27th November 2015
Two issues dominated proceedings at Westminster this week – the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and the UK’s role in Syria.
Although much has been made in the media about the supposed u-turn on cuts to tax credits, the reality is that the cuts have not been permanently reversed but merely delayed until the introduction of Universal Credits, which will be paid at the lower rate. The Chancellor is undeterred in his pursuit of austerity. Thousands of families will heave a big sigh of relief for the time being but may still face significant cuts in the future if the Chancellor gets his way.
The reprieve was, nonetheless, a success for the SNP who vociferously opposed the cuts from the start. The Labour party abstained on the vote against Welfare cuts before the summer but, under Corbyn’s leadership, finally joined us to form a united opposition at the final stage. Sadly, they voted with the Tories to block the devolution of tax credits to the Scottish Parliament, which would have stopped the Tory UK Government imposing these cuts on people here in Scotland.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister made a Statement on his plan for UK military involvement in Syria in the form of airstrikes. While I too was shocked at the horror of the attacks in Paris, action should be taken on the basis of effectiveness rather than our need to ‘do something’ in response. In the subsequent debate, I had the opportunity to raise some of my concerns with David Cameron – firstly, that bombing raids are already resulting in even greater numbers of refugees as people flee their homes and are unable to identify any safe area; and, secondly, that airstrikes inevitably cause civilian casualties which can act as a recruiting tool for Daesh among young Syrian and Iraqi men and women living in Europe: those involved in the Paris attacks were predominantly French and Belgian nationals.
More locally, I would like to congratulate the efforts of both the Scottish Maritime Museum and the North Ayrshire Foodbank, which have teamed up to encourage all those who visit Santa’s Grotto on 5th December at the Museum this year to make a donation to the local Foodbank. Unfortunately, the harsh reality for many families this Christmas will include a visit to a foodbank and initiatives such as this one help ensure a steady supply of much needed provisions, and so I would urge people to donate if they can as it will make a huge difference to those who need it. Harbourside is such a great visitor resource for Irvine and I am keen that more people will visit and get to know it. I believe once children have visited Santa’s Grotto at the Maritime Museum they will want to come back again to spend more time with the exhibits.