April 25, 2016


Monday morning and I'm in East Lothian working on constituency matters. Mondays also see my regular column in The National Newspaper.  As an economist I keep a close eye on international events that could hurt the economy here.  Today I write about the crisis in Brazil.
Photo: The National

George Kerevan: Moves to impeach Brazil's Rouseff could signal return of dictatorship to one of world's largest economies

ONCE again, the light of progress is going out across Latin America. Brazil, loudly trumpeted this decade as a shining example of global economic development, is on the brink of a constitutional coup to unseat President Dilma Rousseff — a process that could return the country to chaos and dictatorship.

Other Latin American nations, principally Venezuela, are at the same dangerous crossroads. But wobbly Brazil is special and not because it is hosting the Olympic Games. With a population of more than 200 million, Brazil is the world’s seventh largest economy, measured by purchasing power parity. In other words, Brazil is a problem right on our own doorstep. It is also the story of how a national popular movement against austerity can fail disastrously


I took the sleeper train overnight to be at Westminster on Tuesday morning. First item on the agenda was the confrontation with the Chancellor and his junior Ministers during the session of Treasury questions. Most of the questions asked by SNP Members concerned the Chancellor's policy on the publication of profits held in tax havens by multi-national companies as well as his assessments in the recent and worrying trends in the level of the UK's productivity, trade deficit in goods and services, and consumer spending.

Following the Treasury Questions, the Chancellor was replaced on the Government backbench by his City Minister Harriet Baldwin with whom we were about to discuss our amendments to the Bank of England and Financial Services Bill during its Third Reading. As the SNP lead speaker in this debate, I presented and defended our amendments to the Bill regarding the representation of all nations and regions of the UK in the Bank's board aka "Court of Directors", the change in the Title of the Bank and finally the accountability regime of Senior Bankers.

The Bill fails to implement one of the landmark recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which was set up following the investigations related to the Libor scandal. The removal of the “reverse burden of proof” on Bank executives who preside over misconduct, highlights the government’s disregard for accountability in the banking sector.

You can watch my first speech in the chamber here...

Launch of the APPG on Limits to Growth

After the vote on the Bank of England Bill I sprinted to the launch of the new all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Limits to Growth, which I co-chair with Green MP Caroline Lucas. Lots of folk turned out to hear Professor Tim Jackson - who presented his reports Limits Revisited  - and Anders Wijkman, a co-chair of the Club of Rome.

You can find more information about the launch, and even listen to it by clicking here


Wednesday morning I met with senior staff of the Financial Ombudsman. I handle a lot of complaints about mis-selling by banks, many of which end up with the Financial Ombudsman Service.  I'm not always convinced the FOS handles complaints as well as they could. One problem is that FOS does not have a network of local offices outside of London, though it holds regional roadshows.  


There was only one Treasury Select Committee meeting this week. We quizzed the Campaign Director of Vote Leave, one of the two groups campaigning for Brexit.


Home early this week, providing a good opportunity to keep up with constituency matters. On Thursdays my weekly column appears in the East Lothian Courier.


An early start to join the S3 Modern Studies class at Musselburgh Grammar, at the invitation of Mr. Wyeth. I was a bit nonplussed when none of the office staff recognised his name as a teacher in the department. Was I in the wrong school? But there was a simple explanation, and I greatly enjoyed the hour I spent with the class, who produced some challenging questions for me.

Here I am with Mr. Wyeth - George is an S3 student.
Today East Lothian celebrated John Muir Day - he is 178 years young this year.  John Muir’s influence is felt all over the world, and is growing even stronger in East Lothian, where we have four anti-fracking groups determined to protect our natural landscape, more than any other constituency in Scotland. I am a card-carrying member of The Sierra Club, the environmental conservation organisation he founded in San Francisco in 1892, and plan to visit over the summer.

I dropped into the Birthplace Museum to wish the staff Happy John Muir Day, and was then delighted to meet up with Kathy Beckett, this year's John Muir artist-in-residence. She had propped up her bicycle in front of the Town House, displaying a trailer full of plants, like rose madder and fennel, long used for dyeing purposes. She was encouraging passers-by to produce instant paintings, using plant dyes she had extracted earlier, and I took my turn. The John Muir residency is the brainchild of the ever-creative North Light Arts organisation, and well worth exporting. I've already mentioned it to the Sierra Club, who were quite intrigued, especially since John Muir was a great friend of the Scottish-American painter William Keith.
Then on to East Linton spring clean sale and Longniddry Scouts' jumble sale, where I picked up yet more books for the house, and the Open Day at Tranent Parish Church, at the kind invitation of Dr. Erica Wishart. And at the end of the day I caught the last hour of the Boys' Brigade Scottish Bands Contest, which made the Brunton in Musselburgh ring with music and marching footsteps. 
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