OWEN THOMPSON MP SIGNS HOLOCAUST EDUCATIONAL TRUST BOOK OF COMMITMENT

Owen Thompson MP signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, January 2017

Owen Thompson MP has pledged his commitment to today’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations and to honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust by recently signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment at the Houses of Parliament.  He also paid tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people.

Holocaust Memorial Day – observed Friday 27th January – marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.  In the lead up to and on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.  The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘How can life go on?’

Holocaust Memorial Day was established following an MP’s visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the Holocaust Educational Trust. Moved by his visit, Andrew Dismore MP proposed a bill, “to introduce a day to learn and remember the Holocaust” on 30 June 1999.  The Holocaust Educational Trust has been closely involved in the establishment and development of Holocaust Memorial Day since its inception in 2000. Holocaust Memorial Day is now coordinated by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

After signing the Book of Commitment, Owen Thompson MP commented:

“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people from Midlothian and across the world to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust.  As the Holocaust moves from living history to just history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the victims and also pay tribute to the survivors.  I would encourage my constituents to show their support for such an important day.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:

“Our mission is to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance.  We are very grateful to Owen Thompson MP for signing the Book of Commitment, signalling his continued commitment to remembering the victims of the Holocaust as well as challenging antisemitism, prejudice and bigotry in all its forms.”

PRIME MINISTER MUST ANSWER ON TRIDENT COVER UP

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, has joined with his colleague Angus Robertson MP – the SNP’s Westminster Leader – in calling for Prime Minister Theresa May to personally come to Parliament this week and tell MPs exactly what and when she knew about the reported Trident missile launch malfunction and alleged UK Government cover up.

The SNP want the Prime Minister to make clear what she knew about the malfunction when she made the case for renewal of the £200 billion weapons of mass destruction programme in July 2016 – and why MPs weren’t informed before the renewal vote.

On the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday 22 January, the Prime Minister refused – four times – to say whether she knew about the malfunction at the time of the Trident vote.

Commenting, Angus Robertson MP said:

“The Prime Minister must come to parliament this week and outline exactly what she knew – and when – about this reported malfunction and alleged UK government cover up.

“It would be utterly unacceptable, and deeply serious, if it turns out that this information was deliberately kept from MPs at the time of the renewal vote for the Trident weapons of mass destruction programme.

“Parliament and the public have a right to know if these reports are true, and there must be full disclosure about what happened, who knew, when they knew, and why the House of Commons wasn’t informed. The Prime Minister cannot continue to dodge the question.”

Owen Thompson MP added:

“My colleagues and I have stated time and again that Trident is obscenely expensive and morally repugnant. I have consistently raised the possibility that it is also unreliable, and highlighted previous safety concerns – this now must raise massive question marks over its viability.

“58 of Scotland’s 59 MPs – across party lines – voted against Trident renewal last summer. With Trident costs spiralling out of control, and with this new information raising further safety concerns, we will be asking questions and demanding answers.”

MIDLOTHIAN MP CRITICISES CLOSURE OF SOLE CLYDESDALE BANK BRANCH IN CONSTITUENCY

Owen Thompson MP with Colin Beattie MSP and Councillors Margot Russell and Jim Bryant at Clydesdale Bank Dalkeith – photo courtesy Edinburgh Evening News

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, has expressed his disappointment and concern over the proposed closure of Clydesdale Bank’s Dalkeith branch – their only branch in his Midlothian constituency.

Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks announced on 18 January the closure of 79 branches across the UK with the loss of over 400 jobs.  Clydesdale Bank then confirmed to Mr. Thompson by email that the Dalkeith branch will be included in the 39 branches closed in Scotland.  Customers of the Dalkeith branch are to be advised that their accounts will be transferred to the Musselburgh branch, 5 miles away.

Owen Thompson MP said:

“It is disappointing to hear of the proposed closure of the Clydesdale Bank branch in Dalkeith, which will leave my Midlothian constituency without any Clydesdale branches and will impact on its customers in Dalkeith and beyond.

“I accept that many customers choose to bank via telephone, internet or mobile banking, so the location of their nearest physical branch is not normally important to them.  Midlothian residents who choose to use Clydesdale counter services are free to use any branches of the Clydesdale, and will have access to some banking services at the local Post Office.

