Welcome to my December Newsletter. The past month has been a busy one - at the start of November the High Court ruled that Parliament should have a debate and vote on triggering Article 50. While Theresa May is appealing to the Supreme Court (we'll hear the outcome later this month) I do feel that parliament should have a say on this. It’s clear that a small majority voted for Brexit without knowing exactly how it might happen and having been lied to about what the consequences might be. There is a danger that some people may seize on this as a mandate for their own narrow interpretation of the UK's future relationship with other countries. To prevent that happening I believe parliament must be the body that decides on the Brexit plan.
There has been a focus this month on opposing the Tory government plans to cut ESA benefit both through an opposition day debate and through a back bench debate led by my SNP colleague Neil Gray. I spoke in both of these debates - in the first I felt it was important to share the experiences of two constituents whose lives would be devastated by the loss of £30 a week. You can watch this here. In the second I talked more generally about the broader impact of the cuts which you can see here.
One of the focal points in the month was the Autumn Statement. It wasn't the most exciting or exhilarating of occasions but there are some key matters to be aware of. The measures announced by the Chancellor go nowhere near addressing the uncertainty caused by his Government’s lack of a plan for Brexit. The major threat to the economy remains a hard Tory Brexit and Scotland being dragged out of the Single Market. And despite Neil Gray's debate gaining cross party support, Hammond chose not to scrap the cuts so that fight goes on.
I was pleased to be able to host a wide variety of speakers at this year's Palestine Lobby on Parliament which focused on the issue of illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. We had input from across the political parties and from other groups such as trade unions. The following day saw a debate on the Balfour Declaration. Unfortunately I wasn't called to speak but you can read my blog on the topic here.
For the second time since becoming an MP my name was drawn out of the hat for PMQs. Given this was the first opportunity to question May since the election of Donald Trump I focused on what action she would take if UK citizens were discriminated against due to their religion. I'll let you make your own mind up about here answer - watch it here.
Some of you may have read articles in some sections of the press about SNP MPs expenses. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) have confirmed that data published last week on MP expenses was incorrect. In fact - SNP MPs cost less than their predecessors – by over £1 million - and we're working harder. Find the full facts here.
We finished the month with the SNP Opposition Day focussing on Chilcot and WASPI. It was disappointing to see the majority of Labour MPs voting against our Chilcot motion – it appeared to be them closing ranks to protect their former leader. The issue of women’s pensions isn’t going away and the SNP group will continue to champion this cause – unfortunately the motion was defeated but I do believe we are winning the argument.
As always in Westminster, there are have been lots of opportunities to support good causes over the month. I was particularly pleased to support one of my favourite organisations – The Dog Trust in its 125th year but I’ve also lent my support to #GivingTuesday, St Mungo’s, RNIB and the Living Wage week to mention just a few.