It’s time for the UK Government to give Scotland an equal place at the trade negotiating table

A witness panel giving evidence to the Finance and Constitution Committee this week contended that any future trade deals the UK Government seeks to pursue must only be secured with the consent of the Scottish Government.

The Committee took evidence from witnesses on the possible impact of the UK’s Trade Bill on Scotland. The Bill would grant the UK Government sweeping powers to negotiate future trade deals on Scotland’s behalf- including in areas that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament such as agriculture.  But at present the Bill contains no provisions for allowing parliamentary scrutiny by Holyrood.

According to Professor Aileen McHarg of Strathclyde University the Bill in its current draft contains ‘no requirement for UK Ministers to gain devolved consent before exercising regulation making powers in devolved areas.’

Asked by SNP MSP Ash Denham if the UK Government should be able to proceed with trade deals that the Scottish Government didn’t agree to, Graham Kemp, from St Andrews TTIP Action Group, answered,

“The answer is no. They shouldn’t be able to proceed. We have been told we are an equal partner to the union and should be treated as such.”

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“Ash Denham: Criminalise the buyers to tackle prostitution” – Edinburgh Evening News

Ash Denham: Criminalise the buyers to tackle prostitution

Since being elected in May I have had constituents contact me regarding their concerns with prostitution in Edinburgh; both the street selling and the saunas and massage parlours side. After speaking at an event in September about human trafficking, I have also been contacted by women and a few men from all over Scotland regarding their concerns about trafficking.

Motion at the March 2017 SNP Conference

The SNP Haddington Branch put forward a motion that I presented at Conference, in March 2017, for a Scottish Model of Legislation on Prostitution. This motion seeks to legalise the sale of sex while criminalising the purchase of sex, thereby protecting those exploited by prostitution and punishing the exploiters. It would also offer a system of support for those wishing to exit prostitution.

This mirrors the Nordic Model such as successful legislation in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and France.

Statistics show that neighbouring jurisdictions result in the demand being displaced to nearby countries. Thus, Scotland is at risk for an increase in demand for paid sex.

The motion successfully passed and is now SNP party policy. 

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Commercial Sexual Exploitation

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Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is defined by NHS Scotland as including “a wide range of often linked sexual activities which (typically) men profit from or buy from women and which objectivity and harm women. It includes prostitution, phone sex, internet sex/chat rooms, stripping, pole dancing, lap dancing, peep shows, pornography, trafficking, sex tourism and mail order brides.

“The women involved are often on low incomes, substance users and victims of other forms of gender-based violence. Based on a lack of alternatives and often on coercion, such activities are rarely a ‘free’ or ‘vocational’ choice.

The Scottish Government includes prostitution, pornography and other forms of involvement in the ‘sex industry’ in its definition of violence against women. It considers that the exploitation of women through these forms of ‘entertainment’ legitimises negative attitudes towards women and is inextricably linked to gender inequality and sexual violence.”
NHS Scotland: Commercial Sexual Exploitation

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Ash Denham MSP encourages shoppers to keep it local

SNP MSP Ash Denham is encouraging consumers in Edinburgh Eastern to shop locally and support the 18,710 small businesses in the local economy.

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting businesses in Scotland, including retailers, providing the most competitive package of non-domestic rates reliefs anywhere in the UK in the 2018/19 budget. This includes the Small Business Bonus scheme that has already saved smaller firms £1.5bn, lifting 100,000 business premises out of rates altogether.

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Edinburgh Headway Group

It was great to meet with Michelle Keenan and Lorraine Allan from Edinburgh Headway Group last week, ahead of the Group’s move into new premises in the constituency.

Edinburgh Headway Group does amazing work supporting those with acquired brain injuries as well as their families and carers. Acquired brain injuries comprise a particular challenge in terms of care, and presents a range of psychological and physical difficulties. While physical disabilities may be adapted to by varying degrees, the psychological effects of acquired brain injuries is much harder to manage. The impact on those caring for those with acquired brain injuries can be profound.

That is why the work of organisation like Edinburgh Headway Group is so important. The group provides life changing support in the form of rehabilitation activities and regular outings, and also provide Carer Support programs such as social, information and peer support events.

I am delighted to welcome an organisation like Edinburgh Headway Group to the constituency, and look forward to working with them closely in the future.

“Ash Denham: Gender pay gap shames society” – Edinburgh Evening News

Last week, companies across the UK were obliged to reveal their gender pay gaps. While making these things more transparent is welcome, it was disheartening if unsurprising to see such a large pay gap at many companies that are household names here in Edinburgh and across the country – and particularly disappointing to see the pay gap in Edinburgh marginally higher than the national average, at 12.9 per cent compared to 12 per cent.

The norm is very much a pay gap in favour of men – and we have to ask why that is, and start to untangle the excuses that many companies make for their pay gaps, such as that women employed by the company work in lower paid roles – because that itself is symptomatic of the inequality facing our society.

Let’s be clear – paying somebody a different amount for the same work is discrimination, and workers can take up an equal pay case to get what they’re owed.

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