The Week in Review - Edition 37

Monday 

Following the tragic death of Jo Cox, European solidarity is now more important than ever. This morning, I was at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, where the representatives of 47 European nations joined together in a minute's silence to pay our respects to Jo Cox MP. We stood together in the hemisphere once again against terror as part of the #NoHateNoFear campaign. 


Tuesday

I was back in Aberdeenshire for a day of EU Referendum campaigning around the streets of Ellon. 


Wednesday 

London cabbie, Mustafa Canlier, came to the rescue today after my iPad went walkabout en route to LBC - a real gent. With the EU Referendum only a day away, it dominated proceedings on my phone-in with Ian Dale. Following that, I took part in a Channel 4 debate - the final panel before the big vote. 


Thursday 

It is finally upon us. The EU Referendum, after weeks of campaigning the positive case for Europe, has arrived. 

It's been a long night, and is very close. 


Friday 

Scotland stands strong, united in our will to remain part of the European Union. 


Saturday 

My former Chief of Staff, Geoff Aberdein, hit the nail on the head with this tweet. 


Sunday 

A poignant Sunday Herald front page this morning. Later, I travelled to Birmingham for a question time special in the aftermath of the EU vote. 

 

 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 36

Monday

This week, the United Kingdom’s future in Europe will be decided.

The vote on whether we will remain or leave the European Union has been at the forefront of the nation's consciousness.

I believe in the positive case for Europe and I see a bright future for Scotland within the EU.

And the North East is included in that positive vision.

Many benefits of our EU membership have become integral parts of our lives. Thousands of people across the North East have the right to work part-time, are entitled to paternity and maternity leave and receive holiday pay.

These pillars of the social chapter are all made possible as a direct result of EU legislation.

The Brexiteers have made it their mission to tarnish the concept of the United Kingdom within the EU with a pungent mixture of scaremongering and half-baked accusations. Boris himself made it clear where he stands when he said: “Boil it down to the single market. Scrap the social chapter,” in an interview in The Independent in 2012.

There is obvious friction in the North East as a result of our ties to the fishing industry, and I’ll add that I railed against the Common Fisheries Policy for much of my political career. What we shouldn’t forget is that Scotland’s fishing industry was viewed as ‘expendable’ by Whitehall despite the fact that we land the vast majority of the UK’s fish.

In this regard, I have urged David Cameron to appoint Fisheries Minister Fergus Ewing a key role to work on reforming fishing rights for our trawlermen, which, coinciding with the record number of boats being built, would contribute to a bright future upon the waves of the North Sea. 

Justice Secretary Michael Gove, mentioned his own Aberdeenshire roots in the Evening Express earlier this month. He said that leaving the European Union would be the best move for our part of the country, which, as he puts it, “has always thought globally”.

Gove got one part of that statement correct, and we in the North East should celebrate the international outlook of our region and recognise the opportunities of EU membership and how it contributes heavily to our globalised perspective. Gove and his cohorts ignore the positives. Immigrants contributed over £2.5bn to our economy last year, putting in more than they took out.

Yes, we do think globally here in the North East, but we also believe in peace, progress and social provision – all of which are supported by EU membership. I urge voters to look around at the North East, and the many things which make our part of Scotland so special.


Tuesday

Today I debated the EU Referendum alongside Liz Kendal MP against Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Priti Patel MP.

One thing became clear very early on: It was business as usual from the Leave side, in that they brought little to the table other than scare tactics and bluster.


Wednesday

I was live on LBC, alongside my compadre Ian Dale.


Thursday

I was in Wales today, campaigning for the positive case for Europe with Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru. However, the absolutely devastating news about Jo Cox reached me en route back to London. Truly dreadful. Jo was one of the brightest and best of the new MPs and a great loss to the country.


Friday

As the EU vote approaches, it was good to see actor Idris Elba make his own positive case to remain with a very important message.


Saturday

Last week, I spoke at Oxford University's EU Referendum Debate. You can watch my contribution below.


Sunday

Great to see Glenwyvis distillery are well on their way to reaching £1.5m of funding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 35

Monday 

Today, I sent off my postal vote ahead of the EU referendum - and reminded everyone not to miss the deadline for registration. It is vital that we all take the opportunity to have our say in this important debate. 


Tuesday 

En-route to Westminster, I had the pleasure of running into Shetland cooking sensation Marian Armitage. 


Wednesday 

Today, I put it to Cabinet Office Minister, Matt Hancock, that hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have effectively been disenfranchised due to the process of individual registration and lack of electoral canvassing.

I then continued my point live on LBC with Ian Dale. 


Thursday 

Today, I debated the EU referendum at Oxford University with Baroness Jenny Jones, Lord Howard, Daniel Hannan MEP, Lord Heseltine and Vicky Pryce. Both sides were joined by excellent representatives of the University in Nikolay Koshikov and Dominic Hopkins-Powell. Pleased to note that Remain took the debate by 227-79. 


Friday 

I was in Derry today, continuing my EU campaigning across the British isles. Bumped into BBC Norther Ireland's Mark Carruthers. 


Saturday 

A busy day of campaigning included discussing the positive case for Europe at an event hosted by the Derry Chamber, and with the Belfast Telegraph. 

Even managed to fit in some singing, with a wee rendition of Annie Laurie.

 

 


Sunday 

I penned this column in the National yesterday, on why Tony Blair's scare tactics have no place in the Northern Ireland of today. 

The news coming out of Orlando followed. An awful tragedy to happen anytime, but especially during Pride month. Thoughts with all those affected.

The Week in Review - Edition 34

Monday 

“We have nothing to fear and a great deal to learn from trees, that vigorous and pacific tribe which without stint produces strengthening essences for us, soothing balms, and in whose gracious company we spend so many cool, silent, and intimate hours.”

The words of Proust were keen in my ears as I officially opened a superb community initiative in Huntly, described as ‘a living monument to peace’.

The White Wood, which can be found nestled among the trees in the Bin Forest, is a project inspired by the work of German artist Joseph Beuys. Beuys piled 7000 stones together, and planted an oak tree throughout the city of Kessel until the pile eventually disappeared, as a statement to highlight the importance of green urban renewal.

And, in a project led by Deveron Arts’ Caroline Wendling, 49 acorns from Beuys’ oaks were planted, among stones from Wendling’s home of France and a collection of Scottish flora.

At the heart of the project is the dual aim of leaving a monument of the past, whilst simultaneously displaying an awareness of the need for a peaceful future. The oaks, which will after many years form a ring around a central point, are also a response to the centenary of the First World War, a conflict which impacted directly on the Huntly community. Many local men marched with the Gordon Highlanders and were among the 50,000 who made up the regiment – and among the 9000 who fell.

The sun shone brilliantly upon us as I cut a ribbon to officially declare the wood open, and I proudly planted a white peace flag next to one of the saplings.

Those in attendance, a crowd reflecting the wealth of diversity in the local community and beyond, included a retired soldier of the Gordon Highlanders, as well as Syrian families resettled in Aberdeenshire. It was quite a poignant moment, to see such a collection of people together, but to see those Syrian families who fled real horrors in their homeland smiling was a particular joy – a personification of the aims of the White Wood.

I am proud of Scotland for our efforts in this regard. Last week, I read that Scotland has provided a safe haven to more Syrian refugees than any other part of the UK. More than 600 people have been re-settled here, a third of the total figure. 50 of those families have been housed here in Aberdeenshire.

It is just as vital that Scotland can be a home to those who come of their own violation to build their lives here. The case of Gregg, Kathryn and Lachlan Brain - an Australian family who faced deportation after coming to Scotland as part of an initiative aimed at bringing people with Scots ancestry ‘home’ to contribute to the economies of local communities – is another example of why our pro-immigration perspective here in Scotland brings us many benefits.

So it was there, among trees planted in the name of peace, that I was reminded of just how important it is to nurture and tend to our communities, so that they are as solid as the oak trees which will one day stand tall and provide a symbolic haven for generations to come. 


Tuesday 

I was proud to see Ellon Academy announced as finalists at the 2016 Scottish Education Awards. I have no doubt that pupils, teachers and staff have all worked extremely hard to receive such an accolade. They are a credit to our community. 


Wednesday 

Excellent to see my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament campaigning on behalf of the Brain family. 


Thursday 

Today, I debated the EU Referendum with Iain Duncan-Smith, live on LBC with Ian Dale on hand to maintain order. You can see clips from our exchange below. 


Friday 

Andy Murray played out of his skin to set a tennis record today, becoming the first Scottish man to play in a French Open final in the history of the game. 


Saturday 

Today, the world became a little less charismatic, with the death of Muhammad Ali. He had it all: guts, skill, razor sharp instincts and most importantly, integrity. The greatest boxer who ever lived - perhaps the greatest ever - Ali's legacy on sport, politics and popular culture will never fade. 


Sunday 

Enjoyed this Twitter exchange with former colleagues Geoff Aberdein and Kevin Pringle. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 33

Monday 

Where’s the fire and idealism? This Europe debate is flat and tawdry - The Guardian

On Thursday the prime minister shifted his Euro campaign strategy towards what he said would be greater political inclusivity. On Friday the chancellor forecast a post-Brexit housing market collapse. Meanwhile, the out campaign droned on about immigration, punctuated only by odd outbursts from Boris Johnson, some of which, as Michael Heseltine noted, are very odd.

Thus, with four weeks left, the great Euro campaign has reached a new low, no idealism from either side, only low-grade statistics and even lower grade politics. Neither campaign has inspired enthusiasm. They both trade in fear. Indeed, it is almost as if “Project Fear” from the Scottish referendum had been split in two to make up both sides of the Euro poll.

