All change in Edinburgh – not so much change at Westminster!
There have been a lot of big political developments both in Edinburgh and at UK level over the last week. In Edinburgh, of course, the big news was the change in councillors following the local elections on May 3rd. The new Labour-SNP administration on Edinburgh Council is going to have a lot of challenges over the next few years. I’ll be doing what I can to support their efforts to bring jobs and investment to Edinburgh. You can find details of the new councillors on my website at http://bit.ly/K7HCvg
At UK level, we finally have a new session of Parliament, the previous one lasting two years! There was a lot of proposed legislation, most having implications for Scotland. I’ve given my general views on the programme set out in the ‘Queen’s Speech’ elsewhere – see http://bit.ly/JIl2tm
What is striking is that the programme didn’t contain anything much for jobs and the economy. The government is coming under pressure from all sides to change its ‘austerity’ agenda to a ‘growth’ agenda – as unemployment rises, that’s needed more than ever.
The Government’s Welfare Reform Bill has now become law and will mean major changes to the benefit system, some of which have already come into effect.
The introduction of the new Personal Independence Payment in place of Disability Living Allowance is one major issue and another is the new Work Capability Assessment but you can find more details of all the changes on my website at http://bit.ly/KIGpzA
One of the issues I have been taking up is the effect they will have on some of the most vulnerable people – those with a disability of some kind.
Everybody claiming a benefit will now have to be continually assessed even if they have a long term condition which has not changed. I have been working with RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) to highlight potential flaws in the way the assessments are designed. You can find more on this at http://bit.ly/JhXCM5
Green investment in Edinburgh
There was some brighter news as the Government announced that the new Green Investment Bank will be based here in Edinburgh. As you will know I have been lobbying hard as part of the campaign for Edinburgh and it was great news that we had been successful.
There was more positive news when a major European renewable energy company decided to base a wind turbine manufacturing plant in Leith docks which is projected to create at least 800 new jobs, with more benefits for indirect employment. I spoke to the company while the bid was being considered so I know that Edinburgh’s existing strength in green industry and finance counted.
This is just the kind of project that the Green Investment Bank could be supporting but the battle remains to be won as the UK Government has decided to delay giving the Bank borrowing powers until 2015 and even then it will depend on the state of the deficit.
Borrowing to invest in industry to create jobs is the real route to getting people off benefit but the Government has sadly yet to get the message!
Greener Leith and PEDAL Portobello have taken the initiative themselves with exciting plans to build Edinburgh first community wind turbine at Seafield on land owned by Scottish Water. Unfortunately negotiations have stalled at the moment but I will keep you posted on developments. For the moment you can find the latest news at http://bit.ly/IDJVnX
VAT – taxing alterations to listed buildings
I have made clear my anger at Government inaction on the economy but some of the action it did take in the Budget risks doing real damage to small businesses in other ways.
From October VAT at 20% will be charged on alterations to listed buildings which were previously zero-rated. That’s going to hit a city like Edinburgh really hard because of the number of listed buildings here. It will mean that for instance a church which wants to install a disabled toilet or access could now be faced with having to raise much more to carry out the work and it could make some projects unviable.
It’s also likely to have a damaging effect on small builders and architects who specialise in this kind of work
I have heard from a range of people and organisations affected and I have spoken out in Parliament. At present there seems little prospect that the Government will change course despite the strength of protest but I will continue to press them to drop the changes. You can find more on this story here http://bit.ly/HG4XIC
Transport to, from and in Edinburgh
Another issue I have been involved with a lot recently is transport. I was disappointed that there was no mention of High Speed 2 in the Queen’s Speech, which very much suggests the proposed extension of high speed rail north from London is going to be postponed. That means the timescale for high speed rail reaching Scotland is even more distant in the future.
I have also expressed concern at the effect on Edinburgh’s transport links of the takeover of bmi airline by IAG which also owns British Airways. It now appears that some of the important routes that bmi currently operates from Edinburgh will be taken over by a new operator, but the situation is not yet clear. There is more on this issue on my website at http://bit.ly/IGIpDY
On the ground I took part in the Pedal on (the Scottish) Parliament recently with around 3,000 other cyclists to highlight the need to make cycling safer. As a longstanding campaigner for road safety it was great to see such a good turnout. You can read more on this at http://bit.ly/IWmFab
Scottish Government Referendum Consultation
I responded to the Scottish Government Referendum Consultation, setting out my view that there should be one clear question approved by the independent Electoral Commission.
I think the best time for the referendum to take place would be in the second half of 2013 - that would avoid prolonged uncertainty which some business leaders have said is affecting investment plans but at the same time provide enough time for the issues to be fully debated and the administration to be properly put in place.
Politicians on all sides should seek consensus on the terms on which it is going to be held so that whatever the result people can come together to make it work in the interests of Scotland as a whole. You can read what I said in my submission in full at http://bit.ly/KPTdi0
How to contact me
This newsletter gives information on just some of the activities I have been involved both in the UK Parliament and here in the constituency. Have a look at my website www.marklazarowicz.org.uk for more details! I’m also on Twitter @marklazarowicz
You can contact me at my office at
5 Croall Place, EH7 4LT
Tel.: 0131 557 0577
Monday to Friday: 9.30am - 12.30pm & 1.30 - 4.30pm
Or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also come along and speak to me at one of my weekly advice surgeries (no appointment needed):
Every Friday at
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MP for Edinburgh North & Leith
Follow me on twitter @marklazarowicz