Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, was pleased to welcome the members of the Grans Group to the Scottish Parliament. The Grans Group was originally set up by grans who took their grandchildren to the nursery at First Step, a community project for families with young children. Now it consists of 11 members who enjoy meeting each Wednesday to chat, learn new skills, or go out on trips together. This year happens to be their 10th anniversary and Colin was excited to be a part of it. The Grans Group was able to take a tour of the Parliament building before meeting with Colin.
Afterwards Colin remarked,
“It was a delight to be able to invite the Grans Group to the Parliament. Groups such as these provide a real focus for people in our community to get together and learn new skills while making friendships.”
Colin Beattie MSP, Midlothian North & Musselburgh, has written to Midlothian Council expressing his concern at the parking situation in Dalkeith and asking for a review of current parking arrangements across the whole town.
“The current situation cannot continue. Vehicles are often double parked up and down the High Street and down nearby side streets. Double yellow lines and bus stops are ignored. Disabled drivers often cannot park as close to facilities as they should be able to,” said Mr Beattie.
“While I spend most of my time in the parliament I do also meet constituents in my office in the High Street. The knock on effect of the parking chaos is that, like so many others, I am forced to compromise on my own parking just to be able to access my office,” he continued.
“Clearly the present arrangements are not working and the time has come for a comprehensive review of how to manage parking in Dalkeith. We don’t want to chase away shoppers who frequent local businesses but we do want to discourage those commuters who simply treat Dalkeith as a Park and Ride. Supermarkets and public car parks together with judicious and well managed street parking are capable of accommodating everyone’s needs. Let’s be clear. I am not advocating heavy handed policing where drivers simply get tickets slapped on their windscreens. I am asking for some imaginative and effective, but sensitive, management of our streets and car parks and I am asking for it urgently,” Mr Beattie concluded.
The positive working relationship between the SNP and Scotland’s trade unions has been highlighted again today – after the First Minister signed a memorandum of understanding with the STUC to oppose Tory austerity and demand further powers for Scotland.
The agreement signed today highlights serious concerns over the Tory government’s commitment to austerity, £12bn welfare cuts and the further erosion of employment and trade union rights.
Nicola Sturgeon and the STUC also agreed that the UK Government should devolve powers over the minimum wage and employment law, equalities legislation and trade union and health and safety law – as well as further devolution of powers over social security.
Commenting, Christina McKelvie MSP – Convener of the SNP Parliamentary Trade Union Group – said:
“A positive working relationship between the SNP and Scotland’s trade unions will be crucial in leading the opposition to this out of touch Tory government and its ideological commitment to cuts – and today’s agreement with the First Minister is a very welcome step in fighting the Tories’ austerity agenda.
“The STUC’s commitment to working with the First Minister for the early devolution of powers over employment law, the minimum wage and social security is also very welcome – reflecting the clear view of the people of Scotland that these powers should be in Scotland’s hands rather than in the hands of George Osborne and David Cameron.
“There is clearly an emerging consensus in Scotland building behind the early delivery of these powers – every party in Scotland should now back the STUC’s calls today.
“In the last Parliament, Labour joined hands with the Tories to back billions of pounds of cuts - and this will never be forgotten by people in Scotland. It is now time for Labour to do the right thing and join with us to call for a strengthened package of powers for the Scottish Parliament.
“Last week the SNP received an unprecedented democratic mandate with ending austerity at its heart – and today’s agreement will make sure that Scotland’s opposition to cuts and our demands for more powers to make our country wealthier and fairer are heard loud and clear.”
The last time I spoke at a political meeting in Dumfries was shortly after the referendum.
I wasn’t First Minister then and I certainly didn’t expect to be standing here – three days before a UK election – with Scotland, and the influence Scotland can have, centre stage.
How times can change - and change for the better.
And with just three days to go, there is no doubt that Dumfries is the right place to be to talk about just what Scotland having influence and a strong voice at Westminster can mean for every part of our country – if you put your trust in the SNP on Thursday.
The fact is that at this Westminster election your vote really counts - it counts whether you live in Dumfries, Dundee or Durham.
That is the power of the people in this election.
Let us be clear what this election is about.
It is about ensuring a strong voice for Scotland - a strong voice that can undo the damage of the last five years of Tory government.
It is about making sure that the next government puts people first.
It is about ending Tory cuts and austerity
It is about protecting our NHS.
It is about making work pay with a higher minimum wage.
It is about investing in childcare and education, not in new nuclear weapons.
It is - above all - about giving Scotland the power and the voice at Westminster that we need to deliver progressive policies for the benefit of Scotland and for the whole UK.
If people in Scotland come together on Thursday to deliver a strong voice at Westminster, we can put those priorities and those values at the heart of the next Westminster parliament.
And we will do that not just for Scotland – but for the UK as a whole.
The fact is that ending austerity is just as important in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as it is in Scotland.
Cuts and austerity have hit people hard, held back our economy and put our public services at risk.
We simply cannot allow Tory cuts to continue – regardless of whether those cuts are proposed by the Tory Party or by the Labour Party.
Let’s just look at the impact on the NHS.
The NHS is an essential service that is close to all of our hearts.
It, and all of those who work in it, deserve the best support we can possibly give them.
