Brexit was a key focus in the constituency this month (unsurprisingly). I hosted a public meeting in Portobello - a huge turnout of folk packed into Bellfield and the message was clear - they wanted a People's vote and to stop Brexit. Huge thanks to Kristy Hughes and Kirsty Haigh for joining me and sharing their expertise. And thanks to Tollcross Community Action Network who invited me along to speak at a discussion on the Future of Immigration after Brexit. Plenty of food for thought.
It was great to meet pupils at Portobello High at the start of March. We had a useful & incredibly powerful discussion about their experience of attitudes towards race & religion in our community. We all need to work together to tackle hate, prejudice and ignorance.
Protecting the environment and preventing climate change must be a priority – it is the number one issue facing humanity. I'm incredibly supportive of the young people who have taken this campaign on and made their voices heard. Edinburgh Council gave pupils permission to be absent from school for the climate change strike and I was pleased to be able to visit those who attended the demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament.
I was pleased to be able to welcome the Balfour Project to the constituency this month for their event - "Tragedy in Gaza: Britain’s legacy; Scotland’s role”. Decisive change is needed now.
Lots of you will know that Community Ability Network (CAN) has for many years been doing the hugely important job of providing benefits and debt advice and many other kinds of support to people in Craigmillar, Niddrie and beyond. In the recent Health and Social Care Integration Joint Board (IJB) grant review report, it was recommended that CAN should lose their funding. Prior to this going before the IJB, I wrote to the chair Cllr Ricky Henderson urging him not to accept the report and to find a way of keeping CAN open as a widely trusted organisation in a community that is on the up but which still has its challenges. I was disappointed to see that the IJB approved the report and since then I’ve been pressing the IJB and its partner organisations providing income, benefits and debt advice to ensure that a proper replacement service is put in place – and I will keep doing so.
Craigmillar has seen huge changes over the last two or three decades, especially in the last few years while I’ve been MP. Everyone is glad to see houses being built in the cleared sites. But it’s been a while since local people had a say on how the regeneration of Craigmillar is going. The Scottish government has granted funding to the Community Alliance Trust and the Neighbourhood Alliance from its Making Places programme and the result of this is Changing Craigmillar. The response has been great so far with lots of people giving their view on what’s good about the regeneration and what could be improved. Make sure you have your say here.
Construction is now underway on the new Meadowbank sports centre, scheduled to open Autumn 2020. The Council is undertaking consultation on what will the rest of the site will look like – and I have been keeping close tabs on this. Initial suggestions from council officers that the site could have a hotel and student accommodation have understandably been very unpopular among the community. I look forward to the Council heeding the views of the public and delivering the kind of things people are keen to see – such as much-needed affordable homes, quality open green space, expanded GP surgery provision and other vital services. You can read the public responses to the consultation here.
I'm deeply concerned about the increasing rhetoric of hate and intolerance we're seeing. This isn't about Brexit - although I think that's a symptom - but about the increase in far right activity across the world. The terrorist attack on the Muslim community of New Zealand was heart-breaking. And understandably shook communities across the globe. I attended the vigil at Edinburgh Central mosque and stand in solidarity with our Muslim friends and neighbours.
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?