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.
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.
On the 21st July, I backed the SNP's call for the Treasury to look again at exempting the Scottish Police and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service from a continuing VAT anomaly. Police Scotland is the only police authority in the UK unable to recover VAT and is liable to an annual cost of around £23 million. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is similarly disadvantaged, and is liable for an annual cost of around £10 million.
My support was added in the debate on the Finance Bill:
I have been asked to add my name to Diane Abbott's Early Day Motion 66, Supermarket Disposal of Edible Food. I have been delighted to do so as I believe that we can take some simple but firm steps that will both eliminate food waste and benefit charities and food banks.
In addition, the SNP Scottish Government is doing what it can with the resources and powers it has to tackle poverty and food poverty. We are investing around £296 million from 2013-14 to 2015-16 in anti-poverty measures, including our £1 million Emergency Food Action Plan which helps 26 Emergency Food Projects provide food aid and funds FareShare to redistribute food from retailers to community organisations.
Although it didn’t feature in the recent Queen’s Speech, Tory proposals to scrap the Human Rights Act have alarmed many of us.
The 1998 Human Rights Act is a fundamental means of securing the rights and liberties of citizens across the UK. It was written to ensure that UK legislation conforms to the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights. It is one of the most important expressions of post-World War II Europe’s commitment to human rights and it is shocking that seventy years after Europe said ‘never again’, the Conservative Party would even consider repealing the Act.
The concerns of submariner William McNeilly regarding safety of the UK’s nuclear defence base at Faslane Naval base were published in the Sunday Herald in May. Mr McNeilly, who is still in military police custody, has written a detailed 18-page report called 'The Nuclear Secrets', which claims to lift the lid on the alarming state of the UK's ageing and short-staffed nuclear deterrent.
It is of little comfort to me that a Ministry of Defence probe, done in extra quick time, and with little public input has found the claims to be "factually incorrect". The SNP secured a debate on the matter in the first week of the new Parliament and I am proud that we are already taking action and standing up for the people of Scotland. However, the Government saw fit only to issue a brief statement on the matter. Alex Salmond is right when he says this is insulting to peoples' intelligence. As he said, clearly: "Trident is a key issue for people in Scotland. It is bad enough that Scotland is forced to house these weapons of mass destruction but these alleged breaches of security are deeply worrying - there must be absolutely no complacency."
Many constituents have been in touch regarding the Tory Party Manifesto promise to repeal the 2004 Hunting Act which banned fox hunting in England and Wales. Whilst there was no mention of it in the recent Queen’s Speech, we cannot guarantee the Government won’t return to it in the coming years given that the Tories remains committed to the repeal.
I used my Evening News column this month to talk about fireworks following the extreme antisocial behaviour on bonfire night. I've also written to the Minister asking for the UK Government to toughen up licensing laws. And if they aren't willing to do that, devolve power over fireworks to the Scottish Parliament so they can act. Read the full article here.