Lothians MPs tackle new roles in House of Commons

Livingston MP Hannah Bardell. Picture: Neil Hanna
Livingston MP Hannah Bardell. Picture: Neil Hanna
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SNP MPs from Edinburgh and the Lothians are preparing to go into battle on the party’s front line at Westminster.

Newly-elected Nationalists from the area have been handed key roles in the SNP’s leadership team at the Commons and will be engaged in some of the most controversial flashpoints when parliament gets down to business.

Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s shadow secretary for justice and home affairs, will lead the party’s fight against the Tories’ plan to repeal the Human Rights Act, expected to be a prominent part of the new government’s programme.

Livingston MP Hannah Bardell has been made shadow secretary for fair work and employment – a portfolio which includes top SNP priorities like promoting the living wage – while Edinburgh West MP Michelle Thomson is shadow secretary of business, innovation and skills.

Edinburgh North and Leith MP Deidre Brock is in charge of liaising between the SNP groups at Westminster and Holyrood.

And Edinburgh East MP Tommy Sheppard has been given a job as Cabinet office spokesman, a remit which includes the constitution and Conservative plans for boundary changes.

Mr Sheppard said it was recognised the current boundaries had a “slight bias” against the Tories, but it would be vital to prevent any “over-compensation”.

He said: “The devil will be in the detail. We’re going to have to look at the small print.

“There is always a need for boundary reviews because of population shift.

“But we have to make sure they are not trying to ensure an unfair advantage.”

He said there was potential to build alliances with some of the cities involved in the so-called “Northern Powerhouse” plans for devolution in the north of England.

He said: “In general, while the UK exists, it would be much improved by being decentralised.”

And Mr Sheppard said in the wider debate on issues such as welfare reform, there would need to be a united opposition if there was to be any chance of defeating the government.

He said: “We are there to make friends and influence people. We’re doing our best to build alliances.

“But Her Majesty’s Opposition is currently riven by introspection – the SNP might have to take the lead on some of the issues.”

Meanwhile, the longest-serving MP in the Commons, Labour’s Sir Gerald Kaufman, has condemned the conduct of SNP MPs as infantile, describing them as “goons” for trying to claim frontbench seats at the expense of veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner, who has occupied the same spot for 45 years.

“I don’t know what they are trying to prove,” said Sir Gerald. “It’s stupid.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com