Friday, 30 August 2019

Sad to see Ruth Davidson step down as Scottish Conservative leader

I first met Ruth during the Glasgow North East by election in November 2009. I love this photo of us all looking a lot younger when neither of us were in politics professionally.

Subsequently Ruth has spoken in the Hexham constituency – see great pictures of her sell out event a couple of years ago.


And more recently we campaigned together in 2017 to get more Scottish Conservatives elected:

Her resignation letter in full is below. I fully understand why she feels it is difficult to be the mum of a first born in a couple, and the full time leader of the party, as she explains in more detail below. I am a massive Ruth Davidson fan – she has much more to offer this great country in the future. Have a read of her resignation letter:
“It has been the privilege of my life to serve as the leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party. The almost eight years I’ve spent at the helm have coincided with one of the most remarkable and important periods of recent Scottish political history.

I am proud of the teams we have built in Holyrood, Westminster and in council chambers across the country and proud of our electoral successes in recent years.

All of that pales in significance compared to the vital role our party undertook in the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. I will always consider that the most important contribution of my working life and my commitment to keeping the United Kingdom together remains undimmed.

None of the achievements mentioned above would have been possible without your [Robert Forman, Chairman Scottish Conservatives] support, guidance and friendship – along with the hard work and professionalism of the Scottish Conservative team at central office. For all of this, thank you.

Inevitably, much has changed over the years of my leadership — both personally and in the wider political context. While I have not hidden the conflict I have felt over Brexit, I have attempted to chart a course for our party which recognises and respects the referendum result, while seeking to maximise opportunities and mitigate risks for key Scottish businesses and sectors.

I hope and believe that industries as diverse as our fishing fleets and whisky producers have felt well represented by the Scottish Conservatives during this time.

The biggest change, of course, has been starting a family. I cannot thank you, Jackson Carlaw and the wider party enough for the generosity and support you have all shown to Jen and me following the birth of baby Finn. It made my return to work in April as smooth as I could have hoped and I believe the flexibility shown by colleagues has allowed me these last months to continue operating successfully in my role as leader.

However, as I look to the future, I see the Scottish Election due in 2021 and a credible threat from our opponents to force a general election before then. Having led our party through seven national elections and two referenda, I know the efforts, hours and travel required to fight such campaigns successfully. I have to be honest that where the idea of getting on the roads to fight two elections in 20 months would once have fired me up, the threat of spending hundreds of hours away from my home and family now fills me with dread. That is no way to lead.

Additionally, I fear that having tried to be a good leader over the years, I have proved a poor daughter, sister, partner and friend. The party and my work has always come first, often at the expense of commitments to loved ones. The arrival of my son means I now make a different choice.

While I offer you my resignation as party leader, I intend to continue in my role as the MSP for Edinburgh Central until 2021. I will always, always be thankful for the opportunity to serve and to the amazing teams I have worked alongside.

Be assured I will continue to support the party, the Prime Minister and Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom from the backbenches and beyond.

In terms of final thoughts. I believe that two referenda have split Scotland and indeed opinion in the UK and I am convinced that referenda should be used to affirm public opinion, but not as a way for political leaders to fail to lead. Looking at the division in our politics, I make this plea.

The vast majority of people who go into politics do so for the right reasons, to improve their communities and their countries. And I believe we should always remember that. Respect is what is missing from our debates. And without respect, you cannot have understanding and you cannot unite, which is what we in Scotland and in the UK need to do.”

The need for a new Queens Speech and opportunities to debate Brexit next week + in October either side of the European Summit

There are two issues that have been raised by the decision of the Prime Minister, as agreed to by Her Majesty the Queen: the need for a new Queens Speech, and an opportunity for parliament to debate any matters, including Brexit.

There is ample time for Labour, or other parties, to seek to stop Brexit or to introduce a Vote of No Confidence if they wish to do so. They could, for example, do this next Tuesday, when the House of Commons sits again.

