Parliament has now broken up for Christmas Recess. Still, before doing so, I once again had the pleasure to lead the SNP in the Christmas Adjournment debate.
The debate rightly and properly paid a glowing tribute to the late David Amess, who so tragically lost his life while undertaking his Parliamentary duties earlier this year.
David was a regular in these debates, and I often watched him leading on campaigns for Southend on behalf of constituents.
I agreed with colleagues who believe it would be a lovely tribute to David to rename the Summer Adjournment Debate in his honour.
These contributions are an opportunity to raise issues on behalf of my constituents. It also allows me to reflect on the year gone by.
I started my contribution by talking about how 2021 has yet again been dominated by COVID and its impacts on people’s lives.
And, as we head into the New Year, we are again faced with a new challenge in this pandemic with the emergence of this new omicron variant.
I continue my contribution by calling on the UK Government to come forward soon with business support and, indeed, support for workers. Including taking the opportunity to revisit the issue of the excluded—those 3 million people who have not received financial support during the pandemic.
The pandemic has also brought out the best in us.
I can think of organisations that have assisted the vulnerable in Glasgow South West, such as Govan HELP – which organises The Govan Pantry; the Crookston Community Group; SWAMP and G53 Together; the Threehills community supermarket, which is a profitable project that I am very much involved in; and the Drummoyne Community Council. They have ensured that the vulnerable have been protected, particularly when it comes to food.
People have a right to food. In 2022, I will be working with the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union on its campaign on the right to food.
I also asked the Government to look urgently at the issue of people not being given travel to get home at night from their place of work. And that people working in the hospitality sector on zero-hours contracts cannot afford food. It sickens me that they spend their shifts serving food they cannot afford.
Perhaps in 2022, the Government will finally table their much-promised employment Bill to look at those indignities. The covid pandemic has exposed inequalities, including employment and employment practices.
I also urged the Government to finally fix this country’s broken social security system.
They must also protect Afghan citizens, encouraging them to revisit the Afghan resettlement scheme.
In recent months, it has been harrowing to listen to constituents in my surgeries, showing me the threats that their family members in Afghanistan have received if the constituent does not go back to Afghanistan to face the Taliban.
That comes back to another of my wishes for 2022. Fixing the language of our politics is essential, especially when discussing immigration and refugees.
I placed on record again that it is legal for people to seek sanction or asylum; it is not illegal, and we should stop labelling people as illegal.
This year was also the 25th anniversary of Show Racism the Red Card. I spoke at my continued pride to be the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).
I have seen Show Racism the Red Card at a school in Glasgow South West. In excellent terms, they taught the schoolchildren the difference between an asylum seeker, a refugee, and an economic migrant – a lesson some of my colleagues in Westminster may benefit from.
Another campaign close to my heart is giving asylum seekers the right to work after six months in this country. In my contribution, I called on the Government to listen to campaigners and give those seeking asylum the right to work.
While reflecting on the year past, it would have been wrong to ignore the recent difficulties of this Tory UK Government. But, unfortunately, this Government seem to have engulfed itself in sleaze and the perception of arrogance.
The pandemic has masked it a little, but this year we have started to see the cost of Brexit. I call on the Government to assess Brexit and face the Brexit realities. The economy appears to be shrinking.
Of course, support for Scottish independence is rising to its highest levels. Whether or not there is a connection, I am very confident that, after the covid crisis is over, Scotland will become a modern, independent country.
I concluded my remarks by taking the opportunity to pay tribute to the work of my excellent constituency staff – and as I always say, I have the best constituency team in the UK.
My office caseloads have massively increased during the pandemic, and my team has never been busier. So, I thanked my team of Justina, Dominque, Greg, Tony, Keith and Scott on record. They are led by our office manager, the great Roza Salih, who, unfortunately, was not elected to Scotland’s Parliament this year. Still, I am sure that she will be elected to her place very soon because she deserves it.