As analysis takes place of the Tory Government’s austerity agenda, the evidence mounts that it is the most vulnerable in our communities who are hit hardest; children, disabled people, single parents and the working poor.  Only this week it has been highlighted that the shameful tory cuts in tax credits will see nearly 350,000 children worse off as a result of George Osborne’s budget.  The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) show that 197,200 families in Scotland with a total of 346,000 children have been hit by the changes to tax credits.  This comes hot on the heels of the Institute of Fiscal Studies report “LivingRead More →

The Scottish Government has welcomed STV on joining the Scottish Business Pledge, with the company being the 70th company to agree to sign up for this initiative – with one company on average joining every day since the launch in May 2015. Since the launch, businesses have been working in conjunction with the Scottish Government to boost productivity, incorporate fairness and generate growth across the private sector.  Companies who sign up to the pledge commit to pay their employees the living wage, which is set independently by the Living Wage Foundation. Scottish Business Pledge has nine components: paying the living wage; not using exploitative zeroRead More →

It’s been a very busy weekend in politics in Scotland. Saturday saw thousands gather at George Square, and across the country, to protest against austerity.  The SNP Trade Union Group held its first National Conference in Stirling with over 250 delegates and I understand fantastic presentations from Christina McKelvie MSP and Marion Fellows MP. And on Sunday, the first National Council for the SNP following our historic victory in the Westminster elections took place. SNP delegates were treated to a number of fantastic contributions from MPs old and newly elected. There were speakers making their first contributions; notably Heather Anderson who argued for more reflection onRead More →

Community Empowerment The Scottish Parliament last week passed the Community Empowerment Bill which will give communities more powers to take on land and buildings and to have a say on how their services are delivered Communities will have more rights to take over land in both urban and rural areas – this could include transforming waste ground into community gardens or bringing empty shops back into use. Local groups will also be able to take the initiative and, instead of waiting to be offered a building, service or piece of land groups will be able to put forward their case for why a community centreRead More →

My scientific hero, since I read his biography as a teenager, is physicist Richard Feynman.  His cosmological theory, that the world is a weighted sum of alternative histories, states that when particles interact, reality bifurcates into a set of parallel streams, each being a different possible outcome. This has always challenged me (most of physics does). That was until last Thursday, where I am pretty sure that I was transported to a parallel universe, albeit one designed by Carlsberg! For many of us the sheer scale of success on the 7th of May, particularly in a Westminster context, was beyond our wildest dreams.  I rememberRead More →

Scottish Agriculture headlining at European Parliament Alyn Smith MEP has joined Scottish Agriculture expert Brian Pack in calling for reform of the Common Agriculture Policy, focusing less on penalties and providing a more supportive regime. Brian Pack was joined by international experts and raised issues such as; Need for more consistent auditing standards The end of member state “gold – plating” of regulation through additional guidance. The case for more in the interpretation of eligible land for EFA. More time to implement the new rules. A call for tolerance in the application of new penalties while the new system is bedding in.   Welfare ReformRead More →

I recently attended the second Cunninghame Graham Society dinner celebrating one of the most remarkable figures in Scottish political history. Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, along with Keir Hardie and others, founded the Scottish Labour Party, the Independent Labour Party in 1897 and later played an active part in the establishment of the National Party of Scotland in 1928  and was elected the first president of the Scottish National Party in 1934.  It was wonderful to hear Angus Robertson MP make reference to him in his opening remarks at Conference this year. How very different we are from the early days with a handful of foundingRead More →

Unfortunately, a watered down skinking ware is what has been delivered by the Smith Commission following the publication of the Government command paper and draft Bill. Far from the Home Rule promised by the now infamous ‘vow’, and while welcoming the further progress in the devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament, these draft clauses highlight the limitations not the ambitions for Scotland’s future. Not least of the disappointments are the ‘veto’ clauses which would appear to enshrine Scotland’s begging luggie in the process of defining our own welfare system, fuel poverty, energy and transport policies. As one of the two SNP members who participatedRead More →

Alex Salmond has confirmed that he is going to stand for the Westminster seat of Gordon in 2015. While hardly a surprise, this widely trailed announcement is nonetheless a welcome early Christmas gift. Not one to have shied away from the less obvious path in his political career, Alex Salmond and the SNP will be working tirelessly between now and the election to convince Yes and No voters alike that their best interests are served by returning a large contingent of capable SNP MP’s to Westminster. On making his announcement to stand Alex said; “Three things are now self-evident. “Firstly, the Smith Commission has notRead More →

When McDuff poses the question at the beginning of Act 4 in Macbeth. Ross’s answer is far from encouraging and sums up how I expected to feel after a No vote in the referendum “Alas, poor country! Almost afraid to know itself.” And yet the reality of where Scotland stands today could not have been further from my fears. We have a reinvigorated party, trebling its membership with activists engaged and inspired by the Referendum campaign. A membership surge for whom we should thank every SNP YES activist who gave people the confidence to come and be part of the SNP. It is a tributeRead More →