The remain campaign is increasingly confident and very pleased with itself. It should not be. The pro-Europeans should be a mile ahead. The out campaign has totally failed to offer any coherent vision of what life would be like outside the European structure. Would we be like Switzerland and Norway, with a sweetheart trade deal but forced to accept European regulations still? Or would the UK attempt to be a sort of mid-Atlantic Singapore, trading freely with the world?

Either way, there would be challenges. What gets Eurosceptics out of bed in the morning is getting shot of the sort of regulations that European Free Trade Area countries such as Norway and Switzerland must accept. Meanwhile, Singapore is successful because it is a small country within a large Asian trade area called Asean, not a big country like the UK outside one.

Despite this, the out campaign is still within striking distance in England, at least in online polling. That would suggest something is badly misfiring in the remain camp and that instead of just demoralising the outers, Cameron’s “Bullingdon boy” tactics are also dispiriting his own side. The biggest danger for remain has always been a low turnout among Europe-friendly voters. Only a positive campaign galvanises the people, and this is the campaign that is now desperately required.

The positive case for Europe’s achievements runs like this. For more than 60 years, the EU, and its various forerunners, has allowed cooperation between – eventually – 28 countries and a single market of 500 million people. These are not inconsiderable gains. They are incredible feats, which have contributed to European peace, stability and economic progress.

The benefits that have been secured through “social” Europe are also substantial to working people and to family life, while Europe’s cohesion in pushing forward a green agenda has been positive in forcing international agreement on climate change. The fact that these are Europe’s achievements does not mean they would disappear overnight if out were to prevail. But they would be placed in doubt.

And so to the elephant in the room: immigration. I have been waiting for someone in this campaign to declare it a positive rather than a negative. There is not a family in Scotland that does not have relatives scattered to the four corners of the globe, and therefore not a family that does not understand the benefits these Scots have brought to their new homes overseas.

It is time for an argument that presents immigration and immigrants as a good thing. Of course, it is harder to be prejudiced when immigration has a human face. Right now, there is a young Australian family from Dingwall that offers a case in point. The Brains were attracted to Scotland by the fresh talent initiative, a policy designed to repopulate the Highlands and tackle Scotland’s ageing population.

Now, after investing their life savings and five years of their lives in Scotland, Gregg, Kathryn and their young son, Gaelic-speaking Lachlan, face being flung out of the country by the UK government’s narrow obsession with immigration statistics. Virtually everybody in Scotland wants them to be allowed to stay.

Thankfully, the EU debate in Scotland has been largely free of the overblown rhetoric emanating from the south. That rational discussion has been greatly assisted by Ukip being dusted off yet again by the Scottish electorate in the recent elections.The SNP will present the case for Europe steadily and positively and will also make it clear that it would be unacceptable for Scotland to be dragged out of Europe against the will of the people.

The world is full of rich irony and unintended consequences. In the Scottish referendum of 2014, the prime minister asserted that a vote for independence would jeopardise Scotland’s place in Europe. Two years on, and with four weeks to go in another referendum, it may be that only a vote for Scottish independence can secure it.


Tuesday

I told the Press & Journal that the EU referendum lacked the energy of that which decided Scottish independence  - which has come very much at the cost of the debate. 

In the commons, I made a speech on the issue, and reminded the house of the Brain family from Dingwall. The case to allow them to remain cannot be ignored. 

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Wednesday 

This week on LBC, Ian Dale and I discussed Tony Blair in light of his comments that the threat of Daesh required a 'proper ground war'. Kathryn Brain phoned in to update us on her family's situation, which George Osborne failed to give a comprehensive response to during his cameo standing in for Cameron during Prime Minister's Questions. 


Thursday 

It was wholly encouraging to see MSPs rally together in support of the Brain family today, who announced that the GlenWyvis Distillery near Dingwall - the world’s first community-owned, renewables-powered facility of its kin - made Kathryn an offer of employment. 


Friday 

Enjoyed last night's EU debate at the Briggait in Glasgow - where Alan Johnson MP and I spoke positively for the case to remain, and refused to allow ourselves to be dragged into the scaremongering pontificating of Liam Fox MP and Diane James MEP. 


Saturday 

Today, I was thrilled to open the White Wood in Huntly, and met with Syrian families who have been resettled into communities across Aberdeenshire. 


Sunday 

My former colleague Kevin Pringle penned this poignant column in the Times. An important read with a vital message at its heart. 

 

 

 

 


The Week in Review - Edition 32

Monday 

‘Stop the trade in fear and get rhetoric under control’

“And the referee blows for no side.” Thus the inimitable Bill McLaren used to finish his incomparable international rugby union commentaries.

This is the position we are now in with the European referendum. Neither the Remain nor Out campaigns have inspired any enthusiasm whatsoever. They both trade in fear.

A metaphorical referendum referee would currently be blowing for “no side”. The Remain campaign led by the prime minister is greatly to blame.

We have daily warnings of economic armageddon from a chancellor whose own financial credibility is approaching that of Fred Goodwin, while David Cameron is busy threatening the real armageddon of World War III, unless we do exactly as he says.

However, not to be outdone in the silly stakes, the other side has “Bullingdon" Boris comparing the European Union to Hitler's attempted takeover of Europe while the Out campaign daily misrepresent and scaremonger over immigration statistics.

I cannot understand why the quitters want to keep Nigel Farage off the telly. He looks positively moderate in comparison with the foaming at the mouth of the official Out campaign.

It is almost as if “Project Fear" from the Scottish independence referendum had been split in two to make up both sides of the Euro poll.

Thus far this has made for a depressing referendum with an increasingly exasperated electorate trying to make sense of the overblown rhetoric. My view is the Remain campaign has most to lose from this campaign nihilism. By any logic the pro-Europeans should be a mile ahead. The Out campaign has totally failed to offer a coherent vision of what life would be like outside the European structure.

Would we be like Switzerland and Norway with a sweetheart trade deal, but as a result forced to still accept European regulations – or would the UK attempt to be a sort of mid-Atlantic Singapore, trading freely with the world? Either way of course there would be problems.

What gets eurosceptics out of bed in the morning is precisely getting shot of the sort of regulations that European Free Trade Area countries such as Norway and Switzerland accept.

Meanwhile, Singapore is successful precisely because it is a small country within a large Asian trade area called ASEAN, not a big country like the UK outside one.

However, the fact the Out campaign cannot agree on which vision of the future they prefer speaks volumes for their lack of coherence. Despite this, the two sides are still basically neck-and neck in the opinion polls, at least in England.

That would suggest something is badly misfiring in the Remain camp and instead of just demoralising the Outers the Cameron tactics are dispiriting the Remain campaign as well.

An alternative approach to the pro-Europe campaign would run something like this:
Remain are entitled to specify the achievements of Europe since its foundation some 66 years ago.

After all, the co-operation of 28 countries and a single market of 500 million people are not inconsiderable gains and ones which have contributed to peace, stability and economic progress.

The benefits that have been secured through the social Europe are also substantial to working people and to family life while Europe's cohesion in pushing forward a green agenda has been positive in forcing international agreement on climate change.

The fact that these are Europe's achievements does not mean that they would disappear overnight if Out were to prevail. But at the very least they would be placed in some doubt.

It is a similar story with the downsides of the European Union.

Remain should acknowledge that the Common Fisheries Policy has been dysfunctional and the Common Agricultural Policy inefficient.

However, against this, it should be remembered that it was a UK civil servant, not a Brussels eurocrat, who once declared Scottish fisherman to be “expendable", while leading Out campaigner Owen Paterson as agriculture secretary wanted to do away with farm support altogether.

All of this brings us back to the elephant in the room of immigration. I have been waiting for someone in this campaign to declare it a positive rather than a negative.

There is not a family in Scotland which does not have relatives scattered to the four corners of the globe and therefore not a family which does not understand the benefits that these Scots have brought to their new homes overseas.

Recently Donald Trump added his voice to those of the Brexiteers. One of his many promises in his campaign has been not just to erect a physical wall between the US and Mexico but also a tariff wall of 40% between the US and the rest of the world. Now if the appalling prospect were to come to pass, and “The Donald” enters the White House, under what basis would you rather negotiate the new trade deal – with the 500 million market of the EU or the 60 million of the UK?

Opinion in Scotland runs nearly two to one for Remain. Our own debate on both sides is largely free of the overblown rhetoric from the south, while Ukip have been dusted off yet again by the Scottish electorate. There should be an unwavering resolve to present the case for Europe steadily and positively.

The world is full of rich irony and unintended consequences.

In 2014 the prime minister claimed that a vote for independence would jeopardise Scotland's place in Europe.

Two years on, and with five weeks to go in another knife-edge referendum, he has created the circumstances where it could be only a vote for independence would secure it.


Tuesday 

Today, I was immensely proud to see Nicola Sturgeon re-elected as First Minister of Scotland. In London, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP, Angus Brendan Mcneil MP and Stuart McDonald MP met with Nordic Ambassadors. As always, it was a pleasure to meet with our neighbours from the North. 


Wednesday

Today, during my phone-in on LBC with Ian Dale. I received a phone call from Gregg Brain, an Australian who migrated to Scotland with his wife Kathryn and young son Lachlan. Despite being active, positive members of their community in Dingwall, a Home Office ruling has left them facing deportation. The fact that wee Lachlan's first language is Gaelic only adds to the gross injustice of this situation. I will do everything I can to help their cause. 


