This week the Prime Minister sent notification to the European Union to invoke Article 50, thus beginning the two year countdown to Britain’s exit from the EU. In her letter to the EU and in her speech to parliament, Theresa May appeared to have softened some of her language around Britain’s departure, talking of close partnership with Europe and warning of consequences from leaving the bloc. There was also a welcome recognition from the Chancellor in an interview with Radio 4 that Britain will not be able to ‘have its cake and eat it’. If Britain is to have any hope of making a success of Brexit, clear thinking and a focus on effective policy making is essential.
However, this minor adjustment to the UK Government’s rhetoric on Brexit des not extend to their policy on Scotland. I asked the Prime Minister on Wednesday why she continues to ignore the people of Scotland when the European Union is more than willing to consider our specific demands. You can watch the Prime Minister’s response by using the link above.
I was notified in a letter this week of the withdrawal of the South Queensferry bus service. This is very disappointing, given that there is clear and substantive demand for a bus route along the Queensferry corridor. Stagecoach gave a number of reasons for withdrawal, stating that increasing congestion on the Queensferry corridor and in the city centre, coupled with the upcoming Leith Street closure, has resulted in a “significant reduction in demand.” They also notified me that they will be making representations to Edinburgh Council to begin the necessary procedures to withdraw the service from 5th June 2017.
The loss of this route will leave a number of my constituents in South Queensferry without a direct and effective means of transportation to the city centre. Elderly and disabled residents will be disproportionately affected, given that many will struggle to travel to the bus stops servicing the Forth Bridge, or to the train station at Dalmeny.
As such, I have written to Stagecoach to request an urgent meeting to discuss their reasons behind the withdrawal. I’ll make sure to keep residents updated on any progress on this matter.
Also this week I wrote to Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, to seek action on the issue of unregulated night flights.
Currently, there is no over-arching legislation governing night flights in and out of Scottish airports and this is an area of concern for a number of my constituents, particularly those in Cramond and South Queensferry. On Thursday I raised the issue in Westminster with Chris Grayling who confirmed that this is a devolved issue. However, while local authorities have the power to use planning laws to require their airports to regulate night-time noise, the reality seems to be that local authorities are not actively employing these powers.
While the current consultation being run by Edinburgh Airport focuses on flight paths, it is becoming clear from the number of constituents who have been in touch that there is a real worry that these paths could be used overnight and cause significant disruption to areas already affected by daytime aircraft noise.
There is obviously a careful balance to be struck between encouraging and enabling the growth of airports and protecting the quality of life of those who live in the vicinity of those airports. That's why I would like to meet with the Minister to discuss what the Government is going to do to ensure that airports and local authorities have a duty to properly regulate night flights and ensure that that balance is maintained. I will keep my constituents updated on my progress.
Attack on Westminster
There was no weekly update last week as events in parliament were overshadowed by the terror attack which claimed the lives of four people - Police Constable Keith Palmer,, American tourist Kurt Cochran, retired window-cleaner Leslie Rhodes and Aysha Frade, who worked at a nearby sixth form college. Their deaths are truly shocking, and my thoughts and condolences are with their families.
I am hugely grateful to all of those who rushed to the aid of the injured on Westminster Bridge last week. Terrorism is a heinous act but such attacks also show humanity at its best, as people rushed towards danger, with no thought for their own safety, to help and protect others.
This is especially true in the case of PC Keith Palmer, who was one of a team of Metropolitan police officers who protect the public, visitors and staff at the Houses of Parliament. They do a brilliant job and it is truly tragic that one of their number died doing his job.
In the last 12 months one MP has been killed by a terrorist and four innocent people have died in London as another tried to attack parliament. It is vital that we carry on with our lives and refuse to be cowed by terrorists, regardless of the ideology they espouse. While I am sure some people will use these attacks to sow hate and advance their own agendas, I will work with others to build communities and advance the cause of peace.