Reflecting on my summer tour

Monday August 28th 2023


Christine Grahame MSP writes her monthly column for Midlothian View

My 2023 Summer Surgery Tour around the constituency villages and communities has just ended. The weather was grand so I was able to meet folk and take on cases and campaigns in the fresh air. This is one part of the job I like best, getting out and about in this beautiful constituency, away from Teams and the computer.

Part of my constituency as you may know is Borders, reaching from Peebles across to Melrose and as far up in the hills as Tweedsmuir. The other is Midlothian South taking in Penicuik, Newtongrange, Gorebridge as the main population areas. These I don’t visit on my Summer Tour as I do regular surgeries there when Parliament sits.

Instead there were stops at Auchendinny, Howgate, North Middleton, and the grand finale at Silverburn. Silverburn, now famed for its working red phone box, saved by this indomitable community, where I understand there is a framed copy of my motion to Parliament in the phone box, congratulating them.

Enroute there are people to meet, coffee to drink and the odd homemade cake served up. I must have picked up over 20 cases so this week it is a matter of going through them, responding and seeing what can be resolved. On my Facebook you can see where I was from time to time.

I prefer this to meeting in village halls which can put some folk off. It’s also why I do supermarket surgeries where I can, as I think it is much more accessible. It also means that someone might just be passing but they take to opportunity to speak to me on an issue of concern.

Next week however, it’s back to Parliament sitting. I already have many meetings in the diary, including chairing the Cross Party Group on Animal Welfare and ofcourse I also sit as an elected member of the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body. My colleagues there are Jackson Carlaw (Conservative), Claire Baker (Labour) and Maggie Smith (Green). It is chaired by the Presiding Officer, and we deal with issues such as the running of the Parliament building, including security, and not only for the Parliament but for members in both office and their homes.

It is a sad fact that since I entered Parliament 24 years ago, the world of politics has changed. In the early days with Murray on the reception desk at the offices (then at the top of the High Street) you were just waved in. No bag scanning in those days. Even with our building now, changes have been made along the way to meet increasing threats. These can also be directed at MSPs (across all parties) but there you go. Once in public service, it’s part (though thankfully just a small part) of the job.

All in all, as I reflect on the summer and the Tour, it was genial and well worth it. Last word, and I’m trying to be upbeat, take care with hand hygiene because as I think we all know covid cases are on the rise. I am therefore asking shops, especially supermarkets, to make sure the hand dispensers are working and we can wipe down trolleys again. Better safe than etc.

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