Thursday 

I asked Theresa May to issue a statement on the plight of the Brain family, from Dingwall. 


Friday 

I was thoroughly disappointed at the decision of Muirfield Golf Club. This is not a good way to promote one of Scotland's greatest inventions. 


Saturday 

Spoke at the SNP National Council about the need to maintain a positive EU Referendum campaign, and picked up the first of the season's asparagus on the way home. 


Sunday 

I penned this piece for the Guardian on Europe, and watched Hibs end a 114-year wait for Scottish Cup glory. Well done to them. 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 31

Monday 

I was in Brussels at the European Policy Centre today to make the case for a more positive, united European Union. I also managed to solve a mystery which had been puzzling my constituents and I in Aberdeenshire for quite some time... 

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Tuesday

I was in London at Westminster, before an evening of TV interviews to discuss Chilcot, the EU referendum and more. 


Wednesday 

I appeared on Good Morning Britain to talk to Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan about Chilcott, before heading back to parliament. Then, it was time for LBC once again. Later, I had the immense pleasure of meeting with the President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont. 


Thursday

Yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister to give Scottish fishing the priority it deserves. The Scottish Parliament was full of new faces too, including a new Presiding Officer. I have no doubt that interesting times lie ahead for all. 


Friday 

I am still elated by Gillian Martin's election success here in Aberdeenshire East. She'll have enjoyed a tremendously exciting week being sworn in at the Scottish Parliament and meeting with all 62 her new colleagues. 


Saturday 

I read this article about my friend and colleague colleague Dennis Robertson with pride. He was a great colleague and I wish him all the very best. 


Sunday 

Showed my support for Teenage Cancer Trust's Blue CM Campaign. Also enjoyed this article by Kevin Pringle on the rich cocktail of culture that makes Scotland - with a little help from the Proclaimers. 


The Week in Review - Edition 30

Monday 

I awoke this morning very much looking forward to a week of campaigning ahead. The election is just around the corner, and I headed to Glasgow Provan to help out with Ivan McKee's campaign.


Tuesday

I appeared on RTÉ to reminisce and discuss how to build a minority government that lasts. Also enjoyed reading about the SNP's plans to look after the North East. 


Wednesday

It was the calm before the storm in Scotland, and I nipped down to London to join Ian Dale for my LBC phone-in. I then explained that I'm #SNPbecause... 


Thursday

The big day had arrived - it was time to vote. I wished Gillian Martin all the best in Strichen, placed my own vote and toured polling stations across Aberdeenshire. 


Friday

It was a long day and night for all involved, but what a fantastic result. Congratulations to everyone who took part in another phenomenal SNP victory. It was a special moment to see Gillian Martin take the reins in my old constituency of Aberdeenshire East.


Friday 

I'm sure these two will be feeling the same as the 63 SNP MSPs elected last night - on top of the world. 


Saturday 

Still buoyed by the great SNP success - a Holyrood record no less. I was impressed by each and every campaigner I met along the way. Their determination has been invaluable. 


Sunday

Enjoyed this article written by my former Chief of Staff, Geoff Aberdein. Some wise words. I also managed to solve a local mystery that had been bugging me and my constituents for some time... 

 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 29

Monday 

Hannah’s off to Rio, but there’s more swimming success to be found at home

I was over the moon to read that Hannah Miley has successfully booked her place at the Olympic Games in Rio.

Hannah, whose performances have ensured that Scotland has become known as a home of sensational swimming talent, bagged her first gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Dehli.

She went on to enjoy many successes, but perhaps none so emphatic as the 400m individual medley gold she won in front of the Glasgow 2014 home crowd, followed by a bronze in the 200m individual medley.

Seeing Hannah’s name in the papers is a regular occurrence, and her beaming face which often features in the accompanying picture brings the memories of our wonderful Commonwealth Games flooding back.

But what is it that makes Hannah such a fantastic athlete and ambassador for her home town, Aberdeenshire and Scotland?

Obviously, her dedication in training and preparation is unarguably a major contributing factor, along with the skill and technique she has developed over many years in the water. I recall bumping into Hannah at Aberdeen Airport as she was returning from altitude training in Andorra - Heaven knows what rigours that entailed.

I am certain that Hannah will go on to Rio, which is set to be a show-stopping games, and continue to make us all proud. Here’s hoping it will be third time lucky for her and she’ll return home with a medal.

However, I'm sure that I would be correct in saying much of her success is based on her attitude and personality.

This would have been nurtured and allowed to grow at her local club. Garioch Amateur Swimming Club proudly display the words of Mark Twain as their motto: “Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great”.

And Hannah’s father, GASC Head Coach Patrick Miley, will undoubtedly ensure that his daughter’s successes are repeated by more Aberdeenshire youngsters under his coaching regime. I read that ex-serviceman and triathlete Pat juggled Hannah’s London Olympics preparation with his job as a North Sea helicopter pilot. Before this, he worked with Ian Thorpe and three-times US Olympic gold medallist Brooke Bennett.

The great work that the club does for young swimmers in Aberdeen is evident by their many achievements. Their website achievement page boasts a sprawling list of medals and cups held by tots to teens and beyond.

The club was founded in 1970, and maintained by the hard work of a committed team of locals. It’s a great reflection of the spirit we share in this part of the country. A togetherness and determination which has been personified by Hannah. A more down to earth and indubitably genuine athlete you will not meet.

They say that you are only one swim away from a good mood, and looking ahead to more successes from our local hero Hannah - as well as the future of Scottish swimming being nurtured here in Aberdeenshire - certainly ensures a smile on my face.


Tuesday

I was in London to show my support to junior doctors on strike outside St Thomas' Hospital near Westminster. 


Wednesday 

I appeared on Daily Politics to educate Kenneth Clark with some facts about the Scottish health service. 

David Cameron must rapidly seek to correct his mistakes during PMQs. He should of course have acknowledged that it was the Tory party who removed Scotland's capacity to provide a bidder for the main subcontract on the Forth Crossing by closing the Ravenscraig Steelworks.


Thursday 

As I prepared to appear on BBC Question Time, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of construction worker John Cousins, who was killed in an incident on the Queensferry Crossing. My thoughts are with his family and friends. 


Friday

I made my position on the return of 'project fear' clear on Question Time in Hull. 


Saturday

Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and I were thrilled to open the Hatton Playgroup's new garden today - it was great to see so many happy wee faces. 


Sunday

Enjoyed a fine day of campaigning yesterday. Here's some great snaps as I ventured out with Team Gillian. 

 

 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 28

Monday

At the Council of Europe in Strasbourg today for the first of a few days of meetings and discussions with the international European community. It is always thoroughly interesting to hear so many voices and perspectives in the same place. 


Tuesday 

Today, British Labour, led by Lord Prescott, attempted to block SNP membership to the Socialist group. Thanks to a two thirds majority rule, our membership was denied, but not before a vote of 32 to 29 in favour of our membership. 

The SNP are a progressive party of plurality and social democracy - all of which are key qualifications of membership of the socialist group. Many members of our Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament are in the Socialist Group in the Council of Europe and spoke strongly in our favour today, defying their own Executive who had been blugeoned by Lord Prescott.

We now have the ridiculous decision where the clear majority of the Socialist Group wants to admit us but we have been frozen out by a 66 per cent rule. It shows just how petrified British Labour are by the SNP advance and how totally unable they are to put aside their narrow political bias even to co-operate in Europe.

The decision to deny us membership is disappointing but we are grateful to the majority of the Socialist Group from across Europe who voted in favour of SNP membership and upheld the principles of plurality and social democracy.

However, politically it just makes Labour look silly and desperate. Now, even our European friends are aware of their daft behaviour. They cannot even win an election against the SNP in the Socialist Group. In electoral terms they are going from disaster to disaster.


Wednesday

Yesterday, I spoke in the chamber about the importance of Muslim women playing a central role in the battle against radicalisation. 


Thursday 

I was in Singapore at the Credit Suisse Global Megatrends Conference to talk about wee nations like Scotland, and how they can have a big say on the global stage. Click on the image below to read an interview with FI News Asia. 


Friday 

An early start at Bloomberg where I was live on the air to discuss the EU Referendum, what it could mean for Scottish Independence and of course, the Donald. 


Saturday 

Wished a happy Saint George's day to everyone... Well, almost everyone. 


Sunday 

I was out and about on the campaign trail in Huntly and Insch today with Dennis Robertson and co. East is East and West is West, but a day on the doors reminded me that home is best. 

The Week in Review - Edition 27

Monday 

I attended a meeting with MP for Banff & Buchan, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, at the Muller processing plant at Tullos to discuss the future of dairy farmers in the North East. My SNP colleagues and I will do all we can to help secure a sustainable future for them. 


Tuesday 

I spoke at FCO questions in the House of Commons. Click on the link below to hear my question to Minister for Europe, David Lidington MP. 

Photograph: Parliament TV 

Photograph: Parliament TV 


Wednesday 

I arrived at LBC studios for my phone-in, to find Iain Dale's seat taken by John Stapleton. We sallied forth and fielded calls from the public, which you can catch below. 

 

Thursday

I was back in the Commons once again to ask why the Liberal Democrats were being kept on life support by peerage. Click on the image to watch my exchange with Leader of the Commons, Chris Grayling MP. 

Photograph: Parliament TV 

Photograph: Parliament TV 

Friday 

Earlier this week, I penned this opinion piece on Muller and our dairy farmers here in the North East of Scotland. 

In the North East, there is a lot at stake over Muller’s milk.   

