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This Election Year...




As we head towards the end of March and with a General Election drawing ever nearer, the shadows are growing longer and the gloom deeper for a Tory Government which is in increasing decline. Having now been in Parliament for over four years, it seems that the same topics and issues, both local and national, come round again and again.

 

Access to local services, especially banking and postal services continue to be a key concern. Although I’m pleased to see the proposed new parcel service Post Office in St Andrews, it’s clear that more needs to be done to incentivise the role of postmaster, both through pay and terms and conditions. The Post Office Horizon scandal continues to cast a long shadow, and with new legislation arriving in Westminster, the Scottish Government must quickly determine what they will do to deal with the miscarriages of justice that took place in Scotland, that cannot be addressed by the UK Government.

 

We are fast approaching 6th April 2024 when the Carers Leave Act, the Private Member’s Bill that I took through Parliament in the last session, will finally be enacted. I’ve been working closely with organisations such as Carers UK, the Carers Trust and others, along with the UK Government to ensure that both employers and employees are aware of the change, and no the leave requests must be accommodated. I recently met with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to highlight the inadequacy of support for Unpaid Carers, and I was pleased to see the Liberal Democrat Leader, Ed Davey, highlight the impact of the essential support they provide at our recent Federal Conference in York.

 

Many unpaid carers are women, who often have to leave the workplace in order to fulfil their caring responsibilities. This time out of the workplace impacts in a number of ways – some are never able to return, some can only access part time, or lower paid opportunities out with their former careers. As well as adding to the Gender Pay Gap, it also contributes to a gender gap for pensions, making women more likely to be solely reliant on their state pensions, as well as not entitled to receive their full state pension which compounds the potential hardship. I was pleased to take part in the Women with Balls podcast by Katy Balls of the Spectator magazine, alongside pension industry specialists to talk about these challenges, as well as highlighting ongoing issues with the state pension top-up helpline.

 

Finally, standards in public life, particularly in relation to the current Conservative Government have again been in the headlines. Back in November 2021, I secured an emergency debate on Standards following the breach of lobbying rules by the former Conservative MP Owen Paterson, and the subsequent attempts to allow his sanction to be dropped. This week I was in Parliament outlining the numerous changes that the Government have made in relation to elections as we approach the General Election, including changes in Voter Identification, and increases in electoral spending limits. The fallout from the Prime Minster’s initial failure to condemn the remarks of donor Frank Hester in relation to Diane Abbott MP as left him further weakened. These electoral changes might amount to tactics designed to help the Conservatives as we approach the General Election, but I’m not sure anything is working in their favour now.


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