EU Withdrawal Debate and Tory Power Grab

Most people will by now have picked up that the evening debate on the 12th June on the EU Withdrawal Bill was a democratic outrage. The debate on the devolution aspects of the debate was restricted to only 15 minutes! All of which were taken up by the Tory Government Minister, with not one SNP MP allowed to speak at that juncture.

This Tory Government power-grab was approved following a 15 minute debate, ignoring the voice of Scotland’s Parliament which withheld consent.

I myself tried to raise two points of order about the Government’s approach to the proceedings as you will see from the video. The Tories just don’t get it! and Labour once again failed to defend the interests of devolution.

The lack of respect for the Scottish Parliament and Devolution was then further disregarded when, during PMQ's on Wednesday 13th June, Ian Blackford called on the Prime Minister to bring forward emergency legislation to remove the power grab against the Scottish Parliament. The Prime Minister refused to address the concerns of the SNP, which led to the SNP walkout.

Using Standing Order 163 – which enables any MP to move “That the House sit in private” – the SNP used the Parliamentary procedure to stop the Withdrawal Bill proceeding without proper debate on devolution matters.

Over the last two days, Devolution has been treated with contempt by the UK government.

The UK Government must now bring forward emergency legislation to remove the Clause 11 power grab element of the EU Withdrawal Bill.

SNP MPs have been clear - Scotland’s voice must and will be heard.

My 'Work Experience Week' continues

Tuesday saw me take to the streets with Ayrshire Police Division PC John Douglas and PC Sarah Paterson.

As town centre officers PC Douglas and PC Paterson work in the core town centre of Kilmarnock and the issues they focus on are Drugs, Dishonesty Crimes and Anti-Social Behaviour.  They can walk up to 30,000 steps a day! and try to spend most of their time out in the town centre each day with limited time in the office.

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On Wednesday I began my day at my local butchers - Afton Glen Meats Galston - Afton Glen meats in Galston.  Butcher Ian Holloway gave me a tour of the premises where I saw the preparation areas where he and his team make their own rolls and pies and where they butcher their meat.

Ian produces over 100 dozen rolls a week along with around 1000 pies each week for his shop and another 2000+ pies for MotherwelI FC. I can testify to how great those pies are!

I learned about the traceability of the meat he butchers and was then set to work making slice sausage. It’s a labour intensive process with half an hour of mincing, mixing, mincing again, kneading and then moulding being carried out before leaving the bars to set for around an hour. Each batch is made from around 30llbs of flank and produces 9-10 bars and Ian produces almost 100 bars on a Saturday alone!

It was a fascinating look behind the scenes and great to get hands on experience but I’m not sure if I’ll be asked back…I managed at least to provide some amusement to the team (and wipe out their supply of plasters) with my shocking knife skills!

 

Following my early shift at the butchers I got the opportunity to drop in to Ayrshire (East) Foodbank CVO East Ayrshire Ltd in Darvel to chat with Foodbank Development Worker, David Skilling, see their set up, meet the volunteers who keep the place running and help out a little.

The Darvel Foodbank is the main storage area for the whole of East Ayrshire and sends out an average of 250 packages a month, issuing 900 packs since January and feeding 1217 adults and 612 children giving a combined total of 1829 people - That's an average of 12 people a day they feed.

They rely on the support of the local community and local businesses for donations and volunteering and their loyal team of volunteers make sure that crisis packs are quickly assembled and distributed – I saw for myself this morning what a well organised set up and team they have there.

Recent changes to Charity Law mean it is much harder for them to do donation drives in supermarkets. I saw for myself how low their stocks were today and now, more than ever, they are reliant on the local community making regular donations either directly to their centres or via any of their drop off points in local supermarkets.  If you are a local business or community organisation who would be willing to host a donation drive then please do get in touch with my office and I can pass your details on to David.     

My 'Work Experience Week' begins

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Kicked off my “work experience week” this morning with a really inspiring visit to the award winning team at Alan White Design Ltd Design Ltd (AWD) civil engineering firm at Hill Street, Kilmarnock.

I heard from Managing Director Malachy Ryan about some of the amazing engineering projects they are involved with both here in Scotland, the UK, and on the International scene.

For example, here in Scotland, AWD were involved with the technically challenging design of a propping system for the building of the fabulous V&A museum of Design in Dundee. For this project the AWD team had to come up with a completely bespoke and flexible system that had to cope with the intricate building specification with multiple curved walls constructed from reinforced concrete.

