Central Fife Times column

Westminster

We start back at Parliament this week with reflections on the bombing of Syria.

The eight-year war and its atrocities should have demanded wider international efforts before now. The previous episode of an alleged chemical attack on Syrian people was responded to by the US in similar fashion.  It clearly did not act as a deterrent.  And, no matter how much Donald Trump tweets, this latest bombing will not address the core issues.

No-one can dispute the misery and hardship that Syrian people are suffering.  But if we are to learn the lessons of Iraq and the Chilcot Enquiry then we need to be clear about what we do and why, evaluate the risks, and also the impact, not just in terms of a short term response, but to securing a longer term strategy for this area.

Syria is complex. Vested interests from not just Russia and US. but Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey.  It is a powder keg of interests and requires consistent and concerted effort to reach a solution.  That has not happened.  This act is not likely to achieve that aim.

The UN Secretary General’s input on questioning the legality of the attack brings into sharper focus the need for Parliament to be consulted – but not after the fact.  The publication of the advice from the Attorney General is now imperative.  Inspectors from the UN and OPCW are now on the ground and we await their report.

I welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a War Powers Bill.  We cannot put our armed forces into situations where we have no clear strategy and where we have not fully exercised all diplomatic and economic alternatives. Taken on top of events in Salisbury we now hold our breath and wait and see what Russia does next.

Brexit

And, in case you had forgotten, the next round of Brexit discussions will get underway this week.  The issues are piling up.  The solutions?  Not yet forthcoming.

Constituency

Trains! Constituents will be familiar with my campaign for fare rail fairs as Fifers pay two to three times more than other travellers. An offer by ScotRail of Fife For a Fiver seemed like a good deal. But, as ever, the devil is in the detail. You can only access it with a MyScotRail account. You can only use it when you book online in advance for your journey. It’s only available off peak. And it cancels out other offers like 2 Kids go free when travelling with an adult.  It’s a measly offer. What we need is for the Transport Minister to stop asking Fifers to subsidise other routes and deliver a rail fare and a service that works for the many – not the few.

Mossmorran

More flaring. More concerns. I continue to pursue the issues you raise. This week I will be co-hosting the very first cross-party cross-community event to look at how we resolve concerns about Mossmorran with Prof Wilson Sibbett of St Andrew’s University.  These are long-standing complex issues.  It will take all parties to work together to address the concerns and deliver a better solution for communities.