In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government announced this week that it was launching a consultation on proposals to provide stability and security for rural businesses in the immediate post-Brexit period. It marks the start of the process of developing a new rural support policy for Scotland with a consultation focusing on what might be done to provide stability in the period immediately after Scotland might have to leave the EU in 2019. In my question to the Cabinet Secretary I pressed the importance of retaining customs union and single market membership for the future of agricultural support.
RBS branch closures
It was announced this week that accountancy firm Johnston Carmichael will carry out a review of the ten RBS branches across Scotland granted a temporary reprieve from closure earlier this year - and make the final recommendation about whether they should stay open. Two branches in the south of Scotland will be affected in Melrose and Gretna. I have written to the accountancy firm making it clear why these branches must remain open. We are yet to be told what the process will be for customers to feed into this review and I will share that information, and if you are in any doubt please don’t hesitate to contact my office.
I was privileged to have my constituent Dami Samuel in Parliament this week. Dami and her family have lived in Dumfries since 2016 and Dami herself has lived in the UK since she was 12. She is desperate to take up a place at university in Scotland and start training for a career as a midwife - but the Home Office won't allow her or her family to work or study here. Years of trying to secure a visa have been fruitless - forcing the family to rely on charities to survive. Dami met with Health Secretary Shona Robison yesterday to highlight her case and I agree with the Cabinet Secretary when she said Dami would be a huge asset to our NHS. I am appalled at the treatment of her and her family and will keep up the pressure on their behalf.
World Refugee Day
This week saw 2018 Refugee Day and I was pleased to speak in a parliamentary debate to mark the occasion. It was a good opportunity to pay tribute to the generations of refugees who have come to Scotland and enriched our society. It also gave me the chance to highlight some of the fantastic work being done in Dumfries and Galloway by Massive Outpouring Of Love - D&G Refugee Action to support refugees at home and abroad. Mark Frankland and his First Base Foodbank are also a vital resource for the whole community, including refugees.
We have also seen significant developments in relation to Brexit and I have been kept busy with media interviews in my role as convenor of the Parliament’s Europe committee. I spoke to ITV Border after Wednesday’s Commons vote when the attempt to secure a “meaningful vote” that could have potentially given MPs the power to stop Britain leaving the EU without a deal was defeated by 319 votes to 303.