While on the international scene, AWD designed a suspended access system for the iconic West Gate Bridge in Melbourne, Australia. Not only did the AWD design ensure a safe working environment at full bridge access, allowing the bridge to remain open to the 170,000 vehicles per day for the duration of the project - they even made sure the employee facility/mess areas had a fully functioning dedicated BBQ space!

And if all of the above wasn’t enough to impress me, Malachy then went on to tell me how AWD are helping to inspire the next generation of engineers by getting involved with primary school STEM (Science, Technical, Engineering, and Mathematics) projects; sponsoring the girls football team at Gargieston Primary School & Nursery; official sponsor of Kilmarnock Football Club; and running next month’s Roon The Toon 10K in aid of Hillhouse charity.

Thanks to Malachy and the rest of the AWD team for such an enjoyable visit.

I am also going to take Malachy’s favourite Voltaire quote with me back to Westminster: "No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking."

P.S. If you have a passion for civil engineering then check out the AWD website (www.alanwhitedesign.com) for more details as AWD are always on the lookout for new and enthusiastic talent to join their team.

The recent Easter recess was an excellent opportunity to catch up with some of the great groups and businesses in my constituency:

The Wednesday Waffle club in Onthank Community Centre – a community run group which offers a hot meal to everyone attending, and many activities including trips out and cooking lessons.

The April board meeting of the Kilmarnock Town Centre Partnership to hear about the work and ideas being undertaken with Celebrate Kilmarnock to... help improve the town centre.

Meeting the award winning team Utopia Computers. Always happy to support local businesses, and needless to say my first port of call for all things computer orientated.

Visit to Centrestage with my wife Cyndi to collect our T-shirts from Centrestage chief operations officer Paul Mathieson for this year’s Kiltwalk.

The Open Day for The Portland in Galston - a great example of what local people can achieve by transforming a former derelict into a valuable resource for their local community.

 

Fur Trade in the UK

I was shocked to hear the extent of real fur being sold in faux fur products on the UK High Street during the recent Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee evidence session.

I suspect that like me, many consumers would expect products containing real fur to be expensive – apparently that is not the case and many of the cheaper products and those with fur trims and embellishments are being mis-labelled as synthetic when in fact they contain real fur.

Consumers need to be able to fully trust the information on the product label, and retailers need to be fully aware of what is in the products they are selling to the public.

During the EFRA evidence I also learned about the stringent labelling processes and standards that are enforced in countries like the US and Switzerland. If countries like these can demand accurate labelling on their products then why not the UK?

Many people make their buying choices based on ethical and moral grounds and the idea that we are being misinformed due to technicalities like product label composition is despicable.

You can view the whole evidence gather session here.

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Refugee Family Reunion Bill

In the House of Commons this week, I met with members of the Families Together campaign to discuss the urgency of reuniting refugee families in the UK. Refugees who have been separated from their families continue to be remain apart from their loved ones because of current restrictive UK laws on refugee family reunion.

Refugees should have the right to be with their family, the people that know them best and make them feel safe. But tragically, every single day refugee families already torn apart by conflict and war are being kept apart by restrictive UK rules.

This urgently needs to change. My SNP Colleague Angus MacNeil is bringing forward the Refugee Family Reunion Bill and I will be attending the Private Member’s Bill vote on 16 March and voting to bring refugee families together again.

You can find more about this issue via the Amnesty International UK website.

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East Coast Mainline Franchise and Electric Shock Collar Petitions

I had an early start yesterday morning supporting the petition calling for the East Coast mainline franchise to come back under public ownership.  The petition was handed in to the Department for Transport yesterday.

In the afternoon I signed the pledge and the letter to the Minister calling for a ban on the use of shock collars for dogs.  As a dog owner myself I was pleased to see lots of support for the campaign - These aversive training methods are outdated and cruel, and there is no need for them to be used when there are so many positive training methods available.

You can help the petition get to 10,000 signatures by signing here.

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British Heart Foundation - Kilmarnock Store Visit

Earlier today I popped into the British Heart Foundation - Scotland (BHF) shop in Titchfield Street, Kilmarnock to meet the staff and volunteers who help turn donations into funds for life-saving cardiovascular research.

Many thanks to manager Matthew for the invitation and his time for showing me around. It was great to meet the dedicated members of staff and volunteers who work there. The shop is well stocked with a great variety of goods both donated and brand new items - all good quality and well presented in the spacious shop.

