June 13th, 2016

Monday 6th June

Monday morning and I'm on the train to London for another week at Westminster.  On Mondays my regular column appears in The National Newspaper.

Photo: The National
George Kerevan: Ali’s courage in confronting white establishment took real bravery.

THE passing of Muhammad Ali – radical black activist, anti-war campaigner, Muslim believer in Sufi mysticism, poet and original rapper – has been followed inevitably by millions of honeyed words from media commentators, politicians and assorted hangers-on, all seeking to praise the sometime world champion boxer now he is safely in his grave.

But I am old enough to remember a different establishment reaction to Ali. There was a time, in the 1960s and 1970s, when he was vilified, denounced and hounded out of his well-deserved sporting titles by a spiteful, blatantly racist, vicious media and political machine. A period when Ali was arrested, stripped of his boxing titles then tried and convicted on spurious draft dodging charges, in a blatant attempt both to silence his opposition to America’s genocidal war in Vietnam and humiliate him because he was an “uppity” black.

Read the full article here 
On Monday afternoon, I joined my colleagues in the Chamber to debate the Government's Investigatory Powers Bill.  The draft bill has some good points to help the police catch criminals and terrorists, which I support. But I object giving the security agencies the right to bulk data collection and storage of all our emails. These new surveillance powers go far beyond what any other country in the West has attempted. 

Following the first day of debate on the Bill, I attended the reception hosted by Compass for the launch of their new report on the feasibility and use of the universal, unconditional benefit payment, also called ‘basic income’. 

You can download the report here and read my comments on the introduction of citizens income in Scotland here .

Meanwhile, our constituency office manager and caseworkers were on a one-day course in Newcastle on Personal Independence Payments, organised by the UK Parliament.

PIPs were introduced in 2013 for people with disabilities and health issues, supposedly with the aim of helping them remain independent and lead full and active lives. But this is actually a cost-cutting exercise in the part of the UK Government, and only the SNP group voted against it. Already it is causing distress to people who are losing, or frightened of losing, benefits when they are re-assessed.

Tuesday 7th June

On Tuesday, I was at the Treasury Select Committee hearing on the state of competition in banking - or the lack of it.  

You can watch the session here :

then back to the Chamber for the last day of debates on the Government's Investigatory Powers Bill.  Unfortunately, none of the SNP amendments were successful, but we are hopeful that the House of Lords, where the Bill goes next, may force the Government to change its position on some of the most controversial proposals.

Wednesday 8th June

On Wednesday morning I had a meeting with staff from the House of Commons library. Then on to a meeting with representatives from Aviva, the UK's biggest pension provider, to discuss how to provide better arranagements for people to save for their pension pot.

After Prime Minister's Questions, I went to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to Growth.  We discussed how to get the Chancellor to take productivity and sustainability seriously. 

In the afternoon, at the Treasury Select Committee meeting, I questioned the Executive Chair and Chief Executive of HMRC.   

Watch the session here :

In the evening I was invited to the launch of the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Programme  in London. In earlier years I was on the board of the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, which is a mainstay of the Fringe. 

Thursday 9th June

On Thursday, I had a meeting with the Head of Employee Ownership, an organisation that supports and encourages employees to take part in employee share ownership schemes, at which we discussed the recent changes in the involvement of HMRC.

This week my column in the Courier focused on the fight to save the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Prestonpans, the last branch in town. The Library is in danger too. Scroll down on the right to read what I think.

Friday 10 June

Unusually, I had to stay in London on Friday for meetings. But our wonderful caseworkers took my surgeries in Musselburgh, Port Seton and Tranent. 
I still managed to get through a pile of constituency work in the London office.

It was flooded this week, when London experienced monsoon conditions, with water dripping down the inside of the windows from leaking gutters.

As was the Palace of Westminster, which leaks like a sieve when it rains.
But it was dry at Dover House, the London residence of the Secretary of State for Scotland, where I discussed this sumptuous John Bellany with David Mundell.
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