Parliament returns this week after summer recess. It was an odd recess - usually I'd spend the time visiting local organisations and enjoying Edinburgh's festivals. Seeing such an empty city when it is usually so vibrant and full of culture was strange and slightly disconcerting. But the reality is that we are still tackling a global pandemic and, while progress has been made, we all need to continue to follow the guidance and keep everyone safe.
Culture is a huge part of our city. We have a plethora of theatres, dance, music and comedy venues - usually you can experience almost any type of culture almost 24/7, especially in August. But there is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the sector hard. And it will continue so long as we need to socially distance. I have been in touch with a number of those affected, including a virtual meeting with Capital Theatres, Scotland's largest theatre charity, about the issues they are facing. I also wrote my Edinburgh Evening News column on how art and culture are the essence of our shared humanity and need to be protected - you can read it here.
While the ability to do lots of visits was clearly reduced this recess, I have caught up with a number of organisations and businesses online and on socially distanced visits. It has been great to see clubs like Edina Hibs getting back in action as lockdown restrictions start to lift. They are following Covid-19 safety procedures and the Scottish Youth Football Association guidelines and having lots of fun.
Those of you who have been receiving this newsletter for a while will know that one of the hardest jobs I do each year is judging the Portobello sandcastle competition. I was delighted to have done so again this year - virtually of course. Congratulations to all involved - the standard was as high as ever. Even though it was done online, it was no easy task to pick a winner! I look forward to being back on the beach next year. See the winning entries here.
It was good to catch up with Ewan from the Cyrenians to discuss the range of projects being delivered throughout our city to help keep people safe during the crisis. A huge thanks to everyone involved in providing these services to support vulnerable people in our community at this really difficult time.
A number of constituents have been in touch to raise their concerns about the UK government's plans to make changes to Small Breweries’ Relief. I had a virtual meeting with the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) and Bellfield Brewery to discuss the matter and have written to the UK government urging them to think again. A week or two later I dropped into Bellfield Brewery's taproom at Abbeyhill to hear how they're adapting their business model to the new normal while still making tasty beer. The taproom beer garden is well worth a visit - a great example of how to do socially distanced hospitality.
Thanks to the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home for having me for a socially distanced visit this month. It was a delight to see the positive work they are doing and to meet Lindsay, Nicola and - of course - Cleo the Old Tyme Bulldog.
Their re-homing programme effectively had to come to a halt during the strictest period of lockdown between March and June but they still had a steady stream of lost and abandoned dogs and cats coming to them for care and accommodation. I'm sure you can guess they responded to this challenge with their usual levels of love and efficiency. If you're in a position to do so, you can make a financial donate to support the phenomenal work that they do here.