Visit to Boroughmuir High School

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Last month, I spoke to pupils from 3rd to 6th year at Boroughmuir High School about my work at parliament and in the constituency.

I was asked some insightful questions which showed how engaged they are in the political process and how decisions made in Holyrood and Westminster affect their daily lives. We even had time for an “Oscar-style” selfie.

boroughmuirThe school also received good news in the form of further planning permission for the new school this week. The school site is marked by the Union Canal to the south, Dundee Street to the north, and Viewforth to the east. The student residencies being built off Gibson Terrace for Napier University mark the western edge of the site.  Boroughmuir is a superb school and the new building will provide an excellent learning environment.  Work is expected to start this summer and be completed in 2016.

For further information, visit the project website here.

Foreign Office Questions – EU

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On Tuesday this week, I asked the Foreign Office Minister if he would set out which powers the Government wants to take back from the European Union as David Cameron has said on a number of occasions. 

I want to see the UK remain in a reformed EU and I believe the Government’s mixed message on EU membership is very damaging for the UK, particularly for the business community.

You can watch the exchange by clicking here.

ROYAL MAIL SELL-OFF – AUDIT OFFICE CONFIRM TAXPAYERS LOSE OUT

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This week, a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) – the respected independent body which is responsible for government departments and agencies – looked at the privatisation of Royal Mail.  The report makes for uncomfortable reading for the Government.

It confirms that Ministers mishandled the sale of one of our country’s prized national assets, a move which has left the taxpayer short-changed to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. We now know definitively that better value could have been achieved had Ministers adopted a different timetable for the sale. As the report concludes: “The Department could have achieved better value for the taxpayer”.

This report is a truly damning verdict on the government’s Royal Mail privatisation and the final nail in the coffin on ministers’ desperate claims in defence of it. People will rue this ideological fire sale for years to come, and wonder how ministers got this so wrong and why they short changed the taxpayer by hundreds of millions of pounds.

Royal-Mail-Logo_0Labour have been clear that we oppose the wholesale privatisation of our national postal service. We have always backed having a majority taxpayer stake in Royal Mail, which gives the taxpayer an interest in the maintenance of the universal service obligation (USO). Historically there has been a strong link between the Post Office network and Royal Mail – but this has been put at risk by privatisation.

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday however, the Prime Minister tried to claim otherwise and said that Labour had committed to a sell-off in our 2010 manifesto. This is categorically false and I believe Mr Cameron should clear the record.

You can read more from me on the NAO report by clicking here.

I also wrote for the Guardian about the Prime Minister’s incorrect assertions which you can read here.

A Labour Government will repeal the Lobbying Act in 2015

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The illiberal gagging law took a big step towards being repealed yesterday, as Labour pledged to scrap it, if returned to government in 2015.

140403gagThis Act came about because the current Government wanted to protect vested interests lobbying at the heart of government, and they wanted to stop charities and campaigners holding them to account for their broken promises.

Therefore, I’m delighted that a Labour Government will repeal this law, and will instead legislate for the real reform that our politics needs. In the legislation to repeal the Act, we will introduce a universal register of all professional lobbyists backed by a code of conduct and sanctions. We will also consult with charities and campaigners about the reform we need to both ensure transparency in our elections and protect freedom of speech.

The campaign against this policy deserves much credit for exposing this Act for what it is – a shabby deal which lets vested interests off the hook.

BEING PART OF THE UK PROTECTS THE PENSIONS OF HARD WORKING SCOTS

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Being part of the UK protects the pensions of hard-working people in Edinburgh, a new European Union report confirmed.

In a devastating blow to the nationalist case for separation, it is now clear that breaking up the UK means the pension schemes of people in Edinburgh could close.

European Commission Memo/14/239 confirms that cross-border pension schemes must be fully funded. Today this law does not apply to pension schemes based elsewhere in the UK but operating in Scotland, since we are one state in the EU.

If Scotland leaves the UK we would become foreign countries, meaning pension schemes operating across Scotland and the continuing UK would need to be fully funded. A number of impartial and independent experts have said that separating from the UK could mean pension schemes in Scotland would have to close.

Earlier this month senior SNP Ministers claimed that the matter would be resolved and that it would be alright on the night, however the publication of this memo makes clear that leaving the UK would put the pensions of hard working people in Edinburgh at risk.

Ian Murray MP said:

“The pensions system in the UK works well through the pooling of resources, where the rewards are shared via sensible and efficient risk sharing. This protects the pensions of people in Edinburgh who have worked all their lives to enjoy retirement.

“The EU has confirmed that Scottish company pension schemes must overnight, if we leave the UK, fill a huge funding black hole. The implications for people who are members of these pension schemes and for the companies themselves are huge.

