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Updates from Holyrood

Alison writes a regular column for local newspapers in the North East to keep residents updated with the latest goings on at Holyrood, and on her work on important issues from around the region. Below you can find a recent column, along with links to those from previous months.

Why I am saying No Thanks!

There are plenty of rational reasons to say No Thanks to independence.

The hard facts mean we are better together.

There's the economic case: keeping the pound, sharing financial risks, securing our pensions and savings. The rest of the UK is our largest trading partner with two thirds of Scottish exports going to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Why even consider erecting an international border?

There's the fact we're a strong voice for good in the world. The UK is the second largest aid donor in the world, tackling extreme poverty, saving lives during humanitarian crises and making vital contributions to international peacekeeping forces. It is a leading member of the UN and the only country in the world that is also part of NATO, the EU, the Commonwealth, the G7, G8 and G20.

There's the cost of dismantling and rebuilding public institutions. Scotland benefits from more than 200 UK institutions and services such as the BBC, research councils, the National Lottery, the security services and the Met Office. An independent Scotland would need to recreate them - a great deal of disruption at significant expense.

There's the protection that carrying a British passport brings. We can rely on help from more than 200 embassies and consulates around the world if we get into difficulty. Scottish business is also supported around the world by the UK.

As part of the United Kingdom we can have the best of both worlds: significant decision-making powers in our Scottish Parliament together with the strength, stability and security that being part of the UK brings.

We can spread the risks and share the rewards.

But there are also plenty of subjective reasons to say No Thanks to independence.

I remember that time when I was just beginning to learn to write my address - you know…Alison McInnes, High Street, Hometown, Homeshire, Scotland, Great Britain, Europe, the World, the Universe. It felt great to emphasise that I was part of something bigger. Well, in a way that's how I still feel. I am a Scot who is also British, European and a global citizen - overlapping identities that bring different perspectives and enrich my life.

I don't want to be forced to trade that in for the one dimensional "Scots - wha's like us?" approach the nationalists promote.

We have so much more in common with our friends and family around the UK than divides us.

Centuries of shared culture, heritage and history mean the fishing communities of Fraserburgh and Peterhead arguably have more in common with Grimsby than say East Kilbride. The ship building city of Glasgow is often more alike to Tyneside than the Highlands. The 5 million people who live in coalfield communities around the UK have common histories and challenges. And our island communities are similar to those in the remote south west of England.

The UK is far from perfect, but to argue the solution is for Scots to sever our connections, to isolate ourselves, is wrong. And it risks obscuring what we have achieved together.

Together, suffragettes, trade unionists, reformers, and yes, even politicians have secured social progress over hundreds of years. Together we continue to find common cause and campaign for change. And our combined voices and joint action will enable us to make further progress in eradicating inequality and poverty.

Our Scottish Parliament, only 15 years old, has dramatically changed how Scotland is governed. More powers over taxation and borrowing are already on the way and others will follow. Saying No Thanks is therefore a positive vote for strengthening the powers of our parliament while keeping the strong partnership between the nations of the UK.

A strong Scottish Parliament within a United Kingdom gives us the best of both worlds. Two great capital cities to call our own. A vibrant UK-wide arts scene. And our NHS, still the envy of the world, providing cost free, hassle free access to specialist services such as those at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, Alder Hey, and Liverpool.

There's only two weeks to go until polling day. Postal voters are already making their choice.

I'd urge you to consider what you may have taken for granted about the UK until now and how you would feel if you were no longer Scottish and British.

Scotland has so much more to gain by working together with the rest of the UK family than by pursuing the black and white arguments of the separatists.

That's why I'll be saying No Thanks on 18 September.

Opportunities for disabled graduates

Working alongside Inclusion Scotland, I will be taking part in an innovative new pilot giving disabled graduates the chance to undertake a 13-week paid internship at Holyrood.

At every level of qualification, disabled people are up to three times more likely than non-disabled people to be without a job but want to work. This pilot aims to explore and remove the barriers that evidently prevent equal access to employment and elected office.

I hope that this pilot will give someone valuable experience and improved employment prospects and, in the long-term, make Parliament, politics and the labour market much more inclusive and representative.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more!

Mental Health Bill

I recently spent a morning discussing the new Mental Health Bill with People First, a charity run by and for people with learning disabilities, and our health spokesperson Jim Hume MSP.

We heard from People First how people who are capable of making decisions are currently having guardianship orders imposed upon them against their will. And they argued that there is no law in Scotland which properly describes learning disability, causing them to be confused with those with mental illnesses.

Jim and I will therefore be closely examining the new legislation to see how it can better protect the rights of people with learning difficulties and focus more on supporting people to make decisions - rather than remove their ability to do so.

Albyn House

I have written to the Chief Constable, Sir Stephen House, to highlight the importance of Police Scotland continuing to fund Albyn House in Aberdeen - a safe house for individuals who are found drunk and incapable and who might otherwise be placed in a police cell or taken to hospital.

HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) recently hailed it as a positive alternative and a "unique secure unit". But media reports have suggested that it is at risk of closure because Police Scotland is considering withdrawing its funding.

Albyn House is an example of our police and health service working effectively in partnership and I would be greatly concerned if this innovative approach was abandoned.

My Holyrood Columns