Normally Parliament is prorogued each year in advance of a Queen's Speech. This particular session of Parliament has lasted nearly two and a quarter years – effectively the longest since the English Civil War. We are long overdue a Queen's Speech, and quite understandably a new Prime Minister, and a new ministerial team want to set out a new domestic legislative agenda. Genuinely, all of parliament, from across all political sides, have been waiting for a new Queens Speech since July, when the previous two-year 2017-2019 session ran out. For example, the Labour Leader of the House of Commons, Valerie Vaz MP, called for a new Queens Speech in June of this year in the Commons. For more details on this issue have a read here. 

What are the consequences of the decision in terms of parliamentary time as compared to the normal agenda? MPs will still return to parliament for the new session, which begins next Tuesday, and then break, for the party conference recess. Labour conference will be in Brighton, the Conservatives in Manchester the following week and so on. Again, any political party who wants to bring a vote of No Confidence can do so next week. For more details on such a situation have a read here.

Party conference recess always happens under each and any government. In October, there will be the loss of 3 days business on the 8th, 9th and 10th October. If the Government were committing, as some have argued, "a constitutional outrage", they would be proroguing Parliament until November 1st to ensure that it did not sit between now and November 1st. This is not happening.

Brexit was due to take place on March 31st 2019. Shortly before then the UK Government and the EU27 agreed to delay the Brexit departure date until 31st October 2019. The next European Council is on the 17th and 18th October. The new Prime Minister has already met with President Macron and Angela Merkel and progress has been made to removing the backstop, which remains the chief hurdle to an agreed deal.

The Government has set out a clear timetable, which indicates that if a withdrawal agreement has been reached it would be debated and voted on 21st and 22nd October. This will still give time, both before and after the European Council, to debate Brexit and a potential new Withdrawal Bill. We have already debated Brexit repeatedly; I have voted on three occasions to leave with a deal. It is a matter of regret that Labour, and other opposition parties, have repeatedly blocked the United Kingdom leaving with a deal. It remains both my, and the Prime Ministers, desire for an agreed Deal by way of a Withdrawal Agreement with our partners in the EU.

For too long the deadlock in Parliament has taken the focus away from key domestic issues and I am delighted that Boris Johnson has set out such a bold policy agenda for more police on our streets to tackle violent crime, levelled up school funding, and that the NHS continues to secure the extra £20 Billion it has been promised by this Conservative Government. I accept that not everyone agrees with the result of the 2016 EU Referendum, but I am a democrat and I believe we need to leave the EU and abide by the decision of the Referendum, in light of the assurances given by all political parties, and MPs, both before and after the referendum. I am also of the view that the British people want Brexit sorted and their Government to focus on the domestic renewal of our country.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Investing in our greatest asset... Northumberland National Park

Northumberland National Park is one of our greatest assets, and brand new visitor facilities have now opened at Walltown Country Park, near Greenhead, with the aim of providing a better experience to visitors to the stunning area. The new facilities are part of the planned ‘Hadrian’s Wall observatory’ across sites including the Sill and Walltown Country Park itself. The work was done thanks to funding from the Rural Development for Rural England Growth Programme which provided 80% of the funding. 

We are incredibly lucky to have such a beautiful National Park on our doorstep. It is so important that we make sure that it is a place both local people and tourists can enjoy. 

Monday, 26 August 2019

Contractor announced for Hexham's new schools

Galliford Try has been announced as the company which will design and build Hexham’s two new schools. The company is known for its modern and innovative approach to designing teaching environments. The plans for the new schools will see the current Queen Elizabeth High School and Hexham Middle School situated on one site while retaining their own distinctive spaces. The £36.1m project is largely being funded by Northumberland County Council, with a contribution also from the Department for Education. Construction is expected to begin in early 2020, with the schools open in September 2021.

It is hugely positive news to see the project to build the two new schools in Hexham making progress and I look forward to Hexham’s students being able to benefit from a first class education in the not too distant future. 

Saturday, 24 August 2019

The brilliant Bellingham Show

A fabulous summer of country shows is coming to a close, but we’re not quite finished yet! Next Saturday 31st August the Bellingham Show takes place with a programme of events packed full to entertain all the family. There is so much planned for this year’s show- live bands, horses, terrier racing, children’s activities and rides, food, crafts, beer tents and vintage vehicles to name just a few. Meanwhile the Forestry England stand will be celebrating 100 years of forestry and for the first time since the early 1990s there will be helicopter flights at the show for the chance to see Bellingham and the North Tyne from above (make sure to book now 

The Show starts at 9am on Saturday 31st August. I can’t think of a better way to end the summer.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Vote for Northumberland!

