Parliament seems to be settling down into its usual routine which meant that we had our week long February recess. This allowed me to not only have some much needed family time but to make a variety of constituency visits. One of those visits was to the Scotch Whisky Association where I caught up with Karen and the team. We had a really useful discussion about a range of topics including Brexit and USA tariffs. I'm now a lot more aware of the work they do to protect our iconic brands around the world.
I had a very interesting discussion with Hannah and Craig from SAMH. We spoke about the real challenges people with mental health conditions face when claiming social security. There are particular problems around Universal Credit - people often just don’t get the support they need. I’ll continue to work with SAMH and others to help bring about much needed change. For more information on SAMH's campaigns, check out their website: https://www.samh.org.uk/
I had the pleasure of visiting The Bayes Centre and meeting NASA robot Valkyrie. I gained a real insight into the range of work going on at Bayes and Ed Uni's School of Informatics - thanks to the team for taking the time to meet with me.
I visited the Health Opportunities Team in Craigmillar. It was great to meet the team and chat with MD Niki about the range of terrific work they all do with young people around sexual, mental & physical health. Get details about HOT’s current projects here: https://www.health-opportunities.org.uk/
Earlier in the month I visited the new Council housing development at Craigmillar Town Centre, right next to where the new high school is being built. There are 194 new homes nearing completion - the first lot are on course to be available from March. They are looking good - spacious, nicely designed, quality homes fit for 21st century living. On top of that, the views are spectacular to Arthur's Seat, Craigmillar Castle, the Braids and the Pentlands. These come hot on the heels of 111 affordable homes built for Dunedin Canmore Housing Association right next door, with work still ongoing on more at Greendykes.
The pace of change in Craigmillar's regeneration has been fast even in the last few years since I've been representing the area as MP. While I think there is still work to do around the social infrastructure to bring the new community together, I think most folk can agree it's great to see Craigmillar on the up.
Our city is growing fast and there is growing need for good quality homes that ordinary people can afford. That's why I'm so proud to be a member of a party that is delivering for people in Edinburgh East through the actions of the Scottish Government and the SNP-led City of Edinburgh Council. The SNP has committed to building 20,000 new affordable homes here in the capital between 2017 and 2027 - and that plan is right on track.
It was really heartening to speak at a well attended community meeting in Niddrie in response to recent racist attacks in the area. The community won't stand for people being targeted in this way.The outcome was hugely positive with agreement that a concerted community-led effort will be made to celebrate our diversity and to address the causes of young people getting mixed up in racist violence.
I also wrote my Evening News column this month on how we tackle racism in our communities. You can read it here.
I dropped-by a very busy Restalrig/Lochend Hub before my regular constituency surgery this month. Really enjoyed catching-up with members of The Ripple lunch club and spent some time browsing the bring'n'buy jumble sale. The Hub is a really valuable part of the community and they put on some great activities for folk of all ages. Check out their Facebook page for more information.
Thanks to the team at Mrs Unis Spicy Foods for such a warm welcome last week. And for sharing the story of their fantastic local business that has been creating traditional Indian recipes for the Scottish palate for over 30 years. They've been taking part in Asda's ‘Supplier Development Academy’ to help grow the business. And I was even allowed to help out with making their naan bread and packing the pakora.
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.