Newly elected East Dunbartonshire SNP MP Amy Callaghan (27) gives Herald readers an insight to her first week at Westminster.
The first-time MP toppled former Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson in one of the shock results of the December 12 general election.
Monday began in earnest with my travel down to Westminster to begin my duties as your MP. I pledged during the election to be your local, accountable MP. The more time I have to spend in East Dunbartonshire and not in London, the better.
There was a lot to take in – parliamentary procedure, security, office management – but fortunately the House staff are on hand to assist with any issues. They are incredible and a real credit to the parliament.
As you can imagine, there has been a great deal of media interest regarding our election triumph. Media interviews are part of the job but what matters is people, not profile. This was exactly why I was absolutely delighted to meet with a group of East Dunbartonshire students from St Ninian’s High School, Kirkintilloch who were visiting the Parliament. Hours after I arrived, I was on hand, meeting the pupils and teachers, showing exactly how I intended to represent them as your MP.
Today involved a whole host of meetings and induction sessions, followed by the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons. In typical archaic pomp and ceremony, the Speaker was physically dragged to his chair to begin his term. If I thought this was odd, I was about to get a rude awakening. I knew in Westminster that SNP MPs are jeered, dismissed and looked down upon, but nothing prepared me for the lack of human decency given towards our group leader, Ian Blackford. Every mention of Scotland was shouted down by the Tories. Boris Johnson referenced that he won’t stand for those who want to break up the United Kingdom in his speech. To him I say this: the people of East Dunbartonshire and the people of Scotland have sent a clear mandate that they want the chance to choose their own future. His position to arrogantly refuse the people of Scotland that right is entirely unsustainable.
I was officially sworn in as your SNP MP for East Dunbartonshire. I am clear that my loyalty and dedication will always be to the people of East Dunbartonshire and to the people of Scotland..
I spent the rest of the day working on local constituency issues, with casework being actioned, constituents contacted and beginning to shape my local office within the constituency. That is my primary focus.
The Queen attended the House of Lords to deliver her speech, setting out the ambitions of the Tories that govern in her name. This, along with the other oddities of the ceremonies, showed Westminster in all its regal ridiculousness. This is not how a functioning Parliament behaves. I respect tradition, but I abhor archaic anachronisms. Whilst the Tories revelled in their status of an increased majority, real people out with the Westminster bubble are suffering. This is no time for pomp and ceremony, it’s time for progressive change.
There was very little of that within the debate on the Queens Speech that followed. The thing that struck me most about today’s debate is the complete disregard the opposition has for SNP MPs. The Prime Minister, like a disinterested teenager, sat on his phone whilst Ian Blackford delivered his speech, standing up for Scotland and delivering on our mandate. The complete disregard for Scotland’s voice is despicable.
As I write this, I prepare for what will be a bleak day in the history of Westminster. Tomorrow (Friday, December 20) the UK government is pressing on with their EU Withdrawal Bill. A bill that will cause harm to Scotland; that will undercut safety standards, destroy workers’ rights and damage Scotland’s ability to thrive as a functioning, inclusive member of our European family of nations.
A bill I will vote against on behalf of the people of East Dunbartonshire who voted overwhelmingly to remain within the EU. Now with a majority, Boris Johnson can pass this legislation without any regard for what matters to the people of Scotland. This cannot be allowed to go unchecked.
I will be a strong voice for you against the harshest of Tory cuts and the restrictions Brexit will impose on people across the United Kingdom. I will deliver this on behalf of the people of East Dunbartonshire.