We all rely at some point in our lives on our National Health Service.
It does a wonderful job but it isn’t perfect. In England the Head of the NHS says it needs an additional £8 billion by 2020.
Yet because of their devotion to the macho cuts agenda of the Tories, the Labour Party has failed to pledge that money to the NHS.
And the Tories have failed to say where they would find the money from.
The SNP will not let that stand.
Our plan for modest spending increases and fair taxes will mean that we can protect the NHS.
We will vote against privatisation, to undo the damage the Tories have done and restore the NHS in England as a fully public service.
And let me make this clear - we will always vote for the NHS to have the money it needs.
Proper investment in the NHS across the UK will generate an extra £2 billion for the NHS in Scotland.
That is just one of the policies we know people want - and which we will use our influence at Westminster to deliver.
It is a real, tangible, example of how SNP MPs can make a big difference.
You know, it is really no surprise that, after a campaign in which both of the big Westminster parties have sought to keep from the voters what they actually plan on doing in government, neither of them is on course for a majority at Westminster.
That might be a problem for them - but the prospect of a balanced parliament is a massive opportunity for Scotland and for all who believe in more progressive politics.
I have a cast iron guarantee for you.
A clear commitment of what the SNP will do - and what we will not do.
SNP MPs will never - ever - vote to put a Tory government into office.
No matter the arithmetic the nation wakes up to on Friday morning, we will never back a Tory government.
We know that Tory government is bad for Scotland and bad for the rest of the UK.
We have heard strong voices over the course of this campaign, from all parts of the UK, who share our aim of ending austerity and backing the NHS.
So we will not do anything that would put the Tories into office.
Indeed, if there is an anti Tory majority on Friday morning, we will call on Labour - even if they are not the largest party - to vote with us to keep the Tories out.
And, surely, any Labour leader who turned his back on that and allowed the Tories to get back into office, rather than work with the SNP to keep them out - as Ed Miliband suggested last week that he would - would simply never be forgiven in Scotland, or indeed in many other parts of the UK.
If we can get the Tories out, we should get the Tories out.
But let me also say this - Labour should not take our cast iron commitment to keep the Tories out as a free pass for them.
A strong group of SNP MPs will not let Labour simply be a paler version of the Tories – we will challenge them to become a better version of the Labour Party.
We will use our influence - whatever influence Scotland gives us - to make sure that the Tories are replaced with a government that is better, bolder and more progressive.
There has been much discussion in recent days of how SNP influence in the Commons will work.
And let me be clear - the influence of a big team of SNP MPs in a minority House of Commons, governed by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, would be significant.
We would use that influence responsibly and constructively at all times - but always with a view to winning better and more progressive policies.
Let me give just a few examples
If Labour propose a minimum wage of only £8.00 an hour – we will push for it to be £8.70.
If Labour fail to offer the NHS the full financial support it needs – we will put forward proposals that would support our NHS and we will build support for that, in parliament and across the country.
If Labour remain committed to Tory cuts, we will give their MPs a choice – vote with the Tories for cuts or vote with the SNP for an end to austerity.
And if Labour push for parliament to spend £100bn on new nuclear weapons we will vote against it and we will challenge others to vote with us to stop the renewal of Trident.
SNP MPs will be a strong group in that Westminster parliament – very different to the feeble Scottish Labour MPs of the past.
And if Ed Miliband is wrongheaded enough to be reject an anti-Tory alliance and let David Cameron back into power – then we will use a strong block of SNP MPs, working with allies across the UK, to protect Scotland from the damage of a Tory government, in a way that Labour never has.
There is another reason why voting SNP and giving Scotland a strong voice at Westminster will be positive for democracy.
Westminster is supposed to be the parliament and the government for the whole of the UK.
It often hasn't felt that way for Scotland as we have had to put up with Tory governments that we have rejected. I am sure parts of England have felt exactly the same.
So surely a test of legitimacy that should be applied to whatever Westminster government is formed after this election cannot simply be that it is the largest party in England.
The test that must be applied is whether a government can build a majority and win support that reflects the whole of the UK.
English MPs will always be the largest part of any Westminster majority, but to ignore Scottish voices would be wrong.
So if on Friday morning there are a number of progressive voices elected to Westminster from across the whole of the UK who – with Labour – can lock the Tories out and ensure influence and representation for all parts of the UK, that would be more balanced, surely, than a party trying to take power without UK wide support.
The SNP will use our influence in Westminster to give Scotland a strong voice – but we will do it by working with allies from the rest of the UK, and I pledge that we will do it with the interests of people across the UK firmly in mind as well.
We will make sure progressive policies are delivered.
There are three days left in this election campaign.
Let me spell out what that means.
It means we have three days to stop Tory cuts.
Three days to stop Tory cuts simply being replaced by Labour cuts.
Three days to deliver better paid jobs
Three days to win greater investment in our NHS.
And three days to ensure Scotland's voice is heard louder than it ever has been before at Westminster.
So over these next three days, my plea to Scotland is this.
Let us come together as one country, Yes and No, people who always vote SNP and those who never have before, rural Scotland, urban Scotland, island Scotland.
Let us come together in a spirit of unity and make our voice heard.
The more seats the SNP wins on Thursday, the more power Scotland will have.
It is that simple.