IT is hard to identify the lowlight of the debate on the Queen’s Speech in Parliament this week. From the sycophantic speeches by Tory backbenchers proposing and seconding the speech to the nauseating hypocrisy of Tory glee at Keir Starmer’s discomfort over beergate, it was difficult to sit through. But we hit a nadir when we had to listen to a short lecture from a red-wall Tory on why people need food banks. Apparently, it’s because they don’t know how to cook or budget.

Lee Anderson MP, as it turns out, is a former Labour staffer. You’d think as an MP and an MP employee in recent years he might from his casework be aware of the benefits and in-work poverty that leads many of our constituents to rely on food banks to make ends meet. But no.

I was lucky enough to be the next speaker and so was able to decline his offer to visit the food bank in his constituency and point out that all MPs have food banks in their constituencies and that the reason for their existence is the poverty caused by his government’s policies.

READ MORE: 'No overall levelling up' achieved by Westminster in Scotland, research finds

Poverty across the UK is set to rise thanks to the cost of living crisis and yet the Tories’ Programme for Government in this session abjectly fails to make meaningful proposals for addressing a crisis that is already hammering many people.

There is nothing about cutting VAT on fuel bills; nothing about taxing big companies – not only energy companies – on excess profits; nothing to increase benefits; and nothing to re-instate the £20 that was cut from Universal Credit.

Instead, we heard that a Cabinet working group met on Tuesday to chuck around ideas to deal with the crisis but came to no conclusions. The lack of urgency and focus is as insulting as it is callous. Nor does the Queen’s Speech contain any measures to compensate people for the serial incompetence of the Home Office in respect of the handling of immigration and asylum cases and the issuing of passports, nor the serial incompetence of the Department of Transport over the issuing of driving licences.

Everyone will know someone at present who is desperately waiting for their renewed passport to arrive. My inbox is full of emails from frantic constituents, many of whom have worked hard for holidays they will now miss out on and, even worse, some who are desperate to attend the funeral of a loved one abroad.

The guiding principle of the Queen’s Speech should have been to tackle these sort of bread-and-butter issues. Instead, it was to diminish the accountability of the government to Parliament, the courts and voters.

We see this in the plans to replace the Human Rights Act (HRA) with a watered-down Bill of Rights. We see it in the further plans to quash public protest in the Public Order Bill. And we see it in the so-called Brexit Freedoms Bill which will expand government ministers’ power to amend, appeal or replace EU retained law by way of secondary legislation. More Henry VIII powers.

The cornerstone of all of this is limiting human rights protections because so long as the HRA remains on the statute book and people can go to court to defend their rights it remains a serious threat to the rest of the government’s project to diminish its accountability by quashing protest and limiting access to justice.

The Queen’s Speech contained a passage assuring us that her “government will ensure the constitution is upheld”. It was hard not to laugh out loud as this phrase was read out by the Duke of Rothesay. The Prime Minister can’t even uphold the ordinary laws of the land and in 2019 he rode roughshod over the constitution and lied to the Queen when he unlawfully prorogued Parliament. Then in 2020 his government introduced legislation designed to go back on their agreement with the EU and to break “international law” in a “limited and specific way”. Now the Tories are at it again with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Meanwhile, the Tories’ cynical attempt to equate Labour’s Tier 2 beer and curry by-election campaign refreshment stop with their serial law-breaking is not just cynical it is also sinister. The police had already looked at this event and closed their investigation. The investigation now seems to have been re-opened because of political pressure.

I don’t want to live in a state where the government, with the assistance of its little helpers in the right-wing press, is able to influence the police to re-open a closed investigation into their political enemies. It stinks. Most people can see the difference between what seems to be a working meal and the endless parade of parties with suitcases of booze and karaoke that took place at Number 10 during lockdown.

People aren’t stupid. But the idea that the government of the day should lean on the police or the prosecution services to dispose of their political rivals is very worrying.

The National: National Extra Scottish politics newsletter banner

At least in Scotland we have a way out of all of this. The local elections were an important reminder that this UK Government has no mandate in Scotland and no mandate for any of the policies it is seeking to impose on us in its Programme for Government.

It is no surprise that the Tories lost so many votes and have been reduced to third place in Scotland. On the doorsteps in Edinburgh South West, I heard over and over again the contempt in which this UK Government is held. It’s not just the endemic law-breaking but it’s the rank lack of respect for the frequently expressed view of the Scottish electorate for a different way of doing things and for a second independence referendum given the broken promises of the first.

I’m particularly proud that in the Pentland Hills ward of my constituency my colleague and friend Fiona Glasgow displaced a Tory councillor to win yet another seat for the SNP on the City of Edinburgh Council. It’s great to see the SNP so strong in our capital city and it is always good to see women of independent mind elected to public office.

However, everyone knows that winning elections is not an end in itself. It’s what you do with the mandate you win that counts. Across Scotland, SNP councillors now have an important job to do delivering on the promise to do everything they can to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Meanwhile at Holyrood the time is fast approaching for announcement of the detail of the plan to deliver the promised second independence referendum and the arguments that will win it.