Good Morning Scotland discussed the Scottish Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Problematic Drug Use this morning.
I was interviewed with Adam Tomkins MSP. Listen to the full interview here.
June was a strange month. As busy as ever but with nothing happening. It seems like much is on hold while the Tory party decide who our next master is. But here are some of the things I was up to last month.
When the EU extended our exit date to the 31st October, the message was clear: do not waste this time. Yet wasting time seems to be the aim of the game in Westminster until we know the outcome of the Tory leadership contest. There was one attempt to take control of the business of the House this month to prevent a no-deal with a Labour motion. However, once again the Labour party failed to organise itself and the despite all 35 SNP MPs voting for it, the motion was defeated 298-309.
The election we didn't think would happen, did. And Edinburgh once again rejected Brexit decisively. 72% of those who voted chose to vote for a party that explicitly wants to remain in the EU - the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens or Change UK. And across Scotland the SNP returned the highest vote share of any party in the UK sending three MEPs to Brussels. I'll be doing all I can to ensure they get to stay there beyond October. On election day I had a column in the Edinburgh Evening News giving my take on what I thought might happen: I think it still stands.
Theresa May has, finally, resigned from office. But she hasn't gone yet. She'll leave as leader of the Conservative Party on the 7th June but remains as the Prime Minister until a new leader is selected - likely to be the end of July. In reality, I can't see how a new Prime Minister can change much in terms of the Brexit deal. The EU have been clear that they won't re-open negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement and Parliamentary arithmetic remains the same. As it stands we're due to leave the EU on 31st October with, or without a deal, and parliament must act to ensure we don't have a no deal Brexit by accident - or indeed by design given what some of the candidates are saying.
It's strange to think that a month ago we were due to be leaving the European Union. With the leaving date pushed back to October 31st Parliament took a short Easter recess allowing us all time in our constituencies. And now it almost seems as if no-one is even talking about Brexit.
Of course, I am going to talk about Brexit but before I do I want to talk about the other big topic that has hit the headlines - Climate Change. About time. Protesters like Extinction Rebellion and campaigners like Greta Thunberg have managed to do something hundreds of well-penned articles in newspapers have not: put the destruction of our planet front and centre. Protecting the environment and preventing climate change must be a priority - it is the number one issue facing humanity. I used my latest Edinburgh Evening News column to raise the issue and I’m proud that at the SNP party conference delegates unanimously passed my resolution on climate change. You can watch my speech here. And on Sunday the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, declared a Climate Emergency making Scotland the first country to do so. It’s vital now that we follow up these words with actions.
So it's April 1st. And we're still in the EU. A short reprieve but a very welcome one. It's difficult to give a concise report on what's happened this month but I'll do my best. On Friday we had another vote on the Prime Minister's Deal. It wasn't a "meaningful" one but one on the Withdrawal Agreement without the Political Declaration. Even with that compromise the result was a resounding defeat for the UK government.
It wasn't a surprise that we started the new parliamentary term with an Urgent Question on Brexit. However the answer I received to my question during this session was quite amazing. Raab said that the UK government's ability to consult the Scottish government will be constrained by Article 50 timetable which "is not of our choosing". Really? Who set the withdrawal date in law despite all the opposition parties arguing it would create inflexibility? Watch it here.
There's also a lot of discussion about a "People's Vote" on Europe. This month I used my Edinburgh Evening News column to set out my three tests for another referendum. You can read it here.
It was yet another busy month in the Palace of Westminster. I started July with a Question to the Prime Minister. For those who don't know, MPs enter a ballot to be able to ask something at PMQs. I enter every week and it really is just the luck of the draw as to if, and when, you get picked. This month I urged Theresa May to look again at the sale of Fort Kinnaird - it's simply not acceptable that Scottish taxpayers are being cheated out of £167 million from the sale of Crown Estate interests. Watch it here.
David Mundell was back in the hot seat for Scottish Office questions this month where I get to ask questions in my role as the SNP Spokesperson on the Scotland Office. This time I again focused on Brexit. The Chequers Plan completely changes the debate on joint governmental frameworks after we leave the European Union yet the Scottish Secretary confirmed he did not discuss the plan with the Scottish government beforehand. His shameful disregard for devolution continues. Watch it here.
The UK government tabled a general debate on strengthening the union. You can watch my full speech from the debate here.
It can't have escaped anyone's notice that the EU Withdrawal Bill was back in Parliament this month. And it came with some significant controversy. Given the large number of amendments proposed by the Lords you could be forgiven for thinking there'd be a decent amount of time allocated for debate but that wasn't to be. You can read my bumper blog on the main two days voting and the SNP reaction here but I'll pick out a couple of key points for you.
The way the debate was structured, combined with the archaic voting practices of Westminster meant that there was just 19 minutes allocated to the impact of Brexit on devolution. And it wasn't only about Scotland - it included Wales and the rather significant issue of the Irish border. 19 minutes and it was all taken up by the Minister. I recorded this video diary just after the final votes that night - it's fair to say we were feeling a little scunnered by it all.
Textbook example of a Government Minister not answering my question during Joanna Cherry's Urgent Question on the Continuity Bill. Westminster insisting the Scottish and Welsh Governments are subservient to them on devolved matters. That's why the Scottish government had to pass the Continuity Bill. It wouldn't be needed if the Tories were prepared to work in partnership.
The work of the Scottish Affairs committee continues apace. This month we held a further evidence session on the immigration needs of Scotland hearing from David Mundell and the Minister for Immigration, Caroline Noakes. Shockingly, the Scottish Government compares to Lincolnshire County Council in the Minister's eyes. See the short exchange on Pete Wishart's Facebook page.
The SNP had two Private Members Bills this month. I had a catch up with both colleague Angus Brendan MacNeil (watch here) and Stewart McDonald (watch here) the day before. PMBs are notoriously difficult to get through Parliament so it was great news that Angus' Bill on Refugee Family Reunification has passed to the next stage.
I asked the Minister if the government would require the Electoral Commission to disclose donations for parties in Northern Ireland from before 2015. This follows allegations of dark money from the Constitutional Research Council, which is linked to the Scottish Tories, to the DUP. As usual, no straight answer.
I caught up with my colleague Angus MacNeil, MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, ahead of his Private Member's Bill on Refugee Family Reunification.
I raised a point of order in the House as, 4 months on, I’ve not received a response to my letter to the Home Office. My caseworkers have had, and still have, significant difficulties getting through to the MP support line at UK Visas and Immigration to get answers for constituents.
Hopefully I’ll now receive a reply.
I pressed the UK Government on the situation in Afrin. The FCO needs to stand up to Erdogan and defend Kurdish people now under attack in Afrin.
It's still not clear whether the Secretary of State has abandoned the idea of getting consent of the Scottish Parliament but it's very clear he's out of the loop.
The wait is nearly over. By next week the Tory party will have a new leader. And then they will foist him on the country at large. With most of the votes cast it seems that the clown prince is unstoppable. Barring a miracle Boris Johnson will be our next Prime Minister.
And then what?