I presented a petition on the system of obtaining permanent residence certification. As you can see here, members of parliament from other parties are clearly not as concerned about the difficulties facing many people trying to guarantee their right to live in the UK.
The Westminster Hall Debate on the International Day of Democracy was an opportunity to examine our modern, imperfect democracy and what we could be doing better. It won't shock you that the House of Lords, proportional representation and voter participation all get a mention. You can watch my contribution here.
As reported in the Herald yesterday, I have written to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke about the UK Government's continued treatment of people with chronic, degenerative and lifelong conditions.
Last year his predecessor, Damian Green, promised that people with chronic, degenerative and lifelong conditions would no longer need to face repeated, unnecessary work capability assessments (WCAs) in future.
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).
Well, it's good to be back. After a snap general election that wasn’t needed and that nobody wanted, I am delighted to have been returned to Westminster as MP for Edinburgh East. Thanks to all those who supported me and came out to cast their vote on what must have been one of the wettest days of the summer so far! I pledge to help everyone, no matter who they voted for or what their political persuasion - it’s what I’ve been doing for the past two years and I don’t plan to change that now. I’m here to speak up for the people in Edinburgh East and to have the voice of our communities heard in Westminster.
So back to Westminster and the only real business this month was the Queen's Speech, such as it was. As I said in my Evening News column – “Having listened and then read the three-and-a-half-page handout it’s clear this is the thinnest of programmes from a government with neither a mandate nor a majority.” But there will be legislation to implement Brexit and the SNP will continue to fight for Scotland’s vote to be respected and our voice to be heard in the negotiations.
Tommy contributes to the Queen's Speech debate on Social Care (28th June 2017).
Click here to view footage >>
It is incredible how much can change in a month in the world of politics. On the 13th March the UK Government was visibly shocked when Nicola Sturgeon demanded that people in Scotland be allowed to choose whether they wanted to live under a Tory Brexit deal or decide things for themselves. As a result, Theresa May delayed the serving of Article 50 by a fortnight and it took a full 72 hours to get any response from the UK Government. When it came, the response of “now is not the time” was hardly impressive. No-one is arguing that now is the time anyway! The Scottish Government are talking about 18-24 months when the Brexit deal is done but before it is too late to take a different path. I used my Evening News column to put forward the case for having a choice and making it clear there is a cast iron mandate to consult the people, read it here.
This month Westminster was the target of the criminal acts of a loner who decided to attack innocent people going about their daily lives on Westminster Bridge before attempting to enter the parliamentary estate and killing PC Keith Palmer. I had just left the estate and my staff were all in Edinburgh but I want to thank all those who sent kind messages on the day. My thoughts remain with those who have been injured and the friends and families of those who lost their lives.
I want to start this month's newsletter with a massive congratulations to my colleague Eilidh Whiteford who has worked so hard on her Private Members Bill. History has been made with the first piece of SNP legislation at Westminster as Parliament agreed to ratify the Istanbul Convention. There's still a way to go but this is a big step for those of us who want to see an end to violence against women.
We began the month with the the Committee Stage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The SNP group tabled 50 amendments to the legislation to ensure we have the right financial and social protections in place before the UK begins the process of leaving the EU. Despite our efforts the Bill was passed without a single amendment from the SNP (or any other party).
Tommy contributes to the debate on Illegal Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (8th February 2017).
Click here to view footage >>
The UK leaving the European Union is dominating everything in Westminster. The Supreme Court rightly decided that Parliament had to have a say and as a result we had 2 days of debate this week. I managed to get in for a few minutes in the last hour of the debate and you can watch it here. I've also outlined my position on the vote here.
The SNP Scottish Government has already produced their own paper outlining how Scotland’s position can be protected. Scotland can remain part of the European Economic Area (EEA) even if the rest of the UK does not – leading to a relationship with the EU like Norway has. It would enable us to retain access to the single market and retain the freedom of movement of people that our country needs and benefits so vastly from. If you’ve not already had a look I highly recommend you read the paper, Scotland’s Place in Europe. You can access it here.
Tommy contributes to the debate on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill (1st February 2017).
Click here to view footage >>
Tommy contributes to the debate on Leaving the EU: Security, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (18th January 2017).
Click here to view footage >>
Tommy contributed to the Report Stage debate of the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill on Tuesday 10th January 2017.
You can watch his contribution here or read it below.
Happy New Year to you and welcome to my January Newsletter. Before parliament returns next week, it's a good opportunity to reflect on what happened in December and on the year ahead. I don't think any of us could have predicted the political events of 2016 and I'm struggling to make any predictions about 2017. What is clear is that Brexit will continue to dominate in Westminster. Yesterday's resignation of the UK's ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, and his scathing comments since show that even the highest level of civil servants don't know what Brexit actually means. It's going to be an interesting few months ahead.
December saw two Private Members Bills (PMBs) from SNP Members of Parliament. The first was from Mhairi Black as she attempted to change the cruel system of sanctions in the UK benefit system. Unfortunately the bill was blocked much to the frustration of our group. We weren't even looking to scrap sanctions all together (unfortunately that can’t be done in a PMB) but the Bill would have made it compulsory for Job Centre advisors to take a claimant’s personal circumstances into account before issuing a sanction.
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.
This month I presented Edinburgh East's WASPI petition to parliament alongside my SNP colleagues presenting petitions from across Scotland. In the past month, there has rightly been a focus on refugees, the demolition of the 'Jungle' camp at Calais, the offensive in Mosul and the ongoing crisis in Aleppo. I am concerned about some of the rhetoric we're seeing around refugees and want to take this opportunity to express the overwhelming view of my constituents: refugees are welcome here in Edinburgh and I'll do all I can to ensure that message is heard.
During October the SNP had two opposition day debates. One of these focused on reforming the House of Lords and in particular, the plans to decrease the number of elected MPs whilst increasing the number of un-elected members of the Lords - you can watch my speech from the debate here. There is also a public consultation taking place on the proposed boundary changes (including to Edinburgh East) - find out more here.