June 26-June 30

Monday: I launched the Gender Pay Gap Report along with some of my colleagues from the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee. We were proud to be alongside women firefighters at Scottish Fire and Rescue HQ in Cambuslang.

The gender pay gap is a very real issue, and this report offers a lot of good recommendations for Scotland to address it. Scotland truly can become a world leader in reducing the gender pay gap, and I look forward to working with the government and my colleagues in Parliament to see these recommendations move forward. Read the full report here. Below is a helpful infographic that explains some of the committee’s recommendations.

On Monday I also held three surgeries across the constituency. A reminder that during the upcoming summer recess, constituency surgeries will be different than the regular scheduled times. As such, please call the constituency office at 0131 659 4707 to double check on times.

Tuesday:
I attended an Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee meeting where we discussed Scotland’s draft energy plan and the committee’s work programme going forward.
While in committee, my staff added my name and theirs in a show of support for CHAS’ (Children’s Hospices Across Scotland) #KeepTheJoyAlive campaign. The multitude of colourful names will be used to form a showcase display for an event later in the year. CHAS provides the only hospice services in Scotland for children and young people who have life-shortening conditions for which there is no known cure.

Wednesday:
During a Finance Committee meeting we took evidence on Brexit’s implications for Scotland. We heard testimony from: Michael Russell, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe; Ian Mitchell, Head of External Relations, and Gerald Byrne, Team Leader, Constitutional Policy, Scottish Government.

Thursday:
 The National Autistic Society Scotland was at Parliament helping MSPs learn how to help constituents with autism and make Scotland more autism-friendly. Earlier that morning I also met with a constituent, Huma Barrie, who is the mother of a son with autism. She and other parents of children with disabilities are organising an event to share and offer support for other families experiencing autism in Edinburgh. She has met with other Edinburgh MSPs who are also helping to support the cause.
Friday: Parliament officially recessed and will return on 3 September.

June 19-June 23

Monday: I met with Vattenfall, a state-owned Swedish utility company that has a strong onshore wind portfolio in Scotland, with projects in Skype and Aberdeenshire, and is building an offshore centre off the Aberdeenshire coast. Vattenfall wanted to give evidence for the Scottish Government’s draft energy strategy, which I am working on in my capacity on the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee. More info on the draft energy strategy can be found here.

Tuesday: In the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work committee we continued discussions on the gender pay gap and draft energy strategy. In chamber the Parliament voted on the Air Departure Tax Bill. I voted in favour of the bill, as I believe it will boost international connectivity for Scotland’s airports and put them on a level playing field with other European airports. The bill passed 108 for and 11 against.

Wednesday: I attended finance committee where we heard evidence from Professor Alan Page (University of Dundee) and Professor Stephen Tierney (University of Edinburgh) on the applicability of legislative consent in respect of Brexit.

In chamber we had an emotive debate about amending existing legislation on the universal ban of dog tail shortening/docking to exempt two breeds of working dogs. I recognise that both sides of the debate felt they were acting out of a concern for the welfare of dogs, although their approaches differed. Many Scottish vets expressed support for the Scottish Government’s stance, while professional bodies held an opposing view. I shared the view of the majority of constituents who contacted me on this issue, and as such, abstained from the vote.

Thursday: In chamber during general question time I asked the Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart what the Scottish Government’s position is on setting a cap on mid-market rents to achieve more affordable housing, and how many more mid-market rental properties are to be built in Edinburgh over the next four years. The Minister expects 2,100 properties to be built over the next four years in Edinburgh. You can see my question and the Minister’s full answer here

Friday: I visited Holyrood High School in the constituency to take part in the Outreach Education Programme. I met with senior pupils to discuss politics and my work in Parliament. They had great questions!

Later that afternoon I hosted a Marie Curie Blooming Tea Party in my constituency office. We helped raise money for those living with terminal illness. Thanks to all those who turned out!

April 21-April 28

Monday: We held constituency surgeries at the Ripple Project, SPACE, and Portobello Library. I am always happy to meet with constituents to address issues and talk about solutions.

Tuesday: In the Economy, Fair Jobs, and Work Committee, we continued to discuss the Gender Pay Gap. Later, I was in the chamber for the debate on Child Tax Credit cuts. I think that the working poor should not have to pay for austerity brought about by the financial crash. Read more about the family cap and rape clause here.

After decision time, I took part in a members debate about Earth Hour 2017. It was a great way to reflect on the importance of environmental consciousness and battling climate change. I encourage all my constituents to participate in energy saving measures in their own lives. You can watch my speech here.

Wednesday: In the evening, I held a public meeting to create a forum to discuss issues in regards to the Lochend parking on match days. I appreciate residents coming and sharing. It is an important issue to consider, and you can read more in the Evening News’ article.

Thursday: I am happy to support MS Nurses. NHS Lothian has the second highest MS patient to MS specialist nurse ratio in Scotland and needs two additional MS nurses to achieve a sustainable ratio. FullSizeRender.jpg It was a delight to have Geoff Earl in parliament for tea and FMQs.  If you are interested in attending First Minister Questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office about arranging free tickets.

