Politics can be a rough old game. You only have to look at events in the Commons such as Prime Minister’s Questions to see how it regularly turns into a bearpit with everyone shouting at each other.
It’s one of the least attractive aspects of the Westminster system and it damages the credibility of MPs. In contrast, our new SNP group of 56 members are determined to behave properly.
In reality, shouting achieves very little, and it actually gives a false impression of how parliament works. Behind the scenes, an encouraging amount of cross-party collaboration does go on. Rather than fighting, we’re working together for the sake of our constituents.
It’s an approach I’m comfortable with. I firmly believe that talking to people where possible, even if they happen to be from different political parties, achieves far more than division and confrontation.
We all need to be constructive and set goals which are ambitious but at the same time realistic and achievable. That way, we get things done.
Last week, for instance, I had an initial meeting with Tory MP David Mundell, who is the Secretary of State for Scotland and my constituency neighbour. It was friendly and useful.
I’ve also been talking to Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the new Conservative MP for Berwick, and her colleague Rory Stewart, whose seat takes in a huge part of Cumbria. There are areas of discussion, such as cross-border transport links and the Borderlands project, where it’s in all our interests to co-operate. Where possible, none of us should let our party political affiliations interfere with that process.
This co-operation extends across governments, too. Having been appointed as the SNP’s Westminster Lead Spokesperson on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I met with Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for these areas at Holyrood.
It was hugely helpful, and helped cement the important ongoing relationship we’ll need with the Scottish Government in a UK which is going to become increasingly devolved.
Within the SNP team at Westminster, we’ve also set up a Rural, Economic and Social Affairs Group to allow us to discuss common issues across Scotland and to pool the fantastic expertise we have among our 56 MPs. It means that in a whole host of areas, including mobile phone coverage, we can work to maximum effect.
At the end of the day, it’s all about providing an efficient and professional service to constituents - something which is our first priority. I’m determined to represent everyone in this seat effectively, and these moves are part of that.
When you’ve been elected as a new MP, getting up to speed inevitably takes a bit of time, and I’d like to thank everyone for their patience in bearing with me. But I’m making real progress - I now have a terrific team of staff and we’ll soon have a constituency office in place. Then it’ll be full steam ahead, with all the services you rightly expect. I’m looking forward to meeting you!