Muller’s decision to close their plant at Tullos leaves North Eastern dairy farmers facing a serious situation.

As it stands, they have two choices.

They can either agree to pay 1.75p per litre of milk transport surcharge to send their milk over hundreds of miles to Muller’s dairy in Bellshill which is about to receive a cash injection of £15m to diversify the products it can produce. 

1.75p per litre may not sound like a lot, but bear in mind that a single cow produces on average over 30 litres every two milkings in a day, and that an average dairy can have over 200 animals. Over 74 million litres of milk are produced here in the North East of Scotland.

It is important to realise that dairy cow milk yield rose from a 1970s average of 3,750 litres per cow per year (that’s 12 litres/21 pints per day) to over 7,445 litres (24.5 litres/42 pints per day) in 2012.

These figures indicate an almost eight per cent (530 litres per cow) increase in the average yield per cow per year just between 2007 and 2012.

There is no escaping the potential implications of these costs.

The other alternative is for them to seek new contracts, leaving them in a position even more uncertain than that which they are currently dealing with.

We have 43 dairy producers in the North East. I met with some of them last week, alongside representatives from the National Farmers Union. The consensus was that Muller’s decision to close their Aberdeen processing plant came as a surprise, and we went on to discuss potential alternatives to bring to Muller.

The following day, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and I met with Muller to discuss the situation at the plant.

They gave their assurances that a consultation period had been decided upon, and that the alternatives would be considered.

This was encouraging, but the fact is that dairy farming in the North East has to have a future. The Aberdeenshire earth is not ideally suited for large scale crop production, and grazing animals are a backbone of agricultural output here.

Of course, the closure of the plant will also affect the 98 workers who are employed there. The milk processing factory, not far from the city centre in Aberdeen, requires investment, but it is the only facility close to the North East farmers who send milk to Muller, and the majority of them do.

Imagine, then, that these farms will fill trucks with their milk, which will then undergo a round trip to Bellshill and back to Aberdeenshire before reaching shop chillers and then the cornflakes and cups of tea of local people here.

If there is an alternative to this, it is vital that we do all we can to identify it. That is exactly why I and my SNP colleagues have approached discussions concerning this situation with a pro-active attitude and open minds.

In the North East, there is a lot at stake over Muller’s milk.    


Saturday

Joined my neighbours for the Strichen Gala Fundraiser, where the soup and sweets went down a treat. Great to have Gillian Martin there with us.


Sunday

One of the best things about campaignıng are the people that you meet on the doors, a statement that I'm sure Gillian Martın will agree with!

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 26

Monday 

 

The lesson of Welsh steel

Last week the Tory Government was caught like a rabbit in the headlights of public opinion when faced with the prospect of thousands of steel job losses.

The Business Secretary was in Australia on a trade promotion that turned out to also be an extended holiday. The Prime Minister was in Lanzarote. The junior minister, left minding the shop, said that “nothing had been ruled out”, foolishly raising false hopes of real Government intervention.

These were soon dashed by Sajid Javid ruling out public ownership, even for an interim period. Unfortunately he had next to no idea what to rule in.

And this weekend he screeched into a double U-turn and said temporary public ownership was possible if not likely. All this Tory confusion points to some deep lessons.

Firstly, presiding over the end of the Welsh steel industry will be a mark of Cain for the Tories just as it was for them in Scotland when Ravenscraig was closed in the early 1990s. It will haunt them not just with steelworkers but with all those deeply uncomfortable with the idea that you can run the economy without actually making anything tangible and that industrial communities are therefore expendable.

That is a view not just confined to left wingers. It was Winston Churchill who once warned of the dangers of “making finance too proud and industry too poor”. We are now in that position in a deflationary spiral with just about every resource-led industry, whether it be farming, oil or steel, in deep trouble.

George Osborne has been accused kowtowing to the Chinese but the real criticism should be not his pursuit of the relationship but rather what the Chancellor’s key objectives have been.

Osborne’s aim has not been a productive industrial partnership but rather Chinese financial institutions parked in the city of London and Chinese gold for nuclear power.

That is the explanation for the bizarre wrecking role that the UK has played in European initiatives. Instead of joining in the emergency measures to counter the dumping of steel the UK Government led the opposition and now the UK steel industry is being hoist on the Osborne petard.

Secondly, those who suggest that “there is no alternative” or “nothing can be done” are just examples of politicians born without imagination. In international terms the British steel industry is tiny. China has produced more steel in the last two years then the UK in the last century.

However, much of the domestic output is of high quality and specialist steels. There are still markets to be won with the right product mix but the disadvantage of sky high energy prices – relative not just to the Chinese but compared to just about every competitor – has to be addressed as does the steel pension fund black hole.

This could be achieved by having a supported program of on site renewable energy plants for heavy energy users and by parking the steel pension liability with a Government guarantee, as was done for the Royal Mail a few years back.

All of that would cost money but it would be a more sensible use of public funds than pouring £170 billion of lifetime costs down the Hinkley Point nuclear black hole or paying for a lifetime’s unemployment for redundant steel workers.

That brings us to the third point which is the contrast between the won’t do inaction of the Westminster Government and the can do approach of the Scottish Government.

When faced with closures in Clydebridge and Dalzell, the Scottish Government convened a taskforce, bought the assets from Tata and then sold them on to the international metals group Liberty House, which is at the forefront of the “green” steel initiative whereby recycled materials are used as the key raw material.

The initiative may or may not be wholly successful, although the early indications are very positive. However, at least it is an example of doing something and not sitting back.

At the end of the day it boils down to what kind of country we want to be. There is one future for Scotland which sees us as a regional outpost of the UK rentier state with its vast disparities of wealth and power both socially and regionally.

This is a deeply imbalanced system which is heading for the social and economic sands.

Alternatively we can marshall the natural and human resources of this country, mobilise its intellectual capital and international reputation to build an outgoing European democracy.

That is a future worth having and is the real lesson that the crisis of Welsh steel has for Scotland.


Tuesday

I'm in Toronto today, and very chilly it is too! They've had a freak overnight snowfall, one of the highest in many years. Today, I met with Donna Wolff and her husband David, who own the Caledonian bar. Donna is a Huntly quine no less, and the Caledonian stocks an excellent selection of amber bead from the North East. It was lovely to meet them, and enjoy a wee slice of home in Canada. 

I then sat next to the roaring log fire in the Caledonian for an interview with Susan Delacourt from the Toronto Star. 


Wednesday 

In New York today. Here's a look at my interview on Canada's CBC news, where I discussed the Donald and why the thought of his finger on the nuclear button is such an alarming prospect. I also talked independence with Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC Radio. 


Thursday 

Enjoyed a wonderful performance by the National Theatre of Scotland with The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. It was a zany, witty and superbly chaotic play, contained by brilliant performances from the cast. Looking around the audience (some of whom became more involved in the play than they imagined they would, I'm sure) it was great to see so many smiles. To anyone who has seen it, don't forget: There's only one Colin Syme! 


Friday 

Enjoyed a great night of discussion hosted by the Hudson Union Society in Manhattan. KT Mcfarland and I discussed many things, and it was a delight to field questions from an enlightened and knowledgeable audience comprised of people from across the globe. 


Saturday 

A look back at my video for the P&J, where I ask if Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have more in common than their haircuts.


Sunday 

It was great to get out and about in my home town of Strichen today, and I began by meeting with representatives of the NFUS and dairy farmers to discuss the closure of the Muller factory at Tullos, a serious issue.

I then said hello to the Buchan Bird Society, who have become a really positive community group and Senga Buntrock who is running the London marathon in aid of the British Lung Foundation. 

I then ventured out with Gillian Martin and her team on a canvass session in my home town of Strichen, and all before lunch too!

It was a late finish on Sunday with the absolutely thrilling conclusion to the Masters. Well done to that man Danny Willett. He must have ice in his veins. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 25

Monday 

A terrible beauty is born

Yesterday’s impressive parades in Dublin signal the start of a month of commemorations across Ireland to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising of 1916.

The range of dates arises from the late Easter of a century ago, with the Rising itself taking place on Monday April 24. On that day groups of volunteers from a number of organisations, numbering in total less than 1,000, seized the General Post Office and other buildings in Dublin.

A proclamation declaring an Irish Republic was read out by Padraig Pearse at four minutes past noon on that Easter Monday. The ranks of the volunteers swelled a bit over the next few days as they stubbornly defended these buildings. However, they were soon facing overwhelming odds with British Army reinforcements and an unconditional surrender was accordingly agreed the following weekend.

At this point the British authorities embarked on the first of a number of disastrous blunders by summarily court marshalling and executing 15 rebel leaders, including all seven signatories to the Irish Proclamation including Pearse and the Edinburgh-born socialist leader James Connolly.

In the general election of 1918 the abstentionist Sinn Fein, who had inherited leadership of the Irish movement, swept aside the moderate Irish Party and won a comprehensive victory. Even then the British state refused to realise that the game was finally up and from there followed the guerilla war of independence, the peace treaty and then the foundation of the free state and partition in 1922.

It, therefore, came to pass that the bloody history of England and Ireland, dating back to the 12th Century, and the century of troubles since, had as their ultimate turning point a haphazard armed insurrection from a handful of volunteers with no great public support which was put down within six days.

These events should certainly be commemorated. Indeed, given that in 2011 the Queen no less paid personal tribute to those who died fighting to free Ireland by laying a wreath in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance, it should not really be a matter of serious debate.

