LAST week was a mini recess at Westminster, which provided me with some valuable time in East Lothian.
I held more than 25 separate meetings across the county, covering Musselburgh, Haddington, North Berwick, Tranent, Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton, East Linton, Dunbar and Elphinstone – not to mention half a dozen more meetings in Edinburgh concerning issues affecting my constituents, plus doing radio interviews and penning five articles for local, Scottish and UK newspapers.
After weeks like these, an MP ends up knowing more (probably) than anyone else about the complex social and economic mosaic that is a Parliamentary constituency. Here’s a selection of what’s going on: Planning issues are very live. I met with amenity groups in East Linton and Elphinstone who are worried about developments on their doorstep. Most local groups welcome new neighbours who keep small communities thriving. But folk rightly hate overdevelopment that takes no account of local views, which is what’s happening across the county.
My advice: community groups should band together to demand East Lothian Council accelerates the adoption of its Local Development Plan. Unfortunately, adopting the LDP could be a year away. This is unacceptable because it means developers will railroad projects through before the new rules come into force. I also had encouraging talks with the Scottish Building Society – the world’s oldest – about making it easier to get mortgages for self-build and non-standard (i.e. eco-friendly) houses.
Another growing problem that came up in my meetings is abuse of the elderly. This takes many forms: physical, psychological, financial and sexual – or just plain neglect. Here in East Lothian there have been dreadful cases of rogue carers scamming elderly folk for their money. I’m working with Action on Elder Abuse Scotland to make the issue better known.
Of course, most carers do a magnificent job. So it was a pleasure to visit Louis Stedman-Bryce of Beyond Homecare in Tranent and hear about his world-beating use of new technology to improve care services. I remain concerned that East Lothian Council has actually cut unit funding for care services, which is making it harder to recruit staff.
My two treats of the week: lunch at Giancarlo’s Italian restaurant in Tranent; and a trip to The Brunton to see the musical Summer Holiday, this year’s highly professional offering from Our Lady of Loretto Youth Players. Who needs a holiday when there’s all this on our doorstep!