I’d encourage everyone to have a root around at home and donate any unwanted items to their local shop or give the gift of time by volunteering.

Matthew and his team are ready to welcome anyone who is interested in volunteering - and this can sometime be a great first step into employment. During the visit I was introduced to the warehouse manager Dean who started out as a volunteer and I met Julie who was enjoying her work placement in the shop.

It was very interesting to learn about the BHF work that goes into generating vital donations, sorting and displaying stock and making sales that all contribute to funding the £70m worth of life saving cardiovascular research in Scotland.

Further information available from: telephone 01563 481240; email K14@bhf.org.uk; web site: www.bhf.org.uk

Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)

Last week I was elected as a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) - an influential body representing over 92,000 civil engineers and technicians across the world who design, build and maintain our transport, water, energy, waste and flood infrastructure. My fellowship certificate was presented by ICE President Lord Robert Mair at a special ceremony held at ICE’s headquarters in Westminster, London. 

I was very honoured to receive the Fellowship of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). I am proud to be part of a profession that contributes to transform people’s lives for the better.

Having graduated from Glasgow University with an Honours degree in Civil Engineering I worked in both the public and private sector for 21 years as a principal engineer before resigning to take up the position as MP for the Kilmarnock and Loudoun constituency.

My career highlight was being a hydraulic engineer for the Ayr sewerage scheme which was designed to clean up the bathing beach.  Doing work to improve my local area was really rewarding. As an aside it was being a member of the EU which made the UK stop discharging raw sewerage onto the bathing beach.  I saw first-hand how the UK government didn’t want to comply but were forced to spend the money.  Hopefully we don’t return to being the dirtiest man in Europe as far as clean beaches go. 

As Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure I am also pleased to be able to continue to support the work of engineers and highlight the importance of infrastructure, engineering to the economy and society, and to hear from experts on emerging priorities.

ICE Scotland regional director Sara Thiam said: “The ICE was pleased to extend a Presidential Invitation for Fellowship to Alan Brown MP, recognising both his work as a civil engineer and in championing the importance of civil engineering in Parliament. Alan joins the ICE as a Fellow at a significant time for the ICE – our bicentenary year. We are proud to celebrate his contribution to the profession, demonstrating how civil engineers transform people’s lives for the better and safeguard the future for their families.”

Closer to home, it is my intention to support the work of Kilmarnock Engineering Science Society (KESS) in the constituency, especially as 2018 is the Year of Engineering. If any school or community group is interested in finding out more or wants to get involved then please contact my Constituency Office on 01563 501412

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Curling Stones fae Mauchline at the Winter Olympic Games

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games begins today in PyeongChang.

I learned on a recent visit that Kays Curling in Mauchline have provided the competition stones to the Winter Olympic Games since 1998.  

So congratulations! to Kays on their 20th anniversary of being the sole supplier of Ailsa Craig granite stones manufactured in Mauchline and used by all the competitors from around the world.

Good luck to the all-Scots men's and women's Curling teams representing Great Britain when they begin their competition on Wednesday 14th February.

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So congratulations! to Kays on their 20th anniversary of being the sole supplier of Ailsa Craig granite stones manufactured in Mauchline and used by all the competitors from around the world.

Representation of the People Act Centenary #Vote100

Today marks 100 years since the Representation of the People Act which gave some women the right to vote and extended the vote to men over the age of 21.

The Representation of the People Act 1918 was a vital step towards the rights women have today, and the centenary of the Act is an incredibly important opportunity for us to reflect on how far we have come, thanks to the extreme bravery and sacrifice of the women who fought – and in some cases died – for equality.

Whether it’s chatting about the issues over a cup of tea, or engaging with one of the many exciting events as part of this year’s UK Parliament Week, there are countless opportunities for schools and community groups across Kilmarnock and Loudoun to get involved in this key anniversary.

We all know that there is still more to do, and I look forward to working with people across Kilmarnock and Loudoun to ensure we create an even more equal society.

Parliament are celebrating 100 years since the first women got the vote with a major exhibition, education programmes, events, talks and tours. Find out how you and your community can get involved! http://goo.gl/fGsWHS   #Vote100

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Holocaust Memorial Day 2018

It was a privilege to attend the Kilmarnock Academy Holocaust Memorial event on Monday 29 January.

As the Holocaust moves from living history, to just history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and also pay tribute to the survivors.

I would like to thank the pupils and staff for including me in such an important event to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust, and to Henry and Ingrid Wuga for sharing their personal stories with us. #hmd2018