Commemorating a century-old Rising which led to the foundation of a state is less controversial than any attempt to justify or glorify more recent violence. To some extent that is a matter of the passage of time but there is also a much more powerful and compelling reason.

In recent times there has been a clear ballot box opportunity on offer to both those who wished to change (and those who wished to maintain) the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and therefore no legitimate excuse for anything other than peaceful action.

In contrast, while the rebels of 1916 had no popular mandate for their actions, it can be argued that for much of the previous century England had the full opportunity to react appropriately to the parliamentary and impeccably constitutionalist tradition of leaders such as Parnell and Redmond. Westminster singularly failed to do so.

Michael D Higgins, the intensely likeable and erudite president of Ireland, in supporting the commemoration programme, has elegantly argued that Irish history must be contextualised and no longer subject to some kind of collective amnesia. However, what he has in mind is not the danger of any reopening of the old bitterness between England and Ireland but rather the more recent wounds of north and south.

It is possible, of course, that people of violence attempt to hijack this moment of commemoration to continue their bloody vendettas. However, a nation must be able to stare down its history as it moves into the future.

And it should be said that the debate around the Rising has involved some lively historical revisionism which has stressed the role of feminists, expatriates and revolutionaries far more than the more orthodox histories.

It is also one which has openly challenged the legitimacy of the armed rebellion. All that is to the good. In a century, Ireland has moved from downtrodden, imperial colony to modern European nation, from a democratic theocracy to a country which embraced single-sex marriage in a national referendum, from a romantic land which wallows in blood and failure to a cosmopolitan state which celebrates national success and achievement.

For all of these reasons it is proper, honourable and entirely right to commemorate Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising.


Tuesday 

Writing this just as the credits on Scotland Debates roll. Another muddled performance from Labour, who clearly have no plan for themselves, never mind for Scotland. I wasn't surprised in the slightest by Ruth Davidson's agenda to charge Scots for everything from education to paracetamol. I tweeted the solution to making sure they continue to carp from the sidelines: "#BothVotesSNP". 


Wednesday 

I was live on LBC once more, where Iain Dale and I discussed Boris' performance in front of the Treasury Select Committee. Click the image below to hear a snippet from the show. 


Thursday 

A sad day today, with the passing of Ronnie Corbett. The tiny titan of British comedy, had impeccable timing, razor wit and the cheeky charm quite unique to Scots. He bid the world a final 'goodbye from him', and he will be missed by those who love to laugh the world over. 


Friday 

My former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein wrote this interesting article published in the Holyrood Magazine from the other day about the upcoming election. 


Saturday 

On Tuesday night, Scotland put in a dogged performance at a slippery Hampden to down Denmark in a patchy, yet entertaining friendly. I caught highlights of the game, and was glad to see Gordon Strachan's men pick up the win. 


Sunday 

I appeared on Sky News with Dermot Murnaghan to speak about the deal between the EU and Turkey which would see thousands of refugees deported from camps in Greece back to Turkish shores. 

 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 24

Monday

 

All political lives end in failure.

If Enoch Powell’s dictum holds true then Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation letter spells double-barrelled trouble for David Cameron.

The self-styled “quiet man” turned up the volume spectacularly on Friday night with an Exocet missile aimed at the midships of the Tory Government.

And IDS scored a direct hit. When a Prime Minister is reduced to saying he is “puzzled” and “disappointed” by a resignation, you know he is in deep doodoo. When he then organises a junior minister to get torn into her former boss, you know the wounds are cutting deep.

Then when he launches a private “four-letter-word tirade” at the recalcitrant minister for insisting on resignation, you know full-scale civil war is well and truly under way.

However, the real Duncan Smith target was not the Prime Minister but the chancellor, George Osborne – not the sheriff but the deputy.

The background is clear enough. A few weeks ago, in that backroom coven where the Tory wizards cook up their pernicious policies, they decided that the pain of Osborne’s missed economic targets had to be targeted on someone. And so they decided to cast their dastardly spell in the direction of disabled people by making thousands of pounds of their benefit money under the new personal independent payments simply disappear.

IDS “went along” with this unpleasant madness, just as he has swallowed everything else the Chancellor has forced down his throat over the last six years. His social security brief has taken by far the biggest hits from austerity. The policy was duly announced but then disability groups started to build up a head of outraged steam, mobilising the opposition and targeting some fretting Tory backbenchers.

Then Duncan Smith turned up at the pre-Budget Cabinet last Wednesday morning to find out a big tax cut was to be handed out to the top 15% of taxpayers and juxtaposed with the disability payments cuts. This meant it would be extraordinarily difficult to maintain the argument that there was no alternative to further disability cuts in a Budget which included rich people getting a hefty tax cut.

As the Budget went down badly, the Downing Street neighbours, Prime Minister and Chancellor, started to panic and rumours spread of a climbdown in the offing. Duncan Smith, the leading Eurosceptic in the Cabinet, was being lined up to take the rap and look like the pantomime villain into the bargain. Making the rich richer while disabled people are more disadvantaged is not a legacy any minister would want to have hanging around his neck.

Quite incredibly and totally ineptly, Labour at Westminster lined up to back the top pay tax cut, taking the political pressure momentarily off the Chancellor. But Duncan Smith saw the political trap being set for him and had had more than enough. His departure means the Prime Minister has lost the high moral ground on welfare cuts to Duncan Smith, the high priest of the “bedroom tax”, and that is intensely damaging. The IDS resignation letter is a masterpiece flinging back in the face of the Prime Minister the Chancellor’s favourite incantation that “we are all in this together”.

Some political resignations get quickly lost in the fog of politics and are soon forgotten. Others, like those of Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine of bygone Tory generations, have a big impact because they come at a time of a political changing of the guard.

I’m betting that the departure of IDS is one of the latter. The poison pen in the letter from Duncan Smith is the issue of Europe. Out of the Cabinet, he is now free to campaign full square against the Prime Minister in the upcoming EU poll.

Furthermore, Tory backbenchers, who up until now have been held in line by the seeming inevitability of Osborne’s succession into the top job, are looking at a political landscape where the Chancellor’s stock is falling faster than the Chinese stock market. He has gone from cock of the walk to “unfit for office” with no intervening period whatsoever.

All of which spells big problems for the Prime Minister. The European referendum campaign is not going at all well. Even Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has managed to draw level in the English polls, while Boris Johnson is swimming around the body politic like a giant shark waiting for the blood to be spilled in the water.

If the Euro referendum is won, which is still the most likely outcome, Cameron will hand over a deeply divided and fractious party which will probably elect a Eurosceptic as his successor. If it is lost then he will be packing up his bags by the autumn.

There are no glad, confident mornings left for Cameron and for the Tories the party is almost over.


Tuesday 

Today's events in Brussels have touched us all. Situations like this must be tackled with level-headedness, patience and unwavering solidarity with our friends and neighbours in the international community. I cannot imagine what those directly affected will be going through, but I offer my deepest condolences to them. To the people of Belgium, Scotland stands with you. 


Wednesday 

It was time to say hello to my chum Ian Dale once more down at LBC, and we discussed The Donald's interview with Piers Morgan, why George Osborne should resign and how best to deal with the threat of Daesh. 


Thursday 

Today, I bid farewell to friends and colleagues at the Scottish Parliament, and said goodbye to the place (for now, of course). I wrote a message in the parliament's book of condolences for those affected by the attacks in Brussels - a tragic and horrific event.

Today the world said goodbye to one of the greatest footballers in history with the premature death of Johan Cruyff. The Dutchman was a legend.


Friday 

It was a great night last night in Dumfries for Joan McAlpine MSP's Adoption night. Here are some photos below. 

And what a game last night! Ikechi Anya swooping in to sink the Czech Republic in Prague. Super stuff.  


Saturday 

I penned, or should I say, typed, an opinion piece for the last ever print edition of the Independent on why it is important that journalists trust readers to make their own minds up about the issues that affect them.

Had a blast last night at Angus MacDonald's adoption ceilidh in Bo'Ness! 

The moment I was officially adopted by acclaim last night as the SNP candidate for Falkirk East, being congratulated by former First Minister Alex Salmond

Posted by Angus MacDonald for Falkirk East on Saturday, 26 March 2016

Sunday 

Today I wished A' Chàisg sona (that's happy Easter in Gaelic) to one and all. I hope that everyone celebrating the day enjoyed it surrounded by family and friends. 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 23

Monday 

A lesson from history

Someone asked me last week what had football to do with the Scottish constitutional debate.

He was referring to the release of the so-called GERS figures. These actually stand for Government Expenditure and Revenue for Scotland and not the nickname of a well known Glasgow football club.

But there is a lesson from history that links both types of Gers. A few years after the Second World War, Winston Churchill, then opposition leader, held a major rally at Ibrox Stadium.

In the 1930s George Dangerfield wrote a seminal political book entitled The Strange Death of Liberal England. From the post-war period to now, from Churchill to Cameron, we have been witnessing the strange death of unionist Scotland. This is why, at Ibrox, Churchill was speaking to the unionist audience of Scotland, but it was the manner in which he addressed the crowd that was really interesting.

His tone was highly respectful of Scottish sensitivities. Churchill declared that Scotland should never be subjected to what he described as the “serfdom of socialism” imposed by English votes, that it was “offensive” to Scottish independence and national pride and that an incoming Conservative government would arrange for further devolution of powers from Whitehall to the Scottish Secretary to enable more decisions to be taken in Scotland.

At that time the Tories were capable of taking up to half of the vote in Scotland. It would never have even occurred to Churchill to rejoice in the country’s challenges or to suggest for a single moment that Scotland was somehow incapable of standing on its own two feet.

