Monday started with Education Oral Questions, where I had the opportunity to ask two questions of the Ministerial team. While education is a devolved policy area, it is still interesting to hear how the UK Government are rolling out new policies in England, and how that contrasts with what we’re doing here in Scotland.
My first question related to the recent announcement that the UK Government would be making substantial changes to student loans, and the rate they’re repaid at. I asked how the Minister anticipated that would impact on social mobility, and how these changes could make education less accessible and see student numbers drop. You can read a transcript of my question in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
During the topical portion of the session, I highlighted the need for universities to diversify the backgrounds of their international student cohorts, following news that Edinburgh University has become reliant on funding from students from China. You can read a transcript of my question in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
Orals were followed by an Urgent Question on the executions in Saudi Arabia the previous weekend, seeing the death of 81 people. I took this opportunity to highlight that most of the crimes these prisoners were executed for had not involved ‘a drop of blood’ and the need for greater transparency within the Saudi judicial system. I asked the Minister what material steps were being taken within the UK Government to show that these human rights abuses would not be tolerated. You can read a transcript of my question in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
In the afternoon, there was a Westminster Hall debate on Ukrainian refugees, where I gave a speech. In my speech I noted the Government’s underwhelming response to the crisis, and called for swifter and better co-ordinated action. You can read a transcript of my speech in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
It was Work and Pensions Oral Questions on Tuesday morning, where I asked the Minister about the KickStart Scheme, which has failed to attract the numbers projected by the Government by over 80,000. I asked what the Government would be doing to provide support for the young people that have lost out – You can read a transcript of my question in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
This was followed by an Urgent Question to the Minister of State for Energy, about the Government’s position on shale gas production in the UK, or as it’s better known, fracking. I voiced my opposition to fracking, which even if implemented would not see any potential benefits for many years, and asked what steps the Government are taking to invest in alternative, greener solutions to the energy crisis. You can read a transcript of my question in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
In the afternoon, there was a general debate on the situation in Ukraine, where I gave a speech. In my speech I spoke to some of the most common issues that constituents have raised with me since Putin’s invasion, like the need for greater humanitarian aid. You can read a transcript of my speech in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
Wednesday saw the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was finally able to travel home from Iran after years of unjustified detention. Anoosheh Ashoori was also freed, and returned on the same flight. The Foreign Secretary came to the House to provide an update on the situation, where I joined in her celebration of their release but asked what lessons could be learned to ensure that in the future, detainees and their family have ease of access to consular services. You can read a transcript of my question in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
I also participated in a Westminster Hall debate on peace and stability in the Balkans, where I made two interventions. In the first I noted the implied support given by Serbia to Milorad Dodik, and contemplated the dangers of how this might embolden him. I later highlighted comments made by the Kosovan President, about the heightened risk to Kosovo and his perception of the country becoming a target. You can watch the debate on ParliamentTV.
In the evening I sat in on the Member Airdrie and Shott’s adjournment debate on the closure of bank branches, where I intervened to highlight the BankHub in Cambuslang and the importance of face-to-face banking services. You can watch the debate on ParliamentTV.
At Thursday’s Business Questions I congratulated Rutherglen Bankhead Tenants and Residents Association on their 30th anniversary, making them one of the oldest associations in South Lanarkshire. I also tabled an Early Day Motion for the same purpose. You can read a transcript of my exchange with the Leader of the House in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.
This was followed by a Backbench Business debate on the Irish Diaspora in Britain to mark St Patrick’s day. In my speech, I told the stories of two Irish women who made two very different contributions to British society – Dame Ninette de Valois, the founder of the Royal Ballet, and Mary Morris, a nurse during the Second World War. I also reflected on how the migration of Irish workers to Glasgow changed the city and how they helped to shape it into what it is today. You can read a transcript of my speech in Hansard, or watch it on ParliamentTV.