“However, we must remember that not everyone has the means or capability to bank using computers or phones.  And many customers prefer – or indeed need – personal interaction with their bank, and should have the options to use counter services without having to journey to East Lothian to do so.  With 3 other Lothians branches scheduled for closure, they are even limited in their options in central Edinburgh
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“In addition, this will have a detrimental impact on local businesses who bank with the Clydesdale and who deserve good access to counter services as much as their urban counterparts.”

“I will be writing to the Clydesdale Bank to express my very serious concerns over this closure and its effect on the local community of which it is a vital part.  I will be urging them to reconsider this decision as a matter of urgency, and to address how their business transformation can best support the continued operation of local branches, which are vital to sectors of so many Scottish constituencies including my own.”

MIDLOTHIAN CHRISTMAS CARD COMPETITION WINNER AND SPONSORS ANNOUNCED

Pictured: Lara Young’s winning design

Midlothian MP Owen Thompson has announced the winner of his first annual Midlothian constituency office Christmas card design competition.

The 2016 winner is Lara Young from Mauricewood Primary School’s P5 class, with her winning design being chosen by Mr. Thompson and his special guest judge Arlene Stuart (Forth One) from almost 600 entries.

Mr. Thompson recently visited Mauricewood Primary to congratulate Lara in person and present her with a certificate and book token along with a copy of her design on his card.

In addition to celebrating the artistic skills of Midlothian’s primary school pupils, the competition aimed to highlight the important work of Mr. Thompson’s nominated charities for 2016, which are Midaid, the Scottish Refugee Council and Women’s Aid East & Midlothian.

Mr Thompson also welcomed the sponsorship received from the following Midlothian companies: Bonnyrigg Flowers, Newtongrange’s Dean Tavern, Gorebridge’s Memories of India restaurant, and Stewart Brewing of Loanhead.

Congratulating the winner, Owen Thompson MP said:

“I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Lara Young on winning my first Christmas card competition.  The competition was fierce, with hundreds of entries from primary school pupils across Midlothian.  My fellow judge Arlene Stuart (Forth One) and I had a hard time making a decision, but overall we both agreed that Lara’s lovely and timeless drawing of Santa and Rudolph was the winner.

“Thank you to everyone who took part, and to all those who supported them in entering.  The quality of all the entries has been an indicator of the real artistic talent of the children of Midlothian.

“This winning card will be seen by many people and organisations across Midlothian and beyond, and this year highlights the vital work done by the nominated charities Midaid, the Scottish Refugee Council and Women’s Aid East & Midlothian.

“I would also like to thank the Midlothian businesses – Bonnyrigg Flowers, the Dean Tavern, Memories of India and Stewart Brewing – who offered very generous sponsorship which allowed this competition to take place.”

OWEN THOMPSON MP CALLS FOR END TO DISCRIMINATION AGAINST DISABLED PEOPLE

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, visited a Guide Dogs event in Parliament on 16th November to show his support for taxi drivers receiving disability equality training when getting their licence.  A Private Member’s Bill that sought to introduce such training was debated on 18th November but was not voted on due to lack of time.

At the event, guide dog owners told Mr. Thompson how taxi drivers refused to carry them because they had their guide dog with them.  They explained that they had missed important appointments due to the refusals and how it had left them anxious and reluctant to use taxis again.

Although the Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for a taxi driver to refuse to carry an assistance dog, Guide Dogs research found that 42% of people living with sight loss were turned away by a taxi in the last year because of their guide dog.  The research also uncovered that 38% of assistance dog owners have illegally been asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.

Guide Dogs is calling for disability equality training to be made a requirement for all taxi drivers to help them understand the rights and needs of disabled people and how to welcome assistance dog owners.

Owen Thompson MP commented:

“It is shameful to hear from so many people who have been illegally turned away from taxis because they travel with an assistance dog.  I’m asking the Government to act to ensure all taxi drivers receive disability equality training so they are aware of the law and how to assist their disabled customers in the right way.”

