Welcome to a very different kind of Westminster
I know it's been said a hundred times or more, but politics in Scotland is never going to be the same again and I say thank goodness for that! More than that, Westminster has been hit with a new and very energetic force in 56 SNP MPs. It is about time the frock coats and wigs woke up to 21st century politics.
It's with huge enthusiasm and a real sense of purpose that I welcome both Angela Crawley, MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, and Margaret Ferrier, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West. The change in the vote was spectactular with Margaret winning 52.6 per cent and Angela 49 per cent.
Myself and Angela Crawley MP on the campaign trail
Margaret Ferrier MP
When you look across the whole of Scotland, the SNP won a total of 50 per cent of the vote, up 30 per cent since 2010. That is 1,454,436 voters who put their trust in Scotland's national party.
The SNP now holds 56 of the 59 seats that Scotland has at Westminster. David Cameron, with his unpredicted majority of 12 seats and a total of 331 seats out of the 650. Other parties here are left with just one seat each in Scotland.
What does it all mean? After all, it's still only 56 seats out of 650. How much change can the SNP MPs hope to bring about? We might think we can't be ignored but is that really true? Won't David Cameron do exactly that? These are the kinds of anxieties I'm hearing from folk.
Let me assure everyone that we will be heard! In Mr Cameron's much reported 'family of nations,' Scotland can no longer be silenced.
Our MPs will make sure of that. On big issues like the renewal of Trident, Westminster's attempt to dump the Human Rights Act and its planned massive £12bn of welfare cuts, your SNP MPs will be making a very positive noise as we move towards the much heralded 'most powerful devolved government in the world' that the Prime Minister has promised.
The Scottish Refugee Council
Regular browsers will be well aware that I continue to campaign on the issue of the rights of our refugees to be treated fairly and equably. The forthcoming Refugee Council Scotland's Festival, starting on 3 June and running for three weeks will celebrate our diversity in Scotland. You can find out more about the different events here: http://tinyurl.com/pg2uvdp
People with disabilities
I know many of you are increasingly worried about the impact of more welfare cuts on our most vulnerable people. I have met many constituents who have already been told they are fit to work when they clearly are not and many others who have already lost in the region of £1,000 a year in benefits cut backs to the Disability Living Allowance for example.
That the Tory government has appointed Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon, to the post of Disability Minister is worrying to put it mildly.
Mr Tomlinson is well known for his strong anti-benefits and anti-human rights background. He is a party loyalist with a strong record of voting against the interests of sick and disabled claimants.
According to the They Work for You website, Mr Tomlinson's voting record is a scary indication of what lies ahead. You can view it here: http://tinyurl.com/le5xxpd
- He voted strongly in favour of the bedroom tax
- He voted very strongly against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
- He voted very strongly against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
- He voted very strongly for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support
- He voted very strongly for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
- He voted very strongly against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed
Our 56 MPs are going to have a fight on their hands but they're up to it. When David Cameron continually described his party's campaign as being 'for working families,' he clearly wasn't - and isn't - giving consideration to those people who are unable to work through no fault of their own.
We must wait for Chancellor George Osborne's summer budget to feel the full impact of these cuts. I know that anyone with a disability, working or not, is frightened of what will come.
The Scottish Government will do whatever it can to mitigate these assaults but our powers are very limited. We need devolved power over the entire welfare system to be able to manage the system in a genuinely compassionate and caring way.
Young people with a better future
New figures from the Office of National Statistics show the lowest youth unemployment level since the recession of 2008, down 5.1 per cent over the year. Only five of the 28 EU member states now have a lower youth unemployment rate than Scotland.
Our government's policy of guaranteeing 30,000 Modern Apprenticeship opportunities every year to 2020, and modernising the system of vocational training is clearly working.
Modern Apprenticeships work because the training is built with the input of the sectors involved. Employers know what they need so of course they need to be actively involved in what and how their apprentices learn. I want to encourage more employers around this area to sign up with Skills Development Scotland to make sure their voices are heard. Read more at www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk