MY WEEK -
42nd Edition
December 5th, 2016

Monday 28th November

Monday morning, and  my column appears in The National newspaper. Scroll down the right-hand side to read the full article, this week on Cuba, and the death of Fidel Castro. The picture below is of the Hotel Nacional in Havana, where I stayed in 2001.
AND so farewell, Fidel. I was in Havana on a hot, sultry night some time in the early 2000s. Cuba was still recovering economically from the collapse of the old Soviet Union and the loss of subsidies from its erstwhile Communist ally. I was staying in the Hotel Nacional, once in the pre-Fidel 1950s the playground of visiting Mafia godfathers, now renovated in the hope of attracting dollar-paying tourists.

Actually, with sun, an attempt at decent food, stunning live music and authentic rum, Cuba was a fascinating escape from Tony Blair’s neo-Thatcherite Britain at the turn of the millennium. There really were those lovingly cared for 1950s American Cadillacs breezing the road along the Malecon, Old Havana’s sea front. More amazing still, there were also 1950s Morris Oxfords dodging the ubiquitous pedal taxis. Havana was exotic, friendly, safe and, above all, unique.

http://www.thenational.scot/comment/14931176.George_Kerevan__We_can_learn_from_how_Castro_linked_national_identity_to_a_socialist_project/
Photo: The National
Unusually this Monday morning I was in Scotland speaking at an important conference in Edinurgh which brought together Scotland's environmental community to discuss A Sustainable and Low-Carbon Scottish Economy: What Needs to Change and How? I spoke about how we can grow jobs in Scotland but still make the economy greener. One idea that interests me is for a basic citizen's to be paid to everyone in place of the mass of benefits we now have.
​​Today the Sunday Post reported a case which came to my attention last year.

One of my constituents, Lynn Harrison, discovered that the carer had stolen more than £40,000 from her dying Auntie Betty’s bank account. She reported the matter to Police Scotland but felt they were not taking the case seriously, so she turned detective herself, exposing a second theft, again from an older person, along the way.

I was pleased to help Lynn who eventually secured a conviction – her success is entirely down to her efforts. I just encouraged her and helped where I could.

You can read the Sunday Post’s report on HERE:
https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/women-exposed-carer-who-stole-thousands-from-dying-aunt-after-feeling-ignored-by-police/

Tuesday 29th November

Encouraged by my engaging smile, the Speaker called me to question the Chancellor of the Exchequer today. I asked Philip Hammond how his decision to increase Premium Insurance on homes, cars etc. sat with his government’s oft repeated pledge to help those, including many of my constituents,  “just about managing.”

You can watch my question and the Chancellor’s response HERE:




At lunchtime  I attended the Sanctuary in Parliament event. City of Sanctuary has 70 grass root groups functioning across the UK, one of them in Edinburgh, welcoming and supporting refugees seeking sanctuary.

Individual refugees told us of their plight, of their journey to the UK and their reception here.

I was very pleased to meet Kirstin Ungel of City of Sanctuary Edinburgh and Theopil, from Tanzania, who is seeking asylum because of violence against him because of his sexual orientation. Theopil has found a home in West Pilton and wants to stay in Edinburgh, despite the UK government trying to make him move to Glasgow pending his hearing.

​Later in the day I signed an Early Day Motion presented by my colleague Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, expressing concerns at plans by the Israeli government to demolish an Israeli-Arab village in the Negev desert, which is home to 500 Bedouins who face eviction.

You can read the complete Motion HERE:
http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2016-17/728

Wednesday 30th December

To mark International Aids Day I wore a red ribbon, and at the urging of campaign bodies, made sure it was firmly in place during Prime Minister’s Questions!

I also attended a HIV testing event in Parliament to support World AIDS Day (Thursday 1 December) and raise awareness of the importance of HIV testing. The event also marked the end of National HIV Testing Week 2016.

A team of experts from Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust’s Bloomsbury HIV Clinic, supported by staff from the Bloomsbury Network, a ground-breaking peer support organisation for people with HIV, both based at Mortimer Market Centre, provided on-site HIV testing, information and advice to MPs.