James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, commented:

“Imagine you were turned away by a taxi driver or asked to pay an extra fare, for no good reason. Despite legal protection, this regularly happens to people living with sight loss because they are travelling with a guide dog.

“This discrimination is not only illegal, it knocks people’s confidence and can stop them doing everyday things that most people take for granted.

“We are very disappointed that we didn’t see a vote on the Disability Equality Training Bill. We were encouraged by the Government’s supportive comments and hope they will take action to introduce training for all taxi drivers.”

MIDLOTHIAN MP PLEDGES SUPPORT TO END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS

photo courtesy IC Change Campaign

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, has pledged to support Eilidh Whiteford MP’s Private Member’s Bill (PMB), which if successful would require the UK Government to legally commit to providing a better framework for addressing violence against women and girls by making the Istanbul Convention law in the UK.  This legislation requires the UK to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect women experiencing violence, and prosecute perpetrators.

The Private Member’s Bill has cross party support and, if it becomes law, would see the UK take a proud commitment to ending gender based violence and taking the next steps in securing a safe future for women and girls.  And this legislation is needed – in Scotland in 2014/15 alone, 1,797 rapes and 104 attempted rapes and 59,882 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded by the police.

Owen Thompson MP commented:

“I want to end violence against women and girls in the UK,  and therefore I wholeheartedly support the Istanbul Convention becoming UK law.  I will be in the House of Commons to support my colleague Eilidh Whiteford’s bill, and I urge other MPs to do the same.”

Jenn Selby, a campaigner and survivor said:

“When I think of all the brave women I’ve met on my way through the system, I wonder how many of them made it. The  current legal framework did more to see our perpetrators walk free than to keep us alive. This convention would end this.

Rachel Nye, co-director of the campaign, said:

“We need a strategic plan for addressing violence against women and girls, and the Istanbul Convention has already done the strategizing. We just need to put it into practice.”

NEW DATA SHOWS BREWING SUCCESS FOR MIDLOTHIAN

Owen Thompson at the autumn 2016 BBPA event at Westminster

The brewing and pub sector makes a huge economic contribution to Midlothian, new figures from a study commissioned by the British Beer and Pub Association show.  The sector supports 550 jobs and provides £16m in value to the local economy.

Owen Thompson, SNP MP for Midlothian, recently attended an event in the House of Commons where the new figures showing the impact were unveiled by the BBPA.  The study was carried out by leading independent analysts, Oxford Economics.

Across the UK, the sector supports almost 900,000 jobs and adds £23bn in value to the UK economy.

Owen Thompson MP commented:

“I welcome the publication of these figures from the BBPA, showing how much beer and pubs do matter in Midlothian.  Our excellent local pubs and growing microbrewery sector are a major source of support to our local economy and employment, and bring us together socially in our local communities.  Now I am even happier to enjoy a pint in Midlothian – responsibly, of course!”

Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the BBPA, comments:

“The economic impact brewing and pubs has on the UK economy is clear for all to see, but on a local level the large number of people earning a living from the trade has a huge impact. This new data drives home how important our sector is for a vibrant and thriving local economy, alongside the huge importance of pubs to our local communities.”

MIDLOTHIAN MP ORGANISES MEETING ON PROPOSED CLOSURE OF GLENCORSE BARRACKS

Owen Thompson, MP for Midlothian, invites his Midlothian constituents to meet with him to discuss their thoughts and concerns on the proposed closure of Glencorse Barracks in 2032.

Mr Thompson will be hosting the meeting this Saturday 19 November at 11am at Shottstown Miners’ Club in Penicuik.

Owen Thompson MP commented:

“It has been a week since the shock announcement that the Glencorse base in Penicuik will be shut, along with 7 other military bases in Scotland.  And it still feels as if Scotland is being kept in the dark about the reasons behind these actions, and their ramifications.  Considering the serious and detrimental impact this closure will have on the local community and economy, that is disappointing to say the least.

“I would invite Midlothian constituents with concerns about the closure to join me this Saturday 19 November at 11am Shottstown Miners Club in Penicuik.  I will share any information I have gathered, as well as asking for the community’s thoughts that I can feedback to the Ministry of Defence and use to determine the next step forward.”