Friday: I attended a meeting through the Economy, Fair Jobs, and Work Committee to Home Sweet Home, a home-run cleaning agency. It was great to hear about their business and the service it offers.

March 25-March 31

Monday: I held a constituency surgery at the Ripple Project my office in Craigmillar and at the Portobello Library. Later, I met with a campaigner to discuss the possibility of the Edinburgh Southern Railway being used by passengers once again.

Tuesday: In the Economy, Jobs, and Fair Work committee meeting, we discussed further the gender pay gap. In the afternoon, I was in chamber for the postponed debate on the independence referendum. After over two days of debate, parliament voted to pass the motion in favour of holding a second referendum.

Wednesday: During the finance committee meeting, we discussed the air departure tax bill, which seeks to decrease the tax added to flights. In the afternoon, I visited Parsons Green Primary school and spoke with two P6 classes about politics and my job as an MSP. They were engaging and there were loads of great questions asked.parsons green primary

In the evening I attended an event by International Justice Mission discussing the internet and its role in child trafficking. They are launching a campaign called #NotOnMyScreen to fight against cybersex trafficking.

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Thursday: I attended a very lively First Minister Questions after the triggering of Article 50 by the UK government yesterday. I accompanied a young constituent to a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney to discuss the possibility of adding the issue of consent to sex education.

Friday: I met with a student living in Edinburgh studying the possible effects of independence on the Scottish economy, security, leadership, and more. I also had the pleasure of attending the Community Science Festival at the White House.

March 18-24

Over the weekend I attended the SNP Conference. It was a productive and forward thinking conference with lots of ground covered. I presented a resolution on the Scottish Model of Legislation on Prostitution criminalising the purchase of sex which was adopted as policy.

Tuesday: At the Economy, Jobs, and Fair Work committee meeting we discussed new legislation on bankruptcy fees to see if the new fees were reasonable. Later in the chamber, I contributed to an important debate on the possibility of another independence referendum. We want to give Scotland choices about the terms of Brexit while there is still opportunity for choice. See my full speech here. I also pressured the Tories to answer a host of questions that they have been unable to answer regarding the outcome of Brexit.

Wednesday: In the morning, at the Finance committee meeting, we took evidence from the Budget Process Review Group, aiming to make the process of budget review in the Scottish Parliament world class. In the afternoon, the debate on the independence referendum continued.

Thursday: In the afternoon, I had a lovely visit with Abbeyhill Primary school and received a beautiful canvas painting from their art club. I have already hung it in my office!

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March 11-17

Monday: I visited two Modern Studies classes at Liberton High School to answer questions and discuss what my job looks like in the Scottish Parliament.

With the First Minister’s statement regarding the intention of a second independence referendum, it was also a perfect day to meet with students and speak about the what the future of an independent Scotland would look like. American students taking a course on Brexit visited from the University of Iowa State to learn more about the issue of local control. It was a pleasure meeting this bright group of students. As PLO for the the CPG on Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations, I think it is very important to invest in the next generation as they seek information and understanding about our world.

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Tuesday: At the Economy, Jobs, and Fair Work Committee meeting we pressured businesses and colleges about issues in the gender pay gap. We were encouraged to hear that there are targets in place to work toward placing more women into senior leadership roles.

Wednesday: During the Finance and Constitution Committee meeting we considered and approved a subordinate legislation recommended by Cabinet Secretary Derek Mackay on the Spring Budget Revision which includes an increase in the approved budget for 2016-17 of 372.1m pounds.

In the afternoon, I contributed to debate about Brexit and voiced concern over the complexity and danger that awaits. I promise to stand with the SNP and do everything in our power to stand against Westminister. See my full speech here.

Later, I pressed the Tories asking, “How many jobs would have to be predicted to be lost in Scotland before the Conservatives would act and stand up for Scotland? Thirty thousand? Forty thousand? Eighty thousand? How many?” See my question here.

Thursday: In the morning, I went along with Miles Briggs MSP to Waverley Station to meet with the Network Rail Management and discuss issues regarding safety and accessibility for elderly and disabled travelers. I enjoy collaboratively working in cross party groups to effectively tackle issues of high importance, including improved access of taxi ramps at the station.

After chambers, I left for Aberdeen for the SNP Conference.

Friday: At Conference, I presented a motion on the Scottish Model of Prostitution. We are excited to announce that it passed and has become SNP policy. Read more about the motion and the issue regarding prostitution in Scotland here.

March4-10

Monday: I spoke to the Chief Executive of Edinburgh Council about the city deal which will mean big investment in the Edinburgh area. Due to issues in disabled access at Waverley Station, I also met with visitor Ronnie Wilkes regarding the needs of vulnerable travelers and what we can do to enhance their visit to Edinburgh Waverley.

Tuesday: I attended an Economy, Jobs, and Fair Work committee meeting where we took evidence on the gender pay gap. This is a serious issue both for women who earn less over their lifetime and the Scottish economy which would benefit from eliminating the pay gap. FullSizeRender 3

Later, Tom Chalmers P7 class from Brunstane Primary School came to visit parliament for a tour and a chat.

