With no formal business in Parliament, the recess offers MSPs the opportunity to get out into their constituencies and regions to pursue local issues, meet up with local groups and continue to assist individuals with casework.
I have enjoyed a productive summer but as a result, I have neglected this blog somewhat so I wanted to give you a quick recap of some of the issues I have been working on in the last month or so.
- Problems with flooding reported here in July continued into August disrupting travel on the Glasgow to Edinburgh and other major rail lines causing disruption to thousands of commuters in the Lothians. I have called on the Scottish Government to investigate the ongoing problems experienced on sections of the line to determine what action can be taken. I’ll report back when I have clarity on what measures can be taken to resolve the issue. In the longer time the more extreme weather patterns Scotland is predicted to experience will increase the incidence of major problems on our transport networks.
- At the end of July, BlindCraft, the supported workshop, closed its doors for the last time after a long running campaign to save it. I was deeply disappointed for the workers and campaigners who deserve tremendous credit for their efforts to save the factory. I strongly believe in the merits of social enterprise and supported employment and want to see the Scottish Government commit to a national strategy to encourage and develop them.
- In mid-August I welcomed the decision of the City of Edinburgh Council to deny the Scottish Defence League permission to march in Edinburgh on September 10th. The proposed march drew wide-spread opposition from the public and politicians. While I am a strong supporter of the right to free speech, that right must not be allowed to mask racism and hatred. There is no place in a modern Scotland for the narrow views of the SDL and I am pleased that the Council made a stand.
- I took part in the Job shadowing initiative set up by the Edinburgh Forum for Private Business. I visited Charles Laing And Sons Ltd, a small manufacturer of brass and iron products to discuss what policy measures we could take in the Scottish Parliament to give them a better chance of surviving the difficult economic times we are in and for growing their business. The company is the last remaining foundry in the UK using the traditional green sand process and brass and iron products are cast on site. Health and safety issues are paramount as are access and parking. Support for apprenticeships was identified as important given the specialist skills required. To make apprenticeships successful however the point was made to me very strongly that companies need to be able to plan ahead. For companies that make products – the key is having an order book for the future. The foundry is in competition with companies across the globe and has to provide high quality, customised products as well as competing on price. I was left with the plea that the public sector continues to commission work and that the tendering rules make it possible for small companies to get access to contracts. Since my visit I’ve been aware of the physical infrastructure projects which would benefit from investment whether it be bandstands in parks, railings in our towns and cities or the repair and maintenance of historic buildings.
- Just in time for festival season I attended the unveiling session of the latest design for the Edinburgh Floral Clock. This year’s design is dedicated to the work of ‘Action on Hearing Loss’ (formerly the RNID). The clock has been a mainstay of Princes Street Gardens since it was installed in 1903. It was the first clock of its kind in the world and is still maintained by the company which designed it – James Ritchie and Son Clockmakers.
To read more on some of these stories, have a look at my e-brief for August. If you would like to receive future editions of the newsletter you can sign up using the form at the top right of the page.