“It’s now clear beyond doubt that independence puts the pensions of hard working Scots at risk.

“Filling the pensions black hole would come at huge cost to the companies and their employees, or would mean the break-up of these pension schemes. People in Scotland have a choice – believe the experts or believe Alex Salmond on pensions.”

Liberton High School

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The tragedy that befell Liberton High School last week was absolutely devastating for all those involved with the School.  My thoughts are with Keane’s family and friends, and all the teachers and pupils, particularly Head teacher Stephen Kelly.  It follows the recent death of fellow Liberton pupil Jamie Skinner who died suddenly  whilst playing football in December.

libertonLiberton is a school well rooted in the local community but one tragedy is enough for any school to cope with let alone two in such a short space of time.  I hope that the investigation into this sad incident can happen quickly and that lessons can be learnt so that this never happens again.  We owe that to the memory of Keane.

I gave my reflections to Evening News earlier this week.

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I also raised the double tragedy that has devastated Liberton High School in the House of Commons at last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab):

The Liberton High School community in my constituency was left devastated just before Christmas when 14-year-old pupil Jamie Skinner died while playing football. That heartbreak returned yesterday with the sad death of 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett when a fabricated wall collapsed on her while she was at school. I am sure the Prime Minister and the whole House will wish to send their condolences to the head teacher, Stephen Kelly, the staff, teachers and pupils at the school, her friends and of course her family, who sent her to school yesterday morning, for her never to return home.

The Prime Minister:

The whole House will agree with what the hon. Gentleman said. It was an absolutely shocking accident that people will have seen across the country. Their hearts will go out to the family and all those involved with the school. Clearly the lessons will have to be learned to make sure that tragic accidents like that cannot happen again.

Let’s have a reasoned debate based on fact

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Given my twitter feed over the last few hours I think I was right to highlight the increasingly poisonous nature of the independence debate, especially in light of recent vandalism to my constituency office.

Much of this vitriol and bile followed an inaccurate and unsubstantiated post by a Bath-based blogger who failed to check either the facts or the circumstances of the incident.

I want to be clear about the facts of the situation.  Having spoken to the blogger in question, I have been promised that he will publish my response and that he will correct his article for inaccuracies.  I hope that other blog sites such as Newsnet Scotland will follow suit. I also hope that elected members from the SNP who chose to jump on this bandwagon see that their activities on twitter should be checked before blindly posting on the inaccurate word of a blogger.

 

For clarity:

  1.  I didn’t respond either the blog post or the twitter requests as I had much more pressing and important issues to deal with yesterday.  I shall say no more than that but I think people should pause and reflect before harassing on twitter and writing blog posts.
  2. I don’t tend to respond to tweets that are sent to me unless they are from constituents and I don’t, usually, bother about blog posts but this is especially bad.
  3. The vandalism was not on the front doors as stated by the blog post.  The doors to my constituency office have been like that since approximately summer 2010, mainly because I purchased a special paint due to the colour matching, not realising that it was ineffective for the job and requires to be sanded down.
  4. The reason there was no damage or otherwise visible when the bloggers photographer went around as my staff had taken the time to clear the windows and doors of the stickers.
  5. The reason I knew the vandals were pro-independence supporters was because they were pro-independence stickers.  I think you can say this is beyond reasonable doubt.
  6. I did not report this in a formal complaint to the police but I replied to an email that morning from the local Chief Inspector who was introducing a new Inspector.  I said clearly that the vandalism incident was minor but that I was reporting it informally as I was getting increasingly concerned at the poisonous nature of the referendum and whilst I was happy to take all the personal abuse that is levied on twitter, via email and in person I would not subject my staff to such abuse.  It was not right that they had to clean these stickers off the windows and doors yesterday and it is not right that they have to work in such an environment. The Chief Inspector agreed and has arranged for my office to have a crime prevention survey done to best protect my staff.
  7. The press did not send anyone round to take pictures.  I spoke with a considerable number of journalists yesterday on the other events in the constituency and they mentioned it to me.  I explained the situation and they took the decision that a) it wasn’t a story and b) other events that day were much more significant.

My main concern remains the escalation and if you look at my twitter feed over the last 15 hours you will see that my concerns are justified and perfectly encapsulated in that timeframe.

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The responses on twitter are a very sad reflection of the debate.  I have asked the blogger to remove or correct the post on the basis of the above information. I hope that the blogger retracts his post, and perhaps thinks carefully about publishing unverified information in the future. It does him no good, it does the debate the no good and it causes unnecessary time to be diverted from what I am elected to do.

 

I will conclude by saying that I will sort the graffiti on my office door as soon as I can. I would hate for people to use that as an excuse to write inaccurate and misleading blog posts.

 

Ian