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.”
The recall of over 200,000 Vauxhall cars following an engine problem that has resulted in some vehicles bursting into flames is a scandal that is literally putting lives at risk.
I have compiled a short questionnaire for anyone who has been affected by this issue, and hope to use my position on the Transport Select Committee to pursue both industry and government on behalf of consumers across the UK.
Vauxhall has said it was taking "preventative action" after originally recalling the cars in December last year and has said the fires have been caused by improper repairs to the car's blower motor resistor. Vauxhall has advised drivers who had not yet taken their car to be repaired after the first recall to do so.
Vauxhall’s reputation with its loyal customer base is in serious doubt as they have handled this sorry affair appallingly. It should not have taken hundreds of cases of cars overheating to the point that they were going on fire for Vauxhall, or indeed the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) to get a grip of the situation.
Vauxhall have said that the blower motor resistors should never be repaired and should only be replaced. That then begs the question; who signed off on the repairs and why? This mistake has put the safety of the public at risk and shows, yet again, an industry that seems to have contempt for its consumers.
This is not good enough. Vauxhall even admitted they first knew of the fire risk back in 2009, they knew the car wasn’t safe and have continued to sit on their hands for too long.
The company’s response has been wholly inadequate and, following on from the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, the demonstrates that car industry bosses are all too willing to treat their customers with contempt, by putting the health and safety or the public at risk.
Click here to respond to the survey I have compiled on Vauxhall Zafira fires. Survey closes September 1st 2016.
The UK Government need to tell parliament exactly what is going on with Hinkley.
Plans for a new nuclear power station have been a billion-pound white elephant from the start, and have steadily descended into a farce.
The rising costs and delays surrounding Hinkley should be ringing alarms bells for the UK Government but instead of addressing these concerns they are ploughing billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money into a form of power that the people of Scotland neither need nor want.
The SNP’s view is that Hinkley is a bad deal that will push up bills and cost taxpayers a fortune for many, many years to come.
Despite nuclear energy being less efficient and more costly than wind power, the UK Government continues to pursue this folly while slashing support for onshore wind.
The decision to cut support for onshore wind could cost £3 billion in new investment and put more than 5,000 jobs at risk in Scotland.
This government’s obsession with nuclear will be costly for taxpayers and businesses in Scotland – and the SNP have called on the Tories to rethink their energy policy which is not delivering for consumers or energy security.
In this year’s alternative Queen’s Speech, the SNP set out an Energy Security and Investment Bill, which would have committed to a comprehensive strategic review of tax rates and investment allowances in the North Sea oil and gas sector, ending the UK government’s commitment to the Hinkley C project, and directing investment towards renewables and carbon capture and storage.
The Tories are being very short-sighted on energy policies, which will rein pulling funding for renewables which supports thousands of jobs and will provide clean, green energy for decades to come and diverting it towards dirty, dangerous and unreliable nuclear power.