Much has changed since the last time I wrote an e-update about Scotland. Most obviously, there has been a General Election. We have gone from 56 of Scotland’s 59 MPs being from the SNP in 2015, to 35 in 2017. The Conservatives went from 1 MP to 13, Labour from 1 to 7 MPS, and the Liberal Democrats from 1 to 4.
What these results show is that Scottish politics is in a state of flux. It was a shame to see some friends of the community lose their seats – most notably, Kirsten Oswald in East Renfrewshire. Kirsten worked hard to get to know the Jewish community in Scotland. The new MP for the area, Paul Masterton, has already shown that he is committed to working closely with the local Jewish community, and I look forward to developing that relationship in the coming months.
In addition to Paul, we have seen some familiar faces elected to Westminster for the first time. Douglas Ross and Ross Thomson have been good friends of the community in their time as Members of the Scottish Parliament and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so. I am looking to meet with as many of our new MPs as possible, and bring them closer to their local Jewish communities.
In Scotland’s other parliament, the Cross Party Group on Building Bridges with Israel continues to go from strength to strength. With new members coming along to every meeting, the group remains one of the best attended Cross-Party Groups in the Scottish Parliament. The most recent meeting of the group saw a variety of businesspeople look closely at how to build commercial bridges with Israel, as well as a fascinating presentation from Visit Scotland on the prospects for tourism and direct flights between Israel and Scotland. The group will continue to meet regularly and look to make the positive case for building bridges between the Middle East and Scotland.
Planning for the Balfour celebrations remains a priority for everyone in the community. We have three events in the late stages of planning, each of which will make clear the close connection between the Jewish community in Scotland and Balfour’s legacy. More details of these events will be available soon.
With so many things to come, there is no doubt that the next few months will be as busy as the last few months.