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I was in Chambers for the Ministerial Statement on Information Sharing Provisions in relation to the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act as well as the International Women’s Day debate.

Wednesday: I had a great meeting with the UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Following this, I had chamber duty as well as chaired a CPG on Human Trafficking. I also celebrated International Women’s Day. I will always work to build women’s rights and fight against violence towards women.

Thursday:  I met with Euan and Kiki from Euan’s Guide, a site for disabled access reviews aimed to “remove the fear of the unknown” related to disabled access. His charity is a digital space made up of positive reviewers to gather information on venues for the disabled.  If helpful for you, I encourage you to visit Euan’s website or download his app, “Euan’s Guide” to use and add to reviews. FullSizeRender 4

Later, I attended a briefing called “People Sized Government: Lessons from Norway,” discussing the best possible way to maximize local government and council placements.

Friday: I held a surgery at SPACE.  To support Scottish Apprenticeship Week, I visited Lifecare Companion Club to meet with an apprentice and hear about her experience.

 

February 25-March 3

Monday: I met with an editor for Weekendavisen, a Danish newspaper to share a Scottish perspective on Brexit. I held a surgeries at the Ripple Project, SPACE in Craigmillar, and Portobello Library.

Tuesday: I contributed to debate about the implications of Brexit for Scotland, which were presented in a report by the Economy, Jobs, and Fair Work Committee that I sit on. Brexit is a threat to Scotland now and a threat to Scotland’s future, and the conclusions and recommendations in the committee’s report reflect that. See my full speech here. I also attended a Economy, Jobs, and Fair Work Committee meeting.

Wednesday: I had a Finance committee meeting about the new bill on Air Departure tax and the impact lowering that tax could have for the Scottish economy

Thursday: I held a briefing for the motion to be presented at SNP conference, “A Scottish Model of Legislation on Prostitution.” Prostitution survivors Rachel Moran and Fiona Broadfoot came to speak on behalf of this motion, advocating for the decriminalisation of the sale of sex and the criminalisation of the purchase of sex. To read more about this motion and the surrounding issue, visit here. I also participated in discussion about raising the level of civic conversation in and outside of parliament.

Friday: I attended a briefing on Edinburgh policing issues with Chief Superintendent MacDonald at the Fettes Police Station.

February 18-24

After a week of recess, its been a busy week in Parliament.

Monday: I attended a City of Edinburgh Parliamentary Council briefing and a meeting on business rates. I also met with Professor Sean Smith about the Edinburgh City deal.

Tuesday: I attended an Economy, Work, and Fair Jobs Committee meeting. Later in chambers, I pressed the Cabinet Secretary Derek Mackay to challenge Westminster about the disproportionate business rate rises:

The cabinet secretary has listened to businesses, such as those in the hospitality sector in my constituency of Edinburgh Eastern that faced disproportionate rate rises, and the fact that he has acted is very welcome. Would he encourage the Tory Government in Westminster, which is currently being accused by its own back benchers of misleading businesses over the rate rise in England, to take the same constructive approach?

Watch my question here.

I also saw the inaugural CPG for Commercial Sexual Exploitation, convened by me, Annie Wells MPS, and Rhonda Grant MSP. Ms Catriona Graham, key figure in Ireland’s ‘Turn the Red Light Off Campaign’ appeared as a guest speaker to promote Scotland to follow suit as Ireland and other countries to make buying sex illegal.

Wednesday: I had a meeting for the Finance and Constitution Committee.

Thursday: I wore my purple to support Purple Friday, showing my support for the LGBT community in Scotland.  In the afternoon, I contributed to the debate on the proposed budget for Scotland. See my full speech here.

Friday: I met with Darren Ryan of the Edinburgh city Council to discuss planning at Lochend Gardens on match days in order to protect residents.

Also, it was a joy to host Megan Kerr on a work placement this week.

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February 3-February 10

This week I:

Monday: I met with EDI to discuss updates on the Brunstane development and a number of other planning proposals.

Tuesday: I attended a meeting for the Economy, Jobs, and Fair Work Committee.

Wednesday: I attended a meeting for the Finance and Constitution Committee. In this monumental meeting, we approved the second stage of the budget, the first time a budget has ever included tax raising powers.  In Chambers, I pressed the Tories to condemn Job Centre Closures after Ruth Davison fails to. I also met with the SNP with the Commission on Parliamentary Reform.

Thursday: I spoke at the Standards, Procedures, and Public Appointments Committee to advocate for a Cross-Party Group on Commercial Sexual Exploitation. See the proposal here. I also dropped in to support the League Against Cruel Sports.screen-shot-2017-02-09-at-4-07-37-pm

I met with Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Constitution Derek MacKay and was reassured the Scottish Government has done everything in its power to ensure fair business rates. Mr. MacKay reinforced the business rate under control of the Scottish Government is the poundage, which is being reduced by 3.7%. This is in addition to the expansion of the small business bonus scheme, which will exempt 100,000 new small businesses from rates altogether. Reevaluation assessments are done independent of the Scottish Government.

Friday: I held a surgery at my constituency office.