The UK government tabled a general debate on strengthening the union. You can watch my full speech from the debate here.
In 2016, Nicola Sturgeon announced that there would be a Growth Commission to explore Scotland’s economy and the potential that might occur after Independence. Andrew Wilson chaired the commission and in May this year they published their final report – you can read it in full here.
There have been many commentaries on the report, from different political persuasions. Below is my contribution – written for the Scottish Left Review in July 2018.
This month in parliament we celebrated the 90th anniversary of all women being allowed the vote with the passing of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act. This built on the Act a decade before which gave some women – those over 30 and either married or property owners – the vote. Every time we mark these historical landmarks I am struck not by how long ago they were, but by how recent.
The 1920s were an age of modernity. The beginning of commercial air travel, radio and television broadcasting. An Avant-garde in literature, art and music was revolutionising culture. New advances in medicine and technology were being celebrated. And yet most women were denied the right to vote by law. It seems like something from the Dark Ages. It’s quite shocking to think that there are many people alive today who were born in these times.
We need to talk about democracy. The UK government recently hosted its first ever “National Democracy Week” – with no sense of irony.
We absolutely should be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the equalisation of voting ages for men and women. Nobody would argue with that.
It was great to be able to celebrate the re-opening of Bellfield at their family open day. Congrats to the team at Action Porty for all their hard work in achieving such the community buy out and for creating such a fantastic resource for the area.
As you may be aware, I've taken a serious interest in short term lets and the impact they are having across the constituency. This month I met with Council leader Adam McVey and Housing and Economy Convener Kate Campbell to discuss the issues and what actions the Council might be able to take.
It can't have escaped anyone's notice that the EU Withdrawal Bill was back in Parliament this month. And it came with some significant controversy. Given the large number of amendments proposed by the Lords you could be forgiven for thinking there'd be a decent amount of time allocated for debate but that wasn't to be. You can read my bumper blog on the main two days voting and the SNP reaction here but I'll pick out a couple of key points for you.
The way the debate was structured, combined with the archaic voting practices of Westminster meant that there was just 19 minutes allocated to the impact of Brexit on devolution. And it wasn't only about Scotland - it included Wales and the rather significant issue of the Irish border. 19 minutes and it was all taken up by the Minister. I recorded this video diary just after the final votes that night - it's fair to say we were feeling a little scunnered by it all.
Brexit rumbles on. Last week the SNP walked out of parliament in protest at not being allowed to discuss House of Lords amendments that will seriously affect how we are governed. If we can’t have our say inside the chamber we’ll make our arguments outside.
Meanwhile the UK government say we’re scaremongering. What power grab say the Tories? They claim that the Scottish government will get more powers after Brexit and not a single power it currently has will be removed. Is this true? Let’s see.
Buckle up folks – here comes a bumper blog as this week saw the return of the EU Withdrawal Bill after its time in the Lords. Or, more accurately, we were back voting on the EU Withdrawal Bill given there was precious little time for any actual debate. Over two days we were supposed to debate and vote on 20 different changes to the Bill that the Lords had put forward.
You’ll likely have seen and heard that the SNP group walked out of PMQs on Wednesday after the Prime Minister failed to answer questions from our leader Ian Blackford on the constitutional implications of the UK government ignoring the will of the Scottish Parliament. To be clear about what happened, Ian Blackford moved that the House meet in private – one of the few archaic processes available to us to express our discontent by ensuring an immediate vote. He was perfectly entitled to do so. The Speaker decided not to allow a vote immediately but instead to have the vote after PMQs.
I want to talk about the monarchy. Although not my intention this may upset some people. But before you reach for the keyboard to condemn me, please at least hear me out.
I’m a republican. Have been all my adult life. I don’t demand that other people be republicans but I do ask that we have a civilised exchange of opinion.
Okay I know that it’s probably not the best time to try to start a discussion about the monarchy. With a popular prince wedding his celebrity sweetheart in a lavish event resplendent in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, it might be best for dissidents like myself to keep our republican heads below the parapet.
Then again, with the nation’s attention focused on the royals because of the wedding, this might be just the time to ask how long we can go on like this.
This is a piece about the SNP’s constitutional review. Exciting, huh? Well, maybe not, but important all the same.
I know – at least I hope – no-one joins a political party to debate its internal structure. And set against debates on Indy, Brexit and the World War III this is unlikely to get anyone’s political juices flowing. People are motivated by ideas and feelings, powerful emotions that propel us to action for change.
Since the 30th March Palestinians in Gaza have been peacefully protesting. They will continue until the 15th May - the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the name Palestinians have for the events that displaced them from their homes when Israel was created.
The protests are billed as the “Great Return March” to make the point that it’s time to leave Gaza and go back to where they came from. But try that and they will be shot. As of April 15th, 35 have already been killed and 1300 injured as Israeli soldiers fire live ammunition into unarmed demonstrators.
Textbook example of a Government Minister not answering my question during Joanna Cherry's Urgent Question on the Continuity Bill.
Westminster insisting the Scottish and Welsh Governments are subservient to them on devolved matters. That's why the Scottish government had to pass the Continuity Bill.
It wouldn't be needed if the Tories were prepared to work in partnership.
The work of the Scottish Affairs committee continues apace. This month we held a further evidence session on the immigration needs of Scotland hearing from David Mundell and the Minister for Immigration, Caroline Noakes. Shockingly, the Scottish Government compares to Lincolnshire County Council in the Minister's eyes. See the short exchange on Pete Wishart's Facebook page.
The SNP had two Private Members Bills this month. I had a catch up with both colleague Angus Brendan MacNeil (watch here) and Stewart McDonald (watch here) the day before. PMBs are notoriously difficult to get through Parliament so it was great news that Angus' Bill on Refugee Family Reunification has passed to the next stage.
There was an amazing turnout for Leith Chooses this year. It's a fantastic opportunity for folk in Leith to have a say in what funds are spent on, and what local groups get support.
It was great to be able to join the Commonwealth Day Lunch at Edinburgh City Chambers to celebrate the links between Scotland and Malawi.
We need to change the law on drugs. In fairness, that’s always been my view. But until now I’ve done little about it as an MP. Why? Partly because there’s always been something I’ve felt was a greater priority – and partly because I know well how views can be distorted and used against people in public life.
But that changes now. Three different events over the past few weeks have made me realise that I and others need to make this a priority.
I asked the Minister if the government would require the Electoral Commission to disclose donations for parties in Northern Ireland from before 2015. This follows allegations of dark money from the Constitutional Research Council, which is linked to the Scottish Tories, to the DUP. As usual, no straight answer.
Recently I visited the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh where I met the inspiring Resuscitation Research Group who are developing innovative approaches to improving the outcomes for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.
The group told me that every year in Scotland more than three and a half thousand people suffer a cardiac arrest, and unfortunately survival rates are very low at just one in twenty.
Time is running out for many of Edinburgh's small businesses. Today I've written to the Chancellor asking for additional emergency assistance for our hospitality sector through the COVID-19 epidemic.