After winning the title of ‘Best UK Holiday Destination/County 2018’ at the British Travel Awards last year, Northumberland is once again nominated in the category and needs your help to retain the title for another year. 

There is just over a month left to cast your vote (voting ends on 30th September). You can vote for Northumberland by following the link below- make sure to ask all your family, friends and colleagues to vote as well!

Northumberland is a fantastic place to live and visit so please do help Northumberland win gold for the second year in a row.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Falstone Show- this weekend!

This weekend the Falstone Border Shepherds’ Show is taking place. The Show has been an important event on the calendar since 1885, and the timetable for this year’s event is packed full of classes, competitions and more. A beer tent, children’s classes, an incredible range of competitions and classes, music and the chance to take an alpaca for a walk, the day looks set to be a busy and fun-filled event.

The Falstone Show takes place on Saturday 24th August- follow the signs to the show field to find free parking.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Betel House: an example of best practice in the care sector

It was great to visit the fantastic Rising Cafe which assists the excellent work of local charity Betel House. Betel House is based in Hexham and supports those battling drug and alcohol addiction. It was recently highlighted in the Parliamentary Review as an example of best practice in the care sector. It is great that Betel UK is being given this platform to showcase the incredible work it does. Betel House Hexham, with its residential centre, furniture restoration shop, gardening business and cafe, is a beacon of hope and care in the Tyne Valley.

Thank you to everyone at the Rising Cafe on Beaumont Street, Hexham, for making me so welcome!

Friday, 16 August 2019

The 181st Allendale Show

It’s back for another year! This weekend the 181st Allendale Show is taking place, with entries in an amazing 42 different agricultural classes. Competitions include show jumping, the dog show, photography, art, flowers and so much more. 

The Allendale Show is always a great family day out and a fantastic showcase of our local area. There is sure to be something for everyone in the family at this year’s show- terrier racing, stalls and stands, a stunt bike show and circus workshops for children taking place throughout the day. It promises to be a day to remember!

The Allendale Show takes place on Saturday 17th August at The Showfield, Riding Haughs. 

Thursday, 15 August 2019

How the Romans made their armour

This week members of the Ermine Street Guard are at Vindolanda to show how they make their replica Roman armour, weapons and shoes. The Guard make their kit as authentically as possible, with the process based on recent research, so this is a fascinating chance to find out how the Romans themselves may have made their armour. The Guard are at Vindolando every day until Monday 19th August so make sure not to miss out on a unique experience!

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Sunday at the Thockrington Church Fete

There is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than in a beautiful country garden, and this weekend the Thockrington Church fete and open gardens at Carrycoats Hall is a perfect opportunity to do just that. The fete takes place on Sunday 18th August at 2.30pm and there will be cream teas, a plant stall, home produce and a raffle. Entry is £5 and children enter for free. So this Sunday if you would like to wander around the herbaceous and vegetable gardens and look at the woodlands of Carrycoats Hall, then the Thockrington Church fete is the place to be!

Monday, 12 August 2019

The World Transplant Games 2019

This week the World Transplant Games get underway, and for the first time ever the games will be taking place in Newcastle and Gateshead. The World Transplant Games are a celebration of a second chance of life, and show the success of transplant surgery. This year’s games are taking place from 17th-23rdAugust and include events such as cycling, swimming, football, golf, badminton and much more. Participants are all recipients of organ or tissue transplants, however there are also events for donors.  

There are around 6080 people on the transplant waiting list in the UK, including around 150 children and teenagers. On average three people die every day who could have benefited from an organ transplant. The World Transplant Games aim to raise public awareness of organ and tissue donation. You can support donation by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register at You can also text WTG2019 to 70300 to donate £3 which will be received by the Graham Wylie Foundation. 

I wish all participants the best of luck and hope that the 2019 World Transplant Games are a fantastic success!

