At the beginning of September the Scottish Parliament returns after a two month hiatus. Over the recess I have been working across the region, visiting community groups and recognising the hard work and commitment that goes on. The Parliamentary recess offers an opportunity to step back from the workings of Holyrood and to see first-hand the concerns of local people and to learn more about the work that goes on in our communities. It allows MSPs time to learn more about what matters to the communities and people of Scotland, so they can take these matters up in Parliament and act to address them.
That is not to say the business of politics stops when the Parliament is not sitting, and over the summer there has been no shortage of issues to address: from record drugs deaths to continuing mismanagement of the rail franchise; from GP shortages and delays in cancer treatment to overcrowding in prisons and another fall in Higher pass rates. This summer we have of course also seen the continuation of debate over Brexit, and the seemingly inevitable elevation of Boris Johnson to Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, for the First Minister, the summer recess has provided an opportunity to participate in a number of events at the Edinburgh Fringe, talking about independence and the difficulties of small talk with Theresa May. Perhaps taking a leaf from the handbook of personality turned current Prime Minister, her team decided that this summer was an ideal time to chat with podcasters and appear on Loose Women, rather than address the key issues facing the people of Scotland.
Last week saw the publication of the latest GERS figures, stating that the country had a deficit of £12.6 billion in the last financial year which means an independent Scotland would have one of the biggest deficits in the developed world. SNP plans to address the deficit would see unprecedented cuts for Scotland’s schools and hospitals – further austerity rather than much needed investment in our communities and public services.
When the Scottish Parliament returns the immediate focus will be on the Programme for Government, with the SNP Government unveiling its plans for legislation over the course of the Parliamentary year. Work on the Referendums Bill will continue, and the consequences of Brexit on our economy and our communities is never far from our agenda. But we must see the return to Parliamentary business which focused on addressing the issues that matter to Scots on a day to day basis.
We have much to be getting on with – from holding Abellio to account for the mis-management of the ScotRail contract, to finding better ways of addressing drugs addiction across the country, from supporting teachers and pupils in our education system, to ensuring people can get GP appointments and access other crucial healthcare services. We need to listen to the concerns of our communities and ensure our time in Parliament is used to deliver positive change.