Whilst I still maintain it is wrong that Scotland be taken out of the EU against its wishes, and we should be working hard towards retaining our place in the Single Market, we still have important work to do to ensure the Brexit Bill protects everybody’s interests.
I have received a lot of messages from constituents regarding the Grieve amendments and delegated powers. These are extremely important, and several of my SNP colleagues across the House have sponsored these amendments.
We in the SNP are extremely concerned about the potential power grab the Brexit Bill throws up. The Bill is going to be an unprecedented legislative task, aiming to convert 80,000 items of EU law into UK law in preparation for Brexit, and we want to make sure that the Government does not use antiquated, backdoor measures – the so-called Henry VIII powers – to escape parliamentary scrutiny. We also need to ensure that the Great Repeal Bill does not turn into the ‘Great Power Grab’ and the Tories need to make it unequivocally clear that devolved matters will be returned to the Scottish Parliament after Brexit.
Should the Bill present such threats and the amendments address these concerns, I will vote in favour of the amendments, continue to hold the UK Government to account and continue to defend the interests of Scotland.
I myself have added my name to amendments and new clauses. As SNP Spokesperson for Defence, I aim to ensure our common foreign and security policy with the EU is not compromised as a result of Brexit and have added my name to amendments that address such issues. Additionally, as I was previously member of the Transport Select Committee, I have also added my name to an amendment that would ensure the UK Government outlines how we retain access to EU Emissions Trading System markets – as this is crucial to our environmental protection and safeguards.
These amendments, along with the UK Government's bizarre attempts to enshrine the date and time of Brexit into UK law, which could result in this Tory Government blundering its way to no deal, deserve to be heavily scrutinised, and I shall be doing my up-most to protect the interests of Glasgow South and Scotland as a whole.
It's come to my attention that some constituents could be missing out on Pension Credit, with an average claim being worth about £2,000 a year.
Whilst each family entitled to the benefit, the DWP have said up to 1.4 million people on low income are missing out on a top-up to their state pension, with £3.3bn of Pension Credit still going unclaimed.
With around 1.9 million pensioners in the UK in poverty, it is deeply troubling that such a large number of these benefits remain unclaimed.
I would therefore urge people to talk to friends, relatives and neighbours to ensure they are claiming Pension Credit.
To check your full entitlement it's best to call the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 991 234, Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm, or visit www.gov.uk/pension-credit, where a calculator can establish whether you may be eligible and how much you could receive.
Yesterday the First Minister announced her intention to call a referendum on independence for Scotland.
The Scottish Government have spent the past nine months seeking compromise from the UK Government – from access to the EU single market, protection for EU nationals living in Scotland, and much more. The substantive plans laid out by the Scottish Government would’ve protected our nation’s interests, meaning an independence referendum could have been avoided. The UK Government has chosen to ignore this.
Since the decision taken on June 23rd last year, thousands of you have written to me, visited my surgeries and sent messages about your concerns. I have done my best to listen and represent you.
Whether or not you agree with independence or Brexit, the bulldozer approach of the UK Government is not in the interests of my constituents. It is why we will let you decide where power should lie to protect our interests - the Westminster Government or our Government in Scotland.
I understand that there will be some who may not welcome the prospect of a new referendum. To you, and to all of my constituents, I will make this promise to you.
As your MP I will do my best to ensure that the debate we have is civil, objective and non-tribal. I will promote a dialogue that listens respectfully to different opinions and does not call into question the motives of those who we have an honest disagreement with. I will make myself as accessible as possible to answer your questions and hear your point of view.
If, as I hope, a vote in favour of independence is successful then I am conscious that the following day there will be those who feel a sense of loss and possible anxiety. I will still be your MP and it will be my job to help ensure we can move forward in an objective and cohesive way.
What we face right now – irrespective of the constitutional status Scotland finds itself in – is the question of the renewal of Scotland. We all have our views on how that should happen and I look forward to hearing them from people right across the Southside.
This week Parliament will vote on whether or not to allow the Prime Minister to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017, thus beginning the process of taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union. This is a most profound constitutional and economic change for the entire United Kingdom and our relationship with the wider world.
The UK Government has failed to engage in meaningful dialogue with Scotland’s MPs, the Scottish Government and people living in Scotland about what this would mean for Scotland. The SNP Government has sought compromise throughout all discussions with UK ministers only to have their desire to protect key economic and social protections for people in Scotland rebuffed. This is a mess of the UK Government’s own making.
I was elected on a manifesto that did not propose an EU referendum and a pledge to protect Scotland’s place in Europe. That was endorsed by 55% of the voters in Glasgow South.
In addition to that, my constituency, the city of Glasgow and all of Scotland voted to remain in the European Union. It is my belief that to withdraw is not in the interests of people in my constituency, where 72% of people voted to remain within the European Union - the highest percentage of any constituency in Glasgow. As such, I will vote against the Government’s Bill on Wednesday night.
This morning I was informed that the Government intends to close the Castlemilk and Langside Job Centres as part of a government review of the DWP estate.
The proposal is to close 8 of Glasgow’s 16 job centres, with a quarter of those closures falling within my constituency.
People in receipt of Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance will, if these plans go ahead, have to travel to Newlands Job Centre in breach of the DWP’s own guidelines which say an alternative must be within 15 minutes travelling distance by public transport and within three miles of the office being closed.
People in Castlemilk will now have to travel 3.9 miles, taking a 40 minute journey by public transport.
Residents of Langside, Mount Florida and Battlefield now will need to take a 20 minute journey by public transport to reach Newlands Job Centre Plus.
This is quite simply unacceptable.
Taking away these vital government services from our communities in the name of rationalisation, with no regard to the effect upon the community and the individuals who access them, is another example of the callous disregard that Theresa May’s government has for Scotland.
I am today, seeking urgent meetings with the managers of the Job Centres earmarked for closure to discuss these proposals.
I am particularly concerned that there is no plan to consult specifically on the closure of Langside Job Centre.
Along with my colleagues Councillors Susan Aitken, Anna Richardson and Glenn Elder, I will be fighting these plans.
Leader of the Opposition in Glasgow City Council, Councillor Susan Aitken has roundly condemned the proposals.
“Well served by public transport and at the heart of the community, the loss of the Job Centre Plus in Langside is a body blow to the area.”
“No consideration has been given for the impact upon those who access these services, the staff who provide them, or the wider local economy.”
Linn Ward councillor Glenn Elder has expressed his shock at the announcement.
“These plans mean another dose of Tory austerity for the local community as they face losing their local office and having to find the money to pay for travel to Pollokshaws to access DWP Services.”
I hold regular surgeries each month across my constituency.
Please feel free to call or email me with any issues you think I can help with.