Happy New Year to one and all.
I'm on the train heading back to that there London for the start of the new term at the political equivalent of Hogwarts.
When I was back in the constituency I took a few minutes to reflect on the week in his week in Westminster. You can see it here.
I wasn't called to speak in Wednesday's debate on whether to engage in air strikes in Syria so I recorded some of what I would have liked to say.
For the most part this has been a sincere debate with people who hold strong and passionate views being prepared to listen to those who hold equally strong but divergent views with respect.
Earlier this evening I spoke in the House of Commons on the third reading of the Scotland Bill. Complex bills can be given several days of debate in the chamber but today, the highly technical and complex Scotland Bill was allowed a total of around six hours. When you take out the time for voting, realistically that only left about four hours to discuss and debate over 200 motions and amendments.
I recognised that many who voted no last year, did so because they are happy with the status quo and wanted to remain in the United Kingdom as it stands. However, there is another group of people who voted no because they believed what they were told by the leaders of the unionist parties, that a no vote on the 18th September was not a vote for the status quo but was a vote for a new relationship within the union where additional powers would be transferred. Undoubtedly this group were decisive in swinging the No vote.
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.
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.
It’s been quite a week to finish the first term of the new parliament. On Monday the Tories’ welfare bill passed its second reading by 308 votes to 124, the majority exactly equal to the number of Labour MPs who didn’t vote against it. This is an odious package of measures. Choice highlights include reducing the work allowance people on benefit can claim so that their payments are reduced, removing housing benefit for anyone under 25, and the two child policy which will deny benefits to larger families
The bill also reduces the benefits cap which any one household can claim to £380 a week. Not many people get this level of benefits and where they do you can bet most of it will be to cover the cost of high private rents. The effect of the cap will be to force people to move into poorer areas where rents are lower, cleansing nice middle class Tory areas of claimants and creating ghettos of poverty where the chances of getting a decent job are even more remote than before. This is a restructuring of welfare to achieve social engineering on a grand scale.
I can’t be the only one who finds the Conservatives attempts to portray themselves as the workers’ party risible and ridiculous. I’ve sat opposite them in the House of Commons for the last two months and I can safely say I’ve never seen so much wealth and privilege in the one place. The only working people many of the Tories know are the ones who work for them.
It’s all a PR exercise and like any other brand you can’t sell it if it’s crap. So let’s take a look at what the workers’ party has planned. This week’s budget is nothing other than an all-out attack on working people. Millions of police officers, nurses, teachers and local government workers throughout the UK will have their pay pegged to a one percent increase for the next four years. On top of wage freezes and paltry rises over the past five years, this will drive down the standard of living for many, many people.
We are finally getting down to business at Westminster. Two major bills are now in Committee stage and we have been putting down multiple amendments for each.The EU referendum
The SNP were the only party to vote against having a referendum on the EU. We said in our manifesto that we didn’t see any need for one and, as Alex Salmond pointed out in the debate usually (with PR, independence, etc) you only have a referendum when asking people to agree to a change. More than 80% of Scotland voted for parties opposed to having a referendum and polls consistently show that Sots as quite content with being part of Europe. In spite of our opposition the bill passed its second reading with the support of the Labour "opposition" and so we now move on to look at the detail.
Four weeks ago I was worried about writing this column on the eve of the last major parliamentary debate on Brexit. Anything could have happened, rendering my speculation obsolete by the time you read it. I shouldn’t have fretted. Anything could have happened but nothing did.
Here I am again. Groundhog day. It’s Tuesday. There’s a big debate tomorrow.
Tuesday. Another day spent discussing Brexit. Another day of my life I’m not getting back.
We are no further forward. As the clock ticks down to exit it’s only fair to ask: What the hell is Theresa May playing at?