The Westminster Hall Debate on the International Day of Democracy was an opportunity to examine our modern, imperfect democracy and what we could be doing better. It won't shock you that the House of Lords, proportional representation and voter participation all get a mention. You can watch my contribution here.
I was delighted to be invited, for the second year running, to the Royal High Primary to join the P7s for a discussion as part of their topic 'Who Represents Us?'.
We had a great discussion about the role of an MP as part of their democracy project.
Welcome to my August Newsletter. Parliament has been in recess for the past month so this newsletter will focus on my work in Edinburgh East. Though of course, politics continues even when the Westminster parliament isn't sitting. And the mess that is Brexit continues unabated. Next week I head back to Westminster where we'll have the first vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill. Let's see if Corbyn and his parliamentary party are ready to work with us on this. August is a great month for me - I'm able to be based at home (the joy of sleeping in your own bed every night cannot be underestimated!) and I get to catch up on all the goings on in the constituency. Though it does feature the toughest decision of my year - judging the Portobello Sandcastle Competition (winner above). It was a great sunny day with lots of people taking part in the Beach Busk along the prom. I'm already looking forward to next year.
This month I was honoured to be asked to give the annual Thomas Muir memorial lecture. Thomas Muir was a tireless campaigner for political reform in the late 18th Century and his actions radically changed the political landscape in our country and across the UK. In the lecture I focused on the parallels between our movement today and Muir's work and the lessons we need to learn from the General Election. You can watch my lecture here.
MPs have been reporting their own constituents to the Home Office for breaking immigration rules. Let me say that again, Members of Parliament - who people come to for help and advice – have been reporting these same people to the Home Office for immigration enforcement. 482 tip offs between 2014 and 2016.
You’d be forgiven for having missed this news that was reported last Friday by politics.co.uk. The mainstream media didn’t exactly jump on it. But it is a major story and we should all be outraged by it. Trust in elected members isn’t exactly at its highest level and this rightly adds to the anger and distrust many feel.
I attended a very inspiring morning at the Jack Kane Centre where they were putting on an event for the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee at the Scottish Parliament. We were taken on a journey through the experiences of the young people who have been on the Erasmus+ plus programme with YouthLink Scotland.
This strand is not for university students but instead engages young people through youth work programmes and enables them to have an experience that broadens their horizons and introduces them to new cultures.
As reported in the Herald yesterday, I have written to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke about the UK Government's continued treatment of people with chronic, degenerative and lifelong conditions.
Last year his predecessor, Damian Green, promised that people with chronic, degenerative and lifelong conditions would no longer need to face repeated, unnecessary work capability assessments (WCAs) in future.
I had the great pleasure of giving the Thomas Muir lecture last week, which you can now watch thanks to the folks at Bella. In the end it came out a bit differently to the written version.
My toughest job of the year (but one I love the most) - judging the Porty Sandcastle Competition! There were some phenomenal entries this year and with over 40 families taking part in that category I wish I could've given a top 10 rather than the usual first, second and third.
Congrats to all who took part and to all the performers at the Beach Busk. Henry (the dog) and I had a great afternoon out.
I was incredibly impressed by my visit to the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh's Bioquarter. Hundreds of scientists from across the globe developing truly world leading research in stem cells and regeneration. Clinical treatment is at the forefront - developing treatments to some of Scotland's most challenging diseases including liver disease, MS and MND.
And they have an excellent outreach and community engagement programme, particularly with Castlebrae CHS. Nathana and Jayanti came along from the school to tell me about the mentors who visit Castlebrae and support pupils with their science coursework and the summer internship programme in the centre.
Yesterday I met with Bob Hope, Chair of Trustees at FOTA (Friends of the Award). They do fantastic work supporting delivery of the Duke of Edinburgh Award across Edinburgh and the Lothians.
The charity specialises in supporting young people with additional challenges in their lives whether that be a learning or physical disability, being a young carer, living in residential care or any other difficulty. Bob shared some of the impressive results they've had and I'm delighted that FOTA have received lottery funding to expand their service supporting young people with mental health difficulties.
Lovely morning catching up with Kelly and the day service users at Caring in Craigmillar. Already looking forward to visiting again and seeing the new garden - the plans look great!
So our capital city is more than half way through hosting the world’s largest arts festival. As ever amidst this explosion of artistic creativity there are a few controversies. Should workers in fringe venues be paid the living wage? Were the owners of St Andrew Square right to close it to the fringe and Jazz & Blues festivals? And the debate that intrigues me most: dates.
The Edinburgh festival that most people think of in August is in fact a bunch of separate festivals. The biggest by far is the Fringe. The biggest funded is the International Festival. Then there’s the Tattoo, the Book Festival and the Art Festival. The dates of all of these overlap considerably.
I had a great visit yesterday to Shaw Trust, Forth Sector and St Jude’s Laundry.
It was lovely to meet Alistair Kerr, Gemma Hope and Annie Dell from Shaw Trust who told me all about their focus on employment and wellbeing - running projects which help people with disabilities get into work.
The obelisk on Calton Hill forms a familiar part of our iconic Edinburgh skyline. Many residents will pass it daily. But I would reckon only a very few will be aware of what it commemorates. Erected in 1844 the monument is to five men whose actions back in the late 18th century radically changed the political landscape in our country and across the UK. They sowed the seeds which eventually brought the democracy we take for granted today. One of these men is Thomas Muir.
This year, I am delighted to say I have had the enormous honour of being asked to give the Thomas Muir lecture.
Finally, it’s summer recess and I get to spend some time in the constituency. I’m sure you all know about my love affair with the Fringe. I was delighted to be able to help the Fringe celebrate its 70th year with a reception in Speaker’s House at the start of July after their original event had to be cancelled due to the election! I’m looking forward to it all starting in a few days time.
Westminster had a very end of term feel about it this month with the Government seeming to be filling up time to avoid having to try and pass any actual legislation. Indeed, we even had a debate about how much legislation we should be passing in Private Members Bills (read my response here).
Finally, it’s summer recess and I get to spend some time in the constituency. I’m sure you all know about my love affair with the Fringe. I was delighted to be able to help the Fringe celebrate its 70th year with a reception in Speaker’s House at the start of July after their original event had to be cancelled due to the election! I’m looking forward to it all starting.
Thanks to everyone who has donated to the Edinburgh Back to School Bank at my Portobello Office – there’s been a fantastic response. If you can help we'd be delighted to receive school clothing for pupils aged 4-18. They regularly list items they are short of their Facebook page but are always short of girls black leggings - all sizes but especially ages 9-10 10-11 11-12 and ladies small black jumpers, cardigans and sweatshirts of all sizes from age 5 to 15.
OK, sorry about this, but it’s Brexit again this month. Don’t blame me – I voted remain.
Remember the Great Repeal Bill David Davis promised last year. Well, it’s arrived, Except it’s now called the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. I’ve no idea why withdrawal is in brackets, maybe it’s not going to happen. It’s not that great either – just nineteen clauses, half of which are legalistic gobbledygook.