Here's my speech at the Council of Europe urgent debate on Palestine. Trump's recent actions have made America's role as a mediator untenable. It now falls to Europe to step up to find a solution for Israel and Palestine.
This week Parliament was back debating the EU Withdrawal Bill as it entered the Report stage in the House of Commons. Before I update you on those debates, I want to let you know about a report the Scottish Government have published.
On Monday the Scottish Government released its second paper on the potential implications of Brexit on Scotland and the options available to us. Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment outlines that leaving the EU could result in a hit to GDP of up to 8.5%, equivalent to a loss of £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland. Scotland needs continued migration from the EU (each additional EU citizen working in Scotland currently contributes an average of £10,400 in tax revenue) and, ultimately, Scotland and the UK need to stay inside the Single Market and Customs Union to protect Scotland’s interests. Do take a read if you can find the time – it’s a document that brings some much needed evidence and facts to the debate.
Well we finally have it. The coalition were defeated in the House of Commons last night. Despite their attempts to cajole and bully their backbenchers, 11 Tories rebelled and Amendment 7 passed by just 4 votes. And while Ministers are now jumping to say that it isn’t significant, that it’s only one vote and that Brexit is on track their faces told a very different story in the Chamber.
This is important. Amendment 7 means that parliament will need to have a meaningful vote on any Brexit deal. And the fact it passed shows that there are Conservative MPs who are willing to break party lines for the greater good. That’s a positive for the longer term - if this Bill doesn’t come back at report stage with real and meaningful amendments on a number of the key issues, the rebels may well come back.
It’s difficult to know where to start on last week’s Brexit developments. On Monday the Prime Minister was left scrabbling around after the DUP flexed their muscles and refused to agree the deal with the EU that would enable to them to move on to Phase 2 of negotiations.
By the end of the week the deal was done and a joint statement was issued from the UK Government and negotiators from the European Union (read it in full here). I don’t understand why the Brexiteers seem so relaxed following this. I suspect they know something we don’t as on the face of it, you’d think they wouldn’t be keen.
I used my Evening News column this month to talk about fireworks following the extreme antisocial behaviour on bonfire night. I've also written to the Minister asking for the UK Government to toughen up licensing laws. And if they aren't willing to do that, devolve power over fireworks to the Scottish Parliament so they can act. Read the full article here.
So the EU Withdrawal Bill was back in the Commons for Day 3 of the committee stage this week and, as promised, I’m writing to update you on what happened.
Before I talk about the Bill itself, you might be interested in the events of Monday’s Ways and Means debate. Ways and Means is a traditional term for taxes or other charges levied on the public in order to fund Government spending. And while not directly linked to the EU Withdrawal Bill, Brexit transcends everything. In an alternative attempt to get the UK to consider staying in the single market with access to the customs union the Labour MP for Edinburgh South, Ian Murray, had tabled an amendment that was selected for a vote.
I know how difficult it can be to not only keep up with what is happening as Brexit proceeds, but to understand the antiquated political systems that make up the UK parliament. So I will be sharing regular updates as the Bill makes its way through parliament.
As you may be aware, the Bill entered its committee stage this week in the House of Commons. That means MPs debate specific aspects of the Bill and can consider amendments that have been brought forward. While hundreds of amendments were tabled, only a few were selected for a vote.
All over Scotland last weekend families enjoyed watching the fireworks. The spectacle of fire and colour brought happiness to many – young and old. The same was true in Edinburgh. All over the city – and especially at Meadowbank – majestic displays thrilled the crowds.
But in a few parts of the city a tiny minority set out to cause havoc and intimidate local people. In a few places in north and east Edinburgh a small number used fireworks and fire not to entertain but to terrify. Local people imprisoned themselves in their homes for fear of going out. Cars were set alight and fireworks thrown at emergency services workers trying to protect the public. We’re lucky there weren’t even more serious injuries.
I have never been prouder of our SNP Scottish Government than I was last Tuesday when the Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, made a statement to parliament on fracking. He was responding to a huge public consultation on the issue and he made it crystal clear that fracking would not be part of the energy mix in Scotland.
Not only was this the right decision but the manner in which the government arrived at its position was an exemplar in public policy making. Campaigners, including myself, have been trying to get a ban on fracking for years. But rather than rush into a decision the government has taken the best part of two years to research the evidence, and most importantly, ask the people what they wanted.
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?
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Labour Party