Thirteen per cent of people with HIV in the UK are unaware of their status and therefore not getting the care they need. A person with untreated HIV is more likely to pass the virus on and more likely to become ill. Encouraging people to test for HIV, and to access highly effective treatment if needed, is more important than ever.


We finished the month with the SNP Opposition Day focussing on the Chilcot Enquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq and WASPI. It was disappointing to see the majority of Labour MPs voting against our Chilcot motion – it looked as if they were closing ranks to protect their former leader.  The issue of women’s pensions isn’t going away and the SNP group will continue to champion this cause – unfortunately the motion was defeated but I do believe we are winning the argument.

Thursday 1st December

On Tuesday I had heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer address the Wholesale Financial Markets & Services Annual Dinner, where, on the subject of Brexit, he said a transitional regime would be put in place for the UK financial sector beyond the two-year period of negotiation which would follow the government triggering Article 50.

In a debate in the House of Commons I asked the minister responsible for Brexit, David Davis, if he agreed with his colleague.

You can watch the exchange HERE:
Later I attended both the debates on Backbench Bills, one presented by my SNP colleague, Ian Blackford, on the Acceleration of the State Pension Age for Women Born in the 1950s, and one on Transgender Equality. Leading the debate, SNP MP Angela Crawley MP urged the government to amend the 2010 Equalities Act to ensure trans people are “fully able to access their human right to legal gender recognition across the UK.”

In the late afternoon I met with renowned economist Mariana Mazzucato, author of Rethinking Capitalism, who is a member of the Scottish Government’s Council of Economic Advisors, to discuss, among other things, how an independent Scotland could develop a State Investment Bank

Friday 2nd December​

On Fridays I usually carry out constituency work in East Lothian but this Friday I and the bulk of my colleagues chose to stay at Westminster to support Mhairi Black's Benefit Claimants Sanctions Bill on its 2nd Reading.

The highest number of cases brought to me by constituents concern benefits and are often about the sanctions (fines) they are being forced to pay. I was pleased to give my support to Mhairi's bill, although aware that the present UK government will not allow it to become law!

In the event the bill failed to go to a vote because there were not enough Labour MPs present - though SNP MPs were there in strength. As for the other parties, guess who were absent!




A lunchtime train, so I was back home by 6.15pm, and in Musselburgh for the Brunton's wonderful production of Aladdin ​at 7.00pm. 

It really lifted the spirits to cheer Aladdin on his way to winning a fortune and the hand of the Princess Jasmine, laugh at the antics of his mother Widow Twankey, and boo the wicked Abanazar.

There are two performances a day, and this one was packed out, so get your tickets soon!
Saturday 3rd December
Today was Small Business Saturday, so it was down the A1 to Dunbar, where the Trades Association had invited me to visit Santa. I did some Christmas shopping on the way, though, enjoyed the music in the High Street, and treated myself to a Scotch pie at The Bakery.   

A quick stop for the newspapers at West Barns, and on to East Linton Butchers for the weekend shop, followed by a bowl of home-made soup in front of the fire at Café Votadini.
Off to Haddington Wines and Whiskies for a good bottle of wine, and then to Tranent, where he window-shopped at Bisset and Steedman and bought treats for the cats at Ferguson’s Pet Supplies. By then darkness was coming down, so he ended the afternoon listening to music at The Sportsman’s Bar in Musselburgh.
    
  
A quick stop for the newspapers at West Barns, and on to East Linton Butchers for the weekend shop, followed by a bowl of home-made soup in front of the fire at Café Votadini and a stop for a bottle of wine at Haddington Wines and Whiskies.
Off to Haddington Wines and Whiskies for a good bottle of wine, and then to Tranent, where I window-shopped at Bisset and Steedman and bought treats for the cats at Ferguson’s Pet Supplies. By then darkness was coming down, so I ended the afternoon listening to music at The Sportsman’s Bar in Musselburgh.
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