Those in need further information, or who are not able to attend but have questions or comments on the proposed closure, should contact Mr Thompson’s office at owen.thompson.mp@parliament.uk or 0131 663 9675.

NEW DEFENCE CUTS ARE ‘A WORRYING BLOW AND WORSE THAN EXPECTED’: DECISION TO CLOSE GLENCORSE BARRACKS ‘CLOSURE BY STEALTH’

Midlothian’s political leaders have said the announcement of yet more cuts in Scotland’s defence estate – including the closure of Glencorse Barracks – is ‘a worrying blow and worse than expected’.

The latest round of cuts to jobs, bases and barracks in Scotland has been long awaited and with very little consultation.

The MoD has now confirmed that another 8 locations in Scotland are set to go in the latest round of Tory cuts – as the cost of Trident escalates out of any kind of control.

Owen Thompson, MP for Midlothian said:

“The decision to close Glencorse has the feeling of closure by stealth, there was no indication it was coming. There was no mention of it in the Ministers statement or in response to my direct question to the Secretary of State.”

“The decision to close the base in Penicuik will have a serious and detrimental impact on the local community, and economy, where our troops and their families have been embraced and welcomed, not to mention numerous civilian jobs now clearly at risk.”

“It is a disgrace that the MOD can take this decision without consulting with the local community and is yet another example of why we can’t trust the Tories to look out for Scotland’s interests”

“These announcements are yet another worrying blow and worse than expected. The UK government has made this another bleak day for defence in Scotland, and for the communities affected by the Glencorse closure.”

Cllr Catherine Johnstone, leader of Midlothian Council said:

”The local community are going to be faced with economic uncertainty as the Glencorse base winds down.

“Trident renewal is veering out of any financial control and conventional defence spending is plundered because of the Tories’ utter incompetence and communities all round Scotland are now paying for it.

‘’Once again the promises given by Tory politicians about defence in Scotland before the independence referendum ring hollow.

‘’These cuts prove beyond any doubt that the Tory UK government cannot be trusted with the defence of Scotland.’’

The full transcript of the Defence Estate statement and contribution from Owen Thompson can be found on Hansard.

OWEN THOMPSON MP CALLS FOR PUBLIC RESPONSE ON RAPE CLAUSE POLICY

Owen Thompson MP holding the consultation document

Owen Thompson, MP for Midlothian, is calling upon his constituents to help reject plans from the Tory government to restrict tax credits to two children and introduce a “medieval” rape clause for vulnerable women who have been raped.

Last year the UK Government announced plans to restrict tax credits to two children and force women to provide evidence of exceptional circumstances, such as rape, to claim tax credits for a third child from April next year.

Mr Thompson believes that women having to prove that they had been raped to DWP employees in order to receive social security payments is morally wrong and would cause needless additional trauma, as well as being completely unworkable in practice. SNP politicians have also branded the two child policy as being “tantamount to social engineering”.

After 15 months of SNP campaigning, the UK Government has finally relented and put the policy out to public consultation.  Now, Mr Thompson is calling on constituents in Midlothian to respond and reject the proposals before the consultation closes on Sunday 27th November.

Mr Thompson urges his constituents to email caxtonhouse.childelementconsultation@dwp.gsi.gov.uk and to place on record their fundamental opposition to the policy.  The full consultation document can be viewed on the UK Government website.

Commenting, Owen Thompson MP said:

“For fifteen months, the SNP has been fighting this Tory government’s medieval plans to introduce a rape clause and a two child policy, which is tantamount to social engineering.

“It has been suggested by the Government that a letter be issued to survivors of rape which they could keep to prove they were exempt from the two child policy and could be presented as and when required.  This is totally unacceptable and I’ll be making that point in my own submission.

“One question this Government can’t answer is how limiting tax credits to two children per family fits in with its family test for policy.  Put simply, this policy is anti-family and will stigmatise children.

“Faith leaders across Scotland also believe that this policy would directly discriminate families who, for religious reasons, might have larger families.  There are just far too many unanswered questions and concerns around this policy.  I am hopeful that by putting this out to consultation, the UK Government will finally realise that this policy is unworkable and immoral.  I would therefore encourage everyone to respond and help defeat this appalling Tory proposal.”