View from Westminster

IAN BLACKFORD 17/12/17 Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. PICTURE IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE

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This week we launch a new monthly column from Ian Blackford MP, keeping you up to date on the work he is undertaking on your behalf.

At this moment in time Westminster politics is largely dominated by the Brexit talks, which are leading to great uncertainty across the country. The future of Theresa May as Prime Minister also now appears uncertain as forces in her own party gather to challenge her leadership over Brexit.

Of more concern to myself and my fellow SNP MPs is the disastrous effect Brexit will have on the Scottish economy and jobs.

A particularly disturbing aspect of the European Withdrawal Bill currently making progress through Parliament in Clause 11, which sees all powers currently exercised at EU level returned to Westminster, even those currently devolved to the Scotland and Wales.

This goes against devolution settlements and we voted against allowing this to happen, but the 13 Tory MPs from Scottish constituencies voted with the UK Government in allowing Westminster this power, against the best interests of Scotland.

Looking at other Brexit options, I invited all opposition leaders to join me in a discussion about maintaining a position in the Single Market and Customs Union.  Sir Vince Cable of the Lib Dems, Liz Saville-Roberts, Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru and Caroline Lucas  of the Greens attended and made positive contributions, with only Jeremy Corbyn declining the offer. It is very sad that Labour as whole seem unable to decide what their stance on Brexit will be.

These discussions have now moved on with an invite to Trade Union leaders to join us.

As leader of the SNP Westminster Group, I ask questions of the Prime Minister each week and use this opportunity to fight the corner for Scotland, making sure she is reminded of issues concerning all of you and that we will not give up.

The high cost of deliveries to the Highlands, the surcharge on electricity distribution, the EU grant to Scottish farming which is still held in the UK Treasury, Brexit and on many recent occasions, Royal Bank branch closures in this constituency and across the country.

RBS is still 73 per cent owned by the UK public and therefore we should have a say in their decision making.  Mrs May and her ministers hide behind the excuse closures that this is a commercial decision over which they have no control.  However, when George Osborne was chancellor, he intervened to remove their CEO. If the Government do this they can help ensure our rural communities do not lose banking services.

I have also written to present CEO Ross McEwan, inviting him to visit the constituency to see for himself the far-reaching effects of closures on local communities.

The role of an MP is to serve you, the constituents and deal with any issues you may have. I am available through regular surgeries, phone calls, letters, emails and social media. Every enquiry is dealt with and a solution sought as quickly as possible.

Recently, the roll out of Universal Credit has been causing problems for many individuals and families who find themselves lost and worse off in a flood of new rules and regulations. This is just not acceptable and my staff have been finding answers for them.

Another great concern, especially in the Fort William area at this moment,  is the state of the roads, with very bad surface wear and severe potholes on the way in and out of town.  I have written to the CEO of BEAR Scotland, who are responsible for this work, asking that temporary repairs be undertaken immediately, before major resurfacing work planned to start in better weather.

I also look forward to meeting you at my regular surgeries throughout Ross, Skye and Lochaber in the coming months.