Contrast that with today’s apology for Scottish unionism. They respond with Pavlovian glee to anything that causes Scotland’s difficulties. They treat the current low oil price as if it is a good thing because it can be used as a weapon against Scottish independence with scant regard to the job losses that result. They think nothing of telling people that an independent Scotland would be an economic basket case. And then they wonder why it can be that it is the SNP that attracts more support than all the unionist parties combined.

Their reaction to the GERS provides a case in point. They pretend that this analysis suggests a £15 billion subsidy from London to Scotland. It doesn’t. They suggest that it tells you about the finances of an independent Scotland. It doesn’t do that, either.

The first claim conveniently ignores the annual £90 billion of UK borrowing or that for no less than 43 of the last 50 years the UK as a whole has run a budget deficit. The extent to which in any year there is a transfer north to south or south to north depends on whether oil prices are high or low. Over the last 10 years they have just about evened each other out. In terms of the current budget balance, in the 10 years from 2004/5 the GERS figures show a Scottish deficit of 3.4% of the total economy compared to a slightly worse UK figure of 3.5%.

More interesting is why the GERS figures tell you little about the finances of an independent Scotland. On one level that is because spending decisions would be different. To take some topical examples, Scotland would not be spending £170 billion building a new generation of weapons of mass destruction or a similar mind-boggling sum on new nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point. Within the UK, our share of these gigantic white elephants count towards GERS spending.

However, it is on another level where things are even more interesting and gets to the truth of what is going on.

The GERS figures are a static analysis. They show what has happened to Scottish finances within the union. They don’t tell you what would have happened if Scotland had been sitting right now on a historic massive oil fund, like Norway, or what could happen if Scotland were to deploy different economic policies in the future.

For example, if an independent Scotland could raise the rate of economic growth it would quickly overcome any initial deficit that Scotland inherited. The opposite is also true. Therefore the key judgment that should be made is whether control from Scotland or London is likely to produce policies tailored to Scotland’s economic circumstances.

The common sense of the remarks of former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King in his new book, The End of Alchemy, was little commented on by the Scottish press last week. In the book Mr King turns his perceptive eye to the Scottish referendum. Accusing the No campaign of being “misleading” in their suggestion that the use of sterling would have presented any serious difficulty, he goes on to say: “To admit that there was a simple and straightforward answer to the currency question would have undermined its argument that independence would be an economic disaster. That proposition was always implausible. There are many small successful countries in the world and there is no reason why Scotland could not have joined them.”

If a former governor of the Bank of England, like Churchill all these years ago, is prepared to state that clear and obvious point, why do Scottish Tory and Labour politicians believe they can find success in constantly running their country down?


Tuesday

Today, it was announced that Jackie Kay would become our third Scots Makar. Jackie is a tremendous poet, and will be an excellent ambassador for Scottish poetry. I thank her predecessor, Liz Lochead, for her tenure. 


Wednesday

Today, I made my final speech in the Scottish Parliament. You can watch it in the video box below, from just before 58 minutes in. 


Thursday 

It was a day of celebration for the people of Ireland, and I'm sure St Patrick was toasted by many Scots too. Our Celtic cousins from across the water were in fine fettle at Cheltenham, running in six winners for Saint Paddy - a remarkable feat. 

It was a sad day too however, with the passing of Paul Daniels. He was a feature on our TV screens for many years, and will be sorely missed.

Saw STV's Colin Mackay with a selfie stick in Holyrood, and couldn't resist popping over to say hello. 


Friday

I sat down to chat Europe with Bella Caledonia. Hear what I had to say in the link below. 


Saturday 

With the Six Nations already in the bag for England even before they headed to Paris (thanks to our heroic win over France, remember) Wales, Italy, Ireland and Scotland faced off in the final round of the tournament. 

In the end, we lost to a determined Irish outfit, but Scotland have shown a confidence and a cutting edge I haven't seen for many years. I recall the great Welsh sides of the 1970s: JPR Williams, Gareth Edwards, Phill Bennet and co. They won not only through class and guile, but also keeping their heads when the chips were down. I think this current crop of Scots have started to do just that, and we will see big things from them. 

 


Sunday 

I went canvassing with Gillian Martin, the SNP MSP Candidate for Aberdeenshire East. It was great to get out and about with her, and we were joined by MSP for Aberdeen Donside Mark McDonald, Minister for Sport Jamie Hepburn MSP and a team of excellent volunteers and activists. I'm sure you can spot who was selected best dressed on the day! 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week in Review - Edition 22

Monday 

I met three bright young women from Irvine in Ayrshire last week.

They were students at the local academy and were spending the day shadowing the parliamentary office of my colleague, Philippa Whitford MP. They qualified for the opportunity by writing essays about International Women’s Day.

Encouragingly, they told me that their studies had not only made them more aware of the many issues around gender equality but also much more interested in potential careers in public service.

International Women’s Day is tomorrow. It celebrates the achievements of women across all of the fields of human endeavor. In addition, this year carries a theme of gathering pledges from influence leaders , as well as ordinary citizens the world over, detailing what they will personally do to accelerate the timescale for achieving gender parity.

It has been estimated that, at the current rate of progress, totally ending pay and economic disparity will take some 117 years! The aim of these pledges is to accelerate that timescale.

Using the full range of social media options now available, the campaign is likely to have a big impact. I have pledged to promote gender parity in leadership positions, as indeed have many (mostly male) opinion leaders from across politics and industry. Anyone can take part online at #PledgeForParity.

The first recorded Women’s Day was held on February 28 1909 in New York and was organised by American socialists in remembrance of a celebrated garment workers’ strike. By the following year the movement had spread to Europe and the second Socialist International in Denmark proposed the establishment of an annual International Women’s Day.

The 100 delegates from 17 countries agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights and, specifically, the vote for women. They also protested against employment sex discrimination.

Although there were some women-led strikes, marches, and other protests in the next few years, none of them took place on March 8.

However, in 1914 International Women’s Day was held for the first time on that day, possibly because it happened to fall on a Sunday, when it was easier to get a turnout at rallies. Now it is the chosen day in all countries.

In London in 1914 there was a protest march from Bow to Trafalgar Square. Renowned suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.

In 1917 in Russia International Women’s Day became a revolutionary instrument when women went on strike for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end of the First World War, an end to food shortages, and the fall of the czar.

Leon Trotsky later wrote: “We did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike... all went out into the streets.”

From its official adoption in Russia following the Soviet Revolution, International Women’s Day was predominantly celebrated in communist and socialist countries. In the west International Women’s Day wasn’t generally observed as a popular event until after 1977, when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.

Over this century of celebration and agitation women have made giant strides. The pay gap remains stubbornly wide but most advanced countries have embraced, at least in principle, the cause of gender equality. The vast majority of world leaders are still men but Scotland has a hugely successful young woman leader and it is more than likely that before this year is out a woman shall be chosen to lead the most powerful country on earth.

Not all societies have made this rate of progress. In many countries women still play a subservient role. Indeed, female physical mutilation is still a depressing factor in some societies. In warzones women and children are the key casualties of conflict, and yet there is a growing awareness that the influence of women may also hold the key to peace.

As the movement for further change across all countries is clear, the ambition for equality, while yet unfulfilled, burns ever more strongly. This will be demonstrated once again tomorrow and let us be the generation which makes it happen.


Tuesday 

International Women's day is a poignant date on the world's calendar. It is a day to celebrate the many achievements of women, but also to remember that there is still work to be done in securing their equality in the workplace and beyond. Barnardo's Scotland introduced me to this wee guy who was helping to promote their Five to Thrive campaign which is tackling inequality across the country. 


Wednesday

I headed down to LBC studios to see my chum Ian Dale and field more questions from the public. You can have a watch on the link below. 


Thursday 

Was in Scottish Parliament before heading over to STV Studios in Fountainbridge to speak to Colin Mackay on Scotland Tonight. 


Friday 

I was in Glenrothes to speak at SNP candidate Jenny Gilruth's adoption night. It was a full house, with Charlie Reid of the Proclaimers in attendance too. It was a pleasure to see Mr Jim Brown too, purveyor of the best black bun in Fife! 


Saturday 

I began the day at Dalnottar Cemetary, with a service commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Clydebank Blitz. It was a great tragedy, which should never be forgotten. Afterwards, I attended the SNP Spring Conference at the SECC, and was thrilled to see so many of our supporters and colleagues there. 


Sunday 

I attended the Portsoy Bothy Book festival, a well attended event. And, whilst Scotland's rugby team achieved glory at Murrayfield with a stunning win against France and Ross County fought to a well-earned League cup trophy, this was a day marked by moments of silence. 

It has been 20 years since the Dunblane tragedy. We will remember them, always. 

IMG_0691.JPG



The Week in Review - Edition 21

Monday 

Scottish Six could restore BBC’s hopelessly compromised reputation

For the third time in recent years the possibility of a BBC Six o’clock news, properly edited and run from Scotland, has become itself headline news.

Let us hope it is third time lucky. The last few years have not been happy ones for the reputation of the BBC in Scotland. Our national broadcaster has lost the confidence of a significant part of the Scottish population.

In the independence referendum, the greatest broadcasting reputation in the world was hopelessly compromised.

But the BBC in Scotland is not just guilty of sustained bias against the national cause. More generally, the news-gathering ability of the organisation here has been hollowed out, its staff morale devastated by repeated rounds of cuts under the departed head of news, John Boothman, and its somnolent director, Ken MacQuarrie.

