23rd Edition

Monday 18 July

Monday morning and I'm on the train to London for the last time before the Summer Recess. On Mondays my regular column appears in The National Newspaper. This week I wrote about the Westminster Parliament debate giving a green light to replacing the existing Trident submarine nuclear deterrent system.
On Monday afternoon the Government held the Trident debate, and I was lucky enough to secure an early question to the Prime Minister. You can see my intervention here.
Photo: The National

Tuesday 19 July

On Tuesday morning, I attended the Treasury Select Committee. This week we questioned the newly-appointed Chief Executive of the Prudential Regulation Authority, Sam Woods. The PRA is the watchdog over the banks. You can see me in action here.

Wednesday 20 July

I held a meeting today at the House of Commons with senior Royal Bank of Scotland staff to discuss the imminent closure next month of the bank’s branch in Prestonpans.  Attending were Alex Dawtrey, the Bank’s Senior Director for Public and Consumer affairs, and Chris Maguire, Head of Public Affairs for Commercial Banking, who flew down especially from Edinburgh for the meeting.

I relayed to the RBS officials the strong feelings of the people of Prestonpans and East Lothian that the Bank’s consultation process has been grossly inadequate. This is not just the last RBS branch in Prestonpans, it is the last branch of any bank. RBS has gone back on its promise not to close a branch if it was the last one in a community.

In a discussion that lasted an hour, I outlined the need for the bank to go further in its consultations. I proposed that the Chief Executive of RBS Retail meet with myself as MP, plus the leader of East Lothian Council and the local MSP, Iain Gray. I also proposed that RBS should commit to a review of its customer services in Prestonpans in 12 months.

RBS is effectively in public ownership.  Given the fall in bank shares after the Brexit vote, no one thinks RBS will be sold off any time soon. Therefore RBS has a special responsibility to act in the interests of its owners – the general public.
Here I am, outside the branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Prestonpans which will close next month, with SNP Councillors Peter McKenzie, Kenny McLeod and Fraser McAllister.

We are all horrified at the duplicity of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which has claimed in the past that it will never close the last bank in town.

Thursday 21 July

My weekly column appeared in the East Lothian Courier today, and I chose to explain why I voted against the renewal of Trident. Scroll down on the right hand side to read it.

Friday 22 July

The day began with a meeting with Anselm Fraser and Charlie Laidlaw of the Chippendale International School of Furniture, which is based just outside Haddington. The School is famous worldwide for the quality of its teaching, and wishes to capitalise on this by creating an alumni organisation which would help graduates market their work.

I support their endeavours wholeheartedly, and we are working together on this exciting project.

Here is the class of 2016.
Then on to my advice surgeries, this week in Dunbar, North Berwick and Haddington. 

I have been concerned about the plight of WASPIs, Women Against State Pension Inequality, since I joined their demonstration at Westminster a few weeks ago. They are fighting the injustice done to women born in the 1950s (on or after 6 April 1951) regarding the changes to their state pension age. Whereas they expected to receive a pension at 60 when they started work, they now have to wait until they are 65, and have had no opportunity to plan for this eventuality. No transitional arrangements have been put in place.

There is no WASPi organisation in East Lothian, though I have received letters from constituents who are suffering hardship, so I am taking advice from existing groups on how to set one up.
In the evening I attended the first event of Musselburgh's Riding of the Marches, the opening of the Musselburgh Life exhibition at The Burgh Primary School. Here I am with Cllr. Stuart Currie, leader of the SNP Group on East Lothian Council, with our Champion, Neil Wilson (sadly, not in armour), and with Ruth Currie, who actually attended The Burgh Primary, and is about to be inducted as a Burgess next week.
The exhibition introduced me to aspects of Musselburgh life I had not known about before, and it was particularly interesting to see the collection of fishing boats, banners and photographs. I was also delighted that the organisers were able to exhibit the Musselburgh Silver Arrow trophy, reputedly the oldest sporting trophy in the world, which will be competed for next week. The original competition dates back to 1603.

Sunday 24 July

After I had finished writing my Monday column for The National newspaper, I made for St. Michael's, Inveresk, and the Ecumenical Church Service for the Riding of the Marches, an inspiring event involving all the church leaders in Musselburgh.

We processed from the old Town Hall to St. Michael's, and then again from St. Michael's to the Brunton.

Here I am with local MSP Colin Beattie, and Councillors Stuart Currie, John McNeill and Lisa Beattie, waiting for the service to begin.
Back to the Brunton in the evening for the Opening Concert by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, who played Mozart, Haydn and Dvorak.

The hall was packed, the audience applauded lustily, and the musicians enjoyed the performance so much that they were hugging each other at the end.

Classical concerts are expensive, but surely we can find the necessary sponsorship to bring the SCO to Musselburgh more than once every 21 years. The Brunton has a wonderful acoustic, and we should make the most of it.

Roll on the Lammermuir Festival, and Handel's Alcina at the Brunton on 14 September. I have already booked my tickets.
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