Inside Holyrood: MSP Emma Roddick says it is a joy to go out and meet the public after covering more than 3000 miles during the recess which is in stark contrast to the 'internal politics of seating arrangements in the debating chamber'
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It’s a little harder to fit in regional duties when at Parliament Tuesday to Thursday each week than it is over recess, during which I travelled over 3,000 miles, but my amazing Office Manager still somehow managed to arrange a number of engagements over my first few weeks back in Holyrood.
The Nairn Book and Arts Festival was a fantastic experience – I got stuck into the communal drawing board and met with local authors and artists. It is heartening to see that Nairn is continuing to support local business through the pandemic, and I was glad to be able to fit in popping to a few shops including Crafty Wee Birdie and One One Two. I hope to follow STORM, the amazing, ten-metre-tall sea goddess, as she comes back to the Highlands next month sparking conversation about sustainability.
A criticism often levelled at political parties is that we are never seen or heard from outwith elections, but it is always a joy to me to be able to campaign in “peacetime”.
When elections are coming, it’s all about headlines and manifestos, so it’s a real relief to be able to get out and talk about what you think is important. Yes Nairn held a foodbank collection during the festival – something we wish was not necessary, but unfortunately is – and I was glad to share my thoughts with activists and visitors, discussing policies that Scotland can take forward to improve social security and create a fairer country.
Things are starting to get busier in Parliament as restrictions have started to be lifted, staff are returning after the best part of two years, and the Programme for Government has passed.
I have enjoyed scrutiny work in committee and questioning ministers in the Chamber, even challenging decisions on occasion.
I am keen to see the outcome of ScotRail’s public consultation on their ‘Fit for the Future’ plan and will be keeping the pressure up on doubling the Highland Main Line alongside other much-needed improvements to rail infrastructure.
In a world threatened by climate change, it is essential that the Highlands can provide a credible alternative if we want to reduce reliance on cars, so I am hopeful that the SNP-Green deal will prompt these improvements.
One thing I enjoy much less about returning to Edinburgh is the internal politics of seating arrangements in the debating chamber. Even those who regularly watch goings-on via Parliament TV – something a couple of my team members have become inexplicably committed to doing at every opportunity – will miss the background noise of an SNP member stirring up trouble by sitting in what has been designated a “Green seat”.
In my last column, I talked a little bit about how the first days in Parliament felt like the first days of school – I can now confirm the 20th and 30th days there don’t seem too far off, either!