33rd Edition
October 3rd, 2016

Monday 26th September

My column appears in The National every Monday. This week I'm writing about European social democratic parties in meltdown. Scroll down the right-hand side to read the full article.
Photo: The National

Tuesday 27th September

Today was a writing day - my weekly column for the East Lothian Courier, and my monthly column for the Evening News. I wrote them on the train to London to celebrate my birthday and tidy up the flat. And yes, I paid for my train ticket. This is not a parliamentary expense.

When Parliament is in session I leave at 7.30am - or earlier - for the Westminster office, and don't get back until 8.00pm on a good day, midnight if business drags on. So it's good to have a few days in London to get things ready for the start of the new session at Westminster, which starts next week - even if the construction sites opposite is deafening. 

Wednesday 28th September

More writing today, this time an article for the SNP Conference issue of Prospect Magazine, which will come out later in the month.

I also managed to see Kenneth Branagh in 'The Entertainer' in the evening. A great study of England in decline in the 1950s after the Suez Crisis.  An interesting play given the Conservative Party's current delusions of imperial grandeur after Brexit.

My birthday treat from Angela.

Thursday 29th September

So sorry to miss the WASPI demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament. But our caseworkers were there, with the banner we commissioned.

The East Lothian WASPI group is meeting at the constituency office in Haddington on Friday 7 October, at 4.00pm, when they will be handing over a petition for me to take down to Westminster next week. I'm working there with a cross-party group of MPs to secure justice for the women who have been disadvantaged by the sudden change in their retirement age.

Myself on train back to East Lothian for the final week of the Parliamentary Conference Recess.
I write a weekly column in the East Lothian Courier, please scroll down the right to read the full article.

Friday 30th September

A run down the coast this morning in beautiful sunshine to North Berwick, where the High School was holding the 2016 Model United Nations conference. 124 senior school students had come from as far away as Fife to debate five global issues - the environment, health, human rights, the media and politics - from the point of view of the country they had chosen.

In my keynote speech I reminded them that East Lothian had been the political hub of the UK while Lord Balfour was Prime Minister (1902-05), and a great deal of parliamentary business had been transacted at Whittingehame. I was delighted to see North Berwick High School reviving that tradition.

I also warned them that the UN does not always get things right – witness the massacre at Srebenica, supposedly a safe haven under UN protection, where over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed by units of the Bosnian Serb army in 1995 – and is always work in progress.  The debates they were having today were deadly serious, as the future of the world was in the hands of their generation. 
I spent the morning at the conference, attending all five sessions, and was impressed by the confidence of the speakers and the quality of the debate. Watching the delegates defend their chosen country’s record – very difficult in some cases - I could see how much research they had done in advance.

I was also impressed by the organisation of the conference. North Berwick High School students facilitated the Committee debates, encouraging every delegate to speak, and younger pupils acted as runners, passing notes between delegates looking for support. This was an exact role-play of UN meetings and followed UN protocol.

Congratulations to the staff and students of North Berwick High School, and to the students from Dunbar Grammar, Loretto and Musselburgh Grammar who also took part. They delivered some stirring speeches, injecting new life into United Nations deliberations. Reform of the Security Council is on its way.
In the evening I was at Edinburgh FilmHouse for the showing of Samir Mehanovic's award-winning 'The Fog of Srebenica', for which I was the Executive Producer. The question and answer session afterwards with Samir and Allan Little, who reported the Bosnian War and the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, was chaired by The Scotsman's political commentator Joyce McMillan.  My worry is that events in Bosnia, particularly recent meddling by Moscow, could reignite conflict in the Balkans, which is why I want to remind people about the Srebrenica massacre.

And here we all are afterwards - director, editor, producers, cameramen and supporters - celebrating the wonderful turn-out for the screening, which had to be moved into the main cinema because of the numbers involved.
Saturday 1st October
To Glasgow this morning to speak at the Radical Independence Conference. I talked about the downside of the Austerity agenda and made some recommendations on how we should be handling the economy once Scotland is an independent nation. A good turnout. Here's Patrick Harvie, exhorting us to work for independence.
Then to The Glad Cafe, where I chaired the question-and-answer session after the Glasgow showing of 'The Fog of Srebenica'. It was attended by one of the pathologists who had been brought in to help reconstruct the bodies, which had been later exhumed, chopped up and reburied. He is still traumatised by the experience.
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