Richard Thomson MP
Gordon Parliamentary Newsletter
Hello and welcome to my August Parliamentary report. Here you will find details on the activities I’ve been involved in over the last month as your MP.
It has been a busy July in Parliament leading up to the recess. Our Prime Minister's untenable position finally became apparent to him at the start of the month. He retains his post for now, but this raises several concerns of the function of government in the meantime.
There is much business to hand. Fuel prices; rising inflation; cost of living crisis; passport and visa delays are all concerns hitting constituents across Gordon.
While Parliament is not sitting, I and my constituency team continue to work tirelessly for you. If my team or I can assist you in any way, please email r[email protected] or call 020 3545 2236 to get in touch.
July 7: The Functioning of Government
On 7th July, I responded on behalf of the SNP to an Urgent Question tabled by Labour Depute Leader Angela Rayner on 'The Functioning of Government'. The idea that Boris Johnson either could or should hang around in Downing Street until Autumn was and remains utterly laughable. The sooner the removal vans are parked outside Number 10, the better!
“It is a Prime Minister who achieved Brexit under false pretences, purely as part of his game to achieve entry to Downing Street. In that two years and 348 days, he has left behind a trail of political chaos and economic destruction, leaving any reputation that the UK might have retained as a reliable international partner that stands up for the international rules-based order trampled into the dust.”
Watch my video here.
July 7: Backbench Debate on Alcohol Taxation
On July 7, I summed up in a debate on alcohol taxation. In my view, alcohol duty has been ripe for review for some time. I used my contribution to argue for a review of taxation, especially where spirits are concerned, and took the chance to highlight the contribution that Gordon’s distilleries make to our local economy.
” Ideally, to my mind, what any Government ought to be looking for is a regime that supports domestic innovation—product innovation and technological innovation, of which there is a great deal in the alcohol-producing sector—along with investment and production, while also keeping the social and health impacts of alcohol consumption in mind."
"As I have said, I am a member of the all-party parliamentary group on Scotch whisky, and in my constituency in the north-east of Scotland there are three significant distilleries. The Glendronach distillery is near the village of Forgue, and the Ardmore distillery is near the railway at Kennethmont. The third is Glen Garioch and, unusually for a Scottish distillery, it sits not in the middle of an iconic natural landscape but slap bang in the middle of the town of Oldmeldrum. If you drive through Oldmeldrum, you drive through the different buildings of the distillery, depending on the route you take, and it really is quite remarkable. If you are in the north-east of Scotland, I would encourage you to visit it. Give me a shout and I’ll come along with you—it would be great to be able to show off such a distillery.
"As well as producing excellent products, those distilleries are right at the heart of our visitor economy. Together with the rest of the whisky sector, they make an enormous contribution to Treasury revenues and to the UK balance of payments. It is not just the whisky that is important; many distillery sites in Scotland also produce the spirits needed to make vodka or gin. In Aberdeenshire there is a burgeoning sector of craft gin manufacturers and those who produce the botanicals to go along with that. There is real innovation there, and while I would not wish to overstate this, it seems iniquitous that we are taxing that domestic product at such a high rate and as a consequence perhaps influencing consumer behaviour to prefer other forms of drink that are not produced domestically."
You can read my full contribution here.
July 20: Northern Ireland Protocol Bill
As my group's Spokesperson for Northern Ireland, I led duringin the passage of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. Despite its title, if the measures in the bill are enacted, they will have a hugely negative effect across all parts of the UK. The consequences for North East Scotland's manufacturers, produces and consumers threaten to be particularly severe.
“We have found out that the UK Government's precious Brexit has at all stages throughout this pantomime been much more important than the [so-called] 'Precious Union'. We have found out that Scots do not exist in anything remotely approaching a partnership of equals. We have also found that we are no longer part of a state that can claim with any shred of credibility to stand up for international law and the rule of law and that can be respected for the stance it takes as part of that rules-based international order.
"If the measures in the Bill are used, we are going to find ourselves, at the height of a cost-of-living crisis, experiencing even more frictions than we are currently for our manufacturers and our consumers. We will also find this legislation being prayed in aid by despots around the world as they seek to escape their own obligations under international law.
"What is clearest of all is that the Union in which Scots were invited to vote to remain in 2014—to “lead not leave”, as the slogan had it—has been changed utterly and is now unrecognisable. That, above all, is why we can, we must and we will have a referendum on Scotland’s future."
You can read my full contribution here
Early Day Motions
Early Day Motion - Pat Scott retirement from the Huntly Express
EDM (Early Day Motion) 275: tabled on 11 July 2022
I tabled the following Early Day Motion in Parliament to recognise Pat Scott's retirement from the Huntly Express newspaper
Full Motion text -
"That this House notes Pat Scott is retiring as Chief Reporter with Highland News and Media, having served as Editor of the Huntly Express; understands that Pat joined the Huntly Express in 1978 and has reported on Huntly and district diligently since that time; notes that Pat has worked for four different owners of the newspaper and in five different locations over the past 44 years; commends the unstinting support the Huntly Express has given its local community over the years under Pat’s leadership; and wishes Pat well in her retirement from journalism but understands she will continue to be involved in community events, notably the Huntly Hairst."
