I was delighted to meet the WASPI women from Dumfries and Galloway on Monday. The women were extremely frustrated at their treatment by the UK government and keen to refresh the local campaign highlighting pension unfairness for women born in the 1950s. They want to reach out to affected local women, many of whom they believe may be unaware of the campaign – and encourage them to contact the DWP about their situation. They also have letter templates which they can use to assist. Anyone interested should contact Dumfries and Galloway WASPI campaign at: Waspidg@outlook.com. In the mean time I will do what I can to help.
I visited First Base Foodbank in Dumfries with MSP Emma Harper to hand over a transit van full of provisions donated by independence campaigners ahead of last Saturday’s march . The donations covered everything from pasta to tinned meat and essential toiletries. There were 12 very large shopping bags and six large boxes which only just fitted in to Mr Frankland’s van. The independence movement is very much focussed on making Scotland a fairer place and the generous donations shows that they put their words into action.
This week I published my response to the consultation on south Scotland’s new enterprise agency. Our new agency should act as a champion for the region as well as providing appropriate business and community support, as is the case with the north through Highland and Islands Enterprise. Access to capital is one of the key challenges for both SME’s and micro businesses in South Scotland. During my time on the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee I saw a lot of evidence that access to capital was particularly acute in South Scotland and this applied to private finance as well as public agency loans and grants. The Agency must address this if our businesses are to grow and develop. The creation of a dedicated enterprise agency by the Scottish Government is a huge opportunity and we must grasp it. Dumfries and Galloway has the potential to be an economic success story. We already have very strong food and drink, creative, and manufacturing sectors – and the agency can push to define Dumfries and Galloway as a centre of excellence for them all.
It has been a busy week in Parliament. On Tuesday I chaired the Cross Party Group on Culture. We had an excellent meeting discussing the importance of international working. The highlight of these meetings is often the artists who come to perform and this time was no exception as the meeting included a musical performance from 2017 MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards 'Folk Band Of The Year', Talisk, as well as a reading from internationally renowned novelist, poet and playwright, Kevin MacNeil.
On Wednesday I hosted a parliamentary reception for the team behind the Edinburgh International Festival. We heard from festival Director Fergus Linehan who outlined the festival’s five commitments to the people of Edinburgh. The night was an opportunity to bring together many of those who play a critical role in supporting the work of the EIF as well as those who benefit from it.
As most of you will have noticed this this has been a week of high drama in Scottish politics. On Thursday I joined a spontaneous ‘Hands off our Parliament’ demo after Westminster passed legislation allowing powers within areas that have been the responsibility of Holyrood since 1999 to be handed to the UK Government after we are taken out of the EU. Every party in the Scottish Parliament bar the Tories voted against the Bill when it was put to us last month - but the UK government doesn’t care about that. They didn’t even allow a single Scottish MP time in Tuesday’s Commons debate to raise their concerns. Devolution has done great things for Scotland - from scrapping tuition fees, introducing free care for the elderly, free childcare and ending prescription charges. The fact is that there are real differences in the everyday lives of ordinary people living in Scotland and England – and that is because of the Scottish Parliament. That institution is under threat now and we must defend it.