Regular readers will know that I have been campaigning for the reform of our drug laws for the past few years. This month I published my Private Members’ Bill on this topic. Sadly, this isn’t going to become law unless the UK government has a significant change of heart but, I hope that by publishing the Bill, it shows that change is possible and really isn’t that difficult. I’ll keep pressuring the UK government on this. You can read the Bill here.
I also wrote a piece on the drugs crisis, and what can be done to fix it, for the Progressive Policy Research Group’s Yellow Papers Project. You can read it here.
This month the SNP had what is called an “Opposition Day Debate”, which basically means that the SNP get to choose the topic of debate in the House. I was very pleased to be able to lead for the party on a debate on Scotland’s constitutional future. Watch my speech above.
I attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the night time economy, where we heard from a really interesting bunch of people, including DJ Danny Whitehead and radio presenter Amy Lame, discussing the devastating effect Covid-19 has had on the industry and those that work in it. I’ll continue to help support the campaign to #savenightlife.
March saw the Chancellor bring forward his budget, focusing on the Covid-19 recovery. I spoke in the debate on culture and raised the important issue of the recovery of Edinburgh’s festivals, which may take years, not months. I called for support with insurance, recovery funding and fixing the gaps in employment support. See my full speech above.
Lots of constituents have contacted me about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The majority of this Bill only applies to England and Wales as policing in Scotland is devolved to Holyrood. However, given that many areas of policy are reserved to Westminster, this Bill would have important implications for anyone in Scotland who wished to travel to England to protest at the UK Parliament, or elsewhere in the country. Something I, and many of my constituents, have done on numerous occasions.
The debate and vote took place at a time when violence against women is, quite rightly, at the forefront of our minds following the murder of Sarah Everard. Sarah’s murder has truly shocked and saddened us all, and the police response to women holding a vigil in her memory received widespread criticism. The Bill would never be justifiable, but in this context is even more difficult to comprehend.
My SNP colleagues and I voted against the second reading of the Bill, and we will continue to press the UK government to take real actions to tackle violence and harassment faced by women.
I am increasingly concerned about the treatment of people seeking asylum in the UK. Far too often, those seeking sanctuary from war and persecution are housed in inadequate and unsuitable accommodation. There is no better illustration of this than the use of run-down former military barracks to house asylum seekers. And the recent ‘overhaul’ of the system announced by the Home Secretary will only deepen the injustices asylum seekers already face. I have therefore written to the Home Secretary calling for urgent action to improve the asylum system and to ensure that all asylum seekers are treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect.
I attended an interesting meeting with the Environment All Party Parliamentary Group to discuss #NetZeroAgriculture. Agriculture is a major contributing factor in climate change, so creative solutions are needed in order to respect the environment AND feed the world.
Since everyone seemed to enjoy last month’s dog pictures, Henry is back – showing his support for World Book Day. He dressed up as his favourite character from a book!