July 11: meeting with Ireland’s Foreign Minister
I met with Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on July 11th together with my colleague, SNP Foreign Affairs Spokesman Alyn Smith MP. We discussed the vital importance of supporting efforts to maintain peace and stability in Northern Ireland and the likely impacts of UK Government proposals on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Across the Constituency
Access to Cash
Ensuring access to cash is a very significant concern across all of the Gordon constituency. A recent report by Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee found that since 2015, 53 per cent of Scotland’s bank branches have closed.
Ensuring communities have access to cash is vitally important, despite the move to contactless payments. Studies have shown that cash withdrawn in a community tends to be spent and then re-spent within that community, benefiting local businesses and traders.
The UK Government must step-up and act on the recommendations of the report which are considered and well-thought out and will, if implemented, help protect access to cash and help local economies. Over the coming months I will be using my voice to urge the Government to act.
You may read my comments in the press article here.
Cost of Living Crisis – available help
I also have taken the opportunity this month to encourage constituents across Gordon to check their social security entitlements following the increasing cost of living crisis we are currently facing.
The Scottish Government is now delivering 12 benefits through Social Security Scotland, the Scottish Welfare Fund, local authorities and the Council Tax Reduction Scheme - all aimed at reducing inequality and helping those struggling during these difficult times.
You can apply here.
Those wishing to discuss their situation or case can call Social Security Scotland on 0800 182 2222. Further information on how to contact Social Security Scotland can be found at the link here.
These are strained economic times. Households across Gordon are battling soaring inflation, rising energy bills and increasing food costs. I strongly urge anyone concerned about their financial situation to get in contact to Social Security Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland or my office, where you can be directed to find assistance.
July 29: Visit to Vattenfall European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre
I recently visited Vattenfall UK's European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen Bay. Scotland has what it takes to meet our own energy needs; to lead the way on net zero and be a reliable energy partner for Europe.
See my Facebook post here.
Local MP's Backing for North-East as 'Core Component' of Scotland's Drive to Net Zero
Following a meeting between MPs, the UK Energy Minister, and representatives from companies involved in carbon capture and clean energy, I took the opportunity to highlight that the North-east is a ‘core component’ of Scotland’s drive towards becoming a net zero nation by 2045. I am a strong backer of the 'Scottish Cluster' involving the Acorn carbon capture project at Peterhead. The cluster, alongside other Scottish low-carbon innovators, will create and sustain jobs to enable a Just Transition for our oil and gas sector.
Read my article here.
New fund available to north-east village halls and community facilities
There is a new fund available to village halls, community hubs and other facilities to support communities to engage with, participate in and benefit from the energy transition to net zero emissions.
The new 'Let’s Do Net Zero' Community Buildings Fund, part of the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) will help community organisations reduce their building energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by installing renewable technologies such as heat pumps.
Grant funding is available for up to 80 per cent of eligible costs up to a maximum of £80,000 and is planned to run until the end of March 2025, subject to funding availability. At a time of rising energy costs, this scheme could help community facilities achieve a 'win-win' both in terms of reduced energy costs and also helping reduce the impact on the environment.
You can read my comments in the Press article here.
For more information, the link to Local Energy Scotland website is here.
'Clock ticking' for seed potato exports
Over the past year I have been trying to persuade the UK Government to step back from the 'Hard Brexit' which has effectively blocked Scottish seed potato exports to the EU. Recently, the Irish Government put in place a €3million investment scheme in their domestic potato growers. This month I warned the DEFRA Farming Minister Victoria Prentis that the “clock is ticking” for Scottish seed potato exports. The industry needs action from the UK Government. Now.
“We were told there would be 'huge benefits' to Scottish agriculture from Brexit. In this case, the benefits are entirely flowing to seed potato growers in Ireland as their government recognises a Brexit opportunity and has stepped-up to inject a €3 million boost to their own farmers and growers." - Richard Thomson MP
Read the article here.
Sector Development Action Plan for hydrogen strategy
The recent publication by the UK Business and Energy Secretary of the Sector Development Action Plan for hydrogen strategy is another opportunity missed to promote investment in hydrogen technologies in agriculture.
I back North-East farmers who have a strong interest in the agricultural sector harnessing the potential that hydrogen technology can bring to the industry. I am disappointed that the sectoral action appears to overlook the role that hydrogen can play in the potential for the agricultural sector to reduce emissions
In The News
WASPI Women - MP dismayed as UK Govt. rejects call to prepare compensation payments.
(27 July, Read here)
Give warm home discount to off-grid people, Richard Thomson MP says
(11 July, Read here)
Gordon MP Richard Thomson's concern over potential scrapping of Groceries Code Adjudicator
(23 July, Read here)
Aberdeenshire MP Richard Thomson receives assurance from Asda over staff payroll problems
(6 July, Read here)
Concern raised by MP over UK climate goals progress
(20 June, Read here)
Gordon MP says Sector Development Action Plan is missed opportunity once again to promote hydrogen in agriculture
(13 June, Read here)