It may seem strange that, given I hold these views, I still back the idea that this time the concept of a Scottish Six shouldn’t end up on the cutting room floor. After all, would it not be those same journalists with that same track record who would be in charge of the new programme?

The answer is that I clearly have more faith in the ability of people, if properly resourced, to rise to the occasion than do their own employers in the higher echelons of the BBC.

The concept of Scottish Six should not be merely an enlarged version of the deeply depressing Reporting Scotland. It is not an attempt to “put a kilt on” London and international news. What it should be is a complete news programme produced from Scotland, which looks at local, national, UK and European and international news through a Scottish lense.

Now we no longer have the lumpen mass of the parliamentary Scottish Labour Party as an obstacles to progress the concept has been revived and proposed very skilfully by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop. In broadcasting technology terms, the case is now unanswerable.

Modern digital presentation makes it possible to edit the very best of quality news from wherever it comes from, but offering that crucial Scottish perspective.

It will create jobs and opportunity for journalists to pursue serious programming on current affairs. It will become the anchor of television journalism from Scotland.

If it goes ahead, it will dwarf the viewing figures for the London Six, which will still be available through the digital platforms.

However, it has to be done properly and not on the cheap. It should not be operated from a split site of Scotland and London, as the BBC top brass, rather absurdly, favour at present. It has to be done in the spirit that if you offer people the ability to make a serious programme, they will respond as serious journalists.

So could it be third time lucky. If so it could potentially mark the start of the march back to a new relationship between the BBC and much of the Scottish people.

Or, on the other hand, a very positive idea could be sabotaged yet again.


Tuesday 

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus iawn! I celebrated St David's Day down in Westminster, and was joined by The Guardian's joint political editors, Anushka Asthana and Heather Stewart. 


Wednesday 

I led Britain's conversation once again, with a little help from LBC co-host Ian Dale too. This week, we discussed, among other things, The Donald's Super Tuesday win and what could come next in the race to the White House. Later, I went to support SNP's calls for fairer tax deals for Malawi. 


Thursday 

I headed back up to Edinburgh, and on to to Alison Dickie's Edinburgh Central Adoption Night. I'm sure Alison will be raring to get her campaign started! 


Friday 

In Irvine today to help the good Dr, and now MP Philippa Whitford open her new office. Following that, I popped up to Dunblane to speak at the Action Man Keith Brown MSP's Adoption Night. 


Saturday

Watched the dynamic-duo that is the Murray brothers take on Japan in the Davis Cup. They don't call Andy 'the man of steel' for nothing, and he and Jamie put on a superb show of Scottish tennis skill to pull of a great win.  


Sunday

Earlier in the week, I spoke to The House Magazine about the SNP's discussions with Iran's stance towards capital punishment, a massive step towards what would be an extremely positive result for international relations with Iran. 

The Week in Review - Edition 20

Monday 

David Cameron is all at sea on EU referendum

Winston Churchill once said that if asked to choose between Europe and the sea then he would choose the sea.

David Cameron’s policy on Europe, in contrast, can at best be described as all at sea. The grand design he brought back from Brussels does not stand up to serious examination. On that point at least, the Euro-sceptics are right.

There cannot be a guarantee of any European Treaty change, just a promise that it will be addressed at some time in the future.

The commitment in favour of competitiveness is about as meaningful as a pledge against sin. Euro countries are not plotting to oppress non-Euro countries, therefore such a “non-aggression” guarantee seems to be of little moment. The old canard of “ever-closer union” has never been in the operational text of any European Treaty, just in the preamble of many.

Mr Cameron, therefore, may just have achieved the first ever opt out from something that does not as yet exist. The only tangible change is the freedom to restrict the benefits of other Europeans working in this country. In total, that amounts to some £30 million and sounds enormously complicated to operate.

No doubt the wall-to-wall coverage of the Prime Minister’s negotiating “success” will give a short-term boost to the In campaign. However, this carries with it a substantial danger. A campaign fought on such a flimsy platform will fail. And having spent so long banging on about nothing much in particular and pandering to every spasm of Euro-scepticism, it is no simple thing to change tack now and engage in the sort of soaring rhetoric that a truly positive campaign requires. The campaign to win the Euro vote has to be uplifting, upbeat and visionary.

A good example was when the Prime Minister marched out of Downing Street, between rain showers, on Saturday afternoon to announce the referendum day as June 23. He spent little time explaining his deal but instead declared that European membership was essential to the security and prosperity of the country.

I happen to largely agree with that, but how exactly can Mr Cameron make that claim given that he is on the record many times as saying that without concessions, he would have lined up with the Outers. The point is obvious.

Either something is essential to the security and prosperity of the country or it is not. If that is genuinely your opinion, it is not going to be altered by the minutiae of negotiations. If it is not, and European membership is conditional, as Mr Cameron previously indicated, then it’s difficult to backtrack now and claim it is fundamental to security and prosperity. Mr Cameron risks hoisting the rest of us on his personal petard.

Other dangers abound. Already Mr Cameron has lost the support of his best friend, Michael Gove, and that of his worst enemy, Boris Johnson. He has offended the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. sweeping aside their advice to avoid an overlap between the Euro poll and their national elections.

This totally unnecessary slight betrays one of Mr Cameron’s greatest weaknesses. He won last year’s election with an overall majority but with only 37 per cent of the vote. To win a referendum, you require over 50 per cent.

With the Tory Party fundamentally divided, the referendum can only be won on the support of voters of other parties. Indeed, it is Labour, SNP, Plaid and Green Party supporters who will have to make up the majority of the “In” vote for Europe to prevail.

However, Mr Cameron has made no attempt whatsoever to court the support of Jeremy Corbyn of Labour, Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland or Carwyn Jones of Wales. He looks like the leader of the biggest faction of the Conservative Party, not the leader of the majority of the country. That may become a fatal weakness as this European campaign progresses.

The sort of campaign which could galvanise support focuses not on the negatives of Europe, and certainly not on Mr Cameron’s thin negotiating platform, but on what Europe could become with some positive, collective effort. Many people would rally behind a Europe that aimed to reignite the concept of a social Europe, which galvanised action on the environment, which looked for economic recovery across the continent and which acted with solidarity when faced with the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. That is a Europe worth voting for.

Mr Cameron is fond of telling his inner circle how he won the Scottish referendum. Perhaps so but in the process of the campaign the no vote fell from 72 per cent to 55 per cent while the yes vote moved from 28 per cent to 45 per cent. The Prime Minister simply cannot afford to lose 17 per cent of the vote in this referendum otherwise the UK is out of Europe and he is out of Downing Street.

Photo: Parliament TV

Photo: Parliament TV



Tuesday 

Every First Minister since 1999 has had to fend off the UK Treasury to achieve a fair deal for Scotland. Thanks to the experience of Deputy First Minister John Swinney and strength of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon the Tory Treasury’s cash grab has been seen off. 

An early start led me to the Good Morning Britain sofa with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, after which I was straight onto the airwaves on LBC to discuss the EU referendum and Boris Johnson's decision to back an OUT vote. 

I had the great pleasure of bumping into Bill Paterson at Good Morning Britain too, which was a nice surprise. Looking forward to seeing him in action in the new Dad's Army movie. 


Wednesday 

Plugged in up at the Scottish Parliament for my phone-in on LBC, and found a fitting replacement for Iain Dale in young Rosie Duthie. She gave a tremendous speech celebrating the life of campaigner Thomas Muir, and is a credit to her school, Douglas Academy. At only seventeen-years-old she has a bright future ahead of her. 


Thursday 

Spoke in the Commons as part of the European Affairs Debate, which you can watch by clicking on the picture below. 

Photo: Parliament TV 

Photo: Parliament TV 


Friday 

A busy day on the road which included a speech as part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week with Dennis Robertson MSP, as well as an enjoyable night at Paul Wheelhouse MSP's Adoption Night in Kelso. 


Saturday

Well, today, I'm sure Scotland's rugby team had a lot in common with Leonardo DiCaprio, in the sense that both know the virtues of patience. Scotland, facing a ten match losing streak, Leo a seventh straight Academy Award nomination with no Oscar at the end. Thankfully, the boys in blue pulled through in Rome and beat the Italians with some great play from start to finish. We'll see tomorrow if Mr. DiCaprio has the same success! 


Sunday

Earlier in the week in Holyrood, I had this photograph taken with a Prince's Trust 40th Anniversary birthday card. It was superb to see over 150 guests join me in celebrating the legacy, and continued work of the Trust. The work they do is vital, and ensures that our young people have the support and opportunities to fulfil their potential. 


The Week in Review - Edition 19

Monday 

Is the First Minister lucky?

"I know he is a talented general but is he a lucky one?”

So Napoleon famously remarked about his generals.

The last two weeks tells us that his adage may also apply to our own First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. She is a brilliant politician certainly but also it appears a lucky one.

Nicola’s chief source of luck is in her opponents. In the space of a few days both Labour and Tory Parties have delivered a clear and dominating election theme into Nicola’s capable hands. They have virtually presented her with the Scottish election.

First the Tory London Treasury were caught making a clumsy attempt to fiddle Scotland’s finances.

Then the Labour Party suggested a tax rise for working people. Why either of these parties thought they could get away with such tactics on the eve of an election is beyond comprehension. Instead they have delivered Ms Sturgeon, already in a commanding position, an unbeatable platform for the forthcoming Scottish elections.

The Scotland Bill “fiscal framework” debate has been on slow burn for the last few months.