Flood Risk Update - 12th August 2019

The last few days has brought significant rainfall across Northumberland, and I have been visiting many of the villages affected by high river water levels. The Tyne is high, but a very long way off Storm Desmond levels, and our flood defences are doing a good job. 
I have spoken with the Environment Agency and local County Councillors for updates. Thankfully, at this stage, the flooding along the river Tyne appears not to be a threat to property.

We have had some problems with the River Rede which has burst its banks. I will be visiting to see the problems for myself.

Please be very careful when driving or walking on riverside footpaths. There is a significant about of standing water on our country lanes, and if you come across standing water, please report it. 
You can monitor flood warnings for our Tynedale by clicking here. If you need to report a flooding problem, you can contact the Environment Agency Floodline 24 hours a day on 0345 988 1188.

Finally - I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has played their part in helping to clear up flooding that has taken place in recent days, from our emergency services, to the Environment Agency.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Highlights of the summer so far...

Parliament is currently in recess, which has given me a great opportunity to spend as much time as possible in the Hexham constituency. Here are just a few of the visits I have made in the past couple of weeks:

It was great to meet Team 2 Northumberland from the National Citizen Service at Dene Grange Care Home in Hexham. I am a great admirer of the NCS programme and I cannot recommend it highly enough to local young people.

I went along to Acomb Court Care Home in Hexham where residents were being treated to one of their regular visits from two of WAG and Company's Friendship Dogs. It was wonderful to see the joy that the two dogs brought to residents. WAG and Company is holding a fundraising sponsored walk at Kielder on 28th September 2019. If you would like to get involved you can find out more and register here-

I also paid a visit to the Northumberland Cheese Company in Blagdon to see their fantastic shop and dairy. It's a really great local business- definitely worth a visit!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Help Northumberland retain its crown!

Last year Northumberland was named as 'Best UK Holiday Destination/County 2018' at the British Travel Awards, and having been nominated once again this year our great county needs your help to retain its title.

Beaches, castles, history, a stunning National Park, brilliant pubs and restaurants... Northumberland has it all! To help Northumberland to retain the title of the UK's best holiday destination/county for a second year vote by following the link below-

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

North East- leading the way on climate change

Climate change is one of the most important issues we are faced with today, and I am delighted that the North East are leading the way on educating children about climate change. The North of Tyne Combined Authority has committed to providing every state-funded school in Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside with the opportunity to train a member of staff as a UN-accredited climate change teacher. The project is led by Corbridge Middle School teacher Dr Meryl Batchelder, who is Northumberland’s first UN teacher.

This is a hugely significant step and I am so pleased to see the North East leading by example and ensuring that the next generation receive the best possible environmental education. 

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Sunday in a country garden

An open garden event is taking place this weekend to raise money for two churches in Haydon Bridge- St Cuthbert’s Church and St John of Beverley Catholic Church. Tom and Belinda Speir are opening up their garden at East Deanraw Farm, Langley, on Sunday 4th August to raise money for the two local churches. As well as the chance to visit the wonderful garden, there will also be stalls, ice cream, an auction, raffle, tombola and live music. 

The event is at East Deanraw Farm, Langley, at 2pm on Sunday 4th August.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Great news for Hexham schools

I am passionate about ensuring that every child receives the best education, so I am delighted that my long campaign for a new school in Hexham is making great progress. Over the past nine years I have been one of many voices calling for major investment to improve Queen Elizabeth High School and Hexham Middle School, and it is fantastic news that the contractor for the £37 million project to build new buildings is set to be approved next week. It is hoped that the new schools will be ready to open in September 2021. 

The funding for this project is being provided by Northumberland County Council and the Department for Education. This really is a true partnership of local councillors and the government working together to support Hexham, and I am confident that the future is positive for our Hexham schools. 

Thursday, 1 August 2019

A showcase of local talent

August looks set to be a busy month in the Hexham constituency!

The Hexham Art Club's Summer Exhibition is opening its doors next weekend. From 10th-16th August work from talented local artists will be on display at St Peter's Church, Bywell, from 10am-4pm daily. Entry and parking are free, and art including originals, prints and cards will be available to purchase at affordable prices.

You can find out more about the exhibition, as well as information on how you can get involved with the Hexham Art Club here-