SNP MPs getting down to work

Last week I had great fun visiting Ellon Art Group’s annual exhibition before holding constituency surgeries in the town. It was a great way to round off a busy couple of weeks working between Westminster, Holyrood and the constituency.

This week has been no different as SNP MPs from across Scotland continue to debate The Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons.

One of the key objectives of the SNP at Holyrood and at Westminster will be to work across party lines to prevent the Tories repealing the Human Rights Act.

The implications of withdrawing from the European convention or revoking the Human Rights Act are of course serious.

There is no majority in the House of Commons for withdrawal and no majority in the House of Lords for withdrawal.

There is absolute opposition in the Scottish Parliament, where the European convention—the Human Rights Act—is embedded into the devolution legislation. There is little support for it in Northern Ireland, where the European convention is part and parcel of the Good Friday and St Andrews agreements.

With all that clearly impinging on the UK Government’s abilities, then surely it is time to abandon this nonsense of reneging on these obligations to human rights.

I am not certain that many people will know this, but there is in the Strasbourg Court a framed copy of the Declaration of Arbroath. There are also, if I remember correctly, plaques to Ernest Bevin and to Winston Churchill in the walkway to the Strasbourg Court.

It is at least arguable that many of the justices in the Strasbourg Court know rather more about the Scottish legal system than many MPs.

There would be huge implications for how our legal system, our Parliament and our society relate to the European convention, even if the rather sleekit option were pursued of revoking the Act as opposed to withdrawing from the convention.

We will seek to amend the EU Referendum Bill to ensure that no constituent part of the UK can be taken out of the EU against its will. The SNP will propose a ‘double majority’ rule – meaning that unless England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each vote to leave the EU, the UK would remain a member state.

It is vital that 16 and 17-year-olds, who were allowed to vote in the Scottish independence referendum, and EU migrants are also given a vote in the EU referendum.

Many readers will be familiar with Christian Allard MSP who is a regional Member of the Scottish Parliament for the North-east of Scotland—and a French citizen.

He has been in Scotland for the better part of quarter of a century, paying his taxes and working hard, but he is to be deprived of his vote in a European referendum while Members of the House of Lords are to be given the vote.

I know the Conservative party, in terms of its attitude to the European convention, is very wary of prisoners being given the vote, but now ex-prisoners in the House of Lords are to be given the vote in a European referendum while Christian Allard will have his taken away.

The whole purpose of giving European citizens and citizens of other countries resident in Scotland the vote in the Scottish referendum is to say that such matters should be taken civically—not according to nationality or ethnicity—by communities of the nation.

And finally, I would like to pay tribute to the late Charles Kennedy who was by far the most generous person I have ever met in politics. His passing is a very sad loss of a great politician and, above all, a great man.

I have had one or two, but not many, people who had a bad word to say about Charles, and that’s very rare in politics. He was an interesting, complex character, but above all an outstanding communicator and a fine human being.

I am shocked and saddened at the news of his death. He was a bright, articulate and gregarious man and it is so sad that he has been taken at such a young age. My thoughts are with his family and all who knew and loved him.

Charlie Kennedy set a fine example of how a member of parliament should serve their constituents and make their political arguments and that is something all of us in public life should all learn from and aspire to.