This month at Westminster we had the State Opening of Parliament to mark the start of the new parliamentary year and the first ‘King’s Speech’ since 1950, setting out the UK Government’s programme for the year ahead.

Sadly, the content was completely lacking in meaningful policies, with nothing to support people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis or to reverse the economic decline presided over by successive Tory Governments, due in no small part to the debacle of Brexit.

With the polls indicating this is likely to be Rishi Sunak’s one-and-only King’s Speech, one might have thought he would want to achieve something before he is out of Downing Street, but it just shows the Tories are bereft of ideas and, perhaps, resigned to their electoral fate.

Similarly, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement provided little comfort to those worried about how they’re going to make it through the winter - now exacerbated by the announcement that energy bills are to rise by a further five per cent in January.

My colleagues and I had called for a return of the £400 energy support payment, but it fell on deaf ears. However, I don’t think this is a position the UK Government will be able to maintain and I hope that growing pressure from opposition parties, charities and consumer groups will force a U-turn.

Yet again, we find ourselves in the appalling situation that Scottish households are facing soaring energy bills despite living in an energy-rich country. We must end Westminster’s mismanagement of our extensive energy resources.

In terms of other business, the war in Gaza has continued to dominate the agenda and, as someone who has lived and worked there, I have been following developments closely and working with others to urge the UK Government to do more to end the unfolding humanitarian disaster.

I have written to both the Prime Minster and Foreign Secretary twice, and was also one of the signatories to the SNP amendment to the debate on the King’s Speech, calling for an immediate ceasefire, which created the first opportunity for MPs to vote on the matter.

It is staggering how long the world has stood by and allowed the collective punishment of more than two million Palestinian civilians to continue, through indiscriminate bombing - including hospitals and schools – and the withholding of water and food, all of which is illegal under international humanitarian law.

The four-day ceasefire came too late for the thousands who have already lost their lives, including a friend of mine who lost three children and three grandchildren last week.

It is vital the international community use the opportunity of this brief ceasefire to hold the Israeli Government to account and press both sides to be open to a political solution.

Distressingly, neither the UK Government nor the Labour Party – who want to be the next government – have the courage to push for this.

In the constituency, I was delighted to see that all four of our designated bathing waters have been classified as either good or excellent, which is great news for anyone considering taking part in the annual Polar Plunge at Irvine Beach on New Year’s Day.

Although I won’t be able to join in this time round, I can testify to it being an exhilarating start to the new year, as well as a great way to raise funds for charitable causes.

For more information and to register, go to