SNP leads Westminster opposition

It is becoming ever clearer that the SNP’s group of 56 MPs are the main opposition to the Conservative Party in the House of Commons.

This week alone has demonstrated just how slim the Tories’ majority is with a remarkable climb-down on the repeal of the hunting ban.

This is just one example in a long list of Tory retreats since May’s general election.

The Tories may be slowly waking up to the implications of not being able to rely on parliamentary support - and it is the SNP leading the real and effective opposition at Westminster.

On issue after issue, the Tories have backtracked - the delayed revised EVEL proposals have had to be brought forward this week because the UK Government was staring defeat in the face last week.

The UK Government published a list of 20 Bills passed in the last parliament which they said didn’t apply to Scotland - but after careful analysis First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pointed out that 13 of them were relevant to Scotland.

Therefore, what needs to happen now is the UK Government should agree to the First Minister’s request for talks about English Votes for English Laws, on the basis of mutual respect.

The Tories cannot deny the hypocrisy of pursuing English Votes for English Laws at the same time as opposing every single amendment to strengthen the Scotland Bill, which have frequently been voted for by 58 of the 59 MPs representing Scottish constituencies.

The Tories are paying a very high political price for trying to rush through ill-thought out proposals which would make Scotland’s representation at Westminster second class - the logic of their position is to establish an English parliament, but what they should do right now is meet with the First Minister to discuss the issue, as well as explain their latest thinking to the people and parliament.

And the bugle of retreat sounded once again for the Tories in relation to the proposed relaxation of the Hunting Ban.

This is the fourth issue where the SNP Group have led the opposition in forcing the Tories into backing down - stopping the EU referendum being on the same day as the Scottish Parliament election, getting any moves to repeal the Human Rights Act kicked into the long grass, the debacle of the Government having to abandon last week’s vote on English Votes for English Laws, and now stopping this week’s vote to relax the fox hunting ban in England and Wales.

On EVEL, the UK Government should respond positively to the First Minister’s letter and agree to sensible discussions on the basis of mutual respect - rather than laying down the law to make Scotland’s representation at Westminster second class.

And turning to the SNP’s work at Holyrood, the latest Survation poll shows that the SNP’s positive ratings have increased after eight years in government.

We take nothing for granted however, and will work hard every day between now and next year’s Holyrood election to retain the trust of people right across Scotland.

Since coming to office in 2007, we have frozen council tax, protected free Higher Education, scrapped introduced prescription charges, protected Free Personal Care, maintained the concessionary travel scheme, increased Scotland’s health budget to record levels, and protected those hardest hit by unfair Tory welfare cuts.

All this has been in the face of massive Westminster cuts to the Scottish Government’s budget.

The SNP also introduced the Living Wage - which at £7.85 per hour is higher than the con-trick National Living Wage proposed by George Osborne – for public sector workers covered by Scottish Government pay policy.

There is still more to do and if re-elected in 2016, the SNP will build on a strong record and deliver further improvements.

As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already outlined, by 2020 we will deliver 30 hours of free childcare – almost doubling the current provision of 16 hours - and continue to protect our NHS.

We will also continue to use the powers we have to strengthen and grow the Scottish economy - and I will continue to push the case at Westminster for the powers we need to make more progress.