However it has now caught alight with a vengeance. In the blue saltire corner is Scottish Finance Minister, “honest John” Swinney. In the red, white and blue corner is Tory Chancellor “slippery Gideon” Osborne.

The underlying issues are serious, both in terms of the money but even more so in terms of the principle at issue.

In the last desperate days of the referendum campaign with the Yes campaign on the brink of victory the Westminster parties issued a last ditch attempt to convince people to vote No.

It was too important to be a mere promise and so it was called “a Vow”. The “Vow” was that Scotland would be delivered of huge powers of “devo to the max”, “home rule” or “near federalism” and keep the Barnett formula on Scotland’s spending. Too good to be true? Turns out it was!

With the vote safely in the Westminster bag, the “Vow” started to be watered down under the resultant Smith Commission and that realisation was one reason for the total rout of the unionist parties at last year’s general election. This was not the fault of the estimable Robert Smith.

The all-party commission was forced to proceed at the pace of the slowest ship in the convoy and the unionist parties refused to sign up for anything that could be said to resemble “home rule” never mind “near federalism”.

However, Smith himself did insist on one crucial protection for Scotland and that was that any proposals on financial devolution should be delivered with “no detriment” to either side that there should be no financial advantage or disadvantage just by the delivery of additional powers.

Professor Anton Muscatelli, principal of Glasgow University, calculated a potential loss to Scotland of as much as £7 billion over a 10-year period certainly but still a fair amount of change and in total conflict with the “no detriment” principle.

At issue is whether future reductions from the Scottish Budget should follow the “Levels Deduction” system favoured by the Treasury or the “Per Capita Indexed Deduction” method proposed by the Scottish Government.

For the Tories in Scotland it is a PR disaster. After years of trying to shake off their anti-Scottish image, and months of boasting that they could catch Labour for second place, they have been caught with their sticky fingers well and truly stuck in the cookie jar.

Now also entering from stage right comes a totally gormless Labour Party.

Desperate to find an issue any issue on which to fight the election campaign they have proposed a general increase in the new 10 pence rate of income taxation. This 1p tax grab would hit 2.2 million basic rate taxpayers including almost 500,000 pensioners.

Even if we leave to one side the embarrassing fact that just a few weeks ago Labour were arguing against this move, forget that they are proposing a tax rise for people on incomes of £11,000 and upwards and also ignore their total inability to explain how their rebate system would work this is still a completely crazy policy.

It means that Labour’s “answer” to Tory austerity is to transfer the burden onto Scottish workers. Higher tax on working people is not an end to austerity. It is an example of austerity. That misunderstanding is at the heart of Labour’s muddle.

The Scottish Government should stand firm against the Tory fiddle and Labour’s muddle. Instead Nicola Sturgeon should take her case to the country, ask the people for their support and thank the gods of politics for her luck in having two such kamikaze opponents.


Tuesday

In Glasgow campaigning with Humza Yousuf MSP, and later with Stewart Maxwell MSP. It was great to back and catch up with Kirsten Oswald MP, Fiona Hyslop MSP, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP and Dr Lisa Cameron MP.


Wednesday 

Off to London once more to field questions on anything, within reason, on LBC. Give it a watch, and phone in next week. You can ask me anything, within reason of course. 


Thursday 

Came across this picture and realised I'd forgotten to add that I bumped in to an old friend from the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games whilst on the campaign trail with Humza and Stewart. It was great to see Jonathan Collins, A.K.A Clyde, again. The memories of those truly magical 11 days came flooding back. 


Friday

 "Those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad".

Cameron is now succeeding in making the whole of Europe look absurd. The Continent is going up in the flames of a refugee crisis, while 28 Euro leaders are locked in a room picking holes in Cameron's totally trivial agenda, and all because of a daft referendum promise he thought he would never have to deliver! 


Saturday 

Photo: RT 

Photo: RT 


I appeared on Going Underground on RT to discuss the EU referendum with Afshin Rattansi. Have a look below to hear about why I believe that a positive Europe is worth voting for. 


Sunday 

Enjoyed a great night with friends in Ellon at an Adoption Night gathering for SNP MSP candidate for Aberdeenshire East, Gillian Martin. It's always a pleasure to see so many hard working and talented supporters together. P.S Big thanks to local band Iron Broo for the ceilidh tunes! 



The Week in Review - Edition 18

Monday

 

When it comes to bugs and beasties, it’s better the devil you know

For countless generations the midgie has been the bane of Highlanders. The minute pests have caused huge distress to locals, campers and holidaymakers alike.

There are some 37 varieties of the wee blighters in Scotland, although of these it is the Highland midge – the dreaded C impunctatus – which accounts for 90% of the attacks on human beings.

One of my predecessors as keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland was Tom Johnston, the finest Secretary of State in history. He had many great successes to his name in his tenure of office. He established both the Hydro Electric Board – to mobilise the “power of the glens” – and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry to reindustrialise the nation.

But even the great Mr Johnston was defeated by the mighty midgie legions. The wartime Secretary of State embarked on a scheme to eradicate the midgie by volunteering large tracts of Loch Lomondside for antimalarial defoliant experiments. He was convinced that if he could blast the midgie he could boost Highland tourism.

However, even DDT and Agent Orange were no match for the midge, which emerged triumphant from the chemical assault. And so we are where we are, still scratching! There is a complete chemist shop of lotions and potions but no full-proof protection.

Notwithstanding any of the above, recent events should give us pause for thought about these minute creatures. Indeed, it may be time for a total midgie rehabilitation. Far from being Scotland’s greatest pest, it may actually be our greatest protection against something far more sinister.

Nature abhors a vacuum and if there was no midgie then its position in the food chain would be replaced by something else and, potentially, something much, much worse. Like many biting insects, the only damage is done by the pregnant female. The male midge is an inoffensive being who knows his place.

However, the redeeming feature of the female impunctatus and its lesser sistern is that none of them carry any known human disease. In other words, our dominant biting insect causes no damage beyond the initial discomfort and, similarly, the handful of mosquito varieties which we have in these northern climes are also non-carriers of disease.

How different this Scottish position is from the emergency situation now being faced by a substantial part of the globe. Most of us had never heard of the zika virus until a few weeks ago, although it has been known about since the 1940s, when it was first isolated in the Zika forest area of Uganda. Now it is one of the biggest stories on the planet.

Zika finally reached the Americas only last year but now has reached pandemic levels and is casting a shadow over the Brazil Olympics. The Centre of Disease Control in the United States has issued a series of sober warnings which until recently would have been thought of as the stuff of science fiction.

The mosquito-borne virus has no available vaccine or treatment and has been strongly linked in Brazil at least to microcephaly, the birth defect which involves the fetus’ brain. Now that the virus has been found to be present in bodily fluids, a full-scale health panic has resulted – particularly after its contraction by sexual transmission was confirmed in America.

The Brazilian president, Ms Dilma Rousseff, has “declared war” on the disease-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has pointed out that they have no related cases of zika and microcephaly. However, his health minister has reported a “causal connection” between zika and a rare nerve disorder which has already resulted in three deaths.

There’s still a great deal we don’t understand about this developing situation and therefore a very precautionary approach is understandable. As the world’s resources are mobilised to fight zika, then no doubt it shall be overcome in the same way as ebola was contained and forced back once it started to threaten the western world.

Perhaps in a few years it shall even lead to gains, as the same mosquito also carries the debilitating, and sometimes fatal, yellow fever and dengue viruses.

In the meantime, I suspect most pregnant women and their partners will be reluctant to visit any mosquito-infested country. This will play havoc with the visitor and tourist industries of these countries, as well as causing a huge amount of human suffering and misery.

And that brings us back to the billions of midges in Scotland – irritating, infuriating, exasperating certainly but disease free and totally dominant. Nothing else gets a look-in while the midgie reigns supreme. Therefore let us thank our lucky stars for the Scots midgie.


Tuesday

I spoke in the Commons today, and once again called upon the Prime Minister to reveal when he actually intends to call the EU referendum.

I also met a remarkable young Yezidi woman called Nadia Murad Basee Taha. Nadia, who is only 21-years-old, was captured in August last year and endured months of torture and sexual abuse at the hands of Daesh militants. She escaped in November, and has become a symbol of immense courage, recounting her story to the global community and underlying exactly why Daesh, and their campaign of wanton medieval brutality, must be stopped. 


Wednesday 

Once again, I was back in the studio to lead Britain's conversation live on LBC. You can watch the full show via the video below. Fielded an interesting proposition from a certain Mr. William Wallace, which I never thought I'd hear!


Thursday 

In Holyrood today and met Angela Lamont and Gráinne Kennedy from Crichton Carbon Emissions, who are working hard to promote methods which would help us create a low-carbon society. Here's a picture of Angela and I, along with Linda Fabiani MSP. 


Friday 

In Ellon to meet with constituents today. It was great to finish the week on my home patch and hear from the locals. Got this great picture through of Scottish Sports Association CEO Kim Atkinson and I in Holyrood, where 116 MSPs pledged their support to the Why Sport Matters campaign. Sport, as our Commonwealth Games successes of 2014 proved, is a vital part of society, and it's important to remember the benefits that it can bring in our communities. 

 

 


Saturday 

Watched the rugby, and what a match Wales vs Scotland turned out to be. At half time, I would have put money on Scotland ending their run of losses, but it was not to be. There is always fire, edge and great sportsmanship in clashes with our celtic cousins, and this one was no different. 


Sunday 

On Sky News with Dermot Murnaghan this morning from Strichen, and discussed the Brexit in biting cold with snow fluttering down around me. You can watch my interview below.