Finally, it’s summer recess and I get to spend some time in the constituency. I’m sure you all know about my love affair with the Fringe. I was delighted to be able to help the Fringe celebrate its 70th year with a reception in Speaker’s House at the start of July after their original event had to be cancelled due to the election! I’m looking forward to it all starting in a few days time.
Westminster had a very end of term feel about it this month with the Government seeming to be filling up time to avoid having to try and pass any actual legislation. Indeed, we even had a debate about how much legislation we should be passing in Private Members Bills (read my response here).
We do now have a first draft of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. There are only 19 clauses in it but within it is section 11 .2 (4A) - I quote “An Act of the Scottish Parliament cannot modify, or confer power by subordinate legislation to modify, retained EU law”. The Westminster Government on the other hand will be given absolute power to change not only the stuff that comes back to it, but also to change the laws of the devolved legislatures where it feels it needs to. You can read my full thoughts on this in my Evening News Column from earlier in the month.
There was a debate this month on Palestine and Israel. I focused my contribution on what is happening to democratic debate and expression inside the state of Israel. You can read my contribution and the Minister’s response here or watch my speech here. I was delighted to receive assurances from Minister Alistair Burt that he will continue to work with Israeli organisations working for peace in the region and won’t be told who he should speak to when it comes to those who represent valued, trusted and moderate opinion in other states.
This month I asked my first questions as the SNP Spokesperson on the Scotland Office. I’m already looking forward to facing Mundell every 6 weeks – you can watch our first clash here. As you’ll see he was very welcoming to me in my post. I also had my usual Cabinet Office Questions (though this month I took advantage of the new HoC rules and left the tie off!) – watch it here.
In my role as Spokesperson on the House of Lords, I have written to the Head of Security to suggest that our passes should be used to clock in and clock out of parliament. This would ensure the authorities know who is on the estate at any time which would help with security. It would also have the added bonus of making all parliamentarians more accountable. Lords shouldn’t be allowed to claim £300 a day simply for entering the building. You can read an article about it in the Guardian.
This month I was pleased to be able to lend my support to a number of campaigns in Westminster that constituents have written to me about. They include a new parliamentary campaign to boost research into brain tumours, Action on Hearing Loss, the British Red Cross campaign for asylum seeker rights, the Anthony Nolan Trust and the National Autistic Society's Too Much Information campaign to make public spaces accessible.
Going back to Westminster after the summer recess you can almost feel the impending doom in the air. It’s the calm before the storm. Everyone knows something bad is going to happen. Just not what exactly. Like waiting for the ghoul to reveal itself in a horror movie.
And as the dread unfolds the discussion about whether there should be another Brexit referendum will intensify.
We need to talk about democracy. The UK government recently hosted its first ever “National Democracy Week” – with no sense of irony.
We absolutely should be celebrating the 90th anniversary of the equalisation of voting ages for men and women. Nobody would argue with that.