first discovered what the term “fracking” meant (and realising that it wasn’t the ubiquitous expletive from the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica – of which I am a fan) I felt in my water it was a bad thing.
But I spent a bit of time reading up on the subject as I didn’t want to be accused of making a kneejerk response to the debate. And the more I read the more I concluded my initial instincts were correct.
After a weekend’s rest and refection I’d like to record some thoughts about the debate on the assisted dying bill which has been a concern for many, many people. I received a lot of letters from people in Edinburgh East asking me to either oppose or support the bill. There were passionate views held on both sides with the majority favouring a change in the law.
David Cameron's state visit for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not sit well with a number of the SNP group. Several of us attended a protest outside Downing Street organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
I spoke to the Jerusalem Post about my views.
Superb afternoon at the Big Beach Busk at Portobello on Saturday. It was the sixth year of the sandcastle and yours truly was asked to be the judge. Forget the Tories welfare bill, arguments about power for Scotland, or even fox-hunting - decisions don't come any harder than this.
The sun shone and the beach was a hive of industry as more than 40 teams started to make sculpture from the sand. Most entered the family category with sometimes over enthusiastic dads taking the lead... but some kids did it all by themselves.
A change of pace on the tour today as I attended the White House tea dance. As well as tea and the legendary White House fruit scones, I had a bit of a dance and lots of chat with the locals. I also met Manager, Bob Giulianotti (driving the decks on this occasion!), and Head Chef, Richard Paton who outlined his emerging plans to combat food poverty in the area and help people enjoy, cook and generally reconnect with food. As we left I nipped round the back to see the crops in pots that form the basis of so much of the White House’s dishes– hugely impressed.
Without a shadow of a doubt one of the highlights of this Summer’s tour has been today’s trip to the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home. Like lots of people, I’ve been vaguely aware of driving past it on the Seafield Road but never given it a lot of thought. It was great to meet Howard Bridges the new Chief Executive – he lives on the premises with an uninterrupted view of the sea - and has been appointed to raise the profile of the Home.
Howard, and Operations Director, Lindsay Jardine, gave us a tour of the premises where we met lots of happy animals – so deserving of a forever home. Pictured here are Sasha – who, following cancer, has only three legs and is a big softy – and Miko - a boisterous collie who has gone from being very wary of strangers to forming a strong bond with his carer Vicky and will be snapped up when he’s ready. We also saw some adorable kittens and their young mum. The Home is particularly keen to promote their slightly older cats including Luna and April – two gorgeous torties and Andie a big, cuddly black and white charmer. My colleague fell in love with little stripey Mimi (pictured) who isn’t ready for rehoming yet. No wonder the staff here love their jobs!
The wealth of services and wonderful people doing great work in my constituency keeps astounding me. Today my tour took me to Crew 2000, who are a drug advice centre based in the central part of the constituency. They offer fantastic services including a drop-in centre and a welfare service, as well as doing outreach work in clubs and pubs. They offer direct help for festivals and events, and provide some addiction recovery services.
They were founded in 1992 by drug users themselves, concerned that the market was being flooded with dangerously cut drugs. They are based in the constituency of Edinburgh East, but they do work across Europe in the form of consultancy and working alongside other organisations.
Had a great visit to Drake Music Scotland – another hidden gem in the constituency. They offer musical opportunities to people with disabilities in the local community, the city and throughout Scotland. Everyone can make music and Drake’s vision to is to enable that to happen via the tiniest adjustments to musical instruments, through to developing and using the highest tech equipment. I even got to play harp using Thumbjam on the iPad with Equilibrium who were playing their own, lovely, composition using a combination of the latest software and a real viola. Then we nipped in to listen to Ceilidh Band who were rehearsing and they spontaneously struck up Scotland the Brave which I really enjoyed! They demonstrated how Figurenotes works - a music notation system based on coloured shapes that is much easier than normal music notation.
I visited the Thistle Foundation yesterday and met Mark Hoolihan, Diana Noel-Paton and some incredibly dedicated volunteers including Mags Hendry and Liz Deeming. They are an organisation based just off Niddrie Mains Road which supports people with disabilities and health conditions through health and wellbeing initiatives and supported living. They also work with health and social care professionals, offering training aimed at encouraging a cultural shift towards focussing on individuals needs rather than conditions or disabilities.
They are feeling very positive about the Scottish Government gaining more powers over welfare and hope that they will be able to use this change to greatly improve the work that they do.
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Labour Party