Protecting Scotland’s Interests

Last week, the Scottish Government’s EU Continuity Bill completed Stage 2.  It will return to be debated at Stage 3, the final stage, this week. The bill protects Scotland’s Parliament from a Westminster Tory power-grab and ensures that Scotland’s laws are not disrupted after Brexit.

It remains the case that if the UK Government amends its own bill in a way that acceptably protects devolution, then we will withdraw our bill.  If it doesn’t, however, it is crucial that Scotland has its own bill in place as a safety net.

The last time I wrote on this, the UK Government had failed to amend their EU Withdrawal Bill during its passage through the House of Commons at all. Since then, with the bill in the House of Lords, the UK Government has introduced an amendment. Unfortunately, however, it still does not address the concerns of the Scottish Government and the bill remains unacceptable.

The sticking point is that the UK Government amendment only requires ‘consultation’ with the devolved administrations. The Scottish Government want this to be changed so that the UK Government requires the express ‘consent’ or ‘agreement’– not just consultation.

As Minister for UK Negotiations of Scotland’s Place in Europe, Michael Russell, put it: “a requirement only to consult the devolved administrations means that in practice the UK Government could ultimately make regulations notwithstanding the opposition of the devolved administrations, entirely at its discretion, with no safeguards to protect the interests of the devolved legislatures.”

Clearly, this is an unacceptable prospect. The UK Government having the power to unilaterally make decisions on crucial Scottish industries such as agriculture and food labelling could have potentially disastrous consequences for Scotland’s business and economy.

A Tory MSP recently commented that nobody outside of the Holyrood bubble is the least bit interested in the debate around this bill. Now although being in Parliament can sometimes feel like a wee bit of a media and political bubble, there can be no doubt that this bill is crucial to the lives of people across Scotland. It is about protecting jobs, living standards, food safety, agriculture, and business post-Brexit.

As just one example, EU membership has protected our food producers from being undercut by inferior imports from countries with lower standards. In the context of Brexit, we can no longer take these high standards for granted. We have already heard discussion about whether the UK should accept imports of chlorinated chicken in a future trade deal with the US. We cannot leave these decisions in the hands of the UK Government at Westminster. The Scottish Parliament must have a say – and that is what the Scottish Government’s bill is about ensuring.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2018

Scottish Apprenticeship Week, which ran between 5-9 March 2018, is the nationwide campaign aimed at encouraging more employers to take on apprentices. Organised by Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Apprenticeship Week highlights the commitment of businesses that invest in the skills of their workforce. Apprentices are employed across Scotland in a wide range of jobs in sectors including engineering, construction, financial and business services, health and social care, digital technology, tourism and food and drink.

To mark the week, I was pleased to visit engineering apprentices at the Paper Mill in Irvine and chat with them about their experience and their plans for the future. Anyone interested in becoming or taking on an apprentice can read more at the following link: https://www.apprenticeships.scot/

Last week in Parliament, I also questioned Minister for Employability and Training, Jamie Hepburn, about what more could be done to raise the visibility of the high quality opportunities available to people through modern apprenticeships.

#ForTheFoxes

Lastly, on Saturday 24th March, I am proud to be speaking at a #ForTheFoxes rally in Edinburgh to join others in calling for a real fox hunting ban. Fox hunting was meant to have been banned in Scotland in 2002, but loopholes in the law mean that it still takes place across the country much like it did before the ban. Fox hunting is an obscene and barbaric pursuit opposed by the majority of Scottish people. It’s time for a real ban.

The march is meeting at St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile at 10am for a 10.30am start. It will then march down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament for the rally and will be done by 12.30pm.

If you can’t make it on the day, look out for coverage on social media and join the conversation using #ForTheFoxes. You can also read more at this link: https://e-activist.com/page/18704/data/1